I've been through a few deep weeks of funk earlier in this year.

I felt this heaviness, this weight, that was pushing me to look inward...way inward.

With each look I didn't like what I saw.
I could feel an inward struggle raging.

I knew the Lord was working in me, refining yet again. But "haven't I been refined enough Lord over the last year?!" "I just want to be normal for a little bit."

Prior to all of this I had asked the Lord to impress a verse to me that was to be "my" verse for the year. I kept coming back to Colossians 3:2-3 "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things; For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ."

It didn't hit me all at once, but slowly, gradually, and with the greatest tenderness, I have been shown that my funk, my inward seeking and probing, they were revealing my resistance to this death, to this hiding my life with Christ.

I was fighting for control.
I was fighting for my life.

In Haiti I knew I was being poured out, but as we'd returned "home" I had quietly almost imperceptibly acclimated to the American culture ideal that I was the master and commander of my life. Our culture is afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying.

But I am called to live a different paradigm. I should run to the cross. To death.

Lay down my ideas for my future.
Lay down my control.
Lay down my desire for a stable paycheck and health insurance and a nice 401k plan.
Lay down my perfectly clean house.
Lay down my "me" time.
Lay down my desire for a play room, an office, a guest room.
Lay them all down.

Because, for me, or anyone who calls themselves a Christian, death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, should know what follows death. The Christian life is a resurrected life, a life that cannot be contained by death.

Death is only the beginning of the greatest story of all. 

And I get to be a part of it.

A realization that wipes away my funk and is replaced with a deep joy, an even deeper excitement, and the deepest rooted contentment that will not be shaken.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. 
But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:8

**I thought I'd start a new throwback feature on Thursdays, pulling from the archives. This one hails from way back in 2010 when I taught a homeschool science lesson on what makes our skin colors different. Looking at the pictures, my babies were just babies then...sigh.**

We studied skin colors this week in our home school. And not just in the "that is the way God made you" kind of way, although I do believe that.

Remember the late great DC talk song, Colored People?

Pardon me, your epidermis is showing,
 I couldn't help but note your shade of melanin 
I tip my hat to the colorful arrangement
Cause I see the beauty in the tones of our skin

Man, that song brings back some memories.

But I digress...

I do believe that song. I do believe that God is a creative God and we as his creation reflect His artists heart.

But Ella has been asking the deeper why questions. Why is Eli's skin darker than hers? Why is Ezra's skin lighter than hers? And at the age of five, I am incredibly proud of how observant she is. How discontent she is with just a quick answer. She keeps us on our toes folks. And, you might remember that my vanilla son was caught licking my chocolate sons skin a few weeks ago. So, I better include them in this weeks lessons as well.

I found a great resource when planning this weeks lesson here. In fact, I basically copied most of their ideas as I found all of them to be perfect for the ages of my children. I also utilized our library and ordered several books related to the subject. The kids favorite was this one.

We cut people out of magazines and made a collage out of them. We looked at our world map and talked about how different skin colors are (generally) found in certain countries. We did a fun and super messy (therefore, they loved it) experiment to visually show the four main components that make up all our skin. We mixed paint to "match" our individual skin colors and painted our traced hands. We looked at several Bible verses to learn about what God has to say about us:

We are created in His image. (Gen 1:27)
He is enthralled with our beauty. (Psalm 45:11)
We are to treat our neighbors (regardless of skin color) the way we want to be treated. (Gal 5:14)

And, I must confess...this was one of those weeks that I think I learned as much (probably more) than the kids did!

As a transracial family I feel it is important to be intentional in talking about race and skin color and our differences. But regardless if your family is transracial or not, I think it is an important lesson for any family. The old belief that children are basically color blind is just not true. Kids notice differences...from the earliest ages they are taught to classify (shape sorters, etc.) and as their parents we are their primary source of information! By not talking about these differences we potentially send the message that different is bad...however unintentional that message is. How important it is that we explain the way God views all people and to teach them the reasons for the differences.

Then different doesn't become bad in their little minds...it just is different.

A piece of canvas is only the beginning for 
It takes on character with every loving stroke
This thing of beauty is the passion of an Artist's heart
By God's design, we are a skin kaleidoscope

Jeremiah is on a jet plane at this very moment while I am up at my mom's for the week.

Zoe told me yesterday as our family took off in separate directions, "Daddy's going to Haiti and we are going to the North Pole!"

