Monday, July 27, 2009


What does time feel like to you? What is your free time like? How heavy does your plate feel in this season compared to others?

The other day it hit me that this very well may be the busiest season of my entire life, including both my past and future. I know that is a bold statement, but as I thought through what “time” felt like in throughout the stages of life I have already experienced, I think it exposed the truth in my saying that.

As a teenager I got up at 6:30 but was home by 2:30 and was generally busy with homework about 1-2 hours of the day after that. So I had about 6-7 hours daily of free time and of course all weekend free. The weekends always felt short and Mondays cruel and any day we had taken from us for summer break because of a snow day felt like a crime. I remember those teenage angst feelings of feeling bitter with the teacher, though they controlled none of the scheduling, for making us sit in the hot classrooms those last days of June. Summers were 2 ½ months off, 2 weeks over Christmas, and one week for spring break.

As a college student I always slept in until my first class, which I usually elected to be in the late mornings, though an occasional irritating eight or nine o’clocker was all that was available. Those mornings I wore an unbrushed ponytail and my pajamas with flip flops to class and it wasn’t uncommon to fall asleep on my desk. On the weekends I remember frequently sleeping through the lunch hour and being in my unkept state well past 2:00 in the afternoon. On weekends I rarely studied much and they mostly consisted of hikes and road trips to local North Carolina cities with friends or to see family in Charlotte.

As a newly married wife working as an English teacher to adult international students, I would wake around 7am, take the bus into downtown Berkeley, and return home from the school by 3:00. I remember being annoyed that lesson planning wasn’t a paid hour built into our day, so I did minimal preparation at home, trying to keep my work and home life as distinctive as possible. I had the rest of the day, Fridays off, and of course weekends free. The school closed for an entire month at Christmas, as did Jason’s school, so we traveled to both Seattle and Charlotte for long family visits. We usually spent at least one weekend a month out of town at national and state parks, B&B’s, and drives to coastal California towns. Not being from the area and not having hardly any friends, these days were marked by a lot of travel, an immense amount of time with my new husband, and never ending exploring all over California.

With the arrival of preemie twins, a little more than five years into our marriage, came a shared responsibility to wake them every three hours for the first five months of their lives until they were at healthy size of eight pounds. The days and nights were three hour shifts that all blended into one. Even though the girls were on bottles, it was difficult to allow others to help, since Grace had a complicated condition in her larynx called Lorengo Malasya which made her breathing labored and in return perpetuated her aversion to eating. It was all hands on deck for me and Jason. I didn’t cook or clean a lot at this time and my backpacking and traveling days took to the sidelines. Instead of a weekend away to a B&B in our book of great spots, finding a little free time away looked more like a one hour run to Starbucks, rushing back to the breast pump before I got sore. At about eight months to a year we saw the light as Grace’s condition improved, her reflux subsided, they began to sleep through the night and also began to catch up developmentally. I’d say that after they were a year, we were in a good routine, I was sleeping, and although life was busy, I could plan on having a couple of hours in the evenings again during which I could connect with Jason and rest each evening.

Ironically, right as I began to feel this way when the girls were a little more than a year, we got pregnant with Salem. Now that he is here, I can officially say that these feel like the busiest days of our lives. My now toddler aged girls do have a nice sleep pattern, waking 7:30-8:00 and heading to their big girl bed rooms around the same time in the pm. However, they give daddy a run for his money as they usually keep him up and down the stairs until 8:30 and sometimes 9:00 since they are excited to be in the same room. Finally by then Jason is eating dinner and in a down-time daze in the living room. Salem and I now have a generally down pat routine in which he is also in bed by 9:00 or maybe 9:30. The earlier the sun goes down as summer wanes, the easier this routine has been getting, as I get more free time in the evenings. My littlest one like to be awake and needs total darkness to be convinced it’s time to go to bed for the night (or at least a chunk of hours). So my mommy duties end around 9:30 but usually this is when I finish straightening the living room and kitchen. Jason and I have been eating dinner around this time as well, since it’s hiliariously impossible to enjoy a meal with three kiddos. This is our everyday, of course including weekends and even vacation days.

These days of having three small, very dependent children feel by far the most difficult and full that I have ever had. Somewhere in the college and early married years I actually remember having free Saturdays and experiencing anxiety over what I would choose to do that day. Anxiety! It makes me laugh now remembering how I would think back and forth during breakfast over the choice between a hike up Mt Tam overlooking the Pacific or a day at home to read on the back porch and then tackling some scrapbooking. I also remember during my Berkeley days in particular getting home around 3:00 or so and just being so about my free time that I barely was pursuing working out or cooking or cleaning at all, except when I just had to. Saying “I don’t have time for ___” takes on a whole new meaning now as well since many of the things I do now have to either occur simultaneously or else not at all.

