Friday, September 28, 2007

Encouragement for Moms

It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, 'Who is that with you, young fella?' 'Nobody,' he shrugged. Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, 'Oh my goodness, nobody?'
I'm invisible.
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.
I'm invisible.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.
She's going. . . she's going. . . she's gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'
In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Mommies. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm back!!

I've recently switched to a new thyroid supplement and feel like I'm back in the land of the living! I've been taking naps everyday for YEARS, at least since my pregnancy with Lydia (2 1/2 now). I had most of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, but the fatigue was my biggest complaint. I remember lots of times when I wasn't able to get a nap for whatever reason and I would call Kyle crying: "I'm just so tired!"
I have been taking a thyroid supplement since the beginning of this year, and felt better but was still really dependent on those naps. No longer! I haven't taken a nap in 5 days now. It's amazing what all you can get done when you stay awake while the little ones sleep!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Never too old

I'm learning French! I figured out how to access Rosetta Stone foreign language program free through the library. I downloaded the program and now I can learn any language I want. How fun! The kids have been playing with it to learn Spanish, and I'm learning French. I figured it would help a lot with schooling. We've been reading a lot about Normandy and the history of France and I have no idea how to pronounce the names!
Now, when I'm reading Little Duke (about the young duke of Normandy) to them, I can at least sound like I know what I'm talking about. I was showing off for Kyle and said, "Look what I can say: Un garcon sous un avion!" He asked what that means and I translate: "The boy is under the airplane." Clearly, I'm learning very practical, conversational French.

If you haven't experienced Rosetta Stone, you simply must. It's quite addictive!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sacred Parenting

I've been reading and relishing this amazing book. Gary Thomas also wrote "Sacred Marriage" which had the most powerful subtitle: "What if marriage were designed to make us holy instead of happy?" I just loved that line. So very true! Marriages end because couples think it's all about their happiness. If that were the case, it's a miracle any of them last beyond the honeymoon! Marriage makes us more Christ-like. That, or we choose misery.

This book is the same concept for parenting. Either parenting makes us more like Christ, or we will be frustrated, considering our children, our gifts from God, a burden.

The world says that children are a burden, a thing to endure until they are 18 and can leave the nest. How depressing! Here Mr. Thomas explains the sacredness of parenting:

Why does parenting offer such a potent pathway to personal growth and reflection? The process of raising children requires skills that God alone possesses, and we are decidedly not God. . . . parenting regularly reminds us of our absolute humanity. We do not love perfectly, as God loves. God uses these children to shape us, spiritually speaking.

In order to be great parents, or to raise kids for greatness, we must rely on God. He alone possesses the traits parenting requires. "Ask and you it shall be given unto you. . . " If the Holy Spirit isn't parenting through us, all our efforts will fall short.

I remember early in my parenting journey, coming to the overwhelming realization that I cannot teach my children any virtue that I do not possess. Unless I have integrity myself, I can't teach my children how to have integrity.

Children are our greatest blessings, simply because they draw us closer to God.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Back from Colorado!

(This picture of the Clarks' Cabin, taken from the driveway.)
We just got back from a relaxing vacation in the mountains. The kids had a fantastic time playing, hiking, exploring, fishing, horseback riding, and just hanging out with their cousins - Max, Ainsley, and baby Lillian. Maya cried the night before we left. She didn't want to leave "Papa" and "Lela". They all really enjoyed spending so much quality time with their grandparents.
We went with my sister, Jamie, her husband, Mike, and their kiddos. It was so fun for Kyle and I to have our good friends with us to enjoy it all. We played games every night, took walks together, and spent a lot of time on the balcony just enjoying the weather. So many times on our walks, I would just pray: "Lord, what you have made is so BEAUTIFUL!" Colorado truly is beautiful country. God is so creative!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Isaac's Karate Class

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Isaac has karate class. It's called Karate in the Park and it's a class for homeschoolers. The instructor and his wife are both ex-military and they are fantastic! While Mr. Parrack instructs the kids in Tae Kwon Do, Mrs. Parrack heads up a workout for the moms. She's hard core! It's really tough, but despite the pain, I'm enjoying the challenge.

(He doesn't normally smile during his kicks, but he saw my camera. . .)I love taking pics of Isaac's friend and classmate, Jacob, the son of my good friend, Gretchen. When he's focused, his tongue sticks out. (Every single one of the pics I took were just like this!) This is a trait from my side of the family. He could've been a Gillespie!
When the mommy workout is over, we head to the playground or to the pond to feed the ducks. We always make it back in time to watch Isaac test. He has so many fans!

When we get home, we're all sweaty, so it's bathtime for all. (I only took pics of the cutest ones. Oh my goodness, did I just say that? I meant the littlest.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Nature Study

Yesterday the kids found this in the backyard. They weren't sure what it was but figured it was related to a grasshopper. With a confused look on her face, Elena asked me if it was a brown grasshopper. I looked it up in my handy dandy Handbook of Nature Study and we learned all about the katydid.
The kids gathered up leaves and a few flowers for their new pet, Thumbelina the Katydid. Maya quickly removed the back legs so he couldn't hop away, thus forcing him to be their pet. (This is a trick she learned in Liberia. Apparently kids make pets of hopping creatures all the time in hot Liberia.) I just raised my eyebrows and kept my mouth shut as she told me about the surgery she'd just performed.
After breakfast this morning, the kids ran outside to check on Thumbelina, who was practically right where they left her, handicapped as she was. In the past hour or so, they've played with her, built a house and fort for her, created a mini-swimming pool for her. . .
One katydid = hours of fun! Who knew?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Miracle Girl

I said earlier that many of the families who adopt from Liberia, adopt to save a life. Here is one precious girl whose destiny changed completely.
I was explaining to my kids last night about name changes. Elena had been talking about Saul's change on the way to Damascus. She retold the story and then asked why his name changed to Paul. I explained that in the Bible when a person's destiny changed, God changed their name. I told them that's why we changed Maya, Isaac, and Daniel's names.
This little girl's destiny and name changed as well. I had been following her story closely on the Acres of Hope yahoo group that I've been a part of since the beginning of our adoption journey. (Acres of Hope is the adoption agency we used.) Her name was Mama and she suffered from caustic ingestion. This is a common problem in Liberia. It comes from drinking lye, which is a colorless, odorless chemical that looks just like water. A thirsty Liberian child picks up a glass bottle for a drink and is permanently damaged. Lye burns and shrinks the esophagus, making it impossible to eat anything by mouth. Because Mama wasn't able to get the medical treatment she needed, she was starving. Now that she has been adopted by a loving family, her destiny has changed. She is now Ruby, a thriving, joyful young girl with a new lease on life.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Splashing Good Time

What's better than splashing in water on a hot summer day?? We spent a good portion of our summertime at the Splash Park, many times with my sister's kids: Max, Ainsley, and baby Lillian. We'd start early on schoolwork and chores and then take off in our swimsuits with towels in hand.

Daniel did this over and over again. He, very unlike my girls, LOVES having water poured over his head!