Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The World Without...?!

When EvaLee was still tiny enough to be tied to my umbilical cord, but already forever tied to my heart, a doctor noticed something was wrong with the ultrasound.  His concerns that he carefully shared with us after the review were not nearly as shocking as a possible solution he presented: Would we be interested in considering murdering our daughter?

EvaLee’s screening had showed a few concerns that could be associated with Down Syndrome and as such, the specialist that met with us offered the “opportunity” to have her aborted.  Well, that is the politically correct term, but let’s be real here: we had already heard her little heart beating, we had seen her kick away from the ultrasound wand on the monitor during our appointment...she was ALIVE!  She was a tiny and PRECIOUS person.  It would have been murder; and all because she may not have been born “perfect” by someone’s standard. Perfect?...what is that anyway?  Could that adjective truly apply to anyone?

To me, it doesn’t mean much.

To our Creator who said, “People look on the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-8), I’m thinking He’s not into perfection by our faulty human definition either.

He loves us.  Quirks and all. Thank God for that.

I can’t help but smile everytime I think about each of my children.  The things that warm my heart and make me shake my head in wonder are the unique ways God has made them; their silly laugh, their funny take on life, their unique walks and the way their eyes light up over the tiniest joys in life.  To me, these peculiarities are actually glimpses into God’s handiwork of perfection.

Gideon was born with a little mole on his ankle...he was PERFECT to us.
Judah was born with a cleft lip...he was PERFECT to us.
EvaLee was born weighing in at about 6 lbs...she was PERFECT to us.
Gabriella was born tongue-tied...she was PERFECT to us.

And each of our children...each of your children, quirks and all, are perfect to God because He created them and knows their hearts.  He is excited to show the WORLD His precious gift with a uniqueness only that one child will have.  That is why the thought of even ONE of these little miracles being killed breaks His heart...and mine.

The world will never be the same without them.

How many “perfect children” who may not meet someone’s skewed standard of perfection are being aborted every day?

One day, when we walk in wonder through the pearly gates of Heaven, I believe we’ll see them all...millions and millions of kids laughing and playing, perfectly created children that never had a chance to bless this world with the beauty of their lives.  

So when the question was posed to us if we would like to end the life of our perfectly created daughter, we were horrified and didn’t hesitate to answer, “NO WAY.”  

Later that day, I asked my husband what he felt about having a child with Downs.  He looked at me, confused and said with a little smile, “It doesn’t matter one bit.  She’s my daughter.  I love her.”  And that was that.  We couldn’t wait to meet her!

A few days later, further test results confirmed that EvaLee would not have Downs. The spot on her heart that had caused concern initially was more than likely a tiny mass of muscle that would go away before birth.  And a few months later, after that 6-pound-peanut with a head full of black hair first showed off her strong set of lungs (certainly it was not her last scream either!), more tests verified a pretty good little heart was beating in her chest.

Whether EvaLee would have been born with a special need or not though will never change this amazing truth: she was perfectly created by God.  Her life is meant to fill a void in this world that ONLY one curly-haired, blonde EvaLee is meant to fill.

They cut the umbilical cord between me and EvaLee on June 14, 2009; but the bond connecting Eva to her daddy and me...and more importantly, to her Heavenly Daddy, stays strong today.   She was His before she was mine and it is never our “right” to end a life that belongs to Him.  Everytime I look at her, everytime I hear her sparkling laugh and see her delight in this world (with all of the PINK things in it of course!!), I have to smile.  

Yep, the world needs EvaLee.  Just like the world needs each PERFECT child our Creator makes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life, a Pudding Tsunami!!

I had big plans for tonight that included (to name just a FEW); unpacking six suitcases after a weekend away, cleaning sticky floors and messy dishes, throwing in a load (or ten) of laundry, reading a pile of books to three semi-patiently waiting little munchkins and much more.  What my plans did NOT include was scrubbing a pudding spill the size of Lake Michigan off our newly carpeted entryway floor.

Ah, life...interrupted.  

If only things could stick to The Plan!!  Wouldn’t life be much more simpler?  Smoother?  PERFECT?  Or...would it?  After what happened tonight, I’m not so sure.

