Thursday, September 27, 2012

about something totally different...

I haven't posted in...a long long time. And since I last posted, Facebook has stopped doing auto-uploads of every publication. So I'm feeling freer to post, even if I haven't taken the time.

So this post is for posterity, mostly. I have things--thoughts, occurrences--that I need to record before they are long gone (with my sanity).

Almost a year ago, the Lord answered a big, broad, long-standing prayer of mine: send me on mission. As a teen, I was sure I would be a foreign missionary; it just made sense. So I eagerly prepared my heart to GO. My freshman year in college, I fell in love. Hard. With a man who was just coming into his faith. With time, Jarrad began to seek ministry of his own. But my [now] husband's idea of "mission" has been much less narrow than mine. And so we stayed. I have never felt such an internal paradox than the years when I felt we were embracing comfort and convenience at the expense of REAL mission. Of course, my head knew all along that, as a follower of Christ, I am on mission wherever He places me, and that there are people who need Him everywhere I turn. But it just felt easy, and comfortable. And that made me ill-at-ease, and uncomfortable.

Still, when I mentioned making a dramatic move of some sort, Jarrad never felt that the Lord was leading our family in that direction. I prayed God would change his mind.

So I worked at a normal job. And then I had a baby, so I quit my job in the school system to stay home. And those were some years of feeling aimless. Sure, I maintained relationships with people for whom the Lord gave me intense love--a little boy with lots of special needs and his family, neighbors with a VERY different cultural background than my own. But yet, I felt aimless. And fruitless. And even though people were constantly saying that my children are my ministry, it just didn't feel complete.

Finally, a couple months after my third child turned one, a supernatural thing happened. I had been thinking through the ministry of adoption. Adoption is another God-thing that I've wanted to do since I was a teenager. And again, Jarrad and I never seem to be on the same page. As friends around us began to submit their dossiers, and as I read of families welcoming new members by way of adoption, and as my envy for all of them rose, I began processing the scripture that speaks to adoption. I was feeling like we, as Christians, have taken a huge interest in the orphan, but have ignored the widow. I began to ask questions: Who is the orphan? Who is the widow? Many dictionaries define "orphan" as a child who is without one or both parents. The "fatherless" child would be considered an "orphan," especially in Biblical times, as the child of a widow had no provision unless the Church stepped in. And so, we might consider that, all around us, we have functional widows--women who are single moms--and their functional orphans--fatherless children. What would it look like to really care for these functional widows and orphans--the ones who live next door and shop at our same grocery store? Would it be merely offering financial assistance to bail them out of the current month's expenses? Would it be looking at them with scorn and offering advice on how to "fix" their "situation."

It is difficult, as a human, to accept the thought of purely caring for the needs of another person--someone who may not do the things they "ought" to do, or who makes one dumb decision after another. It's hard to watch, and even harder to partner with that person. But maybe that's what the Lord wants us to do, in our modern society, with our modern widows. After all, we cannot truly care for these fatherless children without benefiting their single parent. And if we refuse to do that, because we see it as "enabling" or just plain annoying, then we must not be surprised when the cycle repeats itself. Over, and over.

So anyway, the Lord gave me all of about three weeks to process this predicament. And then we found out that a family we knew was being evicted from their apartment. Again. It was a mom and her two daughters--6th grade and 9th grade. And even though I'm a sucker for helping the helpless, I did NOT want to help. We knew this family well enough to know that the mom was a perpetual victim and completely self-absorbed, and that they would be homeless as a direct result of her irresponsible decisions. This would be the second round of being homeless in just a few months. The first time was during summer vacation, and they just kind of hopped from one friend to another or slept in their car, and the younger girl stayed out of town with her father most of the time (a man who never bothers to contact her, though she was extremely excited about the time she got to spend with him). But this time, school was in session. And I felt burdened for the lack of stability in the girls' lives.

Driving home from church after a few days of thinking through the situation, and as the date of their eviction grew closer, I finally worked up the nerve to say something to my sweet husband, being sure he would say, "Over my dead body."

"Soooo..." I began, "I've been thinking we should ask [the family] to come stay with us." Jarrad slowly replied, "I had the same thought." Wait. You did?? Oh, no. This is going to be a lot of work.

So I texted the mom. And since she's not in the habit of turning down an offer like that, they moved in the following week, right before Thanksgiving. They stayed with us for six weeks, while the mom started [another] new job and saved up some money. She found a landlord willing to cut her a LOT of slack to rent to them, and they moved out shortly after the girls started their second semester of school.

