My children, on this day

14 December 2010

A
You are all drool and randomness. Your curious path of destruction goes from room to room. When you get overly annoyed, you lock your sharp teeth on the closest object at hand (mom’s leg, brother’s head, rocking chair’s arm). You wrestle furiously. You blow kisses. You demand to feed yourself. You sleep terribly. You love everyone.

E
You are a head-scratcher. And a head-turner. You are stunningly beautiful and disheveled, all at once. You like your clothes to be matching, but your socks to be perfectly mismatched. You carry a babydoll around all day. You like to wear capes. You like your animals to wear capes. You eat nothing but nutella, but your skin breaks out if you even get close to nuts. You have fun all the time. You love everyone, but you pretend you don’t.

J
You grow every day, but you’re still as innocent as a baby. You play and imagine all day long, totally carefree and without worry. You are the most creative kid, and your mind never stops working. You ask hard questions, and give good answers. Everyone is your friend. You give kisses and hugs indiscriminately, but with sincerity. You don’t know how to tie your shoelaces yet, but you know how to tell people about God. You love everyone, but you love Jesus most.

silence

09 December 2010

So, I've been busy. Temping downtown, moving, travelling, nursing some sick kiddos back to health, and writing properly. So that's where the silence bit comes from. I miss "chatting" with you and sharing my life on a more regular basis, but until we get internet in the home, think few and far between will be the catchphrase of this brief era. Hopefully brief. :)

I'd rather be in a battle of praise

04 November 2010

Praiseworthy things for today:
  • Mama-bears! You know who you are and the sacrificial and Christ-like way you love.
  • Children who jump up and down when you come home.
  • A temp job, to help pay for some terribly expensive dental work.
  • Car-pooling with the sister for a week.
  • Hearing from the other sister, sometimes I miss her without realizing it. :)
  • Celebrating a year-old church plant with new friends in a city I love.
  • The baby tearing up things just because... he is so curious!
  • The ability to turn to God for whatever, whenever.
  • Friends a world away who you sometimes catch in the middle of the night on Facebook.
  • Free speech.
  • The gift of writing. I'm so thankful Ms Davis and Mrs Jeter told me to write all those years ago.
  • Hope amid sadness and troubling times.
  • A new governor for Kansas, one of the few republicans who defends the oppressed and fights for social justice.
  • Hearing the voice of God through wordless music.
  • Missions Sunday coming up and the chance to sing my heart.
  • A funny friend who makes all things silly and fun, or serious, when they need to be. But mostly fun.
  • Working out and losing weight and feeling positive about my health.
  • The man being home. I truly did miss him more than my macbook.
  • The boy, who can't wait to sign his name on a letter to God.
  • The girl, who keeps me on my toes and lets me brush her hair.
  • The baby, who cuddles after naps. 
  • Thanksgiving's soon arrival, and with it a family gathering of most of my favourite people. I can't wait till heaven when every family gathering will include every family member... oh, it will be fun. :)

I think today I could go on and on. Because God is good and speaks to us if we listen. And sometimes speaks to us even when we're not listening. He surprises me that way. I'm not the best listener... so glad He knows me.

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A frustrating time

02 November 2010

I'm ready to go home now. Five months back and I'm ready to go home. Now.

The husband is in Wisconsin for what I'm terribly afraid will be a fruitless missions conference. It's hard to convince the mega church that people in modern western Europe are in as dire need for a Saviour as the rest of the world is. Especially when the "rest of the world" is within a 5 mile radius of the church and is also in dire need of a state-of-the-art work out facility and wedding chapel and climbing wall... I could go on and on. Nevertheless, I hold out a wee bit of hope, because I want to go home.

I'm with the children in Missouri, cut off from communication with husband because of very rather dodgy internet reception (and a jacked-up phone). The internet has been this way for months now, and makes working and communicating with coworkers and friends a world away quite impossible. But every day, we try to again, because we want to go home.

The children are rebelling against me. They know the disciplinarian (and also the fun one) has gone missing, so that leaves me - the weak one with the short fuse - attempting to hold things together. The girl screams at me from time to time, the boy looks at me so disappointingly when I've let him down (most recently because of a forgotten darth vader mask and light saber on halloween), and the baby follows me from room to room crying and hanging onto my leg because I'm all he's got left. Add to this no-sleeping and a bit of bed-wetting, and we're all suffering the ill effects of a change in routine. They feel encumbered by our current living and working and schooling situation, because they too want to go home.

A distant family member continues to try and sabotage our work by communicating with our organization - this time with the president of the organization - over an issue she has which is actually quite important: a tattoo. She makes phone calls, writes letters, and makes terribly loathing insinuations about us and our calling - and even our ethics - to anyone who will hear her. Happily, I think people are done hearing her, realizing that she's fighting for the losing side in a battle of spiritual nature. But still, the pettiness and sadness and humiliation over the whole things makes me want to run away, straight back home.

