Flat, Screwed and Tired: How to practice gratefulness in any situation

My husband’s muscular arm reached over mine as we lay in bed, waking me to hear those three whispered words no woman wants to hear in at 4:45 am. You know the ones, Ladies.  “The kid’s awake.” (Collective groan.)

He had been up at 2:30 and the baby woke at 3:30, so the pull of the warm blanket was especially tempting, but it was time to get to work.  I rose from the bed without looking back, quietly opened William’s bedroom door and found him sitting on the ground. As is custom, I put him back into bed and crawled in, attempting to get him to snooze for at least thirty minutes while my man leaves for work. As it so easily can, our parenting plan failed.

About ten minutes later, my man opened the door and slipped his car key into my waistband. “I am sorry, but I need your van. My tire has a screw in it. I need you to get it repaired today. I took the car seat bases out for you, just in case. I’m sorry. I love you.”

Meanwhile, William sprang out of bed and ran down the hall with a delighted squeal, like a piglet released from a pen.It figures. The past three weeks have left me looking and acting like a certain penguin from the movie Happy Feet:

 

My glorious plans for my morning had just been… screwed.

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Now, if my life is marked by anything, it is things NOT going to plan. I spend most of my time in waiting rooms, exam rooms, hospitals, and just coping with the responsibilities of making a home when the military relocates us roughly every 24 months. Without fail, someone will comment that based on my attitude and smile, I seem to be doing well. (Likewise, when I stop smiling and get riled up, I am suddenly the melting-down, crazy mother. There is rarely a margin on either side of the ditch!)

The “secret” is not glamorous. It is a disciplined training of the mind and spirit. In the words of Mr. Rogers’ Daniel Tiger, (clearly inspired by the Holy Spirit)– “When something is bad, turn it around and find something good”. aka “renewing of your mind”

1.FIND THE GOOD in the situation

I mentally list these rapid-fire as I try to work out the new plans.

Do I have to drag the kids out of bed? No. I have a vehicle that my man can take to work so that I don’t have to wake all the kids and drive him to work. Are there appointments today? NO! Praise God. We have an air compressor that can fill the tire up so that I can get it to a shop today.  Best of all, my DADDY is here and can help with the kid logistics.

2. GIVE THANKS and PRAISE

Thank you that this happened today and not tomorrow, when Jonathan’s chemo could have been delayed, the kids would have been in tow, or the men could have been stranded in Baltimore traffic during rush hour. Thank you that it stopped raining during this 5 day deluge long enough to fill the tire with air, walk the boys to the bus, and drive to the shop!  Thank you that the tire didn’t flatten in a parking garage! Thank you that we live near several tire repair places!Thank you that I could find the tire attachments to the air compressor. THANK YOU that my father could help juggle the kids and then offered to get the repair done so I didn’t have to drag the baby. Thank you for a father who is responsible, loving, and still takes care of me, while also getting along with my husband!   Etc…

3. Can I get a witness? Testify!

Rather than take pride in our preparedness, ability, financial margin, or “good fortune”, this is when God MUST be given proper credit and glory. He takes care of us! This is not karma.  As a mom of three little ones, they witness how I handle every situation. That is a lot of pressure! I told Jonathan that I was frustrated, showed him the nail, let him see how Pop used the compressor, and I prayed with thanksgiving as we waited for the bus. They can’t read my mind, so I must verbalize gratefulness.

4. Speak TRUTH to yourself

Eliminating negative self-talk and focusing on a positive thought sounds great, but it is watered-down guidance for a HARD discipline. Whether we are self-deprecating, take pride in our own ability to solve problems, fall into a “the world is horrible!” spiral, or throw off all responsibilities in favor of a Netflix binge because we “literally can’t even”, ALL of us can be pulled into sin by problems. The difficult, disciplined work of the Holy Spirit is to refute these lies with truth.  A few personal favorites:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:38

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist,
fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3

This take time and prayer. Speak truth to one another! Put it on notecards in the bathroom! I learn new verses from kid music! Surround yourself with TRUTH.

