Monthly Archives: January 2012

A New Day

At 10 weeks pregnant, I turned a little corner.  Until this point, I’ve been feeling surprisingly great.  I was extremely nauseous for one single week, but the nausea somehow vaporized and left.  I’ve had my energy, I’ve been sleeping great, and overall, I’ve had to remind myself: “Oh yeah, there’s a little person inside me.”  I’ve been extremely blessed so far, and I know I have some major prayer warriors asking God to give me a different experience than the one I had with Jackson.*

January 29, 2012 was the first time the fear and sadness crept back into my life, leaving me in puddles of tears while Josh just stroked my hair.  It’s very easy to blame hormones.  Most things are their fault anyhow, right?  And sometimes (as girls all know well), you just need a good cry–with or without a reason–and I was long overdue.  But, as my body begins to prepare for its most important purpose, there’s a slight resemblance to what it did when Jackson was forming.  And as I faced this last night, searching in the attic for undergarments I hoped to never wear again, the recognizable fear quickly felt like sinking sand.

As I explained to Josh through the tears and gasping breath, the most frustrating part is that the past two years of my life seem to have dissolved in a single evening.  We have spent the past two years changing almost everything about our lives.  Our church life, our discipline–for ourselves and Jackson, our priorities, our eating habits, our finances.  Nothing has been unexamined, and we continue to intentionally shape our lives according to our values.  Before Jackson, we lived unexamined lives with very little structure.  So much effort, thought, and prayer have been put into our current lifestyle.  We still have miles and miles to go, consistently attempting new “Life Management” strategies.  But, everything is different from our life two years ago.  And our life is hardly recognizable to our reality four years ago when I was pregnant with Jackson.  How, then, could all of this disappear, leaving me to feel like it’s 2008 all over again and I’m right back where I started?

It certainly didn’t help that yesterday, Jackson’s behavior seemed to slide into the past as well.  It was as if he was two all over again.  From battle to battle, obedience seemed to be his last resort rather than any type of inclination.  Even though he can look so adorable (thanks to my mom for his new space suit), this child has the ability to test every ounce of control and energy that Josh and I have.

I realized that this is the nature of fear, and it’s precisely where the Enemy wants me to be.  He uses every detail to pry at weaknesses, whisper lies, and unravel anything the Lord has tightly woven. The tears were a real and honest release for me, and I’m grateful I have a husband that provides such firm support for the heaviness of my pregnant emotions.  But, ultimately, I need to take responsibility for refocusing on what I know to be true: I should not live in fear.

Deut 3:16 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Isaiah 41:10 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.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.”

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The struggle, for me, is to not live in fear but also prepare myself to what is to come, given the possibility that these pregnancies just might be similar.   And I thought this is worth sharing, because I think we all have our own experiences of walking in valleys of shadows.  For me, it seems I could be headed to the valley with the darkest shadows I’ve experienced so far**.  And I pray that I’m blessed with a different experience.  But…if not…perhaps my spirit of confidence in the Lord might make a greater difference in this pregnancy than any physical alteration.

If you have a spirit of fear about something in your life…if you are on the brink of a valley of shadows, or even in the middle of one…I’m asking you to share it with me (not in detail) so I can pray for you as I pray through my own experience.  As I prayed last night, I felt closer to God than I have in a long time.  I struggled through worship at church yesterday morning, because I couldn’t really feel the presence of God.   But tonight, as pain and trial reintroduced themselves, His presence was undeniable as I was crying out my needs and releasing my fears. I was cradled. It’s amazing how real He can seem when our needs are so great and our fears so overwhelming.

Today is a new day, and I was reminded quickly this morning that I am, in fact, in an entirely new and better place with this pregnancy.  I will be a different mother to this baby because I’ve been refined and strengthened.  I can handle the changes my body undergoes.  And even if my perspective is the only thing that is different this time around, that can be enough change to get me through it.  If you are fearful, join me in praying against it, especially through the nights of pillow-soaking tears.  And when we cry, let it be to our “Abba, Father” who provides ultimate comfort.  And let us always be grateful that tomorrow is always a new day.

