Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spain



We're moving to Spain.

There.  I said it.  Not that saying it means that I actually believe it.  Because it doesn't. 

The whole thing seems so weird and surreal.  Spain?  Really?  Ray and I talked a lot about moving to Germany someday since he spent time there as a child.  We even talked a bit about Italy.  But Spain?  Never. 

The news of orders was unexpected for me and shook me to the core.  My biggest fear was seeing the word "Korea" because that would have meant a year apart from my best friend.  A year of being a single mom.  A year of sleeping alone.

So when I heard the word "Spain", I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  It's not Korea!

But reality is starting to set in.  Spain.  SPAIN.  As in a 17+ hour flight with five children.  As in bedrroms too small for our king size bed.  As in streets too narrow to fit our 12 passenger van.  As in people who speak Spanish.  As in a 7 hour time difference from my parents.  As in packing and passports and doctor's appointments and and and...

Do not be anxious about anything...

God has something amazing waiting for our family in Rota, Spain.  And while I'm terrified beyond words, I am so excited.  It is going to be an amazing adventure for our little family of seven.

That said, I have some prayer requests that I wanted to share.  Some are small things, but all are important to me.

1.  A two story house.  This seems so silly, but the children have their hearts set on having an upstairs and a downstairs. 

2.  Friends for the children.  Drew especially could really use a friend.  He's been praying specifically that God would give him a friend.  I'm praying that God has a little boy in Spain who needs a buddy just like Drew.

3.  Preparations.  Obviously there is a lot to be done.  Five months may seem like a long time, but it's not.  There is a lot of things to wrap up here, and so much to do.  I have never even been overseas (let alone moved there), so this is all brand new for me.  Very overwhelming.

4.  Our families.  Please pray for our extended families.  While they are all so happy that our family will get to stay intact, I know they are all a bit sad that we are moving so far away.  It will make visits few and far between, and that will be so difficult.  Please pray for peace for everyone involved.

5.  Our van.  One of my biggest concerns at the moment is what to do about our big van.  The streets in Spain are narrow and parking is tight.  Our van just isn't going to fit.  Please pray for a workable solution and for wisdom as we make decisions about these sorts of things.

Thank you for letting me ramble and for praying for our family!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Blood

There is blood on my hands.  Under my fingernails, in the crevices of my knuckles, deep in the prints of my fingers...  The sight of it makes my stomach turn, and I anxiously turn on the water and start scrubbing. 

It won't come off.

I add several squirts of soap, and I rub my hands together a bit harder.  Most of the red rinses down the drain, but some remains.  I keep my hands under the hot water, and I close my eyes. 

For a moment I can imagine the BANG BANG BANG as the nails plunged through His hands and into the wood.  And I realize that I am holding the hammer.  His blood is on my hands.

Tomorrow we celebrate Passover.  This is a brand new tradition for our family.  We will read about the Israelites who put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts, and we will celebrate the Lamb of God who willingly shed His blood so that judgment will pass over those who believe in Him. 

Redeemed.  Purchased.  Covered.  Restored.

By His blood.  His precious blood.

This blood that stains my hands tonight comes from a lamb.  Not a spotless lamb, but a simple lamb that I found in the meat section at Walmart.  A lamb that will be our dinner tomorrow night, and will remind us of the incredible sacrifice of grace that was made on our behalf. 

I didn't expect the symbolism to affect me so deeply.  I didn't expect to cry while cutting up the lamb.  I didn't expect my heart to feel anxious and guilty as I tried desperately to scrub the blood off of my hands. 

My Jesus, my Savior...  His love is overwhelming to me.   And the blood on my hands?  Gone.  For he has washed me and made me whiter than snow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lost and Found

I notice her right away.  She is clutching a toy under her arm, and has a look of confusion on her face.  I approach her slowly and carefully.  "Do you know where your mommy is?"  She looks up at me with wide brown eyes and shakes her head "no."  I glance around hoping to see the adult in question, but nobody is nearby.  I kneel down and ask her if I can help her find her mom.  She nods and follows me through the aisles.  I ask her what her name is and how old she is, but she just shrugs her shoulders and clutches her toy more tightly.

I imagine her mother frantically searching the store for her beautiful little girl.  I walk a little more quickly, and find a manager who can page the parents.  After finding someone who can help, I reluctantly walk away.  I feel so helpless, so I walk quickly through the store in search of the parents.

I spot them easily.  I recognize the look on their faces.  They look exactly how I imagine I would feel if it was one of my little ones missing.  I approach them swiftly and tell them where I left their daughter.  They don't utter any words of thanks, but take off across the store to reunite with their princess.

A few minutes later, we cross paths again.  This time the family is intact and the mother rushes to me to shake my hand and offer unnecessary gratitude.  With tears in her eyes she thanks me for helping her daughter.  What once was lost, was found.  I tell her of my five little ones at home, and how mine like to wander off, and I try to make her feel normal instead of terrible. 

I wander the aisles thinking about what just transpired.  The look on those parents' face haunts my thoughts.  The fear that they felt was overwhelmingly apparent in the lines of their face, and the relief and love that washed over them after they found their daughter was so emotional to watch.

