Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Am I Missing Anyway?

Today is not a good day to be alone with myself. I am struggling to find my way out of a hole I began digging the moment I woke up. And despite my attempts to keep them at bay, bad thoughts invade like a thousand bees, attacking my emotions and setting them on fire with each sting.

Comfort to me on a day like this is losing myself in the sheets of my bed, hunkered down in the darkness of my room; all noise and time and life itself just stopping to allow a few moments of relief. But it's impossible to do this with four kids and a husband and laundry to fold and dishes to do. So I reflect on which sting is itching and burning the most at this point, and leave the others to swell and run their course and do whatever bee stings do until I can attend them as well.

My attention focuses on the swollen sting, the one on the most tender place of my being - my heart; the one which seems to stick around for awhile, unable to release its poison and heal itself over time. Thoughts drift back to a time when life was less complicated and more complicated, and in a sense didn't make any sense. I had friends but most of them weren't really true friends and some were in and out of my life like driftwood on a treacherous sea. Some I haven't seen or talked to in years, some have just re-entered my life but are just the same as they've always been. And some have changed as much as I have.

I think back to everything I was able to do - everything I had, and I find myself desiring to have that old life again. Not tied to anything, just having fun. I miss it. I miss the freedom of being able to just get up and go and I miss some of the attention I got from men and I miss drinking with friends on Friday nights. Or at least I think I do. I am often blind-sighted by these nostalgic feelings of my life from before and I always forget about the associated pain and sadness which I was drowning in for as long as I can remember.

I scratch a little more now, trying to squeeze out all this poison because I know somehow it's not good to leave these thoughts alone to fester.

I am trying to remember the good things about my life before and I wonder what exactly it is that I'm really missing. I see people who were around back then and wonder if they've changed (for better or worse) as much as I have. I pray that some of them really have turned their lives around but I notice that some of them haven't. It's actually kind of sad. And some have situations that have changed but their environment and behavior has not and that's even more sad. I can't imagine not feeling like my entire life didn't have to change when my situation did. In my old life, I had money. And I had lots of friends. And I did what I wanted to do. I drank a lot also and I went through each day without much care.

So what is it that I'm missing?

The answer comes quickly as the last little bit of poison oozes out. Everything that I keep thinking about from my past is nothing. It means nothing. Yes I had money....but I spent it on unimportant things. Yes I had freedom...but it was to do things I shouldn't have been doing. Free will is only as good as the choices you make when using it. All of the things I think of when I get that desire to have my life the way it was are in actuality lies from the devil himself. At first glance, they are always so glamorous and attractive. They somehow manifest some sense of elation and desire within me. But those feelings are fleeting as I notice that the shininess I perceive from them is really just the devil blinding me with florescent light, enough to make it so I miss the cracks in the surface of these imagined treasures and the superficial reality they represent. But I see it just in time to remember that I am not his any longer. Tempt me he may but I don't miss him.


Below is a poem I rattled out of my head this afternoon. Good, bad, whatever. It is what it is.

I hear the devil knocking at my door
He shows me glamor from my life before
He shows me sex
Alcohol, money, and power
He's there knocking
Hour after hour

And I'm sitting here
Finding it hard not to think
What exactly pulls me back from the brink
Of that distant life, so long ago
It's here somewhere
But I just don't know

What is it that I'm missing anyway?
Why do I feel so sad inside
How can I figure out so much
When I have so little time?

Pounding now, on my door
He's waiting, waiting as he was before
Giving me memories, nostalgia that won't quit
I want to open up and take that trip
Take that hand extended to me
Go back to that life where I was free

Free to do whatever I wanted
No babies, no husband, nothing I loved
Just me and myself, withering away
Going through the motions of each passing day
Blindly searching for something new
Despairing in darkness as sinners do

What is it that I'm missing anyway?
The silent ticking of each passing day?
Being filled with anger and sadness and pain?
Sins of the world pouring down like rain?

Knocking louder at my door-
But Satan, I've told you many times before
No matter what, you can't have me
I belong to Jesus - for eternity.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sophia's Birth

Our daughter Sophia was born on August 12. I can't believe she's finally here! It's been about a month and I am more in love with her with each passing day. The miracle of a child always takes my breath away. To understand the intricate details of just how God made this particular aspect of life is far beyond my reach. I still can't get over the fact that I grew a baby - a human being - inside my body and then birthed her...and she will grow into an adult and maybe one day birth her own babies. How amazing is the Lord!

And speaking of amazing, can I just say how amazing Phia's birth actually was?! I had been praying incessantly that it would go well, that I would be able to let go of my fears and just do what I knew my body was designed to do. I asked others to pray for me as well. I just didn't want a birth as emotionally difficult as my last or as scary as my very first. I wanted the whole thing to be completely different. And it was - down to the time of day I went into labor, the length, and most importantly, my mental state as I went through the process. I even went to see a chiropractor in the last few months of my pregnancy. I wanted the best chances possible of not only having a shorter birth but an easier one as well.

At one point, I also realized I need to change my strategy for my labor process. I remember a conversation I had with my sister, Kate, just a few weeks before I gave birth to Sophia. I was talking to her about how hard Isabella's birth had been for me, which she remembered because she was there. And while we were talking, a very important idea dawned on me. One of the main analogies I had been focusing on for my previous births, especially Bella's, was how labor contractions are like waves. I focused so intensely on that and wanted that to be my saving grace to carry me through the process - the beautiful picture in my head of a giant sea, the waves lifting me up, peaking and then bringing me down. But the idea that turned a light on inside my head while speaking with my sister was that I am afraid of drowning...why would I parallel waves with contractions and use that to help me stay focused through my labor? My fear of drowning is so tremendous that once those really tough waves (a.k.a. intense contractions) started crashing over me, I was instantly afraid, and grew more and more afraid with each one. That is where I had gone wrong and I knew that if I was going to be able to do this next labor with any sense of peace, I had to throw that comparison out of my head and find a new one - fast!

Aidan's and Isabella's births had started out with light contractions early in the day, lasting through until evening when they'd finally start picking up. By late night, I was too anxious to go to sleep as my contractions got stronger and I would end up just sitting up following them and calling my midwife sometime in the middle of very very early morning (like 2 or 3-ish). With Angel's birth I headed to the birthing center a little bit later than that and then labored the entire next day, into evening and overnight as well, only to end up with a c-section. Sophia's was definitely different. After a pretty decent night of sleep, I woke up shortly after 4 AM to contractions that were middle-grade in intensity. For the next hour and a half I wasn't in too much pain but they were coming pretty close together and were picking up in intensity. Around 6, I got out of bed and decided to go for a walk. I felt an amazing peace within me as I realized that this was most definitely the day my baby would be born. I walked for a half hour on my own in the quiet of early morning, praying and breathing and taking in every moment that passed, knowing I would never get it back again. When I came back from my walk, I drank some water and ate a granola bar. My daughter Angelina woke up and asked me if she could go on a walk with me so we went back out for another trip around the neighborhood. But we only got past about 5 or 6 houses on my road before I decided we had to turn back and wake up Joe.

After that, everything went kind of fast. I woke him up and told him I was in labor and that the contractions were coming faster and stronger. We called the midwife and my sister and mom. My mom headed up from Maryland to pick up the kids and my sister, Kate, (who is a doula in training) and my other sister, Chris, headed up as well to be with me throughout my labor. My midwife got to my house a little after 10 and checking my cervix, she informed me that I was already 6 cm's. This was great news to me as I am usually only 2 or 3 when she shows up, I'm already emotionally stressed and it's usually the middle of the night with even the sun a long way from the horizon.

