Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Considering the future...

The end of one school year always, without fail, catapults me into thinking about the next school year. To date, I have already ordered all my curriculum and books for the 2011-2012 School year. I am excited. And the excitement grows each time the UPS guy rings the doorbell with a delivery or Elliott brings in the mail for the day and boxes await my opening!

However, I am challenged to think about my level of excitement. Am I just as excited to wake early to spend time in God's Word. Do I willingly set aside time of Facebook or email or reading for personal enjoyment to make sure I have studied and thoughtfully completed my Bible Study, in advance of the meeting, not simply cram the night before? Have I been seeking out God's Word as it related to my challenges and struggles, finding instead opportunities to apply the Word of Truth to my daily life?

So, as I consider the future, not just of our coming school year, but also my personal striving towards godliness, I am thankful to be reminded that my greatest excitement should be focused on the Lord and all He has done. The joy of my salvation should direct me to make choices which place reading and studying God's Word, as well as prayer and application of His Word to my life, as the highest of priorities. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

I have a choice...

When the clock shows six,
And the sun isn't yet peeking through my window,
When the house is quiet,
And the little blessings have not yet begun to stir,
I have a choice.

   I can turn over in my bed,
   Cover my head and hide,
   Snuggle back in for more dreaming.
   Or instead I can remember Jesus,
   How He would arise early and get away,
   That He would choose to pray in solitude.

When the children are loudly playing,
And toys are strewn from wall to wall, tossed about underfoot,
When the summer heat keeps them indoors,
And the laundry piles up on the unwashed floor,
I have a choice.

   I can yell, "Be Quiet!",
   Throw toys away in fits,
   Cry over undone chores.

   Or instead I can remember my Heavenly Father,
   How He is patient and full of mercy,
   That He gently shepherds me, as I ought my children.

When the daily pressures of life set in,
And the "to-do" list stretches far too long,
When things don't go as I had planned,
And rainbows don't peek out from behind the storm cloud,
I have a choice.

   I can look for distractions,
   Waste time in the meaningless things,
   Indulge in something comfortable.

   Or instead I can remember what faith does,
   How it believes that God is doing good here,
   That through trials comes perseverance.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And the verdict is...

Good. Different. Happy. Confusing. Perfect.

Good because the doctors were able to complete the surgery utilizing the laparoscope versus having to make an open abdominal incision. This is good because my recovery (and limitations) will only be for two weeks whereas if they had been forced to take more aggressive measures, I would have faced a two-month recovery. Good.

Different is because they didn't find anything they expected to. Nearly 3 months ago, I had gone into the ER with severe abdominal pain and a CT scan showed a golf-ball sized mass in the lower left quadrant of my abdomen. However, the surgeon didn't find that. He did find some severe scar tissue adhesions which were twisting and pulling my colon into a "pocket" and left alone potentially would have developed into a bowel obstruction. My insides also looked much better than expected, as in, there was not massive scar tissue covering everything like they have seen in the past. But still, no mass. Different.

Happy because I am in very little pain in comparison to my previous abdominal surgeries. I am in pain. I am taking pain meds. But comparatively, this is minor and I am perfectly content with that. I have been able to sit at the table and play card games with my kids (I highly suggest "Too Many Monkeys"). Happy.

Confusing is due to the fact that near the adhesions that were removed there was a spot where the colon tissue looked quite different from all the surrounding tissue. So, they took a biopsy and I have a two-week post-op follow-up where I will get the results. As well, since the original mass was not located, I am in a "wait and see" place because we don't know if the cause of the pain has truly been located or not. If I remain in constant pain after the surgical pain subsides, I will be going through some more testing, including additional CT scans. Confusing.

