A Broken Hallelujah…

Happy New Year! … and a belated Merry Christmas, too. I had the best of intentions to log in and provide some kind of grand blog on ending 2016 and beginning 2017. But, time, energy and “too many other things” got the better of me. That’s OK…it’s only January 2nd. Plenty more time to provide wit, wisdom and great depths of knowledge.

I had a really fun Christmas. We live in South Texas and my husband and I just completed building a pool. It was done in time for Christmas. (We thought it was going to be done back in October. If you’ve had to do any work with contractors you understand that there is no schedule that can’t be broken and no timeline that can’t be extended…frustratingly so. I digress) As I was mentioning we have a beautiful, new, blue pool.

Having lived up north for pretty much all my life, it’s a new experience to have weather warm enough in which to swim. We had lots of nights in the hot tub. My kid, I’ve learned, is part fish. He would live in the pool if he could. This unfortunately means that we experienced our first bout of swimmer’s ear. Not cool.

One thing about getting a pool that no one ever tells you about is the increased amount of laundry that comes with getting in and out of water repeatedly throughout the day. Wet beach towels are heavy and start to stink if not properly aired out. Ergo…I did close to twenty loads of laundry during the 3 or 4 days surrounding Christmas.

In this frenetic effort to keep Christmas traditions, enjoy the pool, enjoy my family and, Christmas baking done (because no perfect Christmas isn’t without gingerbread cookies) and try not to miss out on the true meaning of Christmas…I started to get a little panicky. You know when you get that feeling of frustration because you feel like you are doing ALL the work and “why in the world am I doing all this work!” and “if I have to fold another towel I swear I’ll…!” and “I’m doing all this work and missing out on Christmas and this is my one chance to enjoy it because it only comes around once a year!”…you smelling me?

At this stage of frustration the sweet, cheerful, perfect-Christmas attitude exits and the ticked-off, “Get away from me; don’t touch me” attitude joins the Christmas party. She’s a joy. Killjoy is more like it. She’s also a  tough nut to crack because she just won’t leave.

Groan.

All I want to do is celebrate the birth of my Lord. Love my husband. Enjoy my son’s delight. Instead I’m bent out of shape because things aren’t picture perfect and what the frick am I folding all these towels, for?!?

Then comes my favorite part…guilt. On top of the towels and grumpy attitude let’s spread a little guilt on this craptastic parfait. Guilt you ask? Yes. That sick, guilty feeling of , “I know it’s Christmas and I’m really trying to have that Mary not Martha attitude. But I can’t help it…I’m grumping-out big time and I know I’m missing out on this fun season because of my own crabby attitude and now I feel really guilty about it.” That guilt.

At the end of this schizophrenic tale it finally occurred to me. I celebrate Christmas everyday. The saving of Christ’s birth. The closeness of his presence. The newness of a new year. The stillness of His breath. I guess I don’t have to cram Christmas cookies, decorations, family time into one season because each day of my life is a rhythm of re-birth…a rhythm of Christmas and  New Year.

I’m sure next Christmas season I’ll try harder to slow down and soak up the joy of Christmas…but, I might fail…actually, I will fail. A broken hallelujah. That’s OK. I’m just one woman and I can only fold one towel at a time. But one thing is for sure…I’m not going to feel guilty. My Jesus has given me Christmas and New Years rolled up into one and I get to enjoy it everyday. He’s given me grace to screw up and the hope of knowing He’ll make things new. That’s a relief.

I’ve got to run…towels need to be loaded into the dryer.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

– Revelation 21:5 NIV

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

I remember when I found out I was pregnant. I had already been diagnosed with MS and the idea of understanding how to live with the disease was still new. I was learning how to take my shots and, for the most part, was just trying to convince myself there was nothing to be scared about. A few months after my diagnosis, my husband was chatting with his brother on the phone. My brother-in-law (a physician) mentioned that age, pregnancy and MS aren’t always the best of bedfellows and if we wanted to have kids now might be a good time to address it. 

Twelve months after I was diagnosed I became a mom.

We brought my son home from the hospital and set him down in his  carrier on the kitchen table. The house was completely quiet and, might I add, completely clean and organized. (You know how they say expectant mothers like to nest…I was the Muhammad Ali of nesting. I cleaned the toilets and organized my shoes along with my underwear drawer the day I went into labor.) In that moment while my son was peacefully sleeping and we were in the safety and comfort of our own home, my husband and I looked at each other and I know exactly what he was thinking because I was thinking the same thing…”What on earth have we done?!?”

