Steps

This book about habits that I am reading is really hard to finish! I think there is a psycological component to it, as if I don’t finish it, then I don’t have to put any of the good things I have learned into practice. Plus, I’m having no trouble analyzing other people and their different habit tendencies, but am not as quick to judge myself and the areas I need to improve. A question in my BSF lesson this week asked, “What truth (of Jesus) have you ignored or rejected this year and how might you begin now to act on it?” Ouch. Judging others and not treating it like disobedience and repenting of it. That is what I do very well. Right now I feel like I am in a crucible of sorts, where I daily, even hourly, must let go of my expectations, not judge according to them, and even forgive when those expectations not being met. The latter must happen because there is wrong being committed, but it is not up to me to fix it. Only God can fix this. I need to love and give. This is easy to say and hard to do.  I learned from this habits book that I am particularly affected by disappointment. It can often make me angry, and even make me bitter, if I let it. Relationships are the important thing- with God, with others. Disappointments will come, but my response can build up in love or tear down in hate.

Luke changed my blog some, but kept enough of it the same to let me still use it easily, ha. I hope to try to get in the habit of blogging again. We’ll see how I do.

It Is What It Is

So, I left off with a rather smug letter to Marlin, a kind car salesman who has been in consistent contact with Luke about a 15 passenger van. Now that time has passed and the van honeymoon is over, well…

Let’s just say you don’t know what is coming down the road, pun intended. This vehicle is beautiful on the outside, but has required some major repairs on the inside. What a good object lesson for us in our own journeys through life. That outward appearance doesn’t charm us as much now that we’ve put so much money into it. But, it is what it is.

I wrote that phrase into an email to my dear friend, and got to thinking how simple, but good, this statement really is. I’m all for making goals, but sometimes in life it is more about being content in the place you are. I went to a ladies’ workshop at a church a few weeks ago, and the main takeaway for me was the truth from Acts that says, “God determined” people to live in the times and places He put them, so that they would seek Him. There are a lot of loose strings in my life right now, things I wish were different, or better, or at least DONE, tied up, so I could move on to a next thing. The popular “When my ship comes in, then…” brand of wishes are big in my brain. But the way this verse was shared that morning, it was like God saying, “I determined this, and this, and that, to all be up in the air right now, for some specific purposes of My own. I determined…even this.” So, all glory be to God, in the desert, in the wilderness, in the waiting. I want that to be my response more and more.

As I type this, Julia sleeps in the Ergo strapped to my belly (it is like she never left!), and the littles play Loaded Questions at my feet. Some of the kids are pre-readers and writers, and don’t know left from right, so just figuring out how to play is an entertaining listen. We are in Lynchburg for Liberty’s homecoming. Since Luke’s sister moved here and it is the second year we have visited along with his other siblings, it is becoming more of a family reunion/photo option than about Liberty. But many are at the football game right now, others out shopping, and that leaves me home babysitting the rest. I’m not really complaining; getting out with Julia in tow on a gusty 50 degree day is not desirable anyway. But it has been hard these last few months still having ones so young, but needing to interact with those who have teens, too. And, I don’t really fit in with either kind of moms. But, it is what it is.

This morning I was able to visit an old friend from Word of Life and Liberty days. I remember when I went on a College for a Weekend tour at Word of Life, Rebekah was the one that immediately approached me and took me under her wing. I couldn’t wait to get to school in January, because I knew way cool Rebekah was there waiting for me. We stayed friends through our time at Liberty, until she started dating a man that I didn’t like. This was completely my problem, her now-husband is a wonderful person. I was jealous, and didn’t have much tolerance for people who were different than me (99.999% of the population, I am coming to realize). He was there today, and so kind and outgoing to me, that I felt like asking his forgiveness on the spot for my stupidity back then. Jesus, and twenty years, can change a person, thankfully. Rebekah is well, living an inspiring and fruitful life in the mountains of Virginia 400 miles from me, but as we talked today, I realized that we both are having some of the same deep thoughts about life, and dealing with some of the same issues in home and family and spirituality. A good reminder that everyone everywhere has much in common with everyone else, though we are all different. And, I could conclude to my mother-in-law when I got back from my visit, Rebekah is one person I know who is a lot like me. Learning as we go. It is what it is.

We head home tomorrow, back to the daily school routine. I look forward to it in some ways, as Julia has been very erratic and offbeat in her napping and feeding while gone. But, these kinds of breaks are good for me, too, to provide times of reflection and examination of things going on in my life right now. It is what it is, and I want to make the best of it.