Perfect because God is Sovereign. I have nothing to fear because God is with me. No matter what the biopsy shows or whether I have little or no relief from pain, God has been and is using this trial in my life to conform me to His image. I have been forced to evaluate my heart. I have been forced to look at my relationships, both with my husband and children, as well as to neighbors and co-laborers in Christ. As much as I have fought this whole experience, I cannot be disgruntled or upset or allow myself to hang on to anger because this is not "my plan" because if I did I would be missing out on God's perfect will for me, and when I am I must confess and repent for my lack of trust, my lack of faith. This is the path He has chosen for me, He has carved out these moments and days for me to learn endurance in the faith, to grow in trust and to seek Him in His Word. I wouldn't want it any other way. Perfect.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This is the day...

Psalm 118:24 - This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Trusting in God's Sovereignty is a great comfort. The Lord is good and does good. I am thankful for this trial which has motivated me to examine my heart and cling so tightly to Him. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The list can wait...

I had a long to-do list of things that I wanted to get done before going into surgery in two days. I made it in my mind a month ago when May 20th was selected as "the day". My list included cleaning, organizing, and purging my craft room upstairs. As well, I really wanted to conquer clutter in my living room and kitchen. I needed to swap out winter clothes for summer clothes and figure out what was needed to fill in the blanks in the kids wardrobes. Not to mention get control over the garage again.

So far I have cleaned and organized my craft closet, and the classroom. But my craft room is a disaster. I have cleaned out the kids drawers and swapped out winter and summer clothes and shorts and a couple of new pieces were added to each drawer to replace things that had been grown out of. However, the bins of winter clothes and coats still remain in my living room taking up way too much space. And then I decided to stop.

I thought about what I wanted my kids remembering about me. Do I want my kids remembering how organized I always was? Or do I want them remembering that I was always available to them to play a game, or read a book or listen to a story or give a hug? Do I want my children to remember how important it was to mom to have a tidy house? Or would I rather remember that I took the time to play games on the floor and watch silly plays they made up or that I would trust the oldest to make lunch on a whim?

So for this week, the list can wait. And maybe next week too. And the next week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How do you...

... make your blog posts so long? Where do you get all those words?

My answer when asked this question was simply to laugh and then blame Anne, of the famous Green Gables, that is. I am currently reading aloud Anne of Avonlea to the children and Anne's delightful descriptions of everyday ordinary life are impacting my thoughts and words.

But then, I have always been wordy. I am constantly convicted by Proverbs 10:19 - "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." and Matthew 12:36-37 - "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." I earnestly strive to not be wordy just for the sake of using up my full allotment for the day, but instead that my words might be pleasing to the Lord, being used to encourage and build others up... even if they have to endure many adjectives and adverbs along the way.

This one is for Kaylah. Short and sweet. For me, anyway. :)

Counting down...

Surgery is this week. I am so far not freaking out, but I feel the nervousness mounting as my to-do list is not shrinking as fast as I would like and I am growing more sleepless and restless each day. I have done this my whole life, gotten all excited about a "big day".

Beginning in grade school, I would stay up late going through all my school supplies, checking and double checking and triple checking to make sure I had everything. I did it every year. In college, I did it every semester. I even remember one semester counting each page of notebook paper I put into each class binder so they would each have an equal amount. Yep, no kidding.

And the night before my wedding... same thing... I think I stayed up and watched a movie...
And the night before a c-section... same thing... I packed and re-packed my bags...
And the night before a vacation... same thing... up, puttering around...

And now, it is the week of surgery. I am trusting God completely with the outcome. And in many ways, am calmer about things than I was a few weeks ago. There is much uncertainty this time, since it is exploratory surgery, we don't know if I will face a 2 week recovery or a 2 month one. We don't even know what they will find, mostly because no one is really even sure what they are looking for. And yet, I am ready and trusting.

An amazing thing about being a Christ-follower is that there is peace in the unknown. I don't have to know, I just have to believe God's Word which tells me that not only does He know, but He has ordained this day, and this very trial to be for my good and His glory from before the foundation of the world. I have a sweet friend who always encourages me that I have a wonderful opportunity with the Gospel with medical personnel, mainly because as of late I have had so much interaction with them! But it is a good reminder to me in the moments of "the countdown" to not let my heart be troubled, to not worry about tomorrow for today has enough worries of its own. Instead, I can be preparing myself with the Word of Truth, being ready in season and out of season with an answer for the hope that is within me.

