The First 24 … and then some

It’s been a little over 24 hours since two precious babies were dropped off at my home … our first placement as a foster family.

I can’t give out names or identifying details about the children left in our charge, but I can say that we are loving on a set of siblings. A little boy with blond hair and big brown eyes who is not quite two years old and his baby sister (age nine months) with the most adorable round face, big blue eyes and a smile to melt your heart. For the purposes of my blog, I’ll refer to them as “Lil’ Man” and “Cutie-Pie.”

As cute as these two are (and they are oh-so cute), it’s been a wild, chaotic, stressful night and day around here.

I had forgotten all about babies!  I know I’ve mothered three from infancy on, but I have apparently grown rusty on all things baby.  Jon and I realized that our schedule just hasn’t been thrown a curve ball … our schedule has been thrown out the window! We are now marching to the beat of two tiny people, who eat and sleep and even take baths on a schedule.

Cutie Pie arrived with a nasty cold and cough. Is there anything worse than a baby with a rattly chest?! My momma’s heart wants to just rush her off to the doctor, but we don’t even have a pediatrician yet. And she’s since is fever-free and mostly content to play, I figure our over-the-counter medications can keep things under control until Monday morning.

Lil’ Man is busy, fascinated by everything electronic or highly breakable, and extremely LOUD. He’s definitely a normal almost two-year old. His speech is very garbled, but we can hear him mimicking us from time to time. So far the only time he is quiet is when he is sleeping or watching Barney … Good old Barney is still entertaining to toddlers  and irritating adults all these years later!

The five big kids in the house are delighted to help. Tonight there was actually a small bru-ha-ha over who would get to bath the babies. These two are not in need of loving hands to hold them, play with them, feed, them, rock them, or sing “The Itsty-Bitsy Spider” for the 50th time in a row.

So if you are wondering how we are doing … well, it’s just like any other house with two babies under two.

Thanks for the prayers and words of encouragement. We are completely dependent on prayer right now, and trusting that God will continue to help us find our footing in this exciting time.

Now, I’m off to start another load of laundry! It’s amazing how much laundry two little people can create!

Finished! (Never mind … I’ve Not Even Begun)

Yesterday afternoon about 1:30 the phone call finally came.

Our paperwork is complete. Jon and I are officially logged into the foster care system and available to take a child into our home.

Whew! For a while, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen.  Those first few weeks, everything flew into place. I couldn’t seem to get it to all slow down.

And then everything came to a sudden halt.

Not only did things not move forward. It even seemed we were taking steps back. I found myself questioning our motives and wondering if we were up to the challenge. A minor family crisis involving one of our five children almost made us decide to close the door on this ministry.

But we decided to wait on God and let Him either close or open the door.

We waited and watched … and very slowly the last few steps were accomplished in an orderly manner.

And with that one phone call, I sat back and breathed a big sigh, “It’s finished!”

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I only thought it was finished yesterday.  What was finished was nothing more than the beginning.

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Today the phone rang again. Almost at the same exact time.

Again, it was our foster care worker with news … two kids on their way to our home.

And suddenly, just as quickly, all the relief of yesterday vanished. My heart is turning in a million directions. I’m overwhelmed with nerves and heartache, while at the same time eager to do what God has asked me and my family to do.

Any time a child is placed into foster care, there has been a tragedy. An awful thing has happened. And yet to have the chance to love on these two precious babies is an opportunity I  want to embrace.

I’ve got just an hour to get ready. I’ve got just a few minutes to get things together. There are a million things to do, or so it seems. Put the crib together. Straighten in the nursery and make sure there is nothing a toddler shouldn’t have laid about. Baby proof the living room. Start supper because I imagine cooking once they arrive will be hard to accomplish. And yet I sit here writing …

Because my heart is breaking… Two babies ripped out of their home … so even though they are coming to me where I will keep them safe and fed and hopefully happy, these two precious ones have already been through something terrible to bring them to my door.

Because my heart is anxious… Will I have enough energy for this? Can my family take the stress and strain of caring for two small children? Are we going to regret this decision or will it be the best thing we’ve ever done?

Because my heart is filled with excitement… God has asked me and my family to dare to love and we’ve said yes. It’s always thrilling to see how God will use us and there is a part of me expecting great and wonderful things.

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Yesterday, when I thought those words, “it is finished,” I recalled how those were the final words Jesus uttered on the cross. We call that day Good Friday, not because His suffering was good but because through it all humanity gained salvation.

Today is a good Friday in my home and in my life. Not that it begins to compare to the Good Friday of Easter, but rather because it signifies that we are following God in faith, dependent upon Him to meet our every need in this endeavor.

