Tuesday, November 30, 2010


ok, ladies and gentlemen, let's be honest, shall we? (hopefully no one answered a big, fat, "no!")

thanksgiving is a time where most of us are "thankful" for a couple extra days off from work, for turkey and dressing, for football, and for black friday. am i right, or am i right? trust me, i wish i were not right.

and hey, those are not bad things to be thankful for in and of themselvs. personally, the whole thanksgiving food issue isn't as much of a big deal for yours truly because, as some may say, i am a pretty "boring" eater. i prefer to call it "predictable and consistent", but whatever. in case you haven't been reading my posts for very long, i will enlighten you. i personally believe there is a special place in heaven for the blessed person who invented divided paper plates. whoever you are, wherever you are, i am thankful for you! and i am not one to pile on a little bit o' everything on my thanksgiving plate. that, is, however, how my dear husbands rolls. i mean it. i can hardly even handle sitting next to him. i love him, so i do. but it ain't easy. now, let me preface by saying that my sweet mom, step-mom and all of my various family members are truly all very good cooks, i mean it, they are!! but, is it just me, or does the thanksgiving food look fairly normal when it is in each of its respective decorative dishes, but then once piled onto a plate all next to each other, it all looks kinda...well, weird. (yes, i am sure it is just me, no shocker there) the colors and textures...all differet and mixed up all there thrown together. something just isn't right about it to me. and for ryan... really, you literally can see no, and i mean NO, little dixie paisley pattern creeping up from under his plate once he has gone through the line. he has a little bit o' everything on that plate, and yes, it is all touching each other...all of it!! (insert silent shudder from his lovely wife sitting next to him trying to avoid eye contact) he has turkey and gravy, and dressing, and green bean casserole (which i am proud to say i have now embraced but i honestly wouldn't touch the stuff for about the first 27 years of my life) sweet potatoes (his fav!), some sort of rice mixture that is too non-descript to identify clearly but nonetheless, he's served himself a heap-full, and regular mashed potatoes with gravy that yes, has oozed onto everything else (c'mon, seriously!?! i can hardly even type this out to you people) and sliced ham and some sort of congealed orange-mold-delight-thing complete with chunks (don't even get me started), and of course to top it all off, he has the cranberries. i'm sorry y'all...what is that about? i can't handle the texture of the cranberries. i mean it. are cranberries a solid or a liquid? (or do they give you gas?) sorry...i couldn't resist! :) i am quite sure i am forgetting a few things, but honestly it is out of sheer survival that i don't pay closer attention to his plate. if i did, i wouldn't survive sitting next to him. i know, i know...i'm horrible.

but, then there is my plate. simple. understated in its simplicity, really. it has....ham, of course, if we have it, which we usually do. i prefer that to turkey, but i do like both. i am happy to be a carnivore. and yes, i am a grown up now so i will eat the green bean casserole. (yea me! hey...a little self-affirmation never hurt anyone, right? especially since i am quite sure you all are sitting there reading this now thinking i am a complete fool!) a very, very healthy helping (or two) of mashed potatoes and a roll...or two, or three (especially if they are sister shubert's rolls...heavenly. and yes, this was life pre-gluten free. sigh) and we're out. that's it. i'm happy and done. yes, i can still appreciate the pleasant blue paisley print on the dixie plate. and yes, i can still eat my fill. and yes, i made it through the line in record time. and no, i did not accidentally overlook the cranberries. and no, i am not a communist.

to each their own, friend, to each their own. :)

and i love watching football. i really do. i know some of my girlfriends think i have joined the "dark side" and that i am not helping the "cause" of us women-folk, but i can't help it. i love it!! and i think ryan likes that i love it. i remind him of how lucky he is. i am sure he likes that too.

black friday is more of something my sweet ryan looks forward to. ya see, his birthday is the first of november and so, usually he gets a little birthday money each year and he looks forward to the ads and seeing if there is "that deal" that he wants to get at home depot that will make him one happy boy. it really is cute about it.i lkien it to the grown up version of getting the toys r us catalog as a kid and circling the toys you wanted santa to get you. me? i like to sleep. i am sure once our kids are older and asking for presents that i really do need to get at half off the full price in order to be able to afford, i will be up at 4am with the rest of my budget conscious friends. for now, we can just say "oh look, isn't this fun what you got for Christmas!" i know, i know...my days are numbered!

but, truly, this year has been a tough one. a very, very tough one. but, i mean it with all my heart, friend, when i say i have seen God's hand all over it. and as i have been lying around this week (hey, it's what i do!) i have been thinking A LOT about where God has brought me over this last year. well....last year at this time, my world wasn't a whole lot different from it is right now. i was lying on this very same couch for most of the day, stuggling with spinal fluid leak issues, unable to sit upright for long....and also struggling with God as to why He was allowing this to happen again. (again)

however....this year, i am a bit stronger that i was last year. in more ways than one, i am blessed to say. so, this year i have chosen to be thankFULL. i mean it. i have chosen (and yes, friend, it is a choice) to thank my great God for a whole lotta different things. and i'm bringing you in on this deal. welcome, friend.

and you may be wondering why i am doing this the week after thanksgiving? well, that's actually one thing i am thankFULL for. my computer crashed on me last week. and yes, i am choosing to be thankful for that. we have one laptop here at our house. and last week, early one morning when i had gotten up super early with the very specific intent to write this exact blog before anyone was up...my sweet jacob got up hours before i thought he would. all the kids had the week off for thanksgiving so i was letting them get some much needed extra sleep. (meaning they all slept in until like 8:30...those lazy bumbs!:) so..here it is like 6:15 and in strolls my sleepy jacob and says, "mama, i wanna cuggle (our family nickname for "cuddle") with you." well, clearly i'm never gonna turn that down. especially from my six-year-old, because i am all too aware that those days are numbered with him!

so, we curled up on the couch and "cuggled" and talked and loved on each other. he started asking me questions as only jacob does. and it spurred off onto thanksgiving stuff. and he asked to see a real picture of a pilgrim and an indian. i already had my laptop on, ready to write, so i put it on our laps and googled some images for us to look at together. all was well, until apparently i clicked on something i shouldn't have. all of a sudden, lots of bad red flashing things started happening and virus warnings started going bonkers on my computer. huh!?! what in the world. i had never seen anything like this. but, i knew it wasn't good. so...i did my best to un-do what had been done. (which, with my vast computer expertise took a whopping 8 seconds) and then i began to panic. ryan was already outside....he, too wanting to get a lot done before the kids got up that day. i yelled at him and he came and looked at it. he had no idea what to do but was unwilling to spend the $50 to buy the virus protection program that my computer was flashing at me that i needed to buy. ahhh! i was in panic mode. jacob was fine, wathing diego, at this point. his thanksgiving lesson was over anyway and he had moved on. long story short, we got some virus on our laptop and our brilliant and super wonderful friend and neighbor will fix it for us, once we get an external harddrive to put ryan's itunes and my pics on soon. but, it is the end of the month and mr. budget says we aren't doing that yet. so...i was without a laptop for a few days. ahhhh!! me?? no email? no facebook? no blogging?? no downloading pics of my babies?? yikes! but, it was good for me. and i am thankFULL for it.

you see, friend...it is soooo easy to get caught up in all the drama of life. it is sooo easy to get affected by it. and i'm not going to lie to you. i was boderline sqealing at ryan at one point "for the love of God, man, if you love me at all, just buy the $50 virus protection and save my computer!!" a lot of good that did. ryan stayed calm and, after kinda blaming me (half teasing...yes, only half) for the whole deal...said that i just needed to find a way to fix it without spending the money. ugh. i did, but it wasn't pretty. and it wasn't fun. but...still...i wasted so much energy on that. i let it ruffle my feathers.

i am well aware that this is kind of a retarded example. i get that. but, friend. my last year has been FULL of true, real life, hard core examples of how life can get super intense and i could have (and often did) get caught up in it and let my circumstances ruffle my feathers. and once again, a lot of good that did.

so...here we are... the week after thanksgiving. the tryptophan from the turkey has worn off. the black friday sales are over. the cowboys lost again. (ugh.) how much time did you really spend being thankFULL?? really? did you sit down and OUT LOUD thank your God for all He has done for you since last thanksgiving. no, i'm not talking about the 2 minute prayer that was said while you were really thinking about cutting in line in front of aunt josie because she hogs the sweet potatoes. i mean it. have you been thankFULL??

