Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Productive or Present

This is part of my on-going series on Practicing Pauses - finding the little moments of rest that are scattered throughout our busy days, and making the most of them. Last week I wrote about redefining prayer - this week, let's examine the advantages and disadvantages of multi-tasking.

Whenever he can, Adam offers me the chance to have some alone-time to recharge - whether that's by taking Brooklyn on an adventure and letting me stay home, or by staying with Brooklyn and Tobin while I go savor a coffee shop or the opportunity to run errands quickly and efficiently.

I usually only go somewhere when I have something that needs to be done - a post I'd like to write undistracted, yarn to pick up for a commissioned project, grocery items that it's easier for me to get myself (rather than fill half a list trying to explain where or what it is).

But when I stay home, I'm faced with a difficult dilemma - the list of Things That Need To Be Done competing with the list of Things I'd Like To Do, and the knowledge that I won't be able to complete either list, whichever one I choose. Adam often tries to circumvent that by leaving me with the injunction to leave the dishes/laundry/untidy living room alone, with the promise that he'll take care of it later - but I still quander.

There are so many things that have to be done - things that require me to tell Brooklyn that we'll have to read that book later, to let Tobin cry for a few minutes while I finish helping her with her snack, that pull my focus away from Adam when he's home. And in the time that remains between tasks, I'd like to be as present as possible - making sure that I'm not frustrated with Brooklyn for babbling loudly over the podcast I'm trying to listen to or for attempting to make off with my ball of yarn while I'm knitting, and trying to make eye contact with and hold Tobin, so that he sees my face instead of the back of my phone, and feels the warmth of my arms when my hands aren't busy instead of only the coldness of his bouncy saucer. Because when I divide my attention, the pieces that remain get progressively smaller - and some people (and tasks) deserve the most of me that I can give.

When it comes to rest and recharging, there are some things that we can do together... time outside is possible, even if it means juggling two Tinies downstairs and then using both the stroller and the Moby wrap in order to walk at the park. I can read my Bible aloud, and monologue my thoughts as I jot them down and Brooklyn listens. Prayer can happen any time. She Reads Truth makes wonderful lock screens and wall papers of their weekly memory verses (available through their app, or their emails), so you can be reminded of God's Truth every time you respond to a text or other notification. And taking a nap while holding Tobin helps him sleep longer and keeps me from wanting to turn the heat up. But I still need to back away from everything sometimes - and so my inner list of longings grows.

One thing I deeply miss at this point on the circle is social interaction. There's a moms group that meets at our church every other week, which I've been going to, but in some ways we have too much in common (I realize that's probably a weird-sounding complaint - hear me out). I love to be around passionate people, even if their area of focus is different than mine, because their spark lights my own. I think it's healthy to spend time engaging with people I disagree with, and people who are different than me (be it in age, gender, socio-economics, race, religion, politics, preferred pastimes, or just on a different point of the circle).

Monday night knitting may be out (for now), but something that I can do while holding a sleeping Tobin or over lunch with Brooklyn is listen to podcasts (this one I hold loosely, because sometimes it has to be paused while other things are dealt with). It's a little more one-sided than I'd prefer, but it's at least a way to discover new ideas (whether I agree with them or not - and when I disagree, I can talk through that with Brooklyn, to make sure that she understands that just because someone says it doesn't make it true), to get the cogs moving in my own mind, and to spark conversations with Adam that go deeper than the trash that needs to be taken out or how to repair the book that Brooklyn disassembled that afternoon.

I can also read (and sometimes knit, depending on where I'm sitting and if he'll be comfortable nestled in my lap) when Tobin's in an "I'm not hungry or in pain and my diaper doesn't need to be changed, but I am going to cry unless you're holding me" mood - he usually falls asleep within minutes, so I don't have any qualms about shifting my attention to something else.

Multi-tasking when I can helps me to not feel a panic of urgency when I get a little uninterrupted time, since my list is a little shorter and I'm not so starved for renewal - because it's also important to Be Still. A nap may be more beneficial than the completion of a chapter, a row, or a podcast. Snuggling Tobin while he sleeps may be better than anything I could get done with my hands free. And sometimes I need to cease my striving and simply rest at His feet - because I cannot hope to love and serve my family well, or find peace and rest for myself, if I'm too busy chasing amusements to muse on His Word, to pour out my heart and then pause to listen, and to simply revel in the knowledge that He is good, and He is God.

