Preparing the Soil

July 4, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

Just For You, Rebecca

It had been fourteen years since I had seen her. The last time we were together, she was wearing a white dress and walking down an aisle and I was weeks away from moving to India. Her wedding was a goodbye that lasted fourteen years. Because of the wonders of Facebook, we have been able to reconnect over the last few years, mostly since our two little men were born just days apart from each other. Back in May, I got a sweet message asking me if I wanted to spend a weekend at her home with another one of our dear friends. It took me all of about two seconds to say, “YES!” And so, last weekend I hopped on a flight to Memphis and spent an amazing weekend catching up with friends. Fourteen years and twelve children later, it was like we were back in college. We talked…a lot. We laughed…a lot.

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One thing I learned about Rebecca was that she loves blogs. And so, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to her as my way of saying thank you for initiating an amazing weekend that refreshed my soul. I haven’t laughed that much in years.

On Saturday night, Rebecca ran out to pick up some dinner for us (poor Ada was sick in bed). I was the lucky one who got to stay with her sweet little man, Graham (a Zachary look-alike). We only had a few minutes but I snapped from photos of him to bless sweet Rebecca with. And so Rebecca, here’s your little man. You are a beautiful mama and your four beautiful children are so blessed to have you as their mom. Keep walking, praying and trusting God, and He will fill in the gaps for you. You are doing an amazing job!

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I think he has a pitching career in his future!

I think he has a pitching career in his future!

We had to come in because it started to rain. But he loved it while it lasted!

We had to come in because it started to rain. But he loved it while it lasted!

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Have you ever seen a more adorable pout?

Have you ever seen a more adorable pout?

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Those eyes!

Those eyes!

His brothers are very involved in baseball. I think this little man wants to be just like them!

His brothers are very involved in baseball. I think this little man wants to be just like them!

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Thank you, Ada and Rebecca, for the late night talks, the great advice (Ada!), and the many, many laughs. Some things never change…3SE is the place to be!

July 4, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

How’s It Going?

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It’s the question we get asked the most. People want to know how our transition has been and how we are enjoying life back in the United States.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy question to answer. I’m not sure if I should be honest (“It’s been really busy and really crazy but we somehow are hanging in there and sneaking in a bit of fun”) or just be polite and positive (“We’re doing great!)  Either way I spin it, it would only be a small portion of truth. To explain what the last few months have been like would take hours. And obviously, most people who ask us how we are doing don’t have hours to listen to the laundry list of happenings and emotions.

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In a few words, though, here is what we have been up to:

Transitioning: Moving back to the States takes time. There are many boring (but necessary) tasks like getting new driver’s licenses, plates for our car, choosing cell phones, getting our kitchen stocked, etc. Moving life for a family of 8 to a new country means many hours spent doing things we would rather not be doing.

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Decision Making: We’ve had a mot of decisions to make. We had to buy a car. We had to decide how to spend the summer. We have had to try to plan out our fall. There have been many long (and often interrupted) talks as we try to be wise with our time, talents, and money.

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Interviewing: The big “next step” in our life is still in process. It has been a lengthy ordeal (starting generally in November and specifically in January). We’re still not done. This has meant many hours filling our paperwork, tracking down specific documents, interviewing via Skype, and more. It is all worth it, but again, it takes time.

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Reconnecting: We have enjoyed getting to reconnect with family and friends, both in person and on the phone. We have loved being back with our church and feel so blessed to be a part of an amazing fellowship of believers. Jason and the boys enjoyed a weekend father/son camping trip with a number of other families and I enjoyed an amazing five days in Memphis reconnecting with friends from college and from our time in Indonesia. What a soul-filling time it was (and admittedly, a nice break after being a single mom for five weeks).

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Studying: My class in educational therapy has stared and I am enjoying being a student again (minus having to look up things like the current APA format for papers!) I am enjoying what I am learning and I look forward to a much deeper look into things during the residency portion of my class at the end of the month.

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Unpacking: We’re still sorting through the things we brought back from Indonesia as well as working through paperwork for our small shipment that will come in early fall. It’s especially difficult since we are staying with family for the summer and don’t want to truly unpack until we move into our house in September. But being able to find things is highly desirable and this has meant a lot of shuffling things around.

Missing: With being Stateside for almost two months, I am definitely missing Indonesia. It comes in waves and I find it hard to really make sense of all the mixed emotions. I suppose it is only normal to grieve for a place we called home for the last six years while also looking forward to what God has for us in the future. And we’re all missing Rendang.

Photographing: More and more I am realizing how alive I feel when I spend time with my camera. Whether it is taking pictures on my morning walk or watching friends snuggle as a family in front of me, capturing the beauty I see with my camera is so filling. I love capturing small moments in time for people to enjoy for years to come. I am especially looking forward to a wedding I am shooting this weekend and as long as baby behaves himself and doesn’t arrive while I am at the wedding, I will get to photograph the birth of a beautiful friend’s little man.

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Buying: Lots of stuff. It’s amazing when you realize how many little (and big) things you need to just “do life.” Whether its a major purchase (like a car) or a smaller purchase (like running shoes for the whole family), it all takes time. Lots of it.

