Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day Twenty-Nine: Joy Stabilizes

Okay. Confession time: I may be out of things to write about.

No, clarification, I have one more bang up blog post in my bag that I'm saving for tomorrow and then a sum up post for the 31st, but today? nada. zip. nothing.

And honestly, I'd really just rather go hang out with the Man tonight.

But I just want to say this (you knew it was too good to be true: Marian without anything to say, haha, funny joke):

I had a friend over this afternoon who came accompanied by her three beautiful children. And it was crazy and loud and chaotic and there were half a dozen paper airplanes flying down the stairwell at one time and peanut butter cookie crumbs all over the table--and I loved it.

But you know what I loved the most? When my Little social bug snuggled up to me after they left and told me how much fun he'd had with them.

That made my heart happy.

The happiness reminded me that settling in is about baby steps, little moments that define a new life. Today was one more root into the ground. The root was not necessarily about having people over but about the joy of connection that Littles expressed.

Joy stabilizes. And that is pure grace.

More long winded stuff here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day Twenty-Eight: Bee Stings, Hummingbirds, and Foot-in-Mouth Disease

There was one thing I didn't tell you about the day I got attacked by the army of bees: that playground was where I saw my first California hummingbird, the week we moved in.

You should know that I absolutely love hummingbirds. Next to kingfishers, they could be my favourite birds in the whole world. They remind me that there is breath-taking beauty in the small things. They remind me to keep my eyes open.

I've looked for hummingbirds at that playground every single time we've gone back since that first sighting. But now, I admit, I don't really want to go back.

There's just something about being stung repeatedly by adorably fuzzy yet vicious bees.

But today I was thinking about stopping by, mostly because it's the closest one to the house but also partially because I have a serious hummingbird addiction. I had pretty much decided against going (because BEES and STINGING) when I realized that the question was not whether or not I was going to get stung again but whether or not it would be worth it to get stung again should I manage to see another hummingbird.

I decided that the risk was worth it, so we went.

And I got stung another dozen times.


That didn't happen. There was not a bee in sight.

But my bravery was rewarded by three hummingbird sightings!

Also kidding.

That didn't happen either.

No pictures of bees (except this one)
or hummingbirds
but you can see here that my mouth IS large
enough to fit at least one of my oversized feet.

We went. The kids played. I kept an eye out for the birds and the bees (ahem!) and then, when we were about to leave the playground without anything exciting happening, another mom and kid dropped in and struck up a conversation with me, and I proceeded to royally put my foot in my mouth. Twice.

I walked home kicking myself and blaming the playground for being cursed.

But then I realized just how appropriate that moment was. See, here's the thing about doing something new (moving, starting a new job, starting a new relationship, pretty much any new season in life): with it comes risk.

You can be subjected to pain (bee stings, hello!). You can make a fool of yourself (multiple times, in my case). Or you can experience the joy of discovering incredible beauty (the hummingbird, of course).

The thing is: none of those will happen if you don't get off your rear and go to the playground.

So here's the question I'm asking you: is it worth it? Is the goal of discovery and beauty and life worth the risk of potential pain and humiliation?

I'd say yes. What would you say?

Incidentally, while I didn't see a hummingbird at the playground today, I did see one on my way there. Read into that what you will.

Make sure you've read
the rest of the series.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day Twenty-Seven: Choose Your Own Adventure

There are days when you get to choose your own adventure. Days when exploring a new place or trying a new food is a viable option. Days when who knows what exciting thing could be just around the corner!

Month old beach pictures

And then there are days when every option leads to a shortened nap or a kitchen piled high with dishes or a tantrum to be dealt with. And no matter which chapter you turn to, it's nothing more than a slog.

Caught Bruiser mid deep thought.

You know your life wasn't meant to be the type of book that puts everyone else to sleep (including yourself--if only nap time applied to mommies), but some days it seems like that. Some days after all the excitement has worn down, you're left with the day to day nitty gritty, but this time, without the system of support you left behind. And it's tiring.

