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I’m feeling writer’s block after the fifth day in a row of posting here. My daughter is napping and I know that at any minute she might wake up and then my chance to write will be over. So what to write about? I have a few topics that keep coming to mind but I don’t know if I feel like writing publicly about them at the moment…

During my time in Portland I felt like I was living in a Christian bubble. It’s odd that this could happen in Portland, Oregon, but somehow it did. I ended up going to graduate school at a Christian university, then teaching at a Christian elementary school, then working in the office at a Christian high school. Our social life mainly consisted of going to church events and hanging out with people we met from church. So poof, Christian bubble created.

Is it healthy to live in a Christian bubble, where everyone has the same religious beliefs as you? Well probably not, especially when the surrounding community is very non-religious. But I don’t know where else I would have really made friends, since it takes me awhile to get to know people. Still this is pretty much the opposite of my growing up years, when I hardly knew anyone who went to church. So maybe it was important for me to have this experience.

I think a lot of Christians probably end up in this situation because it is really just easier to be friends with people who are similar to yourself. Also you tend to hang out with the people who are around you. In college, I found myself hanging out mostly with other Christians because I wasn’t interested in drinking and partying, which is a lot of what college social life is about.

Well my little darling has awakened so I guess it’s time to push the publish button. What about you? Do most of your friends have the same religious beliefs as you? Do you wish you had a more diverse group of friends?

 

 

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After 7 years of marriage and almost 10 years of being in a relationship with my husband, I think I can articulate our main source of conflict: Household chores. Basically I am a Type A, Carpe Diem, task-oriented person. I often view life as a to-do list and I like to accomplish as much as possible. My husband is more laid back and likes to put off tasks that he finds unpleasant.

I think it is great that God brought us together because we can help balance each other out. I mean, who really wants to hang out with someone who always thinks of life a to-do list? It could be kind of annoying…which is probably why I don’t have that many friends (Haha, well actually I am blessed to have some very wonderful friends in spite of my character flaws). He can help me relax and I can help him focus and get things done. But it often becomes a source of conflict because I get stressed out when tasks are not completed. For the last four or so years my husband has often worked on weekend mornings, and I typically use Saturday mornings to do a lot of chores. I like getting things done at the beginning of the weekend so that I have the rest of the weekend free to have fun.

When my husband does have a weekend off, he usually likes to relax on Saturday mornings. This is understandable since his job is very physically demanding and he works a lot of hours. But it conflicts with my preferred way of doing things, so I often end up arguing with him tasks that need to be accomplished. Clearly getting into an argument is unproductive for various reasons. So, I’ve decided that if it’s important to my happiness to clean on Saturday morning, then I will clean on Saturday morning. My husband can and should relax if that’s what he wants to do. He does contribute around the house and I know he will continue to do so…it just may not always be on the exact time schedule that I prefer. That is okay. After 7 years I’ve realized, I would rather let it go than waste time and energy arguing about it. So perhaps I am a slow learner.

This is part of living in community. You don’t always get things done exactly the way you’d like them to be. If I lived alone, my mess would be my own and I could clean it when I wanted. I wouldn’t be wakened in the night by my daughter and I wouldn’t have to share my space with my husband’s golf clubs, wine collection and pool cue. (And he wouldn’t have to share his space with my book collection). But I would be lonely. Living in community is messy and complicated but I strongly believe that God’s intention for us is to live in community. I’m blessed to have my husband and our little daughter to live with. And now we also have my grandmother and my parents living within 5 minutes of us. Four generations of family. It goes so against the “I can do it myself” American spirit of individualism. But it seems just right. So as little Marie would say, “Amen.”

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhenry/121508919/”>Liz Henry</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 

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Prayer is not given much credit in our culture. “I’ll pray for you” can often be just a kind thing you say to someone when their life isn’t going well. And yet, according to a 2007* Pew Research Study, 58% of U.S. adults pray at least once a day, while only 18% say that they seldom or never pray. Over the years, my views on prayer have changed. I used to think of it more as a way of wishing out loud. Please God, if you even exist at all, will you do this for me? Now I think of prayer as a chance to talk to God as well as a somewhat magical and mysterious way of helping things come to pass.

