Day 21… what a hoot

In some ways, I can’t believe October is almost over.  Ten more days in this month.  How on earth has it gone so quickly?  What have we done with our tenth month of 2014?  On the other hand, however, I’m a bit glad that the end is near, because I’m running out of things to talk about here.  Looking at my posts for the year, it was probably the worst blogging year I’ve had since I started this in 2010.  There hasn’t been enough time to record even the events of the family, let alone share my thoughts about happenings or other things.  That’s so sad, really.  There’s always time to do the important stuff…right?!  I enjoy writing when I have something interesting to write about, but other than the Van Debacle of 2014, this hasn’t exactly been The Month of Great Ideas for Amazing and Amusing Blog Posts.   Good thing I don’t write for money… it would be a rough month!

Even though today was an incredibly normal day: a normal day of homeschool, Hannah working, housework, and all the other things that go on around here, I wish I had been able to record our dinner earlier tonight.  The boys for some inexplicable reason (they’re boys, perhaps? FOUR BOYS?!?) got the giggles at the end of the meal.  My first reaction was to shush them and shame them for acting up during dinner.  But then, an article that I had read this morning came to mind, entitled “5 Things Tween Boys Want From Moms.”   One of the five things was “they want us to let them be silly.”  (If you want to read the entire article, click here.)  I had been a mom of boys long enough to realize that whether you let them be silly or not, sometimes they’re going to be silly no matter what.   And those giggles, though…  I decided to just let them go for a bit, and it ended up in all of us laughing.  Andrew moaned that his belly hurt he was laughing so hard, and tears came to his eyes.  His uncontrollable belly laugh sent the rest of us into peals even while we were trying to keep it together.  Ben held his face as he tried to catch his breath and groaned that his cheeks hurt.  More laughing.  And then more laughing…until none of us could remember why we had started laughing in the first place.  The blessed sound of children (young and not so young) giggling and snorting and cracking each other up rang through the kitchen.  I desperately wished I could have bottled it up to listen to it in the future when the house would be deafeningly quiet.   Had I taken my phone out and even attempted to record the silliness, however, the moment would have been lost, the boys would have become aware of both themselves and the video feature, and the howling would have been hushed.

It did, eventually, run its course and the boys soon wiped their eyes instead of holding their bellies, but I hope I can hang on to the sound of their laughter for a long time to come.  Silliness certainly has its place.  Perhaps not at every dinner table, but it was most welcome at ours tonight, and it definitely transformed a usual Tuesday into one to remember.

Long live the laughter.

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Another reminder…and I need a lot of them lately…

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

To be honest, this is a tough verse for me to live out.  I tend to be a “tomorrow worrier” more than not.  When I became a mom, it became quickly apparent that planning ahead was the only way to get through some days–and sometimes the only way to get out the door.  With a newborn, it took planning around feeding and nap times to organize events like grocery shopping, errand running, and church going.

Although planning and organization don’t always automatically extend into worry, either because of my personality or other factors, I think my desire to have things in place and done causes me to worry about whether they will be in place or will be done.   And from that attempt to control my environment (even the circumstances that I have absolutely no control over), worry is born.

There are always things we can worry about:  finances, children, family, jobs, health.  Within any given day, worry could quite possibly consume us if we let it and fall into its trap.  Am I failing my kids? Are they getting the education they need? Are they growing closer to God and a relationship with Jesus?  What will happen in the future?   Will we have the money we need for the bills, both expected?

