2.06.2016

Good and Pregnant

Kyle and I are expecting our third child.

We're a little late to posting something about it online this time. Both of us are what you like to call open books, so it came as a surprise to me that we were slow to get the news out.

Except I was also laying on the couch and trying not to vomit for the first twelve weeks, so maybe it's not that much of a surprise. My first two pregnancies were walks in the park, actually. This one has been a bit different. I'm sure Zeke and Evie are glad to see the mom they once knew emerging from a haze of fatigue and nausea, and I am too.

So now that we're three kids in, I have come to the conclusion that motherhood is extremely ordinary. At least, mothering little ones is, for me.

I've never been one of those, "a kid at heart," people. So being in a child's world hasn't been magical or uniquely fun. I love helping my kids learn new things, definitely, but I can only play trains or tea party for so long. I think my capacity for kid-world is a smidge smaller than some.

Which was hard for awhile. I felt guilty, like my kids would be robbed of the glittery, Elf on the Shelf, Pinterest level, bento lunchbox toting childhood that would (obviously) guarantee them a successful adulthood. Hormones made me think this.

Fortunately, I am finally learning that all of this "all moms are different and that's not bad" talk is, um, true.

I have read book after book after book after mommy blog that all said it. "We're different people, so of course we're going to be different moms. Quit looking at your friends elaborate birthday parties and start looking at what you're good at!"

Thus, I have come to the content place of realizing that my giftings don't flow seamlessly with the little years. They require a little creativity, to be honest. I love history and literature. I am passionate about theology and justice. I am emotionally salivating for the day when my children will finally be able to understand (on the most basic of levels) the plot line to the Chronicles of Narnia.

Until then we read The Jesus Storybook Bible, and we talk about God, and we pray for the Syrian refugees. We work on understanding the concept that others who are smaller and weaker should be met with compassion, not with taking their toys because they can't fight back.

And I celebrate each new stage that opens the door to new activities. Zeke is old enough to stand on a step stool and "help" me cook or bake. They color their Dusty Crophopper and Daniel Tiger coloring books and I read. They play outside while I try to keep my garden from dying.

The amazing things about little kids is that almost anything can be a game if you are excited enough about it. Even cleaning their room. The other day Zeke organized his toys to color coordinate with the bins he put them in. My administrative, organizational loving heart almost exploded.

Once I got over myself enough to admit that I wasn't a "certain" type of mom and that this wasn't going to scar my children, I stopped comparing and started learning from the moms who make each day special, and awesome, and an opportunity for joy. I have unashamedly ripped off ideas from random facebook friends. They are so good at it! Thank you, childhood-whisperer mothers, for helping the rest of us out who would solely rely on Daniel Tiger and Curious George to relate to our children.

To someone who loves and prefers adult world, a child's world is pretty ordinary. Broken crayons, dirty faces, laundry, diapers, etc, but a child's world is also (believe it or not) quiet - there's no deadlines, very little stress. It's soothing. It is filled with contentment. 

I have always struggled to be content. Watching my small children be satisfied with crayon nubs and a cheese stick has taught me a lot about being at peace in any situation.

For the first time, I am really looking forward to the newborn stage, in spite of the anxiety and sleep deprivation it brings. It also brings rest, and simplicity. It brings celebrations over the smallest things. A smile, small fingers wrapping around your hand, older siblings learning how to be gentle, a clean bathroom for the first time in two months.

Motherhood is ordinary, and it is good. It's good in the full sense of the word. Not the watered down one, the, "well it's good, but not great," kind of meaning; but rather the same kind of good the Lord saw when he looked at the fullness of His creation for the first time. The kind of good that brings wholeness, and deep peace.

We look forward to meeting our third child come August, and the ensuing dichotomy of chaos and rest that only a child can bring. It will be so good.

11.17.2015

How Do We Respond to the Refugee Crisis?

Yesterday was hard, Church.

I read a lot of pain and frustration and fear and anger in articles and facebook posts. As a culture, we process our emotions online now. I don't really know if this is good or bad. I've seen some really powerful moments come from people processing their grief online, and some really ugly ones.

When it happens about an issue that the Church is fractured over, it's particularly ugly.

All day I was asking the Holy Spirit, "What do we do? How do we respond? Where is the unity when some in the Church are cheering and some are weeping?"

Here are a few thoughts I've been chewing on, things that all Christians can do no matter how you feel about Syrian refugees' place in our country:

1. "Mourn with those who mourn....", Romans 12.15

Weep for the refugees, Church. Whether you believe they should come or not. Weep for the two million children who are without home, for the mothers whose arms are empty, for the fathers torn from their families. Weep for the violence that has already taken so many lives.

