Thursday, June 20, 2019

Looking Back

On Father's Day, we decided to pull out the home movies.  We watched Colorado Camp vacations with babies (we must have completely lost our minds!), we watched countless birthdays, kids running around in the back yard, learning to ride bikes, and even a birth (didn't let a camera in until my 7th.  Ha!)! We even went waaaaay back and watched my brothers, uncle, and friends wrapping our car in Saran Wrap in the hotel parking lot on the night of our wedding.  Pretty funny.

I don't remember so many of those moments.  Watching them is sweet.  And sometimes painful.  I watch those happy babies and sweet toddlers and can't help but think that they had some very hard things coming.  I'm glad we didn't know - God's grace.

The Coach and I kept looking at each other during the videos - I think our memories are pretty vague.  They were GREAT kids!  Not perfect, of course, but even as little ones they sat still and listened and obeyed.  We ate dinners at the table together and spent time playing together.  It wasn't perfect - and it was a lot of work - but we felt blessed to have these little (now big) kids and the privilege of watching them grow.  We are so tired now, we could never pull that off for even one day.  Haha!

It was a crazy season with so many little ones.  But it was simple and it was good.  I would do it all over, again.  As long as I didn't have to do it at THIS age.  Whew!

The kids kept laughing and saying, "How did we not DIE?"  We let our kids PLAY and CLIMB and RUN - and also fall down.  We let them have BB guns and do messy crafts and ride bikes and climb play-sets (that weren't safe at all - ha!). I couldn't believe how calm the Coach and I were in the middle of all of that.  But I DO think that letting them do hard things  - AND often fail - was a good thing.  I'm proud of the younger us. Even if I don't really remember any of it.

They've grown so beautifully into ADULTS who tackle hard things.  They love well and work hard and are so loyal to each other.  It's pretty amazing to watch them as toddlers - and see those same qualities that became their strengths as adults.

I'm over thinking it all, of course.  Mostly it was just a crazy bunch of SUPER cute kids running around like wild Indians.  But they were my wild Indians and HOW I loved them.

Our culture has decided that suffering is to be avoided at all costs - we advocate abortion, assisted suicide, and drugs to prevent suffering.  We don't want anyone to experience pain or hardship.  But suffering is a part of LIVING.  If I had seen the suffering that was to come (for Son #3, in particular), would I have decided that his life wasn't worthwhile and denied him the privilege of living AND suffering?  OF COURSE NOT.  His life has been a gift and a blessing - and because of Christ, his life and his suffering both have PURPOSE.

Suffering is a part of life.  I hate it.  But it's true.  And if we don't give our kids a chance to do hard things - often by trying and not always succeeding - when they are little, how will they ever be able to face truly hard things later on?

When we know Christ, we understand that suffering isn't worthless.  Our kids need to know that there is purpose in their lives - even if life holds hardship and suffering. And can I tell you something?  Their lives WILL be hard.  At some point, in some way.  Give them the tools to tackle those hard things as little ones - God's Word, faith in Him, and lots of opportunities to DO HARD THINGS.

I would do it all, again. Even if watching those years feels like an out of body experience.  The blessings have been too numerous to count.  And God has been so faithful.  We've seen Him give us strength and grace in the small things AND in the big things.  Always faithful.  I wouldn't trade the opportunity to walk that out in front of my eight people for anything.  It's been beautiful.

There's still so much to look forward to!  And whatever lies ahead?  God will be there with us in that, too.

Happy Thursday!


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Summer is for Projects

The last two weeks at the troops, we...

Graduated one from college
Moved two home from college
Hosted a graduation party at our home
Graduated one from high school
Hosted a graduation party with friends
Went on a road trip (I almost said vacation, but that doesn't seem accurate. Ha!)

We're home and tired and the house is a disaster.  But we're together - and it's Summer!

Finally, for the first time in weeks, I'm taking time to sit and reflect a bit.  Re-evaluate a bit.  Go over some goals from last Winter.

I've failed miserably.  It's bad when one goal was "journal more consistently" and I had to go back to April to find my last entry.  Ha!

Thankfully, at almost 46, I'm somewhat used to that.  Setting six goals and only meeting one in 5 months.

Choosing today to appreciate that I've changed ONE habit for good.   That's more than I would have changed if I hadn't set goals and made the effort.  Changing one habit is enough.  For now.  One thing at a time.

