Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Get on the Boat, yeah.

As I hurriedly dropped off my three year old at preschool the other day, I noticed that I must have missed a virtual memo. (Hey, what's new?) Living in South Carolina, there is naturally a high concentration of USC fans. I'm referring to the University of South Carolina, not the University of Southern California, for any west coast gals who may have been a bit confused. 

Ok, so, as I passed the precious children making their way to their classrooms, I saw their adorable smocked dresses, rompers, and cheerleading outfits adorned with the gamecocks logo, USC, or anything with maroon, black, and white.  Hey, I didn't even know it was game day. And honestly, I didn't mind not knowing. 

My lack of team spirit for our local college, made me start thinking. (Of course, what else would I do?) I am not from around these parts, nor am I ever. Or so it seems... 

Here are a couple instant replays from my formative years for you: 

In sixth grade, I was not in the popular girls inner circle of BFF's. I wasn't in the dorky click, or whatever word that would be politically correct now, either. I just straddled the two, known, but never verbalized groups. Without a secret coded invite, the girls that were too cool for school would only allow me to nosh on the tiny morsels of juicy gossip they learned the night before, while putting on their mud masks. Sad, I know. 

In college, I was more of a socially wounded butterfly. I would investigate what fun activities the different stereotypical groups of friends were doing, and join in the laughs with those whom I thought had the brightest idea. This activity may have included viewing the "moon over Nashville," playing broom hockey with an impending trip to the ER to see if you broke your dang coxic bone (not me), or  a 70's disco party at the skating rink, complete with bell bottoms, followed by a sketchy trip to Waffle House. This method is not highly recommended. I ended up having friendships inches deep and miles long. I later learned to dive in with a more core group, but I wish I would have put my stake in the ground sooner. No Bahamas cruise with uni friends for me. (No offense to those reading...just sharing life experiences!) 

Being a part of a sports team involving white leather balls that you spike, was also a mixed bag of feelings for me in my college days. I knew I played an integral role as the unofficial head cheerleader, as I sat on the bench for four years, simultaneously documenting statistics.  Although, it was rather unfortunate, because I had quite a lot of untapped energy that was wasted, until I cashed it in while running around a dimly lit track, at hours of the night when I should have been studying. Or sleeping.  

Thankfully, such "trials," if you could say that, prepared me to become a military wife. Having your spouse in the military means many things. One of them being, that if you want to live outside of the four walls of your home, you have no choice, but to dive into the waters of uncharted territory, with little assistance. I know, it's not always the case, but it happens more times than we would like to admit. 

In my own story, there have been numerous occasions where, during family gatherings, I am fighting back tears as I frantically chase my toddler who is trying to unwittingly fall down the basement stairs to his demise. At least, this is what I fear the most. 

There are memories of stamping parties, when the husband is away defending our country, and so I must have the screaming baby who would really like to nurse, along for a "girls night out." Now that's what I call fun times! 

I know I'm not alone in experiences of Wednesday night church gatherings, hauling a surprisingly weighty stroller in and out of a car, like She ra, princess of power, in order to make it happ'n cap'n. 

My point is not to say, "Whoa is me," but to get us thinking. And there are scads of other wives who have lived through much braver feats than me, like birthing their babies alone, buying houses without their mate, going through major health crises, and the list goes on. 

Through the years, I have realized that we are not made to have to fit in to every group that we come across. We can settle in to where God wants us to be and who He wants us to share our lives with, in each chapter of our lives.  

As women who often have to keep the home fires burning without burning down the house, we can remember that God has placed us exactly where He wants us. He has gone before us, and has made a way for us to have the fellowship we require for our sanity as women. Often, we have access to other families who are in our boat, we just have to give them a life preserver! 
Even in desolate times, when we are feeling lonely and isolated, we can cry out to God to meet our needs. 

Joshua 1:9
"9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

And, ultimately, though it's not always fun to hear, this world is not our home! This life is short, and in the end most of the things we worry about and obsess over, do not matter. We are told to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not cling to this earth. 

Hebrews 13:14-15

"14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God."

Whether we are military wives, single moms, moms whose husbands are away on business, or a mom who feels overwhelmed juggling it all, we have our own hurdles to jump and mountains to climb, with the strength of the Lord. The reality is that we often feel alone in the journey, and not an official VIP member of any one group. When we set our pride aside and reach out to others for help, (which military wives are TERRIBLE at, myself included) we may just find someone that can join us in our boat, before we go under. Often, we need others just as much as they need us to stay afloat!  