The day wore on and as my labor grew more intense, I focused less and less on all the things which held me back before, and felt my inner strength stretching itself around me, the quiet of its nature smoothing itself into the rhythm of my contractions. I prayed silently, asking God to bring me peace and sustain my strength as I made my way through the process. I listened to my sisters and my husband, my midwife and her assistant - their calm and gentle voices encouraging me, moving me along, pushing me to reach my goal. At 2:59 PM, after only 9 minutes of pushing, Sophia Paige was born! I felt so relieved and so peaceful and amazed. I couldn't believe how easy her birth was compared to the last one. The day had just melted away so fast, lost somewhere in the rhythms of baby dancing and walking, in leaning on my sisters and surrendering to my husband's arms for support, and in crying and laughing and praying and hurting. All of it had been so intense yet so easy at the same time.

And then there is 'Phia - a beautiful little miracle who made that journey with me. A tiny baby who not only changed my life just by being born but she changed my life in the way she was born. And no matter how much "mommy brain" I have, no matter how many years pass or the distance between us at any given moment, I will always remember the birth of my fourth child in much detail and with great pride.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


The Summer has been HOT! And productive! And filled with all kinds of happenings! But one thing that hasn't happened yet is the birth of our fourth child. We are anxiously awaiting his/her arrival and doing our best to be patient. We have learned, though, that patience is a virtue and is something God often gives us through trials.

I have this memory of visiting my grandparents' house when I was a young girl and every visit, wanting to arrange the magnets on their refrigerator. (I may or may not have a touch of OCD, the jury's still out on that one!) But there is one magnet that has always stuck out in my mind. It said something like "God, I need patience, but I need it right now!" I think this magnet now adorns my parents' frige at their house!

In any case, I find this to be a very funny magnet because it's an honest portrayal of the human heart. Many of us often forget that patience isn't just handed to us when we ask for it, especially not right away. But God is funny that way, He does not just hand it to us on a gleaming silver platter, only to be happy that we would ask for such a thing! He gives it to us in small, unsuspecting ways - sometimes on messy paper plates full of kids' whining and bad behavior, or in mountains of laundry and poopy diapers! Sometimes, He gives it to us through hardships and sacrifice and that ever-present anxiety we feel over 'X' issue.

But He does give it to us. If we are faithful. And I find that obtaining patience via this route has so much more value than just being handed a big box tied with a beautiful bow containing a never-ending supply. When our new little baby graces us with his/her presence, all the waiting and preparing, all the discomfort and emotional stress, and all those moments of impatience will disappear and in their place will be not only this beautiful new life, but a clearer understanding of His work and a stronger measure of patience we would have never known before.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gentle Birth Passage

Whether in a hospital or at home, the birth process does not have to be an event of craziness and confusion. The harsh reality is that in a hospital, it often tends to be just that. With the birth of my 4th baby just days away, I have been reflecting lately on how different my experience with each type of birth has been. My oldest baby was born at a hospital. The process of it was very scary. Before being transferred to the hospital, I was quietly laboring at a near-by birthing center. Once I got to the hospital, everything changed. I was given drugs I didn’t want, I was treated like a sheep being shuttled through the “process,” no care thrown my way of who I was or what I really needed. The next day, I ended up with a cesarean which could've been avoided, and I can only imagine what the event felt like for my daughter, as it was a traumatic experience for me.

But even deeper than these thoughts are the ones which have made me stand firmly on the side of not only a natural birth passage but a gentler one. In many hospitals, you are just a number, another customer paying big bucks to have “all-knowing” doctors tell you what to do and when while birthing your baby. Gone is the idea that birthing a baby is a natural process and that your body and your baby know what to do. Gone is the idea that the process should just be left to happen on its own, without charts and time frames and putting everyone in the same box with the same labels on how to “treat” this “medical condition.” Gone is the idea that that tiny little being inside of you needs to be cared for with gentle hands and patience. Delivering babies is just another part of the job description for a lot of doctors and that idea shows in the way they handle your delivery.

Part of what I don’t get about a hospital delivery is why they’re so quick to cut the cord, weigh him, scrub him clean of not only the blood and fluid of birth but the vernix which protects his skin, all in an attempt to make the baby “presentable.” In reality, a tired momma right after birthing her child, just because he is her child, could care less about how he looks or what he weighs at that exact second.

The following is something I wrote while thinking about one of the main reasons why I choose to have my babies at home with a midwife whom I trust to be there for me and my baby, for as long as it takes and with every ounce of her being – one who not only understands my desire for a gentle birth passage for my baby and the least stressful experience for me but desires it for me as well. I realize not everyone has the type of delivery encapsulated in the first scenario below but at the same time, I refuse to risk that I will have that scenario ever again. Of course, there are many good medically-grounded reasons to have a baby in the hospital. I just don’t have any.

Close your eyes and imagine that you are a tiny little being, floating around in the warm dark waters of a safe environment. You sense a distant light from the outside sometimes but you are otherwise free to enjoy the darkness, the quiet swooshing sounds of your surroundings and the warm water which brings you life. For much time you are like this, always comforted by the movements around you and the brilliance of your own existence.

Soon you sense that it is time to leave this place. You are a little afraid but you know it must be done and somehow you know that on the outside, there will be someone who will continue to keep you safe, and sustain your life. The passage is trying and often frightening but you know you can make it.

Suddenly, you’re surrounded by stark light and people in white coats, everyone talking loudly and rushing around. You’re quickly pulled from the entrance to what was once your little haven of warmth. You’re tethered to something, something which brought you everything you needed while swimming around in those waters. But you are hurriedly detached from this and whisked away to be scrubbed and washed, the warm waters and gentle movements quickly becoming a distant memory. Traces of your old home are cleaned from your body and you start to feel a little cold. You’re moved and flipped about so many times. They weigh you on a scale, the metal icy against your delicate skin. They suction you with a foreign object – everything is so scary to you.

You’re finally wrapped in cloth but it is nothing like what you’re used to. You’re desperately searching for that being who you know is there to keep you safe, but you can’t find her. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, you are placed in her arms. You feel sort of lost, like you don't know that you're home within those arms. She looks at you and cuddles you close as you snuggle against her, exhausted and hungry…..

Now imagine that instead of being greeted by stark light and frantic movements once you leave your safe haven, you are greeted with gentle hands and quiet whispers, encouraging you to make the last few efforts to come out. It is still dark in your surroundings except for maybe a few flickering lights which soothe you instead of frightening you. You are immediately placed with the one who keeps you safe, your mother, warm against her breasts and skin, her smell a comfort you knew you’d come to experience. You’re massaged gently and feel warmth penetrating from your mother’s body deep into your own. The cord which you have been tethered to inside your haven is still attached, still pulsing into you with vitality. You’re even given a chance to suckle, to gain strength after a trying passage.

Later, after the initial journey is over, you are gently wiped clean a little but left with a layer of beautiful vernix to help protect your delicate skin. The cord is finally cut after the pulsing process is over. The whole time, your mother is close, you can feel her and smell her and she is there, protecting you as you knew she would. The memories of your haven are slowly fading away but in their place is the comforting reality that you are definitely at home in her arms.

In a few days (who knows maybe even tomorrow) I will be giving birth to my 4th child. I am both scared of and excited for the labor and delivery process. And at the same time, I am anxious to give this baby a gentle passage into his new world. I could care less how much he weighs right when he comes out or how he looks…. I ache with every fiber of my being to hold him the second he is born – sticky blood, icky fluids and all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Momma, Writer

I used to write more - When my life was all about me and my daily task list made no mention of changing diapers or chasing after small children. Ah, yes, I remember that time, a time when I was not interrupted by tattletaling or "mommy, I need..." Mommy did not exist as part of my identity yet.

And I could sit and write and spill out all my thoughts, even in the middle of the day. And I'd be surrounded by a silence that I could dive into and drown myself if I wanted to, discovering fragments of me as I swam through my thoughts - silvery and gleaming like the scales of a fish. It was a time of huge reflection, one when I often lost myself a dozen times but only found me again just a few. One when the rawness of my nature poured out around me..easily flowing, unencumbered by sticky hands to clean or hungry mouths to nurse at my breast.

