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Posted on Jun 10, 2013 in Parenting | 7 comments

Things Have Changed

Things Have Changed

Showing my baby the beautiful world God made

Showing my baby the beautiful world God made

Wow.  Life as a stay-at-home wife and mother is very different from when I was a career-woman.  I prayed and prayed for God to give me the opportunity to do just what I’m doing this morning – waking up around 8am to the sound of my baby stirring (rather than a screaming alarm), nursing her, getting her settled, then making breakfast for myself.  After she goes back down for her morning nap, I drink a leisurely cup of coffee, read the Proverb of the day, and sit down to write.  Ahhh…

But what I didn’t write up there is that I was up most of the night with an inexplicably awake and unhappy baby, too young to tell me what the problem is.  Her dad and I (God bless that man) took turns with her so neither one got too frustrated, but we got very little sleep even when the other was on duty.  Who can sleep when your baby is crying?  She’s normally an excellent sleeper, so this night was rare.  But I was extremely thankful to lay her back down again this morning for her nap.  I thought I might take one of my own, but my mind has turned on and for now it won’t be shut down.

I compare nights like last night to the days when I was under a big deadline at work or dealing with a difficult situation that required my attention long after I left the office.  There were times I was so tired and frustrated with work that I just cried, wishing for a husband to put his arms around me and provide comfort and strength.  I wished for someone else to carry the burden of the mentally ill woman who needed intervention before she injured herself or someone else.

I would’ve gladly given up a night of sleeplessness to care for a precious child if it meant I didn’t need to sit in long meetings with people who listened to my ideas with blank stares, discussed other options for an hour, then clapped their hands at the brilliance of the idea when a male co-worker brought it back up again as his own.  Jaw hanging open, head shaking in frustration, I silently marveled at these “modern thinkers”, quick to say that women were equal to men, who were so blatantly biased.  It’s very tempting to make a list here of all the unjust things that happened while I was building my career, but I probably shouldn’t even have acknowledged the first thing on the list, so I suppose I will just end with:  Thank You, God, for a crying baby!

Back in my "women's pastor' daysEven with the memories of injustice and frustration, I have to admit that there are struggles I face today as I sit here with my hair in an untidy knot on the top of my head, in my husband’s sweatshirt, badly in need of a manicure, pedicure, teeth-whitening treatment, and spray tan, nothing even remotely resembling a suit in my closet…  There was a sense of pride I didn’t even realize I got from getting fixed up every day for work, hair in place, makeup done, nicely dressed, going to a beautiful office.

It was a burden to constantly manage my appearance, but I enjoyed hearing how nice I looked, getting double takes from guys in the grocery store, and having the time, energy, and resources to focus on my appearance.  There is no point in getting fixed up right now.  When the baby wakes, we’ll go outside for a long walk complete with bug spray and the incessant winds in this flat farmland.  I’ll hoe the flower bed, bleach some clothes, and maybe mop the floors.  It makes more sense to take a shower at the end of the day when the work is done, but why get fixed up to go to bed?  It is a DIFFERENT world.

I’ve come up with a few tricks to help keep my balance though.  Even though my husband tells me I’m beautiful and often reminds me that there’s no reason to put on a bunch of makeup just to work around the house, I have to look at myself in the mirror and deal with my reflection.  While I’ve become much more accepting of my reflection over the years (trying so hard to love the imperfectness that makes me unique), there are some things that just look better with a little paint!

For all you naturalists out there, let me remind you that wearing makeup goes all the way back to at least the ancient Egyptians!  And back then men wore it too.  We paint barns, manicure our lawns, put flowers in front of our mailboxes, and trim our nails, but we don’t think our faces need anything other than a good scrubbing?  A little makeup isn’t the problem.  Someone with no makeup can put on a mask just as easily as someone who spent hours fixing up their face.  And for all of you who can’t imagine walking around for an hour without your makeup and hair done, just in case a neighbor stops you as you walk out to get the mail, shew!  Relax a little.

"The Look" these days while I spend time with my baby

“The Look” these days while I spend time with my baby

It’s tempting as a homemaker to stay in my pajamas all day, but I really try to get dressed every day.  (That did not happen so much when I was preggo/sicko.)  My career clothes have given way to yoga pants, t-shirts, and pretty much nothing that doesn’t have some spandex in it.  I wear tennis shoes, flip flops, or just got barefoot.  But still, I am dressed in something other than what I slept in.

I put on earrings, a necklace, and my wedding ring.  After I finish writing, I’ll brush my hair, put it up in a neat ponytail (resisting the urge to cut it all off), brush my teeth, wash my face, moisturize, deodorize, and put on some perfume.

