Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Being Thankful Part 1

I thought I should take some time for the next few days to focus on being thankful and really dig into the parts of my life where I struggle to find anything worth being thankful about. So, my challenge to myself for the next three days is to think of something in my life that I am viewing as a negative right now and discover a reason to be thankful.

The first thing that comes to my mind is an ongoing family situation that has caused a lot of pain and stress over the last two months. Without going into too much detail, lets just say that it is impossible at this point in the process to be thankful for what has happened  in my family. But as I reflect back on the many visits, emails and conversations that have filled these anxious weeks I can see a bright spot if I really search for it. I am exceedingly thankful for my mother.

Growing up I always thought I was more like my father, and I have so many memories of all the effort I put into my relationship with him. Because my mom was home full-time and homeschooled us, my memories of her during my childhood are not filled with the same intensity, she was just a peaceful constant. Now since getting married, moving away and having a son I am seeing more and more of my mother in me and unlike the way it is portrayed in movies and TV, I have no dread of being like my mother.

I remember her buying me groceries on the day I moved out, driving out to be with me in the middle of the night after a tough break up, coming to check up on me when I was sick. She was the one I couldn't wait to have arrive after the birth of my son and despite the distance the separates us I know she would come at a moments notice if I needed her.

Witnessing her struggle through this difficult time in my family I have discovered a new depth to my mother. I have seen more strength of character, more stubbornness of will, more honesty, more faith and reliance on God, more unconditional love then I ever expected to find in anyone. She is not perfect and I do not know why God has chosen to grow her in such a radical way, but as I watch her wade through a dark place in life I am convicted and challenged and thankful. I am thankful that God is breaking the waves for my mother, thankful that in the midst of all this change she is the person I have always known her to be, thankful that she is broken but not destroyed. Perhaps the greatest blessing God bestowed on my family is my mother, and for that I can say "thank you."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Biological Imperative

And now the munchkin is walking.

That happened fast. Every day he is choosing to walk more and more in his uneven, precarious way as he perfects the balance of stepping while standing. Absolutely adorable and at the same time saddening for me as I watch him walk (literally and figuratively) a little more away from me.

Every time he falls I feel sure that he will give up walking at least for a little while until he is stronger and more balanced, but no matter how hard the spill he eagerly gets back up and steps again. It is incredible to watch and for me personally challenging. It looks so hard, yet he was obviously made to do it as evidenced by his determination to get it right and his excited concentration with each stride.

As I have watched him learn how to hold his head up, sit, crawl, stand and now walk I am amazed by the biological imperative that drives a baby to go from a fully dependent newborn to a willful independent toddler. Mastering these skills never seemed optional for my son. Watching him it never appears that he one day decided to walk. Instead I see him and it is almost as if from the moment he took his first breath some invisible force has been pushing him to get up and discover the limits of his body.

Do these biological imperative end after childhood? I don't think so. I can see in my own life that I am hardwired too. Everyday I feel an invisible force pushing me. In just the same way that God programmed my son to learn how to walk, I am aware of my own biological imperative to seek and yearn for a relationship with my creator. Maybe this all sounds corny, but until I had my son I don't think I had ever witnessed such a clear example of how our wiring as humans shapes our behaviors. I don't think I ever really understood that I was made to worship God.

Yes, we can choose to ignore God, or even deny him, but I think in all of us there is still that longing. It is a denial of our very being to turn away from relationship with our creator, and though that is a choice we each get to make for ourselves, that does not mean that the soul can reject it's programming and cease to feel the need for God. Needing God is not a choice, anymore then we choose to learn how to walk. It is just a part of how we are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Right Around the Corner

I discovered on Monday of this week that next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Ok, I guess I should have already been aware of that, but I think my mind had created an extra week of breathing room between me and the holiday season.

Now that I am having to face reality of the holidays being right around the corner, I have started evaluating our holiday traditions and habits. This year seems filled with more meaning for our family then past years because we are more of a family unit having the munchkin to worry about. This year to me symbolizes all the many years to come and the traditions that will imprint beautiful memories on our sons mind.

First and foremost I am eager to find ways to downplay the commercialism that is synonymous with Thanksgiving and Christmas, and find ways to focus on God and family and others, the truly important things that we have a chance to choose to remember at this time of year.

My husband and I are feeling very gift phobic this year in particular, I think because so many people want to give our son gifts. While I am so grateful and touched by the generosity and giving spirit of those around us, I also want to find a way to get away from the gift giving and emphasize more meaningful things.

