Thursday, October 25, 2012

Peace That Passes Understanding


The perfect storm of circumstances arose and tried to steal my peace this week.
I almost let it.

The Dude's sleeping habits have been a bit of a mess. He has gone from being up at 4:30 am to suddenly going to bed later, sleeping far worse, and waking up at 6:30.
You would think his waking up later would kind of even things out, but it hasn't.
I ended up all three work days this week spending a long time in bed getting very poor sleep in very awkward positions; and then got up so late that I barely got everyone out the door in one piece and was 5 minutes late to work. Which also means I didn't have much quiet time to spend with God and get the right perspective before the craziness of the day began.

Thank goodness that my weekend has begun. Although The Dude's first dental checkup in Viera is at 8:30 am, which still means a pretty early morning start.

This week has been full of expensive car repairs (on BOTH cars), feeling physically under the weather, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. Like usual in these situations, I started trying to figure things out and solve some problems. Whenever circumstances align themselves this way and I am not as plugged in as I should be, I start imagining worsening scenarios (financially, physically, etc), until I've worked myself pretty badly.

And then always...sometimes after stewing for a few hours or a few days, sometimes after nursing a headache while my children do flips on top of me, always after pouring my heart out to my husband and seeing the bewildered look in his eyes...

I remember the peace that "passes understanding."

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

It's not just prayer and petition that bring about this peace. It's prayer and petition with thanksgiving. It's not even Halloween yet, but man, I needed to be reminded about Thanksgiving.
It's easier for me to remember on the weekends when I'm watching my boys' friendship develop and trying to keep up with the laundry. It's harder during my short work week when the pace is accelerated so exponentially that everything starts to feel meaningless.

But Thanksgiving is not meant to be celebrated during a certain time of year or particular time of the week, or just when we are feeling happy and comfortable. Thanksgiving is a state of your heart that changes the way you see the world and all of life.

And it's not just thanksgiving that's required for that peace either, at least not for me. For me, it's choosing to pass up my own understanding. To stop staring at the numbers and wondering how they're going to add up tomorrow. To stop making plans for what I'll do if they don't. To just sit down, thank God, smile at my kids, hug my husband, and be happy that I don't have much understanding at all.

"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You."
-Isaiah 26:3

I love this verse, because I want more perfect peace. More peace that passes understanding. I want a mind that is steadfast: "stayed on Him", so that I won't indulge my own negative thoughts even when things get a little unpredictible.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives."
John 14:27

The anxieties that arise within me are based on such completely temporal things. I don't know how I get so off track sometimes. It's the little things in the day. It's not making myself get up at 5:30 even though the little guy is still sleeping and I'm still bone tired, so that I can have a few minutes to get my mind on the things of God and not the silly and endless details of this overrated world.
It's not immediately recognizing the error in the my thoughts and discarding them, because secretly, deep down, sometimes it feels kind of good to roll around in the muck of them, and I don't really WANT the peace of God to guard my heart from them. There, I said it.

But thank God, I come to end of my rope sooner and sooner these days. Seems like the more you have the peace of God, the more you realize how much you want to just stay there. The muck doesn't seem so fun to roll around in anymore.

So I'm back. The kids are back in front of Barney (I don't know why everyone hates Barney, when I hear Aquaman singing to himself 'because I'm special, special, everyone is special, every one in his or her own way', with his red hair and freckles and his nervous look around to make sure no one's watching, I just want to fall to pieces in love with that purple dinosaur), and I am back in the Truth of God this morning. It feels good.

Night weaning round 2 is approaching in exactly one week. I am tenatively hopeful. I do have full faith that it will go better than round 1 went. I'm trying not to think of this as a boxing match, really I'm not. This is not something I'm trying to WIN, but I am ready to get my body back for 7 hours a night, even if it means I'll still be up half the time.

The boys have been disappearing upstairs to play together more and more often. And Aquaman is learning to clearly articulate his feelings to his brother (what a BOY, this kid has the vocabulary of an 8 year old, but seems incapable of telling his little brother when he does not feel like being tackled).