These questions could make anyone crazy if their mind is stayed on them.  It’s not in my nature to relax, or to be at peace about the tomorrows in my life.  That’s where certain verses come in to remind me that there is a way to escape the worry that is so prevalent in our frail human state.  There is a weapon against worry, and it is, in the words of a wise friend, to “keep speaking the truth.”   When worry starts to creep in (or launches a modern-day blitzkrieg), my first response should not be to entertain the fear, but to speak truth into the situation:

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

What am I thinking of? My “troubles” or the One who is sovereign over all? A mind constantly mulling over the situation (either real or imagined) cannot be trusting in Him.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut 31:6-8

This is a verse that should be in the front of my mind all the time, and the first things out of my mouth when my heart starts to worry.  How differently would I react to problems and circumstances if I was constantly reminded of Who is always with me and Who goes before and with me?  That spins my thinking into a completely different direction.  What a tremendous promise to know that even though we may feel alone or struggling to see the purpose and plan in what is happening, we can know that we know that we know that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  2 Tim 1:7

Lastly, I think fear and worry go hand in hand, and although many a dissertation has most likely been written about the similarities and differences, I’m not trying to split hairs in definitions.  Regardless of how they’re related, they weren’t given to us from God.  The verse plainly says that the real gifts we’ve been given are power, love, and self-discipline.  Learning to replace worry with those qualities takes a constant choice–most likely many times a day.  When the worry wants to wedge in, we have to choose to replace it with power, love, and self-discipline.  This is still a lesson I’m learning, and some days are better than others.

I’m so thankful that we’ve been given the gift of grace, which “means that God offers us his love and forgiveness as a gift, and not because we have earned it or deserve it.” (thank you, Junior Bible Quiz)  I don’t deserve the do-overs I constantly get, and don’t understand how His mercies could be new every morning.  But they are, and I believe it.   And I’m so thankful for that.

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Ps. 16:8

The Time Has Now Come

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Eph. 6:10)

It has been exactly 11 years since Todd and I traveled to Orlando, Florida, to attend our Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth training. Back in 2003, four children made up our family, and Ben was a mere four months old when we left them in the brave yet capable hands of my parents in our absence. For reference, while we were gone, our country invaded Iraq. Bradley sessions ran from early in the morning to late at night, causing me to miss my beloved March Madness, and in an era before texting and cell phones (at least for us), Todd would come down to the sessions and give me updates about the upsets and bracket busters of the year. In other words, it feels like it was a long, long time ago.

Even before attending the training, I was so excited to embark on a new adventure of teaching this childbirth preparation method that had revolutionized our own thinking about pregnancy, labor, and birth. Bradley made sense to us, and absolutely brought Todd and I together as a couple during our pregnancies and births. I couldn’t help but want to share that knowledge and enthusiasm about birth with other pregnant couples, and this opportunity was perfect for us. Throughout the four day training, I grew even more fired up about teaching, and exited our time provisionally certified as an instructor and ready to get started.

Bradley was the perfect “job” for me at the time: I had the chance to teach something I was strongly passionate about, yet it allowed me to stay home and focus on our young family. We met so many people from various walks of life who ended up blessing me many times in more ways than I felt I did them. On the practical side, every week we were forced to clean our house–at least the part my students walked through–and all the kids knew that “class day” meant a little extra work. A girl we barely knew beforehand became not only our weekly babysitter, but also a lifelong friend in the process. My kids quickly came to love Lynsay and the time they got to spend with her at least once a week.

When I began teaching in April of 2003, with a class of three couples, I could not have imagined how successful our venture would be. With the help of a local maternity fair, my second class was a full seven couples, and from then on I had classes running almost continuously. While tremendously nervous at first to run my own class (“how am I going to fill TWO HOURS with material?!”), the flow of the course and the interest of the students soon took away any nerves I may have had. I loved teaching Bradley. Throughout the course of my tenure as an instructor, I also became a certified doula and had the absolute honor of attending just over 30 births. We welcomed two of our own children during that time too, and had the opportunity to share our pregnancies with other couples due around the same time. After teaching for a short while, I was grateful to have word of mouth as the most effective means of marketing my classes. What better way to attract students than from the recommendation of satisfied past couples? I have always been humbled to receive each and every reference. I could not have imagined ever wanting to quit teaching. Even with the frustrations I may have had with my parent organization, the benefits always seemed to outweigh the risks and it was worth it.

