Oh Baby

Jane is here, and from that magical moment when I first held her, to the last tear-filled, anxious month, it has been a roller coaster of emotions. Welcome to having a daughter, I guess!

She was called an “overachiever” in the delivery room after latching so quickly. Great, like we need another one of those around here! I’m a bit scared her personality will be similar to mine (Simon is a lot like Neil, which I don’t mind!), but of course I love her so much just as she is.

Jane, or “my Janie friend” as Simon has nicknamed her, was an angel baby for the first month. I was weepy and sentimental over that first special week at home with our family of four. We celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year with Jane in tow. She was so sweet, easy-going, and sleepy! Neil was home a lot because of the holidays and it was awesome. Sometimes he and Simon went out to do special activities like the tree farm and ice-skating, leaving Jane and me to snuggle.

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Then she started waking up from one nap early. No big deal. Then another nap. Then she wouldn’t go to bed for hours in the evening. Then the last good nap started to go. With few exceptions, she’s always slept at night, so I know I shouldn’t complain. But the crappy naps started when the holidays ended and Neil was back to the usual work & ministry schedule. He taught CT one week, and was out of town most of two following weeks. Simon was sick during his first trip so I couldn’t see my friends with kids.

Jane has remained sweet and good-natured when she’s awake. She loves to smile and coo! Even though I was enjoying Jane immensely and was very grateful to have here safe & healthy, for a couple days I felt angry about her sleep. After praying about it my anger subsided, but anxiety quickly replaced it. Every morning I felt automatically anxious. Within a week I suddenly fit my (very small) pre-pregnancy pants. I talked to friends and Neil and tried to accept that Jane was simply unable to fall back asleep, and I was unable to help her fall back asleep (I tried one method pretty consistently for two weeks before giving up).

Here’s a sample of crazy thoughts from trying to get her to sleep: I’ll give you $100 dollars if you stay asleep. Doesn’t work. Yawns are supposed to be contagious. So I try repeatedly yawning. Doesn’t work. Sometimes it feels like I’m praying to the monitor instead of God: ‘Please be quiet, please don’t go off.’ And there was the next-child angst: The thought of doing this again is kind of terrible right now. But the thought of never doing this again is even worse. I want more children but no more babies!

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I realized Jane was doing the same things Simon did that the same age. I concluded and I could work on “sleep training” her when she was a little older. I couldn’t fix it now, but I was anxious and frustrated because I didn’t know what  else to do. I was trying to “go with the flow” more. After all, lots of moms don’t even attempt a regular sleep routine or schedule till their babies are much older, even a year old. I can’t hang with that approach, but couldn’t I accept that Jane doesn’t know the Baby Whisperer and BabyWise author think she should nap for an hour and a half? But I didn’t know what to do with her when she woke up early, and wasn’t happy being up, but could not stay asleep either. And I didn’t want to abandon our routine entirely because I believed it was helping her sleep at night (she usually wakes up only once per night).

After unloading about Jane’s sleep troubles and my anxiety to one friend, she said, “Well at least she’s a good baby for you.” Were you not listening? I wondered silently, but then I thought, maybe she’s right. She’s a great eater, happy when she’s awake, and sleeps well at night. Maybe the problem is me and my expectations. I shared my woes with another mom and asked about her 6-month-old’s sleep. “He just sleeps when he wants. Some of his naps are long and some are 20 minutes. And he doesn’t go to bed till midnight, but I just say eff-it and catch up on my shows.” My mom, who survived having 5 kids in 7 years, plus babysitting others’, said she just followed our lead and “did whatever.” I’m sure that was the only way to juggle all our needs. While I can’t entirely abandon our routine, I could certainly take a page from their books.

During Neil’s first trip I realized I was losing sleep and weight from anxiety, and maybe I needed to deal with it more aggressively. Ultimately it is about control, my “besetting sin.” I thought I was letting go because I wasn’t forcing the nap and bed time issues as hard and accepted that I couldn’t fix it. I thought I gave up the idea that if I just did everything right, she would learn to sleep. Though I have relaxed on these fronts really I was just saying, I’m willing to suffer this much, God, but not that much. Or for this long, until she’s old enough to sleep train (which is another form of suffering!). I can handle this much not sleeping, but I can’t handle any more. I was suffering more from anxiety than from the actual situation, and that’s when I knew I had to deal with the real root issue, even if I accepted the temporary circumstances. So I’m trying to trust God instead of grasping for control but it isn’t easy! I’m also learning to fight the automatic and physical symptoms of anxiety like adrenalin. Ironically, taking care of Jane, unless she’s screaming her head off, is comforting to me, as is being with Simon. We are so blessed to have them and must never forget that!

