I keep having ideas of blog posts I want to write, but these days it seems like the time I have in which to write usually falls somewhere around midnight and I'm not sure it's the wisest use of my time. For all I know, however, this may be normal for many years to come and I should probably just take advantage of the fact that I actually have time.
I think it might be finally sinking in to Ben and I that we have our own family and we only get one shot at forming a good marriage that produces good children. Sometimes I'm not sure my mind can even properly grasp what a huge undertaking this is and as solemnly as we took it on, it doesn't seem like we could've possibly been solemn enough for how gigantic a thing it is. I can say it's a matter of life and death without being melodramatic at all. Both physically and spiritually, we are in the process of making decisions that will either bring us life or kill us. And it only takes very small errors of thought to end up with a complete family catastrophe.
As someone I know once said, this is not the time for sloppy Godliness.
And it has been sloppy of us to think that we could pick and choose which of God's commands we should keep.
As Abigail has begun testing us to find out if she should really listen when we tell her not to touch something or come when we call, a passage I've heard in Deuteronomy since I was only a little older than she is keeps coming to mind: Moses, addressing his people on the day of his death, said, "I set before you today blessings and curses. Choose life, so you may live!"
When I see Abigail making a beeline to stick her little fingers in an electrical socket, I find myself saying to her, "Choose life so you may live, Abby!"
And then I find myself wondering if that's exactly what God thinks. When he set out all his "commands, judgements and precepts" before his beloved children, he wasn't doing it to cause them grief or harm. He was laying out for them how he intended for them to live, warning them of dangers and placing his understanding and view of the universe before them so they could keep their fingers out of electrical sockets and live. That's why failure to obey brought curses, just as Abigail runs a serious risk of bringing serious consequences on her head if she doesn't listen even if those consequences are not things I'm actively bringing upon her.
It's such a simple, enigmatic statement. At first glance, it's like a facepalm-simple phrase. Who doesn't want to choose life? Well, aside from the troubled individual here or there...but for the most part it seems like we all fight pretty hard to live. Babies are blessed right from the beginning with loud obnoxious voices and the tenacity to make sure their parents can't sleep or ignore their cries to be fed so they can get the food they need to live.
But I don't think God was just talking about the physical. He included it, of course - God's very practical commandments are not set on some weird mystic spiritual plane in which our bodies are something to be ignored as worthless - but when he was saying to "choose life", he was talking about REAL life, something Jesus called "life abundant", life that was more than just eating and breathing. In God's eyes, I think most of us are overall like people in a vegetative state: alive, but not vitally. Existing in a coma while machines breathe for you is not really much like the life we're used to living. Life outside of God's ways is pretty much the same.
God's version of "Life" does not include sickness, hunger, miscarriage, defeat, famine or anxiety.
For some reason, I had always thought that a lack of those things could only exist in Heaven. I was overlooking the fact that God's promised blessings on his people included freedom from these curses. Those people were all still living! God's version of Real Life - the life he said his people could choose - takes us out of a vegetative state and gives us an existence in Paradise right now. This is not for after we die because after we die we're dead, not alive. God's commands - the ones he gave to people who were still living and promised the above blessings if his people strove to follow them with all their hearts and minds and souls and strengths (Jesus quoted Moses in that famous verse).
God's version of Life, the life he wanted his people to choose, was to love him so much that they would keep his commandments. When Jesus described to his disciples what it meant to love him, he said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
Life is in God's commandments because his commandments are so much of him that we draw closer to him by obeying him. If we want to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength and if God is unchanging and if Jesus is God's Word and was with God in the beginning...then choosing life means choosing to live the way God laid out for us to live.
I want Abigail to choose life by obeying our commandments. God wants the same for us. I don't tell Abigail anything that's too hard for her. It isn't hard for her not to stick her fingers in the electrical socket or to come to me when I call her. It isn't hard for us either.
What's strange is that even after keeping the Sabbath and coming to the conclusion to not eat things God said not to eat, I still somehow in the back of my mind held to the understanding that God's commands were not really for me and I was somehow being particularly careful by picking of few of them to pay attention to. I had forgotten so many things that I've heard all my life, things that were completely clear. When Jesus said he didn't come to abolish the Law, he said he didn't come to abolish the Law. When he chastised the Pharisees, he told them that if they had only listened to what Moses had written they would've known him because Moses was writing about him. That means God's true commands - not ones with extra additions, but God's actual commands - give us the gift of recognizing God himself. God said the reward for calling his Sabbath a delight was to find our joy in him. When John called Jesus a light shining in the darkness, he was calling God's Word a light in the darkness.
