Sunday Confessional

I confess that we have been with our Millbrook Church family for nearly four months now. For those of you keeping track, that means Moses has now lived more of his life in Northern Ireland than in the States.  Our life in this wonderful community has been a welcome adjustment for us.  I feel like it is about time that I attempt to describe a Sunday at Millbrook as well as I can.

On the short walk from our house to the community centre where our congregation meets, there are rolling green hills with sheep grazing on them. If one were to look past the rolling hills, there is a spot where they become mountains. I am able to appreciate mountains like only a native of the flat state of Kansas can.  They are majestic and awe-inspiring.  The air is fresh, and the smell of rain is close at hand.  I always think it will take longer to walk to church than it does, so inevitably we end up early.  This Sunday Hosea wants play on the play ground next to the church before the service.  By the time we walk through the automatic sliding doors after a good play, the church is bursting with friends who feel like family.  Behind the sound table I greet my friend who taught me how to play squash, and who I cycle with on Saturdays.  Up front tuning his Banjo is my other friend who lets me help out on Wednesday nights at a community youth outreach called Drop-in, and he cycles with us as well.  There are friends with babies, friends with grown children, friends with no children, the list goes on.  The singing begins with another friend playing lead guitar, and another one on the ukulele. Everywhere I look I see the faces of people who are now, in just four short months, what I would consider dear friends. The children all file out to their classes and our mentor stands and gives a sermon. I am reminded at how gifted she is at story-telling.  The band plays again as worship music swells from the tiny community centre to the heart of God. The violin starts a beautiful crescendo as the drums keep the beat, and the keyboard, electric guitar, & singers use their gifts to praise God.  As the service ends and the kids come in, Hosea rushes Abigail over to the food queue, where every Sunday there are (at the very least) tea and buns.  We stay for an hour or more talking with these people who are now our family.  The family who brings us eggs fresh from their farm talks to us for awhile, then my friend who I play snooker with. It seems there are more friends than there is time.  We walk home, buzzing with excitement about what God is doing and our upcoming week in this community.

God is doing amazing things! People are finding hope in the Lord and seeing evidence of His presence in their lives. There is a latin term: missio Dei which means “the mission of God” or the “sending of God”. We are pressing into this sending, into this mission, and learning what it’s all about.

I confess we are following with hearts turned towards the Father.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Brownie Batter for Two

I LOVE chocolate. I remember my parents referring to me as a “chocoholic” when I was young because I would eat (and eat and eat) anything chocolate! So you’ll understand my disappointment when I realized my body was very sensitive to refined sugars. After being sick on and off for years, and suffering a cold/flu for months straight (I’ll write about this in more detail someday), I decided to cut out all processed foods from my diet. After a week or so I started to feel more like myself. Hooray, a solution!! Being the chocolate addict that I am though, I still crave sweet treats.
I found a chocolate pudding recipe from a great blog called Delicious Obsessions and tweaked it a bit to make it creamier like brownie batter for two people. Who can resist brownie batter; especially one that is good for you?! I also didn’t want to call it pudding because “pudding” here in Northern Ireland is more of a blood pudding/sausage type food. This is NOT that type of pudding! Get ready for some rich chocolatey goodness that you don’t have to feel guilty about!
This recipe is perfectly suited to share with a friend or loved one. My husband and I like to make a batch after we get the boys to sleep! YUM.
Refined sugar-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free…. it could even be vegan if you substitute maple syrup or agave nectar for the honey.
This recipe fills 2 regular sized coffee mugs.
brownie batter
Brownie Batter for Two
5 small sweet potatoes
1/2 cup cocoa powder (if you have dark cocoa, use a heaping 1/4 cup instead)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
1. Bake sweet potatoes in oven at 220c for 45 minutes or until soft. Once cool enough to handle, peel and discard skins.
2. While still warm, combine potatoes and coconut oil in a blender or food processor.
3. Blend in all other ingredients until creamy.
4. Pour into two mugs and enjoy!*
 *I like to eat it while still warm, but it is also tasty if refrigerated!

Grandparent Detox

Saturday was our last day with my parents after their visit.  Hosea had an incredible two weeks with extra people to play with him, read to him, snuggle him, and basically give him undivided attention whenever he desired it.  He loved being able to show his grandparents all of his favorite things to do around Northern Ireland. It was a busy two weeks, and we are all a bit exhausted after our many adventures.  Saying goodbye didn’t seem too difficult, but today we really started feeling the effects of “grandparent detox”.  It reared its ugly head around four in the afternoon. My boys were getting antsy having been inside all day, and the house began to feel a little too small. I loaded them in the car and headed to Straidkilly Nature Reserve for a little predinner adventure. Three turns out of our street and they were both sleeping soundly in the car.  Naps in the car often put them in poor moods but I decided to persevere and hope for the best attitudes when we arrived.  When I pulled into the entrance Hosea woke up.  He started off with a little wake-up crying, but it quickly escalated into shouts of, “I want to go home!”. So we turned around and drove home.

