Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Empathy Does Not Come Naturally to Me

Understanding what others are going through and fully relating to them in their trials is not one of my strong suits. If it's an ordeal I've already experienced however, I'm right there with you. For instance, childbirth; I'll identify with you at every turn as you endure the 9 months of carrying and waiting, and then try to survive the hours, or days, of bringing that baby into the outside world.

Other than the nausea, fatigue, heartburn, discomfort etc. of pregnancy though, I'm not particularly used to being sick. So, sometimes God hits me with a bug to remind me what others suffer through regularly when feeling horrible. And just recently, He helped me understand something much worse--having a sick kiddo.
Right before Christmas, Isaiah had an anaphylactic reaction to cashews on a drive between Lexington and Louisville. When he started vomiting all over his car seat, I could barely keep it together. Praise the Lord he never had difficulty breathing. And we're so thankful that Norton Hospital had a special Children's ER to get us in super fast and pamper him with stickers, videos, and treats, while they tortured him with needles and monitors.
The toe monitor was probably the most aggravating part of the whole ordeal for him.
Even with all the excitement, he didn't fall asleep till 1:00am in the ER.
Skin testing to find out what he's allergic to.
Blood testing to see how severe his allergies are.
So now, not only can I relate better to mommas with sick babies in the hospital, I'm starting to grasp what it's like to read labels, carry Epi-pens, and pay attention to what Isaiah and the rest of us are putting in our bodies.

If you're gluten free, vegetarian, allergic to tree nuts, or just trying to watch your carbs, I'm definitely more sensitive to your lifestyle than I was before. Now, if only I could empathize with others without walking a mile in their shoes, maybe God wouldn't see fit to lend me a pair every once in a while.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." - Romans 12:15

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Sometimes when you have a good day, you have to be sure to capture it on "film."

Last week, Facebook reminded me of some pretty cool memories.

8 years ago, I was on my 5th short-term mission trip to Mexico. Spaying and neutering our way through a couple towns, sharing Christ's love in broken Spanish, and building relationships that continue to this day. A CVM team just went back before Christmas, it sure would be nice to head back there myself some day.

Facebook also reminded me that I was on a mission trip the same day 7 years ago, in Bolivia. My future hubs, was visiting and we ventured into a very remote village called Lapiani with my Bolivian church to love on the folks in a tangible way. I did vet work on the local livestock and pets, while Jon impressed my socks off by washing feet, trimming toenails, and fitting the people for new shoes. All the heart eyes....
I lost the Facebook "Memory" but here's the image that it reminded me of 7 years ago.
And here's Jon unwittingly making me swoon.
Apparently all the other ladies were flocking to him as well.

Just one year later, as Facebook sweetly reminded me, was the day Angie moved in with me. She's been living with me for 6 years!! I love this photo of her first night as my family.

Things have changed a bit since January 3, 2011. Fast forward over half a decade, and this is what my current mission field looks like:
Long-term "missions" come at a higher price, requiring regular sacrifice for days and years on end. The mountaintop experience we have on a weeklong trip overseas doesn't come as often when we're in the trenches of "normal" life. However, the impact we have on those we invest in is greater. It's often difficult to look back on the time when adventure and service were simple, regular parts of my world years ago, without a bit of longing for such a lifestyle again. But I know what tribe God has given me to serve at present, and it's really a pretty awesome gig.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Chance to Mess Up

I made it almost 9 hours into 2017 without blowing it!!! (I was asleep for like 7 of those, so I'm not sure they should count.)

On the way out the door this morning, I yelled at our teenager. She blamed me for making her make us late to church, because I forgot her phone. Seriously??! I'll spare you the details about why Jon wasn't with us to help wrangle the kids, or why being late to church this time was anything out of the ordinary. There are no valid excuses, I shouldn't lose my cool. 

Does anyone else put too much stock in the New Year to start with a clean slate? Then at like 9AM, I've smudged that slate and have to wait 365 days to start fresh again.

The past couple years I've had a Word of the Year. For 2016, I was inspired by an article in National Geographic about Pope Francis to choose the word "Warm." I found myself regretting this choice often, while seething under my breath, "The Pope doesn't have children. I'd be plenty warm if it weren't for these ungrateful kids."

