Friday, May 29, 2009

What happened to the last 6 months???

Ok...I haven't totally fallen off the face of the earth. Betsy has done such a wonderful job with posting blogs. Some of you might have wondered, "where is Carrie?" Well, all that to say...Carrie has been dealing with life. As many of you know life can fight back pretty good. And I have been mulling over many things in my head, that I would love to write about, but just haven't. So here goes my you can keep me accountable.

1. I don't want to write anything...I don't really feel like being spiritual. (Come know you have been there-it's my red flag of distress.)
2. Does my husband really think that his stress and the economy doesn't rub off on the rest of us. (hhmm...trying to refocus my job as a wife!)
3. Where has my child gone and who is this spawn of Satan in my living room...(Count to 10, repeat, repeat, repeat!)
4. Is God trying to test me...or is Satan attacking me (really I think it has been a little of both....I'll have to explain later.)
5. This is when I need a good local friend to initiate calling me. (Interesting...our Bible study just started a new book on women's friendships. Yeah, guess who should be #1....not my local friends.)
6. If I have to deal with my broken car or a house that I'm renting one more month...(there have been lots of tears shed lately!)
7. Do I really have to hear all these stories of other people getting anonymous $ for things and I still have to deal with #6 (yeah...bigtime contentment issues going on!)
8. I really don't know what to do with this I doing something wrong?
9. Everyone tells me to lighten's only kindergarten, but seriously the child has to learn to read! (kind of helping create afore mentioned spawn of satan!)
10. Does my husband really care that we never go on dates anymore??? (Well, schedule, more Satan attacking, more economy $$ issues, etc. Have I mentioned though, he has been the spiritual motivator in all of this-I'm failing miserably right now!)

So it all boils down to #1. I haven't really wanted to write anything. But you know...that's really life. And we have all been there. I'm just being honest to admit it. So hopefully in the coming weeks :-), I can post some of my learned thoughts on the above. Well, mostly how that shouldn't be life, and we can control things...we just let a fallen world get to us!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Titus 2 Moment: Michele

Michele is a good friend of mine whom I met at my current church. I didn't know her very well until I found out I was pregnant with twins (and was going to have an 18-month-old daughter when they were born). Lo and behold, Michele had walked this same path approximately 11 years previously! She and her husband had a 2 1/2-year-old daughter when their twin boys were born. No other person was able to offer the same level of practical and emotional support that Michele did during that stressful time in our lives. We're certainly not out of it yet, but those early days with two newborns and a toddler were so crazy that I don't have many memories of them!

Here's what Michele did for us: advice, advice, advice--always being willing to listen when I called asking ANOTHER question (I still do this). Availability: she let me bring the three small ones over a few times so I could hang out with another adult and her older daughter helped babysit them. They even bathed them for me when I went over to their house! She brought us food (tons of wonderful food for all different meals of the day). Once, she brought her kids over (all 5 of them now), left them at my house to babysit my toddler, and went with me to the doctor for the twins. Guess what her kids did while we there: they cleaned my house!!! She cut the boys' hair for me. She encouraged me to hang in there. In short, she's been a constant source of encouragement for me--partly because she's lived through such a similar experience (that is relatively unique).

Who do you know that is walking down a path you've already walked? How can you specifically encourage them in ways others might not think of? In the spirit of Titus's mandate that older women teach younger women, how can you step in and offer some practical instruction?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Titus 2 Moment: Linda Findley

Linda Findley was my "Chattanooga mom" when I was living there right after graduating from college. She was my good friend Todd's mom, so most of our friends called her "Mama Todd." Her home served as a base for all of us who lived in the usual sparse post-college apartments. She often had us over for big holiday feasts if we couldn't get home; we had movie nights at her house and a host of other gatherings. She passed away a few years after I got to know her, but today is her birthday, so this seems a fitting time to honor her impact on me!

Linda was a teacher and a mom to two grown sons when I knew her. She had just moved to Chattanooga, so she and I were both enjoying getting to know the city a bit better and also enjoying setting up house. She patiently taught me to sew on an old, black, iron Singer machine that her son later gave me when she died. We made curtains and all sorts of little things. She took time out for me weekly: we shopped, we cooked, we sewed, we laughed, we watched movies,.... I was working a job at the college from which I had just graduated, and it was pretty demanding on several levels. Linda was a sounding board, a source of Christian encouragement, a nice "neutral" resource, a friend, and a surrogate mom--all at the same time. She even let me do my laundry at her house!

