Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why I Do What I Do

I have swept the flour I-don't-know-how-many-times today.  And there are still crumbs, and probably some stray pinto beans Little Guy threw from his high chair during dinner.  Someone will step on them and squash them later.

The sofa was covered with laundry today. I did manage to get it folded and I did take a basket full upstairs. But there it remains.

I discovered the playroom was a disaster area.  As were all three kids' bedrooms.

I'm grouchy and weary from chatter, one child's constant stream of ideas bombarding me every moment I try to focus on something else.  I just want some quiet tonight, time to recharge my depleted mind.

It's all so cliche. The messes. The dishes. The laundry. The chaos of kids.  It just seems so... over-stated.  Every one of us moms talk about these things.  It's just the way it is, with kids.  There is nothing special about my situation, my frustrations, my exhaustion at the end of the day.  So it feels foolish to even write about it. It's all been said before. By me and countless others.

I am so tempted to think that what I do doesn't really matter.  Because most of it will have to be done again today or tomorrow.  It's regular work, that's for sure.

But I take pride in it.  Being here at home with my children, day in, day out, being a homemaker, a home educator.  I do really believe that this matters.  I could be doing anything, but I chose this.

I do what I do for good reasons.

We started a new book today. The Green Ember by SD Smith.  I kept hearing about it and it was free for Kindle one day.  It's not the type of book I typically enjoy reading aloud (fantasy) and would rather get the audiobook. But, again, it was free for Kindle.  So I read five chapters aloud today.  I utilized the highlight feature a few times.  I'm thinking this will be a good book. But I'm not all-in yet.

Until Brown-Eyed Girl asked me tonight, as I wiped down the stove top; "Is the author of The Green Ember a Christian?"  "You know, I think he is." I said (and it may be that SD Smith is a woman, ha!).  "What made you think he might be?" I asked her.  "The part about the king." She answered, and walked off.  King Jupiter, the best king there ever was... reminding her of The  Best King There Ever Was... Jesus.

This is why I do what I do.

All four kids are squashed on the couch watching something on Netflix together, one blanket covering all of them.

This is why.

My little one clinging to my legs.  Or his tight grip around me as I carry him. His legs clenching around me because he doesn't want to be put down.

This is it.

Sipping caramel tea out of yard sale tea cups and dipping graham crackers in it as we sit around the table together with a good book.

Yes.

All those questions they ask that I get to answer.  About sex, why people do what they do, about beauty, truth, good and evil.

It's the best.

Watching them fill their bellies with good, healthy food, mostly, and hearing the occasional "thank you" for it.

I do what I do for them.

I know, know, know that it matters more than I could ever really know.

That may be cliche.  Along with all the messes and chaos and crumbs.  But it is still very, very true.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Doors

Sometimes, love just walks through your door. It's true.  Most of the time, the very best things that happen to you just... enter in.  Without fanfare. Without you even knowing that this moment will be life changing.
 
For a little while, before I officially met him, I watched the man that would become my husband. He wore t-shirts from triathalons he was in and Umbro shorts and regular department store jeans.  I didn't know who he was. But one Wednesday night, I saw him walk through the door, pushing a wheelchair for a young man who had never been able to use his legs.  And I thought, that's the kind of guy I want.  Someone kind, a servant.
 
I didn't know I would marry him less than a year later.
 
One Thursday night, I opened my front door with a baby on my hip.  It was the third week of the Bible study we had begun in our home and a bunch of people had come out of nowhere!  They were singing in my living room, and I heard the doorbell ring.  I carried Mister, just three months old, down the stairs with me to answer the door, and in walked Sara.  Eight months pregnant.  The most talkative total stranger I had ever met.
 
I didn't know that we would be the best of friends thirteen years later.
We would add more babies to our bunch.
The babies
 
Our husbands would become best friends, too.
We would vacation together.
Have countless dinners and movie nights and shopping trips.
 
 
This isn't just a story of how I met my husband and my best friend.
It's a reminder.  Mostly, to myself.
 
