Categories
Daddy Joys Inspiration

Because I Love You

My husband and I come from very different backgrounds. He was raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere in the American Midwest. I spent my childhood going back and forth between suburban Southern California and the Hawaiian paradise I call home.

He’s a third-generation Christian missionary, while I’m a fourth-generation Japanese American whose maternal grandparents and great-grandparents were Buddhists.

His mother was very involved in his upbringing, since his father had to work several jobs to make ends meet. On the other hand, it was my father who raised me, since my mother died when I was 5.

He has a twin and seven younger siblings, but I just had one sister until my half brother was born when I was 17 years old.

Despite these differences, when we met, we immediately recognized a soul mate in the other. This was because in all the areas that mattered most, we were the same.

We both love Jesus more than anything or anyone. We both are willing to follow the call of God no matter where it takes us. Our highest ambition is that our lives would draw others to Christ. On our wedding day, I had no doubts that I had made the right choice.

However, there was one detail about my husband that remained a secret until after we were married.

He is a football fan.

I could never understand the American male craze for football, or any professional sport, for that matter. Although I’m not athletic, I can understand having a passion for playing a sport, but I always found it absurd that grown men could get excited enough to spill beer on themselves while watching a sporting event. (Okay, I’ve never actually seen that happen, but you get my point.)

My father has never been into sports. I only remember him watching the Super Bowl once, and that was only because at the time we were in the habit of going out for hamburgers each Sunday with a group of other families from church. On Super Bowl Sunday, one of the families hosted the rest of us at their home so that the guys could watch the game. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if my dad actually watched it, because we kids were all running around outside. I do remember him spending some time in the backyard with me after I slipped off the end of the slide and winded myself. If he had been watching the game, he didn’t seem in any hurry to get back to it.

Since I have the deepest respect for my dad, his complete lack of enthusiasm for professional sports became my ideal, and I had little use for any guy who would waste several hours watching a televised ball game. Imagine my dismay when I learned that my husband, whom I respected at least as much as my dad, was an Indianapolis Colts fan! God in His wisdom had not allowed me to discover this trait earlier, because it might have been the end of our romance. But now I was married, for better or for worse, until death do us part, so I knew I had to make the best of it.

Fast forward several football seasons. I now understand the significance of a first down and of sacking the quarterback, and I know when a team might want to do an off-side kick or opt for a 2-point conversion. And though I have always scoffed at celebrity worship, I can recognize the first and last names of the star Colts players, and I even know the name of their former coach. I have to admit it: I’ve become a football fan too.

With the time difference between North America and Eastern Europe, watching the games always involves either staying up really late to see the end or getting up in the middle of the night for the kickoff, but despite the hassles, I still look forward to the start of football season each fall. It’s not so much about the Colts, although if I had to pick a team to support, I don’t think I could find a better one. It’s more about the romance of a shared interest and of doing something slightly crazy with the love of my life. Because I’ll admit it—it’s insane to get up for three hours in the middle of the night when you know that the kids are going to wake you up by 7:30. But I think that a bit of shared insanity helps us remember that we’re best friends and lovers, not just the parents of our (very adorable but sometimes exasperating) children.

….. ….. ….. ….. …..

What about you? What do you do to keep the romance alive with your spouse?


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!

Categories
Inspiration

Whining

Is it just me, or does anyone else find whining intensely irritating? I mean irritating enough to take a normally calm individual and make her start to hiss through clenched teeth while fighting the urge to slap someone?

Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

My 4-year-old whines. I don't mean that he whines just to get attention or when he doesn't get his way. No. Whining is his default means of communication. I don't know why. Maybe it's a stage. Maybe it's one of his personality quirks. All I know is it's driving me insane, and I've been trying to break him of the habit for about two years, ever since he started to speak.

Maybe it has happened, but I cannot remember a single time when I gave him something because he whined for it. As far as I know, I always point out that he is whining and instruct him to ask nicely. This usually means first rephrasing his request to make it polite ("Can you please give me Curious George?" instead of, "MooOOOooommyyyyyy, eeeuuh, eeeeuuuuh, gimme the mooOOOooonkey book!"). Then he has to repeat it in a pleasant tone of voice. The latter sometimes takes several tries, with me modeling how I want him to sound.

You would think that after two years of this he would begin to get the idea. Whining is useless; I might as well be pleasant and ask politely the first time. But as far as I can tell, this lesson is still lost on him. On second thought, maybe he is starting to get it, because there are rare moments when he will thoroughly bless me with his speech. One day he came into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and said cheerfully, "Mmmmm! You're good at making food, Mommy! I'm hungry!" I was stunned, and it made me want to clasp him to my chest and give him anything he wanted to eat. But usually he just whines and demands things.