 

5. LOOK OUT!

In war-torn, impoverished countries, hospitality and giving are often hallmarks of society. It seems backward to our society, where we give from abundance and notoriously hoard our “blessings”.  My sons may stand out for their cancers and disabilities at school or church, but in the waiting rooms we are just like everyone else. Look to the needs of others. On my hardest days, I deliberately encourage others more. It invariably snaps my focus back to Christ. Look outward and upward.

I may be running all over the place, but I have a little one here who is learning to crawl for the first time. She needs my presence, gentle guidance, and encouragement. We all have others in our lives that need the same.

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6. Remember the Alamo.

Remember, the Alamo fellbut it bought the necessary time for a successful victory. Lose the battle, win the war.

If I become self-focused and distracted by circumstances from tires to endless appointments and care, my circumstances dominate my mind.  By asking, “How can I honor God and become more like Christ in this situation?”, I remember that character is more important than cancer. As I defer the Holy Spirit, I give glory to Christ, who gives glory to the Father. The War has been won, but I don’t get a pass to sit and eat Bluebell Ice-cream. The standing orders must be followed.

 

The car is back in the drive-way, patched up and ready to drive to the hospital tomorrow. My morning wasn’t wrecked and the I got a good butt-whoopin’ by the Spirit this morning. The devotional I planned on doing this morning didn’t get done, but God spoke mightily.

Now, we Drive ON!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Balloons Get Busted

I’ve been waiting for this fight for five years. I wasn’t about to pick this fight, but I was ready for it.

The moment the ultrasound confirmed that I would have sons 20 months apart, I pictured the rough-housing, sword fighting, all-boy competitiveness that would surely course through their veins. That lasted all of 5 minutes. I soon realized the inevitable– a fraternal alliance against Mom. I could just hear the whistle of Nerf bullets and bouncy balls.

I did indeed birth fighters. For years they have fought for their very lives. We have the sound of Nerf bullets whizzing by and Lego bins dumping (an affront to mothers everywhere). A mix of pumps dripping chemo and boyish giggles over fart noises still echo through the childhood.

My sons realized one of my dreams for their childhood: a water balloon fight. This was physically and cognitively impossible until this year. In the July heat, yellow water balloons were filled and hurled. I was laughing and squealing louder than them.

They hurled balloons, soaking one another and then turning on me.

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After about twenty minutes we gathered the yellow shrapnel and I gloried in the moment.

I’ve been looking forward to this fight. It was messy. The scattered pieces took time to retrieve. It was hot. It required Jonathan to relinquish the comfort of his long sleeves, brave a swimsuit and reveal how thin he has become. (He has gained 8 pounds since Christmas. This is a major victory, although he is saddened at his appearance.)

They ran and blocked. They trapped and splashed me. They aimed at the fence. They threw as high as they could. They giggled and tried something new. They ended up splashed by me… because Mom always wins. It’s an important life lesson!

The little yellow pieces littered the yard, tempting me to notice the mess I would have to clean up after my children… but as always, we picked up the pieces together.

Life will burst your balloon. We inflate with dreams, hot air, and things that lift up. They get punctured with illnesses, disability, difficulty and death.  Water balloons however, are different. We can fill up and lob at another. It can be painful and malicious, or fun and refreshing on a hot day. We can keep what we have to ourselves, store up for a major unloading, or we can make splashes in the lives of others.

I have to teach my boys to play together, to have fun, and to take the opportunities to be kids. We spend most of our time fighting through traffic, medical appointments, treatments, and schedule conflicts. We fight through challenges, deficits, prejudices, and eating ALL our vegetables without complaining. Life is a fight worth picking.

It can make a mess for you to clean up. It can be great fun.

A fight with a brother is worth it. Yes, even when it becomes Mom vs. the Boys… because when they learn to fight together, I know they are learning to fight.  I can’t wait for the next one.

