Getting Old and Staying Young

A few weeks ago I celebrated my 38th birthday. Just saying 38 sounds old. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I was waking up late and rushing to catch the bus to high school. Or waking up late and rushing to class in college. Now I wake up late and rush to get my kids to school. I’m sensing a pattern. Seriously though, I’m in that stage where people just say “30s” or the 15th anniversary of their 21st birthday. Why do we hide our age? What are we so ashamed of?

Most of the time I don’t “feel” 38. I walk around thinking I’m 20-something until I actually see a 20-something and they look so childlike. I’m reminded of my age when I look closely in the mirror and see wrinkles on my face, or a few gray hairs on my head (I blame Parker for that… they started to appear when he was born). I’m reminded of my age when my friends and I play co-ed indoor soccer against the recently graduated college soccer stars. Or maybe they haven’t even graduated yet. While admiring their impressive skills and high energy, our taunts turn to “It’s past your bedtime!” Or “Don’t you have to get back to the dorm and study for finals.” Or “Your mom just called and you missed curfew!” We may not have won the game, but we did make them laugh.

I’ve always felt like the young one. Maybe because I have two older siblings and I was often too young to stay up and play with them at night. I have a fall birthday, which during school years always made me one of the youngest in my class. My husband is the same age as me (he’s a few months older!). Most of my friends are within a couple years of me, give or take. So I’m not ashamed of my age. Or at least, I’m going to try never to hide my age.

Every day is a gift. We are reminded of this when we hear of someone who died young, or when we have a friend battling cancer while she parents her young children. Each day is a gift. Each day of my 38 years has been a gift. I haven’t always felt like that at the time. Certainly not every day has felt good. But every day is filled with the hope of blessings more amazing that I could imagine.

The next time your age comes up, I hope you will proudly declare the truth, gratefully acknowledging the blessing of each day.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

When Your Childhood House Gets Torn Down

Today my childhood home got destroyed. I say “childhood” but I spent many adult years there as well. My parents lived in this house for 43 years. When they sold the house six months ago, we knew today would come. My mom, one of my sisters and I stood there watching a front loader tear down our house room by room, and we cried. “It’s only a house,” we kept saying. But it was filled with so many memories.

When I was born, my parents added the entire second floor. I’m not sure what they were thinking doing such a huge construction project with a 10 year old, 5 year old, and newborn! I suppose because of me they needed more space. I slept through the construction. I napped right through the hammering and sawing and construction process. Which of course, has made me such a great sleeper. I can sleep through anything now – including my children calling out during the night, so my husband is probably less thankful about that!

My Dad helped with much of the construction, preparing drywall, building closets. Dad had a workshop in the basement and the garage. He fixed anything that was broken. He built a playhouse for me in the backyard that was still standing after 31 years. He also built the famous “Bope Wall of Fame” a giant bulletin board in the kitchen where Mom would put pictures. My friends always cheered when they made it onto the wall.

Friends and family were always welcome at our house. Mom frequently hosted holiday family parties. I remember my great uncle playing the piano, Nana and Granddad singing, Nintendo marathons with cousins. When family visited from out of town, they always stayed with us. We’d sneak into each other’s rooms at night to chat until Mom would come in with her trusty flashlight and threaten to separate us. For many years we had a party on Christmas Eve after church. One year my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in the family room. Of course my cousin Erik and I were young so we were spying on them until my dad told us to leave them alone.

Many boyfriends were interrogated in that living room. Some by my dad, but he had loosened up a bit by the time I started dating, which my sisters thought was very unfair. So they made sure to be at the house when I had a date. They can be pretty intimidating when they aren’t making each other laugh hysterically.

I lived in every bedroom, except the master. When a sibling would go to college, we all rotated rooms. In high school I painted my room an off-white color which I remember was made by Ralph Lauren, which seemed very fitting considering I wore a lot of polos in high school. When my brother took that room, he painted it poop brown (insert eye roll). After college, I lived in Wisconsin for three years and then moved back home while I was dating Jeff before we got married. I don’t even remember asking if I could move back home. My parents never cared about being empty nesters. They loved being surrounded by family and willingly opened their home. In fact they even agreed to let my best friend live with us senior year of high school while her family moved to California, but her parents didn’t go for it.

So many Christmas memories… our tree falling on my sister (she was ok) and henceforth had to be tied to the stair railing; sitting on the stairs with my sister on Christmas Eve spying on my parents as they put together a pool table for us; being brave with my cousin as we investigated the old closets in the basement and discovered my mom’s hiding spot for Christmas gifts! Waiting upstairs on Christmas morning until Dad has the giant video camera set up to record; sledding down the neighbor’s hill next to our house; building a ramp off the deck stairs to sled in the backyard.