 

 

*You know who you are, and I appreciate your prayers MORE than I could ever express.

**I recognize that so many people–many of which are dear friends–have experienced such traumatic life experiences, several involving difficult and even life-threatening pregnancies.  I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for my health and the blessing of new life. But, for me, the experience of pregnancy and the long, uphill postpartum period was emotionally dark and traumatic in its own way.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things.

Last night I met with a mothering/mentoring group with moms I’m just on the cusp of getting to know.  Unsurprisingly, we can talk about intimate issues of motherhood and marriage without even having a deep, trusting relationship (yet).  Women are amazing like that.  Especially mothers.  Without knowing someone’s name, you can discuss breastfeeding as if you’re best friends. There is something so deeply understood and relate-able about being around other mothers.

One of the great pieces of advice I received last night was this: “Say ‘YES’ as often as you can”.  It’s very easy to use these words with children: We’ll see, Tomorrow, Maybe later, Not right now. Admittedly, I sometimes dish out these responses without really considering Jack’s request.  Most often, a toddler’s request will solicit a less-than-yes response. But, this advice really made me tune in to how I’m responding to Jackson and also how my priorities affect such responses.  As a queen of to-do lists, I pile tasks and responsibilities on top of each other, and oftentimes I spend my days around Jack rather than with him.  This advice made me consider the possibility that I could probably fit a few more games of Candyland into my schedule without anything suffering other than my needless agenda.

This also got me thinking about the 3-year-old things of Jackson that are my absolute favorite, the qualities he has right now that won’t last forever and I just want to soak them up like a sponge.  For the sake of tuning in, here is my list of my absolute favorite things about my firstborn at 3:

1.  The use of “Your” in place of “You”.  I especially love this because it’s actually harder to say, and yet it’s what his little brain comes up with.

“Do your want to play a dame?”

which leads me to my second point…

2.  The replacement of “g” for “d”.  “Mom, this lunch is dood”.

3.  The imaginative play.  It’s sad how much of this I have lost as a grown-up, because I vividly remember getting lost in the world of make-believe.  I try to enter his creative worlds, and oftentimes I can really get into it.  But, I no longer have the vibrant imagination that my son does, and it’s amazing to watch his wheels turn as he invents, creates, pretends.

4.  His love for dad.  Jack’s entire world lights up the moment Josh walks in the door. And it’s exactly the way it should be.

5.  His almost-in-the-lines coloring.

6.  His protective nature.  He’s even gotten to the point where he says to me as I’m tucking him in: “Mom, call me if you need me.”

7.  His pride in the “Did you know?” statements. “Mom, did your know the moon is far away in the sky?”

8.  His tenderness with babies.  Considering how rough my child is 99% of the time, it’s amazing to see the gentleness surface in him when he’s around something miraculously fragile.

9. His awareness that bad guys exist and must be defeated.

10.  His reminders that God made everything.  He did, indeed, buddy.

These are especially helpful to remember during these long, winter days of hard work and discipline.  Jackson has been experimenting with just how badly he can get away with treating his mom when he’s frustrated or confused.  Even though I find myself living through head-pounding weeks, I am truly blessed to have my son, given to me as a gift for only a time.  And even though I still must say “no” quite a bit, I’m going to looking for opportunities to say–with a cheerful heart–YES.

The Big Hill

This weekend, the Bishops–for the first time in a while–were a normal family.  Beginning with Saturday morning, our weekend plans included spending time together. That’s it.  This is not typical for us.  We’re scheduling junkies, trying to squeeze in every errand, play date, beer date, coffee date, shopping trip, and the like.  Even when our calendar has pockets of undesignated time, we fill it up.  This is, in part, because we have so many amazing friends in our lives right now and barely have time for them all!  But this is also because we aren’t the best at just spending time with each other. Just us.  This possibility has been slim for months since David and Jodi have lived here, but now that it’s just the Bishops living in our own house, we’re able to connect in ways that should be more regular.