How did she do all of these things? By simply living her life transparently in front of me and letting me live mine alongside her. Was she perfect? No. But she was living her life as a child of God, transformed by his grace, and challenging me to do the same. She left a lasting legacy in my life. I went on to become a teacher. I have since used that sewing machine to make more curtains, to make Christmas stockings, and to make other small projects. I ended up joining the same church she attended. I have a small set of plates that she and I had both loved (her son gave me those, too), and those are a sweet reminder of this lady the Lord put in my life for a short time.

Being a Titus 2 influence on someone doesn't always mean serving in an official role as "mentor" or "teacher." Sometimes, it's simply mothering someone else where they need it--being available, offering advice that comes from an older perspective, and being honest about your own walk with Christ.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Library

Go to the library... (Toni Morrison came to our college, and I can still hear her say those words in her rich voice). Her point was that we needed to read our African American history, but I think the command is relevant no matter what you read--just go read!!

This is a small plug for getting more involved in your local library. Many libraries do fun summer reading programs for all ages (my kids are in the summer "listening" program since they're not readers yet). There are all kinds of great prizes, too!

In addition to summer programs, most libraries offer story time for young children. My kids LOVE this--we're finally going back after a long absence. This is a nice time for them to listen to someone else read and to be exposed to the library. Some branches are more child-friendly than others. It's okay if you go to a different branch the one closest to your house if you find a more child-friendly one.

There are lots of other offerings at the library for children, too: read-along story books that come with tapes the child can listen to, board books for young "listeners," all kinds of regular books for kids, CD's and DVD's, and usually a nice librarian who can help you find the Angelina book that matches the Angelina TV show!

Finally, check out the library's collection for yourself! They usually have a pretty good stock of current fiction in addition to classics. They also typically stock craft books, random very interesting nonfiction books, cook books, mysteries, CD's, DVD's, ..... you name it! You can no doubt search your library's catalog on line. Make use of their hold features and get the book you want sent to your branch and held for you (this is a huge help if you're coming in the library with three young children in tow and headed to story time in 10 minutes....).

So, I encourage you to get back in the habit of going to the library. Don't buy every book or CD you want; try checking it out first from your local library. Odds are, you'll be done with it when it's due back (and then you can bring home something else!).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our Parents' Legacy...

In my discussions with my friends and in the different Bible studies I've been a part of, I've realized that my husband and I have a unique and wonderful gift from the Lord: our two sets of parents (I know Carrie can say the same about her in-laws--and of course the same about her parents!). My husband and I grew up with very similar home lives in many respects--that has been such a blessing in and of itself as we attempt to parent our own children and establish our own family. What are some of the specific legacies our parents, collectively, have given us?

1. Dymanic spiritual lives: All four of our parents know and love the Lord deeply. There is no other greater legacy they could have passed on to us. Neither of us has known a day when we did not know the name of Jesus, trust in His work on the cross for our salvation, and hear Biblical truth. What a rich, rich heritage to pass on!!! I remember seeing my dad flip through his memory verse cards in the morning or watching my Mom read her Bible after breakfast. All four of our parents are still tremendous models of loving and serving the Lord in the different areas He's placed them.

2. Faithful church involvement: Collectively, our parents have served in the following areas in their local churches: pastor, elder, Sunday school teacher, VBS director, VBS teacher, VBS curriculum writer, children's ministry director, graphic design work/help (think: bulletins and other printed materials), preaching/teaching, counseling, leading choirs, participating in choirs, missions work.... Because of their examples in their support of local churches, my husband and I have been involved in our own churches--even working with kids' programs before we had kids!

3. Good stewardship: Our parents have made every effort to be responsible with what the Lord has entrusted them. They take care of their homes, they faithfully pay bills, they don't buy tons of random things they don't need, they balance their budgets, etc. In this day and age, that's a terrific example to set.

4. Generous giving: Our parents have faithfully tithed--so faithfully that neither my husband nor I have ever questioned whether we should or not. We just do it--even when we were struggling on much smaller incomes in a much more expensive city. Our parents also have always given above and beyond the tithe--particularly to missions. This giving has been both financial support as well as time-support (like sending out newsletters for missionaries behind the Iron Curtain).

5. Solid marriages: Our parents are still married and still love each other very much! Another, increasingly rare, legacy they have passed on. Many of my friends did not grow up in homes with two parents who lived out the biblical pattern of marriage (think: wives respecting their husbands, husbands loving wives, husbands leading the home, etc.).

6. Responsibility: We both grew up with parents who stressed responsibility. We finish what we start/commit to. We show up for work on time. We take care of what we have.

