Real Marriage

This past weekend, Jon and I went to Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage Conference. (Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington). We were super excited earlier this year when we found out that Pastor Mark's marriage conference was coming to Indy. He and his wife Grace wrote a book called Real Marriage that came out this past January (2012), and I have to say, out of every marriage book we've read, this is by far, the best one. They've been doing a conference tour across the U.S. and landed in Indianapolis last weekend. Their book reached #1 on NY Times best selling list. Pretty cool.

It was so neat to meet Mark and be able to tell him how his book, his honesty, and his wife's honesty, has been monumental in our life this year.
 So often, you find marriage books in which it sounds like the writer of the book has done everything right, never made any mistakes, and is living in happily ever after fairy-tale land. First of all, that's just not true. Second of all, it's extremely discouraging. Here's the deal... no one has sailed through marriage without trials and difficulties, not even pastors. But unfortunately, many pastors have not had enough courage to share where they've been and the honest road it took to be where they are. It is so encouraging when you find someone further down the road from you, who walked difficult paths, and came out looking more like Jesus on the other side. Those are the people we want to be around. Third of all, the church at large (meaning collective Bible believing, Christian churches), are often silent on the issues that marriages need to hear most about from a Biblical perspective. Probably because too often, they don't understand "Biblical perspective" and are tip-toeing around words like sex, only talking about it in code language, and trying to make things like Song of Solomon into something God didn't intended it to be. No, Song of Solomon is not allegorical teaching about God and the church. It's about the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife, and all the joy and freedom found in THAT relationship. And yes, that is IN the BIBLE!

All that to say, we are incredibly thankful for the church body and the pastors at Harvest Bible Chapel where we attend church. Our pastors and godly leaders do not at all fit into the category of "silent." They are genuine, heartfelt, and most of all, real. So thank you to our pastors and elders for the godly example of reality and walking out our faith that you display. Not only are they doing that, but they are encouraging the church body to do the same in each other's lives...to disciple.

For years, we have prayed for a godly couple to walk beside us in life, speaking into our marriage, and encouraging us to live out God's plan for families. God answered when he brought Joe and Julie Wendel into our lives. They have given so much of their time, energy, and love into seeing God's best for us. Having someone like them, one on one, and couple to couple, is one of the most invaluable blessings to a young and growing family. I've really never met anyone like them... who speak in love, who are loyal and steadfast, even when it's hard and painful, in pursuing us and God's best for us.

Joe and Julie went to the Real Marriage conference with us. The conference was Friday and Saturday and we all spent the night at a hotel, without children!! :) Yes! haha. So thankful we could share this weekend together.
So much of life hinges on the crucial decisions within a marriage and family. God didn't set up the church to wander around aimlessly and try to figure it out. He gave us His Word, the Holy Spirit, the church, and godly people to walk alongside us, to mentor us, to love us, to laugh with us, to grieve with us, and to rejoice with us.

Even now we pray, that one day, we can turn around and provide the same kind of discipleship to others.

"Oh the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friend will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." (Dinah Craik).

Here are some great sermon series by Mark Driscoll, totally worth your time. Load em' up on your iPod and listen on your way to work!
Real Marriage series
Song of Solomon- The Peasant Princess series


Summer Highlight- Attending a Birth

This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to witness the birth of my friend's fourth child. It was so incredible. I am all about women having whatever birth experience they desire, whether that be homebirth, hospital birth, induction, drug-free birth, epidural, or c-section (planned or not planned). I am super interested in midwifery study and one of these days maybe I will get certified as a midwife, birth assistant, or doula. I have always said that if I didn't study education in college, I would've become a nurse, solely for the purpose of becoming a labor and delivery nurse, but I am not interested in any other categories of nursing and you can't specify what part of nursing you want to study. Anyway, I cannot think of a more exciting and rewarding job! This was the first birth I had ever been to, except for  my delivery of Evie. It was awesome.

I hung out with Connor, Nate, and Phoebe for the day while mom was in labor and got to attend the birth later that night. She wanted her kids to be there for the birth and wanted me to help with them during that process. I taught Connor a few years back in first grade. Can't believe he is so old!
We baked a cake for Luke's birthday!

 We went to lunch, played the Wii, ran around at the park, and went to the library. 
 They didn't think I could hang upside down. 
 Labor stalled for a few hours in the early evening so I left and went to small group with church. Then I got a text around 9pm saying to hurry back, labor was in full swing and baby would be here soon. My heart was beating so fast the entire drive there. 

She had a home water birth with Believe Midwifery.
Here's Connor, waiting for his brother to arrive. 
 About an hour after I returned, this precious boy arrived. 
Luke Matthew
July 10, 2012 @10:54pm
8 lbs. 3 oz. 21 inches
I get chills even writing about it. It was such a privilege to be asked to be a part of such a personal, family time. Besides my own labor, I don't think my heart was ever beating so fast for so long! 

3 excited siblings after the birth! 
After Luke was born, Nate ran downstairs to record it. Hehe.
And here he is! What a beautiful boy. Watching him enter the world was certainly a highlight of my summer. 


Preschool- At Home!

With much excitement, we have taken the plunge into homeschooling! Mekonen turns 4 at the end of the year and we started preschool this year. We have lots of reasons we are choosing to homeschool, but that's another post for another day.

