Mom-Fails and Alamos

This is the story of a Mom-fail.

Every mother I know struggles with feelings of failure, inadequacy, and mild insanity from no longer being able to complete a task.  I struggle, just like everyone else I know. There are the house struggles that are never done.There are the books that weren’t read, the words that were too harsh, and big boy undees that didn’t stay dry. There is the Bible that didn’t get poured through, the friend that wasn’t called and the workouts that weren’t done.

Those aren’t the mom fails I mean.

Thursday I sat in a few waiting rooms in one of the best hospitals in the nation, hoping for a plan that would help my son. For months I have watched him physically struggle and waste away. Last month I could count every rib and vertebrae. It scared me. I changed his feeding processes, his diet, and tried every possible congestion remedy out there with minimal success. Despite the 1,000 daily calories, hours spent forcing food into him, etc. and both of us forcing smiles through the screams, he didn’t gain weight. Something inside his little body is preventing growth.

The doctors were excellent but baffled. It didn’t make sense. Hand after hand touched my shoulder with assurances that I was, indeed, doing a good job. “He is only as well as he is because of your efforts”, they promised.

All the assurances in the world can’t drown that out. In every triumph, joy and celebration there is a grain of pain.

On Thursday I handed my precious boy over to a stranger with the credentials and authority to assess my son. We discussed options and I waited. It was decided that nothing is left to do but do a scope to identify any problems and to install a feeding tube directly into his stomach. Wherever the nourishment is being hindered will be bypassed; it will go directly to where it is needed. Glory, Hallelujah. I want some of that.

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There was nothing left I could do. I had done everything in my power. That is saying something, Y’all.  Instead of exhausting myself and struggling for miniscule gains, I had to admit that this is a bigger problem than I can handle.

I admit, I wondered if I was failing at Faith.

I felt totally weary and restless. Why did God feel distant? Why did the balance of my responsibility and his sovereignty feel like a see-saw? Was this a test of faith I was failing? Was I, in fact going to lose my son? “Trust and Obey” is hard in the dark. God lets us have a storm, but then swoops in and calms it, right? Except for all those times where He doesn’t..for the purpose of His Glory and bringing others to Him through the testimony of others.. The name Lazerus comes to mind.

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Even an Alamo battle, glorious as it may be, results in a loss. Sometimes I sit at this wooden kitchen table and close my eyes hoping that as I am surrounded and pressed in and feeling my fortification crumble that it will lead to a Texas-sized victory. That will only happen if I remember my Alamo. I have to fight with all I have, knowing I can’t win on my own and that it isn’t going to be pretty.

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The Mom-fail isn’t that I can’t nourish my child adequately. It isn’t in my knowledge of health care or treatments. It isn’t in my inability to be father,mother, therapist, and  doctor  to two little ones who have had a whirlwind year– challenges that are difficult for the average family to fully comprehend. If I forget this fight, this struggle, this failing, my eyes won’t be on the victory to come.

The Mom-Fail is if my children see me struggling in this battle while refusing to accept the Grace that God is offering. If they remember how I held their tiny bodies and sobbed but never saw the joy and confidence that comes from trusting the Creator I have failed in my task. If I hide how I am being totally poured out, depleted, and emptied from them so that when they face the same thing they feel isolated and alone, I have done a disservice. If I keep this journey to myself because it “isn’t funny” and “no one wants to hear griping”, I am not witnessing to the Power of  Christ within me. I must do that. I MUST.

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Anyone can see the Alamo now. It stands, rather small, in the midst of a busy city. You can have a picture taken at it, walk across the street to get Haagen-Daas ice cream and then walk along the RiverWalk. It’s a far cry from the noisy rage that it is known for, whether you view it as a loss or victory. The crumbling fortification stands as a reminder of a battle for others to see. I want to be like that.

The movie “Alamo” came out several years ago. The one scene that has stuck with me is one of Davy Crockett playing his violin. In the quiet rustle of stand-off, Santa Ana’s troops played music that ground against the fortified, for it meant the onslaught was coming. A tiny thing wore their Spirits down.  Crockett stood to his feet declaring that he just figured out what it was missing. He proceeded to play a sweet harmony that was breathtaking. The result? Men stood to their feet. The enemy didn’t fire. A Mexican soldier leaned over to another and identifies the player as “Crockett”.   When we play our part and glorify Jesus the Christ, the Enemy identifies us.