During those weeks, I thought MANY times that I had never ever worked so hard in my life. Every single day ended in exhaustion. James was at that laborious age when I had to watch him like a hawk, I was trying to figure out how to homeschool my own 5-year-old, I was cooking every night for eight people, I was helping the older girls with homework and trying to encourage them academically, and I was trying to speak into their mom's life as much as she would allow. I could barely keep my head above water, but, at the same time, it was a most fulfilling sort of exhaustion.

Once they moved out, the girls continued to ride the bus to my house. At first, it was just two or three times a week, but it quickly became the daily routine. They were with us almost nightly until their mom got off work, which was sometimes at 10 o'clock. We all got used to each other and the dynamics, and the girls seemed to thrive with the consistency our home provided. By the end of the school year, though, I was feeling pushed on many levels, the most superficial of which included the 6th grade girl challenging my authority on several occasions.

Summer rolled around, and I was determined to be intentional with the girls. I encouraged them to continue coming over (rather than being left alone at home while their mom worked). We registered them each for a week of camp. We worked out a system through which they could earn money--by reading books, doing manual labor, working through a math curriculum, etc. We set parameters on how much internet they could use each day, how much snacking is allowed, who would be responsible for kitchen clean up after dinner, etc. There were weeks during the summer when we saw the girls a lot, and there were other weeks when we saw them none (whether we were traveling, or I was sick in my first trimester of pregnancy, they were with friends, or just for whatever reason). I was looking forward to school starting--to having a routine. I was also determined to see the girls achieve academically. They hadn't really been encouraged academically, and it felt like an uphill battle. But this time, we'd be starting at the very beginning. I intended to get all the information up front so I wouldn't be working blindly. And that's what I did. We took both girls to their school's orientation nights the week before school started. I met their teachers and got on their email lists. I wrote down websites and memorized their schedules. I bought remaining supplies they needed and made suggestions on ways to organize, especially for the now-10th grader. In the interest of establishing routine, I planned to start our own homeschooling on the same day they started school, but I had much more anxiety about their start than ours.

But once school started, it became quickly apparent that, even though it seemed like the obvious and easiest route for me to take, academics is not their focus. And now I'm figuring that's not exactly my calling here. Duh.

So what is? All last school year, I was so worn out, that I just kept telling God that I trusted that the little bit I felt I was giving them would be exactly what God wanted them to have. Now that I'm used to feeding so many mouths and juggling all of it ALL the time, I feel like I can give more. Last night, I heard a testimony of a young guy we know, who spoke fondly of his upbringing and of his parents. They were leaders in their church, and he loved church and youth group. But, he said, his parents don't really talk a lot about Christ in their home. And he earnestly seemed hurt by that.

I get it. These girls are at a critical stage of life. I should be able to pour the Word into them. It should be ready conversation. But somehow, I feel paralyzed. I don't know how to bring it up, or what to say. Which is dumb, because I actually do know what to say. I am completely faithless in sharing Truth with them on a daily basis. I do my best to impart "values" without actually talking to them about the Gospel. How weak.

So what do I do? I continue to trust that exactly what I have to offer right now is exactly what the Lord desires for them and for our own little family. At the same time, I have to become more diligent in my own prayer life and study of the Word, so that I have something substantial to share with them. After all, how can I share Truth, when it feels like old news to me? It sounds terrible to say, but it's the ugliness of my heart right now. I have spent months feeling like I'm drowning, and I'm starting to come up for air. The truth is, I never needed to drown in the first place. But in the Lord's timing, that's where I've been. I can't stay, though. Lord, please don't let me stay.

[Friend, if you are reading this, and it is about you, please forgive me. This is the honest out-pouring of my heart. It isn't always pretty, but it's real. I would love to talk it through, face-to-face. I want better for you. I want the best for you and for your family. I don't always feel free to share honestly with you, but if you would welcome that, I would want that, too. I love all three of you dearly.]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

for the record

James was determined to make mischief yesterday, and I'm not so sure it's not a trend, but anyway..

