Well, I’ve been away from my blog for a while. Unfortunately, when a million other things are going on, my blog falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Fortunately, it’s for a very good reason! If you don’t know me personally, the reason I’ve been MIA is because I’m pregnant! Yay! Many backdated posts being composed in the next few days to make up some of the missing time. But I’m back … for now.
Once we passed the first trimester, we made the big announcement. First, we told our daughter. To help with understanding, we gave her a baby doll – one that drinks and wets. We then called family and friends, then (once I got my awesome photo), posted to facebook, and let the comments roll in. The posted photo included the words “[daughter's name] practicing for her new sibling – eta Feb 2015″
Last night we skipped out on Growth Group (for shame!) to head about 30 mins south to have dinner with my family to celebrate my Grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary (actually June 12!) as well as an early Father’s Day. We went to Seasons 52, which is a fun restaurant (on the expensive side): everything is less than 500 calories, there are several dietary restricted menus if you need them, and the food is changed quarterly to match the seasons. It’s really neat!
Anyway, we had a private room at the back – there were 20 or so of us after all. In addition to the three of us, my grandparents and my parents, both my brothers came – one with his wife and 5 month old daughter (who both spent most of the time outside due to screaming), the other solo. Both my uncles and one aunt were there, as well as three of my five cousins. We had a lovely meal – including sushi and flat-bread appetizers and wonderful fish (and other things) as the main course. The fish was so good, in fact, that my daughter decided after eating her pizza that she’d like my salmon – all of it. Well, not all of it. Just the soft, tasty pink part. I could keep the charred part on the top. Our kid ate a whole personal pizza plus about 2/3 of my salmon! Good thing I had my own personal GF sushi appetizer.
Finally they had what they called “indulgences” for dessert – little 1″ x 1″ x 2″ cups of cakes, pies, or cream things. They had a special tiered tray to stack them and put a candle in the top little cup for my grandparents to blow out, so it looked like a fancy glass cake with treats inside. When Ashley the waitress set it down, my grandparents were so distracted by the desserts, they completely forgot about the candle. About ten minutes later I started to smell smoke and looked around and saw smoke curling up from the table. I briefly wondered who took up smoking (a e-cig?) and rejected that idea as soon as it crossed my mind. I found the candle in front of my grandparents and had to remind them to blow it out – they’d completely forgotten, as had everyone else remotely close to them.
My grandparents were adamantly against gifts, but I couldn’t help but give them stamped pennies from 1954. I apologized for screwing up the “no gift rule” and my grandad called me a terrible granddaughter (jokingly). They were so happy with the pennies – simple and meaningful. Then – my favorite part of the night! My brother showed my grandfather how to take a selfie with his phone. He was totally fascinated! He took a couple, then my brother showed him how to email them to people. Grandad was so thrilled he could take pictures with himself in them, but my grandmother was like “No. Nope. Nuh-uh.” She’s too proper (I had a former teacher call her “regal”) to be caught up in anything that’s not posed and clean and flattering. After that, we said goodnight and headed home.
What an absolute blessing to get to celebrate this wonderful occasion with my grandparents. I remember celebrating their 50th anniversary, but this has so much more meaning to me now that I have been married 8 years. I am so impressed with their example and their love for each other over so many years. I am impressed with their kindness, humor, charity, and love. And what impresses me perhaps the most is that these two people who are so dear to me are missing Christ from their lives. They live so fully, so wonderfully, and so sacrificially and are wonderful examples (and have been my entire life!), but they have managed to do so by themselves – with no guiding spirit or no church body for fellowship and edification. I pray daily for my family because these people are good, kind people, and they deserve to hear the gospel and benefit from the love, grace and mercy it can bestow on them – the same things they have been giving most of their lives, but not often receiving.
