Monday, March 31, 2014

Do You Trust Me?

It started on Tuesday with this verse: "Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast." (Isaiah 20:5) My mind immediately shot to this verse: "Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Galatians 6:14) And the light bulb flicked on: God is asking, "Whom do you trust?"

And apparently I wasn't the only one thinking about it. That same day, Ann wrote an open letter to her daughter, asking her to trust her, trust that her momma was looking out for her Future Self even when it made her Right-Now Self upset. "Trust me," she asks and you can hear God echoing back, "Trust me."

I kept chewing on this, and Sunday rolled around and baby girl was sick, throwing up, awful. In lieu of church, I made my way back to a sermon series from John Piper about battling unbelief. I had listened to the one on anxiety and I knew I needed this series, so I started from the beginning. And I hear him say, "All sin stems from unbelief." And I hear him say, "The greatest honor you can give someone is to tell them, 'I trust you.'" That "trusting God's promises is the most fundamental way that you can consciously glorify God." There it is again: God is asking, "Whom do you trust?"

If you asked me, "Aleah, do you put your trust in God or in man?" I would say, "Duh, God." But not fifteen minutes later, my stomach will be knotted up with anxiety about my children's health or our family's future or where that money's going to come from. Not an hour later, I will be angry with one crying child or another because why can't they just be reasonable? Not two hours later I will be miffed at my husband for some entirely unintended slight and catch him trying to catch my gaze, confusion on his face. I will make an intellectual assent to trust in God, but live a practical existence of trust in myself. To keep our family healthy (as if I can fight off hoards of tiny microbes single-handedly). To muster up some kind of patience or kindness within myself (as if I can just push a button and suddenly I'm Mary Poppins). To be an honest, open, loving peacemaker (as if I hold the key to my own emotions if only I would put it in the lock). I heap up the responsibilities on my shoulders (and likewise expect others to shoulder their own) because I trust myself. I trust myself to get it all together and keep it all in line and make it all work.

I know I'm not alone. We trust ourselves (or others) to pile up the money or cultivate inner peace or feed hungry mouths or build relationships or be successful or fight for justice or keep us healthy. We either think we can carry the torch and win the race, or we think we are utterly incapable of anything good and find a way to escape the ugliness. We have, Piper would say, a love of money. "Love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Timothy 6:10) What a weird verse, right? How does a love of money make me impatient with my toddler? Piper explains. "Money" as a concept is a symbol. If you "love money", you aren't overly infatuated with dollar bills or numbers in an account; you are infatuated with what they can get you. They are your means to products or services. From whom? From man. This "love of money" is a love of what man can get you. This "love of money" is the "root of all evil" because it says to man, "I trust you," and to God, "I don't need you. I have another way." But there is no other way. And when we try to force it? We find ourselves lying or scheming or stealing or fretting. Man will let us down every last time.

God reveals Cush (their hope) and Egypt (their boast) to be the shaky, human empires they were. He breaks them down and brings dismay and shame to His people because their boast was in man... and not in Him. And sometimes the only way to show someone their need is to make them very needy. God shows them who they can't trust in order to show them Who they can trust. To show them that their only boast should be in the cross of Christ (or in their case, the promise of the cross). To show them that all their victories, big and small, come from His hand.

Over and over, God has asked me, "Aleah, do you trust me?" Do you trust this doctor or do you trust me? Do you trust time or do you trust me? Do you trust your own wisdom or do you trust me? Do you trust money or do you trust me? And over and over, He has shown me His hand. When there were tubes and toxic medications, He showed me life and healing. When there was slow weight gain and confusion, He showed me chubby rolls and answers. When there was the over and over of seeming futility, He showed me progress and growth. And so yesterday, as I held my heaving little girl, aching from head to toe for her, God asked me, "Do you trust me?" Do you trust that I am here, right now, with you and with her, as you both ache and cry and hurt? Do you trust that I've still got this? That I've still got you?

