Saturday, November 8, 2014

Living Life Together

In a recent conversation I was reminded that our girls are pretty awesome! It's encouraging to me to see how they've matured into their own right and become women young women that other people see and respect. Another woman made a comment in hopes that her girls could spend time with my girls, to perhaps allow them to have some effect on them. I think about raising my girls often and so I gave her my little bits of wisdom... so I thought I'd share with you.

Of note, the primary thing that we've done with the girls which was possibly unique (to our culture) is  basically what I would call living life together.  If we are involved in something like serving or visiting somewhere or helping somebody we bring our girls with us. Our girls are part of the family so they're part of what we're doing.  I know a lot of people who are in ministry whose ministry is separate from their children,… I don't quite know if I could've done that. I didn't do it and I and I never wanted to... In fact, I was confronted at one point by the fact that the kids were working with me in a ministry that I was doing as their presence was a potential distraction for someone else. So rather than find a sitter or some other resource for them I simply stopped participating in that ministry. Jake does things independently of us, and I will go to meetings by myself, but in those ways that it is possible, we serve together as a family.

Having a brother in prison, it would be very easy to keep the girls sheltered from that world, but we chose not to; they have been in maximum security settings right along with me. It would have been easy not to follow the Lord into short term missions, especially to third world countries, but we live in peace not fear, and so we have all gone. Living in a small town, it would be easy to shelter the kids from a lot of things. But, as I've mentioned in years past, we chose to intentionally visit the city of Portland so that they could learn such things as "how to cross a street" and "how to walk on a sidewalk" and "how not to be a rude jerk when you see someone different than yourself." We've gone to different churches, visited different types of people, and heard different stories - all the while living life together.

There's a passage in the Old Testament that I've kept in mind; I should probably just tattoo it on myself because I love it so much and I'm looking forward to a new tattoo:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."  Deuteronomy 6:4-99

I've always loved this passage because it is exactly how Jesus taught his disciples; he had them with him and did ministry with them, he taught them as they went and he shared with them as they went. He didn't just speak. In the living of life he taught them the way to live. It's a beautiful picture of the family!

(this passage is actually what prompted the idea for my tattoo on my wrist as a reminder not to concern myself with the things of this world but rather with pursuing the Lord -- Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26)

I'm a repetitive being, but as I look at my girls preparing for adulthood, I am really thankful that I was able to live life with them fully.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Haiti - Final Countdown!

The first half of our team leaves today, and Rachel and I leave in just seven short days! Time has just flown by yet we are truly feeling prepared and at peace to go :)

Thanks to the Lord for his incredible provision! At this time we are over half funded, and Rachel has a couple prepaid babysitting jobs to do when she is back. We were able to get our immunizations and anti-malaria prescriptions last weekend, thanks to a great local nurse who provides affordable missions travel vaccines at the Good News Clinic in Rockwood.


The team has a blog! I'm the blogger while we are in Jacmel, but there will be updates from the team heading to Carrefour as well, if you are curious: http://haitifall2014blog.wordpress.com

Ways to pray NOW:
Rachel is wrapping up drivers ed in the days to come. She has to take her finals early due to our trip, so please keep her in your prayers Wednesday and Thursday evening from 5-8pm. (her sister Emily will be doing the presentation portion of their final alone on Monday the 17th, and as long as that goes well, and Rachel passes her other finals, she will have passed drives ed!) Rachel also has classes to prepare to miss the week we are out, which  means the pressure really is on her!

I have found the Lord to be quite a teacher to me in these past weeks; learning much about dependence and trust in Him through car troubles and physical challenges. I am suffering from increased numbness in my right arm due to disc compression in my neck - it had been almost completely alleviated through massage/pt/chiro, but has returned with a vengeance. I saw a neurosurgeon and we are awaiting a new MRI to see what we are dealing with. I have confidence that this will not cause any issues in Haiti; it seems to be an issue primarily when sitting (at a desk or in my car) and in Haiti we will be doing everything but sit! You can pray that Providence (my insurance provider) will have mercy and grant me a second MRI this year! Other than that, I'm able to adjust myself as needed to keep the muscle spasms at bay, and I'm practicing the things I've learned through physical therapy. Work is going well and I believe everything will be just fine in my absence. At home, the rest of our family is prepared to take care of things (it does help to have three teenagers and a willing husband, along with a terrific extended family and friends!) My brother (Nick) is at peace about our trip (he is an inmate at CRCI) and we will be spending time with my mom Ellen this weekend (she turns 60 while we are gone!)

