Hey, friends!

I miss old school blogging.  My posts reflect that, meandering from current events to family updates to long form articles.  I know, I know. . . current blog gurus say Find your audience! Write in your niche!  But whatever. It’s my website.  

Still, you're probably here for some mommy-encouragement or theological talk.  Welcome! 

Remembering, With Love

1941 – 2019

Sunday evening my father-in-law entered into his eternal Sabbath rest, just as my mother-in-law prayed that morning.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide:
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour;
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes:
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies:
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee:
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

— Henry F. Lyte, 1847

 

Hug & Pray: Tools for Parenting

When I was a punitive parent, I had a “script” of sort. When child did X then I said or did Y.

Leaving that behind was hard because all of a sudden I didn’t know what TO do, just what I did NOT want to do.

We DO want to get to the heart of the child, the struggles behind the behavior, and when there is sin, confront it gently and appropriately. But that is complex and in the midst of energy and chaos and several different kids having different needs. . . well, it’s hard to not have an automatic response!

While there is no one-size-fits-all response to every situation in parenting, I found that it really helped to collect tools and scripts — and write them down or post them on the fridge or make a mantra of sorts, like “Connection before Correction.”

One of the “mantras” that helped me most especially right as we were leaving behind punitive parenting was “Hug & Pray.”

When my kids (especially toddlers or preschoolers, but also older kids) are not complying or start having a meltdown, I like to pull them onto my lap and hug them. The hug helps calm me and calm them. It gives us a moment to reconnect and have that physical affection that helps put the big emotions into context. And I pray for wisdom. . . sometimes silently, sometimes out loud with them, so they see that I am not perfect but want to do the best thing. We both calm down usually, and then can address whatever situation brought up all the big feelings or disobedience.

I can remember so vividly the first time I used this with a 3yo (who is now 18!) and just how peace washed over me as I prayed. I needed to connect with my son and with the Lord. I don’t always have the peaceful response, but it is still one of my primary parenting tools.

Writing and Blogging and Facebook, Oh My!

I have been writing a lot lately. I have a collection of composition books and in each one I have lists and jots of ideas and sermon notes and journals. My writing is serving a purpose for me. But I miss the thinking-out-loud of blogging and having the archives.

I’ve spent way too much time on Facebook. . . While it serves a purpose, I’m finding it to be too transitory and distracting.

So, I’m back to blogging. (Ha! Where have we heard that before?!)

In the midst of getting-ideas-out-of-my-head-and-onto-the-page, I’ve been working on a few larger projects. I’ve been exploring writing memoir to be “gifts of words and memories” for my family. I’ve been giving feedback to some friends working on books. And I’ve been working on my own book sparked by my young-adult sons about connecting with our kids through the teenage years.

But really the bulk of my writing has been for my own time to notice what God is doing around me and in me and thinking through our current transitions.

Transitions bring up a lot of external logistical juggling and internal emotional turbulence. The past year has been one long transition and this past month has put the past year to shame.

The transitions have been geographical — Nassau to Florida to DC to Florida, and now Kosovo is looming before us.

The transitions have been familial. I still think of myself as a mom of four boys. . . plus two. The youngest of the four has graduated and all of the older boys are in a good place in the decisions they’ve made for young adulthood on their own. But that means we are going overseas this time as a family unit that is brand new to me. It will just be Hubby and I and A7 and H4.

The transitions have been emotional. My father-in-law is in hospice care at home. His time on this earth is short and he will soon be with the Lord, waiting for the new heavens and new earth. This is the first time I’m walking alongside as our immediate family is witnessing death.

The transitions have been internal. I’m firmly in the middle of mid-life. No crisis. It’s time for evaluation of where I am, what the Lord has asked of me, and the direction to take going forward. Some spouses in the State Department really struggle with not having career continuity. For me, it’s always been fun — how do I get to reinvent myself at our next post? What interests can I explore? What new ways can I learn to serve?

For many years I’ve viewed my primary vocation as assisting my family through transitions. We all go through our own experiences with change, but I know that as mom and wife I can help them navigate things. This involves a lot of logistics and paperwork, tears and prayers.

On Christ the solid rock I stand. . . the transitions around me are shifting sand.

Hero Mother

Hero Mother

With four boys in tow all holding hands, I remember hurrying to the metro in Kyiv in the early 2000s.

“Oh, a Hero-Mother!” A babushka would stop me, exclaiming over them, tightening one boy’s scarf and straightening another one’s hat.

They shared with me the joy of motherhood, the blessing it truly was.

Soviet-era women commonly had multiple abortions. Post-Soviet families often only had one child, with multiple generations sharing an apartment.

