The Bell Family

Random ponderings on God, life, and the humor all around us


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Esther is Nine!!!

Our beautiful Essie turns nine today! She is my clone in looks and much more. This girl is always challenging me to really know my stuff, and she’s an open book if just asked. She loves Jesus something fierce, and her heart is always on him, whether she’s writing a song about him, having deep discussions about him, or drawing beautiful pictures to portray different aspects of his love. Below is the letter I wrote her for her birthday:

My dear Essie,

I’ll never forget your birth. It was the first time I had a baby without taking medicine to dull the excruciating pain. I remember thinking about the Fall and my own sin during the process. To help with the pain, I thought about how much I deserved far more pain than this, that it would never get much worse for me because I was saved by grace. There’s no death for me. It was truly a Spirit-filled moment, and it gave me relief and even joy. I’ve not been able to sustain that hope during a birth since, instead being too consumed with the pain.

Looking back, I see how appropriate those thoughts were for your birth especially. It foreshadowed the way your mind works almost to a tee. You are my deep-thinking girlie, always pondering life and Jesus and how you fit into the whole thing. You’re never one to simply take someone’s word for it. You must really know for yourself, and you’re always on a quest to have the answers. Each time I get one-on-one time with you, I’m amazed how widely you open the door to your heart, letting me see in and allowing me to listen in awe at the maturity that comes out.

I also see the pain in you far more clearly than I’d like. You fear much because your mind is extremely aware of everything around you. The good. And the bad. We tell you there’s nothing to fear, but you know that’s not true. You’ve thought about the Fall to a point most adults never do, and you see the ramifications of it all. You know Satan is at work, and you worry about how he’ll next attack. Seeing or hearing about hard and disturbing things never leaves you.

You also struggle to find your place in this world. Your thoughts make you crave friendship that is beyond your years, and it’s hard to find people who understand. Even though you have four of the best friends ever in your sisters, you’re a middle child, always unsure if you’re a big kid or a little one. Sometimes I’m sure it feels as though you’re simply invisible.

But, my darling, we see you. We see the pain, we see the fear, we see the worry. But so much better than that, Jesus sees you. He is a friend closer than a brother (and you have amazing earthly brothers, so wow!!), and he understands your thoughts. His Spirit is the one who put them there. He designed you to ponder him, to wrestle with him much like Jacob did, and he will bless you fully in the end.

But, if the Lord wills, there’s still much to go before the final blessing comes. And until that day, he wants those thoughts to always be turned to his goodness, his strength, his provision, his power. You recently shared with us that you’re scared you won’t ever become the girl we make you out to be. Oh, my sweet girl, you already are her. You are a beloved daughter of the King. Beautiful and perfect in every way. That is your identity! You don’t have to live up to her because you are her. Just like Mr. Dan talking about Rapunzel—the fact that she was trapped in a tower didn’t change her identity as a princess. She just didn’t believe it was true. But the day she did realize it? Joy!!

You are good because Jesus made you good by taking your sin. You are stronger than you think because Christ is strong for you in your weakness. Your Daddy is creator of the Universe, and if he cares for the ravens, he’s going to care for you, knowing every one of your beautiful hairs. And yes, Satan has been given some powers on earth, but only under God’s authority and only for a short time. Satan has been crushed by your family, not the ones who gave you the name Bell, but by your big brother Jesus. And there is literally nothing to fear with Satan for those of us in Jesus. Our lame enemy is simply throwing a toddler temper tantrum because he’s been defeated.

The moments you relax and simply laugh sincerely are some of my favorite times. They’re the times you’re forgetting to fear and you’re confident in who you are, not trying to be someone you aren’t. That’s what we crave for you this next year. We want you to laugh easily because you know how powerful and good your Daddy is, and we want that knowledge to strip all the fear away. We want you to be comfortable being Esther, because that’s who God created you to be. And if that’s who he designed you to be, any human who thinks you should be something else can honestly just shove it. Their opinion is truly pointless and goes against God, and we’re all hopeless wanderers trying to figure out where we fit.

Your namesake, Queen Esther, was also scared. She hid her identity as a Jew. But the moment of victory came when she performed the bravest act of her life, sealing the deal when she revealed who she really was. It was then that her enemy was defeated.

