MOUNTAIN

I stood over my washing machine with tears streaming down my face.  I did that everyday for three weeks.  I saw what mountain lay ahead of us.

When Michael told me that he felt a calling on his life for ministry, it was a difficult pill for me to swallow.  I was comfortable. I had a boisterous and happy baby boy and was working very part-time with my best friend.  I loved my friends. I loved my church.  I loved my neighbors.  And I loved our home.  We had just remodeled, and it was beautiful in our eyes.  Michael had laid all the bathroom tile himself.  He had tirelessly worked through the night in the freezing cold to finish the roof.  Our view from our bedroom window is one I still miss.  I did not want to give any of it up.  We were settled.

But the tears were because I knew what ‘called’ meant.  I knew what ‘ministry’ meant.  I had been connected to it my whole life.  I knew the sacrifice involved…

I married a mechanic, not a pastor.  He seemed a very unlikely candidate for all of this…

What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– Romans 9:23

And that [a wretched sinner] is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

We really had no idea what area of ministry God had called us to.  The only thing we were sure of was that Michael needed training.

What a mountain….

Thus began a six year long process.  The first week Michael had classes was also the first week of our son’s (Josiah) life.  That week was tough.  There was lots of crying. The baby cried too.  Studying was hard. Greek was impossible.  We were exhausted.  We quickly realized that weekends were no longer ours, any extra moments should be reserved for study, and dating one another was getting rarer and rarer.

Still unsure of exactly where Michael was ‘called’ to serve, we spent much time those first few years in prayer, seeking guidance.  The ‘calling’ had been so clear.  The specific area of ministry….not so much.  When we realized that chaplaincy seemed a perfect fit for Michael’s vision of ministry, we began to look at the requirements.  More training, more schooling, more, more, more….

I wish I could tell you that throughout this process we were always hopeful, always joyful, and always sane.  We were not.  We struggled.  Most of the time.  While working, engaging in family matters, raising 3 really rowdy boys, married to me, Michael had to learn so many things.

He had to learn to type.

He had to learn to write.

He had to learn about himself.

He had to read at least 1,647,998 pages of material.

He had to learn Greek!!!

There were dark, dark times.  There was back pain. Loss of grandparents. Sleepless nights. Mountainous struggles financially, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually that were unbearable at times.  Unbearable.  And frankly made it nearly impossible to complete the tasks assigned…

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

But we serve a perfect, loving, gracious, omnipotent, righteous, generous, awesome God.  At times the financial provision was unbelievable. The lessons we learned relationally, saved our relationships.  What we have endured emotionally and spiritually, we now count a sliver of wisdom to see us through trials ahead.  They will come.

Relying on, leaning on, clinging to, trusting God is the only way we have survived….

With all the training, and reading, and studying, the one thing Michael knows for sure is that he still has much to learn.  We have much to learn.

But when he walked across that stage (a journey which had seemed so impossible), yesterday morning, those same gorgeous eyes I fell in love with 16 years ago, were encased in a new body.  I have seen that man that I love be transformed by the renewing of his mind.  I have had such a good view.  The intimate relationship we share through marriage has allowed me to see what God can really do with one who is obedient and faithful.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Mountain = moved.

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Congratulations, Babe.  You made it.  I love you.

SUPERPOWERS

The other day I stood looking out of my kitchen window staring at my mother’s house (which is right next door) and thought to myself,

‘How did she survive this?’

Motherhood.

It is so hard some days I think I’m going to lay down and die because my mind and body shouldn’t be able to withstand the brutality.  When the boys used to take naps, I would crawl up the stairs at 1pm, daily, and collapse at the top of the stairs.  Now they are awake for 12.5 straight hours.  And they are energetic for 12.5 hours.  And hungry for at least 10 of those hours.  And with their 2.5 hours they are not eating, they are breaking things, getting dirty, or jumping.

My mother has always been able to work circles around me, but I thought it was because she was a mom.  I assumed that when women pushed out a baby, that they simultaneously gained supernatural powers that allowed them to accomplish mountains of work and never tire.

I assumed that when I pushed out my babies, that my moodiness, sleepiness, and selfishness would disappear.  My mother has never been moody or sleepy or selfish.  She accomplishes mountains of work, and on very little sleep.

