Friday, October 29, 2010

A 15 minute job?

A while back there was an article circulating around the Web discussing exactly what stay at home moms do all day.  It's one of those great mysteries in life and actually pertains to all moms because when you have kids (at least for me) you experience a great slow down but a lot of busy.  Being a mom means slowing down to hug and cuddle and play.  But it also means more laundry, more dishes, more little people who need you to do things for them. 

The article also said something about things that should take 15 minutes taking about 40.  AGGG!  That can be one of the most frustrating things about motherhood.   As I got home from work today and tried to get groceries inside with the two kids, by myself, I couldn't help but think of this article.

Here's basically how it went:

On the way home, I covered the basic expectations with my kids that we would get home and we would all work together to unload the groceries, put the groceries away, and unload the dishwasher.  Upon arriving home, I take one child out who promptly asks to carry the bread.  The other child has taken his shoes off in the car and now must put his shoes on before he can help.  I get the bread sack for the one and tell the other to get his shoes on.  Then I grab a handful of sacks and head up the steps, telling the child with the bread to wait until I've put the dog all the way inside the house before she opens the gate and goes up the steps.  (You remember our lost dog who has been threatened with the loss of limb because he likes to run off if the gate is unattended, right?)  Mama in, dog in, groceries in.  I go back out and tell the child with bread to go in and put the bread on the counter.  Child with no shoes still has not shoes.  I specifically tell child with no shoes how to go about putting the shoes on since he is still in the car and it's kind of tricky to put on shoes in such a confined space.  I grab more groceries and head inside, surprised that child with bread has not returned for more groceries.  Inside, I cannot find child with bread.  I check several rooms before coming back outside.  She is on the sidewalk in the backyard with the grocery sack.  She is walking kind of funny.  I'm pretty sure this funny walk involves poop.  I get close and smell.  Conversation about poop ensues.  I go up the steps, asking the child with bread to follow.  She does not.  I turn around and she has  taken the bread and the tortilla chips out of the bag and is struggling to carry the bag, chips and bread.   She slowly makes her way towards me until I lose my cool and escort her up the steps and inside, where I go through the process of cleaning her up.  As I send her upstairs to get new underwear and tell she has to stay upstairs until I tell her to come down; she is unhappy at being made to go upstairs and throws a fit.  I end up "helping her" up the stairs.  I go back down the stairs and outside to find child with no shoes still has no shoes.  A few stern words that were probably heard by our neighbors who will now not be nominating me for any mothering awards and then I head back in with more groceries while child hopefully gets his shoes on.  Outside again and child finally has shoes on.  Between the two of us, we get the remainder of the things inside.  The two of us put away the groceries and in the middle, I allow child who is upstairs to come downstairs as long as she sits on the stairs.  She is unhappy and does a mini fit on the stairs.  I ignore this and work on groceries.  Once groceries are put away, we start on the unloading the dishwasher.  I allow child on stairs to join us.  Midway through I am detecting a poop smell.  Child who was poop free originally is now presenting with poopy pants syndrome.  Are you serious?  Child from the stairs works on dishes while I take the other child to the bathroom and discover a major case of "I-forgot-to-wipe" itis.  Send child upstairs to change while we continue to put away the dishes and I start  the laundry. 

All in all, putting away groceries and dishes probably took 45 minutes...and most of my patience.  Perhaps I will find it under the laundry pile.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

God and Me-Intentions

On Sunday, this post was great.  As in that day Sunday, the I'm-supposed-to-be-worshipping-God-and-gleaning-valuable-information-from-the-sermon Sunday.  In my defense, I don't think it's a bad thing to spend part of your Sunday reflecting on what God has done in your life in the last week.  It's kind of one of those centering activities.  You know...for focus and self evaluation.  ('Cause who has time for that during the rest of the week?) 

Anyway, on Sunday, somewhere in between "Now is the Time to Worship" and another song that I've long forgotten, my brain was pretty clear.  I remember feeling guilty because my quiet time with God had been so sporadic.  Last week was busy.  I subbed 3 days out of the 5 weekdays and then we headed to Norfolk to spend time with D's family.  My kids were whiney and crabby and kind of sassy.  I may or may not have been some of those things too.  I just didn't feel real stellar about my week.