I was in the kitchen yesterday afternoon (as I am many many afternoons), and James came in and spotted the unlocked pots cabinet. He shrieked (he has this great alarm-like scream that he reserves for when he spots something he has access to which he knows he should not have access to) and went right over to open the cabinet. I caught him in time, of course, since I was right next to him. So he quickly gave up that fight and ran over to the cabinet under the sink, which contains all of the chemicals. I keep it locked with one of those plastic cabinet-locker-thingys that slides around the handles. James, with all of his 16-month might, rips open the doors, busting the lock into two pieces. He was so pleased. Sweet Rachel ran right to my bathroom to get a ponytail holder so I could tie it shut...phew! He then went right to removing my pans from their drawer. He later disappeared briefly, and I caught him running around with a stick of butter (but that was on the counter...he's not tall he??). He thought he was such big stuff on that one. Then later, when I was removing the freshly-baked brownies to a plate, little James was pitching an absolute fit--tantrum--to have some brownie. I had given him a couple of bites, but then I said no more. He was throwing himself around and scream-crying--so dramatic was he. He got over it fairly quickly, though, and I thought to myself, "well that didn't last long...I'm glad he got over that!" I finished filling the plate with brownies, and then I glanced over to see my boy stuffing his face with a brownie that he apparently was able to swipe from the plate!! He was in a ZONE chowing down on that thing, so when I said, "JAMES!" it startled him good-fashioned, and he looked up at me, as guilty and he could be! Today, the child pushed a chair over to the fridge and commenced playing with the ice/water dispenser, right behind my back while I was doing something else! STINKER!!!

*sigh* He sure is cute...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

inquiring minds

Rachel: Mimi, do all firefighters love Jesus?

Mimi: No, not all firefighters.

Rachel: Well if they don't love Jesus, than why do they go into fires and save people?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the birthday--the big ONE

My baby boy turned one last weekend. It's a little hard to take when people start remarking, "He's not really a baby anymore, is he?" "YES HE IS," screams my soul--but I know he isn't. I sure do love this kid.

Since I've failed to post more than, oh, say, twice regarding my third-born, here are a few milestones and things-I-wanna-remember:

  • True to form for our Giles babies, he took his first steps at 9 months, and really started walking well quickly.
  • Unlike his sisters, who had only their 2 bottom teeth at their first birthday, this kid had 7.
  • He ate baby food for a brief few weeks before he began to refuse it, demanding--in a very communicative fashion--table food. The girls did not care a thing about any of that, and continued to eat baby food for a few weeks even after their first birthdays. He also LOVES meat, which the girls still don't care much about.
  • "Mama" was James's first word, which is a nice contrast to the "Dada" I never heard the end of with the girls (hehe). HOWEVER, he seems to have forgotten that sweet-sounding word. He now says "Dada" aaaaall the time, but he calls me "AAAHHHHHH!" Yes, he yells at me. And I suppose I respond, and so that's why he keeps doing it, but whatinthaworld should I do? Anyway, like Carly, he has swiftly figured out how to get his point across by pointing, yelling, grunting, and generally making his wishes known. And, like his sisters, he is a tough one to convince when my ideas conflict with his.
  • He disobeys a little more readily than I remember his sisters doing. He turns "no touch" into a big game of "dodge-the-swat," which he finds hilarious.
  • He's bigger than his sisters. Although he's been in size 12 month clothes since the age of 6 months, he's still adequately taller--as in, he can reach things that I never remember worrying about Baby Rachel or Baby Carly reaching.
  • Rachel and Carly's first pairs of shoes were size 3. James's little sandals are size 5. And his toes already hang off the ends.
  • He is content and quiet as long as he is walking around carrying something he thinks he shouldn't have.
  • James likes Rachel well enough, but he is most interested in Carly. Carly didn't pay James much attention for many months--until he started walking. I guess he became a peer at that point, and she suddenly fell in love. He thinks she's so funny, and he knows exactly how to push her buttons and make her squawk, and he does it ALL day long.
  • He's lovey, and he offers a forehead-bump and a coo to anything with a cute face (stuffed animal, doll, Carly). Sometimes he offers these sweet exchanges to me and to others, and I cherish those sweet little moments.
  • He's not much into snuggling now that he's a big one-year-old. I used to rock him every night, but now he just squirms and fusses when I try, until I finally just toss him in his crib and bid him farewell. He goes to sleep without a hitch, thankfully, and he sleeps quite well all night.
  • He takes two He WAS taking two great naps, but for the last month (and I've been in denial about the trend, but anyway), he has had more one-nap days than two-nap days. I don't know what he's thinking, but he plays/sings/yells through one of his naps at least 3-4 days EVERY week now. HOW could he POSSIBLY be even THINKING of dropping a nap. I won't have it. :)
  • He also seems to be disinterested in nursing, which is earlier than either of the girls. Sad.

