Eight Months :: Elias Grows


 Oh, sweet boy. We got two wildly awesome kids on our hands, folks. Elias is all about his sister and Eowyn is all about her little baby brother. We're reaching the fun stage where they play together (and preliminary starting of fighting with each other) and I couldn't be more thrilled. Elias is easy going as they come, as long as he's being held...and not hungry. If either of these two things is no longer true, he' still is his usual self with the banshee screams. Apparently some things never leave you. :)

We love him. Obviously. We like him a whole lot too.

Eowyn jumped in for our little photo shoot and oh.my.goodness. I skimmed down the 38 keepers from this little shoot, and my heart is just so excited for yearbook time to come around. Especially when  you compare them to the last time I took pictures with these two in the chair. Life flies fast.

To see more of Elias grows, click here.

Seurasaari Island :: Helsinki Adventures

We have this trend. When we visit a new place, we tend to walk in the wrong direction or park our car too far. Then, once we get where we're headed, we only get to visit for about 20-30 minutes until both kids are frazzled and acting very ready to go home.

That being said, we finally made it out to Seurasaari Island this past weekend. This place is famous for having an open-air museum of Finnish History and hosting quite the festivals during Midsummer and Christmas time. While we hope to visit during one of those events, finding this place on a cool fall evening and going for a walk on a perfect-weather day was pretty awesome.

This island is also (and most importantly, according to Eowyn) known for its squirrels. These buddies have lost all sense of stranger danger long ago and are well fed by the visitors. We saw a big crowd along our walk and lo-and-behold there was a squirrel going from person to person collecting treats. Eowyn wanted in on the action. While she did get to feed him briefly, he must have reached his quota for the day, because soon he vanished despite attempts to lure him back.

So we had a quick picnic dinner, looked around a bit more and started to head home. Eowyn kept begging us to feed squirrels, but we simply couldn't find anymore. I prayed out loud that God would send another squirrel our way. Perhaps a silly request, but I know him as pretty awesome, so I figured I'd at least ask and see.

And guess what happened?

I kid you not. About 5 minutes later a squirrel comes chasing, I'm not joking, CHASING after our stroller. Maybe he smelled the peanut butter bread Eowyn was eating? I don't know, but we stopped, she hopped out and got to feed that little squirrel a good 5-7 times. He would run up, grab her little nut and go and bury it, just in time for Eowyn to go grab another nut from our bag and get in position. Then bounding back our little squirrel friend would come. Ben decided he'd have a go at it too. Eowyn seemed to think that was perfect opportunity to grab the squirrel tail. After her squirrel tail almost-yank (you can see it in the picture of Ben feeding the squirrel,) the party ended.

We strolled back to our car with the sun at our backs and a girl that was as happy as a three year old can be (which if you aren't around kids too much, that's a whole a lot of happy.)

Seurasaari Island, you're pretty great. And Jesus? Thanks for answering silly mama prayers.

1:45 PM :: Adventures with the Nap Evader


From 1:45-3:00 Every afternoon, a certain chubby legged boy wakes up a little too early from his nap. We hang out in our room so we don't wake up his slumbering sister. This happens nearly every day and while I'd love for the time solo, getting to spend it with him isn't so bad. I suppose.

Someday,  I'll be doing a very different kind of work from 2-3 in the afternoon. For now, I quite like the view.

