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Friday, August 3, 2012

Life Interrupted

All we have—ourselves--to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. --Watchman Nee

So, I began this blog with good intentions. Of course, every failed diet I've began was with good intentions too. Nevertheless, life was interrupted since I last haunted these pages.

You know what they say God does when you make a plan? He laughs. And if I've learned nothing else, I know that man has a rip roaring, hilarious sense of humor! I'm a walking one liner on most days..."What happens when Heather screws in the lightbulb?...Yeah, who are we kidding? She met an old lady while buying lightbulbs and bonded over brownies and old lady perfume. That was three days ago and I think the old lady is moving in." I have a husband for that pesky task of light sources. (Thank you, honey!)

So, let me fill you in on my plans and how God delights in bulldozing them, leaving space for bigger and better things.

 I was a preschool teacher planning on being a working mom when we became pregnant with our twins. When that second little monkey showed himself on the ultrasound, that plan was out the window. I would have been working full time, hardly seeing my children and giving up my whole paycheck and then some. It just didn't make sense. I was stunned. A stay at home mom? Me? I had no example, much less, desire to follow that path. But you see, God knew what was going to happen in my heart when our babies were born. I looked at my husband, Joe, a week after they were born, and told him there was no way in Hades I was going to let someone else take care of my sweet babes and that it didn't matter to me if pigs flew, Mike Tyson really DID address his sociopathic behavior, or if the Solid Gold dancers came back together (God, hear this prayer!), I was never, ever, ever, ever going to be able to return to work after seeing their sweet faces. Plan B commence.

So, after six years of being at home full time, working part time jobs from time to time (mostly to converse with adults), I prepared myself to address this stirring feeling I had been having in my heart for years to go into ministry. It was scary, to say the least (have you read about my spiritual foundation?), and took me an entire year to say aloud to my husband. It took me another year to have a conversation with someone I respect a great deal in ministry, knowing she would be supportive and help steer me in how to proceed. I had become more comfortable inside the walls of the church than I was anywhere else. I wasn't sure how that happened but I was spending 4-5 days at my church, involved in various ministries, attending worship and consumed with the feeling that this was was where I belonged. Really belonged.

You see, I am a very outgoing person and I meet people easily. I come across as someone who has "it" together whatever that "it" is in your opinion. My dirty little secret? I had struggled with my own identity since caring for my father ended with his death. I had held onto that identity so tightly, hoping that it would bring me closer to him and foolishly hoping it would delay the inevitable, but all it did was leave a feeling of hopelessness upon his death. Now, what? I wasn't sure and if I'm honest, scared about what that next step  without my father meant. I tried on different hats- wife, mom, teacher, volunteer and yet, this stirring in my heart wouldn't go away. I felt called to do more. Be more.

I pushed it down and it bubbled to the surface. I squashed it with a great job that was wonderfully challenging and matched my previous work experience. It didn't fill the hole I was feeling. I signed up for every bible study, committee and ministry project I could get my hands on, thinking it would satisfy this hunger I was feeling. It didn't. And once I accepted, that once again, God was interrupting life as I knew it, I took a big breath and exhaled. I am called.

And the thing is, once I accepted it, no, embraced it, God laughed. He dropped a wonderful opportunity into my path and I am embarking on my next great adventure into ministry. The thing is, the fear isn't gone. It's that the passion, the excitement, the feeling that God is blessing this effort, overrides the fear. The first step is the hardest, they say, and I'm skipping right over it into my future, serving Him, serving the church, and serving children. All three of my passions coming together. He called. I answered. Thank you God.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom

Growing up, July 4th was the cool holiday that just begged us to make noise, blow stuff up and stay up late legitimately. We learned in school it was a holiday celebration that we gained our freedom from oppressive English tyranny. I never gave it a second thought, really.

As a parent of twin infants, I decided it was the worst excuse to make noise, blow stuff up and stay up late legitimately. I wanted my sleep, for goodness sakes, and although the holiday was really only one day of the calendar year, you argue, I had to listen to fireworks for two weeks straight. Independence Day was my worst nightmare.