you want to know the great news? God doesn't care about pilgrims and indians. i mean...He does. but, not any more that He cares about shamrocks or Easter eggs or jingle bells or fireworks. this is all our deal, people. thankFULLness is year round. yes, this time of year is special because we are supposed to stop and think. we are supposed to designate this time as such. but, if you didn't, it's all good. do it today. and the next day. and the day after that. take note of a few Truths with me...

colossians 3:15 says "let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as memebers of one body you were called to peace. and be thankful."

please note that it doesn't say... "since as member of one body you were called to peace. and somewhere in the last couple weeks of november, be thankful" see? it just says, BE THANKFUL! are you? am i? let peace rule. let it reign. and be thankFULL.

i took a few minutes over the lasst week and made a little treat for a handFULL of people in my life who have gone above and beyond to serve and honor myself and my family throughout this last year. i made a little magnet with the following verse on it:

1 thess. 5:18 says "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

when you have been served and loved on and prayed for and encouraged and humbled as i have over these last twelve months (and more), you cannot help but want to thank them. you honeslty can't help but be thankful all the time. i am sure i've gotten a little annoying about it. (i know that is a shocker...me? annoying?) :) but, i have had a few people say, seriously, stop thanking me!?! nope. not going to happen! but, really, friend....how cool would it be if God felt that way?? what if we thanked Him that much? now...to be clear...i am quite sure..in fact, i am positive, that for all He has done for us, there is no way we could thank Him enough, but oh, to have a heart to try!

now, about this verse...i have always heard that it says to give thanks IN all circumstances and not FOR all circumstances...which was comforting to me. life is tough. really bad stuff happens. painful stuff. unfair stuff. heart-wrenching stuff. stuff that i should NOT have to thank God for. and honestly, this "reasoning" i heard kinda gave me an "out" about it. that is...until the other day. in fact, it was right around the computer craashing day. my devo that morning (amazing little book title "Jesus Calling" - i love it!!!) was about thankfulness and i crept upon this verse...or maybe i should say it crept up on me...

Ephesians 5:20 "sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

ah, man. that one does say to give thanks FOR everything. shoot.

friend, i am in NO way wanting to dimish any sort of pain you have had in your life. i cannot begin to imagine the pain and grief some of you have been through. honestly, my heart breaks just imagining it and i have a very active imagination. but, at least for me...i have had to come to terms with my heart issues over this last year. no...i shouldn't "have to" go through what i'm going through. no one should. but, i am. and i shouldn't "have to" thank God for it. but, i want to. so i am going to try to. i figure that by doing this...i can only grow closer to Him. and then i can only be more like Him. truly. it can't hurt, right?

this last year has been tough. i have had so many heart-breaking moments that i do not ever want to re-live and that i wouldn't wish on my very worst enemy. but God, right here and right now, i am typing and saying this to you OUT LOUD...I THANK YOU FOR EVERY ONE OF THEM!! because i know you love me, and i know you are always good. i know you wouldn't allow one single thing to come to my life that didn't need to come to bring YOU more honor and glory. i know you are with me. i know you always will be.

friend, if you can't think of one blasted thing to thank Him for right now...i get that too. i have been there. i have sat at my very own pity party (party of one!) and sunk lower than low in my very own pit of despair as i sloshed around in my "woe-is-me" thoughts all the live long day. trust me. been there, done that...got the ugly, faded tshirts to prove it. so...i offer you this last bit of Truth for you to dwell on and repeat to yourself until you can be reminded of all that you do have to be thankFULL for...

hebrews 12:28 says "therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverance and awe"

His kingdom cannot be shaken. wahooo!!! that is great news!! if you are a Christian then you at least have that! even if you feel like you have nothing else right now, you do have that!!

and for the rest of you....it is not too late. stop and be thankful. for something. for someone. write a note. send a text. do something. be thankFULL. it is not too late. i know that tomorrow is december 1st. but, who cares. i know the thanksgiving food is gone, but the thankFULLness should not be.

by the way...the food should be gone, friend. if you haven't thrown it out..please go do that now. especially the cranberries. just let it go...for goodness sake, man...let. it. go. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ok...maybe i'm a mustard gal after all

so...have you ever thought something should go one way...like, you are pretty sure it should....it makes sense...you have planned on it...mentally prepared for it...and then WHAMMO, nope, sorry, not so much. plans change. and you are left standing there (or, in my case, lying there) saying to yourself, hey, now...what just a minute...what just happened here?

ya, that has happened a few times to me and i am sure a few times to you as well, friend.

in high school, i was kind of a popular kid. i mean, not like completely the most popular girl in school, but most people knew me. and i am pretty sure they liked me, for the most part. anyway, we had this formal event every year at my school called "legacy". it was a big deal. it was sort of a "suped up" awards ceremony. (and yes, i just spent like 5 minutes online looking up how to spell "suped up"...weird that i have never, ever spelled that word. i thought it was spelled "souped up", but hmm, what d'ya know!? now i want to eat some soup though, fyi) anyway....this was the only truly formal event for all grades, since prom was only for seniors and homecoming (see other post for more details about that:) was more casual. but not legacy, it was full out girls wearing long beaded gowns, boys in tuxedos, rolling up in limos if you could swing it, etc. it was a big deal. for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors you could be nominated for only three categories: most beautiful/handsome, class favorite and then there was the other one, i forget the name, but it was the one for the smarter kiddos (ironic that i forgot the name of that one, eh?) anyway...that was it. those were the only three categories for the non-seniors.

now, i went to pretty big school. each class had about 800 kids or so, i think. and only about 7 or 8 girls and 7 or 8 boys got nominated for each category from each class. so being nominated was a pretty big deal. and i got nominated every year. i never actually won, but i always got nominated, which was pretty cool. and then my senior year came. my popularity had wavered a bit because i wasn't partying like most everyone was at this point. but i was still in varsity athletics, honor choir, etc and overall a outgoing friendly gal, so for the most part, people liked me. anyway...legacy time came around again and i was actually excited this time because i thought maybe i could actually win. there were like 15 categories for seniors. most likely to succeed, most athletic, most courteous, i mean, name it, there was a category. and although i had never won before, i thought the odds might actually be in my favor this time around because i might have fit better into some of these other categories.

so...nomination day came around, and the way they did it, was pretty cool. well, looking back, i can see now that it was pretty cool, if you were nominated. not so much if you weren't. all nominees got a free ticket to legacy and so what happened is that the student council people came around and handed out your formal invitation to you in class. that's right, they were permitted to stop class, interrupt the teacher and say "excuse me, but i have an invitation here for ____________ to legacy" and then obviously everyone in the class would know they were nominated for something. it was pretty cool. it was. my freshman year. and my sophomore year. and my junior year. all, very cool. why? because i was nominated, that's why. so, naturally, i kinda liked the process. but there i was, my senior year...and i can't tell you what class i was in...or what i was wearing...but i can tell you what i felt. excited, when i saw the stuco kids come in. patient, as they called a couple different of my buddies names. then utterly mortified when they said, "ok, that's it, thanks." and turned and walked away. i imagine my face looked like it was in total shock. i know my few friends in there looked at me in confusion, (pity) knowing that they too, thought i might be nominated. but i wasn't. all the years when there were just three categories, sure. now, my senior year, when there were like 15 categories...nope. not so much. i felt like such a loser. this was not at all how i had pictured my senior year legacy to be. not at all.

then, sometimes it happens in waves.

fast forward almost exactly 12 years. same me. a bit older. a bit more mature. a lot fatter. :) well, i was eight months pregnant after all, with our third child. and, friend, if there is anything i am great at, it is puttin' on that baby weight. hmmm...just weight in general, really. i shouldn't limit it to baby weight, i did, after all hit some high digits in college. some go for the typical "freshman 15"...i pushed through for the "sophomore 40". hey, anything worth doin' is worth overdoin', eh? :) anyway... at this point, ryan and i have two precious little boys: jacob, age 4 1/2 and benjamin, age 2 1/2 and here we are awaiting our third little blessing. we didn't know what gender we were having, we just LOVED the surprise waaay too much. although, i will admit that ryan almost "cracked" at the sonogram, but he changed his mind. he wanted the surprise as much as i did! anyway..this had been the hardest pregnancy, by far. i had been on partial bedrest for a while now, thanks to this little darling "dropping" waaay too early and putting a WHOLE lotta pressure on my pubic bone. it was awful! i couldn't walk without awful pain! ugh! i dilated early, thinned early, all of it. but, thankfully, the little one stayed in and "cooked" as long as needed. so, here we were preparing for an induction, mainly to just put me out of my bloomin' misery. my doc had said that if i could just get to 38 weeks, then she would induce me and we'd be fine. oh, those weeks d.r.i.p.p.e.d. by like the slowest leaky faucet on the face of the planet. but, finally we got there. fiiiinallly.

