Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Bird and a Tree

Meet Sissy.

She is the faithful mama robin who has made a nest outside of Paul's office window at the church building. Abigail named her Sissy, so that is what she shall be called. After diligently making her nest, Sissy laid three precious little blue eggs.

And just like Horton the elephant, Sissy has proven herself faithful 100% to sit on her eggs. Paul did a little research on robins, and found out that the eggs usually hatch 12-14 days after they are laid. Sometimes even the daddy robin shows up to take his turn at the sitting. Abigail named him Papi, so Papi he shall be called (maybe he migrated from Mexico?). Paul wrote a really great post over at his blog about what happens then, and how it relates to us spiritually. But I just want to write about how it relates to my little corner of life right now.

You see, I'm searching for a sign. Maybe not so much a sign that I need to go this way or that, but more like a little love letter from God, a little glimmer of hope in this journey. The due date of our pregnancy that we lost in October is Monday, May 4th. It is hard to believe that those months have already passed, and to think about where we could have been at this time. Possibly cradling a newborn baby. Maybe just feeling those contractions set in as I worked around the house. Getting in those last doctor visits, with that anticipating "We'll see you next week....but let's hope not!" And then everyone goes "Yay, it's almost time!" We know...we've been in those final days before, and they are sweet.

I've read many stories of infertility struggles and pregnancy loss in the last several months. There is a huge network of people who write blogs about their own experiences, and there is this little support group of "we are not alone." I've been struck several times at how certain things work in an almost uncanny timing. I've read stories of people who conceived and had their baby one year to the date that they miscarried. Or maybe the baby was born on the due date of the baby they had lost. On and on the stories go, almost in a strange sort of "that can only be a God thing, because things don't just work out that way." Like a little extra something special from Him, saying that He cares about the details of our lives, and that these little days and dates are not for nothing...they are significant and special. He knows that there are anniversaries of certain days that are so hard that we just might need a little extra something that day to feel lifted.

I had a long talk with Paul the other night, and I was probably the most emotional I have been about our miscarriages since last fall. Without recounting every tear and sniffle (it was even an ugly cry for a little bit there), I basically told him that I am desperate for that something extra from God right now, as Monday approaches. To feel that there is some sign of life to look forward to that day. That it isn't just a day on my calendar that is still circled as "the day that should have been something." I don't mean to sound superstitious...I just need something to be a sign of hope and life on that day.

So, there is Sissy. And there is our little tree.

As far as Sissy goes, Paul says from his calculations that those three little eggs should hatch somewhere between May 3rd and May 5th. I told him he was just being nice to tell me that, but he meant it. And wouldn't that just be something?

As for our little memorial tree...I have just been holding my breath that it will do something really glorious on May 4th. I don't know what a baby tree is capable of, but while several trees in our town have already blossomed, bloomed, and gone to the green hues of summer, our little tree is just starting to poke some green out the ends. I've watched carefully, at first not even sure it had survived it's first winter. But it did, and it is slowly pushing those little leaves out, but it has some days yet before it really shows itself.

What are these things capable of? I don't know. I do know that Sissy's eggs will hatch, and that our little tree will blossom, whether they hold out for May 4th, or even surpass it. I know it may seem silly to want such a sign as these things, but I guess I just believe in a God who understands the significance of dates, and One who sees me exactly where I am. I look pretty good and smiley and confident on the outside in any normal conversation, but on the inside...I'm just searching for a little something extra.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Our Recent Days

I feel like I should have some cute story to share, or something like a life lesson, or you know...something. I guess I will just share what has been going on inside the parsonage lately.

1. Abigail has adjusted beautifully to her big girl bed. Well, mostly beautifully. Now that she can get out of bed by herself, and we still have the two-heart rule, she acts impulsively, and uses both hearts within two minutes to hug Cammie goodnight...twice. Other than that, she has made the switch pretty seamlessly.