My garage is full of storage tubs and furniture and donation bags.  The laundry is piled up.  I'm currently overwhelmed with all of the hidden messes - the attic, the lockers, the kitchen junk drawer(s), the armoire in our bedroom full of kids art, the fact that my digital photos are a disaster - and haven't been organized or printed into an album since Little Man was a baby, the file cabinet in the garage...

Things that get left undone when life is FULL and LOUD and BUSY.

So today, I'll tackle one of those.  Probably the attic, which will lead to cleaning up the garage.  Just START somewhere and make a little progress for today - before camps and mission trips and Summer activities use up the extra time.

The truth is, all of this stuff won't last forever - messy or not. But these people, who are living life here and loving and learning and growing and working together... they are what really matters.  I despise the mess and lack of organization in some areas, but I delight in the LIFE that creates the mess.

So here's to Summer time, 7 kids back at the troops, projects, messes, and SLOW progress on changing habits.  It's the stuff of life.  And it's good.

I'm thankful, every day, that GOD is faithful, even when I'm not.
That GOD'S love is everlasting, even when I struggle to be kind and patient.
The GOD loves me, even when I'm not as disciplined or consistent as I want to be.
That GOD is trustworthy and sovereign, even when I have not idea what I'm doing.

So much to be thankful for.

Happy Saturday!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Last week's SO VERY TIRED (and lack of humor) might have been related to the fact that school is winding down.  But before it ends, it gets CRAZY.  Somehow each year, I forget that the last two weeks of school completely suck the life out of me... while simultaneously filling my heart completely full to overflowing.  It might have also been 5th grade science camp (for the Coach, too), Jr. Retreat, and the state tennis tournament.  Hmmmm.

I'm not a big fan of mother's day.  But I am a HUGE fan of my troops.  And they knocked it out of the park.  First, my two OBU students showed up at church - which I did NOT expect!  They know my favorite mom thing is having them all in church with me.  Best gift ever.

Then lunch with my parents and in-laws, aunt and uncles... family.  Love them.

The Coach and the Troops all gave me the sweetest notes.  Sweetest.  I'm so thankful.  Turns out that my kids are growing into amazing adults who love WELL.  They're my favorite people.

Face-time call from the newlyweds, errands and coffee with the middles, dinner out with Coach and the younger kids, all in all a beautiful day. The Coach even ordered gluten free cupcakes from a bakery and picked them up on Saturday.  Wow.

Mother's Day followed a fun weekend at the tennis state tournament.  As we drove away at almost 10 PM (rain delays) - with our senior boy and his cousin/doubles partner getting 7th IN THE WHOLE STATE - that's so awesome, isn't it? -  the Coach turned to me and said, "Well, that's the last time he'll play as a Crusader,"  I'll admit a tear or two.  What a fun six years it's been with this kid.

Son (#1) and his beautiful wife sent a card and a gift for Mother's Day - I'm so proud of them.  Not just because they are thoughtful and sweet (which they are!), but because they are doing so well making a HOME together.  Just for fun, I watched wedding videos today (to-do list avoidance at it's finest!) - my heart is so full.

Daughter (#2) is DONE with nursing school!  I can't believe how fast these four years have gone.  She took her last final yesterday.  I could cry (it's a theme, lately) thinking about how hard she's worked and how well she's done.  She's precious. I'm going to need my waterproof mascara for her pinning tomorrow and graduation on Friday.

Oh Son (#3).  Finishing up finals today and tomorrow.  Sophomore year as a Math Education major and he's killing it.  I'm so proud of him.  The next week is FULL of doctor's appointments, but he's going to spend two weeks teaching in Roatan and we are all so happy for him.  Every day a gift.

Son (#4) left for his senior trip to Boston, yesterday (the Coach was our hero and did the 4 AM airport run).  This kid is SO MUCH FUN.  And I can't wait to celebrate him next week.  Four down, four to go.  He was my football/basketball/tennis kid and we've loved every minute.

Daughter (#5) - how WILL she be a senior next year?  I'm going to need a bigger box of tissues.  And by the way, she's smart and funny and I love her.  And her sweet attitude about giving up her room (again!) for her big sis who is moving home from college.  We have the most flexible kids on the planet - I'm convinced.  My tiny girl played volleyball, basketball AND for the first time, tennis, this year and she made them all FUN.

Daughter (#6).  Can you tell I'm a HUGE fan of my kids?  Because they are amazing.  Not perfect, but amazing.  And this girl is loud and dramatic and awesome.  And always up for driving me on my errands.  Yes!  She played all three sports with her sis - they are inseparable.  And funny.  And addicted to sonic.