The past month has been a whirlwind. In spite of the fact that I was feeling a bit off (see my post on depression), I had to just chug on, as life just seems to move forward whether we want it to or not. So while I seriously wanted to curl up in a ball with my comfy, cozy blanket and read a book, sleep, or watch netflix until the tv checks to see if I’m still alive, there were mom duties, church duties, and WORK duties. And work this month – ohmygoodness. I had 248 orders in May – that’s 8 orders a day. It was busier that Christmas last year. Or ever, actually. While I sure love the business, it’s been hard to find the time to work as well as parent and recover from the Tea that went awry (again, another post). As of today, my orders are more of less caught up – nothing due out until Friday, though I am trying to get orders out faster than my eta is stated to be. I have 60 orders currently in my queue. I’ve been meeting for VBS (and other church ‘things’) and trying to deal with family struggles.
But in the midst of all this, today was a nice breath of fresh air. After an agonizing decision about whether or not to hold our daughter back or send her into kindergarten (it totally wasn’t a tough decision at all), we decided she’d benefit most from a year of transitional kindergarten (TK), so she’s staying at the same preschool, with the same basic guidelines, leadership, etc. Some of her classmates will be the same. Her teachers will be different, but it will feel familiar. Her two best friends, on the other hand…one is moving to kindergarten. One is doing home-school TK next year – both great choices for those kids! However, today was the last day of school, and that always brings … emotions.
For me, it was sweet. Her teachers were sad to see their kids go. One teacher is getting married (yay!). The kids were SO CUTE in their “patriotic parade” shaking their shaker things (filled with rice or beans or whatever), wearing their red, white, and blue, and marching and waving at the HUGE CROWD (of parents). Their were hugs and gifts, thank yous and photos. Then we were ready to head home. It was pleasant. A nice way to end the school year and start the summer.
For the parents of my daughter’s friends, the emotions ran a lot higher. There was the realization that the babies weren’t babies any more. That they were headed to real school, leaving their friends, leaving the safety of preschool. After saying goodbye to their teachers, the three girls ran around the corner, stopping at the three yellow poles that mark the end of the corridor, and we all got a bit choked up – the last time these three would run together and play like this. Sure, there will be play dates and visits, but this – THIS EXACT THING – will never happen again.
But that’s silly. This moment (meaning me typing this post outside while my daughter plays in her pool and sandbox) will never happen again. She will always be a little older (as will I), a little different. Things will change, relationships will grow, people will drift apart. While I may feel a brief sadness at the thought of time passing, I look forward to the future, and what joy and promise it holds.
And I do have to say, I am glad of our decision to hold her back another year. Being an adult is hard, and I’m glad our kid has one extra year of being a kid.
Daughter: You’re silly.
Dad (my husband): You’re sillier.
Daughter: You the silliest.
Dad: You’re the Queen of the Silly People.
Daughter: Well, you’re the King of the Silly People.
Dad: I can’t be the King, you’re already the Queen.
Daughter: Well, you’re bigger and older than me, so you have to be the King.
Dad: Okay, you can be the Princess of the Silly People.
Daughter: I don’t want to be the Princess.
Dad: But the people need their Princess.
Daughter: No, they need Jesus.
Our daughter is either going to grow up to be a missionary or something or totally rebel and be a hardcore atheist. Pray for her. I do.
So you know my post about depression? Yeah, I’m feeling better. I asked several friends to pray, and I started feeling better. That, and I actually rested a bit and stopped eating some stuff that was making me ill. Yay for not feeling the blues and being back to my normal (weird) self.
Ugh. Just ugh. I’ve been feeling so down lately. It’s been hard to get motivated to do much, even to blog (and just when I got my site back up and running). It’s especially frustrating because I honestly have nothing to be depressed about. Life is grand! … I guess. What’s more, I’m not naturally a depressed person; I’m naturally cheerful, upbeat and optimistic.
I don’t want to answer emails. I don’t want to return phone calls (or pick up the phone at all). If fact, I’d rather just avoid all people completely if at all possible – even my friends (sorry friends). I don’t feel like getting the house cleaned or doing dishes or laundry, but I do those things because they need to get done. Work (stamping) is kinda enjoyable because I get to create something and I am bringing in money (which helps with our sinking fund and school loans), but it’s not fun like it usually is.
