Metamorphosis: 2 year old boy to Teen girl

Like most mothers, my imagination has run wild imagining what my firstborn son would become. I try to be reasonable; no matter which profession he chooses I just hope he becomes a husband and father so that I can have adorable grandchildren as a reward for letting him live.

In all my grandiose imaginings and worst fears, I never imagined the horrible metamorphosis that would take place in my son. Today my playful, all-boy, Mach 2-hair-on-fire son turned into a demon possessed teenage girl. It is the worst metamorphosis I’ve encountered to date, and there has been some major competition.

kafka

1.       He hates his body and everything going on in it. He has little to no control over everything wrong with it and nothing can fix it.

He woke up at 5:52 and realized something wasn’t right. Everything was wrong about his body. He needed to be changed and his tummy was raring up for Diaper Doom 2; Revenge of the Toddler.  It didn’t stop there- sore and in pain, he consoled himself my putting his index finger in his mouth only to realize his new teeth are still tearing through gums. His lips were chapped and bleeding, his head hurt, and days of not wanting to eat or drink anything finally caught up with him. There was only one thing to do. Whine and cry.

2. He just wants to cry, whine and moan while being held. This may NOT be interrupted. If anyone takes a break even to go to the bathroom, the fool will be followed. After all, girls go to the bathroom in packs. Isn’t that where we solve problems?

3. NO one else gets to have any problems that could detract from the misery the likes of which have never been seen.  Any normal activities must be punctuated with whimpers, moans, quivering lips, and choked back sobs- at the VERY least.

4. There is NO solution to his list of problems, some of which he can’t identify. None. Anyone trying to find solutions will be punished by an increase of volume and intensity of displeasure.

5. We have gone through numerous wardrobe changes in only 3 hours. The past 48 hours have accumulated 8 loads of laundry.

6. Diverting attention from consoling or needs (both known and unknown) is interpreted, “You don’t love me at all!”  There will be NO feeding of other babies, doing laundry, breathing, etc. Anyone who tries to escape for a moment of solitude for any reason will have their crimes recorded and recounted in public at the most embarrassing moment possible.

So how does one handle such a horrible transformation when she is sick as well and must provide for a new baby and the home?

Well, after being smacked in the face with a sippy cup and losing most of my hearing in my left ear, I realized what had happened. I had to identify the problem correctly to come up with an appropriate plan of action. I named his teenage demon alter-ego “Kafka”. I want to crush her, but she just won’t die.

While I tried to wrestle Firstborn into his high chair (which he suddenly realized is NOT an electric chair that should be wrestled against with every fiber of his being) his “a serial killer is chasing me” screams destroyed my accomplishment of getting Secondborn to nap. Jarred and disoriented, he proceeded to smile like Buddha before matching the pitch perfectly and providing me with surround sound. Thus, I thought, “How would I handle this if I had a teenage girl on my hands?”

I put on his favorite movie, got him a new pair of pjs, and gave him Bluebell ice cream.

Blue-bell

Trapped and loving it, I have been able to feed and change the baby, get a drink of water and take some Zinc, and regroup with you, dear reader.

If you don’t hear from me soon, come over wearing an outfit you don’t care about but armed with chocolate. chocolate

For all I know we could be going through puberty and SATs tomorrow. Silver lining: At least we don’t have roaches.

Guess what’s in the swing…

At 6:02 am I was blissfully snuggled under a comforter, enjoying the rarity of both my children  slumbering past 5:30.  All of a sudden I felt it; that inate warning system that sounds in your sleeping body that says, “Someone is in the room! Grab something heavy so that you have a defense as you scream in a pitch only Mariah Carey can reach on purpose!” Of course, I had no time to react. Thankfully, the intruder was my precious husband who attempted to steal my covers under the guise of “sweet cuddling”. Usually he will whisper that he is leaving so that I will know I will be outnumbered 2 to 1 before dawn. Instead of saying, “I need to leave but the boys are up” or “Thing 1 is stirring” he said words I NEVER expected to hear.

“Guess what I found when I went downstairs? A gallon of milk in the bunny swing.”

Time for a flashback explanation.

Now when Firstborn was small, we relied on the Fisher Price 3 in 1 swing as if our lives depended on it… because it did. Only the soothing of this swing could calm the child long enough for a few moments of silence. He had the 8 hours of crying a day brand of colic, and no remedy worked other than the swing and Veggietales sing-a-longs. It wasn’t a pretty introduction to motherhood. Thus, we have an undying devotion to ‘the bunny swing’- so named for the bunny ears at the top of the fluffy headrest.  The only pictures we have of our son smiling before 6 months old are of him in the swing. Really.

IMG-20110630-00202

Now that Secondborn is a few months old, we once again enjoy watching the angelic sight of a baby asleep in the bunny chair (until Firstborn comes running into the room yelling with his arms outstretched a la Superman and scares the poor infant to death, necessitating an immediate diaper change.)