I can't help but wonder how my God feels when I wander away from Him.  I imagine His sadness, and the relief that washes over Him when I finally come back home.  I imagine the joy on His face as I take His hand and follow Him.

My Abba.  My Daddy.  My Heavenly Father who loves me so much and wants me to stay with Him on the narrow path.  But oh how often I choose to go chasing after the toys on the wide path, wandering away from my Daddy.  And then I roam around with a toy clutched tightly under my arm, wondering why I feel all alone.

The good part though, is that unlike the family at the store, my God doesn't lose me.  He sees me and knows right where I am all the time.  He isn't lost.  I am.  


It's so beautiful.  All I have to do is cry out "Abba!" and He is right there to scoop me up, hold me tight, and help me let go of my toys.  What an incredible Dad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Invisible

I feel invisible.  My smiles are met with blank stares.  My efforts at kindness are visibly ignored.  I turn away so that my tears won't be noticed.  I wonder why I continue to be rejected.  I wonder what I am doing wrong.  Is there something wrong with me? 

I contemplate giving up.  I can't help but think that maybe my energy is being wasted by even trying when time and time again I am overlooked.  I feel so small.

I don't want attention.  I don't want praise and admiration.  I just long to be noticed.  I long to be received.

I try to bear in mind that I'm accepted by the One who matters most.  I remind myself that He remembers even the birds, and that I am more valuable to Him than many sparrows

But my tears soak my pillow.  My stomach turns when I think about facing the dismissal time and time again. 

The Bible says to think on things that are true.  So instead of dwelling on my feelings, I must make an active choice to remember His promises.  To remember who I am to Him

Other people may not know me or care to get to know me.  Other people may not notice me or the efforts I make to be a friend.  But my God? 

My God knows me.
My God understands me. 
My God studies me.
My God rejoices over me.
My God takes great delight in me.

What more could I ever need?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mom's Hands

I love my mom's hands. As a kid I'd sit in church, bored by the sermon, and I'd play with her hands. She had blue veins that stuck out on top, and I'd smoosh them around and poke them. I loved that squishy spot between her thumb and first finger, and would squeeze it and revel in it's strangeness.

Her fingers were often stained red, blue, green, purple from food coloring. She was a cake decorator, and our home was always filled with sweet confections that we weren't allowed to touch. Once in a while she would let us lick the beater, and if we were really lucky she would squirt a little frosting on the back of our hands. Sometimes she would make a flower or write our names and sometimes it would just be a quick blob. Didn't matter. We'd lick the frosting off of our hands, and enjoy it's sugary goodness.

Not only did mom have rainbow colored hands, but she had the most beautiful rings. I can remember playing with her rings and dreaming of the day when a prince would put a ring on my finger. I wanted one just like my mom's. And on that hot day in August, surrounded by fish and family and other random people, with my prince down on one knee, my hands became a little more like my mom's.


My mom used her hands to tell stories, and teach us the motions to countless songs. When I was in high school she learned to do puppets, and at our wedding reception her hand made a puppet talk to me and my new groom.

My mom has the best hands. Hands full of love and experience. Hands that held me and disciplined me and entertained me and made me laugh.  I love my mom and I love her hands.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Church Hurt

Three years ago, God kicked our family out of a Baptist church.  And I'm not talking a soft gentle kick.  I'm talking a steel-toed boot kick that came completely out of the blue.  One minute everything was fine and wonderful, and the next minute we were being escorted to our car by the deacons.

Two days after being kicked out...
It's a pretty unbelievable situation.  When we tell people that we were kicked out of a church, there is almost always a look of shock on their face, and then you can see the questions in their eyes.  But most people won't ask why.  I think that people are afraid of the answer.  I mean, if someone is actually kicked out of a church, it must be because they murdered or stole from the offering or slept with the pastor or something equally as scandalous.  We didn't do any of those things.  It was as confusing to us as it is to everyone else.

I remember driving home that night.  The tires crunched on the gravel and the car was silent.  The kids (we had three at the time) didn't know what was going on, but I think somehow they knew to be quiet (or maybe I just didn't notice them).  Ray and I didn't speak until after we were out of the parking lot.  And then my tears started.  The gasping, aching, wrenching tears.  The tears of disbelief and confusion and anger and sorrow.

The church, afterall, was our family.  We had loved and invested in these people who had just spewed hate and accusation at us.  And the next few days would prove to be even more difficult as people we loved rejected our phone calls and cut off all communication with us.

Ray made us go to Wednesday night church just three days later.  I didn't want to go at all, and I rebelled by wearing a messy ponytail and refusing to dress up.  I remember nothing about that service.  I don't remember the people or the message or the music or anything.  I was angry at God, and I probably sat with a chip on my shoulder refusing to take part in the service.

God had such an incredible plan for our family.  The three years since that life-altering meeting have held a lot of change for us.  We've added two kids, attended and left another church, and by the grace of God our marriage has been completely transformed.  God has brought us full circle.  Instead of sitting with a chip on my shoulder, on Sunday I was blessed to sit in that same room listening to my husband teach the Word of God to a room full of friends.  Our new family.

