Monday, January 31, 2011

Real Life

I've been hurting over our loss again the past two weeks. I've been very emotional and very tired. I've been drained and on the verge of tears for days. I am joyful, but I'm sad. 

A friend recently wrote to me regarding the loss of unborn children:

"They get Real Life right away - euphoria"

To be honest, that was hard to read at first. But it's true. They are born into heaven never to experience the hurts, pains, and disappointments of this world. But I'm selfish. I want my baby. I want to snuggle. I want to kiss those little cheeks. I want to count those tiny toes. I want to hold my baby in my arms. I want to hear that delightful cry in the middle of the night.

But it's not about what I want. It's about what God has planned. And it's hard sometimes. It's hard to put my selfishness aside and think about God's plan. And God's grace. That my little one is in heaven with the Father. No pain, no hurt, no disappointment.

After I read my friend's email I remembered this hymn and thought I'd share it with you. The second verse really spoke to my heart.

by: Frances J. Crosby

Safe in the arms of Jesus, 
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o'ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shal rest.
Hark! 'tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea.

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast'
There by His love o'ershaded,
Sweetly my soul should rest.

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world's temptations'
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears:
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears!

Jesus, my heart's dear Refuge,
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages
Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience,
Wait till the night is o'er;
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the golden shore.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was on bedrest for three weeks before he was born at 34 weeks. And I have to say that, although there was a lot of anxiousness involved, there wasn't a lot of boredom.

We don't have cable TV at home so that was a great help. Since my husband is in student ministry we know lots of students and I looked forward to 3pm when they would stop by to visit. That was probably my favorite part of the day. :) And then there were the naps...the glorious naps. People gave me wonderful things to do also: movies, color, make a pair of moccasins (thanks Jereth), color. Coloring became very therapeutic for me. It was such a calming activity. It probably really helped my blood pressure. :)

And that was another thing too. I had to be on my side at all times. So it was hard to play video games or do anything that would increase my heart rate. But I made it through...with my sanity. :) And I got to take home a healthy baby boy and that was the main thing.

Kristen, at We Are THAT Family, posted on her weekly Works for Me Wednesday about what to give someone on bedrest so they won't be bored to death. I thought it was a great list and hopefully will help you if you know someone on bedrest or someone who is housebound from an injury.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Good Reading

And this time it's not a book. It's another blog. A really good blog by Raechel Meyers, Finding My Feet.

My friend, Rachel, sent me a link to Raechel's blog for a really cute t-shirt idea for my boys and I found a lot more. I found someone who has endured multiple miscarriages and the loss of a daughter who passed away hours after her birth. And to be honest, I haven't stopped crying since I started reading. :)

It feels good to weep. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but I feel like I've been holding a lot of it in. It feels good to let go of that pain. It feels good to release the tension that has been inside of me for weeks. And it's sad. I am sad. I'm sad to still be hurting. There are so many things that Raechel said in her blog that I have felt or said or thought. It has been so good to me to know that I'm not alone in my loss. Losing unborn children or children shortly after birth is a very lonely kind of sorrow.

Raechel's blog is another point of healing in my story. God is so good to let us use our stories of pain to help others through their times of pain. Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

So I weep and am thankful for others who have gone through terrible grief over the loss of their children who have come alongside me to comfort me in my grief. They may not even know that they have ministered to me through their blogs, through their books, through their words but they have. They have taken the time to write down their experiences and how God has remained faithful through some really dirty, hard, painful, raw circumstances and have come out the other side still singing. Thank you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Like! is a blog by a friend of a friend's husband. :) Nicolas Kline illustrated the book, The Voice of College: The Freshman Experience, written by Kipp Van Dyke and Dr. Michael Severin. I'm not sure if the book is any good (although I have heard some great reviews, and not just from the authors' wives) but Kline's blog is fun as he adds some poignant cartoons to Words from Scripture.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: To the End of the Land

First of all, I am horrible at writing book reviews. I babble on too much, and I give bad story summaries because I don't want to give anything away. Just thought you should know that before you continue. :)

My husband picked up a book for me at the library. It was on the "bestsellers" shelf so he read the back cover and decided that I might like it. And I did, although att times it was a challenge to read. To the End of the Land by David Grossman is a great book and very well-written. (It was translated from it's original Hebrew by Jessica Cohen.)

