A peek at spring

April seems like a long time ago… spring seems like a bit of a blur filled with the house buying process and then packing and getting ready to move. But it wasn’t all crazy — we made some time to go enjoy the nice weather outside too. One day we packed a lunch and went and had a picnic at a nearby park.

Laurelin turned 2 in May. She’s growing up so fast, and providing us with many laughs every day. It’s been fun to see her learn and start to make sense of the world around her. She’s a real character — you can’t push her around! — I guess that’s what comes of having two older sisters. We didn’t really have a party for her, but I made her a cake with lots of M ‘n M’s on, which she loved, and we shared it with friends we usually have lunch with after our homeschool gymnastics class.

And of course, in May we moved to our new house. We were so blessed to have lots of strong friends helping, and were able to do it all in one day, with only one trip in the huge rented U-Haul truck (which Ben was able to drive without a special licence!).

Our new place

I thought it’s about time I showed you a photo of our new place. We moved in Memorial Day (with the help of some amazing and hard-working friends), and have managed to unpack all the boxes. There are still lots of little odd jobs to do around the place before we’ll be completely “settled”, but for now life can carry on again. Homeschooling has started again (though scaled back a bit for the summer). I still feel a bit like I’m on a treadmill that is going a little too fast and I’m going to fall on my face very soon, but it hasn’t happened yet, and so long as I keep plugging away at the ever-growing to-do list I might just avoid the face plant.

I love this house! It’s lovely and cute, we’ve got a yard, it’s beautiful and comfortable, in a great area, and great for hospitality (we even have a proper guest room now, so come visit!).

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We are so incredibly thankful for this house. I said to Ben the other day that if we hadn’t lived in our little shoebox under the stairs in Brooklyn first,

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and then in not-so-charming Jersey City,

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we just wouldn’t have appreciated this house. And so we are not only thankful to God for this house, but also the journey He took us on to get here. While I know we won’t be here in the long term, it’s good to have a place of our own to call home at least for the next few years.

Changing things around

You’ll probably have noticed that I’ve been playing around with new blog designs. And you’ll probably also be relieved to know that I’m done now, and that this is what the site will look like for the foreseeable future! Is anyone having any trouble viewing things? If so, let me know in the comments.

Speaking of comments… we love getting them! It makes us feel in touch with you, our readers. It’s probably the closest thing I’ll get to sitting down and chatting over a cup of tea with most of you for a very long time.

In other ‘changing things around’ news… we’ve bought a house! We’ll be moving soon, and because of that there might be a little lull in posts for a few weeks. Promise I’ll post photos when I get the chance!

Side by Side

I’m so glad to have been given the opportunity to review the book Side by Side by Jana Kelley. I met Jana back in 2004 when I spent half a year working in Sudan. Although Jana was not a part of the team I was working with, our paths crossed fairly regularly: we taught a conversational English class together at a tea house for women; and I taught and helped out at the school where her boys attended. I remember on the first day of school how her adorable then 3-year old toddled up to me and very articulately explained that his grandma had made some coasters for the teachers at school and he gave one to me. I still have that coaster.

Below are a few photos from my time in Sudan, to give you a little idea of what it was like.

I also remember what an encouragement Jana was. She was always smiling, and quick with an encouraging word or a listening ear. So when I heard that she was writing a novel based on her experiences during her family’s time in Sudan, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy! Her publisher sent me a copy, and I’m afraid to say that the destruction of Mount Washmore (my washing pile) was significantly delayed — the only reason I didn’t finish the book in one day is because I still needed to teach and feed the kids!

What a great read. It brought back so many memories, sights and sounds. I could taste and smell the delicious dishes she described, and feel the sandy, hot wind on my face again. I could smell the open sewers and feel the sweat trickle down my back. And I could feel the thick spiritual oppression of Islam and the hope of Christ shining through it.

Side by Side follows the story of two women: Mia, a Christian American wife and mother living in Sudan for her husband’s job, and Halimah, an Arab Muslim university student. The story tracks both their journeys of faith. Mia has to leave behind all that is familiar in America, learn Arabic and overcome the many cultural challenges that daily life in Sudan brings, not to mention loneliness and wondering what on earth God’s plan is for her. Halimah’s university professor gives her an Arabic/English Ingil (New Testament) to help her improve her English, but very soon she is reading it for its message — and she believes. She desperately wants to share the Good News with her friends and family, but knows that it could mean death. When her family discovers her hidden Christian books, they beat her and order her to recant, but she refuses and manages to get away. In the process of needing a safe place to hide, she ends up living with Mia and her family for a while– to the mutual encouragement of both women.

(I could say more, but I don’t want to give away all the good bits!)

I loved the realism with which Jana described both of their lives — her attention to detail makes it evident that she is closely familiar with the kinds of lives both these characters lead — living in Sudan for many years would do that for you! — so different from each other, and yet in the end what they have in common is the beautiful bond of a love for Jesus. Jana brings out the deep desire of every Christian to share the gospel, and head-on confronts the weak excuses we often offer with the incredible courage shown by Halimah.

A challenging, encouraging and beautiful book. Make it part of your next book order!

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I received a complimentary copy of Side by Side but have not been compensated in any other way for this review. 

Well done, good and faithful servant

To you, commuter on the 6.15am bus
who study on spinning wheels for an hour before a long day of work:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, mother of small children
who have wiped more noses and bottoms and floors than you could count:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, wrinkled prayer warrior
who sits in the recliner in the musty retirement home and talks to God:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, faithful writer of letters
to people far and wide who seldom reply:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, pastor with the broad shoulders
who carries the cares of stubborn sheep:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, teacher of difficult children
who are learning only because you care:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, janitor of high school bathrooms
who provides for your family with this second job:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, cubicle worker on the 56th floor
who does the mundane with quiet joy:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, carer of the old or sick or frail
who wonders how much longer you could possibly go on:
Well done, good and faithful servant.

To you, with the sleeves rolled up
working hard
where God has placed you
at this point in time and space:
Take courage, you work for Him.

He places importance in how you work.
Be encouraged that your work makes a positive difference
and that even if no-one else notices, He does.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Enjoying a spot of sewing

The week before Easter I decided that I’d love for the girls to have new dresses for Easter (which is a bit of an American church tradition, it seems to me), but I really didn’t want to fork out $30 a dress (times three!), so I had a scratch in my fabric stash and decided to sew something with some fabric I got ages ago in the hopes of making the girls dresses. They were smaller then, and there were only two of them, so the fabric wasn’t quite enough to make a whole dress out of them, so I poked around the internet at how to use a T-shirt and turn it into a dress.

I found this twirly T-shirt dress tutorial, which was incredibly useful. I made a dress like that for Laurelin, but didn’t have enough fabric to make such twirly skirts for Marica and Esther too, so their skirts aren’t so full. I still think they turned out cute!

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For the flower on the sash I used this tutorial, but didn’t use the ‘flower maker’. You really don’t need it!

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The whole thing was so easy — I managed to make 3 dresses in one day, even with the kids running around me. The flowers took a little longer, but they were also surprisingly quick to make. Such fun to do a bit of sewing again — now the bug has bitten me again… I should finish that quilt I’ve been working on for over a year now!

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