SKY VBS adult version

Another incredible year of Kids Fun Club (also known as Vacation Bible School or VBS). Arguably the best week of the year at Crossroads Community Church. I love how our church comes together and everyone brings their gifts, talents and abilities and collectively, willingly, joyfully, extravagantly blesses the kids and adults who participate.

One of the ideas we’ve implemented at Crossroads is a coffee connection tent for mom’s and interested adults. We set out Starbucks coffee (donated by the great folks at “my Starbucks” around the corner), juices, a wide variety of homemade baked deliciousness, fruit for those who want healthy stuff, decorations and a creative assortment of daily events designed to encourage mom’s. We gather under two pop up canopies off to the side, under the shade, away but still with the VBS activities and the kids. All those loud, active, wiggly kids. God bless them.

This year we had mini-massages on Tuesday by a professional masseuse, Elaine, whose amazing hands are matched by an equally amazing heart. The next day we learned to make and consume tasty Vietnamese spring rolls. The cooking demonstration was taught by Brenda, who shared her desire to bless our church and the mom’s out of an overflow of gratitude to God as she has battled health issues and experienced His tenderness in the midst of immense suffering. Thursday we put together a nativity scene craft by the incredible Missy. Her leadership, vision and attention to detail is at the core of the coffee connection time. Finally we topped it all off with a lemon/lemonade theme where we made lemon sugar scrub, and ate and drank lemon everything and, of course, consumed more delicious food. The week was a terrific blend of fun and connection and refreshment.

My contribution was teaching the mom’s the Bible passages the kids studied but more in-depth. I promised I would post on this blog the notes from our time. (For the mom’s who attended: If I forget any important points, please feel free to add them in the comment section.)

The overarching theme for all of the lessons: Trust God. The first morning we read from John 11:1-44. The story was about the siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus who were among Jesus’ close friends. Lazarus falls ill. The sisters send for Jesus who was in a nearby city about two miles away and He remains in the city an additional two days. Lazarus dies. When he finally arrives Lazarus has been in the tomb four days. Martha runs out to meet Jesus. Both Martha and Mary knew Jesus was God, sat close as He taught in their living room, had witnessed Him perform miracles and heard stories of Jesus’ power over the weather, congenital health issues, and knew nothing was impossible with Him. They said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.” It is in this passage of the Bible where Jesus says,

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (verse 25-26)

Jesus asks to be taken to the place where Lazarus’ body was laid. As He comes to the tomb, he joins all the others who loved Lazarus and his family and weeps. Then He gives instructions for the removing of the stone from the entrance of the tomb. He calls out for Lazarus to come forth. And Lazarus is raised from the dead.

A few observations and applications:

  • Jesus connected with those He loved and was emotionally present with them. Even though He knew the outcome and even told the disciples and Martha what He was going to do, when He was with those sitting in their grief He joined them. He didn’t talk them out of their feelings. As parents, and people, we often are quick to try to push down our feelings or our children’s feelings. We talk ourselves out of how we feel with “it could be worse, Martha, because Mary could have died, too” or “think positive, Mary, you will see Lazarus in heaven one day” or “you should be grateful you even had a brother.” Often when we don’t know how to navigate our emotions we try to numb out our feelings through eating, shopping, working, alcohol, the internet, ministry, cleaning, etc. At the root of many addictions is trying to find comfort through a thing rather than through connection with God and others. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is learning how to identify our feelings, feel our feelings, and move towards relationship rather than isolation and to teach the same to our kids.


  • Trusting God is difficult when we are unsure of His character. It’s the fall back with legs straight into the arms of the person behind you exercise. It’s pointless to fall back if the person catching you doesn’t have your best in mind and despises you, or isn’t strong enough to hold your weight or isn’t around to know you’re falling. God can be trusted. He has our best in mind because He loves us. He is all-powerful so He can catch us and He is all-knowing so He knows when we fall. Somewhere along the way I heard someone share the following truths about God. I’ve listed them below along with some verses.

He knows

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. ” Psalm 139:1-3

He sees

“Then Hagar called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, El Roi (You are the God who sees me);” Genesis 16:13

He cares

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even those may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-16

He can

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

He will

“The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness (hesed: Hebrew for loyal love), O LORD is everlasting. Psalm 138:8

“He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:8-9

He knows. He sees. He cares. He can. He will.

What of those five do you most need to remember right now?