It all began with a little excited five-year-old and a BIG bowl of vanilla pudding.

Gideon had “snack day” the next morning and he didn’t have to think twice when making the choice of what his favorite food to share with his friends at school would be: vanilla pudding!  Once that was decided, we rolled up our sleeves, dumped enough pudding mix and milk in a bowl to feed a small village and got to work stirring.  

Once the snack was made, I poured it in a huge Tupperware with a secure lid and told Gideon, “I’ll take this downstairs to the basement fridge for tomorrow, okay?”  

His shoulders slumped, “Well, I’m pretty good at carrying stuff now that I’m big.  Could I take it down?”

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t want it to spill so I better take it.”

Another BIG sigh filled the air, “Okay...”  Gideon wrinkled his brow, “But what if I carry it real careful, like this?”  He held the Tupperware securely against his skinny chest and walked slowly across the kitchen, proving his pudding-skill-carrying-manhood.

“Okay...” I had to smile, “Just be careful.”
Does EVERY mom out there cringe at those “fateful final words” when they are spoken?  I heard the thud of the container tumbling down the stairs before I actually turned and saw a wide-eyed-boy standing over a ginormous puddle of pudding.  

Although I mess up mommy-ness a lot, there is one thing I’ve finally got through my thick head and that is in these moments, KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT so I don’t say something I regret later, ie, something STUPID!

I felt my nostrils flare (did I mention this mess covered nearly every inch of our NEWLY carpeted stairway?!) before I said to Gideon, “Go get ready for bed.  I’ll clean this up.”  He whispered “sorry” a few times as he trudged back to his room and I grabbed an armful of rags and cleaning supplies.

I doubt I needed the bucket of water as I shed enough silent tears INTO the mess to dilute it just fine!  What in the world am I crying about?  I thought as I scraped up pudding and scrubbed on my hands and knees, I’m just not cut out for this mom-stuff!  ALL I do is clean up messes all day (I NEVER exaggerate when I’m upset either).  I don’t even have time for the IMPORTANT stuff in life, like playing with the kids and getting stuff done because ALL my plans get interrupted by THIS kind of stuff!!

So, what next?  I thought, shaking my head at my own silliness, I QUIT?!  Okay, that’s enough Drama Queen Momma for today.  I threw down some towels to keep people’s feet from peeling off if they had to use the stairs during the next week and got to work making another batch of pudding.  This time it was chocolate pudding as I was now out of vanilla, Gideon’s favorite. When that was carefully carried to the downstairs’ fridge by ME, I went in to say goodnight to the boys.  

They were snuggled in bed already and looking sleepy when I came in.  “Hi Mommy, any ideas on what we could have for a snack at school now?”  Gideon asked, looking a little worried.

“Yeah, I just made chocolate pudding.  That's all I had left.”

“Oh!”  I knew he was a little disappointed but he smiled bravely, “That’s pretty nice!  I like that kind too!  I like all kinds--yellow, white, dark, pink, doesn’t matter, Mommy!  Thanks for making some more pudding.”  I kissed him goodnight with a little smile, thinking I’m not usually that resilient when life dashes MY hopes.
When I headed back into the kitchen to clean up (yet another!) mess of the snacks I had just prepared, I heard something that grabbed my attention on the radio.  

It was this quote by C.S. Lewis, "The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”

I felt my brain reeling: So...THAT was REAL life?  The lake of pudding (and my REACTION to it!) was “the life God is sending ME day by day”?!  The realization that I’ve been viewing my world upside-down left me feeling stunned.  Here I thought The Plan was to accomplish things and the MESSES, the unexpected, the...INTERRUPTIONS were throwing my life OFF track.  

Yet as considered that powerful quote by one of the greatest philosophers of our time, I had to reconsider: are these things actually putting my life ON track?!  Maybe it’s time I stopped being so frustrated by the interruptions and start to embrace them as unexpected little GIFTS from God to teach me and others about how to LIVE life.
I had big plans for tonight but God had little interruptions and I’m thinking now I’d like a do-over.  Although I wouldn’t place a request on the Heavenly hot-line for another pudding tsunami, the next mess that happens (once the kids are awake, that could occur in under five seconds!)-I’ll be ready.  Not with my usual frowny-face or tears of martyrdom (darn-I had just perfected those!!) but maybe with a little smile knowing that unexpected interruptions are what life is all about.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Phone Call That Changed My Life FOREVER

It was the phone call that changed my life forever.