7. Family is important: We both have great memories of family trips and still place a big priority on seeing our families--especially at holidays and birthdays. This is because it was a priority for our parents as we were growing up; they took us to see grandparents, they made a big deal over staying in touch with extended family, they still make a big deal over being in touch with extended family. Incidentally, my dad is visiting his siblings right now while my mom is on a missions trip. My mother goes to the beach every year with her mother and two sisters. My husband's family has a big reunion every 2 years.

8. Education is important: Because of our parents' sacrifice, my husband and I both went to Christian schools and a wonderful Christian college. Getting a good education was always a priority; as such, it's a priority for us as we consider our own children's opportunities.

9. World view is important: How you view the world is crucial to your life! Our parents made sure we were trained in evaluating the world from a Christian perspective--really thinking things through and discerning issues behind a big decision. We still often have discussions with our parents on current issues and cultural ideas floating around.

10. Prayer: I could have listed a bunch of other things in this list (good citizenship, good values, etc.), but the consistent prayer that has been a part of our parents' lives--on our behalf--is huge. They prayed for us to get married, in fact, and we're thankful that prayer was answered! (they are, too, I believe!)

Monday, May 11, 2009

10 Things I Learned from my Mom

I've learned so much from my mother over the years, but certain things really stand out as stuff SHE, in particular, taught me. I've also realized since becoming an adult myself, that all mothers don't teach their daughters these things. As I've read more on the internet, read more organizational strategies for stay-at-home-moms, listened to my friends' struggles, etc., I've begun to realize what a tremendous wealth my mother has given to me through her life of faith, her specific lessons on various domestic duties, and her many informal discussions with me.

As I think through my current life with all its duties and delights (husband, preschooler, twin toddlers, house to care for, etc.), 10 lessons really stand out. These are the top 10 things my mother has imparted to me throughout my 30+ years of life that I daily use/ponder/enjoy. Of course there are many other things, perhaps more spiritual things, but I tried not to overspiritualize this or make it more profound than it sounds. Sometimes, a simple technique for ironing really can enrich your life :). Without further ado (and in no particular order):

  1. Weekly grocery shopping list/menu. Apparently, many women do not make up a weekly menu or even a grocery list. How you can live without these simple organizational tools, I do not know. Really, I don't. It seems so self-evident to me. But, then again, that's because I have so many memories of casual conversations with my mother about what we were going to eat during the coming week. What meat was on sale and therefore, what would go well with that roast or ham? Then, she'd make up her list.
  2. Eat your veggies! Again, when I read suggestions for how to eat healthily, I am astounded that people don't already know these things and follow them without really thinking about them. Sure, I try to maximize nutrition because I'm a bit of a health nut, but in reality, I could never, ever plan a meal without some sort of vegetable side. This is not just because I love to plan nutritious meals; it's because my mother cooked that way! We always had fruit at breakfast and lunch and generally two vegetable sides at dinner. These weren't exotic; I never tasted butternut squash until after I'd graduated from college. I didn't learn to like green peppers until I was in college. I still do not like eggplant or raw tomatoes. But, I really, truly enjoy so many other vegetables, largely thanks to my Mom.
  3. The most efficient way to iron a button down shirt. (someday I'll post this method.)
  4. Laundry: Most people seem to learn this by trial and error in college. I, however, have breezed through my laundry career with very few pink loads of formerly white clothes. I can remember vivid examples in the past year, but for some reason, until I had children and all extra brain cells went to combat fatigue, I'd never turned a load of clothes into a different color.This is because my mother taught me how to to do laundry.
  5. An appreciation for classical music. This, to me, is the ideal calming background music. But it's also something to savor and enjoy. This is what was always on in our house growing up.
  6. Keeping up with current events. This is something I'm particularly poor at right now, but I feel guilty about it! Not because my neighbors are very into current events, not even because my husband has strong opinions. I feel guilty because in my mind, all good wives and mothers should also be able to to vote intelligently; after all, my mother always did.
  7. Not complaining when following your husband's call. Perhaps my mother complained out of our presence--I don't know, but I have come to greatly admire her lack of complaining, especially from my memory of our time in a rental house. My dad was church planting in North Carolina, and for five years we lived in a rental house. Looking back now, with a renewed appreciation of my mother's innate aesthetic sense, that house must have been hard to live in--pretty plain to start with and limited opportunities for improvement. We did take down the lion/safari curtains in one room, but that's about it.... I'm sure there have been many times in her life where supporting my dad in ministry has led her into situations she'd rather not have gone (maybe the frequent nursery duty wasn't her cup of tea; I'll never know because she didn't complain). This following of my dad's call has also led her to some pretty cool places--New Zealand, Israel, Uganda.
  8. Using your gifts to enrich your children's lives. Even though my mother has much higher standards of cleanliness than I do currently, I still remember her playing with us so much more than I feel like I do with my own kids! She must have cleaned house, but I remember her enriching our lives instead. And, not only play, but draw!! She's an artist and would draw pages of flowers for us to color--we liked hers much better than any coloring book. She painted a big mural on our bedroom wall of a tree with an orange cat in it. She made or helped us make great Halloween costumes when we were little. Her creativity even extended to "surprise lunches."
  9. Laughter/Enjoyment. My mom used to ask us to "wash" the outside windows. That meant: get our swimsuits on, get the hose out, and get a big bucket of soapy water. Great fun. She laughs a lot when she's with my children--reminding me in the process without speaking a word to enjoy them as much as possible.
  10. Critical Thinking Skills. Perhaps some people think you're supposed to learn this in school. But, if you have a mother who enjoys discussing issues, faith, circumstances, new information in the news, then you're already developing and using critical thinking skills without needing school to teach them to you.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Small Object Stuck in Child's Nostril?

