Monday, December 30, 2013

Reality: Just Another Manic SUNday.

I wish it was Sunday.
'Cause that's my funday.
My I don't have to runday.
It's just another manic Monday.

I was a big fan of The Bangles back in the day.  I can still sing almost every word of this song.  I have no idea why I just admitted that little piece of information to the world...


I was thinking about this song yesterday afternoon.  While I am not one to complain about being a pastor's wife (because I actually love it, as you can see in my other posts), it does present unique challenges.  One of those challenges happens every week.  Sunday.

It is not my funday.
It is not my I don't have have to runday.

There are different schools of thought on the role of the pastor's wife.  Many say, "I am just another member of the congregation."  And while I agree in terms of the responsibilities you hold being the same as any other member, let's be honest, you are not just another member of the congregation.

Most other members have known each other for a better part of their lives.  Most other members have some form of earthly family nearby (and usually part of the congregation).  Most other members are not known by name and birthday and home and children's misbehaviors by every other member of the congregation.  Most members do not attend a whole other church service after this one because their husband serves two congregations.

I am not just another member.

I sit with my three children three and under alone.  I get my kids ready in the morning alone.  I drive to church (including three to be buckled into five point harness carseats) alone.  I manage a diaper bag, an infant carseat, coats when we need them, church quiet bags, and hands of toddlers alone.  I have a new respect for the single moms of the world.  I pray for them.  I am exhausted for them.

But then, unlike the single moms, I slide into a pew with three small children who make it their JOB to get to their daddy (who happens to be that man up there).  I am pretty convinced that when a whole Sunday gets over without one of them reaching him, it is only because God placed angels with swords guarding the two ends of the pew...and underneath the pew in front of us...and behind us.

I pray those angels visit every week.

Most Sundays I leave feeling defeated.  I go hoping to hear my sins forgiven.  I go hoping to see God's Gifts given to my church family.  I go hoping to be filled with Truth.  I leave feeling as if none of that happened.  I didn't catch much after the cheerios spilled and two toddlers crushed them into the padded seats or after the baby insisted that even though I fed her 15 minutes ago she HAD to be nursed.

Again, most Sundays I leave feeling defeated.

That is the funny thing about feelings.  They play tricks on you.  They cannot be fully trusted.  I know God's Word does what it says.  God does not depend on me to do His work.  I go hoping for the same things I actually receive, even when I don't feel that way.  Sure, I long for the day when I actually hear a whole sermon.  I long for the day when my children say all the liturgy with us.  I long for the day when my husband gets to sit with us in the pew...

And God gives me little sneak peeks of those moments - my toddlers sit up straight and actually seem to listen, my baby sleeps quietly through a whole service, my sons say the pastor's part of the liturgy with him, and my husband sits with me on the rare occasion of a non-member's funeral or on vacation.

A friend of mine recently reminded me that there are many seasons of life.  When this season is over, another season with teenagers will come...then a season with fewer children at home...then a season of empty nesting...then a season of grandchildren...each season with unique pastor's family challenges.

As I have said before, I actually love being a pastor's wife.  God has given me two congregations full of people who love my husband, my kids, and me.  He answers my prayer for those angels by giving us pew buddies to stand guard.  He gives us Christians to live in communion with.  This should not be taken for granted, but all these are just given to me as excess blessings.  I have already received the greatest Gifts - His forgiveness, His righteousness, and His Body and Blood.

And when I really didn't hear any of the sermon, I am lucky enough to live with the man who spoke it.
He can fill me in later.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Reality: Just Repeating

When my son points at the color blue and says, "BLUE!" people of the world praise him for knowing his colors.  However, when my son says, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty..." people of the world do not praise him for knowing the Truth.  They say children can't have faith and he is just repeating what he hears from his parents.

Just repeating what he hears from his parents.

That statement is simultaneously 100% false and 100% true.

I will tell you why it is 100% false in a few simple sentences.  Faith is received from God.  I don't have the faith within myself to speak those words.  My sons don't either.  God gives the faith.  So, he isn't repeating what he hears.  He is speaking the words of faith given to him by his heavenly Father.

and that is an ALL CAPS HOWEVER, so pay attention here...

God does not just work willy-nilly through the world.  He works through means.  Through Word.  Through His Church.  Through pastors.  Through parents.

Of course my son is just repeating what he hears from his parents.  My goodness, everything the kid knows he learned from us.  Well, maybe I shouldn't take responsibility for those really embarrassing things he says, but they probably came from us, too.  Kids learn from their parents.  "Hey, that color over there is blue.  When you see that color, say 'BLUE!'"

My husband jokes about wanting to teach our kids something ridiculous and silly.  "You know, they would believe us if we started calling a cow a cat.  Let's do it.  Wouldn't that be hilarious?  Hey, is this cat's milk I am drinking?  Did you know I have a pet cow who sits on my lap and purrs?"
No, dear husband, I will not let you do that, but yes, it would be pretty hilarious.  Kids believe.

With that amount of child-like faith comes a huge responsibility.  If only we spent the same amount of time teaching the real important Truths that we spend teaching the color and number truths or the cow and cat truths!

But the world says, "I don't want to indoctrinate my children.  I will let them learn and figure out and explore on their own."  NO!  Stop telling kids they can call a cow a cat.  It isn't a cat.  That isn't the truth.  Someday, someone is going to judge them because they don't know the difference.  And when that day comes, someone will say, "Who taught this kid, anyway?  Why wouldn't a parent who loves their child teach them the difference between cows and cats?"  As a parent, stop making your kids responsible for figuring out what you choose not to teach them.  Sure, some kids may grow up to decide they want to call a cow a cat.  We can't decide for them at that point, but you don't start by letting them decide.  You start by teaching.

Even if you, as a parent, are teaching your child this creed every single day -
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord..."
the world is still teaching them this creed even more fervently -
"I believe in Myself and my Money, maker of my happiness.  And in the absence of all truth, our lord."

When my kids fall short, when they don't measure up to their bar set for happiness, when they don't quite get where they thought they were going, and when they fall on their faces, there needs to be Truth flowing through them.

