Thursday, November 26, 2015

Observations from my sick bed on Thanksgiving

No one chooses when illness comes nor trials of any kind. 
But they come nevertheless. Unannounced, unwelcomed, inconvenient.
Expectations are rearranged, reshaped, sometimes bending us out of shape. 

Illness came for me this year over a holiday, Thanksgiving. 
After delivering what I hope to be an "inaugural teaching" called, "Giving Thanks in the Thick of It," I found my very self in the thick of it with achy muscles and joints, low-grade fever, chills and general malaise. 

I lay in bed that first night of fighting the chills thinking, "It must just be the crash after the build up of giving this talk."  I didn't think I had built up this talk in my mind or heart. I was not giving it my normal obsessive attention. I was not nervous, more than I thought was reasonable at least. I asked for input and prayer from others, and had committed the results to God a part from how I "performed." Perhaps my body was telling a different tale.

Seven days later, today, Thanksgiving day, I can say my body was not crashing from some mentally frenzied build up of anticipation to fulfilling a dream of mine. No, I just simply got sick. 

Some virus. Four days in, I went to my doctor who said, "Gone are the days of the 24-hour bug. Viruses are stronger now and last longer. There is nothing to do but wait it out."

So, I am waiting it out. and waiting. and waiting. 

And, there are all kinds of observations to be made in the waiting rooms of life.
Once one gets past the obvious observation that she doesn't like to wait, there is a lot more to see. 

1. A husband who goes after life with all the tools I find completely useless.  But, he utilizes them and gets things done after all. Different tools, different strategies. But, the man gets things done.

I spend far too much time criticizing him for the "tools" he chooses to use and how he chooses to use them...spreadsheets, clipboards, hours of planning, researching. I am often busy blazing a trail with whatever stick I found on the path, working really hard but not smart, and criticizing him for wasting time looking up "the best tools to blaze a trail" on google.

Father, thanks for giving me this time to do nothing but watch him, watch my husband do what he does so well. He does it his way which is not my way, but it is A way and sometimes the better way if I'm humble enough to admit it. He is good at doing things his way. Things get done. People are served and loved. And, he is a gift to me. Help me to stop criticizing and trying to convince him that he's wasting time but rather to cheer him on and to give thanks for giving me a man who is so completely my opposite and yet loves me fiercely and so, so well. 

2. My children can be rather self sufficient when they need to be. I love and hate that at the same time. For forever, it felt like, I just wanted my children to grow up so they could cut their own food, buckle themselves into their seats, dress and wipe themselves in the bathroom. And now they can do all of that and more. But from the vantage point of laying on the couch, all of them helping themselves and then moving on, I was sad to not be able to serve them. I realized what a gift it is to serve others. 

Father, thank you for giving me this undeserved role of "mom." I complain about it so often, and I feel so ill-suited for the role, but you gave it to me anyway. And, I actually love it. I love being my kids' mom. I love serving them. I love helping them learn how to live life. It is an incredibly undeserved gift You've given me, motherhood.  Thank you. 

3. There is far less to do in life than what I think needs to be done.
I make lots of lists. I have a lot of things to do. always. Illness has this way of distilling down to the bare necessities on those lists I love. Day after day has passed of me accomplishing very little but simply putting in another day, fighting to be healthy again. 

I L O V E productivity. I A D O R E getting things done. I derive immense satisfaction at coming to the end of a day, looking back on that day having done many, many things. I may even find a bit of my self worth wrapped up in being a productive person. I know in my mind that my worth is not in what I accomplish, but I still function and respond to life as though it were at times. I do not find great joy in simply "being." No, "Doing" has always been my jam. 

But, I have had to figure this out because God has laid me out time and time again. I have had to come face to face with what and in Whom I am going to find value and worth, not just for myself but for everyone else, too.

Am I lovely because I am? Are you lovely because you are?  Am I worthy because Jesus calls me worthy, or is it because I crossed ten things off the list today?

Father, this is a hard thank you, but a thank you nonetheless, for taking me out of the game of life from time to time. You do this far more often than I would prefer, but apparently I am a very slow learner. Thank you for loving me simply because you made me to be loved. Thank you for making me work hard to find my value and worth in YOUR greatness rather than my own, in YOUR ability rather than my own. 

4. In my own suffering, I am so much more aware of others suffering this year. Friends who are battling chronic illnesses of various kinds, friends who are mourning loss or fretful about impending loss of some kind--you are all so close to my heart right now and in my thoughts.

If this is how acutely aware I am of those suffering, how much more so is God not only aware but so very near. Psalm 34:18 says, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.

Father, thank you that you are a God who sees and knows, who cares for us and carries our sorrows. Thank you that you are a God who sympathizes with us in all our frailty because you took on human flesh yourself. You came down to our earth and experienced it in all its brokenness and mess, in its illness and grief. And, now Jesus, you stand to the right of God,the Father, who sits on the throne of grace, and you pray for us by name to our Father who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. Thank you that though my home be without human companions at the moment, I keep the company of Christ with me always.

