Tuesday, November 3, 2009

40 Weeks, 6 Days - A lesson in Patience and Control

For those of us who consider ourselves to be "planners", "type A personalities", or "detail oriented", passing your pregnancy due date is certainly a lesson in patience and control. That being said - the whole experience of pregnancy definitely works on these things, for there is very little one can do to change how the pregnancy is going. Yet, as you near the end - there is a special challenge of not being able to know exactly when the baby will arrive! And, once you pass the prescribed date of expected arrival, it just becomes a waiting game. There are 100 formulas - physical, herbal, medicinal, and otherwise to induce labor. Trust me - I've tried most, they don't always work.

It definitely makes me think of all of the perceived control I feel I have in my life.....and yet, in the grand scheme of things - I have very little control over what happens from day to day at all. Yes, there are things we can do to monitor and manage.......our health, fitness, finances, housekeeping, etc. However, in the big picture, we have little control over the larger picture of these things. All we have to do is think of those we know who have been the picture of good health and fitness....who have died of a sudden heart attack or in an accident. Those who have saved and managed their money well all of their lives, yet an economic or circumstancial crisis wipes out their life savings or takes away their income.

When Jason broke his back in August of 2005, the neurosurgeon said it was an absolute miracle that he was not killed, or at the very minimum paralyzed. He had never seen anything like it. Yet, Jason ran the Portland Marathon in October of 2008 - three short years later. I don't believe this to be a testament to good fortune or guaranteed exclusion from life's hard times. However, it does go to show that there are things that happen, both for good and for bad which are completely outside of our control. Controlling is not our job. Being good stewards of what we have? Our bodies? Our money? Our possessions? Absolutely. Yet the minute we begin to feel power and control over our circumstances - watch out. We're always in for a suprise.

I am reminded of the passage in Matthew (34-37). "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. "

I love that - "You cannot make one hair white or black". Ha! We can try it.....we can dye it!! But, in the end....the roots will grow out to be whatever color they are meant to be. That's just the way it is.

So - back to being 40 weeks, 6 days pregnant.......trying to plan the boys' birthday party to correspond with family being in town for Anna Ruth's arrival - not to mention the family pictures I had scheduled for this coming Saturday, "certain" she would have arrived by now.......The house is organized, laundry and dishes done, car detailed, bags packed. Yet, here I sit waiting.

"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me........Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light." (from Micah 7:7-8)

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I'm but a thread in a tapestry. I really don't know exactly where I fit into the big picture, but I guess I'll just try to be content as a thread right now. Hmmmm....I wonder what color thread I am? Do I like that color? Can I change it? :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How big is God?

Nothing makes you stop and think like trying to answer the questions of an almost four year old boy. We'll be driving along, and out of nowhere, Caleb will come up with very large questions, obviously having been pondering the thought for quite some time.

"How big is God?", Caleb asks me the other day. I paused to think, then answered, "Well, Caleb He is everywhere all of the time, and He made everything. Therefore, He is bigger than anything we could imagine."

"Is God bigger than a train?", he asks.


"Is He bigger than our car?"


"Is our car smaller than a train?"


After several moments of silence, Caleb finally retorts, "Well, I think if we had a measuring tape that wouldn't fall over when you hold it up, then we could measure God."

As much as I chuckled over that interaction, I began to think that even I - the big grown up in charge, can't really fathom the limitlessness of God. Funny, Caleb tries to fit the puzzle together in the things he sees, knows and understands - trains, cars, tape measures. I see it in the abstract things. I see it when I observe how quickly my two little sons are growing. How Emet picks up new words and phrases each day, how Caleb ponders life and all that it holds, how they both cling to their Mama and Papa wanting to be held and comforted - each as much as the other, seeking and basking in our attention. When I realize that I have been given these precious gifts to love and hold and raise for a purpose.

I see it when I think of our little baby girl, Anna Ruth, inside of me, literally being knit together by God, even as I type. I see it as I ponder that completly separate from our living bodies - we have minds, feelings, and souls. Each of us - unique and different, trying to make our way through the world and figure it out, find our niche, find our purpose.

I'm not sure I'll ever capture the many many changes that have occurred over the past few months in both of my little boys, soon to be 4 and 2......Emet with his "This side?" referring to whatever you are NOT giving him at the time....the once docile little one who now fights for his rights against his brother when he feels he has been wronged. Caleb with all of his rages contrasted by many moments of maturity as he tenderly touches my stomach and asks about "Baby Anna Ruth", or as he prays at breakfast. This morning's prayer went something like this:

"Dear God, Thank you for this day. Please watch over Papa as he drives for work, and Mama while she is 'pre-ge-nat'. Let our light shine. In Jesus name, Amen."....to which Emet chimes in "Ma-Men!!"

I'll likely never fully capture the awe and wonder of being pregnant, of having a child growing inside of me - moving around, receiving life and nourishment from within my own body. As I observe my growing little boys, I realize that they too came from this beginning, yet here they are - full of life, soul and personality.

Yes - these are the times when I am in awe of God, when I cannot fathom "How big is God?" What I do realize, however, is how small I am.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Caleb & Emet

Emet is jabbering up a storm. There isn't a word he won't attempt, even if the result is nearly unintelligible!....and he is putting words together and attempting phrases. Despite all of this, his most frequently used phrase throughout the day goes something like, "No Way, Say" (No Way, Jose). This he says typically while chuckling with much good humor. However, it is occasionally said in the midst of crying or anger. When his big brother makes mean growling noises at him, he now responds by repeating the sound and intensity of the "growl", much to the frustration of his brother who used to establish his authority making these sounds. While he still says "down?" for down and up, he now also has started saying "up?". What once was "[gear shift noise] cah" has now transitioned to "key cahr", which refers to every wheeled car or truck outside of "tah tuhs" (tractors). He is also a big fan of the phrase "Mine!!"...(which also sounds like My)....this typically comes with a whiny tone!

Emet has what might be considered the stinkiest little feet ever created, so when we take off his sandals, we often say "Whoooooweee!!!" This, he loves, and now responds by thrusting his little stink bombs again and again into our faces and questioning, "Whooowee?" Caleb now also refers to Emet's stinky diapers as "whoowee diapers". :-)

Whenever we leave the house, we always say, "Bye bye, Tata (Caleb's created nick name for Greta). Guard the house, Baby Girl. We love you." Caleb says it each time. Now, Emet has started saying "Bye Bye, Tata".....and an attempt at "We love you, Tata!", which sounds much like "Pa pee, Tata." He also says this to Jason over the phone or when we leave our visits to his work, "Pa pee, Papa" (I love you, Papa.)

His other favorites these days are his "nigh nigh" (blankets) and most importantly his "Poppy" (puppy), a little brown stuffed puppy, now quite ratty from many chews, loves, and kisses. He is extremely attached to this little pet, much more than Caleb ever has been to any of his animals.

Caleb has transitioned from a toddler to a little boy. I guess the most commonly used term is "preschooler". There is just no evidence of baby in him anymore. He thinks deep thoughts and asks lots of questions. Some of his more recent questions are:

"Where do penguins live?", "Where do polar bears live?",
"Can you show me where everything is?" (referring to a world globe I just purchased him),
"Does everything die?",
"How big is God?"...."This big?" (stretching his arms out as wide as they can go)
"Mama, will you be my Mama forever?", or "Mama, I will be your KB forever." (KB is how he first pronounced his name when he started talking, and it sort of stuck.)

He can sit and listen to you read stories for an endless amount of time. He often likes to take the book and "read" it himself to you after we've finished. Also, I've recently noticed that if he is watching a movie, he will curl up on the couch under a blanket and watch the whole thing without needing to get up and play or be otherwise distracted. He laughs and finds different parts humorous. He's just growing up.

I realized not long ago that he is nearly 4 years old. Those 4 years have passed so quickly! He went from a baby to an adorable little boy. However, in the next 4 years, which will pass just as rapidly, I'm sure - he will just become a boy. He will begin to develop into that awkwardness in the years approaching his pre-teens. Before I know it, he will be into his teenage years and beyond. Lately, he has even started pointing to different parts of the globe and telling me that is where he went to high school! :-) (Last time it was Nigeria) Wow. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing like having a child to make you grasp the reality of how quickly time passes.

He is also quite the singer. He combines all sorts of songs and lyrics. I imagine many of them are from what he hears at Sunday School, on the radio, and what Papa sings to him at night. Then, he makes up words and tunes and sings along. I love to hear him singing "Jesus loves me" and "Blessed Assurance" though - the songs he and Emet sing each night with their Papa. Emet sings along too - his favorite phrases being "This is my tory (story)!!!"...(which he sings over and over during the whole song. Also, "The Bahbuh tells me soooooooo"........

Lately, we have been including Caleb in taking turns saying a prayer at mealtimes. Caleb, though he started very quietly and reluctantly, has been gaining more confidence. His prayer typically goes something like this: "Dear God, Thank you for today. Please watch over us as we go to visit Grandpa and Grandma and see the monster trucks. Let our light shine. In Jesus name, Amen". This obviously elicits many twinkles from the eyes of his Mama and Papa - especially since we are typically not on the way to see Grandma and Grandpa......or the monster trucks! But, it's what's on his mind - and for that, we are glad he is praying! It's a great start to a life of putting what's on his heart and mind before God.

