Friday, November 25, 2011

How I want to celebrate.

Sometimes, I put too much pressure on myself for holidays. I don't know. I spend regular days sometimes, in my worst moments, worrying that I am somehow am screwing it all up for my kids. So, on any given holiday I am capable spending at least half of it worrying that I am doing it all wrong......which ironically, if you are sitting at a holiday gathering worrying if you are doing it all wrong then you are. So relax, self, chill out.

I have been spending some time thinking about Christmas, how I want our family to celebrate. I have such rich memories of Christmas growing up. Of setting out the nativity and reading "The Night Before Christmas," of gingerbread houses and lighting advent candles. I want my girls to have the same.

I don't think there is anything wrong with waking up on Christmas morning and looking forward to your presents. We didn't always have the money to make every kids wish on Christmas morning. But my gifts were always well thought out. I opened them and knew that my parents had paid attention to my wants and needs. I felt loved.

I want that for my girls. I want them to know that I pay attention to and care about the things that they love. But I can already see how fast it can happen, how your house can fill up with plastic and your kids can never be satiated. How it can become all about more, more, more.

I have heard people who are commenting on it all running together. Thanksmas they are calling it. I think that reflecting on what I am thankful for is perhaps the best way to start my Christmas season. But I am not in love with the phrase "Thanksmas." That whole taking Christ out of Christmas thing. So I shoved it together the other way in my head and came up with "Christ-giving". Now that is a holiday I can get behind. A whole holiday month I can celebrate.

I want this to be a time where my girls celebrate what Christ has given to our family. The enormity of Him coming to earth as a baby, as well as the smallest miracle of a parking space close to the store with an empty shopping cart next to it when it is raining and we need it most. Christ has given me every good thing in my life, and I want to reflect on that. And I want those gifts to inspire us to give generously, in the name of Christ. To decide that instead of one more toy at our house, we would rather take an extra name off of the angel tree.

I want to celebrate Christ giving me my family, for providing this year for us abundantly. Giving me my salvation and then lavishing his gifts still further. Wanting wonderful things for me. I want to celebrate by allowing Christ to move into our hearts and move us to give. So, happy "Christ-giving" to you and yours. May God richly bless you as you richly bless others this season.

That's what we are going for anyway....that and copious amounts of cookies.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Because You Probably Need to Hear it.

An open letter to someone specific....that could end up being more than one person specific....God works like that you know.......makes the same word just for you.

God adores you, is over the moon about you. If He slept, He would fall asleep wishing you were next to Him and wake up with your name on His lips. He would stay up all night just to watch you breathe.

He thinks of you as His bride. Every romantic thing you have ever seen done at a wedding in person, or on TV, or in the movies, or in your imagination, God wants to do all of those things for you. He wants to surprise you with His love like that. God wants to make you feel that special. He looks at you like the moment a groom lays eyes on his bride for the first time u. Because He is desperately in love with you and wants everyone to know. Everyone.

Like God wants to not just profess His love to you on the jumbo tron at the game, but at the Super Bowl, at every major league sporting event that will be played for the rest of time, and the minor league ones too. He thinks you are just that incredible. And He wants everyone to know that He thinks you are the most amazing person on earth.

If God were a thirteen year old boy He would make bargains with Himself about, "if you would just let me sit next to her in first period." He would sit in His room and wonder what it was like to just hold your hand. God thinks holding your hand would be incredible.

If God were a thirteen year old girl He would secretly write your name all over the inside cover of His notebook; He would add hearts. He would have a code name for you and rearrange the way He got to class so He could pass your locker multiple times a day.

If you were in a long distance relationship, He would eat ramen noodles for weeks on end just to afford a plane ticket to see you. He would call you at midnight so He could hear you breathing on the other end of the phone when you both fell asleep. He would tell you His astronomical cell phone bill was totally worth it.He would mean that.

God is totally crazy about you. Not the corporal you. YOU, the one who is reading this. He will never get over how much He loves you, loves a million things about you, loves your strengths, and your quirks and the way you.....If God had poker buddies they would stop inviting Him to play because all He does all day is talk about how great you are.

