Saturday, November 30, 2013

Photographing Life

A July Birthday
I think of myself as a klutz when it comes to photography. My hideous food blog will attest to that. I just want to snap a photo...I don't want to adjust the lighting! And I have no idea how to get non-blurry photos of a toddler, or of people talking and laughing.

Nevertheless, I am a bit of a historian by nature, which means I'm sometimes just a pack-rat, but at other times I'm able to preserve some pretty special memories.

Earlier this year, I came across a blog (maybe another of my blogging friends quoted it?) where the author talked about the importance of being photographed with your kids. They're too little to remember a lot of those moments, but as they grow up they'll be able to look at the photos and know that you were right there with them.

I think of lot of times the adults don't end up in photos simply because we are the ones behind the camera. It's not like we are particularly avoiding it. And then there are the bad-hair days and all the time when the babies are cute and we are not. I think I could count on one hand the number of photos of myself from the past year that I think are flattering. And then there are a bunch where I look okay but I'm wearing pajamas. So, yeah, not too many that would go in an album.

As David's second year progresses, I can sense the photo folders not filling as rapidly. And that's okay, but I'd rather it didn't come to a standstill! There are still plenty of subjects and events to capture.

For the sake of ourselves and our friends and family, and for David when he's older, let the photography continue! Let the imperfect shots not always be weeded out.

And may some of them eventually be made into an album, someday. When I have time...


Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Very Pinterest Christmas

I joined Pinterest pretty recently. I had always sort of avoided it, but then one day the following observations made me want to give it a try:

1) Google Image search drives me nuts.
2) I always have tons of browser tabs open because I want to have all the ideas right there.
3) My hard drive tends to get cluttered with folders of images of projects I want to try.

Pinterest could definitely use some fine-tuning as a search engine, but for certain projects it is great. I think it works well because it is used by people with similar interests, who use the same key search phrases. This isn't to say that it doesn't return those extraneous results (people named "Christian" who make art, instead of "Christian (themed) art").

Anyway, I could probably go into a lot of detail about the pros and cons, but so far I am finding it really useful, especially when it comes to Advent and Christmas.

I still have way more ideas than I will ever use! Last year I didn't even get out most of the decorations. We had just moved and had an infant, etc. This year I will get out a different set. David is old enough to admire the decorations, but not old enough to keep his hands off. I have some hands-on materials with him in mind, though.

So we are starting to get underway here with that, and I will definitely post photos if/when anything gets to that point. :) Here's my Advent idea "board," for anyone interested. http://www.pinterest.com/elizabeth3806/advent-for-toddlers/

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Around here


Like my pillow?






Pillow Variation #2






Chore Time!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Friendship

Andrei and I have been feeling some changes lately related to our church. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising. When we first got married, we each continued doing our thing. When David was born, we stopped everything. Then Andrei went back to some of his things, but not all. And now it feels like while we were "away" we changed. Should we really jump back in where we left off? Do we want to? Are we able to?

It seems like a good opportunity to do some thinking and praying and see if we want to go in a different direction.

But that isn't really what I wanted to write about. It's less about activity and more about people. But the two are inter-related.

During the "single" years, Andrei and I were in a Bible study. Our friends and I were pretty mobile. Each week we met in a different person's home, just to mix it up, see where different people lived. On holidays and weekends we would often go on excursions. We did picnics in the summer. We would jump on a bus and go out to one of the palace grounds for an afternoon. We celebrated each other's birthdays. We searched the church calendar for holidays just so we could do something fun as a group. We knew each other's prayer needs.

This is the current scene.

Andrei is sitting at his desk at 11:59 pm...

Andrei: "Did you wish ______ a happy birthday yet?"
Me: "Not yet."
Andrei: "Okay, I'm writing him on FB."
Me: "Make sure to say it's from me, too!"

It sounds pathetic. It sounds like we prefer virtual relationships and don't have time for our friends. But that's only partly true. Lately I have been getting these pangs of guilt that we have to keep friends at arms' length, even though I know it isn't really intentional.

A specific friend will suddenly cross my mind. We used to be close. I used to talk to her on the phone. I have dropped the ball on that friendship. How could I be so thoughtless?

Guilt is usually followed by resolution. I will call her. I will get her a fantastic birthday present this time around. I will win her back!