When we were young, she used to rest at stoplights.  I am not kidding.  And she would be extremely happy if we pulled up to a train.  She would jerk the gear shift into park, lean her seat back, and say ‘wake me up when it passes.’  A few weeks ago when we got home at 11 p.m., she cooked food for a children’s fundraiser event while the rest of us snoozed.  This is how a typical phone call with my mother goes.

‘What time will you be home, mom?’

‘Well, I just have to feed the homeless, meet with someone for prayer, list 6 houses, visit a friend in the hospital, and mediate for world peace.  I should be home no later than 5:00’ (I generally add 35-40 minutes to her ETA.  Listing houses can be time-consuming.)

‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’  James 1:27

She is fiercely selfless.  The other day I went in her room to get something, and noticed that she had post-it notes pasted all over her dresser.  At second glance, I realized they were prayer requests.  They were directly across from her pillow.  From the moment her eyes open, she is thinking about others above herself.

‘praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,’ Ephesians 6:18

My mother is not moody.  She presents the perpetual sunny side of every obstacle.  She illumines the silver-lining.  She cheers from the side, ‘our grass is already greener!!’  She is ever the cheerleader, motivator, encourager, the beaming smile in a crowd.  She is joy and she is light.

‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’  Matthew 5:16

She never tires of doing what is right.  She is a visionary and a steadfast worker for the harvest.  She never looses hope, and believes and perseveres in all things.  Even when there’s darkness.  Even when others lose hope.  Even when others fall away.  She never tires.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ Hebrews 12:1-3

I have seen my mother persevere.  She had 3 wayward children.  She trusted the Lord for their redemption and never gave up.  She now has 3 children serving God in different ministries.

I don’t know when my mother got her superpowers.  But she has them.  And I’m not sure why I don’t have mine yet.  But just being in her company gives me energy and hope and patience and gentleness and faithfulness to mother my children.  She embodies love, joy, and peace.

I count her as blessed.

‘Her children arise and call her blessed…’ Proverbs 31:28

Thank you, Mommy, for using your superpowers for good.  For being Jesus with skin on. I love you and am eternally grateful for who God called you to be, and your willingness to walk so beautifully in your calling.

Happy Mother’s Day

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POMP

Saturday I was honored to sit as faculty at the commencement ceremony for the 2013 graduating class of Laurel University.  This is not the first commencement I have attended as faculty, but Saturday was special in its own right.  Saturday, a student graduated who started her journey at Laurel University almost 4 years ago, the exact same time I started.  She was one of my first students that August evening.  I have to tell you how ridiculous I felt teaching that class.   I had just left my 4-month old for the first time.  I was leaving him for 5 hours and he would be getting rice cereal for the first time.  I made my husband video tape it.  I had been at home with my kids for three years at that time, and in some ways had grown much wiser, mostly because I had grown to realize how much I still have to learn.  I have found that the greatest thing about being a teacher is understanding that I am ever the student.  To think that I had anything to offer as a professor….

A professor?  What did I have to profess?  I did not feel like a professor.  Professors look like Dr. Selleck who walks easily down the halls with a single slim briefcase, not needing to carry anything because it is all wrapped up in his brilliant mind.  Professors look like Dr. Lindsey who can recall Biblical passages in the original languages at whim.  Professors did not look like me, carrying through the halls at least 3 bags full of equipment, including a projector, texts, visual aids, and extra resources (and of course a thermos of coffee).  You get the idea.  I look every bit of the mess I feel. Every time I teach, my shoulders hurt the next day.  So does my brain.  It’s a job I take very seriously, and with great great humility.  Sometimes, I wish I could slide in under the floor of those halls.  I feel so unworthy

For the most part, even after 9 semesters of teaching, I struggle with confidence on that drive to the college.  Michael and my best friend often say (in a very 1 Timothy 4:11-16 pep-talky kind of way), “You know more than you give yourself credit for.”  I don’t know if that is true or not, but there have been a few moments when a student remarks,

“Wow….I never thought of it that way before…”

That is a high I will chase for the rest of my life.  To me, the college experience is embodied in the opportunity to challenge predefined constructs of thinking.  It means reexamining ideologies and allowing oneself to view a situation in a new light, from a different perspective.  If that is accomplished, in any way, in a class where I am the instructor, then I have done my job.

On graduation day this year, I put on my robe and hood and ugly hat mortar board.  I first put on that robe when Nolan was 3 months old.  I was too exhausted to really take in everything that robe represented.  But this past Saturday, and in graduations past, when I robe, I feel such a deep appreciation for the opportunity to do so.  And looking at those students faces on Saturday, I sense they did too.