*I’ll post the rest of the nuggets every few days over the next two weeks. Please pass them along if you find them helpful :)

Wigs for Kids with Cancer

Hair can silently mark the passing of time. The growth happens with slow, steady faithfulness completely indiscernible from day-to-day. But over time growth becomes evident.

Three years ago, almost to the day, Julia and her friend, Anna, donated their hair to Wigs for Kids. The cancer I was battling left me bald and bewildered. But as we walked through surgeries, chemo, and radiation treatments, an unexpected outcome took place in my daughter’s heart. Through the hard times, the tears, the questions with no answers, God started growing in Julia a heart to help and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

The food allergies Julia deals with daily has matured her; she has learned to talk with adults, parents, and waiters answering questions about what she can and cannot have. When we went on a summer mission trip to Japan one of the phrases she learned to say in Japanese was, “I am allergic to milk, peanuts and eggs.” At every birthday party she either quietly abstains from the pizza and birthday cake or brings along her own little treat. A small handful of moms always go the extra mile to make sure the food they serve is “Julia friendly.” (Thanks, Simone, Abby, Cari, Stacia :)). Feeling uncomfortable, misunderstood or left out are familiar emotions for my daughter. These struggles have resulted in a depth of character not often seen in ten-year olds.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when she learned her hair could help another kid battling cancer, she joyfully donated. I think she understood on a deep level, both of knowing how it feels for a kid to struggle with feeling uncomfortable, misunderstood and left out and also from the first hand experience of having a bald mommy. For the next three years following the initial cut she allowed her thick, naturally highlighted, beautiful, beautiful hair to silently grow.

Three years and nearly 14 inches later, Julia sat extra still as Kim cut her hair. My heart filled with gratitude (and my eyes were a bit misty) seeing her sitting in the chair, feet dangling. My own hair, now past shoulder length, covered the story of cancer that had marked our lives. Her long hair represented three long years of return to our new normal. Strangers came up to Julia when they learned what she was doing to let her know they were proud of her decision. In the end Julia, full of joy, collected her offering to help a kid going through a hard time similar to the hard time we went through.

In her own words she wrote on the donation form:

My mom had cancer and lost all of her hair and I realized I can help people by donating my hair.

“My mom had cancer and lost all of her hair and I realized I can help people by donating my hair.”

I hate cancer. I hate how this disease takes lives. I hate the pain my family and friends walk through when they lose a loved one to cancer. I will never not hate cancer.

But somehow battling cancer expanded our hearts and opened up our world to others. Julia is a shining example to me of beauty grown out of hardship. I am proud of her and the growth I see in her life.

If you like, feel free to leave a message for Julia in the comment section and I’ll be sure she reads it. :)

Cussing Kids

It was the kind of summer hot that had you holding the steering wheel by the tips of your fingers with the air conditioner blasting out desert heat on high. I had finished listening to an inspiring presentation in a frigid cold room and was on my way to pick up our younger son from childcare. As a young mom I was grateful for the input that fed my soul and restored vision. But now it was time to switch gears, and just like the temperature change, I was mentally preparing by replacing my seminary hat with my mommy hat.

We were in Fort Collins, Colorado attending our biannual staff conference with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) which boasts the largest childcare in the nation of over 1100 kids for ten days every other summer. The preschool kids met at one elementary school and the grade school kids at a different school. After I collected his crafts and clicked Michael into his car seat I headed over to pick up his older brother at the other school several blocks away. As we drove Michael recounted his day. Then his voice got quiet and serious.

“Mommy, today one of the girls was put in time out.”

“Oh really? What for?”

“She said a bad word.”

We drove along and when we stopped at the red light I heard over the blasting air conditioner from the back seat,

 “Shhhhh……….. Tt.”

Well. gulp. I hadn’t been down this road before. My mind scanned through in a split second every parenting book I read up to that point. I remembered something about being honest and straight forward and helping our kids know we parents could be trusted and would shoot straight if they ever had questions about anything in life.

So I looked into the rearview mirror and asked,

“Do you know what that word means?”

Silence.

Deep breath. I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter.

“Well, the word is shit. It means poop. But it isn’t a nice way to say poop. So that’s why she was put in time out.”

Silence.

We drove along. I looked again into the rearview mirror. He was gazing out the window up at the tall trees lining the streets.

Then at the next stoplight I heard from the back seat,

“Shhhhhh……Tt up.”

