Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Year's Eve Blues


I've had this song in my head for weeks now, and usually that means God is trying to speak to me through the words. The chorus starts out “You make all things new…” I've been turning those words over and over. They are spoken to God, a declaration about what He has done and can do.

And it seems especially fitting that today is New Year’s Eve…

Tomorrow we will make our resolutions. We will set our minds toward those things we are determined to accomplish, or overcome, or learn, or change.

It’s a new year. It’s a clean slate. It’s a reset button.

You know what I think about that? BA HUMBUG!!! (yes, I realize this particular grouchy phrase is reserved for Christmas, but the only other thing I could think of is not appropriate and can’t be repeated, so don’t judge my ba humbug-ing…it’s in your best interest.)

Why am I so grouchy, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

NOTHING IS NEW, or fresh, or started over, or clean. My house won’t be new tomorrow. In fact it will be older than it is today, and dirtier, and smellier…not to mention the state of its occupants!
I won’t stay up until midnight to see the ball drop. I like to go to bed early. And even if I might have made an exception some other year…I woke up before 5 a.m. this morning, so there is absolutely no way I will be staying up ‘til even 10 o’clock tonight. (this also could be contributing to my substantially worse than acceptable thoughts on the New Year subject…)

Plus, most New Year’s resolutions end up failing, and I’m not sure if you know this about me or not…I HATE TO FAIL!!!!! (in fact, I have an entire blog post about that very subject!) So there is no way I’m making any New Year’s resolutions. They are just a giant set up for a giant face plant…

If your favorite holiday happens to be New Years, and if you are one of those people who always makes resolutions, and always sticks to them, and always feels like everything is bright and cheery and new on the first day of the year…well, BA HUMBUG to you too.

I may be feeling slightly grouchier than normal today. Or maybe the lack of sleep has short circuited my filter. Or maybe I’m feeling a sudden burst of happiness that anything I say today will be wiped out by the reset that happens tomorrow. EXCEPT THAT’S STUPID!

Tomorrow is just another day, people. It’s a new year, sure, but it’s not a do over on ANYTHING. Some people get the day off of work, including my husband, but they will have to go back the next day. (I won’t get the day off work, though, because butts still have to be wiped, and mouths fed, and underwear and dishes washed, even with the grand reset…clearly no one told the kids that my New Year’s resolution is that they all stop dirtying clothes and toilets…)

As I sit and ponder, in all my crankiness,  the state of the upcoming New Year, I am drawn once again to that one song line that has been singing through my head for quite a while.

“YOU MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.”

How can this be true? What does it mean? What is new?

Not my body- it still bears the obvious aging of a woman who has born 4 children and gotten too many sunburns and fallen down too many flights of stairs.

Not my mind- I can’t finish my sentences with the right words half the time. Seriously, sometimes a thought that begins with “Tonight for supper I think I will make…” ends with the word “car” or “toilet paper” or “sock.” You think I’m exaggerating…sigh…if only.

Not my house- the laundry will pile even higher, the scum on the toilets will get a little thicker, the dirt on the kitchen floor will begin to wonder if it can grow things.

SO what will be new tomorrow, besides the date we write on our checks?

I guess that depends on your (and my) definition of new. My kids will be able to sleep in their old bed, on their old sheets, and wake breathing in old air…and breathing out a new breath. They will get out of bed, and use the same lines they used this morning. “Mommy, I’m hungry.” “Mommy, can I play DS?” “Mom, can they please leave me alone? I never get time alone.” And I will use all my old lines too. “I’m Mommy. It’s nice to meet you, Hungry.” “No, you can’t play DS before you've even eaten breakfast.” “You don’t need time alone. You slept all night in your bed ALONE.”

But then one of them will do something crazy- and no, that’s not speculation. Have you met my kids? Yesterday Nate walked down the hall naked to ask me what to wear for the day. He had a blanket in front of him, his back pressed to the wall, and was sliding sideways toward where I was. Clay saw him and yelled, “MOM!!! Nate’s naked butt is touching the wall!! Do you want me to wash it?” And I managed to reply with a straight face "The wall or Nate's butt?" His wide eyed look of horror, and the giggling from both Nate and I...those were new. And today when Gabe had a dirty diaper and I started making up a song that went “Stinky Booooty…” as I carried him down the hall (do not judge me, I’m operating on very little sleep and a very great dose of Ebeneezer)  and suddenly he started singing “Stinky Boooooty…POWER!” in the same key…yep, that one’s brand new, and we may record it later, and I only wish I could bottle the hysterical laughter he and I indulged in.

So, after this very long tirade that could possibly have spiritual significance if I wasn't too tired and too grumpy to search for it more…I will just say this. There is OLD everywhere. It’s very easy to see. You have to look much harder for the things that are new, and fresh, and clean. And those things are usually much more fragile than the old things, and they are fleeting, and they are precious. LOOK for the REAL new things. Look for them every day, not just tomorrow. Kiss someone you love and realize that is the first and last time you will ever share that exact kiss. Look up to heaven, breathe in, and then out, and thank the MAKER OF ALL NEW THINGS- who also happens to be the only One who has been here from before the world began- for the new breath you have just been given.

Hopefully I have not been too grouchy…actually, I don’t care if I have. Tomorrow is apparently a reset, and you will all forget everything I have just said/typed/written, and we will begin anew. I will post things filled with much more Jesus than craziness, I will work out every day, I will teach school with a smile on my face, and my house will magically start out clean.

 And on that note, there is a large bag of Twizzlers and several cans of Coca-Cola that I can enjoy today because calories reset tomorrow too… Happy New Year!!! (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beauty and Ashes

I've been thinking about brokenness a lot lately.

In my kids’ lives it’s simple. If something is broken, they bring it to me and I fix it-or at least I try to. If I can’t fix it, I tell them I’m sorry, and we throw it away. Or, more often they decide that Iron Man will still be fun to play with even though his leg is broken off. Or they beg me to super glue his leg back on, or duct tape it back on, and I do, because they are sad.

“But,” I warn, “This isn’t a very strong bond. One wrong move and it will be broken again. You have to be gentle with this leg now.” They say “okay Mom” and head off to play again. In the innocent eyes of my sweet little ones, anything is solvable, repairable, savable. Nothing is broken beyond hope.

But that’s not the way it is.

Some things are. Just. Broken.

Glass shatters and can’t be put back together. A house burns to the ground, and no amount of glue will turn the ashes back into a house. Dreams are crushed. Hearts are suffocated. Hope dies.

Families pray for healing until they can’t breathe, and their loved ones still die. They pray and cry and beg until there are no more words, but their lives still fall off the edge of hope and into the seemingly eternal abyss of pain.

Brokenness isn't something that can always be fixed. Even when a broken bone is set, it always bears the scar of the break, and sometimes pain will flare up in the bone, reminding the person that it’s no longer as good as new.

 Even when a toy is glued back together, it’s not as strong as it was before. You have to be more careful with it, or risk re-breaking it.

Even if glass is only cracked instead of shattered, it will always bear the scar…the crack will always be visible.

Even if a house is saved before it burns to the ground, there will always be smoke damage. I imagine the smell will linger in parts of the house forever.

