Tag: Personal

Odds ‘n Ends

Yikes. Has it really been a week since I last posted? Bad, bad me. I’m so sorry. But I do have a really good excuse (a couple of good excuses, actually). Wanna hear them? Alrighty… I was in New York City with my baby and husband. No joke! While I was there I had zero time for blogging. The one night I thought I could squeeze a little post in, my hubby’s computer (the only computer we took along to the Big Apple) contracted 37 viruses. Why? Aaron was downloading a picture of… (wait for it)… a pergola. Yup, one of those lovely, oversized wooden arbors. We were daydreaming about landscaping our backyard. Guess we got a little wild and crazy. And speaking of wild and crazy, by the time we finally got home (around suppertime yesterday) we were exhausted, a little nauseous from a wild flight and too much restaurant food, and pretty stinky. Why were we stinky, you ask? Because our baby got sick on the very first flight of the day and spit-up/puked all over us. Well, all over me, actually. I was wearing a black sweater and you could see the dried snot and spit-up on me from a mile away. You could probably smell it, too. Glamorous, don’t you think? Ah the life of an author… Oh, but my story doesn’t quite end there. Last night around 3 a.m. our oldest came stumbling into our bedroom claiming he was going to throw up, too. Thankfully, he did not have the stomach flu, but he did have a rather impressive bloody nose and left gruesome smears of crimson all over the house. And, when we were cleaning him up we realized that he was burning up–a fever of 102.5 placed him firmly on the Baart family’s official sick bed (the couch with a sheet tucked over it) where he stayed all day today. Well, except for the half hour that I had to take his baby brother to the medical clinic where he was officially diagnosed with ear infection and “obviously some respiratory infection” to boot. RSV? Oh, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the laundry, household chores, and other responsibilities I’ve let slide. Yikes. That all sounds like a whirlwind even to me.

But before you feel too sorry for me, I should say that New York was awesome. Such a breathtaking city… We walked for miles enjoying the sights downtown (Rockefeller Center, Times Square, all the theaters, shops, and restaurants along Broadway), ate like kings (or, a queen, in my case), toured the Museum of Natural History (it rocked), and even strolled through Central Park on a relatively warm and sunny Saturday afternoon. I also met some amazing people and got to spend time with my spectacular agent. Who could ask for more?

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and explain my absence. I also feel the need to look back for a moment… Last week I posted about my third miscarriage, an anniversary that I can’t help but remember this time of year. You were all so understanding and so gracious, I have to say thanks. I left a comment on the post, but I need to restate my gratitude here: Bless you for your emails, comments, and face-to-face hugs (you know who you are) in light of 5 years ago… What can I say? The body of Christ rocks.

Last, but not least, a peek of what’s in store this week… In a word: photos! So many of you have requested to see pictures of my Dea-ncing with the Stars experience and I’m going to post them this week. I’d also like to share a few New York photos, and explain my new policy regarding graphics on my blog. Stay tuned! And in the meantime, drop me a line. What have YOU been up to this past week? I hope it doesn’t include puke, blood, or antibiotics. 😉

Personal

Lord of the Dance

I know, I know. It’s been a while since I posted. Sorry. I’m still recovering from my dancing debut (and grand finale). It’s been a whirlwind two weeks, and though my muscles ache and I’m still trying to catch up on sleep, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What an amazing experience.

I have to take at least a few minutes to try and unpack some of my Dea-ncing with the Stars experience. I could talk about the long hours or how nervous I was during dress rehearsal. I could replay the event and tell you about how my 2 1/2 inch heel hooked my skirt and ripped a hole in the hem–almost causing a wardrobe malfunction of horrifying proportions. But instead, I think I’ll tell you what I learned. Yup, I learned how to cha-cha. But I walked away with a lot more than that.

I’m not the first (and I won’t be the last) to draw this conclusion, but I’m astounded at how dancing with a partner is a metaphor for the Christian life. Many nights after practice, I’d lay in bed too keyed up to sleep, and marvel at the things that God was teaching me about dancing and about life. Here are just a few…

1 – The dance is hard, hard, hard. It takes a lot of practice and dedication. It requires you to keep working even when you’re tired and spent. It will cause sleepless nights and maybe even make you cry.

2 – The dance is filled with moments of wonder. There will be times that transcend the difficult, that are light and beautiful and laced with laughter. These moments will keep you coming back–even when there are blisters on your feet.

3 – The dance will never be the same thing twice. Try as you might to perfect every move, it is a fluid, volatile thing that will require you to constantly adapt yourself and your expectations. The best thing you can do is try your best and then, as they say, go with the flow…

4 – The dance will always be infinitely easier if you let your partner lead. Stop trying to anticipate the next move. Stop trying to be in control. Lean in to your partner and let him lead you through every step.

5 – The dance is wild and addictive and wonderful. You’ll want to soak it in, live it up, do it again. And again. And isn’t that the point? In life and in dance, my heart thrills to the wonder of learning something new, of pushing myself harder, of jumping headfirst into an adventure.

