Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Lucas crawled yesterday on all fours! He has been wiping up the dog hair on our floors with his belly doing his stealthy army crawl but yesterday he took four steps on his knees twice! David and he were playing in the grassy front lawn and he did it!

In all the emotional turmoil of deciding what to do with our lives - which precipitated my last few blog posts and a healthy lesson in contentment and trust - we have finally come to a few decisions. When we were in Austria, one of Grant's professors said he would pray that David's next step would be clear, that he should look for someone to approach him about it. He has been wanting to find work that would enable me to stay home. I think my flimsy spirit and lack of contentment has made him  even more unsure of his work and our future here... I need to interject a little song of praise for him in dealing with my ever unsatisfied heart. How oppressive it must be to be responsible for serving a person who wants it all - to live in sitka, travel to see family across the nations, to have both a blossoming career & be a full time stay-at-home mom, full-time providing AND help with the laundry (or just doing all of it like he does), a lovely house with a yard, chopping the budget AND eating organic fruits and dairy, AND stopping for treats whenever is convenient, fresh king salmon on the grill, european vacations, massages! ... I mean really Shelley....

Anyway, he was approached by an acquaintance walking her dog passed our house and she said he should apply for a position for wilderness therapy and counseling troubled youth. It had the feeling of supernatural provision - manna. Similarly, a friend of mine prayed for me to find clarity about what work I should pursue. I decided to go back to flying a few days a month and not work at the clinic, which was not at all a clear decision- more like muddied puddles on a midwest dirt road. But as I was reflecting on the word 'clarity' - I felt immediately that something was made clear to me last week - Alaskan mountain-lake-water clear, (see previous blogpost for visual).

My good friend asked me to be her birth companion. We had been talking about birth plans and I gave her all the hippy-dippy books which inspired me. I felt nervous, and honored, and excited. I love the labor process almost as much as I love birth - at least I love reading about it and learning about it. Most of the labors that I've been involved in as a nurse have been managed labors, full of titrated drips and monitors, and buttons. Except for my birth, I had never seen a first time mom give birth without intervention. But when you read about natural childbirth, it's earthy, and real. Sweaty and sticky. Even in the words on the page there is a sense that something powerful and beautiful, something very human is transpiring. It is the process of a mother meeting her child for the first time, bringing a wholly loved being to her chest, to her breast, to her embrace. I'm not talking about the moment the baby is placed on the mothers chest. I'm talking about the entire labor from the first contraction to the last push - the breathing, the rhythm, the sweat and moans. It's the process of intangible love becoming tangible. The world expanding, the heart growing. So yes, in theory, I was a supporter of natural childbirth.

But then my friend went into labor. Her husband call me twice and I knew it had come. I rushed over to her house, going over in my mind the chapter I read on dealing with pain naturally - afraid of being unhelpful and naive.  I was unsure of what my role of birth companion would look like and how to reconcile being in this new role at the hospital where I'm a staff nurse. But from the moment I got there, I knew it was not so much something you practice for or learn - it was not about being a good birth companion at all. It was always only about the mother's body laboring to create a space for this baby in this world. It's as if all the energy in the room, all the molecules of love and anticipation of this new life are being channeled and concentrated slowly and rhythmically through the birth canal of the mother. These things that are so much a part of being human on a visceral level - breath, touch, rhythm, moaning, laughter and pain - these things of course must be a part of bringing about new life. And it was her husband and my role to support her in them. Breath with her, move with her, let her relax through our touch. Then, as the precious one descends closer to meeting the world of air and breath, the energy concentrates. Everything becomes hypersensitive - noise, light, touch, smell. This is the point when the clothes come off, all the energy you have given her through massage and closeness now is in her hands- she alone must channel all this energy of new life. The air is so thick you can almost touch it, as if to impress on those present that nothing is as important as this moment. The weight of a new life feels like it will split you in two, that you cannot bear it. But it is in bearing it that the emerging new life is so beautiful, so meaningful and whole. She delivered a little girl - a new life enwrapped in love and blessedness, only heightened by the heaviness of labor.

