...before writing a proper post on this eventful week.
We've begun the addition by tearing down the sunporch and tentatively expect to get footings in sometime this week, if all goes well. We've put a new slideshow on our "House Progress" page (or you can just click here) with a little description of last Sunday's activities.
And we got our first snowfall today. Kind of ironic that last week we had doors open all day because it was warm enough for that sort of thing and today it's snowing. Good thing the ground's still warm enough for foundation work!
It seems like we have a lot of things to prepare this week. It's occurred to me that at seven months pregnant, it's probably time to start gathering a few baby things - we have coupons for a few things that we can get just for shipping fees that we planned to order over the next few months and I ordered the first of them this week. And it's looking like the addition will be getting underway any day (though I know it probably looks like nothing whatsoever is going on), so this evening Ben and I are going to clear out the sunroom in preparation for tearing it down. I'm going to miss that little room, but I keep reminding myself that a new family room will be so much more pleasant and useful!
While we've been preparing little things like this, we've also been watching things happening in the outside world and wondering...how does a person really prepare for bad things to come?
A lot of people believe that we're looking at the beginnings of complete economic collapse in our country and are preparing for scenarios like no one being able to get food or water for months or years. It's pretty amazing what is advised to stockpile: everything from ibuprofen to ammunition. It's a lot like Y2K, from my perspective. We really don't know what's going to happen, so we try to think of everything that might and prepare for it.
I've had a thought that's gradually become more cohesive this time around than it was back in 1999: what is it in the Human psyche that reacts to danger by wanting to horde things? And how much will it really protect us?
I think one answer is we always want to know what's coming next and when we don't, we often place an incredible amount of emphasis on one of two things: totally ignoring the possible threat...or trying to heavily prepare for whatever we can imagine happening. And we have very vivid imaginations. The Unknown scares us enough that we try to cover all the bases we can think of, even ones that are wildly improbable, because then we feel safe. Unfortunately, when real bad things happen I don't think even our vivid imaginations cover all the results.
For instance, I know of one woman married to a man from Russia who recently mentioned what his parents did to prepare for the bad times they foresaw coming under Communist leadership. They actually did lay by supplies and try to get ready for what was coming...and the first thing the new government did was raid houses, uncover secret storehouses, and take everything.
Not sure how you can prepare for that one.
Now granted, keeping supplies on hand to deal with problems like grocery stores not being stocked for a few weeks due to storms or earthquakes or other problems like that is a sensible thing to do. But how exactly do you prepare for the collapse of your economy? How to you get ready for the end of the world? What about girding yourself to face World War III?
I think perhaps what we need to prepare isn't so much the pantry as our minds. Because the truth is, if we find our security in stockpiling enough stuff, it's going to let us down. There really is no way to physically lay by supplies for every eventuality. So ultimately, surviving any cataclysmic event can't come down to "Did I prepare enough stuff?" The answer will always be "no." If you bought a thousand dollars worth of dried rations, you probably should've bought two thousand or five thousand. If all you did was look at the future fearfully and say, "I have to DO SOMETHING!!" you will never be able to prepare enough.
But your mind drives all that you do and every response that you make to every eventually. It really does cover everything. Focusing on physical survival is one thing: preparing your mind to take anything that comes your way is another. In my opinion, the greatest thing any of us can do to prepare for anything at all is to learn to use our minds and see clearly. Because the biggest danger of all seems to be inside us. When things don't go our way, we panic, act irrationally, forget that God made us and God is in charge. When really bad things happen, we despair, lose hope, and sometimes even do crazy things like riot and kill people. When we let our minds get corrupted by things like fear, we no longer have the wisdom or the foresight to make wise preparations for even commonplace problems, let alone big ones.
We had a conversation last week about how the term "repentance" really means "to change your mind". You can't truly and usefully repent of anything until your mind has been changed and you see clearly. I think the exact same thing applies to preparing. Preparing for anything, really, even a new addition and a new baby. Ben and I have been preparing for the birth of this child for months by getting our minds ready for what's going to happen and how we're going to respond. We don't have a bassinet or diapers or baby clothes, but we've spent a lot of time saying things like, "That's how we want our baby's spirit to look - just like that!"
