29 December 2005

Love and Joy Come to You

This Christmas was a particularly peaceful one. Being a family of five high strung, high energy, rambunctious, boisterous people, friction is easily achieved, most times without even trying. There have been some years with so much stress from unemployment, unmet expectations, and undue pressures, that it doesn't feel very happy at all. This year really stood out as a Christmas of peace, joy and togetherness. From my last two posts it may seem that I have been sad - but this sadness has only hit me in the days following Christmas. Christmas Day itself was very special. Some of the things that were different were -

- Instead of complaining either audibly or in my heart that Christmas is sooooo much work for moms that we need a vacation afterwards just to recover, I asked the Lord to give me a servant's heart toward my family.

- Instead of hoping for my husband to read my mind and find that special something that he knows I will just love, I got real and accepted that he won't know what I want if I don't tell him. (Honestly I rarely know what I want! How can I expect him to know!)

- Instead of looking for what I could get, I focused and concentrated what I could give - and found this to be the greatest blessing of all. This was found in both time spent, presents purchased, and experiences shared.

I have realized over the last couple of years that I can be very demanding. When is see my kids behaving in a way that says they feel entitled, the Lord gently points to who has taught them to have a heart groomed for discontentment. This was a monumental, groundbreaking year for our family - and I am so thankful to be able to say that it was me the Lord did the work in. I pray these are lessons learned I never forget.

28 December 2005

I Miss My Mom - CAUTION Revealing Post

This is indeed going to be a very revealing post about me. Perhaps because it's late, and I am feeling a bit vulnerable - but my heart is on my sleeve. Maybe I'll chicken out and never click the "add new entry" button, or even get up and delete it in the morning. If not, read with caution - there may be some things in here you just don't want to know, and if you comment, please comment gently, because my in this area, my heart is very delicate.
I grew up with a mentally ill mother. There it is - in black and white - I typed it. I have said it many times, but to put it down in black and white seems to make it more permanent somehow. I spent many years trying to cover up this simple fact, but the truth is that it really was never simple at all. As I have gotten older, and realized how abnormally she behaved, and how out of the ordinary our lives were, and refused any longer to live in the viscious cycle, things have gotten much more complicated.
A few years ago, right around this time - a few days after Christmas, my mom had a gastric bypass - but I didn't know about it because she wasn't speaking to me. (This is all a part of the cycle.) Within 48 hours of her surgery all of her major organs were failing, and a cousin called to tell me that my mother was in a coma. A girlfriend drove me the several hour trip to the hospital where she had the surgery, to see an unrecognizable form laying in a bed with every machine known to man hooked up to keep her alive. Early the next morning, I woke both my friend and myself up sobbing out loud in my sleep, crying over my mom.
For the next three months, every Sunday afternoon, my children and I took our little homeschool on the road. On Friday nights, when I would confirm that within a few hours my step-father would arrive to be by my mother's bedside, I would head home - to grocery shop, make 15 sandwiches for my husband (he eats 3 a day for 5 days!), and cook all our meals for the coming week - so my husband could also have a homecooked meal every night. I stayed by my mom's bedside, loving her the only way I knew how - bathing her, feeding her, putting her on a bedpan, learning to lift her out of bed, helping with her physical therapy, and just being a companion. I wish I could say that this made a difference in our relationship and in her heart - but, the same woman that had not spoken to me for a year or so preceding the surgery returned. It was just devastating.
So it has been for most of my adult life. I just celebrated the second Christmas in a row without her speaking to me. There are never any reasons that make sense to anyone else, so I will spare you, kind readers, the details. Fortunately, I am no longer a captive in the torture that befalls one living with a mentally ill person. There were times when I thought I was going crazy because the person in my life I most trusted would be so out of alignment with everything that seemed right and true. When I became a believer ten years ago, I really gave my heart, even the broken, confused and sick parts to the Lord and He alone has done a tremendous work there. But deep down inside, is a little girl who still needs a mom, and I am sad because I know she needs me too. I have tried to call her several times recently to no avail. I am reminded that the Lord says He will be a "Father to the fatherless", and I cling to that when I am hurting. But if you talk to Him, could you put in a word for me and tell Him, I miss my mom?

