Thursday, March 31, 2011

The City

I step onto the train and find a seat
There are two other people in the car
Both men
One at each end
I make note of the nearest exit

A man starts to sing loudly
I can't understand the words
But his voice is strong and clear
I'm irritated and wish he would stop
I notice a Rosary in his hands
I realize that I was annoyed at his prayers

Trash-filled lots fly by below us
Glittering in the sunlight
How many broken bottles does it take
To make it sparkle so brilliantly?
I notice concrete under the grass and weeds
What used to be there?

A man catches my eye
His look is a little too friendly
I look away
I ignore his attempts to recapture my attention
I await my destination

The streets are bustling
Every person has their own purpose
Every face it's own story
I remember:
"If we saw people the way Jesus does,
we would all fall on our faces to worship God for His masterpieces"
The masterpieces move on
I never worshiped

The Red Cross is seeking donations
I ask for a website
Someone wants to pay me $10 to take a survey
I walk past
"Streetwise! Streetwise!"
I turn around and the woman has already moved on
She assumed I didn't care
She holds my coke as I dig into my purse
I barely have the $2 to buy her newspaper
I wonder if the exchange gave her dignity

The platform for my train home is crowded
People with suitcases look lost as they try to find O'Hare
I gawk at a girl
Her stone-washed jeans and neon-striped high tops are startling
I've read all of the ads already
The train is taking forever to arrive

I settle into my seat
I unwrap my lunch
A recording reminds me that eating is prohibited
The train roars as we emerge from the tunnel

A young girl cautiously enters the train
Under her arm is a cap and gown
Graduation is awaiting her
Will she stay?
Did she fall in love with our city too?
Or did she just endure it until she could leave?

Some people are reading or listening to music
Some are sleeping
Others stare out the windows
Their faces show the weariness of life
One man looks as if he is dreading his destination
"Doors open on the left at Western"

The cars on the freeway are passing our train
We go through a tunnel
On the other side of it is the end of the city
It bids us farewell with a tent
Ripped and strung between a fence and a tree
The man who lives there is panhandling on the street below
I shiver at how cold his nights must be

Did you read that?
It bears repeating
There is a man who lives in a ripped tent
In Chicago
In March
And January
And July
And all of the other months

The city I love
Magnifies my hypocrisy
Amuses me
Arouses my curiosity
Captures my adoration
Breaks my heart

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Um, sure"

This is another post with snippets of things that Ayden is saying and doing today.


My phone just chimed to indicate that there was a new text message. It was sitting on the coffee table next to Ayden, just out of my reach. So I asked Ayden, "can you hand me my phone?" His response, "um sure."

"Um" entered his vocabulary earlier this week. "Sure" entered it today. Both sound way too grown-up for him to be saying, especially with proper use!


He just (incorrectly) sang the entire ABC's. When he was done I asked if he wanted to sing it again with me singing along. He got excited at that suggestion and said yes. So I started singing. He started singing along. But by the time I got to about "D," he looked at me like I had just offended him and collapsed into a fit of tears. I have no idea what I did wrong.


As I type this, Ayden is stacking all of his cars and trucks onto Judah. Judah is loving the attention. Stacking piles of things onto Judah is one of Ayden's favorite pastimes. Having piles of things stacked onto him by Ayden is one of Judah's favorite pastimes. At least they are in agreement about it!


Ayden just walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, opened the drawer, pulled out an apple, and took a big bite out of it. I love self-sufficiency!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

A song in my head....

It's probably been at least a decade since I last heard this song by Rebecca St. James (is she even around anymore?). But it's been in my head for a few weeks. She sings it acapella on a "hidden" track at the end of another song. It is so simple and I really love the lyrics.....

Psalm 139

You search me
You know me
You see my every move
There's nothing I could ever do
To hide myself from You
You know my thoughts
My fears and hurts
My weaknesses and pride
You know what I am going through 
And how I feel inside

But even though You know
You will always love me
Even though You know 
You'll never let me go 
I don't deserve Your love
But you give it freely
You will always love me
Even though You know

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Shame and Humiliation

Last week, after increasingly improving more and more every day, I had a bad day. A really bad day. Luke and I had a fight before he left for work, and we were both too immature to just resolve it before he left. Then Judah decided it was a good day for his 6-month growth spurt, but of course it took a long morning of much screaming on his part before I figured that out. On the heals of such recent improvement, that bad day felt like an even deeper failure. 

By midmorning, I found myself looking for ways to get rid of my children. Not just for the day, but for someone else to raise them. I was convinced that I was never going to get better and therefore I was a terrible mother and the best thing I could do for my boys was to just give them to someone else to adopt and take in as their own.* 

I desperately needed help that day. I didn't ask for it. I was ashamed. At such an intensely weak point, I was too proud to tell the people around me that I needed some support. I wanted to keep up appearances that things were fine. I'm strong and capable. I don't need help. 

In the midst of it, I fessed up to an anonymous online community of moms--there's no shame if it is anonymous. The response was immediate. Countless women offered to come over and help if I lived near them. Complete strangers from all over the country were offering help, some even offering to drive up to 2-3 hours! Many others told stories of their own (past) despair, and how much they regretted that they didn't seek out help sooner. 

