Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Whispers. Worries. Worship. REPEAT.
That pretty much describes how my life of trying to believe God. I'd like to think that I had some great increase in faith over the last year, watching my baby boys be formed and born perfect. But no, not really, I'm still just a fairly faithless human being! I think all I've gained is a signpost to look at as I continue to bumble along through life. Here's how it went this time.
With these babies, I heard supernatural whispers that God is good and gives good. A glimpse in my mind of me holding a healthy baby boy in my arms. A friend who bravely shared a whisper she heard that my babies would be healthy, even a redemption and gift in place of the baby we lost years ago. I read in a psalm just weeks before the babies were born - "God makes his people strong, God gives his people peace." It stuck with me, though I wasn't sure if it was because of me or God.
Following all of those whispers, I worried and doubted. Am I hearing from God, or my own made up thoughts? Am I reading into the words, or are they divinely inspired for ME? God doesn't have to do good, will he in this situation? Will the good that he does fit my definition of good? And in the meantime, what do I say to him?
And then, in spite of my worries, God gave me something perfect and good, two healthy baby boys, born by a strengthened and at peace mama. The whispers were true. For at least a day, it was easy to go to church and worship God, (something I experienced very clearly when Rachel was born too). Standing there holding a tangible answer to many prayers and promises, I clutched my baby and sang "You are worthy of all our praises" and had no question marks attached.
Truth is, my faith in God is still pretty much pathetically puny, and always will be. But I've gained two little signposts (aka Daniel and James!) to look at that will point me back to the fact that God is GOOD and that I've experienced that.
They'll be coming with me, literally never far from my side as we start the cycle over again, looking for a new job and a new city!
God, help me listen for your whispers and give me faith to believe them. When I worry, remind me of your past goodness - especially through my kids. And when each adventure ends, let me never forget to say boldly say "thank you", full of confidence in you, if only for a fleeting moment of bigger-than-usual faith.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
We have more things to be thankful for than I can count or list here today...
But here are six of the top ones. (Only four are pictured above!)
1. My wonderful husband!
6. And my own healthy body...
Happy Thanksgiving to you from all of us!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
It's a question that I can't exactly find the words to ask or answer.
As a giver, sometimes I just don't start giving. Besides the obvious reasons that I'm busy, tired, or selfish, there's another couple of things at work. I have often hesitated to show a small act of love, because, well, it's just that: small. Why bring dinner over to the neighbor, when I will probably only do it once this season, and he really needs consistent meals and companionship? Why give just an hour of my time at the school, when what the kids really need is a consistent helper? Why give my husband a measly card, when I know that he'd really love at least some sort of gift that cost something? Why pause to worship God for three minutes a day when I should be worshipping him with my every minute and whole life?
Why do I think that way? Maybe it's because I don't want to look small in my love to those I'm giving to. Maybe some of it is the Bible/church messages that I've heard, read, pondered about how the worst possible Jesus follower is a lukewarm one, that love must be crazy, free, abundant, and sold out to be worth anything. (On the flip side, there are certainly times Jesus says that giving a cup of water to a kid is worth quite a bit though...what about that?)
Lately, I've had a glimmer of an answer as I've received love. In the preparations for these babies coming, I find that not one gesture of love and kindness has left me saying - "man, they should have done more". The big acts of love are amazing. And so are the small ones. A phone call or email, an outfit or two in the mail, one random morning of babysitting, even just an offer of help. Each of those acts tells me that on that given day, someone stopped for an hour or so to think of me and love me. I need both: to be loved extravagantly, but also loved in the littlest bits. A little bit sure beats never knowing that they thought of me at all, you know? And a lot of little bits together adds up to quite a lot.
My experience as recipient of others' love lately is nudging me to give a little more readily, even when the gift seems too small. As a giver yourself, I hope that you aren't held back by wishing you could give just a little more, because I appreciate anything!
But I still wonder - is "loving a little" the best place to start, or simply making way for selfishness and keeping something back from God and others? I don't know...
Monday, November 9, 2009
It's just sort of becoming a way of life around here, and it's hard to imagine that within a couple of weeks it will definitely be over. Then we'll start counting up from zero again :).
In the meantime, since the novelty of ME being pregnant has long since worn off, the girls make daddy pretend to have babies kicking in his stomach (or make their own stomachs wiggle). This week they commandeered some sonogram photos and took turns doing ultrasounds of each others' babies - the dolls stuffed into their shirts, of course!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean! A little embarrassed at how well we match above. My only excuse is that we're still just a couple of college kids wearing our school sweatshirts and workout pants. And that not much else fits me!
(What are they doing? Well, John has taught them to spit off the bridge to attract fish. So there you have it, my well-mannered little girls!)
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Feels like I've had a few "semisweet" moments in life lately. They make me momentarily ache inside, but are oh so very sweet on the other hand.
Giving away all our little girl clothes once and for all. But to make room for baby boy clothes!
Thinking about moving away from familiarity and friends in a year when John graduates. Getting excited about where we might live next, and soaking up the company and closeness of family and friends in the meantime, like a baby shower or adding an uncle to the family for a week.
Raging inside at John for an evening. Realizing I haven't felt that frustration in many months of stress, and that I am so happy to be with him as we head forward.
Dropping Abby off at 1st grade each day. Seeing her greeted gleefully by half a dozen friends. Hearing that she took her first before-the-bell trip to the library because another girl wanted to buy pencils for each of them. Seeing her read through stacks of books and then start writing her own.
If life was all bitter, well, none of us would want to go on living.
If life was all sweet, we'd either never know to appreciate the sweetness, or would eventually tire of the richness.
