Chasing Contentment

Wednesday, June 29

I'm reading "the myth of the submissive Christian woman" right now, and I'm being challenged by it. Submission is such a touchy topic in the Christian world - especially for women - and there are so many different views and opinions. For me, this is one area in which my conflict between rules and free thinking is definitely active.

One group of people says that as Christian women, we should be obedient and submissive to the men in our lives, specifically our husbands if we are married.

"So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands." Ephesians 5:24 The Message

Another group says that husbands and wives are to submit to one another equally.

"Out of respect for Christ, be courtesously reverent to one another." Ephesians 5:21 The Message

A friend told me a story yesterday about how elephant trainers tie baby elephants to stakes in order to train them to assume the stake has more strength than they do. That way, when the elephants are older and much stronger, they will remain tied when needed even though they could easily break their restraints. I think a lot of times, we allow spiritual rules or assumptions to keep us bound to things and notions that we could easily resist if we were only to try.

Submission is a hard concept, a hard idea to get around - at least for me, sometimes. I certainly want to be a good wife, (though some have said I'm not, an assertion Mike vehemently disagrees with, bless him) and I want to build a good marriage. I want to be a good representation of God's love. But I also want to be me, who God created me to be.

I'm not finished with the book yet, and I'm reading more scriptures about this subject, but for now, this is an area of my spiritual life in which I think will be best suited to letting someone else's rules drift to the wayside in favor of my own free thinking.

This is something that I think needs to involve the personalities of the parties involved. Those who know us know that if my laid-back, never pays the bills husband and I (the organized, uptight one) were to swap roles, we'd have lots of discord (not to mention the creditors we'd have at our door).

I believe God put the two of us together because we compliment one another. We work well together. But we don't work well within a rigid set of roles that are based upon me submitting to him without question and him being required to do this or that as the family leader. We need the room to be who we are, to let the strengths that God gave each of us help to smooth over the weaknesses we each bring to the table.

I know there are people who will disagree with my conclusions on this matter. Thankfully, as I'm growing in my faith, I'm growing in the confidence needed to stand my ground for the things that work best for our family.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, June 29, 2005  ]

I admit it. I love television. I think cable is a basic utility like electricity and water. I love television like I love Hot Tamales. People might say one rots my brain while the other rots my teeth. I would respond to that by saying that I do other things to stimulate my mind, and I have a good dentist.

A while back (May 20 to be exact), I did this whole rant on why I don't think cable should be censored because it's my responsibility to monitor what my kids watch, and I don't want someone else doing that for me.

This summer, I've made Griff watch ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" with me each Wednesday evening. Initially, he didn't like it at all because it was too girly, and he's at an age when girly is bad. But I stuck with it and made him watch that first night, working from the theory that it's good for him to be exposed to things other than Jimmy Neutron.

And a funny thing happened... he got hooked. He wanted the boxer to win, and he got voted off the show. He wanted the model to win, and she got voted off the show. But still, he wants to watch each week, and we sit together on the sofa for an hour. And that's precious time to me.

Now, we also sit together and read books and talk and play board games sometimes. But this has been a summer of lightness and fun, and this has been such a delight to be able to share this silly television show with him, to banter about who did well and who wore blue (his favorite color & more important to him that actual dancing ability) and who might win. He's growing up so quickly, and silly summer nights on the sofa are valuable indeed.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, June 29, 2005  ]

Tuesday, June 28

Today is the first day for Intellectuelle, the new group blog that I helped judge entries for a few weeks ago. This is a group of women who are speaking their minds in relation to their love of the Lord. I am looking forward to having my intellect challenged by them on a routine basis.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, June 28, 2005  ]

This is my summer of grace. I am enjoying this summer more than any in recent memory, mostly because Mike's at home this summer instead of away working on his doctorate. It's the first summer since Griff was a baby that Mike's been home all summer, and we're all clearly delighting in his presence (though most days he still drives me a little batty).

And I know that God is giving me this summer full of fun trips and visits with family and friends to cushion me as He works on my spirit. And that is why I know this is my summer of grace. His grace provides both the cushion to comfort me and the discomfort of the work He's doing in me. And I am thankful for both.

