April 22, 2016

The Greatest Journey: Flat lands

If I stood at the back corner of our lot and looked out towards the cotton fields at night I could see far away lights on the horizon.

I would tell myself for sure that the lights were from a town thirty miles away.

In the day time I would marvel at the blue bowled dome of sky rarely dotted by clouds. And when there were clouds I would lie on my back in the grass and stare at the cumulonimbus imagining just on the other side of white there were high and towering worlds of falling waterfalls and lush green jungles.

Some evenings I could look to the east and see dark clouds resting as far as the eye could see and I was convinced they were purple mountain ranges. Never mind we lived on the dry dusty plains.

One thing was consistent. The world was a wonderful adventure I really wanted to dive into.

My grandmother had a closet in her car port that had stacks and stacks of old National Geographics dating back decades.

My mom would leave me in the main room alone with stacks of the magazines. To me they were portals to other lands... Mountainous ranges, frozen tundras, moist ecosystems so unlike my home. The most fascinating by far were any spreads on Africa-- that broad, beautiful, and mysterious continent.

The first time I really felt like a traveler, I was standing in an airport in Houston at a help desk. Frantic, excited and so naive. It was my first connection to board my first transatlantic flight. Alone.

I was 21 and it was Christmas break my junior year of college. People were bustling everywhere and I was about to miss my connecting flight and I had lost my passport.

The desk worker made a call and within minutes my passport was back in my hands.

I dodged a bullet. Only all of these years later I look back and see how reckless I was. Brave, fearless and mercifully spared from danger over and over again.

I remember that flight so clearly. I soaked in every detail. The turbulence, the different languages, the view from the window, the not knowing if you will make it in time.  Everything was thrilling.  Everything.

I didn't sleep a single wink.

I remember at some point on that journey thinking, "I'm a traveler." And it was the greatest feeling.

There's so much to take in on your first trip abroad... How toilets flush, different door handles and light switches. 

I'm so glad it was just the beginning.

April 21, 2016

Today Isaac, at 11 1/2 months really got himself up on his knees and started excitedly crawling around with Claire delightedly clapping and a miserable, strep straddled Sophie moaning, "I can't see! I can't see!!!" (The video I was taking).

Sophie has started calling all dairy products, "Macee-ro- CHEESE!" We don't know why-- but it's funny.


In the last month we've gone from sleepless nights to a mostly sleeping through the night baby. We've gone from an out of her bed for hours on end 2 year old to a (mostly) staying in bed girl thanks to giving up naps. Pardon me while I wail on the front lawn...

I'm back.

We've gone from two in diapers to a "big girl" who goes in the potty and is quite proud about it. We've gone from a baby with two bottom teeth and everything being mashed up, to a baby with four top teeth sprouting and cutting out at once.

We've gone from a Burr Oak in our back yard all spindly and bare to bright green leaves and splashes of spring life out our window.

It's been a good month.

April 21, 2016

The Seed- How Motherhood Changes You

Today I sat in the baby's room rocking him to sleep.

The curtains were pulled and it was nearly pitch black. I heard the hum of the sound machine and could see the light from the hall falling as a straight beam then breaking jagged on the bed in the corner of the room. He finally relaxed his little body, two little baby hands resting on one another like a mini-judge, and his breathing fell into a cadence with mine.

In my mind, I was racing. Motherhood and parenthood are exhausting. It never lets up and to top it off I always feel like I'm accomplishing the greatest thing and yet I'm also failing irreversibly. Always. 

But mainly at that moment I was frustrated. This is a common feeling for me these days. I wanted time alone. I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to write, to shower, to do anything!

Sophie was home from school with strep and was intermittently dissolving into a heap of sobs at her throat hurting. The baby is cutting four teeth and for the love of all that is good and wonderful just won't sleep.

But really none of that is it either... I just want to do something. You name it. Run, paint, brush my teeth, talk on the phone, get my life in order.

Beneath his warm little body I could feel my spare tire and the simultaneous love for him and loathing for myself intermingled.

