Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bonus Days

Yesterday was Lulu's official due date. Yet she was already 10 days old! I have been savoring every one of those 10 days, despite the disrupted sleep. This baby is so sweet. She even has a pleasant look on her face when she is relaxed.

Actually, she outright smiles as she is falling asleep. But I know you don't believe me since we all know babies don't begin to smile until 4 weeks. I will get a photo of it and show you, it's just too amazing.

I get bonus days because Lulu is smaller than either of her siblings were at birth. I feel blessed to finally get a newborn sized baby. She even wears newborn size diapers, something new for me. How big were my other babies? Miss Boo weighed in at 9 pounds even, measuring 22 inches. She came home from the hospital wearing size 1 diapers and size 0-3 mos clothing. Within three weeks she had graduated to size 3-6 mos.

Rooster, well, he was practically a toddler when he burst onto the scene. At 11 pounds and 23 inches, he came home from the hospital in size 3-6 months clothing. I got through a single Sam's Club size box of Pampers Swaddlers Size 1-2 (my favorite infant diaper) before growing out of not just the size 1, but size 2 as well. As I first held him in my arms, I just knew he was going to grow way faster than I was ready for him to.

But this baby? We are on our second package of newborn diapers. She gets to wear the newborn size wardrobe lovingly lavished on her by my friends. And perhaps best of all, I can actually carry the carseat with her in it. She's so light!

And so I celebrate these early days as bonus days. I will mark the days she passes 9 pounds, then 11 pounds, and note exactly how many bonus days I have been blessed with. Babies grow so fast, especially my large breed ones.

For now, I am savoring every minute of this little baby doll.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hatchy Milatchi

In breastfeeding terminology, "latch" is the word used to describe baby's proper sucking action as she nurses. Back when Boo Bear was an infant, we got familiar with the phrase, "does she latch well?" and variations thereof. In the days when she would just be screaming at that particular part of me instead of nursing like she should, I would urge her, "Latch, baby!"

Somewhere in those sleep-deprived days, our family vernacular (we have a lot of it) evolved the nonsense phrase "Hatchy Milatchi" to describe the infant who had latched and was now nursing contentedly. If you were to overhear us talking, you might have heard the Captain asking, "How's Hatchy?"

Being back at the beginning for baby number 3 brought Hatchy Milatchi right back into the conversation. A few nights ago, Grammy heard us use it for the first time, and asked (rightly so), "Where did that phrase come from?"

The Captain, being the Google-adept searcher of knowledge that he is, decided to type it into the search engine to see what he could see.

It turns out there is a song about Hatchy Milatchi! It's from a children's variety show produced a few decades back, called "The Land of Hatchy Milatchi." The local TV station that produced it was WNEP out of Scranton, PA. It still has nothing to do with latching, but we have always enjoyed crazy associations. Now all we have to do is figure out how either one of us ever stumbled upon the phrase in the first place.

I present to you here the lyrics from "The Land of Hatchy Milatchi." Enjoy.

There's a wonderful place that you really should see
Called the Land of Hatchy Milatchy
All boys and girls love this place yes siree
Called the Land of Hatchy Milatchy

Peppermint candy and ice cream is free
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy
Soda pop fountains are under each tree
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy

Everyone rides on a-merry-go-round
All made of sugar and spice
Lollipops grow right out of the ground
The moon's made of strawberry ice

If you should run and you trip and you fall
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy
The ground's made of rubber you bounce like a ball
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy


Oh you play the whole day and you don't go to bed
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy
Mommies and Daddies are put there instead
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy

Hundreds of bunnies lay Easter eggs
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy
Ride on a pony with candy stripe legs
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy

Each day is always a big holiday
Birthdays and parties galore
Dollies and bicycles given away
Whenever you walk in a store

When I return then I never will leave
The Land of Hatchy Milatchy
If you want to go all you do is believe
In the Land of Hatchy Milatchy

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Song of Freedom, and Hope for the Future

Although we thought our life was pretty complete with two children, we have a drawing given to us when we were married, of five birds sitting in a tree: two big and three smaller birds. So we have suspected there might be a third child waiting in the wings somewhere along the way.

