Friday, January 25, 2013

God's Provision

This week, God called me out on my "word of the year" for 2013. Remember that word?
Surrender.
I meant it, or at least I think I did.

The year has begun at an alarming pace, and I have an anxious, back-of-my-mind feeling that I am falling behind and will never catch up again.

Gone are my lofty ideals of somehow organizing our house, decorating it, "spring-cleaning it".
It's basically all I can do to keep it from being a bigger disaster every day.

At work we are short-staffed by 5 nurses. Which means, on work days, hitting the ground running after a full sprint to get out of the door, and not stopping until the boys' heads finally hit the pillows (whenever that may be)- and still having piles and piles of clothes everywhere, sippy cups littering the floor and a kitchen that desperately needs cleaning.

Then there's the needs of my children, The guilt revolving around them which has been biologically and culturally programmed into my identity.

In discussions with his teacher, we decided to put off an eval for OT for Aquaman until fall of next year- since he still has another year of pre-k anyway. His teacher graciously provided me with a kit full of games to play with him in order to work on his fine motor skills. Considering he hates to "work" on anything that is difficult for him, I am going to have to be creative. And the house is going to have to get dirtier.
One of the games involves actually writing letters.

I think he's going to smell a rat. :)

His behavior is mostly under control. He is an active boy, and that will never change. I don't want it to.
4 has found him to be incredibly silly. He is mightily persistent but neverendingly tender. He has been pushing my exhausted boundaries further and further lately, but 2 1-hour timeouts in his room on Sunday seem to have temporarily solved that issue. (FYI, time out in his room means he gets to play with his trains and whatever other toys are in there, he just can't come out. However, by his howling for me you would have thought he had been deprived of all basic necessities). But after that last one, he came to me and said "I am going to obey you the 1st time now every time, because I don't want ANY more time outs!
He is becoming increasingly easier to reason with.

Then there is The Dude. Almost 2. Wild and impulsive and temperamental. He is gorgeous and fun-loving and an absolute charm, but he is time-and-energy consuming. I occasionally wonder if he is slow or something, because all the books say you should be able to begin reasoning with them at this age, but when i try to he just stares at me with his eyes half-crossed and a crazy grin, then takes off all his clothes and runs the other way.

Last night he demanded that JT pour him some drinkable "wogurt", then before he could even finish, disappeared into the next room, shouting "WATCH IT!" because he heard Praise Baby music playing. He never did come back for the yogurt.

He's not slow. He is stringing 2-3 words together regularly now. He is counting. He knows some letters.
He is The Dude.

I did better with Aquaman. Aquaman was energetic and fiesty too, but there was only one of him. I was painfully consistent and patient. If he needed 50 timeouts in a day, I was there for him.
The Dude needs at least that many, but I'll admit it...sometimes I am just too tired.

He swings open the refrigerator and dumps out the sugar. While I'm cleaning that up, he takes off his diaper and pees on the floor. He bangs his head dramatically on the tile in a temper tantrum, then looks at me accusingly as he rubs it and screams.

I believe that, for the most part, if we are faced with a temptation...we should run from it. Since an almost 2 year old doesn't have enough sense to even do that yet, I am trying to teach him by removing him.

We spend a lot of time at the playground these days.

We are trying to wean, really we are. Daytime is down to only nap nursing. We're going to tackle that one when he turns 23 months.
And then the third and final attempt at night weaning. When I will go, once again, from not-getting-enough-sleep, to getting-way-too-little sleep. I don't know how I am going to survive that one.

To be really honest, this week I have felt like I am failing.
Failing them.

Am I reading to them enough? Working with them enough? Disciplining them enough? Giving them the one on one attention that they need? Not giving them everything they want? Teaching them the way the world works? Teaching them the way God works?

The list of demands are endless. The comparisons to others can go on and on, only compounded by the expansion of life in the Facebook world. Why can't my 4 year old read yet? Why doesn't my 22 month old use the potty yet? I must be doing something wrong.
Which, in turn, communicates to my children that there is something wrong with them.

