Welcome, 2019!

I am generally bad at keeping New Year’s resolutions. But, here I am. I’m making several.

I’m also generally bad at using checklists, but I just finished creating a checklist to help guide the year. Here it is in two-sided glory. See what I did? The monthly list folds over to the back side. Nifty, huh?

checklist

I decided to make the checklist track most of my resolutions, and I decided to make one piece of paper cover a whole month since, heaven knows, I don’t need more scraps of paper around this house. (But, I don’t want to know about your fancy checklist apps.) Plus, if I only need one checklist per month, then I only have to maintain the willpower to print this document 13 times (one extra to cover weekly lists for those weird weeks that don’t cleanly fit in a single month). I’m hoping that having the checklist visible somewhere will help me communicate expectations better. I’m not going to go into my whole struggle with expectations right now, but if my checklist is visible to Mark, it will help him know loving ways that he can help me and also help him know what I’m trying to accomplish in any given week since sometimes I forget to use my words and instead look like a chicken with her head cut off.

Here’s a brief whirlwind tour of what’s on the checklist and why. Five quiet times a week. I need more Jesus in my life. I’m making a true confession when I say that setting the bar at 5 times a week felt aggressive. I’ve not been that consistent in my quiet time, but I think that to build a habit, I’ve got to set it at 5 times. But, 5 minutes of any spiritual development counts. Obviously, I hope to get in more than 5 minutes most days, but 5 times-5 minutes. That’s the balance I came to as I tried to make the goal achievable.

Clutter on the kitchen counter is where I start to lose the battle of the whole house. Plus, a cluttered counter is something my sweet husband does not often complain about, but I know it makes him crazy. Mopping our first floor is going to be necessary since soon Ezra will be set loose to walk around in that space. Between his high chair overflow and dog hair… ugh. The floor should be mopped every day, but time is finite.

The project space will be filled out weekly using one of 3 philosophies – one big project that I want to carve out two hours to work on, 2 smaller 30 minute projects, or 4 quick projects. I hope that by doing this, I can keep annoying things from hanging over my head for too long and keep big projects on the radar. For example, I just brought home a video monitor for Ezra’s room. I keep telling myself I need to get it hooked up, and I could conceivably continue to tell myself that until he’s 18. But, if I put that project with 3 other brief ones on the list, then either Mark or I can take a look at the list, knock out the project, and keep the house humming along a little more smoothly. And, yes, I plan to have another longer list somewhere that projects will be pulled from, and no, the projects on that list will never be exhausted. But, weekly goals will help prioritize what I want to do.

Then, I have a monthly checklist. I’ve set goals to blog at least twice a month. One of the regrets of my first year of motherhood is that I’ve blogged so little about the experience;  I also want to revive my quilt blog. And, I want to sew at least three times a month. Now that Ezra is getting to the point of being able to play independently, I think I can set up a spot in the basement just out of his reach and sew while I keep an eye on him. Blogging and sewing are huge for my sanity. In the same vein of self-care, Mark and I discussed what we could do. At the beginning of each month, we plan to carve out on the calendar one evening each month where one or the other of us is completely responsibility free. Normally he gets home and plays with Ezra and then cooks dinner, but on his responsibility-free night, he can opt for a break if he wants to just veg out. On my nights, I get to hand Ezra off to Mark when he gets home, and I’m not doing the bedtime routine. Oh, hallelujah, I’m not doing bedtime. Then, we’ll mark one day each month that one or the other of us gets to sleep in as long as we want. Sometimes that will be the same day since my mom takes Ezra occasionally overnight, and sometimes, we’ll just take turns getting up on Saturday and whisking the noisy baby to the basement play area and putting the dog out so the other person can sleep.

And, yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it but cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the whole house are on there as monthly chores. In an ideal world, they’d get done more often then that — by someone else. But, we don’t live in the rich people neighborhood and aren’t planning on hiring help, so… on the monthly list those chores go.

book stack

And, the stack of books above represents my reading list for the year (except on closer investigation, I’m going to swap out Doing a Literature Review for something more beneficial to my editing work). I chose 12 books last year. I gave up on God Meets You Where You Are because I ran out of time. And, I have 3 partially completed books from 2018 to finish before I get to my 2019 reading list. To be clear, I read more than 11 books last year; it’s just that Agatha Christie had a way of sneaking in sometimes. This year, I’ll need to be more mindful of my pacing of the chosen 12. The whole point of this stack is to force me to read books on my shelves that I ultimately want to read but won’t reach for first. I pick a marriage and parenting book each year, snag a few non-fiction, and choose a biography and a classical work. Novels work their way into my reading on their own, so other than a classic, I don’t put them in this pile.

So, how about any of you? What resolutions did you make? Any tips for keeping up with a checklist?

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Ezra – 11 months

Dear Ezra,

You’re 11 months old. One more month until you are a one year old. How time flies!

Your motto in life continues to be, “Why sit when I can stand?” You cruise around on the furniture all the time. And, you got a car that makes you so happy (and us because you’re hilarious in it). You use the steering wheel to support yourself and walk laps around and around and around the house. If you were just a little more confident, you’d be walking by now, but you do not like to let go of mama and dada’s fingers. Seriously, if your car is not going in the right direction, you’ll pick it up and swivel it to where you want it to be. You could be walking, little man. We had a rare mild and dry day this month, so we took you for a walk. With mama holding one hand and dada holding the other, you walked halfway around the neighborhood, stopping to step on leaves as you went.

You continue to enjoy mimicking us, so you’ll fake cough if someone is coughing. You’ve also learned to stick your hands in the air when you hear, So big! You still like clapping, and you’ve mastered waving. I took you to Target the day you turned 11 months old, and you were waving at anyone who would pay attention to you and even the people who wouldn’t pay attention to you. You are a super friendly baby. At our Christmas party, you let anyone who wanted to pick you up, do so without a fuss. There was also no fuss when you met Santa. You just gazed inquisitively at him and tried to figure out why you were sitting on his lap.

This month, your interest is returning to books. You got to open a book a day leading up to Christmas, so that helped, and you have some books with textures and sounds, and those have lured you back to the book world as well. You still don’t like to sit still on our laps to read, but at least you’ll grab books on your own and take the time to leaf through them. You still love music, and you’ll sway or bounce when your toys make music or we play music for you. You recognize the song BINGO without any lyrics and get excited when you hear it. The music you are most responsive to is the jingle for the Schmidt Kramer law firm. You can be not paying a bit of attention to the TV, but when that jingle plays, you stop everything and wave at the TV or start clapping. For Christmas, you surprised mama by liking your play kitchen the most. You love to bang the cabinet doors and pull everything out onto the floor. So, I guess, I should not have actually been surprised that you like the toy kitchen so much because if we didn’t have cabinet locks on everything upstairs, that is exactly what you would be doing. You also like anything that is hollow and distorts your voice. You’ll pick up blocks and talk into them because you like hearing yourself, and if we give you an empty paper towel roll, you hold it to your mouth and trumpet through it. And, your other favorite for the month is any toy phone or remote that makes noise when you push the buttons. With all that reading and talking and button pushing, you’re actually pretty good at playing independently. You stay content entertaining yourself for long stretches of time, especially if you don’t see mama or dada doing anything that you are particularly tempted to get your hands into.

You love to talk. It seems like some days you talk from the time you get out of bed until you go to bed at night. You grunt and squeal. We’re ready to declare that your first word is “hi.” You’ll say that sometimes when you wave. You make car noises when you drive your car or push your toy cars around on the floor.

On the sleep front, we’ve hit more bumps. You, once again, don’t like to just be put in your crib to go to sleep, and several days this month, you decided 4 am would be an excellent wake time. You’re mostly down to one nap in the afternoon unless you just can’t make it to bed and need to grab a quick cat nap later in the afternoon.

