Monday, March 10

Loving the People of Walmart

I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a woman. I'm a friend and daughter and granddaughter and sister and aunt. I'm a church member, a choir singer, a youth worker. I'm a neighbor, a homeowner, an employee. And I'm a me; an individual who is influenced, motivated, and shaped by all those roles I just mentioned but also separate from them in many ways. I don't think they are supposed to fully define who I am. I think who I am should define how I approach each of those relationships and functions. 

What defines me is my relationship with Jesus. Yes, this is another one of those spiritual posts, but it's something that's been on my mind lately. It's so easy to get lost in or consumed by any and all of those roles I play. It's easy and perfectly understandable to see how a mom can become nothing more than a mom. Children are all-consuming, self-centered, soul-sucking little creatures that require so much, but you love them with a sacrificial, unconditional, proud love that seems to come naturally. Or being a homeowner, that can easily become the definition of me... the constant housework, chores, and maintenance that need to be performed, not to mention the desire to decorate, remodel, replace, and improve, all of which create a never-ending to-do list. Or church member; I go to church three times a week, serve in different ministries, and participate in church events. It's easy to start to think those are enough, to think that I've done my job if all of the different hats I wear are juggled just right and worn long enough to make everyone happy and meet everyone's needs. 

But that generally never works out because it's very difficult to give 100% of yourself to 15 different things, to make everyone happy, and complete every job or task perfectly all the time. There's a reason that the cliche "There are never enough hours in the day" exists. It's because there is too much to do and not enough time or willpower to do it. And lately (mostly due to a sermon my brother-in-law recently preached), I've been realizing that I'm sort of standing behind all these roles and responsibilities and using them as monuments, as my trophies that I hold up to God to say, "Look, I'm doing enough. I'm taking care of all these things. I couldn't possibly add anything else. Maybe when this season in life ends I'll have more time to serve others and share your love with people outside my immediate circle of acquaintance." 

I stand behind the monument of motherhood and being a wife and homeowner and think, "How could I serve one other person? I have a house to keep in order (or at least, you know, the couple of rooms that are accessible to visitors). I have a family to feed and plan for. I have two children under the age of three. Surely, that is enough." And I hear this little thought in my mind that says, "Shelby, Shelby, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary" (an adaptation from Luke 10:38-42). That one necessary thing? I think it's just loving my Savior. I think God is trying to show me that I'm putting the cart before the horse, that I'm working and serving and letting my roles define me, then feeling like there is nothing left to give so I settle for just enough and offer that up to Him to try to justify that I'm worthy and that I'm doing what He's called me to do. But all that He really ever asked me to do is to love Him, to realize the depths of what He has done in my heart and my life, to recognize where I would be without Him and to allow that love and gratitude and joy to fill me up and flow out of me to my family, to my friends, to my job, to my fellow church members, to my neighbors, to the people of Walmart.

Maybe right now I can't pick up and run off to some third-world country to share the gospel (though there are days that it is very tempting). But what I'm finally figuring out is that if I truly understand the gospel and allow it take hold of my heart, then there are opportunities every day to show the love of Christ (the gospel) to the world around me. And I can start with my family. I can start with my neighbors. I can start at Walmart.

That elderly man parked in his powered grocery cart right in front of the freezer section I need to access. Instead of hating him because he's an obstacle to my path, I can love him by asking how I can help him. That mom with her screaming children getting groceries at 9:30 at night. I can hate her by being critical and thinking her poor children should be at home asleep, or I can love her by having compassion and realizing that this may be the only time she is able to get groceries because she may not have anyone to help her at home, and offer her a kind, encouraging word as I pass. The employee who drops some items he's restocking. I can hate him by walking past and going about my own business, or I can love him by forgetting myself for a second and helping him pick up the packages. The cashier who decides to tell me her life story while the line is backing up. I can hate her by not listening, by not caring, by mentally putting her in some predetermined category of people (me-monsters), by worrying more about the people in line behind me than about the words this woman wants to share, or I can love her by showing empathy and not judging, by asking her name and telling her I will pray for her (and then actually praying for her), by maybe doing something within my means to practically meet a need for her.

I'm learning these things are important because anyone can be kind and considerate, but if I name Jesus as my Savior, then my life should definitely be marked by kindness, compassion, consideration, love, and self-forgetfulness. My sister-in-law who has only been a believer for a couple of years showed me at dinner last week what it looks like to treasure Christ and show him to others. Our waitress was rude and short with us before we had even said a word. She was clearly not interested in doing her job with excellence, and I was irritated before she had finished taking our drink orders. I gave a knowing (read: critical/judgmental) glance at my sister-in-law who just smiled, and when it was her turn to order, totally surprised me by stopping the ordering process and saying to the waitress: "How are you doing tonight? You seem like you're having a rough evening." What?!? That was not what I expected from my bold, sometimes sharp-tongued friend. And it humbled me to the core. I hadn't even thought about this girl and her situation. I hadn't taken one second to consider that she was having an awful night. I thought she had a job to do, and she should be doing it without projecting her anger from a previous situation onto us. So instead of loving her, I hated her. But Lee's simple gesture of kindness and thoughtfulness, asking her name and if there was anything we could pray about for her when we prayed for our meal... it softened that waitress. I hope it showed her there is kindness and love in this world. I hope it gave her hope, and most of all, I hope eventually God uses that encounter in some way to draw her heart to Him. But one thing I know for certain is that it gripped me and showed me I live too much for myself, for my own desires, needs, expectations, wants. 

That one small interaction has opened my heart to see just how much of a mission field there really is all around me if I can get outside of ME and all those monuments I've put up. And I'm starting at Walmart.