P.S. This was written over the course of three naps of “binky hell,” i.e. going in every 5-20 minutes to re-insert in the binky. So I hope it makes sense and isn’t too boring.

Baby Sister Coming

It’s finally sunk in that I’m having a baby. We’ve been telling Simon, trying to prepare him but we barely seem to believe it ourselves. Somehow recently I’ve gone from denial about the whole thing, to being impatient to go into labor. Weird. For most of this pregnancy I’ve felt like, I should be thinking about this more, preparing more, doing something more than going on with my fairly busy life like nothing was changing. But I’m starting to grasp that the creature squirming inside me will soon be squirming in my arms, after the inevitable labor & delivery.

With Simon, I read books and took classes on childbirth & breastfeeding, researched newborn care, set up the nursery, did “exercises” to “prepare” for labor, perused baby name books, and generally worried a lot about everything. This time around, there’s no time or need for all this “preparation,” but this left me feeling sort of like I was driving a car with no brakes. One day I’m just going to go into labor and then I’m going to bring a baby home and have two kids. Yikes!

It’s strange how pregnancy and having a baby is so special and personal, yet it’s largely out of your control. Even though we planned for our children, it feels like forces outside my control have taken over my body and I’m just along for the ride. (Remember, there are no brakes!) This baby will emerge from my body one way or another, and be part of the rest of my life. I’m hosting life but it doesn’t ask to use the bathroom or build an addition. It just settles a bowling ball on my bladder and steadily expands the living room.

Does Simon get it? Everyone wants to know, but no one more than me! I have no idea how much he gets, but he says, “Baby sister coming!” with an excitement still adorable if only mimicked. He knows his old room is the baby room, but often claims it is still his as well. He’s stopped calling my belly the baby house and now refers to me as his big mama or big mommy, which amuses Neil to no end. Simon was completely sweet and cute when I was holding a friend’s two-month old (born 6 weeks early so more like a 2 week old in size). He snuggled up to my arm, patted me and said that’s my mommy, and played with the baby’s feet, helped hold his bottle, and said he’s so cute. He also would try to lean on the baby and almost dropped a book on his head when trying to share his books. His baby sister is going to have to be tough.

Am I ready? Everyone wants to know. As of about a week ago, yes! Bring it on. Can’t wait. Let’s do this. Sick of anticipating it. Simon was born by now, but I could have two more weeks.

I’m very grateful God is giving us a baby girl, and that everything has gone smoothly so far. We are very blessed and I know I don’t deserve to have two children so I’m hoping to stress less than I did with Simon. I’ve enjoyed every phase with him a lot, and though it’ll be very different this time, I’m looking forward to seeing them grow up together.

My Redeemer Lives

Today I heard some sad news. A woman who was a fitness class teacher at the Natatorium passed away after a battle with leukemia. I didn’t know her well, but just from taking her classes I could tell she was a really strong but sweet person and a fellow believer in Jesus.

She would always count down to zero. So if you think you’re doing ten reps, you’re really doing eleven. And she’d say, “You can do anything for one minute!” From her I realized that women can exercise at a challenging intensity throughout pregnancy. Another fitness instructor told a story about how as a student Allie would beg her basketball coaches for the chance to stay and work a little longer after practice was over. If only I had such a work ethic.

She handed over teaching the class after having her third baby but was still around the gym as a personal trainer. Even though I didn’t know her well she’d still show an interest in me when we crossed paths. When I walked the track for a week instead of actually working out she asked me how I was and if I was still going to class. I was pregnant, spotting, and nervous but I told her my knee was bothering me. She also was the first to ask if I was pregnant with Simon. Such a question can be risky business especially since I didn’t show for a while, but I think the tight tank & me reading Giving Birth With a Nurse-Midwife on the cardio machines gave it away. She also asked about the baby when I returned to the gym for a couple months after Simon was born.

Just a few months after my membership ended, she found out she had leukemia. I found out year later through another fitness teacher when she emailed the link to Allie’s blog. At first there was some hope of recovery as she went through various treatments and drug trials. Recently she made it clear it was only a matter of time. When I’d sporadically check her blog I’d hold my breath as it loaded, hoping it wouldn’t be a post from her husband giving bad news, but realizing someday that would be the case.

