Swimming Lessons

Sunday, we went swimming at a friend’s house. God used this time to sum up something he has been teaching me lately. It was a sweet time. My friend is battling cancer and she has finished her last chemo and is beginning to feel human again. It was great to see life beaming out of her beautiful blue eyes.

I’ve been wrestling with something I couldn’t reconcile. The question: Does God cause bad thing for people? Why do bad things happen at all? I’ve given the right answer when asked “God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but he works all things together for those who love him and are called according to His purpose.” Or “Sin is what brings evil into the world” (which is true, but not complete). I mean that’s scripture. However, I’ve been reading the Old Testament & the gospels & that’s not what it says. God brought tribulation and troubles sometimes. Couple that with watching two of my friends battle cancer this year, walking through depression, paranoia and other mental illnesses with people I care about & I was in a crisis of Faith (Or at least a crisis of theology), weary and asking WHY!

I’ve told people, “God didn’t do this.” about my own cancer, I have assured people God didn’t give me cancer. I mean what loving father would do that to a child he loves? Yet, most times I would assure that God wouldn’t bring bad to us, in my mind buried somewhere was the thought “or did he?” My 10 year old could shoot holes in my response (and did several years ago). “Mom, if God created everything & there is evil in the world, then didn’t God create evil?”… crickets… “No son, it’s free choice, we have to have free choice.” … “What?? Why?…”

And I’ve come to the conclusion (at least for now) that God does put us in hard places. I mean he sent a tormenting spirit to Saul, and mental illness to Nebuchadnezzar. What’s up with that!!

Because the God I know (not know of, but KNOW) is slow to anger, quick to forgive, abounding in love and, as Christ said, only God the Father is good. I cannot reconcile the idea that the same one who has wrapped me in his presence and provided rest and joy in my worst pain, who told me, over and over “I love you, you are my favorite” when all I could do was lay in bed and walk to the toilet to puke, the one who stood beside me when I had nothing to give was the same one who caused the struggle. (As I’m writing this, I’m thinking You couldn’t know him that way without the struggle, could you girl genius?!?)

That has been my struggle, to the point that I was wondering what I was going to do. It was like I was watching my faith slip through my fingers. I wanted to be so strong, but the tighter I held, the more it slipped away. It was like scooping up a handful of water and then trying to hold it tightly in my fist.

I’ve learned that when something stirs around in my spirit that I can not grasp, I generally have a choice to make: I can continue to wonder & to rely on reason to find my answer, or I can confess that I don’t understand and ask Holy Spirit for wisdom.

He’s never let me down thus far when I humble myself and pray that prayer.

I can’t recall all the ways he has been speaking to me lately, but it seems every sermon, each novel, each scripture, the

Muhlenberg County Schools’ Sign

sign in a local school building, most conversations involve someone speaking about suffering and the gain of it.

Then, we went swimming…twice.

The first time was a couple of weeks ago. My daughter Emma attracts young children like blooming flowers attract bees. So, we took a couple of kids to the pool with us. After we had been there awhile, I noticed the 6 year old was wearing a puddle jumper (the coolest inventions to teacher kid to swim EVER). I realized she didn’t know how to swim, which is crazy for a 6 year old. So I asked, “Do you want to swim?” “No, I might drown.” “You won’t Photo cred Walmart.comdrown. I’m right here. You just have to swim between me and Emma.” “No. I don’t want to.” “Well, you’re doing it anyway. I’m taking off the puddle jumper.” “Noooooo!! I’m going to drown, I will die!” “I’m holding you in my arms. You aren’t go drown.” “No, I’m going to drown!! I don’t even put my face in the water in the bathtub! I’m going to drown!” “You’re not. I’m holding you. Put your feel down. You can touch.” “I can’t touch I’m going to drown!” At this point, I’m over the drama “Quit screaming. This is ridiculous. Put your feet down now! I’m not letting go.” Fear of me finally takes over the fear of drowning, feet go down. “I can touch!” (No kidding, twerp. Her darling little head is 5″ above the water & at this point I have to resist the urge to push her under for acting like such a goofball.). I can’t say she was swimming by the end of the day, but she was able to move around the shallow end unassisted.

Fast forward to last weekend. We are at another pool, this time a 4 year old little girl is there, swimming all over the place in her puddle jumper. She is putting her face in the water, kicking & using her arms. This girl is ready to swim. Her mom is there with us. Me: “Do you want to swim without the puddle jumper?” “Not yet.” “You’re ready, you’re already doing everything you need to swim by yourself.” “Ok” We unhooked the puddle jumper. Emma and her mom let her swim back and forth between them. She was so excited. The only thing was, this sweet mommy wouldn’t let go. She would push her daughter towards Emma, but she would never release her. Granted, on the return swim from Emma to mom, she looked like she was drowning, but she would lift her head when she needed air. It wasn’t a pretty swim, but it worked. We finally got mom to let go & let her struggle. Her older brother couldn’t take it though. He kept getting in between the two & putting his hand under her to help. The galant protector couldn’t handle watching her struggle. It took some serious promises to keep her safe to get him to back off. It wasn’t very long until she was jumping off the side of the pool & swimming back to the steps, unassisted. She too put her feet down and found, if she stood on her tippy tip-toes her little nose and mouth would just barely reach the air above the water. She delighted in her freedom & new skills.

