Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Megaphone of Pain

One of the great philosophers of our time, C.S. Lewis, once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but SHOUTS to us in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

If you have ever had that megaphone shouting in your ear for any amount of time, you may have felt like I did and wish the batteries would die on that megaphone of pain.

Something not many may know about me is that I suffered with chronic pain for nearly two years.  A simple oral surgery to repair some infection became complicated when a nerve nicknamed the “suicide nerve” (take a guess at why it’s called that name!) was severed.  From that day on, the pain (think migraine on steroids) didn’t relent for nearly two years.  I had just given birth to my second son, Judah and whether I was awake and playing with my boys or trying to sleep through the throbbing and shooting pain, it was always there.  In fact, just the memory of it makes me cringe and absently reach to the right side of my face where the pain haunted me for years.

I can’t remember a night during those two years that didn’t end either in my husband’s tender arms where he held me as I sobbed in agony or on my knees by my bed where I pleaded with the Lord to heal me and have mercy on me.

My husband and I tried everything to quiet that megaphone of pain shouting in my ear; doctors, specialized treatments, medications, dietary supplements, acupuncture, even a healing evangelist, but beyond all else, we prayed.

We prayed hourly, nightly, urgently, faithfully and desperately.  We prayed while holding hands with friends, clinging to our family and alone face-down on the floor.

Then one day, while I was at a Bible study with some of my girlfriends, we prayed again.  I didn’t feel anything magical that day but when I woke up the next morning, the pain was gone.  I felt too shocked to be happy at first and went through that day in a daze, continually stopping to touch my face with a little smile: Could it be?!  Am I healed?  It felt too good to be true!!  When you have lived with pain for any amount of time, the absence of it feels…like Serenity.  Like a Heaven you never even knew you had until it was gone and you then longed for nothing else.

Finally, after a week of pain-free days, I couldn’t hide my sheer joy.  I shared the miracle God had done with my husband (tears filled his eyes), my family, my friends…the world!!  The most simple moments of my day; tickling my tiny girl (I had never experienced being a mommy to either Judah or EvaLee without pain until that day!), chasing my boys through the yard and even snuggling up with my husband during a movie, each moment glowed brighter, smelled sweeter and felt more divine because I could experience it without viewing it through the foggy lens of pain!

Sharing this story with you took a bit of digging in my heart for the strength to recall it and for the vulnerability to share it the way it really was.  It was ugly, it was heartbreaking and some days, it felt like hell but through it all there lingers in my memories something so precious, it brings me to tears just to remember it.  I remember the sweetness of God’s presence.  

I didn’t like the answer I felt He was giving me at that time (no? not yet?) but I never for a moment questioned His love.  It wasn’t because my life was perfect or my days had a happy ending because that was NOT the case during those painful days (still isn’t today!)…I knew He loved me because He stayed by my side.  When I cried, when I prayed…when I ignored Him, I felt Him.  I can’t explain it…but I KNEW every second of the day that His arms were holding me close and over and over, I could hear him whisper, “I’m here.  I have a purpose in this all.”

He never said this life would be easy.  In fact He said we would experience hardship; but He never expects us to do it alone.

Even though it’s been nearly two (blessed, sweet, amazing!!) years since that crisp September day when I was supernaturally healed, I still have a hard day now and then.  I occasionally struggle with head pain in a way I never have in the past (coming from a girl who used to cure a headache by popping two children’s aspirin!) and the truth is, I still don’t enjoy experiencing pain.

But in those moments when the megaphone is back to my ear, shouting a message that I don’t always listen to in the busy life of being a wife and mother, I hear something my Savior is saying to all of us, “I love you.  I never leave you, I never forsake you.  Rest in me…take time to spend with me and in my Word.”

And you know what?  I do.  Because if I lost everything tomorrow, only one truth would remain: God.  

He is not the maker of fairy-tales but there is a happy ending (Heaven!!) for anyone that will accept the invitation to run into His open arms.  Jesus doesn’t come with a money-back, 100% happiness guarantee in this life but He does have a guarantee even better than temporary happiness: He NEVER leaves us.  

So if you’re out there and have your own megaphone of pain know that, if you invite Him, He can hold you till the batteries die too.  Through every trial, pain, weakness…He’s there, holding us.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Day It Rained $100 Bills

It was a simple plan that got complicated quickly.

