Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Resting in the Peace that Only Comes in the Waiting"

On this Saturday morning, I woke up feeling quite domestic - meaning I wanted to cook something from scratch...

Now this is rare for me - very rare!  I love to cook, but almost all the meals I make include something from a box, a jar, or a can... or from my freezer because I only grocery shop once a month!

Back to this gourmet breakfast in my head at dawn's first light - first, I googled homemade donut recipes.  I figured that was going to be too difficult.  So then I went to a website where you can put in your ingredients, and they offer recipes you can make based on those!  I chose, and entered all things that might be associated with pastries, cakes, and breakfast floury things.

I chose blueberry muffins!  So I got started putting all the ingredients together, and then put them in the oven.  And then I was sad that I was going to have to wait 30 minutes before I could eat them!

This started me thinking about how much time in life is spent waiting - not for extremely long periods of time, just ya know, 30 minutes here and 20 minutes there.  It kills me!  Especially if it is about food!

But I was extremely humbled thinking about how much of my life I have spent waiting, and yet I am still absolutely horrible at it!  And I am a major hypocrite because I tell my daughter to "Be patient" constantly.  I tell her that being patient means to "practice waiting calmly".  I need to listen to myself more!

If I really sit and think about it, I truly am grateful for the daily periods of having to wait, because it prepares us for the times in life when having to wait can be for extremely long spans of time - days, weeks, months, and yes, even years.  How many things have I had to wait for like this?

I remember all my friends were allowed to shave their legs and wear makeup long before I was.  I remember resenting my mother many times at just the thought of how immature I felt while all my friends seemed like they were women already.  The irony?  When my mother finally did say I could shave my legs and showed me how?  I realized it was a lot of work and time that I didn't want to spend at least once a week doing for the rest of my life, and it was another 6 months before I decided to try again and actually keep up with it.

Although, my husband might insert here that since I became a mom, once a week would be too much of a commitment for me now!  Ha!  Poor guy!

Come to think of it, I was the youngest in my class, so I was always having to wait to do the things all my friends did earlier.  I didn't turn 16 until 2 weeks after my junior year in high school, didn't turn 18 until a week after I started college, and I wasn't married until I was 26.   Most of my high school friends were married long before then, and I was the bridesmaid throwing showers, decorating, and attending wedding rehearsal over and over again... waiting.

And then there have been times when God was very gracious and didn't make me wait for things.  I was hired for my first teaching job before I had even graduated college!  I graduated college and started teaching when I was 21.  I owned my first home the same month I started teaching.  And at the beginning of my second year of teaching, teacher salaries were raised about $3,000 per year, and I was able to buy a newer car all by myself!

And even better, I got pregnant with Emersyn 3 months earlier than I had planned, and I got pregnant the exact month I wanted to with Keegan.

But it is sad how quickly I forget all the lessons I learned while waiting, and I stop recognizing all the mercy God has given me by giving me so many wonderful things immediately!

These past few months have been very good for me in the area of learning, being stretched, and hopefully being changed by my Creator.  We have been trying to sell our home, trying to prepare our lives to become parents of two children, and I have been looking for a part-time job.

And waiting, waiting, waiting...

There are 2 promising jobs that I am waiting to hear back on, and I am thankful at how patient the Lord is helping me be.  I am usually freaking out when I don't know what is coming next.  The planner in me is always at least 6 months ahead of myself.  But right now, all I know about work is that since I am on a temporary contract with Tahlequah Public Schools and the 5th grade classes are being moved back into the elementary schools - as of August 1st I no longer have a teaching job - unless I reapply, reinterview, and get rehired.  And the part-time work is still in the works, so I don't know much there at all.  And I can't really be upset, because it would be ridiculous for me to be freaking out about not getting hired by April for a job that wouldn't start until August.  So, I am thankful that God has allowed me to see that all this looks like an opportunity to rest in Him while I wait on answers.

There have been a few people interested in our house so far.  One said she had it narrowed down between our house and another, and that she would have to think about it.  As a person who rarely "thinks about it", I don't know how long other people take to go through this process.  I guess it is different for everyone.  Me - I looked at this house once and bought it.  I drove my car once, and I bought it.  I knew I was going to marry Kyle within weeks of dating him.  My philosophy on many things in life is to just make a decision and be faithful to change things if God shows me I was wrong (except for marriage, of course, that's permanent, and I'm glad)!

Another guy said he wants to make an offer on our house, which is extremely exciting.  Except, we have to wait and see when and if he is actually going to and what the offer is... again, more waiting.  Call me a cynic, but we had an offer a few years ago, and after several months of not responding to any phone calls, the lady finally let us know that she had lost her job and had to take the offer off the table.  So until I see "SOLD" at the top of the sign, I am going to keep prepping this house for this little boy coming in exactly one month from today.

And then there is a part of me that likes to laugh at how things work out in a way to stretch us and make us realize we don't control our lives at all...

What if this guy makes an offer on Monday, and we have to be moved and close the same week I am getting my stomach cut open and welcoming my little boy into the world...  And since the house we are wanting to buy is a foreclosure, we have been told those take longer to get into... Yay!

So basically, there is a high probability that we will be homeless about the same time we welcome a newborn into the world!

And for a planner, that should freak me out!  The usual Keisha would be losing sleep, crying when she was alone (which is such a rarity that the crying may never happen even if I wanted it to), reworking the monthly budget over and over again just to feel like she has some control over something, and looking for places to rent without a lease.

But for some reason, I found this whole scenario very funny.  I am not afraid.  I am not even nervous.  And really, I'm not even dreading it, because I won't be doing any of the heavy packing or lifting while I am 9 months pregnant or recovering from a C-section!

The only prepping I have done for this possible scenario, is I asked my mom if we were homeless if we could live with her.  She sweetly answered, "You can live with me anytime for however long you want."

Sure, Kyle works an hour away from my parents' house, but he'll/we'll figure it out.  Or I should say, God will figure it out, and we'll follow His lead.

All of this makes me think of a song I heard a LONG time ago.  The instrumentation and vocals are quite outdated, even for Christian music, but the words still resound in my mind as an arrow pointing my heart over and over back to the truth that God is in control, and He is my comfort in the waiting.