There seem always more words to write and say, but my frailty allows me no more strength to peck it out. It is time to rest. again. 
A truly, "Happy Thanksgiving" to all no matter what state or circumstance you find yourself in.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


On recent episodes of my hubby and my favorite TV series, The Amazing Race, racers had to complete a bungee jump challenge over Victoria Falls in Zambia, Africa. The falls appeared breath taking, and I wished I could have jumped through the screen to be physically present rather than merely virtually present. However, when it came time for the racers to be harnessed and take the leap off the bungee platform, I was very grateful to be sitting in the comfort of my home, under blankets, holding my husband's hand. 

Each contestant wore fit bits and had to track their heart rates before and after the jump. 
I wondered what my heart rate would have read had I been wearing a fit bit as it was definitely beating faster while watching the contestants jump, then plunge to the river valley below, the bungee quickly unraveling until it sprung fully taut.

The GoPro cameras provided a close up look of the players' faces as they fell, seemingly without any restraint. Some faces showed fear; others exhilaration. But every face showed the same thing right as the rope reached its fullest distance: relief.
The rope held.

It held. 

And, I thought, "Isn't that what we all want to know when we're in some free fall of life? That the rope is going to hold, that we're going to be kept safe and secure."

What free fall are you experiencing in life?
Is it something you willingly signed up for, or were you pushed off the platform?
Either way, don't you just want to know at the end of the fall, the rope will hold?

If you are in Christ, the rope will hold. If you trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins, your redemption and eternity in Heaven, He offers some rather sweet promises to you that He will indeed hold you and keep you. He will not fail you. 

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you...  Isaiah 42:6

He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jude 1:24

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.  Psalm 139:5

God may not keep you from a hard going. You may be jolted around a bit. You may even get hurt, but His promises stand true. He will keep your soul safe in Him. He will carry you through this season, this life with His mighty, steadying Hand upon you, not allowing your foot to slip into denying unbelief. He who bought you with His blood will keep you.

One of my sons is a cuddle bug, very affectionate yet feisty at the same time. He and I tussle throughout the day quite a bit, probably because he is my mini-me. This morning, he woke distraught over the condition of our home. He scurried room to room tidying up, all while crying and bemoaning how he wished everyone would pick up their stuff!  Yes, my mini-me. 

Later in the kitchen, that same boy walked up to me and wrapped his arms around me and just stood there wanting to be held. 
And, I held him.

Run to God. Wrap your arms around Him, and know that you will be held. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

My 39th

"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." And cry I did. A thousand tears today, my birthday. 39th to be exact.
It wasn't because I'm 39, and I don't think I'm having a mid-life crisis, but maybe.
I don't really know entirely why I started crying today and couldn't seem to stop.
I have these days every once in a while. You know, the days where all you need is a good cry?

I had the sweetest friend text me last night asking what I was doing for my birthday today. When my reply was, "Nothing out of the ordinary," she made plans for me.
Lunch at Italian Sensation, 12:45.
She brought flowers.
She started to sing "Happy Birthday" loudly in the parking lot as I exited my car, and then she saw my swollen, red eyes and stopped.
"What's wrong?"

Nothing and everything is wrong on these days.

I am sucker punched by the overwhelming feeling that I have wasted my life, that I have made a very bad decision to keep my children home for school as many years as I have, that I am an annoying friend who has to find new friends every several years because the old friends grow very tired of my neediness, that I have a hard marriage that will always be hard, and that I missed my window of making a difference in this world back in my 20's, and it's all irreversible.

Oh regret and self-loathing, how I hate thee.

As for reaching out with these revelations about myself on my birthday, well that wasn't going to happen because who wants to drum up a pity party for her birthday?

 I did not want pity.
I just wanted to feel like my life has purpose.
And when so much of one's life is taken up in roles that leave her feeling like a big, fat failure, it is very hard to remember her value is not in the roles she plays but in the fact that she was given roles to play at all.

I have said it before so many times, you're probably sick of hearing it.

Parenting is hard. It is freaking hard. It is like the hardest thing I've ever tried to do manage emotionally.

I want the best for my kids.

I don't want to tie my identity up in their behavior. When they have a meltdown, are socially inappropriate, disrespectful, unkind, selfish and even hateful, I do not need to interpret that as a reflection on who I am, what kind of parent I am, whether or not I've been successful or even decent as a parent. But I do. 

I don't want them to walk on egg shells when I'm having a meltdown of my own. But they do. 

I want to protect them from so much but not shelter so much that I keep them from their potential to live a purposeful, impactful life.

I want my children to look back on their childhood and have fond memories and to be grateful. I know there will be memories of things I did or said, ways I did or said them that will not be fond, but hopefully won't be so damaging that we can't laugh at them further down the road.
But, at this juncture, I'm just not sure.

I fear I am royally messing them up.
I counter that fear with the truth that God gave these, three children THE exact mom He knew they needed.

I fear they will have to spend hundreds upon thousands of dollars in counseling.
I counter that fear by telling myself that I have spent hundreds of dollars on counseling, but I still love my mom and dad. And, it's actually not their fault.