Daughter (#7) made dinner last night, cleaned the kitchen, and is the resident baker (I retired some time ago).  She's sweet, cheerful, borrows clothes without asking (but that's literally her only fault), and is crazy athletic - growing up way too fast like her beautiful older sisters.  The Coach needs a bigger gun, for sure.

And Little Man.  Oh boy.  He's taller than three of his sisters. He's going to be taller than me, before I can blink.  He and Maggs pick on each other mercilessly.  I'm loving every minute with this kid.  Even though sometimes I have to say "No. More. Words."  Today he got a big art award at school and I had to fight the tears.  So many memories with ALL of the troops.  Son (#3) being the art teacher's aide and working on her chalkboard all year.  Son (#4) getting the same award when he was just a little guy.  Following in the footsteps of 7 older siblings isn't easy, but he's blazing his own trail and we're laughing all the way.

Meanwhile, the Coach keeps faithfully loving us all in spite of the BUSIEST time of year and working on his masters.  Honestly, it would all fall apart without a lot of laughter and a LOT of love of patience.  From everyone.

See you on the flip side, school year - it's been a good one.

Summer, here we come!



Thursday, May 9, 2019

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something...

I read this today...

"The race always hurts.  Expect it to hurt.  You don't train so that it doesn't hurt.  You train so you can tolerate it."

Since I ran my 7th half marathon less than two weeks ago, it really caught my attention.

I had trained the very least for this race.  Since I began running when Little Man was a baby, I've always been crazy about training schedules.  I would rather not run at all than run unprepared.  But I realized today, that in the back of my mind, I always expected to be able to train enough that it didn't hurt anymore.  Which I realize now, is silly.

Because when I thought about it, the training hasn't been without it's own challenges.  Aches and pains.  Exhaustion.  Stress fractures.  Sickness.

And not long ago, full marathon training that was interrupted by my son's cancer diagnosis.

But my run last week was relatively enjoyable.  I'm not denying some discomfort.  Or even a desire to quit around mile 11 and 12.  But honestly, it was so much less painful than I expected, considering the training I thought I hadn't done.

Turns out, consistent cross-training and faithful shorter runs over YEARS time ended up being enough to get me to the finish line.  So really, I HAD trained.  Just in a different way.

As usual, running continues to provide so many parallels to life.

Even though many of us willingly train for physical challenges, it's harder to think about training for the trials of life.  But whether or not you do it intentionally, we all are doing just that.  When we respond to small irritations or inconveniences, we practice for facing the things that stop us in our tracks.

The Coach and I never had a plan for how we'd respond to tragedy in our family.  But in our 24 years of marriage, we've trained in countless ways.  Dealing with sick kids, financial stress, accidents, surgeries, disappointments, kids who struggled emotionally or physically.

He's gotten up early to study God's Word, even when he's been exhausted.  I've prayed even when I haven't felt like it.  We've worshipped in spite of our hearts feeling cold (or just so very tired).  Discipline and long term habits, built in the calmness, become your default when life gets tough.

For so many years, I thought that the struggles were because we'd messed up in some way.  And if we could only figure out the right schedule or diagnosis or communication... the struggles would cease.  The lie in this thinking was that struggles were caused by mistakes, not by life in general.

But God's Word tells us that the trials are not always because we've done something dumb.  Of course sometimes they are.  I like how Tommy Nelson says, "Life is hard enough. Don't be stupid." But more often, it's just part of living with other humans in a fallen world... in bodies that have yet to see the redemption that our souls can receive through Christ.

I can't say that we have responded perfectly to every horrifying moment we've been through with our sweet son, who is still in cancer treatment (although PRAISE GOD for continued remission).  But I'm reminded once again, the PAIN isn't a sign that we haven't trained.  The PAIN is a sign that we're alive.  And by God's grace, we can endure the pain.

We train ourselves to depend on...
His strength.
His goodness.
His patience.
His love.
His mercy.
His faithfulness.

It doesn't make the pain go away.  But it give us the ability to bear up under it.

Depend on the Lord today in the little things.  Good and bad.  Easy and hard.  Use your "faith muscles", so they'll be ready for what comes next.  The pain doesn't mean you're a failure and it can't always be fixed, but it DOES give you an opportunity to trust the Lord and glorify Him in all that He allows in your life.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4

Monday, February 18, 2019

Two Years

Sunday, January 27th, was the 2 year anniversary of our son's cancer diagnosis - on homecoming night at our school.  It wasn't sure last year that I would even GO to homecoming, the memories are excruciating.  But I did.  And I went this year, too.  These are huge milestones for us, but they also bring back so many difficult emotions and losses.