On the eating front, you learned to drink out of a straw, and you enjoy cold water. It’s nice to be able to hand you a cup and let you take quick drinks when you’re thirsty. You’re down to no more than 5 bottles a day, sometimes as few as the 4 you get at sleep times.

Every day, we see our little baby slipping away and turning into a little boy. Watching you grow is an adventure – a tiring, chaotic, wouldn’t-trade-it-for-the-world adventure.

Ezra 10 months

Dear Ezra,

You are 10 months old, and your daddy and I can’t even keep up with you, especially over the past two weeks. Not only are you on the move ALL. the. time. but you are developing skills at a dizzying rate.

When you started this month, we’d stand you up to your walker, and more often than not, the walker would roll too quickly away, leaving you leaning precariously and screaming in a panic. Then, you moved into baby Frankenstein mode. You reluctantly pushed the walker, but you’d forget to bend your legs, leaving you with a funny little Frankenstein shuffle. We blinked, and here you are racing your walker across the room between us and loving it. If you can possibly be on your feet, you are. You stand in your playpen, cruise around the furniture, and greet me in the morning as you stand at the end of your crib. You are ever reaching for our fingers in a silent plea to help you walk all over the house. We start in the basement, and you can climb both flights of stairs (with a generous amount of help from us) and walk all the way to your bedroom. Your tactic for walking the stairs is adorable. You always lead with the left leg, kick it as high as you can, snag the edge of the next stair, then wait until we give your little arms a lift to get you the rest of the way. You’ve also learned to crawl up the stairs on your own. You took forever but made it up an entire flight the other day (and since it took a day or two to proof this, I can now report you climb the stairs at an alarming speed). You have some fear of falling down the stairs but have absolutely no idea how to get down on your own.

Your coordination is also markedly improving. One day, you spontaneously started clapping on your own. And, there are at least 3 toys that in the past 3-4 days, you’ve learned to use. You have a cement mixer, and you can effortlessly put the ball into the smokestack, so it feeds into the mixer. One day you even saw daddy put the ball in the driver’s seat, take it out, and then put it in the smokestack. You followed suit – over and over again. Mommy and daddy watched with our jaws on the floor. You can take a square block and put it into your farm toy, and you even pull down the door at the bottom of the toy and try to make it work in reverse. You can’t quite do that, but you have this crazy awareness of what’s going on. And, then you have a wooden tower that balls ricochet through after you pound on them. You can pound the ball down with your hand and even used a hammer a couple times to pound the ball into the chute. And, you’re starting to pull together some dance moves. We look forward to seeing those refined in the near future.

Right after I told your doctor at your checkup that you didn’t mimic us often and had her look at me in a way that left my first-mama nerves on edge, you started mimicking us. You love to cough and have us fake cough. You love to make raspberry sounds with your lips.

Your speech patterns are changing. The rambling strings of mamamamamama are changing into mama. But, I’m being stingy and still haven’t declared that your first word yet. I’m not 100% convinced you know what you are saying. I will concede you have distinct sounds of mama and dada. Occasionally, we hear a baba. You spit and sputter at the dog to greet her when she enters a room and to call her over to your high chair. You often can lure her to the high chair by holding food towards her. You want her to eat it from your hand, but when mommy and daddy scold you for that, you drop the food on the floor instead. Thank goodness the dog has learned to clean up the floor at least somewhat respectfully. In terms of your communication, you’re also recognizing more words. If we say puppy and point to the TV, we get your attention quickly because you know we’re trying to show you a dog, and you promptly spit and sputter at the TV. If we say, “Do you want a baba?” when you’re hungry, you start to fuss and fume.