That's about what it feels like...as it's terribly cold at the moment up here. I might have been a tad jealous as I watched my hubby pack only shorts and t-shirts and a bathing suit for his trip while I have an entire arsenal of coats, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, socks, and more socks.

Ah, the age old question: Where exactly do socks disappear to?

I might have also been a tad bit jealous thinking of what Jeremiah gets to do over the next few weeks. I will always remember the day the playground got finished at HFHM and we let the kids loose on it...and we saw 40 kids slide and swing and climb and figure out the firemans pole.

I told him that he had better take a lot of pictures!

Despite my initial jealousy, I have purposed in my heart to enjoy this time flying solo with my four. They are my mission field, my first calling, and I pray for the same passion to be applied as I parent them and love them well over these next few weeks.

As much as I hate splitting up, I LOVE what we are getting to be a part of!

An answer to the fervent prayers of all my children and especially my husband was received with great joy...as we enjoyed not just a snow day but an entire snow week!

I know a lot of you don't share our happiness over the white stuff, and my northern friends are thinking I am crazy as you have gotten enough snow this winter to last a lifetime, and I get that, I really do...but for us, after an entire year of perpetual summer and a decade of wimpy North Carolina winters...we were ready for ol' man winter to BRING.IT.

And he did!

We had the most delightful week. Truly. 

cozy dinners, 
sledding and more sledding, 
indoor balloon volleyball matches, 
art-ing it up,
and movies. 
Lots of movies.

Of course, there is that whole school thing, which we managed to fit in a lot of. #homeschoolprobs However, I was sensitive to the excitement level and we did school around sledding bursts.

All of the following pictures were taken on the very first day of snow...just as it was starting to pile up. Therefore, yes, Ezra was in his snow gear pretty much the entire day...inside...

Eli baking up our emergency supply of muffins.  
Practicing their technique.

A fitting book, eh. 
Zoe loved being out in the snow, except for the being out the snow part.

Big sis was kind enough to escort her back to the house.

Our driveway is long and steep.
Very steep.
The minivan has its attributes. However, snow prowess is not one of them.
That meant groceries had to be hauled in on a sled.

I can hear my children telling their children about this one day.

And now that we've had our snow and our fun...
Spring can come =)

I am sending Jeremiah off again to Haiti next week, and I am super excited about what he gets to do this trip!

After living in Haiti with my own four kiddo's I can say with complete certainty that Haiti is not a kid-friendly country. With a long history of slash and burn agriculture and lack of open land, the orphanage and mission compounds (especially in the capital city of Port-au-Prince) are more practical than playful.

In the list of priorities I get that a playground should go lower of the list than food or medical care. I do, I really do.

However, I am convinced, that once basic food, shelter, clothing, medical and educational needs are met, a child's opportunity to be a child isn't something to be overlooked. Any child development specialist (or parent!) will tell you that play is so much more than play in the life of a child!

During our work at Have Faith Haiti Mission, we had the opportunity to build a playground for the children who live on the compound and it started a ground swell of orphanage and mission directors asking if they could have one built.

And so, Jeremiah is going back to build a playground for our friends at the orphanage of Christian Light. I mean, really, how fun is that?!

While he is down there he will (of course!) be visiting our kiddo's at Have Faith Haiti and we'd love to take some needed supplies for them as well. We have learned that they are low on the following items:

Aveeno lotion (off brand is fine)
Cetaphil cream
Hydrocortisone cream
Antifungal cream
Antibacterial cream (Neosporin)

If you are interested in providing any of these supplies you can contact me at jennifer @ utwwk.com (no spaces) and I can get details to you. Also, if you'd like to give a check, gift card or money towards these supplies I will be going shopping THIS coming Sunday, Feb 17th and I'd be more than happy to spend your money =)

Also, there are many more orphanages that have expressed interest in having similar playgrounds built on their compounds, but at the cost of around $3,000 per playground, they aren't inexpensive projects to finance for an orphanage. If you'd like to donate towards the cost of one, you can visit our website and donate directly to this special project. Or perhaps, put together a team and come to Haiti and build one yourself!

As always, thank you so much for your support! We couldn't do what we do without awesome people like you!

Stay tuned for pictures and an update in a few weeks!

the first snow of our winter is the first real snow of her life.
it's such a beautiful thing to watch...