December 31, 2011

The Blog Liveth! As do we: in our parents’ basement! (Wait. What?!?)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:31 am by Tamara

What’s with the siren song tempting me to start every blog post with “Well”?!?  (Or, worse still, an apology for taking so long to post.)  Both options are about as exciting as watching grass grow.  I stop my ears, siren song of well/sorry!!

Anyway.

We’ve been in Colorado almost two months now, and life is still pretty up in the air.  We haven’t signed a lease on an apartment yet, mostly because Adam’s job situation is still in progress.  He’s been working two jobs, but we’re really hoping he can get one better paying job (and actually have time to do little things like, you know, sleep and eat).  He had a preliminary interview with a school bus company and they told him he has to do another interview in January, but if he passes the background check, etc, he’ll get hired.  That’s very good news, since they pay significantly better than his current job and he would have regular hours (YAY!) instead of never knowing what his schedule will be from week to week.  The only downside is that the training doesn’t start until February, and we won’t know until it ends in March whether he can get full time hours right away or only part time.  But, even if he’s only hired part time he’d make almost as much as he’s making full time at his job now, so we’re really praying it will work out!

At any rate, we’ve decided it’s best to wait and see what happens before we sign a lease.  The cost of living here is pretty high; we could afford a decent one bedroom off what Adam is making now, but we’d really prefer two.  He also could end up driving a route on the other side of town from where we are now, so we need to know that before we can decide on a location.  Or there’s always a small chance he wouldn’t get the job at all, so we don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch.  So many unknowns!  So, for the time being I am forcing myself to be patient and wait on God’s provision until we’re confident we’re making a wise decision.

I have mixed emotions about the whole thing.  On the one hand, I am SO thankful that my parents are graciously letting us stay with them.  There’s a stereotypical horror story about staying with your parents, but our experience couldn’t be farther from that stereotype.  They’ve been gracious and encouraging and helpful and non-meddlesome, and have done their best to give us as much privacy as possible in a house that really wasn’t designed for two families.  I’m also thankful for a chance to pay off our moving expenses and save for a deposit on our apartment so we don’t have to take it out of our savings.

On the other hand, I still really, really miss having a place of our own to call home.  No matter how gracious your hosts are, living out of a suitcase in a room without four complete walls gets stressful.  I also get a lot of fulfillment from creating a homey home environment, and it’s discouraging to not have a place where I can do all the wife and mother things I enjoy so much.  I LOVED being a stay at home mom after Bear was born, and I just ache to have space where I can create order and beauty and functionality in our own little world with our own little routine.  And last but not least, no matter what the circumstances, telling people that you’re living with your parents never makes you feel like you’re doing especially well in life, so it’s a bit of a blow to my pride….

On a little side note here, I have to say how it still amazes me sometimes that I get so much joy and fulfillment out of being a stay at home mom.  I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I was afraid I would chaff a little–miss “ministry” and “stimulating conversation” and “freedom” and all that jazz.  It’s not that I love those things any less than before or am any less passionate about them, but I think it’s that motherhood has been so much more wonderful and awe-inspiring and fulfilling than I ever dreamed possible.  There’s probably a whole other blog post in this topic, though, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Anyway.

I suppose I’m learning (or at least wrestling with) a lot: blessings, thankfulness, perspective, patience, humility, etc.  There was a picture that was all over Facebook this Christmas that put things in perspective:

I have to remind myself to mentally replace the right side of the picture with my “stresses” lately, whether that’s a picture of a home, new clothes, a computer that works better, or whatever.  It seems obvious, for example, that we “need” a two bedroom apartment, until I think of the thousands of families living in one room shacks or on the streets or running for their lives from war zones and genocide.  And I could make similar comparisons with all my issue right now.  I am definitely blessed.

So, all that to say, not much has changed, except (hopefully) some of my mindsets and attitudes.  I could probably get this tattooed on my forehead:  Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

December 4, 2011

Bear’s First Thanksgiving

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 1:57 am by Tamara

We celebrated Bear’s first Thanksgiving with my family a few weeks ago.  He was TOO cute in his little turkey shirt, as you can see.  He just bursts with personality, and I think I love him more every day!  He just got his second bottom tooth, which is also too adorable for words.  Love this little boy so much!