They were digging a moat. I think.

Remind yourself, dear heart, that this is not the end. That this is barely a paragraph, maybe even just a couple of sentences, in your rollicking adventure novel. And while things may look bleak for the heroine right now, the Author is developing His characters.

Bee tried to eat both my sandal and the sand that day.

Because really, without character development, the adventure story is all flash and no bang.

The boys' first hike. Also about a month ago.
Bee was strapped to the Man who was playing photographer.

Hang in there. Keep making the brave choices: texting new friends, teaching new subjects, cooking new dishes that inevitably take twice as long as the recipe says.

Now this picture was from today!
The Little Man's First Day of the Second Week of Pre-K Picture!

Then at the end of the day, when your husband says, "Go blog while I clean up the kitchen--and don't you dare touch a single thing more on that table!", leave the plates, go sit down on the couch, and remind yourself of what you know is true.

And one more, just for kicks and giggles:
How's that for an acronym?

The last chapter has not been written. The last adventure has not been had. This is just the part where the audience really learns who you are and what you're made of.

And then go to bed early.

Read the rest of the month here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day Twenty-Six: Defense Mechanisms

One of the things I butt up against every time we move is my own use of defense mechanisms. When I'm facing something challenging and potentially painful, I automatically do what I can to protect myself. Unfortunately, as is often the case, while a defense mechanism may protect me from pain, it also keeps me from experiencing true joy.

Here are some examples:

  • I dread the goodbye, so I pull back from friends before we leave, thinking that will lessen the sting. It doesn't. I just miss out on making good memories before we leave.
  • I don't want to think about moving, so I put off the packing until the last moment. This back fires because then I'm stressed out towards the end trying to get everything taken care of instead of able to enjoy the last few days before we leave.
  • Instead of allowing myself to focus on all the things I'm going to miss, I obsessively research our new home. It's amazing how many book stores and coffee shops I can discover when I'm still hundreds of miles away.
I'm learning, though, that I use defense mechanisms to protect myself in other times of change too. 
  • Last week was Little's first week of pre-K. I didn't take a first day of school picture. Part of it was that I genuinely forgot. But another part of it was that, if I failed at teaching him, I didn't want photographic evidence that I ever tried.
  • I feel overwhelmed or stressed out by all that life's throwing at me and instead of facing those feelings and that reality, I distract myself with mindless internet surfing, whatever novel I picked up last, or a square (or slab) of dark chocolate.
  • I've been frustrated by my lack of exercise these last few weeks due to frequent up and down nights with the twins, and I've found myself making frequent, pointed jokes about it to the Man (who keeps telling me to quit). Instead of cutting myself slack in this season of teething and schedule change, I'm making a pre-emptive strike: running myself down before anyone else can comment on my lack of an exercise routine.
When I started this post, I was going to be short and to the point and say, "Defense mechanisms are dumb! Stop with the defense mechanisms!" But more eloquently, of course. In retrospect, however, I'm not sure I agree with 8 hours ago Marian (yes, this post has been written off and on over the course of the last 8 hours--judge not, lest ye be judged).

Yes, sometimes our use of defense mechanisms robs us from experiencing true life. If we're using them to block the oncoming pain, we're also, inevitably, going to block the joy we could've experienced. 

However, sometimes we can use defense mechanisms as a way to catch our breath when life is getting overwhelming. And that's where we may have a bit more wiggle room. We need that bit of grace in our lives, so long as that's what it really is "a bit of grace" and not a way to numb or avoid.

We'll leave it at that, for tonight. And we can pray together that we may be wise when we see ourselves putting on armor or dropping down into a defensive pose or even just burrowing in to wait out the storm, that we would know when those defense mechanisms need to be employed and when they need to be left by the side of the road. We can pray together that we would be able to know ourselves and understand the why behind our actions. We can pray that instead of choosing safety and painlessness, we would choose true life and abundant joy.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day Twenty-Five: Orang Asing

Before we get started, I just want to show you this picture of our jack-o-lantern because that's how I felt yesterday. I wanted to include that picture with yesterday's post but by the time I got around to blogging, it was pitch black outside. Today, I was smart and got out there before dinner. Even though, it's nine o'clock and I'm just now finishing up my post. Again.

