Family and Friends

This week has been one that I wish I could’ve hit stop, rewind, and started over–or if that weren’t possible, just fast forward to the end.  Yet, in the midst of dealing with children who wouldn’t obey, many nights of interrupted sleep, a sick dog whose remedy caused us to reach into our savings, and vast amounts of urine released onto the floor and carpet from said dog and children, I can easily find how I have been blessed this week.

While I had hoped to write how I was thankful for a week of jury duty, I was only called on Monday (they really should take volunteers) and thus not able to escape the week.  There were superheroes  to my rescue, though.  When I called that I needed to take Scout to the vet, my sister and her husband dropped everything to watch my children.  I’ve written about Lisa before; she and Mason helping us is not new, but my thanks for them seems to increase tenfold as time goes by.

They not only show up physically; they invest in the lives of Matt and my children, and they have two of the most generous spirits I know.  They play and they love, and my children love them.  When Lisa stopped to get Mason coffee, she came back with a chai latte for me–she didn’t ask; she just brought it. When Lisa and Mason saw the vet bill I brought home, they treated us to lunch and a play date at Monkey Joe’s. They give, even when perhaps they shouldn’t, but their generous hearts won’t allow them to do otherwise.

Matt and I have been blessed with a wonderful family, and I could write posts thanking each of them for something they have done.  However, I could never write enough posts for Lisa and Mason.  I love them and don’t know what I would do without them.  Previously, I had written that Lisa and I might not be friends if we weren’t sisters because we are so different.  I was right–her heart is a thousand times bigger than mine, and I could only hope to be so lucky to have a friend like her.

For this Focus on it Friday, for whom or what are you thankful this week? Share in the comments section, and help us to remind one another that we are blessed!

A Student and the Standard

I don’t know what made me think about her.  Maybe my mind was running rampant because I was in the shower,  one of the few places I can enjoy a moment of solitude.  I hadn’t thought about her in years, though, and as her picture appeared before my mind’s eye, a sadness washed over me as the soap ran off my body.

Trisha was one of those students who I had really come to enjoy teaching.  She started off the school year as many teenagers do–with an attitude of distrust toward me as a person in a place of authority.  A smile for me would never cross her lips, but she was more than generous with the rolling of the eyes.  Yet something changed, I’m not exactly sure what other than time, and the wall of distrust gradually began to crumble.

Trisha and her friend saw my husband and me at one of the school’s basketball games, and they couldn’t stop turning around to excitedly wave at us.  In class, she would participate and answer questions–I remember her sharing her journal that she wished she could sing–and she would laugh as if English class wasn’t that bad after all.  She had started off the semester on the wrong foot, but she seemed determined to end it in a better position.

And remembering all of these details in that one random instant in the shower, I questioned if I did the right thing.  In place of a final exam, I had all of my students complete a portfolio project.  They were to gather samples of their work from all the different periods of American literature we had studied and explain what they had learned, how they had grown throughout the semester using those samples as evidence.

I remembered Trisha showing me her introduction ahead of time; she wrote how she had grown as a person during my class, how she enjoyed the class and had learned, not only about literature, but about herself.  She was so proud as she gathered her evidence to include in the portfolio, and she took the extra step of making it look more like a scrapbook than an academic assignment with construction paper and vivid colors.  I couldn’t wait to read the final product.

But when I did, I sighed and tried to push away the sick feeling that was forming in my stomach.  Trisha had obviously spent tremendous amounts of time putting together the project, but it said nothing about American literature. She included samples of work from throughout the year, but she never explained what those samples proved.  She did write how she had grown as a person, but she neglected to show what she comprehended from the curriculum. What had she actually learned?  From the portfolio, I couldn’t tell.

I had to grade her with the same rubric I used for everyone else, and the grade she earned was a ‘C.’  I’ll never forget the look on her face when she saw her grade.  I specifically made a point of being there when she opened her portfolio and pulled out the grade sheet.  I told her how proud I was of her for the effort she had shown, how I knew she was disappointed, but she didn’t cover all aspects of the assignment as she needed to. She shook her head like she understood, but the look on her face said she was crushed.

Looking back, I know I explained the project well.  After giving the project for the first time the previous year, I made adjustments to the rubric and how I taught the project.  I made my students keep their notebooks in the same order  and with the same headings that they would use in their portfolios.  I brought in sample projects from the previous year; they saw what kinds of portfolios earned an ‘F’, a ‘C’, and an ‘A.’  I offered to look and make suggestions to their portfolios before they were due, and I gave them class time to work on the project.  And seven years later, I was still questioning if I had expected too much.