While we stand shoulder to shoulder with the "family" that we choose, remember, that this life is but a vapor, this world is not our eternal home, and that the Lord is with us, even if it feels like we are the only ones who didn't get the memo. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hank and Beans

I have always been on the more naive, or rather gullible side of life. When boys would tell me that the word gullible was written on the ceiling, I would say, "Really?" and look up, about every time. Maybe I was too trusting, and thought the best of people. Or, so I like to tell myself. And no, I am not a blonde. Does that stereotype still exist? That must be haircolorism or some politically correct term...

In the same regard as my gullibility, as a young girl, I was always a simple optimist. 
Inquisitive adults would often ask me, "What would you like to be when you grow up, Rachel?" I would quickly and cheerfully reply that I would like to be a mother. It's true. I think I even have some documents written in crayon to prove it. 

I know, it wasn't a very creative answer, but it was my answer. I loved playing with other kids. Who doesn't at that age? It appeared to me like a pretty fun job, getting to rock babies to sleep, kiss boo boos, and drink Diet Coke. 

Over the years, I mentally made a checklist of the milestones of motherhood that I had to look forward to when I donned the title of Mommy. Here are some of these moments I knew, or I thought I knew that I would do as a mother: 1) Scream at my husband and say that I hated him while giving birth. That's how they always presented child birth in the movies, so I figured that it must be true. 2) Be sprayed with pee pee, by my son, as I changed his diaper. 3) Have poop on my nose, and I would not be able to figure out where the horrid smell is coming from. 4) Rush to the emergency room because my child has shoved a bean up his nose. 

Well, so far, I didn't exactly scream at my husband during the three births that we have endured together. I just squeezed the life out of his hand, and so I am pretty sure he thinks that we had about the same amount of pain. I did have an epidural, so that makes it all a piece of cake. Right? 

I have, without a doubt, been sprayed with urine during the changing of the diaper. And, I have unknowingly wiped poop on my nose. But, I think I figured it out pretty quickly as to the source of the odor. 

Poop smell on your hands is the worst. Just throwing that out there. And you can wash and wash your hands, and often it is still there. Then you keep smelling your hands in disbelief, like you can't believe that your hands still have an unbearable smell on them. Or maybe that's just me too. 

Ok, so now we are down to number four on my list. Rushing my child to the ER because he or she has shoved a bean up their nose. Ding ding ding, we have a winner! I can now check that one off my list. 

I'll go into a little more detail for your own amusement. Rice and beans. What do you think of when you hear, "rice and beans?" I think of a few things. I can hear Dave Ramsey saying that phrase, when referring to what you should be eating when you are getting out of debt. Secondly, I think of the huge pain in the buns that rice and beans creates when you use this in its dry form in order to enlighten the minds and imaginations of children. 

In times of desperation, I give my kids rice and beans to play with, as a distraction for when I have to cook. They absolutely love it, and it gives them a chance to scoop and feel different textures. At first, it's so cute, and they are just being little angels smiling and transferring rice and beans, and beans and rice. 

Then, quickly, rice and beans start to be thrown high into the air, with much laughter ensuing. After verbal correction, the throwing does not cease. While raw chicken is on your hands, it's quite difficult to manually discipline children, in order for them to obey. So, as to not scream, I often feel my blood pressure rising as the food particles get more and more dispersed around the floors. I am by no means a neat freak, or a good housekeeper at all, and so it must be pretty bad if I am losing my cool over a messy and creative activity. 

My daughter eventually gets bored of playing with the rice and beans near the kitchen and so she travels, unbeknownst to me, to the living room, where she then dumps a large container of the edible toy onto the coffee table. Of course, the mess is all over the floor as well. I decide to not stress out about it, and I'll just deal with it later. 

My kids get bored, once again, of the rice and beans, and I allow them to watch a show as they await dinner time. My husband works late hours in the Marine Corps, and so he was not home yet. While sitting in their personalized chairs, enjoying their show, my middle son, Henry, who is 3, declares, "I stuck a bean up my nose!" 

I ask him if he's joking. He replies he is not. I tell him, almost in jest, that we are heading straight to the emergency room if he really did. I was hoping it would just scare him enough to say that it was really a joke. Unfortunately, it was not a joke. With my handie smart phone light, I looked up his tiny nostril, to see a pinto bean, barely visible. Ugh. This is really happening. 

I called my husband to dramatically announce that we have to go to the ER and that he should come home immediately if he can. Friends who would normally watch my other two in an emergency, but one set had kids throwing up, and I didn't want to share in that love,and others were busy doing extracurricular activities. And I kind of just wanted my husband to come home, because if a bean up the nose is not an emergency, then what is?! Take that USMC. ;) 

I called my dad who is a family doctor and he  gave me some home remedies to try to dislodge the bean. It could not be blown out by Henry, or by my own air pressure. Off to the ER it was. 