It could  have been just another average Friday night in the city of Milwaukee, the place I had called home for the last three years.  But it wasn’t...all because of one phone call.  Instead, that evening became a Friday night that I would never forget.  The call was from someone I had just met, yet what he said that evening left me speechless (and if you know me, that’s saying A LOT!).

The previous weekend I had journeyed to a small town four hours away to meet up with my former classmates from a missionary training school that I had graduated from a few years before.  As I had greeted all the familiar faces there was one face in the crowd that was not familiar and caught my eye.

I couldn’t deny I found the mischievous eyes and easy smile on this 6-foot-something stranger appealing but by the end of that day, it was his kind heart that had grabbed my own.  The way he leaned in, brow furrowed with interest, when I would speak when most guys I had previously met seemed more interested when THEY were the ones talking!  Yet when he did share something, his quick-witted humor and the depth of his insight made it obvious to me that there was definitely something good brewing under that messy, dark hair and crooked baseball cap!  It didn’t take long for me to wonder if Mr. Tall & Dark was taken and this was coming from a girl who had been perfectly content with her city-life, good friends and nice job.  I didn’t want any big changes, especially if it meant getting involved with some mysterious farm-boy hours from where I lived.

When it was time for me, my friends and our new acquaintances to part ways that evening, Mr. Tall & Dark had suddenly disappeared.  After we had all swapped contact information and he still had not appeared, I felt a twinge of disappointment as I had climbed back into my truck for the ride home.  Well, I thought, I guess he is taken after all...he was just being a nice guy.  But just as I had turned the key, he magically appeared next to my vehicle, seemingly out of breath but with that easy smile that had this weird affect on my knees, making them feel like spaghetti noodles.

“So, do any of you guys ever get back to this area to visit?”  He had asked, referring to everyone still mingling in the parking lot but (or did I just imagine it?!) seeming to look directly into my eyes.  I waited, what exactly was he getting at?

“ ‘bout YOU, Tara?  Can I get your phone number?”  He casually flipped open his cell (I found out months later he had disappeared to find his phone in order to be smooth about getting my number!) and waited while I suppressed a smile and (gladly!) gave him my phone number.

The drive home that beautiful October evening no longer held any disappointment for me and I belted out every happy song that played over the radio as the miles sped past and my heart sped up.  I swung between soaring with excitement (Could it be...could this be him?) and being practical and cautious (but I didn’t do much of that because it’s boring and I’ve never been good at it anyways!).

It was five days later when we finally connected, when I reached to answer the phone with a hand slightly shaking...unsure of what awaited on the other end.  All I knew was it was Mr. Tall & Dark, ie, Bob, this interesting guy I hadn’t been able to get out of my head since we had said goodbye.  I shouldn’t think TOO much, I reasoned with myself, I JUST met this guy.  I bet he doesn’t even know my last name or if I have a boyfriend (I found out later he didn’t know either but didn’t care what the answer to those questions were!).  But yet, I can't remember ever feeling so...sure that something good is about to happen.  

Little did I know he was going to have ME at hello.

And little did I know that was the only word I’d even get in before Bob said something that would cause my mouth to hit the floor.

“Hey Tara!  I’m at work so can’t talk long but I wanted to see what your doing this weekend. (Um, as in tomorrow!?  Oh, wow.) I’ll be in Milwaukee and I wanted to see you.  In fact, I’m interested in pursuing you.  The truth is, you have everything I’ve been looking for in a wife (he then listed all the things he liked about me as I thought: you noticed that?  you see that in me?  you believe all these good things about...ME?!) and so...well, to not pursue you would be a waste of something good that is happening here.  I’ll pick you up tomorrow...does it matter what time?”

“Oh, um...yeah, how about noon.”  Notice this is the only question he asked me so far.  I thought about what he HADN’T asked me such as, “Are you interested at all in me?  Could I pursue you?  Are you even available?!?!”  Then I realized: it didn’t matter.  He was going to pursue me and that was that!  It was bold.  It was crazy.  It was...just what I had been waiting for.  A man that knew what he wanted and knew why he wanted me.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that I’m a little crazy myself and love an exciting adventure which I was pretty sure this whole thing was going to be.