And, here is what I conclude:
Our parents, most of them anyway, tried really hard to do the best they knew to do by us.
I am doing that for my children and even while I'm doing it, I KNOW I'm not getting it all right. I KNOW I am making mistakes, screwing up and screwing them up in the process.

I know; I put too much pressure on myself.

But, as children don't we put a lot of pressure on our parents?  We have expectations of them, and many of those expectations are linked to our needs. We need love. We need physical care and comfort. We need to be cherished and esteemed. We need promises kept, boundaries made clear and discipline consistent when we've gone outside of those boundaries.

Some parents provide all these things in stellar ways. And, some children's needs are more readily met and satisfied by their parents.

But there is a whole lot of us (and there is, because read the headlines any given day. We are all a bit of a mess.) whose needs either weren't met or were too high for any parent, no matter how good, to meet.

And here is where I turn first to God and say, "Help! YOU be to my children what I have not been or could not be."

You be ever present. And He is.
You have unconditional love. And He does.
You never grow tired or weary. And He doesn't.
You provide all that we need. And He provides.

I then turn inward and stop allowing myself to be beat up on days like today because my parenting absolutely falls short.

Last, I turn to my children and ask them to never stop counting on God because He will never let them down, unlike their momma who has days like my 39th birthday.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, September 20, 2015

Reading: I took a break from book reading this week, and read a few blog posts covering quite a variety of topics.

First up and probably the most controversial, I read this article, and think it would be worth your while to read as well, due to my ever growing interest in understanding our nation's racial tensions.

Maybe it's because I married a man with "minority" status; he's Guatemalan, and a handsome one at that if I do say so myself.  Being Lawrence's wife has forced allowed me the opportunity to have challenging, awkward and sometimes gut wrenching conversations about prejudice, racism, and white privilege. He has been so patient with me as I have said stupid things, mostly out of ignorance vs. hate, drawn false conclusions and just plain out not been able, or maybe willing?, to see the truth.

I appreciate this quote from the above linked article: "Erikka Knuti, a political strategist, said, 'Part of white privilege has been the ability to not know that your privilege exists. If you benefit from racism, do you really want to know that?'"

My big take away from the article is to talk more candidly and often about race, mostly with my children in the safety of our home. But I also want to bravely, yet sensitively, engage in more conversations outside my home as well, with friends around a bonfire, with my family around Thanksgiving dinner (this is your forewarning, by the way.) and with my church and homeschool communities. 

The next article was from a blogger/speaker I recently began to follow, Wendy Speake, and I found it to be personally encouraging given the many constraints on my time in this season of my life. I just don't have the time I want to have to write consistently, privately or publicly.  I loved the concluding quote from Mindy Rogers,

I’m a collector of journals.

I keep them stashed in the console of my car,

tucked into the folds of my purse,

laid on the shelf in my entryway 

stacked by the jewelry box on my dresser,

and sometimes pushed deep into the back pocket of my worn out jeans.

My husband makes jokes but the truth is that they are everywhere.

Every day I spill my heart out in ink on the paper of these journals.”
(Mindy Rogers, 2014)

Because the refugee crisis continues to weigh heavily on my heart and is only growing worse instead of better, I want to provide a link to information on how one can practically help, particularly in the Baltimore area. One size does not fit all of us, but I do believe we can all help in some way. Check it out. 

Here is the article I was in the process of reading when I was pulled over, ironcially enough, for reading on my phone at a stop light among two other offenses---tag light was out (I did not even know what a tag light was let alone that it was out) and not presenting registration at the time of the stop (I was so flustered that I absolutely could not find my registration. And, I still haven't found it. Ugh!
By the way, you cannot be on your "hand held device" while operating a motorized vehicle, not even at a stop light, folks. Learn from me. Just keep your hands off of your phone. And, don't use those hands to wag a finger or two at me. Lesson learned, thankfully with just a warning and not by killing anyone, though I'm not sure how that could have happened while reading at a stop light. But, whatever.

As an aside, I never did finish the above article. Let me know if it's worth my time, and maybe I will get back to it when I can overcome my PTS. 

Last but not least is an article posted on the wall of a FB friend of mine, hopefully to become an "in real life" friend over the next year(s) as my family tarries at our current homeschool co op.  It pairs well with a post my cousin-in-law (is that such a thing?) and friend, Jessica Clemmer, wrote on navigating the ups and downs of social media.

Both articles provide food for thought on how we are pursuing friendship and community in the current digital age. It is something that as a parent, I think a lot about, knowing I am setting the example for my children. As much as I want to get this right, I know I am not doing it perfectly. Nevertheless, I want to strive to try to figure out how to best use social media, avoid its pitfalls and then help my own children as they will inevitably have to figure it out for themselves as well. 

