I love you more than that

Annalise has had a prayer for as long as I can remember her talking… She has prayed for her cousins to live by her. Sometimes it makes her so sad that she cries. “Mommy, I just don’t understand. Why do some kids have their cousins live in the very same town, and my cousins live in another state and on the other side of the world?!? I might never even get to go to their house ever!”

It breaks my heart when her little heart is broken.

We’ve had discussions about it. God sent her Uncle John and Auntie Ko-Ko and her same-age cousin Ellia that she loves just so much, and Jacob’s same-age cousin Alyssa, all the way to Indonesia for a purpose. He has them there to do the job He wants them to do. So we pray for the job they’re doing there, reaching unreached people, building churches in jungles where people have never heard of a savior, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a land we’ve never seen.

And right now, God has her Uncle Ryan and Auntie Ky-Ky and cousins Riley and Mason in Nevada. And she loves them so much, too. So we talk about that God has a plan for them, and right now the plan is to be where they are. And that even though we miss them, too, we’ve been blessed to get to visit their house every once-in-a-while.

And we talk about how blessed we really are, that even though her cousins are so far away, we’ve been able to see them lots. And sometimes we get to Skype with them when they’re home. But right now, they’re here! And they even get to come to Annalise’s 6th birthday party, the first one since she turned one!

Just the same, Annalise still prays that she’ll get to have her cousins live here, just like other kids. And I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t think that’s going to happen, to just give up on that big request of hers, because God has Ellia in Indonesia. That is where they live now.

The truth is, some days it breaks my heart, too. Because while I didn’t always grow up with my cousins in the same town, we were just on the other side of the Cascades, and we got to see them often. They were a big part of my life, and one day, my prayer was answered to live by my cousins. We lived in the same town and went to school together for the last 5 years.  I even lived in their house for a while during college. God answered my prayer in a bigger way than I could imagine. I loved the blessing of them in my life, and I have longed for Annalise and Ellia to have a similar experience.

Well, it just so happens that one of the cousins that I prayed to live by and graduated from high school with and lived with in college, moved last year from Eastern Washington back to Whatcom County.

And it just so happens that a week ago, he became the head pastor at the church he grew up in right here in Ferndale.

And it just so happens that his middle child is Jilly, another same-age-girl-cousin that Annalise loves.

And it just so happens that when that cousin of mine got his new job as a pastor, they moved into the church parsonage in Ferndale. Which meant Jilly and her big brother Josiah got moved to a new school this week, which just-so-happens to be the same school I teach at, and more importantly, the same school Annalise attends.

Annalise was already bursting with excitement when she found out Jilly would be at her same school. And then, the unimaginable happened. Josiah was put in my class, and Jilly was placed in the same kindergarten class as Annalise.

Leading up to Jilly’s first day, it suddenly hit Annalise exactly what was happening, that this was not an “it-just-so-happens” event. “Mommy! Do you know that God is answering my prayer? I prayed for a cousin to live here. I really meant Ellia, but God answered my prayer in just a different way. And I never even thought about having a cousin in my school or especially in my class. God answered my prayer, but even better than I thought, because I get to have a cousin with me every day!”

And then, Annalise became sad again. Because, “What about Ellia, Mommy?” Ellia has the same prayer. She loves her cousins just so much. She wants to live in America, to be by her cousins, too.

God has not forgotten Ellia. Several weeks ago, He answered her prayer, too, also in a different way. First, He brought her here for 5 whole months, enough time to make lots of American memories, from the Northwest Washington Fair, to cousin’s birthday parties, to starting kindergarten, and she’ll even be here for Thanksgiving. But there’s more. While she has been living here, God called her aunt and uncle and a same-age-cousin for both her and her sister to Indonesia, to the same church she is a part of, in the very same city. She will likely attend school with her other same-age cousin.

God couldn’t move Ellia here to Annalise. But He gave Annalise and Ellia different same-aged cousins to not just live close by, but to be in their same school and same class. At the same time He did this, God brought two churches a new pastor, one in Ferndale, one in Indonesia. (And by the way, that church in Ferndale was in need of a pastor because the former pastor  had moved with his family to a place God had put on their heart… Indonesia.)

Answered prayer… Two little girls pray for a cousin. Two churches pray for pastors. Two families pray for guidance on where the Lord wants them. 