I could soak for hours in a stillness, finding my way through an emotion - the Sadness, a happy thought, fearfulness of my future....And I'd purge myself of so many things just by putting ink to paper. I could find more time, as much as I needed, if I wasn't satisfied with the first release.

But there were no tiny fingers pulling at me to help them, to hold them, to love them.
And there were no beautiful blue or brown eyes shining with innocence, tearing up my heart with their convictions and love.

And I was lonely. Yes, back then I was so lonely. I had all that time but no one to share it with. And I was not needed. And I did not feel loved. I had no idea who I was. For my words did not tell me much more than how I felt and what I wanted, and now that I think about it, underneath those words I somehow always spelled out a desire for a family, babies to love, little hands to hold.

My words often painted pictures of a broken life, which needed something more than I could give it on my own. Then with a flex of God's hand, a blink of His eye, I was moved beyond that life to this place, to this moment, to this me.

And I am a mommy. My list of daily tasks does include changing diapers and chasing after children. My children.

And I write when I am able to. For now, it is enough.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Fish Tale

Since we moved into our house almost 3 years ago, we have enjoyed so many wonderful things about it, including a very nice-sized fish pond in the back yard. But we have since learned that owning a home, particularly with such an extravagant water feature, means sparing lots more attention than we initially anticipated. So, over the last year especially, we've been having various issues with filters and pumps and the whole system for our pond needing to be replaced. Don't get me wrong, there are several up-sides to having the pond. On warm summer evenings, and even during the day, if we're outside, the soothing sound of running water is definitely a nice background distraction. The fish, which numbered around 25 when we first moved in, are the only pets we own at this point and it is a fun experience to see the different sizes and colors of the fish, bright oranges and shiny blacks flicking their tails as they swim about, their cute little mouths often bobbing at the surface waiting for food to be thrown in. The best part is the mesmerized look my children get whenever their attention happens to fall on the pond and its inhabitants.

But today, I am sad to say, was a rather depressing day as we spent most of the afternoon trying to remedy the biggest issue we've had so far with our beloved pond. Over the past few weeks, we've been noticing the water level receding much faster than natural evaporation would allow. At first, we thought there was a tear in the lining. After weeks of just filling the water level back up and letting it go because of being too busy, my husband decided to work on it yesterday. We went out to Home Depot the night before to get some sort of sealer for the liner to fix what my husband thought was the problem. Yesterday, he drained most of the water in the pond, leaving enough for our fishy friends to comfortably swim around in, and put the sealant on the liner. After a little while, he filled the pond back up, commented on how clean the water was looking - the cleanest it had been in months - patted himself on the back, and went about doing other various yard-related tasks. This morning, however, on his way out to mow one of our properties, he found the pond almost completely drained of water, the poor fish flopping around helplessly. The water was UNDER the liner, making the liner bubble up, creating many trenches and crevices in which later we'd find some of our fish who, sadly, would not make it.

This was a hard lump to swallow for me as a mom. Not because we've been having these issues and I have 10 billion other things needing my attention, or because I felt sad for the fish dying. I mean, I was a little sad, particularly because I felt we should have worked on this issue sooner and maybe they wouldn't have died. But the main reason why I choked on this particular situation while out with our three children today, was because other than a brief mentioning months ago of why my mom's cat was no longer around her house, my children really haven't had any contact with the issue of death. It's a very difficult concept to explain to children age 4 1/2 and under, and I imagine even some older children and adults often stumble over at least the why's of such a serious part of life.

My husband, Joe, kept trying to spell the word 'dead' instead of saying it but my very smart 4 1/2 year old knew exactly what was going on, as soon as she saw the first fish on my pool skimmer being carried away from the pond. Somehow she just understood it was not alive any longer, and not only did that part make me sad but it made me wonder how much of an understanding of this type of thing is naturally within us somewhere, placed there by God's hand as He formed us in our mother's wombs. And how do we lose that ability to understand such things and when?
We found about 10 fish in all that were definitely dead by the time Joe got to them. My daughter didn't seem too phased by the idea of the dead fish and thankfully, I didn't really have to explain much. Not very many in-depth questions were asked by her or her 3 year old brother. They innocently accepted the fish's plight, whether they truly understood it or not, and went about watching their daddy continue to try to fix the pond.

We also had 2 fish who didn't seem like they'd make it, one of which I was half-way across the yard with before I noticed it was still breathing (or trying to). But we put them in the buckets where he had placed all the other fish and so far they're doing okay.
My husband thinks he figured out the true culprit for the water draining and has returned the fish to their proper home. The kids have moved on from the temporary distraction of the dead fish and our catastrophe with the pond. And I am still trying to discern when exactly it will be that I have to sit down and really explain to my kids that its not only cats and fish that die.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Princess and the Kiss

I recently fell in love with a new book. Well, I'm not sure how new it is - but it's new to me. While at a Christian homeschool convention a few weekends ago, I was looking for a book to read to my oldest daughter. Angelina loves pretending to be a princess but it's gotten to the point where she has been totally consumed with the "commercialized" princess. I worry about this. She is obsessed with how she looks and she's only 4 1/2. She is constantly dressing up and saying "now I'm beautiful" or "don't I look so pretty?" I try to tell her she is already beautiful and what makes her beautiful is that she has a good heart in which Jesus lives. I don't know - I try to steer her away from all that superficial stuff but it's so hard to fight the constant battle of what the media conveys and what certain members of the family tell her.

Another part that worries me is that she is obsessed with finding her "prince" and kissing him. I found a cute book that detailed other aspects of being a princess but I wasn't sure whether or not it was the right one. Then I came upon this children's book called The Princess and the Kiss (A Story of God's Gift of Purity) by Jennie Bishop. The real message of it might be a little "old" for her but I feel like it's never too early to start ingraining in our children how important purity is. Besides, this book just talks about kissing, which I think is pretty appropriate for this particular issue with Angelina. It is perfect for the early years of our teaching our children about their purity.

The first time I read the book, I didn't really read the whole thing. I was standing at the book cart, leafing through it, trying to skim quickly - and I missed most of it. But I liked the idea of it and thought what I had read was good. So I impulsively bought it. I have to say, I feel like it's one of the best impulse buys I've ever participated in! It wasn't like a last-minute candy bar at the check-out line where the immediate gratification of chocolatey sweetness lasts for only moments and then you're left with no long-term [good] affects. This book feels like something with some weight to it, something that gratifies on so many levels.

Angelina loves reading any stories about princesses. So that was my "in." She wouldn't understand that I want to talk to her about how important her first kiss is or that she should save any of that until she is married. But she does understand princesses, and their search for their prince. The book is written in such a way that it doesn't overwhelm the child with things she may or may not understand. And, the illustrations are beautiful. One of my favorite parts about it is that there is a message, however slight, that she doesn't need a prince. When the princess of the story asks her mother, the queen, if she will ever find a man she can give her kiss to, her mother wisely says "I think God will bring a husband to you. But, if He does not, the kiss will be yours to treasure forever." And that not only reassures the princess that either way, she will not miss out on anything, it also helps her to trust in God more and cherish her kiss even deeper.

This is definitely a book I won't leave out for the kids to play with. I keep it up high, safe away from markers and crayons and page-ripping hands.

The first time I read the entire thing, I was actually reading it to Aidan. I think it's just as important for him as a boy to understand the gift of purity, and the story actually has a man in it who has saved his first kiss as well. As I finished the book this first time, I cried. There is so much to such a simple children's book and I was overwhelmed with its message, because of my own broken past.