And then God reminded me that His love for me is not based upon my ability to measure up.  We sang a praise chorus with the central message of the Cross and God reminded me of how that Cross is an unearned gift that has nothing to do with my performance.  Even Pastor Dave said something in the sermon that echoed those lines.  As he preached from the last chapter of Jonah, where the Ninahvites are spared and Jonah is steamed because God isn't venegful and angry, I was mindful of God's mercy at work in my life everyday.  I of course left feeling like I would do better in the upcoming week.  That I'd be more devoted to my prayertime.  That I'd prioritize so I had the time to do a devotional.  That I'd multiply in grace and patience towards my children.  (And that I'd find the time to actually vacuum my floors.) 

Of course, it's now Tuesday, and not much of that has happened.  (Floors are still dirty.  And the rest is semi done.  No quiet time on Monday.  No prayer time other than meal prayers on Monday.  And a moment of harshness with my daughter as she laid in bed for over an hour last night instead of sleeping.)  I agreed to help a friend and am subbing 4 days this week which is more than what I really find to be ideal.  It parellels so well with my mind plotting a well written, coherent post on a previous occasion and then finding that post has been hijacked by my overactive, jello like brain.  The best intentions so quickly fall aside. (And because that seems so mundane, I almost didn't write this post.)

I'm never sure what that means in my life.  There's a natural tendancy in me to play teacher's pet with God, to get all my ducks in a row and then proudly show the Lord exactly what I've done, hoping to win His favor.  And maybe sometimes I need to be reminded of how futile that is, that my heart is more important than my ducks.  But there's also a natural tendancy in me to want my own way, to do life on my own, to run ahead of God while I rush and hurry through life.  And maybe sometimes I need to be reminded of that too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cholera Update

Conleigh's orphanage is officially isolated inside their compound.  They've staffed themselves and are prepared to be inside for a month or so if need be.  In general, health education is non existant in Haiti.  People do not understand how hygiene and drinking water can be connected to disease nor do they understand how to prevent disease.  There are many isolated areas that are not accessible by vehicles.  Real Hope for Haiti is setting out to reach these isolated areas and work on educating these villages on how to prevent cholera.  (This is not a government sponsored program.  The government in Haiti does not work in the same way ours does, going out and making sure everyone knows.)  Please click on the link to read their plan and consider making a donation to help offset the costs of such a venture.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bullriding Conversations

We live in the Midwest.  Wranglers and cowboy hats and horses and boots are part of life, especially around where I grew up.  With that goes rodeos and we've been to several with the kids.  So this afternoon there was bullriding on tv and I turned it there so the kids could watch.  Here's the conversation that ensued.

Kenson, with a "those people are crazy experession" on his face...."I don't want to ride a bull when I get big because I could get hurt.  I will ride a horse.   And a buckin' bronco."  A few seconds of silence, followed by "What's a buckin' bronco?  A horse?"  A few minutes later, while looking at me, "Do you want to ride buckin' broncos when you get big?  Why you not want to ride buckin' bronco?"  A few minutes later "Why he got horns?"  Then on to the actual cowboy, "Him have cows at his house?"  Followed by some footage of a rough ride and a hurt cowboy."He hurt his nose?  He bleed.  He have to go to the hosbital?  He ride his horse to the hosbital?"  I'll spare you the remainder of the 30 minutes or so of conversation.  If you've ever sat with a 3 or 4 year old, you know why...there's simply no way to accurately document the amount of randomness that occus.

Somewhere in the middle of that, I asked him if he wanted to a bullfighter instead.  "No, I just want to ride nice ones," he replied.

Smart boy...just remember all that for later in life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is International Adoption the Right Response?

I just found this blog a few months ago in one of those I know somebody, who knows somebody who is following this blog moments.   I have so enjoyed the posts related to adoption simply because they are thoughtful and also reflect a desire to parent from a Godly perspective.  Every Tuesday, the blog features an adoption related question.