Eating: I'm wondering how many recipes you have pinned to Pinterest that you have never tried. If you're anything like me, it's quite a few. Here is one I have had pinned for years and finally got around to trying it this week, thanks to my neighbor-friend, Amy, who came over, sat around my fire, dunked roasted marshmallows in Bailey's and chatted it up on a Wednesday night. The Bailey's soaked, roasted marshmallow was a treat, but the time to get to know a friend was even better. 

Lawrence and I had the rare pleasure of a night out to ourselves. We checked out a local place that several friends have recommended and were not disappointed. If you are local to us and are looking for good food disguised as a dive of a place, check out The Lodge

I ate the "Treehugger," so fitting for me. It was a wrap filled with mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and creamy horseradish sauce. I subbed veggie skewers for the fries, and they were equally as delicious. Lawrence and I shared the rockfish bites appetizer which apparently they are known for. Given I obnoxiously peeled as much as the fried breading off as I could, I found the remaining fish to be so-so. But, I'd say that has more to do with how I ate it than how the restaurant prepared it. 

Doing: We trekked up to Lancaster to take a tour of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Facility as a part of the boys' preparation for their involvement with First Lego League this year. This year the challenge focus is trash. I found the facility tour to be fascinating, enlightening and educational. Bella just thought it was stinky and wasn't too keen on the gear we had to wear to walk the facility.

Our fabulous library celebrated Constitution Day, September 17th, and hosted a presentation of Betsy Ross by "Betsy Ross." Since we are studying American History this year, we made the time to go. I have long said that we have the best library system ever, and once again, they exceeded my expectations with this program. My kids were unsure for a few seconds if the impersonator was the real Betsy Ross, and then they did the math. 
 During the presentation, Betsy explained many things about how our American flag came to look like it does. In that explanation, Bella was crowned Queen Elizabeth of England.

 And, Judah was crowned King James of England.

I am a very proud mother. I only need a country for Tucker to rule, and then I believe my work as homeschool educator is complete. ;)

The kids had lots of play time with friends this weekend with four girls spending the night here on Friday night and a bonfire and s'mores on Saturday night. Lawrence's parents ate lunch with us today and then Abuela (Lawrence's mom) stayed with the kids for a couple hours so that Lawrence, his dad and I could help his brother and wife prepare their new home for their move this upcoming week. We are very excited about all that God has brought into their lives in the last several years. It is a joy to be a part of it all. 

Looking Ahead: It's a busy week, and I must say the novelty of a new school year has worn off already. Man, I didn't even make it to October. I think our weekend was so full and a bit taxing for me personally that I am really not looking forward to doing it all over again this week.
We also have a 
concluding summer activity overlapping with a fall activity beginning, making it a packed-more-than-usual kind of week.
But, I am scheduled to have my hair cut and colored, so all will be right with the world by Tuesday night.  ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, September 13, 2015

Reading: I started "In the Land of the Blue Burqas" by Kate McCord after a friend gave it to me to borrow. As one eager to understand the cultures and religious expressions of others, I am enjoying this book. As one who values the well being and honor of women, I am not enjoying this book at all. 

It is a very difficult read for me as it exposes the treatment of women within this particular religious and geographical culture goes beyond being unappreciated to being devalued and even dehumanized. This is hard to slog through. 

But because the author is a Christian and shares how she weaves the truth of God's grace, love and mercy for all humankind, including women, into the conversations she has with the Afghans, I keep flipping the pages to find hope upon hope for a people deluded and estranged from the true and Living God. 

Eating: I've got two fabulous recipes for you this week. At this point in the summer, most people have had enough of the garden ripe tomato. You've either canned tomato-based everything until the skin of your fingertips peeled off from all the acid, or you have given tomatoes away to everyone you know and some strangers, too. Maybe, like me, you learned this wonderful tip of freezing whole tomatoes but now you don't actually know what you're going to do with all of those frozen tomatoes.

I have at least one, very good solution for you and it comes by way of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. When I discovered her fresh tomato soup, I knew I would never be able to consume canned tomato soup again. (*unless you graciously serve it to me at your table, and then I will spoon up every bit of it and kiss you for making food for me)

And, guys, it's not hard to make. It might seem intimidating, but just try it one time. But whatever you do, do NOT try the whole "you can make soup in your Vitamix thing."  Ask me why later. 

Here's the link to this delicious and nutritious soup: 

Serve it up with grilled cheese made with garlic bread, and you have got yourself an awesome, autumnal meal.

I cranked out quite a few homemade desserts this week, and I'm not even entirely sure I know why I did that when I have six, yes 6, packages of Neumann-O's (like Oreos) in my pantry. Nevertheless, we had friends over on Saturday night, and my folks visited this afternoon and this dessert was a winner with both:

Doing: We had a low key Labor Day weekend last weekend because the recovery from my tooth extraction was is taking way longer than I anticipated. I was still taking ibuprofen around the clock, icing my jaw and avoiding talking five days post procedure. Avoiding talking?  You gotta know it was bad if I was asking to NOT talk.
Regardless, we were able to host two sets of friends on Sunday night for a small fire on our stone patio and s'mores while I iced my jaw. And, Monday, I felt well enough to make and take dinner to another friend's house where we enjoyed a small fire and s'mores again because, hey, it's almost fall and 'tis the season for fires and s'mores. Anyone with me?

