The Bell Family

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


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Josiah Is 5!!!!!

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Dear Josiah,

It cannot be possible that my BABY is school-aged now!!! Nooooo!!!!

You have been a special little man from day one. You were a boy after a four-girl fast in our home, the first brother for a very eager Liam, making his dreams come true. While I was pregnant with you, we decided you’d be the last little babe to be grown inside me, so I treasured every second and paid more attention to every movement, knowing I’d never get that experience again.

Then you decided to show up early. Though I know the way you come into the world doesn’t reflect your personality at all, it still makes me smile to think about how it fits you. You come when you want and do things as you see fit, not necessarily the way the world thinks you should. But not in a defiant, prideful way. In a non-assuming, comfortable way that brings joy to you and, as a result, to those around you.

You may just be the happiest child I’ve ever known. Not a huge laugher, but with a grin a mile wide that’s almost always on display. You don’t feel the need to impress others or beg for their attention, yet you know just when others need some empathy. It takes a lot to get you to sit still for a good long snuggle, but the other day I was carrying much weight on my shoulders. My struggle wasn’t obvious to others, but you came right up and cuddled into me for almost an hour without moving. Daddy told me you simply knew I needed you. A little boy who doesn’t always pay attention to what’s going on around him yet who is so incredibly in-tune with those around him.

You are the baby, and with that comes some of the typical baby qualities. You don’t try for things as hard as the others because you’ve grown accustomed to those older than you doing everything for you. But you’re also not entitled. It just usually doesn’t occur to you that you have more ability than you think. My prayer for you is to grow in independence this year (even though my heart wants you to always need me!), seeing more areas you can do something because Christ has given you strength. But I also want you to keep that humble heart that isn’t afraid to ask others for help. That gets harder as you get older, and it’s a beautiful person who understands they need others.

You have the potential to have a strong, “why not?” kind of faith because of it. I desire for you to direct that faith to Jesus Christ, keeping your thoughts on him, not on screen time or playing outside or treat. Those are fine things to enjoy, but Jesus is so much finer. I believe you’re going to be a strong man of God, displaying a joy that is unexplainable, a joy I think you probably already have because of Jesus, a true child-like faith.

Your joy draws others to you without you even knowing it. I pray it draws others to Jesus in years soon to come.

I love you much, my little guy,

Mommy and Daddy


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Bell Family Update–May 2017

Summer break summer break summer break!!!!!!! I love teaching my kids, and I love the break from it, too. May started that break while still finishing up other priorities that correspond with the “normal” school year. Loving my time with my family.

Bill was attempting to get a pic of me in an awkward position, but I lost it right before he caught it. The boys did much better than I did. I won’t mention how terribly they follow the rules and freely move their limbs as they please to make it easier. I, however, was awesome.20170505_155517632_ios.jpg

We joined Conner Prairie again this year. If you ever visit Indy, you must go here. It’s my favorite museum!20170506_155244711_iOS

We found out we’re getting a new son and daughter!!!!! Bill and I have had three visits with them, and they are amazing. All our kids meet each other next week! We can’t wait for them to live with us in a few weeks. A friend and neighbor came over to take some pics of us that we put in a book for M and C, including a pic of us making room for them. We love them so much already!!!!20170507_172334584_iOS20170507_172430258_iOS20170507_172529050_iOS20170507_172538123_iOS20170507_172606393_iOS20170507_172624207_iOS20170507_172645760_iOS20170507_172658002_iOS20170507_172712079_iOS20170507_172743803_iOSThe real us.20170507_172750187_iOS20170507_172803036_iOSThe posed us.20170507_172808974_iOS20170507_172818848_iOS

Spring doesn’t just bring animal babies. It usually brings plenty of human babes, too! This is one of our sweet neighbors at only a week old. I’m always a really awesome servant for my friends, holding their babies to give their arms a break for a while. I’m holy like that.20170510_222600635_iOS

Michelangelo in the making. 20170512_153338018_iOS

This is the city, folks. Rail trail on the near east side. Seriously, we see horses all the time, even on downtown sidewalks.20170512_185026317_iOS