Stop Fighting and Believe

I haven’t actually “packed a bag” for the hospital in, I don’t know, ever. But I thought it might be a good idea this time to set aside the clothes and things Baby and I would need while there. What a ridiculous plan; every day I go to that bag and remove something I need out of it. Perhaps that is what fuels some of my angst this time around; if I wouldn’t have a dwindling-sized bag sitting there reminding me…

Oswald Chambers was in Revelation the other day, and he talked of how we all are asked to “come up here” like the Apostle John. He challenged the reader to think back to the previous year, and consider in what areas we have grown spiritually, we have come up to higher ground. I can honestly rejoice at such a question this year. While in the past I might struggle with an answer, a couple of things popped right into my head now, times where I knew it was God calling me to higher, to better, than I was doing it before.

I wish I could remember the first example of this, because the second instance of this happening is kindof silly. Last week, I was shopping for a few more things to outfit my diaper bag, and thought I would like to find a Huggies travel wipes container. I noticed the stores around me weren’t carrying the kind I like anymore, so I looked online. I did find it at BabiesRUs.com, but they were only $1.50 and I would pay $7.50 before I was done, with shipping costs. And no, I have no use for 20 of them, the amount that would give me free shipping. The thought came to me- why am I fighting this? Why am I wasting time fretting over getting the thing I want, when there are plenty of other options out there, at my local stores? So last weekend, I simply purchased the newly designed Huggies travel wipes ‘clutch’- I don’t like it, but I know where I can get another one easily when it rips.

Fast forward to Monday morning, pre-dawn. I didn’t sleep well all night, preparing my mind and emotions for the induction. By three o’clock, it was evident that Luke would not be able to leave the house with me; he was sick with some kind of stomach thing. I began to go over my options. I began to feel guilty even thinking about going to the hospital wihout him, though- it is his baby, too, of course! And the thought again came to me- why are you fighting this? It is obvious this plan to induce is falling apart. We must simply cancel and work out something else later. Once I called and canceled, I felt much better, and Luke and I both got a few more hours of good sleep. Sam called us on Grandma’s phone at about 8, not knowing we were in bed at home. That was hilarious.

Later that day, I would be challenged higher again, this time by Luke’s words. My focus had become how to avoid the (what I thought were) needless doctor’s appointments that would happen all this week if I didn’t go into labor. I thought if we rescheduled the induction for Tuesday morning, that would be a good way of doing that, and staying clear of other things we have going on this week, like the kids’ first track meets and such. But Luke said no. “We’re pushing too hard, we’re rushing this. It is as if we are trying to make this baby fit our tee time.” Ouch. Again, the thought came- why are you fighting this? Why are you wasting time on the phone with the surgery scheduler when you could be on the couch with Elijah, reading him another book on borrowed time?

Okay, Lord. You win. I went obediently and humbly to my non stress test yesterday, I did my kick check this morning, I will do another non stress test Thursday, and will meet with my doctor to schedule the induction on Friday. I will be back and forth to Mansfield way more than I prefer, because that is the way You have marked for me. Plus, who knows? Maybe there is a person in that doctor’s office I can encourage or help in some way.

One faith hurdle jumped, one step higher. But the next one is upon me already. All of the wrong thought patterns I get into when overdue are fueled by one thing. I have come to believe, since having difficulties in labor with the last few, that I cannot do it on my own, and worse, that God is powerless to bring this baby forth in His perfect timing. Regardless of my body’s abilities, God is in control, and can do whatever He pleases. Psalm 50:1 speaks of how He summons the sun, moon, and stars. ‘Summon’ is a great word, isn’t it? If He can summon the sun and heavenly bodies to do what they do every day and night, surely He can summon this little one when the time is right. So today I woke up saying to myself, “I believe You can summon this baby at any time. I believe You are powerful in this.” The more I say it, the more I can unravel the lies I did have stowed in my mind, and replace them with God’s truth.

Here’s to going higher. The view from up here is spectacular.

Late Treats

I went to the doctor today…nothing happening. Not that I thought anything was, but I realized yesterday I might be pointing my hopes a teensy bit in a vertical direction for this little one to come on her due date, or earlier. No, we mustn’t have any of those thought patterns forming; we have 18 plus good, full days ahead of us, and cannot succomb to ‘what if’s. Here are some things I hope to do in the time we have left together:

1. My friend Miriam gave me the most imaginative gift at my baby shower- a carton of a dozen Cadbury Eggs. Of course, impulsive girl that I am, I only have six left now. But if I were smart, I would have saved all 12 for the days I will go past my due date. I would almost make it in chocolate until April 10, but not quite, necessitating filling in the remaining days with Peanut Buster Parfaits. As it is now, I will be traveling to Dairy Queen the whole first part of April. Oh, well.