Last night, Caleb got so excited about the Clark County Fair, which is starting today. He has been talking about the fair ever since we went last year, asking about where the fair goes, where the monster trucks live, etc. He said, "Are we going to the fair tomorrow?" When we said "No, not tomorrow".....he said - "But, everyone is going to be there tomorrow! I mean, you and me and baby Emet and Grandma and Grandpa!!"
Both of our boys have really been blessed by our nearby family and close friends. They cherish time with each and every one of our friends, with family, at Sunday School, at the Bible study we host at our home, and whenever we entertain friends - which is often. They have alot of good role models in their lives, and for that I am thankful.

With the back to school sales going on now, I'm gearing up to have them participate in the Operation Christmas Child program, where you pack a shoebox full of gifts for a child in a poverty stricken or war-torn area who would otherwise receive nothing at Christmastime. Last year for Christmas, we purchased them banks which are divided into three sections: Giving, Saving, Spending. Currently, any money they receive for gifts or in cards, we just divide it evenly between the three banks - to make it easier. As they get older, we can begin to adjust this. We will be taking money out of their "giving" banks for this project, so we're trying to get the best deals we can on supplies for these boxes. Some of our finds have been $.25 Crayola crayons, $.99 marker sets, etc. I could probably do even better, but time, sanity and pregnancy have to weigh into the overall mix too!

Well, the boys just finished playing with PlayDough in the dining room and the squabbling has begun. There is so much more I would like to capture - there is so much I've missed. However, that's just life, I guess. I'll just hope that someday I can re-read my blog and momentarily relive some of these precious moments. It's the only scrapbook I'm keeping or am likely to keep in the near future.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I love you too, Sweet Mama

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture a few precious moments from tonight, which sort of capture the stage we're in with Caleb right now.

Jason came home from work early with some kind of flu bug, so I did my best to keep the boys away from Jason and out of the house so he could rest.

We went over to Mark and Karen's house (cousins). Allison and I swam in the pool, while Uncle Mark took Caleb and Emet with him to work in the garden, feed Buddy the goat, and collect eggs from the chickens. It was so sweet to look up from the pool and see the boys out there, filling the buckets with various veggies, watering the garden, and feeling very important going about their tasks helping Uncle Mark. When they returned down by the pool, Caleb's eyes were alight with pride as we asked him what he helped to do. As a reward, the boys each got to sit in a chair and eat a popcicle. Caleb later had the courage to get in the pool by himself and ride in a little inflatable boat. (Caleb has not been a fan of pools thus far.) Little Emet got in the boat as well.

When we got home, the boys and I went out to the garden to pick the "Zucumpkins", or rather those squash I have avoided picking for about a week that are now dominating the plants. Caleb suggested we bring the "hay wagon" (the boys' John Deere wagon) to haul the zucchini in. That was the best idea he's had in a long time! We nearly filled it! On the way outside, Jason asked Caleb to watch out for Mama because that was normally his job and he couldn't do it since he was sick. Caleb said, "Ok, Papa" and headed outside. He and Emet stood by my side as I twisted the monstrous zucchinis from the plants. Each stood ready - Caleb with the "hay wagon" and Emet with his little plastic wheel barrow. Both of them wanted squash for their carts, and each was so eager to help do our work.

As we were picking squash, it began getting dark. Caleb began hearing noises and asking me if I heard the monster, the giant, etc. Finally, he said, "Mama - it is getting dark and the bears will be coming out soon." I said, "No, Caleb. I have a couple of more chores to do before we go in. We don't have bears that come around here." He then told me....."But, Mama. It's my job to protect you. I think we need to go in now. It's getting dark." Sure enough, he had barely gotten that out of his mouth when Jason came outside and told us to come in, worrying about the cayotes.

Bedtime was a fairly quick routine tonight. Afterwards, I jumped in the shower, and when I came out, Emet was fast asleep in his crib, but Caleb was staring off to some far place. I went in and traced on his back for a while. When I got up to leave, I said - "I love you, Sweet Boy." He turned to me and said, "I love you too, Sweet Mama."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why I am thankful

I have one of the most beautiful marriages I can imagine. Yet, despite the deep love of my truest and best friend, we still have our share of problems. Even we are not exempt. Of course, like anyone else, we have our minor irritations and arguments which surface from time to time. We laugh that we seem to have an annual "blow up", wherein every last wrong or ill feeling comes to a head, following some minor occurance - "the straw the breaks the camel's back" so to speak. Unfortunately, we cannot seem to predict when or where, other than it is typically time alone together - time we might have looked forward to for weeks - time with high expectations on both sides. Last year, it was our anniversary trip - which included two days - one of the best of the year, and one of the worst - all in one weekend. This year's volcano, was preceded by a wonderful weekend at my parents, but was also followed by a fantastic weekend at the beach with some of our dearest friends......and by then we were restored, fully able to relax and enjoy the time together - back to being the intimate couple we typically are.

The most popular American poet of the 19th century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882) wrote the following:

"There are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together”

I'm not sure I entirely agree with Mr. Longfellow. I can see where this could be true, human emotions are a powerful and confusing things. However, it seems what is truly lacking in this is someone to truly listen. Recently, our Bible study has been covering the book of James - one of my favorites. One of the things which has most come to my heart from the study is the concept of listening. True listening seems to go far beyond hearing, but encompasses understanding another's heart, their circumstance, their past..........watching and waiting with patience to see them emerge from the shell of who they portray themselves to be, from behind all of those walls we each build around our deepest vulnerabilies, dreams, and desires. We are each created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made with so many things to contribute, so many ways to love, so much to offer another. Yet, so frequently, we shy away from both the true listening....and the true offering of self. Why is this? It seems so self defeating. Why do we seek to pull into ourselves, to shut our doors, to shut others out? Is life intended that we all sit in our own little huts, closing off to the world that which we were created to be? I would speculate that we don't often "listen" to others because we are so focused on protecting our own boundaries, making sure there are no cracks in the walls of our own fortress. Truly listening, means opening yourself to another - offering yourself also as vulnerable, while allowing another to share his or her own.

I believe this is why I am thankful. In all of these thoughts, I realize that my husband Jason and I don't leave much room for walls. "Listening" is important to us. There is nothing on earth we hold more dear than the sacred bond we share as husband and wife, confidants and encouragers, lovers and best friends. When a wall of any sort begins to build, we smash it down (hence, the little arguments). Our annual "blow up" is probably like some sort of spring cleaning, where we go around and knock out each and every possible cobweb that may have crept in during the past year......back in the trash, back on the table - all vulnerabilities laid bare before us. Those vulnerabilities are then tenderly cared for by the other. It hurts every time - sometimes it hurts deeply. But every time, with God's help, we have emerged closer, stronger - our relationship richer, deeper, and more secure. It is this bond which allows us to share our love so freely with others - with our children, with our friends. Would that everyone allow themselves to taste such joy - knowing it comes with pain and trials, but also that it is the most beautiful treasure one could ever know. "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

All earthly things pass away eventually. While it brings tears to my eyes to even write this, it is possible I won't always have my Jason beside me. My heart's deepest prayer is that I will have him by my side until we are both old and grey - and die together side by side in our sleep. Maybe God will honor that prayer. I will continue to pray it with all of my heart. However, I have also seen many dear couples separated by death after many years of marriage; couples who are far beyond Jason and I in their devotion and love for each other. What then? Does life's purpose come to an end? Are we left alone? Surely not....

I am reminded in my musings that there is One who does not disappoint, does not fail, does not put up walls against us, One who knows our deepest hurts, fears, and vulnerabilities. He is the ultimate listener......our Creator and Heavenly Father. As we build relationships with each other here on earth, we must not neglect to include Him...."And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. Yet, a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart."
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Sunday, July 5, 2009

This Man

For those that know my Jason, I'm sure I don't need to explain much about this picture, though it will forever remain in my heart.

This was one of the few weekends we had set aside to be home for the summer. With many hundreds of things to do around the house and in the yard just to keep up with the hot weather, much less make any progress on our various remodeling projects, Jason was raring to go at the start of the day. Yet, he set aside time to work on a couple of projects for me, such as bringing in the air conditioning unit and setting it up.

A couple of hours into the day, our little Emet fell down the stairs. Jason dropped everything he was doing, and from that moment on became the keeper of our little hurting child. After a trip to the Urgent Care department, x-rays on his spine and skull indicating no damage, they sent us home with instructions to watch him carefully. Jason spent the rest of the afternoon with his little Emet, laying on the couch and holding his boy. Emet has a special place in his heart for Papa, and none other would do. As long as his Papa was there, he was comforted. Jason never once complained. He was just there for his son.

When Emet finally became a bit more active, we noticed him favoring his left arm and shoulder. After a few additional exams, Jason found that his collar bone was broken. We'll be taking him back to Urgent Care in the morning for treatment. Mercifully for both Jason and Emet, he fell asleep in his crib - at least for the time being.

"Love is like a friendship caught on fire.

In the beginning a flame, very pretty,

Often hot and fierce,

But still only light and flickering.

As love grows older,

Our hearts mature

And our love becomes as coals,

Deep-burning and unquenchable."

Bruce Lee

My heart matured today, and many more coals were formed within me. What a gift God gave to me. This I know. This I know.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Time for the Now

For those who have followed my blog for a while, you will see a recurring theme of my personal struggle to let go of details and order, and go with the now. One of the reasons I have not blogged more since February is my need to “capture” every detail, in order, not missing even one. Needless to say, as the hourglass continues to pour, the amount of time it would take me to catch up on the precious details of daily life and those moments of joy increases exponentially until I feel absolutely overwhelmed. Thus, I do nothing.