To ask and keep asking.
To seek and keep seeking.
To knock and keep knocking.
 
Love really does just walk in sometimes.
You can't plan on it.
Or make it happen.
You pray.
And you open the door.
 
  
Thirteen years of friendship- what a gift!
  So glad Sara came to my door all those years ago.
 
 
 
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Matthew 7:7

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago, I married my best friend, and I didn't even know it.  We were babies.  Just twenty- one and twenty-four.  After a whirlwind courtship (three weeks!) and a speedy engagement (three months!) we committed to a lifetime spent together.  While normally I'd say this was a recipe for disaster, in our case, it was a match made in heaven.  There was no doubt then, and never have I doubted since, that it was the Lord God who brought us together.



I was musing today about what I would do differently if we had to plan our wedding again.  I would pick the same dress, handmade by my mom, and wear a veil, but no tiara this time.  And my hair might be a little closer to something  natural (smile).  I wouldn't change a thing about the service- the church, our wedding party (my brother stood up with me and Josh's sister with him), the music, not even the thunder storm that messed up the sound equipment.  We got married in the era before digital photography (we are ancient) so our portraits would be more touched up and with much less formal posing.  Oh, and I'd smile real big cause I've had braces since then! We would still have an evening reception, but catered to make life easier for our families, and we would most definitely have dancing if we did it again.   To all the songs that have since become the soundtrack of our sixteen years together.

But even if it was just two people standing at an undecorated altar, him covered in wood pulp and paper stock from a messy day at work and her in an everyday pony tail and a quick coat of lipstick, I would make the same choice, say the same vows I said back then.

I'm still learning a lot about marriage and us.

Namely, we are so different.  Sometimes we want totally different things, things bigger than steak vs. chicken (but we'd both pick steak given the choice).  Sometimes the things we want are the things people part ways over.  But because we're not so different on the important stuff, the other stuff is just an opportunity to grow, broaden our horizons, learn something, or sometimes it's just an opportunity to die to ourselves.


What we've got is something others wish they had.  Maybe they don't want our four kids, or to be a one-income family, or drive a rusting Suburban, but when we look at each other and our fingers intertwine and we laugh together over some inside joke and then our lips meet... yeah, they want that.  The stripped away part of who we are is really good stuff.

At some point, even in a really great marriage, it's going to be something you have to fight for.  And the battle isn't against each other, the battle is with ourselves.  Very early on I learned that even if I was "right" in a situation, there was still some selfishness there if I demanded being "right". And selfishness is the battle for me.  It's wanting things my way.

You also have to fight for time together, for meaningful communication, for laughter when life just stinks. You have to fight for intimacy when you are both exhausted from long days on the job.  You have to fight to keep your marriage relationship number one, somehow, when the needs of your children really do take over and when other responsabilities must take up your time.  Marriage is real life, not a perpetual honeymoon.

But I've learned the power of second honeymoons. Third honeymoons, Fourth, fifth, and on and on.  What a powerful thing to get away together, even if it's just for a night (but a few nights is better!).  It's another thing you somehow have to make happen.  It's not spending, it's investing.

And on that note, monogamy rocks.  Enough said.  Blush if you must.

As Josh's wife, I have this incredible power, that could lead to absolute destruction if wielded wrong.  He cherishes and respects my thoughts, feelings, opinions (and I am FAR more opinionated than him), and because of this, I could be the one in control of this marriage.  But I have learned that while I have freedom to bare my heart, soul, and strong mind to this man, I also have the great blessing of leaving it with him to do what is right and good.  I know he would never do anything to hurt me or our family.

I have the power to make or break his career, ministry, reputation, and all sorts of things and that is a fearsome thing. I long to do him good and not evil all the days of my life, but there have been times I have failed at this.  I have always loved the quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants." There is a lot of truth in this, and I want to be careful to turn his head in the right direction.  Josh has always been my biggest fan. He's been on my side, even when I was wrong. He's been patient, kind, faithful.  In so many ways, he as been the making of ME.  Wow, love this man so much.

