Saturday, July 28, 2012

God WAS There.

Where is God in the most horrific and painful times of our lives?  When something bad happens, what happens to the God that is good?

I believe He is right there, if we look for the unexpected ways He shows up.  

After the painful trial our family went through last weekend, I’m more convinced of this than ever!

It had been a long week as my husband, a youth and children’s pastor, had been away at youth camp for five days.  But Friday had arrived at last and my heart was elated at the thought of seeing my best-friend any hour.  Our five month old, Daniel, had just woken from his nap and after feeding him, I held him close to me and headed downstairs, something we did a hundred times a day.  

Only this time, I lost my footing only two steps down and in one of the most surreal and horrific moments of my entire life, I was flying (head-first) down the stairs (all twelve of them!).  In that split-second, my one and only thought was, “Protect my precious baby!!” and I tried frantically twisting in the air so I would fall on my back but couldn’t turn fast enough.  All of the sudden, we were crashing into the landing face-first, Daniel hitting first and a sick thud filling the air that felt so terrifying I couldn’t suck in another breath.

A cry of pain erupted from his tiny body and I began shouting for help, my heart pounding in my ears and every part of me shaking uncontrollably.  Without even thinking, I began to pray and ask God to protect this child that I desperately loved and would die for without hesitation.  Although my husband, Bob, was not supposed to arrive home for another half an hour, he had made it back early.  In fact, it was just a moment after he walked in the door that he heard the loud thud and my cry for help.  When he rushed to our side, I felt like God had sent an angel just when we needed one.

God was there.

After a quick evaluation of Daniel (who was now vomitting), Bob called 9-1-1 and instructed me to care for the rest of our crew.  I’m not exactly sure why, but I dialed a friend that I knew was in town that day running errands.  She and her children were in the grocery store with a full cart in that she quickly abandoned (the cart, not the kids!) in order to rush to be there for our family.  She arrived before the ambulance did.

God was there.

I drove in the back of the ambulance with my baby, tears streaming down my face.  The EMT sitting next to me looked at me with tearful eyes of his own and said with one of the kindest faces I’d ever seen, “He’s going to be okay.  We have two daughters of our own and this kind of stuff just happens.  You’re a good mom.”

God was there.

As they rushed Daniel into a room, me following close behind, my husband’s sweet aunt who was also an ER nurse happened to see us and her eyes widened in surprise.  She also just so happened to be finishing her shift and immediately joined us in the room, holding our son, holding me and being a steady support through the entire night, a night that was a journey through the valley of death.

God was there.

As Daniel continued to throw up, a CT scan was ordered and the doctors planned to sedate him, a procedure that would be risky in his current condition.  We prayed for little Daniel (who had been crying and distraught) to fall asleep and laid him on the CT table.  Suddenly, he inhaled a shaky breath and fell fast asleep...for the entire procedure!

God was there.

A short time later (which, of course, felt like years!!), the CT report came back at about the same time I noticed Daniel’s right side of his head was starting to swell up as he slept in my arms.  The initial report took our breath away and made our knees feel like jello: a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain.  

The Er room was suddenly swarming with doctors and nurses as they rushed our baby to ICU where a team of neurologists quickly convened to go over his situation and make the tough calls on what to do.

Meanwhile, I was left standing alone in the ER room where I fell to the floor, crying for the Lord to spare my son’s life and take my own.  Bob’s aunt pulled me up and prayed with me as there were no words for that moment, one of the darkest moments of my life.

Even then, God was there.

Bob’s aunt and I hurried to ICU where my baby was hooked up to IVs, monitors and was being carefully evaluated while my husband got on the phone to notify everyone he could to start praying for our little guy.

And I just know, people were praying.  All over our town, throughout our state and I’m sure even throughout this country and beyond, people prayed (thank YOU for petitioning God on Daniel’s behalf at that time too, dear friends and family!!).  I know that God was listening, a miracle was in the works and in the way only God can, He takes something devastating and brings something good out of it.  In the bustle, in the fear and in the darkness of that ICU room, a light began to shine.

God was there.

