Sunday, July 28, 2013

The blog has been rather empty the past week or so. Life has seemed to have anaconda'd me into a tight grasp, and at the moment I don't see a way to freedom. This isn't to say that I am in any sort of depression or self-pity state, but just scared. On one hand, that trepidation has obstructed my desire to blog because I don't have anything inspiring or fun or beautiful to report on, but on the other hand that anxiety has been gnawing away at my soul, itching to release my emotions in words and validate what I'm feeling - to write everything out, to make a testament to what I do know and believe in this time of trial, but also to honestly acknowledge that I have questions. And I have questions about God.

God. I believe in Him. I trust in Him. I have faith in Him. I know that He knows me personally and loves me. I know that He has command of the universe and could move mountains if needed. I believe that He can change peoples circumstances. But do I believe He can change mine?... If you had asked me a year ago I would have said yes. But if you ask me today, I will say no. This shift in belief has caused me a great deal of reflection and at first I thought that my faith in Him must have changed, that somewhere along the way I lost what it meant to be "a believer." I now have come to the personal and peaceful conclusion that my faith in God has not changed, but my understanding of our relationship has. That might sound like the same thing in a way, but there's a difference to me.

Before having kids or marriage, I thought I knew God and Christ really well. I trusted in them to help me make decisions, and I always received sufficient guidance from the Spirit when making choices. I felt that God was always there, holding my hand like a parent does, making sure I was always safe. He felt close, but I think I relied on Him more like a genie in the sense that I thought he could always fix my problems. And most of the times the problems were fixed in teenage years just by following His commandments. The "easy" thing about trusting in God at that point was basically all choices I had to make were about morality, and it was pretty clear to me that being moral was always the higher road. Then I got married and turned into an adult, and realized choices were much harder. They were much more permanent and complex. They affected the livelihood of not just me anymore, but my spouse, and our future progeny. Job, education, insurance, money and savings, debt, investments. It's a lot of pressure. Jared and I have always prayed to God before making any major decision, and have received good confirmation on numerous occasions where we knew for sure that this was "God approved," and that is always reassuring. Well, more than reassuring to know that the One who controls all is giving His wisdom and ratification.

And then we became parents. Boy, if I thought I understood God previously, sheesh, was I wrong. Starting your own family is the most beautiful experience as heaven is ushered into your arms in the form of a new babe. The family is like a microcosm of what life everlasting must be like, and we as parents get to assume the similar earthly role as our Father in Heaven is to our spirits. Being a parent has really brought me closer to God in seeing the greater purpose for life, for commandments, for sin and repentance, for justice and mercy, for patience and love, for guidance and agency. God is more real to me now than ever before. And because of His new found reality to me, I look at life more practically now. Again, do I have faith that He can change circumstances? Yes. Do I have faith that He will change MY circumstances? No. And not that he can’t, but just that he won’t. And that’s not because he doesn’t love or care about me, but because, well, life is life. The way I feel about God is the same way I feel about my parents. I know my parents love me eternally, gave me everything,  continue to support me and be my stronghold, are there to listen and console – and that’s enough love for me. That’s all I need. But can my parents change my circumstances? No. And I don’t blame them for it. God is my Eternal Father, and at this point I have to think of him in very realistic terms and that sometimes life just happens and He's just going to sit on the sidelines and not play an active role. I know he is there for me. And that is enough. The Gospel doesn’t teach that God will always answer our prayers, but that he will be our comforter.

Here's our deal. Our little family is treading water, waiting at first patiently but now frantically, for some financial stability. Jared and I are not sit-and-wait people, but we are very proactive. For the past year, we foresaw the possibility that we might be in the situation we are in, and have tried every avenue possible to bring better financial security to our family. Of course, we involved God in all of our decisions, praying and fasting and pleading for some guidance, and that all of our efforts for the past 2 years would be of benefit to us. We are not asking for a miracle, because to me a miracle would be asking for something that only God could do - some extraordinary event that would require supernatural aid - but I don't think we're asking for that. I think what we're asking for is not something out of the ordinary and it CAN be achieved by a human being, and in our case, we just want all of Jared's hard work to be rewarded. He has had several interviews in which we have fasted and prayed, but none have been granted our blessing yet. Which has caused me to re-evaluate prayer.