I started my summer reading an easy book on grace, and I'm going to move on through the summer to more difficult books on the same topic. I'm researching scriptures that talk about grace. But mostly, I'm trying to be aware that I live in grace daily.

In general, I'm all confused, and God's grace makes that okay, I think. I've been a Christian for the majority of my life, and I was reared in a Christian home, by God's blessing. But there seem to be two trains of thought these days in the Christian thinking around me, and I end up confused. I admit it.

I've mentioned before that I'm pretty much a rules girl rather than a free thinker (which frustrates my free thinking husband to no end!). I was reared with rules, and I still do best in life with organization and routines. But now that I'm older, I have ideas that no longer mesh with the simplicity of some of my old rules. And thus, I'm forced to do some thinking on my own (which is really the point, isn't it, of growth?).

I told Mike last night that I'm not sure how to think through these things myself, but I also don't want anyone else telling me what to think. I am caught between two worlds, uncomfortable in both. And yet, I am encouraged by my own discomfort.

God must be working with me for me to be experiencing such unease. I know that in my searching and struggling (and much of this really is a struggle for me), I will eventually come to what He has to teach me. And I want that. I want the growth that draws me closer to Him.

And so, I am so grateful for His grace that comforts me as I learn and grow. A summer of grace. What a beautiful thought! Way better than the summers of dissertation.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, June 28, 2005  ]

Monday, June 27

So this afternoon after work I told Mike about my new plan, and he pointed out some things that needed work. Of course, that initially made me mad (he tends to always think he's right... an annoying trait even if he is usually right) but then made me think. He's right that I can't suggest something new without having thought through the implications.

So now I'm going to do my own little informal survey via email and this blog to see how other people in other churches handle the care of their little ones during services. So, for anyone reading and willing to answer, I'd be very appreciative of suggestions.

I need to know whether preschool nurseries (babies through ages three or four, depending) are staffed by volunteers in the church or paid workers? If by volunteers, are parents required to put in their time? If paid workers, do the workers come from within the church or from advertisements?

In advance, to anyone willing to help, thank you.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, June 27, 2005  ]

I love that I have friends of all different types. I have this one friend who is only a casual friend, but we are bonded by our hatred of extended session at church. (For the unaware, extended session is the program in which parents serve once a quarter in the nursery during 'big church.' We hate extended session, and since our names are on the same rotation, we call and gripe about it each quarter when our names come up on the list.

Truth be told, I'm not very good with other people's children. And so, extended session is a bit like torture. Not only do I manage to get all of us dressed and ready to go to church, but then I have the double whammy of not getting to be in the services and hear the sermon but I have to be with other people's children (not necessarily a nice truth about me but a truth nonetheless).

So today when she and I had our quarterly grip, I told her that I'd outlined a new plan for how extended session could work, and she offered to take it to the ministers at church. So I offered to write it up all formal-like and send it to her, which I just did.

And I'm delighted. Now, we're in an old church which has some old ways about it, so I'm not sure this new plan of mine will fly, but I feel empowered by the simple act of having tried to do something about it. So very often, it's the simple act of taking a step - even a very small step - toward positive change that is important.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, June 27, 2005  ]

Friday, June 24

We're on vacation today! This isn't a long vacation like the visit to see Mike's brother and his family, but this is our annual summer weekend trip with my brother and his family (they'll bring Griff with them since he's been with my parents this week). And I'm very much looking forward to it. I've already had things annoy me this morning, so I'm glad we'll get some fun time to look forward to today.

Times with John, Nicole and Zachary are slow and easy. We'll take the kids all to the zoo and a few fun places, but we'll also spend time with the grownups chatting (and taking turns chasing Eliza) while the kids swim in the pool. I am so delighted that we have this time together!

Neither of my parents have really good relationships with their siblings (I think my dad and my Uncle Bobby were close, and I think my dad lost a real sense of fun when Bobby died. Our Griff gets his middle name from my favorite uncle - Bobby.), and so that is important to Mike and me both. We work to keep a sense of connectedness with our brothers even though we don't live in the same state with either of them. We want our children to see that this closeness is not only possible but that it can be a real source of strength in times of need. And we want them to grow up comfortable and happy with their cousins despite the distance between them.

