Friday, May 25, 2007

Bon Voyage!

On May 31, Al & I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary aboard The Pride of America. We fly to Honolulu tomorrow and will spend the next 7 days cruising the Hawaiian islands. Woo hoo!

Al and I will have an entire week to ourselves. We won't have to go to work or think about IVP projects, we won't have to do housework or take the kids to doctor appointments. We can eat dinner without a five-year old interrupting us or a two-year old throwing food on the floor. We can sleep as late as we want and spend our time reading, exploring the islands, playing tennis together, or doing pretty much whatever we want. I am pretty excited. The only trips Al and I have taken together since having our kids have been either been family vacations or business trips. So this will be the first time in five and half years when we can focus completely on each other for more than a few hours.

It's hard to believe we have been married for ten years already. In some ways I feel like I have known Al forever, and yet ten years seems like such a long time. These past ten years have been the best ten years of my life. I love my family and cherish memories of "life before Al," but Al has added so much love and joy to my life that nothing can compare. While I am confident that I could survive without Al, I would never want to live without him. Ephesians 3:20 says that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Al is "immeasurably more" than I could ask or imagine in a husband. I could go on, but I'll spare you any more of the mushy stuff.

So, I probably will not be posting anything new for the next 7 days. The ship has Internet access, but I think you have to pay for it. And, no offense, but I probably won't be thinking about my blog readers much. Al, on the other hand, may not be able to restrain himself. So, if you're hoping for an update on the cruise you can check to see if Al posts anything ;)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Receiving God's Blessings

Recently I have been practicing the discipline of receiving. While this may not sound like much of a discipline, I am finding that it is not always easy. What do I mean by the discipline of receiving? I am being more intentional about looking for ways that God may wants to bless me. It may not sound easy, but it can be. At least, it's often difficult for me because receiving God's blessings often requires relinquishing my own plans and ideas of what is best for me.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about a "health and wealth" type of blessing. It's all too easy for me to accept that kind of blessing. Instead, I often have a difficult time accepting God's grace and peace. I try to do everything on my own and put too much trust in my own accomplishments. At the end of each day I feel best about myself when I can recite a list of things I have accomplished. As in, "Today I worked for four hours at IVP, cleaned the house and took the kids to the park. It was a good day." The underlying assumption to this type of thinking is that my value is directly related to what I do or accomplish each day instead of who I am.

This doesn't leave much room for God's grace or peace. I usually rush through each day and things like playing with my kids and praying become "tasks" I "should" accomplish rather than relational gifts. Instead of experiencing God's grace and peace, I feel stressed and guilty. Instead of receiving God's blessings for me I try and earn his favor. How silly.

One Sunday I was feeling particularly stressed and worn out. "I really need some time to myself today," I thought. "I'll escape into a good book for the afternoon." I'd been reading for all of five minutes when Josiah ran up and declared, "I want to play tennis. Can we go play tennis?" I stopped reading for a moment to consider his request. Maybe Al would be willing to take him. I could stay home and put in a video to keep Elijah occupied. Then I remembered my spiritual director's comment that I look for ways to have more fun, to receive fun as a gift from God. (As a "one" on the enneagram, "fun" is a sign of health for me.)

Hmmm, I thought, maybe God is inviting me to have fun with my family today... So instead of being self-absorbed and clinging to my perceived need to read for awhile, I went out to play tennis with my family. And do you know what? I had fun. I had more fun than I would have had reading my book. The physical activity was good for my physical health, the connection with family was good for my emotional health and my awareness of this simple thing as a gift from God was good for my spiritual health. And by receiving this gift from God I blessed my family. Al and I felt more connected as a couple and as parents and both of our kids had fun.

I think the discipline of receiving is related to God's will, but from a different perspective than I am used to. Instead of asking, "What is God's will for me today? What does God want me to do?" I am asking, "What does God desire for me today and how can I best respond?" The focus shifts from me and what I can do for God to what God wants to do in my life. When I receive and accept God's desire for me, I find that his desire (his "will") often blesses me so that I can bless others. Not every blessing looks like a good gift when it is first offered, but when I decide to accept something as a gift from God it often ends up blessing me in a way I did not expect.