This week, the question addresses the question of if international adoption is the correct response to global poverty/the orphan crisis.  The discussion that has occurred in the comments section is full of so much wisdom and really addresses the issues that people need to understand when asking if adoption is a correct response.  This question is one that I'm not sure we considered when we started our adoptions.  It seemed like common sense to me that if there were kids sitting somewhere that did not have a family, then providing them with a family was the right thing to do.  But as our adoption journey has progressed, I've had to do a little more thinking about my viewpoint.  We've of course had people question why we would choose to adopt internationally instead of adopting from the United States.  We've found ourselves gaining new perspectives and looking at the ethics of adoption in a new way.  And of course, we've heard the line "if people would just give all the money they spend on international adoption to specific families, then those families could stay together and adoption would not be necessary."

It's that last statement that probably stuck in my craw the most.  Were my good intentions wrong?  Was I misusing the money God had given me?  Will my child come to resent the fact that we spent a large amount of money on an international adoption rather than giving that money to his or her birth family so that they could stay together? 

I've come to the conclusion that, for my two children, international adoption was the right response.  Is it the right response for every child?  No.  But my two were in orphanage care before we came along.  They were placed in orphanage care for many of the same reasons that young, unwed mothers in the U.S. place their babies for adoption.  We would never tell these young American moms that they must choose to parent their children; instead we respect that they were brave enough and strong enough to make such a difficult decision.  We owe it to women around the globe to honor and respect their choices.  Of course, not all international adoptions are ethical.  And that is wrong and should be addressed. 

I also think it is important to recognize what it means to prohibit international adoption for those children in orphanage care.  An institution, no matter how good, is not a family.  Children deserve to be the special faces in someone's wallet.  Children deserve to have someone who hangs their artwork on the refrigerator.  Children deserve permanency.  Children also deserve opportunities.  Many children in orphanage care do not have opportunities for education or adequete health care.  Those alone are not reasons for a child to be placed but they are considerations. 

Many countries that are viewed as supplying countries in the international adoption equation are literally hemoraging needy children.  Someone who has sustained major trauma would never treated with only one method.  Imagine a doctor looking at a car crash victim who has major head trauma, a broken leg, internal bleeding, and facial lacerations and simply applying a band aid or only casting the leg or plunging ahead into surgery and ignoring all other injuries?  Massive injuries require multiple responses.  Countries who have massive injuries to their families need multiple responses.  International adoption is one response.  Encouraging education and teaching business skills so that families can support themselves is another.  Working to provide clean drinking water and adequate food is another.  Addressing cultural issues which limit women in their ability to provide for their families, encourage domestic violence, or do not allow women to say no to sex or prevent pregnancy is another.  Setting up government infustructures which support families and protect children is another.  The list goes on and on.  Addressing the orphan crisis means a lot of things, all of which are useful and serve a role.

So back to that original statement that bugged me the most.  Wouldn't it have been better to send my money to a family so that they could stay together?  The flaw in that is assuming that money fixes all problems.  Money does not fix all problems.  Yes, money certainly has the potential to positively impact a family.  But it does not change the fact that there are families who have been devestated by absentee or deceased fathers and mothers.  It does not change the fact that you are a teenage mom who does not have the life experience necessary to successfully parent.  It does not change the fact that families live trapped in cycles of domestic violence, drug abuse, or mental illness.  It does not change the fact that you have no education, may be illiterate and have no idea of how to manage money in order to support your family over the long term.  There are certainly families in Haiti who could benefit from a hand up and money might be a part of this.  But there are also families in Haiti for whom a mass infusion of money into their family situation would do nothing but bring temporary relief to only a few of their problems. 

Is international adoption the right response?  Yes.  Is it always the right response?  No.  Should it continue to be an option for birth families and one way for people to respond?  Most definitely.