There is something about 4. It's like, what you always imagined having kids would be like.

 4 year old Aquaman gets really excited about stuff, and has real conversations, and seeks out other kids to play with. He perfects moves like his "Handstand wrestle" in which he does a handstand and then lands his feet sqaurely in the middle of JT's stomach. Good thing JT has rock hard abs.

But in the middle of an evening wrestling match when I was putting The Dude to bed, Aquaman suddenly got very serious and sad and stopped his wild flailing about and said "I sure wish The Dude was here with us right now, Dad."

They are turning into best friends. It makes me so look forward to these next few years, and also wonder whether I'm going to have the courage to upset this beautiful balance with a third child in a few years. Even though having only 2 kids seems a little lonely to me, coming from a family of 9,

But how will we afford a 3rd child? Without sacrificing something for the first 2?

I'm not gonna lose my peace over that. No way. I already learned the hard way once about that this week. For now, I'm just going to enjoy THIS day. Be thankful for these little boys and their flopping limbs and JT's rock hard abs and endless patience.

Gonna keep my eyes on Christ Jesus.

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
 despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Choose Life

I've always been kind of a nerd about dates. I just like them. Whenever something feels very important, I instantly commit the date to memory, as to preserve it always.

That's why I remember that 7 years ago today, I flew home from Haiti from a medical mission trip for the 2nd time.
The trip was powerful and humbling, as mission trips always are. But I don't remember the day I came home from the first trip: even though that day the pilot required us all to exit the plane and manually push the wing to turn us around on the very tight dirt-lined runway. That left an impression, to be sure, but not the memorize-the-date kind of impression.

But the reason I remember the day we came home from the 2nd trip is because THAT day, 10/18/05, God answered the prayer that I had been praying since I was a very small girl.


I remember a couple months before, growing a little discouraged with life in general, and thinking about pulling out of the trip. Which is why it's so important to have friends in our lives who love God and love us. Friends like A and B, who said "oh no, you're going. And we're going to pick you up and bring you to the next meeting."

And so I went.

There were a lot of things I was prepared for this time around. Like the smell of burning garbage, the overwhelming poverty, the increased sense of spiritual darkness, and the rapt joy of singing hymns in two different languages in a sweaty hut with no walls.

I was prepared for the beautiful children. Like Rocky Pablo who must be about 12 years old by now. That's crazy.

What I wasn't prepared for was to fall in love. But that's what I did.

I knew JT already in a limited fashion. He had joined the church I grew up in a few months before, and had then started attending our young adult's bible study, and had been surfing and playing volleyball with my group of friends since then.

 I'm not going to lie, he caught my attention from the start. But I figured him to be way out of my league. What with him being completely gorgeous and- something I had never been attracted to before- NICE.

But throughout the trip, I seemed to be completely off his radar. I couldn't help but notice how physically affectionate he was with everyone but me. How he barely seemed to notice me, even though I had a hard time noticing anyone else.

But it wasn't until our last night there that I realized how terribly distracted and frustrated I had become with it all.
I decided it was time for me to get away, on my own with God. To pour my heart out to Him, and let it go.
I found myself in Ezekiel 16. We had been studying the book of Ezekiel in our bible study, and there was a particular part that had stuck out to me since we read it:

"on the day you were born, your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in swaddling clothes. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you; but you were cast out on the open field; for you were abhorred on the day that you were born. And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood: 'Live!'" v4-6

He said to me when I was in my blood: "Live!"

I remembered when He said it to me. I was 6 years old. Deeply loved by my earthly family, but floundering around in that field, covered in my own blood; helpless to my own sin and the death inside of my heart. I remembered the life that came into me when He said "Live!"

"But I just want him to know me, God." I said through my tears to God that night in Haiti. And He came to me, wrapped His arms around me, said: "I want to know you."

I went to bed in peace that night. Loved. Cleaned up and wrapped in warm clothes and knowing that if no one else ever really knew me, it was more than enough to be known by God.