But getting home was the trigger that set him off. We got inside and he cried his little heart out. It was as though his heart had been broken into pieces. He screamed that he wanted to go to the forest. I have never seen him so distraught! 5 minutes before dinner was ready, I caved and put him back in the car to try another short adventure.

When we got out of the car at Drain’s bay for a short beach walk he had finally calmed down.  He looked up at me and his eyes started to tear up, his chin quivered and he said “Daddy, I’m sorry I was yelling. I just really miss Narna and Grandad, and I really want them to come back.” His little voice broke at the end of that sentence. IMG_1852

He had so much emotion in him that he couldn’t contain it, and screaming was the only way he knew how to deal with it.  It reaffirmed my commitment to help my boys learn from a young age how to understand and express their emotions.

Walking peacefully on the beach was calming and cathartic.  It was as though we could both sense what some call a “thin place”, where the space between heaven and earth is thin enough that you can almost tangibly feel the presence of God. That thin place helped him detox some of the nasty emotions that were plaguing him. I know that if we all go to God with an earnest longing to touch him, we too can detox from the nastiness of our sin.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that we just said good by to my parents after their visit to our community in Northern Ireland. I loved seeing my parents, and attempting to squeeze all of the beauty of this wonderful country into a visit but I also realize that it’s good to just hunker down and be an immediate family again.

The last full day with my parents we went to a site called Glendalough, which has a special place for myself and Abigail.  A little over nine years ago we visited that site with our choir trip, and it was here that we had our first picture taken together.  We found the exact spot, and retook the picture.  It is amazing how much God has changed us in such a short time.  We have now been married five years and have two kids!

I confess that I love the Millbrook community.  I feel more at home here than I have anywhere else in my life.  I have friends here who are interested in pursuing intentional and Godly relationships which has been a wonderful blessing.  I also have been able to make some friends who are not part of the church, which has also proved to be a blessing.  I love the continuation of living into God’s mission, and getting the honor of experiencing his providence.

I confess Jesus as my provider.

I’ve made my confession, now go and make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I read Wild at Heart by John Eldridge a few years ago, and it was a great way to view the longing of a heart for adventure.  I feel like I can really see that in Hosea as he gets older.  I confess that his behavior becomes markedly improved when he is outside; he becomes extremely agreeable and happy.  It can involve anything outside, climbing rocks, running on the beach, or playing on a playground.  His little heart longs for that adventure. I can see the pure joy that overtakes him when he is in that thrilling moment of throwing a rock in a river just to see the splash.  It not only makes him feel more centered, but it is as if he is able to feel more alive, more like himself than at any other time.

I confess that I see this in myself too.  Looking back on my life, I can see that I was never fully myself until my senior year in high school when I accepted Jesus as my Savior.  Since that moment I have been on a crazy adventure that has led me to marry a beautiful woman who has a heart that longs after God. Together we have now lived in three countries in five years, and have had two boys along the journey as well.  God is doing something incredible in my heart. He has breathed life into me, and he continues to sustain that life-giving breath.  I can daily point to the adventure of the cross as the reason for the breath, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I am grateful that God has brought me to life in a way that I never imagined!

I confess the blood of Jesus as my King, and that I pray daily for my sons to confess the same thing one day. I confess my gratitude for having a partner who shares my love for Jesus.

I have made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday (oops… Wednesday) Confessional

I wrote this on Sunday but never hit publish. So here we are on Wednesday, finally getting around to it!

10th of May
I confess that we did a deep clean of our home this week in anticipation of my in-laws’ arrival yesterday. I’m embarrassed to say that there were a few too many dust bunnies hiding in corners than there should have been. I’m happy to say though that I’ve never felt the need to strive for perfection when my in-laws come over. They’ve always been very accepting and encouraging of me. Once my mother-in-law said, “Don’t ever feel like you have to scrub your house clean in order for us to come over. My own mother-in-law made me feel bad if my house was dirty and I don’t want you to feel that way!” Isn’t she great?!
John’s parents are staying with us until about the 23rd of this month and then we’ll all spend a couple days in Dublin together before they fly home. It is wonderful to have extra helpers with the kids! Both the boys have changed so much since we saw them just three months ago. Moses is sitting up, eating table foods, and almost has crawling figured out. Hosea is toilet-trained and, if possible, he’s speaking even more than he had been.
I confess that I want them to get over their jet lag so we can tell them all about Northern Ireland! I’m having a hard time not bombarding them with info and things we’ve learned during our time here. It’s easy to want to make them jump right into our lives here, but they’re on holiday too and need a bit of relaxation as well. And anyway, it’s impossible to impart over three months worth of knowledge (and lessons learned from mistakes) onto someone. Some things are just better figured out on your own! I’ve already noticed a bit how our speech patterns differ from before. You can read more about this in my previous post, “Ten Things You Might Start Saying if You Move to Northern Ireland”. 🙂
On a different note, I’ve been doing a wee experiment lately. I confess I feel the need to take a break from Netflix and mobile Facebook (besides uploading photos) for a while. My mind needs space to refresh. It’s time to proverbially practice what I preach and “be present”. I’ll report back what I’ve learned, if anything 😉