Example? Taking Jackson sledding at Zeeland Christian, the same hill that Josh grew up sledding down with his crazy brothers.  I’m sad to admit that Jack is 3 1/2 and we hadn’t yet attempted a single sledding trip.  But Saturday was the day. And it was the perfect day, too.  It was a rare January day where, although freezing, the sky was a bright blue with clouds and jet streams scattered about.  The glow of the sun brings such motivation and positive energy to cooped up Michiganders in January.  We were no exception.  We suited up in layers and hats and rolled out.  Upon arrival, Jack was so excited about the experience, he invented his own happy dance:

We grabbed the sleds and walked over to the busy hill, with kids shooting down in every direction.  Jack’s excitement quickly turned to a paralyzing fear.  There was no way he was going down the hill.  No matter how many pep talks we gave him, or how much loving assurance we provided, the fear overcame him.

I suggested to Josh that he put Jack on the sled with him, kicking and crying, and just zoom down. By the bottom, I was sure he’d love it and ask to do it again! However, Josh doesn’t agree with that parenting approach.  Jack was terrified.  And we considered just heading home, leaving the sunshine, laughter, and sledding fun behind us.

But then we saw a teeny, tiny hill closer to the school. It’s was more like a slope.  So we went over there to practice.

The moment the two boys came to a slight halt on the sled, Jack bursted with, “Let’s do it aDain!!!” He was proud of himself and could not wait to try it over and over again.  After a few more practice runs,  we walked back to the big hill.  I found another 3-year-old sledding with her dad, and asked her to tell Jack how much fun it was.  She tried.  But, yet again, he grew afraid.  Eventually, after more coaching, he made it down.  Although not impressed by the snow flying toward his face, he found the ride down exhilarating and couldn’t wait to walk up the hill only to sled down over and over again.  In moments like these, I am a proud mama.

There are times in my own life where I feel as if God puts me on the big hill and just gives me a push, regardless of my fear.  And other times where He gives me a practice run–even a few of them–so I can be prepared for the big stuff.  Both approaches are for my own good, of course, and perhaps they each have an appropriate time.  But, thankfully, now I find myself, with baby #2 making it’s presence more and more noticeable in my life, ready for the big hill.  My practice run with Jackson definitely felt like a “Get-on-the-sled; I’m-pushing-you-down” approach. But, even though that was so scary, I now know how much fun it really is, how worth it the ride can be.

But until we push off and start the craziness of becoming a  family of four, we have 8 months to huddle close, give ourselves pep talks, and enjoy every moment just the three of us. We continued our perfect weekend with games played on the living room floor, many times over.  We watched tv, cuddling on the couch.  Josh and Jack had several football tossing games and Kung-Fu matches.  We read books, ate together, did devotions, went to church, had conversations, drank hot chocolate.  It was beautifully normal, and it was exactly what we needed.  As we approach the scary, exhilarating push down the big hill again, I’m so thankful I have the Bishop boys to love and enjoy as we get ready for the ride.

Stillness

Josh and I have grown to love old hymns more and more, particularly when musicians put a new spin on them, yet still being faithful to the uncompromising, direct, and beautiful poetic truths.  I was singing a few over Jackson tonight, thinking about the changes that been taking place around here. Our lives have been transitioning this week as David and Jodi have packed their car and truck in stages, hauling their things to Hudsonville where a new chapter in their lives awaits them.  When they came to live with us, they were at a point of brokenness.  And for David, he even found himself at the foot of the Cross, searching for hope amidst heartbreak.  And months later, they are moving on, repaired, restored, and ready to keep their marriage on the right track.  I’ve never had more compassion for two people in my life, and I’ve never been so grateful that we opened our home.   We’ve spent the last months having roommates (and, yes, their three dogs) who have grown even closer as family, watching their oneness be regained.  It’s been a privilege to be so near during that process.

