Happy First Birthday, Sam!

Gendke Family Pic
The Gendkes, November 2014

Today is Sam’s first birthday, so I’m pausing my focus on New Year’s goals to take a look back at one significant way Sam changed my life this past year: my relationships with my in-laws.

This past year I connected with my husband’s family more than I ever have. I think I even started referring to them as my family. And I finally felt at home in Texas. Ironic, right? (If you missed it, we recently moved to Missouri.)

Family Photo 2015
First Attempt at a Family Photo, November 2014

To understand the change, you have to know that I joined my husband’s boisterous, fun-loving family nearly ten years ago…at a time when I was dejected, depressed, and not good at opening up to people. I was sad and quiet, and the Gendkes were happy and loud. At family gatherings, I felt like an outsider. I thought I didn’t belong in this close-knit family where kids were among the top topics of conversation.

Sam and "Tia" (Aunt Joanna)
Sam and “Tia” (Auntie Joanna), the night before we left Texas

Over the years as God healed certain parts of my heart, I inserted my voice more, but it wasn’t until I had Sam that I felt I could really join the conversation. When Sam came along, and even as he grew in my womb, I saw my in-laws, especially my mother- and sisters-in law, open up in ways I hadn’t seen before. And this allowed me to open my heart to them.

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Sam with Aunt Deb

Sister-in-law Deb orchestrated a beautiful baby shower and lovingly made the only wall decorations that hang in Sam’s room. Mother-in-law Margie dropped off gifts—picture frames, Christmas ornaments, a night-light—in anticipation of our new baby. A few days before my due date, sister-in-law Joanna called to ask if there was anything I needed her to pick up at Target. After Sam’s birth, the aunties alternated gifting baby clothes and toys they “couldn’t resist.”

Sam and "Tio" (Uncle Brady)
Sam and “Tio” (Uncle Brady)

Sam’s uncles, Brady and Bo, even stepped up. When Sam was two months old, pediatric nurse Brady wowed Buc and me with an expert football hold and showed us how to pull the bottle in and out to start a baby sucking again when he’s stopped. Bo would hold Sam for long periods of time in those early months, Sam napping in his arms, until the day Sam decided to cry at the first sight of Bo (sorry, Bo!). Though often chair bound, my father-in-law, “Pop,” even found ways to bond with Sam.

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Sam with Uncle “Bo-bo”

I can’t express how these precious memories overwhelm my heart. And that’s to say nothing of all the times Joanna, Margie, or Deb babysat for me. That’s to say nothing of how my nieces and nephew attached to Sam, or the many times a family member stopped over at just the right time—usually Sam’s five’o clock meltdown—so I could make supper and take a few deep breaths. Oh yeah, and I’m not sure this move to Missouri would’ve gone off without their help.

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Sam with “Nanny and Poppy” ( Margie and Mike)

I credit my mother- and father in-law, Mike and Margie, for building something beautiful with the Gendke family. Though the Gendkes’ Southern/Italian customs, loud conversations, food choices and pastimes did not always translate to the liking of this quiet Northern girl, the love of this family, and its strong bond, has come through loud and clear. Especially now that I have a child.

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(Not to leave out my own side of the family!) Sam with Grandpa Daryl (my dad). My own parents and step-parents have shown the same love to Sam that the Gendkes have each time they’ve had the chance…but living 1,000 miles away for his first year, they had far fewer chances. Ironically, now in St. Louis, we are in the middle of our two families, so we hope to get to see my side more often.

A baby provides a fresh start, a clean slate, for people to grab onto. Maybe adults don’t feel comfortable exposing their true feelings to other adults, who could reject them, or not reciprocate. But a baby is different. A baby needs love, feeds on love, and gives love without restraint (unless you’re currently Uncle Bo. Sorry again, Bo).

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Sam with Grandma Su (my mom)

I understand now, like I didn’t before, that to show love to a person’s child is to show love to that person. I regret that I have not been very good about showing love to my nieces, nephew, and siblings in the past. But until Sam, I wasn’t a kid person, I thought. I wasn’t a family person, I thought.

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Sam with Grandma Juanita (my step-mom)

During this past year, Sam (along with his uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents) has taught me that all human beings have it wired into them to be “baby people,” and “family people.” That doesn’t mean we all need to have babies. Certainly, it is not the best option for all.