May block party. Serving junk food in style!20170512_222829159_iOS

I just love this picture. Bill took it without me knowing. It’s just a morning moment with my smallest girl, simply chatting. No makeup, no hair fixed, just us not posing.20170514_134020882_iOS

My oldest is now 12. My eyes get blurry typing that, so no more caption.20170514_232608436_iOS

First splash pad and playground of the season. It won’t be the last.20170517_163343128_iOS20170517_170545629_iOS

The Children’s Museum currently has a circus exhibit. As part of it, they do a show in the main part where they “shoot a kid out of the canon.” Miriam was picked to be the kid!!!!! It was such a fun experience for her getting to act on the fly. She was spectacular!20170520_150347110_iOSHere she is being shot. 😉 20170520_151133061_iOSAnd she’s OK!20170520_151144836_iOS20170520_151219161_iOS

I started teaching voice again last fall, and my students had their first recital. They were all amazing! Bell kids even performed “So Long, Farewell” with only two weeks to practice. Love my students and family.20170521_175939491_iOS20170521_182835815_iOS

Cleaning champ!20170523_150948484_iOS

When you can’t get along, you wear Daddy’s shirt together and cooperate to clean up toys. I laughed the whole time. They didn’t. I’m a nice mommy…20170523_191719429_iOS

Our 3rd-5th grade kids participate in an amazing after school program at the Children’s Museum. This was a picture of the group this year (Ariana and Esther are hidden in there) along with the teachers we love so much. We are truly blessed to live so close to this place!20170523_230927294_iOS

I bought this for Bill on his birthday and then basically twisted his arm to wear it to work. He was super happy about it. But he did it cause he lurves me!20170524_154625225_iOS

Bill and I took our annual trip away. We went to Saugatuck, MI, and it was maybe the sweetest trip we’ve ever taken. So thankful we have an amazing friend who tackles the kids (sometimes literally!) for a long weekend so we get this time each year. 20170528_162749743_iOS20170528_184506664_iOS


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Vi-Vi is 6!!!

My littlest girl got a little less little today. Here’s the letter I wrote for her birthday:

My Little Vi-Vi,

There’s something unique about you in this family, something that makes you different from all your brothers and sisters. I’m not sure you even know about this, though to be fair, it didn’t really occur to me until I sat down to write this letter. Do you want to know what it is? My hands were the first hands that ever held you. Yep, I was the first person who ever got to touch your skin and see your little funky naked butt and make connection with you outside Mommy’s belly. You see, most of the time it’s the doctor who “catches” the baby when they’re born. But with you, I asked if I could instead and our doctor-friend agreed. Not only that, but doctors wear these special gloves in the hospital, so even the doctors aren’t the first skin you touch—almost always, the mama is the one who gets the first skin contact. With you, it was different. I was the first human touch, the first human skin-to-skin contact you had: you’re the only Bell kid I held first.

So maybe that’s why I’m soft on you. Maybe it’s the curly blond hair or the big blue eyes. Maybe it’s just because there is actually some soft part of me under this gruff, authoritarian exterior. I truly think God gave you to me in particular to remind me that I can be compassionate and gentle, because I’m so frequently hard and rough-edged. I’m grateful to God that you’re tenderhearted, because it reminds me of your momma and how tender I (usually) am with her.

Of course, it also means I have allowed you to think you don’t have to obey to the same level as your siblings. You argue more easily, you delay more frequently, you make excuses more commonly. I think you know this is true—so I don’t think I’m telling you anything new! But I want to draw attention to it, because part of you living under King Jesus is obeying Mommy and Daddy. Even though you’ve just turned six, you have a six-year-old’s worth of responsibility to bear. Things like obeying the first time, working hard, saying “okay, Daddy” right away—these are the ways you present your body to God as a living sacrifice. And we discipline you to help shape your heart in the direction of obedience.

I really want more for you than just obedience, though. I want to see your heart continually shaped and molded by the Spirt of Jesus. Just like you have a six-year-old’s responsibility, you also display a six-year-old’s faith. I don’t take that for granted. Already, in the way that only children can, you believe that King Jesus is big and strong and perfect and real—and you love him! I want to fan the flames of love and belief that God has already granted you. Keep chasing after Jesus. Keep serving him. Keep confessing your sin and finding forgiveness from God the Father through Jesus. Keep living with that bold, fearless faith that asks for anything and everything because you know you have a good, good Father.