The gift nobody longs for, still it comes
And somehow leaves us stronger
When it's gone away

I try and pray for Your will to be done
But I confess it's never fast enough for me

It seems
the hardest part is waiting on You
When what I really want
Is just to see Your hand move

I want a peace beyond my understanding
I want to feel it fall like rain
In the middle of my hurting
I want to feel Your arms as they surround me
And let me know that it's okay
To be here in this place
Resting in the peace that only comes
In the waiting

Time to let it go and just believe
Trusting in what no one else but You can see

Freedom from the fears that close me in
When I can't get beyond where I have been

But then again
The silence doesn't mean that I'm alone
As long as I can hear
That I am still Your own

I want a peace beyond my understanding
I want to feel it fall like rain
In the middle of my hurting
I want to feel Your arms as they surround me
And let me know that it's okay
To be here in this place
Resting in the peace that only comes
In the waiting"

 So, here we are waiting.  And happily so.  Peace like this can only happen during times like these, where we KNOW that we are small but very loved.  We know that we have no control over what others will decide or do, and quite frankly we also realize we would only screw things up if we could control others.  And we know that God is good and knows what is best for us.

When you intimately know the Creator of the universe, do we really have to worry about where we will live, what job we will work, or when all of these things will be revealed to us?!  Of course not!  We are slowly learning the art of resting in His peace while we wait...

That is unless it is waiting on muffins to bake, and then all patience gets thrown out the window!

And I guess I should confess that I ended up burning them because I was blogging!

Guess it's crunchy muffins and overcooked sausage for breakfast!  Bon Appetite!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Beware of the Toddler - There Is No Limit To What She Can Do!

I thought I would make an attempt at a lighter post, since most of my topics tend to be a little heavy.  I have never been a small-talker, and it is difficult for me not to turn everything into a question that takes me to another and then another.  So today I thought I would just tell you a story - a very true story - that might brighten your day.  Or it will at least make you leery of being around my toddler and her many talents!

One day last week, I was sitting in my classroom during my planning period working on my lesson plans.  Ever since I had a contraction about 2 weeks ago, I have been very motivated to get all my schoolwork prepped through the end of May.

So I am sitting at my computer with my calendar, the last 2 books my students and I are going to read as a class, and activity ideas scattered all around me, when I hear my phone vibrate.  I start digging through all the piles, searching for where I buried it under all my papers.  I finally found it and see that my husband has texted me a photo.

I open the picture, and I study it for several seconds, not sure of what I am looking at.  It looks so strange, and from the angle, I just can't make it out...

And then all of a sudden, I see it!  You know those hidden 3-D graphics that if you stare long enough and cross your eyes and then slowly uncross them, the image just pops out at you (or at least, I think that is what I am doing with my eyes when I am trying to see one of those things)?!  This was exactly like that... I had been turning the phone a little to the left and then the right...

And when I saw it, I gasped! And it must have been a loud gasp, because the 4 students I had sitting in my classroom working on late work looked up with concerned looks on their faces.  I guess my face was pretty dramatic too, for they all wanted to know what was wrong!  I, of course, couldn't tell them.  So I started laughing at the idea of what they would think if I really told them, or even showed them, the picture I was looking at!

The picture was of myself... only my face wasn't in the picture.  It was a picture of me sitting on the toilet!

Thankfully, the picture was mostly just the base of the toilet, and all that can be seen of me is from my knees down - but it is still me sitting on the toilet!

Then I start to think of the logistics of how my husband got this picture on his phone... and why he would even want to?!

I exited out of the picture and looked at the text that came with it.  The caption said, "Scrolling through my phone's pictures, and look what our daughter left me :)"

That is when I realize that the clothes I am wearing in the photo are the clothes I currently have on.  So I started retracing my morning, or more importantly Emersyn's morning.

Then it all came back to me - Kyle was in the shower that morning, and I came in to pee.  I had the door semi-shut, like wedged into the door frame, but not actually closed where the door had clasped shut.  And in comes my toddler - she pushes hard on the door to get it open, because toddlers don't understand that shut doors are that way probably for a reason.  Any parent will tell you that going to the bathroom alone, is pretty much a thing of the past.  I probably barely noticed that she barged in like she was going to rob the place.

I did recall that she saw Kyle's phone on the bathroom counter.  Phones are like candy to my daughter.  All she really wants to do with our phones is look through our pictures, but she could sit still and look through them for half an hour easily.  So when I saw her scrolling through Kyle's pictures, again, I didn't think much of it.

At one point, I remember she held the phone up to her eye the way we used to look through a camera's lens.  She had it mashed up against her cheek with one eye closed and said, "Say cheese Mommy!"  I said, "Cheese".  Then I told her to back up, so I could stand up.

We washed our hands, brushed our teeth, and went to get her dressed... and I never thought about it again!

How was I supposed to know that she actually knew which button to push?!  She obviously didn't understand how to aim or look at it, so why would I think she knew how to take a picture?!

And Kyle was behind the shower curtain the whole time, and didn't have a clue he had such scandalous material on his phone!

He said he was looking through his pictures at work to find some information he had taken a picture of, and he said he stopped dead in his tracks as he was scrolled upon this photo.  He saw right away what it was, and knew who the culprit would have to be.

I texted him back and said, "DELETE THAT RIGHT NOW!!!"

His response, "What if she also perhaps maybe accidentally learned how to upload that pic to Facebook?  I have NO idea how she did it."

I texted, "I would kill you."

"Ok.  Don't hyperventilate in front of your class.  That was a joke."

"I know.  Because you are smart!"

Now, I know that most blogs stir up more curiosity and interest in their posts if they post a picture of the topic the post is about.  So it would only make sense that since this post is about a picture, that I should include the picture in the post...

Yeah, that's never going to happen!

But it is a story too funny not to tell, so I thought I would at least share the laughter!

The moral to this story:  Toddlers are smarter than you think.  And your children will always find a way to embarrass you.

