Saturday, September 4, 2010

Twenty-one Years!

Today, at around 7:30 PM, Natalie will be 21 years old. I'm sitting here struggling to figure out how to summarize 21 years in one blog post, and I'm not sure it can be done. Some highlights, then:

Natalie was supposed to be born on October 19th, but we figured she would follow in what had become a family tradition and be born on the 20th. Her second-cousins Lauren and Aubree were born on the 20th in 1986 and 1987, respectively, and her cousin James was born on the 20th in 1988.

Natalie has been an individual from the start, and wanted her own private birthday, so she was born 7 weeks early instead. She weighed 4 lbs. 4 ounces and had fuzzy reddish-blond hair and blue eyes.

Those eyes stayed stubbornly blue past her first birthday, and then changed to green just to spite some of her relatives who insist that a true Roth has blue eyes. (Never mind that all the Beattys except me have green eyes...this child is a Roth, where are her blue eyes??!)

During the 17 days she spent in the NICU after she was born, the nurses tried to keep her wrapped up in blankets. She would always wriggle out of her expertly-wrapped blanket and scoot up into one corner of the isolette.

She would also wiggle one foot free and hang it over the edge of the tray in the isolette. Even as an adult, all these years later, if she is crashed on her bed napping that same foot will very often be hanging over the edge of the bed.

I think Natalie's first word was either "mama" or "dada" (I can't remember, but I'm putting my money on "dada") but her first phrase was "I do it myself!" Beyond just a phrase it was her personal motto as a toddler. She wasn't belligerent, she was just very, very confident. :)

And brave. I remember sitting at the park with my mom, watching Natalie at 18 months traipsing across a hanging bridge apparatus on the playground equipment. She was surrounded by older kids twice her size, the bridge was bouncing, and she was just plowing across without a fear in the world. My mom, on the other hand, was about to have a heart attack and was seriously concerned about my lack of parenting judgment.

But who does Grandma call now when she needs someone to scramble up a porch railing and hang Christmas lights or crawl up into the attic to find something that's been shoved to the back. Yep.

Natalie will always be my First Baby and she was my guinea pig for so many things. She was the one who cried for hours as a baby when we tried to let her determine her own bedtime (we were insane is all I can think), ate nothing but chicken nuggets and fish sticks for way too long while her dad and I grew backbones and learned to say "no", and later she was the victim of the Figure Out Our Homeschooling Philosophy years. I'm not sure how to put a positive spin on this, but we didn't kill her and I don't think we damaged her too much.

I could go through a year-by-year summary of her teen years, but fortunately for both of us I don't remember a lot of details as well as I remember her early years. I know, and Natalie will attest to this, that she lost her brain for a couple of years between age 14 and 16. But she found it again and it was none the worse for having had a little time off. :D

Even when she was in the flaky-brain teen years she was still sweet, loving, respectful, creative, kind, and a hard worker. There were many days that I would not have made it through without her help. She has been my assistant, my right hand, my sounding board, and my best female friend for years.

As an adult, she is still brave and confident. She meets people easily and makes friends easily, even though she is shy and introverted on the inside. She loves adventure...she always the one in the pictures clinging to a tree on the edge of a mountain, the one who decided she wanted to learn to contra dance and convinced her friends to join her, the one who still scares her grandma...but now by whipping her car into the driveway at high speed.

Natalie loves God and wants to please Him in all she does. She loves her family and her friends. She works hard and her employers trust her judgment. She is still always learning, always growing, always moving on to new adventures...and she is still my First Baby and always will be.

Happy 21st birthday, Natalie, with love from your Mom :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Okay, let's just get this over with...

I am mad. I am seriously ticked, peeved, and cussedly cuss cussed...at myself. I'm also doubting the wisdom of even having a blog, since I obviously lack discretion and judgment and don't know when to just Keep My Mouth Shut!

In my most recent post I mentioned that we had left our church and offered more details via email to anyone who wanted them. When I typed that, I was envisioning hearing from far-away relatives and friends who had only heard me rave about how wonderful the church was and would be wondering if I'd suddenly gone loony.

In retrospect I should have just sat on my hands and left that part out. Apparently that one line, probably combined with what I said about not feeling free to blog, gave some of my readers the idea that there was some Big Scandal, some Juicy Gossip, some Major Heresy that I was being coy about and would divulge via email.

No, no, no...a thousand times NO! Those of you who have contacted me about this, let me just say it again: I should NOT have said things that way. There is NO scandal, NO gossip, NO heresy, and there will be NO juicy details forthcoming.

I'm just going to spell it out as quickly and succinctly as I can right here and right now. Full public disclosure and I won't be sending any emails. Please forgive me for saying I would, it was a stupid thing to promise.

Here's the deal: God has been working on Tom and me in a lot of areas, showing us some things about our convictions and life choices that didn't match up with the Bible. We believe that it was in His sovereign will and provision that we were at Pilgrim in the first place, and in His sovereign will and provision that we have left.

Basically, we have, over the years confused being likeminded with being identical. We have sought to surround ourselves with Christians who make lifestyle choices and have family rules as similar to ours as possible. We have shut ourselves off from the conviction, the sharpening, the refining that comes from fellowship with Christians who are very different from us. We were comfortable being with our "own kind", and we realize now that God didn't want us to be so comfortable.

Even as we were teaching our children the difference between "family rules" and "God's rules" we were bent on keeping them in an environment where they could not see that God allows so much diversity and variation in "family rules". (For anyone wondering about the terminology...God's rules are the specific commands He has given Christians to follow. Family rules are the preferences and choices each family makes in how they serve God and train their children. As an example: God's rule is that Christians are to train up their children to serve Him. A family's rule might be that that training includes family Bible reading every night after supper. Other family rules might govern what kind of media children are exposed to, what sort of education they receive, where the family shops, etc.)

The decision to leave was not something we made lightly or in a hurry. There were some precipitating factors and situations that God used to open our eyes to our error. Those situations that involved other people are not blog fodder, and have been dealt with to the best of our abilities through the proper channels of authority in the church.

When I said that I suddenly felt very free to blog, it was not because I had been censored or censured by anyone or anything involved with Pilgrim Bible Church. I was, however, afraid of what people (from Pilgrim and elsewhere) would think of me if I posted the things I was wrestling with. God also used that fear of disapproval, that need for approval, to convict me of not seeking His approval first and foremost. So, yes, I do now feel free to blog...but I still need to learn discretion. Discretion rather than fear...

So, that's it. That's pretty much the whole story. We are still searching for a church to attend. There are 3 or 4 churches that are very good possibilities, but we don't intend to make a decision quickly or lightly. If you feel led to pray for us, pray that we will make our decision based on the right priorities and not give in to our human desire to retreat to a place that feels "safe" and "likeminded" but instead to go where He wants us to be.

Now, I'm going to go clean my bathroom and put away a big stack of books that is cluttering up the kitchen. I'm going to fold laundry, and I am going to get ready for a big weekend of non-stop part-ay. :) Natalie's birthday is tomorrow and our new family rule is that 21st birthdays take a whole weekend to celebrate. Tonight: company, pizza, and Star Wars!