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Saturday, August 31st, 2013
It’s been 27 years that I’ve been on this earth….just about to enter my 28th. I haven’t taken much time to stop and think about how things are going for me right now. Life has been very busy – especially this summer. And that is to be expected for any family with toddlers I think, especially when we live in a city like Chicago that always has some way to soak up the summer days and create lasting memories to tide over the dreary and depressing winter.
But for some reason, when I realized earlier this week that I would be having a birthday soon, I became rather sullen. No sunny 93 degree day could truly annihilate this doom I’m feeling despite my best efforts. I have been in the habit of telling myself this past year that I am young, that I still have much in life to experience and see unfold. That I am blessed to have a beautiful family – to be a mother and experience that deep and sacred relationship that is meant to be kept secret but for those who experience it in the moment. Still, I’ve found myself in hyper-comparison mode this year and so as I take stock of the last 27 years of my life and look at what I expect out of year 28, I am slightly disappointed. I really can’t put my finger on what exactly is disappointing me – if it’s me, my marriage, my career (or really lack there of), my location, my distance from family, my lack of purpose. These are all things that I’ve felt this past year and sometimes much stronger than others.
Year 27 has been a hard and fantastic year. Our marriage has been challenged, and continues to be, like never before in our five year history. When I look back over the past nine years of knowing my man, I see how far we’ve come. When I look forward to families with grown children I think “my, how far we have yet to go.” It can be daunting, or seem impossible most days, but I see our baby steps – patience with each other, empathy towards each others duties, respect of each others daily grind and stresses, helping each other in taking care of our sweet little girl.
I have challenged myself more than ever before. My fulfillment and significance are daily being redefined. I no longer have a boss to report to, a paycheck to receive in exchange for my hard work, a place to go to and then shut off when I get home…I’m just. Home. I clean poop, I wipe up snot, I play dress up, I mop floors, I do dishes a thousand times a day, laundry never ends and sleep never comes. I listen to screams about 20% of waking times each day and rub backs before nap and bed time over and over and over again. I try and paint my nails and it all chips or smudges within minutes of finishing, I get to be alone in the bathroom about 3 times a week, I wear make up at best once a week. I feel sexy at best once a month. I have gone from youthful and spry 20 something, to showered hair in a bun and my third outfit of the day, holding a needy toddler 28 year old.
I know three moms as young as me, I am close with one of them. My child is older than all of theirs. My other mom friends have at least 4-5 years on me and seem much more professional – though thankfully the mom’s group I attend shows me the truth of all our chaotic and messy lives. Still, I never though at 28 years old I’d have a one and a half year old and be looking forward to number two. I thought I’d be forging my own career and at least have climbed the ladder to a lucrative position that could afford me to finalize my debt and travel a bit more. I thought I’d own lots of pencil skirts and stilettos, get my hair done regularly and and look damn fine while solving problems day in and day out at my accomplished job. Perhaps I’d be married, perhaps not. When I got married quite young, all this still seemed possible but I’d’ travel even more because my husband is also very international and we’d pay off our debt and deal with our baggage and have a nice little nest egg before we even began to think about the idea of children. I would still be involved with other girls my age and we’d go out for drinks and go to shows and have fun girlie times and our boys would go get their beers and we’d all meet up at the game and look like a beer commercial with all the happiness oozing from us.
But things changed and I felt the world caving in around me. Who knew that in March 2012 my life would forever be turned on it’s axis and happiness would take on a whole new definition. Sure, I’m a young, stay at home mom. Sure, we don’t have all our debt paid off (by a long shot) and I only own one pencil skirt and two pair of stiletto that my post pregnancy feet can’t quite comfortably wear for longer than two hours. Sure, I’ve not traveled as much as I like and haven’t been able to enjoy as much while traveling as I thought I’d get to, and sure, we only make one income instead of two. Sure, I’m the first of my group of friends to have a baby and feel quite lonely sometimes, as if all of a sudden I’m no longer an ENFJ but more of an INFJ.
So recently, with all this swarming around in my head, I’ve been thinking, what will it take to make me happy? What will it take to finally set this self pity aside and actually just enjoy life? The answer has come as subtly and as swiftly as the whisper God used to speak to Elijah. In all the flurry of the day and the self thinking, my daughter began to really come out of her shell. I no longer have time to really sit and think about myself and what I wanted and who I am because chances are it’ll be interrupted my my toddler running her drunken run into the office with a maraca and a baby doll in her hand screaming her girlie little excited scream and expecting me to pick her up and kiss her smack on the lips. My life doesn’t consist of climbing a ladder or wearing a skirt or looking hot all the time. It consists of making another person feel like what they do matters, that they are important and special and that their development and nurture is my number one priority whether they know it or not.