Tuesday, March 4

Roman - Nine Months

I realize these are not very good pictures (in the technical sense). 
They are four of about 60 that I had to take this time to try to get just ONE decent monthly picture. 
He's a busy guy these days.
Roman turned nine months old back in February. I find that I'm getting excited about the first year coming to a close in just a few months because it means no more monthly updates, which means I will no longer feel guilty for posting monthly updates three weeks late. If we have a third child, his or her monthly updates will probably all just be in one big post at the end of the first year.

But I still find them valuable, even if they are a little laborious and take up my precious Downton Abbey watching, World War Z reading, nap, um, Bible study time. So I press on... three more months.

At his checkup, Roman was only about 18 pounds and 28 inches long (I think, or it may have only been 27 inches... I forgot to write it down). That was a little surprising to me because he seems heavier than that. Brock was 20 pounds by 9 months, and Roman eats a lot more than Brock ever did, but he's much more active than Brock was too. He's healthy so that's really all I'm worried about.

Anyway, these are some of the things he was doing between the eighth and ninth month:

  • He started becoming very impatient when he wanted something, and he learned how to throw real tantrums, particularly for food. You can't put him in the highchair unless the food is right there ready to go on the tray. Well, you can, but you'll have to listen to him scream and cry like someone is torturing him if you make him wait five seconds. Seriously, you see me right here opening up your jar of peas and getting a spoon; you know it's coming; why are you freaking out? Such an inefficient use of your energies, my sweet son.
  • He dropped down to two consistent naps this month, each one about an hour and a half long. He was taking the first one around 9:30 or 10:00 and the second one around 1:30 or 2:00. He's gotten very predictable with his daytime sleep now, so that's nice.
  • He started sleeping pretty consistently from about 7:45 at night to 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. Usually if he wakes any earlier than 6:30, he just eats and then goes back to sleep for another hour or two. There were a couple weeks this month when he would wake up around 3:30 or 4:00 every night, and at first I would go in to feed him, but then I realized that it was most likely just teething not hunger, so Blaine took over the comforting for a couple nights in a row, and then he quit waking up after that (apparently it's not worth waking up in the middle of the night if it's just for Dad).  
  • He finally dropped the dreamfeed this month. Yaay. He just wouldn't wake up enough when I would go to feed him for it, only nursing for maybe two minutes or not at all, so I knew it was the end. He kept it a lot longer than Brock, so I was glad to see it go.
  • He also moved to a four hour eating schedule this month. Another yaay. He just wouldn't be interested in food before that four hour mark (sometimes 3.5 hours), and he was able to stay awake longer (about 2 hours) before naps, so it was an easy transition.
  • He's crawling all over the place now and is no longer content to sit still (note the picture at the top). Gone are the days of the peaceful, observant baby. He wants to participate in everything now. And like his brother, he doesn't have a normal crawl either. He tucks one leg underneath himself and only crawls on one knee while scooting on the other leg. It gets him where he wants to go though, so whatever works.
  • He figured out how to move from sitting to laying down, and he can sit himself up really well now. He was trying to pull up from sitting to standing around the middle of the month, and by the end of month, he could pull himself up in his crib or on anything else that was pretty sturdy and could bear his weight. Sitting back down was a different story. Just like every other irrational development, he had some kind of physical compulsion to stand up when we would lay him down for naps. As soon as his back hit the crib, he would flip over, crawl to the rails, lift himself up, laugh and smile and talk for approximately 30 seconds, then begin screaming like someone had just put him on the world's scariest roller coaster until one of us went to lay him back down. Ok, maybe that wouldn't be so bad if he did it once each time then went to sleep, but we had to go through this cycle about 15 times for each nap for about a week and a half. Lay him down, watch him flip and crawl and smile, walk out the door, wait outside door 30 seconds, 3...2...1... SCREAM, go back in, lay him down... lather, rinse, repeat. Babies. Are. Ridiculous.
  • Moving on. He definitely knows his name now. He especially likes it when his name is followed by the word, "No." Not that he responds correctly to that word. He smiles or even laughs when he's told not to do something, which is actually really cute and funny, but he can never know that we think that because it quickly becomes not cute and not funny, so we can't positively reinforce it now. (There's a lot of smiling behind our hands or with our faces turned).
  • He said his first word this month: Bye bye. It's also the first (and only) sign language sign he learned because he started waving bye bye too.
  • For my future reference, he still spits up occasionally, but it is much less frequent now.
  • Finally, he started showing some of the normal separation anxiety stuff this month, but it has not been nearly as bad as Brock's. It was interesting because I got one of those BabyCenter emails that said, "You're baby may start showing signs of separation anxiety soon" and then the next day he didn't want anyone other than Blaine or me to hold him. He would act more wary of strangers and even family members, and he would have to examine people for a few minutes before he was willing to go to them. But by the end of the month, it wasn't affecting him much at all unless he was in a bad mood or tired. This was much different from Brock, who still gets anxious when we drop him off at church if it's not with his normal teachers or in his normal room. I guess Roman will be a lot more flexible and extroverted than Brock.
Now, on to the pictures:

Brock wanted to have his "monthly picture" made too, and he wanted to act like Roman while I was taking the pictures, so that first one is him trying (pretty successfully) to dive off of the front of the chair. The bottom two show how both of our boys love their little blankies. This is how they self-soothe (Brock, with the covert thumb-sucking, and Roman, with the heavy metal rock band fingers).

(I couldn't get a smile out of him because he was mad at me that I wouldn't let him climb all over the chair and fling himself into the floor)