Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Ungrind Article: Brave in the Midst of Weakness

My kids were sick with 104 fevers and asthma flare ups so I forgot my article was posting a couple days ago. This article was about my redefining bravery and courage. Ashleigh Kittle Slater thanks for bearing with my delay.

Kids are better! Fevers are gone.  Thank you God for your ability to heal. Thank you for providing essential oils and albuterol and flovent. Thank you for Vitamin C and Doterra On Guard. Thank you for diffusers and for Breathe (Doterra). We're still dealing with respiratory effects but we are on the mend.

And I'm thankful our God is kind and deals with us in the midst of our weaknesses.

And for those of you who are unfamiliar with UNGRIND check it out. It is chock full of encouragement!

My editor Ashleigh, explains it so well here.... Get a cup of coffee, cocoa, tea. sit down. take a breath. And get some refreshment!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giving up "Christmas"

This year is not a year of "plenty" in worldly terms for us. I can't shop for gifts at Target. I can't stuff stockings. I can't buy my husband what I want to. I can't perform in my ideal, romantic way that I think Christmas should be.

This year has been a year of intense growth. Mike and I are getting our "feet under us". Moving out of my parents home and living on our own. Learning how to manage rent and utilities and helping plant a new church. Homeschooling all five kids.

A lot of the resources that we've used for help and support are no longer there to gird us. I haven't had an attendant to help us with the home and with the kids in over a year. I haven't received counseling in 6 months. Our financial resources are very limited.

But we are not growing personal debt with credit cards. Our son is not dying of cancer.

 God has provided and sustained us daily. We have food in our bellies. We have a warm home.We have CLEAN running water. We have each other. My kids are ALIVE!!!! There are many people who have suffered loss. I'm blessed to only experience a lack in "material goods". God has sustained us. And He will continue to do so.

We are working on our health. Working on caring for our bodies and our physical, emotional, mental, spiritual selves. But it's a battle. It's a battle relying on what you can't see. It's a battle choosing hope. Choosing to trust the Lord.

Our faith is one that completely contradicts worldly wisdom. Die so that you may live. Give so that you may receive. Be generous when you only have a few dollars left in your pocket.

I'm a GIVER. I love to give. I love finding just the right thing at thrift store for someone else. I love finding that person's favorite tea or slipping a 5 dollar starbucks card or a pack of stickers that will brighten their day. I love when friends leave my home and it's not empty-handed. So I have to let go of this year of not being able to give in the way I would like. 

And instead I need to embrace Christ. Embrace this mystery of God who abased Himself and became man and dwelt among us. Emmanuel, God with us. This if my greatest gift, my greatest prize... and I can in turn give it to others.

Who cares about picturesque Christmas mornings, gifts and stockings, etc. if our hearts are empty and our spirits are sagging? We can gain the whole world but have nothing if we don't have Christ.

Rejoice. Rejoice. He is here! Christ was born. He came and lived a perfect life and died in our place a horrific death. He paid the cost of our sin. He died and rose again! Again, that we may live! That we can be reconciled with God the Father. No longer separated. No longer judged. No longer disappointing. At fault. To blame. Jesus took that all.

And He gave us peace. hope. Joy. Love. Promise of Heaven. We can surrender. WE can rest in all the work being finished. He didn't just wipe away our billions of dollars in debt but applied billions to our account. We can never be out-graced. His grace is always enough. always covering. Always sufficient. His perfect righteousness is applied to US! As if we always obeyed, were always loving, were always perfect parents, children, siblings, friends. Amazing!

Friends, I don't know if you bank account is full or empty or in the negative. I don't know if your health is robust or floundering. I don't know if you're barren or overwhelmed by your number of children. I don't know if you hate your job or can't get a job. If you're married and frustrated or single and frustrated. If you're crazy rich or poor. 

But we are blessed, each of us, if we have Christ. If we call Him our greatest treasure, our prize. It doesn't always mean our situation, our circumstances, get fixed or altered. It doesn't mean that we will be prosperous financially and that only good things will come our way.... It means that we don't walk alone! It means that He will be there and sustain us in the midst of whatever we face. It means that He has promised to be faithful to us. He has made a covenant to us. Do not be afraid! Don't fear poverty. don't fear death. Don't fear illness. Don't fear loneliness or brokenness or messiness. He loves us! He accepts us! He calls us His own! He doesn't see failures. He sees His perfects Son's life, death, and resurrection- He is pleased with us because we're in Christ! He is pleased with us! He sings over us! He rejoices for us, in us, and with us!