Truth be told, I’m always looking to strike the balance between peace and chaos.  I love spontaneity, surprise trips, unexpected visitors.  My favorite parts of college involved my friends and I getting in a car, having no idea where to go.  The best memories are the unplanned adventures, and I’m always looking for small versions in my everyday life. It’s nearly impossible to live this way with a child (and, to a certain degree, unhealthy too).  Having so many people live at our house these last 4 years has not only helped people we love, but it’s also upped the ‘fun’ factor around here.  There have been a lot of laughs between all the coming and going, and even though company can cramp anyone’s style…for us, it’s been worth it.

Even though I’m going to miss the loudness, the hustling of people going to and from their jobs, the constant surprise of “WHO is in the bathroom this time??”…I now have a peace I didn’t realize I needed.  Within minutes of my door being shut, with a car stuffed to the roof pulling out of the driveway, I was at the piano, pounding and belting an old song I wrote years ago.  I was amazed that this song, “Turning Red” still reflects similar struggles and emotions I deal with today.  I hadn’t been at the piano in weeks because, without realizing it, having people around deters me from that creative outlet.  I even got out the scratch paper to jot down a beautiful chord progression, and some possible lyrics that might dance over it.  What made this music session even more perfect was the silent snow storm outside, with the fattest flakes whirling down.  It felt as if our entire town was snuggled under a blanket by a fire.  Although I can be the first to complain about the inconveniences of snow, nights like this one force everyone to slow down, get cozy, find something important in your life and hold it close.

Tonight, I was holding my children.  My precious, wild three-year-old struggled with falling asleep, so I snuggled him tightly, rubbed his back, and sang “Be Still My Soul” to him in the softest voice:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

And as I sang these words over my first child, I couldn’t help but connect them as well to my experience with my second one.  As thrilled as I am for this baby, my fears are surfacing about the upcoming months and years.  I couldn’t believe how profound the line “Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain” is, and how desperately I needed to hear it.  Perhaps this pregnancy is going to be like my last one.  Perhaps this baby is a preciously adorable son, and not the daughter I admittedly long for.  Perhaps I need to learn the same lessons over again to be a better mother.  Even if this were all true (time will tell, I suppose), my soul must be still.  God will guide my future, just as he so obviously has my past.  The thorny ways of the last four years have lead to a jubilant and joyful end.  These words sank in deeply, and I was so grateful to be singing them…praying them…over the two little ones in Jack’s bed with me tonight.

This is a season of stillness. The chaos (although right, good, fun, and necessary) has left for now, only to return soon enough.  As I turn into bed in my seemingly empty house, I’m thankful for the snowy reminder that, for now, my soul is to be still.

The Baby Story, pt. 1

The news is out, the congratulatory Facebook thread is a mile long, and I’ve gotten loads of hugs and smiles about becoming a mother of two.  I’m extremely grateful for all of the support and excitement about the itty-bitty heart that is beating inside me.  It’s an exhilarating time, especially for those who know our family well, who know how rocky the emotional road was to get here.  The truth is, I have some deep insecurity* about this story, but I think it is worth telling.  It’s our story, but it’s also unfinished.  More than anything, I’d love for God to give me a snapshot of the future in 10 years just so I can say “Oh! So that’s what our family looks like”.  But as we all know well, that’s not God’s typical course of action.  There is something refining about living out these years trying to see through the reeds. And that’s where I find myself.

