Feb 272012
 

Last week, I received a comment from a passer by that accused me of dwelling needlessly in pain. It was just one stranger’s opinion, and if I took those to heart I’d go crazy.(Your comments do mean so much to me, but I hope you understand that I cannot and do not change my direction because of them). But it did make me stop and think, this comment, “Am I giving the wrong impression? Am I leading people to believe that following God’s voice means life is lesser or more painful than it would otherwise be?” Because I do not believe those things, I thought I’d take a time out and talk a little about [what I think about] pain (and then I still want to tell you what Papa Bear got me for Valentine’s Day!).

When our children are young, we work tirelessly to help them avoid pain. “No! The stove is hot!” “Be careful, you don’t want to fall.” In the end, everyone gets burned and falls down, but we desperately want them to avoid as many hardships and stitches and scars as possible. We love them. And we know that when they do reach out and touch the stove, the pain in that moment will serve no other purpose than to persuade them from ever repeating their mistake.

So, if they’d just listen to us, it’d be easier!

Much of life’s pain is like this, I believe, a warning sign of things to be avoided. Facing this kind of pain head on requires a certain amount of idiocy, or at least adrenaline addiction, I think. There is, though, another kind of pain. There is a pain laced equally with excitement. There is a pain that though deep and intense produces beauty beyond our wildest dreams. I don’t want my children to run from this pain. And I know God will help them discern between the two.

Baby Bear’s birth has been my only natural childbirth experience. I’ve also experienced a cesarean and a vbac with an epidural, and God often uses these three experiences to speak to me (because they are each so personal to me). In labor with Baby Bear, after a relatively smooth zero to seven, I thought transition would rip me feet from shoulders. There is simply no way to describe the intensity of the labor experience. But there’s also no way to describe the excitement. He’s almost here! This is really happening!  Everyone who has seen an accurate model of a baby in his mother’s pelvis knows that birth is essentially impossible. God made our bodies to perform miracles before our very eyes. And, sans epidural, we are experiencing every aspect of that miracle (this post isn’t really anti-epidural, it’s just the best analogy I can come up with!).

The moment my second son (first singleton, fifth baby) exited my body, the pain became an immediate memory. A vivid one, mind you, but a memory none the less. The pain itself was gone. And I love to tell about the pain, as all women love to tell their birth stories. But in the telling, I don’t wince or writhe or sweat…I smile and I giggle and I laugh. It’s my badge of honor, my birth story. What I’m showing off isn’t my pain, but what the pain brought me…my baby.

When my husband left last year, it took me a few days to find my path. We’d been blogging about our redeemed marriage for nearly two years, we’d both counseled couples over the phone, and we could both see the path God had laid out for us. I could have never imagined the public and private pain that his leaving would cause me. Of course, I also couldn’t imagine the pain it would cause him, but that’s not my story to tell. In the first twenty four hours after he left, I did nothing right. Nothing. The pain was unbearable, and I clawed at the walls to get out….somewhere that didn’t feel like this.

But then, I looked at my children. I knew I had some decisions to make.

Let me stop there and rewind by about a year. Because, almost a year before, my little sister (not biological, but as close as they come) lost her three week old baby boy. The kids were in bed as the news came in. First, he wasn’t breathing and was being rushed to the hospital. Then, like a nightmare I still shiver when remembering, he was gone. Just, gone. I screamed and I cried in my kitchen, “No! Noo! NOOO!” It was not possible that this was happening. It simply was not possible. I asked God to put him on Elijah’s bed. I paced and prayed till the sun came up, and then I went to cry and be with my family.

It took less than twenty four hours for whispers to make there way around the room. Suprisingly to us, most of us felt led to pray for resurrection instead of immediately beginning to grieve. We met in secret, because only crazy people believe that God raises the dead, and we didn’t want to give false hope to the mother. But who I couldn’t hide my prayers from were my children. They already knew God raised the dead, and they wanted to join in the fight. Sheepishly and hessitantly, I let them pray. But in the back of my mind was always the question, “Is this going to crush their faith? What if God doesn’t answer the way we are hoping?” And in the end, He didn’t. We lowered that missed little baby into the ground, knowing full well his ressurrection was of the permanent kind. And then, we went about our lives as best we could.

At the graveside, my children were there. I didn’t know what to say, and I hoped God would make it all easy. “God didn’t bring him back from the dead.” One of them said matter-of-factly. “I guess He just decided not to,” another replied.

“But God is still good,” I said, somewhat questioningly.

“Oh, yes! And the baby is with Him!” they agreed before asking about lunch.