But you know what I've noticed with my kids? After the sadness of their broken toy, the devastation that Iron Man’s leg is no longer attached to his body, comes the acceptance of the new way of things. Now their game involves a missile shot from the bad guy’s ship which blew off Iron Man’s leg, but he managed to escape and now he’s in his workshop building himself a robot leg. Or, if there is super glue or duct tape involved, my “surgery” skills are followed closely by a multitude of “thank you, Mommy” and “I’m so glad you could fix him, Mom. You’re the best.”

My kids love that toy more after it’s broken and has been remade than they did before when it was perfect. And they love me more because I was able to give them back their hope in the everlasting survival of IRON MAN!

There is a lesson for me in this…but I have struggled long and I am only beginning to see the first glimpses of what I'm trying to learn.

Is it possible to see beauty in the ugliness? Is it possible that all…even the worst…is GRACE?

I finished reading a book recently that said this very thing. All is grace. Ugly is beautiful.

I cried while I read it. I denied it. I fought against it. Some things are just ugly. Some things are always broken. Ashes…they are always ashes.

And then God reminded me of His promise in Isaiah 61:3 “He will give beauty for ashes…”

I've been thinking about this a LOT, this verse, this seeming exchange of my brokenness for His loveliness. He wants to take away the ashes and give me beauty instead??

Confession: I don’t want that. I don’t want to give up my broken heart. I don’t want to let go of the ashes. The ashes are precious to me. They are a reminder. The pain, the shattered glass…I don’t want to exchange them. They are a part of me now.

So I have turned this verse over in my mind for days, weeks, wondering at it.
And then a new thought entered…the Holy Spirit whispered…and light began to dawn.

HE WILL MAKE MY ASHES BEAUTIFUL.

When the package arrived from Malaysia, and I signed my name to accept it, and I opened the brown wrapping to discover an urn…the weight of my sister’s body reduced to ashes…there was no beauty. Only the ashes were visible. No hope. No life. No gluing anything back together. It was only shattered glass that cut me to the quick with every move. It was all ashes.

But then I sat in our church and watched a video about missions-a slide show of photos taken when 37 members of our congregation went to the Dominican Republic to proclaim the love of Jesus. That trip was a direct result of the story of my sister’s life…and her death. And the Lord spoke to me.

HER ASHES HAVE CREATED BEAUTY.

Because if she hadn't died, no one would have heard the amazing story of her life- a life lived on ‘the cusp of eternity.’ Because, if you boil it all down, those people who accepted Christ in response to ministry done by our church missionaries, those people would still be living in darkness if SHE HADN'T DIED.

The ugly took on a rather beautiful glint as we sang “How Great is Our God.”

He whispers to me in the dark, and I am listening now, straining to understand fully, certain that I never will, but resting today in a new glimmer.

He isn't asking me to give up my hurt, or forget the ashes, or replace the brokenness with something brand new and untried. He isn't asking to make me unbroken like I was before.

He is asking me to let Him shine THROUGH the cracks. He is asking me to breathe in deeply the smell of smoke and ashes, and to remember every single day that HE CAN BUILD THE BUILDING WITH THE RUBBLE. And it will be more of a miracle because it used to be crushed, destroyed, shattered, ashes. Because in so many ways it still is all of those things…and yet He remains faithful, and there is still grace.

When my family gathers, we all have cracks now. We are all shattered. We all smell vaguely of smoke. We all have pain in our joints that’s a reminder of the brokenness.

But we all lift our faces to the light, and HE SHINES THROUGH THE CRACKS. The light shining through the cracks in beautiful. The building built from the ashes is breathtaking.

My words of comfort offered to someone who is still smelling the smoke, and feeling the burn, and struggling to breathe without dying…my words ring more true because I smell the same aroma, and breathing hurts me too, and aloe can’t soothe this burning I feel.

But He is building something out of the ashes. Hope fills the glass that is shattered, and it seeps out, and glues the shattered pieces back to each other. Not the same way they were before. That glass is gone forever. That building has burned to the ground. I will never be good as new again.

But somehow, the ugliness of the scars is beautiful.

The ashes have a remarkably lovely color.

The brokenness is better.

“Out of these ashes beauty will rise. And we will dance among the ruins. We will SEE it with our own eyes.” (song lyrics by Steven Curtis Chapman – Beauty Will Rise album)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Speaker!!!

***I have a friend who's blog I love to read. She is funny, she is real, and she agreed to make a "guest appearance" on my blog. Her name is Jamilla Walker. She is a nurse and a midwife, a lactation coach, and a ROCK STAR mommy. And now, without further ado, I am pleased to give you Mrs. Jamilla Walker!!!***