Cholera in Haiti

I already posted this on Facebook but I know that not all of my peeps (HA!  Just humor me on that one...) are friends with me on Facebook.  An outbreak of cholera has been confirmed in Haiti and is specifically affecting the norther and central areas, including Mirebalais which is the town in which Conleigh was born and where her orphanage is located.  14 people in Mirebalais have died.  Cholera is water bourne and is a result of contiminated drinking water. In a country like Haiti, where 10% of people have access to clean water, an epidemic can quickly errupt.  It can be treated but those affected need access to medical care which is spotty at best in Haiti.  Port au Prince, which was affected most severely by the earthquake and has the greatest number of people living in tent cities, has not yet been affected as the river which is being connected to the outbreak farther north.  This article provides a good summary of the current situation. 

Things like this impact our family because it serves as a reminder of just how blessed we are in the U.S. and while I don't think you can discount the loss that adoption represents for our kids, there is no doubt that a benefit of adoption is being able to avoid exposure to things like cholera.  It is very humbling to consider that your child, who is happy and healthy and has access to great health care, is laying asleep in his or her bed with no real threat of cholera claiming his or her life while hundreds of Haitians are not so fortunate.  It's heartwrenching to watch events unfold and think, "that could have been my child."  It also serves to remind me that both of my kids have family in Haiti who will probably deal with all of this head on.  It's easy to insulate yourself from the worries of the world but these things jolt me back to the fact that I have no idea of how these events have impacted my children's birth families.

Consider how you might help support Haitian families by partnering with groups that work to provide clean drinking water in Haiti.  Operation Blessing , which is connected to the CBN television network, has specifically set out to address the issue of clean water in many countries, including Haiti.  Real Hope for Haiti is always one of my most recommended ministries in Haiti simply because they are such a great example of what the love of Jesus looks like on a very practical level.  In a country such as a Haiti, a small monetary gift can often do amazing things.  Conleigh's orphanage is anticipating needing to provide essential health care to the town of Mirebalais and is looking for a nurse who could travel to Haiti.  If you are interested in such a venture (or if you know someone who might be), the contact information is listed on the HCH blog.  Of course, please pray for Haiti as the country moves forward after the earthquake and as it deals with this latest public health crisis.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

God and Me-God's Economy

The last 18 months or so have kicked our butts financially.  Before Kenson came home, we were a two income family who essentially lived on one income.  We had little debt not counting our mortage.  We had a nice nest egg that was a portion of my mother in law's life insurance policy plus some savings we had accumulated.  We also had enough extra to pay out of pocket for one master's degree and one and a half Haitian adoptions. 

Since Kenson came home we have lost half of our monthly income as I stayed home.  (A deliberate choice and one that is not so much about money as it is about being where God desires for me to be but one that does have financial consequences.)  As I said before, we essentially lived on one income previously but we knew it would be tight if I stayed home.  Once I felt like I was ready to head back to work part time, I worked a few months and we were blessed with Conleigh's surprise arrival so in the last 18 months or so I have maybe been able to work for about 5 months. 

Last fall, we were lambasted by a bunch of bills.  Plumbing bills, car repairs, then replacing our furnace.  After another set of car repairs, we decided to replace my husband's aging pickup truck with a newer truck and lost a big chunk of our savings by doing so.  As many of you know, for the last 16 months, we've also been trying to sell our house.  We finally decided that our decrepit chimneys were not going to make it anymore and had them fixed last week as they were leaning and losing all sort of pieces of bricks and mortar.  Our air conditioning has not been working either so we need to have someone come look at it and I have a non functional corn stove sitting in my living room because it needs repaired but I just haven't had the guts (or the money) to find out what's wrong and have it fixed.

Making repairs on a house you are trying to sell is not very much fun because as your asking prices lowers and then you have to make repairs, you feel like you are just watching your money sprint right out of your bank account.  It's also been frustrating to feel like you can't refinance (which might help you save money) because of this "we might sell our house" issue.  (ie is it worth the headache and time spent investigating it when it really might only affect us for a few months, also with any fees associated with a refinancing project, would we really even be able to save any money)  And it's been frustrating to know that our commute results in money being lost as we pay extra in gas money.