And finally, this teeny tiny computer I'm typing this on. Not my computer, but the man's (who has mine to wow the important people with in WI). It's small and slow and every once in awhile a new window pops up or a search engine - I'm fairly sure I didn't do that. Or it goes to sleep, or beeps at me. The text on the window randomly gets bigger, or smaller, or disappears altogether. It's driving me crazy! Unfortunately, it's an inanimate object so can't long for home, but it does allow me to blame one more thing on being here.

In spite of all this, I'm glad to have my family. Loving a new church. Glad to have fall colours in a familiar place. Happy to shop and eat wherever I so choose. Blessed by things all over the place. But there's an Irish weight hanging over me. It follows me wherever I go, hovers around whoever I'm talking to. It sleeps in the bed between me and the man and whichever little person is there for the night. It sits in my Bible when I open it, echoing every word.

It says, "You are not home."

*rereading this I feel like I complain too much and praise too little. I hate this about my writing, feel like it's a recurring theme. These, however, are my feelings, true and raw, today. Tomorrow, hopefully, prayerfully, I will write of the praiseworthy things I often forget to mention. Thank you God for letting us complain to you, and forgiving us of our selfishness. Teach me how to praise.

He guards you always

20 October 2010

A Pilgrim Song
I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
   No, my strength comes from God,
      who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won't let you stumble,
      your Guardian God won't fall asleep.
   Not on your life! Israel's
      Guardian will never doze or sleep.

God's your Guardian,
      right at your side to protect you—
   Shielding you from sunstroke,
      sheltering you from moonstroke.
God guards you from every evil,
      he guards your very life.
   He guards you when you leave and when you return,
      he guards you now, he guards you always.



Psalm 121 {the message}

Hoarding regret

04 October 2010

Today we spoke about our life and work in Ireland to a church that has supported us immensely for the better part of a decade. I love talking about Ireland. I love sharing the names and the faces with old friends who really do care about what's happening on the other side of the world. It makes me smile, swells of love fill my heart, and I think, "Yes, it really is worth it."

Of course, talking about Ireland and the past two years there brings about a couple of other feelings too. There's homesickness, of which I've already written about. And then there's a good bit of regret. You see, there were hard times (shocking, I know!). Days we questioned the task and the job and the God who brought us there. There were some roles we were given that didn't seem like a good fit from the start and which may not have been handled the best way possible. At the time, I was sure we were handling it the best way possible. And I was also sure that we were being wronged in some way, not given a chance, belittled and denied. Even on this side, I see that in all likelihood, we were wronged a bit. But we were not blame-free. And with that last realization, comes the regret.

This type of regret clutters my life. I have it in almost every distinct era in my life. I look back on a time, see all the crap I left behind, bunch it all up and brood about it, and then I shove it into a dark corner where it awaits its moment of reveal. This usually occurs after a random memory eeks out or a name is seen on a mass email or a slight comment is made by an acquaintance. It's as if a used candybar wrapper from 1982 has slipped out from behind the (stuffed) closet door and mocks me for a long-gone moment of failure.

In reality, I know that with experience, comes teaching, and with teaching, comes lessons, and with lessons learned, comes wisdom. And with wisdom, comes spiritual maturity. So on the whole, I can't help but praise Him for those experiences and teaching and so forth. But still, I can't help but cringe when I really look back and take stock. I wonder why I can't just love perfectly all the time. I yell at my pride and tell him to take a backseat next time. I look to God and say, "So I guess I'm still a mess... so how exactly do you plan on using me?"

On this side, I know that His plans are perfect, even if I am not. And in that not-so-perfect experience, I have learned and grown (even if that growth wasn't witnessed by anyone). I see that He didn't mean for us to be in that exact place forever, or even very long. And if the birth of the wee lad hadn't given me an easy out, I would've clawed my way to freedom anyway. What I can do now is stop hoarding regret. I have to clean out and give away the should'ves and could'ves. In the clutter-free zone, when there's nothing left to mask or hide my true self, I may even have to accept that I'm not perfect - and no one else is, either. 

And I can hope for grace... so that when we do return and run into that old crowd, we can smile and talk and forget about all that rough stuff. Come to think of it, I better start practicing that grace straight away. Grace would be a good thing to hoard.

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Homesickness, the Irish version

21 September 2010

I've hit the homesickness wall on this side of the ocean. Missing Ireland and our friends and church and our house big time. BIG. TIME. Not that it's not amazing on this side. We love being near our family, enjoying reconnecting with old friends and joining some old and new fellowships, but still... it's home, but it's not home. So with that in mind, another top 10 list.

Top 10 thing I miss about Ireland:

  1. The sea. Duh.
  2. Seeing the mountains every day.
  3. Road trips up to Belfast.
  4. Having tea or coffee with friends or coworkers or youth or whoever happened to stop by.
  5. Book club, the awesome ladies, and reading for fun.
  6. Writing in Malahide. Oh how I miss writing in the rain and sleet in Malahide.
  7. Church. Raw, acoustic, personal worship and teaching.
  8. Dreaming with friends and coworkers about a future full of possibilities. Will we ever have a house in Galway with 6 bedrooms that are full of people and youth, looking for a safe place and community to belong to? Maybe not, but over there it seemed possible.
  9. My house. Yes, that's right. That same house i used to complain about where not everything was my own...  I can be so silly!
  10. Knowing we were where we were meant to be.


