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Saturday, August 30, 2014

to my darling husband, for seven years

So, Mr. Sánchez. We've arrived at seven years of marriage. Who would've imagined that here we would be--that May evening in 2004 when you walked into my life? I was prepping the English class for that night, and in you walked: tall, dark and handsome--just as I knew you'd be. You looked so...ahem... fine in your baseball hat... and it made me smile when you hooked it over your knee after you sat down. You seemed nice, friendly and somewhat reserved.

That summer passed in a flurry of soccer games, English classes and passing "hellos" at work. I felt that you were a bit stand-offish. We laughed a lot together, when you would come early and leave late from the English classes--I couldn't understand why you had such a hard time grasping the grammar concepts I was teaching. ;)

About a week before you left, you told me you liked me... and we decided to remain at "friends status"... and see how it went. Hundreds of emails, phone calls, letters and texts later... we found ourselves seeing each other again: 1.5 years later. At that point, we decided we wanted to be a "couple"... and it was official. We didn't know it would be another 1.5 years before we'd see each other again. Each time we'd see each other, it would feel like a dream. Like we were floating. Like it was too good to be true.



The 3rd visit was about 6 months later, and it was when we became engaged.... 3 years after meeting... in 2007--we were married! (If you, reader,  want all the mushy, gushy details... I wrote our full story, starting here.)



As we know now, the wedding isn't the finish line, it's the beginning. I don't know if you felt it--but to me the honeymoon was more tense than I thought it would be. It was so quickly obvious how little time we'd spend physically together and how many opposites there were in our backgrounds and personalities. We had our first "fight" in the car on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park--winding through some of the most beautiful roadways we'd ever seen. These experiences worried me, made me anxious. What was going on??



Through our seven years together... we have had more than one time our personalities or preferences clashed, more than one day of moody silence, more than one sleepless night as we both struggled with our selfishness and independence. Becoming one is work. Putting another's needs before your own is work. Encouraging and upholding the other when they have offended you is work. Forgiving, growing and allowing growth--these are the things that hold a marriage together. And... they are hard work. 



We've had many highs and lows in our relationships... times when we feel like best friends, times when we feel like we are from opposite and competing planets. Times when we can't wait to see each other, and times just hearing the other breathe is like nails on a chalkboard. But, you know what? Now there's a comfortablity there. Now, when I feel like we are looking down on the world from our rainbow mountain of love, joy and unity--I know to treasure and enjoy the time... because it won't last forever. It can't. We aren't built for perfection, and we don't live in a perfect world. So, now I try to engrave each kind gesture and selfless act of love on my heart and memory--so that when the lows come, I don't despair. Because, the lows do come. Stress comes, fatigue comes, cranky kids come, selfishness is just one act away. So, the lows don't alarm or depress me anymore. (Or--should I say--as much?) I feel like it's the same for you. I feel that in the lows, there is a much larger blanket of grace that we both throw over the moment. So, if maybe in the moment we don't feel like two mystical lovers galloping away into the sunset... we both just give each other the space and grace to be crabby and silent, without building it into a something it's not. I'm so grateful for that!



Thanks, baby, for all the grace and patience you've given me these last seven years. 3 pregnancies (with all their emotional and bodily craziness!)... multiple moves... changes... growth... mommyhood... all these things beg for grace, and you've given it. You've stood by me as I cried... and as I laughed until I cried. You've watched me go from giddy with excitement to silent and moody within the space of an hour (maaannnnyyyy times)... and--although I know your steady, practical self doesn't really get the need for the ride--you've given me space to soar and to crash as needed... and been there to help put the pieces together. What would I do without your steady, practical way?



Your wisdom is a deep, slow wisdom. You don't often come to snap decisions, and you rarely look at things from one perspective. I know this comes from an interweaving of the tapestry of your life experiences, and you constantly teach me to see things differently. You have lived through harder more challenging things than many can imagine--and yet... they have not embittered or jaded you. You remain a hopeful, visionary dreamer... open to new people, to new beginnings and to taking chances. I admire that about you.



I have no idea how someone can have such a wide and varied set of skills and knowledge. I don't know many people who both know how to snap and chicken's neck and de-feather it... and can explain at length involved theories and techniques of engineering. That can both deduct what is wrong with a vehicle by taking in visual and auditory clues... and can milk a cow and work a slingshot. You are always learning, always wanting to know how things work. It's amazing.



