I Had a Dream

I’m sure it started after my mom said, “I wish we lived closer.” In fact, we do live relatively close to one another. We’re only about a half an hour away, but with Atlanta traffic, that half an hour can stretch anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. In any event, we don’t live close enough to just drop over for a chat any time the idea strikes our fancy.

Thus birthed the idea for our plot of land. At first, it started as a joke; we’d have a home for all the women to live in and a separate home for all the grumpy men. The women could get together every night after the kids went to bed and play the board games we so love while the men stayed home and scratched their rears and fell asleep on the couch.

Except my brother-in-law said he didn’t want to be stuck in a house with the grumpy men, either.

Then the idea morphed into something more realistic. Instead of two houses divided by gender, we’d have three homes divided by family units all sharing a large plot of land. There would be a communal garden. There would be Hilda the cow. There would be game night. Many nights.

Sometimes when I would get discouraged with the condition of my home or tired thinking about putting the kids to bed after a visit with my parents, I would envision my dream home on that large plot of land. I would see the tall trees surrounding us, hear the stream running through the woods. I could taste the tomatoes I’d pick from our garden, and I was never overwhelmed at its upkeep–the three families worked together.

photo by vastateparksstaff via Flickr 'Creative Commons'

And there was Hilda. Oh, she was such a good cow. She ate her grass and gave us the finest milk. No longer did I have to debate whether or not (not, most often) to purchase organic milk for $5.99 a gallon–our organic milk was right in our yard.

photo by JHayne

But like most dreams, this one was squashed by those whom I love.

“Do you think I’m made out of money?!”

No, Dad, I think you’re made out of blood and muscles and bones.

“Dad, you’re just buying the land first since you’re ready to move now. You’re reserving our spot. Then, we’ll come and buy our section of the land from you and build our house. This plan made sense to me.

“What happens when Matt and you decide to move and sell your home? Now I have this piece of land that I have to share with someone I don’t know.”

“Well, we’re not going to move.”

And then a few days later my husband joined in:

“Do you know how much a cow costs? It would cost thousands of dollars. It would take years before you even reaped the benefits of having your own cow to milk.”

I don’t trust your math.

“Jennifer, you don’t live on Little House on the Prairie.”

You’re right; Caroline’s husband was warm and kind, and he played the fiddle.

This move doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective. What happens if we want to move? We now have a house that’s connected to two other families.”

Are we planning to move? Did you and my dad have a talk that I don’t know about. Are you being transferred to Canada or something?!

After that moment, I told myself, “Forget it.” Forget the big plot of land. Forget the communal garden. Forget Hilda. And definitely forget game night many nights during the week.

At least I have ‘Word With Friends.’

Has your family ever squashed your dream before it had time to come to fruition? Have you ever wanted to own a cow? It’s the middle of the week, folks. Let’s take a minute to smile and get through it!

 

Pick and Choose

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been studying how the supernatural intersects our everyday lives via prayer. I have to admit that even typing the word ‘supernatural’ feels a little funny to me.

I don’t know why. I say I believe in God and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ–to do so I’d have to believe in this idea of supernatural events–yet I’ve noticed that the way I pray and interpret Scripture indicates exactly what I believe.

I pick and choose.

On the one hand, I say I believe that God is the ultimate healer and can perform miracles, but I’m afraid to pray that way. Even when I do pray for God’s miraculous touch, it’s as if I’m praying with one eye open, bracing myself for the reality that that person for whom I’m praying probably won’t be healed.

There were times when I really believed, or, at least, really wanted to believe. My friend was very sick, and I woke up one morning feeling in my heart that I was supposed to pray for his healing. I did; I prayed earnestly and fervently, yet he was not healed.

A couple of weeks ago, our church set aside a special time to pray for healing in view of this series on the supernatural, and I went forward and asked for prayer for my uncle. Again, I felt a strong prompt that I was supposed to pray for his healing. My uncle is a quadriplegic due to what doctors think was a blot clot that formed after back surgery, and within the last few years his health has been on a steady decline.

A couple of days after praying, my mom told me that now my uncle is struggling to breathe.

In situations like those, I begin to doubt myself. Did God really prompt me to pray, or did I just want to see a miracle myself? Did I not pray with enough faith? Does God really heal?

I know that God really heals, but I’m afraid to ask. I temper my prayers with if it’s your will so that if someone is not healed or my prayer is not answered the way I’d like, I can say that it wasn’t God’s will.

Of course, I know I’ve stated the key–God’s will–not mine, yet I can readily admit my fear to really believe beyond ordinary.

