Chasing Contentment

Sunday, April 30

There have been seasons in our lives as parents when I was discouraged and weary, when I thought none of us would ever be well again individually, much less all of us at once. That is such a feeling of being broken. I've felt it at times and not been able to see an end to the work of living.

W've been sick - collectively - for two weeks now, and while I escaped the horrible virus, I now have pinkeye. And now, if someone who has pinkeye waves at me from across the street, I'll get it, so it's no big deal except that I'm just worn out. Mike's got this strange reaction to the meds he took last week, and Griff's still taking the antibiotic for his ear infections.

And today, Griff fell off his bike - over the handlebars, actually - and is now missing a good portion of his front tooth. So tomorrow, we'll make a trip to the dentist and hope that the treatment isn't too painful.

Whew. And while I feel discouraged, I am not hopeless, which is always good. I know that my situation is temporary. And I am filling my heart with prayers for a friend whose father is gravely ill. And I am excited for tomorrow... Mandy has graciously allowed me to accompany her to her doctor's appointment to see this precious baby on the ultrasound. How can anyone be too discouraged when anticipating a baby?

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, April 30, 2006  ]

Saturday, April 29

This business of changing lives is hard work. When we initially told Griff about the move, I told him there would be days when he was exited and days when he was sad. I told him both kinds of days were okay. Today is one of my sad days.

I've been doing so well, feeling so thankful for the easy way things were going. I've been grateful to God for reminding me that He is, ultimately, in charge of creating our destiny. I've also been grateful that - because of Mike being sick - I've had to do more than I expected to do with the business end of all of this. Through that, God has reminded me that I am stronger and more capable than I think at times.

But having to do so much so quickly has taken its toll on me. Today, I'm tired and sad. It's raining outside... the kind of rainy spring day that I usually love. But inside, there's so much to do, and I'm a little overwhelmed by it.

Griff and Eliza are now playing at Mandy & Josh's, something Griff's been asking to do since the morning. And the hour or so without the kids makes it easier for me to get things done, but it also makes me sad. I love having friends so close. I love that my kids love to be in their home. I miss that, even now.

I keep reminding myself of what I told Griff... it's okay to be sad some days, as long as we remember that God has great plans for us in this new life.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, April 29, 2006  ]

Thursday, April 27

I spent two days this week in New Orleans and had a lovely time. I thoroughly enjoyed the yummy food and the delightful companionship of my friend, Aleece, and the shopping (she introduced me to LUSH and indulged my desire to go to Scriptura). But underneath the good time, there was an always-present awareness that we were in a city in distress.

Aleece and I visited the city this week with different perspectives. Aleece, her husband, and their daughter lived in New Orleans for several years, moving away almost exactly a year before Katrina changed everything. She saw the city through the eyes of one who loved it tenderly, as family.

I've always been a visitor to New Orleans. Mike and I spent part of our honeymoon there and have always loved returning for weekend visits. There's an energy to the city that hums constantly, and it's a vital place to be. I viewed it as a long distance friend.

New Orleans feels different now. There was fewer people in the Quarter than I've ever seen before. At one point, we were almost the only ones on the street, something I've never seen before.

There were stores and restaurants that were up and running, but right next door, there were places still abandoned... with broken windows still greeting the day. We ate dinner at Muriel's on Jackson Square where everything seemed perfectly normal, people laughing and living and eating (did I mention the yummy food?!). But the people at the table next to us were discussing Katrina's affects, and our waiter said he'd been working on getting his house fixed up. Even in places where first glance says 'normal,' nothing is the way it was before, and everything still speaks of uncertainty.

The majority of the businesses that were open for business had signs in the windows looking for workers. The entire city just felt uneasy, as if the parts that had their sea legs back still didn't trust them.

I drove into New Orleans Tuesday evening in a heavy rainstorm. As I drove across Lake Ponchartrain, I looked at the angry waters, all choppy from the winds and rain, and I thought about how calm the waters were compared to what they must have been like when Katrina pushed through. There must have been great walls of water, consuming everything in their paths.

As we drove on the interstate, I couldn't shake the images of people walking across them, trying to escape the horrors of the city. I was virtually untouched by Katrina, and yet she will always haunt me, if only for the people who hurt still.