The next day we boarded the plane to go home. JT was the last one on the plane, because that's JT. I'm sure he was holding the door and helping everyone up the stairs. And the only seat left was next to me.
We talked the whole way home. And I still remember the way that oval plane window blurred through my tears as we were making our descent when he said "thanks for talking to me today. I really want to know you."

And so I committed this day, October 18th, to heart, because it matters. Not just because 7 years ago today I fell in love with the man who was and is everything I had ever dreamed of. But because 7 years ago today God reminded me how much He loved me, by giving that man just the right words to say.

Those verses in Ezekiel have been on my heart again lately, as I seek daily to point my children to Christ's redemptive love.
I am struggling a bit to find a balance, particularly with my older son who is so perceptive and thoughtful. Since the birth of each of my sons I have studied the love of God as a Father and as a Mother. I love the definition I heard of El-Shaddai: "The Breasty One", particularly in having infants and toddlers who have been at times difficult to console, but have always found their greatest comfort through nursing.
It is so important to me, though I know in my humanity I will ultimately fail them, to set them up as best as possible to be able to depend upon God.
It's the reason why I've never been into cry-it-out-alone-in-their-beds. It seems so western. Teaching "self-soothing" and "independence". We were made for relationship. Made for dependence. Made to seek out the solace of another bigger Parent in the darkest night.

It's why my desire is to model God's unconditional Love and Patience and to rid myself of my own selfish ambitions in approaching motherhood. Recognizing my own sinful flesh which can be even more powerful than my childrens'.

But there is a new dimension as my children grow older and increase in understanding, and I struggle to find the balance in pointing them to their need for a Savior. Aquaman is a deep thinker, and I'm so glad he is able to verbalize so many of his thoughts, but I can already percieve his sense of shame in regards to his imperfections: his sin. Even at only the slightest correction.

Maybe it isn't such an issue with every child, but understanding his nature as being much like mine, there is a big part of me that celebrates those feelings of inadequacy and general bad-ness. But I can also see how easily it could tip the scales too far. After being corrected a few days ago, he cried inconsolably and said "I just don't want you to still be mad at me the NEXT day."
As if I even could. As if I could be mad at him for longer than 5 rotten minutes before he melts my heart again. As if, really, I was even mad at HIM in the first place.

So I guess it's the age old question. How do I demonstrate to my son that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner? I'm afraid he'll give up, get discouraged, deem himself unworthy.

I'm glad it's not all up to me. I take so much comfort that even if his cord had never been cut by his excited Daddy, even if those nurses had never bathed him and wrapped him in blankets, and even if I had not looked in pity at that red little face and offered him the comfort given by El-Shaddai; God would have been there. He would have said to him: "Live!"

I know He's saying that to him even now.

 And I'm so looking forward to watching him come to Life.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Extremes

It's a little before 6 am on a Saturday morning, and both of my boys are wide awake, and I have been up almost 2 hours.
This seems to be pretty par for the course these days, and is the reason why I don't have much of anything profound to say this week. My brain is almost completely fried. Which works out ok on the weekends, since taking care of a 19 month old and 4 year old does not require a lot of strenuous brain exercise. Patience, yes, which can be a little shorter on less sleep. But then again, with all the extra time I've had in less sleeping, there IS more quiet time with God to get an extra supply of it.

The workweek is a little harder, since it's more difficult to hide the spacey look in my eyes, and since there are some critical thinking skills required. But, it's also easier to be compassionate, and as I found myself sitting in my office listening to a mother and her 16 year old son relate the difficulties in their lives this week, I found myself frequently near tears. I'd like to think it is the softened heart of one who is in tune with the heart of God. But I know some of it is just being so close to my own frailty.

Life at work and at home have reached a severe dichotomy. I still love my job. My co-workers probably think I'm crazy, but it's true. I am so glad I spent years bouncing from one job to another and didn't listen to people who wondered if I was afraid to committing to one thing. I just hadn't found my place yet. I have now. The money isn't as much as I could be making elsewhere, but I feel like it is just where I am supposed to be.

