Saturday, August 27, 2016

Some Oliver stories

Life's been heavy around here lately. Not for any particular reason, just because, drama. So I'm trying to focus on the giggles, the snuggles, the slobbery kisses, the struggles of toddlerhood and the amazing moments of learning and growth that walk hand in hand with those struggles.

I've been writing down the 'sillies' and the 'sweets' in our days lately. It's a beautiful kind of catharsis.

I though I'd share some of this week's moments with you. Here, share a giggle.

This Sunday I taught in the nursery at church, so by the time I was done, Derek had already picked up Oliver and they were playing in the front lawn. When Oliver saw me, he smiled said 'nurse' (typical) and promptly started walking in the opposite direction (not typical). He walked with a purpose, I followed behind, and nothing I said slowed him down. He'd merely respond by pointing emphatically ahead of him. He went across the lawn, into the church, and then the sanctuary. He walked up to the end chair in the back row, pointed to the seat and said 'Couch. Nurse.' Then looked at me and nodded.

In other boob news, Oliver has started doing this thing when I run out of milk. He sits up, pulls my shirt down to cover me and says 'other side'. He has not, however, figured out that Mama only has two sides and when they are both out of milk, he is out of luck.

Today, Oliver successfully identified first the owner and then the name of every article of clothing as I folded it.
 'Mama's. Chirt.'
'Daddy's. Mants (pants)'
'Mine. Diaper.'

When Oliver sits on the potty, we play finger games (like 'Where Is Thumpkin), it keeps him still and entertained while we wait for him to do his business. I have about half a dozen songs and rhymes that we cycle through. Lately, he has started being opinionated about which song he wants to do, but here's the kicker: he's made up his own names for them. And most of them are incomprehensible. So I just have to guess, and if I'm right, he nods emphatically and plays along, and if I'm wrong, he very loudly protests till I try a different one. It's a kind of game in itself. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Things I learned from mission-tripping with a toddler:

At the end of last month we spent a week in Guatemala City with a team from Bannockburn Baptist Church. Oliver went with us. 5 solid days of hard, physical labour - painting, leveling ground, mixing a pouring concrete, stove building, people-loving, ministering, connecting, praying. + a day of travel on either end.

I think everyone, at least once in their life, should take a toddler on a mission trip. It's crazy, it's messy, it's exhausting, it's glorious.

Oliver is a first class traveler. He has taken countless trips since birth. He's traveled by car, boat, and plane. He's been to 4 states and 5 countries. This was his 4th airplane trip. He's a pro. That said, the older he gets, the harder it is to corral him. He's so big now, and those seats are so small. He's only free for the next 5 months until he turns two, and I'm thinking this may be the end of air travel for us for a bit. He's fine during flight, but gets exceedingly restless while waiting for takeoff. We've learned not to early-board when they call for families with children. It's easier to let him stay at the gate and run around for a bit longer. He usually nurses and falls asleep during takeoff, so the less time we spend on the plane before that, the better it works out for everyone involved. He did fine on the way down to Guatemala. But the trip home was HELL. I think he slept for 12 minutes. Maybe. He was fussy and wiggly the whole time. The plane was hot. I was just grateful we were on our way home,

Anyway, to Guatemala: Firstly, you need to understand that Oliver has NO idea that he is 18 months old and only 32 inches tall. He fully believes that he is capable of exactly everything that anyone else is doing. So - when we were painting, he was painting. When we were digging, he was digging. When we were praying, he was praying. If we were not sleeping - he was not either. He has so much energy. I just wish he would share.

This trip had an interesting perspective for me. I've been on mission trips before, but this was the first time where I saw things not entirely through my own eyes. Instead of being completely absorbed in my own thoughts, my own emotions, the effect of my surroundings on ME; I was focused on HIS. His reactions. His emotions. His response. And there was one overarching theme: He loves.

You guys, he loves SO HARD. And with such abandon. While I stand in the corner of a room and analyze, and agonize over who I should talk to, what I should say, how I should help, what God might have for me to do here - He marches into the room without a second of hesitation and fills it with love. Engaging, enrapturing, radical love. He doesn't even know he does it. He's just being Oliver.

I hope he never stops loving like he does now. He has now reserves, no drawbacks, because no one has ever told him that he should. His love has never been rejected. His love has no fear. It has no barriers of language, no over-analyzing of words, his love is not trying to impress. He gives no thought to the divides of culture, or class, or education, or race, or age. He has no inhibitions; it simply brings him genuine joy to brighten someone else's day for a moment.  It doesn't have to be any more profound than that.

I think, when Jesus told us to 'Receive the Kingdom of god like a child' this might have been exactly what He meant.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

This is not a Guatemala post.