It’s good because God will meet us where we are and will give us all we need. This much I know to be true.

Still … if you think of the two babies heading to my home and of my family as we welcome them with love, I would love knowing you are praying with us and for us.

Because we’ve not finished anything. We’ve only just begun.

The Trouble with Ears

The first thing I remember about Nathan was thinking he was definitely louder than his brother Joel. The very next thing I recall is a nurse gushing loudly over his piercing cries, “Oh, would you just look at those dimples!”  Sure enough, there on his right cheek was a deep double-dimple. And, to my surprise, he was born knowing how to use them!

Of all my children, Nathan smiled the quickest. By 3 1/2 weeks of age, he was giving big full-on grins, putting that dimple to work. He was born with bright blue eyes and a head of thick black hair that stuck straight up, giving him the appearance that he had something mischievous going on in his little head. Everyone (and I mean everyone) said all that black hair would fall out, but it never did. In fact, by the time he was three months old, the roots were growing in blond. Poor Nathan! He looked like he had been given a bad dye job!  One day I trimmed away the black tips as he slept in my arms. Now he had head full of blond hair to match the blue eyes and big dimple.

Did I mention Nathan was born in Monterey, California?

That’s right.

I’ve got my very own California Beach Boy.

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Nathan was less than two months old the first time it happened. I woke up to his loud shrieks at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night. This cry was not the wail of a baby needing to be fed or changed into a dry diaper. This was the cry of a sick infant, one who was in pain.

No fever. No wound. In my sleep-deprived state, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong him. Nothing I did stopped his cries. At some point, I took him to an ER, where my baby was diagnosed with a raging double-ear infection.

That night marked the beginning of Nate’s ear troubles.

Nathan, center, at 7 months. Three hours after this photo was taken, he was in the ER being treated for another ear infection. A month later, he got his first set of tubes.
Nathan, center, at 7 months. Three hours after this photo was taken, he was in the ER being treated for another ear infection. A month later, he got his first set of tubes.

He got his first set of ear tubes at 8 months, after he had already been treated for a dozen ear infections.

Now you must understand, from my personal experience of living in Monterey, California for nearly a year and a half, the doctors there were leery to do anything. They wanted to take the “wait and see” approach. But Nathan’s little ears were constantly infected. Homeopathic remedies didn’t work. Antibiotics seemed to work, only to have the infection come back with full force just as soon as the medication was stopped. Finally, out of desperation, an ENT said, “Well, he is awfully little for this but let’s put in some ear tubes and see if it will help.”

I never will forget after that first procedure the ENT sitting me down, looking me in the eyes and saying:

Let me be honest with you … I don’t know when I have ever seen so much pus and debris in the middle ear, especially on a child this young. It was like wallpaper paste, clinging to everything! No amount of antibiotic would have ever cleared up that mess. We definitely did the right thing by putting in tubes.

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Like a song stuck on repeat, one ear infection followed another, and one set of ear tubes after the next.

The first time Nathan had a tympanoplasty, he was about five years old.

We checked in at the surgical hospital that morning expecting Nathan was just going to be receiving another set of ear tubes. If you have ever had a child who has gotten ear tubes, you know it is a relatively simple procedure that takes about ten to fifteen minutes for the doctor to perform. Literally you spend more time waiting for your turn than you do waiting for your child’s ear tubes to be inserted.

Nathan at age 4 ... all smiles!
Nathan at age 4 … all smiles!

That particular day Nathan was wheeled back to have the tubes inserted, but he didn’t come back quickly. Forty-five minutes passed. I finally managed to flag down a nurse, who didn’t have any information but promised to find out what was going on for me. Several minutes later, she returned.

The doctor ran into some trouble. Apparently his ear drums were in not in good enough condition to hold a tube in place, so he had to perform a tympanoplasty first.”  Seing my confused look, she quickly explained, “That means the doctor repaired the ear drums with a small graft of skin. He should be finishing up within another fifteen or twenty minutes. It’s alright, Mama … your boy is in good hands.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Nathan was wheeled back out, his little hand strapped to a stabilizing board to help hold his IV in place. Nathan’s ears were covered with bandages. After all of the experiences with getting sets of ear tubes, I wasn’t prepared for him to look so injured and ill.

As I reached over to stroke his sweet head, Nathan gave me a glare, “I cannot move my hand. No one will take this out!” He waved his hand and forearm about wildly.

About that time, the same kind nurse peeked her head into the room. “How are we doing in here?” she asked, flashing a bright smile at us.

Before I could answer, Nathan ranted, “Not well! I do not feel so good right now.

