Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Simplification of Things

This post is part three in a longer family journey. You can read part one here. And part two here.

Have you ever been humbled? By the Lord? It is a gentle kind of humbling. After all, there is no arrogance on his behalf, like there is when we say to our spouse, "I told you so."

I can remember a dear friend praying for me once (the same dear friend who years later would become a midwife and attend our son's births--Charlie's as our doula, and Calvin's as our midwife--and will attend the birth of our third child as well). I don't recall what that time of prayer was about, but I remember her painting a picture of just how gently our Father deals with our hurt and our sin. She described him as a surgeon who very precisely and gently and with sure hands removes what is ill, and knits together what is to be made new. That is the kind of humility and gentleness we enjoy as followers of Jesus. Humility is truly a healing experience. There may be pain, but there is no trauma.

I'm having to change a bunch of things. And, as I related in part two of this lengthy story, these changes have been too long in coming.

Baby number one kind of slipped into our lives with ease. He was our first, and trust me there was much fan fare, but as far as where he fit into our lives at the time, well, that was easy.

Baby number two was kind of squeezed and pushed. I have many regrets over Calvin's first year. There were things going on that were out of our control that heaped huge amounts of stress onto our family. But there were things in our control, too. Mostly, we white knuckled it until Calvin was about 18 months and life finally started to feel normal again. I can barely remember Calvin's first year. I feel a lot of guilt over that.

And Baby three. Oh Baby three! Where will we put you?

Well, there are spots in the house that we have cleared and tidied, so we will at least be able to stash you here and there. And now, we are making that space for you in our hearts and minds. We are now to the simplification of things.

Number one simplifier: Cut out Charlie's typical preschool program.

Gosh, this is also humbler number one. I have spoken so strongly about the importance of Charlie, and any child with special needs, having the opportunity to be a part of a "normal" preschool program with "normal" peers. Really, it has been awesome for him to have this "normal classroom experience". But, shuffling him off to two different preschools every week, keeping up with two sets of teachers and friends, two lists of opportunities/obligations, and paperwork and requirements for two separate programs. It is too much.

This one is a double simplification, because I am quitting my part time job in the church office which I only kept SO Charlie could attend the typical preschool program (it is a state run preschool slash day care program, so a family must need the care).

We are sad to let this preschool program go. We have been on the receiving end of so much grace from the Children's Center. They have gone out of their way to make it possible for Charlie to attend, going so far as pursuing grant money for him so we have not had to pay a dime. I have learned so much from watching the staff interact with the children as well. I have learned so many invaluable and gentle ways to parent. And, though I clearly felt the Lord's leading for us to consolidate, I resisted until the last minute to tell the preschool he would not be returning for the fall semester. I wanted so bad for there to be some other way. But, I tell ya, the peace that immediately washed over me once I sucked it up to let the director know of our decision was all the comfort I needed that indeed we were choosing right, even as it did not make complete sense to my ideas about special needs and education. (As in, WHAT will happen to Charlie if he doesn't have typically developing peers models?!!! Well, the answer is I don't know, but I have the peace of Christ in this decision, so I suppose what happens to him will be blessing and goodness. Perhaps in surprising ways.)

Simplifier number two: Lessen the family footprint in church leadership.

Really, our family footprint in our church is way to large. We are taking up too much space where others could contribute and be blessed by the chance to serve. But mostly, it stresses our family to be burning the candle at so many ends. And really, who are we to think it is up to us to do more work than we are called. Indeed, to hang on to so much territory and soldier on as if our purpose and position is so vital is selfish, in a twisted, self-gratifying way.

In part two of this journey I wrote about God calling me to step back from leadership several months ago. I did not. But, God is giving me a chance to redeem that poor decision. It is a hard decision to make. Our church is small, and I have no idea who will take over the duties that I volunteer to do in the nursery. But, I feel strongly that for our family health (and well gee, my own personal obedience to Christ) I need to step back.

Raymond does so much in our church. He is a key person in the leadership core, he is the worship pastor, the director of arts at the coffee shop we run as a ministry, he is the head sound engineer for the music venue at the shop and does all the booking for bands, he is the electrician and fixer of all things broken. Sheesh, he recently built from scratch a sound snake for the church using recycled wire from a re-wire job at a high school (did I mention all the above is what he does on top of his Electrician day job!!). It may be old fashioned of me to say so (at least in California), but I feel my main ministry to our church and community at this point is to support Ray. A burnt out wife is not a wife that provides support, but saps strength. Of that, I have been guilty. And, again, am humbled.