Grieve for those who died apart from Christ, for the lost who face the reality of death, daily. Weep for the innocent who are caught up in this ugly, festering mess.

We can and must remain tender and love these people, whether you believe they are an enemy or a victim, we are commanded to love both. 

2. Give 

We can help provide clothing and food and shelter to the refugees without them coming to us.

This is where the rubber will hit the road Church. There are ministries providing immediate assistance in Europe. The estimated cost to cover the needs of these people is in the billions.

If we are unable to open up our homes, then let us open up our wallets. 

Here is one ministry you could consider.

3. Pray

"Do not be anxious in anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4. 6, 7

I'm going to leave a quote from one of my favorite authors:

"Now is not the time to despair. Now is the time to ask God to strengthen our faith, to move us beyond feelings and into movement because we trust Him and fully, sincerely, confidently know that His ways are THE answer to all that ails humanity...We know it. We believe it. We know that God is big enough and good enough to save us down here in this broken place, and we are actually Plan A to deliver His hope and love."

If we believe that God is who He says He is, than prayer is not a trite option. It is a powerful option. An option that could move the heavens and earth. An option just as powerful as giving financially.

Pray, Church. Pray that ISIS will be stopped. Pray that the Church would remain unified - that we would not let the enemy wreak even MORE havoc by fracturing the Church on top of fracturing families and countries. Pray that there would be creative and wise and wealthy and supremely intelligent people that will bend all their resources to helping.

Ask the Lord to show you, as an individual, what His will would be. Don't rely on someone else's conviction to form your own. Ask the Lord to form your conviction about this situation, and what you should do about that conviction.

Pray for our government officials as they face these hard decisions. Pray that they would be led in wisdom and compassion.

4. Wrestle to Understand your Brother and Sister

I talked to a family member last night who has a different opinion about this situation than I do, and you know what? It calmed me down considerably. He challenged me with some hard questions that I could not answer. The issue became a little less black and white.

It didn't change my mind, but it did take the air out of my self-righteous indignation.

God desires unity. So strongly.

"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17.20-21

Let us not forsake the Gospel.

I believe it is possible that Christians can be unified in the face of such a heated and emotional debate. Because my hope is in the Great Redeemer. I believe that the Lord can and will bring an end to all this mess. It is why we can stand up in a situation like this and say, "This is atrocious, but it is not the end. This is evil, but it is not the victor."

We know the end of the story, Christians, let us now act like it.

Have mercy, Lord Jesus. We need you now more than ever.

10.16.2015

Baby Steps to Being an Adult

Last year I sat down with Kyle at the beginning of Spring Break and we did our taxes. Here are a few observations about that last sentence:

1. We are in our late twenties, don't have kids that are school age, yet Spring Break is still a thing in our annual calendar. #collegeministry

2. We spent the majority of that week catching up on life management tasks (like taxes) because we have lives that need managing. 

There is a tension in being around college students most of the time, but definitely not being a college student. It makes life different for me and Kyle in a lot of ways, and most of those ways I enjoy. 

One of the things that I don't enjoy is being reminded that I am an adult, and no longer in college. Like having this exchange with a student: 

Student: "Oh man, I woke up sooo early this morning, but it was good because I was able to clean my entire apartment and run a bunch of errands." 

Me: "That's cool! (Keeping the jealousy out of my voice - but failing to keep it out of my heart - when thinking about an entire morning of unhindered productive time.) How early did you have to wake up?"

Student: "9.30." 

Me: ........

Now, of course, many students do wake up early, and waking up early is not the only sign of adulthood, but things like this happen and make you realize, "We live a very different life." 

So I have these moments a lot, moments where I am reminded that I have moved on from college, and am an adult that has to do things. 

Also, in full disclosure, I get easily overwhelmed, so transitioning to adulthood was a lot like ripping off a bandaid that you have ignored for so long that it hurts way worse than it should have, and leaves behind that weird sticky residue that takes awhile to fall off. (That weird sticky residue being my adolescence, in this analogy.) 

However, there has been marked progress in many different areas, and I am going to share a few just in case you, like me, are trying to figure out how to be responsible. 

1. I wake up before my kids now. 

I don't even think I need to be tentative about this. Unequivocally, across the board, waking up before your kids is a thing that people do who don't want to feel like they were steamrolled by 8.15 in the morning. (There is the caveat that this rule doesn't apply to those with newborns or a child who wakes up multiple times a night because of sickness or inherent depravity.) 

