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It’s easy to let fear take on more than its share of control in your life — especially when you’re a parent. Starting in pregnancy, the potential fears can be overwhelming. What if I miscarry? What if my baby has a disability? What if my baby is healthy but has a rare vaccine reaction and develops autism? What if….

The list of things to fear is endless. It can paralyze me if I let it.

When my daughter was about five months old she decided she was a tummy sleeper. She had the ability to roll from her back to her tummy, and every time I placed her on her back to sleep, she would roll over. Being the rational person I am, my response was complete panic. Despite the fact that she was five months old and could easily move her head, I assumed she would suffocate if she slept on her stomach. I flipped her over to her back each time, waking up as often as I could to check on her.

Obviously this was not a peak time for my mental health.

At some point I called the pediatrician, who assured me that if she was able to roll over on her own, her muscle control was good enough that stomach-sleeping wasn’t a concern. Whew! I could check a fear off my list.

Still, then and now, there are more things to fear, rational or not. Anxiety has been an on-and-off problem throughout my life. I once fainted after feeling a lump on my spine in the shower. Cancer. In fact, it was a small patch of infected skin.

I used to let fear hold me back from doing things. In high school, I wanted to try out for the cross-country team but I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough, and besides I didn’t really know the other kids on the team. I loved to sing and would’ve enjoyed being in the choir but in middle school the choir director hadn’t allowed me to participate, so I figured I wasn’t choir material.

What if I had continued to let fear prevent me from doing things I should be doing? What if I’d been too scared to volunteer to ride in that cute guy’s truck on the college trip to Sunriver? Ten years later, we’re married with a beautiful daughter. What if I’d been too scared to become a teacher? I would have missed out on two years of impacting the lives of fourth graders, and perhaps more yet to come. What if I’d been too scared to try to become a writer? Or more importantly, a mother?

I want to keep choosing to face my fears, and live life to the fullest each day. I want to, as Teddy Roosevelt said, choose to dare greatly in my life.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…who at best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….” — Teddy Roosevelt

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How have you struggled with fear in parenting or life in general? And, have you ever risked failure in order to achieve a goal?

photo credit: Celestine Chua via photopin cc

 

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A few of my favorite books.

A few of my favorite books.

As part of a recent Facebook game, I made a list of ten books — excluding The Bible — that have impacted me. I chose (in no particular order):

10 books that have influenced me

1. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
3. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
4. The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
5. The Poetry of Robert Frost
6. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
9. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Also, I’ll share my favorite book I’ve read this year. I’ve read a lot of good books so the competition is steep and maybe I’m slightly biased because I had the chance to meet this author and take a writing workshop from her, but here it is (drumroll):

Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love by Debra Gwartney

I was also inspired to reflect on movies I’ve watched. I’ve seen so many movies over the years that I found it impossible to make one Top 10 list, so I had to break it up by category. Again, these lists aren’t necessarily in any kind of meaningful order.

10 documentaries that entertained, inspired and/or influenced my thinking:

1. Lord Save us from Your Followers
2. What Would Jesus Buy?
3. Jesus Camp
4. Grizzly Man
5. Supersize Me
6. Food Inc.
7. Sicko
8. An Inconvenient Truth
9. Encounters at the End of the World
10. Blackfish (just finished watching this yesterday but it was very impacting — fascinating, informative, and highly disturbing all at once).

10 comedies that really made me laugh:

1. Sideways
2. Little Miss Sunshine
3. Juno
4. Stranger than Fiction
5. The Princess Bride
6. Pretty Woman (well it’s not that funny, but I can’t resist the storyline).
7. Say Anything (I love you young John Cusack)
8. Office Space
9. Zoolander (yes it’s a terrible movie, I know).
10. I Heart Huckabees

10 dramas that have either entertained, allowed a good cathartic cry or led to a deep phobia:

1. Lord of the Rings trilogy
2. American Beauty
3. Jurassic Park
4. Jaws (is it safe to get back in the water yet?)
5. Romeo & Juliet with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes
6. The Breakfast Club
7. In America
8. A Beautiful Mind
9. Good Will Hunting
10. Dangerous Minds (had to include an inspirational teacher movie)

What about you? What are some of the books and films that have most influenced and inspired you, have made you laugh the longest and cry the hardest?

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.