09 July 2018

Finally! Biking with the little

This weekend I finally got to go out with the little on my own bike. It's hard to describe how happy this made me. I really like biking, especially as a way to add exercise to my day, and Lydia loves being outside and seeing things, so getting a bike seat on my bike has been a goal and desire of mine for awhile. While biking with children is standard in the Netherlands (and something we did together at Christmas when I borrowed my mother-in-law's bike), it's not quite so normal here, so it took quite a lot of research and effort to make it happen here (without spending an enormous amount of money).

The first challenge was that my old Dutch bike was not in very good shape - as much as I love how it's built, it's become a one-speed (in low gear). I figured I'd soon tire of biking the 5km (with 2 hills) to and from day care with an extra 25 pounds on the back. So first I had to get a new bike, and I wanted one where I could sit up straight, wear a skirt with, and have the gear chain mostly covered. All of these things are standard on most Dutch women's bikes, but it took me quite awhile to find an American bike which made me happy

And then we needed to find a bike seat that fit my bike. I ended up buying two different kinds, and Matthijs put together and attempted mounting both of them (one of them also on his bike), without much success. Last Friday, Matthijs tried once more to make it happen - it finally worked after replacing the rack on my bike with an older and wider one we found in the garage. 

Yesterday, I finally had the joy of going on a family ride. It did not disappoint, as I loved it as much as I'd hoped I would, and the little seemed to enjoy it pretty well, too (despite being forced into wearing a helmet). 

28 June 2018

Grappling with faith and doubt

A recent article highlights what we as campus ministers do. I appreciate the focus on pastoral care and justice that the article brings forward, as well as the honest acknowledgement that as pastors we struggle with knowing how to respond well to questions related to sexuality (especially connected to LGBT+) and with doubt.

A few quotes:
Verhoef: “We used to live with a strong sense of transcendence . . . [but] faith is under pressure. And living out our faith with doubt is so common today on university campuses (and elsewhere of course). How can we as chaplains make space for doubts, support faith, welcome questions, and be hospitable to those to whom the doubts have turned towards unbelief?” . . .
Every CRC campus pastor is “trying to figure out how to get good at campus ministry in this day and age .... [and that means] addressing the needs of persons who are LGBT is front and center and very much in the life and work of campus ministry,” said Mark Wallace. 
Campus pastors always keep in mind that they are bringing the entirety of the gospel, its full message of loving your neighbor, to every aspect of the campuses they serve, said Wallace. 
Verhoef said that making a place for persons who identify as LGBT is important, but it can present challenges: “How do we stand as pastors in the CRC with one foot in the CRC moral theology and also one foot on a university campus that has a dynamically different perspective?” . . . 
“I have a lot of conversations about what to do when they do begin to question — even to the point where they're not sure what or if they believe. I see this as a movement forward, but it's hard to figure out how to describe as positive to churches such an apparent movement away from [certain] faith,” said Kronemeijer-Heyink.
In the end, said Verhoef, a core value of CRC campus ministry is to create communities in which students of many faiths or of none at all feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging. In this kind of community, students can let down their guard, get know one another — and hopefully — find God, he said.
The only thing I miss in the article is that I wish the author had emphasized more how we as campus ministers need to recognize how much the Holy Spirit is part of our conversations as people struggle: we have seen how questioning leads people to know and love God more fully.

27 June 2018

Reflecting

I feel like my reflections these days are not all that profound. My deepest thoughts are those of thankfulness. Thankful for God’s gracious protection over my family and myself; thankful that Lydia is continuing to grow into a cheerful, curious, and independent individual; thankful for Matthijs’s presence in my life; thankful for my job and that I get to walk alongside people in their faith journeys.

It's not that I don't have questions and things I wonder about. In fact, I have lots of questions: 
  • How do we encourage Lydia’s growing independence while providing appropriate boundaries
  • How do I make space for her independence when so much of my happiness has been linked to hers this past year (a good result of hormones at the beginning, but it’s not healthy for either of us if our happiness stays too closely linked)? 
  • How do I nurture my relationship with Matthijs, especially when both of our lives are quite full and Lydia (rightfully so) takes a lot of our time and energy? 
  • What do rest and recuperation look like, especially when vacations (and Sundays) now involve a very active small child?
  • How do I love and care for those in my life, not just Matthijs and Lydia, but especially the people who I have come into contact because of my work? 
I’m still working through the answers to these questions (and a bunch more related to work and developing my academic and professional self). I feel like some days I’m doing a great job striving to know how to live well: faithfully honoring God. And some days I just feel a bit overwhelmed by everything. But I am thankful to have the sense of God’s presence, especially through the people around me who are helping me out and providing encouragement.