Sorting: There have many many details and things to sort out — phones, insurance, doctors, etc. I will be so thankful when all of that stuff is done and we can feel like we have officially settled. And although I had to wait for two hours, I can finally say that as of today I am officially a North Carolina resident.

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Praying: Lots of it. Not much more to say than that I am glad that David gave us such an example in the Psalms of honest prayer. I love that I can pour out my heart in all honestness and He knows and loves me still.

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Planning: We’re gearing up for a month-long road trip to visit many friends and family. Planning for eight people to be on the road for a month is no easy feat! We’re working on finalizing our itinerary and then we need to get working and making definite plans with all of you who have said you’d like to see us.

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Writing: Although I haven’t been writing in this space much, I have been doing quite a bit more writing over at THE DAILY DIGI. You can look HERE for a list of my recent posts (scroll to the bottom). Some of my favorite ones are Memories Don’t Have to be Planned, No Manners Meal,  Flour Bombs, and Ice Coffee Pops.

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Baking: Although I haven’t gotten to do a ton of cooking, I have loved being back in an American kitchen where so many yummy things can be made!

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Worrying: I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also mention the worrying I have been doing. I try to turn it right into praying, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed with all that has to be done and with all the unknowns of the future. This life of faith is filled with many amazing stories of God’s provision and His unswerving love for us, but it is not — in any way — easy. I let it get to me sometimes and I start to fret over many things. I’ve been working on memorizing the Sermon on the Mount so that I have something to fight the fear with. I’m partway through chapter 6 and I love to let the words flow through my thoughts.

 

 

June 20, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Dirt + Watermelon

Busy day playing outside in the dirt. Ending the evening with juicy watermelon. Bath in the sink to follow. Summer makes for happy memories and a blessed childhood.

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June 19, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

A Year Ago Today

Mr. Z was only three months old and slept for nine straight hours in his little airplane bassinet.

Mr. Z was only three months old and slept for nine straight hours in his little airplane bassinet.

 

A year ago today our family left Raleigh in the wee hours of the morning. We were on a journey that would take us to Los Angeles, Shanghai, Phnom Penh, and a month later, back to our home in Indonesia.

In Shanghai, waiting for our flight to Cambodia

In Shanghai, waiting for our flight to Cambodia

 

After a month in Cambodia, we returned to Indonesia, having no idea it would be for such a short time. Never would we have guessed that in less than a year our family would be back in North Carolina, getting ready to trust God for things unthinkable. Never would we have guessed that just one year later we would be buying a car and a camper. Never would we have guessed that we would be planning a 30 day road trip that will take us through 18+ states, allowing us to visit family and friends from high school and college and from our times in Malaysia and Indonesia. Never would we have guessed that I would be getting ready to have my first formal schooling in fourteen years with the goal of bringing hope and healing to our sweet boy and, Lord willing, to other missionary families who are battling with the questions of how to care for their children with learning disabilities. Never would we have guessed that we would have taken a health journey that covered 1000+ miles of walking and running and that would take 30 pounds from each of us. Never would we have guessed that the stories we have used to explain missions to our children when they ask, “Are we real missionaries?” would be prophetic of our future life. Never we would have guessed.

On the day we left Indonesia

On the day we left Indonesia

 

And yet, here we are, a year later. After a month of of mama and kids in North Carolina and dad in Indonesia, we are together again.

Waiting at Raleigh airport

Waiting at Raleigh airport

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Father's Day with Jason and his dad

Father’s Day with Jason and his dad

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

James 4:13-14

June 7, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Strawberry Picking With Friends

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.comIt’s only the beginning of June, but strawberry season is already over here in North Carolina. Earlier this week, though, we headed out with friends to see if we could find any berries left to pick.

I don't think Zach wanted his picture taken...

I don’t think Zach wanted his picture taken…

It was pretty hot and sunny and there were very few berries to be found, but that didn’t stop the kids from having fun!

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I spent most of my time with Bethany who was determined to pick lots of strawberries.

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.comIt was a little slow going at first as she learned which berries were good and which weren’t, but eventually she got the hang of it and her bucket started filling.

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

And after almost an hour of watching the other kids eating most of the berries they picked and Bethany saying, “Yuck, I don’t like strawberries!”, she finally put one in her mouth and said,

“Oh! These are YUMMY!”

And that was the end of strawberry picking for Bethany. She sat herself down on a chair and ate berry after berry.


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And although we didn’t have a lot of berries to show for the morning, the point was to have fun and be with friends. Mission accomplished!

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June 4, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

This Boy is Loved

This Boy is Loved

Many people wonder how large families make it work.

How is there time for all of the kids?

How is there enough money to feed and clothe them?

How is there enough love for each of them?

Don’t some of the kids feel unloved or ignored?

How do you manage all the sibling squabbles?

These are great questions. I can — obviously — only speak from my own experience of having a larger family, but I know without a doubt that having a big family is worth every single tear, moment of frustration, fear for the future, spilled drink, dirty diaper, and middle-of-the-night wake up. It is is very hard and so very rewarding.