And I said yes. I didn't have a vision of an angel standing over us or a glimpse of heaven come or a miraculous healing. I had a long line of moments to look back over, times when all seemed lost but when God was found. Times when I never thought things would be right again but when I was proven so, so wrong. Ultimately, I had (have) the scene of God-made-man, stooping to greet children and heal women and weep for His friends. And I had the scene of that Perfection, broken and bleeding. And I had the scene of that Hope, alive again and seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for me. Turning to God and saying, "Please help this little girl to stop throwing up." My one little girl out of the seven billion beating hearts and Jesus said, "Her, God. Her momma is begging you to help her." And because He has shown me His hand so many times before, because He showed His hand so blindingly bright in Jesus on the cross, I knew that whether she was healed in a moment or not at all, He was with me. With us. And He was worthy, is worthy, of my trust.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Take the Joy Dare 8&9

I missed last week. We were in the midst of doctoral exams and the stress level was audible. This weekend, as you'll read, we are free! These joys are varied. Some of them are very simple -- food, a book. Some of them are very exciting -- completed tests and exams. Some of them are hard -- finding God, receiving truth. I think it's very much a picture of true life: simple, exciting, hard. From the past two weeks...

1) Audiologist = qualify for cochlear

Baby girl had her hearing aid evaluation. We sat in a sound proof box while her audiologist talked through a microphone and sent noises our way. With her hearing aids in, my daughter responded (or didn't) to the sounds. Her audiologist kept note of what she seemed to hear and what she didn't. Based on the evaluation, she receives some benefit from her aids, but not enough to achieve spoken language. This is precisely the result we expected! It also means that from an audiological standpoint, she qualifies for cochlear implants. This is a big step, and we are so thankful for this result!

2) Pot pies cooked

I've tried freezer cooking a few times, and usually, I either don't like the recipe or I forget I have the stuff in there and it goes past its prime. One recipe that defies this trend? Chicken pot pies! I whipped up three and tucked them away in our freezer for future dinners. Nothing like only having to pull something out of the freezer and dinner is done. You could probably use any ol' pot pie recipe; just wrap them up and freeze after cooking the insides but before baking the crust. I first tried them while prepping these recipes (The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis) and it's the pot pie recipe I continue to use. All the moms are cheering with me when I say, dinner's ready!

3) Looking for God

As I drove my daughter to her appointment two hours away, I got pretty bored. I noticed a group of vultures riding on the wind ahead of me on the road and I thought, I wonder if I ever would have thought to make birds if I were God. That led me to consider which of His qualities He meant for those birds to display. Their seeming weightlessness and freedom. Their otherworldliness. The intricacy of their feathers and the power of flight they allow for. Then I started to think of other elements of God's creation -- trees, mountains, rivers -- anything I passed. All of these creations speak of Him. I was so uplifted to think of all the ways God reveals Himself to us and what volumes they speak about Him. It's now my new favorite past time, finding God in His world. It pulls me out of myself and says, "Look! He is all around you."

4) Biography of Bonhoeffer

I have been reading Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It's pretty much right up my alley: theologian, WWII, moral dilemmas. He was a pastor who took part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. It tells the story of his upbringing, schooling, theology, and outworking of his faith. It has been so encouraging and interesting! I think about the things that fill my life (my husband's schooling, taking care of the kids and our home, our church life), and I can't imagine our world being totally upended like Bonhoeffer's was in Germany under Hitler's rule. He responds with such faith and consistency that it is truly inspiring. Highly recommend!

5) Exams done! 

My husband is pursuing his PhD in English literature. He has finished with his classes and this year, he spent his time prepping for his doctoral exams. For the English PhD student, the exams are the highest hurdle. Asking an English major to write a dissertation is like asking a toddler to write on the wall with crayons. Bring it on! But asking him to read vast wealths of literature and criticism and then sit in a room and answer two or three out of a possible four or five questions on those broad eras with no books or research of any kind to reference? That's a recipe for much stress. But, praise God, he finished his exams this week! I am so thankful to have my joyful, stress-free husband back.

6) Honesty. A hard truth.

An old friend dosed me with a bit of truth this week that hurt. It hurt because it was honest and true and ugly. A lot of truths are. Ugly. And up until probably six months ago, maybe a year, I would have been horrified at what this person said. But these last few months have unearthed a lot of truth, ugly ones, and I'm not so easily scandalized. This honesty... it was refreshing.