Even after 3 years, though, my heart still aches a little when I think about the whole thing.  I still get shaky and sweaty when I run into someone from our old church at the grocery store.  I still have major trust issues when it comes to church leadership.  I often wonder how our old friends are, and if they ever think about us.

It doesn't matter though.

Because God is good all the time.  He is just as good on the days that tears flow as He is on the days filled with laughter.  His character doesn't change when our circumstances are difficult.  He has my best interests in mind even when I can't comprehend the situation.  He has never betrayed me or failed me.  He loves me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seven

Seven years ago I gave birth to a ruddy baby boy with a shock of dark hair covering his head.  He looked surprisingly different than our firstborn (who was pale and bald), and I fell in love with him.  From the beginning, Drew had his own way of doing things.  Not only did he arrive three weeks early, but he sucked his thumb and refused to sleep through the night.

March 17, 2004

As this little one got older, he developed a very distinct personality.  Drew is a dreamer.  He loves to use his imagination to come up with inventions, and he almost always has a book in his hands.  He is a wonderful artist, and loves to draw in his sketchbook.  He has become a bit of a loner.

Pretending to be an archaeologist

My Drew has such a tender heart.  We first noticed it when he was just a few years old.  He always notices when I wear different earrings, or do something new to my hair, or get dressed up, and he always comments and tells me how beautiful I am.  Drew is always on the lookout for "sunflowers" (dandelions) to pick and give to me.  He loves hugs and kisses and is always willing to keep me company. 

Seven years.  Wow.  The time has just flown.  I love this little one so much. 

March 17, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tragedy

So much pain in the news lately.  I cried as I read about the family in Pennsylvania who lost seven of their eight children in a tragic house fire this week. My heart aches for the parents who are left with only one child.

The home of the Pennsylvania family after the fire.

I can't even imagine facing such a loss.  I can't imagine waking up the next morning with no baby to nurse, with only one child begging for attention instead of eight.  I can't imagine how empty that mother's arms must feel, how she will feel as she lowers seven children into the ground.

Being a mom is so hard.  There are days that I just don't think I can do it anymore.  Days when Megan's eye-rolling and foot-stamping drive me to the edge.  Days when I lose it because Drew complains about what I made for dinner.  Days when I cry because AJ said something that hurt my feelings.  Days when Kaybelle empties out my jewelry box again, and I want to scream.  Days that I can barely function because Melody was up all night crying.

But to lose all of that in an instant?  To lose their smiles and laughter and hugs and kisses and constant chatter?  To lose their dirty faces and holey jeans and smudged glasses and messy hair?  I can't fathom it.

Life is fleeting.  Everything can change in an instant, but we must not worry about tomorrow.

So today, we will practice what to do in case the fire alarm goes off.  And we will write to our five Compassion kids.  And we will eat pizza and laugh together.  And we will do math problems and play make believe.  And I will be thankful for the five blessings that God has entrusted into my care.  And I will remember that even when tragedy strikes, my God is still good.  My God is still just.  My God has a purpose for everything that happens.

Will you join me in praying for the Clouse family?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words and Forgiveness

A page that is hanging on our refrigerator of things
to practice from our Weekend to Remember.

It had a been a great morning.  I made some new friends, chatted with some old ones, and was feeling encouraged.  And suddenly, a comment....a word.  One word that penetrated straight through me and took my breath away.  One word that took the smile off of my face and took my mind off of the beauty of the morning.

It's striking to me to realize how potent our words can be.  How a lady can make one comment over her shoulder that can ruin my entire day.  The Bible says that "speaking recklessly is like the thrusts of a sword."  Pretty much sums up how I felt yesterday as her words pierced my heart.  

I tried my hardest to shake it off.  To put it out of my mind and forget that it ever happened.  She hadn't meant to hurt my feelings, after all.  She didn't realize that her words would have that sort of affect on me.  She didn't know that I went to my van and put my head on the steering wheel and cried.  She didn't know the power of her words.


The speaker at MOPS yesterday talked of forgiveness.  I was a bit distracted by the baby in my lap and the phone in my pocket and the thoughts in my head of the craft that I had to teach in a few minutes.  But I did catch a few of her main points.  She said that when you choose not to forgive someone, you become resentful and skeptical.  You become revengeful.  You lose your joy and love for life.  More importantly, when you choose not to forgive, you are directly disobeying God and your prayers will be hindered.

I'll admit that as I was listening to her speak, I wasn't thinking of myself.  I was thinking of someone else who needs to forgive.  And I was nodding my head and thinking about how this other person has become resentful and skeptical and has lost her joy and love for life because she has refused to forgive another person.

And an hour later, the word was spoken.  And I cried.  And I felt angry.  And I couldn't stop thinking about it.  And then I remembered the message from our speaker.  The message that was intended for me. 

Forgiveness is hard.  So hard.  But my heart isn't going to heal until I choose to do the hard thing.  I could place blame on the woman who uttered the hurtful comment, but as Neil Anderson said in Discipleship Counseling, "to place blame on somebody else is nothing more than an excuse to stay in bondage."  And staying in that bondage isn't worth it.   There is nothing that could happen to me here on earth that is worth directly disobeying God and having my prayers hindered. 