As you keep growing, it’s my prayer that you’ll see the greatness and the glory and the power and the love and the mercy and the grace and the hope that come through King Jesus. As you get bigger, I want you to find God bigger. As you grow in wisdom, I want you to know even more of the wisdom of God. As you sin and forgive and are forgiven, I hope you see and feel and know how deep the wells of God’s mercy are. You are so full of wonder and laughter and joy—that’s grace from God. Keep laughing and rejoicing and playing and singing and dancing. In those things, you know God’s pleasures in ways I think I’ve forgotten. May you never ever forget.

Happy birthday, little girl.

Love,

Dad and Mom

 


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Liam is 12!!!

Our oldest is another year older. I don’t like it. I like it. All the feels.

Here’s the letter I wrote him this year. Along with his super handsome picture.

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Dear Liam,

I joke all the time about how you aren’t allowed to grow up, threatening to kick you out of the family (or just kick you as Victoria said) when you turned 10 because you were being so disobedient. But truly, there’s a part of me that wants time to slow down. Twelve, only six more years of youth left, meaning about the same amount of time for you to live in my home. And my future planning heart is already breaking thinking about it. Good grief, you’re now half-way done with school! How did this happen?!

But it also makes my heart glad. Change is part of this world, sometimes big change and sometimes small. And you becoming a man will be a beautiful and needed change for this world.

You and I get each other in a special way. Though you and Dad are much alike in your strong leadership abilities, you and I are alike in our self-evaluation, in our rule-following and therefore striving to earn grace, and in our ability to connect with others. As a result, we tend to measure our worth according to the world and have a difficult time seeing that God has given us any giftings at all, believing the lie that we’re never going to conquer the sin we so hate in ourselves.

I always must tread lightly when offering you correction, knowing how similar to me you are and how you tend to fall into despair when it happens. So, my son who is quickly transforming into a man (sniff), allow me, as you did for me in a recent letter, to offer you some truth about who you are and what this way way way way way way way wiser person sees in you. 😉

You are more gifted in encouragement than almost anyone I know. You joke much but then are heavily burdened if you find out your joking hurt. The Spirit in you drives you to crave building others up. You know what it feels like to be torn down, and you can’t stand the thought of anyone else feeling that way. So you love. Mr. Mark is an encourager, clearly filled with the Spirit in his humility to never puff himself up but to take advantage of every opportunity to point out the good God is working. It feels like a rare gift in men, and you will glorify Jesus maybe more with this one than any others, because it’s odd and people will notice and be drawn to it.

You are bent toward truth and righteousness. This can obviously come out in wicked pride and stubbornness (you’ve never heard THAT before), but it also comes out in a boy wise beyond his years, who is more and more frequently spurring even his mother to truth that I have a difficult time seeing through my sinful heart. You don’t just take people’s word for it, but you consider and weigh to see if it’s within the right rules or just. You have the gift of truth and knowledge. Use it well, my boy. Dig in deep to the word. Don’t let video games or playing with friends or getting stuck in your head substitute for truth. Find it in your Daddy’s words he’s given you. His word is truth. It’s time for you to take this practice of immersing yourself in scripture seriously, past what we “require” of you. You will be swayed. Don’t let your pride fool you into thinking you won’t be. The world sounds good and wise, sometimes too good to be true, because it’s just a lie trying on truth’s clothing. You are beyond blessed to have two of the biggest truth-seekers I’ve ever known in your daddy and Mr. Dan. Watch them and learn from them. They are a gift to you.

You are a leader and a teacher. People will tell you this is because you’re the firstborn, but I’d argue that God set you aside as the firstborn to prepare you to be a leader. Your name means strong protector. As much as we must sometimes correct you for taking the role when it’s not your job, you care deeply for those weaker than you, and would give your life without blinking an eye to save another. You’re brave and courageous, and I look up to you.  But it’s more than a concern for physical safety. You pastor the hearts of your little brothers and sisters, gently correcting them when they get theology wrong or are doing something you know isn’t good for them (this one amazes me because you somehow manage to almost always do this without self-righteousness!). This is so true of you that if Mom or Dad aren’t around, you have become the next trusted source. Your siblings will come seeking you for answers because they see and trust your wisdom, and they know you’ll answer them patiently and full of love.