As I wrapped the towel around me, I wondered what Trisha thought about me.  Teachers have this amazing ability to affect a person’s life forever, whether for bad or good.  I remember a friend blaming an English teacher for her almost dropping out of school, and I remember inviting one of my own English teachers to my wedding.  Did the wonderful sentiments Trisha had written in her introduction still hold true, or did that experience of working so hard and only earning a ‘C’ negatively affect how she approached the rest of her schooling?

While I hoped that Trisha didn’t look back on her sophomore English class and think about how much she hated Mrs. Davis, I more so hoped that Trisha didn’t look back on that moment as the moment when she stopped trying. I most likely won’t ever know.

As I got dressed and walked downstairs, I did so with a melancholy spirit.  I only taught for three-and-a-half years, but I had influenced over 550 lives.  I’m sure some look back on me as a teacher who challenged them and cared about them, and some probably don’t remember who Mrs. Davis is.  But it’s that other group, that group who looks back and says that Mrs. Davis was the teacher who caused them to stop trying, that group is the one that I can’t bear to think about.

I could only do what I thought was right, hold high standards and hope that my students would rise to them.  I held myself to those high standards, too, those standards which, seven years later, cause me to see Trisha’s face.

Freedom

I love my children more than I could express in words, but I have to admit, I had been looking forward to this day for a few months.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect for today, but I so relished the chance of having a few hours to myself without the responsibility of any children.

Today was going to be different.  I woke up early, put on a nice outfit, fixed my hair, and applied make-up.  I whipped up some pancakes for everyone while the house was still quiet, and I got together everything I needed for my day.  I packed my lunch, the laptop, and a novel, and I noticed a spring in my step as I moved throughout the kitchen prior to departing.

I read for a couple of hours today, a leisure activity in which I do not get to take part for that length very often.  I chatted with some new acquaintances and caught up with an old friend.  Nothing about the day was extraordinary, but I took pleasure in doing the ordinary that had somehow slipped through my fingertips these last few years.

I rested.  Sitting in my chair I could do or not do while I waited.  I didn’t clean, I didn’t discipline, and I didn’t teach numbers.  When I had to go to the bathroom, I went–and I closed the door all the way–and I didn’t hold my breath as I left, afraid of what mess I’d find in the kitchen.  And as an added benefit to the near-perfect day, I got paid for my freedom.

When I came home, I hugged my beautiful children and stepped right back into our normal routine.  But I couldn’t help but glance back from whence I came….

For the beautiful day, all I can say is ‘thank you.’ God bless the United States of America and our wonderful judicial system.  Thank you Gwinnett County Courts for calling me today for jury duty, and while I know you don’t need me tomorrow, please call me on Wednesday.  Please.

Remembering

Sometimes it’s easy to forget.

I look across the bed at my husband, tired from a long week at work, and recognize my own weariness.  Weariness, a feeling more common than not.  Talking has quickly given way to sleep. Who are these two people?

Sometimes I look back at those two people, ten years younger, and try to remember what initially attracted them to one another.  It’s difficult to define.

When we were dating, our relationship was defined by doing. Every weekend dinner dates continued an early set tradition.  We eagerly anticipated the opening of new movies, and we experienced music flowing through our veins at many concerts.  We cheered at baseball games and yelled at football games.  And at night, we were able to stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking and laughing until we would go our separate ways, waiting for our next appointed meeting–the sooner the better.

I look at these two people now, how they’ve changed.  Physically. Emotionally.  Spiritually.  These are not the same two people from before.

Now, our relationship is defined more by being. We exist together for the same common purpose of serving God and our family, but the days of constant doing are few and far between.  No longer do we share weekly dinner dates; we share a quiet dinner around the table after the kids are in bed.  We don’t anticipate the opening of new movies; instead, we fight sleep on the couch to watch the ones that are now old.  The children come along to those rare sporting events; my eyes aren’t on the game but on three little heads constantly moving in different directions.

I look back at those people from ten years ago, and I begin to think that they are more different from us than alike. I wonder would they still find each other attractive if they met for the first time today? Until one night when he opens his computer…

Ten years ago, he sat at his computer.  I watched, tired and helpless, as he set margins, changed fonts.  He took my words and made them look beautiful.  He took my accomplishments and turned me into a professional.  He made my first resumé without my asking, as a gift for one he might love, and I secured my first teaching job comfortably before I graduated.

