Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trust for the Lame

I have a problem. Most days pass without me giving my problem a passing thought. But, some days, my little problem slips up on me, laughing maniacally at my fright when I realize it's presence.
My problem is: I forget my age.

Sometimes this is literal.  Like last year, when I was sure I was turning 37, having told people for a whole year that I was 36.  Two weeks before my birthday, J. reminded me that I was only 35, turning 36. So, this year, I really had to stop and think when I told someone my age. Indeed, I am really 37 now.

Most of the time, my forgetting my age doesn't involve telling someone the wrong number.  It's more like, hey I'm not much older than this group of high schoolers so of course, they think I'm funny and cool.  Except that I'm really closer in age to their mother and my jokes are kind of lame.

Or, like this weekend, I find myself taking part in activities with my kids and pretending that my body can keep up with their unbridled youth. This past weekend, I chaperoned 45 kids from my church on a Fall Retreat. We were at a local camp and we had the most fun. The last day, just before we had our chapel service, we did a series of trust games.

Trust games involve trusting another person or group of people to either lead, catch or support you...sometimes blindly.  The last game a trust run. Two lines of people facing each other extend their arms in front of them, blocking the path between them. A group of people who are not a part of the lines each take a turn running through the blocked path and just as they get to those extended arms (not too soon, just before!) the arms drop and let them through without them breaking their speed and without the arms knocking them to the ground.

Clear as mud?

Great. So, I was the final person to do the trust run because I was helping to keep everyone in line on task with the arm dropping. Just as I was about to take off in my sprint of trust, my foot slipped, turning my leg outward at a very odd angle. I heard a pop just as pain shot up from my calf throughout my entire body. I finished my run (thank you very much) and stopped at the end while everyone cheered, none knowing the pain I was feeling.  Our gracious leader excused everyone to gather their Bibles and have one last potty break before our chapel service while I tried to compose myself.

Turns out, I tore a ligament and sprained a muscle in my calf. I'm now the proud owner of a fine set of crutches and a not so fine bruised ego.

Turns out, my jokes aren't the only lame thing.

The irony of this entire situation isn't lost on me. I injured myself during a trust game.  My injury has me out of commission for my regular daily activities; meaning, I have to trust others to help me with the most mundane of tasks. This is so hard for me. I do not accept help very well. I like to be the one helping others not the one receiving help.

Isn't this like our relationship with God? We go through life, saying that we trust Him. We help others when they are struggling to trust Him. But, the minute our lives fall apart and everything isn't as tidy as it once was, that trust is tested. We find that all along, we were really trusting in our own abilities and letting go of that trust in ourselves in order to cling to Him, well, it isn't as easy as we thought.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to build your immune system...one sandwich at a time

Title Addendum: Or, you could contract a mystery illness and die. Tales of a 50/50 chance.

When we were in England, Jillian's class took a field trip to the amazing Science Museum and Natural History Museum in London. I was lucky enough to get to chaperone this trip with one of my closest friends, whose daughter happens to be Jillian's BFF.

When lunch time rolled around, we decided to eat outside because the weather was unusually nice that day. The only available bench we could find was just outside of the building, along a busy street. If you have been to London, you know it's always busy and there are always a million people bustling around. No worries, we were content to enjoy the weather and our friends, no matter the place.

Not long after we unloaded our lunch sacks and settled in, the wind picked up a bit.  Jillian, in a swift move to catch a napkin before it blew away, dropped half of her peanut butter sandwich on the sidewalk. I gestured and told her to just go ahead and pick it up, no big deal, it's just a sandwich.

We continued our lunch, chatting and having a great time with our friends. Once I was done, I gathered all of my trash in my lunch bag and handed it to Jillian.

"If you'll put that sandwich you dropped in there, I'll toss it for you," I told her.

Stunned, she stared at me with eyes as wide as saucers. "But, I ate it. You said pick it up...I thought that meant it was ok to eat it!"

I nearly threw up, right on the spot. I looked around at the pigeons, people, trash and grime that was covering that sidewalk and had no idea what to do next. Having her gargle with anti-bacterial seemed logical yet risky so I did what any responsible mother would have done.

I laughed and vowed that if she didn't get violently ill within the next 5 days, I planned to tell this story to her first prom date.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Diamond in the....blinds

We are fortunate to have several local farmers markets to choose from in our area.  We've always gone to the same one but last week, we wanted to try one that's a little closer to our new house. It's in the perfect location, in the heart of downtown Montgomery. The market looks small from the outside compared to the State Farmer's Market we usually attend but it's so efficiently laid out that once inside, we quickly realized that there's twice as many vendors!

The first booth we came to had a very nice couple that I stopped to talk to about homemade pickles. As we were chatting, I noticed that Caroline had wandered to the booth next to us and was chatting with the little lady behind the table.  Before long, she came around the table and was squatting next to Caroline showing her something. I was still in conversation and J. was standing close to Caroline and paying attention to the conversation so I turned my attention back to pickles.

In a few moments, Caroline walked over to me, holding a parsley plant. Knowing that she loves flowers and plants, I figured she just picked it up to show it to me and ask if she could buy it. I quickly excused myself from the conversation and the couple I was chatting with said, "It's ok, she really loves to do that." Having no idea what they were talking about, I headed to the next booth with Caroline to return the plant.

The first thing I noticed was a small hand written sign that said, "Free Butterflies" laying on the table next to another sign that invited people to "Please touch and smell the plants!"