Then an email I received a few weeks ago from a college friend came back to me:

I just wanted to remind you of the ways that you let people come into your life and help you when you were in college.  I remember coming to get you at your apartment . . . The point is, please let people do that again for you.  Whatever that looks like now, whoever that is in your life now.  I love you, but I know there are a lot of other people who love you too.
By the end of the day it was clear: I needed to ask for help.**

So I did. Yep, I fessed up to my inability to manage even the littlest tasks and I asked for help. It feels so wrong to ask someone if they might be willing to come and clean your bathroom for you. It feels even worse to watch them do it. To stand there and know that you are physically capable of doing that task, you even have the time to do it, but the mental exercises necessary to accomplish it are outside your reach. 

Last night Luke needed to study late into the night so I had a friend come over to help with the boys. By the time she got here, I was completely stressed from the afternoon, and more than ready to have help. She spent the next few hours feeding and bathing my kids, while I helplessly stood nearby answering her questions about what they needed. 

After the boys were in bed, I flopped onto the couch, exhausted from the efforts of the day. She proceeded to pick up toys, put away clutter, and clean up the kitchen. I again found myself immobile while someone else did my job. 

It's humiliating to repeatedly reach the end of your patience for your children. It's humbling to allow someone to take them aside and play with them for awhile so you can have a break. It's humiliating to have a babysitter in your house when it is trashed from a week's worth of living but no cleaning. It's humbling to come home and find that everything has been cleaned for you. It's humiliating to show your weaknesses. It's humbling to allow others to lovingly help you when you need it. Humiliation is an acceptance of the shame that comes with people having a lower opinion of you because of your imperfections. Humility is an acceptance of the love of others as they reach out to help you. 

Last week, I felt ashamed and humiliated at the thought of allowing the people that I know to see me so weak and incapable. But when people respond with love and support, it isn't humiliating or shameful. It's actually quite beautiful and amazing. 

*Thankfully, I had a counselling appointment scheduled for the next day, and was able to work through the of the effects of that day and get on the right track again. I have no intention of giving up my kids. :~D 
**This post is NOT a plea for help. If it was, that would be passive and manipulative. I've asked people who are nearby and have the time and resources and who I have a secure enough relationship with that I'm not worried about them hating me forever judging me. It's one thing to tell everyone you know that your house is a mess, it's a completely different thing to ask someone to try to scrub that mess away. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

PPD* Posts

A few things that are on my mind that I would love to write about soon:

  1. Asking for and accepting help. Why do we shy away from it? Why is it so hard? I've been asking for a lot of help lately, and am amazed at how difficult it is both to ask for it, and to receive the help graciously. 
  2. The "shame" of talking about PPD. I just read an article by a woman who's son just turned one. She's been struggling with PPD the entire time. She said that publishing this article would be the first that her family and closest friends even knew that she had been struggling. WHY? Why is it so wrong to talk about it, especially while it is going on?
  3. An update on me--a lot of people have been asking how I am doing--thanks! The summary is that it is still up and down, but I am in counselling that is going really well and I have gotten help from a number of awesome people. But I'd love to write a more detailed assessment of my life right now.
These few sentences don't do justice to all of the thoughts swirling through my mind as I work through all of this. Not only am I working to get out of this and figure myself out, but I am so aware of how HIDDEN this struggle is expected to be. I am determined to not hide. I want to talk openly about this, and I don't want to wait until after it is over. I'd love to set a precedent, if only for a few people, that it is GOOD to talk about things like this and accept the support of the community around you. Facing it alone only makes it worse.

Stay tuned for three long posts on the topics above. Sometime. Meanwhile, any readers out there want to chime in on any of this?

*PPD stands for Postpartum-Depression, which is the fancy term for the depression that plagues many women after the birth of a child. That said, I think these topics are applicable to ALL forms of depression. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Road to Rwanda

This blog started as a chronicle of our journey to Rwanda (although at the time we didn't yet know where it was that God would lead us). It then fizzled out and was pretty inactive for awhile. I've revived it with many stories and thoughts of the present, without much mention of the future.

Meanwhile, numerous people have asked us what our plan is with Rwanda. Are we still going? When? What does that process look like? I intend to answer those questions here.

First, yes, we are still planning to go. We're even excited about it! The process was on hold for a little while, then we had a baby who turned our life up-side-down, and now we simply find ourselves behind on just about everything. Yet in all of that, our hearts and minds are still with the people of Rwanda. Every update we receive from one of the missionaries there is like an energizing shot of adrenaline. We follow the news there. Luke can't stop talking about how much of the language he wants to learn before we even get there. We discuss how it will affect our children. We recall people that we met and churches that we saw. We're EXCITED to go and are impatient with the process!!