Continue the deep thoughts, because oh how lovely they are. But think and drink deeply on God for your strength. He’s worth the hard thoughts and the joy.

We love you, Bug,

Mom and Dad


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Bell Family Update–January 2017

Our January was crazy busy and really, totally awesome. We had so many fun experiences together!

The kids got the most fun building fort from one of their aunts and uncles. This puppy stayed in our living room for weeks, and they built with it every day!20170103_001006093_ios

For Epiphany, the kids get their big Christmas present from us and grandparents. This year–BIKES!! So much fun!!! Liam and Ariana build their own bikes through an amazing program we have here called Earn-a-Bike, so they got a skateboard and scooter instead of a bike.20170106_133754697_ios20170106_133810109_ios20170106_133933237_ios

And Epiphany is always celebrated with a king’s cake. This girl is the one who had Baby Jesus hidden in her piece.20170107_010018296_ios

Each month, we do a Rule and Drool day (Mom with girls and Dad with boys), but this month we switched it up with Dule and Rool day instead. I took my boys to play laser tag and arcade games, and Bill took the girlies to a Home Depot workshop. Fun was had by all (and Aiden and I stomped Liam and Josiah in laser tag. Just sayin’)20170107_153759891_ios20170107_162313011_ios

This little guy went straight to fake prayer one day when I started getting on to him. Hilarious!!20170108_172130758_ios

School is still going strong.20170109_145014638_ios

I have amazing helpers in the kitchen.20170111_163022088_ios

One of our neighbors, Baby Eve, has her own personal fan club with the Bell kids. Liam and Ariana have especially come into their own recently with some beginning babysitting gigs, and I love watching them just love on little ones. Be still my heart!20170112_011304167_ios20170112_012959805_ios

Our kids all get Mom-Dad-Kid-Time (MDKT) at least once a month. These two together are one of my favorite things.20170113_010907243_ios20170113_010925667_ios

Our monthly block party was at our house this year. We did hot cocoa around the fire pit, and it was FREEZING!!! And also such a sweet time! We had far more people than we expected and got to connect with some neighbors we didn’t know yet.20170113_233951142_ios

Bill and I made a platter at a pottery place together for a date night. This is the project before it was glazed and baked. It’s even more gorgeous now!20170115_005821022_ios

Always wanting to be in Daddy’s shoes, in more ways than one.20170115_235656674_ios

We got the Pie Face Game! Oh, my goodness, so much laughter!!!20170116_201628230_ios20170116_201717538_ios20170116_202049033_ios20170116_202502749_ios

I got to hang with this cute neighbor one morning, and I learned a whole new way to eat cereal.20170118_140733521_ios

We are ridiculously blessed that both sets of our parents really love each other, so we did a grandparents weekend this year. What a sweet time!!! We had game nights, went to the Rhythm Discovery Center and the Indiana State Museum, cooked for each other, and played Wii. I think the sleeping picture on the steps reflects how we all felt by the end. Totally worth it!!20170121_003441437_ios20170121_153929539_ios20170121_154637779_ios20170121_155330384_ios20170121_160104007_ios20170121_160957230_ios20170121_223105521_ios20170121_223130737_ios20170122_152733643_ios20170122_201641149_ios20170122_204037413_ios20170122_204119230_ios20170122_211656284_ios20170122_222951618_ios20170122_224931898_ios20170122_224954989_ios20170122_225855886_ios20170122_230722688_ios

On a sweet library and pretzel date with my baby girl.20170127_213849434_ios

Our church. I can’t say how much I love these people. But it’s way past the moon and back.20170129_191904130_ios20170129_192200223_ios

Aiden got glasses!!! Yeah, he looks adorable. Yeah, I said it.20170131_184910306_ios

I started teaching a Bible study, and I LOVE these ladies and this time we get together each week!20170131_232957705_ios

Lots of Children’s Museum time, including an impromptu visit with some friends there whom we’ve known for almost thirteen years now. We forgot to get a picture with them, but the mother and some of her beautiful kiddos are in one of the pictures below. Wish we could see them more often!20170106_155723101_ios20170106_174310527_ios20170114_170749237_ios20170114_171234033_ios20170114_173625662_ios

Heaven turned nine!!! Grateful for this girl.20170115_232028408_iosfullsizerender


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Heaven is 9!!!