A few weeks ago my pastor, AJ, came up to me at church and asked if there was anything he could pray for me about. He said he felt like he was supposed to come talk to me. And I said, “Well, I’m doing alright, but you could pray that we would find new jobs in Eugene so we can move down there.” So he prayed.

Later that week I talked to his wife Quinn and she said, “Man, we’ve been praying for you guys. Every night.” My friends Katie and Holly also told me they were praying for us that week.

And bam — suddenly my husband started getting job offers. He turned two down because of low pay. Then he called a golf course superintendent he knows to see if they might be hiring. We knew the odds were basically nonexistent because golf season is over. But the super called him back the next day and said he was needing to hire someone immediately to be his assistant. Spencer accepted the job and has already started — we’re now in the process of moving to Eugene.

When prayers are answered, we can always chalk it up to coincidence or our own efforts. Well of course I got that job, you might think. I went to YaleOr you might say, I guess I was in the right place at the right time. But I believe that this door was opened as a result of prayer, pure and simple. (Although my husband is very qualified and competent). How many other good things have happened in my life as a result of prayer? My healthy daughter. My caring husband. The fact that I even have friends and family who are willing to take the time to pray for me.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered. Or rather, God answers, but not in a way that we like. In fact, we’ve been praying for years that Spencer would get a promotion or a different job and that we could find a better living situation. Apparently God’s answer was for us to wait. And wait.

I think sometimes God makes us wait for things in order to build our character. A good parent knows that you don’t immediately give your child everything they ask for. God wants us to learn to be patient and to learn to trust and depend on Him**.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he said,

“This then is how you should pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we have forgiven those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6: 9-13; emphasis mine)

I feel like God has been teaching me to make fewer plans and be more open to change. Although I may want to make a five year plan for my life, sometimes God just wants to give us our daily bread. We still have things to figure out. We need an apartment. I need a part-time job. We’ll need daycare. We’d like to buy a house if possible. So we continue to pray, give us today our daily bread.

What do you think about prayer? Have your prayers been answered? Or not?

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* Well, I know 2007 is awhile ago but that’s the most recent study I found on Google.

** (or Her — I don’t believe that God has a gender, though for simplicity I will normally just refer to God as masculine to adhere to cultural norms).

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/5397244948/”>Ian Sane</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

I almost got a teaching job last week. The principal loved my resume so much that he drove a half an hour to my apartment to personally drop off the application, since he didn’t have it in a Word document. I spent several hours filling out the application and my husband got off work early so I could go to the interview.

I was excited about the possibility of getting the job. It would greatly increase our income (duh). We might have been able to buy a house, or at least afford a nicer rental. It would have been fulfilling, and intellectually stimulating.

But. School starts in a couple weeks. Not much time to find quality childcare for my little darling. And the cost of childcare for a child under the age of 2? Between $800 -$1500 per month. I don’t know exactly what they would have paid me, probably about $3000/month during the school year. I also would have left the house around 7 a.m. each day and gotten home around 5 p.m., and then had to work more at home on evenings and weekends. That wouldn’t leave me much time or energy left for Baby Bear.

Thinking about all this made me feel anxious. I remembered that I used to get stress headaches every day when I was a teacher. And that was before I had my own child, back when I got excellent sleep every night. Still I showed up to the interview and gave it my best shot. I figured I’d leave this decision up to God.

After the interview, I started to sense that it was not God’s plan for me to take the job. I kept thinking about my daughter and how I would never be able to regain this time with her. Apparently the hiring team felt the same way, because they offered the position to another candidate. The principal called me the next morning and said it was a tough decision and that they really liked me. I felt a deep sense of relief — my summer vacation continues!

But our cash flow situation remains a problem. I’m trying to find work writing, editing and tutoring. So God, would you help us out? As Anne Lamott would say, I’m awaiting your operating instructions. Thanks in advance.

 

 

I’ve been attending my church’s women’s bible study for a few months. For whatever reason, I’m the only married woman who attends. We were chatting about Facebook, and I mentioned that I don’t like to look at Facebook too often because it tends to make me feel bad about myself.

