Monday, December 30, 2013

some blogging highlights of 2013

At the end of the year some bloggers feature their most popular blog posts or most commented blog posts of the year.  These are some of the highlights from Wandering on Purpose - not based on data, but rather an overall reflection of 2013. (Click on the titles to read the posts.)These are just some of the posts that meant the most to me:

When You Don't Want To Go, But You Don't Think You Can Stay

           " my life when I have shared about my heartbreaks, about us taking a stand, about rejection I have been made to feel that it was all my fault, that there was something wrong with me.  But my friends yesterday cried with me, prayed with me, loved on me."

Of Award Shows and Mommying

        "Motherhood. No one invites us to a fabulous banquet, gives us jewels and a gorgeous dress to wear.  There probably should be something for us, but there's not. ... So tonight, here's to us mommies..."

Writing a Letter to my Young Sons About Purity

         "You are valuable. Not because of what you do or don't do but because you are dear to the heart of God."

Getting Jack Bauer-like Before a Snow Storm

       "At the last minute my preschooler had decided it was necessary to buckle himself into the seat.  As I yanked him out he lost his shoe.  'Just grab your shoe! Carry it! Don't put it on, carry it!'"

A Letter to My Boys About Our Church Decision

       "I don't fit in a denomination, and that makes it hard when finding a church for a family. But it also makes it wonderful because even though we will put down roots at one place, we can hopefully teach you about the big-wide-family of God."

Of Sleepless Nights at Two Years Old

         "...the sun is up and you are asleep
          and I am exhausted, but I still hold you"

        "Enjoy your friends.  Enjoy sliding down Alison's basement stairs in sleeping bags. Enjoy singing New Kids on the Block at slumber parties. Enjoy trying to knock each other off the teeter-totters at recess."

        "I stressed out today that you weren't strong enough or coordinated enough to pedal. I worried that somehow I have failed you. I shouldn't."

        "I have many horrible PE memories. One involves a vault in the gymnastics unit. There was also the swimming unit every year where I feared drowning - and therefore skipped out on as much as possible. And last but not least were the mandatory Presidential Fitness testing - which involved running and V-sits."

      "You are not a label. You are not mild cerebral palsy."

       "I sang it in between moments of screaming at God and questioning why. I sang it lying in bed with tears that would not stop. I sang it in the dark to give me a glimpse of light."

       "My heart fills and feels like it cannot contain all the love that is inside of it."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

when I think I understand love (during advent)

There is so much I still don't understand about God. I don't understand all the rules or The Law or how it all works today. I don't understand The Trinity or a Virgin Birth or all of those omni-words. And I certainly don't understand mercy and grace.

But love.

Love to me is tangible and evident and the reason I think I understand just a little bit about God.

I have two little boys sitting on the sofa right now. They are completely engrossed in a Veggie Tales DVD. I look at them in their matching red and gray striped shirts, and I know without a doubt that nothing on earth would make me stop loving them. I remember how desperately I wanted to be a mommy, to have them here in existence with me.

Each night I watch them sleeping in their big boy beds, and I wonder how time has gone by so quickly. I hear them singing and praying and playing and laughing. My heart fills and feels like it cannot contain all the love that is inside of it.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..."

The words are as familiar to me as my own name. But just as soon as I think I understand love, especially at Christmas, I remember what He gave, and I realize I really do not understand true love at all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

best reads of 2013

Everyone's talking politics, religion and boycotts, and I'm just writing about books. (Shocking, I know! I usually have an opinion about everything related to politics and religion. But today I don't.)

My favorite books that I read in 2013:

Thin Places  - Mary E. DeMuth - This whole book resonated with me. I want to reread it and highlight it because it was painfully beautiful.
Pastrix - Nadia Bolz-Weber - Nadia couldn't be much more different than me. Our theology is extremely different, and yet I still came away with some truths from this book. I liked Nadia. I wanted to go to her church and sit and chat with her, even though we are so different. She made me ponder, she frustrated me, she made me laugh, she made me cry. Don't read this book if you can't handle people who are theologically different than you.
Out of my Mind - Sharon Draper - A children's novel about a girl with cerebral palsy. It gave me some insight into what Bugaboo may think currently or in the future. I cried throughout this book.
What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty - Easy read that made me think how would life be different if I ended up forgetting the last ten years?
Cold Tangerines - Shauna Niequist - Another author I just want to sit and visit with over coffee. This book read like a great conversation.
The Core - Leigh Bortins - A great "how to" resource for me as I seriously consider a classical education for Bubby next year.
Give Them Grace - Elyse Fitzpatrick - I wanted to throw this book across the room for the first few chapters. A friend had warned me that I would want to do that. But this wasn't as much of a parenting book as it was a theology book that will shape my parenting.  I need to own this and re-read it.
Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child - Cheryl Swope - This book was encouraging because of the author's real life experience giving her two children with special needs a classical home education.
Kids Beyond Limits: Anat Baniel - Lots of things to think about and apply in terms of how to approach some things with Bugaboo.

