Tuesday, August 23, 2016

more than a mother {community post 5}

Tonight I am in awe of how much has changed and shifted in my life in the last year. Agreeing to listen to the Lord and be in community has led me to paths and trails I never expected to come across, or even knew I wanted.

Much has been written about how important it is to make time for oneself when one is a mother, but that is much easier said than done in my experience. Most evenings I am worn out and done. I don't want to go out. I don't want to find clothes that match, or put on anything other than pajamas.

And yet this week I went out after the kids went to bed last night and tonight. What's even more surprising is that I wanted to go. So often I make plans and then when the time comes to go I'd rather stay home and read. I love you friends, I really do, but I often prefer to be alone after a day of the kids hollering demands and smothering me with love (there is nothing as intense as toddler love is there?).

Last night I went over to a friend's house for our first Bible study meeting. For YEARS I've wanted to dive into the Bible with a friend who is more spiritually mature than me and learn more about my faith, but I have never made steps beyond praying to make it happen. I think it's rare that praying without doing leads to results, but in this case being utterly lazy eventually worked out for me.

And I met this friend through the community group that we learned about and joined when we met the pastor who hosts it when we moved into this house and discovered the left behind washer (full story here) See the thread? God is amazing at weaving those threads, but it takes so many years to get from one point to another I often forget to follow along and be amazed at His hands working in my life.

This evening I went on a walk with one of the moms I met through B's preschool program. A few weeks ago she mentioned we should get together without kids and I jumped on that idea. I invited her and another mother who lives close by to walk Tuesday evenings with me and I can't wait to keep going as long as the weather cooperates. It is so nice to have a conversation without being interrupted.

Knowing Bible study time, or an evening walk, is coming up helps me have energy to get through the day, and it provides a boost for the next day as well. My patience runs thin with the kids at the best of times, but when we're in the middle of a big project like we are now it's even harder for me to stay present, calm, and kind because I don't get a break when J comes home.

Adding time to my evening to walk and study the Bible with new friends adds another ring to my circle of community, and it's one I am really enjoying. I am hesitant to change and reluctant to grow, but following the Lord's prompting has led me to new experiences and opportunities. I still have the friends I did before we moved, before B began school, and before we joined our community group, but it seems like every few months another community ring is added and the work the Lord is doing in me increases.

I'm learning that what I want more than anything is to be known. To know my neighbors (still working on that one) to know the mothers I see at drop-off and pick-off, to know my closest friends, my family, my kids, my husband. It's not enough to move through every day with superficial words of greeting and surface conversations. I want to build relationships so when life goes sideways - or conversely when life goes really, really right and all the dreams come true at once and a cascade of answered prayers fall into place - I can be there and either show compassion or cheer loudly.

And I finally have the confidence to be honest, to ask the hard questions, to invite people into my life because I understand I am completely known by God. People may reject me, or my ideas, but He won't. So far every person He has encouraged me to approach, and every situation He has placed in my life as I pursue the idea of community, has yielded fruit and unexpected benefits. I'm excited to see where the thread goes from here, what God has in store for me next.

Do you feel known? Do you feel accepted in your community? Do you feel invited into other's lives? How do you feel about community and friendship? What role does it play in your life?

Friday, August 12, 2016

lost in the remodeling dust

I don't really feel like we've had a summer. We are in the thick of things on the small bathroom remodel, there's a lot of life stuff going on, and we haven't stopped to do anything fun.

So this morning I loaded up the kids and headed for the beach. I hate taking on solo trips by myself, but the beach isn't too far from us - just over an hour - and we have a great spot we go to that has a shallow stream. Chasing two kids around the roaring ocean waves isn't very fun, but finding a nice spot along a shallow river on the beach is perfect for me. Today my hands were very full, and the kids didn't care in the slightest about seeing the ocean, so we didn't even attempt cresting the small rise for a view. We walked straight to the stream and crashed with all of our things.

I went all out for our trip. I hauled every sand toy we own, as well as the giant beach ball, and packed extra outfits for everyone (although I forgot my extra clothes bag and had to buy an overpriced sweatshirt from the market so I didn't freeze while we waited for the fog to burn off). I stopped at the store for chips, chocolate and watermelon and let them eat that for lunch. I didn't even add turkey or cheese to the menu even though I packed it. I let them eat out of bags and containers, food mixing with sand and cold water from the stream. I let them be messy and busy, I let them wade a little deeper than I was comfortable with, and wander a bit farther than I normally do.