So, here I sit, having decided to move on and leave those precious details to the past. Life is fleeting, is it not? As an adult who is not around children, it is sometimes easy to overlook this. Days turn into months and years, but the only times this is evident is during those life altering events or reunions with old friends. When surrounded by children, you see change right before your very eyes. It is so rapid that often a few days can bring end of one phase and the beginning of a new one. It nearly brings tears to my eyes that I have missed capturing every detail of my precious babies’ lives. I recognize this to be an impossible feat, many of those tender moments something only to be captured in my heart but perhaps never again in my thoughts or memory. Is that real? Is it possible for something to forever imprint your heart but never again to be brought to your mind? I can imagine if this is so, it is part of that process of love, and why it grows deeper and deeper over time……embracing those little moments that have forever touched your heart and soul. As Caleb is nearing four years old, often people will ask me to compare how he was at the stage that Emet is at. I often can’t remember. It’s as if it slipped away as sand between my fingers, but my mother’s heart cherishes that little boy now more than I ever have before…..and this love seems to grow each day.

Our children are such a delight. Emet is learning to hold his own against his little brother and often comes to me with brow furrowed, a voice of frustration if not clarity, and fingers pointed at some injustice he has just suffered at the hands of his big brother. However, moments later, they will be laughing and giggling away at some silly game they are playing or as they race around the house as monster trucks or race cars. (I’m never quite sure which they are at any given time.) Caleb makes his car noises inside of his mouth, while Emet engages his tongue outside of his mouth, spit flying and running down his chin. Caleb came up to me the other day, mid race, and asked if I could show him how to make noises like Emet with his tongue outside of his mouth!

One of Caleb’s favorite games is to get Emet to say new words. “Emet, can you say ‘truck’?”, etc. Then, "Good job, Emet!" Emet is talking up a storm and isn’t afraid to try any word, though often he will tease you by saying, “No!” when you ask him to say something. The few words that come to me at the moment are “Ju Peese?” (he is saying juice please, but it means anything to drink – water, milk, juice – he is not particular); “Cookie” (refers to graham cracker, animal cracker, and crackers in general); “Bable?” (Bible, Devotional, or Apple). When he shakes his head “yes”, he also opens and closes his little mouth – so cute! “No”, often includes a furrowed brow and a definite head shake. “Bie?” is how he either asks for a bite or offers one to us.

He is fond of lifting his shirt up as he runs around and showing off his tummy. He has recently also been pointing to my tummy and saying “Baby”. He has started calling all little stuffed animals “Baby”, and loves to carry them around. He loves none more than his puppy, which he calls “Poppie” and bedtime blankets called “Nigh Nighs”. Caleb has always been attached to Tiny Tiger, but never to the degree to which Emet clings to “Poppie”. He has recently started making kiss noises and giving little kisses to his “babies”. He also will hold it out for us to “kiss”, giving us the little kiss noise so that we know what to do when he holds it out for us. He also loves to give us hugs and kisses, something we don’t often turn down. No one is held in higher esteem than his Papa. Emet lives for time with Papa, and when he is home wants to spend every possible minute with him, regardless of what he is doing. He, like Caleb, loves to help Papa do “hard work” and will try to carry pieces of wood, dig with the shovel, and move tools. Emet, while strong willed, is a little easier to discipline - perhaps having seen the results of his big brother's disobedience over time. In the middle of an outburst, when asked if he wants a timeout or spanking, he will frown and shake his head "No". Often, he then begins to calm himself down. Wow. Such was not the case with little Caleb.

Caleb has begun a most endearing stage. He often will climb up on the couch next to me, snuggle in and say, “I love you so much, Mama”. Needless to say, my heart melts each and every time! He loves to sing. “Blessed Assurance” and “Jesus Loves Me” are the songs he sings most. Each night before bed, Jason rocks the boys in the “blue chair” upstairs and they read their Bible, devotional, and sing songs before bed. Emet has even started to sing along. Caleb loves to build with his legos, use his imagination to create new games, toys, and songs , and read books. His very favorite activity is riding his “motorcycle” (bicycle) up and down the driveway and up over the rock pile. While he still has training wheels, it won’t be long before he is ready to get rid of them. And, oh how he loves to be watched. "Mama, watch me do this...", he will frequently say. Delight will fill his countenance after he has accomplished his feat and receives praise or a smile. He also loves to fill up his wheelbarrow and dump truck with rocks and dirt from the driveway and yard. This activity he and Emet do quite often together upon heading outside. It also involves lots of piles of sand and rocks in the grass and on the sidewalk……and on my floor (which consequently almost NEVER appears to have been recently swept or cleaned!).

In the mornings, Caleb often will get out of his bed and come into ours, after Jason has left for work. He’ll ask for a graham cracker (which I give him, much to the chagrin of Jason who finds crumbs on his side of the bed!) He’ll often thoughtfully eat his cracker, then ask for another which he then eats in the blue chair while he reads a few stories. Soon, Emet will call out from their bedroom….”Cookie?” Caleb will jump from the blue chair, ask for more graham crackers for he and Emet, and head off to their bedroom while I get up and ready.

Caleb is also a great helper these days, and can do many errands and chores when given simple, direct instructions. He has been helping to set and clear the table for a while (yes - accidents do happen), and loves to pour me a glass of water. When doing laundry, he often asks if he can help put his clothes away. Will this last? :-) I hope so!

I’m 23 weeks pregnant today, and this pregnancy has been going quite well – outside of the first fifteen weeks of constant nausea. That part was worse than it was with the boys. However, the plus side is – this little one has been a bit easier on the figure than the boys were! It must be because it is a girl! I have recently begun to feel her moving around pretty consistently, which is a comforting thing. Her biggest feat so far was a recent climb of Mt. St. Helens with her Mama! We did quite well and the normal aches and pains of pregnancy were mostly absent on that day. I was forever thankful for this, as it was a pretty intense 14.5 hours!

We are already collecting a lot of pink, girly things – thanks to the generosity and mutual excitement of friends and family. Caleb has also finally accepted that we are having a little girl. For quite a while, beginning during the ultrasound for which he was present, he would say, “No, it’s a little boy,”….and….”I don’t want a little girl. I want a baby boy!”…….Now, it’s “What’s the baby girl doing?”……and “How’s the baby?” as he snuggles close beside me and gently pats my growing stomach.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ann Hits the Town, Part I: Ann’s First Pedicure!!

For those reading my blog for the sole purpose of keeping track of our boys, I forewarn you that this particular posting is entirely about me! However, I had a day so worthy of forever capturing that I felt it essential to devote an entire posting to it.

It all began with a birthday card from my cousin Allison, in which she proclaimed my birthday gift to be a childless day of female fun, which would begin with my very first pedicure, include much shopping, and end with a trip to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner! I could hardly wait!

Saturday May 2, 2009 12:30pm. We arrive at the Portland Beauty School, and Allison checks us in for a “Spa Pedicure”. We are escorted back to our massage chairs, complete with whirlpool tubs for our feet. At this point, I am sort of overwhelmed by the whole experience, Vietnamese men and ladies scurrying about, cutting hair, giving manicures and pedicures, while teachers bustle around instructing the students on various tasks. The very first thing I notice is that the people getting pedicures are getting leg massages. Yikes. I hadn’t shaved ……..”Alright, I’m sure this isn’t the first time they’ve encountered scratchy legs”, I think to myself.

Allison selects a chair, rolls up her jeans, and relaxes into the inviting chair and whirlpool – clearly at ease. Now, as tomboy as I may sometimes appear, I assure you I am all girl –and the thought of such a relaxing and pampering treat was very exciting to me! So, following Allison’s lead, I too roll up my jeans, park myself into the chair right next to her, and stick my feet into the SCALDING HOT WHIRLPOOL!!!!!!!!!! YIKES!!! I quickly rip my feet out of the tub and glance over at Allison, relaxed and calm as a gentle stream……….the pedicurist busily working away on her feet.

You know those moments in time, where the world seems to stand still as images flash through your mind? Well, this is one of those moments. My mind rushes back to last summer. Jason and I were shooting with a few people from his work. Jared, the gun aficionado among them, had brought along his Ruger 44 Magnum Six Shooter …..a gun for the real man among men. When I saw Jared, who is quite a burly guy, shoot the gun – I observed how it not only made a sound worthy of a large bomb, but he nearly blew backwards each time he shot it. Now, as Jason can attest, I am the first one to jump right in beside him and try various new things, and I’m no longer shy of shooting guns. However, I was not about to shoot this one! That is until Lance’s wife Pam shot six successful rounds. I, being the only other woman there, now felt I had a duty to uphold. I’d love to say I was completely altruistic in my motives and acted only for my husband’s honor, but I had a fair amount of pride mixed in there as well! So, I took the revolver, shaking from the top of my head to the very tip of my toes, squeezed my eyes shut as tight as possible, and shot the six rounds. ….BANG….BANG….BANG…..BANG…..BANG……BANG. Done. Conquered. Jason could not have been more pleased, and it was well worth overcoming my fears.

