30 October 2013

grace like a child

This morning I took my girls for pancakes. It was raining and we were rushing so that Eleri could get to school on time. Lowri was squirming all over the place and in the seven minutes it took to drive from our house to the restaurant, Eleri had asked about nine billion questions. As I was unbuckling the girls from the car, I was already regretting the decision to go out for breakfast.

As I was trying to wrangle a fussy toddler, my purse, a sippy cup of spilling milk and a four year old who insisted on jumping in every single puddle as we crossed the street, we saw him. A worker who was struggling to carry in a box overflowing with cups. Two other people walked by him and straight into the restaurant. There was no way this man could carry the box and open the door at the same time. We could have easily walked in without holding the door for him, we will just far enough in front of him. But he was there. In the rain. And everyone saw him, but no one wanted to wait.

Except Eleri.

"Mommy, that man needs help. We have lots of stuff in our hands, but he has more. He needs us to wait and help him. I will open the door for him." So we waited, and she held the door open and then helped the man with the cups that he dropped. He answered with a "gracias" and my precious little girl answered back "gracias" He smiled, I smiled and then Eleri said something so profound. "Mommy, I said thank you in Spanish because that man speaks Spanish. and everyone likes to have people help them just where they are. He didn't speak English so I spoke his language because I thought he would like that." She talked a bit more about helping and then finished off her conversation with part of the family motto "Team Williams is nice to everyone"

I was fighting back tears. My four year old has grasped a concept that is still beyond a lot of adults I know. Often even beyond me. She saw a need and met it, on the same level of the person who had the need. just where he was
It didn't matter that he was a worker, or that it was raining, or that it meant she had to wait a bit for what she wanted. It didn't matter that he didn't speak English or look like her. She met him just where he was.

Sure, it was only a 2 minute encounter with a man carrying cups. But the message is so much more than that. Everyone is different. Everyone screws up, everyone needs help, and everyone wants someone to just see them for who they are. To come and meet them exactly as they are. Not expecting a change, not demanding they do this or that to fit into a particular image or expectation. Everyone wants, and deserves, acceptance based simply on who they are at that very moment.

Eleri likes to help. That is a part of her, so deeply ingrained into who she is that sometimes we actually have to pull her away from 'helping' activities. She is compassionate and tenderhearted. I have no doubt that she just wanted to help because 'Team Williams is nice to everyone' (I hear that about a million times a day) But what she did was show the love of Jesus. Her actions spoke clearly that everyone is important, everyone matters. She met that man exactly where is was, speaking his language, to make him feel the "most happy" as she said. I believe it worked. I believe that man felt a little bit of Jesus' love and grace this morning. He may not recognise it as that, yet that is exactly what it was.

Jesus said "Let the little children come to me, do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like these children" (Matthew 19:14) A childlike innocence. A purity and acceptance that many adults do not have. Moments after we came into the restaurant, I overheard another couple talking about how 'this is America and if people want to come here then they need to learn OUR language and not speak this other crap'. I hugged my precious one a little tighter as they discussed this because she saw beyond language gaps and nationality. She looked at the heart, the person. It was a good reminder to my old, tired, calloused heart to give grace regardless of the situation. People are people and every single person is made in the image of God. They should be treated as the valuable creations that they are.

I hope that my little one continues to love and offer grace and acceptance regardless of the situation. I pray that as Lowri grows, she can follow in the footsteps of her older sister. I really hope that I too can remember the words of my four year old and simply love and meet people just where they are. I am so grateful for the precious spirit of Eleri. What a little glimpse of God's heart she really is.

28 August 2013


home. I am back in Tulsa now, and its lovely. and wonderful. and missing something. no matter what, there seems to be an ache in my heart. not an over bearing, unable to function kind of ache. more a niggling feeling that something is just not right. I am afraid that I am doomed forever to feel that dull ache.

my years spent in the UK were wonderful. and hard. it lacked convenience and quite a few of the 'normal' things that I had grown up with. I complained more than my fair share about daily life. yet, when it came right down to it, I truly felt at home.

when we moved to the states, it too was wonderful. we found an incredible church and connected with a community that was encouraging and challenging. it was what we had prayed for. the daily routines are so much easier with space and car. convenience is not lacking at all in Oklahoma. we bought a house, our family grew and I felt at home.

now, 2 years later, I feel torn. Each time I return to the UK, I am reminded of the ease, comforts/space and church family we are leaving behind in the states. Each time I return back to America, I am reminded of the simplicity, local/sport community, culture and ease of travel left behind in the UK. Having made a home in each country, no country fully feels like home anymore.

no matter where we live, one set of parents/grandparents will always be far away. and that is really difficult. no matter where we settle, one half of 'us' will always be far away from our roots, from the place where we grew up. No matter where I settle, make mom friends and try to do life, I will always have another frame of reference. another home. another life.

somewhere I read the following sentence, and my heart jumped. this is it, this is how I feel. "you get a strange feeling when you are about to leave a place. like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and place because you'll never be this way ever again."