My mouth is open, bring on the food!!

What’s up? I’m just chillin’.  (Wink, wink)

I made sure to get these teeth before all the big holiday meals!

We had a glorious feast for Thanksgiving with all the traditional (at least for our family) foods: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing with raisins, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (plain and with marshmallows), corn, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, all sorts of pickles and olives, rolls, sparkling cider, and six kinds of pie: French apple, pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate French silk, cherry cheese cake, and plain cheesecake, with ice cream and whipped cream for topping.  I’m listing those for two reasons: 1) I’m curious if my grandchildren will someday read this and if the traditional foods will be the same or will have changed, and 2) because it’s really amazing to have so much food.

We started a tradition when I was a little girl where we would start the Thanksgiving meal with five kernels of corn on our plates.  This is reportedly what the Pilgrims lived on for daily rations before they were able to take in their first harvest, thanks to the help and friendship of the native Americans.  When they celebrated their Thanksgiving feast, they put five kernels on their plate to remind them of how far God had brought them.  It is always really sobering to look at those five tiny kernels on our plates and then look up at the incredible meal in front of us.  We take turns taking each kernel and saying one thing we are thankful for.  We are very, very blessed!

Thanksgiving Dinner, 2011

Thanksgiving night we watched “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  I love that movie and I’ve been wanting to watch it for a while now.  I love it because it reminds me how blessed we are to have family who love us and will always be there for us in hard times.  Every time I see the main character and his son sitting on the floor of the public bathroom in the middle of the night because they have nowhere else to go, cradling his sleeping son and crying, I think “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  It’s easy to take good jobs, warm homes, and caring family and friends for granted.  We are so blessed.

September 22, 2011

Ignoring Conventional Wisdom on Having Kids=Best Decision We’ve Ever Made

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

Bear, Five Months Old

I’ve been thinking tonight about what an incredible proof Bear is that God knows what He’s talking about and wants good things for us.  When we decided to try to get pregnant, there were plenty of reasons people could have said we were nuts.  The common “wisdom” on starting a family is that you need to a) be finished with school, established in your career(s), and financially secure, and b) have done everything fun that you want to do, because kids are going to tie you down and could destroy your dreams.  We decided to say bah humbug to conventional wisdom, mostly because the Bible is so chock full of statements about how kids are a blessing and a joy.

For example: Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward!  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!  Psalm 128:1-4  How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways…your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table.  Behold, for this is how the man who fears the LORD will be blessed!

If God, the one who created all the incredible things that make me happy (like chocolate, colors, the ocean, back rubs, my husband!) says something is a blessing, then I would like to experience it!  We also trusted that if God instructs us to raise godly children, He’ll give us the financial and emotional resources to do so.

Zooming Around on Daddy’s Shoulders

Tonight I was doing homework and my husband put Bear in his PJs and then was jogging around the living room with Bear on his shoulders.  The sight of our little baby in footy teddy bear pajamas, grinning from ear to ear as he clutched fistfuls of Adam’s hair and “drove” his daddy around the room was too adorable for words.  They stopped by the table where I was working and Bear gave me a squeal and a huge smile before they zoomed off again.  My heart just melted.  I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am with our little family.  My husband and Bear have brought me so much joy—infinitely more than I can ever imagine getting from the things we gave up to have him.

Certainly, it’s hard too.  And there’s no guarantee that parenting won’t involve heartbreak (in fact, it probably will at some point).  I have friends who have experienced terrible heartache, whether in raising their kids or in trying to have kids.  My heart bleeds for them, and I don’t understand the unfairness of it.  I don’t understand why good parents have children who rebel, or why evil people harm their children while wonderful couples have no children.  Amazingly, most of my friends who have experienced this have still told me that God has brought good things even out of their pain.  In fact, witnessing firsthand the pain of our friends who wanted kids and were struggling to have them really drove home to my husband and I that kids are a blessing we shouldn’t take lightly or make a low priority.