now, my back had been through quite a bit of trauma in the year prior to that. viral meningitis and the awful SIX pricks for that spinal tap and then therefore two blood patch procedures to repair that damage. and yes, that is the reason i am down and out right now. same condition, just reoccurring now all over again, all this time later, again. so, before i was pregnant with this little baby, i had had major issues with my back, numbness, pain, etc. so..my doc had suggested i call ahead and speak to the anesthesiologists and make sure they knew my history before i went in for labor. no problem. i called and spoke with a very kind doctor...told him my story....and explained all my concerns about this labor and the option of an epidural. he assured me that an epidural would be fine and nothing to worry about. whew! thank you, God!

so, march 14th came. and so did the induction. it went very smoothly at first. i had been induced with my second baby as well, so i was familiar with the whole deal. in fact, with sweet benjamin, it all went so quickly, i got to have him and then order lunch. it was great! especially since my darling first child's labor took four days. that's right, four days. and yes, jacob will hear all about that his entire life. :) anyway...so, here i am in very active labor and in quite a bit of pain. but, mentally i know i will be ok, because the epidural is coming. they call for the anesthesiologist on call and she comes in, looks over my chart and says "um, ya....looking over your history, i don't feel comfortable doing an epidural on you." WHAT!?!? i'm sorry. you don't feel comfortable!?! well, i don't feel comfortable right now either, but that is because i am about to push something the size of a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon(love that line from the old classic movie "look who's talking!")....and YOU can help a sister out with that!! well, apparently, no she couldn't. she wouldn't agree to do it. so..here i was. in hard labor. freaking out with pain. and now having to come to terms with the fact that this was ONLY going to get worse. and worse. and worse. and, friend.....it did.

the pain was awful. don't let anyone tell you different. i was about at the point where i was fine with them just cutting off my legs and calling it even. either that or sew me up and forget the whole thing. the kid had its chance. but then i had to push. i mean, had to! it wasn't time to, but i had to. they tried to stop me, but they couldn't. i couldn't. i don't think anything could have. and then, our miracle baby came out, and the nurse said joyfully, "it's a girl!" ryan and i looked at each other and both said simultaneously "are you sure!?!" and they held her up and we wept. flat. out. wept. we couldn't believe we had a girl. not what we had pictured. but, oh, thank you, God. but then i kept bleeding. and bleeding. they didn't know why. ryan said he'll never forget the look on the nurses faces as they rolled me off to emergency surgery. he was holding his precious little girl and afraid he was about to lose hie wife. not at all what he expected.

i ended up being ok. thank you, God. but, abigail had jaundice, somethin' fierce. so, after only a few hours of really getting to enjoy her, she had to go to NICU and stay there. what a little orange beauty she was. she slept there and stayed there. all we could do was visit and i could nurse her. that's it. even when we took her home, she had to spend three extra days in that little "baby tanning bed" and we couldn't even take her out to love on her. (yes, of course, i whispered to her that she better soak it up now cause that was the only tanning bed mommy would ever approve of!) but all of it...ALL of it, wasn't at all what we expected. not at all what we pictured in our heads. not at all.

and now, i'm kind of there again. i just heard that the mayo clinic has denied me again! again!?! really?? what is it? do i smell funny? am i not cute enough? did they find out that i didn't get nominated for legacy my senior year???

i had gotten myself all pumped up and mentally prepared to make that 15 hour drive. i had pictured it. prepared myself for what it would be like to leave my babies, go there, be poked and proded all over again. all. over. again. and now what?? they say no to me, again. not at all what i expected. not at all.

it has taken me a few days to recover from this. partly because i got bronchitis and couldn't focus much on it for a bit. partly because i didn't want to. not sure which part is bigger. well, ya i do.

so..here i am...mentally preparing myself that i don't get to be a mayo gal now. i guess that means, i gotta go for mustard. in case you haven't read any of my previous posts. i don't really care for either one, really. (see post titled "hold the mayo") but, that's ok. God is good. and in this time in my life, maybe that's what i need, is a little bit more willingness to try some mayo, and some mustard. or both. or neither. i don't know. but, i know Who does.

i am sure your life is full of times when you have thought it would go one way and then, WHAMMO, it goes the other way. some of us are wired to handle that better than others. SOOOO much of it is about our attitude, friend.

i am reading an amazing book for our home group at church right now, titled "in a pit with a lion on a snowy day" by mark batterson. it is the most random of titles, i know. but, once you read it, you get it. and lately i have been trying to focus on praising God no matter what!

trust me, i know it is not always easy. but, it is always worth it!! mark batterson wrote about how he had inherited this small group of people when he started the National Community Church in Washington D.C. and he describes his first Sunday as lead pastor. it wasn't a record setting week. well, actually, it was, but not the "good" kind of record setting. only three people made it to church that Sunday; his wife, his son, and himself. you see, that weekend was the same weekend of the awful blizzard of '96 that dumped record amounts of snow on the area. how defeating. probably not at all what he pictured in his head. not at all what he planned for, for sure. not at all. but i love what he wrote next!! "the upside of that, of course, was that we experienced a 633% growth in attendance in just ONE week, when we had 19 people show up the next weekend!"

how cool is that!?! what a great attitude to have. how many churches can say they had a 633% growth in just ONE week?!? how many churches would choose to look at it that way? or would they say, ah, man, we only had 19 people show up. hmmm??

how many of us would choose to look at it that way??

a fascinating study was done by professor vicki medvec that revealed the importance of one's subjective attitude over and above objective circumstances. she studied olympic medalists and discovered that bronze medalists were quantifiably happier than silver medalists. here's why: silver medalists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold, so they weren't satisfied with silver. but, bronze medalists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all, so they were just happy to be on the medal stand!


see? how we feel isn't due to just our objective circumstances. if it were, then silver medalists would always be happier because silver is better than bronze, right? our feelings are determined by how we react to these things. how you react. how i react.

so, here i am. lying on my couch for the, who knows, how many number of days in a row now. but it doesn't matter. I AM IN CHARGE of how i will react to that. me and only me. is this how i pictured my month of november, back when i was in pain and having a hard july. nope. not at all, actually. because at least i was able to be upright in july. i thought by november i'd be much better, not worse. surely not worse.

but, i'll tell you what, friend. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!! and like mark batterson says in his book,
"maybe we should stop asking God to GET US OUT of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what HE WANTS US TO GET OUT of those difficult circumstances."

amen to that!

this isn't what i pictured. this isn't what i planned. but i trust the One who will never, ever forsake me. deut 31:8 tells us that
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." so, even if it isn't what i thought would happen, even if it isn't what i pictured. He says He'll go before me. so, i trust that. and i choose to obey what He tells me to do in 1 thess 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

so..bring on the mayo. or the mustard. who knows...i might just turn out to be a relish gal. we will just have to wait and see, my friend. wait and see. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

i've got no pearls and no lace apron

ahhh...june cleaver, the stereotypical vision of the perfect homemaker, wife, and mother. always there with the delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal, made from scratch and ready precisely on time...and always with a smile on her face, not a stain on her apron, and not a pearl out of place.

well, friend...i've got a smile. but, i've got no pearls. and i've got no lace apron.

but, man, oh man...we have swung SO far in the other direction nowadays haven't we?

well, i can honestly say that for the last year, i often haven't even felt like i've lived in my own home. i mean, ryan and i love, and i do mean LOVE where we live. but, it hasn't felt like mine in soooo long. let me try to explain.....

i have required soooo much help for soooo many things over this last year of medical drama. and don't get me wrong, we are SO beyond thankful for the help. truly. i am not sure what we would do without the amazing support of our family and friends. from cleaning our house, to doing our grocery shopping, to folding our laundry, to cooking our meals for us, to chauffeuring my kids and anywhere we have to go...we have been humbly served in the most amazing way. it has been quite a blessing. something that we can't ever be grateful enough for, and something that we very much look forward to passing along to others.

but, that's just it...all of this stuff around my house that has been done for me and not by me, has, in some ways, made my house feel less like mine and more like a home i am just visiting. i can't quite find some things that i would normally put in a certain place. my pantry isn't arranged like i am used to. there are meals i haven't been able to fix, that i miss. (ok, maybe two meals, who are we kidding, i'm not much of a cook...but, hey, i miss those two!:) even the type of cleaning supplies that we have is different. is this the absolute silliest thing you have ever heard?? i honestly do not mean to sound ungrateful, because i truly am. but, well, i am just sharing how i feel here.