And the idea hit me squarely in the heart. Children are thought of as our seeds that grow and build our family but right now... I am the seed. And like a seed, I was burst open so this life could come out of me. And this seed will never go back the way it was before. Not entirely phyiscally but in so many other ways. My free time, my career, my self interest- were all bust apart the day a new life came under my responsibility.

And all at once it's wonderful and exhausting, thrilling and overwhelming.

And thank God he finally fell asleep.

April 13, 2016

Sarah and Sin Cycles

I said the other day that I was (finally) starting to read my Bible through again after an achingly slow process of reading it through the last time. What can I say? Having a baby and the year that follows reallly throws me off course...

But anyway, I changed my plan and am trying for the first time to read the Bible through chronologically. And I'm excited about it.

I read Genesis 1-11, then Job and am about to go back to Genesis tomorrow. (And if you're curious- I just pray that God will use the time and make my heart teachable, set a timer for 15 minutes, and read. So simple you should join me in it!).

Anyway, when I read the Old Testament these people's faulty, broken yet chosen lives are gripping. I see their humanity and I see every excuse I could ever have fall to the wayside.

I can't serve God, I'm a sinner.
   Um.... they all are too.

I can't be a leader, I'm not confident.
   Hello- check out Moses with his speech problem and temper, begging God to use someone else.

I can't amount to much because I'm just not that gifted.
   Leah, bless her, was unchosen, unloved and assumedly cross-eyed yet tribes of Israel came from her womb. 

I'm often struck by how much like me... like us,  that they are.

They sin, they fall, they doubt. And even more amazingly, you have the benefit of great distance and hindsight to see these sin cycles play out in families and generations.

Take in case Sarai. Later to be called Sarah.

We know that she was beautiful and barren.

We know also that Abram feared the Egyptians and asked her to lie to them saying she was his sister so they wouldn't kill him to be with her.

Now this is a half truth, Sarai being his half sister and all but the most important detail he was omitting was that she was indeed, oh.. you know.. HIS WIFE. .. I don't want to give away the story but spoiler alert! Pharoah takes her as his wife (!) and after realizing she was really Abram's wife, gives her back, rebukes Abram and sends him off with more than he came with.

Again later, when Abram, now Abraham, had journeyed into a land called Negeb and Gerar he lied that Sarah was his sister and King Abimelech took her as his wife.. again.. and the king sent him off with more than he had come with.

These people clearly weren't perfect. So time to stop using my imperfection as an excuse.

Fastforward to their son Isaac and his beautiful bride Rebekah. Fearing the men of Gerar would take her away because of her looks he lied and said she was his sister.

It's interesting isn't it? How sins can seem to be woven into the fabric and habits of some families. Even more interesting is how being aware of them we can perhaps combat and change them.


April 2, 2016

Victory in the Wee Dark Hours

So on April 1, by some act of sheer will power or divine intervention, I woke up at 5 am.

I woke up at 5 am and actually drug my lazy self out of bed.

I walked down the pitch black hallway, into the pitch black living room and sat in the pitch black listening to the clock tick and feeling the weight of my own eye lids.

I sat there and thought about why I wanted to be there. And I prayed. My head began to nod, and I thought perhaps a lamp or a coffee would help... But instead, like diving into a cool pool, I just pushed forward with no lights, or caffeine to aid me. Just prayer.

And you know what?

It was awesome and amazing all rolled into one. It was filling and relieving and gave me the space (and quiet) to actually think.

No one woke up and screamed (big bonus). I was all on my own and it was gooood.

I prayed for the whole hour- taking it in slow chunks and setting my timer for 10 minutes and doing my trusted technique (the classic ACTS- Adoration (10 min.), Confession (10 min.), Thanksgiving (10 min.), and Supplication (10 min.)) That doesn't add up to an hour.. but I find that once I get rolling on one I can definitely go for longer.. especially on confession and thanksgiving.. and supplication.. so basically all of them.

What I noticed was that after that I was... well.. awake.

So I figured I may as well drag myself further away from bed to the mudroom/office and read. So I did.  I read from a devotional I've been slowly nibbling through, then I read my Bible for 15 minutes, then I read some Radical by David Platt. And before I knew the next hour was up.