Melts My Heart!

When I look at Bear, there just aren’t words to describe how fiercely I love him, or how fulfilled and joyful he makes me.  And tonight it hit me again: God is right.  He is really, really, right.  He knows what He’s talking about.  Bear will always be a great reminder to trust God when I’m faced with things that God says but I don’t think make sense.  I SO wanted to have a baby, but it was still a leap of faith for us, one we made because we trusted (and still trust) that God knows what’s best for us, knows how to give us REAL blessings, and will take care of us.  God has provided for and blessed us more than I could ever have imagined, and He always will.   I am SO thankful, and so blessed!!

June 23, 2011

Baby Dramatics

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 11:46 pm by Tamara

Look out! It's the bottom lip!

Rean is really a pretty easy-going baby.  He’s not much of a crier; we usually wake up to a polite “Uh, uh, uh!” rather than full-blown screams when he’s ready to eat.  Every once in a while, though, for some reason I can’t get to him quite as quickly as he thinks I should, and he’ll start to wail like he’s sure he’s going to starve at any second.  “Help!  Help!  Starving baby!  I can’t remember when it’s been so long since I’ve eaten!  Help!  WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE BABY?!?  Aaaaah!”

He’s so dramatic that I have to laugh a little, and I always think, “Aw, c’mon, Baby–when have I ever let you starve before?  You don’t have to worry–I’m not going to let you starve now, either!  I promise!  Why all the wailing?  I love you-you can trust me!”  I just have to chuckle when I do pick him up and he nurses frantically for a few minutes before falling into a blissfully satisfied milk-coma.  Sweet, silly baby!

Every time this happens, though, I’m reminded how I do the exact. same. thing. to God.  Finances are at the moment, shall we say, tight.  In fact, I don’t remember a period in our marriage (or my adult life, actually!) when they haven’t been.  Every couple months I have a mini panic attack when I look at bills or think about upcoming expenses.  C-sections, for example, are not cheap!  And I start to uh-uh-uh hyperventilate a little, and if the pressure isn’t quickly relieved, my first tendency is to start wailing “Hello?  God?  God, heeeeeelp!  Are you paying attention??  We’re not going to make it!!  Aaaaaah!”  And I have a mental picture of God quirking an eyebrow at me with a little bemused smile at my dramatics and saying “Aw, c’mon, Tamara–when have I ever let you starve before?  You don’t have to worry–I’m not going to let you starve now, either!  I promise!  Why all the wailing?  I love you–you can trust me!”

June 30, 2010

I’m Afraid I’ve Been Thinking

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 2:22 pm by Tamara

Today at work I was shelving Bibles and came across a section I didn’t realize we had, called “Famous Author Bibles.”  Funny, here I always thought GOD wrote the Bible. But, there they were, Bibles with names of popular Christian authors/teachers splashed across the front in big, bold type.  Which got me thinking about a LOT of semi-related things.  (“Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking!”  “A dangerous pastime—”   “I know!”  …Ahem.)

First off, what an incredible responsibility when people take your teaching so seriously that they actually publish an entire Bible with your comments on it.  There’s a lot of potential there to either lead people closer to Christ or put slippery banana peels all over their path.  But that doesn’t just go for those of “us” who have our own brand of Bible, but for every one of us who’s ever written something, given advice, or even stated an opinion.  Our words are powerful.  Mark Buchanan wrote something in his book The Rest of God that has seared my soul:

All our authority is derived.  Either God gives us words, or we are only giving opinions.  …If anyone ever stops to listen to you or me, this had better be solidly in place:  Our speaking comes out of our listening.  What we say comes out of what we hear.  We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.  Our  utterances ought to be as Jesus’ were: an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him…. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God”  (I Pet. 4:11).  That verse should be paired with Jesus’ statement: “He who has ears, let him hear.”