Which is exactly opposite of what I want to communicate to them.

There is nothing wrong with them. Even if the Dude was slow and his eyes were always crazy like that. Even if Aquaman doesn't learn to write his name until he's 8.
Labels are important these days in order to make needed interventions. But all the diagnosing leaves people feeling that they are somehow flawed.
When really it's just our wacked out system of comparisons and competitions.

I am reminded again and again that loving my children, while it may appear at times to be selfless, is often a purely selfish act.
How they turn out is a reflection on ME. And their successes and accomplishments are internalized as a part of me.

This week, in moments of being completely overwhelmed, I frequently asked myself: "what can I let go of in order to invest more in my children?" I began to think of all the extra responsibilities, and wondering what I could pare down in order to benefit my kids. But was I really looking out for them? Or was I doing it because it would be easier and more comfortable to do life in my own strength if I was released from other responsibilities?

God met me at the altar
Where, just a few weeks ago, I told Him I wanted to surrender all of it. Not just a little of it. 100%.
And what He told me there was not that I need to let go of the other things in my life in order to give more to my children. But that I need to fully let go of my children. His children.

We studied Jehovah-Jireh this week in Bible study. We read Genesis 22 where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son to God.
Abraham had faith. He had faith that God would provide if he was willing to surrender.

So, this week, as I have before, and I will again: I have surrendered my children to Him.
Because what I want to be is a stay at home mom who is always there, who home schools, who provides everything my children could possibly need.
But He is a better provider than I could ever be. He is a better teacher than I will ever be. He is a better Mother than I have ever been.
He loves me. He loves them. He has compassion for the other souls that sometimes call me from the needs of the ones that I most want to serve.

He has a plan. I'm going to trust it.

"As you and I take on His character more and more, we will reach out beyond ourselves to manifest to others what He is to us."
-Kay Arthur

I've been reading an old prayer journal again, one from the month before I got pregnant with Aquaman. I said to God "when will peace be my FIRST response?"

It's still not my first response. But by the grace of God, it is coming sooner.

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am."
-John Newton

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Warm Januarys

It's January, but it feels like March...or even May. At first, that annoyed me. After all, this is usually the one month that we don't have the run the A/C around here. Which I think it why I became so annoyed. I resisted it so long that the house hit a full 82 degrees of 100% humidity. And considering I was still trying to wear my jeans and long sleeved shirts, and tackle the post-Christmas-season grime of our house...well it was just getting a little ridiculous.

Now I have embraced this surprising new season
with air conditioning, shorts, and impromptu trips to the beach.

The boys are growing and changing, as young boys do.
Aquaman has gone from shocking us in his Threes to delighting us with his Fours. He is as intense as ever, but the wonderful sense of humor that I can recall first from early infancy (and that all but disappeared in that tumultuous third year) has returned in full color.
On top of that, this new boy, whose face and belly have flattened and thinned, has even at such a young age- an ambition, energy, and servant's heart that on occasion reduce me to an awed silence as I watch him.
And how he loves his little brother.
Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason that he has settled down behavior-wise is because he has finally forgotten what it was like to be an only child. You can see how much of his identity is wrapped up in being the leader, the protector...the friend.

On this particular playground trip last week, The Dude wanted me to join him on the stairs and going down the slide, which I often do.

But since I was holding baby A at the time, I asked Aquaman to accompany him instead.
At one point, The Dude stopped for a moment in a tunnel, checking out the sights and relaxing. But a small girl behind him did not approve. I watched the whole thing go down. First, Aquaman patiently explained to her that The Dude was still kind of a baby and he would move through in his own time. But the little girl was not pleased with that answer and began to lean into the Dude a little more.
Aquaman positioned himself directly in her face and said "DON'T yell at him. He's only ONE!"
The girl turned around and went to the other way. The Dude continued to pick his nose, or whatever he was doing. And I was left admiring my oldest son. And thinking that of all the things I could do for these boys, the best thing I did was give them each other.
I have yet to find a better cleaning buddy than Aquaman. During The Dude's nap, we often tackle the house together, since he wants to spend special time with me, and that is the only time I can get anything done. Not only is he a legitimate help these days, but he has such a cheerful and eager attitude about it that it is contagious.
I once heard him humming to himself "I'm a happy helper" from Barney, and traced the noise to the bathroom where he was wiping down the sink with a Clorox wipe.

