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! 

Upon Arrival in Kosovo

“I want to ride the train!” says my four year old daughter as she sees an elongated bus pull up outside the airport terminal doors.

We are at gate E60 at FRA and I’ve lost track of how many hours since we left Florida, and finally it is almost time to board the plane for the last leg on our way to Kosovo.

1-2-3-4, I count the carry-ons. 1-2-3 backpacks, 1-2 kids, 1 purse.

I feel like something is missing, but everything is here. Usually I’m counting more. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.

Only half of our family are traveling to our new posting, but still it seems to take me extra time to round up our family and things and once again we are at the end of the line to board the shuttle to the the airplane.

The bus is crowded. I see a lot of fresh young faces with short trimmed hair. They’re traveling in civilian clothes and trying to blend in, but it’s obvious we have quite a few military personnel on board.

My husband lifts our daughter into a seat next to a woman with a backpack, water bottle and eyes experienced with travel.

My 7yo wants to “surf” as the shuttle bus moves, but I make him sit down. If he loses his balance, I imagine a domino effect down the aisle.

Hurry up and wait. It’s ten minutes before the shuttle doors swish closed, even though our family was the last to board.

The bus jerks forward. The further the shuttle takes us from the terminal the smaller the planes are. I hold my breath. Commuter planes. Propeller planes. We’ve flown in planes designed for just a dozen passengers, and it isn’t my favorite. Hubby names most of the planes for our son, but even he doesn’t know a few of these.

The bus stops in front of a plane sized for about a hundred passengers (thank God) and the tail symbol is not one I’ve seen before. This is the national airline of a small Central European country which I know exists, but couldn’t find easily on a map.

It’s still being fueled and my seven-year-ol calls out, “Look, there’s my suitcase!” From the bus we watch the flight preparations and I’m not sure whether to be thankful they are being thorough or concerned because it is taking so long.

I remember flying as a child, focusing on every word the flight attendant said during the safety briefing and studying the laminated card in the pocket in front of her. I see my daughter does the same. It’s curiosity for her, not anxiety. In spite of her interest in everything around her, she’s asleep before the plane takes off.

Unsurprisingly by the time we gather our carry-ons and usher a sleepy 4yo down the plane aisle, bumping each seat, we are the last to disembark.   The flight attended smiles, not looking nearly as tired as I feel.

“Big step!” I coach my daughter as she jumps over the narrow crack from the plane to the jetway.

Everyone’s gone ahead so we are following signs rather than the crowd.

There is an uncertainty that overcomes me each time I arrive at a new airport. I saw the terminal as we landed and I know that it isn’t a huge place, but the endless hallways seem a maze and I’m a mouse that is running it for the first time.

The airport smells — not antiseptic or like bleach or cleaners, but it smells simultaneously clean and yet somehow stale, as air circulating through large spaces and filters does.

We arrive at passport control. There is no VIP/Dip line, not that we need one as there are so few passengers arriving. (But oh how I’ve appreciated it when traveling alone with all the kids in super crowded airports!)  We are the last except for the experienced backpacker we met on the shuttle who stopped in the restroom to freshen up. We wend back and forth, back and forth until we are in front of the passport control officer.

“Mirësevini!” he says. Hubby replies in Albanian and I can’t think of a single thing from my 9 weeks of lessons, not even hello.

Efficient, smiling, the officer hands us our passports and waves us through.

I do my quick scan. 1-2-3-4 carry-ons, 1-2-3 backpacks, 1-2 kids, 1 purse.

When I look up, Hubby smiles.

“Welcome home.”

Fisher’s Catechism

This morning I was working on an article, “What is Reformed and Covenantal Theology?” I wanted to do a quick check on the wording in a question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and tumbled down a theological rabbit hole. At the bottom, I discovered a treasure — Fisher’s Catechism.

“Fisher’s Catechism” was originally called “The Synod’s Catechism” and was written by Scottish pastors Ebenezer Erskine and his son-in-law, James Fisher. It is a catechism of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in a question-and-answer format and laced with Scripture. It led my heart to worship this morning!

For example, see this exposition on the Trinity. The first part is from the WSC.

 

QUESTION 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?

ANSWER: There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Q. 1. Whence is it, that this article of our holy religion has been so much opposed by adversaries, in every period of the church?

A. The devil and his instruments have warmly opposed it because they know it is the primary object of our faith and worship; it not being enough for us to know what God is, as to his essential attributes, without knowing who he is, as to his personality, according as he has revealed himself in his word, to be Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 1 John 2:23, — “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.”