Truth that flows from learning.
Truth that flows from their memory.
Truth that is given by God through the parents He gave them.
Truth that is "just repeating what he hears from his parents."

In the end, it won't matter if they call a cow a cat (unless, of course, they request their hamburger to be made of 100% cat...).

It will matter who they call Lord.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reality: Life Worth Saving

I get pretty tired of reading prolife arguments that go something like this...

What would have happened if President Obama's mother would have chosen abortion?
What would have happened if this world renowned scientist's mother would have chosen abortion?
What would have happened if [insert adult who someone thinks is awesome]'s mother would have chosen abortion?

I get it.  People grow up and do things that others appreciate.  People grow up and become the first black presidents.  People grow up and cure diseases.  People grow up to do things we can't imagine our lives without.

But some people don't grow up.
Some people die young.
Some people will never do anything worthy of a news release.
Some people will depend on others for everything their whole earthly life.

Life is not just worth saving because of what it can do for you later.  Life is worth saving because of what it is.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reality: SURVIVOR Home Edition

It really has to stop.  I have to stop living in survival mode.

The saying goes that the days are LONG and the years are short.

A good majority of the time I feel like the MINUTES are long.  I go through my day from one activity to another, and most of the time I start the activity with the goal of just getting it done.  This line of thinking is a detriment to my children.  I don't want to be like the crazy lady at the grocery store who says, "Oh, Honey, savor EVERY moment, because it is amazing."  Every moment is not amazing.  Actually, most WHOLE days are not amazing.

But I do need to savor a little more.

Spend a little extra time letting the boys figure out their scissors by themselves.  Let them spend 13 minutes trying to button their own pants.  Survivor mode puts me on edge, and every minute seems like an eternity.  That means that potty trips with a new potty trainer can seem like six eternities.

I told my husband that I have to stop living life just surviving between times that he comes home.

OK, he left for work...survive until lunch.
OK, he left after lunch...survive until dinner.
OK, he left after dinner...survive until bedtime.

He responded that he feels that way sometimes "out there" too.  "Just survive until I get home again."  It reminded me that this is not a new feeling.  I felt this way when working - survive until I see my husband and kids again.

And even though I felt something like it before, that line of thinking really does have to stop.  I am not on some reality TV show surviving in a foreign land known as my home (even though it may feel like it sometimes - complete with close encounters with various strange bugs my boys bring inside).

I make this home.
I am a homemaker.

I don't want the home I make to be one of survival.
I want it to be one of patience, of kindness, of love, of generosity, of courage, of warmth.

But I also want it to be one of honesty and reality...

Sometimes that means survival.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reality: It's not OK.

People say you grow into motherhood as you go and grow into the number of children you have as you add them.  Such is true for me.

I remember when Solomon was six weeks old.  My husband turned to me one night and said, "Can you believe we have kept him alive this long?"  He wasn't kidding.  And I didn't take it as a joke.  I couldn't believe it either.  We actually managed to get ourselves together enough to sustain a human being's life for six weeks.  It felt pretty good.

I laugh at that story now - three years and two more babies later.  Can you believe we have kept three alive this long?  Wow!

It makes me think about the mother I always wanted to be...
The one I am so far from becoming.

When I talk about my failures as a mother, the majority of people say, "It's OK.  That happens to all of us.  You are so busy with three.  You are only human."  There is the problem.  I am human, stuck in this human condition.  But in no way does that make my failures "OK."

They are anything but OK.
Being OK means they are acceptable.

It is not OK that I yell at my children.
It is not OK that I choose my phone over my children.
It is not OK that I prefer their naptime to their awake time.

Those things are normal.  They are not, however, OK.  They are not acceptable.

As I am growing into motherhood, I am learning more and more about my failures.  I am learning how to fail openly and repent gracefully.  I am learning how to guard my own tongue as much as I guard their little ears and eyes.  I am learning to avoid saying, "It's ok," to other mothers, and instead replace it with, "You are forgiven."

As I struggle each day keeping three human beings alive, I am reminded that growing into motherhood is a lifelong journey.  These failures of mine will continue.  I don't fear that, because I know where my Peace rests.  It rests in my forgiveness.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reality: Vocation Woes

There are articles upon articles written about how hard it is to be a pastor's family.  And while I fully admit the difficulties, I am put off by the tone and expressions used to convey them.  Being a pastor's family is the best vocation on this side of eternity.  There are struggles, there are crosses to bear, there are days and weeks (and probably months, if I am being honest) that make it hard to admit how great we have it, but the truth is, there is not a single better way to spend your life than to watch your husband give God's Gifts to those whom you love.

To all my fellow pastors' families, this is not written to make you think you have it easy.  I am quite aware of how hard it can be sometimes.  I am aware of the uncertainty.  I am aware of the loneliness.  I am aware of the moments you watch your husbands bear more burdens than one man can handle.  I am aware of the stereotypes and expectations.  I am aware of the hurtful statements that can be said (in total innocence or in total defiance).  I am aware.  And I know you are too.  It is hard.  Sometimes it is harder than others.  

I recently had a conversation with a grown-up pastor's kid.  She flippantly told my husband and I about how her co-workers are trying to get her to enjoy the holidays because, "Well, I was a pastor's kid and that time of the year...well, I just saw how crazy my parents got and how ridiculous it was for him...It was just too much.  I just don't like this time of the year."  

Wow, dagger to the heart of every pastor/dad and mom/pastor's wife who ever lived.  
But, wow, what a reminder for me.  

The way I talk about my vocation matters.
The way I live out my vocation in front of others matters.
The way I think about my vocation matters.

Maybe this is a lot of Law.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I need to hear a lot of Law. 

All the times I speak viciously about our God-given vocations...
All the times I live in a way that shows others how much I can despise our God-given vocations...
All the times I think poorly about our God-given vocations...

All those have already been forgiven.  

So, now, I go in peace this holiday season - living as one who is forgiven.  

May that be how I think and speak about my vocation.
May that be what my children remember about the holiday season.  
May that be how they live out their holiday seasons this side of eternity.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reality: Children Need Fathers

1.  My children need to see a man royally screw up AND then watch him humble himself by apologizing and repenting.  They need to see a man live as one who is forgiven.