As for makeup, that has been a struggle for me.  I wear good makeup and it takes a while to apply it.  Then I work and get sweaty and it all gets wiped off.  So I have come up with a routine that works for me.  Over the years I’ve collected all kinds of makeup – drug store brands that aren’t quite right but aren’t worth throwing away either, free samples of department store brands, leftover makeup that wasn’t gone enough to throw away but whose case got broken.  I’m amazed at how much of this makeup I have.

I keep my “good” makeup in a special bag I can grab on the go, so I’ve put my second-rate makeup all together in the medicine cabinet where it stays put.  I’ve figured out the very basic stuff I need to feel presentable and I try to at least put on the basics each day.  For me, that’s SPF20 tinted moisturizer, blush, and SPF40 lip gloss (I’ve had skin cancer in the last year and that will make even the biggest sun-lover slather up the sunscreen).  From there, if I have time, I add a little eye makeup.

This routine has really helped keep my skin clear, use up makeup that has been sitting around for a long time, and kept me feeling better when I look in the mirror. Also, I’ve taken all the leftover and sample bits of powder, bronzer, and blush, crushed them up, and mixed them together in a jar.  I apply that with a brush when I want more coverage and it works great.

I’ve also decided that those crazy colors that I saw on someone else and thought would look good on me (teal green eyeliner – what was I thinking?), but just scare me, can be used by kids as crayons, paint, or play makeup.  This routine also makes me happy because it’s more economical (good makeup is expensive) and is helping me get rid of stuff that was just taking up space.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s become obvious to me that moisturizer is very, very important.  And holy cow, good moisturizer is expensive!  I could take a bath in the stuff, but I read somewhere that it’s less important to use the good stuff every single day, twice a day (like they tell you to), and more important to use it “regularly.”  I also saw somewhere that some dermatologists suggest alternating between heavy and light moisturizers, and to be careful about over-exfoliating.

So I’ve gathered all the free samples of moisturizer, exfoliation, and masks I’ve accumulated over the years (who knows how I come into all this stuff?) and started to use it up.  I use the good stuff right after I get out of the shower, but every other time I wash my face I use the other stuff.  I’ve also made a travel-bag of toiletries that I never unpack and it has some of the sample-sized things in it, making packing much faster these days.  When I travel, the good stuff stays at home.  My skin doesn’t mind the change for a few days.

As for all my career clothes, I’ve found they just take up unnecessary space in my closet.  I’m only getting dressed up once or twice a week for church or a night out, and that certainly doesn’t require a three-week wardrobe.  I’ve given a lot of clothes away over the last 18 months.  And as tempted as I was to keep hanging out in my maternity clothes long after I had the baby and could fit back in my regular clothes, I forced myself to put them all away until such time as I might need them again.  Goodbye, lovely stretchy belly-paneled jeans.  I will see you again someday, but for now I will once again wear zippers and buttons.

As for everyday clothes, I’ve mainly been wearing out my old gym clothes.  They were actually pretty nice as I only wore them an hour or two at a time before.  I invested in some wonderfully comfy, reasonably tailored, Land’s End knit pants.  They weren’t cheap, but they look nice and work well for me since they come in tall sizes.

I’ve given myself permission to replace t-shirts as they wear out or start to look shabby with good-quality, comfortable, cotton tops.  I don’t have to look like a slob to work around the house, but I don’t need beads or sequins scratching my baby’s face either.  (If I were a more standard size, I’d probably make use of the local thrift store a lot more often for everyday clothes.)

Now that the weather is nice and I have my energy back, Eliana and I have been taking daily walks.  That has helped with my screaming desire to get in a tanning bed or spend money on a spray tan.  I can’t do tanning beds any longer since I had a skin cancer episode, but I can go out in the sun for reasonable amounts of time while wearing sunscreen and still get some color.  The important thing for me is not to burn.  I make sure the baby is slathered in baby-safe sunscreen too.

As a single, career woman, I made a habit of going the gym most afternoons on my way home from work.  I took classes, had a personal trainer, and lifted weights.  It’s a much bigger deal these days to get to the gym.  It’s not “on my way” anywhere, it’s exorbitantly expensive around here (some things are way cheaper in the country, but other things are not), and childcare is an issue.  One gym I looked at has childcare a few hours a day, but no air conditioning!  What the…???

So for now, I’ve decided to make the most of the lovely place I live, put my daughter in the jogging stroller, and explore.  At first I only went a little way, but now I’m going all over the place, up and down any hill I can find, and enjoying the outdoors.  I’m finding physical work to do around the house and making it as hard as possible.  Remembering all the training I received over the years, I’m giving new meaning to the term “personal trainer” by training myself.  For now that’s working to help me get my strength back after months of sickness, bed rest, and recovery, and the fresh air is intoxicating.

