Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's Going on with the Stanley Clan

1-My baby sister (Emma) is moving to Amsterdam on Friday. Yup, Amsterdam, as in Europe. I'm super sad about it, and so is Jayci. She's been spending extra time with her "auntie em" to make up for the next year she won't see her. They had a really fun sleepover together a few days ago, and I got a text from Emma that said: "I think I gave her too much sugar and now she wont sleep." Ha, I guess that's what aunts are for! Tomorrow night, we're going to PushStart for a goodbye dinner, and then Thursday we're having mani/pedi and lunch with the girls. And other than that, I'm just pretending that it's not happening, ok?
2 - Today, we bought a minivan. We are taking a trip to Florida next week for spring break, and Zack is coming along (and hopefully Sabo too), which means - no room in the 4runner for everyone! So we bit the bullet and bought a van. We traded our 4runner, and I was a little nostalgic and surprisingly sad to see it go. I'm thinking it was mourning the loss of my cool-factor. Oh who are we kidding? I was never cool.
3 - I already told y'all this in bullet point #2, but we're going to Florida next week. I'm only hoping that we might possibly get a few hours of sleep, relaxation, and maybe I'll be able to read a few books? I'm not feeling VERY hopeful though because Caden has been EXTRA fussy the last few days, and he's never been fussy before. Seriously, he never cries and now he is never happy unless we're holding him. I miss my happy happy boy. I also miss vacations that exclusively involve sleeping and reading and laying in the sun. Although the beach with a 7 month old, 3 year old and two teenage boys? That's a whole different kind of fun. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.
4 - On that note, I cannot thank you enough for your beautiful, heartfelt, wonderful, wise ideas and suggestions and prayers and encouragements. I'm at a loss as to where to even start right now, but I'm praying for wisdom and I cant tell you how much it means to me that y'all are standing with me and carrying me with your kindness and prayers. Sigh. Y'all are the best.
5 - Adam and his dad finally got to hang our barn door! Adam's dad made it, and we were blessed to get a track from an actual old barn door which is mucho cool.
 6 - We are going to make Caden an appointment to see an occupational and physical therapist when we get back from Florida. He is having some issues with eating that the doctor thinks we should address. And I'm not sure how I feel about it all, but I would appreciate your continued prayers, know that I will keep you updated!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tales of a Terrible Sleeper

I am bone weary and appalled at the level of frustration I feel bubbling up inside of me as I run into cradle sweet Caden for the third time in the past hour. I realize as I rock him that he is somehow, impossibly almost 8 months old. And do you know how many times he has slept through the night? Zero. Or how many times he usually wakes up every night? At least three, usually more. And he only takes two or three 15-30 minute naps every day. And I KNOW that sleep begets sleep and that he is overtired and that is precisely why he's not sleeping. But how-oh-how-for-the-love-of-everything do we begin the elusive process of getting him to SLEEP so we can "beget more sleep?"

I'm about at the end of my already-fraying rope, not to mention that I feel like I'm walking around in a constant semi-fuzzy state of losing and forgetting and not quite knowing what time or day it is or whether I've switched the laundry or what Jayci just asked me. And before y'all say anything, I KNOW you are probably oh-so (ironically) tired of hearing about how tired I am. And I'm sorry, but I need to vent somewhere and y'all are the lucky winners. Feel free to ignore this and not read a single word more. I will, however, remind you of my fragile and over-tired emotional state.

Let's take today as an example: Jayci was screaming in her room about how much she did NOT want to have "rest-time" (As usual, and therefore I dread rest-time, which is supposedly a "break" for me. Or not at all). I was bouncing Caden trying to get him to give in to sleep, and finally I went into Jayci's room and LAIDDOWNTHEHAMMER (or asked her in a slightly-whiny voice to please to stop screaming while fighting back tears of frustration). She was quiet for awhile, which was just enough time for me to lay down on the bed with Caden where we both slept for a good ten minutes before she started yelling again and woke us both up. And then Caden wouldn't go back to sleep, obviously.