It’s amazing to look at my daughter and see the way she takes my face in, how she looks at me for approval or disapproval of actions and how she looks from my face to daddy’s face when we’re having a family hug. When she says my name first thing in the morning, and hugs me with her sweet sleepy head on my shoulder and startles up just to make sure it’s really me who’s holding her and then plants me with a nice slobbery kiss, then I am happy. We have hard days, days of tantrums (they seem to be mounting as the terrible twos approach..eeeeeek) where the house doesn’t get clean, or I have a deadline so I thrown on Curious George and mentally kick myself for the screen time, days where I think I’ve failed as a mother. But every day is new, and filled with beautiful things to take up or forget about.
And every, single, day, the Lord looks at me the same way I look at my little one. He looks at me and rejoices when I say his name – he inclines his ear until he hears me utter that beautiful name, “Jesus” and he rejoices over it with singing. Do you know that? I just read that in Zephaniah 3:17. He, he who gave up his life for us, who sees all that has been and all that will come, who knows all the choices I’m going to make, rejoices of me with singing despite.
As Naph and I investigate the calling we feel in our lives from the Lord, and as we take this relationship with Him seriously for ourselves individually and as parents, we are learning a new way of experiencing joy and happiness that doesn’t always look the same as what is expected. And some have even told us that we are crazy to look forward to serving the Lord in an incredibly hands on way through missional work. But my heart leaps, and speeds up and my stomach jumps with excitement as I think of pursuing the things that we’ve been made to do that are so incredibly untraditional.
So for year 28 I want a few things.
1. I want to wake up every day saying, “Jesus” in the same longing way my daughter says, “Momma.”
2. I want to be content that my boss is invisible and has a higher standard than any other boss on earth would ever have, and has a “no firing” policy of grace for when I fail miserably.
3. I want to make an effort to be a wife and lover first and then a mother so that my team mate and partner can get as much of me as our children, and will always have first dibs at the best parts of me.
4. I want to be more adventurous and less anal.
5. I want to kayak and camp, explore and scrape a knee or two and make new memories in our current homeland.
6. I want to learn to manage my time with photography better so that my family doesn’t ever get the short end of the stick.
7. I want to pay off as much debt as possible even if that means home updates and fashion upgrades don’t happen.
8. I want to see each day with the joy I can sap out of it, instead of let the overwhelmed self pity sap me.
9. I want to talk more about my past, hash out the things that need to be hashed out and overcome my cynicism and vice for comparison.
10. I want to be confident in my role – whatever that may be.
I will probably append this list as the year rolls on but, whether I update here or mentally, I plan to keep this list visible so I can remind myself to take charge of year 28 and live life to the fullest.
Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
We will always have information we have to upload into our brains, process and then digest. Naphtali and I are finally in a place where we are digesting what we processed in Europe. The thing is, I can sit here and write and write and write about all the meetings we had, the little fights we picked, the decisions we subconsciously made about our future, the ways we saw God working in everything we experienced. But none of it means anything until we sit down and allow it to seep into our brains and live out in our lives before we begin to pen anything. Sometimes I feel like I write things down so that I can make note and then move on. It’s like a form of therapy, they say, writing what you are feeling. The only thing is that sometimes when I write I allow the things I am processing to live there, on the proverbial page, and forget to take it up again into my heart. How many books have been written this way? Where we write out our thoughts, publish them, receive acclaim and then forget to live by them once they’ve been digested by multitudes?
And so, I ended writing Day 4 realizing we had much more to process before sharing it with the world. We needed to sit and talk, we needed to dream a bit more, we needed to confess and communicate to each other, as a couple, a unit, before giving you all that information. It’s like we didn’t want to write or say anything because words are hard to take back and we didn’t want to promise anything with our words before we really truly believed it in our marriage, our commitments and our hearts. Now, here I sit, three weeks after our return from Europe and I think I’m finally coming out of the fog of confusion on what just happened and am able to give my words a place for others to read with out feeling like I’m disconnecting with what they will mean.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean we know very much. Haha. Because in our commitment to letting God open and close doors for us, we’ve decided to take a step back in terms of defining things and take a step forward in simply trusting that we have some of it figured out. For instance, we know we are going to shoot for re-applying/going forward with our previous application at the end of this year/beginning of 2014. We know our goal is to be in the March Interview and Orientation that MTW (the organization we would be going with) puts on. We know that I have the opportunity of a dream job and so I’m going to begin to write my job description this week and pray over the back and forth that will happen over the next couple months and be a window into what God is making for us. We know that we are called to live overseas, hopefully within the next two years. We know we both finally feel the call to Chile. I’ve always hesitated, Naph has always known.