There were basketball games on the driveway, soccer and badminton in the backyard. My brother and I were both brought home from the hospital to that house. All the grandchildren loved to play there, many had special sleepover trips to Grammy & Granddad’s. It was the hangout house for my friends, often because we had the best snacks. Parties on the deck which may have included a strobe light and boom box. Capture the flag games in the dark, wearing camouflage (as teenagers). Even as adults with our own houses, somehow we’d still find ourselves at the Bope house.

Our beloved house was torn down in less than an hour. It was a pile of wood and bricks and walls trampled under the tracks of a bulldozer. But nothing can tear down the love. The only special thing about that house was the Love that filled it.

My parents moved six months ago and their new house feels like home. Even though I haven’t lived there, I still feel at home. What makes it special: Love. Mom and Dad love people well. They share God’s love and they share what He has given them. A house is just a set of walls and rooms. But a home is Love.

Jesus is a Love Expert (Part 3)

img_4182Read part 1 about Discovering your child’s love language and Part 2 about Discipline with love languages. Also check out the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.

Ultimately our example is Jesus. The Bible says “the Lord disciplines those He loves.” So how did Jesus discipline? Two stories stood out to me.

Jesus and the Woman at the Well (found in John 4:1-26, 39-42)

Jesus is passing through Samaria and stops at a well in the middle of the day. A woman happens to be getting water at the same time and Jesus starts a conversation with her. First, we should notice some things: women usually got water in the morning to avoid the heat of midday, so this woman probably wanted to avoid the townspeople. She is surprised Jesus is talking to her because not only did men and women not talk to each other much, but Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk to each other.

Jesus asks for water, she’s surprised He’s talking to her and He says you should ask me for living water.  So she does. Jesus says go call your husband. I don’t have one, she says. Jesus says that’s true you’ve had 5 plus the man you live with now is not your husband. Probably feeling convicted or guilty, she tries to change the focus of the conversation by acknowledging Jesus must be a prophet, and asking him a controversial question about where people should worship. Jesus says a time is coming when the place you worship doesn’t matter, because we will worship in spirit and in truth. Finally she asks about the Messiah and Jesus says I am He.

The woman leaves her bucket and immediately runs into the town to tell the people about Jesus. Many of them become believers. They hear Jesus teach and they tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

What Love Language did Jesus use? Quality Time. He spent time with this woman – probably something she was craving. We know she had been bouncing from relationship to relationship with six men. She avoided the townspeople because they probably gossiped about her. Jesus spent time with her and the result was that she believed, she told the town, and many others believed in Jesus.

Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery (found in John 8:1-11)

Jesus is teaching in the temple court and a crowd of people are gathered around Him. The religious leaders & Pharisees interrupt and bring in a woman caught in the act of adultery and ask Jesus “In the law, Moses says to stone such women. What do you say?” They were trying to trick Jesus so they could accuse him.

Jesus seemingly ignores them, bends down and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. These men keep badgering him “what do we do? She was caught in the act!” Finally, Jesus stands up and says “whoever has not sinned can cast the first stone.”

We don’t know what Jesus was writing. We can pretty much assume if this woman was “caught in the act” then she’s not wearing much clothing if any. So when Jesus bends down to write in the sand, where does everyone look? Do they look at the woman? No they’re looking at what Jesus is writing. They want to know what his answer is.

Was Jesus making a list of sins in the dirt? This woman did something wrong, but so did the men who caught her. Probably so did the town. Maybe Jesus is writing “Gossip. Lust. Jealousy. Anger. Malice. Hate.” Slowly one by one the crowd walks away.

Jesus asks the woman, “has no one condemned you?” No. “Then neither do I. Go and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus showed some love languages here: Acts of Service by protecting the woman from this angry crowd, Gifts of mercy and grace, Words of Affirmation. He showed her she wasn’t alone in sinning.

Then Jesus gives her a command. He doesn’t make a request, Would you please leave your sinful life? No, He makes a command and tells her “Go and leave your life of sin.” But because He has shown such love to her, she is more likely to listen, isn’t she?

Jesus was perfect and lived a sinless life. He could have condemned that woman. But He chose to give her grace. We are not perfect. I hate to break it to you friends, but you are not perfect. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. And our children are sinners in need of a Savior. God has entrusted dither to us so we can discipline them – train them in the way they should go. May we demand less perfection and show more grace.

