Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just Because

From the preponderance of pictures, you might think that I love my younger kids best, but I promise that's not true! They and I just happen to share lots more time together, when the camera is handy (while I'm sitting at the desk working and they are playing). Elle is always wanting to do whatever it is her big brother is doing. All too often it involves the Nintendo, and when I caught her standing on the Wii balance board with the Wiimote(even though Colin was playing the NES), it was too cute of a photo op to pass up. Hopefully the stuck-in-the-office/playroom pictures will decrease in quantity as the weather warms up. We had a lovely weekend that really got everyone excited to be outside. It's been much cooler and rainy so far this week, though, which is such a bummer. We're hoping for a nice weekend this weekend to do some yard work (as I wrote that, I had a flashback to the movie Old School where Will Farrell's character talks about how their weekend plans are going to Home Depot - so true LOL).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Questions, questions

This is a bit of a departure from my other Spirt of Sunday posts, but I think it's okay. Usually I share my thoughts about a particular passage or subject. But this week, our couple bible study in Acts has led me to more questions than answers. Why does God seem to work differently now than He did in the days of the early church? Wouldn't it be so much easier if you saw His work performed by His emissaries in miraculous ways? Surely miracles do occur today, I have no doubt. But I don't hear of them occuring purposefully AT the hand of, say, a pastor or missionary or what-have-you. I'm not quite sure what to make of God's purpose in this - why do our miracles seem to come quietly, through prayer or through science and modern medicine? Why does God work this way in the world today? Sometimes it would seem so much more, I don't know, efficient if God revealed himself in grandiose, miraculous miracles through men. I don't doubt God's plan, but I will admit that I certainly don't always understand it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Couch Potatoes

I always hesitate when I write the word potatoes - I think maybe it's because of the whole Dan Quayle flap back in the '90s. I have to do a quick mental check to make sure that it's right, every time. How's that for random? Anyways - technically the kids aren't couch potatoes, since they are sitting in their individual saucer chairs, but the idea is pretty much the same. The chair has a dual purpose for Elinor - mostly she thinks it's just a cool "big kid" place to hang out, but she also can't get it on her own, so it's basically a super secret carseat/play pen/baby jail. Don't let her in on the secret, though, because then I'm sure she'll never get anywhere near them if she knew how sneakily I've been using it.

The Love Dare - Day 5

We've gotten a bit behind in our Love Dare, having to take a few days off. But we are still plugging away. Day 5 really got to us (me?) and created some tension. Here it is:

Ask your spouse to tell you three things that cause him or her to be uncomfortable or irritated with you. You must do so without attacking them or justifying your behavior. This is from their perspective only. The words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

James and I had differing conceptions of what type of things should be used as the three examples. I picked three very concrete actions or behaviors in a specific scenario. He chose some overarching behavioral traits. I got upset (just like I wasn't supposed to, I know). My introvertedness is a sensitive spot with me. I don't like to think of it as a flaw, and I don't like when extoverts think that shyness is a moral failing. Now, that's a seperate post in and of itself, but my real point is that I became piqued and allowed that to interfere in the joy of our Love Dare exercise. James was very gracious and apologized. He's been doing that a lot lately. It's a startling thing to realize that for years you've had a false sense of pride - that YOU were the more mature, kinder, more considerate person. This Love Dare is about marriage and our relationship, but I'm learning more about ME and me alone than I would have ever imagined, when we started this.

Friday, March 9, 2012

All About Cecily

Cecily is a bundle of contradictions -she's an absolute spitfire, but at the same time she's super cuddly and will often climb into your lap for an extended snuggle. She's vivacious and tenacious, but also has very sensitive feelings (unfortunately Elle's picked up the word "Dumbo" and repeats it with abandon, tagging a sibling name onto it and she brought Cecily to tears one night while they were going to sleep by blurting out "Dumbo Ceci" over and over again - I wasn't quite sure how to handle that one as a two year old doesn't quite understand the concept of ignoring). She's obsessed with Allegra, animals (poor cats - she won't leave them alone), and NOT napping (hence the falling on the sleep when I was teaching this week, even in the middle of a small room full of kids). We just registered her, officially, for preschool this week. Hopefully we'll get all the kinks worked out of potty-training over the summer. We kicked the nuk habit - somewhat inadvertently, as she lost all of them and, after the first night without one, kind of just forgot about them. I totally stressed over getting rid of the nuk for nothing. I can only dream that potty-training will be that simple. She's presenting me with a brand new challenge - whereas her older siblings were quite content to wear pull-ups interminably, she doesn't want to wear them and loves to wear panties, but will pee and poop in them with abandon. I guess it's positively providential that we haven't replaced our ugly carpets yet (((sigh))).