I peel back layers of myself on here, examine myself publicly (though from the safe distance of my computer screen and with time to edit my words carefully... for this slow-to-process mind and unbridled-in-real-time tongue, things tend to go better this way). I didn't start writing for that purpose, but rather to display the glories of God through our trials. What I found, though, is that so many of those glories came through struggle and so many of the struggles were with me. I'm not beating up on myself; all of us struggle. But by putting mine out there, I get to point to Jesus. By revealing my struggles and broken bits and dark parts, you can see that we are not so far apart. You are as broken as I am and you need Jesus as desperately as I do. We likely have different broken places; this is part of what caused the pain between my friend and me. I was broken in a way that this friend is very much not, and in some ways, my very personality caused this person pain. But the story doesn't end in brokenness because there is sweet humility and sweet apology and sweet forgiveness. (Thankfully, at least, in our case. Though the sting of a broken relationship still stands.) So many of those parts of me that caused pain I have laid at the feet of Jesus and spent time washing my mind in the water of His word. Changing, growing, more Christ-liking. And my hope, my prayer, is that by tracing my steps from the depths to the Cross, that you will have hope and join me in the journey.

This friend's honesty, ugly and painful as it was, marked a point of reflection for me, a moment for me to stop and look around. I can't change the past. I can't unsay or undo. I have already walked the path behind me and it is done. But I do have control over what comes next. I can apologize. I can change. And by the grace of God, I will do just that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Holding My Breath

I live my life in waiting. For a long time, I thought it was a "life phase" thing, something young people do because so much waits up ahead. Everyone waits to turn 16 and get a driver's license, graduate from high school, graduate from college, get their first job, get married. These are big life moments, trophy-worthy. We hold our breath and wait for them, exhaling when we get there. "I have arrived!" And then we hold our breath again and wait for the next one. In between is a lot of hard work and a lot of waiting. But we know the time will come, so we keep on keepin' on, as they say.

If you look at the Instagram picture of my life today, you would likely say that I have really arrived. I hit all those milestones. I am a part of the proverbial husband and wife with our two kids and two dogs. Despite the husband-still-in-school part, we're kind of... there. You know, where everyone ends up. We have arrived.

I stared at my ceiling two nights ago, trying to fall asleep the night before my husband's first doctoral exam and I heard myself think, "Once we get her cochlear and she can hear..." I was thinking about my daughter. And I realized -- I'm still waiting. I've been holding my breath, waiting for someone to fix her. It makes my chest tight to type that... but it's true. I've been waiting... for her.

If you've never been pregnant, it is the ultimate exercise in waiting. I waited for her for nine months and then she came, but she was sick. So we sent her to the hospital and we waited. "A week to two weeks" turned into 52 days, but we waited and the day arrived and she came home. But she was still not totally healthy, so we waited to fix her GI issues. And we waited to fix her sleep issues. And we waited to fix her development issues. We ticked off the days and tapped our toes and learned to be patient. Soon she would be all better and we could relax and enjoy her.

And the GI issues resolved (praise God!). And she started to sleep at night and eventually through the night (praise God!). And she met those developmental milestones and calmed down and cheered up (praise God!). We waited and we arrived and we waited and we arrived. What I didn't realize until last night is that I'm still waiting. In my head, she's still not fixed and we still have another hurdle to clear: her hearing. The surgery looms up ahead in my mind and I catch myself looking toward it, fearful but excited, afraid to put her through that but excited for her to hear. And I realized that deeper down there, what I'm really excited about... is to finally have my daughter. Whole. Complete. Fixed.

If you judge me for this, you should. It makes me feel nauseous to think that I would even feel that way. But I do. I like to think of myself as that mom who loves her kids "no matter what". And while that is true, when I really think about it, or if someone were to ask me, of course that's how I feel. Of course I love my daughter no matter what. But in the back of my mind, there's still a problem. And I realize that underneath the parts of ourselves we know very well sits a well of sin and darkness that is very, very deep. That we think we have a tight, secure lid on, but that honestly, blackens us. When we uncover it, we can repent, shine the light on the darkness, bathe it in the forgiveness of Jesus. But until we know those sins, they boil and bubble under the surface.

I stared at the ceiling two nights ago and thought about my daughter, my daughter who is deaf and who has the absolute cutest scrunchy-nosed smile in all the world. And I resolved to stop waiting. She is here, today, right now, just as she is. She is my daughter in the womb and my very sick daughter in the hospital and my daughter with a G-tube and my daughter who won't sleep at night and my daughter who hates to be touched and my daughter who finally held her head up and my daughter who laughs and my daughter who won't sit up and my daughter who will sit up and my daughter who can't hear. And in four to five months, she will be my daughter who can hear (Lord willing, with the help of her electronic ears). But on that day, she will be no more my daughter than she is today, than she was six months ago, twelve months ago. It will be scary and exciting, but it will not define us today.

