Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hang on Mama!

Have you ever had one of those days? I have just encountered one! The boys and I had good days at school and then BAM...trouble strikes. Levi has been experiencing some problems using the potty in the past few days. I will not go into great detail but after spending a good 10 minutes on my doctor's nurse advice line, it was revealed to me that this is normal. It can be a three year olds way of demonstrating their control. "You can't make me go!" kind of deal. The problem is that he is causing himself restless nights and obviously he just doesn't feel well :(

You would think that I could go into this situation, being informed by the nurse of how to combat this problem, with a clear and calm will. He gave me every one of his best shots. Refusing to eat the prunes, crying and screaming about coming within a few feet of the bathroom, he even told me that "I was not his best friend AT ALL!" That hurts when your babe tells you that! Although, I remained rather calm about the situation at the time, I had a very disgruntled heart.

You have no idea how much I wanted to take back my no facebook or tv pledge for this month! I wanted to ask for advice or just plop Levi in front of a show to distract him from the problem at hand. Then, it hit me, this is hard and working through real life problems can be just that. Escaping is not the answer. Committing to stay the course and rely on my heavenly Father is the only true way to parent. Not "escaping" through my usual avenues.

I also kept running a line from a book I recently read by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae called "Desparate...Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe" through my head. Sally had been having quite a day with her children. Her husband came home and she began to pour it all on him and ask why will they just not be obedient. He responded by telling her they will probably stop sinning whenever she learns how to.

Oh yeah, good reminder to me! I may not express my sin the same way but holding an angry heart at my child for his dilemma is just as sinful. I am also running our preschool Bible Verse on auto replay in my brain. "Cast all your care upon him; for her cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

I'm hanging on to this experiment but it feels like only by a thread today!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Experiment - Day 3

We are on the third day of our shedding of waste for the month of November. I sit here this evening feeling like such a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Our family has just had a full day (beginning at dinnertime on Saturday) of keeping the Sabbath. I think every person has their own idea of Sabbath. I can tell you that I don't think I actually let myself embrace the rest until this morning. Yesterday I kept thinking of all the things that I hadn't finished and had to leave undone. Today I am looking around my house with a renewed sense of what is important and what is not. I began today with one of my favorite activities, running with my feet crunching the leaves and the cool weather without the jogging stroller. A half hour of exercise without my little guys was so rejuvenating to my spirit. After my run, we went to church and enjoyed worship and fellowship. We came home and relaxed while the boys took naps. We also joined some friends to see the movie Planes (which we decided is not violating the no TV rule ;) followed by a dinner out. We decided we will not be attempting another movie with Asher anytime soon because he just wanted to get down and move. Today was a breath of fresh air and our spirits are rejuvenated. Praise God!

This week I have pushed the facebook app on my phone twice and quickly backed out of it before seeing anything. It makes me realize how quickly I run to the world of facebook to escape the mundane in my life. I have to make the choice to serve my children by playing race cars, wrestling, listening to their stories, and taking time to discipline with love instead of distracting them with turning on the television or escaping to my own vices (aka facebook). It takes a lot more energy but I find myself feeling so much more at peace living the life God has given me rather than comparing it with everyone else's on facebook.

One of my favorite reductions of waste this month is to not purchase prepackaged snacks. I made homemade granola bars and Levi kept complimenting them. It's a big deal when he compliments food! We went to the Farmer's Market and I bought a whole box of "deer" apples (apples with a spot that can't be sold in the regular baskets) for $8. What a deal! I also left with 2 heads of lettuce, a few tomatoes, green beans, and sweet potatoes. I love how large the Farmer's Market is and how easy it is to get to. It makes buying local produce pretty convenient.

I look forward to finding more and deeper revelations as this experiment continues. For now, I am resolved to continue to observe the Sabbath. It is truly awesome to feel such renewal after rest!
Our first Sabbath dinner

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Month Ahead: Shedding some Excess

This year, the month of November is going to be different than it has been in the past for our little DeJong family. I have just finished reading Seven by Jen Hatmaker and it helped me pinpoint some of my discontent with the way I have been living. For a long time I have been frustrated with how I spend money, the amount of waste our family produces, the unneeded stress, the wasted time on facebook/tv/#younameit and the way this takes me away from my real mission.