As I've grown and learned more about our history, the current state of the world's affairs and talked with service men/women, I've come to think of July 4th as a great reminder to be thankful.

An average day in my life here in the United States is an exercise of freedom and most of us take it for granted daily.

I woke up today in a warm, dry home. People in Haiti, Sudan and other parts of the world are living in temporary homes on their best day, living in poverty you can't even fathom on their worst.

I was free to join my church family Sunday for worship without fear that I may be imprisoned or killed as families are in Iran or China.

I am free to pursue education unlike women in Afghanistan denied that opportunity.  I gain a fair wage for my trade unlike those working in Honduras or selling themselves or their daughters on the streets of Bosnia to feed their other children.

My children were born 6 weeks early, spending weeks in the NICU hooked up to oxygen and medications that ensured their health and survival today. Had I been a mother in Sierra Leone where infant mortality is nearly the highest in the world, they may not have lived to take their first breath. Mothers in that country don't name their children until they are a year old. Why, you ask? Because 1 in 10 children will die before they see that milestone. They die from malnutrition and treatable diseases like measles and HIV.

I have freedom to worship, education, healthcare and more. So do you.
I woke up today giving thanks for my country's independence, sure. More than that, I give my thanks to those defending it. July 4th is like a thanksgiving of its own, if you ask me. Be thankful. Furthermore, learn about how you can help others who are denied those same freedoms and always, always take a moment to salute a soldier.

July 4th is more than fireworks. Spread the word.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mommy 101

Expectant moms beam with joy and anticipation. They buy cute outfits and stylish gear to help make the transition into the infant centered world. They go to breathing classes and make birthing plans. They ask questions of those who have gone before them and read every parenting book they can get their hands on.
I know. I have been there.

 Sure, authors write about how children are pure joy and life's greatest blessings (no argument here!) or specific tips on teething, potty training and peer pressure (all great info, for sure).

I won't address any of this though. What has puzzled me since my children were born is that I can't find any parenting books out there that tell you about "real" motherhood. You know, the nitty gritty. No rose colored glasses.

 My girlfriends and I have talked about it for years in hushed tones and loud, laughter filled nights (depending on our mental state!). I've compiled a list of things for new mothers to keep in mind as they journey into "real" motherhood- information to keep in mind in addition to those helpful tips on breast feeding, diaper rash, food allergies and preschool selection. Let it take nothing from the joy and wonder that is motherhood.

As a mother...

1. Your life is now a national geographic special on display. You will witness (and participate in) things that you thought only prehistoric people were familiar with. Example: examining stool samples in search of swallowed coins, legos, erasers etc. and biting toe nails instead of clipping them in fear of waking a sleeping baby.

2. All those mothers you judged previously for their children's tantrums, discipline practices and lifestyle choices? Beg their mercy now. You will understand them all too well within weeks of delivering, if not before. You will find yourself a.) negotiating with gibberish speaking, foaming at the mouth midgets, b.)putting yourself in timeout to avoid yelling for the 50th time since you woke up and that was only an hour ago, c.) carrying a 60 lb. stroller, a 20 lb diaper bag and a 30 lb toddler into the drug store 2 mins before they close to pick up your hemmoroid cream and liquor or someone WILL get hurt. In case you were wondering, this is not a multiple choice question. You will do all three.

3. There's no point in saving those skimpy, sexy bathing suits and lingerie. Your body is NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, going to go back to the way it was. That nurse is lying to you. That "abdomen belt" and all the crunches/lunges/treadmill walking/weightlifting/spanx in the world will never bring it back. Your breasts will no longer look to the northern lights, but rather the south pole. (And this is in no way a play on words about some clothing line with poofy jackets and graffitti style lettering). Let the dream die.

4. For a year or more, your idea of a relaxing day at the spa will include brushing your teeth before 4pm, taking a shower alone while listening to music loud enough to muffle the baby's screams in their crib, and not running out of shampoo/zit cream simultaneously. If you accomplish all three of these in the same 24 hours, your day is going fantabulous. And if you manage to shave and not look like a babboon in a stained, oversized tshirt on your way to the mailbox, eureka!