“So,” I searched for words but Bob cut in, “Hey, sorry, Tara--I gotta run now but I look forward to seeing you soon.  Goodbye!”

I echoed a goodbye before hanging up the phone in a daze.  I used to roll my eyes at the notion of being “swept off your feet” but the truth was, after I set the phone down, I felt a little shaky and quickly sat down before I fell down.

What I couldn't have known at that moment on that not-so-average-Friday-night was it wouldn’t be the last time Mr. Tall & Dark turned a regular moment into something that I would never forget.

Because the next day, our first official date, was also unforgettable as we talked for hours over chips and salsa in a quiet little Mexican restaurant in the middle of my bustling city.

And the next month, when he asked my father for permission to court me (yup, old fashioned but I loved it!) then asked me to court him, I was speechless once again.

Two months after that, he asked me to marry him and once again, the moment was unforgettable.

And seven months later when I walked down an aisle and saw those mischievous eyes twinkle with something other than mischief (those were definitely tears!) I was glad I didn’t have to speak because I was without words to describe the love I had grown to have for this man.

Tonight could be another average Friday night...but it isn’t because it’s the eve of our six-year-anniversary.  So whether we escape our new bustling city (uh-hum, the four, soon-to-be five, little rascals we’re blessed to call Coles!) to a quiet restaurant where we talk for hours or whether we just prop our feet up on the couch and enjoy each other (and the noise!) doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that I feel like a pretty lucky girl because the guy that was going to pursue me no matter what is still pursuing me no matter what.  No matter how many kids he has to wade through, how big of a mess he has to dodge or what kind of mood I’m in (pregnant Mamas are a sometimes bit...unpredictable shall we say!), he still scoops me into his arms at the end of the day and (literally) sweeps me off my feet (not always an easy thing with my big ol’ belly!).

I’m glad I married that man who knew what he wanted and knew he wanted me (quirks and ALL!).  Bob Cole, thank you for six unforgettable years of marriage and for that phone call that changed my life for the better forever. 
I love you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

What is more perfect with the change of weather than a bowl of warm soup on a chilly day?  Here's one of our family favorites...and it's healthy and easy too!

·         1-2 T. olive oil
·         1 cup celery, chopped small
·         1 cup onions, chopped small
·         1 cup carrots, chopped small
·         1 cup mushrooms, chopped small
·         2 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
·         3-4 T. garlic, minced
·         4 cups (or more) chicken broth
·         1 pkg. of wild rice with seasoning mixes (bags or box is good)
·         3-4 T. cornstarch
·         3-4 cups half & half or cream
·         Seasoning salt, to taste
·         Pepper, to taste

1.      Cook the package of rice with wild rice AND season packet according to package directions.  Add in carrots right away to cook with it.

2.       Sauté in hot oil the celery for five minutes then add in the onions sauté five more minutes.  Finally, stir in mushrooms and chicken and cook with some seasoning salt for a few more minutes.

3.       Meanwhile, mix 1 cup of half/half with the cornstarch and set aside.

4.       Once the rice/carrots mix is done cooking, add in the veggie & chicken mixture and stir well.  Then add the chicken broth and boil.  Lower heat (do NOT boil cream) and stir in the half and half with cornstarch mixture and simmer until thickened (may add more cornstarch and cream mix if you want it thicker, it’s up to you).  Finally, stir in the rest of the cream then season with seasoning salt and pepper to taste.

5.       Serve with sour cream (if desired) and fresh garlic bread, perfect for a chilly day!!

Kids love it too!  "MORE please, Mom!!" (ha ha, they are eating LOTS of veggies...shhh....!!!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Job I Got FIRED From!

I was recently fired from a job that I thought I had been doing pretty good so it came as a real shock.  That job was being the C.E.O for the “Changing My Husband” company.  I knew I was never alone in my full-time work as I would hear complaints of many other wives who, along with me, would lament, “My man doesn’t spend enough time with the family!”  I would agree with them in this declaration so we would roll up our sleeves and get to work to change that man who was so OBVIOUSLY in need of help to realize the error of his ways!!