May my readers have an embarrassment-free weekend!  Happy Friday!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Doing It All "Wrong", But Still Getting It Right

My daughter is 2 years and 4 months old, and she has discovered something she considers to be a breakthrough in modern intelligence... Here is this slice of genius, are you ready for it?

Everyone was first a baby, and then they grow up.

This is mind-blowing information to my toddler, and she finds it necessary to now go up to every person she knows (or doesn't know) and say "Baby grow up!"  And she's right every time.  Perhaps she likes that part even more than the knowledge itself, is that she has yet to find someone that this truth doesn't apply to.

Since it is Spring Break, we were able to do our Saturday morning ritual on a Monday.  Emersyn comes into our room around 7a.m. and gets in our bed and under the covers.  We play "night-night", and basically we all just lay there while Emersyn wiggles and rolls and bounces while showering us with hugs and kisses and cuddles.

And all of a sudden, she stopped and pointed to herself and said, "Baby grow up".  She then continued to point to me and repeated this profound statement, and then again to her daddy.  And each time we affirm that she's right.

But hearing this statement "Baby grow up" over and over the past few weeks has started me thinking through how all these babies are actually "raised".  Even that word, "raised", gives a visual of older people lifting up a younger child into an older child and then into an adult.

As a parent of only one young child, I consider myself still a beginner.  Sure, I don't stress over things I used to when Emersyn was first born.  I have realized, though, in these short 2 and almost a half years that parenting is the epitome of two incredibly huge ideas crossing paths every moment of every day - God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.  These seem like two things that have nothing to do with each other, but in parenting these things must coexist and even work together... and be smothered in God's grace.

Grace is goodness being given that is not deserved, and I am learning that a lot of parenting is a lot of work from me and my husband but infinitely more grace from the Lord.  Sure, we have read books and listened to parenting sermons, talks, podcasts, etc.  We have read scripture and tried to apply its truths to create our style of parenting.

But there comes a point in every parent's life that they must admit that no matter how hard they try to watch their motives, tone, words, and actions around, in front of, or with their children... basically every parent is going to screw up their children in some way.  When flawed beings raise moldable younger beings, it is inevitable that the children will get the same flaws or opposite flaws as a response.

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't try as parents to raise our children correctly, whatever we feel convicted as "correctly" to mean, but we are fools if we think there is a way to raise children perfectly.  We are delusional if we think that if we follow a certain method of speaking, eating, disciplining, teaching, rewarding, sleeping, being affectionate, affirming, that we will avoid all things harmful, negative, or devastating to our children.  I can't guarantee that if I say all the right things in the right tone to my daughter that she will grow up to be confident, secure, and wise.  I can't guarantee that if I spank my daughter, or if I don't, that she will or won't grow up to respect authority.  Sure, statistically doing certain things in raising children makes getting positive results more likely and pitfalls less likely.

But ultimately, I can't ever get rid of my own sin, my child's sin, or her ability to make decisions that I can't control in any way.  These 3 factors make child-rearing quite unpredictable.

And if that is true, then it's opposite must be as well.  Parents who do things " wrong" are not guaranteed to have screw-ups for children in adulthood.  Again, this is no license for parents to take a lifelong vacation from their responsibilities, but I think with all the books and theories out there today, we aren't giving God's grace and sovereignty its proper credit in how our children end up.

I feel an easy example is my own up-bringing.  Before I begin, let me explain that in no way was I ever abused or neglected in any way.  My mom will be the first person to say, and I have heard her say this many times, that it is by God's grace that her kids turned out halfway decent.  So, as I go into detail, please know that in no way am I saying I regret the way I was raised.  I can thankfully and honestly say that I hold no resentments toward my parents for anything they did or did not do in their parenting, AND I have a very close relationship with my parents.  And I always have.  While my mother would say that it is ONLY by God's grace, I would say it is also due greatly to just who my parents are.  They are strong and loving.  They are constant and generous.  They are just and thoughtful.  And I love them - strengths and weaknesses altogether.

And when I point out something "wrong" they did in raising me, I'm not sure what they did was actually wrong at all, but there are definitely volumes out there on bookshelves of bookstores, conference table displays, and home libraries all over the United States - in Christian and non-Christian homes - that would say these methods are wrong.  I'm sure some would even go so far as to say that I was abused or neglected, which would make me want to laugh.  Some people take their parenting to a whole new level of legalism and paranoia these days that I just can't understand at all, and I don't want to.  But as I point out the things my parents did "wrong", please understand that I am only pointing it out in contrast to what the modern world would say is "right" parenting.  My personal belief is that my parents did the best they could with what they knew and believed at that time, and I feel I turned out relatively well as what we hope for our children goes.  Not that I'm bragging, but for Christian parents' hopes for their children, most have come true in my life without much difficulty.  And I'm not saying that because I am so great, because I'm not, but the successes I have had in my life are completely owed to my parents' guidance and God's grace on my life!

If I were the author of some very popular books, even in Christian circles today, I would have this following critique of my parents:

1)  My mother had me by C-section.  In a hospital.  With pain meds.  That alone in today's world would make her the black sheep in a mother's group.  Guess I'd have to join her, since that is how I had my baby as well.  But the poor woman was 3 weeks past her due date, and she had been in labor with me for quite a while.  One doctor kept me in while another performed an emergency c-section.  This woman should never be judged but thanked a million times over!  Thank you, Mama, for choosing life for me, carrying me much longer than was necessary, and for making it through an extremely difficult delivery to raise me!

2)  My mother was not a stay-at-home mom.  I didn't even know those existed, except perhaps in 2 families I knew moms that worked part-time or cleaned people's houses.  Everyone else I knew grew up in a home where both parents worked, and I don't ever remember any of us saying that we thought our parents spent too much time at work.  Even though my mom worked, we still ate most of our meals at home that had been prepared and cooked at home.  We spent a lot of time playing and working together as a family.  We went on vacations together often.  We had traditions.  We spent a lot of time together, and I don't remember even feeling like my parents were too busy for me.  I can remember my parents being at most of my school functions, extracurricular activities, and special events too.