Simplification number three: Two big ones is enough, right? And gosh, the first one is a double whammy. But other things we are doing to simplify are small and numerous and ongoing. Selling stuff we don't need. Following a strict budget and financial plan (which as restrictive as it may sound, has been incredibly stress relieving and a wonderful blessing). Praying more often and fervently. (Oh believe me!) I don't know if there will be anymore big decisions on my part. I suspect there will be some changes the Lord may ask of Ray. He is seeking God's heart, and it is difficult feeling unsure. It is difficult to trust that God has everything planned and timed and perfect. Pray for Raymond to hear God's call, and to lead our family well.

So there you have it. Three parts. A bit of how this little baby Robinson came into being through a coin flip, was welcomed with a dose of "what were we thinking" followed by God's unusual prompt that we are "stuck with this one", and has catapulted our family into a journey of redemption and renewed obedience and a lightness in my heart that has been so absent.

What a story, and it's barely just begun. In a few short months I will hold this little person in my arms with so much wonder. Wonder at how God could use someone so tiny to create the opportunity for so much healing. Humbling indeed. And exciting. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Hey, why not, " followed by "What were we thinking?"

This post is part two of a longer family journey. Read part one here.

I feel sensitive to admit that through the beginning of this pregnancy, the beginning of the life of our third child, there were plenty of times people would congratulate us, and I would force a "Thank you, we are very excited." What I wanted to say was "Thank you, but I'm freaking out just a little bit here."

My inmost sense is that this pregnancy is God's doing (well, duh!). Really, we were probably in the clear (in a biology kind of sense) when this all, ahem, went down. But an unusually early ovulation, or (sorry) some sort of super human sperm (which Ray, of course, claims) and what do you know... BABY. That and I specifically felt God tell me "You're stuck with this one" (Maybe it was more gently put, but my state of mind and all...). In fact, I felt that message so clearly that I haven't fretted miscarriage during this pregnancy at all--what-so-ever--like I had with my last two.

You're stuck with this one. Meaning, our baby is here to stay. Meaning, if anyone was ever meant to live on this earth, this child was. Meaning, it is time to work through your feelings about adding another child to the bunch, because it's coming. In 9 months, he (or she!) will be here.

So, we've been working on those feelings. Specifically, we've been working on creating space--physical, mental, emotional--for this baby.

First, we have to literally create room in our 800 square feet of living space. We've taken some steps toward this. God provided a roll top desk for us so we can have our "office" downstairs in the main living area. All we have to do is shut the top to make things feel tidy (or keep the kids out). We downsized our dining area with a breakfast nook table with benches instead of chairs that will seat a family of five, plus a guest or two. We are looking and praying for a bed with a trundle for the boys. They are not old enough for bunks, but Calvin is ready to be out of the crib, and we cannot fit two twins in their room if we have a hope of preserving some play space (plus, we um need the crib coming up here).

So we are making physical space. It is a step. A start.

Next, is emotional and mental space. This is the toughest. In some ways we feel so stretched. How can we accommodate another child and all his (or her!) needs? These feelings came on strong as we weathered a tough first trimester with lots of nausea and sheer exhaustion, coupled with a long bout of Calvin waking several times a night. I was tired and discouraged. Ray was tired and annoyed. We realized that, even under the best circumstances, if we do not change some things in our lives we just cannot visualize a very healthy family-of-five kind of life several months from now.

This part takes us several months back, because honestly, it's been tough for a while. It's been busy. Ridiculously busy.

The reasons are simple, and we have all been there. It's over-commitment. Plain and simple. You know, all those things you get into because they are really good things, and they are important things, and for one reason or another you just think you need to do them all.

I felt God speak to me about trimming some of these good, wonderful things last fall. Specifically, to step down from running the children's program at our church. Now, as I said, often the things we are involved in that add up to our collective over involvement are good things. The children's program is a great thing. But then, so are many of the extra's that are adding up to too much. Something has to go. I agreed to do it (agreed with God, that is). Then, something unforseen happened: a couple involved with leadership moved on, and this did not click with my idea of the possible for me to then step down, so I did not. I thought, I need to hang in there for the church community. I can't quit now and leave everyone in the lurch. THAT would be selfish.

But, as we prepare for this baby, and go through some other things, I've begun to see that decision as the sin that it is. I thought at the time I was choosing for the good of the community. That I was playing my part. Now I am beginning to wonder about that. It was a selfish sacrifice at I time I was already feeling overburdened. As it turns out, self-righteousness tends to lead to bitterness.

Now, I will staunchly argue that Christians were not meant to walk this walk alone. We were created to live in community with one another. We are instructed to be the body of Christ collectively. If you have ever actually lived in community and honestly felt you were really a part of a larger body of people, then you know at times you need to make choices that are group-centered and not self-centered. Everybody has a part to play, and it takes work. Certainly there is a fine line between self-sacrifice for the body, and personal obedience to the LORD. So, where is that line?

