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 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.
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???
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