2. I haven’t started my next The Story painting yet, mostly because I have not narrowed my subject down enough (Hannah? Samuel? Saul? Traveling Minstrel Prophets and Saul?), but partly because I was due at the doc this morning and it didn’t seem quite right to unwrap the canvas when I might get some surprising news while there, like “go straight to the hospital, you are in labor” kind of news. See where those hopes are getting me?

But, this is great. I feel ready to start painting tomorrow, pretty confident that I have plenty of time to do this project, due April 3.

3. There is also plenty of time to do laundry. After she comes, cleaning up after her is not as fun as washing those outfits was the first time.

4. I have plenty of time to sleep. Aahh.

5. We have time to keep going with school. I think we will work through the summer this year, try that out. They will have plenty of days off, but I like the thought of one math book closing and another opening, without much time in between to forget key operations like addition and subtraction.

There you have it- my blessings counted. What good can you speak about from your life, and your waiting times?

Next to Last Projects

I have been wanting to get into art again, and a unique opportunity came my way when a friend called me to join an art project. Seems this church in our town is going through the book The Story all this year during their Sunday sermons. They will read/ hear a message on a chapter a week, 31 chapters in all. This is a program that many churches have done, making it similar to a mega-VBS with posters and interactives that you can buy or make as you go through the book. This particular church decided to commission local artists (not me) and willing wannabes (me) to do a painting for each chapter, a 20 x 20 canvas that would depict a scene from that part of The Story. I was thrilled to be asked. At first I thought the work was to be 20 FEET by 20 FEET, but I still was able to say yes right away; hey, I had never painted a mural, but this sounded like a God thing and He would help me do it. I told a lady at church (real local artist) about this, too, and she did not bat an eyelash when I said 20 by 20, probably because she had painted many murals, between work on our church’s VBS backgrounds and props for our Experience Bethlehem walk through at Christmas time.

Then I realized this Story project would be a series of 20 inch by 20 inch canvas. What a relief, but now I could feel confident enough to sign up for two! The first will represent the ‘Wandering’ chapter, and the second will represent the chapter about Hannah and Samuel, and Saul. I hope to get them both done before I have the baby, my biggest spring project.

The first painting I have had a harder time designing than I thought I would. I first thought of just a sandaled foot, emerging into a sandy, rocky wilderness floor. Or I thought of depicting some Israelites resting on rocks, rubbing their tired feet like Degas’ paintings and drawings of ‘Dancers Resting’. Then someone suggested just the wilderness, with footprints going here and there. I finally asked Luke what he thought I should do, and he came up with something totally different, and very abstract. The top left corner of the canvas would have a solid image of a quail, and that image would repeat diagonally across the canvas but morph until it was just a circle, in the bottom right corner, to represent manna. This sounds cool, but I’m not sure if it will coordinate with the other paintings very well. Obviously, each painting will be individualistic, but a painting like that might be over the top, if everyone else does scenes with people in them.

To add to my thoughts, I googled quail yesterday to find a good picture I could trace for the quail image, and came across a photograph that captured the different colors of this particular quail, it was beyond gorgeous. But I can’t do a 20 by 20 painting of a quail! That would be almost as bad as painting a 20 feet by 20 feet mural of a quail! Too much quail. Seems the Israelites had the same troubles, ha ha.

My Utmost For His Highest was talking today about simplicity. I sure need some of that right now. Email me if you want to weigh in on any of these painting ideas, or help me simplify by suggesting another.

Todo Sobre Mi

One of my goals for 2016 is to become conversationally fluent in Spanish. A website I found gave some really good advice, one tip being to learn phrases and statements that are specific to me. That way, I not only am motivated to talk more in Spanish, but while I am getting better at conversation, I at least have a collection of things memorized that I say all the time in English.

Here are the statements I am learning, in no particular order:

Soy seguidora de JESUS, y disfruto estudiar mi Biblia.

Soy esposa y madre.

Tengo doce hijos.

Enseno a nuestros ninos en casa.

Estoy embarazada de nuestro duodicimo hijo.

Queremos mi suegra a vivir con nosotros antes del invierno.

Soy de un pueblo que esta a una hora al norte de Columbus, Ohio.

Me gusta dibujar, pintar, y leer.

Es divertido para mi cocinar y comer una buena comida.

