deciding on joy

“We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn’t easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of a friend, great sorrow and great joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience.

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

–Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now

(this inspiring quote was copied directly from Emily at chatting at the sky)

I admit that I often choose sorrow and negativity over joy these days. The knowledge that I am God’s doesn’t often spring to mind first, though it does come eventually. So instead of choosing joy in the face of discouragement, I choose self-pity. I believe the worst. I eat my feelings, or at least, I justify what I want to eat by how I’m feeling. I see what’s lacking instead of what is abounding. I sometimes choose to feel alone instead of opening up. And it’s no way to live.

I need to go back to where I’ve been and rediscover the knowledge of being loved and accepted by God, and let that influence how I feel and what I do. I have let myself believe the lie that I’ve become a cast-off, an ill-fitting piece – much like the clothes in our garage that have sat in boxes for the past two years: in a dormant, in-between stage that currently has no end in sight. They are still “ours” but are unable to currently be used. How long will I lie in wait, rather than realizing I still belong to God, no matter how imperfect I am for the moment?

Make me joyful, oh God. I long for moments of joy, affection, generosity and playfulness. Let me choose that even when it’s most difficult. Let me not believe the lies: that I don’t belong, that my cards have all been played, that I’ve made the wrong decisions. Let me delight in the little things even in the midst of frustration and sadness.

plenty of hats, not enough heads

I think that before I became a mom, I had no idea that I would be trying to juggle so many things at one time. Having a child, especially one that is still so small and immature, is a huge time suck. I love her to pieces and I like to think I would do anything for her. Yet it is a daily challenge trying to manage her and still do other things that I would like to do (and I only have ONE kid!!).

I know that in some ways I am really blessed right now, being a stay-at-home mom, because managing our household would be much different and more difficult, were I also working a full-time job (as I will do when we return to the US). However, I am sometimes really frustrated at how little I accomplish at home, even when I try.

For instance, I have a list of chores to do every week. Every day I do just a little bit, so it’s really only about 30 minutes or less that I am doing chores (Besides the daily ones like washing dishes and keeping the house picked up). But there are some days that it takes me all morning or all afternoon to get it done, because of the demand on my time and attention by Eleanor. I’m really trying not to complain because I really do want to be there for her when she needs me, and let’s face it, I’m her only playmate at home during the day. So I stop what I’m doing sometimes so that we can read together or have a tickle fight or dance to music. So it goes. And then after a while, I try to get back to my chores.

Of course, I am not only Eleanor’s mom. I also am a teacher, and I play piano and sing for church, and I make time for exercise, and I try to do a language exchange with a friend once a week (because my Korean is shamefully bad). And I am a wife, who needs to be spending time with her husband. And I like to have some downtime where I don’t have to DO anything (which has been happening during naptime lately). Now that I’m writing this down I can see how my time is getting eaten up! It’s a challenge to keep up all the time with EVERYTHING. It sometimes feels that if I want to stay on top of one thing, something else may need to fall to the wayside and not require as much of my attention. That’s hard, really really hard. Sometimes I get angry or overwhelmed and let that take my attention away from everything else I need to be doing.

I have discovered one thing in all of this, though (which I already knew, actually): I have to learn to be less selfish. My family needs me all the time, and I need to learn to be okay with it. It’s a huge adjustment – even more than a year after having a kid I still bristle at the notion and sometimes feel that it isn’t fair. And really, it isn’t. I am in a constant battle to be humble enough to serve and love without complaint. Can someone give me a guidebook or something so that I can learn to get over myself and just do what needs done?

Roots

It’s been too long since I’ve written here consistently, and I miss it. So I’ve decided to start participating in a link-up called Five Minute Fridays, where every week, women all over the place write for five minutes about one topic in particular. I know that the days and months of my mothering life are starting to whiz by, and I’m hopeful that this will be a good way to keep me writing and holding onto my memories, so that someday I can share them with my babies.