Until 3 nights ago. I noticed that the motor sounded…sick. Choking. Gasping. Groaning. The light was on but the bunny wasn’t moving. Secondborn wasn’t sleeping.

(Suspenseful, scary movie sound effect)

Life suddenly fell into chaos. A line of wailing women shrouded in black lined up at the front door, prepared to mourn. It just couldn’t be true. I pushed the swing to help the motor gained momentum. It gently slowed to a pitiful halt. The baby started to fuss. We were doomed. Internet searches led me to e-mailing the customer service line on Friday night and we received an e-mail with trouble-shooting options. It read:

I’m so glad you contacted us!  I am so sorry to hear your swing isn’t working properly. In order to provide the best possible resolution, I would like to try some troubleshooting.

1. Please check the cord connections at the top and bottom of the leg. Unplug and re-plug the cords, slightly rotating the plugs after they are connected.

2. Put at least 10 pounds of weight (such as a full gallon of milk/water) in the seat and make sure the swing is on a level surface. Please make sure the legs are spread completely apart.

3. Turn the swing on and set it to the third speed setting and push the seat to get it started.  Observe the swing for approximately three minutes.  If the swing stops, please set the speed setting to the highest setting, and again push the seat to get it started.  Observe the swinging for an additional 3 minutes.

4. Lastly, please be sure that your infant has not reached the developmental limit of being too active for the seat.  In other words, the infant should not have reached the point in his/her development of being able to sit up unassisted.  Also, the infant should weigh no more than 25 lbs.

I hope this helps, but please let us know if it does not!  If you find it is still not working, please respond to this e-mail with your complete mailing address.

Although I know the sound of a dying motor when I hear one, I decided to follow the directions to the letter. After the kids were in bed, Hubby and I went through each step. This, as you may have guessed, is when my Beloved put the gallon of milk in the bunny swing. As I answered the e-mail with our address, he joined me on the couch and neither of us saw the milk before heading to bed. This was a FULL, unopened gallon that he had purchased a mere two hours earlier, as we are down to the last bit of milk. Got milk? No, no we do not. (Thus, it was a breakfast taco morning for me.)

Now, you must understand that I am a woman who has spent the last 3 years of my life as a victim of “baby brain”- either in ‘pregnancy’ or ‘child under 1 year old’ form. This means that as our precious darlings drain the life, energy, and intelligence out of us, we go onto autopilot. One of the classic moves is putting the milk in the pantry. Although I came close a time or two, I was always mindful to deliver the milk to the proper location and not leave it out. (Keys are another story.)

Hence, it gives me a bit of validation and an involuntary look of indignation when I say, “A gallon of milk was in the bunny swing” and people automatically assume it was me- the brainless mom-o-bot. Sadly, my track record doesn’t speak well for me.

Finally, the army of well-meaning older ladies are proven right- “Blink and you’ll miss it.” True story. You’d think a milk container in a swing would catch attention…but in a way it’s somewhat ordinary around here. I’ll just add “There’s a gallon of milk in the bunny swing” to the list, along with sayings “There’s a horse in the shower”, “How did you get that into your nose?” and “How did you get poop into the elbow of your jammies?”

As I lament the lack of milk this morning as I look at the bunny swing in need of Dr. Frankenstein to bring it back to life, I will be glad that I haven’t totally lost it… and I will have the container of sugar at the ready for when the swing returns to us.

Don’t Cry Over Stolen Milk

Today was a “Call of the wild” day; the day where the needs of life bring out the primal instinct. My transformation from respectable, doting mother to glowing-eyed, raging animal began at 11:42am.  It is not as glamorous as movie special effects deceptively portray.

moms a werewolf

It was in that moment that my child, jarred from a desperately needed nap, screamed out in panic. This is about the 13th time in 2 weeks that naptime has been shattered. Allegedly a group of Marines are here firing artillery- at all hours of the day and night. I used to think the sounds from the ranges were the ‘sweet sounds of freedom’. I recant that statement. The screams of a child who has no hope of sleep is the exact opposite of freedom. I’m not saying I am anti-Marine this month…but sleepless, cranky kids are my major malfunction.

major malfunction

With auburn hair wildly poking out of my “ F4 Tornado ponytail” and eyes now bloodshot and wide, I gathered up my Firstborn and made him a lunch with the only remaining piece of bread. As I rifled through the pantry and fridge, I realized my choices were procrastinate and die or hunt for food. I brought my cubs to the car and braved the wild. (Please, start humming Hungry Like the Wolf.) Lest you think I lost all humanity, be advised I was still wearing actual pants and shoes to Wal-Mart. Let’s be honest- shopping at Wal-Mart is a spectator sport.