And then I compose a plan of action...making a to-do list, a strategy to get all those friends back. But then I get confused. And I think...this isn't math class. These are PEOPLE. And what's more, GOD is in charge. He knit us together and He orchestrates all the minute details of these relationships.

But the thing is that I do pray about friendships and I guess at times it just seems like too huge of a task. Too many people to catch up with and too many complicated feelings to deal with. And there is too much of a commitment for me, since I have very little to offer at this point. I guess I haven't really surrendered it fully...


So here is the proverbial elephant in the room, also known as...


SINGLES vs. MARRIEDS

I hate that face-off, because we really aren't against each other. I have plenty of single friends who drop off the face of the earth occasionally!

Actually, let's try this one instead:

PARENTS vs. NON-PARENTS

Lately I have seen a lot of these sort of "open letters" to non-parents, trying to delicately explain why their friends with children have been so anti-social lately. I don't really like when it starts to sound competitive as to who is busier, has more obligations, etc.

But if we turn to reality, we have to face some truths.

Scenario #1: Girls Night Out

I really miss my girl gang! I wish they would still invite me places. I'm still fun to be around, right? One of my friends invited me over for her birthday recently, just in case. I was like, "Is it in the evening?" Of course it was. "I can't. I have to be home to put David to bed." Which isn't to imply that Andrei couldn't handle bedtime without me. But it just seems like a good rule of thumb, to be home to put a small child in bed, you know?

Scenario #2: Sick Baby Arithmetic

1 cold every 3 months w/ average duration of 2 weeks (including Sundays)=

a) How many sermons do I get to listen to in person per year, granted David may or may not attend Sunday school with adult in tow?
b) How many friends do I get to chat with monthly at Bible study if most people come every other week and I leave halfway through to put David to bed?

Scenario #3: Baby Boom

Pastor: "We have lots of interesting/fun/important events coming up! I hope some of you will show up, more of you than have been lately..."
Church members: "We have spouses...and babies...and work...."

(We're not all young and single and mobile anymore. If you compare our church body with 5 years ago, there have been tons of wedding and babies, considering the small size. And we just can't so the same types of activities we could before.)

The logical solution is to put boring people w/kids together with other people w/kids, right? I'll make a confession...I like to think we are slightly more interesting than the average parents. Okay, it gives us peace of mind to know that the other party will not be shocked by David's table manners. BUT...

NON-PARENTS+PARENTS!

...I like to vary the company I keep. In fact, when I was a single, those friendships were really important. There were a couple young moms that I would visit, and they would feed me and ask me how things were going. I didn't know anything! I would sit there dumbly as the mom bounced her baby and heated up lunch at the same time! (Seriously, babycare+cooking is one of the hardest things to juggle! But having grown-up company is nice). When both parties are relaxed enough to not care about the messy house or how the food tastes, it is a blessed friendship!


BABY STEPS

You may recall my attempts to boil down life into very simple tasks when David was a newborn. One of the things on my personal to-do list was "Write or call 1 person." That was an attempt to keep myself out of isolation. And maybe, to lift my head out of the baby fog. We need to think about others' needs and interests sometimes, not just our own.

Well, nowadays I still don't get out much. And as I'm going to bed, I realize that my phone hasn't rung for 2 days. I still have one faithful friend who calls a few times a week, but truth be told, the connection is always really bad and I can't always understand what she's saying! And my mother-in-law is always reachable by phone, of course. And I exchange texts with a few real people who live in the same city.

I hate phone calls, in general. But when I haven't talked to a real person other than David and Andrei the whole day, I realize that maybe it would be good to go back and make my friends a part of my daily life again. I have a pretty social Internet life, but I don't think that's enough.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

(Non) Wordless Wednesday

Here we are. It's mid-November. (Yikes, I need to wish my brother a happy birthday!)

It is grey gray here. It has been rainy/partly cloudy for something like 3 weeks in a ROW. It's definitely one of the worst Novembers, weather-wise. Every morning I crawl out of bed embarrassingly late (David comes in and dozes with me)...let's say, after 9. I dart over and throw the curtains aside, waiting for the daylight to give me a little boost of energy.

The daylight is not there.

For awhile there I was really going crazy because I couldn't even leave the house. Of course I could have bundled us up and taken David out quickly with the rain cover on the stroller and an umbrella for me just in case. It wasn't always torrential rain. But you never know. So we stayed home day after day.