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Eliott

15 September 2010

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5 years ago I was pregnant. It should've been great news - we had been trying for nearly a year for our second baby. But it was never meant to be. I had no idea I was pregnant until it was too late and the baby was gone. As an ectopic pregnancy, there was no chance for survival, and in the subsequent two weeks (discovery, blood tests, diagnosis, then finally surgery), I grieved. A lot. After it was all said and done, I spent a good amount of time in mourning, exhausted by the process and devastated by what never was. Then, news of Ella. Joy quickly replaced pain and we moved on.

But now it's 5 years, and I'm feeling it this year. I say to myself that it was never meant to be. That there would be no Ella, no Asher, and probably no me. I try to convince myself that it was an inconsequential loss and nothing compared to what others have suffered. But for some reason, 5 years later, I feel it in my heart and in my belly... and I know God is in control and that He actually saved me and gave us a second and third chance at more children and healed me of the unknown condition that caused it all in the first place. But I do wonder... why did there have to be a baby? Why did it have to be a baby that was sacrificed to save me and our future family?

Still, I thank God for it. I cry, but I thank God. I get angry, but I look at Ella and Asher, and I thank God.

And I look forward to meeting Eliott, who gets to spend his whole life and eternity seeing and knowing Jesus.

************

So, anyway, a story I wrote when I was pregnant with Ella.


A SMALL, SACRED GRIEF

I lost a baby once.  Not in the lost-in-the-mall type of way.  But as in: one day there was a baby growing inside me, and the next day… not.

My story pales in comparison to others I have heard.  I made no plans, picked out no names, painted no nursery.  I did not know I was pregnant.  I did not know until it was over and the baby was gone, and all that was left inside me was a grapefruit sized mass on my right fallopian tube, the result of an ectopic pregnancy. 

I was in pain and sick for weeks, but I did not know why until minutes before I was wheeled into surgery.  If the mass was not removed, I would most likely never have another child, and I could quite possibly bleed to death.  Even then, the thought that panicked me most was the removal of the mass.  Was the baby alive?  Was it not?  Was I “removing” a viable child?  No… this pregnancy was doomed from the start. 

An ectopic pregnancy is the implantation of a fertilized egg on a woman’s fallopian tube, not in the proper housing: a uterus.  The bleeding for weeks beforehand was the actual miscarriage; the surgery that followed was to repair the damage.

As fate would have it, within a week of my miscarriage and surgery, this exact scenario played itself out on Grey’s Anatomy. I watched this episode thinking how selfish I was for grieving something so small and insignificant (I thought the acting was a bit on the melodramatic side).

After the deed was done, the baby gone, the mass removed (along with fallopian tube and ovary), I had this overwhelming sense of guilt.  I told myself that I hadn’t really lost that much, when I had seen other women in my life suffer much more tragic losses.  I have seen a friend endure three consecutive miscarriages.  Seen as from a distance: through heartbreaking emails and silent phone calls.  I have witnessed a woman grieve the loss of twins, and heard her cries as she not only grieved for herself, but for her older children who had no blueprint for grief and who could not yet understand why their siblings could not be born.

My pain seemed so inconsequential.  I didn’t even know!  I never felt that excitement and unadulterated hope!  This baby would never have been born!  Nothing really to grieve, right?  My problem here was so small in light of all the women I knew who had lost so much more and braved the future, minus one.

And this is when God spoke to me, maybe for the first time.  Weeks after my surgery, as I laid in bed still feeling this suffocating weight of both grief and shame, I heard God say to me, “No pain is too little for me to not bear it for you.”  Ok, He didn’t actually say it, but in my heart I heard it.  He was giving me the permission to grieve because He had given me this script to live out.  I believe that God gave me this small thing - an unknown baby - so I could rest in Him, cry out to Him, and rely on Him for the strength to endure.  I do not know if I could have survived had God given me more, but He gave just enough for me to bear, wanting me to submit this burden to Him.

So I grieved for myself, and for my husband.  I grieved for my son who did not know to hope for a sibling, but who was affected by our sorrow.  I grieved for the loss of my baby.  But I rejoiced in the sweet peace that comes when you rest in Christ.  I can rest in Him because He who suffered the most for me, did it so that He could comfort us in our sacred and small moments of pain.

When You Were Young

27 August 2010

[I realize, in retrospect, that every person has a story like this and most aren’t nearly as melodramatic as mine. But it is my story, and I’m sticking to it.]

I’m seeing ghosts around every corner.

