September 29, 2010

Can't Sit Still

This week has been a restless one for me for many reasons. My mind is wandering, my legs are jittery, and my heart is anxious. The reasons for said anxiousness are both immediately good and good in a delayed, hopeful way.

First, I got a bike Monday night! This has been a pipe dream for months, as I have begun to feel that I would benefit from cycling for exercise and as a way to eventually use my vehicle a bit less. The pragmatic side of me insisted that such an investment really ought to wait until we know more about our future. But thanks to a supportive husband, I squished this sensibility, perused Craigslist religiously, discovered Sheldon Brown, and found a lovely vintage commuter bike. And I also made a Swedish friend in the process. Photos will come soon...of the bike, not the Swede.

As I mentioned before, I hope to one day use the bike for errands. I envision pedaling off to the library and grocery store and then eventually getting a trailer for my mini sidekick. As I told my family, the bike will not need a bell with a little squawker hitched to the back. What larks we will have cycling through quiet neighborhoods, on lovely paths, and around the park! Perhaps I might even attempt a bike commute one day. Frustratingly, since Monday I have not had a chance to really take the bike riding. Life has kept me a little busy lately, which is really a shame because the weather has been unapologetically gorgeous in St. Louis this week. Being cooped up at work on such lovely days always makes me edgy, but now especially so. And it will be over a week before I have a chance to hop on my two-wheeled friend because...

We are going on vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



On Friday, the little Fowler flock is headed to St. Augustine for a week of relaxing and celebrating Lindon's graduation (which was over four months ago, but never mind). One of Lindon's closest friends from seminary lives in St. Augustine, so we will spend lots of time lingering in conversation with Jamie and Julie, exploring St. Augustine parks, crying because we love Florida (OK, that will be me), and introducing Levi to the eastern edge of the continent.

Because we leave Friday, I have rearranged my work schedule a bit to get some work done in advance of the time off, hence my lack of time for cycling. Now that I typically work just three days each week (and only two days in a row), being on a regular person work schedule is hard for me. How did I get so spoiled so quickly? It really makes me feel like a wimp. But next week I will not be anywhere near a legal filing, will not open the mail or pay the bills, and will not have to say, "Good morning, law offices." Until then, however, I feel restless and a little stir crazy.

Another reason for my restlessness is a looming deadline. After a long, long absence from freelancing, I actually am working on a story. It's due this week. Yikes! In reality, the story is pretty much done and is pretty strong writing on my part. I am shaving off words here and there to improve clarity, shoring up my verbs, eliminating unnecessary stuff. It's both exhilarating and terrifying. I love to write, but every time I write I must endure the fear that it won't be good enough, that the editor will tell me I am terrible. It has never happened yet, and in reality I doubt it will ever happen. But it makes me nervous!Once I send my copy away this evening, I will feel better. I think I will celebrate my cleaning my bike.

And finally, but vaguely, we received a "no" from a church this week. OK, it was far more gracious and kind than just "no," but you know what I mean. One less iron in the fire. In my mind, I understand that this church is not saying my husband is not good at ministry, they just do not believe he would be the best fit for what they need. I understand that. But, my husband is awesome and amazing and loves the Lord and is incredibly gifted with people and strong administratively and sweet and likable, and it's hard to not ask WHY?!?!?!

My previous post that touched on this subject was in anticipation of days like today. We have to articulate what we believe on good days in advance of the bad days. My September 20 post is still true today. All the things I believed about God and His goodness then I still believe now. But I am a tad restless, thinking that if I knew the "if" of a job, I could handle waiting for the "when." God is not interested in making such a deal with my unbelief. He wants all or nothing, so I am all in.

And the reality of being all in is that sometimes one must wait. So I wait.

And fidget.

And wait.

"Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart. And wait for the Lord." - Psalm 27:14

September 25, 2010

Clothes Swap

Well, that last post was a little intense, wasn't it? I expect that more child-inspired crisis posts will develop the longer I blog, but it's always good to temper them with something light clothes.

