Anniversary Thoughts

Hello there.

We’ve been married 13 years tomorrow, and we are celebrating tonight with a date. Let’s see what the numbers say about our lives.

36. Thirty-six year’s alive on this Earth. Glad for it.

17. Seventeen years since my father passed through Heaven’s gates. Miss him.

13. Thirteen years married, and more in love than when we began.

20. Twenty years with Ian… a boyfriend turned into a partner in the purest and most whole sense of the word.

4. Four years away from Atlanta. Still miss it dearly.

3. Three beautiful children to love. My heart is full.

2. There are at least 2 more children waiting to be born into our lives in some way or another, whether by our own genes or adoption.

2. Twice we have moved since marriage.

Endless. The number of times we’ve said sorry and forgiven each other.

The recipe for marital bliss is simple. Serve the other person. Say sorry and mean it. Say I love you through your actions. In a book I’ve read, the authors suggested it takes 11 years to BEGIN being LESS selfish – I’ve quoted them before – “Real Marriage”, by Mark Driscoll and his wife, is the book. I think the authors are right. It’s easy to do things that make you happy. It’s harder to do things out of bringing joy ONLY to the other person in your life, and making their joy enough to elicit your own joy.

My hair dresser, whom I adore, was saying she gets bored after 3 years of dating someone. She says she gets restless. She was asking me questions about marriage. I assured her that, at least in my case, I’m more enamored than when we started. But  it’s the product of work. And it’s the product of the Holy Spirit working in my husband’s life to make him more like Jesus, and therefore, even better than better (in my eyes).

Ladies, what I think we are missing in our culture is a desire to serve our spouses. We are told we should be waited on hand and foot. I’m sorry to say this, but we don’t live in a fairy tale. There’s no Cinderella servant who is going to come into your life and sweep your floors in most people’s homes (at least in my circle of friends). So, guess who does the sweeping? You do. There’s no Dr. Phil who is going to talk sense into your spouse when you’re angry, and who is going to talk you off a ledge. Guess who’s going to soften his reply with a kinder response, an understanding reply, and a gentle consideration of his dreams and thoughts and feelings? You are. Guess who’s going to have to learn to bite her tongue? You are. And when you can remember to brighten your smile and put a little effort into your appearance (not superficially, but come on, act like you’re dating sometimes), you will remind him of why he works so hard for your family. When you can demonstrate graciousness, and gratitude, guess who wants to come home from work as soon as possible? While you can’t be perfect, and no one can… and while you can’t shelter him from the stress of his work or life in general… you can be his wife… the one he desires to come home to after a hard day. And there’s much to be said for that. There’s much to be said for the couple who still choose each other.

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A Year in Review

Here goes my reflection time. Last year was another season of huge changes. We moved across the country last year, and between my last birthday and this birthday, we invited our first girl into our home, and our third child. If I had to name three words that describe last year, it would be humbling, opening, and exploring.

My husband would say, this was a continuation of a work God was doing to humble us. I agree. It was opening, because I feel like God opened the doors to show me more and more about warfare. And it was exploring, because my family literally took up exploring this new part of United States with great enthusiasm.

God has been showing me areas of sin. While I won’t name them publicly, if you’re one of my prayer partners, then I have been transparent in sharing them, because I covet and need your prayer covering. He is merciful. I am grateful. God has been showing me where I am naive. One of these areas is to learn how truly hard it is to travel across country with three small children. It is just physically difficult to have small children, and to uproot them for a vacation is hard work. It’s worth it, but it’s expensive and it’s hard work. I am also naive to the juggling act of educating more than one child at a time. I’d say I have it easy, because my second one is young, and his education is not too demanding yet. Actually, my first one is young, and his education is also not too demanding yet. I just imagine what it’s going to be like in 3 to 5 years from now, when I can see myself with another baby or two, plus the others, who really require more rigor. It will be an awesome journey.

I’ve also decided that motherhood is somewhat of a blind faith journey. You trust what your mother said. You find mentors. You read the Bible. You reflect on your own childhood and life lessons. You pray. But literally, only God knows how it is all going to turn out. When you are a mother, you know your children are your life’s most prolific work. Your children will spin out whatever you teach them. But they are not a perfect product. There’s so much out of your control. My mom is in a Bible study right now, where everyone there seems to be preaching that your children will walk with the Lord if you do everything right. Can I get a “no” button? As mothers, we cannot control our children as adults, as teenagers, and even as young children. The way God designed us, is to have free will. Discipline is from the inside out. We are handicapped as humans, because we can really only work from the outside in, meaning we can only read our children based on their behavior. Then we fumble and strive first to know, and then to address the heart issue. Only with God’s mercy and help will we ever get this right. And even then, our children only turn out walking with the Lord by God’s own mercy. I digress.

