Posted in musings

so the year ends

one calendar year ends and another begins.

it’s a rather arbitrary way to mark beginnings and endings in life, but it works as well as any – only I don’t feel like I’m ending anything significant, or beginning anything new. I’m exactly where I was last year, when 2014 ended and 2015 began: working at the same job, raising the same two children, married to the same husband who’s still going to the same school, living in the same house, involved in the same HOA, pursuing the same God, and wrestling with the same questions.

what thoughts do I have to take away from the year?

  • that accumulating more and more information doesn’t necessarily move me any closer to actually making a decision
  • that some of my worst parenting moments are when my routine is thrown off and I don’t have a backup plan, and my indecisiveness and uncertainty make everyone feel uneasy
  • that good communication is very important to me but I’m not very good at it
  • that relational discipline (as opposed to behavior modification) takes a lot of energy and effort but it really is worth it
  • that the joy two siblings can find in each other more than makes up for the squabbles and conflicts they also have
  • that if I could get my head out of the clouds and away from abstract ideas long enough to notice the world around me, I could be a lot more loving in my actions because I would observe the needs of others
  • that there must be something of value and purpose I can do with my dreaming and philosophizing but I don’t know what it is yet
  • that I desperately long to be holy but it’s going to be a long, painful road for me to get there (most likely involving death, since I doubt I’ll reach holiness this side of heaven!)
  • that prayer is more powerful than I had ever imagined

Any random thoughts you have as you look back at the year?

May your new year be filled with grace and blessing! Happy New Year!

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Posted in musings

Christmas

I haven’t had much to say over the past week because I’ve been so busy being with people that I’ve hardly had time to think! It’s been very nice seeing so much of my family and my husband’s family, but it has been rather hectic.

After dealing with pretty intense PPD two years ago, and struggling with what was for me a lot of anxiety last year (probably partly because of the new baby!), it was incredibly nice to be mentally and emotionally myself this Advent and Christmas. It was nice to have that upswell of excitement when planning gifts for the people I love, rather than only a flood of discouragement and a sense of being overwhelmed. It was nice, too, that we’ve established more of a routine (as is necessary with two toddlers!), and that I was able to work a meaningful Advent celebration into that routine. Advent is my favorite time of year – something about the melancholy hope, the joyful sorrow, that it carries with it resonates with my heart – and being able to live it, sing it, talk about it, and teach it to my boys gave me so much happiness.

And now Christmas is here, and the first few crazy days of the brief festive season have passed, and the quiet enjoyment of each other is continuing, and a bag of presents for the boys (from neighbors, family, and the local thrift store) is waiting for Epiphany so we can share in their giving of gifts to the Christ child. Christmas is hard to live, because unfettered joy does not come naturally to me; I’m much more of an Advent person, painting even the fiercest of my joys with the shadows of sorrow and the remembrance of brokenness. How am I supposed to fully embrace happiness for the full twelve days of Christmas?

The boys help, of course – I am planning fun and different things for most of the days (small things, so they don’t get burnt out) to help continue the holiday spirit. We’re keeping the decorations up, and reading through the Christmas story each day, gradually moving the Wise Men closer to the Baby Jesus waiting in the stable. If I can maintain an atmosphere of peace and joy in the house, a feeling of delight at the birth of the Baby Jesus, I think that will help, even if the festivities themselves are smaller. It is like the birth of any new baby, I suppose – the feelings of happiness and wonder and joy persist even though the reality of sleepless nights and dirty diapers quickly manifests itself.

So Merry Christmas to all! May your Christmas season be filled with wonder at His coming, joy at His presence, and peace in His love, through all the difficulties and pressure the holidays seem to bring.

 

Posted in musings, poems

Peace coming

When will there be peace? When we look at one another and say,

“You are different from me, and I respect those differences. There is beauty in them.

“You are the same as me, and I rejoice in our sameness. There is beauty in it.

“Let us embrace each other, brother, because there is more that binds us together than divides us. You are human and I am human: you are my brother and my sister, my mother and my father, my daughter and my son.

“Let us sing in unison; let us sing in harmony; let even our dissonances be part of a greater beauty in our human song.

“Let there be peace, and let there be more than peace, between us, for this baby is come on Christmas Day for you and for me, in all of our individuality, to weave all the disparate threads of our stories into the great story of humanity, to lead us in the way of peace.”

Posted in musings

advent – the candle of peace

Peace is at once the simplest and the most profound of the four Advent candles, and it is for me, at least this year, the hardest to understand.

When I think of hope, I remind myself that the brokenness of this life isn’t the final picture – that there is a coming restoration and redemption of all things.

When I think of light, I picture truth and wisdom coming into the ignorance, confusion, and error of our culture.

When I think of joy, I remember that the goodness and grace of God in this world means that there is always something to rejoice about, and it lifts me out of my worry or sorrow.