3)  My mother did not breastfeed me.  I know, shocking!  She did try, but it didn't go well.  I was fed formula throughout my first year of life.  And all of my life, I have been very healthy.  I was a gymnast, a softball player, a track runner, and a cheerleader.  I am also smart enough to have finished high school, taking Trigonometry, AP Physics, and Chemistry.  I also tested into Advanced Comp in college, and graduated college with a 3.85 GPA.  I'm not trying to brag, I am just merely pointing out that formula in no way inhibited my ability to learn.  I have also been very close to my mother throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.  I don't feel like my bond with her suffered because I didn't spend meals at her breast for the first year of my development.

4)  My parents spanked me.  In fact, I think I got my last swats at age 16.  They didn't do time outs or talks or a reward chart.  If I misbehaved, I got swatted.  Sometimes I got swatted with a paddle.  Mom or Dad would say to go to their room and sit on their bed.  They'd go get the paddle.  They'd ask if we knew why we were getting paddled.  After clarifying why, we were then told to bend over the bed, and we got swats.  If we didn't bend over, the number of swats were increased.  And they hurt.  I won't lie.  Of course they hurt!  That is definitely part of the point of swats.  But within 10 minutes my butt wasn't hurting, and we all moved on with life.  And it was a happy life, believe me!  I have never felt like I needed counseling because of these spankings I received.

It would be one thing if my parents only swatted me for doing wrong, but never praised me when I did right.  I was told that I was smart.  I was congratulated when I did well.  I was rewarded for good grades.  They also told me they loved me often, even during disciplining me.  They played with me too.  I might have obeyed them out of fear sometimes, because I knew consequences were always involved.  But I also wanted to please them, because I love them.  I still do.  I have always wanted to show my parents my new classroom, new house, new car, my Teacher-of-the-Year award, or even this blog.  I want them to be proud of me, because they are my heroes.  Yes, heroes that paddled my butt whenever I screwed up.  Because they are good people, I wanted to be like them.

My mother even used spanking in her potty-training method.  I had been showing interest in using the toilet, so she woke me up one day when I was 15 months old and said, "You're a big girl now.  We wear big girl panties, and we don't go potty in our panties."  If I went to the bathroom on the toilet, I got a treat.  If I went in my panties, I got a spanking (with her hand).  I was potty-trained in a couple of days with no relapses.  By today's standards that would be a very wrong method, but I have absolutely no memory of it.  And I am pretty sure I have no emotional, self-esteem, or physical issues due to this "wrong" way of potty-training.

5)  My parents did not dress me in special attire for every holiday.  And most of my Easter and Christmas outfits were hand-me-downs.  My hair was not braided in a special way with a handmade bow from Etsy or a boutique.  The sheets on my mattress didn't always match the decor in my room.   My parents did not share pictures of me with their friends at least once a day.  My childhood was a lot less about me than my daughter's is about her... and I admire the kind of simplicity my parents had in how they taught me my place in this world.  I knew there was more to life than me - my life, my wishes, my feelings.  My parents' lives didn't revolve around me.

6)  My parents sent me to public school.  Yep, Kindergarten through 12th grade, I attended a public school.  And there were kids of every kind.  I never once prayed while in school or had the Bible taught to me by a school employee.  I was taught BOTH Creationism and Evolutionary theory in my high school science classes.  I heard cuss words and sexual innuendos long before I understood them.

But there was a couple who were local missionaries.  They taught Bible classes at school, and if parents gave students permission to go, they could.  I attended these classes and learned a lot about God and the Bible before my parents ever took me to church - at a public school.

I also received an excellent education, and I can say that college was quite easy for me because my school prepared their students so well.  I also had many Christian teachers that I knew I could go to to ask for guidance, prayer, etc.  I had many wonderful teachers that came to extracurricular activites while I was in school, and even attended my wedding when I was 26-years-old.

I was able to help lead devotions and Bible studies through our Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school.  I learned a lot about being a witness for Christ.  I also saw several people learn and trust in the Lord though our group's study times.  I heard several teachers as guest speakers give their testimonies.  At "See You At the Pole", half of our school staff would come and pray with students.

7)  My parents let me eat fast food - even McDonald's!  Oh no!  The horror!  I even ate... McNuggets!  That is all I have ever had at McDonald's, with their french fries of course.  And as a young child, I mostly just licked ketchup off a french fry until it got soggy.  Then I'd throw it to the side and get a fresh fry to aide me in my ketchup consumption.  My mother and father didn't even lose sleep because I didn't eat broccoli.  In fact, my mother has never cooked me a vegetable that wasn't a green bean, carrot, corn, or potato.

And if I didn't eat, I got a spanking.

8)  My parents fought in front of me.  And before they were both believers, I'd say they fought a lot.  But I have also seen them hold hands in the car, heard them tell each other they love each other every day, and I have seen them kiss in front of me too.  Never once did I feel like their marriage had ruined marriage for me.  Never have I felt that their difficulty to understand each other and find common ground meant that relationships are doomed to fail.  I have seen them on the brink of divorce.  But I have also seen them fall in love again.  I have seen how God grows people toward each other.  I have heard them make each other laugh.  I have seen notes they leave for each other or acts of kindness they do for one another.  And in many ways, I am much like my mother... and I married someone a lot like my father.  Why would I have done that if I thought these people who fought in front of me were miserable failures.  Obviously, I don't!

9)  My parents did not lead me spiritually for a long time.  That was because for quite a while, they were not believers, themselves.  And then when they were, they were brand new believers.  They didn't know how to lead a family devotion.  They prayed with us before meals and bedtime.  They gave us godly counsel when we were going through something... but most of our spiritual upbringing was done by the church.  My youth pastors taught me how to read my Bible, what to look for in a spouse, and doctrinal truths.  But my parents did pray for me.  They prayed for my safety, making godly decisions, my friends, my future spouse, and they still do pray for me.  Again, they didn't lose sleep at night because they weren't discipling us around the dinner table or in living room prayer and discussions of scripture.  But somehow both my sister and I are believers, are married to men who feel called to be pastors/ministers, and we want to raise our children in the Word of God on a daily basis.  Sure, all of that could be because God in His grace and mercy gave my sister and I both hearts that fell in love with Him... but I have a feeling that God was answering the many prayers spoken by my parents throughout our years.