Lately we have become aware of darkness around us to a degree we never even imagined possible. It's as if the more we look, the darker the darkness becomes. So if anyone really wants to know why we'll be sleeping out in a shelter next week instead of our house...it's because we want to love God with all our hearts and minds and souls and strength and he said if we love him, we'll listen to what he told us to do. And next week, he said he wanted us staying in shelters instead of our houses so that's what we're going to do.
Because we want to choose life so we and our children may live.
When we first got married, it seemed like everyone had the same question for us for months: "So, how's married life?"
It was an awkward question to answer, honestly. The surface answer - the one that everyone wanted to hear and which was quite true even if not very descriptive - was "It's wonderful!"
And it was. It was and it has only grown more so.
But there was more to the story than that.
Saying "It's wonderful" doesn't really describe what it's when your husband can gently but firmly tell you, "I knew you lied to me when you told me you didn't believe in bad moods. What you were really saying back then was that you didn't WANT to believe in bad moods...but you still believe in them because you have one right now. This isn't going to get better until you fix your attitude."
I know. Some girls out there who might be reading this are probably saying, "Huh?! What kind of thing is that to cite as a wonderful romantic thing about your husband and marriage?"
But this is why I married Benjamin Paul Turner. Because a wonderful man who tells the truth honestly and lovingly is rare; and a marriage in which a husband can say this to his wife will have more happiness in it than one in which the husband brings his wife breakfast in bed every day - something that's often seen as romantic but doesn't have a lick of usefulness when it comes to real-life things like taking care of grandmas and new babies.
Saying "It's wonderful" doesn't do justice to what it's like to be part of a marriage in which two people genuinely want to be together all the time. The other day Abigail was being a pickle and I finally marched her out of the house and put her in the stroller so I could walk her up and down. I do this quite a bit, walking her back and forth on a stretch of sidewalk about five houses long so I can keep looking in the window to make sure Grandma Lila is okay. The difference on this particular day was that Ben was home and I marched out anyway.
Before we were married, Ben and I did nearly everything together. We both wanted a marriage where the husband and wife were together and we figured the best way to determine if we wanted to marry each other was to live our life that way so we could see each other constantly in "normal" situations and be comfortable enough with each other that we would be able to actually see each other as we normally were as opposed to on our "company behavior". It worked very well: we did decide to get married and after a year and a half (and two children) we've yet to be surprised by each other's character. Life together is in many ways very much as we expected when we got married.
However, one thing that changed after we got married is that we became responsible for Grandma Lila's care. Initially, we thought that would mean a sort of general presence which would include us making sure Grandma had her meals and the house was taken care of and she got medicine on time, the kind of general companionship you have when you live in a family. Since Ben only works at the office during the afternoon, we thought it wouldn't be too difficult for us to manage things in such a way that I would continue to do everything with him as we had before.
Things did not work out as we had planned. It was made clear to us that while it was obvious Ben had to go to work, it was not so obvious that Lauren had to be with Ben; and since someone needed to be with Grandma Lila, Lauren was the one who was going to stay home. That was to be Lauren's job.
Does it sound like I'm still a little sad about this? Well, I am. Not because of having Grandma with us - and not because she actually needs so much more care than what I described - but because it has meant a lot of separation between Ben and I; and the thing we were and still are afraid of in this is that we'd get used to it and the closeness we had anticipated, desired, and planned for would vanish as we lost the sensitivity of needing to be together.
The other day when I took Abigail out and began walking her up and down even when Ben was home was a product of us getting used to being apart. I've gotten used to doing this without Ben, so I had no red flags about doing it without him even when he was there.
Ben realized this and came out looking for me. "We have to be very careful," he said. "This is a little thing now, but pretty soon we can start doing more and more apart and the next thing you know, we'll have two separate lives like so many other people do. If it's good to take Abigail for a walk, I'm more than happy to go for a walk."
And that is why marriage to Ben is wonderful. Because having a husband who reasons with me and protects me is what I was hoping for when I married him.
Off The Path
If anyone's curious about where we plan to stash a baby around here given the limited bedroom space, here's our solution: a mini co-sleeper.
It's kind of funny because when I do a quick check on what a 36-week-old baby looks like, there are these lists of things new moms should be doing to prepare for their new baby and the top priorities seem to be preparing the nursery and getting ready for a hospital stay...and I'm not doing either one.