We aren't the babes we once were and I'm so grateful for that.  I love how we have grown together the more we have grown toward Jesus.  I love the laugh lines on his face, the graying hair around his temples. I love that I have not yet found a gray hair on my head.  And that if he has, he has not pointed it out to me.  Yes, I love him.

Marriage is such a sweet gift.  Sixteen years a gift to me.  And I still have so much to learn. But if it means spending a lifetime together, I'm up for it.





Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Goodnight Story

For us, it's late.  We are not night owls by nature.  Josh gets up at four in the morning for work.  I get up in the night with a nursing baby. So sleep is all we want come nine o'clock.  And yet we seem to have a few children born to stay up late.

They seem to have a lot to say when all I want to say is "Goodnight, I love you" and turn the light off.

They have stories to tell, ideas to share, questions to ask.  Requests for water or the blanket left downstairs.  Sometimes I feel so bone-weary I just want to cry.  Sometimes I just want a few precious moments to myself and I don't think I can take any more talking, any more needing me.

There are nights like tonight when I get the baby to sleep, nursing as I watch an episode of Reading Rainbow with the older kids.  The oldest goes to bed with a request to turn his light off.  Brown-Eyed Girl goes to bed surprisingly easy.  But Petite has tears in her eyes. She's wants to color, to draw, to do  anything but turn the lights off and go to sleep.  And I'm so tired, I'm so in need of a few moments to myself.  But she snuggles up to me and I know that she needs me.  My little one who seems to get left behind so often.

So I lay the baby in his crib.  I choose a few stories to read.  And we snuggle up together and share the familiar stories.  I see her grin and hear her laugh as I read Kitten's First Full Moon.  After MamaDo You Love Me? she asks "Is that how much you love me?"  She asks for more.  One more, I say.

Two more?  she counters.

Just one.

She brings back two, saying she can't choose between Goodnight Gorilla and Merry Christmas, Stinky Face.  I give in and read both.

I think of how this is the second copy of Goodnight Gorilla we have had. It's always been one of her favorites.  I can't remember now if one copy was lost or destroyed, but I remember finding a replacement at Goodwill at just the right time.  And she still loves it.  She still grins.  She still loves to see the animals following the zookeeper to his house and up to his room to go to bed.

I am tired.  But so thankful God gave me the grace, the nudge, the last bits of energy to grab a few books off the shelf and spend these moments with my little girl.  I think that these are moments she will remember, maybe not specifically, but generally, someday, remembering how mama always read to her.  How she might be in Goodwill herself someday and come across a copy of Goodnight Gorilla and grin as she thumbs through it, remembering all the times we read it, knowing it by heart.

And I think that I made a lot of mistakes today as a mom.  But that this wasn't one of them.

Goodnight, sweet girl.

Goodnight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dear Homeschool Mom:Your Kids DON'T Hate You

Dear Homeschool Mom,

I know it seems like it to you (it sure does feel like it to me), but your kids don't hate you.  They roll their eyes, yes.  They moan and groan, yes, yes.  They don't even try to hide the fact that they hate this school thing you do.

But they don't hate you.

They just don't get it.  They are young, immature, and primarily concerned with having fun, so they don't get how important all this school work is.  They have no idea how useful it will be to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide some day.  They have no clue the great treasure  there is in knowing the story of this world or what makes things work in this world.  Even if they secretly enjoying learning history and science, ask them to write a sentence about it, and the sighs and complaining begin.

You may try to deal with this through discipline. Be like me and withhold use of electronic devices.  Or settle it in your mind that this is the way it is.

And don't take it personally.  They don't hate you.

They hate what you are making them do.  They resent the work they have to do, cause, hey, it's hard.  It interferes with all the free Lego play and conquering the next level of whatever the latest video game is.  It mean less time on Mindcraft.  It interrupts the reading of the book they can't put down for the book they loathe.  In short,  you are trying to teach them to deny themselves. To prioritize responsibilities.  To learn early on the value of hard work.