Today at exercise class our teacher told us. Of course basically everyone was tearing up. Allie was 32, married, and had three little girls. Her blog was always so hopeful, not necessarily for recovery but for enjoying her remaining time with her family and for heaven. She often ended her posts with a verse and recently shared Job 19:25: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” I’m in the middle of reading Job in my Bible reading plan and it’s just amazing that Job, and Allie, were able to pronounce their confidence in God while He allowed them suffer. Because of her confidence in her redeemer’s goodness and ultimate power, her writing also exuded gratitude in the midst of her deteriorating health.

I can’t even pretend that I would handle such a crisis with her strength, hope, and gratitude. But it is so comforting to know that our redeemer lives and cares for us and we’ll be with Him one day. Of course death always gives perspective on life and the little “trials” and trivialities I worry about. And it reminds of our purpose to share the good news of our redeemer with more and more people.  I know I’ll forget about these insights and lose perspective all too soon (probably while making dinner in an hour), but I hope to remember these convictions frequently without having to hear such sad news and to rejoice in knowing my redeemer lives.

 

The Big Two

Two years ago I was in labor with my little Simon. How quickly two years passes, and how much changed in that time! When I remember my life before Simon it seems kind of…selfish, although admittedly fun. But then, having a kid is lots of fun, too, because you do fun things you wouldn’t do otherwise: play with toys, be outside, and go to playgrounds, pools, zoos, and farm parks. Little kids notice everything grown ups start to tune out. Every airplane, bug, or chirping bird is noteworthy and exciting to them. A child’s sense of wonder can help you see the world through a little fresher eyes.

Sleepy head during the day.

When I think of my tiny swaddled baby compared to the relatively large toddler sprawled in his soon-to-be-relinquished crib, all I can think is miracle. Considering all that has to go right, it’s miraculous every time a baby is born. Then to think they can triple in size in one year just on milk and mush. In that year they can go from helpless, squirmy little bundles to walking around. And in the second year Simon’s become a running, jumping, talking little person with lots of personality. Neil has been asking me to write down some of his cute phrases so bear with me, if you care to, as I unabashedly go on and on about Simon.

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Recently he’s started asking questions all day. It can be very redundant but it’s also adorable because he wants to hold a conversation.

“Milk, Mama.”

“How do you ask?”

“Pleeeeze!” with a big smile.

“What doing Mama?”

“Getting you milk.”

“What doing Mama?”

Other favorite questions include “Where did [insert name of person] go?” “What’s that for?” and the hybrid, which I’m not sure how to answer, “What’s that for go?” His favorite answer to my questions is “helicopter.” He’s responded this way to questions such as “How old are you?”, “What is your name?”, and “What should we name your sister?”

He can repeat basically any word now, including a couple things he shouldn’t have. Luckily he didn’t pick these words up. He repeats “Night night Simon,” sometimes when we put him to bed and has also said “Night night guys,” to us. He calls Target “Targot” with a long second syllable. At the store he wants to sit in a cart and definitely wants to be buckled in (also applies to wagons, riding toys, or anything else with a buckle.) He asks me to buckle his onesies and even some regular t-shirts. He asks for “butter” a.k.a. rash cream but he has a diaper rash, and has picked up the popular “Hold you me” when he wants us to pick him up. He’s finally started saying “love you.”

Simon also seems to be playing pretend more lately. Toys that he didn’t quite know what to do with before, like his little dinosaur land, now hold his attention longer. His favorite is cooking “hot doggies” on his toy grill. He loves to bake; when when he sees me pulling out the ingredients he pushes a chair toward the island and says “I cook, I cook” and asks for a spoon. I think this experience is giving him more to imitate when he uses his grill. He says, “Hot dog’s ready!” and warns me that the grill is hot, most recently with one finger extended as a cautionary sign. He also loves to play “night night” with his blanket which is one of my favorite games.

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We started singing the patience song (from his preschool friend) and now if he hears “you have to wait,” “be patient” or “just a minute” he sometimes sings “pa-tient.” When I show him baby girls clothes he says they’re “yute” i.e. cute. He’s learned a few colors, mainly “lellow” and numbers, but he thinks “buckle shoe” comes after two. He calls any printed letters (or numbers) “A.” Whereas a few months ago the idea of him choosing a shirt to wear seemed absurd, he now expresses very clear fashion opinions on which shirts are “not cool, Mama.” (!) It seems the main criteria is whether the shirt has a car or a hot doggie on it.