Sam and Me, ready to visit a new church
Sam and Me, ready to visit a new church

But after my first year of parenting, I’m glad I’ve gotten this chance. Though life has definitely become more complicated, my relationships have been enriched—not only my relationship with my husband (my co-worker in this awesome job), but also my relationships with extended family. And then, there is my precious Sam. Adorable. Irreplaceable. Heaven sent.

Sam and Duck
“Duck” was Sam’s second word, second only to “Mom.”

Happy one-year, dear Sam! And thank you, Family, for making the first year of Sam’s life great. I’m not sure I would have survived (at least with my sanity intact) without you. Please visit often!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye for July, and What’s Next for this Writer (Including a Thirtieth Birthday)

This pic doesn't really go with this post, but why not? A cute baby is always in season, right?
This pic doesn’t really go with this post, but why not? A cute baby is always in season, right?

This post may be my last for the rest of July. I need to take care of those neglected areas of life that I referenced in my last post. But I wanted to say goodbye; I will miss connecting with my readers until I get back. Here’s what I’ll be doing the rest of the month.

Facing my Fears of Technology

I’ve put off two things I need to do, just because I don’t really know how to do them: making prints of Sam’s first six months so I can start photo albums and give relatives baby pictures, and turning this blog into a website. The longer I wait, the bigger, hairier, and scarier these things seem, and it’s ridiculous.

I’m a bit embarrassed, especially of my failure to print baby pictures. Shouldn’t I know how to do this? (The issue is getting them from my iphone—which I don’t know how to use very well—to the computer, to Wal-mart’s printing center, then deciding which ones I want to frame and give away. It would have been a lot easier with only one or two months of photos—six months is burying me). I’ve often said I would have fit in a lot better in Victorian culture—you know, the Jane Austen picture of women sitting around reading books, playing piano, writing letters. I would be awesome at this life! But alas, I live in the twenty-first century, and I must adapt.

As for my website, I’m going to start by purchasing the domain name “Lindsey Gendke” from WordPress. Beyond that, I have sketched out what I want my website to look like, but I don’t know how to get there yet. This will require some hours spent studying the resources put out by the friendly WordPress staff. It’s a very doable task, judging by the wealth of resources available, and I’m a pretty good student; I just don’t like doing research of this nature. However, as an author, it will be a good investment of my time now to be able to maintain my site later, hopefully when I have a book or two published. On that note…

Wrapping up My Book Projects

In anticipation of the soon release of The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours, I am helping Paul Coneff write promotional material, like our author bios (for the book website) and a “super article” conveying the book’s thesis. I have been working with this project for two years and am more than eager to see The Hidden Half in its final form—as is Paul. This is definitely a priority right now!

Now that I’ve proposed my own book, my memoir, to a certain publisher God led me to, I want to ready the rest of the manuscript, should they ask to see it. Whether or not this publisher buys the thing, I’m determined to place it somewhere, so it needs to get done one way or the other. I know my husband, for one, wants me to finally get this book out of my bones, because I’ve been “talking his ears off” about it for years! I’m ready to release it, too.

Celebrating Thirty Years

This month I am celebrating thirty years of life, an accomplishment I am pretty proud of, considering I tried to depart this life round about a decade ago. Five years ago I made it a personal goal to do two, maybe three, things before I turned thirty: I wanted to get my master’s degree—check; I wanted to publish a book—my hopes are on the Hidden Half making the cutoff; and I maybe, kinda, sorta, considered having a kid—check! All in all, it has been a successful past half decade, and I am very happy with my life overall. I continue to marvel everyday at the “spacious place” into which God has brought me, and I look forward to telling others about that for the rest of my life.

To celebrate my thirty years, we have planned a birthday party at my church that will include playing volleyball and eating a Dairy Queen cake—two good memories from childhood. Yippee! I also, with mixed emotions, lined up my mother-in-law to babysit Sam for three days while my hubby and I get away to a little cabin in the woods. I will miss the little squirt, but I know I will REALLY enjoy the down time, and the quiet time.

So that’s what’s in the works for me this month. It’s probably enough to do without trying to maintain a blog. Please wish me luck with my technology goals, and please send up a prayer for my book projects if you’re into those sorts of things (prayer and books starring God, I mean). Thanks so much, and happy July!

