Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I'm Into: July

{don't think I'll use the navy polka dots again- too hard to read; lesson learned, but I do love my little Summery feeling table by the door}

On the Nightstand:

Immersion Bible Study: Mathew- J. Ellsworth Kalas
I love these Bible studies, but lately I've been having a hard time getting into it. Nothing wrong specifically, just not as much that I haven't read or heard before (the first half was more insightful to me and in general, I love the series). I'm going to finish it up in the next week or so.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World Full of Impossible Standards- Jen Hatmaker
Waiting for the launch to do a big review, but this has been an enjoyable read for sure! Funny and serious and lighthearted and deep all at the same time!

And my old staples:
Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 
The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)- Ethan Richardson, Sean Norris

It sure ain't easy, though (from Reflections for Ragamuffins)

top is Brennan again and bottom is the kids' devotion (more on that below)- I'm thankful the Father is gracious to give us great hope in the midst of great pain

On Their Nightstand: 

Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw You Family to God- Marty Machowski
I really can't say enough about how much I love this devotion. There are a few things I'd change (ways of interpreting some things in the Old Testament on occasion) but overall, it's been AMAZING. I love that it speaks to our human condition in that we are image bearers, but we are deeply sinful and ultimately that really points the children to Jesus in a thoughtful and organic way. I have no desire to teach my kids Bible stories just for the sake of knowing them and honestly I don't even want the "lessons" to be the main point. It is about their need for Jesus and this book has been a wonderful tool for helping me with that. We read this in the morning and the Storybook Bible in the evenings and I feel like it's just the best bookends to their day. Law and Gospel for munchkins, guys! 

and this little assortment of leveled readers:
A friend in BK gave us all these readers before we left. Annie picks one to read aloud to us each night and also just grabs one to practice whenever. Graves dumped them all out the other day and I counted them. There's about seventy five and maybe ten she hasn't read! So proud of our girl!

and also, from Tails, and old favorite:
Graves wanted to know why the little peacock didn't have a big, bright tail. Before I could answer AP said "Well, you KNOW the females are the ones who get surprised. The males are the ones who are so beautiful." The bird obsession has also manifested in AP getting Graves to be the male bird and perform a courtship dance and Graves talking about finding "Podcast" (his toy dinosaur, OMG, GUYS) a mate (Which he didn't realize would need to be from Podcast's same species). I legitimately have the weirdest kids ever. Which is pretty perfect. 

On the Shelf:
Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)- Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, David Zahl
Bossypants- Tina Fey

This didn't happen so my list is still the same.

At the Theater (or from the couch):
I honestly didn't watch a single movie this month. Weird since last month I watched three. This month was more typical, I guess, though. I hope to get a couple in with Peyton this month.

On the Small Screen:
Well, we're nuts! We realized there's one more whole season that you can't stream yet but you can get in the mail. So, we're on that!

Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts
We are such fruitcakes. Awhile back, Peyton and I were talking about how we'd love to watch Unsolved Mysteries again. We looked it up on Netflix and found several different discs arranged by theme. Ghosts was decidedly the lamest, but also the most readily available. Obviously. It was pretty corny, but we ATE IT UP.

Law and Order: SVU
I'm back at it again. We randomly watched a few episodes the other night because we couldn't sleep (let me reiterate for the third time- we are basically dumbasses). I've watched the show here and there with varying levels of dedication (there used to be Saturday marathons and I wasted probably literal months of my life on those things) for years and years and at some point I'd really like to watch them all in order. 

In My Ears:
I honestly haven't listened to much music this month. My car bit the dust (that is a sob story in itself and truly deserves it's own post). Right now we're trying to figure out if we can maybe share a car and Peyton's been working a lot. Usually, car time is music time. Which makes me SO sad after missing it all those months when we were riding the train and I just couldn't do headphones with the kids. Peyton's about to be working less and hopefully I'll be driving more (I'm learning how to drive his standard and whew! it's coming but it's slow coming). What I have been listening to a bit, though, is podcasts and sermons:

Sorta Awesome with Megan Tietz
I love listening to podcasts with Peyton and I feel like it's getting more and more popular and quite a handful of the bloggers/writers/former bloggers I've loved for some time are now doing podcasts. I just adore Megan's show. Basically, I think she seems like one of the most adorable, gracious, humble people ever. Who is also really interesting. How does that happen? Anyway, it's just sort of about awesome things in the lives of Megan and her friends. It's not the kind of podcast that is super deep and involved and I kind of love that because I can do something else while listening (my problem with Serial and This American Life is that I can only do COMPLETELY mindless things- like laundry- while listening; which this show I can check emails and organize photos and that sort of thing, too). Sorta awesome, guys!