And, hello. Can we talk about your sweetness? I mean, seriously. You give me the best, most amazing long massages when I know you've had a long, exhausting day and would much rather be getting a head-start on your sleep. You are tender with your kiddos, and you find ways to serve us all that I know aren't really in your "comfort zone" or preferred area of labor. Thank you!



You are humble, giving, steady, unhurried, strong, resourceful, thrifty, inventive, witty, loving, servant-hearted, hard-working... basically: I hit the jackpot when I decided to say yes to you--and, well buddy. You're stuck with me. Sorry.



I love you more every year. Happy 7 years, amor!



Friday, August 29, 2014

blessedness... and inheritance



So, the outline of thoughts for this post has been in my "drafts" pile since the end of June... but, the months between then and now have only caused my then thoughts to become more cemented, so I will finally try to flesh out yet another part of what God has been teaching me during the last weeks.

These thoughts first got put into motion when a friend posted this article on Facebook, "The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying". Have you read it yet?? It basically questions our use of the word "blessed"... and asks us to reconsider what blessedness truly looks like.

The author's use of the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate what Jesus called "blessedness" stuck with me and made me want to dive deeper into my understanding of just what a blessed life looks like--a truly blessed life. Not just a "I Have Everything" life, or a "I've Got it all Together" life that we can all find ourselves working so hard to obtain.

I've heard the "Beatitudes" many times throughout my life, and--as often happens with much-heard things--the words can flow by without the mind being engaged. So, this time I began to look at it with a different version of the Bible (The Message).

I found that:

I am blessed when...
--I am at the end of my rope. With less of me there is more of GOD and his rule.
--I feel like I've lost what is most dear to me. Only then can I be embraced by the One who is most dear.
--I am CONTENT with who I am--no more and no less. That's when I find myself the joyful owner of everything that cannot be bought.
--I am hungry for God. Then HE is my food and drink.
--I show mercy. Then I will find myself receiving mercy.
--I get my inside world--mind & heart--put right. Then I can see God in my outside world.
--I make and/or bring peace... Instead of competing. That's when I will find my place in God's family.
--My commitment to God draws persecution. That persecution will drive me close to God.
--People insult me or lie about me to discredit God... because it is God's truth that is making them uncomfortable.

Did you see that? None of the blessings are material things, or desires granted, or generally any other thing we often call a "blessing" in our lives.Of the evidences of blessedness... 3 are states of heart-being or character. 4 are actions that should be our recognizable mode of living. Only 1 speaks of the blessedness of something received--and that something received is persecution.

BE:
Poor in spirit, spiritually needy, at the end of your rope, humble.
Meek, mild, patient, long-suffering, content.
Pure of heart, clean, unified, honest, sincere, genuine
RECEIVE:
God's Kingdom
The earth
Eyes to see God.

ACTIONS:
Seek righteousness, hunger for God
Give mercy
Make/Bring peace
Mourn
RECEIVE:
Fullness
Mercy
A place in God's family
Comfort

Our blessings received flow as the consequence of our state of heart and our way of action-choosing, not because we've put a quarter in the gumball machine and got what we wanted. And, the blessings are the things that draw us closer to God and His kingdom.

I don't know about you, but these thoughts have caused me to re-examine the things I think of as blessings... I am learning not to yearn after things that seem that they would be blessings, and to find myself being blessed in the in-between.

I also am analyzing the way I process scripture in light of this. I am trying to process things in less of a "do this so you can get this" way... and just process it in a "do this because in and of itself it IS a blessing." For example, the scripture: "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you." Maybe it's just me, but my selfish brain reads that like "Do this to get that", or "If you want something from God, focus on God-stuff for a while." For now, I like to just focus on, "Seek first the kingdom of God"... and just relish the blessing that seeking Him IS, in and of itself. For me, it's a mental exercise of seeking to love God for who He IS, follow him because He KNOWS the way, and seek Him because He is all I NEED... with the hope that I can unlearn the practices of the spoiled child: Being cute and sweet only when I want something.

During the processing of this, our pastor at church read a passage that I realized I had been reading all wrong before as well:

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18)

For some reason, my process had been, "I pray your eyes are opened to all the riches you have as a child of God's." And, I think that is partially what it's saying. But, with my new way of reading... Where before I might have thought "The blessing in this passage is the riches"... this time, I read it as "The richness is found in the saints". Or, our inheritance as God's children is in the saints--or it is the saints. Meaning, our inheritance--our riches--is the family of people God has placed us in when we became one of His own. The NLT writes it this way: " I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called--His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance."

