In sickness

Again!  I think we have experienced almost two solid weeks of health before one of us caved to illness again!  This has been the craziest winter for our family’s health, and I am SO hoping this last bout is…well, the last 🙂

This time it is I who am sick, with some kind of cold/flu involving laryngitis, sore everything and over-all body aches.  Fun.

A lot has changed since Christmas, and it is hard to even remember it all at this point.  Spiritually, Christmas was a turning point for both Jordan and I, and our devotional/prayer lives have improved so very much!  We found out our coming baby is a girl, which of course makes us happy (and has been the cause of several bouts of sewing).  Weirdly, I was SO worried Baby would be a boy, and people would think we didn’t want him (as was hinted with our third boy), so it was a relief to know she is a girl, and I don’t have to spend the rest of the pregnancy “proving” to everyone that I want my baby!

Surprisingly, after 4 1/2 years of praying for ministry opportunities and being disappointed several times, God opened a door for us (a super sudden opportunity) and Jordan has been chosen as the pastor of a tiny (and amazing!) Baptist church, 20 minutes from our house.  This has been huge for us, and it amazes me how it came just as we both were experiencing a spiritual revival in our own lives.  I expect this to be challenging, but am already enjoying the fellowship of more like minded people than attend our old Church, Faith.

I also have made the comforting, yet discouraging, discovery that my body is sick and reacting allergically to something food related.  We are also going through the process of testing Lil J for food allergies.  This is something I never thought we would deal with.  I’ve always considered us “healthy” compared to others, and it is discouraging to realize 2 out of 4 of my little family have preventable stomach issues.  The comforting thing about all this as that it explains the struggle I’ve had with weird, negative, anxious thoughts.  Apparently that is one of the more subtle symptoms of a food allergy.  Who knew?!  So, I’m not entirely crazy.  I am sick.

 

The Holiday Sniffles

Today marks the beginning of “Christmas” for our family, as Jordan has two weeks off of work.  Like any good family, we are celebrating by catching up on the 100+ chores and stuff that needs done, but we are doing it together, as much as possible.  Farewell, ideals, and blog-worthy cute holiday activities.  Hello, reality 🙂  We are getting to be old friends, you and I.

Honestly, the last couple of months have been hard.  We went on a weekend trip with my family to Tennessee, and immediately succumbed to a violent stomach virus that left us all weak and exhausted and feeling very, um, non-vacation-y.  In the week following, I was forced to stop nursing my baby, from sheer lack of milk supply, and then we were all hit by colds.  Mine turned into a month-long sinus infection with excrutiating daily head/ear/jaw aches.

I am not saying this all to complain, just to relate the events.  It was during this sickness that I entered a really dark place emotionally.  It sounds weird to even say that, but it is true.  I suppose it was related to a new pregnancy and all the hormones that come along with the changing mother’s body, but as a Christian, there is a spiritual aspect to everything, and this dark time was no exception.  It is hard to even talk about, as outwardly there was (and is) nothing going on except a little bit of illness, but inwardly there was a raging storm.  Fear, anger, sadness….I am not the type of person to feel these negative things very often, and so I have been surprised and overwhelmed by them, unsure where these feelings are coming from and utterly at a loss as to what to do with them.  I suppose I could get that clinically diagnosed as depression?  I don’t know.

I do know that I have struggled, regardless of the cause.  Yelling at my kids (and I don’t yell), setting my baby down whenever possible (I normally love holding babies), resenting the changes of pregnancy in my body (despite mentally speaking gratitude for the new little one), spiritually crawling through my days in a foggy place, just hoping to make it to bed time and go to sleep.  I feel so ashamed just writing these things.  How can I, as a Christian, feel this way?  What am I doing wrong?  Just a couple of months ago I felt strong and confident in the life God has given me, felt capable of managing the challenges of my three children and even enjoyed those challenges.  And now, I struggle to keep all the balls in the air, and am a little terrified at the thought of a fourth child in June.  People tell us we are crazy, that God gave us a brain so that we would be smart enough to use birth control, and I have moments when I wonder if those people are right?  I am not handling the three I have, how will I manage more?  How will I teach them?  Love them?  Meet all their needs?  Does it even matter, what I do every day?  What if this baby is born with special needs, or one of my kids develops cancer, or is kidnapped, or my husband dies in an accident on the way home from work one of these days?