God does raise the dead, physically, spiritually and emotionally. My children need to know that. If I only allow them to pray for things that I know will come to pass, how will they learn the ways and mysteries of their God? And, silly me, I thought there might me damage done, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Like all things mysterious and holy, their faith was strengthened in those two days. What they learned is that we pray. And even when He doesn’t say “yes,” we truth Him.

Fast forwarding again to last year, bear with me, in that first week Papa Bear was gone…God immediately led me to pray for my husband’s relationship with Him. And because I do not believe that people fall out of love while their eyes are on their Savior, I also felt led to pray that God would bring Him back to me. When my children asked about the change in their lives, I told them nothing new. I respected my husband at every turn, but I refused to alter what their father and I had already taught them, together, throughout the entirely of their lives to that point. They’d been taught that marriage and love were forever. I wasn’t about to answer, “Never mind.”

I refused to raise double-minded children; and, as a result, they were never confused. They weren’t being taught something brand new, now that their parents’ marriage had failed…like their beliefs were built on solid sand. And like they’d said at least once a day from the time they’d been able to voice it, when I told them their father wasn’t sure he wanted to be married, but he absolutely loved them with his whole heart and soul, they simply answered, “Let’s pray, Mommy, let’s pray.” And, yes, I let them.

Oh, how my children pray!

I didn’t go with the epidural. When the pain came, I let it come. And with it I welcomed the excitement. I have a personal relationship with my God, He talks to me. And He told me to pray for a miracle. It didn’t make the pain go away, the holy excitement, but as I went about my life, caring for my children and loving my God, I knew something beautiful was coming, in time. I felt certain that my pains were of the birthing kind. And I also knew that if God didn’t answer in the way I hoped, I would absolutely continue to trust Him. None of this was about my relationship with a man, all of it was about my relationship with the man, Jesus Christ. None, absolutely none of my pain was purposeless or wasted. And after a few months, I was fine, my children were fine. Most days, we danced and were happy (though the absence of a parent in day to day life always makes things harder), but that wasn’t enough for us. We wanted the rightful head of our home to be fine, too. And nothing in Scripture led me to believe that God would lead him away from his family.

This time, God did answer like I believed He would, but that’s never, ever the point.

When pain comes, we want to stop it. But sometimes it’s essential to the process. If we go numb, damage is still being done. And when we finally begin to feel again, we often have more to heal from as as result. My epidural, and the deep scars I still bear from my painless birth, taught me this.

When I write about my past hurts, those who cannot imagine their commitment being worth what I think mine is wonder why I wouldn’t just get the epidural. “Turn it off, stop feeling!” Never mind that I promised to love for better or for worse. But now, I’m once again living in the better, the beautiful, and when I write about my pain, I’m giggling as I write. I’m only here to talk about my baby. We’re not seven miserable people trapped in a prison of religion, we’re seven people who together survived a birth. We might be keeping our baby safe and protected instead of fully showing it off to the world, but that doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled. Eight months after God began to once again piece back together my family, if you still hear pain in what I write, understand that it’s purely from memory.

For nostalgia, and to prove my point, here’s Baby Bear’s birth video….enjoy!

 

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 February 27, 2012  Christianity, Marriage 6 Responses »
Feb 262012
 

Yes, imagine that, my life has once again played out in such a dramatic way that I feel it makes a pretty good story. And, oh how I love having a story to tell! If you could see me right now, happily hunkered down with my laptop and a cup of coffee, I know you’d laugh to yourself. “Wow, that girl really loves telling a story.” You’d also think, “Wow, that girl needs a shower and a box of hair color.” That’s why there will be no photos with this post.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that, last October, we moved our family in with Papa Bear’s boss. You might not know very many single men who would enjoy an instant family, but our recently divorced Mr. Bossman insisted that he was just lonely enough to make it work. He had two extra bedrooms, and we needed to be closer to Papa Bear’s job (which, from where we were living, was two towns away and over a mountain pass).

I thought we’d last a week…tops.

At the end of the first month, the three grown ups sat down and decided there was no reason why our situation shouldn’t be long term (I think it was my cooking). I didn’t think it was fair to Bossman to simply toss him onto a public blog, but there were many blogworthy moments that went unblogged.

You miss my cinnamon rolls, don’t ya Boss-y-man?! And glue stick wars? And blowing it up with Baby Bear?

It was a fun, fun season in all our lives.