But semisweet seems just right. Bits of sadness and frustration that temper and then highlight the sweetness that much more. Just that right combination that makes me never tire of going back to the bag for more, and more, and more (of life that is, and chocolate chips!).
Thursday, October 8, 2009
But once in a while, life conspired against her. It was a horrible thing and yet the most wonderful thing all at once.
Her mother died. She moved thousands of miles from her family. She had a miscarriage. She moved, and moved again, and moved again. She got a job in a new city and needed a babysitter. She got pregnant with twins while on a shoestring budget, and no family lived right in town.
Now you must understand, this girl was not only fairly capable, but she also preferred to be a little quiet and keep to herself. But when you need HELP, you are no longer capable and keeping to yourself is no longer an option. And so she cried "help!"
Here is where it gets wonderful. A friend flew to stay for a week when mom died (they've been friends even more since), and a boy that helped her talk through it in later years became her best friend and husband.
An acquaintance called her right away after the miscarriage, and she still feels safe talking to her many years later.
Each time she moved away from somewhere, (and especially as she accumlated more stuff!), she finally met the neighbors. The ones that she'd said "hi" to for years but never "help" suddenly became willing movers and finally shared meals both then and years later.
In desperate need of one day of babysitting while she went to work at a new job, a friend of a friend (a stranger!) was willing to help. That help turned into hours upon hours spent together, kindnesses traded, and two little girls growing up best friends from age one to age six together. Countless other babysitters (strangers, colleagues, playground moms) became reliable friends.
And so with babies soon to arrive, she knew she had no choice but again to cry "help!" It was time to finally have that conversation with a neighbor, a mom known only in passing, familiar friends that she just didn't usually need help from. She cried "help!", and they finally exchanged phone numbers, watched her children, had something to talk about, or became even dearer friends or family than they already were as they expanded their care for her.
And so events that may have seemed overwhelming or even horrible turned into life's greatest blessings for this girl. She got over her "I-can-do-it"-ness, and her quietness. She started conversations and asked for and accepted lots of help.
And in turn she discovered new, wider, and deeper friendships everywhere she turned.
The end. Until the next crisis pushes her out of her shell even further and she again cries "help!".
Have you asked for help from someone lately? Or offered?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Photography isn't really a talent around here - but you at least get the profile idea! Above, the 28 week pic that I never got around to posting.
A perfect tiny bit of work this fall. Just enough to make a big difference for retirement, and I'm done with it as of last Monday.
No bedrest. Still walking and (stationary) biking. A placenta that cooperated and finally moved out of the danger zone.
No identical twin-to-twin transfusion, a very real risk for early delivery, fetus fatality, complications. Most dangerous mid-pregnancy, when the babies are too little to be delivered yet. Leads to one twin taking way more nutrients than the other (and growing differently). Our twins have literally tracked together perfectly: 8 oz, 1 lb, 2 lb, 3 lb. (and now 4 lb.?!) Even the doctors have been amazed.
A slew of matching twin boy clothes from a friend. With pacifiers, bottles, etc. thrown in. They will match and be very well-dressed. Much, much better than I expected.
Baby stuff in general. So many friends (and grandma!) have given me something here, something there. I went to register for a shower this weekend, and I literally could find only 5 things to register for. The thought that we would need so little because we're being given so much made me laugh then and cry for joy now.
A stack of "large" maternity shirts from a friend for the pregnancy that has outlasted my expectations of length AND size! My usual "chili pepper" body is much more a two-peas-in-the-pod shape :). (I told John I might even consider dressing up for Halloween if I make it that long. I'd hate to make the kids scream as a gigantic pea pod plodded down the street though. Like a veggie nightmare!)
(Love that lighting. I'm much too impatient to force my photographers to work for more than about 5 seconds though. Me at 31 weeks.)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We have just enough space in our house to add two more babies. Well, after some serious purging of every closet in the house to make way for all the stuff from our office/den/guest room to get cleared out. We haven't added a single square foot, but suddenly we've got plenty of space for new beds, clothes, and all that other paraphernalia that little people require.
I kind of like sewing, but mending seems to pile up. I'm acquiring an odd affinity for it though lately. There's something cool about breathing new life into the broken chair cushion ties, the shirt that Rachel took it upon herself to try cutting up, and the torn hand-me-down maternity jeans. A few minutes, a needle and thread, and just enough turns into a pile of good as new textile plenty!
And then this week began, with the triumph that I'd made it to the end of the month with just enough grocery money, which is my constant personal challenge and failure. But shoot, we need something for the sweet walk at the carnival, snack foods are running really low, and I'm more than a little bored of Cheerios and Frosted MiniWheats for breakfast. Enter some flour, sugar, and oatmeal. Sugar cookies aren't a Depression-era tradition for nothing (dressed up with some colorful frosting), rotten bananas make great snackable banana bread, and as for breakfast? Might as well clean out all the cabinets of honey, maple syrup, molasses, raisins, almond crumbs, and old-fashioned oats (yup, I literally drained every single one of those). The granola was such an improvement this morning. We've suddenly got plenty to enjoy until shopping day next Monday.
It's a space challenge, a clothing challenge, a food challenge (a time and money challenge!). But it is actually kind of fun to rise to the challenges, gratifying to conquer them, surprising how much you can get out of almost nothing. Just enough is (still) plenty at our house. How about yours?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
So does it really matter if my list of not-done-yets is exponentially long? What can wait, and what do I really need to make happen?
The "now or never" mandatory list is maybe a lot shorter than I think. Family, kids, life changes, crises tend to remind me of that.
Maybe only two times do I need to treat life with that NOW mentality: 1) deadlines and 2) inspiration.