2. I have been reading our first "chapter" book to Abigail at her naptime and bedtime. We have The Wizard of Oz, as in the real story and not the movie version. She has seen the movie countless times, and knows most of the lines and songs by heart. But she has understood pretty well that the book is different than the, the slippers are silver, not ruby, and there are a ton of other characters that are not in the movie, like the Queen of the Field Mice, the Winkies (which are like those "oh-ee-oh" slaves from the movie, but look completely different), and the Witch of the North, which is a totally different person besides Glenda, who is also in the book. It has been fun to read a chapter at each bedtime with her, and not have some little board book that we get through in two minutes. I keep trying to understand the "deeper" meaning in the book. I need to read up on it, because I know vaguely that it had something to do with the worth of different metals, like the "silver" slippers, and the yellow brick road being bars of gold, etc. I keep wanting to find some deeper spiritual meaning in the story, and believe me, I'm reaching for it. I think there is something in me as a Christian that wants to tell Abigail, "See, the Wizard is God, and we are Dorothy, and blah, blah, blah." But I'm not sure it is there, and if it is, I'm really missing it. I really do think it was about capitalism or the price of silver versus iron or something. Oh well, it makes for a great bedtime story. Next, Paul plans to start the Narnia series with her.

3. We had our Ladies' Banquet at church last night. The theme was Roots and Wings, and it was a great time. I love helping to plan it with my friends, and my friend Elizabeth did a wonderful talk for us. My mom came, and she brought my "mom #2", Barb, who was my minister's wife as I was growing up. I loved having both of them there, even if we didn't get a chance to really have some deep conversation. My friend Angie said, "All you need is your Charlotte, and it would be your perfect evening." Oh, how right she is. That would be my top three for sure, of women who helped give me roots and wings.

4. Angie helped me weed and plant flowers at my house last week. And they are pretty, and I got dirty, and it was the best!

See? Four. That is the best I can do right now. Other than that, my days have just been, well, days. Not tons to tell, but they have been good. Let's see, I might have some photos to share with you. They are kinda random, but well, so is this blog post. Enjoy. ;)

Our Easter Diva. It's pretty hard to get a normal smile these days.

Family pic, including Baby Haley.

Abigail holding my friend Christianne's newest addition, Cameron.

Yes, we let her walk the town square like this. Leotard, black patent Mary Jane's, THE pink sparkly belt. Hey, you are only a three-year-old ballerina once. Why not flaunt it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Then I'm Moving

If Ralph Nader and Barbara Walters are the people in my neighborhood, I'm moving.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Facing Facts

When I posted on Friday about living a simpler life, I also had to come to grips with a few things. I am having a yard sale this week with a couple friends from church, and frankly, I don't have a ton to sell. We had a yard sale last June, too, and we really got rid of some stuff. So this time around, I feel like I have little things here and there, but not a whole lot to purge from the ol' parsonage.

After talking to my friend Angie, who is getting rid of all of her son's baby clothes up to his current size, my mind wandered to the seven bulging totes of clothes I have in an upstairs closet. All Abigail's...every outfit she ever wore from birth until now. I have saved every outfit until this point, thinking that if we have another girl someday, I will need all of those clothes. But then I realized that I could safely sell or give away about half of what she has in each size, and still have plenty of outfits left over for this girl we don't know we will have.

Then there is the issue of Abigail's crib (which I am not selling). We had kept her in her crib for a time longer than most kids stay in theirs. Her personality has always been pretty docile, and she's never been a climber except to jump off the arm of the couch occasionally. I don't think it ever occurred to her to try to climb in or out of her crib. A friend gave us her daughter's toddler bed about a year ago, and it had been sitting upstairs, waiting patiently for big girl use. Abigail knew it was there, and would ask us sometimes when she would get to sleep in her big girl bed. We would usually say vaguely, "Oh, soon." Or we would give her criteria to follow on what a big girl is and could she really handle it? After some time, I realized that we were keeping her in her crib much more for our comfort than for hers. Life's pretty easy when they are confined through the night, so why rush it?

Still, another thought crossed my mind. What if I was keeping her in her crib so I wouldn't have to deal with a long period of it's emptiness? If the crib is occupied, I don't have to think about the baby that I thought would have been there by now. If it is sitting empty upstairs, as her toddler bed was, then I have to face the facts that we aren't ready to fill it yet.

