A long week of baby measles

Last Thursday morning Eric had a febrile seizure because his fever spiked to over 105. The doctor in the ER diagnosed him with an ear infection, but then two days later, he broke out in a rash all over his body. We took him into our pediatrician's office for a follow-up appointment this week, where he was diagnosed with roseola, or baby measles (there is no vaccine for this because children usually get over it in about a week without severe complications). On Sunday, Zoe seemed to come down with the stomach flu and had a fever, but then she has broke out in a rash too. I did a little reading on roseola, and very infrequently, some kids have stomach cramps and vomiting with it (usually it is irratibility and a high fever). The doctor didn't think Zoe would catch it, actually, because usually after 3 they aren't as susceptible to it. But she did. Two baby measles cases in our family, each with very different symptoms until the rash appeared. I felt like I was trying to solve a medical mystery all week. But it makes sense that they would both have it, rather than two unrelated viruses.

But there have been so many mercies. Number one: God had prepared me that this might happen. A few days before Eric's seizure, I got a text from a girl that I don't keep in close contact with, asking for prayer for her toddler niece that was in the ER with a high fever and who had also had a seizure. I remember thinking when I got that text, oh, that's scary, but it was probably because of the baby's temperature and not something more serious like epilepsy or a tumor. So when Eric had his seizure, I had this tremendous amount of calm. I remember processing it all very matter-of-factly: his temperature is very high, that's why he is having this. Put him on the sofa and make sure he can breathe. Nathaniel came out of the bedroom as I was shouting for him and he stared at me, wide-eyed as he saw Eric. Don't touch him, I told him. His fever is very high and that's what's happening. Go get Josh. And he's our second mercy: he's a second year medical resident, who just happens to be living upstairs for a few months. Mercy three: the kindest, most compassionate doctor in the ER, who was so gentle with Eric and so reassuring to us. In addition, zero wait time in the ER.

So, whew. We've had long days and long nights this week.

But there's been little joys, too.

Two nights ago, Zoe was still having stomach cramps and vomiting, and Nathaniel had to go teach a night class. My mother-in-love, Norelle, saved the day and came to help until bedtime. She sat with Zoe on the sofa while I took Eric and the dog for a walk. Eric is almost 20 months, and what we call our little politician. He double hand waves to everyone he sees. He loves to stand up in the shopping cart and shout a loud, enthusiastic hi, hi, hi, to everyone. He was doing this last night as I carried him in his "pack-pack". I laughed after one particularly enthusiastic greeting to our neighbor and said, you are so friendly! Are you friendly? To which he said, No. Eric, me! 

Another joy is deeper: I have been struck, again and again, during this hard week that we are so blessed to be healthy. We can deal with anything for a week. There are so many families that are going through horrible trials of sickness that last for months or years. I am grateful that our sickness has a name and that it will run its course soon. Another reminder to be thankful, for we have been given so much. In the middle of the trial, and this one was only a week-ish long, it was easy to lose perspective and think that things will never get better, will never get easier. But they do, and they did. Thank you, Lord.


Child of weakness, watch and pray

My children stack up all the pillows they can find. They pile up higher than my one and a half year old's head. I see Zoe peering over the side of her tower and I stand there, smiling, trying to understand their game. I push aside a pillow that has fallen off the top.

It's a wall, cries Zoe. Don't knock it down!
Why a wall, I ask.
We are building it, she says, in the all-knowing logic of a three year old.
But what is your game, Zo?
The game is the wall, Mommy.

My life feels unordered right now. Again I find myself in a season of transition, and while one of my choosing, I feel unsteady and unsettled. What do I do now that I'm home? Staying at home doesn't feel enough. I should be running a side business, working on my writing, teaching part-time, running an at-home daycare, going back to school, working towards something.

I've never sat still easily. What's the plan? What's next? I love to know. I want to know.

But I don't, and I can't, and in this season I will sit. I will wait. I will find the joy in the small things, in my small ones. I will watch and pray. I will learn rather than teach. I may find that the game is the wall. The building of small lives is the plan, is the work. And as long as this season lasts, I will search for grace.


The trouble of keeping score

Nathaniel and I have been married for six years. And the longer we're married, the more I'm convinced that what causes marriages to suffer is the little things. The pastor that did our marriage counseling told us this time and time again. Marriage, he said, isn't 50/50. It's 100/100. If you try to make all things are equal, then you'll start keeping score. Then you'll start trying to make sure that what you do is matched by what they do. No, he told us, it won't work unless you both give 100%.

How true we have found this to be.

At too many times, there's this imaginary T-chart in my brain. On one side is the list of all of the things that I've done that day. On the other is the list of things Nathaniel has done.

Every little thing I did that day is on the list. The only thing I count as Nathaniel as doing is leaving for the day and going to work. And what does this lead to?


That's what it leads to. It leads to a big ugly black mess of resentment that sends deep life-draining roots into my heart. I see myself as better than he is. I would never, never in a million years say out loud that I am better than he is. But I would think it. And when I keep that ongoing who did what list in my head, that's what is really happening. It becomes me vs. him.

Marriage is not always equal. There will be times when yes, I am doing more. Just as there are times that Nathaniel does more. 

I'm setting my marriage up for failure when I keep a list. It robs me of peace, it robs peace from us. It makes me watch that equality meter, and as soon as I feel that I've fed it enough quarters, I want to stop. I want all things to be equal, or at least to feel equal.