God adores you. He thinks you are incredible, He feels lucky to be with you. God loves you.

This one's for the girls

An open letter to my two beautiful girls.

My heart could explode with all the joy  you give me. I don't know if your momma will always be a working momma. I love my job and think I am good at it....but I am so grateful for these extra months I was given to stay at home. They are such an amazing blessing.

 Rooster, right now it is me and you, everywhere. We are a team. And you are such an easy baby that I politely decline when people offer to take you, even for an hour. I am simply not ready to give you up yet. You are mine. You smile now. And you have glorious dimples. But you make us work for it, or surprise me right when you wake up from a nap and it is just me and you. You seem to come out of your shell in the quiet times. It makes me wonder if your sister may over shadow you, but you don't seem to mind.I can already see how your personalities will challenge and compliment each other. It is hard sometimes, but sisters are amazing. I can already see your babyhood slipping away. Your hair stands down a little now, your new born diapers are too small. You are trying to hold your head up. And as I delight in these things.....I am a little sad. Now I know that once you start doing these things you will never not do them. We can never go back. You have a naturally gentle spirit. And you are so patient with your family. You let your sister try to push your binky back in and then pull it out again and give herself a turn over and over again. And you don't mind. When you cry out because you need something, if you think I am about to guess right you stop crying and wait to see if your needs will be met. I appreciate the grace you give me. I hope you are always that gracious. Don't let me take all the credit for that trait when you get older. God designed you with that graciousness, and it will serve you well. Already, sometimes you need a minute to yourself. You like to sit in your seat and kick your legs, as though you need a moment to just process and be with yourself. It has taken me twenty-eight years to realize I need those times too. Don't be afraid to take them, it is simply how you were made. Don't apologize for it.

And Peanut. You are currently the definition of a laugh riot. I don't think you will ever have to remember to live life to the fullest. You experience everything one hundred percent.You laugh and smile so freely. You cry so loudly when you are upset. When you like something you LOVE it. When you want a book read, you want it read right now, and fifteen times. You woke your dad up from a nap on the couch the other day by sticking a board book in his ear and shouting "he-ya" over and over again. You entertain yourself and others by singing every song you know, and you are good at it. Aunt Em can recognize the songs when we are on the phone and you are only in the background. Even when it is just you and Rooster in the back of the car you are singing. I love it when you sing "Jesus Loves Me." If you just remember that, live by that, you will thrive. You try to hold your sisters hand when you are in the car. Although it occasionally leads to your sister's arm being pulled out of the socket, it also makes me tear up with joy. I am so, so glad the Lord blessed you with each other. The other day someone stopped us in the grocery store, looked at me and said, "that one has a beautiful spirit, doesn't she" she could sense your joy. It rolls off of you in waves, splashing on to not just me and your dad, but the people in our small group, the clerk at the grocery store, the old women in the neighborhood. I have watched your smile infect so many people. I am sure I will be watching that for the rest of my life.

I love you both so much. There are no words that have not been said to describe how much I love you...and every word that has been written is not enough to describe it. But even more than that God loves you. He made you to be incredible people. I am grateful for the opportunity to help in that process.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Heart for Adoption, A Womb that Won't Quit.

When I was sixteen I heard a radio program put on by Focus on the Family. (Don't ask what a teenager was doing listening to Dr. James Dobson, I don't have the answer for that.) I don't remember the context, I just remember the statement: If you are going to be anti-abortion then you must be actively pro-adoption. Period. And I was vehemently anti-abortion, that I knew.

My dad had spent some time defending pro-life picketers when they inevitably got sued. He brought them and their message home and I understood from a very early age what abortion was and God's love for life. I was anti-abortion, that much I knew.

I don't know how to explain how a calm logical if, then statement could strike such a powerful chord in a sixteen year old heart, but God spoke to me in that one sentence. I was called to be actively pro-adoption. So much so that my high school boyfriend and I got into a fight about our imaginary future and if he would be comfortable with adoption. So much so that when that relationship ran it's course (as so many High School relationships do) and my husband and I started getting serious far sooner than anyone had anticipated, I asked him about adoption. How comfortable was he with idea of adopting some of his future children?