Our second daughter, Heaven, had her ninth birthday a couple of weeks ago. Below is the letter I wrote both to remember the graces of God’s kindness in knitting our family together and to point her to King Jesus.

Heaven Leandra,

Today is your ninth birthday—nine years of drawing breath, nine years of ups and downs, nine years of mercies upon mercies from God the Father. Every birthday is a chance to look back, to remember and reflect on the stories God is weaving together in the lives of the Bell family. And writing your letter always brings with it a reminder of your past, of the upside-downness of this world and the many effects sin has had on you in particular. All our stories are filled with sin and its effects, always trying to taint our stories and bring us to ruin. It’s what the Enemy wants, and has been ever since the garden. So much of the sin we deal with is our own sin. We rebel against a good Father and his rule, and we’re left with the consequences of those actions. Sin destroys and it always leaves a mess behind. But all stories also have chapters and chapters detailing how the sins of others hurt us or shape us. People don’t get to choose if they’re born in war-torn countries or if they get mistreated by others. Our sin doesn’t just impact ourselves, but others as well. And so while we’re having to struggle with our own sinful tendencies, we’re also dishing out our sins on others while they too lop their sins over on us. It’s ugly and it’s messy.

I say all of this as a reminder that your story has had twists and turns that are frankly uncommon. The effects of others’ sins have been particularly pungent for you. It’s not fair. And it’s not good. We’ve never tried to deny your past. You’re now a Bell because of the sins of others around you.

But—you see—there’s the rub. There’s the twist ending, the last-minute save by the hero. And I don’t mean Mom and Dad are the heroes here. I mean Jesus, the one who secures futures and takes away the sins of the world. He’s the King of taking the bad and making it good. He’s the master of taking the ugly and making it beautiful. He’s the Perfector of the imperfect and the Fixer of the broken. So, while it was the sin of those around you that brought about ruin, it was this same Jesus who secured a new family for you—this one.

We’ve told you time and time again: God always planned for you to be a Bell. And he always planned for you to have the story you have. That doesn’t make him a bad God, because bad things happened to you. He planned from before he first said “Let there be light” to chart this story for you. He planned a future and a family and a hope for you. He wanted you to get here, to go through what you’ve gone through, because it’s the way he wants you to see grace and redemption and forgiveness and hope.

So, I simultaneously hate your past and rejoice in it, because it was both terrible and it brought you to us. Despite all the struggles we have had (and still have), you are our daughter. Heaven Leandra Bell: that’s you. We want good for you, even if it pales in comparison to the good God the Father wants for you.

So, today, my daughter, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart. While the effects of the sins against you might haunt you and chase you, you can’t undo them. But in your heart even now, sin is still crouching at the door, desiring to rule you. This is your sin, not someone else’s. The sin of wanting to be queen of everyone around you. The sin of wanting to be a pretty, pretty princess so that everyone will adore you. The sin of still wanting to push boundaries, because obeying feels like losing. The sin of wanting less for yourself than the Savior wants for you.

The Creator of the universe brought you to this family because he wants you to know his son, the good King Jesus. He wants you to reign with him as a queen. He can make you more beautiful than any princess in history. He can take you to the edges of creation and show you the glory of the universe. He wants good for you.

But that good comes from believing that these things are true. And from believing that you can have these things. And believing that they come through Jesus, who is master of you now and forever. Believe, my daughter. Another year gone and another approaching. Find in Jesus your all in all. And watch that sin be crucified, killed, trampled, mutilated, and dead. You have a new name. We want you also to have a new heart.


Dad and Mom


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Bell Family Update–December 2016

We love December. Our neighborhood is quiet from the cold, extra-curricular activities take a break, and we just get more time to hole up as a family. This has been a sweet month for all of that.

