Sunday, December 27, 2009

A perfectly imperfect Christmas, and a first year gone by

When I imagined Jaden's first Christmas, I entertained images of my sweet-natured, giggly, happy little boy basking in the warm glow of Christmas, drinking in the love of his family as we all "oooo" and "ahhhhh" over gifts, reminisce about Christmases past, and feel all warm and safe and happy.

Christmas Eve should have told me that my plans were not to come to fruition. We spent the night at Tamara and Heidi's house, and I had hopes of watching some Christmas movies, cuddling with my baby, and sleeping snugly as we all anticipated Christmas morning. However, before we even got to Tamara and Heidi's house, Jaden's Fussy Pants were on and I knew my plans were quickly unravelling.

Jaden had not napped all day, and was very cranky. When we got to my sister's house, I gave him a bottle of milk and put him in the crib for a nap. He proceeded to throw a screaming fit, which he would repeat later when it was time for bed. As the evening wore on into the night, it was becoming evident that my Christmas dreams were about to be undone.

On Christmas Eve, after sleeping in the crib for a couple of hours, Jaden woke up screaming. I gave him a bottle, and as we headed back to the bedroom, I concluded that putting him back into the crib was not worth the fight. He slept with me in the bed for the rest of the night, either with his head on my chest, or laying next to me cheek to cheek. If I altered the positons, he would wake up and cry. It was a long night.

Morning finally came, and the Christmas happenings temporarily distracted him from his woes. During some snuggle time, I saw the source of those woes: Two teeth popping through his tender little gums. Jaden's mood did not improve, and we left shortly after eating a quick breakfast with the family...during which, Jaden tore some of Tamara's weather-seal plastic off the window. When we got home, his crabbiness continued into the night. Christmas Day turned out to be a long, crabby day, and by the end of the day I was practically dancing for joy when Jaden's bedtime came.

After Jaden went to bed and I had time to think about the day and put my thoughts down on paper, I realized what a great day it really was. We are very blessed, and while the day was far from picture perfect, it was not entirely without its charm. Jaden enjoyed his new toys. He especially enjoyed the Walk 'n' Ride I got for him, which allowed him to walk around without needing my assistance. In between meltdowns, Jaden was sweet as could be. All things considered, our Christmas was memorable for its perfect imperfection.

Today, Jaden gave me a gift that more than made up for yesterday. My sweet little boy took three steps, all by himself, toward me. He did not hold on to the furniture. He did not hold on to his Walk 'n' Ride. He simply walked forward, to me. It was amazing. It absolutely made my day.

Today...well, in five hours and 22 minutes, actually...he will be one year old. It has been an incredible year, and motherhood has been the single most exhilerating experience of my life. He is a joy. A delight. A source of endless wonder for me. I would not trade it for anything, teething fussiness and all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Sunday, we celebrated my sweet little boy's first year in this world. He won't actually be a year old until December 27, but I didn't want his first birthday to get jumbled in with Christmas. He has plenty of years ahead of him to get cheated out of a birthday party.

Our first year together has been an amazing journey. As difficult as single motherhood is, I have no regrets about the choices I made to bring my son safely into this world, and ensure that our life would be one of peace and joy.

I have learned a lot from my son. He has taught me not to underestimate anything based on its initial appearance. He constantly amazes me as he blows my assumptions about his childlike mind out of the water. He has taught me that each moment is precious and meant to be savored, as they pass quickly and we can never have them back.

When he was two months old, he became very sick and had to be hospitalized for four days. In that time, he taught me that, while he has been entrusted to my care, he doesn't belong to me. It is my love him, nurture him, raise him to be the best person he can possibly be. When all is said and done, though, he belongs to God. I am simply honored to be his mother.

In this year, I have witnessed my sweet, helpless, needy little baby grow to become more independent, more sure of himself and his own abilities. He still needs me, and will for a long time, but not nearly in the same way that he did in those first days.

Oh, those first days...As much as I miss my tiny little baby, I wouldn't roll the clock back for anything. Those first days are utterly exhausting, and are at once the happiest and saddest days I've ever lived. I remember being bone tired, and listening to Jaden wind up for another cry to let me know he needed to breastfeed, or needed a diaper change, or just wanted to be held. In the span of 24 hours, my life had gone from one of simplicity, able to do as I please, when I please, to one of being at the beck and call of a precious little stranger. I wouldn't trade those days for anything, but I don't want to relive them. I am glad to have my little man becoming more independent every day.

