12/10/15

Broken for Grace

“How would your life be different without Jesus?”  This was the question put to us at our Tuesday morning Bible study.  I was not in a good mood, feeling anxious and a bit recalcitrant as I thought glumly, if it weren’t for Jesus, I could be a pharmacist and making a lot of money by now.  Such a profane answer was not expected, I was certain, and so I sat quietly, keeping my thoughts to myself.

It made me angry that I would have such an answer.  I was angry at myself for thinking such things in the middle of Bible study.  And I was just a little angry with God for not leading me to choose the path of a well-paid pharmacist in the first place.

Other people had more appropriate answers.  Growing up in Michigan, the person sitting next to me had been a sullen child and a failure in school.  Participation in church was the one bright spot for this troubled child, and it literally became a saving grace.  I may have grown up in Michigan too, but just 100 miles to the north, my childhood and adolescence played out quite differently.  Except for that A- in algebra, I was a straight A student, and I was a good girl, too.  I knew the rules, and I played by them.  I didn’t need the saving grace of the Church.  Of course, I went to church.  (That was one of the rules, after all.)  Of course, I knew that I was a sinner and saved solely by God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross.  Beyond that, I was pretty self-sufficient.  I trust in God, but I still need to study.  That was my motto, as I was all about those marks on my report card, and I must say, it seemed to serve me quite well.

I became proud.  I didn’t see it in myself, but my friend did.  She would become so exasperated with me that we wouldn’t speak for months.  Now I understand why.

1988

trophies

Throughout my high school years, I continued to worship at the altar of perfectionism, and when graduation came, I had a variety of options available to me.  My mom wanted me to become a pharmacist.  Perhaps this was a sensible choice, but all of those chapel services during my parochial grade school years had left an impression.  I had become convinced that I needed to tell children about Jesus, and so I became a parochial school teacher.  Not only did I become a parochial teacher, but I also married a seminarian-would-be-pastor.  Surely a good girl like myself would make a fine pastor’s wife.

My husband and I embarked on our journey into adulthood with all the idealism of youth.  I’m pretty sure I felt that I was doing God a favor with the path I had chosen, but that path was not without its challenges.  I found my job as a teacher to be very stressful, but I soldiered on, still relying on my own self-sufficiency.  I had no grace for myself and no grace for my husband.  I was relieved when he took a position at a church and I could become a stay-home mom.

Relief was short-lived.  A life built on perfectionism and self-sufficiency can easily crumble, and that’s exactly what happened.  In 2005, my second son was born with a birth defect.  His tethered spinal cord was surgically corrected, but my emotions had come undone.  During this time, my husband was also struggling in his ministry.  We began to unravel, and I began a steep descent into depression and anxiety.  I felt as though I were drowning.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2

I was not burned, but I was broken.  My facade of perfectionism and self-sufficiency shattered to pieces.

brokenpieces

 I went to the hospital for a total of four weeks in the course of eight months, and other people took care of my children.  Recovery was not complete, nor was it immediate, but I believe God used those years in the waters and fire to refine me.  He used those years to humble me, and to make me trust in Him for more than an A on a test.

candle

I come to Tuesday morning Bible study not as one doing God a favor, but as one begging for grace, hoping to learn to better trust in the One who gives it.  How would your life be different without Jesus?  All at once I am thinking back to my days of perfectionism, wishing to be self-sufficient, rather than praying for a posture of humility and trust.

I am still broken.

There is a little more discussion, and then we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper.  The pastor travels around our little circle offering us Christ’s body and blood.  “The body of Christ, broken for you.”  His body, broken for me.  God knew that I was broken, that I would be broken, that I am broken, and He gave his Son to be broken for me.  By His brokenness I am made whole.

cross

Without Jesus, I would still be relying on myself.  With Him, I can rely upon grace.  It is not easy to humbly trust, and I do not do it well, but the grace is there.  God is always there, even in my weakness, ready to bless me with His undeserved love.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

As I am leaving to go home, I am stopped by another member of the group.  She gives me a Christmas card.  Inside there is a check to use for my family just because “God placed me on her heart.”  As if Jesus’ very body and blood were not enough, I am now reminded that God is taking care of my earthly needs as well.  I have more than enough.  I have been given grace upon grace.  I never really wanted to be a pharmacist anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/20/15

Autumn Again

walterleaves

About this time last year, I wrote a post about autumn in Delaware Park.  Walter was still a newborn; I typed with one hand, and held him with the other.  Several posts were completed in this fashion.  Then the holidays arrived, and with them came the arrival of “real life” once more.  I kept meaning to get back to this page.  Here I am, a year later!