Always a family favorite–wrestling Daddy. It’s getting harder and harder for him to overtake them these days. 20161128_211800468_iosAnd while he still can…20161128_211915747_ios

The choir I sing in gave our premier performance. I love these people.20161203_011303205_ios

The girls were again in the Nutcracker. We are so blessed to dance with this studio!20161208_230743873_ios20161208_232822331_ios20161208_234054723_ios

Our first snowman! 😉 20161209_182501621_ios

A glimpse into our lives in a few years. The girls taking off their makeup after the recital. Oh, boy.20161210_010007752_ios


And a better snowman. This was the perfect snow for it!20161213_202135579_ios


Ariana baked cupcakes for Aiden’s birthday all by herself!20161219_190702337_ios

We all had an amazing and hard-working week with Nana!!! She came in to help me give my home a clean-sweep/re-org for the end of the year. This woman is better at this stuff than anyone I know, and she never stopped, even with a sore knee. This is an end-of-the-week movie time, complete with Nana snuggles. I was relieved Aiden wore his helmet, too, in case something came flying out of the TV screen.20161219_230521230_ios

Grocery shopping date with Daddy20161223_153416208_ios

Coloring time. Bill gifted me with a FabFitFun subscription box! The girls loved helping me decorate it. Aka, I did nothing. 🙂 20161224_152627026_ios

Family reading time20161224_161946228_ios

The traditional search for baby Jesus to put in the manger on Christmas morning20161225_120720548_iosAnd the finder of said baby20161225_121026379_ios

Ah yeah, buddie, dig in to that stocking candy.20161225_123155651_ios

Sugar cookie time!20161225_211732127_ios

Legos for days20161226_210418209_ios

And a cute little birthday boy!!!20161228_145553130_ios


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Aiden is 5!!!

This little cutie had his fifth birthday last week! What a blessing to get to celebrate this cool kid. Below is the letter I wrote to him this year.

Dear Aiden,

It’s been a fun year watching you grow, maybe not a ton in height, but so much in personality and development. It’s unbelievable to me that you became our son when you were only two, and now it’s your fifth birthday. Where did the time go?! Have you really been mine that long???

This past year, we got to watch you go from saying three-word phrases that none of us could understand to speaking in full paragraphs and working intentionally to get those consonants working. You know almost all your letter sounds, can count to 10, know your colors and shapes, and can identify pretty much every object around you, all things that we weren’t sure were ever going to happen this time last year.

But like almost everything in your life, you do things at your own pace in your own way, and you’re always full of surprises. Sometimes that comes through in your sneakiness, how you look for opportunities to dishonor us and do exactly what you know you aren’t supposed to. And sometimes that comes through in the way you can almost do the splits, in your compassion and care for others, especially those younger than you, in your devotion to your siblings, in your sense of adventure, in the way you make those around you feel loved and like they have more worth than they think, in your sweet snuggles. And it’s beautiful.

Our prayer is that the beauty of Christ permeates your very soul, that your strong will becomes leadership instead of rebellion, willing to give up your own desires for the sake of the gospel. That your sneaky actions are broken down because you see that it’s your weaknesses that reveal God’s strength, that you willingly confess your sins because you have nothing to hide knowing that Christ’s blood has already covered it. That your bravery to do hard things transfers into a boldness to do good even when no one sees you because you love God above your own fleshly desires.

That is a beauty that surpasses the cutest smile and the most sparkly eyes. It’s beauty above charming those around you. Because it’s a beauty you can’t produce on your own. It can only come from being covered by the most beautiful man to ever walk the earth, a man who is also fully God, a man who always gave himself up, humbling himself even to the point of death, taking the wrath you deserve so you can be his brother and gain the inheritance of God himself. An adoption so much greater than the one you’ve experienced in our family. The beauty of the Savior.

We love you, little guy,

Mom and Dad

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Bell Family Update–November 2016

This was a much slower month for us. Yay!! Though, like the rest of the world, some of that was due to sickness, it was truly nice to simply stay and be more this month.

My favorite day this month was this girl’s birthday! She entered the double digits, and I’m loving this tween phase.20161103_195310096_ios

She got a Harry Potter birthday party, and we all had a ridiculously fun time.20161105_190037483_ios

These two got to go watch the epic violin concert of one of our neighbors. Other neighbors took them along on their date night! I’ve told you we have ridiculously awesome neighbors, right?20161107_235510185_ios

Bill and I were blessed to attend an oh-so-needed adoption conference. Our dear friends took the kids all day on a Saturday to give us the opportunity, and they even took them geocaching! Ten kids, ya’ll.20161112_150917139_ios