Oh dear.

Oh my!

*sigh*

Chalk it up for another nomination for “Mother of the Year.”

Parenting. So humbling.

 

 

 

 

Bittersweet Endings and Beginnings

The tears catch me by surprise. Three times in the last two days. Driving home from Costco the old song, “A Thousand Miles,” came on the radio. I usually blast it. This time I sang with tears rolling down my face.

I would walk a thousand miles just to see him. Just to hold him.

Jonathan is receiving news now almost daily from colleges he’s been accepted to. One school back east has invited him to come visit next month. I googled the distance from our home to the campus.

2667 miles.

What a bittersweet mixture of emotions.

My mother’s heart is thrilled with the possibilities but breaks with the inevitable taking place in just a few short months.

He won’t be here for dinner anymore.

I won’t find him asleep on the big chair in our living room with his six-foot frame twisted in every imaginable combination.

His shoes and books and papers will fill another place that isn’t our living room, dining room and entry way.

The piano will sit silent.

Really the bottom line is…

I will miss him.

The bittersweet ending and beginnings started long, long ago. The week before his first day of kindergarten I lay in bed with silent tears flowing out of my eyes, into my ears. Two nights ago the same bed, and the same bittersweet tears. The sweetness both times comes from knowing he is ready. It’s good and right. It’s the next step. When my friend, Faye’s, oldest went off to college six years ago I wept. Jonathan was still in elementary school, but I knew the day would come when it would be his turn.

And now it is here. This week with news from the colleges it’s hitting me–it’s really here.

After 23 years in college ministry we know hundreds of campus staff workers across the country. But we don’t personally know the staff at that campus back east. Now I understand in an experiential way the significance of having staff workers in different parachurch ministries on college campuses. And I have a new appreciation for all the thousands of churches and individuals that give financially to those campus ministers. For so long we were on the receiving end of those freshman faces. Now we are the ones praying, letting go, entrusting to others our most precious ones.

The ones we would walk a thousand miles to see.

I’m trying to implement some lessons I’ve learned about grief. I’m trying to not push down my sad feelings, but actually just let them be. So I’m letting the tears flow when those bittersweet feelings surface.

Now three times has turned to four.

Michael. Is. Awesome.

I guess February is a popular time of year for us. Or maybe more like May/June-ish. Another birthday today! This time it’s our middle son, Michael. I still remember vividly showing up to my beloved friend, Lisa’s, home with a meal. We were pregnant with our second kids at the same time. Her sweet Aeva arrived February 9. Darrin, Jonathan and I drove over with Chinese stir fry to their apartment in downtown Los Angeles.

Lisa and I bought and wore matching polka dot pregnancy tents  shirts. Where were all the cute pregnancy clothes back when I was pregnant?? All we had back then were polka dots, overalls and other flappy, floppy unflattering clothing!! Anyway, Lisa didn’t need polka dots anymore and looked amazing. She was in the no-epidural delivery category. She, and my other friends who go sans drugs/epidural, have my utmost respect. I still wore my polka dots and moved about in the Clydesdale horse pregnancy state–the so pregnancy-big you can’t reach to shave your legs and clomp around causing teacups to shake on the shelves state.

Darrin and I took turns holding Aeva and marveling at her delicate features. She was beautiful from the start and has grown today into a stunning young woman. Throughout dinner I started feeling a squeezing kind of feeling around my mid-section. As we left Lisa asked, “When do you think yours will arrive?” I answered, “Who knows. Maybe tonight or tomorrow!”

We headed home, put Jonathan to bed and the squeezing continued. I was excited to finally experience contractions. After our scary birth experience with Jonathan, we welcomed having a birth story closer to the ones we learned about in our Lamaze class. We were able to get some sleep. I woke up to the sun shining and took a shower and even put some make up on. The squeezing kept growing in frequency. Our bags were packed and we called our doctor. He said, “I guess I won’t be making it to church this morning! Thanks for waiting until morning to call! See you soon.”

We grabbed the Sunday L.A. Times and bagels from our favorite bagel shop across the street and drove to the hospital. Since it was a Sunday morning, there was ample free parking in front of the hospital. And for those of you familiar with West L.A. parking, that alone fell into the miracle department.