Deadlines. Birthday parties for little girls in August. Gotta happen. Doctor appointments for unborn babies and flu shots for the rest of us. Gotta happen. Job applications for John and a few last work appointments and grading for me. Gotta happen. Chill time with my family and friends before eating/pooping/fussing/sleeping twins arrive. The days are dwindling. When my to-do list is mostly actual deadlines, it often shortens and always gets done.
Inspiration. And then between all those must-do deadlines come the must-notice inspirations. Not every inspiration is critical, but a lot of them are. If the thought is really that important, then quick, write it down. Capture it in scribbled sentence fragments, if not a well-polished blog :). Or if the autumn sun is shining, drop all the house "duties" and take the kids to the park. Ditto when both he and I find ourselves musing life on the couch. (Forget the dishes.) And away from home, stay and chat a while with a new friend on the playground after school, or run back into the grocery store to leave my number (and offer of baby clothes) with the checker who is pregnant too and has seen me through two pregnancies now. Many opportunities like these (especially the people ones) might never come again.
So, dear busy to-do-list-making-self, let the deadlines of you and those who are counting on you float to the top. Leave lots of room for flexibility when inspiration strikes. And if it's not one of those two, maybe it will happen, maybe it won't. No big deal, it's only sometimes "now or never".
*oh, and to add to your non-deadline-but-possibly-inspiring-list-of-things-to-do, here are a couple of the great books that I never got around to blogging about: "The spirit catches you and you fall down" by Anne Fadiman and "Father Michael's lottery - A story of Africa" by Johan Steyn. Cross-cultural medicine in America, and international medicine in Africa. Not exactly at the topics in the health care debates these days, but very challenging to think about. Yeah, the protruding belly (aka naps) has been giving me a little extra time to read!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
"Abby (sob) won't put (sob) her twin in the stroller (sob) with mine (sob)."
It's OK honey, she can do what she wants with her twin. Do you want a hug from mama?
"No, (sob) I want some juice. (Sob) Can I (sob) have some juice in a (sob) cup please?"
OK Rach, I'll get you some. Immediate end of sobbing.
She's a cuddler, but since the time this girl was born, she has more often than not also found incredible solace in a cup filled with juice or milk.
[Full disclosure: I'm not that different. For me it's more like, "No, I don't want a hug, please just talk to me!" OR "No, I don't want to talk, please just hug me!"]
Might as well just listen to what they're saying and love them like they want to be loved!
(Below: the quickest pic I could find of Rachel with a cup - age one and a half)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Now upon a time, I'm 29 and John is 33. Our new friends are around our age and we all have kids 6 and under. I've lost touch with middle and high school and young college kids. I think it will be great when my kids can actually take bike rides and play sports with me.
We visited those same kids (and their parents of course!) last week. They're all around 20, six feet tall men that would now scoff at a sporting competition with puny ME! Their kid brothers and sisters now played with my own kids, like doting older cousins.
Hanging out around all those grown up kids and their (smart!) parents was absolutely awesome, a total change of pace for us. The people made the vacation.
I was reminded that behind the cool, or gruff, or punk, or whatever exterior, these "kids" are really fun to hang out with, interesting to talk to. Hours of investment in their young lives has kept them surprisingly easy to reconnect with now.
It was exciting to think about our own four kids growing into such fascinating young adults. A glimpse of the craziness of the house in 10 or so years!
People always tell me that the harder parenting issues come up later. These parents and kids have to discuss parties, college, military, boyfriends, media time, cars, it's some crazy big stuff! Definitely bigger than the bedtimes and vegetable fights we wage now, I almost had to laugh at how worked up I get over this little stuff.
And what to do together as a family? It's easy now - zoo, park, pool, they all get unanimous cheers. Sitting down for dinner together with _everyone_ is downright simple now. The agreement, never mind the regular time, shrinks when they are around 20! Never mind dragging an 11-year-old along to the playground with the younger siblings.
I've come back home with a huge new appreciation for our young kids. A renewed enjoyment of the older kids, a realism and excitement about where mine are headed. And a new admiration for their parents, especially those in the trenches of helping their kids out the door to the big, wide world.
Figured I'd better write my thoughts down quickly, before I take yet another playground trip for granted or forget to value the college kids, friends, parents, and grandparents who I have in my life. Wouldn't you know, I don't have a single picture from the entire week of a kid anywhere near 20!
Love them now, love them when they grow up!
Four generations of my family.
Can you tell who is already getting too old for the zoo?
Hanging out with the little brothers of the "grown up" kids.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I got a lesson in the practicality of dreams in my own backyard this summer.
Remember, I was all excited about the big garden plot we'd rented from the park district? Never mind my puny little tomato/bean/herbs in the backyard, been there, done that. I had big dreams this summer for the pumpkins, cantaloupe, zucchini, 13 tomato plants, and rows and rows of beans. It was to be a grand, successful experiment by two city kids.
Well, this is what the (tenderly cared for?) plot 77 turned into this summer. Have you ever seen such skill at growing weeds and lettuce gone to seed?!! I confess, I have not, not even among the other 120 garden plots nearly touching ours. It's turned into a prairie restoration oasis, I think, providing refuge to several species of grasshoppers and frogs displaced by the neatly tilled rows on the other three sides.
It's not that we didn't try. It was a rainy summer that kept plants and weeds alike watered. We had a bumper lettuce crop, which unfortunately turned bitter. We had some marathon weeding sessions, but lacked a rototiller to turn things up properly.
Ultimately, we lacked both the skill and time that large-scale gardening required. Two things got in the way. Work took more time and energy than I expected. But you know what, our bank account stayed black and got even a bit blacker because of it. Growing babies also took more time and energy than I expected. Two little boys growing from 1.5 ounces to nearly 1.5 pounds apiece literally seemed to suck the life out of me some days. It wasn't that we weren't meant to garden, because our tiny backyard is doing great. The recipe for success just turned out to be doing less, not more.
