The Thanksgiving Surprise

On Monday I had planned to write a Thanksgiving post on what I had learned this past year about giving thanks in all circumstances, but I didn’t feel well.  Tuesday I didn’t feel much better.  Wednesday rolled around, and I had horrible stomach pains, so I decided I would write a post-Thanksgiving blog the next night.  The next night I was recovering from surgery.

For the first time in our lives, Matt and I didn’t gain a pound on Thanksgiving, and I lost an appendix.  While fasting on Thanksgiving and going under the knife wasn’t part of the original itinerary for the day, I handled this change in plans much better than I normally do.  Perhaps the reason I found myself going over my potential Thanksgiving blog days in advance was God’s way of mentally preparing me for the eventful day.

I had decided that I would write about all of the negative experiences this year that were actually mirrors reflecting all of my blessings.  Through economic hardships and multiple physical battles, I found that I am an incredibly lucky woman.  In the midst of all of these hardships, I was always extremely grateful for my loving family, healthy children, God’s provision, and countless other blessings, yet even though my mind knew these truths, I would still struggle with depression.  My goal for future trials was to be thankful for my blessings AND of good cheer while going through the trial.

I should’ve known that the trial would come quickly as God follows up all of my quizzes with a final assessment.  I would soon enough have a chance to practice Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”.  I have no problem rejoicing in the Lord–it’s the ‘always’ part that can be a little tricky.

With the exception of missing my children, I did well while in the hospital.  I was thankful for family, thankful for an insurance deductible that had already been met, thankful for painkillers, and thankful for a hospital staff that didn’t seem to mind missing their Thanksgivings, either.  But God wanted to drive home a point that He had been making throughout the year.  There was a specific person for whom He wanted me to be thankful.

The woman who was on the phone with me while I tried to think clearly amidst stomach pains and changing holiday plans, suggesting different options for feeding my breast-fed baby who had never had formula.

The woman who showed up the next day with my mother, bucket in hand, a new supply of scrubbing sponges and Comet in tow, as she helped this team map out a strategy for tackling the filth that three small children can bring to a home.

The woman who had yellow gloves pulled up to her elbows as she scrubbed the kitchen chairs with Murphy’s Oil Soap and scowled every time my husband entered the kitchen, oblivious, as she tried to mop.

The woman who showed compassion as I admitted my embarrassment at my mother and her deep-cleaning the house while the kids were away and I was laid-out on the couch.  She said, “I don’t know how you do it,” while I thought, “I must not know how to do it, either, if they brought their whole cleaning arsenal.”

She showed up again and again after my D&Cs to watch my children, and she showed up this morning–with a powdered jelly doughnut–to help until I am allowed to hold my baby on my own.  I think she’s the only person who understands that I don’t like jelly doughnuts with the sugar on top, only the powdered kind.

She’s my sister, and we probably wouldn’t like each other if we weren’t in the same family.  Heck, we don’t always like each other now; we couldn’t be more different.  However, I am completely overwhelmed by the sacrifices she has made for me over and over.  I knew I was blessed after she and her husband helped us during the ordeal after Chloe’s birth, but to see her scrubbing my floor without me even asking for help–she and my mom just showed up–I can’t even find words to express my gratitude.

I don’t know how to end this post without sounding over-sentimental or exceptionally cheesy.  I just want to say, Lisa, thank you.  I know you keep tally, so I owe you about eight weeks of babysitting and a few days of intense cleaning.  Love, Jennifer

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Quality of Life 3: Pick Up the Phone

I don’t enjoy talking on the phone.  I never have.  In fact, in eighth grade I thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t list talking on the phone as one of my hobbies during an assignment in English class.  All the girls around me did.

I don’t know exactly what it is–I enjoy talking to my friends in person–I just don’t ever have the desire to call someone.  Maybe it’s because I can’t see the person, and I can see the mounds of dishes in the sink.  Maybe I’m not a good listener; I really don’t know.  I call my mom because I have learned that she enjoys hearing from me, but if she decided that she didn’t want to talk on the phone, I probably wouldn’t call her, either.

The one exception to my little rule is my husband.  When we were dating, I would’ve spoken to him (and did sometimes) all night on the phone.  I couldn’t stand to be apart from him, and hearing his voice on the phone was the next best thing if we couldn’t be together.  But we were in love, so that doesn’t count.  I’m still in love with him, but he would get mad if I kept calling him at work.

I’d much rather do things with people and talk that way–get a cup of coffee and talk for hours catching up, have a game night and eat brownies while laughing at how stupid we are–which might also explain why I prefer small, intimate groups for fellowship versus big gatherings.

Fortunately, most of my dear friends are very similar to me, so they are not offended that I don’t call.  Unfortunately, most of my dear friends are very similar to me, so we can go months without talking and have a lot of catching up to do when we do see each other.  The fact that many of them live out of state, and I have three children (who all misbehave at the exact moment I get on the phone when I actually do make a call) who prohibit me from taking spontaneous (or planned, for that matter) road trips, makes staying on top of these friendships difficult.  No matter my excuses, if I go months without talking to someone important to me, then I am going to lose out a little on that connection.

My relationship with God is similar.  I go to church every Sunday, and I lead a small group with my husband.  I love volunteering, and I am passionate about sharing God’s love with other people.  I read the Bible most nights, and I honestly love Jesus.  The problem is that I don’t talk to Him as much as I should.

Prayer for me is like talking on the phone.  When I do it, I’m making myself do it.  Sure, I pray a thousand times a day.  I pray over meals, I pray with my children before they go to school and each night when I tuck them in bed.  I pray when I read a tragic story or think of a friend in need. It’s the one-on-one conversation time with Jesus that I struggle.