Several months ago, when we found we were expecting a girl, we already knew her name. We had thought of Larkin years ago and knew we would use it the next chance we got. We were so certain, in fact, that we have been discussing her for years as if she were a friend we have been waiting to meet in person.

I just found out yesterday that my parents actually researched the meaning of her name. They got further than I did, because every engine I ever used said there was no such name in the database. So I am proud of them for their persistence.

It turns out that Larkin is of Irish origin, and refers to the songbird, the lark, which is symbolic of freedom. How appropriate that we gave her this name, as she was born on a great day for this country which represents freedom to the rest of the world. What may be forgotten on future birthdays is that January 20, 2009 was the Inauguration Day for America's first black president. What a great day for civil rights and for freedom!

From a biblical standpoint, I hear about freedom, and I remember that I am free in Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

More than that, though, this girlie is given the name Hope. Hope because of the anxiety that has been giving me insomnia due to her small size and my minimal weight gain. I asked the Lord, and he gave this name to me. He reminded me that three things will last forever: Faith, Hope, and Love. That when the night is dark, we always have hope. And that every new day brings hope for the future.

There are so many verses in the Bible referring to hope. Jesus is our ultimate hope. When we place our hope in him, every other thing fades into insignificance.

I placed my hope in the Lord with this baby. And he gave reassurance that she is his, crafted according to his design no matter how she grows and develops.

That first night in the hospital, as I pondered all the glowing reports from the doctor, the pediatric nurse, and the pediatrician, I was struck by something that to me is stunning. Larkin Hope was born at 7:02pm. She weighed 7lbs, 7oz. That's three sevens. And she measured exactly 21 inches. God's perfect number times the trinity.

In that moment I realized that I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me. I believe he intended for her to be exactly that size, and brought her into the world 10 days early to show me his perfect answer. That he cares enough for my unfounded misgivings, that he would answer me so clearly, brings me to wonder all over again at my value to the creator of the universe.

My baby, God's perfect creation, carries the name of freedom, and hope for the future.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Say What?

In the last two weeks, the older kids have been spending lots of time out at Grammy and Guppy's house. On Boo Bear's birthday, Rooster spent an afternoon over there by himself, and came home with cookies that he had helped make.

To store the cookies, Grammy sent along a new cookie jar, to be returned for regular refills. I can dig it! What surprised me, however, was my first look at the caption on the jar.

Maybe we need to rethink something here?

"Eat with Glass"

Upon further inspection, I realized the full phrase says, "Must Eat with Glass of Milk" which is a much better thought.

I am relieved to know Grammy still has all her marbles. She also bakes a mighty fine molasses cookie. Mmm mmm.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Welcome Larkin Hope

Little Miss Lulu made her appearance Tuesday night, just as I suspected. I suppose the historic Inauguration festivities got her excited to make her own appearance!

We got to the hospital at 4:30pm as I was having medium strength contractions 2 to 5 minutes apart. We were given the option of walking it off and coming back in the morning for a controlled delivery (and taking the chance of needing another speedy trip to the hospital sometime in the intervening hours); or getting set up with an epidural for pain, a pitocin drip to speed up the process, and having a baby within a couple hours.

As many of us know, when you offer a woman in labor an out, she is likely to take it. We looked at each other and thought, well, the kids are taken care of for the next 24 hours, we are already here, and I'm already getting really cranky. We took the second option, and everything jumped into motion.

I had an epidural with my first, but was otherwise out of my mind and thus not terribly impressed with the experience. My second came so fast there was no time, and I just pushed through the burn. That was also an out-of-body experience, followed by an intense adrenaline rush as if I had just survived falling out of a ten-story building.

Boo Bear is giddy about being a big sister

This time I was still in control of myself so I appreciated the difference between pre-and post-epidural states. After I got comfy, I sat back and we waited for the pitocin IV to do its job. It seemed like only 15 minutes later it was time to push. After only a couple minutes of not really hard pushing, Lulu made her entrance into the world. She didn't even cause any tearing, which is my personal highlight of the week.

The whole experience was a bit surreal. As I said, I was fully aware of myself and everything else throughout the whole event. In my opinion, the epidural was a miracle that allowed me to appreciate and enjoy the moment. I am a fan.