Ten years ago, he sat at his computer.  He set margins, changed fonts. I sat downstairs in my apartment, labeling pages, putting them in order, proving to my professors through those words and sample lessons my ability to teach.  Together we worked through the night completing this portfolio that encompassed a year’s worth of work and a journey.  I didn’t ask for his help, but he volunteered for the one that he loved, and I received an A+, my final task completed before I graduated.

Five days ago he opened his computer.  He set margins, changed fonts.  He took my ideas and gave them form.  I sat at my computer, made changes to my blog, this hobby now a daily part of me.  He changed my changes, making them better.  He took my words and made them look beautiful, my words that convey a year’s worth of learning, my journey.  I didn’t ask for his help, but he worked for this girl that he still loves, his ways not all that different from when she first graduated.

And I know now that the core of these two people is not all that different from those two of ten years ago.

For this Focus on it Friday, I am thankful for a husband who has always wanted me to succeed, who puts aside his time to show me his love.  We’ve changed, our relationship has changed, but the heart of the man who loves me is the same.  For what this week are you thankful?  Share in the comments or provide a link to your own post.

The Cleaning Routine that Changed My Life

How’s that for an overly dramatic title? No, this cleaning routine did not save me from a horrible addiction and the brink of destruction, but it did give me some structure.  No longer do I have to spend my weekends cleaning like crazy (or feeling guilty because I didn’t); my weekends are free to work on other projects or just have fun with my family.  So in that sense, starting this routine almost three weeks ago did change a small aspect of my life.

I am not one to use my blog to give tips or advice–more often than not I write about what I do wrong–and I especially do not count myself qualified to discuss cleaning.  However, after writing my previous post in which I cited having a new cleaning routine as a benefit of trying to move, I received a request to share.  If you are looking for a detailed plan which provides days for sewing and ironing curtains, I have no idea why you thought you would find that plan here.  The legless dolly sitting on my nightstand attests to the fact that sewing rarely makes my ‘to-do’ list.  You can find those plans on the internet, though, so search away.

Click on the following link to find the fabulously simple plan courtesy of Courtney at Raising Homemakers.

The best tool I have found to getting all of my housework done each week is a:

SCHEDULE

My 2010 Weekly Schedule looks like this:

Mondays – Menu and Market Day
Tuesdays: Toilets, Tubs and Towels Day
Wednesdays: Wash (laundry day)
Thursdays: Dust
Fridays: Floors

This schedule has been so easy to follow since the task matches the first letter of the day.

Doesn’t that plan sound easy?  I try to knock out my tasks during ‘Quiet Rest Time’ when my children are rarely resting and only sometimes quiet.  I am one who likes structure and tends to show discipline if I have a plan.  Previously, I would tell myself that I was going to clean one room a day, and sometimes it happened, but other times it didn’t.  Typically, the kids’ bathroom and other rooms they touched got attention, whereas Matt and my bathroom was neglected. Now I have a specific goal in mind for each day.

The plan is flexible.  I am not completely insane, yet, so I try to avoid shopping with all three little ones if I can help it; Friday night/Saturday morning is when Matt and I accomplish grocery shopping.  Market Monday has become Mopping Monday, instead.  I vacuum all the rooms on Friday, but I save the kitchen floor for its own special day.  Reserving only one day for laundry would never work since Chloe wears cloth diapers, and we signed up for the energy savings plan this summer that doesn’t allow me to use much electricity from 3-8 p.m. every day.  I wash at least one load every day, and Wednesday can serve as a catch-up day for any tasks I didn’t complete on the previous days.

If you come over to my house Tuesday morning, the floor will not look mopped as someone will have already spilled milk all over the floor, the dog will have tracked in dirt, and the baby will have thrown on the floor whatever food she hadn’t finished.  By Tuesday night, I will need to scrub the walls and floor of whatever bathroom my son has used.  This plan does not eliminate the messes that kids make, but it does ensure that I’ve cleaned every room at least once during the week.

Cleaning is not the most important thing in life, but right now, my job is raising my children and taking care of the house.  I want to work hard at what I do.  However, in my quest to avoid idleness, I do not want to make an idol out of my home.  The plan is not the law, just a guideline.  If it can help you, wonderful!  If not, don’t worry; I have no plans to start evangelizing the benefits of cleaning or this plan.

Join me tomorrow for Focus on It Friday!  Start thinking about something from this week for which you are thankful, and come back and share.

