the oven is hot and God is good

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“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

(Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Jireh loves to play around in the kitchen while I am cooking. Sometimes I give him a box of dried beans and some spoons, or he would push a tablecloth around the floor, pretending to clean it. I love that we have a spacious kitchen (old flat!) and that I can watch him and talk to him while I chop, cook and clean.

But one thing I don’t love that much is the oven right under my stove, right smack at… that’s right… Jireh’s level. He likes to go really close to it and stare at his reflection in the shiny glass door. Or he grabs the bar across the door and does some ballerina-warm-up-ish movements. It’s just one of the more fascinating things at his eye-level in the kitchen and most of the time that’s fine.

Except when I am baking… at 180 degrees! Then I put a rug on the floor, and a stool in front of the oven to block his way. I make sure he doesn’t wander around the oven because he might absent-mindedly back into the stool and crash into the hot oven. And thankfully, for some inexplicable toddleresque reason, he’s really good at listening to my warnings to not go near the oven when it’s hot. He even has this “oops-I-am-too-near-look” when I go “Careful Jireh”, then he carefully tiptoes around the rug and move somewhere else. 

So the other day while I was baking cornbread for dinner, we did this whole hovering-round-the-oven operation again. And once when he was really curious about what’s cooking inside, I stopped my chopping, squatted down and looked him in the eye: “Jireh, that’s HOT. It’s DANGEROUS. Don’t touch it ok? Can you obey Mama?” He did and went back to his spoons. 

Satisfied that he’s safe, I went back to my chopping. But I continued with another lesson I never prepared: “Jireh do you know why the oven is hot? It’s a warning for us not to go near it or we might get burned. God is so kind to give us warnings about dangerous things! When we want to do something wrong, he gives us warnings too. His Holy Spirit tells us it is wrong and helps us not to go near it! We should thank God for warnings huh?”

He’s not listening and I know that, and I always laugh to myself when I do one of these monologues. But you know what, I am the one who needs the practice telling him about God so that when he does listen and when he does understand I would hopefully be a faithful storyteller, teaching him to love God in all of life! 

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how to stay married (II)

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When you can see the sun, everything is clear as day.

I counted the nights that Graham couldn’t come home each week, doing the sums of how these hours apart would subtract from our marriage in the long run, one night at a time. So gradual you won’t even notice. And in the end we would just be parents, no longer lovers.

It was this anxiety, this desire, this covetousness that drove me to fight and quarrel with him (even though he does his very best to come home faithfully every evening). An anxiety that told the same old lie since the beginning of the world: God is not for you! You have to make your own marriage work. You have to spend time together to make it work. You are not going to make it like this. You have to try harder. You have to make it work.

It is wrong; I know now.

And I have to keep on knowing till death do us part, that:

God is for me. God is for my marriage. God is in my marriage. God wants my marriage to display to the world the loving relationship between Jesus Christ and the church.

The way, God’s way, is so simple, so clever, even a little cheeky. Spend as much time as Graham needs to spend with me! (Not, how can I get him to spend all his time with me!) Instead of counting the hours, consider his needs. Instead of satisfying my own needs, count him as more significant than myself.

Eureka. Joy. Grace.

A joy that comes from following my Saviour and not “saving my marriage”.

How to stay married!

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A few days ago, our marriage was in a crisis. It had come down to this for me: Either you spend more time with me, or we are slowly but surely heading for a divorce! I was feeling abandoned, unloved and taken for granted — all because my husband wasn’t staying home, erm, all the time. I have a right to my time with my husband because my love language is Time ok! And Passion and Love swaggered their fingers before my dejected husband to back me up. 

Suddenly, I understood why people have affairs. Suddenly, a divorce sounds reasonable. I was disappointed, even grieving in my heart, that my husband had no desire to spend time with me. My need was not met. What else is there in a marriage?

Thankfully I am both a drama queen (in my mind) and the possessor of a goldfish-memory. By the next day I had forgotten my fury but I was nursing the hangover of my exaggerated overture. I began to consider if I would ever resort to divorce when my need is not met. After all, the need is real and so is the pain and disappointment when it’s not met. If haranguing my husband for more time together is sucking the life out of us, then why not skip out?

It’s not an easy question to answer even if I already had the right one. That marriage is to make us holy, not happy? How do I become holy when I am unhappy? What do I do now? Sure I could be the ho-hum classic cynic: “I am just not going to expect anything anymore so I won’t be disappointed. Or the matriarchal martyr: “I do everything for my husband, for this family, even though he doesn’t love me.” But those are dreadful in themselves. Blah!

So this may sound boring but I figured I will spend as much time with him as HE NEEDS to spend with me. (And of course I secretly bargained that he should do the same for me as well.) Quit the “why-can’t-you-be-home-7-nights-a-week” spiel and put his needs before my own! It’s starting well. It is kinda liberating when I snap out of having to meet every single want of mine. And remember what marriage is all about. 

 

how long has it been?

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It feels like a 1000 years since I blogged! And I think I have forgotten how to write. In any case I should go back to baby’s side soon, the bed is calling out to me! But so, for memories’ sake, here is a point form summary of what’s happened.