I know part of it is the frequent exposure to the pain of others, which seems that it is just getting worse every day. It reminds me that my difficult days, like when everyone is crying at once, JT is working constantly, and I am exhausted are just...awesome.

It's a constant reminder of how lost this world is, and how important it is to be pointing out the answer. Because it's not just the problems that are so painful to see. It's the lack of answers and meaning and understanding in the eyes of those around me.

Problems and pain and sickness and death and poverty are difficult, but they are not the end and they do not have to be devastating. I think this is why God has been getting me up so early these days. And thank you to Barney who has kept my kids quiet each morning and allowed me those precious quiet moments to draw close to my Savior.

I figure with the many less hours that my children sleep than the average child, even with an extra hour of television, they still have plenty of hours in the day for more constructive activities.

Life at home remains amazing, which is why I realize more and more every day, that I am not supposed to be at home full-time. It is too easy for me to get caught up and happy and self-centered at home. Making pumpkin muffins and reading books and teaching my kids to boogie board. Which is fine when it's 4 days a week, but probably not the full purpose of my life.

I love it though.

JT has been incredibly busy, working and swimming and interviewing. We'll see what comes of it. We don't know his number on the hiring list yet, and if it's number 10, probably nothing has come of it. It is entirely in God's hands, and the verse God has given me in all of it has been this:

"Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what the will of God is. His good, pleasing, and perfect will."
-Romans 12:1-2

God has a good, pleasing, and perfect will for JT, and for our family.

But one thing I know, and will always know. I am a very blessed woman to be married to this wonderful man. Whose heart is always to do the will of God. Who adores his children and is already so accepting of them, incredibly nurturing and affectionate, and who makes me feel every day that I am as beautiful as the day we met.

In other news, our kitchen cabinets are completed, and we are thrilled with the results!



JT had the brilliant idea to turn the unused balcony into a playroom now that the weather is nice, and the boys have had a blast out there.
 

The Dude seems to be growing up rapidly. He speaks several new words every day, and his new thrill is the big boy swings. For 15 minutes at a time.

He is neverendingly into something, but is so happy about it that it's hard to get upset. He is rarely offended by discipline, which makes him MUCH easier to teach than his ultra-sensitive brother.

Aquaman was off of school yesterday and thrilled to spend the whole day with me and The Dude and Baby A. Until he realized how jealous it made him that I was holding and looking at another baby. You'd think it would be the little one who would be jealous, but no. My oldest son is definitely my clingiest. It can get a little sweaty and exhausting.
 
But I kind of doubt he'll be fighting for my lap when he's 12, so for now I'm trying to enjoy it. I can't believe what a boy he's turning into.
 
All these emotional ups and downs are such a reminder to me of what happens in the end.

"All I know is I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong."
-Building 429

Aquaman has been repeatedly telling me lately that he plans to go to heaven when he's 4 and not get any older. I have to admit, this is a little unnerving to a mother, but I know what he means. I've been taking a 10 minute break at work in the mornings and taking a walk around the building to clear my head lately, and the other morning, I couldn't help but smile as I caught a glimpse of the October clouds. This is why I love October in Florida. The way the air is a little drier. The way the wind blows like crazy. The way the clouds look just right for the return of Jesus. Like He's peeking right over, on the verge of it.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words."
-1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Satiety

I'm glad I started this blog.
I'm glad because the other day I had a few minutes to sit down and read through some old posts, and glance at some pictures from earlier in the year and it reminded me why I started it in the first place.
To remember.
To look back and see from whence we've come and how much we've all grown.

I'm glad because reading about 3 year old Aquaman reminded me what a pleasure 4 year old Aquaman has become.
And because there are little things about The Dude and his earliest toddlerhood that I thought certain I would never forget, but I did. And looking back through my posts I can relive them for just a moment.
 