You’ve started sleeping through the night. Hallelujah! After a particularly rough night when mama was at her wits end, you slept through the next night, and it was like a switch had flipped. We had one or two nights where you had to cry a bit while you were in your crib, then you no longer wanted to be rocked to sleep. Mama holds you while you drink your last bottle of the night, puts you in the crib, hands you paci-duck, and leaves the room. Sometimes you want another 2 ounces of milk and fuss for that, but often, that’s it. On rare occasions, you still wake us in the middle of the night, but usually everyone gets a nice full night of sleep. You’re sleeping in less and less now that you can stand on your own in the crib. Instead of rolling around, finding your duck, and snoozing for a bit longer, you bounce to your feet, are reluctant to get down again, and start talking so mama has to come get you.

Your adventures this month have included going to Chocolate World for the first time. You got a little excited toward the end, but overall, you took in that experience in stunned awe. We took you to a Halloween parade. Your favorite part was the bands and any floats playing music, but overall, it was past your bedtime and quite cold, so that wasn’t your favorite event. Mama and dada did chow down on your candy without you fighting us. And, you got to see your first snow! You crawled around in it a bit but didn’t get too excited until you discovered that you could eat it.

Living life with you is one crazy adventure. We never know from day to day what we’re going to experience with you, and we put you in bed every night so thankful that we’ve been able to spend another day with you.

Ezra – 9 Months

Dear Ezra,

Nine months. This first year with you is flying past. Your daddy and I laugh about the things you do on nearly a daily basis. Sometimes it’s because you are being intentionally silly, and sometimes it’s just because we love to see your reaction to things.

Music, music, music. You haven’t been able to get enough of it this month. When I turn music on in the background while you play, you will sometimes stop crawling and sway your body back and forth to it. And, we have fun putting you in the high chair and pulling up all kinds of music to see what you’ll dance to. Even though I sing you hymns to put you to sleep, your favorite songs seem to be Itsy Bitsy Spider, the Batman theme Song, and The Lollipop Song (thank you tv commercials). We’ve also got you to jam to Hey Ya! a few times.

We have you weaned from the sleep sack with hands, so now I can see how you arrange your little body as you sleep. Your favorite position is on your belly with your ankles crossed. You are so adorable when you sleep that way. You were all over the map with sleep this month – – one nap, two nap, three naps. I can’t keep track from day to day of what you’ll want. And, you’re still up once during the night. Fortunately, you almost always go right back to sleep after we give you a bottle.

 

You managed by brute strength to pull yourself up to a standing position in a laundry basket. I sat you in it since you were sleepy and grumpy, but I needed to change over the laundry. I turned my back for one minute and when I glanced back, there you were, standing in the basket. Then, you did that trick once or twice more and haven’t done it again. That’s pretty much standard for you. You do something once or twice to let us know you’re working on a skill and then don’t show us that skill again for about a month. You need to work on a better technique for pulling yourself up before you become proficient. You are, however, getting much better at balancing yourself while you’re standing holding onto something.

You know more and more what you want. You’ll show us by leaning your whole body toward something, or when you see what you want, you put your hands in the air and swivel them around in a modified version of your excited hands. You also squeal and fuss. We’ve seen the start of a little bit of a temper when we tell you that you can’t have things you have your heart set on. Of course, mommy and daddy’s absolute favorite thing is when you want us to pick you up. You’ll crawl over to us, stay on your belly, and pick up your arms and your legs, so you look like a sky diver in a freefall. Your daddy also loves how you’ll crawl around playing independently but then return to him to either snuggle or ask for a wrestling match.

You remain busy, busy, busy. It’s getting difficult to convince you to stay sitting on our laps. As a matter of fact, I’ve relaxed the goal of not letting you watch tv in the morning because I’ve found if I let you watch the morning news or Harry the Bunny on my lap after you wake up, I can at least get most of your bottle into you before you are off and running for the day. Despite your busyness, you are still quite good at entertaining yourself. Granted sometimes the entertainment is crawling to places you’re not supposed to be to get into cords, DVDs, and papers you’re not supposed to have. But, at other times, you’re content to roll around your playpen with all your toys for an extended period of time. You’re also very good at staying in your crib and talking to yourself for a good 15-20 minutes while mommy wakes up and pulls herself together. She is very appreciative of that skill. And, you are so cute when she walks into your room and finds you looking at her with your paci duck (or your sock) hanging out of your mouth.