There was a great deal of pomp on Saturday.  There were grown men in gowns, modest women in large ugly hats, and words like ‘heretofore’ and ‘thereby’ spoken freely.  There were cheers from family members beaming with pride as their loved ones walked across that stage.  There were fist pumps, ‘woohoos!’, and there were tears.

And rightfully so.  Some of our students have overcome such incredible adversity to achieve the accomplishment of turning their tassels from one side of their mortar board to the other.  Some have fought cancer, buried a loved one, or become a spouse during their time at Laurel University.  They have sacrificed financially, relationally, emotionally, spiritually and stretched themselves in ways they would not have been able to perceive just four years ago.

I watched the graduates receive their diplomas and step down from that stage.  I felt a lump form in my own throat as I watched my first student walk back to her seat.  I watched her wipe a single tear from her eye.  I watched her eyes.  I watched as she fully submerged herself in the moment, and allowed herself to be swept away, if only briefly, in the pomp and circumstance.

I watched, too, in the hustle of congratulatory hugs and handshakes as she picked up her small granddaughter with a hug that seemed to say, ‘now you can do it one day too.’

I bet she does.

I bet she may even remember the day her grandmother walked across that stage.  I bet she remembers the pomp and splendor and the look in her grandma’s eyes.  It is a look I will cherish and tuck into my memory.  I will carry those looks of pride and serenity from Saturday with me as I step back into the classroom this August.  There will undoubtedly be a student who is stepping across the threshold of the university for the first time.  As long as the Lord allows, we will journey together.  And in so doing, I pray we will live out the mission to which God has called Laurel University: to Learn and Grow and Impact the world for Him.

STAYCATION

Over Spring Break, the kids were home with me all week.  Actually 10 days.  That’s a long time.  I still had to work, a lot, but they were home.  Michael was working and had projects to complete.  So I thought of a few things to do throughout the week….to reduce the amount of violence that would be sure to ensue being that it was a cold and rainy week in March.

Here are a few premises about the week.  Our budget is tight, and got tighter recently due to a car repair and some unexpected expenses.  So the goal was to make the week fun for not a lot of money.  Kind of my goal as a mother in general.

So here is an account of those days.

Day 1: Thursday: Mom and I picked up the kids from school and took them shopping for their Easter outfits.  I have 3 boys.  They care nothing about shopping.  I never go shopping with all of them.  Never.  I have never been a mom that strolled around the mall with that giant stroller/carseat system.  I tried one time.  I got so frustrated with folding that ridiculously large monstrosity of a transportation system down to fit in my tiny car, that I forced it closed (I know, Michael, never force it…) and it broke.  I immediately replaced it with a $10 umbrella stroller that I used for the rest of my stroller years, which are now behind me.  Which brings me to why I never take them clothes shopping.  They roam freely.  And that is dangerous in stores where they expect you to look and not touch…  But nevertheless, we took them shopping.  And it was relatively painless.  We found cute outfits quickly, and they actually were excited about being there to help pick them out.  At dinner, Zachary left his gum on the seat and it stuck to my mom’s pants, which she spent the rest of the afternoon trying to dislodge from the fabric.

Day 2:  This was Good Friday.  I felt it necessary to observe a 3 hour technology fast from 12-3.  We read about the crucifixion, and talked about what it meant for Jesus to take on our sin.   The weather was actually nice this day, and we spent the afternoon outside after dying Easter eggs with my mom.  I took the boys down to the creek, and they explored and climbed, and enjoyed nature.

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Day 3: This was the Saturday before Easter.  My cousins came for a family dinner and we put on an Easter egg hunt for the kids, made ‘resurrection rolls’, and ate and enjoyed one another’s company.  We are a family that is good at drinking coffee and having deep, meaningful conversation, but not so good with scheduling activities like Easter egg hunts….  This is how it went.  My mom stuffed all of the eggs for the 8 children in different colored eggs. (This is the thing to do now, you know..so everyone has an equal amount.  We’re breeding socialists folks…)  Anyway, she couldn’t remember what color was whose.

“Let me think,” (while kids are anxiously standing with baskets ready to go),

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“Haven has purple and orange eggs, and Ava has pink, Josiah has..blue, no yellow…..” and so on she went through all the kids.   Then Jason (holding up an egg), “Seriously, y’all, is this pink or purple?”

“Pink” one of us yelled at the same time another person yelled “Purple”.