It’s been two weeks or so since we moved back to my hometown. Well, for this year, we’re not exactly in my hometown. We’re actually living across town and it’s an area I haven’t spent a significant amount of time in these past 10+ years or so. But way back in the day - when My-So-Called-Life and Pearl Jam were on every TV and radio, when the guys from U2 were still in their 30s, and when I wore birkenstocks all year round – I spent nearly every day here. This is where my church was, where my friends lived, where my boyfriend(s) were. I guess I really did kinda grow up here… but being back here is feeling rather odd.

I take the wee ones to the park where I used to play as a preteen, with the old slides and giant animals we would hide out in and tell secrets to. I drive by my old church (where we still visit rather frequently) and feel the butterflies in my belly that I used to feel, driving down that road, anxious for youth group and who would be there and what would happen. I wait in parking lots where I used to wait, in those first old used cars, waiting for friends to get off work, and all of us climbing – we were quite the crew – into the same vehicle, heading off on some mildly dangerous adventure. I drive past the hidden entrance to the rope swing, up and down the hills where we could go hill-jumping, past the restaurants we used to only order coffee or desserts in, past the parks where we would go late at night and laugh and talk and occasionally make out (sorry, Mom). Memories, everywhere. Old, dormant, weird-feeling memories.

And then, of course, like every story – there is a boy. When I was 18 (well, ages 14 through 19, sadly), I loved a boy who didn’t love me back. He lived right down the street from here and I drive past it more than I would care to. We were together really only a year, but being absent for so long and now coming back, strange and sad feelings return as if it was yesterday. Feelings of heartache and regret, and I hate feeling that way.

It took me years to move on and let go of all that. Mostly they were great memories, many old friends still remain great friends. But I was a different person then. At least, I think I was a different person then. I was young, and na├»ve, and infatuated, and running wild. The friends who remain grew with me and know me as who I am now. But still, being here, I wonder if I’ve really changed at all. I’m still longing to belong, trying to fit in, looking for affirmation. I may not be trying to find those things in boys anymore, but the insecurities are – not surprisingly – still there. Every landmark and road that still stands remind me of a time when life was great and carefree, and yet heartbreaking and tragic. They remind me of who I was, and who I still am.

So today, I began making new memories. Maybe not to replace the old – (I’m not sure the bad ones will ever completely go away, and I think I want the good ones to stay; I was young once and there was joy and love and friendship.) – but new memories with my kids and with my man and this weird time of transition we find ourselves in. Memories set to new music and changing landscapes and the laughter of my children.

After all, I do think - if I were to be truly honest - the girl I was then would look at the woman she became with surprise, and be so relieved.


Fussy Mummy

17 August 2010

I'm not sure when it happened. It totally snuck up on me, caught me by surprise, and brought a tear to my eye. I have become that mother.

You know the one: she paces the living room floor waiting for that glimpse of her child after the first day of school. She frets over him making a friend, eating his lunch, getting on the right bus. She chews her nails thinking of the wrong words he may use (Irish words or phrases that are now second nature and stand out in American contexts). She sees him on the bus, leaving for the day, and her heart breaks at his enthusiasm and vulnerability and joy at going to school, knowing that someday - perhaps someday soon - his naivete will be shattered by reality: school sucks. Kids can be mean. Still ten years to go.

Yep, that was me as the boy experienced his first day of American elementary school yesterday. I was a wreck. But the boy was a trooper. I got a little bit sick to my stomach. He ate breakfast and the school lunch AND his brown bag lunch. I cried a little bit. He laughed and jumped and smiled, telling us about his bus adventure and the one girl who wasn't so keen on him hugging her.

Grade Card
The Boy : A+
Mommy : F

The strange thing is, we've always really promoted independence and resourcefulness and thick skins in our little family. We never really worried much about him as a baby or small child. I don't think it was really till we moved overseas - and I saw that he really was just a wee lad and still vulnerable and innocent and prone to heartbreak - that I started to fret. And now that we're back, we're all having to start over. Back in our homeland, where us adults were born and reared and should recognize and remember everything, we're having to relearn the whole system. And that causes me, a fussy mummy and a stressed wife, to worry just a bit more about how everyone is doing and if we'll all succeed.

So far, the first big test of school and boys, my son is a success. His mom, on the other hand, could use some work. Must study and research and give myself a few pop quizzes over the next semester or two. After all, we'll be doing this all over again back in Ireland next year.

Back to the Lists

31 July 2010

When I'm in transition and feeling fussy, I like to make lists. So as we prep for the next move - this time to my hometown - the Top 10 Things I'm Looking Forward To...
  1. The older kids being in school.
  2. Meeting my mom and sis downtown for lunch.
  3. Parents and siblings and nephews.
  4. River Market Farmers Market.
  5. Visiting old friends.
  6. Watching American football with my dad.
  7. Settling down for a few months.
  8. Seeing (and using) some of our very own furniture.
  9. The chili cook-off and other fun autumn activities.
  10. Walking the Plaza.

Flash Flood Warning

20 July 2010

It never rains like this in Ireland. Hard, loud, thundery rain. I'm just in from the sidewalk, jumping and laughing and drinking cold rain. In the middle of July, I am actually shivering. But it feels super good. And I remember that it's been a good long while since I've enjoyed something so freely, even for just a few seconds.

