Category Archive: Blogging

Who Am I?

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Running late to a doctor’s appointment, I still had a folder’s worth of new patient information to fill out. A personality quirk of mine is that I enjoy filling out forms, so I was buzzing along at a breakneck pace, answering questions that had obvious answers, until I hit the one that always throws me for a loop. Occupation. My pen hovered above the form, hesitant at even knowing the correct answer. Birthdate, spouse, medication amounts. Those things all have concrete answers, but this one? What did I feel like saying today?

Photographer. No, I’ve reduced my photography work back to the very infrequent photoshoot and am now shooting for the sheer pleasure of it because…

Student. Is taking one class per semester a reason to fill in the blank with this word? I mean, it is a graduate program so it takes up a substantial part of my thinking power each day, but no, this doesn’t work…

Writer. Nah. Writing, too, is now simply for fun. Or for school. But it’s not a paid endeavor. Hmm, are there any paid endeavors for me right now? No, I actually pay people to teach me stuff.

Church volunteer. Probably the truest description of my days, but it feels awfully weird to put that on a form for the doctor’s office.

SAHM.

Those four little letters put together do not make me feel awesome about life if I am honest. When I am dropping off a 7th grader for a large portion of the day, dare I call myself a Stay At Home Mom? It brings to mind bon bons and The Price is Right. Being a woman of leisure who buys only the cutest in athletic clothing, but rarely uses it to work out. It’s perusing Target more times than makes sense, being a lady who lunches, taking luxurious naps after all that exhausting work of shopping and eating.

Uh, wait a minute. I do take naps. Scratch that last one. I also really enjoy lunches. And Target. Okay, whatever.

My fight with the SAHM term is a real one because I find it to be reductionistic. The only word I really love out of the four is “mom.” I’m not really a “stay at home” person and now that I think of it, I might be a very strong-willed adult because, DON’T TELL ME TO STAY AT HOME THANKYOUVERYMUCH. Still, I feel like it reduces me to something I am not, to less than what I aspire to, to less than what I actually do and produce each day. So I will take back the SAHM label and explain a few things about it.

Choosing to stay at home with Livia when she arrived was the greatest pleasure in terms of choices. Before she came, I dreamed of becoming a mother and I was dreamy about what my life might look like as a parent. I could not wait for the gift of a child, and I anticipated our adventures with excitement. It was absolutely what I wanted to do with my life and I was eager to quit working in order to be home full time. Though real life was a thousand times harder than my idealistic dreams, every time I considered going back into paid employment I reaffirmed my desire to parent Livia instead. I felt completely confident in my choice to feed her each meal of her day, to be the one to hold her hands while she learned to walk, to listen to her babbles and then words and then lengthy conversations. It wasn’t that my job was easy—no, the monotonous “at home” work of baby-rearing can be brain-numbing at times and then utterly exhausting at others. Rather, it’s what I wanted to do. I did not want for Livia to spend much time in a daycare; I wanted to be the adult around her for a majority of her waking hours.

The truth is this: I still want to be the adult around her for the majority of her waking hours.

For numerous reasons, it’s important that Livia is educated by other adults, but when she is not at school, I still want to be the person closest to her. I can feel the years squeezing away from us now. Everyone has said these teenage years fly by, and so far they are right. I feel hugely sentimental about my time with Livia—at least when I’m reflecting upon it while she’s away from me. It’s easy to feel the warmth of parenting when we’re in good moments—reading together, cuddling, talking talking talking, driving around town—and much harder when we rub up against personality differences or hard, stressful days. But still, I choose this kid. I’ve got one kid, and that one is enormously special to me.

So there it is. My pen hovers over the line, I curse the way “occupation” hitches me up, and then I quickly scribble “SAHM” and this time I think I threw in a “/student” to make me feel better about the direction of my life. Will anyone at the office even care who or what I am? Will their eyes rest on that line for more than 2 seconds before moving on to type insurance information into their desktop computer? I doubt it. My existential crisis means nothing to them, and so much to me.

