my life in piles

So I will be the first to say that this won’t be a profound blog entry, but it’s very indicative of life for me in the now. And perhaps a bit humorous as well. I finally found the perfect metaphor (that actually isn’t merely metaphorical) to indicate how life has changed since having twins. Read on …

My season of life as a mother with 9 month old twins who works (very!) part-time as a counselor and distance education instructor could be summarized by one metaphor, that’s actually also quite true literally: PILES. In order to open my laptop to write these musings, I had to clear off piles of old Christmas cards, unread mail, coupons, photo albums, Father’s Day gifts in the waiting. [note: this was originally written last week – pre-Father’s Day – those gifts have now been appropriately distributed] And to actually get to my desk, I had to move the piles of unwashed laundry from the doorway, carefully making sure I did not mix them up with the piles of washed laundry yet to be folded. There are piles of books beside my bed that I hope to get to one day when “I have time.” And piles of magazines I would like to peruse “when I have a minute.” A growing pile of “to-do” lists on sticky notes littering my desk. Piles of bills and receipts yet to be accounted for in our budget. Outside my office door are piles of baby shoes, shirts, socks that have migrated up from downstairs but have yet to be put away into their closet. And downstairs holds piles of toys and stacks of dishes – which would still be there except for my amazing husband.

And now let’s move into the electronic realm: layer upon layer of unanswered and in many cases unread emails. There is a “pile” of three voicemails from this afternoon that I haven’t listened to yet. The unending “to do” list on my iCalendar, with items that have been and may remain for weeks, months, years?  A heap of quizzes yet to be graded, counseling notes yet to be written, invoices yet to be sent out.

If life wasn’t cluttered enough already, these physical loads are metaphorical for the emotional and mental items that pile up in my head. Of people I want to be in touch with but have lost touch with (since “the fog” of the past year descended), of decisions and plans to make about the girls’ one year birthday party and our 5th anniversary and my 10th college homecoming (which all occur within a two month time period this fall), and of all the things I wish I had time to do but don’t.

Sigh … words from David Powlison’s devotional thoughts on Psalm 131 meet me right now. Here’s part of the intro to this article (well worth reading in its entirety, by the way):

Amazingly, this man isn’t noisy inside.
He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not
on edge. The to-do list and pressures to
achieve don’t consume him. Ambition doesn’t churn inside. Failure and despair don’t
haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into
free fall. He isn’t preoccupied with thinking
up the next thing he wants to say. Regrets
don’t corrode his inner experience. Irritation
and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s
not stumbling through the mine field of
blind longings and fears. 
He’s quiet.
Are you quiet inside?

Its essence is about not concerning myself with more than what I can do. With being content with my limits. And so I ask for the daily sufficient grace yet again, trusting it will be there as I need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

birthday reflections – a year of extremes

 

Today was my birthday (or still is, as a matter of fact, for two more hours). Due to my husband’s work commitments, I ended up having much of this afternoon and evening by myself with the girls – and now that they’re in bed, alone to reflect on this past year. Certainly a much quieter birthday than years past (like the year I had three surprise birthday parties!). It was definitely the messiest birthday dinner I’ve had, since my dinner guests smeared food all over their faces and threw it on the floor before deciding that their patience was up about halfway through my meal. But such is life with 9-month-old twins! And for all of the “inconveniences” or frustrations, there is an unspeakable joy that comes with having them in my life. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

More reflections on this past year, which has been the year of extremes, follow:

Time is a strange thing, how it seems to speed up and slow down, yet keeps constantly ticking along. And birthdays are a reminder of that. As I think about life as it has been radically re-defined for me in the last year, I cannot imagine it any other way. I could not picture a life absent of the gifts of our twin daughters. And they are the gifts that have come with an equally heavy load of responsibility. God has given with them the gift of seeing a new depth of my need for Jesus Christ, exposing the places of false comfort I have sought for refuge instead of my Rock. I have found out how solid my God is when life has felt shaky. Literally – when we wondered whether these girls would make it far enough along before their birth.

