Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Indiana Road Trip

I'm just not sure what possesses us to do things sometimes. This past weekend, for instance, we packed up the van and drove the whole family, along with Zack, some dear friends and 4 girls from our neighborhood, all the way to Indiana. And then on Monday, we drove back. Which was about 24 hours worth of driving for two days spent at our friends' parents place. With lots of teenagers, and four little ones. So, in other words, it was fun and exhausting, and also slightly full of the drama and hormones that is inherent in teenagers and moms of young children. I should probably unpack at some point, but I cannot think of much else besides the fact that Caden turns ONE on Friday. What in the world?

Jayci was clearly delighted to spend so much time with her BFF. They are basically teenage mean girls, it's ridiculous. We are working on it though. Pray for us.
So my camera battery died mid-trip, so I dont have more pictures to commemorate this momentous event, but we did have our own olympics. Complete with synchronized swimming, featuring the fantastic duo of Adam and Zack. See the above image if you want to imagine their routine. My teammate and I were "team Canada." But unfortunately, I believe we came in dead last. I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but I'm not the most athletic person ever. My apologies to my teammate and my country. Sigh. 

On that note, we also spent large amounts of time watching the olympics. And there is nothing that makes me feel better about myself as an athlete and a person than sitting on the couch while eating cheese dip and watching these incredibly talented young folks who have worked their butts off for all their lives.

The good thing is that Zack has decided to become an olympic athlete. I mean, just look at this athleticism, seriously.
This is one of my favorite expressions of Caden's. Ever. Also, when he drops things now he says "uh oh." Which is especially cute because he sounds like he is saying it with a British accent. I have been desperately trying to capture it on video for y'all, but every time I bust out the video camera or even my phone, he just stares at me while I say "uh oh" over and and over in an attempt to get him to say it. I hate it when I'm outsmarted by an almost-one-year-old.
The whole group before getting in the car for the 10 hour trip back home. My hair has never looked better, obviously.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nearly One . . .

I’ve been feeling really reflective lately as Caden’s first birthday draws close. Remembering how I felt a year ago, my belly swollen with anticipation for the new little boy who was about to join our little family. I have been surprised at how close tears are to the surface with the remembering, knowing now what I didn’t know then about what lay ahead for Caden and for our family. Recognizing the places God was about to lead us through as dark and scary but also as beautiful and life-changing and faith-altering. But it’s easier to see that now, of course, as Caden climbs into my lap and gives open-mouth kisses all over my cheeks. He is, in fact, so FULL of life and joy and wild-little-boy, that it’s hard to even believe those first days and weeks even happened.
Emotions and memories still sneak up on me, however, with astonishing speed. Watching Glory Road (which I've seen before, just never noticed), one of the players has a heart defect. And I am suddenly a wreck, Zack giggles a little and pats my leg at the welling up of tears which quickly descends into ugly-cry territory.

Just the other day, I drove past the Olive Garden where we ate the night we checked into the hospital for Caden's birth. And could not swallow down the pit in my stomach. That night, just over a year ago, I winced through contractions while eating probably three baskets of breadsticks. I chatted with the waitress about my second baby coming, telling her his name will be Caden Thomas. Adam and I dreamed together about who he would be. Would he love the outdoors like his daddy? Or prefer reading books like his mommy? Would he be another blond-haired, blue-eyed Stanley, or would he have small brown eyes and a mess of dark hair like my sisters and I did. Would he be loud? Laid-back? Funny and silly or serious and thoughtful . . . In all our chatter, never once did we stop to ask, or even consider: will his heart be formed correctly? We never even imagined he wouldn't be healthy, whole, and coming straight home with us to our brand new house in the 'hood. 