Dinner was fantastic.  It always is.  My mom and aunt are exceptionally wonderful meal makers.

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My vegetarian cousin Kim stood over my cousin Jason as he attempted to slice the ham, but kept getting distracted.  She stood over him with a look of disgust because we were about to enjoy an innocent creature who died for our dinner (kind of the theme of Easter Kim!!).

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Then, at the end of the day, at bedtime, after the kids had had sugar from candy, bunny cake, and resurrection rolls, we attempted to get a picture with all of the kids and Granddaddy.  (It was as difficult as it looks.)

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Day 4: The kids woke up to their Easter baskets, and the treasures therein kept them entertained in the afternoon following church.

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Day 5: This day I took the kids to the dollar movies with a friend, then to the park with ice cream from McDonald’s. My kids have only been in a theater a few times and this was a real treat.  Nolan laughed incredibly loud (similar to how loud my brother Jonathan laughed when he saw The Great Outdoors for the first time in the theatre, and how loud he still laughs when he watches The Office).  

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Day 6: This day I was sick and declared a ‘stay at home day’.  We had movie time and toy organization time.

Day 7: This was redemption day.  I had tons of unused gift cards/coupons that were about to expire.  We went to the bowling alley (free coupon), Barnes and Noble (gift card) and McDonald’s play land (gift card).  I also declared it teamwork day, and made them work together and encourage each other every opportunity they had.  They played along and we had a really good day.

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Day 8: I had to teach all day on this day, and the boys spent this day with Michael.  I am not sure what they did.  Boy stuff.  Important stuff.  They probably worked out, fixed things, and drank smoothies, and talked about how awesome it is to be a boy.  Zachary told me  recently that “boys are way, way, way, way awesome, but girls are just way awesome.  Only 1 way.”

Day 9: This day we went to an indoor water park.  It was was the grand finale.  We met our friends and the kids had a great time.  So did everyone else in Charlotte.  The entire city was there.

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That night, Michael and I went on a date.

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We were exhausted.  We got our pager and took a seat to wait.  We were grateful for a relaxed evening.  Almost as soon as we sat down, we both leaned our heads back against the wall and sat quietly, finding comfort in just being near one another.  A beebopping 21-year-old girl walked by, stopped, and said,

“How long have y’all been waiting???”

“Forever” was my reply.  We have waited forever for a quiet moment.  But it had only been 4 minutes. (Of course Michael was keeping time.)  We laughed a long time at how pitiful and old and we must have looked, and that we were terrible at hiding our exhaustion.  We talked and laughed for hours that night.  We really treasure those moments together, fleeting as they are.

I have to admit I was dreading that week.  But we made the most of it and got to spend some great quality time together.  And now I am really looking forward to a summer of relaxed schedules and more time to get to know my family.

They are changing everyday.

REACHING

Michael started our garden inside this year.  We transformed our living room, temporarily, into a greenhouse (of sorts) to start all kinds of seedlings.  Tomatoes, squash, cucumber, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and all the veggies that you can’t get enough of in the summer.  My mouth waters just thinking about slathering a boatload of Duke’s mayonnaise on two slices of bread with salt and cracked pepper and a thick slice of a warm fresh-from-the-garden home-grown tomato.  There simply isn’t any better taste in the world.  I ate so many tomato sandwiches when I was pregnant, I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them anymore. But I was wrong.  They are still the tastiest thing I will create from the garden this year….and I cannot wait.

Now, typically I don’t love living room projects, they annoy me.  I have a hard enough time just keeping the shoes that accumulate from the 10 feet running around this house picked up to allow other projects to clutter everything further.  But the seedlings, I have enjoyed.  One day in particular, we had a quiet moment in the house.  I went over to the little bright green plants and said to Michael,

‘Look how they’re reaching for the sun.’

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They were  seeking the sun so intently, they reached for it.  Daily, they sought the sun they so desperately need to survive.  They cannot grow without the sun, you see.  Through photosynthesis, plants use energy gained from the sun in order to grow.

Everyone knows that.

But maybe here is something that you didn’t remember from biology 101.  I didn’t remember before I looked it up on science.com.  At night the plant goes through a process called ‘respiration’.  Respiration can happen in the dark.  During periods of darkness the plant releases the energy gained while in the light.