We have some last minute things to pickup and anti-malaria meds to take on Sunday, but otherwise, we are just readying our hearts and minds for the ways the Lord will use us specifically while we are in Haiti. May we be so available to His service home and away,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Happy birthday Seventeen!

October 15 is the day that changed my name and made me mom. I woke up early this morning, remembering every detail... Walking from our apartment to the car, the fog that was so thick yet broke right up in a clean line at an intersection not far from the hospital, the roses out the window, how much better everything was when Shawna arrived... The pain and the stress, and finally, Rachel was born.
Seventeen now.

Christ follower. Oldest sister.




A senior in high school, majoring in fine art, with a love for children and animals (but not always the parents!) She turned me on to bbc, sixty seconds of science and the vlog brothers, and most recently, Sorted. 

Today is your day girl, let's eat some bratwurst, find a banana cake, and celebrate life! Happy birthday!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hard things

Time to talk about some hard things. Things like anger and bitterness... As I mentioned yesterday, I've had some experiences with people that have left me hesitant and unsure about other people, particularly women. 

I was only able to start making true, in real life, local friends after coming to grips with who God is, who I am, and what my life really is to be lived for. Only after I stopped chasing the approval of the world. 

Being hurt and wronged can make a person hard and unsure... I think that until I was able to release people I was looking to exact revenge somehow. 

Justice. 

That beautiful word. Justice. We use it all the time and usually we use it in contexts that it really does apply to. Things like human trafficking, and hunger, and persecution. 

Sometimes though, we use it out of anger against those that hurt us. And that's where I found myself for a long time. Harboring resentment and bitterness. Wanting things to be my way - my right way. 

Last night I was reading a book that I've been trying to read this year - it's a hard one. Written in 1728 by William Law, "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life" is an interesting and highly blunt perspective on how to live a holy life pursuing Christ. In reading it I found the topic for today... I believe he captures really beautifully the idea of the difference between desiring revenge and letting go of that desire... 

He writes "if religion only restrains the excesses of revenge, but let's the spirit still live within you in lesser instances, your religion may have made your life a little more outwardly decent, but not made you at all happier, or easier in yourself. But if you have once sacrificed all ideas of revenge, in obedience to God,  and are resolved to return good for evil at all times, that you may render yourself more like to God, and fitter for his mercy in the kingdom of love and glory; this is the height of virtue that will make you feel it's happiness."

Here we see again that if we let go of the things that trap us, and bind us, we are truly free to have a more full life - A life available to be used by God and to give him glory. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

This journey is my own

In this day and age, of Facebook and status updates and like, it can be difficult to find satisfaction in the audience of one. It's great actually, to be able to go anywhere in much of the country and know that I have a friend and we could get coffee or share a meal.

This way of living is something I least expected. In our early marriage with a working and college-bound husband, I spent all my time with the littles and virtually none with other people. I tried hard to be like other married with children Christian women I saw, but I couldn't do it. The girls, being a year apart each, didn't demand but really did need a lot more of my attention that I could share. And they didn't really enjoy children's classes and nurseries, probably due to the fact that since I didn't go out and didn't do things with other people they didn't know what to do with them either... But don't get me wrong, we were out; the girls and I spent many many hours walking and riding buses and traveling about the edges of Portland to get things done and to accomplish the things that needed to happen to run our household, we just didn't do that with other people. And I practiced attachment parenting, which had me using a stroller seldom and carrying the girls in packs or a sling frequently. Taking them with me places rather than leaving them behind.  Breast-feeding and cosleeping and really just a different form a parenting which didn't fit very well with the other women I met. There was a lot of baby-wise in those years...

I consider those early years to be pivotal in the reason why I struggle so much in living with an audience of one. Looking back, I did want to fit in. I couldn't put my family through the things that would've been required to help me fit in, but I really did want to. 

Thankfully, there were such things at that time as message boards online and lots and lots of books. So the girls and I did everything together and I made friends with a handful of people on the Internet. We chatted about our lives on a message board on the moms online network, encouraging one another, answering questions, praying for each other, and generally just being friends - without ever seeing one another face-to-face.  I don't even think that we had profile pictures when it first began... Maybe they can answer that question. This was way before Facebook, before MySpace...  these were the years of instant messenger, and you've got mail, and very simple flip cell phones, and dial-up internet - or maybe if you were super lucky you had the new DSL. We got DSL in 1999, what an amazing thing. 

This type of friendship helped me very much as I wasn't really even able to go to church due to the challenge of having some of the only kids that needed to stay in the cry room with their parents. 

So when we moved, and the girls and I made our way about this town where everything is slower and people aren't necessarily on a mission to get something done, I found I was able to start making friends. In real life.   