And still no one had woken up and screamed.

At this point Jacob walked in and asked how long I had been up and when I said 5 he said, "Oh no!! I'm so sorry!" Assuming it was sickness, pain or a screaming human. It felt so good to say, "Don't be sorry. I did it ON PURPOSE!"

If you  knew my knack and natural talent at night owling you too could stand in awe of this occasion.

With all humans still asleep I... now get ready... I TOOK CARE OF HYGEINE. It's a miracle! I flossed, brushed my teeth, took a shower, put on make up... Make up... on an at home day with the kids. .. Will wonders ever cease?!

And to top it all off I had some silence to just think and reflect on where I'm at in life. And when the first tiny warm feet padded down the hall I didn't lift my heavy eye lids in dread but instead I chipperly said, "Good morning!" as I stirred my coffee and put my breakfast dish away.

I mean.. wow.

Now that was victory in the wee dark hours!

March 29, 2016

The What and How of Godly Living

Parenting is hard. Being an adult is hard. Life is hard.  (But God is good!)

In the midst of dishes, dinners, bills and bedtime I feel a little like I've lost myself and I'm in a haze. Like I'm giving all I have and my very best and I'm falling painfully short.

And the one thing that I cut out for the sake of sleep, friend time and leisure is God.

I'm challenged and ready to make a fresh start. The baby is sleeping better and we are on the second night of the two year old staying in her room when we put her to bed so I feel less like I'm drowning.

Here is what I'm going to do or-

The What and How of Godly Living (for me!):

1. Scripture. Start my yearly reading plan (again...). I once calculated (and have tested and it has proven itself true) that only 15 minutes a day is all it takes to read your Bible in a year. FIFTEEN minutes! Can you imagine? I spend 15 minutes a day staring off into space. Here is the reading plan I am using- The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan.  Reading my Bible through in a year is so fruitful for me. I have many friends who don't benefit from it as much and prefer more in depth focused study but for me it is wonderful..

2. Memory Verses. I've jumped on this boat and slid off so many times it's not even funny. But it's not how many times you fall but how many times you get back up right? And momma didn't raise a quitter so here I am again. Here is the system I use. The Navigators Topical Memory System. Also, here is a really cool app you can use to help you that a friend showed me. I've used it minimally at best but hey.. it's fresh new day! The Verses App.

3. Prayer. An hour of prayer at 5 am five days a week for five weeks (#fives).  Starting April 1(but really). Read more about it here.
Dare I try this? Better yet, dare you try it with me?

4. Living Water. I read this little idea in a book I'm reading and it's simple and small if all else fails. Start your day off with a big glass of water while you take in the living water (the Word). See how that true hydration and one little step can change your life. I got this idea from this book If you Have a Craving I Have a Cure.

5. Leisure Later. I have recently done a social media fast which was GREAT but then I oddly binged on social media after (which is NOT the point... clearly...). So instead of completely banning it I'm trying a, " you can do it after" approach. I can scroll AFTER I've done all ofthe other things in this list.

The Why

The thing is I often make lists, or embark on new campaigns. I'm technically 'reading' my Bible and studying it. I've loved the current Bible study we are doing at church and all other venues we are involved in is good. But there is something VERY different about studying and seeking on your own apart from all other things/motivation. Ya know? Apart from "needing" to do to teach or lead.

The why is that this is a special season in my life. I'm sure we can all say that all of the time. But for me right now it's special and I aknowledge that. I'm not working. I have a supportive husband. I have the opportunity to impact and direct my children's lives in a very unique way right now. We are at a crux of making big life decisions (school, home etc... there are always big decisions to make!). I want above all for this time to be driven by Scripture and not social expectations etc.

That's the what and how (and why!). 

Now to do it!

March 15, 2016

10 months pointer (Almost 1, 3 and 5)

Today Isaac took one little finger and stared off out the window and pointed. His little lips puckered and his round cheeks so red I could pinch them...  Soon after I got a text from Jacob of Sophie "riding" a lawn mower on their daddy daughter work trip to Oklahoma and the sheer delight on her face almost made my heart burst.