“I’m sorry. What can I do to make you feel better?”

I want this thing off of my arm.” Nathan pointed to the arm taped to the board.

The nurse smiled. “I am definitely going to take your IV out … just as soon as you eat, drink and go to the potty for me. Deal?”

No. It is not a deal. I am not hungry. I am not thirsty. And I don’t have to go to the potty.” Nathan was not in a deal-making mood. Knowing my son was as stubborn as he was charming, I feared we were in a for long stay in the recovery area.

But that sweet nurse didn’t seem at all fazed by Nathan’s grumpiness. Ten minutes later she was back with graham crackers and apple juice.  She set it all up on the little tray and offered to turn on the TV so that he could eat his snack while watching a cartoon.

Humph.” Nathan gave the nurse a grumpy glare. “Watching TV will not make me feel better. What will make me feel better is for you to take this thing out of my arm.

The nurse did not fall for Nathan’s act.  “I’ve already told you that I will take it out just as soon as you eat, drink and go to the potty.”

And I’ve already told you that I do not want to eat or drink or go to the potty.”  Nathan tried to cross his arms on his chest, but between all the IV tubes taped to his arm which was fastened to the board he couldn’t manage to get everything in position.

“Well, seeing as this is my hospital, you are going to have to follow my rules. I’ll leave you alone for a while. Maybe in a few minutes you will feel hungry or thirsty.”

As the nurse walked away, Nathan pushed away the tray with the apple juice. “What sort of hospital is this?” he grumbled.  “Everyone knows the healthiest thing to drink is water. Instead, I got apple juice. She’s probably a terrible nurse because if she knew how bad I felt she would bring me a cup of water.

Seeing an opportunity to perhaps bring about an end to the stalemate, I cautiously asked, “If the nurse brought you some water, would you drink it?”

Fifteen minutes later, Nathan had guzzled down a couple of large cups of water, eaten three packets of graham crackers, gone to the bathroom, and had the hated IV removed. After handing me the discharge papers, the nurse turned to Nathan and offered to give him a ride to our car in a wheelchair. His five-year old eyes glittered with excitement.  Flashing the nurse his most charming dimple grin, Nathan asked, “Can you take me the long way so I can have a really good ride?” The nurse, who had up to now been so firm, couldn’t seem to refuse this final request. She even gave him a wheelie on a quiet stretch of the hospital hallway.

As she dropped us off at the front of the hospital, Nathan gave her a big high five. “The next time I need ear tubes, I am definitely coming back here, ” he declared.

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Just last month Nathan got had an ear infection which rapidly turned into mastoiditis. It took three trips to visit our ENT, two trips to the pediatrician, and a visit to the emergency room to get him well.  He got a CT scan, two bags of antibiotics by IV, a shot in the rear with another antibiotic, 14 days of antibiotics by mouth, along with an ear drop antibiotic, and it still was more than three weeks before his ear was pain-free.

“Maybe this will be the last one,” I thought. “Maybe after this time his ears won’t hurt him any more.”

Two nights ago, I found myself sitting in yet another urgent-care clinic watching another doctor look into my boy’s ears and state with shock, “Goodness! That’s an infected ear!”

Inside, I moaned, “Oh, Lord … are we ever going to get past this? It seems like we have been around and around and around on this same merry-go-round. I feel so hopeless about this!”

As I stopped by the pharmacy to get the antibiotic filled, the verse that kept racing through my mind was this:

There is nothing new under the sun.

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Ear tubes. Ruptured ear drums. Tympanoplasties. So many ear infections, I’ve long lost count.

For years, doctors have told me my son would outgrow ear infections. He will celebrate his 13th birthday on Thanksgiving Day. After all these years of ear aches, it feels as if Nathan and I have tried everything there possibly is to try.

Isn’t that the way we humans feel? It seems like we fight the same old battles over and over.  Some of us battle with the bulge, diet after diet, hoping that one of these days the weight will fall off and stay off. Others find themselves warring with addictions: smoking, drinking, pornography.  We go round and round, wrestling with our demons, desperate for the solution, fearful one doesn’t exist, wondering if our prayers are bouncing off heaven. Our battles feel old and our souls feel weary.

I read something interesting this week. According to Ravi Zacharius, the phrase “There is nothing new under the sun” which King Solomon uses approximately twenty times in the book of Ecclesiastes, is actually an old Hebrew idiom meaning “a life without God.”

It took me a moment to wrap my head around this thought. Maybe you are quicker than me … even so, give me a moment to explain what I eventually realized.

In this life, there is nothing new. If it has happened once, it is just as likely to happen again. Wars, disasters, addictions, diseases. We hear the stories again and again. There really is nothing new under the sun.

