I don’t want a sister wife…I do want a communal house.

I have a serious affinity for terrible television. The best way to some it up is that Christian and I both refer to Khloe Kardashian as “”my girl.” Actually, Christian refers to all of the Kardashian sisters as “your girl” because he can’t tell them apart……anyway. I love bad TV, and I found a new bad love. 

So I am a little late to the party, but I just caught the first two seasons of Sister Wives on Netflix. For those of you who don’t waste hours watching reality TV, the show follows a practicing polygamist family. One dad four moms of four separate families that all live in one big house and also function as one big family. Now, let me say up front that I am not down with polygamy. And I don’t believe God is down with it either….. Just so we are clear NOT ENDORSING POLYGAMY. 
So I don’t want their lifestyle…..but I do want their house. And I want their sense of community. Basically you walk in the front door and there are separate mini-houses off of a main hallway. They also have some really good insight about how to live in community. I guess you would have to if you voluntarily decided to live in “the lifestyle” as they call it. One of the women talks about how she was raised in the lifestyle and had always wanted to be a third wife. She really wanted to be a third wife because she wanted the community with the other women, and also because she saw having other wives to depend on as freeing.
They all talk about it, the freedom of having multiple adults to depend on. If someone is caught up at work or at the doctor there is another adult who can get your kid from school. If one adult is really good at making Halloween costumes and the other one is good at cooking big dinners, and still another wants a high powered career they just farm out the responsibilities and let everyone do the things they want and are good at. The fourth wife was a single mom for three years. You can almost see the weight lifted off of her shoulders when she talks about being part of a team. She doesn’t have to be everything to her kids anymore.
Still another wife (the first wife) talks a lot about adjusting to the other people. How when she gets her back up about something, it is she who needs an attitude adjustment. How ultimately living in community with these other women makes her kinder, gentler, less selfish. She talks about how it is okay for it to be hard. To wrestle with it even as she does it. That just because something is hard and uncomfortable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. It means that we can choose to grow in it, to let God prune us. And we can trust that if God called us into something (not saying God called them into this lifestyle, but God does call us into different relationships with people) then it will shake out better than ever when you get through that hard spot. 
I have been interested in communal living for awhile. Before I followed blogs I would check up on a blog about two sisters who shared a house (whoelsewantstoliveinmyhouse.com). If I had the means I would build an addition onto my house and move a set of grandparents in with us. Elizabeth and I talk about how much easier our lives would be if we lived in a duplex. It is hard in some ways, I get that. You have to be more flexible and less bothered by things. You have to let a lot roll off your back, you have to share more. You have to share your stuff, and you have to share your life. Your emotions, your heart, your vulnerabilities. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes you just don’t want to be inconvenienced. But your life is richer for it….and you are changed for the better.
This whole thing has made me think about how interesting it is that someone could have some stuff so so right and other stuff really really wrong. Their marriage may be jacked up, but they model community and loving each other well. If they all had separate husbands but continued to live in the same house sharing life…sign me up. I wonder what I have in my life that God would think, that piece is right but that piece WAY wrong.

Have I mentioned?

Have I mentioned that I love my church?  I do. I love my church. And not just because I am currently receiving meals at my door step two days a week. There are so many things I love about my church. One of those things was highlighted last night.

I was at a baby shower for one of the many pregnant/ post-partum women in my church (seriously, it is an epidemic….don’t drink the coffee). There are 6 of us either pregnant or mothering a baby under 1, take into account there are only about 15 married couples total (including those well past child bearing age) and only about 60 people on any given Sunday….the pregnancy percentage is high. We got to talking about how great it is to be a mom at 1027 church. Mostly because the “mommy wars” there is so much hub-bub about online….don’t exist there. The standard line seems to be “oh, you do it like that….cool.”

From ultrasounds (one family doesn’t get any, one family gets one every time they go to the office) to breastfeeding (exclusive, both, only formula) to working (stay at home, part time, full time) to anything else you can think of there is the full spectrum at our house of worship. And never do I hear a bad thing said about the way anyone else parents.We were sitting around discussing my cloth diapers, and how the parents to be were definitively not going to do cloth. And I get it, the thought grosses people out, plus disposables are easier. Cool. I am not going to bicker with you about what collects your kids poop. I just am not. And neither are they.

