Monthly Archives: May 2012

Abundant Life

Six months. I made it six months–nearly seven!–without giving into bizarre cravings and resorting to excuses to devour half a box of double-stuffed Oreos (my husband ate the other half, I swear).  Normally when the son-in-utero requests an additional snack, I can put brie on wheat crackers or dive into a bowl of freshly-washed strawberries, feeling like a responsible, healthy mother as well as a human being capable of self-control.  But right now, Josh is in the car at 10 p.m., heading toward Meijer to purchase two boxes of chocolate graham crackers–a snack that sounds so irreplaceably delicious and one I don’t think I’ve even eaten since they were packed in my fourth grade lunch box.  Pregnancy is obviously heating up right along with the outside temperature, and I couldn’t be happier (and hungrier) about it.

The beginning of summer is oddly starting with going back to work full-time for a few weeks, again at Holland Christian Middle School (just like last year).  But, the job is both delightful and short; even though I’d had to iron some clothes, plan some lessons, and head to work at 7:30 a.m. like the rest of Holland, I’ve still tiptoed onto the shores of my favorite season–summertime.  We’ve eaten a whole watermelon already, and today was our first day at the MVP pool.  I’ve made homemade bread, grilled hotdogs, and have even gotten covered in dirt trying to better the yard.  In the summer, I’m so much more in tune with the care and maintenance of things.  Flowers and herbs depend on me for life just like my two boys.  Cleaning projects jump out at me and I tackle them full-force.*  My shovels, kneeling pads, and gardening gloves have already been busy this season, and thanks to my hard-working husband, we already have beans sprouting in our backyard.

Life is abundant here.  And it feels so good to have a backache from all of the work it takes to sustain every breath, leaf, or vine.  It certainly makes me feel more comfortable with the fact that I nearly demanded chocolate graham crackers.  Watching life flourish around me and knowing I played a part in the growth–rather than the demise–seems to deserve a bit of a reward.

I’m looking forward to a dirty summer, picking vegetables with Jackson (if I can still bend over that far), or swimming and sweating in the hot sun.  I can’t wait for those end-of-the-day showers when the tub is filled with Lake Michigan sand.  I can even taste the burgers we will grill and the homegrown snap peas that we’ll dip in ranch dressing.  It’s going to be a great summer, in anticipation of even greater things to come.

To kick off such a happy season, I’ve decided to pick up yet another hobby: popsicle-making. (Warning: I’m about to obsess. Don’t be alarmed when my deep freezer is FULL of different homemade popsicles). With cravings for sweets at an all-time high, I figured it was wise to start finding alternatives to Oreos that also paired well with bare feet, sprinkler chases, and sidewalk chalk.  This website (along with others, I’m sure) will become my new life source as it provides me with an obscene amount of popsicle recipes, including the one Jack and I attempted today using muffin tins and clothes pins: Mango/Pineapple Yogurt Pops.

 

Here’s to yet another new beginning, new season, new paged turned.  Summer always reinforces to me that God is mightily at work, and it’s our privilege to get dirty and participate. And even in the dead of winter, we can still look forward to abundant life in sprouting vegetables, blossoming flowers, and even in the memories created with sticky, drippy homemade popsicles.

 

 

*Okay, this is pretty much the case all year round.  But it feels like I do more about it when I can open my door, listen to the sprinkler, and let in a slight breeze.

Belly Pics

I’ve been asked lately about the belly pics.  About why I haven’t posted them and what I look like and how big I *really* am with this little son of mine.  I don’t remember exactly how I was feeling with Jackson at this point in pregnancy, but from what I do recall, I certainly didn’t quite feel this…well, great.  Pregnancy has a beautiful pace this time around, although admittedly the second one does fly across the calendar much faster than the first.  While son #2 is spinning in there, I’m busy planning play dates and baking cookies with son #1 (and, probably unrecommended by anyone sane, jumping on our new trampoline).  It’s a very different–and comparably neglectful–way to experience creating a human being.

But, let’s be honest, I’m not doing the creating. God is mightily at work in this little boy’s life, and He seemed to have gotten my  memo that I preferred this pregnancy to be more tolerable for me.  It is.  Despite the splashy, splotchy face that has returned and the other symptoms I don’t necessarily appreciate, I’m focusing much more on the fact that I’m managing–and even thriving–much better compared to my first go-round.  My body is changing, the baby is kicking, our family is transforming…and at the same time, life is just moving on as normal. That is refreshing.

And as a picture-taker, Facebook commenter, blogger, documenting creative-type…why am I not posting the precious weekly pictures with arrows and signs and thumbs ups? I think those can be overboard (although, of course, not by my own adorable friends). And I honestly focus more on continuing to raise Jackson well than I do on the swirly guy in there.  I can’t wait for him to be here.  I’m madly in love with him. But I also have stuff to get done, a life to live, and time to soak up with my first little treasure before I’m officially introduced to the second.

What I can say about this second baby is that I’m crazy about him already.  I could eat my words later, but I already sense that this little man is just easier. And even if that’s not true, he seems easier because of where I am now.  He’s gotten himself on a spin cycle. That is, he has scheduled sleep and awake time that is dependable for us both.  He doesn’t need *too* much room in my body; just enough to keep us both happy.  He surprises me just enough to remind me he’s there with kicks and jabs that even feel tender and sweet. (I’m sure I’ll feel differently in two months when he’s lodged in my rib cage, punching me with his imaginary hulk gloves).   He isn’t requiring all of me, but just enough to remind me of selfless love.  I already know he’s the perfect second child for us, and he’s perfectly, divinely intended to be in our family.