This was an essentials only trip- I avoided most of the aisles and totally avoided the leftover St. Patrick’s Day and brightly colored Easter items. As far as I am concerned, the “Seasonal Items” sign should read, “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter”.  I hunted and gathered, then herded my cubs to the exit. As I passed the prominent display of the baby girl clothes (look away!) I noticed a pink onesie that said, “Saw it. Wanted it. Threw a tantrum. Got it. “   As my son says, “ Woah…wow.” Disgusted, I thanked Cub 1 for his good choices and wonderfully cooperative behavior in public.

I proceeded to pick the slowest 20 items or less lane. I watched 4 people check out in the next line over  for every one person in front of me, but it was too late to jump ship. By the time I was next in line I was singing the “Be Patient” song, hugging Firstborn and rocking Secondborn’s carrier to calm his fussing. Several onlookers in other lines decided to watch The Motherhood Show. Next time I will put up a sign on the cart that reads, “Please Feed the Animals.”

What seemed like 10 years later, I was unloading kids and groceries into the car when I spotted it. Under the cart was the gallon of milk. It was sitting there…unpaid for. In that moment, I was ready to cry over stolen milk. I was a milk thief.

milk thief

I was a few seatbelt clicks away from going home. There it was- the fleshly call of the wild again. (And another boom from artillery.) Every temptation flooded me to ‘just pay next time’, and all manner of ‘Wal-Mart is evil’, ‘milk is overpriced’ and similar self-deceiving foolishness.  Back when I was unhindered by children, schedules, and ruined naps, this would have been a non-issue moment. Now, a fight-or-flight battle raged in my flesh. It may sound stupid, but hauling 60 extra pounds into the store again to wait in long lines with impatient children just hurt. NO one was watching… but that is when integrity counts.  I looked over at Firstborn who was waiting to be buckled in and told him, “Come here. We have to go back in. We do what’s right, even when it is hard, because God sees.” My flesh was throwing a tantrum, hoping to get what it wanted- to just go home. Like any child who throws a tantrum to get her own way, it needed a good “Come to Jesus” meeting. God was watching. Neither of us like disobedient children.

I hauled both children and the milk back into the store and waited in the line for another 15 minutes and 3 rounds of “Be Patient.” I finally got to the front of the line and paid more for a gallon of milk than I paid for a gallon of gas.

Although he won’t remember it, my son watched me when integrity mattered. In that moment I wasn’t thinking about character building techniques, ‘teachable moments’, or remembering to say, “This is milk. It comes from a cow. Cows say, ‘Moo!’ Can you moo? What color is the milk?” and all those good things moms say to their kids while shopping. I might have gotten the milk for free, but once I got home my guilt-ridden self would be having a cow. (90s culture check!)

In that moment I didn’t want to change who I strive to be simply because having kids in tow makes things harder. It is harder to be patient. Harder to shower. Harder to keep a clean home. Just HARDER. Sometimes it is even harder to do what is right. Doing things the right way has a cost. Despite what the horrid onesie hanging in Wal-Mart claims, it takes more than a tantrum to get what you want. A good mom says, “No, you may not!”, even to herself when the easy way out is tempting.

Only last week I noticed a bright yellow object in Firstborn’s hand as I left the grocery store.  On our way through the ‘gauntlet of doom’ for every mother forced to shop with kids, he had laid a finger on a Butterfinger. I have no clue how he reached the bottom shelf while seated in the cart, but he did. Rather than buy it separately and steal a bite as a mom tax, I put the Butterfinger back. The fit he pitched was worthy of the World Series. I said, “We don’t take things without paying for them.” Had I gotten out to the car, I would have gone back in and paid for it, frustrated with my son for stealing. How interesting that when I accidentally swiped some milk, I had faced an integrity check. Sometimes it is harder to parent ourselves than our children.

It is hard to measure what a kid knows by his actions. If it were an accurate method, no mother would have to say, “You know better.”  It is frustrating when Firstborn’s strong will displays itself in a refusal to display what he knows. He won’t point to his eyes, sign thank you, or saying, “Excuse me” instead of giggling after farting with the perfect pitch accuracy of an AK- 47. I know he can do these things- he has before. Unfortunately, most the time he looks at me like I am speaking a different language…which I probably should be doing to enhance his cognitive abilities. (Eye roll) Sometimes I wonder if he is learning ANYTHING from me…until I really look at how far he has come. Perhaps I should give myself the same grace.

Please, dear reader, don’t take this as boasting a good choice or excellent mothering. Instead, give yourself grace. There is more value in taking another 30 minutes out of the day to demonstrate integrity that pleases God than 30 minutes reading about shapes to a boy who is doing flips off the ottoman. Most kids learn colors and shapes. Not all kids learn not to swipe Butterfingers and milk. All kids will throw tantrums. Some kids will hear, “I love you too much to let you be a disobedient child without self-control.” Others will get a “Got it!” onesie. With any luck, my sons will grow into men that won’t make me cry over stolen milk. Until then, we will all just cry over naptimes stolen by the Marines.