2.  My children need to fall and scratch their knees.  They need to get hurt.  They need to be cuddled by the strong embracing arms of a man who will bend down and kiss that knee as many times as it takes to heal it.

3.  My children need strong discipline.  They need to hear the firm command of their father.  They need to disobey, apologize, and hear their father's forgiving voice.

4.  My children need to see a man read his Bible, receive Christ's Gifts in church, and pray (more than just before he eats).  They need to know it is possible to be manly and humble.

5.  My children need to see a man love a woman like Christ loves the Church.  They need to see him sacrifice.  They need to watch him put his needs below the needs of his bride. My children need stability.  They need leadership.  They need a head of household.  They need to watch their mother honor their father.  They need to see a healthy marriage built by God.

6.  My children need to watch their father and mother kiss, hold hands, hug, and show affection.  They need to learn that sexuality is beautiful when it is between husband and wife.  They need to see what joy awaits them in marriage.

7.  My children need a protector.  They need a safety net.  They need an un-emotional ear to listen. 

When my husband proposed seven years ago, he gave me seven gifts each representing completion.  
As a married couple, we complete each other.  
As parents, we do the same.  

My children need their father.  
All children need fathers.

Fathers complete mothers.

Thank you for completing me, my love.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reality: Why I don't go to the bathroom.

This morning my husband scolded me (sarcasm) for saying that I don't have time to go to the bathroom during the day.  We often talk about this conundrum.  My usual response is, "Don't you think I would go...if I could!"

So, why don't I go to the bathroom?

Here is how it usually goes -

My thought:  Oh, I have to pee...wait, new potty trainer hasn't gone in awhile...have to take him.

Upon finding said potty trainer, he is having an accident.

My thought:  AHHHH!  One minute too late!  Off to the bathroom we go.  Note to self, remember to clean up pee.  Note to self, remember to go to the bathroom while you are in there.

New potty trainer completes bathroom trip, and baby starts screaming.  I finish potty trainer up quickly, and dash out to get baby. 

My thought:  Rats, I forgot to go.  Go now.  Take the baby.  It will be fine.  Don't forget to clean up that pee.

About this time, I hear a fight break out in the living room between two toddler boys.

My thought:  Just go pee.  Ignore, go stop them.  Better to catch them now than when they have started hitting.

As the two toddlers are passing out apologies and hugs, I take a dash toward the bathroom with baby in hand.  Then, she spits up.  Not just a little.

My thought:  OK, grab new clothes for me.  While I am changing, I will pee.  For real this time.  Then I have to clean up that pee from earlier.

As I am reaching in my drawer, I hear someone slip and fall.  WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!  Yes, a toddler did just wipe out in that spot of pee. 

My thought:  I am such a terrible mother.  I should have cleaned up that pee earlier.  This is my fault.  Poor baby.

Snuggles for the toddler.  Baths for everyone.  We all have pee on us now. 

So, you might be thinking, "Of course she went pee while she was in the bathroom giving baths, right?" 

Not so much.  I forgot I had to go.  Have you ever tried to bathe a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 3 month old?  Let's just say that there was a lot of peeing going on, but it wasn't me.

I just spent 15 minutes writing this blog post.  I should have gone pee.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reality: Somebody Vs. Everything

Let me tell you a story.  I used to be somebody.  I don't mean to toot my own horn (in reality, I do), but I was good at what I did.  I was really good at it.  Out in the workforce, there are accolades to gain, plaques to be given, stories to be written in the news, congratulations thrown about for achievements -   it is a pretty "pat yourself on the back" kind of world out there, and it feels good.  And in that world, I was somebody to a lot of people. 

Then I decided to stay home with our kids.

As a stay-at-home mom, you choose to lose your identity (or at least that is the choice I made).  I became, "(insert child's name here)'s mom." You choose to give up the chance of accolades, plaques, news articles, and congratulations.  You choose to give up being a somebody.

In exchange for being a somebody to those out there, you become an everything to those in here.

There is a huge amount of responsibility that comes with being somebody's everything.  When you are an everything, your strengths and mostly your failures shine brighter.  They are reflected in the eyes of those who see you as everything.

When I was a somebody, I did it well.  But...
For every judicial meeting I conducted, another somebody out there could have done it. 
For every handbook I wrote, another somebody could have written it. 
For every meeting I conducted, another somebody could have ran it.

Sure, maybe they wouldn't have done it as marvelously as I did (sarcasm), but they could have done it.  They could have earned the accolades, the plaques, the news stories, and the congratulations.

When you are an everything, you are irreplaceable. 

That is why I chose to stay home with my kids.  That is why I chose to give up being a somebody. 
The world out there has so many shiny things.  It is enticing.  It is delicious.  In my little world, where I am everything there are no shiny things (besides the dishes I so marvelously cleaned).  It is intimate.  It is long-lasting.  It is home. 

Someday, maybe my children will be somebodies. 
Someday, I hope my children will be somebody's everything.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reality: Adoption Love

When people feel close enough to me to be REALLY honest, they ask the hard questions.  This does not bother me.  I like it.  Actually, I love it.  I love honesty, even when honesty is difficult.  Maybe I love honesty ESPECIALLY when it is difficult.  Honesty is real.  Honesty is messy.  I like it.

So, here is today's honest question and hopefully even more honest response...

Do you love children who were adopted as much as those who are biological?

Yikes.  This is real, people.  Where to begin?

To start, let's talk about love.

The simplest definition that I can come up with for the word "love" -
acting in a way that puts the needs of another above your own wants and needs.
Do I do this?  Sometimes...maybe...with the help of God, I do.  Many times I do not.

Love is not a feeling.  It brings feelings with it, of course.  I can feel my heart beat a little faster when my husband walks in the room after being away.  I can feel my heart actually bursting with emotion for my children.  I can feel my heart fill with warmth and joy when my parents hug me.  Sure, I feel in love, but the love is not a feeling.

Love is a decision.

The love between a husband and wife is a great example of this.  Each day, husbands must choose to love their wives.  They must choose to act for their wives.  Maybe that action is working hard.  Maybe that action is cooking dinner.  Maybe that action is taking out the trash.  And each day, wives must choose to love their husbands.  They must choose to act for their husbands.  Maybe that action is working hard.  Maybe that action is cooking dinner.  Maybe that action is taking out the trash.  The point is that they choose to act.