I remember telling him that I just wasn't comfortable with fertility drugs, that while that seems to be the path the Lord has for some, if I couldn't get pregnant I didn't want to figure out what was wrong. I wanted to adopt. I told him that even if I could get pregnant I felt called to be the mom of a baby who did not grow in my body, but had been planted in my heart when I was sixteen years old. He listened to my reasoning and shrugged his shoulders "makes sense to me." Adoption was officially in "the plan."

When we ditched the birth control five years into our marriage we both openly talked about how it would make sense for God to make us infertile. We agreed to see what happened for 6 months and then run as fast as we could to qualify for adoption in the United States. That was mid-May. By August I was pregnant. With a beautiful baby girl we were commissioned to parent in our arms, we began thinking about the next step. Eventually, not any time soon of course, but eventually we thought the next one would come through a domestic adoption. But we weren't ready to be the parents of more than one for at least another 2 years at the very minimum.

7 months after Juliet was born I got pregnant. We found out days after my husband resigned from his job to begin PhD school in the fall. And I was confused. Lord, why now? Why, when I so desperately wanted to adopt. When this was a terrible time for any new babies, but especially ones that would grow in my body. And what about those twins I was promised? When are they coming?

Meanwhile my one friend was praying for a baby girl that she did not expect to be adopting right now. She always assumed she would have all her biological ones and then do the adoption thing. My other friend was raising money for a 6 year old boy in Russia that she didn't know she wanted until God whispered in her heart
"he is your son." All three of our babies came home within 8 weeks of each other. Two on the same day.

I have friends and relatives who are trying desperately to get pregnant. People who would make great parents. I don't understand it, and I am sure I could not understand their pain. But my heart aches for them. I wish I knew how to convey that to them.

I wish I knew why God makes the choices He does. Especially when it comes to babies. But I know that His plan is good. Callie and I had a joint baby shower where I remarked that I did not know of a single baby who had received more prayer than hers. She remarked that on this side it seems so hard to imagine the heartbreak that was her two failed placements. I only remember doubting the Lord because I wrote about it. Of course I have always wanted this baby. Of course this is the perfect time. Of course this was the perfect way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A weekend in "sometimes"

Sometimes your mom comes to help out for a week and you don't know how your house functioned without her. You now know why your friend's mom thought you would move back to Ohio after the first baby.

Sometimes you attempt to breastfeed in a community that isn't used to public breastfeeders, and end up providing the dinner entertainment for your brother in law. He is sitting across from you and has a great view of all the peoples reactions a second before they try to play it cool. He can't stop laughing about it. You laugh too.

Sometimes your first Atlanta friend hosts a shower at her house with your sister, and your kids second mom, and your neighbor, for you and your other blogging mom friend whose second baby came home on the same day as yours. She calls them twins. You love that. You get a homemade sweater and think about how your first kid has actually worn this woman's love and now your second one gets to too. You get a book featuring a little girl named Priscilla. You love that name. You feel so loved.

Sometimes you have one baby asleep in the sling and the other one is crying and needs to be picked up. So you bend down and scoop the second one up on your hip. She reaches down to pet her sister's hair like she likes to do. You kiss both fuzzy heads and join in the worship. You think, so this is what God means when the old-testament mentions a double portion. It is heavy sometimes but so, so good.

Sometimes you look back on your weekend and are humbled by the blessings in your life.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Community and the Pack

I've noticed something about the Peanut. It is remarkably easier to get her to do something she is supposed to do at Elizabeth's house in front of her "pseudo-siblings." Like eat her dinner and not throw things on the floor, or pick up toys, or say thank you and not throw fits. She just behaves better over there.

My mom spent this week helping out (thanks mom!) and I told her about this observation. Well yeah, she said, it is the pack mentality. The Peanut is a part of that pack, so she is going to act in a way that identifies with the pack. Lucky for me her pack is generally well behaved. So she picks up this good behavior.