Mom Confessions

  • Okay, I’m really going to do it. I’m going to take the advice repeated by thousands of other mothers: “Cut yourself some slack and realize that there are no perfect mothers. Tell yourself and really believe that you ARE a GOOD mom.”

I’d love to cut myself some slack, but the scissors are missing. My toddler probably stole them while I was mopping and proceeded to run at top speed…possibly on his way to stab the baby’s eyes. I know there are no perfect mothers, but it seems that with the thousands of books, pintrest posts and blogs out there, we have gotten REALLY good at lying. The bricks with which we build our facades are very impressive. In fact, they now have matching solar panels so that we can be eco-friendly (unlike that horrible mother who uses disposable diapers and occasionally supplements with formula! I saw her give her kid a hot dog once… and it was NOT organic, gluten-free or kosher!) There are hundreds of blogs and articles out there encouraging young parents through this exceptionally challenging time of life, and God bless the authors for it. While I could happily join in, I’ll just refer you to this one, which encouraged me today:

http://www.stevewiens.com/2013/03/12/to-parents-of-small-children-let-me-be-the-one-who-says-it-out-loud/

Instead, I offer these confessions in the hopes that my fellow mothers will realize that we are ALL struggling.

mom confessions

Confession 1: I’ve had about all I can take of the Breastfeeding Brigade.  During my first home visit by the Child Development Services for my 4 month old, I was asked if I am exclusively breastfeeding and how it was going. After months of advice, articles, sugar-coated judgments and being purple-nurpled by strange nurses in my sleepy stupor, I was a bit testy on the subject. I answered, “He has really improved and is doing great, but he cluster feeds at night and I just can’t keep up. I finally gave up and started supplementing just a few ounces of formula at night.” (She stared at me blankly, so I continued.) “I also lace it with cyanide, because as we know, formula is poison and only horrible mothers supplement.” She just widened her eyes, stared at her clipboard and said, “Moving on…” Oops. My mouth runneth over.

Confession 2: On most days, I want to give baby signing the middle finger. Several months ago my poor husband came home to me nearly in tears because I had spent MONTHS trying to teach my son a few basic signs. It seemed every other toddler could sign and dozens of friends had provided advice on ‘how to teach him correctly’. Keeping calm and not feeling pressured was NOT happening. As I broke down into a puddle my Beloved gently told me how ridiculous I sounded as I wailed, “How did I EVER teach in a classroom? I can’t even teach my kid to sign! He’d rather starve! He just hits my hands! He HATES me! He’ll never come home for Thanksgiving! People are asking what is WRONG with him and telling me I am not doing it right!”

Bewildered, my husband asked, “WHO?!”

(Sob) “The people whose kids are signing the words to the Star Spangled Banner in French as we speak!”  Thus, the need for an emergency chocolate supply was confirmed.  Now that Secondborn has arrived and we know he has special needs, the importance of signing is back in the limelight, thanks to doctors, therapists, friends, and strangers at the grocery store. Yes, I’m going to sign. Whether he will or not remains to be seen.  On my ‘mommy fail’ days, the weight of the signing struggle piles onto the rift-filled foundation of my confidence.

Confession 3: I often think boy behavior and dog behavior are the same. Yesterday I took a quick break to sweep the floor. Good moms don’t allow their sons to live in squalor. As I finished sweeping, I realized Firstborn had located and reached the open Cheerios box and created a minefield. Halfway through sweeping I decided to take a picture. Rather than wake the baby, I waited to vacuum. Naturally, Firstborn went back to eat the Cheerios. I let him.

babydog

Confession 4: I sometimes want to smack well-meaning older ladies. I also blink repeatedly, wishing I could just “blink and miss it” when my kids are being heathen babies. A woman saw my two sons (under age two) and asked when I would try for a girl. She is the 1,000 person to ask. It began the very minute (literally) after I knew Secondborn was male. I told her to ask me once I could sleep through the night and that the next person who asked would be told to drop dead. I know they mean well and are talking to their younger selves, but in the middle of young motherhood it feels like a clean and fed reporter just dropped into the warzone and asked for an interview. If you’re going to tell me my hands are full, pick up the dropped sippy cup and get the door you dear, sweet lady. I am sure you are a lovely person who bakes a mean pie for the homeless but right now I want to knock out your teeth.

OldLadyShocked

Confession 5: I get really jealous and insecure about potty training. Worse, this week both the boys audibly pooped at the same time immediately after diaper changes. I threw up my hands and yelled, “Everybody STOP POOPING!”  There have been moments in the past 3 years of pregnancy and mothering when I have been thankful I’ve made it to the potty in time. When I see children younger than my son, who turns 2 next month, in Facebook pictures sitting on the potty chair reading “War and Peace- a picture book”, I have to remind myself that it is okay and normal to still be wiping his rear. On overload one day, I told a woman who was giving advice that she was welcome to come to my house and help me potty train my son because at this rate he would be in diapers in college. I was half serious. I kinda still am.