Christmas can be a wonderful time. It can be sweet and romantic and happy and giddy and magical. It can also be painful, lonely, sad, depressing, creating anxiety and fear and being overwhelmed or low at your inability to create the Christmas you want. I'm asking that you see Jesus. See Jesus in your pain. See Jesus in your joy. Rejoice a Savior was born for you and me! We don't walk alone. We are not in this alone. 

In all things He is there. That is our Hope. That is my hope. and I hope it's your hope too.

So maybe I'm giving up Christmas to find it. Maybe I'm losing my expectations to find Jesus' expectations. My pockets are pretty empty but my heart demands to be generous to others. And so I will give... in whatever ways I can... with whatever ability I have. I'm not holding back. When I have the least to give is when I find I often have the most to give. I see God more clearly. I see His faithfulness for what it is.. daily, repeatedly, consistently. I'm aware of Him instead of aware of the way I meet my needs or fix my problems. He is my all in All. He is enough. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to YOU!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Turkey Tom Jones and His Poor Smoky Bones... What happened Thanksgiving Night.


(True Story. Hope it made you laugh. My attempts at turkey stock gone awry.)


Turkey Tom Jones & His Poor Smokey Bones
                    by Jennifer Napier


                                                         Twas the evening of Thanksgiving, and I came back to my home
with the intent to prepare some soup and write a lovely poem
With a huge cooking pot and the carcass of Turkey Tom Jones
I filled up the pot with water and seasoned all the bones.

I started my gas range and began the most glorious of turkey stock,
that was my hope, what I planned, what I thought.
But I didn't realize that my gas range is not like a crock pot
And put the setting on high to get it real hot.

We gladly watched a movie, we whiled away our time
Our pot all a boilin', the stock bubbling just fine
The minutes turned to hours and I was distracted in my mind
I was completely oblivious to my culinary crime.

I was all excited at the thought of my domesticity
When my husband said to me quite simply
We should check the stove and see about the turkey
And see how this stock is coming along. Okay, let's go see.

Oh yes. Sure. Of course. What a delight.
But instead of pleasure, we got quite a fright.
Smoke billowed. Alarm beeped. Something wasn't right.
The water boiled out and the pot was an awful sight.

There was smoke. There was burning. There was an awful mess.
I was concerned and frightened but I really must confess
My pride was hurt more by my lack of domestic bliss
I thought I was a good cook, but now felt amateur at best.

We opened wide the windows. We used fans to clear the smoke,
We turned on the air purifier and made sure the kids wouldn't choke
There was no damage beyond my pride and our scratchy throats
from some smoke inhalation of my meal-gone-wrong-joke.

So thankful to be alive. So thankful we caught it in time.
So thankful the house didn't burn. So thankful it wasn't worse.
So thankful that all had ended well and we now have a great story to tell.
Just take my advice in case you haven't learned....
put your put on low or you'll ruin your bird!





Saturday, November 29, 2014

Grief, Gratitude and sleepless thoughts on God.

I was so exhausted I fell asleep yesterday at 4:30 p.m., woke at 8 and had dinner and got back in bed... where I've proceeded to be unable to sleep. And drat, it is 5 in the morning now.

People have asked, when I have told them I can't sleep, was something on my mind. why, yes. there was something on my mind. I had watched a tv series online and 3 episodes dealt with the following: child dying of illness, cancer, and a car accident that kills someone precious to them. So, yeah, it brought up some stuff.

First: Gratitude. I am thankful for God preserving the lives of my children. Way too many times could my children have died, in particular Samuel and Michael.  I've seen them stop breathing and turn blue on more than one occasion. Samuel's Infected CVL (central venous line). Reflux and aspiration (Samuel and Michael at different times). Etc.

Thoughts hang out on the back burner of my mind. I'm not consciously trying to think certain things, they just pop up. Samuel's cancer. treatment. Special needs. Feeding tubes. Oxygen. Apnea monitors. Cleaning syringes. Asthma inhalers. Libby and Sam... what would my nephew have looked like? What name would he have given me? Gigi? Auntie Jenn? or something of entirely his own making? What would my sister have looked like now? What would she say to this or that problem I'm facing? What movie would we have seen together? What would I be getting her for Christmas?

