Sunday, December 23, 2012

a couple things I learned watching The Nightmare Before Christmas as a parent

The other night, we started watching The Nightmare Before Christmas.

If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a Tim Burton movie -- which means it's both beautiful and bizarre at the same time.  It takes place in a world where each holiday have their own separate world.  So there's a Thanksgiving world, an Easter world, a Christmas world, etc.  The focus of each of these worlds is to prepare for the one day a year when they celebrate their holiday.  They have no idea of the existence of the other worlds.

That changes when Jack, "The Pumpkin King," stumbles into the Christmas world through a tree portal and becomes enamoured with it.  The Halloween city then decides to make Christmas their own, and -- of course -- chaos ensues.

I honestly do love watching this movie.  It's nostalgic, it's beautiful, the music is interesting (albeit with really twisted lyrics -- "Kidnap the Sandy Claws - through him in a box.  Lock him up for ninety years, then see if he talks," is one mild example.  Oh, they get worse for sure).  Yes, it's twisted, but you're talking to a girl who was obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe for a good part of her adolescence.  For whatever reason, there's a part of me that is attracted to the macabre.

But watching it the other night was different, because I was seeing it for the first time as a parent.  And as much as I still enjoyed the movie, I realized a few things.

1) I'm going to be a fairly strict parent when it comes to things I let my kids watch, or at least WHEN and HOW I let them watch things

The whole time we were watching the movie, we kept commenting, "Oh man, we would not let Gwen watch this."  Okay.  Granted, she's not even two yet.  But I really don't know at which point I would let her watch the movie.  I guess it depends on the kid and their fright level, but it's a pretty twisted movie and the claymation is fairly frightening.  Even more than the somewhat-freaky nature of the movie, I was more concerned about the content.

Most Christmas movies are fairly innocent and are focused on family and love. That's good.  That's nice.  But that's not why we celebrate Christmas.  I mean, that's sort of why we celebrate Thanksgiving, right?  I'm not saying that I don't want our children to never watch any sort of Christmas movie or any other type of movie that is somewhat at-odds with our Christian worldview, but I want to be careful about when I let them see it.

For instance, my parents let me watch movies when I was old enough to understand bigger concepts.  I didn't see Nightmare when I was 5, but when I was older.  I would want my children to see movies and talk about both the good and dark qualities about them.  I'd rather have them be critically-minded about movies they watch, rather than mindlessly absorbing them.

Even Disney movies that are completely "harmless" can cause damage.  Take, for instance, Cinderella.  Now there's a classic, seemingly-harmless fairy tale, right?  And I admit: I have a very soft spot for the story in my heart, especially since Elliott and I met during a production of the story (yes, I was Cinderella, and he was the Prince).  But without being critically-minded, I think this movie -- and other movies like it -- can do a lot of damage to boys and girls alike.  In these movies, we typically see helpless girls waiting for a void in their lives to be filled by a man.  We also see knights-in-shining-armor coming in to save the damsel-in-distress.  There's worldview damage to be had, whether or not you're a girl who just wants a guy to make her life perfect, or you're a guy looking for disfunctional women to save.  It's a dangerous narrative, and I think watching those movies without an awareness of the worldview I was absorbing really affected the way I lived my life (and I know it affected Elliott as well).

The worldview I want Gwen and "Birdie" (and whatever other kids we'll be blessed with) to know -- that we are broken, in need of saving, and our only hope is found in Jesus Christ -- is not typically found in movies.  I understand that.  It needs to be taught in the home, and it needs to be lived out in our lives so they see the Gospel in action.  But part of teaching them our worldview is knowing WHAT movies we want them to see, and WHEN is an appropriate time for them to see these movies.  It's also knowing that if they want to see a movie we are not 100% okay with, that we need to watch it with them and talk about it afterwards, so they they can develop a discerning spirit.

2) I'm concerned with how we celebrate Christmas

Full confession: I'm a sucker for Christmas.  And you know what?  I think the majority of my energies are focused on decorating, carol-singing, and gift-giving.  I also love watching classic movies -- Charlie Brown, Emmet Otter, A Muppet Christmas Carol, The Christmas Toy, It's a Wonderful Life... I love Christmas movies.  I love the nostalgia that comes with Christmas.  I love re-living the Christmas "spirit" as a mom and bringing the cozy joy to my daughter.

But that's not why I celebrate Christmas.  At least, in my head, I know that is not why I celebrate Christmas.  Yet if I take a full unbiased view of my activities during this season, I am ashamed to say that I do not fully celebrate the birth of Christ.  Honestly, it's almost an afterthought.  And that makes me very sad.

Of course, we talk about how we want our children to grow up in a home where the focus of Christmas is the Gospel -- and the amazing miracle of God coming down in lowly human form to save us.  But so far, I don't see us living this way.  Our main focus is on family.  That's not a bad thing, but it's not why we live our lives.  We live our lives for Christ because of His grace shown to us.  It's an awesome, almost unthinkable-but-incredible truth that drives us day-in and day-out.  It's a shame -- and I seriously mean: a truly shameful thing -- that our Christmas season is not more focused on the Lord.

So I'm turning this to you now.  We're still a young family starting out.  We definitely have the chance to start Christmas traditions that our kids will grow up with.  

  • What do you do to ensure that the holiday season is one focused on Christ?  
  • What have you done with your children so that "PRESENTS!!!!" are not the main focus?  
  • What have you heard others doing?  

I'd love to know your thoughts, because Elliott and I want to be intentional about how we celebrate this season.

