Out of the Mouths of Babes and Infants

My husband’s grandma died last week. My 4-year-old son overheard us talking about it. “She died?” he asked, furrowing his eyebrows. I held my breath involuntarily, wondering how to explain this to such a young child. “Yes, Great Grandma died,” my husband said, “and now she’s in heaven with Jesus.”

My son started to giggle with glee! I was shocked and disturbed, until he exclaimed, “How she got there by she’s self??” (Translation: How did she get there by herself?) Then I understood. Lately he has been preoccupied with heaven, often asking me when we can go there. When I explain that we have to wait until Jesus takes us, he says, “But I want to go now!” So when he heard that someone he knew had made it to that wonderful place, he couldn’t contain his excitement, and he wondered, How did she do it?

My first instinct was to dismiss his irreverent laughter as merely the result of a lack of comprehension. He didn’t really understand death, so he could be excused for thinking that this was a time to rejoice. But suddenly I realized that he understood the big picture much better than we did. In his mind, the specter of death was nothing in comparison to the joy of heaven. His thoughts were not of losing a great grandma but of her incredible good fortune to get to go where he so desperately wanted to be. I looked at his glowing face and smiled through my sadness. All of us adults with the long faces could learn a thing or two from the glee of my 4-year-old.

Changes on the Horizon

When I started blogging on October 23, 2005, my goal was two-fold: (1)  to give myself the chance to write something that might be read by more people than myself and my husband (he’s super supportive of my writing efforts, but I wanted a larger audience) and (2) to give my friends and family in the States a more intimate look into my life (since missionary prayer letters don’t always provide the details that loved ones crave).

That was almost six years ago. (Wow!) I’ve seen a lot of changes since then. I’ve gone from being an American abroad, paralyzed and frustrated by the language and culture, to someone with a deep appreciation for my adopted country who has learned to drive by the rules of the road here. I’ve gone from childless housewife with a part-time job and several ministries in the church to full-time stay-at-home-mom with three small boys! And I’ve gone from occasional writer to committed blogger.

Over the years, my blogging frequency has been erratic. I’d didn’t write at all in 2007 (the year that began with the birth of our first child), and 2010 saw another hiatus (perhaps because that year began with morning sickness and ended with a 3-month-old infant in my arms). But this past spring, I made the decision to begin writing again, with the goal of adding a new post here once a week. It’s been a rewarding half year, and connecting with you, my readers, has definitely been the main reward!

So I wanted to let you know that some changes are coming to this blog. Now that I’ve sort of got the hang of writing regularly, I want to become more intentional about blogging. I’ll be moving my blog to a different hosting domain, and you’ll be seeing a new name, new look, and new format.

To pursue my blogging dreams, I’ve been reading a variety of resources. I just finished reading Bryan Allain’s hilarious eBook 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo. mojographic It was so funny that I was having trouble getting through it, because every few paragraphs I had to stop to fend off my two older kids, who kept running over to find out what I was laughing about! But beyond Bryan’s off-the-wall sense of humor, what I loved about this book was its imminent do-ability. The chapter-a-day format breaks it up into manageable portions, and each day’s reading ends with an assignment that is both practical and feasible. By the time I complete all 31 assignments, I know that I’ll be well on my way to meeting my blogging goals. I can hardly wait till the kids are tucked in for the night and I can grab a pen and do the first day’s assignment! If you’re a blogger, check out Brian’s book on Amazon Kindle or as a PDF, and then come back here to let me know what you thought about it!

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Nightmare Inspiration

Not long ago I had a nightmare. In my dream the Nazis had taken over the country where we lived. Because my husband was Jewish (he isn’t, but in the dream he was), we knew that he and our children were in great danger. We were all taken to some sort of compound and left in a room with bunk beds. We slept, but in the middle of the night, a seemingly friendly official awoke us to tell us of the regime’s plans to create pristine factories to be staffed by the expatriate Americans still left in the country. He seemed to be seeking our advice or approval for this plan, and we nodded our heads as he described how good the conditions would be and showed us pictures of a prototype. It looked wonderful. Everything was clean; even the floors were a gleaming white, and the workers were dressed neatly in starched white uniforms. But in our hearts we knew that it was all a ploy to gain our compliance; our captors did not intend any good for us. Our fears were confirmed when this same official returned to our room to inform us that my husband and I would be taken immediately, and we were to leave our children behind. “This will be the last time you see them,” he said, “so make it good.”

