Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eight Years and Counting

A couple days ago, Bill and I were talking about infidelity in marriages and the ways it tears families apart. Statistics show that Christian marriages are just as affected as non-Christian marriages, and that to me is scary. Later that day we went shopping with the kids, and as we were getting out of the car, Bill paused and asked if I remembered what we talked about earlier. When I said yes, he looked me in the eye and said, "Just know that I would never do that to you or to the kids." I already knew that, but to have him lock eyes with me and say it, meant so very much to me.

Neither one of us are perfect, and I'd be naive to think that our marriage is foolproof against adultery. Satan doesn't attack those that he already has a grip on- he goes after people he can bring down and ruin their testimony. Men and women of God need to be ever vigilant against such an attack. However, that being said, there is no excuse- sin is a choice by free will, and God always prepares a way of escape. I Corinthians 10:13 says "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Bill and I have an agreement that if either one of us  were ever to become tempted in this area, we immediately talk about it and deal with it then, instead of allowing any opportunity for a thought to become more than just that. We have been faithful to each other for each year of our marriage and relationship, and as long as God stays in the center, we will continue on this same road.

Today Bill and I celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. I am blessed with a hard working man who loves God, respects me, adores me, speaks kind words, is an ever-patient father, plays with our children, does not yell but disciplines them with patience and love, and wants the very best for our family. My dad has always told me that he and my mom pray daily for me, and I know that part of their answered prayers came in the form of my husband. I love you, sweetheart. I too wouldn't want to travel this journey with anyone else.

Stay-at-Home Misnomer

It's not too long ago that I spent days in a row couped up at home, never seeing the light of day, or at least not stepping out past the front yard. Stay-at-home mom meant just that for me: I stayed home, and occasionally lost a part of my sanity in the process. Then, about a year ago, all of that changed. Not only did I take on a part-time job, but my oldest daughter started kindergarten, my second oldest started all day preschool, and we also spent time in after-school activities, including ballet once a week. That's when it clicked and I understood what all those moms were whining about back when I longed for a life outside my house. I'm not sure which is the lesser evil- being caged up like an animal, or spending life out on the road bustling from one location to another. Let's just say, I'm ecstatic that summer has arrived.

I always said that I would never become that mom that lived out of her minivan, and I still hold to that promise. Number one, because I don't own a minivan, but number two- because I will continue to strive to find that balance between allowing my kids to have fun while not overloading their schedule. This will be even more of a challenge in a few more years, when all my children are old enough to be involved, but right now I'm living in the moment. And that means ballet once a week during school, and soccer in the spring and fall. Watching them dance like ballerinas and kick a soccer ball (occasionally even making it into the net) warms my heart like I never could have imagined before they were born. Seeing any other kid do the same activity is cute, but to see my own baby who I grew in my belly and gave birth to do the same exact thing- words can't describe how happy it makes me. Madeline made her one and only goal in soccer a few weeks ago, and I went nuts. Seriously, I screamed and jumped up and down like a complete lunatic before I gained my senses and sheepishly sat back down in my chair. The next week Amy was visiting, and overheard a dad say to the coach, "Remember last week when Madeline made a goal, and her whole family went crazy?" Yeah, the "whole family" reference meant me. Guess I left an impression.

It'll be Isaac's turn to join the lesson gammet this spring when I sign him up for soccer. In the meantime, my older two girls will be taking a one week session of tennis lessons (seriously, how cute will that be!) and swim lessons this summer, then resuming ballet in the fall. Maybe by then I'll convince my love that a soccer mom really does need a minivan to go along with the stereotype. (**wink**)

 While Brooke hustled the entire game, Madeline took frequent water breaks. She was the only kid out on the field that combined ballet and soccer while running. In her last game, Madeline kicked the ball ( a rare event) and another dad said, "Look at that smile! You would have thought she just won the World Cup." I love her passion!

 The cheering section. Lugging my kids and their stuff is a workout in itself.

 Purple soccer balls- who knew? Her shin guards are pink, even though you can't tell. Her pink cleats ended up being too small, but my friend Kelly gave me these black ones, so it worked out- thanks Kelly!
 Brooke LOVED soccer. She asked every day if she could go to practice, and was devastated if it was rained out. She is pretty talented too- she's all girl and all sports rolled up in one. She has her game face on the whole time- so adorable!

 Beautiful ballerinas!

                                                Dancing before practice started.
Madeline smiled at me the whole time this day, when she wasn't picking her nose or daydreaming off in space.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Raindrops of Blessing

I took a deep breath this morning as I handed Lydia her bottle. (Yes, she's too old for the bottle, I know, but she's the last baby, and mommy's not ready to switch.) Despite her terrible seasonal allergies, I'd successfully kept her off allergy medication for the past four days in preparation for a food challenge. Goat's milk has a different milk protein than cow's milk, so after speaking with the allergist, we were going to try it out. I've been praying for days and weeks that she would not react once I gave the goat's milk to her, and today was finally the big day. A part of me was a bit scared to find out for certain whether goat's milk was in or out. We did a soy challenge a few weeks ago that I'd been so hopeful for, only to find out a few hours later that she was definitely allergic to that as well. I just didn't feel ready to give up hope.