Of course, with all this growing up, comes the many reminders of the hurt and uncertainties that he is going to face when he goes out into the world alone. I am so proud of his confidence, his ability to stand up for the weak, and his work ethic.
But this year I have also seen how he hides his drawings, his artwork. He often asks me why other children can write their names, and he can't. He is youngest child in his pre-k class, and on top of that has some fine motor delay. I'm hopeful that he is just young. But given his father's history of dysgraphia, I occasionally cringe at the struggles he may someday face.
I am trying to remember what I told JT a long time ago:
It's ok if our kids have to struggle in school. If it helps them to turn out as well as you did...that will be more than enough for me. I still believe it.
In the meantime, our biggest problems are skinned knees, lost monster trucks and shrinking puddles. This is why I love these days, though they are sometimes consumed with the drudgery of sleeplessness, food-all-over-the-floor, and laundry. They are simple. I love simplicity.

I love laughter. And dancing. The smell of warmed water on pavement. The way the sunlight reflects off of orange and yellow curls.
The Dude is now my problem child. A bundle of endless energy, drive and passion. He could not be any cuter, and he could not be more tiring. "No. NO!" He lectures me about the street, wagging his finger for emphasis (do I really DO that?!), and then, in an instant dashes into it.
Every night when we put on his pajamas, he goes running for Daddy and then looks himself up and down pointedly until JT praises his neverending cuteness.
Recently, JT found a wounded bird on the beach, and when I lifted up The Dude to see it, he said "you're MY bird. CHEEP CHEEP!"
His hugs will melt your heart, and his biting will make you scream.
He is an endless series of paradoxes and contradictions. Snatching Aquaman's toys with glee, then ceremoniously laying them at his feet, without being asked, with a "yay!" followed by inconsolable sobs.

He will be gone soon, this boy who hasn't quite found his place.


But I know that every once in a while, I'll still see him. Like I still see the long gone infant somewhere deep in the nearly chiseled lines of Aquaman's profile, as I lay next to him at night, those few moments we have together to talk alone before he drifts into dreamland.
I took a video of this beach sequence while it was happening, and JT and I watched it later. My camera is cheap and the video has relatively poor quality and no sound with it. It reminded us of the Wonder Years clips, and was strangely nostalgic. As if we were watching a time long past.

We will be someday. But what a gift is today, if it is embraced for what it is, instead of what we expected.
This season of life is like a warm January. It isn't scripted, or well planned. It isn't clean, and sometimes it's not real pretty. And if we resist the demands of it, it will make us miserable.
But it's beautiful, and sunny...and when slightly pixelated...
It's perfect.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Surrender

I'm always a little slow to get started on resolutions. Somehow, the new year just sneaks up on me, being right after Christmas and all.

Looking back at 2012 though, I am glad for the intentional way that I thought about the new year. Last year, I resolved to begin prayer journaling in the mornings during my quiet time, in order to to enhance that time and stay focused, despite the many distractions in the middle of it.

It has been life changing. I'm not going to say I did it every day. I didn't. There were a few mornings, especially on work days, when I barely had enough time to get out the door on time to work, and sitting down to journal for a few minutes would have been purely legalism. I did not pressure myself in that way. Because that's not what it was about.
God met me on my way to work. I missed that quiet and slower time, I really did. But there are days when "praying without ceasing" is enough. Sometimes you've just got to go to the bathroom and look at the Bible verse you keep in your pocket. Some days that's all you can do.

