Pen Pal Pet

Where does my creativity come from? It’s hereditary, and here’s my proof.
This is a letter from my Nana to my daughter.

[The envelope was addressed to my daughter from Marshall, Nana’s dog]
Dear Eve,
I am chasing lizards today! It is warmer at my house and I found my first lizard under the trunk in the backyard that holds the small succulents for my mom.
I am writing you with a tear in my eye and a hurt in my heart (and my mom, your Nana, was mad at me for what I did). I am so very sorry that I got so upset and scared and agitated that I bit you, Eve, and snapped at Warren! Sometimes the high squeals oft he babies and the toddlers really hurts my ears and I panic because I cannot stop the noise. I also panic when everyone starts moving and I know people are leaving but I don’t know WHO is leaving. I am very afraid of being left alone or that my mom is leaving me. I am silly (and I have a little brain) HOWEVER, those are not excuses for my behavior. I love you both very much (and Kristen too). I look froward to seeing you each time I come to Mimi’s house. I would never hurt you and I must have more self-control or my mom will have to take me away, which I do not want. Please, please for give me and know I love your gentle hands petting my head.
Your friend forever,

Isn’t that the sweetest? I love it!

I have a very strong memory of my Nana telling me stories. Most prominent is the story of “The Little Seed”, which was a story about a flower growing in a little pot that my Nana recorded on a tape for me and my siblings. I remember sitting in front of the big tape player and listening to my Nana’s voice through the speaker, totally transfixed by her voice. I loved that story, I would play it in my head when I had trouble falling asleep.

I have many other “sources” for my creativity, and we can debate nature vs. nurture, but my Nana’s creativity has definitely rubbed off on me!

Soli Deo Gloria

How to Help Children Adjust to A New Baby

Every time we bring a child home, it’s an adjustment, especially for the older kids. I thought I’d share some things we have done to help adjusting to the new family dynamic.

Disclaimer: Not all these suggestions will work for you, your family, your child. Everyone is different, each parent is different, each child is different, each family dynamic is different. Sometimes you just gotta figure it out.

It’s a group effort

This mentality of “group effort” is needed in any family I think. Family life does not revolve around any one person. It can’t in order to function properly. So, when a new member of the family comes in, it’s really a group effort to figure out how everyone fits in and is an active part of the family.

Even back when I had just two kiddos. I would do as much as possible with the two of them together. (How she looks at him just melts my heart!)

This new baby is not “mommy’s baby”, it is “our baby”

This idea was given to us by our pediatrician, and it’s the concept the follows the “group effort” mentality in that everyone helps take care of Baby.

Now, obviously Mom and Dad do the more important things like feed baby, change baby’s diapers, pick up baby, and such so on. But! Letting the older kids participate in taking care of baby helps a lot. It gives time to develop relationships between the siblings, it gives the older kids a sense of responsibility, it helps teach baby who they’re people are.

How is this practically done?

Here are some ideas of how to get the older kids participating in taking care of baby, most of these ideas will work for any age, but use your own discretion and knowledge of what your kids are capable of:

When I just had three, the older two loved to get on the floor with baby sister and play with her baby toys.
  1. Tummy Time Focus – It can help baby to have someone to look at during tummy time, and sometimes Mommy doesn’t want to get all the way down on the floor! The older kids love to be the one baby looks at. Now that my kids are older, I even let them (with my observation) have baby to tummy time on their tummy, “belly to belly” as it were.
  2. Wake Up Time’s “First Face” – This is a favorite for us. Everyone loves that fresh, wake up smile! I make sure it been long enough for nap time, or it’s a good time to wake up in the morning, or whatever.
  3. Quiet Monitor – This is really just me implementing the reminder to be quiet while baby sleeps. I focus it more on teaching an awareness of another person’s needs, rather than my own strict rule. So, it’s more than just “be quiet” but “help baby sleep by being quiet around his room, and go be loud somewhere else until he wakes up”.
  4. Mommy’s Gofer – I will send the kids to go things for me, or go get things for me, while I do the “more important things” of feeding and changing baby. I’ve had them go get my water bottle while I nurse, get something from the diaper bag, pull out a new outfit when baby needs a change of clothes, etc.
  5. Toy Retriever – This may be a lazy mom hack, but instead of picking up toys myself when baby drops (or throws) them, I have one of the siblings pick it up. If then baby makes a game out of throwing the toy, it’s a game with a sibling (and not me)!
  6. Supply Checker – I do this with my older kids, and have them help me check on how many diapers or wipes or whatever I have at the changing station in my room, or in the diaper bag. It’s just another way for them to help me, and participate in caring for and thinking of someone (their sibling) who cannot care for themselves in this way.
  7. Entertainer – This is how I get the dishes done and the laundry folded! I ask one of the kids to talk/play with baby so I can do what I need to do around the house.
Now here is my 7-year-old with baby brother doing Tummy Time together. Who’s having more fun?