So, I am counting down. I will likely stay up the night before and watch the new BBC Jane Austen DVDs I bought myself at Costco last week. I am going to work on my craft room right now... it is a mess and I am not tired. My mind keeps spinning but I keep telling myself the Gospel. What a comfort the Word of the Lord is, especially when you are counting down... and not just to surgery, but to His triumphant return! Maranatha!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When I grow up...

Micah was being funny tonight. Really funny. Just being himself is pretty funny. The whole family took a vote, and since he can't completely talk for himself yet (though he is getting closer every day), we decided he would be a comedian when he grew up.

So, then Caleb says to me, "Mom, do you know what I want to be when I grow up?"
I said, "What, Caleb?"
Caleb replied very enthusiastically with, "A race car driver!" and then he proceeded to VROOM really loud and make my hair go flying about.

I was interested in finding out what my other kids wanted to be, so I asked.
Noah says he wants to be an Astronaut, but since the government has been cutting funding to the space program, his fall-back plan is to be a doctor.
Hannah said a teacher, then a mom, and if teacher didn't work out, then she would be a waitress.
Faith had a list, but it boiled down to being a rancher and a mom.
Grace said a mom and maybe someone who works at a store.

Then, Caleb, who had obviously been mulling over this whole conversation in his mind turned to me and asked, "Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I laughed and said, "I want to be a Grandma when I grow up! So, I am practicing by being a Mommy right now!" And I tickled and tickled him.

Last, the kids all turned to Elliott and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up... "A park host." Can you tell we just got back from a camping trip? Elliott proceeded to tell them the kind of vehicle we would pull our live-in full-time RV with.

I think I will continue the conversation tomorrow at breakfast, after our Bible reading. I wonder how they will respond to thinking on the same question related to their spiritual walk and not just thinking about their future professional life.

I like to write things down...

I make lists.
I like having things to check off.
They are my paper brain.
I need them to stay on track.
They get me back on track when I get off.
Which occurs with monotonous regularity. 

And when I go on a trip, I write down everything.
Yep, everything.
Even obvious stuff.
If I don't, I forget obvious things.
Like a hairbrush.
Or pajamas.
Or towels.
Or worse.
So far I haven't forgotten any people.
But they go on the list too.
That is probably why.

I make charts too.
The day starts with the Morning Responsibilities chart.
Then it is onto the one for daily chores.
Another adorns the fridge for meal time chores.
Even playroom clean-up duties gets a chart.
I made a comprehensive one for prayers.
Themed by day.
Missionary Mondays.
Teaching Tuesdays.
Welcoming Wednesdays.
Thankful Thursdays.
Freedom Fridays.
I play with fonts to make them more interesting.
I also add graphics.

And I like schedules.
Daily schedules.
School schedules.
Menus that correspond with our schedule.
I like to color code them.

If you think I am joking, you should see my kitchen.
Or my office.
Or the kids' bedrooms.
Or the classroom.

I also keep a notebook.
The front is for sermon notes.
And notes from Sunday School class.
And urgent prayer requests.
The back is where I flip to make other notes.
That I think of during the sermons.
And Sunday School class.
Like things not to forget at the grocery store.
Or questions to remember to ask Elliott.
So I can keep from being distracted.

I also have a prayer journal.
And while I don’t particularly like journaling.
My handwriting gets on my nerves.
Doing it helps me stay on track.
And when I forget what I was praying about, I can look back.
Are you seeing a pattern?
I sometimes get distracted.
Oh, look… a butterfly…

But, seriously, if you need a chart or a list or a schedule...
Just let me know.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In the midst...

I keep ending up here. I keep thinking I won't again. But lately, I do. I keep wondering why. I keep having to remind myself of truth. I may not know why, but I know the One who does. I may not understand, but I can trust the One who judges righteously and does everything for my good and His glory. It may not be what I want, but the Lord alone can see the end from the beginning and He has decided this is what will conform me more into His image.