We don’t know when (realistically) we would go over seas. We don’t know when this job for me would kick in, where we would be located, if I could do it overseas or if it would be temporary, how much money we have to raise, if we are going to continue living in Chicago or if we are only here for another year. And these are just the things we don’t know in regards to the questions we asked of the Lord for our trip to Europe. We also don’t know when we should think about baby #2 (I have a bit of baby fever these days….like really bad. Ironic, no?) We don’t know if Naph’s job will continue being successful, when we will pay off debt, when I’ll finally take that stupid Corporate Finance class so I can get my degree! (It’s been four years). And for me personally – the things I don’t know could fill pages and pages. It’s quite terrifying really.
There was a point, perhaps I relayed it already in a previous blog, but Naph and I were walking on the beach in Spain. We were not truly appreciating the beauty and blessing in our surroundings because we were in a bit of a battle. There are days when I say I could go anywhere, do anything; that my heart is so big it could bear adopting or fostering hundreds of children who just need love. I could live in one place for a year and move the next and live a nomadic live. But then the sun sets, a new day starts and I am trapped in this cloud of fear. Where will my children go to school? Will they get a good education? Will they learn about God or will we forget? Will we have to learn a whole new language or can we just stay with what we know? Will we rent or own? Will we like it? Will we be the missionaries who cause drama, or will we be on the receiving end? Will we hurt others deeply? Will others hurt us deeply? Will one of our children give us more grief than we can handle? Will all our children?
And as I vocalized this all to my husband, he snickered and said, “so you want to control everything?” And as my mouth formed the easy excuse of, “No, I just…” it hit me. That is exactly true. I just want to control it because then God can work through me in the controlled environment that I’ve approved. Naph suggested that perhaps I talk with some other moms on the mission field and so I did. That night I talked to a couple who have been overseas only two months and they have a 15 month old. I asked her if it was hard doing all this transition with a baby and what they knew and what they didn’t know. She said they never chose Columbia but that was where they were placed and it was perfect. That they realized they trusted the Lord with themselves and then learned it wasn’t actually trust. It was just a term they used because they are adults so they can control their environment and don’t really need to trust the Lord unless something terrible goes on. But then, when they moved to a place they didn’t even know the language of with a new little guy, they actually did have to trust. In so many new and complex ways. Their little guy can’t talk, can’t speak multiple languages, can’t buy food, can’t do anything for himself. He is completely reliant and as a mother, she just has to trust that the Lord has all of them in his hand including their little helpless boy. And that was profound to me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. All this time I’ve been so hypocritical and ignorant. All this time I’ve taken my experience as a missionary kid and assumed that I know what it’s like to be a missionary. When in reality I have NO IDEA AT ALL. As an MK you are brought into the live of ministry but you weren’t called, you weren’t the one raising support saying goodbye to your parents to go do ministry in a foreign country. You’re a tag along. You’re still significant, but this choice to live overseas wasn’t yours. As a missionary you have to feel the calling of the Lord, you and your spouse should agree on this call and you learn that you will make the biggest most painful sacrifices of your live starting with saying goodbye to those you love the most to go share Jesus with those who don’t love you at all.
My parents did that. My husband’s parents did that. The hundreds of missionaries who were at this retreat did that. They denied father and mother, took up their cross and followed Him. And I know that sounds super churchy. But think of this. These missionaries, especially those to Europe, have an incredibly hard way of it. Most countries in Europe feel that they have matured beyond the church. That God is a cute idea, or more, a foolish idea that our ancestors believed but Thank goodness we’ve evolved beyond that. You must be a fool to practice something so intangible as faith and beyond just that but faith in a higher Being ordaining all!? Bahhahaha. This is the European mindset towards God. SO these missionaries go and set up their lives among people who will laugh, and ridicule and mock and martyr them. They will go years and years just fostering a single relationship that finally is showing hope. And you know what? Sometimes that person kills themselves, or they move on, or they choose to stop talking to you. And year after year, in a country with no formal churches to go at least worship in once a week to receive some form of comfort, these missionaries do it. They form friendship after friendship, and feel withered and hopeless at times. But God sustains them and so they carry on. During our final Sunday service where all of us joined together for the final hurrah there was an opportunity during communion for families to go and receive prayer from different groups. And it hit me. These people must feel so refreshed being in this environment – where they can worship like they used to back home, where they can all speak in the same language with out having to run a dialogue in their brain before speaking so they don’t make a gramatical error, they know their children are safe, they receiving teaching from someone who wants to pour into THEM instead of vice versa. These people are tired and their cups are slowly emptying and then they come to these retreats and are given some sustenance so they can go back to the country they are serving in and do some more ministry and slowly be depleted again. And I’m not saying this to be depressing, but to be reminded of the seriousness that it means to give your life to the Lord. That when we say “Here am I, send me!” we aren’t being ignorant, or fool hardy but that we know things will be difficult and still we are able to consider it all joy.