Though it's been a big lifestyle change, our family has been adjusting well to Lydia's allergies. I've been cooking and baking most of our foods from scratch, and reading labels for everything else. When she was first diagnosed, I knew it would eventually become old habit, and I'm happy to say we are slowly getting there. It's the little things that make it easier- I try to remember to pack some of her favorite foods when we go out to eat or attend a birthday party. She can have allergen free sweets, and I make her own cookies and cupcakes. Even with these adjustments, though, the mother's heart in me still breaks when she cries for something I can't give her, and it's a constant reminder that I can never let down my guard. At one of the girls' soccer games a few weeks ago, another one year old eating fish crackers wanted to play with Lydia, but I couldn't let her come close. I sound like a broken record explaining her food allergies to even perfect strangers if food is anywhere near, because I'm too afraid they will try to feed her something before I can stop them. All  in all, my thoughts aren't obsessed over the allergies as was the case a few months ago- it's just become part of normal daily living. I don't think twice when making sure the Epi-pen is always packed, and am not shy to teach anyone taking care of her how to use it. If peanuts are in the room, I don't apologize for immediately removing Lydia- her safety is priority.

I was talking to God the other day in my kitchen, and listing the different blessings that have come out of all this. I'll be honest when I say I'm not clear at all in what blessings that Lydia has received from her allergies, but I can definitely identify mine. My faith in God has grown exponentially. I'd mentioned in a previous post that many years ago I specifically prayed that God would spare my children of any food allergies, because I didn't think I'd be able to handle it. My Father took that prayer and answered it in a way I never could foresee back then. Instead of sparing my child from allergies, He did the opposite, and showed me that He is indeed trustworthy- He never leaves us with more than we can handle, but give us a supernatural strength to bring us through to the other side. Laura Story says it perfectly in her song Blessings: "All the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things, 'cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near." Not only did God show me that He is strong enough to get our family through this, I learned firsthand, and not in theory, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Had He answered that prayer the way I wanted Him to, I'd never have found out how to fall more deeply into His loving arms, and to fully place my children into His care. More trials will come, more tears will fall, and more grace and blessing will be bestowed from my Father.

Bill and I laid our baby girl in her crib tonight, with clear and beautiful skin. She has seemed to tolerate goat's milk so far. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for answered prayer. Your plan is bigger than my wildest dreams, and I trust You to carry us through.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Heaven-Sent Peace

On the way home from a long road trip a couple years ago, after Bill had the first chance to meet my best friend Amy and her family, he said to me, "Now I get it. You and Amy, I get it now." When I asked him what he meant, he said, "Well, you've always talked so much about her, about how much you like her and look up to her, but I always assumed it was rather one-sided. I'd never met two friends who felt that strongly about each other, but after meeting her and seeing you two together, it's obvious you two mutually have one of the strongest friendships I've ever seen. It was neat."

Amy and I are two peas in a pod, ever since we were 12 and 13 years old. We lost contact with each other not long after graduating high school, but I never forgot about her. When someone would ask me who my best friend was, she would come to mind, even though I hadn't seen or spoken to her in years. Then, in May 2008, we reconnected on facebook. My close friend Stephanie had been (lovingly) nagging me to join the social network, and I finally caved. I had recently found out through my parents that Amy's mom had just passed away from breast cancer, and I looked Amy up on facebook. Tears fell down my cheeks as I imagined the pain that Amy must be feeling, but didn't know what words to say. I sent her a facebook message telling how truly sorry I was for her loss, and that her mother was a beautiful woman, wife, and mother. Deep inside I wondered if she would be mad at me for losing contact with her, and that I hadn't been with her through that difficult part of her life.

Within a few months, I bought a plane ticket and flew several states away to see Amy and meet her family. By this point we had been chatting away every day on the phone, but I was so very nervous to see her. I still felt deep inside that she must be mad at me, at least a little bit, for losing contact with her all those years. But the second I saw her standing in the airport with her boys, I just wanted to run and hug her. It was as if no time had passed. That kind of friendship is rare, and I recognized that even more deeply that day. We have continued to talk and giggle nonstop, and it feels like eternity if we go more than two days without talking for at least a couple of minutes.

A few weeks ago, Amy called me (surprise!) and told me this: When her mom was alive, she was her best friend. She was someone Amy could pick up the phone and call several times a day, even if it was just for a one or two minute conversation. When her mom died, Amy lost her best friend as well as her mother. Then, God reunited her with me. Amy said, " God brought me you. He gave me peace." She said that when she told this to her husband Stephen, he said, "You should fly and go see her." By this point I was crying, and said, "Yes! Come see me!" So just this past week, Amy and her wonderful traveling companion - one year old Audrey- flew in to spend a few days at my house. Amy was in the mood to shop while here, and I definitely wasn't going to complain about that. We even found a neat little shabby chic boutique downtown, and if Amy didn't have to ship her purchases back home through the mail, I think she may have bought up the entire store. :)

Her trip to my house also happened to correspond with the anniversary of her mother's death. (Stephen didn't plan this when booking the trip- it just worked out that way in God's divine plan.) Amy and I spent that day shopping and laughing, a departure from how she had spent that particular day in the past couple of years. Aside from a few tears, I think she was able to be happy that day, and I am so glad for her. I know her mom would be too. Amy and Audrey just left for home yesterday, and already, my house feels empty.

I am so thankful that God brought Amy into my life- twice. Aside from my husband, she knows me better than anyone else, and I can tell her anything- I trust her implicitly. I love you, girl! Talk to you tomorrow.