See it here. It’s worth the watch. No, I insist. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The daily grind of two little ones, the fear and frustrations of surgeries and therapies, the assessments and wavering, the strain to hear the voice of my Savior through a storm… it is a song that is hard to drown out. Yet, if I can simply play the song that God is directing it will make a precious, sweet harmony that wouldn’t have existed without the song of the Enemy.  Rather than desire these struggles vanish, I must pair them with the beauty of Jesus’ gospel. You can’t have the gospel’s full beauty without the presence of what is saves us from.

Remember your Alamo. The war is won and I will stand with the Victor. What glorious harmony that will be.

World Down Syndrome Day

I love a good celebration, so today is one of my favorite days. Today I celebrate God’s decision to give me a son with more chromosomes than other kids.

When he was little, most people couldn’t “tell” he had Trisomy 21. Soon after his beautiful blue almond eyes, back of his neck, and tiny stature made people wonder. Strangers love to ask about his age, and then seem startled that my 16 month old isn’t walking around or chattering. It finally happened… I was asked, ‘What does he have that makes him the way he is?”

I’ve been pondering that question today. What does William have?

William has Trisomy 21, more commonly called Down Syndrome. He has hypothyroidism, much like many ladies who kiss his cheeks in the nursery.  He has weaker muscle tone, a mind that needs extra time, and a few other features that the extra 21st chromosome brings.

However, William has…

A family who is CRAZY about him…which isn’t hard because we were kinda crazy anyway.

TONS of people who rock their socks for him on World Down Syndrome Day, when we “rock our socks” for Down Syndrome!

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William has changed hearts. He has taught people to LOOK for those who need an extra hand. He has helped people pledge not to say, “Retard”.

William has made it to the top 10%. 90% of babies diagnoses with Trisomy 21 in the womb are aborted.

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William has strength and resiliency to keep trying, even when it is incredibly hard.

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William has a belly button. I mean, that’s pretty cool.

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William has learned to clap and celebrate even his tiniest victories.

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William has endorsements and support of political figures, particularly Sarah Palin who is also the mother of a son with Down Syndrome. (Regardless of politics, I have UTMOST respect for what she endured during the campaign while going through the first year with a son with DS. It was the most challenging I’ve ever been through.)

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William has helped raise money for research on Alzheimer’s, congenital heart disease and other issues prevalent in the DS community with Buddy Walk.

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William has a bright future.

William has YOU and the world we make for him. Happy World Down Syndrome Day to all those who have a little something extra in their lives because Will is in it.

Driving With The Enemy

In a brief moment of grandeur today, I was able to speak to another adult in a conversation that had NOTHING to do with my children. As we chatted, the other participant was driving (with the phone safely programmed into the car speaker due to safety and all that jazz). ***Note- don’t turn up the volume or the car next to you might get an ear-full…and THAT can get interesting.

Suddenly the conversation broke into a deeply frustrated tirade that I’ll admit, had me completely silent and enthralled.

“AH! Okay, I love old people. I’m going to be one soon, but holy moley there are some dangerous drivers! The man just came to a complete stop before turning off of the street and took up half my lane to do it in! Then another young hot-shot decided he didn’t want to wait for the traffic that stopped behind the old guy, so he whipped around us, cut off 6 cars and barely- I mean by 6 inches- pulled into the space behind a car at the red light.”

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Eek. Now for the driver-interaction stage.

“He cut off 5 cars and nearly caused a wreck! I pulled up next to this guy, because I’m turning right, and tried to make eye-contact. Would he look at me? NO! He was too busy texting! When he did look up at me I was shaking my finger at him (caveat- NOT the middle one, but the “let me tell you what!” index finger point) and he ROLLED HIS EYES and then sped off with a cocky smile!”

Then it got personal.

“I am SO tired of the entitled attitudes and disrespect! It goes beyond bad driving! He’s driving around in a BMW, whipping around us who are in his way and flaunting his Arab money!”

WOAH. I NEVER expected that one to come out of her mouth.

