Friday, October 29, 2010

The Box is Always Better

What is it about children and boxes? Maybe it's the unexplored potential for an amazing adventure via the imagination. Maybe it's the idea of being surrounded by something so awesome and big that they feel like for a little while they get to disappear and go anywhere. But throughout the ages, parents have gotten toys for their children and for ages children still eschew the toys in favor of playing with A BOX! I'm sure it's a mystery that has baffled many a mom and dad, but prefer the box they do. I told Chris this year that we should just get the girls a large refrigerator box for Christmas - the squeals of delight would be the best reward ever.

I remember as a young girl playing with Matthew and Meg in a large box that Mom and Jim had let us have (a remnant of some appliance I think). We spent hours coloring it and cutting out windows and a door for it. We loved playing with the box. It was better than tv, or any plain old toys we had then.

All of this got me thinking? What do you wish you had known before becoming a parent?

For me I have to say it was that bonding doesn't happen instantly with your child. It's something that occurs over time while facing the challenge of learning to breastfeed, change diapers, and figuring out how to make your baby laugh. Having been so sick while pregnant with Elizabeth, it meant I had to work a little harder at bonding with her. Something I would never have confessed, except that I had a girlfriend tell me she too had a difficult time bonding with her first child. As time went on, though it happened. Actually it got to the point where I knew what Lizzie needed before she fussed at me. I just knew instinctively what she was in need of and we became so attuned to each other, we even sighed in unison at times. However, when Beka came though, it just happened. She came out and they placed her on my chest. She opened her blue eyes and looked up at me and I was hooked. Maybe because we had yearned and waited for her for so long. I'm sure the fact that I wasn't deathly ill and my labor was shorter, probably helped a lot too.

Things I would share - if you are tough cookie who doesn't like to cry and has defenses up - be ready to kiss them goodbye. I didn't cry a lot before becoming pregnant with Elizabeth, but once the pregnancy hormones kicked in, that was it, I could cry at the drop of a hat. Chris actually blocked the Lifetime Movie Network, because I would watch these awful made for tv movies that would get worked up and worried about a baby being abused, kidnapped, murdered, etc. . . I would come upstairs after watching these movies bawling like an idiot and he'd have to comfort me. Honestly, though if he didn't want me to get upset, then I should never have left the house. I could see a dead kitten and cry. I would watch a sappy romantic movie and cry. I looked a steak, and you guessed it, I cried. I became a weeping machine. I'd cry over being frustrated, I cried when I was angry, when I stubbed my toe, when Chris was exceptionally sweet, heck I cried because I was crying and felt so out of control that it made me cry even more. My mom used to joke that she was a hormone hostage and I finally told her, "You were a hormone hostage, try being a normally calm, rational human being and suddenly you cry over every stupid little thing known to man! If anyone was a hormone hostage, it was me."

I would tell a new mom, to not worry about how clean her house is, the first child and all of it's first's can never be duplicated again. So decide now which is more important, bonding with your kiddo or having an immaculate house. If you've visited my cluttered home, you'll know instantly which one I chose. I wouldn't choose any other way for me. I would say, enjoy all those little things that seem small, but you'll realize later that they were big. And write them down, because you will forget - Mom remembers a lot more about Matt & Meg as babies, than me, of course, I am almost 37 yrs old now, so it's to be understood. But Mom was very good about writing down the little things in our baby books.

I learned in one of my developmental psychology classes that when people grow older they either look back on their lives with regrets or they are happy with the lives they lived. Try to make choices you think won't haunt you. Last but not least, listen to your gut. . . if your instincts tell you something is wrong with your child, go to the pediatrician and get them checked out. There were several times I avoided a serious illness or a hospital stay because I listened to my mom's instincts told me. The times I didn't listen, I wished I had later. Trust me when I tell you that wishing you'd done something differently or that you've failed your child is not an experience I would wish on anyone - even someone I don't like.

I hope you all have a good weekend. God bless you all.
Love In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm . . .

Hello, My name is Maureen and I am pretty sure I am addicted to Facebook and to Twitter. I like reading witty quotes from my friend, Ray in Seattle on Twitter or reading the witty banter between cast members of Sanctuary (my new obsession might be closer to science fiction - thanks, honey!). I enjoy Facebook because I have been able to reconnect with people who I would normally have no idea how to even find, much less remember from elementary school. But with these perks also come some cons.