But peace is so multifaceted, so intricate, so all-encompassing, that I struggle to grasp it. I know it is more than just the cessation of war promised in Isaiah, though that in itself is almost beyond imagining:

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

I also know that it is more than just the personal peace promised in Philippians, though freedom from worry and fear is almost unthinkable in this life as well:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

My general feeling is that “peace” approximates the overall abundance, beauty, and well-being that will be when Christ returns at the second coming, and because of that it’s not something I’m ever going to be able to imagine completely. All I can do is remember that it is coming – that all things will be made whole and healed, from the despair of a broken heart, to the snapped cords of friendship and lost love, to the diplomatic relations between nations and ethnicities.

Posted in family life

messy play

Sometimes I hate messy play because I’m the one who has to clean it up afterwards. Usually, though, I think it is the best – it engages the boys’ tactile systems in unusual ways, gives them a new or uncommon activity to delve into, and provides them an opportunity to create and imagine with different raw material then they’re used to.

Baking is one of my favorite messy plays because it’s highly edible and somewhat productive as well as being a lot to clean up, but outdoors messy play is also nice – not so tasty, but less work for me at the end.

One of our favorites around here is cloud dough (8 parts flour to 1 part coconut oil), which feels like soft, crumbly, slightly moist, moldable sand. I keep it in a box with a few different types of toys: spoons and cups for scooping and dumping, cookie cutters for molding, and a bulldozer for building. Then I set the box on the back patio (I’ve found there are too many distractions out front) and let the boys explore freely.

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They typically play together well – Rondel is fairly good-natured about letting Limerick investigate everything he’s doing, and Limerick isn’t particularly aggressive about it. I think it helps with the cloud dough and similar activities that they don’t have a routine in which some toys are the sole possession of one boy or the other. It is always a joint affair.

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And, ultimately, while Rondel is busy using the spoon or the bulldozer shovel to scoop cloud dough into the small buckets and cups, Limerick ends up just eating handfuls of it. (That, incidentally, is why I use an edible oil like coconut oil instead of mineral oil or baby oil like many cloud dough recipes call for. It’s also why I don’t use tempura paint to color it like I might when they are older…)

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showing me the cloud dough in his hands

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By the end, the cloud dough was everywhere – in their clothes, in their hair, all over the patio – but they were incredibly happy and so was I. The spilled cloud dough had become an opportunity for the bulldozer to build roads, and I was commissioned to bring out one of the HotWheels cars to drive on said roads. The boy who had been wiping off his fingers every few minutes at the beginning of the activity had cloud dough completely covering his legs and arms and was utterly disregarding it 🙂 So, all in all, a great success!

Posted in musings, quotes

today and only today

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Depression feeds into regret – it reminds me of everything I’ve done that I could have done better, makes me feel guilty for every misspoken word or careless act, piles the past onto my head in a tornado of accusations and reminders of failure. And yet, despite all of that focus on the past, it never helps me change anything for the better in the present. All it does is feed me lies and hold me captive in the dungeon of my own mind.

Anxiety feeds into worry – it whispers in my ear all the potential things that could go wrong, catapults my mind to the worst possible conclusion when faced with hints and partial knowledge, makes me cower in fear of the unknown future, promises that I will fail again and something I cherish will be lost forever. And yet, despite all of that focus on the present, it never gives me a practical solution that I can start living out in the present. All it does is feed me lies and hold me captive in the dungeon of my own mind.

A quote like this one won’t free someone from anxiety and depression, but it can be a reminder to me now, when I’m not struggling with those illnesses like I have in the past, that I don’t need to keep listening to the lies they told me then. I can get up each day and do my best. I can pick myself up each hour, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and start again. I can present each minute to God as my gift, regardless of how I failed in the last minute or may fail again in the next minute.

Posted in musings

contentment and change

When I’m washing dishes or making dinner and the boys are playing outside, I can watch them through the kitchen window. Occasionally they’ll glance up and notice me, but usually they don’t realize I’m there. In that moment, watching my boys playing happily together in worlds of their own imagining, my heart is completely full of happiness. If those moments could stretch on for an eternity, I don’t think I would ever grow tired of them, or lose the joy of them (well, probably I would because I’m human and need sleep, but you get the idea).

Being a mother and a wife has challenged me socially, emotionally, and practically in a myriad of ways; there are so many aspects of relationship and home-making that are utterly unnatural for me that I’ve had to work and grow a lot over the last few years (and I’m not at all saying that there isn’t still quite a bit of room for improvement, either). But if I’m honest with myself, I feel like I’ve gotten intellectually lazy over those years. When I was in school, I was constantly stretching my mind to learn, to remember, to think critically, to analyze – and I just don’t have the same opportunities for that anymore. My mind is hungry. Sometimes it feels like it’s starving, ravenous for new information to devour and assimilate; sometimes it feels like a dull knife, aching to be sharpened.

I’m just not sure where to go from here. I’ve considered a few graduate programs, but there aren’t any that I can do part-time while I work, afford, and really want to invest the requisite amount of time and money into. Hopefully a door will open soon…

There’s an interesting tension at play here. On the one hand, I want to be able to find contentment and joy where I am, and to a large extent I think I have succeeded. On the other hand, I want to use the skills and talents God has given me, instead of letting them idle, and I don’t think I’m doing that right now, which means “where I am” needs to change. I hope I can seek that change wisely, without letting myself become discontent or resentful about the circumstances I’m living in right now.