Missing the Start
2017 hasn’t really had the exciting zeal that I had hoped for thus far. On Monday night, I got a horrible stomach bug that left me feeling like I got beat up in the carpark. We thought I had food poisoning because I had eaten some leftovers that were perhaps a little old, and Eleanor and Robbie, who were fine, hadn’t eaten it. At least that’s what we thought.
Robbie got Eleanor ready for the day, and then my friend Emily watched her for nearly the entire day while I rested. I was so incredibly grateful that she was so willing to have Eleanor for the whole day. I felt terrible. Wednesday rolled along, and I was starting to feel better, even though little Miss was waking up around 5:20am! I ventured out on a walk with Eleanor, slowly but surely, easing into the day.
After a day full of social interaction, Eleanor was pretty bored spending the day with just mum, so I tried taking her to the warehouse to see some friends. Then later that afternoon, some friends came over to our house. And then, one of Eleanor’s little friends threw up twice in Eleanor’s room. Yeah…we were wrong about the food poisoning.
Three hours later, Robbie began throwing up, and I quickly ran to Woolies to buy the best sanitizing cleaning supplies on the planet for fear of Eleanor catching this terrible bug. Another two friends on base started throwing up later Wednesday night as well. It’s brutal friends – not a bug you want.
I sanitised every.single.surface in our house, including the bazillion play food pieces Eleanor got for Christmas. Oh the joy. And, I texted many friends to pray that this horrible bug was done attacking our little community.
The cherry on top of this wonderful first week of the New Year? Our sewer system for our entire house got completely blocked yesterday. THANK GOODNESS this happened post throwing up for everyone, but nonetheless, another lovely addition to an already challenging week.
We can still use things, but water sources like the washing machine and shower put too much pressure on the system, so we are avoiding those for today and tomorrow until it’s completely fixed.
I don’t write all this to garner a bunch of pity or sympathy. Seriously. I am more outward processing life right now. I have had to stop myself from my own self-pity, and I’ve had to recognise that as much as we like to think our “fresh start” can only begin on January 1, it’s simply not the truth. God offers a fresh start every morning in fact.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Today I am reminding myself that Eleanor has been smiling and happy and healthy all week. I am reminding myself of the incredible friends who help us when we are having a rough go. I am reminding myself that despite the barrage of articles online and shared on Facebook about what not to do as a mum, Eleanor will indeed survive if she’s watching a little more tv this week and outside a little less. She will be ok if I am not giving her as many vegetables, and I am not a bad mum for not trying as hard this week. I am reminding myself that prayer is beautifully powerful, and I am thankful that at this point, no one else has gotten sick. I am reminding myself that next week (or tomorrow or next month even) is an ok time to really think through my goals for 2017, and this week hasn’t been wasted, nor have I missed my chance to start 2017 off well. I am reminding myself that God is good, and He is not at all flustered or changed by my issues. I am reminding myself that all will be ok. I am reminding myself that there is immense power in hope and that gratefulness is the seedbed of hope. I am reminding myself that we have much to be grateful for even when things haven’t been as easy this week.
Have you ever tried to start a New Year or new season well and things just don’t go as planned? What do you have to be grateful for in this New Year?
Nearing 2017 sort of felt like when you’re ascending the hill on a roller coaster and you know you’re almost to the top but can’t quite see it until all of the sudden the force of the front of the car pulls you into it. I knew 2017 was near, especially as we got into December, but this past week or so sort of took me away with it. I think I thought it would go slower because we were out of our normal routine. It didn’t, though, and now it’s January 1st!
Happy New Year!
I really enjoyed 2016 despite what seems to be the consensus online. There were challenges, of course, like any other year, but the truth is there was a whole lot of good as well. I learned a lot, and Einstein’s famous quote, “the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know” keeps getting truer and truer. I laughed a lot. I cried a bit. I sang and danced and thought and prayed. It was a good year, but just like any other year, I am ready for the fresh reality of a new year. It’s a beautiful truth to reflect on the fact that God created us to operate in seasons – from calendar seasons with a new year and even a new day, all the way to personal seasons you walk through as you go about life.