Autumn has been good to us again this year.  Winter was interminable, spring was rather short, summer was just so-so, but autumn has been good.   Think of that statement as a comparison rather than a complaint.  Truthfully, all the seasons have been good and filled with blessing, but autumn seems especially so.

This autumn, Walter turned one.  He is the delight of the family.  He is cruising, but not yet walking; babbling, but not yet saying words; sleeping well, but not yet sleeping through the night; getting bigger, but not really growing hair.  He loves to eat, he loves his brothers, and his newest source of pleasure is flopping down on his tummy to go down the slide at the playground

walterballoon

waltertunnel

jackpumpkin

tompumpkin

Thomas and Jack have been delightful in their own ways.  They have been busy with music and hockey, and have kept us busy as chauffeurs.  Oddly, I usually don’t mind all the hockey runs.  It takes a little bit of planning and a little bit of food to keep Walter occupied, but it’s nice to get out of the house!

The weather has been beautiful so we try to get out of the house on a regular basis.  We enjoy the once colorful and now fallen leaves, the deep blue skies, and the golden sunlight.  We come in, drink apple cider, and munch on corn chips while feeding Walter his yogurt.  We turn on the white Christmas lights and light a candle as the sun goes down on these ever-shortening days.  The house is cozy, but not quiet.  There is a perpetual undercurrent of activity as the five of us and the cat share our days and nights together.

ivespark

threepumpkins

That is my autumn update.  I feel like I’ve written a Christmas letter!  Perhaps I’ll write again sometime, and perhaps next time I won’t wait an entire year!

 

11/17/14

Fourteen Days and Delaware Park: 10/31-11/13

underbridge

Thomas:

  • Scored his first hockey goal of the season.
  • Backed-up my old, dying laptop and set up my new one.  Thanks, Thomas!
  • Was not too old to enjoy our afternoon with friends at the park.

tomwillow2

bluecapewillow2

Jack

  • Went trick-or-treating dressed up as “Everything Man.”
  • Finished watching Liberty’s Kids, and immediately incorporated what he learned in his dramatic play.
  • Was the only child at the playground wearing a blue cape.

jackwillow2

boyswillow2

Walter

  • Spent a lot of time hanging out on the kitchen table.
  • Seemed to gain more control of his hands.  His movements may be unconscious, but even so, he bats at his toys and moves his pacifier in the general direction of his mouth.
  • Marked the one month anniversary of his birth.
  • Weighed in at the pediatrician’s office at seven pounds, twelve ounces.
  • Went on his first outing to Delaware Park.

leaves2

11/8/14

Fourteen Days: 10/17-10/30

tomandwc

Thomas:

  • Managed to get a turn to hold Walter.
  • Used his newly refurbished video camera to capture footage of the partial solar eclipse.
  • Worked with Dad to record some violin and guitar Christmas arrangements.

jackandwcread

Jack:

  • Went to his first BSS Fiddle Club rehearsal and decided that he liked it.
  • Spent time holding, reading to, and playing with Walter.
  • Was very helpful when we took Walter on his first shopping trip to Wegmans.

wchalloween

Walter:

  • Really ramped up his nursing efforts (leaving Mom with significantly less free time).
  • Seemed to be more alert, spending more and longer times awake.
  • Spent time looking in his mirror, lying on his back kicking, and lying on his tummy moving his head from side to side.
  • Marked the four week anniversary of his birth.
11/2/14

While I Was Nesting

Between David’s work schedule and my late pregnancy doctor’s appointments and nesting tendencies, September was a pretty crazy month for us.  We did not, however, completely neglect our older children.  To prove we were paying attention, allow me to share their September highlights:

jackcandles

Jack turned nine.  This was a two-day event.  On the fifteenth we had friends over for hamburgers and cupcakes.  The sixteenth, Jack’s actual birthday, was just a family affair.  I made Jack pancakes for lunch, and then he waited for Dad to get home from work before opening his cards and gifts.  His main gift was a pair of roller blades because there are a few months of the year here in Western New York when it is not cold enough to ice skate outside.

jackrollerblades

Upon seeing his brother in action, Thomas decided that he needed some roller blades too.  He used some of his saved money and earned the rest by painting the outside trim around our porch.  Now both Jack and Tom can use their roller blades to practice hockey in our driveway.