And now I must go and pack us up. Yay, vacation!

[  posted by Chel on Friday, June 24, 2005  ]

Thursday, June 23

I love lists. I'm a bit of an organizational freak. I love nothing more than crisp, empty planner pages just waiting for me to fill them with plans and possibilities.

I've made a bunch of lists today, ranging from planning how we're going to save enough to ever send these kids to college to how I'll be able to afford to slipcover the funky but cushy sofa to books I'd like to read this summer. In doing all of this, I came across a list I made a few months ago on my 35th birthday. I liked it so much that I thought I'd post it again today - as a reminder to me of how good things are, despite difficult things that are ongoing. So here's my list with a few minor seasonal changes...

35 Things I Love About My Life - Some in particular, some in random order. Some pretty important, some pretty superficial.

1. That God is endlessly generous and gracious. That He loved me enough to sacrifice His only child. Wow.
2. Mike. May I get to grow very, very old with him.
3. Griffin. The perfect little boy for me.
4. Eliza. Our surprise daughter who was just what our family needed.
5. Cold, cold air conditioning on days when the temp tops 96.
6. My brother, John.
7. My oldest and dearest friend, LeeAnn.
8. Our families.
9. Mika and Tara, friends from college who love me enough to choose to stay in touch (enough even to plan a weekend trip with me this summer!).
10. Aleece and her endless need to believe that we can each be creative and impact the world.
11. Bernie - the sweetest dog ever, even if she is old and cranky now
12. Working for a woman who would prefer I introduce her as my friend than as my boss.
13. We have this lovely, old, creaky, tiny house that feels like love to me.
14. The sounds of laughter in that old house.
15. Books.
16. Magazines.
17. Television.
18. Living two doors down from Mandy & Josh.
19. Slow summer days without school or homework which leads to slower summer evenings full of laughter and fun.
20. A better self-image, for me and for the sake of my daughter.
21. Mike. Maybe I mentioned him before.
22. Good pizza.
23. Diet Coke.
24. Chocolate. M&Ms and chocolate chips, especially.
25. Snuggling with the kids after wrestling on the bed.
26. Hot bubble baths.
27. Cute shoes.
28. The challenge of being the kind of person I want my kids to believe I am.
29. Knowing that I am loved.
30. Having the opportunity to rear these children into the kinds of people God wants them to be.
31. Lying awake in bed at night wigging out about this or that, feeling Mike's warm hand on my tummy, reminding me that things are usually less bad than I think they are late at night.
32. Dr. A, who saved my life and Eliza's. There are no words for my gratitude.
33. The doctors who have helped us so much with both of our children... those who identified and help us control Griff's dangerous food allergies... those who treated our Eliza for the first weeks of her life and who still monitor her development.
34. Strong relationships.
35. Mike. Griff. Eliza. How blessed am I?

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, June 23, 2005  ]

Wednesday, June 22

First, my latest confession. I am now completely addicted to Hot Tamales - the little red, chewy cinnamon candy from Mike & Ike - and I can't seem to make it through a workday without them. Linda and I can now eat a box a day. We think we've got a problem, and we're talking about working on cutting down. But they were on sale last night at the store, so we've now both got boxes for the rest of the week. With all of this sugar, it's a good thing I cancelled my dental appointment.

We were outside playing last night while Mike got the grill ready for dinner, and Eliza was sliding on the swingset. My two-foot-tall baby climbed up the four-foot-tall ladder, walked across the wide platform, and went down the slide all by herself - several times.

There is just no fear in that little body of hers. And while it's driving us crazy, I think I might be well served to take a lesson from her. She's comfortable with us, with her surroundings, and is confident in her safety (for which I am thankful), and so she's sure she can do whatever she wants. I remember having so much more assurance and confidence in some areas of my life when I was younger (I have far more areas now, thankfully, but they don't always overlap). Being a grown-up doesn't so much suck the assurance out of us as it forces fears into us.

Before we had kids, I never thought about how this or that could happen, and now, I'm all about the horrors that might befall a child. My friend, Mandy, is the crime reporter for our local newspaper, and she sees things that I don't want to even acknowledge happen here in our little hometown. But they do happen. And I have to teach my children how to respond when bad things happen. And I have to be prepared.