23 March 2018

Being a mother is not a job

Shonda Rhimes, in her book, A Year of Yes, does an amazing job of describing how being a mother is not a job. More importantly, she highlights how each of us needs to figure out how to parent in our own way (in a way that fits us and our situation) and that we can't do it alone (she acknowledges how important her nanny and family are to her situation):
Being a mother isn't a job. It's who someone is. It's who I am. 
You can quit a job. I can't quit being a mother. I'm a mother forever. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation. Being a mother redefines us, reinvents us, destroys and rebuilds us. Being a mother brings us face-to-face with ourselves as children, with our mothers as human beings, with our darkest fears of who we really are. Being a mother requires us to get it together or risk messing up another person forever. Being a mother yanks our hearts out of our bodies and attaches them to our tiny humans and sends them out into the world, forever hostages.
If all of that happened at work, I'd have quit fifty times already. Because there isn't enough money in the world. . .  Do not diminish it by calling it a job.  
And please, don't ever try to tell me it's the most important job I'll ever have as a way of trying to convince me to stay at home with my children all day. . . The most important job to a woman who has rent, has a car note, has utility bills and needs groceries is one that pays her money to keep her family alive. 
Let's stop trying to make ourselves indulge in the crappy mythological lady-cult that makes being a mother seem like work. Staying at home with your children is an incredible choice to make. And it's awesome and admirable if you make it [but] being a mother still happens if you don't stay home with your kids. . . 
Working or staying home, one is still a mother. One is not better than the other. Both choices are worthy of the same amount of respect. Motherhood remains equally, painfully death defying and difficult either way." ― Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, 107-8.
The truths mentioned above are things I didn't know or realize before having children. My respect for parents - and the challenges and judgment they face - has increased significantly since having a child. 

12 March 2018

Vacation is for us

We dropped Lydia off at daycare this morning. She was thrilled to be back with the other 'littles' and playing with the wonderful toys that they have there. I'm sure it was much better than the 10+ hours that she had to spend in the car to get back and forth to our vacation in Niagara Falls.

But, as Matthijs so aptly put it, vacation is for us - and not her. Vacation is for us to have moments of rest and joy and wonder at the world around us (so that we can better participate in regular life, including the parenting part). At the same time, it makes it a better vacation if she's enjoying things - as her laughter and joy overflows to us.

A barn owl at the butterfly conservatory
That lovely bald head of hers makes a great landing place


Enjoying the butterfly conservatory



Not really that interested in the falls...
Lydia can share the joy of pulling off her socks anywhere - no need for her to have the Falls in the background :)

15 February 2018

Remember you are dust

During the Ash Wednesday liturgy of the church, the priest (pastor) places ashes on your forehead while saying, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."

This year those words had more meaning. Because the priest also placed the ashes on Lydia's head. She didn't seem particularly impressed, as she turned her head away after the priest had made only half of the cross. Why did she need to be reminded that she was dust?

The ashes on Lydia's forehead felt more like a reminder to me than to her. She, like of all us, will some day return to dust. My hope and prayer is that she will be with us, sharing her joy, for many years to come, but as the recent school shooting in Florida reminded us, so much can go wrong. I see this especially in the picture of a woman, with an ash cross on her forehead, mourning and comforting another. The brokenness of the world, and the suffering of these parents, fills me with sadness.

13 February 2018

Not the story I wanted to tell

After Lydia was born, people asked me whether I'd had a c-section. The question annoyed me, but I couldn't figure out precisely why. Reflecting again on the birth stories that are told in Giving Birth with Confidence, it dawned on me that I disliked the question because it felt like I was being pushed to tell her birth story in a certain way. I didn't want her arrival to be whether or not I'd been strong enough (or whatever enough) to have a vaginal birth - or about what medical interventions might have happened.

My response to their question was simply that Lydia had come out. Because that was the story I wanted to tell - the debut of this small person whose arrival we'd been anticipating for months. I wanted to tell her name - and the wonder of knowing that this exact name fit her. I wanted to acknowledge that her arrival made me anxious: On the inside she was easy to take care of - and I knew that, if necessary, at her birth the doctors would intervene to pull her out of me - but that soon we would leave the hospital and be responsible for this small, helpless person. And I wanted to speak of how, through God's grace, Lydia and I persevered to figure out the breastfeeding thing (and I wanted to laugh and smile about the absurdity and stubbornness involved in making practically every nurse who entered our room help me figure out how to breastfeed). But sadly enough, I didn't know how to tell that story, so I didn't tell any story.