Saturday, May 29, 2010

Flowers From A Boy

Last week, my husband took our son for a bike ride.  When they returned, my son ran to the door yelling with excitement, "Mom, Mom, look, I brought something for you!!!"  And in he ran with his hands full of little purple flowers. 

Certainly one of the most beautiful bouquets I've ever received.  I love those moments!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Worthington & Blakely

I received an email invite from a friend of mine for a BBQ get-together at her house.  Actually, it was a forward from her husband to mine, then to me.  In an effort to amuse myself [since I'm such a weirdo that I find this sort of thing entertaining], I decided to reply in a creative sort of way, and sent her this email message:

[The names are made up...]

My dear Mrs. Worthington,

As was previously arranged, my dashing Mr. Blakely must attend to an engagement baptizing a young woman who has recently experienced a conversion to the faith. This event has been arranged to take place from 3 o' clock until precisely 4 o' clock in the late afternoon. I regret to inform you that my presence must be missed for some time before we shall likely be obliged to join your lively gathering, however I will see thus to disassembling and arriving prior to Mr. Blakely's engagement's end, so as to see you sooner, my dear Mrs. Worthington.

Your hospitality is greatly anticipated. Whatever would you like us to gift your gathering with? Surely there is something my darling Mr. Blakely and I could spare to contribute. Reply at your leisure. Though, I only request that you do please bear in mind that I do so look forward to your return message, and accordingly I beseech you; don't delay beyond reasonable necessity, kind lady.

Mrs. Blakely

Now, I fully expected to receive back from her a "haha", "lol"... "you weirdo"  or something to that effect and then a brief response.  INSTEAD, to my surprise and delight, this was her reply:

My lovely Mrs. Blakely,

I am much obliged for your prompt reply. I look forward with delight and anticipation our union on Monday next. I am quite grieved for your sake of the scheduling conflict but am hopeful to have you united to us in due time. I pray for your timely arrival in the 5 o'clock hour. Please inform your dear children that mine look to the pleasure of their company.

Please do not trouble yourself with providing for the soiree, but if you desire a side of salad or dish of potato thins would be well received. I look to your delightful company with great anticipation.

Yours affectionately,
Mrs. Worthington

Her response caught me completely off-guard, I thought it was so funny that I made my husband read the exchange out loud and we were both laughing - almost to tears.  Truly, what a friend!  I added this to my "keep" folder.  [So I can laugh about it again sometime.]  I love having a friend who will not only accept me in all my ridiculousness, but join me in it.  I love you - you know who you are!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Familiarity Breeds Oversight

I was staring at Lil, my youngest, and kissing her...and staring and kissing and staring and kissing and...oh sorry, I digress...

But I was admiring and adoring her like usual, when I was struck by the thought; "How is this tiny little thing even working...and where did she come from" [ok, people, I...KNOW where she came from, sheesh!] But, is there no life and then a whole person is formed and birthed and alive... It is SO amazing!

...Then she cried and pooped and our blissful awestruck moment passed.

It's easy to begin to take for granted what is so miraculous and overlook the weighty honor of being entrusted with the care of our children, isn't it? It's easy to become caught up in the daily and grow familiar with life and all of it's wonder.  Sometimes that familiarity causes us to forget how wonderful and miraculous it is.

Even in the "unwonderful" moments of life...whatever they may be, [and we all experience them - even little Lil, ie...pooping & crying...and perhaps being smothered by her obnoxiously affectionate mother...] - we could benefit to learn the discipline of being still and knowing that He is God. Fixing our eyes on Jesus and recognizing His gloriousness displayed all around us. It is all around us.  But sometimes we become so familiar with it, we fail to even see. 

Open your eyes and take a second glance.  God is amazing!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Mother's Day Story

I was busy cutting veggies and arranging trays of fruit when my life was on the verge of forever being disrupted; my perspective about to be significantly challenged; and God was preparing my heart for a love that was unlike any other I’d previously known.

My family was coming over for dinner that evening. It was Saturday. Since my family and my husband’s family live near us, we try to spend holidays with both families when we can. This particular year, Saturday night was to be spent with my family, and Sunday, the actual holiday, would be spent with his.

It was an exciting time for me. Nearing my due date, I was full of both joyous anticipation and, to be perfectly honest, unspoken terror. [Ok…well, mostly unspoken. I spoke of it to some…to the few who would endure my irrational panic.] The news that our first child was on the way was a delightful and frightening surprise for me. Although, my husband and I had discussed the possibility of children, our conclusion had always been: we are SO not ready.

My biggest “not ready” complaint? The process. Yes. The fear of the unknown was enough intimidation to quench any ambition of mothering a child in the near future. Maybe I would be ready someday when I was older and braver, I reasoned. [Because, naturally, I would just become more courageous with age, right...?] But in this instance, unfortunately for my ambitions, the scenario was worse than unknown. I had vague ideas of what carrying and delivering a baby might be like. My imagination, fueled by what little I did know, was even scarier than simply not knowing. I just couldn’t bring myself to intentionally put my body in a situation where it would be required to endure the agony I so vividly envisioned in my mind. But, thankfully, I’m not so in control as I might like to think.