Rooster is still a little unsure

The official stats:
January 20, 2009 at 7:02pm
7 lbs, 7 oz
21 inches long

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Far Side of the Moon

OK friends, I think this is it. Went to the Dr this morning, he says the operation is in motion. Or the torpedo is in the chute, as my hubby says. If I haven't had the baby by tomorrow morning, I have another appt first thing, and he's 90% sure that he will then send me over to check in at the hospital.

However, I kinda don't think we're going to get that far. I'm feeling a little yucky since the Dr did his check this morning. The Captain was able to work from home today, so I'm just sitting on my bed trying not to exert myself too much. I have a couple of bills to pay and still need to load the kids' bag for a couple overnights at Grammy's.

Had to laugh that my first stop after the Dr's office this morning was Kroger, so I could stock up on produce. Uh, I don't know who is going to be eating that in the next five days... hopefully it's the longest lasting produce ever!

I may be in tech blackout for a couple days here, but I assure you I will post photos as soon as possible, in addition to those critical details ya'll love to hear.

Have a great week, friends! If you need produce, I guess you know where to stop by.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Spontaneous Midnight Movies

As Boo Bear celebrated her seventh birthday this week, I found myself reflecting on the dramatic ways my life changed when she was born. To me the changes were represented by the loss of a single freedom: spontaneous midnight movies.

Spontaneous. No longer could I freely travel; every trip out the door now involved a delicate orchestration of naptime, feeding, and a fully equipped diaper bag. If Boo was not joining me for my outing, preparations would additionally include arranging childcare, and preparing in advance for every possible situation. For a time it seemed as if the fun-loving side of my personality had been completely squashed due to the need for so much advance planning.

Midnight. Miss Boo cried for 10 weeks straight. Sleep came whenever someone else could keep watch for a few hours. I found myself crying at 7:00 every evening because I knew the rest of the world would be getting to sleep soon, while I would be holding lonely vigil over my crying baby. The idea of voluntarily staying up past dinner became a distant memory.

Movies. The Captain and I had spent the early years of our marriage going to the movies three times a week. With the increase in planning effort required to get out the door, and a severe level of fatigue, my interest in even attempting to visit the theater all but disappeared. Captain and I both grieved this loss, as we now had to negotiate finding a new shared interest, or else begin to drift our own ways with just this needy infant in common.

As time passed, I learned that change can be good; that not all change is permanent; and that some things are worth trading in for a few years while we invest in the lives of our children.

For my impulsive spirit, the challenge of planning ahead paved the way to learning discipline in other areas of life as well. I found that by outlining my day the night before, I can sleep a few minutes longer in the morning. I also discovered that those who are prepared can have spontaneous fun! When we are out together, we can stay out longer because my bag is equipped with snacks, a change of clothes, maybe even a note telling which local restaurant has free kids meals tonight!

Back in those sleepless early days, we finally worked out a routine of daddy taking a feeding, which gave me a five-hour stretch to sleep. Boo Bear eventually turned into a great sleeper, and over the next few months I could feel my sanity return along with my state of rested-ness. I still enjoy staying up late with my night-owl husband, but late does not mean the same hour it once did. After all, someone still has to tend those children in the morning, and I handle it so much better when I am rested.

We are still in the phase of fewer theater movies, down from three times a week to three times a year. We may stay there for another ten years. Still, we have learned to work with it. Captain goes out with his guy friends, and I have become much more choosy about what movies are worth my time. When he sees one he knows I would especially like, we make sure to catch it on video. And I remind myself that someday the kids will have outgrown their need for us, and Hollywood will still be putting out movies for us to see on a Friday night.

Life is all about rolling with the hits. It may be hard, and it may ask a lot of us, but change is natural, expected, and even a necessary part of our development. It also brings great rewards.

In the last seven years, we have even worked in a couple of spontaneous midnight movies.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Steer, Baby, Steer

Today, January 15, 2009, marks the seventh anniversary of my becoming a mom. My entire life can be summed up into Before and Since that momentous day. As in, before I was a mom, I thought I could do anything. Since I became a mom, I have realized how much I can't do, and yet I know I am strong enough to do anything.

When I first found I was pregnant, I cried for two days over the impending loss of myself. I grieved that I would no longer be able to live a self-centered life, that my body was about to become something even I would never recognize.