On Race, the American Flag and Following Jesus

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I have a world of conflicting emotions when I say something that roughly half of my friends disagree with. There’s a desire to cover it up, like I want to post lots of frivilous kitty videos to make sure we’re all okay with each other. And yet, in my moments of strength, I’m willing to fight for the injustice I see with enormous amounts of conviction. That’s why I posted Michael Rose-Ivey’s press conference video this past week. I see injustice.

A lot of you see disrespect. I realize that allegiance to the flag means more to you—whether it’s a generational thing or an occupational thing—–than it does to me. I grew up saying the pledge in school, and I really love singing the national anthem; I take a lot of pride in it actually. But I don’t feel the same amount of frustration as many of you do when football players don’t stand at attention, facing the flag, with their hands over their hearts. (What I do see is some sad men who have listened to their consciences and are following through with a protest against our nation’s ability to turn a blind eye to injustices that they themselves are not experiencing.) While I wholeheartedly support our military personnel—today and in days past—I have heard over and over again that men and women died for the opportunity to live in a country where people disagree in a multitude of ways. And like it or not, the flag represents that freedom.

What I really see is that we have a trust issue at play in our nation. A lot of people don’t trust that certain black men and women are telling the truth about the way they’ve been treated by authorities. I recognize this trust issue, to a very different degree, because I have had people in my world who do not trust my ability to make good decisions for myself when it comes to my health. The fact that they question me, drill me, tell me they’ve found other methods for my treatment indicates a lack of their trust for me, as an educated adult, to seek the answers I need for my own welfare. Though race issues are different, I firmly believe we have a listening problem and a trust problem.

To my fellow Christians, or people who claim to be followers of Christ, we ought to be disturbed by our fervor for the flag OVER our fervor for Jesus and the very people he died for. In our nation and around the globe, Christians are being persecuted because they are Christians, and yet I’ve heard more outrage over the American flag and a song celebrating it than concern for those murdered during a prayer service in Charleston a year ago. Why is this?

A big thanks goes out to the friends and family who have dialogued with me this past week even as they disagreed with me. THIS is where unity begins, in dialogue, in empathy, in trying to see life from the other’s point of view. Surely we can figure out how to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn, whether they live next door, on the other side of town, or across the world.

Unemployed, in Greenland?

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I read about a high school classmate’s successes the other day. It only took a few minutes—and yeah, a few Google searches—before the deprecating voices crept in.

This guy? He’s got his doctorate. He’s teaching and writing and researching and influencing how many scores of people in his field. And what am I doing?

It’s that last question that takes me down a really unhelpful and discouraging path. The path is littered with other questions, each rating my lack of measurable success and making me feel smaller and smaller. Where are the books you’ve planned to write? How about the children’s book you were going to photograph? The graduate degrees? The office with your title on the door? “Are you still unemployed?”

That last one wasn’t my own. I was on an insurance call not so long ago. It had been a really productive morning, I was cruising through life, getting it done left and right, and the question brought me to a screeching halt. “Are you still unemployed?” Well dang. Now that you say it… I guess so.

I let my self-worth, in that moment, be defined by the word “unemployed.” Three syllables of condemnation—to my ears, at least. I stopped and considered it and realized, Holy cow, I AM unemployed! My mind raced through all the ways I felt employed, thankyouverymuch. Sure, I take in a very small amount of money through my photography business at the moment. But money’s all we’re talking about here, right? If she had asked, “Do you work?” I could’ve explained the thousands of things I do on a daily basis and it would’ve added up to all kinds of labor the world sees as employable labor. I DO STUFF, lady. But what I really wanted to say was: I am worthwhile.

I had a conversation with a friend today where I learned how many birthday parties her kids go to each year. I can count on three fingers how many parties my child has been invited to in the last 12 months. I wasn’t grieved by the comparison because I know that my kiddo has a small friend set, but I paused internally and wondered if I should spend time being grieved by this. In the end, I think I’ve landed on a sweet understanding and it’s that birthday parties in grade school are equal to lines of resume earned by your 20th high school reunion. You can use these things to measure success, but—and this is a big but—you should not.