That is when I spoke up: “What do you mean Arab money? That’s pretty extreme.”

I soon stood corrected.

“No, really. There was a bumper sticker on the back of the BMW that literally read, ‘Arab Money’. “

WOW.

“Now how am I supposed to not be impacted by THAT? “

That’s a good question.

I’ve been pondering this situation all evening and I’ve come to a major conclusion. Character and sin nature really come out in crowds of strangers.  It’s one thing to love our enemies, but quite another to love them in traffic. Smiling and giving the benefit of the doubt to the drivers with stickers that make ugly political comments, say “Rich Bitch”, “My other ride is your wife” is hard for me…especially when they say I’m not supposed to judge on first impressions.

This driver might be a lovely person who feeds the homeless and gives half of his ‘Arab money’ to charity, but what are we to think of that kind of sticker? I confess that I am struggling to feel loving and accepting of this young man who drives so inconsiderately in an expensive car and flaunts a sticker that separates himself as having “Arab Money”. It’s a loaded statement at best.

Life is a lot like driving the roads. When we are on our way to get somewhere directly and our own urgency is our priority, we can really see love come out. Are we going to let someone into our lane when they put on the blinker? What about when it might make you miss the yellow light?  Do you let people into the lane when the traffic line is frozen and work begins in 12 minutes? Do you let the little old ladies take their time or speed ahead as if to say, “Get out of my way!”

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We naturally gravitate toward people we have things in common with. When people ‘come into our lane’ in life, it can be easier to give the benefit of the doubt to someone like us or whose circumstances we understand. It’s easier to disassociate with those who are different or all for something we are firmly opposed to. Before we know it we are sharing the road not with fellow passengers, but road-hogging enemies.

Not all enemies declare themselves. Some are stealthy. Some are liars, or ‘frienemies’. Some come right out in the open.

It’s hard to pray for the enemies that truly are- by definition- my enemies. I know many generations of veterans who still struggle with prejudices against the nationalities they went to war against. We had a family member who refused to eat pasta because of what the Italians did. He was never nasty or cruel, but when someone hates and tries to hurt you, it is hard to forgive. We react when we feel justified– when someone runs us off the road, insults our children, assaults a loved one, or tries to steal, kill and destroy. Loving through that is hard to do.

I have the privilege of being a military wife. There are people who hate us and want us dead. They are actively trying to make me a widow, but I have to love them. It’s not natural. It hurts. It’s an emotional wrestling match sometimes. However, my judgements don’t matter anymore. I’ve committed to serve Jesus. When the Commander says to serve them, love them and to pray for people, that’s an order, not a suggestion. That applies on and off the battlefield…and on and off the road.

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I confess that I’m not the best at loving my enemies or my fellow drivers. Sometimes I wreck. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing. Sometimes I reach out my arm and choke someone doing the ‘second seatbelt’ thing that moms do.

So what to do? When you ding a door, own up. When you rear end someone, pay for the damage. Wave. Let people in. Take turns. Forgive one another.

Love is harder than road rage. Just like driving, we learn by doing.

Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Parenting 101: You Need A Yardstick

No one is ever fully prepared for parenting, but we try. We spend time with other parents and children, read books and articles, and throw showers in the name of preparation. No one told me I needed a yard stick.

Out of the handful of times my in-laws have visited since my boys were born, no less than 4 times my father in law has asked, “Do you have a yard stick?” No. No I did not. I offered him a ruler, which he informed me would not work. WHY?! No one told me I needed a yard stick.

My father in law has MANY yard sticks—and he uses them. He worked building prototypes and materials for Coleman and a NASA contractor, so it made sense.  He also sews blankets for babies in the pregnancy center, wins the Texas Chili Cookoff more often than not, whips up multiple flavors of home-made fudge every Christmas…and thankfully he doesn’t measure the increase my waistline after holiday visits.  My father in law is more of a Proverbs 31 woman than I am, truth be told. He’s also a rocket scientist…hence the yard stick.

“Measure twice, cut once” right? That would make sense. My left brain side LOVES the idea of precise measurement and knowing exactly where everything stands. I’m more of a measure 15 times, sneeze during the cut and then creatively fix it kind of gal.

