Monday, February 28, 2011

More time for the little things...

In my attempt to de-clutter and simplify around here, I've noticed that I've had more time and energy to enjoy the little things. When my mind is preoccupied with a million different things, I sometimes give my kids and those around me the short end of the stick, and that is something I want to change. My dad passed away almost 5 months ago, and I am still dealing with the reality of it. One lesson that continues to echo in my mind daily is to seize the day because we don't know how many we have left. What a shame if I would just spend my life being too busy for the most important people and things around me.

On that note, here are some good ways that I've found for the kids and I to spend good quality time together- enjoying life's little moments:

-When it rains, go outside with an umbrella (see above). I explain to my kids that God needs to pour the rain down so that the trees can start growing leaves again.
- "Bug Catching" (above and below). We found bug catching nets in the dollar area at Target. When the weather is decent, the boys go outside searching for bugs, leaves and other things to put in their nets. Actually, the other day we saw a bunny and the boys were chasing it with their nets...haha. This is a nice chance for them to be outside and exert some energy and its also a great walk for me.

-Library Days. This is an idea I remember from my mom when we were little. Choose a day to go to the library once a week or once every other week, and check out some books. That night when you come home, make popcorn and read books in Mommy and Daddys bed. This makes the kids excited about reading as they see it as a special event.
-Wooden Puzzles- I just discovered these. They are much easier than regular puzzles for preschoolers and toddlers and they keep the kids busy. We also like to do big puzzles together as a family, everyone has a role in finding and placing the pieces.
-Coloring and painting. I find that when I have the time to sit and actually paint or color with the kids, not only is it therapeutic and relaxing for me, but the kids really enjoy it and spend more time doing it compared to the times I just let them color on their own.
-Cooking. (I know, I need a girl!) The boys actually love helping me to cook and bake. I have them pour the ingredients and stir, and they love it. Hopefully they'll impress some ladies with their cooking skills later on in life ;-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Lenten Goal

We just got back from our road trip to Toronto and despite the fatigue that comes from traveling with two young children, I feel spiritually refreshed! I'm almost ready for this season of Lent that is coming up. I say "almost" ready, because I literally feel like I was just getting used to being able to eat-and cook- meat and dairy... :)

Even before my trip, this whole urge to "de-clutter" was building up inside of me. Maybe its a little bit because I'm genetically OCD (haha) or maybe it was really a message that God was trying to give me. Not so coincidentally, two of the women that I got to spend lots of time with on this trip were also feeling the same urge. One of the very practical de-cluttering tips I got is right here!

I'm planning to use the 55 days of Lent to physically clean out my home, and during this process, I am going to pray that God could spiritually "de-clutter" my mind and my spirit. As I clean up each room, and see which stuff needs to be thrown out, given away, or cleaned up, I will also pray that God reveals the things inside of me and the "stuff" in my life that needs to be cleaned up.

It's my prayer that during this process, my mind and heart will be cleared from clutter so that I can more diligently listen for God's voice. Exodus 15:26 (my quiet time the day before I left for vacation) says, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you." The part about diligently heeding His voice really spoke to me. Though I take "quiet time" every day, I also feel like my mind and heart are elsewhere, too cluttered to hear His voice. I may read His word every day, but I can't say that I diligently listen for His voice. I believe that listening for His voice, hearing what He has to say, and obeying it, will be life changing for me...even in just the little things.

Pray for me! I'll keep you posted on this process :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Road Trip!

So I very spontaneously decided to take my kids on a road trip to tag along with my husband for a retreat he is doing for a sister mission church in Toronto! Even though it seemed spontaneous, I just found out that the other priest's wife from the church in Toronto had been "praying me over" for the past several weeks, asking God to find a way for me and the kids to come. I was very touched to hear that, and I think that's why I feel a general sense of peace and excitement about this trip. I'm actually looking forward to the car ride to get some relaxation and time to think and reflect. I'm going to download some sermons and songs to my iphone to keep me company along the way, and the kids will be busy sleeping and watching their movies (thanks to our new car and its DVD player :)).

I'm looking forward to our little adventure and I'm asking for prayers that the trip goes smoothly, safely, and peacefully. I also pray for a personal revival and time of refreshment for my spirit. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cute things my kids say and do...

This post may not make sense to anyone except me. I just want to document the things I remember about my boys so that I won't forget as time goes by. I have memory books for both of them, but there isn't enough room to capture everything. I think this is just another one of my attempts to freeze time and pretend they'll never grow up :)

Actually, speaking of growing up...
Me: Daniel, don't grow up, ok?
Daniel: No Mommy, I want to grow up
Me: Why?
Daniel: So I can have my birthday party

Whenever Daniel is in the bathroom, he tells me to shut to door because he needs "some privacy please". But Timmy is always allowed in and says "pivasee mommy" and then shuts the door in my face..

This one made my heart melt...
The boys were pointing at my wedding ring and asking what it was for. I tried my best to explain to them that when Daddy knew that he loved me, he wanted to ask me if I would marry him (live with him in his house), and gave me the ring to show me how much he loved me. Then I explained that when they were older, they would find a girl they loved and ask that girl the same question. So I asked Daniel, "which girl are you going to ask to live with you?" I figured he would tell me one of the girls in his class, but he looked really seriously and said "But I want to live with you, Mommy"...I literally melted at that moment.

The other day we were at a friends house and Daniel asked if he could pray. Usually he says the same prayer they say at school (God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food...) But that day, he pulled one out of left field. He closes his eyes, folded his hands and very seriously sang (to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree"):
'Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, you are the Holy Spirit. Amen'
LOL- interesting theology, Daniel!

