Saturday, April 20, 2013

How much can a heart take?

The youngest son growing up on a Texas farm.

He serves with three of his brothers in the military.  One does not come home.

He meets a senior, who is 16, at the bus stop in west Texas.  He drives her heart straight to the church.  They're married.

They're the first to leave the farm for the big city - Kansas City with 2 children in tow.

Their third is born there.

He does the unthinkable for the times - cooks dinner and grocery shops.  If times are good, he brings home a Mr. Goodbar.

His wife is ambitious.  She wants to sell real estate.  He doesn't say no or tells her that women don't own their own businesses.  He does what it takes.

He is a man of few words. But when he speaks, everyone listens.

He lets his oldest granddaughter believe he moonlights as Jim Davis, Garfield author.  She tells her whole third grade class that she's related to Garfield.

A smoker since the military.  He quits cold turkey.  The youngest granddaughter finally did what the others could not - convince him to quit.

He is told to get his house in order.  He has cancer.  26 years later, he laughs.

The family has never seen him cry until his first great granddaughter dies.

His wife loses her memory.  He spends every day telling her how to do the simplest things and answers her questions over and over...

Now, he tells his stories all the time...Get comfortable.  You will be listening for a while.

So when the VA doctor tells my parents that he doesn't know how much a heart can hold, I know he speaks the truth.  He just doesn't know the size of my Pa's heart. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Half Way There

Nine years ago, I never pictured this sweet little baby having an attitude or always trying to become a third person in a grown-up conversation.  God is smart that way.

Now, I want to remember year 8 for a lot of reasons.  

Sadly, this is the first year that a peer has said something ugly to him. Most moms would want to forget that, but I want to remember his shock that ugliness exists.  And I'm grateful that he made it this far before he realized ugliness could be aimed at him. 

I want to remember stopping at Wendy's after Macy's dance class, I am finishing getting the order and Parker volunteered to get the table.  With all of four customers there, I was amazed at the urgency he had.  He picks a table next to a grandma and her daughter.  I hear him greet them and carry on a whole conversation.  I am worried that he might be intruding on their privacy and a little concerned that he doesn't have any fear talking to strangers.  When I come over, the lady compliments me on what a nice son I have - how nice to see a young man who so friendly and polite, she says.

I also want to remember that this is the first year Parker played basketball.  My favorite game was not Parker's last game when he scored his first points.  It's two games before that when Parker was defending a boy who made him look small.  Parker is in the 85th percentile for his height so you can imagine how big that boy was.  But Parker didn't act intimidated - he stayed on him with his arms high and the big boy never scored. After the game, Parker revealed that when they lined up, the big boy told him he might as well quit.  Parker replied "Never!"  Tony and I high- fived him and told him he was exactly right.  He never gives up even when facing a Goliath.  

I want to remember that this is the year that Parker started talking about wanting to be baptized.  The best conversation we had was when we were driving home from school and Parker wanted to know why we didn't observe Lent.  I was explaining (to the best of my humble ability) that the Bible doesn't command us to celebrate Lent and how it is a tradition for several faiths.  He then jokingly listed things he would be happy to give up - homework, brushing his teeth, and so forth.  I then told him for people who believe, Lent is every day.  "We give up we want and try to do what God wants.  Getting baptized means that you are making a public commitment that you love God and will live a unselfish life.  At 8, you haven't had many opportunities to be selfish, but as you get older, there will be plenty."  Parker came up with a few examples and then I pointed out that when he's in high school at a party, someone will offer him a beer.  "The selfish thing would be to take it so you can fit in.  You might even get in a car later - another selfish act that could hurt you and someone else.  Being unselfish is never easy.  But the Bible tells us it is better to never have made the commitment than to make the commitment and return to being selfish.  Do Daddy and I sometimes  do the selfish thing? Yes, but it makes us sick instead of happy.  So we have to ask for forgiveness and try to do better."  By then, we were home and Parker was happy to come inside and veg out for a little while.  A few days later, we are driving home from school again and Parker tells me, "Mom, I did an unselfish thing today."  "Really?  What was it?"  In my mind, I'm trying to guess at what small thing he did.  "I left the cool table at lunch and I went to the uncool table.  I sat next to _________ who no one likes and everyone makes fun of and he is always sitting by himself at lunch."  Simultaneously, I am thinking that since when did third grade have cool tables/uncool tables?  He was really listening!!!! What happened then?  The last question I asked.  "A couple of boys started yelling at me and asking what was I doing setting next to ___________.  I told them he was my friend too." "Then what?"  A couple of the other kids got up and sat down next to me. So Mom, that's what I am giving up - the cool table."  Blinking back tears, I told him, "I am so proud of you!"