These swimming lessons spoke deeply too my heart. The best thing for each of these girls is to be able to swim, for their safety & for having fun in the future. Neither of them could learn to swim without struggling through the pain of letting go of their support system, be it a flotation device (or vice), a deep fear of drowning, a mom, or a protective older brother. They had to be refined in the letting go. Isn’t that what hard times are like for us? They seem terrible, we are convinced we CANNOT do what is being demanded of us, yet as our safety devices are stripped away from us, we find our true selves. We find God has been equipping all along, and we see his hand of provision.

I’m learning, slowly, to praise him in the struggle. Because joy is based more in perspective than circumstance.

I feel like I do need to confess this. This week, I have prayed for Christ to return because that was the only solution I could find to a problem that day. I want things to be easy… but if they were, I wouldn’t get to see the cool things he does each day & I wouldn’t know how loved I am.

God, thanks for being way more faithful to me than I am to you. I confess my attitude stinks sometimes & I let things bother me that are just 1st world problems, like I really don’t want to go to the grocery… instead of Papa, thank you that I live near a grocery, and that we have money to buy food, and that we have teeth to eat the food. Lord, I’m so spoiled. Thank you for your many blessings & that you are willing to let me face hard times to know you more and to become more like you. Give me your perspective. I love you, Papa.

Goodbye?

I’m terrible at goodbyes.  I try to avoid them…  I’ve always been bad at them.  My first memory of a goodbye, I was probably 4.  Amy Lowe, my best friend at the time had been over to play.  Her mother was there to pick her up, it was time for her to go home, and my heart was breaking.  I knew I would see her again soon, even at that age, I knew my emotions were illogical, but I couldn’t stop the sorrow or the tears that filled my eyes.  I can still picture her face that day, her smile, a small gap between her two front teeth and perfect blond hair, a lighter streak of almost white, bleached by the summer sun framing her face.

Cue goodbye memory number 2:  My mom was going on a date with my dad.  She called my name to tell me goodbye.  In rebellion of them leaving, I ran out of the room, crawled under their bed and cried.  When I finally crawled out, eyes red and puffy from the effort of mourning my loss and found the babysitter, I couldn’t believe they had left me there without saying goodbye… so offended, so heart broken.

Fast forward a few years to my 30s.  In a matter of a few short years, two of my best friends decide to move away within a couple of years of each other.  For weeks, I couldn’t even think about them moving without tearing up in anticipation of the pain.  I can still see them pulling out of their driveways to start their new lives… without me in it.  

It’s really ridiculous.  My reaction isn’t logical, and I haven’t found the root  of the response yet, so I continue to cry at goodbyes, mostly alone now.  I don’t break down in public… usually.

Oh, and I have a theme song for these events!!  How Can I Help You to Say Goodbye, by Patty Loveless.

Lately, this song has been haunting me.  It starts play on the radio station in my head ALL THE TIME!!  And it freaks me out, because at the end of the song, the mom dies, and I just can’t deal with that thought!  I need my mom!!

It goes like this:  The Life Director in my head: “Cue the 1990’s ballad, telling story of love or loss.  Feel the heart wrenching pain of the lyrics, cue the tears… and GO!”

Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye
It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye

“And now, a waterfall of tear!  Great… and CUT!”

 

The song has been playing so frequently, that last week I was driving to work and had finally had enough.  “God, what is the deal?  What are you trying to tell me?

Then, I understood.  He’s not trying to tell me my mother is dying, but he is showing me that life is changing.  It’s normal, but it hurts like hell.  The song needs another verse, one where a mom has spent 20 years  loving her kids and then they grow up and leave her to start their own lives, but she is really bad at goodbyes and doesn’t know how to handle it, so she gets up to write a blog at 3 A.M. and bawls uncontrollably at her computer screen to the point that she cannot even see the lines she types because of the convulsions of pain wracking her body as she cries… and Mama whispers softly, time will ease your pain, life’s about changing nothing ever says the same…

I started saying goodbye to Ty at two weeks old.  I sat in the rocking chair in his room, reading him a book and cried because he was growing so much, and one day he would leave me and start his own life… My heart hurt so badly that this sweet little baby with his tiny fingers wrapped around mine, who only days earlier was kicking around inside my womb, a part of me, would leave me. (In all reality, it was probably undiagnosed postpartum depression)

But that day is here.  This sweet boy, who would crawl in bed with me and snuggle warm and fall asleep in my arms most mornings for the first two years of his life, who at 18 months old tapped his foot in perfect time to the music at church, the child who would beg me to tell him stories before bed every night, who could draw full scenes of dinosaurs at 3 years old, who climbed trees and sword fought and Nerf battled, and harassed his sister, and loved his Nana… this boy has fallen in love with a lovely girl, who complements his personality, and loves him back with her whole heart… and he is leaving me… and I’m not sure that I can survive this goodbye.

See.. I need to go back.  I need to go back and appreciate that he wants me to tell the stories.  I was so tired, I would rush through them so I could go to bed.  When he begged to go outside and play catch or Frisbee with me, now I would go every time, because I know what I didn’t know then, that their would be a last time that he would ask.  A day would come when he didn’t need me, when I wasn’t the center of his world, and that day is now.

When my kids were little, I looked forward to them growing up.  Cary and I would talk about how we had our children early, and we would still be young when they went off to school and start their own lives.  We were what are kids are now, young and stupid.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know: That the toddler years, and elementary school years were the work you put in so that you had interesting people to talk to when they turned 16, so you have people to laugh with and who challenge your way of thinking.  We didn’t know that teenagers are fun.  And I had NO IDEA that it hurt this bad to let go.