First, in joining Twitter and Facebook I have been awakened to some of the grave injustices in the world - such as Human Trafficking. I knew of it's existence before, but thanks to Twitter, I am now more proactive in bringing it to light. Albeit at times, I also think it tends to make me a little more paranoid about not letting my daughters out of my sight.
Second, sometimes, people you wish would forget you, find you anyway whether you like it or not. This means I find myself in the unusual position of trying to decide, is this someone I really want to be in contact with at this point in my life. Sometimes, the answer is no, sometimes, it's okay for now, but we'll wait and see.
Third, I find I have to monitor what I put on my Facebook page, which means I can't always write what I want to write, when I want to write it, because I'd prefer not to answer a billion questions from my family.
Finally, it means I often find out things I would probably not know about until later. For example: recently a young woman I taught while I was a teen and she was a small child in Preschool Children's Church passed away and lost her twins. In some ways it was amazing to see God work through her and her story, in other ways though it left me with all the wind taken out of my sails. Or a friend who awoke one morning to find someone dear to her had passed in their sleep. While death is a part of life, seeing so many young people passing seems to have just taken any stamina I had and subdued it for a period of time. I told Chris, I refused to attend one more funeral for a person under the age of 40 for the year, because I just couldn't do it again.

On the brighter side, I have found Facebook (FB) to be an amazing tool to share Christ, and the same goes for Twitter. These internet sights also make it easy to go find out how your favorite Christian artist, or secular artist is doing or what they think about. Actors who I might have liked previously without knowing anything about them, I now can check them out and decide if this is really a person I want to put time and energy into. . . more often than not, I choose no, but sometimes I just really like their work a lot and so I play the wait and see game.
I have also been able to reconnect with people who I wouldn't have found otherwise, like friends from high school & college. It means seeing how they are and what they are up to these days.
It means being able to chat with new and old friends and of course, I get the wonderful pleasure of having an ongoing poke war on FB with my mom and several friends - including my best friend and husband, Chris! There are days when I am ready to throw in the towel and I go on FB or Twitter and one of my tweeps or FB friends has put a saying that has me in stitches and it brightens the day.

Finally, on a very positive note, The Bible, Circle of Prayer and multiple other Christ centered groups have popped up on FB (yes there are some not so great groups too, but for now we will focus on the positive) enabling those who would maybe find it difficult to talk about Christ an outlet to discuss him and the Bible. It is one more way that God has taken something not originally thought of for his use and turned it into something amazing that He can use.

I hope you all have an amazing week and God Bless you all.
Love In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

At this moment in time, it seems there are a lot of people in mourning. . . I know my Facebook page is inundated with prayer requests from people finding out loved ones are dying or they have lost someone very close to their hearts. It seems to come in cycles and sometimes it seems to abate for a while. Obviously since I a blogging it means two things: 1) it's after 2 a.m. and I can't sleep so why not blog and 2) I cannot make my mind shut down.

As I sat here earlier after awaking in the middle of the night, I find myself in prayer. Prayer for those who are mourning, those who are facing troubles right now, and those who love them and must watch their friends walk this path. I also remember that in Ecclesiastes, God tells us there is a season to laugh, a season to cry, a time to live and a time to die. And I remember the Beatitudes from Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" in the book of Matthew. And had someone not taken off with my Bible, I could tell you exactly where these verses are, however, I digress - but in Matthew Jesus promises, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Interestingly enough he doesn't stipulate if that comforting will come here on Earth or if we have to wait until we get to Heaven someday. With so many suffering right now, I wonder just how busy in the Holy Spirit right now. I love his other name though as well, Jesus called him "The Comforter". It is amazing how much the Holy Spirit offers us calming peace and comfort in the midst of life's storms.

I know that for many right now it seems that life keeps throwing terrible curve balls, but take heart my friends. God promises that His grace is sufficient and that he will never leave us or forsake us. While it may not seem that way right now, I do know this, God is faithful and just as he can deliver us from unrighteousness, he can also relieve our pain.

May God's peace find you and his grace carry you through your trials my friends. Our family will continue to lift you in prayer and rejoice with you in your good times.


Love, In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Do You Value?