Speaking of socks, you definitely have a prejudice against them, especially the left one, and pull them off at every opportunity. You particularly like to pull your socks off while you’re in your high chair waiting for me to get your food ready.

You still have just one tooth, making you our little hillbilly baby, especially when you have no socks.

You are super chatty. We love when you start talking gibberish of soft squeals and oohs and ahhs to yourself. It’s also funny when you’re in a loud crowded place because you start talking very loud. You’ll sometimes squeal. This month you did lots of growling both when you were interested in things and frustrated at things. And, you say mommommomomomom often. I can’t quite tell yet whether it’s with meaning or just rambling.

And, since I’m writing this a little late (oops), I can also tell you that on October 31st, you were 31 inches tall. Buddy! You’re so tall. You only need one inch to be half of mommy’s height, and daddy was 30 inches tall when he was a year old and hit 32 inches tall at 15 months. You’re already the size of the average 14 month old and are wearing size 18 month clothes.

And, guess what? Your daddy and I love every single inch of you. We’ve loved taking you to the playground and Chocolate Word and the Harvest Fest and the Halloween parade this month. Introducing you to new things and watching you experience them brings us so much joy. We are blessed that we get to continue to introduce you to new sights and sounds and see you grow before our very eyes.

Chemical Yuck and Babies

Hmm… where to dive into this post. I wanted to share some info about the way I’ve tried to be choosy about the chemicals that go near Ezra. And, that’s what this post is — sharing information. So, if you use regular, mainstream products on your baby and in your house, I’m not judging. I fed my baby french fries from Wendy’s the other day, so I’m living in a glass house and won’t throw stones. I’m also not perfect. Recently Kmart has been giving me coupons for free detergent, and I’m using them even though it’s not the detergent I carefully chose for Ezra (though I’m trying to use it more on our bedding and the dog’s bedding). I also personally still use mainstream soap and shampoo on myself though I want to start transitioning.

So, why did I get concerned about chemicals in our products?  I am alarmed at what seem to be growing rates of infertility and allergies. I don’t have hard evidence for the increase, but anecdotally, I look around and see lots of people struggling, so even if these things are not an increasing problem, they are a problem. Along with that, I learned that many chemicals in detergents, soaps, etc. are known or suspected endocrine and hormone disruptors. Hmm… see any connections? Furthermore, I learned that our cosmetic industry in the United States is virtually unregulated in their ingredients. Europe has banned over 1,300 chemicals for use in cosmetics — really, here is the 163 page legislative act doing so. The FDA has banned 11 chemicals.  And, the FDA says on its website, “Cosmetic manufacturers have a legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products.” I don’t want to debate whose responsibility it is — government or industry — to monitor safety. I’m simply informing you that if you’ve been trusting the government to keep harmful substances out of the products you buy, you should know that the government gives industry a very long leash.

So, what have I done about all this? I’m far from being an expert, but I tried to research products before Ezra was born and tried to choose products that excluded potentially harmful substances.

What was/is difficult about the process?

  1. Sometimes the websites that I visit and have come to trust conflict with each other when it comes to rating products. Each site uses a different framework to assess the harm of a product, so I’ve had to try to figure out why one site will rank a product as safe while another will raise red flags. Then, I have to decide if one person’s red flags are my own. Fortunately, when a product is full of bad stuff, most of the websites I visit agree, and I’ve found it easy to avoid the really nasty chemical-laden products.
  2. Many brands can’t be trusted across the board. It would be nice just to be able to trust Seventh Generation or Honest or whatever and to stay brand loyal, but it doesn’t seem to work that way for many brands. They might have some awesome products and stick some stinkers in there along the way.
  3. Companies know people are getting fed up with ingredients they can’t pronounce, so there is tons of green washing out there. Terms like all natural and even organic don’t mean much in reality but mean lots for marketing, so companies get manipulative with them. Case in point… if you use Babyganics, I’d do some searching online. Chances are you’ll find some information you don’t want to find about the products you are using.
  4. Brands change their formulas and don’t always announce that fact. So, what might be a good product one day could contain something I’m trying to avoid the next. In other words, it will be a never-ending saga to stay on top of what goes into our products.