Being present while also making the most of every minute - how do you find balance?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Just for Kicks

Tiny T is getting less tiny by the day. He's in the process of deciding whether or not he likes the playmat - as long as I face him so that he can watch Brooklyn play, he's pretty ok with it for a little while, at least. (The trick is getting Brooklyn not to try to mess with his feet or poke his tummy, since he's within easy reach.)

We all got out for a few adventures together last week - one day it was warm enough for us to walk at park in the afternoon, Brooklyn in the stroller and Tobin in the Moby wrap. Every single person that we encountered felt it necessary to comment that I had my hands full, but we had a grand time. Hopefully we can repeat our outing this week. He got a good nap, Brooklyn happily pointed out every dog we saw, and I feel like the fresh air was good for all of us.

When he's not sleeping, Tobin has been practicing his faces and making vague motions with his hands while studiously not looking at them. We had been keeping him swaddled, but he's beginning to prefer having his arms free to wave and his feet free to kick.

Brooklyn still can't quite manage the stairs (that's a milestone I'm looking forward to - it will make going places with both of them by myself much easier), but she did get to sit in a booster seat at lunch on Sunday instead of a high chair and did much better than I expected. I was envisioning repeated escape attempts, but she was so pleased to be sitting at the table with us like a Real Person that she sat nicely the entire time. I was impressed.

She's also discovered a new way to be fancy (in addition to dresses and scarves) - bows. My grandparents gave her a few for Christmas, and she finds them and brings them to me to put in. "Clip?" And she's remarkably patient about leaving them in for awhile - she checks every so often to make sure it's still there, but doesn't pull it out.

Since I finished the preemie bunny hat I was working on last week (you can't tell how small it is in the picture...) and Brooklyn has outgrown all of hers, I thought our walks and outings would be more enjoyable if she had her own bunny hat. She "helped" me measure her head, and I'm almost up to the ears on it, so I'm hoping to finish it in a few days (Adam has a long weekend, so I'd like for her to have it to wear).

Tobin's starting his week with a growth spurt (which means I'm starting mine on a little less sleep than I'd prefer), but we have a short week to get through, with the prediction of warm weather and the hope of outings and adventures, just-us-three and all-four-together.

Friday, January 23, 2015


It's Five Minute Friday! Each week, a flashmob of bloggers internet-wide gathers to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then links up and shares a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!

One thing I love about knitting is that because of its simple complexity it appeals to a wide variety of people. Some who are in it for the process, relishing the stitches and often giving away the finished piece - some who are in it for the product, tackling new or difficult techniques for the sake of that beautiful sweater.

Many knitters churn out hats and blankets and other item for charity... and then there are the Selfish Knitters. Contrary to how it might sound, this is not a derogatory term. A Selfish Knitter is someone who calculates the cost (in materials and time) of their talent, and then chooses carefully who they will spend it on. It's not a terribly unreasonable mindset - knitting can be an expensive pastime. Patterns may be free, but must often be purchased. Enough yarn to make, for example, an adult-sized sweater, can cost hundreds of dollars. Knitting needles come in 24 sizes, 3 types, and dozens of variations within those types - made from different materials in a range of prices (and eventually, you will need them all). And then that hypothetical sweater has about 70,000 stitches in its make-up, equaling hours of time spent in the making.

While I acknowledge the cost of knitting for others, I prefer to think of it like grace. As I pour out my time and talent (and deplete my stash, which is entirely too big), what I'm giving isn't something that I created, something that originated with me. It's the passing on of a gift that was given to me by others - those who taught, encouraged, employed, learned from, funded, and affirmed me as they shared a gift that had also been given to them.

None of us knows anything that we weren't taught - and none of us give anything that we weren't first given. And knitting and grace alike, when shared, multiply for both the giver and the receiver. I may run out of yarn, but I won't run out of the joy of knitting - and as long as I remember not to hoard what's given to me, I'll also never run out of grace. It's in the open-handed sharing that both become greater than they ever could be when held in a tightly clenched fist.