What is the purpose of prayer? I use it as a channel to communicate my gratitude mostly with God. I love prayer for that resource. But when it comes to asking for something, I feel like I've always been taught to ask but then end with "Thy will be done.".... Then, if I'm telling God I would like something, but go ahead and do what you want, God, then what is the point of asking? I'm not trying to be blasphemous, just curious. When you ask for others to pray for you, or you say to someone else that you will pray for them, what does that achieve? Does God say "ok, you got 5 people praying for you, but you need just 3 more before you get this blessing!" Or "hey, sorry, that guy got 10 prayers for the job from others but you only got 7, so..." I know it doesn't work like that, right? It's not a lobbying game. In addition to prayer, there is fasting. Jared and I, along with our families, have fasted for many months for our circumstance to change. Jared is in for the long haul when it comes to fasting and has always gone above and beyond what I think is healthy in the realm of abstaining from food, and twice now on the conclusion of our fast an opportunity has arisen that we thought there is no way this is chance, but it has to be divine providence. We dropped to our kneels and felt peace that for sure this was it. Finally, an answer to our prayers. And then, both times, no job was granted. Twice now. That feels like a major punch in the gut, and really really gets me down. I start to question who gave us that peace we felt? Who gave Jared the inspiration to apply for those jobs? Why did everything everything line up perfectly? Why did it seem like the heavens were opening for us, when nothing was granted? Was it all just chance? Really, chance?! Chance is that good, that deceiving?! The energy and hope we put into prayer and fasting is just exhausting.

I believe in God and I know He believes in me. I love God and I know He loves me. He has already given me happiness, a beautiful marriage and healthy children, purpose in this life, commandments in exchange for joy, promises of glory – really everything good has come from my belief in Him. Just right now I'm trying to keep my distance about relying too much on Him? That sounds bad and not coming out the way I want it to. I just don’t want to be so na├»ve to think that God will always be my rescuer and come through and save me right before I hit the ground like a super hero or something. Because sometimes life is life. I know God can change circumstances, but I don't think he will change ours. And that's ok. The following admonition is helping me get through my uncertainty:

"Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe."
-Jeffrey R. Holland

I believe.

some people do drinks for happy hour. we do ice cream.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Late afternoon after the kids wake up is always a tough time for me to figure out what the heck to do with ourselves. It's kinda right before dinner and traffic is starting to build up on the roads, so leaving the house isn't really something I am wanting to do. The morning is usually our big activity time, and I'm too tired at that point to get everyone lathered and geared up for a second dip in the pool. And I think "great, Jared will be home soon," but soon isn't really for another 2+ hours... and that really isn't soon. So this week when 4 o'clock has rolled around, we've just eaten ice cream. and lots of sprinkles.
The many faces of Warner - a lover of yogurt but hater to all other foods. (another post about my anxiety with baby food coming up)

sisterly love

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yesterday I became an aunt for the 6th time, but also the 1st time. Jared's side has 5 nieces and nephews, and mine had zilch until yesterday! My sister and her husband welcomed their baby boy shortly after midnight, although she might rightfully say there was nothing short about her labor. It was interesting for me to go through this experience, oddly enough. I've never been on the anticipating/waiting game side of a baby being born, hovering over your phone waiting for updates. I've always been live on the action because, well, the action has been me. So this was a whole different ball game. I wasn't anticipating the emotions that I would personally go through. That kinda sounds like I'm trying to turn her birth story into a story about me, which I'm not, I'm just surprised at how much I was impacted by her circumstance.