So I choose forgiveness.  I choose the hard path.  And when something brings that hurtful word back into my mind, I will choose to forgive again, and again, and again.  I will live in joy and love, and choose thanksgiving.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sunglasses

When I was a teenager, I hated my mom's sunglasses. I'm sure I was rude and made fun of her about them. She always wore big huge sunglasses that reminded me of something an old lady would wear. They were awful and they embarrassed me.

Well, today I bought new sunglasses. Kay walked off with my old ones several weeks ago, and I decided it was time for new ones (it's not really very safe to drive with my eyes squinted closed, plus I figure as soon as I buy new ones the old ones will show up again).

Anyhow, so I'm standing in Walmart with all of the kids. They are picking out different pairs for me to try on, and I think they all look ridiculous. I've never been good at picking out stuff like that. I have absolutely no sense of fashion whatsoever.

And then I saw them. The one pair that was only five dollars instead of ten. They were the obvious choice. I mean, if I'm going to spend an extra five dollars, it's going to be on something good like post it notes or new pens or Baked Ruffles, not sunglasses!

So into the basket went the five dollar glasses (and out came the ten dollar mickey mouse pair that one of the children tried to sneak in), and off to the cash register we went.

When we got home, I took out my new sunglasses to take off the tags, and I realized that I have become my mother. Really. My new sunglasses are big and plastic and ugly, but they were only five dollars! A bargain! And I honestly don't care what they look like as long as they keep me from squinting.

I have to admit that becoming my mom isn't such a bad thing. She's a pretty amazing woman, and if I'm going to turn into someone, I'm happy that it's her. (Don't worry though, Ray. I'll steer clear of the Christmas sweaters.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gramma's House

This is the front of the house we visited every summer.

When I was a kid, every summer we drove halfway across the country to visit my grandparents in upstate New York. My dad's parents lived in a little tiny town called DeKalb Junction, and it became one of my favorite places in the world.

Gramma always had lots of goodies ready for us when we arrived. Her freezer would be stocked with ice cream and cookies and black bottom cupcakes. I remember one time sneaking a cupcake and eating it while it was still frozen.

 Beautiful Gramma who was always working in the kitchen.

Gramma had white wicker furniture on her back porch and I loved to sit out there and pretend that it was my house and that I had guests over.

Grampa had a riding lawn mower, which was such a novelty. I remember watching him mow their huge yard, and the smell of the fresh cut grass.

 The huge yard

We always slept upstairs at Gramma's house. There was one room that we slept in that had weird shadows at night. I remember laying in bed with my sister and making shadows on the ceiling with our hands.

Grampa always made us homemade ice cream when we visited. It seemed to take forever as we waited and waited for the ice cream to firm up. Then he'd call me and my sister into the kitchen and we'd get to eat it straight off of the beater.

Gramma took a snooze almost every afternoon on her couch. She'd stretch out her legs and sometimes would put a homemade afghan over them. Sometimes I would sneak in and watch her sleep. She looked so beautiful.

One time Grampa chased me all around their house with a squirt bottle. I was in high school, and screamed like a little girl as he shot me with cold water.

Gramma sometimes let me and my sister play with her old lipsticks. We would stand in the bathroom and make kissy faces at the mirror and think we were the most beautiful girls in the world.

 The bathroom where we'd put on Gramma's old lipsticks.

Gramma and Grampa's house always smelled like coffee. Grampa drank his black but Gramma put lots of cream in hers, and once in a while she would let me have a sip. I thought it tasted so awful, but I loved it when she shared it with me.

 One of many coffee cups.

Grampa had a leg brace that he would take off in the evenings. It looked like a leg sticking out of his shoe. I thought it was one of the coolest things ever, and when nobody was looking I would stick my foot in his shoe and try to walk around with the brace hitting my leg mid-thigh.

Grampa without his "leg" on.

I haven't seen my grandparents in nearly 8 years. Way too long. I am thankful for technology though, so we can video on the computer once in a while. And we can talk on the phone, and write letters. But sometimes, I miss them so much that it hurts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Morning

I stand above little number three, braiding her hair and listening to the sounds of the house.

Eggs sizzle on the stovetop. My best friend adds some ham and cheese and stirs them to perfection. Littles number one and two stand nearby, chattering about Mario and levels and "dad, why are you putting cheese in the eggs?" Little number four stands on a stool playing in the silverware drawer. The hum of the washing machine drowns out the snores of little number five who is snoozing in her cradle.

The house is full of constant motion. These little ones, they never stop moving, never stop talking, never stop asking questions.

And this moment, this Sunday morning...is perfection. It's exactly how I envisioned my life years ago when I was just a little one myself playing with my dolls.

They sit down to eat, and the chatter continues. And my heart swells. And I thank the one who gave me so many blessings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

She is the woman....

There is a woman who taunts me.  I see her everywhere I go. 

She is the woman whose kids don't touch everything at Wal-mart.  Her kids follow her quietly and say "yes, ma'am" when she tells them to do something.  My kids pretend to shoot the other customers in the aisles, and I often have to tell them several times to do something before getting a response.

She is the woman with the clean floors.  She sweeps up crumbs after every meal, and she mops at least once a week.  Her kids never have dirty socks.  My kids socks are filthy and my floor is covered in yesterday's lunch.