Robbie and I have been praying and chatting a lot about so much lately. There are many things to think and pray through at the moment, and at times, I can feel overwhelmed by that. Have you ever been hanging out with someone, and as you respond to their situation, you find yourself relearning or teaching yourself what you’re communicating to them? That happened to me this past week. In the midst of being overwhelmed, I remembered that these seasons are always worth it because we learn and grow. We navigate life a bit more, learn more about God and ourselves and each other, and we hopefully come out at some point with some victories in the midst of the tired eyes and battle wounds.
When I think about 2017, what comes to mind is the idea of “being intentional”. It’s something that I’ll admit has been a bit challenging for me personally since becoming a mum. I find I can “let life happen” all too quickly, and then suddenly another month has gone by. I want to be more intentional in the day-to-day, in what I am choosing to spend my time doing, in how I engage with the people around me (especially Robbie and Eleanor), and in what I invest my heart and my mind into. I’ve all too often used my “tiredness” as an excuse to give away my time carelessly doing nothing or things that don’t add anything to my life. I don’t necessarily think any of these things are bad in and of themselves, but it’s become my routine. I want to change that and make my hours and days and years count.
I am still forming all my goals or hopes or resolutions (or whatever you want to call them) for this year, and I am allowing myself a little extra time and room to intentionally think them through. I don’t want to let the calendar decide for me, but instead, I am letting it serve as a small reminder to be intentional as I process these things. Stay tuned for more details on some of my goals for 2017, as well as an 18-month update about Eleanor.
I hope you have enjoyed the past couple months of holidays with your friends and family, and I pray you are feeling hopeful for the New Year!
A Month of Quality Photos
At the beginning of April, I challenged myself to only post to social media if I had used my good camera for the rest of the month. I got a Canon 60D and a 50mm lens about a year and a half ago after several years of taking a photography break. In 2014 I started using the YWAM camera for personal projects on the weekends as I began dabbling in photography again. It was a cool journey, and this time around, I do love the art of photography so much more than the first time around.
Since Eleanor came along, I have done many photo shoots with her. I do one each month to compare the size of her with her little elephant, and I’ve done others with her and different outfits. I have taken my DSLR to the beach with friends and taken a few of their kids here and there. But alas, this camera was still only responsible for about 30% of the photos I was taking. The trusty little iPhone just seemed easier on most occasions.
I was feeling challenged to not just post quality photos on social media but to also use the nice things that I have been given. I’ve read a lot of blogs for quite some time now, and I admire many of the bloggers’ photos. You can tell they take the time to use a nice camera and get the lighting right. They appreciate the quality that a good camera provides.
To make things even easier, for Christmas this past year I got an Eyefi mobi card. An Eyefi mobi card has a wifi component that syncs your camera to your phone directly and loads the photos straight into the app after you’ve taken it. It makes it pretty simple, and yet I still found myself going to my phone.
Which brings me to today – after a month of my photo challenge. I knew I wanted to continue posting to social media if for no other reason than to keep family and friends included in our journey halfway around the world. I knew I wanted to use my good camera more in the everyday, to learn to take it with me when I am out and about so I have the option to use it rather than just my phone. I also knew I wanted to continue learning about photography, which taking photos in the everyday is a great place to expand that learning because there is a lot of variety in your everyday scenarios.
Needless to say I loved it. I posted 21 quality photos from the past several weeks of Eleanor, Robbie, friends, Australia…of life. Not that I don’t cherish all my photos, iPhone or not, but there is something special about the time and quality of these photos. I feel challenged to continue using my good camera in the everyday. I feel challenged to continue growing and learning about this hobby, and I feel challenged to keep posting quality in the midst of an ever-growing barrage of content on social media these days. So maybe I won’t post every.single.photo from my DSLR, but I feel challenged to stop and ask myself, “Why aren’t you using your good camera right now?” To challenge myself to be slow to post and to think about what I am saying, not just in my descriptions, but in the photo. After all, “a picture is worth a 1000 words” right?
Here are some photos from the last month…
This past week a good friend asked me this question:
“What’s the biggest thing you have learned since becoming a mum?”