This is the way my brain works: As I try to process a myriad of emotions and thoughts from our trip to Guatemala, to come up with some profound, life-altering insight to share, I am hitting a brick wall formed by my own  melancholy.

This is the way my brain works: Sometimes, I hide from my own feelings. And I'm good at it. I'm so good at it, that often, I don't realize they're there. Or, at least, I don't realize what's causing them. Sometimes, it takes a trip to impoverished Central America - spending a week focusing on everyone's circumstances besides my own -  to open my eyes to the weight I have been carrying. Sometimes, God uses the bleakness of someone else's humanity to shine a spotlight on the paucity of my own.

This is the way my brain works: I can't tell you about Guatemala. I could, but it would be cold. It would be nothing but facts. "We went here, we ate this, Oliver was cute". There would be no 'me' in the writing. I can't seem to shift my energies. So I'm writing this instead. Because I can't compartmentalize. Right now, all of my emotions are imploding around this one thing and the debris is crushing all the other feelings. So I have to get this out. I have to process the debris. I have to do clean-up before I can move on.

Even as I write, I am nauseated by shame. I can't put this down. I can't leave these things out here. How selfish will they think I am. 

I want to write grand things about God's greatness in the middle of my humanity. Instead, I am going to write about the most mortifying, disgraceful parts of my own humanity, and hope you can see past them to God's greatness.

This is the way my brain works: In the middle of my mission trip, amid the cardboard houses, where running water is a luxury, and they spray their salads with a bottle of disinfectant kept in their pockets -
I was thinking about my unhappiness. My unfulfilled dreams. My 'not-yet' dreams. And I realized how much I don't talk about because I feel like it makes me look ungrateful. I am so ashamed of my own unhappiness, because honestly, I LOVE the life I have and I cannot reconcile loving life and wanting more at the same time. Surely, if I WANT, it means I am not grateful for what I HAVE, and I HAVE so much, and I want you to know that I understand that. I understand that my wants are so little compared to people who don't have clean water. My frustrations are so minuscule compared to families who cannot get a proper education for their children. I am safe, I am sheltered, I am loved, and I get to love. I cannot WANT. Surely, that is so selfish, so appalling, so shameful. I am not trying to belittle anyone else's need. Because there are people out there who are truly in NEED. And the fact is, I am not. I am comfortable. I am FINE.

I don't talk about the things that hurt. I don't talk about the fear I have that I will never conceive a child again. I'm not allowed to be upset over my period every month that it starts. I have a happy, healthy child. And I love him, I really do. Wanting more doesn't make me love him less, it doesn't mean I'm not blessed, or satisfied; but if I talk about it - about the heartache, the frustration - it might. So I argue away my pain. I tell myself it's unacceptable, I find reasons to belittle my yearning.

We planned on adopting anyway, so it doesn't make sense to be upset if I can't get pregnant, right? 

I am focusing on healing myself right now. Pregnancy probably wouldn't be the best idea at while I'm this sick anyway.

It gives me more time and energy to focus on Oliver and cherish these days with him as an only child. 

I am blowing things out of proportion, we haven't been trying that long. There's probably nothing wrong. It just takes a while sometimes. 

All of these things are true. All of them are good thing to remember. But it doesn't mean it hurts any less. It doesn't mean I can't grieve the slipping away of my best laid plans. I can trust God for His perfect sovereignty and also lament when it doesn't look like I imagined. I can recognize my blessing and also reach for my dreams.

I feel like I am over-blowing this. You are probably shaking your head and mumbling "move on, you silly girl".

I am trying. But at the same time, I am learning to accept that this is where I am right now, and to let it be okay to sit here for a bit, to wallow for a moment in the admission of my own sadness, to wait for God to meet me where I am, instead of exhausting myself in the struggle to climb up to the mountaintop where I feel like I am 'supposed' to be. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The next little adventure