In this world, you will have trouble…

There are times in our lives, in our Christian lives, that there will be trouble.  There will be darkness.  There will be suffering, shame, pain, guilt, death, fear, sin, evil himself.  At times, it feels so dark that it seems like there will never be light again…

But take heart…

But remember when you were in the light?  Remember it’s warmth?  Remember how intently you reached? Down deep, the light is in you.  It is stored deeply within, and is available to sustain you through the darkest night. It is already there.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). 

I have overcome the world….

There is hope.  The light will return. The Light will come again in it’s fullest glory.  There is such beauty, such joy, such comfort, such warmth, and such brilliant light that is coming.  Hope.  Hope even when you don’t feel like hoping. Because He overcame the world, there is always reason to hope.

My prayer for you is that whatever darkness you may be experiencing in this moment, that you are able to draw from the light within, and breathe.  There is no suffering, shame, pain, guilt, death, fear, sin, or evil himself he has not endured on your behalf.  He took it all on himself.  He knows your pain.  Your shame.  Your guilt, fear, sin.  He knows.  He knows and is with you even in the darkness (Matthew 28:20).  

One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning. Psalm 30:5

And when the Light comes, when the joy arrives, my prayer is that you, that I, will reach so intently for the Son that we will have an abundance of light stored within to propel swiftly through any darkness….and we will not have to tarry there long.  May the morning come swiftly.  And when it does, reach.  

God’s Son is the very source of life. (John 1:4, 11:25, 14:6)

Reach for the Son.

INTENTIONS

This morning was going to be good.  I had every intention of it.  I had outfits laid out on the steps for the boys (I manage that about 4/7 days per week).  I had cleaned up birthdayness.  I usually save the icing in the fridge until Michael says weeks later, “You going to use this neon green icing for anything else?”  And then I reluctantly throw it away.  I hate throwing away food, especially food I make.  Anyway, it was in record time (same day) that I got rid of all unused icing.  I was ready to start this week on top of things.  

I got up, on the 2nd alarm (not too bad), and went get my coffee.  It didn’t make.  Grrrrr.  Behind 10 minutes.  After I got the coffee brewing I went downstairs to wake up Nolan.

“Time to get up sweetie” with a kiss on the forehead (and as perky as possible with no coffee in my system).

“Mom…the tooth fairy didn’t come” he said in a most disappointed voice.

“Oh, honey, really??? Are you sure?”      OH CRAP!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT THE DOLLAR!!!! HOW IN THE WORLD????  I KNOW HOW.  HE’S 7 AND HE LOOSES TEETH ALL THE TIME.  WHY CAN’T IT JUST BE A DOLLAR FOR THE FIRST TOOTH??? I CAN’T KEEP UP!  UGH!!  I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO MAKE THIS NOT A REALITY.  I THOUGHT HE DIDN’T BELIEVE IN THE TOOTH FAIRY ANYMORE?  DIDN’T I TELL HIM YET??

IT’S ME!!!!!!!  

These are the thoughts running through my head as I obviously rush upstairs and take $1 from my other child’s birthday card…because I never have cash.  Never. Last week I wrote a check for $1 to the school for hat day.  I ran back downstairs and, as nonchalantly as I can, slip it between the mattress and the headboard.  Luckily it’s really dark in his room (because Michael has tinted the bedroom windows in an effort to keep the boys sleeping longer during daylight savings time) and I don’t think he saw me do it.

“Honey did you check all around even in the cracks?” I ask, holding my breath.  Not sure why I care if he knows the truth.  I’m not the one who told him the tooth fairy existed in the first place.  Culture did. But the mom in me intends for him to have a childhood….he’ll be grown up soon enough.  And it’s fun to sneak him a dollar when he looses his tooth.  Just fun.  So I do it. But this time I forgot the dollar!

“Here it is!” he announced. 

“Oh, good!” I reply.

The rest of the morning actually went off without a hitch. I was early to the doctor’s office for Zachary’s checkup.  Josiah was absolutely adorable preparing him for the experience.  

“They’re going to give you a shot, Zachary.  You have to be really brave. It’s going to hurt, but you’ll be ok, right mom?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

They talked the doctor’s ear off.  When he walked in, Josiah immediately said, “If I look familiar, it’s because you are the doctor who tried to take off my wart.”

“Oh?” asked the doctor.

“Yes, that’s right,” I say. This sparked a lengthy conversation between the doctor and my two boys about splinters, ninjas, and other things that are really important to write down in a 4-year-old’s medical chart, I’m sure.  Actually the doctor was quite amused and sang “Happy Birthday” to Zachary in Portuguese, to which Zachary replied “that’s not the real way.” And then proceeded to sing it ‘correctly’.  I took the opportunity to explain to Zachary what cultural relativism is, and we went on our merry way.