As Angel and I read it together, I am hopeful that she'll just know that the message it is conveying is right. That even if she doesn't fully understand now, it will be the start of a seed growing in her heart to always think of her purity as a God-given and priceless gift that should be saved for the man she is to marry. As for her dressing up and pretending to be a princess, I don't find much harm in her pretending a little bit. She looks so cute in her little princess outfits anyway! I just have to allow her the room to use her imagination at the same time as not letting it wander too far. She is my little princess, after all, and part of being her mother is giving her wise advice and a clear direction to get her safely to the arms of her one true Prince - Jesus.

"Love....comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." ~ 1 Timothy 1:5 NIV

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Since I've Been Having Babies

Through the pregnancies and births of all my babies,
My hips have widened
My skin has stretched, with permanent marks like tiger stripes strewn across my belly -
which once was flat and flawless
My feet have grown bigger and I imagine if I have a few more babies,
they'll be Flintstone feet for sure
My hair has fallen out and grown back, and is a lot straighter than it used to be
My body itself has evolved from a slender frame with bony edges to a rounder shape of squishy-ness
And I worry constantly about my appearance, where my youth has gone, where my little perky body went..where my mind and energy are

But then I think about how losing all of these paltry things has caused me to gain so much....

Through the pregnancies and births of all my babies,
I have grown wider in my knowledge and understanding of LOVE
My heart has stretched, with permanent marks of my children's lives etched into its center
My world has grown bigger, filled with the limitless possibilities of how life will play out
My fallen life has straightened out into something I never would have imagined
And my body, my mind and my energy are spent holding my children when they cry, unconditionally loving them even when they don't seem to love me and giving them every piece of me that they can possibly have.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

There, I've said it....

Over the years, the idea that one should not have more children than one can handle or one can afford, or really just more than one or two in general, has been thrown at me - sometimes very gently, sometimes very rudely, sometimes just in one of those obvious 'I'm grinning-but-behind-it-I-am-thinking-you-are-a-crazy-lunatic' sort of ways... I've had people who I don't even know ask me how many children I'm going to have after they find out I already have my "quota" of two. But it's not one of those curious questions just being asked out of curiosity (which is fine with me), but more like 'I have my own judgment about you and the idea already, and I'm just seeing if I'm right...' It's kind of annoying to me in a way because A)It's no body's business but mine and my husband's and B)It's just rude, no matter who you are, to ask such a personal question in such a condescending manner.

A while ago, someone at a party asked me (upon my telling her I was pregnant with my third), "how many kids DO you want ANYWAY? Major emphasis on the words 'do' and 'anyway.' And this was first preceded by eye rolling and one of those "you really are crazy" looks. Even people within our family have made comments and said things that really were out of line and just downright annoying. Most of the people who I come in contact with have some negative thought on the subject and I am unsure as to where exactly it comes from. Is it taught to them by their parents? Is it society's general view that a family should be made up of 4 people - 2 adults and 2 children (preferably a girl and a boy), filtering into people's minds without their knowledge? I mean, if you think about it, most vacation packages for families only include 2 adults and 2 children in the price.

I never planned on having a big family. When I was younger, I didn't even think in terms of numbers, just that I wanted some kids. I grew up in a family of 7 children and though there are many benefits to having such a large family, I am not sure I ever thought I'd have more than just a few. But this afternoon, as I was sitting at the dining room table, watching my 3 children eat snack, I imagined what it'll be like to have the 4th one - who is due in just a few months - sitting at the table with us. Four children is more than "just a few," especially by today's standards.

After I had my second child, I was unsure about having any more. And even after I had my third, a lot of difficulties I was experiencing brought that uncertainty to the forefront of my mind once again. But just like clock-work, I was pregnant again by the time my baby was 10 months old. The subject for me had kind of just been up in the air. My husband wasn't very positive about the idea of having more then the 3 we had, and we talked a lot about my health issues, his fears, my fears and what we could handle. And really, when it came down to it, nothing was as important as giving the whole thing to God and letting Him have the reigns. We had *sort of* done this already, but I don't think Joe was truly on board with the idea - mainly because he was just so fearful of so many things surrounding it.

I have gone back and forth over this within my own mind and heart over the past year or two. I am very overwhelmed at times, especially since the 3 that I have are age 4 and under and the days are often more than exhausting! I think back to a time when I couldn't really imagine myself being a good mother at all, let alone having more than 1 to care for. But then I look at how well I have adjusted to a different way of thinking, how I am finding things to be not as hard as I had anticipated, and how much meaning each of my children adds to my life. And, even though I fail in some areas, I believe I'm doing a pretty decent job of raising my children and I'm always open to becoming better, to changing and growing and learning for their sake. I also think about the fact that even my husband has come to a place where *more* is not scary to him, without my even really saying much.

We both want what God wants for our lives. We aren't going to be bullied by negative comments from other people, especially people who don't even know what it's like to give their lives to God. And this doesn't mean we're idiots or that we don't know what we're doing. And it doesn't mean we can't plan within the boundaries He has set for us. After our 4th child is born, I need to focus on the health issues I've been experiencing and get all that under control before we think about having a 5th. But the thing is that if God wants us to have a 5th, or even a 6th, if I'm okay and my husband and I are both on the same page, there is no reason not to. There, I've said it - I WILL have more children if I am healthy and God wants me to!

*Oh, and as a side note, my favorite people to get negative comments from are those who have never had children, have only had 1, don't know Jesus, or are so self-absorbed that the idea of having children and parenting them in a decent manner is beyond their comprehension. They're my favorite because it gives me more of a reason to pray for them!*

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts for Mom

Dear Mom,

As I lay here with my daughter asleep across my lap, I am wondering how many times you held me like this and felt what I feel at this perfect moment in time. It's late - the other children are sleeping in their beds, and my little princess is sound asleep in my arms, peaceful and quiet - completely opposite from what she was during the day. Her age and innocence and dependence upon me shows in the softness of her little face, her big blue eyes closed against the night. Her blond hair is slightly matted with salt from her tears, as she awoke in her bed just a bit ago, crying and reaching out for me as traces of whatever terrors haunted her dreams still lingered on the backs of her eyelids. Sleepily, she snuggled in my arms when I went to her and picked her up. Calmly, she rested against me and I soothed her into a more restful sleep with "shooshing" sounds and gentle pats on her slender back.

Momma, I wonder how many times you did this for me, loving me and protecting me from the demons of the night. Helping me back to sleep with your quiet nature and gentle hand. I look at my beautiful little girl and think back to the time I found out I was pregnant with her - a time when it wasn't supposed to be - and how I made you cry when I told you. Do all children disappoint their parents? Will I ache over my children the way you have ached over us through the years? How will I have the strength to be what they need me to be, despite being hurt or angry over things they have done or said?

I think about this little being asleep against me on the couch and I am flooded with the memory of five years ago when she was still inside of me - a tiny baby wrapped in the secret darkness of my womb, growing and changing each day, living and breathing as part of me. I think about how if it were possible, I'd keep all my babies within me for their entire lives, because that's the only way I could protect them completely. Did you feel that way, Momma and if so, how did you get over the painful reality that this is just not possible; that it isn't the way God made things to be?

I wonder about so much - How you felt as a new mom, and as an experienced one. How you captured perfect little moments like this one. How you breathed in our scent as you held us against you, but found the strength to let us go when it was time to anyway. I wonder how I got to be in this place in time, with three babies of my own and another one on the way - a mommy myself, and a wife - trying to make my way through uncharted territory in sometimes wild seas.

And I wonder, will this small and fragile sleeping child cradled in my lap grow up and have babies of her own, feeling and wondering the very same things?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Future of Hope

If I stop for more than a moment to let my mind wander into thoughts of my children growing up, I am instantly sad. For in that moment flashes a lifetime of disappointments and pain, the chill of a not-so-nice world wrapping itself around my heart. I think about all the hurt and silence, all the rejection and loss, and I am afraid for my children - scared that they too will fall prey to the darkness that seems to have chased me my entire life.

