Sunday, March 29, 2020

“Lord Jesus, make my face right!”

It is the prayer I utter regularly during my homeschool days.

I fail on the daily.

My mission is to lovingly teach and guide my children and yet I catch myself with a tone of voice that just isn’t right. I don’t even have to tell you what my face looks like in that moment. Not to mention, my body language, as I point harshly at the problem at hand and instruct in a manner that no student would find beneficial. 

Once again, I have fallen short. I see the look of frustration and discouragement in my child’s eyes. The tears begin to well up and I can see clearly what I have done. I have communicated to my precious child that the lesson is more important than she is.

Time for a major reset.

Time to apologize.

Time to ask for forgiveness.

Time to try again.

“Mommy needs a quick time out.” I say, as I step outside on the porch. I take a deep breath. I might even jump up and down a few times if I am dealing with some anger. I cry out to my heavenly Father, “Lord Jesus, make my face right! Help me to love my children well and teach them with kindness on my tongue. I cannot do this without your strength! Help me to see them with your eyes and love them with your hands.”

I call to my child, “will you come out here with me?” I wipe away her tears and get down on her level. I look at her in those sad eyes and see the pain I have caused.

“What is more important to mommy, you or school?” I say.

She smiles and says, “Me.”

“You are right!” I say, “You are way more important to me than any school lesson we are working on. I need to ask your forgiveness. I was acting like school was more important than you by they way I was talking to you. Mommy needed a time out to make her face and voice right again. Will you forgive me?”

“Yes!” She answers quickly.

“Can I try again?” I ask her.

“Yes, Mommy.” She responds.

“I love you, sister.” I say as I pull her in close for a hug.

“I love you too.” She says as she squeezes me tight.

We take a few more minutes to snuggle the kitty cats and pet the puppy dogs. Our work will be waiting for us when we head back inside. When I realize that we are approaching lunchtime, I choose to feed my people before we begin again. Everyone will feel better with a full tummy. I brew a cup of coffee and settle in beside my little love to try again.

I will never be a perfect mom. I will certainly never be a perfect homeschooling mom. However, I will give this season everything I have. I will teach my children what it means to stop, reset and humbly ask for forgiveness. I will teach them that I am after their hearts. I will model for them what it looks like to seek the Father, listen for his voice and walk in obedience to him. He will always know the way.

I admit, there have been times where I have looked longingly at the big yellow school bus that drives by. Certainly, that is the answer to all my struggles, right? I have cried out to God and asked if this cup of homeschooling could pass from me. A little dramatic? Yes, I know. When you are pouring yourself out day after day to answer the calling to homeschool your children, there are moments when the painful reality of your insufficiency becomes too much. It was during one of these seasons for me when the Lord gently communicated two important truths to my heart. I was at worship one night, singing praises while feeling exhausted and defeated. I told him that I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted released from homeschooling. He spoke right to my heart, “I will be with you and I will bring you joy.” The tears rolled down my face. I believed him but I sure wasn’t feeling the joy at that moment.

I have good news.

The joy did come and it continues to flow.

My fellow homeschooler, He will do the same for you.

He will be with you.

He will bring you joy.

And guess what?

He will even make your face right!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalms 16:11 (ESV)

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26 (ESV)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

My Grandpa

My grandpa went to heaven suddenly this week. I have been grieving and trying to compose my thoughts. I have searched through countless pictures to find the ones I treasure. Somehow, I just haven't been able to get the words out. I am going to attempt to share what I loved about him. I want a written record of what he brought to my life. My children knew him and I want them to remember these special things about him.

When he looked at me, I always felt loved and lovely. Even in the awkward stages. Maybe especially then. I always knew he was proud of me. I know he was human and just like all of us he had his faults but I cannot recall receiving a single cross word from him. As a child, I loved to climb onto his lap and listen to him read a story to me. An activity that was made even sweeter when my cousin was on his lap with me. I have fond memories of riding in his orange pick up truck. He and Grandma always made our time with them fun. They had to work at the furniture store they owned so they came up with all kinds of activities to keep us occupied. We made cardboard box villages in Carpet Alley and used the furniture movers he made as skate boards/scooters. The goal of each summer day was to eventually close up the store and get back to their house for swimming. Oh the joy! We played on the swing set, dug in the sandbox and even got some rides on his golf cart. When the sun went down we always had one more special treat to look forward to...midnight snacks with Grandpa. It was pure delight to stay up past our bedtimes and share a sweet dessert with Grandpa and Grandma.

