life is gray

Icon

not just black & white.

just do the next thing.

I’ve been browsing Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family by Kim Brenneman off and on for the past several months.  Our family hardly qualifies as large at this point, but it intrigues me how a mother of nine children manages to accomplish all she sets out to while I spend the majority of my days with two (and before with one) feeling like there is never enough time.  It seems reasonable to think I could implement some good systems at this point in our lives so that maybe a few children down the road I won’t be a complete crazy person.  (Some degree of craziness is certain.)  The first half of her book has turned out to be the most beneficial, as it sets out to put my heart in order first and foremost.  And as I’ve worked through the “practical steps” chapters, I’ve picked up little things that I think will eventually help put us at least a step up from chaos.  I recommend it.

One of the best things I learned in this book of plans is that sometimes you have to scrap the plan.  It’s something I’ve been challenged by my whole life – I like to have a plan.  I don’t want to deviate from the plan.  And I want to be in control of the plan.  As you all probably know well, that doesn’t always work.  Marrying a non-planner has forced me to grow in this area.  Poor Hadley has inherited my desire for a plan and control. 🙂  So very early in our marriage, our family decided to memorize Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Plans are tools that we use to serve and help us – we do NOT serve the plan (I think I got that in the book).  People are more important than plans.  And God is bigger than any plans we could possibly make – he has the big picture – and we want to live Spirit-filled lives that are sensitive to his leading, and not be so rigidly defined by a to-do list.

That said, I love a good to-do list.  And I don’t think there is anything wrong with making plans.  They are useful tools.  Lately I’m often resigned to sitting on the couch all. day. long. if I don’t have at least a rough idea of what I need/want to accomplish that day.  I started making a weekly to-do list and having a Sunday night planning time.  (I’m a freak, I know.  Though I know there’s someone out there who would appreciate this.)  I make our calendar for the week, our menu, fill in tasks and projects that I’d like for us to get done, make my grocery and errand lists.  I admit it – I love it.  I don’t know about you, but my big to-do list for the week often goes untouched.  I never have mastered making them actually, well, achievable.  Often at the beginning of the next week it’s just a matter of copying from one to the next.  But I do things every day!  It’s just that, once they’re done, they have to be done again the next day.  Sometimes it feels aimless and discouraging.

One thing Brenneman suggests in her book is having a list of standard tasks/routines, a list for each week, each room, etc.  Then, when you get overwhelmed by all there is to do, you just look at the list and do the next thing.  It brings focus back to an aimless day and gives a sense of achievement.  Now, let’s be honest.  I will probably never achieve the structure and systems that she prescribes.  But I did put together a few general lists – daily, weekly, monthly, and occasionally.  My daily list includes things like showering, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast, having a quiet time…you get the idea.  It may sound silly to you to be so detailed, but sometimes, those are the only things I’m able to accomplish in a day because Hadley is need of constant attention or we are out running around or I got three hours of sleep and can’t do much else.  It’s frustrating to look at my list for the week and think, “I didn’t do anything today.”  But it’s this little psychological exercise to be able to look at my daily list with a few things checked and not feel like a total failure.  And on the days where the motivation is lacking, I can look at it and “just do the next thing.”  And tomorrow, I can erase it and start again.

I appreciate what this blogger writes, that God gives us the grace we need for TODAY.  It might not mean that the day looks like we planned.  But it means that in obedience I can trust God to equip me to do what I need to do today, even if that is being up in the middle of the night with a sweet, wide-eyed baby, or sitting on the couch and reading books with a four-year-old.  I don’t always (or maybe ever), but I pray God is changing me to handle those bumps with grace.  And that he is teaching me to suck it up a little more, get off the couch, and do the next thing.

Filed under: Daily Life, Mom Stuff, , ,

A Royal Banquet

A little late, but I thought I’d report on our Valentine’s Day.  Despite mine and Jordan’s lack of sentimentality towards many holidays, I’m realizing that decorating and celebrating anyway is truly an act of serving and blessing Hadley.  She loves it all.  So when she asked me (referencing a movie), “Mom, what’s a royal banquet?” and with Valentine’s Day so close, I thought the best thing we could do to celebrate was to throw a royal banquet of our own.  I told Hadley our plan on Sunday night and she managed to keep it a secret all the way up to Jordan’s arrival at our feast.  🙂

Thanks to these awesome Hobby Lobby discoveries:

we started the day making Valentines, for Dad and all the grandparents (which were mailed late, of course):

Then, as dinner was cooking, we made some decorations for our banquet:

I finished up dinner while Hadley turned herself into a princess 🙂

We welcomed our prince, and enjoyed our dinner over candlelight.

