Friday, May 24, 2013

"right" and "wrong" decisions

I'm still experiencing some sort of mind- and emotional- block to writing, but then I remembered I've been writing here since 2009.  There are LOTS of posts that you've probably never read (since in 2009, it was really only opened up to a few close friends).  So I'm taking advantage of the even-one-sparrow-post-vault, and publishing an older one.  I'll probably do this a few times.
Hope it encourages you in some way...

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:26-28, NIV

I recently found myself in a familiar conversation with a friend: my friend was concerned about (and possibly second-guessing?) some major choices she had just made. Were they the "right" choices? Would she be okay?

I've had this conversation with myself so many times: how do I know if I am making the "right" decision? Will it all blow up in my face? Will I regret it?

As Christians, we seek God first when making decisions -- hopefully the minor decisions as well as the major ones. We certainly know when something is against His will if it is confirmed in the Scriptures. However, we often find ourselves in a dilemma, for most of our modern-day decisions are not outlined in the Bible. Decisions like, "Should we re-locate?" "Should I take this job?" "Should I start graduate school?" "Should I stop graduate school?" "Should we buy a house?" aren't explicitly outlined in the Bible.

I rejoice when I receive a clear answer from the Lord. God spoke clearly to me in regards to quitting acting graduate school, marriage, and trusting in Him. I have heard His voice with regards to these decisions, among others. But sometimes, the answers aren't so clear. How do we make a "right" decision when we feel we receive no direct guidance from the Lord?

There are the practical ways: speaking to friends, seeking counsel from parents and older friends, checking finances, and evaluating multiple situations. But, in the end, a decision must be made. And then, we are haunted by the ever-looming question...

How do I know this was the "right" or "wrong" decision?

It's hard to know when we're doing the "right" things or making the "right decisions," but the reality is that God uses every situation for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Friends, I have made decisions in my life that weren't exactly the "right" decisions -- some were blatantly the wrong ones and against God's will -- but God is redeeming even my worst decisions. We can rest knowing that no matter what, God is using our decisions as a part of His story, and as a part of our own refining process.

He'll use it, we'll grow, and He will be glorified.

  • How do you make decisions?
  • What have you done when you don't feel strongly one way or the other about an important decision?

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

update your reader and subscribe to my blog

By now, I'm sure everyone knows that Google Reader is going to expire in July.

What's that??  You DIDN'T know?  Well, good thing I told you, then!

I'd love it if you kept following my little confessional space on the internet.  So I'll give you a second to update your reader-of-choice and subscribe to my blog.

Go ahead.  I'll wait.




Okay, great!

What's that?  You don't know what reader to use?  Well, lucky for you I did a little searching around and I absolutely love Bloglovin.  

So once you sign up, go ahead and click the link below:


how's THIS for being vague and elusive?

There's this blog post already written, waiting in the blog queue. I've gone over it a half dozen times -- writing and rewriting it with some sort of half-hearted, futile attempt at perfection. But every time I go to hit the orange "Publish" button, I hesitate.

 It's very personal, but my blog is very personal, so it fits. And as with most personal things that I'm experiencing, I like to work through my weaknesses and share them with others, in hope that it might encourage someone else. And yet this blog post sits week after week, awaiting its fate.

I'm not sure if or when it will ever be released, but I sort of feel like I can't move forward in writing here -- or even reading and commenting on other people's blogs -- until I just admit its existence. And since I've written it, I've been having a difficult time accessing my emotions in a way that would benefit my readers, and so my posts have been extremely practical and baby-related. That's not a bad thing... it's just not entirely me or what I want for this space.

Now what?

I guess, this:

I'm struggling with some "stuff."
I'm trying to work through it.
I want to be able to share it someday so I can help someone else, but I'm just not there yet.

And I hope with this confession, maybe my brain will be released and I can start writing and engaging again.

One can certainly hope, right?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

the postpartum body and exercise

Photo by sashamd on flickr

In my mind, this is what it looked like:
My feet pounding the pavement, the wind rushing by me, running as fast as I could possibly go.
Strong.  Free.  Fast.
In reality, this is what it looked like:
My knees horribly aware of the hard pavement, the wind traded in for humidity, bumbling along with a postpartum waddle.
Weak.  Tight.  Slow.
It's amazing what your forget during the whole pregnancy/labor/postpartum period.
The tiredness.  The pain.  The recovery.

Did it feel this way last time?  I found myself -- and find myself -- asking.
But that's really unfair, isn't it?
It doesn't feel like "last time" because it isn't "last time."
It's this time.