So I am continuing to look for simple ways to receive God's blessings each day. Sometimes that means choosing to have fun instead of completing one more task. Other times it means taking a moment of quiet to connect with God or someone else in the midst of a busy schedule. I am finding that I feel more at peace and less self-reliant and that God's blessings to me often make me a blessing to someone else.

Tag, I'm It

Well, I was going to post about the spiritual discipline of receiving, but Stacey tagged me to share 8 random facts about myself. That's an easier post for a busy week, so here goes:

1) I played Fiona, the female lead, in my high school's production of the musical "Brigadoon." I thought I was really great until I watched the video with Al while we were dating. They taped the worst night of the show and, well, it was painful and embarrassing to watch.

2) I sang "Little Road to Bethlehem" with First Call during a concert they gave with my college. My music professor wouldn't even let me see the video. He said the sound quality was really bad. I suspect I was really bad. My mom was so proud of me. She cried all over Bonnie Keen thanking her for "making my little girl's dream come true!" It was sweet, but really embarrassing too.

3) I travelled with The Continental Singers after my sophomore year of college.

4) I have participated in two pageants: a pre-teen pageant when I was in fifth grade and the Miss MBC pageant when I was a freshman in college. One of the questions at the pre-teen pageant was "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I planned to say that I wanted to be a singer or a cashier (I loved pushing buttons...), but my mom made me say I wanted to be a teacher instead. I didn't win a title in either pageant.

5) I rarely travelled outside of Wisconsin until I went to college. Since then I have travelled to England, Germany, the Dominican Republic, Canada, South Korea and China (in addition to various states in the U.S.). Most of the this travel has been for work. Here's a photo of me sledding down from the Great Wall of China.


7) I have been leading worship in various contexts since I was in high school.

8) I co-directed a children's Christmas pageant, Candy Cane Lane, while in college. At the time I couldn't understand my co-director's insistence on honoring the copyright by not making our own copies of the practice tape. Now that I am the subsidiary rights manager for InterVarsity Press, I am glad she convinced me to do the right thing.

Okay, so I'm supposed to tag eight more people, but I don't really know 8 other bloggers well enough to tag them. I read a lot of blogs, but tend to lurk more often than not. I'm a little shy that way. The three or so people who actually read my blog will just have to be happy with learning a little more useless information about me I guess.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

For Mother's Day this year Josiah made me a card and a ceramic photo ornament at preschool. Inside the card was a drawing of me and the following fill-in-the-blank piece:
My mom is the most wonderful mom in the world!

Her name is Ellen. She's pretty as a rainbow. She is 22 years old. She has blue eyes and blond hair. She weighs 22 pounds and is 20' 22'' tall. Her favorite food is coffee. I think Mom is funny when she is fancy. But I know she she's really angry when I play with my food. I wouldn't trade my mom from "Star Wars". I love me mom because she's beautiful!
I love being a mom! Who else but a five-year old would describe someone as "pretty as a rainbow"? How sweet.

One of the things I asked for as a Mother's Day treat was to sleep in. As in, "Please do not come into my room and jump on me at 6:30 a.m.!" They honored my request. Al got up with Elijah at 6:00 a.m. and Josiah quietly popped in sometime during the morning to leave a "Happy Mother's Day" sign on my bed stand, but other than that I was able to sleep as late as I wanted. The funny thing is that I actually missed having everyone pile into our bed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tooth Torture

I noticed a spot on Josiah's teeth a few weeks ago and set up dentist appointment. Even though Josiah brushes his teeth two or three times a day and eats a limited amount of sweets, he has already had five cavities filled and I was worried this was yet another one. It turns out one of his previous fillings didn't work and the tooth had become infected. So, we were referred to a pediatric dentist who could "fix" his tooth.

Josiah was in a great mood the day of his appointment. He got in the car before I even asked him to and was all smiles and good humor. He was delighted with the Superman pillow they gave him for his feet and was very cooperative while the dentist examined his teeth.