 

 

Birthday Blessings

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Photo Credit: Flowers by Just4You

Today is my 29th birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than sitting here at my favorite breakfast place writing, reflecting, and thanking God for the blessings of the past year. Here’s a recap of how my personal and professional lives have converged (and diverged) over the past twelve months—showing me how God takes a very personal interest in the mundane details of my life.

Last Summer

I was fretting over what I saw as conflicting desires, including the desire to write, teach, and (though I didn’t much tell anyone), have a baby. God started to drop things into place when Paul Coneff of Straight 2 the Heart ministries asked me to help him write his first book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel. During July of last year, I was also starting to write my master’s thesis (eventually 100 pages), which was a perfect warm-up for the book-length project I was taking on. Now busy with writing, I tabled my internal baby discussion for the time being.

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Last Fall

I was still working fervently on my two writing projects, but there came pausing points in both works, during which time I was left with nothing to do but finally start writing what was in my heart. Four notebooks and one month later, I had the rough draft of my memoir and the beginnings of this blog down on paper—both would wait for January for further development.

I looked around one day on campus and asked myself if this student life was what I wanted for five to eight more years. I didn’t see how that life would allow me to be the parent I knew I’d want to be—if we decided to have kids.

One day in October, while writing a paper for my last graduate class, I broke down at my computer and finally faced the truth: I was tired of this solitary student life; I wanted something more. I called my husband in tears and he came home early that day to take me on a walk-and-talk through the local state park. As I unknowingly acquired poison ivy, it was a relief to hear myself finally saying words I had been repressing for a long time: I want to have kids (this was a fun scene to write for my memoir).

In December I completed my master’s program and sent out two graduate applications—one MFA, and one PhD—just in case we didn’t conceive, and just in case God still wanted me in graduate school.

girl on bench

Last Winter

I did not get into either of the grad programs I applied to, which told me that was not God’s plan for me right now. I went off birth control in January, began this blog, and started officially calling myself a writer.

I spent the early months of the year feeling lonely and a bit depressed—now I was alone in our big house all day long, getting to write, yes, but without the promise of much people time during my days. I started really missing my family in Minnesota, whom I hadn’t seen since the previous June. I also realized I had been taking my husband for granted for most of our eight years of marriage—putting him on the back burner as I worked on emotional issues, self-improvement, and career development. I decided to be more family oriented.

Around the same time, God also brought many friends into my life to help alleviate my loneliness. This told me that God could meet my need for people contact with or without a baby.

Amanda and me

Last Spring

In May, when I wasn’t expecting it, I found out I was five weeks pregnant. Yay! We had a fun time surprising our family with the announcement, as most hadn’t been reading this blog and didn’t know we were trying. I rededicated my efforts to finishing my memoir “before thirty,” and now I also vowed to try to finish before baby.

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Currently

I have just returned from two weeks in Minnesota—probably my last trip to see my family before baby comes in January (I am four months along today). While in Minnesota I attended my ten-year class reunion and felt additional closure about God’s plans for my life. Though visiting Minnesota always makes me wistful, I clearly saw God’s wisdom in moving me away almost nine years ago. Visits back home used to be hard—brought painful memories—but more and more they bring happiness. Now, my husband and I are talking about getting a summer house in MN in a few years—which prospect fills my heart with joy.

My memoir is going well, and I have made contact with a favorite author of mine, Trish Ryan, who has agreed to consult on my book in late August to help me prepare it for publication (my hubby is giving me a “loan” because I told him it would be a good investment!). This fall I will be searching for an agent and/or publisher as I prepare for this baby’s arrival—and hopefully this winter I will have both a healthy baby and a manuscript headed for publication. The healthy baby is more important, of course—the book would just be a bonus. Regardless of how long it takes to get the memoir published, The Hidden Half of the Gospel will be published long before my next birthday—showing me that God heard my “before thirty” prayer six months ago.

It is 10:10 as I finish writing this, and my dentist’s office just texted, “Happy Birthday, I hope you have many reasons to smile today!” I am happy to say, “Yes, I do!” Today, I am smiling about my immediate future that will consist largely of family time, writing time, and more Minnesota time—and that doesn’t even compare to my eternal future!

Thank you, Lord, for taking such a personal interest in the mundane details of my life. Today I praise you for how you care about my heart’s desires and how you’ve led, not just for the past year, but for the past twenty-nine years.