I’m a Love Expert

Not really. Not at all. But I did recently speak about Love Languages at my moms group Bible study. We are reading The 5 Love Languages for Children (by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell) and I had the privilege of speaking on chapters 7 and 8 – discovering your child’s love language and discipline with love languages. These were weighty chapters with lots of great information. First, if you aren’t familiar with the 5 Love Languages, these charts might help.

You might be wondering WHY? Why do we need to know what our child’s primary love language is? Well, we all need love expressed in each of these ways, but each of us has a primary “language” of how we feel emotional love. These Love Languages provide great insight into how our children think and behave. 

When your child feels loved, when her emotional tank is full, she will be more responsive to parental guidance in all areas of her life. She will listen without resentment. (P. 109)

Learn all five love languages, practice all five, but specialize in the one primary language for each of your children. However, know that it can change, especially in adolescence. Use the Primary Love Language when your child is discouraged or feeling distant, so you can show them emotional love.

  • 5 ways to Discover:
    • Observe how your child expresses love to you;
    • Observe how your child expresses love to others;
    • Listen to what your child requests most often.
      • Examples: If your child is saying: look what I’m doing, come play outside, sit & read a book, then they are asking for Quality Time.
      • If your child is asking what do you think of the paper I wrote, do you like my outfit, how did I do in the game, they are asking for Words of Affirmation.
    • Notice what your child most frequently complains about;
    • Give your child a choice between two options. Examples pages 116-117.

The authors also suggest you conduct a 15 week experiment where you focus on each love language for a couple weeks. If you’re doing that, then you must really love your child. Who has that kind of time?! Just kidding. Some of you have already started your 15 week experiment and that is awesome! Report back to us in March about how that went (ha!).

Next, how to Discipline your child in relation to their love language. But you’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Crazy Vacation Stories: Mexico Edition

When Jack was two years old, we took him to Mexico for a beach + adventure trip. Sitting on a beach is my ideal vacation. But Jeff needs almost constant activity, so we had a variety of things planned that made both of us happy. And Jack was along for the ride.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jack is asleep in this picture, hence why Jeff is stabilizing his head.

First up, swimming with whale sharks. Not quite as dangerous as it sounds, since they only eat plankton, but they are the size of school buses. When I booked the whale shark tour from home, they said no children were allowed. But since we offered to pay for him, and convinced the tour company Jack would be no problem, they agreed.

Next I asked our pediatrician what to do to avoid Jack getting seasick. He suggested a small dose of Benadryl before we get on the boat. Sounds easy enough.

We boarded the boat and the benadry knocked Jack out. He sat asleep on Jeff’s lap while the boat motored out to find some whale sharks. The idea is that once you find a whale shark, two people at a time get in the water and swim with it for a few minutes. Also, since whale sharks are wild animals and unpredictable, this all happens quickly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whale Shark = Size of a School Bus

Finally we find a whale shark and Jeff and I are up first. The boat captain picks up Jack, who is still sleeping, and hands him to another female passenger. I tried to protest that Jeff and I go separately so one of us is with Jack, but the boat captain assured me Jack would be fine because “she’s a lady. She take care of baby.” Oh, that settles it. I hollered to her “his name is Jack” and jumped into the water.

Jeff and I got our three minutes with the whale shark, and got back on the boat as two other girls jumped in. Then the whale sharks were gone. You were supposed to see many of them while they’re migrating so that all the passengers had a turn to swim with them. But since they disappeared, we drove around in the boat searching for more whale sharks.

Hours passed. Then the boat ran out of gas. We are floating in the middle of the ocean. [This is a true story.] Eventually another boat pulls up and takes the passengers from our boat who hadn’t swam with the whale sharks yet. That leaves the two boat captains, two Australian girls, Jeff, Jack, and me. Floating in the ocean.

Another boat pulls up and begins towing us back to shore. By this point in the trip, Jack’s Benadryl has definitely worn off and we’ve run out of ways to entertain him on a small boat. To make it worse, the bobbing up and down over high waves mixed with the exhaust fumes of the boat towing us, is causing Jeff and I to feel seasick.

We are both laying down while half watching Jack who is eating some raisins. Nothing quite wakes you up and removes your seasickness like hearing your husband say to the toddler, “Did you just put a raisin in your nose?!”

The obedient, well-behaved child, who has never even thought of putting anything in his nose, chose this time to try it. We are being s l o w l y towed back to land, but no land is in sight at this point. We ask the captains for a first aid kit, hoping there would be some tweezers. How do you say tweezers in Spanish? They ask if we need a bandaid. Umm no.