All these have been helpful for me also as a Mom to remember that it’s not just me adjusting to having a baby (again!), but my other kids too. It helps me distribute my attention to all my children, even while the baby takes up a lot, I can still include my older kids too.

Soli Deo Gloria

Reading Review – March

Books Finished: 5

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton; Spiritual Disciplines for a Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney; Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney; Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi; Rembrandt is in the Wind by Russ Ramsey.

Audiobooks: 4

I don’t think I can pick a favorite this month. It’s a three way tie between The Man Who Was Thursday, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, and Rembrandt is in the Wind. All three were so good for very different reasons, they are each so we’ll written, and I recommend all of them.

Keep reading!

Soli Deo Gloria

A Request – A Short Story

Fun fact: I write quite a bit of fiction. I haven’t published anything, but I have some stories I really like and are cleaned up nicely. So, here is one of those stories. It’s called “A Request” and it’s really one of my first true attempt at a science fiction story.

Let me know what you think!

Incoming Transmission from Colony AX99405:

Request for transport, and immediate abandonment of Colony AX99405. I am Unit 3324485, Head of the Colony Board, submitting said request. I am the last active unit in this once colony. If Homeworld protocols are not executed in a quick and efficient manner, there may be no units left when the transport arrives. The colony has been invaded by a Menace, and it has deactivated all other units, and infested all dwellings, public areas, and buildings. My only defense to keep the Menace from deactivating me is to never rest my systems. I am unable to recharge, for that is when the Menace is able to take advantage of our kinds’ weakness. I have detailed my findings at the end of this report, in case transport arrives and I am no longer active.

I will begin my report with the beginning of the colony. Colony AX99405 met all of the protocols for colonization, and the colony was subsequently established effectively and sufficiently. All public spaces and buildings were of Homeworld approved designs and quality. Dwellings for colonizing units were also of the approved measures and standards. I resided in one such dwelling and can testify that the Homeworld materials imported achieved the desired result. My dwelling in the colony has been  indistinguishable from the dwelling I resided in on the Homeworld. The concrete mixture is the same, the room size is the same, even the taps for my sink and handles for my doors are the same as on the Homeworld. My occupation as Head of Colony Board, while different from my occupation on the Homeworld, was equally satisfactory. At first very little got in my way of accomplishing each of my tasks in my occupation. I observed similar rates of task completion, efficient work effort, and satisfaction with the Homeworld protocols of work quality – per my occupational requirements as Head of Colony Board. This was, however, before the Menace overran the colony. 

The Menace first manifested three moon cycles ago. Three moon cycles and five days previous from this day, according to the Homeworld time keeper, is when the first of the Menace appeared. Every unit that has come into contact with them has been compromised, except one. I am the one uncompromised unit.

When the Menace began, it was rather benign. The first exposure was an elderly unit who discovered the Menace, an anomaly near their dwelling on the outskirts of the colony, and reported it. A sanitation core was dispatched and the anomaly was annihilated, per Homeworld protocol.

There were no more reported sightings for the next five days. The Sanitation General declared to me that this was odd. According to his logic, a Menace like this one was never singular. If there was one there must be more.