I heard an ingenious trick from one of my Bible study friends for getting small objects out of children's nostrils. If your child hasn't tried to stick a bead, pea, or other similar object up his or her nose, just wait!

I got the opportunity to try this earlier tonight and was amazed at how fast it worked and how painless it is (compared to sticking something up the nostril in chase of said object--bad idea).

Simply block the other nostril with your finger and blow hard in the child's mouth (think, mouth to mouth resuscitation here). The object will quickly fly out! File this tip away in your mental emergency medical file.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Internet Sabbatical

The internet is a tricky thing. There are some wonderful tools available via cyber-space, some of which I've become much more dependent on since I've had young children in the house. I order clothes for our family from clearance sites on line, work on my digital photo books without having to worry that little Johnny will tear up a priceless photo, do all banking online and schedule all bill payments so they don't get lost in the shuffle, email someone who's now living in Germany, etc.

However, the internet can be such a time drain!!!! When Carrie and I started this blog, I had three napping children in the afternoon, two nappers in the morning, and only 1 mobile child. Now, I have three very mobile children, no morning nappers, and 2 afternoon nappers (and 1 child who is awake all day...). In addition to that, we've combined our computer with our TV, so my time on the computer is non-existent in the evening.

All of that is fine, except that it's easy to follow rabbit trails through cyber-space, read fascinating blogs, write up random blog posts when I have time, and so forth...often when I should be doing something a bit more constructive. I've written this week about some tools of the digital world that I find very useful, but today I'm going to commit to an internet sabbatical: the entire month of May.

Why a sabbatical? Because as we all know, the internet turns your little internal clock off. You can sit down "for a minute" and an hour is gone by instantly. I do not have time for those precious hours to slip by anymore. There are better things for me to do: right things for me to do. The internet is not wrong, but I don't need to spend as much time on it as I do. How much time do I spend on the computer? Probably only an hour or two a day. However, that precious hour or two during kids' naptime (and 1 child's quiet time) is the only time I have now to communicate with long-distance friends, to work on projects that are best done when children are out of the way, to have my quiet time, etc. Those are more important than reading someone's blog I don't know or finding yet another fabulous recipe.

Why a sabbatical, though? Why not just limit my use? Well, I'm curious to see how many things I'll get done and how much better my life will be! I'm trying to talk my husband into a media fast in general (from TV and movies). We'll see if I can convince him. I doubt it. But maybe we can limit our watching to once a week. There are so many more worthwhile things to be doing, especially when the weather is nice. There are books we want to read, hikes we want to take, art projects to do with the kids, and so forth. So, consider this an experiment.

I can't go entirely without the internet because there are some people with whom I only communicate via email (aforementioned friend in Germany) and we bank with an online bank. However, I am committing to the following: no new blog posts (some are already scheduled), no reading of other people's blogs (sigh), checking email only once a day, no surfing the web for a new recipe, etc. What can I do online during my internet sabbatical? Balance my bank account, pull up a recipe I already know exists on my food blog, check my email once a day, and that's about it. I meant to have this post published first thing this morning (May 1st), but life interrupted that plan.

So, you'll be hearing few thoughts from me this month--Carrie has been quite busy herself, so TT may be a quiet place for the next few weeks. Feel free to subscribe and then you'll automatically get the next post without having to check back in.