That's all I can think of for now. This boy sure does make our days more fun, and I can't wait to see the man he turns out to be. In the meantime, I'll keep babying my baby boy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

breakfast chatter

At the breakfast table this morning with Rachel (5yo) and Carly (2.5yo)...
  • Mommy: The Bible says we should do everything "as unto the Lord." How can we do that?
  • Rachel: Praise God!

  • Mommy: How can we praise God in everything we do?

  • Rachel: Pray and read the Bible.

  • Mommy: How about when we do other things? How do you play when you play with your sister?

  • Rachel: Be kind!

  • Mommy: YES! That's one way we can do everything "as unto the Lord." When we are kind to each other, God feels that we love Him, and we always want God to feel that we love Him, right?

  • Rachel: But we can't always be kind. We can't always make good choices.

  • Mommy: Why not?

  • Rachel: Well, because, we always sin just a little bit. I can't always make good choices.

  • Mommy: That's true! But we can always try, can't we.

  • Carly: But someone taked away our bad choices. Someone did.

  • Mommy: Yeah? Who did?

  • Carly: Jesus did.

  • Mommy: And how did He do that?

  • Carly: He died on the cross.

  • Mommy: Yes He did! And He rose from the dead so that we can have eternal life!

Thank you, God, for these precious children and their sweet faith. Thank you for the simplicity of your Gospel--that my children can know it and understand it. I pray that they own it and know that it was for THEM that you sent your Son--that you, Jesus, died for Rachel and for Carly and for James. What good news!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

oh the wonder of my wandering and wondering mind

I am 30 years old. I've birthed 3 babies in the last five years. The clothes that I keep shrinking back into are out of style now, and too young for me anyway. And I can't imagine a day when I will ever be alone and not preoccupied with the whereabouts and goings-on of my family. Life is different.

I catch myself thinking that my best days are behind me--that my window of opportunity to do the fun things in life is gone. I have been realizing lately that there is a list of things I long to do. I miss playing team sports: basketball and soccer. I wish I had had the opportunity to roller derby when I was freer to do that kind of thing. I want to go to an open mic and play my guitar and sing my heart out; I didn't do it enough when I had the chance, and I want to get better at it, too. I wish I had learned to dance.

But there's a duality here. I miss those things and I want to do them. On the other hand, I know full well that if I step onto a soccer field tomorrow, it would not be fun--at least not the fun I remember it being. I know that I could not compete well enough in basketball to make myself happy. I know that roller derby would ache my aging body. And I could go to open mic, but my mind would be racing with all the things being neglected at home, not to mention the fact that I had not had time to practice my singing/playing, which would also render it not-as-fun. And I just feel too old to learn to dance.

How did I get here?? Maybe it's true--that my best days are behind me. Or maybe I am moving to a new stage of life. Hmmm... Maybe I should be finding new things from which to derive pleasure and enjoyment. Is it sewing? Maybe sewing is my new fun-thing-to-do. It's just not the same, though. I like it, but it's just not the same.

My firstborn, Rachel, just turned 5 years old. I've never wished her to be involved in any organized sports or activities until recently. She suddenly seems old enough--ready. Where should we go with this? Tae Kwon Do would teach her self control and spacial awareness, which she definitely needs. So would dance or gymnastics. She would love a team sport, because she's so social. I look online for dance studios nearby, and I find one that seems great. Even greater, is that they have a horrible website, so I begin thinking that Jarrad might possibly be able to work out a barter with them so it's not so expensive. There are some youtube videos on their site, and WOW there are some dancers doing some amazing things! They look so athletic and precise. I watch the same video several times, and show Jarrad.

The images from that video stay in my mind, and as I daydream in the following days, I suddenly realize that I'm not wishing I could do that. I'm not imagining myself in that studio, learning choreography and excelling as a dancer. My daydream is not of myself, but of Rachel.

And then it hits me like a gust of wind that takes my breath away: my new fun-thing-to-do is to watch my children grow, learn, mature, achieve, and excel. My new best enjoyment is their enjoyment. I will henceforth be most delighted when they are delighted.

I can see now that my best days are ahead. And as my fun will be their fun, I anticipate that my heartbreak will come when their hearts break. My saddest moments will be when they are sad and I can't fix it.