I want to love God with all my heart which means, in turn, I want to be overflowing with love and energy for his creation, both our earth and all its inhabitants. I am turning a new leaf in the month of November by reducing my excess in 7 ways:

1.       Waste: I will not purchase any individually wrapped snacks or drinks (With the advent of preschool, I have started to purchase a lot more of these things which are definitely not as healthy as fruits, vegetables or snacks that I prepare and also produce a massive amount of waste!)

2.       Food: All food that I purchase for our family will be either locally grown/raised or the least harmful to our planet that we can afford.

3.       Media: I will not post or look at my Facebook newsfeed. (Sadly this will be very hard for me!)  I will make one exception. I am hoping to blog about insight that God grants me throughout this month. I will post the link to my Facebook page but I will not even read any comments!

4.       Media: Our family will abstain from watching TV (Since we do not have cable, this includes all modes of watching it! We are even suspending our Netflix account! Matt asked for one exception, Sunday football games once in a while and I thought this could be used a relaxing family time so I agreed ;)

5.       Time: I will take time to pause and pray each afternoon/evening alone to ask God to reveal other areas I need to reduce or reallocate my time and efforts.

6.       Money: I will wait 7 days before making a purchase outside of our necessary food and household maintenance items we need. This is intended to give me time to reflect about how I am spending money and evaluate needs vs. wants before rushing into purchasing things just because I want them.

7.       Stress: Our family will take time for Sabbath. For the glorious month ahead, we will begin our Sabbath with dinner on Saturday nights with candlelight, thanksgiving, and communion, and we will take time rest in Him until Sunday night. Our Sabbath may look different each time. It can include sharing it with friends, staying at home, hiking outside, going to a friend’s house. It will include worship with our church family (including setting up, teaching, and tearing down everything for church. Which I do realize is work but we decided not to become so overburdened by the law that we throw our hands up and decide there is no time for rest in our fast paced world.)

I can’t wait for the month of November to begin. I look forward to the shedding of excess in order to make room for the Holy Spirit. I can feel him calling me to walk closer but I keep getting distracted by all this noise. I am eagerly awaiting the crisp November air and the extra time with my family.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My cultivation process

My life is full of exciting new things but with that comes a cultivation process that I cannot say I enjoy. I looked up a couple of definitions of cultivation and this is what I found:
  • preparation of land or growing crops: the planting, growing, and harvesting of crops or plants, or the preparation of land for this purpose
  • improvement: improvement or development, especially through study or education

  • As I read both definitions, I think they explain the process of working/learning in order to reap a harvest in the future. This means hard work! I started a new job (3 year old pre-school teacher 3 half days a week) and have some new item contract writing work (This is something I have done on and off for 3 years but there has been a lull in work for quite some time until the past month.) Combining these things with being a mostly stay-at-home mom has thrown me a major learning curve. I struggle balancing part-time work. If you know me well, you know that I like to plan, execute, and follow a plan the whole way through. I have many things remaining to set up in my classroom and more importantly, want to maintain a balance that allows me to be a mother above teacher. My friends who have done this; I give you a HUGE pat on the back.

    The bigger part of my cultivation process is happening within me. In the past several months I have really felt a call on my life to love and serve my neighbors and community within Raleigh. Matt and I started a new community in which our mission is to get out group members to start acting as the hands and feet of Jesus. This Friday we are going to be leading Children's Chapel at the Raleigh Rescue Mission. It has been challenging to find the right place for us to serve because we are a small group of people with children so I am so excited to see how this will work out!

    In the midst of all these new things, we had to "invest" (I do use that term loosely!) money in our van as well. As I was rushing around trying to fit everything in and "do" all the right things, I realized I had left God out of most of it. As I spend time today in rest and reflection, I realize that God has no interest in seeing me rush around. The number of things I do does not glorify him more. He cares about the people I meet along the way. I need to invest in them with my time and posture of love.