**Warning, the following post is hilarious, and also full of references to breastfeeding...just FYI!***

I’ve wanted to write about attachment parenting since Time Magazine threw us under the bus with that “Are You Mom Enough?” article on the subject (eye roll).  I’m an attachment parent. Seems that according to the always sensationalizing media – as an attachment parent I must breastfeed with my boob hanging out for all to see as often as possible, sleep curled around my son while ignoring my husband, carry my son constantly and never allow him to cry which will turn him into an indulgent brat who won’t be able to handle the “real world”.  Clearly, I must be one of those granola crunching, tree hugger types that will probably start him on solid foods by pre-chewing it mama-bird style.  Truthfully, I’m a science nerd and I think the science behind physical and psychosocial human development backs attachment parenting.  Plus it’s easy.  So really, I’m just a lazy nerd…
I breastfeed because it’s easy. Now.  At five months.  I’m on a mission to support other moms because getting through the first couple months was downright tortuous. Books (and most breastfeeding advocates) make it sound like it’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world to do.  Right. Because one of the most sensitive parts of the female body LOVES being sucked on for 30 minutes every hour by a tiny little mouth that you’re convinced has sharp retractable teeth.  Every fellow breastfeeding mom I talked to commiserated with me on the toe-curling need to punch something during the initial latching-on by the aforementioned shark.  I had my lactation consultant mother holding the space for me, often hourly reminding me it would get better, would prove worth the effort.  I also had friends who assured me it’s normal, and the routinely made me laugh.  Without that kind of support, we might not have made it.  Now that it has gotten easy, I can’t fathom the work it would take to carry around bottles, formula, extra burp clothes, etc.  I love that all we need is each other and some kind of cover up (which often doubles as a drool catcher).  Plus breastmilk is awesome.  It doubles as a topical antibiotic, protects against all manner of gut bugs by coating his innards with a special kind of sugar that blocks ickies, provides him all the immunity I have, and even protects him against future chronic health problems.  See? I really am a nerd.
On to co-sleeping.  Again, it’s easiest and I like my sleep. Before we tried it, our son slept in fitful two hour increments. I thought I was going to go crazy, and felt terrible for my poor bleary-eyed husband who tried so hard to stay up with us and then go to work all day.  My sweet mother gently suggested we tuck him in to sleep with us and reminded me about side-lying nursing.  The kid slept six hours straight that first night and I cried with relief. (I’m pretty sure my husband did too, but he would never admit it.) We’ve since figured out how to nurse without sitting up, so we rarely spend much time blinking at each other in the middle of the night.  Roll over toward each other, insert boob, nurse for fifteen minutes and drift happily back to sleep.  Life is good.  As a nurse, I know what the hospitals teach about co-sleeping.  But I did my research; there ARE ways to do it safely.  We don’t drink alcohol before bed, we never take anything that causes drowsiness or sedation, we don’t cover G with our blankets (although he likes to scoot down in the bed until he’s under them up to his neck), and he sleeps in between us at the top of the bed.  We also enjoy the side effects of the parenting hormones that help you wake up at the slightest little peep.  It works for us.  Everyone sleeps and we do manage to work in “other” activities.  Let’s just say there are plenty of other places for mommy and daddy time. Wink wink.
Ok so about not letting babies cry. Here’s where a lot of the science comes into play.  Erik Erikson is a well-known and respected psychologist whose theories center on human development.  Anyone who’s ever taken a basic human development course knows of this guy.  From birth to around age two, children are learning about trust – they don’t have the ability to be manipulative.  As newborns, crying is the last thing they do in an effort to get us to give them what they need.  They have body language that says “I’m hungry, I’m wet, I’m tired, I need to be held, I’m hot/cold, I’m bored, etc”.  If we ignore it because we either don’t know what those signs are (as many new parents don’t and spend the first few weeks learning) or are too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed, too whatever to see them, the baby cries -whimpering at first and progressing to a full on purple-faced blood curdling scream (that is often heard at diaper changing time).  So MY version of not letting my kid cry is more about prevention. I try to watch his signs and help him transition from sleep-awake-play-quiet time-sleep.  Of course, there are times where crying is inevitable. I can’t help that he’s bored to tears (literally) in his car seat after about 20 minutes.  We sing, he has hanging toys, he has a blankey, he has the traveling Sleep Sheep and STILL there are times of crying. Now that he’s not a brand newborn, we don’t pull over the car every time this happens, we just get home. He’s fine as soon as the car stops. I don’t let him cry himself to sleep because at this point, it’s unnecessary.  He nurses himself to sleep and we’re all ok with that.  There’s no such thing as “spoiling” an infant with “too much” attention.  Babywearing is along the same lines.  New people need to be held. It makes them feel secure and loved and they are better able to deal with being outside of the womb.  I don’t hold him all the time, if that were the case I’d never shower, eat, blog, etc.  But when the kid’s having a hard day and all he wants is to snuggle me – the ring sling is our best friend. On to my hip he goes, he sticks his thumb in his mouth (yes, I let him suck his thumb, I know he’ll be doing it until he’s 30 for sure), and he’s happy while I cook, clean, vacuum, grocery shop, stand chatting with people, or sometimes just bounce around until he falls asleep. Whining and crying stop and we all preserve our sanity.
Bottom line, what makes us “mom enough” is that we do our own research and make the decision that best fits into our family dynamics.  Regardless of the choice, someone will be judgmental, but their opinion really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we make educated choices based in love.  If everything we do for our kids comes from a place of love, they’ll be just fine. That’s what I choose to believe.  If I’m wrong, my son will have something to tell his therapist when he finds out that not everyone sucks their thumb at 30 years old.

***If you enjoyed this post, here are the links to Jamilla's blogs so you can follow her. The first one is her nursing/labor info blog. GREAT STUFF! The other is her personal blog, where she write about the joys and challenges of motherhood in a wonderfully relatable way!
thelaborlady.blogspot.com
mrsjwalker.blogspot.com

Thanks, Jamilla, for making a guest appearance!!!***

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Friends Forever - the finale!

It’s time for the wrap up!!!! Well…almost. First I have to tell you about one more friend. I have saved the best for last. I will be brief…maybe.
I met Heath in the summer of 1998. I married him in the summer of 1999. Over the last 13 years he has been the constant and the chaos in my life, and both of those have been wonderful. We have lived in 5 homes in 4 states, walked through him going back to school for his bachelor’s and then his masters, me giving birth to our 4 children, both of us losing people we love, and so many dirty socks and budget busting shopping trips that I can’t even count them all. He never, ever yells at me, even when I am yelling at him. (He does, however, have a face that I have dubbed his ‘yelling face’ When he makes that face, I immediately know he is hollering, even though his volume never increases) He tells me I am beautiful every single day. He thinks I am a wonderful cook and he doesn’t care if I am a wonderful housekeeper or not. He laughs at me, he cheers me on, he believes in me.
He is my best friend.
My favorite thing about Heath (besides his beautiful smile and his talent on the piano and his smart mind and his quick wit) is how he is the strong, steady person in every situation. Not just in our marriage, but at his job, and in both our families, and with our kids, and among our friends. He is the steady WITHIN the crazy. He does so many things…SO MANY THINGS…and keeps doing them without getting half the recognition he deserves. You know how there are just some people who keep life moving forward? Heath is one of those people. He won’t tell you that about himself…those people never do. But you just know, if you spend more than 5 minutes talking to him, that Heath can stay calm and take charge even if there is a nuclear crisis. He will know what to do. And if he doesn’t, he will just smile, and remain calm, and tell you it’s all going to be okay. It’s one of my favorite things about him.


What, you may ask, is the point of this whole exercise in friend descriptions???? Well, I promised you there would be a point, and there is. After careful re-reading of these lists, I have put together a snapshot review of my favorite qualities about each. Here they are, in no particular order.
1.      Thoughtful
2.      Joyful
3.      Real
4.      Accepts without judgment
5.      Speaks words of kindness
6.      Strong when I am weak
7.      Takes time to KNOW me
8.      Shows that they love me
9.      Servant-hearted
10.  Loves the Word
11.  Steady
12.  Down to earth
13.  Protective
14.  Giving
15.  Honest
16.  Good listener
17.  Willing to laugh
18.  Open
19.  Courageous
20.  A ROCK
So, take a look, ladies and gentlemen. I am 31 years old, and so far in my life I can boast some pretty remarkable friends. Each of them, at one time or another, has impacted my life greatly. And this isn’t even all my friends!! I am blessed.
What I want you to see, though, isn’t the people I have mentioned, but the QUALITIES about them. When put together in a list like the one above, they make up a pretty good template for the kind of friend I WANT TO BECOME!!!!! No two friends are alike, and I find I love different things about all the fabulous people in my life, but more importantly, I find I want to be more like them!!!! I want to be thoughtful, and giving, and accepting, and strong when a friend is weak, and honest, and REAL, and a good listener, and all the rest!
I look at the friends I have, and I see the friend I want to BE! Here is my challenge to you and to me. Take a look at the people in your life who you treasure. Take note of something you really admire about them, and then ask yourself if you are extending this trait to the rest of the people around you. You LOVE IT about someone, so don’t you want someone to love it about you?
Let’s BE the kind of friends we want to HAVE!!!
 Thanks for sticking with me through this whole mini-series. Its kind and thoughtful of you, so you can check off those friendship trait for the day. :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Friends forever - part three