The Love Dare - Day 4

Contact your spouse sometime during the the business of the day. Have no agenda other than asking how he or she is doing and if there is anything you can do for them. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)
This was the most natural challenge yet - as a matter of fact, I had to think up some unusual way to spice it up, because we do it most every day. I decided to carry my phone around with me from 8pm on, waiting for his OWH (on way home) text he always sends after he's done working at night, and as soon as it arrived, I called home. I don't usually do that because I'm too grumpy and too tired to talk on the phone then. He even responded with a task I could do for him (Excedrin and water - hey, life's stressful), so I felt extra good. James called me to ask me how I was twice!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Love Dare - Day 3

Whatever you put your time, energy, and money into will become more important to you. It's hard to care for something you are not investing in. Along with restraining from negative comments, buy your spouse something that says, "I was thinking of you today." Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder (James 3:16)

Things are getting harder. I think I may have pushed the envelope with God by feeling like this thing was too easy. As of tonight I feel a bit like Mario dodging bullets and flying fish and those flying egg thingies from that weird dinosaur on SMB2 (my personal fave). The kids are on an absolute roll. Man on man. I'm about ready to throw in the towel as a parent. And, as much as I'd like it NOT to, it certainly carries over into how pleasant, loving, patient, and kind I am to my spouse. For James I think this dare was easy - he showed up at lunchtime with both a Diet Coke (pretty standard) AND a Green Tea Frappucino-No Whip from Starbucks for me (totally not standard - he hates how expensive things are from SB). I wasn't feeling enough love to venture to the store with the kids though, so I had to wait until the evening, when we picked up the kids from Awana. James got his favorite, two packages of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. The man is easy to please. Before you get to each particular dare, there's some very well-written thoughts to read about the subject matter. Day 3 was about selfishishness, or the opposite of love. I am a selfish person. It's a deep problem within me and one that I need to work on continually and constantly. I've given into the popular mantra that I must take care of ME before I can take of anyone else. That's a load of horse poopy. It really is. Gooey, sticky self-absorbed manure. I feel best, most peaceful, and happiest when my family's needs are taken care of. In the short term, oh I absolutely would rather read a book or surf the web or take a nap instead of taking care of others. But the end result is always the same - guilt and self-loathing. I think taking care of myself is accomplished first and foremost by meeting the needs of others. Then I can actually, truly enjoy the short moments of time I have to spend doing things pleasurable to me. 10 minutes of reading at night when my house is clean, my kids were well-fed a healthy, homemade meal, my work is caught-up, and my husband is sleeping soundly is worth much more than an hour of reading that kept me from tackling the things that needed to be done. I'm glad that The Love Dare provided me with a much-needed reminder that Love is not selfish.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Love Dare - Day 2

Ooh, I'm already a day behind, not good. But maybe it is okay sometimes, because I might want to discuss more the result than the intent of the Love Dare, depending on the day. Ha, I'm a good "waffler", aren't I? Well, here we go anyways.

In addition to saying nothing negative to your spouse again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness. What is desirable in a man is his kindness (Proverbs19:22)

The don't-say-anything-negative portion of the dare was not as challenging as I thought it would be yesterday, but the act of kindness was a bit so. I kept allowing my own selfish pursuits and pleasures get in the way of getting my act of kindness done and I found myself scrambling around like a madwoman minutes before James made it back home, throwing all the garbage cans from the house into the dumpster and running it out to the curb. I did make it, but barely, and it reminds me that too often I fail - citing my own busy schedule. I am busy, but I get to chose what my priorities are in life, and kindness towards my spouse should be much higher. I wanted to share this quote from the book, and I think I'm going to sticky it to my computer for the week "It is difficult to demonstrate love when you feel little to no motivation. But love in its truest sense is not based on feelings. Rather, love determines to show thoughtful actions even when there seems to be no reward. You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Random Observation

