Birthday Blow-out

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Just over a month ago, Little Man celebrated his eighth birthday.  (Already? How?!) Of my three bambinos, his is the only birthday during the summer, or even within this quarter.  That being the case, I am able to exude a great deal more energy and time into the planning of his party than I do with the others.  Sadly, this extra time often leads me to excessive planning, spreadsheet coordination, and stress beyond all comprehension.

As I have mentioned before, I am NOT a party-planning-professional. My anal retentivity kicks in and all of a sudden, the decorations, games, food, and invitations all have to match the party’s designated theme; in both mood and color.  No longer can any piece of the party puzzle be “Plain Jane”, “as-is”, or “simple”.  I mean, why serve just grapes when they can magically transform into grape caterpillars, complete with chocolate sprinkle eyes?  Why put out cheese unless it has been metamorphosed into Babybel ninja warriors?  And who would be impressed with deviled eggs when they COULD have hard-boiled, Hello Kitty-faced masterpieces?

(And yes, I have served all of these at various birthday hoorahs.)

Couple my hyperactive mind, extended time, anal retentivity, and…um…obsession with the 21st century’s thematic birthday craze, and you have a recipe for disaster in my world.  I remember the days when birthday parties were cake and ice cream, Red Rover, and a few dislocated shoulders, and balloons.  We always had a blast at those parties!  I guess we didn’t realize that we were missing out on…well, everything Pinterest.

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But now, I’m afraid I’d put my kids in the shame corner with a dunce cap on should I resort to the days of yore.  I don’t want to embarrass them with a less-than-exorbitant party.

Or maybe I don’t want to embarrass myself.

So, up till now, Little Man has had an Olympic-themed party (donuts for the Olympic rings and backyard sprints, long jumps, etc.), a superhero-themed party (Called out the shots on this one: a 3-D cake of Batman, neighbor-made capes, mom-made masks, and even a phone booth made from a refrigerator box.  Oh yes, I did!), a dance-themed party (best part:  the staff made of licorice, housing cupcakes in the melody of “Happy Birthday”), and a spy-themed birthday (complete with fake cake, leading a secret hunt to the real cake, via a chase-down with the robber).

Whew!  I’m pooped just recounting it all!

Well, come last winter, I felt the drive beginning to ooze out of me.  Keeping up with the party Joneses was taking a toll.

Every year since Angel Baby was born, we have celebrated her birthday and Big Boy’s birthday on the same day. The two anniversaries are a mere five calendar days apart, so I try to knock out both parties in one fell swoop.  Last year, the angels of mercy swept through Big Boy’s mouth and he asked, “Mom, can I just have three guys come watch a movie?”

“Why, yes.  Yes, you can!”

Done!

Which made Angel Baby’s party the only one I had to figure out.  But another angel of mercy showed up a few months earlier when my dear neighbor celebrated her daughter’s birthday by putting a cake on a table on the front lawn and inviting the neighborhood to come share a slice.  

That’s it.  That’s all.

Which was glorious.

It was then I realized that the days of yore COULD be resurrected.  So, I decided to try them out with Angel Baby.  I invited her whole class, told them to pack their own lunches (no kidding…I really did!), and I would feed them.  They played musical chairs, the freeze game, and pretty much just ran amuck.  At one point (true story), they decided to take turns RAKING MY BACK YARD!

Oh my, I do believe that THAT party will not be forgotten.  But for good or for bad?  “Mom, remember the time we RAKED THE YARD for my birthday?! What were you thinking?!”

Angel Baby’s party marked the beginning of my decline.  Which led me to where I am now; faithfully seated in the Land of “I Don’t Care”!

Which is why, a month ago, when Little Man started dreaming of his own birthday bash, I directed the conversation.

“Hey Buddy, who would you like to have at your party this year?”

“OH! I want Billy, Lucas, John (not their real names)….”

“STOP!  Ok, if you want those three, no problem.  BUT, you may have ONLY those three, and I’m taking you somewhere bouncy.  I’ll serve you cake in the car after.  That’s it.”

“Seriously, Mom?”

“Seriously.”

“Ok!”  And off he bounced, preparing for the “bouncy place” I would take him to celebrate the end of his seventh year.

And that’s exactly what we did.  Four kids, tons of trampolines, and twice-served cupcakes afterwards.  

I would love to say they were as happy as they would have been with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, house-transformed saga drenched in combat, costumes, and maybe a live turtle with a bandana, but alas.  They literally said, “That’s it?!”

Yup, kids.  That’s it.

I’m worn out from the thinking, the trying, the striving, the stress, the effort, and the money it takes to put on something extraordinary when we’ve lost sight of the beauty of “ordinary”.  It is far too easy for me to get caught up with all there is to do in the world.  All the ways to STRIVE to be better; not just a better ME, but better THAN.  The Bible tells us that whatever we do, we should do it with all our heart, as serving the Lord, NOT MEN.  