Aleece and I ate and shopped and laughed about how it was money well-spent because the city could use all of the dollars we could drop in two days. It was good to be there together, to see it together.

She and I went on a business trip together last spring, and she commented on the different places we are personally now. We are better than we were a year ago when so many things seemed so bad.

I listened to a Toby Keith cd on the way home (until the XM came back into range), and I listened to the song "Forever Hasn't Got Here Yet," a favorite of mine.

Come on baby we're still together
This ain't as good as it's gonna get
I swore I'd love you 'til the end of forever
And forever hasn't got here yet

The lyrics were important to me a year ago because they gave me hope, and they are important to me today because they are a reminder that things can get better.

I wish that for all of us, for the city of New Orleans... that better days are on the horizon, that forever hasn't gotten here yet.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 27, 2006  ]

Tuesday, April 25

Feels Like Love
I've never considered myself to be very creative, though I now know the writing and beading are both creative endeavors. I am blessed, though, to be surrounded by very artistic individuals.

Now that we've sold our house and bought a house in Florida, I keep envisioning our lives in the new house. In my head, I arrange the furniture and picture the new kitchen. But mostly, I try to determine which pieces of art will grace which walls.

We don't have much money, and I'll never buy really expensive pieces of art, but I have become an art snob. I look at the print Mike had when we got married, and I think that it's commercial and without much soul, and I wonder if I could slip it into the yard sale pile.

I've become a lover of things handmade. I'm quite sure our house won't feel like home until I find the perfect place to hang Aleece's fish. There's something warm and comfortable about that fish, and it says 'home' to me. I love that it's bright and bold, and I love that my friend made it and gave it to us.

Several pieces of my brother's art grace our home. I have the still life he showed in his senior art exhibit. I love the jewelry box he painted for me and the stunning painting of a couple embracing that he gave me for my birthday one year. Our bedroom won't feel complete until that painting is displayed. It's a visual testament of the love Mike and I share.

Each of my children have a piece of art from their Uncle John, too. Griff's is a sketch of his name woven into a series of crosses, and Eliza's is a wood burning of a lily (her middle name... in memory of her maternal grandmother).

They also each have a wooden angel painted and created by an artist in our church. The angels hang over each of their doorways, and I love the idea that guardian angels watch over them as they sleep. Their rooms won't be finished until the gifts from their uncle and the angels are in place.

I've asked my friend, Kate, to select a piece of her artwork for us to take with us. I want her to select something that feels like us to her. And I want that displayed in our new home. I've asked a potter in our church for a piece of his pottery. I've worked with him, and his wife has been an amazing example to me, and our Eliza adores their daughter.

We have an art wall in our house now to display the art the kids make, and I'm working on figuring out how to do something similar in our new house. I want the kids to know that creative endeavors are valuable and that whatever they make is precious.

I like to buy and display artwork that feels like love to me. I like things that remind me of people and places and events and love. I'm a lousy judge of actual artistic talent, and I'm not a lot of fun at art museums, but I have a real respect for the talent and skills that God gives to these artists.

In the ability to create exquisite works of art, I think there is also a greater hurt for the ills of this world in these artists. They are tender, compassionate people who God uses in so many ways, not the least of which is through their art.

And when we move, hanging these pieces on the walls or displaying them on shelves won't be a 'whew, we're almost done' activity. It will be one of love, a final touch to the new home we're creating.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 25, 2006  ]

Friday, April 21

There have been times in my life when God clearly answered my prayers, though not in the way or timeframe I had desired. I've never been disappointed in His plan for my life, so I work really hard to be content with whatever answers He gives.

But I do admit that it's really astounding and exciting when a prayer is answered in the way I asked. Our friends, Mandy and Josh, have been trying for quite some time now to have a baby, and we found out last night that she's pregnant. Since we found out that we were leaving, my prayer has been that she would be pregnant before we left town. I wanted to be here for at least part of her pregnancy, to be here for that initial excitement.

I'll fly back when the baby's born, of course, and our whole family will fly back during the holidays so the kids can meet the baby. But I will miss living so close to this new baby. I am praying now that God will provide someone here to meet the needs in their lives as they await this precious child and then as they adapt to being parents just as I am praying that God continue to strengthen the bond between us.