Me encanta viajar, pero tambien disfruto de quedarme en casa.

Estudie matematicas en la universidad.

Soy ama de casa.

Me gusta escribir en el blog, y estoy en Facebook.

Wasn’t that fun? This was a great little exercise to come up with ways to tell people what my life is like, and also to reveal to me words I didn’t know. ‘Disfruto’ is one word I don’t think I have heard before. It means ‘I enjoy’. Good thing I have plenty of things I can tell others I enjoy.

Keep Trying

It must frustrate her to no end to play through that song on the piano, making bumbles and hitting wrong notes. Keep playing, I silently say to her hunched figure. There is value, possibly the most value, in keeping with a thing, and keeping on, than stopping short and moving away.

The last few months I have been melancholy. Not being the most bubbly personality anyway, this is difficult to take for me, because I feel even my lowest reserves of cheer are no longer available. Blame it on the pregnancy, but that is like saying blame it on the baby, which I do not want to do. Pause with me here and I’ll tell you about her.

She is beautiful, with two arms and two legs and a sweet face. The first ultrasound I had, the tech was in a hurry and the pictures I was able to take home were lacking her arms, just had her head, abdomen and legs. Even though this is number twelve, even though I could ably explain to my children that the picture was like a cross section of her body, I still battled some real fear that she was not all there. But, I would tell myself at low points, that is ok. Even if she is not all there physically, it doesn’t have to mean she can’t be excellent and surpassing spiritually, with an amazing potential for God. But still, I had a tough first trimester because of this, and other little things that threatened to rob the joy from this wonder. If there is another pregnancy, I am not going to see a doctor until I’m 20 weeks. So there.

Back on track. So, I know the solution to feeling down is not to check out a self-help book from the library, but I just happened upon a great one by Jon Acuff called Do-Over in the midst of my life burnout. What a shot in the arm! I’m considering buying the book, it is that good. Acuff is really speaking to people who are in careers and find themselves encountering (or needing) some kind of dramatic change. As I was reading about jobs and ceilings and markets and skills, however, I saw countless ties to my life as a wife/mother/homeschool teacher. It was such a needed inspiration to keep trying to make of my life what I can, keep reaching, keep smiling, keep hoping, keep persevering.

All that to say, here are my goals for 2016:

1. Paint/ draw/ do art more. I already have some fun stuff planned to help me meet these goals that I will blog about later.

2. Become conversationally fluent in Spanish. On the surface, this is a strange goal for a person like me to have. But I have always regretted not getting any further with learning Spanish than an almost-minor in college. When I encounter a Spanish speaker in town, I wish I was comfortable enough to connect with them in that moment, and often walk away sad. My hope is to meet and secure a conversation partner in the next few months. Meanwhile, I am learning some phrases that I would use frequently in describing myself and life; I will post those on the blog next time for my friends in Bolivia to critique, as I used Google translate for the Spanish. Ha! Addicted to Google!

3. Piano. I sit down to a piano and it is like painting, or hearing Spanish. I belong there, but, again, I have not made it on to fluency. I hope to get back to practicing and making a better effort at enjoying this beautiful instrument.

In all three of these pursuits, there is talent required, but the skill comes from consistent practice. Were I to devote time and energy to these things, I would not only improve in them, but also in my moods and attitudes. Who knows? Julia may be welcomed with a new painting, a Spanish lecture, an aria on the piano, or all three.

Here’s to a new year of trying again. Who is with me?

Something to Blog About

My fitness class (Mommy and Me) was canceled today because of the holiday, so I went for a run in the late morning. I wanted to go some distance today, because the last two times I have run I have brought Aliyah, or Sarah, with me and they don’t go too far. They are giving running a shot, though, and I appreciate that. So I was about three-fifths into this long run, when I started needing to go to the bathroom. What to do? Running home, or even walking there didn’t even enter my mind, but my first thought was of the nursing home at the end of my road that was actually much closer. As I continued running in that direction, I tried to think of what I would say if someone stopped me in the hall and asked what I was doing there, all sweaty in my wife beater and basketball shorts. Maybe it would be like the looks I get at McDonald’s when I just come in for a water, or to use their WiFi. Hey, I think, I have spent a lot of money here. Maybe no money has changed hands at the nursing home, but I have been there a lot in recent months for more legitimate visits. Still, what to say? I looked around me. One way I might avoid that confrontation was to squat between rows of corn in the field nearby, as they would be just tall enough to hide my hunched over body. But visions of deer loping along at just the right moment, taking me out, and my extreme need, kept me going and actually served to motivate me that extra half mile I needed to cover. I would have to be honest if asked, plain and simple.