We don't have rifles and ammunition laid by, but we do keep preparing for whatever could happen by constantly noting and examining how God proves he's in charge. Not because we need the proof, but because that's our version of stocking the pantry so we feel safe. Considering the first urge we often have is to DO SOMETHING, this sounds like not doing very much: but it's absolutely essential. It's the foundation for being able to handle whatever comes our way. The only way for us to make wise preparations for our future, no matter what it happens to be, is to keep our minds from being filled up with junk that will prevent us from seeing what's really happening and making decisions based on that. If we put extra things in our pantry, we want to do so because we've reasonably and thoughtfully decided to, not because we're terrified we won't survive if we don't. Fear is one of the biggest corrupters of the mind out there and it's pretty easy to let it in when we hear things like "fiscal cliff" and "war" and "major tax increases". But fear has a tough time getting a foothold if you've already prepared your mind to accept that even when fearful things occur, you don't have reason to fear because you are ultimately not in charge of what's going to happen and there is someone who is, someone who is trustworthy and good and who doesn't forget even about little things like making sure we have a house next door to Mom and Dad so we can take care of Grandma Lila. Or giving Ben a job that allows us to make money to cover what we need and still give him an incredible amount of time to spend with Grandma and me. That someone is not going to suddenly forget about us just because the stock market crashes or we go to war with Iran. We keep reminding ourselves of those kinds of things and then we're at peace.
And that kind of preparation really does cover whatever happens.
I remember the first violin lesson I had after George W. won his first term of presidency. My teacher was so despondent about the results of the election that she said she didn't see how any of us were going to survive with such an idiot in office for four years. I remember the comment because I'd become politically aware during the Clinton years and had very much hoped for Bush Jr. to win; I did, however, remember how it felt to have Clinton win his second term in office. Disappointing - but I hadn't been despairing about it, either. So I sort of understood how she felt but not quite. I pointed it out to her and she said something else I haven't forgotten: "Well, you don't understand because you're just more passive than I am: I believe in actually doing something about problems I see!"
With every election, that comment comes back to me. Not because I was stung into action by her words, but because no matter how firm my opinion about current political events, there's always something lurking in the back of my mind that makes both wins and losses more matter-of-fact to me than other people I know who are fascinated by politics. I believe God is always in charge. Always. And he is good.
And he is the God who uses talking donkeys to make a point and calls an invading pagan king, "My servant."
‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.' (Jeremiah 27:4-7 ESV)
It probably seemed incomprehensible in those days to any of the Jewish people worshiping God that he should call the arrogant marauding barbarian Nebuchadnezzar "my servant" and should show him favor. But God is always the one who allows or ordains leaders to gain power. Not necessarily because they are holy or because he sanctions their wickedness or beliefs, but because he has a Plan: and the Plan calls for specific people to be in control at specific times.
I believed that when Bill Clinton and George W. were in charge. I believed it when Barak Obama won his first term. I believe it now.
Does that mean I don't stick to my philosophy of life or that I'll vote for an incumbent president no matter what because, "Well, God put him there..."? No. I always vote for, as my brother Aaron puts it, "the person who most closely believes what I believe to be right." That might mean out of two guys running, one of them is only a fraction closer to my beliefs of right and wrong: but it does make it a lot easier to vote. I never vote for "the perfect candidate" but make the best choice I can between the options presented. And then I say, "Well, Lord, I answered the question as best I could and I'm glad you're deciding the end result."
Which means I feel no bitterness when the candidate I didn't vote for wins. I might say, "Uh oh. We're in for it now." But I don't despair. After all, King Herod was no joy of a leader and God chose him to be in charge when his own son was born; not to mention Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. A little reading on the history of that time makes our complaints about higher taxes look pretty piddly, to be honest.
Of course, I'm not sure what I would've done back during the Revolutionary War days. I hope I would've said, "Yes, God places Kings in charge; but he also removes them and it looks like we're going to be a tool to do that."
But those days are not now. I firmly contributed my opinion about who should be in charge of this country and I do have to admit I'm disappointed that's not what God had in mind. But I'm sure glad he's the one ultimately deciding and I do believe whatever things come up in the next four years, it's part of the Plan. Yes, higher taxes and giving Israel the cold shoulder and being ever-more-consistently being labeled a "religious right wacko" and all. If that makes me passive, than I suppose I am. Still, I'm glad I'm continuing to have joy in life regardless of what leader happens to be in charge. Because the leader of the Kingdom I belong to doesn't change and I have every confidence he's got this, no matter what comes next.