We were reading the book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and Daniel kept asking why the Grinches heart was too small. And then he answered his own question and said, "Oh, is it because Jesus wasn't in his heart?" Yes, Daniel, that's exactly why. So now I add my own ending to the story, that as he came down and decided to like Christmas with the Who's, it was because he realized it was Jesus' birthday and he wanted Jesus to come in his heart. That will only last until the boys start to read ;)

And here is a dictionary of things my kids mispronounce. I never get sick of it. Makes me smile every time.
Mosquito bite = Riskeeto bite
Distract= Ristract
Hiccups= Piccups
Lemonade= nemandade
Veggietales= Beggietales
Alter= Walter

I can probably come up with a million more, but that's just a bit for now. I'm thankful for my boys' simple hearts and minds and how they make me smile every day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring Fever!

Today felt like the first day of Spring! It might as well have been for us Virginians who have been trapped inside our homes for the past four months. After having school closed for snow just a few weeks ago, today was a breath of fresh air (pun intended) for my kids and I. We took full advantage of the weather and ventured off to the park. I was so excited to discover a great park right next to our home. The Ellanor C. Lawrence Park has two large play structures for the kids (safe for my two year old and challenging enough for my 4 year old), huge fields for open play, biking and hiking trails, and a picnic area.

Today's weather couldn't have come at a better time. One more day indoors would have been unhealthy for all of us. It's funny, because right around the onset of fall, I was exhausted from summer's activities and excited to begin a new season of days being forced to stay home and spend quality time together, and cozy nights drinking hot tea and reading. It seems that every season comes at the perfect time :)

This new season has also inspired me to start a new season in my life as well. The past few months seem like a blur from the business and clutter (ahhh the clutter!!) that have piled up in our house and in our family. With so many things that need to be done each day, and so many goals that I want to accomplish, I've been left in a whirlwind of events, to-do's, and did I mention the clutter?? I am praying that this new season be a season where as I begin to declutter and organize the outside, I can also declutter and organize myself on the inside...prioritize...Seek. First. His. Kingdom. More on that tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hear Our Cries

The Coptic Orthodox Church in North America has called each congregation to fast and pray for the safety and future of our beloved Egypt.

For the past week, Egyptian citizens of all ages and religions have overcome their fears of being criticized or punished for expressing their opinions about the current state of their country. They have had enough. Enough unemployment without the government doing anything to create jobs. Enough police brutality without the government intervening. Enough poor education without the government coming up with a plan to improve things. Enough of the rising costs of food and housing leaving many families hungry and many couples unable to marry because they cannot afford an apartment. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

I'm a first generation Coptic Orthodox Egyptian Christian. My parents immigrated here from Egypt in 1977, and shortly after, they had my sister and I. At the time, thirty years ago, conditions in Egypt did not provide much opportunity as far as jobs and education, especially for Christians who were (and still are) often discriminated against. My parents left their safety net of their home, their culture, and their family and friends in order that my sister and I (their future children) would be born and raised in a country that provided opportunity, hope, and a future. Sadly, things in Egypt have not changed and in fact, things have gotten worse. My church here in Northern Virginia welcomes hundreds of immigrants each year because so many are fleeing from the worsening conditions.

The problem seems very overwhelming. I'm glued to the tv these days, and I'm not quite sure what I'm waiting for. The Egyptian people want Hosni Mubarak, the current president, to leave. It is believed that once he leaves, things will get better. But his absence also gives room for the Muslim Brotherhood to gain more power which would make conditions worse, especially for the Christians living in Egypt.

As I mentioned early, the church has called a 3 day fast and prayer for the situation. I find myself unsure of what to pray for. Of course, I want justice, and I want the Egyptian people to be treated with dignity. I want the children of Egypt to have hope and a future in their own country, and not have to wish that some day their parents will win the lottery and move to America. In moments like these, I look up.

"Our God...We do not know what to do but our eyes are on You." (2 Chronicles 20:12).
"There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)
I'm also reminded of my son Daniel's Bible memory verse from a few weeks ago, "As for God, His way is perfect." (Psalm 18:30)

So along with fasting, the church asks that we increase our prayers. Sometimes that is hard to do, because you don't really know what to pray for or what to say besides God be with your people, protect them, and protect Egypt. After 3 minutes, you're done. That is the beauty of the Coptic Book of Hours (the Agbeya). It contains prayers for seven different hours to be said throughout the day. The hours are chronologically laid out, each containing a theme corresponding to events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Egypt was on my heart and mind today, I could lift up the prayers I was reading for them. The Thanksgiving prayer which is read at every hour reads:

All envy, all temptation, all the work of Satan, the counsel of wicked men, and the rising up of enemies, hidden and manifest, take them away from {the people of Egypt}, and from all Your people, and from this holy place, {and this country} that is Yours. But those things which are good and profitable do provide for us {and for the future of Egypt}". And then following these introductory prayers are sets of Psalms which also bring our heart into the spirit of prayer and relate to the situation at hand.

The Agbeya is such a wonderful tool to deepen our prayers and keep us in God's presence longer. When dealing with this situation in Egypt, with so many anxieties lurking, God's presence is the place with all the peace and all the answers. So I decided that that is what I will pray for, of course along with peace, freedom, and true democracy. I will pray that during these uncertain times, when people don't know where to turn for help, they will look up and find the One Answer they need. The majority of people in Egypt are Muslim and I'm really praying that this will be a time when they see Jesus Christ Himself as their true deliverer.