Every night when I am nursing The Dude to sleep, I sit in the rocking chair and read my most recent library book. Last week I was out and didn't have time to go to the library. So I opened the bookcase and took out some prayer journals.
The first one was from 5.5 years ago. The month after JT and I were married. I was struggling with confusion about my job, as was JT. I actually wrote "I suppose it is only fair that JT has such a difficult work schedule. If he had a M-F desk job and we were this in love, we wouldn't be on a level playing field with everyone else." I laughed because I didn't remember feeling that way back then. But I still feel that way now.
The second one was from early 2009. Aquaman was barely one. His scribbles mark most of my papers. We were 5 months into trying to sell our 1 bedroom condo.

Reading those journals only strengthened my resolve to continue journaling as much as I can during these crazy busy times. You think you will always remember everything about these times. You won't. Reading back over those times made me remember things about myself, about JT, about Aquaman that I had already forgotten. But most importantly, they reminded me from where we came. And how far we have come. How we have grown. Ultimately, the deliverance of God. Some days my faith badly needs those reminders.

For the same reason, I am also glad I started this blog. Glad to look back at the pictures. At the hard days and at the days when I remembered what really matters. God is good. 2012 was wonderful.

The coupon resolution was not an utter failure. I needed to give it a good try to know that it would not work for us. Our time is better spent elsewhere, and Aldi works out much better for our family. If nothing else, because Aquaman has become quite adept at grocery shopping, as it is a small store. He can easily push the cart through the store, put the groceries in, load them on the conveyor belt, and even help me bag them at the end. Shopping at Aldi is not only cheaper, it's much more fun, and Aquaman loves being trusted with the responsibility.

And now we are well into 2013. This morning I made the mistake of checking to see how much my first paycheck of the year was, with the added taxes. It was kind of painful. But when I opened up my Bible, I remembered the 5 loaves and 2 fish. And this year, I am looking forward to seeing God stretch little into more than enough. As He has always done.

For 2013, my resolutions are to continue this blog and my daily prayer journal.
My NEW resolutions are:
1) Join a small group/Bible study
2) More aerobic exercise

To be honest,  I have been trying #1 all year in 2012, but it hasn't worked out. Mainly because The Dude was not ready for a nursery setting, and because I was only looking within our church. This year, he is doing fine in the nursery, and I am willing to expand my search. With my work schedule and my need for childcare, I have to be flexible. So this morning began my first adventure, and it was really nice. I feel that resolution #1 will be a good one.

#2, well it's a dream, but I don't know if it's do-able. Mornings are out of the picture unless it's before 6:30, since that is when JT goes swimming. Evenings- well I love evenings. They are special family time until 7. Then at 7 is my special time with The Dude. Snuggling, and reading. At 7:30 or 8, Aquaman and I snuggle and read our Bible story, and talk. And after that, it's JT and I time. Watching whatever is our latest show on Netflix (currently the Tudors), getting ready for bed together, talking much longer than we planned. I don't know how to fit exercise into the evenings.

I drove by the Lamb Shoppe and saw a double jogger the other day. But the next day it was gone. I think a double jogger might help my cause, but with our current paychecks, probably not the wisest way to spend our money.

But as I consider 2013, one word comes to mind. Surrender.
This is my hope. That, as a family, JT and I would surrender our own agendas. Not just in some areas. And not just 10%. But 100%. In everything.

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if He gains the whole world, but loses his soul? And what will a man exchange for his soul?"
Matthew 16: 25-26

I pray that we will give up our lives, not because they are not valuable. But because they are invaluable to God. Because God can do with our little- much.
This 2013 is His. Let us not hold back.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Closing Time



"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
-Dan Wilson

It's closing time for the year 2012, and a brand new fresh calandar beginning in the year 2013.

I can say with all abandon, as I look back over it, that it has been the best year of my life, to date. In my own secret and safe imaginings though, each year to come will only grow sweeter.