I guess what I've learned this summer is that sometimes my dreams need to be cut back down to size. It's OK to branch out big (although 20x bigger all at once is a little much!), but most likely I'm not going to succeed the first time. There was plenty to keep me busy in my own family, job, backyard; plenty of people and plants for me to practice my tending on.
Big causes like orphans in Kenya, health care in America, education, even just community causes that I'd love to contribute to have flitted through my mind this summer. But if I can't farm the big garden, in spite of my best efforts, I might as well work at what must be done and what can be done - in my own backyard.
Even God, as Jesus, gave his followers a challenge that was limited to the neighborhood. Is it really possible that three meals, a body, and a neighborhood is really all there is to life? Maybe?
Jesus sent his twelve [friends] out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day." Matthew 10:5-10
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Uncertain times overseas, with debatable involvement in the issues of other nations.
Families unable to make ends meet, with no safety net. Starving in the streets.
Presidents elected by big money interests. 78% of the wealth controlled by 2% of the population.
Government growing (or shrinking) too fast.
Strong moral debates on rights for minorities, children, women.
Presidents known for their infidelity and/or manipulative wives.
A country on the verge of splitting forever.
And we haven't even gotten to the 20th century guys yet! Every president thus far has intrigued me, each with their own personality, many changing for the worse or coming into their own once they became our country's leader. And it seems like at least every other president faced issues that parallel something of recent history, but worse! We seemed to be a country destined to fail over and over, destined to fall apart within the next 20 years since before 1776!
And yet we haven't yet. Seeing all the messes (much worse than today!) that we have faced and worked through leaves me oddly inspired at the end of each presidential snapshot.
To me, it speaks hope for our economy, our partisan divides, our health care, our economic disparity, our international issues, our energy crisis, our overseas competition, and whatever else is irking you. Sometimes, a look backward is more encouraging than one forward!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Anyhow, since twins have been on my mind all summer, here are some of the random facts that I've accumulated. I'm 20 weeks (four and a half months) now, which is over half way for twins. And I'm busting into those maternity clothes whether I find them stylish enough or not! They appear to be identical - and boys. So here's my random facts for your next game of Trivial Pursuit.
- Identical twins don't run in families - they are just a random occurrence! Fraternal twins do. Every other person I meet now seems to have fairly recent twins in their families. Except OUR extended families...
- Boy identical twins are the most rare kind of all twins. I guess we've got a rare treasure coming :).
- You can make a good guess that they are identical if they share a placenta (ours do). You can confirm later on by pathology on the placenta and of course DNA testing.
- Many identical twins actually share some of their blood supply during pregnancy too (they have the same blood type, of course, so that's OK). When they don't share equally, you can run into some serious problems. Fortunately, ours seem to be sharing incredibly well so far. I'm hoping that lasts 18 years!!!
- Those single babies that I had before, they have a technical name "singletons". As opposed to "multiples".
- Being pregnant with multiples puts you at risk for something called placenta previa, where that shared (big) placenta ends up where it shouldn't. (Sheesh, imagine 8 babies!) I've got that for now. It means that all the usual admonitions/joys of pregnancy like "make sure you exercise" and "enjoy your sexy body" get thrown out the window. On top of that, twin pregnancies are prone to pre-term labor, so they have you start lessening your activity earlier on anyway. BOO!
- Studies on identical twins have been done for a long time to compare how environment/upbringing affects expression of genes. Just in the last few years, scientists are starting to find that there are a lot more differences in identical twin DNA than they thought - meaning environment might have a lot less to do with how they turn out than we've thought.
Anyhow, that's all the fun for today. Here I am this week - each baby is about 3/4 of a pound now, you can imagine the belly-stretching they'll be doing if they make it to 5 lb. each - or more! So far, so good. I'm amazed and thankful every day.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I'm finally writing, if only for a few precious (stolen) minutes! Yeah, that's us above, in the process of enjoying vacation a couple of weeks back.
It has been a whirlwind since I last posted, including celebrating our 8th anniversary, two weeks in the Pacific northwest on what will turn out to be our last big twin-less vacation, and then a quick start to summer school the day we got home, which is pretty much a full-time job. No time to sit down and catch my breath writing, but I guess that has been pretty much a good thing.
Anyhow, I've been thinking a lot during the last month about being thankful "in the middle" of stuff, "in the process", not just at the end. I heard someone (grandparent type) talk just a bit before our trip about how one of the main priorities of parenting should be to enjoy the process. 'Cause if you don't, you suddenly find yourself at the end that you've been planning for, having missed everything else along the way. That really stuck with me, not just for parenting, but for everything...
So, instead of just planning for the end of the summer, arrival of babies, or where we'll be living in a year, I've been trying to step back and appreciate what I'm in the process of right now. For me, that especially means enjoying these little babies. I was bound and determined to savor every minute of my 3rd baby's pregnancy, but when 3 turned into 4, I was suddenly too tired and keeping track of too many changes and risks to enjoy it quite as much as I wanted.
A couple of weeks of vacation are excellent for tweaking that distracted mindset. Add to that a couple of weeks of work, where free minutes become like gold, and I am starting to look at things differently. (Below: pondering Oregon!)
So I'm in the process of growing these little babies inside of me - here's what I'm stopping to enjoy -
- Their big daddy being a big help and very patient with me! Getting to know him as the father of "many" rather than just two. Including things like minivan shopping.
- Little girls loving swimming and biking and getting better at the them every afternoon.
- Having a healthy body to donate to science - i.e. the science of caring for babies who require that I give up some of my favorite activities and instead fall asleep early, pee late, and eat as often as possible. It's easy when all I have to do to take care of the three of us is take care of ME, I guess!