And a process it is! Several weeks ago, we finally got the go-ahead from our church to apply with the mission agency. Since then, we have received a steady flow of application materials to complete and return. We expected the basic application form with a work/school history, a few questions about what we believe or how we feel about certain things, etc. In addition, we had to find 20 references--yep 20! Luke wrote a 6-page theological statement that we have to discuss with one of our pastors before returning to the mission agency. We each have to write a long biographical sketch (I think it is like 5 pages or something!). And let's not forget the psychological evaluations, marriage evaluation, and personality test. We also have to submit blood work and physicals on all four of us. I'm pretty sure there is more, although I can't think of anything else right now. Luke is mostly done with his portion of it, while I have barely started. All of it is due at various points in April.

Once all of that has been submitted, a committee at the mission agency will review all of it. If everything checks out, we will be invited to head out to Denver in June. While in Denver, we will have about a week of more evaluation and interviews. At the end of that week, we will (hopefully!) be formally appointed as full-time missionaries with the mission agency! We'll spend another week in Denver for some initial training, then head home to Chicago.

From that point on, we'll begin the process of recruiting partners for our ministry in Rwanda. We will be looking for individuals and families who are willing to pray for us and/or partner with us financially. We will also be looking for churches who are willing to take us in as missionaries that they will help support. This process is expected to take 1-2 years, although there is no telling for sure what it will really look like. As soon as all of our funding has been raised, we will move to Rwanda! We're thinking maybe the later half of 2012? we are working to raise the funds to go to Rwanda, we will also be working to prepare in a few other ways. The mission agency has a number of training times that we will take part in, usually involving another trip to Denver for a week or two. We will continue serving in our church here in Chicago in the various ministries that we are involved in. And obviously, there will be a lot to do in practical terms (packing, buying things, selling things, visas, shots, goodbyes.....) in order to move our family to Rwanda, so we'll be focusing on that as well.

Now that I've laid out a nice timeline with clear tasks and activities, I should mention that it almost certainly won't come about in the way that I have just described. There's a lot of speculation based on variables that could easily change. BUT, this is what we are carefully expecting right now, knowing that God could re-route things in any number of ways.

What we do know is this: Our job is to follow Jesus step by step, even if He veers from the path that we expect Him to go. Right now, God is pretty clearly directing us to follow Him in this way. Our church supports it, the missionaries that we are hoping to join support it, and we are excited about it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Fog is Lifting

Life was a haze
I was there, watching my children play and cry and eat
But I wasn't really there
I changed the diapers and sang the songs
But I was buried
I would hear their cries
I could feel a tinge of compassion
But I didn't move
I'd offer a heartless word to try to appease one
And a toy or a blanket to appease the other
I knew they needed more
I couldn't do it
I watched myself ignore the things swirling around me
My husband needed a partner
I couldn't do it
My sons needed a Mama
I couldn't do it

Then slowly
Very slowly
Too slowly to see in the moment
The fog began to lift
I responded to a cry
I smiled as I sang
I tickled and giggled and played
Now I find that my cheeks hurt from the laughter
My legs and arms ache from the endless activity
My mind is clearing
My heart is open
Life is returning
I am returning

Friday, March 11, 2011


The weather finally warmed up a bit, the sun was out, and we decided to go for a walk! Although you can't tell from this picture, Ayden is actually standing on a platform behind Judah's seat. He rides in the stroller standing on that platform, or he can sit in a seat with his back to Judah (if you can't picture what I am talking about, click here). This is our first time using the stroller without the infant car seat for Judah. He did great and LOVED being able to sit up and see the world! In fact, when I tried to recline the seat for him, he strained to sit up anyway. I hear that by this time next week, we might be in the 60's. In my opinion, life doesn't get much better than walking with my boys in the sunshine and warmth!

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Little Schmo

Before Judah was born, Luke and I often referred to Ayden as "the boy," "the baby," or some other generic word. By the time Judah was a week old, we had a problem: we continued with the use of our generic terms, and constantly found ourselves asking each other, "which one?"

Now I know we can use their names (and we do), but sometimes the generic terms are just easier. Do you really expect me to remember my kids' names when I'm in the midst of wrestling them into their carseats? I mean seriously, let's be realistic here.

So we started brainstorming. The Kid & The Baby. Big One & Little One. Senior & Junior. Big Schmo & Little Schmo. Neither of us could agree to any of the suggestions that the other gave.

But Schmo kinda stuck with me, and I've found that it is becoming my nickname for Judah. It's kinda cute, and easily rhymes with things. It rolls off the tongue much more naturally than Judah. It's easy to use affectionately ("Hey little Schmo-mo") or when I am exasperated ("Dude, Schmo!").

Then Luke informed me that Judah might not appreciate the nickname in a few years. So I Googled it. Uh oh. The first result is, where schmo is defined as "a fool or a bore." Wait, what? Isn't a "Joe Schmo" just an average guy? Insert a perplexed sigh here.

I love my little Schmo!
So, when I say to Judah, "Good morning, Little Schmo!" I'm actually saying, "Good morning, Little Fool," or "Good Morning, Little Bore." At 5 months old, he may be a fool, but he is certainly not a bore!!

So the question at hand is, can I really give him a complex for this? I mean he'll be at least 5 or 6 before he would be able to Google it for himself, and by then he would know that I mean it with the deepest of affection, right?

As an alternative, maybe I should stick with "Wiggleworm." It certainly applies, even if it doesn't fit so neatly into common speech!