Thursday, June 23

What Holy Saturday was like

A few weeks ago I was speaking with one of Adam's co-workers whose position had been eliminated. Have you ever been fired, lost your job, or were "downsized?" I have. In college I lost my part time job. I comforted myself with the knowledge that it was "just a coffee shop job" and that I had another part time job where I was well liked at and it was more stable.

But this wasn't the case for his coworker. This was his career, and his position being downsized at this time did not look good for his prospects.

He and his wife came over for dinner to say farewell. After dinner, as they were heading out the door, we were chatting and his wife said to me, "This was it for us. The last move. We were going to retire here. We're devastated."

I told her that I too was worried about the future for us. That I had regrets and wondered about career moves Adam and I had made. And that I had been pondering the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, how the disciples felt.

The scripture tells us they were afraid, and stayed behind locked doors. Absolutely. I imagine that fear was the dominating emotion. But it could not have been the only one. How stupid and foolish they must have felt. To think this dead man was God? Clearly not. What regrets they must have felt. We gave up our fishing business to follow this guy? If we had only known. We would have made better decisions.

It's easy - when life is easy - to follow Christ and see his miracles and presume that we'll be walking around with Jesus, learning from him all the time, just waiting for the New Jerusalem to come down from the sky. We never really think on a daily basis that the big moments will come. Those life changing events that are tragic. Loss on the big scale. The ones that make you fear that the world has changed for you, and that it will never be right again.

On Holy Saturday, the unthinkable has happened, the fear is so palpable, and the future so dim, we easily forget that God does redeem and resurrect the things we think can't possibly return. We fear we've gone too far, beyond his reach.

But then: Resurrection Sunday. God is in the business of raising dead things. And he does it in such a spectacular way, that we'll always look back and say, "If I knew what you know, I would choose this too."

So for you today, if you're standing where we are, with a dark future full of unknowns, I pray for you - as I do us - that we remember that Saturday is only one day between the worst day and the best day. And that the Lord loves overcoming unbelievable odds.

Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Thursday, January 28

Thank You Day

It has been rough, these last few days. Lathie isn't sleeping well at night and has had a LOT of difficulty putting herself to sleep, regardless of whether it is time for naps or nighttime sleep.

Which means this mama is getting somewhere in the range of 5-6 hours of sleep a night.

And when I get little sleep, I can feel my temper growing, lurking just under the surface. I suppose this is pretty typical of most people. Little sleep = little energy = lack of physical/emotional resources to manage temper.

So, to manage, I started the day off with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood for Charis as my baby went down for her first nap. The episode showed the Neighborhood gathering for a Thank You Day. They all wrote Thank You Notes and expressed gratitude for the people in their lives.

And so in the spirit of Daniel Tiger:

  • I'm thankful for Daniel Tiger, but more truthfully, for Fred Rogers, who is able to continue through time and bring his gentle encouragement and teaching to kids (and moms, like me!)
  • I'm thankful for Bible Study Fellowship, for the ladies that care for my kids while I am fed and encouraged by our sweet Teaching Leader and am able to fellowship with my group.
  • I'm thankful for ibuprofen and Tylenol - which help with the headaches that have come each morning after a night of little sleep.
  • I'm thankful for a cheerful toddler when her mamma is just getting by.
  • I'm thankful for a God that rescues and sustains his people (we're studying Revelation 12). I'm glad that the sustenance God provides is both in the eternal sense, and also in the daily, I-didn't-sleep-much-last-night ways.
  • I'm thankful that God has protected my husband's position at the place he works through a time of budget cuts. I'm thankful that my husband works for a man he respects greatly and can learn much from. 

Monday, September 7

A Successful Day

There has been so very much that has happened over the last year - and so much that I couldn't possibly tell it all in one post - that I'll trust that as I write more, bits and pieces will come out to illuminate my sweet friends that still read this blog. I know. My little blog has quite a lot of dust on it.

But for now, I want to write about a moment yesterday that surprised me. 

Being a mom to two daughters under the age of 2 is busy and demanding, full of interruptions and monotany. And I was a "bored housewife." If by bored, you mean "unable to identify what I had accomplished during the day, but feeling worn out and exhausted."