It's important to take some time to look back once in a while. I have shelves and shelves of prayer journals that are collecting dust, but I keep them because I know someday I might need them to remember God's grace from the past so that I can rely on it for the future. Future Grace. One of my all-time favorite books, by John Piper. Because it's our faith in future grace that keeps us going, but it's remembering compounded past grace that gives us that faith.

It's been a tiring week so far. JT has to work all weekends this month due to staff shortages, and since he switched his days off from September, he is in the middle of a 9 day work week. The Dude has awakened me at 4:30 am for the past 4 days in a row, so I have been going to bed at 10, experiencing multiple night-wakings, and then getting up for good at 4:30. I'm tired.
And I'm so happy.
It won't last forever.
If some part of me didn't remember that, after reading back over these past 9 months, it remembers now.

The Dude is 19 months old today. I am cherishing toddlerhood.

He loves to read his favorite books to himself, particularly "first words" and "are you my mother?". He flips back over and over to his favorite pictures, and points emphatically to them: "BALL, oh hahahaha", "DOG! *arf arf arf*!"
Then he wants me to read it to him so he throws the book at my head and yells in his shrillest most angry voice "PEASE! BOOK!"
We'll need to work on our manners. But probably not today. Today he is a 19 month old. And those moments of fury end within seconds and he is back to smiles and giggles and playing trucks.

Aquaman is a 4 yr old in all his 4 yr old glory. I adore it. He loves me again and wants me around. He tolerates my nightly 25 kisses and 32 hugs. He shows off. A lot. And acts silly to the point of being ridiculous. He laughs way more and cries much less. He wakes up happy and excited for the day instead of demanding and weepy. To be sure, there are some things I miss about 3. Now, whenever I try to have a serious conversation with him, or ask him a question, he randomly inserts a funny word to change the subject and lighten the mood.

When I sat with him on the floor to write thank you notes for his birthday presents the other day, he wanted to address them to: "Mr. Nobody full of empty bags." If you're wondering what that means, so am I. These are the kinds of nonsensical conversations we have now.
But when I went to his recent school birthday party, and saw him gathered around his friends, I noticed a little girl sitting across from him who giggled with excitement every time he said one of those ridiculous phrases, and I realized, for a 4 year old: He's hip. He's edgy.

A preview of 15 yr old Aquaman, the show-off.

He's not who I thought he'd be, and I LOVE that. When I was pregnant with him I pictured a tan, curly-tow-headed ready-for-anything surfer boy. We got closer to that mark with the 2nd one.
Aquaman is cautious and thoughtful and infinitely sensitive, and I have been slowly but surely extracting my preconceived notions from my mind and my behavior and letting him fill them in.

Given his high sensitivity as well as his need to be in control, he doesn't seem to be a candidate for team sports. Maybe wrestling though. He is pretty fast and furious and goes into a full-blown panic if you so much as hold his hand (much less try to hold down his whole body)

And he's highly verbal and very bright but he does not enjoy anything that smells of school. I believe he told me the other day: "I don't like school because I don't like learning." Which I think actually means he doesn't like learning anything that's hard for him: sitting still, paying attention, writing his letters.

He plays "only with things that have wheels", and has recently changed from saying he was going to be a dentist (for the past 2 yrs), to wanting to become a pediatrician.

It's so much fun watching him grow, and learning to step back and let him become who he is. I know these interests will be forever evolving (after all, I went through an obsessive dog loving phase at age 11 and moved on), but I look forward to encouraging him to explore those things that make him tick and find out who he is, and I hope I don't get in the way of helping him become who he was meant to be.

In other news, we're having our kitchen cabinets and counters painted. I am very excited about this, since they have been looking pretty pathetic, but in the meantime our whole house is torn up from the mess in the kitchen.

We're doing a lot of reading from the library about Autumn, and hoping Aunt K can bring us some colored leaves when she comes to visit in a few weeks. We're making pumpkin muffins and cinnamon apple fruit leather this weekend.

And we're spending the next 2 days with this pretty girl.


Our house and our hearts are full.
Thank You, God.