i don't know about you, but i have found that when i lose something i have, especially something i take for granted...once it's gone, i miss it so much more. is this true for you too? let's just say, for instance, that you are an active, athletic type person, and you, oh, i don't know...sprain your ankle severely. (those who've known me forever are laughing because they know i've only done that like 324 times!) and all of a sudden, you desperately miss being able to run around the soccer field, jog on the treadmill, go to a step class at the gym....shoot, just being able to walk to the mailbox would be nice! but you can't. everything is different. and none of it seems good at the time. it makes you miss your mobility sooo much more than you ever appreciated it when you had it.

well, that is me right now... for the last year i haven't been able to be the homemaker...the wife...the mom...that i want so badly to be. in fact, in so many more ways that i can fully express, i haven't really felt like "me" in sooo long. it is amazing what we miss when it is gone. at this point, friend, i would LOVE to be able to to do some laundry...clean up the dishes after a meal that i made for my own family...run all those errands i'm always hearing people complain about...even clean my bathrooms for goodness sake...all of those things i would have complained about before. maybe even some of the things you complain about now. trust me, i know, i get it. i've been there.

and let me tell you, just for the record, this is SO far from my nature, it....isn't....even...funny! to give you a bit of perspective, i will share a story, one of my husband, ryan's, favorite stories to tell, about my "infamous" laundry basket. ya see....i have never, ever.... ever been a very clean or organized person. by the way, right now, all of my past roommates, my parents, along with my super tidy and organized hubby and big brother are ALL laughing out loud and saying, "ya, you, not very clean or organized, that is the understatement of the century!" so...here i was in college, finally out from under all of the "awful" :) weekly chores of my parent's house, and let's just say that i "let a few things go", shall we? :) i will spare you the actual details of the cleanliness of my bathroom, or really, the lack thereof, because i don't want you to lose all respect for me, but mainly because i don't want you to lose your lunch. :) but, back to my infamous laundry basket....ya see, i had the tendency to just pile....and pile...and pile dirty clothes up...and up...and up. i would literally stack them up as tall as i am, and then, when i absolutely couldn't take it anymore (which was, on average, about three weeks longer than the average 19 year old male) and i absolutely had to do laundry, i would just scoop off the top layer or so of clothes and do one load...maybe two. maybe. so...if you do this long enough, eventually, the seasons change and you don't actually need the clothes near the bottom of the pile. in fact, funny thing...you don't even miss them. :) and then, by some miraculous or maybe divine intervention (enter sarcastic, ha.) i, at the wise and completely responsible age of 20 (enter huge sarcastic ha.) received in the mail a credit card. and, get this, i didn't even have to pay it off in full every month - wow, how cool is that!? those fools, i only have to pay them $30 a month. score! uuugggh. needless to say, when the seasons would change back again and i had "nothing to wear", visa made it easier on me. darn you, visa.

so, now....enter ryan. a type-A personality, true methodical to the core, only child...who (no lie!) has underneath his bathroom cabinets organized with labeled plastic totes....first aid, travel accessories, razors, etc.....c'mon people...labels? seriously? labeled totes under the sink, gimme a break here. anyway...but he had...for some reason fallen in love with me. i swear people, i didn't drug the boy or anything, he actually picked me, and yes, even after seeing my bathroom! this is living proof that love really is blind. literally. so, before we got married, ryan kicked me out of my apartment and spent the day...yes, the day...and cleaned my half of the place, so that we...about to be wed...could get my share of the deposit back. and people, this was not a large apartment at all. and then, he braved the closet. he went in, (i was kinda scared he wouldn't come out!) and took huge black garbage bags and bagged up all my dirty clothes and we spent the day....yes, the day...at the laundromat together. we took up 12 washers and 12 dryers. that's right, friend...twelve. i wouldn't make that up if i could. and besides...why would i? oh..and while i'm confessing...i might as well tell you that on our wedding day, i had a whopping $74 in my checking account and i owed that darn visa about $1,300 for all of my super wonderful choices. ugh. i promise, people, he picked me. and i am soooo glad he did. and i really think he still is, too, by the way. i think. :)

i tell you all of this now, only to let you know, in a small way (trust me, i could tell you story after story, unfortunately) that it is not in my "nature" to desire the things that i have now missed so greatly. i was a major tom-boy growing up. athletic, independent, outgoing, stubborn...never lady-like or girly. i didn't "play house" really. i was the baby of the family and was kinda used to entertaining people, and, well, pretty much used to getting my way. whew. all this makes you want to run right out and buy me a BFF necklace doesn't it?? ugh.

anyway....here is my point, friend. with all my f.o.b. time lately (see other posts for reference) i have had the blessing and opportunity to listen to some amazing teachings on cds from Christown ministries. most of their focus is based on the following Scriptures from the book of titus that i had honestly never read, ever. but as soon as i did, and heard these cds, i felt such joy because it is something that God has put on my heart in such a HUGE way, especially over this last year as i have so desperately missed being the homemaker...wife....and mom i want to be...

titus 2:4-5 "that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, [to be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed."

have you ever read these verses in the second chapter of titus? verse three is really great too! it talks about how older women should be teaching younger women these things. has an older woman taught you these things? i can say that i have had older women try to teach me some of this, but i wasn't as receptive as i could have been. i am much more receptive now, let me tell you! and although i don't necessarily consider myself "older" :) - i do want to share my heart about a few things....

there is waaaay too much great stuff in these two verses for just one blog, but i do want to hit the highlights that God has been working on in my heart so strongly lately. unfortunately, if i am being truly transparent here, which i really try to be...when you read my blog, you get the good, the bad, and the ugly...i would say that if someone were to sit and describe me, i'm not sure they would say, "oooh, yes, she is lovely, she's discreet, chaste, and obedient to her husband". partly because people don't really talk like that anymore. but mainly because it is all to often not true. and as far as people using outdated language, that is just a lame excuse. i looked up some synonyms and i haven't had anyone describe me saying "she is of a sound mind, self-controlled, and curbs her own desires and impulses" either. i will honestly say that i am generally not the first to curb my own anything. in fact, i often think my ideas are good ones, they deserve to be heard, and generally, i am right. (she said, ever-so-humbly. ugh) over the years, i have become, thanks to God's help, much more self-controlled and less impulsive than i was, but i am surely still a huge work in progress. in the first years of our marriage, though, i was great at the quick-witted and harsh-hitting comebacks to ryan. if he hurt me, it hurt me deep, because i love the man so much. so, if my pain was deep, i naturally (sinfully) wanted his to be deeper. i always felt bad after wards, but that's the thing...when you are quick tempered and impulsive, there is no time for that before. but, it wasn't until i truly asked God to help me with this that i saw any real improvement in my actual behavior....and more importantly, in my heart behind it. yes, it still rears its ugly head sometimes, of course, but thankfully, it is less often.

obedient to my husband?? hmmm...also not something i ever felt much like being. i was raised in a home with a lot of rules and regulations. and whether my perception was reality or not, at that time, i didn't feel like i had much of a voice. so...as a newlywed and in my very early twenties, i felt like i had "served my time" being told what to do and how to do it. that was over. i was a real grown up now and wouldn't be bossed around anymore. and ryan, being on his own now for years and years was somewhat set in his ways. and remember, by nature, a much more methodical and organized person. so, even his suggestions as to how things could be done around our house, i took as threatening. and boy was i quick to buck the system. again, my heart was SO not in the right place. i still struggle with this in one way or another. i take so personally when things aren't "up to par" in our home, because i feel it is a poor reflection on me not only as a homemaker, but also as a person. all of these are paths of destruction that the enemy would love for me to stay on for a loooong time. but God wants me to be on His path...to seek Him...act like Him...serve like Him...have a heart like Him....which makes most of this resolve itself, friend. is it hard work? absolutely!! but, it is so worth it! in our society today, submission might as well be a four-letter word. (it isn't, by the way, it has 10 letters, i counted :) women are too entitled and independent to "have" to be that way. our personalities are too strong and our brains are too smart. i do not think AT ALL that God wants us to be doormats. in fact, i know He doesn't. but, girls, we are supposed to allow our husbands to lead us. i've heard it said that a home with two heads is a monster...an ugly, two-"headed" monster. scary, huh? and not at all God's design. (eph. 5:23) but, i know i need to remember, and i want you to keep in mind too before you get your panties too much in tangle, that our husbands are called to love us like Christ loved the church and be willing to lay down their lives for us. (eph. 5) so, i do think we get the better end of the deal...not that we should be comparing roles, of course. more on this great subject on a different blog....