We did, however, carefully choose a bed that would fit next to ours in the little space in our bedroom. It's a cousin to the average pack-n-play, with a complicated fold process that allows it to be stowed away in a package about the size of violin case, but it has a mattress raised high enough to keep us from having to reach down into it, sides that lower and lock into place to make it a miniature extension of our bed, and a nice big storage space underneath so we even have dresser/diaper space.
Oddly enough, this little bed encapsulates a small facet of the solution-finding our chosen life has led us into. We're keeping everything as simple and no-nonsense as we can, both for reasons of limited space and because this baby can't occupy the same place in our life as many first-time parents expect their first child to inhabit. There are a lot of other things going on and the baby has to fit into them rather than having us rearrange life so we can fit into the "now we're parents" role. We knew this would be the case when we both chose to have Grandma Lila come live with us and then to allow ourselves to have children when it happened rather than trying to determine when the best time would be. But every so often I'm reminded of what an odd path we've taken and preparing for this baby definitely has had it's moments of making me feel like a stranger in a strange place. I've spent most of my life being weird, so that's nothing new; but right now we're doing something so different I don't even know anyone else who's trying it: we're taking care of Grandma near the end of her life at the same time as we're laying the foundation for the rest of our life together and getting ready to care for a child at the absolute beginning of his or her life.
It definitely makes for an odd mix of decisions. The bookmarks on my computer might just reflect how odd: links to hospital bed mattresses are sharing space with links to potential lighting plans (for the addition) and other links to birth kit supply websites and Amazon listings for strollers. Health links describing hiatal hernia and advanced osteoporosis are right on top of one leading to a "calculate your due date" site. Our calendar has an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss ramifications of a deteriorating osteoporotic hip a few days from a midwife home visit. I've learned to manage chronic skin-breakdown sores at the same time I was figuring out how to get over morning sickness. We got an education about the health effects of Vicodin and prenatal vitamins within the same few weeks. Ben is preparing for life as a new dad by getting up several times a night with Grandma (though we haven't quite gotten the get-up-three-times-and-still-get-up-on-time-in-the-morning part down smoothly yet).
Sometimes I take a step back and look at this and shake my head in wonder. Of all the ways I would've predicted an early marriage and family to be functioning, in my wildest dreams I probably would've never pictured what is actually occurring.
In those wildest imaginings, I probably should've factored in one very, very important point: when God places us in a carefully-chosen life circumstance and we respond by actively looking to see what kind of work he has laid out for us, the results are often really surprising. Sometimes what presents itself to our hands to do is so unorthodox and yet so obviously right we have to blink and say, "Huh. So that's what we're supposed to do when we grow up." In our case, we were given the opportunity to begin our marriage while caring for Grandma Lila and then immediately given a child as well.
A good friend told us back when we were first considering entering this life that when we really seek what is good, it's often as if we get led straight off the familiar path of life into a forest of trees where there isn't even a track, let alone a path. The only thing that can keep a person on a course like that is love, because otherwise wandering through the trees gets pretty bewildering at times. Well, love and faith, which is the conviction of the truth. In this case, love for God and each other and for our families - especially Grandma - and the conviction there is a way through the trees even if we can't see it. So when we sit here scratching our heads over what we should do concerning where to put a new baby's crib, for instance, or how we should best manage Grandma's broken hip when I can't lift her without pulling all my stomach muscles, we remember that we walked off the familiar path because of love and faith...and trust that God is not going to put something in front of us to do that we can't manage.
I posted the picture of the baby's crib to show that there was a solution - and an easy one - to the problem of not having a nursery space to set up a crib. It would be a lot more complicated to post pictures showing how we're currently handling the broken-hip situation or how we'll go about caring for Grandma and a new baby, but those solutions are there too. Even the ones we haven't discovered yet are still there waiting to be found. Because we walked off the path into these trees knowing there was no way we could NOT take hold of the things God so clearly laid out for us to do and God has abundantly blessed that decision. We don't love Grandma any less than we did a year ago - in fact, we love her much more and we now have actions to back the words we said before she lived here. We don't love our baby any less than we would if all we had to do right now was prepare for his or her arrival - in fact, we love him or her much more because we're even more aware of the blessing we've been given. Our marriage isn't struggling because we've had to try to figure out a whole series of unusual circumstances: it's being knit together in a unique way we certainly couldn't have ever planned. While we certainly have encountered situations that were confusing or exasperating or even just plain weird (and we don't always know what to do about them), our life over the past year has been both interesting and highly blessed and we're looking forward to the next.
