March 13, 2014

On Toddler “Help” (and how I’m a toddler)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , at 2:05 pm by Tamara

Little Bear is in the phase where he loves to help me, and I’m doing whatever I can to encourage it. He especially loves baking with me, which I find absolutely ADORABLE. Of course the downside is that everything takes 3x as long with a toddler helping, but I try to let him anyway because I want to encourage that considerate and helpful spirit of his!

The other day I was having an “Ahk-I’m-not-accomplishing-anything-in-life” sort of day, and desperately wanted to get some stuff done to make myself feel better. Bear was trying to help me clean, but Baby Songbird was quite indignant that I thought a broom was more interesting than her. She is SO social; Bear has always been able to amuse himself for quite a while alone, but she wants interaction all-the-time. At one point I told Bear, “You know, the way you could help me the most would be to keep your sister happy for a bit.” He gave me a dubious look, but, sweet boy that he is, trotted off to entertain his fussing sister (who perked up the minute he was paying attention to her).

Bear really seemed skeptical that he could be more helpful playing with Songbird than hanging on to the bottom of the broom for me, but as I swept and mopped as quickly as I could, I thought how that REALLY WAS the absolute best thing he could do to help me and how much I appreciated it. And suddenly it occurred to me that God probably often tries to tell me the same thing, and I often give him the same ‘Not-sure-you-know-what-you’re-talking-about’ look Bear gave me.  Sometimes I’m so busy looking for “BIG THINGS TO DO FOR GOD,” and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to be letting me “help” him as much as I want to. But I wonder if he’s telling me, “Honestly, what would be the most wonderful is if you would just love and care for the people I’ve put around you.” He did say, after all, that the two things he wanted most from us are to love him and love our neighbors.

Shortly afterwards I got a chance to choose to practice this conviction, because Bear got tired of playing with Songbird and she decided she was going to cry until I rescued her. So, I abandoned my mop in the laundry room sink and scooped her up. I told her teasingly, “You know, how YOU could help me the most would be to fall asleep.” And right away there was God’s whisper to me: “You could ‘help’ me by being still too, you know. By choosing to rest in me, and to peacefully enjoy and love the little ones I’ve given you to love, even if you don’t feel like you’re ‘accomplishing’ much.”

Now, I’m not saying I plan to let our house fall to complete shambles, because I know I can honor God by doing those practical things, but I realized that I probably have no idea how thrilled God is with the moments when I’m just sitting on the floor, showing my precious kiddos that I love them and God loves them too. If it gives me warm fuzzies to see my little boy sweetly loving and caring for his baby sister, how much more delighted must God be when we love and take care of the family, friends, and even strangers he’s put in our lives?

“Little children…a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

October 11, 2011

The Daily Paws

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , at 12:26 am by Tamara

You can’t really see it in this picture, but Bear’s shirt has a picture of a dog delivering a newspaper called “The Daily Paws.”  I love it because I’m realizing that Bear is my “Daily Pause:” taking care of him, particularly when he needs to nurse, forces me to pause for a minute, which I think is more valuable than I realize.

The other day right after Adam left for work I got a call saying someone might want to look at the house.  So far Adam has (miraculously) been home every time we’ve had a house showing, and I’ve been dreading the first time I have to get the house perfect and get Bear  and the two dogs out of it all by myself.  When we put the house on the market I emptied out our storage ottoman in the living room so I could throw stuff in there in a pinch (can I just say how stressful it is to not even be able to shove things in closets, let alone close doors on messy rooms?  Thank heaven for that ottoman!)  I now measure the cleanness/messiness of our house in terms of how many ottomans the mess would fill up.  Haha!  Thankfully the house was only about one-half-ottoman messy, but I needed to do cleaning (bathrooms, floors, etc), so I was a little panicked.

About halfway through my cleaning Bear woke up from his nap and wanted to eat.  Panicked though I felt, I still told myself that he is the most important thing and sat down to feed him.  Pausing in the middle of panic seems counter-intuitive, but I think it’s probably a really good idea.  I’ve written before about how I love nursing Bear because it’s one of the few times I’m sure I’m doing the most important thing right at that moment.  Having an immanent house showing definitely tested that theory, but I stuck to it, and I was glad I did because I was more calm in the end, anyway.  Pausing to take care of him also gives me time to think and time to pray.  I think I’ve done more praying since he was born than probably any other time in my life.

I know that as Bear gets older and stops nursing it’s going to get harder and harder for me to take a “daily pause” with him.  He’ll be running around and we’ll probably have more kids and twenty activities I’ll want to do in order to give them “every opportunity” and make myself feel like a model wife/mother/Christian/missionary.  But it’s a lesson I don’t want to forget: I can, and need to, take time to pause and just invest in and enjoy Adam and our kid(s).