It's actually molding.

Anyway, moving on, haha, you know the hard thing about for real moving? It always reminds me of something that I already know: I don't fit here, and I never have.

Incidentally, this is also the great thing about moving (even if it's sometimes a hard pill to swallow).

But let me back up a bit. I think we need some context for this.

Story One. A few days ago, the kids and I stopped at the neighborhood mailbox to pick up our mail. As I was unlocking our box, one of our neighbors (whom I haven't met) walked by, pushing a stroller. I smiled cheerily and quickly apologized for blocking her way with our behemoth of a stroller and the accompanying crowd of biker boys, and immediately maneuvered the twins out of the way. She gave me a slight grimace that could have been a smile (benefit of the doubt) and walked past us briskly. I briefly considered moving (again) so that I would never have to see her again or possibly inconvenience her in any way.

Tiny's otherness manifests itself
in his awesome bike riding skills.

Story Two. I grew up in Indonesia, where the people are adorably brown and tiny. I love it there. But I am neither brown nor tiny, though sometimes adorable. Where most of the people cleared somewhere around five feet, I hovered just south of six. Where black hair and brown skin was the norm, I was strikingly blonde and white enough to be mistaken for Lot's wife after she was turned into a pillar of salt. There was one specific instance when I came home during college and my mom and I went out to the village to visit some friends of hers who had never met me. The entire visit the conversation revolved around how much I looked like Barbie. It was awkward.

Lest you think I exaggerate.

Now that we have context, let's get back to where we were: the never fitting. I didn't fit in Indonesia. And yet, I also don't fit here. There are still American norms that I'm learning though I've lived here for 10 years now. I ask a lot of questions. That's healthy, right?

Last night, I asked our guests if it was a normal American tradition to give guests a tour of the house. My mom always did it and I never knew if it was just that our guests wanted to see our crazy Indo-American mash up home and she was assuaging their curiosity or if it was a legitimate American thing to do.

But it's a good thing knowing that I don't necessarily fit in one place or another.

Pajamas and hats indoors.
The twins rock their differences.

I realize that sounds odd, but there are a few reasons that I say that.

One, it makes me more sensitive towards and aware of those others who also may not fit. I always try to remind myself when I'm in social situations where I feel uncomfortable that someone else is probably feeling the same way, so I just need to look for them and be a friend to them.

Two, it reminds me that I'm supposed to be different, and I'm not really supposed to fit.

A fellow Indonesia lover explained it to me this way once. The Indonesian phrase for "foreigner" is "orang asing", but the interesting thing about the word "asing" ("orang" means "person") is that its roots tie to the words "separate" or "set apart". Essentially, the foreigner is set apart from the locals by their differences.

My friend then tied the phrase "set apart" to our word "holy", which means to be set apart for God. I thought this was a fascinating idea. The thought that my discomfort can remind me that I've been set apart for God's purposes never ceases to encourage me.

Who wants to be normal?

So I've been trying to remind myself of these things as I've occasionally felt like a square peg in a round hole.

If I'm feeling like a misfit, someone else might be too, and wouldn't it be more fun to be misfits together?

And if I'm feeling like a foreigner, maybe it's because I am. I've been set apart for God and that means allowing my otherness to shine through for his joy.

More about moving!
And other things...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day Twenty-Four: The Straw and the Camel's Back

There will come a day, in the midst of your unsettling and resettling and general change, when there will be a straw that will break the proverbial camel's back.

There will come a day when, once said straw has done its breaking, even doing "school" outside in the misting drizzle (sometimes fondly referred to as "mizzle") will not put a smile on your face.

A day when slight acquaintances will cheerily tell you that you look tired.

A day when everything and everyone irritates you, especially the people you love the most.