24 years ago my sister became my companion for life. I grew up so happy, and most of it was because she was in it with me. Our imaginations ran wild with pretend play - shipwrecks, house, barbies & American Girl dolls, and our favorite - news anchors. We shared a room up until I was 14, and in the dusk hours when we were sleeping in our side by side twin beds, we would start a roaring rucus with our ridiculous singing and talent shows. The audience would be just the two of us, but we thought we were both such comedians and equally matched for a giggling contest. I honestly can not remember a single fight we had. I was definitely jealous of her at certain times, like getting rollerblades before me or getting special treatment when she was sick, but never an angry outburst of words or pulling of hair or whatever nasty fights some sisters can get it. We were gems :)

So yesterday I was all sorts of emotions thinking about how far we have come. I am so proud of her and am happy that we have both now been inaugurated into motherhood! It will be so fun to have cousins on my side of the family now! As the oldest, it is quite a treat and pleasure to watch your siblings grow. Congratulations, Stephensons!! We can't wait to meet our new cousin!

our glory days

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Last night was a doozy. Evelyn had a raging temperature of 104 that was relentless and did not cease until she "woke up" up this morning. I say "woke up" because I don't think the girl really slept, and neither did I. Every 2 hours I was up with her, administering cool compresses on her forehead, redosing the ibuprofen, stroking her feverish cheeks. In addition, Warner also woke up twice in the middle of the night, and by 4:30am I looked at the clock and seriously debated just starting my day then because it's not like 2 more hours was going to get me anywhere. But my fluttering eyes couldn't resist my pillow, and as I laid back down I thought about why, in the wee hours of the morning with a throbbing headache, was I feeling so, ... gosh, I don't know the word I'm looking for... peaceful? merciful? fulfilled, perhaps?  At that ridiculous hour, in what seemed like a bottomless pit of sleeplessness, I felt joy in knowing that I would do anything, ANYTHING -  exhaust myself completely physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually - for these two babes of mine.

I hopped out for a girls night last night with some of my lovely friends. On my way home, I was listening to Adele, and this phrase hit me in a way that I didn't think of before. You should know I love lyrics, like, love, love, love. I can really stretch a song to get it to mean whatever it is I'm emotionally searching for at the time, so while I realize my interpretation is out of context for what the song really is, whatevs, it resonated with me. "Bound by the surprise of our glory days." GLORY DAYS. That connotes a wild thrill, youthfulness, excitement, right? So obviously that should throw me back to my days of young love, when me and Jared's (see Julianne, this is the grammatical thing I was talking about, don't know how to phrase this correctly!) love was actually "born and raised in a summer haze." But what IS SURPRISING is that I feel like my glory days are now, at the age of 26. I'm more bound now than ever, in a spectacular way to a wonderful man. And while my body might not look physically as glorious as in years past, I've never gloried in it more. What my body has done in my late twenties was more than it ever did in the two decades previous. I glory in these two little souls that are discovering this world day by day, or rather one pulling out all the contents of the kitchen cabinet while the other is monkeying around on every piece of furniture, and I get to aid them. I have the opportunity to shelter them, to dress and feed them, to educate them, to moralize them. It is a very daunting task, but I do glory in it.

Jared and I frequently ask ourselves why people want to have kids. It's hard. So very hard, and self-less, and sometimes unrewarding. I definitely have days were I  just want to scream and cry and throw in the towel. In fact, right now I have a post that I wrote earlier this week called "trials and triumphs," that pretty much lays out my greatest frustrations with being a mom right now. I was just waiting on some finishing touches before posting, so I'm sure that will be up here next week :)  But the answer to that question of "wait, why are we doing this kid thing?" is always answered with a powerful yet reverent fury, and usually in the smallest, simplest moments, unprompted by anything but love.

So last night, or this morning rather, when my mind was blizzarding with these thoughts of gratitude for being able to take care of my babes in their moments of need,  I thought back to this quote that I posted on instagram on mother's day:

"I've invested milk and tears, blood and muscle...I've given much. But I have received more - far more. I have children I love more than life, more than self." - the mother in me

how our 4th went down as a fam-ee of 4.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Haaa Laaaahhh (to be read as: hollar)! That peppy hello was brought on by my still over-joyed spirit about how smoothly our 4th of July went. In our short lived career as parents, last Thursday was probably our shining moment in our cumulative 2.5 years of experience. We (and our kids) completely rocked it, which is quite remarkable and never happens for us.