One day in desperation I found myself praying in the middle of dealing with him. My conversation with God went something like this: "Lord, I can't take it any more!! This child is driving me nuts!! Why does he have to be so whiny??" And then it hit me. I was guilty of the same behavior as my 4-year-old. I was whining to God. It was a revelation that caused me to reevaluate my prayers. God is an infinitely better parent than I will ever be, but how often do I approach Him with a whiny attitude as if He does not have my best in mind, does not understand my struggles, and is not going to provide for my needs? He deserves better than that. He deserves the kind of praise and trust of provision implicit in my son's charming comment to me in the kitchen. "Mmmmm! You're good at making food, Mommy! I'm hungry!"


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!

Categories
Inspiration

I’m Writing Again

All three of my children are currently asleep.

At the same time.

During daylight hours.

Do you have any idea how rare this is?

I don't think it would have happened at all except for the fact that one of them is ill, another seems like he might be catching it, and the third is only 5 months old, so he sleeps most of the time anyway.

Reading the blogs of others has inspired me to start writing again, but that's tough to do these days with three children ages 4 and under. It's possible to read while trying to keep the eldest child from bullying the middle child, while encouraging the middle child to finish his lunch, all while keeping the nursing infant latched on at the breast. It's possible to read like that, but not to write! So now that they're all sleeping, I'm going to start writing a new post.

Well, that was short-lived. The baby just woke up and is having a little snack as I type, which I am able to do while nursing a baby thanks to the amazing wrap-around nursing pillow that my parents sent me for my birthday.

I feel like I've finally got my act together after the birth of our most recent baby. It always seems to take me about a month to get back into a good rhythm with cooking, housework, parenting, personal hygiene, etc. So now that the apartment is not always a complete wreck, and I'm washing my hair twice a week, and I can find time to read to the boys in addition to their nighttime Bible story, I decided to take on a new project. Last week I hung pictures up in our living room. This might not sound like much, but for me it was a huge step. You see, before moving to our current city about three and a half years ago, we lived in Kyiv for four and a half years.

And we lived in seven different apartments during that time.

Seven apartments in four and a half years averages out to fewer than eight months per apartment. That's a lot of moving, and all of that moving was prefaced by the biggest move of all, my move from the U.S. to Ukraine. By the time we moved to our new city and our current apartment, circumstances had trained me to approach home decoration in light of our next move.

Our Ghetto Storage Solution

 

That's why instead of getting cupboards to store our things, we bought plastic bins and stacked them six feet high on shelves in our bedroom.When it's time to move again, I won't even have to pack these things; we'll just load up our storage bins and go. (Several months ago I finally had the brilliant idea of hiding the storage bins behind a fuzzy green blanket that coordinates with our bedroom curtains.)

That's why we don't own a television set; we ditched it before the last move because we found it too big and cumbersome to drag along yet again. (Somehow we felt differently about our hundreds of books, but that's a topic for another post.)

The problem with this approach is that we've been living in the same apartment for three and a half years, and I'm still acting like we're going to move out next month. Over the last two years, I've been given several pieces of original artwork, but since I was always thinking in terms of our next move, I was unwilling to drill holes in our concrete walls to hang them. Instead, they were propped awkwardly on bookshelves and windowsills. The beautiful oil painting that my husband gave me for my birthday was sitting on top of our wardrobe so that the kids couldn't maul it! But last week I finally took the plunge and decorated our living room walls. (Thanks to a care package from a friend in the States, however, I was able to do it with 3M Command picture-hanging strips instead of my husband's heavy-duty drill for concrete.) It looks wonderful–homey and inviting–and the oil painting of the Carpathian Mountains soothes my spirit every time I gaze at it:

Carpathian Mountains, oil on canvas

Why didn't I do this sooner? 

On the other hand, while constantly living in terms of the next move may be an awful way to approach home decorating, I've realized that it's exactly the way I should approach life as a whole. My next move is just around the corner. Am I storing my things in such a way that they will make the move with me? (Matthew 6:19-21) Am I getting rid of everything that is heavy or cumbersome? (Hebrews 12:1-2) Most importantly, am I living with the daily conviction that this life with all its trappings (good and bad) is just a temporary arrangement until Jesus takes me to my true home?


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!

 

Categories
Inspiration

Good Friday Meditation

Today was one of those days when minor annoyances accumulated until my outlook was as bleak as if there had been a death in the family, rather than what had actually happened—a cranky, feverish baby, a sweet but exasperating toddler, and a special meal that didn't turn out right and took so long to prepare that we were ready to eat it raw by the time it was served. (In fact, we weren't sure it was fully cooked, but we were so hungry that we couldn't think straight, and we ate it anyway. I'm still praying that we don't get food poisoning.)
 
It's Good Friday here in Ukraine, but I've been so preoccupied trying to cope with this day's woes that I have yet to contemplate the suffering of my Savior. That puts my suffering into perspective. It's not that bad, after all.
 
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                                   ~Isaac Watts


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!

Categories
Inspiration

Confessions of a Housewife and Stay-at-Home Mom

I really wish someone would debunk the modern feminist notion that the roles of homemaker and mother are degrading, so I guess I'll take a whack at it.
 
I worked until shortly before my son was born. I enjoyed my work and took great pride in a job well done. Leaving the professional world as I prepared for the arrival of our firstborn was bittersweet. But I haven't looked back once since little Samuel came into our lives.
 