Once we arrived the nurses checked on me and said, “You’re at five centimeters. Looks like you’re staying. Any requests?” Oh, that was easy: “Epidural, please.” I was happily hooked up and Darrin read to me from Max Lucado’s book “Tell Me the Story.” We both had tears in our eyes as he read. Grateful, happy tears. Since we had to have the emergency c-section with Jonathan, my doctor wanted to make sure there wasn’t any tearing from the scar tissue so he broke my water to see if there was blood in the fluid. It was clear and the contractions started building more after my water broke.

Soon enough it was time to push. My eyes were squeezed shut trying to concentrate on the task at hand. Finally my doctor said, “Open your eyes. He’s coming out!” I opened my eyes and watched my long-awaited son take his first breath. Darrin, amazing Darrin, cut his umbilical cord. I wept as they placed his slimy, bloody body on my chest and kept saying, “He is beautiful! He is so incredible. So amazing.” In many ways, this was my first birth experience since I was unconscious during Jonathan’s arrival. Words can’t adequately describe the depths of the feelings of elation and love I had for my new son.

Darrin wanted to be able to see our son before we named him. Boy names were harder to pick for us. While we were pregnant one of us would mention a boy name and the other would say shake our head, “No, I went to school with a guy named ______. Not a good name.” After the nurses washed our baby and bundled him up, we were finally able to take a good look at him. Darrin said, “He looks like a Michael.” And at the sound of “Michael” our son turned his head our way. Michael pulled the light brown hair, fair skin and long finger traits from Darrin’s mom’s Portuguese/Hawaiian side. We gave him her maiden name for Michael’s middle name.

Michael’s name means: Who is like our God. The name fits him. He reflects the brave, protective, adventurous, thoughtful, generous, loyal, tender, active, fun-loving parts of God. I see this as he plays football, interacts with the preschool kids at church, shares his candy with his siblings (and mom), takes the hardest classes in school, and seeks to be a good friend.

It’s Michael’s birthday today. And Michael is awesome.

A Valentine From Heaven

Her due date was February 19th. But in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2002 my water broke. Darrin and I woke Jodi, our Cru staff friend who was staying with us at the time, and let her know the time had come. We gathered our stuff and tiptoed (okay, I full-on waddled) out into the cold and darkness full of excitement. We would be welcoming our Valentine from heaven today!

I had talked about our “someday Julia” ever since we were pregnant with our first. We had a housewarming party when we moved into our current home. Michael, our second son, was still crawling. Our guests celebrated with us by dividing up and praying through each room in the house. Our friend, Julie, wrote in our guest book, “I hope you don’t mind. I prayed in the room at the end of the hall upstairs that it would be your someday Julia’s room.” All of our friends and family knew even before the ultrasound confirmed she was a girl, our “someday Julia” was on her way when we learned I was pregnant.

At the hospital everything ran smoothly. We watched the winter Olympics on TV while we waited for the contractions to build. Yeah for the epidural! Darrin was attentive, helpful, and the strong, steady man I had come to lean on through thick and thin. At one point he looked over at me and said, “I’m glad she’s on her way. I just feel sorry for her someday husband.” Valentine’s and a birthday on the same day. I’m confident that my someday son-in-law will be able to handle it just fine.

Actually it seems absolutely perfect to me that her birthday would fall on Valentines Day. Of course every balloon, flower and pink and red heart is set out to declare “Happy birthday, Julia! You are LOVED!” And loved describes her well.

I still remember the first time we visited the church we now attend. I was explaining to her how she would be going to a new Sunday School class, but she would probably recognize some of the kids from her brother’s basketball games. At the age of three, she confidently hopped out of her car seat after I unclicked the buckle, jumped out onto the asphalt and said, “They’re just gonna love me.”

Today is Julia’s 10th birthday. A decade just flew by. I love everything about Julia. Having her in our lives has been an absolute delight.

The picture here was taken this past weekend when we were visiting my parents. We took a gondola ride and a handsome Italian man serenaded her and sang “Happy Birthday” in Italian.

Good Enough

I love celebrating. Bridal showers and baby showers are full of newness, happy anticipation and hope. This past Saturday Julia and I dressed as twins. It was her suggestion and I happily complied. One day soon she will no longer want to be twins so I savor these fleeting moments. The occasion: Tricia’s baby shower. Both Julia and Tricia’s first baby shower. The theme: BaBEE which was a perfect play off Tricia’s last name, Beebee.