The Silver Lining: Ten Reasons that Not Moving is Not Bad

We took our home off the market this weekend.  Our realtor removed the sign before knocking on the door so that we wouldn’t have to watch as it became official–we were not moving. I’ve not allowed myself to dwell on the reality because I don’t want to feel disappointed; I love my home and where we live–I just wish we could spend more time together as a family.

I hadn’t planned on doing a top ten list today; however, I thought this exercise would be good for me, would force me to look ahead with hope and anticipation.  So here goes my top ten list for why not moving is not a bad thing:

10. A Clutter-free Life: Getting ready to move was extremely stressful and took a couple of months of going to bed after midnight every night to finish.  However, we needed the deadline to remove every piece of clutter from our home, and as a result, my every days are clutter-free and smoother, as well.  I won’t have to start over in a new home; I can enjoy the set-up of this one.

9. A New Routine: Keeping an entire home clean and ready to present any day of the week was a challenge, especially with three destructive little ones running around.  However, I found a cleaning routine that works for me and that I can continue. I cleaned before, but my house looks the best it’s ever looked because of our attempt to move.  I know I can keep this routine going.  And who doesn’t like a clean house?

8. New Carpet: Our old carpet was disgusting. End of story.

7. Our Garden: For the four years that we’ve lived here, I’ve wanted to plant a garden.  However, every year I was either very pregnant at planting time or home with a newborn and other children.  The garden wasn’t a priority.  This year, however, my whole family and I got our hands dirty, made memories, and grew the best produce and herbs I’ve ever tasted.  I can’t wait to expand our garden next year.

6. Our Backyard: Our yard is large and level–perfect for three kids running around or driving laps in PowerWheels. In addition to being the perfect yard, the location is great, too. We’re located right next to the swim/tennis in our neighborhood.  Part of our fence opens up to the path leading to the pool.  What could be more perfect during these hot, Georgia summers?

5. Teamwork: Through this process, we’ve all discovered how to help one another. The baby is the only one who doesn’t make her bed, clean her room, or put away clothes.  Our family is a team, and we work together.

4. Church:  We get to continue going to the church that we love, 12Stone Church, and grow our friendships.  And I’ll continue one of my joys this fall–leading with my husband another small group .

3. Focused Family Time: We wanted to move closer to Matt’s work so that we could spend more time together as a family, and Matt would spend less of his time in the car. Right now, that plan is not to be, so as we’ve been doing for the last few months, we’ll have to be intentional about our family time.  And intentional time as a family is definitely not a bad thing.

2. Honoring the Sabbath:  Even though I know God commands that we use the Sabbath to worship and rest, I’m not sure if the rest part would have become a priority had we not planned to move.  After working so hard every week, I needed a rest on Sunday. And since I knew the weekend was our reserved family time together, I made sure I got all of my chores completed by Saturday night so that we could use Sunday to focus on God and family.  I now realize why God commanded the Sabbath in the first place and wish I had taken His instruction seriously from the beginning.  This practice is one I will ensure we keep.

1. Discovering God’s Will: The frustrating part of this journey is not knowing God’s will for us.  We prayed about our decision before we ever put the ‘For Sale’ sign in our yard and asked God to guide us.  If it were not His will, we did not want to move (even though we really wanted to move).  I’m not sure what He has in store for us, if there is a specific purpose we are to accomplish here, or if we are just products of a bad housing market.  What I do know is that if God had a specific purpose for us to live in Alpharetta, then our house would’ve sold.  And while I’m disappointed, I will rest in that fact and continue to seek His will for our family.

I’ve linked today’s post at OhAmanda for Top Ten Tuesday.  Head on over for some fun reading!

Top Ten {Tuesday}

How Not to Hate Parenting

Cinderella and the prince get married, and they live happily ever after.  Sigh.  Cinderella may not fit into our culture’s modern way of thinking, but she does get one thing right: She gets happiness. Meanwhile, the rest of us swim upstream in our constant pursuit of an ideal that seems fleeting.

Maybe that’s the problem; we’re chasing an ideal that is fleeting, an ideal that’s made for the fairytales.  We’ve yet to realize that real life isn’t about happiness but, instead, endurance.

I recently read an article in New York magazine by Jennifer Senior titled “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting.” While the very end of the article mentions the idea that having children brings purpose and lasting value to one’s life, the first five pages highlight many of the different reasons parents in numerous studies cite themselves as unhappy.  To say the article wasn’t the most uplifting piece I had read during the day would be an understatement, but as I processed through what I read, I couldn’t help but ask, “So what?”