But when you have a life with God, everything changes. Suddenly, the impossible becomes possible. The unimaginable happens. The terrible becomes glorious. And that’s because God makes all things new. And because God has that sort of power, we have hope in whatever battle we are facing.

David killed Goliath because, even though there is nothing new under the sun, God makes all things new and possible.

The same thing goes for Moses parting the waters, Gideon defeating the Midionites, and the marching Israelites bringing down the walls of Jericho. Time and time again, we read in the Bible of how the impossible came to be all because of God’s intervention.

There is always hope because even though there is nothing new under the sun, God has given us His Son and through Him all things are made new.

suninclouds

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It’s taken me a week to write this post. Not only has Nathan been ill with an ear infection, but so has the rest of this house. This morning, four out of five kids are hanging out in pajamas, sniffling and coughing and sneezing. Yesterday, I was down and out myself. A bad case of the sniffles is not such a terrible thing in this world filled with problems. Life could be a whole lot worse than just needing to hang onto a box of kleenex.

But even so, I hang onto hope this morning … because while there is nothing new under the son, everything is new with the Son of God.

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”  ~Revelation 21:5

Let’s Try to Name that Baby

In early 2015, I will be an aunt again! My sister is having a baby … and now, after much debate (which you can read about here) we finally know whether to buy pink or blue bibs!

All along I’ve been guessing her new baby is going to be a boy, dreaming of onesies decorated with jungle animals, blankets edged in blues and greens, and plenty of toy trucks and balls galore.

Boy, oh boy!  Was I ever wrong!

My sister is having another girl … and quite truthfully, I am still tickled just as pink! There will be dresses trimmed with lace, hair bows, dolls and tea parties. Oh, I can hardly wait to meet my newest niece!

Photo Credit: Designed by godofopathy at  www.wordans.com
Photo Credit: Designed by godofopathy at http://www.wordans.com

For the past week or so, my sister and I have been discussing names via text messaging. This is probably the safest way for us to handle discussions on this topic. I’m not naming any names but one of us used to pick weird names for our dolls and stuffed animals. We’ve been arguing quibbling over names ever since.

This time the list of possible names has approximately one that I really like: Abigail.

The rest of the list is consists of names that are cute but I would never chose for one reason or another, as well as several names that cause me to question my sister’s sanity. None of them are quite as bad as something like Bertha, but a few of them are just a step or two away.  Hopefully, my brother-in-law won’t like those options any better than I do.

My sister doesn’t always choose strange names. Her younger daughter has a beautiful name, Bethany Sage.

Immediately upon finding out this newest addition was going to be another girl, I thought how sweet it would be if her daughters had rhyming names. And, in case you hadn’t thought of it yet, Sage rhymes perfectly with Paige.

Personally, I think Abigail Paige is an adorable name! It’s timeless and classic, with a Bible name thrown in for good measure. In my unsolicited opinion, this is the sort of name you cannot go wrong with giving to a daughter. Besides, I am quite certain that “little Paige” would love sharing a name with her favorite aunt.  Unfortunately, my sister has not been agreeable to my suggestion.

My sister’s oldest daughter is actually her step-daughter so she obviously didn’t pick out her name, which is Madison Rose. However, there is a little connection between those two girls and their middle names. Perhaps you noticed it too.  Rose and Sage are both color names, as well as plant names.  Though I am positive this wasn’t a pattern my sister intended to start, I see no reason she should stop now that it is going.

That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time compiling a lengthy list of appropriate names to help my sister continue this pattern when picking out a name for baby girl #3.  For example, Violet is a lovely name that is also both a color and a plant. I also came up with a list of just color names: Scarlett, Ruby, Amber and Pearl. My list of plant names included Daisy, Lily and Ivy.

Of course, I am not the only one sending my sister suggestions. My mother suggested the very unique name Teal, going along with the color theme.

The name Hazel came up in a recent conversation with my sister.  Not only is it growing in popularity thanks to its appearance in recent books and movies, but it is the name of a color as well.  I also pointed out that it could even be short for the plant named Witch Hazel, which may seem like a bit of a stretch but I thought I’d mention it anyway since there is the naming pattern of plants and colors to consider.

However, when my dad heard about the name Hazel being a serious option, he ranted that he was not at all in favor of naming any of his granddaughters Hazel because once when he was in elementary school he had a mean teacher by that name. Apparently, nearly 60 years later, he is still holding a grudge.

…sigh…

If only we could all agree on a name …

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Of all the things associated with having a baby, perhaps agreeing upon the name is the hardest part.