And I don't want that; what mother who truly loves her children would?

I want them to see the other side - the beautiful aspects of life, how amazing people can be, how forgiving (and apologetic) the world sometimes is. I want them to understand early on what took me years and years of wasting time to discover - that they are His children, born for a specific purpose, given gifts and talents to be used for His works. That despite any loneliness they feel inside or pain they endure, despite sadness that might creep into their hearts for no reason at all, He is always there to comfort, to strengthen and sustain; He is there to be everything that the world and their father and I am not.

And this fact helps to bypass that moment which I sometimes drown myself in; it helps me to release the anxiety I feel over their futures, the worry and fear I have for their lives. And it lets me dream for them. And hope. (And fight my own demons which haunt me still.) And it lets me live so that I may allow them to live, not bound in bubble wrap of safety or locked away in towers, but really live so that they can see what I could not, so that they can find themselves in the arms of Jesus every single step of the way.

'For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not fore woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.' ~Jeremiah 29:11 NAB

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What's In A Name?

As I make my journey through this (my 4th) pregnancy, I am going back and forth with the names that we have picked out. We wanted to stick with Italian names for the girls, and Irish names for the boys. But the name I have picked out for a girl isn't Italian, though the middle name is (which at first I didn't know). And I am wondering if it matters. I have also taken into consideration, thanks to my sister, that none of these names are saints' names. But does that matter either? And at some point, will my children decide they don't like their names or want to go by their middle name instead of their first? Or a nick-name instead of their given name? Names are important in that they are a major part of our identity - they are one of the first things we learn of ourselves as our mothers and fathers attempt to get our attention as babies, as others come into our lives, as we grow and learn the importance of knowing someone's name as a major part in identifying who they are. But how important is a name, really, and does it actually identify who we are?

Since I've been an adult, I have had the issue of whether or not I should go by Rebecca or Becky. Usually, when I introduce myself to new people, I am Rebecca. It sounds more grown-up and professional and though it seems a bit strange to me for my personality, being known as Rebecca does in fact make me feel more grown up. But as I get to know people, somehow I feel more comfortable allowing them to call me Becky; or often, they are the ones who feel more comfortable. It is more intimate in some ways, to call someone by their nick-name.

When I met my friend, Lisa, almost 2 years ago, I introduced myself as Rebecca. We were meeting on a professional basis and I felt it more appropriate to use my given name as opposed to my nick-name. But as we became friends, she started calling me Becky and I had no issue with that. For me personally, I'd like to be called whatever people feel more comfortable calling me. But does this give me two different identities and is it too confusing? Now, wherever Lisa and I are together, if this issue comes up with others - with what name I go by - it's usually brought up by her. I am perfectly happy going by Rebecca if that's what people know me as or are introduced to me as, but it's always some sort of fluster for a having to make a decision about what people should call me, etc. And sometimes I feel like maybe it's a character flaw of my own that I am so wishy-washy with what I want. But really, it's not that I don't want to make a decision - I just don't care either way.

My name, Rebecca Ellen, means "captivating light." When I was searching for baby names for each of my last 3 pregnancies, I made it a point to look up what they mean. Angelina means "angel" or "angelic." Aidan means "fiery." Isabella means "consecrated to God." But do most people pick names for their babies based on meaning alone? If so, why would anyone want to name their child something that doesn't have a positive meaning, or one that doesn't make sense? (Such as Phyllis which means "leafy bough" or Tristan which means "tumult") Recently, I had a discussion with two friends about what each of our names mean. My friend Connie remarked that our name-meanings fit us exactly. I wasn't so sure if this were true for me and mine but I thought it was interesting - the idea that maybe sometimes our names are not just randomly picked but placed on our parents' minds by God Himself, in accordance to what His plans are for us. Can I one day be a captivating light? Maybe, based on this idea alone, our names are far more important than anything I could ever dream of, especially when identifying who we are as His children.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lessons Learned

Today as I was holding and cuddling my baby, Isabella, who doesn't seem like a baby anymore so much as a little being getting older by the second, I was thinking about all the things I have been learning in my journey of motherhood so far. It's only been 5 years since I became a mother - yes, I'm counting from the time I began my first pregnancy - but there is so much I have learned in this short 5 years that it almost feels like a lifetime now. But a lifetime is full of much more than just a few lessons learned, as we change and grow with our children and become more wise (and less wise), empowering ourselves with the strength to not only teach our children but allow them to teach us as well.

I wanted to make a list of some of the things I'd like to tell my children when they are grown and have babes of their own. Here I'll share this list with you, along with a personal reflection on each.

In no particular order of importance:

1. No matter how many children you have or how "stretched" you feel on any given day, make personal time for each of them, even if it's just 10 minutes.
As much as I would love to say this is just about them, it's also about me, too. I get so much joy in my heart from the time we spend together one on one. I also find that if I spend some quality time with each of them, I create a special (and positive) bond, and I believe that bond will connect us forever. Later in their lives, they will remember it and it might just be the only thing that comforts them in some dark moment in their life...or maybe even what comforts me in mine.

2. Laugh with your children. Be silly. A child's laughter has the power to heal the heart in a way nothing else can.
Recently, when I was rocking Bella and playing with her, making silly noises on the top of her head, she broke into the most hysterical laughter I've ever heard come from a baby. That alone made me feel that even in the middle of all we are facing right now, everything will be okay.

3. Listen to your children, no matter what age they are. Some people are under the impression that children don't have anything of value to say but really, often times, they have much to say that has more substance and meaning to it than a lot of what I've heard out of the mouths of some of the adults in my life. My 4 year old is very good at convicting me on my flaws in such an innocent, almost like it's straight from God, sort of way. Just today, at a moment when I was getting flustered and frustrated without even realizing I was doing so, she said very quietly and innocently, 'mom, lets ask Jesus to help you calm down.'

4. Hug your children whenever you can. Make sure they know how much you love them, even if it's just through this simple act of personal touch. We humans were made with the need to be touched (out of love, not anger or control!) and the more you hug your children, the more content and secure they'll feel. Even my 4 year old, who is far from a touchy-feely sort of girl, makes it known when she needs to be hugged and cuddled if we haven't already done so that day.

5. Tell your children that you love them. Every day. Even though there was a lot of chaos in my own home growing up, I always can remember my mom telling me she loved me. Children need to be told over and over that they are loved. Hearing the words 'I love you' is so calming and reaffirming, especially in times when things seem difficult, or they've gotten into trouble, or when they aren't feeling well.

6. Pick your battles. I have come to realize that arguing with my children over some things is just not worth it. It's one thing to want them to obey no matter what, but sometimes before I even give the command I don't think about why I'm giving it. For instance, if my daughter wants to change her clothes back into pj's in the middle of the day, I often am just annoyed that she's changing once again so I tell her 'no.' But really, it makes getting ready for bed a lot quicker if she's already in her pj's and there really is no reason for her to not to be able to do it. It's not harming anyone, she enjoys changing her clothes and she loves spending time in her pj's.

7. Tell your children you are proud of them, even for the smallest of things.
Tonight at dinner, and most nights really, we had to praise the kids and cheer them on every time they took a bite of food or they couldn't seem to go any further. It's amazing how a little cheer, clapping and general hub bub over such a small task that you usually just expect from them, can lift their spirits and give them that little push they need to get it done. Their eyes lit up with the brightest happiness and sense of accomplishment and they felt so good about themselves...all because we clapped when they took a bite of food. How strengthening and encouraging it will be for them as they go through life if we are like this about all their accomplishments, big and small.