Grace Is Enough- Jacob Smith
Good grief, I miss it so bad! This is maybe one of my favorite sermons I've heard in my LIFE. I'm honestly not sure it gets any better or closer to the Gospel than this. Or at least I should say that's the case for me. God speaks to different people in different ways and through different messengers. For me, this resonates so very much. A few of my absolute favorite nuggets (because yes, I took a few notes):
* Your experience- the highs and the lows of life- well that's your life. But it's not your Christian faith- nor does it define your Christian faith.
* Our existentialist experiences are high and low and must not distract from the cross of Christ.
* The profundity of the Christian message is not your experience. Because at the center of that story is you. Our story is "I am weak. My life is a disaster. Let me tell you where my strength is found- in God's grace". Without such weakness, grace is an affront to us.
* The universal appeal of Christianity is that we all have thorns that pierce our pride, pierce our notions of success, pierce especially our hearts.
* All of us have wounds that are gaping, but Christ promises to be sufficient.
That there is why I miss it so terribly. The acknowledgement and validation of my gaping wounds and the reminder of the sufficiency of Christ. What more do you need?

Always Gospel: All You Need- Mike Campbell
I realized recently that it would make a lot of sense for our church search to listen to sermons online before going places, and a friend had recommended we try Redeemer, so I gave this one a shot. Sadly, the pastor just moved and this was one sermon in a series of goodbye type talks. Bummer, because I really liked him. I'm sure the church will find someone else wonderful and we're still going to visit at some point, hopefully soon. This particular sermon was sort of about what "defines" this church and what they want to be known for. I stumbled upon it (okay, I clicked it because I was hopeful about the message based on the title) and what a perfect thing for someone who wants to know more about the church. I doubt it was a coincidence and I'm willing to admit more and more than not much is. A few bullets here too:
* Redeemer is known for a lot of things (its missional place in the community, its music ministry, its multiracial congregation) but everything flows from an unwavering commitment to the Gospel.
* Sometimes churches tweak the Gospel and never talk about sin. Sometimes we pick a thing (family, politics, ect.) and call it the Gospel.
* There is a huge diversity of people and thoughts (paraphrase) but when you keep the Gospel ultimate, it "relitivizes" everything.
* Christ's imputed righteousness brings freedom. We are continually under the kindness, the grace, and the favor of God.

There is NO replacement for us finding a body of believers we can call our family here, but I will say that listening to these two men speak these good words helped me immeasurably this week. 

Around the House:
Taking a step back from the deeper, meaning of life stuff, here's what's going on inside these walls:

We finished up Graves's side of his and Annie's room and I was so excited with how it turned out:

The clown, the Wild Thing, and the acrobat are no accident. He is all those things so unapologetically, and while bold colors and vintage motifs and nods to ligature are certainly peeks into move loves, I hope this space feels so perfectly his. 

Also, Minnie finished his alphabet. We love it. 

We also added some on-their-level art to the reading nook and hopefully it feels even more magical. AP is fond of telling people she has "another room inside her room" and it's worked out perfectly to have such a spacious spot for their books (and also to use some of the pastel nursery things I have a hard time parting with).

And I finally figured out a good strategy for maintaining a clean room. It had gotten out of control in Brooklyn and too much of our day was devoted to straightening, which was/is pretty essential to me since we don't have a playroom or something where I feel like I can just look away. Anyway, they only have access to a fraction of their toys at one time- usually a big basket of stuffed animals that is easily picked up, one or two "big" toys (like the Little People castle or the Ikea play rug), a big bin of dress up clothes, and they each have two cubes in their nightstands that we switch out regularly. Plus the nook, of course! I think it's a great system. 

I did a little tweaking in the kitchen and put up a new quote on the chalkboard:
The sink and windowsill feels just right with the little jars and potted plants and my favorite little burlap sign and the fence tray beneath. It's honestly one of my favorite spots- I feel sort of old fashioned for some reason, washing the dishes and looking out the window at the children playing. It's wonderful really because I can be content to spend lots of hours there since we decided to not worry about fixing the broken dishwaser. 