If you’d like to participate too, click below…

Five Minute Friday

 

Today’s topic:

ROOTS

Image

GO

She may be only eight months old, but I see every day how deeply her roots are sunk into me. Sometimes it’s setting her down on the floor and walking into the other room and watching her expression become entirely altered and frantic, even if her dad is there; other times it’s when she meets someone new and lays her head on my shoulder, smiling and yet clinging to me. There’s really nothing like it that I’ve felt before: being what grounds her and makes her feel secure.

Yesterday I pulled out the vacuum just like every other week, placed her in her walker, and started it up. Unlike what she usually does, though – smiling and screeching – she got upset, scrunching her nose up and turning the corners of her mouth down as she does when she’s scared. At first I was a little bugged and wondered why this time was different than the others. But her crying didn’t stop, so I came up with a new solution. I grabbed the baby carrier, put it on, stuck her in, and picked up the vacuum handle again. She snuggled close as the noise started up, laying her head on me and quieting down.

I went about my business, remembering how I did this same thing when she was a just a few weeks old, which wasn’t so long ago. (Of course now she’s much heavier.) I think, these moments won’t last too much longer. I’ll choose to relish the moment to be close – be her roots – and not let frustration take first prize.

STOP

A new season

The clouds are moving fast today… it’s been raining a lot, and the fog was hanging out in the crevices of the hills when I looked out earlier this afternoon. (If you’re curious, it’s the exact same view as the picture on our blog header.)

Seasons and weather sometimes seem to be a perfect analogy for my moods and thoughts, and this winter and spring definitely worked out that way. The winter always feels long for me since I moved to Idaho – there were years in Moscow when there was about one week of warm-ish weather before the spring semester ended. I don’t think the weather here in Korea will be quite that bad, but it definitely has been a long winter for me! The combination of being a stay-at-home wife in a small town in a foreign country with no family or close friends and being pregnant and three weeks overdue, during the winter, was killer… not an experience I’d want to repeat. Time just seemed to craaaawwwl along. And I thought THAT was hard… then I became a mom!

Being a mom is lots of sacrifice, not much sleep, and insane amounts of nursing in the first few weeks. I love my beautiful daughter but I must admit that in some ways I am counting down to the 6-8 week mark, when she will (hopefully) start being less fussy, more interactive, and having longer sleep periods. She is almost five weeks now so that goal is not far off. And hmm, maybe I will get showers more frequently, and be able to do things around the house… Regardless, though, I do love getting to cuddle her, interact with her and figure out ways to get her to give me a big gummy smile. I know that this period is fleeting, though it feels long now.

Anyway, I’m connecting in my mind the fact that warmer weather is coming, and we’ll probably be more settled into a routine and able to enjoy it and each other. Sort of like when a bear emerges from hibernation when the winter is over, we will emerge from our cave when the season allows. I’ve seen some 60-degree days in the forecast soon and I can’t wait for them to arrive, and can’t wait to share them with Eleanor.

a choice to love

A quote by writer Ann Voskamp is ringing true for me today:

“Love is not passion. It is the pulse of sacrifice.” 

In this moment of my life, there may as well be a banner hanging somewhere nearby with this quote and the phrase, “Welcome to Motherhood!” just below it.

I’m facing the fact that I’ve had a pretty easy pregnancy, which is coming to a quick ending and being replaced by the final weeks of waiting on baby (as it does for all mothers), and now my sacrifice begins. For anyone who (like me) hasn’t ever put much thought into what your mom sacrificed just to birth you, not to mention raising you for all those years, here are my experiences – and I’m positive there are worse experiences than mine out there. I would say that these things in themselves are not that bad, but right now, I have been experiencing them for 10 months, and some of them are increasing in intensity:

– having to sleep on your side, and not your back (and currently on a rather hard mattress)
– trying to turn from one side to the other in the midst of pain
– waking up from nights of inadequate sleep due to aches and pains
– persistent bathroom stops, all day long and at night
– one word: sciatica
– avoidance of foods you love and crave

And I am just now realizing, at the end of pregnancy, that my sacrifice has not truly begun, but I thought it was almost over.

