Thursday, February 25, 2016

Life in the fast lane

Hello there. It's me, Jenny. It's been a few weeks, so I'm here for a quick update:

1 - Clementine is firmly planted in our family. She still loves to eat, loves to laugh, and loves to be around the boys. She does not seem as preoccupied with food as she used to be, which is great because I was making several trips to the store each week for bananas. She likes "bebe Oak-key" now, too, whereas before she hardly acknowledged her presence. And she likes me, too. I'd say we are pretty tight, actually, except that she still gets CRANKY when I brush her hair (and when Brad does it she is totally fine). She is chattering away, and since we don't understand much we smile and nod. She understands virtually everything we say, and she loves to help around the house. She and Brecken are hilarious and SCARY together. SCARY, I tell you. If it's quiet and they're missing, we have a problem, and it usually involves a marker.

2 - Oaklee is six months old already! She is still sweet and easy-going, but she is starting to throw some fits by arching her back. It's really funny and cute now, but in a few months it will not be so cute so I'm trying to determine the best course of action when she throws them. She is nearly crawling, too, so GOODBYE LEGOS all over the house. Brody has been warned that if it's on the ground it goes in the trash. She is well-loved around here, and I often feel sorry for her personal space because she has none. She was stepped on twice yesterday, so she will have to be pretty tough to hang around here. (My brothers made me tough, too...remember that one time they hung me by my feet over the balcony? Oh Mom, you didn't know about that, did you?)

3 - Brody is about to go in for his KINDERGARTEN SCREENING. What in the world?! He is four going on 14 (and I'm not buying clothes he's wearing clothes that are Size 8). He's growing up fast in every sense of the word. (This morning he used the word "apparently" in perfect context and I did a victory lap around the kitchen.)

4 - Brecken has hit a growth spurt, too, which means I fear for our lives when we hit the teenage years. (How does one feed and clothe a 17-, 16-, 15-, and 13-year-old without taking out a loan? Church planting is not necessarily a lucrative business--financially speaking.) He is still hilarious, but I'm excited for the day when his hilarity does not involve my also wanting to cry.

5 - Brad has been OH-SO-BUSY. Running and gunning, I tell you. He had a stomach bug Sunday but also had to teach three classes at church, so he THREW UP between classes so that he could complete his duties. I can't wait until we get to hang out again...hopefully that will be within the next year.

6 - I spend my days chasing kids, bathing kids, feeding kids, wiping bottoms, and doing laundry and dishes. I LOVE this life. (Please do not hear me complaining! I love it and am so thankful for it!) However, because of our current season and ALL THAT'S HAPPENING right now, it is especially tiring. I have been stressing about things I probably shouldn't stress about. My shoulder hurts from the tension of life, and I just happen to carry Oaklee's seat in that arm so it doubles the tension. And I am pretty sure I have a sinus infection, so after I get a z-pack in me I hope to be back to unpack some of those tensions. (I've been sick over half of this winter...I think it means we need to move to the ocean.)

7 - I am LOVING the homecoming pictures and announcements of friends who are finally being united with their Congolese children, and I can't wait to see more. Many received Medical Exits, and last week the government announced that over 150 children's files were approved to allow those children to leave DRC with Exit Letters. Others are still waiting for their files to be approved or corrected, so we continue in prayer that they will be allowed to join families very soon. For right now, I'm relishing the moments flashing up on my Facebook timeline.

Monday, February 8, 2016

life in the barn

My house was professionally cleaned last Monday, and that makes last Monday the best day ever. Toilets, sinks, bathrooms, random square footage behind chairs that haven't seen sunlight in four years...all are basking in the glory of new life and cleanliness.

(This isn't my real life. My mom gifted me with a professional house cleaning for Christmas. This is the very best gift anyone could give us at this point in time.)

I am living the life of luxury with this actual clean smell, not the phony type that I keep spraying through the Air Wicks. 

But let's get back to those toilets and bathrooms. They are so shiny. So sanitary. So pure and undefiled.

It may be 27 degrees, but I'm still telling the boys to pee outside.

And now, here I sit in the midst of this barnyard. There's a baby slobbering onto the carpet while crawling backward, a tiny toddler with a 'fro who laughs bigger than anyone I've ever known cutting paper into a million tiny pieces, a three-year-old pretending to be a doggy, and four-year-old pulling four-year's worth of junk toys from their respective locations to place them on the top level of the bunk bed. Pancake syrup still sticks to the countertop and Legos litter the carpet, and I just heard the incriminating splash of juice spilling in the kitchen.

Have I mentioned how blissful it was to walk home to a clean house less than a week ago? My Air Wicks are back to working overtime.

Yet, for the third time in 10 days, I have been reminded of Proverbs 14:4. "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox."

We have plenty of oxen living here. Four, to be exact.

These four oxen give this house a 10-minute limit on cleanliness. It may have been clean Monday at 1:00, but by 1:10 we were rocking life with muddy floors, grimy countertops, and yes, pee on the toilet seat. 