Q. 2. Is this doctrine of the Trinity, then; a fundamental article, upon the belief of which our salvation depends?

A. Beyond all doubt it is: because without the knowledge and belief of the Trinity of persons, we would remain ignorant of the love of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost, in the purchase and application of redemption; without which there could be no salvation, John 17:3, — “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”

 

The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics hosts the online version of Fisher’s Catechism, and is a wealth of historic documents that has been serving the online Christian community for probably two decades (I remember accessing it in the late 90s.)

While that is how I found it today, I want to get a hardback copy of Fisher’s Catechism when I can (and here is my Amazon review.)

Widows and Orphans and Big Brothers

We are reading through James in family worship, and read this the other day:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.    James 1:27

The little kids are 4 and 7. It made me sad to define “widow” and “orphan.”

“An orphan is someone who doesn’t have a mommy or a daddy.”

“So, Grandma is a widow and you are an orphan?” said A7.

“Yes, Grandma is a widow, but I’m only half orphan — and usually orphan refers to a child. When the Bible talks about widows and orphans, it is talking about the most vulnerable people.” Said Hubby.

We take turns praying, when we close in prayer.

H4 prayed for orphans. “Please, God, help the children with no mommies or daddies. Please let them have big brothers to take care of them.”

So thankful that God gave my little girl big brothers to take care of her.

Move Prep Moments

Hubby’s reading up on Kosovo before the move.

Me: “What’s the latest?”
Him: “Elections coming up soon.”
Me: “Not long after we arrive, right?”
Him: “About three weeks.”
Me: “Better keep my Go-Bag packed.”

***

Discovered that a case of organic coconut oil was overlooked during the consumables pack-out.  And that’s one of the things that I REALLY wanted to have shipped, use all the time, and don’t know whether I can easily get at our next post.

***

We packed out our consumables shipment last week. This is a “bonus” shipment for places where it can be hard to buy normal groceries and household supplies. We haven’t been at a post that is authorized a consumables shipment before this, so it is all trial-and-error for me.

A girlfriend who lived in Nassau at the same time we did visited as we prepped for the consumables shipment. She overheard T21 say, “Who needs THIS much almond butter?!” as he carried it in the house.

She laughed. I only have one case of almond butter and three cases of peanut butter. She thinks I didn’t buy enough!

Moms understand. . .

Experience Before Theory

Over the past couple of years, Hubby has started painting gaming models. (Warhammer 40k, for you geeks out there.)
 
Just in the past few months, he’s been focusing more on the technique and color theory. Picked up a book from the Goodwill Bookstore yesterday and was reading it last night.
 
He commented: “This makes so much sense. I’ve been thinking about and doing these things — using washes, figuring out how various paints react to each other — and now understanding the theory. . . it all makes sense!”
 
And of course our conversation veered to talking about homeschooling and why we value the children experiencing (and experimenting) so much in the natural world and with play during the pre-literate years.
 

We want them to have an intuitive experience of these things, so that when they learn the vocabulary and theories, they have the same lightbulb moment Hubby had of “So THIS is why it works that way. . .”

I’m in a FB group with Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn of Trivium Pursuit.  I remember reading their “Ten Things to do with Your Child Before Age Ten” in 1996.   That was the year that my oldest was born and I was helping my mother-in-law homeschool her two youngest while she ran the business.  We were both impacted by that list and it shaped much of what we did that year (and many future years with my kids.)

Laurie posted the article “The Right Brain Develops First ~ Why Play is the Foundation for Academic Learning” recently which reminded me of the conversation with Hubby and why I want to keep focusing on play and experiences for my 4yo and 7yo.

 

This is the eye-catching image used in the article linked above.

Steadfastness

We were reading in James last night and I was so struck by this. . .

“…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:3

I have four young adult sons and this cut to my heart. My prayer is that the testing of my children’s faith will produce steadfastness.

I see so many ways it is tested. . . challenged by the world, by their own struggles with sin, by the suffering they experience and observe. Praying for this testing to build their faith and produce steadfast endurance in them.

And, honestly, this is my prayer for myself as well.

Eulogy for John Bush

Eulogy for John Bush

As the oldest son, my husband was the one to deliver the eulogy for my father-in-law, John Bush.  This is what he shared.

My father passed away this week after a long, brave fight with cancer. He was an amazing father, and taught me what it means to be a good man. For those who knew him, but missed the memorial service, his eulogy is copied below. No matter how many books I go on to write, this is the most important thing I’ll ever pen.