And this is probably my last "Christmas" post, so...

a very wonderful, blessed Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 17, 2012

'tis the season... so why don't I feel anything?

During this holiday time, Christians everywhere are rejoicing.  

It is a time of great celebration -- 
of proclaiming our Faith -- 
of commemorating our Saviour's birth.

Photo Credit: Nick Lamparter on flickr

You hear it.  You say it.  You experience it.  
I know you know what I'm talking about.

But how genuine is it?

I mean -- no, wait: I know it's genuine.  And I've been there too -- and I say these things too -- and I celebrate too.  But I have to admit: just as much as I'm prone to be mindlessly sing, "How Great Thou Art," so I am prone to mindlessly say, "Our focus this Christmas season is the celebration of Christ."

You say it because you know it's true.  
You say it because you believe it.

But you also say it because you want it to be true.  You want your focus of the holidays to be on Jesus -- not only because you "know it's the right thing to do," but because you are truly thankful and in awe of what God has accomplished through Jesus.

And yet.

Are We Really Embodying the Holiday's Meaning?
How often do we say "the right things" in passing without fully embodying them in our lives?

Here's my confession: I find it really difficult to embody the celebration of Christ during Christmas and Easter.  I mean -- I do celebrate and I do want to really consider what these times mean, but during the holiday seasons -- I admit -- the majority of my time and energy is devoted to writing cards and wrapping presents.

That's not to say I do not know why we celebrate.
That's not to say I do not weep when I hear the Gospel message proclaimed in its full glory and truth.

I do.

But when it comes to the holiday season -- when I'm "supposed" to feel something extra special about Jesus and the Gospel -- I always feel like I'm coming up short.

Part of the problem here is an infantile-view of what it means to be Christian.  When I was a kid, I wanted to feel things deeply.  A worship song just wasn't a worship song until I was ravaged by emotion, you know?  But that's not the truth. 

Just as loving someone doesn't mean feeling head-over-heels-crazy day-in and day-out (because seriously -- there's no way Elliott and I could have kept up the "Let's talk until dawn every day and never go to sleep again" stage of our relationship), loving the Lord doesn't mean I have to be wrecked by emotion day-in and day-out (because seriously -- life is life and although I can practice praying ceaselessly and certainly try to do so, we still have to eat dinner at the end of the day).

Okay.  So maybe I don't have to worry so much about feeling something during this season.  I still think that I should be in awe of the Lord Incarnate.  Right?

How Do We Do It?
I know we are meant to be in awe every single day of the year -- I get that.  But just as we truly celebrate people when it is their birthday -- just as we truly celebrate anniversaries of momentous occasions -- so too should I truly celebrate the birth of the Christ.

I shouldn't go through this time mindlessly singing Christmas carols, but joyously proclaiming the Truth through song.  I shouldn't go through this time focused mainly on presents and Christmas cards, but purposefully setting aside time to explain to my daughter what this is all about.  I fear that if I don't, she'll quickly learn that Christmas = presents before Christmas = the Gospel.

So how do I do it?

For starts, I am going back to the Old Testament -- to Isaiah and Jeremiah -- and relishing in the amazing words of Hope that Christmas truly gives us...

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one say to his neighbor and each his brother saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me... 
For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more."
Jeremiah 31:33-34, ESV

If you're like me and find yourself somehow just "going through the Christmas motions," then I encourage you to dig deep into the prophets before jumping into the Christmas story in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Let each word soak into your soul.  Don't rush.  Don't assume you know all this stuff already -- go into the Word as if for the first time and let God surprise you with the truth He has to offer.

That means giving a bit more space to the Bible and to prayer than perhaps you're used to.  But if you don't change some habits -- if I don't change some habits -- then this Christmas will pass by and the days will pass by without truly embodying the Gospel message.

  • How do you do it?  How do you embody the Gospel during the Christmas season?
  • Have you struggled in a similar way to me?

Friday, December 14, 2012

thankful for the little things that are not-so-little to me

This morning was a rough morning.

You see, I've been waking up consistently at 4am -- for no reason -- just shooting awake, ready to go.  This, after falling asleep around 11pm.  I usually sleep 9pm - 5am on workout-days and 9pm - 6:30am on non-workout-days.  So this 11pm - 4am thing finally caught up with me this morning.

Oh, I woke up at 4am again, but managed to somehow fall back asleep (albeit with severe pregnancy-related back pain).  Of course, my little girl decided today was a morning she would wake up at 5:30am.

I just lost it.  Absolutely lost it.  Cried and cried into my pillow -- tired from the exhaustion, feeling beaten up by my back pain, and feeling isolated from my family.  All I could wish was that we lived closer to family so I could just call up someone today and say, "Hey, my back hurts and I haven't slept in weeks -- can you please take Gwen out for the day?"

That's not to say I don't have fabulous people here who can help me out.  Even just yesterday, my wonderful-and-stupendous friend Lauren played with Gwen for two hours.  But even with amazing friends, it's not the same as having Gwen's actual grandparents in the area.

So I cried.  And felt very sorry for myself.  And just gave in to exhaustion and pain and emotion.

And then?

My husband took Gwen to his first meeting of the day.

No joke.

He took our daughter to a meeting.

This was one of the most blessed things that could have ever have happened to me today.  I got to sleep in until 8am (I NEVER get to do this except when we stay at one of our parents' houses!) and eat breakfast in peace.  I got to be slower than usual, hobbling around on my legs that don't really want to work properly because Birdie is sitting on my nerves in an uncomfy way.