I feel like I owe my parents an apology for growing up!!  I did this to them too!! I didn’t know when I was excited to go off to college, and get married, that they were mourning the loss of something so great, something they had spent decades loving, and that they now had to figure out how to let go.  I didn’t see their pain, the way they wanted to hold on because their heart was being ripped away.

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Our world is going to change a lot in the next two months.  Rachel, our exchange student is leaving for home.  Emma gets her driver’s license, and drive time conversations will end.  Ty gets married and a few weeks later, moves to Louisville.  Our household will shrink by two people. 

How kind is God that he would play a tune in my head to prepare me to walk this road.  Time will ease your pain.  It’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to cry.  Come let me hold you, and I will try.  How can I help you to say goodbye…

Lord,  these people are yours.  Ty is yours, Emma is yours, Rachel is yours, Deacon is yours.  Thank you for the time we have had, and the time we will continue to have.  My time of influence is declining, but that is because it is time for you to be the one that leads and guides them.  This is right, and the way of things, but it hurts so much  Please Papa, draw them to you.  May my faith be only a starting off point in their lives.   Your word says we each has a portion of faith that has been given to us.  Please triple my portion for each of them, that they will know you and believe in you and your goodness in ways I have yet to experience.  Help them to love you will all their heart, their soul, their mind, and their strength.  Thank you Lord, that you help me as we transition from  this phase of life to the next.  I love you. Amen

(I have to say, it’s kind of weird.  I have prayed for Ty’s wife since he was a baby, but she never had a face until now.  Lord, won’t you let Darcy see how good you are and how much you love her.  Let her see how lovely she is to you.  Give her faith of a Giant in your Kingdom.  She is fierce.  Make her a warrior for you, In Jesus Name.)

Out of the Mouth’s of Babes

We are on day 3 of no school due to the Polar Vortex freezing North America.  I have worked the first two, but because my work is in schools, I have nothing to do today, so I have time to blog.

Life is good right now.  I don’t say that in a bragging way, but just to acknowledge that sometimes, life is easy.  (And because, someday life will be hard again, and I will need to remember those seasons don’t last forever.)  Don’t get me wrong, my kids fight over stupid stuff… hourly.  But my major battles have mostly to do with a 9 year old making stupid jokes about bodily functions (or sometimes a teenager teaching him a stupid joke about bodily functions) or how much time is going to be spent using media today (particularly hard discussions on days when we are locked in the house due to cold but you know media of various types ROT YOUR KID’S BRAIN).  In the scheme of things, this is an easy life…  I do want to note that our internet went down for 24 hours.  When I called to check on it, the woman asked me to be patient because their linemen were out in the cold 125′ in the air & had to climb down for breaks to warm up.  She didn’t know I was hoping she would tell me that it was too risky for them to be out & that my internet would be out for 3 days until the temperatures warm up.  Why?  Because Fortnight required the internet!!  Youtube – internet dependent.  Netflix – yep the interNET!!  And because in 3 of the 24 hours we didn’t have internet, my talented eldest created this.

But it’s back on, so now we are isolated and back to this… but only for a couple of hours.

Grown Up Conversations – We have teenagers.  They are fun, and because of their season of life, conversations have become more unfiltered.  We discussed first kisses and dates and pregnancy, drug addiction, legalization of marijuana, the authority of the Bible, and who God really is, major life decisions, careers, and sex as part of regular conversation.  Sometimes, however, we forget the elementary school kid that lives here.  What I have learned is that his perspective tends to be more true than the rest of us when dealing with moral issues.

(WARNING – I am getting ready to share my opinion on a controversial issue.  I try to avoid this in all aspects of life.  But today, I have a lot of time, and so I am thinking.)

With the ruling in New York, abortion has been a hot topic this week.  I should say, I am moderate about most things, and this issue is no exception.   I’ve lived too much life to take a staunch stand and label people as evil on one side of the line or the other.

Per usual, I think differently than most people on both sides of the “Choice/Life” line.  I tend to be the devils advocate no matter what side of any argument you may be sharing.  I will openly say that I think abortion is crushingly heartbreaking, and we minimalize that there are real woman (and hopefully men with them) dealing with real situations that we know very little about who are making these decision.  I have to stop every few seconds as I type this because I am picturing what it must be like to find out you are pregnant with a child you cannot care for or that will turn your family against you.  Or to be pregnant with a child you have hoped and prayed for, who you have felt move in your womb, who you have imagined as a toddler, a teenager, an adult, with you all your life, and then discovering that they will not live.  Those situations are paralyzing.  They are desperate.

This week, I have been reading 2 Samuel.  Chapter 11 starts a tragic telling of a time in David’s life when he had to deal with a pregnant girlfriend who was married to someone else.  If her husband found out she got pregnant while he was serving in the army (David’s army) he would have her killed.  David had dealt with a lot of suffering in his life, and he relied on God continually to meet his needs.  Granted, he had done some things that are shady in my book, but there isn’t really any commentary on them in the Bible.  This situation, was totally on him.  He spotted her bathing, he pursued her.  He tried to get her husband to sleep with her so they wouldn’t be found out.  But, he couldn’t hide his sin.  So, he confessed his sin and cried out to God for forgiveness and help in fixing what he could – NOT!  Nope, David did what the rest of us do.  He fell into greater deception and did worse things to cover his bad decision.  He had her husband killed.

