Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School 2015

It's Back to School time in the Finn house!

This year, we are doing school a little bit differently.
The two big kids are enrolled in Faith Tutorial here in Jackson.
They will attend the tutorial on Tuesday and Thursday mornings,
and will cover English, Science, Art, and Math (for G).
They will have homework/assignments for the days they aren't in class.
I will still cover history, spelling, and other subjects at home.

Since they are now going to school (even in a reduced manner), the kids needed backpacks.
After reviewing a very professional poll (I asked Facebook:-), 
I ordered L.L. Bean Deluxe backpacks--and to say Georgia and Baxter were excited was an understatement!! They were thrilled, and I am excited about quality backpacks 
that should grow with them over time. 

Epic First Day of School Fail
It was the first day of tutorial.
It was a parking lot.
It was blazing bright.
Epic Fail.

Baxter in his tutorial class.
He's obviously impressed with my taking pictures of him.

A few days later, we took our "Clapham Academy" pictures.
Fuller and Eleanor were just cheesing it up for the camera the entire time.
Here's to a new school year, a new state, a new homeschool/tutorial plan!

My first grader

My pre-kindergartener

My crazy toddler

My third grader

Thursday, August 13, 2015

One month in

One month in Jackson today. It seems both long and short. It seems like "hey, we've completely got this whole 'Jackson' thing down" and then other days we are drowning in adjustments and emotions and new jobs and making friends and life. God is good, and God is faithful, and this struggle--for struggles are not automatically bad--is for our good and His glory. We are glad to be here in Jackson. We have seen growth and fruit and development already, and we cannot wait to see what else lies ahead for us on this journey.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Finns take Jackson, part 1 (the background)

Before I can even start the story, I need to give some background. If my life were a movie, this would be a quick flashback, but my life is not a movie and instead it's a long rambling blog post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Union University is a top-ranked private Christian university united in its love for Christ, for rigorous academics and for Biblical truth. (I didn't write that--it's direct from the website, but it is truth, and you can check it out here:  Union is the gold standard in evangelical Christian liberal arts education, and has been for decades. The former president, David Dockery, a brilliant theologian, writer and thinker, influenced and shaped Nathan's view of higher education for the glory of God.

Five or more years ago, Nathan and I informally talked about our five and ten year 'plan.'
It wasn't a real plan, as in we did not take active steps to put things in motion; it was more of a dream followed by some searching questions about what was next for us.  Union was a 'pie in the sky' kind of dream in that talk. You see, in our early married life, we never expected to teach at a seminary. "Our plan" was always to pursue a Ph.D. and then Nathan would find a job in a small Christian college. Teaching opportunities at a seminary rarely materialized, and so we didn't hope for it. When we discussed our pipe dreams, teaching at Union under David Dockery was on the list. 
But that changed--honestly because we found ourselves becoming more rooted in Southeastern. More involved in the vision of the campus. More in love with the Wake Forest/Raleigh/Durham area. We loved being a part of the mission at SEBTS and had no desire to leave.

Let me also back up a little bit and say that in the academic world, there are some positions, some jobs, that just due to WHAT they are, you should hear them out. In other words, don't automatically say no, don't slam the phone down on them, don't say it could never happen. Once upon a time, Dr. Akin told several young faculty members that though he wants them to stay at Southeastern forever, if certain schools should come calling, especially for positions of influence, they had to talk to them. Yes, Nathan was one of the people who heard that speech.  Union was one of the schools on that list, but Nathan thought nothing of it.

Circling back around (thanks for bearing with me, folks!), Union University's Dean of the School of Theology and Missions left two years ago to become the president of another school.  The position has been vacant for a long time! It was vacant while we were here for sabbatical last spring, which led to a lot of jokes (which really weren't jokes) about us having a semester long audition for the job.  Let the record show, the job was not offered to Nathan while we were here January 2014-June 2014:-)

We didn't even really pick Union for our sabbatical. Shortly before Thanksgiving 2013, we were discussing Nathan's upcoming sabbatical and I wished out loud that we could go someplace exotic (confession: I meant England). Nathan told me that we could relocate, but it would have to be affordable, and have access to a library and writing space. I thought it sounded intriguing, and we made a list of a few schools to contact. Union happened to be the first one because Nathan has a good relationship with several administrators. To our surprise, Union was very amenable to the idea, and ended up rolling out the red carpet for us, finding us a house to live in for free, giving Nathan office space, and granting him library access. So we moved to Jackson for five months.

And...Nathan's and my experiences were a bit different:-)
He researched and wrote all day almost every day. He attended weekly STM faculty teas (basically just faculty hang out time), and though they gave him plenty of space to do his work, he got to know most of the faculty in the department. For me, it was harder. We moved in January, when the temperature was zero degrees. I had four children that I was homeschooling, it was freezing cold and I didn't want to go out, and the youngest child was just eight months old. It was a lonelier time for me. I confess that I allowed that loneliness to color my interpretation of Jackson to my friends back home, to the point that someone said to me "How can you move there? You hated it!" Whoops.

I didn't hate Jackson. I missed my friends, my home, my church, my rhythms of life in Wake Forest. Jackson felt foreign to me, though it is a very Southern town and in many ways is oh so familiar. My kids were very lonely during the cold winter months, especially my social butterfly, Georgia. I did not feel like people made much of an effort to reach out to me, and I allowed that to irk me.  In addition, though we lived in Jackson for five and half months, we were away from that city five weeks of the time, visiting Wake Forest, hanging out with friends in Nashville and Kentucky, and spending two weeks in Georgia when Nathan's mother was deathly ill. We were never in town more than five weeks in a row.  I could have made an effort to make friends and get to know more people, but I wasn't too concerned about it-- we were going back home to Wake Forest soon!