We dealt with a recall on our Pilot and learned that we are apparently still not done with repairs. What is up, Honda?  Lawrence told me we have three things yet to take care of on this vehicle, but they can wait. Like until we have money again, maybe?!  Anyway, truly, I am grateful to have the resources to be able to take care of our vehicles and teeth even if it's not the most fun way to spend one's money. 

On Friday, the kids and I had our first day of homeschool co-op called Crossroads. A part from some nervous jitters and a bee sting during gym, we all thoroughly enjoyed our time and are looking forward to our year learning with this community of fellow homeschoolers. 

Friday night, I was able to attend a volunteer orientation with World Relief to learn more about how my family and I can serve the needs of refugees coming to our area. It was an enlightening time, learning from my friend, Nan Ross, the volunteer and church coordinator for World Relief. 

Saturday was filled with cooking, baking, cleaning and hanging with friends. One of our friends spent the majority of the summer in Russia, where my girlfriend is from, and we were grateful to have some time to catch up on Saturday night over coconut pie and chocolate magic cake.  

Today we thoroughly enjoyed a visit from my folks who made the two hour trek to see us. We haven't been able to travel up to Pennsylvania much this summer with the various car repairs and medical needs we needed to attend to. So, it was really nice to have a visit from them, eat fresh tomato soup that I made and vegetable beef soup that my mom made and catch up on all things family, house and health related along with a few games of Quirkle. 

Looking Ahead: The fall schedule is about to commence in full force this week... a field trip, summer and fall extra curriculars overlapping and some really fun social gatherings for me and the kids. And, I am really hoping and praying I can hit the pavement again running. It's been two weeks! I miss it like crazy, but even the walks I've done (it has sadly, only been two) have left my tooth throbbing afterward. So, we'll see what my body says "yes" to this week. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, September 06, 2015

Reading: Much of what I read this week had to do with the refugee crisis. I am slain by the overwhelming need and fighting my cynicism to believe God's people in particular will not turn away in apathy or complacency but will do one.small.thing, as Ann Voskamp so eloquently encourages in this, her one of several posts on the call to the Church to be the hands and feet and mouthpiece of Christ

Please take some time to read some of the links she provides, to NOT TURN AWAY but to absorb and feel and then ACT. Though not in the same way as these refugees, I have nevertheless been a person in need. I have been a person who has grieved loss again and again. Life's circumstances could have broken me and made me bitter, but by God's mercy, they have not. They have shaped me, though, forging empathy into the fiber of my being. But, I am only one person. I have limited resources, but God has given me a heart that feels things so very deeply and a voice that I am not afraid to use to solicit others to action. 

Honestly, in light of what I have learned this week about refugees, I found it difficult to give emotional focus to anything else I read. Though, I finished "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker and will say it was the most enjoyable and resonating book I have read in a long time.

She is beginning a book club of sorts for her book, and I am hoping to not only participate but include a few of my fellow "For the Love" local friends. I would much rather discuss the ins and outs of living out our faith sitting face to face with you, a glass of wine and piece of chocolate in hand, than online staring at a computer screen. Anyone in?  I'll provide the wine and chocolate. :)

Eating: This week it was a lot of smoothies and pureed food for me. I had my first tooth extracted. First, yes, of hopefully only two teeth that will ever be pulled from my mouth. The extraction itself wasn't so awful, but the recovery has been more painful and lengthy than I anticipated. By day 3, I fully expected to be back to normal. Instead, on day 4 I am still drinking smoothies, slurping soup, popping ibuprofen every 4 hours and icing the side of my face.

The upside to this is that I was able to pre-maturely prepare one of my fall favorites, Butternut Squash Soup. Of the plethora of recipes available, this is my current favorite.  Don't let the "vegan, paleo, gluten free" labels scare you. It's absolutely scrumptious.

I don't know about you, but I am eagerly anticipating the cooler temperatures of fall for the simple joy of making soup again. I am rather fond of soup despite my family's mere tolerance of it. I suppose it is too close to a casserole concept for my family's liking. I am one of those odd ducks that just loves casseroles, soups and salads.  Everything is in or on one pot, plate or bowl. Minimalist to the core. What's not to love?

For whatever reason (and that reason NOT being that I am pregnant) I was craving an Italian Wedding Soup and so took a stab at making it for the first time this week.  While the appearance of it was rather odd due to a technical error incorporating the eggs, the taste was outstanding. Even my hubby liked it enough to eat leftovers!
What soups are among your fall favorites?  Leave a link in the comments.

Doing: Well, this wasn't one of my favorite weeks ever. But, hey, "Momma said there'd be days like this." And, I've had weeks like this past one before. I know they are inevitable. And, I know we get through them.  That's what we did. We got through this week as best as we could. 

As I mentioned, I had my first tooth extraction. It went better than I anticipated. The surgeon and his assistant are wonderful--patient, thorough, sympathetic and skilled.  I was grateful to find an oral surgeon with whom I was comfortable.