“But what could you have to be jealous of?” asked one of the younger women. “You’re married and you have a baby.”

I was slightly taken aback by this comment, and could’ve given her a list of things I might be jealous of. People with dishwashers, for example. The feminist part of me bristles a bit at the implications of that statement — as if women should aspire to nothing more than being wives and mothers.

And yet — maybe she’s right. It is so easy to take for granted the blessings that are in our lives every day. While it’s true that I don’t have the money or the career that I thought I would have at age 29, I do have a few good things. A healthy, beautiful, sweet daughter who adores me. A kind, smart, handsome husband who is an amazing chef. An apartment in a great Portland neighborhood. No debt. Faith in God. A graduate degree. Friends and family nearby. Memories of trips to Europe and Hawaii.

Well, when you put it that way my life seems pretty good. Maybe Facebook doesn’t need to make me feel bad about myself after all.

 

How did I survive the first few weeks with a new baby? How does anyone?

My friend Courtney was visiting when Baby Bear was about three weeks old. I told her that we hadn’t been sleeping much, but things had improved since the first week when we hadn’t slept more than a few hours a day.

Didn’t you start hallucinating? she asked.

One would think! According this article I found on the Internet (so we know it’s true!), some side effects of prolonged sleep deprivation include hallucinations, temporary insanity and sometimes death.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t hallucinate, although at times I did feel like I might die. Some things that helped me through the craziness were my husband, our moms, and our amazing friends who brought us meals for the first week. Homemade brownies and lasagna can help you through anything. As can love.

Baby Bear was born on a Saturday, after a night of no sleep.  When we finally got to go home on Monday afternoon, I had still hardly slept despite my extreme exhaustion. The lactation consultant was very clear that I needed to feed her every 3 hours from beginning of feeding to the next. So, if I started feeding her at 8 and finished at 8:45, I would have to make sure to feed her again at 11. That doesn’t leave much opportunity for sleep in between.

I was also still exhausted just from the birth itself. So tired in fact, it took about all my strength just to stand. And I’d experienced some tearing complications that had me on Vicodin and generally feeling awful.

Additionally, we had appointments for Baby Bear every day that first week. She had jaundice and was having problems breastfeeding. So we had two pediatrician visits, two lactation consultant visits, and two trips to the hospital for bilirubin tests.

On Wednesday, they determined she had lost a little more than 10% of her birth weight, which is a red flag for jaundice. So the lactation consultant put us on an even crazier regime where every 2 1/2 hours I had to breastfeed her, then Spencer would feed her breastmilk from a tube while I pumped breastmilk.

On Thursday we both had a meltdown and I called my mother-in-law and asked her to come spend the night. She came, did laundry and dishes, and took over Spencer’s tube feeding duties so that he at least could get some sleep.

Somewhere around Saturday I started having REM sleep again. I’d gone that whole week without dreaming, but I became so exhausted that I would sink into a deep sleep during each brief break between feeding the little one.

On Monday we went back to the lactation consultant, and she still had not gained much weight. I couldn’t believe it after we had worked so hard. The nurse gave us a new plan, where I would breastfeed her and then Spencer would feed her from a bottle. The bottle was able to fit quite a bit more milk than tube we’d been using.

The next day we returned to her pediatrician to find that she had gained several ounces. Thank God! Of course, we had to keep feeding her constantly, but the whole situation was becoming slightly less stressful.

Things have continued to get easier, and now at 10 weeks, Baby Bear is in the 75th percentile for weight and 95th percentile for height. She goes to bed regularly around 10 p.m., and I get up with her around 3 a.m. to feed her. Usually she sleeps for a few more hours after that, although last night she declared a sleeping strike from about 3:30 – 5:30.

Now, she is napping peacefully. I still can’t believe how beautiful she is, with her long, dark eyelashes and little elf ears. It all seems like such a miracle. To have such a sweet, healthy baby. To get through a natural birth and weeks of sleeplessness. To have all of our needs provided for when I was so worried that they wouldn’t be. I don’t know how it all happened. I can only say, thank you thank you thank you.

Now maybe I should nap.

 

Mama and baby ducks.