What do you value?
I have been reading a lot about young actors/actresses who are getting botox, or doing things to look good for a tv show or movie. Any day of the week you can pick up a magazine or go online and read about what an actor did to get prepared for a role in a movie. . . some of it pays off and sometimes you have to wonder if they would do it again. And you guessed it . . . this got me thinking. Shocking I know, but still true nonetheless.
What do you put value on? What do I put value on? What is important in life? What is truly important to the world? And how does that affect me and what I treasure?
We know that in Matthew 6: 19-21 Jesus tells his disciples and us that we should not store our treasures on earth, but in Heaven. We know he also tells us the thieves and moths and rust can take earthly treasures away from us, however, when we choose to put our focus on God and look to him for what is truly important, then that is what matters the most.
I took a Developmental Psychology class in college where we discussed the stages of life and how as people get older and look back on their lives they either have great regret and remorse or they are relatively happy with their choices.
Do you have to have that new car? Or do you place value on having things? Do you long to have the things your neighbors or wish you looked as beautiful as some starlet? These are not things of importance to God. God sees you and He loves you for who you are. He knows that you are flawed and yet He loves us still. I like how in the book "The Shack" when Mac is working with Sarayu, who is the Holy Spirit, they are in a garden working and talking. To Mac it seems to be a mess and disorganized, he even calls it a beautiful mess and this thrills Papa and Sarayu. . . because as we go on we realize the garden they are working in, is Mac's heart and soul. A beautiful example of how God can take tragedy and heartbreak and our own imperfection and turn them into something magnificent and amazingly beautiful. This is not an outward beauty, it is a beauty in our souls and even when we are a mess and in desperate need of grace, God sees beyond all of that and sees the finished product who we can become.
So my food for thought this week is this, if we store up our treasures on earth what do we have to gain? Can you take a car with you when you die? Do you want people to remember you as someone who needed to have the latest and best of everything? Or do you want people to remember your inward beauty - a love that showed God more often than not.
I am in no way saying I am perfect, in fact, I am far from it. I struggle with wanting and needing something. I too struggle to see in me what God could possibly want and sometimes I am short tempered and gruff with my children and husband. I too have my moments where I would love to have more money or think it would be nice to have the new I-pod or new gadget. But I have also learned this through growing up poor and without. . .good things come to those who wait and when we let God control the desires of our hearts we find peace and contentment in the simple things.
Some of my favorite memories are of those little things. To some a small surprise party with homemade cupcakes and gifts may seem a waste, but to me I saw that I was blessed to have friends who loved me enough to go to so much trouble - especially since I knew we were all struggling financially. I love that on my birthday the first year we were married, that Chris went out and bought me the huge box of crayons with the sharpener in the back and some coloring books. . . it might seem cheesy that he got me "goop" for Mother's Day that same year, but it meant that he listened and heard what I was saying to him. He heard the longing I felt as a child because I thought those crayon boxes were so neat. I kept those gifts for years - eventually I had to throw them out, because I have children and things happen when you have little fingers that are curious. However, even with these tangible items gone, I can still remember how fortunate I was to marry a man who listens to me and my heart and tries to do something special - even when it seems little and trivial to someone else.
I hope you all have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Birthday Guy


Happy Birthday Honey!

October 5th is a historic day in the life of the Koeppel Clan. . . it is my husband's birthday.

When Chris and I met on July 17, 2000 I didn't even realize how much my life would change. Until that point in time, I had resigned myself to living a life alone, taking care of my mom in her old age and watching everyone else have the happy ending, I wanted but never thought would happen.

I know that sounds a little dramatic, but after years of bad things continually happening, I had begun to think it was my lot in life to be alone and sad. I had gotten used to it, it was my life - it stunk of course, but by 26 yrs old I had given up on the idea of meeting someone. Partly because I was overweight, but also because most men may respect the fact that I was holding out on having sex until I was married - in fact, if I met a man who I was sure was not what I wanted, I only had to utter one phrase, "I don't believe in sex before marriage." It never failed to work.