After watching a Duck Dynasty episode, where Si finds "the sweet spot" at the pizza place, Parker picks to go to Chucky Cheese with his grandparents for his family fun birthday activity.  He quickly finds his own "sweet spot" and with laser-like focus amasses a ton of of tickets - over a thousand.  He goes to the prize counter while the rest of us help Macy spend her tokens. I keep glancing up to check up on him and think we could be here forever before he spends all those.  A couple of minutes later, he walks up to me with one item in his hand.  "Whatcha get?"  He flashes me a girls' set of play jewelry and a headband.  "I got this for Macy.  She doesn't have a prayer of getting 1,000 tickets."  Then he walks over to her, and I hear Macy say " YOU got this for ME?  Thank you, Parker!  You're the best brother ever!" I always want to remember how he surprises me with his unselfishness and the joy I heard in Macy's voice.

Nine years of hearing the sound of thunder as he comes down the stairs, stepping on Lego pieces, asking him if he brushed his teeth.  All these things that we may get frustrated by, I know we will be wishing for when he is grown.   

Monday, March 4, 2013

Prayers of My Past

In 2002, the first prayer was for life.  Not mine.  But for Lauran's.  Let the doctor's be able to fix what is wrong and let her live a long life.  Through her 53 days of life, I finally understood two scriptures - to pray without ceasing and to pray without words.  I also came to understand that I didn't change God's will through prayer, He changes mine.

In 2003, the prayer was to see first the beauty of my life rather than the pain of my life.  I watched myself celebrate every holiday, do mundane things, and marvel at mothers who casually walked through the mall with their babies in their stroller.  I prayed for God to let me live a vibrant life instead of a shadow of a life.
Help me live the kind of life I would have wanted Lauran to have.

In 2004, I prayed for faith.  We were one month away from having a baby boy.  Help me believe that the doctors are right.  He's healthy. There's nothing wrong.  Help me believe this gift of a healthy baby could be ours.

In 2005, 2006, and 2007, I have prayed with exaltation.  How blessed are we to have a beautiful, healthy baby growing and growing.  The desire of my heart fulfilled.  How GREAT are you God!

In 2008, I prayed for deliverance.  I'm in the first trimester and find myself more scared than ever before.  I have tasted the sweetness of life, and I am shamefully scared that I will have to face the bitterness again.

In 2009, my prayer of thanksgiving overwhelms me.  We may face other trials,  but nothing compares to the trial of loss.  And I know, without a doubt, God will not abandon us.

And so the prayers go in 2010, 2011, and 2012. In every past prayer, and today's, and I imagine, every future prayer, God knows I miss her.

So on this day, I say a prayer of gratitude that sometimes I am given a glimpse of the bigger picture.  Throughout these 11 years, I've watched others bear the loss of a child. Yet through their heartache, they have remained married.  Some have borne healthy children. Some have adopted children.  Some lovingly serve children.  In their lives, I see such grace and beauty.  So today, my prayer is for those mothers.  I am so thankful that they have been given the desires of their heart and that they allowed me to bear witness.  I thank God for them and for babies present and babies past.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

With a little grace

I went into work this morning at 7:15 and left at 9 at night.  I am sitting on the couch without one ounce of energy.  It was a rough day - students needing more from me than reading, writing, and arithmetic.  I have a young lady in my room who is fresh out of college, and I look at her every day and wonder what in her schooling prepared her for the real world.  Professors can talk about theory.  Professional development can offer up even more strategies.  
But no one can really answer why children are struggling.  Academics are not always the challenge. It certainly wasn't today.  People can often excuse behavior with a label.  The longer I teach, the more aware I become that children, regardless of intelligence or socioeconomic status, have no idea how to treat one another.  They can be so quick to point out the faults of others, but can offer up a multitude of excuses for their own behavior. I am standing in the hallway feeling sickened by their double standards and ask if anyone knows what grace is.  None of them did.  Grace, I tell them, is giving one another a break even when they don't think their classmate deserves one.  I turned to one boy and I asked, "Do I give you a consequence every time you blurt out?"  He sadly shook his head no.  I turned to another one and asked "Do I refuse to repeat the directions for a fourth time because you didn't listen to the first three times?" He shook his head no.  "That's what grace is.  Choosing to give someone a break even when they are on your last nerve.  Show each other some grace, please." 
I foolishly thought when I was that young girl fresh from college that I would change the world.  I know now that the world was too lofty a goal.  I'm just trying to change one child at a time with a little grace. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Two Months worth of Hits and Misses