Let’s be honest.  It was a lot of work.  But Hadley loved every minute of it.  Towards the end of the meal she started looking really droopy and didn’t seem to be feeling well (maybe it was the skipped nap due to all the anticipation), but she still insisted that a Royal Banquet must conclude with the princess dancing with her prince.  Jordan granted her request 🙂 and then tucked her into bed.  Sweet little Valentine.

Filed under: Daily Life, Mom Stuff, ,

blessing

I listened to a sermon awhile ago about Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.  Speaking of the agony with which she longed for a child, the pastor referenced Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5),

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…

He spoke of this idea of “blessed are they,” noting the contradictory idea of being “blessed” with suffering.  He explained that the blessing of suffering is the way that it drives us to seek God’s face – to long for heaven – to seek the kind of comfort and satisfaction that only comes from knowing Him deeply.

Ever since then, I’ve been contemplating this idea of blessing.  I think of how often we thank God for our many blessings – a wonderful family, a warm, comfortable home, food on the table… We (the Dahls) most certainly have much to be thankful for, just as we (Americans) who live in abundance compared to the rest of the world.  But as I “count our blessings,” I keep thinking of this quote from C.S. Lewis:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

It feels wrong and ungrateful to declare that these tangible gifts are not blessings.  We are overwhelmed with gratitude.  I wonder, however, if we are just far too easily pleased.

Take marriage, for example.  My husband is an absolute blessing to me.  I love him deeply and cherish him as a gift from the Lord.  He is wonderful.  But marriage has also revealed the deep longings of my soul that he cannot fill.  Marriage has forced me to confront the idolatry in my heart that seeks ultimate satisfaction in my husband and has driven me to bring that emptiness before Jesus for satisfaction.  My gratitude for marriage deepens when I face this reality.  A happy marriage is something to thank God for, yes, but one that causes me find true intimacy and hope in Christ?  If I believe that knowing Christ is infinite joy, than the lack of complete, soul fulfillment in marriage is really the blessing.

Then there are children.  “Children are a blessing from the Lord,” a Psalm says.  And they are.  They bring joy and delight to most days.  But I’m finding in Motherhood that having children is a constant reminder of my inadequacy.  My selfishness, impatience, and lack of joy are prominently on display.  If I don’t seek God daily (moment by moment) for the strength to parent, my husband will come home to house full of tears, messes, and three girls still in their pajamas.  (A pretty normal day at this point.)  Parenthood reveals my complete helplessness and drives me to seek the face of God constantly.  Perhaps in many ways, that is the blessing of children.

One more example: success.  I was running a business that many would deem successful, and I would say it was by the grace of God that he allowed that success.  He provided for Hadley and I during a season where I look back and wonder how in the world we would have otherwise made it.  I am incredibly grateful for that.  But then he asked me to give it up.  Believe me when I say that is still not easy to do.  But it is where the blessing has been waiting.  In asking me to give up my dreams, it has paved the way for new dreams to form in my heart – dreams of knowing Christ and training little hearts to know Christ as well.

In some ways, it can feel kind of depressing, in an Ecclesiastes, “It’s all meaningless” kind of way.  But to revisit oft-quoted C.S. Lewis:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

I don’t think the point of what God is teaching me is that I should only seek suffering and sacrifice, and not enjoy his tangible blessings.  It does allow me to welcome the hardship associated even with blessings in that it drives me to draw closer to Christ.   But I also think he’s calling me not to merely enjoy his gifts for their face value.  I can enjoy them for the restless anticipation they stir.  As Mark Buchanan closes his book, The Rest of God:

Take anything you delight in here on earth: Your children.  Your craftwork.  Your hot tub.  The dewed green of a fairway on a July morning.  The sweet corn from your garden, butter-drenched.

Enjoy them all.  Find rest in them.

But imagine how much more awaits you.

Filed under: Faith & Politics, Life Philosophy

one month

Our little peanut passed the four week mark this weekend.  Adrienne weighed in at 8 lbs 2 oz…she’s starting to fill in a bit but still hasn’t met Hadley’s birth weight (8 lbs 6 oz)!

The wonderful Emily Koska came out to do some family photos for us this weekend.  You can see them all here.

I love our little family of four. 🙂

Filed under: Daily Life

baby stats & other arbitrary thoughts

Adrienne had her two-week (actually 17-day) check yesterday and passed with flying colors, if that’s possible.  She was up to 7 lbs 2 oz (from her birthweight, 6 lbs 8 oz) and had grown an inch to 20-1/2 in.  No wonder the poor thing sleeps all the time – that much growing sounds like hard work!  I haven’t uploaded pictures for a few days, but here’s one from last week.