It could be seen as a little thing -- taking our daughter to work -- but to me, it was huge.  I am so thankful that this day -- which at first seemed so bleak -- turned out to be so wonderful.

(And apparently, she did great and sat on his lap the whole time.  The reason I'm not suggesting he take her every Friday morning to this meeting?  She ate her first donut.  If I think about it, it makes me cringe, so I'm choosing not to think about it.)

(But as for me, I think I'll have a cookie.)
  • What seemingly little thing are you thankful for today?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Potty-Training a 17-month-old? (Why yes - yes, I am!)

You probably think I'm crazy.

What pregnant lady in her right mind would potty-train a 17-month-old?

This one right here.  Although being in my "right" mind is open to discussion, since I am entering into the third trimester and everyone knows babies eat your brains (just not in the zombie way).

Anyways.  I'm sure I'm not alone.  In fact, I found this handy little article here about a woman who (successfully) potty-trained her 18-month-old, and Gwen's not too far behind.

My Reasons
I promise you -- this isn't just a pie-in-the-sky endeavor.  The more I read about potty-training, the more I realized Gwen was ready.  And there's just another little event happening in March that makes me feel a slight race against the clock.

Reason 1: Gwendolyn's Readiness
Gwen is actually displaying a number of the signs of potty-training readiness, with the exception of maybe one.  She's incredibly independent, learns very quickly, has been interested in the potty, has had long-ish dry times during the day, and has the ability to sign to us when she needs a diaper change (she doesn't always tell me, though).  She's also known the sign for "potty" for months now, and sometimes just likes to sit on it for fun.  Since she seemed ready, I figured it was worth attempting now.

Reason 2: My Readiness
Baby2 is set to arrive the first week of March, and I'd rather not be diapering for two if I can help it -- not to mention doing two sets of cloth diapering laundry each week.  Also, I am just entering into the third trimester, so I still have a general ability to move around and keep my energy up (a general ability, mind you -- I'm still wiped out much of the time, but I figure this is only going to get worse).  Plus, this week has been incredibly mild (two days ago, it was 68 degrees here!), so having a little girl running around bare-bottomed isn't such a terrible thing.

Reason 3: Why Not?   
Ultimately, I figured: why not?  If she's ready, it'll stick, and that would be great.  If she's not, then it will take a while and we'll give it another push after she gets used to the baby.  Either way, I figured it doesn't hurt.

My Method
Method 1: No Pants!
I've read in many places that having your child run around without underwear for periods of time is very helpful in this process, so that's the route we're taking.  Apparently, kids are more aware of their bodies and bathroom-habits when they are naked, and for some reason, it helps the potty-training process go much quicker (also, if your kid is anything like mine, it's a sheer thrill to be naked -- which makes for a VERY happy baby during the potty-training time).  Now, some swear by the three-day training program, but I just wasn't up for the challenge (no diapers ever for three days straight, plus a three-month prep period of no diapers in the house)So we just have a few hours each day when she is diaper-less (at least four, maybe a little more).
Method 2: Easing Into It
Here's the reality: my daughter is 17-months-old.  I do not want to pressure her into anything, or push something too hard that it backfires.  This is a big reason why I decided against the three-day-push.  Another method recommends putting the child on the potty every 30 minutes.  I tried this on day one, and she quickly grew frustrated and hateful towards the potty.  So I stopped that immediately.  The reality is that she's a smart girl, and I figure she'll catch on in her own time.  If the child grows to hate the potty, then you basically have to wait a few more weeks and re-set.  I don't really want to do that.

Method 3: Realistic Expectations   
Again - I know the girl is young.  I'm not expecting her to be trained in a week or a month or whatever.  But maybe she'll be on the path to being trained within a couple months.  Maybe she'll even be trained by the time Baby gets here.  Maybe she won't.  I don't really care.   But it's worth a shot.  And I figure -- even if it all backfires and she regresses when her sister arrives, at least we'll have some sort of foundation.  We won't have to start from scratch.

The Progress
Day One: Gwen displayed a lot of animosity towards the potty (which is why I stopped putting her on it every 30 minutes), and had two accidents.  I was very calm about cleaning them up, and explained to her that it's not good to "go" on the floor, and we have to go in the potty.  Later that night, I asked her where the poo and pee goes, and she signed to me: "Potty."  So I knew there was some progress.  We went to the library to get potty-training books, and she got really into them.  I also explained to her the sticker/sticker book rewards thing: "If you go in the potty, you get a sticker."  She got really excited about having a sticker NOW, but I explained that she doesn't get one until she goes in the potty.  Likewise, I've decided that she can't pump the soap into her hands to wash until she goes in the potty.  She loves washing her hands, and we do it after she goes, but she is SO anxious to actually use the soap pump, so I thought I'd use it as a reward -- a thing that "big girls" do when they learn to go in the potty. 

Day Two: Still nothing in the potty, but she did have an accident NEAR the potty, stopped herself, ran into the room I was in, looked concerned, and continued to have the accident.  This showed me: 1) That maybe she was trying to get on the potty to go, but didn't get there in time (and I wasn't in the room to help her); 2) That she is able to stop herself from going (since she stopped to come "tell" me that there was an issue).  

Day Three: That's today!  It's colder today, so I might have to have her in pants without the diaper. We'll just see how things go.

  • What were your methods for potty-training?  How did it go?  
  • Be honest: do you think I'm crazy? :) 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I live my life in a frantic pace, but I want peace instead.

"Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below."