The evening was to be wrapped up at Josiah’s soccer game.  It started at 7.  Zachary ended up feeling a little grumpy and tired from the immunizations, so I decided to stay home with him.  After I got him settled, Michael called and said “are you sure the game started at 7?”  I double checked the schedule, and it said it did.  Long story short, the game was moved to Friday.  Apparently the coach texted me, but I didn’t get the text because my phone fell in the toilet on Saturday and is completely fried.  Which is another thing I spent a considerable amount of time on today, unintentionally. 

I did not have the day I had planned, but I rejoice in the day I was given.  I say that to myself a lot as a mother.  There are circumstances that the best of intentions cannot foresee. I don’t have any doubt that tomorrow will bring about a whole host of unplanned events that will have to be managed.  But I intend to rejoice, no matter what.  I get how big that statement is.  I get it.  I intend to rejoice, no matter what.

I rejoice in the gift of today.  I rejoice in the laughter with friends.  I rejoice in the game of wiffle ball I played with my boys.  I rejoice that my husband came home safely.  I rejoice that I was able to take my child to the doctor and pay for the bill.  I rejoice that I have one less tooth to manage, for the time being.

And I intend to rejoice again tomorrow, whatever tomorrow holds.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!”     -the apostle Paul, from prison (Phil. 4:4)

 

PERSPECTIVE

Last night Zachary had a fever. I knew it was Zachary before he got to my room.  I could tell by his movements, the pace, the number of steps it took him to reach my room.  In his faintest sigh, I knew it was him.  I know my children.  When he got to my room he proceeded to tell me that he had had a bad dream. It had something to do with Tom chasing Jerry and a Lego ninjago.  But he was also as flushed as he could be.  He undoubtedly had spiked a high fever sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. So I gave him some ibuprofen, stripped him down to his underwear, and he fell back to sleep comfortably in my bed.

This morning the fever returned, so I called the doctor.  I was worried because Josiah had had scarlet fever about 2 months ago, and I was concerned that Zacahry could have strep.  Which can lead to scarlet fever, which, untreated, can lead to rheumatic fever, which can be fatal.  And you know how I go straight to worst case scenario.

The doctor worked him in.  When I arrived to the doctor the desk clerk began to go through his chart.

“Looks like we need you to update his chart.  It’s been a while since he’s been in.”

“Ok.” I replied.  Trying to fill out the sheet while holding my almost 4-year-old baby whose fever had begun to spike again.

“When did Zachary come in last?”

“Oh, probably last year for his checkup.”

“Mmmm…..no.  I don’t see any record of that.”

Ok, I thought.

“It doesn’t look like he’s been here since his 18 month checkup.”

“That’s not right, we’re here all the time.” I said, sure she was wrong.

“Well…”she said, eyebrows all the way up into her hairline shaking her head…(she might as well had had her right index finger on top of her left making a sweeping motion at me) “It looks like he’s really overdue for his shots and everything.”

I was dumb-founded.  I cannot believe (still having a hard time wrapping my mind around this) that I have forgotten to bring my son for his checkups.  I remember when we brought Nolan for his last checkup the doctor said, “It is really unnecessary for you to keep bringing him for his yearly checkups.  Unless he needs one for sports, or you are concerned, he won’t need a physical until age 10.”  At Josiah’s last physical my boys caused such an outpouring of pity from the staff (Josiah didn’t cry when he got his shots, but when the doctor attempted to remove his wart, he wasn’t prepared and was horrified.  After the doctor left, they all broke into tears.  Josiah for the experience and Nolan and Zachary because Josiah was upset.)  It was so pitiful 2 nurses escorted the 3 boys back to the ‘prize vault’ reserved for only very serious calamities.  They let each child pick out 2 toys.

Stitches, ear infections, coughs, fevers, rashes….  Surely one of these many memories of this office in my head is from a checkup for Zachary?!?  I immediately walked back up to the front desk and said, “Can you check your other office?  Maybe the records are there?”

“No,” she said, “I’ve already checked there.”

Now, on the way back to the examination room, I diagnosed him with all of the terrible diseases that immunizations prevent.  I was 100% sure he had measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, and chicken pox.  Upon entering the room, I promptly broke into tears.  I immediately called Michael.

