Happy Dance


Yes!

Oh yeah.

Goody Goody!

Silly songs.

sMilEy fAcE.



Ahem and ahoom. (as Tigger would say)

I would like to announce that we once again, in our own home, at our own desk, at our own computers…..have the
INTERNET!!!

One of my problems has always been not being able to express emotion. Can you tell I’m happy? Can you hear the great sigh of relief, the belting strains of the Doxology and Oh, Say But I’m Glad?

I told the guy who fixed our internet (my brilliant sort-of-cousin-through-lots-of-marriage) that he narrowly escaped a big hug from me when I first saw him work his magic and a yahoo page popped up on my computer.

I think he was relieved that I contained myself.

I write to think. And I think as I write. And I write when I think. So I have a few words I’ve saved up for you during the dark, internet-less days of the recent past. Feel free not to read them. I tried to post them in general chronological order.

Here are the saved-up titles in case you want to skip to the most thrilling. : ) Basically, all of the posts in September are the new ones.

Spiritual Muscle
Happy Pills
When People Hurt You
Eagle Creek Date
What are You Trying to Teach Me?!
Kayla, Kindergarten, and the Kingdom
Daddy's Home!
Da Blues
Family Night
Information Starvation


Welcome back, me!

Information Starvation



What is a good recipe using up some extra peanut butter, marshmallow crème and almonds taking up cabinet space? http://www.allrecipes.com/ (ingredients search)

What do lightning bugs eat? http://www.butterfliesnbugs.com/

What is a good restaurant I can reserve within walking distance of a certain hotel in a nearby large city? http://www.hilton.com/

How much is my next visa bill going to be? http://www.visa.com/

What is my sister doing – and what is she wearing - at this precise moment, (5 hours later) in Northern Ireland? http://www.skype.com/

What is a good, inexpensive recipe for homemade laundry detergent that won’t irritate the baby’s skin? http://www.google.com/

What quote should I put up on the wall next month in our room at school? http://www.brainyquote.com/

Did that babysitting check clear yet? http://www.regions.com/

I shamelessly admit – I rely heavily on the information superhighway. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in cookbooks and encyclopedia books and dictionaries – they get used quite often around here. But there’s nothing like having the entire world at your very fingertips. Practically anything I could wonder about can be addressed in some way by sitting down at my laptop.

I miss it. Oh, how desperately I miss it. We’re waiting on a couple of slow-coming technical issues to be completed before we can caress the world with our fingertips once again. At this point, we can occasionally get access if we take the computer outside and plug it up in the storage nook.
You can guess how often THAT happens. So we just sneak into people's houses while they're sleeping and log on for awhile.

Family Night

I remembered tonight why family night is so important for us. I didn’t have time to prepare one of our regular Heritage Builders lessons. And Kayla’s old enough now to figure that out. But we explained to her that family night can be all sorts of things – games or pizza or walks or special devotions. But it’s mostly being together.

Tonight we threw around our family conversation beach balls and had some thrilling toddler/preschool conversation, had family prayer and took one of our night-time walks These could be called pajama walks if we got around to putting everyone’s pjs on before we left. We listen to night sounds and notice the different moons and watch people’s bonfires and smell the drying cornfield. It’s pretty magical.

The family conversation was also rather thrilling. One of the questions on the conversation ball is “If we could go anywhere in the whole world where would you choose? I think Karissa answered the Zoo!. So I guess we’ll have to wait a few years to get into theological and cultural and spiritual discussions. Right now we’re just having some goofy fun and being together. But we believe it’s setting the groundwork (by training ourselves, mostly) for later times of openness and discussion, as our children grow older.

This was our first official “Family Night” for months. I missed it. And I’m learning that everything on my list doesn’t have to be done, the house doesn’t have to be perfect. The lesson doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Their shoes don’t even have to be on to throw them in the stroller.

All we have to do is stop what we’re doing and be together as a family for an hour.

It’s one thing to be in the same house. It’s another thing to give my children all of my happy, unhurried attention. And it’s worth it.