- Not being on bed rest - oh, I am loving that I can at least still swim, and even walking isn't horrible. Glad I can do at least that! And without having to be laden down with winter parkas.
- Energy to get to know and help one more class of students. They might be my last on campus class in quite a while.
Life's a kind of fun process, when I stop long enough to notice! Hope you're noticing what's going on around you this summer too :).
PS - It's two little boys!!! Pics of vacation and maybe the babies again coming soon. Our ultrasound last Friday looked great - babies are the same size and right on target for where 16 week old kiddos should be. Hurray!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
This month's issue came though, and provided little in the way of inspiration. I would have been disappointed, except that I found that nearly every single article had a title that could not have screamed more loudly: as for you, DO NOT try this at home!!! (if you are a sort-of-high-risk-pregnant-with-twins-mommy, that is.) The forty cent subscription was well worth the laughs I got just off the cover.
"Bikini body detox - beat belly bloat, drop pounds fast."
Doc's orders - second trimester - gain pounds fast for twins and deal with the nightly bloat. Oh yeah, and trade in the bikini for a tankini and hope it lasts at least half way through summer.
"Look 10 lbs. thinner. Instant tricks."
Dream on. Look 20 lbs. heavier by August. For the health of the babies!
"Sculpt every inch. Get flat abs, a toned butt and jiggle free arms."
Pad every inch with extra baby insulation. Kiss the abs and butt goodbye for at least a year.
"The best swimsuit for your body."
Maternity styles mysteriously omitted.
I seriously just cracked up reading these, and that was just the cover! Ahhhh, until, at last, I found the article hidden away at the bottom for pregnant girls like myself.
"PLUS! Tasty ice cream treats."
Now that's something I can do :).
Thursday, May 28, 2009
When life’s worries catch up to me, I turn to God. They may be my own worries, your worries, or the worries of the world that send me running. I become confident in a God that is “big enough”, “bigger”, the “biggest” – the only one with enough love and power to touch a situation.
When life’s blessings catch up to me, I again turn to God, offering thanks for our family’s health, home, the majesty of nature, and more.
It’s when I am caught somewhere in between that I hesitate to turn to God. Stuck somewhere in between the request for help and the blessing received, I stall out. Yes, my God is the only one I dare ask for such big things, but do I trust that his bigness can really be displayed in the answers? I rationalize that maybe his “answers” are just a coincidence, not the fingers of God at work. (Not always an incorrect assumption, maybe?) I balk because if the answer falls short, what do I do? Blame God? Discount the initial answer? Come face-to-face with my limited understanding of God’s ways? Be left speechless to those who question my faith?
I’m caught in the middle this week, as we celebrate that twins are on the way. As several friends have pointed out, and I’ve thought myself, this double helping of kids is a ridiculous and amazing answer to my laments to God. But I find that rather than exploding with joy, I’m withholding my gratitude until the blessing is complete, and they arrive healthy in the outside world. The risks are many, twins are a natural occurrence (not only divine!), and if I go on about how this is God’s great answer and then something happens…? My doubts are many, woefully holding back my thanksgiving.
As I laid awake in the middle of last night (pregnant hunger pangs!), a random story came to mind. Ten lepers cried out to Jesus to heal them. He sent them to the priest to get healed. Only one returned to say thank you, and he was a foreigner at that. Jesus wondered – “Where are the other nine? Was no one else willing to come back and give glory to God?” (Luke 17:11-19) These men had their lives radically changed – restored physically and then socially into society. Yet they too neglected to return and say “thank you”. Maybe they weren’t so sure that it was really Jesus’ power at work. Maybe they thought they’d give the miracle a few years to “stick” before they gave credit where credit was due. Maybe they just forgot and went out to tackle the next challenge of finding a job. I see myself in their shoes. I want to pause and acknowledge God instead.
God, you are big enough for me to ask things of. You are big enough to answer too, and deserve the credit when you do – and so I thank you for these two little lives. Give me faith and courage to keep returning and saying “thanks”.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
As I bumbled out of bed this morning, a mini-Snow White greeted me immediately from the couch. "Hi Ariel, I've been calling for you!" Ariel, as in Disney's Little Mermaid, who I hardly resembled no matter how much imagination you have! Then again, she calls me that all day, every day that she is in the mood for it.
Cheesy as it was, Rachel's greeting made my morning. In her two-year-old way, she says: "there is something about my mom that is like a princess". (A privilege that every girl they know is granted, but still!) Oh, and "mom, I want you to be part of our never-ending-make-believe-princess-world". I'm royalty, and included in the game. Does it get any better?
As an aside, I thought princesses were pretty corny up until a year or so ago, even for little girls. Isn't reading about real stuff more interesting, or pretending to be something that actually exists more practical, like a doctor or teacher? But then grandma gave the girls some princess costumes, and we "met" the princesses at Disneyland over Christmas, and I had no choice but to go along with the frenzy. I'm coming around to see that instilling my girls with a sense of beauty, grace, and kindness - even through a lot of fairy tales - isn't so bad.
Anyhow, all these royal thoughts made me think a bit about how I treat others. Do I greet and treat them like royalty, even as they roll out of bed? Do I find them a role to play in my activities, games, meals? A little lesson in real-life love from my two-year-old...
The pictures are old - from Christmastime - but you catch a glimpse of our royal family. Yes, we all posed with "fake" Snow White, because after an hour in line, that is what you do!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It is gardening season like never before around our house! As I sat soaking in the sun on a "backyard picnic" with Rachel today, I looked at the rows of lettuce in our little planter with amazement. See, I've never grown lettuce that made beyond about two inches tall. This year, it's made it through thinning and is pushing seven or eight inches so far. All pretty amazing considering that the seeds are about the size of half a tiny ant. (That's my "baby spinach" up on top.)
