This Here By the Water blog has been a great place for me to share about our family and keep our friends and extended family updated. After much contemplating, I have decided to begin updating on a different site. This blog was my thoughts from a particular time and place, and now it is time for something new. I will keep the posts here for awhile (and probably print them into a family photo album of sorts), but I will no longer be posting here. If you’d like to keep reading about our lives, you can follow our new blog: Coleman Creek Folks at https://colemancreekfolks.wordpress.com/. Be sure to click “follow” at the bottom of the site, if you’d like to keep getting e-mail notifications of new posts. Thanks for loving our family and encouraging us in the journey of life.
In a few days, we’ll have internet at home (I hope!), and I’ll be able to give a more thorough update.
- In the meantime, here are a few disjointed notes about the past week or so. Yesterday marked one week of life in Little Rock!
- Our Reba community friend Barb had mercy on us at the last moment – the night before our drive from Evanston to Little Rock – and decided to ride with the kids and me. She planned to stay a couple of days; but, once we had two down to the stomach flu (Jedi & Josh), she changed her train ticket and stayed on as a nonanxious presence and wonderful helping hand until Friday night. What an unexpected gift!
- Another community friend Gus rode with Josh in the truck and helped a great deal with unloading the truck on this end. He also tuned and cleaned our piano and filled our house with Reba praise songs. It was a house blessing of sorts!
- My dad was out front to greet us the moment we drove up with our giant, yellow Penske truck and trusty, white van. He even had sparkling grape juice to celebrate! We have been thankful for his additional presence here on several days – helping unload the truck, buying us groceries, bringing us family furniture from storage, and generally brightening the spirits of the children.
- Many people from our block and the nearby Methodist church have brought us sweets to welcome us. Sweet breads (banana, strawberry, zucchini) seem to be the custom. 🙂
- The kids, Barb, and I stayed in the garage apartment several nights while the moving in, initial unpacking, and sickness swirled around. We were thankful to have a quiet, warm space away from the action.
- We’ve also been thankful that the space is big enough that we do not feel cramped or overwhelmed as we organize and unpack.
- There are many projects still before us, but I’ll give you a few that we’ve done (we rejoice in each small task completed!):
- Painting the laundry room, dining room (walls & ceiling), and beginning on the office.
- Washer and dryer purchased and installed! No more visits to the “Funmart Laundromat.”
- Drip in kitchen faucet fixed and new (mold-free) hardware installed.
- Drip in bathroom faucet fixed.
- Kitchen cabinet drawers and doors put on (after being painted earlier in January).
- New car license plates, and an Arkansas drivers license for me! (Josh’s still pending…)
- New Arkansas bank account.
- Bed for Lilia painted and set up (thanks to my mom who came to help on Saturday). She and Lilia also painted several other pieces of her furniture lavendar to match her bed.
- I’m sure there’s more, but I might be boring you by now…
- Our next-door neighbor invited us to church on Sunday. It’s a 9000-member black church 2 or 3 blocks from our house. We all went and had a great time. The preacher was amazing (Josh was thrilled because he quoted Nouwen). The choir moved us to tears. Our neighbor insisted we meet the pastor. No decision yet about what our home church will be, but we really enjoyed going to this one.
- Our next-door neighbors on the other side invited us to a Superbowl party at their place. The kids were jumping-up-and-down excited (mostly because they had hamburgers & all I’d made for dinner was chicken noodle soup). Still, we all liked the neighbors and their friends and family at the party. Simeon made friends with their two-year-old granddaughter (who lives one more house down our block).
- We started homeschooling yesterday. We’re continuing with their regular school routines for math, writing, and spelling. We’re also focusing on our watershed (learning the bodies of water, animals, insects, plants, history, etc. in our specific ecological area). Our watershed is called Coleman Creek, and we’ve already done an expedition to find the creek. We’ve visited two different parts of it today and yesterday.