Now when Karla comes on Wednesday mornings to give me a break, sometimes I just head upstairs to fold laundry in peace and enjoy a relaxing time to myself right there on the floor. Even doing chores during my “free time” these days feels fun to me. My how contentment is LEARNED. Even the concept of free time feels so different to me. There is a piece of all of us that feels that demands it, that feels we deserve it, that without it we are not the people we would like to be because we need to be rejuvenated. I’m not saying the inside of me doesn’t demand it or feels I deserve it or isn’t better behaved when I get it. But I am learning a new perspective to it. I am seeing that I am not promised free time from God. I am not given a free pass with my character when I don’t get it – I still have to confess those sins and ask for forgiveness.

Paul said that he has learned to be content in every circumstance. I see in the progression over the years of my life that it does take a process of sitting in something to learn a new perspective of it. And also to accept that new contentment. And at first everything in you fights that new acceptance and then when you ease into it, you can’t believe how self centered you used to be with your old eyes. And one day I will maybe read this and laugh at my self centeredness in this season.

Interestingly though I kind of sense a little bit of a peak or a plateau with where we are right now. This season is so incredibly demanding compared to what I see in women’s lives behind me, with maybe one child (or just as many children but ages spread out significantly more) and also with women ahead of me whose children are in school or out of the house. Unless one of my children or my husband comes down with an illness or something extreme to that degree, the time that I am putting into our day for our duties of parenting, house management and marriage seem to be at their max. I do not see more hours in the day I can even choose to give to that unless I stay up all night as well.

I have a friend in a very similar boat and she was sharing with some other women both the joy but also the trial of having such a full plate in this season with three small children. Another women listening said, “Just wait until you have teenagers!” to which my friend politely smiled. If you aren’t infuriated, you don’t also have three kids at home with you everyday. I told my friend I wanted a name and a profile so I could find her and break her legs. Before you decide I need anger management counseling (though I might!), keep in mind that teenagers don’t poop their pants and are gone as much of the day as they are allowed to be. Although they yell, kind of like my two year olds, they don’t stay in the room with you all day hanging on your legs while they do so. Although they too, like two year olds, demand meals and snacks incessantly, if you were to say “tonight you’re making dinner yourself,” they would be able to open a box of cereal, pour milk into it and eat it. I foresee that having teenagers is going to rip our world open one day, but when I’m fifty, with all my kids out the door, and am looking back on each season of my life, I still predict I’m going to think about my days I am living right now and be like, “I actually do not know how I did that!”

I know in the coming seasons of my life as the demands of my time change yet again I will, too, have to change again. In this temporary season it is necessary to set aside some dreams. Because if I am going to fully embrace my greatest dream of being a mom and wife right now, that is necessary, especially when the children are so little. And there will be great reward from that relinquishment. But as they grow and the demands on my time subside a bit, it will be okay for me to pick up some dreams again and to enjoy some relationships and pursuits that just cannot be a priority right now. I think some women get to that point again and make themselves busy with non-priority things and some callings or dreams go by the wayside, not just for this small season but forever. So later I hope as things change again I will be willing to change, willing to embrace whatever dreams God has for me and enjoy life fully as a woman, wife and mom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How R Them Seeds, You might ask

I just picked up a book by Noel Piper called Treasuring God in our Traditions. Random tidbit - my name was almost Noel (nice choice mom, although I think Kelly is more me) - and I am allowed to do random tidbits b/c I have no brain anymore ;). Anyhow, I am all of four pages into the book and already I jotted down a note in my journal to buy it for like five of my friends as soon as possible. John Piper, who I am madly in love with lately in a father daughter kind of way, is her husband and wrote the foreward.

He said, "Treasuring God in our Traditions is exactly the right title for this book. God is the treasure of our lives. We see him in everything. We believe with all our hearts that 'from him and through him and to him are all things.' He gets the glory, we get the joy. His glory and our joy are not at odds. My job has been to articulate the vision in writing. Noel has shaped a family around it. Now she turns that work into words."