Sometimes it’s easier to believe in the power of doctors and medicine than the power of the Doctor. And yet other times, times when I need the healing, I want to grab onto the power of God instead of the resources He’s given me.

Our pastor shared a familiar passage to me, but he opened my eyes to a fuller meaning:

13Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16, New International Version)

I have read and heard this passage many times in regard to praying for those who are sick. I’ve seen pastors anoint individuals with oil, and I always assumed the function was symbolic. However, our pastor shared that the actual Greek text suggests that this anointing served a specific purpose. Olive oil was known for its medicinal properties, and this passage instructs sick individuals to essentially seek prayer and medicine.

After my third child was born, my mental health was on a steady decline for two years. I chalked up my emotions to a confused, hormonal body after having three kids in three years and nursing each of them. However, my daughter rounded 18 months, and I wasn’t feeling better.

I thought, perhaps, that my spiritual life was out of whack. I started waking up at five every morning so that I could pray and read the Bible and process through my feelings on my blog. However, any relief I felt was temporary, and I didn’t understand why. Eventually, I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and I cried and yelled at my children almost every day.

During my annual physical, my doctor suggested I try medication. Two years was too long for me to deal with depression. I cried as we talked about the prospect, feeling that I was mentally weak or spiritually deficient. My wise, Christian doctor offered the most comforting words:

Scripture says that it will renew the mind. Your mind is an extension of the soul, but your brain is part of the physical body. There is no indication in Scripture that by reading the Word your body will be healed. Now, God can heal you, but He would have to heal you the same way He would have to heal someone of high blood pressure. Right now, the chemical levels in your brain are out of whack, and medication will just retrain them to produce those chemicals that you need.

Looking back to the passage in James, I see that my doctor’s words were essentially the same advice I read a couple of weeks ago in church. Pray and seek medicine. God may heal me; He is mighty and able to perform miracles, but he may want to heal me through the use of the resources I have available.

The bottom line, whether I’m dealing with depression or my uncle is struggling to hold onto his life, is that I’m supposed to pray the same way. I’m supposed to pray, not with one eye open, doubting what my God can do, but believing that at this very moment my uncle could get up and walk. At this very moment, I could wake up without the need for medicine again.

While I will never understand the will of God this side of heaven, I understand my role. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. And while I’m not righteous on my own, I have Christ pleading on my behalf. God hears my prayers, and they are effective, whether God answers them with a blazing flash of lightning or a tiny pink pill.

Do you pick and choose when it comes to your understanding of prayer? Linking up today with Michelle and Jen.


 

Thanksgiving Presents

 

When I was a child, no holiday could top Christmas. While I loved stuffing and mashed potatoes, I’d happily skip over Thanksgiving to get to the present-opening holiday faster. However, nothing could make that last month before Christmas go any quicker.

Now that I’m a little bit older than eight, I find that, much as my tastebuds changed as I became an adult, so did my taste for the different holidays. I still find Christmas a beautiful holiday to celebrate, yet I would never skip Thanksgiving. In fact, I would venture to say that Thanksgiving is my new favorite.

With a few exceptions, I don’t remember the presents I opened beneath the tree, those presents that I’m sure my parents budgeted for and fought their way through crazy mobs at the mall. I don’t remember what Santa snuck down the chimney.

But I do remember family. Little stories will sneak up and pinch me when I least expect it. These memories are the presents that have far outlasted those wrapped in shiny paper and topped with big bows.

My grandmother much preferred the company of children and seemed to relate better to them than adults. That characteristic worked out well for all of her grandchildren. Every time we had a family get-together, Grandma Ann would gather the grandkids to her while the adults talked in another room. While they laughed and scraped the last bit of food off their plates, the kids worked in another room on a retelling of Cinderella. We rushed around looking for Cinderella’s broom and a costume to do the magical fairy godmother justice, and when we were ready, Grandma would silence the adults and command their attention for the show we had prepared.

The parents would roll their eyes and silently endure the production. This tradition has lived on….

For my father’s birthday, I was in a silly mood and wanted to help control the chaos of four kids five and under while we waited for my husband to get home. I gathered all the children in the playroom, and everyone was assigned a role.

Caleb, you will dance first. Max, you’re next. You will come out after Aunt Jennie introduces you.

And so began my first attempt at organizing a show with all of the grandkids. A few weekends later, the kids requested we put on another performance for Uncle Mason’s birthday, and the other day, an ordinary-non-birthday-nothing-special day, my nephew requested we put on a show.

“Well, hello, Grandma,” my mom said to me.