You’re frequently concerned you’ll not grow into a man after God’s own heart. Oh, kid, live for today. Do not worry about tomorrow. Because today I see a twelve-year-old boy who already has a heart for Jesus and others. Why would God not continue to be faithful to you when you’re technically a man. You are already more noble and honorable than many men I know, maybe most men. I want to see you ask him more, have a bigger faith, remember my story with the lightning. The same is true for you. You are his son, a prince of his kingdom, and he’s promised he’ll give you what you ask in his name. He gave Solomon wisdom when he asked for it because it was a right request. You desire to have a heart like his, there’s no more righteous desire, so ask him. And don’t look at tomorrow and judge whether he’s answered. Trust him today. Then in 10 years, look back and see how he’s transformed you. You don’t remember the last 10 years of your life, but we do, and it’s built our faith that God does in fact answer our prayer and doesn’t let your foot slip. You’ll see it more clearly in the next ten.

I love you deeply. You’re the one who’s grown us the most as parents, mainly because you are the guinea pig, the one we make the most mistakes with and sin against the most. We’re always having to figure things out with you because you’re the first. And you’re always full of grace to these bumbling people who have the privilege to call you “son,” encouraging us and teaching us along the way. I get to see God’s grace in giving us this cool kid despite our rebellion and failures. We see the gospel in you, and our faith is built. May yours be built alongside ours.

Loving you in awe of God’s goodness,

Mom and Dad


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Bell Family Update–April 2017

This month was less eventful with “special” days, but I’ve been praying to learn each day is special. It was a sweet month, while busy beginning to wrap up normal school year stuff.

This is always a bitter/sweet season for us. The beauty of spring and looking forward to a more open schedule. But it also brings more stress and challenges as a family. Attitudes are high, and we all kind of flake out with our responsibilities. We’re all just over school and our very full daily calendar. I want to keep it real here, because pictures only give a partial picture. Though if you look closely enough, you can see more. For instance, you’ll notice the absence of one of our daughters in many pictures. Particular rebellion is typically high this time of year, which results in several losses of privileges. Not every moment is bad, but every moment isn’t grand either.

There are fewer pics this month because as usual, we forget to document much with a camera! One event with no pictures was our block party. We had a sweet time with many neighbors grilling hot dogs and hanging out in our yard. I seriously love our neighbors to the moon and back!

These girls spent almost an entire day making this huge Lego town, complete with zip line!20170331_210802044_iOS

We decided this year to train as a family for a 5K. The kids, even the little ones, are all doing amazingly!!! They talk when we run. I don’t. Which says a lot.20170331_213550769_iOS

We spent a day at the Children’s Museum with some dear friends from Louisville! The same day, we ran into friends from our college days!!! One of my favorite days. 20170401_143609051_iOS20170401_153715133_iOS20170401_154045120_iOS20170401_185025671_iOS20170423_224313235_iOS

MDKT (Mom Dad Kid Time) that we do with each kid each month. Love this individual time!20170402_202127870_iOS

This girl dances in style!20170403_135329196_iOS

The girls spent our monthly Rule and Drool day at a bookstore and The Flying Cupcake. We’re super serious, ya’ll.20170407_182248803_iOS20170407_182913774_iOS20170407_183324300_iOSThese water bottles would. not. open.20170407_183846095_iOS

These girlies are three of my favorites in the world. Our tweens are blossoming in friendships these day, and this mama couldn’t be more thankful.20170409_193452366_iOSI’m a pretty ginormous fan of this lady, too. Love her so much!!!20170409_193513282_iOS

Showing fabulous artwork.20170411_005132690_iOS

Birthday girl!!!20170412_121717264_iOS20170412_231714723_iOS

Day at Shades State Park!20170415_160536390_iOS20170415_191027308_iOS

New ‘do!20170419_195822241_iOS

Look! Bill made it into a picture! One of our besties took this before we went to celebrate a sweet wedding. Isn’t he dreamy???
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These little cuties officially finished preschool! The exclamation point is there to remind myself I should be happy they’re growing and all my children are now school age and my hands aren’t as full anymore and yada yada yada. But I still want my babies!!!!! So there.20170425_140358741_iOS20170426_130204584_iOS