His logic was proven correct.

On the seventh day, the dwelling belonging to a pair of units was found to be infested with the Menace. The units were declared compromised, their deterioration was evident by the slightest observation. The pair were taken from their home, dragged like wild beasts, thrashing as if possessed, and screaming profanities not heard in public for decades. The dwelling was disintegrated, per Homeworld protocol.

The neighboring units beheld this disturbance and were greatly troubled. Many of the feminine units wept, as well as many of the infantine. A colony-wide communication was dispatched, and the public was made aware of the Menace in their midst. Vigilance was encouraged, and made law the next day.

The Sanitation General told me after this incident that he was concerned his Feelings were superseding his logic. I elected in that hour to have the entire sanitation division monitored – their exposure rate being the greatest in the colony, and the General’s confession of Feelings infecting him greatly concerned me.

The first moon cycle passed with efficient disposing of the Menace, whenever sightings were reported. The vigilance of most of the public gave the appearance that the Menace could be defeated. The outbreaks reported at this time were in public places and were dealt with swiftly and completely. 

It was during the second moon cycle that we discovered the Dissenters. They were caring for the Menace. Watering them, and fitting their residences for light beneficial to the Menace. All to their own detriment. Entire streets were found to be infested. These units chose to affix the Menace on and inside their frames. The Menace thrived, sprouting, growing lengths, and even blooming. The Sanitation General had no solution for this new problem, stating this was a medical issue now. I enacted quarantine protocols. The infected streets were closed down. The contaminated units therein were sealed up within their dwellings. Walls were erected to keep the Menace sequestered. All this was done per Homeworld protocols for infestations, the Sanitation General’s advice, and my own logic.

It was during the third moon cycle that I discovered that the Sanitation General was compromised. The General’s dwelling, and very frame was found to be entirely infested. I personally oversaw the decommissioning, and the inactive casing taken away to be scrapped. This was all done meticulously because of his position, and his dishonorable fall. There is now a public refusal to speak of the General, per Homeworld protocol.

Fourteen days ago, the Quiet happened. I exited my dwelling, as I usually did in the morning and greeted my neighbor. When I turned to engage in my usual process of waving my arm – in the acceptable greeting – my neighbor was not there. Ever since my arrival in this dwelling, and my subsequent development of the habit of departing at a certain time, my neighbor has always been there for me to greet. For the first time in my existence, Feelings crept over me – and fear came with the Feelings. I leaned over and regurgitated my morning meal. 

“Neighbor!” I called in a voice louder than my usual talking voice. “Neighbor, where are you? Why do you not greet me?”

There was no answer, only the Quiet. 

I proceeded towards the cement brick wall that divides the outdoor space of my dwelling from the outdoor space of my neighbor’s dwelling. The pristine white of the cement, and the gleam of the aluminum cap around the top of the wall assisted in smothering the Feelings. I leaned over the waist high wall, but I did not see my neighbor.

I called out again, “Neighbor! Where are you?” But the Quiet persisted.

I looked intently at my neighbor’s dwelling. I could see no change to it from the previous day, when I had only more casually observed its appearance. It was this new, intense observation which allowed me to see the obvious. The Menace had reached my own neighbor’s dwelling. Out of the top window of my neighbor’s dwelling bobbed a flower – I did not know the name of it at the time, but discovered the terminology for the Menace afterward. 

Then, Feelings came to me for the second time in my life. I did not regurgitate this time. I emitted an unintelligible sound at my loudest volume. A scream, I believe it is called. I wished to destroy that bobbing flower, I proceeded over the wall that divided my dwelling from my neighbor’s – I had no thought of contamination or exposure to the Menace – my mind thought only of the destruction of the Menace. I came to my neighbor’s door, and did not knock, but burst through it, and there on the floor of the dwelling, was my neighbor, inactive, covered in the infestation. The Menace was growing out of the visual receivers and the audio speaker of my neighbor’s framework. It was like my neighbor had become one with the Menace.