I know these thoughts are wrong, because they are based in fear.  They are based on my perceived ability, not God’s strength in my weakness.  But this is where it gets hard.  Because sometimes God’s strength in my weaknesses doesn’t mean He takes over when I have the throbbing head and the empty heart and feel like there is nothing left of me to give, but all my little people are still demanding more.  Sometimes it means I still have to do it all.  Kids don’t quit needing Mom just because she feels done.  God doesn’t come down and wash the dishes for me at 11 at night when I have no strength left.  In this respect, I feel spiritually fragmented.  I don’t know HOW to access His strength, or to let it work through me.  I don’t have the mental energy to listen to my husband for more than a minute at a time, how do I do more than whisper half-finished pleas for help when my toddler is lashing out in anger again and I need to discipline without reciprocal anger?  I don’t know.  Over and over again, I have said that I can’t do this.  But God hasn’t taken it away.  He wants me to do this.  When my emotions aren’t going crazy, I WANT TO DO IT TO!  I normally love my “job’!

I know it is in the hard times that we grow the most, and I most certainly see God working in my heart.  It’s just that growth is not easy.  Stagnant is easy.  Self-confident is easy.  God is teaching me that I am NOT capable of doing this.  Even in the easy times.  I really need to live with the recognition of my dependence on Him.  But I also need to live with the assurance that He gave me this task, this life, this particular season with the sick kids, and the headaches, and the tired pregnant body, and He knows I can do it, through Him.

He is also teaching me to rely so much more on His Word.  It has been all too often I have used my busy life with three littles as an excuse for short or even no devotions at all.  Maybe a quick verse read while eating breakfast and thinking about the dishes, laundry and Christmas projects that need done.  He is bringing me back again and again to the verses about the wise man and the foolish man.  I realize that if I am slipping in the storm (even if it is “just” an emotional storm…. goodness knows how I will handle a ‘real’ problem!!!) I am not founded enough on the Rock.

Ps. 139 has been a rock for me, as well.  He has searched me, and known me.  He knows my downsitting, and my uprising. He understands my thoughts afar off (even the crazy, hormone thoughts that I don’t at all understand).  He compasses my path and my lying down, and is acquainted with all my ways (He is right there when I collapse, and knows all my ways – even the sinful, selfish ones, or the OCD, “My Christmas tree needs to look perfect, even though I’m already 5 minutes late to the store” ones).  There is not a word in my tongue, but He knows it altogether (every lashing-out, every regretful apology, every tearful instruction to my child to not sin like that).  He has beset me behind and before and laid His hand upon me.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  His works (Me!) are marvelous.  Just as a new little life is being knit together in my womb under the guidance of His hand, so my life was knit together, and there is nothing about me that He does not know and care for.  And most importantly, the darkness cannot hide me from Him.  Even if I feel lost, He is there.  Even if I cannot see the way, He can.

So, with a new case of sickness (pink eye) making its rounds through my kids, and a heart both full and empty, we go into the Christmas week.  I am daily forcing myself to remember and to tell my children about Christ’s birth and sacrifice.  I am struggling to put joy that I don’t feel, but know exists, into the Christmas activities.  I am struggling to quit struggling and to learn what it means to rest in Christ as we approach a new year.  The gifts that need wrapped, the cookies we baked, the Christmas lights, and the sheer happiness on my kids’ faces when we do something ‘fun’….we are purposefully taking the time as a family notice these things, even when we all feel to tired and sick to focus.  I don’t know when the dark feelings will go away altogether.  I hope soon!  I do feel more and more on the light side.  But either way, I am willing to walk through this ‘valley’ of sorts, and learn what God has me to learn and keep fighting until I see the light.