I was first appointed to this position about five years ago, shortly after a little baby boy we named Gideon burst into our world...and needed his dirty diaper changed.  From that moment forward, the mission to convert my husband into “Bob the Super-Family-Man” began!

So, here’s MY story.  I love my man.  He’s a fantastic father and a better hubby to me than I had ever DREAMED about!  It’s BECAUSE I think this that a common gripe from me is that he doesn’t spend enough time with us.  I love the time he does spend with us, but with full schedules of work, house projects, ministry obligations and more, he is a man-in-demand most days by more people or things than just our little clan.

Then, a few months ago, God finally broke through my brick wall (ie, my head) to say this to me, “You can’t change him!  You can pray and ask ME to change him but ultimately as the leader of your home, he is accountable to ME.  One day he will stand before Me and answer for how he spent his time and resources.”  Yeah, I took the hint.  God was firing me from being C.E.O of the “Changing My Husband” company.  According to God, it seemed that changing my husband was actually HIS job.  
I was shocked.  Dumbfounded…What would I do?!  STOP nagging?!  Stop with the silent treatments on Saturdays that Bob had to do something other than tickle-wrestle our kids all day?!  Rest my brain from thinking up ways to get my husband to take us on adventures every weekend?!  OUTRAGEOUS!!

But…ultimately, I’m a pretty reasonable gal (stop laughing, dear) so I consented to do TWO things and ONLY two things; 1. STOP trying to change my husband and 2. START praying that God would change him.  

After all, my husband isn’t accountable to ME…he has to answer to HIS boss-man when it is all said and done, just like I will one day too.  If that seems like a bit of a letdown just when you were hoping for a cure to this dilemma, let me assure you, these two things are a GOOD thing…a GREAT thing even!  It takes the pressure off you.  Go ahead, kick your feet up ladies and take a break from all that naggin’ because more than likely, it AINT WORKING ANYWAY (but feel free to confirm this with your man if you’re in doubt.).

This last Saturday is a good example of how NOT trying to change your man and praying instead can actually work. I felt the old grumble bug coming on right after breakfast when my husband, Bob, mentioned he would be tackling our taxes that day.  TAXES?  I thought, The sun is shining and it’s a SATURDAY!!  Geez, can’t we have some FUN!?!?!!

But, alas, I bit my tongue (so hard it is still hurting) and mentioned I’d like to do something all together but didn’t demand it or whine about it.  Nonetheless, he didn’t seem to hear and headed back to his office with that darn laptop to…(cringe)…WORK!  My brain shifted into overtime as I took in the kiddos doing flips off the couch and the dishes stacking up in the sink, Great…I got to get Bob to DO something with us.  Oh, wait…I can’t change him but I CAN pray.

I actually felt a little relieved, I could expend my energies in some other way today, after all, I was no longer the CEO of “Changing My Husband” company.  God was.  Just in case He forgot though, I took some time on my knees, I was already on them mopping spilt milk off the floor, to pray.  I prayed later that day again when I felt the grumble bug coming back for a visit and I was amazed, it was working.  NOTHING was changing on the surface but underneath the surface, in my heart, real change was happening.  I had peace and joy that even a sunny day spent doing miserable taxes couldn’t take from me.

Then it happened.  It was nothing major but I had to smile because I began to realize (like I said: my head=brick-wall sometimes!) God WOULD do His job if I stopped trying to take over.  Bob came home early, played with the girls on the floor for awhile, took the boys to Fleet Farm and bought them their first cap-guns and we even had a family dinner together!  That night he cleaned his entire workshop area (something I’d been BUGGING him to do for a year!) and spent time with me…all WITHOUT being asked to do any of this!!

Was it a perfect Saturday?  Nope.  But it was pretty darn close.  The best part was we didn’t get into a “heated discussion” over anything, we just enjoyed the kids and each other.

So what’s my new complaint about my husband?  Well, I’d have to say I don’t have as many as I used to…mostly because I’m realizing that I have enough to change about ME that I don’t have time to be the C.E.O of a company that’s mission is to change someone else anymore.  I’m so glad I got fired from that job!