But we will love each others kids and support each other as parents. In fact, we will stand as a church and corporately promise to do just that. And we will mean it.If someone needs a sitter and you can possibly do it, even if that means you have to rearrange your schedule a little…..you do. If someone looks exhausted, like they just need a minute, you take their kid out of their arms and give them that minute. Or when a woman laments that her and her husband haven’t been on a date in 6 months about seven people DEMAND that they be called to babysit in the next few weeks.

My church rejoices in every milestone the peanut and the rooster (formerly known as spike) have. Delight in them right along with me. And I get to delight in their kids too! I don’t know of another baby who was more prayed for than my friend Callie’s little girl. And the rejoicing that happened, for the next two weeks every conversation that I had with a member of my church started with “Did you hear, the Riches got their daughter” or “Have you seen the pictures of Evangeline?” That baby came home to her parents, yes. But she also came home to her church.

Yesterday Christian and I went out to a party thrown by one of the other PhD students in his department. We left Juliet sleeping at home with Esther, an awesome woman of God. And when we came home she looked at us and said, “seriously any time” and meant it! I didn’t have to feel like I had burdened her. She loves the Peanut too.

How do you ask?

I wish I knew why I struggle with asking….but I do. I really struggle with asking for stuff. I don’t like to feel like I am bothering anyone. In my head I convince myself that the thing that I want or need is some huge inconvenience to the person I am asking. And even if I really want it or kinda need it I really hate asking. Which is ridiculous I know, because I would always tell a friend: Ask! what is it going to hurt? Let people bless you!

But me? No way. I think it must be a self esteem issue….or maybe some leftover baggage from the fibromyalgia. Either way I want to raise my daughters to speak up for themselves and feel like the Lord has made them and want them to not just have what they need, but get the things they want too. Not that they deserve it, but because they are the daughters of a king who wants to bless them.

But this week I have made some strides. I got assigned a parking space that was quite a bit further from the building than another open parking space. And I this baby has put some serious precious on my pelvis, so a couple times a week, every single step hurts. So…..I went to the parking guru and asked her for a closer spot. I know it seems like it isn’t a big deal. Especially because I so obviously am pregnant and I feel like if you saw me waddling around you would know that walking is currently taking a serious effort. But for me, it was a big deal. I got really nervous about asking. But I did, and I didn’t back down when she asked if it was that much closer. Instead I rubbed my monstrosity of a belly and gave her sad eyes. Because it IS important to me right now. And I got my spot, no big deal! It seriously took a less than two minutes. But I did not like having to ask.

I have been praying recently for a camera. Not a fancy SLR or anything, but just a high quality point and shoot that we can take pictures with. I managed to kill ours by getting it wet at Friends Lake at the beginning of our vacation. With baby two coming in 30 some odd days (wait, what? I NEED MORE TIME!) and the Peanut changing so often, now is not the time to be without a camera. Could you imagine in 15 years when I have at least a picture a day for the first few months of the one daughter and none of the other? No good. Well, ask and you shall receive. Somehow I mentioned that we needed a new camera on my way home and my awesome carpool buddy said something like, Oh I think I have an extra. 12 mega pixels and 5 times zoom later I am the proud owner of a new free camera. Thank you Megan! Thank you Jesus!

But now I have to ask someone to take my new camera and shoot some pictures. I don’t want anything fancy. Just some shots of me and Juliet and Christian interacting. The ones of just Juliet and Christian I can do. Vice versa for Juliet and me. I suppose I should take some maternity shots since I had them done with Juliet….and because I look much better this time around. But the thought of asking one of my friends to take these pictures feels like a REALLY BIG DEAL. Even though if I put myself in the position of being asked I would think it would be really fun. And I am talking about maybe 20 minutes or so of picture taking. And yet….

