Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Than My Share

So ... I was going for "artsy" with this photo. When I realized I couldn't accomplish that, I opted for "no dishes or laundry in the background."

Do you ever feel like you're getting more than your share? You know that uncomfortable feeling that you're taking a lot more than you're giving? That's me this week. It's actually been a really great week of various friends and family members ministering to ME. But the less I'm able to reciprocate, the more guilty I feel.

Here's the thing, I would be the first to advocate to moms of young children (and anyone in need, actually) to ASK FOR HELP. Do it. People want to help you and you will be better and healthier for it! But when it comes to actually asking for, or receiving offers of help, I start to feel this pressure that I have to be sure to give as much as I take.

My friend Krishana (Shout out—today is her birthday!) once wrote about her compulsion to return a favor rather than simply accept it as a blessing. She writes:
I'm better at being the giver than the receiver, although in both situations God is still rewiring my thinking. My giving sometimes seeks the approval of the receiver; or I only accept a gift if I can find some way to eventually pay him or her back.  
Once in a while I catch myself saying "Are you sure?" when someone offers me something nice. Of course, it bugs me when people ask those questions when I offer them something. If I weren't sure about what I was giving them, I want to say, I wouldn't have made the offer. And yet that's too often my first response when I'm given something, trying to provide the giver an out.
I share her desire to not inconvenience others and especially to keep pace with the giving that's happening. Here's the thing: That's not how the Body of Christ is designed to work. We're not all going to be in need at the same time. Speaking of the monetary workings of the Body, Acts 2:45 says: "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need."

Some people sold stuff they had so that others who were needy could be taken care of. God used the possessions of some to provide for others. This didn't make the receivers less worthy than the givers. In fact, they were all one in Christ. Those who gave could. And those who needed simply received. The same concept carries over to non-monetary needs—physical help, childcare, or even a listening ear over the phone. And while my need can make me feel like a freeloader at times, I know one day it will be my turn. I will be the one to offer babysitting or housecleaning or a listening ear. I will have the stuff to sell that will meet the financial need of another. And it won't be me, really. It will be God giving His stuff to someone else through me. I'm reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which says:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
I am certain that God uses others in the Body of Christ to pour out His comfort on us. So even when I'm feeling like I'm receiving more than my share—and I don't have the strength or resources to reciprocate—I can trust that, that is precisely how the Body of Christ is supposed to work.

(Special thanks to the people who have ministered to me this week. God bless you for your generosity.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Does He Handle Stress? (Or, How Our Vacation Was Almost Ruined)

The aftermath.

This one is for the single ladies who hope to be married someday.

So, this is about how our vacation was almost ruined. We decided to take a road trip from Colorado to Washington State with three children 4 and under. (Yeah, that sounds like the punchline, but it's not.) Our first day started out great with us leaving the house by 5:30 and already North of Denver by 7. But then ...

Our 2-year-old started to whimper and before we could find an exit, she got sick. All over her clothes. All over her blanket. All over the car seat. We stopped at a gas station and used about half a package of wipes, changed her clothes, gave her kids' Dramamine. I was pretty proud about how quickly and efficiently we took care of the problem, and the car didn't even smell THAT bad (most of the "content" had gone on her clothes).

Ten hours later, we were pulling into Billings, Montana, to meet a friend for dinner, and when we opened the van, we realized our youngest had experienced a similar "event." We used the rest of the wipes and quickly changed her into a clean outfit. (This is a good time to interject that my husband, Kevin, is a packing wizard. He thinks of everything, and his foresight has saved the day more than once.) After we left dinner, we had two more hours of driving until the hotel. The baby was wailing inconsolably, so I switched seats to sit next to her in the back. Thinking she was hungry, I fed her two pear-spinach pouches. And about 20 minutes later, two pear-spinach pouches came back up ... all over the seat (lucky for us, the seat was green to begin with).