My mornings affect my whole day. If I have a bad morning, my tendency is to hate-spiral into procrastination, short-tempered outbursts, and a lot of TV watching for my kids (okay, and myself). If I have a good morning, I am inspiring to be around: clean house, homemade meals, and the tinkling laughter of my children floats through my house on the wings of praise and worship music. 

Seriously, mornings really set the tone for our family. Instead of begrudgingly arising to hungry kids with soaked, overnight diapers, I asked Jesus to please wake me up earlier so that I could get a grip on my life. When - over the next week after this desperate prayer - I woke up sans alarm clock and way earlier than usual, I took this as a sign. 

Now I get up, make coffee, get dressed, spend some time with Jesus, take a moment to look at my planner, make my bed, and even take a few minutes to increase the adult factor and skim the news

"What! You must wake up at like 5 am to accomplish all of this!" 

No, I don't, because when you don't have children frolicking amongst your legs, you can get so much stuff done in a shocking amount of time. 

2. I developed a cleaning schedule. 

This may be specific to those who are the primary caretakers of their children and/or homes, but for several years figuring out how to do my job (read: keep our house running) was extremely difficult. 

I thrive in structure and routine, but I hate mundane work. I am exponentially more relaxed and at peace in a clean environment, but I hate cleaning. Do you see the problem here? 

I would generally wait until something in our house got really dirty and then rage clean it. The problem was I could *feel* the dirt in the interim time periods. Managing a home involves a lot of repetitive tasks. There are precious few items that you can cross off your to do list and think, "Ahhh. I'll never have to do that again!" This drove me absolutely insane for the longest time. Also, every chore took about four days because I would let it get pretty dirty and because I'm dramatic. 

Finally - after reading every mommy blog on the planet - I knew what I had to do. 

First, I had to admit to myself and the world that laundry was going to happen every day. There was no denying it. Just like cooking and dishes, laundry is an every day chore. 

Second, I had to break up the cleaning jobs so that I didn't hate them as much. I hate bathrooms the worst, so I broke up all the tasks that have to do with cleaning bathrooms over THREE DAYS, so that I don't have to deal with it for that long. 

Third, I had to be reasonable and realize that I can't do a giant chore every day, some days our schedule is crazy because of my part-time job (hi, ministry) and so I saved light chores for those days. 

Here is a general rundown of how this works: 

Daily: One load of laundry, dishes, spot sweep, wipe down kitchen counters and table, pick up clutter, throw all of the kids toys into their room right before bed... pretty basic stuff. 

Monday: Dusting & Decluttering 

Tuesday: Thorough Sweep & Mop floors. This one actually rotates. One week I'll sweep and mop the bathrooms, the next I'll do the hallways and the dining room. I try to do the kitchen every week. And sometimes, I don't mop and just do a really thorough sweeping job. And sometimes, I don't do it at all.

Wednesday: Vacuum. Again, I try to vacuum all the bedrooms, but if I don't have time I'll just hit the main living areas. 

Thursday: Clean Surfaces. By this I mean: bathroom counters, kitchen counters, mirrors, windows, kitchen appliances, etc. You may notice a pattern here but, I don't do all of these every week. But it's pretty easy to spray and wipe, so I get to at least a few. 

Friday: Tubs & Toilets. Self-explanatory. 

Saturday: Our sabbath - no cleaning or laundry or anything. We use paper plates and I cook as little as humanly possible. 

Sunday: Maybe do some laundry, but try to keep this day low key as well, usually we have a lot of meetings and ministry responsibilities on this day. 

3. I use a planner. 

It is insane how organized you have to be to manage a house, and we don't even have a big one. For you Downton Abbey fans out there, you may wonder, "What does Hughes actually do, besides bailing out the maids and crushing on Carson?" A LOT, okay? A WHOLE LOT. 

A planner has been a huge help, and I use a paper planner because writing things down cements them into my head. My to-do list, appointments, meetings, etc. It's been a life-saver. 

These are the ways I have been adulting lately, and I've noticed an increased amount of steadiness and peace in our home. 

My mother-in-law once told me that it took her about five years of full-time stay-at-home management before she got the hang of it. This comforted me inexplicably. I've been doing it for almost three and a half, and still haven't figured out how to schedule doctors and dentist appointments for Kyle and I, but I have figured out how to keep my house from eating all of us alive... so it's a work in progress.

Any epiphanies you've had about how to be an adult? Please share! (And understand that I will likely steal it for my own life.)

Grace, 

Christina