God has shown up big in so many areas of my life this past year. I have been keeping a bullet journal. In it, I have a miracles page. He’s filling the page. This year, we had our first “Family Day” in April. It was truly beautiful to recount God’s blessings with my family that way. Amazing.

Although there is always room for improvement, I feel like I’m keeping things in balance in our homeschool. Like I said, there are many things I’d like to add that I consistently think of doing. But when we get down to the brass tacks of a first grade education, we’re hanging in there. I think this is largely because my Micah memorizes well, and he likes learning. Micah does a rock star job memorizing his Bible scriptures for Awana. To me, this is more important memory work than CC, but he memorizes that like a champ too. I just started reading lessons with Kade… as in M says mmmmm and S says sssssss. I also focus on songs with Kade, and we pick out different letters while we are reading books together. We also work on our speech skills when I notice he says a word incorrectly, like any word that starts in S… he usually needs repeating practice. And Hope, well, she’s in baby school, just learning how to eat food and use some sign language. I’m trying to teach her “milk”, and “more”. All this to say, what I’m really focusing my children on at these ages is to know and love the Lord, be kind and considerate with others and each other, have a cheerful and helpful attitude, and be responsible with their things. I’m really working on the tone of my home being cheerful and giving.

I need to make improvements in many areas in my 36th year however.

  • Keep better track of what we’re actually doing in homeschool. I need to improve my system of tracking things.
  • Do a better job of slowing down before I say yes to things, including saying yes to myself. I am an idea machine. My latest thing is I want to write and speak and produce a “wisdom series” for children. I had better ask God about all these ideas!
  • I could do a better job of keeping the clutter down in our home, and do more cleaning. This is a constant battle. I’m really trying to get my kids to do chores.
  • I need to work on hygiene and organization with my kids – this means I need to really have them work with me. When they have a stain in their shirts, they will need to spray them down and scrub them. When they are done with food, they need to clear their plates, and then wash their mouths and hands.
  • I need to do a better job of juggling the various hats I wear so I don’t drop balls. And God is taking different balls out of the loop anyhow.
  • My mind races. I need to do a better job of slowing my mind down. Lists help. But lists can also be the enemy.
  • I’m still chronically behind birthdays, and although I was doing a good job of being on time places, I’m starting to slip.
  • Spend more time organizing on the weekends.
  • Cook more for the family.

The best books I’ve either read, or revisited, for personal enrichment in my 35th year have been:

  • Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare Manual by John Eckhardt

  • Different by Sally Clarkson
  • Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend
  • The Core by Leigh Bortins
  • The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Raising Your High-Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcina
  • The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • Strongman’s His Name… What’s His Game by Jerry and Carol Robeson
  • Childbirth Without Fear by Grant Dickey-Read
  • The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
  • The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson (and the Life Giving Home Experience) <– I’ll probably use this one every month of every year if I’m smart
  • Expand, Grow, Thrive by Pete Canalichio

I’ve enjoyed being a Support Representative with Classical Conversations this year as well, as well as working with Pete Canalichio.

I hope in my 36th year I’ll see revival, family growth, and more self-discipline.

Balance

I find myself in the space between a wind tunnel and a vacuum. There is so much life happening, represented by air waves flowing through the sieve.

The deep cavern in my heart is longing to be filled more and more, and to belong. I’m celebrating my oldest son’s sixth birthday today and tomorrow. I gave him some screen time while my husband and I were prepping things for his party tomorrow. He chose to listen to some worship music. I am grateful the seeds I’m quietly sowing are bearing some fruit. I’m not bragging. Daily, I’m brought to my knees for some reason or another in motherhood. This same child asks me, every night, to worship God with him.

God has used this time to hold me accountable to praising Him. He also gives me a chance to speak into Micah’s life. We can have deep and uninterrupted conversations. Micah has been wanting to listen to the names of God lately. So we do. But then I get to remind Micah that the same God created him. I asked Micah if he knew what God thought of him. He said “He thinks I’m sick.” I asked Micah, “Sick as in awesome, or sick as in blechhh?” He giggled and said “the first one!” I hope my children feel this way their whole lives.

We don’t win God’s approval by being right, or perfect. We talk a lot in our home about being righteous before God, meaning that we are won over to His ways, wanting to be like Him, and repenting of our sins. When we pray at night, I ask God to forgive me for my sins. I ask God to forgive my children for their sins.