And they haven't learned any of this yet.

But they love you. They love that you make them dinner  and drag them into the living room to hear another chapter of a great story.  They love that you are there to drag their butts out of bed in the morning.  They love you even when you get cranky and frustrated and want to quit.  They love you when you have to remind them again to do their chores.

They just don't like what they have to do.

It's so very hard feeling like they hate you. It's so very hard to be the "bad guy".  I know you dream of just having fun with your kids and you might even think that would make your home the happiest place on earth.  No chores, no school work, no responsibilities.  Just letting everyone do what they want to do.  Maybe it seems to work for some of your homeschool friends.  Maybe it seems like other families are happier. And other kids don't hate their parents.

But they all have their moments.

You need to remember your moments.  The precious ones.  When the kids beg for another chapter.

 

When the big kiddo helps the little kiddo. When your girls get along and your son rocks the baby to sleep for you.   When they say "thank you" for taking them to McDonalds. When they come up and put their arms around you for no reason.  When they plant a kiss on your cheek and say "I love you mom".  All the times they don't put up a fight.  There are lots of precious moments.  Don't let the Jonah days get you down, Mom.

They love you.  Someday they might even thank you for making them do all this hard work.  Until then, love them dearly.  Be the one to apologize. Be the one to give the hug that bridges the gap. Be the one to remind them you think the world of them.  Let them have hot cocoa right before dinner.  Talk to them about something other than what they should be doing. Don't forget they are your children and not your students.  

Agape love is doing what is best for the person who is being loved, even if it doesn't seem best to them. All this work seems miserable to your kids, but don't let that deter you.  It is an expression of your love to teach them.  

Remember that they need you to be tender and tough.

And remember that they love you.

Now go give them a hug.

Love, 

Steph

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Small Days

I have just a few minutes as I sit on the deck with my coffee.  School is done.  I am tired. We are all grateful for a break.  I escape outside, to this fall-ish day, already cool with a hint of crispness.  The leaves are still green but soon it will be a colorful wonderland back here.

I am thankful.

Thankful for these few small minutes.

I pray the baby doesn't wake up. He doesn't like to sleep much during the day, but oh when he does... it's just a little bit of heaven.  We adore him, of course, but we all appreciate a little nap.

The introvert in me needs these small moments.  As I sit out here, I pray. I thank God for this day, because if I don't, it all seems like a crazy mess.  But when I do, it all seems just as it should be.  I pray for my best friend. For Pastor Saeed and his family.  For my baby. For my Petite who I feel is getting lost in the busyness of our days.  I pray for our upcoming trip. The flying, oh how I hate it. And I'm leaving my three oldest babies behind.

I tear up when I think of it.

I see a wispy little cloud float by.

And I think of how these are the days of small things.  Small moments like this when I get a chance to think, to breath, to savor a moment with my Savior.  Small moments of remembering that this is life and it is good.  Small moments in the midst of small things.

Nursing a baby.  Wiping the counters.  Reading lessons.  Making dinner, again.  Dust flying. Fingerprints on my mirror.  Half-eaten cookies on the table.  Floors that need to be swept and that rarely get mopped.

These are just little things I do, day in and day out.

I remember the days of big things.  Like planning our wedding.  And starting a Bible study in our home.  Of selling our house and settling into our new one.  Of special vacations.  I remember the days of our babies coming into the world and God's fingerprints over every single moment.  And the day I met my best friend who was brought to me by Him.

Those days and seasons when the Lord showed up in a big way.

But I find most days are like this.  Just little moments that require me to look harder to see that He is here.

That's why I need my coffee on the deck.  And that blessed hour after everyone has gone to bed.  And as many minutes as I can grab first thing in the morning with  my Bible and my journal.

