Fridays: Unplugged

It seems that we have a slight technology addiction in our household.  I don't know if you're aware of this, but the author of this blog has a (cough) minor obsession with Facebook.  The eldest child in this house would, if permitted, bounce back and forth all day between computer games, video games, and television.  What happened to the days of eight year old boys getting dirty and having to be called back inside at the end of the day?

Well, this chick is putting a foot down.

Fridays, all summer long, we're going "unplugged."  That's to say, there will be no screens used of any sort during the day.  I'm excited about it!  So excited, in fact, that I haven't broken the news to said eldest child yet because I know he'll suck the joy right out of it.

The possibilities are invigorating, and since blogging at a computer screen counts as technology, don't expect real-time updates.  We've already got a few fun things in store for tomorrow.  We're going to get dirty, and sweaty, and try something new.  It's going to be great!  And for one of the few times in my life, I don't actually mean that sarcastically. 

We've gotten off to a good outdoorsy start this summer - we've done some serious hula-hooping, been to two playgrounds, taken a bike ride at our favorite park, eaten two picnic meals, and enjoyed some amped-up backyard fun.  That's in the first 3 days alone.

 Leah has joined us every step of the way.  She's even learned a new trick this week...doing abdominal crunches in her carseat and bouncer.  But that's really beside the point.

In our techno-innundated culture, we miss so much while we stare at those screens.  So for one day a week all summer, and hopefully beyond, we're turning them off, and enjoying the actual life right in front of our faces instead of a virtual "reality" that doesn't actually resemble reality.  At all. 
If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.  ~Frank Lloyd Wright
In the interest of not being a hypocrite to my eight year old, I'm unplugging too.  See you on the other side of simplicity and relaxation.  (Let me be idyllic for once.)


Grace, Grace

When Ben was born I was twenty years old...and absolutely clueless about what it meant to be a mother and raise up a child.  I was 800 miles away from my family, missing a semester of college while the world went on without me, and I was "stuck at home" with a colicky baby. 

Man, that boy could cry.

My days consisted of him eating and crying, eating and crying, eating and crying.  I would blare Outkast's "Hey Ya" at top volumes to try to drown out the incessant crying, especially later in the afternoon when I'd been subjected to the inconsolable wailing all alone for the entire day.  And at which time "at my wits end" seemed like a major understatement.

I tried him in the swing, in the stroller, in my arms, in the car, outside in the rocking chair.  I tried the football hold, bouncing him up and down, on his belly, on his back.  It didn't matter.  He cried.

I cried too.

At least we were in it together.

I loved that little chunk.  Don't get me wrong.  When he was happy, he was oh-so-happy - giggles and smiles abounding.  But when he was mad - there was simply nothing to be done about it. He had this one redeeming quality too - during the day he might have been Mr. Hyde, but at night, that boy slept and he slept well.  He got that colic thing backwards, and I was quite alright with that.  Whenever we went somewhere in public, though, I was a nervous wreck, all the while thinking, "What if he starts crying?"  And inevitably, he did.

When Abby was born, I was a ripened, "old" twenty-three year old who had graduated from college 10 months prior and was that far invested into my first real job as a civil engineer.  I took about seven weeks off from work, returned just after Thanksgiving break, and quickly found out that having two children was way more than twice as hard as having one.  Things that seemed simple with one child seemed impossible with two.  No matter how quickly I got home after work, there was never enough time for the kids, and certainly never enough time for the house.  Poor Sam fell to the bottom of the "so-called" totem pole of family priorities pretty rapidly.  I was constantly stressed out and never able to enjoy myself.  Luckily, Abby seemed to be a happier baby, albeit a way worse sleeper.  I'm sure my sleep deprivation didn't help the chronic stress.

When Sarah was born, I was still a "working mom", but something had changed.  Maybe it takes two kids to thoroughly break a mom in.  Or maybe I was finally mature enough to recognize the incredible blessing that is a precious newborn.  But I enjoyed that baby.  I mean really enjoyed her.

With Leah, this go round, I have laughed more and cried less. 

And it has made me wonder...

If I hadn't been so stressed out and clueless, would Ben still have been colicky?  If I hadn't been so short-tempered and on-edge, would Abby have slept better at night?  Do our children know when we're stressed out?  I think they do.

Of course, Sarah cried too.  And Leah - that girl's got some good lungs.  Babies do that.  But, instead of tensing up and shutting down when it happens, I just hug her, shush her, find the nearest ceiling fan for her to look at.  I pull out my bag of tricks.  They don't always work, but there's a peace now.  It's okay if she cries for a few seconds in public (as long as I don't let it go on and on without addressing it).  And if the people around me can't give me 20 seconds to try to rectify the problem without giving me a dirty look, that's their problem.  Not mine.  It took me nearly 9 years to learn that.  I'm ashamed to admit it.

