Mom-ents

Is it poop or chocolate? A question I never thought I’d ask myself

Earlier this week I found a brown smear on the white duvet covering our bed. That smear could be one of two things: poop or chocolate.

Had someone told me this is what my life would look like 5 years ago, I would have laughed right in her face. Change is funny – some changes are instantaneous while others evolve slowly over time.

Life changed when I moved countries (twice). It changed when I got married. It changed when I moved houses (seven times in 11 years), when I switched jobs. Life changed the moment Frederick was born. It changed the moment Edith was born. It changed in each of those moments, but not fully and completely in an instant.

Life with a baby is very different than life with a toddler and those changes happen so gradually. I’m not sure how I found myself looking at a brown smear wondering what the substance was. What surprises me more than the smear was my unfazed reaction at its presence regardless of what it was.

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I never would have thought I’d be okay with messes like this, but I find it more funny that frustrating because in a few years it will all change and the messes and tears from an elementary aged kid and then teenager won’t always be easy to remedy.

Don Draper once said, “Change is neither good nor bad. It just is.” (props to Mad Men for so many quotable lines)

While I agree with this in theory, change itself can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances and our reaction to it. With the exception of tragic or traumatic events, change in our lives is neutral most of the time; it just happens because life isn’t static. Seasons and aging speak to this more clearly than anything else. Nine months with two growing kids puts this in sharp perspective!

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Summer 2015
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Fall 2015
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Winter 2016

I recently read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. He writes, “The story of aging is the story of our parts.”

The story of aging is the story of our parts. It’s the story of the parts of our lives that change slowly and instantaneously.

The long and drawn out days when time seems extended.

The minutes that tick by so slowly when you’re anticipating someone’s arrival.

The winter days that seem never-ending until one day you wake up and it’s summer.

The hundreds of diaper changes that seem eternal and then it’s suddenly over and done.

The endless hours spent working on a project or assignment that come crashing to a halt when it’s finished.

The moments in time when everything stops and you know it will never be the same again.

The day you pack everything into a car and lock the door of a house to which you’ll never return.

The final hug you give a friend when your time in school ends and you both begin to walk down diverging paths.

The minute you say “I do” to your best friend and know beyond a shadow of doubt it’s love for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer.

The second you see your baby’s face for the first time and hold him. Time literally seems to stop and suddenly everything in your world changes.

The past few Tuesdays Josh and I have been going to preschool open houses. Visiting schools and filling out paperwork makes the coming change so real. This fall life will change once again.

Sometimes I wish I could pause time all together. Other times I want to fast forward it. Either way, it’s impossible to avoid change because no matter how hard I try to slow it down or speed it up time never quite does what I want it to.

Both Frederick and Edith loved to pull themselves up on the window in the second floor of our 100 year old house - a house to which we'll never return and an age and action the two will never do again. But it's part of our story and I love that.
Both Frederick and Edith loved to pull themselves up on the window in the second floor of our 100 year old house – a house to which we’ll never return and an age and action the two will never do again. But it’s part of our story and I love that.

Don Draper was almost right when he said “change is neither good nor bad, it just is.” Change isn’t neutral, but the passing of time is. Time is neither good nor bad, it just is. And our lives are what we do with the time we have. It brings change regardless of our efforts to keep things the same, brown smears on white duvets and all.

The only constant in all the change is God, our Father, and that’s pretty amazing. He’s our rock, our hiding place, our tower, our shield to whom we can always go to when everything seems to be changing and time can’t move fast enough or is going too fast.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ” 

James 1:17

Monday Moments

Tuesday thoughts on balance

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Is it just me or is balance one of the most evasive and difficult things to have, find, and establish in life?

I’ll be the first one to admit that I approach life super intensely and intentionally. I give whatever I’m doing 150%. I think about everything all the time. I overthink and over-process conversations I’ve had, things I’ve done, and decisions I’ve made.

Because of these tendencies, I consistently find myself re-evaluating and re-establishing things in my life to have balance. Balance for me will not look the same for anyone else, and that’s why it seems so difficult to have and maintain. It evolves and changes depending on the day, week, month, season of life.

Here are a few areas that keep surfacing in conversations and life lately.

Time spent playing with kids vs. time doing housework/making food. It seems the pendulum has swung in popular discourse towards the side of spend time with them while they’re little. Which is so true and important. However, keeping the house somewhat clean and organized helps my own sanity and general state of happiness while playing. Balance.

Organizing kids’ play vs. giving them independent time and space to be bored. I’ve been reading so much about the importance and value of letting kids, even from a very young age, have time to get bored so they create and imagine on their own. When it takes 5, 10, even 15 minutes of whining and complaining for them to get to that point, my nerves and ears are shot. Balance, once again.

