Brown Paper Packages

I love buying gifts for people. It’s one way that I express love. I enjoy getting to know someone and then thinking about the kind of item that would hold great meaning, evoke a laugh, cause their eyes to light up or even muster a few tears. I also very much enjoy wrapping presents. As Maria von Trapp sings, “brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things!” Though I usually expand my horizons past brown paper wrapping on most occasions.

Having a one year old who loves tissue paper has made this Christmas a wrapping adventure. I finally succeed in completing my present wrapping this week and now each item sits beautifully under the tree. I usually like to get my wrapping done with a few weeks to spare so that I can sit and admire all the festive colors and ribbons. As my eyes move from one present to the next, I think about the treasure inside and what the person’s reaction might be. Sometimes the reaction is quite amusing and very unanticipated. Then my mind travels to the memories that I have shared with that person and I eagerly await the opportunity to share time together again.

As someone who is not very open or transparent, gifts are my way of connecting and expressing. This is an area I hope to grow in, as I learn to get outside of my comfort zone. Gifts are a great relationship building tool, but they don’t always need to be tangible. The gifts of service, encouraging words and time, often mean more than a gift in pretty wrapping.

I was reminded today by someone’s wise words that one of the best gifts of Christmas is family and being grateful for the time we get to spend with them. Enjoy all the crazy, happy, messy moments this weekend as you celebrate and say a little prayer of thanks to our Heavenly Father for an opportunity to his sons and daughters.

You Almost Died!

I love how kids get right to the point, there is no beating around the bush. During one of my niece’s visits, she came through the door with great emotion and announced that she heard the story of how I almost died! Makes my life sound so epic.

This visit came to my mind as I spent time reading loving comments written about a young father who passed away unexpectedly from an infection. I didn’t know him or his family, but I can only imagine the pain. God never told us that life would be fair or easy, but that doesn’t make the unfair moments any easier.

James, Chapter 1 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It has so much truth and encouragement packed into one chapter, especially when navigating the tough times.

James 1:2-4 (HCSB) Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

As the end of the year approaches and we face stresses and challenges, remember that life is a work. We rise and we overcome – we grow. In order to grow we must face the risks, the pain and the obstacles. I have described cancer as staring death in the face and walking away. When I get to celebrate my growth and smile at the impact of my story, I am thankful for the work being done in me.

Being More

I know that raising a child from a newborn is only a small part of life as a parent but the year long struggle of interrupted sleep, constant feeding and complete lack of privacy or personal independence, it’s exhausting.

As parents, the comment that children are a gift from God and a bundle of joy is dependent on the timing that said comment is uttered. Actually, children are a test of patience, perseverance and logic that continues indefinitely and begins when you leave the hospital. Sure they are cute, wrinkly but they are also helpless and demanding.

Keeping a small human alive and well is not so much difficult as draining. Parenthood pushes you to the brink of what you can handle, but surprisingly you can handle more than you think. You may not be coherent some days, but you will survive and adapt. Each season in life teaches us something. Maybe parenthood is also about pushing yourself to do more and be more than you ever thought possible. Don’t underestimate what God can do through you.

In the Quiet

As much as I love my husband and my baby, I am often running on fumes. The thought of sleeping through the night without baby or my mind keeping me up seems as luxurious as a weekend at a 4 star hotel. If the ability to pause time was something I could buy on Amazon I would be ordering an extra large dose so that I could sleep, clean, sleep more and then sit and stare into nothingness with a caramel macchiato.

Every season in life has its challenges and glories that no other point in life will be able to replicate. All too often I find myself comparing this season to other people in my sphere and must remind myself that every journey is unique. No one experiences the same challenges or triumphs exactly as I do, it is the Krista expedition. A special pact between me and God with a few, key supporting characters and a lot of other people that I get to encounter along the way.

In the moments where my temper flairs, my feelings are pulverized, my attitude is a sack of rotten potatoes and the desire to keep moving forward is buried deep in a bowl of Haagen-Dazs double chocolate ice cream, its that still, small voice that gets me back up.

1 Kings 19:11-13 tells a story of the great prophet Elijah.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Other translations end verse 13 with, what are you doing here? In the midst of life’s chaos, what are you doing here Krista? It takes faith and commitment to survive life’s chaos. I am comforted knowing that God is there through it all, but especially in the quite. He gently directs my heart and confirms that it is all worth it.