    Last Saturday, we celebrated my little guys first birthday. Even before we knew he was a boy, I loved the name Asher. I chose this because it means blessing. His little life has been such a blessing. Every day since we found out he was a boy, I prayed that God would use his life to bless others. Little did I know that God was cultivating a heart of service in MY life by praying this for my son. I realized, how can I expect this little boy to understand how to be a blessing if I don't teach him this myself. I thank God for his life and the little repeated prayer that has changed our lives forever. We appropriately celebrated his birthday by collecting donations for the Boys and Girls Club. Asher, even at 1, is using his life to bless others in the name of Christ.

    As you can probably tell by the random trailings in my blog, I have a lot on my mind and heart. My prayer as I start this week anew is that I take time to cultivate without trying to rush ahead to an early/weak harvest. I pray that I will take the time to have a posture of love in the midst of new stresses.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Not Right Now

    "Not Right Now" is one of those phrases that tops my least appreciated answers list! As a child I remember my parents using this phrase occasionally. Looking back, I remember it was usually because not only was my question out of line but also my timing to ask was not very well thought out. Rather than hurting my pride in front of others, they would give me that answer and I knew a sit-down was put on the books for later.

    It's funny and also kind of sad that still at 29 years old, I struggle with this answer. I am learning to spend time in thought, prayer, and discussion with my family before forging ahead with my plans. That is usually the problem, they are my plans that are centered around ME. Sometimes I may sugar coat it by saying that I want what is best for my family, or my husband, but ultimately I am usually looking to satisfy myself. I was reminded of that this week as I was slapped with a "Not Right Now".

    Let me back up a few months to fill you in on the details. In the past months I have seen my friends and family take steps forward by moving to new places, starting new careers, advance their careers, start/finish their master's degrees, etc. As I watched all this unfolding around me, I started questioning why isn't my calling in life to be more glamorous, prestigious, holy, you name it and I thought it. Now please don't get me wrong, I love my children and I love fostering a loving and highly engaging learning environment for them.

    In the midst of all this, I decided to seek after a preschool teaching job which I am so excited about! I can't wait to be in the classroom part-time again and also allow my boys to have that social interaction as well. In the process of applying for the position, I decided to locate a copy of my teaching license (the original is probably lost in a box in the attic but I searched for a while and then decided to order a new copy!) I knew that my renewal year was soon but I didn't realize it was THIS year! I immediately started looking into all my options for renewal and it turns out that it really is not too bad at all!

    I am taking a couple of online classes through Wake Tech and enjoying them so far. This got my brain thinking in another direction...why not go for your masters Alex. Obviously, I have nothing but time on my hands and quiet...right!?! I started looking into programs and I was really getting ready to take off with it. Then, several events happened...

    1. As I was trying to rush through several things at once so I could have time to research Masters programs further, I was getting very agitated with Levi (who wanted my undivided attention). I took him outside with me to do some yard work and next thing I know, there was a bee trapped in his sandal and it stung him (I had to pull the stinger out kind of sting!) and he immediately started sobbing.

    2. My sweet husband (and I do mean this Matt!) reminded me that he had put his Master's on hold so that he could be home more while the kids were young.

    3. I prayed that my motives and heart would be laid bare. It turns out my motive is mostly when it comes down to it...fear. I know that I want to go back to the elementary or middle school classroom eventually. Deep down, I am fearful that after taking time off schools will be reluctant to hire me.

    4. I took a look at my boys this morning and realized this time is SHORT! I am the kind of person that carries stress around like its a full time job. I don't want to carry stress like that as I raise my precious little boys.

    5. I answered myself "Not Right Now Alex". Just as I finally have really begun to make progress and life changes to live a kingdom centered life, I start to waiver.

    I have decided that I am asking the wrong question and definitely at the wrong time. Maybe my future will entail pursuing that Master's of Education. However, my boys are little and my life is focused in the here and now. I sit here and look around at pictures of their smiling faces, cute art work, and listen to their sleepy breaths during naptime. Thank you God for renewing my mind and heart for its purpose in the here and now. For the first time, I appreciate the answer "Not Right Now."

    Saturday, July 6, 2013


    My East Bridge Church family embarked on an exciting new adventure today. We served lunch at the Helen Wright Center today. It was amazing to see all the planning and preparation come to fruition today.

    Meet the crew (missing a few here!) 