So what’s with me? Well, it’s probably my thyroid. I’ve been here before, when I hadn’t yet started my synthroid and I was dealing with brain fog, hair loss and inexplicable sadness. Now, after diet changes (fasting), extreme stress (hello Women’s tea!) and a few missed doses of Synthroid (grrr doctor’s office, call me back!), my body seems to be needing a break from everything, and that seems to be including my cheerful, upbeat outlook on life.
It’s an extremely odd feeling: almost like I’m a stranger looking in at myself telling me to “COME ON, CHEER UP!” After all, I am deeply familiar with people who are in much harder situations, I have so much to be thankful for, and everything in my life is honestly wonderful. But the depression won’t quit; it’s like a cough that just won’t go away – you may be on the upswing, but there’s that cough again, attacking and leaving you paralyzed at just the wrong moment. But you know that eventually, you will stop coughing because you can’t cough forever, right? Right?
I write this because my depression is not who I am, but it is something I experience. It’s not something I enjoy, but it is something I have learned from. For one, depression to me has become a physical state. It’s hard to mentally pull myself out of the physical gloom, but they are two separate things. There’s that little cheerleader inside of my going, “everything will be okay” that keeps me feeling fine, even when all I want to do is go back to bed in the morning.
But the real secret? That little cheerleader inside isn’t me. I on my own could never manage to be continually positive in the face of the physical heaviness depression causes day in and out (though I grant you, this spell has been blessedly short thus far).That cheerleader is the Spirit, speaking truth to my soul, encouraging me that I am not alone, that I do not need to fear. For each time I find myself ready to break down and cry, ready to give up or just go back to bed, I hear that quiet voice whispering (or sometimes shouting!):
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6-7
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, Psalm 46:1-2
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil 4:12-13
…And countless other verses. I am not alone, and therefore cannot be lonely. I can be sad, but there is always someone there to comfort me. No matter how lost, sad, anxious, or afraid I may feel, there is a ever present peace that reaches out to cover me. And while I generally prefer the rejoicing and thanksgiving, I will certainly take the comfort and peace when I feel lost. I certainly am grateful to be able to experience both aspects of God’s love in my life. And even though the darkness sometimes seems overwhelming, it is never pervasive – it never swallows or consumes me because there is something much brighter dwelling inside.
Funny enough, one of the drafts I have to work on is titled “Joy” – I think I need to save writting that post until I’m a little more, um, joyful.
Once again this year I was in charge of the food for the women’s tea, which always happens the day before Mother’s Day. Spoilers if you don’t want to read the whole post – we managed to get the food served, the food tasted good, I needed more help, and I am NEVER doing that again. For the long story, read on…
It all started off on the wrong foot when Easter landed late this year. I tried to start with planning and recruiting earlier than Easter, I really did. It just didn’t happen.
Then, there were people out of town. Or long time helpers who just needed a break this year. Or ladies who wanted to help but had emergencies. There were people who could help, but I simply ran out of time to call after so many nos and just needed to start working or nothing was going to get done.
(After planning the menu) I made the molded chocolates by myself. I figured out the shopping. I had a panic attack and called my MIL to take my daughter for a few days. I did the shopping (6 hours in one day). I made the special mayo, cucumber spread, chicken salad. I called for help. I got help with one of the desserts (PRAISE GOD!). I made the mini tarts (Lord, WHY did I choose this dessert?!?) which were not so pretty (but tasted good). I had three – THREE – helpers prepping with me the day before.
Then, the day of, I had 6 helpers (and one hostess who briefly stepped in to help until she needed to go host her table – yay!). I even called my MIL and asked her if she’d help when she brought my daughter home (she often helps my brother-in-law with his catering business). I really think that ten are needed. We ran around like crazy ladies for hours. The hot water needed to be boiled and poured into the dispensers (since the dispensers were slow). Praise God there was no sweet tea to make. We almost ran out of chicken salad. We nearly missed the lunch queue. We couldn’t sit because we needed to plate the desserts. Two dessert tiers fell apart on us. The desserts were late out. It was chaos and we were tired.