I was road-tripping with the family up north to Escanaba, MI to purchase a new vehicle this last weekend.  After three hours on the road, we took a pit-stop at a restaurant in a small Wisconsin town.  While everyone was loading back into the suburban, I announced I had to run the restroom and would be right back.  My husband, Bob, was already sweating at the mere thought of waiting in a hot vehicle with no A/C.  

“Well,”  he said as I ran inside, “I’ll drive around to cool off and be right back.”

“Sure, whatever!”  I hurried inside and was out a few minutes later, scanning the parking lot for a familiar black suburban that wasn’t there.  I had been thinking he meant cruise the parking lot for a minute but he must have meant drive through town.  I wasn’t worried and sat down on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, awaiting my knight to return.

I waited…5 minutes.

Ten minutes.

The sun was getting hot and I was getting hotter.

Twenty minutes passed.

Then thirty.

I hadn’t  grabbed my phone so had no way to call my husband to see what the heck happened to them.  My emotions were on a pendulum, swinging between fear and fury.  What if something happened to them?  Were they all okay?  Then it was, Where in the world is that man?  Is this some stupid joke?  Boy, I am getting mad!!

I know it’s not a good idea to judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes…but this had to be the exception!  This was just ridiculous!!

After FIFTY minutes of sitting outside the restaurant, I finally saw that old faithful burban round the corner and pull into the parking lot.  After quickly observing the vehicle, Bob and all the children were safe and sound, the pendulum of emotions stuck on one side: FURY.

I slid into my seat, staring straight ahead as we pulled back onto the highway.  “I hope you have a REALLY good explanation for why you left me there for so long.”
It was then I noticed Bob was white as a ghost and drenched in sweat, weird I thought…but I’m still TICKED!  

Bob replied, “I’m really sorry.”

I waited.

“SO!  What’s the explanation?”

“We almost had to go home.  I almost lost $3,000.”

I felt my heart skip a beat, “Okay.  I’m listening!”

Bob told me the story.

He decided to cruise the highway for a few miles to catch enough wind to cool off, intending to be back in five minutes to pick me up (or so he claimed, ha ha!) when something very unexpected happened.

Earlier that day, on our way out of town, we had swung by the bank and withdrew $3,000 in cash to buy the vehicle in Escanaba.  Bob had slid the envelope of money in an organizer attached to the driver’s side visor.  Hours later, with the sun hitting his face on that stretch of highway attempting to cool off, he momentarily forgot the money was there and flipped over the visor to block the sun.  He noticed a flash of white fly by the window but figured it was nothing until he heard something flapping in the wind.  He glanced in the window behind him and saw one $100 bill caught on the edge of the door.

It hit him: $3,000 in cash just flew out the window!

He slammed on his brakes, veering off to the side of the freeway as he glanced behind him to see the sky raining $100 bills everywhere!  He backed up, jumped out of the car and began darting in and out of cars flying by going 60-75 mph as he attempted to grab thirty $100 bills!  They were landing in ditches and in the middle of the high-way as passing cars would send them flying through the air again.  He counted to thirty as he frantically grabbed them…one…two…twenty-nine and finally (thank GOD!!), THIRTY one-hundred dollar bills were stuffed safely into Bob’s pocket.

I stared in shock as Bob finished the story.

“So…” I confirmed, “You have ALL the money again?”

Then, after that moment of shock, I burst out laughing.  I could just see my dear husband racing in and out of traffic, frantically trying to gather every last $100 bill flying in the air.  Bob laughed too…but not until about an hour later when he finally could breath again.

“You’re right,” I smiled as I thought about how we shouldn’t judge another’s actions until we’ve walked a mile (or, in this case, ran about a mile catching flying money) in their shoes.  Once again, God shows me that I could use a little less fighting Irish in this blood and a little more patience and understanding in my heart.  I also learned that my husband would never leave me at a little town in the middle of nowhere…at least not when he had all the kids (JOKING!!).  