10)  Some other miscellaneous things my parents never did:  let us sleep in their bed - ever - not even when we were sick or scared, ask us our feelings on a lot of things - what they said went, give us multiple chances before disciplining us, ask us to do things - most of the time we were told what we would and would not do, ever wonder why we behaved the way we did - they weren't interested in abstract explanations, they saw right-and-wrong and expected us to behave appropriately.

Basically, if my parents were interviewed on national television today about the way they raised me, I'm sure there would be newsfeed blowups on every social site available, because so many people would have a critical opinion of what went on in my upbringing.  But as the recipient of this "raising", I believe my opinion on the matter is more important than a stranger's... I mean, in today's world, isn't it all about my experience?!  And haven't we all heard more times than we want to how you can't invalidate someone's feelings or experience?

So, here we go.  Here are my feelings and experience on being the subject of this kind of upbringing: I have felt loved and supported every day of my life.  I have been cheered on, corrected, and guided.  I have been allowed to mess-up and see where that gets me.  I have been comforted, disciplined, and forgiven.  I have been inspired.  And because of these "wrong" practices, I learned respect, how to think of others before myself, that I don't know everything, and that it isn't all about me.  These people taught me how to think, play, laugh, make decisions, work hard, manage time and money, give, share, and love.  They taught me to value God, family, friends, people, education, and contributing.

God is always sovereign.  So I have no idea how many of the things in my life are the way they are ONLY because of His infinite mercy and grace.  But I do know that in His infinite wisdom and orchestration, He blessed me with these parents who raised me.  And in my opinion, raised me well.  They aren't perfect, so of course their parenting couldn't have been perfect.  And even if it could have been, they had me as a child, and I am not perfect either.

Am I going to parent exactly how my parents have?  The answer is no.  Not because I think they were wrong, but because Kyle (my husband) and I are not my parents.  I did breastfeed my daughter, but it wasn't because I felt so neglected at not being breastfed.  I used a different method for potty-training, but it wasn't because I felt my mother was a bully for using the method she did.  Kyle and I do use spanking as one of our ways of disciplining, but we also use time out and logical consequences.  About what kind of schooling my children will receive, I honestly have no idea.  That would very much depend on where we live, what our circumstances are, and the needs of each child.  But as successful products of public schools (Kyle also attended private Christian school in his younger years), we are not against any form of education setting.  We believe parenting should accompany any kind of education, and therefore many dangers of any kind of schooling are dimmed in the light of being involved, informed, and active in our kids' education and lives.  And we would like to be intentional with our kids' spiritual growth, and being raised in church and both of us  being Christians for at least a decade, we really have no excuse not to do so.

But nothing I do that is different from my own upbringing is because I disagreed with my upbringing.  I can find lessons learned and traits solidified through these methods my parents used, and I am grateful for them.

My point is that in anything in life, especially in parenting, we should seek God's direction and will.  We should be responsible to carry out our responsibilities in obedience the best we can.  And then we have to trust the Lord with everything else.  It doesn't matter what the latest parenting book you are reading says, or even a blog!  It doesn't matter if the "seems to be the perfect mom" down the street used this certain method, and for some reason it isn't working for your family.  What does God say about it?  And really, that is the only person's feelings and opinions we should care about on the subject.  The women in our moms' group, the author of a popular book, or the opinionated woman in the checkout line at the store are getting their opportunity to be obedient with the children they have been given (or already raised).  They do not define your parenthood status.

Because if it was as easy as finding the perfect formula to raise children to turn out just as we wish, what would we even need God for in this journey?!  Why should parents be on their knees begging for help, wisdom, and grace in this process if it was all something we could put in a PowerPoint and master?!

On days when you feel like you are doing it all right, beware.  There is a point of no return where you are no longer teachable, and your entire family will suffer for it.

On days when you feel like you are doing it all wrong, be comforted.  There is a perfect Father who carries our burdens, forgives us of our sins, and holds the entire universe together.

Trust Him with your children.  Trust Him with your parenting.  Trust Him with your life.

Remember, the world thinks His ways of parenting us are wrong too.  Does that make Him wrong?  Of course not!  The Creator of the world cannot be put on trial by His creation and be found wanting.  He is the judge, and He has decided to compel us to good deeds through love and kindness.  We are the ones found wanting, and yet He chooses to still use us, mold us.  And in Him, all our wrongs find a right.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious – The Absolute Awesome Process of Pregnancy!

I am currently pregnant with my second child, and I know of at least 13 other women who are pregnant right now… so this just seemed to be the topic my mind is on most lately – Having a baby!!!  And it is so great to know this time around so many things I didn’t with my first child.  I have been less stressed, less OCD about everything, and less afraid.  All good things!  I can actually laugh about pregnancy now, because it is HILARIOUS!!!  If you don’t believe me, watch “What to Expect When Expecting” with Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez (and several other funny and good actors).  Obviously, it is a Hollywood film, so it isn’t pregnancy from a Christian’s point-of-view, but it is very real and very funny.  It is also honest, and as I get older, I appreciate honesty so much more than I used to!  The movie covers every perspective:  the surprise pregnancy, the been-trying-so-long-we-quit-trying surprise pregnancy, adoption, the pregnant woman that has absolutely no problems with her pregnancy at all, twins, emergency c-section, and even include the serious and heartbreaking reality of miscarriage.  But they include it all, the sweating, the swelling, hemorrhoids, and birth plans that never go the way they are typed!

In fact, the character that is a perfectionist and a birthing/breastfeeding expert in the movie says after her doctor suggests an emergency c-section, “No, I want to push.  I have a birth plan.  I want to push.”  The doctor says, “I understand that, but…” and she says, “It’s typed! I want to push!”  Like typing out a piece of paper is going to control how your body and baby progresses during delivery!  Hilarious!

My personal experience with pregnancy has been funny as well!  All pregnancies, I’m sure have their own tale or two of hilarity – with, I’m sure, most having at least weekly funnies occurring throughout the 40 weeks of growing a human.  And most hilarious moments occur because what you plan goes wrong or what you hadn’t planned for suddenly happens in a major way!