-Be Still My Soul, written by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (1752)

If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that I tend to be a frantic person.  I always feel like I'm juggling a million things in the air -- that I can barely ever stop to breathe or pause.  Certainly, I have been trying -- but then something in my life changes, and I feel the frantic energy pulsing through my veins yet again.

In a way, it's sort of part of my disposition.
But does it have to be?

My life is like a lot of other lives.  In fact, my life is a lot less busier than other lives.  I have a lot of opportunities for "down time," all things considered.  

So why do I constantly feel frantic?
Do others feel the same way, or are they walking with a peace in their hearts?

Jesus said he gave us the Holy Spirit as a counselor -- a minister -- of peace to us.  In fact, we named Gwendolyn Shiloh after this verse, so it's one that is ever-present in my mind:

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
 John 14:25-27, ESV 

I want to live with peace abounding in my life -- not with frantic energy destroying my spirit.  I want my life to spill over with a stillness -- not infecting others with anxious attitudes.  

Last year, I had many resolutions at the New Year that, for various reasons, I broke.  This year, I wonder if I can challenge myself to live a life full of peace -- to combat these feelings of worry and hurry the way they should be fought: with prayer.  

As I think ahead to how I will -- daily -- commit to peace, I would love to hear your thoughts and stories on the issue:
  • Do you live with a frantic energy, or do you live with peace?  Was it something you had to work at, or did it come naturally?
  • How do you choose peace over anxiety every day?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An American Thanksgiving in Oxford, and other celebrations of makeshift families

Balanced in my hands, I held a steaming hot turkey fresh from the oven.  Somehow -- some way -- I found myself bounding down the street from one flat to the next.  English passersby questioned my antics and I yelled to the onlooking strangers, "It's American Thanksgiving!"

The warmth and celebrations reminiscent of home greeted me at the door as my friends relieved me of turkey-balancing duties.  We all headed upstairs where there was a flurry of activity:  college students frantically trying to piece together what-they-knew-or-didn't-know about how to prepare this important holiday meal.

Try as we did, our English friends didn't make it out to our festivities -- save one, whose name I don't remember.  But in the midst of all this hubbub and new friendships, I felt as though among family.  True family.  Family I barely knew, but family who understood the importance of this time of year.  Family that I've since lost touch with over the years, but who have remained fervent kindred spirits of mine.

One of the most treasured memories is that of my friend Ben, who tragically passed away only a couple years after this occasion.  He was on-the-phone and off-the-phone consistently with his mother back in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania -- asking for help and tips and making sure we were doing everything right.  It was Ben -- above the rest of us, coming from a family of ten -- who made the event especially sacred, ensuring that our Thanksgiving in Oxford was nothing short of magical.

And it was.

Flash forward three years, and I again find myself amongst makeshift family for this holiday.  This time the family was one which had been forged by years of carefully curated relationships that still hold fast today.  Three girls traveled the lengths to Connecticut to visit our best friend so that he would not be alone for the holidays.  Having just moved there, many household staples were missing -- like can openers, silverware, and the like -- and we found ourselves scrambling out to the store on Thanksgiving Day to see if we could find basic necessities.  Another flurry of activity and silliness marked this day, as well as an understanding that we were no longer students but had graduated into adulthood -- with apartments and jobs and lives separate from our parents.  Thanksgiving was a time to show that we were growing up with -- but not apart from -- one another.

This Thanksgiving, I will be celebrating in the traditional way -- the combining of my husband's family and my own into one big, festive celebration.  Yes, this time I am with blood relatives -- but during this week, I do not forget the many friendships I have formed into makeshift families.  And however you are celebrating or not-celebrating on this day, my thoughts are with you -- my love goes out to you -- and I wish you the most blessed of times.

(Can you tell I love this holiday?)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

if you've ever been pregnant and felt like a waddling, fat duck...

Photo by bahketni on flickr

I get it, girls.  I really do.

I get it when I'm battling head trash during boot camp -- seeing all my super-fit friends zipping past me during sprints while I'm waddling at a steady pace, having to stop and rest all-too-frequently.

I get it when I look at myself in the mirror (a thing I rarely do while pregnant) and wonder where my body went and whose body I have instead.

I get it when I get together with friends and see how awesome they look in their skinny jeans while I'm struggling to get comfortable in my loose-fitting maternity slacks.

I get it when I fear going to the doctor's and seeing the number on the scale -- and thinking about that number as I grab a bowl of cereal an hour after eating dinner.

I get it, I get it, I get.
I know it's hard.
But you know what?

I think about how I have the rest of my life to have my body to myself again.  I think about how this time to bear children and nurse them is so fleeting and brief.  I remember I already had 26 years of my body being my own -- of dieting, of pushing my limits while running, of fitting into cute clothes.

And on the days I feel extra duck-ish as I waddle back and forth at the gym and as I modify my burpees, I fight the head trash and remember that I am growing a little person inside me, and that I will have the rest of my life to lose weight and look the way I want.

  • What are you wrestling with and how are you fighting the head trash?
  • How do you stay positive about your body while being pregnant?  How do you encourage others? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

another miracle of deliverance

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how God released me from a lifetime of body image issues.  When I asked (repeatedly) to be released from the burden, I never really thought it would happen.  It seemed so ingrained in me that I thought I'd just have to live with it.  And yet I prayed -- time and again -- and confessed my idolization of the "perfect" body.  And surely enough, God delivered me.

Well, it's happened again.  I am in shock, but it's happened again with another idol that has plagued my life for many years.