One of the many perks of working in college ministry is watching relationships bloom from friendship to dating, engagement to marriage and then for most, eventually parenting. Julia was able to watch first hand as Tricia and Nich led our summer mission team in Nagoya the summer of 2008. She watched as they worked together, had fun, brought out each other’s strengths, led together with mutual respect. She watched a strong friendship form and when they started dating long distance that fall, both Julia and I “whoo-hooed” in the car. When we received the call after Nich proposed, Julia and I danced around our living room in celebration.

So this couple and this baby and this shower holds a special place in our hearts. Tricia has experienced some pregnancy complications and was in the hospital from Christmas to New Years. She is currently on bed rest but both she and the baby are doing well.

Her friend threw a wonderful baBEE shower complete with a tasty spread, fun games, creative decorations and this beautiful guest book for us to sign with space for encouraging words. As I sat on the edge of the chair with pen in hand, looking over at beautiful, pregnant Tricia I wondered, “What words of encouragement can I share on a 3 inch by 3 inch square piece of paper for this soon to be mom?” Tricia is amazing. An incredibly gifted leader. A natural people gatherer. She is loved and admired from coast to coast. On each of her party favors at her wedding she wrote personal notes of appreciation to over 100 guests. She is thoughtful and hardworking, fun, wise. Excellent through and through. She will be a wonderful mom to the daughter she carries inside.

What words could I share? Two popped into my mind: good enough.

Parenting, like marriage, evokes and surfaces all sorts of unfinished business from our families of origin. In our attempts to be either “just like” how our parents raised us or to fulfill a vow of “when I become a parent one day, I will never ____,” we place all sorts of expectations on ourselves and those around us of how we think life is supposed to be–how we will respond, the condition of our home, the environment, the traditions, the memories, the climate. We hope and pray that our child or children will grow up to be loving, forgiving, grateful, responsible, generous, play fair, sit by the new kid, resolve conflict, love Jesus, keep a budget, be cavity-free, work hard, play hard, be respectful, keep their rooms and nails clean. All this while growing up in a home that is dusted, orderly, with healthy vegetable-filled meals, an always stocked fridge, healthy snacks and apples that don’t brown. Oh, and clean, folded clothes and ironed (what’s that?) shirts and matching socks without holes. And all this with parents who are affectionate, wise, affirming, fair, patient, consistent and still hold hands with each other while walking through the parking lot. Sadly, this picture is impossible to attain for most of us and for the rare few that do, it is impossible to maintain and sustain. Life becomes increasingly complex when kids come along and more often than not, life does not go according to plan. The words I wish I heard (and maybe I did, but just didn’t take in) and the words I need to hear even today are the same words I shared with Tricia: good enough.

Life, parenting, my to-do list, the piles/bags of paperwork, my inbox, the sliding glass doors covered with doggy nose prints, that mystery sticky mess in the meat and cheese drawer in the fridge, I can’t and won’t get to all of it today, tomorrow or even by next year. It’s not that I won’t work hard and invest time into important things, but there is no end to the things I could or should be doing.

So “good enough” for me means being at peace with

life less than perfect,

my little world being less than perfect,

me being less than perfect.

It means taking a deep exhale and letting go of the expectation that life look differently than it does at this exact moment. It means resting in the circumstances God has allowed, both good and hard. It means enjoying the enjoyable and persevering in the difficult. It means giving myself, my husband and my kids grace to be in process.

I whisper it to myself throughout the day as I assess. “Good enough” brings alignment to my heart because I actually can be a “good enough” mom, wife, friend, and all the other hats I wear each day. Good enough helps me let go and enjoy the present and be present.

 

22 Years Ago Today

“I think my water broke.” When I got out of the car there was blood on the seat. My best friend from college, Pam, flew down from the Bay Area for my baby shower with our UCLA staff and students. After the shower we went out to dinner and on our way home I felt warm liquid come out of my body. The excitement turned to mild concern. Our last Lamaze class had been two days earlier and the instructor mentioned a “bloody show” at the beginning of labor for some women. We were first time parents so I thought this was part of the birthing process.

We walked up the stairs to our apartment and I told Darrin what happened. He put in a call to our doctor but another doctor on call told him, “Wait until the contractions are five minutes apart before you go to the hospital.” He asked me and I couldn’t feel any notable contractions. My abdomen? Rock solid. Darrin called the hospital. They asked him what the doctor instructed and told him to follow doctor’s orders and wait until the contractions were five minutes apart. Meanwhile I continued to bleed. And we waited for contractions that never came.