The trip to pick up Conleigh was a completely unexpected expense in the sense that we thought we were at least a year away from such a date.  It required airfare and hotels and a car rental plus eating expenses.  Then Conleigh's orphanage decided to collect the remainder of the fees for her adoption which were originally supposed to be paid once your file exited IBESR.  Which our file never did so we were not sure what type of monies would be requested.  Add to that the cost of finalizing Conleigh's adoption stateside which I've been slowly chipping away at.

We've also started tackling Conleigh's sleep issues and had a few other health related issues so tack the doctor bills onto our already busted budget.  Thankfully we have pretty decent insurance so we shouldn't have too much to pay.

I don't know really where I'm going with this.  Actually maybe the better way to word it would be "I don't know where God is going with this."  There's been a part of me that wonders if part of this has been about us feeling like we were in a very stable spot with our finances, especially due to having a nest egg, and that God has been reminding us that a great nest egg should not be a source of security and that He has been stripping that nest egg away.  Part of me wonders if it's about remembering that God is the supplier of every need.  Part of me wonders if it's about having to rest my anxieties in a God who will meet the needs we have and that He will help us define what are true needs. 

I find finances to be one of those challenging areas of fellowship.  The Bible commands us to share the burdens of others, including financial burdens.  But when do you share your worries with others and when do you stay silent?  When is it whining and when is it communciating a real need?  And while I recognize that my needs may be an opportunity for someone else to serve God by blessing us with some type of gift, I then am faced with the conundrum that there are many people who don't view finances from this viewpoint and instead are offput or angry or indignant that someone who is not on their last dollar would even consider accepting help from others.

It's one of those things that is an almost daily part of my thought process:  what's going on with our budget and what does God want us to do.  And it's one of those things where I haven't yet gotten a strong sense of what it is God wants from me in the middle of this season of our lives.  Ironically, one thing I have seen is God's provision for us.  Last fall we were presented with an unusual offer from a family in our church to finance a home for us while we sold our current home.  We did agree to do this, believing that we had enough in savings to float two payments for a year or so, believing that there was no way that our current house would still be on the market after that time frame.  Since this was such and unusual circumstance, we weren't exactly sure what to do so we trusted that God would work the plan He had in mind for us and if this wasn't it, that He would protect us as we proceeded.  And that He did.  Our offer was not accepted by the seller and we did not end up with two payments.  Obviously, all of the financial hard stuff came almost immediately after this offer fell through.  And if we had been faced with all of those bills plus two payments with no sale of our current home despite the 12 month time frame coming and going, we would have really been in a stressful situation.  And when we left to get Conleigh, we didn't even have a bed for her to sleep on.  Church members took care of that.  I also didn't have any clothes for her as I was not expecting her to be just barely 3.  We received several large boxes of appropriately sized clothing shortly after her homecoming. 

So at minimum, I see God at work in those things.  But still, I'm looking for a bit more.  Not sure what the Lord is up to, wishing I knew...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Small Victories

Oh, Mylanta!  My daughter has hair!

Okay she's always had hair.  But it's been at this kind of icky, in between stage where no protective styles like box braids, hanging twists, or cornrows looked very good.  She just didn't seem to have enough hair to have little braids or twists that looked right.  They always looked sickly.  And it was so uneven that on almost every style, little hairs would start popping out almost as soon as I said I was done.  Which means it starts looking ratty after a day or two.

So it's been lots of yarn braids and trying to encourage healthy hair by keeping it moisturized.  I also did a pretty good trim a few months back trying to even things out a bit.  It was sad because I knew it would mean that any additional length she had gained would probably be coming off.

But it's finally starting to pay off.  This Wednesday I did her first "normal' hair style:  hanging twists with flat twists across the front.  Hanging twists are such an easy style but we've never been able to do it.  You can still see that the hair around the base of her neck is a bit thin; the twists there are a little tiny and I had to wrap the elastics a lot to get them to stay on.  But look at the ones on the top!  Fat and chunky, just like they're supposed to be.  We're now on day 3 and they're still looking good. 