My husband finally arrived and so I scarfed down the soup that I had painstakingly been working on all day. I did not want to be starving at the ER. Nothing is worse than being hungry at a hospital, with a sick kid. I had Henry eat something kid friendly because this was not the time to make him eat his veggies. 

Henry and I had some quality time together, jumping through the usual hoops, once at the hospital. Eventually, in our own room, a nurse be-bops in to to see us, chuckling about the situation at hand. I guess it is pretty funny when a kid has shoved something up his nose, but it's not very funny at the time, to the parent. 

The resident seemed stumped as to the best course of action, and the attending physician was called into the room for back up. Several techniques were attempted, including the blowing again through his mouth to pop that sucker out. No luck. Again. Suction, no luck. Syringe, no luck. Tweezers, not happening. During this time, as you can imagine, Henry is screaming and thrashing about like a tiny man in a straight jacket, as I am holding him down, and attempt to calm him down in between techniques. Can we say, "Fun times?!" Who's laughing now? Ha ha.

After about six people on the medical staff are in the room, giving moral or physical support, and one long and narrow hook later, the bean finally descends past the nostril, for an exit stage left. Thank you Lord! 

Henry's frown turned upside down once I gave him a ring pop (yes, I thought ahead!) and a few more hugs and kisses. He agreed to never shove anything else up his nose, ever again. I am really hoping and praying that he keeps his word on this one. 

So, there has to be a moral to this story, right??!!! For days prior to the legume creating drama, I was at the end of my patience rope with Henry. He had been acting even more irrational than his usual three year old self is on an average day. He purposefully broke his brother's piggy bank, spat upon Jack's friends and bit them, and even flashed his family jewels to his brother. At least he kept them in the family. Yes. It was bad. Or at least mortifying to me, as a mother. I couldn't figure out what was into him. 

After giving such special attention to Henry, with the ER trip, his attitude changed today. He was more obedient, eager to help and show affection towards our family, and he kept his teeth and other body parts where they belonged. Success! 

His behavior has made me wonder whether his lashing out was partly due to the lack of personalized attention lately, from me. Kids shouldn't' have adults answering their every demand, but at times, it's good to make a special connection with your child. It's unfortunate that it took a trip to the ER to figure this out, but I am praying that this will be part of the solution to future misbehaviors, which will undoubtedly rise up again. Probably tomorrow. 

In the same way, as believers, we often start to rebel when we choose to not spend quality time with God, one on one. It's easy for me to enjoy corporate worship, and Bible studies. But it's more of a hurdle to make time, with just God and myself. I find myself multi-tasking, doing many spiritual things, like sermons on my phone, praise and worship music, and Christian podcasts. But it's so difficult for me to listen to what God is teaching me, in silence, or without distractions. We are told to be still and know that he is God. (Psalm 46:10). 

With so many sounds, from kids chatting about, cartoons playing in the background, the trumpet calling outside in our military neighborhood, and a phone chiming away with new texts, I forget to talk to God about what is personally concerning me, and on my heart. I constantly am trying to improve myself, but it has been harder to be silent. Or to just read or listen to God's word, without all the frills. 

Hebrews 4:12-13 "12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

God is jealous for us, and created us to be in a personal relationship with Him. The closer we are to him, the more we walk in His ways. Not because we have to, but because our love for Him grows. We then desire to obey. We trust that God is good, and He wants what is best for us. 

I encourage you to join me in my decision to make a conscious effort to not only make one on one time with my child a priority, to strengthen that relationship, but to seek a quiet moment to listen to what God has for me, in my own personal relationship with Him. 

The next time you are faced with the mommy moment that you have always looked forward to/dreaded, you can remember that God can use even the most random of events to draw you closer to your children, and to Himself. Even if your child has to grow a bean stalk up his nose first. :) 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Forgive me, friends. It has been 13 days since my last confession, I mean, blog post. 

Some days… Okay most days, I am about five minutes late. Or ten....Or just running behind in general. To church, to school, to soccer practice, to life. 

Unfortunately, when I am even more behind the eight ball than usual, I have been up to 30 minutes late. Gasp. I know. 

Yesterday was one of those days where it seemed like nothing was coming together. I needed to get a TB test for future employment (yes, I feel so grown up!), and so I went to the hospital (or "to hospital" if you live on the other side of the pond) on our military base. I held my head high as I smartly grabbed a ticket at the pharmacy. Surely I would have plenty of time to make it back before they called my number so I could fill a few prescriptions. I had been putting this task off for a few months now. Oh they were just refills, pish posh.