Short, sweet, joyful freedom.

Old Home

08 July 2010

"I want to go to our old home." Ella's been saying this a lot. All this time, I was thinking the transition back to the US would be harder on Jackson, but he's been here before. He seems to know the drill. But the girl was just a baby way back when. She didn't have the vocabulary (neither did we) at the time to ask where we were going or why we had left or when things would change. But now, she's all painful statements and sighs. She loves Gramma and Grampa's house, but she knows it's not really home. And she wants to know why the next home we go to won't be home either. And she really doesn't understand why we can't back to the old home, ever, even when we go back to Ireland. That old home is someone else's home now.

Everyone says home is where you are together. Home is the safe place you make for your children. As long as Matt and I are there, we're home. That's what they say. But that's not true. Family, together, safe, those are the places where we are together. But it's not home to a 3-year-old.

There are loads of awesome and amazing and totally spectacular things about the life we've chosen to live. New people, new families, adventures, fun, experiments, travel, joy, fellowship, meaning, love... literally long lists of awesome things. But in the other column, the one thing: no home.

Where we are here, is in a home, for now. Our for now home. I think she'll learn to make due.

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Mum of Three... when did that happen?

On early mornings

22 June 2010

A newly mobile Asher wakes me up early most days. He no longer wishes to cuddle in bed indefinitely. He's gotta get out, get going, eat some paper and chew on some power cords.

The coffee maker greets me in these early hours, a somewhat significant purchase that signals I am not going anywhere anytime soon. The taste and the buzz are slightly familiar, reminding me of home. We are where we are for the next six weeks or so. Suitcases are mostly unpacked, clothes in drawers, clean laundry waiting to be put away. Signs that point to normalcy for a family of five. The temptation to get comfortable, settle in, and stay awhile floats overhead, slightly out of reach. It's nice to be here, to be near family, to see our children get so much love and attention from the grandparents they've been deprived of for so long. But we know the plans are different for us. Not exactly typical, not exactly home. Not exactly meant for this.

So today, we go back to work. Doing what we do, working towards the future and relying more on faith than on the works of our hands. In these early mornings, it feels both daunting and exciting. The day is open before us, waiting to see what God will do and where we'll go and how we'll get there. In this place, again, with Ireland waiting on the other side. There's something strangely odd and comforting, seeing day to day that our journey - literally - is not done, yet. God is not done with us, yet.

I go for that second cup of coffee. I'm gonna need it.

Compassion Blogging, Take One

11 June 2010

I've recently become a Compassion Blogger, someone who blogs on behalf of Compassion International, hoping to bring attention and support to Compassion and the children they so greatly impact. Today is my first such post, and I have no idea how to do it, really, but here you go. Our chance to make a difference.

Donate to Compassion International Medical Intervention FundAchile is 8. He needs heart surgery. For years he has lived the life of a sick little boy in Burkina Faso, and now, his situation is critical. Compassion has supported Achile through his illness, but now they need our help to see him healed.

To see Achile transported to India and receive this life-saving operation, please click the link above. Any funds received that go above and beyond the $20,449 needed for Achile's surgery will be rolled into Compassion's Medical Assistance Fund.

If you don't have cash, pray, or perhaps blog. Maybe just one person will read this and donate. Who knows? Could just save a life.
More on how Compassion aids children with heart conditions: http://blog.compassion.com/holistic-child-development-civ-heart/

Thoughts on Going

09 June 2010

The original title for this was "Thoughts on Leaving", but leaving implies a whole lot of permanence, and though sneaking doubt and fear lies at every corner, our going is a temporary thing. With that in mind...

I hate to go. I hate to say goodbye. I cry a lot. I hug a lot. I get awkward. My words get all messed up and my heart hurts a lot. Like, physically hurts. I can literally feel little pinpricks of pain in my soul. I want to say the things I didn't get the chance to say, but don't know how to say them. I get frustrated. I feel like I should've done more. I wish there was more time. I get afraid. I worry about the future. I'm afraid I'll be forgotten. I'm afraid I'll forget. I want to take everyone and everything with me.

But...

This is all temporary. Only a fleeting a moment. Reunion waits on the other side. Will things be forgotten? Yes. Will things stay the same? Probably not. Going always involves a little bit of sacrifice, from both sides of the ocean. But to go back and be remembered... that will be sweet.

See you soon, Ireland. Wait for me.

Gifts

An update, in case my worried parental units are reading this

15 May 2010

Hey ya'll. I'm feeling snarky and upbeat tonight, so thought I should post a wee update on all things ambiguous.
[note: if you would like to make this really fun, every time I mention the word 'ambiguous', please take a drink of your preference: coke, water, beer, formula, whatever]
So...... we've had a few meetings. Good, though slightly uncomfortable meetings, but the end result is positive, so I'll go with it. We've got the official invite back, which is a nice response to one ambiguous area of my life. While on home assignment we will have actual assignments, which will be good and fun and hopefully encouraging and confirming and all that jazz. Also hopeful that they will in fact, finally, turn me into a better person. Well, we'll see on that one.