It's a small victory but it's a good one!

Friday, October 8, 2010

West Dodge Road

Oh it is hard work to put the pieces together for a little heart, for a kiddo who isn't even sure what he feels or why he feels it.  For me, it's not the talk part that's hard.  It's the walk part.  The walking beside these little bodies who look and act pretty normal most of the time but who still carry within them confusion and fear and sorrow. 

It is so hard to watch little hearts be raw with those feelings. 

My kids seem to be blessed in that they easily talk about it.  (Compared to other kids who rarely talk but instead rage or distance themselves or completely insulate themselves from trust and love.)

Yesterday was one of those days.  Of course it had to be while I was hurtling down a 6 lane road (West Dodge) in the middle of Omaha but isn't that just how life is? 

We've had quite a few things lately that probably have coaxed out some of those feelings for Kenson. 

Two days ago, we read the book, The Mulberry Bird, for the first time.  It's a parable of adoption where a Mama bird has a baby bird but is all alone to raise the baby.  A storm blows the baby out of it's nest in the trees and despite the Mama trying very hard to feed it and protect it, she finally decides she can't and makes a plan with Owl to bring the bird to a family of beach birds. 

A caregiver of Conleigh's Skyped with us on Wednesday.  Both kids were excited and Kenson wanted to be in the thick of things even though he doesn't know Lori.  But after the call ended, he immediately asked to talk to Mama Juislene, his Haiti Mama.  We of course are not able to do that.  We don't even know if she survived the earthquake.

Then yesterday we went to Omaha for a doctor's appointment.  Dr. DeLair happens to be Haitian and speaks fluent Creole which she was happy to try out on my kids.  At the appointment, I thought Kenson was acting funny, like maybe all the Haiti conversation/Creole was bothering him.  He was a bit clingy and kind of whiney.  Once we got in the car, as soon as I turned off of 84th and onto Dodge, he started crying about some very small thing.  I asked if he was tired but then rethought and said "Are you tired or are you having some big feelings about Haiti?'  He quickly said "About Mama Juislene."  His eyes were full of tears, not the frustrated, I'm 4 and I'm cranky tears but the sad, sorrowful, from the depths of my soul kind.  Not sobbing and carrying on for all the world to see tears, but an instant welling of a few singular tears.  So I reminded him of the story we read earlier about the Mama bird from the mulberry tree.  And he replied that he was the little bird.  Oh it's so hard to hear him say that, to watch as he slowly recognizes the gravity of the events of his life.  So on we went, hurtling down Dodge, with me gently bringing up keep parts of the story.  That sometimes Mamas are all alone.  That sometimes Mamas try very hard to feed their babies and to keep their babies warm but that sometimes Mamas just can't.  That sometimes Mamas love their babies so much they decide to put their babies in places where they can have food everyday and be safe.  Kenson was quick to repeat several times "She tried?  She tried?"  Then it was on to how God was a part of all of that.  From when Kenson was a baby inside his Mama Juislene to when Mama Juislene was trying to take care of him to when Kenson was in the orphanage to when he came to our house, that God had a plan, a good plan full of hope. 

While I believe that is the one hope that will not disappoint, my kids have to choose to embrace that hope.  And as they piece together all that has happened in their lives, it is my job to offer that hope along with my tears over how we have been blessed by the losses of my kids and their first families.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pumpkins and Apples

We visited the orchard/pumpkin patch last weekend.  I didn't get as many apples as I would have liked but having two kids to look after makes it harder than with one.  (I know, what a revelation!)  Still the kids were thrilled.  Conleigh was so excited she could hardly contain herself.  She basically ran ahead of us the whole time, anxious to see what was next.  They both picked a really small pumpkin which completely cracks me up.  I guess there's something appealing about a pumpkin that's just your size.  And Kenson cannot say pumpkin to save his life.  It's pumpquin.  And so very cute...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

At least we know the definition of tattling...