When I worked in an office, I had tasks to complete, deadlines, meetings, and events.  It was a very different kind of work from what I’m doing now.  I find it tempting at times to sit on the couch all day reading, watching TV, goofing off on Facebook, or even sleeping.  The house doesn’t get super-dirty with just the three of us and I find that one day of concerted effort can pretty much complete the necessary tasks, leaving me plenty of time to be lazy and not do the things I deem less important.  At the same time, that leads to a constant feeling of guilt that there’s something I should be doing.  How long has it been since I dusted?  When will I ever get that ironing done?  When will I feel motivated to organize that closet?

So I’m working on a weekly schedule of tasks that need to be done regularly.  For example, on Mondays I deep clean the kitchen and dust; Wednesdays I pay the bills and balance the checkbooks; Thursdays is ironing; and so on.  If I have a big day on Thursday, I do the ironing on Wednesday.  I’m still tweaking the schedule, but it helps me not to feel like things are hanging over my head.  There’s a day for each task, which keeps it from piling up and keeps me from stressing over it all the other days of the week.  As I pass the desk, I don’t get a knot in my stomach thinking that I need to sit down and pay bills.  I know that bill day is coming and until then I am free to ignore them.  Ahhh…

First Tractor RideLife is really different these days.  Green fields of soybeans, large trees, and kittens greet my eyes as I stop writing to look out the window.  My sweet daughter sleeps soundly in the next room, my husband is out taking care of the farm, and I’m reminding myself to be thankful that I didn’t have to rush out of the house this morning to sit in an office.  The apple tree has gumball sized apples all over it.  The kittens are meowing.  The only deadline I need to meet is to get this new blog entry posted today.  I am soaking up the richness of the blessing.  He has been GOOD to me.

***I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts!  What tips do you have for adjusting to life as a mother, homemaker, etc.?

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Posted on May 24, 2012 in Wisdom | 4 comments

Greener Fields

Greener Fields

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the road.”

I’ve never really thought much about this statement or where it came from, but after living with a farmer, I believe I’m starting to understand.  When we drive somewhere, he always takes a different route, barely watching the road for his persistence in examining the fields, crops, and barns of his neighbors.  It drives me a little crazy and I end up watching the road to be sure he doesn’t drive off.  He points things out to me and wants me to look, but I can’t look with him not watching the road!  (It’s amazing to me that he’s made it this long without me riding alongside him…)

He has many reasons for what he does that I can’t even fathom, but I think one of them is to make sure his crops look at least as good, if not better, than his neighbors.  It’s a way to measure his success.  If his fields aren’t as green as everyone else’s, then he might be doing something wrong, may have not fertilized correctly, or so on.  He wants his fields to be the greenest ones around and he makes sure he does everything he can to get them that way.

Now, if one of his neighbors comes along and sees his nice, green, smooth fields with straight rows and no brown patches, they should wonder what he’s doing that they aren’t.  There might be extenuating circumstances – like the quality of dirt in the field – but if the two farmers traded fields, it’s highly likely that Rick’s new field would soon look very similar to the old field.  He would apply the same farming principles to the new field as he did the old one, researching, trying new things, and maintaining high standards that have worked for him in the past.

To use a different example, I consider the women around me who have beautiful figures and bronze, glowing skin.  Shoot.  How did they get that way?  Are they just genetically blessed?  My sister is one of those tall and slender women who still has curves and can silence a room when she walks into it.  (She will roll her eyes when she reads this, but it’s true.)  If you tell my sister she just doesn’t understand the plight of the overworked, overweight, frazzled mother, she will laugh in your face.  She works hard, has two children, and maintains her weight through rigorous exercise and a strict diet.  She gets up before dawn and falls into bed at night exhausted.  She has struggled with her weight and won the battle.  She is standing in her own field of green, a green she has worked hard to achieve.

The grass I find myself kneeling in the days (with gratitude and praise to God) is the greenest grass around.  I can walk in it without fear of falling into a hole and twisting my ankle.  But that is because I’ve been walking this area for years, checking for holes, filling them in, watering the grass, seeding where it needed seed, and taking very good care of it.  I did my part, God sent the sunshine and did His part, and the result is beautiful.  It’s not the same green field my sister is standing in, nor is it the same as Rick’s, but I have cultivated what truly matters to me.

I must admit that sometimes I stare into the fields of my sister and women like her, wondering why I don’t have the discipline and focus they have to get their own fields so green.  It’s a good reminder to be careful how I judge another person’s life.  Before any of us get jealous, we have to as ask ourselves if we’re willing to do the work that person did to get what they have.