But men (and women) are visible.  And sometimes the visible becomes stronger than the invisible and I lose sight of the importance of working for the Invisible.

No wonder I’m worn out!  I’m working for something that will perish, that will fade, that will wither.  When I focus on the things that will last, that will not die, then I can live.

When will I learn?

What has occupied your mind, time, talent, or attention that may be to “keep up”?


Another First…

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So, my big boys started school about four weeks ago (can you believe that?!), but Little Angel started four days ago.  First day of kindergarten.  A milestone.  A sobber.

People asked me left and right:  “Are you ready for this?”  “Wow, kindergarten! Can you believe it?”  “What are you going to do with all your time?”  And I politely gave the “woe-is-me” answers I was supposed to.  I’m going to cry all day.  I won’t know what to do with myself.  Make it go away!

But the truth was, I was genuinely unaffected.  I maybe thought I should have been affected (I know, don’t “should” on yourself…), but I really wasn’t.  In reality, kindergarten, for Little Angel, meant she was going to the same building where she’d had preschool for two years.  She was seeing the same teachers, following the same routine, and coming home at the same time.  Same carpool line.  Same protocol.

The Same.

Until today.  Today, it changed.

Why?

Beginning today, she has long days.  Instead of coming home at noon, she stays until 2:15.  Long.  Or should I say lllooonnnggg???  Long enough for me to notice how long she’s gone.

And. I. Hate. It.

This time, I genuinely do.  The “should” answers of the last four days have become my real-to-life, true answers. I’m crying all day (ok, just once).  I don’t know what to do with myself (I’m pacing like one of those jaguars you see in the zoo). Make it stop!!  Boy, oh boy, does this feel WEIRD!!  I think it hit me when I walked into my all-too-quiet house and sat by myself to eat lunch, something I haven’t done in almost 11 years, save the occasional playdate or vacation.

My last bambino to head to big-kid school.  I feel like an empty-nester.

But then there is the part of me that is so, so happy.  So happy that my little girl has grown big enough to be able to go to school.  So happy that she is healthy.  So happy that she is comfortable in this school, with her teacher, with her classmates.  SO happy that she is having fun.

I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of having an “attachment disorder” to my kids.  Now, I’ve looked this up and I don’t think it means what the accusers think it means, but I get the gist.  I want to be with them WAY too much; even when they are making me crazy.

But I see it differently.  I’m pathetic at setting goals, horrible at aiming for something, ridiculous about attempting to set expectations for years to come.  However, for some reason, God has given me a far-off view of parenting. He keeps me attuned to the long-term procedure of raising mini-humans:  They won’t be around forever. God gives us a very, very short time with them (which sometimes feels like a very long time), and then they are gone.  Again, it sounds like something people say because they “should”, but I get this one.  I get it.  And I hold onto it.

That doesn’t mean I am able to realize the long term effects of screaming at them every second of the day as I do it, but it does make me quick to repent when I calm down. (How nice it would be to go there FIRST…)

What I AM able to do, though, is to see that each day that ends with them is one more closer to having to say good-bye.

And this is where I get stuck.  The benefit of seeing the long-term is that I can value, cherish, and appreciate each day I’m given.  The curse is that if I’m not careful, I can mourn the passing of time and miss out on celebratory events…like the first long day of kindergarten.  The challenge is to be able to do both.  To be sad that I have to eat lunch without my mini-me, AND to be thankful that she is getting to eat with a group of good friends.

Now begins the process of figuring out how to live my life (and my new schedule) as a mom with kids in school.  New terrain, here, folks.  But good stuff.

I’ve not had to think about my time for over a decade because most moments were spent caring for someone else.  I have a few more moments, now.  How would God like me to spend them?  This is a good thing!  New terrain can be scary if you aren’t prepared for an adventure.  But what’s more adventurous than parenting?!

BRING IT ON!

Honestly, for me, I think the trick will be to allow those white spaces on my calendar.  To prevent the pencil marks from filling in the holes.  To take the time to take time.  To make my “yesses” the best “yesses” I can; for me, for my family, and for the Kingdom.

So, if you will excuse me, I have a porch to sit on.

And 35 minutes before an Angel comes home…

 


The Challenge

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Well, we now have one full week of school under our belts, and as expected, the pencil markings are FLYING!  I’m afraid to open my email because every day is filled with evites for sign-ups:  room parent meetings, room parent brunches, kindergarten open house, kindergarten assessments, football assessments, soccer assessments, six birthday parties, two back-to-school parties, first day brunches, parent/teacher conferences, and a wedding.  No, TWO weddings! On August 23 alone, I have SIX planned activities; five of which need evite responses.

