Yay God :: Vol II


"In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand."

This past Sunday, we went to church. Currently church looks like a sweet home filled with 20 or so even sweeter people-half of which are kids. We ate together (and I tried crumpets for the first time, yum-o) we worshiped together, then we began to listen as Kev, the pastor of our little church plant, share on a series we're doing. The main topic this day was on  repentance from a special kind of pride; The pride of self-reliance and how one root of that pride is believing that we're really orphans and not God's radically-loved children.

The night previous, I was holding a little newborn who had decided that this night was going to be the night where we didn't sleep (again.) He was doing his usual banshee scream and I wanted to join him. So, I did. I cried in between my "shh shh shh" and cried a bit more.

4 AM tears are some sad tears, my friends.

In desperation, I asked Ben for help. And wouldn't you know he got up quickly and got that baby to sleep-which meant that this mama slept too.

The funny thing is, it took me far too long to get to the point of asking Ben for help. I kept thinking to myself that if I just gave it a few more minutes, I could get this kid to sleep on my own. Ben was sleeping, and probably didn't want to help anyways. (such a big lie, P.S. ) Never mind my heart was escalating in frustration and my body becoming increasingly exhausted. No, I was going to do this! When I finally did admit to maybe needing a little (a lot) help, wouldn't you know, deliverance came.

So, fast forward to church just a few hours later and the pastor is talking about how God doesn't work through self-reliant pride. (Which makes sense really, since we would just think it was our own doing and not His.) and how much God wants to be working in our lives and through our days. It was a call to repentance, a call to allowing God to work in and through us and show us even how to let go in the first place.  More words were spoken, half of which I absorbed as I paced back and forth with a fussy newborn baby. I knew that this message was straight-up for me. And then, they asked if anyone wanted prayer. 

Friends, They asked if anyone wanted prayer. Any other self-reliant heart knows that when they ask for prayer, by golly you don't want to be the one who needs the prayer.

But, I was the one that needed the prayer. I knew it. Ben, sitting behind me knew it. I'll just assume we all knew it. At one point I thought he was nudging me (he wasn't) and I thought to myself "If I keep thinking he's nudging me, then maybe I should take it as a clue that I should just ask for them to pray for me."

And so I did.Well, I tried. I got out a  "Me.....[breath, breath] Just staying at home alone all day with these two[breath breath]" And then Ben filled in the rest because my cheeks got hot and I couldn't finish the rest of it. "It's hard." he said "The days are just really long and isolating."

And so they prayed. And I ugly cried. They prayed sweet things that my ears and heart desperately needed to hear. Things about a gentle God who leads his sheep with gentleness and a approving Father and how much I'm not alone during these 10+ hour days when I'm so sure I'm so alone- so many other precious words that when I got home I scribbled them all down to remember as time passes.

Here's the truth. I want to be good at this. I often think that the SAHM thing should be easy-or at the very least not this hard-especially when others have more children, or have 9-5 jobs. I don't like that I need any sort of help with this, or that I struggle. I want for this two under three business to come easy to me and to feel like I GOT THIS. I want for international living to not feel so suffocating at times, for Ben to come home and when he asks me how I'm doing over our AWESOME meal I can tell him about all the cool crafts Eowyn did, all the adventures we took and how Elias aced napping and how we kept all the tears at bay. 

But you guys, That's not how it's happening.

Yesterday it dawned on me (in yet another way) how much I sink my teeth into self-reliance; how much I believe the deeper lie that God wants me to perform well, and if I succeed then he'll be especially pleased. I know I've got God's approval from Jesus, but I want his approval and a bit more. This is bogus guys. And a clear indication that in more ways than one, I don't get the gospel.

Some days this home is a straight up mess, more emotionally than physically, and it's those days where I notice my heart get ugly. Give it 5 minutes on those days with two screaming children and I'm waving my fist at God telling him how unfair this all is. I'm all alone in a foreign country, without my family. and with two kids.  ALL ALONE.

If you need a symptom for self-reliant pride, self pity is a great big flag. 