So after discussing how we want to handle the gift question in our little family, my hubby and I decided that this year will be homemade gifts only. Whether this is something that becomes a family tradition only time will tell, but this year it feels right. Even as I started working on my gift for the munchkin I could already feel how much more special this gift is then anything I could have bought at the store. I am investing part of myself in this gift and every time my son plays with it I will think of the nights I spent working on it and perfecting it just for him.

I am loving homemade gifts and the attitude about the season that is being shaped by our choice to celebrate the season in ways that are more meaningful and true to what we believe this time of year is all about. I would love to hear ideas you all have about other ways to create meaning this time of year....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My List

During my quiet time this morning for some reason the thoughts that kept popping into my head were all about things that I would love to have a chance to do at some point in my lifetime. So, I decided to make a list in hopes of getting them out of my head to make space for other more pressing matters.

1. Run a marathon. Why I want to do this is hard to say. I hate to run, have never been good at it. But, for many years now I have had a desire to really challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and take on a task that requires discipline, perseverance and courage. Ideally I would like to do this one with someone else who is also not a runner.

2. Go on a missions trip. Preferably overseas to a third world country. This one has been on my heart for a very long time. It may be very pretentious and American of me, but I truly want to see with my own eyes the need that exists in the world. I want my heart to be changed and my perspective shaken.

3. Write a book. Even a children's book, whatever. I just want to write something.

4. Visit Jerusalem.

I can't think of a 5th thing otherwise I would call this my top 5.

How about you? What's in your top 5?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Letter to My Son

So, now you are a year old. This past year has been the most amazing of my life. What a blessing it has been to watch you grow and learn and develop into this little person that makes my heart feel like bursting every single day.

From the moment I first held you in my arms I knew my life would never be the same. And it isn't. Everything has been changed, and as I am reflecting back on how the last year has molded and shaped me, my lifestyle and my relationships I don't think I would change any of it back. I feel as though I have learned and grown right along with you. Being a mom has taught me true sacrifice, selflessness, joy, and how to play again.

I remember when we first got you home from the hospital. Your dad and I looked at each other and started wishing right away that your Grandma was there to help us. It was hard work for those first few weeks and months as you seemed to be a bundle of never ending need, from nursing to sleeping to your incessant desire to constantly be in someones arms. Looking back I remember that I was frustrated at times and there were days when all I wanted was to be able to put you down for 10 minutes together so I could rest, but those feelings have been replaced by beautiful memories of long days spent on the couch together, cozy and inseparable, when I could ignore the housework and the cooking because you were a newborn and I was a new mom and that was allowed.

These days you are more and more active and energetic and I am getting a clearer picture of what your personality is like. You are so curious and at times very serious as you explore the world around you. No matter how many times you have been through the house, you still manage to find something new to discover, and I am discovering all these things with you. You have reminded me of how interesting measuring cups, pot lids, Q-tips, toilet paper, socks and coasters really are.

I worried for a long time that you were very solemn and for most of the past year your father and I have gone out of our way to coax smiles and the occasional laugh out of you. But now you have decided that smiling and laughing are your thing and you do them non-stop. I think you just had to learn more about the world before deciding there were sufficient reasons to express happiness and joy every day. Or perhaps you just had to get old enough to be able to appreciate how funny your parents truly are. Our house has never been filled with so much laughter as it is these days.

I am thankful for so many things over this past year. I am thankful that I held you all the time when you were little. I am thankful that you chose to sleep in bed with us, and that you still spend part of the night co-sleeping with me. I am thankful that I am home with you for most of the time so that I am not missing the joy of watching you grow and change every day. I am thankful for every time I chose to wear you in the sling close to my heart instead of letting you ride in a stroller or cart. Now that you are getting so big and want to be more independent, I miss it. I am thankful that I did not chose to wean you by 1 year old. You are still so little and I can't bear to lose the excuse to cuddle with you for long periods of time several times each day.  I am thankful that you are strong and healthy and fearless, and that you move and climb and yell just the way a little boy should.

This time is going so quickly and I can see clearly that you will be grown before I am ready. I am praying every day that God would watch over you as you grow and that he will lead and guide you throughout your life. There is so much that I want to teach you, but I know that you have so much to teach me too. This next year is going to be full of discovery, exploration, learning and connecting as a family. I can't wait to see what you become. Happy Birthday little one. Love, Mom.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love Unconditional

Tonight I am feeling the weight of love burdening my spirit. I don't mean the joyful kind of love that is full of happiness, laughter, expectation and intimacy. No, that kind of love is easy. It is no burden to bear.