If you don’t mind learning a thing or two, then there is probably a little lesson from God in something every day…even on the days it rains $100 bills from the sky!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why I Decided to NOT Home-School (;

For those that saw my previous blog, "Why I Decided to Home-school" , you may be VERY confused right now…unless you actually READ it (busted...wink, wink!) then you know it had nothing to do with what school option we are going with for our children to in the coming years.

It was about ME learning in the “School of our Home” as our children teach me invaluable lessons everyday about what really matters in life.

I remember when my belly was huge with our firstborn son (I mean, REALLY huge…as in make-small-children-point-and-scream-huge) and my list of what I would “never” and “always” do as a parent was even MORE huge than my belly!

Here’s some of those crazy expectations that made that list...and how many days it took after having a baby before those delusions were blown out of the water:

Pre-child delusion #1: “I will NEVER use a pacifier”

Reality Check: 5 days (Now I know why parents nick-name nuks “The Silencer”...God BLESS Pacifiers!!!)

Pre-child delusion #2“I will ALWAYS be patient and kind as a Mommy.”  

Reality Check: 1 week (“Ahhh! Why is he still crying for NO reason!?”)

Pre-child delusion #3: “My children will NEVER throw a fit at the store in a frenzy for candy.”

Reality Check: 18 months (this is when the first reluctant obediance with poutful tears occurred)

Pre-child delusion #4: “I will ALWAYS keep my home clean.”

Reality Check: I’ve been laughing deliriously about THIS one since coming home from the hospital with Gideon!

I think you get my point.  Maybe that’s why Jesus warned us about filing up our hearts with false expectations when he said in, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” (Matthew 6)

One of the most important roles we have as parents is to be contortionist (no, I don’t mean just so you can keep your head on a swivel 24/7 to keep an eye on all those little troublemakers!  Though, that would be a nice talent to have!) We need to be flexible to change and grow as our children change and grow.

The choice we make in where our children attend school is a perfect example for this.  Although I think the MAIN emphasis of how our children are being raised should always focus on the home front (not just finding the best daycare, preschool, school, college, etc…which I hit on in a previous blog, "The Great Debate").  It’s also useful, and wise even, to plan ahead about what kind of schooling would be best for your family.  What is NOT wise though is to proclaim OUR choice as the best choice for the entire world, even the entire universe because who knows what tomorrow may bring!

As it stands now, my hubby and I are planning on our boys attending a private preschool together this fall then enrolling Gideon in public school the following year.  But who really knows if that will still stand by next year…or even by tomorrow?  We could get so rigid in our plans and goals, that we miss God’s gentle leading in a fresh direction if we’re not careful.  Each kid is unique and what may work for one, may NOT work at all for another.  I’m learning the best approach to any situation in parenting (be it schooling, friendships, rules, etc.) is to make a plan but flex and flow!

With this in mind, I commit that as a parent I will ALWAYS be flexible.

(Reality Check: ZERO minutes…won’t even try this one because I’ve finally learned always and never just AIN’T happening!)

P.S.  We haven’t really decided to NOT ever home-school, just wanted to have a funny blog title.  We LOVE homeschooling and the idea of it makes my heart throb because I would SO love to...that being said, I’m not sure I’m called to do it right now, and as this blog just explained, may never REALLY know...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lil' Red Raider-Hood

I was just thinking the other day that we should really replace the beige carpet in our bedroom before we sell our house.  I debated: to replace it or not?  I guess it’s okay for now, I thought, so maybe not…

Today, after it was painted RED, the debate was over.  Yes, we shall replace the carpet.

There are few things in life my two-year-old, EvaLee, enjoys more than getting her nails done.  Red, pink, blue or yellow, she loves EVERY nail-polish color (though PINK always reigns supreme) and wants each toenail and fingernail painted every day if possible!  Today was the first day she actually had the chance to paint her own nails…and (bonus) our beige carpet, my white padded vanity seat and white vanity table too!

Did I mention everything was (or USED to be!) white and Eva’s nail-polish de jour was RED?  Yes, that is my hysterical laughter you hear in the background…

Only moments before this disaster, our world had been a peaceful place.  EvaLee had fallen asleep in my bed at naptime so when her little sister woke, I left my little sleeping angel tucked under our covers and tiptoed downstairs with the baby.
A short time later, I heard EvaLee’s little footsteps coming down the stairs and when she rounded the corner, her giant grin (painted red too, of course) didn’t meet with a smiling face. The only thought that raced through my head as my mouth hit the floor was,

“So…if you look like THAT…what does the room you just left look like?!”  I hurried upstairs, my thoughts red and white: red paint, white carpet, red paint, white vanity, red paint…


And just like that, our peaceful day was…well, not-so-peaceful.  I quickly figured out nail-polish remover only spread the red-love everywhere so I put away the bottle and decided to just take a few pictures and try to laugh.