It was exhilarating, and it was something that I hadn't been able to experience since high school. Which is why, probably anyway, I initially had the maturity of a high school student. Fumbling about trying to make friends, trying to appease people, and generally not being myself. At the same time of course, being the mom to three girls and the wife of Jake, and spending time with my sister-in-law's who lived with us on and off, trying to help them mature and grow up to. 

At about 28, I pretty much crashed in every way imaginable. Not only was I blindsided by some crazy things in my life emotionally and mentally, but I was tired. It wouldn't let up!

Enter clinical depression which gave way to PTSD, and even though it was difficult I still tried to fake it with people for a little while longer. It was growing more difficult and my faith was sort of in a crisis. I was becoming very frustrated and upset at God, a theme that I had originally gone through 10 years prior, and of course not happy that I had to do it again. 

Thankfully I had all those friends that I've met online... Their friendship, wisdom, and prayer was critical in the next couple years as I struggled very deeply in my real world life.

But this was still via email and periodic phone calls, there was no social media networking website that would accommodate us. 

Enter the crash. There was a year in which the bottom dropped out and I was just completely devastated. Friendships betrayed me, my mind betrayed me, my body betrayed me and I was a wreck. 

I could no longer live anyway of my life appeasing those about me. I had to begin to live for an audience of one. I had to learn that my identity is in Christ, and I had to learn that I was created and I was planned and I was fashioned - that my temperament and personality and my strengths and weaknesses are all gifts from God to turn me into the woman he wants me to be. 

I'm thankful there was no Facebook. 

I'm thankful for a singer songwriter named Sara Groves who wrote the song which captures precisely the words that I keep repeating through this post...  this journey is my own. 

It's been an interesting journey, and I'm thankful I'm not done yet. And I'm thankful now to have Facebook, but only because I have a very well grounded concept of who I am. I'm thankful for friends in real life that have been there through it all and didn't abandon ship when I went off the deep end, and for friends online who I've been blessed by for 15 years - give or take. I can hop a plane and go anywhere in this country and enjoy a meal and conversation and come back home and share the pictures with everybody else on Facebook - and it's a wonderful thing! 

I still struggle with the competition among women, but honestly more because I don't see the value in it than because I want to be part of it. I want all women to find true freedom too! 

Freedom. This is the thing we are given, freedom. Not a freedom to be who we want to be or get what we want...  but freedom to live as the people we were created to be. Unique, with different likes and dislikes, with passions and talents that help us form part of the body of Christ - not a club - but a multi-faceted body with many members!

Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.... this journey is my own.




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Parenting

So this is an opportunity for me to share all that I know about parenting.

Ready?

Okay here goes.... One day you have a baby, and you have no idea what to do.. and you just start to roll with it. You make decisions about things that you've never thought about before, and you do that on as much sleep as you can get. 

Repeat until the kids move out. 

So in all seriousness that's the gist of it, but I would add one note that I found to be the most beneficial thing our household....  parents, know your children. Learn their quirks and their temperament and their logic and their inquisitiveness. Learn what comforts them and what angers them ... Learn their likes and dislikes, their opinions, their friends, their shows, and their favorite food. Don't waste the very brief opportunity that you have with them young... Because when they're old, if you haven't taken the time, you won't be able to find it.

In the end you do just roll with it. Roll well!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Days

Last night I discovered I have my voice back. And before you get too confused, you have to know I'm not referring to my verbal voice. This is my sharing voice, the voice that prompts creativity and the written word and all kinds of fun like that. 

I've had no words since April, or, well .. a smattering here and a couple there but really no words at all... My mind has been rushing around while full and blank all at the same time. 

Instead of getting too frustrated about it, I rolled with it. I spent time reading a little, and spent time in silence, and I walked my dogs and I was home. 

Our family got along well this summer; despite having two full-time working parents, the girls seemed to thrive! They started finding ways to spend their time without us; visiting aunties and volunteering. 

Despite that, I felt an increasing level of mom guilt as summer wore on. I made sure to do all those things that I know are good, cooking with them and TV with them and reading them and talking to them and walking with them and yet… I still felt guilt. 

Just being brutally honest here. I don't believe in any way that is my job to make my daughters happy at every moment.  I also believe that they're doing quite well despite my failures and my feelings of guilt. 

Life in the balance. We are created with all kinds of things - skills and abilities, tasks and interests, likes and dislikes, roles and responsibilities... Sometimes two or more intersect in a way that is more like a collision. It's hard not to be bitter or frustrated or angry or upset; but if we trust that each season has a purpose and objective, and with the Lord as our king, we can do it. Here's to next summer and doing better and feeling less guilt. 

I still prefer fall!