Friday, September 30, 2011


They say the twos are terrible, but that wasn't my experience. While two was difficult because of Elijah's language delays, it was otherwise not at all marked by the maddening behavior parents warn you about.

Others say three is worse than two, but the first half of three was actually delightful. Elijah had made great gains with his verbal skills, thanks to the Vanderbilt study, and I very much enjoyed this age. I have sweet memories of the last months before Jude was born, wrapping up our participation in the study and just soaking up the time with my firstborn before his brother arrived.

Then there are those who speak in hushed, ominous tones about the half-year disequilbrium of 3.5. Or, in Moxie's words, "then 3 1/2 comes along and smacks us down, and it can be bewildering and awfully demoralizing."

More specifically, childhood development researchers Ames & Ilg have observed that kids "tend to cycle in 6-month waves between equilibrium...and disequilibrium." Or, in plain English, "for awhile children would be fluent and cheerful, coordinated, learning new things all the time, and happy little kids doing things smoothly. Then they'd go through a period of being physically clumsy, stuttering, being in foul moods, and just having things go wrong a lot of the time."  (AskMoxie)

I totally buy that theory.

Three and a half was rough, I'm not gonna lie. I'm sure a lot of it has simply been all the issues that a new baby in the family creates and reveals. But let's just say, I very much looked forward to Eljiah's fourth birthday. Very much.

So far I wouldn't say he's swung completely back into equilibrium. In fact, I think we were a couple of months off from the 6-month mark in getting here, so I'm still riding it out, with plenty of difficult days. But I am seeing daily gains in his abilities and the things he is learning. Often I have to stop and marvel at the big boy he has become--holding doors open for me to push the stroller through; getting dressed all by himself; expressing his thoughts and emotions clearly...I have a preschooler now!

As I look back on photos, I see a HUGE difference between three and four, this transformation from toddler to boy. And though his birthday is now almost two months past, I want to take some time to celebrate my firstborn.

Underneath the difficult behaviors, this little buddy really is my favorite four-year-old in the world. I love his tenderheartedness, his helpfulness, his sense of humor, his affection, his uncanny sense of direction, his love of books and music. I love that he still says "map" instead of "nap." I love his nonstop chatter on walks and his joy in the simplest routines.

I love how he runs ahead and how he stops and waits to hold my hand when we cross the street. I love the quirky phrases he uses and the way he brings conviction by repeating my admonitions when *I'm* the one who needs to hear them.

I was thankful for a simple but really fun day spent celebrating Elijah's birthday in August. My friend Mandy came over to babysit Jude so that I could take Elijah to IHOP for lunch.

He thought it was crazy fun to eat pancakes and bacon--two of his favorite things--for lunch! Then the wait staff brought out an ice cream sundae and sang to him, which was a big hit.

After our lunch date, we stopped at a park for a little while and I tried to just slow down and drink in these moments.

We had originally planned to celebrate with my parents the following weekend, but their visit had to be canceled, so I decided at the last minute that we might as well have cake and ice cream with our friends Tony and Mandy, whom Elijah loves, and with whom we meet for dinner and prayer every Wednesday night anyway (his birthday was on a Wednesday). So when we got home from our date, Elijah helped me make a carrot cake, and then we got to enjoy it with our friends after we sang to our little buddy and helped him blow out FOUR candles. 

It has been a long, hard four years, and it has been a breathless, blink-and-it's-over ride. If there is a time to build and a time to tear down, then this little boy has been the tearing down of me, the breaking and laying low and exposing of me. I am supposed to be teaching him, yet day after day he is God's instrument for teaching me: how false and full of sin I am, how gentle and full of grace my Savior is, how deeply and desperately both Elijah and I need Jesus, how hopeless we are anywhere but the foot of the cross.

Ann Voskamp once wisely wrote:
The son births first and he grows, the woman still an infant mother.
And all the raising of the boy, this is her long labor, and she has to remember to breathe.
And it’s only after a whole score of years that she delivers into true motherhood, when her son leans down and kisses her forehead gentle. This is her full-term day. She only wishes it came sooner, at the beginning, when he first came.
It takes all the years of making a boy into a man —  to teach a woman how to be a mother.
Do you know how wild this makes me?
Wild indeed. My heart breaks, writhes with fear, as I consider the ways I am screwing up this sweet boy, the hurts I cause, the damage my sins and mistakes will do. I look into those deep brown eyes ("I have brown eyes just like you have brown eyes, Mama!") and I feel long, skinny arms and legs wrapped around me, and I squeeze extra tight, and I ache. This boy made me a mother, and unfortunately for him I will spend his entire life learning how to mother, trial and error (and error and error). I can only throw myself on the mercies of the One who, against all reason, entrusted little Elijah to my care. I praise Him that He is bigger than all my failures, and that Elijah is ultimately in His hands, not mine. And I thank Him for this unspeakably precious gift, for four sweet, hard years with my son, and I ask Him for His grace for many more.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 221

What happened to this blog? Why have I not been writing for the last several weeks? Sigh...