Two years ago, Josh and I decided to begin the adoption process through Bethany Christian Services for our second child.  We did so because adoption has always been something we wanted to do. One of my favorite parts of Josh’s extended family is its multiculturalism, with adopted cousins as well as cousins that are half Honduran.  It’s a beautiful mix.  We figured our adopted baby would fit right into our lives.  Our reasons for pursuing adoption are honorable, but our timing perhaps was not.  For me, even though I knew I wanted this adopted child so badly (a South Korean little girl in my imagination), I believe I was also using the adoption process to bandage my fears and wounds about going through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum again. There is nothing I fear more in life than what I’m going through right now: creating another child.  `So I fled.  We began the home study process, signed dotted lines, and started the search for our next baby somewhere else.  This process taught me a lot, but throughout the interviews, phone calls, and meetings about the adoption, we never felt anchored about the decision.  In a way, it wasn’t entirely real.  Still, we wrote big checks, said big prayers, and kept going through the process.  Every adoption story that I’ve ever heard has loopholes, detours, and setbacks, and ours was no exception.  South Korea was shutting down its international adoption program, and it was unclear that we would get our little Asian baby.  And, somehow during this emotional storm, I got bit by the pregnancy bug, wondering if perhaps that might be something to consider for our second baby. This may have been the greatest surprise of all. Then, we discovered that we were the *last* family to receive a South Korean child through Holland’s Bethany office, but our timeline was looking like it would be two years before we would have a baby.  With pregnancy on my heart**, elation about being the last chosen family for South Korea, AND heart-broken about waiting an additional two years (Jack would be 5 or 6 when becoming a big brother)…I was a wreck.  I wanted to have “family planning discussions” with Josh nightly, but we would never land anywhere.  Finally, my cousin, Stacy, gave me wise advice that changed the course of our family plan. She told me to surrender this decision to Josh since I was emotionally torn, unproductively obsessing about every factor.  Josh and I are learning what our roles as husband and wife should really look like to best reflect Christ’s love for the church, and leadership is a difficult concept for us.  I want Josh to lead in theory, but I’m usually too stubborn to actually let him do it. So we took at intentional break from discussing family planning. If I thought about it, that meant I needed to pray for Josh’s discernment, asking God to speak clearly to him about what path to take.  A few weeks later, we went out on a much-needed date to discuss our time of silence and prayer.  Josh told me over dinner that he thinks it would be best to try for another biological baby.

I didn’t argue with him or interject with any “Yeah, but…”s like I could have.  I still feel like I could go back and forth in those discussions. But I trust Josh, and I trust that God is not finished teaching me, refining me, challenging me and creating life within me.  We were pregnant a month later.  And the adoption process is on a shelf for now, hopefully to be pulled down and opened up at the right time.  I have no idea what our family will look like one day, how many children will be a part of it.  But I know in my spirit that God does.  And as my body has already created another human heart, I trust that this was what God intended for us all along.

 

I will always envy people who seem to have things like family planning locked down, who know how many children they want, and who can go through these years with a bit more ease than me.  On a daily basis, I have to speak against my fears of pregnancy, of anticipated embarrassment of what my body will do, of the projected difficulty of the year after baby gets here.  I have great faith that this pregnancy will be different, and this faith must work to put these fears in their rightful place: under my feet.  Grateful for the blessing of a pregnancy, and trusting that God will give us guidance about adopting in the future, I’m spending my days in awe of my amazing family, born and unborn, and I’m honored to bring another child of God into this world.

 

 

*Despite what I’ve believed about myself my entire life, the past 4 years as a mother have taught me that I’m painfully more insecure than I EVER thought.  It’s truly astounding how much self-truth surfaces when raising a little one in this world.

**I’ve made it overly clear to everyone in my life that pregnancy was not a golden time for me, and that I probably would never see that experience positively or desire it again.  Which is why in retrospect, I must believe that the Holy Spirit was changing my heart.

A Warm Welcome to 2012

Our Christmas tree has been bagged and hauled away, the decorations are boxed and stored, and everyone at 609 Columbia Avenue is settling into the snowy month of January with contentment and exhilaration about 2012.  This holiday season was refreshing and beautiful, but the intensity of Christmas–of difficult relationships, entertainment pressure, money management–never seems to let up.  I admit, I got shop-happy this year, focusing too much on perfect gifts rather than the Perfect Gift of Christ.  I allowed myself to get swept up in the whirlwinded excitement this season brings, thriving on the hustle and bustle, and not being as connected as I need to be to the One worth all of time, love and energy.  But, even though I can do the “I could have”s, I am thrilled that, once we crept up on Christmas Eve, a peace encompassed our family, and we were able to view our priorities clearly.