Confession 6: My kid flings food and toys like a monkey flings poo. I’ve smacked hands. I’ve been stern. I’ve taken him out of his chair and spanked him immediately. When both kids are eating but one has to be held to do so, my prevention skills are diminished. I know he is old enough to stop. I have moved his chair. I’ve changed his food. I’ve made dinner-time-discipline a nightly occurrence, but my walls still look like a Jackson Pollock painting on most nights. The hardened spaghetti noodles in my blinds attest to the fact that I MUST be doing it wrong. As for toys- everything is a projectile in this house. Vigilance is a way of life.

Confession 7: I want to live out, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join em!” and throw a hissy fit in the store when I don’t get my way. Furthermore, I sometimes feel that if I would get tasered for such behavior in public, my child should too.  I often feel that my child’s behavior is a reflection of my parenting, not his age. The constant barrage of “this is what I did” or “my kids didn’t/ did”… doesn’t help. It makes me never want to post a humorous moment of struggle on Facebook again. When I feel my performance is measured by the results I see, it gets the best of me. It’s hard to remember that the seeds I sow may look unproductive now, but will raise a bumper crop in a few years. I can’t do it all. I can’t do what I want to when I want to. It makes me want to cry and hit people. Sadly, I can’t put myself in time out without the house being destroyed.

Confession 8: I think there are VERY good reasons why “Honor they father and mother” is right next to “Thou shall not murder.” This doesn’t need explanation. Thus saith the Lord should do it.

Confession 9: I sometimes get frustrated at what God gave me. I usually rejoice over the amazing qualities of my kids and the blessings they are, but fighting the will of 2 children doing the opposite of what I want crushes me. There are days I just want to shed the “Special Needs Mom” label and sob for the struggles that my son has that aren’t his fault. I want to scream at the kind person who reminds me my sons are blessings and that God is using me as I raise my stubborn firstborn. I feel guilty when I want to hide in a closet from the children the doctors thought I had a 30% chance of having. I fear that one day my children will get rich writing a book about all the ways I screwed them up. I sometimes believe the ridiculous comments that my strong-willed firstborn will be a troublemaker and needs to be straightened out before he ends up on the news. I sometimes don’t want to repent after picturing myself punching out the people who discourage me or use ‘the r word’.  I have to remind myself constantly that following God is not easy and that he is perfect even when I am not.

Confession 10: I have NO prayer of being a perfect mom. Sadly, neither do you. I have no clue how to accept it. If Mary, the mother of Christ couldn’t be a perfect mother, there is no hope for the rest of us. The Bible says she had other children that weren’t infallible, but for a while her only child was PERFECT. Sinless. Yet she still messed up. A trip to Jerusalem resulted in a three day long Amber alert for Jesus.  (See the blog Mary Moms for a brief reminder of all Mary went through raising Jesus!)

momjudgment

So forgive me, Mommas, for I have judged. I’ve judged you out of frustration and insecurity, but I’ve judged myself MUCH more harshly. You’re not alone, struggling moms. You can be honest. It might make you feel better. On the other hand, it may allow CPS to come get my kids based on blog evidence. Either way, cut yourself some slack. There is no such thing as a perfect mom.

Please, rather than look on with a sympathetic smile or a cliche non-helpful comment, tell a fellow mom that she is doing a great job. She needs to hear it.

The Home Alone Curse and Calling on Christ

“I just wanted you to know the curse continues. My husband hasn’t even left our airspace and the AC unit died.”- A few phone call from a few days ago

What curse, you ask? The Home Alone Curse. The curse that emergencies always seem to happen when there isn’t anyone- particularly husbands- around to help. Simply asking what trials have occurred in a husband’s absence can keep women chatting for hours. I’ve learned never to use this question as an ice-breaker at military functions. While the men go through who works where and when they last deployed, the women’s conversations sound like:  “One kid had the flu, I had to drive myself to the hospital in early labor and I got a flat on the way.” “The washing machine exploded and flooded the house. I had to unpack a box to find something to bail water with.” “We arrived back from Panama but our goods took another 12 weeks to arrive. I slept on an air mattress for the last trimester.” “We have a membership discount at the ER.” My own personal conversation starter is, “The very first night after my husband left for training at Fort Benning, the apartment building burned to the ground.”

From fires to labor, these “I wish you were here” moments create additional frustrations. It’s an interesting phenomenon; when I was single I was certainly frustrated by having to handle crisis moments alone, but now that I have a Godly husband to do things with it seems harder when he is absent. No matter how legitimate the reason, the feeling that someone should be there to help and isn’t makes things seem a bit worse.