Friends matter. Degrees matter. Job titles and books and salaries actually do matter. But they are not ultimate things. They do not get to define a person. They are not what gives you value.

You are born valuable. Made in the image of an Almighty God, you are not worthy because of what you do, you are worthy because He made you. And He loves you. This love story has been around a long time, it was set in motion before the world began. It involves a Creator who is far more than a disinterested party somewhere in the universe. He made man special and he made man to be in relationship with him.

My takeaway is that I have a choice about how I spend my time. I want to put money and accolades in their rightful place. I want to use my gifts to serve the world around me—and sometimes that looks the way it looks today where I have this privilege to be UNEMPLOYED and yet not care because being unemployed does not define me. Whether I have three friends or fifteen, I want to love well. Whether I’ve written one blog post or five top-selling novels, I want to write well. Whether I volunteer for the PTO or for making church coffee, whether I am awesome at folding laundry or barely keeping us in clean clothes, whether I take my neighbor cookies or serve at the City Mission, I want to work with my whole heart. And I want to work from a place of worthiness; not because my work defines me, but because I am already safe and whole and loved by God.

**Blog title taken from the one of the most quotable movies ever, and one of only two VHS movies in our possession when we moved from Oregon to Nebraska in the summer before 7th grade. Do you know it?

God Hasn’t Healed Me AND He is Still Good

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Last night a pastor from a church in Fremont preached at Redeemer. In these four weeks of Advent our pastor Michael Gordon has been preaching a series on the “mothers” of Jesus, the women listed in Matthew’s genealogy. The series has been excellent (you can find the sermons here). Last night’s preaching on Ruth brought up a point that I had never noticed before—that Ruth in her first marriage never had children. In Ruth’s marriage to Naomi’s son, which the bible tells us lasted about 10 years, she was barren.

If you go on and read the entire book of Ruth you’ll learn that Boaz eventually marries Ruth and together they give birth to Obed, who is the grandfather of King David. Jesus is born in this same line, many generations later.

This weird thing happens anytime someone mentions the word “barren” in a sermon. I get hot. I feel like everyone must immediately be thinking of me with sorrow in their hearts. Yes, that is a very self-centered way to think, but it is also true that my dear, wonderful, beloved friends think of me when they hear a hard story of infertility. It’s the story that—for me—continues and does not end with biological offspring as many other stories do. If you’ve studied the bible or been listening to sermons through the years, then you’ve heard of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as well as of Hannah and Ruth. Infertile women, all of them. God opened their wombs, all of them. And furthermore, God did great things through the children he promised them.

I itch and sweat in the pew as these women’s stories are told. I get uncomfortable. I want to hide. Because my story is not like theirs; my infertility has found no resolution.

So hear me loud and clear as I get something off my chest:
God has not healed me AND he is still good.

Do you believe that? Can you believe that? Can you see something and want something so badly, can you pray for something for years and years and years, can you see your friends receive the gifts that you are not getting and can you still believe that God is good?

YES. Yes, you can. And you should.

I believe in the promises of God listed in the bible.

I believe he is good and withholds nothing that I truly need.

I believe he adores me the way that no human being can ever adore me.

I believe he catches all my tears in a bottle, that he holds me in the palm of his hand, that he shelters me under the shadow of his wings.

I believe I can be barren, infertile, not have the tidy ending of a biological child and that at the end of the day I am the recipient of God’s goodness.

THAT is what I believe. My story is the perfect one written for Rebecca Tredway. It is not Hannah’s, nor Sarah’s, nor Ruth’s. It is mine. The ending is not told, but the hope of the ending is not found in fertility. It is not found in adoption either (as profoundly grateful as I am that adoption made me a mother!). The hope I have is found in Jesus who gave everything to make me his. It’s that kind of love that gives me peace, that lets me rest, that forces me to take a deep breath in the middle of a sermon that deals with a barren womb. All is not lost. I am healed in all the right places.

Being Exposed, Finding Mercy

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I had this trajectory in mind for my life, one where I’d gradually get wiser and more mature and more self-sufficient over time. I assumed that I’d age and develop all these great traits and that I’d need people less. Because, you know, I would have so much to offer people—and somehow that seemed to go hand-in-hand with being a pillar of self-sufficiency.