My son is still learning how to pray. I help him by talking him through a framework. You can use it too. It goes like this “Praise God – tell Him what you think of Him. Tell God what you’re thankful for. (Pause for your child to answer in-between each thing). Is there anything you need to say sorry about? (Pause.) Do you need God’s help for anything? (Pause.) Who else needs some prayer?” (Pause.) NOTE: When I’m praying out loud with my oldest son, my prayer follows the same framework so he can hear it too.

When my kids are two, they repeat after me “Dear Jesus, thank you for today. Help me love you and other people better. Amen.”

At three, they are saying what they are thankful for also. And we build from there.

I was talking with a neighbor yesterday about how I want my kids used to a pace of life in which they can accomplish much, but also stop to smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t want us running. I want us to sit down to family meals together. And have time to clean up after dinner, to soak in good books, and have time to pray and worship at night without hurry to get to sleep to meet a super-early next day. I want my children to soak in the Word and to find truth beyond the world, to be able to slice through modern philosophy and know reality based on what they can’t see with their eyes.

So now let me come back to the cavern in my heart. As a non-native Californian who is far in distance from family, birthdays have a sadness to them for me. For my son, I hope he’s filled to the brim with love. But I know who he misses too. And I’m not lacking love whatsoever, but I definitely know who I’m missing.

But in that space between a vacuum and a wind tunnel, the Almighty is calling my name. And I feel the greatest depth of belonging there. There is no cavern He leaves empty. There is no hole He doesn’t fill. I have deep and eternal significance with my Creator. And I hope this is the same endless acceptance and approval my children and husband and family and friends feel their whole lives too. There is no greater feeling than that. And this love exists beyond death. Love is stronger than death.

The struggle is real

This is a day that we got back to school work after having two sick days off. My toddler had a doctor’s appointment that involved numbing cream and a freezing cold cotton swab to continue to attack a wart on his ring finger that got bigger. We just couldn’t take him when his little sister was born – we were just trying to eat well and stay hydrated.

This was after we lugged all our heavy bags to the playground next door, because I planned on homeschooling my kids there. Except when I called my doctor about the numbing cream, come to find out it needs an hour to sit on the boy’s finger, which means we had to leave the playground and go to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, we learn about how the Lord helped Jephthah and how Jephthah had to kill his daughter to fulfill his oath to the Lord.

Then at the pharmacy, the prescription hadn’t come over, and my toddler needed the toilet, so we had to leave with all our bags again to see the doctor’s office and use their toilet. By the time we got there, my toddler decided he didn’t need the toilet anymore.  Then I had to go back next door to fill the prescription. Then come back to the doctor’s office so my toddler to be seen by the doctor. This is the story of how 1 stop became 5 small stops, much to my chagrin. 

At the doctor’s office my children learned about Samson, his riddle, and his betraying wife; his revenge on the Philistine’s using foxes tied together, and how he became a judge. Then we learned about temperate forests, and how deciduous forests are different from coniferous forests. The toddler then gets called back for his appointment.

In the waiting room, I get my kindergartener started on his handwriting. He wrote 4 or 5 letters before the doctor arrived.

You would have thought the doctor was cutting my toddler’s finger off, all before anything even touched my toddler’s finger. And this is the most gentle doctor I’ve ever taken my children to, and believe me, we’ve had some good doctors! I had to hand my baby off to a front desk lady, because my toddler was such a mess. This was not easy!

The doctor gave my children peeps for good listening, even after my toddler was screaming bloody murder. Ewe. But they were both delighted.

We go to get in the car. Lo and behold, I had to withhold the peep from the toddler because he didn’t listen to me in the parking lot. This ensures more screaming.

Once home, my toddler refused to follow directions. That means, he wouldn’t carry his book-bag and walk into the house. I had to discipline him on the sidewalk four times before he decided he better listen to me.

After that, my children wouldn’t eat their lunch. Lunch was a delicious homemade chicken soup. Come on now.

I make chicken chili in the crock pot… which I’m thinking they are going to complain about later tonight, but I’m no short order cook.

The toddler goes for quiet time. He comes out 5 times in 40 minutes. During this, I nurse the baby, and finish school work with the kindergartener. Why are we doing school until 2pm in the afternoon?! Oh, that’s right, because it’s our first day back after two days off, and we lost our sense of discipline and concentration.

I lay down with grumpy toddler and the baby, and give grumpy toddler a bottle. He rejuvenates himself an is happy again. My kindergartener has quiet time now. He asked me no less than 5 times when his quiet time was over. I told him twice to stop asking me, and then the third time, I extended his quiet time. But I let him out early if he said some Bible verses with me about anger and self-control. I realized, though he’s learning to write cursive, he has a hard time reading it.