The more I thought, the more I stared, the more thankful I became for the love of Jesus. To His children, Jesus says, "I love you." I love you today and yesterday and tomorrow and forever. I love you broken. I love you whole. I love you a prostitute and a liar and a thief and a murderer. I love you prideful and anxious and lazy and mean. I love you faithful to your husband and honest and giving and loving. I love you humble and peaceful and hard-working and kind. Jesus' love does not wait on us. His love does not wait on us to "get fixed". His love does not depend on our condition. He loves us because we are His children. And "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) God shows His love to His children in that while we were still broken, sick, dying, He wrapped His arms tight around us and loved us to His death. Does He promise healing? Growth? Holiness? Yes. Does His love for us depend on that? Wait on that? Need that? No. Above all, I want my daughter to know that love, the love of a God who knitted her, knows her, loves her. And I want to model that love. I want to love my daughter like God loves her, not waiting or holding my breath... but open-armed, honest, true.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Celebrating Lent

We're in the midst of crazy town in the Buck home these days. My husband takes his doctoral exams in exactly one week, and let's just say... it's the most stressed/hardest working I've ever seen him. These things mean business which means he means business which means lots of long days for him which means lots of long days for me. I have so much more respect and admiration for my med school wives after going through this! Thankfully, it will be over in just two weeks' time, but it has left my heart longing for some capital "T" Truth and Peace in my days. So! Inspired by some lovely bloggers I read, we are celebrating Lent.

Lent actually began this past Wednesday but we are following John Piper's Lenten devotional readings. There is one reading for each Sunday of Lent as well as for Good Friday and Easter. I'd have been happy just to do the readings, but they accompany instructions for incorporating candles into the observance. As I read the explanation, I knew I must have candles: "'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' (John 1:5). But for a while it seemed as if the darkness was overcoming—for a long while. Your seven candles symbolize the Light of the World—the Light that was God’s glory and that illuminated God for us—the Light that, in the end, seemed to have been darkened. As we move through the season preceding Easter, the candles are snuffed out one by one, until all are dark on Good Friday, when Jesus died and the earth was covered with shadow. Darkness apparently had won. The Light of the World had been extinguished. It was finished. But NO! Easter brings resurrection! Life! Return from death! The Light has won and all the candles burn as we praise him—the Light of the World, the Bright Morning Star, the Glory of God."

Unfortunately, right now, the dollar bills are few and far between so I couldn't very well go out and spend a fortune on a beautiful Lenten candle centerpiece. Thanks to the beauty of Pinterest, I put together my very own for about $3. Want to see?!?

I happen to have about a thousand of these bad boys sitting around:
Baby food jars

That's right! Baby food jars! They make perfect votive holders. Except that they're clear and not pretty. No fear...

Glue and tissue paper

I picked up this regular ol' Elmer's glue and some tissue paper for about $3 at the grocery store. I used them to transform my little jars! First, I mixed some glue with water, about 50/50 ratio (to make what is essentially Modge Podge without paying more for it...). I tore up the tissue paper into little pieces and then spread a thin layer of the watery glue onto my jar. I stuck the paper to the glue in a mosaic-style pattern:
Around and around the jar I went until I reached where I started. I tried to keep it relatively even at the top and bottom so it looked more intentional. Overlap is good; it makes darker and lighter shades of the color which is perfect. When I finished it looked like this:
Pieces kind of sticking off and all. To keep it all in place, I spread another layer of the watery glue over the paper. It seals it down while still keeping its papery texture. While wet, it looks sad and weird:
But once it dries???
Pretty, right?! I repeated this six times to have a total of seven jars for candles. I rummaged around in our cabinets for a pretty plate/bowl to collect them on:
A lovely wedding gift from a sweet friend!

All lit, I think they are simply beautiful:
We sat down as a family tonight and began our reading...

We talked about man trading the truth of God for a lie. "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." My son blew out the first candle...

We will start off next week with just six candles lit and each week snuff another one out.

I am so excited to be adding some weight to this Easter season. The walk to the cross is long and we will bear it up under the weight of Truth and fill our hearts with the hope of Peace.