What I’ve discovered is that, yes, it’s true that maturity can come with more life experiences. And if one pays attention to those life experiences, there certainly can be wisdom gained. But it is absolutely not true that wisdom and maturity go hand in hand with independence. In fact, the opposite is true. In the Christian life, age and maturity leads to greater humility and dependence—first on Christ and second on people.

I first noticed my incredible need for others when we stepped into the world of foster care. We were thrust so far outside our comfort zones that I knew the only way we’d survive would be with the help of those around us. More than the hand-me-down clothing and more than the toys dropped on our front doorstep, we needed prayer. The spiritual truth of our fostering reality was that we were incredibly weak as we served children. In fact, I don’t know that we’ve ever felt weaker. Suddenly juggling the needs of foster children—and the many unknowns—we were also managing all the normal job, household and parenting duties as before. The need for others to pray, asking God for sustenance, felt huge to me. Somehow I knew deep down that I would need to ask for a lot, and thus I immediately set up a support circle who would pray when I asked them to.

A remarkable thing happens when people pray, and I can’t really explain it entirely because it still seems so mysterious to me. God listens. He engages, he dialogues, he answers. And in turn I’m drawn to see his hand of mercy in a new way. But when a need for prayer is opened up to an entire group of people, guess who else sees God’s gracious care? All those people. Together we’re drawn closer due to our communal neediness.

It feels really vulnerable to be the one asking for prayer. Sometimes I feel like a big burden when I ask those closest to me to pray for me. When everyone prayed for our foster kids, it felt easier on my pride because it wasn’t for me! How nice, right? If you know anything about my physical woes, then you know that I’ve had to ask for prayer time and time and time again. And if a large season of time goes by where I’m not asking, it’s because I’m not telling you something. That’s how many physical needs I’ve got going on—I need a lot of prayer. Each time I email a group of friends, it takes a huge dose of humility to press the send button. Deep breath in of need, deep breath out of pride. And in that need, God shows up. He shows up in the words of friends preaching the gospel to me yet again. He shows up in the acts of mercy shown to me by loved ones. He shows up in ways of healing that I’d never choose or imagine.

The trajectory of life isn’t one where I am full of so much strength and goodness that I never have needs. Rather, the trajectory includes my humility, which forces my knee to bow to God’s greatness and requires me to acknowledge the great depth of need I have in all realms. In this I get to see that God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good. And what a beautiful thing it is to see that goodness! I am sustained by his mercy.

Momentary Affliction

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I went for a consult first. After years of avoiding the dentist—not my dentist, not my neighborhood dentist, just all dentists—I found myself in the reclining chair of my fears. I had a literal mouthful of problems to address, most of which my tongue could easily have told you about. A break on this tooth, a too-large gap on this one, a chip here and a chip there. It wasn’t pretty. How ugly was it? The dentist showed me. Not in a mean way, but in an educational, the-more-you-know kind of way. On his big screen he pointed out what was going on and what we were going to do about it.

Now, friends. I deal in the world of lovely images. Pretty pictures. Even the not-so-pretty ones are far more interesting to me than the state of my mouth. What was meant to be educational and instructive was, to my mind, a nightmare. Let’s just say I’m not a dentist for good reason. I don’t want to see my own mouth, or someone else’s for that matter. I don’t want to see anyone’s feet either. And though I’m fascinated by childbirth, I’m cool without seeing a cervix, too. Though I am the daughter of two nurses, I did not inherit their skills whatsoever.

Today I saw x-rays of my hands. For a decently tall woman, I have surprisingly child-like hands; they surprised the PA who commented on their delicacy compared to the burly hands she normally sees (lots of elderly men, I suppose). And like my experience in the dentist’s seat, I was shown images that I’d rather not see. Rheumatoid arthritis, up close and personal, doing its slow work of gnawing away at my joints. In the big picture, the little pictures of my hands were no big deal. The disease process has not altered my hands in two years and for that I am grateful. Really, it wasn’t until I was sitting in my rheumatologist’s office that I realized that I feel pretty good overall. Sometimes it takes a pause for reflection before I realize how good things are. But the hands revealed a little bit more. They showed tiny bits of damage. Small spots where RA is present. I was shown places on one wrist where bones were smooshed together when they should’ve been separated by more tissue.