- We’ve also been participating in lots of activities at the Hillary Clinton Children’s LIbrary that is just blocks from our house – Garden club, cooking classes, martial arts classes – all free and amazing! http://www.cals.lib.ar.us/about/locations/childrens-library.aspx
- And today we went to the fantastic zoo in our neighborhood – chimpanzees, lemurs, cheetahs, oh my! We got to see them feed the ringtails, and the one named “Reba” came right up to the window. Thanks to my Memaw for the zoo membership, we’re gonna LOVE it!
- The kids and I also went to a kid-friendly yoga class for caregivers – catered to the needs of bodies that are frequently lifting and serving. The group meets at the Quaker Meeting House and has a discussion on the issues of social justice and how it relates to parenting – especially in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a great time, and I even got to do a little bodywork on one mom’s sore shoulder.
- Josh continues to spend his mornings looking for work. Please pray for that process and end result!
- Also, there are deadlines for applications for schools for the kids for the Fall (due in this Friday). We have two school visits scheduled for this week. We really want a public school in the neighborhood – that feels important to us. Yet, no one says good things about really any of the schools. PLUS, last week a vote passed for the government to take over the schools, due to 6 schools with insufficient progress. It’s a tumultuous time for the Little Rock schools. We’d appreciate your prayers in navigating this situation.
Okay. I’m impressed if you made it this far. Subsequent updates will be shorter and include more pictures…:)
We are in the midst of the craziness of moving. Every day requires all I have, but still I am happy and thankful . It is truly an adventure – full of hardship and difficulties and beauty and exhaustion and the hope of something worth all the work and stress. I don’t feel able to write complete updates, but I’d like to record some stream-of-consciousness bullet points along the way.
– The kids and I are a team here – packing boxes, making food, getting homework done, and plugging along each day.
– Big kids home the last few days as the polar vortex has hit our city – snow blowing, wind chills as low as minus 50, car windshields to scrape, bundling taking half an hour or more for all of us to get out the door. Tomorrow school will happen again. Breakfast, getting dressed, lunches packed, and all that bundling by 7:40 am.
– Surprised by the twinge that hits me – I will miss the sight of them in their snow pants, boots, and scarves when we move south. Especially little Simeon – such a sweet toddler in his tiny snow pants and boots and hat with ear flaps. And I’ll miss the way everything is still and quiet in the winter and the freshness of newfallen snow – especially as it decorated the barren trees. There are many things about the winter I will not miss, but these things I will. In a way, the harshness of the winter makes you appreciate the spring and summer in a new way.
– Little Simeon – so often my “happy thought” – picking up toys at a friend’s house after I mentioned it once, doing his “homework” tonight (a pen held just right to make tiny drawings on a white piece of paper – “a snowman! a lion! a meck!”), making a “pizza” out of big legos and revealing it out of a box meant for roller skates – giving us all pieces, a cocked head and squinted eyes to ask me a question.
– Reading a funny book about frogs with the children – the best way to get us all to relax again when emotions are flying out of control.
– Meditation time before bed – something new to try. I hear both kids say, “We already know how to meditate” and turn around to see them both cross-legged, eyes closed, and finger-to-thumb classic meditation hands. Did they learn this at school??
– Piles of boxes imposing on our spaces. All 3 children happy to pack boxes with me and write on the outside. Christmas tree still up, hardly unpacked from our venture south, cat meowing to go outside but never following through when he feels the cold air.
– Multiple moments that make my heart sink – illnesses and hardships of friends, coming home to kitty accidents on our comforters, an allergic reaction for Simeon resulting in an eye swollen shut, a long drive on an icy morning to the DMV that does not complete the task, awakened every night many times for many reasons, so many little things too small too mention.
– Love abounding – unexpected friends dropping by, coupons to support in the days ahead, groceries brought to my door, friends making us dinner, family checking in.
We are strong like oaks – that is our mantra. We are plodding along and trying to be present and soak up these moments with our dear community here. Thank you for holding us up and trusting our call.