I’ll paint the vanity.

I can recover my vanity chair.

And the debate is over: we will get new carpet in our bedroom.

I racked my brain to come up with something deep and meaningful to share with my readers, maybe something I had learned from this or some way we were all better for it.  But I drew a blank.

So you know what I decided?

I would just share this funny and messy kid-moment with you so that you would know you’re not alone if you ever have similar experiences.  Kids are messy and that’s just life.

But they do give you a great excuse sometimes to get new carpet.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Have NEVER Yelled at my Children

Yelling...what’s that?!

Oh, wait...wasn’t it just the other day I put the good ol’ yeller (ie, my MOUTH!) to work with my oldest boys.  I had just tackled cleaning out the monster mess in our minivan and the van was spick and span from front to back.  It was shortly after this cleaning frenzy occurred that I glanced at the boys in the backseat while we were coming home from an outing and noticed something terrible.  It looked as if a paper shredder had blown up all over the back of the van.  I pulled the van into the nearest parking lot to investigate what the BLEEP was going on!

Of course, the boys looked at me with cute and innocent eyes as I asked why there was a snowfall of shredded paper all over the backseat.  Judah, my three-year-old, shrugged, “I was just ripping up a book.  Sorry, Mommy.”

Oh, that’s all.  JUST RIPPING UP A BOOK!?!?  Ahhhh!!

I have NEVER yelled at my children.  

Okay, if you believe that then perphans you are not a parent or not a parent of a child over the age of two!  Or maybe you think the best of me and that is so kind of you but trust me, I am not being nominated  for parent-sainthood and for good reasons…mainly because I’m HUMAN!!

So, I aint proud of it, but I YELLED.  No, I didn’t chit chat about the pros and cons of book tearing in a newly spotless van and all that, I nearly bawled (note: I am VERY pregnant…but that’s really a lame excuse) as I scolded and lectured at a HIGH volume.

I admit this because I want you to know you are not alone in the parenting freak-out moments but it brings me NO joy to recall what a spaz I was that morning. Later that day I apologized to my sweet lil’ paper-shredders and that night when my husband and I were talking on the couch, I admitted my failure to him.  For reasons unknown to me, he stands by the belief that I’m the best mom to our children ever…even when I try to convince him otherwise.  Did I ever mention I love that man?

I still felt a load of guilt that I just couldn’t quite shake that week as I went through our daily routines.  This wasn’t the first freak-out moment I’d had but I wanted it to be the last (or at least have those moments be REALLY rare!).  I asked the Lord in my quiet time, “How do I change?”

I felt like I got an answer that kind of surprised me.  It was just one word, quietly whispered in my heart: LEGACY.

I had to spend some time thinking about what God.  I thought he’d give me a five-step plan of how to avoid yelling but then I realized, he was giving me a plan by showing me the BIG picture.  He was giving me the view from Eternity.  That is just like God...always being so...Eternal!!

What will my legacy to my children be?  How do I want to be remembered by them?

I sure don’t want them to remember me being a spaz about (what was it again?  Little pieces of paper?!  REALLY, Tara?!!  Geez!!) stuff that doesn’t really matter.  I want to be remembered as a woman of grace, wisdom and for goodness sakes, PATIENCE!

So, legacy.

Simple but profound.

It may sound silly, but that ONE word has shut off the ol’ yeller before things get nuts around here lately.  Just when I’m about to dive into Lecture #456 on why NOT to pee on the floor or why their silly fight is driving me bonkers, I shut my mouth and think,

“How do I want these precious little people to remember me?  What do I want my legacy to be?”

The minivan is messy again and you know what, I don’t care.  What matters more is that every night when my kids pull the covers up to their tiny noses they look at me with those bright and hopeful eyes full of love and say,

“Mommy, I wuv you so much.”