Post-Vacation Let Down

It seems after a particularly amazing portion of life there is always a little dip in the road, a little adjustment period.  We got back from our anniversary trip on Monday, and to be honest, Monday was a bit of a downer.  So much to unpack and clean, so much laundry and re-adjusting, and kids sad because they missed Grandma, and me sad because we left my phone behind (yes, really).  There was also a little bit of envy in our hearts after traveling around, viewing all those big, beautiful Amish farms that represent a huge part of our family dream.

But you know what?  Tuesday, we put that behind us, took some of the lessons we learned over our weekend away, and hit the ground running, and it has been a good week since then.  The Amish are weird, doubtless, and perhaps cult-like, but I can’t help thinking, when I look at their lives, that they get a lot right.  Their sense of family and community that creates both a network of help and resources as well as a system for maintaining accountability; their ingenuity and hard work; their discipline and order; their integrated farming techniques…. I could go on.  Jordan and I learned so much, just from driving and walking around in the hills of Amish country, observing and discussing what we saw.  No single field was devoted to exclusively one crop.  No home was unkempt.  No garden had weeds.  The big white houses – tho plain – were surrounded by impressive landscaping, including play sets and beautiful flower and vegetable gardens and mini-orchards.  Almost every farm had another small house for the grandparents living close by on the same property.  Children of all ages worked and played on the farms.  It was an example of hard work and team playing at it’s finest, and we both came away inspired to keep striving for our goals, together.

As a couple, it was refreshing to have three whole days to simply talk.  We decided that a key for our family will be “business meetings” in which Jordan and I (and eventually the kids a little bit) discuss goals for the week/day, financial matters and anything else we both need to be aware of.  We also decided to take our gardening to another level of seriousness, and in consequence, we spent this morning staking tomatoes and doing some much needed weeding.

I love vacations, but real life is great too!

4 years!

Today we celebrate 4 years of marriage!  All I can think of to say is corny and predictable, like “I love him so much more now than when we married!” or, “I can’t believe it’s been four years!” so I will keep those comments to myself for now, but, seriously?!  4 years?!  Wow.

We are celebrating with a compromise, as all good marriages should incorporate compromise 🙂  Year 1, our oldest baby was 2 weeks old, so we ate sushi and stared adoringly at our offspring.  Year 2, our firstborn was a year old and I was 8 months pregnant with #2 (I know…they are close…God has impeccable timing!) and we went on a weekend “camping trip”.  At 8 months pregnant.  With no tent.  Or sleeping bag.  Or air mattress.  Also, we went fishing until 2 in the morning when exhaustion, mosquito bites and nausea forced me to walk away from the cat-fish head-lopping-off party that was taking place (Jordan was lopping heads, I was holding the flashlight and dry-heaving to the side) and insist on laying down.  With bugs.  Crawling everywhere….Ah, it was a night to remember!  And having to get up twice to use the bathroom in an infested little outhouse hiding in the woods surrounded by creepy noises and weeds….I ended up sleeping on the front seat of the car for the only couple of hours that I actually slept, and I don’t have any idea how I managed it, as big as I was.

Year 3….. this is bad, but I don’t remember.  We obviously didn’t do much.  I may have made cheesecake with a heart shaped swirl of raspberry in the center???  And also, I was pregnant and experiencing morning sickness.

So this year?  We are leaving our two oldest with the Grandparents and going to stay in a cabin that my family used to visit in Amish Country, Ohio for three days.  We will sleep in beds!  But have no electricity.  We will enjoy the outdoors!  And also have a haven of refuge from the bugs.  We will NOT catfish.  Sorry… But there will be free amazing donuts every morning, and just US (plus Baby Michael) and nothing to do, and no cell phone going off, and TIME, and we are both very excited to do this!  We are looking forward to this little trip, but more than that, we are looking forward to what the future holds for our marriage.  God has blessed us so much with things and each other, but I think most of all with the lessons He teaches us through our relationship, and I know there are many more.  We are just beginning to understand what true love is all about, and we are a little afraid but very determined to chase it down and live it out in our marriage.