To thank God for these small things.  And to be reminded that small doesn't equal unimportant.  These days matter, just as our youngest family member matters.  These days of throwing in wood, changing diapers, flushing toilets for those who forget, matching up socks,turning off the lights that always get left on, and reading books aloud, are no less significant than the wedding days, the birthdays, the holy days.

"Do not despise these small beginnings, because the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..."
Zechariah 4:10




Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Planned and the Unplanned

I am staring at the sweetest little thing I know.  My darling baby boy, who will be five months old tomorrow.  These are precious days.  I am thankful for all the milestones he hits, like rolling over and laughing, but it is bittersweet because it means he is growing up oh so quickly.




Perhaps it is this little guy, his life, that is waking me up to the issues going on right now with Planned Parenthood.  See, I have always been pro-life.  I was raised that way.  I never doubted it was wrong to kill a baby in the womb.  I never doubted that, even as a "blob of tissue", it was alive.  And that it was created by God.  I have not always been a devout follower of God. Far from it.  But I always believed in letting life live.

I remember in my younger years, wrestling with so-called Christian views of what it means to be a woman.  It seemed so gross, so derogatory, things like submission and women not allowed to lead in the Church.  And it seemed like the world was so hostile to women, with its wage inequality, and images of beauty which produced vicious results in young girls and women.  Young and immature, not really knowing the extent of the term, I considered myself a feminist.  My freshman year of high school, in English class, this issue of abortion came up and I stood up for life.  A female classmate was appalled.  "Stephanie, I thought your were a feminist!" (oh, doesn't that sound silly now, between fourteen-year-old girls?).  My response," I am.  But abortion is murder."  I wasn't afraid to speak the truth back then.

And I'm a little ashamed that I haven't been speaking the truth, out loud, for anyone to hear, as an adult.

Yes, of course, I am still pro-life.  But I have let fear of man hold me back. I've let this become a complicated issue, when essentially, it isn't.  And I have silenced myself.  While many issues swirl around abortion, things like reproductive health and access to birth control and life of the mother, etc, the bottom line is that abortion is murder. It is destroying life that is made in the image of God.

I watch my young son smile at us. He follows us with his eyes. He thrives on our affection and attention. He laughs at us.  He longs to be held.  He knows instinctively how to suck to get nourishment, even fresh from the womb.  He has an emerging personality (extrovert, we think).  He is just so very precious to us and it is breaking my heart to think of the millions, yes millions, of children that have not been given the chance to live.

And let me be honest.  I have had an unexpected, and even unwanted, pregnancy.  The summer we were preparing to move, I was surprised by feelings of morning sickness and the smell of everything curdling my stomach.  A very familiar feeling.  I bought a Dollar Tree pregnancy test which confirmed my worst fear- yes, fear.  I had been married for 11 years, had three children, thought our family was complete, and was devastated to see two pink lines appear on that test stick.

I did not want any more children.

I didn't know how on earth I was going to handle having a new baby without the support of my friends and family in Lincoln.  We were moving to a new town, Josh was starting a new job, we hadn't sold our house yet.  This was terrible,  horrible timing.  I cried my eyes out when I told Josh I was pregnant. I felt numb when he prayed for our unborn baby that night.  I had absolutely no happy, joyful feelings about having another child.

So I understand, maybe just a little, about how it feels to be confronted with an unexpected pregnancy.  I understand how it feels to wish it wasn't so, to feel stuck with a circumstance I couldn't change.

Only, there is that option, that choice to change the circumstance of an unwanted pregnancy.  It is all too easy to find a local Planned Parenthood, or another women's clinic, and take care of this problem.

To be sure, having a baby is HUGE.  Pregnancy is not always glorious.  Infants are not always calm and easy going.  Neither are toddlers, tweens, or teenagers.  Children are not cheap to raise.  They change our plans, interrupt our nights, they  require massive change on the part of the mother (and involved father).  It is no light thing to carry life and then raise it.  And it's not just irresponsible women who find themselves pregnant without planning it.

But what I knew, is that my child was alive. I couldn't feel him or her yet. I hadn't seen an ultrasound picture. But I knew it was life.  And that while this life was interrupting my life, I would, eventually, love this child.