Going back to work may cramp my blog time, but thankfully doesn't interfere with us trying out new recipes.    

Hands down, best grilling recipe ever!!!!  It's now my favorite! 

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

I am constantly searching for yummy crockpot recipes.  Sadly, this one was very bland.  If you are one of those people who can improvise on a recipe than this one would be a great starting point.  It needs a little umph.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Rice

You can say what you want about his quarterback form or his beliefs, but this family knows pizza!  We've had this both months.  It makes the perfect Friday night meal!

Tim Tebow's Family Pizza
Tebow Family Pizza Pie Recipe

It always makes me nervous when pinners claim "Best recipe on Pinterest".  But this one lived up to the hype.  We added this to our Mexican night rotation. Ole!

White Chicken Enchiladas

I had a cold when we tried this one, but Parker, Macy, and Tony gave this one two thumbs up.  It took a lot of bowls, but it was relatively easy to assemble.

Stuffed Shells
Stuffed Shells Recipe

Another slow cooker bust!  Very dry hashbrowns and ham...Definitely a miss!

We had this when my family was in town, and all 9 people gave this peach version of dump cake rave reviews.  Don't skimp on the calories and skip the ice cream.  Vanilla ice cream is a must.

Peach Crunch Cake

My virtual BFF, Ree Drummond, scored another hit with this one.  Tony especially liked that it makes a huge 9x13 so there was plenty of leftovers.

Chicken Spaghetti

Put Buffalo Chicken in the title and we are all over it!  Even the kids love the Buffalo kick.  This recipe would be perfect for a crisp fall night or a blustery, cold winter night.  You will warm right up!

Loaded Buffalo Chicken Casserole

This recipe was a big disappointment.  First, the description on Pinterest didn't match the link.  It was so gross that we pitched the whole thing...

Cheesy Chicken Lasagna
chicken lasagna 6 450

A third crock pot bust!  The alfredo sauce was green and I couldn't get past it.  The kids thought it was OK, but I don't think they will be requesting it any time soon.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Happy Menu Planning!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Honestly Speaking

I love listening to people's stories and I am constantly asking questions about how these stories came to be.  Sometimes these stories are happy tales of love and devotion and sometimes these stories are full of heartache and shame.  Lately, the stories have had a common theme - honesty or lack there of.  

I know that all of us - me included - want to present the very best picture of ourselves to the world.  Good hair days, matching accessories, and if we're really lucky, wearing our skinny jeans.  We want to be viewed as having it all together.  This is the picture that we rush to publish on Facebook.

For all of us, the truth is not that pretty.  The truth is husbands cheat.  The truth is other wives question if that can happen to my good friend who is beautiful, kind, and caring, can that happen to me? 

The truth is we can't handle telling the truth.  We'll talk to our girlfriends before we'll talk to our husbands.  We'll talk about our girlfriends to other girlfriends before we ever speak the truth to our girlfriends. Ironically, speaking and hearing the truth hurts.  

But we have to speak it.  Otherwise, our stories will be full of betrayal.  If you can speak it to your girlfriend, then speak it to your husband.  Husbands, speak the truth.  We're big girls.  It may hurt to hear it but we can take it.  I used to believe that the blame for marriages falling apart could always be spread around.  Not anymore.  The blame lies with the one who quits speaking the truth.  