8. Snuggle and cuddle your children, especially in the evenings. This sort of goes along with spending time with them or giving them hugs but I wanted it to be a specific and separate thing because I think it's significant, outside of those other ones. Snuggling and cuddling seems to be a sort of calming thing and if done in the evenings, it gives them that last little ounce of attention and love before they go to bed and helps them to unwind and be peaceful in the process. It also reaffirms that sense of safety because their is nothing more comforting and safe-feeling than the strong embrace of your mother or father's arms.

9. Give your children small tasks to do around the house as soon as they are old enough to understand, being careful not to be critical in any way but praising them for their work instead. Giving them little chores to do not only builds character and an appreciation for organization/cleanliness but it helps them with that sense of accomplishment that is so important to their fragile hearts, especially when you make sure to praise them for their work (regardless of whether it's "perfect"). My children are so proud of themselves when they straighten their toys in the playroom or pick up the clothes on their bedroom floors, especially when they do it of their accord.

10. Be mindful of what you say around your children and how you act, regardless of whether you think they're paying attention and regardless of their age. I'm sad to say that for the first year or so of Angelina's life, her father and I fought horribly practically every night. Often times, we were so loud, it woke her up. Even now, she has issues with sleeping through the night, often wakes up crying or screaming, and is just generally a more fragile sleeper than our other two, or any child I know. On a less serious note, there have been times that we've said things we didn't think Angel or Aidan could hear but later heard them repeating it to us or each other. This can be embarrassing in certain situations!

11. Talk to your children about God, even when they are babies.
While it's last on my list, it's the most important. Children need to be taught about God from an early age, and every day from then on. We talk to our children all the time about God's love for us, how God loves them, praying to Him, asking Him for things (especially things not necessarily of a material nature) , etc. We pray with our children and make sure they know it's important to trust in Him for all of our needs. To have that in their minds, in their hearts from even before the moment they're capable of remembering will give them the sense of something secure to fall back on throughout their entire lives. It's our duty as Christian parents to teach our children the essence of God's love, not only through these talks but through our entire process of parenting - the hugs, the encouragement, the listening, the loving.

Throughout my life and the continuation of my motherhood, as my children get older and I grow more mature, there will be many more reflections I will wish to pass on to them as they pertain to my children's lives as parents. These are just 11 things that have been on my mind and heart lately and I hope that they give you, my readers, a small glimpse into my life as a mommy, and hopefully, they will also give you some direction on your own path. I realize that as my children get older, the lessons I will learn will also be learned by them and we will all grow in our knowledge of parenthood in a deeper sense than that of just flying through, talking but not listening to our children, teaching them but not learning from them, raising them but not loving them with every fiber of our being.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apology To My Readers

I apologize to anyone who is following my blog on a regular basis, for not updating it anytime recently. I've been swamped with the daily stress of the household, and that's not even including all the small wrenches that have thrown themselves into the works just these past few weeks.
I realized that the last post I wrote was just after Joe got laid off and I am sad to say that he is still searching for a job, but I am happy to say that we are both still trying our hardest to put our trust in the Lord and remember on a daily basis that He will provide for all our needs, regardless of what happens.
I don't know when I'll be "inspired" to write another blog post but I am getting antsy with the writers block that has settled in as a result of all the craziness going on here. So hopefully it will be soon! In the meantime, I would appreciate prayers. Thanks to all of you who visit my blog on a regular basis and again, I'm sorry I haven't had anything new to post for you!

Monday, February 9, 2009

In His Loving Arms

If there is anything I actually hate in this world, it's money. The relationship with money is so complex because we need it to live and we like having it, but when it comes down to it, I hate that we need it to live and I hate that we like having it. Right now, we don't have it and at this point, I'm not sure when we will. It doesn't seem like there is any rest for the weary.

Joe got laid off last week and while I understand that there are many people in the same boat as us, or in similarly small and fragile vessels floating on these treacherous seas, I can't get past feeling somewhat jipped in this little game we call life. I know it's just another opportunity for our faith in God to be tested and strengthened. I'm just trying to figure out how to get to the point of having a stronger faith through this without losing my sanity along the way.

I am having a difficult time understanding the way God is working in our lives. I am cynical about His way a lot lately and I don't want to be. Because deep in my heart, I know He is sovereign and because we choose to live our lives following Him as best as we can, He will take care of us in the end. But at the same time, there are moments when I feel so hopeless and wonder why we can't just have it a little bit easier.

My mom recently sent me something that was written by Michael Dubruiel, a writer who died suddenly while working out at the gym. He was a devout Catholic and his final column for the Diocesan newspaper in Alabama was about "the big lie" we tell ourselves. (Originally this idea was from his friend, Father Benedict Groeschel who wrote about it in his book
Arise From Darkness). The general idea of the big lie is that nothing awful will happen to us if we say the "right" prayers and live our lives the "right" way. It's a wake-up call when you realize how much of a big fat lie this really is and how miserable we can become with this realization. Ultimately, hope is the shining beacon on those treacherous seas that leads us back to an understanding of not necessarily how God works but how He doesn't work. That lie is exactly how He doesn't work. But it's this fact that actually feeds my cynicism in times like this and keeps me awake at night, wondering how we're going to feed our children next month and how we're going to keep our house if Joe can't find a job - despite that shining beacon.

I've been complaining a lot lately about the fact that the people that represent the company Joe worked for (i.e his boss) obviously weren't on the level of caring about our personal situation when they made the decision to lay him off. His immediate boss knew we have 3 children and another one on the way and he knows the economy is difficult right now because it is the reason they had to lay him off. But it didn't seem to matter. Money matters. And I've also been complaining about the fact that there is a person in our life who we owe money to, which we've been paying every single month as agreed, but who all of the sudden wants all of the money we owe her - only to satisfy a greedy itch to have power over us and have the ability to continue to live the excessively comfortable life she is used to while she faces her own "financial issues." This person doesn't even
need this money yet it's important to her to come after us for it, despite her knowledge of our situation (which was not as bad at the time of initial demand but not in any shape to pay off thousands of dollars all at once) and despite the basic evilness of such a demand. And through these complaints, I've been told I need to just forget about it because it's not important. I've been told I need to trust that God will provide for us and to not worry about the negative influences of these people and their idea of what matters in this world.

And really, all of this sounds nice when someone says it and maybe it gives a little bit of encouragement or hope... But I still have this little doubt in the back of my mind that makes it very hard for me to hold on to that hope, to trust in God. And it makes me very sad. Is it the devil or is it just my own weakness of flesh? I recently wrote these words in an email to the ladies in my mom's group:

..... I'd like to say that lately I have been finding it incredibly difficult, as I'm sure many of you do sometimes, to understand why these things seem to be happening to so many people we know and love. And why "things" in general are so difficult for us personally right now. With some of our husbands (or ourselves) losing their jobs and so many in turmoil for various reasons, I myself have found that I am feeling a little LESS hopeful about our own situation just because there are so many others in the same boat and everyone keeps saying it's just going to get worse.

But at the same time, and through many different loving and encouraging people - some of them in this group, I also have that glimmer of hope that's fighting to remain on top - that light from Jesus that often gets cloaked in the darkness of our tribulations but is always there none the less. And I am trying desperately to grab a hold of it and allow it to fill my heart - to have the strength and the faith in Him to bring us through everything we are facing. Despite my own (maybe even selfish) feelings of desperation, I'd like to encourage everyone of you all to keep sight of that light, no matter how awful things seem around you, and rest in the comfort of our Father's loving arms as He holds us and carries us through these difficult times. Please know I am praying daily for each and every one of you and I hope that we all can make it through our various struggles with a stronger love and faith in God and a deeper love and respect for each other and the world.

When I was writing them, I really felt like God was giving me these words to help spread some hope to all of the women in the group who are facing difficult times. But even now as I am looking back on it, I am thinking that maybe God was also using it to help me, to give me hope as well. It's easy to give words of encouragement to others but to believe in your heart what you are saying to them is what truly makes it powerful.