I read a few other novels and some interesting memoirs but nothing else really stands out as a must-read. I also got about halfway through For Calvinism by Michael Horton before I had to return it to the library.  I am currently reading Temple Grandin's The Autistic Brain, which is fascinating to me, but heavier on the science than I usually read in my free time.

Books I'd like to read in 2014 - Finish Horton's book on Calvinism and read Against Calvinism by Roger Olsen, Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman, and A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
The Boys' Favorite Books This Year

  • Oh No George! - Chris Haughton - If you are a dog owner, read this book. We've loved it both times we've checked it out from the library.
  • Up the Creek - Nicholas Oldland - A canoe trip featuring a moose, a bear, and a beaver.  
  • Give Up Gecko - retold by Margaret Read MacDonald - A story of perseverance and not judging someone by apperances
  • Z is for Moose - Kelly Bingham - One of the most hilarious alphabet books out there. Both of the boys laugh at it.
  • And our favorites from our Five in a Row selections - Blueberries for Sal, Caps for Sale, and Katy No-Pocket.

What books were your favorites this year? What should I read in the months ahead?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

the unconventional gift of joy (at advent and throughout the year)

I pride myself in being a relatively easy to please person living a relatively simple life.  But deep down this year, more than some previous years, I struggle. I want to be like everyone else in this materialistic and consumer-driven culture. I think a bigger house or a better lens, some talent or some matching decor or even just a pair of jeans that don't gap in the back (do these exist??) would make me happy.  I worry that I am missing out. I think that I am not getting what I deserve. Then I start to wonder why I can't have what everybody else has.

I was doing pretty well with keeping Christmas in proper perspective until I crashed the van last week. It wasn't a really great time to do that. Then so easily I slipped into the old habits of, "Why me?" I hate that habit. I thought I'd broken myself of it, but I can't break myself of any bad habit. And it doesn't matter if you bring me everything on my wish list, it still won't be enough. Someone will always have something that I don't, and I will still feel empty. The cycle of wanting to fill myself with meaningless things will continue.

What I need is joy, and that doesn't come in a box. It comes in the Spirit. It is not an emotional high. It is not a prize to be won or a paycheck to be earned. Joy is a gift, but it is an unconventional one.  It is almost always birthed out of something painful or hard or exhausting.

Joy is knowing someone who was always kind and sincere to you is now in heaven, no longer in pain. Joy is hearing that your child with developmental delays and communication difficulties gave answers - the right answers nonetheless - in Sunday school this morning.  Joy is being able to give because every need has been provided, because your own kids have not lacked food or clothing or love. Joy is tears that cannot stop and hands that must be raised on the final verse of O Holy Night. Joy is resting in the fact that coordinating bedding and a room full of toys does not equal a happy childhood - or a happy adulthood - and the lack of those things does not mean an unhappy one.

Joy is a choice,some say, but I can't fake it till I make it. Joy is mysterious. Like an unexpected downpour, joy washes over me when I most need it.  On my own initiative, I can't be joyful. I have tried, and I have failed. But I need joy. Plain and simple, I need joy. And it is here for receiving. God with us.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:9-11

Sunday, December 8, 2013

a poem: of peace during advent and after car accidents

A patch of ice. Sliding starts.
The brakes and tires not catching anything.
Somehow we start to turn into the median
instead of going straight into the intersection.
Bump. Thud. Crash. Shatter.
We are on the opposite side
facing the opposite way.

I look into the backseat.
Both of my boys are completely fine.
Crying, I am able to drive home.
I just want to get home
is all that I can think.
And Thank You Jesus that they are unharmed.

Why me? pops into my head a bit.
(It usually does in unpleasant circumstances.)
Phone calls made, questions answered, cereal poured.
I grip the counter and ask, "What do You want me to learn 
from this?"
I sit on my kitchen floor, finally,
head almost touching the ground, and I cry for a minute.
I ask my question again,
"What do You want me to learn?"