More than anything, this year has taught me about God's grace. Jaden and I have been protected from so much, and we have been provided for extravagantly. That lesson has been among the greatest gifts Jaden has brought into my life.

I am blessed to be Jaden's mother. It's the best job I've ever had, and it seemed as though I was hardly living before he came into my life.

Enjoy this video montage of my son's first year. Here's to many more to come!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thoughts on Thinking

The question posed here bothers me on multiple levels, but the most bothersome part is that the person asking the question is representative of so many within the Christian community who seem incapable of making an independent decision. For whatever reason, it is common, even encouraged, within Christian circles to delay making any decisions without first confirming through various sources that what you want to do is what God wants you to do.

"Confirmation" is a buzz word in the Christian circles I was a part of. Having "confirmation" on a decision meands that God has apparently given the green light to go forward as planned. In fact, going forward with a big decision without having said confirmation is essentially inviting trouble into one's life. If the thing you have chosen to do is done without that confirmation, and it blows up in your face, it is believed that you should not have attempted it in the first place, and the blowing up part is God's way of punishing you for going forward without His "thumbs up".

Over the years, I have seen people reach far in order to grasp the coveted confirmation. I have done it myself, many times, before reaching the realization that I could find confirmation anywhere if I wanted something badly enough. Anyway, over the years I have seen people find confirmation in something as innocuous as the position of a leaf on the ground, or something more substantial, such as an alleged vision.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it renders us useless in terms of making decisions on our own. In certain circles, such as those I grew up with, it is collectively believed that any decision we might make on our own is going to end disasterously, because our hearts and minds are naturally inclined toward evil. We utterly disregard the idea of being made in the image of God. We are made in His image, therefore having the capability of making good choices for ourselves, without the multitude of confirmations we believe we need.

I believe we have been gifted with the ability to make sound judgments based on the evidence we have before us that speaks directly to the decision we are making. Certainly, it is prudent to seek counsel from trusted friends and leaders, but ultimately we have to be able to trust ourselves to make good choices in the situations we face. To believe we are incapable of doing that only leads to a place of constant self-doubt, leaving us vulnerable to people and circumstances that may demand a quick decision.

In my own life, I grew up with tremendous self-doubt. Due in part to the impressions made upon me in church, I believed there was nothing good in me and I could not possibly make good choices in my life without having a long list of "confirmations" to support whatever choice I am inclined to make. Such thinking has lead me down many harmful roads.

Most recently, this agonizing self-doubt lead me into a very dangerous relationship with a man, and I ultimately married him. Everything in me was telling me to get away from him, yet the timing of our relationship made it appear as though this man was a gift from heaven, an answer to prayer. Further "confirmations" of this lead me to believe that my instincts were wrong, and I needed to graciously embrace what God had given me. I turned a blind eye to the red flags, hushed the words of caution that kept playing in my mind, and considered that our relationship had plenty of evidence of being from God. We both had all the confirmations we needed in order to justify our relationship as a God ordained blessing.

We got married, and I realized I had married a monster. I realized that the inclinations I had to run away from him were God-given instincts, and I should have trusted them. Shortly after getting married, I got pregnant. Upon learning of my pregnancy, and enduring one final and very frightening display of my husband's wrath, I left my marriage and began preparations for single motherhood.

I am quite sure that this was not in God's perfect plan for me, despite any confirmations I thought I had. By the grace of God, and my new found ability to trust the instincts He has given me, my son and I have a very happy life. Everything about how our life came to be this way is utterly contrary to the beliefs I grew up with. I had no "confirmations" that leaving my husbnad and filing for divorce was the right thing to do. I had no confirmations that putting measures in place to protect my son from his father was the right thing to do. I had no miraculous shows of foliage on the ground to tell me that planning a life for my son, sans father, was the best thing for us.

Yet, I trusted my gut instincts and went forward with my plans, and everything has turned out wonderfully. Furthermore, I also discovered that my husband had been seeking relationships with other women before I even filed for divorce, despite his claims of remorse about our situation. Upon discovering this, I knew in that moment that every decision I made was right, however contrary it may have been to standard operating procedure.

With regard to the question in the video, it disturbs that the man would believe that his skills are something he may have to put on the back burner because they may not be honoring to the Lord. I believe that there are times when all the confirmation you need to tell you that something is from God, is that the thing is right in front of your face. I honestly believe that God gave us intuition for a reason, and there is something offensive about the belief that there is something intrinsically evil about trusting our God-given awareness.

As long as we're not inhaling demons, I think we'll be alright in trusting ourselves a bit more.

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