When I say I love my children, I mean I love them...
and I mean I am in love with them.

When I say I love my children, I mean I choose to act for them...
and I feel what comes along with that action.

Each day, parents must choose to love their children.  They must choose to act in a way that puts their children's needs above their own wants and needs.

The reality is - children are not always easy to feel in love with.  Who is?

They are tiny humans who know your buttons better than anyone else (besides maybe your spouse).  They will choose to push those buttons during the most embarrassing times.  They DEMAND your attention during the most inopportune times.  They force you to make the decision to love them each and every moment of your life.

And the more love acts you do for them...
maybe that act is working hard,
maybe that act is cooking dinner,
maybe that act is taking out the trash,

the more you feel in love.

So, do I love my son who was adopted as much as my son and daughter who are biological?

You better believe it...
with the help of God.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reality: Why I am Lutheran

There are probably a lot of correct answers to this question.  I don’t always answer with the most theologically sound responses.  I don’t always answer with the most politically correct responses.  I will, however, try to answer with the most honest response.

Why am I a Lutheran? 

There was this boy and I liked him.  I liked him enough to walk into a Lutheran service to surprise him one Sunday.  I must have liked him a lot.  I was scared of a Lutheran service.  The only thing I knew about it was that it was “like a catholic mass.”  That was enough for me, a good little Nazarene girl, to stay clear.   I didn’t know much about the theology of Roman Catholicism, but I did know that their mass just seemed so distant.  It seemed confusing, rehearsed, boring, unchanging, and stuffy.  If Lutherans were like them, I just didn’t think it was for me. 

But…the boy.  So I went.

That first Sunday was everything I thought it would be – confusing, rehearsed (except by me), boring, unchanging, and stuffy.  I was not hooked.  I was anything but hooked by the service, but, alas, I was hooked by the boy. 

So, week after week, I kept giving it a try.  I didn’t go because I enjoyed the service.  I didn’t go because I thought I fit in there.  I didn’t go because I felt connected to God.  I honestly went because of the boy.  But something happened in those weeks that I kept following him to church.  I began to recognize the flow of the service.  I began to hear familiar tunes.  I began to recognize little nuances of the prayers matching the hymn matching the sermon.  Over a few weeks, the confusing, rehearsed, boring, unchanging, and stuffy service became interesting, familiar, intriguing, unchanging (in a totally awesome way), and freeing. 

It took some effort on my part to get there.  I could have gone in, thought, “This is terribly confusing,” and never tried again.  I actually had to try to pay attention.  I had to follow the lead of others more matured in the liturgy than me.  I found myself looking for the connections in the service.  I found myself diving into how the words we were saying were actually IN THE BIBLE!  I found myself more interested by church than I had ever been. 

This is not a statement against my parents or my former churches or pastors.  I am extremely grateful for the Christian home and churches I have been blessed to be a part of my whole life.  Growing up Nazarene gave me the greatest respect for reading, learning, and memorizing the Bible.  What an amazing gift to be given – the love of the Scriptures!  To this day, when people ask me the difference between Nazarenes and Lutherans, I say, “As a Nazarene, I was taught the Bible.  As a Lutheran, I have been given the lenses to understand it.”  That is what Lutheranism gave to me – a really great pair of glasses.  And the most influential part of those glasses was taught to me through the liturgy.  Week after week I was being taught the Confessions through strong liturgy.  I was reciting the Bible (many texts I had memorized from my Nazarene days) every week.  I was immersed in God’s Word every Sunday. 

For people who say that a liturgical Lutheran service is confusing, rehearsed, boring, unchanging, and stuffy – I would agree with you at first.  It is scary not knowing what everyone else knows.  It is intimidating when you don’t know how to use a hymnal.  But the exact things that felt scary and intimidating to me in the beginning are the exact things that I treasure most now.  I can travel almost anywhere and find a church within driving distance that will feel just like home.  I don’t walk in like a stranger anymore, even when I am a stranger in this world. 

And about being unchanging?  Oh, thanks be to God that the service is unchanging.  Bring on the boringness of sameness.  In this world, we are inundated with newness, change, excitement, and pizzazz.  Our God is an unchanging God.  The same yesterday, today, and forever.  I love thinking of the liturgy as a reflection of that aspect of God.  I don’t get that anywhere else in my life.  I get it in Church.  Thanks be to God.  How amazing is it to know that the saints of old were saying those same words?  How amazing is it to know that, God willing, my children and grandchildren will continue to say the same words each Sunday?  Unchanging bad?  No, most certainly not.  Unchanging good.

Thank God for the liturgy. 

The most amazing part of the liturgy is the fact that the more I learn about it, the more I want to know.  The more I know about it, the more I learn about the Bible.  Actually becoming an informed lay person has made me want to be more informed. It is not boring; it is intriguing.  It has very deep rooted beliefs bleeding throughout it.  I just had to be willing to learn about it a little.

I do not need something new in my life.  I have too many new things.  What I need is something old.  I need something interesting, familiar, intriguing, unchanging, and freeing.  

That is why I am a Lutheran.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reality: In the Stead of Christ

In the middle of the chaos there is always a good Wednesday afternoon awaiting me.  It is the 3-4 hours when I can rest a little more, get some good soup cooking going on, go shopping with just one child, or spend a few quiet moments with my husband while all the kids sleep.

My husband works a lot of evenings as a pastor, so he takes Wednesday afternoons as his "evening off." Then he heads back in for office hours and Bible study, but for those few hours, I get to do what I want, or more realistically, what I need to do.

As life is being married to a pastor, there really are no for sures.  Some women say living a "maybe life" is a bit too rough.  Us PWs live with husbands who are on-call 24/7.  Honestly, sometimes it is exhausting.  I can't sugarcoat that part.  I would be lying if I said it was easy.


People get sick.
People die.
People get in accidents.
People have to make life and death decisions for their loved ones.
People have broken marriages.
People live in a broken and sickening world.