I now know why I need a yard stick. For under-furniture-toy-retrieval, because at any given moment the underside of my couch looks like this:

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It would make sense to use the long yardstick to reach under and sweep for lost items.

Too much sense. Instead, the items I most often use are these:

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This year my left-brain is learning from my right-brain. The endless measurements and assessments involved in raising children are exhausting…especially when the measurements don’t ‘count’ or my child is on a separate chart and timeline (like everyone’s kid, by the way).

A doctor recently told me that I can’t use normal scales and charts to measure my kids; it will discourage me because they won’t measure up. Instead, I am supposed to use the adjusted chart.   I’m supposed to measure progress.

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That’s tricky. Not all progress goes in a straight trajectory.  We have a lot of set backs.  In October Secondborn was starting to sit. Now we are finally starting to sit again…in March. What a chart doesn’t show is the hours of hospital visits, painstaking feedings, tears, and therapy sessions to strengthen his muscles and soothe his tummy. Every week I make a list of things my kids did that show new skills or progress for when I get discouraged. (Sometimes I do it for myself too…like “I didn’t yell today!”)

Even progress is hard to measure in the moment. Between the “can’t” and “can” are the “working”, “becoming”, “transforming” and “striving”.

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The fact is that it’s hard to measure accurately. How we measure success, happiness, health etc. must be adjusted sometimes.

A 75 year old man I adore likes to ask me how I measure success. What does success look like to our family? He played football in high school for a Lubbock team that was ‘rebuilding’ for all four years. He quickly learned that he would be discouraged by measuring success in winning. Instead, he measured success by how well he played his position. He became one of the best defensive players in the district, even on a losing team.

Most of the women- especially moms- I know feel like they don’t measure up. Be encouraged; measurements are important, but they don’t have to be exact or standardized.Even we aren’t sure how we are measuring ourselves; how can we ever measure up?

**If you find someone in that position today, encourage that person!**

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I find that weights and measurements are almost always inaccurate. My son was weighed a few times in the same day and had a different weight on every scale. Only GOD’s measurements and weights are just. I can never measure if I am being a “good mom” accurately. Instead, I should be a GODLY mom- striving for holiness more than happiness.

Measurements are important. Standards are essential. They just need to be viewed in a bigger picture. As I was pondering the location on my yard stick today, I realized where it is. Last I saw, it was attached to a sign in the garage- the William’s Warriors from our Buddy Walk in November.  Perhaps that is one reason why I struggle with accurate measurement- it is hard to measure progress during the fight…when the yardstick is in the garage. At least I attached my mode of measurement to something worth celebrating and fighting for. I might not have the accurate measurements figured out, but at least I have a perfect Ruler.

 Today a stranger struck up a conversation with me in the grocery store. She commented that everyone in the store came over to admire my kid. “Everybody loves William! That is a wonderful thing! They change the world!”  I wish that were true and I hope he will, but I can’t measure that this side of Heaven. However, he has changed me. Every day my sons are molding me into a mom that loves more like Christ–and that is something no yard stick can measure.

Ah…Freak Out!

48 hours ago I doused my entire house with all manner of soap, vinegar and lemon until the house was in a state I can only reach when all the men are asleep or absent.

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With the weather careening from warm to freezing every few days, critters and creepy crawlies are seeking warmer climates. (Much like me.)

Now, I am a mildly muscled girl with a history of gathering courage and resolve in tough moments. My better and more manly half has this pesky habit of defending freedom and upholding the Constitution on behalf of the nation, which leaves me to be the primary exterminator and mess-cleaner of the house. However, my man has now been home for a few weeks which lulled me into a false sense of security. It seemed like the days of killing bugs, catching bats, and wiping blood had ceased for a moment.

This morning while I cuddled with my tiniest bundle of joy in an attempt to keep warm, I had no idea I was under attack. As I picked up my little one and rolled our of my bed- with FRESHLY WASHED SHEETS- I looked down and saw the first horseman of the zombie apocalypse.

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A dead COCKROACH in my bed. It was under my back…in my bed, with my baby. It touched my SKIN.

Join me in a collecting scream, freak-out dance and and desire to bathe.

