Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Small People

Something that is not a full-fledged reality (yet) : children.

The timing has been weighing on my mind, so this is a good moment to wonder through some thoughts. I think I've gotten over the 'Yikes! Three years in one place!' reactions about stability as far as a country is concerned. That was a good building block. Also, God and i have had some really good talks about motivations (right, wrong, and iffy) for having kids.

I am now more aware of why I shouldn't want children: because I'm bored, or because I want more purpose in my life. I shouldn't want them just because they would open doors to making friends in our neighborhood and overseas, or so I instant get an identity that lets me connect with other moms and can 'belong' to a group. Or because I think I'd be a great mom and could produce perfectly-behaved, impressive offspring. Those reasons could be side effects, but not the main purpose, or there could be trouble.

I am more certain of why I do want children. There's the companionship, fun, and love of having kids, for one. I had a great childhood and would love to pass on the same to children of mine - dancing in the kitchen, intelligent conversations about people around the world, and adventures. I also want to see D as a father, because i'm sure he'll be heart-warmingly awesome. I want to start a world-changing family and make a difference wherever we go, just like my family was. I'd love to see D's parents and my parents and grandma delight over my children, to see my toddler take steps into the arms of family. I'd want to raise them loving God, making Him famous, being molded to be more like Him and changing their own worlds as they grow up.

Over the last few months, having kids on my mind (constantly) has made me notice other children. I've seen how precious they are and sighed over the thought of a little one in my own arms or tucked over D's shoulder. But I've also seen the risks of having children. Not risks to our house, or our pocketbook, or to any plans of having white velvet furniture and sparkling glassware (ha!) but risks to our equilibrium and hearts. What would we do if we had a miscarriage? Or a child with Down syndrome? How would we cope if our child had a heart defect, was crippled, or was blind? Practically speaking, there's so much that can go wrong. Speaking from the heart, any child of ours would be cherished no matter how he or she arrived - I know that! But having seen friends deal with issues as challenging as autism, club feet, and severe allergies, I'm not going to blithely assume that children arrive perfectly and remain that way!

While it makes me feel better to be aware of issues, it's impossible to prepare for everything. I know we're given enough grace for each day, so I don't have to try to reach perfect maturity and organisation before we can even think about having children. At the same time, I do want to be aware of what should ideally be in place before children come: emotional stability and financial stability (not necessarily wealth!). As I laughed to d's sister the other day, I'm constantly forgetting cups of tea or half-finished tasks - forgetfulness is not a good thing when babies are involved! So one of my goals is to learn to be more organised in my life while I have reasonable control over it. Through years of experiences as a big sister, a preschool teacher, and a nanny, I've definitely seen how structure can go out the window when there are little people involved. So I'm prepared for noise, chaos, and mess, but I don't want my children's mother to be the cause of it, haha!

Financial cushioning is also important to me, as I mentioned. It's been good to look at different Web sites and get an idea of how much money is ideal to save up ahead of time (as much as possible, in general, but I saw one suggestion of *minimum* an extra $1000 just for the first baby.) I wouldn't expect to move into a big house around the arrival of a baby- an apartment would be fine for starters, and maybe for afterwards too. I don't really hear myself saying, "Honey, we have to have a fully dedicated nursery for the baby! And an extra room for their clothes and toys!" I'd also expect to make, borrow, or buy second-hand most of the baby and child clothes, toys, and furniture. (Picturing my talented husband D building a little cradle makes me smile already.) However, even going the simplest, least-fuss route of feeding and clothing and raising a little one (and its siblings, hopefully!) will add up. Not to mention birth complications, accidents, or insurance issues, and all the other things that could pop up along the way. I want to have enough money in the bank not to be stressing about finances while dealing with short nights, long days, and all the other joys and challenges of a baby.

So, timing? Some time in the next few years. From our side, there's stability- emotional and financial- to think about. D and I have been married not quite a year and a half, so technically we're still young and technically there's still plenty of time :P  D's work and school are definitely factors - as I pointed out to my sister, 'How would you like to studying for your Master's, working, and putting up with an emotional me?' '... I see your point,' she said. Another definite factor is God's timing. As my mum reminded me, there are plenty of people who are absolutely certain they're not having kids and then TADAAAA a little surprise. Or vise versa - people who are certain they can have kids when they want, and then they can't, or they can't for several years. I try not to underestimate what God can very do, no matter how we humans think we have everything under control :) We will have kids if/when God lets us, and they will be a gift and a loan and a challenge and a delight!

I am so looking forward to that day, and in the meantime, I'm preparing to be a balanced, godly (plus fun and crazy!) mum. Whoooohoooo for little people!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

all that stuff

spending an hour on pinterest/stickies planning storage solutions in our new home. looking at several pretty houses and realising suddenly how distasteful i find all that *stuff*. no matter how beautiful or well stored. i'm definitely becoming more minimal - these months of moving, cleaning, and traveling worked well together.
this last move went pretty well, all in all, but there was definitely stress. besides finding and renting a house, and getting all the utilities and paperwork figured out, there was stress to get all our stuff packed.

i do not want to do that again. 

