I am sure you have all heard sayings and motivational speeches that talk about how change is this special, wonderful thing that happens in life and you just float along on a magic carpet driven by a team of unicorns, blissfully waiting to see where life will take you next. “Embrace change.” “Change is good.” Umm…no. No, it’s not. Change is a horrifying, fire-breathing monster, just waiting for people like me to come along and stumble into its jaws. That’s how it feels to me. I know, I know. That’s not exactly the case. Some of the best things in my life have been a result of change that petrified me at the time. Becoming a mother was a scary change. Becoming a mother of two, getting re-married, becoming a step-mother, changing careers—all incredible blessings in my life that seemed like gaping holes of potential failure to fall into at the time. When I am faced with change, my brain and my body team up to create a panic so mighty that I can barely move. I pray and I hold onto promises that I know are true—God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me. God knew what my life held before I was even born. His love is bigger than any circumstance of any kind. I know this. I do. So why can’t I adapt to change more easily?
That brings me to the latest change in our household. We are out of room. Out. We have a little girl who is sharing a bedroom with two of her brothers. The clock is loudly ticking on that one. On a half-whim, half-wish about a week ago, I checked the real estate list that we receive every couple of days from the last time we decided it was time to either move or build on (soon after which I spun into a panic and went to my go-to strategy of “Never mind; let’s just ignore the problem. Wheeeee!”) I emailed a few potential houses to my husband with the usual attitude of “Meh. These are okay.” And then—I saw it. A house that had almost everything on our wish list, at a great price and in a beautiful neighborhood. Oh, man. Before I had time to talk myself out of it, I emailed our realtor (who has the patience of a saint) and asked if we could see it. On the way there, I talked myself out of it pretty handily. “Too far from school.” “Too many trees.” “Too far from Target.” As soon as we stepped in though, it felt right. Maybe not even the house itself, but the process. I need God to practically hit me over the head with a blinking sign sometimes before I can shut up the Doubt Committee in my head and move forward. I am panicking hardcore about this move, BUT whether we get that house or not, and whether it happens in a month or a year, I can feel God breathing His will into our plans so far, and that helps. You guys, I rented a storage unit yesterday so that we can box up our excess stuff and stage our house to put it on the market. Me–the Anti-Change! The goal is to make it look like a normal family could move right in, instead of potential buyers thinking “This is like the clown car of homes. How many people live here?!?” That 10×15 rented room makes this all real. That’s so scary.
Last night in the shower, I had a good, long cry about the process (I have my best emotional breakdowns in the shower—highly recommend it). I let myself be sad about the thought of leaving the home where I rocked and snuggled and loved on my newborn babies. I let myself mourn the loss of the beautiful yard and trees and peaceful neighborhood where my kids learned to ride bikes, and grew from sweet, helpless infants to lovely, capable children–almost overnight. I will miss our friendly, considerate neighbors and the long, summer walks around our circle. I will miss the “Fire Truck Parade” every 4th of July. I will miss sitting under our covered patio, watching thunderstorms roll in. I’ll miss roasting hot dogs in a fire pit that is entirely too close to the house. It all hurts to leave behind. That said, I know that there are equally wonderful memories to be made wherever we wind up. I may be leaving the house I’ve called home for so long, but I’m taking what’s in it. Yes, I’m talking about my shoes.
Okay, okay…fine. I’m talking about my family.
So here’s to moving when you’re barely moving, and trusting that it will be wonderful at the end of the unknown. We would appreciate your prayers for God’s continued guidance as we figure out how to pack up our circus and where to set up our tent.
In the meantime, we’ll take ALL your empty boxes, please. Another 97,000 should do it.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital, waiting for my dad to come out of a 6 hour open heart surgery. As nervous as my mom and my siblings and I are, we are all so relieved that Dad is getting some help for the intense health issues he has been dealing with for the last few years. But…now we wait. None of us slept much last night (except for Dad, who is the least nervous of all of us!), but despite our exhaustion, none of us can fall into a restful sleep while we wait. Given my propensity for screaming nightmares, the ICU waiting area might not be a good venue for deep sleep anyway.