And I tend to lean towards the dramatic side of pitying.  

But through all of this, Jesus has been gentle to me, my friends. This Sunday, Jesus showed up for my heart. He showed up big and deep and didn't just let me hear trite words about putting my head down and getting through, but got down to the core of what was really going on.

I have friends here who care deeply for me. They spoke life over me and reiterated to me that I am enough-especially in the mess of motherhood. They spoke truth to my brain and heart that even now are ringing in my ears.  But even more than that, they reminded me of who He is. His gentleness, kindness, grace. I just can't wrap my mind around how gracious God is to take a very desperate mama and give her a Sunday to hear those words, to have prayers offered up to Him from those beautiful mouths. 

We have a saying around here that is spoken pretty much as soon as Ben gets home. He's "the best part of my days." And it's true. But, God's teaching me that even in the space between seeing faces other than my two kids, and especially between seeing Ben's face in the morning till evening, there's a lot of company God is wanting to give me. He's giving me 10 hours a day to get the opportunity to experience him with me. And while some days it doesn't seem like it's true, or if it is, that it's not enough, my heart is slowly practicing unclenching it's fists and surrendering it all over-bit by bit by bit.

and that's when I start to see it.

If there's one thing I'm becoming convinced of it's this:

I'm not alone.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28: 20

I'm learning that one of the quickest ways to find joy is by looking out for the ways God is active in our life. These posts are a deliberate effort to see that. My hope is that by taking time to write volume after volume of his small and large graces, I'll  create quite the little record. So, when in doubt-as I too often am- I can go back and remember how intricately involved the God we serve is. To see the rest, click here.

Cooking with Eowyn Child


(See what I did there?)

Below are the instructions, from our special chef Eowyn, for making a crowd-pleasing meal.

First, ensure you have all your ingredients. 'Moneys' and magnets are a great aromatic to start out with.

Cook your protein till it's fully prepared. In this case, we have turtle (with a hint of peppa the pig...and some other creatures)

Now add your spices.

Throw in a little fierceness, but keep it on the sweeter side.... 

 Actually, go a little heavy on the sweetness, yet, work to maintain a subtlety to the dish.

After allowing it all to simmer for about 1.4 seconds, stir a bit more and taste....

Then serve.

 Be prepared to wow the masses.

 Eowyn's convinced it's all in the moneys. She never cooks without them.

One perk of Eowyn's cooking is that her 'soup' magically can become 'delisis cookies' at anytime. Her food is like Willy Wonka's chewing gum, but you don't turn into a blueberry at the end.

OH! and  BE CAREFUL. It might be hot. 
and you don't want to "burn yer sewf.'

Two Months :: Elias

The Day It Kind of Snowed


So. Winter.

Winter in Finland is dark. Like, really, really dark.

And despite the sun being gracious to us for the past several weeks making its appearance more often than not, the snow around these parts has been kind of dismal (at least when you compare it to what we're used to.) Being that it is so dark most of the time, anytime we see little snowflakes coming from the sky-we get excited. Like, EXCITED. I don't think I ever appreciated snow until I understood how much it does for making things brighter. Live in a dark country through a winter and all of a sudden snow seems like God's gift to all those struggling with the winter blues (ahem, me.) The whole place LIGHTS UP with snow. Snow is good.

Needless to say, the adult part of the Sprague bunch have grown in their love for the white fluffy stuff. Yet, our appreciation will never, EVER compare to the deep affection our girl has for it. She pretends it exists when it doesn't. She squeals when she sees it. When she comes near it, she does what any one who loves something with all their being does-she rubs her face in it. When it slides down her clothes and under her shirt, it bothers her not. She also eats it. Even if it has brown specks on it.

We did what any well-meaning parent should do, and told her it has bugs in it. (Which by the way didn't stop her.) And when you look at how little snow we've gotten this year, 'snow eating' is basically eating dirt with some snow rubbed in. So the probability of bugs is pretty high.