I’d love to post this appreciation, this sweet recognition that I love this baby more than life itself, with pictures of knitted blankets, sewn burp clothes, onesies with homemade ties, and a nursery that is coming along in cute little stages. But I don’t have time for that.  I’ll eventually sit at my sewing machine and make a stack of bibs in excited preparation. Ultimately though, I don’t feel like I have the space to nest and dwell on this last trimester. So I don’t really take belly pics. And for the ones that have been taken (all 2 of them)…I usually get distracted by dinner plans or a demanding time-out session with Jack to notice the tenderness of a rounded belly, springing forth with new life.

Tonight, though, I was asked again. And since my little son was compromising his dependable schedule and keeping me awake, we snapped some self-portraits, trying to quickly capture the essence of this stage while also keeping the photos from highlighting the fact that I’m wearing Josh’s pajama pants to bed, my make-up is off, and my hair is no longer loose and wavy, but rather in a wild knot.

Nevertheless, here is (who will probably be) Oliver Michael Bishop, kicking mom at 6 months pregnant:

 

 

 

 

I adore every inch of him, even as inches aren’t my favorite measuring tool right now.  And maybe I’ll find a slot of time before he arrives to capture at least one more leg of this journey as our worlds prepare to change–yet again–forever and for the better.

Living with Less

Jen Hatmaker is my new best friend.  It’s just a shame we’ve never met. But when someone writes a book as candid, honest, and charged with personality as she does, it feels like every time I read it, we’re on the couch together laughing out loud and discussing our own overlapping issues. You’ve most likely heard of her book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” (If not, get with it!) It’s a book that’s spawned a revolution among Christians to consider our insurmountable intake of and obsession with the following: clothes, shopping, waste, food, possessions, media, and stress.  And people are doing something about it.  The Hatmakers take each issue and focus on it for a single month, building a life around addressing each of these dangerous idols.  For the “clothes” month, she used every opportunity to give away her family’s piles of unneeded clothing while only wearing 7 items for 30 days.  For “food”, she limited herself to eating only seven foods for a month (probably one of the most challenging of them all).  Her creative approach to every issue is touching, convicting, hilarious.  And every time she closes on one issue, you’re left thinking about the fact that compared to most of the world, we’re actually hoarders.

I’ve written so many times about our simplification strategies. (Annoyingly, it seems that’s all I write about these days!)  Our efforts around here to try something new, implement an idea, construct self-improvement plans….they can feel endless.  It’s amazing how little we knew about living a solid, simple, responsible lifestyle in our twenties (only three months before I leave year 29 in the dust).  And it’s even more amazing how little we actually valued this lifestyle, even as Christians.

For me, the danger of this movement lies in the reality that I’ll take any excuse to organize and simplify (except for finances…I like to keep those loose and complicated).  It’s my personality to be project-oriented, busy, working.  Especially during these years of stay-at-home-motherhood, I take out my sense of loss on these projects thinking, “If this is my new job, I’m going to prove myself and work really hard”.  On days where I’d especially love to be lecturing, editing, and lesson-planning, I usually tackle a big mess around here, like sweeping and organizing our entire garage, gutting a closet, rearranging a room, mowing the lawn–all of which I’ve done this week.  I like to think that accountability is important to me (it’s really not). And I also like to think that this part of my personality–the go-getter–is a strength of mine (it’s often not) used for God’s glory (it’s usually for my own).  It can be used for the glory of God, for the cultivation of our oneness with Him.  That’s what Jen Hatmaker makes so clear in her book.  But as I’m considering what the Bishop’s version of 7 should be, I find myself getting giddy about the self-glorification I will find in more completed home projects.

It’s amazing how many “good” things we can do with our lives while also entirely missing the point of relationship with God through obedience.  The slightest veer off the narrow path can lead us so far away from Jesus.  It’s an interesting time to read this book, as I’m officially in the “nesting” stage with baby number two. (My poor, hard-working husband comes home almost daily with a new to-do list because I’m incapable of carrying out my spontaneous–yet heroic–tasks without his help). It IS good to clean, organize, prepare, and simplify.  But only if I’m not continuing the cycle of replacing everything I get rid of with something more practical or desirable.  The mind games that accompany even the most humble servanthood can spoil every good deed intended for God’s glory.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear how you reacted and what you changed.  Josh and I are both geared up to make some changes, putting ourselves possibly through a similar experiment as the Hatmakers.  That is, until the tension of discipline creates an opportunity to compromise.  We will need accountability for duration because we are pros at starting well-intentioned projects or ideas, only to allow other ideas to take precedence.  But, nonetheless, we’re both impacted by this book and by the God that inspired such an experiment for the sake of holiness, not happiness.

Hats off to the Hatmakers and to everyone who joined their movement! I love what Jen wrote in the chapter on media:

“The power of the church has always been in its many, many parts. In a culture of hero worship and conspicuous rainmakers, this concept struggles to emerge, but the story of God’s people comprises a billion little moments when an average believer pressed on, carried through, stepped up.  In the quantity of ordinary obedience, the kingdom truly advances.”

If you’re interested in ways to challenge the Christ-likeness of your life, grab a copy, dive in, and test yourself like the rest of us, building up the Kingdom one obedient sacrifice at a time.