She was right–I had had the realization before–Grandma’s present was still going strong long after she was gone. I’m currently drafting a Christmas performance.

So I look forward to tomorrow, a day without the stress of Christmas, a day when we enjoy the delicious food with which we have been so abundantly blessed and count the numerous ways God has provided. I look forward to receiving the presents that time with family always gives, and I look forward to remembering.

I’m thankful that we each live on long after we’re gone, in the fried okra recipe that’s used every holiday or the sound of snoring from the recliner in the den or the after-dinner performance that the adults are forced to endure.

These are the presents that I will celebrate. For these, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours. For what presents are you thankful this year?


 

 

Paradox

Sometimes I hate parenting. Maybe parenting is too specific. Sometimes I hate this phase in my life as a stay-at-home mom.

I hate mopping the floor to have someone pee on it or spill milk five minutes later. I hate the mound of laundry that is alway taunting me, even if I just put away three loads. I hate the mess that I find upstairs right after I made the downstairs look perfect and vice versa.

It’s not that I hate mopping or doing laundry or straightening up or cleaning bathrooms (actually, I do hate cleaning bathrooms)–it’s the feeling that everything I’ve just done is for nothing.

Many days I look at the blue numbers on the stove as they near seven, and I just wish my husband worked a little closer, could come home a little earlier to help tame the three wild animals that come out when I’m making dinner. I wish there were someone here to help discipline when I feel mentally worn out by the end of the day. I hate feeling like I’m ineffective and out-witted by three little people whose combined years of education don’t even equal a third of mine.

And, yet, there are these moments….

The other day I stood in the laundry room taking clothes out of the dryer and getting together a new load for the wash, and I had this intense longing, yearning. With each shirt I folded, I couldn’t shake the feeling that our family wasn’t complete, and the desire for another child burned within me. The feeling grew stronger as I dwelled on my longing until I stopped myself: “What the–?” I thought. Here I was holding poopy underpants in my hand while desiring for another child in my heart.

I immediately recognized the irony but knew how it was possible. Even though I hate some of the feelings accompanied with this job, I love having three kids surround me on the couch as I read a story. I love watching my two-year-old shake her hips during our dance parties. And I love my kids on days when they are good and days when they are rotten simply because they are mine.

Parenting isn’t always logical. How I can love a job that I simultaneously hate doesn’t make sense, but that’s how a paradox works. And I find this one quite beautiful.

In what paradox do you find yourself? Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writers Workshop.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Traditions

As I ironed the sleeves of my shirt, the uncertainty I felt the days before gave way to excitement, and when I secured the buttons on my coat I looked with satisfaction at myself in the mirror. I missed wearing this uniform. But today I was allowed to remember those days I counted as some of my happiest and show my children for the first time how I used to dress for work every day.

Hannah Grace couldn’t stop rubbing my legs, as she was not used to seeing her mother wearing panty hose, and Caleb beamed when he saw my attire. I couldn’t find my flight cap in the attic the night before, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to wear my uniform to the ceremony. However, Caleb knew that a fully dressed mommy meant all was well.

I dropped Caleb off in front of the flagpole and told him I would see him in a few minutes, and as he bounced off to his class wearing his book bag that took up half the size of his body, I looked for a parking space. I parked, and the girls and I walked through the cold toward the gym where the ceremony would take place.

All of my family was already there–my mom and dad, sister and nephew, and Matt’s mom and grandfather and his grandfather’s wife. We took our seats on the gym floor and listed as a retired Army major played the bagpipes.

 

Matt's Granddaddy, me, and my mom

The children came in and we all joined together in singing the National Anthem, and then they sang songs of tribute for all who had served. We stood as we heard the song representing our branch of service, and they all clapped. Our names were read out loud and the branch in which we served, and a fifth grader came with a rose and a handmade card expressing thanks.

I remember looking at my mom as she stood and sang the Army song, and she smiled a smile that I don’t see often–she was proud. I understood her emotion, and I was proud with her.

At the end of the ceremony, all the veterans formed a receiving line, and the students walked through and shook our hands. I was impressed at this group of little boys and girls, shaking hands and offering their thanks with a smile.

Before we left, the school asked for a picture with all the veterans–men who had served in Korea and Vietnam, some who completed their 2-year tour, others who made a career and retired after 20, brand new lieutenants and airmen, and seasoned sergeants and majors. But there were only three women–a woman who taught at the high school and my mom and me.