What wasn’t so difficult?

  1. Cost. Ok, let’s talk cost. Technically, it’s semi-difficult. I was the girl who would rotate Suave into her shampoo rotation to save money, and I would hardly ever buy salon brand products. I nearly had a heart attack at the price tag of my Sephora makeover before my wedding. Seriously, I wound up taking some products back because I just couldn’t stomach the bill. So, for me, it has been difficult to shell out some extra money for safer products, but if you already buy the nicer shampoos and buy stuff like eye cream anywhere other than CVS, you might not have the sticker shock I did. Many safe brands are not really that painfully expensive. And, in some cases, I’m saving money. Two examples are the hand soap that I make and our decision to cloth diaper.
  2. The products actually work. I think there is a perception that natural products are crappy products, and that’s not necessarily true. Yep, we’ve struck out on a few things around here, but we’ve found a few winners too. I’ve bought mainstream products that don’t work too, so I don’t throw out the baby with the bath water when I buy a safer product that I don’t like. This post is going to get too long to go into specifics, but I’ll post a list soon of my thumbs down/thumbs up products. I’ll be interested to hear from others too.

Resources… so where have I been going to find information. So far, I’ve used two sites primarily. First, I look at the EWG Skin Deep ratings. The EWG site is not without its controversy as some say their algorithm is wrong and others are uncomfortable with the fact that EWG will give an actual seal of approval to some products. However, since I can search over 70,000 products to see what grade from A-F they got, I find the site helpful. It also provides some buying guides for common products like sunscreen that are tricky to buy. My other go to is Gimme the Good Stuff.  I don’t even know how many times, I visited this site. Maia James, who runs the site, puts together guides for common products like diapers, baby food, baby lotion, sippy cups — yeah, all the registry stuff. She breaks the products down into Good Stuff, Bad Stuff, and Sneaky Stuff. I like that she explains her concerns with certain chemicals and explains what she is looking for in each category of products. At first, I was a little iffy about using the site because she does have a shop as well, but she recommends plenty of products that her shop doesn’t even sell, and I’ve seen her drop products from her shop when they change formulas and add a chemical that concerns her. On her guides, she often follows up in the comment section too, so cruising the comments sections has helped me learn about even more products. She doesn’t sponsor me or anything, but I’ll just throw the fact out there that for the month of October, she is running a special where any order over $50 gets free shipping. It is normally $100, but she is trying to make safe products more accessible and is seeing if she can offer a lower shipping threshold and still keep her business sustainable. So, if you want to grab yourself a basket of new products, you might want to head over to the site.

My goals — I feel like I’m just on the start of this journey, so here are some goals that I have to keep chipping away at the gap between what I know and what I want to know.

  1. Start a spreadsheet of chemicals that concern me personally (along with the reason why), so I can start checking my own labels.
  2. Find additional resources like the two above that I trust.
  3. Expand the healthy products we use beyond what the baby touches, so our commitment to safe products extend to more of the house.
  4. Stay sane. I want to pick my battles, so don’t expect to see me in all organic cotton anytime soon. Yep, I know some of the critiques of synthetic fibers and how ordinary cotton is coated with some yucky crap to make it look nice in the store, but I’m also not made of money and some choices get really, really pricey.
  5. Motivate myself to care more about our food. I’ve found it easy to be semi-passionate and fairly vigilant about personal care products and chemicals, but I’m finding it much more difficult to clean up what we eat.