Two days after my extraction, Judah had a laser treatment. For whatever reason, he experienced more pain with this treatment than he ever has before. He screamed all throughout the treatment and cried for about an hour afterward. 
He was in so much distress after his treatment that he felt he was going to pass out at one point. 

The doctor brought an ice pack for his face, and Judah sat with his face directly in the air conditioning fans of my hubby's car the entire ride home, moaning and asking God why He was torturing him. 

It was not one of the more fun "mom moments" but one in which I was very grateful Judah has a mom and a dad to be with him in these dark hours, to hold his hand, remind him to breathe, assure him the pain won't last forever. And, it didn't. 

By the time we were within 15 minutes of home and passing a local ice cream shop, Judah was feeling better enough to accept our offer for ice cream. Chocolate and Cookies-N-Cream with rainbow sprinkles and gummy worms for the win!

"Medical" and "Mechanical" are two budget categories that are absolutely bleeding us currently. Since the end of May, we have had near non-stop medical needs along with issues with our vehicles. 

This past week, our Pilot was at the mechanic again. Lo and behold as Lawrence pulled out of the mechanic's parking lot after having a sensor replaced, a part that we had fixed just a month ago broke AGAIN! No kidding. He literally turned out of the parking lot only to turn right back in and leave the Pilot with the mechanic for another day. 

Thankfully, the mechanic did not charge us for this second fix, but we are researching Honda recalls to find out if this is something the manufacturer can be held responsible for.  We have had the same mechanic for years and trust his reliability and skill. We will be taking it to the Honda dealer this upcoming week for a recall on another part that has been needing fixed for a while. 

I am grateful it will be covered financially and that I have friends who live relatively near enough to provide shuttle service or run errands for us as needed. Community is a beautiful thing. And, while we often try to arrange our lives so as to not need anything from anyone else, I have found God force me into this place of need time and time again to remind me that He comes near to those who humble themselves, ask for help and are willing to receive it. 

For some of us, the self sufficient, pick-yourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps, American ideal of "I can do it by myself" is the very thing that keeps us from enjoying the rich benefits of intimate relationships within community. Being a giver as well as a receiver is necessary for robust and well rounded relationships. 

Looking ahead: It is looking like a quieter week of plodding away at school and needs at home, of rest and healing and gearing up for the fullness of a fall schedule, which for us here at Montford includes A LOT of leaf blowing!

The kids and I have the first day of our new homeschool co op, Crossroads, on Friday. I am looking forward to jumping in headlong to this new community of fellow home educators and learners. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, August 30, 2015

Reading: A friend (thank you, Jen Fisher) allowed me to borrow her copy of Jen Hatmaker's "For the Love," and I am so glad she did. This book. This woman. I love it and her. I love the journey God has taken her on in discovering how to truly love Him and people well. I love that she is not only willing but also incredibly gifted in telling the story of her journey and all that she has learned along the way. In her early 40's, Jen Hatmaker has a wealth of wisdom mixed with a lot of humor to offer in her latest release, "For the Love."

From blog world this week, I read this post by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience, the heart of which has been challenging me significantly, causing me to ask myself, "How am I really living out the good news that Jesus is and declared through His life, death and resurrection to ALL people, those inside and outside the church?"

Make time to read this all important, incredibly relevant post of Ann Voskamp's. Let this paragraph whet your appetite for the entire post:

When we are against abortion but are for the cutting of social safety nets, when our political agendas are loud but our daily schedules are pretty quiet about serving people different than us, when we get up on our soapboxes about morality but don’t get out of our comfortable boxes to make real friends with those who live a different lifestyle —— we look like we’re more about pro-birth than we are pro-life, we look like we’re more about self-preservation than community transformation, we look like we’re more about judgement than Jesus.
The life of Jesus would radically suggest: The most conservative in theology, should be the most liberal in loving.
The life of Jesus would radically suggest: Don’t advertise your beautiful faith without advertising your broken-down faults — because those broken-down faults are the exact reason why you need your beautiful faith.
Both Jen Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp, in their vastly different yet uniquely beautiful writing and speaking, articulate so many things for which my heart beats loud and hard. These women use strong words and better words than I seem to be able to put together to communicate so much that rings true for me in the walking out of my faith. I am grateful for their diligent pursuit of the gifts God's deposited in them and sacrifices they have made to see those gifts enjoyed and benefited from by others, far and wide. 
Eating: I scored a glut of re-fried black beans at BB's several weeks ago, and have been making a layered taco dip with them that has been a huge hit at several summer gatherings we've had to bring a food dish to.
Here is the ever so easy to put together layered dip, a spin on the traditional taco dip.

1 can re-fried black beans 
Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt (your choice; I use greek yogurt)
Guacamole (homemade or store bought, your choice)
Salsa (same as above)
Shredded Cheddar or mozzarella cheese 

Simply layer the above ingredients and serve with your favorite tortilla chips. It's delicious!