Slowly, however, my heart started to move away from the weekly sessions. Without ever having a break (and sometimes taking on two classes simultaneously), I think a bit of burn out may have begun to creep into my classes. While I still enjoyed actually teaching each class and loved being with the couples, my prep time became a tad tedious and my heart wasn’t in it as much. With an active birthing community in our area, it was obvious that I couldn’t invest the time necessary to keep up the PR side of birth advocacy so my classes were as cutting edge as they could be. In addition, our family was just getting older and moving into directions outside the house: sports, church, and other activities such as teaching math beyond simple addition required more of me. At the same time, over the next few years our family also became increasingly more involved in our new homeschool group, Classical Conversations. CC was, and continues to be, the perfect fit for our family, and it has proven to be exactly what Todd and I desired for our homeschool–a truly Christian classical education. Still, I was not ready to give up my classes.

When the current director of our CC group approached me about considering the position of director a few years ago, I remember her email clearly. It was written in sort of a half-joking, half-serious tone, as if to test the waters. I can only imagine: had a I scoffed at it, that door would have been closed. I surprised myself when my reaction was not an immediate and resounding “HECK NO!” That still seems insane to me–both that she would think me able and that I would even entertain the idea. But I think that’s how God works on our hearts, and when He calls someone to a job or a mission or a position, He can work miracles in preparing both the heart and mind for something seemingly crazy…even if it takes time to come to fruition.

Over the next couple of years, the director and I began talking more seriously about a transition and whether or not I was serious about pursuing it. At every opportunity, she gave me the gracious chance to back out if either Todd or I felt that it was NOT the direction we felt led to go. During that time, I prayed. A lot. Was I crazy? Was I just flattered that she chose *me* to lead and not really looking soberly at what exactly I would be getting myself into? Were we both insane to think I could handle everything that the job would entail? The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I felt that it was the right direction and the right position to pursue. In our many conversations, I came to see that I was not chosen by the director to be flattered, but through her prayerful consideration and leading. And, as I have seen more and more the older I get, God equips those He calls.

I do not, even for a moment, think that I could perform this job by my own strength, wisdom, or abilities. As I prepare to step into the role of director of our established and large group, I would be lying if I said that I’m confident that I can do it all. There are so many areas that I have already listed as prayer concerns, but even so, I’m sure of this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17) While I will be responsible for the group and its workings, I know that we are in His hands. As highly as I regard the outgoing director (and, in the course of learning more about everything she has done for our group, that regard and respect has skyrocketed), I realize that her successes did not come from her own abilities either. Through her humble and able leadership, each of us in CC has been blessed beyond measure and pointed to the One who gives all strength and ability. I am so thankful that she is not leaving us, but simply transitioning to another role in our group. She will most likely hear from me a great deal over the next year. In fact, I would venture to say she might be a little frightened if she didn’t hear from me on a regular basis looking for counsel!

This past Wednesday night, I signed the contract for next year, making my position as the new director of our campus official. As I scrolled through the contract, initialing as I proceeded, the reality of the new role began to truly sink in (though I think it will continue to do so as I start walking out my duties!). While many may consider me crazy to even consider this job, I am so happy to be excited to embark on this next adventure. That anticipation can only come from God! Will there be many sacrifices required? Absolutely. I’d like to think that when it comes to work and doing hard things, however, I am not one to shrink away (well, not usually….). Do many, many other people do much more than I am undertaking? You betcha. Will it be a family effort? Yes, yes, and yes. Thankfully, I have Todd’s support, or I know it would be foolish to undertake this venture. I do not think my family yet appreciates how much they will be called upon to help me. Hopefully, along the way, they will learn the invaluable lesson that “hard work done well feels good.”