Strengthened faith… An impossible prayer answered. All those prayers answered, all at once.

God’s word lived out…  He who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… I could have never imagined.

Here is what I’ve been reminded of:
1. Ellia and Annalise, your prayers have been answered, and God has big plans for you.
2. Pastor Elis and Pastor Andy and your families, your prayers have been answered and you have followed the Lord’s leading, and God has big plans for you.
3. Whatcom New Life Assembly, you have been given a new pastor, one you poured into as a child, and God has big plans for you all.
4. Indonesia, you are a land being blessed by two more wonderful families, and God has big plans for you, too.
5. God has not forgotten this land, or these families, or even the hearts of two almost-6-year-old girls. And God has not forgotten you or me, either. He knows the desires of our our hearts, and He knows our greatest needs. He has big plans for us, too.

Jacob has this little saying that melts my heart. Whenever I say “I love you,” he responds with, “I love you more than that.”

“Jacob, I love you more than the moon and stars.”
“Mommy, I love you more than that.”

“Buddy, do you know I love you more than all the waves in the ocean? And farther than from here to Indonesia and all the way back?”
“Yep. And I love you more than that.”

“Hey kiddo! Come here. I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Mama. I love you more than that.”

I love that boy so much more than I can describe. But even if I could, he’d just say with his joy-inducing, heart-melting, God-awing smile, “I love you more than that.”

He still answers prayer. Even prayers of little girls.
He still amazes with his creativity. Two girls, impossible prayers, answered in ways I never imagined. One boy, with a big smile, and even bigger words that melt every time.
He still can do and does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

And when His plans are carried out, and are far beyond what we could imagine, it’s almost like He is saying, right to the heart of my almost 6-year-old girl,  “I love you so much Annalise. But I have different plans. I need your cousin where she is.  I’m not going to give you just exactly what you ask for. I’m going to give you more. Because I love you all more than that.

Remember His promises. Pray big prayers for His purpose and glory. But keep in mind, His plans might be a bit different, because He loves you more than that!

“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” ~ Ephesians 3:14-21

First Crush?

It’s late.

I should be doing report cards.
I should be cleaning the kitchen.
I should be folding the laundry that has been laying in the corner of the hallway for longer than I care to admit. It might even be dirty by now.
I should be switching the load of laundry before the stuff in the washer starts to stink and I have to run it on a rinse cycle with more fabric softener. Again.
I should be in bed.

None of the above are happening, because I have this story that keeps making me smile, and I need to get it out. Some of you may have seen part of it already. I originally included it in my 10-list that I posted yesterday. But after hitting “publish,” I decided to take it out and make it it’s own post. It’s worthy of standing alone.

In yesterday’s post, you met one of Jacob’s heroes: Pastor Phil. The other is the beautiful Julianne Seely. You may remember her from this post, where I used Jacob’s adoration of her to try to convince him to eat his dinner. Whatever works, right? Only it didn’t.

Yesterday, Jacob came with me to drop Annalise off at her ballet class. Once we got there and saw Julianne’s car in the parking lot, I realized why he had wanted to go with me so badly: We pass Julianne’s dance class in the hall on the way to Annalise’s. Sometimes, we get to see her and say hello. This time, however, the door was shut. I kept walking towards Leesie’s class when I realized Jacob wasn’t with me. I turned around and saw this:

photo(62)Yes, that is my child laying on the ground.
Yes, he is looking under the closed door.
Yes, that is the door to Julianne’s dance class.
Yes, he did cry when we left because, “I didn’t get to see Julianne! I dist got to see her FEET!!”

I tried to console him by reminding him that we would likely see Julianne when we came back at the end of class. There was no consoling. Only panic. “But what if she’s gone already? What if we miss her?” I switched my tactics to distraction, which seemed to do the trick. (Wondering how much longer I have with that tactic. It can be such a life-saver.)

After some errands, it was time to head back. Jacob spotted Julianne’s red VW bug as we pulled in. He started to giggle, clap, and even squeal with delight. “Mommy, LOOK! You were right! She IS here! We get to see her!” He was beginning to remind me of a pre-teen girl giddy over a boy-band. We were nearing full-on freak-out excitement.