     A few months ago a seed was planted in my mind after reading the famous Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." Some reading material I had been reading got me thinking about the church (as a general population...not all!) so often focused on the making disciples part and looking right past the key word "Go!" More importantly, I am learning the importance of taking the time to build relationships that matter by sacrificially loving my friends, neighbors, and even strangers by sharing what I have been given.

    Levi helped me make the dessert :)

    I am overwhelmed by the way that everyone eagerly jumped in to help provide food, their time, and their positive attitudes in providing this meal. I can't thank my meal provider team enough for their help in preparing everything in the morning and helping to get everything transported and ready to serve today. Another key element to this entire operation came in the form of childcare (8 kids for 5 hours) Go team!

    I will leave you with one final thought. "Freely you have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8
    If you are reading this, chances are you have the resources to give something: time, kind words, a shoulder to lean on, food, finances. I challenge you to find a way this week to freely give what you have freely received. Please share how you have impacted your community if you'd like!

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Walking Down Memory Lane

    I find the summer to be filled with fun with the kids but if I'm not careful, it can suddenly be filled with activities every spare moment. Don't get me wrong, I love planning fun things to do with the family, but I am trying to savor the moments.

    This past week, I have been feeling very sentimental. The end of June marked seven years that I have called Raleigh home. Thinking back on my time in Raleigh has sent me down many memory trails. I remember the first summer I moved to Raleigh, I thought the summer would kill me. I had never experienced heat and humidity for such an extended period of time. My second week in Raleigh was July 4th, my sister came to visit and we attempted to go to the fairgrounds and stay until the fireworks display. After an hour we looked at each other and had the same thought. "AC...RIGHT NOW!!!" It was still 104 at 9:00 that particular day.

    I also started thinking back to becoming homeowners for the first time. We were so excited but also so scared...haha! It has been such a blessing to have a house we call our own. I can't believe it was five years this past May!! I guess we don't take many pics of our house...haha. There's the top for your viewing pleasure :)

    Levi's first Halloween
    Another host of memories comes into play when I first opened my home daycare. I knew I wanted to be home with Levi and everything just fell into place. The families that allowed me to take care of their babies will forever hold a very special place in my heart. They not only gave me the opportunity to stay home with my son, but they also trusted me with their own sons. It was always an adventure!
    Garbage truck Fridays!
    Painting Pumpkins...its too bad we didn't take an after picture with paint everywhere!

    Me and my fellas

    Now that it is the first of July, I can't help but think forward to August 10th. The day my baby turns ONE! I can't believe how fast this year seems to be flying by. August will be filled with new for all of us. I just accepted a preschool teaching job. I will be teaching 3 year olds Tuesday - Thursdays. Levi and Asher will also be attending the preschool. The catch is, Asher has to be walking...so I am only forcing him to use his walker 6 hours a day for now :) Of course I'm joking!! Levi will be in another 3 year old class because I requested that I not be his teacher. I am so excited for this opportunity to be in the classroom again but also have my children right there too! Levi is SO excited!!

    Asher - 10 months
    Levi - 1 year

    Memory lane makes me teary eyed wishing time didn't fly by so fast. However, it also makes me want to slow down and savor every moment. I resolve to spend the rest of this summer taking time to enjoy my family!

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Loving Well

    Since my last blog post, I have been on a journey. I decided to seek the path of choosing love and found myself on an adventure! Matt and I decided to begin "spear-heading" operation solve the homeless problem in Raleigh. Well, at least that is where my vision was headed. With a little thought and community involvement, why couldn't we...right?

    What I have come to realize is that there are so many wonderful people in Raleigh on the front lines already working hard to serve the least: the hurting, the homeless, the elderly, the lost, the hungry, you name it there is an organization out there that you can get involved with. I am learning the importance of getting on board with people that already know what they are doing.

    After talking to many people and attending a few meetings, we are finally on our way! In a week and a half we will be serving a meal at Urban Ministries for about 45 people. We have started making preparations and are getting so encouraged by the way the people in our small congregation at East Bridge want to jump in and help serve a meal at the Women's Center. A few of our guys are even going WAY out of their comfort zone to bring a stocked cooler and bug spray to one of the homeless camps we've recently found out about this Saturday morning.