I hope that in the future I can share a little more about the hows and whys of the way we make it work. I know that many people, even in their insensitive (and sometimes downright ludicrous!) comments, are really just curious. They want to know how it works.  I want to share some of that and I hope that in the coming months there will be opportunities (and if you have any specific questions I would be more than happy to try to answer them!)

For today, though, I just want to help set aside the notion that there is not enough love to go around. For some reason people think that baby #6 is in no way capable of receiving the same amount of love as babies #1 and #2. And you know what? That is true.

Baby number six receives SO MUCH MORE.

 

My friends, this boy is LOVED.

He is doted on. He is cared for. He is played with. He is adored. He is photographed.

And not just by his parents (like poor baby #1), but by all of his siblings.

They ADORE him. They want to be with him. They want to get him dressed, get his bottle, and strap him into the car. They play ball with him and they slide down the stairs with him. Just this week, when given the opportunity to go out to lunch with mom, two of the kids decided to stay home to play with Zach (my sweet Aunt Becky was watching him for me).

From the moment they met him, his brothers and sisters have cherished him.

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And for some recent proof….

Mr. Z looked crazy-adorable on Sunday before church and I wanted a few pictures of him before we got into the car. He isn’t totally steady on his feet yet and I didn’t want him falling in the dirt, so I asked Alaina to hold his hand while he steadied himself. She was happy to oblige.

This Boy is Loved | Preparing the SoilHe finally stood still for a minute or so and I was able to capture his cuteness.

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And then he wanted to walk. Again, not wanting him to fall into the dirt right before church, Alaina and Levi were quick to let him grab a finger or two.

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A lack of love is not a problem in this family.

May 31, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

I Love Three

I LOVE THREE

I’m running on empty and scraping the barrel. Nine more days until dad comes home. We’ve been apart for 24 days and although physically I feel great, emotionally I am struggling to hold it together.

Over the last few years I have learned a lot about self-care. Jason and I have figured out many ways to make sure I am at my emotional best so that I can give him and the kids my emotional best. Mom’s emotions set the tone for the entire home and I am very intentional and proactive in making sure I am doing all I can to set a happy and calm tone for our family. This involves getting the sleep that I need, caring for my body through exercise and food, making sure my Bible time happens first thing in the morning, and working hard to make sure I get the time alone that my introvertedness requires.

But with dad gone and me on solo duty, those tried-and-true ways to make sure I am emotionally healthy are much harder to achieve. I can’t just go for a walk when I need it. I have to go to bed and wake up when the kids go to bed and wake up. I can’t take 20 minutes alone to refresh. I can’t run errands alone.

Heck, I can’t even shower alone.

However, I am trying to fit in some of the things that fill me…things I can do with a baby clinging to me and a three-year-old always at my side. Baking fills me up (and I mean an emotional fill-up, not just physical!) Photography fills me up. Seeing beauty and expressing gratitude in all I see fills me up. So, I am doing a lot of those things. Thus the many photo posts.

And speaking of that three-year-old, I LOVE THREE.

Sweet Bethany is at an amazing age. She’s old enough to do some things independently and watching her try to do things she thinks she can do independently is priceless. She still loves to cuddle, she has learned to obey, she is capable of sitting still when needed, she says the funniest things, and I can’t help but swoon when I she wraps her arms around my neck and says,

“I SO love you!”

Yep, this girl is pretty much perfect and I could stare at her all day. I really do love three.

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May 30, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

A Day With Friends

A Day With Friends | Preparing the Soil

 

We’re still ten days away from dad returning from Indonesia. And let me say…we’re ready. I’m ready.

In the meantime, though, we’re trying to find the balance between keeping busy and resting before what will be a pretty eventful summer.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending the day at a friend’s house. With thirteen kids between the two families, there was never a dull moment (I think Michelle and I sat on the porch together for no more than three minutes). But the kids had a great time and it was so refreshing to get out of the house.

As the first twinges of missing Indonesia start to be noticeable, I am thankful for friends and the reminder that we are starting a new life here. I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but there is much truth to the proverb,

The grass is greener on the other side where you water it.

 

So we’re going to water while we’re here and enjoy the beauty.

Lots of trampoline fun (with only one minor injury!)

Lots of trampoline fun (with only one minor injury!)

Beautiful Flowers welcoming us to the house

Beautiful Flowers welcoming us to the house

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Lots of kitty love

Lots of kitty love

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Zach LOVED the kittens. I am not sure they returned the sentiment!

Zach LOVED the kittens. I am not sure they returned the sentiment!

Caleb is always happiest with animals nearby.

Caleb is always happiest with animals nearby.

Kitten racing!

Kitten racing!

Kitten racing!

Kitten racing!

Lots of fence climbing

Lots of fence climbing

Love my outdoor-loving boy!

Love my outdoor-loving boy!

A beautiful flower picked for me (sorry Michelle!) by my sweet girl.

A beautiful flower picked for me (sorry Michelle!) by my sweet girl.

Lots of swinging

Lots of swinging

Little brother pushing

Little brother pushing

Too-small bike riding

Too-small bike riding

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A walk around the property

A walk around the property

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A walk that ended with pine comb bombing!

A walk that ended with pine comb bombing!