In a couple of weeks, I will reach what would have been my second due date for a baby who is not coming. My first was last October, and now in the spring. I need to realize that there are some things that I need to face, like it or not. It is okay for me to condense down seven totes of baby girl clothes. I don't want to do it, but I think I need to. And we made the transition last week to Abigail's toddler bed, and she has handled it perfectly. She was so excited, so ready. I don't want to hold her back from moving to a new stage just because our family is not. I just need to deal with the empty crib, and wait for God to fill it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Simpler Life

Today we went to Paul's mom's home to work on cleaning it out for selling. We spent most of the afternoon putting things in boxes, dusting, and my favorite thing....throwing away. Now, I realize that it is not quite the same when you are throwing away other people's things compared to pitching your own. But for me, purging stuff feels so good. I guess I don't consider myself much of a pack rat. Yes, I can be bad about letting things like bank statements and offers for JC Penney portrait studio pile up on my kitchen counter, and I in no way have control of clutter. But I just LOVE to throw stuff away.

That was a little hard for me today at Jean's, because at best, her life is going to be majorly pared down from here on out. She has even said recently that she wants to live simply, and doesn't want too much "stuff" in her room at the nursing home. I guess I just wanted to make things simpler for her and for all of us. I filled two boxes so far with things for Goodwill, and several trash bags of things that just needed to be pitched.

When we came home, I was struck with the mess that is currently our house. I have gotten very relaxed about not getting things picked up in just about every room. It was not welcoming to come home to, and I was ready to purge. I've had moments like that several times, especially since having Abigail. I'm really quite a Scrooge when it comes to toys, and feel like the less, the better. I figure she can live pretty much like Laura Ingalls Wilder and have one precious rag doll with stitched-on eyes, and I will be a happy mama. Hey, it worked then, it could work now!

When we lived in Muncie, I had joined Fly Lady for about two weeks. I learned how to have the shiniest kitchen sink, to wear your tennis shoes at home for ultimate productivity, and one thing that still sticks with me, long after I quit using Fly Lady after realizing I would forever receive 40 testimonial emails a day about how life-changing Fly Lady was. That thing was the 27-Fling Boogie. You grab a trash bag, and don't sit down until you have thrown away 27 things. Pretty exciting, huh?

I made my own version of that this evening (well, my mom used to use it on me when I was little). I set the timer for 15 minutes and told Paul and Abigail we were going to do a "15-Minute Tornado Clean-up". It was awesome!!! My room is cleaner than it has been in two years. Abigail picked up her toys all by herself. A cardboard box the size of Montana that Abigail has been coloring on for a month finally got broken down and taken to the trash. And our dinner was cooking the whole time! All in 15 minutes!! (I realize I sound like an infomercial now, leave me alone)

All this to say, I want a simpler life. For me and for those I love. Yes, toys for the kids are fun, and necessary. Toys for me are fun, and usually look something like shoes. Toys for Paul are fun, and usually resemble Playstation games. And that is okay. But when it comes down to it, I don't want my life defined by our stuff. My family walked yesterday on Paul's lunch hour to the library, and we each checked out things for ourselves. And in two weeks (or less) we get to take them back! No clutter! And that walk with my husband and my daughter, that time sitting and reading books in the children's section, was so much more priceless to me than anything we could have bought. Maybe this is coming from the side of me that has moved three times since I've been married. Or it could be that we are having another garage sale. But I just love that feeling of needing less, wanting less, using less. And all it took was 15 minutes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes She's Perfect

I admit it, there are times when I think my daughter hits the good-behavior nail square on the head. Unfortunately, I have found out that most of those occasions are with other people, and when we are anywhere but in our own home. I often tell friends that I'm not sure who coined the phrase Terrible Twos, because three has been much harder than two ever was.

But there are those times....oh, the times I just want to kiss her little cheeks over and over again until she tells me she has more important things to do, like lie on the cat until the cat is completely smothered. In the last few weeks when we have gone to visit Paul's mom in the hospital or nursing home, I actually burst with pride at how well Abigail acts in that setting. She isn't afraid in the slightest of tubes or IV's or hospital beds or Grandma not wearing her wig. She crawls right up in that bed next to Jean and shares chocolate Skittles with her. She asks her if her shots hurt. She sings her AWANA songs. She hugs Jean and tells her she missed her. She hears the sound of a person on the other side of the curtain in Jean's room, and asks if she can meet the roommate.