It’s also a lesson I need to learn on a spiritual level.  We all need time to pause and invest in our relationship with God; He instituted Sabbath for that very reason, but we Americans are very, VERY bad at pausing.  My Sundays (or any other day) aren’t always truly restful, refreshing, and renewing.  I think they (and the rest of my life) could be more so if I would make pausing and focusing on God more of a priority.  Reflection, meditation, quietness, and listening prayer are all spiritual disciplines that are under-emphasized and in my case seriously under-practiced.  I’d like to read something about them, if anyone has any book recommendations.  An excellent book about rest in general is called The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan.  I think I need to reread it!  (Oh, and I just saw he’s coming out with a novel about David.  I am SO EXCITED!!)

But for now, I sure am treasuring my daily pauses with Bear.  I never would have thought the business of motherhood might teach me to pause, but I hope it does.  I may need to frame that onesie when he grows out of it….

October 21, 2010

And God Pushed Pause…On My Brain

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 10:24 pm by Tamara

It’s been an emotionally draining few weeks, with some high highs and low lows.  My family coming to visit was a huge high, but followed by a forlorn low when they left again and it hit me all over again how alone I sometimes feel here.  Another low  was when the dog I’ve had since I was a little girl drowned two weeks ago, followed by our horse getting sick and having to be put down.  Immediately after losing my doggie, my family arrived with the new puppy, which has been a high but a lot of work, and a reminder of the one we lost.  And all that was interspersed with a heavy end of the block homework/final load which, while not a high or low, was none the less quite exhausting.  Poor Adam has been working A LOT and we’ve been on opposite schedules—we really only see each other when he gets home after 10pm and we both crash, which adds to my forlorn feeling, as well as my concern that he’s going to just keel over one day with all this non-stop running.  And then there’s the minor detail of being four months pregnant, which I hear adds to that emotional and physical exhaustion thing (but who knows if that’s really true, right?)  All in all, to quote poor Bilbo Baggins “I’m beginning to feel it in my heart.  I feel…thin.  Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread.  I need a holiday.  A very long holiday” (Fellowship of the Ring).

In the midst of all this, in one of my major papers I touched on the importance of self-care and self-assessment for counselors.  It’s not just a need for counselors—we all need to know our limits, know when we’re getting drained, and know when to step back and take care of ourselves.  Suddenly as I was writing about it, it seemed God’s marshmallow-covered 2×4 was aimed at my head with a “Hello, Tamara!  Are you listening to what you’re saying?”  I’ve been feeling (but ignoring) little warning bells going off in my head for a while, reminding me of another particular time in life when I did too much and got too overwhelmed, and my spiritual life suffered drastically, to the point that I was so spiritually and emotionally unhealthy I just about walked away from the faith entirely.  Uhg.  It’s a painful time to remember, and a place I’m very scared of going again.  I wondered if I should take a break from classes for a block (eight weeks).  But in spite of my fine words about self-care, taking a break just didn’t seem…wise.  Seemed lazy.  Seemed short-sighted.  Seemed weak.  Etc., etc.  And I didn’t feel like I should NEED a break.  I’ve been far more busy in the past and handled it fine, so why was I being a wus now?

But, still, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, so I started praying that God would clearly show me what to do, and I checked on the deadline to register; no worries, I had another two weeks to decide.  So I just kept praying and thinking, and about decided that I was being overly dramatic.  A couple days ago I got online to look at what classes I might take, and my jaw about hit the floor.  I’d missed the registration date.  I don’t know how it happened, because I was SURE it was a week later.  I’d checked!  But, none the less, there it was in black and white, and there was no way for me to register.

It appears, then, that I got my “clear answer” about whether I need to take a break.  I’m still rather annoyed with myself, because I feel like it was irresponsibility, not a decision.  But on the other hand, I’m completely baffled, because I NEVER make mistakes like that.  And I’d checked on the date!  So, I’m choosing to think that for whatever reason, God put a pause button on my brain and my plans.  My pride is a little wounded, but I can either beat myself over the head or chose to surrender these next eight weeks to God.  In the end, I think I’m more likely to not take breaks when I should than to take too many.

So, deep breath, I’m about to embark on a few months of being a lazy failure—er, I mean, Sabbath rest.  Unfortunately life won’t be paused in all the other areas, but I’ll still have more time and emotional/mental energy, so now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.  I probably need to go re-read The Rest of God, which I highly, HIGHLY recommend if you can sympathize with anything I’ve written here.  I used to teach workshops on boundaries and rest to the student leadership girls at the Bible school, and I think I need a refresher course on my own talks!

More than anything, I don’t want to waste this time, regardless of how I got here.  I want to drink deep of whatever refreshment and renewal God has planned.