“Guess what WE’VE done?????  We haven’t taken Zachary for a checkup in 2.5 years!!” I said sobbing.

You have to understand that me trying to pin this on Michael would be like him pinning dirty oil in my car on me.  I don’t worry about the oil in the cars, he does.  He doesn’t make doctors’ appointments.  I do.   He doesn’t think about it, because I do.

I guess I forgot.

Now, if I had had a few more minutes, I would have called every employer and committee to which I have a responsibility and quit immediately.  Clearly, I cannot manage everything so I will quit everything and just try to meet my children’s basic needs, for crying out loud.  Like getting their immunizations.  I mean….I am a social worker! I have explained the importance of immunizations to parents of neglected children and students of child development.  I know kids need their shots!

But I didn’t have enough time.  To call and quit everything that is.  Michael had just enough time to firmly say, “You are a good mom, Christi Anna,” when the doctor walked in.

So there I was holding my almost asleep almost 4-year-old baby, crying and feeling awful when the doctor walked in.

And I have a black eye.

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Last week, I leaned down to tell Zachary something, and out of nowhere, Josiah ran through and jumped up.  The back of his hard head hit the front of mine.  He didn’t feel it.  I cried.  And I think I may have had a concussion.  Michael thinks that’s a bit of a stretch…but it hurt.  Anyway, I have a horrible black/purple/green bruise that the best makeup cannot cover.

That’s the picture.  Me with a black eye, crying, holding my feverish little boy who hasn’t been for a checkup in …..awhile.

“Honey, are you ok?” she asked, looking genuinely concerned.

“Yes, I’m fine.  I just didn’t realize we were behind on his shots and physicals.  I feel like I am here all the time.  I have 3 boys.  We are always in here.”

“Well, lets take a look…..oh, see you are only 2 shots behind.  That is not a big deal, honey.  Not a big deal at all.”

“Um hum” I mustered, wanting to hug her, but thinking it was probably a little inappropriate.

After the very gracious doctor examined him, and cultured him, and took a blood sample, it turns out Zachary has something viral, nothing to be alarmed about.  He needs fluids and rest.

He was so adorable when he got home.  Whenever the kids are sick I put a TV tray by the couch, and let them drink their fluids in the living room.  They love the special treatment.  Sometimes they ask for that when they scrape their knee.

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“Mom, I fell down, can you fix up the little table and give me some Gatorade while I watch TV?”

Anyway…it took me a considerable amount of time after the doctor’s visit to gain a little perspective on this.  I mean, I was feeling like quite a failure.  I called Michael, my mother, and 2 friends who all reassured me that Zachary was fine and that he was certainly not a neglected child.  I needed to hear that from all four of them.  One of my friends even told me she was sure that her son got all of his shots 2 weeks before kindergarten.  I love her.

Yes, in the scheme of things, this wasn’t a huge deal.  He is strong and healthy and smart and immunized, or will be, as of Monday.

He has an appointment scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

DEAR TEACHER

Dear Teacher,

Today I registered my son for kindergarten.  In August, I will walk him into your classroom and allow his mind to be molded by what you have prepared.  My little boy is the one with the brightest blue eyes and the most concerned face.  He’ll be the one who stands very closely to his mother, curling his finger around my hair for comfort.  He’ll be the one that will take everything in for processing and will express it later.

I just want you know that he gets what you’re saying.  He’s intuitive and smart.  He misses nothing.  His memory is exceptional.  He doesn’t always say what he is thinking.  Don’t mistake his timidity for lack of understanding.

I just want you to know that the first time is the hardest for him.  He likes to know what to expect.  You’ll have to explain what you mean, and repeat what you say.  Eventually, he’ll try most anything. Don’t dismiss him. You have the capacity to foster a love of learning or a disdain for the same.  I know it is a responsibility you do not take lightly.  I’m trusting you on that.

I just want you to know that he is not like his brother.  You may think you know him, but you do not.  He is a whole entire person, all on his own.  Know that.

I just want you to know that he believes he is part ninja, but doesn’t ever want to really hurt anything.  He will rescue insects, encourage the underdog, and he will not cry in front of you.  Not even if he is really hurt, or really upset, or really scared.  He won’t cry.  He won’t be your squeakiest wheel, but will occasionally need some grease.  You’ll know when.