So here we have Bathsheba.  I wonder things like, how old was she?  Was this her first child?  I wonder if David had someone go to her house and bring her back to the palace.  I don’t think so.  David was a ladies man, and he seemed to especially like intelligent women. (We can see when he is dying that she is intelligent.)  In the movie of this in my head, David sees her and is struck by her beauty.  He bumps into her in the streets one evening when he is out for a stroll, and he sees the smile and intelligence in her eyes.  Innocent at first, they have a playful conversation, this beautiful girl in her early 20s and handsome king in his early 40s.  She wouldn’t have seen the affair coming.  She wouldn’t have planned to hurt her husband.  Yet, she probably hadn’t lived long enough to have learned the importance of having boundaries in place to avoid situations like this… So, she finds herself widowed and pregnant.  I suspect that had abortion been an option, she and David both would have made that move.  But, it wasn’t.  This is a modern issue… isn’t it?

Several months ago, we were discussing abortion (in the car I think).  During the conversation, Deacon yells “Idol Worship!!”  Emma was with me & we both looked at him like he had horns growing out of his nose.  His exclamation wasn’t relevant to the conversation in any way and it didn’t make any sense.  Emma in a teenager voice I cannot adequately explain said, “What?”

“It’s idol worship!” he said again.  “What is idol worship?” we asked.  “In the Bible, the people would offer their babies to Baal as a sacrifice.  It was idol worship.  Clearly, this is idol worship.”

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I forgot all about this conversation until this morning when, Cary was watching a video from C-SPAN of a doctor who performed late term abortions.  I was reminded of a research presentation speech I did for a class in college.  Partial birth abortion was a new thing then.  Through the years, I pushed the intricacies of these procedures from my mind, until I heard the process being described this morning, and my reaction is different than it was then.  It is different because I am different.

As a college student, I was angry at the violence of the procedure.  I was angry over killing babies.  I was just angry.  Over the years, I have become less pro life because I believe those babies are in the arms of God.  I knew these decisions weren’t black and white.  They are grey, with different circumstances and people behind them.  But I have become more pro life because I have lived.  I have suffered with people.

I have sat in a doctor’s office trying not to pass out as cold medical equipment used to remove a portion of a tumor from my body pressed against flesh and bone that wasn’t all the way numb.  I know that pain.  Yet I am sure that pain pales in comparison to something so invasive.  I have been on bed rest for months trying to keep a baby girl inside so she can have a healthy life.  I have felt little arms and legs roll across my belly and watched a book bounce because the unborn child beneath is was responding to the touch.  I remember the joy of Ty jumping at the sound of fireworks weeks before he was born.  I know the pain of childbirth, and the amazing beauty of the body bringing life through pain.

I have held friends who have lost pregnancies as they have wept for a child they will never know.  I can see vividly the story my friend has told me of giving birth to her first child.  He looked just like his dad, but he came only a few weeks too early to survive on the outside of her body.  Holding her newborn in her arms, being carried by God, trying to soak in every moment of his few breaths of life, knowing she would experience all of them in that day.  She told me as hard as that was, it was also one of the most beautiful moments of her life.  (I cry now as I remember.)

My friends have brought children into their homes and transformed a couple into a family through adoption.  I have cried tears of pure sorrow when fertility treatments didn’t work, and I have cheered like my husband when UK wins the NCAA tournament in celebration when it did.

My experience doesn’t compare with adoption, but this year we have an exchange student, and I understand what it feels like to bring a child into our home that makes our family feel more complete.  She is a wonderful addition to our home.

I have wept for people I love who have learned the child they were so happy to announce was coming, could not live, and was now a risk to their own life.  I have seen the pain on their tear stained faces as they have had to choose one life over another.  A decision that is desperately unfair.  I see the blessing and the curse of modern medical technology.

12 years ago, a man asked me to come to his house.  His wife was pregnant, and had many miscarriages.   She was having another.  When I got to their home, I walked in the bedroom.  She way lying on the bed, and a teeny tiny perfect baby beside her.  Tiny arms, tiny legs, a beautiful face with thin skin veiling the very small but very defined muscles underneath.  I can still see those perfect tiny fingers, beautifully intricate.  She asked me, “Vive?”  “No” I replied.  “Porque? Porque?”  she responded.  “No Se.” I whispered.  I don’t know.  I called the hospital to find out if I needed to cut the cord before her husband brought her in to be treated.

I remember seeing models of the stages of fetal development in a museum as a child.  Studying human development interesting  to me, but this.  This was LIFE, and this was SO MUCH MORE than those little perfect replicas.  There was something more, something unseen, spirit maybe, that was not translated into the display at the museum.

And then this… Several years ago, I was supposed to attend a meeting. The previous time we met, a man humiliated a friend and I had done nothing about it.  I was so mad at myself, and I was furious at him.  On this particular night, I heard his voice coming from the room I was heading to, and his voice enraged me.  So, I did what anyone would do… I dodged him.  I totally skipped the meeting I was supposed to be in and detoured to another room to hide.  There was someone in that room.  I don’t remember why she was there, but she was hiding too, from something else.  I vented about the person I was offended by, and we ended up in a deep conversation about God, his goodness, grace and his love.  (This is one of those situations where the Holy Spirit was using us in ways we didn’t know to minister to each other.)  I have no recollection of how we started on the topic, but I remember talking about how God takes our shame and guilt away from Satan & stops him from using it to kill us, and turns the very weapon he was using on us to be a sword in our hand against him.  I said, with a gut feeling that it was an inspired thought, “It’s like a woman who has an abortion.  She lives with the guilt and shame of that, but when she understands God loves her and forgives her, she later works with young women who are considering abortion, and her testimony becomes a weapon fighting for the life and future of the woman in the same situation.”  She said, “That woman is me.”  She then began to explain the circumstances she experienced that led her to abortion 20+ years earlier.  She also explained the two decades of guilt and shame.  The unworthiness she felt as a person, and the ramifications in her life as a wife and a mother.  Holy Spirit, was faithful as always, and ministered healing that night.  As we walked out of that room, I remember my friend saying to me, “It feels like I am free for the first time.  I also feel like the darkness is behind me, grasping at my back as I am walking away from what we are leaving here.”