And with its release, I am reminded of why I spend each day in the Word and in prayer with the Lord.  Because He's real.  Because His Power is real.  Because without spending each day with Him, my commitment to God is a sham and I am not letting Him transform me from the inside out.

These moments when I am transformed -- 
when I feel the chains fall away from my body, left along the road somewhere -- 
are so unbelievably freeing. 

Photo by J Pod on flickr

Over the last year or two, I have felt a mounting desire for financial wealth and stability.  Living in our beautiful (but ritzy) neighborhood hasn't helped.  I've started to buy into the idea that we need an excess of money to be comfortable and provide for our children.  But even more than that -- I've made money to be an idol in my life.  It's been something I've longed for -- desiring me or Elliott to get lucrative jobs in order to live beyond comfortably, in a large home, and to never be in want.

Being wise with money is good.  Wanting to provide for our family is good.  These aren't bad things, but I've turned them into idols because I've been trusting more in money (or the idea of money) than in the Lord.

The ironic thing here is that we are in missions and we rely on the transformed hearts of others to have an income.   God has sort of worked it into our lives so that I cannot run away from this issue.  I've come before God again and again in confession -- admitting how much of a hold money has had on my heart.  I didn't want to live that way.  And throughout the year, we've had our ups and downs.  When the "down" moments happened, I usually despaired.

But a few weeks ago, something different happened.

We are having a rough couple of months financially.  Maybe even a rough year.  We are trying very hard to come out of it -- to ask more people onto our support team -- to find new ways to raise support -- but we keep losing supporters just as fast (if not faster) than we gain them.  This is cause for disappointment.

But suddenly, there's been a shift in my heart and soul.  Suddenly, in the face of discouraging financial news, instead of despairing and asking God, "Why?" I have been sprung into worship -- praising the Lord and saying freely, "God, you know best."

Some Christians have been blessed with financial wealth and are doing great things with it, but this is not the life to which we were called.  But because of the life we have been given, I am experiencing immense spiritual blessings -- the biggest one, so far, being this great release from an idol that has been in my life for a long time.

God promises that He will bless His children.  He promises that He will provide.  Our mistake is to think we know what blessings look like -- that it will always take the form we want it to take.  If we release our wills to His -- if we pray to see as He sees -- we might just experience true blessings that last beyond this earthly life.
  • How has God released you from an idol in your life?  How do you sense He is currently working?
  • How have you received blessings from the Lord that do not "look like" blessings by our earthly standards? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

you are delightful

"The Lord rescued me because he delighted in me."
Psalm 18:19

This is what I just can't get over -- what blows my mind -- is that the Lord delights in meDelights.  That's just wild.

I think of how much I delight in my daughter just because I do -- just because she is who she is and who she is just completely delights me.  I am head-over-heels in-delight with my daughter.  I could spend hours thinking about her, talking about her, looking at pictures of her, and being with her.  When she's asleep in her bed, I just think about her some more.  And all of this -- it delights me.

If I delight so much in my little girl -- me, a flawed person - an imperfect mom stumbling her way through parenthood -- how much more does the Lord delight in us?  I can't even fathom it.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Matthew 7:9-11

I don't ever want to forget the times when God has given me good gifts in such a way that I recognize His delight in me -- because honestly, it makes me blush.  Our home.  Our family.  Our jobs.  Our always-able-to-somehow-make-ends-meet.  Our growth in marriage.  Our growth in relationship to Him.  He delights in me -- He delights in us -- just as and even more than I delight in my daughter.

  • When was a time that God showed you very tangibly how much He delights in you?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

new rhythms and making room for baby #2

As I write this, I am watching the fast snowflakes fall outside the window as I'm slowly waking myself up. 

Gwen and I (and Baby #2 - let's not leave her out of this!) have found a new rhythm.

It involves a short-but-sweet one and a half hour nap at 11.  For the both of us -- er, I mean, the three of us.

It's different, but life with a baby means you're in constant flux.  I got rather attached to that two-nap-per-day schedule, but frankly, that's simply not our reality any more.

Napping takes a good chunk out of my day, and I don't get that "alone time" that my introverted self craves because -- well, let's face it, I'm craving sleep even more right now.  But if I want to be semi-alert for the rest of the day, then I must sleep when she sleeps.

And I've decided to embrace it.

The reality is that in a few short months, there will be another little girl Simko nestling herself into our cottage and our lives.  And I have a feeling I'm going to be exhausted... and will need more sleep.

In other words, my life is already adjusting to her arrival.  I'm taking more (necessary) breaks, and (somehow) finding other times to do things (or just not do them).  And she is reminding me -- constantly -- of her existence, usually by kicking me awake every hour each night.

So here is a warm welcome to you, little Simko #2!  We will reorganize our lives as is necessary in order to care for you -- and we already are.

  • What's been happening in your life?  Have you had to reorganize your schedule for any reason?
  • How have you made room for new relationships in your life?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WNW: Need Leftovers? Try Pakistani Kima!

Part of my meal-planning involves making sure we have leftovers.  It cuts back on waste and ensures that I get few nights off of making dinner (a MUST when one is pregnant and has a toddler running around).

Many of my recipes are online, but I also have a few trusty cookbooks to fall back on.  One in particular is an oldy-but-goody.  It's written by some Mennonites who collected recipes from all over -- in order to help people buy wisely (meaning saving money AND being conscientious of environmental impact).