I am learning that God wants us to ask for things, rather than simply providing before we ask, because He wants us to understand that He thinks we are worth blessing. That He values us. Not just so we will understand our dependence on Him. I am glad He is patient with me. God, I’m working on it.

On Love and Leadership OR Happy (Belated) Birthday Hubby: You’re a good one!

It was Christian’s birthday Thursday! Elizabeth took Juliet (starting Wednesday night! You’re the best girl. The best!) and we slept in. Then we went out to lunch and went to the grocery store. So exciting I know. But it was the perfect day. We then picked up the Peanut and went to go get ice cream. Finally we came home and Christian went to go play poker. It doesn’t sound like much, but Christian and I have come to discover that we are basic kind of people. Simple pleasures work for us. (And the sleeping in, oh the sleeping in!)

But that isn’t exactly what I have been meaning to blog about. I have been meaning to blog about how lucky I am to have Christian’s leadership in my life. Specifically, his spiritual leadership. I know that there are some women who desire to be in a relationship where they trust their man and he makes the decisions. And I get that in theory…I guess. Who am I kidding, I don’t get it, but to each their own I suppose.

But I think that marriage is a lot like raising kids that it looks different for everyone and I say if it works for you (and the Bible doesn’t say bad idea) do it. And for us these are some things I have been batting around. I am not saying this is the case for everyone; I am saying this is the case for me.

I am not the easiest person to lead, by anyone. And for Christian….well I think it may feel to him as though he has a cat on a leash. I certainly know that I am pulling sometimes just because I feel like it, not because I have a good reason. But for me I know that I can follow Christian because he loves me so well.

Sometimes I have crazy ideas. Sometimes they are good (the redecoration in the bedroom is shaping up very nicely, and if I get this craigslist dresser under $100), but occasionally I get ahead of myself. When we moved in I really wanted to get chickens. Fresh eggs! They can eat our garbage! Our backyard is huge! It will be sort of fun and eccentric and cost effective! Christian knew better. He was raised around farms. Chickens smell bad, and I can barely keep up with the less than half of the housework that is my responsibility. Now with two under two on the way…..boy am I glad I don’t have to go collect eggs. Bending over to get them sounds torturous right now all the while trying to keep the Peanut from plucking feathers out by the fistful and/or not eating the chicken poop….good Lord. (Although the blog fodder would have been priceless….). It was a bad idea.

And when Christian said as much, I was able to listen because he loves me. He consistently has my best interests at heart. Dog because we were new in town and he was gone almost every weekend, okay. Chickens, no. Redecorating, do what I want. He mostly lets me do what I want, so when he says “bad idea” I trust it is one. Plus, it goes both ways. If I am really not down with Christian’s plans, he holds off. He hears me. Even when we can’t come to an agreement, which is very rarely. I know that I have been heard and my best interests are taken into consideration.

My department head used to love her students into submission. It was unreal. I watched it happen and I still have no clue how she did it. I guess she raised her voice on occasion, but really and truly they believed that she had their best interests at heart and thus they did what she asked.

The best parenting book I have read talks a lot about that. That kids respond to you loving them really well. And setting up loving boundaries is a good thing. Leading kids as parents means setting up situations where it is safe for kids to be them…and sometimes to fail. There wasn’t a whole lot of rebelling going on in the house I grew up in. Mostly because we believed that the “No’s” weren’t arbitrary. We knew our parents wanted what was best for us, and if it wasn’t going to hurt us they generally went with “okay”.

When I was in Bible study in college one of my leaders called God’s boundaries the “electric fence of love”. God leads us by loving us. His boundaries are there for a reason, and He only has them because He care about our well being. And sometimes we decide something is a good thing that….well…isn’t. Like chickens in the backyard or running my mouth just because I am mad.

When you not only know, but see consistently over time that someone loves you and always has your best interest at heart……it makes following a lot easier.

Today is Red and White day

Every Thursday is Red and White day, all summer at Camp Ray Bird henceforth: CRB (except for discipleship week ….we’ll get to that.) The day where the campers learn that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of their sins. They learned about sin on dark day, Wednesday. Gold day is Tuesday, when they learn of the goodness of God, and Green day is Friday, when the campers learn how to grow in the Lord. (If you read your Bible and pray every day then you’ll grow, grow, grow.)