So I saw this sale on a web series from a blog I like, "Money Saving Mom." It wasn't the best time to spend $10 - at the end of a month in which we deviated greatly from our budget - but I was looking for something that would give me a kick start to figure out, "Why am I so cranky every day?"

I would lose my temper at my toddler, then feel guilty, then wallow in Facebook, and then watch the historical documentary of choice on Amazon Prime. (Soaps? Why would you watch them when THERE'S SO MUCH HISTORY? Real Life drama!) All the while telling myself, "Well, you kept them alive, didn't you?" And "you need more sleep."

It's true. I did need more sleep!

But I needed a lot of other things too.

So far, I've completed 5 of the webinars and done the little worksheets. It's been very good. They have illuminated a couple of realizations that I needed to come to:

1) I need to get up before my kids and husband.  a) Why? Because I am SOOO SLOWWWW in the morning. I need to sit and wake up with a cup of coffee. Before my eyes even begun to focus. And if I'm sitting and drinking my cup of coffee while my husband (who is Very Productive in the morning) and children (How do they EVEN have that much energy?) get going during the day, I'm about 10 feet behind them for the rest of the day.
b) I need that time for myself. I need it. I have never needed alone time - me time - the way I need it now as a mama of littles. I need to refill, and I need to do it with Scripture.
Ok, and let me enter my disclaimer:  I'm notoriously bad at getting up consistently before the rest of my family, so we'll see how well I continue, but I do have some determination.

And then came the thought that shocked me:

2) I had NO IDEA what a successful day looked like.

Not. One. Clue.

Because each day would come with the good and the bad, but I would feel so out-of-sorts by the time Adam came home. That "JUST PLEASE GET HERE!" feeling that most stay-at-home moms feel at 5 pm.

So, I thought and thought about why I never, not once felt like I had a string of good days. Maybe a good day here and there, but not a number of them. 

And I realized I was trying to do too much. All the while distracting myself from all the things that I wasn't accomplishing. And failing at getting every.single.chore done every day. ("Really, Hannah? Really? You thought you could get every single chore done every day? Yes. I did. Yes, I was ridiculous.)

So now I reveal to you my successful day:

I have a list of 1,000 things that need to get done. It's a running list on my Wunderlist app. It is every brain dump thing I think of in the moment. That I can't get done at that moment.

I don't do the 1,000 things every day if you think that's where I'm going.

No, I do Three And Only Three Things each day. I have a separate list called "Only Three Things" and it's the only one I look at throughout the day. I plan out my Three And Only Three Things for the next day at least an hour before bed.

This list excludes keeping my children alive by feeding, reading, teaching and playing with them and it excludes getting dinner prepared and other daily chores that must happen for the world to continue turning.  

Items on this list DO include: Showering and washing my hair. Yep. I don't shower each day. True confessions. It includes vacuuming. It includes windexing the dirty bathroom mirror that has been smeared with toothpaste for 4 days. (That one bugs me, but has fallen below other tasks I feel are more necessary). If I do other things above and beyond my three things I document them so I see that I am accomplishing things, but those are more like extra credit than a sense of "get as much done during the day as possible!"

The other part of my successful day is to remember that The afternoons are chaos. Don't try to manage the afternoons. Just let them ride. Because, one way or another, if I plan a post-child-nap task, it will not get done. There will be a diaper explosion, or a cranky toddler or a needy infant that throws a monkey wrench into the afternoon and evening.

And finally: GRACE. Grace for myself for when the 3 things don't get done. For when I'm angry at Charis or Lathie. When everything just gets pushed back into the afternoon and evening. Grace for me, and Grace for them.

So there it is, my friends. Part of what is making my life less cranky. Realizing that success is really about less, and not demanding more. And therefore being a more loving mom and wife. 

Sunday, February 8

What 40 days of prayer and parenting a small human does

At the turn of the year, I was in a pretty miserable place.