Yes, our relationship with money can be complex and it can be difficult - especially in hard times like these when it is dwindling fast with no visible reprieve on the horizon. But that's just the thing - God isn't usually visible accept in the small ways, the ways in which you have to sort of squint your eyes and turn away from the horizon in order to see His hand.. Like in the people who offer us food when we need it or money to pay our bills or an encouraging word or a prayer. Money does not matter when God is bigger than any of it, more powerful than any greedy person, His love more valuable than any thousands or millions others seek. And yes, on the surface, I may worry and I may be angry at certain people for being so selfish and I may be questioning of even God Himself. But deep in my heart, I believe exactly what I told those ladies and exactly what I've been telling my husband - He is carrying us through all of this, as we are tucked safely away in His loving arms.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Scrounging for Dinner

Yesterday, as I realized we probably couldn't afford to go to the store this week for much of anything except maybe milk, I started thinking about what we had in the house that I could make stretch for the week's dinners. It was getting late in the afternoon and I hadn't even really thought about dinner for the night, let alone for the rest of the week. I started to panic a little. I wasn't sure I had inherited my mom's talent for making delicious meals out of random things, though I knew I had done it once or twice before. And as usual when there seems to be a shortage of food, my belly churns at the thought of there being "all these people" to feed and not enough to go around.

Around 4:00 my hubby called to tell me he was on his way home and he asked me if he needed to stop at the store for any last-minute ingredients for dinner. I told him I had just been standing in the kitchen trying to figure out what we were having for dinner. "Just come home," I said "we really can't afford for you to stop and pick anything up..especially when I don't know what I would need." As I waited for him to arrive, I pulled out my big huge manila folder of recipes, hoping to find something that would demand very few ingredients, but ones I already had. As I sorted through recipes, some of which I've had since high school, my mind was reeling at the thought of eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner. My kids might not complain so much but I knew it wouldn't sit well with my hubby.

Like I said, some of the recipes I've had since high school, and many of them I never even used. I started to wonder why I kept them but as I came upon one for cream of chicken soup, I started forming a plan in my head. Glad I held onto this particular one for all these years, I began taking a mental inventory of things I had in my pantry and 'fridge. I had planned on doctoring up the recipe a little bit, making it thicker and turning it into a sort of stoup that could be ladled over baking powder biscuits which were also from a recipe I had kept since high school. I knew that I had only 1 medium-sized chicken breast in my freezer. I prayed that it would be enough.

The parable of the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish came into my mind as I pulled the chicken breast out of the freezer, realizing it was a lot smaller than I had remembered. I certainly was not going to be preparing food for 5,000 but a family of 5 surely would need more than 1 chicken breast between them! My hopes were faltering as I began to defrost the chicken in the microwave. I kept praying that somehow, it would stretch and that whatever the end result was, somehow it would taste at least decent. I definitely did not want to make something and have it turn out disgusting when I knew we were all going to be hungry and I would be using ingredients from a meager supply.

As I got to work, I felt peaceful and though I had no clue what I was doing or what the end meal would actually be, I decided it didn't matter at that point. I was going to do my best and even though I was just throwing random things together, I trusted my capabilities and my God. I chopped 2 small potatoes - old ones but the only ones in the house, 2 stalks of celery, some baby carrots and the last bit of onion I had. I made a rue from some butter and flour and found 2 cans of chicken broth in the pantry that I poured into the rue along with some milk. I also added a bunch of seasonings which I can't even remember now. I chopped and added and stirred and simmered and about 45 minutes later, I was pleased to see the entire thing coming together to create a delicious comfort food to be ladled on the biscuits I had just pulled from the oven. Not only was it so yummy, but there was A LOT! I made so much that my husband and I each had two bowls of it and there was enough left over after everyone had eaten that hubby had some to take to work for lunch today. (The kids sort of just picked at it but they ate some, which is the norm. around here.) Definitely plenty to go around.....and more.

"They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up the twelve wicker baskets full of fragments....." Mark 6:42-43 NAB

Monday, February 2, 2009

Growing Love

Even if it was a matter of life or death, I probably couldn't tell you the exact vows my husband and I took on our wedding day. At least, not all of them. I remember "to love, honor, and cherish..." And I definitely remember "til death do you part.." But the part that really sticks out in my mind is an image of us standing face to face, bold black letters flowing out of our mouths, spelling out "in good times and in bad." I am betting not a lot of us really think about these particular words in that moment - their weight or meaning, the sudden permanence they stamp on our lives. This isn't to say we don't mean them, it's just a matter of actually thinking at that moment that we are making a promise to each other that we must keep. And as things stand in this world, it doesn't seem to matter if we keep it or not.

But to me it did matter. And it still does.

I've been thinking a lot about the many aspects of being a good mother to my children, and I realized that a very important aspect is being a good wife to my husband. I've touched on this subject very little and can only think of
one post in which I know for sure that I mentioned this idea. But since things have been a little crazy around here lately and my husband and I haven't really been on the same page much, I have been convicted of this idea more and more. The convictions have come in starts and spurts, sneaking up on me in small ways that have left very large impressions on my heart. Like the look on my daughter's face when her dad and I are yelling at each other. Or my son's new way of expressing his anger - a finger pointed at one of us, the "s" word tumbling out of his mouth in broken 3 year old speak. I'm sad to say that this is our fault but along with that sadness comes some much-needed humility and a clearer view of the bigger picture.

I remember that when my husband and I first got married, some people were convinced of some crazy ideas of the motivation for our marriage. A lot of them didn't think we'd make it and made all kinds of judgments that we didn't even love each other. Some of this wasn't mentioned until much further down the road, when things were kind of chaotic for us and our future didn't seem so bright. But we pressed on, knowing that deep down, somewhere underneath all the craziness and dirt, we did have a seed of love that was dying to be nurtured.

Four years later, we still haven't gotten our gardening skills quite right. We have come a long way but sometimes, it feels like we're just moving backward, digging up what has been planted. Often, I feel like nothing has changed but in my heart, I know it has. We gave our marriage to the Ultimate Gardener - God - the day we took those vows, even if at first we forgot this fact. But He did not forget and He took our willingness to give Him the control and through His love, He has been nurturing that seed, even when we neglect it. That's not to say the seed doesn't need our hard work, too. But it's an amazing feeling to know that He is there to keep it alive even when we can't find the strength to.

As the keepers of our children, it's our responsibility to give them the best example we can of a love that emulates His. Ours is far from perfect. There is still so much work that needs to be done. But we need to go back to those vows we took on our wedding day and really think about them and their meaning for our life together. And we need to start living them each and every day. It's hard work to grow love, especially when the beginning seed is so small, so fragile. I often wish we both had taken some more time to think about the promises we were going to be making to each other before that day, because then our garden wouldn't have been so full of weeds over the years.

I have this image in my mind of our tiny garden starting out with so many of those weeds, our attempts at clearing them being too meager to make much difference. But God can do some amazing things with willing hearts, even if the space is small and overcrowded. With His strength, we have been able to start pulling even the tallest weeds with the biggest roots. And though there are times when it seems like we might even be planting new weeds, our little garden of love is slowly flourishing. It's hard to remember this fact in the middle of angry moments or difficult times. But in my heart, I know that those promises we made on our wedding day - even if I can't remember them exactly - were promises with their roots in God's hands, and nothing will pull them out.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Living In the World

I've been thinking a lot lately about how hard it is for people to not be pulled into the worldly way of living. It's especially hard for young people because they're practically born into it. It's hard for anyone to see the value of life when all they care about is money, sex, themselves. But even devout Christians struggle with that temptation - doing the easy thing, whatever makes you happy, etc. It's a very painful lesson to learn that life is ultimately more difficult when you go this route and give into that temptation. And it keeps you from achieving the joy you can find if you were to just follow God. Following Him is very hard; I won't lie. But I have learned that if something is easily obtained, it's really not worth much.