    My purpose in writing about this is to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to open your eyes and see the need in your communities. There are people that you walk by every day who need love in some way. Who are they? Are you going to keep walking by and telling yourself someone else will help them? I challenge you to just start somewhere: mow an elderly neighbors lawn, make a meal for someone in need, listen to someone who has no one else. If we all start remembering that our ordinary American life is actually a mission field, what could we do? Could we turn our world upside down by showing that we actually love well?

    Are you in? I know I want my kids to grow up spreading this love to others!

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Choose Love

    I am nearing the end of my reading of Barefoot Church that I had mentioned in my previous blog post. It is fantastic! The big thought I am trying to carry through this week is "Choose Love".

    I think it is so easy for me to get caught up in the consumerism of America. Don't give too much of your time, your resources, your energy, your whatever because you need to make sure you have a bank of it stashed away. I know this is a grim way to think about it but the more I think about my lack of love for others in the past, it just sickens me. I am vowing to remember to choose love. This passage from Barefoot Church really hit me...

    Here's a suggestion: when in doubt, choose love.
    • Can't decide if you should give? Choose love.
    • Can't seem to swallow your pride on a foolish matter? Choose love.
    • Having a hard time forgiving someone? Choose love.
    • Rather keep your time for yourself than help someone in need? Choose love.
    • What would Jesus really do? Choose love.
    This makes the choice for me so simple. All of my excuses, exceptions, and choices can be completely turned around if I choose love. I am so excited to see where choosing love will take my life and the lives of my family.

    How could I not choose love with this precious cargo God has decided to put me in charge of?

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Am I a Dreamer?

    Lately I have been reflecting on my life and it's purpose. I have felt an awakening to begin acting with compassion and sincerity for people. Specifically, those in need in my community. This call has led Matt and I to begin reading a book together called Barefoot Church by Brandon Hatmaker.

    I have only read the foreward and first chapter so far but so far it is speaking to me EXACTLY where I am! He states "We've settled for serving ourselves and serving as an event rather than serving those in need and living in a new way of life that Jesus has called us to." This is so true of my life. I find plenty of excuses about why it's just not possible for me to serve those in need. I am tired from chasing around 3 little boys all day, I have to cook dinner, Matt works long hours, oh and the list goes on and on. But, I feel a revival within me starting. So much so that it's making me feel unsure of things I always felt HAD to be a part of life.

    What will this look like? That's part of what scares me a little...I have no idea. I am quick to categorize myself as the left brained gal with a step by step plan. But, I am realizing it just takes something to wake up inside to quickly change me to a dreamer. I am dreaming big for the future of our lives. Dreaming that we all have compassionate hearts that are forging our way to help "the least" in ANY way that we are called. I am going to start by getting involved in an established local mission. I am thinking Raleigh Rescue Mission.

    Who are "the least"? As Brandon Hatmaker puts it "The least is a collective description of those in need. It describes anyone who simply has less. Less can be anything from being underresourced to being along, from having inadequate or no housing to little or no food, from the rarity of comfort to the complete lack of freedom. Less is simply less." I have always thought that in order to have a serving heart you needed to be working in the homeless shelters, a missionary, etc. I think that I am realizing that I need to look for the least in my neighborhood, at the store, AND on the street. It could be a lonely widow, a child starving for attention, a sick friend. My heart is changing to seek the least and seek to serve them by setting apart specific volunteer time but also as my eyes are opened to notice the need on a daily basis.

    I am excited to dream big and live it out with some practical ideas and sentiments from this book. Who else is dreaming out there?

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    Lingering Words

    I am in the second to last week study by Lysa Terkeurst called Unglued. It has been a phenomenal study for my sister and I. Each week I have challenged to change my reactions based on a biblical reality rather than my own raw emotions.

    This week the challenge is to empty yourself of the damaging labels you have made for yourself and replace them with lingering words. In other words, how do I want to be known. I am still in the process of narrowing down a couple of my other categories but one I have definitely decided on is thankful. I want to be known as a woman with a thankful heart. I want to be thankful in the midst of plenty and little. I find myself so often listing all the things that I wish I could have, or change, or do. I am emptying myself of that label "never fulfilled" and replacing it with thankful.