  I wanted to take a moment and share some news with you about what God has been -  and is - doing in Derek and my life.
   Some of you may already know this, but in October of last year our little church closed its doors and we were faced with the task of finding a new place for worship and fellowship. It was not a road I was happy about having to travel, but God is good and lead us to a fantastic church family after only 2 weeks of searching! Our new church is called Bannockburn Baptist Church. In the months since we started attending, God has continued to open doors for us and made it abundantly clear that this is exactly where He wants us right now. 
   One of the things I love about this church is that they have a fantastic missions presence, both locally in Austin and globally. Our last church was so small, they really didn't have the resources to fund and send out missions teams. They did what they could with what they had, but just focused a lot more on serving within the city of Austin, which is a really great thing! However, since Derek and I both still feel like God is going to call us back into international missions work someday, I am stoked to be in a church where we can build bridges and make connections that may help form some of the next steps in our lives! 
    Bannockburn is sending teams to 9 different cities on short-term ministry trips this year. 4 in North America and 5 across the rest of the globe (England, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Chile, and Guatemala). Derek and I immediately knew that God wanted us to go on one of these trips, but we weren't sure which one. For basic logistic reasons - date conflicts and the like - we eliminated three of these options, and have spent over month in prayer on the other two. In the end, we actually asked one of the missions pastors to pray about it and let us know which trip he thought was better suited for us and we decided based on his recommendation.  
     Derek and Oliver (I am thrilled to be a part of a church that is willing to welcome little ones on trips like this! When I asked about bringing a toddler with us, their response was essentially "He's an extension of you, if you're cool with it, we're cool with it".) and I are headed to Guatemala!! We will be there for a week this July. We will be working in Guatemala City, which is the capital and largest city in the country. Bannockburn has been sending teams to Guatemala for nearly 7 years, but this will be their first time in this city. They have a connection there with a Pastor, Victor, and his daughter, Tati, who planted a church in the city. Victor and Tati have outgrown their church building, so one of the main focuses of our trip will be helping them to expand it (Derek will be great at this!). We will also be working with inner-city kids, putting on a Backyard Bible Camp, and teaching English classes. I wanted to share this with all of you, because we have some very specific prayer requests we'd like to ask of you:
1). That God would give us peace and clarity as we prepare for this trip
2). That God would bless Victor and Tati through this team, that we would bring refreshment and minister to them
3). That God would prepare the hearts of the people of Guatemala City, that they would be ready and willing to receive His love and joy and hope for them
4). Safe travels and health for us and everyone on the team. Specifically, for supernatural protection over my stomach! As most of you know, I have some pretty severe digestive issues and food intolerance/allergies. Without being able to buy and cook my own food, it will be nearly impossible for me to monitor what I am eating. Consuming the wrong things will not only make it difficult for me to function and serve while on the trip, but it can take months to fully detox my body and get back to normal after just a couple "evil" meals. Trying to work around my issues on a trip like this is new territory for me, and I am not sure exactly how well it will work. Plus, different countries grow and process their foods differently, so things that are 'safe' here, may not be over there.
5). That Oliver would have a stellar trip! That he will be healthy and agreeable and that while he may not remember this specifically later in his life, that it would still have an impact on him.
6). We are firmly believing that God is going to use connections made on this trip, and hopefully many others like it, to further His plan for us in our own missions field. Please pray that He would give us wisdom to see the doors He is opening, and the connections He is making and what He may have for us in the future. And that, no matter what it looks like, we would step forward with faith and joy!
7). There is a very real monetary need. Bannockburn has some great connections and this whole trip only costs $1300 per person! That covers flights, lodging, food, transport, and will even help cover building materials for the church extension! Also, they are not charging us for Oliver which saves us quite a bit of money. We know God has opened doors for us to go on this trip, and HE will provide everything we need, but we need prayer for the funds to come in, that I will be able to find some childcare work over the next couple months to help cover our costs. We need to raise about $1200-1500. The money is due in stages, but we'll have to have the trip paid for in full by July 1st.
8). Finally, if it strikes you, keep the other 8 teams in your prayers! They are going some fantastic, challenging places and I know God is going to use them to do some amazing things! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

To put a boy to bed...

This is how he fell asleep...
He wouldn't let me sing to him...
He kicked and he screamed and he fought...
So I started quietly whispering the words from his favorite book.
The one that lives in his toy box.
The one that he will bring to me out of a stack of half-a-dozen choices.
I think I've read it a million times, so it's no surprise I have it memorized.
'Sun's up, morning's here. Up and at 'um, engineer.'
Immediately, he stilled.
So I continued.
One shuddering breath.
Then another.
He pressed his ear against my lips and I whispered  the words to him.
I could feel him relaxing.
He knew as I neared the end of the story.
He started to fuss again before I was even finished.
So I started over.
'Sun's up... '
Stillness again.
I must have' read' that book ten times before he finally surrendered to sleep.
I was foolish.
My arm was under his neck.
Completely numb.
But he is sleeping.
This is a huge win for us.
Sleep has been a struggle for the past couple weeks.
So under his neck my arm stayed.
For an hour and a half.
With his ear against my cheek.
And his beautiful, sweaty head next to mine.
This was my birthday.
Sleepy, terrible nap wars like this make me so tired.
But the sweet, sweaty snuggles - they are everything. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A posture of love

