Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Surprises Never Stop

Just when I think my life couldn't get more boring and predictable, I go and act all crazy. I may not be known as someone who's wild and spontaneous, but after the past couple of days, my reputation may be a-changin'. I know you're curious now (or trying to stay awake to see if there will actually be anything interesting to follow), so let me just get right to it. (This would be a good time to exit stage left and go ahead and take that nap.)

I'll start with Monday. Only, I've been wracking my brain for five minutes and cannot remember one thing about Monday. Did we do Monday this week? apparently Monday was not wild and crazy.

Oh, right! On Monday, I became part of a rebel group. A few weeks ago, I decided to step outside of my normal and be a part of Discovery Clubs. Now, before you start thinking that being a Discovery Club mentor doesn't sound all that crazy, take a good look at the website and notice what I have to wear in order to do this. That's right. I have to dress like a banana, only less cool, because it's a banana vest. When I went to training, I was all on board and loving it, until they pulled out the yellow vests. Only "yellow" is too calm a word to describe these things. Listen, I have told you time and again that I am no fashionista, but even I have trouble sporting this vest that could easily get me a job as a runway light.

Aside from the vest, I thought this would be a great way for me and my boys (or two of them) to bridge the gap between school and home. We're always telling them that they are called to be a light in their schools, and now we were going to have a tangible way to do that together. Okay, with that vest, I realize we could easily be a light anywhere. I had decided to give up my precious early school dismissal day with my kids to spend more time at the school in order to share some truth with whoever might come to Club.

We were all shocked to find out at our first meeting on Monday, that we had been denied the right to meet in that school. I won't go into all the details, and this wouldn't be so surprising in many other places, but around here, it was definitely a surprise. Here's the deal: it's after school and completely voluntary. Oh, this world in which we, instead of a planning meeting, we had a prayer session. I felt like a little bit of a rebel, even without the vest on. We'll see if anything changes in the coming days. I may get to dress like Big Bird yet, if the Lord sees fit.

On to Tuesday. I went from blazing new fashion trails to making promotional visits on behalf of Designs for Hope to area businesses. For me, the introvert of all introverts, the one voted Least Likely to Become a Salesman in high school, this was big. But, as it turned out, it wasn't too bad. I mean, when you've got an awesome organization like Designs for Hope, there isn't much salesmanship needed, right?

We're planning our first big event in November, and I'm totally out of my element. All of this is beyond us, but that's where God likes to show up. We're hoping to use the event to celebrate all that has been accomplished, to raise some much needed funds, to make some new and awesome connections, and to share our goals for the future. And that means me actually talking to people that I don't know, or even asking people that I do know for help. Yikes!

Oh, but before I pursued uncomfortable social interactions, I totally surprised myself by going to have lunch at school with one of my kids in the month of September. And it wasn't even his birthday or anything. (That's right. I did not wait until May 19th.) Go ahead and give me my Gold Mommy Star. As I sat with Jack and his new "best friend," watching the other little boy eat nothing but a fudgesicle for lunch, I was reminded why I have strictly forbidden my children to buy ice cream or slushies at school. Some mother just paid $2.50 for her kid to get a sugar high and find himself hungry again in approximately 45 minutes. Did I mention they eat lunch at 10:50?

After adopting the new titles of Rebel and Salesman and Mommy of the Year, I decided to just sit back and relax and do a little sewing and crafting today.

Oh, yes. You just thought I was wild and crazy before. SEWING?! CRAFTING?! That's so not me.

I actually started my sewing endeavors yesterday, when I began the process of sewing two buttons back onto one of Chris's shirts. I am glad I had no witnesses, because I may have had a bit of a hard time. Yep, I'll get that second one done in no more than two months no time.

Then today, I did something unheard of. I made a wreath. It involved a needle, thread, fabric, and even a hot glue gun. Now, I may have allowed my mom to take part in this little project just to keep her from being bored (because there's no way I would need any help with this). Out of the kindness of my heart, I even let her provide the supplies and the house in which to make it. I don't like to brag, but I have to show you how it turned out, and this was with 25-year-old fabric out of my mom's closet.

Yes, we even made fabric flowers. I feel like I've climbed Mt. Everest or something. Only without the frostbite, altitude sickness, and brush with death.

I could only have been motivated to do something of this magnitude for a reason greater than my own sense of accomplishment. I'm usually just happy to get all my laundry done. But this is for something super important. We (see how I'm letting my mom be a part of all this?) are planning on making ruffle wreaths of all different varieties and selling them to help bring our newest family member home. You can check out all the details of her adoption here.