Nine months later, I had no idea what to expect when I went to the hospital to give birth. It was at once the most miserable, difficult, and overwhelming experience of my life. But I learned so much about myself through it all.

By the end of the delivery, when the baby was whisked away for some important appointment, and daddy had dragged himself home to sleep for a few hours; in my loneliest time of recovery from a double dose of anesthesia, a proud thought marched itself to the front of my brain and announced (silently) to the world that for the rest of eternity, nobody would ever be able to take away from me the fact that I had given birth. And weak as I was, a piece of iron was forged within my soul.

I had a sudden flash that I had spent 9 months preparing for exactly the wrong thing. All my knowledge had taught me nothing of what to expect of childbirth; and now that day was over and I had a lifetime of parenting ahead of me that I had not even begun to explore.

As the days wore on and this baby and I struggled to get the hang of each other, I peeked into the shadowy existence of sleep deprivation and post-partum depression. All of my control mechanisms were stripped away. I cried every night at 7pm, because I knew the rest of the world would be going to sleep while I, lonely I, would once again be keeping a pointless vigil with an utterly unappreciative infant. I cried more when well-meaning friends reassured me that it was a time that would pass.

But after about ten weeks, that time began to pass, and I began to return from the edge of my sanity. And the iron in my soul grew stronger as I realized I had been to the edge, looked over, and returned to tell the tale. The knowledge that I had overcome the dark night gave me determination to face every challenge of the rest of my life with greater courage.

Slowly, over months and (I am hesitant to admit) years, I grew to love this strong child. After a few months, she began to smile, to look at me, to reach for me, and I realized I was the center of her world. As her open and engaging personality began to emerge, she would draw strangers and passers-by into her circle, and I would find myself engaging in conversations that would have been impossible to me without her there. And I began to wonder at the miracle of childhood, and to hold out hope that I might be able to recover some of my own through her.

The love I hold for my Boo Bear is dear to me, by virtue of having had to fight so hard for it. It did not come naturally for me, as it seems to for so many others; but what it has become is much deeper than a flash of affection. I love her for teaching me about myself, and for making me stronger. She is at the same time very much like me, yet full of her own spirit, and I am learning to appreciate this dichotomy.

In some ways, we are still trying to get the hang of each other. Each new stage of her development throws me off balance again, and I have to cast around to find stabilizing factors that help me once again begin to work with her instead of fighting with her. But I am proud of her independent spirit, and believe that she has been given character qualities that will someday serve her well as a leader.

I feel I have been given a single word as my mission in being her mom. Steer. More specifically, teach her to use those leadership qualities in her everyday life. Help her get the strong parts of her personality under control; and show her productive ways to take initiative within the bounds of the authorities in her life.

We still have a long road to travel together. We have traveled seven of those years, which is a large part of our time, but we have enough left that I am not yet grieving the end of them. She has a lot to learn about herself, but also a lot to teach me about myself. And no matter what happens, she will always be my firstborn, the one who made me a mom with an iron inner strength.

Happy Birthday, Boo Bear. Thank you for teaching me that I have strength; and thank you for the times you impulsively tell me you are glad I'm your mom because I am the best mom there is. I know we fight a lot, but it is because I care what you become. I have a sense of responsibility to teach you about yourself, and to help you become the one God meant for you to be.

May you find acceptance in this home to become who you are. May you be given grace for each day, as you so fervently repeat at every meal. And may you live with an unshakable confidence that God loves you more than anyone, and Mom and Dad love you next best of all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speaking of Food

For the three of you wondering, I am indeed still here. No baby yet, although we are definitely on the home stretch. The sleeping areas are set up, several closets have been cleaned out, and all that is left is to finish another round of laundry and pack bags for myself and the kids.

Meanwhile, I have been blogging about food this week over at Common Cuisine. Shouldn't be much of a surprise, really, since I am obsessed with food right now. Am about to go get treated to my mostest favorite tomato bisque and grilled cheese panini-thing at the local shi-shi restaurant, in fact!

I just finished a post about a fun food experience I had last week. Read Food in a New Light, then poke around to also read the 2-part article I have been working on about getting us and our kids off to The Right Start in the mornings.