Oh the many things…
I feel like I have learned so much about a million different things since Eleanor came along, but I surprised myself with how quickly I found an answer.
When I was at YWAM Together, I chatted with an amazing friend about being a mum in missions. One thing she said was how much she started reflecting on the “mother heart” of God. I felt challenged by that to try and think that way as I am parenting Eleanor – how does God feel in these times with us, his children?
After starting to think differently and trying to really reflect on God’s mother heart, I had an incredible revelation a few weeks back. When we got home from Townsville, we started to try and get Eleanor on a bit more of a routine and teach her to sleep better, especially during the day. One thing we embarked on was a bit of “cry it out.” Up to this point in her life, we pretty much blocked any and all crying that Eleanor did. If she cried, we found a way to very quickly remedy the situation. No mum likes to hear her baby cry, and I am certainly no exception. However, the more reading I did and the more I observed Eleanor and some potential bad habits we had helped her to have, I realised that perhaps a little crying might be in her best interest.
I have read so, so much in the past month about sleep and feeding and schedules and routines and patterns and props and – I mean I could honestly go on for so long. There are a million and one opinions, and at the end of the day, you have to sort out what is right for your family. One of the big habits we had created in Eleanor, though, was needing to be rocked to fall asleep. This is cute and all in the beginning, but it’s not that realistic as the baby gets older and bigger. MORE than that, though, we weren’t helping Eleanor to learn the skill of falling asleep on her own, which means she wouldn’t know how to resettle herself after sleep cycles, which means she wakes up a lot at night and after 45-minute nap cycles.
I found a plan and one Wednesday night, I just decided to go for it. Robbie was at Public Meeting, and I hadn’t planned to do this earlier that day but rather just decided “it’s now or never”. I read her a book, I wrapped her up, I gave her some kisses and said “I love you,” and then I laid her in her bed and left the room.
My heart broke.
Everything in me wanted to rush back in because that was my own habit. I wanted to rescue her because surely she needs rescuing! I sat outside the door, though, and waited the 3-whole-minutes that my little guide told me to wait the first night. Those 3 minutes felt like a million years.
I went back in, I patted her and whispered in her ear that she was ok, kissed her forehead and walked out again. I sat in the hallway and set my timer for 5 minutes. She continued to cry, and after 5 minutes I went back in and did the same thing. When I returned to the hallway this time, I set my alarm for 10 minutes. Then, something incredible happened.
She stopped crying and fell asleep all by herself.
I was so excited. I did this for the next few nights, and she got better each night. Then in my reading, I realised that I actually should be doing it for every time she sleeps or I am just going to confuse her. So I started doing this for naps, and she didn’t enjoy it one bit.
Then I had this revelation.
I am doing this because I believe it is in her best interest. I know that she doesn’t necessarily like it, but I know that in the long-run, she will be equipped with an incredible skill of falling asleep on her own and will get better sleep, which will affect so many other things. BUT, I don’t like it. I don’t like hearing her cry or even the fact that she has to cry at all. My heart hurts because she has to learn this and it’s not easy. I am doing it, though, because I know it’s good for her.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.”
-Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)
I’ve read this verse before, and I know in my head that God will discipline us because He loves us. He wants us to get better, to learn new things, to grow. I’ve never thought about how God must feel through the process, though. When we cry, when we “just want out of it”, when we don’t understand, when we are upset or angry, God still continues because it’s in our best interest. I never thought about how He feels doing that until now. Now going through this with Eleanor, I have a greater respect for the love God has for us because it can’t be easy to watch us go through things.
I really hope I keep learning and discovering more of God’s heart and who He is. I heard someone say once, “If you want to know how selfish you are, get married, and if you really want to know, have kids.” Everyone laughed when they said it. It’s true in a lot of ways. There is an amazing privilege, though, because there are new opportunities to discover other sides of who God is because you are in that same role – a wife, a mum. Wow – what a great privilege!
Also, Eleanor is becoming a pro sleeper now! She has yet to sleep through the night, but she’s having longer naps and hardly cries, if at all, when I put her down. She’s learning and the new skill is helping her! The joy I feel on the other side of the challenge! How God must feel when we see breakthroughs as well.