I went home at 4 am without a yawn, filled with my own personal dose of the energy of Ruthann's new life, so happy to witness the beauty of her mother's sacrifice of love for it. And it became clear that I want to head down a path of midwifery and nurse practitioning. A few days later I got an email that I was accepted into the Family Nurse Practitioner program at Frontier University. And I'm so thankful for that prayer for clarity, and God's lovely answer...

I'm heading for bed. goodnight.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eating our jam and pierogi's

I came home from work today thinking the same thing that I've been thinking after work for the last few weeks, and maybe most of my lazy life; all I want to do is eat ice cream and watch a movie. I don't know if it was my husband's persistence in convincing me to go to bed on time, or the kale I threw into my afternoon smoothie, but instead of watching a movie, I picked up a book that a good friend of mine recommended.  I want to share an excerpt from it here...

"I've lived much of my life with the ridiculous assumption that I will eventually get to the bottom of things - the bottom of housework, the bottom of bad habits, the bottom of God. At some point I will have cleared all the mess away and left my home and myself and the world clean and articulate. Like Iris Gaines says in the movie The Natural, 'I believe we have two lives... the life we learn with and the life we live after that.' I sometimes live with the apparent headlong intent of getting to that second life. I launch new campaigns to organize my house. I pursue conversation with an almost desperate intensity, as if each one might be leading to a conclusion that will finally settle it all. It feels as if I am perpetually trying to clear a path so that I can get to some assumed destination, which 'was from the beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house.' It makes me think of the first few lines of J.M Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello: 'There is first of all the problem of the opening, namely how to get from where we are- which is, as yet, nowhere-- to the far bank. It is a simple bridging problem, a problem of knocking together a bridge.' That is what I'm always trying to do: knock together a bridge. Earlier today Mark and I had a conversation about the story of Jesus going to the home of Mary and Martha. Martha busied herself with work, trying to earn the right to sit down with her guest. Like me, Martha was a bridge builder. 'We're smart people,' mark said, 'we could spend our lives erecting problems, which would then have to be reasoned through. It is wrong to assume there would ever be an end.' Mary, instead sat at the feet of Jesus and listened; Mary was on the far bank. At some point, in order to have faith at all, we have to act as if we are already there. 'Let us assume that, however it may have been done, it is done. Let us take it that the bridge is built and crossed, that we can put it out of our mind. We have left behind the territory in which we were. We are in the far country where we want to be.'  I'm not really trying to say that you have to be done with reason. I'm glad I've spent some time fretting with Martha in the kitchen, it's helped me.... At some point I'll just have to take a step into the far country, or stop imagining that I'm not there already."    ---- Amy Andrews in Love & Salt

I like to feel secure. I like to know my environment and to control it - or at least believe that I could if I wanted to. I like to put pierogi's in the freezer more than I like to take them out to eat them. I like to look at jars of jam on the shelf more than I like to spread it on my bread. I like figure things out, to build bridges. I am a Martha. And, I like to know that I've thought of every possibility and I am choosing the best path, building the best bridge I can... in my power, wisdom and strength. As I'm writing this it seems so obvious how much I'm limiting myself. I am illustrating my own backdrop. I have been so stressed out about what David and I are going to do with our lives... how are we going to make enough money, which job should I take, where is Sitka headed, is the housing market going to crash... etc... thinking that if I make the right decision, if I build this bridge just right, we will be where we want to be. So here I am again grasping at contentment. Wanting to look at what is in front of me, and watch it, smiling. We are where we want to be - together, in the hands of a knowing God, in a beautiful town, a beautiful summer, living these first precious months of Lucas' life with him as much as possible, eating pierogi's and jam....
                     So here are some pierogi's and jam for your enjoyment...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're getting back into The swing of things. Homemade pierogi, fresh sockeye.... Mmmmm

Saturday, July 6, 2013

worn down and the small answer.

We just got home yesterday from out trip. I am exhausted and it feels like a faded light, a heaviness that seeps deeply into me. I am impatient and unkind. I feel so far from joy and fullness. And I'm searching for something to blame- something to hide under. But when I stare back at myself, I see it's just me at the end of me... at the end of a month of treating myself to all things good, and easy, and tasty without discipline or regret. It's been wonderful and blessed, and that's the irony. I have been so caught up in me that the fullness of God is a far and distant reality. I have this need to pour out my soul, to empty myself of myself... but I feel so heavy I don't know if I can begin.

