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.

Rhythm

I love the word ‘rhythm’. It’s got that awkward letter ‘y’ right in the middle and preceded by a silent ‘h’…it’s a phonetic pronunciation nightmare. All the same…it’s a great word. Good rhythm is what we all hope to have when our favorite beat drops in the grocery store, or the car, shopping at Costco and most especially when we ‘re dancing in front of our family at our cousin’s wedding. Some of us don’t have very good rhythm. I tease my husband all the time that he has terrible rhythm. He taught me how to dance the ‘water-sprinkler’ when we were in college. That’s the sum total of his rhythm. Likewise…i’m not sure that my rhythm is very good either. I firmly believe I know how to drop my beat when my favorite tune comes on…but the looks on everyone’s faces is not one of being impressed at my moves …more like they’re embarrassed for me. My son, on the other hand, he’s got it….and thank goodness for that. That kid can drop his groove anywhere, anytime; no matter what song. He even dances to Neil Diamond! It is truly impressive.

Rhythm is a wonderful thing. It’s the steady drumbeat to not only our favorite music but also to life. Our lives move and sway to a rhythm. Sometimes the movement is fast…frenetic almost. Other times, the rhythm is slow, methodical. Our life can go through a rhythm of positive and negative. Of ups and downs….side-to-side. The rhythm can abruptly change or it can go on seemingly forever. When my son was a toddler my husband traveled extensively and I found myself alone in a town where I didn’t know many people. (We had moved shortly after my son was born) That was a tough rhythm; seemed like it would never end. Countless hours of diapers, picking up, wiping tears, making meals, etc. When life’s rhythm is difficult it’s easy to be lost in the frustration and not see the joys because in addition to the diapers, meals, cleaning up, etc…there was also story time, laughter, singing together, cuddle time, etc.

It’s important not to fight the life-rhythm in which we find ourselves. If we are in a rhythm of mourning…we have to mourn. In high school my best friend was killed in a bicycle accident just before starting senior year. I continued to tell myself that we weren’t very close and that her death shouldn’t affect me. I would dream about her. In my dreams I was so angry with her. It took years to bring myself to go to her grave…i couldn’t accept the finality of the situation. It’s scary to show yourself grace when you are heartbroken. Ignoring the rhythm of mourning meant ignoring my heart-break. Instead of showing myself grace, I withheld it. Not cool.

Rhythm is very much a God-thing and He has woven it all over the place.The heart He made you with beats in a rhythm. The lives He has given us moves from the rhythm of childhood to adult to senior. Parenting is a rhythm that changes as our children get older and become more independent. There is a rhythm to learning…it’s called a learning curve. Students begin in kindergarten barely knowing their ABC’s. By 12th grade they read, write and can, hopefully, reason. This earth moves in the rhythm of spring, summer, fall and winter. There is a steady drum-beat everywhere not only in what we do but in what is going on around us.

Most importantly rhythm cannot be rushed. We can’t “push” through life rhythms. We need to walk, move. sway to the beat. Sometimes my life’s rhythm is somber and discouraging. In those moments,  the presence of my Lord gently reminds me that it won’t always be this way…it’ll change. Other times, my rhythm is exciting…pure joy. I soak it up and relish every moment.

The rhythms of our life are a gift. They are periods of time that form our character and shape our opinions. They are journeys that reveal God’s grace; moments where we have to be carried or pulled through life followed by moments where we dance to the beat.

Through it all, good or bad, rhythms bring us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. We experience rhythms of sadness and find His comfort, rhythms of hunger and He fills us, rhythms of anger and we are given His wisdom, rhythms of joy … and we are reminded of His grace.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

Sometimes Bad Things Happen…

There are dark moments in life. Moments when it seems that goodness no longer exists. Sometimes these moments are caused by  medical problems, family issues, or sometimes they’re a result of just a general, run-of-the-mill, crummy day. Whatever it may be, one thing you can count on in life…  bad things will happen.

I’ve recently had such a moment. The details are really unimportant. Suffice it to say, I (myself and my husband) made a decision in the best interest of my family. It was a decision that negatively affected another member. I’ve since been accused of all manner of things.

I guess at the end of the day, we, and we alone are responsible for our own decisions. Although we are influenced in our lives by past and present circumstances, they cannot dictate sound judgement. We are responsible for the here and now. Responsible for the lives of the people that depend upon us. Responsible for seeking out wisdom…no matter how badly we’ve felt mistreated.

These are tough moments where pride is stripped away, and we, in humility and faith, step out. We go against the grain. Choose the unpopular path. The path that, in all likelihood, will make us persona non grata. 

My recent situation has resulted in multiple people voicing their shame of me. I know Christ is not and has never been ashamed of me. He says so…in Him there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1) My actions are subject to his grace and no one else’s. 

This is a dark moment and cannot be ignored. It cannot be swept under the rug. We will all have these moments…but they aren’t without hope. Hope in knowing I serve one God who will provide, will answer, will listen, will counsel…will love and hold me…”even until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

A Day 2 Remember 

Good grief three day weekends go by crazy-fast!!! We started out the weekend with a swim meet…which for any of you veteran swim families out there…nothing like getting up at the crack of dawn with all your gear (tent, chairs, coolers etc.) and waiting hours for your kiddo to swim all of 20 seconds. Good times. The best. 

I digress…as I was saying three day weekends really do fly by. We started off with a swim meet. Later that night we had friends over for pizza (which happen to be the same compadres that sweat it out with us at swim meets),  sleep over that night with my son’s friend. Following day did a three mile walk with hubby, fed the little squirts health food (pizza rolls, chicken nuggets and french fries …my son and his sleep-over friend loved it…I got to clean out my freezer). Managed to squeeze in a load of laundry, run to the grocery, make a dessert to take to the freakishly awesome crawfish boil we were headed to that night…and got a shower in! And that brings me to today…

…Today is Memorial Day

Some good friends of ours, the husband, is an Iraq war veteran. We, my husband, son and myself, tagged along with our friends to a veterans cemetery to pay respects to a fallen soldier, killed in battle, who served alongside our friend. There is nothing more sobering or more humbling than to see hundreds, upon hundreds, upon hundreds of rows of little American flags and to realize that each flag represents a fallen soldier. Many of these men and women were killed during war. There are also many who died from natural causes or possibly disease and chose their final resting place amongst their comrades. However their end came, all these men and women share a common bond…the bond of knowing what it means to take up a weapon and defend.

It’s pretty remarkable to live somewhere that affords us the freedom to go to church, speak our mind, go to college, live where we want, buy what we want, etc. There is a great deal of noise that tends to “muddle” that fact…politics, human rights, crime, the economy…the list is truly endless. However, today, for me and my family, the visit with our friend was a reminder. A reminder of the price that has been paid & it is a reminder for which I’m most grateful. 

For all the men and women who have served this nation; for all the parents, spouses, kids, aunts and uncles who’ve waited for their loved ones to return home; and especially for all the families who’s loved ones returned home to touch the face of God…

“May the LORD bless you and keep you; May the  LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; May the LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.” (‭Numbers‬ ‭6‬:‭24-26‬ NASB paraphrased)  

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)