It is one of the most profound experiences of my life.  I still sit in awe of God when I remember that conversation.

So, I am pro life because I love women, because I love family.  We women are uniquely created to love and nurture, and abortion is directly opposed to this part of womanhood.  This choice is so much more than deciding to terminate a life.  It is a decision that lasts a lifetime, the lifetime of the parents.  It’s not something you forget or move past.  It is something that haunts you, wondering what that child would be doing now.  I do not know what it is to be suppressed because of my sex, as past generations.  I appreciate having the opportunities in life to provide for my family that women of past did have not have.  I appreciate being allowed to play sports and do adventures that would not have been an option generations ago.  I am not girly.  I am tomboy through and through, but I am not a man.  I am created to create.  That cannot be ignored.

I am against late term abortion because it is cruel and disgusting.  I really can’t listen to descriptions or teaching graphics about the process.  Cary recently wondered, if we had Sarah McLachlan singing “Arms of an Angel” playing behind graphic images of children, would we feel as strongly about their suffering as we do about the animals they show?

 

This has been a heavy post.  So, here is a fun fact I learned when I started worrying that Deke hadn’t lost enough teeth yet…  Baby teeth start forming when a fetus is 6 weeks old!  That’s nuts!!  And, D is right on target for teeth loss for a 10 year old boy.  Just in case you were worried.

 

 

 

I S*#^$% on Myself

I haven’t been writing much.  It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, or that God isn’t teaching me new things (or the same lessons He’s been working on for years).  It’s just that life is back to normal:  full days of work, full nights of kids, grocery, homework, formal dances, sleep.  But, the real reason I haven’t been writing is this: When I had cancer, that was my stuff.  I could share it openly, and it didn’t betray someone else’s personal junk.  My stuff right now, involves other people, and the really cool things going on, might not be something they want to share with a thousand people.  Or the things I would share about some of these people may not be so flattering. (One person in particular, if you think it’s you… it’s not you… probably.)

So why write today?  Well, it is 3AM and I’ve been up since 1:30 coughing and thinking and praying, and so… it is time to write.  (CAUTION:  OVER SHARE Ok… why is coughing so much worse when you’re older.  Seriously, yesterday, I had such a coughing fit I had to sit on the toilet so I didn’t pee on myself, and hold a trashcan so I didn’t puke on the floor… sorry, but other midlife ladies will understand.  I can’t believe I am putting this in here.)

Part of what God has been doing in my life recently is giving me opportunity to speak into the lives of several people in their twenties: singles, couples, families.  As I have been reflecting on this, I realize I have learned a lot since that phase in my life, and I am SO thankful to have moved passed it.  Yes, I would love to be able to do a back bend again without injuring myself.  I would love to ski the first day on the slopes without fear of a knee injury as I get my ski-legs back, but that is about all I would take back.  Ok & the flat stomach while eating anything I wanted (like candy orange slices, and Pringles, and Pepsi) without guilt.

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The truth is, I spent a good part of my 20s shoulding on myself.  This is a term I have learned from A.J. Jones.  You should on yourself when you heap unreasonable expectations on yourself.  You should on other people when you do it to them.

I have always been pretty independent, so I never would have acknowledged my should problem.  I would have told you I was fine with myself, and that I really didn’t care what other people thought of me.  Too an extent, that was true, however, I CONSTANTLY compared myself to the perfect woman.  (And this was before social media, bless Millennials’ hearts.  No wonder so many have difficulty leaving the house and interacting with people.  I would have been a basket case.)  I felt like I should be a stay at home mother, yet be a millionaire by 30.  I mean everyone on Friends managed to do it.

My mom was amazing.  She took us on bike rides, and we had dinner as a family every night.  We read Little Visits with God before bed, and then she would come into our rooms individually and sing to us and pray with us.  I was not this mom.  I would put my kids to bed, maybe sing a song (only with the first two), and say a rote prayer, trying to get out of there as soon a possible because I was EXHAUSTED and sick of people.  I SHOULD be that.

My best friend was a stay at home mom, and she was so JOYFUL about it.  She had quit a good paying, high responsibility job when she had her son.  While she struggled with the transition, she also grew an organic garden, cooked delicious food every night, baked her own bread, kept a clean (like really clean) house, with a baby…  I SHOULD be that.  She also had a great marriage.  She cooked, her husband did the dishes.  They did devotions every night together as a family.  She played all these learning games with her son, did preschool at age 2.  I SHOULD be that.

Then there was what I filled my mind with.  I was deeply involved in Bible Studies.  (Beth Moore’s Breaking Free, LIFE CHANGING!) But, I never felt like I could study or pray enough.  I needed to be more.  I SHOULD be writing Bible Studies.  I SHOULD be speaking publicly, I SHOULD be that connected to God.  I listened to Focus on the Family, a WONDERFUL ministry that I have listened to since childhood, however, with my comparison state of mind, the FOCUS on the family, and marriage, and parenting only displayed my FAILURES as a woman.  Don’t even get my started on Proverbs 31.  I would read that scripture and just deflate… I SHOULD be that.