The story takes place in Israel and has a lot to do with the wars that have gone on there over the past 50 years. It was difficult to know what was going on because I don't know the recent history of Israel, WWII, the Arabs, and all the trouble that continues over there.

The book is written mostly from Ora's point of view. She and her two friends, Avram and Ilan (both boys), meet as sick children in a seemingly abandoned hospital during a war. The beginning is hard to read, not because it's graphic, although some of it is, but because of the way it's written, and I think its supposed to be confusing. Ora and Avram spend a lot of time talking to each other as they drift in and out of consciousness and I think it's supposed to feel dreamlike; you don't know how long they were out, if they are starting a new conversation or continuing an old one. But it's interesting.

There is a lot of conflict in the story, and not just war stuff, although there is some of that too. It's about three friends where they take themselves through many circumstances that are not of their choosing and some that are. The story takes place as Ora hikes with Avram through the Israeli countryside. Ora wants to tell Avram, whose been estranged from her and Ilan for years, about her life and her sons. I don't want to give too much away so my description has to be a little vague.

There are some things in the book that you should be aware of:
  1. war - It's messy. And Mr. Grossman can be quite descriptive. From the time they were in the hospital as children, from when Ilan tries to rescue Avram who's been taken as a POW,to Avram being tortured by the Egyptians.
  2. sex - And there is some descriptive stuff in the book about that too. Not gross, overly graphic stuff, but it's not something that I'm used to reading and it's definitely not something that I'd want my children (through their teens) to be reading. 
  3. language - There are some brief expletives when people are arguing, fighting the in a war. But there's not a lot of it.
To the End of the Land is beautifully written. It made me appreciate words again. It's been a while since I've read a book where the words really paint a picture, and I love a good sentence. One of the simple joys in life. For example:
Hours go by, slowly. As though they have been preserved in some distant cellar, in jars of pickled time.

Just love that sentence! Paints a great picture.

There were also some thoughts that Ora had that I really related to as a mother. Here she is talking about being nervous about having her second child as she loves her firstborn, Adam, so much:
"Sometimes I don't know whether I'll have enough love for him," she said. "Adam fills me up so much, I don't know how I'll have room in my heart for another child."
I've had those same thoughts when I was pregnant with our second son wondering if I would be able to love the second as much as the first. Loving your own children is a special gift from God. It's like your heart grows a new chamber for each child that you can fill with love - enough love for all of them in their own way.

And her son, Ofer, reminded me of my boys also:
    Ofer, when he was around three, used to come up to her and announce: "I want to tell you a story." She would say, "I'm listening," and then wait and wait while Ofer stared into some corner of the room for a long time. Then his face would take on a ceremonial look, he'd fill his lungs with air and say in a voice hoarse with excitement: "And then..."
    "And then what?" Avram asks after a moment.
    "You don't get it," she says, her peals of laughter rolling all the way to the valley.
    "Oh," he says awkwardly. "That's the whole story?"    "And then, and then...That's the main point in stories, isn't it?"
My boys tell stories like that, too. That's another reason that I appreciated this book, cause it's real life. I could relate to her as a mother, the doubts and fears you have. And it opened my eyes to how Israel is a real place. Not all the people are shop-keepers, or own restaurants. Ora is a physical therapist, which I thought was interesting because I thought most of the women were oppressed and were forced to stay home to cook and clean and manage children. But Ora is a Jew and so they don't have the same oppression that the Arabs are "known for." I had never really thought about that before. But some of the things they deal with daily was something that seemed so surreal to me: bombings, fear of riding on the bus, terrorist attacks, fears that their children might be killed on the way home from school. Really scary stuff. And it's still happening today. How real their fear is.