Life is HARD, ya'll.  So hard.  But the hard we've had this last two years, especially, has made me so very AWARE of the beautiful and the lovely and the special.  It's given me the gift of appreciating normal, boring days... and time with my people.

Our troops experienced one of those beautiful gifts in our son's wedding on January 6th.  It was lovely and intentional and worshipful and precious.  To see him and his beautiful bride so happy, to rejoice in God's provision, and to be thankful for how we LOVE her and are so thankful for God's providential hand in their relationship.  So many good gifts.

I cried the whole day.  They weren't sad tears - they were grateful tears.  When you know that this life is so short - that at any moment it can all change - that every day together is a gift - then these moments, sharing their special day and having ALL of of my troops there with us, it was overwhelming.  I know we aren't promised those moments.  I treasure them.

So Son #1 is off with his beautiful wife in SC, starting his first, post-degree, real life JOB.  Daughter #2 just started her last semester of nursing school and took an offer for her dream job, post-graduation.  Son #3 is trucking along with his chemo (two years of chemo - so awful, but God has been so very good to him) and started back to finish off his Sophomore semester.  Son #4 finished up his senior season of football and is hitting the 3's on the court like a boss - college visits and summer plans.  The three girls are playing basketball and tackling the tons of homework - so so busy. These high school years FLY and we are trying so hard to enjoy them.  Little Man?  Well, he's still the adult of the house - playing basketball and moving through 5th grade like a pro.

Two years of cancer treatment added onto LIFE and parenting and the daily grind has been exhausting.  We are weary.  Some weeks I can't believe we've kept going this long.  Other weeks it seems like it's all OK.  I guess it's both.  It WILL all be OK - even if not this side of heaven.

I'm more aware than ever how little control we have over our lives.  I set out to change some bad habits that have formed in the last two years (Diet DP anyone?) a few weeks ago.  I'm not much for New Years resolutions, but I have felt that conviction to get back at it, lately.  February resolutions, maybe?  More purposeful time in the Word, praying daily for my coach, eating less refined sugar, drinking more water, deleted Facebook off my phone... you know.  The usual.

So far the only success I've had has been with giving up Diet DP.  At least it's going well, today.  As for the other things?  Well, we all got sick.  Sinus infections, colds, and a few random low fevers that resolved on their own.

Do you ever feel that way?  That as soon as you set out to work harder and do better... life lays you out flat. Like life has a way of saying, "Oh really?"  I'm determined to not let it get me down.  Each day I have another opportunity to tackle better habits and feel their consequences AND benefits.  Sometimes I'd rather just do the easy thing.  Honestly MOST of the time I'd rather do the easy thing.  But after TWO years of just sort of surviving, I'm paying for it.  And it's time.

So each day?  Is a gift with the people you love.  Full of normal life and special moments and JOY.  And each day is also an opportunity to take care of ourselves and those we love.  Knowing fully that we don't control much.  But even that is a gift, isn't it?  GOD, Sovereign and full of Grace.

I pray every chemo week, "Come Lord, Jesus."  But as long as I'm here, I will purpose to trust Him for all of it.  And be thankful that HE is in control.  So thankful.  And pass the tissues.  ((sniff))

I've anchored my soul on this for the last two years...

Romans 8:35-39
Who shall separate us from the LOVE of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, IN ALL THESE THINGS we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I AM SURE that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, not ANYTHING ELSE in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

And THAT, my friend, includes whatever you are facing today.  Whatever it is?  NONE of it will change God's LOVE for you.  He's in control, He loves you, and you can trust Him.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sharing Comfort

We've all seen them.  The articles about what NOT to say to someone in a difficult circumstance.  They can be helpful.  We should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  We need to be thoughtful about this and show empathy.

But these articles kind of annoy me, too.  Can't we just assume that people are doing their best?  That maybe they don't know WHAT to say?  I've been there, myself.  And we had friends who completely disappeared when our boy got sick.  It's OK.  I understand.  I hope I'm not quick to assume malice.  Whether someone tries and fails to be compassionate or doesn't try at all... I hope I can offer grace.  I've needed it so often, myself.

Even now, we're not able to do hospital visits quite yet.  I hope someday we can, again.  But right now it's just too hard.  I need those that I love to extend grace to us for that.  We are still healing in so many places.  It doesn't seem to happen on my timeline.