In the meantime, I always have plenty of things to be thankful for, if only I will open my eyes and choose gratitude over grumbling. Thanking God this week for...

2157. a long-overdue haircut
2158. two hours at Starbucks alone
2159. the parenting journey God has me on, with all of its messiness
2160. grace to function on way too little sleep
2161. a long-overdue visit with dear friends

2162. having visited them often enough to have traditions
2163. Steve portraying the gospel in how he serves me when I am weak
2164. famous homemade pepperoni rolls
2165. lots and lots of thoughtful and interesting discussions
2166. our friends' three adorable kiddos, and the privilege of watching them grow up over the last eight years

2167. Settlers of Catan
2168. the boys' excitement when Daddy comes home
2169. Jude's white-blond hair curling right above his ear
2170. a good excuse to try out this decadent cake
2171. grace to keep my mouth shut

2172. flock of birds doing a crazy, beautiful synchronized dance in the sky
2173. a long traffic light so we got to stand and watch them while waiting to cross the street
2174. finding my lost iPod
2175. great finds at a local school's annual used book sale
2176. time with friends

2177. our pastor's Sunday school lesson on Romans 8 yesterday:
2178. being FOR me
2179. not sparing His own Son
2180. giving me all things
2181. declaring me justififed

2182. raising Christ from the dead
2183. His love, from which NOTHING can separate me
2184. making me MORE than a conqueror

Monday, September 12, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 220

Thanking God this week for...

2127. a visit from Steve's parents
2128. all the work Steve and his dad got done on the house
2129. antique shopping with my mother-in-law
2130. my new collection of blue and green glass
2131. windows open, breezes blowing

2132. 20+ pounds of fresh peaches that are, as Jessie Rae would say, STUPID good!
2133. greater peace, a more settled heart
2134. the million little ways my MIL served us while she was here
2135. the eggs our chickens have started laying!
2136. zero-VOC paint

2137. a long-overdue phone call with a dear friend
2138. sweater and flip-flops weather
2139. a friend's example of preaching to herself and fighting to trust
2140. insightful parenting books
2141. washable markers

2142. peach desserts
2143. grace to be calm and patient
2144. Elijah holding doors open for me
2145. deep conversations
2146. the opportunity to participate in the KidTalk study

2147. His sovereign control over all events
2148. miniature shopping carts at Trader Joe's
2149. dinner with a guy Steve works with--who just moved in a few blocks from us
2150. last weekend's company picnic
2151. kiddy rides that Elijah loved

2152. Jude's gleeful giggles over fried chicken
2153. ice cream cones
2154. Elijah's question upon seeing the Nashville skyline: "Did Daddy build it?"
2155. a lovely afternoon spent with friends
2156. their countless examples of joyful servanthood

Monday, September 05, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 219

A difficult email from a dear friend this weekend had me doing the hard eucharisteo, choosing by grace to turn toward God and thank Him for...

2111. my friend's courage
2112. the fact that she cares enough about me and about our friendship to speak hard words
2113. her example of not fearing man
2114. grace at work in me, enabling me to make a preliminary response of humility and gratitude rather than anger and defensiveness (this can only be His grace in my proud heart!)
2115. my sweet husband immediately noticing and taking time to talk with me about it

2116. the fact that Steve and I are on the same page about pretty much everything
2117. Steve's calm, wise, reassuring words
2118. the promise that He *will*--not just *can*, but WILL--use this for my good
2119. orchestrating conflict in order to grow and refine me
2120. His commitment to make me more like Christ

2121. not letting me flounder, but instigating ways for me to see my failures and make course corrections
2122. the fact that my status as His beloved daughter does not depend on my performance
2123. Jesus' perfect record of obedience, transferred to me
2124. not having to be concerned about my reputation because the cross has already declared publicly what a screw-up I am and what I deserve
2125. covering all my sins completely

2126. fresh motivation to seek His face and depend on His grace

A Mess and a Savior
The Honest Truth About Me