I've spent the last month choosing my pleasures. It's trained me well... now I feel acutely a pressure to choose my life. We saw Grant and Lecia get married, set off for adventures with purpose and passion. We saw all my old chums in Poland and their life and community - my perception skewed positively by my very elementary understanding of the language - in it all I hear and see what I choose. I compare. I see Slawek and Bogusia living in beautiful Krakow, no desire to go somewhere else, to make a statement by leaving. I see their fellowship which seems so isolated from the West's spirit of discontentment clothed as wealth, prosperity and freedom. I thought I was successful in running away from it, running back in time to Alaska. But I was wrong. It has followed me and will follow me because it is a foul smelling flower growing in my heart. I came home and it felt so good, for like 5 minutes, and then I started thinking, fearing, wondering. Wondering- that's my killer - what it would be like to be Bogusia, Laura, Lynette, Lecia - to study in Venice, to get a Doctorate in Psychology, to wear beautiful leather heels, a scarf and sip latte's on a stone street - and I feel trapped inside myself. We just got to travel the world and instead of being sated and joyful because of the beauty that I experienced all across the globe, I become jealous and scared that the beautiful things about our life in Alaska are false. And that I am just as lost, just as busy, just as anonymous, just as discontent here as anywhere. And worse - I don't even have a clue about what to do, what I want, if I should want at all. I have been eating and resting and buying and spending all I want, that it has scraped away at me. In consuming life ravenously, I feel so ironically empty that I feel unable to do anything except lay on the couch, thinking of the next enjoyment. What is my purpose? to glorify God? What does that mean? to serve others? to raise a child who sees others? Where are we to be? Does it matter? I just don't know. I don't know at all.

I threw this prayer up this morning, after sleeping 10 hours, interrupted by Lucas' exasperated cries at the 10 hour time change and flying fatigue. I read a verse that said "A plan in the heart of man is like deep water. But a man of understanding draws it out."  There it is. I feel lost in the deep waters of my own plans, tired of swimming after my own fulfillment. There's got to be a resting place. I'm worn out. My last plea is for God to draw out for me my next plan, for today, or maybe tomorrow.

It's pitiful to write this negative rant after being so privileged to take 4 weeks off work and see 4 countries, tasting the sweetness and love of so many people close to my heart. I promise my next post will be about how completely awesome our trip was. But for now, I've got to get through this jet lag and stop swimming for a while. I'm going to pray, make some soup, and maybe take a nap.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Photo update

 Forgive me for my laziness. I have been engrossed in discovery - enjoying L's exploration of life is a full time job. Sometimes it's too heavy and I must escape to cleaning the house, or to work, or to a 18th century novel, when once again I become a regular adult able to tune out the millions of potential discoveries flying by every second. slow down to discover... speed up and control control control. With Lucas, life slows down to moments - every muscle movement, every glance, every noise, or expression, the way all five fingers can work in concert to open, close, turn, feel. It's like I'm actually watching brain cells firing, sending impulses to his eyes, tongue, fingers. Every moment is laden with significance and beauty. He is shaping my world I think just as much as I am shaping his. He's watching so acutely, but so am I... I am forced to discover again- to notice. This whole motherhood thing is the most powerful experience of my life, but all this discovery with him wears me out and most days I choose to zone out, instead of write. But thank you faithful readers, I'm back for the evening.

 Since I've last blogged, much has happened. Here is a minor photo update. Some of the highlights of this post are we have been to Portland twice, went to a marriage intensive which was intense as promised. Eileen came to visit- my sweet Eileen - who still loves to philosophize and sing just as much as me.... Kristin and Sam are getting married this weekend, and we had a bachelorette party at our house, followed by Lucas's first camping trip to Shelikof... (pictures later.)  I got my garden in and the weather has been marvelous!

This collection of sugary panties designed and decorated by all the ladies was subsequently devoured by Shelby who I'm sure had a brutal stomach ache.

Born for speed!

Lucas passed out in downtown Portland
Loving great grandma and grandpa...

Here's our family picnic at Old Sitka where we got 4 wheelbarrow loads of seaweed for the garden. Lucas tried avocado for the first time. Even now I am just staring at these photos, recreating and soaking in all these moments. It's hard to fathom that tomorrow he will be 10 months old.