Aside from painting and buying roller blades, the highlight of Tom’s September was his participation at the Springwater Fiddlers’ Fair.  He attended this with the other members of the BSS Fiddle Club, and he was all smiles when he got home. The BSS group played two sets, and in between I think they ate a lot of sugar and generally had a good time.  This was one of Tom’s first trips without either David or myself, and I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed himself thoroughly.

tomfiddleclub

David may have been busy, and I may have been nesting, but it is evident that, no, we did not forget our older children.  It is also evident that, yes, they really are getting older: having birthdays, earning money, going off without Mom or Dad.  It’s a privilege to observe and enjoy these older years while also cherishing the younger ones.

10/26/14

Seven Days: 10/10-10/16

As we work on settling into a new normal here, I am attempting to bring back my “Young Duke Days” series (complete with a new Duke!).  Here’s what the young noblemen have been up to:

tomchess

Thomas:

  • Found an old video camera, fixed it, and started using it.
  • Played chess and went geocaching with Grandpa G.
  • Acquired his first tube of hair gel to keep all that long hair under control.
  • Was extremely helpful around the house.
  • Enjoyed his new baby brother.

jackandwalter

Jack:

  • Enjoyed his time with Grandma and Grandpa G.
  • Continued his current reading interest, the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary.
  • Enjoyed watching Liberty’s Kids and learning about the Revolutionary War.
  • Loved on his new baby brother, saying things like, “If he never grew up, and I never grew up, I would hold him forever.”

wcafterbath

Walter:

  • Was baptized into God’s family.
  • Met Grandma and Grandpa G.
  • Had his first at-home bath.
  • Spent time on his back, just looking.  (When he’s particularly focused, he sticks one leg out.)
  • Had a little bit of “tummy time.”
  • Weighed in at the doctor’s office at 6 pounds, 10 ounces.
  • Marked the two week anniversary of his birth.

 

10/19/14

Welcome, Walter

walterbaptism4

Welcoming

Walter Christian Duke

Born October 2, 2014

 9:53 AM

Weighing 7 pounds, 0 ounces

walterhospital

Baptized into God’s Family

October 11, 2014

Immanuel Lutheran Church

Tonawanda, New York

walterbaptism2

Loved by

 Jesus,

Mommy, Daddy, Thomas, Jack,

and many others.

walterbaptism3

 I can sing lullabies again, and I am so thankful:

 Thankful for all the people who have graced us with

their help and  presence,

their cards and gifts,

their thoughts and prayers.

Thankful for the nurses and doctors dedicated to keeping mom and baby healthy.

 Thankful for an uncomplicated delivery and a speedy recovery.

Thankful for David, who was home when it was time to go to the hospital,

Thankful for Thomas and Jack, who have been quick to love their new brother and help their mom.

I thank God for orchestrating all of this so beautifully, and I thank Him for giving us Walter.  Our baby boy is healthy, tiny, and wonderful.  We are so very blessed.

Welcome to the family, Walter!  We’re so glad you’ve arrived!

09/5/14

Flower Visualization

During my morning yoga practice, I’ve been incorporating a little visualization exercise that I might use during labor. Blooming flowers are a picturesque metaphor for the birthing process so I picked eight of my favorite flowers to visualize.

I thought I’d share my selections with you.  Enjoy!

tulip

tulip

violet

violet

lily

lily

rose

rose

snowdrop

snowdrop

lavender

lavender

queen ann's lace

queen ann’s lace

morning glory

morning glory

 

 

08/16/14

Baby Stuff II: Things I Need or Want

In  my previous post, I detailed some of my favorite baby things that I have kept.  With such a sizable collection in the attic, there are very few things I need.  Basically, I need diapers.  Everything else is about my preference or desire.  With that in mind, here is my list of things I need or want:

Thirsties Duo Wraps

Thirsties Duo Wraps

1.  Diapers – After the first week or so at home, I hope to commit to cloth diapering our baby.   There is an initial investment, but very real savings in the long run.  I’ve decided to go mostly with Thirsties Duo Wraps coupled with prefolds and fitteds.  To that end, I’ve registered for diapers at www.nickisdiapers.com.  From what I can tell, Nicki’s Diapers is a small business with reasonable prices, a good selection, and what seems to be high customer satisfaction.  The only problem is that the size 2 Thirsties have been out of stock for awhile.   I may end up going over to www.cottonbabies.com for the size 2 Thirsties.  (Edited 9/18/2014:  Everything has restocked at Nicki’s Diapers so I’m “good to go” there.)