Instead of sitting at home searching for bathroom vanities and flooring while the Olympics played in the background and getting frustrated when the kids asked for snacks (every hour - seriously) I spent the day on the beach watching them splash, build sand castles and make friends.

By this time next month B will be 5 and we'll be back to the school year schedule. August is for beach trips and blackberry picking. Splash parks and hikes in the cool woods. Time spent outside before the seasons change and draw us back indoors.

Bathrooms can wait. Finding bathroom vanities and flooring can wait (I am SO ready to hire a designer). Dishes, laundry, and watching the Olympics can wait. My babies will be 3 and 5 this fall. Now is the time to soak them in and enjoy our days together.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

hope unfolding: grace-filled truth for the momma's heart {book review}

I feel like I've read a lot of books in this vein lately. Like it's popular to write about how hard it is being a mom and how we all feel overwhelmed, but with Jesus moms can do it!

Which is not to say there isn't truth in that!

I am a) a mom and b) overwhelmed and c) so glad I have Jesus to guide me as a parent.

And where some of the books in this category have been a little overdone, Becky Thompson does a nice job of being honest about her life while imparting Scripture based tips on how to mother with faith and joy.

I read through Hope Unfolding on my own, but I would like to go back through it with friends and talk about some of the topics Thompson unpacks. Thompson writes on everything from feeling alone, to feeling insecure, to comparison mothering, to how mothers can rely on God and learn to tune into Him and away from the negative broadcasting that comes from the Enemy.

Thompson's writing about her day to day life is engaging and fun which keeps the book interesting.  After reading Hope Unfolding I wanted to recommend it to my mama friends because it's a great reminder that while parenting young ones is lonely mothers are not alone.

I think this review would be more enthusiastic/longer if I wasn't so tired from getting up with Ainsleigh so many times last night! I guess it's the perfect book for me right now as I feel really worn out and ready to resume the fall/preschool/more scheduled routine in a few weeks!

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, July 29, 2016

charlotte's song

There are a lot of songs I listened to after Charlotte died that I can't hear without feeling like throwing up because they so vividly remind me of those days after she died. I can't remember how those early days felt without physical pain. It was so shocking, and it hurt so much that she was gone, and I never want to feel that way again so I do my best to avoid triggers that will take me back there.

When I think of her birth, however, the song I always hear in my mind is The Frames version of "Falling Slowly." Even though I don't want to remember the days immediately after sometimes I want to remember her birth. And when I hear "Falling Slowly" I am in the room where Charlotte was born, sunshine streaming in the window, watching it all from above. As far as I understand this seeing from above is a response to the trauma of being there. I can see myself, I can see everyone who was there, but I can't go back there unless I am a silent witness hovering above. And every time I am there, watching events unfold, this is the song I hear.

I've missed Charlotte so much lately. This time of year is always hard for me. My birthday is in a week, and turning a year older when Charlotte didn't live longer than a few hours still bothers me. It's incomprehensible, really, that we have gone on, that we have aged, while she never did, and never will.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

when things fall apart, come together {community post 4}

I hosted our annual summer bash today. It was wet and wild, with kids and laughter everywhere. In the middle of the chaos I always wonder, is this fun? but then I see kids laughing and moms chatting and I realize it is fun. It's a different kind of fun than putting my feet up and talking late into the night with my friends. Conversations start and stop as water gun fights erupt around the yard and kids run in and out of the house, but talking to someone taller than 3 feet counts as fun even when it's in the midst of chaos.

I've felt a little lost this summer. I miss my best friend, the missing part of a friendship triangle I couldn't have dreamed up had I sketched out the perfect friendship triad in my mind. Two is good. Two is definitely better than one, or zero, but I really miss the one who moved.

I've also felt really sad this summer. I think my babies turning 3 and 5 this fall is throwing me off balance. I am absolutely definitely done with the baby stage, but oh my goodness I'll have a five-year-old in seven weeks and that just seems impossible. Wasn't I just in the NICU begging my tiny B to feed, and breathe, and live so we could go home and watch a baby grow up? That was yesterday, right?