And who do people need in these moments?  They need Christ.  Some may say they need their pastor, but he is only the man who stands in His stead.  They are right to believe they need this man, because he brings The Man.  The pastor's hands hold the Body and Blood of the Man whose hands healed the sick and raised the dead.  This is The Man these hurting, sick, and dying people need.

When the phone rings and I hear his voice change...

I see the worry in his eyes.
I notice the sideways glance in my direction that says to me,

"I am so sorry...I really need to go now...even though I promised the boys I would go to the park...even though I know you haven't been out of the house in days...even though we were just about to sit down for family lunch...,"

When I see this, I know that Christ is needed in someone's life.

It may disrupt my day.  It may fail my plans to hit up Hobby Lobby.  It may ruin my idea of the amazing homecooked meal I had planned.  And sometimes, my sinful self may feel jealous or angry.  For that, I repent.  I repent with no excuses.

My husband stands in the stead of Christ.  His hands serve His Body and Blood.  His mouth speaks His Word.  He brings the Gospel into the Law-filled lives of people.

Surely my Hobby Lobby trip can take its place on the back burner.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reality: You Can't Be Anything

Sometimes what you want to be doesn't happen, sometimes what you want to be can't happen, and sometimes what you want to be shouldn't happen.

So, why dear parents of the world, do so many of us teach our children (or allow others to teach our children) the phrase "you can be anything you want to be?"  It simply isn't true.  Our children may want it, but sometimes it doesn't happen...sometimes it can't happen...and sometimes it shouldn't happen.

I don't plan on wrecking my children's dreams, imaginations, or hopes, but I do plan to raise them to know and understand their own God-given talents, abilities, and gifts.  I plan to teach them about true vocation.  I plan to prepare them for their own failures.  I plan to show them some jobs you CAN do in this world should, in fact, NOT be done.

Not every kid grows up to play professional football, even if they try really hard and really want it. Sometimes what you want to be doesn't happen.

Not every kid can grow up to be a pastor, even if they study really hard and really want it.  Sometimes what you want to be can't happen.

No kid should be a drug dealer, a stripper, a prostitute, or an abortion-providing doctor, even if they see the money and really want it.  Sometimes what you want to be shouldn't happen.

I will help each of my children dream big, study hard, and practice many skills, but I do not plan on telling them they can be anything they want to be.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reality: All Ours

It happened.

I was out to eat with my family on Friday evening.  My kids were actually acting like civilized human beings.  Dinner went very well.  My husband went to throw away our water cups, and I was standing next to the growing burrito line with my newborn attached to me in a wrap and my two toddlers holding each of my hands.  Then, it happened...

Two women in the line looked over at me, saw the baby in the wrap, and said, "Wow!  We love that wrap!  I wish they would have had those kind of things when my kid was little...."  As I was responding, I saw their eyes catch glimpse of the toddlers.  Their eyes shifted from one to the other, then to the baby, then to me...standing there alone.

And it happened.  Their tone changed.

"Are these ALL yours?" with a sense of amazement, disbelief, and disgust.

So, ladies in the burrito line, this one is for you...

I know it is shocking.  First, I have three children.  In this society, that is shocking enough.  Second, I have three children who are all three and under.  That is strike two.  Third, I have children who don't match in skin tone.  There it is.  Strike your eyes.

You only said four words - Are these ALL yours?  But what you might not understand is that you spoke so much more.  You told me about our society, you told me about yourself, and you told me about our family.  I don't really blame you, you see, for you are just a product of this world.  When you look at me - alone with three children, three and under, who "don't match," you think many things.  First, you think that is too many children.  Then, more arrogantly, you think you know something about my sexual promiscuity.  That's okay, I am used to it.

I see you in the grocery store.
I see you at the park.
I see you in the restaurant.

Because, dear ladies, I have actually never seen YOU, but I have seen you.

And although I have seen you so many times before, I still can't quite find the right words to respond to you.  Should I be gentle?  Should I be angry?  Should I spend the extra 20 minutes it would actually take to explain my family and why we are so awesome?  Sometimes you make it seem worth the battle.  Other times, I just smile and walk away, allowing you to believe whatever you want about me.

When you say those four words with your mouth and those one million words with your eyes and tone, you don't have anything to lose.  I have six little ears waiting to hear how I will respond.  You can say anything you want and walk away.  I have to answer to the three little mouths that will inevitably have questions.  You can go on with your life as nothing has happened, and you never have to see me again.  I will face you again tomorrow.

So, dear ladies in the burrito line, "Yes, they are ALL mine...and my husband's."

And for when my sharp tongue gets the best of me in response to the words you spoke and the words you didn't speak, please forgive me.  I will try to answer better when I see you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reality: Two Plus One

I don't think I hid the fact that I was slightly terrified of having another child.  I love children and I will continue to welcome them joyfully - biologically and through adoption - if God so chooses.  However, the thought of two plus one (I couldn't hardly even say three for awhile) was overwhelming.

I was tired before two plus one.
I was reaching my limits before two plus one.
I was sure I had no energy left before two plus one.
I was questioning my parenting skills before two plus one.

So, now that I am three weeks into the world of two plus one, what is it really like?

Well, shockingly, not that different.  I have had a number of friends tell me that the transition from one to two is much harder than any other transition after two.  I can honestly agree, based on my three whole weeks of experience.  Ask me again in another three weeks and maybe life will have changed.  But as for now...

I was tired before two plus one.  I am still tired.  Not more.  Not less.
I was reaching my limits before two plus one.  I am reaching my limits now.  My limits just changed.
I was sure I had no energy left before two plus one.  I still have just enough now.
I was questioning my parenting skills before two plus one.  Let's be honest - I will always do that.

The thing is, I was tired when I had no children and when I had one, and when I had one plus one, and now.
I was reaching my limits, I had no energy left, and I questioned my parenting skills (even before one came along).  The children weren't really the difference.

When I had one, I carried around a huge, overly filled and stocked, diaper bag.  Now, I carry a huge, just filled with essentials for three, diaper bag.  No more weight on my shoulders.

When I had one, I pushed around a stroller.  Now, I push around a double stroller with two plus one on it.  No extra strollers or stragglers to struggle with.