 This picture just embodies her sheer delight in life. She does life so fully! Her latest saying is, "I juss fine mama..." (namely when I want her to go potty). She has started taking to Isaac a lot and I often find her talking sweetly to him and checking on him.

 An hour later I called Claire and her "secretary" (Hi Grandma!) answered and "Mrs. Reed" was just almost too busy in her office to have time to talk to me.



She's growing up so quickly!

She loves school, her friends, and teaching anyone who will listen about God and Jesus. Currently she is into building a "nature house" in the backyard where she can sit with nature and talk to God.

And I know that I am immensely blessed.

I am cleaning out and digging through drawers and closets and making the girls' room a big girl room with two twin beds. And little by little they grow up and we take steps and move forward.

Little by little.

Isaac at 10 months really is just all little boy and it's a wonder to watch. He rolls and pivots and mostly enjoys finding loud things to kick against (say a paper bag or the piano). I pick him up and move him to a quiet place and he smiles and works his way back to his percussion instrument of choice.



He lets me lay him back in the bathtub and rinse his hair and pour warm water all over his little body and he relaxes and straightens his little skinny legs out as straight as they will go and all at once I am a wonder at him. So trusting. His sisters would have never laid back in water at that age. He loves to growl, and "snort" and loves very little more than his two sisters. The comment I always get about him is what a happy baby he is.

I often come into the room to find him hanging on to a chair or the jumper completely pulled up and wobbly.  If he keeps that up he will walk before he really crawls!

He has given us a run for our money with sleep. Alternating between being a great sleeper and then going for weeks of screaming all night. We are now on our fourth night of hard sleep.

He refuses baby food once he sees table food and has two bottom teeth. Just recently he has gotten proficient at sitting up and not throwing himself back when angry. He will sit and play quietly for 20 or 30 minutes occasionally calling out for me to see where I am.

These kids are such a blessing. 

What a joy.

March 7, 2016

Urination

Today I am cry in the middle of the aisle at Target tired. Our dear baby is yet another non sleeper. I've picked up and put down ala baby Whisperer, I've 5-10-15 ala Sleep Easy Solution, I've Cried It Out ala every mother's desire. I've cut out day time naps, overly respected day time naps and yet still here we are sleepless and at the edge of sanity.

And today Sophie sat on the carpet and peed such a heavy huge puddle. After cleaning it, later, I found her soaked with her tinkerbell outfit soaked... Only later as I sat nursing Isaac did I realize that MY pants and shirt were soaked... Yes.. my dear cutie had peed completely all out in our recliner.

I'm tired. Cry in the middle of a pee soaked recliner tired.

Happy parenting friends.

March 1, 2016

Normal vs. Healthy



I remember it was a pivotal concept for me that there was no "normal".

I tried as a teenager to wrap my  head around it. I always heard I was weird and it hurt. I didn't feel like I had a normal experience in life in general etc.

The other night I heard a kind friend tell a little girl she was strange. He was of course joking and the little girl skipped away. Like a bolt I was a child again, being eccentric and expressive and hearing similar remarks and the dull ache was still fresh.

And I had a realization.

There truly is no normal. No normal marriage. No normal friendship. No normal home life.

Because honestly who could define that anyway?

But there is healthy.

Under that heading add the subheading of functional. You can quantify and know if you are healthy. Is your marriage healthy? Are your family relationships functioning? 

What does it matter?
This matters because it takes away the abstract concept of "normal" and focuses on the specific health of relationships. The people that are part of them aren't permanently flawed in such a way that can't be fixed... rather, all relationships are in varying stages of health. And health can be worked on and improved.

That "health" looks different for different cultures, socioeconomic groups, ages etc. But we can know if our upbringing, current friendships, marriage or family is healthy.

And we all have the power, resources and ability to make them healthier. Today.

For some reason.. this little "aha" moment meant a lot to me.

February 27, 2016

A Letter To My Future Self III

These are always a hit with me. Here was the last one.