Most of the time, the straw will be something relatively small. Just one more change in a whole litany of changes, but you will find that you just. can't. handle. any. more.

In my case, the change was my 9 month old twins deciding that one nap was more their style than two.


Not that big of a deal.

Maybe a change for the better.

But today: the straw that broke the back of my momentous race towards stability and grounded-ness.

I admitted defeat. I felt worn and exhausted and beaten down, and everyone could see it.

Then we had guests for dinner, and they played with our children and told stories that mattered and listened to our hearts and shared laughter and a happy serving of non-Whole30 approved apple crisp--and suddenly, I felt like I could face tomorrow and all my many, many children again.

I don't know what the straw will be that will break your camel's back. And I don't know what your spiritual equivalent of soul-cheering dinner guests is either. But I know this:

Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Keep reading.
All the cool kids are doing it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day Twenty-Three: Sibling Support

I've spent most of today (off and on) texting with my sisters. Technically, WhatsApping with Amanda, but you get the point. They are awesome, and I like them. The truth is that growing up the way we did, we learned early on that the only constants in our lives were each other, and we made our sisterhood count.

I'm the pudgy one up front.

Sure, there were bumps in the road. But, you know, we never fought. We never engaged in petty rivalry. We never stole each other's books and then wrote our names in them and pretended they were ours. We always treated each other with the upmost love and respect.

Oh wait... Never mind.

This picture says a lot about our personalities.

But the thing was, we had each other's back. I knew if I ever needed them, they'd be there for me, and vice versa. They were my best friends, still are, even when only we see each other once a year. Even when there are other friends who maybe understand our current seasons of life better (pastor's wives who relate to Joanna or military spouses who connect with me or professional nomads who understand Amanda). Even when we forget to respond to emails promptly or cop out on sending birthday packages to deepest, darkest Africa.

We're it for each other.

I think this was Joanna's "bachelorette" party.
Her request was a sister's date, plus Mom.

So when I talk to the boys (and Bee) about the importance of sibling friendships, I know what I'm talking about.

When I tell them that our family has to be a team, I understand what that really means.

When I encourage the closeness of their relationships, it's because I know they're going to need that too.

I know that Littles, Tiny, Bruiser, and Bee are going to be it for each other.

Best Maid and Matron of Honour ever. 

And then I know that years from now, they're going to learn the same lesson I had to: that no matter how close you are with your siblings, no matter how wonderful they are, there will come a season when they will be far away and you're going to have to find support elsewhere, which is where Jesus comes in.

Jo flew up to see me the first weekend after Josh deployed.
Amanda picked her up at the airport
and they surprised me.
I cried.
It was the last week Joanna was allowed to fly.

Seasons of change strip everything away, even sometimes the ones who are it for us. That's why those transition periods are so hard. They would be hard anyway, because change is tough (I'm pretty sure we've covered that), but it's made even more challenging by the fact that our support system typically gets destabilized.

So when you find those people who weather the storm of the in between with you, hold on to them. Let them be Christ for you. Let them lead you to Christ in the between, since He's the only one who will truly never leave you or forsake you.

And those people may not always be your sisters. For me it is, plus the Man and a couple other incredible friends, but the important thing is that they are people who become constants in your life.

The day I got home from the hospital with Littles.
That's my pudgy nephew Amanda's holding.
And look how legitimately little Little is!

That way, when you're hours away from them, and your husband deploys for the first time while you're pregnant with your first kid, you have surprise visitors show up in the form of an even-more-pregnant-than-you oldest sister and a must-have-pizza-now middle sister.

That way, when you're going through your second deployment and get put on twin-nant bed rest, you have one sister fly in from Africa to give you an extra pair of hands and another sister to sacrifice time with Mom so that you don't go into labour mommy-less.

That way, when you're in a new place and still getting your feet under you, you can spend all morning WhatsApping one sister and all evening texting the other.

Find those people who are it for you. And thank God for them every day. They are His gift to you.

Find the rest here!