Christian and I worked at Camp Ray Bird the summer before we moved to Atlanta (Summer 2006). We had some friends on the speech team who encouraged us to get summer jobs there, so we thought “what the heck.” I spent the summer answering phones and messing up registration (seriously….talk about learning about God’s grace…) while Christian led activities that the counselors took their campers to. A job you don’t normally need a masters degree for (you don’t usually need to be old enough to vote….but Christian managed to fit right in.) What goes on is so much more than the sum of the stuff that everyone does there.

The basics are this. Around a thousand kids come through CRB every summer. Almost every single kid qualifies for a reduced fee. $30 for the week. The whole week, overnight, 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, and a t-shirt if they memorize all of their Bible verses. Not to mention swimming everyday, daily activities, crafts, the whole summer camp experience. From where I sit that is less than VBS at some churches, and all the kids eat there is a themed snack.

But the biggest piece is this. The kids are loved at CRB. The counselors, the kitchen staff, the lifeguards, the 16 year olds whose job it is to put the worm on the hook for the 7 year old girls, every single person is there to love campers, even if that means discreetly picking up wet sleeping bags and having them laundered before “horizontal hour.” Every worker believes it is their job to love the kids in whatever way they can.Even if it means cleaning toilets or roping off the field for games later that night.

And the kids, even the little ones, can’t leave without understanding who Jesus is and exactly how much God loves them. I’m not saying it fixes all their problems or anything, poverty is a beast for sure. But for a week, one week, kids who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity, get to do summer. Not sit in front of the TV all day because it is too hot or not safe enough in their neighborhood to go outside.There is no public pool in South Bend, so for most of the campers their week at camp is the only week they swim.

Christian and I feel so, so blessed to have been witness to what goes on there, to be able to participate in the ministry. This is the first year we won’t be able to visit, even for a weekend. The timing of it all just didn’t pan out. I’m praying for the ministry this summer. And praying that the staff can see beyond the grueling hours and incessant needs of the campers to the investment they are making in the name of the Lord. It gets hard sometimes.

And if you feel so called…even if it is just a couple bucks, feel free to click the pay pal button on the Camp Ray Bird website. I worked in the office, and can honestly tell you that NO ONE can stretch a dollar like the CRB staff. I’ve got details if you want them. Seriously, even 5 bucks will pay for bait for fishing for a week. And by all means put them on your prayer list!

What have you done for ME lately?

We took the two oldest of the Grimes clan (remember, we kiddo swap with them) with us to the drive-in on Wednesday. We may have used the borrowed trucks bed as a giant sized kiddie corral. It was fun. We saw Cars 2 and I was reminded that when we first started watching the kids the oldest (we’ll call him J) was always telling us how cool Lightning McQueen was. Only he used the t sound for the c sound and thus was always telling us how tool Lightning MtTween was. It was hilarious. He now pronounces everything correctly and also thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Impressively he stayed up for the whole thing.

On the way home the girls were conked out, but J wanted to know where his youngest brother (S) was and if he would be at the house. I told J that S would be staying the night with a friend of mommy’s. But I couldn’t remember the name of said friend and was trying to get J to understand. So I asked if he remembered the church he went to with mommy before they moved, the one they still go to with Grandpa and Nanny. But I wasn’t speaking his language. Because of the every other weekend custody agreement, the kids have 2 churches that are “their church.” But it all got confused when I was using my labels. J let me know how he keeps track by asking me, “Do you mean the doughnut church, or the lollipop church?” At 1027, J gets doughnuts. At his other church, the kids get lollipops. It is a great way to keep the churches straight in a 5 year old mind. I have since started using those labels.

Here is the thing though. I realized I do this too. I label the church, my neighborhood, my school and for me especially my relationships based on what I am getting out of them. That is my fun friend, that is my mom-advice friend, that is my God friend, and sometimes I think, that friend isn’t getting me anything…..why is she in my life again? Why go to the doughnut church if the doughnuts have stopped coming? Why go to the lollipop church if the candy counter is closed?