Before I spoke the lady came over and told me how Caroline was and how she reminded her of her own grandchildren, whom she missed dearly. She said she'd given the parsley plant to Caroline because there was a caterpillar among the leaves and she just knew that Caroline would LOVE it. I looked down and sure enough, there was a bright green caterpillar clinging to a stalk. I thanked her and made sure Caroline did the same as J. and the other kids came up to see what we were doing. Noticing the big kids belonged to me, she encouraged them to take a plant for themselves. She spent the next few minutes talking to them about the types of plants she had available and how to care for them. Jillian and Keller each chose a plant and we bought some mums from her for the front porch and left.

These types of interactions are quite common at the farmer's markets here.  The people are so kind and so excited to see families together enjoying the fruits of their labor. Our kids really look forward to our trips and I think this sweet lady will become a good friend that they look forward to seeing each time we go.  I'll make it a point to take pictures of their plants to bring to show her that they are caring for them the way she told them to.

We came home afterwards so that our market goodies wouldn't have to sit in the car while we ran the rest of our errands. We found the perfect windowsill for Caroline's "callerpitter" plant because she was afraid putting him outside would give him the chance to run away. (If you see Caroline and hear her say "callerpitter" please do not correct her. I love that she says it this way and never want her to say it properly.)

A few things about caterpillars.  One, they aren't really that entertaining to watch.  We spent hours over the next few days watching Diamond (of course, he needed a proper name!) and it was about as much fun as you'd imagine. Two, they poop a lot. It's really gross. Three, if you look really closely at their face (is that really what it's called?) it looks like they have a constant frown.  Or a mustache.

Several days after we brought Diamond home, we came home from school and he wasn't on the parsley.  We noticed that he'd climbed up the blinds and was nearly at the top. J. brought him back down and put him back on the parsley so he wouldn't be lost.

The next morning, he was dutifully climbing back up the blinds. Keller mentioned that he was probably looking for a place to form his chrysalis. We let him climb and I checked on him periodically throughout the day while the kids were at school.  A while after they got home, we checked on him and he was fully inside of his chrysalis! So, we're apparently growing a butterfly in our blinds!

I know next to nothing about caterpillars/butterflies so we've been reading about the stages and what is happening inside of the chrysalis. He should be out in a couple of weeks and we'll release him into the yard. You can't even imagine what a huge deal this has been for everyone in this house. So much fun!

Here's a couple of pictures of Diamond. Keep in mind, he's cocooned up in our blinds so it's hard to get a great shot!
All wrapped up

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Overwhelming Love

Parenting can often be a roller coaster. When at it's best, it's a sleek, well kept ride at Disney World run by a professionally trained "cast member" who makes small talk while you wait and helps the tiniest riders off with an extended hand and a smile. At it's worst, it's more like the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair run by a carnie with a cigarette hanging between two of his three teeth, laughing as he cranks up the speed and bolts start flying off while your kid (and you) screams for mercy.

With one, you leave in a state of euphoria and can't wait to come back tomorrow to do it all over again. With the other, you aren't altogether sure you'll make it out alive and if you do, there's NO way you're coming back. 

The real catch is, parenting can be both of those in the same day and you go to bed at night confused about what just happened and wondering if eating a whole sleeve of girl scout cookies was really the answer.

I've know my entire life that I wanted nothing more than I wanted to be a Mama. To hear a precious voice calling me a name that she would never call anyone else. To see your baby walking down the hall and breaking into a huge smile the moment his eyes meet yours.

And, yet. I often forget how blessed I am. I can't see past the carnie and the carnage of my tattered soul and aching feet to see that the very beings that I prayed for and begged the Lord to give me are just inches away, depending on me for everything. When I look at them through the lens of love, I realize that their dependence on me is not a yoke around my neck, as some believe, but a powerful reminder of my dependence on Him.

How I must grieve Him when I wander away, refusing to hold his hand as I head into dangerous territory.  I wonder if His heart beams when I set aside time, just for Him, in my day.  Is He proud when I love and serve others just the way He's taught me?

When your're facing the hard days, take a moment to let love overwhelm you. Remember the thrill of holding them for the first time.  Ponder the dreams you have for them because they can't yet dream for themselves. Most of all, imagine the love your Father has for you as He watches you love them. May it open your eyes in a fresh way to the Love that you've been shown. A Love that truly understands.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life in the Middle

The school year is officially underway and my kids are in yet another new school.  They don't seem to mind (yet!) and are all three doing really well. We've finally found a teacher who seems to be a good fit for Keller and he's (mostly) enjoying the challenges of 4th grade.  Jillian is settled into 6th grade and has already joined the middle school volleyball team.  She's currently sitting out due to a small stress fracture in her foot but she's counting down the days until she's off the bench and on the floor with her team again.  Caroline is in pre-K and although she says differently, she seems to really enjoy it.  She loves to say that she doesn't like it much and that her favorite part of the day is when I pick her up but I can see the truth behind her sweet smile as she says goodbye to her friends each day. She's doing just fine.

I'm enjoying the new house, new school, new schedule of life these days.  I only have two and a half hours of alone time since preschool is short but I am really finding my rhythm during those brief moments. I'm still doing Bible study at our church and I'm about to host a shoe cutting party for Sole Hope for our church. (By the way, Sole Hope is an amazing organization doing important work. Check them out!)

J. is loving his new job and is doing really well. He's in a great men's Bible study and is trying (trying) to finish up his school work that is required for advancement in the Air Force.

I keep trying to put a label on this period of life for our little family.  We are in the busy season with three kids, their activities, and our activities. But, I'm not kidding myself that this season won't seem like a relaxing vacation once we hit the teenage years.  I'm trying so hard to savor the days, to lock away every little memory in the corners of my heart because I know they are fleeting.  Jillian won't always want to link arms with me as we walk into a store.  Keller won't always want just one more snuggle before bed time.  And, Caroline won't always smoosh her face so hard into mine that it's difficult to tell where I end and she begins.

For now, I'm just enjoying life with my people. No label needed.