Consider for a moment these questions one must ask before naming a baby:

Should the name be traditional, popular, unique, old-fashioned or ethnic?

Should the baby be named in honor of a relative or friend? After a beloved character in a book or movie?

Should the spelling be traditional or creative?

There are sometimes additional “rules” which some parents require names to meet before using on their second, third, and fourth babies. These might include certain standards such as names only starting with certain letters or choosing names that fit a specific pattern (for example, presidential names). Sometimes it’s even things like desiring the entire name to contain an exact number of syllables.

It is at this point in baby name conversations that I always pause to wonder about the Duggar family.  How on earth did Jim Bob and Michelle ever manage to find 19 names all beginning with the letter J that they both liked?!  This is perhaps the biggest naming mystery for our generation.

Once all these questions have been answered and the “rules” have been followed, then the parents (who we must remember are two individual people and likely have vastly different opinions) must somehow actually pick a combination of two (or maybe three) names that they both like and can live with, all the while praying their baby will grow up to like the name as well.

Talk about a daunting task! It’s a wonder any of us have names at all!

Speaking of almost not having a name …

My grandfather didn’t have a name until he was nearly a year old. I suppose his parents couldn’t agree upon what to name him. For months he was just called “Nookie” until they finally decided to name him James Herbert. I guess we can all be thankful that they didn’t decide to stick with Nookie.

Actually, I can relate to my great-grandmother’s reluctance to name her baby. Don’t get me wrong … naming my children wasn’t a horrible experience. In fact, many parts of the process were definitely fun. Thumbing through baby name books while pondering the plethora of fantastic names out there from which I could choose, daydreaming about raising a child with various names, asking other moms (and dads) how they named their children and hearing some wonderful tales. I’m so glad for those memories.

And yet, as the weeks turned into months, I found myself fretting that I would ever find the right name for my unborn child. It’s big task to give someone the name they will have for all of their life. What if my baby grew up to hate their name? What if they hated me for giving the name to them in the first place?

Honestly, the pressure is enough to make me wish that babies came to this earth with a little stamp on their tiny bottoms:

This baby’s name is ______________. Love, God

(Of course, the blank would be filled in, otherwise it wouldn’t alleviate the enormous task of having to come up with a wonderful name. And since God would be doing the naming, both parents and child would think the name was completely perfect.)

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Photo Credit: www.tidewaterparent.com
Photo Credit: http://www.tidewaterparent.com

My husband Jon and I have never named a child together.

We are currently raising a blended family of five children, and are preparing to open our home to foster children in the very, very near future. Truly, our house is overflowing with the blessing of children!

Yet, Jon and I both have hope that one day God will give us an additional blessing, a child together. In that case, we would obviously have the task of naming such a child. There have been a handful of discussions regarding the names we might give to a future child, and based on those conversations I can explain in one word how I feel about the idea of finding a name both Jon and I can agree upon:

Worried.

My husband and I share a lot of the same likes and dislikes in many areas of our lives. Names for children is not one of those areas.

Perhaps it is a good thing that foster children come already named!

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There is one name above all names.

Hundreds of years before He was born, Isaiah wrote:

He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6

And then, in the months prior to His birth, His earthly father Joseph was told by the angel:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. ~Matthew 1:21

If you don’t know who I am referring to, it’s Jesus Christ.  He is the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. His name has the power to bring salvation to a dying soul, break the chains that keep prisoners bound, and set the captives free. It’s the only name in heaven and on earth that matters.

When I wake up in the Land of Glory, and with the saints I will tell my story,

There is just one name I’ll proclaim.

It’s Jesus, Jesus, Jesus … the sweetest name I know!

Of Printers and Sons … a Day of Arguments

My printer and I are having a bit of an argument.

photo credit: www.freeimages.co.uk
photo credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

I want my printer to print out about 3 pages worth of documents, a recipe and a page for my 14 year old son’s school work. My printer, however,  has decided this job is too hard for a Thursday.

 

My printer will not print because for some reason it believes there is no paper in the paper tray. The light blinks indicating for me to add paper. The printer icon on my computer jumps up and down to grab my attention.  Click on it and a message appears: Refill paper tray.

However, the paper tray has been refilled … several times actually. Originally, the tray was empty. I inserted a nice stack of paper into the tray, but the printer still refused to print.

So, I removed the paper from the tray, straighten the stack, and reinserted it back into the proper location. Nope. No luck.

I removed the paper again, added more paper, refilled the tray, pushed print. Nothing.

 

Next, I removed about half the stack of paper. I figured maybe in this case less would be more. There remained nothing but silence from my printer.