I am not sure if it is too much compartmentalizing of feelings, because at the core I am the same. I am the same person I was in London as I am here. my heart, my soul, my desires, my dreams- they have not changed. the way I execute day to day life has, but not me. but its that feeling, that dull ache in my chest that doesn't seem to go away. I can never relive the life we had in the UK. but even if we moved back to Europe, I could never, ever, replicate the life that we have here.

I am home in the UK. I am home in Tulsa. But I am never really home at all.

This recent trip overseas was wonderful. It was much needed adult time. the first time we had ever been away from lowri and the first time we had been away from eleri for more than 2 nights. it was good. hard at times, for both us and the girls, but good. and necessary. we visited old friends in London. we danced and drank and sang and laughed with friends in a way that we had not done in a long time. we hugged family. we cried tears over missing family members. we shopped and ate and drank some more. we travelled along the entire breadth of England. we met new people and spent time with life long friends. we returned to the exact spot in spain where we first said I love you. we ate at our favourite restaurants and were reminded what it is to just be 'us'. we walked miles along the Mediterranean coast. we explored new cities together. we laughed and talked and held hands and enjoyed our time without thoughts of money spent or bills to pay. we had a break from life and it was incredible.

and now, we are home.

I felt at home in the UK. I felt at home in Spain. I felt at home while we were travelling. I always feel at home while I country hop, exploring new places. and now I feel at home in Tulsa. but no matter what, there is always a little something missing. It's almost like I have tasted and seen too much. never truly satisfied, yet perfectly at peace. as I type that out, I am forced to ask if that is even possible. but somehow, that is how I feel.

for years I have prayed for contentment. for God to truly calm my heart and help me live fully in the present. yet our hearts were made to long for Him. we were made to continually strive for our eternal home. I have wondered if this is part of the way I am being taught to be content. A visual, earthly experience of what our spiritual experience should be. "taste and see that the Lord is good" I have seen. I have experienced. I have seen the beauty and wonder of God and His creation. and because of that, no matter where I am, part of me longs to be somewhere else.

so I will make my home in Tulsa. I will love that we have walmart and target just down the road. I will love that I can walk to church and I will hate that there are no sidewalks anywhere.  I will love that we are close to family. I will miss the family we far away from. I will love that we have an amazing church and amazing friends. but I will miss the church and friends we left behind. I will love that I have a car, a backyard, space, more than one bathroom and a kitchen with a table. I will love what we have here and continually pray for a grateful heart. I will continue to make a beautiful home here, live a beautiful life. and I will miss every other home left behind.

life is strange. but so wonderful. and no matter the dull ache that seems to follow me no matter what, I will forever appreciate the experiences I have had. if life had the option of a do over, no part of me would ever undo a single moment, a single day. even if it means living with a pain that is ever present. I will always be grateful for the life I have lived. and the homes I have had. I can say, truthfully, that I love my life. and I wouldn't change a single thing.

welcome back to America, Kristina. welcome home.

30 November 2012

if you do nothing else, do this

you need to follow this link HERE and read this. Read it with an open heart and open mind. Read it knowing that these are things that break the heart of Jesus. truly.

all rollled into one

I keep thinking that I will write some posts about my tiny daughter. You would think that writing about life and stage and various milestones at least once a month would not be too much to ask. But apparently it is. The last time I posted it was regarding the first 2 months of her life and she was already 4 months old. Now? Now tiny LG is 6 months old, sitting up unassisted- heck even standing up! Clearly I am behind.

So I am facing the facts. I will not do individual posts about the tiny one. I just wont. I would love to, but folks, it is not going to happen. But I would like something on this blog that resembles at least a decent motherly attempt to publicly announce the marvellous ways my daughter is growing and bringing joy into our lives. So here it is. A post for months 3, 4, 5, and 6...all rolled into one :)

3 Months to 4.5 months
Anything after the first 2 months seemed wonderful! Lg was hospital free, and aside from her regularly scheduled shots, she was doctor visit free. 3 months was easy! Lg started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks, so our schedule was typically a few naps throughout the day, usually on the go as we went from E's school to gymnastics to parks etc... The last feeding was right after bath time around 7pm and she would sleep straight through until 8am. Yes, these 5 or 6 weeks were a very easy stage considering what was before (and what was to come after!!)