Myself being such a staunch planner, pregnancy has been quite funny for me and to me… and I have since learned that I should really just plan on going with whatever happens!  Go with the flow and laugh throughout the process.  Ya know that phrase, “Laugh so you won’t cry”?  Probably a pregnant woman, or the husband of a pregnant woman, came up with that!

In my na├»ve, planner’s mind, I thought that by the time I was 28 years old, I would have already given birth to at least 2 of the 4 children I planned on having.  28 just seemed like the perfect age to be halfway through childbearing.  I also thought 28 would be the perfect age, because I would still be young, but wiser than I had been in my early 20s.  The truth is that pregnancy and motherhood is a learning experience no matter your age or amount of previous wisdom!

And, of course, as every planner finds, rarely do plans go exactly as planned.  I didn’t get married until I was 26, so if I was going to have 2 kids by 28, I would have had to rush the whole process – which I thankfully realized would not be wise for us.  Kyle worked part-time and attended seminary, and when we were first married, we wanted it to just be “us’ for at least a year or 2.

Well, we just made the 2 year mark a month before Emersyn was born, but I am so thankful we took that time to just be us.  We built a foundation that has easily grown since becoming parents of one child.  I think if we had rushed parenthood just to fit my plan, we wouldn’t have known each other or ourselves as well as we do.

While we were dating, I requested that we make a list of 4 girl and 4 boy first and middle name combos that we agreed on.  I joke all the time that I wanted to know before I married him what his taste in names was, but it is the honest truth.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t have married him if he had horrible taste in names, but I at least wanted to be prepared for how easy or difficult naming our kids would be.  Thankfully we easily agreed on at least 3 “for sure” name combos with a flexible 4th for each gender, so we are pretty set for a while on naming our kids – especially since we hopefully we’ll only have one at a time!

And one reason I am glad we only have had one at a time, is because babies come in size XL in my family.  We don’t have little tiny babies that look like newborns that could break in half.  We have babies that look much older and neckless.  Kyle and I were both big babies – me being super-sized at 10 lbs 13 oz!  And Emersyn didn’t break the mold!  She was several months old before we ever saw her neck without digging for it!

I found out I was pregnant with Emersyn the morning after having thrown up Mexican food the previous evening for no reason.  Inside my mind I wondered instantly if I was sick or pregnant, but I didn’t say anything.  The next morning was the Monday of Spring Break.  Kyle went off to seminary class before I even got out of bed.  When I woke up, I took a test, and it was positive the moment the stick got wet!  The directions said that it took 2 minutes, so I laid the positive test aside thinking and kind of hoping that it would change over the 2 minutes.

It was, of course, still positive when the timer went off, but I didn’t know how reliable these things were, and I needed to do some research… so I went up the hill to my friend, Jessica’s, house to get online to do some research.  When I came in to her house she told me that she wasn’t feeling very good, and she thought she got whatever I had had the night before when I got sick on the Mexican food.  I told her that what I had, I didn’t think was contagious!  

All afternoon I read about common false negatives and very rare false positives.  I even texted my sister who was 3 months pregnant to ask her if she thought it could be a false positive.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have a baby, it was that my plan was not to get pregnant for another 3 months… yep, 3 months!  I know now that getting pregnant about 3 months from the time you wanted to is pretty much on time!

Getting pregnant isn't like making an appointment to get a pedicure.  Sure, you can try to treat it that way, but "People have sex; God makes babies".  And I have since seen too many friends try for a long time to get pregnant without becoming so.  It isn’t something God does on our timeline or for our convenience.  And that is what people do these days – they plan their birth control (chemical or natural) around when they want to have children.  We are all busy, and we want our pregnancies and childbirths to fit our schedules.  And I was hoping for a false positive because of a measly 3 months!  Ridiculous, I know!

And I started to learn very quickly, that if you can’t laugh at yourself, you should never get pregnant or raise children!  The whole process is one hilarious moment after another… granted, sometimes you have to wait until the moment is over and a few days pass before you can laugh, but laughing is the only way to survive it!

“Pregnancy brain” is a big producer of hilarious moments!  I once went to get in my car, looked down and saw that I had Kyle’s WAY-TOO-BIG for me flip-flops on… and I was going to go to Walmart in them without a thought!  I also found myself too many times with my keys locked in the car.  Or 45 minutes from home with an empty gas tank, with no purse, wallet, or phone!  I would forget even what side of a parking lot I had parked in, or if I had brushed my teeth or not!

Pregnancy hormones and emotions are also hilarious sources of comedy!  Early on in my first pregnancy we were having a yard sale, and we had to drive to get to the location we were having it.  We were running a little late, and I wanted cereal.  So I poured a bowl of cereal and milk, and walked to Kyle’s truck with it.  He said he didn’t like the idea, because he was afraid it was going to spill.  I said I would be careful, but wouldn’t you know that within seconds of being in the truck, I dropped the whole bowl down the middle gearshift and console… I was immediately angry, sorry, and humiliated… but for some reason I reacted like the Hulk!  I picked up what was now a 1/3 filled bowl, opened my door, threw the bowl and the rest of its contents all over the driveway and screamed an obscenity.  No, I don’t remember which one.  And I ran inside, sat down on the toilet lid and began to bawl.  I mean, I SOBBED!!!  Inside my head, I was asking myself, “Why are you being such a crazy person?!  Just go say you are sorry and clean it up!”  But I just sat there crying and scared of who I had become!  Kyle was smart and tried to console me instead of correcting me.  I think he was scared of me too, and I don’t blame him!

That story cracks me up just thinking about it now!

I loved every minute of my first pregnancy!  I even remember saying that most pregnant women were big babies and drama queens – it just isn’t that bad!  Well, that’s easy to say when you only throw up the day before you know you are pregnant and never feel sickness again!

As time went on, I started to swell.  And then I swelled some more.  My blood pressure and swelling were red flags for my midwife, who demanded that I go on bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy!  I was only 7 months along!  I had the sick days available, but I didn’t want to use them just to lay around doing nothing!  I asked her what other options I had, and she said that if I could elevate my feet above my heart, then I could go to work.  I said, “You mean like in a recliner?!”  I said it as a joke, but she immediately agreed that that would work… “Are you serious?!” 