Is the idea that parents are unhappy and that their unhappiness increases with the more children that they have that shocking? Perhaps finding oneself unhappy isn’t necessarily bad but just a phase associated with anything that has value and takes hard work.

When I think of marriage, I think of the idea that Hollywood perpetuates–marriage is about passion and falling in love with that one person who is destined to make the other person happy, and the details as to what happens after the wedding are rarely shown.  Then I think about reality–marriage can have passion, but more days are filled with the choice to love, as the in-love feelings can be fleeting.  Marriage is hard work, and unfortunately, many marriages end because people state they are no longer happy, no longer in love.  And that’s the problem with basing a relationship on a feeling–we’ll find disappointment when the feelings fade as they tend to do.

So when I read that parents with children are unhappy, I wasn’t that surprised.  Maybe people look to babies the way they look to finding their soulmate–as a person to add happiness and beautiful feelings to their lives.  But in reality, adding a baby adds a lot of hard work, and the feelings of happiness aren’t always there. I was mulling over this idea after my daughter had dumped an entire bottle of sesame seeds on the carpet, and my vacuum proceeded to push them around rather them suck them up.  Yes, I knew the feeling of unhappiness that tends to accompany parenthood.

And while my unhappiness at that moment was brought on by a specific event, I could identify with a longer lasting feeling of discontent.  I thought about this past year, and I analyzed my own happiness quotient. One year ago, I had my third child in three years, and on numerous occasions I had told my own husband, “I’m just not happy.”  Blame it on hormones, adjusting to life with three children all under three feet tall, lack of sleep, infrequent moments of solitude, or a combination of the above, I wrestled daily with my own cloud of depression.

However, at no point did I think that I hated parenting.  I knew I was having a tough time, and I had to ride out the wave of unhappiness knowing more peaceful feelings would come.  Perhaps one of the reasons this article left a bad taste in my mouth was this underlying theme that unhappiness is unacceptable when unhappiness is just normal.

And yet, while in one breath I could say that unhappiness is normal and not groundbreaking news, in the other I was shocked at the statistics.  Why did so many parents find themselves unhappy, especially when they had more children?  The article unpacks many reasons, and each could justify another article alone, but two stood out to me.

Parents are tired.  The article seems to focus on families with both parents working, and these parents have to  deal with the stress of work all day to then run each child to piano practice and baseball only to deal with disrespect when they get home.  I couldn’t help but think, for what are the majority of us working?

Are we working solely to meet our bills or because we simply love working, or are we working to give our kids the ‘better’ life, the life of soccer practice and cell phones and college tuition and weddings?  Thinking about the cost of raising a child is overwhelming, but perhaps we could give our children more by giving them less.  If the harried pace of life is causing more moments of unhappiness with our children than happiness, perhaps the 60+ hour work week for both parents needs to be evaluated.

Do our children really need cell phones and new cars when they turn 16?  Do we really need to have our kids in a sport by the time they turn 3?  Is it our responsibility to put our children through college?  My husband and I are wrestling through these questions ourselves, but I would venture to say that if working to provide for these extra things is robbing a family of joy, then they aren’t necessary.  Instead of the parents having to shoulder all of the responsibility for the extras, teach children the value of saving.

And teach children the meaning of family.  One of the other reasons cited in this article as to why parents find parenting so disappointing is that after all the time they put into their jobs and their kids, they still have a mound of chores to do–the work is never done.  Perhaps the work is never done because we’ve allowed more of the work to be ours than necessary.

My parents are wonderful parents, and they taught me all the things parents should teach their children.  They were physically present at every gymnastics meet and school function, and they were emotionally present during every talk we needed to have.  However, the one idea that they did not promote was that I was a part of the family unit, and my contributions to the family were necessary.

I was a good kid; I made straight A’s and was a nationally competitive gymnast.  I never went through the teenage rebellion that many do, and I had a good group of friends.  My mom didn’t want to add more to my plate because I was working hard at school and gymnastics.  However, as I have since told my mom, by not requiring me to shoulder more responsibility in the home, I was allowed to remain selfish.  I loved my family, but I did not see myself as a contributing member–my parents were there to contribute to me.  My parents and I agree now; I should’ve been made to do more as a child.

Now that I am a mother, I see how much work my parents did to provide for my sister and me on top of the daily chores they did around the home.  After reading this article, I see that they were not alone, but I have made a decision that my children will not grow up with the selfish mentality that I had.  They will contribute to this family in meaningful ways, and my hope is that they will grow into better adults, as a result.