Don't Make Bean Soup!

Yesterday, I made a big pot of Navy Bean with Ham soup. It was a recipe my mother shared with me that she learned from my Memaw and Grandy - my dad's parents. I hadn't made it in years, and I forgot how much I like it. It is really rich, and hearty, with navy beans, ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. The smell of it cooking in the house was wonderful.
While I was cooking, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my grandparents, and how much I miss them. They died four days apart, Memaw first, followed by Grandy in 1991 when I was pregnant with my first child. Their deaths so close together were very traumatic for our whole family. Grandy had battled lung cancer and emphysema for many years and was hospitalized for several weeks preceding his death. My Memaw's death was a little more unexpected, being up one night sick and rushed to the hospital. But what was significant about their lives was not their deaths, as eternally etched in my memory are the phone calls from my dad long distance breaking the news and the sight of a funeral home overflowing with people and flowers where two caskets sat at the far end of a long room. What is significant is the lives that they lived and how they impacted the people who loved them.
My Grandy owned a barber shop, perhaps a contributing factor the emphysema that he struggled with later in life from inhaling small hair particles all those years. His barber shop was the men's club of the small town Damascus, Maryland that they lived in. He knew everybody, young and old in that little town, and they all knew him.
My Memaw was the mother to two sons, born ten years apart, my dad being the younger of the two. She was a twin, and her mother died shortly after giving birth to her and her sister. The girls were raised by their father, who I understand remained single, and their oldest sister, my great Aunt Lib. Memaw went to work as a nanny at a young age, before meeting and marrying my grandfather. I think that she must have missed out on the gentle, loving touches a mother brings to a child's life, because she was never very affectionate - yet you always knew she loved you.
My grandparents were anchors for me in a very tumultuous childhood and adolescence. I wish I had spent more time with them when they were alive, but being young I knew very little of what a precious opportunity I was letting slip away. As I grew up I bounced back and forth between my divorced parents, but my grandparents never gave up on me, never stopped loving me, and even when they would get discouraged with some of my instability, I never felt diminished in their eyes. My one regret is that they never had a chance meet my children or to see the woman I have grown into.
So here is a little warning - one day you decide to make soup, and the next thing you know you are crying. As you watch your hands use the knife on the cutting board, in your minds' eye you see your grandfather at the kitchen counter chopping onions, and then your heart is aching for missing two people that were very precious to you. Don't buy ham, don't buy navy beans, and don't make soup! It'll make you way too sad.

Why I LOVE Blogging

You know you've been spending too much time on the computer when you find yourself reading a book, you know the kind with paper and ink, and you want to scroll your finger over words, hoping for something highlighted so you can click on it and go find out MORE! So with the Christmas holidays fast approaching, I found that I needed to tend to my blog a little less, and the tasks at hand, the celebrations and traditions, and to time with my family a little more. So my blog has been relatively simple these past couple of weeks - not a lot of deep thoughts or sharing my heart. Being someone that loves to write, I am probably going to FREAK OUT if I don't write something I consider significant soon. When I say significant, I don't mean necessarily to anyone else, but something that is satisfying to my own soul. It is all the better when you get other people thinking, writing and sharing their thoughts or opinions - which is why I love blogging! My friend Joanne titled her blog aptly "Cheaper Than Therapy"! I couldn't agree more!