Next the Australian girls in their 20s. One has nothing with her. The other digs around her purse and at the very bottom, where you have crumbs and old hair bands and gum wrappers, finds a paper clip. “Do you want this?”

A quick look at our circumstances reveals no better options. Jeff straightens out part of the paper clip, intending to stab the raisin. I hold Jack’s head still… although the boat is bobbing in the middle of the ocean… Jeff goes for it and thankfully we successfully remove the raisin. (Cue the choirs of angels)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is an example of watching Jack closely 🙂

We certainly could have had a dire medical situation on our hands, especially considering it still took us hours to get back to shore. The rest of the boat ride is a bit of a blur. I’m pretty sure we didn’t take our eyes off of Jack and gave him no small objects. Needless to say he learned his lesson.

As for the boat running out of gas, and the tour taking twice as long as planned, I think we got a small refund. At least we had our three minutes with the whale sharks.

Jonah: More than a Fish Story

Jeff took this picture in Sydney, Australia on our honeymoon and it has been hanging on this wall for almost eight years. Despite being a high traffic zone in our house, and us opening and closing the doors nearby multiple times a day, this picture has never been crooked. Until two weeks ago.

The details are a little fuzzy in my mind, but it probably involves one or two children not getting out the door as fast as I planned. So, being the rational, Godly woman I am, I slammed the door shut. Very hard.

“Do you do well to be angry?” God asked Jonah.

“Do you do well to be angry?” God asked me.

For two weeks that picture has been crooked. No matter how many times I straighten it each day, it’s always crooked. One day I asked Jeff if he had some poster putty to fix it. “It’s so weird that the picture is crooked now,” Jeff said. Yeah, so weird…

I confessed my sin to Jeff. I think he rolled his eyes. I immediately felt regret for slamming the door, but I had a two week crooked picture reminder that my anger doesn’t accomplish anything.

How many times do I have the boys in their car seats and realize I forgot my keys, or sunglasses, or water? I’m just as guilty for making us late as they are. And does it even matter if we are a few minutes late?

After Jonah was swallowed and vomitted by a fish, he finally obeyed God and told the people of Ninevah that God was going to judge the city. The people repented. They changed their ways and called on the Lord to not destroy them. And God had mercy on them. He relented from His anger and showed them mercy. But Jonah… He wasn’t happy about it all. He was angry. Angry about a plant that provided him shade but then died. Angry that God sent him to Ninevah, only to show mercy to them. Angry that he couldn’t choose who received God’s favor.

Do you do well to be angry? It’s not worth a crooked picture frame for weeks. Or worse. Take a breath. Be thankful for the mercy God shows you, and start showing that mercy to others.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

How Pregnancies Wrecked My Body

I put the boys down for a nap, opened the mail, and excitedly found my Fitbit had arrived! I promptly put it on my wrist, grabbed the little instruction booklet, and laid on the couch. 

In my defense, this was the treasured “nap time” when one child sleeps and the other stays in his room for at least 3 minutes before I have to entertain/threaten/bribe him to give me 10 more minutes of alone time. Second, we spent the morning running around a kid play place where I crawled through tunnels, down slides, pushed Parker in a tractor, and all sorts of activity since the 572 friends we asked to join us couldn’t come, and I promised a fun day for Jack (he earned it with a rewards system I implemented… Maybe another post).

So I laid on the couch, Fitbit on my wrist, reading the manual. Then Fitbit was like “A little less conversation, a little more action please.” Turns out the thing only counts steps when you take the steps. I know, crazy.

I bought the Fitbit with birthday gift money, hoping it would give me some motivation to get back in shape. Over the last six years my body has been through a lot. 

  • 4 pregnancies: 20 weeks, 41 weeks, 6 weeks, and 38 weeks. That’s a total of 105 weeks – more than 2 years!
  • Delivered 3 babies, only got to bring 2 home.
  • Gained 15 pounds, lost 15 pounds. Gained 50, lost 50. Gained 40, lost 20.
  • 16 weeks on bed rest, flat on my back.
  • 2 surgeries to keep babies inside me
  • 9 months of inactivity: no running, no chasing a toddler around, no lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk.
  • Not to mention all the emotions that accompany these challenging pregnancies.

Six years ago I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. These days my body hurts from normal mom life: carrying a baby and chasing an energetic 4 year old. Instead of running laps on a track, I’m often driving laps in my car where the boys seem to most enjoy sleeping.
After bed rest and delivering Jack, it took my body about 15 months before I felt normal again. It’s been 11 months since Parker was born, but I feel stuck. Tired after long, but good days at home with the boys, I don’t want to work out at night. But I look at the energy of my husband and children and think I want to be there. I want to do that. And I don’t want to struggle through it.