This feeling of helplessness and wondering when God will show up is nothing unusual- in fact, throughout the Bible we see God-believing, faith filled people wonder where God is or why he doesn’t act! It is easy to see the greater plan being worked in their lives, but in the here and now it is easy to feel alone in times of trouble. I often find comfort in the verses about God being an ever-present help in times of trouble to comfort, protect, and provide but I can’t help but notice there are dozens of “How long, oh Lord?”s and moments where God seems silent when his people need help. Waiting until all hope is lost to swoop in and save the day is great for comic books and movies, but sometimes this damsel in distress could do without the dramatic pause. Sadly, this is often right where God wants me to make it clear that HE is the one who is capable of saving the day. I may know that in my head and heart, but when the adrenaline is pumping because my son is bleeding, glass is shattering, water is leaking, and the baby has pooped out 5 outfits on a 24 hour trip, I could use some tangible help.

So what to do during the crisis? Well, crying out to God is a great first step no matter what the situation. (However, I am guilty of wishing a legion of angels could swoop down and help me out and feeling annoyed when the disaster continues.) In the Army world, that is when we call for earthy back-up. After surgery I have been physically buddy-carried down a flight of stairs and driven to another home to recover. I’ve watched children for others and they have watched mine. We make meals. We visit hospitals.We HELP each other.

battle buddy

That is precisely what the Body of Christ is supposed to do for one another. We are supposed to be the one who swoops in to save the day, carrying each others’ burdens and learning plumbing 101 on the job.

emergency help

Yesterday I said to a friend, “People without trials don’t have good stories. I want to be the best story-teller at the nursing home.” Think about it—what were the biggest struggles you have faced? I’m willing to bet they are the very situations that shaped you. This has been a very challenging season for me, but I can already see growth and tremendous change that is occurring from it.

Here’s the interesting thing though: It doesn’t always feel like God is there. Yep, I went there. Sometimes my very present help it time of fear seems thousands of miles away and I am tempted to think I am all alone. I have to constantly remind myself that God works all things together for my good and that God intends for goodness and mercy to follow me. When things are out of control, I have to remember God is in control—even when it doesn’t feel like he is.

When budgets have to readjust because paychecks are smaller due to the Sequester, God is in control. When Mary and Martha grieved over their brother, the source of protection and income, God had a plan.When young soldiers die and leave their young wives as widows, God is still good.When babies have disabilities and the doctors suggest abortion, God has a perfect plan.

When the dinner topic is, “Honey, I may be deploying in a few days and not a few months”, God’s timing is perfect.When the dinner topic is, “Honey, God said we’re moving but I don’t know where we are going yet.” God will take care of you. (Is that Old Testament or current day military life?)

God doesn’t have emergencies. God has opportunities to show what he can do. Still, I struggle to remember that. I have to repeat these truths to myself constantly so my circumstances don’t overpower my certainty.

Honestly, when emergencies happen and my husband is gone, it is usually for a reason that I support. He was overseas serving his country lighting struck the house and shorted out all the electronics. He was laid over in an airport when I was in labor. He was in training during car wrecks and when appliances broke down. He was where he was supposed to be, but I still wished he could be there with me. It often feels that way with Christ. He is in Heaven, preparing a place for us. He is waiting for the day he will rescue His followers; He is preparing for battle and praying for us until then. Jesus is right where he should be, but I still long for His return.

Then again, despite our frequent separations, my husband has been here during many clutch moments and saved the day. He is my hero. Even when I can’t feel or see him, I can cling to his words and know what he would want me to do. I am encouraged by memories and hopes for the future. I am honored that he has entrusted so much to my care. It is the same way with Christ.

I am so guilty of thinking God isn’t ‘paying attention’ to my needs and feeling frustrated when his aid doesn’t come in the form or time I desire. I get burdened with sorrow and frustration when life is painful. As I felt burdened this morning, I looked over at Firstborn struggling to reach a sippy cup that had dropped behind furniture. He reached from every angle, climbed on top of the table, and tried everything he could think of while I watched and encouraged him to try again. Finally he came to me, took me by the hand, and led me to his problem. As I reached the cup and showed him how to retrieve the cup, I realized that sometimes God does the same thing. He gives me space to face my problems so that I can learn how to handle things that he gives me and to come to him when I can’t handle things alone. He gives me trials to grow. He gives me struggles to help me be disciplined and faithful. He provides for me- often in the form of amazing friends two are ready in case of emergency.

emergency helpers

You don’t have to handle things alone. We CAN’T! Be someone’s hero today. Be Christ’s hands, feet, elbow, or person running in with a much-needed tire iron or plunger. Help really can be ever-present. Remember that God is there, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Dial 9-1-1 in case of emergency, but don’t forget to go to the throne before you go to the phone.

The REST of Faith

Do you have a motivational poster or inspiring saying posted somewhere around you? I was never the one to have a ‘Hang in there’ kitty poster, but I remember distinctly the poster in front of my desk in Geometry: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(I enthusiastically struggled for a B. I enthusiastically looked forward to returning to finding x and the height of the parabola with Mrs. Bixler, an outstanding math teacher!