But Eliza's teaching me that I also have to trust in my Father who has my good at heart, and I have to be confident and assured in Him and in my safety in Him. And maybe that means taking tiny little baby steps toward things that intrigue me without worrying that my own abilities might fall short. They might not. But if they do, Eliza's also teaching me to dust off the front of my dress and try it again.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, June 22, 2005  ]

Tuesday, June 21

Marla announced the winners of the Intellectuelle contest today on her blog, and I was pleased to note that several of my picks were amongst the winners. There are a couple of people who didn't win but who I'm hoping will reveal themselves as the writers, so I can begin reading their blogs as well. I'm pleased that I agreed to help with the judging. It was a good experience for me, and it gave me a little more confidence about my own little blog here.

I was flitting around online this morning and happened across a blog written by a man whose eight-week-old son in in the NICU. After reading the first few sentences, my chest felt tight, and I had tears in my eyes. I wanted to leave an encouraging comment because I feel convicted to try to encourage those who are in that situation, but I will have to do that later as I just couldn't at that moment. Eliza's a tiny, healthy almost two-year-old, and yet, the memory of that time is still hard.

When we took her for her last NICU evaluation, we stood and talked with our favorite nurses, and I cried. I asked Mike if he thought I would ever get to the point where I could see those people and not tear up. It isn't a sadness or a hurt any longer. It's just this automatic emotional response. These dear people took care of my baby well before I did, and there is such emotion to that.

My friend, Stacy, is a social worker at a local NICU (not the one Eliza was at, though Stacy ministered to me anyway), and she says that all mothers of preemies have mama guilt. I think I am past the guilt of me being sick and Eliza paying the price for that, but this powerful emotion remains.

I cry. When I come across a photo of Eliza in the NICU, I cry. We watched "House" the other night, and it dealt with sick little babies, and I cried. There is such gratitude - to the doctors and nurses who cared for me and Eliza and to our God - that it is overwhelming.

And for me, part of showing my gratitude to God (I take goodies to my doctor every year on Eliza's birthday to thank him) is being committed to encouraging other parents in that situation. And so I need to go leave that comment now.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, June 21, 2005  ]

Monday, June 20

Mike took Griff to meet my folks yesterday for Griff's annual week-long summer visit with them. It's an event steeped in family history. I remember going to spend time with my father's parents when I was a child, and my dad tells stories about going to his grandfather's farm when he was a boy. I am impressed with the importance of that bond with extended family.

Mike and I are blessed that we have parents (and after his mom's passing, his dad's new wife as well) who love us and who love our children. I think those deep ties with grandparents do lots to shape us as we are children. It gives us a link both to who we are and to where we come from, in the best of ways.

And so I'll miss Griff this week while he's gone (though we're both enjoying diving into foods Griff's allergic to and thus we miss when he's with us), but I know that this time with my family is good for him. I know that he is learning about God and His love as he interacts with all of these people who love him.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, June 20, 2005  ]

Friday, June 17

I rarely feel more than a passing interest in the goings-on of celebrities (outside of my new favorite magazine, In Style, a picture book for grown-up girls). But the recent and very public pairing of Tomkat, as they have become known, has disturbed me for reasons I've had trouble explaining. Certainly, to occupy my thoughts for so long, it was more than just the May/December nature of their romance. We know couples with age differences, and that doesn't bother me with them.

Everyone around me knows my fondness for both fairy tale movies and teen romance movies, so it's of no surprise to my inner circle that I watched "Dawson's Creek" on occasion or that I enjoyed Katie Holmes' "President's Daughter." In interviews I've seen with her through the years, she's seemed like a grounded young woman (though I have no way of knowing whether or not she's a Christian).

She's been quoted as saying that she had a poster of her current beau on her wall as a teenager. So did I. But that was a decade or so ago, before his two marriages and devotion to the Church of Scientology.

A friend and I were talking this week about allowing our young daughters to begin selecting their own clothes (in instances where it was appropriate). I said that I hoped that if we encourage them to make their own choices - even in things as seemingly insignificant as their personal style - and if we support and guide them to a greater confidence in their own abilities, then maybe they won't be easily swayed when they are older.