Da Blues

That really isn’t a good way to refer to it. Depression isn’t some dark color that spreads over your face, a bad mood, sad music, a time of the month or a negative emotion. It is real. And I’ve had it!

Besides delightful pregnancy hormones, I’m learning that a pretty standard depression trigger for me is exhaustion. There are many kinds of exhaustion, but for me this summer it was all the kinds combined, I think!

I guess the best way to describe it in my mind is like a cart being loaded up with bricks. (I’m the one pulling the cart. Or maybe I AM the cart… Whatever. You get the picture.) So for awhile, I can handle the bricks. I’m tough, and I have this notion that if I work hard enough and am organized enough I can pretty much pull whatever load I need to. WRONG!

Let’s just say that this chick had one too many bricks piled on her old rickety cart. The result? Exhaustion. Depression. Fall-apartion.

I won’t bore you with the details of the bricks. But it did involve a very LONG moving process, remodeling a house, and parenting 3 preschoolers with my husband out of town 4 days a week for 9 weeks. Okay. So maybe that doesn’t sound so bad to you. I left out a LOT of difficult details. But still - maybe you’ve got some super-duper cart that you bought at goodwill for half price and you could handle more than me. But mine just wore out, that’s all. We’ve all got to learn to worry about our own selves and our bricks, not every one else’s.

I think it was the closest I’ve ever come to a nervous breakdown (whatever that is). It’s a very scary feeling. For husbands, too. What to do with this sobbing woman begging you for help and trying to keep her head above water?

Why am I sharing this? Primarily because I’m an idiot and I just love for people to gossip about me. But also because I know that there are a few of you who know exactly what I’m talking about and it’s just good to know that it happens to the best of us. And we learn by sharing. At least I do.

I’d like to stop right now and say if you are the critical kind and those “If-she-would-this-or-that” or “She-must-be-this-or-that” thoughts are creeping to your mind in spite of yourself please go find yourself a blogger that tells all the happy stuff and criticize her. Or I guess if it makes you feel better about yourself to read about my imperfection, enjoy. But you may want to stop and read a little something else, as well: I Timothy 5:13, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:28-30, Proverbs 16:28.

I have very little tolerance for gossip.

The embarrassing thing is, I have a master’s degree in pastoral counseling, have written articles on depression, wrote my whole thesis on one of the issues of my struggle. And it’s actually very confusing, to try to diagnose yourself. You know you’re losing it, but since you know it, maybe you’re not really losing it but are really okay and just want attention. And it’s probably just that you’re incredibly weak and anyone else would have handled it all better and never let herself get to this point in the first place! In the middle of the darkness and heaviness and tiredness, thoughts are tangled and jumbled very easily.

So I knew that I should be exercising and listening to praise music and eating nutritiously and taking quality vitamins and all that other stuff. But I just got madder and sadder, because if I had the time and energy and desire to cook veggies and sleep extra hours and exercise daily and take vitamins and could actually find my praise cd’s and get the cd player to work - I WOULDN’T BE DEPRESSED!! And furthermore, when depression reaches the point that it is actually physically painful, you don’t even want to do what it takes to get better. Survival and relief become all-encompassing. I’m not saying that all of those things don’t help, but sometimes it takes some outside energy to get the whole healing process underway.

For me, the first step was a week with my family. I’ve never before experienced the intense falling apart I did with them. Mama held me. And they listened and cried and talked and let me splat it all out, then we began the work of finding solutions. (And Dad gave me some money for teaching clothes. That always helps. J) They told me things that I thought I already knew, and was embarrassed to be told, but needed to hear. And they worked!

Oh - that incredible acceptance that comes from being intuitively understood – known for all your ugliness and weakness and loved anyway. There’s nothing like it. It was healing like Charles Wallace drinking in the moonglow with his unicorn (Madeline L’Engle – A Swiftly Tilting Planet). It is the kind of acceptance that my Abba gives me. I know that and am learning to know it more. But sometimes I feel guilty because I need to experience it from a flesh and blood person I can see and touch. Maybe if I were more spiritually strong I could work out all of my struggles on my knees and not need the counsel and loving arms of another human to pull out of the darkness.