I remember telling a co-worker the afternoon before I took a pregnancy test that we would want to wait at least 3 more years. [What did I think would change in 3 years? Why 3 years? I don’t know. I just remember offering that number after she asked when we planned to start having children.] I took the test assuming I would alleviate my suspicion…not really giving much thought to the remaining option that I may actually prove my inkling true.

The odd thing to me, now looking back, is that my concern was not so much that we did not have the space…which we did not, by the cultural standards. Nor was I too concerned that we would struggle financially, especially if I quit work and stayed home with the baby, like we wanted to do…and we definitely faced financial challenges. Nope. My big worry was short term, self-centered, and simple; I did not want the pain.

Ironically, I have since delivered 3 children naturally. Amazing that she who is one of the whiniest, wimpiest people I know, actually did it…3x! We also still live in the same home…now with not just one child, but three. AND have made it on one modest income since the day we felt convicted by the Lord to trust Him and I quit my job [forfeiting over half our income…] to stay home with my baby. He has never once failed to meet our needs, and at times, we have just been so in awe at the ways He has chosen to provide for us.

So, on that Saturday, not knowing what the future held…and not wanting to think too much about it, I prepared and hosted dinner for my Mother and the rest of my family, all the while feeling, but trying desperately to ignore, my contractions as they grew stronger. By the time the last guest walked out our front door, I had to sit down and finally tell my husband, “I think I might be in labor.”

The contractions were not very close together yet. I took a shower and finished gathering items for the hospital. We called and headed out. I labored all night, walking up and down the halls of the hospital…while my husband slept on a bench nearby. I envied him.

I was so young, and unprepared, and afraid, but with my husband [finally awake] and my own Mother by my side, I welcomed our first child into the world – on Mother’s Day. And by the strength and grace that God provided, I endured the dreaded pain.

I have to say that the experience was empowering, in a way. I had no idea I was strong enough to go through that. I truly believed at one point that I was quite possibly going to die. [I was nowhere near death; I’m just a dramatic big baby – although in my defense, I was in a heap of hurtin’ this time.] But all of it…the pregnancy, the labor, the birth – the learning to mother a baby…it all made me realize that I was stronger than I expected myself to be. And that the Lord was able to carry me through what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles, with surprisingly little effort. [Hello?!? – a baby should NOT be able to fit through that space!!! – That’s just weird! AND…how in the world does a woman’s abdomen, first of all, stretch out that far…and secondly, ever return to any sort of normalcy…it’s ridiculous. I’m impressed. Nice work, God.]

One of my sweetest first memories with our son was either the first or second day we were home with him. I was sitting in our recliner holding him while he slept. And I suddenly was just overwhelmed with love for him. I started to cry. [See, I told you before, I’m a crier.] And the Lord spoke to my heart, “I love you. I love my Son, and I allowed and chose for Him to endure great pain for you.” I could not imagine allowing anything painful to happen to my son. I looked down at his leg. [My son had been accidentally significantly burned by hospital staff while being prepped for his PKU. This is another story altogether.] I felt his pain with him. I was so angry that this had happened…I would have never allowed it.

I can’t say that I am completely over my fear of pain, although, I think I have a new perspective. I realize that I can endure more pain than I think I am able to. I realize that pain can produce something wonderful and miraculous. I realize that love required my Savior to endure more suffering than I will likely ever come near to facing, so I might not be held captive to sin and death.

         “Who for the joy set before Him endure the cross…”
                                                                 Hebrews 12

He endured it "for the joy set before Him".  I only endured because there was no other option.  If I had a choice, mid-labor, to continue "for the joy set before me", I may very likely have decided I actually didn't want a baby that bad.  [At that point I didn't even understand the joy that I was about to experience - or how intense my labor would become.]  Yet, there was no other way...that baby was going to come out somehow...and it would be painful. But, unlike me. Jesus endured His suffering willingly, knowing both the cost and the reward, for the joy of loving us...for the joy of pleasing the Father. 

I’m thankful my Mother endured pain to deliver me.

I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to endure the pain necessary to deliver my 3 children.

I am overwhelmed that God would endure pain to deliver us.

That Sunday was a very special Mother’s Day for me; it was my very first; my son was born; my Mother was by my side. It was just special. And my life has since been certainly altered, my thoughts completely refocused, and my heart has been invaded by that tiny, beautiful creature I had endured such pain to meet. I am so glad for it all. I’m thankful for the lessons I am learning. I’m thankful for each day I am given to love and be loved by the children God has placed in our care. What a privilege and honor. Happy Mother’s Day!

My sweet things.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Friend, Michelle

I met Michelle last October. She was sitting with some mutual friends at a table during a retreat, and I was invited to join the group. I sat down next to her and listened as she shared her struggles and heartaches. I was surprised at her open honesty, and deeply appreciated it. We wept together. We laughed together. We prayed together. She was so sincere and kind, how could I not immediately like her?