What a lovely answer to prayer! Congratulations, Mandy & Josh. You're going to be amazing parents!

[  posted by Chel on Friday, April 21, 2006  ]

Thursday, April 20

It's been a week... full of all of the good and bad of daily life, full of joy and sadness and fatigue (lots of that!), but most of all, full of God's direction in my life. I am exhausted and excited and crabby and grateful.

We began our journey last Friday (I sobbed as I left a sickly Eliza with her paternal grandparents, though she ended up having a wonderful visit), and by the time we landed in Florida that evening, Mike had fever from Eliza's virus. He was sick the entire time we were there (and is still sick today, poor thing), and Griff developed fever by Sunday evening.

Because the boys were both sick, I had to do lots of things on my own, which was good, if tiring. I was reminded of the strong, independent woman I was before marriage and family melded me into The Mama. And it was empowering to remember that I am still that woman, just different and better.

Mike's brother and his wife were God-sends this weekend, enabling me to do the things that needed to be done while allowing Mike to crash in their bedroom all weekend. I couldn't have accomplished what I did without their physical and emotional support, and I am so humbled by their love and by their excitement about our move.

In this week, I have sold our house here and selected and bought a house there, mostly on my own. We'll be moving into a house that no one but me will have seen. It's a precious house, and I'm delighted about it. And I am enthralled with the little old lady who is buying our house, which makes me so much more comfortable about leaving it.

I thought more than once during that miserable weekend that I wasn't as miserable as the situation offered, and that when we're all settled and happy in our new home, we'll have a great story to tell about our first visit there.

When I tell that story, I'll tell how God provided for me. I don't do well with paperwork and documents and official things, and I've had to do all of this because Mike's been so sick. And God has provided a realtor down there and a buyer here who have done all of the work for me.

God gave me a peace while we were there that the sickness wasn't a 'bad sign' but merely a reflection of the way that life goes on. We'll be okay there. And if I could get everyone well (and get a full night's sleep of my own), we'd be okay here, too.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 20, 2006  ]

Thursday, April 13

Between the lack of sleep from Eliza being sick to the darned ligustrum blooming to the stress of the trip, I'm worn out. And we haven't even left town yet. Sometimes, I think that Fate (Satan, general Karma, whichever) uses one little thing on top of another on top of another to wear us down and leave us unsteady.

I told Mike this morning that I didn't want to go & he asked "tomorrow or in general?" to which I said, "yes." I've been pretty open with acknowledging that while I believe with all I am that this move is the right thing for us, it is also really difficult emotionally.

On "Scrubs" this week (and if you don't watch, you really should), Carla and Turk discussed names for their expected baby until they realized that naming the baby made the whole experience seem far more real. I feel that way about this trip. I know this is going to happen and all, but if I go down there and look at houses and interview for a job, then it's going to feel really real to me. And while I know that's good, it's sad, too.

There's a lot of bitter-sweet to this move for me. I am content to go through the emotions of it, though, because I am certain it is the right thing. And I know that if it is right for me and Mike, it will be right for the kids. And if it is right for all of us, it will, in the end, be right for those who love us. ('m praying for them and their care and comfort already.)

So, we fly out of New Orleans tomorrow night, and we'll return home on Tuesday, hopefully closer to having a home and a job.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 13, 2006  ]

Wednesday, April 12

I know there are parents who discourage television viewing by their children, who disapprove of tv. I'm not one of those parents. I love tv personally, and today I'm grateful for it.

My feverish toddler has laid on the sofa and dozed and watched Dora and Noggin. I was able to get the house picked up and the laundry started while she watched, and then I knew she was feeling some better when she got up to dance with Lazy Town.

It's amazing how much less cranky I feel with a neat house and a less feverish child. Since it's just a virus, I'm hoping she's better by tomorrow sometime and completely ready for her grandparent weekend while we're in Florida.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 12, 2006  ]

I sometimes feel like I'm doing all I can to hold things together, but my life keeps bursting those strained seams. Eliza's home sick today, and we leave for Florida on Friday. Griff's on a field trip today. For the mother of a very allergic child, field trips are the ultimate test of my belief that God can and will protect my child because Griff was first God's child.