So, how about you guys? Do you have any resources you love? Have you been watching the chemicals in personal care products around your home, or has there been another issue that has caught your attention? Like I said before, I think we all pick our own battles and that’s fine because I think as we all advocate in our own little realms, each spot improves a little bit.

 

Seeing the Appointments

I’ve admitted before that interrupted naps and interrupted plans are my mom kryptonite. Yesterday was a perfect storm. I had been up until 1 am working, sleep deprivation compounded by Ezra waking up at 5. That was off-script since even on the worst of days 6:00 is the earliest he gets up. I futilely attempted to snuggle with him and put him back to sleep. After enough snuggles, I tried to make the best of things and worked while he played. I thought I was coping fairly well. Around 7, I put him back in bed, figuring he’d sleep at least 2 hours to make up for the early wake time. I went back to bed too, but he woke up after an hour (maybe less). That’s when things definitively started to go downhill. He was grumpy and not ready to be awake, and me — ditto. We went through another cycle like the first except he didn’t even give me an hour of napping. By the third nap attempt, I was placing all my bets on the fact that Mark, my knight in shining armor, would be available to take Ezra when he woke. It was a dangerous bet, and Mark was available to snatch the crying baby from the crib only moments before I had to charge out of bed like a crazed, thrice-nap-disturbed maniac.

Later that evening after my long nap and restoration to sanity, I sat down to dinner while Ezra took a long nap way too close to his bedtime. I figured with the day already so far off track, I’d just open my Bible and eat dinner. We’d figure out bedtime after Ezra’s ill-timed slumber.

And, like God often does, he led me straight to truth I needed to see. I was reading Stuart Briscoe’s commentary on Philippians 1:12-26. In that passage, Paul is reflecting on how God is at work through his prison stay. Let me offer a disclaimer, I’m not trying to be overly dramatic or implying that being trapped in a house with a non-napping baby is the same as prison. It’s not. But, Paul’s reaction still yielded some food for thought.

Briscoe said this about Paul’s attitude:

“He [Paul] was convinced that God would not permit meaningless things to happen to him, and so he looked for the divine purpose in all that took place. He had discovered that things happened to him in order that things should happen in him. And things happened in him so that things could happen through him.”

So, what the heck does that mean in mom-speak? Briscoe wisely points out that prison for Paul was a circumstance of God’s working. We should not consider that messes of our own making caused by our own sin be handled in this exact way. In other words, if I  over committed myself to 8,000 projects in a day or feel tension in the house because I’ve been a nasty wretch to my husband, then the course of action should be to reevaluate my commitments or to make things right with my husband. But, in cases where we are doing what God calls us to do and things go off the rails, Briscoe points out that we should recognize that things happen to us that work wonders in us for the end game of God working through us. As I read this, I was reminded that just as much as I am seeing a tiny human’s formation, I too am continually being formed. My attitude, my preferences are shifting. My selfishness is being worn down by the unpleasant filing of circumstances that don’t go my way, and this is good because it continually makes me into a better mother (and human in general).

Briscoe went on to say,

“When things don’t work out the way you determine they ought to work out, disappointment can result. On the other hand, if you believe that things are working out as He determines, disappointment can only result if you find God disappointing and His will less than acceptable.”

Big, old, mama-ouch. That was convicting. I recognize that my kryptonite of hating interrupted plans puts me at risk of missing some of the greatest opportunities that God provides. I’m fully convinced that the most important moments of parenting are in the day to day. I can’t plan the moments that Ezra will most remember. For good or for bad, he’ll remember my influence in his life on his own terms. After all, who among us hasn’t reminded our own parents of something they did that they have no recollection of? Maybe it was something tender that makes them laugh and maybe they cringe at a failure, but it’s the little moments. And, if I’m letting disappointment frame our little moments, I’ll miss my true role in them.