And then I realized the reason I've been so appalled and riveted by this Tomkat situation... I wonder what her parents must think. I see her as someone's daughter rather than just as a celebrity.

I want to believe that my daughter - and my friends' daughters - will be able to take the foundation that we've provided them and be able to see reality from fairy tales and to be able to distinguish grown-up love from childhood wishes (though, again, it isn't mine to say that this love these two profess to share isn't true).

I hope that these girls we're rearing to be women will be rooted strongly enough in their faith that they will be able to resist the desire to release their own faith in the interest of yeilding to a man (or an organization or a friend or a job...) that demands - even softly - that conformity is necessary.

I'm a big believer in the theory that we cannot well know another's heart and that we cannot stand in judgement of other people's relationships with Christ or with their families or spouses, so I do not wish to be judgemental of this celebrity relationship. I do, however, see this as a cautionary tale for me as a mother.

I see this as an example of why I need to be diligent in reminding my son to be kind to the women in his life, to be respectful of them, to accept and appreciate the differences in them. It's an example of why I need to be diligent in reminding my daughter that she is beautiful regardless of what other people might say simply because she was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)... to remind her that God created her on her own and thus, she can learn to be content on her own... to remind her that, while I have a superficial love for sappy movies, I have a deep and abiding love for her flawed but fabulous father. And that she would be blessed indeed to find such a love.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, June 17, 2005  ]

Well, it's a big day in our house for lots of reasons. Mostly, of course, because Griffin is now seven. I love birthdays - any birthdays. I love that we all get a day set aside each year to celebrate life. Griff started his day with one small, fun gift, and I got up early enough to make pancakes (with fresh strawberry sauce) for my boys for breakfast (Griff's request, of course).

Griff is this great kid, and I am delighted by him and thankful for him. He is named in memory of my uncle who died of cancer when I was in high school. My Uncle Bobby was the funniest guy I had ever known. He had this quirky sense of humor that I like to think God infused Griff with a little bit of in order to carry on Bobby's memory. (Bobby's humor was a good balance to my father's seriousness. I think my dad lost some of that sense of fun when he lost his brother.)

Another big thing... Marla Swoffer has this wonderful blog in which she and her readers discuss a myriad of topics. She and Bonnie at Off the Top worked together to establish a team blog for women bloggers that will be similar to The Thinklings.

It will be called Intellectuelle, and it will be hosted at The Evangelical Outpost. Marla asked me to be one of a panel of judges for the entries, a request which both surprised and delighted me. I am honored to have been selected, and I've enjoyed working through the entries, asking that God use me in this process. Marla's going to announce the winners of the Intellectuelle contest next week, and I look forward to reading the thoughts of these women. Clearly, God is using this as a way to reach His people.

Seems like all of our big days - like all of our lives, I suppose - are a mix of good and bad, fun and not. My not for today is my first-ever mamagram. I thought about arguing with my doctor, insisting on waiting another year. But when a doctor saves my life - as Dr. A most certainly did with me and Eliza - I pretty much at that point agree to agree with most everything he suggests. And so I'll go today and get it over with... a grown-up rite of passage.

Happy birthday, my Griffin Robert. God makes me better every day through you.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, June 17, 2005  ]

Thursday, June 16

Tomorrow, our Griff will become a seven-year-old. It's hard to imagine that he's been alive for seven whole years now! He's this amazing mix of little boy and old man. I've always said he was a bit of an old man in a little boy's body. He's very sensitive and in-tune with other people's feelings and needs, and he's happiest when all of his family is crammed up in our little house together.

Last night, we were talking about what he wanted for his birthday dinner (take-out pizza so we can stay home) and dessert (Skittles). He came into the room a little later and told me that he didn't really want anything for his birthday. Of course I asked why not. He responded that he already has everything he needs - shelter, food, and water (I think they must have covered some of this in VBS last week as I also think people need cable and a good newspaper.)