But you and I know this can't be true. Fairness isn't about equality, its about getting what each one needs. 

Right after Zoe was born and Eric was born, I was in a season of need. Almost the entire first year of Zoe's life, I was in a season of need. Not once did Nathaniel complain about this. He encouraged me and built me up. He loved me. He gave me 100%. Some days it was all I could do to give 10%. Now it is my turn. This is my season of 100%.

This is also when I learn what love is and how little I understand it and how little I can do anything to deserve it. True love is self-sacrificing. 

I love 1 Corinthians 13 from The Message,

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

We're in an unequal season right now, Nathaniel and I. It's hard for both of us. For me to give more and for him to need more. Yet what I need to learn, now and forever, is that this is when I need God more. He becomes what I need and only what I need. The excess that I give is more than made up by what God gives to me. And as we keep looking for the best, not looking back, not keeping score, God will sustain us to the end.


Minutes adding up to beautiful

Nathaniel and I had a good long talk on Sunday, sitting on the porch swing in the unseasonable January sunshine.

Something that we started a few years ago that has made a big difference in our marriage is the Sunday check-up. We put the kids down for their nap and then we take a break. We go over what is on the schedule for that week, who needs to do what and who needs to go where, and once that is done, we just talk.

Our talk this Sunday centered around what we want the ideal of our life to be and what it actually is. My morning ideal (ideal, mind you) is everyone waking up happily, and then we traipse (yes, we traipse) into the kitchen to make pancakes from scratch. Breakfast is calm and orderly. Then, Nathaniel and I sip our hot coffee while the children run along and happily play together. We have wonderful adult conversation and laugh at each other's jokes. It's all very nice. The actuality of our mornings is cranky children that wake up very, very early with sheets that need to be changed because a diaper leaked, breakfast is cold cereal (with whatever is at the bottom of the boxes because I need to go grocery shopping) that then gets spilled on the floor. Cups of coffee have to be microwaved and then re-microwaved because there's no time to drink them in between cleaning up whatever the shrieking children spill. Attitudes are poor, all-around. The dog is licking the bottom of the high chair. Conversation consists mainly of questions to each other such as, "Why do we have two shrieking children?" No one is laughing at any jokes.

What I love about this quote from Mitch Albom is that life is made up of beautiful minutes. The hours and the days are often messy, or dreary, or just simply hard. But those beautiful minutes are what makes a life full and rich. The stage of life that Nathaniel and I are living is hard. Toddlers and babies take up so much energy. Teaching takes up energy. It never feels like we have enough minutes for anything.

Yet, in the middle of that not-so-ideal breakfast, we looked out the window at the bird feeder that Nathaniel had filled weeks ago. There at the feeder was a cardinal, with his partner waiting her turn on the fence.

A beautiful minute.

As we were getting ready for church, Zoe so sweetly helped get Eric's blanket and bottle ready for the car without asking.

A beautiful minute.

Everything in the sermon at church seemed to speak directly to what we were going through. Every song had a line that meant something.

A beautiful minute.

Mitch Albom gets it. Life isn't perfect, our marriage isn't perfect, but minutes can be. And those beautiful minutes are what makes life beautiful.



I had a moment about a month ago. It was 10:30 on a Thursday night. I was exhausted. The kids were sick, and had been sick for what felt like months. Nathaniel was upstairs, reading and writing. He'd had to stay up late the last four nights, trying to get his last papers finished up for the semester, and I missed him. I was grouchy because I was staring at a sink of dirty dishes that needed to be washed. And since the dish fairy doesn't visit our house, well, ever, I needed to do them. And I didn't want to. I had three stacks of papers that needed grading, and I didn't want to do that either. The next day was a work day, and all I could think about was how unfair all this was. All I wanted was to crawl into bed and to wake up to a clean house, well kids, graded papers, and a husband who didn't have to stay up late working.

And then, it happened. It was one of those times where you step outside yourself and it's as if you're looking down on your situation. What I saw was an ungrateful person, standing there complaining about a blessed life. 

I have absolutely nothing to complain about. 

Bottom line: 
I am saved by grace. Christ died so that I might have life. No other words needed.

I have an amazing husband who helps so much. He stays up late so that he can spend the evenings with us. He encourages me, brings me flowers, loves me even in my too-frequent grouchy moments. He supports me in so many ways. 

I have two wonderful kids that bring us such joy.

I have a house, two vehicles, amazing friends that build me up, a job that allows me to work part-time at something I love, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So my word for 2014 is gratitude

When I have the worst attitude, when I find that my priorities are all out of whack, these are the times when I have the least amount of gratitude. Part of becoming more like Christ is living outside of myself. For me, this means I need to actively focus on what I am thankful for. This is a practice I want to develop in myself. I want to choose gratitude

Instead of focusing on what I don't have, 
or what I wish were different, 
or what I wish I had more of, or less of, 
I am committing to a year of 
practicing gratefulness.

A life of gratitude doesn't mean that there won't be problems. It doesn't mean hiding the hard things under the rug. It does mean a shift in perspective and a willingness to look for the good in a situation. This is what I want to grow in this year. I desire to see beyond my first reaction. I want to learn that in everything, God is already there.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:6-7, ESV