I am frustrated and angry. It’s such a silly little argument. Neither of these things I want to have printed are urgent, life and death matters. But honestly … I’ve had it up to here with my printer! (If you could see me, my finger would be at about eye level. Not much longer and this printer will have pushed me over the top … which, of course, is why I am writing about it instead of continuing to try to fix a problem that doesn’t seem to want to be fixed.)

Unfortunately, the printer is not the only thing arguing with me today.

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My morning began with an argument.

Accusations. Pointing fingers. Raised voices (unfortunately, my own).

Photo Credit: www.morguefile.com
Photo Credit: http://www.morguefile.com

What’s a mom to do when a preteen boy plays the laundry blame game at 6:45 am?

Yes, 6:45 in the morning and we are arguing over who was supposed to do yesterday’s laundry. It’s too early for discussions like that. I just need to drink my coffee and breath in peace and quiet, not discuss with frustrated boys the dilemma of who’s job it was to put the laundry on to wash.

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It’s like a snowball rolling down hill. (Not that I would really know about that. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually seen snow and none of it was ever enough to make a smallish snowball. Even if I did have enough snow to make a snowball, 

Regardless of what I know about snowballs, I do know that arguing tends to breed arguing. Round two followed round one before breakfast was hardly over.

Silence, blank stares, and stubborn glares. It’s a different boy with a different problem.  It really doesn’t matter whether it is schoolwork or laundry at the center of the argument. The result is still the same.

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The argument with my printer isn’t easily solved. I don’t have a mechanical or technical mind. I’m challenged in this areas. And until my printer decides to communicate with me in a way I can understand or I find someone who speaks the language of printers, this argument will only continue.  And truthfully, if my printer and I can’t come to a point of resolution soon, this argument may end with a kick to the curb!

The arguments with each of my sons, however, are very simple to end. It starts with “I’m sorry” and it ends with “Please forgive me. I was wrong.” In the middle, there is taking time to listen and reflect and work together to find a solution. Spending time looking each directly, instead of staring or glaring or rolling eyes. Seeking to understand and resolve instead of point fingers and accuse.

After all, I don’t want to argue with my boys …  just as I know they don’t want to argue with me either. Oh sure, I might jest and say I’m going to kick them to the curb or sell them to the next band of traveling gypsies that wanders through the neighborhood. Not that I would … even if I could!

I’d rather end with a hug (or the very least a smile), and know that things between us are okay once again. So I’m going to swallow my pride and be the first to offer the olive branch of peace.

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Arguments with printers and other material things might be frustrating. But they are typically an easy-to-fix sort of problem. Troubleshoot and repair it. Or throw out the old and get a replacement.

Arguments with people aren’t as easily remedied. Feelings get crushed. Hearts get hurt. And deep down we feel justified in our actions, believing we were right, desiring for the other person to make the first move.

Even so, it is always better to make the first move toward forgiveness.

Because people can never be replaced.

Photo Credit: www.morguefile.com
Photo Credit: http://www.morguefile.com

Do not let the sun go down on your anger. ~Ephesians 4:26

Driving with Papaw

For most Americans, renewing a driver’s license is a pain.

Last year, when I renewed mine, I had to make at least 2 different trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The first time I forgot to bring along an official document showing my new residential address; the second time I didn’t have the correct amount of cash. Each time I endured a long wait, one of which was more than two hours.  It’s pure torture to sit in such a place with three children, who eagerly begged to join me for the adventure of seeing their mom get a new driver’s license photo, but soon grew bored with sitting on uncomfortable chairs with nothing to do.

“I am a relatively good driver,” I thought, as I sat in the warm, crowded waiting area of the DMV. “After more than 20 years of driving, I’ve never been pulled over for speeding or running stop signs. The only wreck I’ve ever been involved in while driving was not my fault. Why must it be such a hassle for me to get this simple task done?”

I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with this dreaded task again for another four years!

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My 90 year old grandfather, whom my family affectionately calls Papaw, lives with my parents. Papaw has not retired from working a regular job. In fact, he gets up to go to his real estate office five days a week, rain or shine. He is active in church activities, including attending two Sunday worship services, Wednesday night prayer meeting and regular deacon’s meetings.

And, despite the concerns of his children and grandchildren, Papaw continues to drive himself to all of these activities.

Papaw’s mind is sharp. Intellectually, he is still fully functioning, engaged with family and friends. Physically, however, age is catching up to his body. His knees are weak, and now he must walk with a walker in order to maintain his balance. In the past few months, he has suffered a series of small strokes behind his eyes, resulting in vision that is not nearly as sharp as it should be in order to safely drive.