I heard Bruce say this years ago on a Storytellers and it really transformed my thinking about moving to New York. Lately, I've thought about it in regards to our journey toward simplicity and what we are willing to give up for it. But even more recently, I've been applying it to our move back. People who don't know our story (and even some who sort of do) often ask "Did you not like it?"/ At first I was so caught of guard, it was hard to formulate a response. But it's not as bad now. Living within a few miles of our families and most of our best friends is a lot more meaningful because of what we gave up for that- namely a place where I felt more comfortable, more safe, and more alive than I possibly ever had. We may not always be here and we may be. But we are for now. Looking at it this way- as a beautiful and worthy sacrifice- was ironically what got me to Brooklyn and is helping me now in unspeakable ways. 

Last up, we made a lot of progress in the study (which is fun because it was needing LOTS of love):
Peyton ordered these national parks postcards (he also got a set of cities) and stained some plaques from Hobby Lobby. I love how it turned out! 

I guess I might feel guilty about being selfish and keeping this room as our little sanctuary if my kids didn't wake up and play for an hour before they even call me.

Actually, one more thing and this was mostly logistics. But I had to get rid of my "Summer shelf" which I love so much. We had the kids' Ikea table in the kitchen since we moved. It was super functional but also did not in the kitchen at all. I really didn't want to put it in the attic because I wanted it accessible for projects and I was thinking about putting it in the carport. Peyton reminded me of all the things we've had mildew out there and I tried to think of something else. I decided to put some of my Brooklyn storage strategies to work and see if I could fit it in the laundry room. It will not let us outgrow this house anytime soon =)

In the Kitchen:

Well, the other week we had five out seven real, home cooked meals (in the interest of full disclosure, I'm counting beans that Mickey cooked). That's literally NEVER happened before. Feel free to judge. Annie asked me the other day why I had started to always cook dinner for me and Peyton and then serve them the leftovers. I told her that I thought she and Graves loved leftovers. She said they did and I think the "always" cooking was what really piqued her interest =) Anyway, I think we *may* have found the golden ticket for a healthy, positive family dining routine. Peyton cooks breakfast and that's our together meal at the table, the kids eat a late lunch of leftovers after he leaves for work, they have a light dinner of sandwiches and fruit, and then I fix a real dinner for me and Peyton for when he gets home. I try to have the kitchen cleaned up and be in bed by one. It's definitely not traditional, but I think if we stay disciplined it could work. 

We haven't done very much with the Summer Salad Challenge this year, but this BLT salad from Southern Living was pretty good! I gave it four out of five stars.

And nothing says Summer like a veggie plate for dinner...

...unless it's homemade pimento cheese on a groovy flower plate! 
In My Closet:
Our full length mirror broke in Brooklyn and I haven't made it a priority to buy a new one. So not many outfit photos. Or really, none. 

In Their Closets:
These are some grown babies. Look at them! My favorite thing on Annie this month was her kitty cat dress that feels oh so Brooklyn and my favorite thing on Graves was his Wizard of Oz literature tee.

In My Mailbox:
 We got the remaining resources I had ordered for our homeschool year and then dove right in, so that's been fun! 

In My Cart:
Not really in my cart, but a new fun thing sort of. These birdhouse sheets have actually been in the attic for years and when I found them Annie was over the moon! (I actually have a comforter up there for her big girl bed/room that I bought when she was an infant because I was the one obsessed with birds then. Like decorative ones, though, not real ones.)

Around the Town:
Peyton's been working a lot of extra days and with the car situation, we've been spending a lot of time at home. When we're not home, we've been trying to make it to the pool a good bit (and practice driving the car).

On the Blog:
I wrote about my Summer Goals for the Smalls and I wrote about how in many ways moving back is like starting from Scratch.

On My Heart:
- These last few weeks with Peyton working so much and without having a car have been interesting. It's provided a lot of time for just the kids and me. Which, sometimes that's frustrating, and exhausting, and overwhelming. But we're in a really sweet spot where I've mostly enjoyed the extra time just us.
- Some days being back feels {almost} unquestionably easy. It feels so right and so perfect. There are still a lot of days where it feels good in a lot of ways but it hurts so bad to be away from the things I love in New York.
- I've enjoyed less time out and about with the kids, but Peyton's been really helpful in making sure I get some adult time with friends when he has been home and I'm thankful for it.

In My Prayers:
- I'm praying for Peyton and for myself and for the children. All of our faith journeys and how they influence each other's.
- I'm still praying that we find a faith community that feels like a good fit.
- Peyton's schedule is about to change in a big way and it's a good change, but for me, any change feels sort of terrifying. So I'm praying that the Lord will show me how to navigate that well.
On the Calendar: 

More friend time, more pool time, and more enjoying the last bit of the good ol' Summertime! 

What I'm Into

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