Monthly Archives: January 2011

On the Front Lines

Jackson’s current favorite toys are his little army men.  He has watched “Toy Story” (all 3) many times since Christmas, and he has closely observed Andy’s creative play.  I have watched Jack set up army men on every ledge in the house, and they usually are aiming at a common enemy, like the tiger or even the evil couch pillows.  The army men seek refuge in the nooks of my vacuum cleaner, they enjoy trips down the laundry shoot, and they particularly love to hide in my kitchen cupboards and drawers.  I should start setting a place for these little plastic men at the dinner table. I’ve always wondered when I would have to introduce the reality of warfare to my son, but Pixar did it for me.

And this feels appropriate because if you’ve watched me for five minutes, you’ve probably witnessed me fighting my son in some way, shape, or form.  In order to get the child dressed, I have to hold down his strong, flailing body.  I even get scratched or hit in the process, and I then must fight to execute the necessary punishment for that behavior.  I have to fight Jackson to get in the car or keep his hands to himself.  I have to fight to get him into the bathtub, picking up his collapsed, protesting body and flopping into the water.  I have to fight to get him in the car, as he pushes his seat belt away or–if it’s a really rough day–grabs my hair to defer the buckling.  I’m not saying we don’t have tender, kissy-sweet moments in our days as well, but a lot of my energy is soaked up by a child who puts up a really good fight.

And it’s very interesting that I’m listening to little “pew-pew” shooting noises of green army men during a time in my life where I’m truly discovering the landscape of my inner-battlefield.   We all fight against sin and regret, put our fists up against family history.  A long day can make us feel defeated.  We fight disease, stress, relationship conflict, depression and doubt.  Warfare is not only in politics, armies, and on front lines; it’s woven into our lives. And I personally have had circumstances lately that have made me realize that I’m fighting battles for my very own identity.

One of the best tools I have for fighting my identity crisis is busyness.  It’s my weapon of choice and I use it brilliantly.  I love being busy.  I love having a full calendar with coffee dates, classes, projects, play groups, and lunches.  I love the buzzing energy of an eventful day. For many reasons, I feel rest must be earned, and, really, it’s rarely preferred and even more rarely deserved.  There is war going on within me, fighting for my sense of purpose.  It’s been raging since Jackson was born, but I can see very clearly that this is a war I’ve been fighting since I was a child.  I use busyness to combat these very deep questions about why I am here, what I have to offer this world, and having Jack was like dropping the atomic bomb. These past 3 years have been the most challenging, rewarding, meaningful years of my entire life.  They began with a pregnancy that created a battle of self-loathing and insecurity. They continued with a birth story that demanded more of me than I ever thought I could give.  And time continued further with daily battles against colic, self-image, depression, and other hardships that kept me in a chronic sense of fatigue.

Thankfully and miraculously, God used every bit of this warfare and hardship for my refinement.  And what I want to highlight is that not only does God continue to pull me out of this season into victory (although there are days where I slide backward in the mud), He has blessed me with some of the most amazing people in my life to help combat the evils around me.  I never thought I would sit down in my living room with friends and openly admit that I struggle with self-value, crying and praying for continued deliverance.  I never thought I would need or have friends who see my battle wounds, but they identify the destructive tactics I use to hide the fact that I’m deeply searching.  And they not only tell me honestly, they pray for me.  I never thought I would have a church that feels like a safe haven for my emotional exhaustion.  But just like the oasis in Isreal, I go to Engedi for much-needed drink; and it refuels me.

One of these marvelous friends put these words of Scripture in my Facebook inbox this week: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people to be his very own and to proclaim the wonderful deeds of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

It is probably going to take a while for my identity in Christ to wholly take over my heart.  It might take a while for my spirit to rest in the fact that God has a plan for me and it’s not my job to figure it out with my own discernment and effort.  And it might take a while for the lies that I believe about myself to dissolve completely.  But I’m so grateful that God has provided brothers and sisters for me to stand on the front lines, speaking truth into my life and tending to my war wounds.  They are my little green men, standing firmly on the edges of my life, ready for God to use their small guns and parachutes in miraculous ways.  Thank you, friends, for who you are. God is using you more than you probably realize.