Anyway, I would recommend To the End of the Land as a leisurely read, keeping in mind the three things I mentioned earlier: war, sex and language. It is beautifully written and made me appreciate good writing and good sentences. It also made me want to know more about Israel's recent history and how that relates to me as Believer. Check it out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nostalgic for the "What-Ifs"

My husband was gone with the high school students for the weekend. Every year in January we have our district conference and all the Evangelical Free churches from Iowa (some from neighboring states) meet in Des Moines with their staff and students to worship, pray and learn more about God and His Son. It's a great time and I really miss being a part of that. It's hard to find a free sitter for a weekend. :)

The boys and I decided to meet the group for free time at the mall and enjoy dinner with the staff. It was really nice to see everyone. And then we went to the first part of the session Downtown Des Moines. My oldest got to ride the bus from the mall to the hotel with Dad and his "students." Our younger one was pretty upset until I bought him a gumball at one of those wonderful candy kiosks in the mall. We stayed until the speaker got up and I knew we would just be a distraction so we went to the "green room," put their jammies on, and walked through the skywalk to our car. Our oldest cried almost the whole way home because he wanted to stay with his Dad because "I really love him." Sweet...but annoying at the same time when you hear it screamed for the first 20 minutes of the trip home.

They got to bed late, it was cold, and I rarely skip church so that's what we did on Sunday morning. We are usually at church from 8:45a-12:30p on Sundays so I thought it would be nice to have a weekend of nothing. And it was a beautiful morning. We listened to Christian radio, I read my book, the boys played cars, shared, talked, made up stories together, taught each other how to work the different parts of the race track. It was wonderful. I had to text my husband and let him know what a blessing it was to my heart to have skipped out on church. I told him that my heart was so full of joy watching the two of them together...but then there was a twitch of pain. Something was missing. Someone was missing. Elihu. He would've been 3 months old this past weekend. What would we be doing if he were around? Would things be the same except I'd be rocking a sweet baby boy? And that's when it hit me, I'm nostalgic for the what-ifs. I wondered if that could be possible: to be nostalgic for something that's not real. And it is. It is.

It's weird to have that moment of joy when you're heart is full...and then...and then it hurts. The thing is, I need to not focus on that hurt. I need to focus on the blessings that God has given me. I need to relish in the joy that God gives me. I need to feel that fullness in my heart. But I think that even in our happiest moments, it will feel like something's missing. And that's ok, because there is. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10b). That joy, that strength, is what allows me to feel that hurt and still be filled with joy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Spend February

I was reminded by Sarah at Short Stop that I need to do another No Spend Month. Sarah writes about some great reasons why to do a No Spend Month and some wonderful thoughts on her journey. I'd like to document that a little bit better this time. January would have been ideal to start a No Spend Month: new year, right after a spending frenzy for Christmas, nothing major happening this month (ie. travel, birthdays, ect.). But that isn't happening...this month. So we will plan for February. And I'm nervous and excited and ready. We are in need for a little financial cleaning up after the holidays and Sarah sparked the idea to try a No Spend Month again. We did well last time and it was nice to use up stuff in the pantry and be more creative with date night. So, be praying as I prepare my mind for No Spend February.

Wanna join me??

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What Am I Doing?

I ask myself that question a lot during the week. I read lots of parenting books on discipline, homeschooling, healthy sleep habits, how to raise a grateful child, how not to raise a Christian wimp, blah, blah, blah.

But most of the time I'm just making stuff up. I don't know what I'm doing. I think most parents would say the same thing. We haven't done this before. We don't know what "normal" is. There's no training class for being a parent. And just when you think you have it "all figured out" with your first child, the second one comes along with a whole new personality, gifts, weak spots, stubbornness, attitude, physical and emotional needs, and the list goes on and on. And so again, we find ourselves making things up and adjusting our "head knowledge" to another human being's specific needs.