At 4 months we had a check up and shots and Lg's stats were:
weight: 12.2 (20th percentile)
height: 24.5 in (75th percentile)
Tiny and tall! We figured you could be a super model, a high jumper or a runner. :)

As for exciting milestones, Lg started rolling over this month. And not just the back to front. Oh no, she was rolling in circles all over the place.

This is also the month that Lowri took her first trip/family vacation. We went to Fort Worth, Texas and stayed with some friends from college. To add to firsts, we also hit up Six Flags to mark the first amusement park and IKEA, because who doesn't love IKEA?!

4.5 to 5.5 months
Talk about a change over night!!! Around 4 months or so, I decided that I was tired of breastfeeding. Some people love it, however I hate it am not one of those people. I understand it is best for the baby, etc.. etc... it has just never been the wonderful, intimate moment that others love. So I was done. Lowri, however, had some different ideas. She refused to take a bottle. WE tried 13 different kinds, with every kind of nipple imaginable. We tried breast milk, 3 different kinds of formula and even a mix. She would not have any of it. I tried giving her the bottle, then Rhys, then my mom. Then we tried Rhys and/or my mom but with me out of the house. Heck, we even let Eleri try to give her a bottle. But no, nothing.

I am not sure if it was just a coincidence or not, but that was around the time that Lg decided that she no longer needed to sleep. Not just sleep through the night, but sleep at all. ever. EVER! Life went from easy naps during the day, with no problem going down, and a peaceful, full night to constantly fighting sleep. every single time. I was up and down between 9 and 10 times a night. It was horrendous. I felt like I was losing my mind. Maybe it is selective memory, but it was worse than when she was a newborn. Lowri just wanted to be awake.

We went to the doctor who suggested maybe she wanted more than just milk. She suggested trying some food. Great, I thought, we will try that. That night I noticed she had TWO TEETH!! That's right, 2 teeth, fully through on the bottom. To all the other mothers out there, the behaviour and sleeping might have been indicative of teething. But Eleri got teeth like they were puffy, soft marshmallows just melting in her mouth. I never realised just how easy Eleri was in absolutely every area until I had another child who was not.

Even with the teeth, we decided to try food. Baby rice and porridge, then carrot, peas, green beans, squash and sweet potato. Lowri gobbled it down! The sleeping improved a little, but not much. Now instead of 9 or 10 times it was 4 or 5 times.

As for milestones, aside from food, Lg found her toes. We would often find her happily pulling away at her feet, in and out of her mouth. pretty cute to watch really. Lowri was still rolling all over the place; I couldn't keep her still at all!

There were quite a few firsts this month too. First food, obviously. But first Halloween too. She was a Dalmatian. In fact, we all were. Grandma and Grandpa (rhys' parents) came to visit and it was LG's first time to meet that side. It was also the first time she had a non family member babysitter. Our good friend Neville watched both girls one night when the Williams' were in town so we could all go to Oktoberfest. She slept the whole time so she was unaware of a non family member babysitter, but it happened all the same.

5.5 months to 6
Somewhere a switched flipped and we are back to sleeping! I don't know if it is the food, the fact we gave up trying to get her to take a bottle and have just settled in to the realisation that I will have to keep nursing, or if it is because we have started wrapping her up really warmly at night so she is toasty warm. Or if it something totally unrelated, but whatever the reason it is wonderful!!

Our schedule is fairly predictable. I wake her up around 7.30am and nurse her. She stays awake until around 9 and then falls asleep in the car seat while I take E to school. She transfers from seat to bed easily and will continue to sleep until about 11.30. I nurse her then we play and go get Eleri at 12. Lowri eats food around 12.30 It is usually porridge and fruit. She goes down to sleep around 2 and sleeps until 4. I nurse her around 4 or 4.30. She has food at 5.30 when we are all eating dinner. She usually has vegetables or a fruit and veggie mix. Then it is awake/play time. At 6.30 she gets a bath and then I nurse her and she is asleep by 7.15pm. She will sleep until about 3am. She wakes up, pleasantly, but wants to eat. I feed her for about 15 minutes and she goes back to sleep quickly. And then I wake her about 7.30am the next morning and thus the cycle starts again.

As for milestones, Lowri is sitting up unassisted. It is awesome to see her tiny little self just sitting there, playing. She is also standing up when she has something to hold on to, i.e. couch, table.. She is not moving around, cruising I think it is called, but she is steady and strong on her feet. This is exactly what Eleri did and then she started walking at 10 months. I am wondering if I will have another early walker on my hands!