I walked out of the office like a balloon with a tiny pinhole in it. Not utterly deflated, but reminded of the truth of my mortality. RA is working within me. And I’m battling against it with all the tools I have. But it’s there. Try as hard as I might to dismiss it, it’s undismissable.

As good as my life is, I know it won’t last forever. Whether I live on this earth for 37 years or for 73, it’s going to go fast. How glad I am that I’m made for more than this! What a relief to know that this life isn’t the only one I get to live. Though I’m relatively content with the body and life God has given me—relatively being the key word there—I really look forward to the resurrection someday. In Christ, I’m going to be a new creation. What’s true in my soul today will be true in my body. No more damaged joints—maybe I’ll do lots of cartwheels in glory? No more cavities. No more need for doctor’s appointments with x-rays I do not want to see. What a relief, this promise of Glory. It’s enough to patch up the pin-pricked balloon. For a few moments at least. ;)

Summer Connections

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In May I struggled to come up with words to explain my life, a life that was quite full of good things but for some reason didn’t feel quite right. My friend accurately said I felt “untethered.” Yes! Untethered. The schedule of the school year had just dissipated into summer vacation. A few weeks earlier we celebrated the reunification of our foster son with his mama. Our weekly bible study at Redeemer wrapped up and I completed my duties as administrator of the women’s ministries committee. There was a lot of freedom in my days. I felt untethered. Which leads me to the photo above. Ian. In the park. Free and happy on a swing.

My buddy Ian used to live next door to me and whenever I wanted a bit of companionship, his mom was there. Renae was easily accessible. As an extrovert, that companionship was highly valued! We lived on the same block as our church for quite awhile, which also meant that we’d have friends drop by regularly. But as the seasons of life shifted into new ones, and both Renae and I moved away from the old ‘hood, it’s become a tad harder to stay connected, to stay tethered to people. I daresay it requires intentionality that it didn’t before. It’s for this reason we’re doing a little something called Summer Lunches at Redeemer. Summer is the most untethered of all seasons and that can be a good thing! The freedom of vacation and nice weather and long days can be wonderful. But so can connection to friends new and old. Summer lunches are hosted at a different park every week and, in the simplest of terms, they’re an on-ramp to relationships. Every week someone will be at a park. They might have a lunch, they might have a kid or two, but they’ll be there and you can be there, too.

As I get older I realize more and more the beauty of belonging to a church body. The first and biggest beauty is belonging to God and worshipping him. But beyond that, there’s a sense of camaraderie of knowing that my brothers and sisters in the church are there to love and support me. In the most beautiful way possible, they are present. I belong. In Christ, I am tethered to them so that even in the hot summer months I have a place to know others and to be known.

This isn’t an advertisement for summer lunches or for Redeemer. But because I am who I am, I’m going to say this anyhow… If you want a place to belong, come to a summer lunch at a park with me. Or come to church with my family! I cannot think of a more lovely way to be tethered.

The Last Baby

I was going to type “The Baby” and then injected “Last.” Wow, that sounds kind of intense! But really, I think this will be the last small nugget we foster around here. There are loads of reasons why, but you have to take me to lunch to hear them all.

So I’m going to show you some pictures, okay? Because this baby boy is SO DANG CUTE. Boy, blog, have you missed out. Ready?

Here’s a shot of him climbing into an extra carseat in our living room. Isn’t he funny? Can you tell he’s proud of himself for conquering it?

Here’s another. He’s towering over the dog, who has his ears back as he wonders if the Baby will squash him. Baby is a solid 10 pounds heavier than Shiloh, and as you can see in this shot all those pounds are in his tummy.

Oh and this one! He’s chugging a sippy cup of milk. In a minute he’s going to throw it down the hallway. Cute. And strong. Never forget, this boy likes to throw things!