I realize not every woman who finds herself pregnant unexpectedly seems "qualified" to raise a child.  We have an overflowing foster care system because so many men and women are not able or unselfish enough to raise a child in a healthy, safe way.  I realize the teenage pregnancy rates are high and that high school and even college will be interrupted if they have a baby, even if they don't keep it.  I am not ignorant to how difficult it is to carry a life and raise it!  But none of that means it is okay to destroy a life.


Today, I reject what is commonly referred to as the feminist movement, because, honestly, it has served women so ill.  I reject the idea that  Christianity has a subservient view of women.  Perhaps religion does, but Jesus Christ does not.  Over and over again in the gospels, I read how Jesus set women free.  Women who were being used by men.  Women who were prostitutes, illegitimate, in poverty and medical distress.  He set them free!  He memorialized some of them! And this is where modern day feminism has it so wrong.

Abortion doesn't set a woman free.  It sounds so good, the ability to get rid of an unexpected pregnancy and all the complications it will bring. But it's a lie.  It's a sorrow women carry, sometimes their whole lives, because they know, yes they know, that this is life.

I have always been so confused about this.  If a woman wants her baby, it is fully alive from the very start. If she doesn't, it is merely tissue, a blob that can be disposed of.  Surely, if Planned Parenthood is selling body parts, doesn't that imply that there is a body, and if a body, a person?  And as a woman who believes we are created beings, not objects of random chance, I also believe that our bodies have souls.  And to kill a body is to kill a soul.

I know there are gazillions of arguments surrounding abortion.  I know it doesn't seem as easy as making it illegal, and I would agree with that.  Making abortion illegal would not end the practice.  It wouldn't change the hearts and minds or the behavior of anyone.  It wouldn't keep a woman from an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.  It wouldn't solve all her problems.

But I also know that abortion only causes greater problems and does absolutely nothing to truly set a woman at liberty.  Abortion, itself, is a grave injustice toward women.  That there is nothing better to offer a woman who is pregnant and doesn't want to be than an abortion is a disgrace.

The truth is, there are other options.

Back to my story.

It didn't end well.

I carried my unexpected baby for twelve weeks and then had a miscarriage.  I had a miscarriage many years before that, yet very early on, but this one was so much worse.  Even though I had not fully embraced the idea of having another baby, even though I wasn't emotionally attached to that baby, losing it was a devastating process. It may sound crude, but it felt like I was delivering my baby in a toilet.  It was so, so wrong.  And yet, it was "spontaneous", as the doctors describe miscarriage.

I can only imagine how much more wrong it is to deliver your child at twelve weeks on purpose.  Planned.  Sold a lie that it will lead to freedom.

If we want to talk women's liberation, then abortion as the first prescription for pregnancy needs to end.  The alternatives may not be easy, but they will protect babies AND women far better. I don't have all the answers.

Yes, crisis pregnancy centers.

Yes, birth control.

Yes, caring for women in marginalized areas.

Yes, sex education.

Yes, it's going to take money.  Tax money, private money.

Yes, Church, wake up and reach out and dig in your pockets and adopt and foster and love like crazy.

Yes, support life after birth as well (education, food programs, child care, etc.).


My story of babies and pregnancy doesn't end with that miscarriage four years ago.  As I said, today I have a five-month-old baby boy who is an absolute delight to our family.  He has taken over our life.  He wants to be held at inconvenient moments, he wants to nurse all the live long day.  But he just loves to smile at us, and be loved by us. He brightens our home in the most incredible ways.  My children are experiencing the gift of life through this child.  They felt him moving in my womb. They saw his pictures while he was still in the secret place.  Their young hearts and minds knew this thing inside of me was fully alive. And they were fascinated.

How heart breaking to me that the fascination of bringing life into the world, one of the very things that  make us as women so very feminine, is so long gone in our culture. While surely women are made for more than bearing children, we were never, ever made for abortion.