Your turn. I’m feeling metaphoric today. Anything you’ve learned lately? Any experience God is using to teach you about life, love, laughter? I’d love to hear…

Personal

Dea-ncing with the Stars!

Okay, I know I said I would post about simplicity today, but something came up and it has to take precedence. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m just going to cut and paste the email I sent out to my friends and family… You’ll get the general gist of it. Suffice it to say I am way out of my league. Way. Out. Of. My. League. Someone save me. Please.

Dear friends and family,

I can’t stop chuckling as I type this email because I can’t quite believe that I’ve found myself in this situation. If you know me well, you know that I am one of the clumsiest people around and that I routinely trip over my own two feet. When I was a kid, I was the last to get picked for the team on the playground, and now that I’m all grown up I’m just lucky I have a permanent dance partner in my husband or I would still be cooling my heels on the sidelines. But in two weeks that’s all going to change…

Have you ever seen the TV show Dancing with the Stars? Thank goodness I caught that one episode or I’d be completely in the dark! I just learned last night that Northwest Iowa is hosting its own version of the popular show, Dea-ncing with the Stars, as a fundraiser to help Dea Lieu, a missionary and entrepreneur from the Ivory Coast. Dea is facing severe kidney failure and is in desperate need of a transplant. However, as a non-insured, non-resident of the US, his hospital bill is somewhere in the $300,000 range.

That’s where Dea-ncing with the Stars comes in. At 7:00 on February 12 in the BJ Haan Auditorium, this rhythmically challenged Dutch girl with two left feet is going to be one of six area contestants as we try to raise money for Dea’s surgery. It’s going to be a fun-filled night that’s sure to leave you with fond memories of my many falls across the stage. I’ll be happy if I can keep it to just one slip, Aaron’s betting on at least two. He’s a wonderful cheerleader, don’t you think? 😉

Anyway, I’m emailing you because I need your help. First of all, every dancer is trying to get $1,000 in pledges before we take to the stage. I think we can do better than that! My personal goal is $2,000–because who doesn’t want to see me try a salsa in front of hundreds of people? No, seriously, we can do better than that because Dea needs our help! A Dordt student recently offered his kidney. All I’m asking for is a donation. Second, I’m asking you to join us at the live event on February 12. Because what’s a little public humiliation among friends? Tickets are $5 at the door and all proceeds go to Dea’s surgery.

Thanks so much for your support! If you’d like to donate, please click this link and follow the instructions. Or, if you’d rather give the check to me (payable to First CRC, “Dea Lieu medical expenses – Nicole Baart” in the memo line) I’ll pass it along.

With fear and trembling,

Nicole

Want to learn more about Dea? Read this article in the Sioux City Journal, visit his Facebook page, or his Caringbridge page.

Dea & Charlotte Lieu have had a desire to help their people in Ivory Coast since 1987. They helped set up a Demonstration Farm & Training Center, which helped hundreds of farmers learn new farming practices and business skills and learn the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In 2002, civil war broke out and the farm and all the animals were destroyed… Dea and his family fled. Dea came to the US and earned a degree in Missions & Agriculture from Dordt College, in Sioux Center, Iowa.

In 2007, Dea returned to Ivory Coast, gathered a group of enterprising Christians to form The Association of Christians Fighting Against Poverty (ACLCP) in Ivory Coast. The ACLCP and it’s Global Business Affiliate in Northwest Iowa have worked to rebuild the Demonstration Farm, the Training Center and the loan program for farmers and small businesses, continuing the mission of bringing Christ to all they meet. One of ACLCP’s goals is to be self-sustaining through the establishment of several enterprise operations: grasscutter husbandry (already started), egg production, feed mill operation, beekeeping, broiler production and escargot production.

On a recent trip back to the US, Dea was diagnosed with severe kidney failure and was informed that he is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Please pray for the board of the ACLCP and the ministry that needs to continue on while Dea is, Lord willing, restored to health and restored to ministry in Ivory Coast.

Personal

Living Simply

Tuesday we talked about the concept of Biblical simplicity. Today I want to take it a step further and highlight some things that have really helped me clarify my own life and purpose in the last few years. I’m no expert, but I have dwelled on this subject for longer than I care to admit, and there are a few questions that have aided me tremendously as I continue to struggle with refining myself. Read, respond, talk back, disagree. I’d love to hear your thoughts on cultivating a simple life!

1. Who am I? What an impossible question! We can answer it a dozen different ways and I’m not sure that any of them get at the heart of the matter. Our knee-jerk reaction is to start listing off the things we do, the people we know, and the places we’ve been as indicators of our inherent worth. But you have to resist the urge to rattle off a list of accomplishments and instead focus on what brings you joy and gives you peace. When are you the most you–living life and loving it? Chances are the person you were created to be is tied up in those moments.