I've started noticing lately that Elle looks so much younger than all the other children I see that are her age. She's about as big as most 19 month olds, but she looks so babyish. I think it's a combination of her super rosy chipmunk cheeks, fine (and short, let's be honest) hair, and still wobbly walk. Or maybe God's just letting me hold onto my last baby in her full-on baby stage for as long as possible. We think you're cute, EllesBells.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Love Dare - Day 1

Today's Dare: The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret. Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19)

For some folks, my husband included, this is a relatively easy challenge. But for me, this is HARD. I am so not good at holding my tongue. I remember as a child and teen, reading books, that some wrong or slight would be done to the heroine and I'd get frustrated, thinking "well, why doesn't she just speak up and tell them what happened". While I think speaking up has its merits, I know that I do it too much. I'm a very verbal person, so I like to talk. A lot. But negative speech is not productive speech. I need to be aware of that tendency in myself and guard against it. So far I haven't been put to the test by my spouse (he left the house pretty early this morning and we've only communicated once via text), but we shall see what the day holds.

I Love My Husband More

It's taken forever, but we finally got to watch Fireproof. It was a good movie, although I can't say it had the same impact on us that Courageous did because our marriage is in a good place right now. But there's always room for improvement when it comes to love, and the part of the movie that spoke to me the most was talking about the unconditional love that God has for us, and that that is what our earthly love is supposed to be modelled after. I don't think society expects marital love to be like that at all. In an online discussion about whether you love your children or your spouse more, I kept seeing over and over again that your love for your spouse is conditional and can be withdrawn, whereas the love for your children is unconditional and ever-enduring. It was even suggested that anyone who loves their spouse more than their children isn't fit to be a parent. I've thought about it a lot, and I'm going to put it out there - I love my husband more than I love my children. Is that shocking? I mean it to be, because I want to get your attention. Let me explain what I mean. My children take priority over my spouse. Their needs must be met first at this point in their loves, because they are completely dependent upon me. In a life or death situation, if I could only chose between saving my child or my spouse I would save my child first, because I am solely responsible for them right now (and I hope James would do the same). The love for my children is pure and deep. It's a biological imperative. But my love for my husband is a choice. It requires deepest commitment and persistence. Our children are the physical manifestation of that love (a huge part of the reason we have six kids, and wish we could have six more). It took that love to create them, and I feel it is of the utmost importance to continue to nurture that original union. I chose James, and he chose me, and God designed both of us to be together. A little aside here - Hero was watching Titanic on TV and really enjoyed it (you'd have to be pretty cold-hearted not too, although I know it's not the most critically acclaimed film) and I caught snippets of it, including the end and I wanted to tell Hero - YOU can have that kind of love - it's very real and I know that because your father and I have that kind of love. Now, back to my main train of thought - nearly everyone loves their children with all their heart and soul, forever. Enduring love for your spouse is much more rare, and, because of that, all the more precious. Just as your love for your second child does not diminish your love for your first child - the extraordinary value of my love for my partner adds to my love for my kids. To bring it back to what I started with, James and I also purchased the beautiful Love Dare book and have started our forty day challenge today. As a companion to my regular blog posts, I want to share our Dare progress (and maybe I can even convince James to share a bit too).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stressing (and I Shouldn't)

For the first time, I was a little stressed about my Spirit of Sunday post. I didn't know what to write about. I wonder if perhaps God is telling me that I didn't challenge myself enough this week? We did our devotions on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, but I think perhaps I didn't "think" enough about them to generate something I wanted to share. That's not good! We finished Job this week, and while I was a little hesitant to move on because I still have many uncertainties about the book, I know that we will come back to it in the future. I think one of the most powerful things I learned in our study of Job is that I have too much of a tendency to be like Job's counselors. I like to talk, write, and just generally feel "smart". I know that I can express myself quite well, if I try, and so sometimes I allow that "eloquence" (my, my, don't I sound full of myself today) to stand alone. That's unacceptable to God. I need to always seek Him with an open and humble heart, rather than pretending wisdom just because I have Godly parents, a Godly upbringing, a religious schooling, and a love of aesthetically pleasing turns of phrase. We moved into the New Testament and are now in the book of Acts. I didn't know that Acts was (most likely) written by Luke. How could I not have known that? How much I have still to learn! And, on a side note, I want to thank God for sending such a wonderful husband to me - he's been working from 7:30am until 12:30pm all week between his two jobs. What a testament to his love for his family and concern for our security - I don't tell him enough how much he means to me. I love you James!