This past weekend, Abigail stayed with my parents while we were at a conference. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say she was perfect, but Memaw did (and Memaw is the one who will actually be honest about it...Papa isn't). They painted. They dyed Easter eggs. They ate Easter eggs. They watched Pinnochio (she didn't like when Pinnochio got sick from smoking a cigar). She helped Papa pick up sticks in the yard. She made being away so easy. Not that it is great fun to be away from her for the weekend (well, I usually don't mind a little getaway until about Sunday...then I miss her). But you know how it is when they are with the grandparents and you just want them to be on their best behavior so that no one thinks you've done a bad job.

Tonight we were having dinner, and Paul tore a paper towel in half for them to share as a napkin. He took the smaller one and gave her the big one. And she threw an all. out. fit. Because she is little. So therefore, she MUST have the little paper towel, not the big one. We both were staying calm, telling her "Just ask nicely for it and you can have it. You don't throw fits when you want something." She cried. And kicked. And screamed. She almost dumped her food on the floor....almost. She went to our room and cried for about a solid five minutes. It was one very ugly fit. Through the door, I told her, "When you are finished, you can come out and eat."

And then she was. Like it hadn't even happened, she opened the door, climbed in her seat, apologized for throwing a fit, and said, "May I please have the little paper towel?"

Sometimes she's perfect. Sometimes, she's just three.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Special Story for You

Today, I would like to read you a little story. Well, part of a story that I am sure most of you have read to yourself or your kids at some point. I have collected children's books since college, and had accumulated quite a collection by the time we had Abigail. One of my favorite times of the day with Abigail is when she just climbs into my lap to be read to. LOVE IT.

I was reading to her just a little bit ago from the book You Are Special by Max Lucado. There is a part of the story that just jumps out at me every time I read a good message for our kids, but also as one I need to hear every day. I have even read this part of the book to Paul before when he has had a down day in ministry and has needed some extra encouragement. You know, the kind you can only find in a good piece of children's literature.

For those who haven't read it, quick synopsis. The story has a bunch of little wooden people called Wemmicks. They were all made by the woodcarver, Eli (see: God). They scurry around town, giving each other stars for the "good" Wemmicks who are smart, funny, pretty, talented, etc., and gray dots for those who are the opposite of all of those things. One little wooden guy named Punchinello just can't seem to get his act together. He isn't the most attractive, his wood is scratched, he falls down a lot, and says silly things. Sometimes those mean Wemmicks give him extra dots just because he already has so many.

Then he meets a little gal Wemmick named Lucia. She is tall and beautiful and she doesn't have ANY stickers....stars or dots. She has a daily habit of spending time with Eli, the woodcarver, and has learned her worth in his eyes. She knows what the other Wemmicks think doesn't matter because he made her and he thinks she is special. She shares this with Punchinello, and off he goes to meet his maker.

Here is the part I love. Punchinello goes in to the workshop and meets Eli.

Eli stooped down and picked him up and set him on the bench. "Hmm," the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the gray dots. "Looks like you've been given some bad marks."

"I didn't mean to, Eli. I really tried hard."

"Oh, you don't have to defend yourself to me, child. I don't care what the other Wemmicks think."

"You don't?"

"No, and you shouldn't either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They're Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn't matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special."

Punchinello laughed. "Me, special? Why? I can't walk fast. I can't jump. My paint is peeling. Why do I matter to you?"

Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. "Because you're mine. That's why you matter to me."

Now, who doesn't need that little reminder now and then? Even when I read this book to Abigail, she says, "Eli is Jesus, right?" There is something in us that has to know we are made special. That even when there are days when it feels like you've been given one gray dot after another, all that matters is what our Maker thinks.

Even more, some days we even feel like we have lots of gold stars. Those are the days when it is even easier to forget about what our Maker thinks. To think we are pretty special because of our talents, our abilities, our "fresh paint", our sparkling personalities. It is easier to forget about our Maker on those days, sometimes more than it is the days we are covered with dots. Those are the times we need even more of a reminder that we are special because of who He sees us as, not how others see us.

I guess I needed to read this to Abigail today, but sometimes I need it more for me. Whether it feels like a dot day or a star day, I need that daily face-to-face with my Jesus to remind me that He loves me and thinks I am special, simply because I am His. I wanted to encourage you with that today as well, friends. We need those moments of clarity that can only come from the pages of a children's story. To have that childlike attitude of knowing that Eli is Jesus, and He loves us very much.