Finally, Briscoe warned,

“Some people worship their problems more regularly and with greater fervor than they worship their Lord. They bow down to them, have their behavior governed by them and generally allow their lives to revolve around them.”

That sounds like where I so often get stuck. So, I’m glad that Briscoe offered this advice:

“The correct perspective comes through acknowledging God as the authorizer of the problem and through seeing that His authorization is a work of love designed to lead you into deeper knowledge of Him and greater usefulness for Him. Then the problem will be dealt with, not in mute acquiescence or resigned stoicism, but with alert anticipation and spiritual insight.”

Learning how to anticipate opportunities that lie in the interruptions is going to be a spiritual journey that I muddle though with frequent stumbles and detours, but I hope that I can keep coming back to this realization, this awareness, that disappointment often has faulty roots and often signals my own self is getting in the way of something better. I hope I learn to see problems with anticipation that God is at work, redirecting the day to something ultimately better. I’m not going to lie; it’s a long journey. Even typing the last sentence gave me heart palpitations because in my frailty, so much of me wants to hold onto my plans even in light of something greater. But, the long journeys are the ones that are worth it, so we’ll see what time we wake up tomorrow…

 

Ezra’s Dedication Sunday

dedication with Joe

Dear Ezra,

Yesterday morning as your Daddy and I busily cleaned and prepared for your grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousin to come celebrate your dedication, you ran around being you – crashing into our ankles and running over our toes in your walker. As I changed your diaper, I had to convince you to let go of your feet, so I could finish. And, it all seemed so surreal. Here you were doing your little baby activities when we were just hours away from such a weighty moment — standing in front of church and dedicating you to God. As you are such a (relatively) little man, it is so huge to think about what you will do with your faith.

You are our gift from God, and we know deep down that we are only stewards of your life as we care for you. God is the one who will shape and mold you. I wish, buddy, that I could make the decision about what you will do with Jesus for you. But, I can’t. The best I can do is what I promised today in church – lead you towards Jesus as I lean on him for the strength to do so. The best I can do is pray and pray that God makes your heart tender toward him. Just know, sweet Ezra, that what you decide about Jesus will be the most important decision you make. I pray that you choose to put your faith in him and have a vibrant faith that permeates all you do. I pray you find the joyous freedom of having no condemnation because Christ covers all your wrongs and shortcomings.

As Pastor Joe said before he prayed for you, you are our social butterfly. You live with eyes and ears wide open, and I believe that people will be unfathomably influential in your life. Proverbs 9:8-9 stands out to me for your life. It says, “Rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” I hope you are surrounded by mentors and friends who can share wisdom with you, and I pray your heart is tender and your ears are open to words of guidance. (And, I hope that you call your mommy too whenever you need some guidance – you know, when you are big and grown…)

I pray God leads you step by step toward a vocation. I hope that you don’t just have a job, but you find something to put your hands to and wrap your attention around that gives you a sense of purpose in God’s kingdom. I don’t know what that will be. Maybe it will take you to college; maybe it will take you to a technical school. Maybe you will wear a uniform to work; maybe you will work from home. Why you do what you do is more important than what you do. I pray you honor God in your endeavors whatever they may be and wherever they may take you.

And, I pray that whatever you do and wherever you go that you see the world through Jesus’ eyes. I pray you act with humility and compassion. I pray your hands are quick to help with the needs of others; your ears listen to the plight of those in need of a friend. All indications now point to you being a force to be reckoned with when you put your mind to something, and I hope your mind is continually set on what will make this world a better place, more full of love and truth.

It feels like a monumental responsibility to guide you to Jesus, my little buddy. Your daddy and I are imperfect people who are learning ourselves. But we hope that God can use our strengths to model a godly life for you, and we hope that in the way we handle our weaknesses, you also learn helpful things.

You are a treasure, Ezra. God specifically knit you together and gave you to us. We love you and want the best for you, a life that honors God and a spirit that rests secure in his promises.

family photo