Fast forward to bed-time. I nursed and gave Caden his bottle, rocked him for a minute until he was super-chill (aka completely asleep). I laid him in his bed, and he immediately FREAKED THE HECK OUT (which is his usual response to being put in his crib). He kicks his feet violently, spinning himself in circles, yelling and crying and getting all sweaty. I try patting him while he's still in the crib, picking him up and rocking him, ignoring him for a few minutes . . . nope. Nothing works. Finally, over an hour later, he is finally sleeping in his bed. But don't worry, he will wake up again in probably less than three hours. And then continue this pattern until morning. He will sleep until seven if we're lucky, but sometimes he refuses to go back to sleep after that 5am wake-up.

I feel like crying in hopelessness just thinking about the night ahead. In fact, it's 10pm on Saturday night, so I should probably go to bed. Immediately, that way I can get a good four hours of sleep. But not in one big chunk, because that would be just crazy. Sigh.

Any suggestions? Oh and we can't really let him cry-it-out too much for several reasons: 1-his health (I get freaked out because he gets all sweaty and gets himself more and more worked up and it takes forever to calm him down if he cries for more than five minutes or so at a time). 2-He shares a room with Jayci who is also not a good sleeper and when she wakes up it's even more of a disaster.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Some Things I Needed to Hear (Read)

These helped and challenged and spoke to my heart this week, so maybe they will do the same for yours.

Momastery - Needs and Gifts
"A few years ago, I was feeling a little empty. Empty because I had three babies, and my littlest wasn’t sleeping, and I felt angry and exhausted all day and then I felt guilty for feeling angry and exhausted instead of grateful for my blessings. Because I knew that children were supposed to make me feel full, but I didn’t really understand that theory completely since it seemed I was always giving, giving, giving to the point at which there was nothing left. Empty. Not a lot of time or space to fill up. . . . "

The Journey - Enough
"You were enough to atone for this ugly sin that wanted to separate. You are enough to fill in the gaps, fill all my holes, make up my lack. My flesh screams, “I can’t go on, I don’t have enough! Not enough strength, not enough patience, not enough…” And I wouldn’t, but I have You. And in You, I have enough and more than enough, Father of abundance, Giver of endless blessings. . . "

Urban Faith - Walking While Black
"So, how could Trayvon Martin’s tragic slaying last month in Florida not break my heart, trouble my soul, and compel me to action? How can it be that, a month later, his shooter has not even been charged with a crime? How can it be that we live in a country that we fight to defend, but where the taking of our sons’ lives does not even warrant their killers’ arrest? How can it be that this child’s life was taken simply because he was walking while black? How can this be the America that I love?"

Sarah Bessey - Evangelical Hero Complex
"I'm pretty sure that there aren't actually any big things for God. There are only small things being done, over and over, with great love, as Mother Theresa said. With great faith. With great obedience. With great joy or suffering or wrestling or forgiving on a daily completely non-sexy basis. And grace covers all of it and God makes something beautiful out of our dust. "

From the Unpaved Road - When You Hit The Wall

"How far simple kindness can go when you have crash landed after your best efforts.  Sometimes it is not the super spiritual we need most.  Sometimes we just need someone to offer to hold our fragile state with gentleness, speak softly and offer a cup of tea along with a listening ear.  I am so grateful for the friends in my life who handle my fragile days with care… and my bad hair days with grace, ruffled feathers all included therein."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Being Known

I am sitting in the grass, sunshine falling unseasonably warm on my shoulders and head. Yellow pollen collects on Caden's stroller and Jayci's blonde ponytail. I close my eyes and listen . . .  The sprinkler runs and 3-year-old shrieks of delight fill the air, Caden coos happily, the bees buzz, working overtime as the pollen count rises above 9000. Their collective energy and noise reminds me of something that I learned while Caden was in the hospital: how deeply people long to be known, particularly in their grief. And how desperately we wanted and needed to be understood and KNOWN in what we were walking through. There is something about sharing loss, heartache, joy, fears . . . a grace-filled solidarity that emerges especially in crisis. And since the first day Caden was in the hospital, I have been truly privileged to experience community in a whole new way.
A ten year old boy raises money for Caden, then comes and brings it to us, along with a pillow he hand-sewed for Jayci's dolls. Gingerly, he holds Caden, avoiding his feeding tube and smiling down at his little toes. And I am flooded with both gratitude and humility as I recognize the face of Christ.