Running out of quick breakfast options this past week, I had to resort to making an overnight french toast. Pioneer Woman's recipes never fail me. I looked up an overnight french toast recipe from her, and I was again pleased. Try it. You won't regret it.
Doing: Many returned to school this past week, and so did we. Though, I have learned over the last 5 years of doing this home school gig that a gentle easing back into school goes much better for us than jumping into a full schedule from Day 1. As such, I begin a little earlier than some of my com padres and affectionately call it our "Soft start."

We only took on about half our subjects this week and even then, only completed four school days out of the five. Midweek we took the day off for one final girls' day for Bella at a friend's house who lives right on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

My friend, Jill, has gathered Bella along with a handful of other girls Bella's age at her house several times this summer and throughout last spring to spend time with the girls and teach them all things domestic arts related. 
This last girls' day, Jill's focus was spending time with God. Jill graciously allowed me to lead a small time of teaching the girls from what I have learned over my life time about developing, sustaining and strengthening one's relationship with God through Bible reading, prayer and journaling. 
I have to say these are the kinds of opportunities that absolutely make me feel so alive and purpose driven. I love talking about my relationship with God. I love teaching others, especially girls and women, about spiritual things. It was by far one of the highlights of my week, especially the time we had with the girls, talking about what they did and/or learned after they practiced some of the things I taught them. 
We had several doctors' appointments this week. Do I say that a lot? I feel like I say that a lot. sigh. The kids and I all had dental appointments. The kids managed no cavities for which I gave much thanks. I, however, did not fare so well. 
I am telling you, I am the most ardent brusher/flosser in this family, and I always end up the one having the most dental procedures. sigh again. In the midst of scheduling two different teeth extractions, I now have to get a filling to boot. Seriously?  I am ready to have them yank all my teeth and fill my mouth with dentures. I'd have a new party trick at least. 
We enjoyed a more fall-ish feeling week weather wise, and are beginning to see other signs of fall like dried, brown leaves already coating our yard and spiders spinning some rather impressive webs right outside our windows at night. 

The kids and I enjoyed one final "Fun Friday," with some of our home school buds again at our friend, Jill's house. Jumping off her pier, playing "King of the Inter-tube," and eating take out pizza was a great way to celebrate the end of summer and our first week of school simultaneously.

I had my own unintended celebration, winning at my neighborhood Bunco that night. Woot!

I put in just under 10 miles this week running, less than I want but more than nothing. And all my runs were under a 9 minute/mile pace for which I am thrilled. I am just grateful to be out there. 

Oddly enough, one of my favorite things to do all month is my big grocery shop at a discount store 50 minutes from my house. I wake up at 6:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month typically, am on the road by 7 a.m. and arrive to BB's as they are opening their doors at 8 a.m. I spend 4 hours grocery shopping and love every second of it, except for maybe the 120 seconds I spend in the deep freezer. That's not as much fun.  But, this grocery store fills my freezers, fridge and pantry for about a quarter of the cost of shopping at any of my local grocery stores. It is so worth the time and trip in this season of my life. And, I get a solid 6 hours all by myself. I catch up on podcasts I want to listen to. I sit in sheer silence and breathe a little deeper. I pray. I love it. 

Saturday afternoon, I attended a baby shower my church hosted for the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns.  I had never been to a baby shower like it, and was so grateful for the ways in which my church seeks to play a role in a number of ministries reaching out to and meeting the needs of communities outside its own reach.

Along those lines, as a family we attended a special evening potluck and service at our church tonight that gave attention to the various international missions folks from our church have been on and/or are still a part of. My soul was lifted and enlarged to hear about the activity of God and the unity of His Spirit across the world, specifically in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Scotland, Sudan and Russia.

Looking Ahead: I gotta say that I am fighting to look at the week ahead with a cheerful outlook. The heavy circumstances of various friends and family are weighing on my heart tonight in addition to my own little family's needs for this week ahead.
Our truck barely got us home tonight, dash lights indicating several things, more things than we already knew about, needing our attention. So, we need to get that taken care of. 
I am scheduled for my first tooth extraction on Wednesday. I cannot tell you how much I am not looking forward to this. The thing I keep consoling myself with is the thought that maybe, just maybe, I might lose a pound or two due to not being able to eat solids for some time while I heal.

And, hey, because this is how we roll around here...why don't we just end this banner week with a laser treatment for Judah. Friday afternoon, we would love your thoughts and prayers. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, August 23, 2015

Reading: My reading comes this week via blogs. I love reading blogs because they are short and to the point, kind of like me. 

My favorite types of blogs to read are spiritual growth in nature. I will definitely peruse food blogs as well, but honestly, food bloggers, I skip all your words and head straight to the recipe. Occasionally I'll read your comments because I will find the truth about your recipe there or any tweaks I may need to make.

This week, I want to highlight two posts I read, both guest writers ironically.  The first is a blog I have long read, and adored, and I would even say have been mentored by.  It is called, "A Holy Experience," authored by Ann Voskamp, NYTimes best seller of "One Thousand Gifts."