When I had one, I was covered in spit-up and was never prepared.  Now, I have a change of clothes for every family member in the van.  No smelling like spit-up in public for me anymore.

So, with three - there, I said it - THREE children, my life seems pretty much the same...

Only filled with a little more preparation, a little more tardiness, and much much much more love.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reality: A Birth Story

I never wrote down Henry's birth story.  I told myself I would always remember it, and I have not failed in that regard.  However, somehow having a girl made me feel like I needed to preserve this a little more.  My daughter, God willing, will one day walk this road, and I hope that knowing a little about what it was like for me will help her prepare.  So, my dearest little D, here is your birth story...

I had been expecting to go "overdue" as I had with Henry, who was born at 41 weeks and 1 day.  I had hoped in my heart it would not come to that, but I had known in my brain that indeed it would.  Throughout this pregnancy I had very low platelet counts and was told there was a good chance I would not be able to receive an epidural due to the risk of me bleeding profusely when punctured.  I had wanted a natural childbirth with Henry.  I had worked so hard to have my dream of a natural childbirth.  I read books, I talked to every woman I knew about pain techniques, and I had prepared my husband for the adventure. 

Seventeen hours into labor with Henry, I had been stuck at 8-9 centimeters dilated for about 3 hours and the doctors were becoming very concerned.  The more I could feel the concern, the more I knew I wasn't going anywhere.  The big "C" word of birth was thrown around, and I opted for the epidural in case of an emergency c-section (like my sister had to have done).  The epidural was unsuccessful in stopping the pain, and I was now unable to move off of my back to deal with the pain.  So, more drugs were piled on...the one thing I really didn't want...more drugs.  At this point, there was not much I could do, though.  Labor was now out of my hands.  I felt like a bystander in some strange world. 

Ever since that experience, I had been disappointed in myself.  I had made it so far and endured so much pain.  I felt like the epidural was my tossing in of the towel.  I had failed, or at least I thought I had.  I was thankful for my healthy son, but terribly disappointed in myself.  Labor sometimes does that to you.  You question yourself, you think, "Women have done this forever...what is wrong with me?," and you wonder if you should have done it differently.  I wondered.  Being pregnant again, and with a disorder that was almost forcing me into a natural labor, made me wonder even more.  Would I be able to do this?  So I read books, I talked to women about labor, and I prepared my husband...again.

40 weeks and 6 days into this pregnancy, D decided it was time to make her way into the world.  All of the grandparents had arrived the day before, very eager for a new granddaughter.  It was a Sunday, and I had gone to church in the morning.  Everyone laughed at me, and said, "We really wish you weren't here today!  We thought you would be in the hospital by now."  Me too, church members, me too!  My husband had a regular Sunday, and travelled to his other congregation to preach.  He made his way back to the house somewhat earlier that day than usual (as he, too, was eager for labor to start).  I had been having some intense contractions for a few days before this, and I had intense shooting pain through my right hip.  We had been doing everything we could think of to get this party started - taking long walks, eating spicy foods, and banking on the full moon for some help.  Nothing helped though.  D was set on coming on her own terms, and her terms seemed set on a Sunday afternoon after her grandparents had arrived. 

At about 2 pm, we were all getting ready to eat lunch - my dad's barbeque chicken from the grill.  I started feeling contractions, but I didn't dare say anything quite yet.  I had been down this road for days.  I didn't believe it was really happening.  So, I let my husband know what was happening and I rested on the couch for a little while.  By about 3 pm, I was certain labor was in full swing.  The contractions were continuing and progressing.  Christopher sent the boys with their grandparents to go out to the splash pad so that we could have some privacy. 

As soon as they went out the door, I said, "Let's get this party started.  I am NOT letting these contractions stop.  We are going out for a walk."  And we did.  We walked a couple circles around are large yard.  I was having contractions every 5 minutes or so, but I was able to talk through them.  After 30 minutes or so, I decided a shower sounded nice.  So, we went inside, I showered, worked through some INTENSE contractions and went in the bedroom.  At some point, I called my sister and chatted with her about labor.  She encouraged me and said I was doing great again.  I needed some female encouragement at that moment.  I spent a considerable amount of time on my hands and knees by this point.  Contractions were 3 minutes apart and STRONG.  They were more intense than I had remembered, but I just figured I was not remembering correctly.  Labor pains kind of disappear in your mind.  You know it hurt, but you can't describe it anymore. 

Through this whole time, I had been using a technique of describing the pain as it was happening to me.  I had read in a book about the power of being curious about the pain.  So, I spent the contractions telling my husband and myself exactly what and where I was feeling the pain.  It was quite relieving, actually.  I was shocked.  Focusing on the pain seemed like the exact opposite thing you should do, but it really helped.  I think it had something to do with the fact that I felt in control, which I had lost in my last labor.  By describing the pain and focusing on it, I was totally in control of it. 

I had been nervous about not getting to the hospital in time.  I have no idea why.  My first labor was 22 hours and I had no reason to believe this one would be fast, but I had heard so many of my friends talking about women barely making it to the hospital.  There was NO WAY I was going to have this baby on the road.  So, I told my husband I wanted to go ahead and go.  I had wanted to labor mostly at home, but in the heat of the moment I got nervous.  What if this was it?  It was SO MUCH more intense than my last labor!  What if I had this baby on this floor right here?  My husband really didn't want to go to the hospital yet, because he knew what I really wanted.  He knew the transition to the hospital would be hard.  He knew what I needed more than I did.  However, as the great husband he is, he later told me that he felt like he had one card to pull during the labor process, and he didn't want to use it "too early."  I have a funny husband.  So, we packed up and headed out sometime around 6 pm.

The drive was uneventful, full of contractions, but nothing too exciting.  No babies being born on the road, anyway.

The check-in process went pretty smoothly until I sat down in the triage room.  The contractions were still coming every 3 minutes, lasting a minute or longer, and progressively intense.  I was still coping with the pain by talking through them and explaining the pain.  My husband was a champ...followed all the tips from our reading, asked me what I was feeling when I looked too scared, and overall was again the BEST labor partner in the world.  My triage nurse, however, acted as though she had never seen a woman in labor who did anything other than scream or breathe.  Every contraction I had, I would begin talking, calmly explaining every pain.  She would say, "Just breathe.  Just do your breathing."  Then she would say things like, "Is she talking to me?" to my husband.  What?!?!  Don't talk about me to my husband like I am not there!  And don't act like I am crazy!  I might have been losing it at this point. 