Cake and Communion

 

Belly laughs echoed through that historic Infantry Barracks home that Wednesday night, as they had so many times before. The cracks in the walls had been painted over for decades; generations of women married to military men had made meals, washed clothes, laughed, cried, and loved well in those homes.  In that soul-healing moment we declared that in our own way, we were having church. I laughed, “Can Communion be done with cake?”

Just the Sunday before,  we had taken Communion bread and cup– which is never separate from our calling to motherhood.  Wrestling with our children, our sins, our righteousness- spilling over the pews, spilling out of our souls. We whisper teaching through the Holy Moments, reverence and regular intertwined. “This is my Body”-“Don’t poke him” “Broken for you” ” Mommy, I have to go potty!”, “Do this in remembrance of me”… We took communion and lived in community.

We ladies of Fort Leavenworth saw one another nearly daily, but on Wednesday nights we rushed to put the young ones to sleep and gathered at the oldest home with cake. Someone was always celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or something cake-worthy.  We made a cake with strawberry and pink insides to reveal that the baby I carried would be a girl. Over cake and exhaustion, in our own way, gathered for church.  We recounted more than just the happenings of the week– we shared our deep wounds and great joys. A journal recounted what made us laugh the hardest and stirred our souls.  It wasn’t a Bible study, yet verses and God’s Word poured out.

We recorded our victories, our prayers, our pain… because we showed up.

A few months later, I called them from a hospital room to tell them Jonathan was bleeding from the brain and we feared in was a tumor. They could not get to me, but how they prayed. Christina made a cake. They made certain that dear friends were with me. From across the country, sisters showed up. Jessica came from California with a burrito and chips. Sofia brought cake and tacos. Jen started prayer chains that went worldwide. Donna began the meal train and the church fed us well.  Boxes from Sisters poured in. Too many names to write here etched onto our hearts and into our story. The Ranks of the Women stood ready– these mighty, wondrous women.   My body and soul were restored.

Nearly a year since our last goodbye, Jeanette, Christina, and my little family gathered in the kitchen for cake. It was time for them to meet the daughter they knew would come before I could confidently hope for it. Prayers and hope were now evidenced in joy- Elizabeth Joy.

Jeanette’s in-laws flew to keep the children so that she could come for the week. Christina loaded the children and drove from Kansas to Virginia, left the kids with her parents for several hours and drove the hour to my home.  As we opened the door, the boys yelled for joy. Elizabeth looked at each face with a smile and a furrowed brow– I can’t help but think she knew the voices that laughed and prayed over my belly each week. After all, they knew I was pregnant before I did. She was loved, prayed for, and promised.  Elizabeth even got a taste of cake, as it should be.

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We gathered. We ate. We remembered what God has done in our lives. We dwelt in each other’s homes, lives, and hearts. We asked the hard questions and worshiped the Living God. We put in the effort, the time, and the calories. That is the secret to these deep friendships– you forge them. They are worth the work, the time, the calories and the risk.

IMG_2426 We told of our marriages and the men we love who serve in harm’s way. Harm’s way can mean the pathway littered with laundry that only made it NEXT to the hamper. We spoke of disabilities, cancers, ministries, shoes, and how tall our babies have gotten.  We opened the laughter journal and howled. We read through last year’s victories and marveled at what God has done.

The Bread of Life sustains us. We are lucky to be alive. Indeed, we live a life more abundant.

We hold one another, knowing God holds us in his palm. We feed one another, encouraging one another to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We bring joy to one another, for the joy of the Lord is our strength. We fight together, for we are wives of warriors.  As we do the hard things Christ calls us to, we serve Him while serving one another. The arms of Christ wrap around the children when they struggle.

The hands of Christ fold loads of laundry, wash dirty dishes and move furniture.

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We are states away now, waiting for our next chance to be together.

Until then, we remain the Body of Christ- and the Body eats cake.

cakegirls