Yes, part of the problem is that I’m having trouble finding a consistent time to pray every day.  Chloe is anything but consistent with her sleep patterns, so I’m not exactly sure at what time I would have to wake up to ensure I’m waking up before her.  Likewise, her inconsistent sleep patterns contribute to my falling asleep as soon as I touch the bed at night.

However, I can’t totally blame the motherhood thing.  I’ve never been good at prayer.  I have a hard time talking to someone I can’t see and an even harder time listening.  My prayers become very formulaic: “Okay, first I need to thank God for this.  Now, I need to confess this sin. Okay, now I’m clear to ask for help in this area.  And finally, I’ll pray for our troops.  Amen.”

As I’m reading what I just wrote, I realize what a crappy person I am.  The God of the universe loves me with all my faults, yet I don’t want to talk to Him because I can’t see Him.  Well, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to Him, but I’d rather we talked while we did something together.

Talking and doing isn’t bad, but, just like with friendship, some of my deepest connections were made during an intimate conversation, a conversation away from all distraction.  I have to find a way to reconnect with God.

A few days ago, I decided to get serious about this issue.  The first quiet moment of my day was in the late morning while Chloe was napping, so I grabbed it.  I think I initially started praying while making my bed just to get things going, and I talked out loud.  Yes, if you were spying on me through my bedroom window, you would’ve thought I was talking to myself.  I don’t care; it kept me from getting distracted.  So, anyway, God and I had a long conversation, and do you know what He told me?  He said I needed to call my sister and apologize for something.  I’ve always said God has a sense of humor….

Since that day, I have not prayed like that every day.  I did today, though, and I’m going to keep trying until it’s as natural as brushing my teeth.  If there’s any relationship in this world worth my time, it’s this one.

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A few weeks ago I started the Quality of Life series.  My hope was to write a few posts encouraging all of us to make our lives better by making wiser choices in certain areas.  I thought we would all help each other and have an interactive forum where we could give each other tips.

Shortly after my post on the environment, I felt convicted.  Of all the choices I could make in my life, the most important choices are the ones about my spiritual life.  I wrote today to address an area in my life that needs work.

How about you?  We don’t need to make this post interactive but rather reflective.  Are you like me and need to have a good conversation with God?  Maybe you’re great at prayer, but you need to spend some time in the Word.  Maybe you don’t even know what you believe and need to investigate, actually research what Christianity is about and whether or not Scripture is reliable.  There’s really nothing more important to do.

Being a good steward of the environment is important.  Finding the romance in your marriage is a must.  But of all the ways to improve the quality of your life, finding God is the best one.

A Romance I Can Live With

I had a realization today, the kind of realization that stopped me mid-step and forced me to think about a whole chain of related ideas.  And to be honest, the realization scared me a little.

My realization came on the tail-end of all my thoughts relating to why I hate most romance movies.  For one, I just can’t relate.  No, I do not want to go make love with my husband on a whim in a field under the stars.  First, we’d have to get a baby-sitter, and I’d have to pump a bottle for the baby in case she woke up while we were gone.  Then, we’d have to find a field, and we’d have to make sure we had enough cash on hand to post bond in case we got caught.  Who has the energy?

The main reason I hate romance movies, though, is that they do a disservice to the institution of marriage and give people a false idea about what it means to be ‘in love.’  I don’t know if Matt is the person God chose for me or if I chose Matt with my free will.  I do know that loving each other isn’t about how we feel on any given day–it’s a choice we make daily.

As I was thinking about how stupid most romance movies are, I began to think how much hard work marriage requires of me.  Every day I wear myself out trying to be a good wife and mother.  I cook, I clean, I repeatedly grab socks and underwear off the top of the hamper and put them inside it.  I affirm my husband that he is an excellent provider, and I close my mouth when I can sense Matt doesn’t want to talk.  I watch football and have given up all rights to the remote. When I don’t feel like being married, I resolve that I will stick it out forever and find those lovey-dovey feelings, wherever they may be–Matt is so lucky!  I am quite the catch!

While I was patting myself on the back for my commitment, it suddenly occurred to me that Matt might be committed, too.  Just as I work hard every day for this marriage, he might feel he works hard, as well.  Sure, he has the easier job of the two of us given all of the sacrifices I make, but he could just as easily walk out as I.  Not that he would want to.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to come home to a wife whose hair is standing on end by 5:00 every evening, her face somehow sloped downward into a permanent frown, her shrill voice piercing the ears of everyone within the walls of the house?  Who wouldn’t want to come home to a wife who so thoughtfully points out all of the mistakes he has made in an effort to make him a better spouse?   If Matt walked out, where would he ever find another woman who looked so good in baggy pajama bottoms, t-shirts, and wooly socks?

As I continued on in my thoughts, I became frightened.  Why would anyone want to stay with me forever?  Since Chloe has been born, I have not felt myself, and my emotions have been out-of-control.  I have no idea what the word ‘sexy’ means.  In fact, I had forgotten that I owned lingerie until I accidentally opened that unused drawer.  I fall asleep any time we try to relax together, and if I manage to stay awake but Matt falls asleep, I get mad at him.

Suddenly, all of the ‘hard work’ I was doing seemed ridiculous compared to the hard work Matt was doing.  For the first time, I didn’t see all the effort required of me to make my marriage work but, instead, the mental effort Matt must go through every day.  I saw a man who is truly demonstrating unconditional love, and through his example, I saw what it means for God to love me, a sinner, as well.  Despite all of my faults as a wife, Matt has chosen to love me every day, and having that realization today humbled me in a way I hadn’t felt before.

So…I going to stop writing now.  I’m tired, and I’m not sure I even expressed my thoughts well, but my husband is upstairs waiting.  I’m going to carry my baggy-pajama-pants-self upstairs and plant a kiss on my soulmate.  And then I’ll probably fall asleep.