She is the woman who takes meals to every new mother.  Her meals are always balanced and made from scratch.  She gives organic applesauce, and her cookies are baked to perfection.  I give bagged salad and bread from Wal-mart.  My cookies are slightly burnt.

She is the woman who smiles at everyone.  She has a kind word for even the most annoying person.  Everyone likes her, and she gets invited to every party.  She never sits alone.  I avoid the annoying person, and I often sit alone.

She is the woman who gets up an hour early to read her Bible and pray.  She is known as a "prayer warrior", and when she says she will pray for someone she actually does.  She keeps a detailed journal of how God has answered her prayers, and she talks to Him all throughout the day.  I get up early, but often get distracted by e-mail, facebook, or some other shiny thing.  When I do try to focus and pray, I fall asleep or the baby starts to cry.

She is the woman with beautiful highlights in her hair, and rings on her fingers.  Her clothes are always in style, and her jewelry never fails to compliment her outfit.  She has beautifully manicured fingernails, and she is never caught without her lipstick on.  I haven't had a haircut in more than a year, and I bite my fingernails.  I never know what clothes look nice, so I just buy whatever is on sale at the thrift store.

She is the woman who never yells at her kids.  She speaks softly and lovingly to them, and they respond in kind.  She rarely has to discipline them because she has done such a good job at raising them to be obedient.  I yell at my kids, and they respond in kind.  Some days I wonder if I was cut out for the role of "mom."

She is the woman whose husband looks forward to coming home each day.  She welcomes him with open arms and a smile on her face.  She has his favorite meal on the table, and she serves it without complaint.  My husband comes home to a stressed out wife who sometimes hasn't even started dinner yet. 

I will never be that woman.  I will try, and I will fail.  And I will try again, and I will fail again.

But...

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am a child of God.

I am loved with an everlasting love.

I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.

I cannot be separated from the love of God.

I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected.

I can find grace and mercy in time of need.

I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.

I am God's temple.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I am complete in Christ.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Children

I have five amazing children.  Each one has his own personality, and they each bring me so much joy.

AJ is our firstborn.  He is eight years old now, and has started to roll his eyes.  He doesn't want kisses in public anymore, but at home he loves snuggles and hugs and kisses.   He is a show off, and loves to perform.  AJ is our most competitive child, and he wants to play football when he grows up.

Drew is almost seven.  He is our tender child.  He is always willing to hold my hand and give me hugs and kisses in public.  He has a quirky personality, and has become a bit of a loner in social situations.  Drew seems to live in his own little world, I often find him so caught up in his thoughts that he doesn't even notice what is going on around him.  Drew loves to read, and wants to be an inventor someday.  Or maybe a scientist.  Or an astronaut.  Or a pastor.  Or a manager at Jack-in-the-Box.

Megan, at five years old, is our oldest girl.  She knows she is beautiful, and is very comfortable in her skin.  She loves to wear dresses and rain boots.  Megan sings and dances constantly.  I often hear her singing from her bed long after lights out.  She has a knack for memorization, and can recite all of the books of the Bible and often corrects us when we are working on our catechism as a family.  Megan wants to be a wife and mom someday.

Kaybelle is one and a half, but has already entered the "terrible two's."  She climbs on all the furniture, and empties out every drawer and cabinet.  She is a Daddy's girl, and loves to hang out next to Ray and eat his chips.  Kay's favorite thing is to make people laugh.  She is definitely the silly sister.  Kay loves shoes, purses, and going to MOPS.

Melody is just two months old.  She is a gorgeous baby and nurses like a champ.  She is our little "mellow yellow", and is a great sleeper.  Melody is our family's song of hope, and she brings joy to everyone around her.

These five little ones...these gifts from God...  They just blow my mind daily.  They teach me more than I could ever teach them.  They show me unconditional love, and they teach me to be patient.

People ask me all the time how on earth I handle five kids.  The truth?  I don't know how I would live without them.  Each one contributes so much to our family dynamic, and they are all so precious to me.

I can't imagine my life any other way. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

no words

The phone rings. The caller ID shows my sister’s name, and I answer the phone with a smile. “Are you sitting down?” I am. And I immediately know why she is calling. And I wish I hadn’t answered the phone. I wish that she was calling to ask me a homeschool question, or tell me some funny story about Squeezy, or anything. Anything other than this. Anything other than more heartbreak.

She is well composed. Certainly in shock. I don’t know what to say.  There are no words for a moment like this. My heart feels like it is breaking in a million pieces. Why? Why again? Why this little one who was so loved already, who was so hoped for and wanted? Why now?

"No heartbeat."

The words swirl around my head.  The tears begin to flow.   I tell her that I love her and we end the call.  I had no words for her and I have no words for my waiting family, and so I go to the bed and lay face down.  My body wrenches with grief.  Ray comes in and holds me.  “It’s not fair.”  He doesn’t respond.  There are not really any words for a moment like this.  He just sits with me and lets me cry it out.  