“Mommy! I’m dist so excited!… Auntie Nee’s Honey is here!!!”

Auntie Nee’s Honey? Julianne is Auntie Nee’s daughter, but I’ve never used that phrase. And to my knowledge, neither has anyone else. Bewildered, I looked back at him for clarification.

His wide smile got even wider. He had a twinkle in his eye and he let out a little giggle. Yes, this was very much like a pre-teen girl freak-out. “(giggle) I’m dist so excited. So excited dat I forgot her name for a sec. So dat’s why I dist called her Auntie Nee’s Honey.”

Oh, if only Auntie Nee’s Honey were 18 years younger. Poor Jacob.

The Priestmans love you, Julianne! (Only most of us won’t come looking under any doors for you.)


Growing up, whenever someone made me mad, my mom would make me say 10 things I liked about that person. You know, to focus on the positive and remember the reasons I’m thankful for that person. To think about why it is that I love them.

I hated it.

Lots of times, I could only (begrudgingly) squeak out one or two good things about someone before I would need to start a whole new list in my head of 10 things I like… about my mom. For making me play such a horrible game. Obviously.

Now I’m a grown-up (or so they say.) And a mom. I may or may not have made my children do the same thing. I’m not admitting to anything.

Sometimes you need a 10-list for life…

-Maybe it’s because someone caused your “Mama Bear”-ness to kick into high gear and you’d like to teach that person a thing or twelve. Just. Breathe. 10 things. 10 reasons NOT to rip their face off… And yes, you know you’ve been there.
-Maybe you were hurt and ready to quit and you forgot that there is good or how to smile, so you just needed a little smile-reminder.
-Maybe you got to a point where you felt like what’s the point and who really cares anyway and all this work is just turning into more work and I’ve had it up to HERE with it all. And who would even notice if I just drowned in it, because it’s already at my chin and will reach my eyeballs soon… but by then it will be too late.

Or maybe, just maybe, you said too many things that tear down, and it’s time you forced yourself to say a thing or two that builds up.

I may or may not have experienced all of the above these past few weeks. But I’m not admitting to anything.

I’m reminded I need to get back to journaling my Gifts of Grace. The things that remind me how much my God loves ME. That his grace is big enough to hold even me. And even more than that, He takes great delight in meHe delights in Me. Why does that surprise me every time I read it? And when my fists shake and my heart aches and everything is anything but still, He quiets me with his love.

Here are some of the love gifts of grace that have quieted my soul these past few weeks. Things that have made me remember to smile when I didn’t feel like it. My 10-list for life right now:

1. A teacher smile. While correcting a measurement test, I got to a question on appropriate units for measuring temperature. The Super Tall Kid in my class answered in three words: “Fair In Height.”

2. I was blessed to attend several graduation parties for students I taught for two years. I was Miss Kuzina their 4th grade year and Mrs. Priestman for 5th. They threw a shower for me at the end of 4th grade, and a few even attended our wedding that summer. And now? They’re all growed up and heading off to college. I know, I know. I couldn’t possibly be old enough to have former students graduating already. Or to have others already graduated, married, and with kids my own son’s age. Just… whatever.

3. Annalise is also growing up and would like me to stop using baby words on her. I told her that the belt needed to go around her tummy. She said, without a hint of disrespect in a totally serious and surprised-I-didn’t-already-know-it tone, “It’s called a waist, Mom.”

4. Jacob and I were having a conversation about obedience. Every day. Every 3 minutes. Forever. In one of those conversations, I said he had disobeyed. “No, Mom. I unbeyed.” Exasperated, I asked him what he was talking about. “When I do what you ask, it’s called O-beying. When I don’t do what you ask, it’s called UN-beying. Mom, it makes perfect sense.” Yes. Yes it does.

5. Matt’s parents took the kids for a couple hours one Sunday afternoon just for fun, which gave me time to work. I somehow found myself alone on the patio in the sunshine with good coffee and a good book. Who needs work? Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa!

6. Annalise and I had a discussion about a behavior pattern she (we) are working on. Proverbs 29:11 “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” At first, she felt the verse didn’t apply to her, because she’s not a man, of course. Um, no. So I read it again. “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” I waited. She thought. And then she grimaced. “Mommy! I do not want to be that fool. Because you know why? His house went SPLAT!”  You know, because it was built on the sand, and the rains came and… you know the rest. Splat.