***

My father was a man. He was a true man.

Not in the way our world defines it now—a swaggering, cocky guy with gym muscles and romantic conquests. Instead, he was the sort of honest, hardworking man who built America up from the wilderness.

He was the type of man we see extolled in the Bible.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this manly ideal in his essay, “The Necessity of Chivalry.”

Chivalry taught that a man should be brave in battle, but in peace be gentle and kind. This sort of true man was independent, protective, and a fighter—but also loving, honorable, good-humored, and faithful.

That was my father. John Bush—the toughest man I ever knew, with the kindest heart.

Before I praise my father, let me emphasize that he wasn’t a saint except in the way that all true Christians are saints. He had plenty of weak points – bull-headedness, moodiness, and a quick temper that moderated with age.

But his virtues far outweighed these weaknesses.

What were those virtues?

First of all, Dad was tough. No one who watched my father work could ever doubt his strength. At 66 he was still slinging furniture around with the strength of a 20-year-old, while standing out in Massachusetts snow storms in a pair of shorts. We all thought he was immortal.

But of course he wasn’t. He worked for years with all sorts of aches and pains, complaining good-naturedly, but never slowing down.

He was also mentally tough. Sometimes, perhaps overly so. . . Once he set his mind to a belief or goal, there was no swaying him. He had grit.

Dad was independent in every sense of the word. He lived within his means, could fix just about anything, and he always wanted to be his own boss.

He was always there to help others, whether with time or money, but he rarely depended on others. Whether it was building a house or repairing a truck, he could do anything. Dad always said he could fix anything except airplanes and electrical work.

Though, he admitted, the only thing he knew about plumbing was that poop flows downhill. (This is a eulogy for John Bush. You knew poop was going to show up in this speech somewhere.)

He spent most of his life working for himself: as a mechanic, a welder, a mushroom farmer, and in several other trades.

But he really loved the open road. He drove during the Golden Age of independent trucker and he loved that independence. It was just him, a trucking dog, and sometimes one of us.

Over the last 20+ years Dad and Mom built up a successful specialty moving business through honest, hard work. “Bush Dependable Delivery” wasn’t just a name – but it also reflected his independent and yet dependable spirit.

Dad was a great protector and provider. Dad worked tirelessly to provide for us and it was literally etched on his body. His right arm was that of a 68-year-old man, while the left was gnarled like a burn victim, after spending three million miles propped up on the window sill of his truck.

As we entered the teen years, he realized we needed him home more. It was a mark of how much he loved the family that he left the open road and became a local driver for Arkansas Best Freight here in Sarasota.

Even with a big family, he provided well for us. After working a full week with plenty of overtime, he would spend Saturdays mowing lawns or servicing tractor trailers for extra money. And he spent little on himself – it was for us. He even named his company J&M Truck Services – for John and Mike.

He protected us, too. Not only from the bad things of the world, but from ourselves as well. He was always there, strong and steady—to back us up or to kick our butts when we did something stupid.

He made Mike, Andrew, and I into the men we are today—and he showed Amanda what a good man is like.

It’s easy to see how Dad exemplified the strong ideals of chivalry, of the Biblical man – toughness, independence, protecting and providing. What about the softer virtues?

He was also honorable, as a man should be. If Dad made a commitment, he always kept it. You knew you could count on him. Honesty was the secret of his business’s success (that and Mom working miracles with the paperwork.) If something was damaged, Dad was always quick to make things right. Customers were willing to wait weeks or months for his services, because they knew he could be trusted.

Dad was loving. He really loved his family and friends. In his earlier years, he showed it most of all through acts of service – doing things for others and working hard for his family. As he got older he was more apt tell you how much he loved you.

Dad was kind-hearted – especially as he matured through the years. You always knew he was glad to see you. Yeats’s old saying applied to him. No one was a stranger to my father – they were just friends he hadn’t met yet. He could meet a fellow in line at the gas station and they would be buddies by the time they reached the cashier.

He was a peacemaker, too. All he wanted in life was for his family to get along, and to love each other, as he loved us.

Some of his kids were difficult teenagers. Well, just me, actually. I was such an angry, mixed-up kid. And he just took it. He just kept on loving me, being a rock against which my anger could break. He never gave up on me.

I entered the Army at 17, because I didn’t know what else to do. He wrote me the kindest, most humble letter while I was in Basic Training. It apologized for his mistakes in raising me, making no mention of my much, much larger sins. It was exactly what I needed. I cried like a baby in front of 50 other GIs, but didn’t care. I realized then exactly how much my father loved me.