We played the day rather loosely. With no plans for the morning, we decided spontaneously to go to our town parade 20 minutes before it started. A siren was definitely going off in my head saying "abort, ABORT!" when we were heading out the door because come on, a parade just sounds like a bad idea with 2 kids under 2. Jared and I have developed a crowd-aphobia, and not because of claustrophobia, but because of the fear of a child breakdown in an area most unsuited for escape. The idea of a parade just made us both cringe because of how much effort would be put into getting 2 kids to something that they might not enjoy. But to our great surprise, the crowds were do-able, we were all entertained, stayed for the appropriate time of 30 minutes, and turned around to come home for Warner's nap without traffic. In our farewell wave to the parade, Jared and I turned and walked toward the car with such smug faces. We felt like we had seriously won the lottery, or even better yet, the best parent award. Not only did we get to let our children experience the liveliness of a parade - complete with the essential clowns, race cars, bands, floats, and balloons - but we did it without meltdowns, traffic, and kept our sanity. It was enjoyable for everyone!!!!!!!! and that is a reason to celebrate right there.
In the evening we had a wonderful bbq with friends. We left to go see the fireworks 20 minutes before they started, which again "abort, ABORT!" was going through my head. We should have left earlier, but we found a spot in a business park a mile away from the launch site and parked ourselves on the curb. Evelyn did some poppers in the meantime, which she loved. Then came the actual fireworks. Warner was entranced.
We quickly skeddadled out after the finale and made it home without the hair-pulling high-stress traffic with no overly tired kids screaming in the back. Again, Jared and I patted each other on the back and smacked our smug faces back on. We pulled off the 4th perfectly. Or rather, our kids did. We all did! A real day of triumph for our family!

Sunday in the forest

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I just have to say that dressing boys is just as fun, if not more fun, than girls. Boys are simple. And I like that. It might also help that the boy under the clothes is pretty darn cute, and my heart melts when he comes tempestuously crawling toward me whenever I call is name anywhere in the house. His head perks up, he slowly peeks around the corner, and when he spots me he smiles so wide, lets out a squeal, and charges toward me at super baby speed. Except for last night, when I called him, and he was positioned between me and the toilet. and the toilet won out. You see, he's discovered the flusher, and it's his favorite new toy. Jared laughed and said that was a low blow, being cast aside for the latrine :)

Sunday evening we spent some time at one of my favorite parks because it's more on the secluded side. This stage of life is really hectic, so I love finding a place where we can enjoy being outside as a family without lots of other busyness. And having that dense tall forest as a backdrop is pretty awesome, too. Virginia, you sure have been a downer with all the rain this week, but I guess the payoff is greenery (...and mosquitos...)!
I have a pretty good track record of unintentionally color coordinating our family. It always happens! It is probably Jared's biggest (and only, right dear!) vexation with me, that we are always matchy-matchy :) So the kids and I were painted in pink, seafoam, and green together. Tell me I'm not the only mom who does this...
Hmm, I wonder who Evelyn inherited her acrobatic abilities from? ;)

the proudest I have ever been

Monday, July 1, 2013

It starts in your heart; this swelling of incredible joy that just makes your chest beat faster and faster. Energy quickly surges through your whole body and it's like an electrical shock paralyzed your face in a never-ending smile. That's what being a proud parent feels like. That moment when you are in awe at the strength of your child - whether that strength be demonstrated physically, emotionally, or mentally - you are in complete awe.

When I was in college I taught swim lessons at a renowned swim school, prided on the guarantee that we can get your child swimming on the first lesson. The method is very very intense, but very effective. I taught children ages 6 months and above how to swim. However, it's one thing to teach someone else's kid how to swim with this method, but when it came to my own I wasn't sure if I had a strong enough heart to do it because it is so demanding. I was worried Evelyn would grow afraid of me and the water, but it actually proved to do the opposite and I am 1,000 times over grateful that I was able to work with her, that she trusted me, and that she is rocking it! I am so so proud of her! For crying out loud, the girl isn't even two and a half yet!!!