I'd love to stick around and chat more, but there is really still a lot to do in the next week or so. And there is that date with the tomato bisque I need to run to. Have a lovely day, my friends, and I truly intend to be posting again tomorrow, as my precious Boo Bear is having a birthday!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Object of my Attention

Yes, what do you suppose it could be, this object of my attention? Hmm, one could guess several things . . . trying to keep my New Year's Resolutions; Boo Bear's upcoming birthday; Lulu's upcoming Birth-Day; or perhaps the fact that LOST is going to premiere the new season in TEN DAYS!!!

And any of those guesses would be (ding ding ding) correct! Oh yes, January is full of things for me to obsess about. I didn't even mention yet that we have family coming for a visit in two days (safe travels, A&A!); MOPS is getting back in action this week requiring attention from myself; and the books I just ordered to educate and inspire me toward successful freelance writing are arriving Thursday, oh happy day!

Cats give it their WHOLE attention

But as usual, I got a bit of a redirect on my enthusiasm this morning from the pastor. Today's topic was worship, which he defined as, to love unquestioningly and uncritically. I was challenged to think about what are the things I love in this way? What do I worship with my attention?

Hmm. Well, God, of course. Mostly. As he fits into all the other things up there at the top of the post.

Perhaps I need to slow down and think about this one, though.

God created everything, from me to everything around me, so my response has to be to worship him, to give him my unquestioning love. A good reminder for me, to be sure. And I do need to refocus my efforts on the list at the top, so that God is the first focus and all the other things are applications of that focus.

Whatever it is . . .
it would not be worthy of attention AT ALL
if it were not worthy of COMPLETE attention!

But do you know the thought that blew this enterprising wordsmith away?

I saw this morning that God created everything with his WORDS. First of all, we know from John 1:1 that Jesus is referred to as The Word of God: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Then consider Psalm 33:5-6, which says that the earth is full of his unfailing love. By the WORD of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth . . . Let all the earth (worship) the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he SPOKE, and it came to be; he COMMANDED, and it stood firm. Using just words, he created everything we know.

Now think about this, something else you probably know. We are made in the image of God. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

You have my attention now!

If we are made in the image of God, and God created the world with his words, then it should come as no surprise that we in turn create the world around us with our words.

The things we say can create new relationships, or they can destroy relationships. They help us present ourselves to those we meet, for good or poor. Our words may also help others move toward, or quench their passion for, God.

Romans 12:1 says, in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

As I realize the awesome power inherent in my words, and reflect on the fact that they are a gift, enabling me to build up or tear down the world around me, I am humbled by the responsibility. I can do nothing but give God my unquestioning, uncritical love and pray that he gives me words that are uplifting, that draw others toward him.

More than birthdays or births, more than to-do lists or even getting published, let the object of my attention be that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, would be pleasing to my Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14). My challenge is to pursue him first of all, and to constantly seek to honor him with my words.

Perhaps this is the greatest New Year's Resolution of all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Insomnia Files: The Charm

5am. I've been awake almost an hour, and finally just decided to get up. I went to bed at a decent hour, and sure enough, six hours later I was staring at the ceiling, so today I decided not to fight it. There are just too many things spinning around in my head.

The final straw was when I found myself visualizing how to swaddle a baby. Fold down the top corner, lay down the baby. Fold the right side around and tuck under, then fold the bottom up. Fold the left side around and under. Square blankets work best, and flannel is lightweight but sticks to itself perfectly. My Nana has supplied the perfect swaddling blankets since day one, and I find I am getting really eager to open the box of blankets and bring those particular items back to the light of day.

So much has changed since I entered motherhood. Next week will mark seven years! I could start reflecting on how much life has happened in that time, but I believe that's another topic for another post. For now, however, I find myself wondering if it will hold true that the third time is the charm.

When Miss Boo entered the world, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't sleep more than two hours at a stretch for ten weeks as we fought to find each others' rhythm. My internal processors were completely maxed out simply trying to diaper, nurse, dress, and get a colicky baby to sleep. Not to mention getting ready to move from an apartment into our first house and maintain a small job in which I primarily worked from home. To say I had little interest in frills is pretty much of an understatement.