Last month, though, Bossman was offered a job near his hometown. It’s the job that was on his ten year plan, and he didn’t want to pass it up. Papa Bear felt ready to run the business with Bossman out of state, so it seemed like a good move for everyone involved. For reasons that are not blogworthy (boring), however, we could not stay in the house. We had a three weeks to look for a new place, and we felt that was plenty of time.

In the first few days, we picked up local papers and talked to the property managers. We were looking within a pretty wide price range, so we were confident we’d find a rental within a week. We didn’t. Friends knew of friends who were renting, and we waited days at a time for phone calls. Every call finally returned the same answer, though, “No,” of course for a dozen different reasons. Most of the time, opportunities were just barely missed (or, were they?).

We sat down as a family, I sat down with the kids, and Papa Bear and I prayed together one very specific prayer during the entirety of those three weeks, “God, please show us where You want us and give us wisdom.” Cuddle Bug prayed, “God, if you don’t like the house we like, we’ll agree.” And then we kept on house hunting like mad people.

Somewhere in week two, we found the cutest little a-frame house. Two bedrooms, two baths, a large living and dining area and a very adequate kitchen. It was the enormous garage and a deck with breathtaking views that made Papa Bear and I fall in love. It was partially furnished, and I swear (cross my heart) that the upstairs bedroom looked like a room from Snow White’s cabin. Little beds lined the walls, and I actually squealed when I saw it. “This is the one!” I said excitedly, and Papa Bear agreed. Cuddle Bug continued to pray, “”God, if you don’t like the house we like, we’ll agree.” And oh, how I tried to agree!

We were so sure, it seemed so right, that we didn’t do much looking for the next few days. And since the only other place we’d found was a perfect three bedroom on the golf course made imperfect by the fact that it was for sale (and would most likely be shown often), we began to pack and plan for our first choice.

It would be an entire week before we’d learn that the owner of our favorite little house had decided to take it off the rental market and move back in. My head spun around and around for three days (which made everyone dizzy). Papa Bear was the stalwart hero while his loving wife went insane. He called on every ad and talked to every. single. person. in town. No one else was renting. Everyone else was selling. And buying, at mountain prices, just isn’t in the cards for us right now.

It was official. We were homeless. At least, it very much felt that way.

In what I thought was a fit of desperation, I called about a two bedroom mobile home just a half mile from Papa Bear’s work. The ad read, “No pets,” but it also listed the lowest rent we have ever paid in our married life (I could think of a few reason why that might be God’s will). I was going to beg and plead. The sweetest woman with the prettiest Spanish accent answered the phone. I explained our situation, and apparently I talked a mile a minute (faster than her brain could translate Crazy into English, poor thing), because when I finished talking, she answered encouragingly, “So, it’s just you and your husband and a small dog?”

“Umm?”

She explained to me that her owner would not allow more than four people in a two bedroom because of bad experiences in the past. Then, she sweetly offered to call the owner and ask again (which meant I would be turned down twice in one day).

I practically crawled back to the bedroom to dramatically announce to Papa Bear, “We can’t even get into a trailer! Apparently, there just isn’t a place for us here…anywhere!”

“There’s a place,” he answered softly. “This is where God has us right now, so there has to be a place.”

I answered with a deep sigh (the kind from the depths of despair), then I wandered aimlessly around the house. I was packing, but I didn’t know for where! At that point, our backup plans were looking like our only plans. First backup: the kids and I would head five hours north to Colorado while Papa Bear slept on my parents’ couch (their place is too small for all of us, but it’s just twenty minutes from Papa Bear’s office). Second backup: the kids and I would impose on a dear friend in the next town while Papa Bear slept on my parents’ couch on snowy nights and with us on the others (but this plan would only work for a week or so). Third backup: we’d all skip town together, with our savings, and start over somewhere where we could afford to buy a house (but this one was never really on the table, because Papa Bear feels God is asking us to stay, and if I’m honest, so do I). Fourth backup: We’d take the house on the golf course, even though we were told it would most likely sell before summer time and we’d have to do this all over again.

I’d love to tell you that my faith was high and that I knew God would come through in the final hour. I didn’t, though. I panicked. And that’s when our backups crumbled, one by one.

1. The kids and I could leave for Colorado because Papa Bear drives a work truck. That is, he did drive a work truck. Wednesday before last, the work truck just stopped working. Now, he’s depending on the family car, and we’re not going anywhere. 

2. Our family has a dear friend in the next town. She has a gigantic house that is set up for people to come and stay (she counsels drug addicts and other wounded people, you can’t step inside her home without breathing Jesus). So, because it had come to that, I asked her if she had room for us. Oh, what’s that? You guessed it? She didn’t (she would have loved to, but she didn’t).