Today, I was in the kitchen and the kids were playing in the living room.  There was some scuffle, some griping and then Kenson yelling into me, "Mom!  Conleigh did such and such...and I'm tattling!"

The Fellowship of Motherhood-The Cuteness Factor

Proverbs 31 is one of those sections of Scripture that is often lofted about as what an ideal women looks like.  It brings to mind a long list of things that women can do to be seen by others in a positive light, often in  a way that makes others gush about how "cute" something is that another women has done.  (Why women do this, I don't know.  You will never hear men doing anything like this.  But then again, most men don't gush over much of anything.)

For example, my kids are cute.  I hear it all the time.  And I certainly try to add to their cuteness in little ways.  Like sweater vests for Kenson with coordinating plaid shirts.  Or billowy dresses with vividly patterned tights for Conleigh.  Is it really necessary?  Um, no.  I just like to do it.  It's one of the perks of motherhood. 

There are lots of things like that.  Things that really don't matter too much in the grand scheme of eternity but are things that are important to us as moms, that make us feel good and are probably more about our own likes and dislikes than anything else.  And of course, because it's often a matter of personal preference, these things represent opportunities for women to form opinions.  Here's my list of thing that have a certain "cuteness" about them:

Children's names-No one wants to pick a name that is perceived as a monstrosity.  But everyone has preferences about what name they like, how they pick name, and what name go together.  It's easy to apply your own opinion to what names you like and don't like.  But really is it needed?  Regardless of if it's Clementine or Clara, Charissa, or Catherine, I don't think anyone needs to know my opinion on what so and so named their child.  Yet I feel obliged to evalute their choice based on the "cuteness factor".  Why?

Home decor-I'm guessing as I write this you can pretty quickly identify a decorating style that sums up your home.  It might be primitive.  It might be clean and simple.  It might be classic and floral.  Or it might be "whatever."  As in "whatever I was given and has managed to make it's way onto the walls or into the rooms."  We choose to decorate our homes in ways that make us feel comfortable and cozy.  For some people this means a house straight out of Martha Stewart Living.  For some this means a house that is more like the bungelow featured on the tv series Roseanne-a bit outdated and mismatched.  Either way, it's easy to evaluate yourself based on the cuteness factor.  What it really creates is a rat race where you strive to keep up with the fictional Jones whose home is just one step above your own.  You land in a state of constant discontent.

Personal clothing choices-Think for a moment about what your children last left the house in...A flourescent pink shirt with orange and white striped shorts complete with a pair of too big snowboots?  Maybe a nice button down polo (in fall colors of course) with a pair of corduroys and brown leather shoes.  Maybe something that was on backwards.  Or maybe something stained.  Or maybe a great dress with coordinating tights and a very cute hair bow.  In very broad terms, how we dress our kids comes off as an extension of us and our parenting style.  I am a flexible structure type gal.  It's about 50% mom/dad choice and 50% kid choice when it comes to what they wear.  We started by letting the kids pick either their shirt or their pants and then one of us picked the other half of the outfit.  Now our kids pretty much pick all of the outfit with a little suggestion here or there from one of us.  Backwards or stained is fine for the grocery store or the library but if we're going to church or school, I ask them to change.   Shoes I'm a bit more picky about.  Around the house, wear whatever you want.  But I don't want shoes becoming a destraction from life (and a pain in the butt for me) once we leave so no snowboots out of season, no too big cowboy boots (unless we're at the rodeo), etc..  Am I the mom whose kids look like they just stepped ouf a disply window at the mall?  Sometimes.  Am I the mom whose kids might look a little rag tag?  Sometimes.  But I'm happy with the way my kids dress and that's what really matters. 