"Playing Church"

“Playing Church”

2.  Receiving blankets – One can never have too many receiving blankets.  The boys’ collection was quite loved and put to various uses in their early years.  So far, I have found about four blankets in the attic that survived the “love” or abuse.  I could use a few more.  (Edited 10/12/2014:  I just received some more cute flannel blankets so I think I should have enough now.  Of course my little escape artist doesn’t seem to like being swaddled in them anyway.  He just wakes himself up kicking everything off!  I’ve had to develop a new system for wrapping him the way he likes.)

3.  Full size fitted sheets – You may have noticed that a crib did not make the “things I’m glad I saved list,” nor did it make my “things I need or want list.”  The fact of the matter is, we did give away our crib, and I’m not at all sorry.  With every child, I seem to get a little less mainstream, and sleeping arrangements are a prime example.  This time around, I am opting for a Montessori floor bed, which is basically a mattress on the floor.  We have a full size mattress in the attic that we can use for this purpose.  One benefit of this sleeping arrangement is that I will have a place to co-sleep safely and take care of nighttime feedings comfortably in the early months.  The other benefit is freedom of movement and even of vision for the baby once he gets older.  (The entire room will be childproofed, and a gate will be up at the door.)  This is all a very long explanation of why I have put full size fitted sheets on my list.  I really like the dark tan flannel shown above in the fitted sheet option, but for extra sets and summertime, I will probably go with some basic, inexpensive sheets like the Cannon 200 Thread Count sheets available at Sears.  (Edited 10/12/2014:  I ordered one fitted flannel sheet from The Company Store because it was on sale, and I thrifted and was gifted some others, so I think I’m all set for sheets.)

4.  Mobiles and plexiglass mirror – In the Montessori link above, you can see a mirror and a mobile next to the baby’s bed.  I would like to do that too.  A mirror is straightforward enough, and I think we can make some suitable mobiles, perhaps as a homeschool art project.  The mobiles are to be fairly simple, starting with black and white designs, progressing to colored shapes, and then finally moving on to simple figures.  The idea is to have the a mobile hanging rather close above the baby’s sleeping area from the very beginning and to rotate through the different mobiles by changing them every few weeks.  This helps the baby develop vision, depth perception, and concentration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Nursing necklace – I had a nursing necklace with Jack, and he loved it.  It was especially useful when paired with my baby sling for going places like church.  It kept Jack occupied and was certainly better than having him fidget or pull on and mouth my good jewelry.  He did eventually wear out the necklace, so I am in the market for a new one.  I really like several of the necklaces from this particular Etsy shop, but I picked out two neutral ones because they should match just about anything I might wear.

from Amazon

from Amazon

6.  I really like the classic silverware.  I have one set from my childhood, but one or two more sets would be handy.

7.  A nightlight – I have a nightlight that can be plugged directly into the wall, but I don’t think that is a good option once the baby becomes mobile.  I would prefer something with a cord that I can tuck behind the dresser.

from Nihamaj

from Nihamaj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from Amazon

from Amazon

from Knoppie

from Knoppie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Toys – I would like to build up my collection of natural toys.  I found most of these toys on Etsy, and really, the specific shop is not as important as the idea itself.  I would have to do a little more looking to find the best place to actually purchase something.  (There must be crocheted balls that ship from someplace closer than Australia!)  Then, of course, some of the toys could be homemade if a person had sufficient time and talent.  For instance, the red and tan clutching ball is actually just a pattern.  Also, the elephant is terribly cute, but I’m sure some it would be less expensive, though not as cute, to make some cloth toys myself.  Like I said, I was really just looking for ideas when I came up with this collection.

That completes my wish list, I believe.  I feel very blessed to be able to contemplate what color of diaper I would like and whether or not I actually need more toys.  It’s been a fun list to put together, and I’ll keep you posted on how all my ideas work out.