We got to the hotel at 10 p.m. with three exhausted children, two soiled car seats and about half a dozen loads of stuff to carry up a flight of stairs to our room. This situation could have ruined our vacation. I was on the brink of wondering if we had made an epic mistake even attempting a road trip with three young children. At 11, we were moved into our room and Kevin went in search of laundry services. At 12, I had finally quieted down our rowdy children, who were showing the effects of being in car seats all day. Let's just say, I did not pass the stress test. I was pretty close to a break-down. But not Kevin. He simply did what had to be done. In this case, that meant sitting in the laundry room until 2 a.m. until the seats, straps, buckles and soiled clothes had been washed. The next morning, he had to painstakingly put the seats back together before we could go somewhere. (We drove through Yellowstone National Park and had a lovely time.)

This is what I saw on the bathroom counter the next morning.

There are many things I appreciate about my husband, but near the top of the list is this ability he has to handle stressful situations—keeping a positive outlook and not giving up. This quality is a huge blessing to our family, especially during this demanding season of life. It reminds me of a blog post I wrote not too long ago about the importance of looking for a spouse who suffers well. This is the same thing, really, just on a smaller scale. But six years—and three kids—into marriage, I see even more now than I used to how important it is to be with someone who can weather the downs of life.

We're now a week and a half into our road trip, and we've had a few other trying moments (I don't suggest road tripping with a newly potty-trained 2-year-old), but nothing as bad as that first day. Our vacation wasn't ruined after all. So, ladies ... as you date, notice how your guy handles stress. How does he respond to problems and inconveniences? Someone who keeps a cool head and calm demeanor in stressful situations will diffuse potential meltdowns. Plus, that kind of person just makes the journey more fun.      

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Why I Quit Writing This Blog ... Twice

There may be a few of you who still have an RSS feed of this blog. I met with a beautiful young woman from Africa this weekend who used to follow this blog when I was single. She said, "I loved to read your blog, and then one day you just quit. You left us hanging." I feel badly that I did that. After I got married in 2009, my life changed drastically. And then at the end of 2010, it changed even more drastically when my son was born. (Most days, I feel like the above picture.)

Can I just tell you that it's been hard. And completely wonderful all at the same time. Sharing your life with someone—and then someones—is amazing. Once you've experienced it, you would never EVER go back. At the same time, so much changes. I remember a time after my oldest child was born that I had an opportunity to go somewhere alone. I climbed into the Toyota Corolla I'd had for 10 years and the smell brought back a rush of sweet memories. It smelled like freedom. It smelled like the days when I could jump into that little car and meet a friend for sushi, or go to the early service at my church, or meet friends for an improv comedy practice or drive through Starbucks on my way to work in the morning. Though replaced by precious gifts, those things had faded so quickly.

If I'm completely honest, I've been reluctant to accept, and especially to embrace, my new identity. I think some women make the leap from single to married to married with kids fairly seamlessly. Not me. And because I am absolutely certain marriage and children are my calling now, I try not to complain. Overall, I think that's a good strategy. But sometimes I am really grieving all those parts of my identity that are gone, and instead of inviting Jesus in to the sadness of it all, I try to be a good little soldier and press on. It's as if I act like nothing has really changed, when it definitely has.

I don't say this to scare you about marriage or having kids. As I said before, the preciousness of these gifts more than make up for the perks of my former existence. But some days I just don't feel like me. I wonder where that girl went and if she's ever coming back. And the truth is, she's probably not. I have been irreversibly altered by marriage and children. I'm not just talking about the extra 30 pounds I'm carrying after having three babies in four years. I'm talking about my heart and my understanding. This burden of love I now carry has changed me forever.

So I quit writing this blog because life got overwhelming (and I spend more time on Facebook), and I have less time to ponder and write about my daily thoughts and activities. It's true—I may not do the cool things I used to, but God is using this new, very different life to refine me and make me more like Him. And that's pretty cool.

(I can't promise I'm back, but I hope to at least write here from time to time. You can also see my blog posts at