So I called my mother to tell her the comedic situation I was finding myself in.  It was Wednesday, and she was at church when she got my phone call.  So she told the people sitting around her that I needed to teach from a recliner for the next 2 months, and someone sitting there said, “We have a recliner that is just sitting in our kids’ room, not being used.  She can have it as long as she needs it.”

My parents delivered the recliner to me on Thursday, and Friday morning the awesome maintenance men of Westville Public Schools were carrying it into my classroom and putting it together for me at the front of the room!

And I taught 5th graders from that recliner for 2 months!  I thank the Lord for SmartBoards and AirLiners, because that is how I taught without ever having to get up out of my chair!  My feet were elevated above my heart, and my awesome students that year kept me accountable about staying that way!  I would get up to go get something off my desk, and a student would say, "Are you supposed to be up out of your chair?".  Hello, I'm the adult and you're a kid... but yes, you're right; I should have asked someone for help.  So many tasks were done by 10-year-olds.  I had them taking attendance, passing out papers, fetching and carrying for me.  It was like I had 22 interns, all under 5 feet!

On top of that, I also had to stay home and keep my feet elevated on evenings and weekends.  And wouldn’t you know that this effective-immediately bed rest came the day after I had done the monthly grocery shopping!  I am the cook in our house, so I had to type up all the recipes I was planning on making for the whole month for Kyle to follow!  What was funny, is that I am not a cook that uses recipes.  And I definitely never measure things out.  So trying to explain my “recipes” via typing them out for my husband to understand was quite comical!

He would call out from the kitchen, “How much is ‘some garlic salt’?”  And I would say, “I don’t know, SOME!”  Hilarious!

Also, every weekend when I had to stay home, feet elevated, and do 24-hour urine collections.  Doesn’t that sound fun?!  Every weekend there sat a big red jug in my refrigerator that said “Hazardous – Do not drink!” on the side.  All day and night, I would catch all of my urine and pour it into the red hazardous jug, and every Monday morning, Kyle would drop off the urine jug to be tested at the lab.  And then every Monday afternoon I would go get the results on my way back from work!  2 months of that!  It is even funnier when someone opens your refrigerator and asks, “What is that?!”  Hmm, let’s see… do you want the vague answer of “None of your business”, or do you want to know that that is a gallon of my pee?!

And the fact that pregnant women even try to sleep toward the end of the 9 months is pretty funny!  Getting comfortable is impossible!  And rolling over is an 8-point turn!  I have to push off something, then pull the side of the bed, and kick my legs – all while grunting and breathing heavily!  By the time I get rolled over, my heart is racing and I am exhausted like I just went for a run – just to roll over!  Since your abs are completely divided and pushed to the side when you are pregnant, you have no help from your middle section at all to make movements – and while you’re laying down, gravity has a field day fighting you too!

Once I finally get to sleep, I have the scariest, most vivid dreams ever!  The worst when I was pregnant with Emersyn is a tie between two nightmares!  In one I was using the toilet in a restaurant bathroom and I miscarried into the toilet.  And when I looked into the toilet, the baby looked like one of those old baby dolls with missing hair, and it blinked at me from underwater in the bowl.  Those were the creepiest blue eyes I have ever seen!  The second nightmare was that a witch was eating all of my family and friends, but was keeping me alive to eat the baby when I delivered… yeah, you don’t sleep much after seeing that!

Then the birthing video!  Why did they have to show that birthing video?!  I don’t need to see that!  Besides, as the mother giving birth, you don’t see it from that angle anyway, and I would have preferred it stay that way!  Ignorance is truly bliss, and I believe God put babies in our mid-section to grow there for several reasons – 2 of those reasons being so that 1)You don’t see how swollen your ankles are toward the end, and 2) you can’t see anything going on “down there” when you are laying down and pushing.  The doctors and nurses can see that stuff all they want to; they signed up to be at that end!  I did not!  At our birthing class, we watched the video of the woman giving birth.  I thought I was going to pass out!  I had tears in my eyes, and I turned and looked at Kyle; he was teary-eyed too.  He said, "That's so sweet."  I felt sick to my stomach and said, "You thought that was sweet?!  It's disgusting!"

 And of course they couldn’t’ turn the video off after the baby was born; they just HAD to show us the birth of the placenta!  “Bloody tree roots” was all I could think of, and I think I silently cried myself to sleep for a week after seeing it, because I was scared to death to see it in real life!  Kyle tried to encourage me, and so did many other women… but I was terrified!  Then the teacher continued making me nauseous with stories of people stamping placentas on canvas in the 60s and making placenta stew, being the only meat a vegetarian can eat... uh, just thinking about it now makes me want to puke!  But I can also laugh at my inability to be a big kid about it all and just be fine with the fact that some of this brilliant, beautiful design God created is a little gross.  Or a lot, depending on how you want to think of it!

I went into the hospital 3 days after my due date in order to be induced.  My swelling and blood pressure had not gone down, even after all the bed rest, and  I had never had one contraction.  So the midwife thought it wouldn’t be best to keep Emersyn inside any longer.  She told me “There was a lot of baby inside there”, but she wanted to know how much baby.  So I had an ultrasound when we got there, and Emersyn was so big they couldn’t fit her on-screen.  They guessed she was about 11 pounds, give or take up to a pound and a half.  So in my mind, I thought, okay, so she’s like 9 ½ lbs!

After the doctor and midwife discussed it, the doctor suggested I do a scheduled c-section for the next morning.  I immediately agreed.  He responded calmly, “Well, it is a big decision.  If you want to try inducing and pushing, then we will support you in that.  I think we would end up doing an emergency c-section anyway, just from examining you and the size of the child.  But really, it is whatever you decide, we will try.  We could give you and your husband time to decide.”

I cut him off, without even looking at Kyle and said, “He’s fine with it.  We’ll take the c-section!”