The next few weeks were spent sleepless. My husband took off one week of paternity leave and helped with late night changings and feedings. I’d had a difficult pregnancy with the holy terror ripped out of my backside. As a result my doctor gave me some strong pain meds which I hated taking because of the grogginess they left me feeling. My husband insisted I take them and one night I finally did. During the late night feeding when my son woke up, my husband handed him to me. “I’ll go downstairs and get the bottle made up, you change him,” he said. Okay, I thought, no prob. About 5 minutes later my husband came back upstairs and I was still standing in the same spot. He asked if I’d changed the baby’s diaper. “Oh man…that’s what I was supposed to be doing!” That was the last night I took those drugs. The pain in my hiney was just going to have to take a back seat (pun intended).

Nothing prepares you for motherhood; and I think that’s how it is supposed to be. There are tears and joys, laughter and sorrow, pain and comfort, sticky walls and tiny handprints, dirty floors and really dirty floors, stinky messes and messes that really stink. There are grass stains, dirt stains, chocolate and ketchup stains and stains from things where you’d rather not know where they came from. I’ve picked up enough toys to fill two dozen rooms from floor to ceiling. I’ve listened to enough made-up, knock-knock jokes to drive a wooden man crazy. I’ve corrected grammar and  explained the importance of brushing our teeth until I’m blue in the face. I’ve nearly drowned in sweat and humidity from more sporting events than I care to mention…likewise, I’ve screamed my lungs out cheering my kid’s name at more swim meets than I care to mention.  Band aids and neosporin are bought in bulk…as is anti-fungal cream. Absolutely no back talk, remember to say “please” and “thank you”and “use your words!” … Because for Heaven’s sake, mom’s ESP doesn’t work when she is tired and behaving like a grouch will get you nowhere fast.

We are a society that likes to hand out awards…the Ocsars, Emmy’s, Espy’s,  Heisman, Nobel Prize, and on and on. There is no statue to be awarded for the job mom does. The award is different. The sleepless nights, long talks, worries, tears, tireless work is worth it. Each day I watch my kid get off the school bus. He walks up to  me smiling with ridiculous neon orange bands on his braces. He hugs me and I lean over and smell his hair…the sweaty-from-the-playground smell. And there it is in a microcosm, the best part of being mom. It’s as if a mini-Oscars ceremony is taking place right when my son gets off the school bus. The award goes to me. God made me his mom and the joy is all mine.

For all the moms out there, remember…

Clean houses are overrated. Every now and then, take-out is acceptable…sometimes multiple times a week. Crying is normal …as is laughing and talking to yourself. Chocolate is medicinal. Extensions to the ‘5-second rule’ are always permissible depending upon your level of frustration at the moment. Long walks with or without strollers are encouraged and permitted…as are blowing dandelions. Flawless looking hair is for geeks. Chapstick counts as make-up. Perfection is boring and lame. You are above that because you are beautiful. You are mom.

The day I became a mom.

Peggy

You know how sometimes some folks are just “on your mind?” You keep thinking about them and can’t get them out of your thoughts. Today…been thinking about my Grandma. I can’t really pinpoint a reason why she’s been on my mind lately. She’s a fun person to think about. Full of lots of spunk, sass and very snarky. That was my favorite part about her.

Here’s something I wrote two years ago and wanted to ‘re-blog’. Her name was Peggy…

It’s late & I’m tired. This has been a long day tacked into a long week. Nothing really tasking has happened. It’s just that feeling of moving quickly through space and time …completing the checklist and feeling unhinged from the moment. That is until I received a package on my doorstep today. It’s funny, I kept racking my brain trying to remember what I or my husband had ordered. I opened the box. It was filled to the brim with white packing popcorn. The kind that generates static electricity and makes it difficult to remove the object from the box without spilling styrofoam pieces everywhere. Setting aside my anal retentiveness, I plunged my hand in and pulled out the smaller box that was inside. All the while my son is constantly chattering to me and delighted to track down all the styrofoam pieces and crunch them. I move through the motions of opening the smaller box. Upon seeing what was inside, time stopped. I was no longer unhinged from the moment and became immediately connected.

The package was from my uncle and inside was a wooden Anri figurine that belonged to my grandmother. It’s of a young girl carrying a tea set. The girl is dressed in clothes that look similar to what Laura Ingalls wore on Little House on the Prairie…only much finer. Her hair is pulled back in a bun and she has a puffy hat on her head. Her tea set is complete with teapot, sugar, creamer and two cups…all decorated with little blue flowers. Perhaps to me, the most touching part was draped around the figurine. It was a wooden beaded necklace with my name in beads. My grandmother had purchased the necklace for me and one for all my cousins, for that matter. Each necklace had our names. My necklace had been placed on this little figure over 30 years ago. My uncle included a letter describing the story behind my grandmothers love and collection for these figures. His letter describes how this one, because the necklace was on it and the little girl appears to be going to a tea party, she had intended for me.