Time and energy spent on social media. This one is so personal. This past month I’ve had numerous conversations about the value, pitfalls, and necessity of social media. Certain people seem to eschew and despise things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. for philosophical reasons (it’s not personal enough – if people really care it should be expressed more individually, it’s too publicly personal – privacy is impossible, it’s a waste of time, it causes offenses, fights, and unhealthy comparison). I could keep going. Needless to say, balance is tough. I personally find social media very useful. I try to limit time spent on it to specific times during the day and throw my phone on airplane mode at the same time every night to shut it all off for a good chunk of time. For me, social media has become an essential part of contemporary society and lack of participation seems to marginalize people from friends, family, community, and even job opportunities.

Spending time with family and friends vs. time on one’s own. This one is huge. Introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between has their own beliefs and boundaries. Here’s one thing (or two) I’ve learned: it’s essential to be around people, people who love and support you as well as people who are different and challenge your opinions. I’ve also found it’s 100% necessary to spend time alone doing things that nourish one’s own body, soul, and spirit. Either way – balance in this area is probably the most difficult for me.

Health and food. January seems to be the month of resolutions and attempts to be healthy. A couple weeks ago, I dove back into two of my favorite books: French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano. The one thing I appreciate about these books is Guiliano’s push for équilibre or balance in food and exercise. She brings up équilibre in a 100 different ways. Basically, eat a wide and diverse variety of fresh food, indulge in moderation, and move frequently and intentionally. Everything about this approach to food and exercise is countercultural in the US which makes doing it super difficult. Once again, balance, even in embracing and taking on things I really believe in.

I could keep going, but I’ll stop. Balance, right? It seems so easy to do pendulum swings in life. Maybe it’s a natural tendency to make radical and short term changes rather than find equilibrium and establish long term and lasting balance. Either way, I find myself challenged in this and I think that’s ok for now. I’m sure I’ll never have it all figured out, which is probably how it should be. Here’s to spending a life learning and changing in each season.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. – Proverbs 11:1

 

Fresh and Inspired

The least of these: the story of a lost monkey in the midst of an international refugee crisis

This past weekend my three-year old son Frederick lost his favorite animal friend, Monkey. He has loved Monkey since the tender age of six months when he literally pulled him from the bookshelf into his crib. They have been BFFs ever since.

From six months old until now, Frederick has snuggled with Monkey every nap and bedtime.
From six months old until now, Frederick has snuggled with Monkey every nap and bedtime.

IMG_5632I realized quickly we needed a replacement in case a tragedy would ever befall his closest friend. I found out it was a one-time buy from TJ Maxx and replacing it would be nearly impossible. Then one day a friend told me she had the same monkey bouncing around the floor of her car. I offered any amount of money she needed to get that monkey! She gave it to me for free and I hid it away in a closet for safe-keeping.

He just really loves Monkey.
He just really loves Monkey.

One day while I was packing to move, Frederick discovered the replacement monkey and immediately formed an attachment to “Other Monkey.” Now he needs BOTH at all times, especially while going to bed.

This past weekend on a walk down our street Monkey slipped out of Frederick’s hands as he drifted off to sleep. For the next three nights, Frederick cried and expressed deep concern for Other Monkey’s welfare, “Monkey’s crying saying, ‘Where’s Frederick?!’ He misses me. But WHERE is he?? I just LOVE him SO much.”

*cue tears and the biggest frown you’ve ever seen on a three year old’s face*

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So we prayed and asked God to take care of Monkey and to bring him back home. All this happened in the midst of God highlighting and speaking to me from Matthew where Jesus says,

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10

When I read this, I felt convicted about times when I may have “despised” little ones, whether they were my own or others’ kids. I thought there have been times when I may have treated kids with contempt or disdain or thought little or nothing of them and their concerns because it wasn’t on my list of important things for the day.

When we cry out to God like kids cry out to us, he never ignores, never despises.

For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

Psalm 22:24

In the midst of all the trauma of losing Monkey, the Paris attacks happened and the Syrian refugee crisis was suddenly brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention. I kept thinking about this verse over and over, God does not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted. He cares about the needs and welfare of everyone, from Frederick’s loss of Monkey which is his whole world to the refugees who have lost their whole world in settlement camps crying out for help.

Here’s the thing. After praying, we took action and created a poster asking if anyone had seen the missing Monkey with our phone number on the bottom.

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Just a couple hours later, we get a call from a neighbor who found Monkey. She came by and dropped him off. Her husband found him on the street and threw him in the trash (as one does with ratty, old stuffed animals found on the street). The next day was trash day, so had we waited any longer he would have been long gone.

Sometimes all we can do is pray and cry out to God. Other times we pray, cry out to God, and then take action. Love is always an action. Sometimes it’s simply the act of praying. It’s also an act of generosity, a sacrifice of money, energy, or resource, and a laying down of one’s life and concerns for those in need. I truly hope we can all put love into action in whatever way we can as individuals when it comes to the poor, disenfranchised, widow, orphan, and afflicted.

 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.

                                        Matthew 25:42-45