Honestly, marriage entails so much more than I could have dreamed.  Maybe this isn’t true for everyone (although I suspect it is), but a good relationship is HARD WORK.  I don’t say this because we are ‘struggling’.  I say this because, even on the good days, the amazing, wow, we have this thing down days, it is still hard work.  Just this morning a beautiful little time of fellowship and exercise together ended in ugliness and hurt feelings and miscommunication and I stormed away to cry in my bedroom.  Sin creeps in so quickly and so often, it can be easy to just accept it as normal and move on.  This morning I wanted to harbor my hurt feelings and keep my pride in tact, but the right thing to do (and the hard thing) was to work it out.  I have a husband who hates discord and came to me before I humbled myself enough to go to him, but the long and the short of it is, it took effort from the both of us to lay aside the pride, make the apologies, re-communicate and really listen.  That little 30 minute episode is just one of hundreds of lessons learned and re-learned in our four years of marriage so far.  I feel like we are just beginning.

So anyway…this year, year 4, we have 3 kids, 5 jobs, owned 2 houses, 5 vehicles, and  I will not mention how many burnt meals.  I don’t remember.

Happy 4 years and going on forever, to us!

Teamwork

Recently (as in, the last three months) a young college friend of Jordan’s posted on Facebook something like this:

“Working 60+ hours a week over summer break.  #exhausted #nolife”  This guy lives with his parents to save money.  I laughed when I read his words.  60+ hours a week?  Dude, trying having a wife and kids and two companies and a rental and working 70+ hours a week while also trying to spend quality time with the family and fix the leak in your roof.  It’s called “The Real World”.  Of course, I didn’t say that to the guy.  He’ll figure it out soon enough.  For now, he can think his life is super difficult and challenging.

IN reality, life is HARD.  My husband works A LOT to provide for us, and i try not to be slack on my part at the other end of it all, caring for my three under three, cooking cheaply from scratch, gardening and canning, cloth diapering.  We both strive super hard for frugality, not because we can’t afford to live off of what we make (we can, just barely) but because we have a vision for where we want our family to go and do and be, and also because we know our family will continue to grow (Lord willing) and we WILL eventually need more income.  Hence, the constant struggle to earn more, pay off our house, work himself into a different job that has the ability to make more money (he is as high as he can go in his current work and that is making barely enough) and a job that he can leave to his kids someday.

This is not only physically demanding, this lifestyle is also emotionally draining.  I have learned a lot about the different ways Jordan and I think through these 75 hour work weeks.  For instance, when he is away from home working almost constantly, he feels strong, confident, loving towards his family, and even feels like he is close to his family because all of his effort is for our benefit.  I, on the other hand, feel lonely, neglected, uncertain, weak and become resentful of everything that takes him away from us.  Lame, I know, but true.  IN my head, all these little thoughts go on, “I am alone in this, he’s always so busy and he doesn’t seem to care, he always comes home happy as if nothing is wrong, the only time I ever see him is if he wants to eat or sleep, I could just as well be his housekeeper instead of his wife, we hardly ever talk anymore, he falls asleep in the middle of every conversation, it’s like we’re living two separate lives, him doing his thing, me doing mine, I wonder if we love each other as much as we used to?  He didn’t even notice that I did my hair extra nice tonight, we definitely must not love each other as much as we used to.”  So, while he sees us as a team, both working super hard on opposite ends of the same problem and having full faith and trust in each other as partners, I see us as off in our own worlds doing our own thing and at the end of the day making this convenient exchange of his money and my cooking before falling asleep on opposite ends of our bed.

This thought process of mine has caused many tears.  And a lot of stress to my husband.  I live in the fear that he works so much because he doesn’t want to be home.  He works so much because often he has no choice and he also wants to make our home better.  For us.

This week is the second week in a row in which he is working about 80 hours. Last week was miserable.  I knew he was on a contract he could not back out of, but I still punished him with my tears and my drama, all driven by the thought that he just must not care.  It was unbelievably hard for him.  And it wasn’t fair.  Because there are times when he is home and I have no choice but to spend most of our potential time together washing enough dishes and cooking enough food that we have lunch to eat.