Yesterday my Korean doctor told me that if I want to have a natural childbirth, I will have to exercise 2-3 hours a day for the baby to come in time. I am willing to bet that it is a bit overkill to try to do that much exercise. But at this point, even an hour of exercise is a lot for me to do, partly because I have sciatica which flares up if I push myself too hard physically, to the point where I am unable to walk on my own. The funniest part of this whole thing is that when I mentioned this to the doctor, her response was, “Well, then, how can you expect to exercise that much?” As if I have no choice but to medicate myself in order for labor to happen.

Well, I do have a choice. And I think yesterday was the first really difficult choice I had to make for the love of my baby and what I (and Willy) believe is best…

I waddled my pregnant self to a gym on a 10-15 degree snowy night in late January, and I walked. I used the treadmill there for about 35 minutes, then we walked home.

Got sciatic pain. Got heartburn. Took Tums. Went to bed. More heartburn. More tums. Sobbed for a bit. Had my husband warm up my heating pad that I’d bought earlier in the day so that I could lay it on my back/butt/leg when (not if) I got sciatic pain. Slept (not especially well).

I already knew just from being married that love is sacrifice, but I know it’s going to be taught to me in a whole different dimension now. There will most likely be very little affirmation or recognition for this sacrifice, at least from the person whom I will be loving on. It will be hard, and that love will require me to suffer.

But I have Someone who has already done this and who I can model myself after. Actually, in the middle of my crying last night, the thing that calmed me down was remembering Him.

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, 
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. 
Like one from whom people hide their faces 
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 4 Surely he took up our pain 
   and bore our suffering, 
yet we considered him punished by God, 
   stricken by him, and afflicted. 
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, 
   he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, 
   and by his wounds we are healed. 

–Isaiah 53

His sacrifice was the greatest… therefore, I can make it through, even though I’m fleshly, selfish, greedy and like to throw  pity parties.

I’ll choose to thank Him for the opportunity to be more like Him and less like me.

And I’ll choose to love.

some quick thoughts on Pinterest

Pinterest is all the rage among the demographics that I fall squarely into, there is no doubt. Female twenty-somethings love it, obsess over it and apparently can spend hours pinning to their hearts’ content.

I am on the fence.

I understand the attraction, and at the same time, I am not really interested in spending a bunch of time on Pinterest. I guess I just want to say this:

Pinterest is really only worth the time you spend on it if it is purposeful and helpful. Like many other social networking tools and sites, it can offer great benefits, but it can also just waste a bunch of your time, make you unproductive, or make you really narcissistic.

For example:

I have people that I follow, as well as friends, who constantly post pictures of very fit women who are working out or doing some crazy yoga pose or athletic feat. Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to share stuff like this, but what is the purpose? I think people like to motivate themselves to be in or get into shape. But to me, it’s not wise. It’s a pretty slippery slope to be constantly viewing images like this and potentially obsessing over them. One minute you’re happy with how you look, then you look at your Pinterest account, and you’re reminded of everything that you’re unhappy about with your body. And even with plenty of exercise and self-discipline, you may never look like that model.

We can’t just let ourselves ride a roller coaster of self-deprication and punishment because of what we’re told to look like, especially when it’s a silly picture that’s encouraging us to talk down to ourselves. At least, I know that it is unhealthy for me to view images like that all the time, especially when I am pregnant and feel kinda yucky and pudgy, and it would be really unhealthy for me to compare myself to a woman doing a headstand who has abs of steel. We don’t all have to be fitness models, and we’re not going to. It’s very difficult to find the discipline to view images like this with a healthy perspective, no matter what you look like and what shape you’re in at the time.

So, I have a new philosphy on Pinterest when it comes to matters like this: when you notice items being posted that bring you down, or seem really pointless or unhealthy or unpurposeful, just stop following the board that they are being posted to. There are people I follow who post both things I love and things I don’t, and the easiest thing to do to determine what you look at it is to go to someone’s boards, glance through them and “unfollow” whatever you don’t prefer.