I remember feeling this way as a kid, particularly at my grandparent's lake house. There are just things that Frances do! And when I didn't behave the way I was supposed to I felt particular shame because I wasn't acting the way I was expected too, I wasn't aligning myself with the pack of cousins.

The pack mentality is particularly evident when you teach in the vastly different communities that I have taught in. If you are a students, at Roswell, it is just easier to do what you are supposed to do. Because everyone else is following the rules and you will stand out for not doing the right thing. At Banneker, the opposite was true. It took a lot of resistance to the pack to consistently do what you were supposed to do.

In some ways I think this is why God wants us in community with other believers. It is easier to live a Godly life when I identify with a Godly group. Because I identify with 1027 church and one of their goals is to give generously of their time, then it is easier for me to do the same personally and not just corporately. It aligns me with the pack. Heck, one of the things my church says is important is telling my story. I'm not sure it is a coincidence that more than one of us has a blog. It is part of who we are. It aligns us with the intentions of our pack.

I know pack mentality isn't always a good thing. I teach teenagers, believe me, I know. But if you choose your pack wisely.....I think it can be. How many times have you heard parents say "we don't do that." Identifying the rule as a family behavior pattern helps.

Who is your pack?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Learning to Love

About two weeks ago I finally pulled the "I love my neighbor" bumper sticker out that the church gives out and put it on my car. As I was proudly affixing said sticker to my car my neighbor waved me over. This neighbor loves babies, and she had put in a formal request to see Rooster with our other neighbor. But I just hadn't gotten around to it.

I get it God. I get it. If I am going to run around town with a car that says it, I better mean it. And really Abby, it wouldn't have taken that much to give your neighbor some joy before this. So off I trotted to bring Rooster over to Ms. Hattie. And let the Peanut run around her front yard as Ms. Hattie laughed and commented on how busy I must be. Then she mentioned that she had no one to rake her leaves. So we got a group together this weekend and raked. Well, everyone else raked and I chased the Peanut around while wearing Rooster. And Ms. Hattie laughed.

I am learning how healing and comforting babies can be. And I have two! One that will let anyone cuddle her and another that will have a chat with the world. People love babies, and sometimes I am selfish with mine.I don't want to go down the street two houses. I just don't feel like it. And sometimes, even worse, I want these babies all to myself. To snuggle and cuddle and only want to go to me. ( I am well aware if this were the case I would be pulling my hair out and writing over and over again in this thing STOP TOUCHING ME!) 

But I have kids who love loving. They are friendly and funny and the Peanut would be happy to share your chips with you by stuffing them one at a time into your mouth and yelling MMMMM as you chew. And if I want kids who love their neighbor then I have to start now. which means running around the front yard more often, and letting other people hug on my kids. And answer the same questions about them a hundred times, because hey what is it going to hurt. Loving my neighbors is not convenient for me. Because it isn't about me. And here is the crazy thing, when I love my neighbor, which isn't about makes me better. It makes me a better mom, a better wife. It makes me feel like I did something more than input and output for the under two set. Loving my neighbor makes me love me.....funny how God designs that.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I don't want a sister wife...I do want a communal house.

I have a serious affinity for terrible television. The best way to some it up is that Christian and I both refer to Khloe Kardashian as ""my girl." Actually, Christian refers to all of the Kardashian sisters as "your girl" because he can't tell them apart......anyway. I love bad TV, and I found a new bad love. 

So I am a little late to the party, but I just caught the first two seasons of Sister Wives on Netflix. For those of you who don't waste hours watching reality TV, the show follows a practicing polygamist family. One dad four moms of four separate families that all live in one big house and also function as one big family. Now, let me say up front that I am not down with polygamy. And I don't believe God is down with it either..... Just so we are clear NOT ENDORSING POLYGAMY. 