So here's a glimpse into what we are doing, and a pic of one very excited 3 year old. 
Mekonen loves books and has been asking constantly "what do all these words say mom?" Or when I give him a stack of books to look at it, he says with disappointment, "But I don't know what the words say!" So I decided to take full advantage of his interest and begin a phonics program with him. He already knows all his upper and lowercase letters so I figure he's ready to start. When I taught before we had kids, I found the Abeka phonics program to be one of the best ways to teach reading and knew we would be using that. So for his first year of preschool we are doing Abeka K4 phonics and then a bunch of lapbooks and some learning games I made from this great website. I mixed some of the toddler and preschool packs for what Mekonen needs to work on. We will also continue reading our way through  Charlotte Mason's reading lists and the classical reading list for early childhood.

This kid is loving all the school attention. It's the first thing he wants to do when he wakes up in the morning. Wouldn't it be nice if that enthusiasm stuck over the years? haha. 
 Learning the vowels and their sounds. 
Mekonen thinks it's super cool that he uses a sword as his school pointer. 
 Learning phonics requires lots of repitition so I've made several games for Mekonen that we use to practice the phonics sounds and letters. He absolutely loves it. Here's one where I made several roads that we can arrange in different ways and when he answers something correct he gets to move his car along the track. 
 Another game for phonics based on Thomas the tank engine. It's so simple, but he thinks it's great. 
We do our phonics and letter work first (the Abeka curriculum), and then we move on to lapbooks. I took several days and made these books up based on Mekonen's interests and we work on bits and pieces of them each time. They work on skills like patterns, colors, numbers, shapes, writing, etc. These are great because we can use them over and over again, so making them was not wasted time or effort!

Here he is working on his Cars book. It's his favorite!! 
Tracing with his Cars book. We need some major work in the fine motor skills department. :) hehe. 
Working on numbers! He puts the right amount of cars on each number. 
We don't have an official schoolroom so I just use this portable white board. Mekonen loves putting his stuff on it at the end of our school time. 
Our school time only lasts about 30 minutes, and Evie's job is carpet time! She has to stay on the carpet and play so she's not getting into all the stuff we're trying to do. Eventually I might make her some of the toddler busy bags floating around online, but I haven't had time. For now, she's content just playing here. 
Some pics of our labooks for the fall. 
 Thomas the Tank Engine
 Finding Nemo
 A Fall theme
 Knights and Castles 
So that's about it for now!
Another favorite part of Mekonen's preschool time is putting a sticker on his "I Did School Today" chart. It's the little things...hehe. :) 


Summer Happenings- Part 3

More summer 2012 recordings...

Jon and I love going to a good country concert. This year we went to Zac Brown Band. It was over 100 degrees, but super fun! 

 On my way to PA to visit my family, I stopped halfway at my college rommate's house. It's the first time I met her sweet little girl Avery. I miss those days of us living in a small, crummy apartment in Cedarville, OH! Crazy how we both have kids now! They had a blast playing together. 
 My blondie. Her brunette.
Love it. 
 Avery: "What did they do to us?"
Evie: "I don't know, but do I look as ridiculous as you right now?"
Back together with my best friend Rach and her little boy Gideon. Sure wish we lived in the same state! 
 We enjoyed several trips to the splash park with our good friends Macie and Miss Corrie!
Two goobers. 
Eve was a little hesitant at first, but then found the fountains that were just her size. 
We had a lot of fun with our water table this summer. Not jut water, but soap suds and cooked spaghetti!

A highlight of the summer...watching the Olympics....
Oh this makes my heart so happy.
Daddy and Mekonen went on a date together. Cars 2 was showing on the big screen at a local park. Mekonen got decked out in his Cars gear. Lightning McQueen outfit, Cars headlamp, Cars silly bands, Car band-aid for his boo-boo, and his Tow Mater pillow pet. You couldn't have found a happier kid! 

Pigtails! A new favorite summer hair-do!
This summer we finished up the Charlotte Mason 3 year old reading list. The kids favorite books on her list were McDuff the dog books, and Carl books. 
My Uncle Bill, Auntie Ruth, and cousin Jenny all stopped overnight on their way to Chicago. Jenny brought her dog Fancy, and Evie just loved pushing her around in her stroller like she was a baby. Evie was mesmerized by this little thing. :) 
We live in the midwest! The state fair is one of the highlights of our summer!
 The kids loved feeding the goats!
 A boy and his love for tractors. 
 Then after I snapped the picture, he turned around and grabbed the udders and yelled, "Look! It's the cow's_____" (insert anatomically correct word for you know what). Awesome Parenting 101. 
 An evening stroll at the fair with Daddy.
Cutest John Deere advertising I've ever seen ;) 

How this girl is found most days...sitting among a stack of books. 
There are amazing resources in the Indianapolis area for families who have adopted from Ethiopia. There's a Bible believing Ethiopian church on the west side that puts together functions every other month for adoptive families to bring their children to. They learn about Ethiopian culture, hang out with other Ethiopians, and other adopted Ethiopian kids, and participate in all sorts of fun things. This summer, they added something super awesome! The 4th Sunday of the month, they do their church service in English so that adoptive families can bring their children. Wow. Awesome. So thankful to have something like this for our son. Here he is trying to follow along in his Bible at the Ethiopian church. 
Our friend Bisrat from Ethiopia was here visiting! We haven't seen him since we picked up Mekonen in Ethiopia in 2009! He brought us all over ET and became a great friend. What a godly Ethiopian for Mekonen to look up to. 
 We enjoyed another visit to the lake where Jon's Aunt Mary and Uncle John live. This time, cousins Nathan, Charlotte, and Travis joined us. Mekonen had a blast!!!! 
Indiana summer....nothing like watching a baseball game on a blanket, eating hot dogs and popcorn. 
It was a great summer. One that flew by much too quickly, and one where we grew much as a family. Now looking ahead to a fabulous Fall! (Even though it's still in the 90's here!)