It's in our nature to keep what we value - but sometimes, there's more joy to be found in giving it away, and we may find that it's not really gone.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Captioned and Captured

The weekly reckoning...
1237. An Icee, left in the freezer and forgotten, then discovered and eaten with a spoon
1238. Getting the kitchen cleaned and the dishes washed
1239. Walking at the park all-four-together after he got off
1240. A haircut - I was long overdue
1241. The Boba hoodie
1242. Finishing last Sunday's podcast before the next Sunday
1243. Going to bed early two night in a row, while Adam took first shift with Tobin
1244. Carry-out and a microwave, for when Needs arise and I don't get to finish my meal out
1245. TED talk podcasts from NPR
1246. Warmer weather over the weekend, and predicted for the week to come
1247. Brooklyn blowing a goodbye kiss to her grandma Sandy (I've been trying to teach her that for awhile)
1248. Whoever first thought to put a camera on a cell phone
1249. Carefully curated shelves of books, for when the library isn't feasible
1250. An encouragingly productive day
1251. Walking at the park just-us-three (it took the stroller and the Moby, but we did it!)
1252. Tobin only waking up once in the night
1253. The phoneography set Adam got me arriving in the mail sooner than expected, and actually being in the postbox so I didn't have to go pick it up
1254. Brooklyn standing on a box next to the couch so she would be tall enough to lean over the arm and give me a kiss

I love to take pictures... sometimes. I had thought that I tend to only take pictures when I'm happy, but I realized recently that that's not entirely accurate - I take pictures when I'm grateful. The lens of a camera brings me a clearer perspective of the blessings that surround me.

The sensical part of me, however suppressed (and I mean "suppressed" in the Alice in Wonderland sense - put in a sack and sat upon) by entitlement in moments of selfishness and self pity, knows that God is good and His mercies are new every morning. But in the heat of a difficult moment, I struggle to remember that. And that's where the pictures come in.

Writing down gifts is a wonderful tool for memory - but the visual is stronger than the jotted-down (like, those tricks for remembering names and things that involve associating a mental image with it, usually something strange and unusual). The ordinary so often slips past us, unnoticed, but the extraordinary stands out - it captures our attention, our imagination, and our memory. The beautiful and grotesque alike are infused with wonder.

But when I stop to take a picture or number a gift, however commonplace that thing might have been before, it becomes memorable because the time was taken to perceive it so. And when memory fails, the graphic evidence remains - the journals and albums that rise up, light dawning on my valley of shadow, as an answer to the question, "Where is goodness, and where is God?"

Our memories and emotions play us false so often - what helps you remember the good when everything seems bad?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Living on a Prayer

This is part of my on-going series on Practicing Pauses - finding the little moments of rest that are scattered throughout our busy days, and making the most of them. Last week I wrote about tools that help me (at least) to get the most good possible out of even the smallest moment - this week, I'd like to spend a little time more deeply examining one of those tools.

I mentioned prayers of gratitude last week, counting blessings instead of accumulating worries. I also like praying Scripture (Don Whitney has some good info on that), because that's a good way to go deeper into a short passage, like a Psalm, and alleviates the guilt I feel over only having time to read 5 verses.

It also covers another struggle - not having the words to pray. Because sometimes I am so exhausted, so distracted, so hopeless, so something that I can't think of anything to say that doesn't seem sacrilegious. A few months ago, Emily mentioned "breath prayers" in a Hope*ologie post, and it came up again in Breathing Room (which I got on my bookstore outing a few weeks ago). I kind of skimmed over the idea of a short, centering phrase, repeated over an inhale and an exhale, until I was listening to a Tenth Avenue North album and realized that I was already doing that, except that it didn't fit my mental definition of prayer so I didn't recognize it.

Empty my hands, fill up my heart,
capture my mind with You.

This is where
the healing begins.

On and on we go
come, love, take my hand.

Could the Maker of the stars
hear the sound of my breaking heart?

You gave us truth
the Truth is who You are.

We are free to struggle
we're not struggling to be free.

I need You, I love You, I want You,
no one else can make me new.

I know that You can give me rest
so I cry out with all that I have left.

Grace tonight
will hold us through.

Let me see Redemption wins
let me know the struggle ends.

(Ahem. Not my favorite band or anything. For more awesome examples, see all of their albums.)

Another thing Leeana mentions is "borrowing" prayers - Scripture, songs, prayers written by other people - because sometimes someone else already said what you want to say (again, Tenth Avenue North). It made me question my definition of prayer. I had my definition of worship widened last year, so I don't know why I didn't apply the same mentality to praying - to realize that in order to "pray without ceasing," it has to be more than the typified image of a person kneeling in solitude, hands folded, head bowed, eyes closed. Just as giving Brooklyn her dinner, picking up our apartment, and getting up in the night with Tobin can be a form of worship when done with the right attitude, so they can also be a form of prayer.