Here are a few pictures from our Fall. In addition to the big events from the last post, there have been field trips, school projects, a visit from my mom, another lovely birth I attended, and some travels for Josh…
Simeon loved feeding the giraffe carrots:
Lilia’s Kindergarten class!
Pictures for a school project Jedidiah was doing. his class was making a community alphabet booking, and he had the letter “I.” We learned all about a community event called “It’s Thursday, Let’s Dance!” The kids took pictures where the dancing takes place.
Lilia’s class at the Halloween party:
This guy won Harvest Bingo and got a stick-on mustache!
I was in charge of snacks, and we made monster mouths with apple slices, sunflower seeds, sunbutter, and strawberry “tongues”…
The last days of Simeon in his fedora (we are on to winter hats, now):
Kindergarten wears Lilia out some days…
Lilia learned to do the monkey bars!
Lilia in her beautiful coat from Memaw:
Another piece of our Fall is that there has been a good deal of construction on our building. Our windows were replaced, and for the past 5 weeks our back porches and stairwells have been torn down and (nearly) rebuilt. During the construction on our unit, we took a short retreat to the community lakehouse in Wisconsin. On a cold day, we decided to do a tour of the Jelly Belly factory. As you probably know, food dye is not really our thing, but it was a fun, free activity. There was a train and jelly bean art and free samples – including the Harry Potter Every Flavor beans. We actually had a blast…
We had a low-key Thanksgiving at home with just our little family. It was a quiet retreat after a busy Fall. We decided that we wanted to eat Chicago-style pizza one last time – a rare treat for us. In the end, we thought of several Thanksgiving side dishes we simply couldn’t do without. So, we basically had a Thanksgiving dinner with a pizza in place of the turkey. It was delicious.
Oh my. This Fall has felt heavy with decisions to make and new ventures to plan. It has been busy, but busy is really not the right word to describe it all. It’s the meaning and weight behind it all that has made it feel all-encompassing. And, truly, it is only good and exciting stuff! No tragedy or trauma. And woven throughout it all, our daily lives have been quite sweet and almost…normal. Still, I had a hard time finding the energy to bring our stories to this space. I hope to regain momentum for this in the coming weeks, as our lives begin their drastic change. Documenting the change and sharing our experience with loved ones seems like it will be a comforting practice during this time. But, no more dancing around it all, here’s what’s been brewing…
- I have been dedicating a good chunk of time to launching my business: Sweet Water Offering. I have been seeing many bodywork clients, as well as a few health coaching clients. I even taught a local class this Fall – a series on taking processed sugar out of your diet. It was a new challenge, but one I’ve found fun and invigorating. I’ve also been working on my website and strategizing for an online presence with my friend and business partner Katie Palmer. Here’s our site, if you haven’t seen it, yet: http://sweetwateroffering.com/.
- We’ve been adjusting to TWO kids in school. They’ve both had a great year, but it’s been a new form of juggling for us to keep their school routines on track and organized and to make time for hearing about their experiences and helping them cope with new struggles (like organization at school and interpersonal situations). So far, I actually really enjoy having school-aged children, but it is a different experience than being a mom to littles. Also, Simeon has been adjusting to being an only child for 7 hours each day. He doesn’t like it very much. He likes having other kids around and usually goes in search of friends in out building!
- Josh and I did a very intensive “anti-racism training” this Fall. It was a great experience that will surely effect our future approach to life and community. We were given a lot to think about and take to heart, as well as the opportunity to move forward in new ways.