As for growth, we had Lg's 6 month appointment and she is continuing along the same lines, tiny and tall. She weighs 14 lbs, 5 ozs and is 25.5 inches tall. 10th percentile for weight and 50th for height.

And that brings us to now. six and half months. I can't believe that my youngest is already half a year old. It goes by all too quickly. I should put some pictures in, but that seems like a lot. So this is it for tonight. Pictures to come soon.

13 November 2012

They should be remembered

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday. It was the 11th. Today is recognised as Veterans Day in the United States. To me those days are of huge importance. The men and women who have fought to make and preserve freedom, not just in this country, but around the world deserve to be honoured. I foolishly assumed everyone felt the same way. I was shocked and appalled when I was left explaining the significance of Remembrance Sunday and the "11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month". Not only did people not understand the historical significance, but some did not even realise that it was a day to be celebrated. Callously saying "I had no idea it was veterans day" highlights a larger problem with the younger generation. There seems to be a growing lack of understanding, even lack of respect, for the military and those who serve in it. Supporting a war or a particular government administration is NOT the same thing as showing support for the armed forces. You do not have to agree with war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam or even war in general to recognise that there are thousands of men and women who have selflessly given their all so people can so freely have their own opinions.
Tyrants and dictators across the globe keep millions of people under lock and key. Thousands die every week fighting for basic freedoms and necessities that we in the western world take for granted. It is a privilege to live in a country like the United States or Great Britain. I am not saying they are the best countries on the planet, both have their fair share of problems for sure, but the laws that govern those countries provide its people with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, heck even the right to buy an AK 47 (as was so widely proven at the gun show held in my hometown this weekend) These are liberties that people DIED for you to have. How dare some ignorant person simply believe it is what they are entitled to. You, free people of the world, have what you have because someone fought for it. Those who so bravely chose to fight deserve respect, honour and recognition. I was near tears several times yesterday as I continually came face to face with my generation who seemed to care less.
History is not every ones interest. I realise that. Just because I love it, doesn't mean everyone has to. But to be informed citizens, to be able to fully enjoy and appreciate the things that we are so generously blessed with, we should also have a least a general knowledge of the road that was travelled to allow for the liberties we enjoy daily.
Remember people. Remember the past. Learn from it, yes, but remember. And honour those who so courageously paved the way for our comfortable lives today.
Lest we forget.....
  *Below are 2 excerpts, the first from 2008 and the second from 2009 regarding Remembrance Day. I would suggest you read them and look at the pictures. Not because my writing is wonderful, but because the pictures alone tell a powerful story of the soldiers who fought for freedom*
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

It was the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month that the Great War finally drew to a close. And the world would never be the same again. I do not have the words to describe the war. I don’t think anyone does. Even those who fought in the trenches, who watched comrades fall, who came back wounded, destroyed; even they couldn’t find the words. It was worse than any horror imaginable. The roads leading to the trenches were covered with the bodies of dead men and animals, carcases too laborious to move, bodies too numerous to count . The wrecked shells of supply carts and ambulance waggons lay scattered across the fields. entire plains collapsed and barren due to the heavy artillery bombardments. Shell holes made some areas impassable. The unyielding downpour of rain made travel and life even more difficult, creating slimy pits of mud that simply swallowed equipment and men alike as they passed. Even remaining stationary didn’t help. The platforms and make-shift shelters the men tried to build simply crumbled and sunk; more often than not creating additional causalities. It was atrocious. It was hell.

Today is the day we honour those brave young men who fought in those bloody trenches. Today is the day we honour ALL the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces in some way. Be it the front lines, the sea, the air, the nurses station or the home front. each and every person who has so selflessly given their time, effort and sometimes even life for the protection and defence of country, humanity, life, and freedom. We honour them.

I went to the ceremony today at the cenotaph on Whitehall commemorating to the very day the 90th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War. I can not even begin to describe how simply amazing it was. Thousands turned out on this very special of Tuesdays to celebrate and honour the thousands before us who have so bravely served. But today was different. Today was extraordinary. Today Henry Allingham, Williams Stone and Harry Patch all laid wreaths at exactly the 11th hour. Henry and Harry are both 110, Williams is 108. They are the last 3 surviving British vets of the First World War. Mr. Harry Patch is the only, THE ONLY survivor who saw active warfare in the trenches. He served in Passchendaele. (Click here and here to learn more.)