5. Your marriage will take alot of work. Conversations at the dinner table (that's assuming you get to sit while eating!) will center around bodily fluids, feeding schedules and the latest and greatest butt cream. Long gone are the days of romantic banter and intelligent conversation. You will be so tired, you will fall asleep while talking and wake up facedown on the dining room table only because your breasts hurt so badly they feel like they're exploding. And sex, you ask? You would rather cut off a limb or drive a rusty nail through your eye socket then have ONE MORE PERSON touch you today. Period.

6. Everyone tells you that you'll be more tired than ever before. What they won't tell you is that you will become so sleep deprived that you begin talking to your imaginary friends more often than your real ones. You're convinced that if you answer the phone, the person on the other end can actually see what a hot mess you are and skype was created by the devil himself.

7. Your hobbies will become just one more thing that doesn't get done that day. You like to cook, but your dishes need to be thrown out now. They've been sitting in the same place you left them 3 days ago, food crusted and all, when the baby started crying. Like to knit and crochet? Your husband has now hidden your needles in fear. Scrapbooking? Once you print and organize the 5,000 pictures you and your family have taken, that may be an option. That may be 2030, but who's counting? You like to read? The only information you'll be taking in is what you googled last night on WebMD about fevers, rashes and strange odors. And those of you who say, "I like to exercise! That's my hobby!"...You're a liar.

8. You're going to have to face facts. Your house is never going to be clean again. It's true. You will find food from 2 years ago crusted to the side of the dishwasher. There will be sippy cups with unrecognizable solids inside them (I think it started as a fluid!) hidden in the backs of closets and bottoms of purses. The vents are now a storage facility for furry creatures and a 5 generations deep colony of ants. You could lose your child in the piles of laundry and the dust in your house now appears to be permanent, but you convince yourself you need to update your eye prescription. You begin to think you are losing your mind. "Didn't I just come through here and pick up all those toys? I intended to." You did. Your chaos loving spawn is working against you, plotting ways to destroy every attempt you make at regaining your sanity. Those books that say, "You are your baby's best source of amusement"? Hearing you loud and clear now, my friend.

9. All those fancy toys and gadgets they try to convince you that you need? Trickery, I tell you. Your baby will only like to play with those expensive toys when there's a babysitter present. When Mommy is present, nothing is more fun than shrieking at the top of their lungs and watching her rush into the room in full blown panic. What about the diaper genie, you say? Glorified trash can, I retort. "Every boy needs a wee wee blocker!", the saleswoman says. No they don't. You just need to make your husband change his diaper. Just kidding. But seriously, a good rule of thumb- point the wee wee the same direction as your breasts...south. "Your baby can read!" commercials deceptively aired late at night when you are awake feeding the baby? I know you're tired and sleep deprived, but seriously?  My 5 year old is nailing high school calculus. Whose kid is smarter now?

10. Your relatives will all have an opinion about how you raise your child. For that matter, so will complete strangers. They will stare, share advice about how they potty trained little Tommy in 1962, and say really silly things like "Are you sure that's a good idea?" to which I find it appropriate to say, "Are you sure it's a good idea to ask a silly question like that?" with the craziest, eye twitching face and maniacal laughter I can muster. Always keep them guessing, I say.

You still with me? Yes, I love my kids. No, you don't need to call Child Protection Services.

Motherhood is the greatest blessing of my life. It's brought me more joy and satisfaction that anything else before. It's also the most stressful and exhausting task on the planet, in my opinion. When your child smiles for the first time, walks for the first time or spells their name for the first time, it will be the proudest moment of your life. But let's keep it real. Motherhood is hard, so if you can't keep your sanity, atleast keep your sense of humor. It will carry you through most days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Blog?

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.
Eleanor Roosevelt

 For the last couple of years, friends have been telling me, "You should write a book about this stuff!" or "Why don't you have a blog?" My response in regards to both has been "Who would want to read about my crazy life?" The answer- my children.

Why blog now? For two reasons: fear and love.