- Finally, most of our energy the Fall was directed toward our hopes of starting a new Christian community in Little Rock, Arkansas. We are covenant members of Reba Place here in Evanston, which means that we share our money and decision-making in common with our community. We committed to be here “until God calls us elsewhere,” with the understanding that we felt called to start a community someday. Well, “someday” is here! And, we have discerned a plan and received an unfathomable gift of support and sending in a unanimous vote from the 50 or so other covenant members. A large part of that discernment was deciding to buy a house in Little Rock that seems right for hospitality and is in the neighborhood we selected through prayer and conversation and meeting neighbors and walking around. Our community here is helping us to make this happen in a unique and creative way – just the sort of thing they are best at. And we are deeply grateful.
- SO, recent weeks have been spent making an offer on a house, making plans for renovations, and setting up a transition plan for our family over the coming months. We plan to move at the end of January. There are a million other things I could say about the process and the unknowns and the hopes and the dreams and the people who are dreaming with us. But, this is enough for now.
Really, it all just feel so epic I have a hard time putting it into words: a new business doing things that I love, a chance to live near my family again for the first time since summer breaks in college, a location to call home, the promise of new community and new manifestation of God’s work in the world. The sadness and brokenness of the world swirls around us constantly, and I know it is bigger than I can fathom. Still, I feel a peace that we are walking on the path God has laid before us. And, in this moment, I feel excited about offering the simple gifts we have to others. Please pray for our family during this time. We know that excitement will give way to long days and lost routine and hard work and missing friends and wishing for familiar things. Recently, Jedidiah said that he wished he had more real adventure in his life. So, we’re all trying to look at this as a real adventure. Pray that we would be able to remember that perspective on the hard days.
We had so many fun summer adventures in Evanston and Chicago! We went to the zoo twice, to the nature center (and butterfly room!), to a water park, to a nature center and local historical center, and to the beach (about once a week). We even took a family outing to Navy Pier to ride the famous Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Our weather was really mild all summer, so it was perfect for long days outdoors. Here are a few photos:
The winter is a time to hibernate a bit – to stay inside more, to eat warm & nourishing foods, and to get a little more sleep. Still, there’s been a lot of activity and growing going on during this long winter. Here’s an update through photographs…
And, we continue to brave the cold and snow and get out in the great outdoors as much as possible. Yesterday, Lilia and I went “ice-skating” on the huge sheets of ice at the park. But, ice is melting and spring is in the air! Today is the official first day of spring.
We are making a big deal out of Lent in our home this year. We’ve wanted to do more in the past, but we haven’t really made it happen before. And still, this year, it is more Josh and I who are taking on some new practices. Yet, we are reading verses with the kids and discussing Lent more with the children. We are also attempting to eat few sweets as a family, in addition to a more intense cleanse that Josh and I are doing. There are several levels to our participation in Lent this year…
First, there is the physical level. We are taking part in an intense Candida cleanse, that includes eliminating corn, wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, vinegar, processed meats, caffeine, most fruits, and fermented foods from our diets. It also includes some detox and antifungal supplements, as well as probiotics. As much as that probably sounds like an excruciating undertaking, it’s actually been really fun! I put out a call on facebook for others to join us, and they did! It’s been a far greater group of folks than I ever expected – encouraging one another, posting new recipe ideas, asking tons of questions, and even answering questions I didn’t know how to address. So far (we are two weeks in), it’s been an amazing experience. And, people are seeing real results in weight loss, energy level, digestion, and more. I love this kind of stuff, and during Lent I’m searching and praying about how this sort of thing might fit into my future career.
Second, I have been taking in more spiritual food over Lent. I’ve been reading the daily devotionals at http://sortacrunchy.typepad.com/. The focus is on servanthood, which is a great topic for me as a mother of three. I have also been getting up early many mornings to pray and read the Common Prayer Book for Ordinary Radicals. Also, as a community and as a family, we have verses to focus on for each week of Lent.
Third, Josh and I are coming to God daily with the question about our future and about the possibility of Little Rock, Arkansas as a place for our family to help begin a Christian community. We lift this up to the Lord daily, pray together many days, and take time to share our insights and thoughts. We have decided to take another trip to Little Rock over spring break in April, as an opportunity to get to know the place and people better. This seems fitting, as it will be toward the end of Lent. We would love to have you praying with us about this big decision. We know that I move would not be easy, but we are ready to be faithful to God’s call and to give back from the wisdom and maturity that we have gained from living in Christian community here.