But more than that, there was a lack of grace in those attending that made the day really hard. There were not a lot of thank yous for my helpers. There were a lot of exasperated sighs followed by “the hot water isn’t ready yet?” There were frowns and arms crossed when we brought out desserts. There were ladies walking through the kitchen (an off-limit zone during the tea), who back-talked and rolled eyes when asked to walk around. It was a hard day for a whole lot of work.
It was hard to see so many women who I know, many whom I love and many who are “church ladies” acting so – to be blunt – rude. I know that some were church visitors, but many weren’t. I know I snapped at someone once during the morning and felt awful. For me, the tea was a great reminder of how HUMAN church-goers really are. How flawed and self-centered/self-focused we all can get at times, no matter how wonderful or kind the person. It was a good moment for me for self-reflection. I myself recognize those times I fall short of my expectations for myself – fall flat on my face, in fact – and I try my best to improve my conduct the next time. The only thing I can do with those around me is to hope they do the same, and not to judge them for the same faults that I certainly possess.
However, the tea wiped me out. Four days and not enough help really affected my health and just about knocked me out since. Plus, it just didn’t seem fair to my daughter. So, regrettably, I won’t be able to lead the tea again. Besides, I’d rather be hosting a table, where I can invite my mother and grandmother, who are lost and could use the message.
In all this excitement, I did learn a valuable lesson (look! It’s an afternoon special!): Just because I am good at something doesn’t mean I need to do it – even if I am the best candidate for the job.*
*And I am in no way saying that I am the most qualified for doing food for the tea – I just happened to be the only person who would say yes.
This Saturday was our church’s annual Serve the City day. Basically, it’s a chance for us to get out of the boundaries of our church and go do something to give back to the city we live in. I absolutely love this idea because I think churches often get too focused inward and on serving their own community (or teaching their community how to serve others without actually going out to do so). If fact, I find it so important, I canceled out monthly Deaconess meeting to clear way for the ladies to be able to make time for serving instead.
We had two projects going that morning: beach clean up and serving at the local rescue mission. My husband, daughter and I headed to the beach to meet everyone (last year we met at the church, but this year we knew what we were doing, so we drove straight there). We met up with our friends, grabbed a donut (sadly not me, *sniff*), and headed out on the beach to pick up some trash … all 11 of us. Yes, 11. Of 350+ who attend our church.
So we had a great time. We let our four year old find shells instead this year (she was horribly bored doing trash for 2 hours last year). We found some treasures: butane lighters, toothbrushes, socks, a creepy doll, a medical boot, a fake nose, and a dead seal. Yay! Then we headed back to the cars, drove to a local restaurant, and enjoyed lunch and fellowship together before getting home before 1pm.
After chatting with the leader, we did find out there were a few people signed up to go over to the mission, but not many. I am extremely saddened by the number of people (especially those in leadership positions) who felt they had better things to do this morning. I myself did NOT want to go. I was exhausted from the tea last week, I have a ton of work orders, and I just need a break. But this is important!
As we walked on the beach, we ran into another group cleaning up the beach. They were chatting and having a great time! It was a fundraiser and contest, and all sorts of people showed up. I’m sure some of them were religious, but the event was clearly secular, and was infinitely more successful. How incredibly sad that we, who pride ourselves on being loving and caring, sometimes care more about ourselves than those around us – even to the point of ignoring a serve day that comes once a year. My heart just hurts at how hypocritical we (myself included – we’ve done serve day for years and this is only my second time!) behave.
However, times like this do make me grateful that I put my trust not in people, church, or religion, but in an all powerful creator. After all, the lack of people for a serving event is no different than my hypocritical behavior in other areas – I am far from perfect and am so glad I have someone to follow who IS perfect in every way.