A beautiful mom that I have never met before stops by and fills our cupboard with pancake mix and syrup for Sunday morning breakfast with the kiddos. Opening her heart to minister not only to her own children, but to kiddos whose faces she has never seen, faces that will now be sticky with syrup as they pile in our car for church. And her handsome son lifts his shirt to reveal a scar from open-heart surgery, and I am encouraged to envision Caden one day lifting his own shirt to offer hope to another mom whose baby has had surgery.

A sweet reader emailed me and told me about a hospital ministry she has been inspired to start, and I have been praying for that seedling idea ever since. Praying with the joy and knowledge that Caden's heart has helped me to find my voice, and that his story is making a difference to all who encounter it.

Our time with Caden, and this little blog, have provided me with the amazing opportunity to meet so many moms walking the "heart journey" alongside us, moms who are bravely facing health challenges with their baby and moms who hope to one day see their sweet babies again in heaven. I've met fellow "urban missionaries," talked to people on the other side of the world, and been stopped in the Chick-fil-a parking lot by a reader.  We have been prayed for, carried, encouraged, loved well . . . I could not be more grateful for each and every one of y'all. And I mean that. What a blessing it is to get a word of encouragement just when I need it. Or an email on a day when I couldn't think of any way I could possible pull myself out of the dark-hole of exhaustion. And I am thankful for a God who gives us community to pull us out so we don't have to do it ourselves. Isn't that the beauty of community? It reminds us not only of our own inadequacies, but simultaneously of a God who loves us enough to provide for them.

Five years ago when Adam and I began this journey together into inner-city ministry, it began in our hearts with a longing for a community. A recognition that God desired more for us: that He desired us to experience deeper communion with each other and with Him. And as we moved towards that community, we moved closer to the heart of God. Which means we moved closer to His heart for the poor and those on the margins. And He continues to teach us about community and entering into the hurts and pain of others. He used Caden. He uses our neighbors. And He is using you.

I have been praying that this will continue to be a place of true community. Where we can be vulnerable with one another, and honest, and truthful about feeling tired and empty. And also about feeling joyful and triumphant. Where we can pray for one another, and celebrate God's goodness both in His giving and His taking away. Know that I sincerely pray for you, for your heart babies, for your struggles, for your losses, for your heart. You have no idea how much I love "meeting" you both through emails and in real-life.
 Let's just say the yellow sign is always out around here, and y'all are always welcome!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Overdue Update, and Glamour

Normally I see and talk to my mom on a regular basis, since she lives so nearby. But yesterday, she texted me to make sure I was ok since I hadn't posted on the blog in so long. Whoops, my bad. Life just feels exhausting (which it is, because of the whole not-sleeping-ever-thing) and busy and crazy and my bff has been visiting from Texas so I've been trying to spend time with her.

Anyways, this is for you mom (and the other person or two who might still be reading. maybe).

 - To start with, I just need to give each and every one of you a BIG thank-you. I honestly wish I could hug all of your necks in person. I cannot even begin to tell you how overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement I am right now. Remember how I told y'all about this contest from Glamour magazine? And I asked you to vote for me? Well y'all did. And I totally WON. Ok I was one of the top 4, but still. That means I get to go to New York!!! And did I mention how badly Adam and I need a getaway? So I'm still a little unsure of the details but I will tell you one thing: you will be getting updates and pictures of the makeover and our antics in the Big Apple. Fo' shizzle.

 - Caden was doing better with sleeping in his crib for a few days (and by "better" I mean he only got up like twice a night and would nap for like forty-five minutes), but now he's back to being up all night long. Sigh. Well, he does sleep for one 4 or 5 hour stretch, but unfortunately that stretch usually begins at 7 or 8pm, meaning I don't get any sleep at that time. And I KNOW that I should just go to bed and sleep for the love of pete, but I simply cannot resist the freedom. And also the laundry. There's just so much laundry and so little time to get it all done.

 - I've been reading Jen Hatmaker's book 7 with my friend Marla. I highly recommend it. But not if you would prefer not to have your behind kicked a little bit. Or to be convicted. More on this coming soon.

 - I spent some sweet time with my bff the past few days, and it totally warmed my heart to see how much our kiddos still enjoyed each other. But it also made me feel a little sad all over again that she's not just down the street anymore. I would NOT have made it through parenting my first little one without her. And that's the truth. And it is because of her that I believe so deeply and strongly in living in community. Amen.