Also, I am liking the image of “pruning” this year. I am taking on less additional responsibilities and saying no to little things in my ay that feel stressful. In this way, I am making room to hear God. Finally, I am hoping to begin some hand work projects – perhaps crochet or sewing patches in the knees of Jedidiah’s pants. I am hopeful that some quiet work with my hands will help me to be still, to listen, and to pray.
We are now a few days into 2014. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a rough start for our family. We’ve had a couple of different viruses that we’ve passed around, Josh broke his arm, sleep has been hard to come by (for various reasons), we had a minor carbon monoxide scare, we’ve gotten a LOT of snow, and temperatures outside have been super-low. That said, I think Josh and I are still pretty excited about 2014!
We’ve got new things brewing in our heads and in our hearts. We’ve felt compelled to listen a little harder to the still, small voice and to make more room in our spirits for a Word or a leading. We’ve committed together to spend some time praying and listening together in the evenings.
You see, there’s something stirring for us, but we’re not quite sure what it all is or what it all means, yet. We’ve been here, at Reba, growing up and learning and just getting by as a young family for over FIVE YEARS now. We had an earthquake of activity nearly two years ago, when we felt excited about a move to New Mexico. Yet, it became clear that the particular community we were considering was not the place for us. We felt thankful to be on the same page as husband and wife, but we felt disappointed and confused, too. We are exploring a different, quieter option now…and we both feel compelled to listen as we have an inkling God’s voice may come in a whisper this time…
There is also a flurry of excitement within me as I consider my vocation in a new way. My head is filled with possibilities and hopes. I have never felt so excited about my career before. I have been a stay-at-home mom with pure passion and commitment for seven and a half years. This new desire to work feels like calling and like a practical venture all at the same time. I have so many thoughts and questions and dreams, but I want to walk carefully, with faith and balance and full presence in my life now.
All of that to say, it’s easy to think about the future or to want to make a plan. Thinking up New Years Resolutions has not felt like a helpful construct for me in navigating these swirling thoughts and questions. Instead, the idea of choosing a word seems more fitting for me this year: http://oneword365.com/. Yeah, it seemed a little cheesy to me at first, but then I decided to give it a try – to pray for a word or a focus for the year. Well, I’ve had a pretty clear word come up to me over and over. So, I’m gonna give this a try!
The word for me for 2014 is : One. With all the new ideas and possibilities beginning to overwhelm me, I want to be able to breathe deeply and focus on ONE thing at a time. I have three kids, a community, hundreds of small tasks to do in a day, many friends and family I want to keep in touch with, a plethora of small goals that I hope to attain this year…how can I possibly make that work with the word one???!!! I don’t know, but somehow it’s working its magic already. When all three kids need something at the same moment, I can think “just take them one at a time.” When I am tired at the end of the day, and I’m trying to be present to three kids and my husband and my mind drifts to things I need to get done, I can think “Just focus on this one moment.” When I think about our future, I can pray about one thing or work on one small task that helps me to feel like I’m moving forward. One thing. That’s it. If I’m honest, I do things better one at a time anyway.
Of course, the Mary and Martha passage came into my head not long after the word did. Jesus says to Martha (who has been working hard while her sister has been sitting and listening to Jesus), “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” I have always wondered what that one thing is. Is the answer as simple as “Jesus”? Somehow, it seems like there’s more to it than that. Well, I’m not going to go into a Bible study here, but today it struck me that the “one thing” that is necessary may not always be the same thing in every moment. BUT, it is necessary to focus on the one important thing at hand, rather than worrying about the many things that may be going on around or inside us. Jesus talks frequently about not worrying, and focusing on only one thing seems like a great way to combat worry.