When I got there, I was able to walk all the way back to the nurses’ station before passing anyone who wasn’t a resident confined to a wheelchair. This has been the way it is each time we have come there recently to sing- very open door, without anyone really noticing who is coming and going. I guess that works for a small facility like this nursing home, out in the country. Who is really going to come in to do any harm there? This definitely worked in my favor, until the restroom I found didn’t have a lock on it and an elderly man walked in on me right before I would have gotten down to business! I realized I  would have to ask someone, and didn’t relish having to bring attention to my being there. There was a lady in scrubs at the nurses’ station, and I asked her where the public restroom was. She smiled and motioned for me to follow her back down the main hall, explaining as we walked that they kept the bathrooms locked to keep “wanderers” out. “But I’ll show you where we keep the key,” she whispered conspiratorially. Does anyone else see the humor in this? Who wandered in off the street just now, heh heh.

Leaving the nursing home feeling much better, I decided to try to run all the way home. I made it! Luke told me it was about 3 miles. I liked the added distance to the nursing home, how the road is flat and one can just coast along there. I will try to run that far from now on. And I now know where the key to the bathroom is should I need to wander on inside again. It’s becoming a home away from home.

Ask Me

There was a challenge made to me a few months ago to pray for people to be reached in North Africa. So, I dutifully put it on my prayer list, wanting to be faithful in believing that God desires these kinds of requests from us. Words from the song “You Said” come to mind:

 

You said, “Ask and I’ll give the nations to you”

Oh, Lord, that’s the cry of my heart

Distant shores and the islands will see

Your light, as it rises on us

 

But, “distant shores” aren’t the only places God desires men to be saved, as I was soon to realize. One morning as I was looking at the request for North Africa, a new thought came to me. It was as if the LORD was saying to me, “Why don’t you ask for those who live on your road like you ask for those in North Africa?”

I was taken aback. And, I have to admit, a little afraid. If I was to be praying about someone in my own backyard, I would then have to get involved. This was like praying for ladies to encourage Maxine. Okay, I prayed, what can I do to reach my road for You?

Our church is doing VBS next week. Here was a great reason to go door to door. The only problem with this, I thought, was that there aren’t many children on our road. But I had Sarah bake up some cookies to share and I set out with her last night to knock on doors.

Boy, was I surprised! I didn’t hit all of the homes on our road, but I did come across six homes with children.

Everyone we shared flyers with was very friendly, and I was thinking this morning to myself, that was great going door to door doing that- though I didn’t really do anything big like share the gospel with anyone -I really felt alive. Then it was like the LORD was saying to me, “Pray for all of the children to come to VBS.” Oh. So You want me to actually expect the children I invited to VBS to come to VBS? Okay. So I did pray for that, and will continue to pray for that until I see how He answers.

Today’s Ramble

Our calendar for the summer is already quite full, with VBS, summer camp, and campouts for the boys. I was asked to bring my older kids to a Mommy and Me fitness class to help watch the children that are too old for strollers, and while it added something else to the calendar, Luke and I both thought it would be good for me to get involved. I have been running on my own, and felt really good about my weight loss and strength…until today’s Mommy and Me class! Ouch! The exercises seemed to target every muscle that I do not currently use. I had to keep silencing the voice in my head that said, “You’re almost forty! Give it up!” with the reminder that the first time, times and half a time doing an exercise really are hard, but if I keep with it, I will see good results. That tribulation pun was intentional, by the way. The fact that all of the ladies are at least ten years younger than me shouldn’t keep me from participating; I need to put myself in situations where I can encourage and mentor other moms. I can think right now of women who spoke things into my life when all mine were little, who helped me so much. One lady was Kathy. She had cancer a few years back, and survived, but when I first received the news of her illness, it was like her life passed before my eyes, the many ways she built me up, big and small, to help me stay afloat. She and the other MOPS moms threw me a baby shower for Sam, even though he was our third baby. He was scheduled for surgery the next week, and it was such a sweet thing to do to share that time with us as we anxiously awaited our eight-week old’s spinal surgery. (He survived, too- another day of the year to celebrate- June 16). Kathy also was the one to invite me out to Bible Study Fellowship, a Bible study that has been an anchor for me through all my ups and downs of marriage and parenting and growing in Christ. I would love to have the opportunity to influence another mom in their relationship with Christ like Kathy did. It will be fun to make new friends at this class, as soon as I can move again.