I’m freaking out!!! (Which, by this point, you should know I do easily…)

One week ago, a mere seven days, my calendar lay there perfectly blank.  Empty.  A clean slate.  For the vast majority of my life, I have seen that open space as opportunity.  Room to FILL!  Room to DO!  Room to experience!  I couldn’t wait to scratch ink blot after ink blot on the pages, each mark noting the chance to do something great.  Something fun.  SOMETHING.

And part of me (a lot of me) really still feels that way.  I am so excited to do stuff.  (Yes, I said “stuff”.)  Much of my demeanor is Eeyore, but my attitude is Tigger.  “What are we gonna do today, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal?”

I’ll write a separate entry about that part of me; the part that relishes every opportunity as a gift God gave me.  That’s good stuff. (“Stuff” again…I see it.)

But for now, seeing the vast whiteness of an unmarred calendar is glorious.  A breath.  A different kind of opportunity; one in which I’m not yanking out my remaining hairs.  One in which I’m not barking at the Smurfs to “GO HERE!” or to “GET IN THE CAR!”. One in which I can stop, smile, hug, and inhale.  Deep and long.

In the vast chaos of my ADD-filled brain and child-filled life, I’m….well…I’m just POOPED!!!!  It was one thing when I was filling a blank calendar with event after event meant for myself, but filling it with event after event for three other people is…

Well, I’m just stupid.  That’s what it is.

I want the kiddos to be able to do and experience all the things I would love to do and experience if I were in their bodies, so I try to make it happen.  And then I drag the non-participating sidekicks and all of their complaints with me to every single experience.  I justify it by thinking at least ONE of them is having fun each time.  Maybe.

By the end of last school year, I was really ready to try to ease down on life.  Trying to take breaks.  Trying to allow the stoplights to be moments of pause and reflection.  And that attitude hasn’t changed.  Not at all.  But the schedule has….

And now I need to figure out how to marry the two.

How do I pause and breathe, and still manage the schedule of four busy people (I’ll let Hubby handle his own schedule.  Thanks, Babe.)?  How do I stay involved and remain uninvolved?  Specifically, I can’t figure out how to do things I would like to do to better myself in the short amount of time the kids are in school so that I can be fully present when they are at home.

How, Lord, do I manage a hyperactive brain and body with a knowing desire to S-L-O-W-D-O-W-N?!

How do you do it?  How do you decide what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to?  Lysa TerKeurst is releasing a new book called “The Best Yes” which discusses this very dilemma.  What, in your life, is important enough to give your “yes” to and what should be left on the “no” pile.  Will your “yesses” give life to your spirit, soul, body, and family?  Or are you suffocating your soul with cancer-causing “yesses”?

I plan to spend more time trying to figure this out (sure wish it came with a formula to follow…).  Will you?



First Day of School (*sigh*)

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Well, today marked the first day of the school year for us pseudo year-rounders here in ATL.  Just as quickly as it came, summer break has slipped through the sands of the hourglass.

(*sigh*…Sand…)

I digress.

Just a few weeks back, I found myself on the precipice of a BREAK!  A break from extra-curriculars, a break from carpools and drop-offs, a break from “have-to’s” and “do-this’s”.  A break from playdates, parties, teams, crowds.  A break from wondering what horrible disease the kiddos were going to bring home to share with our crowd of five.  A break for THEM (from all the “have-to’s”, “do-this’s”, schedules, and carpools).  No homework, no alarm clock, no reason to stop playing in the street at 5pm.

And now I’m in need of a new break.  A break FROM them!

A dear friend of mine spent her summer living in India, where her hubby worked each day till 7, and there was no babysitter to be seen on the far side of the Atlantic.  She literally spent every moment of a pregnant month with her two kiddos!  Pretty sure I saw her skipping out of the school this morning….

Typically for me, the joy of not having to face all the pencil markings on my calendar (Yes, I still use a paper calendar.  Old school, baby!) outweighs the fact that no pencil markings means no time sans children.  The sheer bliss of the sun kissing my tank-topped shoulders trumps the weight of three sweat-covered complaints with legs chirping in my ears.  The ecstasy of waking up at 7:00 (I dream big) deafens the sonic boom of large tiny voices that live in continual conflict.  I grow numb to the truly maddening realization that my mini-people are physically incapable of getting along and that I no longer know how to walk anywhere without shuffling eight legs instead of just two.  I brush off the fact that I haven’t spent time with another grown-up alone, written in my journal, attempted a blog entry, or skittered to LA on the elliptical machine without three other athletes-to-be in tow.  

None of it matters, because we are on BREAK!!  The sun is shining!  The pool is warm!  We are together! 

I.  LOVE.  IT!!

Until I don’t.

Then I suddenly realize that I haven’t seen another grown-up alone in two months.  I haven’t shopped for groceries without reminding little people that the carts aren’t bowling balls and the food displays aren’t jungle gyms.  I haven’t written in my journal or attempted a blog entry since the final school bell rang.  I haven’t listened to the waves.  I haven’t had one. moment. of. sibling. peace.