because, really, the main point that God has been talking to me about in these verses is about being the "keeper at home". i have learned a lot about this lately and have such a huge heart to get to feel like this again in my own home. the keeper at home in titus 2 watches over her home, oversees it, cares for it, protects the heart of it, and ladies, as you know...this entails soooo many little and big details. but, oh, what a privilege we have to be able to set the atmosphere of our home....to provide a loving place that our husbands want to hurry home from work to...that our kids want to hang out in, and for their friends to want to hang out it, too! ryan and i have always said that we want to be the house that all the kids want to hang out at. we hope to provide that. i think so many people miss the mark and think that means you just have to have the nicest "stuff". that isn't it. i believe so much of that begins with the mom and how she keeps her home. whether she works outside the home or not...is it clean? not immaculate, friend, that isn't what i mean. i think that is virtually impossible, especially if you have children under the age of six...and definitely if you ever serve rice for dinner...ugh, can i get an amen!?. :) is there food in the pantry? is mom in a good mood? is she happy about her role in the home? or is she upset all the time? bitter about not getting to have all the "nice things" and being "stuck" with the kids all day? or is she overworked and stressed because she feels she "has to" work outside the home and she feels she can't "do it all"? some women really can handle ALL that it takes to lovingly care for her husband, and her children, and her home unto the Lord and still work outside the home....and with the right heart. i cannot. and i know that is not what God wants for me and my family.

i want to confess to you that i have, in the past, had a judgmental heart about this subject. let me explain the best i can. six years ago, ryan and i were blessed with our first child, jacob. what a joy! for us, it wasn't even an option...i was going to quit my job and be a stay at home mom. but, just so you know, i loved my job! i taught middle school math and coached as well. i felt called to do it, i felt i was gifted at it, and plus, i just enjoyed it! but now, we had this sweet baby and raising him was our priority. was this decision tough? no, making this decision wasn't tough. for us, it wasn't. there was no way we were going to put our baby in day care. and honestly, at that time i couldn't even fathom how anyone could. hence, my judgmental heart about it. God and i have talked a lot about it since then. trust me, a lot! :) and i still stand by what i've always said...if possible, i do think it is best if a mom can stay home and be with her kids as much as she can. obviously, everyone's circumstances are different and i do not ever want to hurt anyone by saying that. really, i don't. (i mean almost to a fault, because i am a pleaser. ugh.) but honestly, friend, somewhere along the line, in our society, there has become this "working mom vs. stay at home mom" battle...and wowsers, it ain't a pretty one! i am not wanting to fuel that battle, trust me. but, our enemy sure wants to, be assured of that! i heard a great phrase recently that said "you can't mandate what God's Word doesn't dictate." so true!! this just means that because it never actually says in God's Word that "the wife shalst not worketh", it is not my place to make that a rule. if i do, i am no better than the pharisees who made up their own laws for people to follow and added them onto the Bible. trust me, i do NOT want to go there, friend! it is not un-Biblical for a mom to work outside the home. just like it is not un-Biblical for your kids to date at 15 or go to public school. these are decisions for you and your spouse to make for your family. but, friend, the Bible does talk about our special role in the home and our heart about it.

in fact, i was talking recently about all of this with a sweet friend of mine who is contemplating whether she is going to stay at home with her new baby or not. i was reminiscing about how hard it was for us. now, remember, i told you that making the decision wasn't tough for us. but, i will be honest, actually living out the decision was hard for us. for some families, the husband makes bunches of money and so even if the wife stays home, they still have lotsa cashola. not for team holzberger. for us, it was a sacrifice. truly, it was. in fact, it still is! :) when we had jacob, and i quit my job, we cut our family's income by more than half. and for the record, the "half" we were left with, was ryan's teaching salary, so we weren't exactly loaded here, people. :) i was remembering and telling my friend how we never, and i mean never got to eat out (no, not even taco bell)...or buy new clothes...or go on fancy vacations....or on any vacations really....or drive nicer cars...or even drive our old cars around much because back then gas was crazy expensive...or decorate and update our house like i wished we could...like our friends could. sometimes, i missed my job. i missed the affirmation i got there, the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment, being around the people and students i loved (this was hard for a true social like me!) but, then it hit me one day as i was attending my very own pity party (i was attending it alone, by the way...funny how no one ever joins me at those parties...hmmm, go figure.)...all of that...and i mean all of it...was...all...about...me. ouch. me, me, me. i was beyond blessed that God had given us this precious baby now and the very second that little guy took his first breath on this side of heaven, my calling was different. and clearly, my priorities and my heart needed to be different too. i was so very thankful for this baby and for this conviction to where my heart was wrong. but that was for me. i was being selfish about it all. i was more concerned with the "things" i felt was missing out on, instead of the many things God had given us through the blessing of staying home with our son. ouch. that hurt.

trust me, i still have my moments. when i go to other people's fancier houses or see their cars that are less than a decade old, i may have a flash of desire that my husband made more money, too. but then i remember how incredibly blessed i am to be married to a man that handles our money so very, very wisely (dave ramsey's book - "total money makeover" - go buy it!) and that we have three healthy, amazing kiddos! and besides, i always say that i've asked God not to give us one more dime that my character can handle. and friend, He has been more than faithful. :)

but, really....in our society nowadays, i feel too many moms get trapped in the feeling that they "have" to work. like there is no possible way they could make it work without two incomes. it is almost like the concept is foreign to people now. trust me, friend. it ain't easy. we have to say no a whole lot. a whooole lot. but really, we lack for nothing that we need. and we have done it on one teacher's salary. so, it is possible. we are proof. i hope that encourages you. because our budget didn't make much sense on paper, but we chose to do without a lot. we knew what God wanted us to do and we stepped out in faith...and, friend, God has been more than faithful to us. so much more. so, if He has placed something like this on your heart, too, i encourage you to talk to your spouse about it. pray about it a lot. get others to pray with you. this is a big deal. this is the future generation you are raising here. and boy does the time fly. that sweet baby boy i quit my awesome teaching job to stay home with... he is now missing three front teeth and is away from me for seven hours a day at kindergarten. i promise i was just rocking him to sleep yesterday. it...was...just...yesterday. and i so treasure every single day i stayed home with him. i can't think of one "thing" i don't have now that i would trade for that. not. one. thing.

friend, i also feel like our society doesn't place much honor on women who choose joyfully to be homemakers or on their families that are willing to sacrifice the custom hand-scraped floors or the media room so that their children are home with mom. and like i said before, maybe it isn't as much of a sacrifice for you. maybe you can do both, stay home and have the fun extra things. if so, rock on! for the record, i love hand scraped floors and media rooms and would totally have them if we could afford it. i am not anti-hand scraped floors or media rooms, people. i'm a fan. i've probably complimented yours! :) but, again, it's just not something in the team holzberger budget right now. or anytime soon. and i am cool with that. (at least, most of the time! :) money and having "things" is not the problem, friend. it is the love of money and "things" that God has a problem with. it is putting the desire to have that stuff above what God has called you to do that is not ok. in fact, 1 timothy 6:10 says pretty clearly that it is the root of all kinds of evil. ouch. and unfortunately, in the time we live in, it is an easy trap to get caught in.

i feel there is no greater career path a mom can take than that of actually being at home and a mom to her kids. don't feel like you have to say "oh, i'm just a housewife"...sweet friend, be proud. it is a noble career. in fact, my dear sweet friend who let me borrow these cds also told me about an awesome book titled "professionalizing motherhood" by jill savage...can't wait to get it! now, of course...there are plenty of stay at home moms whose hearts need to be checked as well. mine included. are your motives right? are you truly desiring to spend quality time with your kids? or do you run all over town with your own agenda and just drag them along with you? do you really spend about as much time actually playing with your kids as you would if they were in preschool or daycare all day? do you like to just say you're a stay at home mom because you think it makes you look good? you think to yourself "yep, i'm really a great person, soooo willing to sacrifice for my family. go me!" careful, friend. careful. (just speaking from my own convicted heart here, people! been there - thought that - have the spit-up stained t-shirt) i also encourage you to do your best not to be the martyr either. don't have the "i gotta take one for the team" mentality. "oh, woe is me having to spend all day with these blasted kids every day!" guard your mind from thinking toward your spouse "oh ya, but at least you get to escape to the magical place called "grown-up-land" every day where you get to have full conversations with other grown ups, you don't have to feed anyone but yourself and you never, ever have to wipe anyone else's hiney but your own!!" again, friend..i have no idea where i've gotten all these examples of awful thoughts here. (insert sarcasm) trust me, i don't need to survey stay at home moms for this stuff. i got it covered.