I remember sitting on his swing with him. We would swing back and forth as we talked about what was going on. I remember how his strong hands felt and how tight his hugs were. He always smelled good. One of my little girls mentioned this to me too. She said, "Mom, Papa had a nice smell to go with him." I agreed. I remember how he looked at me in my wedding gown and made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. I remember dancing with him at my wedding even though I knew it was becoming more and more difficult for him to stand let alone dance.

I loved the way he talked about my Grandma. I loved to hear him tell the story of how he met and fell in love with her. I will miss hearing him call her "honey" and the way he insisted on a kiss from her before bed. One of my favorite stories he told was about dancing with her when she was very pregnant with one of their children. He thought pregnant women were beautiful and he celebrated with each of us as we brought our babies into the world. He had a tender place in his heart for babies. I was always excited to bring my new little one out and watch him snuggle and adore each one. I always knew he and Grandma would be up early having a cup of coffee so my short night with a newborn would end with handing the little bundle over to him while I enjoyed a cup of coffee too. Those cozy, sleep deprived, early morning visits are among my favorite memories tucked in my heart.

When we told he and Grandma that we were planning to adopt, they supported us fully. I remember how much I adored his response when I told him that we were open to adopting children of any race, not just our own. He said, "Honey, all babies need love." And that was that. He delighted in the arrival of our children gifted to us through adoption. He was smitten with them the moment he laid eyes on them. You could see how proud he was of all his grandchildren and great grandchildren. We were a source of great joy for him and we all knew it.

When we came for visits, my oldest boys would stay up late to watch news and discuss politics with their Papa and Nana (what they call them). You better believe they got in on plenty of midnight snacks. A precious tradition continued with my children. Another favorite activity for all the great grand kids was getting a ride from him on his scooter. Oh my. I have so many adorable pictures. Grandpa was always gentle and patient with the little ones. He would slowly win over a shy toddler. They were always drawn to him and it didn't take them long to ask to be in his arms.

Grandma kept a lot of the letters I sent to them over the years. I found one from my 17 year old self that said, "Kiss Grandpa for me." This is how I end most of my interactions with Grandma to this day. It was either "Hug Grandpa or Kiss Grandpa for me". He wasn't a big phone talker but I knew she would give him my love when we got off the phone. There is deep sadness in knowing that he won't be sitting next to her in his chair discussing what is going on with the grandkids. He won't be sharing midnight snacks anymore or giving scooter rides. I won't feel his big bear hug or hear "I love you" from him anymore. I am a grown woman with children of my own and yet the loss of a grandpa brings you right back to being a little girl.

My youngest child said, "Why he die?" and I answered him in confidence, "Sweetie, he died because it was his number of days. They were already written. We can trust our good God with his perfect timing even in our sadness." As I reflect on his life and the influence he had on me I am forever grateful that I got to share 39 years of his "number of days". What a gift! I am looking forward to gathering with my family and celebrating the life of my grandpa. He loved us well.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Seven. The perfect number.

From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a mommy. Our journey to grow our family has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. There was a time when we didn't know if we would have any children. Pregnancy did not come easily for us.

My body has been a home to eight babies. Four who we get to raise on this earth and four who are in heaven. God has given us the great gift of three babies who grew in the bellies of their birth mothers. What joy! Where I thought there would be none, there are seven.

Seven children. 

Not in my wildest dreams did I think that would happen!

But here I am living this crazy, chaotic, overwhelming, wonderful, joyful, beautiful life as the mother of seven.

Seven years ago, a woman at church prophesied over us that we would have seven children. At that time we were expecting our fourth child. The idea of seven seemed impossible!

Fast forward to after we brought our seventh child home from China. We were in church again and a different woman looked at me and said, "You have seven children. You have the perfect number." There was something about the way she said it. It brought a welcomed peace over me. I had miscarried our last baby and I ached for another baby for some time. I was clear with the Lord that I wanted him more than I wanted anything and that I trusted him. Shortly after her statement, that ache was gone.

God, in his sweet way, gave me peace for what would come.

For many years I have struggled with pain that has grown increasingly worse. I just couldn't bring myself to accept a hysterectomy even though I knew it would bring incredible relief. In January, I couldn't ignore the problem anymore. I started dealing with iron deficiency anemia as well as the pain. Two Iron IVs and a CT scan later and I was ready. Ready to say yes to the hysterectomy. Ready to end the cycle of pain. I need to be healthy and full of energy to raise my babies. It was time.