This year, I hope that using the word “one” like a simple breath prayer will remind me to turn to the One who is faithful and to ask in my spirit what the “one” thing is that I need to focus on for that moment. Sometimes, the answer may be shallow – the one thing may be just washing the dishes or making a phone call that needs to be made, and sometimes I may hear a voice that calls me deeper – to really see the person in front of me, to choose love over making a point, or to drop my list altogether and be present in a time of need. I hope I notice things I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I hope that I can let go of the stress that comes with a long list of undone to-dos. And, I hope that, hardly without realizing it, God will bring us to some new exciting places in our journey as we take things one step at a time…
My Lilia Mercy is four and a half. She is absolutely amazing. Yes, she is terribly stubborn and can be whiny at times, but still, somehow, we think she’s just great.
Here she is a month or so ago on her first day of preschool. She and her best buddy Seth (who was also our next-door neighbor until just recently) go to a parks district playschool class together. They learn about science, art, the alphabet, and animal habitats. They make beautiful masterpieces, play on the playground, listen to stories, and build with blocks and play dough. It’s just perfect. AND, they have one of the sweetest teachers I’ve ever met.
Lilia’s love of cooking continues. One day recently, I looked in the refrigerator and said, “It’s time to eat, but nothing sounds good to me.” Lilia responded, quite surprised, “Are you kidding me, mom? We have so much good food in the fridge! I’ll make you a nice treat for lunch.” She proceeded to make me this wonderful yogurt parfait – layered with blueberries and nuts. It was delicious! She even selected these special glasses and made one for each of us.
A few days later, she made this awesome fruit platter for a community potluck…
She is quite capable in the kitchen, which is a mixed blessing. She can be a great help, but she feels a little too empowered sometimes. I often walk in the kitchen and find her experimenting with ingredients I did not approve. I take a deep breath and remind myself that later I’ll be glad that she developed an independent spirit and a love of cooking.
Lilia is a fantastic big sister. She loves her baby borther. And, by her own admission, wishes he could be awake all the time when she is awake. She, again in her confident and independent way, “helps” him a little too much sometimes. Josh and I are getting tired of saying, “LILIA, for the hundredth time, you CAN’T pick him up.” Still, somehow, Simeon adores her.
Lilia loves to be outside and go on outings. Here she is in a group of strangers riding her bike at the “Bike the Ridge” event in Evanston. She is adventurous and usually pretty fearless. She continues to be quite shy around most strangers, though. I’m always surprised, because she is generally very talkative and confident around so many people.
This summer, our pediatrician detected a heart murmur at Lilia’s routine check-up. He asked that we see a pediatric cardiologist, just to rule out any serious causes of the murmur. This was the first time for any of our children to see a specialist, and we were nervous and praying for our precious girl. We got a good recommendation for a doctor from friends in our community. We got an awesome report: the murmur was nothing at all, just the sound Lilia’s heart makes. No reason to worry or even ever have a follow-up visit! We praise the Lord for Lilia’s healthy, strong, growing heart!
Lilia and I are developing a sweet mother-daughter bond lately. She loves to write and draw, and she often writes “mom” or draws pictures for me. She made a list on my door that says “Lilia” “mom” and lists several outings that she wants us to do, just the two of us. So far we have gone out for hot chocolate together. She is hoping for a trip to the candy store and a pedicure (I had one when I was pregnant, and she’s wanted one ever since.) We also went to a mother-daughter belly dance class recently, which was a real hoot. We’ll have to post a video of her demonstration to Josh after the class.
Like I said, she has her moments…her stubborn, break-downs (like on our way home from church this morning, when she threw a fit because we weren’t taking the path she wanted us to). But, she is developing character and her personality is blooming. She is a ton of fun and a great helper. She is resilient, happy, quirky, and sweet.
Coming soon: a photo of Lilia on her half-birthday, when she decided to go to church dressed as Strawberry Shortcake…