And while I'm throwing myself under the bus, I may as well add, that sometimes I feel that way about Jesus too. I know He suffered all the temptations we do, and He is the ultimate example of how to rise above the little things that drive us crazy on a daily basis, but sometimes I just wish He had children so I could watch how He balanced grace and truth when it's really hard.

If I can't observe His interactions with His disrespectful teenager, or his fussy toddler, I'll remember instead His patience with His disciples, His honesty with the Pharisees, and His forgiveness of the Roman soldiers, and all of us, who nailed Him to the cross.

And I'll try to remember that there's nothing actually special about the first day of the year that allows me to start again.

"Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning." -Lamentations 3:23

Praise the Lord for that!

Don't be fooled by their innocent appearances, even the one in utero and the furry one are a handful these days!

It's January 1st, how are you doing on your resolutions? Have you blown it yet? If so, there's grace for us!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Social Media Trap

I offended someone with my post about Jon the other day. I figure Matt Walsh probably offends at least a dozen, if not a hundred, people every time he touches his keyboard, so if this was the first time I've been openly offensive in 325 blog posts, I've got some catching up to do.

No, but seriously, that was the furthest from what I hoped to do. Originally, I had actually written another paragraph empathizing with the social media façade, but although you'd probably never guess, I try to keep my writing from turning into a free-flowing stream of consciousness, so I chose not to digress any further. The intent of my birthday post for Jon was simply to honor him. I didn't set out to confront the paradox of social media, but I did want to add a bit of a disclaimer so I wouldn't be contributing to the problem of online comparison that can be so damaging. If I just post flattering pictures of my husband looking all burly, helping around the house, and doting over our toddler, without keeping it real to some degree, then the folks who rarely see us in more than cyberspace could get the impression we have a marriage or family worth coveting.

But here's the catch, no matter how real you wanna keep things, you can't share the negative stuff online. I can be open and honest about my own plethora of shortcomings, and in my opinion it's still okay to share when a toddler acts like a toddler (i.e. my current Facebook cover photo). But there's a certain age of accountability, which happens to coincide with about the age of entry into the social media world, where it's no longer acceptable to keep throwing your kids/spouse under the bus. This was a rude awakening for me, as a mom who had posted pretty transparently about our adoption and parenting struggles in hopes of encouraging others in similar situations. But then one day, Angie was online too, and it was no longer fair to be as vulnerable when it meant exposing her.

If there were sound bytes or video clips of my squabbles with Jon behind closed doors, I could probably share them with you, because mine would be the tone that would make us all cringe, and the scowl would darken my face not his. But if anyone recorded his list of unfinished projects that are driving me nuts, or the mornings I couldn't get him out of bed, it wouldn't be fair for me to divulge such details, (posted with permission from him here of course.) You see, we tend to get on social media right after a tense moment with the kids or spouse and we see others on date night. Maybe their date wasn't even that stellar, but they had good lighting for the selfie and Instagram has a filter for everything! 

All this to say, there is a reason people mostly post their highlight reel online, not necessarily to make others believe they're doing better than they truly are, but because those are the moments you can share without insulting others. And those are the moments you want to dwell on.

So, to that wife who continued to keep up appearances, so to speak, even when the truth was likely much bleaker, here's what I almost wrote in the original post, but didn't want to digress from my main purpose of praising Jon:

Maybe those idyllic images and kind words about her man weren't meant to deceive anyone, but were meant to help her remember, and to remind him, of why she loved him. Maybe she too wanted to dwell on the beautiful moments and capture them for as long as she could. And maybe by speaking words of life into him publicly instead of condemnation, there could be hope for a future with more lovely times worth capturing...

May we all have the freedom to share much of the beauty that we experience every day, and may we have the wisdom to recognize others' posted moments aren't the only ones they're having, just the best ones.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -Philippians 4:8

'Cause sometimes I make a mess of things too Buddy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Perfectly Imperfect Gift

Because Jon is such a good listener and patient counselor, guys pour out their troubles to him all the time. Unfortunately, he currently has three different friends in the midst of serious marital upheaval. One of their wives was still posting idyllic stories and photos on social media about their marriage and family even as the whole thing was unraveling.

The last image I ever want to portray online, or in reality, is that we are doing better than anyone else. What I'm preaching to my vets and students this season is that comparison is one of the many thieves of joy. With social media, we're comparing 100% of our own story to about the top 5% of other folks' lives. It's basically bound to be depressing.