Sometimes, though, God's dreams for us are bigger than the ones we have for ourselves.
 I keep telling myself that I "should be over it." I mean, Caden is HERE. He is in my arms for most of every day, healthy and happy and adorable. And I should be over it. Right? But right in the middle of my sentence the other day, I stopped myself. Because I was telling a sweet friend that there is no such thing as "should be over it" when it comes to how we feel about things. We have to allow ourselves to grieve. To fear, to quake with the weight of almost losing your child. To sob at the realization that I will have to watch them open Caden's chest all over again in a couple years. It's ok to long for your mom, even if you've never met her. To still hurt over long-lost friendships, broken marriages. We have to let ourselves FEEL things in order to move forward, to delve deeper into His grace.

This year has taught us that sometimes God's big plans for us involve nothing more than making us smaller. Sometimes He brings us into dark valleys and hard places because we emerge on the other side as something new. With knowledge and faith and joy that runs deeper inside us because we have been cracked open.

So this week, as I am embarassingly over-taken by emotion at every turn, I'm allowing myself to feel. I'm remembering and sitting with the anticipation I felt as Caden kicked my belly and turned head-down, preparing to enter the world. And I feel the same eager expectations seep into my heart as I anticipate all the Lord has ahead for our family this next year. I know I still have some issues and hurts and fears surrounding Caden's time in the hospital, and I'm extending myself grace to work through them and learn from them as God helps me put one foot in front of the other. Not rushing the slow work of God, but savoring His presence as He walks beside me through it.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

*pictures are courtesy of the fabulous Meg Davidson Photography

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Snapshots from the lake

I mentioned in my last post that we spent a few days at the lakehouse of some fantastic and oh-so-generous friends. It was beautiful and we had a great time. And since I already told you all about it, I'm just throwing some pictures up here and calling it a day. Because we have no internet currently and I'm sitting in a neighborhood coffee shop while the kiddos next to us are listening to fart noises on their computer. Which doesn't, as it turns out, lend itself to writing anything of any importance.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gardening and Lakehouses

Seven weeks of camp, and we pull back up to our house to find our garden spilling through the chain-link fence. Bounty of corn and pumpkins and tomatoes pepper the green with shots of red and yellow and orange. The grass grows long and green, trickling through cracks in the sidewalk and covering Jayci to her knees when she wades over to the garden.
I haven’t written in so long that I don’t even know where to start. I’m overwhelmed by the blank screen, the blinking cursor. Slowly, I discover that writing comes easiest when cultivated. Just as our garden won’t grow without tilling, planting, watering, and sun shining hard. But now our garden grows wildly, overgrown with weeds and pumpkin vines snaking everywhere. Tomatoes rot on the vine and the chickens peck at squash fallen, too heavy and forgotten as they quickly turn soft brown. Our garden, as it turns out, needed tending more than once or twice in the seven weeks we were gone. Likewise, my soul feels dry, yet overgrown and out-of-control. I am tired, overcome by the enormity of weeding the garden and quieting my soul alike.

 Sometimes, it seems I just don’t know where to begin. I can’t figure out how to untangle weeds from vines. Or where to start unraveling my knotted feelings about life and ministry and working and parenting and God and trust . . . But isn’t it true that not knowing where to begin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start? I look around as we pull into our neighborhood, cringing a little at the graffiti, the trash-littered streets, the boarded up windows and shattered glass. I read about places like Haiti , rubble-lined streets and orphans and poverty that overwhelms. And sometimes, because I’m not sure where to begin, I just don’t start. The need is too great, I think. I can’t make a difference anyways, so I do nothing.

But God isn’t concerned with us changing the world, fixing everything. He wants our obedience, our faithfulness. For us to say “yes” and move forward in obedience, one step at a time. For us to enter into the hard and messy places, even while knowing that some of our kiddos wont listen. That our neighborhood will remain a place with boarded up windows and gunshots ringing in the streets. We start untangling, because in the untangling we stumble into His grace.

So hesitantly, I kneel in the dirt. As I untwist pumpkin vine and dandelions, I let my thoughts and emotions start to disentangle too. I allow quiet to surround me. The door stays closed, the yellow sign hanging inside rather than out. And that’s ok. It’s ok, I think, not to always have the answers.: to wonder, to cry, to rage, to question. God remains unchanged by my mess. He is still God, regardless of how I’m feeling about Him or towards Him. And for my every “I’m mad,” He whispers “I love you still.”