Oh and this one kills me. See him all cuddled up in Jeremy’s arms? The boys. They do love each other. The Baby hasn’t always liked to cuddle, but now he does. Every single time Jeremy walks in the room the Baby expects a daddy snuggle. Man, what that does to a woman’s heart!

Did you enjoy my foster baby photo album? I hope so. I’m sorry if this was confusing to you! Foster babies—though real flesh and blood—are pretty much invisible online. You can imagine how fun that is for a photographer mom, right?

Things Learned from February Snowfalls

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1) Arranging snow removal prior to a snowfall is probably the wisest way to go because…

2) Scooping snow after paying thousands of dollars for elbow surgeries at Mayo is really not wise.

3) Also not wise? Scooping snow with a back that has suffered a herniated disc.

4) Not all snowfalls are equal, however, so it was feasible for three Tredways to conquer the driveway and walks after the second snowfall last week.

5) As much as I love sunshine and warm temps, snow is so beautiful and peaceful and I love snuggling up at home with my family safe at my side.

6) My ten year old is now old enough to wear my long johns and, if needs be, my winter coat. When did this happen??

7) The Baby liked eating the snow that fell in the house when I opened the back door. So glad he could finally enjoy the tidbits off the floor for once.

8) If you don’t shovel a path to the yard, your small dog will happily do his business on the patio. Or so I’ve heard. Rumors really.

9) Much of our snow melted over the weekend. New England friends, my heart goes out to you! Spring will come eventually.

Summahtime

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My little space on the world wide web isn’t getting much attention these days. It’s not that I don’t have time really, but my creativity is often expressed outside the internet realm. It’s summer time. And for this freelancing photographer and part-time SAHM, it means I’m here full-time with the spectacular Livia Raine. Our days are filled with lots of face-to-face time, which can be entirely fabulous or entirely draining depending on the moment.

We do Mommy School in the summers on most mornings. Not only is it a way to encourage personal and academic growth, it also serves as a way to keep me from answering the “I’m bored” statement (which is really a demanding question, isn’t it?) and thus being cast immediately in the role of cruise ship director where I plan activity after activity to keep my only-child occupied. No one needs that. And yet, Liv doesn’t have a sibling to play with, so really, Mommy School helps us out—for a few hours at least. We read, we solve problems, we do math, we write, we play. It’s all good. And all the structure inevitably encourages more independent playtime later. Win-win.

There are those summer activities everyone wants to participate in. Camps and clubs. Hours logged at the swimming pool. Park playdates and evening strolls with ice cream. Museums and road trips. We’ll get some of those in as well.

I find the transition to summer to be challenging. I love the solid assurance of the normal 8:00am-3:00pm school day. Life gets mapped out in neat little chunks and I can fit my ESFJ self into it. On Wednesdays I have bible study, which means I get to study the word of God, might get to lead the study, have lots of girl time and drink hot coffee. Some Mondays include Moms in Prayer and then it’s like a smaller repeat of bible study days. And in between I’ll take on a photo job here and there, edit the shoots, have lunch with my mom or other women, and arrange all the usual things it takes to keep a household running. By 3pm I am All Liv All the Time. And I eat it up. It fulfills both the scheduler in me and the spontaneous part of my personality that is far more P than J.

Summer, well… Summer changes all that. As I said, lots of face time. Lots of free time. A lot less adult time. I get a little lost for the first few weeks as I struggle to gain my footing. I ask myself why I feel so off-kilter, why it feels like I’m wearing a shirt that just. doesn’t. fit. right. Is it the tag? Is the neck too tight? Is it a loose thread? No, it’s just summer. Free-wheeling, kid time, unstructured summer. And eventually I adjust. I build the structure I need and go out to coffee dates a lot more. I find other moms who are at home and I inundate them with texts and Facebook messages and phone calls until I’m satisfied. I dream of the next date night with Jeremy and am excited when it rolls around.

I might even write a little. I might shoot a lot of pictures. I might get creative. And I might show some of it here.

Then again, it’s summer. So I might not.

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