Gazing Upward
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  • August18th

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    It’s been a week since my youngest of four kids started kindergarten, and I’ve found myself a bit sentimental and nostalgic.  A quiet house can do that to you.  So I spent some time reading old blog posts to revisit the season of life when my kids were home all day long.  I reasoned that reminders of terrible twos and temper tantrums would make me especially grateful for the hours of silence and freedom I now have to myself.

    When I stumbled upon the post below from 2010, I not only melted when I saw the baby faces of Carter and Grace, I also felt encouraged by the reminders to embrace the daily grind. Even with my freed-up schedule, I can still get grumpy with the mundane rituals, especially when they become maddening with carpool delays, rushed dinner prep, endless chores, and bedtime-routines-gone-askew.   No matter our age or the season of life we’re in, the daily repetition of ordinary tasks can drain our joy, if we let it.

    But I love what author Richard Foster writes: “If we fail to sanctify the ordinary, we will be leaving God out of a large part of who we are and what we do.” For the mom struggling to hold onto her sense of purpose as she labors to get through the day, I especially hope the truths and insights below will be sweet to your soul.

    P.S. I’ve quickly adjusted to the calm and quiet hours by myself, and they’re glorious! No more tears from this momma!

    May 3, 2010
    (This was a few weeks after we adopted and brought home Grace from China.)

    On our flight home from China, I told Scott I was craving normalcy and routine. After weeks of anticipation (and anxiety) before our trip, and a long 17-day adventure across the world and back, I was ready to become a family of four and embrace the daily grind. Simple tasks like laundry, driving Carter to Mother’s Day Out, and grocery shopping seemed refreshingly simple.

    It didn’t take very long after arriving home before I began dreading the chore of folding clean clothes. And resenting the number of times I have to scrub our kitchen table and booster seats in one day. And feeling drained trying to create new ideas for fun and entertainment for two toddlers.

    Words of Wisdom

    The other day, I suddenly recalled a series of devotions I read in one of my seminary classes. I pulled out Devotional Classics edited by Richard J. Foster, and found the highlighted wise words penned by Kathleen Norris. Here are some tidbits I’ve pulled from her portion in the book:

    • “And it always seems that just when daily life seems most unbearable, stretching out before me like a prison sentence, when I seem most dead inside, reduced to mindlessness, bitter tears or both, that what is inmost breaks forth, and I realize that what had seemed ‘dead time’ was actually a period of gestation. It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation.”
    • “The contemplative in me recognizes the sacred potential in the mundane task.”
    • “Repetition is both as ordinary and necessary as bread, and the very stuff of ecstasy.”

    God gives us work to do. And whether it’s at home, in an office, or even on the mission field, the work often involves repetition. Sometimes He’s inviting us to play. Other times, the mindlessness of the task frees us to worship Him in the midst of our busyness. There are moments in the day when I long for leisure time that is all to myself. Freedom to curl up and read a book. Or catch up on blogs. Or watch Tivo’d episodes of my favorite shows. And then I am reminded that motherhood is my job right now. That’s not to make it sound technical. Being a mother, and staying home with my kids, is a joy and fulfilled dream. But there are duties that come with the package…changing diapers, disciplining, cleaning up toys, preparing food for hungry mouths. Not to mention the sacrifice of self-denial. You can’t always sleep, eat, or play when you want to.

    When you want to escape from your responsibilities and mundane tasks for something more exciting or fulfilling, remind yourself that this work is just as important. When you feel like you must be missing your calling, that you can’t possibly be impacting the world for Christ while scrubbing dishes in the kitchen sink, let His Word remind you that He created this assignment just for you! Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

    As I reread the thoughts of Kathleen Norris, I was encouraged to embrace the mundane this week and find Him in those moments. In this season of my life, God has called me to be a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers. The days can be long. The work can be exhausting. The chores can seem endless. The time not my own. But when surrendered to Him, the rewards can be big. We don’t have to search in a church service, in a Bible study, through a praise song, or at a big spiritual retreat to find Him. He can be found in every simple and common thing we do.

    **If you have particular habits or ways you find God in the mundane, please share in the comments!  I’d love to hear and try your ideas!

    Copyright: tomertu / 123RF Stock Photo
  • August11th

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    This morning, I tearfully watched my youngest child pull the straps of her multi-colored, zebra-print backpack onto her shoulders and walk into the elementary school as a kindergartener.  Leading up to this big day, she and I read many books together to prepare her heart and mind for this big step.

