Sunday, April 24, 2011

At this time, six years ago....

Six years ago at this time I was vacillating between "freaking out excited" and "freaking out-freaking out." After a six year journey, I was finishing a college degree and beginning a masters. It was graduation weekend and we were celebrating the accomplishment.
But, between Jon and I, we were celebrating/trying to wrap our minds around/jumping for joy/panicking for another reason....

We'd just discovered that we were parents!!!
I will never forget the Saturday afternoon when we made this discovery. Exactly one week prior we'd just adopted a sweet little pooch. I've never been much of an animal person, but after talking about it at great length and doing a bit of research it seemed like a grand idea. However, the poor pup didn't stand a chance against the surge of hormones, sensitivity to smells and fatigue that my body was going through (all unbeknownst to me - I just thought I was "emotional" :P). Very quickly it became evident that I was not at all about to bond with this sweet dog. And he was sooooo cute!!

Approximately four days after his arrival, I glanced at the calendar, started to do the counting of days, and got mighty suspicious..... it took until Saturday before I caved and snuck into the local pharmacy, scouted around to make sure that there was no one who recognized me in there, grabbed a pregnancy test (and paid for it :P) and ducked out again. It sat on the counter a little while before I had the courage to use it.
The results didn't take long.
Two little lines.
Two parents in the making; one baby.
Oh. Wow.
After breathing a bit, I went outside to get Jon, who was repairing an electrical outlet at the time. I recall how I said, "Jo-on? You better come inside for a moment." He carefully set his tools down. We skittered into the house. He looked at the test. Carefully read through the instructions.
"Two lines."
"According to this that means positive."
"Yup again."
Oh. Wow.
We'd been hoping... but weren't sure it would ever happen... and then suddenly, when we least expected it... here it was.... this great gift. As far as we could tell, I was already 6 weeks along. When you're counting life in terms of weeks, that's a long time!!! We waited FOUR MORE WEEKS before telling family, and another TWO WEEKS to share it with co-workers and friends. It was a blessing to keep this just between us for the first while. And it gave us some time to prepare ourselves as well :).
The second time I had news to share with Jon, I left the test on the bathroom counter as a surprise for him. Hard secret to keep :).
"Uh, two lines."
"What does that mean again?"
Oh. Wow. Again :).
The third time I actually took a picture of the positive test result (Jon was NOT aware that I was planning to take one that day) and emailed it to him at work :)!! Not two minutes later, the phone rang....
"There are two lines on that test."
"Does that mean positive :)?"

It feels like we've traveled a million miles since that first moment. And what an amazing journey it has been. We've learned, grown, survived birth :); created stories and memories; and marveled at these little people God has shared with us for this time.

It is a gift. We are grateful.

Oh, and about the dog - soon the hormones settled down and we became excellent pals. In fact, he was very good company during those first few weeks at home. He's the only dog (animal, really) I've ever loved (which is a mighty lucky thing for him, or else he'd gone packin' early on!!) and a fixture in our family. He joins us in most of our family adventures, he's adored by the girls (not sure the feeling is mutual, but he is very very good about it!!) and he sleeps on our bed (something I SWORE I'd never do!!). Couldn't imagine life without him!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How we celebrate Easter....

As we mix and mingle with family over the holiday, we all get plenty (read: FAR TOO MUCH!!!) chocolate. Every year I wrestle with how we can incorporate fun holiday traditions with biblical influence; embracing gifts without going overboard ourselves.

Last year I purchased a set of plastic eggs. My desire had been to fill them with small tokens that were symbols of the stories surrounding Easter. Think advent calendar, 12 days instead of 24, Easter-version.
That did not happen.
Nor did it happen this year.
This is on the "maybe, someday" list :).

This year, shortly after the loved ones were all settled under the covers, I took out my bible, a few chocolates and a little creativity (recall that attention span and energy are in short supply around here these days.... it's gotta get done in 10 minutes or less ... or else :P).
First, I decided to stuff 5 eggs with scripture verses, following the "Romans Road": 
1. Romans 3:23 - "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
2. Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
3. Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us."
4. Romans 10 - "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
5. John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life."