at least not the 'all our stuff' bit. there will always be some stress related to moving. it's pretty much unavoidable. what is avoidable is having 'all our stuff' to pack. when i moved usa- poland, poland-usa, and usa-netherlands, i took two duffels, a backpack with me, and shipped two boxes of books/notebooks. all my necessary stuff - clothes, toiletries, books + notebooks, computer, and camera - fit in a very small space. and i was very content with that. 
of course, i wasn't taking dishes or furniture with me! practically speaking, most house to house moves will be much messier than my international moves. that's ok. it's very practical to keep dishes and couches, etc., when just moving between cities. but having to make so many trips with the car to bring stuff that fell in between 'necessary' and 'practical' was unnecessary and impractical. i'm not really interested in doing that again. i'd much rather not deal with the excess stuff in our next move. and i'd much rather not deal with the excess stuff in our new house!
so, although i already dejunked a lot of things - mostly good stuff that i'd gotten for free - i know there are plenty more to be gotten rid of. farther up and further in.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Week#1 - 52 Weeks to Simplify Your Life

Week #1 Challenge: Create a list of everything that went “right” in 2011

What energised you?
    Photography! The warmth and photo ops in Spain, a family getaway in the Dutch woods and misty light, a kids' camp in Rotterdam and lots of happy multicultural faces. Dutch festivals in our region  - orange flags and boats with banners and yummy treats!
What made you feel at peace?
   Quiet evenings at home with D or taking walks through the woods with him and enjoying being married. Beautiful music at church and time to reflect. A good friend from PL visiting in December and helping us decorate our house for Christmas in between good talks. The moments of calm and hugs after times of crying about culture shock and isolation.
What positive people lifted you up?
    My family-in-law, with cheek kisses (though they eventually hugged me back :) ) and encouragement that my language learning was coming along and that D's and my house was a comfortable place to visit. Friends at taekwondo, challenging me to keep working hard and improving.
What filled your “tank”?
   Lots of random fun times - getting a Happy Meal at McDonalds during one long bike ride. Having a friend over for coffee, overseas talks, and decorating cupcakes. Walks and talks with D on the sandy dike in the sunshine. Library visits - enjoying Harry Potter and Garfield in Dutch.
What worked to bring your family together?
    Comfortable Sunday afternoons drinking coffee together, a weekend away and Sinterklaas cadeautjes, sharing frustrations and good times. 
What are you grateful for?
     A beautiful wedding, surrounded by people who we care about and who care about us. A lovely apartment with a big sunny balcony, recently downsized into a tiny, cheaper and cosier apartment closer to work and friends. A lot of challenges and learning to appreciate how family sticks with you even when friends are busy or far away. 

You want to go home and rethink your life

The rethinking life part is right on. At the moment, I'm actually on vacation, in someone else's home. It's easier to rethink my life with some distance from daily habits and plans, I find. Normally, I make plans and think of new ideas... then promptly get distracted by work, plans, and people. Here, I help tidy up, and have good conversations, and have so much more mental space to wonder about who I want to be and what I want my life to look like. I've also thoroughly enjoyed spending hours cleaning out my photo collection (three years of travelling and living in Europe = more than 20,000 high-resolution photos) and reading blogs (especially zenhabits and lovingsimpleliving.) The last few months have been full of travelling, work (at multiple part time jobs) and then moving house, so the peace here is fantastic.

Along with all the inspiration to simplify life, I found a cool challenge on homelifesimplified - 52 Weeks To Simplify Your Life. The challenge is supposed to cover inner/mental clutter, relationships, and possessions (among others), with a healthy dose of reflection. Looking forward to seeing what answers and ideas burble up through that....

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Free from Baggage

October 2012

1 Cor 7:29-32a
   What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. I would like you to be free from concern....

 i like this. and it makes sense in an underlying way, dovetailing with what i've been reading about minimalism while dejunking and packing to move. it's not about throwing all your stuff in the dumpster - it's about being as free as possible to serve God and others. i'm loving the chance to re-evaluate my life and priorities along with choosing a new house. i like change in general, and really like moving, and then the (semi)forced thinking is a favourite as well. this house is big enough for me to keep *everything* i buy or find downstairs - furniture, clothes, plants, dishes.... our new house probably won't be. in fact, the favourite house so far is literally half the size of this one! so there's been a lot of sorting, packing, and putting things in a give-away pile. i've been reading in 1 corinthians lately, and it's been really good for this time.

 "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?(M) And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" - 1 Cor. 4:7

exactly. i have no *right* to a nice house, in a safe neighborhood, with plenty to eat and to wear. i have no *right* to a great family, a delightful husband, and a life here in the Netherlands. not to mention so many more things. they're all gifts. and since they were all free (like half the things in our house) what right do i have to cling to them, while demanding even more? good reminder, God, good reminder :) makes it easier to reduce, say, the 18 plants i have scattered around our house, among other things, and to be open and ready for whatever comes instead of tied down by what i own.

another, interesting note - i've had less nightmares about hurried packing since i've been making our house travel friendly. some people dream about running or falling - i dream that i have to be on an airplane or escaping from the house in a hurry, and i'm not packed. talk about recurring nightmares that are uncomfortably related to your life.... but those have been less, lately. and at the moment, i do have a getaway bag with water, snack bars, and matches. and i know where my passport is. sounds a little paranoid, but when you spend most of your life 'overseas', it helps to be prepared for sudden events - political, work related, or family.

 the free from 'baggage' life, in process....