Through this whole ordeal, I forgot to do something that helps us to stay alive: breath!  After passing out for the second or third time and having a small panic attack (well, my husband begs to differ on using the word, “small”!), Bob picked me up and I vaguely remember the doctor saying, “Get that mom out of here!” as my husband carried me out to the hallway.  I was shocked, “Who is that crazy mom in my son’s room?!”  Then it hit me: Wait...I’M that crazy mom!  

Yep, even in that embarrassing moment of weakness, God was there!

I forced myself to get a grip so I would be allowed to remain by my son’s side.  Right about then, some friends and fellow pastors we were planning on meeting with for our Friday date night showed up (dressed to go out as they had just got the message about Daniel).  They were a strong and quiet support,  laying hands on our baby and joining with us in fervent prayer for him to be completely healed.

God was there.

Our aunt, a seasoned veteran of the ER, informed us that we had some of the best neurosurgeons working on Daniel that one could hope for!  A light of hope shone on my heart when one of these gifted doctors smiled at me and said,

“Daniel is going to be okay, I’m sure of it.  We have four kids of our own and one of our son’s had a brain tumor when he was two...”  his eyes filled with tears at the memory and my own eyes did as well knowing the unbreakable love-bond between a parent and child, “ but he is six now and healthy and strong as you could imagine!”  

Through the gifted minds and hands of this talented team, of doctors and nurses we saw their Creator shining through.

God was there.

The team of doctors had come to an agreement and their assessment was the best news one could hope for in this situation, “The fracture has actually been a blessing as it’s allowing his brain to safely swell while he heals.  And the bleeding on the brain is only a wisp, the smallest amount you could imagine!  We are admitting him to PICU and this next day is crucial but we think he will be just fine.”

I felt like I had just been flung onto Cloud Nine!  I started hugging EVERY nurse and doctor in sight (I think I might have even kissed someone too, hopefully it was Bob but I don’t remember for sure...).  

Without a doubt: GOD WAS THERE!!

The journey was not yet over but I knew we were not alone.  Even in our darkest hour, God’s light had never stopped shining.

A few days later, after another CT scan was performed on Daniel, the doctor was shaking his head in wonder,

“Your boy is 98% healed.  This is...well, it just doesn’t happen.”

He looked at Daniel in his hospital bed, a big smile filling his chubby cheeks and making his double-chin grow even bigger...and cuter!  It was contagious: the doctor couldn’t keep from grinning and neither could me and Bob!!

Where is God in the horrific and painful times of our lives?  When something bad happens, what happens to the God that is good?

I believe He is right there, bringing something good out of something bad...if we look for the unexpected ways He shows up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blood, Sweat and NO TIME for TEARS!!

My husband is out of town for a week.  Just a week...I mean, how hard can 6 days alone with 5 kids really be, right?

The morning he backed out of the driveway, my six-year-old son declared, “Daddy said he’ll be gone six days and five nights and that I’m gonna be the man of the house while he’s gone.  That’s a LONG time to be the man of the house!!”

Little did I know just how LONG it would feel (and I’m only halfway through, what a pansy!!)...

Even if my husband is working in town, it’s reassuring to know he’s nearby if anything happens.  And when he is home and working, I know “The Doctor is IN” sign is always hanging on the door.  He’s never too busy for me to collapse into a chair in his office, box of Kleenex in hand, and lament all my failures and frustrations!  This happened just last week and his words of encouragement are still ringing in my ears and lifting my spirits!

“You know how I know you’re a good mom?” he replied to my tearful confession that I mess up A LOT, “You’re raising good kids.”  (Granted, he’s probably pretty biased as he contributed the Y chromosomes...ha!)

My man is my rock, my gravity to keep me from flying off the handle some days!  There is definitely one thing I’ve grown in during our week apart,


Whew, you all ROCK!!

It’s two o’clock and the kids are all napping so here I sit on the kitchen floor, drinking right out of the bottle of my kid’s Juicy Juice (shhh, don’t tell) and in a semi-state of shock that five people shorter than me (a pretty rare thing) can truly kick. my. butt.

I’m exhausted.