But even in sadness and lostness there is good, and today was really good. Every year the summer play date changes and grows, and every year it gives me a chance to take stock and be thankful for the friends I have in my life. New ones, old ones, every day ones and once a year ones. At one point today I was sitting on the patio watching everyone enjoy themselves and when I looked around at the faces next to and across from me I realized we had all lost children. Not every mother present today had lost a child, but those who were missing one or more were in the majority.

I always want to remember that those people were on my patio today because Charlotte lived. I want to remember that her life has impact, even though she isn't here to live it. And I want to remember that when things fell apart there were so many who were there, and so many who came, and so many who offered to be my friend.

It's fun to plan a big summer bash and invite tons of people and put out pools and water toys and balls and bubbles, but it's also a time to take stock. A time to remember. A time to acknowledge that people are important. And even though seasons bring new faces and friendships to the backyard the core of what I have tried to do with every play date and connection and invitation is be in community because I have felt called to do so.

It's been really challenging, and scary to live in community, and sometimes it doesn't work out. I invited a neighbor to come today, but she didn't cross the street. And I really meant to walk over and remind her, but the day got away from me and I didn't. It would be easier to let it go, to wave if I see her and forget about the invitation, but I want to stick with what I feel the Lord  calling me to, and I really feel the need to be available, to invite, to connect, and to build relationships. I can't be really close with everyone I meet, but I can make people feel noticed; like who they are and what they are experiencing matters. Even in our 30's we can feel like people don't like us because they fail to notice us, or exclude us, or seem as if their friendships are cemented and solid with no room for expansion. I don't want anyone to walk away from me feeling that way.

Being a mother is isolating. It can feel hard to get out, but suffocating to stay home. It's good to know we are not alone. That we are all challenged by our children and their demands, even as we love them so intensely it hurts. And as my year of living in community crosses into another year I'm prepared to continue inviting people over and asking them to sit on my patio, or in my living room, or around my kitchen table because in this year I've learned a few things:

People over things. Relationships over perfection. Crazy loud summer play dates over quiet afternoons in the shade with a good book.

Friday, July 22, 2016

books and faith

In between the child raising and project managing, I read. In between days out and cooking dinner - sometimes while cooking dinner - I read. After I put Ainsleigh to bed, in the space before Bennett's bedtime when he is often occupied with his father, I read.

I always have a book in my hands. I carry the book I am currently reading with me throughout the day. When I wake up I pick it up from where I've dropped it by the bed the night before and deposit it on the end of the kitchen table. As I play with the kids, and tidy the house, and run errands I know there is always a book on the kitchen table waiting to be read. There are days when I don't get to it, but there are many days where I ask the kids to please give me a minute, I'm finishing a page, a chapter, a sentence, a paragraph, a book.

My first year at university I went through a rough patch. Or rather a series of rough patches. And in the middle of it all, I remember wondering what could possibly make me feel better, which led me to realize I hadn't read anything aside from school work since I began my college courses. I didn't have a car so I walked the three miles to and from the public library, immersed myself in books that were not school related, and felt a small part of my life right itself.

I've always enjoyed reading. I've been a reader for as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't recall learning to read. In my memories knowing how to read has always been there. As has my inability to sound anything out because I had taught myself to read before my mother could introduce phonics. I still don't know sounds; I am learning them along with B. He actually has a better grasp on phonics than I do now that he has a year of preschool behind him. I am constantly embarrassed by the fact that I carry a degree in literature but cannot pronounce many common words. It's one of the reasons I prefer writing over speaking; I can't mispronounce a word if I'm not saying it out loud.

For years I've thought long and hard about what I should read. I've put down books I long to read because I can't endorse what's being sold between the pages. Some time ago I gave up my subscription to the magazine Vanity Fair because it was often too far off the mark of what I think and believe, and the photos weren't always what I wanted my growing children to see. I recently went through a period of reading solely Christian based fiction and non-fiction, including the Bible, because I thought that was the path I should walk, but I burned out on the concept of a sole source of words and information quite fast.