So, here I am, back in the Beauty School, seated in my massage chair and looking into the pool of scalding water. My pedicurist has not yet come over, so it’s just me, my chair, and the whirlpool…….and Allison, as my example. “Well”, I tell myself, “if this is what women do to get a pedicure, then certainly I can too.” PLUNGE!! I thrust my feet back into the scalding pool. This time I hold them there. I envision them gasping for air as if I’m drowning them. I’m literally burning. Is this what the Bible is referring to when it discusses the Lake of Fire? Note to self: Make sure to stay on the straight and narrow so as to ensure I do not go to hell. I now feel like I’ve tasted a small piece and it’s not good. I feel like my feet are burning to a crisp and may indeed begin disintegrating at any time. Out they come, and I gingerly place my now very tender feet on the edge of the pool. Again, I look to Allison who says, “Wow, Ann. Mine’s really not that bad…….almost cold even”. That’s it. Back into the lake of fire. Generations of women have said it hurts to be beautiful, and I will get through this. If I can shoot a 44 Magnum Six Shooter and give birth to two children, soon to be three, I can do anything!!! Finally, the pain is beyond enduring and I rip them out once again. Allison’s pedicurist, who has been looking at me rather strangely, finally reaches over and sticks her hand in my whirlpool. She quickly rips it out, and says “Oh – It’s hot!” draining and refilling the tub. At this point, my mind is too numb to process the level of my stupidity. What perhaps I previously thought was my need to prove myself worthy of womanhood, I now realize was the ridiculous lengths we women will go to “fit in”.
At this point, my pedicurist – a young man, comes over and begins working on my tender toes, unaware of my incident with the scalding water. With each touch (poking, clipping, filing, cutting) I jerk with pain, and I know he thinks I’m odd. Finally, he says, “I should have picked her”, referring to Allison. Embarrassed for my outlandish stupidity in subjecting myself to the scalding pool, and not wanting Allison to think I am not enjoying my special birthday gift, I find myself once again appealing to my need to “fit in”, quelling my deep urge to run screaming from the salon. I silently endure the pain of the pokes and prods, with my jerking feet the only indication that I am not completely at ease. I carefully listen for the two pedicurists, sitting side by side, to say “Mi chang”, which my Vietnamese friend Khim told me means “white people” and is typically used when they are discussing you. I don’t hear it, so I feel somewhat relieved. All the while, I vow that I will never, EVER, return for a pedicure. This is torture of the cruelest kind! (I still haven’t really connected that the reason it is hurting so badly is due to the tender burnt skin he is now so skillfully abusing.)

However, at long last, my feet seem to normalize a bit, and the pedicurist begins with the massage, hot towel treatment, and oils. My experience now has turned completely around, and I am already scheming for when I can somehow justify my next spa pedicure. This is BLISS! I will be perfectly content if he rubs my feet and legs for the rest of the day, and I am not worried in the least about the fact that I didn’t shave! (Oh, how fickle the human mind! “Are my plans so fickle that I can say "Yes" and "No" at the same time?” 2 Corinthians 1:17…..“Professing to be wise, they were made fools.” Romans 1:22… I can almost hear God chuckling now. No wonder the Scriptures so commonly refer to us as sheep, the dumbest animal!)

Meanwhile, the tables have turned. The previously composed and relaxed Allison is now thrashing about in her chair, kicking away at the poor little Vietnamese woman who is attempting to massage her feet. “Ah, so we all have our weaknesses”, I smile to myself as I sit back, relaxed and calm – enjoying every bit of the attention. ("Before destruction the heart of a man is proud, but before honor is humility." Proverbs 18:12)

Finally, it’s time to choose our paint. I had decided I wanted a “French Pedicure”, which is the one with the little white strips across the top of your toes. I figured I couldn’t achieve this by myself at home, so I might as well try it once with someone who could……or so I thought. The man starts slapping away the white polish, seemingly wiping it across my toenails in such a manner that I am convinced that not only could I have done it better myself, but perhaps even my three year old could have done better. After he completes one foot, Allison glances over – looking a bit surprised and asks, “Um, do you like it?” “Oh, brother! What do I say now? No? I was actually just contemplating how quickly I could take off all of the polish as soon as I get home and repaint my toenails? It looks like a bird just relieved itself on my foot?” I finally settled on, “Yeah, um, it’s ok. Different than I thought…..” I imagine her disappointment in my experience and feel a little sad. Meanwhile, her toes are looking pretty, completely covered in a nice shade of deep pink. I’m wishing I had gone that route but am a bit embarrassed to tell the guy that I wish he would start over. (Alright, I'm humble now.)

Finally, by some miracle, he finishes both feet and then whips out another set of tools, beginning to correct and shape the white “blobs” on my toes. I’m now glad I have kept my tongue in check, not having blurted out my change of mind. He skillfully works away at my toes until they indeed look pretty and feminine, which I guess was the goal in the first place!

In the end, the pedicure was a one hour experience – including most all human emotions and sensory devices and many spiritual lessons along the way! It started in torture and ended in bliss. Would I want a ‘do-over’ of my first pedicure? NO WAY! It was all worth the story and the memories in the end! Allison and I die laughing nearly every time we replay it. Plus, my toes look fantastic! :-) Thanks, Allison!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Precious Day

"This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

I sit here on our lawn with my three boys, Jason, Caleb, and Emet. Today, my birthday, has been a most wonderful day, even if rather ordinary. I guess there is most often something that makes one feel unique and special on their birthday. It was a sunny and warm Monday. The boys and I went for a walk with Grandma Marion on a country road not far from here, then on to visit Mr. Harold, Marion’s friend who is in a nearby adult care home. He gets so much joy from having Caleb and Emet visit. He seems to light up like a Christmas tree. It’s funny how little effort it takes on one’s part to bring so much joy to a lonely old soul – an hour every couple of weeks or so.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, though I’ve thought to 1000 times. This pregnancy has been a bit rougher than the others. Of course, everyone insists this means it may be a girl. I guess I could agree. It may be. I suppose I have a 50 / 50 chance! However, though one may think after two boys I would be desperate for a girl, I’m not. Sure, I’d love a little girl as much as anything, but I so treasure my two little boys and their Papa, that I’d be overjoyed to welcome another one. Jason is such a wonderful husband and father……the best I could ever imagine. I can’t imagine any young men not profiting from being raised by such a man. The world will truly be a better place because of him, if all he is ever know for it being the father of his sons.

In the past few weeks, I’ve once again learned several lessons about life. A dear friend passed away suddenly at age 34 from a blood clot going to both sides of her lungs following a c-section to deliver her fourth child. Four little children, ages 5 and under are left without their Mama. These little ones are blessed to have such a wonderful grandmother who is willing to spend most of her time two states away in California to help the now widowed father raise his four young children. Two other children I have been following recently passed away from brain cancer. Another family we know recently learned their son who seemed fully recovered from leukemia last year now has to fight the entire battle all over again, with only hopes and prayers for the same clean result and healthy son they had just one year ago….and then hopes and prayers that they won’t have to face the same trial all over again. I know it is not healthy to allow yourself to drown in these matters, yet prayer and thoughtful reflection do produce fruit, so I do allow myself to ponder the meaning of it all, and how I can live my life differently with the current blessings I have of health and life for both myself and my family. I guess what I’ve put together from it all is that life is truly a gift, and is certainly not a guarantee. There must be something we are to learn and gather from our time on earth, however lengthy or brief. There must be a purpose to our lives.

As for me, this whirlwind of sad events has almost slowed my life down to a fast-forwarded movie in slow motion, if that makes any sense at all. Both boys seem to be developing and changing in leaps and bounds……especially with Emet, some stages only lasting a few short days. Yet, as fast as it is all going, each moment, each tiny part of every day – each laugh, each tantrum, each teasing smile and poorly pronounced, but proudly attempted word, sticks to my mind like glue. I treasure every moment, and pray that if it is my last with them that I will have a storehouse of treasure from which to draw and that's I've been the very best Mama I can be.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not wallowing in fear of the next moment, though one’s mind could easily turn there. I simply cannot make heads or tails of why sometimes we escape from certain tragedy and sometimes we don’t. For example, in all practicality, Jason should not be walking or running. His accident three years back which crushed his vertebrae nearly always paralyzes. His neurosurgeon said it was an absolute miracle the way his spine was protected from being severed. He'd never seen anything like it. And without a full face bicycle helmet (and how many people even wear those?), he would very likely be dead. Jason runs 6 miles twice each week and ran the 2008 Portland Marathon. He climbs trees, rides quads, and throws our boys into the air. My life should be so different from what it is now – but it isn’t.

Julie was healthy and strong – absolutely nothing wrong with her. She was pumping milk for the baby, eating dinner, and chatting with her husband and planning to come home from the hospital in a couple of days. Blood clot to her lungs a few hours later and she’s gone.

Joshua was 12, only son of a single mother. He’s gone.

Jeananne was 16 – just turned. She’s gone.

Luke, still fighting, a true champion. He’s 8.

One could ponder the significance of such tragedy for a lifetime. However, one thing is certain. There is something to be learned in each of our own lives from such things. The longer we live, the more of it we’ll see. And, hopefully, it will begin to dawn on each of us. I guess that is why it is the young that are reckless – thinking they will live forever, that they are invincible. Life is precious – so let’s make it meaningful, extracting each joy and pain from every day, and apply it to our hearts so that we can somehow become better people for it. The God of creation remains who He is, and He remains faithful to those who trust in Him. Even if we don’t find life to be fair. Even if we're real with Him and tell him just how unfair we think it all is. He created us, I guess he knows our limitations. I suppose there are just some things our human minds will not ever be able to comprehend here on earth. I’ll choose to follow Him though, versus a life of bitterness and emptiness…..a life of no hope for the future. What do I really have to lose? "...for I will turn their mourning into joy And will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow." Jeremiah 31:13

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I think I will go there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Good Day

This day was characterized by nothing in particular, except that it was good. It couldn't help that we started the day with the little secret we had sent out to our family and friends via e-mail the night before, and we secretly awaited their suprised responses. Finding out last night that we were pregnant with our third child seemed almost surreal.......then waking up remembering that there is now a child growing inside of me! The baby won't be here for nine months, yet how quickly that time goes. I can't help but wonder, what will the little child be like? What personality and characteristics are even now developing? It was fun to see Caleb and Emet get caught up in our excitement about a new baby. One minute they were hopping around in excitment, holding the pregnancy test for the picture - the next Caleb declared he did not want a new baby. Well, it's a little late now! He asked the other day (before we knew we were pregnant), "What would we name a new baby?" Both he and Emet like to cuddle with baby Caleb, 4 months, from our Bible study. He is a mystery to them. Funny, but I wonder sometimes if Caleb even remembers when Emet was a tiny baby, or if what he is now blends in his mind to create the past? That happens to me too. I try to think back to when Caleb was a baby or even Emet's age, and I have a hard time separating the present from the past. I simply cannot remember. I remember little things here and there - or particular events, but not the general, daily personality. I don't seem to have a recording in my brain to pull from.