In another conversation we had, he told me that all he wants is to turn a year older, which I assured him was going to happen. He's at that age when being older is so much cooler than whatever age he is already. But then he also said that he wants three things... 1) to 'lay off the sugar' (I swear, he really said that!) 2) to be kind to others and 3) to 'know himself better.' Now, the third one makes it clear that he got something other than the allergies from me as his daddy's proud of his own shallow self-knowledge.

But it was such a blessing for me to hear Griff tell me in different ways that he's happy with his little life, with his family, with his childhood. Now, he's probably not too happy to be helping Mike wash and wax the truck this morning, but in general, he's content with who he is at this moment in time. And that is one of my goals for both of my children - to find contentment.

What a great last day to be six!

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, June 16, 2005  ]

Wednesday, June 15

What a delightful surprise! My very favorite aunt (great-aunt, actually) is in town on business and has invited the four of us to dinner before she leaves this evening for another stop along her whirlwind business trip route. I am just delighted!

This almost makes me forget that it's 98 degrees outside and at least 83 degrees in my house as our air conditioner has decided to take a vacation of sorts. Poor Mike's home dealing with cranky repairmen and a hot, cranky six-year-old. I do hope our crankies don't rub off on poor Lynda Jane this evening. Maybe we'll all just fall into the being delighted instead.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, June 15, 2005  ]

As Mike and I rear Griff and Eliza, I think that by giving them a contented homelife we are giving them the ability to trust. And if we build that ability into them when they are young, maybe they will better be able to both trust and to discern who is trustworthy when they are older.

I have a dear friend who sometimes confesses to not trusting many people or even sometimes, herself. Her childhood didn't give her many reasons to trust. Mike and I were both blessed to have homes in which we were loved and protected and encouraged. Trust comes easily to us, and that is my goal for our children.

Sometimes when Griff asks me to promise something, and I say 'no,' I have to explain that I won't promise something I'm not sure I can fulfill. I tell him I'll make every effort but that I won't promise. I only promise him the things I am sure of, and that way, I can keep my promises to him.

We promise him (and his sister, though she's too young to know yet) that we will always love him no matter what (I love the "No Matter What" book by Debi Gliori - we read it together often). We promise him that we will stay together forever because we are married and we promised God that we'd stay together.

It's important that he see us making the effort to keep our promises, but it is also important for us to apologize to him when we miss the mark. Humility is something motherhood has taught me well.

I hope that by watching our interactions with friends and co-workers, they will learn to trust easily but not unwisely. I hope they both see that Mike and I believe in ourselves because God created us, and thus, we are special and unique and loved. I hope they learn to treat others with kindness because they are treated kindly at home. I hope they always feel safe in our home, comforted. One of my greatest hopes is that by growing up with our unwavering love, they will better understand and accept God's unconditional love, the very model by which we learn how to love.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, June 15, 2005  ]

Tuesday, June 14

Mike isn't teaching summer courses this summer, and he's working on his dissertation a little here and a little there. Mostly, he's Mr. Mom to Griff this summer, which Griff and I both think is great. Yesterday, the two of them cleaned our icky house.

There's something beautiful about real wood floors in a really old house right after they've been cleaned. The key point I'm always telling Griff to remember, though, is that they're slippery. I reminded myself of that the hard way last night when I got up at 1:30 a.m. to help Eliza and promptly found myself lying on the floor bleeding. The fall was quick and hard. I cut the toes on one foot pretty bad and ached most everywhere else. It took a while to get back to sleep what with the stinging and throbbing.

This morning, my toes are still throbbing, but the aching everywhere else has pretty much subsided. I think, a lot of times, that my spiritual falls are much like my physical ones. The usually happen quickly, often because I didn't remember some basic truth. And I usually end up hurt in some way with a lingering throbbing to remind me of what happened.

I've got a framed poem at the house that speaks of how God sometimes allows us to find ourselves in a weakened state so that we might reach out to Him, remembering that He is the source of our strength. When my days are hard or confusing or both, it's good for me to look up and see that poem. It's good for me to be reminded that God is stronger than anything happening here and that He is always guarding me.