I did an illogical thing then. I stomped upon the Menace growing out of my neighbor. The Feelings were so strong inside of my frame. The Feelings corrupted my mental processing. I acted without logic, but with my Feelings, something only one moon cycle ago I did not think was possible for our kind. The Feelings have never left me from that day to now, nor has the fear.

I disintegrated my neighbor’s dwelling. Then, I sealed myself inside my own dwelling. I had then remembered the possibility of contamination. I had touched the Menace. I could be infested already without being cognizant of that reality. I sealed myself up. 

The Feelings became oppressive in my isolation, but logic and resolve continued as well. A question came to me in my isolation: how can the Menace move so quickly? From one day to the next a complete change had come over my neighbor. From my dwelling, I investigated. My first place to look was the time keepers. They were accurate. Then, I reasoned that perhaps my idea about length is incorrect. I proceeded to calculate figures about time and space, focusing on the difference in time between the Homeworld time keeper and the progress of time on this colony.

I have discovered something important. The time keeper on the Homeworld is insufficient for this colony – a blasphemy. This is, therefore, a corrupt colony, for it cannot abide by the Homeworld’s protocols. The infestation, the Menace were able to take over because the length of days on this colony do not align with the length of days on the Homeworld. According to my calculations, one day on this colony is over five years on the Homeworld. A unit resting its system was in danger of being destroyed by the Menace without our knowledge. The Menace took advantage of our ignorance – a second blasphemy.

Knowledge of the discrepancy between time on the Homeworld and time on the colony must be brought before the Governing Coders, perhaps even the Administrator herself. This colony is corrupt, we should never have come here. It is incompatible, insufficient, and incongruous with our kind, per Homeworld protocols.

I request removal from this colony, immediately.

End Transmission.

Soli Deo Gloria (Yes, even a bit a fiction writing is for God’s glory)

How to Pray More

“I don’t care what you say, talk to me.”

Any one know the reference? It’s a song from the musical Bye Bye Birdie, of all things. Where the protagonist is singing to the woman he loves, begging her to just talk to him. The few lines I remember from the song are always what pop into my head whenever I read a book or article about prayer, or when I hear someone teaching on prayer, and how we should be praying more (it always seems like we can be doing more).

This picture of the man begging his lover to “just talk to him” is what hits me about the song and how it relates to prayer. This really is God’s view of prayer. It is the means by which his people, his beloved, talk to him.

This is one of our first pictures together while on a short term missions trip to Italy.

What lover doesn’t want their beloved to talk to them? As a mom of four kids, I am always stealing away moments to talk to my husband. Talking to him is what I literally stay up late to do. I can’t get enough of the guy! Even with my busy days of babies, cleaning, homework, and making dinner.

If I spend so much time and energy talking to my beloved who is here, and who loves me imperfectly, should I not also have the same excitement to talk to my Beloved who loves me perfectly? I should, and I want to, then why is prayer so hard? Why do so many Christians find prayer hard?

Well, I cannot speak to everyone, but I can speak to what my problem is. For me it is an issue of habit. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.

I fall out of the habit of talking. I am introverted by nature, so it is easy for me to stay in my head and not talk. It is easy to not talk. I know not everyone is like this. Perhaps for you there is something you need to talk to your spouse, or parent, or friend about, but for some reason you can’t. You maybe find it easy to talk about sports, a favorite TV show, how your kids are doing, but not about it (whatever it is). The main thing you have been meaning to bring up, just never happens. Why? I think it’s because we stick to what is normal, what is easy, what is comfortable, and we don’t make new habits of talking. Talking to different people, talking about deeper things, talking about the things of God, or talking to God. It’s simple to change, we just start talking regularly, but it isn’t easy. (I have a theory that simple things are never easy, but that’s for another post.)

For me, I had fallen out of the habit of praying because it was never really a habit of mine to begin with. For those who don’t know my story, here’s the short version: while I grew up in a Christian home, and even made some kind of profession of faith, I didn’t truly give myself over to Christ’s Lordship and have a saving faith of my own until I was in college. I got married right after college, and became a mom a year after that. So, life progressed quickly for me, and there are lots of habits (whether in the home, or in my heart) I never developed. Prayer is one of them.