3. Third back up: n/a

4. We decided to take the house on the golf course. “The market is bad (like it is everywhere), maybe it won’t sell for a year or more.” Plus, it was gorgeous and the view was amazing. So, why did I get a pit in my stomach every single time we talked about it? Why was the only decision that made any sense making me sneak off to the bathroom and pray, “God, we’re about to make a decision that I’m pretty sure is the wrong one. If I’m hearing you right, would you please close the door.”

And, that’s exactly what He did. When Papa Bear called to tell me it had rented only hours before he arrived at the real estate office, I laughed so hard that I cried. And my faith? It grew like Pinocchio’s nose.

Sometimes miracles aren’t glittery, sometimes they just happen in the heart. When you can’t explain why you love something that you’re not supposed to love. That’s a miracle, baby…and it’s my favorite kind.

When I wrote this post, I could have gone on and on. And maybe I should have. But the point I was making, simply, is that following (not just believing in but foot in footprint following) Jesus makes you unbelievably happy. It’s true, you might not get the things that you once thought you needed to be happy. But you will get your [new] way…His way. Joy looks exactly like happy, it simply isn’t altered by circumstances. It’s real and steadfast and dependable.

My point?

I knew that whatever God threw our way in the eleventh hour would be His way. I knew that if it was His way, it would be good, and for our good (no matter what it, in my fleshly eyes, it looked like to me). My excitement didn’t come out of obligation, it came from experience. I know that my God is for me! I rested in Him for no more than nine hours, and then I didn’t call…

my phone rang.

Out of everything we had seen, it wasn’t the option I would have chosen. But you know that peace like a river? I was as giddy as a school girl. The sweet woman who managed the mobile home (with her equally precious husband, it turns out) had called the landlord, again, without my leading.

“I thought I would ask her for you one more time.”

“Ummm…why?”

“I just think I want to help you.”

Have you ever had someone you’ve never met go out of their way for you? It felt like the hand of God, and I sat on the floor, and I cried.

We hopped in our car and headed over to look at the smallest home we’d seen in our three weeks of searching. The kids ran through and claimed it, and our little non-dog (he was there on approval) seemed pretty happy, too. I can’t explain it, but it felt as much like home as anything this side of heaven possibly could. Y’all know how much I love space saving and minimizing, and my brain spun excitedly as I thought of the possibilities for organization and multitasking (Walmart.com is gonna love me).

So, we took it. We’re home. All seven of us (plus one dog), and I couldn’t be happier if I tried.

As far as pictures, you’ll have to give me a week or two. Right now, Papa Bear and I are cuddling on the floor because we are too tired to get the rest of our furniture out of storage. Whew, it’s been a long three weeks.

I’m ready to get back to blogging life, now!

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Feb 192012
 

Papa Bear and I were sitting, watching online t.v., when a strange and wonderful Skittles commercial captured our attention. The following conversation ensued.

“I just don’t get Skittles,” I said. “I mean, they’re OK, but in the end they’re just disappointing M&Ms.”

“What are you talking about?!” Papa Bear was enraged. “Skittles are amazing!”

“What are you talking about?! I have never, never ever, seen you come home with a bag of Skittles,” I laughed.

“Umm, yeah,” he replied.

“So, you’re telling me they never make it home…that’s how much you love Skittles?”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

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 February 19, 2012  Marriage 11 Responses »
Feb 192012
 

For Jennifer.

I’m sitting here eating leftover biscuits and chocolate gravy and drinking reheated coffee. Maybe, just maybe this will activate my brain enough to finish this little post. If it doesn’t work the way I’ve planned, I will probably just slip quietly into a sugar and carb coma and wake up still wearing my jeans tomorrow morning.

Anyhoo…

Quite a few months ago, just days after Papa Bear and I separated, I heard a man say the most romantic thing I have ever heard to his wife.

“Do you know why I love you?” he asked her. And I’m sure she waited with bated breath. He’d tell her she was beautiful, that she made him weak in the knees and that no one in the entire world made chicken parmesan like she did. But no, he finished, “because I decided to.”

And that’s it, ladies and gentlemen. That’s love.

If I love my husband because of any one thing about him (or a million and one things about him), I’m conditionalizing (I’ve decided that’s a word) my love. And in those moments where not one of the million and one things are visible, I won’t love him anymore. If I love my husband because love is not something I feel or crave or experience, but is simply who I am, I will never stop loving my husband…even if, in his darkest hour, when he needs to be loved more than ever, he [thinks he] stops loving me.