    Yesterday I prayed that God would begin to work on my heart to be filled with thanks. I challenged myself that one time during this week when I was faced with a situation that angered me I would find time to first Thank Him. Two hours later, I am running in the beautiful sunshine and loving the 80+ degree weather. I made the halfway turn and was pushing my double stroller up a hill that always makes a good challenge. This hill runs right alongside a golf cart path in my neighborhood and I came upon 4 older gentlemen driving to their next hole. The first cartful waved and gave me a little motivation for running while the second came with a comment. "You need to get your boys some sunglasses." Now, in this moment all I wanted to do was turn around and tell that gentlemen that I offered them to my son and he refused to wear them while my eight month old would just eat them so none of this was my fault. I didn't neglect my children's needs, I am a good mom, etc. Basically, I had an unglued moment within myself! I made it about another 1/2 mile and all this internal demeaning chatter in my head just overcame me and I stopped running. Along came a rush of another set of thoughts... "You can't even finish a 3 mile run. How do you ever expect to be prepared for a 10k in a month and half?" All these are lies that I can quickly let myself get trapped in if I don't look to Jesus first.

    Right there in the middle of the sidewalk this little voice in my head said "Did you mean it? Will you be thankful in the midst of anger?" I stopped walking and just aloud started spewing off all the things I was thankful for. It started with the things I can always find easily. Thank you for the beautiful sky, the warm sunshine, my wonderful sons and husband. In the middle of all this Levi says "Mommy, are you still going to run and stop talking?" I laughed and told him that I would walk but he would have to listen to all the things I was thankful for right now. I even got to the point that I thanked God for the gentleman who had concern for my children's eye safety. I was not saying this mockingly, I really did and do mean it! God gave me the grace to have my heart turned around 2 hours after I resolved to become a thankful woman. Wow!

    I pray he gives me more opportunities to show my thankful heart. I want people to hear the name Alex and think she is so thankful. I have a long way to go but I am making imperfect progress!

    How could I not be thankful for this goofball? My little lunar boy or as I was calling him my looney boy:)

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Reflection and Resolution

    It's that time of year...

    As I look back on this year, I have so many things to be thankful for. I am so thankful that my husband has stepped out of his financial comfort zone and completely supported me in staying at home. I know that this season of life with my two boys being little will pass so quickly and I know that I will never look back and regret the decision to put teaching on hold to be at home with my kids. I count this as the biggest blessing of 2012.

    I have been thinking a lot about what changes I have made for the better (or not) and this has made me resolve to make some changes for the year 2013.

    #1. Find joy in the moment. (This is something I have been really trying to focus on for the past month but I know I need practice. My Type-A personaility wants to have a clean house, all the landry finished, children with perfect manners, daily lessons I write and complete with the kids, execersized, and a steaming hot dinner on the table all by 6:00 every day. To this date, this unreasonable expectation causes me to overlook SO many moments that could just bring me joy. I resolve to change this in 2013!)

    #2. Believing and Acting on the power of prayer (Although 2012 led to major growth in my prayer life, I feel the need even more to improve upon it. I think back on how often I throw out the phrase, you are in my prayers and how little time I really spent praying for those people in need. I resolve to pray and believe in it's power.)

    I feel the need to insert a little side story to this. Practically the moment I found out I was pregnant with Asher I prayed that God would use his life to be a blessing to others. That is why we chose the name Asher which means blessing. I know that he is not even 5 months old yet, but God has blatantly answered my prayers. Asher smiles ALL the time, literally! His first two little sounds sound like "Hi" and "I Love You" to the point that he had a whole table full of people at Chick-Fil-A mimicking him back and forth at lunch today! We left and there were smiles on these people's faces who walked in looking a little worn out ;)

    #3. Eat Less, Move More (I don't have any giant aspirations of trying to become a marathon runner at this stage in my life but...I am commiting to running at least two organized 10k's, one in the spring and one in the fall so that I work on getting more consistent with my running again.)

    I am putting up my resolutions because it will help me look back and reflect throughout the year. Also, if you are wondering how I am doing with my resolutions please ask me...trust me I need the accountability!!!