The hospital doctor came in to check my progress.  As she entered the room, the nurse turned to her as I began another contraction and said, "Oh, she talks to herself" in a "don't mind her" sort of way.
OK.  That was the last straw.  I am not crazy, *%&^#!  I am dealing with the pain in a calm, collected way, and I am not hurting anyone.  But I was about to...

At that moment, I pretty much lost all chances of having this labor progress naturally.  She had taken over my labor space, gotten me off my game, and totally gotten into my head.  Was I crazy?  Maybe I was.  I didn't know anything at this point.  The doctor checked me and said, "OK, fully effaced and 3-maybe 4 cm."  I. ABOUT. DIED.  You have got to be kidding me.  I was positive that these pains were much more like late labor with Henry.  I let out a huge sigh.  The doctor (not my doctor, just the hospital rounding doctor) asked what was wrong and I said, "I just really thought I was further than that."  "Well, how far did you want to be?"  "5 or more."  "Well, you aren't there yet.  You want me to get the epidural labs lined up?"  "No, I want to do this naturally," and she walked out the door.  That was that.  OK, then, this is not going well.

I was walked down to my room.  On the way, my awesome husband turned sternly to the crazy triage nurse and said, "We would like to be assigned to a nurse with experience in natural labor."  Her crazy response, "We all have that."  My Superhusband's response, "NO!  I mean I want a nurse who will actually help her with natural labor."  I don't think I have ever loved him more.  The nurse responded that it was shift change so she would make sure the charge nurse knew our request before assigning a nurse.

I got settled in, and in walked my saving grace - the greatest nurse I could have asked for.  Compassionate, calm, older with experience, and completely on my side - I would later find out that she was assigned to me due to her own four labors, two with pain medication and two natural.  SCORE!

Then a whole bunch of stuff happened that is all very foggy in my mind, as the pain was completely ridiculous at this time.  I could not believe I was only 3-4 cm.  This was terrible.  How would I survive the rest?  I got my IV for my Group B Strep drugs, and I went to the bathroom like 25 times.  About an hour and 15 minutes had passed since we had gotten to the hospital and I was sure I was not going to make it.  More than once, I looked my husband right in the eyes and said, "I can't do this.  I don't know how I am going to do this.  This is not right.  Something is not right.  This is so much more painful than the last time."  I called my sister for some support, and talked about the possibility of an epidural.  She was just supportive and told me again that there is nothing wrong with making the best decision you can for you and your husband. 

I asked the nurse if I could have labs done to be checked if I was able to have an epidural.  She ordered the labs, and when they returned I learned that I had narrowly made the cute-off with a platelet count of 119, when you must be over 100.  By this point, the only think I could think was, "THANK GOD!"  But I was still very scared.  My last epidural had been unsuccessful, and the anesthesiologist told me that if it didn't work last time, it had a higher chance of not working this time.  Did I still want it?  Something deep inside me was saying I had to have it.  I had worked so hard to prepare for a natural labor, but I knew I needed this epidural.  I needed it because of me, but I also needed it for my husband.  I could see how much he was hurting.  This man would go to the moon and back for me if I asked him to, so I knew he would walk this journey with me, but I could see it in his eyes.  This was killing him.  I was in such intense pain, and all his support was not doing the trick like it had last time.  Something was drastically different with me and this labor.  And he knew it.

So, I took the epidural.  But it was much different than last time.  When I signed the papers this time, I was signing them because I wanted to sign them.  I was controlling that pen.  Last time, I think I just made a line where my name was supposed to go.  I had been pushed into something I didn't want at 9 CM DILATED.  Who can control a pen at 9 cm dilated?  This time, I had made the decision.  This was me controlling my labor space.  Not them.  That meant something to me.

As soon as the epidural was complete, I asked to be checked to see where I had progressed to.  In 90 minutes, I had gone from 3 cm to 6 cm and was progressing well.  Thank goodness!  I really didn't want pitocin on top of the epidural and making it to 6 cm naturally gave me a great chance of progressing by myself from here on out.  And I did.  And my epidural worked!  I could still move my legs, and I could still feel pressure on contractions, which left me feeling in control.  Control seems to be a focus for me here, eh?

I might have to work on my control issues. 

The next few hours were blissful.  I was progressing, I called my sister and my friend Andrea.  My parents came in and talked with me for awhile.  I felt like I had made the best possible decision.  The nurses all were having considerable challenges trying to track Dorothea's heart rate.  They couldn't find a location where they could get a good reading, and it had boggled all of them.  At about 11:15, they called my doctor in to check me and break my water.  By about midnight, I told them I was feeling the need to push.  The nurse checked me and said, "Oh, um...well, that is a nose and an eye.  We have a face presentation here...and OP."  Then, the room became flooded with people from NICU and other breathing specialists. I became very nervous.  "Honey, your baby is coming face first," my nurse gently said.  "What does that mean?  Is she ok?  Will I be ok?"  "I have been in OB for 29 years, and I have never seen a face presentation and OP baby.  That means she is face up and face out."  "Is she going to be okay?"  "We just have some people coming in to check her out, ok?" 

My doctor came in, looked at the situation, and took a breath and said, "Ok, let's do this, Kelly."  I began to say, "Is everything ok?  What is going to happ..." and then her head delivered!  I didn't even push.  The doctor laughed, and said, "Aren't women's bodies amazing?  The things they can do.  You are doing great...just don't push."  At that moment my husband looked down and saw Dorothea's cord wrapped around her neck.  He decided at that point to not look again...and not to tell me that.  Good decision, again, Husband!   Then, the doctor asked me to give a little push, and one second later, Dorothea was born.  She began screaming on her own, and no sound had ever been sweeter to my ears.  The NICU specialists had to take her immediately to clear her airway, as it had been blocked due to the position of her head in the birth canal (with her head cocked backwards and the back of her head resting on her back).  My husband stood by her the whole time and gave me updates.  Within about 5 minutes, she was laying on my chest breathing well.  Thanks be to GOD!  Due to her face position, the doctor put a pretty large scratch above her right eye when breaking my water and she was pretty bruised up on her face.  All that healed quickly, though. 