And then just like that….summer’s over!  Before I had the chance to realize what was going on.

And just in time to save me from realizing what was going on.

So here I sit.  11:30pm after the first day of school.  After the first bell rang, the pencil markings started adding up, two playdates occurred, groceries were shopped for, lunches made, and a blog post entered.

I don’t think I’m ready for this.

Or maybe I am….

 


Summer Set-Back?

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Little Man has mono.

Poor little fella; his entire body is covered in the freakiest looking rash I ever have seen.  One of those ones where you have to be really careful not to make the gagging noise when you look at your child (not a safe place to be for me).

This delightful little bug first entered our home about ten days ago, when Little Man got a fever and started complaining about a sore throat.  Now, one thing you need to know about LM;  his drama factor is out the roof!  He used to freak out so badly when we trimmed his nails (yes, trimmed his nails) that we actually called the doctor to see if there was any possibility at all that he could be experiencing pain in his fingernails and that they might be yelling at him to stop the torture as we ripped their already dead heads off.  Confirmed: no feeling at all.

That’s what we thought.

So when LM started griping about how he was “gonna die” because of the pain in his throat, I got out a piece of paper to help him compose his Acadamy Awards acceptance speech.

And I ignored his complaints.

Three days later, fever was gone, but he was still complaining of a sore throat.  Ok, time to look.  YOWZA!  Nasty!  Giant swollen tonsils, but not much else.  Figuring it was strep throat, I took him into urgent care where they said (after seeing him for about 25 seconds), “It’s either tonsilitis or strep, and we treat them the same.  We can run a strep test, but it is an extra $50 for the same treatment.”

Skip the $50 (and the shoving of a rod down LM’s throat…no thank you) and give him the antibiotics.

“Oh, one more thing to consider, Mrs. W.  I guess it could be mono.”

What?  Mono?  Have you seen this kid playing?!?!  I don’t think so.

But something about that word stuck with me.

Fast forward 7 days to a mid-day siesta at Yogurt Moutain, when over a sea of cookies and cream, gummy bears, and sprinkles, I smiled at my little antibiotic-filled almost 8-year old, and stopped dead in my tracks.  “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT?!

A network of red dots was making its way out of his shirt and up to his face.  “Buddy, let me see your tummy.” And this is what I saw:

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That’s just not good.

So back to the doctor we went, with a “confirmation” that he was having a delayed allergic reaction to amoxicillin.  Instructions from here:  take him off the meds immediately and give him Benadryl if he gets too uncomfortable.

“Oh, and one more thing, Mrs. W.  It may be mono.  We’ve seen this rash in mono patients who are given amoxicillin.”

There’s that word again!  Mono.

Huh…

So off the meds he went.  The rash flared and Benadryl was given.

The next morning, Little Man starts throwing up.

Are you kidding me?!  This just can’t be right.

And once again, for the third time in 8 days, we went back to the doctor.  But before we did, I looked up his strange symptoms online and was met with one word:  mono.

No way in the world.

My child hasn’t stopped moving for one second!  I knew mono as “the kissing disease”; you know, the one you get from swapping spit?  The one that makes you so tired you can’t get out of your bed for a month?  Not the headache, fever, sore throat, weird rash, strep-like creature invading my mini human’s body.

Doctor number three gave us the final verdict; the clarification we had been needing:  Little Man…positive with mono.

Maybe it’s from all the handrails I can’t get him to stop licking.

Maybe now, he’ll stop licking them.

Anyway, the good news is that he is doing just fine.  What could have been (or still could be) a pretty significant setback to the fun free-for-all of summer seems to not be slowing him down a bit.

But it did get me to thinking:  in my life, germs are the enemy.  Specifically, anything that could make you see your lunch a second time…and not in leftover form.  The school year in particular, brings on Aug-May anxiety as daily I dip my children in the sees pool commonly referred to as “school”.  So come May, I am FINALLY able to breathe a sigh of relief as I can fear not the germ while the sun shines high.

Or maybe not.

Little Man’s encounter with the microscopic antagonist has been a life lesson to me reminding me that I am once again (dang it) not in control.  Not even of when I can choose for my child to be healthy or ill.  Beyond the lack of control, it reminds me that God does not operate on a time line.  He doesn’t say that the sun can only shine from 7am-9pm (think of Alaska!) or that there can only be 365 days in a year (think of Leap Day!) or that there can only be germs during the school year.

There is no doubt that the unpredictability of God can be anxiety producing…if we let it.  I certainly more naturally fall into that category than any other.  However, I have decided in the past year that maybe there is another side to God’s “flexibility”, if you will, that I may rather enjoy.  That perhaps I could revel in the not knowing, in the uncertainty…in the surprise.  Like riding on a surfboard above rough waters, it’s all smooth sailing while the sea churns beneath.

Maybe, just maybe, it could all be fun.

Is that crazy to think?

Meanwhile, what unpredictable thing is God doing in your life today?


A Near Miss

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For the last 11 years, our family has spent a week or two of our summer break at Wind River Ranch in Estes Park, CO.  Wind River is a family Christian ranch described as a “mountaintop experience for the whole family”, and that it truly is.  Wood cabins lodged at the base of Twin Sisters peak provide a family oasis where EVERYONE has something to do.  From horseback riding to hiking, archery to swimming, basketball to volleyball, fishing to ziplining, the ranch provides countless opportunities to play, explore, live, and enjoy.

And all in the name (and with the love) of Christ.  Every opportunity meant to draw you closer to Him. Which is why, from the moment we arrive, we open the car doors and let the kids RUN FREE! Off they go like the gazelles that roam the forest trees.

“See ya, Mom!”IMG_4641

And maybe I will.

Or maybe I won’t!

The kids’ freedom is one of the glories of the ranch.  It is the only place I know of where I can let them go.  I’m in a place where I know my cowpokes will be cared for no matter where they roam.  The staff watches out for every child there, making sure they have the time of their lives in a safe and Christ-centered environment.  I can actually stop being a helicopter parent and let them roam.  THAT is vacation for all of us!

Every year, our kids look forward to our time at Wind River Ranch months before we actually go.  Cowboy hats come out of the closet, boots find their way into our daily attire, and glory stories of lines zipped and elk sighted start to ease into conversation.

As you can see, “the ranch” is a place near and dear to our hearts…and to so many others.

And Sept. 12 of this year, that may have all changed. Everything gone in the blink of an eye.

For three days prior to September 12, rain soaked the parched Colorado terrain.  An unceasing deluge of precipitation dropped an unprecedented 18 inches of rain; the equivalent of over two years’ worth of Colorado’s typical accumulation.

The unsuspecting land simply could not withstand the torment it was receiving and began to give way.  By midday of Sept. 12, staff members were taking shifts sweeping the oncoming flood away from cabin doors.  The dirt roads began to erode in earthquake-like swiftness.  Shovels came out as the mud began to pile up and ooze down the roadways of the ranch as though somehow awake.

Throughout the day and into the evening, staff worked their bodies to the bone, shoveling, sweeping, sand-bagging, digging, hauling, praying.

As nighttime fell, the weary-worn workers continued their vigil; the backhoes now running to redirect mud and water away from cabins.  Into the night they worked, prepared to stand firm against nature’s onslaught, trusting in God to protect them.

Come 11:30pm, the Head Honcho of the ranch was in one of the guest cabins getting them situated for what seemed to be just as long a night as it was a day.  During his brief visit, a new noise joined the chorus of others they had been hearing all day: rain, shovels, brooms, backhoes, and…what was this new noise?  Sounded like the horses stampeding…but not quite.  Sounded like backhoe scraping its metal teeth against the gravel…but not quite.

What was it?

Rocks?

Trees?

The foreign noise grew increasingly louder until the ground began to shake…

“MUDSLIDE!!!!  RUN!!!!!

And just that fast, the weary-worn staff grew legs of fire and ran as far and as fast as they could, away from the now-deafening noise.  Head Honcho grabbed his guests and huddled in a corner, not knowing if they were about to be taking their last breaths.

Louder and louder the noise grew; rocks tumbling, mud and water rushing, trees tearing from the ground.  As the terra around them began to shake, prayers were lifted high and heavy.  The impending darkness of the night sky seemed to veil both staff and guests in a blanket of prayer-laced anxiety as their fate quickly became uncertain.

And all in a moment’s time, the mud, rocks, trees, and land arrived at the ranch.  A 22-foot high, quarter-mile wide swath of living earth roared through the property at 45 mph, eating everything in its path.  Cabins, hoses, people, and memories all laid before its razor-like teeth.

And just as quickly as it came, it ended.  No more roaring.  No more ground-shaking.  No more heart-pounding.

Waiting.

Waiting now until daylight to see what-or whom-was left after the earth gave way.

Slowly, radios began to come to life as those in charge began to try to collect as much information as they could.  Who remained?  Who was hurt?  What had happened?!  Decisions were made, a location chosen in which to gather, and a few brave warriors dared out of their hiding places to try to collect as many shaken souls as they could.

One by one, guests and staff assembled until all…every one…was standing together.   Every single staff member and every single guest had been spared. Not just their lives, but even from injury.

(Thank You, oh thank You, most Precious Jesus!)

The rest could wait till morning.

All souls made their tattered way to staff housing, where the staff quickly and selflessly ripped the sheets from their beds, replaced them with clean ones, grabbed a blanket or sleeping bag, and headed to the basement to sleep on the floor, sacrificing the comfort of their own beds for the betterment of their guests.  Rest would not and did not come, but the house was alive with the feebly strong prayers of those whom God had just chosen to protect.  To save.

Daylight eventually came, and with it, the chore of assessing what was lost and what was spared.  All roadways now riverbeds, traversing the land became a chore of vehicular necessity.  The same brave few to venture from their hiding places during the night were now the ones to begin the assessing.

The guest cabins: somehow untouched.  The dining hall:  unscathed.  The rec hall:  no roadway left, but building secure.  The playgrounds:  some destroyed and some survived.  The pool:  swimmable.  The 100+-year old barn:  still standing.  And the horses?  Huddled in a mass in a patch of pasture, surrounded on every side by mud, and all…every one of them…protected.

God had provided a miracle of dynamic proportion.  The 22-foot wall of death had missed the furthest guest cabin by a mere 30 yards.

IMG_4633

Every road was gone.  The firepits destroyed.  A family obstacle course ripped to shreds.  But the building, the people, the horses-the things that mattered-guarded and secure.  As the survivors looked up the mountain to see what had happened, they noticed an unusual sight:  a rock formation (one we affectionately refer to as “Gorilla Rock”).  The formation itself has stood as a landmark for the ranch.  On the vast landscape of Twin Sisters peak, Gorilla Rock marks the spot directly above the ranch.  If ever you lose your way, look for the rock, and it will lead you home.

The mud path came down the mountain, heading directly for the ranch.  Until it hit Gorilla Rock.  That instrumental landmark was the only thing strong enough to divert the slide.  As the slide hit the rock, the moving earth shifted from certain destruction of this 100-year old, memory-filled destination to missing it by a mere 30 yards.

IMG_4577

“On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand…”

So down the rush came, a fraction away from taking life after life.  And as the torrent flowed, it hit a trench–an eyesore and point of contention to ranch staff.  The trench had been dug as part of a zipline system, but as Twin Sisters gave way, the hole in the ground became a stop sign.  It filled with mud, catching enough to slow the flow and save even more lives.  For directly on the other side of that trench stood every one of the ranch’s horses.

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God works in amazing and mysterious ways.

The landscape of Wind River Ranch is now vastly different than it once had been.  Life doesn’t operate as smoothly now.  Roads need to be re-routed.  Rocks need to be removed.  Waterways need to be built in.  New horse trails need to be cut.

IMG_4618But all of that work takes on a new and lighter burden in light of what God did that dark and uncertain night.  There is no doubt, no question, no discrepancy about God’s divine, direct, and purposeful protection over Wind River Ranch.  A place that has been so “magical” to so many people now has a story of “magic” all to itself.

I stand amazed by God’s divine protection in this story and am reminded about the seemingly limitless number of times He has used storms in my life. To teach me.  To grow me.   To redirect me.  To serve me.  To protect me.

To save me.

 

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The Ides of May

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I made it!  I did! The swirling vortex of death tried to suck me under, but alas! The vortex availeth not.

May.

Curses to May.

Pretty sure it’s of the devil.

All I know is that sometime around April 15, I can feel my heart rate begin to increase, the pulsing in my head becomes akin to a gong-ish choir (“gong-ish”…feel free to borrow…), and I think I can actually see minions squeezing the very life out of my calendar.  Jen Hatmaker referred to May and the chaos it ensues as a “turmoil of doom” (http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever) and HOLY MOLY! Is she ever right?!?  December’s got NOTHIN’ on May.

Between end-of-the-year performances, parties, celebrations, commemorations, tournaments, games, and awards ceremonies, I’ve got no time to make the 9 teacher gifts I need!  Not to mention the thank-you cards and obligatory gifts for the coaches, bus drivers, crossing guards, janitors, music teachers, mailman, and that guy you see walking down the street every day.  Then don’t forget that you’re a room parent, Jess!  That adds on planning parties for every class.   Let’s just throw in two field days, three field trips, and 7500 play dates.

And just for kicks, how about Hubby’s 40th birthday?!  Sure, because Party Planner Galore can handle that too!  NOT.

Have I mentioned how much I loathe parties?  Asking me to plan one could only be topped in joy by a delightful trip to the ER to have my stomach pumped.  I remember the days when birthday parties were something along the lines of “Hey friend for life, come join me for cake!  Maybe we’ll play Red Rover while we’re at it!”  Now, the decorations, the games, and the food all have to match the theme.

A theme?!  Isn’t the theme “I’m getting older today!”?

Argh.

The part that frustrates me so is not the elaborate necessity of the various party parts, but rather, the fact that I have decided I need to succumb to the elaboration.  I now spend over a month planning each party because heaven forbid the guests at my “Spy” party should eat cheese cubes instead of Babybel cheese discs cut to look like ninjas.  

Anyway, I digress.  

If April showers bring May flowers, I have no idea, because I’m too darned busy to stop and notice them. Basically, I just put my head down, keep my breath steady, and plow through, not looking up in a vain attemp to avoid passers-by asking me to volunteer for yet another class picnic.  

I stand now as an elite member of my ever-growing clique of fellow mommies who has actually forgotten a child at school.

Oh yes. It has happened.

But hey!  While he was there, he was able to distribute the nine teachers gifts, homemade cards, and myriad thank-you notes.  Let’s just say I planned it that way.

And now here we are; in June.  Praise The Lord and Hallelujah!  I do believe I can hear the angelic choir singing.

The blissful days of summer.  Where my ever-present munchkins get to scream their bloody heads of at each other for 14 hours a day…and I’ve never been so glad.  I’ll happily take the screeches of sibling rivalry over the domineering demands of May.  For an hour or so…

Welcome, summer.  I’m so very, very glad you are here.

And reader, I’m glad you are here too.  Thanks for not leaving while I was M.I.A.


The Mother’s Day Dilemma

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I try to stay away from anything that could be controversial.  I don’t like to take sides, nor do I like to debate.  In fact, the mere thought of having to defend my personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions makes me run for the hills like Superman from kryptonite.

However, I’ve decided to dip my toes in the water.  Now, we are talking baby pool, temperate water here, but water, nonetheless.

Deep breath.  Here we go…

Apparently, I really value Mothers’ Day.  I value mothers.  I value the work they do, the love they have, the sacrifice they make, the dedication they show, the care they give…on and on and on.  From a personal perspective, I adore the little things the kiddos do just to make you smile.  A handmade card, macaroni necklaces, poems, flowers picked from my garden (or maybe my neighbor’s…oops), and the traditional burnt toast in bed.  Now, probably unlike others, I genuinely love burnt toast, so for me, they’ve created a delicacy.

And I love that they smile at me.

This Sunday, Little Man came to me with the presentation of my Mothers’ Day gift:  “Mom, (whine, cry, sniffle)…we are going to help you…(moan)…pull that tree out of the front yard…(bigger cry)…WITH A GOOD ATTITUDE (full-on wail)!”

 And give me hugs.IMG_3796

Love it. =)

All this to say, I appreciate what it takes to be a mommy and I am grateful that there is a day set aside to honor the women who give it all.

The dilemma lies in the fact that not everyone feels this way.  There are many people out there who have been hurt, abandoned, abused, and forgotten by their mothers.  Just as many who are dying to be a mother but have seen God answer that prayer again and again with a “No, my child.  Not now.  Maybe not ever.”  For the people in these categories, I hurt.  My heart hurts for and with them, and they are not to be forgotten.

And to the women reading this blog who may lie there, please accept my love and know that you too are to be honored, whether you have been mothered poorly or are longing to mother.  You, just for being a woman, are to be honored.  You are standing where God has placed you, and already love so many.  Thank you for that.

The problem I find myself facing in these last few days is the fact that our church has chosen, out of respect for the hurting people out there, not to commemorate Mothers’ Day.  There is no recognition of mothers, no flowers given, no one to pray for us in the work we do, no one to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.  The words “Mothers’ Day” are not even mentioned.  Not once.  As if it doesn’t exist.

And I find myself terribly bothered by that.

Here it is, three days after Mothers’ Day, and I am writing at 5 in the morning because this lack of recognition still plagues me.  But what plagues me is this:  WHY does it bother me so?  I try to be a compassionate person, and in so doing, feel the deep regard for our church to honor those who do not or have not had a good mothering situation.  Typically, I can grab hold of that compassion and come to peace.

But not this time.

So why?  Why does this bother me so?  I have gone over this again and again and have come to a few conclusions.  Again, this is my personal view, so feel free to take the parts you like and discard the rest.  But here is what I’ve discovered about myself:

At first, I felt very selfish, like I needed the recognition.  The pat on the back.  Someone to say, “Yea, you.  You wiped, schlepped, organized, cleaned, buttoned, and fed beautifully this year!”  I spent a good deal of time thinking about how the working husbands of SAHM’s get to hear “well done” at their jobs and I admit, I was jealous of that. I guess part of me feels like Mothers’ Day is the one time we get to have people smile and clap that we cleaned the toilets for the 63rd time that year.  It’s the day when our husbands, brothers, pastors, and friends get to tell us (and we get to hear) how thankful they are that we have given our lives to grocery shopping, laundry-sorting, and fever checking.

But then, as I continued my pondering, I came to realize that it wasn’t just about the personal recognition.  It wasn’t that I alone needed the pat on the back.  It came to be more about my “group”; my demographic.  I am standing in a role which doesn’t always feel comfortable to me, but does feel like what I’ve been called and encouraged to be.  By the church.  By church leaders.  By people I respect.  By the Bible.

It was very, very hard for me to take on the role as a SAHM.  When Hubby and I were dating, he asked about what life would look like for me when I had kids.  “Oh, I’ll still be working for sure!”  

Hubby:  “Even when they are little?”

Ignorant me:  “Of course!  I was raised to work.  I just finished my college degree!  I didn’t do that to stay at home.”

And now, here I am.

At home.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it sure took a LOT to get me to this position, and being here has been a struggle of the will.  I’ve spent many years of my life wondering what good I was to society.  If I don’t earn any money, but do a good deal of spending…well, THAT doesn’t work out!  Why did I take all that time working my tail off to get a degree I don’t use?  Admittedly, sometimes my work-brain gets the best of me, and I struggle being a SAHM again and again.  This struggle is actually part of the reason I take so much time to count the blessings of mommydom.  To remind myself of the gift that it really is, especially when I feel so out of place.

But I digress.  My dilemma is that here I find myself, sole role being one of caring for tiny tots in our home (ok, and in the school, on the soccer field, at ballet….), and I find myself stuck.  Stuck between being happy and feeling worthless to society.

So come Mothers’ Day, I look to the body of people who do all the ephemeral support to do a bit more tangible support:  the church.  The body who shows me who I should be, as a wife, a mother, a woman.  The body who outwardly praises the role I and other mommies take on as being the way God designed it.  The body who, on other Sundays, preaches from the pulpit the honor it takes to be a mother.  The body who has books, classes, lectures, and groups designed to show me how to do it (the closest thing I have to a manual).

And there is silence.

Complete nothingness.

And I feel abandoned.  Jaded.  Tricked.  Duped.  Ignored.

(Pause again to remember:  I know the silence is to honor those who have been hurt and are hurting.  I respect that.)

My former church would ask all the mothers in the congregation to stand.  Then they’d ask all the women who HAD mothers to stand.  Then they’d ask all the women who ever knew a child to stand.  Until all the women of the church were standing.  These pillars of silent strength were then prayed over by the men of the church and, eventually, applauded.

And every year that little momento helped me to carry on.  It was just the support I needed to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And I felt honored.  Loved.  Respected.  Accepted.

So to all the mommies, the mommied, and the hopeful mothers out there:

Well done!  You are loved!  I am proud of you!  You can do it!  Thank you!

That’s the cleanest toilet I’ve ever seen.

 


Mommydom Is…(Part 4, the FINALE)

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Not that this list can end at 100, but….

76. Understanding why a momma bear is a “momma bear” and finding yourself privately cheering her on.

77. Pulling tiny objects out of tiny orifices into which they never should have been shoved.

78. Becoming a master scheduler.

79. Somehow duplicating yourself to be in three places at the same time.

80. Experiencing the greatest joys and hardest trials of your life.

81. Watching your marriage morph into a match of tag-team wrestling, handling, mediating, and “task-ing”.

82. Snuggles.  Lots of snuggles.

83. Realizing that somewhere along the way, you began doing the unthinkable as you mindlessly find yourself licking your finger (oh yes, you do!) and smearing it on Peanut’s face to remove a sticky, red-colored something.

84. Always having baby wipes on hand (even when they are in high school).

85. Seeing your time in the sun transition from casually waltzing onto the beach with towel in hand to a pre-planned, highly-calculated maneuver involving two layers of sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, suit cover-ups, beach blankets, an elephant-sized umbrella, snacks that won’t attract sand, shovels, pails, goggles, body boards, floats, balls, more snacks, water bottles, a camera, and a cart to schlep it all.  (I’m tired just thinking about it.)

86. Wiping away tears every time you see her twirl.

87. Beaming with pride every time you see him open the door for her.

88. Constant reminders that “your hair is not a napkin”.

89. Growing skin thick enough to withstand seeing every dinner you make end up in the garbage disposal.

90. Hiding your unintelligence as your elementary-aged kids spout off more Spanish than you will ever know.

91. Secretly googling “new methods of long division” so you can help your pups do their homework with a shred of dignity.

92. Living with the understanding that planning anything for yourself during the day will inevitably fall like the walls of Jericho because you WILL receive a call from the school right as you head to your destination.

93. Hiring a babysitter so you can take a shower.

94. Becoming hyper-vigilant about every possible threat to their well-being (BULLY! GERM! POTHOLE! CAR! OUTLET! BROTHER! BUTTERKNIFE! POLLEN! AUTOMATIC DOOR!).  

95. Seeing snow, flowers, puppies, or even rocks for the millionth time..for the first time.

96. Finding yourself staring at them for no reason.

97. Taking thousands of pictures.

98. Understanding more and more how Christ REALLY LOVES us.

99. Wondering how God could trust you with something as precious as His littlest angels.

100. The greatest, most wonderful, most challenging, most humbling experience of your life.

 

…And so much more.