Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great Post on Motherhood

I've struggled off and on over the years with the transition to being a stay-at-home mom. It's what I've always wanted to do. Well, "always" as in "since I really ever considered what I'd want to do when I had a family".

I babysat for several families throughout my high school and college years. Being in their homes, watching how they did family life, and talking to them here and there impacted the way I view motherhood, raising kids, and God's plan for my own family someday.

Kristi, Laura, Cheryl, and Amy were all stay-at-home moms. They all did things differently. They taught and disciplined their children differently. They cooked differently. Their husbands all had different jobs--military, business owner, ministry. They are Christians who were seeking to honor God with their lives and in their families. I learned a lot from each of them. I learned some things I wanted to do and some things I didn't want to do. I was incredibly blessed to be a part of their lives and have them as mentors.

However, I still entered motherhood and was a little shocked. First, Rylee came into our family earlier than we had planned. (ha! I thought I was planning out my life. I've learned so much in the 6 years since then!) I went from teaching at schools (student teaching and subbing) and being heavily involved in the youth ministry at our church (where Joel was youth pastor) to being a stay-at-home mom of a little one. We had one car and lived about 20 minutes from our church, Joel's workplace. We had lived in Harrisburg for about 18 months when Rylee arrived on the scene. Most of the women with whom I had become friends were married but did not have any children yet. So, I was kind of the first among our group to take the plunge.

I found myself having a little postpartum depression. At least, that's what I think it was. Hormones. But, it was also transition. It was a complete shock to me to have to think entirely of someone else and put their needs above my own every single moment of every single day with very little "off" time. Joel was a saint. He is an amazing dad, and I thank God for him daily. I have no clue what life would look like right now if he had not been so great during those first days of transition (and every day since then, of course!).

But, I felt trapped. I was home, in a house not in a neighborhood where I knew anyone (or where anyone was home...we lived "uptown" and everyone worked), far away from other people in our church (which was pretty much my only connection to the city in which I lived), without a car, without a lot of money, without a clue what to do with a baby all day, with a baby who had reflux and tended to cry a lot unless held upright, ...

As for having family nearby, my mom came to visit just before Rylee was born, but wasn't there for her birth. I think we would both have changed that if we could, but we couldn't. My family was 8 hours south (other than Mom, who was across the country). My friend, Heather, was with us for Rylee's birth. What an incredible blessing! But, she lived 3 hours away and had to go back home, of course. When Rylee was about 4 weeks old, we drove to VA so we could meet some of my family halfway for them to meet Rylee. Then, we went to NC (where my family lives) in June, when Rylee was 2 months old, for my brother's wedding. That's when my mom finally got to meet Rylee (did I mention by mom had a mild heart attack in May, which prevented her from flying to PA to see us before going to the wedding?). We had gone up to northern PA to see Joel's family in May, while my friend, sweet friend Kathryn, came to visit from Arizona. So, I did have some friends and family to see...but they all lived far away!!!

Really, I'm not complaining. I'm not. I know it sounds like I am. But, I'm not. I'm just trying to explain the situation in which I found myself. It was hard. I felt lonely. I had no clue what to do. I wasn't sure what was "right" to do and what was "wrong" and this was not a dog or doll...it was a baby! I was a mom! Yikes!

I am so grateful that I already had a relationship with Jesus and was looking to Him for wisdom and comfort. He was faithful. He always is. But, it was certainly a hard transition and a time of much learning.

So, when I found this article and read it, I completely understood it. I like it a lot. I think there's a lot there for us to consider. I think it helps me understand what my role should be today. I'm now a full-time mom to three children. I'm not in those crazy days of crying babies, diapers, and chasing around crawlers. Life is different. But, there are many around me who are in those early days. They don't have family nearby. They are lonely. They are having a hard time transitioning. How can I help them? bless them? encourage them? That's what I'm working on.

Here's the article: Why Modern Motherhood is So Much Harder than it Ought To Be

*I am not endorsing this site since this is the only article I've read here. However, I think the article itself is really good. Just wanted you to know that!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flood Waters, Chickens, and You...