Three and a half years later, I was armed with experience and plans for improvement as Rooster arrived on the scene. But he was a totally different baby. He measured a startling 23 inches, weighed a hair shy of 11 pounds, and ended up in the NICU by the end of the first night because he kept turning blue. So two days later I went home without him, visiting him at the hospital 2-3 times a day for the next three days until his antibiotics were finished. We finally settled on a name for him mostly because the hospital objected to discharging a nameless baby.

Once home, this boy child proceeded to sleep at least 5 hours at a stretch for months while the rest of us got back into our normal routine and waited for him to be ready to play. It was a year before he would meet my eyes and gaze into them in the way to which I had been accustomed with his big sister. Nothing was wrong with him, he just needed more time to warm up. As the second child in a family of firstborns, he had something to teach all of us.

Over time, I began to realize that I could not even hope to apply the same parenting principles to him as I had to big sister, because big sister added her own element to the parenting equation. Another three and a half years later, sibling issues are my biggest struggle.

Now the time for Lulu's arrival is nearly upon us. What will she have to teach us? And dare I hope that I will finally feel like an adequate parent in the early days?

What I know is that I am thrilled to have another chance at a girl baby. I was never big on babies, nor was I particularly interested in girly things. Boo Bear flipped a switch in my soul on the day of her birth, as I gazed at her in the hospital bassinet and thought how appropriate her pink stocking cap appeared. From that moment until this, I have been undeniably, passionately, insanely drawn to pink.

As I prepared for my second childbirth experience, pink became my focus. We did not know whether we were expecting a girl or a boy, but whenever I visualized pink, my whole body would relax. Imagine my surprise when the delivery room coaching nurse was dressed head to toe in pink scrubs, pink tinted glasses and pink smiley face earrings. Trust me, I relaxed! But my second baby was a boy, so it turned out the pink was just for me.

I am now ready for a baby doll. I intend to girlify this baby to the best of my ability, from headbands to bracelets to cute pink shoes. Will that prove to be the big challenge of this newborn, or will something entirely new arise to demand more of me than I knew I had in me to give?

Whoever Lulu turns out to be, we will thank God for bringing her to our family. I know it's time for her arrival, because I can hardly wait to meet her! But it is comforting right now to think that maybe the third time really is a charm. And just maybe, our seven years of parenting experience will work together to make this baby's arrival a smooth transition for our family.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

I know I have posted about this before, perhaps because it is a constant theme for me. Discipline, quite simply, sucks. I hate even committing to new things, because I just know I am setting myself up for a moment in the future when I let myself and someone else down again. Every year when January 1 rolls around, I have to consider whether I want to ride the ride again, or simply acknowledge my failure and avoid joining up with those commitments that sound interesting to me.

As Boo Bear entered the world of school last year, I began my trek back toward a disciplined lifestyle. Getting up at the same time every day, making lunches every day, picking her up on time at the end of every day... all have been good at teaching me personal discipline once again.

I fail often at many things, but somehow I do manage to get her ready for school and then pick her up again at the end of the day each day. So I must count that as success even as the voice of the Taunter (my personal demon) continually whispers in my heart that I am a failure.

This year we added organized sports. She is on the swim team, which requires attendance at least twice a week. Trying to get dinner together and her there on time each night is really hard! But we (and I do mean we, because this is as much about my learning as hers) aren't quitting. She says she doesn't like it, but I so want her to experience success at learning the strokes!

After missing the entire month of December, we resumed on Monday. Then we went again Tuesday for good measure just to get back in the groove. We will hopefully also make it once more this week.

She gets really frustrated to be constantly asked to do something that is beyond her. I think it is good for her to just get in the lane and swim back and forth, even if she can't make her body do the strokes correctly yet. I just keep telling her that she doesn't have to be perfect, she only needs to keep trying.

Monday night the coach told me she has improved dramatically since September, just in her willingness to keep going. It's amazing how you don't see growth between a Monday and a Wednesday, but you can see it between September and January. I was so glad to hear of her attitude improvement. After all, my goal is not for her to be a future Olympian (although we can all fantasize), but for her to learn the art of discipline: of keeping going even when she does not want to; and of learning to do something she loves, well.

I hope to be able to say the same about myself in a few months. I realize this baby is going to come and totally destroy any effort I have made to build discipline, but I am so tired of living without it! So I am at least setting goals for myself.