7. One of Jacob’s favorite people on earth is Pastor Phil. While getting his haircut the other day, Jacob informed the hairdresser he “wanted his hair short, but not as short as Daddy’s.” She asked how short Daddy’s hair is. “Weeeeeally short. ‘Cause he doesn’t have any hair!” She laughed. He continued, “Just make it like Past-oh Phil’s. I want it dat short.” She responded, “Make it like Buster who?” He repeated his request and told her all about his “buddy” and our church. Mom Smile.

8. When I picked Leesie up from ballet today, she was given her ballet pictures along with several wonderful compliments from different grown-ups about how she is doing in tap. My girl stood there and beamed. Sometimes, those are the things that fill a Mama’s heart the most. I can’t wait to see her perform this weekend.


9. The kids were invited to ride on a tractor in the Farmer’s Day Parade with THE Pastor Phil. (I thought Jacob might die.) He loved every second, but he was seriously cool as a cucumber once we got there. And while it was no carriage, it was the perfect chance for Annalise to master her princess wave. photo(66)

photo(67)     photo(65)

10. Friends. Friends that bail you out in a pinch. Friends that encourage. Friends that are more than willing to take your kids, even when they’re all sugared up from way too much candy being thrown at the parade. Friends who laugh with you when – after we momentarily lose our daughters – one comes outside of the building saying the other is still inside in the bathroom but has “a paper towel stuck to her bottom.” Just don’t even ask. Friends starting their day in matching hats…

photo(63)…and ending their day in matching birthday suits…

photo(64)And really, how can you not smile when you see those two faces?

Oh yes, and a bonus item. I guess it’s an 11-list.
Getting my phone to find a picture and instead finding this:


38 of them in all. THIRTY-EIGHT. Plus several videos of her singing just exactly like she’s the star of a Broadway production. Dancing and singing… a song about Princess Annalise, of course. The videos won’t be shown without her permission, but they were just too hilarious not to mention.

And so I leave you with this… A sampling of the many faces of my girl. May it bring a smile to your face too:

photo(74) photo(73) photo(72) photo(71) photo(70)

30 Minute Meals?

Try 5. Yes, Five Minute Meals.

I’m just that good.

Five minute meals that produced CHEERS… From BOTH kids. Yes, you read that right. Even the boy cheered for dinner!

Kid cheers and lavish compliments, such as, “Mommy, this is the best dinner ever.” And, “Mommy, I LOVE this. You should make this more often!” And even, “Mommy, this is so good. Thank you for making us such delicious food.”

And no, I’m not even kidding.

These compliments are helpful, because yesterday after I picked them up from a friend’s house, I was told, “Mommy, she makes the best food. It’s always so creative. Like today, she put thinly sliced pickles on my tuna sandwich! I just love her food. You should try to make food like that sometime.”

So yeah, the compliments ego boosts came at just the right time…

I make the best dinners ever. Delicious food. And in five minutes.

Tonight’s Best Dinner Ever menu:


Burnt grilled cheese and a giant raw carrot.

Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray.

Happy Dramatic May Day

I posted this on Facebook this morning:

It’s 8AM. We’ve already had enough drama to fill several days. My children. They were not blessed with calm, unruffled, phlegmaticalness. (Yes, it’s a word.) Bless them.

Who am I kidding? Bless ME. And give us grace on this very dramatic average Wednesday. We could use a heap.

But oh how I love these dramatic littles. Their drama (sometimes) brings me much laughter… resulting in further drama. Apparently, I’m not allowed to laugh. Or at least not at them.

So just a couple examples of the average Wednesday drama:

Child 1, while discussing the possibility of doing May-Day flower deliveries, throws herself on the bed in a heap of tears. Because HOW DARE WE leave flowers WITHOUT SAYING HELLO. When I let her know that is just exactly the point – to surprise people who are expecting to see someONE, but just see flowers – she only cried harder. Because that just CAN. NOT. HAPPEN. Ever. “Mom! I can’t NOT say hello when I am at someone’s house that I just love so much! (sob) I mean, how COULD I???? (sob sob, loudly sob)”

Child 2, while getting his ginormous claws clipped after ripping holes in my skin by accident, announces in his most dramatic tone with dramatic facial expressions and dramatic one-handed-motions (the other was being clipped), “MOM. You HAFTA stop. dis. now. Because I am SO DONE getting my nails cut. I have stuff ta do.” Of course you do, 3 year old. Just cutting me to shreds isn’t on the to-do list today.

