Saturday, July 23, 2011

This is Hard

The other day as I was contemplating my new life I had a thought, "this is hard."  I know, you are amazed by the depth of my thoughts.  But really it is a deep thought.

This is hard and when things are hard I tend to want to give up on them, abandon them, run away from them.  I would rather live an easy life.

But if I did that every time life was hard I would miss out on so much.

When I was younger I spent most of my time giving up when things were hard.  I didn't like to be challenged and preferred a simple existance where I could control everything in my life.  But eventually I realized my control was only an illusion and an unchallenged life is hollow and dull.

While I made several small steps in hard directions in my 20's it was the snowboard lessons in my early 30's that changed everything.  They were REALLY hard.  Pushing through the difficult challenge and experiencing the high of conquering the hill after many failed attempts, much doubt and near injury changed the way I looked at "hard".  Hard is just a bump in the road on the way to exhileration.

Yet the other day I found myself thinking how hard this transition is and trying to figure out why we should give it up, go back to the way thing were and forget this ever happened.  Surly if this is the right thing to do it should be easier so therefore this was a failed experiment and we need to return to our regularly schedule program.

Of course the truth is that while comfortable and familiar the way things were wasn't exactly easy either.  Life is hard and we must walk through it.

Since I revealed in past that I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy I wil quote it again,

Frodo: "I can’t do this, Sam."
Sam: "I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something."

I want to say that, "I can't do this."  Actually I have said that through this transition a few times.  But I remind myself the darkness will pass, a new day will come and the sun will shine again. 
When we were struggling to have a child I would often think forward to the day I was holding my new baby and the struggle was over.  No matter how bad you can't stay in the same place forever.  I knew the struggle couldn't last.  Now years later we have a precious 6 year old and it is hard to remember how hard it was wishing for another child, but I still remember the lessons and the blessings God gave me during those times.

Just like the people in Sam's stories, we keep going forward despite chances to turn back because we are holding onto something.  We are holding on to God and the belief that He loves us and cares for us and has a better plan for our lives than we could ever imagine for ourselves.

Last Sunday in the sermon our preacher (coincidentally also named Sam) talked about how life was hard but "in our weakness we become strong".  When we submit to God, when we admit we can't do it ourselves, we find strength that comes from the one and only God.  And His strength far exceeds anything I could do on my own.

This week amidst needing to ground Jake and needing to come home at lunch one day because the childcare schedule changed and Isabelle was feeling anxious I admit I really wanted to be at home taking care of my family.  I definately thought, "this is hard", but I kept moving forward.  I didn't quit my job, I didn't let myself doubt.  I believe this is the path God has for us right now and I believe that while I might not be strong enough to handle it God is more than able.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Cabin in the Woods

For years I have romanticized the idea of living alone in a cabin in the woods.  Something with a pond.  I imagine how wise and deep I would become with all that time for self discovery and introspection.  During especially crazy times in my life this little thought has gotten me through.

While I haven't thought about it quite as much in recent years, as I launch back into the busy world of work, a world without a great deal of "ME" time where I am constantly having to make a decision about how I will spend my non working time and what my true priorities are I have been thinking about my cabin dream. 

I am coming to realize that my years at home were my "cabin in the woods" years.  I may not have been alone in the woods but  I did have plenty of time.  They were my years of self discovery and introspection.  I was blessed with time to walk through the woods, or my neighborhood, a park, a playground, my own pace and observe and experience all that was around me.  Admittedly I didn't always do that, sometimes I rushed forward as quickly as possible from one thing to the next in a hurry to go nowhere never looking up, but definitely there were days, more in recent years, where I stopped and enjoyed what was happening around me.

On one literal walk in the woods with Jake and my nieces several years ago we came around the corner and found a red fox standing in our path.  It looked at us and began walking toward us, we were all frozen until it jumped into some bushes off the path.  We relaxed and began to go forward again only to have it jump back out of the bushes moments later with lunch in its mouth and run off.  It wasn't easy to keep 4 little kids marching through the woods alert and watching for nature but it sure was worth it that day.

I have met neighbors while pushing a stroller around the block who have become a wonderful necessary support system, I have sat at parks with friends listening to their stories and sharing mine, and a trip by myself to Target has at times had the refreshing quality of a week long vacation.

Through it all I have seen and done things I never would have dreamed.  I have met people that have influenced how I go about my day to day.  I have gone places and experienced so many things that I could never begin to document them all.

And while I did all that I was definitely not alone in a quiet cabin in the woods.  However I did get in some self discovery, in the moments between the adventure of life I thought about myself, my choices and how God wanted me to respond and learned a lot about myself.  I might not have spent my years in silence but God spoke to me in the noise of life, He met me where I was and taught me lessons only He could teach me.