Today I started writing verses about disobedience and obedience. These verses will benefit the whole family.

I send the children outside to play. They play for 15 minutes or so. I let them see a show for a half hour.

The neighbor brings over a delicious Tres Leche treat. I change and nurse the baby. I discover my other neighbor has a birthday today. We will make her a card.

My kids are going to go back outside to play after they finish their treat.

I am wiped out.

This is homeschooling some days. This is reality. The struggle is real.

Tomorrow will be better.

Tiny hands

Tiny hands, dependent eyes, unsure feet. I love mothering these little ones. I love their messes, their cries, their hugs, their clumsy ways, their laughs, their pats, and their squeals. I wish I could put it in a bottle and open it 30 years from now when I am having a hard time remembering. But then, maybe they’ll fill my arms with grand babies that can help remind me.

Children are utterly dependent on us. Perhaps this is why mothers are anxious that they are doing their jobs the best way, in a way that could gain God’s nod of approval. You cannot rely on the day-to-day to measure how well you are doing in this kind of job. There’s no performance review, no checklist to follow. There’s only quarter after quarter, or year after year, or maybe even decade after decade that will help you see what kinds of seeds you sowed. But these results are muddled by the fact that children will one day choose to go their own way. 

All this, to point to the fact that we are utterly reliant on God, who is merciful to cover our faults and smooth over our gaps, and deliver our children from the ruthless results of our own sin.

Lord, help my children love you more than life itself, more than me, more than their father, and more than their children. Help us all abide in You, and find life in You. And keep us from harm, that we would not harm others, but instead, that we could be useful in introducing others to Your perfect love. Amen.

Perfect design

God knows exactly what He’s doing. Again and again I’m astonished by His handiwork.

I’m snuggling my third baby who is five and a half days old right now. We’ve had a day of snuggling in, and that’s what we are doing the rest of the day.

Yesterday, at four days old, we went for her newborn and family pictures so it was a busy day for all of us, but especially her and I. The day earlier she had a tongue and lip tie repaired. She was three days old. That meant for our busy day yesterday, she was in the throes of recovery. And the stress of her procedure Tuesday and her grueling heart-breaking post-surgery care, on top of recovery from childbirth, lack of sleep, and stress from getting ready and out for pictures, lowered my immune system again, and my throat started worsening… again. This is on top of my head-ache-inducing cough which has been with me since mid-January. My post-birth body is suffering from separated abs, a pinched nerve in my mid-low back, a hip that threatens popping out, a hemmoroid, and soreness from nursing a tongue-tied infant, and the tail end of pink eye. That’s TMI, for sure, but this is real life. Almost laughable. Except it’s painful. So instead, sometimes I’m laughing and sometimes I’m crying. Thank God for family and generous friends who are bringing us meals!!

You shouldn’t plan anything that soon after birth. But I wanted my mom in our pictures. That’s the choice I made. And I’m grateful.

I’m glad that with sleep and rest this morning my throat feels better today. Except my mom left for Atlanta this morning, so I’m weepy and emotional. Love her!

I’m so glad my sister flew in Tuesday night! 

So lil’ bit and I went for the shortest walk. And are laying around again nursing my body back to health and bonding with this precious baby of mine.

I wondered how a relationship with a daughter might be different than a son. It’s so different. And wonderous. And both kinds of relationships are revelational and precious and one of a kind. I’m not sure if the difference has to do with gender or just the chemistry God gives you with each little spirit. So special though.

And it just struck me how God designed babies so perfectly, to garner instantaneous love at a capacity greater than you ever thought possible before you had kids. And compassion, mercy, gentleness, tolerance, and the determination to endure pain. I praise Him! Thank you Lord for giving us this love.

My birth plan

There’s the hospital birth plan and the thing I really want to happen.

What I really envision happening is for my water to break at some point, hopefully st home, though many women don’t have waters break before labor, and to labor for many hours (Micah was 30 hours, and Kade was 19 hours) during a calm day, and then have the baby in the middle of the night while the children are sleeping. 

And I want to be listening to praise music, smelling essential oils, and praying. I want to have a quiet labor in low lighting and end with deep low long breaths and a loose relaxed jaw.

I envision baby breathing just fine with great color and muscle tone and lots of hair like her brothers had at birth.

This is how I prepare for labor. I play it out in my head. I conceive what could be, in many scenarios. And I pray.

If it turns out differently – quicker, requiring surgery, requiring help, being late, baby struggling etc – I’ve imagined those scenarios too and how I might deal with them. 

God is in control, not me. Thank the Lord for that!