Last weekend all my siblings were in Ohio, a once- or twice-yearly occurrence, and my great-aunt was in town, so we had a pool party for Simon’s second birthday. Also Neil is gone on his real birthday. Tonight we made cupcakes to share with his friends. As soon as I mentioned making a cake, he kept talking about it until we started. Then I tried to ask if he wanted to make cupcakes or a big cake, pointing to pictures on the box. He just kept answering “eggs!” and pointing to that picture.

One last Simon story. Last week on my birthday Simon was playing at his train table and saw me reading Moby Dick. He thought it was the Bible. I told him it was just a regular book but he wanted to go get his Bible (which we never read to him). We sat on the couch and he looked through it and kept talking about “the baaa’s” (sheep) and the barn (where Jesus was born). After a little while he pointed to Moby Dick and told me to read my book. He kept paging through his Bible and occasionally would point to a page in my book and say “Mommy’s A.” So cute, and the best birthday present ever–sitting there, “reading” his Bible, and telling me to read (and actually letting me read)!

So that’s Simon at the threshold of two. We’ll see what the next year brings.

It’s a Girl!

From a month or two into this pregnancy, Neil was convinced the baby was a girl. I didn’t have a strong feeling about it, and to everyone who asked “what I wanted” I could honestly say I didn’t know or care. On one hand I love having a boy, but I grew up in a household of mostly girls (4 to 1) so I know all about girls! As Neil maintained his conviction about the girl, I started to be convinced. When the ultrasound showed a healthy baby girl, Neil smiled and said, “I’m not surprised. I knew it.”

Two days later, he said, “I’m scared.” I guess parents, especially fathers, feel more protective of girls.

Right now I’m just excited. And relieved that the anatomy scan showed everything normal. I’m also sort of relieved not to have boys two years apart. That might be a little much, although I’m sure the girl drama will be a little much, too. Maybe I’m scared, too, but more because Simon is so much like Neil, I’m afraid our girl will have my personality. I know it doesn’t work like that but the idea of dealing with a mini-me is frightening!

I feel kind of lame for always blogging about babies now. I’m just surrounded (& pregnant) with it. On our block I know of 11 kids age four & under, and five more on the way (including triplets, yikes!). Outside our neighborhood, three more friends are pregnant, and others are trying. The playgroup we go to has about 35 moms & kids in it now. Then we know another playgroup of people from the library story time. So many kids!

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Vacation

Simon seems to remember there’s something about a baby going on though I’m sure he doesn’t really understand. He does call my stomach the “baby house” which he coined after I told him the baby lives in there. I’ve tried to get him to feel her kick, but his hand is so little, his attention span so short, and he thinks the suggestion means he should start kicking.

I’m interested to see how our home church will change once all these babies arrive. Currently there are 8 families with a total of 11 kids and 4 more on the way. Maybe the 4 more won’t make a big difference, especially with only 1 being the first of the family. But we’re going to have to come up with some new solutions for home church babysitting, plus form separate nursery and toddler classes for our bigger meeting. Beyond logistics, I wonder how everyone will fare with trying to serve others while also taking care of our families. This is certainly my plan but I don’t know what exactly it’ll look like. I guess that’s why we walk by faith, not by sight.

In the high school ministry, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the girls and figured out whom I should disciple. Now I just need to win the two girls to this idea. I feel a bit awkward, being so much older and newer to the group, but I’ve had good, long conversations with both so hopefully that means I’m gaining their trust. They each have a lot of potential but they’re very different from each other, so I’m not sure if I should try to meet with them together or separately. Need to pray about that.

In other news, Neil is going to India on a sort of short-term missions trip. He’ll visit a pastor’s conference, a children’s home, maybe a village where they are working, and also teach and share his testimony of coming to Christ. Three other guys from the home church are also going. While I’m excited for him and the experiences and insight he’ll bring back, I’m looking forward to him returning safely home. It’ll be a long week and half without him. Luckily it doesn’t fall too close to my due date.