In the hours that followed, the nursing staff kept expressing how amazed they were with my delivery.  No face presentation babies are ever delivered vaginally in the hospital due to so many risks.  Due to my successful epidural, the nurses allowed me to "labor down" so much without checking me that Dorothea descended and exited on her own before they recognized what was happening, and therefore, I was able to have a face presentation baby without a c-section.  Had I been having the urge to push sooner due to laboring naturally, things may have turned out very differently - for her safety and mine.

Did I mention how glad I am that I listened to my body and got that epidural when I did?  Did I mention how thankful I am that God sustained my platelet count to 19 points above the cutoff level?

I know that in this hospitalized birth world we live in there are many medical choices that are taken away from women in birth.  I hate that.  I wish it wasn't that way.  I wish that crazy triage nurse wouldn't have made me feel like I was the crazy one.  I wish.  I wish.  I wish.  But, as I shared with my husband, I know that my transition to the hospital and the way that woman reacted in the triage room played a significant role in how I was not able to deal with the pain after that.  Part of me wants to be really angry with her for that, but the larger part of me knows that had she not acted that way, I may not have needed that epidural when I did.  And if I hadn't gotten that epidural, the doctors may have taken the choice of a vaginal delivery away from me.  So, in the end, I am probably the most thankful for the crazy triage nurse.  She may have saved me from an emergency c-section.  I guess I should go thank her...Well, maybe not.

Dorothea Marie, born August 26, 2013, at 12:45 am, weighing 7lbs. 4 oz., 21.5 in.

Hey, labor went from 22 hours to 11!  I am thinking if another child ever comes along, I should bank on five and a half, right?  Bring it on.  :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reality: The Drug

I am tired.  There are not very many tireds like the tired of didn't-sleep-while-pregnant, just-gave-birth, caring-for-a-newborn, and emotional-from-all-the-hormones.  Until you have experienced this kind of tired, it is simply indescribable.  Our new daughter is the best sleeper we have had yet, and she is overall the easiest.  Don't let that fool you into thinking I said she was a good sleeper and easy, though.  Newborns aren't good sleepers and they aren't easy.  Some are just easier than others.

In the middle of the night last night, as I awoke from my half-asleep state that I am always in at night, I rolled over to sit up and retrieve my bundle of joy from her bassinet.  It was the third time I had done this move during the night - it happens almost without my knowledge at this point.  I grabbed the ever-trusty boppy pillow, placed my daughter gently on the pillow, and gave her the one thing that can always be counted on to solve her problems.  Then began my nodding.  That nodding that you can recall from the most boring of school days.  That nodding that certainly never would happen to you during a sermon.  That head nodding that is uncontrollable.  This tired has taken over me.  I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere.  I nod off while breastfeeding, with my head slung over forward and my hair draping in her little face.  I fall asleep with my head slung backward resting on the hard wooden bed frame.  I have even fallen asleep for the two minutes that it takes my husband to change a diaper - that I asked him to do in the middle of the night so I could fall over, bent in half on the bed, with my head slung between my ankles - those two minutes were so worth it.

But last night, as I nursed her, I began to wake up more.  For a few minutes, my mind was clear, the home was quiet, and I was alone in a house full of people.  I glanced down at her - my child - and had The Moment.  All mothers know the moment well.  Being the mother of children who were both biological and adopted, I can assure you that this moment happens in both relationships...

The moment when you realize what it means to love this individual.

That moment is like a drug - the greatest, most high-inducing, God-given drug you can imagine.  I looked at her face, as she nursed - completely calm, completely satisfied, and completely dependent.  This child needs everything from me and her father.  Her eyes were wide open staring right at me and right into the depths of my heart.  Those eyes dug so deep in my heart at that very moment that it physically hurt to love her that much.  Then, she was full, and her eyes began to blink a little slower until they closed tight.  There I was, nestling my newborn into me, staring at her completely peaceful face, and I wanted to soak in every detail of that moment.  I actually didn't want to go back to sleep.  The drug was so good.

In our culture, two or three kids is seen as a good stopping point.  More than three and you are just a little weird and crazy, right?  I get it, sort of.  Kids take a lot.  Parents have to sacrifice - sleep, money, belongings, vacations, dates, etc.  But I have to say, I would welcome one, two, five, ten, or a hundred more simply because of moments like last night.  Maybe I am just a little weird and crazy.

Hello, my name is Kelly, and I am addicted to children...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Reality: 40 Weeks, 4 Days

I have been pregnant for approximately 40 weeks and 4 days.  I have an estimated due date of August 19, which has come and gone.  My youngest son didn't arrive until 41 weeks and 1 day, so I can't say I am surprised.  It just gives me so much time to sit and think...and sit and think...and sit and think.  Too much of Kelly sitting and thinking is never a good thing.

This week's thoughts have been centered around death.  That may seem really horrible and morbid, but the reality is that with life on this earth comes death.  Our first child died in utero, and when you lose a child like that, the pain sticks with you.  Both of my pregnancies since that loss have been filled with thoughts of that child.  

In our culture, babies in utero are seen as dispensable.  We can create them in a lab to freeze and use or kill at will, we can kill them because we don't think we have the time or resources to care for them, we can make the choice that they don't deserve to live because of an abnormality that will "obviously" make them unhappy and unproductive, etc.  Basically, until they are born, we can do with them as we please.  This makes it increasingly hard on couples who lose children in miscarriages to actually mourn.  Our culture doesn't understand it, because we have made these children un-human.  Our culture says, "How can you miss someone that wasn't really there?  How can you still be upset about that?  You can always have another one..."  Children are seen as a commodity - to be chosen at will.  I pray for couples who have lost children in miscarriages and couples who are unable to conceive, because the world has told them that children are a thing to choose to have at the appropriate time.  I can assure you, if that were the case, I would have my first child here in my arms and many barren couples would be having babies right now.  

And, if I were able to choose to have children at a certain time, I would certainly be in labor - right at this moment.