Even when the gashed toes of life seem too painful, God is my balm that heals. And I'm unbelievably grateful.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, June 14, 2005  ]

Friday, June 10

Church has changed for me through the years. I remember being terribly uncomfortable with the youth group at the church in which I was reared. I remember finding a place where I was loved and accepted and nurtured in the church of my college years. I've been in my current church now for more than a decade, and the aspects of it that minister to me most change as my life changes.

I've always adored our sanctuary. I'll admit that the reason I first went to services there was because of the stunning stained glass windows. The initial reason I kept going back was because of the overwhelming sense of peace and calmness that I felt when I sat in those services.

At times, Sunday School has both ministered to me and left me feeling adrift, as if I'd wasted an hour of my day. The services are amazing, though, with a minister who never, ever gives a sermon in which he tells us how to think about something. But Mike and I routinely go home discussing those sermons, and we have often gone to the Bible on Sunday evenings to find more information about what our opinions are.

Mike is far more analytical than I am, and so I am sometimes left wishing for more emotional services, but I find that emotional nurturing in other areas, and so I am pleased for him to have his mind stimulated by God and Godly people in those services. While I admit to not always following just everything, I have always enjoy sitting and feeling the presence of God in those hours.

Now, however, we have a squirmy six-year-old (soon to be 7!) sitting between us, and it has changed the dynamic of services for me. Poor Mike's got the bad ear, and one of the 'big church' rules is that Griff not try to talk to Mike, as there's no way Mike will hear. So Griff and I do the most interacting during the services. If I thought that there were days when I didn't follow everything in the sermon before, wow! do I sometimes get lost now, what with all of the whispers of 'Mom, what time is it?' and 'Mom, i need a pencil,' and 'Mom, do you have any Liquid Ice?'

I must admit, when Griff asks if we can just go to Sunday School (which he loves and gets lots of good information from), I'm always tempted to say yes. But I know that it's good for him to sit amongst other believers and to hear the singing and the prayers (however long or difficult to sit through he thinks they are) and the sermons. It's good for him to see us all reading along in our Bibles and for him to begin reading along as well.

As for me, my prayer has become that when the snippets that I need to hear the most are said, God will shush Griff for long enough for me to hear them. I suppose, in a lot of life, that's my prayer... that God will still the noise and distractions around me long enough for my heart to hear what He has to say. My job, both in big church and in life, is to ready my heart to hear.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, June 10, 2005  ]

Thursday, June 9

Twenty months and perfect. That's what the neonatologist at the Developmental Clinic said this afternoon. Eliza passed all of the tests - even the verbal ones! - and was deemed ahead of schedule in some areas. We talked about the HELLP and Eliza's blood and my blood pressure, and he said that unless we have any problems, we're released. What an answered prayer! What a blessing!

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, June 09, 2005  ]

We have two beautiful children for whom I am endlessly thankful to my Lord. He gave us these amazing beings at exactly the times when we were ready for them, not a moment sooner or later. Almost two years after her birth, I see that Eliza's early arrival just might fall into His plan, too, though I've always laid that at the feet of my guilt. If I assume His timing is perfect and that He has plans I don't know, I should let that guilt go and assume He was controlling her arrival, too.

We take her today to the NICU Developmental Clinic to see if her development is progressing well enough for a baby who arrived in this world seven weeks ahead of schedule. It's one of those things where we are confident her development is on track, and yet, the visit is worrisome. There's always the possibility they will find something we didn't even know to look for, something not so wonderful. I worry this for her, not for us. For us, she is perfect.

I never had any trouble conceiving a child. I had trouble carrying a child. LeeAnn had trouble conceiving but carries beautifully. We've laughed that if we could only find a way to share that load, we could have beautiful, lush pregnancies. Of course, we can't possibly do that physically, but we always did that emotionally. I feel like I understand the pain she went through (the pain other friends have gone through) in trying to conceive the child she wanted so badly. And I know she feels like she understands the pain of leaving a hospital without your child.

I saw an illustration at French Toast Girl earlier this week that spoke to me in such powerful ways that it has stayed with me all week. I've gone back to her site several times to see it again. It's called Envy and I think it's a perfect illustration of the sorrow and heartache and jealousy and rage and weakness associated with wanting something so very badly and not being able to have it.