It turns out I have been living my cabin dream all along.  The opportunities and understanding that I thought I had to escape my life to get were waiting for me at home all along.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Through the Window

I don't know if I have gushed much about our wonderful little church on this blog but we go to a wonderful little church.  John and I were part of the initial team that started the church almost 7 years ago and it has grown from the 12 people, including children, it had when we joined to over 200 people in its short history.  We are now busy planting a second church across town.

During that first year we had an amazing opportunity to purchase a building before we even held our first official public service.  It was crazy but God just opened the doors and paved the way so clearly we had nothing to do but walk through them.  I was the church treasurer at the time and signed all the paperwork on the purchase while John and another friend became the building maintenence crew.  I think being so much a part of the beginning life of this building for our church has made it feel a lot like home for us.  When I walk in the building I have the same comfortable feeling as I do when I get home.  I especially love being there when the building is almost empty.  You can feel God's presence everywhere.

Since its purchase we have done many construction projects which John has been part of in one way or another.  The first thing we did was take down some walls to create a foyer area outside the sanctuary and put in large windows and double doors in the back wall of the sanctuary.  Then there was the covered roof we put over the front door and of course John re-designed the whole lower level.  Not to mention carpet, paint, windows...We have definately put our mark on this building. 

But we hadn't done anything in the sanctuary.  It is such a big, important project we wanted to be sure we could do it right so we have enjoyed the charm of cracking plaster, dull paint and missing trim while waiting for inspiration and funding.

The church originally was built by a Lutheran Church and had a beautiful Stained glass window in the front of the sanctuary.  When they moved they took the window with them.  We bought the building from a Jewish Synagog which had made its own changes including a false wall in front of the empty window and a large cabinet to hold the Torah.  We simple draped the cabinet in fabric, stuck a simple wooden cross into it and called it good.

This spring the opportunity to do something came.  The Lutheran Church with the windows was no longer displaying them and offered to give them to us when we were ready to re-install them.  Someone got wind of this fact and annonomously offered to pay to have them re-installed.  John bid on the job and we all prayed it was within the budget of the donor.

John got the job and began the amazing transformation.  While the job isn't quite done, we still have carpet and a few other small details to finish, the look has transformed the space.

Here is a before picture from Isabelle's baptism:

During construction: the false wall is down and light is shining in through the plastic!

The window frame behind the false wall.

We decided we didn't want such a large alcove so John actually framed a new wall in essentially the same place as the old wall and installed the window frame it in.


Pentacost Sunday.  We all posed after the service for a picture in the new space.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I am a Builder's Wife

I have this philosophy when it comes to talking to kids about sex, just keep a constant open dialogue.  To that end my 6 year old has bits and pieces of the whole story without me ever sitting down and explaining sex to her.  Eventually I will help her connect all the pieces but for now her questions have all been answered.  Many questions have come as a result of her adoption but some are just normal questions. 

Isabelle: How did I get out of Lauren's tummy?

Me:  You sort of poop it out but girls have a special baby hole for babies to come out of.

This conversation prompted her to bring up her "baby hole" several times in the weeks following.

Isabelle:  I came out of Lauren's tummy so that is why she is my birth mom but why is Sam my birth dad?

Me:  You need a boy part and a girl part to make a baby grow.

She was about 4 at this point and knew more than some 10 year olds about how babies are made.

This past week I got:

Isabelle:  Why do you use a tampon?

Me:  When you get to be a teenager your body will start to get ready in case you want to have a baby.  A layer of blood forms inside of you so the baby has a soft place to grow and if there is no baby then your body gets rid of the blood through your baby hole and if you don't use a tampon it will run down your leg.

Lately I have been thinking about how this approach to sex really applies to so many other areas of parenting.  I am slowly establishing a foundation upon which we can build together over the years rather than bringing in some pre-fab house, plunking it down on the ground over a weekend, moving her in and leaving.

I am building a foundation for her relationship with God, her relationship with me and her relationships with others.  Her education, her love of learning and her future career.  Her habits, goals, desires, loves.

A few years ago when John was resistant to my attempts at discussing the plans for our future I finally said to him, "I know you think this life just happened to us but it didn't, I planned it."

And so it is with my children.

Jake recently got a 34 on his ACT.  An incredible score.  One could look casually at what is happening right now with our interaction to his academics and think that he just got "lucky" and is just "smart".  On the one hand I certainly never set out to make sure my son got an ACT score 2 off of perfect but on the other hand I didn't just toss him into school and wait to see how it turned out either. 

Those of you who know me know I have been directing every educational move he has made since pre-school.  This next year he will be doing his senior year of high school at the local community college.  It is a program our state has where students can earn double credit, high school and college, during their jr and sr year of high school paid for by the state.  It is an incredible opportunity, he will graduate from high school and finish his freshman year of college at the same time, something that I literally began telling Jake he was going to do when he was in kindergarten and have reiterated many times throughout the past 12 years. 