And so for today, I'm trusting for Griff and I'm shoving Motrin down Eliza all I can. I need to pick up the house to show it tonight and begin packing. Lovely.

While I'm in a lousy mood, I'll quit whining and instead point everyone to today's Carnival about Aging Gracefully.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 12, 2006  ]

Tuesday, April 11

More Time
I turned 36 last Saturday. That puts me in a new age category on surveys, which freaked me out when I turned 25 and moved to the next box. This time, though, it doesn't really bother me at all.

I tease about being old and feeling old and remembering things my friends don't (in the van this weekend we discovered that I was a junior in high school, driving and dating when Mandy was 9 and in elementary school!) and such. But I don't so much mind getting older. I like myself so much better now than I did when I was younger, despite my body image issues. I like ME better now, and that's a really great thing.

As I've thought about this last birthday, I've thought about the women I've known who owned their age, who embraced it and who loved it.

When Mike and I were first married, we were priviledged to have been taken in, as it were, by a young family here in town. They had four small children, and they just enveloped us and loved us. They gave us a glimpse of a really good marriage and family life. She was in her mid-30s at the time, driving the mini-van, not skinny, all the mama stuff. But she was fabulous, and her husband clearly adored her.

I worked with an arts reporter at the local newspaper for several years, and she was in her 60s and amazing. I just couldn't get enough of her. She was brash and bold and had this amazing flair for both life and her work. She just radiated energy.

My Gran, my late maternal grandmother, had thinning silver hair for as long as I can remember (a trait I admit I'm hoping skips me... the thinning... I'm taking care of the silver with a good colorist already). She was thin (I get my body shape from the other side of the family) but strong, and she was funny and kind. She always wore a certain shade of lipstick and believed in wearing the good jewelry instead of saving it for a special occasion. She was comfortable in her own skin.

As I work to correct the flaws in my body image and strive to focus more on the things I like about myself, I know that I want to be one of those women who is comfortable in her own being. I want to love the fluffiness around my tummy that two kids (and a ice cream jones) gave me, and I want to flaunt the saucy sense of humor that Mike loves so much, and I want to own the years that have given God the time to mold me into who I am today.

The way I see it right now, the more years I add to my 36 number, the more time God has to perfect what He began in me.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 11, 2006  ]

Monday, April 10

I do love birthdays! We had a fabulous time in Houston, and Griff and Mike looked so cute watching batting practice (Mike's in the orange cap & Griff's the little one). Mike, Griff and Josh got to meet Adam Everett, the Astros' shortstop, and he signed a baseball for Griff, so that was fun. And I got to shop, one of my favorite things to do.

Of course, we had tons of things to do when we got home last night, and I feel a bit as if I'm in a race to get things done this week before we fly to Florida Friday evening. But we'll get to look at homes, and I've got a job interview on Monday.

Now, through all of this, and still now, I want God's will for each of us. I want to be where He can use us the most. But it has been my prayer for some time now that God would provide a job for me that would allow me to use the gifts He gave me to benefit those with whom I work, and I feel like this particular company would fit that prayer. So I'm hopeful for this interview, praying it goes well but still willing to walk away if it feels like God has something else for me.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, April 10, 2006  ]

Friday, April 7

Happy Birthday to a lovely, dear friend. Mandy turns way younger than me today (and I'll turn even older tomorrow), and I am delighted to have a friend like her in my life. I love having her birthday the day before mine because our birthdays can spill over into one another and the celebrating can be even more joyous. I'm especially aware of this birthday because I know we'll spend our birthays apart next year for the first time in a long time.

Mandy is kind and generous and loyal to a fault (like me). But she's also logical and not given to petty emotion (like Mike). She's beautiful and has the very best curly hair, and she's funny and stable. (I know stable's not always a compliment, but since I enjoy stable and strong, it is from me.)

She's quite precious, and I'm blessed by her.
Happy Birthday, Mandy.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, April 07, 2006  ]

Thursday, April 6

For a girl who gave up candy for Lent and who thinks a Subway sandwich is health food, this was hysterical. I, too, have hidden goodies around the house... my secret chocolate stash.