When I prepared to welcome Secondborn, I knew I would need encouragement. The 3 am feedings wear you out, especially when the other one starts his day at 5:30 when Dad gets up. Over the diaper changing station I wrote on a notecard Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

A few weeks ago I stared up at those words as I groggily snapped little buttons and heard Firstborn’s good-morning ruckus. Exhaustion ached through all of my body after nursing the entire house back to health for a week. It was then I realized something was glaringly missing from that verse. As an English teacher, I taught students to look at writing and ask the 5 W’s. This verse did not say WHEN. When will Christ give me rest? Immediately? When I die? When the kids are grown? With a sigh I prayed, readjusted my armor of God and headed down the stairs to face the day.

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The problem is that juggling life- which to me looks like military life and raising two boys and learning the ropes of all Trisomy 21 entails- is exhausting. I can start off enthusiastically ‘standing on the promises’ but by the missed nap-time I am ‘leaning on the everlasting arms’ and by 9:00 pm I am all about crowning Him with many crowns and hitting the deck face-down with the angels (Crown Him With Many Crowns). *These are hymn jokes. Inside I am the 80 year old church lady with pink hair.

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Well, today I received an answer. I had my butt kicked by a 75 year old woman, and I have it on good authority I am NOT the only one. Kay Arthur guided me to Hebrews to take a detailed look at the concept of “God’s rest”. The problem was my definition. I thought of rest, even resting in God, as clinging to the comfort of God so that I could persevere…maybe even being encouraged enough to feel strengthened until I could collapse into bed. I was wrong. Today I had a divine look into the “rest of faith”.

Rest isn’t a feeling or a state- it is a place that can be entered. Angry with the Israelites’ disobedience in the desert, God said ‘They shall not enter my rest.” To them, the rest was an everlasting possession of the promised land but that kind of rest is more than a trip to the middle east can provide.  It is still a place we can come to- a place faith brings us. The Israelites didn’t believe what God said. They didn’t have faith or apply it to their lives, so they literally spent their remaining years lost. We have that same risk and opportunity, according to Hebrews 4:2-3. “For indeed, we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that REST, just as he said.”

Rest is uniting the Word with faith and living in it at that very moment. The Word of God must be united with faith! To know God’s Word is one thing, but to live by it, apply it, trust it, act on it, cling to it, that is another thing altogether.- Kay Arthur

This week I became overwhelmed with the combination of appointments, runny noses, demands for movies when our screen time quota had maxed out, and laundry beeping out, “I’m done! Fold me!” I was kicking myself for not doing the therapy exercises with Secondborn in the morning, feeling the weight of being primarily responsible for putting him on the right track in his early years.As I crushed up a pill for Secondborn and watched sandwich crusts fall off a highchair tray I literally said, “I can’t do this.”

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As if someone were standing next to me, I heard the Spirit say, “Nope! You sure can’t! That’s what God wants you to admit.” So often I am guilty of trying to do it all and THEN letting God pick up the slack. I want to do things through His power and let him take control, but I am often at a loss on HOW to do that when so many things are my job. How do I have responsibility for these things but no control?

By believing. Lately I have been clinging to the story in Mark 9 of the father who had a  troubled grown child. The father desperately comes to Jesus after a life of doing his best for his seriously disabled son. Jesus asks the father if he believes Jesus can heal his son. His cry was, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” I used to find this odd, but I now understand and cling to this. I can believe and yet still struggle to live in the faith.  I believe God is fully capable of leading us, sustaining us, providing for us, and teaching us. His grace is sufficient. Now I need the Spirit to fill me so that HE can do it, not so I can do it. It’s hard to understand and even harder to live out. I’m still learning daily. The weakest faith in Jesus is still stronger than the strongest faith in yourself. (Pastor Tyler Davis)

I’ve realized that this week my mom-meter hasn’t been flying from “I am Supermom!” to “WORST mom EVER!” over a forgotten sippy cup or losing my patience with my child who refuses to speak. Those feelings were based on performance—and I am a type A firstborn through and through. Accepting that GOD gets all the glory and that I am only succeeding by his grace is important.

In Numbers, twelve spies looked out and saw unbeatable odds. The land they wanted to conquer was filled with ‘giants’ and heavily fortified. They knew God said they would be able to handle it with his help, but when they returned to camp and briefed Moses in front of the people everything went awry.  (HUGE military mistake…brief privately first so leadership isn’t undermined! Little tidbit!) 10 of the spies were ready to sound retreat, but two young whippersnappers named Joshua and Caleb rolled up their sleeves and said, “We can take ‘em!” (Actually, they said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” Numbers 13:30) Humbling words when I feel outnumbered by two children under the age of two.

Life has challenges. Life is HARD. It requires faith for every moment and situation. When we lack faith and don’t live as though we believe God can and God will, we disobey. We throw “God didn’t do what I want or understand” hissy fits to rival my toddler’s. We try to do it all by ourselves. We try to do things FOR God instead of letting God do them through us. No wonder asking for rest doesn’t work. We have it all wrong!