sweet friend, what a JOY and a blessing to get to care for and set the heart of your home. i know it is hard and even draining sometimes...ok, most of the stinkin' time. and if you still have kids in diapers, it does literally stink most of the time. :) but, take it from someone who hasn't....gotten....to...do...it...in...a....year - - it is a blessing. and God has designed each of us girls to do just that.

you may think, "God did not design me for that, trust me!" well, i can relate to that feeling, trust me! i do not resemble anything that comes even remotely close to a distant third cousin of june cleaver. lest we forget the 12 washers and dryers, people. but i do have a heart to please God and to be the woman He describes us all to be in titus 2. and if you look at the end of this verse, the entire point of all of this is "that the Word of God be not blasphemed". friend, we, as Christians should stand out. our homes should stand out. our marriages should stand out. the way we raise our children should stand out. people should look at us and see a difference. hopefully, a huge difference! no matter whether you get your paycheck in cash and stock options, or in cheerios and finger paintings, this is how we can honor God....by living as He calls us each to live, by acting as He calls us to, by serving as He calls us to. and for some of us, myself included, it may be a tougher road. i don't think i am "built" as well to be a super great homemaker. but, i think it would be waaaay too easy to hide behind the "i'm just not built that way" excuse. i think that, because i've done that. i encourage you not to do the same. we have no idea what we can or can't do until we try. and besides if He's called you to do it, you need to do it. end of story. He will work out the details. i love what my friend's pastor said, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called!' amen! phillipians 4:13 tells us that we can do anything with the strength God gives us in Jesus! anything. and in a world that pressures us to look a certain way, own a certain size and style of home, drive a certain well-equipped van, wear a certain style of clothes...yet isn't concerned AT ALL with the motives of our hearts...can i encourage you instead to look inside....at your heart? matthew 23:26 tells us "blind pharisee! first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean". you and i have the potential to be beautiful inside, where it actually counts. we may not be right now, though. fair warning...when i truly looked inside at my heart, what i found there wasn't pretty. but, man have i been blessed by the cleaning up God has been doing. but, friend, trust me when i say He has waaay more cleaning ahead of Him than a simple 12 loads of dirty, piled up laundry. thankfully, God, like my sweet ryan, actually picked me too! and He picked you! (1 peter 2:9) my heart and your heart is really what matters. and whether you have kids or not...whether you are married or not....if you are a woman, these verses in titus 2 describe YOU! He is just working now on where He wants you to be. maybe He is working on your heart for when you will be married someday. maybe He is working on your heart for when you will someday have children...or even grandchildren. maybe you feel you didn't "do it right" the first time around with your own kids. don't worry, friend. there is nothing that our great God can't redeem. nothing. or maybe you are divorced or single and living alone in an apartment right now...you can still be a lovely example of a Godly keeper at home. it is all about your heart. and His heart. one in the same.

so, friend...please keep me accountable. if, in a couple months, when i am all healed up and my life is a bit more back to "normal" (which i am believing, in faith, that it will be! amen!)...if i am complaining about cleaning my bathrooms or folding the piles and piles of my kid's laundry (God's sense of humor as payback for my infamous college laundry basket:)...remind me of this blog (in love, of course :) although, after sooooo much time away from being able to feel like a keeper at home...after sooo long of this void in my heart...i would like to think i would not so easily forget. in fact, i hope that i never forget the sheer emptiness i feel from not being able to be the homemaker, the wife, and the mom i want so desperately to be. oh, how i miss it, friend. what a blessing! what a noble calling!

thank you God for making our role so special! thank you for choosing us to serve in this precious way! may we wear your Name well. may we be emptied of the selfishness, love of money, envy, and pride of this world. instead, may we be filled with Your joy, peace, thankfulness, love and utter selflessness.

and may we do it all with no pearls and no lace apron needed! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

no gifts, please

i am all about gift giving. i mean it. i love it!!

have you ever read "the five love languages" by gary chapman? if not, i highly recommend it. it is one of the books that has helped save our marriage from ryan and i flat out screwing it up. anyway - in the book you are looking for how you tell people you love them. how you "speak" to them in love. the options are: physical touch, quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts and words of affirmation. the theory is that, however you love others (what you do for them) is generally how you like to receive love as wel.

well, ryan and i read this book, took the survey and in true "us" fashion weren't surprised by the results one bit. once you tally up your score, you place your love languages in order from those most important to you, all the way down to those least important. and then you can generally categorize yourself by your top two love languages. well, ladies and gents - you guessed it...my numbers #1,2,3,4,5 in order were ryan's #5,4,3,2,1 and vise versa. i mean it...we were the exact polar opposites. of course, by this time in our marriage we didn't need a survey to prove this, but it was, shall we say, interesting to see on paper. the two most important ways that i say "i love you" were his bottom two - by far....and the same for me. man, oh man God had a sense of humor by pairing us up, huh? or maybe He just knows what's good for us. :)

ya see, my sweet ryan is for sure, 100% an acts of service person. no doubt about it. he doesn't write poems or buy flowers or shower me with hugs, kisses and compliments. he will, instead, clean up the kitchen, fold the laundry, handle all the bills, wash my car, clean up dishes after dinner, etc. that is how he says "i love you".

but, friend, that ain't how i hear it. that is by far #5 on my list. by far. i am for sure, 100% a words of affirmation and receiving gifts person. (i was kind of a tie...shocking to you? probably not.) i was a little embarrassed by this at first because i thought, "i don't care about big expensive gifts at all, that isn't me!" but that isn't what it means. a "gift" can be leaving a little note on my bathroom mirror or picking up my favorite ice cream and surprising me with it in the freezer when i open it up. and the words of affirmation part is pretty self-explanatory. and boy oh boy do i crave that. probably to a fault. but, that, my friend, is another blog altogether.

anyway - many of the arguments---i would even venture to say most of the arguments that ryan and i have had over the last 13 years of being together, and especially the 9 years living under the same roof as man and wife - can be linked back to how we do not at all match up on these core love styles.

i know, i know...wives around the world think i am a bloomin' idiot that i am not jumping up and down that my man is willing, and even enjoys, doing stuff around the house for me. i can't tell you how many friends i've had who just stare at me bug-eyed and with jaws dropped that say "no, sorry - you don't get to complain about your husband. nope, sorry!" and don't get me wrong, i am thankful for what ryan does. i am. and i really don't complain about ryan like i used to. i am thankful God taught me years ago that going to my girlfriends with anything negative about my husband doesn't honor anyone, anytime, anywhere. but, i do go to God about it. i have been known to pray the popular little three word wives prayer, "change him, Lord!" because although i appreciate what he does, it doesn't tell me he loves me. it isn't what i need to "hear".

but, God knows exactly where ryan and i are. He knows exactly what we need. and what i have been learning even more so recently is that He is working on each of us exactly how He needs to for each of us, right now.

which leads me to the point of this blog. this weekend marks the one year "anniversary" of when all this medical drama started back up for me. yes, it really began three years ago, and the side effects have been going on since then, but life was still "ok" for the most part. but, really - it was a year ago that i went into the hospital with a spinal fluid leak (again) and came out with no answers. and i haven't...been...the...same...since. for the last year- i have had not one pain free day. not one. i haven't felt like me. my life hasn't been "back to normal" since. not since one year ago. so, i guess, it is the "anniversary"...but, no gifts, please.

and this, coming from me. because i love gifts, remember!?! i love getting them, giving them...i love even when other people are getting or giving them to others and i'm not even involved! i just love it! and i love celebrating events about it! in fact..poor ryan, when we were dating and first married, too, actually....he had so much to keep up with...because i loved birthdays and anniversaries. i would blissfully walk up to him and hug him and grin and say "baaabe, do you know what todaaay is?" and then he would have to stop and think..."hmmm...ok, if it is the 15th, then it is six months 'til your birthday....if it is the 1st, then it is 2 months until my birthday....if it is the 25th, then it is our dating anniversary...if it is the 11th, then it is our wedding anniversary....poor guy. :) but it is true, i love celebrating anniversaries. i love remembering the joy and the fun and re-living all of it. and birthdays are really just anniversaries of our birth - so, for me, it's really all about anniversaries.