    The one story she wanted to hear repeatedly was I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas.  It’s a sweet, reassuring tale about how the momma pig’s love is with her piglet all day long, whether they’re together or apart.  She loves him even when he accidentally makes a mess, or trips over his shoelaces, or makes a mistake.  For my nervous, 5-year-old perfectionist, these were comforting thoughts.

    I’ve spent the last few hours cleaning my kitchen and doing laundry.  Don’t be impressed….this is much more an issue of me being a control freak than a diligent housewife.  If I can’t do anything about how my child is doing at school, I’ll find something I can control. It’s my way of bringing chaos into order. Plus an orderly room makes me feel more peaceful.

    As I pushed my Swiffer back and forth across the kitchen floors, I prayed that all four of my kids would remember throughout the day how loved they are.  I prayed that if they felt lonely, intimidated, insecure, or imperfect, that they would pull confidence from the truths and lessons we’ve tried to instill in them.  And just maybe, the little tale of a momma’s love would give them the quiet assurance they need to overcome their hesitations or fears.

    The Lord used this same book as a sweet reminder to me this morning that He loves me all day long as well.

    Even when I’m trying to control circumstances.

    Or when I make a mess out of a situation.

    Or in those moments that I doubt the goodness of His plans for me.

    His constant and unconditional love settles my restless spirit and aching heart. And I’m reminded that just as He has equipped me for every good work, He has given my children everything they need for today.

    I just looked up at my bulletin board and saw the verse Deuteronomy  31:8…. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  We don’t have to spend a moment apart from our Father! Regardless of where we’re headed or where we’ve come from.

    I’m praying for you fellow mommas who sent your babies off to big school today!  We have loved our children well, and Jesus loves them greater still.  Let Him be your source of comfort and love today.

     

     

  • May16th

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    Every year, I seem to engage in three periods of reflection and evaluation:  the launch of a new school year, the celebration of a new calendar year, and the transition into summer.  There are always fresh ideas, new goals, renewed resolutions, and unbridled determination (which may or may not last but a few days.)  The allure is that I love fresh starts and second chances.  These times remind me that I can make a choice to break out of unhealthy or unproductive patterns. I can give a worthwhile goal another GO. I can reprioritize to include a project I’ve long kept on the back-burner. And I have an excuse to go splurge on new office supplies. Because who doesn’t feel better after buying a pretty new notebook and fancy colored pens and nifty paperclips?? Nothing makes me want to get organized like gorgeous, patterned filing folders.  Surely I have some soul sisters out there who feel the same way.

    So the 2016-17 school year is wrapping up, and I’m making my summer wish lists, bucket lists, and project lists.  As I look back at my 2017 New Year’s goals, I see one resolution in particular that I did not make good on…. updating my blog.   I kept putting it off because I wasn’t sure where to start, or if anyone actually reads blogs anymore, or if I even remembered how to sign in to the dashboard! Alas, five months into 2017, I’m adding it to my summer goals and giving it a try.

    I’ve always loved to write, and this blog was such a great forum to sift through my thoughts. It’s a space where jumbled emotions transformed into words and coherent ideas. It’s a space where I often had big revelations in the midst of typing about mundane happenings. And most importantly, this blog became a “stone of remembrance” for me where I could look back at posts and recall the many times God demonstrated His faithfulness. Because I certainly can’t rely on my memory anymore!  In the limitless world wide web, I found a small sacred space where I learned more about God, myself and others.  I made connections with incredible people whom I never would have met otherwise, and I was left the better for it.

    Let me clarify, I’m not calling this blog itself “sacred.” What I mean, is that I have found that when I take a few moments to quiet myself before Jesus, He can bring some sort of order to the haphazard impressions and feelings that emanate from this crazy life. In fact, when I set apart these moments to reflect and look for His hand at work in my daily life, I find myself humbled, encouraged, inspired, and changed.  And I was much more likely to reflect on daily life when I was blogging and writing.  Sometimes these moments were just a few seconds and sometimes they were much more. No matter their length, the key is that they were moments I set apart – and when I do so God makes them sacred. He does that for us all whenever we come before Him.  I look forward to sharing the silly, the serious, and yes, the sacred, as I continue this journey as wife, mother, and friend.

  • December4th

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    I apologize for being long overdue in giving an update.  I don’t have any excuses except that having four kids is kicking my tail!