Two weeks ago my friend Courtney invited me to a clothes swap. The general premise was a bunch of women ransacked their own closets, pulled out all the clothing they did not want, and the hosts organized it. Then, said women came and picked through the amazingly organized piles of clothing to take home a few new-to-them treasures. All the leftovers went to a good cause.

The concept sounded good enough, but there were a few things that made it extra awesome. First, far more women donated than could attend. While this was surely disappointing for those who could not be there, for the few of us who could make it, we were delighted. I felt like a kid in a candy store who has just been told by the store owner, "Take anything and everything you want."

Another great part was that most of the women there were mothers like me, and many were current or former seminary wives. As I have learned, having a kid and supporting your husband through graduate school do not always leave lots of money in the budget for shopping trips. What a surprise! And while Lindon is fabulous about encouraging me to enjoy new and new-to-me clothes and I have a few great places for thrifting, I still don't add clothes to my wardrobe that often. Seems like that was a common sentiment at the clothes swap, because no one could stifle the excitement of finding a fabulous pair of pants of a stunning dress. More than once I heard someone say, "Go ahead and take that. It's free, so you have nothing to lose! If you don't like it, just give it away."

This mentality helped me pick up a few pieces that I would never have considered in the a hot pink belt! The skinny belt still had the tags on it, and though it was not a color I typically wear, I decided to go for it. Now that it's in my closet, I love it.

And for me, one of my favorite parts of the entire night was getting to visit with the wonderfully stylish hostesses. Not only were they fun women, but their fashion insight helped me nab a few items that fit me wonderfully. They gave me the thumbs up on a black pencil skirt, denim pencil skirt, and tweed dress. And when one of them tried on a brown cotton dress that did not look quite right on her long waist, the other hostess said, "I bet that would work on Megan's proportions. She has a little shorter waist than you." Turns out, she was right, and that lovely brown dress with the full skirt landed in my take-home haul.

So in all, I took home four dresses, two skirts, a bandana/scarf, and a skinny belt. It was a smashing success, and everyone who I have told about the project since has said, "I would love to go to something like that!" This might be something I do again sometime...soon.

September 20, 2010

High Hopes

Why do we say disappointment is bitter? This is a lame description. It lacks zing. If someone held an open audition for new phrases to describe disappointment, I would submit "burning disappointment." Not burning like a fire, but burning like the chili pepper on the side of the plate at a Chinese restaurant that you should never eat. Yes, this new description is a bit wordy, but it's also more accurate.

My mother-in-law ate this chili once without realizing what it was. As her mouth began to burn, she flagged down the waiter and asked him what it was. His response was an emphatic, "No eat! No eat!" For effect he even added hand gestures. Too late for Karen. As she asked for more water, her niece who was dining with her pointed out that water would only make it worse. The only thing to do is wait for the pain to go away. In the meantime, poor Karen thought she might have to go to the hospital. She did not, and the pain eventually subsided. But she will never, EVER eat a chili from a Chinese restaurant again.

To me, that's how disappointment feels. Having one's hopes dashed sometimes feels unbearable, and there is no remedy for the pain. It's hard to really deal with because there is no one to blame, no tangible reason for the disappointment. You thought life was moving in one direction and realize you were very wrong. You hope events will pan out in a certain way, and they don't. You want very much for some good end to come of a situation, and that does not happen. With no good answers, you must simply wait for the pain to ease. And the experience is so traumatic that it scars; you never, ever want to feel that pain again.

But while some people (like my brother-in-law) build up a tolerance for the heat of even the most scorching chilies,  I don't know anyone who has built up a tolerance for disappointment without becoming hard, cynical.

Facing the burn of disappointment makes me afraid. It scares me to think of hoping again and being disappointed again. After eating one chili, why would you put another in your mouth or even touch it with your fork? So I find myself refusing to hope, not wanting to even risk the remotest possibility of getting burnt.

My two favorite boys
As I watch my son crawl around his playroom and try his hand at standing on his own, my hopes and fears battle each other fiercely. My love for my son prods me to hope for him, to dream big. But the prospect of having those big dreams and big hopes go unfulfilled feels like more than I can bear. I don't want to feel the burn of disappointment, and I have seen others experience it too often.  I am tempted to not let myself imagine all that he could be or do. I trick myself into thinking this is practical and sensible ("One day at a time," as so many people have told me), but the truth is that thinking about the future scares the heck out of me. I start to pray for his life and choices, but then I cut my prayers short, afraid they won't be answered.