Then I thought about what else it takes to be a missionary. For most people it means you shop at thrift stores for the rest of your life, that you don’t get a normal paycheck just for what you do but you have to make reports, visit churches, put your life on display so that others can judge and see if they want to support what you are doing financially. You give up the idea of nice things and manicured appearances. This isn’t something we are unaware of. If you look around our house you’ll see that it looks alright but it’s not cute or thematic in any way. In fact 90% of our home was either given to us or bought at a thrift store or from friends at really really low prices. The things we’ve paid full price for have taken months and months of saving. And this is how life will be for us forever. Sometimes I get depressed by that. I want to have pretty things, I want my house to be artistic and a gallery of whimsy and my personality….all the while incurring more debt. But instead we choose to put our money to pay off student loan debt and live as frugally as we can while also allowing for a few perks here and there. It’s the environment we grew up in but not the one we,deep down in our hearts, ever wanted.
So we are beginning to see how we are taking on more than we can handle, but we also know that that isn’t exactly true. God knows what we can handle and He is patient and gracious with us as we fail daily to recognize this and impose our on limitations on the daily choices presented to us. I’m learning to realize that this level of processing is what we will be doing for the rest of our lives. Hopefully, we will be on the look out for new things on the horizon that God has in store for us and we will, at each step, take a look at the process He is doing and try and recognize up from down, right from wrong, who we are meant to be from who we want to be. And truth be told, isn’t this the journey we are all on in one way or another, whether we are spiritual or not? We are all trying to figure out where we fit best and what we were most meant to do. We obviously are creative beings who were made with the purpose of something unique to us or else we would all look alike as would our environments. Hm.
So I think I’ve finally chewed the life out of these latest nuggets and will updating a little more on the trip this week. I think I needed a break from the story telling to do all the above thinking. Thanks for being patient with me.
In regards to the trip itself, there will be a better/less lengthy thank you letter coming out hopefully by the end of this/next week that will also remind you of the ways you can still donate to our trip. We are still about $1600 shy of what we needed to raise so we need to get that money back to those who fronted it for us. If you’re interested in more details let me know and I’ll make sure you get the letter.
Sunday, May 12th, 2013
I think last year I probably wrote some cute card to my mom about Mother’s day and how much I relate on the motherhood subject. But within the past 365 days I’ve realized how hilariously stupid that is and how wrong I was. Every single day I realize how little I know about being a mom. How silly a first time mother is in her new role of thinking she’s finally conquered the big mountain of bearing and birthing a baby. But, whew! My mom did this four times! Naph’s mom did it five! I mean, what?!
How the HELL (sorry mom, but it’s what I say sometimes when I’m staring at a snotty sobbing face and realize you did this with four kids) did you survive?!?!?!?!
I have one, one little ray of sunshine who actually charms the socks off of me more than she makes me mad and still sometimes things get to big for me and I feel like I’m drowning and I think how thankful I am that I only have one right now. I look forward to the slew of children that will make this home wildly disordered but along with that I am daunted by the levels of sacrifice and selflessness that they will cause in me. Is that strange? I just know it’s going to happen and I sort of dread it. I like being ignorantly selfish. Still, I know it is a worthy endeavor and perhaps, on the other end of it all, I’ll have kids like my parents. Not to say we’re all awesome, but in spite of all the things that could have gone wrong, and way the that we see the youths and adults around us, we’re pretty lucky and we’ve turned out pretty well. I hope I can look at my offspring and feel proud, relieved and thankful. I think that is what my mom and my mother-in-law seem like, having been parents for 32 and 28 years respectively.
So from this mom of one year, I say a hearty “Thank You” and proclaim a resounding “Hurrah, yip yip yip!” to the hard working mother of mine who traveled continents, rallied supporters, stayed up late doing projects, prayed with out ceasing and wipe away tears with out judgement. I hope to be just like you as I raise my wee ones.
And to the mommies of adopted children and women who wish they could be mommies but can’t carry their own and to the mommies who’s babies didn’t get to see how beautiful this earth is after all, you are fierce warriors as well. You heart has endured more sorrow than I can know and your love has found new and beautiful ways to express itself that many women will never understand. Many of you struggle silently or only with a few people to carry you along as you hurt and battle the days like today that remind you of how different your life is than other women’s. And though I know I can’t fully relate, I want you to know that you aren’t un-thought of or anonymous. I have shed tears for you and I have longed to embrace you as you let out your sadness completely. I hope you have a group of women who can sorrow with you and who can rejoice with you as you take the next step in your life wherever that may be.
At a goodbye party to a sweet mom who moved away last year, she said a prayer thanking the Lord for all the mommies, the babies who came, the babies who came but didn’t stay long and the babies who were never meant to linger outside the womb. Because no matter what, our lives were changed because of these precious babies and our hearts expanded to proportions never seen before.
Love is a much greater word than that which can be described as a fuzzy feeling and it is something women alone experience to it’s greatest definition.
Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Women’s Day. Happy You Who’s Heart Has Grown Day.