The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. I drove to my parents’ house and then to the hospital with them for Dad’s heart cath, which identified the issues that this open heart surgery will correct. Almost before Dad was out of recovery, I had to jump on a plane to fly to Vancouver for a work event. On my way home, I stopped back in to visit Dad in the hospital and then went home to my kiddos and husband. That weekend, my husband and I headed to my parents’ house again with my siblings to help get some things done outside that Dad is unable to do. If you’ve never used a wood chipper for 5 hours, jamming the last branch into the feeder LONG after the sun has gone down, well—you just haven’t lived, my friend.
Immediately after our lumberjacking weekend, we went home and I had to start prepping for my own lesser medical evil—my bi-annual “Hey, let’s look at your screwed up insides!” colonoscopy. Colonoscopies take a lot out of me. Wait. Colonoscopies are extremely draining. Argh! Okay—colonoscopies are just downright unpleasant and inconvenient. My insides are such fastidious little jerks these days. I am still being punished for the injustice they have perceived this week. The day after my probing, it was back in the car for four hours to come up to the hospital again—but not before we squeezed in a work day, one gymnastics class, a vet trip, and two Halloween parties. Today is October 31st, and I’ve promised the kiddos that I will do my very best to make it home in time to take them trick-or-treating, assuming that Dad is okay. We aren’t allowed to see him for longer than 2 minutes, and I don’t function very well in “hurry up and wait” conditions. Plus, in times of emotional distress, I crave the sweet hugs and comfort of being with my kids and husband. That makes the thought of another four hours in the car bearable for sure.
I am driving my husband’s car so that he can shuttle the five kids around in my mom-mobile while I’m gone, poor guy. On the drive up here last week, his car politely flashed a sweet little alarm that said “rest reminder” on the dashboard display, along with the image of a tree. I suppose the idea is that I would pull over, find an inviting little tree, kick my legs out and take a nap? Clearly this car was not built for busy mothers. I steadfastly hit the “ignore” button and forged ahead, wryly smiling at the naiveté of the car thinking that there are still women in the world who rest.
The physical strain of the last couple of weeks has hit all of us pretty hard in our immediate and extended families. While rest for our bodies isn’t an option, rest for our spirits is within reach no matter what is happening at the time. The solitude of many hours of business travel and the hours of driving alone, while worrying about my dad and the harried schedule we’re surviving, has given me the chance to seek reassurance from my Heavenly Father. When my fearful, weary brain just wouldn’t shut up, one verse popped into my head over and over again: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11: 28-29) Oh, man. Rest for our souls. That is exactly what we need, isn’t it? Can’t you just picture your spirit, stretched out under a shady tree, and at perfect rest? That’s what God wants for us and what He gives us. We just forget to ask sometimes. Or I do, anyway.
Dad should be coming out of surgery any minute, and while he won’t know we’re there in the 2 minutes that we get to see him, we’ll sure be thrilled to see him! I know our hectic pace isn’t unique to our family, and you are likely experiencing your own version of it right now–or worse. I pray that you find your own “happy little tree” of rest in the midst of your chaos. Feel free to reach out if I can pray for a specific need, and I would appreciate your prayers for my sweet dad.
Consider this your “rest reminder.” : )
**UPDATE: Dad is out of surgery and we got to see him for our allotted 2 minutes. He had a pretty serious close call during the surgery, but his medical staff is simply amazing, and the prayers of all who love him so much were definitely heard. Our family has so much to be thankful for!
I am taking a little digression away from the original intent of this blog. My heart is so heavy tonight, and the only thing I can do, aside from praying, is to write about it. As I write this, I’m high above the earth, at 30,000 feet, comfy in my first class seat, on my way home from a business trip to New York City. It’s so calm up here. So unusually quiet and still. Ordinarily, I fall asleep, almost against my will, as soon as I buckle myself in. I barely realize when we’ve taken off and landed. After years of business travel, I think my subconscious has developed a special brand of narcolepsy to make the arduous process of flying just a little bit less unpleasant. Tonight, I can’t sleep.