How much of what I say could I call “an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him?”  Three areas convict me immediately: Facebook statuses (so easy to “vent” on there), agreeing with coworker’s complaints (sigh), and giving advice that’s based on my own subjective experiences but doesn’t have real Biblical backing (and I have a whole post on that rattling around in my head, so I’ll say no more.)

The second thing these “Famous Author Bibles” made me think of is the “Cult of the Personality.”  Sadly, I think a lot of organizations/churches get all their fuel from one particularly passionate and likable person.  But what happens if they die, quit the ministry, or get in a scandal?  Will the whole thing fall apart?  A crucial part of leadership is replicating yourself to the point where you’re sure you could fall off the planet and God’s work would still continue.  Also, when thinking of the cult of the personality, I need to make sure that, just because I trust/admire someone, I still test what they say and write against the Bible.

Lastly, my Bible shelving experience was frustrating because the shelves were so impossibly tight that I couldn’t get all the new ones on.  We carry every imaginable translation, size, and style of Bible you can imagine, from massive gold-edged King James Versions to magazine shaped New Testaments with photos of models on the cover so no one knows you’re reading the Bible.  Now, I’m incredibly thankful to live in a country with so many Bible resources, but as I was breaking my fingers trying to shove even more Bibles on the shelf, I couldn’t help feeling sick about the fact that there are thousands of people whose Bible translations look like this:

.

.

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That’s right.  Empty.  Because not a single word of the Bible has been translated into their language.  They estimate there are 2,500 entire LANGUAGES with no Bible translation.  I’ve seen letters from indigenous groups in the middle of nowhere begging for someone to come tell them the story of Christ, and I’ve talked to people ready and waiting to go, just as soon as they have the funding to do it.  What if we spent a little less money on another Bible (or another movie, purse, or meal at a restaurant, for that matter) and sent that $15 to a missionary instead?  Western Christians have enough money to evangelize the entire world in our lifetime.  But it won’t happen unless we’re giving.

Convicting day for me.

January 30, 2010

Running on Air (Financially Speaking)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 12:44 am by Tamara

I tried really hard before we moved to come up with a plan for how we were going to make ends meet here.  I was finally convicted that all I was doing was desperately strangling the impossible little excel boxes and having a crisis of faith every time I did.  God provided some things absolutely miraculously for us to come, but one thing He never explained was how He was going to work His magic on those nauseating little excel boxes.  There comes a time when God says “Jump” and you just…jump.

Tonight I made the mistake of calculating how much I’m making per hour after taxes and insurance.  Let’s just say I made more babysitting as a 12 year old and leave it at that.  Then I decided to flog myself further by calculating our budget again, looking at bills….  We’re not talking about a little short-fall here or a little cut-out-the-restaurants for a while, we’re talking “there is no feasible way we can survive on what we’re making right now.”

It’s an interesting place to be suspended at.  See, the problem is that when I jump off a cliff following God, I expect that He’s going to catch me on eagle’s wings and fly me across.  But it’s more like I leap and fall, flailing madly, cry out to God…and then my terrified foot suddenly finds itself hitting a solid step.  Amazing!  Like one of those stone paths in a garden, only this one is invisible and suspended in thin air.  But then God says, “No, Tamara—don’t stop.  Run!”  And I have to do it again; I have to push off that invisible, solid step and feel my stomach lurch again as I fall for a second and then—my foot hits another step: God’s provision, invisibly suspended over the deep chasm.

Part of me wants to stop.  I want to sit down with a whimper on the step I’m on and not feel that horrible lurching in my stomach.  But then I’d just be perched out where I’m alone and cold and can’t see the edges of whatever is holding me up.  God wants me to run.  Faith is SUBSTANCE.  The substance of things not seen—the substance that makes air and waves solid so you can run on them.  God has already provided for everything we spent moving here.  I’m not even sure how it happened, it just came out of nowhere.  That was the first solid step.  Tonight I’m looking at the numbers and my stomach is about where my heart should be and my heart is in my throat.  What’s the conclusion to the story?  I don’t know, but I think God is more glorified when I tell the whole story of His faithfulness than when I pretend the Christian life is instant sugar.  So I guess you can consider this part one.