I don't want to write this. I really don't. In fact, I've been avoiding this conversation altogether for quite some time. Because I don't want to fight about it. I don't want to get sucked into the political uproar. But it's been weighing heavy on me, and this is how I process. So, if you're here to pick fights, if you're here to tear down, if you're here to with anger, or with hate - this is not the place. Go home. I do not have the energy. 
God is stirring something in me. For about the last 6 months. I don't know what it is going to look like yet. I don't know what part I am going to play,or how I am going to make it work. I am still searching for resources to establish a starting point.
I want to help and minister to the refugees coming into this country from Syria. That is where I'm starting anyway. Eventually, I want to find a way to go in to war torn countries and offer love and hope in the midst of the circumstances, for those in the trenches, not just the ones on the other side. But I have a one-year-old at home, so I sense I am a long way from that. 
As I have looked into how to get started, even with just a very little, here in Austin - I have been stunned by the amount of fear and hate surrounding this topic and these people that I have seen, read, or heard. By a staggering number of Christians.

These people are searching for a new life. they are searching for a new place to call home. A place that is safe. A place that is secure. A place that is renewing. A place where there is hope. A place where there is love.

A place where their children will grow up protected. 
Have we not looked for these things? Have we not been offered all of them in Christ?
Christ does not deny any entrance into His Kingdom. Why should we? Because we were born here, we deserve it more?
Where would we be if Jesus hadn't offered a home and a hope to immigrants? That's us, by the way. Most of us anyway. The gentiles. Not God's people. Those on the outside.
You know what He did? He adopted us. He grafted us in.
Where would we be if He had cast us out? Because of our pasts, our ancestors, our up bringing?
What if when we had come knocking, He locked his door, and shut us out?

People are not defined by their sins, and they are most assuredly not defined by the sins of others.
How can we condemn by association?
God wouldn't.
You know how I know? 

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”  Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.             
- Genesis 18:22-33

God does not punish the many for the sins of the few. In fact, He does not punish the few for the sins of the many. "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." 
You may say I'm naive, but I say you are fearful. And Perfect Love casts out all fear. 
My son is awake now, so I finish with this: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
-Galations 3:28

Monday, February 1, 2016

Oh, lord, the teeth.

So, remember how, like, three days ago I was lamenting over this whole 'not pregnant again yet' phase of my life? Well, I whined; God laughed.

This weekend has been one of our roughest. Oliver is simultaneously cutting at least two, and possibly all four (he won't let me near his mouth to look), molars. This kid who I'm always bragging about being an easy teether has been MISERABLE for the past 48 hours. I'm not generally a temperature-taking kind of mom. He's either hot, or hes not, and as long as he's not showing any other signs of illness, I don't really sweat the particulars. But Saturday night he was so hot his hands on my skin were uncomfortable, so I pulled out the thermometer. Nearly 103. It was better Sunday, but not by much. He cried when I dropped him off at church (which has not only never happened before, but usually he is reaching for the teacher and blowing me kisses goodbye before I can even get his name tag on), when Derek went to pick him up just over an hour later, he was walking the halls with a childcare worker because they couldn't get him to calm down. He's nursing ALL the time, and Saturday refused to eat any solid food at all - Sunday was better on that front. HE hasn't slept more than 30 minutes at a time during the past 3 days and has been spending most of the night in our bed attached to my boob. We've been alternating between baby and mama meltdowns and between the nursing and the kicking and the fact that his body is a furnace next to mine, I've barely slept in days. My house is a mess because I have neither the energy nor the motivation to wash dishes and vacuum floors. All I can think is thank GOD I'm not dealing with pregnancy fatigue on top of everything else. So...yeah.

He seems better today. His feet were actually COLD this morning, and he woke up full of smiles and giggles. Which is good because I have about 6 hours of business paperwork to get done today so he's gonna have to deal with spending most of the day in the carrier on my back (I finally found a carrier I can use on my back without pain and it could not have been better timing. It has been our saving grace this weekend). But there are no new teeth in his mouth, so I have the sneaking suspicion we're not done yet.

My beautiful husband got up this morning and made a pot of coffee. Because he's the greatest. I'm on cup three already.

I love being a mom. Some weeks are more challenging than others. But it's totally worth it. Plus, I have a legitimate excuse now for letting the housework slide. ;)

In completely unrelated news - We packed up all the 12 month clothing today. Oliver is 32 inches and 21.5 pounds. 97th percentile in height, 50th in weight (he's gained less than 2 pounds in the past 4 months). Which means hes too tall for 12 month clothing, but 18 month stuff fits him like a tent. Long and lean like his daddy. That definitely doesn't come from my side of the gene pool. =P