Unhappiness is a part of parenting as much as it is any part of life, but as is the case with anything, we are in control of our emotions.  We can choose to allow our feelings to rob us of the joy of parenthood, or we can look at the deeper issues.  Children don’t bring unhappiness–we allow ourselves to create it.

While each family is different with its own dynamics, it is the parents’ responsibility to sit down and analyze how the family unit is working.  Perhaps the parents need to work less while the children work more.  Perhaps, as I discovered during my own fight with unhappiness, the issue is one of needing space. Perhaps the issue is more complicated. One thing is clear–the majority of us can continue to find unhappiness in parenting, or we can make the choice to take control of our lives and emotions and find contentment.

We only get to live this life once. We can wait for a happily ever after that won’t ever come, or we can take control of our family and those choices that are ours to make.  After all, we are the adults; let’s show our children how real life works.

Catching the Laughter

Sometimes I wish for them to grow up, to age one more year and gain a little more sense, a little more independence.

And other times, I watch as a sudden spirit of carefree blows in and tickles their toes, pushing them off their bottoms,

creating a primal urge to shed clothes, innocence throwing off underpants in exchange for hats.

And I laugh, I soak in the moment, holding it to my chest, locking it in my memory forever,

knowing that in the blink of an eye they will be grown,

longing to catch and relish in more moments while they’re little.

For this Focus on it Friday, I am thankful for a moment of uncontrollable laughter when I watched the joy of innocence.  For what are you thankful this week?

In All Things

I love it when a sermon confirms that I’m right.  A pastor spilling bits of God’s truth to the congregation, I scoop up those precious morsels that I’ve uttered before, admiring the way they shine under the stage lights.  There’s nothing better than to nod my head in agreement without feeling the twinge of conviction that can so often come in the lonely chairs of a church.

This past Sunday, pastor Jason Britt preached on God’s omnipresence, God’s ability to be everywhere at every moment.  He challenged that if we really believed in God’s omnipresence, our daily lives would look different.  We would speak to our loved ones differently, conduct business more honestly, allow our hearts to break for others’ suffering more openly.  I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I thought of different moments when God was watching me from within the same room.  God’s omnipresence meant conviction.

But then the pastor moved on to his next point, and I could breathe easier again.  As he spoke that God’s omnipresence can also bring comfort, he made a distinction that caused me to lean forward in my seat: God’s presence in every situation does not mean that everything always works out.  There is a difference between ‘everything is okay’ and ‘God is here.’  Yes! I scooped up the pastor’s last sentence. That was exactly the point I had tried to make  a couple of years ago!

Two years ago I was overcome with worry.  I was a stay-at-home mom facing the need to look for a job.  The job for which my husband transferred and moved our family didn’t turn out to be the best fit, and he began the search down a new career path.  To complicate matters, the house from which we moved had still not sold, and our renters vacated the premises.  We had two mortgages and no jobs.

I remember praying and the situation not changing.  I would convey my fears to others, but sometimes instead of feeling encouraged, I would feel frustrated.  These well-meaning individuals would tell me, “God will provide,” implying that God was holding next month’s mortgage payments in His hands, just waiting to hand them over.  One person asked, “Don’t you have faith?!”

I was angry.  Yes, I had faith!  But I also knew that God’s provision did not necessarily translate into money.  God could provide peace or His Word or meet our basic needs through our extended family, but there was no guarantee that He was going to provide jobs so that our homes didn’t end in foreclosure.

Look in the Bible–Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.  He ended up in prison for years!  Paul had stones hurled at him on more than one occasion, and he was left for dead many times.  I believed that God was there during all those moments, but those lives were definitely not okay.

This sermon was vindication for me and  all those feelings I held two years ago.  I had no guarantee that everything would be okay and knowing that fact did not make me a bad Christian.  Obviously, I was an insightful Christian since the pastor was speaking what I already knew.

And as I listened to the rest of the sermon, God tapped on my shoulder.

In all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.

I knew the verse.  I clung to Romans 8:28 many times during our mess, but it didn’t bring me comfort.  I was focused on the years Joseph spent in prison, not the glory to God he brought as a result.  I didn’t see that he saved Egypt from famine or was reunited with his family–only that he was 30 when it all happened after being sold into slavery as a boy. I was focused on the beatings Paul received, not the spread of the Gospel across the world.  I didn’t see that he sang praises to God while sitting imprisoned–only that he had shackles around his wrists and ankles.