This will be our third summer in a house with a (little) yard, and our third attempt at growing vegetables. In fact, we expanded by renting a bit of land from the park district this year too, which means if all goes well I will consider myself a bona fide LA-born farmer by the end of summer.
Now, as much as I've learned to love all-you-can-eat-cherry-tomatoes by the fence and green beans that were just picked, I still loathe planting seeds. Especially the little ones. And especially for the first time. Lettuce is really annoying. Carrots are too. As I planted a 30-foot row of them at our park garden, I am sure that my complaints and nay-saying about their chances of growing could be heard for miles. It was at least loud enough to warrant many groans and "pleeease stop complaining's" from John.
Whether the lettuce keeps growing and the carrots ever grow, I was thinking today about something that we've talked about around our house a lot lately. The only seeds that don't grow are the ones that don't get planted (OK, with the exception of the sprouting onions and potatoes in my pantry). Jobs that aren't applied for aren't gotten. Funding for John's research that isn't requested stands no chance of being granted. Respectful kids don't just happen.
That said, the act of planting seeds is incredibly un-rewarding (though at least it only takes a season to get some fruit!). Add to that the fact that only about one in ten of my lettuce seeds make it to maturity, and you may glimpse why I complain. Seeds of kindness, faith, you name it, those are pretty un-rewarding planting endeavors too, taking years to grow, and the fruit isn't found in my backyard! Having little kids might be compared to planting a garden for years - and having very little idea what might grow in it...
Besides the non-gratification that planting seeds bring me, planting (never mind all that soil prep, watering, and seedling care) takes a lot faith that something will come of that seed. Excuses for not planting are much easier to come by than reasons to set myself up for a failed gardening attempt.
But in spite of myself, I think longingly of last summer's tomatoes (or just visit the grocery store!), or I'm the recipient of kind words from a friend. I'm suddenly reminded to be thankful that some farmer or parent had the foresight and ethic to plant those tiny seeds long ago. I'm inspired to plant for the future, in spite of the work and the odds. I realize that the only way to raise my odds above zero is to put _something_ into the ground.
Come on over later this summer, and hopefully I'll pass on a bit of my own inspiration to you - in the form of a home-grown garden salad!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
For a few years, mother's day was quite bittersweet for me, since my mom had passed away when I was 16, and it was another seven years before I became a mother. There is still a bit missing on the day, but let me tell you what I've got: the precious little things that count.
One beloved husband to bring me breakfast in bed.
Two little girls ready with hugs and kisses the moment I get out of bed.
An eager five-year-old daughter who proudly gave me her third and fourth handwritten cards (yes, that's four this year!) this morning.
A husband who never fails to surprise me with presents beyond my expectation - today, a new bracket and plant for our patio - followed by half a dozen fix it jobs DONE now!
A two-year-old daughter who eagerly helps eat up all the candy that she and big sis picked out to give me.
Two little girls on a date with mom this morning. First, both raced ahead on their bikes, strong legs pedaling, hair flying like crazy, and big grins when they see how far behind they've left me. One picks the other up and pushes her on the swing then. Two little girls, so grown up, bring so much joy to my heart, just by having them around for company.
Sitting at lunch on the deck, our little family of four together, eating less-than-special-PBJ's (Abby's declaration), new flowers hanging nearby. For me, it couldn't be any better.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I devoured the book "The Color of Water" by James McBride this week. A couple of friends had recommended it, I finally requested it from the library. Took me three days to read (a post-kids record for a novel?) - and if you haven't read it since it was published years ago, it's really good. Blacks/whites/Jews in the north and south during the 30s to the present - all wrapped up in one family's amazing story. Good stuff.
My usual top hobby is all things food - but some stomach issues for me and the fam have put that on hold temporarily. (I never realized how much time and interest food absorbs for me until I've stepped away for a bit. I mean, I'm still eating, but no cooking magazines or fancy meals!)
In spite of the busy-ness around here, I've resorted to other projects, especially ones that I can do from start to finish. A good friend who was chronically behind on most things would amaze me by dropping everything and making huge quantities of Christmas gifts or something of the sort. I marveled that she could leave so many other things un-done, to which she wisely said (more or less) - "well, if I waited until everything that had to get done got done, I'd never do anything interesting/fun/generous!" Maybe I'm just beginning to get that idea.
So, in the last few weeks, I've sewed three skirts for Abby, just about completely planted our home garden and this massive park district plot that we rented (yikes!), and I'm almost done caning my first dining room chair. Feels good actually. As for the Hamburger Helper dinners, crumbs on the floor and delays on clean clothes, let's just say that I have a patient family!
An interesting quote came my way yesterday - “Some minds remain open long enough for the truth not only to enter but to pass on through by way of a ready exit without pausing anywhere along the route.”—Sister Elizabeth Kenny, Australian nurse
Last but not least, as we've battled various blah sick days around here lately, I've been struck by the great things that feeling rotten can drive you too. Just having one person sick kind of puts everyone on hold around here - which is a nuisance, yet at the same time a blessing, because you sort of have a free pass from usual responsibilities except for keeping everyone - especially the sick one - happy. Around here that means all sitting and watching TV together, easy meals, pajamas all day. All together. Not too horrible.
For me in particular, at my best sick moments, I feel much more desperate than usual, and act accordingly. Curled on the couch, I gather my little girls to my arms to hug me and pray with me for better health and a better attitude. It seems to me that those are some of our most intimate and real moments of talking to God together.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
And then, what do you know, the sun came out yesterday! Sun shining in the house, sunglasses while walking Abby to school, sun, sun, sun. Even the cheesy little newsletter from the furnace people observed the joy of sunshine - 'Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day'. ~W. Earl Hall. (Two things to that - 1: so me and John's quest for happiness through science will _never_ pay off, and 2: well of course spring makes me happy, I don't have to pay for a FURNACE bill!).