I just want you to know that he is really funny.  He will say things  you won’t believe.  He will occasionally catch you so off guard with his humor, that your coffee may very well come out through your nose in your invoked laughter.

And teacher, I just want you to know that I love that little boy with a fierce kind of mother’s love.  That love that I thought couldn’t get more or deeper or bigger the day he was born…did.  And my love for him now is fiercer than ever.

God charged my husband and me with a great responsibility in raising him, and now here we are 5 years later, ready to share with you some of that responsibility.  Until you have a 5 year old child of your very own, it’s hard to explain how big a deal that is.  But it is big.  

I just want you to know that by walking him into your room, I am trusting you with a piece of me.  It’s the piece that is my heart.  It is a tender, gentle, wonderful, wild, radically funny, impressionable heart.

Please take care to nourish it properly.

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I just thought you should know.

NO

I have trouble with saying ‘no’ to things. I thought this was something I was good at, but I am not. Not. I think I came to fully realize it a few months ago.

It was football season and there I was, standing in the rain, waiting for all 60 kids to get their pictures taken. It was 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Now, I did not realize what an investment of time football was going to be. But it is time consuming. The only solace I had was that at least I would get to visit with a friend while I waited that Saturday. But she wasn’t there. Her kid must have been sick. Poor guy.

Nolan was last in line. He had been about 10th from last, but goofing around, he lost his place and ended up dead last. It took over an hour. I had to fill out the paperwork, write a check for $19.00, and watch every other person eat the biscuit they picked up from Bojangles on the way, while I sipped my last bit of lukewarm coffee.

I was mad. I did not want to be there. I wanted to sip another cup of hot coffee on the couch. But there I was.

Later that day, I saw my friend who wasn’t there that morning. Oh, she must have forgot. Poor thing. It is hard to keep all those dates straight.

‘How did pictures go?’ she asked.

‘Oh, they were awful, I was in a bad mood the whole time. I hated getting out in the rain this morning good.’ I replied.

‘Yeah, everyone was in their PJs, snuggled on the couch, so we decided to skip them’.

WHAT??? I am going to tell you what. The permission smacked me upside the head like a sledgehammer. You can say ‘no’ to that stuff??? First time football pictures?? I was snuggled on my couch too! I didn’t want to get out either!! I didn’t KNOW you could skip!! I thought we HAD to do that stuff!!

This was one of the most liberating days of momlife. I went home and started to delete things off of my calendar immediately. I found great power in that. I put most of them back on. But I left three things off. My husband literally applauded me. He’s been trying to get me to do this for years. I needed a mother’s permission, you understand. And not my mother. She’s always telling me ‘we just never went anywhere. I was afraid to take you all out when you were that small.’ I needed a now mother to tell me it was ok.

That was several months ago. Since then I have skipped a few things. Like the recent school cookie dough fundraiser. I didn’t do it. Didn’t even try. I still have cookie dough in my freezer from last year’s fundraiser. The thing is, I make really good cookies already. And my workplaces consist of college students (who don’t even have ovens) and children (who are trying to sell cookie dough). So I gave myself permission to skip it and not feel guilty. And I’ll participate in the next fundraiser.

Maybe.

I learned a valuable lesson that Saturday. Thanks, B.L. for showing me that. I am going to more deliberately choose how to spend my time. I do not have to do everything that comes home on a flyer. I don’ t have to attend every birthday party, school event, or celebration. There is value in saying ‘no’.

And saying ‘no’ to some things means ‘yes’ to the things that matter more.

LIGHT

So here’s the thing…you can’t write a blog about Friday without writing a blog about Sunday.  But I’ve been just staring at the screen.  Having trouble finding the words…

Maybe it’s because I write about my feelings so much.  I feel a lot about the fact that He died for me…while I was yet a sinner. But the fact that ‘He is risen!’ is just harder for me to articulate.  It’s more of a quiet, reverent awe that comes over me.  And triumph.  Overwhelming triumph. Because there is victory over death, over sin, over hell.

And triumph is hard to describe in words.

It’s a welling up in my spirit, the semblance of which comes out only through a cry, a victory cry..a song maybe.

So here’s my alleluia anthem today….

http://www.godvine.com/No-More-Night-by-David-Phelps-Breathtakingly-Beautiful-1048.html

Do you understand that in heaven there will be no more night???

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:5

I pray that as I walk forward in the Light of The Risen Lamb, I will reflect the Truth of who He is in all that I say, in all that I do, in all that I am.

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Be glorified today, Father!