We also went to the Xenos Summer Institute in July, where famous apologists John Lennox and William Lane Craig spoke. Neil’s mom babysat Simon and I sort of felt like my intellectual self again. And no pumping this year! Next year I’ll probably have a baby in tow so I tried to live it up and went to every session. Neil took a seminary class in tandem with the conference, taught by John Lennox! A week after we got back, we went on vacation to Michigan with two other families. Simon had a blast at the beach, swimming, picking blueberries, at the dunes, eating ice cream, and just playing with his friends all week. We also saw an old steam engine and toured a ship that was in D-Day. I took some awesome naps, read a whole book (Behind the Beautiful Forevers), stayed awake for a whole movie (Seal Team Six), went to South Haven with the ladies (all pregnant), and learned the National Dance Day routine before National Dance Day, for the first time. Each couple took a turn cooking for everyone and we took turns going on dates/babysitting. Neil said his favorite part of the trip was Simon. Watching him have so much fun was a thrill. It was a good trip, but I’m glad to be back home.

 

Baby & Beta

It’s been way too long since I blogged. So to catch up…

The day we left for our annual Florida camping trip, I found out I’m pregnant. Naturally I was nervous at first but next week is my ultrasound and hopefully we’ll find out the gender. It’s going fast, much faster than with Simon, but I also felt like it took a year to get to this point in my pregnancy with him, because it basically did.

Since Simon turned one I considered when to have another. Having a walking 12-month old with no attention span or attention to objects in his path helped with the decision. I was always chasing him around, especially when we were at other people’s not Simon-proof homes. Also, Neil was thinking about going to India in the summer so I didn’t want to be due then. I went back and forth, weighing other details like time of year, which weren’t really in my control anyway, but realized this was not important especially compared to our readiness for another.

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I knew we were ready when Neil said “So if you got pregnant soon we’d find out in Florida? That’d be exciting.”

Simon still dives toward his destinations, but his balance has improved and so has his attention span. Maybe we’re in the calm before the terrible twos, but he’s very fun and funny. He tells me his shirts are “Not cool, Mama” if he doesn’t want to get dressed, and tries to sneak away by taking tiny steps. He talks about cows all the time but is terrified of real cows and the grocery store with the cow by the dairy case. He’s talking so much and says all his friends’ names and can sit still for books. He’s also obsessed with condiments and will dip almost any food in any sauce, including strawberries with ranch, and broccoli with ketchup. If Neil’s home, he just wants dad which is nothing that new; he’s been all about dad at least since he could crawl. This is nice for me now and will be even better when the baby comes. And Neil’s loves playing with Simon. I think they’re a lot alike, though time will tell, and for now they’re good buddies.

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We are dealing with typical toddler rebellion like throwing things, saying no (or no way), and he just started spitting. But enough about babies.

I also joined a high school home church called Beta. It was planted from the high school group I used to help with a little less than two years ago. About 5 or 6 guys started a Bible study called Beta since they went to a different high school than most of the group. Now there are two churches of twenty-some kids meeting weekly, plus smaller girls’ and guys’ groups.

The first time I went to Beta I was struck by how different it is from what you see in the high school cafeteria. There were band kids, jocks, nerds, “normals,” show choir kids, delinquent-looking kids, awkward kids…not just sitting in the same room but encouraging each other, interacting, and sharing their excitement about knowing Jesus.beta camping 2

If my adult home church suddenly started acting like they do–constantly quoting Bible verses to each other, scheduling meetings and activities almost every day, affirming one another so often—I would probably think people were acting super-spiritual. But no, this is for real, these kids are new believers who can’t even contain their joy. And I’m so old and jaded it almost seemed fake at first!

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It’s a great privilege to be involved in Beta and I hope to be of help there. It’s strange going in as one of the oldest leaders, with college co-leaders looking to me for advice even though I’m new. But regardless of my role, there is clearly a spiritual movement going on and I’m excited to see what happens next.

Nightmare

I had a dream that I had to leave the fellowship I love and go back to traditional church every week. In the dream I was trying to find some way around it because I knew I couldn’t go back to the uptight, shallow, boring Sunday ritual called church (and I grew up in a nondenominational Protestant church). But in dream-logic, there was no way around it. I woke up immensely relieved because it really felt like a nightmare.

I’m grateful for learning about God’s grace in my church upbringing, and for the people who cared about the youth there, but I know exactly why my brain interpreted this narrative as a nightmare. Church as an institution is a nightmare, compared with the new and living way God always intended.