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I have killed MANY roaches in my day. Many bugs, many germs. I’ve cleaned blood, mud, poo and baby gunk all this morning, but for some reason my rational mind was not prepared for this.

Now, I did not lose all decorum. I couldn’t- there was a baby involved! I whisked away the wee one and then returned for Kafka. (I call all cockroaches Kafka. Who is to say that high school literature doesn’t have an impact? Now that’s a Metamorphosis.  Every crunch feels like an A+.)

Now then, I’m a mom. I’ve never had much of a potty mouth, but I certainly can’t start cussing up a storm in front of the children. So, how to react as I stripped the bed and carried off the carcass?

I Mom-cussed. I now realized, it was in categories.

Food cuss: “Sweet honey mustard!”

Color cuss: “Mother of pearl!”

1980s cuss: “Grody to the MAX!”

State cuss: “Good night above Texas and Oh mylanta, Georgia!”

I then broke out my flashdance-worthy ‘maniac’ moves as I threw away the cockroach body and tossed the sheets into the washer.

Then I realized that dealing with these kinds of atrocities in life requires a determination of  mental attitude. Do I dwell on the disgusting implications? No. Oh, no. That means that they win.
Time to find the good.

1. It was DEAD. One less cockroach in the world.
They might outlast us, but not this one.

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2. I am so good at killing bugs that I can do it in my sleep.

3. It was on me, not my baby.

4. I repeat, it was DEAD.

5. At the end of the day I will have freshly washed sheets again.

6. Despite the glory of having a grown man around (not just his mini-clone army), I am once again on guard.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time to scrub the whole house again and bleach my bed. I mean, really. Furthermore, there might be a few voicemails of my not-so-brave responses in existence…maybe.

We all have cockroaches in our lives. Sometimes I hit them with hairspray. Sometimes I kill them with high heels. Sometimes I crush them athletically with my sneakers. Other times, I kill them in my sleep. It show you kill them that counts.

For those who are wondering, my gag reflex works. All phrases regarding bed bugs, snug as a bug, etc. are prohibited for a while. Ew. Ew. EW. Good luck. There are always more.

Maturity and Butt Plates

This is a cry for help. I am surrounded and my brain has finally been cracked. My thought process has been infiltrated by MALES. My children have finally succumbed to sleep/quiet time. The rainy, gloomy atmosphere coupled with me forcing them into loud, wild physical activity such as running, jumping, rolling, etc. for an hour until  that they could physically NOT GO ON. They had intentions of lasting forever, but their go on was more of a  Rose and Jack when it gets cold type of go on.

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Rather than clean up the disaster area of a house that I thoroughly cleaned yesterday, I came to my dark room to nurse a splitting headache. Then…I sneezed. I reached over to my nightstand instinctively because even after 7 years of marriage, I still have 21 years of life with my family to rely on. Growing up, we had  tissues EVERYWHERE thanks my brother’s allergies. If there was a flat surface, either tissue boxes or mail would be there.

Not so with my husband. Apparently tissues should only live on the back of toilets, a foot from rolls of tissue. This ran through my mind as my hand whiffed over where a tissue box should be. Instead of thinking, “I’ll go get a box and put it here next to a coordinated, decorated trash can that I saw on Pinterest”, my first instinct was to roll over and wipe my nose all over his freshly washed pillowcase in protest.

Where on EARTH did that thought come from? The pit of Hell, is where. It was a BOY THOUGHT. The thought that crossed my firstborn’s mind yesterday when he circled the house at full speed to avoid the tissue in my hand and doubled back to then wipe his nose on my sleeve. (The same sleeve that was 4 inches from the tissue.)

It’s getting bad, I tell you.

On Saturday my husband ran errands and found himself in a store with decorative items on clearance…aka The Gauntlet. Feeling sweet, he bought me a few things for the house, to include a ‘catch all dish’ for keys, etc. so I would know if little hands took them. He found one in the shape of a peach and proudly brought it home.

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Do you see a peach?

I’ve smiled and been the brave mom through many things. I have accepted many gifts gracefully, to include sweatshirt snot wipes. My friends, I FAILED.

I looked at it, walked toward my husband and asked, “Why did you buy me a butt plate?”