What are your confessions this week?

10 Things You Might Start Saying If You Move to Northern Ireland

After spending 3 months (today!) here in Northern Ireland, we’ve learned a bunch of new ways to say things! Some of these are said all over the UK and some are specific to Northern Ireland. Either way, we didn’t say them before we came but now they’re becoming part of our regular vocabulary.
1. Wee
This is such a wonderful wee adjective and it is used to describe anything and everything! Obviously it means “small”, but it’s not always used to refer to small things. I’ve come to realize that it’s used in the same way Americans would say “little”.
Look at her wee dress! My wee man is 6 months old. We took a wee drive up the coast and had a wee ice cream. There’s a wee parent/toddler group on Thursdays. Would anyone like a wee tea or coffee? We’ve also heard people refer to their children as “wee’uns” (wee ones).
2. In Good Form
This phrase is used to talk about someone who’s in a good mood, usually a child. Recently a friend was telling me that her child had stayed up late but was still “in good form”. I think it’s more than the kid just being in a good mood; it means the child is generally behaving well too.
3. I’ll Say to Him
This one I love because it is so literal. This might be something Americans would say but (at least in the Midwest) I’m used to hearing the phrase “I’ll tell him”.
“I’ll say to him now about dinner on Saturday.”
4. “would be…”
I think we all know the common uses for would, like “He said he would do his homework.” and “We would always go to Grandma’s for Christmas.” But here in N.I. I’ve noticed an additional use that seems like it’s interchangeable with the present tense. Instead of saying “I’m hungry too”, people say “I would be hungry too.” Or, “She would have brown hair” to describe someone who currently has brown hair. People ask us, “Would you be in Northern Ireland until December?” …yes, we would be! (we are!)
5. Aubergine/Courgette
These words may look French to the average American and it turns out, they are! I was recently served tea in a cup with a round purple vegetable painted on it and I exclaimed, “Oh! An eggplant!” Everyone looked at me weird and that’s when I learned that, here in Northern Ireland, it’s not an eggplant but an aubergine (OH-ber-zheen). That makes an ordinary eggplant seem extraordinary doesn’t it? And another, courgette (coor-ZHET), which turns your average zucchini into something fancy.
6. “So they are/ So he does”
It seems that everyone we know ends their sentences with a wee recap of what they just said. My son loves to ride his bike so he does. They’re going away for the weekend so they are. I’m cooking dinner tonight so I am. It’s also used in the negative (“He doesn’t work anymore so he doesn’t.”) and in the past tense (“We used to have a cat so we did.”). This is one of my favorites!
7. Surname
This one is a simple enough adjustment for us and is used to talk about someone’s last name. I just like saying it because it sounds so much more proper than “last name”.
8. Trousers
This one’s important. In my American world, trousers are pants. In Northern Ireland, pants are what you wear underneath your trousers. Our friends say, “Oh we know what you mean because we watch American TV!” But still, I don’t want to get caught telling someone I like their pants 🙂
9. “What age is he?”
This just means, “how old is he?” and is often used in conjunction with “What do you call him?” (What’s his name?). Both of these are easy to transition to and i quickly adjusted my small talk with other moms to include these phrases.
10. “Half Ten on the 15th of May”
Telling time here in Northern Ireland is a bit different. Instead of ten thirty, you say half ten. 7:15 is not seven fifteen, but rather “a quarter past seven”. And 1:35 isn’t one thirty-five, but “twenty-five to two”. The date is also switched around from what I’m used to. My birthday isn’t July 26th, but the 26th of July! Most of the world positions their months and days like this, so it’s really we Americans who are doing it backward!
So there you have it! Our updated vocabulary. This list doesn’t include words that are just pronounced differently like fillet, vehicle, or tomato, or the whole host of baby-related words that are different. I could write a whole separate post on those!