So, while you're unable to move on with your day because of your amazement at my wild and crazy week, think about how much you need a fall or Christmas or everyday cute wreath to hang on your wall or door or  front bumper or wherever wreaths hang. I'll be back with more options as soon as I have them. 'Cause there's no stopping me now. Things only get crazier from here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Your Part for This ONE

This world is so full of suffering and heartache, that it's easy to be overwhelmed, which often paralyzes us. I know in my daily life when four kids are all asking for something different, the dryer is buzzing, the bread is burning, and the phone is ringing, it sometimes just stops me in my tracks. I'm completely immobilized by all the demands, unsure of which direction to move next. If only I was a telepathic octopus (you know, more arms would come in handy). But I'm not. Okay, I'm kind of glad. That would be weird.

When I find myself in those situations, I remind myself that I do not have to, nor can I, get all these things done at once. So I have to make a choice to do the next thing. Sometimes the next thing is what is most the two-year-old has fallen in the toilet. That would take priority, as long as no one else is gushing blood, I guess. Other times, it's the thing closest to me. If I can get to it without climbing over four protesting children, I might just decide to go with convenience. And still other times, I might choose something that has eternal value over something that has only temporal value.

My point is, so many times the only way to deal with the paralyzing feeling that great need brings over us is to do the next thing. Do the thing right in front of you. Do the thing that's most important. Do something to help someone, though it might seem small. Take a step of intentional obedience in the small, and many times the faith and opportunities that seem more significant will present themselves later.

Last night, I saw a post someone had shared on facebook, which included a photo of twin boys in China. They have a physical disability and, sadder still, they are orphans. That one photo had me perusing a whole blog post devoted to orphans who are desperately in need of a family before it is too late. Needless to say, I was quickly overwhelmed with sadness and frustration at being unable to do anything to help all those children.

I cannot do it all. I cannot do much of anything right now...or can I? It feels to me, a human with very limited vision, that I am doing nothing. The Enemy would have me believe that I can do nothing. Or that what little I can do is like a grain of sand on a vast beach, so why bother?

But those are lies.

The truth is this: The Lord has put in my very family a child to be adopted. She will not live in my home, but she will live in the heart of my family. She will be a part of our everyday lives that, one day soon, we will not be able to imagine being without. She is my niece.

We can all be a part of easing the heartache for some. Maybe not for all, but that is not our job. Today, do something that seems so small, so insignificant, that it's easy to bypass the opportunity. It feels like you're doing almost nothing, but let me assure you, you will be doing something. You will be playing a part in encouraging these parents, in providing for this child, and in giving a little of what you've been blessed with to bless another.

Just buy a t-shirt. Right here.

But do more than that. Support my new modeling career.

Okay, not that.

Pray for this family. Pray that God would make a way, doing something miraculous in their lives.

I'm sorry if it feels like I'm pulling on your heartstrings just to make a buck. To me, it's become more than a buck. It's become our part. Our part in God's plan to ease the heartache...both now and forever.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

And They're Off!

It's week four of the school year, and I'm happy to say we've settled into our new routine nicely. We're getting the hang of middle school, third grade, and kindergarten, but the whole thing is still refreshingly new. The getting up in the dark is rough some days, but we're all enjoying the new experiences and the comforting routine of life. And the tears are subsiding for this momma who has sent one onto the runway to adolescence and one into the fray of big school for the first time.

Sam and I started out lonely...

Really, the whole first and second weeks seemed entirely too quiet. Sam quickly realized that he had the rule of the roost (including toys and Mommy), so his sadness faded into contentment after about, oh, thirty minutes.

Mommy took a little longer to realize that it wasn't such a bad thing having more time and attention to focus on Sam and other things. And when Mr. Big School gets home, our time together is all the sweeter for having missed one another. He's making friends like crazy, which isn't surprising, and declares his teacher to be "beautiful," with a dreamy quality to his voice and his head tilted to the side. I suppose I can share a tiny piece of his heart with her, especially since he assured me I was still the most beautiful.

Luke seriously headed to school with no looking back. Okay, he looked back for this picture, but only because he was asked to. Let me state that I am not a fan of this photo, since he looks six feet tall and is leaving me.

I also would appreciate it if kindergarten teachers didn't do things like send mushy gushy poems out on First Day of School Eve or send my sweet baby home with things like this tag. Sob.

It makes my attempts to deny reality and suppress my emotions all the harder.

And I have to say that I am oh so thankful that our transition to middle school has gone more smoothly than I could have ever dreamed. Unless this girl is keeping info from me and has her head completely in the clouds, it's been great. I am a little proud/shocked/amazed/saddened at the changes that have taken place in my first born in less than a month.

She has taken on the added responsibilities of lockers and P.E. clothes and keeping up with her work and changing classes like it's no big deal. Don't get me wrong. There were first day jitters, but since then, it's been smooth sailing. 