The people of faith didn’t just receive rest. They didn’t simply take a “Holy nap”, though that sounds appealing. They “entered into rest.” That implies action and movement. They were on the move and yet still receiving rest.  Today my circumstances remain challenging, but I refuse to be a kitten clinging to a tree branch. I want to climb down and conquer the things that seem impossible. Nothing is impossible with God. My children, especially my Secondborn, show me that daily. We are more than conquerors, my friends. May you believe and find rest.  Oh, and hangeth thou in there, Baby.

LIFE

Flowers and Fertilizer

At 6:30 I woke up to scrying. It is a shrill scream that ends in a crying choke- the typical choice for children who have woken up (usually on the wrong side of the crib). It is now 7:50. The past hour doesn’t need explaining in detail, in case you read this over a cup of coffee or a quick lunch. I don’t want to ruin it for you.  Let’s just say I’ve accomplished a lot in this past hour. I’ve changed sheets, diapers, and clothing. I’ve fed both boys, put a load of laundry in the washer, been led by the hand to the movie drawer and handed a VeggieTales video, and put a few dishes into the newly working dishwasher. (How many men does it take to rinse out a dirty dish and put it into the dishwasher? No wife has a clue- we’ve never seen it done until the dishes are overflowing the sink.) I literally ran back and forth between children, trying to care for the most pressing need. Before long they matched the pitch of their cries. Brothers…sheesh.

As I slam dunked some trash into the can, I looked at the mail on the counter. I thought to myself, “Whew. I can’t take care of both kids’ needs at the same time! What do I do?!” That’s when I spotted a bright yellow envelope with familiar handwriting. It was a note of encouragement from a treasured friend, Jennifer. In college I had given her the nickname “Sunshine” because of her ability to encourage and uplift. She could always brighten my day.  With a sigh of relief, I opened the card. Just then a tiny hand pulled on my pants and pulled me by the hand to the next room. I call these little interruptions “suspense builders”. When I was able to safely return to the card I saw a bright card covered in flowers. At the bottom of the card in her comforting, neat penmanship read 2 Chronicles 20:12b- “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” This verse was from Jehoshaphat as he faced potential doom and VERY challenging circumstances. I think he would have gladly handled caring for two leaking, exploding children instead.

Here was the exact answer to my earlier question.  I am a mom who is learning on the job. I have the skills required for the day. I can change diapers, pour Cheerios, make sandwiches, strip and remake beds, give baths, nurse, read books, transform into a tickle monster, and act as a human jungle gym. Beyond that, I must learn how to care for all the needs simultaneously, teaching patience but letting my little people know that I see them, hear them, and love them. I must do it all without losing my mind as well, and somehow mix in the daily chores and all the ‘little emergencies’. So how do I do it while keeping calm and sane? How do I show my children how to do the little things to God’s glory?

I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon You.

Literally, this has been a pretty crappy morning. Then out of a bright card came encouragement and a little packet of flower seeds. How very fitting.

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Fertilizer causes things to grow faster, healthier, and to be more robust. Beautiful flowers burst forth from a bed of dirt and other yuck that can often be found in my washer or on my kitchen floor 2 minutes after I mop.

On every flower a little rain must fall…and a whole lot of fertilizer. Many of my loved ones are facing hard times. There are rocks, thorns, and nutrient-lacking soil in their gardens. It’s not easy. Everyone will say that motherhood is hard and that we all face the same things. After a few moments of sympathetic pity, we have to pull it together because someone is bleeding or glass is breaking. Rain is a part of it. Still, if anything grows there has to be sun.

A dear friend’s husband was killed in a horrible car accident this weekend. With no warning, she became a widow before 30. Other storm clouds were already billowing, but now she is in a gale that could take her to Oz.

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Thankfully, she is surrounded by family and friends- those who are bearing the burden and acting as rays of sunshine. Clouds may come between us and the sun, but it is still there and shining. Our circumstances just change what we can see. In those times, we must cling to what we know. We DON’T have to see it to believe it.

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Without sun, nothing will grow. Flowers with potential for beauty will wither, die, or simply stay buried. We have a choice. I think flowers have the right idea; they have a hard shell at first and burst through the ground. As they gather strength, they head up and out. As they bloom, they turn to the sun so the light will shine on their faces.

Flowers are a beautiful, sweet smelling and encouraging reminder of how we are called to be to others. Today as I washed my hands of some ‘fertilizer’ that is very common in my life at this point, I was given sunshine and flowers from a friend who reminded me to keep my face pointed toward the Son.

Are you in a storm? Remember that the sun is still there.Will you be a ray of sunshine to someone today?

You don’t need to know exactly what to do. Just keep your eyes focused on the one who does.

Thanks, friends. You are my sunshine. There goes the crying. Jehoshaphat!