All that being said, when the snow started falling this week, Ben called me up and announced we were going sledding.  'A Last Hoorah' was mentioned. The snow accumulation was kind of non-existent, and yet Eowyn heard him say it and was all about it so there was no turning back. We even played pretend snow before we got to play in the real snow.

By the end of the day, while dismal, it was enough. (Which kind of describes this entire season actually: Dismal sleep, dismal sunlight....yet enough.)

 The snow was our girls manna from heaven. Getting to share that with her made for an excellent middle of the week. She went sledding twice. Once nice and slow, with daddy behind her. The second time he gave her a good push and there was not one ounce of fear in her. It was all big smiles and arms raised high. I think Ben might have found his roller coaster partner. The swings beckoned, so sledding was done about as quick as it started.

It was a great last run, if I do say so myself.

(Also, Elias didn't mind it, but was far more interested in sleeping.)

Yay God :: VOL I


“...the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” 
-Ann Voskamp

+ After 2+ years of praying for two of my dearest friends,  God answered both sets of prayers in one week. He brought two separate miracles-without missing the details- and landed them so masterfully at such a perfect time into their lives. The best part has been that after all those days of praying, all those days of feeling the ache and the 'why not nows?' I get to share in their joys and get to see God work. Even being an ocean away, I'm getting to do fist pumps and shed the giddy tears-this is an answered prayer in itself. +

+ Elias is ever so slowly figuring things out with sleeping and eating and existing with a crazy sister well. This all gives me hope that the constant feeling like this hard season will last forever will in fact end sooner than later. Also, while we wondered if he would be lacking in personality (or be kind of a grump- based on his tendency to blow out eardrums with his screams-) he is in fact showing us that neither will be the case. The social smiles started this past week (and they're nearly exclusively reserved for his daddy.) Yet, he just keeps getting happier and sillier.  It appears we managed to produce not one, but TWO goofy kids. Also, he's a tub tub which makes things even more fun +

+ I keep thinking about the phrase "the grass is greener where you water it." So much of this season has me missing home. And yet, this season-we get to be here. God is faithful in the way he keeps leading me gently to find joy.  The lonely is thick this season. Yet, God is a friend to the lonely. And it seems that, sometimes hard seasons aren't just there to try and hustle through. I'm learning that God uses hard and easy all to his glory. +

+ Eowyn is teaching me a lot these days. Having two kids has me daily praying for peace and wisdom on how to train up a little while tending to the needs of a newborn. Also, I get to experience a whole new task of reigning in my own emotions when I've got two that feel all the feels! Yet, as the days pull forward I find myself praying more boldly and less frantically (although there's still a good bit of that.) Rather than just praying to survive this season, I'm learning to see all the growth He's got for this time.  If there was anything that would produce fruits of the Spirit in me (peace, patience, kindness, self control...) it's doing life with this toddler and baby. I read a quote once that went along the lines of "God hasn't called me to mother masterfully, he's called me to the master of motherhood " I'm learning to run to him in ways I didn't need to with just one little baby. For that, I'm grateful. +

 + These past few months have had an onslaught of paperwork. From getting Elias' passport/birth certificate to having to renew our resident permits and get drivers licence, Ben has managed to keep all the documents in order and get us to where we need to be on time. It's insane the amount of work he's had to do to keep all the I's dotted and T's crossed. Crazy props to that guy.

Yet, even with it-there's been stumbling. It's particularly difficult because of language barriers and the tendency for the workers to ask us for things that weren't listed as required documents. We've  gone to the wrong place for appointments (because apparently when two doors are RIGHT next to each other with nothing to show a difference, it's pretty easy to go into the wrong one. Bleh,) failed to have updated enough passport photos and failed to hear our name being called (Because our names in Finnish are not nearly the same as in English)... There's just too many hoops to jump through and not enough documentation to let us in on which ones we need to go through. We know we're bound to miss a few. AND YET God has been so gracious to us. Recently, we missed our residence appointment because we were in the wrong room of the building we were supposed to be in. Yet, we still got to do both residence permits when we missed our first appointment with the immigration office. They originally told us that we would have to come back later, some 6 months later. We prayed, and 10 minutes later they suddenly became kinder and totally willing to process both my and E's permits in the 20 minute time slot. It was a crazy God thing how much the mood even changed.