My two older boys, ages 4 and 2, were standing there,  sleepy and a bit confused, and as I looked at them, my heart was in agony. I wanted to cling desperately to them and sob out my heartbreak, but I knew I needed to keep my emotions in check, because I didn’t want to frighten them, and I wanted their last memory of me to be positive. Above all, in our final moments together, I wanted to impress on their young minds the importance of clinging to Jesus. He would now be the only one caring for them and our only hope of one day being reunited. How do you communicate to such young children all that is necessary in such a short amount of time? I stood still, trying desperately to form my swirling thoughts into words that their little minds would understand and remember long after I was gone. The tension of the moment was too great, and I woke up.

Sometimes when you wake in the middle of a nightmare, your heart is pounding and your mind is racing. It takes a few moments for you to realize that it was all just a dream, but when you do, profound relief and sometimes even elation immediately flood in. This waking was not like that. My body and mind were calm, and as soon as I opened my eyes, I understood that I had been dreaming. But though I was relieved, the terror of the dream remained with me, and I lay in bed praying earnestly that, no matter what happened, my precious children would follow Jesus.

Hours later, the effect of this dream was still with me and was subtly affecting my interactions with my children. What if this were the last time I would see them? Had I taught them everything I could about the things that really mattered? Resolving their fights now centered more around teaching them that they were brothers and best friends who needed to take care of each other rather than finding out who was at fault. And I found myself frequently stopping what I was doing just to hug them and tell them that I loved them and that Jesus loves them even more.

This was a little over a week ago, and my eldest son already seems to be developing a different, more caring attitude towards his younger brother. And I think that perhaps I’m learning to enjoy my children more intentionally, even in the midst of the confusion and chaos that they generate. Though I would never want to revisit it, one day I may look back on this nightmare as one of the best things that ever happened to my parenting strategy.

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What about you? Has something extremely unwelcome ever turned out to be a blessing in disguise?

I Love Boundaries, Do You?

Today I’m guest posting on the Calvary Chapel Missionary Women Blog. It’s a humorous (I hope) account of a fairly new aspect of my life here in Ukraine. You can read it here. While you’re at it, check out the rest of the website. It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to get a more personal look at the lives of missionaries!

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It’s Just a Stage

I am a full-time, stay-at-home mom. I spend all day, almost every day, with small children. I gave birth to three babies, all of them boys, in under four years. (The most recent addition came just ten months ago.) The details of my day-to-day life revolve around the three little ones who need so much of my help and crave so much of my attention.

In the middle of this stage, it’s difficult to imagine that it could ever be any different. My life feels like an endless cycle of wiping runny noses, doing laundry, intervening in brotherly quarrels, preparing meals, helping children eat (while nursing the baby), vacuuming up little bits of food scattered all over the dining room floor, cleaning messy faces, tripping over toys, wiping poopy bottoms, folding piles of laundry, brushing little teeth, washing dishes, bathing little bodies, and collapsing into bed at the end of the day, praying for a night of uninterrupted sleep and hoping that the next day’s cycle won’t start before 7 a.m.

I keep telling myself that it’s just a stage. Little by little, the children will learn to do things for themselves. The constant fatigue will pass. I will not always feel perpetually distracted. The mental fog will lift (I hope). And one day my husband and I may be able to enjoy being spontaneous lovers again. I know these things, but it’s difficult to imagine a life like that. But just the other day I realized that in one short year, we’ll be getting ready to send our eldest to kindergarten, and I noticed that day by day he’s becoming more of a little boy and less of a small child. Then I looked at my other two precious ones and was newly motivated to savor all the moments of their childhood, from kissing their boo-boos (real and imaginary), to cuddling them close (when they wake me up in the middle of the night), and watching their wonder and excitement as they discover the world around them (while making a horrific mess in the process). It’s just a short stage, and when it’s over, I know I’ll miss it.