The Surreal Ordinary
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my office after a meeting catching up on a few things, and apparently baby was super awake/happy/excited/energetic because I began feeling multiple little jabs in the same area of my belly. I kept noticing it and thinking how crazy it was. I sent Robbie a text to come up – maybe he could feel these because they seem stronger than any other little jabs I’ve had in the last week or two. He couldn’t feel yet, but man, there was a lot happening in there.
There are ordinary moments like that – everyday moments sitting at work or on our couch or at church – that totally are not ordinary anymore.
They’re so surreal.
I looked up that definition and found that surreal means “resembling a dream.” What a great definition!
My entire life I have wanted to be a mum. I’ve always been drawn to kids, and partly I think that was because I’ve always been around them. I think another part, though, was my observation of the beauty of motherhood and being a little kid and growing up.
It’s been a dream.
Saying these moments are surreal absolutely fits, and I am hoping that it will stay this way. I don’t ever want it to be mundane.
I am reminded of the Bethel song – “May we never lose our wonder…” – and noting how we should be actively seeking that same wonder, dreamlike awe of knowing God, seeking God, being with God as we do with new experiences. I’m challenged by this revelation.
I am so thankful for this journey. I remember before getting married having married friends tell me that you’ll learn things about God in a totally new way being married. You have a different perspective. I have heard those same sentiments from friends who have children. This isn’t to say people who aren’t in these seasons are somehow lacking – not at all. It’s just noting that God is infinite. That their are immeasurable possibilities in our experience of Him if we look for them. If we seek them.
I love this little bean in my belly. I love the reminders of how much of a privilege this journey is. Hearing the heartbeat Tuesday at our appt – surreal. What a privilege. Feeling these little jabs – surreal. Telling friends and family the news – surreal. Looking for prams and toys and baby clothes – surreal. It’s all part of this beautiful experience. It’s new, so obviously I am recognising it more.
Here’s to “new” not determining recognition.
May we never lose our wonder…
In 2007, I went on my first trip overseas to Haiti. To say it was eye-opening would be a massive understatement, and this was even pre-earthquake Haiti. To experience your first overseas trip in a place like Haiti breaks you in a very beautiful way, and that trip will always hold a special place in my heart.
On my trip, I was designated as the photographer, not because I had a fancy camera or any previous skill but because someone had to do it and I volunteered.
Photography captured my heart on that trip. I fell in love with the capacity to capture someone and essentially, if done well enough, to be able to tell their story. The photos from that trip may not be the best photos in the world but they truly do “speak 1000 words”. After my trip, I found it so easy to explain to people what I was doing and why. I was able to connect people to people even though there may be no other connecting point besides this photograph. I loved it.
That next fall, I decided to add a Studio Art minor to my degree with an emphasis in photography. I loved photography so much that I thought I may as well learn how to “properly” do it. Over the next 3 semesters, I took art classes, including a film photography class and two digital photography classes, and I found over that short period of time, my love for photography die. It was quite sad actually. The creativity and story-telling of it was what captured my heart, but my classes only taught the mechanics and a harsh “my-way-or-the-highway” philosophy from my professor. By the time I was finished, I no longer felt creative. I no longer loved photography.
Within my first year of Australia, I felt God clearly speak to me about photography. I felt Him prompt to me to “let it die so He could redeem it one day.” There was a clear promise attached, so I felt safe in His word and safe to sell all my photography equipment and “let it die” so-to-speak. That was in 2009.
Now 5+ years later, God has slowly but surely started this process. There’s a freshness and excitement with photography. There’s no limitations. I feel excited, and I feel there is a “child-likeness” to beginning again, to starting over. Most of 2014, I felt this process starting. I was borrowing my friend’s camera and finding excitement out of taking different shots again. It felt renewing, not constricting.
Last month, I was so blessed to be given a camera again. A great camera (Canon 60D)! I got an awesome 50mm lens with it as well. I am so excited to see this new journey of photography – capturing, story-telling, creativity! I cannot wait for all the fun this renewed hobby will bring in 2015!