This past year, more than any other so far, I have lived the extremes. God has shown me both extremes of resting in simply being (through over two months of bed rest) when I could not be active and of resting when there was no time to rest or sleep or do anything but survive and help these babies thrive.  There have been days that felt endless because of lack of activity and days that felt endless because of an absence of anything but activity. I have gone from lonely days to days when I wished for one moment alone. I have had months of anticipating the twins’ arrival and preparing for life to change dramatically and all the months since of reflecting and processing and adjusting to how their arrival has transformed our lives. I can remember what it was like to believe the illusion that I alone was in control of my schedule, my to-do list, my sleep, and could choose how to spend free time. The illusion has been exposed and those days are like a dream.

And yet the other extreme to the life-turned-upside-down adventure that parenting has been is the joy I have felt. I didn’t know how I would see these little faces and fall instantly in love. And how, six days later when we had to take our babies to the ER of the Children’s Hospital, a deep-seated fear would grip me as I realized how fragile were the lives of these little ones who had my heart.Then the relief I would feel a week later when we all arrived home (again) and Seth and I placed them in their crib to nestle next to each other, free of monitors and IV lines.  During that week in between, I experienced the wrestling of faith to entrust these ones to the God who cared about them more than I do and who had compassion on me that went even deeper than mine for them. Yes, it has been quite a year. The end result? More awareness of my weakness. More clinging to Christ for strength. More joy independent of circumstances. I can only hope and pray for more of that in the year to come. Only this coming year, I’m not planning on doubling our family size as in the year past!

thankful

I wanted to give a bit of an update after the last post. Yes, motherhood has felt particularly difficult over the past several weeks, but also YES, I have a God who is alive and who meets me in the midst of all of life’s struggles and provides even more than what I need. And my heart is refreshed and thankful today as I think about …

  • grace and mercies new every morning – and every moment – as I need them
  • the refreshment of a week with family – who reminded me what a delight Lucia & Alethia are to us
  • moments to relax on the beach without having to track down the girls (thank you, Gigi & Pops!!)
  • the infinite horizon of the ocean meeting the sky that is just a tiny picture of the infinite love of God for His people “O, the deep, deep love of Jesus … vast, unmeasured, boundless, free … rolling as a mighty ocean, in its fullness over me …” (lines from my favorite hymn)
  • a date with Seth in Charleston
  • the refreshment of God’s Word – recently decided to read through the book of James. Its practical wisdom has been just what I need in this season of life, from the book called the “Proverbs of the New Testament.”
  • a day to be with God’s people and worship and receive the bread & the wine … and rest (thanks to a longer nap from the twins)
  • friends who encourage, pray for me, remind me that I am not alone in the hard days (you know who you are – thank you!)
  • my husband who faithfully loves and cares for me and our daughters
  • our God who is always faithful and loving and merciful, unchanging though all else can seem like it has changed

A prayer for Easter life

“I am the resurrection and the life.”  I need some of this life. My friends who are grieving the loss of their friend to cancer need the resurrection. Death is so foreign to life – its opposite, isn’t it? We need resurrection hope this Easter.

And I need the hope of life as I grieve the separation from family and feel like there are too many places that are dead within me. I need Your life to awaken me. To remind me of the joy of this calling of being a mother. I feel an absence of life when there is truly an abundance of it. The abundance of lives has made my life feel weary. Mundane. Monotonous. Even (especially?) on Easter.

Lord, who is alive, give me life. Joy. Hope. Lift my eyes from my self-imposed misery to the miraculous empty tomb. Empty of my sin because it died with Jesus at the cross. Empty of my misery because the living Redeemer is pushing back the darkness. Empty of death because my Savior vanquished it on the third day …

comfort and utility

A few weeks ago, I was watching Lucia as she played on a blanket on the floor. Bedtime was quickly approaching, and she decided that it was time to try to put herself to sleep. She has developed quite a “lovey” obsession in the past few months and uses her soft pink-striped zebra to cozy up to as she drifts off to sleep. Sometimes I have found her with this snuggly blanket animal almost entirely covering her face. (Yes, it did scare me a bit because of SIDS paranoia … but it seems lightweight and small enough that it won’t do harm.) So, naturally, she reached out for the closest object (hoping it would be her zebra) and began snuggling up to it, rubbing it against her face. The funny thing about it was that it was her hard plastic alien teething toy. So it must have been far from soothing – in fact, quite the opposite.