For this reason, I hesitate to even write about my man and all his hard work around our house. But when our partners have done good (and maybe we hope they'll do such things again someday), we really need to make sure they, and everyone else, know how good they've done.

So, in honor of another year completed, in what he likes to call his "mid-thirties," here are a few pics of just how great this guy has been to us recently.
Someone sure has an awesome Daddy to look up to! They're gonna need matching tool belts soon.

I agree Zy, he's my hero too...

Ruby had no idea this fence she was helping with was intended to stifle all her fun of roaming the neighborhood.

Look at what my man built, not just a fence from scratch but STAIRS! I couldn't even make a popsicle stick model of this.
Sometimes he just pulls down 30 year-old eyesore trees with his bare hands, well maybe with a little help from the truck too.

You would think that work, night school, and never-ending projects around the house would fill up his schedule, but he always finds time to play with his Mini-Me.

Happy Belated Birthday to God's perfect gift to our family. God knew what He was doing when He brought these two imperfect people together to sharpen and refine each other with our rough edges. There's nothing flawless, or even idyllic, about our romance, our marriage, or our parenting, but sometimes there are beautiful moments, and efforts worth praising. Those are the ones I want to focus on...

Friday, August 19, 2016

One Scared Mama

In case anyone were ever to think we've got it all together, here's an attempt at full disclosure to assure you that we're as much of a hot mess as the next family.

In the past week, Isaiah put a printer cartridge in his mouth, daily scattered toys all across the house faster than I could clean up after him, had minor meltdowns every time I took anything away from him or made him stop hitting the dog, fell down multiple times a day, woke up multiple times a night, peed on the bathroom floor, and pooped on our bedroom carpet. No worries, the dog was right there to help clean it up.

As if eating poop, wasn't effective enough at making her smell awful, Ruby got sprayed by a skunk on Tuesday, at 10:15pm! 'Cause bathing her multiple times is what we wanted to do at that hour.

Jon just began a new semester of night classes with projects keeping him late even the very first week.

In the meantime, Angie started a new school with new friendships to work through, teachers to get used to, homework to keep her up till 10:30pm, sports to decide upon, and a schedule to line up. In the process of choosing electives and fitting all her classes together, she struggled in her first choice; an art class, which later she found out was Advanced Art. So, she switched to a class that wouldn't be such a challenge, Spanish 1! I'm not at all sure how this got past the counselor in charge of scheduling, but it certainly didn't get past me. In no way did I want to make this transition to a brand new high school more difficult for her, but I wasn't about to let her spend an entire year learning how to introduce herself and say her numbers and colors in Spanish, her first language! Apparently Spanish 2 or 3 didn't fit into her schedule so she went with what was left which just happened to be the easy "A."

Back at the ranch, I'm trying to keep everyone fed, bathed, and in clean clothes, while working from home preparing for my busy travel season that begins next week. Did I mention the toddler thinks he needs to be touching me at least 17 hours a day?

So, when I started to have a hunch I was pregnant earlier this summer, I was a tad hesitant to embrace it. Trips to the grocery store were already making me nauseous, but I couldn't bring myself to take the test. I decided to postpone till Angie's birthday, which was the same day we found out we were pregnant with Isaiah two years ago, mostly for sentimentality, but partly to give me time to wrap my head around this new blessing.

Don't get me wrong, we wanted another one. Two years apart, seemed like good timing. Everything was pretty much perfect, except that the idea turning into reality was somewhat terrifying.
He's such a proud Papa!
I'm not much of a worrier. We've all heard that like 85% of what we worry about isn't even going to happen, and worrying about that other 15% isn't going to change anything anyway. Mostly, I trust that God is going to take care of me, He'll only allow me what He wants me to have.

But guys, I've been pregnant, I've had a newborn, we have a toddler, we have a teenager; I know ~95% of what's going to happen, what God's gonna allow, and I'm scared. Trusting God doesn't make the "morning" sickness any more comfortable. It doesn't make the fatigue on top of the already full schedule any lighter. It doesn't make labor happen effortlessly, nor recovery happen painlessly. It doesn't mean I'll necessarily ever sleep through the night again! And I'm not at all sure that God plans to have these little ones play together peacefully all day while I continue to email, make phone calls, write, put together presentations, and travel all over the Southeast for CVM.