Most of you are likely aware of the cruel murder yesterday of a US journalist, James Foley, by the terrorist organization ISIS. An unspeakable, unimaginable, horrifically brutal murder.
Everywhere I turned while I was in New York, there was a newsstand projecting the image of this innocent young man, clad in orange, his hands bound, with an air of steely determination in his strong jaw, but a look of abject, raw and heartbreaking fear in his eyes. Next to him, brandishing a knife in some of the pictures (a knife that I can’t stop myself from thinking would not deliver a swift beheading, but rather a slow, agonizing death), stands a coward. A coward who can’t show his face. Instead he dresses like some sort of Arab Power Ranger, only his eyes showing. Even in the grainiest of photographs, the hate in his eyes—the sheer animalistic malice is evident. What shocks me most about these photos is the stark contrast; good versus evil—side by side, but with the outcome already known. Evil wins.
How is that possible? How, in my comfortable, middle-class, Superman, Desert Storm, American reality can that be possible? Don’t get me wrong. I know that there is evil in the world. There is a great deal of evil in America. There is likely a fair amount of evil on this plane. I am not adept at wrapping my head around the sad trajectory of the human race as a whole, but yesterday’s brutal event has forced the reality of it upon me. Time to wake up. I have five children, whom I love with every fiber of my being. Four of them are boys. As I sat in JFK and watched clips of the interview of James Foley’s parents, it wasn’t hard to imagine if what happened yesterday happened to one of my boys (or my daughter, for that matter—if any of them is likely to go across the globe in the name of adventure, journalism and bettering the human race, it’s her). How I would feel. What I would say. Could I even find words? The grief in the Foleys’ voices was evident. I felt like an intruder listening to parts of it–in a place I shouldn’t be. Lurking somewhere that is private to parents who have lost children. A place that I pray to God with all my heart that I never have to go.
Grief wasn’t all I heard though. I heard love. So much love for their “little boy” as his mother referred to him, and as I will always refer to my sons, no matter what their age. I also heard pride for what he believed in and how he lived. What stood out to me the most though, was resilience. They stood there, in all of their grief, and they defied the idea that evil is going to win in the end. In the aftermath of the most horrific thing that could happen to them as parents, they chose to defy the power of evil in this world and focus on the beautiful life of their son.
I have been tragically behind on my Bible reading the last couple of weeks, so I brought my Bible with me on this trip, vowing to make up for my absence and to get back on track. As I was reading tonight, missing my family, and trying to unsee the images from every television and newsstand, my heart was crying out for some sort of encouragement. Something to hold onto in these days when everything feels so uncertain and so cruel. My head is spinning with all that is happening in Israel, in Iraq, in Syria, in Ferguson, in Africa…it’s too much to take in, but I can’t stop myself from obsessing over it.
So what do you do when you can’t look away? When you can’t stop taking in the horror of it all, but you feel helpless to make any difference. When you worry every day about the safety of your children and your friends and family, fearing that terror could again strike close to home, as it did on 9/11. When your heart is breaking for people you don’t even know and will never meet. What can you do? You pray, but more importantly, you pray with faith, believing that God already knows the outcome of every tragedy and injustice, and that evil does not win.
One of the passages that I was scheduled to turn to today is Psalm 55. It’s as if God chose this day, when I was feeling so overwhelmed, as distant as I am from the atrocities happening across the world, to speak the exact words I needed to hear. “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me (Psalm 55:4-5).” But that’s not where it ends! The writer says: “But I call out to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice…cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you (Psalm 55:16-23).”
Evil does not win.
I encourage you to cling to that promise. I will, every time fear creeps back into my heart.
Dear Father, I pray tonight for the family of James Foley and for all those who loved him. I pray for Steven Sotloff. Put your hand of protection on him and deliver him from harm, if it’s your will. I pray for our administration, that they will make courageous decisions to fight the evil that is arrogant enough to believe that it will prevail. I am choosing to believe your promises, Lord that you will bring down the wicked and protect your children. Thank you for hearing our prayers and forgiving our fear and doubt. Amen.