Ben and I have had an interesting week. So far, it's included two plane trips, walking about 25 miles, watching sunrise over the Atlantic at a beach, tasting seven or eight different olive oils (hey, for those of us who don't do wine tastings...), having another double birthday celebration (Kim and I have birthdays only four days apart), and having our baby finally tip out in front. I went from looking a little pregnant at the beginning of the week to looking VERY pregnant by the end of it. My ribs are eternally grateful - on Tuesday they were so sore they were driving me crazy, which tells me the baby had grown up just about as far as he possibly could and since he had to go somewhere, now he's growing out instead.
On the downside, now when I look in the mirror I wonder where that fat girl came from and why she's wearing my clothes. Ben said, "Maybe a little too much pasta."
We've enjoyed pretty much every minute of our trip to Florida, even when we opted out of going through the body scanner at the airport and submitted ourselves to the full pat-down instead. Turns out it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected; but whatever it was, we weren't interested in taking the baby through the scanner. We haven't even made free use of a Doppler heart monitor because we were reading about what the sound waves can do to a developing baby's cells...why bombard him with whatever super-rays are used in those big body scanners? Pat downs are much safer.
Our plane trips were a lot of fun for us - we enjoy doing everything together and plane rides were no exception. We had one little hop from Detroit to Atlanta and then another little hop from Atlanta to Jacksonville, where we walked off the plane to a beautiful Florida autumn day complete with a breeze that smelled like salt water. It hasn't been particularly hot here, but we certainly aren't going to complain at 70 - 75 degree temps and sunshine after 40 and rainy had become the norm back home. It feels pretty good.
We got some good advice on the plane ride from Atlanta to Jacksonville, too. In a bland professional voice, the flight attendant advised that "in the event that our flight should become a cruise", we should stop screaming and clutching our neighbor's leg and don the life jacket located under the seat in front of us. "If you're traveling with a child or someone acting like a child, be sure you prepare yourself before helping them," she continued. "And if you're traveling with multiple children, this would be the time to pick your favorite."
I'm guessing she's had to make that safety announcement one too many times. But at least she made it interesting.
Stephen and Kim have a beautiful home in the suburbs of Jacksonville and we've agreed they have a very nice guest room bed. We have been very relaxed about the schedule of things and have basically eaten our meals peacefully, taken a lot of very long walks, done what we could to keep Emma's naptimes and bedtimes as secure and uninterrupted as possible, and enjoyed Kim and Stephen's company a lot. Stephen was unexpectedly able to be home for the week since Hurricane Sandy closed the airport he would normally fly into during business hours to do his business - which turns out to be setting up IT for very large companies. I didn't realize I was marrying into a family of computer guys, but the definite upside to this is they are very keen on new gadgets and it's a lot of fun to see all kinds of new stuff in action. Ben has gotten hooked on another new iPad game and says there is absolutely no way we can ever get an iPad. He would be much too addicted to playing on it. And the truth is, now I've been playing the games with him so we'd both be hooked. Our bed would never get made and we'd be eating TV dinners.
As for Hurricane Sandy, as Mrs. G. always said..."It's an ill wind that blows no good." Out of all the mess and mayhem, the good in this instance was extra time with the Man of the Izzo Household. Who ran twenty miles this morning instead of the fourteen he was planning on. I just can't imagine being able to run that far - it was a major accomplishment to me when I reached ONE mile!
On Thursday, Ben and I went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory for my birthday, which was a present from Kim and Stephen. We sat outside since 75 felt plenty warm enough to us for eating outside and the rest of the clientele seemed to think it was too cold, so it was quiet in the outdoor dining room. Ben proposed again, which he pretty much does every time we go out to eat. As I get more pregnant, this either gets funnier or more embarrassing depending on how you look at it.