I've never longed for a baby, ached for one the way some of my friends have. I've never grieved a child I would never carry. But I've longed for other things, other ways of being. I've doubted that I would ever achieve those desires. I've been broken by the need of that longing. I've raged against whatever held me back from attaining my desire. I think we've all - at one point or another - struggled with an emptiness that threatens to consume us.

In seeing friends deal with their individual struggles, I've learned that the thing that most often pulls us from the depths is our faith. The knowledge that there is a God and that He does love us is an incredible balm to our wounds. I am amazed and humbled by watching some of these women - women I'm honored to call friends - put their trust in their faith, in their Lord, day in and day out. I find inspiration in their lives, in their faith. I know that if I put my faith in Christ and I rest in that love, I have a shelter from the storms of life.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, June 09, 2005  ]

Wednesday, June 8

We live in a quiet, older neighborhood in town. We know our neighbors, and they know us. We know one another's schedules and kids. Mandy and Josh live on one opposite corner of our block, and J&H and their new baby live on the other opposite corner. I love having people we know and enjoy close by.

As with all of life, there are people we don't agree with and don't enjoy so much. After one couple's divorce, the children only visit their parent across the street from us every other weekend. We know this because they come and are ugly to the other children who live in the neighborhood. It's a pitiful thing that all of us grown-ups plan outdoor activities based upon whether or not these children will be visiting at the time. The streets and yards are quieter during those weekends. And I feel bad about that.

Children need love and attention and boundaries and guidance, and I suspect these children aren't getting much of any of those from this parent. And I know that them swarming the rest of us is just them seeking out these things, and so I'm torn. I feel this maternal need to encourage them, to give them some of the attention they crave. But I also feel a responsibility to my own children to not require them to play with children who are unkind to them. I'm not sure what my own boundaries are in this situation.

Mandy told me the other day that these children aren't our responsibility, and she's right. Yet, I have this haunting feeling that I'm not doing all I should be for them. As a Christian, don't I have some responsibility to my fellow man? As a mother, don't I have some responsibility toward small children? I appreciate that there are mothers out there looking after my children, though it certainly isn't their job. Should I only do that for the friends of my children? For the children of my friends? For the easily liked children? If I'm to love those adults who wrong me, who are unloveable, shouldn't that also apply to children?

I know that Mike gets tired of fixing things for the boy who lives directly across the street. But the boy doesn't have a father around, and he clearly looks up to Mike, and so Mike does what he can when he's asked. And he's always nice about it. I'm quite sure I should be learning from his example.

And so I feel the need to commit myself to being more open with these children, more accepting. I don't think that means I have to subject Griff to their unkindness or allow them to intrude upon our family time. But I can be more tolerant and kind. I should be.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, June 08, 2005  ]

Monday, June 6

God's timing is perfect. I know that, but sometimes it's wonderful to get reminders of that.

We had this wonderful week last week with Mike's brother and his family (all of the kids got along, Eliza did amazingly well to have been in so many new situations, and the grown-ups got good conversation time), and so I went back to work with renewed optimism this morning, something we could all use. The timing of the trip was just perfect to give me the boost I needed to keep doing the right thing.

My friend, LeeAnn, has been my friend for more than half my life now, and we share one another's joys and sorrows. She gave birth last week to the perfect baby girl doctors said she probably couldn't have. She and her husband gave up the fertility treatments and left the size of their family to the Lord, and they were blessed for their faith with this little red-headed angel. It was in His time.

Griff was so worried about my friend, Mika, and her MS, and I have good news to tell him this evening. Her last MRI showed no progression of the disease since the last MRI in 2003. Now that's good news!!

I got a call this morning from a boy I knew in college who I had real feelings for but a superficial, on-again, off-again, not-really-dating sort of relationship with for years. And it was strange and nice all at the same time. He's grown up now and has a family of his own, as I do. And he sounds happy, which is always good to hear. But the best thing about that call was that it reminded me all over again of how perfect God's timing is. He didn't allow that relationship to deepen at the time because He knew He had someone so much better for me if I would just wait. Mike is so perfect for me, and I'd have missed him if I hadn't paid attention to God, if I hadn't believed that He knew best. How gracious is His timing!

[  posted by Chel on Monday, June 06, 2005  ]