I’m not saying it isn’t important to make sure we are being fed. Or that we shouldn’t have our needs met by the church, or the relationships we participate in. I am just saying…..Maybe my primary label of people shouldn’t be all about what they can get me.

Man, I was intending this post to be light. And here I go exposing my dirty under-belly for all the internet to see…..

My pain ain’t your pain

In less than three months I am going to give birth again…..and I am PUMPED. I know that may sound totally bizarre to some. I know women who have only had one child that cite child birth as the main reason they didn’t have another. It is always something along the lines of making a deal with God that if the epidural worked they would NEVER get themselves in that position again.But for me it wasn’t like that.

Maybe it was because I had an AWESOME book that is now out of print (I looked into getting it for a friend, but $68, ouch). Maybe it is because I have a high pain tolerance after years of fibromyalgia. Maybe it is because I know LOTS of women who gave birth sans pain meds and are really positive about their birth experiences. But for me birthing babies is a little like what people describe in running marathons. Yes, it hurts, yes there are moments when I feel like I cannot do it. But then you keep going and at the end it is AWESOME and you feel so accomplished, and the natural high that your body gives you………I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I am told that a high like that is very expensive and can have some weird side effects. 
But not every woman comes into the hospital laughing about 6 or 7 centimeters. The nurses were certainly surprised. And not every woman had all the awesome opportunities and support I had. And pain is a really. really, personal thing. Like so personal that we can never experience each others. We can both stick our thumb in the exact same place and get hit by the exact same hammer at the exact same force, and yet….it could very well not be the same pain. Who knows. We’ll never know. Maybe your thumb is super sensitive. Maybe you literally have more pain receptors than I do (people don’t have the same amount, isn’t that crazy?)Maybe my nerves over-react to certain stimuli. It isn’t the same. It never will be.
When you have a muscle disorder for as long as I did, you start thinking about pain, reading about it. The studies about chronic pain are beyond depressing. You actually lose IQ points if you are in chronic pain long enough. You wonder how a body that looks healthy can be in that much pain. You literally forget the sensation of “pain free.” I started to wonder about the pain scale at the hospital. “On a scale of one to ten…” At my worst I calculated that I walked around everyday with what I would describe as a 6…..so what did that mean, was 6 my new zero? Did my scale now go from 6-16 while yours capped at 10? Could I feel more pain than you……like my body had somehow gotten good at it? Would I even notice a 2, or would that now seem like relief. Like a 2 for me would now be like you with an Oxycotin?
 It was all so strange to think about. We can talk about it, and describe and calculate and attempt to define. But we can’t ever experience someone else’s pain. And we shouldn’t pretend that we do. I know what it is like to be told it can’t possibly hurt that bad when you are doing everything you can not to sob uncontrollably and scream the exploitive that rhymes with duck. So do you need an epidural. I don’t know. I’m not you, I can’t actually feel your pain.
I think spiritual-emotional pain is a lot like physical pain. For whatever reason some things that seem the same from the outside, break ups, parental abandonment, heck even a harsh word don’t always hit the same spot in the same way. We certainly don’t feel them in the same way. I have two sisters, and Emily (the oldest) seems to be built less sensitive than I am. Things don’t hit her in the same way. But when I call her crying because….oh who knows why, but my feelings are hurt again…..she doesn’t tell me that it doesn’t hurt, that I shouldn’t be crying. She acknowledges my pain and helps me figure out how to move on.
I however, am often not so gracious. When people are talking about what a difficult time they are having I sometimes am rolling my eyes internally. I want to shout “GET OVER IT! YOU DON’T HAVE PROBLEMS!” But they do. They are hurting, their spiritual nerves are shot. Maybe I would rate their pain as a 2 but I am not the one who is experiencing it. Maybe it is an 8. I wouldn’t know. Often times people are hollowing because there was already a bruise there, you know? I will just have to trust them and hear them and be a little more empathetic. Because your pain, ain’t my pain.