But He mercifully gave me such gentle clarity about that lie that we should do all of our healing and processing alone in a closet. He has chosen to use others as His arms and hands and lips. He has shown us so plainly the importance of the love of a neighbor and functioning as a connected body. But we haven’t always seen it done that way, so it’s easy to get confused. Be confused no more! He WANTS us to take advantage of those godly ears and arms He has placed near to us. Even if we have to ASK for the help.

That’s the toughest part. Asking. At one point - after trying to unload boxes from the car with my one-year-old in a pack on my back and the girls running around me - I broke down and called someone for some help (the physical labor kind). I almost cried as I hung up. It was embarrassing, threatening and very hard to ask for help.

And knowing who to ask for help can be tough, too. I remember feeling incredibly unsafe. Even some of my closest relationships felt unsafe to me. I knew I wouldn’t be understood and feared I would be wearisome and wondered if they would label me. And I’m talking about some people I’ve trusted and confided in for years! Depression does that to you. It takes everything and twists it like the s-shaped mirror in a fun house. But there’s nothing fun about it.

I think one of the hardest lessons for me to learn is to stop thinking that everyone else can handle so much more than me and do it so much more gracefully. II Corinthians 10:12 says that attitude is unwise. Ya think? The tyranny of comparison takes an already exhausted and depressed mind and whirls it around into a blinding mess. Who gives a flip if you can handle more than me? Here – take some of my bricks, then! (I can say that now, because I’m in a healthy state. That is NOT so easy to say in the midst of depression.)

Why is it so important for me to not be weak? Huh.

I am learning (ever and ever so slowly) that my weakness teaches me what strength is: Understanding another who needs. Asking for help. Accepting help. Accepting myself. Accepting that God accepts me. Knowing that not everyone else will. And being stronger because I have been weaker. It sounds so simple when He says it….”My strength is made perfect in weakness.” But it doesn’t sound simple when you’re already beating yourself over the head with a vacuum cleaner because you’re so spiritually pathetic!

I have also learned (in marriage, parenting, depression, life in general) that it is absolutely essential to hold onto the fact that the current ickyness is not permanent. Change will come. It’s hard to believe when you don’t have solutions, nor the strength to carry them out if you knew what they were. Just grit your teeth and believe it. That hope in itself can help you to eventually start the healing process.

Another hard lesson is that of saying no. Of actually dumping some bricks off your cart onto the road, even if there’s not a soul around to pick them up and they lay there forlornly calling your name. I came to the point that I absolutely realized that my health and my family were more important. Period. The trick is saying no or realizing the warning signs before you end up along the road in a heap of bricks and wheels and boards and nails and Kleenexes. And we journey on…..

Well, those of you who have stuck through to the end of such a barrage of words and thoughts must be true friends. Or you’re really bored and you need to get a life.

The weeks are slowly beginning to take the vague shape of a schedule again. My house is coming right along. And I have some important phone numbers handy for when I need them. And I had the most precious time with my Abba this morning – all by myself in a quiet room. See? It does get better - eventually.


Thanks for listening. I wish you joy.

Daddy's Home!

It’s amazing to me how wonderful it is when Daddy gets home. It’s like our whole household – walls and all – breathe a sigh of relief. Even if his nose does require being in a book most of the time he’s here, it’s so happy to have him here.

I don’t pretend to understand the many challenges a single parent goes through, but I sure do appreciate some of them more and more. And I have a bigger place in my heart for those of you who are doing it. You’re awesome. Amazing, really. And yay you for being there for your kids and balancing the entire world while holding onto little hands.

(Good-lookin' dude, huh?)

Kayla, Kindergarten and the Kingdom

She looked ravishing in her blue pleated skirt and white oxford with her new “lightening shoes” (Karissa’s term for the infamous light-up sneakers.)

