But today, my family has given me the "day off" for my birthday, and I have been exploring Des Moines, eating LOTS of free food and having my free Caribou and Starbucks, and shopping for several items we still need for our new house....
like curtain rods and room darkening curtains for the kids' bedrooms...there's a certain little boy who thinks that anytime after 6:00 am is a fine time to wake up....
"the sun is awake, Mommy!"
"Yes, but Mommy isn't, sweet child!"
And yes, Josiah is still the cutest little 2 year old around!
It has been a wonderful, hard, sweet, lonely, and exciting last few months. I think it was especially hard because the kids had to change schools mid-year, one week before Thanksgiving. The holidays are usually such a sweet time for our family, but with each new day, there seemed to be something that was hard for at least one of us....missing some of the great Advent activities we did every Christmas in the Twin Cities or missing being able to walk next door and hang out with our neighbors or missing places that were familiar.
But sprinkled between those hard, first few days and weeks were things that gave us hope....enjoying an evening with other church families at the "Rockin' Around the Square," finding a dance studio for Hannah to take a dance and acrobatic class, meeting other young moms in town and having play dates. We often were sad about the people, places and things that we missed about Minneapolis, but were so blessed and grateful when we learned of new places to explore and made deeper relationships with friends here.
As I look back now, those early days were filled with more sadness than joy. I liken it to the feelings of grief. After suffering a great loss, sadness is always hanging right in front of you. It's all you can see. Everything else...beauty, joy, gladness...is foggy and in the background. But, eventually, as time passes and our hearts heal, the sadness fades and you can fully see the beauty again.
I feel like that's how it's been. Gradually, almost with each new day, the sadness of leaving sweet friends, family, and favorite places has began to diminish and joy has become the reigning emotion.
It's been a hard, but beautiful thing to have walked through this with my each of my kids and reflect on it with Brad as individuals and as a couple. God has done MUCH in tearing down idols of familiarity and comfort for all 6 of us, and He has given us more of Himself in the process. Very little of our new house, neighborhood, town, church, school has been "just like" those same things in Minneapolis. It's been difficult shepherding our kids (and shepherding my own heart) through it, but God continually shows us that this is exactly where we are supposed to be. And that has truly put so much joy in our hearts!
So, what have we been up to?
Well, I'm glad you asked!
We have been enjoying our new home!
We have been integrating into the life of our new, sweet church.
We've been exploring our town library and participating in free Monday afternoon Lego building classes and other craft and engineering classes.
There are several great rooms filled with toddler friendly activities for Josiah and fun engineering activities for my "always building and creating something that move or flies or does something cool" Caleb.
And we also got a membership to the Blank Park Zoo....
We've also been able to make a couple quick trips back to the Minneapolis area to see friends from the kids' old school, visit neighbors, and see family in Wisconsin.
Some extra sweet things have been 1) the father/daughter dance at our parks & rec....
...I totally did Hannah's hair, and my girls were SO impressed!
2) My amazing granite countertops and island that held an insane amount of Christmas cookies!
3) Sweet friends for my kids! (And a wonderful violist from the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra who gives Sammy private lessons.)
4) A 11 hour, one way visit from my parents in January. They drove through mountains of snow to watch our kiddos so Brad and I could go to a pastor's and wives conference.
5) A parks & rec basketball league for Caleb. This kid LOVES basketball just like his mama!
6) Sweet dinners, game nights, movie nights and a super bowl party with some pretty cool families from our church. These meals, fellowship, and fun have been some of my favorite times so far!
Overall, we really are loving our new life in Iowa. We love the fact that we can get pretty much anywhere in 5 minutes. We don't miss the traffic AT ALL!!! We love the slower pace of life. We love our new church and the wonderful families that God has placed there. Brad's really enjoying his position, and it really is a good fit for his passions and skills. The kids have slowly adjusted to their new school and have made some new friends. I LOVE the women that God has given to me here. I don't know what I'd do without them as I've missed my seminary wives and dear college friends so much! I love our new house (though I miss my laundry chute and large storage room A LOT!). And as our neighbors are slowly coming out of their houses and interacting more with us, I am hopeful that we can build some relationships with the families around us.
Last Saturday night, as we sat around the bonfire at a neighbor's house eating smores, I thought of that little song...."make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." God has been gracious to give me, an extreme extrovert and type A personality, wonderful friends and activities in Minneapolis AND here in Indianola.
And today, on my 40th birthday, I am so grateful for my dear friends here and there, our sweet church, and the promise I have that Christ has gone before us, has been with us every step of the way, has equipped us to serve His church here, and has provided ALL that we have needed.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."