Thursday, June 26, 2008

Women, talents, and time!

I was just reading a blog by a woman relating how she had put her dreams and passions aside for so many years as she raised her family, etc., and was just now beginning to reclaim some of those dreams and is becoming involved in the theatre again . . . and there were a lot of posts by women who seem to struggle with the same thing and were thanking her for "awakening" in them this new freedom to exercise their gifts . . .

So I'm wondering, why is this such a struggle for women? I feel like I wrestle with these questions constantly! Right now is a perfect example . . . I look forward to those ideal days when I can actually get both my girls down for their naps at the same time and can have an hour or even two to myself. I really try to protect this time, to use it only for the things that I want to do, or for the things that I absolutely can't do when they're awake . . . The things that I have decided are worth my time at this stage in my life are: reading (anything and everything), writing (this blog, my journal), studying my Bible (which I try to do first thing in the morning), and keeping up with friends (I try to save this one for later in the evenings or when I am too tired or too distracted to do the first two).

I have put considerable effort into thinking this through, eliminating any extra busyness that keeps me from doing these most important things, and giving myself pep-talks constantly that reading and writing are two things that I shouldn't feel guilty about giving my time to . . . I am fortunate to have a husband who constantly encourages me as well to do these things. I also have studied quite a lot of verses such as "stir up the gift that is in you," the parable of the talents, the virtuous woman . . . I heartily believe that God is all about every believer living a full, passionate, purposeful, uniquely shaped and abundant life!

So why the guilt?

I get both girls to sleep, quickly clean-up lunch, sit down . . . and my mind starts racing . . . I should finish steaming the peaches first. The house is still a mess. Did I read my Bible long enough this morning or should I do that instead? Those phonecalls I haven't gotten to make yet. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

Is it because as women we feel like our work is never complete, there is always a little more we should do? Or that doing things for our husbands and children feels more self-less and therefore time to ourself is selfish? Does anyone else struggle with this kind of time management? I think that one consistent failure in my life is this: responding to the immediate and neglecting the essential.

I think that the Prov.31 woman just rocks. Why don't women today have this kind of confidence? She considers a field and buys it. Then she plants a vineyard. She reaches out to the poor. She feeds and clothes her household. . . and on and on. I don't understand why she is looked to as a proper example for keeping your home, and not also as an example of a woman creatively multiplying her talents!

So I have to notice the things that (apparantly) she's not doing, as she does all this . . . she did have the same number of hours in her day then as we do today, right? She must not have been too proud to admit she couldn't do it all, seeing that she had help. It says that she got up early, but it doesn't say anything about her reading through the Bible in a year (I know, she wouldn't have had one), but the point is that she must have understood that when she is connected to God, everything she did that day was spiritual, not just doing her "devotions" so she could feel good about herself. And she probably didn't watch every move her children made, capture it all on camera, and then scrapbook it. And I bet she didn't feel guilty about it.

And, so it goes . . . my little one is crying for me. Naptime is over!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

so much to thank Him for!

I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the congregation. Ps40.10

I have been meaning to update this for a long time . . . We are praising God and thanking Him for His goodness to us! Things have worked out better than we could have hoped for Jim finding a job and going back to school . . . we were very prepared for the job search to be a long and difficult process, considering the economy currently and knowing of several people who are having a hard time finding a job . .. AND, because we feel like seminary is the right next step, and we would like to get through that as quickly as possible, we could not see a way to do that and Jim to work full-time. The plan originally was to move to the seminary he will be going to, live on campus (cheap!), and both of us work part-time. The big looming question then was what to do about health care, as a family plan currently would run us about $700 a month . . . there didn't seem to be any clear answers as to how to make seminary work, and we were questioning everything: where to live, how to make ends meet, if an expensive seminary education was just a joke, whether our days in the ministry were simply over . . . . in the midst of trying to navigate these decisions we were still in the midst of some pretty intense situations, and so after one unbelievably bad weekend, we were forced to take a hard look at ourselves and face the fact that we were emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted.

Finally, we realized that we weren't getting any answers because we had been asking the wrong questions. So rather than leaving one traumatic situation and throwing ourselves and our children into a new and potentially more stressful environment, we put the brakes on and began to ask, What is required for us to be a healthy family again? What does a safe, calm, restorative environment look like for us and our girls?

We determined that the best decision for us and our girls was to not make any major decisions right away, but to create as much stability as possible, and to be in a place where we can rest and be a part of a community. So to make a long story short, Jim arrived at the conclusion (and I in agreement) that we should try to stay here, in our hometown, to be near family and friends for one year at least.

After we reached this decision, everything else fell into place! Within one week of being unemployed, Jim was hired by the engineering firm he worked for before going into the ministry nine years ago. He is going to be working just thirty hours per week, or more as his school schedule permits, and will be able to go to seminary as a full-time student! And the best part is that his company offered to pay our health insurance, even though he'll only be working 30 hours! We truly never expected that!

So once again life is not what we expected, but the rightness of this place and the peace we have is unquestionable. We are eager now to embrace a quieter and simpler place for a season, and to enjoy the friendships and family that God has given us here. In addition, Jim couldn't be happier about starting back to engineering, and is equally looking forward to being a seminary student! I am thankful to be able to continue being at home with my girls, and so glad that they will have their grandparents near for a little longer at least. As with everything in life, we are attempting to hold loosely to even these things, as we want to always be willing and ready to go wherever and whenever He may lead . . . but for now to be found faithful and fruitful in the work and the place (even our hometown) that He is calling us to.