Satan is a sneaky devil (literally), and he knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to his fakey, self-gratifying, til-a-change-of-heart-does-us-part version of love. All he really has to do is make us believe that what we feel is who we are.

If two people fall into love, they will eventually fall out of it. Kids, debt, inlaws, sickness…and just “Ummm, yeah, you’ve told me that story a million times,” issues of being with the same person for a long time will…absolutely will cause those butterflies and fireworks to flicker. And in some seasons, they will burn out completely (though they always can be re-lit).

[I’ve always loved Shakespeare’s more flowery picture of what is basically just I Corinthians 13.]

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark 
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle’s compass come: 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Love is not a response, love is a steadfast state of being. Love is not something I wake up and feel, love is something I wake up and do. And love is not conditional on whether or not it is being returned. Love, the kind that comes from our Father, is sacrificial and unending and sometimes it is really hard.

And if it’s not, you haven’t yet learned how to love.

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 February 19, 2012  Christianity, Marriage 18 Responses »
Feb 152012
 

Papa Bear and I had a picnic on the living room floor. It’s better than it sounds, though, because I didn’t even have a chance to shower or do my hair. The food was good, the atmosphere was lacking.

I hope they don’t put that on my tombstone.

I was pretty happy with my Valentine’s Day creativity, though. Y’all got the wheels in my head spinning with our Facebook V-Day discussion. And here’s where I took it from there…

 

 

 Corny and cheesy!

 Let’s Kiss!

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 February 15, 2012  Marriage 8 Responses »
Feb 152012
 

What would you like to ask my kids?!

Here’s our first edition, complete with hyperactivity, scrapping, rebellion, runny noses, premature pjs, a post shopping trip ballerina and lots of smiles. Enjoy!

P.S. As many things as I do make for dinner, cereal probably is their real favorite. Sigh.

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 February 15, 2012  Things Kids Say, Video 6 Responses »
Feb 142012
 

**What a difference a year makes, y’all. And yet, if you know what you truly believe, some things never, ever change!**

*Reposted, unchanged, from Valentine’s Day 2011.*

I wasn’t sure, until about five minutes ago, if I was going to write this post or not. There are very few holidays, actually, even those prized by Christendom, that don’t make me wince from a deep spiritual pain.  And the more knowledge I seek to gain about their origins . . . . the more I cringe.  But there are a few, well, maybe just two, Gentile holidays whose roots I would describe as truly holy.  Of those, Saint Valentine’s Day is my favorite (although many pagan traditions celebrate lust and other forms of love, the name Valentine commemorates something different altogether).  And as I meditated on First Corinthians thirteen this morning (Thanks, Liz. And yes, you do need a blog so I can link to you!), I decided that this is the year I should, with abandon, throw myself into celebrating this day.

There are several legends that surround the origination of Valentine’s Day.  One message is consistent, though: Valentine* was a protector of marriage.  Therefore, Valentine’s Day is [should be] a celebration of the godly, forever, till death do us part and absolutely worth dying for marriage of two earthly souls.

*The legends are cryptic, probably because several men named Valentine were martyred and sainted. The stories surrounding February 14th, though, are all very similar. And for all you skeptics out there, there is one thing of which I am certain: When we celebrate the day called Valentine’s, we are celebrating a day named for a martyr. That is something no Christian should take lightly. 

My favorite of the legends is that after Emperor Claudius II forbade marriage because he wanted to build his army and felt that single men made better soldiers, Valentine continued to perform Christian marriage ceremonies in secret.

Another legend suggests that Claudius outlawed marriage for other reasons.  Whatever the case, though, it is believed that Valentine’s belief in God and defiance of the Emperor is what led to his imprisonment . . . . and eventually to his death.  While in prison, the Emperor attempted to have Valentine converted. Valentine, in turn, attempted to convert the Emperor and was beaten, tortured, and martyred as a result. It all gets very romantic with the addition of belief that, shortly before his death, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and slipped her the first official “Valentine”.  Sigh.

Valentine’s isn’t about candy and flowers.  It’s about sacrificial love. It’s about believing in something . . . . about holding the Word of God, the Word of God for marriage, so close to one’s heart that you would gladly sacrifice yourself to protect it.  I’m not sure romance like that even exists anymore . . . . at least not in the nation of “me” and “happy”.

But I’m feeling very romantic today.

Whether single or married: if you believe in marriage, if you believe marriage was designed and purposed by an almighty God, if you believe that marriage is worth protecting (not by laws, but by your own actions), Valentine’s Day is for you.  And I hope you have a wonderful one.

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 February 14, 2012  Marriage Comments Off
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