Two states in India have been devastated by flood waters. Over 1.5 million people have been left homeless as water raged for days. People were trapped. Stories of entire families clinging to the highest object they could find--a tree or rooftop--are plentiful. They say that once the water subsided, they were left to look at homes covered in mud and soot.

Gospel for Asia missionaries and relief workers have been on the scene giving aid and hope to those in need. The GFA website has several articles as well as short videos on what has been taking place and how our ministry is stepping in to lend a hand.
Take a moment to visit the GFA website--watch a few videos, look at a photo slide show, read an article, and PRAY!
It's sometimes hard for me to empathize with people half a world away. I don't have to live up close and personal with their pain and agony every day--if I choose not to. But, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I don't think I have that choice. My life was bought at a very high price. I'm asked to give it in return. Give it to Him, give it to others. The least I can do is be informed and pray. Then I can pray about giving, not just my time and prayers, but also my money.
This devastating flood has just occurred. The GFA Christmas Gift Catalog has just been published and mailed out. Through the Catalog, you can give tangible gifts to those in need throughout Asia. One way we can help those in Karnataka and Andra Pradesh (the areas hit by the flooding) is to give Jesus Wells, biosand water filters, chickens, and water buffalo. Many folks lost everything they had, including their animals--their livelihood.

I could ask for a lot of things for Christmas. But, they would be just that--things. Or, I could ask that you give hope and life to those who need it most. So, that's what I'm asking. Pray. And, give.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My sweet son

I think my son is just absolutely adorable.
I know, I know...I'm his mama. I should think he's adorable.
But, honestly, there are times when his cuteness just makes my heart want to burst.
Asa really is a lot like his daddy.

He is the more reserved, quiet, shy of my three kids. He's not really that shy. But, he definitely takes time to warm up and let loose. And, overall, he is not as loud as my girls.
And, he looks like his daddy! Again, being honest here, I don't see it as much. But, everyone else says it, so it must be so.

There are many things I love about my son. But, among my favorite things are these:
--he lines things up. constantly. toy animals, cars, rocks, sticks, shoes, food, pencils, beads, you name it! i walked in the living room to find a line of cars, animals and his potato baby Moses from preschool (riding in the dump truck, of course!)
--he is a good eater. i hardly ever have to fight with Asa to eat stuff. sometimes he's slow, but that's usually b/c his two sisters are nearby. he likes meat, eats vegetables, and enjoys fruit. and, if he doesn't like something, he will usually stick it out for the bite (with lots of our encouragement and insistence, of course). last week we had some butternut squash in a dish and he did NOT like it. he was heeeelarious to watch as he ate the bite. made the funniest faces.
--something he does that really drives me crazy but is just HIM...random piles or collections or stashes. he will take 20 different things from his room, tiny things like one little army guy and one block and one toy animal, and put it in something. sometimes it's a bag, sometimes it's a box, sometimes its a sock. and, then we find it somewhere in the house. i'm laughing right now. you go to move a cushion on the couch and find a girls purse with Asa's goodies inside. inevitably you will hear "Asa! Come get this mess! Put it all back where it belongs!" it drives both Joel and I nuts. but, I'm gonna miss it in years to come...I just know it!
--ace also likes to climb trees, make everything into a gun, play with rubber bands, work with his daddy in the garage or the yard, draw, play flashlight tag (hide 'n seek), look for bugs in our backyard, help prepare meals, and have playdates with other boys (instead of just his sisters).
--i love to hear Asa sing. My girls are so over-the-top and, well, like me in their drama. they sing and dance and are loud. Rylee sings constantly. she sings what we're doing, where we're going, regular songs, lines from books, etc. So, i'm used to the singing. but, today, I clicked on a video someone had on their facebook page and watched 3 teens sing great harmony. asa and jenna were standing beside me. asa didn't know the words but began singing. they repeated "Jesus Messiah" several times and he was catching on. most amazing part to me...he was sounding pretty good for a 3 year old boy! but, it was his little face looking captivated and engrossed in singing that made the tears fall.
Asa's just coming into his time of more intense training. The girls have both gone through "phases" of difficulty. Rylee was intense about 2 years ago and then we struggled with Jenna back in the spring and early summer. But, Asa is now showing us a little more of his "self" and "will". He can be intense. But, that boy has a tender heart. And today I got to see a wonderful display of how beautiful it can be when He's focused on Jesus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Prayer Jar--Engaging our Kids