Coming to the light… I don’t know when this started to change.  I can tell you it has been a 20 year journey.  A couple of  memories come to mind. One is a conversation I had with my afore mentioned friend on one of our many walks.  We were discussing Proverbs 31, and hiring a house keeper.  (So thankful she is a deep thinker. Neither of us are good at small talk.  Actually, most of my friends aren’t good a small talk.)  So, I am complaining about not being able to live up to this standard, working dawn to dusk to provide for my family, being wise and kind… and my friend says, “Yeah, but she had servants.”  WHAT!!  “Yeah, she had servants. ”  It is right there!!

Proverbs 31:15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.

Seriously, Girl had help!!  She was good to her help, but GIRL HAD HELP!!

Another memory that comes to mind, this is in my early twenties, but it was jogged by a conversation I had recently with a newly married woman.  I was relatively unhappy in my marriage the first few years.  Thankfully, we stuck together, and now that boy I married is the MOST supportive and loving person in my life.  I am so very thankful for him.  He is such a gift to my life.  However, thankful is not a place I dwelt very long then.  Although, I loved him very much, at least as much as I could at that time.  Anyway, if you read my journals from those early years, you will see me praying for him.  For him to be the father and husband he was created to be (I was WAY to holy to ask that he be who I wanted him to be).  I do very specifically remember a day when I was listening to Focus on the Family (I think), and my prayer changed.  I quit praying that Cary would change, and I started praying that God would change me into the woman and wife he needed.  Somehow, God took away my pride and my resentment in that time of humbling, and he taught me.  It wasn’t immediate, it took years, but it was definitely a point where the trajectory of my life changed.

So here is the truth.  I am an ambivert.  I get pumped talking one on one with people about deep things.  I also HAVE to have my alone time, preferable everyday for a couple of hours.  These two things did not make for a happy stay at home mom/house wife, with a husband with a very time demanding job.

I am a good public speaker, but I am terrible in a crowd.  I’m good in a crisis, not always good at everyday life.  I can see the big picture, I get really bored with day to day activities – ie cleaning, playing board games with children (putting up or taking down Christmas decor >: -().  I love deep conversations about life, the Bible, business, God.  I’m terrible at gossip, worrying about soccer uniforms, and paying bills.  So, 40ish me is ok with that.  I’m learning (with God) to ask for help, and to play to my strengths.  I’m good at my job.  I’m good at calming people down when they are upset (unless they are my kids).  I’m a great wife to Cary, and he is just the man for me.

One more thing, whether you want to quote the Byrds, or Ecclesiastes, for everything, there is a season. I would have been a more patient mom.  I probably would have stayed home longer… maybe, or I would have had grace with myself forRelated image working when my children were little.  I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to be everything to everyone.  I would have been a mom, and I would have asked for help, without feeling like a failure.  I would have left my children to spend more quality time with their dad, and I would have thrown the TV out the front door.  I wouldn’t have let the illusions society put on the screen in front of me, and the airways around me influence how I felt about myself so much.  I would have learned earlier that being outside in the sun is better for me emotionally than just about anything.  And I would have learned how to BE in the season I’m in, each season in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3 English Standard Version (ESV)

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

I was thinking today.  On the farm, no one tries to harvest during planting time. No one tries to feed newborn calves solid food.  No, on the farm, things are allowed to be in the season they are in, not pressure to move to the next until it is time.  This lesson, that took misery, self judgement, job changes and cancer to learn, was worth the journey.

I still struggle to be content where I am.  To not worry that I am failing somehow, but it is getting better, and I hope that has improved not only the quality of my life, but of my family as well.  Someday soon, they will be grown up.  God and I won’t hang out at 4 AM, because we will have time during the day.  My hope, is that I learn to embrace that place, an empty nest, until the next season begins.

 

And to my 20 somethings…  I love you.  Thank you for needing me.

 

K

A Year Later

A year ago,  I weighed 115 pounds.  I am 5’9″, so that’s a little light.  I mostly got my calories from Vanilla Ensure, and I slept A LOT!  Today,  I walked 3 miles.  I am back to my pre-cancer weight + 10 pounds : -|  I told myself I would not go back to worrying about my aging body while I was sick.  I was going to appreciate each day.  Turns out I lied.

Here’s a secret, I am so very thankful to be healthy with very few side effects from cancer or the treatment, but there are some things I miss.  It sounds ridiculous, and I feel shameful about it, but I promised myself I would try to be transparent when I write, so… there you go.  There are some things I miss about being sick.

1. I miss taking a nap without guilt that I should be doing something else.

2. I miss someone else figuring out supper for the family.

3. I miss the permission I gave myself to not think about the future, what I need to be preparing for, just existing.

4. I miss my kids being nice to each other so they didn’t stress me out.

5. I miss the quiet time alone.

 

I wrote this a year and a half ago.  I still feel the same way.  I have given myself permission to rest/sleep when needed, and that has produces a more sane me. (Cary might argue this point, but I feel more sane.)

Fear of the Lord – what the heck?