 All the other eggs got three chocolates each. There are 2 of every color (I added an additional egg for John 3:16 in case you do the math and realize it doesn't work out :P) - one for each daughter that eats easter eggs!!! I also bought of few of those little chocolate eggs in the foil wrapper to hide individually.

Bowl of eggs all ready for hiding .... 

A chocolate bunny for daddy :).....

Simple. Fun. Hopefully meaningful. And a way of passing along the story of the cross....


Friday, April 22, 2011

What Lent has taught me....

Over the past number of years, I have experimented with different ways of observing the season of Lent. I have abstained from certain things (for example, one year I left face book, never to really ever return ;P) or engaged in certain things (one year I chose to meditate on a portion of scripture that became increasingly meaningful to me: "Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Matthew 11:29, The Message. Taking 40 days to prepare my heart to celebrate the miracle of Easter (formally, I suppose, since in some ways we celebrate RESURRECTION and NEW LIFE every day!) truly deepens the lessons and story and reality for me.

This year, consistency has not been my strong point. I am learning to find the grace to accept doing whatever I can, the best I can, when I can. It is not an easy lesson. I am learning that my half-hearted attempts are not enough; nor is getting bogged down in going through the motions just to put a check mark on the list. 

I started off Lent with the desire to carry a cross henna-tattooed to my wrist. A constant reminder. HOWEVER, as I quickly discovered, I was having to re-apply the henna frequently - like every couple of days - and soon I decided that this was not the season for me right now
Part of me felt ashamed - like I had not fulfilled a promise I'd made. 
Part of me thought "realistically" - maybe you should research this a bit more to see if there are ways to apply henna so it lasts longer.
Part of me looked at the whole scenario - and thought about how aptly it can resemble my spiritual journey - good ideas and meaningful activities come along, yes; thought through entirely, maybe not; desires that dwindle after the effort of work begins. Hmmmm.....

"Well ... you've got kids ... and time is scarce and all...." Yes. We have three beautiful little girls. And, Yes. They do require time, and it's true that we don't get anywhere in a hurry (except we DO get in a dither if we hurry and that's no fun at all!!). But there is still time here and there for things that matter. No, the assault has been on energy and attentiveness, a consequence of a very intense sinus cold that has left me (all of us, actually) staggering some days, and fatigue as sleep issues have surfaced again and again. And again.

And, maybe you can relate. (And if you can't, consider yourself ... blessed ;P.) The internet, and the whole blogging sphere in all its fabulous wonder and glory, can fill your head with so many good ideas and things you want to do and try and even self-induced pressure from seeing what others can "get accomplished" in their own homes - for me, if I succumb to the temptation to compare, it can become messy. Those are all good things (well not ALL things on the internet are good, obviously, but those are not the things I am talking about here!!) and I truly celebrate those who are crafty and artsy and fabulous in ways that I can only dream of being :). But if I am not careful, my dream-of-doing-this list soon becomes longer than my things-that-need-to-get-done-in-order-to-maintain-order list :) and I feel overwhelmed. Silly, I know.

In retrospect, Lent has taught me a few crucial lessons:
1. Keep it simple. The message of the cross is not complicated - it is profoundly simple, though staggering in its reality: "For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. Live it, breathe it, seek it every day.

2. Keep it present. There is a season for deeper reflection, and a time to just go with it. When we come with a willing heart, God is ready and able to meet us right where we are. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20, 21.

3. Keep it real. I stumble, I fall. I get impatient, I get grumbly, I overlook (or outright ignore) opportunities to serve my Heavenly Father. I commit to a henna tattoo for 40 days and I don't follow through. And yet, there is grace to begin anew, for which I am thankful. "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." Acts 3:19.

With this in mind, I embrace the celebration of Easter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brokenness .... and hope

Amidst the glitz and glamor, the signs of brokenness were glaringly obvious.
As we drove through the Sunshine State of Florida my heart ached...
... billboards advertised road stop opportunities - satisfy any sensual desire for a nominal price
... over-the-counter paternity tests - in case you are not sure which one night stand has fathered a child
... the allure of the security of wealth, fame and possessions
... people shopping their pains away, hoping that a Disney Day would magically cure their family feuds, forever distracted with cell phones and text messages.