Our friend Julia is pregnant as well. Their baby is due October 20th -ours October 29, exactly 5 days from Emet's birthday (October 25) and 5 days from Caleb's birthday (November 2). Given that Caleb was 2 weeks late and induced.....and Emet was 5 weeks early, I guess there is little guessing when this baby will actually be born, but it is likely that it will be October or November.

The reader must wonder if we are planning this only to save money and time on years of birthday parties? I guess we'll take that one year at a time....but so far the Ordway Family Birthday Gala has gone pretty well! :-)
We had a bonfire tonight on "the other side", as we call it. What started with three couples and our friend Randy plus 5 children between us all (not including the buns in the oven), ended with Jason, Randy, and myself (boys now sleeping soundly in their little beds) talking by the fire about politics, relationships, and life in general. It's amazing how something as small as standing around a fire, can draw us together and relax us enough to be able to open up and talk. No one would probably stand around in a circle staring at the grass and share such deep conversation. Yet, there we stood, coffee mugs in hand, waving away the smoke and discussing life. I sit here on the couch, Jason now up rocking Emet who awoke crying, smelling like camfire, staring at our own flaming woodstove, and typing in this blog.

Our land,1.7 acres, long and narrow is divided by a stream. We are right on a busy country road - a long, straight 50mph stretch in which cars often go much faster. That used to bother me to no end. However, I am truly coming to feel settled here, on our place in the country. The land around us is open, and we have beautiful, pastoral views. Our small country home is cozy and warm (many thanks to our new woodstove), and there is alot of potential to what we can do to both our land, our buildings and our little house, even if we have to fight with the carpenter ants to do so. I am content, and there is great peace in that. That took a while in coming, for though I was trying to be content, I guess I always sort of wished my house were not the house it is.....I wished our land was in another spot. I wished the traffic were not so busy and loud. I was always looking forward to what lay ahead, the next place we might call home, never allowing my heart to settle here. I guess what I am saying is that I still look forward to what God has for us, as a couple, and as a family. We still have a dream of having alot of land and a big house to share with those in need of rest or relaxation. However, in the meantime, God has us here. We are called to share what we have now - right here, and make it into as much of a place of warmth, relaxation, and solace as we can.....a lighthouse for those who enter. What I'm learning is - it probably doesn't have as much to do with the location, the landscaping. the space, or the interior design as I once thought.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


What a little cherub is our Emet. In transferring all of my files from my old laptop to my new one, I came across a photo of Emet from when he was only a few days old. Funny thing is, I can see the little Emet we know now in his little newborn face. I’ve come to the realization that beyond your first child, it must be near impossible to keep track of the exact day and order of new events (new words, new actions, new concepts). My organized, type-A mind strongly desires to keep on top of these things, my very human body and reality prevent me from doing so. Thus, here I write – often times weeks from the “first”, quite possibly out of order – but recorded nonetheless.

Outside of the words “Mama” and “Papa”, which Emet has used for quite a while now – he has perfected the word “Down”, which began as “Doon”. Now it is definitely “Down”, but with a very strong emphasis on the “ow” as in “ouch”. This word means “Pick me up”, “I want up there”, “Put me down”, and “I’m tired of being in here (ie the car seat, stroller, etc.) and I want out!” He says it frequently and repeatedly. What a sweetie! The word down will never again hold the same meaning for us. Saying it will likely always bring a smile to our face. The irony is, though I say this now, it is likely that in another year or two that I won’t remember that about Emet at all, save for the reminder of reading through this blog. I can’t quickly recall similar words from Caleb. It is a gentle reminder that I am just to cherish the now, soak it in, experience it fully, internalize the joy – record it if I can, but just live life to the fullest. If I am constantly worried about not capturing the present, I may miss it in the process.

Emet definitely says “Greta”, which sounds like “Gray-ya?” You hear him calling her from the laundry room, with his little face pressed against the door glass, standing on tippy toes. We also think he may say “thank you”, though if he is saying this, it sounds like “Tyu”. Caleb? Well – he calls to him, but we’re just not sure how to even interpret what he’s saying. He says something like "Doc" (or something similar) for Dog, and "Shu" for shoe. His only other phrase to note at this point, at least that I can remember, is “Dat one?”, which he says as he points to something in question. It is as if he is asking who or what something / someone is.

He has begun to use the sign for “more”, for which he claps his hands. (today, he may actually have done the actual sign - Jason saw it). He can also sign “thank you”, but much like Caleb – he must be prompted for this. Sometimes you can see that he wants to sign something, such as “drink” and ends up just trying all of his signs at once in sort of an interpretive dance of the hands. Then he looks at you inquisitively as if to see if you understood.

He is walking so fast now that he is practically running, and on that note can go so fast that he is practically pitching and stumbling forward – which occasionally he does, crashing into whatever is nearby.

One of his latest gestures is that he likes to shake his head “no” teasingly. For example, if asked if you can have a kiss, he will often shake his head “no”, whereas before, he always would oblige and lean towards you with a wet, open mouth for a slobbery kiss. Now, you’re lucky to get one of those!

Another of his favorite things is listening to music. Every time we turn on Veggie Tales, he looks happy and starts clapping his hands and moving his head from side to side. It's funny how children seem to just "connect" with children's music. When he is really happy, his little mouth is wide open in a big, happy smile.

Puppy, his little brown soft toy is becoming a fast and dear friend. While he has always had it nearby in bed, it seemed to be more that we put it there than that he chose it. However, Puppy has grown near and dear to his heart, and he will look for it. Another fun toy of his is his big, soft, bright green, yellow, and orange frog which croaks. It is almost as big as he is, but he hauls it around, throws it down, and then falls on it. He loves to press its button to hear it croak, then pick it up and give it a hug. What a precious site!

Caleb has also taken to "fathering" Emet's frog, and he says "I'm singing Emet's frog a song to help him go to sleep". He tenderly holds his own "friends", as he calls them - looking them in the face, then giving them a hug or kiss to care for them. We tell him he is such a good Papa.

He loves to be held in the presence of strangers, and when they talk to him, he often shyly buries his little head in my chest, peeking out at them and giving a little smile. What a flirt! He definitely has a “favorite” lady in the nursery, a pretty long-haired blonde teenager name Lia. It brings her great joy that she is often the only one who can comfort Emet when he is upset. What a ladies man he is! He has a flirtatious grin and an inquisitive brow, which he can use to tease or frown when upset.

Both boys are recovering from bad colds and earaches, Caleb’s which began Sunday and was bad enough to where he was holding both ears and saying “my ears hurt”. He skipped out on playing with the kids at Bible Study and opted to snuggle on the couch with Mama instead. Not that I like him to be in this pain, but it sure was a welcome change to have him so desire to be with his Mama. That night, he and Papa “camped out” on the couch. I think they both thought of it as quite the adventure, snuggled under the down comforter, warmed by the wood stove. Papa would help Caleb and give him drinks when he woke up, chest heaving with terrible coughs. Emet was sick for about 2 weeks, between colds, earache, and teething. (He seems to be getting all of the rest of his teeth at once, and they come up and go down over and over before pushing through, unlike Caleb’s who did that only for short periods.) He seems to be past the worst of it though, and is much more chipper these past few days.

Caleb’s maturity continues to amaze us. He is becoming such a little person, who thinks and reasons on his own, asking questions as they come to him, outside of the “Why” stage he was in for so long (though we definitely still get our share of “whys”.) He seems much more able to articulate things than he was before. One of my favorite things is to glance in the rearview mirror and see him or Emet gazing out the window and wondering what is going through their little minds?

Caleb’s imagination is definitely on the move, and he can often be found “pretending” various things. One of his favorites these days it to pretend he is a monster truck, jeep, race car, etc. and race around the house, stopping for gas as needed. I’ll often ask him what he is. The other day, I asked and he said, “Just Caleb”. J Is there such a thing as “Just Caleb”? I think that is probably the most special of all.

Recently a firetruck came to our house, as the neighbors barn was on fire. The firemen were kind enough to let Caleb get inside the truck. They then gave him some stickers and a plastic firemans hat. He loves to wear this hat around, and it is already cracked in a 100 places. I'm thinking we might have to hunt down a sturdier one for him at some point, with all of the wear and tear this thin plastic hat is getting. He will bring it to me and ask if I can tape it to fix it.

