Thursday, July 29, 2010

Memory Chain

I don't remember most of my life so far. I have journaled (or written in a diary) for as long as I've known how to write. I take lots of pictures, and though I don't scrapbook, I always intend to, so I keep scraps of everything. One of my best friends remembers almost everything we've done together since 1994, but she gets really bad cell phone reception, so she's not always a great resource. So, most of my minutes and days are lost to my subconscious.

I'm thinking about this because I'm sitting here with a five-year-old boy (D) I didn't know existed before Tuesday at 2pm, pondering how my life got here. Here's what I remember.

I remember the house I lived in as a teenager being a haven for all sorts of our friends. It was probably never clean or stocked with enough food, but my brothers' and sister's and my friends seemed to feel at home there. Holiday meals were crowded with these friends of every background, and after I left for college, my bedroom became the rotating hospitality suite for some of these friends. I remember thinking I wanted to have a home like that when I grew up. A place where everyone would be comfortable with an extra bed or couch always ready for someone who needed it.

I remember hearing about short-term missions for the first time when I was 13. It was a cute boy with floppy hair who had just returned from a trip with Teen Mania to Chile and he talked about how the spaghetti sauce there was more like ketchup and what good friends he had made. Convincing enough for me! I went on my first trip to India the next summer and staying inside the U.S. was never again a permanent option for me. Traveling all over the world and falling in love with people in many cultures and religions gave me a bug for having children of all different colors who I wanted to raise with a global mindset.

I remember many late nights in college, dragging pillows and blankets out into the hallway of the dorms to talk with friends, dreaming of our upcoming summer trips and conspiring for world domination once we graduated. One particular summer, I had the privilege to go to Turkey, a unique trip in every way wonderful. One of the wonderful elements was a team member named Chana who also lived on my floor. We had lots of that hallway dreaming time together. Though we had solid plans to keep in touch after I graduated, we had no inkling of what would become another beautiful part of our friendship.

I remember joining the military to continue my world travels. I remember all the beautiful and mysterious steps leading up to meeting my husband through both my college relationships and my military travels. I remember getting out of the military to start that home and family I had dreamed about with said husband. And I remember that family not starting the way I had planned. Many months passed in which I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing, and questioned why I quit my job for what seemed to be nothing.

I remember reading my friend Chana's blog, following her travels with her husband as they served in countries we had dreamed about. I remember her writing honestly about her uneasiness concerning her upcoming trip to China (where her husband was) with her 20-month old and newborn. It was then I knew something I could do. I could help mothers with their children. I sent her one of those "Hi, I know we haven't talked in 10 years, but I read your blog" type of emails and asked if I could travel with them. She said yes, so I did. And spent an awesome 10 days getting reconnected with two very good friends and addicted to Arrested Development, and learning how to soothe a crying newborn. She never lets me forget the difference I made in her life and I'm still trying to convince her it was mutual.

I remember later that summer when my little sister was having her 4th and 5th kids and wondering what I could do to help. Having the China trip fresh in my mind and passport, I knew I could help with her other kids. We eventually had my at-the-time 4 and 6-year-old nephews come stay with us in Virginia for 3 weeks while she adjusted to life with babies. I remember realizing why God usually gives us kids as babies with a generous 9-month lead-in time! I remember the panic when I realized I was responsible for these precious people 24-7 and what in the world was I going to do to keep them busy for 3 weeks! I remember the ache in my heart when they went home and the pillows were back on the couch and the replaceable seat covers had been replaced. John and I decided we wouldn't be too bad as parents after all.

Oh, and that desire to be parents. Still so strong.

I remember even later that year when we heard and followed the call to be foster parents. After all, we had plenty of extra beds for those in need, we wanted to be a place of refuge for people of all backgrounds, we knew the blessing of helping other families, we wanted to eventually adopt and we had very jumponable couch pillows. We based the age range (newborn to 7) we were open to on the age range we knew. The age ranges I knew because of the days spent helping other mothers. Because I had the time because I didn't have a job or a baby of my own.

And now. Two newborns and a rambunctious Thomas-loving 5-year-old piling pillows on the floor later.

I'm a firm believer that God is always preparing us for the next or future season in life by what we are going through now. I believe that we get better preparation when we're focused on this season (see my last blog). I don't believe these things because of what someone told me or something I read in a blog or a book. I believe it because I'm living it. And these are the pieces of life I'm glad I remember!

Care to share your own story about how the steps of your journey have led you to where you are? I'm all ears (after Boy D goes to bed, of course!).

Monday, July 19, 2010

The timing thing

As many others who are/have been faced with infertility, or even those who are in a "waiting" season in their lives will relate, we often hear about "God's timing." Such as "It's all about God's timing," or "everything happens in God's timing," and the favorite, "God's timing is perfect." Even non-religious people use the phrases, minus God.

And while I believe it's a part of the truth, I don't believe it's ALL about timing. I have felt this way long before we got pregnant and feel it even stronger now. It's hard to express in a 30-second conversation or FB comment exchange, so please bear with me as I try to express it here.