This calendar year I've read 100 books - so far. Books that have been about all sorts of things, and that have covered all kinds of subjects. I now think the Bible as base, the Truth as background, is the place to start off, and the platform to jump from, when exploring new titles and genres. If I only read one category I'm not stretching myself, or learning anything, or asking questions about things, or people, or religions I don't understand and haven't encountered. When I attended a Quaker university I wasn't given reading lists that were only (my) faith based, so why limit myself now?

However, I should be careful. From books I can learn anything I want to and explore any topic that captures my imagination, but I can also be persuaded to follow the world, to step away from my faith, to read beyond what I'm comfortable with. Earlier this summer I picked up a bestseller, read a little ways into it, and stopped. I really wanted to read the book. I was tempted to pick it back up and dive back in. But it promoted lifestyles I don't support, and there was a lot of vulgar language, and I knew it wasn't going to get better. So I put it down and picked up a different book.

By deciding to be more careful I've had to let go of the fierce determination to finish every book I start. I hate unfinished books; pages left unexplored, ideas half formed in my brain that the right author can flesh out and help me understand. But finishing a book just to finish it, just to add another book to the long list of titles I've finished isn't worth it. Especially if it pulls my focus from the core Truth I've built my life on.

What should I read? is a question I've asked myself for years. (I even put the question into Google once, hoping for a broad answer that would assuage my worry and ensure me I'm not falling into a pit of sin because I read something other than the Bible, or Christian focused fiction and non-fiction.) But lately I've learned that what I read, as with so much else, is an individual choice. Just like choosing where I spend my money, or how we raise our kids, or what we do with our spare time is an individual choice. And when I choose what to read I strive to select books that challenge me and help me retain sight of my ultimate goals: to live every aspect of my life in a way that is Truth based and God honoring. Because everything I read, and everything I see, and all of the streams of information that bombard me daily are affecting me and shaping me, even when I don't think they are.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

the mechanical failures continue

This is the summer of machines and things failing to work.

For example:

We are STILL without a dishwasher.

My phone suddenly stopped logging into Instagram. So I am suddenly and unexpectedly without Instagram. Which is great for time management, but I miss it and hope the problem will magically resolve (this does not seem likely). Although less Instagram means more time for house painting so I suppose it's a good thing (not really, I would really like it back).

We are painting the interior of the house and a valve inside the paint stick has failed TWICE. Yes, I have to use a paint stick. I am a terrible painter. Rollers and trays do not work for me. The first time was understandable. We've used the paint stick for a couple years, it's a small valve, and the company was willing to replace it. The second valve failed immediately and catastrophically.

I was preparing to paint the living room, fully expecting the paint stick to behave as it should, but when I pressed the button that moves paint from the stick to the roller it shot out instead and went ALL over the living room floor. For some reason I tried to catch it - I don't know, it made sense at the time - and ended up with paint all over my hands and clothes as well as the floor. I spent 30 minutes cleaning up and then I had to use a piece of plastic wrap in place of the valve. Jon ordered multiple replacement valves which we received yesterday. The living room is finished, but there is still quite a bit of painting to do so hopefully they will outlast the project.

We are beginning the bathroom remodel, which is a little frightening since I am terrible at design and so many things are failing around here. Just picking out tile, fixtures, flooring etc. is giving both Jon and I a headache. (On second thought that may be the paint fumes in the air ....)

Next week is the annual summer play date wherein 30 or so moms and kids tear up our house and yard for a few hours. It's one of my favorite summer traditions and it is giving us motivation to get projects done. Jon built the vegetable garden boxes this weekend - four of them! - and is working on the grape arbor and trellis for the kiwis. Next year for the play date we will hopefully have two newly remodeled bathrooms. Right now it seems an impossible task, but I'm sure we'll figure things out and get the project done. Then it's onto the kitchen!

Last week was really busy with B going to Sports Camp through our church. This week is a little slower, but we're already halfway through July and the end of summer is in sight. Summer has just flown by this year. The weather has been cool, it hasn't really felt like summer, and we've been busy with projects and family and friends. We have a lot to do today, but I wanted to write a quick post before getting the kids moving and beginning our day. I have been writing more like I wanted to, but there are still weeks that fly by when sitting down and getting words on the page seems like an impossible task. And now it's time to chase Ainsleigh down and give her the bath she's needed for a few days.


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