And that got me thinking. The problem wasn’t that the teething toy didn’t have a good purpose – and could even be comforting when used as such – but that Lucia was trying to use it in a way different than as intended. She had confused the toy for her lovey. Of course, it didn’t have the intended effect and she became more fussy instead of less so. Sweet Lucia later drifted off to sleep happily tucked in with her zebra … and I shared a small chuckle to myself.

How like Lucia I am! Yet without the innocence of her infant mix-ups. What God has given me for a certain purpose I use in the wrong way, trying to find soul-comfort where there is none. Like food and sleep and “me time”. An organized home, uninterrupted phone conversations, babies who never cry, clothes that flatter, a post-pregnancy body that matches my pre-pregnancy one … the list goes on and on. And God must look at me, thinking, “No – that’s not the purpose! She is trying to find soul-rest and comfort in created things, not me. Gifts I give her have replaced me, the Giver. Meant to be enjoyed in their place. But she will never find the true comfort she seeks from these things.” I am to find comfort in Him and utilize His gifts for their purpose. But I reverse that, using God to try to get what I want and seeking comfort in His gifts. And because He is my compassionate Father as well as my God, He gently replaces my items of false comfort with Himself, the true Comforter. Again He issues the invitation to my heart,

“Come … all you who are weary and heavy burdened … find rest for your souls … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

living in expectancy

You might be getting tired of posts on the topic of waiting and expectancy, and at moments I find myself getting tired of waiting and being pregnant, too. Yet this is my season of life right now. And I want to embrace it for all that it is, knowing that as the Ecclesiastical wisdom goes, a time for waiting and resting will inevitably transition to a time for birth and parenting that we’ve been waiting for – which will be a season of busyness and activity. Knowing that the end [of pregnancy] is near loads each new day with meaning and anticipation. Knowing that the end date is unknown gives a sense of urgency and purpose to each moment (or at least a heightened desire to be purposeful). I often find myself asking the question, “If I go into labor tonight, what will be most important for me to accomplish today?” At the beginning of bed rest, that question was answered rather simply: finish well with those I had been counseling by referring them to other counselors and complete the grading for the distance ed course I had been proctoring (great course, by the way: CCEF’s “Counseling and Physiology” taught by Dr. Mike Emlet). Gradually my priorities shifted to finding a childbirth preparation DVD since Seth & I couldn’t take the class we were hoping for,  packing a hospital bag (umm … yes, this probably should have been my first priority but I think it was part of living in denial the first few weeks), and making sure the preemie-size clothes were washed and ready.

The point of this post isn’t to give a checklist for “preparing for labor and delivery,” as there are MANY out there which are helpful, but rather to draw the analogy to how I want to be living in this same sense of expectancy every day of my life as a Christian. By definition,  being a Christian means that I am one who is a member of God’s family because of the grace of Jesus Christ for me and therefore I belong not to my own kingdom and this physical home, but to God’s Kingdom where I will be at Home only when I am face-to-face with Christ (and “away” from this earthly body – after death or Christ’s return). Two sermons I’ve heard during this season of bed rest have caused me to meditate further on this reality – and to long to live all of my life in expectancy.

The first one was preached by my husband on faithful endurance on July 18th, and a key phrase of the Hebrews passage he preached on stood out to me in particular:

“…you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34)

He preached on the fact that so many times we are so focused on building on our earthly possessions that we forget about this better possession (all the riches of heaven and knowing Christ) that is to come. And we fail to endure faithfully when we suffer on earth because we think that this is all there is – that THIS is life. This is life, to be sure, but it is only a shadow of the Life to come. And that should make me not less engaged in each day, but more engaged. More purposeful, more desirous to live according to priorities that reflect the Life that is to come. Just as our priorities are being rearranged by the two lives that will soon be coming …

The second sermon that also struck me was by our pastor, Rev. Jack Howell, the following Sunday (July 25th) on Hebrews 11. Here are a few verses that stood out:

“These all [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. … But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

I am waiting for a Home that is to come. I am living in expectancy of it – so then why am I so frustrated when life doesn’t seem to work out the way I was planning? (i.e. – going on bed rest the same day we moved into our new house) This is not the season to be totally settled and completely at “home.” Similarly to bed rest. If I thought this was how my life would be indefinitely, each day would be much harder (and I do have great compassion for those who are bedridden without an end in sight – my heart goes out to you!). But I know that eventually, these babies will be delivered and I will be “delivered” from bed rest. I am not completely settled with my life right now that mainly consists of sleeping, reading, blogging and emailing, eating, hosting visitors, with frequent bathroom breaks. I want to be out of this recliner and active. Especially on such a beautiful beach-worthy Saturday as today. Yet I digress …