Providence, luck, or something in-between
I don't know - I'm not good with labels.
I know I am a bit frustrated, fighting back sarcasm at times,
but mostly I am thankful for how it happened
if it had to happen.

Peace is promised to me at all times
which I take to mean even in the moments I am the most restless,
the most stressed, the most annoyed.
I do not have to wrangle it or manipulate it
or conjure it up.
I only have to receive it.

The peace that is not of this world.
The peace that passes all understanding.
The peace that passes my understanding.
The peace that overcomes the world.

Friday, December 6, 2013

as my baby turns three

I blinked, and then you were three.

There are some times as I go by the hospital when I can't help but think of my drive in the middle of the night to St. John's. I remember wondering if the doctor would be able to stop the labor again or if this was the real deal.  In my gut I knew this was it - six weeks early.  They had me drink lots of water and walk the floor. They gave me more meds to stop you from coming so soon, but it didn't work.  More water, more walking. I walked but stopped every couple of minutes down the hallway to wait out a contraction. I was texting your daddy; I was texting Babu. When the sun started coming up, the doctors also knew it  was going to be your day. So Daddy drove to the hospital, Babu drove like a crazy-grandma, and Uncle Chow and Auntie Missa came over to watch Bubby. And later that day you came into this world.

From day one you had your signature wild hair, though it was darker then than it is now.  You loved to sleep, and you have always been our snuggler.  Your bed in the NICU was right by the main desk, so we had a front row to gossip and action.  You weren't very interested in learning to eat, but eventually you learned and were able to come home.

Sometimes in the day-to-day business of life, I don't always see all that you are accomplishing. (I'm sorry for that.) Today I looked through old pictures and milestone markers, and I was grateful for the reminders. I saw each milestone, each victory.  I saw chubby cheeks, happy eyes, and half-smiles.  I found myself simultaneously thinking, "That was so long ago!" and "Didn't that just happen?"

I can see exactly how far you've come, and I am so proud of you.  I miss the little baby who smelled like baby shampoo, but I love watching your personality and preferences emerge. When you get the giggles, it is one of my favorite sounds. I love watching you learn to stack Duplos and pour over books, pointing out your letters. You work so hard every day. You are a loyal friend to your brother and your puppy.  You teach me about Jesus in ways you may never completely understand. And for that and so many other things, I am beyond thankful.

Happy third birthday, Bugaboo! I am so glad I get to be your mommy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

some thoughts from a mommy on the advent theme of hope

Nothing has made me feel as powerless as being a mother has. Miscarriage, NICU weeks, medical testing, probable diagnosis that still leaves questions, a child with special needs - all things in the last five years that I have had no control over. Oh, how I love some control.

Today in the middle of the shoe department of Kohl's I felt a bit hopeless. Shopping to find toddler boy shoes is difficult enough. (Statistical fact: For every thirty pair of girls shoes there is one pair for boys.) It is even more difficult when a very specific style of shoe is needed to go over braces. It is possible that such a shoe does not exist.

In the midst of this realization, I realized I lacked control. Both boys were having a hard time being in the store. So I left with Bug wearing his falling apart shoes and with Bubby yelling in the parking lot (again), "I don't like you, Mommy!!"  After a very long ride home, the rest of the day went better. Somehow most of it was actually enjoyable.

Now I sit here looking at my Christmas tree knowing each day I have a choice. I can worry about shoes and drooling and IEPs. I can worry about how much my oldest is like me and how will he make it through childhood undamaged. I can worry about the big things like lost relationships and the little things like which way to go for schooling next year. But I know that when I worry, I lose hope. And when I lose hope, I lose rest and perspective and the ability to function.

Then tonight I read a very familiar verse, but the timing of it was perfect.

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I read this over and over. I nod my head, and somehow in these words on rest and how to obtain it, I glimpse hope.

I've been studying Jesus the last few months in Matthew, and I am coming to the conclusion that I can relate to Him, even in my mothering. Especially in my mothering. He was training twelve imperfect men to be like Him. He dealt with their pride, anger, impulsiveness, and lack of understanding among other things. It must have been exhausting in many of the same ways I am exhausted.

 Therefore, when He promises to give me rest, He gives it as someone who must have been pretty drained during some of His time on earth. He gives me rest as someone who understands, as someone who heals, as someone who intercedes. His rest is that of depth and sustainability. Knowing these things, I will choose to come to Him with my worries. I will choose to trade them in for this gift of hope.