22 December 2005

Christmas Traditions

I was replying to an email from KarenW and asking her questions about how her family celebrates Christmas. They are stateside this year, but I was wondering if they'd picked up anything interesting in Romania, or how their family in Alabama celebrates Christmas.
Growing up with divorced parents, from year to year, things were seldom the same. I have picked up some things from both parents and step-parents that I have implemented into how our family celebrates Christmas. We generally tend to be the first family in our neighborhood to put up our tree. Neither my children or I can wait, and honestly I don't care what anybody thinks anymore. Jesus said to enter His Kingdom you must become like a little child - and when it comes to celebrating His birthday - I am usually worse than the kids. We bake Christmas cookies with some dear friends. On Christmas Eve we go to my friend/adopted "big sister", Carol's house and celebrate with her family - husband-Andrew, daughter-Brenna and dog-Emma. There is always shrimp, and tons of good, beautiful baked goods because Carol is absolutely, without a doubt the best baker in the entire world. We usually go to a candlelight service for Christmas Eve - except for one year when we had a terrible snowstorm. Then we come home and always let our children open one present on Christmas Eve - NEW pajamas! (I figured out early on that this makes them look all nice and shiny in their Christmas pictures - unless somebody barfs on them in the middle of the night but I'm not mentioning any names! Kendra!!) We either snuggle up together on the couch and read the Christmas story from Luke. Before going to bed, the kids set out Christmas cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. We have been known to tuck them in bed and listen to sleigh bells ring outside their window!
On Christmas morning, our children always wake and open their stockings first thing. My husband is a bit overbearing with the video camera, and insists that they wait to see what is under the tree until he is all set up to capture every single wide eyed, bedhead framed expression. We make a pot of coffee and put on some Christmas music, and if we can get the insane camera man to put the camera on a tripod, we all sit around in our jammies and enjoy watching each other open presents. The rest of the day is usually pretty laid back - for everyone but me! I spend most of the afternoon in the kitchen - and eventually we have a nice meal and watch a movie, play a game or continue assembling, or deconstructing the packaging of some of their gifts. Last year we went in the evening to visit some friends who will be out of town this year - but that was a very nice addition.
My husband grew up in Texas - and one of the things his HUGE-mongous family usually did to celebrate Christmas was set off fireworks. You can't even buy them where we live this time of the year.
Every family has ways of celebrating that are unique and special to them. Some of our traditions will stay the same when (Lord willing!) we move to Texas and others will sadly be set aside. (We will miss you terribly Carol, Andrew, Brenna and Emma!) I just thought I'd share, and ask YOU to tell me how YOUR family celebrates CHRISTmas!

21 December 2005

He Knows the Way That I Take

After a time of really struggling with my quiet time routine, I recently jumped back into one of Beth Moore's studies - A Womans Heart-God's Dwelling Place. This morning the study was focused on Gold, Silver and Precious Stones. In it there was a verse - Job 23:10 that says But He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. I pondered this for a moment, and thought about the "way that I take". Sometimes I take the way of pride, jealousy, selfish ambition. At times, I have my feet on a path I know better than to be going down. If He knows the way I take, I wonder why He doesn't just abandon me here? But He never does. He is always on the right path, calling my name.
As I am writing this I am reminded of something that happened almost two years ago now. It was early March during the first signs of spring, my slightly insane friend Lizbeth and I decided to take our kids hiking - up and over our little peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I knew the trail - or so I thought because I had hiked it once in the opposite direction! Long story short, we started off in the morning, stopped and had a picnic lunch with our five children, and continued on through the afternoon. What we hadn't realized is that the direction we headed was predominately uphill. My friend's 4 year old daughter was tiring, and we began to take turns carrying her. We also followed some arrows that appeared to lead out of the trail and back to civilization. Lizbeth hiked ahead as I sat with the children because we were tiring of carrying her little one - and I realized my cell phone battery was almost dead, and it was fast approaching dark in the shadow of the trees, so reluctantly I called my husband, and a couple of friends. One of our friends just so happened to live at the top of the mountain, and we called her to cancel plans that Lizbeth had with her for that evening, because she obviously was NOT going to make it - and unbeknownst to us, she sent her husband out to look for us. (He was a very expereinced hiker, who was very familiar with that section of the Appalachain trail.) As dark closed in, we bundled the children between us and huddled underneath an emergency blanket, and sang songs to the Lord for what seemed like hours. Finally we saw a flashlight in the woods. It was our friend's husband.
That is how God loves us - and even when the way that I take is the wrong way - He doesn't only stand calling my name - He comes to find me - in the dark when I am unable to find my own way home. And even though He always knows where I am, I know if I can lift my voice to praise Him, He hears my need for Him to find me all the more!
......He knows the way that I take....