Fifteen minutes…

Jackson wanted to take pictures yesterday. I got out my camera. Believe it or not, these pictures were taken within a time frame of fifteen minutes. I couldn’t believe, when looking through them later, the huge range of emotion that took place in these photos. I also couldn’t believe I captured so many things about Jackson that I love and never want to forget about his 2 1/2-year-old little self. As you view these, remember, this was just fifteen minutes of one, very ordinary day…

“Mom, roll! tongue!”

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…then he makes silly faces…

…then he grabs the broom and gets instantaneously frustrated…

….then i get the cutest smile i’ve ever seen…

….oh, then Tom & Jerry grab his attention…

…watching Jerry blow up Tom…

….ooo, it’s time to run and jump on the couch! …

…there’s the broom again; it becomes a sword…

… Tom & Jerry grab his attention again…

… Jerry jumps on Tom; therefore he says, “mom! i jump YOU!”…

He jumped on me for quite some time, and he doesn’t realize that moms aren’t quite as tough as dads. (Although, I think I can hold my own).  Yesterday was a day where I actually felt jumped on and knocked over in more ways than one.  It was a day where every little task became a huge melodrama, and every detail was blown up into a full-on tantrum or teary episode.  As you can see, Jack is growing up; he’s figuring out his feelings, learning to express them, testing every boundary in his sphere of awareness, and teaching me lessons of patience, control, and forgiveness.  I need days like this because they stretch me and knead my weaknesses.  I keep myself so busy that I sometimes miss these emotional quarter-hours of joy, frustration, anger, and glee, all rolled up into one small increment of time.  But I’m glad I stopped yesterday, because I don’t want to forget these days of observation, watching as my son becomes aware of what it feels like to be a human being.  And, while we’re at it, here are just a few more things that me glad as well:

…the thick, stumpy Josh-feet that look like dumplings with toes…

… the diaper butt that always invites a little pat or squeeze…

…and a child who almost always welcomes a kiss from mama…

Celebration, Anticipation, and a very Happy New Year

I’ve always felt like September is really the beginning of a new year.  There’s something about sharpened pencils, empty calendars, and the close of summer that give me the feeling of a totally fresh start.  This is probably because I’ll always feel, in some way or another, like my life revolves around the school calendar instead of the January-December chronology.   Still, vacuuming up the pine needles from the Christmas tree gives me a sense of closure. And a sense of closure requires a newness all its own.

In Celebration…

I have so much to celebrate about 2010. To be honest, compared to the years prior, 2010 feels emotionally and spiritually victorious.  (It’s no surprise that we began attending Engedi Church last January…)  Jack’s earliest little years were so smoggy and rough for our fragile family.  Josh’s job brought him down, I was buried under the weight of colic and self-doubt, and Jackson…poor Jackson…didn’t emerge as a delightful munchkin until his first birthday or so.  2010, from open to close, was a year of deliverance for the Bishops.  And I’m so proud to see not only our feeble efforts, but more importantly, God’s amazing power at work in the brush strokes of our daily life.

I’m celebrating that Williams Group hired my phenomenally gifted husband in 2010.  Not only is Josh plugged into a place that has the potential to challenge him, he actually likes it there!  Driving downtown Grand Rapids to meet Josh for lunch feels as close to driving to the Chrysler building as I ever hope to get.  I’m so proud of him, but not for the clout and the social posture of his new job.  Honestly, I know he couldn’t care less about that.  I’m proud of him for being as fearless and as confident as I’ve ever known him to be.  And his talent…the talent I spotted over lattes at JP’s ten years ago…has proven to be unstoppable.

I’m celebrating the 60 pounds Josh and I collectively lost in 2010 (although, Josh has found about 15 of them).  Any time I consider approaching weighty topics, I usually take a hard left and push the gas until I run into another blog idea dead-on.  Anything but that. It’s so private, so personal, so exposing that blogging about it almost seems inappropriate.  But, undeniably, this was a big part of our year.  And, as you might have read, this new lifestyle also required me to put on an apron for the first real time.  This may sound ridiculous, but the two years I lived in Colorado, I probably cooked twice.  Josh and I spent two glorious years in restaurants around Boulder and in downtown Denver.  I knew the servers at Canyon Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen, and Antica Roma personally.  My priorities were different, and, as I’ve come to learn, they were misshapen.  Right up until I conceived Jackson, the thought of having a relationship with my crock pot and stove pushed me over the edge.  I resisted it, felt my life was somehow above it.  But, 2010 was the year I learned the value of the home, the importance of meal planning, laundry folding, dusting, and all of the maintenance required of a small 3-person family. This was the year I typed out a regular grocery list because I was familiar and organized enough to do so.  This was the year I learned several staple recipes by heart.   This was the year I got a sewing machine. (Hopefully 2011 will be the year I know how to actually use it).  I learned that shaping cookie dough and drawing a warm, soapy bath for Jack have huge spiritual significance.  Even when I question my direction, my career plans, the desires I have shelved for now, I have a sense of belonging so deeply anchored in the foundation of our home, I wonder if we could ever move.  I have spent too much time organizing closets, rearranging furniture, baking cupcakes with hidden squash, vacuuming carpet then tearing it up to finish the floors…this house is becoming a piece of my identity, and I’m thankful each and every day for the man and the boy that live here with me.  It truly is a joy to nurture them and watch them grow.