The stuff of nightmares

As I’m studying Hebrews 9, it’s obvious that the Old Testament rituals were meant for teaching and foreshadowing. The priest, the altar, the sacrifices, the temple…it’s all obsolete now that Jesus fulfilled the Law by being perfect, offering Himself as a sacrifice, and presenting His death to God as our high priest. But oddly, most Christians still go to a special “church” building where a special person does most of the work. Even going to a non-traditional “church without walls” (i.e. special building) where many people share the work, it’s easy to get into a rut and turn what should be relational into ritual–to just show up, take notes during the teaching, participate in discussion, hang out afterward, and leave largely unaffected by the presence of God.

Living like this is absurd in light of the cross. In Jesus, the priest became the sacrifice. The  judge became the judged. The sins which were symbolically covered by goats’ blood became truly & eternally covered by the Lamb of God’s blood. When Jesus died, the temple veil tore from bottom to top because God was making a big statement: “You don’t need a human priest to approach me now. Come on into the most holy place!” If we don’t need animal sacrifices anymore, certainly we don’t need priests or rituals or sacred spaces either. And we don’t need to grovel, feel guilty, or try to impress God. We can freely, boldly enter His presence.

Though churchy rituals may not tempt me, I struggle with dragging other stuff into the throne room. I want to feel like I’ve got something to show for myself–maybe that I’m teaching a Bible study, leading a small group, or sharing the gospel. While these actions may be God’s plan for me, they cannot make me more acceptable to or loved by God. Christ’s blood is enough. In fact, you can’t enter the throne room any other way. “So get that garbage out of here,” God says.

“Okay, I will, as long as I don’t have to go to ‘church.'”

2012 in Retrospect

My annual year-in-review blog comes a few weeks late due to log in problems. 2012 was a year of change in many ways.

Last January, Neil and our best couple friends left the high school group we’d been leading and loving for 3 years to rejoin our peers in an adult home church. There were many reasons, but ultimately it was time for us return to our people—those we went to college with and are now raising kids with, and others we’ve met along the way.

The reunion has been good and hard, like most of life’s worthwhile endeavors. Sometimes we miss the excitement and carefree fun of the high schoolers, but I also love being with my friends, studying the Bible at a deeper level, and relating about babies, husbands, and more. This year has initiated a new season in life, or at least we’ve started to grasp and accept the blessings and challenges of this season more fully.

The blessings have included new and closer friendships, especially but not limited to fellow moms. Having our first child has brought my neighbor and me together and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her better this year. I also got to know an old friend’s new wife and I’m grateful to have another very sweet and encouraging friend. Re-entering adult ministry has also provided the opportunity to get closer with ladies from the Mom’s Group we go to. And through the library I met another play group of friends.

Speaking of Mom’s Group, we grew so large this year we had to split into two groups. With 13 moms and 17 kids, we were running out of space, safety, and coherent conversations. While it was sad to split up, I count it a victory that we are a fun enough group to grow so large.

One of my sisters got married, and another returned from a year of travel so all 5 sibs were together twice this year!

Last August, one of my friends told me she became a Christian (she was an atheist when we met), so that was a huge cause for joy this year too. Now she’s started a Bible study at her university.

We also traveled to California, Arizona, Florida, and Michigan with our travel-friendly Baby Simon, who is now officially a toddler. Since this time last year, he’s gone from rolling over to running and peach fuzz to long blonde curls. He’s starting to talk, climb, express preferences (and his will), eat with a spoon, and imitate us much more. He’s so fun, charming, good-natured, funny, full of energy, and strong-willed (yikes!). He also sleeps past 7am now. J

I enjoyed watching the U.S. Gymnastics Team win Olympic gold for the second time ever, and got to meet 1996 champ Dominique Moceanu.

Parenthood, the new time & emotional demands of adult ministry, and my eternal moodiness made 2012 a challenge to our marriage in some ways. I never under what people meant by “communication problems” so much until this year.  I’m learning how much I live in my own world, with my own agenda, even if it’s just to mop the floor, and how I need to get out of my head to encourage my husband. I heard someone say that marriage is essentially selfish until you have kids, and I believe it. It costs so much more to sacrifice for Neil now that I’m taking care of Simon all day. And though I want to do it, I’m still learning to how to keep a good attitude and not take out all my emotions on him. Neil is, as always, a kind, helpful, sensitive, and stable husband and I’m a brat for ever complaining about him. 2012 definitely taught us the sanctity of date nights. And during the first week of 2013, we celebrated 7 years of marriage!