but, i have thought about this, quite a bit....and there really needs to be another word for when you are faced with the date again of something that you really don't want to celebrate. an occasion that occurred that maybe wasn't fun or full of joy. my cousin has faced this a lot of her life, because her birthday is november 22nd. now, this date might not mean a lot to people from my generation, but whenever she has told her birthday to anyone around our folks' age, they generally reply with, "ooh, bummer of a birthday, that was the day john f kennedy was shot" ok, thanks, people, that is also my birthday...is how i would reply, at least. but, these people remember where they were when they heard the news, what they were wearing, all of it. i never really understood this...how people could recall something so vividly....that is, until september 11th 2001. then, i got it. in fact, that day was ryan and i's one month wedding anniversary. we got married august 11th, 2001 and i vividly remember that one month anniversary day, where i was, what i was wearing...all of it. that day started with me being so giddy because it was our first real anniversary as a grown up couple with a grown up anniversary as mr. and mrs. but the day ended with a whole different emotion. and every year when that day comes around, we remember that day and honor it. but, there really should be another word than the "anniversary" of something that doesn't bring us joy. maybe un-iversary. myabe we should say un-happy anniversary. i don't know. something.

but, here i was, i knew this weekend was approaching. my dad reminded me, too. because, for him, it is one of his favorite weekends of the year - opening weekend for deer season. yes, grandpa is gone this weekend "feeding the deer". we haven't told the kiddos exactly what grandpa does there yet. we'll drop that bomb at some point, not yet though, they're still little. for now, they just think he must really like to feed them. and he does. he likes them fat. we'll just leave it at that. but, anyway, last year my dad got the call at his cabin that i was in the hospital again and he had to rush back to see how his little girl was. he smiled and hugged me thursday and said "alright, toots, let's not do like we did last year, ok?" he was teasing of course, he would gladly rush back anytime. but, that was when it hit me. wow, a full year had passed. a year. whoa. not-so-happy anniversary to me. and no gifts, please.

i tried not to think too much about it because i just didn't want to get too down about it. a full year of my life has been so looong, and sooo full of pain and ya know what..still not over yet.

i still type this too you from my couch. still no answers. still in pain. still not sure this last procedure worked.

but, ya know what?? i did get an anniversary gift this weekend. that's right. from my God.

this weekend i felt good enough (and determined enough) to tough out the pain and get out of my house. i put on real clothes (i.e. non sweat pants, no elastic waist, no sports bra) and somewhat straightened my hair and put on makeup and went to TWO stores. that's right TWO stores. granted, i only spent about 15 minutes in each store, but who cares? that is the first time i have been out in public like that in THREE MONTHS!! three months, people. can you even imagine that!?! that is also the first time i have put on real clothes like that in three months. when you lie on your couch all day, it is pretty much pointless to be in clothes that aren't comfy.

and that wasn't all. i got to go to church too! wahoooooo!!!!! for the first time in three months, i was able to go to church. my mom was here for the weekend and able to help. (ryan had to cover a football game for his asst. principal duties) my dear friends at church took care of me and met me at the door with a wheelchair and i lied down at the back of the sanctuary, as to not cause a disruption. i brought my pillow (i actually forgot my ice packs, major bummer, but i still made it!) and it was awesome! we actually got there before the praise and worship began (a first for me) and so i was able to take part in the whole deal. what a blessing. and you know what?? they played my song. chris tomlin's "our God" is kinda my anthem right now...it rocks!! (if you don't know it, look it up online and rock out - it is such a praise-full song!) and i loooove the build up to the chorus that says:

and if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
and if Our God is with us, then what can stand against?

so true. (romans 8:31)

so, here i was on the one year un-iversary of the weekend this all went from bad to worse. but, God...knowing me better than anyone (psalm 139).....knowing that a clean kitchen, folded laundry and a washed car wouldn't mean as much to me...He got me a gift instead.

He gave me a glimpse.

i got a glimpse back of the life that He has waiting for me. a life full and abundant that He came for me to have. (john 10:10) and i got this glimpse in faith, because i do not lie here healed. in fact, i feel worse today that i have in a while. but, i lie here hopeful. hebrews 11:1 says that "now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." i am certain He gave me this glimpse.

and honestly friend, He might as well have put a big fat red bow on it. i knew it was just from Him to me. i lied there and cried and worshiped at my home church. i tooted around Target on my hover-round. and i sort of smiled at the gal i recognized in the mirror wearing the cuter clothes.

so....happy "whatever you wanna call it" day to me. but, remember....no, gifts please.

i already got mine. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

investing in a parka

so, i was raised in texas. i have lived here my entire life. born and bred and proud of it. in fact, i actually own a t-shirt that has a map of the united states on it...all of which is colored in black, except for the state of texas, which is colored red, white and blue, and has been brought out on the map, to be larger than it is, (of course) with a huge patriotic arrow pointing to it that largely says TEXAS! and a little bitty black arrow that points to the rest of the map that says "whatever". ok, maybe that is a bit overboard. maybe. (then again, maybe not :)

my point is, that being from this fine state, as i have mentioned before, we basically only have a couple of seasons. from march through november, it is pretty much summer and the rest of the year can affectionately be called "about to be summer".

i just had a dear friend travel to the new england states (which i hear are located up north somewhere and maybe over to the right a bit) and i texted her and said "hey, i hear rumors that leaves actually change colors from red to orange and yellow"...is this true!?!" she laughed and then texted me back pictures of beautiful fall colored leaves, the likes of which i have never seen. and before you east texas and hill country folks get your britches in a bunch, i know, i know..you guys have more of a fall than we do, but c'mon...it is still texas. we don't hold a candle to the northeast and their four actual seasons.

and then there is winter. sure, we have one. sort of. for the most part our temperature gets down in the low 40's maybe and often we have a spattering of nights below freezing...ooohh...i know, brutal isn't it. somewhere, someone from minnesota is laughing their hiney off at us southern wimps. that sounds like a crisp day in august to them, i bet. well, not here, not for this texas gal.

last Christmas was a white one, in fact. you wouldn't believe it if i didn't document it better than NASA did the first man on the moon. i mean it, i have soooo many pictures from those few days because our area literally got 10 inches of gorgeous, fluffy, white snow in one day. u n h e a r d - o f for our area. the dallas/fort worth metroplex darn near shut down. people panicked and flocked to the stores (driving 3 miles an hour, mind you, cause we have no stinkin' idea how to drive in this stuff!) for cans of beans and firestarter logs like they were planning to hunker down for weeks. it was borderline on a state of emergency here, people. again, northerners are like "ooohh geez, you guys had a bad spell for once, did ya, eh?" well, shoot fire - as a matter of fact, y'all - we did! and darnit if i didn't have the complete wrong apparel for it. why would i invest in snow boots, or a super heavy duty long johns, or a parka for goodness sake?? talk about a fat waste of money. it would make about as much sense as one of those minnesota folks investing in sunblock in bulk. not wise. don't get me wrong...i looove watching those movies set in new york where the fashionable girls have different fabulous winter coats for different outfits, but what in the world would i use those for here??

well, in true "me" fashion, i do actually have a point to all of this, i just took about six paragraphs to get to it. (shocking, i know!) i have a few phrases that i use often. a couple "staple" thing that sometimes make people laugh. i like to think i'm a fairly funny gal. my sweet hubby used to think so too, but now says "babe, i've heard all your material!" ha ha, babe. funny one, that ryan. :) but, one phrase i do use often, i must say i feel like i have lived lately, friend. i'm being honest when i say, over this last year, i have been "shoveling snow in a blizzard"

ever heard that one?

well...me, being the extremely visual person that i am, when i say that phrase, i immediately picture it. me...out on the front sidewalk of a house....shoveling this loooong sidewalk. i have a nice, large heavy-duty snow plow shoveling thingy (see, i don't even know what the things are called) and i am hunched over, diligently scooping huge, fluffy mounds of snow off of the sidewalk. swoosh! swoooosh! back and forth, in each direction...to the left of the sidewalk...swoosh, then back to the right of the sidewalk...swoosh!! over and over, all the way down this loong driveway. tiring. sweating. hard work here people. and oh ya...did i mention that it is like hard core snowing...like blizzard snowing. thick, white, quarter sized flakes blowing fiercely and furiously sideways, upways, acrossways - everyways at me this entire time. so that, obviously...after i have been shoveling and shoveling and i get to the end of this loooong sidewalk, i streeetch my back up, plant my snow plow digger upper thingy in the snow and turn to see the fruit of my labor...and sigh. i squint back and can just barely see clearly enough to see that in the time it has taken me to clear the way, the snow has re-covered the sidewalk once again. uugghh. you have got to be kidding me. in frustration, i grab my snow scooper and feverishly begin to make my way back up the sidewalk...swoosh, swoosh...left side...right side...left side...right side...back and forth and back and forth. all the way back up the walk. i can no longer feel my feet or my hands, of course, but after yet another looong trip of hard work in the freezing snow....whew, i'm done. i throw the snow shoveling thing down in the snow and quickly turn back, ready to run inside to warmth...only to see once again...uuugghh, no way!!! the sidewalk is covered again. not again?? yep, again.