This week, Emily Freeman, wrote a beautiful piece over at A Holy Experience taken from her most recent book release, "Simply Tuesday."  The post entitled, "Hope For Your Soul When You Feel Small" spoke to me so profoundly as one who is living a much smaller life in many ways than I ever thought I would.

In the post, Emily compares stairwells and stages, literally and metaphorically. As one who longs for and even feels a bit at home on stages, in the spotlight, I live most of my life in stairwells (many of which are scattered throughout Johns Hopkins). I love these lines from Emily's post:

And while important things do happen on stages, while influence does come from spotlights, I never want to forget important things happen in stairwells too.
Christ spent His life on the stage of earth but He lived His moments in the stairwells of small towns.
Christ ascended to the stage of heaven but He lives His moments now within the stairwell of the human heart.
Never forsake the stairwell for the stage.

It's well worth a complete read.

My second blog post recommendation comes from another author, Amber Haines, who recently released her book entitled, "Wild in the Hollow." On Amber's blog, she featured guest writer, Tara Owens, who wrote a poetic narrative reflecting truths of the gospel in the most accessible and beautiful of ways as she retells the unthinkable choice of saving her baby's life or saving her own.

The most divinely gripping of paragraphs for me was the following: 
I wanted this child because I had been wanted first. The desire of God for me was a forest fire compared to the spark this girl baby ignited in me. The sacrificial choice made for me made me want to make that same choice. The desire for this life hidden within made me giving up my outward life possible.
Read more here
Eating: I was able to find Toffee Bits last trip to BB's (discount grocery store) and decided to make a dessert using them for the book club I hosted this past Wednesday. The girls coming preferred a chocolate trifle over brownies, so I made one up. And, I have to say it was pretty amazing.

Bri's Made Up Chocolate Trifle:

Make a chocolate cake; my favorite recipe for chocolate cake is what some people call "Wacky Cake" because it has no eggs or milk in it.

I also made my new go-to, from-scratch chocolate pudding. It is so easy to make, it is shameful to buy boxed pudding ever again once you know this recipe. (I have played with this recipe quite a bit, sometimes leaving out the confectioner's sugar, buying a variety of kinds of chocolate including chocolate chips, and also using full fat and low fat ricotta cheese. All variations have turned out a little different, but all really yummy.)

I made homemade whipped cream. Is there any other kind?
Once all the components of the trifle are made, all that's left to do is layer in a glass trifle dish.
Cake, pudding, whipped cream, toffee, repeat. 
Try it for your next get together. You won't regret it.
Doing: We crammed it in this week, seeing that it was our last week of summer vacation. I wanted the kids to have as many social engagements as I could muster this week.

There were sleep overs for all the kids, visits with friends, sometimes several a day, a day trip to Cascade Lake with our new homeschool co op, Crossroads, birthday parties, and plenty of swimming, one of those swims at an old favorite spot of ours, Jerusalem Mill. The calendar was so booked this week that my boys actually asked not to go to a monthly boys' night they typically attend because they were so zonked.

In the midst of all the running around, I managed to clean and re-organize the school room, finish ordering school materials and/or books, type out daily school schedules for each of the kids and myself for this upcoming year, take cookies to a friend whose stepdad just came home from the hospital, host book club, attend our final Trust Based Parenting session, run Judah to the library for his last two shifts as a summer volunteer, mow our entire lawn and run about 8 miles this week (less than my weekly goal, but something is better than nothing.)
A friend turned me on to some new strength training videos that I have been implementing into my workouts throughout the week. 
I have had trouble with my IT band for a couple years, and am hoping that doing a better job at strength training and stretching will heal it and keep me on the road.
We ended the week in the best way I can think of, celebrating the lives of our boys and dear friends of our's little girl, who just turned one. All three of these children are answers to prayer and bring great joy to all of us.

Looking Ahead:
Well, it's time. We will start school tomorrow. Like a middle aged momma entering a pool, we ease in slowly. We will have three days of devoted school time this week, and only do some of our subjects. We repeat this plan next week as well. 
Most of my focus and effort this week and next is just re-acclimating all of us to the schedule, pace and focus that school requires. I need as much of a slow ease into all of that as much, if not more than the kids do. I am going to sorely miss taking two hours in the morning to "wake up."
We also have three separate doctor's appointments, all routine visits.

However, I am going to have to call our pediatrician because Judah has been having pain in his knee joint for several days, and this is something we have seen in him a handful of times in the past. 
It has come and gone and even been located in different joints. We have consulted once already with the pediatrician about it, but nothing emergent revealed itself at the time. 
So, I am calling again this week to find out if we need to consider blood work or some further scans. I am not thrilled about this at all, but Judah's pediatrician told us at the first visit about his joint pain that we would probably need to take this route if his joint pain continued to show up.

I am praying it is simply growth pains. While I hate to see any of my kids in pain, I think it would be a good sign if Judah was experiencing growth pains given he has growth hormone deficiency and is "not supposed" to be growing all that much if at all according to many years of pituitary testing.
Now past midnight, it is time to hit the hay.