We’re ordering our cloth diapers soon, thanks to the guidance of my wonderful sister-in-law.  I think we’re going with the Flip diapers, mostly thanks to the review of them here.  I never thought I’d be one of those Moms, but 17 days of buying diapers has convinced me it’s worth it.  We’ll see what I’m saying after the need for nightly laundry officially arrives, but Jordan has promised to help shoulder that burden, so I’m hopeful.

I just read the book Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic in about…3 days.  When do I have time to read, you might ask?  It’s a good question.  I’m certainly not coherent enough to do it during middle of the night feedings (though I’ve been trying to listen to an audio book during that time), but during the day I somehow stole a few minutes here-and-there.  It’s only about 100 pages and a really easy read, but SO encouraging and sweet.  Just what I needed, and I’m just going to go ahead and start right back at the beginning and read it again.  I’ve recently become a big Rachel Jankovic fan…She has five little ones with a sixth on the way and is hilarious and insightful and challenging about walking in grace through life with small children.  More about the lessons I’m learning another day.

But as a sort of related aside, prior to this book I read Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by Nate Wilson who, it turns out, happens to by Rachel Jankovic’s brother.  This one also gets a “highly recommend” from me, though I won’t pretend I wasn’t confused through half of it.  You can totally see a consistent worldview between the two books – an awe and joy at life and beauty and even chaos.  Both have rocked my “hurry up” and “get organized” approach to life and family and I hope in a way that gets fleshed out and not just written about and forgotten.  And they’ve made me want to meet their parents, who it turns out are also authors (Doug and Nancy Wilson).  But my to-read list is long, so…someday.

Yesterday, Hadley and I did our nails.  First, it’s important to note, that sometime between Adrienne’s birth and now, I managed to stop biting my nails.  It’s a miracle, and one I hope lasts.  I kind of wonder if it’s some post-partum rush of folic acid or something that made them grow so fast I just couldn’t keep up.  That and I haven’t been on any roadtrips lately…too much time in the car is often the culprit.  Anyway.  We did our nails.  And while we were waiting and being careful to not smudge, Hadley said to me, “Let’s just sit and visit while our nails dry.”  Sit and visit?  Who is this little woman sitting in front of me in a four-year-old’s body??  “What do you want to talk about?” I asked.  She couldn’t think of anything specific.  Suddenly I’m sitting there, needing to engage in deep dialogue that I’m also supposed to initiate.  I’m tired.  My nails are totally dry and I should really start dinner.  But it was this sweet moment of actually seeing Hadley.  Seeing how she longs for time with me and how easily I brush her aside.  Seeing that the fruit of that “go play” mentality will be a teenager who no longer sits and wants to have those talks with her mom.  It was challenging because, well, what do you just “sit and talk” about with a four-year-old?  But we managed.  And I even learned a little.  Little moments of grace.

So now I sit in a moment of peace where both little girls are sleeping and I’m totally breaking the rules by not sleeping myself.  But truthfully, it took me an extra long time to get out of bed this morning AND I’ve downed nearly an entire pot of coffee.

That’s all. 🙂

Filed under: Books, Daily Life, Mom Stuff, , , ,

sleep deprivation

It has been two weeks since we welcomed little Adrienne into our lives.  She’s sitting next to me sighing and humming and smiling in her sleep.  She’s pretty much awesome.

Truthfully (and it’s with guilt that I admit this), that’s about all she does.  Eat, sleep, poop, with the emphasis on sleep.  Seriously, she has cried maybe 30 minutes of her life.  I’m not complaining.  It’s more like awe – and holding my breath – wondering how long this can possibly go on.  So I thank God for the blessing of not being hollered at through all hours of the night and try to enjoy it while it lasts.

But the reality is, it has also been two weeks since I have had more than a few hours of sleep at a time.  Despite the lack of crying, there is still the necessity of feeding this little one, and every coo and peep in the night has me awake, listening, wondering if I should get up now and feed her or try to hold off a little longer.  And I am tired.

Since she was born, I have battled this tiredness.  Knowing how much worse labor and delivery could have been, it seems like there should be no need for recovery time.  Knowing how much worse this transition home could have been, it seems like I should be up-and-at-em, ready for “real life” to just resume.  So it has been deeply frustrating and guilt-inducing to just feel…tired.

Over the nine months or so of this pregnancy, I’ve been learning a lot about this idea of capacity – how much I can handle – what it looks like to have healthy boundaries and where do those boundaries become a refusal to rely on Jesus and trust in his Spirit to sustain me.  It’s been on my blog list to write about it.  Someday I may get to it.  But now I’m having to really flesh it out in the practical day-to-day.  God has created me with a limited capacity.  I need sleep.  Sleep is a gift.  But my need for sleep is intended to remind me of my need for Christ.  I may be able to function on a limited amount of sleep, but I cannot do life without him.