Any description of John Bush has to include his sense of humor. Someone once said the key to life was to “Die young as late as possible.” That was my Dad. Even at 68, he still had an ornery, boyish side that loved mischief and a good joke.

Even when racked with cancer, he was always patient and kind, and quick with a joke, enduring the pain and misery with manly good-humor.

He never called anyone by their actual name. As my Uncle Barry said when my father died, “People in heaven are about to get a lot of new nicknames.”

He had a million funny sayings and made-up words. Mom even collected them into a book – “Poop My Dupes – the Wit and Wisdom of John Bush.” To this day I have no idea where his sense of humor came from. Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop Bush were many things, but they weren’t exactly Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Dad’s humor was all his own.

And it was like a virus. Anyone who spent time with him would end up talking like him. Which is kind of nice. As long as there are people in this world still calling unknown objects a “wigwam for a duck’s butt,” John Bush will never truly be gone.

Lastly, my Dad was a man of faith. This wasn’t as obvious as his other virtues, and it became more evident later in life. But he had genuine faith and trust in Christ. My mother’s faith is incredibly vibrant and dynamic, and I think my Dad sometimes deferred to her on spiritual things because of it.

But his faith was genuine, and we watched it grow over the years. When he prayed publicly, it was no longer with a sheepish tone of voice. He began to actively participate in church, attending men’s Bible study even when cancer had robbed him of energy and strength. Most of all, we saw the true fruit of the Spirit grow in his life.

Mom’s schoolteachers had actively warned her against marrying my ornery, motor-head father. How shocked they would have been to see the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control he developed as the Spirit sanctified him through the years.

We saw his faith in his final days – not only in his lack of fear of death, but in his confident expectation that God awaited him. Twice he told us he was ready to go – God had projects waiting for him in the next life, things to work on.

That was John Bush in a nutshell. The rest of us would focus on release from pain and sickness, or the wedding feast with Christ, or the streets of gold. My Dad wanted to get back to work.

Once Christ returns, we will have a new Heaven and a new Earth. We will have new bodies free from sin and sickness. There will be plenty of work for my Dad to do – good, rewarding work.

Until then, he gets to do something he missed out on in this life – retirement. As we gather here today, Dad is resting from his labors, reunited with lost loved ones and happy in the presence of the Savior.

I know that we’re all hurting today. We all miss him terribly. But we can also be grateful for the many years we had with him, and take comfort knowing that if we share his faith, we will see him again.

In closing, my father was the best man I’ve ever known. He worked hard and sacrificed for his family his entire life, and did it with kindness, humor, and a workingman’s dignity.

His was a life well-lived.

 

I Have a Soul That Can Never Die

 

Pop died last night, about 8 pm.

After all of our watching at his bedside for the past nearly two weeks, it still came as a shock. Perhaps it was more of a shock because he was finally sleeping, finally not struggling for every breath, finally we no longer holding our collective breath.

Then. . . while everyone was together, eating shrimp & grits made by Michael and Shelly (who reminded me of Mom and Pop cooking in their kitchen), laughing over stories of Pop, someone called Mom in to Pop’s room. Was he no longer breathing?

The little kids had just left with the big kids and Aunt Sherry to go feed the turtles. They were called back, everyone confused. Was he dead? Was he not?

I called John. He wasn’t home at the moment. I called Johnny who was heading over to see John. They needed to come home.

_____

“We didn’t feed the turtles because Grandpa died,” said one of the little kids.

I had three of them on the couch with me in the living room while everyone else was at the bedside. We read the last chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible, all about John’s vision of heaven and the return of Jesus and how this is our story, too, when we believe and are God’s children.

_____

We all stood together around the hospice bed where his body lay.  How someone can deny the soul once they have seen a dead body is beyond me. Pop was no longer there.

We sang “Amazing Grace.”  My brother-in-law’s first wife was next to me. She was there in support of her children and the parents who still welcomed her in to the family, even after the marriage ended.  She sang clearly the words of every verse.

Then we all prayed together.  Many were too sad (shocked? upset?) to pray aloud.  But my 7yo’s sweet, clear voice earnestly thanked the Lord for Grandpa and asked for us to be comforted. I wish I could remember the words.

 

Q. 18. What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?
A. He gave them souls that could never die.

Q. 19. Have you a soul as well as a body?
A. Yes; I have a soul that can never die.

Q. 20. How do you know that you have a soul?
A. Because the Bible tells me so.

From the Catechism for Young Children

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.

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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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