Now, to be honest, I haven't found a TON of recipes that I LOVE in here (if you have it and have a few favorites, please comment!).  Some of the recipes are extremely bland.  But there's one that is a smash hit that I wanted to share with you (and share my own take on it).  The best part about it (besides it being super simple and DELICIOUS) is that if you're a small family, you will have TONS of leftovers.

Pakistani Kima
(Found on page 131)

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes 

3 T. butter
1 c. chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic

1 lb ground beef   
(I usually use ground turkey)

1 T. curry powder
1 1/2 t. salt
dash pepper
dash of cinnamon, ginger, tumeric

2 c. cooked tomatoes
(to save on time, I used Trader Joe's canned diced tomatoes) 
2 potatoes, diced
(I usually use sweet potatoes for a healthier meal)
2 c. frozen peas or green beans

1.  Saute the butter, onion, and garlic until slightly golden. 

2. Add beef (or turkey) and brown well.

3. Stir in the spices.

4. Add the tomatoes and potatoes and mix well.

5. Add in the frozen veggies, mix together, and cover.

6. Simmer for 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

7. Serve over brown rice or millet.

Cooking the onions/butter/garlic.

 Prepping the spices!  YUMMY!

 Starting the grain (this time, brown rice!).

Stirring in the ground turkey.

 Browning the turkey.

 Adding those delicious spices!

 Adding the diced tomatoes and stirring well. 

Stirring in the potatoes.
 The final touch: frozen greens!

 Letting the simmering do the work.

 And we're ready to eat!

  • Have you used this cookbook?  What are your favorite recipes?
  • Please link to a favorite recipe of your own that allows you to enjoy leftovers. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

hurricane sandy: the aftermath

If I didn't have access to Facebook today, I'd probably be wallowing in self-pity.

I do not do well with a change of plans.  Inconveniences really stress me out.

The short of it: we don't have power.  But we're okay.
The other side of the story: my cousin lost her house.  My friend had a tree hit her home.  They are okay physically, but I'd say they're having a lot rougher of a day than I am.

Honestly, my heart is breaking for my cousin, and all those who have suffered serious consequences of this storm.  And I'm at a loss as to what to say.  I can only pray.  But I almost don't even know how.  I just sort of mourn-pray, if that makes sense.  And I hope that the Holy Spirit will do the intercession for me, because my soul just can't muster up the words.

And I can't believe that earlier today, I was asking, "Why us??" to Elliott, when all we're dealing with is lost power, and my cousin actually doesn't have a place to live or clothes to wear, other than the ones on her back.

I am ashamed by my self-pity.
And I am heartbroken for my cousin.

Please pray.  I don't know how or in what way, just say the prayer that's on your heart for my cousin, and all those who have experienced tragedy during the storm.

the pull of parental judgment

When you become a parent, you're sort of inducted into a club that you never before knew existed.  Elliott and I realized this right away.

Some aspects of this club are amusing:
  • No one asks about YOU any more, but about the kids (unless you're pregnant, in which case, every conversation begins with, "How are you feeling?").
  • More specifically, any conversation with you (at least in the early weeks) will undoubtedly start with, "How is the baby sleeping?" or, "Getting much sleep these days?" with a knowing chuckle.
  • There seems to be a never-ending free thrift store of baby items at your disposal.  You inherit clothes/toys/other items from parents at a rapid speed.  
  • You receive constant feedback on methods to help Baby do...whatever it is you're trying to get Baby to do.
There are others, I'm sure.  But there is one aspect of "The Parent Club" of which I am not a fan.

Parental Judgment
You feel it in the way people phrase questions, or offer "advice."
You feel it creeping into your own soul as you question a parent's decision for their child.
You feel it in your heart as you witness yourself making mistake after mistake.

The judgment is real -- and even though I'm generally a very non-judgmental person, I feel its sickly pull like a bad habit that keeps coming back.

It's destructive.
It's deceptive. 


The worst part about it is how isolated the judgment makes you feel.  Personally, it's hard for me to reach out to many people when I am having problems with Gwen because I just don't know who I can trust.  Who won't judge me?  Who can I confide in?  Who do I trust?

How Self-Judgment Isolates
There's also a judgment of self that works its way into the brain:  If I tell this person, then my fears of being a failure will be true.  I am a bad mother, and by reaching out for help, I am revealing my ineptness at this job.

It's really rough. 

I know because I've been struggling for over a month now to get Gwen to sleep.  And I've been reading my trusty ol' sleep book -- scouring it for answers -- and yet I leave it resting on the nightstand just feeling more and more like a failure.  I'm doing everything it's asking me to do.  I understand that depriving my baby of sleep is a terrible thing.  But what am I to do when nothing works?

The mean parent inside my brain tells me it's my own fault.

To add insult to injury, most people I have asked haven't had this issue.  That's not their fault -- it's just dumb luck that the people I generally trust have never gone through a napless-child-phase and have no advice.  It's just that this made me feel more isolated -- that it really IS my fault that my baby won't nap.

Getting Passed the Destruction
Mercifully, God provided an understanding (and experienced) ear through a friend who has "nannied" for a long time and has a young baby (who isn't a good sleeper right now).  She reads that same book as me, so we have the same context.  Even though Gwen is still (and I mean -- literally -- right now as I type this) fighting every nap with every ounce of vigor she's got -- I at least have someone who "gets" where I am.  Completely.  And offers advice -- and understands that sometimes, no matter what I do, nothing will help.

She reminds me that I'm not alone.
And it's not my fault.