The point is that viewing this particular season as temporary and without knowing when it will end (but being assured that it WILL) gives meaning and purpose and urgency to each day. How much more so if I viewed all of my life as that – temporary, with a definite end yet unknown to me, and true Home ahead of me? How much more purposefully would I live? I hope to keep this lesson from this season of expectancy with me all of my life … thus preparing me better for the Life that is to come.

a new type of hidden glory

Follow the pictures which tell the story of a new type of hidden glory I am 15 weeks into exploring:

And our reactions to that unmistakable “plus sign”:

No, Seth really was excited … I just caught him in this photo with a weird expression on his face.

And we were both a bit overwhelmed/scared, too, as any first-time parents will be. Then, let’s skip ahead a couple weeks to our first doctor’s appointment, when the sonographer showed us this image:

week 6 ultrasound

She interpreted the screen for us, telling us the TWO black portions were the TWO embryonic sacs for our TWO babies – “Baby A” and “Baby B” as they are now called in the medical world. We are having twins!! So our initial shock and excitement at pregnancy was, literally, doubled. As well as the accompanying overwhelming emotions and thoughts at trying to picture our family size instantly doubling, come some time this fall.

The FAQ’s:

“When are you due?” October 11th – but twins usually come at least 2 weeks early, so they’ll probably be September babies

[and the most asked question] “Do twins run in your family?” Yes, they do.  My maternal grandfather was a twin as well as Seth’s great-grandfather, but only the Mom’s side counts as far as the genetics go. No twins have appeared in either family since then, so our families are particularly ecstatic. My grandfather was a Congressman and his twin brother was a Baptist minister, so that seems to be a pretty good “twin” legacy for our family.

“What do your parents think?” Both grandparents-to-be are thrilled. Since Seth is an only child, these are the first grandchildren for Mom and Dad Nelson. My parents already adore being grandparents to precious Caleb, who’s almost a year old, so they are tickled pink to get the chance to have TWO more grandchildren so soon. I personally think Caleb is the most excited of us all, since now he’ll have cousins to play with. 🙂

“How do you feel?” I was unbelievably exhausted and intermittently nauseous until about week 12, when my energy returned and the nausea dissipated. What has stayed constant is HUNGER though. To be eating for three is actually quite the challenge. I literally eat almost hourly. Or else I become really hungry.

Speaking of which … time to go raid the ever-emptying refrigerator. There will be many more posts, I’m sure.

One last thought on the miracle of this “hidden glory”: because I’m having twins, I get to go to the doctor every two weeks and have an ultrasound each time. Since the very first day when we heard both heartbeats, it never ceases to amaze me of the miracle of two lives being created inside me. At week 14, these babies already had eyelashes and eyebrows! Wow … what glory … still hidden, but being revealed week-by-week with my ever-expanding appetite and belly – and with the modern technology of the ultrasound.

a picture says a 1000 words

And so I give you the pictures that speak about this past weekend’s celebration of Seth becoming a “Reverend” as he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America. Our hearts are full from the outpouring of love from family and friends, both old and new, many of whom traveled to be with us in celebration. We feel like it was a glimpse of heaven. Thank you all! (or y’all or yous guys …)
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The ordination service as Seth becomes a Reverend through the laying on of hands

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IMG_4171My sister-in-law Nicole, “little” brother Jonathan, and nephew Caleb

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Caleb was the most excited of all for Uncle Seth …

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Family and out-of-town guests on a tour of Norfolk

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friends from Philadelphia & my parents

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IMG_4190 A few of our new friends in Norfolk

Seth’s family (parents, aunt & uncle) who traveled from New Jersey

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IMG_4164And we all know that no party is complete without my youngest brother Bryan!

“Life. Celebrated Daily.”

It caught my attention on a bumper sticker this week. It’s apparently Norfolk’s motto: “Life. Celebrated Daily.” It made me smile, and it gave me a good daily goal for our new life here in Norfolk. It seems there is much to celebrate about life here – and so we will embrace this as our motto as well.

And I don’t think it has to stay in the limits of Norfolk. What have you done to celebrate life today?