Anyway, one big ambiguous issue solved for the time being. Now, onto the next one! Packing! Any takers? I am so not a good packer. Actually, as I'm sure you've guessed, I'm not a good transitioner. I'm really, really bad at it. It seems like we've packed (or gotten rid of) loads of stuff already, but the house is still chaos! Of course, this could be because we've removed everything from drawers, shelves, and cupboards. Craziness still reigns and the path home is now oh so short. In all fairness, this issue really isn't all that ambiguous. Our leave date - 7 June - is fixed on the calendar. It's just surviving it all in between now and then. But I think we'll make it. At least tonight, I think we'll make it.

And now, a picture of the girl and I. Our alter-egos.

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Can you tell I've had a lot of caffeine today?!?!

Finding God in Finding Nemo

08 May 2010

So on Saturday nights when Matt has youth group, the children and I have a cinema party. Tonight on the "big screen": Finding Nemo. I forgot how a) funny that movie is, and b) how it nearly makes me cry every time. The first time the man and I saw this film was very soon after the boy was born and we were on the verge of tears the whole time! Lame, I know.

Anyway, so tonight I'm watching, feeding the baby, keeping the other two in check, and it's at the part where Dory and Marlin are inside the whale. Now the water goes down past the whale's uvula (right?) and it looks like our two fish friends are going to meet a digestive demise. Dory's just going with it, telling Marlin that the whale says it's time to let go and that it'll be OK. But of course Marlin, prickly old man fish that he is, refuses. He catches Dory by the fin and asks, "How do you know something bad isn't going to happen?" Dory's answer: "I don't."

Epiphany. The future has a lot of question marks. There are very few certainties. The only one thing we do know for sure: God is good. Oh, and He loves us, too. As we hurl forward towards this move and transition and some unanswered questions (which, by now, you know I hate), I find myself asking myself (and husband), "How do you know something bad isn't going to happen?" We don't. Something bad, or uncomfortable, or sad, or unpredictable may happen. And God will still be good. And we may, in fact, still be OK.

But, maybe, even if we let go and fall, something good may be waiting on the other side. Something we couldn't see before. Maybe it's what we were hoping for, but requires a bit more work. Or maybe it's something unexpected... and better. Maybe God was just wanting us to let go, and let Him blow us out of His big blowhole.

Weird.

So tonight, I'm gonna rest a little easier. I'm gonna go with it. Even if it's just for one night. I'll let you know if it takes.


The Praying Kind

02 May 2010

If you are of the praying kind, we could use loads of them right now. Decisions must be made and they are of the hard variety.

Freak Out, the sequel

24 April 2010

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

That's what's going on in my head right now as I sit paralyzed in this black chair, immobile due to complete distraction, indecision, and ambiguity.

What's the cause of this freak out, this time? We're awaiting some decisions... some decisions that aren't ours, that we thought were already decided, and yet they aren't really. There's this whole "invitation back" thing we're waiting on. It's a thing supposedly everyone has to go through when they leave from full-time work here, back to America, and then hopefully back again. But apparently it's a process that has never really technically been followed through on before. And so, being that there's a first time for everything, we are the first time.

This wouldn't really be such a big deal, except that we've been asking this question, this "Are we invited back?" question for several months. This question has always been met with a nod, an "I don't see why not," an "I'm sure it won't be a problem" type of answer in the past. But in the last few weeks, this question has been met with a "Let's wait and see," or a "We'll discuss it at the meeting," or an "I wouldn't worry about that right now" type of answer.

So can you see the freak out?

Reasonably, logically, I think it's good. They should take their time. And so should we. Let's really discuss things and see how things have worked and come together and make a joint decision affirming the future. Paranoid me sees things slightly differently. I mean, there was affirmation, and then there wasn't and then there was silence. I mean, we're packing up our life here! We're saying goodbye without being able to tell people when/if we'll get back. We have to actually share with our children what our plans are beyond next week. But instead, I'm having to claim this ambiguity once again as my silent partner in crime.

Oh Ambiguity, won't you ever leave?

So today I sit in a slightly chaotic household, a child crying upstairs due to some teething and sleep-deprivation issues. I'm looking at toys and wondering where I should put them: in storage, in a suitcase, in a plastic bag to take to the charity shop. The girl, who has never taken well to change, I worry a bit for. I hate to see the sad, crying child return, who would just roam from packed room to packed room whimpering during our last move. I'm trying to be stable for her, keep things as normal as possible, when inside I feel the anxiety rising in my chest and causing me actual physical pain.

Do we have any alcohol in the house? Or maybe an inhaler?

I need a chance to breath and believe it'll all be OK.

Ok, back to reason and logic. Looking back at this blog over the year(s) or so, I see many freak outs and unanswered questions that, in due time, God answered and calmed and provided and settled. He's there in it somewhere, waiting for the freak out to end and faith to begin. Perhaps I'm just not learning this lesson yet. Perhaps there isn't even a lesson. Just the next step in belief.