A few months later, my husband left to provide help in Haiti after the earthquake – and gave me 2 days notice that he would be going. He gave me no return date…just that he’d be back when his task was accomplished there. I was 32 weeks pregnant with our unexpected third child. I also had a 2 year old and 4 year old. We had our house on the market, so everything had to be kept constantly clean. I was overwhelmed.

Michelle, who had only spoken with me on 2 occasions, was one of the first people to contact me, and offer encouragement and support. After reading an update my husband had posted online, she sent me a message. The subject read: “How is today?”

That simple question impressed me. It was inquisitive, but not invasive. It was gentle, sympathetic and understanding. It may have been an intentional choice of words, or maybe just what she happened to write, but it was exactly what someone needed to ask me. Her message went on and then ended with:

“I love you and would love to do anything to help you right now. Can I cook you a meal? Look after your kids? Offer some fellowship, my home is always open and never clean! What day would work best???
Love, Michelle”

“I love you”? Did she just say that? She barely knows me. She would make us dinner? She would watch my children? I had an open invitation to her home? Again, she caught me off guard with her openness…and impressed me.

I wept. [I’m a crier anyway, but remember, I was also pregnant.] Suddenly I was reminded that everything would be ok. Even this woman I barely knew was willing to extend herself to help and encourage me.

Michelle was willing to love me, willing to say it and willing to back it up with actions. You cannot ask for a better friend than that.

She set a time for us to have lunch at her home. We visited over a most spectacular spinach salad [although she claimed it was no big thing, I thought it was amazing] and then coffee and cookies, while our children played together in the next room. We all had a wonderful time. And as we left she extended the invitation for us to visit again whenever we wanted…then she paused.

“Actually, I don’t think you will invite yourself over, I will call you again sometime soon,” she said with a smile.

And she did. In fact, her and her husband [who had never even met me!] invited us to stay with them while my husband was away. Amazing.

We did not stay there, after all. But I know it was a sincere invitation. The woman has a gift of hospitality - that is for sure! And her husband is equally hospitable and has enough confidence in her judgment to agree to invite an unknown pregnant woman and her two preschoolers to stay with them indefinitely. I decided at that point that these people were either weird or wonderful. [I’ve since determined they are wonderful.]

My husband returned home after 3 weeks, which felt much longer than it actually was. He is gone occasionally with his job, but this absence was for sure the most difficult for our family. I was so glad to have him back home.

My newfound friend invited us all over to dinner to meet her husband and her 2 other children who had been in school when we last visited her for lunch. He made dinner: turkey burger sliders with mango salsa and an incredible chili. Dessert was “pudding”, which was really like a bread pudding served in a rich sauce. YUM!

The conversation was diverse. We talked about ourselves a bit to get to know one another; then about my husband’s trip, about our children, our pasts and our faith. As we were gathering dishes from dinner [although she would not allow me to actually clean up the dishes], Michelle asked if anyone was planning a baby shower for me. No one else had asked about it, or mentioned it. I said “no” and explained that this was my third baby and I mostly had everything I truly needed so a shower really wasn’t necessary. Then she asked if she could throw a shower for me.

Oh. My. Gosh. Remember, this is the 4th time I’ve visited with her and the first time our families have met. She has extended her friendship, opened her home, fed us and was now offering to plan a party for me! As I pondered her kind gesture later that evening, I recalled her words in that first message she sent me: “I love you.”

I realized when Michelle uses the word “love”, it’s a verb. She was choosing to love me. She had determined to be a friend to me, before she ever had a chance to know me. Every single time Michelle recognized a need in my life, she did whatever she could to meet it. She has gone out of her way to love me.

I am so thankful for her. It’s not because of what she’s done for me, although I sincerely appreciate those things. I am thankful for a friend who loves me…is willing to say it…and is willing to back it up with action, regardless of who I am. This is how God loves us.

“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

His love for us is not dependant on us. He loved us. Before we ever love Him, He loves us [1John 4:19]…and not only did He declare His love for us, but backed it up with the most sincere proof of love anyone could offer, as He took our place in death and gave His life to save us.

Michelle’s kind extension of friendship and love has been a living analogy of this to me. I’m so blessed by her and I’m challenged by her example. She makes me want to grow up and be just like her. ;) I want to follow her lead, as she is led by the love of the Lord.

My baby arrived 3 weeks early, just days before my shower was scheduled to take place. Michelle and another dear friend re-planned the party and today, my daughter LilyMae and I were showered not only with gifts, but with lots of love from some of the dearest women I know.

I truly love each person who came, but thinking of Michelle, I actually feel, well…I’m searching for the right word: ashamed? unworthy? dishonest? ...inadequate, maybe?... as I say the word because, what have I truly done to love them? Do I just feel affection for them, or can I back it up with proof through my actions? I need to learn to be more intentional and practical about loving people. I need to love like Jesus, and like Michelle.

And as I sit here thinking about all these things, I cannot help but smile and feel an overwhelming gratitude in my heart for the love that I have been shown, and for such amazing friends whose lives are beautiful examples of the incredible love that God has given to us.

With that wonderful knowledge I think I will retire for the evening.


I love you. [Or, at least I’m learning how to.] :)