And so I refuse to hope for my Levi.

Same thing happens when I think about a job for Lindon. I say that I believe God will provide a position for my husband, but my heart still fears disappointment . I am afraid we will get 99% of the way through the candidating process with a church, only to have the search committee change its mind. It's happened to people before, so I start to worry it will happen to us. Things just won't go smoothly, I tell myself. It can't go smoothly. These wonderful search committees will "take the search in another direction" or "not be at peace about the decision." Not that any decisions have been made yet, mind you. Just worrying about them reneging some time in the future. 

And so I worry and refuse to hope for my family.

Last month one of the men in my office said farewell to his mother. She went home to be with the Lord at age 91.

I never met this incredible woman, but many people have been impacted by her faith and her legacy. In a very roundabout way, I suppose I am among those impacted by her life and legacy. Certainly anyone who ever went here, here, or here has been touched by her life, since her family had a large or small hand in the founding of all these institutions. You can read more about her here.

While leafing through the bulletin from her memorial service, I was struck by a remembrance written by one of her daughters. This daughter recalled once receiving a note from her mother that simply said, "I have high hopes for you, because of Christ. Love, Mother."

This note and its implications have hardly left my mind in the past three weeks. Because if I really believe the Gospel, as I say I do and as Jean Belz did, then it should transform every aspect of my life, including how I hope. If Christ died and was raised again on the third day, and if believing this and trusting in Him for my salvation means I have a restored relationship with God through Christ, and if the God with whom I have a restored relationship is ultimately good, among other things, then why NOT hope? Why NOT dream? God loves me, and He loves my husband, and He loves my son. He has plans for us that do not involve harming us - plans to give us hope.

I believe these things. I really do. Like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, God is not safe, but he's good. As Mr. Beaver said, "He's the King, I tell you."

So now every night after I sing to my Levi, I tell him, "I have high hopes for you, because of Christ." I hold my little one and pray for his life, dreaming big dreams of what he might do and who he might be.

After putting him in his crib I look at his crocheted blanket with lion faces on it and think of the One who is not safe, but who is indeed good. The One who will bring us to a church to serve, who holds our little family in the palm of His hand. The One who will not allow us to suffer the burn of disappointment alone or pointlessly, nor will He ignore our cries and laments.

He is not safe, but He is good.

He's the King, I tell you.

September 15, 2010

New Era

It's Wednesday morning at 10:39, and I am sitting in my sunroom blogging while Levi sleeps.

It's not a holiday, and I am not sick. This is what I do now on Wednesdays. I stay home.

About a month ago I transitioned from full time legal assistant to part time legal assistant. The goal was for me to have more time at home with Levi and to give Lindon a break from being a full-time stay-at-home dad. So I do not go to the office on Wednesdays and Fridays.

One month in, I like this part-time thing (other than the smaller paychecks). Spending more time with Levi has been great, and it's been so fun to have a chance to do the things I had always wanted to do with him, like take him for walks in the stroller and play together. It's also nice to not have to save all my housework for after 7 pm and weekends. Lindon is less stressed, too, since he knows that at least two days each week he can get out of the house without having take bring Levi with him.

This new set up means the days when I do work tend to be more hectic on all fronts. I go in earlier and stay later, leaving a bit less time with Levi, who is usually finished with his dinner and pretty much ready for bed by the time I get home. But it is worth it to have two more days home each week.

We hope this transitional season will be temporary and that soon Lindon will have a full-time ministry job, and I will not HAVE to work. Then I will probably go stir crazy being at home and wonder why I ever thought staying home with my kids was a good idea. But then Lindon will remind me of what a basket case I was while trying to work full time and care for everything.

So for now, this part time thing is pretty good.

And it's time for a nap!

September 13, 2010

One year ago today...