Two years ago, I was hung up on the balance between God’s will and freewill.  I knew bad things happened to good people, and I couldn’t find comfort in God’s promises.  But sitting in that seat in church, holding that nugget of truth that I knew so well, I saw something different as I looked it over.  Everything isn’t always okay,  but God is always there.  And if God is always there, He is continually taking the broken pieces of our mess and, as the true master craftsman, making them part of something beautiful.

Two years ago, I was right.  Everything isn’t okay, and it isn’t necessarily helpful to tell someone that it will be. However, two years ago, I was also wrong.  I couldn’t find peace in the midst of turmoil knowing that God would use this heartache for His purpose.

As I sat in that church chair, I experienced God’s omnipresence as I felt His conviction and comfort simultaneously. And I was thankful for the hand of God who used a sermon to confirm how I had been wrong.

*Post edited at 9:36 am on 7/14.  Anyone who read the post prior to this time, please know that the pastor used the term omnipresence and not omnipotence.  The error was solely mine in editing and thus proof that I should not write early in the morning.

His Child

“Mom! Hannah Grace had a big fall!  She’s needs to go to the hospital!” my ever-dramatic four-year-old informed me.

I was less than six feet away from my kids, doing the dishes while they ate their dinner.  Matt was still not home from work. I wanted to get the kitchen as clean as possible before he got home so that we could relax and enjoy our Friday night.  I somehow missed the fall, having bent down to put a plate in the dishwasher as Hannah Grace’s head hit the floor.

Of course, I heard her cry, immediately shot up, and ran to her and asked the question which prompted Caleb’s reply.

“Oh, Caleb, she doesn’t need to go to the hospital,” I said while checking her head for bumps.  “Don’t try to scare her.”

Hannah Grace was still crying, so I asked her where it hurt.

“My heaaaddd!” she pathetically drew out the word.

I was hoping for a more specific answer.  “I know your head.  Point to where it hurts.”

I felt the upper portion of her head where she was rubbing and pulled her in for a hug.  I rubbed her head until she stopped crying, which didn’t take too long.

After a few tries, I gave up figuring out how she fell.  All I could gather from both kids was that she was standing on the chair, leaning on the table, and somehow ended on the back of her head on the floor.

She was fine now, though, so I didn’t worry anymore. We had the talk (again) as to why she shouldn’t stand in her chair, and the kids finished their dinner.  Then they went on their way to clean up the playroom while I finished cleaning the kitchen.

Ten minutes later Matt called: “I’m stopping at the store now to pick up the brownies, and then I’ll be on the way home.”

Good.  Matt had made most of the drive in from work, and I was almost finished with the kitchen.  I could start getting the kids ready for bed while I waited. We were going to have our weekly Friday date night which normally included a snack, an attempt at a movie, and someone falling asleep on the couch.

As I started sweeping, Hannah Grace was tip-toeing her way into the kitchen, singing a little song to herself.

“Have you finished cleaning up?” I asked. “Hurry up, babe.  Mommy’s almost finished in here.”

I looked up from the pile I was sweeping as she twirled around and headed back toward the playroom.

“OMIGOSH!” I yelled.  “What did you and Caleb get into?!”  For a millisecond I was baffled at the reddish-purple substance matting Hannah Grace’s hair to the back of her head.  For a millisecond.

And then fear set in.

“Hannah Grace, come here.” She had fallen on the back of her head, and now almost all the hair in the middle of her head was red and sticky.

I didn’t want to panic, and I didn’t want to scare her, and I really didn’t want to search through her hair to her scalp to find the injury that had caused this much blood. I started to move the hair away and didn’t see anything protruding  from her scalp. I breathed a small sigh.  I continued to search for the source and thought I found it, but she had too much matted hair.  I decided I needed to put her in the tub so I could wash away the blood and see better.

I began dialing Matt.  Straight to voicemail.  I had just spoken with him!  I tried again–maybe he was ignoring me because he was in the checkout line.  I called again.  And again.  And again.

Now I had to think about the other two kids.  I didn’t want Caleb to be scared or to scare Hannah Grace with his questions, and Chloe would just try to climb in the tub.  I had to trust Caleb until Matt got home, which should be soon.

“Caleb, I need you to stay in the playroom with Chloe.  Please watch her.  I need to wash Hannah Grace’s hair.”

I can’t remember the questions he asked, but I know I emphasized how I really needed him to be a big helper then.

As I was moving Hannah Grace upstairs, Matt called.

“If I call four times in a row, it’s probably important!”