Dear future me,

Ah life these days. It is going by so quickly and I see this special stage coming to a close. I know the next stage will be just as sweet if not sweeter but there is still a melancholy with the ending of a chapter. I even feel it when wrapped up in a good book.. the infantile fuss of not wanting the beauty to end even for something better.

That is this season. 

Six months is how long we have as a unit unfettered by the education system. Dramatic? yes. But you've met me so it fits.

Six more months with the freedom of slow mornings, digging in dirt, snacks and tv and crazy pretend games of kitty cats or family or whatever makes the girls giggle. The baby can nap, I can clean and flexibility reigns king.

Claire loves "school work" and now colors and draws and Sophie joins in. I relish the discovery of what they have made as a peak into their little mind and hearts, "These are stars.. these are your eyelashes... these are birds.. and here's a mouse." Me getting married is a common theme in these drawings. Somehow I feel motherhood has arrived now that there are sweet stick figure drawings. Being artistically inclined myself I feel something meaningful in them like a mommy badge.

Isaac, alas, is not a sleeper. He is in our room in Sophie's white crib, propped up by hymnals. Sophie in turn is in Isaac's room in his crib propped up on Zondervan's concordances. And Claire rests happily alone in the girls' room, I'm afraid realizing how much sleep Sophie was leaching from her.

Sophie naps like a little rock, eager to go down and loathe to get up. Claire refuses to nap and plays in her room, "reading" books and enjoying digging in her "treasure" drawer away from Sophie's eyes. Isaac naps twice a day when we let him and if we miss, then our nights pay.

Bedtime, Claire is exhausted and is ready to go down and Sophie is still wired and ready to play. Climbing out of her bed again and again and coyly coming into the living room with eyes darting like a freed caged animal. Morning times she is the first up climbing into our bed, a warm little cuddler. Claire gets up with the sun, consistently regardless of bed time.

The girls are so genuinely fond of one another and Claire and Isaac are beside themselves with  adoration. Sophie is still hit or miss with adoration for little "brudder" or "bubba". She loves him but cautiously-- quick to point out and remand if he touches her special puppy or kicks against her leg, "No bubby! Mine! Me!"

Claire is in her first ballet class at the community center. Like a romantic movie we arrive at dusk as young children kick soccer balls between the jungle gyms and the duck pond. Claire is giddy in her pink tights and fluttering tu-tu. Last week she was adamant that she must not wear a bun and she wanted her hair straight. We stand in the dingy hall with other parents, wrangling toddlers, coddling babies and making small talk all intermittenly while hearing, "And now princess hands!"... "And now Freeze!" wafting out from the mirrored dance room. I never expected taking my little girl to an almost free community class would make my heart feel so full. But it does.

It's a season for me of loving leading Bible studies and women's ministry. It's a season of meeting younger women for coffee and when energy and time allows delivering meals to new moms. It's been sweet. But reality dictates that with the switch to Kindergarten some of these responsibilities will have to give way to schooling. It's okay... but I want to remember how it has been when given the chance.

Both girls are in school two days a week and love it. As for enjoying my time without them it honestly mostly consists of me putting Isaac down for a nap, cleaning, reading, exercising or mainly sitting in the parking lot while Isaac naps.

I still feel like a new mom, confused and overwhelmed and not very good at what I'm doing. And in the same breath "mother" is who I am. Our home is established our family is secure. Our routine is certain. We have "our" way and it is sweet. I know and am comfortable with who I am as a mom (hint: it does not include cute bows and expensive outfits and taking my kids out at the same time everyday to classes etc.) Not that there is anything wrong with any other way but just that I know what my way is. No... we are messy, unbrushed hair, grass stains on our play pants and mostly unscheduled.

And just as soon as I know it I see on the horizon change.

There is a sweetness to these days. There is a sweetness for sure.

It's not something that can be said just anywhere but since it's my blog I will feel a little free and bold to say what I think. And I think that being a mother and staying home is the greatest thing I've ever done. Feminism whimpers. It is not a bash against working moms or non moms. It simply is what it is. A true statement of my own existence.

Til next time friends,
me
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