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Posted on Nov 25, 2009 in Before Marriage Blog, My Crazy Family | 13 comments

True Religion

True Religion

Photo Credit: Lydia Wenger Wade

The home that I’m staying in tonight is located in rural Iowa. It belongs to my aunt and uncle and I’m here with my parents for a family reunion. It’s one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever had the privilege of staying in. It’s an old farmhouse surrounded by barns and out buildings. Some of those buildings house a few animals – goats, ducks, chickens, dogs, and cats. Once it was a working farm with cows and pigs and crops, but my aunt and uncle have retired from farming.

It’s hard for me to describe this home adequately. On the outside it looks regular enough. You enter through a side door into a mud room with a wooden coat hanger and a place for muddy boots. Next is a dining room with a large, well-worn table and brown carpet. The kitchen, a long and narrow room with a few cabinets and some storage, is behind the dining room. The living room has large windows that overlook the beautiful countryside and give my aunt and uncle the ability to watch deer and other wildlife as they wander through.

The bedroom I’m staying in tonight is what got me to thinking of the beauty of this home. The bedroom has a linoleum floor, two small beds with colorful, tropical fish themed comforters, and matching curtains. It has an old bureau with a mirror, a lamp clipped to the top of the mirror, and another lamp near the door. There are some hooks hanging from the wall that serve as a closet of sorts. The wall is blonde paneling and above the bed I’m sleeping in is a large wooden cross with praying hands in the center of it.

I brushed my teeth tonight before bed in the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever been in outside of an airplane. It is maybe two inches wider than me on either side and the light is on a pull chain. The electrical outlets won’t allow me to plug anything in because they aren’t three-pronged outlets.

The beauty of this old farmhouse struck me when I walked in the door tonight. Seated at the kitchen table was a young boy, perhaps twelve years old. He wore leg braces and didn’t stand to greet me. When we were introduced, he spoke with difficulty. My uncle was playing a card game with him. For the first thirty minutes I was here, I was able to observe my aunt and uncle interacting with the boy. They understood what he was saying, they treated him with dignity, and they laughed and joked with him. Soon it was time for my uncle to take the boy home.

The bedroom I’m sleeping in tonight was prepared with children in mind. Today the child that my aunt and uncle were caring for went home at the end of the day, but there have been countless children who have not been able to go home because their homes were not safe places. My aunt and uncle have spent countless years of their lives as foster parents. To the best of my knowledge, they began 28 years ago by taking in a little blue-eyed, blonde girl whose mother wasn’t able to care for her. They fell in love with her and adopted her. Today I know her simply as my cousin Devon.

Trent and Devon – all grown up

Devon was the first in a long line of children for whom my aunt and uncle provided a home. She’s the only one they adopted, but they continued to provide a home for needy children for many years. I’m sure putting a linoleum floor in a bedroom frequented by displaced children was the wisest thing to do. I can just imagine carpet with gum stuck to it, holes from the adventurous things children do, and messes made by those who haven’t been taught basic cleanliness skills.

They were given the most difficult cases over the years because they were able to achieve such tremendous results. I don’t know many details of the children who stayed here and what was accomplished because my aunt and uncle don’t talk about it much. It’s just something they have done.

My aunt and uncle are well into their sixties now and I don’t think they take in foster children any longer. These days they are licensed to work with special needs children. They provide care for children whose families need assistance. That’s why my uncle was playing Skip Bo with the young boy I met today. His family needs help and they are providing it.

Photo Credit: Lydia Wenger Wade

There’s a wall full of children’s pictures here. It tells the story of the children who have lived under this roof. The beauty of this home is in the love that resides here. The beauty of this home is in the way two people have chosen to give of themselves to help others. The beauty in this home is in the legacy they are leaving their grandchildren. Their oldest grandchild is now in college majoring in social work. They have made such an impact on me that I look forward to the day I can follow in their footsteps and bring hurting children into my home to help them, to show them love, to teach them responsibility, and to be the hands and feet of Christ to them.

My aunt and uncle seem to understand the command of Christ to care for the fatherless better than nearly anyone I know. I know that it has not been easy for them. You can see in their eyes that their hearts have broken many times. I have no doubt there have been times of great frustration and personal sacrifice. Yet they have continued to help.

This is true religion. This is true beauty.

I live near one of the wealthiest areas in the nation and am regularly in mini-mansions that are decorated with all the latest things. They are gorgeous and tasteful. They smell wonderful and have soft music playing in the background. But in an old farmhouse in rural Iowa, I have discovered true beauty. It is the beauty of a life well-spent. It is the beauty of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  

Robert and Linda admiring their newest grandson

Thank you, Uncle Robert and Aunt Linda, for being the real thing. I am honored to call you family.

James 1:27 (ASV) – Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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