How often does sleep become my god, in which I put my hope and trust?  How often does my lack of sleep become my excuse to neglect my God-given responsibilities, to refuse to die to myself, to refuse to exhibit love and grace to those around me?

And yet it is here that I wrestle because, well, I’m tired.

I spent some time reading today in Luke 4, where Jesus was led into the wilderness for forty days.  This statement always kind of makes me laugh – it seems rather obvious: “And he ate nothing during those days.  And when they were ended, he was hungry.”  I wonder if Jesus’ need for food was frustrating to him.  Or his need for sleep.  He knew a different life – a better one – yet in humility he made himself like us, with all its limitations.  Yet when tempted to make food, he responds, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Do I believe that?  Do I believe the words of Christ can sustain?  Do I believe his grace is sufficient, that in my weakness His strength is made perfect?  Or do I believe that enough sleep, enough coffee, enough planning, enough whatever, will give me what I need?

I am so weak.
I am so tired.

But man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Which is why it was so sweet to continue reading in Luke, where Jesus reads the scroll of Isaiah 61:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And then says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, being obedient unto death, even death on the cross.

He did it for me, knowing I couldn’t do it for myself.  And it is in that strength I must walk, knowing that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead now lives inside of me.

But still, while I live in this limited world, I must sleep.  It can be so frustrating.  So discouraging.  And yet it makes my longing for heaven that much greater, and my days on earth that much sweeter knowing that the hands which sustain me are not my own.

Filed under: Daily Life, Mom Stuff

Four Years

It was Hadley’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been meaning to come and attempt to reflect, but alas, lamaze classes, Christmas parties, exhaustion and the like filled our time since then and these thoughts bouncing around in my head have gone unwritten.  I attempted to start a scrapbook of Hadley’s life right after she was born, but I got 6 weeks in and haven’t gone back, so I’m thinking I need to at least keep better notes on here until I become one of those SuperMoms who writes down every milestone.

So.

Dear Hadley,

I can’t believe you’re four years old.

We’ve had a big year – a marriage, a Dad, a move, a baby on the way…Not only have you handled it all with grace, it’s been with complete excitement.  You’ve taught me a lot about embracing change and the sweet, surrendered trust that comes with that.

Suddenly you’re this little girl, telling all-out stories and imitating my every word and action (desirable and undesirable).  You live in pink and princess dresses and have recently discovered twirling around in them.  You turn your nose up at anything that’s “for boys” and actually like wearing tights.  (It’s totally foreign to me.)  You could play “sisters” all day, every day.  That, and eat chocolate.  You loved our puppy the first day we brought her home, and now you love her from a distance.  You are so sweet and in love with our kittens, though, and can’t wait to run out ahead of me to greet them.  You are a complete extravert, and come to life the moment anyone new enters the scene.  Unless they’re new friends and you feel shy…then it takes about 5 minutes.  You are constantly observing and learning new phrases that we often don’t understand – like what exactly does it mean when you’re shaking your bones out??  You love school, but mostly you love it with me – we tried ECFE this fall and the highlight was Mommy/Hadley playtime.  You practically ignored the other kids until I challenged you to make a friend.  We occasionally do school together at home and you wish it could be every day.  You love to learn and are so quick to grasp things – this year you shocked your dad and I when you wrote your name without our prompting.

You are constantly singing.  You never stop.  And as I type this, you are upstairs singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the top of your lungs.  You love dance parties, and have had a “wiggle dance” at every phase of your life so far.

You have practiced being a mom ever since discovering “Millie” (that poor-used-to-be-pink Care Bear that I carried around when I was four) and you’re going to be the most wonderful big sister.  Your new love is the doll you received for your birthday, now named Sarah.  I often have to remind you that you are not the Mom, and I pray that your heart will learn the beauty of authority at this young age so you can walk in the freedom of God’s loving protection.  Your independence is a gift and a curse, passed down through generations of our family’s women, and I pray God will foster in us both a gentle and quiet spirit that trusts in Him.

You teach me so much about God and myself as you expose my sinful, selfish heart, and as I realize how deeply I love you, yet how imperfectly.  Praise God that He is a perfect Father who covers all of my parental shortcomings.  I pray that, somehow, you will see his heart in mine and you will be drawn closer to him through that.  Your dad and I pray that you will love Jesus with your whole heart – that you will trust in him alone to make you “good” – that you will have a life of joy no matter what the circumstances because your hope is in him alone.  You remind us constantly of child-like faith and anticipation with thoughts such as, “I can’t wait to get to Heaven and give God a big hug!”