Something Caleb says frequently to Mama, Papa, and others is “I like your shirt [pants, hat, coat, shoes, apron, hair, etc.]” He can be such a little encourager. His spirit is as strong as ever and as sweet as his encouragements are, his rebellious, defiant side is hard at work as well. A frequent struggle we have is his common response to us of “I will NOT [do whatever we have asked]!!!”, “I will break [whatever we are doing that he doesn’t want us to do – ie I will break your walk, your Quicken night, etc.]!!”, and “I will TAKE [baby Emet’s toy]”. He definitely doesn’t like feeling a loss of control. However, as he is starting to realize that actions, both good and bad, have consequences, he is starting to have to control his emotions for things he strongly desires. For example, Grandpa O recently purchased a Jeep. Caleb really wanted a ride in Grandpa’s Jeep as he has a particular fascination with Jeeps. He was being naughty and I told him that a ride in Grandpa’s Jeep was on the chopping block and that with continued misbehavior, he would lose privilege to ride in it. I could see him physically trying to hold in his response. It was amazing! Normally, he would rage out with “I will NOT!!!” (followed by a time-out, spanking, loss of toy, or some other consequence). This time though, he REALLY wanted to ride in the Jeep and knew Mama was serious. I guess the moral of that story is to learn what it is that day and time which provides the best leverage to your cause. Always loosing the same thing or toy loses its effectiveness.

An acquaintance of Jason’s through his work just lost his 11 year old son Kasey to Brain Cancer two weeks ago today. Kasey’s mom, Amy, updated the Caringbridge website today with a truly touching note – simply sharing her heart, and how it feels to be missing her son, realizing that his little brother misses him too. Last night, her son went to bed and she could hear him in his room talking to himself. She thought about how they used to laugh and jabber on together in their room. Immediately, I could almost hear my two little boys giggling and laughing as they interact together, and I could physically feel the pain of her loss, and that of the little brother who now stares at an empty bed in a quiet room. I wanted to share a piece from her update, as it so truthfully captures the heart of a mother.

Good morning Crew!

Something is sticking out very firmly in my mind right now..
Two weeks ago today, our ^Kasey^ became an angel. The last two weeks have gone by so slow. I wish sometime that I could just skip through my life and go right to the end. I know I know.. that's not the plan.. so, I will live through it and wait my turn. My other boys need me right? Colbey was sick yesterday so he stayed home from school. Oh how his requests and ailments sounded just like Kasey's. "Mom, will you sit next to me? Mom, can I have some more sprite? Mom, I have a worser headache than before. Mom, my feet are so cold, will you warm them up." I longed for Kasey's voice with some of those requests. But.. I sat with my Colbey, I got him his sprite, passed out the tylenol and warmed his feet as best I could. We ran out for lunch with another of Kasey's favorite lines.. "Mom, can we go out and get lunch today?" I couldn't say no.. not for one second.

Last night after I tucked Colbey in bed for the 100th time, I heard him talking to himself. Not sure what he was saying.. but.. I waited for that other little voice to chime in just like so so many nights before. They would talk and talk to each other forever. I think Colbey misses that too!

It's just not right.. his chair is empty, his stuff just sits. I want him back.. I just want him back. The old Kasey.. the healthy Kasey. I wouldn't dare have him back to be sick and in pain.. no.. I wouldn't ask for that. I just want to hear his voice.. feel his touch.. see his smile. Someday right??

Somedays are not has hard as others. I know Kasey is healed, he is free. I can't help but smile and rejoice for him. How proud his dad and I are of him. So glad to have had him if only for 11 years. Thank You God for blessing our house and our family with Kasey Ryan!

Have a good Wednesday! Hug your kiddo's extra tight. Tuck them in, and one more time if you have too. Take a mental note of that smile.. always and forever say "I love you!" They are only young for a little while and not necessarily ours to keep.
Continued prayers for all our warriors out there!

Love and Hugs,
signing off at 7:26am pst

Amy.. ^Kasey's^ mom

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Only the Sweetestest Mama Will Do

I am sitting at Starbucks this evening for my weekly night of “escape”. Mostly, I enter our receipts into and analyze our budget, and if I’m lucky, have some time to blog or look at my planner, and generally zone into whatever realm I choose, none of which ever includes “Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama…” One might also call this my night of mental health.

This night, I’m more than glad to be here. The “escape” was welcome. Our poor little Emet is cutting 4 molars at once, and in addition to the pain he is no doubt feeling from the teeth, he has had a fever, a constantly runny nose (and rear end), and the general fussiness of teething. To my simultaneous chagrin and delight, often times “only Mama will do”. Papa is a second best, but often when he sees me, he reaches out, face wrinkled in frustration and tears and wants his Mama. This has been going on for almost a week now. I remember only a day or two with Caleb where he was in near constant need of being held and catered to by Mama. My favorite part of Emet needing me is how he nuzzles his little head against me. If someone talks to him when he is in my arms, he tilts his head towards my chest and looks at them from the protection of Mama. He toddles up to me and holds his little arms up, with his characteristic “Mmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmm” (He does this for just about anything he is wanting, from more food, more to drink, some of what you are having, wanting to be picked up, get out of the high chair, etc. He is definitely not yet doing the signs for “more”, “all finished”, “milk”, “drink”, “eat”, “hurt”, “get out”, “please”, and “thank you”. We are looking forward to that stage and moving beyond the “Mmms”! ) Emet is definitely coming up with a few words, though they are still difficult to understand, and probably near impossible for anyone else outside of Jason, Caleb, or I. We think he is saying “Grey-ah” (Greta), and possibly “Grandma” (can’t remember how it sounded – but it was very probably Grandma – hasn’t said it since). “Doon” (Down) still means up and down. “Dat” (That), which he uses to ask about something when we are reading through books – an item he is learning to bring us more and more often. He has discovered sitting on Mama’s lap, and as soon as I sit down on the ground, frequently in front of the woodstove, he immediately goes over to the bookshelf, pulls off a book (often from the very bottom of a stack), and toddles it over to me – turning around and moving towards me awkwardly in order to land on my lap, which I still help him to do. When Caleb is around, both boys sit on my lap at once. Emet is getting more and more patient with books. We can now read through several pages without him trying to rip it from our hands and shove it aside. More often, he is beginning to point to things on the pages and say, “Dat.”

Caleb is so full of being 3 these days. He surprises me each and every day with his ever expanding horizon of understanding. Caleb has made a new little friend in the nursery on Wednesday, when I go to my women’s Bible study. His name is Blake. Now, Caleb has interacted with several little boys and girls – sons and daughters and our friends, and others in the nursery. I have always thought Caleb a little different from the other children. I’m not sure if it is that I am his mother….or if it is that he doesn’t watch television….or he is not in day care….or whatever else it could be. As rambunctious and “all boy” as he seems to be, he has a tender little spirit. For instance, when leaving a Christmas party, he tried to say goodbye to the other children, and give one of the kids a hug goodbye. He was looked at with oddity, and shoved away by the kid who he tried to hug. Where are the manners? And where is the love, I’m wondering? What are people teaching / not teaching their children? In any case, a few weeks back, when I went to pick Caleb up from the nursery, the nursery worker told me that Caleb had made a new friend and they played and interacted very well together. From the first time I met Blake – just that day – I could tell that indeed, he was very much like Caleb. When they went to say goodbye to each other , they both reached out to give each other a hug, then politely but excitedly said, “Goodbye, Blake”, and “Goodbye, Caleb”…..”See you next time.” I was thrilled. From that day on, Caleb has asked frequently about Blake, gets excited each week to go see him, and mentions missing him throughout the week. Blake seems equally anxious to see Caleb. I haven’t yet met his mother as his Aunt is the one that brings him to Bible study, and she doesn’t attend that church – only the Women’s Bible study there. I’m not sure how you approach getting together in a situation like that – but perhaps over time I can figure it out for Caleb’s sake.

Our neighbor’s barn caught on fire today. It is about 30 feet away from our furthest outbuilding, which then proceed to cascade like dominos towards our house. I called 9-1-1 after a passerby stopped to tell us our barn was on fire. (Everyone thinks it is our barn due to its proximity to our house. We wish it were, as it and the land its on would make our home much more valuable!) In any case, the fire department came out, and the truck parked at our house. Caleb watched with excitement from our sliding glass door – watching them get into their gear, get the hoses out, and go into the black smoke. After the fire was put out, he and I went outside to watch them and look at the fire truck, he , clad in his yellow, black, and red fireman’s raincoat and rain boots. He waved at the firemen, and one of them, Joe, asked him if he would like a helmet and some stickers. Of course, he did. He also got to get inside the fire truck and look around, which he did bravely, if a bit shyly. After they left, however, he wanted his new fire helmet on several times. When I asked him to go out to the outbuilding to get out Greta, he wanted to put on his Fire coat and Helmet, “so that Greta will be safe”, he said.

Today, Caleb was snuggled next to me on our leather chair reading stories before naptime. He reached his little arm around me from behind and said, “I love you Mama. You’re the sweetestest Mama.” That made my day, and likely many, many days to come. In fact, this may be one of those moments I remember long after my children have left home and have children of their own. It may well make my day then, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Still Letting Go

It has been one week and one day since I stopped nursing my baby Emet. Oh, how my mother’s heart aches and longs to nurse him, holding him close as he nurses innocently at my breast. It was but a year ago that he nursed for primary nutrition – yet most recently, it was only for his nighttime comfort.

My milk hasn’t dried up as quickly as I had imagined it would. I don’t remember it taking this long, or being such a process with Caleb, but perhaps it was – and time has faded the memory. I have momentary panics and bouts of sadness, when I realize that I am fully capable of nursing him still, comforting his cries, quenching his longing and mine as the evening’s busy playing and activities render his growing little body ready for the evening’s rest. What can I do but stand sadly aside, pushing my feelings away, continuing to let go, even though it is the last thing in the world I want to do?

I imagine what it will be like someday, sending my children off to college, the military, or some other such pursuit, realizing that never again will life be the same. Never again will they live permanently under my roof. Never again will the years of family time be the same. That time will have passed, a new stage beginning. Oh, that God had not created me to be such a contemplative soul.! Yet, somehow I cherish my tendency to reflect, to try to draw meaning and wisdom from each of these tender moments.