We are a broken people.

I floundered.

How am I, a teeny tiny believer in this sea of humanity; smaller than a speck, unremarkable in every way possible - how am I to respond to this heart cry?
I got angry. I saw an advertisement for  "Gentleman's Club" promising access to "Ladies" and I wanted to shout - there's nothing "ladylike" or "gentlemanly" about what goes on there, don't you know!? Can you not SEE!?
I wanted to shout at those who keep people like objects, trading and bartering them, using and abusing. 
I wanted to weep for those caught in a lie --- just one more fix and life will be alright.

And for the children. Oh the children.
I wanted to look into their eyes, listen to their stories and pray. 
Pray for release. 
Pray for healing. 
Pray for hope and salvation and freedom and a resurrection into new Life.

It was during this time I happened to be reading through Jude. Feeling so helpless, so insignificant, I soaked in these words:
But you, DEAR FRIENDS....
... build yourselves up in the Most Holy Faith
     ... and pray in the Holy Spirit
          ... keep yourselves in GOD'S LOVE as you wait - for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you into eternal life.
               ... be merciful to those who doubt;
                    ... snatch others from the fire and save them, 
                         ... mixed with fear - hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Jude 20-23

The encouragement here is to guard and nurture our own faith
... stay in the Word, walk in prayer
... share openly with other believers
... honest confession, sincere praise, endless gratitude
... focusing on that which is noble and true

while at the same time remaining open to invitations to shine for His Glory.
... the gift of money or time or food or clothing or shelter - sharing present resources for a future purpose
... the gift of listening and hearing another's story
... the gift of opening one's home and life, be it for a moment, a meal or for as long as the opportunity lasts
... the gift of our own vulnerability - you never know where God will use our authenticity

It seems overwhelming and impossible, because, without His Spirit and Grace, it is. But as we seek His face, He gives opportunities to spread His love. To experience compassion and action. And what may seem unremarkable to us, may plant a seed of Life in someone else's heart. And it also nurtures the faith we already have.

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy -- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen." Jude 24-25

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can't say I ever thought I'd be doing this....

Around here, it has been my spring time job to pick rocks off the lawn.
SO FUN, I tell you.
Those of you with lovely concrete driveways may not fully appreciate what it is like picking gravel off the lawn when there is still a bite in the wind, the snow has only just melted and the ground is still cold; with stiff, almost-blue fingers filling a bucket one-by-one-by-one.... it's really quite the job.

I have shoveled rock-filled snow off before it has melted on the lawn.
I have raked rocks into a pile to make them more scoop-able.
I have scraped the ground with a shovel and tossed them back from whence they came.
And yes, I have gotten down with soggy-knee pants and picked them up, one by one.


Following a suggestion from a neighbor that I received several years ago, I vacuumed the lawn.
If you don't believe me, here are some pics Little M took of the moment.....

I learned a few lessons as I did this....
1. Never vacuum up too many rocks at once. Haste makes waste, and in this case, it also creates a clog in the hose ;).

2. Extension cords can only stretch so far. No further. It's just a basic fact of life.

3. You can also suck up quite a bit of that yucky dust grass stuff that is left behind.

In spite of a few stops along the way (plus runny noses, plus moving baby OUT of the wind, plus fetching this that and the other thing), it took SIGNIFICANTLY less time to remove those pesky rocks off the lawn. I need to find another extension cord to finish the job, but hey, that's okay.

So perhaps I'm a slow learner and others have been doing this for years. I did contemplate wearing a paper bag over my head so that people wouldn't suspect it was me doing such an odd thing, but figured that would only draw more attention and rumor :).

And here's what the girls were busy doing all this time (thanks to Little M, who had great fun with the camera...)
Sweet K with her mitties off AGAIN.

 Diggy actually able to enjoy some outdoor fun.

An up-close shot of the stroller?? 

 Wee one, all snug as a bug

 Up close and personal!

 More Wee One

Hmmm? The neighbors truck? I think? 

 Can't forget the gravel...

 Signs of spring...

The Sky - because really, what fun is a photo shoot 
without a shot of the sky! 