*If you don't have time for the whole Lenten celebration, the Piper's did this devotional series in a week. You can read about that here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Take the Joy Dare #7

This week has been peppered with reminders to me of how powerfully the body of Christ can work. We think of the church as a building or an event, but really, it is a living thing made up of living things and it moves and breathes and grows and changes. I have been so encouraged by hearing of others' encouragements and so blessed to bear others' burdens. It is our call and our responsibility to one another. In a small way, this sharing of joys is meant to build you up. My joy is your joy is our joy, amen!

This week in five small snippets...

1) Pitter-patter of toddler feet

Twice in the span of one day, I heard someone else remark on what a blessing it is to hear those little feet, running across the house. I don't think about it because it's my normal. In fact, if I don't hear those little feet, it likely means someone is up to no good! But hearing it from a man who knows he only has a year to live? Saying how he loves that sound of life and it cheers him every time? Yeah, that helped me remember. We have to live our lives. We can't stop and savor every moment because we have jobs and responsibilities and bellies to fill. But... we can certainly stop every so often and be thankful for the right now. Even when it's full of poopy diapers and inexplicable traumas involving misplaced stuffed animals. They are signs of life... and life? Is a blessing beyond measure.

2) Flower buds

They will almost certainly die and part of me wants to tell them, "Go back into the ground!!" But we had just enough sun for some of our flowers to get excited, and they poked their little green heads up through the ground. I can't even express the joy it brought my heart to see the promise of fresh, green coming so, so soon!

3) Pretty new scarf

There is nothing quite like a new little adornment to put a spring in my step! It doesn't take much, y'all :)

4) Excellent neurology visit

My daughter is followed by a neurologist because of the prevalence of seizures in CMV babies. We also discovered calcifications on her brain during her hospital stay and while no one can say for sure what that means, practically, it means we need to see a specialist who can address whatever impact they might have. We went for a six month check-up (he saw her at the end of her hospital stay, about seven months ago, actually). He was very pleased to hear all the wonderful things that have come our way since her discharge: her allergic colitis diagnosis (which was much better than other scary things they thought could be going on with her digestive system), no more G-tube, no more medications, big growth. He checked her over and praised her health! He said she looks absolutely normal to him. "Normal" = not a word I ever hear with my daughter. And while that's fine and I embrace our alternative path, it sure was good to hear from the brain guy. We'll do an MRI (mostly for her cochlear) and he'll review it, so it's possible we'll have more to hear from him, but for now? A great check-up and praises all around!

5) Survival -- we made it through this fussy day...

My husband is on his way to becoming a doctor (of Philosophy... in English... arguably as important for your brain as [and more important for your soul than] my daughter's neurologist). A fellow doctoral student told me that spouses of stressed out grad students deserve destination vacations. She is correct. It's his degree, but I'm considering having everyone call me Dr. Buck too; we're earning this degree together! Some days? We just make it through alive. Teething baby + toddler with this own mouth "ouchies"= fussy, fussy day full of Orajel and highly educational films (who am I kidding? Bring on Elmo!). That day? Not one minute of quiet and when they finally went to bed and I sat down to write my joys, the first thing that came into my mind was, "Thank you, Lord, that we made it through this day." And we did. He provided. He provided exactly what we needed and then some.

There are some sweet, sweet gems in Ann's Only the Good Stuff this week. Check it out! I wrote earlier this week about how you're not enough... and why that's so awesome. Gearing up for the first Sunday of the season of Lent tomorrow and a special post on how our family is observing this season. Happy Saturday, friends!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You Are Not Enough

I desperately want to buy the lie. I want to buy it, with its subtle, minimalist packaging. I want to open it and take a modest bite and chew and feel it dissolve. I want to swallow it and let that fire burn in my belly, reassure me, comfort me, fill me. You are enough, Aleah. In all your highs and all your lows, you are sufficient. You are enough. Just as you are.

I want to buy the lie because it means I get to claim the victories. All the awesome stuff that swirls through my life, products of my hands, I did that, y'all. Boom! Look at me. I grew two humans, human beings, people! I delivered them into this world with my body. That's right! Don't let me stop there. I'm raising those human beings, teaching them Bible verses and classical music. Classical music!!! I have a college degree from a competitive institution and I'm wicked smart. Quiz me. (Don't quiz me...) I read books and clean my home and love my husband and I am a freaking rock star! Victories. They're all mine.