Yay God :: Vol III


Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Moving to Europe has brought about a lot of changes to my life. For starters, my vocabulary has shifted, my cultural perspective has been majorly tweaked, my friend group now looks entirely different day-to-day, I walk a lot more (and eat a ridiculously large amount of chocolate) and my understanding of the Bible has a different tinted (but hopefully a bit clearer) lens.
I'd like to say that my biblical literacy has skyrocketed since putting two feet here in Finland, but I'd guess it's about as average as the next mom with babies. I've learned, which is quite comforting really, that mothers face the same challenges the world over. We all hope for the absolute best for our children, and we often wonder if who we are and what we're doing is what they need. We all get a little desperate and all shoot prayers out at lightning speed to what we put our faith in. All the while, we try to get more familiar with the one we're banking on pulling us through.  
When it comes to my Bible reading, I will say, I have grown in my fondness for it.  I think my american lens lent itself to being always unnecessarily busy. We filled our days and time with miscellany and Jesus was snuggled in somewhere between dishwasher duty and playgroup. While my days still fortunately include both plenty of dishes and plenty of play, time with Him doesn't feel so snuggled in. We've made margin here and with it, I get to gaze a bit longer at my King.
That verse above has grown in its meaning since moving here. I've thought of it while flying in the heavens over big vast oceans and I've felt it in the proverbial depths and literal darkness of Finnish winters. We've settled on the far side of the sea and I've gotten to see many a dawn with these babies. 
And here we are. More significantly, here He is. 
"Your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
If you were to ask me how often I've felt lost in it all, how often I've craved the sensation of anything 'holding me fast' I wouldn't be able to count to you the times. I can however tell you that for all those times, He has been faithful. 
We now are reaching the point of genuinely feeling like this place is home. We have a couple more years here at least, and it's reassuring to see that God is here in this city just as much as when we were elsewhere. I don't fear new cities quite like I might have before this move. I don't fear quite as much of anything, really. While I would perhaps describe my countenance as hopeful yet weary, it rarely feels 'fearful' anymore. That in itself is a major pillar of God's goodness in our home.
How do I go about showing how drastically hard life abroad can be, and simultaneously how faithful God is? I don't know how to focus on both sides of the coin in tandem other than to say that without it being as hard as it has been, we wouldn't be able to see how faithful He is. Without Peter's storm, He wouldn't see that Jesus can literally walk through  it, and enable him to walk through it too. "Peter you don't need no boat, I got this." (because that's totally how he talks.  ;) )
God has shown me there's no boat that will carry me to safe, easy shores like he can.
I've thought that perhaps it would be easier for someone else, but a quick google search reveals that this is a pretty universal sensation. Moving away from  your motherland is universally draining. I'm sure even a few of my friends who have moved from the Midwest down south can attest to that (can I hear an amen? It really is a cultural divide even within the states. Don't feel as if it is any less of a feat my friends, it isn't.)
Why am I writing all this? Mostly because I want to remember the sensations of being in a good, yet weary place. And give room to you reader to figure out where you are in all of this. Where are you at in the story? 
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
There is nothing more reassuring to me than knowing that the God who has crafted this story, and who is a lavishing father, friend, sustainer, comforter, redeemer has no place where he isn't.
Which means I'm never in a place where he isn't. My heart needs to have that on repeat. " I'm never in a place where he isn't."
I know this blog holds a good mix of adventure and babies and what have you. I know that living abroad looks sexy, and hear me-it definitely has its AWESOME moments-but, no story is good half-told. That's cheap. And this story that we get to live is all sorts of things, but cheap and half-told it will not be.
So, conclusion: (Because when I go back to this I'll probably just skip to the bottom) You're weary and hopeful and God has proved faithful and he isn't going anywhere that you aren't going too. 
He's got this.

Life Lately :: September 2015


Here our a bit of ramblings from the past several weeks. A little update of sorts to let you all in on life lately:

Fall is creeping in here in Helsinki. The colors are starting to change, the nights (and days) are getting cold enough for a jacket (although, come to think of it, that's pretty much always...) and the nights are actually dark.

It's crazy to think about where we were at this time last year. Our hearts and minds are in totally different places than a year ago. Definitely for the better.

For starters, we now have a solid network we hold so dear. We've gotten to experience a deeper level of friendship across the board.  It's something special when you're willing to invite people over for a recipe you've never tried. Our home has become a hub of sorts and it's wonderful. It's been such a gift to have a handful of people to authentically rest with. In a lot of ways not having family close by has allowed me to learn how to make people family. It's been a sweet time of letting people in. Many a dear friend has heard our baby cry and fight sleep with us, and has seen me with a bewildered face. No keeping it all together when you live life-on-life (as our good Pastors of yore would say.) I wouldn't have it any other way, really. It's the very thing we needed.