So if you were to ask me my blessing for the whole year, I think the best way I could put it would be this way: we walked off the beaten path trusting it was a good thing to do and we could find answers to the challenges put before us. And it's been a pretty amazing experience. This is something to hang onto next time something comes up we're not sure how to handle. It's something we believed would happen; and it's something we believe is going to continue happening.
Of Faucets and Great Stature
I have to report that our window of opportunity to begin really building the addition was closed due to some unforeseen circumstances and we'll be waiting a bit longer to start the excavating, which is what I was originally hoping to blog about.
The good thing about delays is that they usually result in equally unforeseen advantages in the long run, and given the perfect timing that has characterized our life since we first met, we're reminding each other that the addition is running on the same timing everything else has. I remember a little over a year ago when we weren't sure when we were actually going to get keys to our house. We were trying to figure out why there was delay after delay then and in the end, the timing worked out so beautifully that the house was able to be prepared for Grandma to live here in the two weeks before our wedding...so not only did we have a house, but we were able to get Grandma home right away when we'd been thinking there was going to be a several-month-longer delay.
That said, there have definitely been some changes around here. Ben and I have gotten motivated to work on all the little projects that have been hanging around needing to be finished, probably because we have the feeling that if we can't work on the addition, we should at least work on what we can. I've put up pictures that have been sitting around for quite a while and we've been doing things like cleaning and organizing the basement (Ben organized the pantry and it's way more usable than it used to be!). Generally, just focusing on what we can to take care of our house as it is rather than how it's going to be.
Which brings us to the kitchen faucet.
About a month ago, our faucet started leaking in a really strange way I'd never seen before: straight out the side of the faucet stem about midway between the handle and the spout. It was just a little pinhole at first and the spray of water was so fine you could only feel it, not see it. I said, "Well, we were going to get a new one in a few months anyway - I guess we'll just have to work around the leak."
Then it began leaking out the other side and both leaks got considerably stronger in no time at all. After about two weeks I had to keep a washcloth over the stem of the faucet or else everything on the counter on both sides of the sink would get soaked if we turned the water on.
Then it started getting just plain ridiculous. It wasn't a leak anymore: it was more like an imitation of Old Faithful. If we weren't careful, the water pressure would throw the washcloth off and then everything around the sink (including the unwary user) would get a surprise shower. Ben said, "There's no way that's making it a couple more months. We need a faucet."
So on Black Friday, he perused websites looking at faucets, reading reviews, and asking me questions about what styles would work best in the new kitchen. My contribution to the process was to point out one style I really didn't like and say I thought the finish should be brushed nickle since that's what we were using in all the other fixtures. Ben found a faucet that got excellent reviews and was a good style, used the right sink holes, and was being sold at a decently reduced price. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the reasons he ordered that particular one was that it had good marks for being easy to install.
After the new faucet arrived, Ben announced, "I'm going to install this."
"Sounds wonderful!" I said. "I have only one suggestion."
"Wear old clothes. It seems like plumbing always involves yucky water at some point."
So on Sunday afternoon, Ben changed into old clothes, excavated all the stuff stored under the sink, and began removing the old faucet. He kept me busy hunting for things ("Didn't we have a channel locks around here somewhere?"), but I didn't mind because it seemed like the least I could do considering he was the one lying on his back under the sink. My favorite moment - and one that partly illustrates why I decided to marry him - was when his voice emerged from under the sink excitedly saying, "Oh, look at this - I'm getting yucky water all over me just like a real plumber!"
That's Ben. It's one of the many reasons he's a wonderful man. Not to mention one of the reasons he's very easy to live with.
He would've had the faucet all installed by 7:30 that evening, except the connector hoses that came with the sink were about six inches too short and Lowes and Home Depot close early on Sundays. He even went on a determined expedition to Walmart and Meijer looking for adapters, but ultimately had to wait until Monday evening to finish up the project.