I’m celebrating Jackson’s second birthday: his love for dinosaurs, his graduation to a big boy bed, his exodus from colic, his quirkiness, his replacement of the “f” sound to “s”, his tenderness with me, his wildness with others, his healthy fear of monsters, his small understanding of Jesus, his adoration of Lilly and Molly, his excitement around playgrounds, his love of discovery.  It has been the most amazing adventure so far to be his mother.

I’m celebrating fabric and all of the inspiration that has crept into my life this year.  I never thought the day would come where I would desperately want craft books and fabric swatches for Christmas over a hot new sweater from Ann Taylor LOFT.  The opportunity to sell my creations downtown Holland arose in 2010, and I’m so excited to see where my journey with Karla’s Place will take me.  I love the sound of fabric being unrolled on the cutting table at Field’s, and the creative endlessness that 2 yards contains.  I love the snips of thread, the bright beads and buttons that center my fabric flowers.  I love turning to patterns and blogs for inspiration, and always knowing that today could be the day I try something new!  I love feeling womanly when I sew, partaking in a skill that is fundamental, historical, basic and empowering. I also love knowing that my knowledge of sewing is shamefully shallow, and by next year I’ll be a little bit closer to being Amy Butler.

In Anticipation…

2011, as I currently see it, contains milestones that I don’t know if I’m even ready for.

I’m anticipating the second beginning of my pursuit of a graduate degree.  My first attempt at Grand Valley felt like a failed jump start, but I’ve had some time to rev up my engine for March’s big beginning: Cornerstone University.  I’ll be spending a good deal of my time this year downtown Grand Rapids, taking class by class, inching closer and closer to a Master’s of Education.  I’m prayerful this proves to be a smart decision, but it’s one that I’ve teeter-tottered on for a long time.  There’s a part of me that belongs in my living room reading to Jackson in the middle of the day, but I’m waiting to see when God opens a window for me to teach again.  For a while, I was prepared to take a baseball (metaphorically speaking, the baseball would be my own self-will and stubbornness) and break the damn window myself.  But, I’m not there now.  I actually love God and trust God enough to listen to Him.  I think He wants me go to Cornerstone, and I’m prayerful that I’m right.

2011 is starting off with “Potty Training” on the calendar.  I even made this:

This will be a milestone in itself, the farewell to diapers.  Diapers, at this point, are my last glimpse of babyhood.  My son is inching higher and higher toward my hip when he runs for a hug, and soon enough he’ll be towering above me.  I’m eager to teach him the art of bathroom, giving him stickers and high fives along the way, but I will miss the diaper butt and the diaper changes which were always the perfect opportunity for snuggle and zerberts.

I’m anticipating the expansion of our family.  There’s a privacy and vulnerability that goes along with discussing potential children, human beings that don’t even exist yet, or if they do, we aren’t aware of their microscopic, beating hearts.  I want to be private enough, but also feel like being vulnerable.  I finally reached the place where I’m excited to be a mommy again, and for Jackson to feel the protective instincts of brotherhood, and for Josh and I to have another gift bestowed upon us.  For most of you, this won’t be a surprise, but many may not be aware that we have begun the adoption process.  2011 could possibly be the year our family expands, most likely (and hopefully) from South Korea.  The beauty of parenthood, especially with adoption, is the unknown.  This could be the longest “pregnancy” I’ll ever experience, or the shortest.  We could be booking our flights for the summer, or we could close down 2011 without a baby or even a referral.  Anticipation is wonderfully uncertain, beautifully surprising, and we’re finding ourselves building a nest on its feeble branch.

God is good.  2011 is here. Let’s make the most of it, friends.

Much much love and Happy New Year.