16 December 2005

Jesus and "Father Christmas"

Over the past week I have read several posts from different bloggers about Santa and Jesus, and the whole spirit of Christmas. This morning, I was reading Boltbabe's story about Baby Jesus being stolen out of a light display in someone's backpack! How much more outrageous and anti-Christmas could that sentiment be? Then I followed a link to Spunky's blog about a teacher being reprimanded for telling her first grade students that there is NO Santa. And it is truly a crime that people get all worked up about something like this, but think nothing of the secularism that seeks to swallow Christmas - even its very name, into this nameless, vague holiday celebration of goodwill to all men, that in its very essense means absolutely nothing without Jesus.
So, all of this has gotten me thinking, and when I think, I blog - well most of the time anyway - sometimes I cook when I think, or actually have a conversation with a real human being - which is another blog entry altogether!
Last night Kullen and I were snuggled up on my bed reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe together - because I am determined that we will complete the book before going to see the movie. We are enjoying that time together so much, now that the poor child is not a theater orphan. In our reading, we came to the part where Peter, Susan, and Lucy along with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver meet "Father Christmas". "Father Christmas" (the English Santa Claus) gives each of the children tools for their adventure in Narnia. "Father Christmas" also bears the message that "Aslan is on the move". This fictional, fantasy story by one of the world's most respected theologians, that allegorically tells the gospel story, never seeks to put "Father Christmas" in the place of "Aslan", and neither should we. Pretend, fantasy and expansive imagination have given birth to great thinkers such as Mr. Lewis, and we as Christian parents need not be afraid of it. The ability to think, dream and create worlds, stories, and people is a precious gift of childhood that is quickly snuffed out as the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood come pressing in.
In our home, and in our family, Santa has never conflicted with Jesus, in the way that we have celebrated. I am not saying that this is true for the rest of the world, who would take Jesus completely out of the picture and replace Him with the jolly, fat man in the red suit. We have always talked about Santa's giving being in celebration of the greatest gift of all - Jesus!

15 December 2005

Late Night Shopping - Merry CHRISTmas!

One of my favorite holiday traditions here is a late night shopping trip my friends and I make one night in December together. We usually start out in the mall, go out to eat, and eventually make our way to Target and Walmart, and whatever anybody may be interested in along the way. We did it last night, and it is all bittersweet. It was great fun, and yet deep inside is the knowledge that this may be the last time I share a Christmas with these friends before the Lord clears the way for us to move to Texas. There were lots of laughs and fun. I was worried much of the day that because of the ice that had covered the ground that we would have to cancel, and that would have devastated me. I was just having one of those days that you just know you have GOT to get out of the house - and for me yesterday was one of them. Nobody was being particularly bad - but there have been stresses kind of pressing on me - and the joy of Christmas has been eluding me. Now, it wasn't the shopping that set me in the right spirits, but friends, and laughter and remembering that we enjoy giving to one another to celebrate the gift that continues to reach through eternity and give true and lasting joy - the kind that the worldly troubles cannot drown or temper. Thank you Jesus for that reminder. You are the reason for the season - and without you all the rest really means nothing! Praise You Lord for Your gift of eternal life - that you were born in a manger to die on a cross in so that our eyes might sparkle with eternity. Let us be light in this dark world that seeks to snuff Your name out of CHRISTmas!

03 December 2005

My Hubby's 40th Birthday

Today Travis turns 40 years old, and he is just as handsome as the day that I met him. He is a good man. He is a hard-working husband and father. Here is a great picture of him taken just a short while ago with his birthday cake - and our three beautiful children!

