Sunday, May 28, 2017

To Bugaboo, who is almost six and a half

Dear Bug,
You have been six for almost half a year now, and here I am finally writing your letter. I was late with your brother's letter, too, so I hope you will forgive my procrastination and delay.
(photo credit for this one - Sarah Bottarel Photography)




In a couple of days, you will finish kindergarten. It was a fast year and a slow year, an easy year and a hard year, and I wonder what you have learned while also marveling at what you have accomplished. Letters and sounds have always been your thing. I remember being in an IEP meeting when you were not quite four and telling the-powers-that-be that you knew all your letters and their sounds. They replied that you didn't need to know that yet, instead of seeing the beauty of the fact that you did know them. You know many beautiful things in your own mysterious way of learning and showing what you know, and I am thankful to be the one who daily gets to witness that. You can read short words, and you love your favorite stories. This year you returned often to your old favorite, Blueberries for Sal, and you also love poetry and Beatrix Potter, and of course, Pete the Cat. You have branched out from your favorite Veggie Tales characters and now also enjoy Buck Denver, Sid the Science Kid, Daniel Tiger, and Super Why.



You have handled our move and transition to Arizona much better than we thought you might, much better than your mom. You miss your art and music classes and your friends there. We have had a break from therapies as we settle in, but you have not regressed. Your endurance is getting better on walks, and you have also met a very important milestone this year. You enjoy our trips to the pool, and you love bossing Scout around. One of the phrases I hear you often say is, "I do it. I do it myself." Little by little you are taking steps to independence, and it is a joy to watch. You are a joy to watch grow up. We love you just the way you are, and we are so thankful that you are the six year old in our family right now.



Love,
Mommy

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Root Canals and the Desire To Settle

Two months in and we are settling a bit. The Hubs started his NP job last week, which thus far has consisted of training and shadowing. We are adjusting to having him work an 8-5 job for the first time in a long time. As someone who craves stability, I find this a beautiful adjustment.

In the in between time of his temporary job and the start of his NP job, I found myself needing a root canal. I was in sudden and excruciating pain. We were new in town and lacking dental insurance, so it was pretty much the perfect time for hundreds of dollars of dental work. And I had forgotten what a process a root canal is, so now with The Hubs working a regular job, I had to find someone to watch my kids so I could get a crown. I have cried a few times in recent days over this. First, when a lifelong family friend offered to drive a few hours to watch my kids. Then I cried when I realized how much I miss my Missouri friends. There are at least half a dozen people I could have called to watch the boys for me for an afternoon. Not having made those kinds of friends yet made me want to cry in the bathroom with the door closed more than once.  And it wasn't just tears from missing my friends, but for having to be so needy right away, asking for help and advice and recommendations.  I don't want to be needy. I want to have it all together. But I don't. I am new in town and in need.

I don't know how people survive without the local church. I don't say that judgmentally, but it has been such a lifeline for me that I cannot fathom being able to be new without a resource of community and friendship. We are pretty sure we have found our church home. We were invited to Easter dinner. I was given some ideas for babysitters. I have a place to go a couple of weeks to study and to laugh and to start making some friends. And so we are slowing starting to settle in here.

It doesn't feel like home yet. I miss the comfort zone of the last four years of Sundays and Wednesdays and other days, too. I still spend time each week saying our names, our previous locations, and our kids' ages to people we meet. But I'm starting to get to spend a few minutes each week discussing This Is Us and where to buy shoes for seven year old boys and why I love homeschooling and why Romans 3 is powerful and amazing. It doesn't feel like home yet, but it feels like it has potential to feel like home. And that potential keeps me hanging on through stressful dental appointments and keeps me hoping that we will find our place here pretty soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Homesickness

I awkwardly hugged someone I didn't know tonight. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a physical touch person. I snuggle my kids, but I am not a natural hugger.  Yet tonight I accidentally went in for a hug instead of a handshake when I met my new BSF discussion group leader. I don't know if it is because she is from the Quad Cities, or I miss being part of BSF so much or that I haven't been around very many people in the last month but I cannot believe I hugged.