It's almost my sister's birthday. She would have been turning 32. It still feels very unreal that she's gone AND it also feels like a part of my life I've adapted to. I didn't look for her at Thanksgiving. I missed her. But I expected to NOT see her. It's strange how I've lived almost a third of my life without her now.

But trying to explain to someone, it's not as if I am over her, I miss her keenly. I've learned to adapt to life without her. I've learned to create a "new normal". It's as though I've lost a limb. I've learned to manage and cope. I've learned how to dress myself or feed myself but it's not the same as having the use of my arms and legs. I've learned new ways to manage without my appendage. It's the same with Lib being gone. I've learned how to cope... but it's never as good as what it was one when I was "whole".

I've been having these perspective shifts lately though that's been really helpful. It's like God gently showing me how the path of my life could have veered in different directions but it didn't. It's been a beautiful reminder that God truly crafts and shapes my day. My life. My problems and setbacks are from His Hand. And sometimes that's scary. Because I'm reminded of the very real truth- I am NOT in control of MY life! And what do I really believe about Him and who He says He is???

But if I stop and pause and truly reflect on His goodness. On His mercy. On His infinite love. On the security of the depth of His knowing me, loving me, calling me His own.... then I can rest.

He's not surprised by my sins. My failings. My lack. My imperfections. My messes. He has me right where He has me and it's not a mistake. It's a journey. It's a process.

And yet, somehow, I keep forgetting that. I keep expecting myself to have arrived already. But I'm not there yet. And He knows that. And He's okay with that. Why am I not?

Why am I so afraid to be wrong? To be misunderstood? Why do I need to explain to others my reasons for lack, my inability, my failings, my reasons for extra weight, or grief or depression, or a messy house? Why do I seek to be justified by my own merits?

Why can't I be content to just be? To rest in the knowledge that "IT IS FINISHED". The work that bought my soul and paid the price has been done.

My greatest debt has been paid. My biggest mess was cleaned up. My biggest problem solved. I am Christ's and He is mine. 

I wonder if these truths are what I needed to hear before I could fall asleep. Maybe I stayed up all night to be reminded of Whom I belong to.

My six year old son is humming in bed. He's humming a Matt Redman song. And now he's sleeping again.

Usually by this time we have 2 or 3 kids in bed with us. Well, it's time to settle and get a couple hours shut eye before I get up and embrace this day. And even this... even this lack of sleep through the night is a part of the plan. Part of something bigger than I can see. But He sees me. He never sleeps or slumbers, instead He watches over me.

Hallelujah.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Importance of Being 4

5 months old
On the night of November 7th Peter sent the passy fairy a gift  when he released 4 balloons with an attached passy (pacifier) up into the sky . In return he received a jar with 500 pennies. He has let go of this much addicted substance with a lot of grace. He asked a few times for passy and there were a couple times when he was super tired and in need of a nap that he really felt the need to take a hit but we have persevered and his addiction is broken.

I can't believe my youngest is 4! What a difference in time and space when my oldest was 4. Libby had 3 younger siblings when she was 3!

Peter provides much needed comedy relief around here. He knows how to get his siblings to laugh. He gets away with a lot to because everyone says, "Well, you know Peter is the LITTLEST". Which is hilarious given "baby" moose's ample size.

4 years old
What a blessing that God gave us this joy boy in the midst of difficulty and trial. I was pregnant with Peter when Samuel was diagnosed with cancer. Pretty amazing to see how far we've come. And how kind God gives us the things and people we need when we don't even know we need them.

Peter it is so fun to see the ways God has made you different and unique from your sister and brothers. I love the time we spend together and take so much pleasure in watching you play with your siblings.

We are so thankful to God for you!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gifts of Friendship.





There are some people in this life it's hard to live with... and there are others you can't live without. This would be one of them. Michelle. My friend for over 15 years. We have been through some amazing and difficult life changes together even while thousands of miles apart. God is amazing to have given me one of the kindest, encouraging, loving friends.

We don't always talk regularly and never see each other as much as we'd like to but I always know that Michelle has my back. Thanks for coming over and helping me with sick kids. For holding my hand and passing the tissues when I can't stop the tears. For bringing sunshine into my life with coffee and thoughtful gifts. For running to stores with me... or sitting in the cars with kids while I run in. For trips to the zoo. For tea time. For helping me clean.