Sometimes I have these vague ideas that roll around in my head.  I can’t quite grasp them, and to try to lay words down to express them turns the thoughts into vapor.  I’ve learned that a lot of these thoughts are God thoughts, or more specifically, things He is me up to learn.  They are things I have to wrestle with, walk through, admit I cannot understand, ask Holy Spirit for help and wait.  Of course, thisprocess can take years, months, and moments.  Do you wrestle with concepts about God?  He’s so big and vast and good, and I’m so not.  I feel like understanding new things about Him is kind of like playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego– the computer version, not the TV series. You know you are on a mission to capture Carmen, but she slips away when you get close.  You capture someone, but not her… until the end. Each little mission/experience along the way sets you up for the answer at the end, but you don’t know how it all fits together until it just does.  (If you weren’t alive in 1985, click theImage result for i think i hate fortnitelink to understand the reference.  This was back when games built on themselves and the bad guys go arrested. We were not desensitized to running around virtually slaughtering other people yet.  Sorry, my judgement is coming from watching Fortnite today – how is this game ok?)

So, I’ve wrestled with the idea about the phrase “The Fear of the Lord”.  Mostly skipping over the whole idea because I could not get the concepts of the Fear of God and the Love of God to coexist in my head. JoHanna Reardon expresses the difficulty of it all well. “often hear people explain the fear of the Lord as a mere respect or reverence. But the Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times in reference to God, so we make a mistake when we downplay it. The subject becomes even more mysterious when we read something like 1 John 4:18 that says that “perfect love expels all fear.” So how do we marry this dichotomy? How can we fear God while he expels all fear?”

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How can Joy and Fear Co-Exist?

I’m still using ReadScripture as my read through the Bible guide.  I have been on Judges 3-4 for weeks, not because I am bored, but because I just can’t get past it.  I get distracted by the little nuances of the scripture (or fall asleep) that I don’t make it past Gideon’s conversation with the Angel of the Lord (another concept I still don’t fully understand – was it Jesus, was it not…).  I had to drive a couple of hours away for work earlier in the week, as I pondered what podcast I wanted to start with first for my journey, “You haven’t been exposed to much scripture lately,” ran through my mind. I grabbed my CD’s from under my seat, feeling drawn to Isaiah.  I thought I chose the first CD of Isaiah, but mistakenly grabbed the CD that started with Chapter 11.  I barely made it past the 2nd verse before I had to back up and listen again.Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 9.12.47 PM.png

Obviously this scripture is prophesy about the very nature of Christ.  As I listened, I couldn’t stuff the confusion any more.  DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD seared across my brain.  I backed up to the beginning of the chapter and again couldn’t get much past the 2nd verse.  What in the heck does that look like?

I detest fear.  It is the enemy of my destiny.  I have trained to not only face my fear through confession, repentance, and pure grit, but to help other people do the same.  I cast out the spirit of fear pretty often, so what do I do?  Call my friend Kris, of course.  (I realize praying is the right answer, but I would be lying.) As is here usual comment when I call with random scriptures, she wondered aloud, “I wonder what the original Hebrew word translate to.  You know those can sometimes be translated into a different word or root. Fear could mean something different.”  So, I did.  (The Blue Letter Bible app is my tool of choice for these type of things.) It turns out FEAR in this scripture means fear, terror, or awesome or terrifying thing, respect, reverence, piety.  The word DELIGHT is translated several times as smell, scent, perceive odor, or accept.  The picture that came to me is the sense that when you were in his presence his walking in the Fear of the Lord was so great, you could almost smell it.  I’m sure you’ve had this experience with people before, not necessarily about the fear of the Lord, but you will recognize someone who is a creep, or a liar, or trustworthy.

A day or two before this, I was listening to a podcast featuring Alyn Jones.  He mentioned that he was driving up to a retreat with the leadership from his church.  He told them, “A fear of the Lord was on him.”  The idea is that he didn’t ever want to stand before the Lord and be asked why he didn’t fulfill the purposed of the Lord for his life by believing the words spoken to him/the church.  I guess this is what peaked my mind to prepare me for the verse in Isaiah.

After driving a few more miles pondering what it means to delight/smell like the fear of the Lord, I turned on another Podcast.  I have stared listening to Shawn Boltz podcast.  This day, I landed on my favorite of his Podcasts to date.  He interviewed a panel of people, an actress, a director, an author, a missionary, and a painter (paint your wall kind of painter, not paint a picture).  He asks the panel to each tell of a time that they would have been screwed if God hadn’t shown up.  Bob Hasson is the last to answer, I think.  He was in a litigation situation with his painting business.  The next day, he was set to meet for the final negotiations before the case went to trial.  He canceled his meeting with his team to go sing and worship God (after reading scripture where this was a solution to someone’s problem.) . After he spent time worshiping he felt like God told him to be silent during the meeting with his opposition’s lead negotiator.  So, he did! For 2 1/2 hours… then the man asks to meet alone with Bob in this office.  Bob stands up, walks into the office.  The man says he is going to make an offer, Bob didn’t respond, so the man upped the offer, Bob didn’t speak again, the man made his “final offer”.  Bob reached across the desk and shook his hand.  They walked out of the office, and he still hadn’t said a word, and my spirit said THAT is the fear of the Lord.

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D learned this scripture several years ago & started this pesky thought process.

You may have seen or heard me say that the more I read scripture, the more I believe that God’s love language is trust and obedience.  It give HIM the opportunity to be seen by the people in our lives as he provides for us.  So here I am, back pondering Gideon, who questioned and then tested, and then trusted, and finally was obedient as the Lord led to keep reducing his army so Israel knew HE was their deliver, not themselves.  I suspect that it is what he wants me to know as well.  He is my provider, protector, strength.  He wants me to live in Fear of him, fear of not living with him as my King, Fear of not experiencing all that he has for me to do with him on this earth, because there is no better life.  I am okay with that kind of fear, fear that doesn’t paralyze or send me running anywhere but straight for Him.