I looked like this:
Yes, it was one year ago today that my dear friends threw me a shower here in St. Louis to celebrate the impending arrival of BF. It's amazing how much changes in one year. Since this photo was snapped I've:

- Become a mom
- Watched Lindon graduate
 - Had my first child baptized by my dad
 - Gained two more nephews
 - Prayed roughly 346,479 prayers for Levi, 37% of which involved asking for him to sleep
 - Laughed a lot.

One of my mom resolutions has been to avoid saying things like, "I can't believe how fast time has gone!" The motivation behind such a resolution is primarily to try enjoying every day (and to avoid the cliche). But a lot has happened since September 13, 2009, and the little monkey Levi that was BF continues to amaze me with his awesomeness. 10 months into it, I definitely like being his mom.

September 8, 2010

More PA Favorites

Long overdue, but oh well.

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures from our time in PA. One of the highlights of the trip was the chance for Levi to meet his great-grandmother, my mom's mother. She is his only surviving great-grandparent, and Levi is her first great-grandchild. 

We took about 50,000 photos of me, my mom, my sister, and the kiddos. It was hard to find the best from those teeny thumbnails in the preview. This one was good enough. And I like Avery's celebratory fist pump.

Grandma and Grandpa with my sweet monkey.

This progression amused me. First, we think about letting go of Dad's hand...

...then, we let go with one hand...

...and then we fall. Repeat, repeat, and repeat.

My parents have this mirror under the plant stand in their foyer, and Levi discovered it about 3 minutes after we arrived. He loved admiring the cute baby who gazed back at him every time he came near the thing. He also drooled on the mirror while attempting to kiss that cute baby. We hope he outgrows this narcissism one day soon.

With my aunt and grandmother. We see them so rarely that it was really fun to get to spend time with them.

September 1, 2010

Mr. Peculiar

Like most almost-10 month olds, Levi is trying his hand at solid foods and finger foods. All of the literature I have read on this subject tells parents to be patient and not worry if a child suddenly refuses to eat a food that was his or her favorite a few days earlier. That's fine. I totally understand if my child wants to eat carrots for a few days and then take a break; if my food selection was as limited as his is right now, I would want a break, too. But what I don't understand is when my child suddenly refuses to eat a food that was his favorite 15 seconds earlier. Here are more peculiar observations about Levi's eating.

The enduring favorite at the table seems to be oatmeal. Levi loves his oatmeal so much that he is willing to tolerate a host of foods he might otherwise reject if they were not cleverly disguised within the gooey goodness. As such, Levi's oatmeal almost always contains generous portions of mashed green peas and sweet potato chunks, but we have also used it to get him to eat cheese, plums, green beans, whole green peas, carrot, and the occasional Cheerio. Since it must accommodate so many other foods, the oatmeal tends to have a pretty unpleasant consistency, so we have stopped calling it oatmeal and started referring to it as "slop." Lovely, no?

String cheese seems to be the food that elicits the strongest reactions from the little eater. Sometimes he will eat an entire stick in the blink of an eye. Other times he will suck down two or three pieces at lightning speed before deciding he hates the blasted thing and wants no part of it. Same thing with plums.  

He loves yogurt, except when he doesn't. Carrots might or might not be acceptable to him. Same for bread, beans, and pretty much every other food...except goldfish crackers. He LOVES these suckers and cannot get enough of them. When we restrict the number that we allow him to eat, he cries.

Much to our chagrin, Levi seems to love green peas. This is an unpleasant reality for us because green peas smell about the same going is as they do coming out. They're gross.

After heavy hinting and suggesting by my parents, Levi had his first scrambled egg yolk at their house two weeks ago. At the time he seemed to like it. I hate cooked eggs and cannot bring myself to eat them if they maintain even the slightest remnant of their original form. The prospect of cooking an egg for my own progeny is more than I can handle. I have done many unenjoyable things for my son thus far, but I might draw the line at cooking eggs. Unfortunately for me, Levi's father is more than willing to do the deed.


Here is Levi with his post-dinner dazed look and beta-carotene shadow. Even when he's picky, finicky, and just plain fussy at mealtimes, he's still pretty cute!