I was lovingly cared for by my family doctor and all the staff at his office. I am grateful for the skilled medical care they administer with compassion and wisdom.

Once our OBGYN got my surgery scheduled it was time to get our support team in place. For me to step out of life requires a team. Let's just say there is a color coded calendar (thanks mom!) that indicates who is doing what over the next few weeks. Two incredible sets of grandparents and a super dad were ready and willing to help.

So many sweet friends have come along side us to offer any kind of help we need. We are grateful for the loving gestures and prayers on our behalf. I thought it was neat that during the middle of this decision making process our pastor encouraged me with the same verses God had just shown me. I love how the Holy Spirit works! 

Psalm 103:2-4
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy."

Then God gave me this verse as my hysterectomy theme verse.

Zephaniah 3:17
"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

I meditated over these words over and over again.

My God is with me.
My God is mighty to save.
My God will rejoice over me with gladness.
My God will quiet me by his love.
My God will exult over me with loud singing.

I had the opportunity to have deep discussions with my older children who were concerned about how my surgery would go. I had the chance to speak the truth to them that calms my own heart...God knows the number of my days. We must live this life fully without being crippled by fear. God loves my children and my husband even more than I do. He would care for them if my number of days on this earth were done.

My cousin sent me this fabulous pink kimono robe and hilarious hysterectomy coloring book. A package of love and joy sent right to my door!

My sister stopped by the night before my surgery to bring a gift basket from all the sisters as well as some gorgeous flowers. She stayed to visit for a while and her presence brought us such happiness. My sisters know how to make a girl feel special.

Here is the poem she wrote for me. I adore it!

Let's start with the good that comes with telling your uterus goodbye.
No longer will you suspect that she's trying to kill you, because she is, no lie.

You've tried to be patient, but this uterus is out to destroy!
So now we must ask ourselves, "Does it spark joy?"

The answer is no, so we take time to thank it so much.
Then we call Dr. K to take the organ, tubes and such.

You will feel so much relief, it will make you want to dance!
You will even be like, "Come hither"  to your hubby for romance.

You will prance past the pad and tampon aisle with glee!
Extra absorbent, more layers? No thanks, none for me.

And when emotions swell up and your heart hurts with good reason -
Remember that God's word says that to everything there is a season.

A time to weep and a time to laugh, knowing your Heavenly Father has you.
He delights in you so deeply and your sisters sure do too.

So goodbye to the parts that have served you so well.
And "Hello" to this new season in the words of Adele.

Choose to set your heart and mind on the truths that He has said.
Joy and plans for good are coming and you can laugh at the days ahead.

Love you Sis!

When we arrived at the surgery center I was already fighting back the tears. All the feelings came rushing in. I kept thinking about how silly it was that I have endured many surgeries with no tears and here I was bawling my eyes out before I even got my iv in. All the years of growing our family. All the pain I have endured. The reality of the baby season ending for us. It was all just too much. I am so much stronger when I need to be brave for my babies. This time it was all about me and I crumbled. 

God in his kindness gave me the best mother/daughter nursing team. They are friends from our town and they showed me such love and tenderness. Our Dr. was my beloved Dr. K who has taken care of me through all my pregnancies. I knew I was in excellent hands with him. Everyone who worked with us was incredible.

My tears did stop once that shot of liquid courage was put in my iv. It was a welcome relief. 

Before I knew it, surgery was over and I was in recovery.

I drifted in and out of sleep in the recovery area. In the moments between sleep I could hear music playing. I was tickled even in my drugged state. I knew God intended to exult over me with loud singing but I didn't know it would come in the form of music in the recovery area. It seriously made me laugh. An inside joke with him.

This man. He has been through it all with me. Right by my side. He has held my hand through the joy and through the pain. So many years of loving me well. We have grown this family together. We have walked the floor with tiny babies. We have lost sleep and nearly lost our minds. We have clung tight to each other and to the Lord. We haven't done it perfectly but step by step we have done it together. We are proud of these precious blessings and we are thrilled to be their parents.

Now we will embrace this new season together. Hand in hand. We have big plans to dance the tango in Argentina in the spring. There are so many more adventures to come!

For now it is a time of healing. I know it will get better day by day.