In spite of all that sunny-ness, I still spent some of the day wishing that he'd clean the bathroom and she'd stop waking up crying at 4 AM every day. But when I got home yesterday from a long night of work, and the girls and daddy had left a little something on the table for me, it was all forgiven for the moment. Thanks guys!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
But if there is one thing to be said for all that worrying, it is this - it actually sends me running to God. I talked a little with my sister while she visited about a type of meditation, about dealing with stress and wrongs and worries, letting them go and finding them replaced with love. On the one hand, tapping all that love inside of me sounds wonderful. But on the other hand, my biggest hangup is that it sounds hopelessly impossible. Something in me cries out for a bigger Someone than me to step in, knowing that I fall short over and over. It is almost exhausting to think of all the work that it would take to let go of all my worries, not to mention faults.
And so in my worrying, I turn my thoughts upward instead of inward or outward. The fact that my worrying makes me desperate for the help of another is probably its only merit. The words below are stuck on my refrigerator door. (Sometimes, I'll stick a list of worries directly next to it, just in case I forget what to worry/ask about!) I find that praying becomes easy when I just take the worry words and send them upward. In giving my worries up, I find God's peace almost immediately as I'm reminded that there is Someone big enough to pray to.
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness (peace), everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." Philippians 4:7-8
Go ahead, give it a try too.
Friday, April 10, 2009
My sister (hi Danielle!) just spent the last couple of weeks with us - since we've lived at least 2000 miles apart for 10 of the last 11 years, it is a rare treat to spend that much time together. My kids love her imagination and craziness. She and John get along great, whether it's commiserating as I go to bed early or playing bruising games of raquetball.
And of course, as sisters, she and I share so much in common - love of being in the kitchen, playing cards, being active outside, etc. etc. There are a few things we differ on, like the appeal of her beet salad and taste in movies/documentaries/books. Big deal though. One topic that came up a few times though raises some discord between us - spiritual stuff.
I have my beliefs about God, after life, values. She has hers. We're each seeking and pursuing truth, and feel the friction as we discuss it with each other. It's not fun, it's not comfortable for either of us. I think that we both long for some sort of sisterly solidarity in what we believe.
As I think about it, I think that most of us have that longing to agree with each other on spiritual matters. Maybe it's selfish as much as anything, a longing to be validated that I'm right about what I am believing or doing. Solidarity is community of feelings, purposes, responsibilities, interests. Belonging to community beats the alternative, discord (lack of agreement; conflict, dispute, friction).
Spiritual solidarity takes many forms. At one extreme, maybe it explains why people buy into cults, where there is so much agreement, even on details, that things get out of whack. Or what about the denominations or sects that each religion has, the ones we (fiercely?) align ourselves with? On the other end of the spectrum, maybe we seek solidarity in a non-sectarian practice or belief system, or non-denominational churches, or unitarian beliefs. Then we all agree that "non" is the best and rally around that. In one form or another, to one degree or another, it seems we're all seeking that spiritual solidarity - including in our families!
Maybe our search for the comforts of solidarity is a mis-prioritized search. I return to the words of Jesus that I've read lately, because he's the starting point of my own faith. "Let the dead bury their dead, you follow me." "What is it to you if he lives until I return, you follow me." "Seek first the kingdom of God."
Before I'm seeking the comforts of a spiritual community that agrees with me or I agree with, am I seeking and following God?
(That's me, out on a limb alone.) P.S.- Love you Danielle, thanks for visiting!
Friday, April 3, 2009
Without taking anything away from the little ones, my thoughts turn as I look around me at dozens of kids every day. I look at my own two girls. I think about the thousands in my city, probably over 2 billion on our globe. What about them? They were formed perfectly, and have moms and dads (and others) who have poured care into them from day one - are the lives of those kids and the love of their parents deserving of more support and celebration than we're giving them???
For me, the obvious answer is a resounding YES. Instead of coming alongside a frazzled mom who is yelling at her kids, I sometimes think - "how could she talk to them like that?" She chose life for them. She takes them to the doctor. She puts food on the table for them. I know how challenging those little things can be for me. Of course they are for her too.
Our schools, and even our church Sunday school classes have a chronic shortage of volunteers. There is always room for new foster parents. For court-appointed special advocates for children of abuse - I see those on billboards around town every week. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of needs of children around the world. Giving my time to fill in those holes - even just a little locally - is a sacrifice. I'm only sometimes willing to make it.
In focusing on the lives that are not yet or are just hanging on, are we overlooking the treasure of children who already are?
If I can jump on the bandwagon to pray for or sponsor a baby or child far, far away, can I celebrate and encourage each child (including my own), and each all-important parent or caregiver that crosses my path this week?
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt
Monday, March 30, 2009
Abby is on the quiet side of quiet, sometimes quick to learn things, but on her own time table. She excels at caution, which is good when I need to trust her around the house. It’s not so good when she expects to fall and get hurt, so wants every inch of her body padded!
This past week, her training wheels made quick work of getting bent to the point that they were worthless. She started to get the hang of balancing with them off the ground. Then one day she insisted, OK, Dad, yessssss, let’s take them off. In a sassy, grumpy sort of way. She took off around our cul-de-sac, on two wheels, without a parent or a problem. I was shocked.
Two days later (yesterday), she begged to go ride again. This from the girl who had to be coaxed to ride her bike just one month ago.