And sometimes I don't feel like it's worth it. I'd rather busy myself with other "tasks" (email, a book from the library, hiding in the closet) than focus on the toddler wildly blowing bubbles in his milk and thus it overflows onto the table and eventually the floor. I don't want to deal with the little blessing who has decided it was better to eat the paint than use it to paint a portrait of his wonderful mother. I want to not see the bloody wound in the back of my little boy's throat because he fell with a New Year's horn in his mouth. I don't want to listen to the preschooler who has been in bed for an hour-and-a-half chanting that he wants a drink, he wants a drink, he wants a drink, he wants a drink, he wants a drink (honestly I do not understand how he can be so persistent). I want to ignore the urine puddle around the base of the toilet that I removed only 30 minutes prior. I want to ignore that my little boy just screamed, "NO!" in my face when I told him it was time to pick up his Legos and get ready for dinner. I want to ignore those moments. I want to run away and hide in the van and watch a movie on the portable DVD player like they do in commercials. I don't want to be "Mom" because some days I have no idea what I'm doing.

I'm so thankful that God's Instructional Book focuses a little less on the tasks of parenting and more on the heart. In Deuteronomy we are reminded twice (6:6-9 and 11:18-19) to remember God's commandments and impress them on our children. We are reminded of how important it is to make that a daily thing not just on Sundays or Wednesday nights. We are also told many times in Proverbs (13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-15, 29:15, 29:17) how important it is to discipline your child and that if we don't it leads to death, not necessarily physical death but a spiritual death. And that having a disciplined child will "bring delight to your soul." Oh, how I pray that will be a consistent joy someday. We are also reminded in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21) how important it is to encourage our children and to not "exasperate" them, or they will become discouraged.

A great place to find specific verses on parenting and the wonderful issues situations that it creates is Premeditated Parenting. I haven't read the book but the reference section is great! There are many encouraging verses on discipline, verses for your children to think about, specific verses for Dad or Mom, and more.

Sure, some days we may have no idea what we're doing, but the Word of God is never changing and can be the greatest reference for you. It doesn't give you the best way to potty-train, how to get your child to sleep through the night, or how to get the paint out of your child's teeth, but it does offer great encouragement and training that we need to reference when we don't know what we're doing. And prayer. Hopefully you have people praying for you as you raise your children, cause we need all the help we can get.

Do you have any special verses that you cling to when you want to go hide in the van and watch a movie? Do you have a hard time remembering to focus yourself and your children on the Word in daily situations as you raise your littles?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011!!

I am here to tell you that I am very grateful for a new year. A year filled with new hopes and dreams. A year of anticipation. A year of no regret. A year of living every day to the fullest. A year of slowing down and enjoying the little things - even if it's a toddler or preschooler screaming their blessed head off. A year of taking time and loving more. A year of telling people thank you more. A year of encouragement. A new year.

Today I started my gratitude journal. Every day something new to be thankful for. I decided that it was time to put the pessimism (that is naturally my first instinct) to the back-burner and begin each day with a blessing that I have received and focus on that instead of on the what-ifs, the if-onlys and be happy for today and for what I do have not focusing on what I don't.

So today, I thank God for my husband. Yesterday we celebrated 8 years of marriage. I can tell you that some years have been hard and we have had a marriage filled with trials. But for the most part, our years together have been blessed. We still love each other and more and more each day. I love to laugh with him. I love that he's getting little smile wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. I love his love and passion for the Lord and for the students and parents that we serve through his job as a middle school youth pastor. I love that I get to be his helpmeet through our home, our children and our ministry. It's a true blessing to be married to such a wonderful man. And he's cute ta' boot. ;)

Here's to a year filled with gratitude!!