There is bacon in the oven.  I know it needs to come out or it might burn.  Kaybelle jumps on the bed next to me and rubs her snotty nose on the blankets.  I go to the kitchen and finish making dinner.  I pick up Melody and hold her close.  I cut up Megan’s potatoes, and I fill up Kay’s milk cup.  AJ and Drew ask questions.  I think I answer them.  But really, there are no words for a moment like this.

Life in our home keeps moving at the same fast pace that it always does. And I can’t help but think about how unfair it is. How can everything keep moving along normally when everything has changed? How can I smile, when I know she is grieving?

I feel suffocated. The dishes are piling up in the sink, the kids are getting louder and louder. I need to get away. I nestle Melody in her buckles and I walk out the door into the crisp air. More tears.

I click in the carseat, and think of the niece or nephew that I will never get to hug and kiss. I consider getting on the highway and driving through the night. I am 2500 miles away from where I need to be tonight. I long to hold her hand, to tell her that I love her, to cry with her.

Instead I go see a friend. Someone that I haven’t seen in months. Someone who I know will make me smile and laugh and forget about things for a few minutes. We chat as I browse through racks of clothes.

I walk out feeling a little better, and I get in the van to head home. The speakers blare out Seeds of Courage. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I sing along, and the tears flow again.

I pray for a miracle.  I pray for a heartbeat.  I pray for her comfort and healing.  I pray that I will have the words to say next time we talk.  I pray.  And I hope.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Relationship

I lay with my eyes closed listening to her little grunts.  My body is warm and comfortable under the blankets, and I can't help but hope that she falls back to sleep.  His foot reaches over and finds mine, and I settle in closer to him.  But it isn't long before her grunts become more urgent, and I know I'm going to need to fill up her little belly.

I sit in the dark and nurse.  She anxiously takes her fill, and I feel her body relaxing in my arms.  She is comfortable with me.  I am the only one who satisfies her hunger, I know how to cradle her when the tears flow, I know just the right voice to use to make her smile.  She trusts me completely to provide for her every need.  She depends on me without reservation.  I know her better than anyone else.

So should my relationship with my Creator be.  He satisfies my hunger.  He brings me comfort when my soul is troubled.  He makes me glad.  I can trust Him completely to provide for me and keep me safe.  I can depend on Him.  He knows me better than I know myself.

The shameful thing is that I often turn away from His provision.  I deny the comfort that He offers so freely.  I allow my soul to hunger and thirst, even as He extends to me the bread of life. 

Why?  Why do I deny Him and all He has to offer?

I'm stubborn.  I'm selfish.  I like to be in control.  I don't like change. 

But the fact is, I need Him.  I can't do this on my own.  I won't truly live until I die to self and let Him satisfy me. 

Father, I long to desire change.  Satisfy me with Your love.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trust

Her little legs were moving slowly.  She trudged on, trying to keep up with the rest of the family.  "My legs hurt.  I'm tired of walking."


She saw her brother being hoisted onto daddy's shoulders and I could see the wheels turning in her head.  She watched them closely until finally her brother was let down to the ground.  At that moment, her tired legs found some energy and she ran to her daddy.  I watched her ask him if she could have a ride on his shoulders too.

A moment later she was shrieking.  Her daddy was giving her specific instructions.  He was telling her where to hold on and how to sit.  She was so focused on falling that she couldn't bring herself to obey him.  He gently set her down and told her that he wouldn't be able to hold her on his shoulders is she couldn't follow his instructions.

She looked up at me with sad eyes.  "I was just too afraid that I was going to fall off and crack my head open on the sidewalk!"  "Don't you trust your daddy?  Daddy wouldn't let you fall.  He was holding onto you the whole time!"  I could see the struggle in her eyes.  She wanted to do it so badly, but was just too afraid.

How often do I behave that same way with my God?  He tells me to do something, but I just can't bring myself to do it because it is different and scary.  I don't trust that He is going to protect me, so I kick my legs and cry and do it my own way.  And because of my stubbornness, I often end up just like my little girl:  trudging along with sore legs right next to the one who could pick me up and help me.

Lord, I long to trust you.  Give me the courage to give up control and do things Your way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

toes

I have a new header today.  I kind of love it, but I guess it probably doesn't make much sense to anyone other than me.  Ray thought that I had superimposed the foot, but I didn't.  I was trying to take a pretty picture of the keyboard, and Kaybelle stuck her toes in the frame .

I love it because it kind of sums up my life.  Even when I try to make things beautiful and perfect and wonderful, someone or something always comes along and messes it up.

I'm starting to see, however, that sometimes the mess can be beautiful.  Sometimes, the little toenails with chipped pink polish can make the picture even more delightful.

It's all in how I choose to look at things.

I can get frustrated by the constant fingerprints on my walls, or I can be thankful for the little fingers that put them there.  I can get twitchy about the crumbs on my floor, or I can be grateful that God blessed me with 5 little mouths to feed.  And the list could go on and on.

The juxtaposition of the toes in front of the shiny keyboard is a good reminder for me.  Gotta keep perspective.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crazy?

I don't think a day has gone by since Melody was born that I haven't heard some sort of comment about the size of our family.  I get it.  We're an anomaly.  We don't fit into society's definition of what a perfect family should be.  Lots of people say (or imply) that we are crazy.  Most moms will say something like, "You must be supermom.  I could never handle that many kids!" or "Goodness, I can barely handle my one!  I don't know how you handle five at once."