Another call to the unhelpful doctor who told us still to wait. Another call into the hospital. The nurse recognized Darrin’s voice and said, “Go ahead and bring her in and we can take a look.” By this point the blood flowed so heavy I was sitting on a rolled up beach towel.

We arrived at the hospital. One look at me and the beach towel and we were whisked off to a room. The room filled instantly with nurses running back and forth. Clip boards and papers to sign. Hushed but serious orders being issued. Terms I didn’t understand. Tension filled the room. They strapped on a heart beat monitor around my abdomen. I could hear the heart rate wasn’t right. It was weak and faint.

Just the day before I had gone to see my doctor. It was my 37 week check up. Everything looked fine, they strapped on the heart rate monitor around my very large mid-section and I could hear the baby’s heartbeat strong and steady. The doctor mentioned how pleased he was with how smoothly the pregnancy had gone. His last words as he left the room–nothing dilated so the baby wouldn’t be coming anytime soon.

When I heard the faint heartbeat I started to panic. I looked up at the name tag of the nurse hovering over me, “Lynn” and next to her name a Christian fish symbol. I grabbed her arm, “Excuse me, are you a Christian?” “Oh, yes. And so is the nurse over there.” Through tears of fear and relief I told her, “I’m a Christian, too.” She took my hand, “Don’t worry. I will be praying for you and the baby all the way through.”

Those were the last words I remember hearing as they pushed me off to surgery. I couldn’t stop shaking. And I remember looking up at the flourescent lighting and watching the hospital ceiling tiles go by overhead and thinking, “This isn’t how I thought it was going to be.”

They put me under for an emergency cesarean section. Darrin remembers seeing a single tear slide from my eye as they put me under. The doctor let Darrin come in to watch the surgery. He even had the honor of cutting the umbilical cord of his first son.

I later learned I had abruptio placenta. My placenta started separating from my uterine wall.

I later learned the lack of oxygen to the baby from this condition often results in cerebral palsy.

I later learned of a mom and baby who had the same thing happen around the same time. They lived outside town and both of them died on the way to the hospital.

My doctor came in to see me the next day. He said, “Angels must have been watching over you. Your placenta was one-third separated. Any more and it could have been fatal for the baby or you.” He mentioned the angels again as he left. Both Darrin and I knew without question God was looking out for us. Lynn, the nurse, came by and I found out she wasn’t scheduled to work the night before but came in at the last moment.

I was finally able to see our son the next day in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit. He had been in an oxygen tent, tube stuck in his nose for feeding, tiny feet bandaged from multiple pricks for blood work. He was by far the largest baby in the NICU. And when I held him for the first time and said, “Hey little guy,” he opened his eyes.

Darrin and I didn’t have a name picked out. The hospital tags read, “Boy Mabuni,” We didn’t have our bags packed for the hospital. Although, I’m fairly certain we were the only couple in our Lamaze class who purchased the suggested paint roller (to help ease the pain of contractions?!). Darrin walked downstairs the next day and informed the “How to take care of a baby” class instructor we wouldn’t be in the class. No time to practice on plastic babies. Our real one had come. Then he drove home and washed blood off the carpet, packed a few things and returned to the hospital with our “10,000 Baby Names” book.

As we talked about all that transpired, it became clear we would name our son Jonathan. The Hebrew meaning is: gift of God.

From the very beginning we knew Jonathan was a gift to us. His birth story reminds me to hold on loosely. I am a steward not the owner. He, like our other kids, our home, our money, all our stuff, belongs to God and has been entrusted to us for a short while.

And truly it is a short while. Today, we celebrate Jonathan’s 22nd birthday. He has grown to be an incredible young man–bright, caring, hard-working, creative, self-motivated, musical, thoughtful.

I couldn’t be prouder.

Mother of the Year

Few things in life have I found more humbling than that of being a mom. My best efforts and intentions sometimes don’t yield the desired outcome. So, during those times, I give myself the “Mother of the Year” award. Take for example my prayers for the kids. Each night after I tuck Julia in and turn out the lights, I spend time praying with and for her. I’ve done this almost every night since she was born. One of the prayers I most regularly pray is that God would bless her with good friends and good mentors. The older I get, the more I am convinced of these two things:

         1. Life will be full of challenges and tough times

         2. With good friends and good mentors, and a strong relationship with God, the kids (and anyone, really) will be able to make it through even the hardest of times.