What a proud feeling it gives me to see her blooming. I love that she has such a quiet confidence about her. That must be God-given.
And let's not forget my other two school boys. Chris seems to have a renewed sense of joy and purpose in teaching high schoolers who can squelch joy and purpose with a roll of the eyes. And our little genius Jack is enjoying every second of third grade and blowing tests out of the water. Sweet boy must have smart parents. :)
(Just to clarify the photo above, I'm not making Jack take uncooked noodles for lunch. We have a lovely system for taking care of our recyclable items. It goes like this: I throw them in the floor by the basement door, then when a kid heads downstairs, I make them carry as much as they can to the box in the basement. See how organized and methodical we are?)
So the time I've dreaded as a momma has come. Another kid is off to big school, and every time I look at Sam, I think of the day he'll go. It's hard to see the days and years flying by, but I'm seeking the Lord for contentment. There are hard truths we have to learn, and this is a time of learning and accepting for me. Choosing thankfulness is key and something I'm getting a lot of practice at. It's also a pretty easy choice with blessings running out my ears like they are.
I'm also reminding myself of this truth: Contentment cannot be dependent on my enjoyment or misery in my circumstances. It is knowing that those circumstances are put in place by a God who will use them to achieve His purposes, which are good and loving, and gladly accepting whatever it takes to reach those goals. It is an undercurrent of peace and joy that comes from trusting the unerring hand of God.
So the Lord takes his hand and continues to write His story in our little family. It's pretty fabulous to be a part of it.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Lesson That Just Won't Quit

Once upon a time, there was a family with a nice backyard. It was at the bottom of a cliff and it always seemed to have weeds in it and there were always toys left out, but it was nice nonetheless. The four little children loved to spend hours with their friends playing on the swingset, in the little playhouse, and on the see saw.

And then one day the playground was found to be full of mushy, stinky sewage and the backyard died.

The end.

 Hopefully that's not really the end, but it feels like it right now. All I want is a backyard for my children to play in! Because there are times when I need them to leave the house. Like today. (Started writing this on Labor Day. Got a little distracted.)

So, in honor of Labor Day and in an effort to take one tiny baby step toward solving our first world backyard problems, we did a little manual labor Saturday. Last weekend, we were living it up in Chattanooga with the brother and sister-in-law and without the kids. This weekend, we were working like dogs. Very hot and sweaty dogs. My, how things can change in a week.

This summer has been lovely and mild. There have been many days that made you think autumn was already here. Except for this weekend. It felt like summer. So we thought: What better time to carry lots of large landscaping blocks and bucketfuls of pea gravel up a 60° slope? In doing so, I got to thinking, and I came away with a few observations and insights on life. And now, to your delight, I'm going to share them with you so that you can have all the enlightenment with none of the blood, sweat, and tears.

You're welcome.

1. I would not have made it as a Hebrew slave in Egypt.

2. I would not make it as a ditch digger.

3. I am proud of my kids. Or at least I was at the moment when I went back in the house for some much needed something...such as water...and found Jack doing his reading homework (Maddie had set the timer for him) and Maddie reading a book to Sam and Luke on the couch. They informed me that next on the agenda was a game. Apparently they all agreed on one and then played it together without anyone crying. Miraculous. Things went downhill after that.

4. I am completely fine with being the weaker partner. I will admit that I can only carry one heavy block to his two and that I couldn't carry a 5-gallon bucket full of gravel up that hill if my life depended on it. I also clearly need more water and air conditioning breaks. There are perks to being a girl.

5. Sometimes being my husband's helper means literally helping him do manly work, even though I already had plans of my own that involved paying bills while sitting down in a nicely cooled house. Surprisingly, when I listen to that still, small voice and do something to help my husband (even something that I really don't want to do), I sometimes find unexpected joy.

6. I'm thankful to have a hard-working husband who can carry heavy things.

7. There is no need for me to spend money at Crossfit when I can get the workout of a lifetime in my backyard for free.

8. There is something satisfying about hard work. And there is something heavenly about taking a cool shower and sitting down for a few minutes when you're done.

9. The Saga of the Backyard...and our yard in general as this has been a summer with no time for Big Strong Husband to cut the yard and now no working lawnmower to boot...has been slowly, agonizingly teaching me a lesson. A lesson I've shared with you many times before, but that the Lord is having to refine in me time and again.

This stuff doesn't matter. A neighborhood full of people who may or may not be scoffing at the mess your yard is and will continue to be is not a big deal. Are you seeking to please Me? Are you spending your time and resources on eternal things? If so, don't worry about the yard. Maybe I'll give you a perfectly manicured one in heaven. Or maybe you just won't care anymore, because you'll have what matters.

So, I will continue to send silent, apologetic thoughts in my neighbors' direction and I will continue to exercise patience while striving for a thankful, eternal attitude. And hopefully, one day, the backyard will return to a smidgen of its former glory.

And if any of you are bored or in need of a good workout or are just ready to get this ridiculous problem solved so you can quit reading about my sewage, I can give you my address.