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26

Spiritually, I intend to read some of God's word every day this year. My Daily Bible surfaced on January 4, so that's an easy commitment as far as commitments go in my world . But I also want to spend time just enjoying God. Meditating, connecting, reminding myself of why I follow Him in the first place.

Careerwise, I intend to work toward getting published this year.

In the kitchen, I intend to get my act together to help the Captain lose 50 pounds this year. And to help us get to swim practice on time every night.

With God's help, I hope to develop the self-discipline to accomplish these goals. Maybe Miss Boo will also learn to enjoy swimming.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Be Still

I have this lingering feeling that, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I still somehow managed to escape communing with the divine during the Christmas season just past. I danced the dance of Christian celebration. I tried to focus on the right things, steer the family away from the wrong things, and quietly accomplished all of my modest goals for meaningful celebration.

All of my goals, that is, save one. It should have been the highest one, but I think I reasoned that as the rest of the goals were checked off, this one would follow close behind. After all, birthday cake for Jesus, a Nativity-themed advent calendar, weekly candle devotions, and a discussion of what gifts we can give Jesus are all wonderful ways to teach kids what's really important about Christmas.

The problem was, in all of this season, I never stopped to really meditate on the wonder of God's gift. Would you believe that this is even the theme of the book I am writing, yet I still never fully stopped. I never took the time to sit and be overcome by the sheer wonder that the Creator of the Universe should have taken notice of little old me. That this almighty Being should have chosen to make a way for me to approach Him, and that His chosen way was first revealed in the form of an infant.

Psalm 46:10 tells us, Be still, and know that I am God.

Be still. Know. I AM. Pretty simple, really.

Thanks to my bloggy friends, I have at least had a sense that there should be something more. I am grateful for their soul searching, and their transparency in sharing their reflections on the season. Most of them have come up with meaningful responses to the work being done on their hearts. They have challenged me through their example, to stop and listen.

Like so many others, I am not big on New Year's Resolutions. I know my track record, and don't even believe myself when I make them. However, I resolve to spend more time being still, listening to what my Father would tell me. I resolve to know Him only as my God, and no other. Not parenting my kids, not volunteering at MOPS, not writing a book about Him.

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Not for the first time, I am grateful that my God's graces are new every morning. He is faithful, He knows I am human, and He is always waiting when I am ready to set aside my personal goals and tend to Him once again. The recent Christmas season is not a loss due to my inability to stop and meditate on Him. The new year is not my last chance to start fresh.

But it is
a chance. And one that I need to take right now. I am very okay if we label that a resolution for 2009, but I may have to make it all over again come February, March, and beyond.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades...
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

Perhaps as I do that, I will be able to shake the short-tempered, exasperated feelings and behaviors that seem to be poisoning me lately. I am sure my kids would be appreciative.

Be still. Know. I AM. God.

I look forward to reconnecting.

Lyrics from "From the Inside Out" by Hillsong United, 2006.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Scenic Tour

I have a confession to make. In church this morning, I was excited to learn that we are going to spend 2009 essentially doing a survey of the overall story of the Bible, beginning to end. Pretty geeky, I know.

There was a time when I would have responded to that news with more cringing than anticipation. Truthfully, I have a pretty good grasp of the chronology of the Bible, as well as of the larger themes. During my college years I took so many courses studying the Bible that I ended up with a second degree in Biblical Literature. It is indeed a complex book, self-described as living and active, which allows it to always have more for the reader willing to dig deeper. But my first response was a bit of I know this story. Wonder if it's time for me to take a year off from church while the rest of the congregation catches up on the material I learned ten years ago.

(Yes, not only am I a geek but I suffer from a touch of elitism as well. God is still working on me, thankfully.)

But after the pastor explained that we will still have shorter series within the larger story, I began to see that this might shape up to be more of a topical overview instead of a chronological overview. And as a big picture thinker (almost painfully so), my brain was able to latch on to the idea of spending a year immersing myself in the narrative. Our church small groups are going to echo the teaching we get from the pastor, allowing us a chance to interact about what God is teaching us. Again, geeky cool. I hope it is even half as cool as I think it might be.

So this morning, we started the year off with the rather ambitious goal of getting a BIG picture view of the story in 20 minutes. I can't speak for anyone there who may have been hearing the big picture for the first time, but I personally felt a little like I had whiplash by the end.