 After camp, we had planned on going to a friend’s lake house for a few days to unwind and decompress and relax. Of course, we would have our kids and Zack along, so I knew it wouldn’t simply be me sleeping and reading and whatnot, but we (for once) recognized our need to get away from it all for a minute.

Somehow, I ended up inviting some of the counselors along. Don’t get me wrong, it was perfect and fun and I’m glad they were there, and I love them dearly. It just made it less of a “getaway” than we had anticipated. But, you see, Adam and I are both pretty much on the same page when it comes to encountering people in need. Our lips are quick to blurt out, “of course.” When we learn of a kiddo in the neighborhood who isn’t eating dinner, of course they should eat with us. If someone needs a place to stay, of course they should share our extra room. If a family has nothing to eat for Thanksgiving dinner, of course we shout invite them to join us at my parents’ house, there’s always plenty of extra anyways. If someone has spent all their Christmas mornings alone, of course they should be at our house this year for Christmas. I love this about Adam (and myself too I suppose). So often, I will tell him about a need I’ve encountered, and I already know his answer will be “of course.”
But it’s also easy to wear ourselves out with all the “of course”. To forget to take care of our own hearts, our relationship, our family . . . And particularly in a season where we are emotionally and physically exhausted, I think we need to remind ourselves to take a step back every once in a while and evaluate which needs God is calling us specifically to meet.

Morning comes too soon at the lakehouse, children (particularly mine) fail to recognize that we are on vacation, and should be sleeping in. Early morning gray filters through the trees, and I sit in the white-slipcovered wingback chair, confined to the kitchen with my two little ones for fear of waking anyone else at such an early hour. I cup my coffee close, rescue books again and again from Caden’s grasping hands, and remind Jayci to color ONLY ON THE PAPER. Gazing out over the lake, I watch as the sun rises, shimmering over the water. There are two hummingbird feeders attached to the window in front of me. One is empty, the other full. Again and again, Jayci exclaims “a bird!” as hummingbirds flit quickly and busily around the empty one. They return half a dozen times at least, fitting their little nose (beak?) into the holes, only to be disappointed at its emptiness. And I wonder, every time, why they don’t notice the full feeder just a few inches to their right. Sweet sustaining nectar sits ready, waiting for them to just show up.

But isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing? Why I’m so dry and empty? I keep flitting around, “doing good,” saying yes, serving those around me, taking care of my children, trying harder to be a good mom . . . and all the while, I reach inside myself for “better,” only to find I’m trying to eat from an empty birdfeeder. And God sits, not even inches away. And He beckons: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He offers life-giving water ready to refresh and sustain me. Yet I continue to flit around, flying here and there and doing things for Christ on my own strength rather than allowing Him to love and serve through me.

Because when I’m only doing “good” things in my own power, on my own strength, aren’t I just as disobedient as when I do nothing? When I’m pointing those whose needs we are meeting to Becca rather than to Christ? When I’m running and stressing and crying and trying harder, always trying harder? And all the while, Christ invites. He promises peace, joy, rest. But none of things come until I drink deeply of Him.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Catching up in Pictures

I have a major, major case of writer's block. Or perhaps I'm just too overwhelmed by how long it's been since I posted here, and I how much I would have to say to adequately catch y'all up. Either way, the words? I have none right now.

Instead, I'm just going to catch you guys up using my 366 pictures. I'm actually quite proud of how well I'm keeping up with it . . . I've only missed a few days and the year is more than half-way over (what? how did that happen?!) Considering my track record on following through with things, this is quite the accomplishment.

I just realized the last picture I shared with you was 6-15-12, which means I'm about a month behind. My bad y'all. Consider this my apology for not being more on-top-of-all-things-especially-the-blog.


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