This really resonated with me. I truly believe that God wants me to see the spiritual family He has placed me in as my inheritance, as my riches, and His great blessing to me. If I truly believed that each person in His family was a direct gift from God to me... would I not treat them differently, give them the honor they're due, respect them and cherish them? Resolve to unite with and uphold them, and discourage competition and gossip?

It makes so much sense to me that the God who sees meekness, humility and spiritual hunger as evidences of a blessed life... would see surrounding that blessed person in a beautiful community of His cherished children as the greatest inheritance He could bestow. Because--you know what?? This "version" of blessedness works in any country, in any culture, at any time in history, in any economic or class level. That's why I believe it reflects God's heart--because He is not an exclusionary God, and His values are eternal, spirit values... not shifting, earthly things! And, of course God's inheritance would be one of community and unity--since, in and of ourselves, we tend to want to be one-man-shows and show our independence--our solitary rightness, as opposed to deferential love!

Yearning to have my eyes see the true blessings around me--to be "a blessed"-- to value what God values... and to let the rest just be extras!

8-29-2014

This boy made it all the way through his first week of Kindergarten like a champ. Not only Kindergarten... but kindergarten wherein the instruction is 90% in SPANISH and he is instructed to only speak Spanish in class. Talk about overwhelming. But, there were no tears all week, No mornings that he fought to stay home. No complaints--other than, "Why I am there for so loooong??" :) Can't even tell you how amazed I am by him!!

He came out of his room after bedtime on Thursday, wanting to snuggle and chat. He said, "Hey, momma. I was getting a little sad in there. I was thinking about that picture of you and me together... Remember?" I finally figured out he was talking about pictures from a time we'd stopped by Starbucks together and he'd had a cake pop. He was hoping we could do it again. Hello... yes! 

When better than Friday afternoon... before we ran to pick up little sis? Fun, fun times with this guy. He's the best.



Sorry, everyone in Starbucks. We weren't necessarily loud. But, we definitely weren't decorous either. Oops.



Te amo, Noe!! :)



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

shiftings... part 2

This post has taken me a little while to get around to writing. Partly because we've been busy... and partly because I share things about my personality that are a wee bit embarrassing when written down... But! I want to write them to remember the journey!

So... once we found out we were not moving until after baby girl joins us (end of October)... I began the process of figuring out what would need to change for it to work. I quickly decided that we would have to trade bedrooms with the kiddos--we'd given them the bigger of the two bedrooms so that all their toys could hang out in there with them. However, the smaller bedroom held little more than our bed, so baby would definitely not fit if we were to stay there.

Switching bedrooms almost felt like we moved! We had to take all the furniture and beds apart (taking a bunkbed apart is a real pain!)... switch around closets... throw everything in piles and boxes in the in between. It was exhausting!

I also quickly realized that the kids' toys would not fit in the smaller room with them... which meant I could either try to pack them away or pile them in their closet... or try something different.

This brings us to my next "shifting". As I not only mentally but emotionally processed our new situation... I found myself realizing that we have lived in smaller and/or shared spaces more often than we have lived in spacious, separate spaces. Each time that I have lived in a smaller space, I have seen it as a temporary placement, and have tried to maintain what I felt like an attractive house should have: categorized, segmented spaces. In other words, I generally liked to have "kid areas" and "adult areas"... "Cluttered areas" and "decorated areas". When the areas would intersect, I would feel I was failing as a housekeeper or that it was just wrong. I preferred there be a "toy room" and a "craft nook"... as opposed to a "everything everywhere" kind of flow.

So, I wondered if the fact that I was repeatedly finding myself in smaller spaces meant that perhaps I needed to stretch my definition of attractive and re-define good housekeeping. Maybe God was wanting me to learn to live "all on top of each other", without the clear lines of separation between kinds of living space. I felt like I was supposed to learn to let all the areas of my life coexist, overlap and blur together. Be okay with the kids laying all over me, or people dropping in and seeing puzzles and paintings spread out in the living room (as opposed to the special craft area and toy room). I also have begun to think that this is healthier for the kids, to be encouraged to do their living in the family living area, as opposed to cordoned off in a different place. (Of course, once we are in a bigger place, I won't hesitate to shoo the kids out from under foot from time to time, but... in general... I feel my mindset shifting). I think also, it is healthier in the long run to learn to be able to generally be more flexible and open to living in close quarters with others, than training myself to feel that "space is better". I guess it's embarrassing to admit I'm having to learn that (especially when I feel like I like people)! And, it's embarrassing to know how much of a mental battle and a real decision it was to be okay with having kid stuff out in what before I defined as "decorated/pretty/adult space".

