A Familiar Mile-Marker

Her heart cry poured out to me on the screen: I need prayers for clarity. I have no idea what we are supposed to do.

One of the greatest joys in my life is the relationships I have with women a few life stages before me and behind me. Their wisdom and joy is a blessing; it also helps me see the markers I have left alongside the roads I am walking.
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This week has been full of uncertainty. Several women are asking about the best schools and homes in places they will soon be moving to, courtesy of the military. A few wonder where the money will come from to pay for the medical bills or school next year. Others wonder how to adjust to multiple children in the home or how to cope with medical needs of a child made ‘extra special’. We women like to tell our stories and hear others’ stories while ours are being written. One such dear girl wrote to me today.

This young wife is expecting her first baby and all the unexpected that comes with it. She hadn’t expected that she and her husband would be working 3-5 jobs between them, that the cost of living would triple in their town in two years, or that a baby would be coming just as they downsized to save money. She hadn’t expected ANY of it, from the indigestion to the desperate need to know where the next nest would be. If God would just make his will known, they would follow it!

At first all manner of advice and lists flooded my mind. The thundering of ‘have you tried’ and ‘have you considered’ and ‘what has prayer yielded’ rolled into my mind filling a clear sky.

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As it did, the clouds bumped up against the ones that were already in my head—those ones that I hear incessantly from people all around me. The people I treasure are the ones who listen to my heart-cries and promise to walk with me for a while rather than just light the path or tell me how to walk. It sounds wise, responsible, and helpful to advise another. Isn’t it our job to sharpen iron and spur one another on?

What wisdom could I provide from experience? When I was expecting Firstborn the decision not to work the two jobs I had held was made for me by the United States Army. 5 weeks after his birth we would drive from the east coast to west coast to live for 9 months. I was injured and learning a new way of life. I was headed to a literal and figurative desert.
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I too had no friends, no family other than a working husband, and no church where we were headed. We arrived to find the land on fire and the air thick with smoke and unrealized expectation. I wrestled with postpartum depression as I waited for God to show himself. God showed himself PROFOUNDLY in the desert. He does his best work there, you know. I didn’t realize the lessons until much later. Friendships and understanding gained in that desert make me long to visit. Surely I could provide the answers in a well-crafted anecdote or flannel graph.

Then something happened. I realized her need. It was peaceful silence.

We do well when we simply LISTEN and are present. The whispers from God are often more beautiful than when he needs to shout to capture our attention.

When we are quick to give an answer, to tell our own story or to advise without showing true compassion, we show ourselves to be arrogant, ignorant, and unhelpful. It has taken me longer to learn this lesson than I care to admit. When we come to the Lord he already knows how we feel, what we need, and the solution. He wants to show us himself more than the journey ahead.
It was essential to the well-being of my soul that I reflect on her journey today. It made me turn back to see my own road littered with markers of where God showed up to make a way and where Jesus Christ showed himself as the Living God who Saves.

I will answer her with the skywriting the internet provides in the hopes of showing my road markers to some who might benefit from the reflection.
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I wrote this to her, to myself of 2010 and also to you, fellow sojourners.

Precious One,
Let’s start with some chocolate, shall we? If I were present I would bring food and we would just sit. We’re southern. It’s what southern women do.
What you are going through is hard. Millions of women have done it and it was hard for them too, no matter what they say or have conveniently forgotten. Sarah of the Bible didn’t know where she was moving to or when she would finally become pregnant with a promised child. Stress? Why yes, in droves. Then she was chastised for laughing at God. Sometimes you just can’t win. One thing I can tell you is that trying to make the plan for God to work with is not a good idea. It is smart to look around for solutions and opportunities; there are many opportunities to find a Hagar and try to force things. The ugly truth is that in real life “I’m a Hagar!” signs aren’t on new jobs, new homes, or even well-intentioned plans.
Things are beyond your control right now. You are in the dark, reaching.
The exciting thing is that inside your very body you hold a precious little life that is growing, developing, changing, specially made in God’s image. Your child is also in the dark. The natural progression of life is scary and dangerous; many things don’t go according to plan. Your child cannot see anything but darkness but as the baby grows it will stretch. It will feel as it reaches out that it is tightly held and carried by a protector who loves it, cares for it, and occasionally just really needs it to be STILL because elbows hurt at 2:00am.
God is holding you in the same way. He may ask you to go somewhere new. He may ask you to be stil and attend to new tasks while your wonderful husband is stretched into a new role of Godly provision and manhood. He is accountable for much and has shown himself to work diligently and to listen for God’s voice.
If God brings him a new job and asks you to move within the town, God will provide a way for the money to come or for you to have what you need. If God asks you to move to a new town, he will provide all you need. He has done it for me, even when it kept me crying out daily. I suspect that is what he wanted.
You are courageous, strong and brave. When I moved with a baby in tow, you were there. You encouraged, you rocked the baby, and you spoke to my child even before he was born. God is waiting to bring a new stage of life to you. Contractions REALLY hurt, as you will discover. In fact, you are discovering it now. Tightening up circumstances so that you are forced into a new place and new dependence is frightening. Christ will carry you. He will sustain you. He will be there to catch you. He will cleanse you, change you, cover you, and clothe you in righteousness day by day.
I promise to be here too. I’m the one up ahead on the path with one child screaming and another putting toy airplanes on the road markers. If you follow the trail of puzzle pieces and blocks you will find me, looking back at you beaming with joy at how you are walking and waddling a bit under the weight of what God has given you. Your weakness simply shows strength training. I am here and I love you. We will walk through this together, even if I have to bring the kids and help you move.
I love you more than Bluebell ice cream.
Kait