I got to Whitehall nearly 2 hours before the service was scheduled to start. I was determined to have a clear view of the veterans. When I arrived barely after 9am, the street was already filling up. By 10.45 there was not an empty spot of tarmac or sidewalk visible. Thousands had come out to show their respect. When the 3 men were wheeled into sight, deafening cheers and thunderous applause erupted from the crowd. Tears sprang into my eyes and began to pour down my checks. even now as I write this I am beginning to well up. The 3 men were so bravely holding their heads as high as their frail and ageing bodies would allow, gripping their wreaths of poppies. they were remembering. Williams Stone allowed his wreath to be placed on the cenotaph by a member of the Royal Navy, Harry Patch had his placed by a Royal Marine. Henry Allingham refused to give his up. He so badly wanted to lay the wreath himself. but he couldn’t move. he was chocked up, confined to his wheel chair. he was shifting and fidgeting in a futile attempt to place his poppy wreath on the monument. he refused to let go. my tears came even harder. there was not a single eye that was not moist with the heartache that comes only from seeing a once strong, proud, and well decorated war veteran struggle with the simple task of honouring his comrades. He finally released the wreath and it was laid. The imagine of that struggle will forever be implanted in my memory. His determination even at 110, even after 2 World Wars, even after mustard gas poisoning, even after years of hard work, toil, and countless deaths around him...even then he still had his spirit left. he still wanted to be strong. that is true courage. I will never forget the faces of those 3 veterans. It was a honour to see them in person. It was a dream come true.

After the service had ended and the 3 veterans were wheeled to 10 Downing Street, I made my way over to Westminster Abbey. During this time of Remembrance the grounds of the Abbey are covered with crosses, wreaths and poppies. Today, scattered between the rows and rows of make-shift memorials, were numerous veterans spanning all the wars. This must be a proud moment for them. They are honoured regardless of the popularity of the armed forces or of the current war. they are respected. they are looked upon as the heroes they truly are. even more tears fell. I was overwhelmed at the amount of lives impacted by war, both past and current. I have always had a soft spot for the military and I have always been interested in learning more about various conflicts. But today, more so than ever, I was reminded just how important, how truly significant, our war heroes are.

*excerpt from 2009 Remembrance Day...

this remembrance day is eleri's first. i realise that she is just 3 and a half months old and will have no recollection of this time. but its important to me that even from this early of an age she is surrounded by the words, pictures and memories of those who have so bravely served their countries. i want her to remember so that their sacrifices are not forgotten. i want eleri to know, to understand, to care.

I wanted to take her to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. It was focused on the first world war because, as i mentioned earlier, all the surviving British WWI veterans died this year. it didn't quite work out that way, and we ended up staying home. we read poems, sang songs, looked at pictures and observed the 2 minutes of silence at the 11th hour.

and in an attempt to familiarise my daughter even more with great 'war' moments of the past, i read her all the famous speeches i could think of. i

"we shall fight them on the beaches" winston churchill

"a day that will live in infamy" franklin d roosevelt

"sixteen hours ago" (in reference to the atomic bomb) harry truman

"scorched earth" joesph stalin

"the iron curtain speech" winston churchill

"peace for our time" and "this country is at war with germany" neville chamberlin

"the war to end all wars" woodrow wilson

and at the end of president wilson's speech, eleri started to goo and giggle. i think she missed the poignancy that is remembrance day. all she understood was that her mommy was playing with her. and as she laughed, i started to cry. I was struck with the dichotomy of the situation. i was reading words telling of great destruction and tragedy, stories that recounted the most horrific situations. i was reading the words of war to my sweet, innocent daughter. and it broke my heart.

i cried because the men of the two world wars are dying out. i cried because we still have men and woman fighting and dying in wars even today. i cried because someday she may know the pain of loss that comes with war. and she just kept smiling, goo-ing and laughing.

this day will hold a special place in my heart. i will tell her about her first remembrance day. and when she is older, and can actually understand what courage and sacrifice are honoured on this very special day, we will read through the speeches again.

thank you soldiers past and present. thank you for your selfless sacrifice to help bring peace and security to our world. soldiers, you are not forgotten.

3 November 2012

Day 2

Beautiful 80 degree weather in November. It was such a gift to get out with my girls today. Huge blessing!

2 November 2012

30 days of Thankfulness.

Day 1: I am thankful that I live in a place where I have easy and quick access to the Internet. I take for granted little things (as well as big) everyday. But the Internet makes my life easier every day. So to start it off, that's what I am thankful for. Hey, without the Internet, I couldn't be posted my 30 days of thankfulness :)