Finally, at the end of last week, I was able to wake up and realize, we really ARE a team.  We have to be.  I need to accept the hard weeks and get on board with it and be a team mate not a contestant.  I need to trust that all of the extra work hours come from a heart of love and not from a desire to escape.  I need to recognize how valuable it is for him to have a wife at home, keeping the bases covered, food in the fridge, keys and wallet found, laundry clean and kids happy and cared for.  I can let this bother me and make me feel like a utensil.  Or I can be glad that I am the partner he chose, and do my part.

Physically, this week has been harder than last, as we are all sick on top of being busy.  But emotionally, it has been so much easier, just because I have been striving to change the negative thought pattern and focus on the amazing team that we make.

Heart Full

After a long who-knows-how-many weeks of busyness, me and the kids are staying with my parents for a week of ‘vacation’ while Jordan heads to Nationals to coach.  Of course, the 4 hour road trip turned into a 9 hour one, due to a broken vehicle and all the ensuing disaster that brings.  Sometimes, life feels like childbirth.  Frequent, long spells of challenging times followed by little breathers, a roller coaster that requires courage, focus, faith and learning how to just breathe. Don’t get me wrong. I have a wonderful life.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It is fully everything I could have wished for.  Is it crazy to say that I am so immersed in this thing called life, so caught up in the intensity that I feel a little lost sometimes, like I don’t even know who I am anymore.  Like when I was in labor with Michael, I keep thinking, “If I could just get a break, I could get on top of this.”  But every time I get a break, all I want to do is sleep!

The truth is, this life is hard.  It is rewarding, but it is hard.  Relationships are hard.  Parenting is hard. Being an adult and making your own day to day decisions is hard.  Being responsible is hard. Housework…that’s not so bad. Seriously. Like the next workbook in grade school math, each new phase seems overwhelming and impossible, but I can feel the growth, I can feel the struggle, the change, like a butterfly busting out of the cocoon and stretching it’s shriveled wings.  I know I and my precious family are learning and growing and adapting to each new challenge.  It’s amazing but, well, hard.  New layers of selfishness and pride are peeled back with each step and new skills built and in the midst of it all I forget who in the world I was.  I wonder if it’s even important to remember that.  I wonder….who am I now and who am I becoming?  Where is this ride taking me?!!

My heart is full.  My life is full. I have a husband whose love and understanding and constant effort to make me and the kids happy wins my heart over and over again, who makes me feel like his best friend, who draws out the good in me and ignores all the ugliness.  I have a two year old who wants to tell me everything that peaks his interest in life and wants to help me every moment of the day.  I have a one year old who would rather by my side, even when there are more exciting things going on elsewhere.  I have a sweet squishy baby.  I have a mom and dad who love the Lord and love me to the moon and back, showing it by their acts of kindness, their encouraging words, their availability to help me in every struggle. I have several sisters who are my best friends.  I have a beautiful little house and the skills to maintain it, and actually enjoy maintaining it.  I have hobbies and responsibilities.  (I have a new fence!  Ahem.  Anyway…) I have a Heavenly Father who hasn’t given up on me yet, in spite of my wanderings and self importance.  I want to embrace all this amazingness with every fiber of my being, but to do so means to lose who I was, who I am. It is a little frightening.  I don’t want to be the person I was or the person I am, but to let go of that and jump into the unknown…?!

I miss the carefree girl that Jordan married.  I want to take life seriously, but I don’t want to turn in to a solemn old woman, or a harried mom who can’t seem to find her way back to a good mood. I want to laugh and be funny.  I also want to be serious about raising my kids for Christ.  I want to dress up, and look cute, and keep a good body just like the single girls my age (and like the girl who got married 3 1/2 years ago).  I also want to have babies, and nurse them, and deal with the spit up and food spills and hair pulling and belly stretching.  I want to be the fun wife, but at 10:00 at night, when everyone is in the middle of a fun game except me, who has been watching four sugar-infused, sleep-deprived children fuss and fight for two hours, I also just want to go home and go to bed.