You are a beautiful blessing from God and you fill my heart with joy; I am so thankful for the precious gift of your life.  And I am awed and endlessly grateful that God would entrust you to me.

Even though your birthday has come and gone: happy birthday, my little one.

Despite what you say, you are still my baby.

Love, Mom

Filed under: Daily Life, Mom Stuff

Family Picture Outtakes

My sister, Taryn, is in town this weekend so we took advantage and had her attempt to get a family photo for a potential Christmas card, before I’m ginormous and unwilling to be anywhere except behind the camera.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m already well on my way to ginormous, especially with the recent addition of a bowl of chocolate ice cream (+ giant scoop of peanut butter) every night before bed, but I like to think not quite there yet.

So.  There were cute ones.  A few.  Maybe even Christmas-card-worthy.  But for starters, you should really just see the chaos involved when you add a puppy and five kittens to the mix:

The animals were not interested.  More on them later.

But can I just point out the wonderful scenery that is our yard?  Nevermind the weeds – they give it character.  Just appreciate the sunset with me.

Filed under: Daily Life, Mom Stuff

Adopted for Life

I recently finished reading Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore.  It was one that I wanted to buy by the box-full and distribute to everyone I know.

It’s not just that I feel passionately about adoption and want to see it prioritized among the Christian Church, though I’m sure there will be plenty of posts as Jordan and I ponder and walk through that.  But it’s the sweet message to my soul – I am adopted in Christ – and the implications of that beautiful truth.  Everyone needs to read it.

I got Hadley’s new birth certificate in the mail today, and as I read what should have been a boring, standard, document, I was brought to tears.  On the line labeled “Father’s Name” were the most wonderful words: Jordan Dahl.  My husband.

To some, this may seem obvious.  But then you’re missing something.

For nearly four years, that line has been blank.

But there’s no amendment.  It’s not like “Father added, March 12, 2011” or whatever.  There’s no name change listed or certificate history.  It’s just there.  Her name.  Her father’s name.  Her mother’s name.

When Hadley talks about her dad, it’s with this sweet confidence.  God always knew Jordan would be her dad, he just waited to tell us.  And now he’s here and he’s never going anywhere.

It’s the beauty of adoption – it stretches all the way back – it says, “from birth, this is who you were always going to be.”

God looks at me and says, “I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43).  He says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”  (1 Peter 2).

Man, it’s so good I don’t even know where to start.  So I just stare at Hadley’s birth certificate and fight the urge to do a happy dance.  And I sit in sweet awe and reflection of my Savior who placed his name on that line for me, with his blood, wiping away every stain and saying, “This one’s mine.”

Filed under: Books, Faith & Politics, Mom Stuff,

Mondays

This is how I wish my Monday would have started – with a sunrise out my kitchen window while I make my family a delicious start-of-the-week breakfast:

But alas, I stumbled out of bed while my family was already mid-breakfast, throbbing headache and all.  I stared blankly through family time until it was time to go and I could drop Hadley off at a preschool and gain just a few sweet hours of silence and peace.  I fought constant distractions at Starbucks while trying to spend time reading my Bible and instead made an overwhelming to-do list for the week.

Sigh.

Somedays, I just can’t seem to pull it together.

It would appear that I have – there is homemade bread sitting on the stove and homemade soup sitting in the crockpot, both waiting for my husband to come home and join us for dinner.  There is fresh apple crisp baking, making the house smell, well, awesome 🙂 and productive.

But I’m tired, and ready for bed at 6:12.

There is something so sweet about all of this.  Tomorrow, Lord-willing, the sun will rise again.  And while I thought I hated the shortened days of Fall, I’ve actually grown to love that I get to watch the sunrise and sunset nearly every day.  Praise Jesus, his mercies are new every morning.  And he knows I need them every. morning.

So in anticipation of tomorrow’s sunrise, some breakfast options:

1. Popovers (my favorite)

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

All mixed together and poured into a greased popover pan – bake at 425 for 15 min, then 350 for 30 min, and whatever you do, don’t open the oven until the timer rings. 🙂  Serve dripping with real butter.

Or if the day doesn’t allow 45 minutes of baking and there is no popover pan in sight, another alternative:

2. Popover Pancakes

Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a pie plate in 425 oven (don’t let it brown).
Combine: 1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1-1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup flour

Pour batter into melted butter pie plate and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with real maple syrup.

Yum.  Dinnertime.

Filed under: Daily Life, Recipes, , , ,

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