As with anything worthwhile, being a full-time wife and mother requires sacrifice. It means putting the needs of my family before my own, being on-call 24 hours a day, and having less time to pursue personal interests. But to say that these sacrifices are degrading or personally impoverishing is a lie.
 
As I was feeding lunch to my adorable 13-month-old today, the laughter and smiles we exchanged gave me such fulfillment that I thought I would burst with joy, and I had an epiphany. Although Samuel can be trying at times, although he requires constant monitoring except when he's in bed, and despite the fatigue that comes from almost never getting a night of uninterrupted sleep, there is nothing I would rather be doing than pouring my life into him. And this means being present for all his waking moments, being the one to applaud all his significant "firsts," and constantly teaching him, through my words and example, how to be the best version of himself that he can be. How grateful I am to have the privilege of being a full-time mother!
 
And for the record, the argument that stay-at-home moms stop developing intellectually and otherwise for as long as they focus on rearing their children does not have to be true. I find that with a bit of determination and creativity, I can make time at least weekly to read enriching books, play musical instruments, and write. So take that, feminist myth!


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!

Categories
Baby Joys Inspiration

More Than Fun

Today I am twenty-seven weeks pregnant and have officially entered the third trimester. This is the first pregnancy that I have ever carried past the first trimester, and it is the first time that I have ever looked pregnant or been able to feel the movements of the little life inside me. I feel lavishly blessed.
 
My sisters-in-law all have very difficult pregnancies with severe nausea and vomiting throughout much or all of the nine months. My mother-in-law says that she could never understand women who claimed to gain a wonderful sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from being pregnant. “I always thought I was going to die when I was pregnant,” she says. “I did it for the baby.”
 
I find it unfortunate that pregnancy must be such a trial for some women, because I’m learning that it can be a uniquely magical and enjoyable time of life. I’ve been blessed with an easy pregnancy. Except for bedrest and debilitating fatigue during the first trimester, I’ve had little about which to complain. Of course, there are the usual inconveniences (back problems, muscle cramps, heartburn, intestinal upset, clumsiness, poor memory, and so on) but they all pale in comparison to the miracle taking place in my womb.
 
I never feel alone anymore, because the baby is right with me—making his presence felt most of the time! I can talk with him, sing to him, dance around the room with him, and even give him a loving massage that I’ve read he can actually feel. My changing shape alerts everyone to my special condition, and suddenly I find that complete strangers are kind and considerate toward me! This is a welcome change after nearly four years of rough treatment at the hands of strangers. It is true that the whole world is nice to pregnant women, even in Kyiv, Ukraine.
 
Beyond these advantages, I find that pregnancy has another, more profound, aspect, that of motherhood. Although people call me “an expectant mother,” in so many ways I have already become a mother. There will never be another time when I will be as connected to this child. Never again in his life will he be so dependent upon me to meet all his needs. We share a bond now that nothing else will ever fully imitate. So I look forward to those times when my decreased stamina demands that I put my feet up and take a break, because then it’s just me and Baby as I contemplate the new and growing joys of motherhood.


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!

Categories
Inspiration Kitchen Joys

A New Hobby

I have recently discovered the joys of baking bread. Ever since I was old enough to contemplate bread baking, I've regarded it as an arduous task requiring the better part of a day to complete. My grandmother taught me to bake when I was in junior high school, and anytime I needed a break from studying, I'd go to the kitchen, where I happily turned out cookies, pies, and brownies. But bread intimidated me.

Since I got married, I've frequently told myself that I should start baking bread, but somehow I never managed to find the time. That's not surprising, given that keeping house, my editing job, and church commitments kept me busy enough that I never had the six or so hours free that I thought were necessary for baking bread. But recent changes in my job have lightened my work load, and last week I found myself with a whole day free of pressing obligations.
 
In my opinion, the French make the best bread in the world. It's been difficult for me to find comparable bread in Ukraine (although the bread here is far superior to the American Wonder Bread variety). So, I decided to make French bread. Contrary to my expectations, the process was not at all arduous. It only took about three hours (not the six I had imagined), and it only required about thirty minutes of labor on my part. The rest of the time the dough was rising on its own or baking in the oven. Halfway through the baking time, the apartment filled with a wonderful aroma. The loaves turned out picture perfect with beautiful golden crusts, and the taste of fresh-baked bread hot from the oven was enough to get me hooked!
 
This afternoon I made onion-herb bread, and it was even better than last week's French bread. Of course, for those experienced bread bakers reading this, my former misconceptions about the process are probably humorous. You already knew that the effort was minimal compared to the rewards, and that the rewards included far more than a delicious treat. For the rest of you: there is something intensely satisfying in working with the dough, shaping it, and seeing the amazing metamorphosis of yeast, flour, and water (plus a few other ingredients, depending on the recipe) into wholesome loaves of bread. It gives one a tremendous sense of satisfaction and delight. If you enjoy doing things in the kitchen but have never baked bread, do yourself a favor and give it a try!


If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing here. I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging you on a regular basis!