I looked up my entries from a similar time of year and I found this December one. But the picture there shows a SUNNY day, which we haven't had lately. Nevertheless, that post is a good introduction to the Advent season (another darkness post I like is this one).

I'm not doing the "Thanksgiving" thing (every day in November). I like reading other people's posts and seeing how they are trying to think in that vein each day. But I can't get into it, and it's hard to put the reason into words. Maybe the challenge for me is to figure out not WHAT I'm thankful for but IF I'm thankful. My LIFE was bought at a price, and everything is from Him. I want to BREATHE thankfulness.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

When You Don't Want to Go to Church (Part 2)

We all have a few of "those" people in our church that don't have a very good attendance record. There is always a reason. Sickness, travel, work, birthday parties, baseball games, repair guy coming, car trouble, oversleeping, etc. Something always "comes up."

I was a skeptic. If you really want to go to church, you find a way. Sundays are blocked off on the calendar. You set three alarms so you wake up. You take some cough medicine to ward off that tickle in your throat. You sign up for three different committees so you have to be there. 

It worked for me. I don't want to brag or sound too legalistic. I know not everyone has an easy time setting aside a few hours on a Sunday, although I think it gets easier if you just put it on the calendar and make it a habit. But I think that this is an area where there will always be obstacles, and here are a few examples of how my devotion to regular church attendance has been threatened:
  • In college, it was hard to get up on time (surprise, surprise), and I sometimes missed the bus.
  • I would stay up too late on Saturdays (even with good intentions to get homework out of the way) and fall asleep during the sermons.
  • When I starting attending my church in Russia, I would feel like I was going to throw up from nervousness whenever arriving at church or Bible study.
  • Then there were "digestive issues." Those started around the time I joined the worship team. I had this whole route planned out to make a pit stop on the way to church. It doesn't happen now, thankfully. But it was always specifically on Sunday mornings, not on other days of the week.
  • I would get worn out by the end of the week and come down with something on Friday evening, which would be full-blown by Sunday morning.

Blah, blah, blah. I know these sound like typical excuses, but when I look back it's like there were these little mountains to climb over just to get to my church family. And it was worth fighting for.

Then we had a baby and everyone told us we would be occasional visitors just like the other families with children. We were going to prove them wrong. It's like when I became a missionary and was determined not to do the American thing and hit up McDonald's. Traveling across town with a small baby was an epic trek, but we did it. However, with a baby's immune system, you don't just tough out the cold symptoms. You stay at home. So David and I did start to go less regularly due to those factors. 

Then Sundays mornings started being just...stressful. Nothing to wear (couldn't zip up my pants or button my shirt), not enough sleep, David's needs, David's messes (smearing yogurt in my hair right before we had to leave). There were transportation delays like the tram taking a different route, and I hated walking in late. I remembered being on the worship team up front and how distracting latecomers were.

I started resenting the commute for the first time in a long time. What was the point of going all that way only to miss worship and go feed David right after the sermon? I could just listen to the sermon recording at home or find one online. In previous years I had thought the opposite...it was all worth it just to see my friends for a few hours once a week, and to sing with them and soak up some spiritual nourishment. Not anymore.

The final obstacle was just not wanting to go. Tears on Saturday night or Sunday morning or both.

"Sunday is the worst day." I started to believe that and I even said it out loud a few times, even though I knew I shouldn't speak negativity, but I needed Andrei to help me get refocused.

This is always going to be a battle. There will always be obstacles. Now it is a toddler, later it will be his schoolwork. 

But faith is continuing on when you can't see the fruit yet. When you are investing in relationships but don't have the warm fuzzies yet (and for me they take a pretty long time to show up). Going through the motions doesn't always have to be bad. 

So I have to take back my judgment of people. While I haven't seen any good arguments for not NEEDING church, I can see that there are a lot of reasons one might not FEEL LIKE going. I see that half-hearted intentions play a role, as well as genuine obstacles. And of course there are plenty of good ways to spend a Sunday, but I don't know that they will be more rewarding in the long run. I remain firm in my belief that it's important for believing Christians to be a part of a specific local body, and to be gathering together with brothers and sisters as regularly as possible.

But those aren't all my thoughts on this topic...