Friends, there's way too much judgment in the Parent Club.  I should've been able to reach out to someone right away, but my own fears of judgment (because it's real) and the judgment of myself (because that's real, too) keep me from it.

  • How do we break the cycle of judgment -- from inside ourselves and outwardly to other people?
  • Why do we do it in the first place?

Monday, October 29, 2012

a storm is coming

It seems so strange to me that in my part of the world right now, everything is on hold.

There are no cars on the street.
All of the neighbors have stayed home from work on a Monday morning.
Businesses and schools are closed.
Colleges have evacuated.

We are bracing for a hurricane.

Even yesterday, as Gwen and I went out for our last walk for the next three days, it was a ghost town.

Eerily quiet.

Except for the winds.

We are prepared (mainly), although we have a few more things to do.  And I admit -- I am fearful.  I am praying against that fear, and I have many telling me it's nothing to worry about, as long as you're safe and prepared -- but I am a hurricane novice. 

What's also new to me is this "being-on-my-own" thing.  Since we've lived in community with other families for so long, I never really fretted about storms because everyone else seemed to know what to do.  I also lived in urban settings, so trees were never an issue.  This is the first major storm that Elliott and I are braving on our own.  It's also the first storm since moving away from home where I am realizing the thing I LOVE about our home -- the many trees surrounding our property -- is now a liability.

But I am also thankful that we can stay home today.  My husband can work from home, we still (for the time being) have power and water, and ultimately, there is God who I know I can trust.

So we'll sit it out -- embrace the ghostliness of the day and take the opportunity to hunker down as a family and brave the storm.

Friday, October 26, 2012

the plight of the napless house: i am only human

I thought it was the flu shot.
I thought it was a phase.
I thought it was teething.
I thought it was the adjustment period from going down to one nap instead of two.

I thought a lot of things -- mainly things that meant "this time will pass" and our darling daughter -- the one who never had nap/sleeping problems in her life -- would fall back into napping.

Week after week passed.
And then we were passing the month mark.

And now -- a month and a half later -- she barely naps at all.  She might get in a 45 minute snooze, or maybe that's just when she's super quiet

I'll bet it's a combination of all the things above.  She DID have a flu shot that kept her up.  She WAS going through some sort of phase.  She IS teething, and her swollen gums and little teeth poking through are the proof.  She IS having to adjust from two naps to one.

So all of these things happened simultaneously, and the result is a girl who is so overtired that she just can't settle down to nap any more.

I'm working on it.  I'm trying different things.  And I'm praying something sticks.

But all of this "naplessness" has meant a shift in my house and my own well-being.  I am less productive.  I am weary.  I find myself having to rest and nap whenever she's at least contently playing in her crib.

I am at the end of my rope, so to speak.

A lot of people can relate to this feeling -- whether from a napless child or a job they hate or a bad living situation or whatever.  So many people are weary and at the end of their rope.  So many of us have to prioritize what can and can't get done.

But there are certain things that can't change.  The non-negotiables, remember?

And I have actually been comforted in remembering the following truths:

"As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more."
Psalm 103:15-16

How many people have there been before me -- mothers even -- who have felt so weary and had to let things slide?  How many before me have had to choose rest most days of the week over being productive?  I am just one of billions.   

My days are like grass.

Weariness is a reminder to me that I am human -- that I will never be able to do everything in the world all of the time.  

It's a reminder that I must rest.
Then it hits me:  maybe resting is even more productive than the "productive" things I'm not able to do.  Maybe it's worth taking time out in order to save energy to mother the rambunctious toddler who wants to run and squeal all day.  Maybe it's worth taking the 15-minute nap in order to keep my body working properly so that Baby 2 can grow big and strong inside me.  Maybe it's worth sitting down to read the Bible and pray so that I can continue to be transformed by the Lord.


I'd say it's definitely worth it.
  • How do you react to weary situations?  Do you let yourself rest, or do you push through?
  • When was a time that you were reminded of your humanity?  How did it affect the way you live?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Waste Not Wednesday: Tips on How to NOT FAIL at Gardening


Remember when I was readying my land last year for my very first garden?

And remember when I broke my New Year's Resolution and stopped blogging so I could do more real-life garden?


Turns out I'm a terrible gardener.

That's not to say we didn't get anything from the garden.  We had a lovely "crop" of rhubarb, some spinach, beans, a surprising "I-didn't-know-I-planted-these" bunch of baby carrots, a selection of herbs, some plump tomatoes, and tiny-not-so-yummy radishes that refused to grow.

It doesn't sound too bad, right?

No really.  It was.

But that's not to say I didn't learn anything, and it's not to say I won't try-try-again.  I will, and I intend to do much better next year armed with what I know.

Here -- for your benefit as well as mine -- are a few tips on how to NOT FAIL at gardening (in order to garden better):

Tip 1:  Start Small
What I mean by this is don't plant every single vegetable you love (oh broccoli rabe??  Sure!  Argula?  Sure!  Every-other-type-of-vegetable-known-to-mankind?  SURE!!).  This did not work out for me.  I honestly forgot what I planted and had no idea what the seedlings were supposed to look like (and thus, did not know what exactly to "weed" out of my garden).

Instead, start in pots.  Next year, I plan on forgoing the plot of land in favor of pots.  This way, I will know what I'm growing and won't have very much trouble with weeds. 

I also plan to choose only a few vegetables to grow.  For me, this means starting with simple things like squash, tomatoes, and beans (NOT broccoli rabe).  And don't take advice on "easy things to grow" from seasoned gardeners.  Actually do some research and find out what grows without much help (tomatoes are awesome for this, although my tomato plant morphed into some sort of scarecrow that wanted to eat the rest of my garden, so I'd imagine it takes some pruning).