It wasn't really the glares from strangers in restaurants that bothered me.  It was the reality that I was absolutely clueless...and I still am, but I'm not scared of that fact anymore.  My kids know they're my kids.  They're not in charge of this zoo - their mother and father are.  And even when I have no clue what to do next, I pretend like I do, just so these kids don't assume the role of authority.  They'll sneak right in if you give them the opportunity.

In letting go of fear, I've received joy.  Four times over...and then some.

But to my original point (yes, I think there was one of those somewhere), being a parent has taught me more about grace than anything else in this life.  Not because I've given it enmasse to my kids, but because they've demonstrated it to me.  And because I've needed it.  Desperately.  For all of my shortcomings, these four beautiful kids love me anyway.  And I love them too.  Then there's Sam.  He deserves his own post for the amount of grace he's given me. 

Grace is good.  God is greater.  Let us thank Him for this all.

I am oh-so-blessed.  And I'll be darned if I let meaningless stress rob me of my joy anymore.  (Sam, that means you get the job of keeping me accountable.  Are you up for the challenge?)
I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am. ~John Newton

A Word about Evangelicals

I have to fess up, folks. 

I am a Christian.  Denominationally, I am a Southern Baptist. 

Phew.  I feel better getting that out there in the open.  You're all free now to scoff at will, if that's what you'd like to do. 

There's a common theme in "religion" these days.  It's something to effect of this:  You can think what you want to think, and I can believe what I want to believe...but let's just not bother each other with the details.  And let's really not try to convince each other that what we believe is "right."  Because there are no absolutes.  And for all we know there might be lots of ways to get to the top of that mountain of faith.  We're all probably right in some respects and wrong in others, so let's just accept the diluted, non-committal beliefs that allow us to continue living our lives the way we so please by adapting our beliefs to our passing fancies.  Peace, love, happiness, yada, yada, yada. 

Okay, maybe I got off on a tangent there...

The thing about my particular brand of theology is that it's not "a religion."  It's a relationship.  It's knowing the Will of God by spending time in His Word and believing in the totality and accuracy of the Bible.  It's accepting the Truth that I am a sinner and I need grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to be redeemed.  It is an assertion of the absolute sovereignty of God.  It's a call to accept the helpful counsel of the Holy Spirit every single day to turn from my sin and live in accordance with God's Will.  Because I cannot do it by myself.  Furthermore, it's receiving the great commission in which Jesus spoke the words:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  (Matthew 28:18-20)
Sharing your relationship with Christ is not just a command, it's a compulsion.  If you had something that changed your life for the better, wouldn't you want everyone to know about it too?

Being a Christian isn't about being "right."  Being an evangelical isn't about impressing anything on others.  If that were the case, wouldn't God have created us without free will?  To worship Him on His command?  I bet that would be really fulfilling for Him...  In the same way, strong-arming someone into "believing" in Jesus isn't what Christianity is about.  It's about having a life-changing, heart-altering relationship with the only Person who ever lived with the ability to save us from ourselves.  When a Christian shares their faith with you, it's not because they are being condescending, close-minded, or judgmental, it means they care enough about you to let you know what's changed them.  (Feel free to read this older post on those "so-called Christians" if you'd like.)

And that's Jesus...who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Amen to that in this fickle, mixed-up world of ours.

I won't apologize for telling you what I believe.  I won't be shamed into thinking that I am part of a close-minded hate group.  That's not what Jesus is about.

And that's all I have to say about that.

A Mother's Day Trifecta

Eight and a half years of motherhood can teach you a lot of things.  More than anything, it's taught me that I am certainly no expert at motherhood.

In eight and half years, I've been both a breastfeeding mom and a formula feeding mom.  I've gotten an epidural and delivered without drug intervention.  I've bought baby food and made my own baby food.  I've used cry-it-out and co-slept.  I've worked out of the home and become a stay-at-home-mom.  I have stuck to a rigid sleep and feeding schedule and have flown by the seat of my pants when I heard my baby cry ("It's only been 45 minutes since she ate?  That's okay, just hand her over.").  I have sent my kids to daycare, public school, kept them home with me, and brought them home for the new adventure of homeschooling.  I've used a stroller, walker, and bouncy seat, and I've worn my baby.  I have cried frustrated tears over nap-times gone terribly awry, celebratory tears over milestones reached, and bittersweet tears over the realization that my babies aren't babies anymore.  I've patted myself on the back for attempting art projects with enthusiastic toddlers and cleaned up seventeen tons of glitter and glued-on paper bits (give or take).  I've fed my kids processed foods, and, well, that one has no opposite counterpart.  They eat grapes and apples from time to time.  That makes up for it, right?