Judge me if you want, but I didn’t end up seeing anything that day that I had been scared of!  Emersyn was even clean with a cute little hat the first time I saw her, which was only seconds after I heard her first cry!  And Emersyn turned out to be 10 lbs 10 oz, so I felt justified in my rash decision.  And now, looking back, I laugh at how hysterical I was with just the thought of vaginal birth.  It still haunts me to the point where I can’t read about labor, because it gives me nightmares… it really grosses me out!  But I can laugh at myself, too.  I know it is natural and normal, and usually in everyone else’s words “beautiful” and “miraculous”.  It doesn’t matter how your baby gets here; the moment you see your child all that other stuff doesn’t matter anymore.

 Yes, that is Emersyn being pulled out of my stomach... see, I love this picture.  But to someone else, it might be like the birthing video horror is to me.  Yes, that is my stomach being held back by the doctor and midwife's hands.  I'd say I'm sorry, but hey if every high school student has to watch "The Miracle of Life" video, and every pregnant woman has to watch someone birth a placenta, I thought I'd just add to the experience with what a c-section looks like.  Especially since it seems like having one is like being the black sheep in the family.  I am not ashamed at all of my c-section, and I am actually quite thankful to the nurse who captured this once-in-a-lifetime moment for me!

 And think of it this way, when Emersyn asks me someday where babies come from, I can honestly say that she came from my tummy!  I even have proof of it!

When I first saw Emersyn, it was like I recognized her.  In fact, I think I said, “I know you”… because I felt like I did.  That is the only way I can describe the feeling.  It was like I had seen her before, when obviously I hadn’t.  I don’t believe in 3D/4D ultrasounds (I personally feel like it is cheating), so I hadn’t even a glimpse of what she would look like… other than that blurry awful black and white fuzzy photo they give you of a profile halfway through pregnancy… but face-to-face, I felt like I knew this child’s face already.  I had never had a dream where I saw her face.  I’m not sure what it was, except that I recognized her from my soul.  You may feel that is dramatic, unless you have seen your child for the first time… and then you probably understand the depth of that moment.

And I’m sure it will be the same with our second child, a son, Keegan.  Even though my pregnancy with him has been completely opposite of what Emersyn’s was.  With him, I planned on getting pregnant in August, and I got pregnant in August!  Then I was car sick for 8 weeks straight – every day at noon, no matter what I ate, how much I ate, or when I ate… every day at noon for 8 weeks I felt like I had been riding a roller coaster with a full belly 20 times in a row!

And now, at almost 32 weeks, I haven’t gained 1/3 of the weight I did with Emersyn.  I also haven’t swelled at all.  My blood pressure has been perfect.  And bed rest hasn’t even been in our discussions, because I am doing so well.  Keegan is even measuring only a little above average, instead of in the 90+ percentile like Emersyn did!

I also have only had 3 dreams that were vivid and scary, and I‘m sure you want to know what they were about!  The first took place in my hometown at a town festival, and Keegan was about a year old (this was before I even knew I was having a boy).  He and I were holding hands and walking on an upstairs balcony.  The balcony started to fall, and as Keegan flew off, a man caught him below.  The second nightmare was much worse and graphic – I dreamed that Keegan stood up on my hip bones, like at a 90 degree angle!  It tore my stomach open, and all my guts poured out all over the floor!

And the third was even more disturbing, if you can imagine!  It was kind of an apocalyptic, post modern-day WWIII kind of dream where the government and all organized systems were obsolete… and everyone was killing each other to protect their possessions.  I secretly held school in an abandoned bus for children in the area… but people were starving, and they thought teaching the kids how to read and write and about history was a waste of time.  People were so desperate to die, that my own cousin begged me to stab her…

And when you wake up sweating and/or crying from dreams like this, you ask yourself ‘WHERE IN THE WORLD DID THAT COME FROM?!’  I don’t watch things like that or read books about things like that!  Why would having a baby inside my stomach make my mind play such random, crazy movies like that for my sleeping entertainment?!  Why can’t I have sweet dreams like kissing baby’s feet or playing in the park?!

But that question comes up a lot in pregnancy, "Why did God make it happen like this?!"  And the answer, of course, is probably somewhere along the lines of, "Because He wanted to, and He knows best."  He really does.   I know I have described some awful, even gross things, but it is still one of the most awe-inspiring processes on earth!  When you think about all the millions of things that must go exactly right at the right moment in the right place in order for a child to be conceived, grow and develop, and be born where everyone is healthy and whole and alive in the end... or, I guess, the beginning.  And most of the time, all those things happen just as they should - THAT truly is a miracle!  Every time it is something beautiful, and trying to wrap your brain around it should once again cause us to look to God with an admiration for how He coordinates and orchestrates things so perfectly...

Even though you might be deathly ill for 9 months, or end up holding a little hand connected to tubes in an ICU, or crying yourself to sleep for a week telling your husband, "I can't do what that woman did on that video!"  I probably could have, not because I am so awesome, but because God has brought so many women through deliveries that seemed hopeless and yet end up with everyone holding each other, crying tears of joy, and sending out mass texts with all-too-honest photos of sweaty, teary-eyed mamas, exhausted beyond belief but ecstatic beyond all measure holding what they know to be a true gift from the Lord.

So if you find yourself in a situation where the plus sign, or second line, pops up on a pregnancy test a little sooner than you had planned, especially if the plan was NEVER... have a good cry, and then get ready... because barrels of laughter are headed your way!  The arguments over whether to circumcise your son, the large mountain of stuff you don't really need that grows in your used-to-be home office, the hilarity of trying to put on shoes with a basketball-sized round belly in the way, the amount of stuff you have to start carrying with you everywhere you go, and it seems the one thing you leave at home is what you really needed for the trip, when you are holding the most beautiful person ever in your arms and all of a sudden they have a diaper blowout all over you - and you both have to change clothes down to your underwear... just learn to laugh at yourself and the situation.  Then bask in the crazy chaos that is truly the most powerful learning you will ever do, while you also do the most intentional teaching you will ever do!

Laugh hard, laugh often, and revel in the beauty of each moment, even if it is difficult at times to find some... Welcome to parenthood!