One of the things that I loved about him most when we met was how hard he makes me laugh - even at myself. One of the things I hate is that having to take care of the five of us, provide a roof over our heads and put food on the table has dimished some of his boyhood silliness, but I live for the days when he comes home in a spunky mood and there is such laughter and joy in our home. If I could give him one wish it would be to make his life easier financially. I am so proud to be his wife, by his side - and that he has always been willing to make sacrifices as a one-income - sometimes low-income family so that our children and homeschooling could be the highest priority! I love him, and I pray with all my heart that the Lord gives him health, and blesses our home and family with him for another forty years!
Here is a picture of the two of us - that I am going to post really, really small - because of my bruised up nose and scraggly hair! (We have a show tonight and it goes into the 40s hairdo much better if it is not freshly washed!)
I love you Travis - forever and ever! Happy Birthday Boo!

A "Play" Date

There are two more performances of "Miracle on 34th Street" for this weekend, and then four on the following weekend. Here is a picture of my girls and their friend Tayva getting ready last night for the big show!

It has been a wonderful experience again, like Scrooge was last year. There have been challenges. Such as, doing nine heads of hair - with my neck and back stiff. I just enjoy meeting new people so much, and being involved in something like this with such a diverse group of "characters". The energy of the audience is so intoxicating. It is a lot of fun to entertain others. I will post much more about the play soon and hopefully have better pictures of all of us in costume!

02 December 2005

Nail Breaking - Part II

I wanted to clarify for my gentle readers that in case anybody wonders, I am not a girly girl - and most of the time you can find my nails in various stages of growth, usually quite uneven. What I was complaining about that night when I wrecked my car was the violence, and depth with which my nail was ripped off the top of my pinkie finger. It tore it down in the quick where it smarts. But I wanted to share with you that specific part of the experience, as it has me laughing now days afterwards. The Sheriff's officer that stopped to help out was checking us over with a flashlight - the blood matted in my hair over my ear, whether my pupils were dialated - and I was in shock so I didn't feel anything at that point - not my nose, my arm, NADA. But the first thing I remember feeling pain from was that darn ripped fingernail. I said to the officer, "I broke my fingernail." He turned to his partner, without missing a beat and said, "Bob, I think we're going to have to call for transport." Yeah, funny cop on the side of the road - the guy should be a comedian!!!!

01 December 2005

Opening Night

Tonight is the opening night for Miracle on 34th Street. I have been enjoying it quite a bit, even last night with a stiff neck and shoulders, and what is painfully, obviously a broken nose. (It is bruised - and a sneeze yesterday almost killed me!) Opening night is the best. The cast finally gels together for better or worse, because truthfully none of us want public humiliation, and we stand before an audience simply to entertain them. My part is small, but when I am not there, I am missed and that means a lot to me.

However, as much as I am enjoying it, there are a few things that concern me. One is the lack of courtesy that adults give the children that are our castmates. This is "community theater" which means that all members of the community are invited to participate. However, over and over again, I have been confronted with situations where adults around us speak as if they were hanging out in a bar. Children don't need to hear that kind of (as my friend Tina calls it) foul-filthing, and quite honestly neither do I. These same grown-ups who are respected members of our community, work jobs dealing with the public and would never dream of using such colorful language or euphemisms in those settings, let loose here. I don't understand it! I am not making a moral judgment on these people, believe me as far as speech goes, I am not above reproach. The Bible tells us to "let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths" and I know I err here - often many times a day. And to God, there is no difference in foul speech and a foul heart from which wholesome sounding speech conceals venom, resentfulness, and the intent to gossip. As a believer, God's word is the plumb line to measure where I stand. But in our society, just from a moral standpoint, adults don't seem to respect the innocence of childhood. I guess that it shouldn't shock me the way that it does, in a sex-violence-evil saturated culture that the general public lives their lives void of beauty, joy and purity. It shouldn't - but it still does. And it makes me so desperately sad.

So, tonight, on opening night as I'm "breaking a leg", I will smile and play my part - but in my heart of hearts I will be praying that the innocence of the era of our play, 1947, will invade our hearts again.

If you would like to check out some blogs of some of the members of the cast and crew that are also Homeschoolbloggers - here is a list:
Raggedy Andy
Pilgrim Girl
Not-so-little Little Boy
Macy's Employee
Newspaper Stand Boy