In the spring we heard a message by our pastor on the topic of culture in the home. He basically said that every family creates a culture within their home which teaches the kids what's important.

I think our kids know pretty well some of the things that are important to us, but we felt like we could definitely improve in some specific areas right now.

Our pastor told us how one family had a prayer journal. They used the notebook to write down prayer requests, used it to guide them in praying, and then documented answers to prayer. They are teaching their children that prayer is important to them.

I came home and found a notebook, thinking we should document answered prayer too. We have been teaching our kids about prayer, we pray as a family, and we celebrate (and point out) when God answers prayer.
However, Joel had a better idea. He suggested a prayer jar! Though the big plastic jar that once housed peanut butter filled pretzels still had the label on it, we wiped it out and stuck in slips of paper with prayer requests written on them. (Eventually I cleaned the label off completely. That's partly why this post has taken me so long to get up since my friend Beth asked me about it this summer!)

Each night, we read a story from our devotional Bible. We found one we absolutely love and had a goal to read through it this summer. We are currently reading through it for the third time. Our kids LOVE it and so do we. You can read about it here. After we read our Bible story, we each pull a slip of paper from the prayer jar. As a family, we each pray for one request (sometimes the kids want to pray for other things, too, which is allowed of course!).

I noticed that some of the people were starting to confuse the kids, so I decided to print pictures and write the requests on the back. It has really helped the kids focus on who we're praying for. Now that some requests have been in the jar for a while, the kids actually recognize them (even those that are just handwriting) and can tell us what the request says.

Once a request is prayed over, it goes into a smaller jar. When all the requests have been prayed through, we dump them back in the big jar and start over. If we come to a request that's been answered, we pull it from the jar and hang it on our world map. The map hangs in our dining room and has pictures of various missionaries throughout the world who are serving the Lord.
Our corner of answered prayer keeps growing! Joel and I are praying our kids will continually know how vital they are to the body of Christ. They may not be able to work in our ministry office, but they can pray. And, their faith is incredible! They are our teachers often.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Joel in Years Past

Last November, I asked Joel's mom to bring me some photos from Joel as a kid. I also wanted some photos of Ed and Liz, his parents, from their early married years or them as kids.
She brought me a box of photos and a few news clippings.That box sat on a shelf.
Then, when I decided to reorganize my desk area, it moved to a closet, which also got reorganized. (Speaking of which, I really need to get Joel to cut my shelf so I can finish the desk area and post "after" pictures. They are way overdue! Here's the original post about organizing.)
I finally pulled out the box of photos this weekend.
I wanted to scan them and dreaded the process.

Turns out, I just had to set up the first one and then literally click a button, change photos, click a button, change photos, click a button, ....you get the picture!
Here are a few of the treasures I found.
Just to prove how much Rylee really does look like her dad, I've included a somewhat "weird" photo of her that I snapped in a series while we were visiting my brother this summer. She made this certain face and I immediately thought of this picture of Joel, which I had seen at some point. She really does look like her daddy sometimes!*By the way, you can see a picture up close by clicking on it. It will open in a new window as a larger image. Really cool way to see the older photos of Joel's parents.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Quick Visit to Some Cute Babies