Right now it is 10:30 PM. The sliding door to our patio is open, and the smell of tree blossoms in the desert are wafting in, telling me that spring in the desert is the best thing ever. It really is beautiful here. There are mountains and sunshine and cacti and ninety degree days in March. It feels like a place I want to make home. But I miss my friends.

I miss chatting before service or Puggles class. I miss occasionally meeting a friend for coffee or discussing an interesting topic in Sunday school. I miss not having to say my kids' names and ages or trying to explain the special needs of our family. I miss knowing people and I miss being known.

We have been visiting various churches, which feels very American when I think about it too long. Is the preaching solid? Is the music okay? Is there anything at all for our kids yet is it a church that will not just entertain our kids? Is it close enough? Is it not too big not too small? It begins to feel a bit like shopping or like a scene from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I don't want to shop for a church. I just want to go and know others and be known and hear the Gospel.

We may have found a home church. It still feels a little early to know for sure, especially since it will be another denomination change for our family. But I want to stop shopping and settle. There's a comfort I already feel on Sunday mornings there, just three visits in. When I take the bread and the cup each week, I am comforted by the familiar, by the knowing, by the being known. When the Scripture is read, when the hymns are sung, when the benediction is given, I lose my homesickness for ninety minutes. And isn't that the purpose of it all? To point us home?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

goodbyes

Tonight I sat with a dozen friends around chips and queso and good conversation. I wanted to say more than I said out loud, but I think they all know I am a writer, not a speaker. But if I could have made a speech, I would have said this.

Around this table is just four years or less of friendship with each of you, but it feels like more. We have been each other's kids AWANA's teachers. You have seen me cry in Sunday school classes (in th cry room of course) or in Bible studies. We have shared snacks and stories on break during VBS weeks. Some of us have studied 1 Peter and travelled to Indianapolis together. We have prayed for one another, in person or via the internet. You have cheered for my kids and those of you further along in faith have mentored me, even informally. You have shown me the beauty in complementarianism and I have almost converted enough to adopt that label for myself. You  have shown me what life looks like at different phases of the journey. You have encouraged me after each diagnosis for Grady, you have worn green for CP and blue for autism. You have made me feel included from our first Wednesday night at Boulevard.

I tell everyone I wish I could take my church to Arizona. We are not a perfect bunch, but you have taught me what gospel-centered friendships look like. It wasn't from a step-by-step manual, but it was true friendship, mostly among introverts and a few extraverts. When you have asked how I am doing, you have taken the time to listen to my answer. You have helped your children to understand mine, and that has been one of the greatest gifts. One of the hardest parts of leaving is knowing my kids won't be in Bible quiz or youth group or on mission trips with yours. Thank you for being families that my family wants to be around each week.

I don't know how to end this. I am terrible with writing conclusions, and I am terrible with goodbyes. If it were the nineties, I would start singing, "And a friend's a friend forever..." but it is 2017, so I won't. Thank you for investing in me and in my family. The Lord has used the four years at Boulevard to heal a lot of my old church wounds, and you all have been part of that healing. Please come visit us in Tucson. We don't have an Andy's, but we do have an In-n-Out.

Love always,
Amanda

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Home

Home.

The word stirs up so many memories and emotions.

It was my childhood in a quiet cul-de-sac. A dollhouse in the basement, a place for kickball games on the street, a room which held hopes and dreams and dozens of journals over a decade. It was my mom sacrificing so much to keep the house, when my dad walked out, to keep the thing that provided us stability and security. It was also this summer, as my children rode big wheels on the same pavement where I once rollerbladed for hours with my friends.

It was the four year temporary residence of Walther Second South, with its mint green rooms and bathrooms for four girls to share daily. It was late night conversations in hallways lined with painted trees while Sara Groves CDs played in the background. It was dialing FIXR and yelling, "Man in the floor!" and walking back from the caf with ice cream cones.

It was an apartment in the desert, to live in all by myself. Single for the first eighteen months and newly married for the last six. It never really felt like home while I was there, but once we moved away I missed the frequent trips for burritos and the free cable.