I knew the time would have to end, even soon, but letting go is such a hard thing to do sometimes. I often wonder at the immense responsibility and gift God gives to parents. We are in charge of the development and nurturing of little lives. And yet, they must shape us even more than we could ever shape them. They transform us from the inside out…..heart first.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saying Goobye to Another Last

Well, it's done. My body is finally all mine again - the 15 month marker for Emet is here and he nursed for the last time on Tuesday night. One might think that is something to celebrate, and it is! Yet, part of me feels so sad. The author Karen Kingsbury commented once that in life, we commonly celebrate firsts (first birthday, first tooth, first ride on a tricycle / bike....etc.), but we don't often celebrate lasts because we don't know when they are occuring. The last time your child colors you a picture, the last time they sit on your lap and want to cuddle. Hence, I wanted to somehow commemorate this little last, as sad as it makes me to celebrate Emet's "right of passage" into true toddlerdom and to give voice to my grieving Mama's heart.

With Caleb, I can remember his last day nursing like it was yesterday. His last nursing time was in the morning when he first woke up. A friend had shared that with her daughter, she simply kept the routine of cuddling in bed, she just turned her the other way. So, I, in all of my wisdom, decided to do the same thing. I snuck out of bed before waking up Caleb, got a bottle full of milk, and brought it into my room. Then, I went to his room and brought him in my bed as usual. I sat him up with his little bottle and gave it to him, thinking this would be an easy solution. He drank a sip or two, then sadly put the bottle down, looking at me with big, woeful blue eyes, and signed the "more" sign - pointing at my chest. I felt as if a knife had stabbed me right in the heart. Tears instantly welled up and I grabbed Caleb and flew out of bed to the rocking chair before I lost my resolve, where he and I both clung to each other and cried - bottle of milk forgotten. Knowing that I still could nurse him was almost more than I could bear. But, I did it - and a few weeks later, I was happy to experience a bit of freedom and to see him continue to develop more and more into a toddler from his baby stage.

Well, as Emet's time has been drawing near, his faithful Papa claims for both boys that he separated them from their Mama at birth by cutting the cord, and he will separate them from their Mama at the end of nursing time by gently but persistently reminding me that the time is here. Earlier this month, I woke one day with the resolve to drop his morning feeding and just did it. I got dressed and ready, then woke the boys and took them downstairs for breakfast. I sat with Emet and a sippy cup of milk in the big leather chair, and this seemed to do the trick. Now, a couple of weeks later, I don't even need to do this anymore.

Wednesday night of this past week was my Quicken night - the night Jason watches the boys, while I pile up my laptop and planner and head off to Starbucks for an evening of "Mama time", which typically includes updating our budget and maybe a few small things of my own such as writing notes, updating the blog, and mercifully - just being alone! (or at least not surrounded by little ones). Jason puts the boys to bed these nights and I wake Emet to nurse when I get home. This particular night, however - I thought that perhaps it would be a good night just to end it and let him sleep. That way, I wouldn't have had to "gear up" for what I knew would be the last nursing session. Tuesday night, as we nursed in the leather chair - Papa shushing Caleb so as to not distract his brother, Emet happily nursing between turning his head from me back to see Papa and Caleb over on the new couch - He or I never would have known it was my last time. Perhaps that is better.

Thursday was hard, however, for little Emet got a flu bug and threw up for the first time. The poor little guy was so sick and lethargic, and when I didn't nurse him as usual on Thursday, it sent him into a bit of a panic. Jason tried to take over the holding and care of Emet as he screamed and screamed, so that it wouldn't weigh too heavily on Emet or I. Finally, we were able to coax him to sleep by Papa rocking him in the blue chair upstairs as I sang to him from the bed. Upon hearing my singing, he instantly seemed to go into a relaxed trance and soon fell asleep against his Papa's chest. This, in its own way, helped to assuage my soul.

Today is Saturday, and I'm doing alright - though each night when I go to bed, I am reminded of what still could be, what I could still turn back, only if for a few more days. Knowing that I am telling my body "no more", when it still wants to and is ready to feed my baby makes me a little sad, a little guilty. But as Jason says, it's time for him to grow up and be a big boy like Caleb. It's a right of passage. Perhaps it is a right of passage for me too - getting to grow and learn from all of these little goodbyes and farewells while simultaneously experiencing new joys and growths from my boys: Emet now waving with his little hand versus his whole arm; Emet clapping his hands, wagging his head, and bouncing from his knees when Caleb turns on the Veggie Tale music on his stereo upstairs; Emet babbling up a storm and beginning to "say things" (most of which we still cannot understand - outside of "doon"[down], which he uses for both up and down); Emet collecting various books and objects, bringing them to Mama and Papa with purpose; Emet handing us his shoe and holding up his little foot to help us put it on; Caleb feeling so grown up and independent with his new battery operated stereo from Grandma and Grandpa B (3rd birthday), which he now operates by himself, knowing even how to turn it on and off to save the batteries. He is so cute as he turns it on, then goes to sit in his puffy blue Thomas the Train chair, which sits right next to Emet's in their room. Most precious of all, is both my boys - sitting side by side in their chairs, listening to Veggie Tales (Caleb quietly and pensively, perhaps singing; Emet rocking side to side, or front to back).

Yes - there is joy in goodbyes - but definitely lessons to be learned as well. Lord, may I always seek them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Growing Up

I took the boys in today for their 1 year and 3 year exams and shots. (Yes, I do realize I'm 3 months behind!) My last well-child visit with Caleb was when he was 2 years old. Today, I once again realized that he is now a little boy, and not a baby. We discussed the visit in advance, the "poke" he would receive that would feel much like the sting of falling down. When I asked if he would get his "poke" first to show baby Emet that there was nothing to be afraid of, he agreed.

It wasn't until we arrived though that I realized what a polite, grown up little person he is becoming. He quietly obeyed all of the nurse's and doctor's instructions, asking little questions every now and then such as "Where's it?" when the doctor told he she saw a blue lady bug in his ear, and "Why?" when the nurse said he might not get his blood pressure taken (because the tool was broken). He embarrased me when he decided to answer "opposite" on all of the doctor's questions.....Doctor: "Do you ride a tricycle?"; Caleb: "No" (with a sneaky smile). Doctor: "Do you wear a helmet when you ride your tricycle?" - Caleb: "No" (of course he does...half the time he wears a helmet just to play outside! - his own choice, of course, so that he always has the option to hop on the bike or tricycle).

His big eyes were both shy and inquisitive during each little thing the doctor did. When it came time for the big "poke", the nurse asked if he would like to sit on my lap or on the table. He chose my lap, but bravely crawled up there and bared his arm......no tears or expressed fears at all. (I'm glad he chose my lap though.) We briefly disctracted him by having him show the nurse the fork lift on his shirt, and as soon as he jerked his head to see the poke -she was done! My brave little boy hopped down and acknowledged that it wasn't so bad. Last time we had shots, 18 months I believe, it was much more like having a toddler in the office, crying from the stings and pains. This year, it was a little boy who sat bravely to get his "poke".

Poor Emet then proceeded to have 5 shots, compared to Caleb's one. Poor little guy. He didn't fare so well and definitely let us know. However, within 1/2 hour of the visit, he was charging around the pharmacy area - giggling and happy to have freedom to roam and explore....another little boy in the making. I used to dread bringing Caleb to the pharmacy, once he was too big to carry (ie last year's visit). Today, he sat calmly and without complaint on the chair, while I let Emet roam around and get the medicine. When I came back, he said, "May I please get down now?"

When we got back to the car, I told the boys that we would be celebrating the doctor visit with a trip to McDonalds for cheeseburgers. Within a minute he was fussing that we couldn't have cheeseburgers instantly.......so back to being the irrate 3 year old.....but I guess what I did have today was a glimpse into the future - and a little saying goodbye to the past.

Friday, January 9, 2009

January 8, 2009: Sweet Baby Faces

I was looking at Emet today, so full of life and promise. His little profile is still so sweet and round – pink, plump lips, almost always parted just slightly, ready for a babble, squeal, laugh, or a kiss; big round blue eyes; long, soft eyelashes, dark at the base, light from the middle to the tips; pale eyebrows constantly in an arch of inquiry, flirtation, or delight; pudgy, round cheeks, very kissable......ah what a face. Caleb, too, had such a face at this age, and his face does call to me still with its adorable, little boy innocence, always wearing his little heart right on his sleeve. Oh, how the heart of a mother aches – with joy, with pain, with every possible emotion, all stemming from the love for her children. I’m sure this never ends. It likely just moves from one stage to another, but a mother’s love will continue on.

I recently heard a story of a lady whose son was serving a life sentence in prison on the other side of the country. Every year, her and her husband would pack their bags into their car and take the journey out to California to visit their son with the only vacation time and money they had. For ten days each year, they would stay in his town, showing up daily for visiting hours and making it known to him they were there. Some days he would show up, others he wouldn’t. One year, he never came to see them at all. At the end of the visit, they packed their bags and headed back home.

Can you imagine this pain? Can you imagine what but love would drive people to love and give so selflessly of their own time and money? I can only imagine that it stems from that bond developed early on, in the moments looking at his baby face, sweet and round, so full of life and promise.........