This move stuff (cleaning the house, showing the house, looking for jobs) is getting in the way of my entertainment. I haven't made a new piece of jewelry or read a book in forever. I've got four episodes of "Veronica Mars" stored in the DVR and movies I've had from Netflix for a month that I haven't watched. I'm wishing for some fun time, which is exactly what I should get this weekend.

We're taking Eliza tomorrow to spend the weekend with her grandparents, and then Mike, Griff, Mandy, Josh, and I are heading to Houston tomorrow night for the weekend. We'll see a game, of course, and just hang out together. I can hardly wait.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 06, 2006  ]

Wednesday, April 5

Ellen has this week's Carnival posted at MzEllen & Co. Go read.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 05, 2006  ]

Tuesday, April 4

Bridging the Gap
We're moving. And that's a really good thing. I have no doubt that this opportunity is from God. And I am excited about what God will do with and through us in this new place in our lives.

I've been praying for so long that this would happen, and this new job for Mike is certainly an answer to prayer. I'm still praying about a job for me in which God can use the talents and gifts He has given me.

This is a good and lovely thing, this move. But I don't believe that following God's will for our lives is always easy. This move breaks my heart. A casual friend said to me one day that the move would be easier for Mike and the kids because I would make it easy for them. It was such an off-hand comment, but it has felt so true to me. In the end, it is my heart that breaks with this leaving business.

Mike will have ready-made friends in his new department (and he's not much of a friend guy anyway), and Griff & Eliza will make friends quickly. It'll be me missing the comfort of my girlfriends.

And yet, I've moved before. My oldest friend in the world has been my friend since I was in my early teens, and she lives a state away. But we talk almost daily via email. Two of my other close friends are from my college life, now more than a decade past. Email, again, keeps us in touch.

Email, blogging, and flickr keep me in touch with friends I've made while living here. I'm not the first one to move away, and yet, those friendships remain. I love my cell phone and the nationwide minutes. If I'm driving along and think of something someone should know, I just hit the speed dial.

It seems odd that something as cold as technology will contribute so heavily to keeping the warmth and closeness in my relationships. But it will. I'll call Mandy ever day on my cell, and I'll expect to see news of Aleece's baby on her blog, and I'll anticipate those emails from LeeAnn.

Email specials from the airlines will keep me in cheap tickets to see Mika and Tara, and Snapfish will keep the photo postcards flying to family.

And it all sounds so lovely, and I know from experience that it works. But today, still, I'm feeling a little heart-breaky about it all. I just keep reminding myself that God didn't call me to an easy path, but He did call me to listen to Him and to follow Him. And in this moment, I'm sure we're doing that.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 04, 2006  ]

Monday, April 3

For Mike... Happy Opening Day.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, April 03, 2006  ]

Sunday, April 2

Our minister is doing a Lenton series entitled, "Behold the Man." This morning, he talked about Jesus as the 'man in between.' Jesus was both part of and at the same time between two worlds... the heavenly and the earthly. He was between His Heavenly Father's command and his earthly family's wishes.

As this Lenton season has progressed, I've thought about Jesus's journey to the cross. For me, the point of participating in Lent is to remind me of the sacrifices Christ made on my behalf. Now, in no way is me giving up candy the equivalent of dying for my sins. But there is no way for me to sacrifice in the same manner as Christ, and this has done its job... it's kept me focused on Jesus.

In the beginning, I missed afternoon candy, and it was almost distracting at times. The idea of candy was always beneath the surface of my consciousness, lurking there, reminding me of what I wasn't having. I wonder if Jesus found it hard to concentrate sometimes as he anticipated what would be his destiny. I wonder if it was always there with him, something he didn't think about but also couldn't not think about.

As the weeks wore on, I became more comfortable with the lack of candy, but now that we're close to Easter, it's really tempting to quit. And yet, I've made it this far. I can't quit now.

I know that Jesus asked his Father to take the cup from him if it was at all possible, so I know he must have wanted to quit, to end his journey early. But he didn't.

I think about how late in a pregnancy, a woman almost always wishes it was over. But she's stuck... no choice in the end date. So she keeps going because that's her only option.

But Christ had an option! He chose to continue on the journey. He chose to suffer for me. And that is humbling. And every time I want an M&M, I remember that He chose to die for me. And that, for me, is the point of Lent.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, April 02, 2006  ]