Growing up, I was secure, safe, loved. Two parents, no siblings, center of my family's universe. When I was 12, that all changed in an instant. My father left our family at the same time he was also diagnosed with cancer. My security? Poof...gone. Safety? Shattered. Love? Distantly present with certain qualifications.

Struggling with my father's decision to leave our family after having an affair and picking up with her children and his new family where we had left off was a blow, to say the least. A cancer diagnosis for the once invincible man I imagined my father to be? Crushing. I felt torn between feeling betrayed and feeling guilty at being angry at the frail, miserable man my father had become.

Over the next five years, I grew up fast. My parents' divorce was ugly at times, custody issues abounded and my father's cancer progressed. My relationship with my father suffered greatly and as much as I wanted to stay angry with him, I wanted his love even more. So, I set aside my needs and attended to his. I began caring for him, getting an education in legal disputes, hospital protocol, cancer treatments and home healthcare. A child shouldering the responsibilities some adults don't see in their lifetime.

On Christmas Eve, 1997, my father passed away. He was 41. I was 17. I was angry. I was angry at the world, and questioning why God would make someone suffer as much as my father had. Just eight months later, I was at college, out on my own, navigating the world with unimaginable grief. I made poor choices and learned little of it. I felt broken.

Fast forward to 2005. I am newly married to the love of my life and am preparing to have our children, twins, a boy and a girl. Life can't get much better, and yet, I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing good in my life had come without a price tag so I felt like I was tempting fate, having a great marriage to a wonderful man and asking for two healthy babies to be born into my messy, mixed up world of doubts.

At 32 weeks pregnant, the other shoe dropped. I found myself lying in the same hospital I had come to know so well during my father's cancer journey, begging God to let me have what I felt I didn't deserve- two healthy children. Over the next two weeks, let's just say I had some pretty intense conversations with God, pouring out my anger and fear, asking that he replace them with hope and health. I specifically asked that he give me two more weeks, the deadline the doctors had given us, that would significantly improve their chances of survival and health. I hadn't asked God for anything in almost 10 yrs. The last time I asked for healing didn't work out so well for my dad.

Exactly two weeks later, my children were born, with minimal complications. Three weeks after that, we went home as a family of four. Over and over again, I felt God whispering to me, "You can trust me." Months later, navigating postpartum depression, he continued to whisper, "You can trust me." I hadn't FULLY trusted anyone since my father left. Not even my husband- I gave him an out before we were to be married, telling him he could leave if he wanted to. He didn't, thank God.

My family is my greatest blessing. I could not put into words the amazing, amazing, amazing love for my children that filled every hole in my heart I didn't know I had. I can say that I am working on trusting God fully each day. It's a struggle, despite His fulfilling of so many promises in my lifetime.

So what does this all have to do with blogging?

Since my children were born, I have kept a journal for them, detailing little milestones in their lifetimes. Sorta like a baby book on crack. It contains all their funny little sayings and questions. It details difficult medical appointments. It has things in it I want to remember forever and for them to cherish when I'm gone.

You may wonder, "Is this where she says she's sick? This woman is a walking Oprah special!" I'm not ill. I recieve the usual doctor's note- eat less, exercise more and de-stress. What I'm struggling with is fear. Textbook fear. If I'm honest and transparent, I can admit that I keep that journal for my children in case something ever happens to me. It's not really about keeping track of all the little details, though I cherish those. The thousands of picturesI've taken in their short 5 years? Not for me to hang on my walls. For them to remember me, remember us together. It's about my fear of leaving my children behind. I don't so much worry about death. I worry about leaving my family behind. My love for them takes my breath some days.

So why blog now? After all the fight I have put up over the last couple of years about it? Heck, I already keep a journal, right? I'm blogging for them. I'm writing so that they may know me more intimately and I can explore my faith/ my life along the way. It may be in fear at times, but I am embracing where I am in that fear and exploring it in these "pages". My journey for more will be about letting go of my fear, living each day present in the moment God has given me, reaching out to whatever He may place in my path and learning to trust Him fully each step of the way. I can't change it... not for lacking of trying :) This journey of mine will be honest, transparent and full of love. It's all I know how to do. This is for my children.