You see, Christmas was hard. It didn't feel like Christmas, for one. Which may have made it a little easier to have not returned to the states to see family, because it didn't feel like Christmas, but there was far more loneliness than we were prepared for. Many of our friends in Indo were sick, and so we mostly stayed at home and did the same things: woke up, went for walks, visited the mall, walked home. It was a fairly mundane 3 weeks.

During that time, we started reading Prayer by Tim Keller and I decided I was going to imitate Daniel in the Bible and pray 3 times a day. Twice on my own (morning devotions and once when Charis was napping) and then I counted Adam's and my jointly nighttime prayers as my 3rd. I decided I'd pray for 40 days. In a way, it was similar to a fast.

But you see, I wasn't praying to simply know God better or to worship God rightly, as Daniel did. No, I had an agenda.  I wanted God to do what I wanted.

Not that what I was asking for was something sinful. Not in a clearly blatantly sinful way. I was just praying for my way. For deliverance to something. For provision. But deliverance and provision in my way.

But then God did what God does through prayer. He changes it all.

That is what I learned while praying for 40 days and parenting a small human:

As I prayed, it started out as "God, please do this. Please give me what I am asking for!"

Now juxtapose the image of a 16-month-old girl signing "Please!" 20,000 times a day while pointing at something. Every day.

Sometimes I'd give it to her right away (water sippy cup, toys she can play with). Sometimes I'd say a firm, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" (scissors, permanent marker, my phone). But often - in fact, incredibly often - my answer was, "Yes! Just wait a little bit. In a while."

But that answer was as bad as a "no" to her. Interestingly, the things I usually said, "yes, just wait a bit" were about going somewhere. She loves to go. To get out of the apartment. To visit daddy at work. To see the students.

But her timing was off. I was often preparing to go - because if any of you have a small human, you realize you have to pack half the things you own in preparation of going. She, of course, is oblivious to all the things that have to be done in order to go. But they must be done.

And as I prayed, I connected the dots - I thought of God as my heavenly father, and how he was parenting me daily. And I was asking 20,000 times - often with tears - "Please!"

And maybe my timing is off.

Which is where the second part of 40 days of prayer changed me. Eventually, instead of praying, "Please God, do it, I cannot. Please do it now," I began to pray, "Lord, help me trust you. Help me trust your timing. Help me to remember you are my deliverer. You are the God who provides."

To the point that on day 36 of 40 we received news that the what I had been praying for was not a closed door. It might not be a "no," but rather a "just wait a bit." And my response was deep ambivalence. I ran to God with fear: "God! Is this what you want? I've just become still and (semi)content in the place you have me. Are you shifting everything? Because I know I've been praying for it, but now I'm bewildered!"

And God reminded me: Peace is not some inexplicable internal feeling you cultivate on your own. No, Peace and contentment are inextricably connected to trust. Trust in God. Remembering his promises.

And if God opens the door, then his timing is right. And I do not need to fear.

What though I wait the livelong night,
And till the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth:
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait till God appeareth

Sunday, September 28

My poor languishing blog

So. Yes. Neglected little blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, during the past couple of months I have had many thoughts about posting here. I have refrained for at least one reason: In preparing to leave the US, an expat strongly recommended that any blog posts be very carefully thought out, and refrain from venting online with little thought to the audience.

The second reason, closely related but a bit more personal, is that I didn't want to turn my blog into a constant stream of complaining.

For I have complained. I've complained to God, to my friends and family back home, and (hopefully a bit more thoughtfully, but none-the-less) I've complained to expats here.

The transition has been hard. Things (as is probably typical of most expat experiences) have not gone the way we imagined. There have been many, many good things that have happened, and wonderful people we've met here, and we're careful to thank the Lord regularly for the gifts we have received while being here.

I'm finding, though, that no matter what gifts I have in life, what known balms, the thorns and pain of my experience will always take front and center. I'm sure there are many sanctified people out there who really, truly focus on the blessings of life and are not as innundated with the difficulty of life. I am not one of those people.

Spiritually I am growing, I believe. A friend once said that having a child will reveal cracks in your marriage. I would take that sentiment and say, "Moving into a new culture will reveal cracks in your relationship with God, spouse, children and, well, in everything." The unseen and sometimes undefined pressure that one feels (culture shock) is ever present. Even when I stay at home all day, the knowledge that doing any small task will require hurculean effort causes me to think twice about how desperately I actually need to do that task. (Which is why Charis will be getting her 12 month shots a month late...!)