So, I’ve started anew. I’ve started setting up routines, times, and places for me to pray regularly. That word is key: regularly.

Here’s what I do to make sure I pray.

How to Pray Regularly:

  1. Pick a Time – For me this is during Jesse’s first, or second, morning nap. I sit in my nursing chair, read my bible, and pray. I use my bible reading to direct my prayers.
  2. Pick a Place – As I said above, I pray in my nursing chair. It’s my quiet place. It’s in my room, away from the rest of the house. The older kids can, and do, come to me there, but are always quiet and cautious to not wake the baby, which makes it a good place for Mommy to have some quiet time with God.
  3. Pick an Object – This is something I’ve picked up from a couple different places, but specifically from the tradition of prayer quilts. I was first introduced to the concept of prayer quilts years ago when my Nana got very sick. She was given a prayer quilt from some of her friends who had prayed for her using the quilt while she was in the hospital. A prayer quilt has strings on the top of it and people can gather around it and as they pray they tie the strings in to knots, one knot equaling one prayer. I really like the tactile nature of this tradition. I have adjusted it by using objects I use in my everyday life to be memorials of prayer.
    • My first object is my mug. I hold my mug with both hands, feeling the warmth from the hot tea (or coffee) and that feeling slows down my mind. I close my eyes and I pray. Right there with my mug in my hands.
    • My second object is a pair of earrings. Almost six years ago, a friend of mine was in the process of adopting an embryo. She had also made these earrings. Once we found out one of the embryos she and her husband had adopted had successfully implanted, I wore those earrings. I wore them nearly everyday for her whole pregnancy, and every time I put them in my ears I prayed for her, her husband, and the baby growing within her. (That little embryo is now a healthy, happy, five year old and dear friend of my children.) Someone in my life recently shared with me they are trying to conceive their first child and are finding it a bit discouraging. I’m wearing the earrings again.
  4. Pick Requests – I currently have one prayer request I am praying for every day. I don’t keep a list of prayer requests, mostly because I don’t have time, yet, to dedicate to praying through the list. However, whenever someone gives me a request, I pray for it right then in the moment.

Bonus points:

It takes discipline. I didn’t want to hear this, and I know this is hard (see, I told you! Simple but hard.) You have to choose to pray instead of doing something else. You have to take the time away from something else and pray. It’s totally worth it! But you have to do it.

You are not alone. God wants. you to pray, and he helps you to pray. This has been the most amazing part of creating a habit of prayer, for the Christian, this is more than a habit, it’s sanctification. Creating a habit of prayer makes you more like Christ.

Have you ever heard the advice “pray until you pray” when trying to develop your habit of prayer? I have, so often! It’s the idea that you should begin doing the thing before your feelings are in it, or even when your feelings aren’t in it. I didn’t really understand this, or how it could work until I read C. S. Lewis’ version of it. He uses the analogy of tin soldiers playing pretend at being real, that this is what Christians are doing essentially at playing to be like Jesus, except that he is beside us, helping us, and making us more real, and less tin (basically, the process of sanctification).

“Now the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God… You see what is happening. The Christ Himself, the Son of God who is a man (just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your pretence in to reality… The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn your into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe, into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the. part that is still tin.”

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis

It’s a Process

What I take from the above quote, and from encouragement from scripture in general, is to keep going. Don’t give up if you’ve missed a few days or weeks, or whatever. Just pick up where you left on, or begin anew. God is always waiting to talk to his children. He loves it. It wants it.

I think it’s also helpful, and hopeful, to remember what Jesus said about prayer. He never said “if you pray, pray like this…”. Instead, he always said “when you pray…”. So do it. Just pray. Yes, it may be fumbling and awkward at first, that’s how conversations usually go when you haven’t spoken in a while. It’s normal. Just start talking with God.

I hope you are encouraged by some of my tips to get started praying, again or for the first time.

Soli Deo Gloria