We've noticed that we make decisions very decisively as a team, too - there were about two dozen different cheesecakes on the menu for dessert and it took us about five minutes to pick one. Typically, I find three or four that I like the sounds of and Ben casts the deciding vote. In this instance, I said, "I think the Banana Cream, the Wild Blueberry, or the Coconut cheesecakes sound really good." Ben said, "Blueberry it is, then." He very rarely says, "Hm....none of them," though that does happen on occasion.
Friday we went out to dinner at Maggiano's with Kim and Stephen, which Kim was excited about because she said it was like a double date. That was fun; and we came home with so many leftovers we had enough for dinner last night too. (This is where Ben's comment about my suddenly much-expanded belly being due to too much pasta came from.)
Yesterday morning, we got up relatively early and drove out to Jax Beach to watch the sunrise, since it's not often we have the opportunity to see sunrise over the Atlantic and it's not even like we had to get up all that early to do so. The sun came over the horizon at 7:42 and it was only about a 10 - 15 minute ride to the beach. We left at 7:15 and got there in plenty of time. We'd already been out to the beach on Thursday afternoon and discovered it's pretty quiet out there this time of the year. Not to mention no one seems interested in wearing bikinis, which is a plus. The interesting thing I've noticed about Florida beaches before is that there's a huge percentage of the female population present in bikinis; and the percentage of women who could even think of looking reasonably un-ridiculous in a bikini is a lot lower than that. Modesty issues aside, sometimes I wonder if maybe people don't look closely in the mirror before heading out the door.
But coming to Jacksonville in November mitigates this particular issue. In fact, most people who were out even in the warm afternoon were wearing sweaters (not necessary to our Michigan way of thinking) and at sunrise, folks were out in their pants and jackets. We drank coffee and hot chocolate respectively and walked a ways down the beach keeping an eye out for some of the nice big waves that came in now and then. I haven't been up that early on a Saturday morning in years and it was absolutely worth it.
In the afternoon we went to visit Stephen's mom (his dad is out of town - and planning to visit the Jordan River today, to give you an indication of how far out of town he actually is) and had lunch with her. They've just finished some fairly major renovation on their house and it was fun to see all the results. I got some very good ideas for our kitchen in the process - I've been trying to figure out if we should try to get cupboards that go up to the ceiling to make the ceiling appear taller or if that would just be kind of pointless, but after looking at the Izzo's new kitchen it looks to me like having the cupboards go up like that really does give the sense of the ceiling being higher than it is. I also liked that Mrs. Izzo picked out an island that was stained/painted a color (a beautiful blue, in this instance) rather than using the same cabinets. I'm not positive we can do this easily in our kitchen, but I have considered what would happen if I over-finished the cabinets at the island to get this effect and I really like it, so even if we don't do it now it might be a project for the future some day.
Mrs. Izzo also told us some really good stories about things like the politics of becoming a general's wife (in the military, the capability of a wife to support her husband and take good care of other military wives and keep order in their home is actually one of the things that weighs into her husband's eventual promotion, something I found really intriguing because it reminds me of Paul talking to Timothy about choosing deacons to lead a church) and living in Germany at the time Stephen was born. She said she had to quit before we got bored. We were a long way from being bored.
Speaking of our addition, Mom told me today that she'd called MISDIG and our yard is now full of little colored flags. Ben and I picked up the building permit the day before we left for Florida, so it sounds like when we get home we're going to be heading straight into addition-building. I'm relieved and excited that things are underway, but I expect these next few months are going to be some very super-busy ones. Sometimes it's hard to believe that by this time next year we'll have a totally different house and a baby who's starting to talk!
I should probably wrap this up and go find out if we've figured out what to do today. We've been playing our days very much by ear, which means we probably aren't seeing all kinds of things there are to see...but that's okay with us. Getting to spend every day together is quite a special thing for us all by itself, and getting to spend the time with Kim and Stephen and Emma is icing on the cake. The warm weather just puts everything over the top! We're pretty glad we're the ones that came out in November and Grandma went out in September, though. While we think the weather's lovely, it's a little cool for swimming and I think Grandma would still think it was cold. Ben talked to her on the phone yesterday and she doesn't really believe him that it's only in the early 70s, but I can see her out here sitting on the patio in a jacket and blanket while I'm barefoot and in summer clothes.
So long for now...and in my next post, perhaps there'll be something new and exciting about house preparations to talk about. You know we're going to really get to it eventually!
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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