Inhale grace, exhale rest - how could redefining prayer help you to find more time for it?
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Wonder and Wander

Four weeks - one day shy of being a whole month old! He's developed and grown so much - he's gained over two pounds (sorry I can't be more precise - stepping onto the scale with him, then stepping on without him and finding the difference isn't very precise), and we've not only loosened but also moved his carseat straps up a notch.

One delightful thing that's come of him gaining weight is that he's big enough to be worn safely. I ventured to our church's moms group on Friday, wearing him and letting Brooklyn walk (she also carried her own snack and diapers/wipes in a little backpack, and it was adorable). He loves being worn (she was not a fan) so we've also tried a walk at the park, the grocery store, and church in the Moby wrap. I got a Boba baby-wearing hoodie from Terra Tots on Plaid Friday that has been awesome - it has extra fabric to go over the carrier and a slot for Baby's head, so we both stay warm. It seems like less people wear babies here than did in Fayetteville... the preferred mode of conveyance appears to be the carseat.

I haven't done Mommy Fashion for awhile, and after watching a new mom shyly struggle to nurse in public for the first time, I feel like this one's needed. Nursing covers are a pain (and most babies don't like them), hiding in a public toilet stall is not my idea of fun (but pumping and toting bottles takes the ease and convenience out of being a food source), but I'd like to maintain some modesty in the process. As a side note: I'm not trying to avoid offending others - I think it's kind of a silly thing to be upset by - I'd just like to control how much of my body random strangers see. Moving on... So today's Mommy Fashion: dressing for baby-wearing and public nursing. The key to both is layers - a scoop-neck tank top that can be pulled down, a Tshirt that can be pulled up (I recommend dark colors, with patterns or screen printing to make spit-up incidents less noticeable), and a cardigan or button-up shirt (for side coverage, and also to pull across while you get situated before/after).

We've been enjoying the long weekend, especially with the sudden increase in temperature (a disadvantage to a winter baby is that you feel really, really bad trying to take them anywhere because it's literally freezing). There's been some staying at home, napping and playing and just being, as well as a little going-and-doing.

Brooklyn loves having Daddy home. She likes having two people to read to her, and getting to help on grocery outings by keeping hold of the list. We usually have to barricade her out of the kitchen whenever we do things that might hurt her (or us) if she was in there, but a few days ago I explained that I was going to open the oven door and it was going to be "ouch hot" (whereupon she started blowing, because that's what we do with hot things) too hot to blow on, and so I needed her to stand on the carpet outside the kitchen - and she quietly backed out of the kitchen and waited until I told her she could come back in. I bragged on her to Adam, and then she did it for him while he was emptying the dishwasher (she usually tries to carry off the spoons) and making her dinner last night.

It's wonderful to watch them grow and learn, to see the wonder of someone experiencing something for the first time. It's a good reminder, too, to keep my own sense of wonder alive - to never stagnate, but to always be open to new experiences and ready for new adventures.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


It's Five Minute Friday! Each week, a flashmob of bloggers internet-wide gathers to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then we link up and share a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!

I love to go, to do, to be on a mission. Love the city, knitting meetings, Bible studies with friends over coffee in local cafes, planning trips that cover more than one page-spread of an atlas... with a fire inside and an unquenchable thirst for adventure, being sent is definitely something I embrace.

Lately, though, I've been brewing my own coffee, participating in an online Bible study, getting my knitting a few solitary rows at a time just before bed, loving the city by promoting the small businesses I love through social media and word-of-mouth, and the idea of a trip down the stairs with two Tinies in tow is a little overwhelming.

But I'm grateful that even if I can't really be sent at the moment, I can still send. Texts. Tweets. Letters. Messages. Posts. Encouragement across the miles, whether the physical distance be small or great, words of gratitude, of congratulation, of condolence, of friendship... the best gifts I received for Christmas were a box of notecards and several books of stamps (tying for first with a couple of boxes of tea - which I plan to drink while writing notes).

There are two people that I keep up regular correspondence with - both recently added a second Tiny to their families so our exchange has slowed, but not stopped - and I try to stay on top of thank-yous. But there's another opportunity that cycles around (thanks to Kaitlyn, who bravely does all of the work while we have all of the fun) - #fmfpartysnailmail. Ladies with the single commonality that all believe in the power of the written word (and are willing to put a stamp on that belief), sending notes to people they may or may not know --- it's both an uplifting and a growing experience, and one that I highly encourage you to be part of (but be quick - sign ups for this round end at midnight on the 16th!)

Life-giving words can be incorporated into every season - whether spoken, typed, or written (or a combination of the three).