Go With Ka Rip!

The girls below us in West U apartment complex hated us. I don’t blame them, I would have too. We were loud…even at 3 in the morning. We made them cookies once as penance. They took them and politely shut the door.

The three women I lived with in college are the kind of friends I prayed for all my life. We are all so incredibly different, from personality to career to body type. We range in height from 6 foot 3 in heels to 5 foot 3 in flats. One dances and counsels, one plans and prays, one diagnoses and creates, and I write and train. We don’t compete because we all have something unique to bring to the friendship…and we can’t fit into each others’ clothes. Our relationship has been steady for over ten years. We’ve endured a lot of heartbreak, major life changes, fashion mishaps, great successes, and unexpected disappointments…together. Besides my stellar education (oh, and Joey), Taylor, Jane and Al are the best I took from OBU.

The girls and I have “reunioned” twice a year since 2005. Sometimes we allow the boys to tag along. Lindsey has become our fifth roommate, as she basically lived in our apartment anyway and recently moved back from Boston. She is an incredibly talented and professionally trained singer, a newly-certified Zumba instructor and a great mom to Jude. This weekend was one of those long-awaited, celebrated reunions. We enjoyed too much delicious food, never enough laughter, meaningful conversation, maybe a couple tears, and this time, two beautiful babies!

Click on first pic to view gallery.

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Fourteen Thousand Sheep

Job. With a long “o,” not a short “o.” You know, the guy in the Bible we compare all our struggles against. And he generally wins.

This man’s livestock are slaughtered and stolen by thieves, his house is demolished in a tornado, burying his ten children and extensive servant staff. Only his nagging, cynical wife and a servant survive. He’s afflicted with “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” Now a pariah of society, his “friends” accuse him of blasphemy.

I admire Job’s honesty, reverence, and brazen confidence when approaching God. In reference to destruction and God’s sovereignty, he even asks, “If it is not He, then who is it?” (9:24). “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him, I will surely defend my  ways to His face” (13:15). “I will not deny my integrity…” (27:5).

The end of this book contains a passage that intrigues me every time I read it. And I think I finally understand.

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

During a rough time in college, I found myself in somewhat of a depression. My prayers were pitiful and consumed with requests for myself. I was pleading on my own behalf for things I thought I needed, wallowing in what I thought was sorrow. Something changed when I learned of another girl’s tragedy and heartbreak. I began to pray for her instead of myself…and the oppressive clouds lifted a little. My eyes were opened to the ache of people around me and I realized my trial wasn’t so trying after all.

A close friend recounted the same situation to Joey and I this weekend. He’d been going through a “dry spot” spiritually. Prayers were vapid and consumed with self. Then he learned of Finn’s struggles. He said Finn gave him reason to pray again..something to fight for on his knees. Beautiful.

I think something transforming happens in us when our prayers are for others. Not that we shouldn’t voice our personal concerns with God, because I think that’s cathartic. But I’ve found prayer to be more powerful when it’s for someone else. You have prayed fervently for us and for Finn through this difficult season, and we have honestly felt their effects. Finn’s extra sleep at night has made my mind a little clearer, and I’ve found those wee hours to be a divine, secret time of prayer. I learned this from my sister-in-law, Leah. I pray for the children (born and unborn) of my friends, for healing of relationships, for my family, for Joey and for Finn. Not for myself. Job was a wise man.

Spa Day

Still feeling under the weather and needing a little TLC, Finn and I declared yesterday, Spa Day.

We started by purchasing a device recommended by my friend Nicole, called the NoseFrida SnotSucker.  It is absurd and a little disgusting, but it’s effective; so, who cares? Here’s how it works: I use my mouth on one end to provide suction, while the other end is at the entrance of his nostrils. I suck, and snot evacuates his nose and enters the vial. Don’t worry, there’s a filter to prevent snot from entering my mouth. That would be gross.

One chore I detest is clipping and filing my nails. It’s tedious. But it was time, so I decided to tackle Finn’s razor blade nails while I was at it. He agrees with me about this activity–no fun. At least this time I didn’t make him bleed; that was heart-wrenching!

After dinner, Finn fell asleep on Joey’s chest. While they were snoozing, I decided to take my friend Kayla’s advice: soak in a hot bath. She does this daily…maybe even twice a day. I haven’t taken a bath in years (I take showers, okay…I’m not filthy). I guess I never trusted the tub in the rented places we lived previously. Candles, bath salts and all…I indulged in every soaking minute, feeling like a queen.

Then it was Finn’s turn for a bath. He makes this cute face when you first set him in the tub…it’s like he’s pretending he’s angry, but really, he loves it.

Once each fold of chubby baby skin was clean, we checked his three scars for any unwelcome changes, lotioned him up, and wrapped him in his ducky towel. Sweet, simple, snotty day.

Snot Stew

My sentiments exactly, Finn.

I hate being sick! Joey came home last week with some kind of allergy funk and now Finn and I have it. You know, it’s the kind of cold where you find yourself staring at the wall with your mouth wide open, breathing through it like a fat man. I’ve whispered, okay, and yelled a couple times today, “Lord, have mercy!” The bulb syringe (snot sucker-outer) won’t fit in Finn’s tiny little nostrils, so he’s pretty plugged up. Sweet little baby, he sounds like a piglet snorting in his pen. A good long, snuggly nap is all we really need, but it’s just so far out of reach.