We learned that the word "testament" means "covenant." Guess I knew that a long time ago, but I had forgotten. We then heard about the critical covenants God made, that are recorded in the Bible. The first was God's covenant with Noah, that He would never again destroy the earth by flood. It was sealed with the promise of the rainbow.

The second was God's covenant with Abraham, that his descendants would fill the earth, and the whole of humanity would be blessed through him. This was promised on the blood of of three animals and two birds. It was later fulfilled through the coming of Jesus.

The third was God's covenant with David, that the throne of Israel would be forever ruled by a member of his family. This was called a "covenant of salt" (see 2 Chronicles 13:5), symbolic of the length of the covenant. Again, this was fulfilled through the coming of Jesus, and still points ahead to His forever kingdom that will be implemented on this earth when He returns.

Then, when Jesus had come to earth and accomplished His earthly ministry, on the last night with His followers, He proclaimed that there was now a New Covenant. The New Covenant would be sealed by the sacrificial blood of the Son of God Himself, and would be done once for all time.

Revelation ties up the sum of these covenants. Just as promised, Jesus will fulfill all of the covenants. God waits now, in this time between Jesus ascending to heaven, and His return to earth. God asks us to follow Him and direct our lives according to His plan, because He will bless all who believe through the waiting time. He will fulfill all of His promises, all we are to do is make our hearts ready.

I left this morning's service with a renewed appreciation that God's story is all about covenant, and that my response can be nothing other than trying to live every moment of my life in view of that covenant.

In the picture at the top of this post, my little boy is on his bike, and he is ready to launch into the next exciting moment. That's a little bit how I feel. All I have to do is get on the ride, and get myself ready for the thrill of the adventure of grabbing hold of the story of the Bible in exactly a year of Sundays.

The second photo shows a gate, with a lovely flowering tree just beyond it. Oh, how I want to get to that tree! The gate is not even locked, it just requires walking up to it and opening it. I have a sense that my Lord is inviting me to approach the gate and come through to experience what He has to offer me. I hold the key, the living word of God, in my hands. It is ready to speak to me. How exciting!

And the third photo, of course, shows the path I am about to walk. Who knows where it will lead? What is certain is that if I do not move forward, I will never find out. Believe me, I am thrilled that the whole body of my local church is moving in this direction at the same time. A little momentum will be very helpful to me in this effort.

Guess I am about to join many of my peers here in blog-land, by committing to immerse myself in God's word this year. May He do amazing things in, around, and through me as I seek to fulfill this commitment.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dirt Diggin'

This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Psalm 118:24

Of course every day is a day the Lord has made, isn't it? I try my best to thank Him for each new day, and to find the good he has placed there. But some days, it seems the joy is easier to find, a ripe fruit begging to be plucked from its branch and enjoyed. Today for us was one of those days.

If I didn't know better, I could swear spring showed up today. We enjoyed a high of 82 degrees, the kind of balmy weather that inspires one to open the windows and do a little spring cleaning. I know, I know. It just doesn't seem right. But when the weather turns sunny and warm on a Saturday, surely you agree that there are certain things one must do.

So that is exactly what we did. And this day was so very well-timed, given the combination of post-holiday resolutions and impending baby arrival. We opened every window in the house and rearranged the garage to make room for the family's Team Captain to have a workout area. If we keep going on Sunday, we may even end up with room to park a car in there as well!

While we were doing that, the kids had a glorious afternoon playing outside. They played for two hours in a pile of dirt, with three matchbox cars and a plastic elephant. Just as we were about to go in, our neighbors stopped by and loaned our kids their leashed dog to run around the neighborhood for an hour while the adults chatted comfortably. Yes, they will sleep well tonight.

Let's hear it for childhood and vacant lots (with dirt piles) next to your house!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Thinking Pink!

I feel a little weird about this, so feel free to just skim right on over it.

But since this is likely my final pregnancy, I wanted a few artistic photos of my Lulu belly. I have a couple of friends who specialize in this kind of photography, but none of them live here in rural Texas near me. Kind hubby also feels a trifle weird, but was willing to be the photographer for my art direction. So here is the theme of the month, baby belly.