I like this lie, this "you are enough" lie. It means I win. I get it all, gathering up my treasures like found river rocks. I look over my treasure when I notice something out of place. A piece of trash? How did that get in here? Once I notice one, suddenly I start seeing them everywhere. What the heck? The more I uncover, the more I realize... Buying the lie means getting the victories. But it also means getting the failures too. And the failures aren't just *there*, all neutral-like. They... they have consequences. Hurt feelings and unfinished commitments and burned hearts and rushed lives and worried days. I get to keep all my treasures, but I have to claim the trash too.

And when I think about that? When I think about me as the... well, enough? My heart starts to race. I feel a little nauseous. I'm not cut out for this. I feel like I'm selling a house I built with my own hands. I could maybe make it look okay, even good, and you would be like, "Wow, Aleah! You did such a great job!" And then you move in and none of the plumbing works and the ceiling is a giant sieve when it rains and the siding starts to peel away from the outside. It's a lie. And it's so shiny and looks great, but when you put weight on it? When you try to live in it? It all falls apart.

Because I know the hurtful things I've said and thought. I know how my mind can spin for hours on the worry-go-round. I know how I can shut my heart down and go cold. I know how I can turn off my love and be fiercely mean. And maybe you would say, "The good outweighs the bad!" And it's true; I'm not mean and cold all the time, even a majority of the time, even a quarter of the time. So it all looks good because mostly, it is. But like the failing plumbing and the leaky ceiling and the peeling siding, it only takes a few broken places to bring the whole house down. And if the lie is that I'm enough all by myself, boy, this house is going... down...

I'm not enough. But I'm not meant to be. I'm not enough of a wife or a mom or a daughter or a sister or a friend or a Christian. I am not enough of any of these things. I will never complete my husband or dazzle my children or wow my friends or save the lost in the inner city. I can't do any of that because I'm not enough and I never will be. PRAISE GOD. Seriously, can I get an Amen?! I am not enough and that's okay because Jesus is. And my husband? He gets me as his wife, but in every way that I let him down, he gets Jesus. And my children? They get me as their mom and you bet your bottom dollar I do my best for them, but in every way I fail them, in everything I can't, Jesus can. My friends, my family, every person I walk by or drive by or encounter in any way, they don't find enough in me and in every way that I am empty or broken or wrong, Jesus is full and whole and right.

How can I be so sure of this? How can I be so sure that we're all gone so wrong and Jesus is all come so right? It's the whole story of the Scriptures. God sent this giant law, this big, bold, carved-in-stone law and every single person in the history of ever has tripped, stumbled, fallen right over that big stone. We are, all of us, wrong, found wanting. Wanna know the secret? That was the point. The point of the law wasn't, "Jump this high!"; it was "You are not enough". You, in and of yourself, will always come up short. And that's why Jesus. You come up short and it makes you throw yourself to the ground and pound your fists and get pissed off. I can't do this! You're right. You got it. Now... stop your tantrum and look up. Look up. You know now that you can't do, now let me show you who can, who has. God. God has always and will always be enough. And when we buy the lie that we are enough, we miss God. We get all filled in ourselves and we miss how God is ready to fill us beyond our wildest imaginations. And I don't mean that in the "you will be so much greater than you ever imagined" sense, but in the "you seriously can't even imagine what God will do with you" sense.

Those days when I sink into my bed, weary at the very core of my bones and ready to just scrap the whole production, I thank God that I am not Him. I thank God that I don't have to do all this in my own strength. I thank God that He makes so clear to me my insufficiency. And not so I can lie around and beat myself up. But so I can turn my eyes to the Truth and draw from the unending well. It is enough for me.

Related: The Standard

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Take the Joy Dare #6


Here I am, still counting joys! Two months down means 59 days means 177+ joys. 177+ gifts and blessings, straight from the hand of the Father. Because it means so much to me and really is a little piece of me, I'll link to this first: Say Something, a post I wrote earlier in the week. A reflection on a song that pointed my eyes to God and a reminder I need every day, that God is coming for me and requires nothing of me.

And now! This week's joys :)

1) Baby girl sitting up!