It also means that we are blessed with four amazing and active kids, two from my womb, and two from our hearts. Our house may not be clean until 2033 (WHUT?) when we lovingly nudge Oaklee out into the world, but it is a fun, albeit stressful and crazy, barn for now. 

(But seriously, if you need a creative gift for someone who has just added a child to her family, give the gift of CLEAN, even if it only lasts 10 minutes. Ten minutes of clean can initiate 10 days of mental clarity. I'm not joking.)

(Also, Happy Valentine's Day! I am trying to downplay the holiday a bit around here because I sort of forgot to do the special stuff. "We love you everyday, okay animals kids?")

Saturday, February 6, 2016

the sacred

The other day I was trekking across southwest Missouri to a new friend's house (a new friend with five kids, might I add...we crazy people have to stick together). 

I am not one to just jump on an invitation to someone's house, let alone a person with whom I've really only spoken one time. I'm too skittish, too nervous and socially weird for that. But there I was, plugging that address into my phone like I was born to do it. I'm not sure why, except that I am learning that it's better to open yourself up to someone who can teach you something than to shut yourself away like a clam and drown. This woman has five kids and is still beautiful and warm and God-fearing, for goodness sake. I think that means she can teach me a few things. 

Miley Cyrus's "The Climb" played on my minivan's Pandora radio as I started the drive down our road. (Yes, Miley is a key player on my Pandora...hold your judgments for my posts about my kids or parenting styles or adoption. Or, if you feel inclined to judge people based on their musical tastes, judge my husband's friend who is nearly 40 years old and still enjoys a regular playing of "Mmmbop" on his phone. Sorry...I cannot keep that a secret.)


"The Climb" played on as I began the mapped route on my phone. Similar to the way a pastor in the church of my youth would lower the music's volume when he was about to say something exceptionally spiritual during the invitation hymn, Siri's voice would increase in volume as the music magically faded, leaving Siri enough influence over me to provide me with details regarding my own proverbial "climb" to my destination. 

Miley: "I can almost see it. That dream I'm dreaming, but There's a voice inside my head saying You'll never reach it.." 

[Music fade, voice over up.]

Siri: "In half a mile, take a left onto Highway 14."

[Music up.]

Miley: "Every step I'm takin', Every move I make, Feels lost with no direction, My faith is shakin'

[Music fade, voice over up.]

Siri: "Turn left onto Highway 14."

[Music up...louder than before.]

Miley: "But I, I gotta keep tryin', Gotta keep my head held high."

What a way to make a seemingly mundane experience feel sacred, huh? (I must say, though, it all felt a bit providential.)

But here's the was sacred. I'll tell you why.

I'm doing this study on biblical womanhood called True Woman 201. This week's specific focus was on reverence. It has been a bit of a kick in my tail, as I often lack reverence in sacred moments. (I blame the sarcastic bent in my personality. It's a coping mechanism I've leaned heavily on for years, and it comes a bit too easily to me now.) 

I won't divulge all of the details of the study mentioned above, but allow me to explain my mind-altering epiphany like this: 

I do a lot of laundry. I wipe a lot of rears (and a few tears). I clean dishes, wash clothes, dry clothes, fold clothes, and unload the dishwasher only to load it again. My house goes from orderly and streamlined to complete chaos and utter disappointment in 2.5 seconds. My child has cut his own hair, put blush on his face, painted his nails, plastered his cheeks with thieves oil, snuck a multitude of chocolate candies into his belly (thus making him sick), smashed my Chapstick into the new minivan's storage area, and gotten a peanut stuck up his nose, all within a few short weeks. I change diapers, nurse a sick baby in the middle of the night, then attempt to cover my under-eye circles with concealer that clearly isn't worth the $7 I paid for it (<---church-planter/adopters' budget). And that's just the beginning. 

Life is hard sometimes. I love it. I would only change a few minor things about it (or would I?), but it can still be hard. 

And it can be hard to remember that life is about more than this day-to-day craziness I experience each time I get out of bed to make my cappuccino punch

But, as I am learning in my study, every moment of life is sacred. Because my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I must always remember I am engaged in sacred things.

I'm not sure why, but that thought struck me in such a profound way that it has altered my mindset in nearly every moment since I read it.

It means that whether I'm changing a diaper, disciplining the child whose antics were mentioned above, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, or rocking a teething baby, I am engaged in a sacred thing. It is not an act that goes unnoticed, nor is it unimportant, even if I can't see its splendor in the moment.

It also means that my conduct should be "temple-appropriate." READ: My response to the milk and sugar incident last week was not temple-appropriate. (Oh, I didn't tell you about the milk and sugar incident? I--absentmindedly, frustratedly, in a flustered mess of "we're so late"--poured milk into the huge sugar canister on our countertop. 'Twas not pretty.)

So I'm taking more time (or at least making more effort) to enjoy these sacred moments. And it's changing everything. 

Cue the music: 

[Music up, loud for dramatics.]

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb.

(Bet you didn't think I could go full-circle on that one, did you? Did I go full circle? I don't even know. Whatever.)