Timing is certainly a factor in life experiences, but time as we know it is largely a human convention. The way we keep time in seconds, minutes, hours, etc... is useful, but not necessarily spiritual.  Now, I haven't done an exhaustive, exegetical Biblical study of time, but what I've gathered so far is that God created day and night, set up seasons (which vary from region to region), established feasts and fasts for the nation of Israel, and sketched an outline of things to come in the future. But I don't see an overwhelming fascination with a calendar on God's part.

It would be interesting to study timing as a factor in the well-known infertile couple stories told in the Bible. Though I haven't focused on that element, I am drawn to another factor in the stories which calls to something else in us.

Character development. Or, what kind of people we allow God to shape us into. Timing, to me, suggests a passivity. An "oh well, nothing to do but wait," mentality. But if we are truly trusting in God and seeking His ways, we are not just waiting on His timing. We are active participants in what He is doing now. And for us who are waiting to be parents or waiting for our spouses, what God wants to do now in us is developing our character to be the kind of parents or spouses He wants us to be. Of course we're not going to be perfect parents or spouses when we are blessed with those "others," but if we use the time wisely, we are going to be better equipped than if we did nothing, under the guise of just "waiting."

And what if we never become parents or spouses or whatever it is we hope and pray for? Are we going to squander days full of potential for other purposes because we are more focused on the timing than what God is doing now?

For me, timing is more important in hindsight. It's a piece of the puzzle that adds meaning when viewed with other factors. In foresight, it is largely unknown and not as helpful.

Yes, we need to know that God is in control. Yes, we need to trust Him fully. Yes, there are things we must simply wait for and not try to do in our human strength. But God has given us everything we need (for life and godliness) and we should be good stewards of this (Check out 2 Peter 1: 3-8. I especially like the use of the words "participate" and "possess").

Now it's time for me to turn this over to you. Do you think we'll ever be able to change the phrases from "It's all in God's timing," to "It's all about what God is doing in and with us on a daily basis" or something else more useful? Are there other platitudes that you've heard or used that could use some refining?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

About our baby

Last week I announced on this blog in a very sneaky way that I am pregnant, due Jan 7, 2011. I put it into the comments of the blog called "Good Things are Coming!" But, I guess I should just come right out and say it just in case you didn't read the comments.

I had 2 months to come up with a clever way to tell you on my blog, and that's the best I came up with. Sorry. Can I blame it on pregnancy brain? I haven't played that card too much yet.

So, though there's not much to tell you about our child, I will tell you the part of his/her story that we know so far.

How I knew
I have been using the Fertility Awareness Method for almost 3 years now, and am a huge proponent of it. If you're interested, check out Toni Weschler's book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. FAM teaches you how to learn the signs your body gives you at different points of your cycle, which is important information for any woman to have, not just for those trying to or not to get pregnant. Part of that is charting your basal body (waking) temperature, so I've been doing that for a long time now. However, you have to get 4 solid hours of sleep before taking an accurate temp, which I wasn't able to do when we had Baby Z. After he went to his next foster mom's home and I was able to chart again, I had three consecutive days of high temps when they should've been low, so I knew something was up, took a test and got the two lines! At that point, (May 6) I was only 3 weeks past conception or 5 weeks pregnant.

How I told John
The aforementioned test took place at 2:30 in the morning. What can I say? I was excited. So, I had a few hours before he woke up to think of how I was going to tell him. Over the past few years, I have thought of many ways, and they have all been pretty creative and memorable. But any of those ideas would've either taken a few days of planning or just weren't practical. I ended up putting a cleaned off test (of course I took more than one!) in a long, skinny jewelry box. I passed it to him over breakfast asking if we should incorporate it into the gifts we were planning for our moms for Mother's Day. Much hugging and rejoicing ensued.

Best reaction to the news
Obviously, everyone has been pretty excited for us. One reaction in particular wins the gold, though. I called my brother Tim on the way home from work and started out by asking him what they (he and his 3 boys) had done for Mother's Day. He shared all the cute details and then asked me what we did. I told him John had gotten me a card and flowers, and when that didn't click (he assumed it was because of the fostering), I added that I had called Mom and told her she was going to be a Grandma again. Silence. High squeal. Squeaky voice telling me he had almost driven off the road. Then an emotional outpouring of excitement. Apparently, my brother loves babies. He stated that he gets more excited to find out people are having babies than most of the people themselves. I have to agree, since at that point, even I hadn't cried or felt that much excitement.

How it's going so far
So far, so good. I haven't had any morning sickness or nausea. I haven't thrown up or had any crazy cravings or food aversions, necessarily. I haven't had an appetite at all, though, and I've been very tired, two very normal things, I've heard. I think because of not being hungry, I lost 5 lbs in the first trimester and so far have gained one of them back. I'm blaming that on my brother-in-law's cooking this past week, though. I always planned to be one of those people who worked out and ran all through pregnancy, but nope. I haven't had the energy. I hope some of it comes back now that I'm in the 2nd trimester and I'll get off my butt a bit more. My pants are getting a bit tighter around the waist, but I'm not showing any more than I ever did. No belly shots until I'm sure it's actually baby and not just pudge!