The next day we got to see their middle daughter’s piano recital. Though we got a video of Faith playing, we forgot to take her picture. Here’s the rest of the fam, though. Leia was totally into the whole thing.20161113_215158875_ios

This day, people. This was hard. It was the day I realized my son is faster than me. And I’m suddenly challenged to run every day to be able to beat him again. [I don’t run, but I also don’t accept defeat easily, so this is a serious conflict of interest.]20161116_002251673_ios

I got to sing carols with a fun group of people for a Christmas event. Bill was standing right in front of us making weird smiley faces trying to get us to crack up. One of the men didn’t know him yet and told us he thought Bill was a sweet man with mental problems who was just really enjoying himself. I laughed for something like four days.20161118_000510538_ios

Our neighbors hosted a block Thanksgiving dinner, and it was such a sweet time! I love all these people.20161123_001141119_ios20161123_001154102_ios20161123_001205610_ios

Decorating for Christmas!20161125_214800571_ios

Our Thanksgiving was quiet. Just our family. Though it was super nice to have a simple day, I missed my family, especially since it was my mama’s birthday that day. Traveling seems to get harder through the years. Maybe next year, though!


Ariana is 10!!!

Our oldest girlie left the single digits this month. This tween, with her servant heart and beautiful smile, brings me so much joy. Below is the annual letter Bill wrote to her.


Our dear, loving Ariana,

I like birthdays, because they remind us in this big family to slow down a bit and focus on thanking God for one particular person. Today’s your day, Ariana Katriel. And it’s such a joy to slow down and take a look at the many ways we’ve seen the Father’s goodness in giving us you.

I know you’ve heard the story so many times, but your grand entry into the world was scary. Something was wrong. You and Mom were both hurting, the pain and brokenness threatening both of your lives. I didn’t really get it at the time, but it was a reminder that life is fragile. It was also a reminder that in a world plagued with sin, beautiful events like childbirths are now cursed and ugly and sometimes fatal. Yours could have gone that way. If you’d been born a hundred years ago, both of you would be in paradise already with Jesus and the rest of your brothers and sisters never would’ve become part of this family.

Why do I bring up such a horrible thing on a day of celebration? Because it didn’t go that way! Ten years ago today, we saw the grace of God the Father—the God who saves—when he reached down into our history and yanked you away from the grip of death. Honey, God saved you on the day of your first breath—pulling you out of the darkness and bringing you into the light. And I still rejoice, over and over and over, because you’re sitting here. And Mom’s sitting here. And this whole family is here because of the grace and mercy and kindness of our God, who gives us more than we could ever ask or imagine.

I also tell you this because I want you to have a bigger picture of God. You’re leaving childhood behind. I know you haven’t read all of the Narnia books yet, but one of the things Aslan tells Lucy is that it isn’t he himself who is bigger, just that “every year you grow, you will find me bigger”. I want that to be true for you, because the infinite creator of the universe can’t get any bigger, yet your understanding and awe of him can.

Darling, you have been given a sweet heart that is full of compassion and loves to jump up to serve. This is a gift from God, one that is being pruned by the Spirit and watered by the Word. I want to see more and more of his grace shining through you, as you fight to serve without praise, to love without recognition, to help without looking for attention. God has started that work in you and he will definitely bring it to completion.

And as you slowly race out of childhood into womanhood, you’re going to see the world differently. You’re going to know new hurts and experience new joys. You’ll find that some ways you’ve thought about life will have to be tossed out to make way for the new adventures you’ll find. Mom and I are thrilled to watch you do it. Neither be afraid of it nor try to make it happen too fast. Just as God is in control of shaping how tall you are and how much you grow each year, he’s king over this inside growth, too.

Personally, one of my favorite things about you is how much you want to be like your mom. Of course, I think she’s the most incredible woman ever, so it doesn’t surprise me that you want to be just like her. But I don’t just want you to be the cook and the adventurer and the knitter and the momma she is. I want you to also see the light of King Jesus shining through her as Momma reflects the glory of Jesus. I want that same glory to shine in you. That’ll come as you embrace growing up, taking responsibility, doing good when no one can see it, and finding joy in service without accolade. These are my prayers for you.

So, my dear, happy birthday. May you see the goodness of our God in new ways with a new year before you.

Love, Dad & Mom