Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Having Kids Changes Everything

In Jack and Sophie's minds, no birthday is complete without blowing up balloons, singing the Happy Birthday song and blowing out candles on a cake -- in addition to opening presents, of course. So in celebrating Matt's birthday recently, we went all out. It was just the four of us, but with hats and horns and the other accompaniments, it was definitely a party!

Matt had asked the kids to decorate his cake. In addition to a handful of candles each, Jack contributed two Hot Wheels cars, and Sophie added the baby from her doll's house family.

We even played games like Pin the Tail On the Donkey and Pass the Parcel.

The following evening Matt and I marked the occasion as grown-ups do, by going out for dinner and a movie -- which was fabulous, of course -- but I'm not sure anything could top the fun of our family party, kids' style.
Happy Birthday, my Love! You bless us in a million ways, and I'm so grateful for another year together.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Have You Seen This Dog?

This is Edward, a beloved, dachsund puppy sent from a kind-hearted friend in Berlin when Jack was born. At first Jack called him My Little Puppy, but just over a year ago, I don't know why, Jack decided to give him a proper name. (It's sad, I know, but for lack of creativity on my part all our kids' stuffed animals have been called by what they are: Duck, Donkey, Elephant, Teddy, Lamby, etc. Oh, except for the kitty cats which are affectionately known by the sound they make: Mao.) Since then Edward has been Jack's constant companion and essential snuggle buddy at bedtime. As you can see from the photograph, Edward even tagged along when Jack and Sophie raced around in their super capes. Edward has been to Sainsbury's, to church, to school and even to downtown London...

You already know what I'm going to say, don't you? Edward went missing about a month ago. He was last seen under the table at supper, but somehow, between tidy-uptime, bathtime and bedtime he disappeared. We searched high and low, in every room of the house, in every cupboard and every drawer, beneath and behind every piece of furniture... Jack handled it better than I thought he would, to be honest, but every couple days he'd say: We really need to find Edward.

Of course, on top of the sentimental factor, not knowing what had happened to Edward was driving me crazy! I hate when things go missing and can't really rest until they're found. In my desperation, I even got online to see if I could find a look-alike replacement, but no! It didn't exist. The company who made him seemed to have vanished as completely as Edward himself.

(Big sigh.)

So what to do? It may sound silly, but I prayed about it. Something along the lines of: Lord, I know that You know exactly where Edward is at this very minute. We've exhausted our ideas of where to look and are tired of rechecking the same old places with no new results. Will You please show me where he is? I need You to lead me to the place that we've obviously overlooked. It's such an insignificant thing, I know, but it would be a comfort to Jack and a relief to me.

This morning I looked around our dining room/playroom, mentally checking off the places we'd already searched, trying to think of a logical (but not normal) place for Edward to be. Somehow, my thoughts wandered over to Jack's guitar, zipped up in its vinyl carrying bag. I pulled it from its place, snugly tucked between the fireplace and the kids' toy cupboard, and sure enough, there was a big, soft lump protruding from within the front zipper pocket. I unzipped it and found Edward, a bit squashed but happily with us once again. Hooray!

And: Whew! Another answer to prayer. Silly or not, as answered prayers go, this experience got me thinking about other, more serious, times in my life when certain things have seemed "lost" to me: Trusting God to provide for the next step: college, jobs, financial support for ministry overseas, new friends in each new place He's taken me to, etc... Wondering as I turned 30 where in the world my husband was? I felt for sure that he was out there somewhere and knew I hadn't met him yet... Believing God for a miracle in the life of a family member not yet walking with the Lord... Waiting for news: a friend's diagnosis, the birth of a baby, the resolution of myriad situations out of my control...

I'm so grateful for all the times God has answered my prayers. The challenge, for me, is to live now, before the answer comes, in the freedom, joy and confidence I'll have afterward. Not all prayers are answered the way I'd like, of course. Friends aren't always healed, and to be honest, the lost aren't always found. But God's goodness isn't dependent on whether or not I get my wish. Sometimes things turn out differently than I'd hoped. Unfairly. Even wrongly. But my prayers are still answered. I may not understand it at the time, but I believe that God can make even these things into something beautiful, something beneficial in His divine economy.