My grandma and I used to have tea party’s, often. Our tea party’s were on toy tea sets made from real china. I didn’t really like to play dolls; although she was an avid collector. Frankly, I’ve always found dolls to be weird. I couldn’t ever get into cross stitch and she was marvelous at it. I remember several times, after having attempted to work with me on a cross stitch project or taking me to the toy store and almost begging me to buy a doll, she would shake her head and say, “I can’t believe I’m related to you.” But we did have tea party’s.

She passed away 8… Almost 9 years ago. I still have dreams about her, routinely. Sometimes in my dreams she’s ill from the Alzheimer’s she battled and, to cheer her up, I pull out pictures of her grand kids. We start to talk about all my cousins and it seems to make her smile. Other times, she’s in my dreams and completely healthy. I ask her, bluntly, “What are you doing here? I thought you died?” (remember, it’s a dream and nothing really makes sense) In her usual spunkiness she responds, slightly miffed that I even asked her, “Yes, yes, I know. ”

You know that scripture verse in Hebrews…12:1, I think. It talks about how we have “so great a cloud of witnesses….to run with endurance the race set before us.” I think my grandma is in my cloud of witnesses. I think, that as I run this race, she is cheering me. That I can’t quit the race and I’ve no choice but to run in such a way as to win.

The little “tea time” figurine was an unexpected blessing today. She is a reminder of where I come from. A reminder of my grandmother. A strong woman filled with grace who taught me that the art to having a tea party is learning how to slow down and live in the moment.

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Good Morning Sunshine :)

I was in the doctor’s office last week for an annual wellness visit. My doctor was running behind which is usually my opportunity to get caught up on all the style and gossip magazines…the ones that talk about fashion, and makeup, and clothes and all that really fun stuff. The particular magazine I picked up was about all the latest fashions and trends. Seeing as I how I don’t receive theses magazines at home, I thought it a good opportunity to bone-up on my fashion sense.

Thumbing through my magazine I happened to come upon an article chronicling the morning routines of three busy, successful females. Each of the women provided, in detail, what they did in the morning to get themselves started. One was a venture capitalist, another a global fashionista and the third an entrepreneur of a flavored-water company. All the women appeared beautiful, intelligent and accomplished in their own right. All of them got up early…between 5:15 to 7 am. (one lady gets up at 6:05 because she hates the snooze button and 6 am seems too early…ergo..6:05 am) Each of them performed some activity to wake up their brain…exercise, meditation, walking, etc. They all had very healthy breakfast habits: hot water with ginger and lemon (to detox), Greek yogurt, lattes, eggs, toast, grapefruit, or smoothie. Further still, their morning beauty habits made me jealous: vitamin E body scrub, face washes I can’t pronounce, lotion exfoliators I can’t pronounce, sun screen, age repair serums, mineral frizzy shine serums for hair, regenerating firming lift oil, plumping mascara, brilliant gloss for the lips and much, much more. In the end, between the beauty/hair treatments, morning exercise/meditation and light breakfast, each lady made it out the door between 8 and 8:50 am.

I’m quite envious of these ladies…here’s my morning routine:

7 am – Hit the snooze button. I believe in the snooze button and I believe it has a place in my life.

7:09 am – Get up. Get kiddo up. This usually requires an explanation (sometimes an argument) that contrary to his internal clock it is in fact time to get out of bed. (PS…remind kiddo that when he washes his hair in the shower he is to wash all of his hair not just the front half of his cranium)

7:11 – Turn off exterior house lights. They don’t go off automatically and those bulbs are expensive to replace.

7:11 – Start hollering for Oswald (8 year old English bulldog) that it is time to get up. He’s old and he’s a bulldog = stubborn.

7:15  – Now that Oswald is in an upright position begin wiping all his wrinkles…around nose, eyes, mouth, ears etc.  Once his face is clean, pull (and I do mean pull) dog into laundry room to begin eating his breakfast.

7:18 – Get kiddo’s bed made and holler into the bathroom to remind him that ALL his hair must be washed.

7:20 – Make kiddo’s breakfast (equates to heating up frozen pancakes), pack his lunch. Holler to hubby to see if he needs lunch today or if he wants toast for breakfast.

7:30 – Explain to my son that he better kick it into high gear because he needs to feed his cat. Then turn around and hug and kiss hubby out the door.