I praise you Lord for your faithfulness to teach your ways.  You are so worthy of all my praise

Better Is A Little With The Fear Of The Lord

Blessings,

Kate

It… is… finished… (maybe I’m being dramatic)

Hi All.  I thought I would give you an update on the media fast at my house.  On Tuesday it ended. I feel like the last week was the most frustrating for me.  The reason, I think, is two fold: 1.) We gave him access to media when we traveled to and from the Smokies for Emma’s soccer tournament.  2.) I let him watch 1/2 hour of TV so he would quit talking and I could get work done one time.  He kept hijacking my phone, and I would forget to steal it back, and he kept trying to negotiate for “just 1/2 hour of normal TV, PLEASE!”  I know better, you can’t EVER give an inch!

On Sunday and Monday I spent a good portion of the day wondering how we reenter the media world.  I enjoyed our time without it, 85% of the time.  The other 15% I wanted to give him to media back so I could get something done.  I knew that we couldn’t go back to the media noise level we had before (I’m pretty sure the background noise was part of the reason I would hide in the silence of my car some afternoons.  I hated being in the house with all the NOISE), and we couldn’t go back to the smart mouth that accompanied it (mostly because he felt that watching TV and playing video games is a right, not a privilege).  I never really came to something I was comfortable with, but I ended up telling him on Monday that he could have 1 hour of media a day, and he could earn up to one more hour each day.

He asked how, and I had to think on my toes!!  Thankfully, I think the Holy Spirit took over my mouth with a good plan, because I don’t think I could have come up with it on my own, because I found a currency that he wants to bargain in!!

I told him he could earn a minute of media for each minute spent reading or practicing multiplication or cleaning.  I spent the summer trying to pay him to learn his multiplication tables better and to read.  He would be motivated for a little while, but then would lose interest within an hour or so.

Image result for reenteringTUESDAY MORNING, MY KITCHEN WAS CLEAN, THE LIVING ROOM WAS TIDY BY 10:00 AM, multiplication facts were reviewed & and my kid was happy to have done it.  He asked if he could save time, if he didn’t use it all one day.  I said yes.  So, Tuesday at 4:00, he still hadn’t watched any media.  When I asked why, he said he didn’t want to use it yet and not have it later.

On Friday, he had a friend to spend the night.  He had saved 3 hours during the week to binge on for the weekend, but they wanted to earn more.  They read on my couch, in silence for an hour straight (I’m totally serious :-O).  Then, they cleaned his room, dusted, vacuumed, and straightened.  It was a mom win!!

Here’s what else I noticed, during our time off.  Pre-media fast, D would choose time on the couch watching Youtube over people about 90% of the time, but that has changed.  He went everywhere with me for three weeks.  He taught Rachel (our exchange student) how to drive a 4-wheeler.  She plays catch with him in the living room (she is a handball player, so she’s really good at this).  The other thing I noticed, it’s not just the 9 year old who has a media addiction, it’s all of us.  I felt guilt every time I picked up my phone to play a word game, or got lost in Facebook when he couldn’t touch anything.  I tried to put it down, and I just kept getting sucked in.  We trash “kid’s these days” for constantly staring at a screen, but really it’s the teenagers, their mom and their dad, equally guilty of getting lost in cyberspace at the cost of relationships with each other.  Turns out, I don’t know how to be bored either…  in fact, I go crazy if I don’t have something to do.  Sometimes, when I am making myself take a media break, I think about the stuff I would look up if I had my phone, and I realize I get a little rush from it.  This week, I researched and purchased my calendar for next year.  It was a rush, thinking through the purchase, what I want, what system am I going to use?  Where can I get what I want for the best deal.  People, I LOVE & LIVE by my calendar, but this is ridiculous.  My brain doesn’t remember how to settle down and just be anymore.

I asked the family what they noticed about the media free time.  Emma, “He wasn’t as mean!”  (You really have to hear the sarcastic teenage flair to fully appreciate the statement.)    Ty, “He seems to be a nicer person & he knows how to be bored.”  Cary, “It’s been good.  I spend more time with him, which is good, because he wants to watch what I’m watching… and he will watch sports with me.”  (I know, I know, he’s a deep thinker… be jealous ladies.  It’s a good thing he’s cute.) (Babe, you’re wonderful, smart, funny, and able to make me laugh, but you are not descriptive via text message. XOXOXO.)

Deacon, “I learned absolutely nothing.  It was horrible!”  (I expected nothing different.)

I’m excited that I have talked with several people who have taken this idea and applied it at home.  One friend is only allowing her son on media a couple of days a week.  Another woman told me she took it away from her 12 year old daughter & “she’s a different person!  The girl drama is gone!”  Another friend made her kids do a week with no media and reported that she could tell a difference in just a couple of days.  For those of you who are trying this too, thank you for letting me know.  Your words helped me get through the time without guilt, and helped me set (what I hope) are healthy boundaries moving forward.  I also want to thank my parents for telling me several times that this was a wonderful thing to do for my child.  I needed the reminder sometimes.  It has been very encouraging!

Image result for flip phoneSo, I’m really thinking of getting a flip phone next time I have to “upgrade” my phone.  Because of my job, and the world we live in, I think I would have to have an iPad to access things as I need them, but I could put it in a drawer, and not “have to have it with me all the time” because I could get texts and calls on a flip phone, and I wouldn’t run the risk of getting sucked into the empty time vacuum of the phone.  Maybe I can make it a movement:  “Upgrade your life, Downgrade your phone”  What do you think?

Journey through life, from a unique perspective