I pray that the Lord will give me strength in a way that I've never appealed to him before. Adam and I are completely humbled at the sheer number of times we fail each day. (I absolutely, completely and utterly failed at making french toast the other week. FRENCH TOAST. It might be the single most simple dish ever, and yet: Total fail.) Endurence and energy are now commododies that are absolutely vital to me, whereas when I was in the US, it was usually a prayer I'd toss up to God when I'd stayed up too late the night before an early morning at the job. (On that note, I take naps here more days than not.)

I think it will get better. I guess Hope springs eternal, and if I were absolutely hopeless I would have turned around and headed back already. So, it's a good thing.

But until it gets better (I've heard it never gets "easy" per se), I trust the Lord to provide my every need, whether that is simply the energy to clean up the Kitchen, or the energy for a 2 hour grocery shopping trial where you're guessing at prices, translations and "What IS that green vegetable, anyway?"

Thursday, July 24


We've spent the last 3 weeks with my family in Montana, after spending 2 weeks with Adam's family in Philadelphia. It has been wonderful.

It has been hard to come to terms with moving 22 hours by airplane away from my family. Watching Charis love her aunts and uncles, watching her giggle with my mom and adore my dad makes me tear up nearly every time.

And everyone says, "Skype has changed everything" - and in some ways it has. But I was watching Charis playing with a big bin of toys right next to doors with panes of glass leading to a solarium. she crawled around and then discovered the doors- and then she started standing up, bracing herself against the glass, leaving little fingerprints (which probably won't be cleaned off for a long time after we leave).

And it hit me: Skype doesn't leave fingerprints.

My most wonderful memories of growing up around my extended family were created by how we were able to get together frequently. We left lots of fingerprints on the mirrors and glass, both literally and also leaving figurative fingerprints on each other.

I think about how Charis' growth will be witnessed by my parents, but not experienced.

We're excited for this next phase, but as with each change that comes with life, there is also grief and sadness.

Tuesday, June 17

What Happened?

So I've had to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 quiz a couple of times during my profesional life. I can't remember which ones tend toward, but I remember the gist: I always am asking "What Happened?" as a major function of my life.

And, as is par for the course for this blog, it has been 2 months since I last posted. So, What Happened?

Well, April is a crazy month in Academia, as since Adam I live in a residence hall, our life got increasingly crazy.

We endured the crazy that comes with finals, spring weather, busy students and the end of the semester.

We saw the students pack up their things, watched them graduate and move on to the next part of life.

We began to say our goodbyes to friends, slowly but surely. The hardest was the last Sunday in Chattanooga, when we said goodbye to our Small Group/Sunday School group & then went over to our closest friends' house for a final Sunday dinner. But that was just the beginning of goodbyes....

We started packing up everything we owned and put it into storage. (I had a couple of crying jags. Who knew that stuff  had so much meaning?)

A friend came up to help pack and sort through stuff with me. That was incredible. And so very, very needed. One of the RAs babysat Charis and organized all the things we still had to pack off to the storage unit. That was sanity saving.  An RD and his family made dinner for us the last night we were there, and sent food home for me, since Charis had a temperature of 101 and slept for most of the day.

We went to Jess' wedding and celebrated with her, and were terribly tired. And I cried with all the RA girls and with Jess when we were about to leave. And then we celebrated and cheered as she and Eric departed for their honeymoon. 

Adam drove overnight to Geneva College, and is finishing his final 4 classes of he Masters in Higher Education.

Charis and I slept 5 hours and then woke up to endure 16 hours of delays and traveling and airports to get to Montana to spend time with my family. I was awake for 23 hours that day....

So now, I'm at home in Montana, and Adam has 4 more days of classwork before we'll meet in Philadelphia to see his family. It has been wonderful spending time with my parents, sister and brother, my nephew and sister-in-law and with church friends.

And  a little over a month before we leave for overseas....

With octaves of a mystic depth and height