In recent years, my dad has begun to drive my grandfather to most places he needs to go outside of the rural community in which they live. Several times each week, my father takes his father to one of his many dr. appointments or to attend to business. It makes everyone in our family feel reassured knowing that Papaw is not navigating in fast or heavy traffic.

And yet, Papaw sees no reason he can’t drive himself to work or church and back home. The way he sees it, both places are less than a mile from his home, along the same two-laned road he’s been traversing for the past 75 years.  There are no red lights or stop signs. The route is not tricky.  Yet, the question we find ourselves asking is, considering his age and physical condition, it really safe for him to be driving?

But, trust me, there is no one in my family who wants to be the one to try to take the cars keys (and independence) from my grandfather.

Recently my father became aware that my grandfather was driving with an expired license. “Aha!” he thought, “This is the perfect opportunity to let someone else be the bad guy! What DMV employee in their right mind would renew the license of a 90 year old, half-blind, half-crippled man?!

So earlier this week, my dad took Papaw to the small DMV in the north Louisiana parish where they live. He watched in astonishment as my grandfather took the eye exam and answered the questions (all truthfully), and received a brand-new driver’s license, good for the next four years.

As they got in the car to drive back home, my dad could only shake his head in shock as my grandfather gloated, “I guess this means I need to plan on living another 4 years!

image of Cyril Sutton, 100 year old driver from Australia
image of Cyril Sutton, 100 year old driver from Australia

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This morning I woke up thinking about my grandfather’s driving and his recently renewed license. Based on the shocking outcome of the situation, I have two somewhat unrelated thoughts.

First, I am reminded in life that the unexpected often happens. If you are like me, you have experienced situations in which you have predicted a particular outcome with relative certainty, only to be shocked with an unexpected end result. I’m grateful to know despite my own shock and surprise in such circumstances, God was not taken aback by the way the events unfolded. What a comfort to know when life hands me or someone I love a deal I wasn’t anticipating, God already has it under His perfect control.

Secondly, please allow me to give you a word of caution. If at any time in the next four years you ever happen to find yourself driving along Louisiana Hwy 8 in rural Catahoula Parish, keep your eyes peeled for a grey Cadillac. If you should see one heading your way, pull over until it passes you by for it’s likely to be Papaw … and I can’t guarantee he will see you coming!

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Irreplaceable

The phone rang at 7:30 am, but I didn’t hear it. Ten minutes later, I saw the missed called notification, indicating my husband had called but left no voicemail.

Immediately I called back, asking if he was needing me to do something for him.  “No,” he answered. “I was just calling to ask you on a date … for tonight. How about going with me to watch a movie?”

Jon and I rarely get to go to movies. Truthfully, I’m not much of a movie person. (I realize this is a strange fact, but the honest truth is I hardly ever desire to see a film.) Jon, however, loves movies and would probably like going to the theater on a regular basis. Yet, as the parents of five kids, we don’t often have the extra money in the budget to afford soaring ticket prices. Movies, for us, are a rare treat.

So when Jon asked me on a movie date, I immediately knew Jon for some reason felt this movie was important for us to see.  I had to say yes.

It turns out the movie Jon wanted to take me to see was a Focus on the Family one night event at movie theaters across the nation.  The name of the film was Irreplaceable, documentary-style  movie exploring the idea of family and why it matters in light of history, psychology, religion and today’s culture.

I was captivated from the moment the film started. Tim Sisarich, the New Zealand director and host, asked honest questions about the importance of family to society, especially in light of how the idea of family has changed in recent years and with the direction our culture is declining. Sisarich examines how the devaluing of sex led to the decline of traditional, long-lasting marriage, which further the idea that parenthood (particularly fatherhood) wasn’t a role to desire or take seriously. All of this has led to the demise of the family and ultimately the weakening of our culture.

Initially, it seemed Sisarich was going to just serve as a host, asking questions to the various experts and providing dialogue during transitions. But soon we catch a glimpse of Sisarich’s background … and as the documentary moves forward, Sisarich’s personal story unfolds as well. As a viewer, I felt even more engaged with Tim Sisarich as he walks through his personal story of a broken family.

Following the movie, Jon and I were able to talk deeply about our own past failures (both of us having been divorced and Jon also being the child of a broken home), our struggles (with step-parenting), our desires (in our marriage, as parents and step-parents and for the future of our family). For this reason alone, Irreplaceable was a film worth seeing.

My favorite part of this documentary came toward the end when Sisarich comes to the conclusion there is really no such thing as a perfect family. However, there is such a thing as a redeemed family, one which despite the brokenness of life on earth chooses to love God and love each other.