That line strikes me. Noel has shaped her family around their vision for life. Now for me. I will have the joy of shaping our family around our Treasure, who is the Lord. I already feel this. Every moment. From picking up a wounded knee, how I cradle them in their injuries and kiss and pray over it and hurt with them, as Christ hurts with me when I am in pain. To settling disagreements between Kanah and Grace over "little balls" (the current favorites) and showing them that "as far as it is up to you to be at peace with one another." To learning how to say both "I am sorry" as well as "I forgive you" with sincerity. To taking joy in bringing one another Ella or Mammy when the other needs a little love. There are sooo many ways throughout the day to be about our Treasure.

In the first chapter she writes about putting out candles for something and her child asked why she did that. She said, "I realized that I was going to have to answer fom now on, not just for christmas traditions that particular year, but for all years and every day. At that moment I knew that 'just because' was no answer. Nor was 'because that's the way grandaddy and grandmother did it' or 'because it's pretty' etc. In the book of Exodus, Moses displays his understanding of thenature of children and the responsibility of parents: "And when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' you shall say, 'It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt.'"

My family is being shaped no matter what I do. I do is shaped around chaos and a jagged path. Even choosing certain traditions with randomness and seemingly without purpose still conveys something. So when a child asks "why", he or she is looking for meaning, for some significance to my heart for why we do it. I think some things can be just for fun, don't get me wrong. But when everything is random or without a significance, it reflects that there is no Treasure at all. That is a sad thing to reflect to a child. My greatest joy would be to see our Treasure, our Lord and his ways, in everything, even things that are just plain "for fun". This is really really the most freeing truth for me lately because it has given me such delight in my One Job at home as a mama.

Don't you want to read it? Well, if you are a woman, wife and/or mom?

On these notes, an update on my "seeds" of building my house is in order I suppose. We've been trying out our weekly schedule and I don't hit all of them every week, but it's been fun trying. We've made zucchini bread, cheese bread, and cupcakes. They are also pro's now at making coffee ;). We have enjoyed music time by turning three kids chairs in a circle to kind of block off distractions and it's so cool to hear them singing worship songs and learning little signs like life, joy and peace. We've enjoyed playing with new things and getting them used to getting dirty and wet (I know most moms don't say that but mine are extra dainty!) I'll post a pic of them in the water. Jason gave me flowers for our anniversary and when I was desperate for a little project we took part of the bouquet apart for them to make mini bouquets. We talked about God making flowers and the colors. They organized the buds for like an hour.

I think the biggest change in our house is spontaneous prayer. I love it. I do it outloud when I am about to freak. Or I ask them to join me and we hold hands in a circle and pray for random things. Today it was for Jason, who is coming down from Mt Rainier. I had a sudden urge to pray so I asked them to join me. They like it! I think I am always surprised when they like something that is important to me, but it is such a joy and spurs me on to have them join me in more with the Lord.

Thanks for reading. Still sewing seeds. Looking for our Treasure in all that we do. And we'll keep posting about it so you can see the journey. And so WE can see the journey and not forget what the Lord is doing in us.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Seeds for now

Around January I was feeling compelled to think about how I want to "build my house." Proverbs 14:1 says that a wise woman builds her house but a foolish one tears hers down with her own hands. So I got to wondering about how to build my house, what it means to build, and especially what other wise women did to build their house. My friend Annie joined me on this journey and we have been pursuing this together and now have made a list of ladies we are hoping to visit together to observe and be around.

Once Baby Salem came I found myself feeling very paralyzed about this calling to build a house. I could barely velcro three diapers every three hours, how much less build a house? The responsibility felt daunting to me.

I think getting the advice in the first month or two that it could be put aside for a season was probably true. Until Salem de-velcro'd himself from me and could sit in a playgym for a few minutes at a time, or take naps on something other than me, I would have to wait and pray. There are seasons for being with your children that are allowed to look very simple and sometimes just look like survival.

And even though Salem is now a little more predictable, a lot more happy, and our house ever so slightly more in order, I still recognize that this season is unique in it's own slightly paralyzing way. However, as I have continued into now 3 1/2 months of this new life, when I continue to get the "give yourself a break" advice, I have begun to sense something new in my spirit. Like maybe the sense that God isn't giving me that advice exactly. I definitely feel him clearly giving me grace upon grace and asking me to be content with this simple life at home. That is for certain. But I have a peaceful compelling feeling underneath all of this busyness and heavy responsibility.

I have continued to watch the girls in this very sponge-like season of their two year old lives. They have been very ripe for learning and instruction and correction and new things for the first time in their lives. It reminds me as I am writing of a verse that I can't recall the reference for right now (Isaiah?) where God says, I am doing something new, see how it springs up. I did see something new in the girls and I have wanted to grab hold of it while trying to discern how not to expect the world out of this time as well. I want to see what God sees going on in our family. Not from eyes that say - you can't do anything! or from eyes that tell me - you can do it all! But I want to see what the Lord is up to. Because he is my refuge and my strength. He can make it happen.