Maybe I'm gonna be somewhat miserable for 9 months, maybe longer. It's quite possible the next baby won't take a bottle, sleep well, or leave my arms voluntarily for years either. Maybe I'm not gonna be able to do it all, and something will have to give. But as much as all that makes me nervous, I also know from experience that any of that adversity can draw me closer to Christ, if I let it. So, instead of stressing about the unknown, or even the very likely, I think I'll start focusing on the awesomeness that awaits us with this next bundle of pure joy and how the less-than-awesome moments are just opportunities to lean into the Lord.

"The joy of the Lord is (my) strength.” -Nehemiah 8:10

"He must increase and I must decrease." -John 3:30

Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Alternate Apology to Angie

The other day I shared a letter apologizing for many things in your life that were out of my control. But traditionally an apology is intended to make amends for one's own offenses. As I have plenty of those in our relationship, it seemed appropriate that I add on to the original apology with another...


As I snuggle your brother endlessly, I'm saddened at how many sweet moments I missed out on with you. The physical connection that we could have formed might have moved us into a deeper healthier relationship for life. Scooping you up in my lap to read to you may have changed your outlook on books altogether. Being there as you first started to maneuver through life more independently, to guide your decisions and direction, could have meant so much. But I didn't have those chances.

I'm more sorry about the chances I have had, and blown. I'm sorry I've been so far from a perfect parent. There are no "perfect" parents, but there are many who are much closer than I am.

I'm sorry, that although I was never a "young" mom as the world uses the phrase, adopting you at the ripe "old" age of 30, in many ways I was still as clueless and inexperienced as a 20 year-old. I had a lot to learn about myself, and that was at your expense. I'm sorry. Children generally have the benefit of their parents being married before they're born. As if you didn't have enough load to carry, I added to you the burden of revealing to me my own selfishness.

Other than the dog, you were my first addition to the family. With Ruby, I could maintain the façade, and actually legitimately believe, that I was a selfless giving person. I had sold everything I owned and left everyone I knew to move to Bolivia, where I served during the day as a veterinarian and many evenings in orphanages and ministries. I had myself, and maybe others, convinced that I was altruistic, devoted, even self-sacrificing.

It wasn't until you moved into my home, my personal sacred space, and started to crowd me out that I realized just how much of me there was. I had been able to give, and serve, and love others in my spare time, sometimes inconveniently, but more often on a schedule that allowed for my own autonomy, until there was you there needing me all day long and in the middle of the night, interrupting my life, reflecting my selfishness to me like a distorted mirror. The problem was, the mirror wasn't distorted, my image of myself was.

Usually, one starts with a spouse up in their grill all the time, before adding needy kids to the equation. It's a more natural progression, as husbands are fairly mature, and able to care for themselves for the most part. So after adjusting to their messes, idiosyncrasies, and differences in schedule, it's a smoother transition to move deeper into the realm of living communally by adding offspring that can't do anything for themselves. Also, husbands choose their wives and commit to love them despite their self-centeredness. You have no such covenant with me.

But, alas, you had the privilege of pushing all my buttons for the first time, and showing me just exactly how many buttons I had, before anyone else had ever found many of them. For that I am truly sorry.

There were so many things that have been unfair to you in this world, I shouldn't have added another. I didn't even know I was involuntarily putting on a mask each day for a world who was probably doing the same, allowing us to interact without getting too real. That is, until you revealed the me what was under my mask. Finding out how far I could stretch, how little patience I had even on my best attempts, and how selfish I was deep under the mask, all that should have been Daddy's job. When you and I got comfortable, as people do in close quarters over time, our manners faded, our tones changed, our self-control dwindled. That was understandable for you, an 8 year-old girl with no training in such things, but not for me. I apologize that you had to be my guinea pig while learning to interact intimately with another human being.

Your father and your brother should thank you for your service to the family as you took one for the team, teaching me to die to self a little more each day. It's never easy to be the pioneer, but if anyone was strong enough, you were. And, I think the fact that we struggled alone together for so long, has bonded us, not the way cuddling you in your formative years would have, but bonded us nonetheless.

I'm sorry, you had to be the one to point out the flaws I had hidden even from myself. But I'm not sorry that you pushed me to the end of myself, because in those times when I ran out of me, I found Jesus most fully. And only with Him, can I be a parent worth having...