So say what you have to say.  Stand behind it.  Own it.  Should you choose to remain silent, then that burden belongs to you and only you. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wrong turns

Two Saturdays ago, Tony got a phone call from one of his best buddies.  He had 2 tickets to the Rams-Chiefs preseason game and wondered if Tony could go.  I mentioned needing a babysitter and all of a sudden Parker is going and I am staying home.  Despite the hit my ego took, the expression on Parker's face was priceless.  Needless to say, I had two very excited boys hurriedly making plans.  
The game was in a few hours so of course the thought went to changing clothes.  Chiefs attire all the way!  The boys plans quickly hit a snag when we all realized Parker's Chiefs shirts were for winter and probably too small.  We immediately started brainstorming of where in St. Louis could we find Chiefs gear.  We called Old Navy - they were sold out.  I checked online and Dick's Sporting Goods showed quite a few.  We headed over there to discover they only carry local teams in the store.  A few weeks ago, my mom and I had been shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshalls and I remembered seeing Chiefs shirts there.  We hopped back in the car and tried Marshalls.  No luck.  Tony was driving and since he usually avoids, I mean misses out on those stores, he took a wrong turn out of the parking lot.  Not to worry, we knew we could get back on the highway with a little zig-zagging.  Driving through an industrial park, I see a woman in a winter coat with 2 pieces of luggage.  Since Tony was on a mission, he was driving fairly fast.  I thought it might be the lady my mom and I had given a ride to a couple of months ago.  I told Tony that I thought it was her and she probably needed a ride to the hotel.  She was between Marshalls and standing in an empty lot.  I stated the time and asked could we still get done what we needed to get done and help her.  Without waiting for an answer, I said Parker has a red shirt he can always wear instead.  Tony turned around and drove back to the lady.  I hopped out of the car realizing up close that it was the same lady for sure.  
"Can we give you a ride?"
"I don't have anywhere to go."
"Aren't you the lady who lives in the hotel down the road?"
"I don't have any money."
I fell back in the seat to repeat what she said.  Tony asks me what I want to do.  I reply that we can't just leave her there.  We'll just have to pay for her hotel.  Even if it means we eat ramen noodles all week is what I was really thinking.  I get back out and tell her that we'll pay for her hotel.  I crowd into the back when it hits me in the face that Parker and Macy have been watching all this unfold.  She gets in and apologizes for sweating so badly.  She tells Tony that she has 9 layers of clothes on.  Then she turns to me and asks if I want to call the hotel first to find out how much the room will cost.  No, I tell her.  We'll take care of it.  I can tell she doesn't remember me.  Then she asks us if we would drive her through Burger King and she shows us $10 in multiple layers of ziploc bags.  Tony answers "Of course.  But we're buying your dinner."  "Can I have breakfast too?" "Sure!"  Listening to her order brings tears to Parker's eyes.  Even he can see how hungry she is.  We then drive back to the hotel and Parker jumps out of the car to help Tony with her bags.  Macy is still there so I stay outside with her.  Parker runs back out to let me know that Daddy has her checked in.  Without really weighing the consequences, I write down our names and our cell numbers telling Parker to run this into Daddy and he'll know what to do with it.  Tony give it to Ms. P and tells her to call us if she needs us.  "Are you sure?" she asks him.  Tony replies, "Yes, because God loves you."  Back in the car, Parker has a million questions about how she doesn't have a home or where is her family.  Questions we didn't have the answers for. 
The next morning at church, I am constantly checking my phone for Ms. P to call and asking "Lord, what will we do then?"  I'm fearful because I don't know what we can do to help her.  I know the saying give a man a fish...I know she needs a long-term solution.  Then I look around at my church family and I know if I ask for help, it will be given.  We're not alone in wanting to help Ms. P.  Parker worries too and offers his plan.  We can clean out the basement and make her a room to live with us.  I am grateful for his tender heart and think why not?  Children can break down a problem and simplify the solution.  Adults are the ones who make it complicated.  I don't know what my answer will be when she calls.  I'm just praying that God will answer for me and put the words in my mouth. That's the best I can hope for. 
All day long I kept thinking about how if Tony hadn't made that wrong turn, we would have never seen her.  I couldn't help but wonder how many wrong turns Ms. P may have made in her life.  Is she like the prodigal son? Too ashamed to call home? Has she made choices that her family felt forced to confront and say don't call us anymore?  
Then I looked back at our married life and all the turns it has taken. Turns we made with the best of intentions that turned out to be wrong ones.  And I'm thankful.  I'm thankful that we have a God who does love us and can take all of our wrong turns and make them right ones.