Instead of finding temporary comfort in an evening catching up on Netflix, I’m hoping Fitbit can help me pursue long-term comfort as I get my body back. I know the road might be long, but I like the clothes in my closet and I want them to fit again. And I want to climb some mountains.

Why I Announce Pregnancies Early

If you missed my Facebook announcement, I’m pregnant! For a few weeks we’ve been sharing the news with family and friends as we see them. And some of them have been sharing it with others. And that is great because this little life deserves to be celebrated!

I’m only 9.5 weeks, but feeling nauseous frequently, which isn’t fun but is a good pregnancy sign. Some people wait until 12 weeks when the first trimester is over to announce their pregnancy. They wait until they’re out of the “danger zone” of when miscarriage is most possible. But why? To avoid some kind of embarrassment of announcing, miscarrying, and then having to explain it? While I don’t think that would be embarrassing because miscarriage isn’t anyone’s fault and usually has no reason. But it isn’t easy to explain the situation. It’s uncomfortable if you run into a friend at the store who heard the first announcement, but not about the miscarriage, and starts to ask about the pregnancy.

But I can’t think like that. I choose to cling to hope and trust God’s plan with this life. I’ve missed the chance to celebrate two precious lives while they were still with me. When I was first pregnant with Caleb we were going to wait until I went to the doctor at 10 weeks. But just before that happened I ended up in the hospital, learning I was almost 20 weeks pregnant, and that I would deliver the baby that day but he wouldn’t survive. That was the tearful phone call our families received. Even though we are thankful for Caleb’s life and celebrate him now, we didn’t have the chance to celebrate him while he was alive.

We announced being pregnant with Jack around 8 weeks at a family party. We certainly benefitted from having so many people love, support, and pray for us and Jack throughout that pregnancy. But most of all we loved celebrating that little life growing inside me. We loved being excited with everyone about what would come. We cherished every day we had with him safely in my womb.

When I had a miscarriage at Christmas we were about to make the announcement when I started bleeding. While we hoped things would be ok, we decided to wait until we knew before sharing the news. Unfortunately we lost that baby at just 6 weeks and missed another chance to celebrate that life while he was with us.

So, fourth time around now, almost as soon as we knew I was pregnant we told our families. We celebrated. We prayed. We already love this little one. We are thanking God for another precious miracle and trusting Him to keep this baby safe and healthy inside me until His perfect timing to deliver.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

2015/03/img_5960-0.jpg

Joy and Sorrow

On Christmas Day Jack was supposed to walk into our parents’ houses for gift opening and share a special announcement on his tshirt: Big Brother. But he never got the chance. A few days earlier I started having some problems. Doctor appointment, blood work, and several days of waiting, revealed that I was having a miscarriage. In the days of waiting, however, I waited in silence. Only Jeff and I knew that I was pregnant. I was still hoping that everything would be ok and that we could joyfully, happily announce this new baby.

Through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while everyone around me celebrated the birth of a Baby King, I wondered if the baby, who was only 6 weeks in the womb, was still alive. The season of advent is all about anticipation of a Savior, when I was waiting for results and answers. Would Christmas Day, a day of great celebration, turn into a day of mourning for me? Does it have to be one or the other?

Because of the birth of a Baby in Bethlehem – Jesus, the One who saves, because He is Immanuel, God with us, I can have comfort even in sorrow. I can find joy even when mourning because the God who is with me is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Even though I was only 6 weeks pregnant, I had hopes and dreams for this new baby. I was excited for Jack to have a sibling, for us to have a new little baby to hold and love. Things could go on without anyone knowing about this 6 week old life that was inside me, but I think it’s important to share. Every life has value and should be celebrated. At least 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but it’s often not talked about. Then if it happens to you, you might feel alone or ashamed, as if it’s your fault. But it’s not your fault. Usually there aren’t answers as to why miscarriages happen.

I share my story with you to celebrate the baby. I’ve thanked God for this baby and for the blessing of being pregnant three times – a blessing many women don’t get. It’s a strange thing to have more children in heaven than in my arms (read about Caleb here), but it makes me look forward to heaven even more.

No matter what challenging, sorrowful, or questioning time you are facing, it doesn’t have to be separated from hope, joy, and peace. The Baby in the manger came to save you, to be with you, to bring you peace even in chaos, joy even in sorrow, and hope even when you despair.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-4