 - I wish I could think of more things to update y'all on right now. But I got nothing. Hopefully, my brain will recharge at some point and maybe I'll have something more meaningful or interesting to say. Cause right now I'm losing followers quickly. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why 366?

Why 366 instead of 365? Because 2-29-12 only comes once every four years. Leap day. Did anyone see that episode of Modern Family? Oh how I love that show. Although I'm loving "New Girl" even more this season. Hi-larious.

Just wanted to do a quick catch-up of my 366 project on here. Enjoy!
(This one was from our anniversary dinner at PushStart Kitchen. Which I highly recommend. Highly.)
My little guy's old-man-hair cracks me up. Gah he is cute.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blueberries and the Rain

Clouds gather, the afternoon warm and muggy. Impending rain hangs heavy in the air. Adam and Jayci hurry outside with the wheelbarrow to plant blueberry and strawberry bushes before the threatening clouds begin spitting rain on their seedlings. Carefully, hurriedly, they dig hole after hole in a measured row. They gently lower in each bush, then take time to pat the soil down. I cringe a little as Jayci wipes her dirt-covered hands on her purple tutu; toes and sparkly pink sandals spotted with flecks of mud and clay.
"Mommy" she announces, "tomorrow we will share our blueberries with all our friends!" I smile at her  eager generosity, and explain that it will take a little while before any berries actually grow on the plants.  I point to tiny buds, small promises that will one day turn to juicy purple blueberries. I explain how plants need sunshine, and rain, and time, and perhaps some singing, in order to grow. And that fruit-growing can be a long process.

Later that night, Adam and I sit on the front porch as drops finally fall from pregnant-skies. Lightning flashes, and we hold hands, watching the water wash in deluges over our new little plants. Adam tells me how much fun he had gardening with Jayci. He tells me about how he dug the holes and then watched as Jayci oh-so-carefully put the strawberry plants in. Only she put them in upside-down, every single time. And Adam went behind her, gently up-righting them, without her noticing. And he told her how happy he was for her help, and how much he loved when she planted with him. Even though it took him twice as long with her than it would have without her.
And I can't help but think how it's the same way with my own heart and in our ministry. Fruit-producing is a long and painstaking process. I am impatient, and I want fruit tomorrow, today even. I want Jayci to learn patience and obedience tomorrow, not some distant months or years down the road. And I certainly don't relish the painstaking work of cultivating them in her. I want our kiddos to trust us, to change the paths they are walking on, to stop stealing, and having babies at fourteen. I want our ministry to bear fruit NOW.

But that's just not how fruit works, is it?  We plant, and our hands get dirty. We make ourselves vulnerable, tilling the soil. We carefully and gently cover the seedlings with dirt, certain that fruit is imminent, frustrated when it's not.

And the Lord comes behind us, gently up-ending all we've done, turning what we think we know on it's head. The first will be last. Blessed are the poor. Joy for mourning. New life through death.

Sometimes, in the cultivating, we are surprised to find that our lives and hearts bear fruit in ways we couldn't have expected. We learn faith and trust in ways much harder and in soil far rockier than we would have chosen. We surrender our son, and Christ cultivates joy and peace in our hearts. We open our home back up after having a wallet stolen, only to have our "honeymoon fund" piggy-bank taken. And Christ cultivates forgiveness and grace.

Through it all, God sends the rain and sun.

Sitting on our porch watching the rain, I suddenly realize how grateful I am that God lets us be a part of tending His garden. That even in our fumbling efforts, even when we plant things upside down, He delights in working alongside us. Because He can certainly change this city without our help. But He is gracious enough to allow us to garden with and for Him. And sometimes we are changed more in the gardening with our Savior than we will ever see fruit from those seeds we painstakingly plant. 

Because there is frost, kiddos move away, storms come, mistakes are made, things are stolen, hearts are broken, and sometimes there is sickness or even death. But through it all, God has us just where he wants us. 

And so we are learning to wait patiently for the slow work of God. To enjoy gardening with our Beloved. To wait in hope and faith, caring for seedlings with tenderness and love, and maybe a little singing. Because we are absolutely certain that His perfect timing will produce the most beautiful fruit.
 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15: 5


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