And in the midst of all that, I want to do something meaningful for the Kingdom of God. Maybe in 20 years I’ll have it all figured out.  For now, I just have to keep going, pressing on with the laundry, the discipline, the missing my husband, the loving my kids, the frustration of another toddler spat and the glorious feeling of loving and being loved by my people and my God.

June 25, Thoughts

Yesterday was one of those days where i feel like Super Woman.  Jordan was gone all day, working his various jobs, and I somehow (still not sure how) managed to make and can two batches of black raspberry jam, bake bread, make lunch, start laundry, wash dishes twice, mow the lawn which has not been mowed in forever (seriously.  Think almost knee-high grass after weeks of alternating rain and sunshine.  It took over two hours), take care of three little boys, take a nap and go to church.  Crazy, huh?!

Days like that are rare.  More commonly, I spend an hour and a half trying to get my Lil J to eat his own breakfast without whining and another hour giving two of my boys a bath, disciplining throughout for things like hitting, whining, toy snatching disobedience, etc…like I did this morning.  It can be hard to maintain perspective in the midst of these battles and repetition, let alone a decent attitude!  Some days, I fail miserably.  Lots of days, I reward myself for my lack of ‘free’ time by making and eating cookies or sneaking ice cream (…yeah…it’s sad. And I am still ten pounds heavier than pre-Michael, despite eating a huge salad every day as my lunch and drinking plenty of water.  Sigh.)

Jordan has been working a lot.  As in, almost all day, almost every day.  And while I stay up late to visit with him, which has helped to keep us connected, I find myself feeling very alone in parenting.  It can be wearying to always be the One.  Who deals with everything.  Who loads everyone and everything in the van for every grocery run all by myself.  Who feeds three fussy boys for every meal all by myself.  Who wrangles them into and out of their clothes and deals with all the ensuing drama involved in the mornings and at bedtime. Who deals with every fit, every fight, every melt down and every boo-boo. Who has to cook during nap time or manage to keep three little boys entertained in the kitchen alongside me for every single meal.  All by myself.  It is a lonely place to be.  And while we are working to change that, I still struggle a lot with maintaining a good attitude through it all.  I’m not really sure what to do about it, actually.  I feel truly sorry for single moms, because at the end of the day, I know I at least have someone who loves me and supports me and will help me as much as is humanly possible, and single Mamas don’t get that.  I cherish the time we have as a whole family, Dad, Mom and kids, and try to fill in the gaps when it’s just me and I don’t feel like enough.  I try to focus on all the good things God has given me, and not on how “hard” I feel my job is.

It’s a struggle, but really, all of life is.  This is just where I am on the path so far.

3 under 3…The TRUTH

So…three kids under three.  What is that like, you may ask?  I’ll tell you the truth.  Some days – some moments – it is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Most days and most moments, it ain’t so bad!  The key, as I am learning, is organization.  Thinking ahead.  Planning, and replanning and replanning and replanning….and when all the plans fall through, having the grace (and the sense of humor!) to throw your hands in the air and laugh.

It’s like the busy little ants.  Do you ever see an ant just sitting still, chilling?  Nope.  At least, rarely.  I speak as someone with a good deal of experience with ants as both homes I’ve lived in as a wife were infested with the little creatures.  After I accepted the fact that I can’t get rid of them, I found they are really fun to watch, and I noticed – as per the Bible verse – that they are busy.  Never still.  Always moving.  Not rushing, just moving.  Walking along at their own pace with their ridiculously tiny legs, and before you know it…they are on the other side of the house, right where they wanted to be!

Mothering three little ones is like that.  You have a plan for every minute of the day.  And then, you just start working.  One thing at a time.  Naturally, interruptions occur, and when they do, you roll with it.  Sometimes you spend all day rolling with the interruptions, and it feels like you will never accomplish anything other than breaking up toddler fights and nursing an infant, but if you keep pressing on with the house work and cooking, between interruptions, you will eventually accomplish something, and some days, that something is quite a lot!  You just keep moving, and it all comes together eventually.  As frustrating as it can be to only get five dishes washed at a time, it is better than no dishes being washed, right?

And, at the end of the day, when it is time to rest, you let go of all the undones, and resolve to worry about them on the morrow.