I made a quick trek back to PA two weeks ago.
Two of my very dearest friends have had babies this year. One had a baby in January, while we were in India. The other had a Labor Day baby just a few weeks before my visit.
I had yet to meet Isaac, though I've seen lots and lots of pictures of him. He is a precious blue-eyed boy who is friendly and very easygoing. He is the son of my friend, Heather, who was with Joel and I when Rylee entered this world. Heather and I took tap dance classes together back when we were 12 years old! While we went to different high schools, we reconnected in college through youth ministry and became very close friends. Heather married Paul just 7 weeks after Joel and I got married and then they moved to NY a few weeks after we got settled in PA. We lived 3 hours apart and made regular visits to see one another until we moved to Texas two years ago.I was very excited to meet Miss Julienne. She arrived on Labor Day weekend as a healthy and strong baby girl. She is the daughter of my other friend Heather, who lived right down the street from us in PA. Heather and I first met when we moved to PA, but we became very close friends when we moved closer to the church into her neighborhood.
Her son, Jonah, came to our house each morning before school and he and Rylee became fast, dear friends. Heather was right by my side as we welcomed our twins into the world and would stop by almost daily to help me with one of the afternoon feedings. We enjoyed doing life together--from having dates to get our hair cut, having dinner together regularly, participating in women's Bible study to late night talks, baking Christmas cookies, and being at her family's holiday gatherings. Heather and Jonah came to visit us in Texas last summer and we got to spend time with them during our trip to PA last fall. I was very excited to meet Julienne and hold her as a newborn.I also got to visit briefly with my friends, Jason, Chrissy & Tyler Derr. Tyler has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments right now. He is in the second phase of treatments, which is expected to take several years. I went by their house to say hi and got to play the Wii with Tyler for a little bit. (Thankfully Jonah had taught me how to play the Wii the day before!)
My little visit was very short, but very sweet. We have so many precious friends in Harrisburg that it was hard to be there and not see everyone. But, I only had a small window of time. I'm hoping our whole family we can make it back soon for a longer visit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Promised Pictures - A Daddy's Handiwork

Last fall Joel's parents came to visit for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful! They stayed for an entire week and we enjoyed them immensely.
In order to keep Joel's dad occupied, we created a list of projects he could help us with around the house. Only a few ended up being done because we managed to keep him busy with other things, but one item on the list that was priority was completed. Joel and his dad built a play structure in our backyard.
This play structure is special for a number of reasons. Right now it's more of a treasure because it has been added to bit by bit over the last year. But, the foundation of the structure is special to me.
This is Rylee on Thanksgiving Day in front of the play structure. It's definitely Texas--she's wearing a ballet outfit outside at the end of November!

You see, when we lived in a townhouse in Harrisburg, PA, Joel's parents came down for a visit and Joel and his dad took down our old fence. They replaced the worn boards with new ones and Joel's dad took the old lumber back to his home in northern PA.

During our support trip last fall (right before his parents made the trek down here), we saw the lumber still in his dad's backyard and asked him to haul it to Texas. He did!
Our play structure is made from the wood that used to be the fence in our backyard in PA. There's something really special to me about having a piece of Harrisburg right here in my Texas backyard!
I'm starting week 4 of a Bible study on the book of Esther. For several reasons that I can't fully explain in a blog post, looking at that play structure-- seeing wood that was useless to us in PA being so useful here in Texas--is speaking deeper truths to my heart about where God places us and when He does it!

Right now I'm in Texas. I'm a wife. I'm a mom to three small children. I serve in our ministry to a limited capacity. But, I can do so much more than what meets the eye. I'm not useless as a fence. I'm being refashioned to be a fort!

I was tempted to end my post there, but there's more to share about this cool fort. We bought the slide for about $15 off craigslist. Joel figured out how to use washers and make it attach to the structure. Then, the structure sat relatively unchanged until this summer. During a visit to one of the local home improvement stores, we saw the rock climbing wall marked way down. When we got to the register, it was even cheaper! Then, last weekend, Joel saw the roof assembly on major sale. So, the fort has changed a lot in the last month. The kids are having fun with it and seem to like it better with each new modification.

And, just to show how different things look, here is a shot of our backyard when we first moved into our house last summer and a shot I took the other day.