Living Beyond Myself

Monday’s have changed so much for me in the past year. No longer do I have a ritual of setting my alarm, picking out clothes and packing my lunch on Sunday night. I don’t burn my retina as I flip on the light in the dark, early hours of Monday. Instead, I get a kiss on the forehead and a whisper telling me to go back to sleep. My day usually begins after the sun comes up, with a cry or a chorus of “da da da”. My attire has gone from smart casual to washable and pocketed. After feeding the dog, changing the baby and scarfing down something for breakfast I begin the juggling act of house work, work work and child preservation.

It’s been my vision for a number of years to reach this exact place in life – married, house, dog, child. There are things that I love about it and those that I do not. I am glad to be out of the dating game, especially during the holidays. I’m relieved to have a home and not a temporary space. Yet, I miss the freedom to travel and explore new cities. My dwelling space is rarely ever organized or completely clean, but it is never lonely either. I get considerable less sleep (and sometimes less bed), but I never have trouble dosing off at night. I have little time to myself or to pursue my interests, but I am developing a legacy.

For every one thing I feel like I am giving up, I am gaining something else. Some days are really hard and feel never ending. My house teeters back and forth from a sanctuary to a chaotic prison. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the opportunities in my life at present. I have the opportunity to love and be loved, to nurture and teach and to grow in patience and positive attitude. All these things push me to live outside my comfort zone, but they also push me to examine God at work in my life.

Living the Moments

Colleen celebrated her first birthday a month ago. I have decided that I have OPD – obsessive planning disorder. I have to plan something at all times, even if it is just a battle plan through Kroger for groceries. The days leading up to the big event are always stressful as my perfectionism kicks in. Perfectionism and young children do not go together well, I might add.

B-day arrived and it all went so lovely. Colleen enjoyed her guests and the festivities, much to my relief as she’s not big on people outside of her two parent radius. The decorations were beautiful and the food delicious. When the day was said and done, I didn’t take one picture. I trusted that the guests would take care of this task for me and instead I enjoyed the moments. Whether or not each detail got documented doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. I took it all in with my eyes and was satisfied.

We live in a day of instant. Sometimes things can’t be captured in a photograph or camera, you have to live them. It does help when you have a guest who is an amazing photographer, but regardless, it was about living in the moment. I love the pictures that my guests took and it’s the fun, imperfections that often have the best memories. I made a big deal out of year #1 for my baby girl and chances are it will not happen again until her golden birthday (which is #18). In many ways this first birthday was more than celebrating Colleen, it was celebrating all the people who have contributed to her life.

I know the next year will bring many new adventures and I look forward to living them with my feisty, curious little girl.

Extrovertabe

Being an introvert has its advantages. I have utilized my quiet nature to observe, analyze and assess. How do I always know what to get people for their birthday? I’m always listening. Ok, that’s sounds creepy. The truth is that being on the less vocal side of group conversations allows for greater reception of information. Obviously this doesn’t always work with one on one convos. Things would get boring very quickly if I never participated. Being an introvert has helped me become a better listener. I muster up enough outward energy to make a friend and then I sit back and listen. I learn a lot about people and life this way and I find it most enjoyable.

Being an introvert also means that I find relaxation through non-social interactions, especially ones that do not require me to go outside of my comfort zone. If you want to see an introvert shrivel up and die, make them to do something they have no confidence or knowledge in, with a group of people they don’t know, and they will shrink faster than Dorothy throwing water on the wicked witch.

There is a strange side effect that occurs as an introvert. It’s called the extrovertabe syndrome. It is the intense desire to take the fascinating person trapped in our brains and plaster it to the front of us like a cardboard cutout. This way we can be daring, carefree, exciting and impulsive all while being immune to the intense fear inside of us. Unfortunately this syndrome is a common recurrence for many introverts. We so desperately desire to get out of our own heads, to be able to communicate without hesitation, to act without careful calculation of every move. We try, oh we try to be more than our turtle selves. We push until we hit the wall. You know what I’m talking about – that wall that sends you into your closest with a pillow, blanket and bag of M&M’s.

I’m glad that the world is full of extroverts and introverts, we push each other to be more than what comes easily. To all my extrovert friends, thanks for helping me get out of my closet and my head. To all my introvert friends, thanks for screaming along with me as we explore the world on the other side of our front door.