Okay, we are almost done!!! Just a few more ‘friends’ to mention before the grand finale!!!
This group is the most precious to me, because they are not only my friends, they are also my family. I know that it’s rare for family to also be friends, and I don’t take it for granted how blessed I am.
My parents didn’t always like me, I’m sure. Likewise, I wanted to kill them on a few occasions. But they were intentional about spending time with us when we were young, talking to us, laughing with us, playing games, reading books, watching movies. (none of the movies had curse words in them if Mom was watching…Daddy was a little more relaxed.) I remember I was 17 before I realized that not all parents were like mine…and I was shocked. I then started to really appreciate them, and all the time and energy they had put into developing a relationship with me and my siblings. Now, today, I am so very blessed to say that my parents are my friends. I call my mom almost every day, for one silly thing or another, and we often have lunch together…just because. My dad is still my “go to” guy if I have a medical question, not because he is a doctor, but because I really do think he knows everything. As a kid, I can remember so many times that they prayed for me, laying their hands on me and seeking the Lord on my behalf…and they do it for me as an adult too. I could call them up right now and they would pray. They give me advice, and counsel, and admonish me to walk in the way of righteousness. They are my biggest fans. Even though they have SEEN my worst they still choose to think I am cool. You could argue eloquently to the contrary, but I would still believe I have the most wonderful parents on the planet…so save your breath. The fact that they are also my friends is a bigger blessing than I can explain.
I am pretty sure it is thanks to my wonderful parents that I can also consider my siblings as my friends. They took great care to instill in us this truth; friends come and go, but you will always have your brothers and sisters, so cherish those bonds. Being homeschooled helped, because we spent the whole school year in a ‘classroom’ together. I could spend all day telling you why my siblings are my friends, but I won’t. Just allow me a second to tell you about each one.
Daniel was my first friend in life, because I was only 22 months old when he was born. He was the first ‘man’ I ever walked down an aisle in a wedding dress with (we were 4 and 2) he was my protector (even though he was younger, we were basically the same size until he was round 10, and since then I have always been smaller than him) he was the voice in my head saying “mom and dad will kill you if you do this.” Now our kids are friends, and they play together happily for hours. Occasionally I will catch Daniel’s eye, and we will smile at each other, remembering the years we spent playing together and a few of the times we spent disliking each other (because we are brother and sister, after all) That shared smile communicates we are both grateful our childhood friendship has transformed into camaraderie as adults. When he puts his arm around me now, my ear lays against his heart. He’s really tall, but he’s still my little brother, my very first friend.
Since I was older than all my siblings, it took a while to form ‘friendships’ with my sisters. Joy was 4 years younger than me, Sarah was 6 years younger, and Rachel was 8 years younger. I spent a good deal of my childhood helping them with things, or being annoyed with them for always wanting to be wherever I was. Oh my, how that has changed. Now I WANT to be with them…every day wouldn’t be a stretch. Sisters are the only people who will ACTUALLY tell you when an outfit doesn’t look good on you.
Joy was my roommate my whole life. Sometimes Sarah and Rachel were also in the room with us, but it was ALWAYS me and Joy. We had a queen size bed that we shared. When company came, Joy and I were kicked to the couches. I loved to lie in bed at night and read, sometimes till the wee hours of the morning, and Joy would be snoring softly beside me. She never complained that she had to go to sleep with the light on. Lots of times I would be reading Frank Peretti books, and I would be SCARED. I remember sliding closer to my sleeping LITTLE sister, because if she could sleep peacefully then I probably wasn’t about to be eaten by monsters. She was the best one to call and tell stories about my kids, because she loved my kids so much. She was the sister who was a servant, washing dishes for me, folding laundry, taking the kids for walks. She loved to have deep spiritual discussions and would ask really hard questions just to see what I would say. She was the most fun to say shocking things to, because she never failed to BE shocked. There is a hole in my life where her friendship used to be. I miss her.
For some reason, even though she was 6 years younger than me, Sarah was my confidante. She is the one I told about all my sneaky disobedience. For a long time, she was the only one who knew I had ever kissed a boy. You know what’s funny? She is still the one I tell about stuff. When there is no way I can admit something to ANYONE else, I call Sarah. I have witnessed her doing some of the WILDEST things, and she has seen me doing the same. She laughs at all my attempts to be funny, and I have laughed till I couldn’t breathe at some of her antics. People ask us if we are twins, and I always feel honored when they do.
Rachel is my baby sister. If you have a baby sister…I don’t even need to say anything else, right? Sometimes I scold her for her actions, sometimes I DESPERATERLY want her to think I’m cool instead of old. But most of the time I just want to sit beside her and watch movies and eat twizzlers, or lay out in the back yard in our tube tops and cut off shorts, or go shopping and let her try everything on because nothing ever looks bad on her. When she was little, if she got scared in the night, she would climb in bed with me and I would tell her about the angels we had protecting our house. Now we are friends, and I am so glad.
While I know it’s not that common to be friends with your family, I have another set of people who it’s even more unusual to call friends…my in-laws. I have been a Martin for 13 years now, and I am blessed to consider them friends. Kathy Martin, my mother-in-law, is one of the most wonderful people I know. She gives, and gives, and never stops giving even when she can barely keep her eyes open. She opened her arms to me when she barely knew me, she called me her daughter, and she let me be her friend. We have commiserated about being married to ‘those Martin men’ together, and even though the one I married is her son, she takes my side when he is acting like a dork. She loves me, and I know it. That kind of mother-in-law isn’t rare…she’s PRICELESS. When my sister died, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my kids during the funeral, she is the one who came and helped me. She asked what I needed, I told her, and she came. (All the way from Indiana, a 10 hour drive) Michelle, my sister-in-law, came with her. They cleaned my house while I was gone, they cared for my children when I couldn’t, and they gave me space to all but ignore them, even though they had driven an entire day to get here.  I can’t remember another time when I ever felt so loved by them.
Michelle is the one who I commiserate with about having THREE SONS. She is my ‘nurse on speed dial.’ She laughs with me at the antics of our husbands…or scowls, depending on the situation. Melissa, my other sister-in-law, is the same way. We laugh at ‘the boys’ (our husbands) a lot. She calls me just to chat, and to ask me cooking questions, and to remind me of stuff I would otherwise forget. Spending 13 years becoming a ‘sister’ to these two has been fun, and wild, and worth it. I love them both very much.
Man, I thought this would be a short post, but it is getting long and I still haven’t talked about my favorite things…
My mom has a love of and intimacy with the Word. She instilled in me, just by her actions, the truth that THE WORD OF THE LORD WILL SUSTAIN!! I saw her reading her Bible my whole life. I HEARD her reading it to us. She is my concordance. Who needs ‘Strongs?’ I have Patty Bausum. Its one of my favorite things about her.
My dad thinks he is always right…and he usually is. He is the voice of reason in my head, the calm logic to combat my wild thoughts and emotions. He is ALWAYS willing to let me talkif I need someone to listen. He is steady, he is a ROCK. Its one of my favorite things about him.
Daniel would fight to the death to protect me…literally. I think he grew so tall because he knew he would have to be the protector of FOUR wild sisters. He protected us well when we were young. He would still do it now if we needed him. I KNOW he would take care of me. It’s one of my favorite things about him.
Sarah is wide open, wild, and wonderful. She doesn’t even blink when I spill the ugliest things in my heart. She usually laughs. She is laid back and she is high strung. She is one of my very favorite people, so I can’t think of just one thing I like about her. I like it ALL!!!
Rachel is honest…sometimes to a fault. “Your butt looks as big as Kansas” is a sentence that has actually come out of her mouth. But I love that about her. I KNOW I will get the truth from her. I NEED the truth. She will always tell it like it is, and that’s one of my favorite things about her.
Kathy will do, and has done, anything for me. And she isn’t just like that with me. She will bend over backwards to help EVERYONE she can. It’s just who she is, and it’s one of my favorite things about her.
Michelle can laugh at the craziest of moments. Even when all of our boys are running around screaming, she laughs. She stays relaxed even if the situation calls for CRAZY! It’s one of my favorite things about her.
Melissa is still a kid at heart. Maybe it’s because she stopped growing when she was the size of a 12 years old…I don’t know, but I think it’s so funny. She wears cartoon apparel and brightly colored tennis shoes, she plays video games, she loves Dr. Seuss and Veggie Tales. She is willing to play with kids all day, and she enjoys it. Its one of my favorite things about her.
JOY is my hero. I never knew anyone so brave in all my life. Reading her journals I see she was nervous, and sometimes afraid, and often felt lonely…but she kept on doing God’ work, she kept on walking out His will for her life. I think she still would have gone to Malaysia even if she had known she would die there. She was a regular girl, shy, a homebody, thin and always sneezing…and I wish I could be HALF as brave as her. She just lifted her chin and kept moving forward…right into the presence of Jesus. I’m not surprised she got there first. She always liked blazing the trail. Her courage is one of my favorite things about her.
Alright, those of you who have stuck with me through this series…hang in there!!! The next post will wrap it up, I promise!!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Friends Forever - Part Two