Eowyn is all fiest. That girl. Oh, dear Jesus thank you for that girl. Sometimes my heart feels like it's going to burst with how wonderful she is. Other times I want to squish her and not because she's sooo cute. I have a sneaking suspicion that Ben will have amazing referee skills come teenager time. She's certainly her own girl, and yet I see it-the will is strong with this one.

I keep joking with my mom that we made it out alright. We talk multiple times a week. So, there's hope for me and that joyful charger girl to end up besties. (Or something like that.)

While Eowyn is either happy or downcast, Elias is THRILLED or FURIOUS. There's no whine with that kid, it's all fight. You walk away? He will call in the troops. When he laughs, it's quickly a roar. Oh my heart.

I marvel at how such little bodies could hold such BIG EMOTIONS. (Wonder where they get that from?) I love how they're already so different. Our Elias loves his sister (I know everyone says that about their babies, but seriously) and she can get him to laugh like no other. I keep trying to get half the reaction she does. I'll even do the exact thing she did seconds before, and he gives me a sympathy smile then searches the room for her. Looks like that friendship I hoped for might turn out. Eowyn certainly doesn't mind having someone so enamored with her. When she sees him she says "Oh, Elias." He's endearing to her. Except when she has the chore of "make Elias laugh!" Then she's very much over him and our fixation of their relationship.

We found a new favorite enchilada recipe. This is kind of world news in Sprague speak.

We have officially reached the point in our evenings when BOTH children go down at a reasonable hour and we can do what we want till we ourselves scoot off to bed. We've had game nights for weeks now with no interruptions. We bask in it almost every time. Such progress has been made from just a few months ago when every.single.night we would be taking turns trying to calm our baby down till we fell into an exhausted heap. We all are getting bits more sleep these days and it's glorious.

Overtime for work is picking up for Ben. This causes much weeping and nashing of teeth (just kidding...) but it's nothing really new. It waxes and wanes. Right now it's on the upswing. We already are looking at 10 hour days (from when he walks out the door to in the door,) so any added minute is felt. I often remind myself, however, that many spouses have to work much more, sometimes two jobs, to afford a parent to stay at home. It's a gift that I can stay here. Plus with the opportunity to live abroad and support our church plant, it's a super blessing. At 6-7 PM it just doesn't feel like it. But what are ya gonna do?

You're gonna make treats.

Lots of treats.

Like chocolate chip cookie dough with your kid because nothing beats watching the clock like noshing on cookie dough with a three year old while singing out Daniel Tiger Jams.

 Side note: Daniel Tiger, you schooled me the other day when I was super frustrated with a very sassy young 'tiger' and she reminded me: "When you feel so mad that you want to ROAR, take a deep breath then count to four..." Unfortunately, when I tried to sing the song, the little tiger hollered "NO, I DO IT MYSELF" Apparently sing-a-longs infringe on independence. I imagine, had I been able to sing it, it would have done the trick. Ofcourse, seeing a little tiger intently sing said song is pretty calming on the nerves. We'll call it a win.

In other news, we're neck deep in a new board game called Imperial Assault. It's straight up amazing. I didn't think I was much of a gamer. Yet, I've caught myself starting to strategize even when we're not playing...so I guess we can say the weekly game nights have turned me into a bit of a convert.

When I look back on this past season, the one thing that I'm realizing is how much a shift has taken place in our way of thinking. Living abroad (and all the challenges that have been held in this past year!) has allowed Ben and I to really figure out what it means to be 'for each other.' We've gotten to learn to view problems and hard life circumstances as simply that. We can objectify those things and examine them together. Us vs. dilemma. Where as before, it was far too easy to begin to get frustrated with each other and assume it was within the other's power to fix the issue. They were just holding out.

In other words, I've become all the more convinced that this man is 'for me' and has my best at heart. I still get surprised at how much of a score this guy was. Thank you Jesus.

Marriage is turning out to be a really beautiful thing.

Verdict is still out on whole child-raising bit, though ;) Those little rascals.

Hope your fall is full of fresh crisp air, lovely routine, and good friends to eat hot dishes with. I suspect ours will be.