Today began with a beautiful sunny morning run that ended in tragedy for my four-year-old’s toes when he momentarily forgot how to brake his bike going down a hill and dived over the handlebars.  The fallout  from his flip-over (other than MUCH weeping and gnashing of teeth) included me carrying home his bike while pushing the triple-jog stroller (now seating FOUR kids).  When we finally got home, Judah on his bike wasn’t the only thing that went  flying downhill!  Fights, upset tummies, crying babies, overflowing bathtubs and dinner-time spills (including baby D’s first major spill when he grew go-go-gadget arms and dumped over a flower vase that created a Niagra Falls off our dining room table!) kept me unable to catch my breath.

By dinnertime, carrying a bike over my shoulder while pushing a triple stroller was starting to look EASY!

I’m trying to remember a time in my life when I have been this overwhelmed.  Even though I have done many different jobs (including working double shifts waiting tables where I was on my feet, rushing about non-stop for over 12 straight hours!), I honestly can say it doesn’t compare to how hard this motherhood thing is.

I’d take a tray full of pizzas and a table of angry customers over a messy house full of crying babies any day!  At least the shift at the restaurant eventually DID end, I could walk out into the sunshine and BREATH again.  Somedays I feel like the only light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train...or my son shooting his new (and LOUD) light saber-gun!!

Motherhood is really stinking hard sometimes.

I always smile when I recall a funny little story a friend once shared about her own struggles, “I remember one day, after someone had unplugged the vacuum cleaner I was using for the tenth time, saying to God through clenched teeth, "Lord, why did you give me all these stupid kids anyway?" Yup. Godly motherhood right there!”

I so relate to that, sometimes I think, “I’m TOO blessed to handle it all!” 

It is blood, sweat and no time for tears!  Or, if you do cry, just try to keep it under 3 minutes.

My husband will be home in two days and I think. I. can. make. it.  It helps to know I have “two men of the house” (my four-year-old and six-year-old that were left large and in charge!) in case I need them but more importantly, it helps to know that GOD (not the hubby!) should ALWAYS be my rock.  Even though it’s not the easiest lesson to learn, I NEED to remember that no one and nothing in this world should be my ultimate support and strength except for the One who made me.  

Thank God He has given me a wonderful support system while I raise all these blessings (including great friends!) but when I need that breath of air, I must remember: HE alone is the giver of life (and sunshine!).  It’s also nice to remember I’m halfway there!  Look out, Dear, when you come pulling in our driveway I’ll be running out to jump into your arms.


Monday, July 16, 2012

This is my Confession

This is my confession.

It happened the day of my oldest son’s birthday party that was scheduled to kick off at my in-law’s house at 6 pm, on the dot.

It was around 4:00 pm that I realized a BIG communication break-down had just occured between me and my better half.  I had thought he was going to be back from work by 3:00 to drive me and the kids (in an air-conditioned vehicle as it was over 100 degrees out that day) to his parent’s place so we could set up for the party.  He had thought he was supposed to meet me there when he got back from being out of town...after 5 pm!!  

So there I was at 4:05 (slightly panicking!!), loading my babies in a diesel truck (with NO A/C) and balancing a 6-layer cake on my lap as I said a prayer and rumbled down the road towards my in-law’s house.  SInce I  had never driven my husband’s truck with my one-year-old in the backseat, I didn’t know until her door swung up that she could reach the handle so easily!  Thankfully, that was also the time I was slowing down for a stop-sign but I still nearly had a heart attack and slammed on my brakes.  Of course, this caused the aforementioned cake to topple off my lap and attempt a nose-dive for the floor but by some genuine miracle, I caught it as it was falling and only a small chunk of the cake went MIA.  

At 4:09, I was covered in rainbow-cake, my heart pumping huge doses of adrenaline from the door-opening scare and sweat pouring off my forehead.  As I was still parked at the stop sign, I jumped out to securely close the door by my daughter’s car-seat (with plans to lock ALL the doors afterwards!) when I noticed that a lady driving around the corner was glaring at me. 

I think what happened next occurred in slow-motion as her window rolled down just enough for her to holler out an obscenity not fit to write in this G-rated blog!

Really?!  As if I was just taking a stroll or doing a Chinese fire-drill in the middle of a busy intersection for kicks and giggles!  C’mon, lady, I am saving the life of my baby girl...and saving my son’s Star Wars rainbow birthday cake too, of course!