This is what Jon and I are striving for together. No perfect, but perfectly redeemed by the grace of God.

In case you missed the one night showing of Focus on the Family‘s documentary Irreplaceable, there will be an encore showing on May 15th.  The Focus on the Family blog has more information about the movie and the encore theater showing of the film. Click here to find out if there is a theater near you hosting this film.

Not sure if you would be interested in viewing Irreplaceable? Here’s the trailer.

 

Birthday Riches

 September 17, 1983

My 11th birthday.  I was an awkward, chubby sixth grader, more child than anything, though I tried desperately to fit into the junior high school world I had entered on the first day of school. Though I had plenty of friends, I felt decidedly unpopular. And while my grades were great, I was certain I wasn’t terribly smart. Besides, I was somewhat immature and felt completely unsure of the nuances of appropriate tween-age behavior. For example, while the other girls my age were ga-ga over John Stamos, I was nuts about Garfield.

That’s right. Garfield. That incredibly lazy, fat cat who loved lasagna. Smarter than both his owner, Jon, and his doggy-friend, Odie, Garfield had a charming sort of dry wit I only dreamed of possessing.  As the ultimate fan, I owned everything Garfield, from notebooks, folders and other school supplies to the posters adorning my bedroom.  Every afternoon I tried to find a way to visit my grandparents’ at the store they ran so that I would have a chance to keep up with Garfield’s last antics through the daily comics in the newspaper, and every night I spent all of my spare time drawing pictures of my favorite fat cat.

To my great delight, my paternal grandmother, Mammie, agreed to make me a cake in the shape of Garfield for my birthday.  The day of my party finally arrived. With the house decorated, I spent an anxious afternoon waiting for my grandmother to bring over the cake.  An hour before the party, she pulled into our driveway. I was ecstatic!

As my grandmother came into the house, holding  a cake stand covered with foil,  a bright, playful smile stretched across her face from ear to ear.  After a big hug and the customary birthday check slipped into my hand, she sat down and said, “Well, Paige, I’ve got something to tell you about that Garfield cake. Garfield is just as naughty in cake form as he is in the funny papers.  You see, the oddest thing happened while I was making the icing to frost it. I never could get the colors just right.  In fact, the orange for his fur … well, it just came out … GREEN! Of course, I guess it makes sense, seeing as Garfield has been stuck in the sewer all week in his comic strip.”  

Slowly, she began to remove the foil which covered the Garfield cake. Soon, I was staring at my edible rendition of my beloved character … complete with the black triangular stripes on an pea green coat of icing fur. I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry. I felt like doing both.  My grandmother laughed.  The merry sound made me giggle as well, though I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if my grandmother had teasingly played a birthday joke on me or if the pea green icing just happened to be a coincidental mistake. 

The answer to this mystery still eludes me thirty years later.  To this day, I cannot reconcile in my head which way my birthday Garfield came to be frosted in such an interesting color of icing.  Yet even though the colors weren’t quite right, I seem to recall the cake tasted divine … just like every birthday cake my grandmother made in my honor. And in my mind, I can hear her cheerful laughter and see the twinkle of her happy eyes as she delighted me with a birthday cake memory to last a lifetime.

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A year ago today I struggled with the very idea of aging, feeling as if my life were slipping by too fast. Many of my lifelong hopes and dreams continued to remain unfulfilled. It seemed that for all the years I had lived, I had simply gone nowhere fast. Forty felt oddly old, as if I somehow woke up one morning and found I’d aged overnight.

God’s gracious. Over the past twelve months, He has taught me a lot about contentment with my age or rather with my current stage of life. I’ve grown to look past the number so that it no longer defines me.  To my delight, as September 17th rolled around again, I didn’t have the same sort of dread that I experienced, though a tiny part of me still wanted to whine about growing older.

This morning a friend sent me a message:  “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.” (Proverbs 8:20,21). So, as you get older, you can know for certain that you also grow richer!”

Rich.  Oh, and I do feel rich. So very rich.  

The riches of my life aren’t simply my family or health or home, those these are certainly things that I hold dear to my heart. Rather, my life is built on 41 years of riches, stored up from the memories I have of love, compassion, shared joys and shared tears, moments of instruction. They have been passed along and given to me through my parents, grandparents, great-grandmothers, aunts and uncles and cousins and friends from all walks of life.  Anytime I go back in my mind, I find that the memories there point me back to God, cutting through the confusion.   And like a treasure box filled with jewels,  my heart is full to overflowing with a richness, overwhelming my soul.

The inheritance of living each day isn’t in what happens tomorrow, but rather in what I’ve found along life’s journey so far.