“I didn’t hear my phone.  Well..what’s wrong?!”  I had worried Matt with my ‘greeting’ and needed to fill him in on the details, which I did. I told him I was taking Hannah Grace upstairs, so when he got home, he needed to check on Caleb and Chloe.

“I’ll be home in ten minutes.” He sounded as scared as I felt.

While I moved with a purpose, telling myself to act calm, Hannah Grace continued on in La-La Land–not because of her injury but because she is a regular inhabitant of the place.  I sat her in the tub and began rinsing her hair.  We both watched as the clear water became pink and swirled around her feet.  I looked at the back of her head.  Yes, there it was.

No bigger than a half an inch long in the middle of her head sat the cut, open. Her scalp around the cut had swelled into a tender knot.  Caleb was right–we would be making a trip to urgent care. Now seeing her injury clearly, I relaxed a little. I couldn’t believe a cut that small produced so much blood!

As I called my parents and set up the arrangements for Caleb and Chloe, I watched in amazement as Hannah Grace played in the tub, apparently not in pain and oblivious to the chaos I had felt for the past ten minutes.

“Hannah Grace, we’re going to need to go to the doctor.  You have a boo-boo on your head that we need to get fixed,” I told her matter-of-factly.

“To get a band-aid because we used up all the band-aids?” She remembered earlier that day I reprimanded her and her brother for sneaking and using the rest of our box of band-aids.

“Well, no, we don’t have any more band-aids, but we need a doctor to check your boo-boo.”

As I pulled her out of the tub, swaddling her in the blue hooded towel, Matt made his way into the bathroom. I showed him the cut and was surprised to see the hair around the wound was already turning red again, slowly, but confirming my decision to head to urgent care.

We proceeded to get each of the kids dressed in their pajamas and put Caleb and Chloe in bed.  Hannah Grace came downstairs with us as we ate a quick dinner and waited for my parents, and once they arrived, we headed on to urgent care.

We knew the drill–almost a year-and-a-half ago we were in the same place for the same reason after Caleb fell on the playground and cut his cheek.  The nurse would look at Hannah Grace’s head, then get the doctor who would tell the nurse to numb the spot, and then we would wait in the waiting room for the anesthetic to take effect before proceeding with the stitches.

We went through the routine and waited.  Hannah Grace was happy reading books and playing with toys as she awaited the nurse to call her name.  When she heard, “Hannah?” she looked up at the nurse by the door and began to make her way, not waiting for Matt or me.  She was a big girl, and she was ready to get her stitches so she could get a sticker–no one ever told her she would get a sticker, but that was the appropriate prize, she had decided, for her injury.

We had to take Hannah’s shirt off while waiting for the doctor because the nurse said they would clean her injury again, and she didn’t want to get Hannah Grace all wet.  That was the first protest we heard from Hannah Grace all night: “I don’t want them to see my boobies.”

While she lay down on her stomach on the table, her little body covered, arms and legs tucked in the sheet like a burrito, I brushed her cheek with the back of my hand.  She was my daughter, my precious baby.  How I wanted to protect her!

The nurse informed me, “She has a good bruise around the injury, so she may say it hurts when the doctor starts pulling on the stitches.  If she says that, it’s because of the bruise.” The nurse was assuring me that the anesthetic had done its job.

I started to pray but then pushed aside the prayer. I felt selfish praying for Hannah Grace to not feel pain when I knew there were children with serious injuries and illnesses.  I know in my head that God cares about me and my concerns, but sometimes I have trouble believing that in my heart.  I have been so blessed–why would He listen to my prayers when there are real troubles in the world?

And in that moment I felt a peace. As I looked at my daughter, whom I loved with all my heart, God told me, “She’s my daughter, too.  I don’t want her to hurt, either.”

Hannah Grace started to move, and I knew she just wanted her right arm free so that she could hug her pink bear-blankie to her face.  I asked if the nurse could free her arm, which she did, and Hannah Grace fought her eyes to stay open, tiredness washing over her as her bear touched her face.

While the doctor made each stitch, Hannah Grace and I made faces at each other, sticking out our tongues from side to side.  Matt had his hands on her little body, ensuring she didn’t move, but she had no plans to. She was a big girl.

“It took four stitches,” the doctor told us.  That was one more stitch than her brother received a year-and-a-half before.

We dressed Hannah Grace, hugging her and telling her how proud we were.  She didn’t cry, didn’t move; she was perfect.  God had answered my prayer.

And He answered hers, too.  She didn’t get a sticker, but she got a green popsicle.  She sucked on that popsicle most of the whole way home until it was gone, and then she fell asleep.