That hope keeps me going in times of real struggle -- not the Edward type of thing, but when serious circumstances look bleak, when there's no news of progress in a particular situation and all I can see ahead is a big, black hole. I hope-against-hope because I really do trust that God knows what's going on. I really do believe that He's in control. And I believe I'll eventually have the clarity and understanding that He already has. So whether I can see it or feel it for myself, right now, I know that the answer is on its way, in His timing. It's real, it's just not here yet. This is what it means to walk by faith.

Thanks, Edward, for reminding me of this Truth. (P.S. Hey buddy, I'm glad you're back!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Walking Out of Church This Morning

Jack said: Mommy, look at that tree. It's nearly bald!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'll Tell You What's Not Fair

Jack is at the age where he's noticing the lop-sidedness of things -- mainly that his parents get to make more decisions than he does at this point in his life. When we tell him to do something he doesn't want to do (ie., brush teeth, eat veggies, tidy up toys), his latest response is, "It's not fair!"

Poor kid. We haven't consoled him a bit. Matt has seen more of the world than I have, up-close in all its genuine un-fair-ness, but I can't stand to hear my child complain about such piddly things. My unsympathetic response usually goes something like this: "I'll tell you what's not fair: That millions of children around the world don't have access to clean water, and we have as much as we want, every day. We don't have to go anywhere to get it, either -- it's piped right into our house. Now brush your teeth."

I know. It may be a little harsh for a five year-old. But hey, what about all the under 5's out there for whom dirty, disease-infested water (and worse) is a daily reality? Talk about harsh.

As I said, Matt has seen a lot of this kind of thing in his travels. When he gets back from an assignment, one of the things he does is filter through the thousands of images he's taken and identify the best 200. Then he goes through those to find the very best ten or twenty. That's called the top edit -- it's all that most people will ever see.

This morning I was brought to tears by this heart-rending photo essay on The Perils of Childbirth in Afghanistan.

I was left wondering about the many pictures that didn't make the edit, about the vast numbers of other Afghan women whose stories haven't been told.

Talk about not fair.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Good Table Manners: A Work In Progress

Jack and Sophie are great at helping to set the table before a meal and remembering to say thank you afterward. It's the stuff in between that needs a little work! So at breakfast this morning, we came up with the following list:

Close eyes and hold hands when giving thanks.
Don’t look around or act silly during prayer.

Sit properly.
Don’t play around.

Stay in your seat.
Don’t get out of your chair.

Eat what is given to you.
Don’t say, “Yuck.”

Chew with your mouth closed.
Don’t talk when you’re chewing.

Talk about pleasant things.
Don’t say rude words like poo-poo or bum-pum.

Listen when someone else is talking.
Don’t interrupt.

Wait to leave the table until everyone is finished.
Don’t get up before you’re excused.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Elijah Update (October 2008)

For new readers to this blog, the following update is about a strong and brave little guy named Elijah, born February 6, 2007. His mom and I worked together at Rift Valley Academy in 1996-1999. Elijah has Hemophilia B, but more importantly, he has a worldwide prayer support team! Since my initial post about Elijah and his mom's initial update the very next day, posting updates from Elijah's parents on this blog is a small way I can give support from far away and generate much-needed prayer for Elijah's continued growth and healing. So please, join the praying!

Hello everyone... Elijah has a little brother!

Isaiah Joel Fitzgerald was born Thursday, October 09,
2008 at 12:25 PM. He weighs 7 lbs 6 oz and is around 20 inches long. He is a beautiful little boy with just a little bit of dark hair and dark eyes. He was very ready to meet the world as labor only lasted one hour or less. He is very happy to snuggle up with his mother and of course ready to eat.

We are very grateful for all the prayers with the delivery going
quickly and no complications. Isaiah had his chord blood taken, and we will know soon if he has Hemophilia or not. Please pray with us for God's will.

We are so blessed! Thank you.

Joel, Judy, Elijah and Isaiah

Edited Saturday to add:
Well we just can’t keep ourselves from sharing the wonderful news with you. We received the call yesterday afternoon from the Hemophilia clinic in Kansas City. They had tested Isaiah’s blood, and he does NOT have hemophilia. Isaiah’s factor IX level was above 25%. If he had hemophilia his factor level would have been below 4% like his big brother. This also means that Isaiah is not a carrier and he won’t pass it on to his children.