Hello. Again. It seems that my little site is the perfect target for spammers. I wasn’t even listed on google forgoodnesssake. So anyway, I miraculously (*cough*with help*cough*) cleared the 15k+ spam emails sent from my site, the 60k+ spam comments in my blog, and the 3 pages on my site which – instead of linking to info about how I stamp or who I am – linked to a viagra sales site. The wonderful hackers even got into my cpannel and wordpress dashboard so that I couldn’t fix anything myself. With the help of two different web monitoring sites, I was able to get everything cleaned up, and now I can write again. Whoo! I’ve spent a bit of time backdating a few entries to cover the gaps, but I should be back to posting when my queue is down to a reasonable length (it’s at around 80 right now). Blessings as you read!
Last night my family sat down to watch a movie. I’ve been on a Disney kick lately, but not the animated movie – the old live action ones. For the most part, they are safe, cheesy and fun to watch. I don’t remember them, my husband has never seen them, and my daughter will tolerate them, which is awesome because it means we don’t need to sit through another Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
So this week the movie choice was Pollyanna. My mom used to love this movie, so I watched it fairly often as a kid, though, to be honest, it kinda bored me, so I watched it less often than my mom wanted to. I remembered very very little from the movie. All I basically remembered was that Pollyanna came to live with her Aunt and slowly made the town a happy place to live. Color me SHOCKED when I found the movie to be heavily influenced by religion – something that was so over my head as a kid who never went to church. The discussion of religion kept coming and coming,
I was sitting half paying attention to the movie when Pollyanna casually mentioned that her (now deceased) parents were missionaries (me: wait, did they die on the mission field! TELL ME MORE!). At one point, Aunt Polly is sitting with the Reverend and hands him suggestions of verses to include in the next Sunday’s sermon. It’s pretty clear that the suggestion isn’t really a suggestion (Wait, is she just helping or is he forced to do that because of the money she gives?).
Aunt Polly Harrington: He said you only have the congregation for one short hour a week. And there are six long days of mischief for them before you get them again.
Reverend Ford: Ah! I see your point. Strike hard on Sunday the excessiveness of God’s wrath and hope they carry it with them a few days into the week!
Later, the town tries to rally to raise money for the orphanage began by Aunt Polly’s father, but Aunt Polly pledges to take care of the problem – though only the bare minimum, not what really needs to be fixed. (That doesn’t seem like real charity to me.) People talk about hating Sunday and it being the worst day of the week because of the sour taste the sermon leaves in their mouths. The Sunday sermon is awful: full of damnation and sin – and the viewers have to watch all of it (where’s the salvation, grace and forgiveness?). Later, the town rallys together and asks for the support of the church and the revered declares that he must remain neutral. (Is that really the church’s job – to not take a stand?) Pollyanna finds the reverend practicing his sermon “DEATH COMES UNEXPECTEDLY!” in a field and tells him about her father, who decided to concentrate on the “happy texts”
Reverend: The happy texts?
Pollyanna: Yes. Like, um, ‘Shout for joy,’ or, ‘Be glad in the Lord.’ You know, like that… There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that?
Reverend: No, I didn’t know that.
Pollyanna: And do you know, my father said that if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.
While leaving that thought hanging in the air, and after commenting casually, “no one owns a church,” she hands Reverend Ford a letter from Aunt Polly with suggestions for the Sunday sermon. Reverend Ford looks after Pollyanna as she leaves, starts to read the letter and falls to his knees, crying, “what have I done?” His sermon the next Sunday is full of love, joy and the “happy texts,” which he has spent the rest of the week counting. Spurned on by a change of leadership, the entire town starts to feel joy which eventually affects even sour Aunt Polly. If only church today had that kind of power – to reach out into the community, bring joy – reaching into the darkness and pulling people out of their isolation. While the gospel does have that power, it feels like too many churches themselves isolate and never bother to go out of their own doors to serve the community around them.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that my mom actually liked the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us believe that church and region really is like that – often angry, condemning, and guilt-ridden. How redeeming then for the movie to turn not just the town around, but the church – the guiding light? The reverend realizing he’s been preaching fear and guilt, and, when confronted by a child, realizes that church (and more importantly) God and Jesus, isn’t about that – Love, joy and happiness is infinitely more important. If only people (like my mom) could realize that churches like that are not just for the happy-ending-movies, but that that kind of freedom and happiness can be found just around the corner if you can find the right church home.
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