And for almost twelve years it was the small house on the north side of town. It was learning how to be married and how to fight fair. It was setting the security alarm every night. The dogs we owned ran freely in the fenced in backyard. It was the place to which I brought home my babies, and also the place where I did not come home with a baby. It was never enough closet space but always enough bathrooms to clean, and it was a place of reconciliation and disappointment and hope and frustration.

Now we are in a temporary place - not quite what we thought for many reasons. It is more  space than any family needs. There are pleasant fields with cows nearby that I love to watch, but the bathrooms are cold and the cleaning never seems to end. I don't feel settled here because that was never the purpose of this location for us.

In a few weeks we will be gone and starting somewhere new. Though we know where we are going, we don't have an exact address or date yet. So here I am, the one who craves stability and security, and I am having to rest on the hope that we will get there when we get there, that home is where the heart is, and a few other cliches, too. I do not do well with resting or cliches.

I am wanting to stay in the familiar, among the friends who have seen me ugly cry in small group settings, who witnessed and affirmed C's baptism, who know what G needs in VBS each summer. and yet I am longing to leave - to say the goodbyes as if ripping off that painful bandaid, and to begin a new life in a new place in a new home.

So that is my word. Home.

Perhaps in 2017 I will better understand what it means to me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace - 2016 and my word of the year

Twelve months ago I picked grace for my word of the year. I wanted to focus on it, find it in big and small ways, and maybe reflect and write on it a bit throughout 2016. And while it did show up on my radar every now and then, I did not reflect on it as much as I had wanted, and I did not write about it at all.

In fact I wrote very little on my blog this year.

I was several months behind on a birthday letter and still haven't written another. I intended to blog through Advent but left out week four, love. I wanted to find the word and themes of grace everywhere,  but honestly,  hope (my word from 2015) showed up more for me.

So I am sitting here on New Year's Eve realizing that grace is what got me through 2016, even when I didn't notice. I know there were times I prayed that the Lord would give the grace, the strength, to deal with something. There were definitely days when I was aware that I was resting in His grace because I had completely messed up a situation or a relationship. And I am realizing tonight that I should have focused on the defintions of the word more than just the feelings of what I thought grace was.

Grace:
1 a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
   b: a virtue coming from God
   c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
2 a: approval, favor
   b: mercy, pardon
   c: a special favor: privilege
   d: a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
...

Grace may have been the best or worst word to ever pick for a word of the year. It is not something I can earn or create or even really feel physically or emotionally. Grace is what I have been given through Jesus Christ, not for 2016 alone, but since 1996 and forever forward.

2016 - you have been an interesting year. I am thankful for lessons learned, a sold house, a plan to move across the country in the months ahead.

2017 - I plan to write more often, stress less, and focus on my new word... Home.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent - Joy

Dear C and G,

Tonight we lit three candles and we focused on the word joy. John writes in his third letter, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth."

There is so much I want to share with you about joy, boys. I want you to understand what it is and what it is not. I want you to be able to see who the source of joy is and rest in that. I pray that you would discern all of your days that trusting in Jesus and obeying His word will bring you joy, even when deciding to do so brings you discomfort or pain.

I believe it brought the apostle John joy to know that his fellow believers were walking in truth because the truth is joy will only be found in truth. The world around you will tell you that you can determine your own truth, but your own truth will not lead to eternal joy. There actually is no such thing as your own truth. You will know  joy as you rest in Jesus and receive the promise that He came to earth to die for your sins. You will know joy as you set your hope in His resurrection and the promise that He is coming again, and that when He does He will right every wrong, and there will be no more sin, sickness, or sadness.

Walking in His truth will bring you joy. You cannot earn joy by following His law just as you cannot earn your salvation that way. But as you find joy in Him, that joy will compel you to trust Him enough to obey Him even when it is hard to do or understand. And when you fail to walk in His way, He is there with the grace to cover your failures and to keep you pressing heavenward.

Joy is not a Christmas wish list fulfilled. Joy is not the Christmas songs on the radio. Joy is not even happiness. Joy is rest, joy is contentment, joy is obedience, and joy is trust - all of which are only really possible through Jesus.

Love,
Mom

John 1:14-17 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."