Perhaps most important, I see my new role through the eyes of a servant. I hope that I can humbly serve our CC group in such a way that the purpose is protected and can continue to grow and flourish in everything we do. It is not for my own glory, but for His, and for the benefit of the entire group, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4) One of the greatest blessings of our group is that everyone works together to make the machine run smoothly. I categorically appreciate that willingness to work and will no doubt call upon it continuously. Throughout my willingness to serve, I also ask for grace from my community as I navigate these uncharted waters and learn the ropes of directing. I am clinging to Romans 12 as I look ahead to the year ahead:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12: 1-8)

In order to accept this more time-consuming role, I have had to learn to say no to other opportunities, and the biggest one is my Bradley certification and teaching. While I will miss it immeasurably–and hung on to the notion of continuing my classes longer than I should have–I can finally say that the time is right to walk away. Through the ten years I officially taught childbirth classes, it was my honor to teach over 196 couples. Many of them still keep in touch with me, and countless others I call close friends in this journey of life. I will forever treasure my time with Bradley, but now know that it is time to move on.

To new beginnings, to doors that have been opened as well as those that are now closed, and to what adventures, challenges, and successes stretch before us, I can only say that I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’m ready, and I will “do [my] best to present [my]self to God as one approved, [a] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

And I’m armed with coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

The End of the Month Celebration!

Well…it’s the last day of November, and with it, the last day of my personal blog-every-day challenge. In some ways, the thirty days went by in a flash, but there were other days when I spent most of the day wondering what I was going to write about. Every day may be full, but every day isn’t always worth writing about, in my opinion. Sometimes life is more worthy of record, even if every day is a gift.

We spent the last day of our time in Michigan today just hanging out with Mom and Dad. We had a relaxed morning with nowhere to go, which extended into a lazy afternoon for the most part. A few kids took a walk with Mom and Dad in the late morning, we spent time looking over photo albums of my dad’s side of the family and the genealogy work that he’s done, watched some Michigan/Ohio State football, and then joined my brothers and sis-in-law for a belated birthday dinner in my honor (my birthday was in June; it was quite belated!). It has been a nice way to wrap up the visit.

Tomorrow we’ll set out for the trip back to Lexington and jump back into life as we know it at home. It will be a busy month of December: several commitments with CC, to start, and then all things Christmas. I had really hoped to have all the decorations put up before we left for Michigan, but with our Thanksgiving Feast and all the other things we did the weekend before leaving, it became painfully obvious that it wasn’t going to get done. Hopefully we can decorate the house soon after our return and enjoy our decorations without too much of the hectic-ness that is so prevalent in December. And isn’t it time to start making all the Christmas cookies that I look forward to every year?! I think so!

Thanks for following me throughout the month, either every day or here and there. I appreciate readership for my extremely small corner of the blogosphere tremendously!

Maybe I’ll find some time to write a few more entries before the end of 2013…That’s the goal, anyway.

Happy December!

Thinking of those who have an empty seat at the table…

We’ve had a busy day today getting prepared to travel for Thanksgiving. Amid the laundry, cleaning, food prep, and other errands of the day, it seemed for a while that I forgot why we were going through all the effort: so we can be with family. It’s never easy to travel with a young family, but somehow it always gets done. And even if we get to our destination and realize we forgot something important (one year, we arrived in Michigan and as I was unpacking I discovered that I hadn’t packed socks for any of the kids. We lived to tell about it!), we’ll still make it through the visit.

But then, as I was driving home from a late-night errand, I passed the house of our neighbors, who just lost their husband and father to a sudden heart attack less than three weeks ago, and a heaviness came over me. We aren’t close to the neighbors and barely even wave to each other if we pass on the street or happen to be retrieving our mail at the same time. That Friday three weeks ago, however, we were all home and in the schoolroom when the ambulance pulled up to their house. The kids have a habit of praying for whoever is in an ambulance when one screams by us on the road, so we stopped our afternoon schooling and did the same. It wasn’t until the next week that we learned he had passed away.