Sometimes our tendency can be to try to "out do" someone's suffering.  In my case, I've had people comment that their situation is hard, but having a kid with cancer  (like me) is harder.  Even hesitating to confide in me, because they feel like their difficulty isn't important enough. 

Or in the reverse, I've had others say, well, your son has cancer, but at least it's not ___.  And trust me, I'm aware that there are MUCH harder things.

But both perspectives make me cringe. 

It's not a competition, is it?  Your hard versus my hard?  Which is worse? 

Yikes.

Our suffering here on earth counts for something.  I think we all long to know this.  That our suffering isn't in vain and it has value in eternity. Some losses can't be redeemed this side of heaven.  How my heart ACHES for my son's suffering to be redeemed.  For his losses to be restored.  For the ashes of his dreams for the future to be turned to beauty.  Our human hearts need to know that redemption is possible.  And because of Jesus, it is.

Hope is not found in having people understand our suffering or offer us comfort in the way we'd like it to be offered.  We're all human.  Let's extend grace and trust that everyone is trying in their own way.  You know who DOES understand all of our suffering?  Not your BFF (and I have some amazing friends!), your spouse, your kids, your pastor... JESUS.  He's endured ALL things.  ALL.  Go to Him for the comfort you long for and then turn and extend grace to everyone else.

Hope is not found in our circumstances HERE... it's that these earthly sufferings will pale in comparison to the heavenly GLORY for all of eternity.  Wow!

Do I want my son to be healed?  Of course.  Do we give God the glory for each and every healthy day we have together?  Absolutely.  But no matter what the future holds, God is still good and God is still faithful.  Because we have that eternal hope of glory. 

I needed the reminder today, to show compassion and empathy and tenderness to those around me.  Maybe even more so over the Christmas season.  Everyone is carrying a burden of some sort.  You can count on it.

We've found God sufficient in our suffering at the troops.  I can say with confidence that He will be sufficient in your trials, as well.  No matter what they are.  No matter whose hard is harder.

And I'm just saying, if it comes down to how much laundry you have and how tired you are?  I'm going to win that one.  Haha!

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Every Day a Gift

We've been trying to find a balance here lately, between celebrating ALL THE THINGS and doing ALL THE THINGS and not completely exhausting ourselves. I don't think we've succeeded.  But when you have to deal with the reality of a serious medical diagnosis, you can't help but want to make every day a celebration of the gift of life.  The gift of family.  The gift of people and health and love and beauty.  

On the one hand, I can't tell the kids, no we don't have the time or energy for that right now.  Because I know life can change in ONE second.  But on the other hand, we're tired.

Volleyball was fast and furious and was over in two seconds.  Football season (glory be!) is still going.  We're deep into the playoffs this week and the Coach is eating sleeping breathing film, defensive schemes and practices.  We love our football at the troops and we adore our senior wide receiver even more.  But the Coach is my favorite and it's been a delight to see his success.  

Basketball has begun for the younger four and I'm so very thankful the older two girls can get themselves to and from practice and scrimmages and I just have the 8th grade and 5th grade games to figure out.  Once football is over, I'll have more help from the Coach, but he's swamped right now.

Even though three college kids (one graduating in two weeks!), a wedding in January, a highschool senior, two more highschool girls, a jr high girl and a fifth grader - along with another college graduation coming in May -  keep us pretty busy, the Coach just went back to school, as well.  (Can you hear my laughter?)  He's begun work on his masters degree.  It's needed to happen for way too long and we decided now is the time.  I'm already (5 weeks in! Ha!) telling myself, "It's only 22 months.  It's only 22 months."  I very much want to help and support him in anyway I can.  So that means helping out with things he usually manages so capably.  

In the midst of it all, the continuing treatments for our boy (about nine months to go!), ongoing tests and doctor's appointments, his involvement in school and plays (so fun!), along with the busy holiday schedules and so much planning to do for the coming weeks...

The Lord is our Rock.  He is our helper, our defender, our strength and the GOOD that we enjoy in each day.  Every bit of THIS.  The beauty and the hard... they are all HIS GOOD GIFTS. 

And rest is a gift, as well.  We're still learning how to make that work.  To be thankful for each day and see it as a gift... we've learned a lot, but we still have so much to learn.  God is so patient with us.  His love endures forever.  No matter what tomorrow holds, we don't have to walk through it without the grace and strength of the Lord.