Tip 2: Choose Your Plot WISELY 
In other words, don't share your plot with the ivy. 

There were so many places in my yard that I thought were opportune spots to have a garden. But it was more of a "wouldn't that be nice," kinda thing, instead of a practical decision.

The first intended plot was full of deep roots (small trees) that were impossible to get out because they are sharing land with my neighbor (and thus, getting the roots up would be uprooting the fence as well).  My husband also pointed out the area didn't get sunlight for half of the day (that boy is so smart).

Together, we decided on a patch of land at the end of our driveway.  It would get plenty of sunlight and there was ample space -- as long as I cleared it out.  In my gardening naivety, I completely overlooked the brutal reality that ivy grows over and on anything (can we eat ivy??  Because that would make gardening so much simpler).  Since it was a newly cleared spot, I was also battling to keep the space free from weeds.  It was the opposite of fun and enjoyable.  It was strenuous and bothersome.

Tip 3: Know Thyself
In my heart, I want to be a gardener and feed my family mainly from the veggies grown on our property.  In reality, I didn't know what that would require.  I should have really sat down and asked myself: How much time am I willing to commit to this garden?  What things do I LOVE doing, and what things do I HATE doing?  How much will we be traveling?

If I had answered those questions, then I probably would have started smaller (oh hey!  That's tip #1!).

Instead, I found out:
  • I hate weeding.
  • We have terrible mosquitoes and so gardening/weeding requires bug spray and a shower.
  • I hate bug spray and taking an extra shower a day.
  • The only time available was when Gwen went to sleep at 6pm, and that's when the bugs are the worst.
  • That's also when I'm really tired and need to stop doing chores.
  • Gardening became a chore.
  • We were gone a lot of the summer so it was difficult to tend to my plants.
I seriously wish I would have considered these things before plunging into a major gardening endeavor.

Tip 4: Herb Gardens Were Meant for Windowsills
In the front of the house?  Not so much.

Dudes, I can't believe how silly I am.  I thought an herb garden would be lovely and convenient in front of our home.  Totally should have gone with mums.

If you plant an herb garden in the wrong place, it can easily be mistaken for part of your lawn.  It just looks messy and unkempt.  It also becomes increasingly difficult to find herbs, figure out what the herbs are, and weed.  It's virtually impossible to weed an herb garden without uprooting the herbs.

Next year: I'm going with a boxed herb garden!

On the plus side, I somehow ended up with carrots in the herb garden.  

How did that happen?

Tip 5: Don't Give Up
I was very tempted to throw in the towel and say that I'm just not cut out for gardening, but then I realized that was the wrong attitude.  I learned something this summer, and that will help me do better next summer.  It wasn't completely a bust -- we even got to eat a couple of things!

So if at first you don't succeed, figure out where exactly the success faltered and just modify it.  

Or if you really hate gardening, find a great CSA in your area.

In the meantime...

RIP Simko Garden #1
  • Do you have any amusing gardening stories?  I'd love to hear them!
  • What are your tips for the novice gardener?
  • What was your best success with gardening? 
This post was submitted as a part of Your Green Resource.  Check it out!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

transitions, a river, and some non-negotiables

Life is all about transitions.

Some of them you know beforehand -- a transition from high school to college, from singleness to marriage, from a couple to a family.

Some of them you know are probably going to happen -- two naps become one nap, moving into a bigger space (someday),  changing jobs from time to time.

Other transitions, you're completely unprepared for -- a baby who decides they no longer want to nap, a job loss, a serious tragedy.

Life is all about transitions.
And we have to transition with it.

Sometimes it's a matter of being open -- of being flexible -- like liquid.

But it's also a matter of remaining steadfast -- of knowing the non-negotiables.

Life is a constant stream of transitions.  

Photo by aigle_dore on flickr

I much prefer a lake or a pond -- something that changes slightly, but not dramatically.  The deep end is always the deep end.  The lily pads sprout up in the same general area.  You know where you stand.

But since life is more of a river or stream, you have to know how to navigate it.  This means knowing what you need -- a canoe, a paddle, a life vest.  Or in my terms -- time with God, time with my family, exercise, alone time.  Things that must remain steady in order for me to remain sane.

And once you know the non-negotiables, you find time to fit them in.
You make time.
You remain steadfast, but not immovable.
You transition with the transitions, but you do not change your priorities.

  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • What are the things that need to be non-negotiables but haven't quite made the list yet?
  • How do you consistently keep your priorities straight despite constant transitions? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

why do we judge?

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
Matthew 7:1, NIV

That's fairly clear, isn't it?  
Then why are we so quick to judge others?
Why are we so judgmental? 

And I'm speaking mainly of Christians.  I understand that judgment is sort of a human-bent thing.  It's something we do.  But if we're aware of it, and if we have the Bible -- Jesus -- telling us not to judge, then why do we do it?  Why aren't we more aware of it -- more ready to correct ourselves -- quicker to ask God what we're doing wrong in our lives rather than what that person is doing wrong in theirs?

The Bible does tell us that we are to exhort other Christians (other Christians, folks).  What do you think the difference is between judging and exhorting?

Have you found that churches create a culture of judgement?  
Have you found a church that doesn't?  (I'd love to hear that story.)
How can we change the trend?  What practical steps can we take so that we do not judge?

Not many answers today -- mostly questions.

Please opine.
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