– I had post-natal depression (boo…)

– I went for counseling which was great (yay…)

– My counselor was a family aunty who noticed I needed help (phew…)

– Jireh was waking up 6 to 8 times a night and I was dying (argh…)

– I broke down in the middle of a very normal chat with her at the family’s Christmas dinner. If it was anyone else they might have freaked out. But this aunty was so gentle and loving to me. (ahh…)

– Counseling was very therapeutic… really! And interesting too. (mmm…)

– It turns out I was struggling a lot with GUILT. Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! And the fatigue just made it explode in my head (kaboom!)

– We did a few things to help me manage the guilt (yup…)

– I was convicted by Colossians to go to church with Jireh no matter what (yay…)

– I brought Jireh to sleep with us in our bed and it’s been so much better since (yay…)

– He still wakes up as much as he wants to at night but I feel less tired (phew…)

– I have read that co-sleeping mums may sleep fewer hours than those who don’t but they report better sleep… and it seems to be true so far! (yeah…)

– Graham turned 28 in February! (whoohoo…)

– I bought him a Betty Crocker microwaveable cake that he could make by himself, just add water (haha…)

– We started Jireh on babyled weaning and it’s been messy and fun (ack!)

– The whole family fell sick, one after another (boo…)

– We recovered! (phew…breastfeeding with a runny nose was gross)

– Jireh has to go for an xray tomorrow now that he’s well (mmm…)

– He is turning 7 months old this Friday! (yay!)

I don’t know what the parentheses are meant to do, add emotions to this whole post?

2011 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,500 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

An octopus on steroids and stereo

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Jireh has been refusing to sleep till 10 or even 12 midnight on some days. And it is a disaster because I am a wreck after 8pm; even before I was pregnant I was regularly sleeping at 9pm. 

At first we would spend hours patting and shushing him while he whinges, moan and fidgets in my arms. It’s like trying to tame an octopus on steroids and stereo! It was so frustrating I had stood up once in anger (yes, anger!), put him down (it took all my self-control to do this gently), and walked out of the room. I just wanted him to disappear so that I can go sleep. 

Now we have a new SOP which means Jireh cry less and is that little bit less aggravating. We bring him to our bedroom with only the bathroom light turned on, I lie in bed next to him, while Graham does his work on the computer. I close my eyes and put my hand on Jireh’s tummy and from time to time mutter: “When are you going to sleep huh?” It still feels like crap, really. (Everything does, when you are sleep deprived I guess!) And I wonder how I will survive this. I feel a little useless because, really, who sleeps at 9pm anymore?! *raises my hand feebly* 

One day I just simply realized it’s ok for me to feel crappy on these occasions – I am a human being and I have physical limits. I told God about it. And you know what? I still feel tired – that’s just my body clock talking! – but I feel less frustrated that Jireh isn’t sleeping when he should, or how I can’t exactly play or even talk with him. And I will survive this one day at a time.  

Losing sleep over Jireh’s sleep

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Last night I turned my worries over to God. The past four months has not turned out the way I imagined. When I was pregnant, I imagined I would be a very cool, relaxed mum but it turns out I am the grumpiest most fretful mum I know at times! Definitely humbling.

So I said a simple prayer to confess my lack of trust and how I have turned this whole sleep thing into a measure of my parenting skills. O God, may I never boast except in Christ alone!

Matthew 6:27 says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” He’s got a point: I can’t even add an hour to Jireh’s sleep, let alone his life, by worrying.

Worry is because I would like to be able to control the situation but find myself helpless instead. Worry is because mostly I feel like a failure as a parent when my kid is not sleeping the way experts say he is supposed to. Worry is obssessing over methods, tricks and techniques to get Jireh to sleep faster, longer and better.

(Have you seen the number of youtube videos on sleep training? The more I watch, the more anxious I get — What am I not doing right?! What have I not tried?! Anxiety fuels more anxiety — there really is no end!)

Still there are many other aspects with which I struggle. I never really got around to writing them down though they circle around in my head. This may be a good time to sort it out.

1. Missing church on Sundays (Hebrews 10:24)
Sometimes if Jireh had a bad sleep day on Saturday, or if I want to test out a new routine, I want to keep him home so that he sleeps better without disruptions. I don’t think I need perfect attendance in church to grow in godliness, but I don’t know if Jireh’s sleep has become a greater priority than God’s command to meet up with fellow Christians for mutual encouragement.

2. Not meeting up with family and friends (Exodus 20:12)
For the same reason, we have been missing family dinners (because they clash with Jireh’s bedtime) and I have turned down several invites from friends to go out. Again, I think it’s ok to be selective about outings because Jireh does sleep better at home and I have a responsibility towards him. But I also feel like I have not loved my friends enough by spending time with them, or honored our parents by showing up for family events.

3. Graham (1 Corinthians 13, Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22)
On one too many occasion I have argued with Graham over how to handle Jireh’s sleep. And also, because I have found it so mentally exhausting to care for Jireh, Graham has taken over some of the housework such as hanging out the laundry and washing the dishes. And I really am thankful for that but I am wondering, what kind of a helper am I!

4. Comparisons with other mums
When I tell other mums my struggles, I receive a range of responses: cheering on, assurance, advice and empathy. At times they seem so self-assured, so experienced, so capable of handling more kids and more issues or BOTH, that it made me feel really useless! It made me feel a little alienated – like there are these other mums, and there is me. Mmm.

Ahh, ok, my struggles don’t seem so bad or many when I write them down. Gotta keep praying and depending on God’s grace!