I teach at the same school Kayla attends, so I did great seeing her make her nest in her little office. She wasted no time getting involved in a puppet show and giving a giddy rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb for all of the teary-eyed Kindergarten moms still gathered. Her teacher gave us a survival kit consisting of Kleenexes and chocolate (cool teacher, huh?). Both came in handy.

It didn’t really get to me until I sneaked past the lunch room during her snack time. She was so solemn and grown up, sitting contentedly at the end of the table all by herself finishing off her apple in her little uniform.

Thankfully, she was sobered by the fate of some active boys in her class who had to miss 5 minutes of recess. I don’t have faith that she’ll stay scared. Her time’s a-comin’, I’m a-feared.

I’m not too thrilled with being thirty, and that sounds pretty old to be sending your first kid off to Kindergarten. But I realized that if God continues to bless our home with our desired number of children, I could quite possibly be having this experience every two or three years for the next decade or so! Eeww. Wonder what I’ll be like as a 40-year-old mom. I already miss my twenties, and they’ve only been gone for a few weeks!

While Kayla enjoyed the pleasures of kindergarten and learned that “I is for Indian”, I spent much of the day racking my thrice-baby-depleted brain for geometry theorems and trying to remember how to construct a bisector. I realized today that it has been over 12 years since I studied all that stuff. No wonder it made my brain tired to pull out those rusty files. I had to admit to a very dilligent student that although I got an A in Chemistry, I spent much of the lecture time planning my friend’s wedding instead of preparing to tutor it many moons years later! A word to the wise: Pay attention in Chemistry.

Back to Kindergarten: This milestone is very sobering to me. I am a firm believer that we are given the daunting privilege of “programming” our little ones in their first five years or so. Although I am fully aware that my work has only just begun with our eldest child– in a sense, I’ve already set the rails that we’ll be traveling on. Habits can be changed, I know. But I pray that as I look back and evaluate the programming we’ve done that I will celebrate the successes and learn from the mistakes.

We have an “18 list” that we have created to guide us through this kid-training. It’s a purposeful approach to raising kids in order to let them go. What must it feel like, to leave that dorm room and realize that your role has forever changed from constant trainer to available companion and advisor? And once again, I am reminded that I dare not attempt such a monstrous task without complete reliance on Someone who I knows what they’re doing when it comes to kids. It’s a wonder my kids even get their shoes on the right feet, with all my blunders. Come to think of it – they don’t, always. I kinda feel these days like I’m throwing mud on the walls (at least I hope that stuff on the walls is mud!) but I have to trust that line by line, precept by precept we’ll give them the tools they need.

I have come to the conclusion as I pray for my children that my deepest desire is not that God use them in some wonderful way to build His kingdom. My prayer is this: that they will Hunger for God. Long to know Him. Relish their time with Him. Seek to hear and understand Him. Live to obey Him. If that prayer is granted, the Kingdom will have its help.

What are you trying to teach me, Lord?

It’s past midnight. I’m working like a madwoman to get everything in order for tomorrow. I’ve straightened things and laid out our clothes and stashed things and sorted things. I’ve laid out lunches. I’ve collected the uneaten leftovers for the dog before they turn green. The empty leftover dishes are in the sink, ready with the rest of the dishes to be washed.

And then, the microwave blows up. I turn it on again to see how it’s acting before I tell the babysitter if she can use it or not tomorrow. The sparks and metallic zapping noises convince me that it’s officially dead. Now that the window and the fridge and the washer and the drain and the tub have been fixed. But the microwave? NO!!! (Screams of exhausted desperation.) Healthy or not, this family with 3 kids 5 and under relies pretty heavily on a microwave.

As I put the blown-up appliance by the back door for the dumpster (after I take out the trash and gather the laundry and feed the dog before I dash out the door in the early morning) and I find the mysterious reason that I’m finding old, stinky water in my cabinets. The cabinet top is broken and water from the dish drainer is leaking down through the cabinet top and into the dishes. So I’ll have to clean that cabinet out again tomorrow after work and disinfect and wash the dishes that were in it. As I wet my rag to clean up the mess left by the microwave, I hear a strange sound. I open the cabinet to get some cleaner and find water GUSHING under the sink onto my cleaning supplies. (This, less than 5 minutes after the microwave incident.) And I’m so stinkin’ tired I keep forgetting and turning the water back on!!! More gushing noises. I’m not kidding.