A Distant Blessing

Writing for me has always been a form of therapy. There is something satisfying about turning all of my swirling thoughts into a tangible work. I started this year with a goal of writing something once per month. Why I thought this was likely to happen, I really don’t know. I may have left my daily office job for bibs and diapers but my amount of free time has anything but increased. Life with a 6 month old baby and 1 year old puppy is in constant motion with little sleep. I foresee my midlife crises being the need for an amazing bed and sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.

At some point in my recent hours of half consciousness a phrase came to my mind – a distant blessing. I have no other words to describe this current phase of my life, especially as I often find myself falling asleep while sitting still. Yet, so often these three words fit points in life. It the difficult moments it can be hard to keep our situations in perspective. Distant blessings can seem much too illusive and distant to emotionally hold on to. As we push on through the struggle, I think it’s our past successes that remind us of the triumph or just plain relief that lies ahead. God thoughtfully gave us the gift of memory to encourage and inspire us on to victory.

As Ecclesiastes 3 says, to everything there is a season. I look forward to future joys and know that without the trying moments I would not enjoy the happy ones near as much.

It’s Only Water

With small children, there is never such a thing as having a plan for the day. My mixing bowl full of muffin ingredients had been sitting on the counter gelifying as the healthy oatmeal I added so thoughtfully had begun to absorb all liquid in the batter. The baby was no longer happy to play on the floor with her toys and the dog was incessantly begging to go outside and partake in the beautiful weather. I figured at this point what would a few more minutes hurt the muffin batter.

So, I embraced my inner monkey and managed to scoop up the Bumbo with my foot and headed out the back door. I now see that I made the very critical error of bringing the baby outside first. As I dashed back inside to grab a bag of frisbees and a hat for the baby, a great wailing came from outside. My baby had realized she was now all alone. Thankfully, after a few moments of consolation her alligator tears ceased and frisbee playing could commence. My dog happily flew through the air after her favorite toy and after a rather hard crash into the grass it looked like I had thoroughly tired out the pooch. I thought that I might now get to take a breather and sit in the grass next to my little one. It was at this moment that I noticed mosquitoes swarming my dog. A deep fear began to rise from within as I realized my poor child had been sitting stationary in the grass. I quickly gathered up our things and dashed inside only to be followed by said evil flying creature.

I was on high alert, but after no sightings of the mosquito, I lit a few citronella candles and hoped for the best. On my way to fill up the dogs water bowl I glanced over at my little one who was happily playing in her highchair only to see a mosquito the size of Mississippi on top of her head. My arm attempted to stretch across the dining room table and as I ran to squish the living daylights out of this evil creature, I did not think about the glass of water that I was sitting down on the highchair. As the mosquito and I entered into battle, I heard a loud clunk beneath me and soon felt a cold sensation pelting my shirt. The shock on my baby’s face, from the recent tidal wave that had soaked her, quickly turned to delight as she realized her tray was now full of a liquid substance.

Realizing that there was really nothing else I can do at this point, I let her play and splash and returned to my neglected muffins. The highchair and surrounding floor are now cleaner and the water provided such an excellent source of entertainment that I may have to do it again. Oh, and the muffins turned out moist and delicious.

Perspective

Sometimes in life we have so much emotion we cannot express ourselves. Today I find myself staring at yet another dead end. Finding the motivation to pick myself up and head back up the trail in pursuit of success is becoming more difficult with each passing day. I lament to myself that all I want is for a door to open, for the opportunity to grasp onto normalcy again. If I speak honestly though, I realize that my heart desires a specific lifestyle. My mind is focused on my mental picture of normalcy and perfection.

In this moment I must ask myself what am I truly asking for? What is it that I am refusing to compromise over? It is not wrong to want to avoid struggle and strife. It is not wrong to desire for release from worry. It is not wrong to desire more than just enough financially. However, if these things become more important than my faith, then I fear sin has won the day.

The weight of paying bills is daunting and I cringe every time I open the mailbox. Yet, I am given small reminders of my inward focus. I look at my perfect baby girl and then I read a story of a young child who lost her arm to cancer. I wake in the morning frustrated at another day of leftovers and then I hear of refugees starving in their plight for freedom. I become impatient with my husband and then I see the uniform hanging in his closet and think of all the wives currently counting down the days until the deployment is over.

Life is difficult, unfair, frustrating, discouraging and heartbreaking but it is also a gift. Perspective changes everything.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.