This is my last week at home with Finn before going back to work. I’m trying to soak up every minute and not entertain anxiety about leaving him with someone else. Please pray for rest and recuperation this week as we battle a cold and the physical and mental fatigue that accompanies it. When we are weak (and I’m really really weak), He is strong.

Tuesday Girls (and boy)

Last night, I snuck Finn in to Tuesday Girls via ErgoBaby carrier. Girls only, they say. However, he won them over with his sleepy charm and flirty toothless smirk. They didn’t know that as soon as he reached the car, he screamed the entire five miles home. Tuesday Girls is a beautiful collection of women of all generations. We meet at someone’s home monthly and eat. Yummy things. Then someone teaches a craft or practical skill. Like last night Pascha taught us how to make pillowcase dresses for little girls in Africa. I can’t sew a button.  Once, Trish taught us how to make the perfect pie crust. I make cookies. Lea Ann and Lauren and Joy taught us how to create all these intricate crafts that they swear are “so easy.” I don’t believe them. Mer’s mom taught us a new way to knot a scarf. I taught the ladies how to do a “portable workout.” I can, however, do a push up. After the short demo, someone else shares “what they know for sure,” and this year we’re focusing on gratitude. Laura spoke genuinely about her reflections on the book, One Thousand Gifts. She, Loyce and Kay suggested keeping a daily gratitude journal, recording the things you’re thankful for.

Thanks for the onesie, Pascha!

Here’s my list for today:

1. Joey fed Jersey and Finn this morning while I pretended to sleep

2. Starbucks Sumatra Keurig cups

3. A 2.5 mile walk in 73 degree weather; light breeze

4. Finn’s alert blue eyes and the long lashes that adorn them

5. A/C that works (thanks G&G!)

6. Medical insurance

7. Norman’s beautiful array of trees

8. Birds singing in my backyard

9. Finn’s velociraptor sounds while he’s napping (think Jurassic Park)

10. Golden Delicious (and they are) apples

Pouty face

11. Whole wheat banana pancakes for breakfast

12. Families of whom we crave their company

13. Chad is safe in Israel (he’s leading a

backpacking/educational trip there)

14. Legs that work

15. Meyer’s Clean Day lavender candles…

Now you try.

Dopplar

A small, yet destructive tornado swept through Norman on Friday afternoon, just minutes after Joey walked through the door. He had gone to pick Jersey up from Annie’s Ruff House (her doggie day care and our chance at sanity), and returned home with a Sandro’s New York style pizza, our favorite. Hail began pelting our windows just as I saw his headlights in the driveway. Finn and I were watching Weather.com and the local news anchor with the rhinestone-studded tie point to Norman as the twister’s next victim. I had prepared our bathroom with blankets, headlamps, our important documents, a couple rawhides and our cycling helmets. Just as Joey suggested I might be overreacting, the tornado sirens sounded and we hustled to the tub. I think I was breastfeeding…in the bathtub with a mountain biking helmet on…when it skirted our neighborhood. We continued monitoring the storms throughout the night and into Saturday evening, adding anxiety to our exhaustion. It’s one thing to brave a severe storm with your spouse (kind of romantic, actually). It’s another with an infant.

Finn has been more alert, expressive and vocal lately. He makes these fun cooing and squawking sounds and seems to hold our eye contact longer. I wish I could know what he thinks of us–if he enjoys my kisses on his chubby soft cheeks, if he feels safe in his daddy’s strong arms, if he likes the sheets I chose for his crib, which onesie is his favorite and if Jersey’s stolen licks are welcome or not.

Most of the time we are very “present,” enjoying Finn just as he is now. But sometimes we get caught up in comparison, wondering if he’s on par with his peers developmentally. Or we worry about the future; especially during his leg and feet physical therapy, wishing they were normal, strong and capable.  Ultimately, Finn will be just how and who God intends him to be. And I’m certain we won’t want him any other way.

Huckleberry

We chose the name Finn because we liked it. No other major reason, really. We simply wanted an uncommon name and one that sounded good with “Joseph” behind it.

However, Joey and I are both literary by nature. I was an English Education major in undergrad and Joey was a Creative Writing minor (you should read his short stories!). It wasn’t necessarily a coincidence that “Sawyer” and “Finn” were on our short list of baby names for nine months. Mark Twain is a witty, rugged American novelist who, though not my favorite author, is brilliant at character development. One character we love is Huckleberry Finn. Listen to Tom’s impression of him:

He could go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late as he pleased; he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring and the last to resume the leather in the fall; he never had to wash, nor put on clean clothes and he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything that goes to make life precious, that boy had. He was a romantic outcast.

Huck Finn felt more comfortable and “free” on a raft with a slave than safe within the confines and rules of society. He distrusted the hypocritical values of Southern culture and followed his own moral conscience instead. He was a loyal friend who saw beyond the outward appearance and valued what was inside the person. More child-wisdom from Huck:

Looky-here, Tom, being rich ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. It’s just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time. Now these clothes suits me…No, Tom, I won’t be rich and I won’t live in them cussed smothery houses. I like the woods, and the river and I’ll stick to ’em, too.

Though we don’t aspire for our Finn to have a filthy mouth or smoke a pipe or sleep on doorsteps, we do hope he prefers the woods to a mansion. We believe he will have a unique perspective on life just like Huck. He’ll probably question social expectations, the worth of riches and physical and medical boundaries. Finn Joseph Armstrong will be barefoot and ready for the next risky adventure.