There have been hours and hours of temper tantrums. Nights of nursing, nursing, and more nursing: fevers, vomiting, and wetting the bed. Days of wondering how I'll get through without utterly losing my cool. Moments of wanting to rush out the door, wind in my face, air thick in my lungs- Feel my legs pound on the concrete, the freedom of breathlessness. Dive into the ice cold ocean and feel it's power, bigger than potty training issues and 4 year old impulsivity.

There have been hours of early morning Barney episodes. Watching The Dude sprawled out on the floor, alternately pushing his truck, and swaying involuntarily to the music. Some mornings when my pen flowed effortlessly across my journal, and I walked in the quiet cool garden of my prayers with my Savior- hearing Him speak, resting in His promises. And mornings when I stared blankly at the pages. Listening to the silence. Not sure if I really wanted to hear the answers. Mornings when the undone laundry and dishes and floors and children screamed so loudly that I struggled, often unsuccessfully, to tune them out.


Somewhere along the line, Aquaman started to sleep past 6, then 7, and occasionally 8. He started to grow fine red hair on his scrawny little boy legs, that, when I forget how much he is growing up, sometimes tricks me into thinking he's gotten into something dirty. (But then again, there's usually dirt there too).

I've struggled many many days not to expect too much of him. I've learned that the things that most drive me crazy about him are the things that make him so much like me. I've wondered aloud whether I was failing him. I've accepted his forgiveness for moments of impatience, and I hope I've been gracious enough of an example that he's learned how to forgive himself too.

I've spent long stolen moments imagining the brightness of his future.

The Dude approaches 22 months, and he brings into it an arsenal of personality, humor, and persistence that charms me in its progress.

 As much as I adored his infancy, and want to kiss his chubby 2012 cheeks, his budding language skills (very regularly stringing 2-3 words together now, though more often repeating the same word over and over emphatically) are showing me more and more about who he is, and it is fascinating.

I think one of the greatest mysteries and joys of love is discovering the heart of another person. How they work, and what drives them. My greatest joy of 2012 was drawing closer to these dearest of souls, and finding that in our vast array of differences there is one theme.

We are so much more alike than we think we are.

One of the hardest things for me since the birth of Aquaman has been giving up time spent with JT pursuing mutual passions. Dates for us, pre-kids, consisted mainly of swimming, surfing, or running together. Granted, I could never really keep up with the insanity of his pace- but it was something wonderful we shared together.

I went through a bit of an identity crisis after Aquaman's birth. Working full-time and caring for a newborn, and a colicky one at that, meant that I often barely had enough time to get the tangles out of my hair, much less hit the beach for a run/swim. But it wasn't just that.
As much as I missed that running, swimming, and surfing- all of sudden holding this little life in my arms- I realized where I truly felt His pleasure.

And I understood JT's more.

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."
-Eric Liddell

I love the way God made my husband. It takes him from me every morning and out to the pool, with a passion that, even in my love for the same activities, might have been hard for me to understand before I became a mother and discovered how much joy there is in doing the thing you were most made to do.

If there has been anything better than watching my children master one thing or the other, it has been seeing my husband succeed this year. He fought through the end of fire academy, battled out the ups and downs of ocean rescue season. Led the county to a 2nd place finish at regionals and himself to his 2nd award of Officer of the Year, and performed CPR on a drowning victim who later returned completely to her normal self.

All the while somehow still managing to make me feel like the luckiest girl alive, and raising two little boys: the oldest of which, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, answers simply: "Daddy".

It has been an easy year. The peaks were high and the valleys mild. The action constant and the moments of despair few. Statistically speaking, it was a bit of a vacation from the wild swings that life often has to offer.

But I say, with no small amount of trepidation, that I am not afraid of the uncertainties of a new year.
May it not just be a happy new year, this one. May it be an intentional one, a soberly considered one. May it bring all the pains that will bring us to our knees and lift our eyes and hearts upwards. May the trials of life humble us, but not break us.


May we not be afraid when we can't see our hands in front of our faces.
 
May we "not go where the path may lead, but go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

May it be another year of adventure

And another year of love.