I'm two years older.
Elliott's in a more demanding job, which means my job is more demanding.
And, oh yeah, I've already got another kid this time -- one that doesn't sleep through most of the day.

But it's still a difficult reality to swallow.  The weight's coming off slower, my stamina is down, and my body aches in ways I didn't know possible.  It's discouraging, to say the least.  Maybe more like disheartening (which I know is just a synonym, but it seems to fit my mood more aptly, okay?).

Yet when I feel the poisoning whispers enter into my head -- the whispers of, "You can't!  You're weak!  Just give up!"  I fight back.

I am made in the image of God.
I am healthy.
I am strong.
I will overcome.
Image. Of. God.

Because you know what?  It's no small matter that I am able to run -- to use my legs and body in a functioning way.  Not everyone has this privilege and it's one that can be taken away from any one of us in an instant.  

So I choose to accept my postpartum body as is -- weak joints, soft belly, slow run, and all.  I am thankful that I am healthy and strong.  I am thankful that I am made in the image of God, and I choose to use my workouts as a time to rejoice rather than despair.



Monday, May 6, 2013

spiritual lessons from an obstinate toddler

My daughter is about a month-and-a-half shy of turning two.
And, not to brag, but she really is quite wonderful.  As far as toddlers go, she's just a great kid.  I love her.  I adore her antics.  I think she's -- hands down -- one of the coolest people I've ever met.


She is a toddler, approaching those "Terrible Two's" we always hear about in parent-talk.
And as a toddler, her favorite word tends to be, "NO."

Friends, I am getting a wee-bit-weary of hearing the word, "NO."

Sometimes, she is exercising her independence.
Sometimes, she has a specific reason for saying it.
But sometimes, she has no idea why she's saying it.

Take lunch, for instance.
She's hungry.
I provide her favorite food.

It doesn't make any sense.
"But you're hungry."
"It's for your own good."
"I made your favorite."

After a few more scenarios of this familiar battle, she's finally asleep for a nap.  As I ready myself for a few moments of stillness before my other daughter wakes up to nurse, I sit down to complain to God about my oh-so-obstinate toddler.

That's when I realize I'm God's oh-so-obstinate daughter.

God might be asking me to do something that would feed me spiritually.
For no good reason, I respond:

It doesn't make any sense.
"But you're hungry."
"It's for your own good."
"It would bring you so much joy."

But unlike me and my daughter, God doesn't send me to my crib without reading a book before a nap.  He doesn't give me a time out.  He doesn't count to three.

So how does He get my attention?
He sends me an oh-so-obstinate toddler who likes to say no.

  • How God get your attention in unlikely ways?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

6 Suggestions for Managing with Two Kids

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had our first (and only) date out of the house after the baby's birth.  He took me to see one of my all-time favorite movies in 3D (yes, I LOVE Jurassic Park -- it's the only solid dinosaur movie out there).  We met our friends at the theatre, whose kids are already grown up and getting married.

As I sat next to my friend, I mentioned how weird it was being out of the house for the first time with Elliott.  She made a comment that stuck with me.  My friend said that when you have the first baby, you expect that your life is going to turn upside down and you'll never have a spare moment again.  Instead, it's just sort of a little bump in the road and things go back to normal.  When you have the second baby, you expect another little bump, but instead you are sitting on a roller coaster and it never goes back to normal.

I completely relate to this statement, realizing that not everyone does.  When we had our first daughter, we were sort of already in a lifestyle conducive to children:  as homebodies, we rarely ventured out; we liked early nights and earlier mornings; we were ready to nest.  The adjustment was really easy for us -- just a little bump in the road that went back to normal.

Our youngest daughter is just about two months old, so maybe this will change, but I'm finding that life is anything but "normal" or "the way it used to be."  That's fine, but it's just different and requires some "intentionality" on our parts.

Here are some suggestions to adjusting to life with two kids (my kids are 21 months apart):

1. Get Used to Crying
As a person who HATES having her children -- or anyone -- cry (because it makes me oh-so-sad), this was something I just embraced immediately.  Someone is going to cry.  If I'm putting Baby A to bed and the other one needs my attention, I have to finish what I'm doing before I go to comfort Baby B (otherwise there will be TWO babies crying).  It doesn't mean I like it -- it just means it's the reality in which I now live.

My sister-in-law mentioned that you have to start doing some bargaining in your brain.  "It will take me 15 minutes to put down Baby A but it will take me 30 minutes to feed Baby B.  So I'll put down Baby A first, and then get to Baby B."  Sometimes things -- like naptime routines -- are a little rushed, but overall, you have to time-bargain in your head.