When Heath and I got married (I was 18) and I moved to Indiana, I left all my friends behind in SC. We set up house in a little apartment while we built a beautiful southern style home with a wrap around front porch. Every day Heath would go to work on the house, driving our one and only vehicle, and I would sit in the apartment alone…all day.

Then we moved into the house, and we got a second vehicle, and we had Faith, and life continued to move forward, but I still didn’t have any REAL friends. I had church acquaintances, but no one I could call when I was so mad at Heath that I needed to say a few ugly words, no one who would tell me which pair of jeans made my butt look smaller (I still don’t have anyone to tell me that…because no jeans on this planet can do anything to help), no one to laugh with over the antics of our kids. I can remember crying and praying and asking God to PLEASE give me a best friend, just one, please, please, please. I was so lonely.
And then, after 5 years, the Lord sent me an angel. Her name is Beth Ann Crouse. She had a daughter the exact same age as Faith (they are 2 weeks apart) and she was pregnant with baby number two…as was I!! The girls were fast friends from the start. Faith would ask for Kate before she could even really say “kate.” So we started having play dates and slowly she became the friend I was looking for. When I had a terrible week, she would come over and watch the kids so I could clean my house. When I got a package in the mail that excited me, she jumped up and down too. When I cried, she cried with me, and when I tried to be funny…she always laughed. She is the one who gave me the idea of doing “favorite things” about people, because she did that with me. If I need someone to pray for me, even if I haven’t talked to her in weeks, I can call her. I don’t have to spend time on pleasantries. I can say “I only have 5 minutes, but I am losing it, will you pray for me?” and she will. Every time. She talks quietly, and when she prays she gets even quieter, so I usually have to hide in my closet to be able to hear her prayers…but even if I can’t, just knowing she is praying sooths my heart. We both have 4 kids now, and she lives MANY states away…but I called her up to pray for me in a crisis just a few weeks ago. Faith still has a picture of Kate on her dresser. I prayed a long time for a true friend in Indiana…and it was worth the wait.

I met Rachel Culver when we did a SHORT stint in Georgia for Heath’s job. She became my friend in a very unexpected way. One day I was feeling especially cooped up in the house with the kids, and so we loaded into the car and went to the park. My daughter, being the outgoing child that she is, struck up a conversation with a little girl she met on the swings, and the girls decided they should be friends…and so Faith dragged me to meet Adison’s mom. Isn’t it funny how the Lord is working even when it seems like a regular day? We only lived in Georgia for 10 months, but Rachel and I seemed to have a friendship on ‘fast-forward.’ We became close quickly. She brought me a care package when I had the flu (she left it on the steps and called me to tell me she’d brought it, but still…friendship only goes so far, right?) we did ‘school’ with our kids together, we laughed…oh my how we laughed. I think I have laughed harder with her than with any other friend I can think of…and that’s saying something, because I laugh a lot with all my friends.

Ellie Strenk started out as a leader in the Bible study I began attending 2 weeks after my sister died. She called me to introduce herself…and she got more than she bargained for. She never complained about having to listen to my sobbing story about why I was such a mess every week. She THANKED me for sharing with her. I thought “wow, she is too good to be true.” Over the last almost 2 years I have come to realize that she is a regular girl, and I still think she’s wonderful. Gabe has clogged up her toilet with too much toilet paper, she has given her kid a bath because of an accident at my house, we have shared a glass of wine at 3 in the afternoon thanks to a stressful phone call, we have been on our knees together, we have been rolling with laughter together. When Ellie first agreed to come over for a play date, I am pretty sure she did it because I was in her study group, and it’s the obligation of the leader to get to know all the gals. But now she is my dear friend. She offered to keep my kids for a WEEK if I wanted to go on a missions trip…I’m pretty sure leader courtesy doesn’t extend that far.

Sarah Stahl…J She’s another gal l am pretty sure agreed to hang out with me because of her role as a leader. She is the wife of our pastor. She has 4 kids too, and we were pregnant with our 4th at the same time. (She was much more adorable pregnant, which almost made me not want to be friends with her.) She brought me supper when Gabe was born, she offered to keep the other kids, even with her BUSY life. We meet at the park for play dates (better known as ‘home school moms VENT day’) and whenever I need to say something slightly inappropriate…she is the one I text. I am pretty sure she deletes all our text conversations after we have them, because if anyone else in the church picked up her phone they would be shocked and horrified. For some reason (and I don’t know what the reason is) she just laughs at all my antics. She is the ‘good girl’ pastor’s kid, and I am the ‘wild child’ pastor’s kid…and somehow we are friends.

Okay, so this is once again NOT all inclusive, but just a snapshot overview of my adult friends. Here is my favorite thing about each:

Beth Ann: she is really good at encouraging words (duh, she is the one who first introduced me to the ‘favorite thing’ game) She tells me she loves me, she tells me she thinks I’m funny. She gives affirmation better than almost anyone else I know. I feel GOOD about myself when I am around her, and that is because she lets me know that I am important to her. And she isn’t just like that with me. She’s that way with everyone. It makes her someone everyone wants to be friends with…and somehow she still likes to hang out with me. (I feel special) Her gift of kindness through her words is one of my favorite things about her.