For speaking truth in love. For telling me that I can do this with God's help. For helping me know and love God more.

I love you and I am praying for you. Thank you for the testimony and instrument of grace you are in my life.

Thanks for not running away when I told you when I first met you that I knew we were going to become great friends. That could have been uber weird and creepy! But instead it's an amazing prediction came true!

Zoo-rific



Peter loves the "Gir-laughs" as he calls them


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

my 2 favorite 6 & 1/2 year olds



My Two Michaels...



Kids with Kids

I was surprised at how much my kids loved the goats at the petting zoo. 
We saw them on the way in and out of the zoo. The kids loved brushing the goats.





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

aquarium

We recently enjoyed a lovely time at the Aquarium. Zoo members were given a chance to visit the Aquarium with our zoo passes.









Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Being Nice is not enough... Confronting in Love

Much thanks to my friends who bear with me and share the hard truths that I need to hear.

And thanks to the friends who forbear with me as I try to gently speak  to you out of love.

Read about my article here at Ungrind

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Humpty Dumpty or Being Made Whole?

All the broken pieces seem unable to come back together. Who am I anymore? I’m lost in the daily grind of caring for my kids, doing dishes, making meals, washing, drying and folding laundry.

Absorbed in the midst of all my to-do’s. Where is my peace? This desperately trying to hold onto God and cry out to Him for rescuing from morning til my head hits the pillow at night.
Restless. Unsatisfied. Discontent. Unable to be still.

Be still my soul. There is too much work and it never satisfies me. I will never get enough done or have the house clean enough… or the kids schooled enough. I will never be content with the mere work of my hands.

My hope is in something bigger, someone greater than myself.

My hope is in God who is always faithful, never changing. A rock unmovable. He is not shaken by my inconsistency or my feelings that fall and rise like the changing tide. He is not touched by my inability. My grasping. My pathetic attempts at striving and failing. He is not undone by my lack.

I wake up and my soul is already tired. Discouraged. Overwhelmed. I want to retreat within my shell. Shut out the surrounding sounds and noise. I had five minutes of quiet before the children found me. And then the demands start. The needs begin to pile and accumulate just like the dirty laundry.

I’m not a mistake and am where I am supposed to be. My life belongs to Him. All my efforts and failed attempts, all my misapplications of trying to put my life together and get it “right”.

It’s done. All that is necessary, required, and truly needed is finished. Not my work but Jesus Christ’s perfect work applied to me. His righteousness given to me. So I can rest. I can crawl back in bed and get a little more shut eye knowing that Christ is truly enough. I can surrender the to-do lists, the messes, the goals, hopes and plans for my day, month, year, decade and life. 

No matter what I face my situation never truly changes. I am His and He is  mine… bought with the precious blood of Christ.

I often feel too shattered to be put back together. A Humpty Dumpty who "all the kings horses and all the kings men can't put me back together again." But the King can. He knows each broken piece and He knows what it looks like for me to be made whole. And He is able  to put me back together again... and again.




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating a Decade... in the Big Apple...

The Big 10 is looming large... next month Libby will be a whole decade. And to celebrate we are going by bus to New York City (Girls Only!) Libby is so thrilled. She's never been to the Big Apple before but has done lots of reading and research on the "N.-Y.-C." as she calls it.
Libby, almost 10...

Her desire is to visit the Natural History Museum and the Empire State building there as well as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  There are some other things I'd like for us to do as well time and money permitting: see a Broadway show, take a double decker tour bus, and enjoy lunch at the American Girl Store Cafe.

I thought a trip would be a more meaningful gift than a run of the mill present.

She has been working hard finding little odd jobs to do to help make money. Most recently Libby has been making necklaces and bracelets to sell. Part of her money goes to Camp Sunshine (the camp we attended this summer- for children with life threatening illnesses and their families) and part she is saving for the trip (short-term) as well as a long-term goal for a bike. (she pays half, we pay the other half). She hasn't had a functioning bike in a long time... long legs= need for a 24 inch bike!

So looking forward to taking this girl out for a night on the town!





(for those who have been asking about gift ideas... contributing towards her birthday with money for her trip would be a huge blessing to her!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Last Day of Summer at the Beach...