7:35 – Make my bed. Get out of my pajamas. Put on some walking clothes

7:40 – Let Oswald outside, fill up his water bowl and follow it up with a quick “Son, what is taking so long? You’ve still got to brush your teeth?!?”

7:45 – Let Oswald inside and perform the most loathsome task of the morning. (For any of you English bulldog owners this will come as no surprise. However if you have the pleasure of owning a pet without a corkscrew tail, this will seem a bit over the top. Rest assured it is quite necessary) After Oswald has finished his morning constitution, I pull out a hemorrhoid wipe and proceed to wipe my English bulldogs butt and tail. I am not joking. If I don’t perform this task he takes on the smell of dead, rotting fish.

7:50 – Scrub my hands. Check my hair in the reflection of the microwave. Holler to my son…”Time to go!”

We head out the door and walk to school. It’s a 1.2 mile walk. We talk about everything. Video games, his friends, what he read in his devotions that morning…nothing is off limits. I walk him up to the school… hug, kiss and watch him walk through the doors. I then walk for the next hour or so around our neighborhood; finally making it back to my house to a bowl of raisin bran, cup of coffee and then a shower.

There isn’t any lemon, ginger water to detoxify my system, although it does sound like a good idea. I’ve no fancy face scrubs. I don’t meditate to focus…but I do read my Bible to stay grounded and hopeful. I feed little mouths and wipe wrinkles…and butts. My morning is a far cry from the three ladies in the magazine, but I’m equally as successful, accomplished and as beautiful as they are. My morning is not fancy…it’s controlled chaos and it happens to be full of grace.

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Oswald…his usual pose.

Some Good News…

There is something  unnerving about a stranger taking pictures of your brain and then sitting down methodically, without emotion, disseminating what they find. It reminds me of when I was in labor with my son. I, as  pretty much every other mother who has been in the birthing room, am in a most unfavorable position on the birthing table. I’ve been in labor for 11 hours and due to my sons heartbeat dropping and my MS complications, my doctor is beginning to get worried. So she calls in reinforcements. Neonatologist and his nurse, surgeon (I think there were two) and his nurses for a possible emergency c-section, an additional OB/GYN and her nurse….oh, and a medical student who happens to be doing his OB/GYN rotation. I am on the table in an unmodest fashion while a whole football team of physicians along with their nurses are looking at me, assessing the situation and trying to determine a medically sound way to deliver this baby. I cannot hide. Everything is on display.

I sat in my neurologists office today at a six month checkup to review new MRIs. A gentleman sitting next to me is having someone help him complete the pre office paperwork. The paperwork has  lots of questions regarding current symptoms…for example: Blurry vision? Dizzy? Headaches? Sleep problems? Mobility issues? Etc, etc. Confession: anytime I fill out that paperwork, I lie. I do, it’s true. Do I have headaches? Yep. Dizziness/vertigo….yeppers. Mobility/coordination…let’s not even go there. The problem is that my lies get me only so far because when my neurologist pulls up my MRI…it doesn’t lie and I can no longer feign ignorance. 

I received really good news today. My new scans don’t show any new lesions. My neurologist took the time to show me my existing lesions as well as the area of the brain they affect. I’ve developed two new lesions over the last year…giving me a grand total of 5…possibly six according to my neuro. We reviewed things like: slow down, don’t exercise to the point  that you’ll throw up, mindful of the heat, work both sides of the body, find ways to engage your brain (ergo blogging 😉)…& so on.

As much as I loathe getting an MRI or feel violated when 100  images of my brain are put on a computer screen to be  scientifically analyzed by a stranger…I am most grateful the MRI blows through my lies. At that point I’m completely incapable to pull the “I’ll be fine. I’ll just drink some cranberry juice” card. I’m forced to be honest. Forced to respect slowing down. Forced to breath in a different rhythm. I find myself in a rare moment of peace amidst a storm…knowing that despite the diagnosis, despite the fear of the unknown; I’m going to be OK. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ NASB)

Don’t Be Scared

Fear is  debilitating. It starts out small and then blooms into way more than it should be. One time, in the sixth grade, we were talking in class about how the human body chews, swallows and processes food. I began wondering…what if one doesn’t chew the food well enough and it gets stuck in your throat? Even as an adult I still find this to be a valid question. For example, my family and I recently visited a local restaurant and after eating our fried onions, burgers, oysters and chicken wings…we all agreed that dessert would be a good idea. (Dessert is always a good idea). The waiter brought out a creation of brownie, ice cream and chocolate sauce. All total the dessert was the size of my head. Enough to feed all of us…or one crazed chocoholic (me). We all grabbed our spoons and began processing the dessert rapidly. What started out as a tower of beautifulness ended up a sloppy, melted puddle in the dessert bowl. Collectively we’d all managed to take  who-knows-how-many-calories and disseminate them through the process of chewing, swallowing and digestion. Despite the size of the dessert compared to the size of our gullet, not one of us choked!