Journey on. The mile markers are waiting and the darkness does not mean the end.

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Living On The Edge

As Firstborn finished his snack yesterday I looked at what remained; a milk glass teetering on the edge of the table.
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I couldn’t help but think that this symbolized life in this house for the past week.
This week had an unusual schedule that kept us barely hanging on to sanity, cleanliness, etc.

Someone accused me of having it together this week. Ppfffht.

Someone also asked why I haven’t blogged in a while. Well, I thought I’d show everyone what ‘having it all together’ looks like during VBS week when there are 4 other appointments for speech and physical therapy on the plate, followed by a family event.

It looks like frozen dinners, leftover hot dogs, and a kitchen that looks like a bomb went off in it.
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Note the baby spoons on the floor ALL needing to be washed.

It looks like a total failure of housekeeping:
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It looks like 7 loads of laundry, broken dryers and life hacks:
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It looks like toy-hiding ability is improving:
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It looks like NOT cleaning up so that the most important things still happen:
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We all have times of barely hanging on. Things are precarious and sometimes the spilled milk is worth crying over. Case in point: Sunday night popcorn was spilled and then peed on.

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Lest I EVER be accused of having it all together, here is the proof. The fact is, the edge is either where we plummet or we fly. It's not always a bad place to be. The edge is messy, but not a bad place to be.

Getting Our Dukes Up

Today was an appointment day. Not just an ordinary appointment day like we have 2-3 times a week, nay! I special appointment! A DUKE appointment! After scheduling 4 months in advance, today was our trip to Raleigh to visit the Duke genetics clinic.

First, my awesome man took a day of leave and went to the museum with Son One. There are amazing dads out there, People. As I was gathering our belongings to start driving thirty minutes early, there was a knock at the door. An unexpected visit from his wonderful speech therapist! She had called and received a busy signal multiple times but wanted to slide the appointment time. We could make it and she is wonderful. She could also wear him out so he could nap in the car. A surprise was handled with grace and the new plan was ideal.

Except the part where we ran out the door and I forgot a few things. What did I forget? Well, lunch and something to suffice as dinner. A granola bar would have to do. I also forgot more than two extra diapers. Most importantly, I forgot THE BINDER. Yes, the binder.

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Military family members and parents of kids who require lots of health care often carry variations of binders that hold enough paper to make a Fern Gully fairy seek justice.
I am one of the proud women who fits in both of those categories. The binder contains all the referrals, lab work, blood levels, etc. from the past two years. It is the first step to survival for the time when robots come to take over. The binder is the Fail Safe.

We dashed out the door and I went through two construction zones and a fair amount of traffic to get to reach the clinic. Early! WOOHOO! Unfortunately, the napping plan didn’t get passed along to the baby. This was going to get ugly in a few hours.

We made a bathroom pit-stop to change an entire outfit because if a child is in a car seat for more than 15 minutes it will be soaked through no matter what precautions are taken. Refreshed and relieved, we headed to the correct floor and walked up to check in
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I smiled. She smiled. I gave her my card. She read the name and typed. “Oh, you. Yes, he said we didn’t have a referral for you when we checked last week.” I inhaled deeply. I assured her I have proof. “Do you have the physical referral?” she asked. No, it’s in my other pants. It’s in the BINDER at HOME.

4 months of notice, planning to bring it and a case manager assuring me everything was settled wasn’t enough. I should have looked up the clinic phone number and called to confirm it because they were going to let me swing. I filled out the waiver and called Tricare. I had exactly 10 minutes to get the copy of the authorization faxed. The case manager’s answering machine informed me she has administrative meetings only on Wednesdays during the exact hours of my appointment. Awesome.

The RN was fantastic. While she weighed and measured I had a lovely chat with a grandmother who now works for HealthNet’s phone lines. I’m not sure when the switch was made but the phone staffers are new. They are mostly wives of retired military members who are professional and understand the plight. The service was AMAZINGLY good. Before my kid was weighed and measured the referral was being faxed. WIN!