And so I stay tuned for a richness of life I have not yet experienced. I imagine that the happiness and pleasure and enjoyment that I experienced in my youth might pale in comparison to the happiness and pleasure and enjoyment I derive from my children's experiences. I know I have already learned so much more from these little ones than I could possibly have learned as a student--even when I was at the pinnacle of my formal education. All of those lessons now have flesh, and they teach me and re-teach me every single day.

I'm a mommy now. And suddenly I feel freer than ever to embrace my new(er) role in life. Thank you, Jesus. My freedom is in you, and you alone. I know my selfish pursuits will leave me empty. Thank you for giving me new joy every day. Thank you for the reminder that I am not made to live forever or to be stuck in the same place forever. Thank you God for your promise to make me whole again--the perfect version of me--when you redeem me to glory one day, to sit with you and to sing praises to Jesus forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

i like my kids part deux

I have thought many many times over the last few months about how much I'm missing out on recording memories. Right now, the kids are all sound asleep, the hubs, who is usually burning the midnight oil doing work, is also sound asleep, and I have the quiet house. So here goes:

Rachel. This girl drives me nuts, no doubt. From the time she was a tiny little thing, she has been so intense. As soon as she figured out the whole language thing, she was talking. Nonstop. But I don't need to recount that, because I used to write a blog post every. single. day. But, hey, that's how it is with the first, right?!? Anyway, I was entirely hopeful that she would snap into some reasonable level of maturity when she turned four, but this last year has had its own trying times. But by and by, I see glimpses of that big girl I've been hoping for. She's definitely not a baby anymore, and we've had to cross bridges of unchartered waters this year--like explaining that she can't be lovey dovey with every man she meets (only family, please), and that it's just not cute when she fake laughs or acts wild around new people. Seems like common sense stuff, but I suppose we were taught it once, too (thanks, mom and dad...seriously). She's growing up. But wasn't she just a baby??

There are two things about Rachel that I am fascinated to watch and encourage. One thing is that she loves--and I mean LOVES--to do things with her hands. If it's a craft, she's all over it. Glue, scissors, stamps, stickers, markers, paint, fabric, beads--these things are not safe if she's around. A few weeks ago, Jarrad gave me flowers (I know--sweet, right?). I cut them down a bit and pulled off some of the leaves so they would look nice in my vase. Before I had a chance to clean up after myself, Rachel had created a picture for each kid in her preschool class using those discarded items. She glued one leaf and one stem to each piece of paper, colored a little, and wrote her friends' names. She was sure to take them to school the next day and handed them out so proudly.

And that brings me to the second fascinating-thing-about-Rachel. The girl loves loves loves giving gifts. Oddly, "gifts" is one of my love languages, which is quite handy (they say you speak your own language easiest, so I assume that the fact that Rachel loves to give gifts reflects that that's how she also feels loved). Last week, she came into my room one morning before school, and she asked if she could please give each of her friends an animal. Bear in mind that Rachel loves her stuffed animals and dolls. She plays with them more than any other type of toy. But I will be the first to admit that sometimes I feel like the stuffed animals might attempt a coup d'etat and completely take over, and so I did not object to her idea. I had no hand in the process whatsoever (I had my hand in other daily preparations), and she took it upon herself to find a bag and loaded up ten of her favorites. I was aghast at which ones she chose, and [sadly] I had to repress the urge to talk her out of some of them (why would I do that?? but I was still oddly bothered that she wanted to get rid of some of those animals that she loves so much). I reasoned in my head, though, that our friends and family who have gifted her with so many lovely toys and animals do so because they think those things will bring her joy, and, well, if they will bring her joy by giving them away, then I most certainly should not stand in her way, and I most certainly should encourage her. Do not hold onto things of this world, Child. And so she happily took all of the animals to school and handed them out, one-by-one, each child receiving the particular animal Rachel picked out for him/her. She was so happy. "Do you know why I want to do that, Mommy? Because I love people." She really said that. And I was so proud and thankful. And it's so odd, too, because she really has trouble (like any kid) sharing her toys when friends come over, or even especially with her sister. I guess that's different, somehow.

I really can't wait to see how these things grow with Rachel. Will she always love to craft? Will giving always come so naturally to her, or will she become jaded? Maybe we were all like that once, who knows?

Well, that's Rachel. I think I'll end here and join the rest of my family's snooze time. The next chance I have to sit and ramble, I'll spill all about Carly--the sweet-faced one. That little girl definitely keeps me on my toes..