So I don't want their lifestyle.....but I do want their house. And I want their sense of community. Basically you walk in the front door and there are separate mini-houses off of a main hallway. They also have some really good insight about how to live in community. I guess you would have to if you voluntarily decided to live in "the lifestyle" as they call it. One of the women talks about how she was raised in the lifestyle and had always wanted to be a third wife. She really wanted to be a third wife because she wanted the community with the other women, and also because she saw having other wives to depend on as freeing.

They all talk about it, the freedom of having multiple adults to depend on. If someone is caught up at work or at the doctor there is another adult who can get your kid from school. If one adult is really good at making Halloween costumes and the other one is good at cooking big dinners, and still another wants a high powered career they just farm out the responsibilities and let everyone do the things they want and are good at. The fourth wife was a single mom for three years. You can almost see the weight lifted off of her shoulders when she talks about being part of a team. She doesn't have to be everything to her kids anymore.

Still another wife (the first wife) talks a lot about adjusting to the other people. How when she gets her back up about something, it is she who needs an attitude adjustment. How ultimately living in community with these other women makes her kinder, gentler, less selfish. She talks about how it is okay for it to be hard. To wrestle with it even as she does it. That just because something is hard and uncomfortable doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. It means that we can choose to grow in it, to let God prune us. And we can trust that if God called us into something (not saying God called them into this lifestyle, but God does call us into different relationships with people) then it will shake out better than ever when you get through that hard spot. 

I have been interested in communal living for awhile. Before I followed blogs I would check up on a blog about two sisters who shared a house ( If I had the means I would build an addition onto my house and move a set of grandparents in with us. Elizabeth and I talk about how much easier our lives would be if we lived in a duplex. It is hard in some ways, I get that. You have to be more flexible and less bothered by things. You have to let a lot roll off your back, you have to share more. You have to share your stuff, and you have to share your life. Your emotions, your heart, your vulnerabilities. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes you just don't want to be inconvenienced. But your life is richer for it....and you are changed for the better.

This whole thing has made me think about how interesting it is that someone could have some stuff so so right and other stuff really really wrong. Their marriage may be jacked up, but they model community and loving each other well. If they all had separate husbands but continued to live in the same house sharing life...sign me up. I wonder what I have in my life that God would think, that piece is right but that piece WAY wrong.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Don't take it! It is MINE!

I was talking with a dear friend a couple weeks ago. She was struggling to give something to God, wanting desperately to hang on to it. She knew that God had give it to her. She believed that this thing would continue to grow in a way that would glorify God. But she was afraid to give it back to Him.....what if He kept it? We've all been there. Oh Lord, how I have been there!

It reminds me of the stage that the Peanut is in right now. (And can I tell you how humbling it is to see my relationship with God mirrored in my relationship with my 18 month old...and God shows me that I am acting like my toddler....seriously humbling.) Peanut knows what she wants, whether it is to carry her toothbrush around the house, or more of the cherry-limeade that I got from Sonic for us to share. That she has already had more than half of. But sometimes she doesn't know the best way to get it.

Take for instance the much sought after cherry Sonic goodness. If we are down to the bottom of the cup, then the straw has to be inserted at exactly the right angle. And you can't tip the cup up. And the straw needs to be pushed all the way in. Those of us who have been using a straw for twenty-eight years or more understand these concepts so well we no longer think about them. But an 18 month old is still learning the ways of the fast-food world. All she knows, when I take the cup away so that she can access the carbonated corn syrup better, is that she was holding the cup and had the straw headed towards her mouth......and now she doesn't. NO! DON'T TAKE MY SUGAR FROM ME! I WAS DRINKING THAT! YOU GAVE IT TO ME! HOW COULD YOU TAKE IT BACK! A serious fit ensues.She doesn't understand that I am not taking it away, but in fact making it so she can drink better. I am improving, fixing, giving her more of the goodness....

How often in my life am I hanging on to something so stinking tight it takes forever for God to wrestle my hands off of it....Then I yell and cry that it isn't fair....only for Him to give it back to me in a way that makes the whole thing....better. And here I was in the middle of my fit. Pardon me as I pick my embarrassed self up off the floor and attempt to walk away with dignity.