The wee one still cries. Perhaps he too senses my paralyzed state of ambiguity and anxiety. Can probably taste it in the breast milk or feel it in my biceps when I carry him around the house. The girl, though, for now, appears oblivious. Guessing I should just sit still then, and wait, and relax... nothing has to be packed or done just yet.

6 weeks till D-Day.

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Death Overseas

21 April 2010

As we were preparing to move to Europe, we were told to expect to miss out on certain life events among our families and close friends. Weddings, births, deaths... things that signal that life does indeed go on, even if we're not there to share in it. So, we've missed attending a few weddings, didn't get to see some new little family members born, and now we've been unable to say goodbye to a patriarch.

The husband's maternal grandfather died last week. It wasn't altogether unexpected. He was sick, and progressively getting weaker, and for years we felt like every goodbye might be the last. We were sad, to be sure, but we were OK. Because he was no longer tired, weak, frustrated... he was fully alive, whole, perfected! This tricky dichotomy of being Christ-followers whose only true home is with Him above, but still ache at the leaving, the homegoing, the departing of a loved one who was always there.

Husband was a real trouper. But as funeral day came, melancholy set upon our household. Random tears were shed throughout the day. Phone calls home were planned, and then cancelled, and then hastily made only to leave a message for an empty house across the sea. It was hard to be away, to not be able to hug Mom, or comfort Sister, or sit by Grandma. It was hard to not be there, to not say a few words, to not appreciate a day for family and memories.

My man, who is slightly unfamiliar with open vulnerability, couldn't really hide all those hard things from me, here where it's just us and our little family. I think maybe it was good to share it - the few tears and the short silences - with only eachother, but still...

...To be with family, even if just to say goodbye, would lessen the heartache... and increase the joy found in a life well-lived, and a man who now is Home.

Anyone want a used bandage?

05 April 2010

It's happening again. That feeling I get as we edge closer to another move. Panic mixed with sadness, fear, exhaustion and worry. Another house to organize, pack up, clean, and leave. Clothes and toys and furniture to store, sell, or give away. Plane tickets to be bought. Lodging to be secured. Vehicle to be found. Schools to be left or enrolled. I'm not happy about it. I hate this part. The constant tearing off the bandage only to open new wounds, let them heal over, and then rip off the bandage again.

This time, we think we're coming back. We hope we're coming back. We don't know for sure. No one seems to know for sure. But the plan is, currently, to come back, though that doesn't even take into account the support we need to even get back. That will be a miracle in itself. But if or when we do come back, the plan is to stay longer than two years. The uprooting-our-family-every-24-months routine is getting old.

But before then, the leaving. The house is a hodgepodge of junk, ours and the landlord's. Move our stuff out, his stuff back in, and try to undo the damage Ella has done to every wall in the place, prepping for new people. A house that was never ours.

The task of sorting and throwing out is about to get brutal and ruthless. I gotta grab this move by the horns and tell it whose boss.

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Kickin' it old school

03 April 2010

As we prep for another international move (even a temporary one), I face saying goodbye to some things that I like to keep near. One item(s): family photos. As Matt and I grew into adulthood, film was replaced by digital files. So there's a stack of photo albums of our families, our courtship, and our young married life in Chicago that I'll be leaving behind for awhile.

In an effort to "take" some of them with me, so begin the posts of old-school pics. In this segment: The Man & Me (formerly known as Tico & The Chick), the early years.

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Flagpoling

Swiharts

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What I really want to put as my Facebook status, but could never...

26 March 2010

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Karen...
...is really sad.
...is misunderstood and misheard.
...doesn't like it when people raise their voices at her.
...doesn't like it when people put words in her mouth and interrupt her before she gets a chance to finish her thoughts outloud.
...wants to apologize, but isn't really sure what she should apologize for.
...wishes she could clearly communicate what she wants to say.
...doesn't want to be a martyr (figuratively, speaking).
...wants to feel adequately represented without feeling inadequate.
...comes away from meetings feeling like a child.
...thinks it's time to let go of that sad little girl on the inside.
...wants to not care about what people think of her.
...thinks some (not all) American conservatives are losing their minds.
...doesn't want to feel ashamed of supporting healthcare for all people.
...is a political independent, maybe even slightly left of centre, and it doesn't make her evil or less of a Christ follower. It may even mean she's attempting to follow Him more closely. 
...is afraid that no matter where she lives or how old or mature she gets, she might always be a misfit.
...thinks it's really, really, really hard to be a mom of three in another culture, and she wishes that feeling that way didn't imply she was weak.
...will someday be so spiritual that all that other crap will be meaningless.

Anyone else want to share their secret, shameful Facebook status?