When I was 19, my boyfriend of almost 5 years broke up with me. At that point, because the life we had been planning together was all I knew and it had so suddenly been taken from me, I sort of fell off the wagon and became very lost. I had no clear direction and it only got worse from there. The next three years of my life were a mix of bad decisions, unbelievable pain and an emptiness I still haven't forgotten - one I often catch a glimpse of even now. It wasn't his fault I was this way; it was just how things were for me. One spends [what seems like] a very long time making plans for a certain major thing to happen - in this case, it was my whole future - and then it's suddenly ripped from one's grasp in a very painful way, never to be recovered again. It's hard getting through that. For some, it's just another opportunity to grow and change and become stronger. But for me, for the person I was back then, it was the beginning of a long detour that only led back to the path I was meant to be on after a lot of chaos I can't even begin to explain.

Those three years of my life were some of the hardest, most painful ones I've ever experienced, and looking back on them I know it was because I was living a worldly life. I had forgotten the concept of modesty and I had no real self-confidence or, more importantly, self-respect. I was aware of God but not as the center of my life, definitely not Someone I wanted to spend a lot of time on. I guess in some way I probably blamed Him for my situation, even though I know now that it was not His fault either. But for those three years, I did not know anything but the constant pain I was in. And as the gruesome cycle goes, the more pain I was in, the more I sought to hide from it and the more I sought to hide from it, the more pain I created for myself.

I look at the young girls of today and I weep. I am sad because they just have no clue. They think it's harmless to dress in skimpy clothes and flaunt their sexuality. They think it's cool to get so drunk they can't even remember what they did, or they only have shards of memories of a night they are certain they're glad they can't remember fully. And they don't even know who they are. They're just following the rest of their peers - another lemming in the crowd - because it's just so easy and they can't see past that. And what's an even harder concept for them to grasp is that they have no clue what their image is saying to everyone else. Or they just don't care. They have no concept of what it means to have self-respect or to respect others.

I know younger girls - some I care about very deeply - who are generally good people, even if they don't put God in the center of their lives. But they also live in the world. A lot of the time, the image they put forth to represent themselves is a total contradiction to who they say they are. And it's definitely far from what God wants them to be. Some think that just because they don't engage in a particular behavior "very often," that means that it's OK. But a constant stream of different behaviors that generally
don't represent God is never OK. For some reason, we have been conditioned into thinking that as long as we are generally 'good people,' it doesn't matter how we live our lives or how we act. Society breeds this mind-set into its children and hand-feeds it to them through every outlet it possibly can.

I remember in ninth grade one of my teachers was talking to us about impressions, particularly
first impressions - how we should always represent ourselves honestly and positively. Being very young and immature, most of us didn't really take that lesson seriously. But looking back, I wish it had been a lesson that was built-on, something that was taught in a more structured way and more in-depth, something that was ingrained in us as insurance for us to be productive members of society. But the way society runs these days is all about self. It's all about sex. It's all about doing whatever makes us happy.. and it scares the crap out of me.

I wonder how bad things will be out in the world as my daughters (and sons) get older and become more aware of its pull. How do I help them fight this? How do I teach them about how God wants us to live? Will they ask me about my life and how I was before I got married? My life didn't start over until I became pregnant with Angelina. But the three years that preceded that change are something I hope I never have to relive again - even if just in the telling of my story. But at the same time, I wonder - will my children (or others) benefit from that story? Will it be a good testament to God's love and infinite presence in our lives? Will I have the strength to relate it in such a way that will actually help them?

Over the past four years, motherhood has definitely taught me a lot. I struggle with learning to do things God's way even now, and I am fearful of not having the ability to convey what I know to be His truth to my children - especially when I have the world to contend with. I want to shelter them from the grit and ugliness of it while at the same time be able to share the beauty of God's will for the world, the way He intended it to be. It's going to be hard explaining to them why other people live a different way, particularly when it comes to those whom we know and love. But I know that nothing worth anything in life is easily obtained.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dancing in Rhythm

There are many posts I have crafted about feeling like I am meant to do more than I am - feeling like there is just something else, something bigger. I often write about not knowing what God wants me to do as a writer, my failings (and sometimes, my successes) as a mother and my journey to just being a better person in general. This blog was first started so that I could write about my identity as a mother. I have been recording the day to day grind of everything motherhood entails - my fears, my hopes, each incident with my children (big or small, positive or negative) and how it all affects me. But as I have also written about each aspect of my life surrounding my motherhood, I have come to realize that they not only surround my life but move within it, creating a sort of dance...but it's a dance I am not often in rhythm with.

Lately I have been feeling really down. It doesn't matter what I do, when I wake up I'm already depressed or angry and I'm already feeling like the day is going to be horrible. But I say the prayers I usually say in the morning - thanksgiving for a new day and prayers for my husband. Different intentions for our families and friends and patience and love for my children. And peace for the day. And I start the day anyway, despite the ever-growing fear that it is just going to be bad regardless. Sometimes I am capable of convincing myself that it's just Satan, in his ever-present seat in my head, trying to steal my will and make me fall captive to that sadness. Sometimes I can escape him. Most of the time I cannot. I am often cynical about God, wondering why I still feel this way after so long even though I pray about it several times throughout each day. Doesn't He want me to do His will in my life? If so, why won't He tell me what that is?

My sister recently told me that I shouldn't believe the lies I tell myself when I am feeling bad. Sometimes it's hard to see which is a lie and which is the truth. One of the biggest feelings I've had lately, even in moments I don't feel "down," is that because I live an hour away from my family (siblings and parents), I am not really part of it except in the most important things. But what makes a family? Isn't it the small things as well as the big things... and making someone feel important regardless of how far away they live? I miss so much and feel so left out of things that happen where they are. No one really knows who I am and I feel like I don't really know any of them anymore. Everyone has their own life but somehow, I don't feel like a part of it even in some small way. Yes, we get together for the kids' birthdays or other major family things. I pack up the kids and drive down there as often as I can to visit but I am trying to remember the last time anyone came up here just to visit me. And sometimes I wonder if maybe this isn't God showing me that I am supposed to be on my own - maybe He'll move me somewhere even further away than an hour, where driving a few times a month for visits won't be possible. Maybe He's getting me used to the distance, used to the loneliness and detachment I feel. Or maybe He just wants me to use the time I have where I'm not distracted by other things to focus on mothering my children His way.

I don't know.

On top of all that, there's the world and its craziness distracting me from my tasks, often luring me in the opposite direction from the one I know I am supposed to go. One of the things I stopped doing long ago was watching t.v. during the day. I can remember days on end sitting on my couch for at least 2 hours, drowning myself in whatever shows were on, doing the bare minimum that needed to be done around my house. I don't even really watch the news anymore. It both angers and saddens me and makes me feel like I just don't want to care about anything. And there are even people hubby and I both had to completely cut out of our lives or that we just stopped talking to because they were just too toxic or weren't positive influences on the life we know we want.

Maybe I'm in the warm-up stage and still have time to catch on to whatever it is this dance is meant to be for me - whatever it is God wants of me?

It seems I feel I am supposed to be taking 500 different steps but that most of them are impossible for me. I feel crazy a lot, out of sorts, as if I will never catch the rhythm of the dance and find my footing secure. But even still, however frazzled I may seem at times, I am constantly digging deeper within the tune of this dance, trying to find the one beat I know I can stick with. And though outside influences from the dirt and smut of the world - and my own sadness and self-wallowing - often attempt to knock me off my feet, I am pushing on, dancing faster, hoping to catch the tail-end of the song just so I can land right in my Father's arms, in perfect rhythm with Him.

Dance is the hidden language of the soul. ~ Martha Graham