Rachel Culver calls me to tell me funny things. Once she called me because she was laughing REALLY HARD and she had to share the story. She told me “If you don’t think this is as funny as I do, lie, okay? Because I need someone to laugh really hard.” But I always think she’s funny. I can FEEL her joy, in the Lord, in her family, in her life, and it’s CONTAGIOUS! It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Ellie Strenk is ridiculously beautiful, and amazingly down to earth at the same time. She is willing to show up at my house at 1 p.m. and inform me that she hasn’t fed her kids lunch yet and needs to borrow some bread…and peanut butter…and jelly…and chips and fruit. She LIKES that my house is messy when she comes over. She says it makes her feel at home. She sees each play date disaster as growth in our friendship. She cherishes the things about people that seem like flaws. She sees them as rare, and precious. She makes everyone around her feel at ease, because she accepts them without judgment, and is willing for the REAL side of her to be seen. It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Sarah Stahl is sassy and tough…and TINY. You don’t expect someone who is 5 feet tall and weighs 91 pounds to be able to hold her own…but she can. She has 4 kids, and she keeps them in line. Her husband is a little on the wild side (like me) and somehow she just rolls with it, looking fabulous and at ease, even though I know she hasn’t sat down for more than 5 minutes all day and probably still has hours of stuff left to get done after she puts the kids to bed. When we first became friends I wasn’t sure I could ever be my real self with her, because she was either 1) as fragile as she looked or 2) so conservative she would judge me for my um…outgoing side. I have come to realize she in very gracious, very caring and thoughtful, very sweet and loving…and can also give as good as she gets. Somehow in her busy life, she made space for me. I know it’s a stretch for her day to hang out with me sometimes, but she still does it. She’s very giving, she’s a servant, and she is a strong shoulder I can lean on…not literally, because I would crush her. She continues to accept me even when I am the WORST version of myself. It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Okay, I have several other friends who are new, who I am just beginning to form those lasting bonds with. It seems after 5 years of NO friends when I first got married, and only one for a long time, that the Lord is now blessing me with more friends than I could have imagined. Dana Howerton, Brandy Collins, Christy Meindel, Lindsay Kidd, I love you all. I am grateful for you.

I have one more list of friends to share with you before the grand finale that will have a point, I PROMISE!!!!

LOOK FOR PART THREE SOON!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Friends Forever - Part One

Today we went to the zoo with some friends. As we were leaving after 5 hours of sweating and walking, the kids began to beg to play together…as if we hadn’t just spent the ENTIRE day with them.
On the way home, I got a text from the mother of my daughter’s best friend, asking if the girls could play, even though it would only be for a short while. Thinking she may be too tired from a whole day at the zoo, I asked Faith if she wanted to play, or wait till tomorrow. “After all, you saw her yesterday, Faith.”
What was her response? “No Mom! I want to play.”
It takes almost an hour to get home from the zoo, and as I drove and the kids napped in the blasting AC, I began to think about friends, and what a blessing they are, and how rare it is to find good friends, and how blessed I have been by so many wonderful friends in my life.
(Insert the music from the famous and altogether cheesy Michael W. Smith song here.)
So, I have decided to reminisce about my friends.  It’s gonna take a while, and it’s not going to be an all inclusive reminiscing. If you’re wondering why you should read through this list…well, you don’t have to. But there will be a point at the end. I promise. J
I’m gonna start with the friends I have had the longest. You know who I mean, right? We all have those friends. You start out in the nursery at church together, or somewhere like that, and somehow your lives just sort of MESH. Over the years your families become friends, and you grow up, and life brings changes and separations, but they are still your friends. They are safe places for you, because they have seen ALL of your bad hair choices and they still love you.
Heather and Ashley House have been my friends since Heather and I were 2, and Ashley and my brother were babies. They are those family friends that basically BECOME family after a while. We saw each other only a couple times a year growing up, because we lived several states apart, but picking up and being friends was always easy. As kids we played together, as adults we have laughed together until our stomachs hurt. And we have wept together until we had no more tears; we are basically family after all, and so when the Bausum’s lost Joy, the Houses lost her too. They are a safe place for my pain, because they feel it too. I cherish them so very much.
My cousin Kristina was another one of those friends that I only saw a few times a year, but when we were together, we were inseparable. She was the one who would go hiking in the woods with me, and have a campout on the trampoline, and race UP the DOWN escalator in the mall with me. She was my spades partner, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding, she isn’t just my cousin. She is my dear friend. Hanging out with her is so wonderful because her accent makes mine seem very unnoticeable. J
Tara Trotter was the first friend I made when my family moved to SC. She has been my friend since I was 9 years old. Talk about seeing all each other’s BAD HAIR choices!!! J We survived feathered bangs together!!! And tube socks, and stirrup pants. We made up dances to songs by our favorite artists (Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, Carmen…I can even remember some of the moves, Tara! I feel a dance party coming on!) She may be the only long time friend I have never had an ACTUAL fight with…although that is DEFINITELY not because of me. She has always been kind to me, even when I was crazy! When we first became friends my mom told me “Tara can be a wonderful friend for you. I just know it.” Tara and I haven’t seen each other in almost 2 years, but when I think about her, my heart feels safe. That’s just the kind of friend she is. My mom was not wrong.
Jamie Setzer was my high school Siamese twin. She knows ALL my secrets (and why does it seem like the most important secrets are your high school ones?), all the MANY boys I had crushes on, and all the right responses to all of my moods. She will laugh with me, cry with me, fuss at me, or sympathize with me. She knows the right thing to say or do, because she has been my friend for a LONG time, through a LOT of life. Heart ache shared with a friend makes the friendship stronger, and Jamie and I have shared a LOT of heartache. Breakups, fights, moves…all while we were still young. And as adults we have shared even more pain. She lost her daughter Melody. I will never forget the look in her eyes at the graveside service. She just looked at me, and I couldn’t say anything to ease her pain. I remember reaching out to touch her cheek, wanting to lend her my heart for just one second, to take from her the agony she felt and give her a moment to breathe. I remember that she put her head on my shoulder and cried. And when Joy died, and my agony felt so altogether consuming, I saw her face walking into the church. It was just like it had been at Melody’s grave. Our eyes held, and we swapped hearts for a second. She took my pain and lent me her love. What a special blessing to be so knit together that we can share each other’s hearts, thoughts, failures and triumphs.
Okay, that’s all for round one. As I said, this isn’t a COMPLETE list of my childhood friends. I am just wanting to give honor to a few that have been on my heart lately. Each mentioned friend in a sister in my heart. Each one is totally different from the others, and each one has tons of FABULOUS things about them. But I have a ‘FAVORITE’ thing about each of them. Would you like to hear it? It will be important later.
Heather always texts me on days when I am sad. I don’t know how she knows, but she does. She tells me she’s thinking about me. She tells me she’s there if I need her. She tells me she’s praying for me and loves me. She’s very thoughtful. It’s one of my favorite things about her.
Ashley makes me laugh all the time. And she lets me be CRAZY and doesn’t judge me. In fact, she may JOIN my craziness. She accepts me, and I feel safe being all the icky parts of me with her. It’s one of my favorite things about her.
Kristina is tough as nails. Nothing is too hard for her to at least attempt. And yet, she’s ridiculously down to earth. She doesn’t walk around wearing a cape and letting everyone know she’s ‘Super Woman.’ She just smiles, sings, laughs, and loves. It’s one of my favorite things about her.
Tara laughs at everything I say, even if it’s only sort of funny. Yes, I know that’s a really selfish thing to like about someone, but it’s not only that she laughs at me. She makes me feel important, and valued, and worth her time. I can tell she likes being with me. That’s a wonderful quality in a friend. It’s one of my favorite things about her.
Jamie can read my mind. (yep, that’s another selfish one) Even if it’s been ages since we talked, we can have a conversation where each of us only half finishes sentences, because the other one already knows the end. It’s such a relief to have someone who has taken the time to KNOW your heart, and loves you even more after all the crazy dust of youth calms. She KNOWS me, and I know her. It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Part Two coming soon!!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

...shop till you drop...