This is the first year that we made a point to prioritize church at Engedi, requiring inconvenience and sacrifice on our parts as well as on Josh’s family.  (I’m not quite sure they understand.  I certainly wouldn’t before being deeply connected to a church family).  Christmas Eve Eve (the 23rd), we crashed at my sister’s in Tecumseh, and the morning of the 24th, we loaded up gifts and holiday cheer as we headed to Josh’s brother, Paul’s, place in Ann Arbor.  There’s much to be said about Paul: he is an insanely gifted chef, and he lives according to his values of simplicity and local community.  His rented home in Ann Arbor was the Christmas Eve establishment this year as a way to enter his new life across the state.  We ate extremely well, exchanged gifts, and all watched in awe as Jackson received more gifts than any little boy ever should (the first of many wild gift exchanges).  But, 1:30 p.m. was our early departure time, which is quite early for a family Christmas celebration.  Church started at 4 p.m., the drive was 2.5 hours, and it was time to head out.    Josh had said weeks before that we were at a point in our spiritual life where church around Christmas is a non-negotiable, but also the joy and privilege of our celebration.  Disappointed to unplug from family, and also a bit nervous about its repercussions, we drove home.  Home to Holland. Home to Engedi to celebrate the miraculous birth of Christ. Despite my struggles to stay focused this season, it felt wonderfully secure to celebrate Christmas with my church family.  Although being apart from most of our relatives felt a bit odd, it still was right and good to be worshipping, to be reminded of the Cross, and to be surrounded by fellow believers who are role models, friends, and encouragers for us.

Christmas morning, we were a small family discovering the work of Santa and Rudolph.  Santa had a large appetite this year, eating almost his entire plate of cookies, and Rudolph even ate his carrots. Jackson demonstrated pure wonder for us as he ripped open every present with total awe.  (We had to work on “gratitude” versus “entitlement”). Jodi and David are still residents here, and we loved having them around Christmas morning.  Santa not only remembered stockings for them, but for their dogs as well.  It was a celebratory morning, anchored in the concepts of ‘love’ and ‘home’.

The Barry/Gilding/Bishop clan celebrates Christmas over New Years.  My parents selflessly offer New Years as a way to simplify my life and Sara’s as well as to accommodate our in-laws.   We loaded up in 2 cars for Pittsburgh where the Seven Springs Ski Resort awaited our clan of 10.

With 3 rooms and 4 kids, we rearranged our sleeping assignments several times and spent our time running around the resort, taking the kids swimming, bowling, skating, arcading, and even skiiing–and, of course, enjoying glorious buffets almost every meal. We rang in 2012 huddled in a hotel room, the kids sleeping in their respective places, discussing family memories that made us laugh nostalgically, and also wondering how we all got here: blessed with growing families, entrenched in child-raising, and changing roles from parent to grandparent, child to parent.  There’s nothing sweeter to me than being around my family while time turns a corner into a new year, reminiscing about all of the milestones that brought us to where we are.

 

 

 

It was a beautiful, crazy, busy 3 days at Seven Springs, but memories were made that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.  Worth all effort, I'd say.

Rolling into Holland again after back and forth across the state and then the Northeast, we all felt ready to begin 2012 in our own little world.  There is much to be anticipated about his upcoming year (more on that later), but it feels beyond amazing to be home, living out our lives of discipline and priorities, trying to make every day count.  I got busy immediately in the kitchen, preparing food that will actually nourish my family*, sinking into routine and time management, and making a snowman in our front yard with my 3-year-old.  I'm so grateful to be just where are, and living with GREAT anticipation for all of the change and excitement of the beautiful year of 2012.

*check out this recipe. I made 2 pans! http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/homemade-granola-bars-recipe/