I guess maybe this is a silly thing to write about, but I just feel that it’s a good general thought that we are very capable of choosing what we want to consume, whether it’s TV, facebook, or just playing around with apps on a smartphone way too often. When we’re adults, we’re not often held accountable by others; it’s our responsibility to choose our exposure levels wisely. I think it’s necessary, even with Pinterest use, to make wise choices and treat ourselves respectably. It’s easy to live in condemnation and feel that you don’t measure up to other people’s standards – in physical fitness, craftyness, style, cooking or creativity. But don’t do it. Just accept who you are, and with God’s help, improve in the things you’re able to. We could all stand to love ourselves a little bit more.

clouds in the northwest

So, confession time: I am starting to get scared. Of everything.

I don’t like being afraid. I don’t think anyone really does. But there’s a lot ahead in my family’s life that is uncertain, and while I’m not in the thick of it yet, I see it coming. Actually, it sort of reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie series, which I’ve been reading lately.

In The Long Winter, Laura is about 12 or 13, and she and her family are living in South Dakota. They end up enduring an unbelievably difficult winter season in which they have to burn hay to stay warm, eat only bread made from wheat that they’ve ground all day with their coffee grinder, and get hit by blizzard after blizzard… for seven months.

Most of the time they have a blizzard for three or four days in a row, and then maybe one day of sunshine. But eventually they always see that next blizzard cloud coming out of the northwest. With no trains coming in with supplies and no way out (and not enough money, even if they could leave), all they could do when they saw the storm cloud coming was prepare for it as well as they could and brace themselves– committing not to give up, even when life just felt like a giant loop of struggle, cold and backbreaking work in order to stay alive.

Now, my life is definitely not so dire as that. However, I know that my resolve and determination is no match for those pioneers. I don’t like seeing storm clouds come, but instead of springing to action when they happen, I just want to get in bed, get under the covers and cry. I’m not very good at enduring difficulties, being patient or feeling out of control of my circumstances. These last couple months have been hard in some ways, and I can see another blizzard cloud on the horizon: Korea. It’s getting closer, too.

There are things I’m totally excited about, and things that I am dreading. I am excited to meet new people, experience a different culture and climate, eat delicious food (I do like Korean food, at this point), and generally have the freedom again to set our own routine. I would say in general I’m not very nervous about actually adjusting to life, there.

I am dreading the unknown parts, and a lot of that has to do with having a baby. The other day I started thinking about what might happen if Willy couldn’t get away from work when the baby comes and if I’d have to do it on my own. And I worry, like anybody who’s never had a kid, if I’m going to do a good job at all. I’m not a “kid person”; I fawn over cute dogs more than cute children. And it’s much easier for me to take a disciplinarian approach with kids than to figure out how to play with them. How do I bridge the gap between what I want to do with my child ideologically and what comes naturally to me?

I think a lot of my feelings come down to being afraid of the unknown, especially when the unknown will have a drastic effect on my life every day, forever.

It’s interesting— in the books, Laura is tempted to be scared sometimes; her method of dealing with it is to think of her dad, who is strong and steady, and remember him telling her that she must never be afraid. She is even able to emulate that stalwart defense against fear for her little sisters, which comforts them and encourages them, as well as herself.

I have that same heritage, but for some reason it’s easy for me to get scared. But the Word of God actually has a lot to say about fear, and even what it’s rooted in.

Here’s one of my favorites:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:17-18)

I absolutely don’t have to be afraid when I remember who I am:

“Love hath conformed us to him; as he was the great lover of God and man, he has taught us in our measure to be so too, and he will not deny his own image. Love teaches us to conform in sufferings too; we suffer for him and with him, and therefore cannot but hope and trust that we shall also be glorified together with him.” —Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible

So how can knowing who I am change how I react to the storm clouds?

I remember that I’m a vapor here, just like the water vapor in those clouds. I also remember that God loves me and allows me to suffer, that I may be glorified with Him.

That’s the simple answer, and it’s all I can come up with tonight.