These are my confessions,
Just when I thought I said all I could say,
My chicks in the car going nuts, things not going my way,
These are my confessions,
Man I’m thrown and I don’t know what to do,
and what I did on this day will really surprise you.
Now this gon’ be the hardest thing I think I ever had to do,
Got me talkin’ to myself askin’ how I’m gon’ tell you...(Thanks for that, Usher!)

I don’t remember actually thinking before it happened (though I must have in that split-second of decision making!) but right then and there, I gave her the old bird!  Yes, it shames me to admit: lover of Jesus (you know, the guy who said to LOVE your enemies and do GOOD to those who hate you?!), pastor’s wife and aspiring role-model to my children flipped someone off in the middle of a busy intersection (in a small town) for ALL to see (including my children, ahhh!)!

I’d like to say that was my reaction but had NOTHING to do what was in my heart but I know that’s not the truth.  It’s definitely not HIS Truth, “...out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (or the finger flips!).” (Matthew 12:34)

Oops.  So THAT anger...that JUNK was already IN me and the circumstances of the moments simply brought it out of me.


My hope is next time you are driving through our small town and happen to see someone randomly shouting obscenities at me, that I will be the cool-headed mom (even if I am covered in rainbow cake) smiling back at them and saying, “God bless you too!!”.

It’s moments like those that I know I REALLY need to renew my mind with God’s truth.  I need a change of heart.  I need Him.

This is my confession.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catching Butterfly Moments

My oldest son has never met a butterfly he didn’t want to catch.

Whether we are headed off on a walk, an outing to the beach, or just in our own backyard our six-year-old can usually be spotted with his trusty side-kick, a blue butterfly net.  Each butterfly he catches is miraculous and few things in life bring him more joy than his collection of canned butterflies in my old mason jars!

After an unexpected conversation with one of my other sons tonight I realized I need a trusty side-kick to catch things I could easily miss with my children as well!   I’m slowly learning (that seems to be the only way I do learn!) the best way to catch these small but important little details of their life is a brief but VERY meaningful one-on-one interaction with each of them.  Since most days I hit the ground running with my young and active crew, I’m discovering the bedtime hour when their eyes are sleepy and their hearts are tender is too precious of a time for me to ever waste.

During the buzz of noise and laughter as four little people pull on pajamas and brush their teeth, I try to grab one kid at a time and pull them into my lap.  When I clasp their little faces in my hands and look them in the eye, it’s the perfect moment to affirm them.

I remind them who they are and Whose they are.

I’m often surprised at what gets “caught” in this quiet one-on-one time with each child.

“Do you know we love you very much and that we are proud of you, Judah?”  I asked my four-year-old who shook his head and furrowed his brow in response.

“If you do,”  he replied, “then why did you leave me at the beach today?”

Before you call freak out, let me quickly explain that his version of “leaving him” meant that we all headed (very slowly) up the hill towards our car (all the while watching him carefully out of the corner of my eye!). This was only after I had called to him to get out of the water maybe five...or five HUNDRED times. This finally motivated him to burst out of the lake and run with super-speed after us, wailing, “Don’t leave me!!”

“Judah,”  I squeezed him in a hug, “It’s BECAUSE we love you that we discipline you and teach you there are consequences to your actions.”  After this, we had a great conversation (as great as possible with a kid who has the attention span of an excited puppy!!) about unconditional love.  A moment later, once again secure in our love, he bounded off to join his siblings without a care in the world.

I sat in silence on the couch for a moment (silence in this home usually only last a moment anyway!) and sent a prayer to God, thanking Him that He showed me this hurt in my son’s heart that, due to the busyness of life, I may have never caught.  When it comes to this parenting thing, I feel like the blind squirrel that gets lucky and finds a nut once in awhile (or the little boy that gets lucky and catches a butterfly once in awhile)! Although it was a small hurt tonight, his faulty thinking could have put a serious crack in the foundation of truth and love that (with God's help) my husband and I are trying to build in his life.

Everytime I see my son’s butterflies in those mason jars, I’m going to remember this night.  I’m going to try and not forget how important face-to-face encounters with our children  can be.  When we encourage them and listen to any concerns and fears weighing on their little hearts, God helps us catch things as miraculous as His beautiful butterflies!