The joy of motherhood was mixed with the discomfort of being the “rich American” who could afford my then-four children.

The son who first made me a mother was born nearly 23 years ago, and as I write this my three-year-old and only daughter is pretending to be “a baby who doesn’t cry.”

I’ve made so many mistakes. I haven’t cherished every moment. I’ve sinned against (and hidden from) my kids.

And I’ve loved them. Snuggled them. Read to them. Watched each of them grow into the person God has created them to be.

These six persons in my life who have made me a mother? They delight me, humble me, and bring me to my knees before God.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

“Hero Mother” medal, presented to me by my husband one Mother’s Day in Ukraine.

The Dreaded Teenage Years

When I was a teen, I balked at the idea of being a “teenager.” I remember discussions that the idea of “teenager” was a social construct that ought to be rejected.

It was as if rejecting the term could also do away with the cultural associations of teens being rebellious, struggling, having a hard time in life. It was almost as if people wanted to exchange that set of cultural norms for the idea of people being able to grow from early adolescence to responsible young adulthood with no struggles.

Transitioning from childhood to adulthood, however, is generally a process — regardless of culture — and doesn’t just happen over night. I believe it does a disservice to teens and parents to not allow space for the natural challenges which may arise from the transition from child to adult.

There are very real physical changes going on — especially with hormones and in the brain. There are very real changes in societal expectations, as well. Very real changes in self-perception and self-identity. We don’t have to accept the worst stereotypes of teenagers to accept that this can be a challenging time for the teen himself, as well as his family and community.

Much of this is internal in the teen. . . Introspection is common. Who am I? What do I REALLY believe? How do I want to live my life, how should I live my life?

“Children are born persons,” as Charlotte Mason said, is true. God has created us in His image. Our children are people in themselves from the beginning — and yet there is as aspect of “becoming” that is part of life and development.

The image of a butterfly struggling to free itself from a chrysalis helps me want to be patient and understanding with my kids. It’s a true struggle, hard work, growth. .

April 2019

Our nature display changes more with the seasons, now that we are in a more traditional winter/spring/summer/autumn climate.

It’s spring now. See the twig that had new buds on it, before A6 dissected them? He added a green ribbon to stand for the green we can see from our apartment window, more each day. H3 found the hawk feather when we went for a hike through our friends’ woods. The rock holds amazing fossils — my friend Sarah and I found it during a nature walk at the #AOCM2019 getaway.

I made it through winter, and the hygge and the candles helped. Spring has entered slowly and I feel at peace.

Corporate Housing Woes

We are staying in corporate housing while Hubby is learning Albanian.

Downside? Tacky furniture and decorations, and our “stuff” is in storage.

Upside? Housekeeping comes every Friday!

#ItsTheFSLifeForMe

We Remember Lydia Schatz

Photo of a smiling little girl from Liberia, "We Remember Lydia Schatz"

 

I’m not crying today, as I have in years past.  Is that because my compassion is waning? Perhaps it is simply that time and distance soften grief.

Those who knew Lydia describe her as a vivacious little girl with the most heart-warming smile.

Lydia was adopted from war-torn Liberia. She was one of nine children–six biological and three adopted. In so many ways, her family was lovely and loving. And yet, she died of rhabdomyolysis, in which her muscle tissues were broken down by repeated spankings from her adopted parents.

Each year I do my little part to try to remind the world of Lydia.

Each year I try to warn parents to not follow false teachings that lead to abuse.

Parents, hold your children tight. Be gentle with them. Nurture them.  Be discerning.

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19

 

 

From the TG archives:

When I found out about Lydia Schatz, 2010
Lydia’s Birthday and Autopsy Report
The Connection between TTUAC and Lydia’s Death
Remembering Lydia: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

God’s Favorites

 

My 6yo: Do you know God’s favorite football team? The Saints!

(He was listening to this morning’s sermon, intro to Philippians addressed to the saints if God.)

Snow and #ShutdownStories

Hubby took the kids out to play in the snow — and they were out there over an hour!

No pics, but they were adorable.

Best dad ever.

#ShutdownStories
#ItsTheFSLifeForMe

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Whether it is facilitating a workshop or speaking to a group, I'm available to help you develop practical skills to help you connect with your teens.  
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Hi, I'm Alexandra.
I write to encourage us as we become the people God has created us to be -- especially in the realms of nurturing our children and using our talents right where we are.

Six kids. INFP. Reformed & covenantal. Liberty & justice for all. Speaker. Current project: Helping parents connect with teens.

I started blogging as TulipGirl in 2004. Tech crashes and life derailed the site. The archives are gone, but I'm glad to be back.

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