All of the above aside, Jackson was an amazing time for us as a family. The Finnlings grew in their relationships with each other and their abilities to play together. I read so many books because we didn't have any evening plans! As a family we explored parks and cities that we had never seen before. Chickasaw State Park became a favorite weekend spot, we adored our time day trip to Memphis, and we stayed in Nashville for the weekend as much as possible:-) We found our favorite Mexican restaurant, Tulum, in Jackson, Tennessee.  Much to my surprise, after returning to Wake Forest, we had many moments where we spoke about how we missed Jackson.

It was the Lord preparing our hearts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Big changes for the Finns

When months go by between blog posts, many things are bound to change.

For the Finns, the change in the past few months has been earth-moving for our little family. We have moved from our home of eleven years, Wake Forest (and our beloved church and school), to west Tennessee--specifically Jackson, TN and Union University.

Nathan has accepted the position of Dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University in Jackson, TN. In God's kindness to us, we lived in Jackson for five months last year, so we have a jump start on our knowledge of the area, learning our way around town, etc.

We have seen God's hand guiding us here, and we have been blessed beyond measure by how He worked every detail out during the process. As a family, we all miss Wake Forest, First Baptist Durham, and SEBTS, and that manifests itself in different ways at different times. Yet the Lord has said "Go" to us, and we cannot help but follow. We look forward to seeing what is in store for our family here, and we are excited to be a part of the wonderful things going on at Union University.

Over the next few blog posts, I hope to tell the story of how we came to this place, not because it is an amazing or even terribly interesting story, but because we want to remember this process and set these 'memorial stones' in place as a reminder of God's faithfulness to us.

For the record, God has ALWAYS been faithful to us.
It is against his nature for him to be unfaithful.

Nathan and I know that in this big life changing decision to move states and jobs and homes and churches we have seen God's faithfulness and sensed God's leading in multiple ways. I do not want to forget these past few months, and I want to be sure my children know this story as well. So please feel free to follow along. Thanks for your patience with me in my sporadic blogging. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Things I learned in April

Here it is, a brief recap of April. Forgive me for not elaborating more, but perhaps that will come later!

-waiting stinks. I thought I was good at it, but I have learned this spring that I am not. More to come on that later.  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

-audio books help housecleaning go more quickly. Seriously. I get much more accomplished while listening to audiobooks. Audible is a wonderful way to get audiobooks for cheap. You can also check your local library to see what they have available in their download library.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

-moody sisters mineral makeup is terrific! I already love their skincare line, and now I'm a big fan of their makeup as well. Find it online here: Moody Sisters Mineral Makeup

-foyle's war. amazing. Christopher Foyle is a man among boys. Check it out on

-mythbusters are awesome. Seeing them live on stage was a treat.

In these pictures, they are shooting paintballs at a kid in armor.
The catch was the paintball gun was a semi-automatic weapon.
No one was hurt in this segment.

-karen swallow prior is great. We had a fabulous time when she visited the SEBTS campus to lecture for the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality.   Her book Fierce Convictions is an inspiring biography on Hannah More, a reformer who helped bring literacy to the British people and who worked to end slavery in England. I highly recommend it if you have not read it.

**some of the links above are my affiliate links**

Easter 2015

First, let's compare the Finnlings from 2014 to 2015:

The biggest difference? Fuller had to be held in 2014, so he isn't in the pic. 
2015, he's running everywhere!!

As we were on the way home from church, 
we noticed many families stopping to 
take pictures on SEBTS' lovely campus. So we did the same!

We shared our Easter dinner with three other couples.
It was an amazing spread! 

Instead of giving the kids their Easter baskets first thing on Sunday morning,
we waited until late afternoon.
This allowed us to keep the "first thing the first thing",
and focus on the miracle of the resurrection of Christ.
It also helped their Sunday School teachers,
as we didn't send them to church hyped up on sugar :-)
As usual, there were a few Usborne books as well as some candy.

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mother's Day (& some inspiration for my mothering)

The day before Mother's Day this year, Nathan banished me from the house
so the kids could make me cards.
I did what any sane woman would do:
I went for a pedicure:-)
It was a lovely quiet time and a special treat for me, 
as I do not normally take such escapes

On Sunday morning, Mother's Day,
I worked in extended session during the morning service.
Due to a variety of things, I kept Fuller with me when 
I went to work with the class older than him.
He LOVED it, and held his own just fine with the 'bigger' kids.

We ate at our favorite Japanese steakhouse for lunch. 
The kids eagerly awaited something to be caught on fire,
 but alas, our cook didn't do any crazy tricks. Boo. 
But the food was still yummy.

God in his kindness has sent us a couple of babysitters who take the time to leave little notes about their time with our children while we are away. It is a huge blessing to have these glimpses into their time apart from us, to see how they behave when we aren't around, and to learn how they obey authority that isn't their parents. These are two of the notes recently left by my sitters.

And this--
My kids are like all kids, and they fuss and fight with each other all the time.
But during many moments, they play together with great joy and glee.
Fuller and Eleanor were giddily bouncing each other on my exercise ball.
If the pictures had sound, you would hear endless giggles. Precious.

Strawberry picking 2015

One of the joys of spring is strawberry picking!
This year, we were able to go with our homeschool co-op, the Saplings. 
We picked LOTS of strawberries, and ate lots of strawberries, and had loads of fun.

This crew. We love them. 
So blessed by the fun we've had with them this year.
This is best picture they've taken yet--
eagerness for strawberries is too much to contain:-)