Then on to the room. More lovely, courteous people! Excellent. Then I was told that despite all the efforts to send records MONTHS ago, even ones I personally retrieved from the hospital and sent, did not reach the file. I would have to help fill in all the information. There wasn’t much they could accomplish today. We made the “Are you KIDDING ME?” face.

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For the next hour I recalled every test, diagnosis, count level, etc. from the past 18 months. After giving a full family medical history I answered everything from “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” to “Is there any chance you and your husband are related?” No, seriously. It was a fun time for everyone despite the situation.
The great news though, is that my kid looks very healthy and has finally reached his original fighting weight. My kid actually has CHUB. I am thrilled. We finally made it.
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Everyone was professional and courteous but the child was wearing down.
The referral also didn’t expressly allow for blood draws and lab work. I couldn’t make it to the lab by 5:00 anyway. By now two hours had passed. The kid was inconsolable despite food, toys and ladies to hold him. His eyes drooped and he fell into that 5th circle of Dante’s Inferno where they NEED to sleep but just keep screaming to lull themselves toward the next circle.
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As every order and prescription was recorded on a physical piece of paper for me to pass on I realized there was no possible way I could get back home and to the church on time. There was a VBS meeting and I was in charge. As all the paperwork was handed to me I opened the door and saw through the hallway windows. The sky was black and rain was coming down at a 45 degree angle. The thunder rolled.

I turned to the nurse and asked where the nearest drive-through was located. It was now 6:05 pm.
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We drove through the storm and drove a few minutes ahead of it all the way back home. By the time we carried everything into the house it was 7:10 pm and time for second dinner. When my other two men returned from church I saw that Firstborn had acquired a shiner under his right eye in the last 12 hours. Se la vie.

Thus, today I have spent 5 hours on the phone and in e-mail correspondence with case managers, health care professionals and a quick SOS call from a friend. Both of us had unhappy kids in the background, so there was some solidarity.

Parenting is a fight. Tomorrow we have blood labs to do and more calls to make. Today I’ve spent 5 hours doing follow up calls to medical care and therapy folks while trying to do All The THINGS that a mom must do daily. I may have also found a chocolate bar and eaten 75% of it while on hold. Send reinforcements; I’m not sure how long I can keep my dukes up.

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Let’s Get Physical…and Spiritual: A lesson from PT

Over the decades many trendy work out plans have graced us with their presence. I myself have fallen prey to Buns of Steel, my mom’s old Jane Fonda tapes, Tae-Bo and even Zumba.

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Now physical fitness is more along the lines of physical therapy. The Conqueror’s low muscle tone makes basic movements hard to master. Imagine going through life with 30 extra pounds on your limbs while learning to crawl, walk, clap, etc. (Parents, it’s a lot like walking with kids on your legs.)

The past two months have shown more dramatic results than The Biggest Loser. The Conqueror has gone from not being able to sit without support to total independent sitting, reaching, spinning on his booty, rolling a ball to play catch and oh, so much kissing. I’ll thank you church ladies for that. It has been TOUGH. It’s a fight. It’s a real work out and test of strength to all limits.

This week we continue to work on hip support and crawling skills. I thought I’d share our important life lessons with you.

Step 1: Try to escape the upcoming stretching and strength building in any way possible. Beg, plead and try to distract yourself, all the while knowing what is coming must be faced.
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Step 2: Prepare for the work-out. Stare down what’s coming. Go for intimidation. Diaper-filling is also an option.
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Step 3: Be forced into the correct pose with good form. In this case, it is the crawl position. Make sure escape is difficult because you will want to escape very, very soon.
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Step 4: Press on. Go through it. Work it. Feel the burn. Strengthen. Hate every second but be glad you are doing it simply for the end result.
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Step 5: Look around for help. Wonder why you got into this position in the first place. Look for an escape or solutions to end the pain. Look to the one who put you here and pitch a fit.
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Step 6: Scream and full on lose it. Then keep at it because, in the words from “Officer and a Gentleman”, “I’ve got nowhere else to go!”
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(I believe Peter once said something similar to Jesus. “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”)
Step 7: Repeat the exercise until one day you realize you are done with the exercise. Your muscles are strengthened and the once impossible move is now not only possible but part of the daily routine.

Step 8: Recovery. Remember and treasure the painful process. Actually thank the coach who made you do something you didn’t want to do. Then realize that it was worth it. After all, it isn’t much fun to force your kids into a painful position for their own good either.
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That’s how it is when we follow Christ. It is hard. It’s a work out. It stretches, pulls and strengthens us. Press on toward the goal. Run the race to win. Remember the goal. Right now God is using my sons and their challenges to strengthen and refine me. Little by little the flab of sin, selfishness and impatience is being chipped away. SLOWLY. PAINFULLY. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem worth it. As I watch my sons do things he couldn’t do last week I try to remember that I am growing in the same way, even when I can’t see it tangibly.

Get the sweatbands out. It’s going to be a rough one but oh, so worth it.