We are very thankful to God that Isaiah doesn’t have hemophilia and we pray that he will be a best friend to Elijah and help him manage his hemophilia.

Thanks for continuing to pray with us!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Recurring Theme

There are times, as you go through life, when you look back and think: Gosh, I wish I hadn’t done such-and-such. At the time you may have thought nothing of it; you may have even sincerely believed you were doing the right thing. But given a little time and perspective, you realize that you were wrong, that you would go back and change it if you could. (Sad to say, I’ve had plenty of these.)

And then there are times, as you go through life, when you wake up in the morning, take a fresh look at what you’re doing and think: If I continue in this direction, I’m not going to like where I end up -- I’ll regret this. So you do what it takes to make changes according to what you know in your heart you’ll look back on and be glad about. You feel lighter, freer for the change and buoyed by a renewed sense of purpose.

This is where I’ve been the last week. And so: I changed my mind about Sophie going to preschool.

Our church has a great ministry to the children in our community. The preschool is wonderful. The teachers are capable and kind, and Sophie seemed to love it. I just realized I’m not ready to be apart from her two mornings a week.

I was getting to the gym those mornings, and that was a good thing. But I wasn’t home, and I wasn’t with Sophie. I found myself overly, unnecessarily busy, distracted by the pressure of where-we-need-to-be-when. I felt overwhelmed and stressed by things that normally don’t make me feel that way. It was horrible.

I’m happy to say that I feel a lot better now! Not quite as fit, perhaps, but better in every other way. My mum friends have noticed the difference, and my kids have, too.

* * * *

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to see one of my former Rift Valley Academy students who lives here in the UK. Spending the afternoon with her, and watching our daughters play together, was like tonic for my soul -- sweet and strong. On the way home and for several days afterward, I was caught up in memories of my years at RVA. Two thoughts kept coming back to me:

First of all, it doesn’t seem possible that sixteen years have passed since this breathtakingly beautiful young woman was a tiny, bespectacled girl standing beside my desk, defending her spelling of favor as favour, initiating me into the phenomenon of American vs. English language, culture, worldview -- so similar and yet so different. (It’s amazing how much my mindset has changed since that first year at RVA.) (And wow, sixteen years? I must be a lot older than I feel.)

Secondly, I wish I’d spent more one-on-one time with her, and with the other girls in the Class of ’99, when we were together on a daily basis. At the time, I was trying to balance teaching with all the other things that are inherent in serving at a boarding school. In retrospect, though, my official responsibilities don’t seem quite as important as they felt back then. Not that I shouldn’t have been prepared for class each day or able to read, remark on and hand back essays within a reasonable time of being written. But knowing now what life has held for many of these girls in the nine years since graduation, I wish I’d spent more time nurturing them individually, taking advantage of being in the same place at the same time. (Mind you, they’re all strong, capable women. They’re doing fine, and they don’t really need me. It’s just my mother’s heart for them coming through.)

Since that afternoon a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about the carpe diem concept: Seize the day. Time flies, so make the most of now. This too shall pass.

* * * *

While we were in Michigan this summer, my mom, my mother-in-law and I went out for a day’s shopping. (Woo-hoo! Besides our families, of course, shopping is what I miss the most about America.) We were in a department store, among the sales racks in the women’s section, and I said I wanted to see what I could find for Sophie. So I turned the corner and found that, in order to get to the toddlers’ clothes, I had to go through infants’. And I nearly burst into tears to realize that we don’t shop there anymore.

Here in England this is called feeling broody. No, we’re not planning on having more children -- we got started too late for that -- but I’m really missing the days when my kids were babies. Each stage of their lives has been magical, and I have no doubt they will continue to be. But this season seems to be over too soon. I don’t feel ready for it.

A friend once passed along to me a bit of wisdom she had received about being the mother of young children: The years go fast and the days so slow.

Donna, you were right.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Here!

My absentee ballot arrived in the post today. I'm so excited! I won't wax political, but I will say that I really, really love voting in presidential elections. So today is a happy day -- and the sun is shining!