I also feel that I am learning that to live healthy... I must shift from the "someday we wish to have..." mentality to the "what can we do now" mentality. I had put many of my preferences for how our kiddos be raised on hold--waiting for that someday job and house to appear. This was resulting in a shift for the kids resulting in them spending a lot more time on the couch watching Netflix or playing games on the tablet... rather than doing the things I love for them to do. Waiting for someday ruins a lot of todays... so I am trying to shift from that.

Some examples:
--It's very important to me that our kids be creative. At our other house, we have a craft room and we had plenty of space for them to play and build "creations". And, I loved it. But, since we moved to a smaller space, I kind of put a pause on it, not wanting to deal with the mess everywhere. (Think: 100% carpeted apartment.) We had stuff for them to be creative, but I had it all hidden away in boxes or in closets, waiting for our bigger space. Now, in asking myself, "How can I encourage creativity now?",  I've moved all that creative stuff back out... out into the living room, visible to them--at levels they can easily reach as they are inspired. Yup, it's a lot more mess going on... but it's also a lot more creativity. Happy momma.

--I want our kids to be active and play together. But, as the south Texas heat rolled in and my belly grew in circumference... we were getting less and less active--aside from nearly daily trips to the pool. I was waiting for that bigger space, so we could get a big trampoline in the back yard. And swings. And a treehouse. Again, asking--"."What can I do now to encourage activity?.. helped me move to the idea of getting a smaller, enclosed trampoline to put in the kids' room. We were recently able to do that, and I LOVE it. The first day we got it, they jumped more than 3 hours in their, laughing huge belly laughs the whole time. Since then, they get in to jump several times, always emerging sweaty and de-crazified. Yes, it's a word.

So, now we are truly and really (and finally) moved into our apartment: physically and mentally. Rey added some shelves in some closets, we re-distributed our things in more organized, practical ways throughout the apartment... analyzing daily needs and what was/wasn't working for us. The result has been a space that we can really live in, and that feels much larger than it did. Yay! It is so great to have fun with and enjoy the place you are in, rather than wishing it away.

Aghhh! What?? Toys out in the living room??!! Ok, fine. I actually like it. Now. :) 



So excited about this: Our ready-to-go kid wall! 


Shelves in the laundry closet... ahh!


So, I used to have all these games and coloring books stacked in a closet. But, guess what? We never played them when they were in there. In pursuing creative play, I pulled off all the "grown up" decorations and put the games there. More cluttered looking, yes. But... also: Much more used!


Lovely trampoline in the kids' room:


Can't really see it, since it's blocked by the trampoline, but the kids each have their own wall in their room to decorate as they wish. (Encouraging creativity...) :)


We organized the bigger closet in our room, and put in some shelving--so now it holds our clothes, my Noonday stuff, storage things... and my favorite: Baby girl's things!! :)


Enjoying our space... meant putting up icicle lights! 



Our "new" room, with space for baby.


Looking in the front door, down the hall:


Living room:


Home, sweet home! :) 

8-27-2014

Lazy mornings before preschool. She loves 'em. :) (And, I love seeing her pour hours of focus and determination into her creations)




Monday, August 25, 2014

8-25-2014

Big day! First day of school ... and our 7th wedding anniversary! :) :)

We work up the kids around 6:30... much earlier than usual for all of us. And, who should walk in the door with this sweet surprise?? He's just such a dear. :)


Sleepy kids ready for their big day!


First: Drop Noe off at his school.


There was a huge line of parents waiting to walk their kiddos in to class. Maybe about 40 minutes long! Such a big, brave boy. (*Sniff, sniff*)


Aleni's preschool starts at 11:50, so... she got all shined up and ready to go. She was very excited about the kitty shirt she'd picked out for her first day. 


How does Rey look so handsome in every picture he takes?? I guess I am stuck with a model... ;)


Getting ready to walk down to her classroom. Not even a little bit scared. :)


So, we had 2 hours between dropping Aleni off and picking up Noe from his school... So, we ran to Goodwill to look for some pants for Rey... and then picked up a frappuccino from Starbucks to drink while we waited in the car line to pick up Noe.... we also picked up some cookies for the big kids who finished their first day!


All done!!


That night, we planned to watch our wedding video with the kids, because they are at the age where they are fascinated with that information. Unfortunately, the video must be in the storage unit, because we couldn't find it. We still had a lot of fun clicking through our wedding photos on the computer... the kids especially loved seeing their big cousins and aunts/uncles so much younger/smaller than they are now!

We all went to bed completely exhausted... but, so happy. :)