There is no book that can teach you how to be a mom.  Actually, there are thousands of them, but I can't in good conscience recommend a single one of them.  Learning how to be a mom comes from on-the-job experience, and hopefully from the examples of other fine mothers in our lives. 

Today, I had the honor of sharing Mother's Day with two other big events - Sarah's 3rd birthday and Leah's dedication at church, in which we commit to raising her in a Jesus-centered home.

I may not know everything there is to know about being a mom.  I've made plenty of mistakes, and I pray that I've learned from them.  But one thing I do know is that I am blessed.  I have been gifted four precious children, and I hope that we can do right by them in the time we have together, however long or short that may be.

Reflecting on the three years we've been given with our spicy, spunky Sarah...

(That "three" thing is hard to figure out.)

She's given us so much - experience with head wounds, creativity when it comes to hiding candy in the pantry, and speed from chasing her down beaches and through department stores, to name a few.  Our lives would certainly not be as exciting without this hugging and "quizzing" little girl.  And based on how hard it was for me to find photos of just Sarah, I'm guessing Abby's life would be lacking without her best friend and little sister too.

And we're hoping for a similar friendship between Sarah and this little girl.

Today, I'm thankful for the multi-generational faithfulness of my parents...as they prayed for us, their children, and for our children, their grandchildren.  And feeling blessed to have a rare Mother's Day in the same state as my own mom this year.

To the mothers out there, it's okay if you're not perfect.  None of us are or ever will be.  Your kids will appreciate that about you someday.  And I really think they'll appreciate it even more if you can admit it, and live with that than if you keep aspiring for the unattainable.

Happy Mother's Day to the amazing moms in my life!
And Happy Birthday to my precious Sarah!


A Kidney Stone: An Answered Prayer

It's been two weeks since my last blog post (and even longer since my last confession - which was never).  Anyway, you may have wondered what has been causing the silence on the part of this usually verbose woman.  Well, the answer is not just a cuddly, sweet, smiley newborn.  It's things like soccer practices and games...

...an adorable dinner theater put on by our childrens choir...

...other church commitments, a spontaneous trip to the beach...

...and a business-traveling husband. 

Oh yes, and a pesky kidney stone whose appearance just so happened to coincide with most of the previously listed items.

To make a long and boring story short, I ended up having a very spontaneous surgery last night to remove the impacted 6mm stone and have a stent placed.  It happened within hours of visiting my urologist who was concerned because of the fever and chills I'd been experiencing (which meant infection in the kidneys).  I'm home now, and feeling, well, to be honest, worse than this time yesterday.  But the stone isn't in there and I'm sure my kidney is happier now that it's not clogged up and swollen with infection.

It might seem strange to say, but there is a huge silver lining in this.  And that is that this particular kidney stone episode was an answer to prayer.  No, of course I didn't pray for a kidney stone or surgery or anything like that.  But after my last kidney episode (during an even more tumultuous time in my life), I was informed that there were lots (like a dozen) more baby stones inside my kidneys resting on their laurels just waiting for the perfect time to travel down and cause me excruciating pain (that is what they like to do after all).  After that episode, my doctor also said to me, "You don't want to be pregnant with a kidney stone."

Would you believe that after my positive pregnancy test with Leah, immediately after the "Yay!" my second thought was, "Oh no...my kidney stones."  Lame.  Between my own prayers and the intercession of others in whom I confided and trusted to pray for me, God heard.  And He blessed me with a kidney-stone-free pregnancy.  In fact, He was so gracious, He even gave me two months beyond pregnancy to recover from Newborn Mom Syndrome.

It was a gift, and I'm oh-so-thankful.  

Our God is an awesome God.

It feels strange to be so thankful in the midst of a pretty crummy time, but the truth is, I can't help it.  Our friends, neighbors, and family pulled together to take care of this herd of Sheps in such a way that I didn't have to worry a single time about my babies.  Sam was his usual, resourceful & amazing self and took great care of me and our kids.  I'm not so sure how well he fared in the deal, and I know the folks at his work are dying for him to come back, but I'm grateful that he was able to be where his family needed him when we needed him most.

So forgetting what is behind and straining towards what's ahead...

Looking forward to a great week ahead, culminating on Sunday with a trifecta - Leah's dedication at church, Sarah's 3rd birthday, and Mother's Day.  See?  God didn't want me missing all of that, did He?

Blessings to you all!  I'll be back in my usual form in no time.  That's a promise.  (Unless you don't want me to be!)

P.S. - Happy 2 Months to our sweet Leah (on May 6th)!!!  I don't know that I've ever enjoyed a baby as much as this one.  (Is that why people keep having more kids?  You learn to enjoy them more each time?)

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