She figured out how to start on her own. How to stop on her own. How to suddenly weave around up and down driveways, which I’ve been unsuccessfully encouraging her to do for a year. How to ride faster than a snail.
She went flying through a mud puddle on accident, and laughed. She did it over and over, laughing out loud every time (is this my cautious daughter who doesn’t like dirt or bumps that much?) I smiled in pride and disbelief as she rode more quickly and confidently than I ever imagined. Oh, and the elbow and knee pads? Never once did she use them this week.
She’s ridden her bike to school twice this year, and walked about 100 times. Today, she wanted to try the whole mile on two wheels. And she did it.
She took some baby steps a few days ago, and then discovered a whole new realm of independence and confidence.
Sometimes I see the inevitable coming, and I fear that I’ll never make it – a new semester’s schedule, moving my family, job transitions, economic unknowns. But maybe fearing how hard it’s going to be is foolish. I’ve been reading in the news how recessions give rise to huge increase in entrepreneurs who try something new out of necessity. They discover it’s better than they thought, often sticking with their small businesses even when the economy picks up again.
A little worry is okay. But my worst fears rarely come true. In fact, a lot of good often comes of those things I'm afraid of. Watching Abby step out and grow up in a matter of days this week has given me a lot of hope to look forward with less worry. I see that being stretched might take me places I never dreamed possible - maybe even quicker than expected, and laughing along the way!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
From John - Be content, but not apathetic. Too often, we confuse contentment with indifferent stagnation. To be content is to be satisfied, but not emotion-less or ambition-less.
content - satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.
apathetic - having or showing little or no emotion, not interested or concerned; indifferent or unresponsive
I have a dream. Actually, had one a few nights ago. I was facilitating a parenting class (?!) and this is what I told the parents. "Expect less of yourself, and more of your kids." Later when I was awake, "expect more of God" added on to that. Dad alluded to this thought in his comment - I need to make my expectations realistic, considering where I'm at in life, with little kids and a fledgling career.
Don't forget that I might be already realizing some of my dreams and ambitions - today! Dina wrote about this a while ago too. My dreams from a few years ago were to have a strong marriage, to be a mom, to excite my chemistry students about learning, to get to know my neighbors. I'm actually do all those, and pretty well! And more than any of my write a book or save the world dreams, I first and foremost want to live in love with John until death parts us. I don't want to let tomorrow's dreams cloud the fact that I'm living many dreams today, and it takes a lot of work and ambition to do the wife, mom, teacher thing.
Maybe just "being" today is preparing me, or someone else, for living those dreams. If I were to write a book someday, or teach teachers, the years of experience now are imperative. I don't really have much to say yet. I can begin to live my ambitions without even leaving today's usual work/play. I might even discover that my dreams change as I am just being. Or maybe I'm not the one meant to realize the dreams anyway. Maybe it's my kids, my students, my husband. By being the mom, teacher, wife today that they need, they can be the one to change the world. Don't let it be just about me...
The balance is still plenty foggy to me. But maybe I'm onto a content path to ambition. Or an ambitious path to contentment.
Monday, March 23, 2009
One of the virtues that I aspire to most is contentment (see my simple life and inventory control). I want to be thankful for what I have, not always longing for more time, clothes, space, money. I work at and pray for contentment in my selfish self and covetous kids on a daily basis. It's one of the few things I do every day, actually!
And yet I find myself thwarted, or at least torn, by the presence of discontentment. No, not just that I want "more", but that in some situations, an attitude of discontent seems to be a powerful necessity. Maybe a better word for it is "ambition".
Discontent - or ambition - is a powerful driving force. It drives entrepreneurs to make something better, doctors to find a cure, educators to teach a new generation in a different way. Ambition for a better job in five years drives me to go above and beyond at work now. I dream about teaching in third world countries, or writing a book about marriage and more, or working on education reform in America. I will not come close to any of those if I sit here contentedly on my butt.
I admire those who live content with their home, family, and job. But I also admire those who have worked tirelessly for reform in medicine, education, even church - never content to settle for the status quo.
How do I go about pursuing contentment, and yet act on my ambitions at the same time?
What's the balance???
(Those aren't rhetorical questions - I really want answers!)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I’m not much for working out with a friend. Even with my match-made-in-heaven John, we part ways at the gym. For me, exercise time is when I get some intense and much-needed alone time to recharge.
But today a workout buddy that I couldn’t refuse busted her way in.
Rachel (two-and-a-half) was in a sour mood, and requested a pass on our trip to the gym. I decided to give in just this once, since I could do most of what I’d planned at home, albeit with her underfoot. So much for recharging, intense, and alone.
Then as soon as I started my warm up jumps, she joined in.
Even on the single-leg hops, holding on to the sofa.
I got hot, and took off my extra layer of wind pants. She took off her tights. She’s kind of inspiring I guess, in a cute sort of way.
I pointed out that my red shorts matched her red skirt. She ran to switch her red shirt for a white one to match me.
I did some push ups. She got right down too. But of her own admission, hers were more booty raises than push ups. “I look like a fwog,” she said.
I did step-ups on the sunken living room step. I had 5 lb. weights, she wanted the 3’s. I gave her the teeny collars that hold the weights on the dumbbells instead.
She ran and finally got her gym shoes on. “I want you to do more exercise with me, mommy.”
Time for a shower. My anti-shower kid wants one too. And her clothes must be piled up just the same (carefully haphazard) as mommy’s.
Kids are copycats, though often I wish that mine weren’t (they copycat my flaws!). But in that copying lies a powerful gift too – that they might occasionally pick up on some good habits, and that I feel loved, special, worth copying. Hopefully they’ll learn more than just jumps and push ups from me.
I still need that workout alone time. But every so often, having a teeny workout buddy is really sweet.