 

My sister Lisa joined us, representing her husband who served in the Army for six years

***************************************************************************

My dad’s birthday was a few weeks ago, and we celebrated in our family’s typical style of singing and cake. After the traditional ‘Happy Birthday,’ my mom gave her usual attempt at ‘May the good Lord bless you’ (sung to the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune), to which we all ignored her. I’m not sure why the antipathy for that song–perhaps it’s my mother’s insistence at singing it every birthday that causes us to refuse.

Two songs not being enough, my dad in jest tried to rouse us into singing, ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow…,’ and feeling bad for him and the lack of participation, I sang along. And now I had to be the smart-aleck. “God Bless America” broke from my lips, and to my surprise, my mom and dad joined in during the middle line. I looked around as my sister added her voice to the chorus, and my brother-in-law, who, like my husband, normally looks bored and sleepy, was singing loudly while swinging his arm in a show of support. As we sang the words, ‘my home, sweet home,’ all the adults were belting out their best, while the kids tried to sing along to a song they didn’t know. We actually sounded good and laughed at this spontaneous show of support for this patriotic song at a birthday party.

We then rounded out the evening with a talent show for my dad featuring bizarre dance moves from the kids and Bette Midler and Mariah Carey songs sung horribly by my sister and me. I have a feeling that my dad left that night feeling a little confused.

November 11th, we celebrated Mason’s birthday. He had just started a new job, so he missed the school’s Veterans Day celebration, but his new co-workers showed him their appreciation when their work-day ended. And that night, we showed him ours, as well.

Once again, we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and followed with our new tradition that started as a joke but seemed somewhat appropriate that night. The kids should know the words to ‘God Bless America’ by Max’s birthday.

And I, no longer in my uniform, was able to clap and move to the music while I watched a stunning dance party, complete with superheroes and pirates and policemen.

All Veterans Days should end so well.

How does your community celebrate Veterans Day? What other traditions do you celebrate that are unique to your family?

 

 

Scout’s Honor

Like a five-year-old, he jumped up and down in our doorway. “Call your student!” he cried in such desperation that my heart couldn’t help but soften to this grown boy who was interrupting my shower.

“We really don’t want a dog right now…” I reminded, or more accurately, pleaded with Matt.

But it was too late. The damage was done. I made the mistake of recounting the dream I had about us having a dog, and I made the bigger mistake of telling Matt that one of my students was giving away puppies. And the biggest mistake of all was going on the internet to find a picture showing Matt exactly what these puppies looked like.

That day we drove to the country to see this litter of Jack Russell-Rat Terrier mixed puppies. I felt awkward walking into the home of a student, but my defenses immediately melted with the word ‘Puppies!’ At that word the whole litter emerged from under the table where they were sleeping in their basket. Eight or nine manic puppies crawled all over me in unison, bounced back and forth, and licked and nipped and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Except for one.

One of the puppies was by far the cutest, but she had her own agenda. She pranced around the room as if to say she was definitely not one of the boys.

We picked her. I remember feeling such guilt as I walked out the door holding our new puppy. We had broken up her family. But I quickly learned that that sweet puppy who had curled up on my black sweater and slept through the long car ride home was more than enough dog for me to handle.

Scout was insane as a puppy. She ran laps around the house so quickly you’d swear she was running on the actual wall. She jumped as if springs, instead of muscles, were inside her legs. And she smiled–she always had a smile on her face as she panted two inches away from my nose. With her smooth white fur and dark patches to match her big eyes, she was beautiful and perfect in her craziness.

Scout wanted to play all the time, and she played hard. Matt and I had no idea how to train a dog, so we failed her in that regard. She still jumps on everyone in her attempt to say, “See me?! See me?! Come play!”

But then life changed a little, as did her once smooth hair, now a coarse, wiry mix. After our son Caleb was born, she was uncomfortable and a little unsure. I watched her carefully and Caleb carefully as he grew. I did my best to ensure he played nicely with Scout, but the inevitable happened. One day he grabbed her tail, and Scout snapped at him. She didn’t bite, but she gave her warning. And after her warning, she ran upstairs and went under our bed.

A year and a half after Caleb was born, we added another baby. Twenty months later, we added another, and Scout started spending most of her day under our bed.

At nighttime when Matt and I are on the couch, she’ll come downstairs and sit on top of my stretched-out legs, pinning me in, but I can’t push her off the sofa. It’s one of the few times during the day that I actually see her.

The backyard is where Scout gets her walks–with only two hands to corral three young kids, I can’t hold a leash, too, especially since we never trained Scout how to walk without trying to drag me down the street while choking herself. The promises of a bath this weekend turn out empty as a few more weekends will pass by before I lift her in the tub. The date to the vet for her teeth cleaning–that gets pushed back with every car repair that comes our way.