    I went back to the breast specialist yesterday, and the abscess seems to have cleared up!! She could still feel a small mass but thinks it’s the tissue healing underneath the biopsy scar.  I won’t go back now until February 4th (unless of course the abscess is still there and starts growing again). They’ll repeat the mammogram to ensure that all is normal.  I just have to say HOORAY!!!! for no surgery. Thank you for all the prayers and sweet words of encouragement. I can’t even imagine how I’d cope with the healing process when I can’t even manage my own family and home when I’m healthy! 🙂

    Another good report came a few weeks ago…actually the same day we got the good news from the biopsy report. I took Maryn to our allergist so they could confirm what her allergies really are. I was scared that there was something I wasn’t cutting out that she was allergic to because we couldn’t get her BMs back to normal.  At first, it looked like eggs might be added to the list. But at the end of the testing, it was just milk and soy allergies which we had assumed based on our pediatrician’s visit. The REALLY good news though is that the results showed up as intolerances rather than full-blown allergies, so she should outgrow them before she’s 15 months!!! (Carter was SO excited when he heard Maryn had allergies and said, “Thank you Mom! Thank you for giving Maryn what you gave me! She’s just like me!!”  So needless to say, I haven’t broken the news to him yet that she doesn’t really have bad food allergies like him after all.

    Maryn did incredibly well. She didn’t even cry when they pricked her back. She is the most chill, laid-back baby. She even fell asleep while waiting for the test to be over.

    (Check out my baby’s arm rolls. See how many you can count. Hee hee. 🙂 )

    The other fantastic news is that the allergist thinks we should be able to use Nutramigen if I decide to stop breastfeeding, as opposed to the ridiculously expensive prescription formula. I may not make it another 6 months (I’m craving some chocolate BIG time!), but I’m sticking with it for now.  I actually feel really great after dropping dairy from my diet. The soy….it’s coming close to being a deal-breaker for nursing but I’m slowly finding good and even delicious recipes and foods that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. My favorites are chicken fettucini salad, kale sausage meatballs, and cranberry apple stuffing (my Thanksgiving treat). I can also eat gummy bears so I’ve been gobbling them down like they’re becoming extinct. If you are or have been in the same boat, let’s please swap some recipes and ideas.

    We’re so thankful for the positive news! Thanksgiving pictures are soon coming your way. The kids put on their annual show, and guess who the plump turkey was????

  • November25th

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    bday girl

    cake

    blowing out the candle

    daddy and bday girl

    doll checkup

    dollhouse

    getting nails painted

    face painting

    Grace and doll stroller

    Grace singing

    Grace

    Grace's nails

    IMG_2287 - Version 2

    lemonade fountain

    Maryn

    table setting

    the cake

    the girls

     

    Grace,

    My little China doll is growing up! You are full of energy and enjoy dancing and singing…constantly. You often improvise on songs and incorporate lyrics from actual songs.  Most people would describe you as animated, expressive, and perhaps a little dramatic. We joke about you taking up acting because you can show the most mature expressions!

    In addition to prancing and singing around the house, your other favorite activities include playing games like CandyLand Winnie the Pooh Matching, kitchen (always the hostess offering us hot coffee), coloring and all sorts of crafts, doodling letters, and reading about princesses. Belle is your very favorite!

    Favorite shows include Caillou, Max & Ruby, SuperWhy, and Dora. We’ve also recently discovered The Care Bears on Amazon Prime. It brings me back to my own childhood.

    This year, you played soccer for the first time in the fall.  You are also taking a ballet/tap class with Ms. Gina. You are learning how to be a big sister, and you’re such a big help with Maryn. This year has also been one of power struggles. You will do almost anything to win a battle and not surrender.

    At school, on the other hand, I am told you are very well-behaved. You enjoy order and structure. And you have also taken it upon yourself to tell a classmate’s mom if their child has been in timeout during that day. They love getting the scoop from you! But we’re definitely working on cutting the tattle-taling.

    Over the last few months, you’ve had many questions about your China mommy and why we chose to adopt you.  While we have always talked about your background, I think you’re beginning to understand and grasp the details. And that’s difficult for a 4-year-old to do. I predict that we’ll have many more conversations before you turn five. What we want you to understand most is that you are loved, loved, loved, my child. Not only by your mommy and daddy, but also by your siblings, relatives, and friends. And most of all by God. What a story He has written for you!

    Happy 4th Birthday Princess!

    Love,

    Mommy