I pulled my rotator cuff in my left arm (no idea how!), so this is world’s best hubs fixing my hair for me. He rocks!20170426_195524824_iOSFinished product!20170426_200725040_iOS

We enrolled Liam in an acting class. He had a great time with it! We got to watch him on his final night perform his monologue–from Harry Potter, of course. This mama might have gotten a bit teary eyed. From the dust in the room…

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Miriam is Eight!!!

Our little life-lover is eight today! This little girl is fun and exciting and scatterbrained and big-hearted and a joy to have as a daughter. She is full of the Spirit of Jesus, overflowing with love for King Jesus and for everyone else in the world. This girl’s heart is so big, she picked food (they get to pick all the meals on their birthday) that weren’t her favorite because she knew that some of her siblings didn’t like what she wanted most! The love of the King dwells deep in her heart and we had a blast celebrating her today. Here’s the birthday letter I wrote for her:

(By the way, Liam saw Miriam in this outfit and described her as “peasant girl cowboy”–how perfect!)

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Little Miriam Elise,

Where do I start with you, girlie? Like every other human in the history of ever, you are a singular creation of God the Father, bearing his image in your very soul. So in that way, you are no different than everyone else who has ever lived. But our Father also finds joy in endless creativity, making each of us unique and special. And so he crafted you, fearfully and wonderfully making you into our Miriam. And you are truly unique—I’m thinking that has something to do with the fact that the first thing you ever saw was the water of a toilet bowl. That probably explains a lot, actually…

We have called you our little life-lover and it’s so true. There’s a vibrancy you contain that is contagious and beautiful and lovely. It reminds me very much of your mother. I don’t say that as something that makes you better than your brothers and sisters. We each were created by God and given our own loads to bear, with their own responsibilities. I don’t think any of us would argue that you’re the most organized and task-driven person in the family—but that’s okay! God has gifted you with joy through his Spirit and a heart of empathy and encouragement. I look forward to seeing how God will grow fruit in you, flourishing in an abundance of love for others.

Of course, your greatest gift also becomes the greatest place of attack from the Enemy. Maybe that feels like the opposite: wouldn’t Satan attack us at our weakest places? Well, he certainly does that, too. But he also enjoys scheming to twist the good that God is doing and turn it for evil. Maybe he will tempt you to feel pride in your joy, which would taint your pure love for others. Maybe he will tempt you to see the evils of men’s hearts, tempting you toward despair and hopelessness. Maybe he’ll try to hurt you like Job with illnesses and tragedy so that your love for life is put to the test. I don’t know what it will be, but I know it will come. Our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this present dark world we live in.

I don’t want this to discourage you—though I’m not really sure I could. But I also know that as we grow and develop, the temptations we face grow and develop, too. As an eight-year-old, you start to shed your littleness. You won’t use a booster seat anymore. Pretty soon you’ll be tall enough to reach the ceramic dishes. Next year you’ll start the upper grammar stage in school, which is harder and requires more of you. I want you to enter these new times with eyes wide open. I want you to be wise to what’s going on inside you and around you. I don’t want you to fall into Satan’s traps, my love!

But I’m also just darn excited. Because as hard as it is for us to see our little ones become un-little, we love to see y’all grow into men and women. There’s a deep-seated joy that comes to us as parents to see you flourish and mature. Because while the opportunities for temptation and sin will increase, so will the opportunities for love and worship and service and generosity. I marvel at the thought of seeing your generosity get bigger and bigger! And it will! How do I know? Because the One who started a good work in you will most certainly complete it. And you’ve got the Spirit as a deposit and seal guaranteeing that completion. That’s better than the best promise I could ever give you.

So let me finish with this: keep seeing and savoring Jesus. Search the words of God in the Bible. Ask God for anything and everything. Be brave in the name of Jesus. Keep leaping without looking, because our Daddy will always sustain you. And keep finding your food in the risen King, Jesus. He will NEVER let you down.

Love,
Dad and Mom