Child 1, while playing (dramatically, of course. Because all her play is like a stage production), suddenly bursts into tears again, “MOM! I just don’t understand… WHY would you want me to ring the doorbell and RUN AWAY from someone I love so much? (sobs and more sobs)” Oh dear. We’re still on this. It’s now a thing. Bless her.

Child 2, after I got him dressed and walked out of the room unintentionally leaving him alone, he sings – yes sings (and rather well, I might add) – this song from Les Miserables (Castle on a Cloud”)… “Please do not leave me on my own. Not in da darkness by myself…”

– Let me pause here. Because what just-turned-three-year-old ON EARTH sings songs from Broadway productions to communicate to their mother just exactly what is happening? Mine. MY just-turned-three-year-old does this. Yes. We are dramatic in this house. –

So then I post my comment on Facebook. The one above. A few kind friends post encouraging words. And then this conversation happens:

  • Paul Kuzina Love you Holly–your honesty is refreshing, and you will glean much prayer support as a result of it. Holding you up in prayer—Dad
  • Holly Priestman ^And dad, were you not totally and completely PROUD that I used such a BIG word? Phlegmaticalness. That’s like a dozen syllables or something. I MUST be your child.
  • Paul Kuzina I was wondering if it actually IS a word!
  • Holly Priestman Ummmm…. YES. Although FB doesn’t seem to think so. Whatever. Look it up.
    (I have waited YEARS to be able to tell you that! YEARS!)
  • Holly Priestman ^Probably even decades. Because I am officially THAT old.
  • Paul Kuzina I don’t own a Funk and Wagnall’s. Sorry! (Mom did that to me! She mocked my predisposition to loquaciousness, and this is the result!)
  • Holly Priestman Funk and Wagnall’s? You might be dating yourself. I’m not certain of that, since I don’t know what it is, but I’m guessing so…. Try this new thing called GOOGLE, dad. It’s even better than old Funk.
    And you just trumped me. Because now I have to look up “loquaciousness.” Whatever.
  • Paul Kuzina Okay, I apologize for ever doubting my teacher daughter. “Phlegmaticalness” is, indeed, a word. (Loquaciousness” is also, I might add.)
  • Paul Kuzina Syn: verbosity, garrulous, logorrhea, prolixity, etc.
  • Paul Kuzina I personally think “logorrhea” is a good one. That sounds a lot like “diarrhea” of the mouth.
  • Marie Scanlon HAHAHAHAHAHA! I love this convo. I love words!
  • Paul Kuzina And one last thing…how dated do you honestly think I am, Holly? I just used Google to verify those words. So there! Your old man isn’t too archaic!
  • Paul Kuzina BUH-bye!
  • Holly Priestman I HATE it when dad says a big word that I don’t understand and ask him to define, only to get a string of words that I also mostly don’t know. Dad, you WOULD like logorrhea. (FB doesn’t think it’s a word either. Underlined in red.) I expect it to come up in conversation soon…
  • Holly Priestman My FAVORITE part of this entire conversation: The man who uses the word “loquaciousness” without having to look it up, then leaves the conversation with the “word” BUH-bye.
    I have absolutely NO IDEA where my kids get their dramatic flair.

Dramatic flair? Yes. And maybe also his flair for words. One of my favorite words they say is “butcept.” They use it regularly…

“I LOVE this doll, butcept it’s hard to change her clothes.”

“Mommy, you look really nice, butcept you should probably fix your hair!” Um, thanks.

And so I end with this:

My life is a bit dramatic. Of the 3 and 5 year old kind. It’s the best kind. I so love those dramatic littles (and their just-a-wee-bit-dramatic grandpa who makes me laugh in his wordy drama all the time.)

And maybe, just maybe, I inherited a bit of said drama. And maybe even dumped it by the bucketloads into these children I birthed.

We reap what we sow.

Butcept I am so thankful. Their drama brings so much joy and entertainment. I am blessed.

Now, on with this dramatic Wednesday…