 Our neighbors shed at an usual angle!

 And after all that fun, they had to pull out the sled (instead of the bikes, wagon, strollers, etc!) because we simply have not had enough winter yet. :)

All in a days work!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Authentic Hearts

There are some days I wonder if Little M was born with a pencil and paper in hand :).
I'm glad she wasn't, because that would be a little ... awkward.
One of her favorite things to do is draw and write and practice her letters and make cards and pictures for other people. It is a gift that she can easily put together all by herself and it gives her a great deal of pleasure to stuff an envelope (either recycled or handmade :P) FULL of notes of affection and appreciation.

Last summer we had new neighbors move in beside us and Little M, who was 4.5 at the time, wasted no time in getting to know this 9-year-old gal. They played together off and on over the warmer months, but as winter and different schedules settled in, we didn't see much of our new friend. As things have warmed up again, and we all venture out a little more often and linger outdoors a little longer, we have reconnected. 

One day Little M proudly showed me her picture for our friend. Across the page in big, bold letters were the words "I Love You." I hesitated. How would this girl react? What would our neighbor girl think? She's already indicated that she's too mature for some of the games that Little M normally plays, and that she's not here to "play" but to "hang out." Would she scoff at my daughter for her innocent display of affection? Would Little M feel embarrassed?

I decided to let it all play out and see what would happen. Our neighbor gal happened to be over for supper and before she left, Little M gave her the envelope. She left without opening it, and I thought that was the end of it.

A little while later, there was a knock at the door. Instantly irritation flashed through my mind --- why do people knock on others doors when its BEDTIME!??! You can see I have a lot of maturing to do!! However, there was our neighbor girl, with an envelope of her own in hand. She shyly gave it to us and quickly scampered off.

Little M squealed with delight. It was considerately addressed to all three of our little ladies - and inside was a picture of them all playing together outside (a hope of warmer days to come :P?). And, attached was a note. "I love you too."

Again and again I learn through my children. Authentic hearts take risks, but look at the blessings which can flow from that. Our neighbors have a background that is much different than ours, but at the core we all need the same thing --- a desire to know that we are loved and welcomed and have a place to belong.

I'm not sure how long this little friendship will last. There is an age difference that may or may not become a big deal down the line. I know that right now they get along just fine and enjoy playing together ... ahem, "hanging out" ;P ... and it works.

And it is a reminder to me to not be so hesitant to open up and let people in. You just never know what gift is waiting to be discovered.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why, Hello There!

Hello Mr. Tooth.
We're pleased to finally make your acquaintance.
I have suspected your arrival for some time now. I was not sure if it was you - or the nasty cold we've been fighting for several weeks - that was the cause of some minor upheaval around here.
Regardless. You have arrived. The cold is gone. Life is back to "normal."
I've tried multiple times to get a picture of you. You are Wee One's OFFICIAL FIRST TOOTH.
This is a photo-moment if there ever was one.
A tiny little pearly white.
Have I mentioned I'm a wee bit thankful now to be using the bottle ;)?

She's a bit of a wiggly little one though, and so it's pretty tough!

Ahem, Mr. Tooth, between you and me, I have mixed feelings about your arrival. Don't get me wrong - you are simply adorable and if my heart didn't melt before at the sight of that gummy little grin, well it's even sweeter now.
You are yet another sign that my sweet little babe is getting older. Maturing. Moving through these milestones with lightening speed.
And that's good and all....
But I'm in no hurry for her to grow up. I love this snuggly little bundle, and just like her two sisters, I try to get all the squeezes and LOVE YOU's and cheek pinches that I can. I certainly don't mind if she dozes off in my arms, or requires a little cuddle after a nap wake-up, or cries ferociously if any one else tries to say hi :).
Because, all too quickly, we'll be counting the teeth that are awaiting the arrival of the infamous tooth fairy and watching as little ones become not-so-little ones and well, it goes fast is all I'm sayin'.
So. If you have a little partner all ready and waiting to show up, can you tell him to hang on just a little :)? I'm in no rush at all.... and I'd like to get a little more sleep before we have to deal with that again!

Love, Wee One's Mama


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