What I am beginning to consider that I had not before is that surely our Father in Heaven, who loves us each so dearly and who loves the collective body of believers so passionately, would not instruct us individually to make decisions that would hurt the body. (right?) He would not lead us to hurt our communities of fellow believers in which we find fellowship, in which we worship collectively, in which we bond together to serve and minister. But sometimes we are instructed by Christ to move on, to step down, to refit ourselves. How does it all work out for good then?

I've only been able to see this in retrospect. After months of soldering on in ministry I have come to a point where I am of no benefit to the church. Sure, the younger children have a dependable nursery program, but at the expense of one woman becoming so fragile that she cannot bear to say 'yes' to any new opportunity for her family. She cannot fathom the joy of new life on the horizon in light of her present state of being. She is so tired. (And so cranky, and 'naggy'. To be honest.)

Of course, there is no going back. It is impossible to see what vitality and possibility could have come from following God's instruction at the outset, even though I selfishly assumed at the time that to do so would have brought undue burden to my friends in ministry. But I suspect if only to follow Christ's lead would have brought fruit instead of brokenness. For me personally, my family, and in ways I don't understand, but trust, the church body.

Now, God has a way of giving us paths of redemption, doesn't he? This little baby is quite the catalyst. I certainly realized in the early months of pregnancy that we were going to need to cut back. To readjust. I did not realize I would learn so much about obedience and just how relieving it is to follow and obey. I did not know I would have the chance to redeem what I had lost through my early self reliance.

So, as you might have guessed, the 'Cut Backs' have started. And, to my utter surprise I feel impossible peace as I take responsibility to obey to what God calls me. This must be what it means to "surrender" to Christ. To obey when he leads, though the way does not make sense to our rational mind. But, the peace that follows the smallest step toward Christ is--well, it's practically a rush.

More to come. This is getting long, eh?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Knock, Knock Jokes

Calvin: Knock, knock, who's there?

Mommy: Who's there?

Calvin: Dinosaur

Mommy: Dinosaur who?

Calvin: Baby Dinosaur! Roar!!!


Charlie : (Knocks on table)

Mommy: Who's there?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We flipped a guitar pick. It came up Fender. And now we are pregnant.

This pregnancy wasn't a surprise, like the boys were. It was planned... Sort of.

We've always known we would like more than two children. We have various rational reasons for this, not the least of which is: Look at our boys! WHY wouldn't we want to make more children when it seems to work out SO WELL for us? They are breathtaking.

So we had talked over the fall and winter months about when we might want to stop avoiding pregnancy. We had some reasons why it was impractical to have more. For example, money. We just don't have much of that stuff. We do fine. In fact, we trust God completely that He will always provide for us. And, He has. Completely and fully. We may not own our home, but we have a safe and lovely cottage to raise our boys until that day comes. We may not drive new cars, but we have sturdy older vehicles, and a brother-in-law mechanic who takes good care of us. We don't shop at Macy's but we live in a unique area where to shop there is sort of detestable, and buying used and being creative is preferred. We can't always afford to buy organic, but we grow our own organics for free. Indeed we are blessed with plenty and with wholesomeness.

Then, there were the reasons why having another baby sooner than later was preferable. One is my health. There are things I cannot do to treat certain health conditions I have, through natural methods or otherwise, while I am pregnant or breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is SO important to me. Some of the very conditions of which I suffer are reduced in people who were breastfed. I want my boys to have the sturdy immune foundations of breastfed people. So, with the boys being just 2 years apart in age, I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding or both for 5 years. That is five years that my own health journey has taken a backseat so my boys could have the front seat. So, in some ways, having another child sooner than later would mean less years before I can work on my own health in earnest. (Now, there are other health benefits to a woman by simply going through pregnancy and lactation. My risk of breast cancer is significantly reduced now, for example, for having breastfed my sons. And my mental health and self image for having given life to our boys before, during, and after birth is through the roof. I am so grateful. To say this journey has been worthwhile, despite my health challenges, is a monumental understatement.)

We came to a point in February where we just did not know what the best route was for our own "family planning"--something new and unfamiliar to us as our boys were not planned at all. So, we literally flipped a guitar pick. We decided if it landed on "Fender" (the inscription on one side of the pick) then we would go for it. We would try for a baby that month. If it landed on the blank side, we would think about it for a while more. Well, it landed on "Fender".

Of course the very next day we had the bright idea that we could certainly wait. We could wean Calvin (we had planned to wean him in the Spring anyway). I could work on some health stuff for a while. Then we could think about pregnancy in a few months. There is no reason all our children need to be evenly spaced. "Whew!" we thought, "That was a close one!" Ha! God had other plans, and where we thought we had narrowly escaped our biology, God stepped in and gave us this child.

Startling, but not a surprise.

To be continued...

I write this story, which is certainly more than you cared to know, because it is a story of redemption. Conception is only the beginning, and I will continue to add to it this week. I want this new little Robinson to know how healing their little life has been to our family, even if it started out as a coin flip.
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