So, about two years ago, when Julia was six, she asked me when I finished praying, “Mom, why do you keep praying dementors in my life?” (note: if you don’t know what a dementor is, see photo….horrible creatures from Harry Potter series)

*sigh*

Yup, add one more to the collection….

 

Enjoying His “Yes”

It’s been raining steadily the last several days. I woke up this morning to thunder and lightning and stumbled around in the dark trying to shake off the sleep and locate my alarm clock.  Jonathan has an insane schedule that has us getting out the door around 6:45 every morning. And, as many of you know, I am NOT a morning person. Well, I guess I am a morning person, but not by choice. I finally have the house to myself and as I look around and assess the situation, I see that once again, dishes fill the kitchen sink, the hamper of dirty clothes has started refilling–four loads yesterday just didn’t slay the monster, the stacks of papers on the high table in my kitchen are reappearing (they never really completely go away), my face needs washing and my heart needs some tending, too.

I’m in a reflective kind of mood (rain helps) and I want to pause, and stop, and celebrate and share an answer to prayer that has been long coming.

As many of you know, Julia has food allergies to peanuts, dairy and eggs. The last year or so I’ve noticed that it has become more and more difficult for her as she feels left out and sometimes deprived. Costco is selling those enormous pumpkin pies again and I brought one home and put it in the refrigerator in the garage. Jonathan came into the house with a handful of pie–seriously, do some of you also have teenagers with an aversion to dishes? cereal by the handful, yogurt without spoons? Anyway, Julia plopped down on the couch with tears in her eyes, “It just looks and smells so good and I can’t have any of it!” I just sat with my arms around her as she cried. We have altered much of the food we eat so that we all eat the same things for dinner, many emails go back and forth between the mom’s and me trying to buy soccer snacks that Julia can enjoy, our closest friends keep on hand “Julia friendly margarine and treats” and have also learned to read those tiny food labels, and every birthday party Julia brings her own version of a cupcake or chicken nuggets in place of the cake and pizza at the party. Halloween is coming up and once again over half of her candy loot she will have to swap out with her brother or other friends. 

When Michael was around five, he would pray earnestly every night that Julia would outgrow her food allergies. Night after night, month after month. About nine months into his nightly prayers for Julia, he looked up at me and asked, “Mom, what does “outgrow” mean?”

And so we have prayed, and prayed and prayed for Julia. And then I realized I stopped praying with Julia about her food allergies because I was tired of hearing the answer, “No.” Eight years of “no” seems like a long time to me and I felt discouraged and disappointed. Navigating the food allergy world has challenged us. It has also expanded our hearts. Hers and mine. I remembering talking with Julia about how God grows her character through being able to understand from experience what it feels like being left out. She came home and shared, “Mom, today at school I was with my friend who was sad because she was the only Jewish girl in the class and everyone else in the class celebrates Christmas but she doesn’t. I went up to her and shared that I kind of knew how she felt because I am the only one in the class that can’t have certain foods and I know how it feels being left out.” I’m proud of the way Julia handles the challenge, but my heart hurts with her when she struggles.

This fall Julia ate something that caused her to break out with eczema around her mouth. The eczema got infected and then she had a separate allergic reaction which affected her breathing that brought us to Urgent Care. Then she had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. We had not been in to see her allergists in a couple of years and some friends recommended a new doctor  so we went in to see him last week to see if she had developed any new allergies we weren’t aware of.

Her allergy panel came back.

Still allergic to peanuts and dairy.

No longer allergic to EGGS!

Unbelievable. Goofy happy dancing around the kitchen. We brought out sparkling apple cider to celebrate over dinner. A whole world of food and options is now opened up to her. I’m baking up a storm: brownies, cookies, banana bread and on and on. She will be able to eat the cupcakes at the soccer party this year.

I wrestle with the Lord in prayer. I have witnessed His incredible power over the weather, His incredible provision in the eleventh hour, I have seen Him answer prayer before I even finished praying. But there are prayers that I have prayed for decades now that seem unanswered. I know God hears. I know God cares. I don’t understand His ways.

The eight years waiting for this “Yes.” causes me to appreciate and even treasure this answer to prayer. I know I am not the same person and Julia is not the same person because we had to wait.

Today, though, I am listening to the rain and I am basking in His “Yes.”