2. Get Some Rest
The whole "nap when baby naps" mantra is not very practical with two kids.  Although it might happen on some days, I've found that it's best not to count on getting a nap.  If you can get one, great.  If not, find other ways you can rest.

My toddler is obviously more active and requires more energy than the newborn, so when the older one is asleep, I plan on doing restful things even if the little one is awake at that time.  Sometimes it means putting on a TV show while nursing, reading a book while bouncing the bouncy seat, or doing some yoga while babygirl is on the play-gym mat.  Whatever it is, I try to make sure I conserve as much energy as possible so I have the amount I need to get me through to bedtime.

I've also been planning very simple meals -- ones that require barely any prep time.  This allows extra rest time during the day, as well as delegation   If I'm too tired to make dinner, I simply have to tell Elliott what's on the menu and he can whip it up.

3. Get Comfy with Clutter
Did I mention the house gets cluttered very easily the more kids you have?  Well, it does, so get used to it.  Between baby swings and baby doll clothes and books and socks hastily strewn on the floor -- not to mention the pile of mail that "we'll get to later" -- it's easy for things to collect.  Throw in the fact that the time when I used to do chores is no longer available, there's bound to be more mess than ever.

If mess bothers you (like it bothers me), then you just have to accept your limitations.  I do little things here and there (a quick sweep after every meal, grabbing dirty clothes while walking to the closet, quickly wiping down the sink during bath time) instead of setting aside a "major cleaning" time.  On the better days, Gwen even helps me a little bit.  I do what I need to do to keep things orderly, but gone are the days when I have a scheduled time for every chore.

And I remind myself: this is temporary.  Someday they will both be old enough to help me with the chores, and our house will be neat(er) and tidy(er) again.  It's not the end of the world.

4. Get Your Schedule Down (or not!)
I try -- as much as possible -- to schedule things nicely.  By this, I mean I anticipate the next thing.  At two months, the little one is still too little to be on a schedule (and let's face it, during the first year, naps are changing all the time depending on what nap they are dropping), so I do what I can.

Babies this small tend to only want to be awake for two hours or less at a time (at least, according to this book, which I have found to be both accurate and helpful).  So in the morning, I can gauge when baby is going to go to sleep depending on when she woke up.  If I want to ensure time to myself, then I start getting the toddler ready for quiet time or a nap as soon as baby goes to sleep.  This doesn't always work (and sometimes baby's naps are super short!) but it keeps the crying to a minimum, at least.

The other thing that might work for some people (but not me because I thrive off of schedules) is just throwing the schedule away.  You'll probably have to find another blog for this advice, though.  I'm not sure how to operate that way, but I know it works for certain families and kids just fine.

5. Get Some Date Time
During the first year, it was so easy to schedule in time as a couple. Our older daughter went to bed really early (read: 5 pm), so that meant Elliott and I always ate dinner alone and had the whole evening to ourselves.  Now our time has been squished to about an hour -- maybe an hour and a half at the most -- between my working out and cleaning up dinner and having to go to bed early.  So we realized the whole, "let's just see what we want to do," and, "let's watch TV for an hour for fun," thing isn't working.

We can't really afford a dinner-date-and-babysitter thing except maybe on special occasions, so we're just making do by focusing on the quality of time we spend together.  Instead of a show, we're going to start playing games together more -- to give ourselves more fun interaction.  Maybe we'll even start reading plays together again.  Whatever it is, we're going to make sure that we are interacting, and not just existing, together.

6. Get a Firm Foundation
In the first few weeks of being home alone with two kids, I found my fuse to be shorter than I realized.  Yelling, crying, throwing fits -- these all became really easy for me to fall into.  I didn't like who I was becoming.  

There are times for yelling, but kids do not deserve to be yelled at when I'm just frustrated or tired.  This is why I've started turning to the Lord in prayer.  At 3 am when my daughter just doesn't want to burp and is keeping me up for an hour or two, I pray for the next day: "Lord, please help my attitude tomorrow.  I'm going to be tired and I need your help to be patient and kind."  I ask for gentleness in my spirit -- for peace.  In moments when I feel like I'm about to burst, I pray my way through them.  I sing.  

Without the Lord, I don't know how I would be able to manage.  He keeps me grounded in what really matters and gives me "peace that surpasses all understanding."  When I have nothing left inside me to give to my girls, He provides me with what I need.

  • Any other advice for managing with two kids?  What are your suggestions?
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