well, friend. that is it. shoveling snow in a blizzard. no matter how hard you work and how far you think you get. the sidewalk doesn't stay cleared for very long. at. all.

can you relate to this at all? obviously, if you have read any of my past blogs, you know that i am currently dealing with the most frustrating medical drama of my entire life. and by the way, drama is so not me. i was just texting with a dear lifelong friend yesterday and i told her "hey, whatever happened to the me who used to say "save the drama for your mama!"...i AM that drama-filled girl now. ugh.

i feel so often like i cannot get out from under it. the snow is not only rising beyond my not-at-all allweather boots, but it is also blowing fiercely in my face from every direction. and the weatherman says there is no end in sight. lovely.

viral meningitis. numbness in back and legs. can't sit upright in a chair. ruptured cyst. traumatic labor resulting in emergency surgery. adrenal crisis. bronchitis. medication side effects. depression. another spinal fluid leak. occipital neuralgia. postural headaches. pneumonia. gluten intolerance. hormonal imbalance. shingles. spastic colon. yet another spinal fluid leak. another adrenal crisis. stroke-like symptoms. ribs out of place. sinus infection. severe weight gain. anxiety. intracranial pressure problems. colonoscopy for polyps. severe fatigue. vertigo. medication contradictions. oh yes, another spinal fluid leak. muscle loss and danger of atrophy. dislocated shoulder. nerve damage. migraines. all of which have come with doctor after doctor running test after test after test and doing scan after scan after scan...still no diagnosis. still no answers.

needless to say, there have been times i have felt like someone moved me from my nice warm home state of texas to the stinkin' arctic and forgot to tell me.

maybe you can't relate to my specific circumstances. maybe you are healthy. but, maybe you have bills from credit card debt or student loans that pile up so high each and every month that they might as well be shoveled off with a large scooper or maybe you even feel you need a zamboni at this point.

maybe you and your spouse argue so much that you feel like you are weighed down with pounds and pounds of snow in the form of disappointment, regret, anger, insecurity, shame, and probably most of all frustration as to how it all will end.

maybe you have children who are constantly needing every little fiber of energy that you could possibly have. and so you give and give and give all day, every single day and no matter how far ahead you think you get on the laundry or the dishes or the cleaning it never, ever seems to slow down and you are there at the end of each day, the ONLY one holding a stinkin' snow shovel.

maybe your job is so demanding that no matter how many extra hours you put in, or contacts you make, or clients you attain...you never, ever, ever feel secure enough to take in a sigh of relief and enjoy the snowy view from your hard earned corner office.

i do not know if you have ever felt this way. but i know that i have. and i know Jesus has. hebrews 4:15 talks about how our Jesus as having been there. He felt what we feel. He knows what pressure is all about. and disappointment. He's been there. yet, He went through it all with no sin.

not me.

nope, i find myself often feeling all types of things i shouldn't. questioning God's timing, His purpose, His plan. as if the God of the universe doesn't know what He is doing. ya, God..hi, it's me again... i know you like invented the whole world and stuff, but i really think my life would go better if......(fill in the blank) ugh. gee, i'm humble, eh?

thankfully, we serve a God that can handle our feelings. that's right, all of them. and He cares. i know this because i have lived it. but Jesus also shows us this when He weeps about the death of his friend Lazarus. Mary and Martha are understandably upset about the death of their brother. they were all friends with Jesus. they believed in who He was. they knew He could have saved him. but He didn't. Lazarus was dead. in fact, by the time Jesus got to the graveside, Lazarus was four days old stinky dead. when mary and martha had seen Jesus at first they had both said "if you had just been here, our brother would not have died". if you had just been here. man, i don't know about you, but i have felt that way a time or two. but, do you know what Jesus did?? john 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. it says clearly what Jesus did when he saw the pain they were feeling, the anguish these sisters were going through. "Jesus wept." friend, Jesus knew this wasn't the end. in fact He told them it wasn't. He told them they'd see Lazarus again. (john 11:23) but still He met them where they were, in their grief and their disappointment and He wept. have you ever stopped to think about that? He absolutely knew that He was going to be bringing Lazarus back to life, yet still He wept. that, friend, is a God who can relate to our feelings.

and it is a God with a plan. when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick, He assured them this sickness wouldn't end in death (john 11:4) and then what did He do? did He rush out and jump on His race donkey to get there in record time? nope. He stayed where He was for two more days. two. more. days. for any of us who have been going through something awful, we know that two days can feel like an eternity. we do not know for sure why Jesus waited like He did. why He allowed them to go through what He did. but He knew them better than anyone. in His perfect sovereignty, He knew what they needed. and He says clearly that the purpose of this ordeal is simple. (john 11:4) "it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."

the same is true for you and for me.

i have no idea why in the world i have had to endure one, not to mention all of the things listed in the paragraph earlier, in the last few years. it sure doesn't seem fair? and trust me, it sure isn't fun. but, i believe that the purpose is simply the same as what is was for the tragedy mary and martha faced. now, clearly i am not relating what i have gone through to anyone who literally has faced the death of a loved one. that, i respectfully say, is on a whole other level. but, i do believe what the Bible says, in romans 8:28 "and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." it definitely doesn't say that all things are good. death, pain, suffering, illness....that is not good. but God can use it for good. somehow. somewhere. someway. someday.

so, friend....i am and always will be a proud texan. but, i am thinking it is about time i invest in a parka. always seemed like a waste of time and money for me before. but, i have been in this blizzard for a while now. shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. my hands are blistered. my nose is cold. and the weatherman has still not let me know that this snow is letting up anytime soon. i could just stomp around and pout about the weather. actually i have. i could fuss and complain and whine about how unfair it is that i am not on a beach right now like other people. ok, done that, too. i could even flop down in the snow and contemplate why each flake is falling and what made it fall. but, none of that stops the snow. none of it slows the blizzard. so, friend....i think it best to just invest in a parka. i will be warmer. better prepared for the rest of my time shoveling in this extreme weather.

it is a choice though. it is something i must choose to do. over and over and over. each and every day. wouldn't it be silly for me to simply decide to dress appropriately for day one of this blizzard and then spend the next two months out in the cold complaining or bragging or reminiscing of that one day i was snuggly and warm in my parka?

the Bible talks a lot about how and with what we are to clothe ourselves.

colossians 3:12 says "therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

this could not apply more. Lord, i do not know why you are allowing this, but i trust you and i believe your way is better than mine. (humility) i know that now because i have been through this, i will be better prepared to act more like You to those around me who are genuinely struggling and in need. (compassion, kindness, gentleness) and Lord, You are above time. i cannot fathom your timetable because you know the end from the beginning (isaiah 46:10) but i will stay out here in this cold and trust you. (patience) please notice it says clothe yourselves. you gotta do it. i gotta do it.

1 peter 5:5 also reminds us "all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." i know i already mentioned humility, but for some reason, in my own thick skull, i feel the need to bring this up twice to myself. (way more than twice, actually) suffering is hard. there is no way around that. and yes, we all occasionally need to attend our own pity party every once in a while. i think that is ok, but as my sweet friend says, "ya sure, that's fine as long as you don't rent the room and hire the band." true. we are all so self-sufficient and independent in today's world, that we actually think that we can come up with a better plan for our lives that our very own Creator. lest we forget who made us from dirt, people. (gen. 2:7)

ephesians 4:22-24 "you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

whoa. this clinches it, friend. the old you, and well, the old me wants to plop my hiney down in this snow and pitch a good ol' fit for a while - a long while. i want to envy those around me who have it "so easy". i want to complain about how long and hard this has been. i want to question every single thing that keeps a comin' and a comin' and a comin' my way that doesn't feel good at all. it would also be easy to get angry and bitter. and ya know what, it would also be so easy to become a martyr and become self-righteous. the pendulum swings so far both ways, friend. but...in case you haven't noticed...look around...none of those behaviors of my old self change the weather forecast - they still...don't...stop...the...snow. so, i choose to use the strength God offers me daily to "make new the attitude of my mind". i have to. the other option is cold and gloomy and lonely. instead, i have the opportunity to dress warmly and choose to see each day as a blessing. ya know...snow is kinda pretty.

and by the way, in case you care to know... i think my parka will be polka-dotted.

hey, i think it is ok to be warm and cute. nothing wrong with that. :) hmmm...maybe i should even get boots that match.....couldn't hurt. :)