I don’t know what their Thanksgiving will be like, and it seems that they have been surrounded by family and friends since it happened (judging by the cars in their driveway), but I know that there will be an empty place at their Thanksgiving dinner this year. It got me to thinking about all the people who may be facing the same reality this Thursday: an empty place at the table. My heart goes out to anyone who has recently lost a loved one and will have to celebrate the holiday without the person they loved so much. Or maybe the lost person has been gone for many years, but the seat at the table remains open. There’s something about holidays that makes the loss more painful, and the hole remaining more wide. It certainly has to be a harsh reality to face.

For everyone who misses someone or is hurting this season, my heart goes out to you. I pray there will be a feeling of comfort and peace that surrounds you as you walk through the grief. For myself, I’m praying for real and meaningful ways that we can reach out to and help our neighbors who are surely grieving this week.

And as we prepare to travel, I’m even more thankful to be able to see my family and share time and a Thanksgiving meal with them. Even if we arrive without socks, it will be just fine, and we’ll have a wonderful time nevertheless.

Day 25

It’s getting to the end of the month, and I’m about out of news and exciting things to write about. Good thing there are just a few days left in November. Today I can be thankful that the month only has 30 days!

We had another full day at the Thanksgiving Feast with lots of laughs, food, and fun, and wrapped up the semester (for the younger kids) with style. It’s always a wonderful way to end the first twelve weeks, even though the day itself is quite chaotic.

And now….we look towards the rest of the week, which includes a trip to Michigan to visit my family and college friends, maybe a bit of shopping (AFTER THANKSGIVING), and if we’re lucky, even a bit of rest and relaxation.

But before then, it’s sleepy time.

Goodnight, WordPress world!

Taking More Steps for My Own Good

Over the past year or so, I’ve kind of become obsessed with pedometers, and tracking food and steps. First it started with an app I’d had since 2010 and used off and on throughout the past years, then moved on to a Pedometer app on my phone that I used when I walked out in the neighborhood. It worked fairly well, but sometimes it didn’t pick up certain time frames and it was all but useless around the house, since it would turn off if there were extended periods of inactivity. Still, I thought my app was as good as it got. Until, that is, Todd brought home a new little gadget for each of us that he’d been eyeing for a while: The FitBit Zip. To see the official website for the FitZip, click here As with all change, I did not like it. Why would I need something new, I asked him in my usual whiny voice. (Not exactly, but I am sort of against learning new things and figuring out new software and all that.)

The FitBit device, however, is a small contraption that can easily fit in a pocket or….on a bra strap (TMI?)….or some sort of clothing. Here’s a picture of the newfangled product:

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It was simple to set up our accounts and download apps on our phones. Before long, we each had a FitBit Zip that was tracking every step and supposedly counting every calorie burned. The app is fantastic, as it allows me to check throughout the day if I think of it to see how many steps I’ve taken. It allows for food tracking (although that part, in my opinion, is lacking a bit. My other food app allowed for scanning bar codes and had a more extensive catalog of food choices than the FitBit seems to have, but that may change as the database expands.) I set up steps goals, weight goals, and other ways to track progress. So far, I have been extremely happy with it–even if I haven’t been equally pleased with my daily achievements (thank you, L5 nerve!). I like not having to think about it or turn it on or off. It’s always working and tracking. These are all definite benefits.

Perhaps what I like best about it, though, is the change it has made in me. While my current (or recurrent?!) situation has prevented me from walking every day like I had been for so many days, I find myself looking for excuses to do something in order to get more steps. Run downstairs to change a load of laundry? Sure. Park a few spaces further from the door at the grocery store? Absolutely. It seems to be working out, too. Anytime I’m encouraged to be more active, even if it’s not thirty minutes of intense cardio, I feel like I’m getting ahead in the scheme of things.

I still have a ways to go in order to reach my ultimate goal. But thanks to FitBit Zip, I think I may be turning the corner on the last leg of the journey!

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