The comments are usually easy to brush or laugh off.  Sometimes I just nod and smile, sometimes I give back a quippy response, sometimes I try to explain that it's not all that difficult.

But sometimes it is.  Sometimes it is just plain hard.  Sometimes my heart is torn in five different directions and I have no idea who needs me the most.  Sometimes I have a little one in my arms, another little one pulling on my jeans and sobbing in exhaustion "mama, mama", another one laying in bed with a fever, another one stomping her feet in anger, and another one trying to tell me about ewoks and wookiees and who knows what else.  Not to mention the grilled cheese is burning.

In those moments, I find myself agreeing with those other moms who think I'm crazy.  I don't think I can handle it.  I don't have enough hands, and I just can't do it all.

It really is true.

But I have help.  When I'm weary, He gives rest.  When I'm overwhelmed, He gives peace.  When I'm sad, He gives comfort.  When I have nothing left to give, He girds me up and gives me strength.  He is my refuge and strength.  When I call, He answers.  He rescues me.  He protects me.  He delivers me.

He is my fortress.  I will never be shaken.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Still

I jump out of bed violently, confused about what just happened.  I replay the events in my mind...  The e-mail.  The sad look in Ray's eyes.  The way I felt as I ran away to that other man.

I can't breathe.  It's all too much to bear.  How could I have done that?  I know I have given up everything in my life that I hold dear.  My eyes begin to fill with tears, and suddenly I realize...

It was all a dream.

A horrible nightmare that felt oh so real.

I pull on my yoga pants and tennis shoes and smooth my hair into a ponytail.  I step outside into the crisp morning air and I begin to run.  Jerry Jenkins begins speaking to me about the importance of putting up hedges in my marriage.  I guiltily wonder if he somehow knew about my dream, but then realize how silly that thought is.

Thirty minutes later, sweaty and out of breath, I step back into the warmth of our home.  The quiet welcomes me, and I pull my damp clothes off.  I wash the moisture from my sweaty body with a bad feeling.  I remind myself over and over again, "It was a dream.  Just a dream.  Not real."  But it won't leave my head.

I turn on the iron and glance over at the pile of wrinkled clothes.  I try to remember what color he likes to wear on Mondays.  Tuesdays are green.  Fridays are red.  I can't remember what Mondays are so I decide to just iron the whole pile.  Blue, white, blue, black, green, red, green, blue, gray, green, black...  With each shirt comes a prayer.  A prayer for the one who is laying on the other side of that door.  A prayer for his protection, for his day at work, for purity of his mind, for his safety...  The steam from the iron presses out the wrinkles in the clothes, and the prayers press out the wrinkles left on my soul from the nighttime torment.

I hear him get out of bed and begin his morning routine.  We don't see enough of each other, and a few minutes later he gives a quick hug and is out the door.  I didn't even notice what color shirt he chose.

I nurse the little one and pour bowls of cereal for the others.  I start the laundry and answer a few e-mails.  And then I see it.  "I still love you."  As if he knew what was whirling through my sleeping mind just a few hours before.  I read it again.  And again.  And I smile, knowing it's true.

He still loves me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

socks

I notice the sun beginning to descend behind the mountains and I scramble to figure out what my loved ones will eat for dinner.  A few hours later, I serve them an unbalanced meal with a guilty heart.  I glance around the house.  Toys clutter nearly every surface, the trash is overflowing with fast food wrappers, the floor is covered in crumbs, dishes fill the sink...

I gaze at my family.  Nearly every member enthralled by a screen.  A little one with breakfast still on her chubby cheeks.  Another with holes in the knees of his pants, hair covering his ears betraying his desperate need of a haircut.  The littlest wails for no apparent reason, and the oldest covers his ears.

I trip over an overturned laundry basket in the hallway.  Both laundry machines are full, and awaiting my attention.  Dirty clothes clutter the floor, and a little one tells me that she has no clean socks in her drawer and "what should I do mom?  My feet are cold."

The sun peers through the blinds, offering a ray of hope for a fleeting moment.  But then those same rays point out the flecks of dust on the living room mirror and on the frames that surround memories of a white dress and naked feet.

I feel helpless to do anything about the weight that is shoving me down.  I go through the motions of bagging up trash and pouring soap into the washing machine and pushing the broom, but there is still evidence of a haircut in the sink, and fingerprints on the walls, and that little one is still pushing the hair out of his eyes.

I put on my socks.  At least my feet will be warm.

Monday, January 31, 2011

My Pillow

I haven't been sleeping well for the last couple of weeks.  There have been several contributing factors to my interrupted slumber:  sick kids, a nursing newborn, and a lingering cough to name a few.  Probably the greatest factor, though, is that I haven't been sleeping with my pillow.

I have this wonderful squishy pillow with an ugly green pillowcase.  The pillow is pretty old.  I think it was Ray's before we got married.  The pillow case is probably even older than the pillow.  I think my mom gave it to me.  If my mom rejected it, then it must be pretty bad.  And it is.  The thing is green, floral, and hideous.  But it covers my wonderful squishy pillow, so I can't help but love it.