So I woke up craving a good old fashioned shopping trip. You know what I’m talking about. Where there is nothing specific you need to get, but the urge to walk through stores touching items you think are cute or crinkling your nose at things that are hideous must be answered.
I called my sister, because no one wants to shop alone, especially when it’s the unnecessary kind of shopping. “Come shop with me!” I said.
She was hesitant. “I don’t have anyone to watch my kids. Do you have a sitter?”
“No,” I responded. “But I’m feeling spunky and optimistic. It’ll be fun, and the kids will be fine.”
She gave in because (I have been told) I am the kind of person who can pressure/steam roll someone into just about anything. We chose a time and place to meet, promised all our kids we would get ice cream as long as they behaved themselves…and so began the nightmare.
It started off fine; lunch at a drive through, two quick stops, then meeting up with my sister and her three kids in front of our first store. We loaded our littlest kids into their strollers and headed inside, still feeling spunky and excited.
I don’t know what it is about clothing stores that brings out the worst in my boys. Maybe it’s all the girly shirts and dresses and jewelry and perfume. Maybe its knowing there is nothing acceptable to shoot with or jump off of in the entire store. Maybe there is some chemical used in the making of women’s clothing that causes little boys to turn into werewolves.
They were tossing shoes at each other; their baby brother’s shoes. And said brother was screaming because they took his shoes off. Then a shoe missed its intended target and smacked their baby cousin in the face, and she started screaming. My sister missed all this because she had walked around the corner with her other daughter looking for a bathroom…because that daughter was about to pee her pants.
There was no bathroom in this store, though, so my sister instructed the daughter to “hold it” and we tromped into the two handicapped changing stalls at opposite ends of the dressing room. Clay and Nate were banished to opposite corners of our stall, and Faith was in charge of taking shirts from my stall to my sister’s when I thought the item would look better on her, and bringing things to me that she thought I should try.
It was calm for maybe 25 seconds…then I smelled something.
I knew right away who it was, because he had that “uh oh” look on his face.
“Did you pass gas or have an accident?” I whispered. And you have to whisper in dressing rooms, because the sound carries out into the whole store if you talk in a normal voice.
He didn’t answer and my stomach sank into my shoes. I didn’t have any clean clothes for him.
“Faith, walk down to Aunt Sarah’s room and ask her, quietly, if she has a plastic bag,” I instructed.
I used half the wipes in my bag to get the almost-mess under control. He was complaining that his underwear were wet. My mouth hit the floor.
“Are you kidding me?” I whispered. “At least they are clean. Wet is way better than it could be, Nate.”
About the time I was starting to panic about what to do with the giant pile of wipes I had sitting next to me, Faith returned with a bag from Sarah. Thank God for prepared sisters!
We still managed to find a couple things we liked and exited the dressing rooms to check out. Every other woman in the store was cutting her eyes in our direction. I don’t know if I was just super frazzled at that point, but I am convinced none of the looks were friendly.
Why do people have to give two women with SEVEN children judgmental looks??? Do they think it helps? Are they really THAT sure that they could do better in a women’s clothing store with 4 boys and 3 girls ages 10 and under???? Maybe they could smell the pile of wipes I had in the bag in my purse, but still…the polite thing to do is smile, then look away. Staring doesn’t make anything better, people. Yes, we are a circus. Yes, every child is causing trouble of some sort. Yes, there is a questionable smell coming from the bottom of my stroller. Yes, we were dumb enough to think this was a good idea. BUT GIVE US A BREAK, OKAY????
We made it out of that store and immediately opted NOT to go to the other women’s clothing store we were planning to hit. Instead we went to a children’s clothing store.
Children’s clothes must not be treated with the same chemicals as women’s because the boys were remarkably subdued in the second store.
But then the kid with the wet-but-clean underwear on informed me (loudly) that he needed to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW!!!!
In desperation, (I didn’t have enough wipes left for another accident) I asked if we could use the store bathroom, and the kind lady agreed. She is used to kids in her store, obviously, because there were no judgmental looks.
By the time we got to the bathroom…the underwear couldn’t be cleaned up again. So, I unknotted the bag full of wipes from the previous store (yes, I still had it in my purse. I forgot to throw it away, okay??? No judgmental looks, I was barely hanging onto my sanity) tossed the Spider Man underwear into the bag, re-knotted the bag, and threw it in the trash.
“But now I have no underwear!” Nate cried.
“Tough,” I responded compassionately. “Put your shorts back on, you’re going commando.”
He spent the rest of the day picking out the wedgy his shorts gave him.
By the time we left the second store, the kids had been told that they weren’t getting ice cream.
“NO WAY!!” I said forcefully. “ Y’all have not behaved at all!” Shocked tears began.
We stopped on the sidewalk because Gabe and Joy Ellen needed their diapers changed. Yes, in case you are wondering, I think the sidewalk is a fine place to change a diaper.
Then Sarah decided to get a pair of shoes for Samuel that she had seen as we were walking out of the last store…and she took him back in to try them on, leaving me outside with the other SIX kids.
There was a game of tag, several smacks on naughty butts, two rolled up diapers, continued tears because of the loss of ice cream, 3 shirt changes because the boys HAD to wear the “Avengers” t-shirts I bought them, one earring swap because Faith really wanted to put on the new feather earrings she had gotten, a pair of shoes that SQUEAKED every time Joy Ellen took a step…I can’t even begin to describe the looks I got during the ten minutes we sat there. And you don't want to know about the look I gave Sarah when she finally emerged from the store.
She laughed at me.
Finally we were moving again. My sister and I looked at each other.
“Well,” I said. “I don’t care how bad the kids have been. I want ice cream.”
This was met with cheers and laughter, even though we didn't say we were getting THEM anything.
“Let’s get milkshakes at Chic-Fil-A” Sarah suggested. “The kids can play on the play place and we can rest for a minute.”
When we got to our vehicles, there was major commotion about which kids were riding where, since we were just going around the corner. We loaded our strollers in the backs and closed all the car doors.
“Man, I am sweating!” Sarah yelled.
“I have four kids in my car. Do you have three?” I yelled back.
“Yep!” she said. “Why is Gabe crying?”
“He wants his drink. Here, catch!” I tossed the cup across our two vehicles, she caught it, and we were off to play on the play place.
…it was closed for remodeling.
SERIOUSLY?????????
We stared at each other, we stared at our once-more crying children…and we gave in and bought them ice cream. A vanilla cone for each of them, and a LARGE chocolate milkshake for us to share.
“I don’t have a bib for Gabe,” I complained as he attacked his cone. And I didn’t have many wipes left, thanks to…well, you remember.
“I have a disposable toilet seat cover you can hang around his neck,” Sarah offered. OMG.
In the end I tucked a napkin into the neck of his shirt. By the time he was finished he had accidently eaten some of the napkin with his ice cream…

There is no point to this story. There is, however, a happy ending.
Not for me, not for my sister, not for our kids…but for our husbands.
The happy ending is this: However spunky we may feel, however much we may want to hang out with each other, there is very little chance we will go shopping again with our kids…ever. And we always have our kids with us. So there is a happy ending for our bank accounts too.
I am seriously starting to wonder if our husbands put the kids up to their antics today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

...In Comparison...