Things took a turn for the worse once the dentist decided she needed to pull the tooth. Do you watch Alias? This morning I had a flashback of watching the tooth extraction and it occurred to me that it was very similar to some of the torture scenes in Alias. The main difference was that instead of holding him down and yelling, "Tell us who you work for!" I was holding Josiah down and saying, "You're okay. You're doing a great job!" For his part, Josiah was writhing in agony and screaming. It was horrible. Like I said, I'm having flashbacks.

Josiah is feeling much better now. I bought him $30 worth of soft foods (applesauce, yogurt, ice cream, Popsicles, etc) and he spent the day watching videos and playing games. The next day he showed his missing tooth to all of his preschool friends and their parents, proudly declaring, "I lost my tooth! The dentist had to take it out. It had a cavity." The small Lego set the "tooth fairy" left under his pillow may have helped cheer him up.

Meanwhile, I am still in mourning for his tooth. This is one of my favorite photos of Josiah (taken before the tooth was pulled). Doesn't he have a handsome smile? It will be another five or six years before his adult tooth comes in (which means we have to go back to the dentist two more times to have a space maintainer fitted and installed). That's okay though. He's starting to lose some of his baby teeth naturally, so he'll be gap-toothed for awhile anyway. And it isn't his teeth that make his smile so wonderful, it's his personality and exuberance.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Elijah's Surgery

Elijah had minor surgery last Thursday. He needed to have his PE tubes (in his ears) replaced. He also had his tear ducts probed and tubes installed in his tear ducts. We thought we might need to reschedule the surgery since Elijah had a runny nose, but the doctors examined him and then gave the go ahead to proceed.

Elijah was great. We had to arrive at the hospital at 6:30 a.m., which meant we both had to get up earlier than usual to make the 45 minute drive and arrive on time. Elijah wasn't supposed to eat anything before the surgery, but he was in a remarkably good mood for a tired and hungry kid. The surgery was scheduled for 8:30 and didn't actually happen until closer to 9:00, so we had a long wait. The nurse was very concerned about Elijah's runny nose and spent time on the phone with our ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat doctor) and other doctors. Elijah spent the time exploring the room (opening every door and drawer and trying to toss medical supplies around the room), taking off his slippers over and over again and riding in a wagon the hospital had available for the younger patients. I spent the time wiping Elijah's nose, keeping Elijah out of drawers and pulling a wagon around the halls (and around and around and around...)

The surgery itself was pretty quick. Our ENT, Dr. Marra, is really fast. I didn't have time to finish reading more than a few pages in my book when Dr. Marra came into the waiting room and tapped my shoulder. The first part of the surgery had gone well. Elijah had new tubes, clean ears and all of the extra fluid that makes it hard for him to hear had been drained. The second part of the surgery (his tear ducts) took a little longer. Even so, Dr. Ticho (the eye doctor) came out for me before I finished reading my chapter. Elijah's eyes were fine and his tear ducts were free from obstruction.

Within a few minutes I was called back to the recovery room. Elijah was very upset. He had gone into surgery smiling and complacent, but now he was wailing. As soon as he saw me he stretched his arms out towards me. I dropped my coat and bags and rushed over to hold him. For the next hour he cried and I held him. They moved us from the recovery room to a private room and Elijah had to get into the crib for the transport. He did not want to get back in the crib and I had to keep my arm around him for the entire trip.

They wanted Elijah to drink something before they removed his IV. Elijah wanted them to get rid of the IV before he did anything. His right hand and arm were taped to a plastic board with the IV in his hand. He couldn't hold a cup or use his signs to communicate. He was very frustrated and batted away every cup we offered him and refused to eat the Popsicle. I finally pulled out some banana flavored puffs (one of his current favorites) and he calmed down enough to eat a few handfuls of the puffs and take a few sips of water. Soon after that they took out the IV and told us we were free to go home.

I'm thankful the surgery went well and that, other than the first hour, Elijah's recovery has been a breeze. Now I just need to get ready for Josiah's kiddie root canal tomorrow...