Tonight I am feeling the other side of what love is, what it truly means. I am confronted with the claim of unconditional love, and it is a huge burden indeed. Unconditional love at it's core is not about the ease and ecstasy of loving all the good and kind and comfortable things about another person. Unconditional love is about loving a person when it hurts you to do so.

I believe in unconditional love. I believe in it because I have felt it, I have been on the receiving end of it at many times in my life, and I recognize that my life will be one bump after another requiring the kind of love that can withstand the incredible beating that marks life on this planet. I believe in it because I know God lived it and offers it to me every day.

But now a very important person in my life is living in such a way as to call to account my claim of unconditional love. I am witnessing a depth of darkness that I did not know was possible in someone this close to me, and in the midst of this heartbreak and anguish I am learning an amazing thing about my love for the people in my life. Unconditional love is real.

I have never had to give it before. Until this season, this moment, when I said that I loved someone unconditionally I could only assume it to be true. Now I know it is possible, and my overwhelming feelings are awe and fear. I am in awe of the beauty and compassion that is unconditional love, and I am at the same time frightened because I know it is not something that I am fully capable of. It is a gift, a gift that I am so thankful for, but when I recognize it as a gift I am forced to recognize God's hand print on my life and feeling the hand of God on me creates a weight that presses deeply into me.

I feel tonight as though I am getting a small glimpse of the love that God has for me. The kind of love that is sobering and painful even as it encompasses all the wonderful things that love is known for. What an amazing and scary thing love is. It is something that cannot be fully experienced unless is challenged and dragged down to the dark places. It is something that is so far beyond my grasp. On nights like these it is a burden that is potent and heavy, that reminds me of the sacrifice God made for me and the sacrifice I am called to make for those around me that I love unconditionally.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Days of Remembering

Some days are days of remembering
when memories are ever before me
when the past I can't change is pressing into me
when the things that are done are weighing down on me
These days that I am remembering
are over and gone
yet in my mind they live on
taking life from these days that do not last long
Why am I remembering
when I should be living
so that my memories will be worth remembering some day

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gift Giving

As my little one's first birthday and the holidays are quickly approaching one thing that has been at the forefront of my mind is the issue of presents. Since the munchkin will only be one year old I have to admit that my hubby and I have not gotten him anything as of yet, and I am not sure we are going to. Right now he does not need anything, and lets be honest, he won't remember years from now whether or not we even got him a present.

But besides the age factor, I am finding myself torn about the gift idea altogether. Don't get me wrong, I am sure giving gifts to your children is a lot of fun, especially once they are old enough to really appreciate them, but I have always known that I did not want to be one of those parents that showers their child with every gift they asked for and then some. I have been to some little kids birthdays where the parents have to start taking away some of the toys that were opened first because the child is so excited about them that they don't even care to open more presents. I remember very clearly witnessing one of these parties and thinking to myself, "Wow, that kid would have been perfectly satisfied with the first gift he opened. Why does he even need eight more gifts?"

My instincts are to limit the number of gifts that are given at birthday's and Christmas. I would rather give one or two well thought out gifts then have my child surrounded by a pile of presents that will likely only hold his attention for a short time, regardless of the euphoria that situation might create for him or her. Not to mention that since the munchkin was born we have been careful about what kind of toys he plays with. We have avoided many toys that light up and make noise because we want him to play not be entertained. We have chosen toys that require him to learn and think and imagine.

So, this is a question that my hubby and I are wrestling with and will probably have to iron out as our little one grows and the pressure to get more and more presents mounts.

During a recent visit with my Grandpa he said something that has really stuck with me and made me evaluate the idea of gifts for our children. Grandpa was one of 9 children and growing up he did not have a lot of toys, but felt that having to make do with what he had built so much character in him. As we talked about his childhood and raising children he said, "I think one of the biggest challenges facing parents today is knowing that they can afford to give their children so many things yet making the conscious choice not to."

I don't want my son to have everything. I want him to know what it is like to not get what he wants all the time. I truly believe that children can learn so much more through the absence of abundance then they can with it, and that part of character formation is being able to appreciate the things you have. This is taught first and foremost by the example that my husband and I set, but secondly by the message we send on birthdays and Christmas.

Yes, we will give our son gifts, but my earnest desire is that he can grow into a man who does not require more and more things to be satisfied with his life, and that he can learn to be happy with the little that he actually needs so that his abundance can be used to bless other people.