What's next
We have the 14-week appointment on Monday, which I am very excited for. My first one was at 10 weeks and we got to hear the beautiful heartbeat, but to my disappointment, I learned that my doctor doesn't do ultrasounds until week 20 (unless we opted to do the genetic testing at week 12, which we declined). Until then, I'll have to be content with the heartbeat and reading what size fruit the baby is the size of. We are not going to find out the gender of our baby until the birth, which is my desire. At first, John did want to find out, but I reminded him that he got a dog for Christmas, so I should "win" this one. I'm happy to find out with all our other kids, if we are so gifted, but just wanted this first one to be an old-fashioned surprise. John is convinced that God will tell me, but I guess we'll just see.

Names
I love it when my friends and family find out what they're having and tell me what the name is. But, I'm not gonna do it for this one. We won't be revealing our name choices until the baby is born. Lots and lots of surprises on that day! However, we have decided on a nickname: Blueberry. This is the first fruit we read our then-embryo was the size of and our friends' parents were with them at our house for dinner and started referring to it as Blueberry and we liked it. Now we're at the size of a naval orange, but s/he'll be our little Blueberry until we meet (and maybe afterwards too!).

So, that's our story so far. I have so many blog topics about this pregnancy (my feelings/ thoughts about it) saved up, so be forewarned that's what's coming. If it's hard for you to read about others being pregnant, I totally understand and won't be offended at all if you drop your "followership" or subscription. I am still praying for those of you in the waiting season, and if you pray, I ask for your continued prayers for me in this new one.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What a week!

There have been five children 8 and under in my house this week. 

This is my excuse for not blogging. But, my sister has been blogging about their visit, so you can go read all about it on her blog: http://50stickyfingers.blogspot.com/

What she didn't fully explain is how miserably hot it's been this week. Near or over 100 every day. This makes doing touristy things involving being outdoors for more than 30 seconds at a time very, um, challenging!

Another thing she didn't reveal is that our dog, Mocha, became sick the 2nd day they were here and decided our house was a good place to go potty. All. Over. Good thing they're used to poop! Mocha is doing better now, although she's already back to being bored with me.

Even with that, we had a great time with them, and even though they just left a few hours ago, I already miss them. The wonderful thing about memories is that we can filter out the hot, stinkyness and just remember the sweet craziness!

Clockwise from top: Josiah- 6, Avrah-3, Micah-2, Hosea-2, Judah-8

I'll blog soon about the other great things going on in my life. That is, unless anyone else wants to come visit. :-)

What have you all been up to this week?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Good things are coming!

As most of you know, John and I have gotten really good at waiting.

He still hates red lights and, well, anything that gets in his way while driving. But, we've learned to settle into a mindset where for the big things, we can wait.

There's this one thing we've been waiting on for a couple of years. It's been hard to go anywhere without a stark reminder that something is missing. We've heard from other people and even found information online we thought would be helpful in filling that empty space. We would speculate about the when and the who, but even with all the research we did, the outcome was not up to us.

A few months ago we got a piece of information we were very excited about. One piece of this puzzle finally came into light. We wondered about the timing of it all, why it took so long, but mostly we were just happy things were moving along.

Of course now, we have even more mysteries in this area to solve, but it's fun knowing a little piece.

What am I talking about? Ah, you're going to hate me. I've totally led you down a path and you're probably thinking, "Oh my goodness, this is it, she's finally pregnant!"

But, that isn't what this blog is about.

Across the street from where we live, there's a big shopping center that has been vacant except for a Chuck-E-Cheese for the past few years. One by one, we've watched the stores there close and move and not be replaced. We did enjoy having the big empty parking lot to practice my motorcycle riding skills, but the whole thing was really an eyesore. Not really great for property value, you know.

Well, a few months ago I heard that Walmart had bought it and they were putting in a Neighborhood Walmart. And soon after that, construction began and a Walmart banner appeared. Now, I have avoided Walmart since moving to Northern Virginia, and if you live here, you understand why. They are not the same as the stores in the south, mostly because they're poorly managed, poorly staffed, poorly stocked, overcrowded, dirty, and just not a fun place to go.

But we have great hope in the Neighborhood version. These are typically smaller, nicer stores, so we have our fingers crossed. There's also at least 2 other stores in the complex with no signs, so we still don't know what's going in there.

We do love watching day by day as the big empty lot is transformed into what we can only hope will make our lives better (and our house's value go up!). So, we'll see what it all becomes in the next few months.

It's become symbolic for me of a hope both actualized with revelation and a mystery still unfolding with great potential.

So today, you have two options of questions to answer, and of course you can answer both.
1) How does watching construction projects make you feel?
2) If you could live across the street from any store, what would it be?
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