Not only that, we were able to print out our own passport photos and save ourselves around 45 euro. We've gotten Elias' passport in record time, we'll be getting our license in a few weeks...just all of it. +

God sure is doing something. 
One thing's for sure.
He's so faithful.

I'm learning that one of the quickest ways to find joy is by looking out for the ways God is actually active in our life. These posts are a deliberate effort to see that. My hope is that by taking time to write volume after volume of his small graces, I'll will create quite the little record. So, when in doubt-as I too often am- I can go back and remember how intricately involved the God we serve is.

Kaivopuisto :: Exploring Helsinki


This morning, our plans changed leaving us with a few hours on our hands. Being a family that likes to suck the marrow out of our weekends, we decided to check out more of Kaivopuisto, a park that we had heard plenty about, but had barely skirted around a few times. It's one of the largest in Helsinki, and always has people on its sidewalks and climbing its rocks. We felt it was a perfect day to join in.

The park skirts the waterline, and has some beautiful rock face, so we were excited to get a bit of fresh air and enjoy the AWESOME sunshine we've been having the past couple of days. Kaivopuisto, you did not disappoint.

We hopped in our car so we could go deeper into the park than we had been before and were able to find free parking (which is an impressive feet here in Helsinki) giving us 4 hours to wander. While we only spent about an hour or so there (due to nap times and such,) it was still a great time to absorb some vitamin D, let us stretch our legs and snap a few pictures. I wanted to get a picture of us as a family of four and managed to at least get one with all our hats showing. :) I think we might have to call in the professionals to get  one with us all looking at the camera-but I haven't given up the challenge quite yet.

Regardless, it was a sweet time with lots of exploring. Getting out in that cool fresh air guarantees solid afternoon naps for our two littles and clears my head like nothing else. Plus these two... 

 And let us not forget the joy of climbing trees (especially when you have a fork-lift that'll lift you some 6 feet up.) Eowyn was quite pleased.

We spied a few more places we hope to check out as the weather warms and I think this might become a favorite spot for our family of four.

Five Minutes


I read once that a great way to challenge oneself as a photographer was to commit to taking pictures for 5 minutes a day. While we all know that my record for completing much of anything other than eating chocolate for 365 days in a row is not too impressive, nothing turns my heart around on hard days (and our Thursdays are almost always hard) than taking pictures, and staring at said pictures during nap time.

So, for 5 minutes this morning, I embraced that challenge. I grabbed my camera and tried to capture where we're at. I'm glad I did.

 Pretty quickly, my girl spied the wireless remote and wanted in on the photo taking action. Elias was nearing nap time, so after a few clicks together, we put the little guy to sleep and had a second go at it.

Which, when you compare these to the first time I taught her how to use the wireless remote, it makes motherhood feel all sorts of  incredible and helps me realize this is all happening at warp speed.

It  was just a year ago (March 3rd!) when we first got in front of the camera together with her clicking away. It's a good reminder that this all happens so, so SO fast. Which is something I needed to remember this morning. 

Today has been hard. Like taking a break too many times to count from my toddler and trying to breath and pray and think through how to handle defiance with a gentle heart. While in the process, I got a nice nose bleed from my apparent inability to handle stress well.  

Toddler - 1  Adult Parent - 0  

Which leads to yet another life lesson: Trying to train your toddler is completely ineffective when there's a giant wad of toilet paper hanging out of your nose. 

"Mama? Boogas? Nose?!" 
" Yes, Eowyn, Mama has a nose bleed, but that's okay. We need to talk about how we need to listen with our ears and not hit Elias with the recorder...."

"MAMA, Boogas? Nose? Otay?!?"

Needless to say, I'm grateful for these pictures. And the reminder that it really is all sorts of messy (both literally, and figuratively) and beautiful.  

All that from just five minutes.