I imagine I'm not alone as a parent in this: my investment in my kids outweighs most any investment/ambition I have for myself. I don't view them as these lofty, idyllic projects, but I want for them. I want joy and peace and love. I want a good life. Mostly, I want them to know Jesus, and while in my head, I know that a journey of faith is never a painless one (be it physically, emotionally, or spiritually), in practice, I don't want them to hurt or struggle. It's harder to watch them in pain than it is for me to be in pain. With my daughter? We have fought -- she... has fought -- for everything. She fought to live. She fought to eat. She fought to sleep. She fought to grow. Right now, we're fighting for teeth (those blasted teeth). I fight alongside her, but it is her battle. I push her, but the victories are all hers.

This week? She sat up! All on her own! Her Early Intervention therapist was here for our every-other-week session and she said, "Okay, let's do this, girl!" She got her into position, sat her on her bum, pulled her arms straight, flattened out her hands, pressed them to the floor, and rocked her weight onto her palms to settle her in. My daughter looked up at me while I held her favorite sparkly flower, and her therapist began to count (as she does every time we get her into sitting position, marking and timing her skill). One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. I expected her to fall any second; she rarely makes it past five. One thousand seven, one thousand eight. My eyes got big; I smiled up at her therapist. One thousand eleven, one thousand twelve. "Wow, baby girl, look at you go!" One thousand twenty, one thousand twenty-one. I started to cry. She was sitting. Right here, right now. We've done this one thousand twenty-one times and she has never done it before and here she does it. Her therapist loses count, starting to cheer. I'm trying my best to contain myself so as not to distract her. One thousand thirty, one thousand thirty-one. She topples over, but the victory was already won. I knew the moment would come. I knew we would get here. But I never expected it would be that day, that time, that moment. We cheered; I kept crying, so thankful and so excited for her therapist who has worked hard with us to be there to see it. Every day since then, she has sat there, once for three whole minutes! It's a miracle that I was confident we would see -- in time -- but it's no less a miracle for having happened, for continuing to happen. It is none of it guaranteed.

2) Chalk

We had a few beautiful spring-like days this past week and we took the opportunity to play with chalk! It was just as fun as I remembered :)

3) Earth Fare macaroni and cheese

During our brief stint in Greensboro, we completely fell in love with Earth Fare (grocery store) and their store brand of macaroni and cheese. Now I make a mean homemade mac 'n' cheese (if I do say so myself), but for the average dinner around here, nothing beats a box of Earth Fare's white cheddar. My husband stocked up on his last trip down and it tasty, tasty. Mmm...

4) Toddler vocabulary

My two-year-old son is gaining words every day. It is so fun to hear him put together sentences as he goes beyond just mimicking our words. Some of my current favorites?
  • "tin-tle" = gentle
  • "fair-ful" = careful
  • "bro-pen" = broken
  • "pweeping" = sleeping
  • "wid" = lid
  • "Gonna hap-en mommy" = What's gonna happen to mommy? (followed by me being poked with a toy)
  • "tate a wittle nap" = take a little nap
  • "ack nighly" = ask nicely (while vigorously signing "please")
  • "oukie" = ouchie
  • "pall down" = fall down (which he does often and wildly and usually on purpose)
He's also starting signing sentences! Most used? "More milk, please." Beautiful!

5) Yet another good book

I really love to read. I know it's not for everyone, but I can just lose myself in a story and I absolutely love it. I think it helps that I read fast, so it's hard for me to get bogged down. As I evaluated what I like to do and what I want to accomplish with my time and compared that with what I actually spend my time on, I realized that while my goal is to learn and read several books that I've had just lying around, my use of time reflected my desire to be a Facebook/internet expert. It helps me to remind myself, "You like to read and want to do it!" Then my use of time can reflect what I actually want to do as opposed to what I just end up finding myself doing.

The universe conspired with me. My favorite author's more recent book was available at the library, prompting me to read the second in the trilogy so I could devour the third. (The Maddaddam Triology by Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam) My dad gave me an excellent book for Christmas (This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett) that inspired me to read more of her books (The Patron Saint of Liars and Run). I'm on such a roll that I read twice as many books last month as is my goal! (My goal is one fiction and one nonfiction book each month.) Next up is a biography of Bonhoeffer that I've heard is wonderful. I am thankful for the chance to work my mind, my imagination, and my heart. It is so, so good for me!

To close us off, I'll steal my favorite thing from Ann's Only the Good Stuff for this week: The Piano Guys "Let It Go/ Vivaldi's Winter" -- I have to close my eyes because it is too beautiful to hear and see all at once!