That is what you call building a foundation. 

I wasn't always sure I was making a difference but here we are in the home stretch with Jake and so far he is on track to become the godly man I planned and prayed for.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The view from above

All spring, back when I didn't know I was about to start working full time, I kept taunting my husband with my plan to build a tree house this summer.  I kept telling him Jake and I were going to do it.  We would build it with stuff in the garage.  He kept insisting we didn't have anything laying around the house to build a tree house.  It was a little thing we had going.  Of course he was scared because history reveals he really would come home one day to some loony contraption nailed to the side of one of our trees.  I am not about engineering perfection.  I am a "git 'er done" kinda gal.

Then I got a job.  And I had to admit I didn't know how I would build a tree house without John looking.  I figured my dream of a tree house for Isabelle would have to wait another summer.

I read the book, "Last Child in the Woods" a few years ago and I am obsessed with my children climbing trees, having tree forts and running through the woods risking life a limb to experience nature.  Just a little random trivia for you.

Somehow my wonderful husband must have sensed how serious I was about the tree house plan and how sad I was Isabelle wouldn't get one because that first week I was working I came home and found he had been doing this all day:

The Proposed tree house tree

Stuff that WAS laying around our garage!  I knew it!

Probably a more stable base than I would have built.

Just the right size for one little girl to sit and enjoy the view.

Loving every minute of it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Solid Yellow Lines

In the book "Body by God" the author not only talks about fitness and nutrition but also stress and time management because he feels to have the body God created us to have we must address all aspects of the body and what affects it.

One concept he talks about is drawing "solid yellow lines", like on a road, around various aspects of our life.  Priorities.  So, for instance, he has his quiet time in the morning and no matter what he doesn't see patients, check email or play with his kids during that time.  That is his time with God.  But the same is true of the time he spends with patients, family or writing.

Now I Personally feel a little stifled by this idea and like the guy must be a little high strung type A personality.  That is serious structure.   But I do have a girlfriend who is really good at this type of thing and I have experienced this structure as I have viewed her life.  She is always aware of keeping a balance taking time with each child regularly, managing the home efficiently and carving out time for work and personal indulgences without feeling guilt because she knows her priorities are not being neglected.

It would be easy for me to dismiss my girlfriend as a nutty type A as well but I can't help wonder if there isn't something to this idea worth exploring in my own life now that I am working.

In some ways being at home creates its own challenges with keeping priorities.  You have so much unstructured time you think you can get it all done with no planning.  Yet you can be home with your kids all day and never really spend time with them, never get around to cleaning or making dinner or organizing, or...There is always something ready and waiting to pull you away from responsibilities and skew priorities.

For me, as I have observed this practice in my girlfriend over the years, what I see is an ability to enjoy each task in her life without saying any, "I should be...".  She knows she will be spending the evening doing certain activities with her daughter, for instance, so she is free to spend the afternoon working on her own projects without any guilt.  She knows when her house will be cleaned and what is for dinner so she can totally focus on the task before her.  Totally present in each moment of her life.

That is the aspect of drawing lines around tasks that I want to experience.

So that is what I am working on figuring out and organizing this week. Since I am not particularly type A in my approach to life I won't be creating a permanent structure but more of a loose concept in which we as a family are aware of the priorities and look to see they are happening each week in some way.  And with that confidence I can be fully involved in my life and relationships and not worry about what is falling through the cracks.

It is slowing coming together at our house.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Giving thanks for a first month

I have been working for one entire month now.  I won't lie, the transition has been HARD.  Still we accomplished the goal of not crying last week (both me and Isabelle) and today I am sitting outside enjoying a perfect 4th of July afternoon while getting paid.  Amazing.

I am sure we will continue to transition throughout the summer but I am happy to report that I can now stay up past 9pm, our freezer is full of potential dinners, Isabelle lets me out the door in the morning without much fanfare, I am starting to understand my job and the people I work with are all extremely nice.

All change can be hard but there is still so much to be thankful for:
  • After a month of rain and clouds the sun has found Minnesota!
  • A beautiful wall of windows to look out every day.
  • Sitting in front of a gorgeous limestone countertop all day long.
  • A really great boss who knows what needs to get done but is casual and laid back like me.
  • Patient co-workers teaching me the ropes.
  • Morning snuggles on the couch with my little girl.
  • Family willing to spend time with Isabelle regularly while I work.
  • Cousins who are friends (mine and my kids)
  • A husband who steps up to help out as I transition.
  • Working air conditioner and a quick response repair man.
  • Years at home to create memories with my daughter and son.
  • Being a parent for 17 years to a wonderful young man.
  • A 34 on the ACT.  Yes he is a genius.
  • Morning runs
  • The community 4th of July parade.
  • Loosing the winter white hanging at the lake.
  • Dental insurance and comprehensive health insurance.  Lots of doctor appointments will be made this week!