Now when people come to the house, Scout seems to say, “Take me! Take me! Take me!” in time with every jump.

I try to be a good pet owner. I’ve never missed a vet check-up for Scout, I faithfully administer her heart worm prevention, and I do the best I can to show her love and attention…when she comes out from under the bed. But, oh, the guilt! The guilt is what allows Scout to sleep on our bed when she wants to snuggle in the winter, even though I want nothing more than a pet hair-free pillow.

I was convinced Scout didn’t love me. I had noticed that she didn’t run to the door, anymore, when we come home–only sometimes when we’re leaving, as if to say, “What about me?”

I should’ve known better.

Many times when Matt travels or any other time the invitation is extended, I’ll pack up the kids and eat dinner at my parents. Sometimes I’ll bring Scout along, too. I’ll brush the kids teeth and put on their pajamas after we eat in the hopes that they’ll fall asleep on the car ride home.

One night I had perfect luck. All three kids were out like a light. It was just Scout and me awake during the thirty minute drive home. After I parked the car in the dark driveway, I unbuckled my youngest in her carseat and let her collapse against my shoulder.

“Come on, Scout,” I softly called, but she sat in the car.

Inside I went with Chloe, up the stairs, and back down to retrieve kid number two. I crawled into the back of the minivan and unbuckled Caleb who was closest to me. Again, I called to Scout, but she remained. Up the stairs, back down, and now, panting a little bit, I unbuckled Hannah Grace in the back corner of the van. I drug her to the open door and got out so I could lift her over my shoulder.

As I lifted her, Scout jumped out the car and followed behind, her job as protector complete now that no child was left unattended. And my loyal dog, who has found herself in a different place than when she joined our family nine years ago, followed me up to bed.

Do you have a pet with whom your relationship has changed a little over the years? How has your pet shown you loyalty?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Last week got a little crazy, but I had wanted to write about Scout for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. So here’s my addition…a little late.


Sometimes It’s Okay Not to Care

I guess I could’ve been upset when our ‘Star Wars’ themed Halloween turned into a ‘Star Wars Meets the Disney Princesses’ Halloween. After all, we did plan this idea months ago. Hannah Grace was excited to dress up like the beautiful Princess Leia, and Chloe couldn’t wait to don her ‘Toyota’ costume (otherwise known as ‘Yoda’ to everyone over the age of two). Caleb already had his Luke Skywalker costume, Daddy was living out his dream as Darth Vader, and, since Natalie Portman and I could almost be twins, I thought Queen Amilama-dim-dom suited me just fine.

Hannah Grace was the first to give up. She wanted to be a superhero instead, which was fine with me since super Aunt Lisa bought them dress-up costumes for when they came over to visit. Chloe quickly followed the lead of her sister, and the ‘Star Wars’ theme changed into a ‘Superheroes’ theme–it all still worked.

Until, of course, four days before Halloween when Hannah Grace assumed the role she was born to play as ‘Fancy Nancy’ for Book Character Day at preschool. The girls were adorable, so I really didn’t care that our theme was unraveling before my eyes.

And speaking of Fancy Nancy, I really didn’t care when one little Nancy refused to smile during her parade.

Because, after all, some things are important, and some things are not. Halloween costumes are not important, even if it doesn’t make sense for one’s daughters to ditch the thought-out costumes, the multiple-thought out costumes, for their everyday, ripped, dress-up clothes. Princess dresses without the proper crowns or shoes or wigs–an arts-and-craftsy mother’s nightmare.

But luckily this mother doesn’t care.

Luckily, this mother didn’t care the night before when her husband started carving a pumpkin at 8:30, and the kids had school the next day (okay, I cared a little).

Because, luckily, this mama’s learning that sometimes (many times) life doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes weekends end up a little more hectic than planned, and the kids are up a little bit later than I’d like. Sometimes kids change their mind about Halloween costumes one hour before we leave for the Fall Festival. Sometimes teenagers forget how to read when they come upon an unattended Halloween bag that says, “Take 1.”

Sometimes kids go to school with different colored socks or hair sticking up in the back. Sometimes Mommy is a little too tired to make the healthier homemade pizza crust and buys a packaged one instead.

Sometimes, I have to pick my battles.  And Halloween isn’t one of them.

Sometimes, five happy faces is more important.

And if anyone disagrees with me, I really don’t care.

How did you or your family dress up for Halloween? Are you able to say “I don’t care” to things that really don’t matter?