Before meeting Chris I had only begun to have a higher opinion of men. In all honesty, can you blame me. Most of the young men I met were either abusive, or only wanted one thing and when they found out they wouldn't get it, they ran for the hills. With experiences like that and the experiences with my schoolmates, it's amazing I ever began to think of any men with respect and dignity. Thankfully, God knew I needed to change that perspective and so he sent young men of faith who were my friends who I could respect. Thank you, Ryan Womack, Andrew White, Rick Buttenmiller, Matt Goodwin, and Kyle Owen - as well as a few others . . . I don't know that you realize that God used you to that extent, but he did. He also sent the Willinghams into my life in 1999 an I was able to see more than just Aunt Nina and Uncle Ed in action - I was able to see another Christ centered couple near my age in action and who loved God very deeply and each other. So meeting Chris, I could honestly say I didn't need a white knight to rescue me and that not all men were scumballs.

That day I met someone who made me feel safe, comfortable (I let him rub my feet those who do not know me do not know how big that was - shocked the socks off of my family) and I could see the man God had planned for him to become. It started with a few sparks and grew into something more than infatuation. . . I found my best friend.

I remember the day he first held my hand in his. He drove to Oklahoma City from Wichita, KS to visit and we were on a date. I showed him around town and took him to the Botanical Gardens in Bricktown and we put our feet in one of the fountains before a security guard came and told us we couldn't do that. As we walked away he took my hand in his and I knew in that moment that when God made my hand, he made it to the size it is now so it would fit perfectly in Chris' hand. That was the moment when I began to consider that this was the man God had for me. It was a little frightening and a little exilerating at the same time. We had a good weekend and it just kept going from there.

It was nice knowing when I gave myself to him, that he was worth the wait. We are coming up on 10 yrs January 19, 2011 and while it hasn't always been sunshine and roses, I can say that I would still do it all again. I wouldn't trade these 10 years for anything. . .and I look forward to many more years to come.

I love you, honey. . . and I look forward to spending many more birthdays with you and growing old and gray together.

Love Always,
Maureen

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Grand Scheme of Things.

It's been a heck of a fun two years - I say this dripping with sarcasm by the way because it's been about as fun as a root canal w/o anesthesia. However, it also got me remembering some things and remember a special birthday. With so many birthdays in October in our family, I do what I can to make sure Chris' b-day is very special and he is always thoughtful enough to do the same. And thankfully, my friends are good at making sure my birthdays are good too, but 1997 takes the cake.

I learned a valuable lesson that year. . . I learned who my friends really were and what a good friend does to brighten a friends year. February of 1997 my 23rd birthday was arriving and I wasn't especially excited about it. After all, for my 21st birthday we were recovering from a house fire that had occurred that week before and my 22nd birthday meant we buried my grandmother on my actual birthday. Nothing kills the birthday spirit like going to a funeral. Through this, my best friend, Jaymi was there with love and support. She and Stephen sat with me at the funeral and drove with me to the cemetery and listened to me through it all.

So as you can see, I wondered what God had in store for turning 23 yrs old - a bus could hit me, or I could develop some fatal disease - honestly at that point I felt like emotional pain was my lot in life. The day of my birthday Stephen asked me what time I got off from work because he needed to know so Jaymi could pick me up. It was a little odd the way he asked, but I was a little preoccupied with eating and making it to work on time so I shrugged it off and did what I had to do. I finished my work day and Jaymi picked me up and we drove back to Southern Nazarene University and as I walked in the lobby there they were, just a few close friends, with homemade cupcakes & lemonade and presents. To the naked eye it might not have seemed like much, a handmade mobile a penguin with a tall glass bottel to keep it upright, a bag of Clinique samples and a birthday tape (all of which I still have by the way). But them yelling surprise and telling me they wanted me to have a birthday that didn't involve me crying - well ironically it made me cry anyway. In that moment and a few others since then I knew I was loved by the people who knew me, warts and all and still they chose to call me friend.

Birthdays have come and gone, some have been uneventful, some required police followed by a lovely wonderfully delicious birthday dinner and cake that evening! And some have been pretty awesome, but in all of them, I find it is the small things that I cherish the most. A large box of crayons and coloring books, a birthday dinner and cake made to cheer me up when the rest of the day had stunk horribly, those are the things memories and life are made of in the grand scheme of things.

Cars rust, jewelry can break and be stole, money is gone as quickly as you earn it, but in the end, it is the friends, family, and husbands who love us who make life worthwhile. And in the grand scheme of life you don't get much richer than that until you make it to Heaven.

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen