Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

Like many Americans this weekend, my little family hit the road to visit with extended family in Pennsylvania. Between Lawrence's busy season and the high price of gas, it had been since Christmas since we had seen some of my family. Even though a jam-packed full weekend of events, we thoroughly relished being together again, enjoying a respite from our realities, some of which are speckled with trial or challenges. It was a gift from the Giver we all happily received.
These are my absolute favorite kids in the world (minus 4 more nephews under age 2 if you can believe it!)

Within 10 minutes of where my brother and sister-in-law live and only a half hour from my parents is a National  Guard training site, Fort Indiantown Gap, along with a national cemetery, the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. Having never visited these sites before, I thought it was appropriate to take a drive through before heading to my parents for our Memorial Day picnic.

The drive through the cemetery was sobering to say the least. My husband and I both gained some needed perspective on trying circumstances we're walking through currently by somberly viewing thousands of graves and hundreds of families visiting them that day.

Here are some photos from our visit:
(to see the photos more clearly, click on the image)

It was a Memorial Day I won't too soon forget, one in which I really remembered that freedom isn't free. "Thank you" doesn't seem sufficient, but I and my family do thank all who have and do commit to put the "mission first", "never accept defeat", "never quit", and "never leave a fallen comrade."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Good Friend, Great God

We had it on the calendar for weeks--"lunch at the Powells" on the 23rd.  In the midst of renovating one home while living in the home of a friend, the Powells' time to hang out was at a premium.

So, for weeks I looked forward to what in other seasons was a more regular time of fellowship for me with one of my closest friends and intense play for my kids with some of their best buds.

Pink carpet got in the way.

My husband I have lived in our current townhouse for 9 years and have yet to rip up the hideous pink carpet that blankets our floor. My apologies to anyone who has pink carpet and thinks it's just darling. We think otherwise and have wanted it gone since we first signed the contract to buy the house. Nevertheless, other priorities jumped to the front of the line for all these years.

Until just about a week ago, I would look at the pink carpet with disdain. Then, on Mother's Day, I finally did something about it.

I started ripping it up, one small section at a time. I knew better than to rip up the carpet from our entire room in one shot. I knew I would pay for it physically. My back simply would not cooperate. I knew better. That's why I worked on one little section at a time, over days, and took days in between sections to rest, and remembered to bend at my hip flexors rather than from my back, and to use my leg muscles rather than my lower back muscles, and to have Lawrence lift all the heavy furniture and rolls of carpet and.... I knew better.

My back did not know better. It has a mind of its own. And, this past Sunday after ripping up a rather substantial piece of our carpet (maybe I got a little greedy), that familiar ache began to gnaw at me.

I mentioned to Lawrence that my back really hurt and I was going to get on the floor right away with ice. I thought I was going to be able to rest and get ahead of it. But, it was too late.

By bedtime Sunday night, just brushing my teeth required concentration and deep breathing to function through the pain. I knew then that this week was going to be spent on the floor.

Thankfully, God has directed my steps to a chiropractor who seems to have the "magic touch" for my back. I have seen a handful of chiropractors, physical therapists and even a surgeon. No one has been able to take me to the point of comfort that my current chiropractor has! To say I am grateful for this man is an understatement.

I was very hopeful that after the adjustment last night, I would be back to my bouncy self. I needed to be.

Right before my chiropractor appointment last night, the kids and I picked up our first box of produce from a local CSA we are participating in this summer. In the box were a few vegetables I had never eaten, some I had never even heard of.  So, after researching online what I could do with these vegetables (from the floor of course), I was hopeful that by today I would be on my feet, able to work in my kitchen, cooking up some green goodness for my family.

This morning came and while the "locking-up" kind of pain had diminished significantly, it was still present and especially so when I stood for more than 3 minutes at a time. Cooking up green goodies was not going to happen.

Waste of any kind is not something with which I am comfortable and especially food waste and even moreso food that is oh so good for you. The thought of letting organic, leafy greens go to waste before their nutrient-dense goodness could be consumed was nearly consuming me.

But, what was there to do?

And then there was my lunch date with the Powells. We had waited so long. We were both looking forward to it so much. I prayed, and God opened my mind to an idea, but it was going to require humility on my part and incredible generosity on the part of my friend. Thankfully, generosity is my friend's strength. And so, the plan unfolded.

Today, the kids and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with our dear friends whom we hadn't seen for quite a while. I switched between laying on a yoga mat on their wood floor to resting on the couch in the kitchen while Jo prepared lunch for all 10 of us and then proceeded to take one of my green goodies I received at the farm yesterday, bok choy, and made a stir fry for my family to eat for dinner tonight. On top of that, she used up a glut of apples I had sitting in my crisper for too long to make 2 apple crisps, one for her and one for me.

When I texted my hubby this morning to let him know how the afternoon at the Powells was going to happen afterall, he texted back, "What a good friend. What a great God."

What a true statement. Good friends are wonderful gifts but mostly because they come from the GIVER of all good gifts and they point us to HIM who loves us in ways we don't deserve.

God made me mindful of HIM and HIS care for me, HIS awareness of my lot through the kindness and generosity of a good friend.

Do you need to be a good friend to someone today and hence cause them to be mindful of God? Or do you need to recognize that the good gifts you enjoy in your friendships are really just evidence of GOD's love for you?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our local farm

For the first summer, we are going to participate in a CSA which stands for community supported agriculture. For those unfamiliar, the way it works is that a local farmer has a specified number of boxes of harvested produce or other farm fare he can supply customers on a weekly basis. Each individual or family who participates pays for the entire growing season before the start of the growing season.

CSA's help to support local farmers by ensuring funds upfront despite what weather or insects might do to his crops.  This helps the farmer with cash flow at the start of his season and keeps him from having to become overly concerned about the financial end of his business during the months of the year when most of his day is spent working the fields.  It ensures less waste and creates more awareness on the consumer's part about the source of his food and the work it takes to harvest such food.

There are other benefits as well, which I'm sure I'll write about in future posts. But, for this post I will highlight a perk our family enjoyed this past Friday. After a long day at the hospital with Judah for his pituitary stim. test, we were able to take part in our local CSA's kick off of the growing season ice cream social.

Two sets of dear friends of ours are also participating in the CSA this year. We met them at the farm and became acquainted with a handful of new friends. After enjoying some of the creamiest ice cream I've ever tasted topped with picked-from-the-field-that-morning strawberries and a chocolate sauce friends of the farm call, "yum-yum" sauce (with good reason), we strolled the fields and listened to our farmers, Tom and Sarah, explain the workings of their farm.

Anyone who knows me well knows I was in my element. Seeing the straight, plowed lines and the beginnings of  this season's harvest shoot up out of the earth, listening to the roosters crow, and watching the kids run free and play in dirt are among the simple joys that, for me, are a taste of paradise.

We thoroughly enjoyed clod hopping in our mud boots through the fields as we listened and learned from Tom and Sarah about the methods they employ that distinguish their farm as organic. After the tour, we were invited to take our pick at the first of the season red-ripe strawberries.

I have big hopes for our relationship with Tom and Sarah and Flying Plow Farm. Just from our one evening spent there, my kids already have a greater knowledge and deeper appreciation for their food and the work required to get it to the plate. In years to come and, God willing, after many hours spent volunteering at the farm (that's my plan for the kids' and my future summers), I'm trusting we'll all have only benefited further from this new found relationship.

Here are some photos from our night on the farm. Click on the picture to see all the photos.

May 18, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Judah's pituitary stimulation test

We did this nearly 4 years ago. We woke our kids up out of their sleep, ushered Tucker and Bella to various sitters and told Judah that we had to go to the hospital for a big test. Different from when Judah was 3 yrs. old, this morning he knew a lot more what those words entailed.

I was anxious to say the least about how waking up to this news would sit with Judah. Fearful that he'd break out in fitful tears and pleas of dissension or inwardly struggle with bitterness toward us for not giving him more time to process, I waited to see his response. But, I also asked a lot of people to pray for us, too.

Those prayers were heard and answered today, exceeding our expectations.

We are grateful to so many of our friends and family who prayed for this test and who have walked this journey with us all these years. We do not take it for granted at all. We are so blessed. And, in this past year as I have begun to welcome Judah into the reality that others pray for him, he has expressed his own gratitude as well. He has said often to me, "Please tell people to keep praying for me" or "I like when people pray for me."

Along with your prayers, many of you have played in supporting roles by keeping our other two monkeys for us while we attend to Judah. I cannot say thank you enough. I pray for you each and every time, and I trust God is using all of this for everyone's good. He's always doing 1,000 things at once.

So, today's test for those who like to know details involved an IV catheter placed in Judah's arm. Something new this time as compared to last time was a device called the "accu-vein" (or maybe that's the manufacturer?). In our pictures below, you'll see one has a red light hovering over Judah's arm. This machine detects de-oxygenated blood, veins, and helps the nurse find the best vein for whatever procedure she is doing. We all thought that was pretty cool and had a fun time exploring the arms of everyone in the room.

There are no pictures of Judah having the catheter initially placed because that was "all hands on deck" time--one nurse trying to get the catheter placed in just the right spot, another nurse holding Judah's arm ever so still, my hubby holding Judah on his lap as I was talking Judah through his emotional response to the pain, reminding him to take deep breaths, encouraging him to keep still, and commending his courage.

Aside from the actual "stick", Judah did not cry for the rest of the test, nor did he cry at the news of having to have the test done. My boy grows braver and more mature each time.

Along with maturity comes the switch from rewarding him with donuts to giving him a $5 limit on Legos of his choice. Given today's rather lengthy test and intensity of it, we felt it was worth at least $15! ;)

So, he chose "Kai's Blade Cycle" and worked on that for almost the entire 3 hours. Once he completed putting that together, he was able to use the computer in the room to access internet and watch videos from Legoclub.com, his latest obsession. On days like today, it's very helpful to have a kid obsessed with something such that it will hold his attention for 3 full hours...on an empty stomach I might add.

Judah mentioned a couple times throughout the test how hungry he was, and we even heard his stomach growl, but overall responded really well to not having anything to eat until 1 pm today! I didn't make it, however, and had to sneak out of the room to grab some breakfast and coffee mid-morning. I think I'd rather have a blood draw than have to fast. Seriously. And, my buddy did both this morning and did so in such an exemplary way.

It is a joy to see Judah grow in these contexts. As difficult as they can be and as weighty as the health issues are at times, I see God using it to grow my son in character and maturity and courage and probably other things that I will only see later down the road.

He engages with his care providers with confidence and maturity. I want to believe that for some of his nurses and doctors at least, Judah is some sunshine in their day. The care providers we interact with treat some very sick children who can be incredibly affected by their ill health in heart breaking ways. Judah doesn't have an easy lot by any means, but he has been relatively very fortunate, and I want to believe brings some joy and hope to the care providers with whom he interacts.

We had great nurses today, and let me tell you what an incredible blessing that is and difference it makes in how Judah, and I would guess any child, responds to these circumstances. I have immense respect and great affection for pediatric nurses and doctors especially. They are a special, special group of men and women. If you are one and reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you! I think you could have one of the most challenging, at times heart breaking jobs on the planet. I pray the rewards far outweigh the costs to you.

So, here are some photos from our day. You can click on the image to see all of them. I'm relieved we're done with it, and elated that it went so well. Now, we wait for the results and pray for a miracle.

Pituitary Stimulation Test, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day

As a special way to honor my mom and bless another in Haiti, I submit the following as a part of the 1,000 moms project:

 1000 Moms Project

It wasn't long after I had my first babies (I had twins the first go around) that I realized I loved my boys in such a way that they could never reciprocate. Following that line of thought, it dawned on me that I never did nor ever will love my mom the way she loves me. I think it's impossible to reciprocate directly a mother's love. The best anyone can do is to give it to another.

One is not able to define this kind of love simply. Words like sacrificial, unconditional, and persevering, while a good start, just don't fully capture the love a mother has for her child.

This love wants to quit but goes the extra mile instead.

This love wants to lash out but bites her tongue.

This love doesn't want to be bothered but chooses to be inconvenienced.

This love isn't always that interested in the subject being discussed but listens attentively and purposefully replies.

This love messes up sometimes but always come back to ask for forgiveness.

This love. It's not perfect, but it perseveres. It sometimes struggles to serve but sacrifices nonetheless. It doesn't always meet our expectations, but it is unconditional.

I love how one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, states what I am trying to articulate:

Perhaps there was something more powerful to experience than a perfect Mother: the wonder of a committed Mother who simply humbles herself.

My own mom has a long record of sacrifice, perseverance and humility. Having born four children from her own body, she gladly made three more her own when she re-married a man who lost his wife in a hit-and-run car accident. Well acquainted herself with the unique pain of losing one's spouse after having to say goodbye to my dad who passed into eternity as a result of cancer, my mom was a good match for my stepdad.

In the midst of profound loss and change in her life, she continued to lay down her life for the good of her children, now all seven of them, equally.

Did she do the mothering thing perfectly? No, and she'd be the first one to tell you that. But, when I consider how many opportunities (and many of them given her by her ungrateful children) she has had to throw in the towel and say, "I quit", yet persevered to love and care for, to repeatedly absorb offense from us, I am amazed and grateful.

After 39 years of mothering, she is not done. She still has one bird in the nest. Just when it seems we are all finally out of her hair, another one decides to move back home. And, truth be told, the day that all her children are officially out from under her roof, one or two of the grandchildren may be old enough and in trouble enough to be sent to live with her then, too.

I tell my mom that she'll be done when she's dead. Does she want to live free of the responsibilities and emotional weight of being a mom and now a grandma sometimes? Yes. I think she does. I do, too, and I have only been doing this mothering gig for only 8 years now.  But, she perseveres and gives so much of herself to her family, her very large and demanding family.

If you are a mom, thank you for the ways you sacrifice and persevere.

If you feel like a failure as a mom, know this. You only fail if you fail to get back up again.

If you are a child (ha...aren't we all), give thanks for the imperfect mother God gave you, and try to see and thank her for the ways she has persevered and sacrificed on your behalf even if the only evidence of it was simply birthing you into this world.

If you are childless and don't want to be, consider that the desire to love another as you would a child may not be for one you bear from your womb. Pray that God would grant you that gift, but may I humbly ask you to consider if it may be to a child another woman bore on whom you are to bestow this motherly love?

Mother's Day can be a difficult time for many, but I believe it is still a day worth celebratin. While none of us have or are perfect mothers, we can know the One who created mothers because Jesus died on the cross for all mommas' (and daughters', and sons') imperfections. He then rose from the dead, conquering death, the penalty for our imperfections. And this God--He IS perfect. His love is perfect. It never disappoints. It never fails. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

April and May's 30 day challenges

April is a week past, and I am just now posting how I did with its 30 day challenge. Enjoying a week away from our normal routine with my hubby home from work, I unplugged most of last week. It was one of our best "stay-cations" yet as a family, but I'll write more about that in another post. For now, I'm sure all my 3 readers are on pins and needles to hear how I did with April's challenge and what May's 30 day challenge is going to be.

My challenge for April was to write 15 minutes a day. Most days I did write, but not all. Some days I wrote much longer than 15 minutes, and I certainly didn't publish everything here on the blog. Nevertheless, it was highly enjoyable to exercise my brain in a way I haven't for a while. A dear friend was kind enough to dialogue with me via email about some of my writing and provide input and encouragement. I am very grateful to have avid readers and accomplished writers for friends who are kind enough to take me and my writing seriously even though it doesn't deserve such attention.

My friend, Danielle, suggested I purchase a book called, "Writer Mama" to practice and strengthen my writing. I ordered it last night and am excited to have an external motivator to keep my writing muscles from going limp.  My pastor once said that if one doesn't pursue one's passion, it will soon not be her passion. I have long remembered that in regards to many things I have been passionate about in life (and if you know me closely, you know that encompasses quite a lot. I am one of those passionate-about-everything people who wishes for even a moment of apathy to know what it feels like. :) )  Writing is one of those things I love but know I need to practice.

So, I'm glad I did it. As I'm finding with many of the 30 day challenges I've done so far, it has been so helpful to articulate passions and give them life by way of setting attainable, measurable goals.

For May, my goals are as follows:

  • Pray for my leaders daily. I think I'm going to narrow this to my husband, my pastors and the President of our country. I know there are many others in leadership over me, but I am choosing to focus on these few with fervor rather than gloss over many in quick prayers for all in authority over me.
  • Go upstairs to my bedroom by 9:30 pm and be in bed (maybe asleep) by 10:30. 
    This is huge for me because I have made a habit of staying up late at night after the kids go to bed, sometimes for good reasons like cleaning my kitchen and folding laundry, sometimes for selfish reasons like having "me" time to catch up on facebook and my gazillion blog posts I've bookmarked over the course of the day. I am hoping this will jump start afresh a daily habit that will serve my family better.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to post some pictures and some words about how to do stay-cations well. We've done a number of them now, and I think we're finally finding our "groove". I'd love to pass along some of what I've learned over the last couple of years on how to "do" stay-cations successfully. Tune in! :)