I’ve lost all decorum. I live with a 3:1 male:female ratio. All I can see is a butt. While my man smiled and admitted similarity, he protests that it is a nice, fruit dish. I should just drop it and be mature about it. I CAN’T.

“Babe, have you seen my  keys?”  “Last I saw they were in the butt.”  I giggled.

Worse, I can put that shaped plate over my booty and it works as armor. In the shower I got the brilliant idea to put the thing on my head. As my husband watched television he looked over at me stifling a snort with that thing on my head. “Are you a butt-head?”, he asked? ” It’s an A-Hat!”I said, exploding into laughter.

It’s bad, Y’all. I should be above this. I am bastion of formality, cleanliness, femininity and culture in this home. When Mom falls, the war is lost. Who will take me seriously or listen to my thoughts on spiritual matters if they know I see a rear when others see fruit? (Worst Magic Eye EVER!)

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The sad thing is, I’m not alone. A glorious mother I know (who is one of my favorite people ever) who has two daughters and a son informs me I’m not alone. I texted her the picture last night and asked her what she saw. She replied, ” A boot-ay”.

Pray for me, people. They are winning.

Meeting Samaritan Sam

I have a confession. I’m not entirely “with it” today. In fact, I thought it was Monday. It’s Friday. I plead “stay at home Mom” defense.  At some point in the day I won’t know what day it is. “ Monday, Tuesday, Thursday?” One thing is for sure; it is time to go to the mattresses.

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 Either way, this Monday/Friday morning was the day to head to the post office with two large boxes. The moment I carried the two large boxes to the car I realized it would be a struggle to carry the boxes and the baby simultaneously. At that moment I prayed, “Lord, please send someone to hold the door when I arrive at the post office.”

As I pulled up to the post office and felt the weary drizzle fall, I bundled the baby into his carseat and did a strange dance to try to get both packages securely in my arms while holding the baby safely. I finally managed, holding the smaller package steady with my chin.

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With a gentle click of a shutting van door, I began to carefully march toward the post office doors and repeat my prayer for help.

Three men walked out of the 8 glass post office doors. The first hurried to the car where his wife was waiting. I doubt he saw me. The second man was in his late 20s, not dressed for the weather and looking somewhat preoccupied. He looked me over and maintained his course, avoiding eye contact. My heart sank a little. I missed Texas—or rather, Texan men who hold the door open.

As I shifted my gaze back toward the large doors, my brown boots now touched sidewalk. Halfway there. (Oh, OH! Living on a prayer!)

That’s when I saw him. A solidly athletic looking man, crowned with white hair, was gazing at me with a furrowed brow. It is the gaze of a man who is witnessing something that in his mind is not right. I see this expression most often when people remain seated or do not remove their hats for the Star Spangled Banner.  He gently rushed over and extended his arms with a polite, “Here. Let me take those.”

Peeking over the packages I could see “Sam” stitched onto his well-made navy jacket. If only I’d had a bell.

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 I looked up into Samaritan Sam’s wise and weathered face until I found dull, blue eyes. I gave him my best smile.

I was just praying you’d be here,” I said. “Thank you so much!

He asked if I had the baby and proceeded to hold the doors and walk with me through the foyer, explaining that he had a little time to kill. From his brisk walk and purposeful walk, I am not so sure.  I was a little more surprised when he accompanied me down the long white corridors to the familiar, winding line of the post office. Miraculously, there was no one there. He gently set my packages down as I thanked him for being an answer to prayer today. Without much expression, he wished me a good day and walked off.

Samaritan Sam made my day. He was aware of his surroundings, including others with their hands full (which he didn’t say to me, God bless him.) He didn’t assess how much time it would take to walk with me or carry my heavy load for a few minutes. He probably didn’t think God sent him; by all accounts he is probably just a good old boy in that neatly parked truck.

After paying for my packages to be sent I walked out and yet another weathered veteran held the door. Two men gave me a ray of sunshine in a rainy day that feels like a Monday. Sometimes just having someone encourage us on our way is being Jesus to someone.  Samaritan Sam was startled to hear that I had prayed he would arrive. He probably just wanted to mail something before getting his coffee and going to work, but to me it was a divine appointment he showed up for and chose to keep. That’s what makes a Friday that feels like a Monday turn into a Sunday.