Monday, January 26, 2015

Ellie's First Birthday Party

Here are some photos from our celebration of Ellie's first birthday this month!

Opening birthday presents

Posing with her special candle and cupcake on her birthday

Very unhappily being fed her cupcake...she was not a fan.

A "Very Hungry Caterpillar"-themed birthday party a few days later

Wearing her new hungry caterpillar bib

Monthly photos from her first year

Posing with Mama and Papa before her second cupcake attempt...

...which went poorly and ended in tears!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

R├╝ckblick - Looking back

As an intern in our church, I have the privilege of taking part in the elders' meetings. These are very special to me, and I really enjoying meeting with the church leaders. One of the things we do together is take a look back at the previous church functions and events since we last met. This is by no means out of the ordinary, but I appreciate these times to look back and celebrate what God has done in our church, to offer constructive criticisms about what could have been done better and to look forward to the next time we will do this event. I think we don't do these sorts of "after action reports" or reflective times enough.

When I was working at my last job, I had a wonderful boss. She used a weekly meeting form she had stolen from someone else and at the top of the form, you wrote what you accomplished in the previous week. Not what you hoped to do, not what was on your schedule, or what you weren't able to accomplish, but what actually happened. What were the uninvited distractions that stole half your day, but were still important fires to put out? What small tasks did you accomplish as a piece of a larger project, that still isn't finished but has inched ever so little towards the finish line? Write what happened.

It was amazing how difficult this task often was. Sitting and thinking back to the last week, or even yesterday, and asking the question, "what did I fill my day with, anyway?" Often this list ended up being really long. And in that case, it was often really clear why nothing happened on important project X that has been on your desk for three months and still is not finished.

Sometimes in life we are so focused on making it through a season, we forget to reflect on what we actually did to survive. We forget what tools we used to healthily navigate a challenging road or who God used to lift us up when were were feeling totally crushed and alone.

I think it is often important to look back and ask the question, "how did that go?" because the next questions come pretty quickly. "What went really well?" and "what can we improve on next time?" flow out of that. We so easily forget what God has done, and instead we should remember to celebrate them!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

We Survived the First Year

We made it! Ellie turned ONE YEAR OLD this week!

A friend from the States called me the other evening on Ellie's birthday to congratulate me for surviving the first year, and I thought, "that's right! I should celebrate! We made it!" By God's grace, everyone is still alive and mostly thriving at the end of Ellie's first year of life. For this, we are extremely grateful.

Looking back on our first year of parenting, here are some thoughts and reflections (in no particular order):
  • It actually does get easier! I know we still have many ups and down ahead of us, but I can also say that at the one year mark, life is so much more manageable than it was in the early days. I can finally understand why people manage to have more than one child. Ellie is much more content, easier to care for, more consistent with sleep and a "routine", and a ton of fun!
  • Those first few months were the hardest, but they don't last forever. Ellie's first three months of life were really rough for me, both physically and emotionally. I landed back in the hospital for a week when she was 2 weeks old (long long story...) and the post-partum emotions were really difficult for me to manage for awhile. There was a long phase of her life where I was just trying to survive every day and it felt like that phase would last forever. But it didn't. God carried me through and now I understand better that no phase, no matter how difficult, will last forever. It brings new meaning to the phrase, "This too shall pass."
  • Everyone's experiences and children are different. With the advent of social media, there are a myriad of ways and opportunities to compare your child to others', especially when you only see the "good stuff". There is so much danger in this and over time, I have learned to accept that every parent and child are different, and this leads to many different parenting decisions. Unless a decision is unbiblical, it is not wrong if it works for that family and that child. Now that I have experienced this firsthand, I am much slower to judge. And I am constantly reminding myself that every parent has difficult moments, no matter how angelic their children seem.
  • Every child develops at a different pace! This is very obvious with Ellie and it's pretty
    hilarious to me, actually. Apparently, Ellie is following in my footsteps, because she is progressing at a snails' pace just like I did as a baby. At 12 months, she can barely move herself around, cannot crawl, cannot pull up to standing and has no teeth. But I continually remind myself (and am reminded by others) that as long as there are no major developmental concerns, she will be just fine and will get there eventually!
  • Parenting is hard on a marriage. I knew this would be true going in, but experiencing it firsthand is something else entirely. Nate and I have really had to work hard to carve out quality time together, and this is difficult when you're so exhausted at the end of the day. Add on top of this increasing ministry responsibilities and living in a foreign culture, and this is quite challenging. It needs to involve a lot of grace, prayer, perseverance and forgiveness.
  • Parenting is hard when you're far from family. I love living here and feel very at peace about the fact that God led us here... but I also wish my parents lived down the street. Too bad we can't have both! I know someday we will be able to get a babysitter when Ellie is awake (she's too clingy and just can't handle it yet), but sometimes I dream of a scenario where I could leave her with grandparents every once in awhile. 
  • It's true: you do love your children more than anything in the world. Because Ellie's first few months of life were rough, it took me awhile to bond with her and really feel "in love" with her. But those feelings definitely came as I got to see her personality come through and spend real quality time with her. I would gladly give my life for her, and I definitely think she's the coolest, funniest, cutest kid I've ever seen. 
  • It was a good idea to get a dog before having a baby. I'm so glad we got through potty training the dog before having a newborn! It was good preparation! And it has been so fun to watch Ellie and Mozzy enjoy each other more and more. I look forward to watching their relationship grow as they both get older.
I could probably keep going, because I'm always learning new things. But suffice to say, the first year was challenging, rewarding and everything in between. Though it wasn't always pretty, we can confidently say God gave us what we needed each day and parenthood has led us to depend on Him in new ways. We have so much to look forward to in year 2!