On the move...
Emet is on the move! It took him a long time, from his first tentative step, to move into the world of the walking, but one day in mid December, I looked over, and there he was – arms to the front (Frankenstein style), flapping slightly as he trudged forward step after step. The farther he went, the wider his mouth got as he realized his accomplishment. I dared not say a word, for each time before, he only sat right down with praise. When he finally arrived to his destination, I cheered and he squealed with delight. Hmm...he must have taken 10 or so steps, and that was the defining moment – ever since then, walking has been the preferred method of transportation. It is interesting to parallel the observation of this somewhat rapid human development to any other area of growth in life. As an observer, you watch as this little child lays, then rolls over, sits, then crawls, one day standing and tentatively stepping forward. Once they start, they quickly get past the awkward arm flapping in a matter of days, each day moving more quickly and with ease, relying on their old methods (crawling) less and less. Once day – they’ll run. Each area of our lives are like this! Yet, we can see it so clearly in such a short period of time when watching a child. It is amazing!

One of our fun stages with Emet right now is watching him dance. He started this about a week or so ago, and gets his little “boom box” (a leapfrog learning box of some sort with letters, numbers, and a few little songs and beats), presses the buttons, then sets it down and starts bouncing up and down and wagging his head. There is no end of enjoyment in this for us! I think we could watch him for hours. Of course, then Caleb also starts giggling and dancing. I can’t imagine greater joy than this...the kind that comes from your very soul.

Emet is full of continual sounds, many of which are motor noises and gear shifting. (He is learning these from Papa and Caleb.) He also has a limited vocabulary of, “Oh”, “Go”, and a single word which can clearly be “Mama?”, “Papa?”, or sound like “Baba?” or “Wahwah?”. We haven’t yet determined how he is referring to Caleb or Greta (the dog). Samson (the outdoor cat) stays out of the way enough that Emet hasn’t likely noticed him.

Emet has just recently shown any interest in books. Caleb was much more of a book worm from early on, willingly sitting in your lap each night before bed, reading story after story. Emet doesn’t want to sit on your lap with a book unless he is completely in control of the book! (Not at all conducive to actually reading J). However, he has lately been headed over to the bookshelf, pulling books off to sit down and look at. Before when he headed to the bookshelf, it was a never ending “clump clump” until all of the books were on the floor. Caleb always joined him in this act with glee, that is until he found that Mama would make him put them all back. Now he too says, “Emet, no no. We only take one book at a time!” Each day before nap, the boys and I read a few stories. Caleb always picks his book(s) out in advance and heads over to the couch. Emet has recently started going to pick out a book as well and brining it over to Caleb and I on the couch....holding it out to me with outstretched arms. Given his newfound love of music and rhythm, I noticed that the early Dr. Seuss and Al Perkins books, such as Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, and The Foot Book, etc. are starting to be fun for him to listen to and see (so long as I read with rhythm!)

We haven’t really seen Emet do many signs, though very occasionally he’ll sort of do the sign for “all finished” or “get out”, but it is with extreme caution that he even approaches these, and for the most part would rather we do the signs – then he just makes his gear shift sound, which we have determined means “yes” in all cases.

The final note for Emet is that as he approaches his 15 month birthday this month, he will be ending a special time of bonding with Mama. We are down now (as of last week) to nursing once each day, right before bed. He seemed to transition away from having a morning feeding quite well. Funny, never in my life would I have thought that I – Ann Ordway – would have trouble in giving up nursing. I had approached the theory so pragmatically at first. I remember saying, “As soon as they are one years old, the very next day they won’t nurse anymore.” Now it is me that struggles with giving up this special bonding time....the last time my baby will receive nourishment from his mother’s body – something that started at conception in the womb.

Caleb is changing quickly as well, but these are changes you notice much more gradually over time. One day you’ll realize, “Hey – he doesn’t do that anymore!” He is such a wonderful little boy, and as he grows older and has more chances to interact with other adults and children, we are starting to get feedback from unbiased others as well. His most recent accomplishment of the past two months is that he is now potty trained – fully during the day, and wearing pull-ups at night, though most nights he emerges dry. We had been struggling with this for months, always dangling the “You’ll get to go to Sunday School only when you are 3 years old AND potty trained” carrot in front of him. That in addition to the “earning stickers towards ice cream” approach. However, nothing seemed to be consistent or a big enough draw to entice Caleb. With economic times getting tougher, we finally told Caleb that we needed him to help contribute to the family by not wearing expensive pull-ups and diapers anymore. He had been dry all day that day, so we changed him into a pair of “big boys” and there really hasn’t been any turning back since! There have been a few accidents, especially early on, but less and less as time progresses. Two weeks later, on the weekend following Thanksgiving, Caleb went to Sunday school for the first time and has been looking forward to it every week.

Caleb has been wanting to color lately and has started forming some shapes, still hardly recognizable, but he will say, “Mama, I’m going to draw a square”, or “....a letter”. Prior, he would draw something and most always say it was a dump truck. However unrecognizable it was, he would always show me the front, the back and the steering wheel! Now, when I ask him what he drew, he may screw up his face in contemplation and say something such as, “Well.....it’s kind of like a sticker...” – shrug, shrug... J Funny, I wonder just how many of his facial expressions and shrugs he has inherited from us. Every now and then I’ll catch myself doing something that I recognize from Caleb.

Caleb also seems to be processing feelings, emotions, and information at a more mature level than even a few short months ago. He seems to be able to better control his temper, and drawn out temper tantrums are no longer a normal occurrence. You can reason with him quite a bit more, and explain actions and consequences. I guess he is just growing up. Nothing in the world makes him happier than going outside to “voomp” with Papa in the yard, and many a weekend hour he spends by Papas side. Papa will work wood or do other yard tasks, and Caleb is right there with him – wagon and dump truck hauling things from place to place. It will be interesting to see how Caleb views that in the future – whether all he remembers is Papa playing outside with him....or if he remembers doing “hard voomp” with Papa. In either case, I can’t imagine a better father than Jason – I feel so blessed to have him as my boys’ father, and they will become great men because of that.

November 22, 2008: Thankful for the Harvest

This late summer was filled with canning and baking – mostly apples baked into cakes, canned for pie filling, and made into apple sauce, but also peaches prepped and frozen for pie, grapes made into juice, and the final produce from the garden. In early October, the frosty weather began and I decided to pull the grapes from the vine and throw them into the juicer. Caleb has a book called The Secrets of the Vine for Little Ones, in which Bruce Wilkinson walks the little reader through Jesus’ words in John 15, where he compares himself to a vine and us to his branches. This particular day, I found it a wonderful opportunity to teach this story to Caleb while he and I harvested the grapes from our vines. (To be completely honest, I went out during his naptime and got most of them, then brought him out for the low hanging fruit!) On this chilly day, we were treated to occasional downpours of rain, most of which we missed by being sheltered by the old vine and leaves under which we took cover. He took such joy in this task of filling up his little wicker basket with grapes and then the final zucchinis, yellow squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. All the while, I took even more joy in watching him squish around in his rain boots and coat, pointing with animation and excitement “OH – Mama, Look – another cherry! (cherry tomato)” and hopping off to collect his treasures.

Time seemed to stand still that afternoon as I watched my little boy drink in the small pleasures of life with such exuberance. I was filled with such joy and thankfulness. Thankful for that moment – for the small things – for the big things, for life and the chance to live it. I guess I was in awe of creation, of life. It is these times that I want to hold on to. Let me never lose the joy of those moments. Let me always bask in their beauty and take refuge in their memory.

When, God, do we change? When do we lose this childlike innocence, this joyful abandon? When does our spirit become hardened and calloused? When do we begin to force ourselves to take even a moment of respite – a moment to stop and smell the roses or pick grapes from a vine or apples from a tree? Out here in the country, old apple tree after tree is filled with enough apples to feed an army, yet though wait eagerly to be picked on the branches, eventually they let go of hope and fall to the ground where they rot, useless to all but bees and worms. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if those very apple tree owners buy apples at the grocery store to fill their fruit bowl.

Is it the small choices we make each day that harden us over time? Jesus calls us time and again to be like children. Why do we allow ourselves to lose that childlike innocence in the first place? So easily led astray from the promised land, we are. So quickly we wander out of Eden. God, you show us the clear and simple path, calling us to take shelter in you, to take refuge. Yet, we choose to stand in the rain, be weathered by the storm. No wonder we are referred to as sheep! One of the dumbest animals in the kingdom, constantly being led astray, wandering off repeatedly in the same wrong direction. In this instance, I feel called to thank You for loving us anyway.

The economic outlook is bleak right now. This is likely the first time in my lifetime that financial times have been quite so hard, as we experience a worldwide economic recession. If it was tough before, I hadn’t noticed – practically speaking anyways. Now, we work for a small company tied very tightly to the residential construction industry, which has for all practical purposes, come to a screeching halt. We have had several rounds of layoffs and now with eight employees, we are all tightening our belts with a 20% pay cut and a significant increase in the amount of medical insurance we are covering. I sat down to do the budget last night for about six hours. At times it felt like I was trying to squeeze milk out of a dry old cow, as time and time again I scrutinized each budget category to figure out where we could nip and tuck. (Thank goodness for Quicken, so that there can be actual data and realistic assumptions to support scrutiny! I’ve been using it for about 3 years now, so I can see some pretty good trend and averages.)

What’s funny in all of this though, is both Jason and I seem to be approaching this new challenge with somewhat of an anticipation, excited to see if we can do it. It is an opportunity to force ourselves into modest and humble living, stretching every penny to the max. Perhaps in this we can learn new boundaries, so that we are not always wondering where the money went so quickly with often nothing exciting or new to show. Perhaps in this time of darkness around, with many losing jobs and struggling, our lights can shine brighter. We may not always be able to serve steak, but we can and will always welcome anyone to our home for food and fellowship.