Heart of Darkness

I’ve been looking for something for a long time, something dark and dangerous. After ten years, I finally found it. Actually my mom found it [insert panic attack]. It’s my box of journals and other writings. She claims she didn’t look at it too much, which must be true since she doesn’t hate me.

I finally got a chance to read some entries tonight and it reminded me of how dark my heart is and how much God has changed me. I was so self-absorbed, ungrateful, and at times contemptuous. I also so clearly took my identity from my performance–whether in school, gymnastics, or music–and also what people thought of me, even though I pretended not to care. I had about two months worth of entries agonizing about whether I would make I the gifted program in fifth grade.

I knew reading old diaries would be painful because it’s embarrassing to realize how selfish and immature I was. It’s also humbling to know I still struggle with some of the same core issues, like judging others and feeling like my worth comes from what I do. Looking back, it’s easy to see that I felt depressed so often because I was so ungrateful.

It’s also interesting to see some of the “deep” questions I wrestled with. Actually some of them are significant issues of identity and purpose, and I drew both insightful and wrong conclusions, often in one entry. I never seemed to reconcile God’s love and my own crappy attitude.

Though I want to shred some of the pages, it’s good to keep hard evidence about how evil I really am–the evil that God saved me from. To most people, and often in my own estimation, I seemed like a good kid. As I came across a “Citizen of the Year” award I recalled how much better than everyone I thought I was. How’s that for citizenship? Now that I’m raising a child, I want to remember that it’s not the external show that matters–it’s what’s going on inside. That’s why 1 Sam. 16:7 says that “people look at outward appearance but God looks at the heart.”

And that’s why I’m able to walk away from that box of depravity with hope–because God sees me for exactly who I am, and He decided to sacrifice His Son for me anyway, and forgive all that evil. And even though I’m still so selfish, I’ve changed a lot. The journal entries stop right before I started college, right before I decided to trust God to learn how to make friends and see what plans He had for me. I wrote an entry early in high school, wondering what my life would end up like. What career would I have, would I get married, have kids, be happy or not? And now I just can’t believe the life God’s given me: a great husband; a beautiful healthy son; friends, family, and fellowship far better than I deserve; the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom; a nice home, and so much more.

What are you thankful for?

Vacation, Moceanu, & More

Two months ago I made a goal to blog at least once a month. Clearly I have not been meeting this goal. I could offer many excuses such as computer problems, I have a 1-year-old, and the always-applicable “things have been crazy” but actually I just wasn’t sure what to say.

So here’s the round-up:

1. Vacation is different when you have a baby. To those of you thinking Duh, well…yeah. It took me a minute (okay days) to adjust to this fact but we had a blast. I also had an epic outburst accusing Neil et. al. of misogyny, from which I repented, but also got 2 sleep-ins out of it! I am so bad. Neil is actually a very involved and amazing father.

We went to the Air Zoo, children’s museum, carousel, Lake Michigan beach, sunset, and other fun trips! It was really fun seeing the kids all play together at the house we rented, too. We are very fortunate to have such fun friends to vacation and raise our kids with.


2. Simon has been very happy and fun since he is better at walking. However he is heading toward rebellion, as expected. After being told not to smack the tv, he returned to defiantly lick the screen. “Look Mom, no hands!”

3. I met Dominique Moceanu. It was awesome. She seems like a very balanced, grateful person despite the extremes she experienced growing up and being an elite gymnast. I got my 1996 Olympic issue of International Gymnast autographed, and she seemed impressed that I had the magazine! I got a picture with her which did not save on my phone. Bummer. But I did get a picture of her with my friend’s daughter. Meeting her was quite a thrill. Maybe I just don’t get out much. I’m so glad my MIL told me about the free event.

4. We went to a weekend leadership retreat while MIL babysat Simon, and I remembered what it’s like to have a coherent thought. Actually I had several, but I lost my voice almost as soon as we got there so it was a challenge to communicate them. My big take-aways from the retreat were: have a Mom’s Night Out on a monthly basis (hell yeah!), stay friends with pre-parents, and read/think/talk/pray about parenting instead of asking for a parenting class. Because we really need to think through some of these things ourselves, and ask for advice when we need it.