So I began this blog with the intention of keeping friends and family up to date on our daily lives, as I pictured us living somewhere far away . .. and even though we're ending up close to home, I've found that I enjoy blogging and I'll keep it up for those of my friends who I don't get to see often enough, and whoever may happen to run across this blog and care to read it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

stuff Christians like

Ran across a great blog that any self-deprecating Christian will enjoy called Stuff Christians Like . . . the title says it all! You will laugh, (so long as you aren't one of those Christians who take yourself way too seriously).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A toast to the summer solstice

Well, it's a few days late, but HAPPY SUMMERTIME! My most-loved season by far . . . what is not to love about summer? Open windows, bare feet, iced tea, sweaty little necks, garage sales, the smell of suntan lotion, warm fat tomatoes plucked fresh from the garden, watermelon dripping to your toes . . . heck on July four I even love America. And one of my best-loved summertime events is the summer solstice! Simply because it is the longest day of the year, marking the peak of a season dedicated to bright early mornings, long lazy afternoons, late evening walks, and fireflys. Life at it's juiciest. I realize that the summer solstice is celebrated around the world by new agers and sun worshipers of which I am neither. However the first day of summer is the perfect day to celebrate . . . summer!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Glory of Children

"Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers." Prov.17.6

I ran across this verse this morning and thought how evident this is in our family. There is nothing my dad enjoys more than his grandkids. And truly Sami's glory is her dad. I am blessed beyond words by my own amazing dad and Papa to my girls, and the dad my husband is to our daughters.

We had a great day yesterday at my parents'. Some friends came and spent the day with us, it was hot but not humid and we got to enjoy being outside all day. Like my dad, who is always able to enjoy the moment, says, "This side of Heaven, life can't get any better than this."

Speaking of dads I suppose it's fitting that my Time With Him this morning was related to a conversation with my dad yesterday:

It was a question related to hurt, as we sat around the table outside last night, me wondering aloud, again, how . . . well, just this:

Dad said that he's been studying Matthew and how around chapters 11 and 12 there is a shift in Jesus' ministry, as he has been rejected in chapter 11 and at the end of the chapter says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

So this is what he does with rejection. Meekness. Lowliness. Care of the suffering, relief of burdens, rest. He connects his hurt with hurting people, identifies himself with those who are weak, alone, oppressed. This helps me to know where to go with life's rejections. The choice, in these moments, is to become hard with self-protection, or to accept the hurt and allow it to make you weak. Hardness leads to bitterness. Weakness, in turn, leads to compassion. Our human tendency is to toughen up, to hide. Christ's example is the exact opposite. Grief is necessary. Heaviness connects us with Christ, and Christ is always connected to the humble, suffering, oppressed . . . He invites any willing to admit their weariness into Rest. Any willing to release their heavy burden are offered a new and easy yoke with Him . . . chapter 12 finds Jesus with his disciples in a field, plucking corn and eating it on the Sabbath. (The imagery of yoked oxen strikes here . . . but the yoke is no longer for labor. Now, yoked together with Christ, it is for feasting). Ah, but he is Lord even of the sabbath. This new yoke? Mercy, not sacrifice.
The invitation was there in Isaiah:
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. . . Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Summer afternoon! Summer afternoon! The two most beautiful words in the English language." -Henry James

Today is one of those days that I think, "slow down, watch, savour this . . . this moment, right here . . . those little shining eyes, that sweet voice, the funny way she screws up her mouth, these precious hugs . . . " It's already going too fast. I want to put it all on pause, capture every amazing moment.
We went to the park today: Sami, Anna, Jim, my dad . . . Sami covered in ice cream, Anna in her big floppy hat, Jim so relaxed and everybody so happy . . . today everything is just right. Sure we don't have a job and Sami doesn't sleep at night and I've gotten up every ten seconds as I'm writing this to do something for Anna. But today, this moment, this hot summer afternoon, it's all so perfect. Everything is so right about right now.

Friday, June 6, 2008

End and Begin

Today was Jim's last day of work at the office and we needed to celebrate. Not to celebrate the circumstances, or the (gulp) fact that this means he is officially unemployed, but to celebrate the milestone that this day is: a step of faith, for one. And so we threw a party, Sami and I. And tomorrow we're having a big party and my brother's band is giving a concert to say good-bye and make one last really good memory with all of our friends.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

sleep monster

My sweet Anna,
I must remember to thank you, one day, for the blessed way you are able to sleep. I lay you down. You grab your blanket or doll with one hand, your thumb goes in your mouth, you roll over, and you GO TO SLEEP. Just like that. Annie, you are seven months old now and this still takes my breath away, every time. I honestly had no idea that babies were capable of this! I do not deserve this miracle but oh did I ever plead with God, this time, to please give me the kind of baby that sleeps; and the Lord knows how many times I have breathed out a "thank-you" to Him to see you, unbelievably, asleep!

Because you see Anna, as you are lying there peacefully sleeping, on the other side of the wall is a shrieking, wide-awake sleep monster who comes out as the other child in the house is going to bed and steals her sleep and her parents' sleep and does it's best to destroy any moments' peace in the evening, twisting every last nerve in our weary bodies into frantic sparking sizzling shreds and leaving us, finally, twitching on the floor! This sleep monster has been haunting us nearly every night for, oh, about two and a half years now, and Anna, I don't know how you sleep through it some nights but I thank you.

Sleep Monster does appear to be moving out because we are finding, most nights now, with a few stories, a little soft music, the blanket, Ugly Doll Tray, pinkbear, sippy cup . . . HOLDING sippy cup . . . all a fortress around her, and the door closed . . . all the way . . . ALL THE WAY CLOSED!!!! . . . then maybe, just maybe Sleep Monster will avoid our house tonight.