Really, it's not quite fair to only have 2 pics that turned out okay on this amazing and fun day. Monday, we took a break and took the kids to the beach. The weather was glorious. Mike was home. We enjoyed just being together as a family. We even splashed in the waves. The weather felt like Fall but the sand felt warm and amazing the ocean was pretty comfortable once you got over the cold. So thankful for a last outing to wrap up the summer. 
Ian

Don't die of shock. A selfie...
I know...

Minor Discrepancy...

What I thought homeschooling would be like....



Actually reality of homeschooling....
from clipartof.com





Yes, you are welcome. It's sweet and crazy and I wouldn't have it any other way. I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing... and it's challenging. My dependence on the Lord has continued to grow... we have ups and downs on a given day in a given hour.. and sometimes in a given minute. Lots of laughs. Messes. Mistakes. We are all learning around here.... especially this Mama!
By the way this was when Ian had decided to cut his own hair.
Notice the gap in the front... new "bangs". Yeah, real nice....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Unusual Game of Checkers.



I found this game board at a thrift store for $1.00. It's made out of wood. We didn't have the pieces to play checkers at the time so we used goldfish. Worked well except for Peter kept wanting to eat the game pieces... It's also really hard to "King" a goldfish...

More Than A Bullet...

"I would die for you." When it came down to it, we would be willing to put ourselves in harms way to protect and save our child, our spouse, our closest friends. How beautiful to make the greatest sacrifice!
But what about daily life? Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves in the midst of the daily drudgery – monotonous, mundane, and maddening?

Check out my article entitled, "Taking More than a Bullet: Life and Death for Others" at Ungrind. And read other refreshing articles that talk about faith, family, love, friendship and so much more.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Christopher Columbus & other uncomfortable realities...

Libby had to write about Christopher Columbus for school as well as do a presentation in front of her small group of classmates. So, it was as Libby and I sat reading and poring over information about Christopher Columbus that we discovered some harsh truths. *

I grew up in school praising the man as the discoverer of America (as in U.S.A.) And also believing He was a Christian according to his own writings.

Yet, this same man forced the natives into slavery and hard bondage. Even going so far as to have their hands chopped off if they didn't produce enough gold. Not to mention all the people that died from being exposed to small pox and other new diseases their bodies were unable to fight.

This leaves us with a very mixed legacy. He did find the Caribbean and later other islands part of Central and Southern America... But he also treated people badly. To the point that Queen Isabella of Spain had an official come and get him and arrest him and bring him back to Spain in Chains.

Awkward. The guy was stripped of his titles and lost his fortune. Before death he did get some money again but he died still believing he had found a way to the Indies. And probably was more than a little disillusioned.

This morning at our group meeting before school starts a devotion was read from Christopher Columbus' own writings.

My poor daughter. I think she was stunned to say the least. She had just told her brothers in the car yesterday,

"Let me tell you. If anyone says Christopher Columbus was a good man. They're not telling the truth. He was a bad man.... I will spare you the details."

So, was this man truly a Christian who went off and did some really horrible things? Was he just a sinful man? How did he justify his actions??? I don't know. By even the best accounts he sounds like a maniac. I don't have the answers. But it's interesting when you're faced with truths.... even very uncomfortable truths. I'd rather the truth prevail than be ignored or masked or dismissed. Even if this makes me very unpopular.

Trusting and knowing that the Lord is bigger than ALL of this is a comfort. He's not surprised. He's not  unaware. And He's redeeming even very horrible things that occurred in our history.

*Sources: Please keep in mind these accounts are not all appropriate for children to read. The misuse of women is discussed in detail, as well as other violent atrocities.

Best explanation I found is from the oatmeal. Even includes the story of someone who should be honored...
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day
This is what Libby and I read:
http://www.biography.com/people/christopher-columbus-9254209#synopsis
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/14/8-myths-and-atrocities-about-christopher-columbus-and-columbus-day-151653
http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/thevoyagesofcolumbus/a/09columbustruth.htm
http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/thevoyagesofcolumbus/a/09columbustruth_2.htm

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saturday, September 06, 2014

"Pet States"...

We are learning U.S. history and geography this year as well as states and capitals... Practicing the New England states and capitals today and this happened...

I said "Boston"

Kids said "Massachusetts"

I said "Augusta"

Kids said "Maine"

I said "Concord"

Samuel said "New HAMSTER!!!"
Sorry New Hampshire...