Boy, Published

20 March 2010

When I write things about my children, I always kinda wonder if people are bored by them. I mean, there are loads of moms everywhere blogging about their kids everyday. And of course, I think my children and the relationship I have with them is extraordinary, but then again - so do most moms. So when someone reads one of these stories and is touched by it, I get all warm and gooey on the inside. Because I do think what I have with them is special. And really, any story about a mother and her children is, at the heart, a story of survival, love, loss, and joy.

So behold, The Boy, will be published in an online magazine for women living and serving cross-culturally. I'm not sure my story is the typical fare, but I'm more than thrilled to be able to share with the masses a short story of me and my boy. The firstborn. It's a summary, really. The true, unabridged story, will be saved for a later date.

It's a doozy.

A Full House

One thing we've discovered living here is, when home alone or when not seeing people regularly, we feel down in the dumps. But when our house is full or when we're in a community of other people, meeting and greeting, sharing memories and trading jokes, we feel full and free and merry.

Last night (scratch that - we're a week on now!), our house was full. It was Matt's birthday, and having not had many birthday parties as a child or young adult, we decided this was the year. The guest list was simple and the atmosphere a bit crazy with the kids running about. But there was laughter! And smiles! And hugs! And stories! At one point I was upstairs feeding and rocking the baby to sleep and I would hear roars of laughter below... to me, that felt more like home than anything had in a long time.

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Gross stuff that comes out of babies

27 February 2010

This last week was full of firsts for us. Asher's first plane trip. Our first trip as a family of five. Matt's first time to Vienna. And then the gross stuff. Asher's first vomitting session. Ella's first vomitting session on a plane to Vienna (not her first time getting sick on any plane though... nothing can break the record of the Ireland flight of May 08!). Asher's first projectile poop. And my first time being covered in both types of grossness from both little ones in the course of one short week.

My laundry cup overfloweth.

But... beautiful pictures were taken. Beautiful times with all the children were had. Messy distractions were kept at bay. We were able to play, talk, think about our past and make plans for our future, cook, walk, adventure...

The traveling was rough, but the holiday week itself was beautiful.






6 months already?

The boy

03 February 2010

My baby boy turns 7 next week. Not so much a baby anymore, at least for these past 6 years, especially now that there is an actual baby boy in the mix again. But still, I look at him and all I remember is this big, roly-poly, hunk of a man-child that I somehow was able to give birth to and still had enough energy to feed him, take care of him and watch him grow.

He's at the age now where, if I call him "baby", it is now an insult and he gets mad at me. But he still loves to cuddle, loves to kiss, loves to hold my hand, loves to tell me he loves me, and loves to be a part of this little family. He is all kindness and light and energy and creativity. He draws, writes stories, imagines, dances... he's just about everything that is good in the world.

Of course, he's not perfect. He is my child, after all. He is a bit quick to stomp his feet when he doesn't get his way, or to growl at me when he's displeased, or to hit back without even thinking. But those are all just fleeting moments, short-lived evidence of a fallen nature, quick to be replaced by angelic brown eyes and a kiss on the cheek.

When I think of all that he and I went through together, from the tumultuous labour and delivery, to the long days and nights of all eat and no sleep, to the helpless months of post-partum depression, to the moves from one house to another (and another and another), to the transplantation of our family to another life in another country which seemed awfully scary at the time... we're survivors, him and I. We've done it all together.

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mommy and jack

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Bits & Pieces

01 February 2010

I'm a bit under the weather, so I have an excuse to sit on the couch and play on the laptop, ignoring the children, and watching old episodes of Lost. :) So here's some fun stuff. Just for funsies.

My friend Larissa put me on to this site for digital scrapbooking. I haven't tried it yet, but I love to scrapbook (when I have the time and energy!) and maybe sometime will give this a go. It's really pretty and fun to look through if nothing else.

Some friends of ours participated in this extreme sports racing type thing last year in Ireland. Looks super cool and fun and one day I might like to try something like this. We'll see... But I will tell you this, hearing our friends talk about the experience of it, I couldn't help but get a few tears in my eyes. Really beautiful.

I'm thinking about selling some stuff on Etsy. Maybe some graphic design-y type stuff like monogrammed art or something. Maybe. Could be a creative outlet and perhaps bring us in a bit of extra cash. Who knows? What do you think? I do have a friend who sells things on there - check it out!

That's it for now. Sigh, cough, sigh... I need a nap.

To stay awake, or not to stay awake...

27 January 2010

So I've been staying up later, consistently and increasingly, over the last few weeks. Today I realized why. If I'm awake when the wee man wakes up for a feed at 1am, then I don't have to wake up, too. I'm just dreading going to bed now, knowing that I can't just sink in and rest. My muscles tighten, I roll over slowly and silently, I wait for the scream. Maybe tonight will be different. Maybe tomorrow night I'll stop saying, "Maybe tonight..."

My theory on why God makes babies cute. So we willingly put up with them just for a chance to see that smile or hear that giggle or finally get to see them fall asleep sweetly.

Case in point:

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So it's 12:09. Do I stay up and wait for him? Or do I just take what I can get? Beggars (or mamas) can't be choosers.

family

15 January 2010

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love

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sisters

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children
 
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