The ability to sew, bake, or do other Homemecky Becky tasks-Yes, I can do a lot of things that fit under this catagory.  But that's because I was encouraged to do those things by my family so that I might be able to be a "homemaker" (or at least know enough to fake it).  I also like to do a lot of those things.  Baking homemade goodies, sewing a skirt for Conleigh, scrapbooking our life story...I enjoy it.  To some degree, I enjoy it.  But there is also this inner compulsion in me to do things that are "cute."  I never sent out an adoption announcement for Kenson because I didn't want to send out a plain announcement from Walmart where I filled in information with a pen.  I wanted to create my own and have it be "cute."  I have a hard time taking a boxed food to a potluck or as a treat for school; instead I want to take something homemade that reflects my ability to cook and cook creatively.  The truth is I'm sure there are women like me who complicate their lives by simply having to be the "overachiever".  And I'm sure there are a lot of women who don't enjoy any of those tasks at all.

I think what I've seen is that Proverbs 31 becomes a measuring stick of sorts, where women often find themselves trying to present a nonauthentic self in order to preserve the "cuteness factor."  It gets put out there as a directive to be a gourmet chef, be a great steward of resources, sew and be crafty, homeschool or teach others, and to be an entrepeneur.  I'm pretty sure that's not what God intended that chapter to be about.  God knows how these skills might benefit a familly and how a woman who can do these things can encourage her family through these things.  But no where are these things given as commands, as direct instructions from the Lord for a woman to do every single one of these things.  And this business of maintaining the "cuteness factor"  also disregards the spiritual truth behind spiritual gifts which is that we all have been given different gifts, just as a body as many parts so the Church has many gifts.

Proverbs 31 also has some often overlooked verses.  "She sets about her work vigorously;

her arms are strong for her tasks" extolls the virtue of a strong work ethic with no specific tasks highlighted.  "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." reminds me of the value of being a woman who thinks before she speaks so that her words may be wise and not just words uttered simply for the sake of adding to the conversation.   And there are more verses along those veins, hidden in chapter 31 among the more familiar ones about weaving cloth and preparing food.

A while back my friend Heather said something that resounded with me.  We were sitting in a small group made up of women and she said something along the lines of "If it it you to dress your children in cute matchy matchy clothes, then do it.  If it is you to decorate your home beautiful coordinated paints and fabrics, then do it.  And if it's you to dress your kids in jeans and t shirts every day, do it.  If it's you for the walls of your home to be essentially the same as when you moved in ten years ago, then do it.  Be who you are and be okay with it."  (Heather, if you're reading this, I'm sure that was not exactly what you said.  But it was something along those lines of how important it is to be who God created us to be, the "cuteness factor" aside.)  What a beautiful simple who we are.

Friday, October 1, 2010

God and Me-Ebb and Flow

Lately I have found myself frustrated over the ebb and flow how I spend my time with my God.  A week and a half ago, I found myself starting my day with the words, "Still before the Lord, before the throne of God I fall...I fall prostrated and low, humbled and ready."  And it seemed as if, for that day, I was not just stuck in my rut of "do my quiet time and cross it off the list."  It seemed like my day was full of God, like me and Him where thick as thieves and bossom buddies.  It was relaxing and refreshing.

Then Tuesday hit and I managed to miss God altogether.  Same with Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  How is it that I can go from moments of spiritual clarity and true worship to moments of deliberately avoiding spending the time I need to with the Lord.  I'm not saying that I didn't think about spiritual things at all.  Obviously, it is not having a set quiet time that brings you into a state of worship.  Just that when it came time to focus or to sacrifice my time to do things that might have drawn me closer to God, I chose not to.  I'd like to blame my kids or my lack of sleep or my busy schedule.  But the reality it it's not that-it's me.  Why is it feast or famine? 

Just thankful for a God who sees that in me but loves me anyway...

I wrote the above words Thursday night.  And funnily enough, this morning (Friday) as I was doing my quiet time from My Utmost for His Highest, these were the words, "We have all had times on the mount, when we have seen things from God's standpoint and have wanted to stay there, but God will never allow us to stay there.  The test of our spiritual life is the power to descend.   It is a great thing to be on the mount with God but a man only gets there in order that afterwards he may get down among the devil-possessed and lift them up.  We are not built for mountians...those are for moments of inspiration, that is all.  We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle."  Such true words about how we cannot be consumed by spiritual ideals and instead must be practical and come down to earth a bit and actually live life.