I began by posting Scripture in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I jotted down verses about God being my help, about how to avoid sin, about him being my literal strength, etc. because I need him to do this. My favorite one right now is Prov 18:10 "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous man (who by the way is anyone who Jesus has MADE righteous) runs into it and is safe." I love that! If I am in trouble, if I am about to sin, if I just can't do it, I can run to the name of the Lord and find refuge. I have been practicing that outloud lately, especially when I feel like I am about to get angry with the girls. I just say "Jesus help me" and close my eyes for a minute. Usually all of the action stops too, because the girls are so interested in what I am doing ;).

Also, as Salem began to take naps for 30 minutes to an hour here and there, I began to see windows with the girls. So taking hold of those small windows has been the way I have seen to take on this biblical concept of building my house. I made a schedule of what I would like to build into the girls, even if I only had ten organized, intentional minutes with them a day. I have played around with them the past few weeks and I think this is what we'll be up to:

Mondays: Bible verse day w/ coloring and signs
Tuesdays: Songs w/ signs
Wednesdays: Art and crafts
Thursdays: Cooking at Nani's
Fridays: Serve others (b-day cards to foster kids, cards to family and friends, maybe cooking or creating something for someone)

I am excited about these seeds. It might look like a mighty list but actually it's about ten minutes a day and if I get more, that's great, but ten minutes is what I am looking for. I know that the seeds of Monday will hopefully one day turn into the girls having their own time with the Lord on their beds. Hopefully the seeds of songs of Tuesdays will turn into them loving music of all kinds and enjoying sharing that hobby (particularly w/ daddy) as well as developing a heart of worship. And Wednesdays will maybe go from child like crafts to a love for some other kind of artistic exression to enjoy in life and as a way to bless others. Way down the road, these seeds on Thursdays will hopefully be the beginnings of a growing heart in them to manage their own homes one day. And Fridays make my heart swell big time because how blessed would I be to get to see my own kids have servant hearts one day for people in their lives and to desire to humbly give their lives away as Jesus did.

So I realize that building my house right now isn't a marathon. We're in training. We're sowing seeds. I am making sure I don't waste my seeds and my calling or waste their seeds and their calling! I am responsible for both at this point! But I also know that life with the Lord is a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. He is not heaping on me what he is not making me able to accomplish. So I will respond to his call and his timing and I feel at peace with what "baby" steps we are taking right now to build our home.

Prov 24:3-4 "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with pleasant and precious riches."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I'm new here

As everyone who reads this knows, I have two 2 year olds and one 3 month old. But even I sometimes have to pinch myself to remember my fragile state of affairs in this stage of life, so therefore I start the blog with that sobering reminder ;).

It’s not difficult in our season for me to think of examples of what it’s like to be in a very present, very continual stage of instructing our children. Just today I can think of a number of meltdowns our girls have had, the first one today less than 30 minutes after waking up because I tore Kanah’s muffin in half instead of offering her the whole thing. I thought her chair was going to rock back and smack the floor she got so mad. I am not sure how many times a day a two year old, more specifically my two year olds, have tantrums or need correction, but it’s rather frequent. Let’s just say it’s frequent enough that I can barely break away from all three kids in time to pick up a book on the topic, on a shelf in the same room as the commited sin, before another issue breaks out. Ahh. The terrific two’s.

I have had a number of jobs in my life all over the board – gymnastics instructor, youth leader, non profit coordinator, esl teacher, and employee in retail – and I always got trained for them. After the training you feel nervous and rocky and not so confident on your feet, but the info is there, somewhere in your mind, and even if you’re slow and have to remind the customer, “I’m new here,” it’s okay because they patiently wait and eventually you get it figured out. Even if you don’t, there’s a seasoned, i-know-everything type person standing nearby and you don’t even care that they are a know-it-all, because that’s who you need in the moment and they’re the only ones who can make you into a know-it-all too.

Well the girls aren’t really responding patiently with their hands crossed and gazing up at me with their blue eyes when with a stumbling response I show them that “I’m new here.” They just snowball deeper into dangerous territory while I scroll rapidly through my mental file of “What to do with wild two year olds in every imaginable scenario…and by the way it’s different every time so turn to page 1,062.”