I can’t go through a single day, sometimes even a single hour, without comparing something about myself or my life to something about someone else’s. I imagine, especially if you are a girl, that you do it too. We can’t seem to help ourselves.
One of my best friends has 4 kids just like me…but she only weighs 90 pounds. I would have to be BLIND not to compare myself to her when we hang out.
I have another friend whose house is always IMMACULATE…and mine NEVER is, even at the end of cleaning day…even 10 minutes after I finish cleaning.
That van is nicer than mine.
My yard has better landscaping than theirs.
My kids are cuter than anyone else’s.
My kids are CRAZIER than anyone else’s.
That shirt looks awesome on her.
The same shirt looks like CRAP on me.
What are they complaining about? If their life was half as nuts as mine, then they could complain. But they have it EASY compared to me!
I can’t imagine how they are still coping. Compared to them I have a charmed life. I shouldn’t be complaining, or worrying, or stressing, because my stuff is small compared to theirs.
This could go on forever. Surely you know what I mean. We all do it. We mentally measure ourselves against someone else, and we either come up short or we win…in our mental measuring contest, that is. But who is keeping track of who wins? Who started this measuring game anyway? Who is the judge?
Yes, they drive a nicer van than me…but mine is paid off, and since theirs is brand new, I’m betting they are still paying for it every month.
Yes, my yard has beautiful flowers and lovely trees, but I bet they don’t have to spend HOURS working in their yard every weekend. They probably get to go out on dates instead.
Yes, I have the world’s most adorable children…but you do too, am I right?
Yes, my friend only weighs 90 pounds after four children, and I weigh…well, more than that. BUT…………….yeah, I’ve got nothin’. In this instance in my mental measurement…she always wins.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we do this comparing thing. I have hung out with some really wonderful single gals lately, and they all, at one time or another, have expressed sadness that they aren’t married. They want to find someone to love, and they want to have families. I remember feeling that way. I remember thinking that compared to that person with that life, I didn’t measure up.
BUT- there are days when having a husband has a downside. Usually its laundry day when I do 4 loads of just mine and my husband’s clothes, and when they are folded I realize I had FIVE articles of clothing in FOUR loads of laundry. Man would it ever be nice to do 2 loads of laundry A WEEK like I did when I was single, instead of the two loads per DAY  that accumulate now.
There are days when having four small kids has a downside. Like when I am CRAVING an afternoon at the mall…or I am desperate for another hour of sleep…or I really want to go to the bathroom ALONE.
The Lord has been speaking to my heart lately, subtly, whispering words that I have been having trouble hearing clearly. This comparison thing keeps spinning around in my spirit until I am DIZZY trying to grab hold of it and hear what He’s telling me. Today, I hope, the merry-go-round has slowed in my heart long enough for me to share what the Lord has been trying to say to me. Bear with me as I write while still spiritually whirling.
I am confident that if you are reading this you are familiar with the story of my sister, Joy, who died nearly 2 years ago. I have written about her, I have talked about her…probably more than most of you care to hear. I am not about to act like losing her isn’t the single hardest thing I have ever been faced with in my life. BUT compared to some of the stories of people I know, or have heard about, my loss is SMALL. And if those people can get up and go on with their lives, I can too. I should get over it, and move on, because I lose when I measure my pain against theirs.
But it doesn’t FEEL small. It feels like a grenade exploded in the MIDDLE of my family, leaving a gaping hole that is IMPOSSIBLE to patch. I compare my pain, my loss, to those of other people, and I know that it is small, I know that it isn’t the worst it could EVER be…but it still hurts. My heart doesn’t care that it loses in my mental measurement contest.
BUT WHY AM I MEASURING?????? That’s what the Lord keeps asking me. WHY am I holding my life, my feelings, my jeans size, my failures and successes, up against anyone else’s???
Who says a nicer van is NICER??? Who says it’s better to have a spotless house than a messy one? Who says it’s better to be married than single? Who says having kids is better than not having kids? Who says making more money is better? Who says being depressed is easier to deal with than burying a loved one? Who says burying a sibling is harder than having your heart broken???
WHO SAYS?????? WHO IS KEEPING TRACK? WHO IS MEASURING?
Sometimes I bring my sadness, my anger, my fear, my…you fill in the blank…to the Lord, and I start by apologizing. “Lord, I know that you gave me these kids, and I thank you for them…but I WANT TO KILL THEM!” “Lord, I know that I have a good life, that You provide for me, and take care of me, and are with me…but I am depressed. I am stressed out. I am overwhelmed.” “God, I know it could be worse, I know there are lots of people out there who have it harder than me, BUT…”
Did the Lord ever ask me to compare myself to anyone else before bringing my pain to Him? Does He say anywhere in His word that “He is with those who have the hardest earthly lives.” ??? Well? Does He say that? Does He look down at my heart and your heart, and say “Well, she has four kids, and a messy house, and a beat up van, but her yard is nice. And SHE has a nice car, only two kids and a clean house, but her yard could use some work. Hmmm….who has a harder day? Who needs me to comfort them more? Who has suffered enough and deserves me to help them?”
NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Here’s what the WORD says. (Isaiah 43:2)
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” (depression, grief, a breakup, loneliness, waiting…and waiting…and waiting)
“When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” (DIFFICULTY!!!!! I have difficulty zipping some of my pants! But praise the Lord, it won’t cause me to drown!! ;) )
“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and the flames will not consume you.”
It doesn’t say what the fire is, or how big or small the blaze may be. God is not comparing! He says, “If you are struggling, I am here. WHEN you are going through something difficult, it won’t cause you to drown! When the flames come, when you are walking through the painful, burning, searing seasons of life…you won’t be consumed!”
That’s it. Period. No comparison. No judgment. No pep talk about how much harder it could be. No berating you about how much better off you would be if you would avoid the deep waters altogether. (because, let’s face it, sometimes our deep waters are our own fault…I know the hard to zip jeans are a direct result of my love for Snickers bars) He brings out the aloe plant and starts soothing our pain, no questions asked.
Our Savior, our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace…He hears our cries, He sees our pain, and that’s all He cares about! He comes running because you are hurting, not because your pain is worse than anyone else’s.
Resolution: I am going to STOP comparing myself to my adorable, TINY friend (because it’s not keeping me from eating the snickers bar, it’s just making me depressed after I eat it) I am going to enjoy my van because it gets me from here to there in comfort if not style. I am going to let me house be a LITTLE bit messier, because that’s happening whether I LET it or not, I am going to stop comparing my children’s behavior to any other kids.
I am going to choose to live this day, this life, these circumstances, with a new thought in my heart. “What can I learn about the Lord while I’m in this waiting pattern?” “What can I teach my kids about the Lord through this pain?” “How can I bring glory to THE LORD in this situation?”
The Lord doesn’t compare me to anyone else. He wants me to serve Him, and praise Him, and love Him, and follow Him, and lean on Him, and run to Him, and let Him shelter me (Psalm 91). Single or married, skinny or not, depressed or filled with joy, unemployed or vice president…stop comparing your life to someone else’s. Stop wishing you were in a different place, stop striving to get to whatever comes next, or wishing to go back to what was before.
JUST LIVE THIS DAY FOR HIS GLORY! HE IS WITH YOU WHERE YOU ARE! And there is NOTHING else that can compare to that!
“For I have learned in whatever circumstances…therein to be content.” Philippians 4:11b