So we have a new faucet and Ben has a new skill. He's been picking up all kinds of new stuff this year and I expect he's going to pick up even more next year (there's always the important, "Being a Father" if nothing else!). I love his willingness to take on something new he's never tried before and the way he doesn't get frustrated when he has to take the faucet off and put it back on three or four times and the way he gets excited over things other people think are problems. I've been thinking over the ways I've learned more about Ben since we were married a year ago, and this is one of them. I've had the chance to get a much deeper look at the kind of courage he has, the way he will joyously tackle things other people (including me) see as obstacles, the way he doesn't let himself get upset at things. The man I got to know a year ago hasn't become any less admirable in the past year as I've gotten to know him much better. He's only grown in stature. He's getting better with every day that goes by.
By the way, I really enjoy the new faucet. It's perfect. And I don't have to wear a raincoat to turn it on.
Job Description: Housewife
Today I spent most of the day barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.
If you’ve lived in a cave most of your life, you probably haven’t heard this is a bad situation. Anyone else has probably heard this phrase used with scorn to describe a woman who’s supposedly downtrodden, miserable, and certainly not “living to her potential”.
I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. There was a time I thought I wasn’t going to get a chance to be in this position and I actually laughed aloud when I realized I could now accept that particular label.
I’m not sure when this job got such a bad rap. Cooking is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Being barefoot on a hot day is it’s own pleasure. And while being pregnant has it’s weird, startling, or yucky moments (this is definitely not the time to lose a good sense of humor!)…it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I’ve never been called on to use so much foresight, energy, ingenuity, decision-making skills, or management capabilities as have been required of me these days, which means my “potential” is being tested in ways it never has before. I expect that bar to only get higher in the coming weeks and months as I become responsible for a young child and Grandma Lila continues to need increasing care.
And this is not a job I was press-ganged into. It was one I enthusiastically agreed to. Tough to be downtrodden under those circumstances.
Barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. And proud of it.
How's Married Life?
As Lauren said, it's only a matter of time before Benjamin takes the reins of the blog and "takes a hand in the story telling." So here I am.
Today is an example of what life is like these days - not perfect, but absolutely wonderful. One question I get is "How's married life?" and I don't always know what to say. Usually "wonderful" or "very good". And that's all true. But today I reflected upon a single moment and I knew that if someone told me married life would be like this I wouldn't believe them. That single moment was just about an hour ago. I might as well summarize what led to that moment:
I woke up this morning with my wife by my side. Mornings usually involve waking up to the alarm clock (it's usually my duty to get up and turn it off) and promptly get back in bed. I know that sounds extremely lazy, but that's why we set the alarm clock about 45 minutes earlier than required. Then the REAL alarm clock begins when Lauren says "wakeupwakeupwakupwakup" which effectively gets me going. We get up and I got the coffee brewing. Lauren made a parfait of Greek yogurt, real maple syrup, granola, blueberries and strawberries which puts McDonald's parfait to shame. Grandma Lila came and joined us for her usual cereal and banana (which she really enjoys). Then Lauren read to me while I took a shower, then we switched places and I read while she showered. We are reading a book about raising Godly children which a family friend has written, and it has opened some very great conversation between Lauren and I. We got dressed, I checked my email and Lauren made the bed. We opened the windows and felt the warm breeze and figured it was a good day for a walk. So we walked around the neighborhood (about 1 mile) and we got back just in time for Mom to come by from next door. Grandma had a doctors appointment today to check on her leg. So Mom and Lauren went with Grandma to the doctors and I went off to work. I am extremely blessed to have a job which does not require a large number of hours to sustain our household. This allows me more time to be with Lauren and Grandma Lila. So when the end of the work day arrived, I came home and Lauren was cooking Mexican food. Yes, Mexican food! We are approaching that moment of bliss.
We all sat down, gave thanks to God, and chowed down on tacos. Hand fried taco shells too. I made Grandma's soft taco and I loaded up my tacos. It was really yummy. After dinner, Grandma started playing Chopin's Nocturne and I helped Lauren with the dishes and when we were done I sat down. During the walk earlier today I had hurt my foot, so Lauren borrowed some of Grandma's foot cream and started rubbing my foot. And it was in THAT moment I thought "If I were to have told myself ten years ago that I would be sitting here, full of Mexican food, listening to Grandma Lila playing Chopin, getting my feet rubbed - I wouldn't have believed it". But there I was.
So when people ask me "How's Married Life?" I should tell them "better than I ever could have possibly imagined."
And if you noticed that this blog was primarily about food, I suppose the saying is true: The way to a man's heart in through his stomach. Especially Mexican food!
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.
Please don't be shy! If you're reading the blog updates, we'd like to hear what you think. Click on the "comments" link to send us a note.