When I went to the sixth floor I soon found out that the TB tests were not administered on Thursdays, because they could not be read over the weekend. Delightful. (Note: sarcasm.) Flu shots (or flu mists, should you happen to be so lucky) were offered at the same location. And so I thought, "Self, this may be the perfect time to get your flu shot, or your flu mist, should you happen to be so lucky." As luck had it, I drew the straw for the flu mist. After the successful sprays up the ol' nostrils, by a stranger that I now see around the soccer fields with his kids (awkward!!- just kidding, it's really fine), I refrained from blowing my nose for the five minutes, as instructed. Remember, I am a good Marine wife. I know how to follow orders.  

Back to the story. Ellie and I are now back in the waiting area, anticipating the calling of my assigned number for the good stuff.  I made a few laps around the questionably well patients, pushing Ellie around in her stroller. I feverishly prayed that we would not acquire the germ that may or may not have been airborne the moment we whizzed by them.  As you know with toddlers, they cannot sit still for a prolonged amount of time. Or at least any child I have ever borne. 

In a moment of weakness, I decided that it was a good time to use the little girl's room. It wasn't even urgent. No diaper to change, or sticky hands to wipe. Just the routine procedure.

When I returned, to my dismay, I discovered that my number had been called in my absence. Surely, the sweet, yet sassy lady handing out tickets would just have them call my number again right away. I have a fussy toddler. Surely you have some sympathy. My luck had worn off. (Don't worry theologians, I don't really believe in "luck.")  Do not pass go, do not collect your free drugs. 

Discouraged and dejected, I stared at my new ticket stub in disbelief, with an approximate wait time of... 28 minutes. So much for my bright idea to grab a ticket early. Back to the drawing board.

Once again, I prayed that we wouldn't catch any contagious diseases. My adorable, well behaved child, quickly became my cute yet squirmy girl, then escalating to my precious yet screaming child. Time to abort mission!! 

After throwing in the colloquial towel, I gave my winning ticket to another struggling mother, since my number was about ten patients ahead of hers. And so, I spent about two hours getting nothing on my to do list, accomplished.  Hey, at least I got my flu shot. I mean mist. And yes, I believe in vaccinations.  

What seemed like a series of unfortunate events, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A few days later, I returned to the hospital for a doctor's appointment for my eldest son. The doctor prescribed him a new script, and so I had to pick that up the next day anyway. And, while sitting and waiting for the prescriptions (without kids, thank you Lord for the reprieve), I was able to talk with a mom who had lost her eleven year old son about a year before, after he had a fatal seizure. Our conversation was cut short, but I am praying to run into her again,to offer some words of encouragement. If nothing else, I will pray for her healing heart, even if we never cross paths again. 

Our human timing is rarely perfect. In the past few months, my own timing has included signing my son up for soccer, the day of his first practice, calling my middle child's projected pre-school at the end of the summer, only to find out that the pre-school is now full, and waiting until the 9th month of the year to find a job. The Lord took my own failures, and turned them for my good. 

Jack is in a soccer team he loves, that had one extra space for him, where he is learning to play goalie. Henry is now in a Christian pre-school that I would have never known about if I had not had to ask a friend if she could recommend one.  At orientation, God orchestrated the meeting of a fellow military wife that recently moved into town without connections on base, and an instant and lasting friendship began. And, in His timing, the job that I soon start, was not available until the month I began searching. 

There is not always a, "happily ever after," in our own procrastination or best efforts to stay on track. But God can still use these moments for our good. 

Psalm 18:30- This God-his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

What a relief that His way is perfect, and we don't have to be! We can be shielded from the arrows of this world, by our Lord. Even when you live in a "city" that never sleeps, that watches and documents every second of every day with social media, we can rest in Him and His timing.

I can strive to be on time, and to not miss a deadline. Sometimes I'll hit the mark. And other times, I will be off. Way off. And that's ok. Life comes with many unplanned hurdles, and sometimes our shins get smacked. Hard. And we have to shake it off, keep running, and leap again. In His power, we carry on. 

I am certain that the race continues tomorrow morning. Our family shall rise with the sun, and children shall whine with our decision to make them wear pants. We shalt probably be tardy and/or miss Sunday school class. However... that doesn't define us. 

Romans 8:37-39

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These trivial things in life do not separate us from the love of God. We are still conquerors through Him, even in our human shortcomings. And most importantly, He shows  us the love, even when the lady giving out the pharmacy ticket numbers does not.