I just took the DISC personality profile. The DISC confirmed for me that I really like structure and I tend to be most successful when I see that there is a plan in place. Here are some excerpts on “me” from the test…

“Getting the project or job done right is important to her. If forced to choose between producing quality work or quantities of work, quality will be the winner. She is alert and sensitive to her errors and mistakes. She constantly seeks to avoid errors in her work. She likes to work behind the scene and be seen as someone who is organized and has her life in order. She has a need to achieve in an environment in which the quality is controlled.
She can become frustrated when put in a situation that is nothing more than a rambling
discussion. She wants to know the company rules so she can follow them, and she may
become upset when others continually break the rules. When confronted with a problem she will look for a method, a formula, a procedure or a system to solve it.”

In another section on what “Kelly needs…” these were three related ones:
“An exact job description and expectations in writing. Complete instructions on her assignments. Assistance in new or difficult assignments.”

So, being a mother to two year olds without any kind of playbook is kind of hilarious right?! Yes, quite.

So. I am reading Ginger Plowman’s book, Don’t Make me Count to Three. Her basic thesis is that as followers of Jesus, we are biblically called to both discipline and instruct our little ones and to not be about behavior modification but about teaching a change of heart, which is the basis for a change of behavior. It addresses the obvious external conflict taking place before your eyes as well as the hidden internal conflict of the heart.

The chapter I am reading now is on the power of God’s Word in discipline and instruction. Here’s a selection from that chapter:

“We can quickly view training them all day, every day, over and over as a burden or a trial. But James 1:2-4 says ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ …If we could view all of their sinful behaviors as precious opportunities to teach them then we would be far more righteous in our training. We would be joyful and eager all the time rather than angry and frustrated...Each time your child fails, don’t view it as a hopeless tragedy. Remember that it would be unnatural for your child not to sin because, after all, he is a sinner…The question is not, ‘Why does he act like that?’ The question is, ‘What are you going to do about it? Are you going to allow this sin to take root in his heart and grow, or are you going to use this opportunity to train him in righteousness?’

I am loving this book and this excerpt is an example of why. By the way, this lady is also for real. She says in other parts of this chapter things that make you feel like normal sinners like, “Actually, if you could visit my home and see my failures you probably would not have purchased this book…” so this lady is not annoyingly “Christian” but she applies “being a sinner” to herself and her children as well. I admire that humbly quality in mothers almost more than anything instead of standing on top of our wobbily heap of accomplishments and with unsteady knees and a chin held high pointing down on other moms. So, I have to get that comment in about Ginger. Love her.

Anyway…about this excerpt. So, look, when she says that we should be joyful and even eager about these toddler trial moments at first I’m thinking – whatever. But then I think – well, why not? I mean, I’d rather not be miserable in those moments of their crying and whining or acts of disobedience. Those are my self-chosen responses: miserable dread or joy and eagerness. I think if I am a part of the choice at all I’d rather be a part of joy and eagerness. Because I want to have a good life, to enjoy my kids, and to actually allow Jesus to show me that it is actually true that me and my kids can live as new creations because of him. I want to hold on to that hope.

I mean, the reality is that a toddler moment illicits a somewhat normal response in the very core of your being, whether anger or impatience or whatever. It’s like the trial wakes up your flesh and says okay, you can lash out with the sin of your choice now! This is a perfect moment! So I’m not ignoring that besides a choice there’s also an inner battle of flesh verses spirit. Also, if anyone knows me well, they know that I tend toward being a wee bit of a Debbie Downer type (SNL, you know). So this is kind of a funny picture in their heads I bet of a joyful, eager Kelly when Kanah and Grace throw themselves on the floor. Give me grace people. Jesus can do it. I know what I want to be is Debbie Downer BUT there is a God. Thank goodness. And he’s bigger than that surface desire in me and has set deeper, godlier desires in me. I am seriously thankful for that.

I’ll keep you guys on track with this wild ride I am on. I am not sure what bends this will take. I am not sure I will always be joyful and eager to go through it. But I am sure that when the terrific two trials come, God’s Word will be there for me, the Holy Spirit will be reminding me of it, and that I will have a choice in those moments to use the situation as an opportunity to talk about Jesus with my kids. And I can either eagerly anticipate and receive those trials as chances for my girls to grow in truth and become the little women they were intended to be, or I can despise them and waste the trials. As I read today in 2 Peter 3, Lord help me to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You know I do this only through you.

By the way, I wrote this while Salem took a rare two hour nap and Nani had the girls out and about, sooo…if those of you who see me a lot wonder by my behavior how I was the one who wrote this blog, encourage me to re-read my own handwriting ;).