2. What do I have to do? Whether we like it or not, there are some things that complicate our lives that we are just plain stuck with. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, getting groceries, cooking… Or maybe you love those things and your “have to” list is very different. Whatever it looks like, every one of us has to accept the fact that part of life is discipline. Finding peace in our circumstances means making peace with the things we have to do, even if we don’t like them. I try to cultivate a sense of accomplishment when I’ve crossed one of those things off my list. Laundry may not feed my soul, but it keeps my children warm and well cared for. And there is something beautiful in that.

3. What do I want to do? Here’s where we can start to focus on the things that God made us for. For me, the top three things I want to do are write, read, and play. I think writing and reading are self-explanatory, but one of my absolute favorite, most “me” things to do is play. In the snow, with my kids, for no reason at all… My husband teases me that I’m a kid myself, and in times of heavy stress when I don’t have that particular outlet I dislike the person I become. I think play feeds my optimism, my belief that life is beautiful even when it is hard.

4. What can I contribute? I believe heart and soul that we were created for community. We are not meant to be alone! And part of existing in community is participating in the life of that community. It’s give and take, and if you aren’t giving your share the entire community suffers for it. (Of course, we could talk for days about the unbalanced nature of most communities, but ideally the give and take would be equitable.) What gifts or skills can you offer in service?

So, that’s my list. In trying to simplify my life, I focus on what I have to do, what I want to do, and what I can contribute. Kind of like a Biblical understanding of stewardship and dealing with money (save some, spend some, give some). Or the Biblical concept of engaging life with your head (What do I have to do?), heart (What do I want to do?), and hands (What can I contribute?). Everything else is details. And it’s hard not to get caught up in the details… My friends got really into scrapbooking for a while, so I felt like I had to scrapbook, too. Guess what? I stink at it, I don’t enjoy it, and it’s a huge time drain. So it’s gotta go. I also don’t do any sort of craft (knitting, crocheting, sewing, etc.), play groups drain me, and I pretty much have to say “no” to anything after 9 p.m. because I’m exhausted and worthless. I know my limitations in those areas. But I also know that there are many other areas that I keep forcing myself into because I haven’t yet figured out that I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

Yikes. That’s a lot to chew on. Please understand that this post is a compilation of my own ideas–like I said earlier, I’m no expert and this did not come from some sage, infallible source. Talk back. Disagree. I’d love to hear what you think about living simply!

Personal

Simplicity

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m constantly experimenting with the concept of a “simple life.” I believe our fast-paced, materialistic culture breeds an environment of chaos and dissatisfaction, and we often find ourselves running from one thing to another without any real joy or contentment. Seriously, who wants to live like that? Not me.

And yet, our lives are complicated. As much as we might like to, we often can’t “simplify” complex relationships (unless we begin to disown the people we love), shirk our everyday duties (unless we don’t have a problem wearing dirty clothes or eating McDonald’s three meals a day), or deny the fact that we were created with unique talents that God expects us to use (unless we want to find ourselves in a constant state of inner turmoil). What’s a girl to do?

I used to believe that in order to simplify my life, all I had to do was streamline everything. You know, get organized: schedule myself to the hilt, plan meals a week in advance, keep my house neat with clearly labeled storage containers, and stop overbooking myself–something I used to do all the time. And those things help–to a point. This week the Baarts are feasting on pita pizzas, sweet and sour chicken, shrimp fettuccine, and hot ham and cheese buns, and since the groceries are bought and the meals are ready to go I don’t have to deal with the five o’clock “What’s for supper?” drama. But why do I still feel so busy? Why is my life complicated to a flaw?

Yesterday kicked off a women’s Bible study that I’ve been a part of for years, and the topic we’re covering this semester is simplicity. Biblical simplicity. Know what? I’ve been longing for the simple life for years and I never took the time to really dig into what the Bible has to say about it. What I learned blew my mind.

Biblical simplicity is an advanced spiritual discipline because it requires you to be pretty brutally honest with yourself. It’s not about learning to use a rockin’ day planner or discovering the fine art of saying “no.” It’s about knowing yourself, knowing who you are and who God created you to be and admitting that you have limitations. Time, talent, and skill are not limitless resources. Want to simplify your life? You have to start by asking yourself the question: “Is this really me?”

Wow. I’m still trying to get my head around it. It’s going to be a process, but I’m excited to start. And I think the best place to begin is by asking myself Cindy Caliguire’s pointed questions: How often do I face impossible demands? How often do I desire to be more than I am? How often do I want to have more than I need (or can afford)?

The question that resonates with me the most is: How often do I face impossible demands? A lot. But how do I disentangle myself from all of the things that force me to be someone I’m not? Something tells me that answer will take a long time to unfold. Come back Wednesday for more discussion on the concept of a simple life!

Your turn: Do any of Cindy’s questions hit a nerve with you? Which one? Care to explain?

Personal