So there’s water everywhere. And I try to jam the broken pipes back together, but the water doesn’t drain well now. And I’ve got a mountain of dishes waiting for me. What now? Do I take all of the cleaning supplies out and put all of the soggy rags in the laundry and deal with that mess? Can’t leave it for the babysitter and the kids to explore in the morning…..and I have to walk out that door for work at 7:30 am. David will wake me up around 4 as he gets ready to leave for Chicago at the start of another week.

And through all this I’m trying to figure out what in the world to do with the kids tomorrow night so they’ll be safe while I mow our jungle of a yard. I’ve mowed packing a baby on my back before, but it’s really not the safest of ideas. Or should I just let the jungle grow and let the talkers talk?

I’m not complaining (well, maybe just the teeniest bit) But I really do wonder….why? Is there some great lesson that I’m supposed to be getting? Because if there is, I’m SO ready to get it and move on with my life.

Maybe it’s that I’m too attached to my schedule and my predictable Alabama life.

Maybe I just need to have more meaningful devotions (translation: staying awake), and all my appliances will act perfect.

Maybe He’s trying to teach me a deep patience and reliance on Him.

(I tell you what, if I make it through all this I’ll have the patience thing SO gotten. Need some patience? You just come over this way, sister…..I’ll have spiritual muscle to spare.)

Or is it just that sometimes life stinks and then you die, and there’s really no purpose for the string of unfortunate events?

Thankfully, the lunch I laid out for the babysitter does not need a microwave.

Eagle Creek Date

We had a wonderful, desperately needed date for my 30th birthday. We combined two of our hobbies: kayaking and birdwatching. Eagle Creek Lake has a wonderful bird sanctuary. We pulled our kayaks up into the marsh and watched the masses of birds all around us. (Trying to ignore the one other kayaking couple off in the end of the marsh who were almost definitely NOT watching the birds!)

I noticed throughout the dock area there were an amazing number of couples showing affection to one another. Maybe it was just a common kissing point, but I think I have a better theory. These weren’t 15-year old kids hangin’ out with their highschool boyfriends. They were couples spending time together on purpose. I think that there is a connection between the couples who take time alone together and those who still have affection to show. Just a theory.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t sit around on the dock smooching. But we had an awesome time. And on the way home I got my first experience with Ritters ice cream. Definitely bad stewardship, but awesome ice cream!

WHEN PEOPLE HURT YOU

Today was the worst example yet. Kayla is 5. She’s strong. She’s fast. She’s smart. She can climb trees with the best of them and often thinks deeper than many adults. But she lets her dingbat 3-year old sister beat the tar out of her. I have several choices as a parent: I can ignore the situation and let the fittest survive. I can encourage Kayla to punch back. I can help her to sit there meekly through the beating, praying for her enemy and loving her through it. Or I can help her to take care of herself.

Allowing survival of the fittest is not an option. I cannot ignore the situation. And Karissa (love her heart) obviously received a fitting and unpleasant reward for her meanness.

But what about the strong, smart girl cowering in the laundry basket with red marks on her arms?

I try to help her realize that she needs to protect herself – not by being mean in turn, but by getting up, getting out of there, getting help. But she won’t do it. And my melancholy personality is afraid for her. It’s too much like life.

When we get hurt, we all react in our own way. Some of us get mean. Some of us think we’re more spiritual if we take no action but to pray for the mean ones while they pulverize us. Some do nothing, but cower in the laundry basket feeling sorry for ourselves. Some of us run – but it seems we’re always running, always the victim. So why is it so hard for us to balance between all of these?

The first step is obviously safety – get out of the immediate danger if at all possible. Sometimes that means avoiding a particular office or person or group or parsonage because we always leave wounded and confused. Sometimes it even means making a big change to protect our family. Obviously, loving our neighbors and praying for them is hugely important to God. In fact, He requires it. But that does not mean that we cannot protect ourselves from those who hurt us.