I claimed the green pillow when I was pregnant with AJ.  It was the only way I could sleep comfortably with my belly so big.  I think I also kind of used it to replace my husband.  Things with Ray were pretty awful that year, and I'd often cry myself to sleep while hugging that pillow.

After AJ was born, my big belly went away, but the pillow did not.  My pillow became a source of comfort in more ways than one.  It helped me sleep more comfortably, but it also somehow made me feel less alone.  I was able to use my pillow as a barrier between Ray and I in bed.  I used it to cover up and hide my post-baby body, and I used it to keep him at a distance.

Ray made comments about it a lot.  I think he always knew that I was using that pillow as a barrier between the two of us.  He knew I was covering up and keeping him away.  My excuse was that it helped me sleep more comfortably, which was true.  But I never let myself consider that maybe my comfort shouldn't come before the health of my marriage.

After Melody was born, I started to think about my green pillow.  I started to realize that maybe it was causing more harm than good.  So for the last couple of weeks (give or take), my green pillow has stayed on the floor at bedtime.

I have to be honest, I'm not sleeping well at all.  My body has forgotten how to sleep without that pillow and I wake up with my hands and arms all twisted up and tingling from loss of blood flow.  I'm just not as comfortable.

And to be honest, I'm not sure it has really helped my marriage at all either.  I'm pretty sure Ray hasn't even noticed that the pillow has been staying on the floor.

But I think it has been good for me.  It has forced me out of my comfort zone.  It has made me think about the space I was choosing to keep between me and Ray.  When I wake up in the night, I often put my tingling hands on Ray's chest or arms instead of wrapping them around a pillow.

Hopefully soon my body will get used to sleeping without it (and if not, I'll just keep loading up on coffee each morning), but even if I wake up with tingling achy arms for the rest of my life, I think it's worth it.  He's worth it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Little Hugs

Life is kind of rough right now.  I feel a little guilty even saying that, knowing that there are people in the world who don't even have clean water to drink.  I mean, really.  Who am I to complain about my life being "kind of rough" when people are dying from dirty water?? 

The point of this post, however, isn't to complain.  And it isn't to solicit sympathy for my "kind of rough" life.  It's really to say that I am amazed by the little blessings that God gives to me when I am exhausted and at my wits end and just plain done.

Little things.  Things that wouldn't matter to anyone else.  Things that most people would probably say are just coincidence, but I know they are little hugs from God.  Moments when I almost literally feel his arms around me telling me "You can do this, Laura.  Don't give up."

Moments like:

  • AJ playing a practical joke on me that is actually funny and makes me laugh.
  • Megan eating her toast without complaining for once.
  • Melody waking up exactly when I was ready to nurse her.
  • Kaybelle leaving her ponytail in for more than 5 minutes.
  • Drew giving me a good laugh when he came to me with his pants hanging down to his knees because the kid is just so skinny. 

Little blessings.  Little hugs from the One whose hugs matter most.  And I know I can keep on going...with His strength sustaining me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beam

I stand in the kitchen, hunched over, head in hands, tears flowing.  Tears of anger and regret.  Tears of loss and hopelessness.  Thoughts flow through my mind faster than I can process them.  Thoughts of blame and fury  and discontent and complaint and longing. 

A little one comes into the kitchen and asks me what is wrong.  Instead of embracing him and thanking him for his spirit of compassion, I snap at him and tell him to go away.  All the while, my heart aches and burns and I hate myself for my harsh words.  Part of me wants to call him back and hug him and ask his forgiveness, but my selfish side wins and I continue to wallow in self-pity.

Eventually, the tears cease and I'm left raw and exposed.  Face red, hands shaking, my thoughts continue to bombard me. 

And then a still, small voice.  Words spoken to the depths of my soul, not in condemnation, but in love.  Words that act as a healing balm to my broken heart. 

"...Remove the beam from your own eye..."

Words that often frustrate me, today act as a much needed reminder.  My thoughts change from those of accusation to those of introspection.  I realize I am not any better.  I know that my behavior must change.

I bow my head and I put my trust in Him.  I pour out my heart to Him for He is my refuge. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 Goals


Just a few of the things I hope to accomplish in 2011.   Might be revising this post over the next few days as I think of more things.

HOME ORGANIZATION
Do a major clean-out of all three bedrooms (including closets).
Paint the hall bathroom a color other than white or beige.
Find a storage solution that isn’t ugly for the dining room cabinet.
Make the area above the sliding doors in the living room pretty.

HOMESCHOOLING
Revamp homeschool schedule for spring semester.
Get rid of homeschool books we aren’t using.
Get new drawer system up and running.
Successfully teach Drew about money and time.
Teach Megan how to read.

FITNESS
Make it all the way through the C25K program.
Run at least one 5k.
Start and finish the 30 Day Shred.

CRAFTS/ PROJECTS/ FUN
Memorize Colossians.
Memorize catechism with the family.
Make myself and my sister a cute new camera strap.
Plan and execute at least 5 at home date nights for me and Ray.
Finish top secret sewing project.
Read 5 books for pleasure.