I’ve not always been so quick to gobble my food. As mentioned above, back in the sixth grade I became obsessed with chewing my food and making sure it was safely processed into pieces I could swallow. Eating with me became arduous. It took me forever to chew my food. One time during lunch at school, I had a near panic attack over a slice of very chewy, cheese pizza. The pizza was not easily chewable, panic set in and  I was convinced I was choking. The whole table stopped eating to watch my antics. I lived…thanks in large part to the fact that in order to choke on a piece of food one must actually attempt to swallow the food. I was too afraid to swallow. But it didn’t stop me from dramatically grabbing my throat and freaking out the lunch lady. I am now over my swallowing fear.

I have a followup MRI scheduled for next week. It’s to see if there are new spots on my brain. My last MRI showed new spots and my physician wants to check and see if the MS is still active or gone back into remission. There is no eloquent way for me to say this, but, I’m scared. For a million reasons…not the least of which is that MRI tubes are insanely claustrophobic.

But it has dawned on me…I have only two options in the matter. Surrender to fear. Surrender to grace. The first option  will debilitate me making it difficult to eat or sleep. I will miss moments of blessing as they will be consumed with minutes/hours of worry. Time will march forward. The sun will rise and set and I will miss it being consumed myopically with fear. The latter will provide breath; rhythm. My eyes will not be on myself but on Christ as grace only comes from Him. This perspective will allow me to eat and sleep. I will hear all my sons silly jokes and they will be a comfort. I will be able to live presently in the moment and fear will not to steal the gifts that are mine.

Neither of the options above change the perameters of my situation…In other words, I still  have to eat and chew the pizza. But this time, unlike my antics in the sixth grade, I can choose to not be afraid. This decision is not light hearted and likely I will have moments of jumping back into the “I’m afraid” camp. That’s ok. I’m not perfect. In that moment, in a calm voice, Christ’ll whisper, “Dont sweat it…I still got you.” Grace will flood back in & fear will dissipate.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31‬:‭6‬ MSG)

Happy Easter

My husband and I are in this tricky stage with our 10 year old son where he’s pretty sure Easter Bunny and Santa Claus don’t exist but is trying to find proof. It’s funny the questions he asks…they range from the immortality of Santa Claus to how can Easter Bunny hop all over the world and not be exhausted. His questions are grounded and seek out truth. However he’s recently stepped up his game. For Easter this year he was determined to set out a bunch of his Legos at the front door, back door and my and my husbands bedroom door to catch either Easter Bunny or his dad or I impersonating  Bunny. (Sidebar: if any of you have ever stepped on a Lego piece, you will understand my horror at his plan. Stepping on a Lego with your bare feet is tantamount to jabbing a fork in your eyeball.)  I digress….I quickly stymied his plan and he came up with an alternative. His alternative was adorable. Before going to bed he drew up a contract asking Easter Bunny to sign his name and include his paw print. So my husband the ever dutiful, consummate dad signed the contract “Easter Bunny” and drew a paw print…because what else are you going to do?

It is fun to watch my little boy and sad at the same time because he is growing older and questioning his beliefs. In truth, to me it is a relief that he questions what he believes. Asking questions drives us to find answers. I used to be afraid to ask questions…thinking that God is angry and demands my belief of Him sight unseen. There can be no bigger lie. 

Truth is, I think God loves our questions. The bigger, tougher, more controversial questions…those happen to be His favorite. He never shys away. I think God loves to show us who He is. Remember when Thomas doubted Jesus? Jesus waisted no time in showing Thomas his scarred side. Jesus was ready for the doubt; He welcomed it. Thomas’ doubt…his questions…his unbelief gave Jesus exactly what He wanted. A chance to reveal that He is the risen Lord. 

I suspect that this is the last year my hubby and I will play Easter Bunny…or Santa Claus for that matter. My 10-year old is too sharp 🙂 However, as time moves forward my 10-year old will become 15 and then will become 20. He will question and want proof of God. I am confident, relieved actually, that my son will get answers. There will be no question too big, no question too offending that God will not answer. He is a real God. Alive. Present. Here & now.

A most glorious Easter to you!

“Then He said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to Him, My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 27-28 NIV)