Abuse victims often struggle with this. There are many reasons: fear, not knowing what to do, the habit of being the victim, etc. But forgiving does NOT mean forgetting. And it certainly does not mean that we should continue to make ourselves vulnerable to be hurt.

Boundaries are such a hard part of this. Standing up for ourselves in light of who God has made us. Getting to a safe place and getting help. Treating ourselves like we don’t deserve to be beat up over and over. Forgiving and loving them because God does – not because they deserve it.

This is turning into more than I expected. Maybe I’ll revisit my soapbox another day. But for now, I’ll keep trying to help Kayla make that step that first seems to be so hard for her – to just stand up on her own two feet and step out of the laundry basket!

Happy Pills

We don’t have internet right now, so I haven’t been very interactive lately. But every time I hear from a blogfriend it is like taking a little happy pill. Thanks, friends.

SPIRITUAL MUSCLE

And I can feel Him digging.

I recently listened to Joshua Harris speak words that were another chunk of earth turned over by the Spirit’s spade. He talked about the daily choices we make– and the realization in his own life that anything which made him less hungry for the Word and the Spirit in his life is not a good choice. Regardless of how it is rated or how harmless it may seem. Someone said that a good judge for choices in our lives is to ask the question….”how far from a spirit of prayer does this activity take me?” It is a jarring thought, to apply this to every single moment of our lives. And even a bit amusing.

Take, for instance, my daily encounter with diapers. The other day I was going about the normal responsibility of changing yet another diaper. I was almost finished with the dirty task at hand when I glanced up at the baby and saw an object on his arm, near his chest. I continued the wiping and wrapping and fastening, then realized that the entire contents of this particular diaper had mysteriously ended up in my son’s UNDERARM!!! I wish I were kidding.

I hesitate to mention the consistency of diaper contents on the world wide web, but the words “large ball of stinky, sticky play doh” come to mind. I am quite sure that those of you who are still with me on this and have not turned in disgust to another, more D-rated (daddy rated) blog are indeed mothers or a rare breed of diaper-changing daddies - and can handle this kind of language.

Anyway….where was I on the whole digging thing? Oh yeah. So here I am, cleaning poop out of my son’s underarm. And how far from the spirit of prayer does this activity take me? Actually, these kinds of mommy tasks force me into an almost constant state of prayer – Oh Lord, please help me to have both survival and wisdom! Don’t let me ruin these dear children forever. Dear Father, help me to know how to distract them from killing each other. Jesus, please help me to distract myself from killing THEM!

And so I find myself with a living room completely full of boxes, another half of my stuff yet in storage, my husband gone 4 days out of every week, all of my kids sick and my world in virtual shambles. And I go into survival mode.

But he digs and reminds and sends little messages and seeks me from many different directions. I go to the kitchen radio, hungry for some meat. I turn from the 7-11 station and find something that draws me to Him – teaches, comforts, urges, lifts. (By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term 7-11. It’s my dad’s endearing term for Christian songs which repeat the same 7 words over and over 11 times. It’s like eating refined, enriched bread all day. It may not be complete junk, but it’s not enough nutrition to really feed you well.)

And as I see the footprints He leaves behind on my soul as He moves around me, reminding and drawing me – I am immensely grateful that He cares that much. That He sees me in my current state. That I don’t even have to explain it all to Him. That He loves me enough to put me out of my comfort zone. (I’m the most at peace when there is space and order around me. Yeah right... What’s that?!) And I know that even now, He draws near to me. Loves me as I am. Reminds me that He’s going somewhere with all this.

The trying of our faith produces patience. My husband calls this spiritual muscle. There is nothing going on that would seem like a major trial to all but those dearest to me. I have known great grief and crisis – which is a different kind of testing. But this is the daily testing of a broken fridge, a leaky sink, a missing window, a messy house, a kid in the hospital. These things are here to give me patience – spiritual muscle. And please don’t EVER forget - muscle weighs a lot more than fat!!

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