So, here I wait, 12 days before my fourth surgery in 21 months (making a lifetime total of 13). This will be my 9th abdominal surgery. My first was an appendectomy in the 3rd grade. Then, I had a pretty big break until giving birth to my first child at the age of 23. After Hannah's c-section I made it a regular occurrence to have a c-section every other year for the next 8 years (a total of five). Micah was born in August of 2009 and 8 weeks later I had a major abdominal hernia repaired, followed only ten months later by another major abdominal surgery and now, a mere 9 months later... May 20th I will check into the hospital for my first ever exploratory surgery. In March I had a CT scan showing a golf-ball sized... something... Many doctor appointments and tests later and we know nothing except that it shouldn't be there and it needs to be removed. We don't know what it is, where it came from and whether or not it is something that might return.

In the weeks following the "verdict" that I would need surgery again, I have really been challenged to cling to what I know it true. I feel like the little kitty cat hanging at the end of the rope on the postcard my grandmother had on her fridge all through my childhood which read "Hang in there..." but the kitty looked ready to drop off. That is me, I am clinging to the fact that God is Sovereign with all my might even though at times it feels like my grip is slipping. I am thankful for friends who keep reminding me of God's goodness and mercy and grace which is all sufficient for me. I am thankful for my sweet family who is doing more than their normal share of chores when I can't seem to take another step from pain or fatigue.

I am still struggling with bouts of anger. I do not want this. What I want is to be energetically keeping a welcoming and inviting home for my husband, to be joyfully serving and meeting his needs as the helpmeet God has called me to be. I want to be healthy and running in the backyard with my kids, chasing butterflies and digging in the dirt. I want to be active and busy about ministry both in my church and to my neighbors. I want to be baking cookies for my kids as a treat as they finish their assignments each day. But that is not my reality right now. The fact is that waking up every morning is a choice as the pain and fatigue and nausea are, at times, debilitating. The more active I am, the more pain I am in but having 6 little children under 9 years old does not allow for much "down" time. My mind is foggy and thinking clearly through the day is a chore, bedtime is a welcome sight, while the cluttered counters and toy strewn floor are not so much. Laundry and dishes are regularly "behind" and my pile of "to do" things just keeps growing. Yet, if I allow myself to wallow about looking at my circumstances instead of keeping my gaze fixed upon the Savior, I feel my grip slipping and my angry growing.

So, I remind myself of truth. First, the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20). Next, this is for my good, conforming me into the image of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:28-29) Then, I remember that as a helpmeet to my husband, keeper-at-home, homeschooling mom of 6, I don't get much opportunity to share the Gospel outside the walls of my house. So, in Matthew 28:19-20 fashion, I am being given an opportunity to witness to and bear testimony of the goodness of the Lord to the medical community. Micah 6:8 reminds me what is truly God's desire for my life, and running actively and baking cookies daily aren't listed, whereas doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with my God are.

And how am I doing? Each day a little better. I still cry a lot, and I am not a crier. This is hard. But this is good. God is faithful to do good and He is gently pruning areas of my life, revealing sin in my heart and washing me clean with His Word. I am being humbled. I am being broken. I am being reminded moment by moment, that in the midst, when I can't see the next step, that I can be like Peter when he stepped out of the boat, eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, and I can trust for the Lord of all creation to keep me afloat.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Farm fun for everyone...

We farm with a friend from church. Ok, so really we just pretend to be farmers two mornings a week in good weather, but we love it. We milk the cow, our side is always half full when my friend's side is completely empty, but he says he enjoys our company. We take hay to the horses, and sometimes get to lead them out to pasture or give them treats of apple. When we go in the afternoons we get to take "cow cubes" to the Longhorn cattle (they are super awesome and somewhat terrifying too... those horns!) We work the garden, watering, weeding, flipping the leaves up to look for eggs laid by insects and when we find them we squish them. We also kill live insects when found on the plant or in the garden... this part makes me a little squeamish but my friend insists, so I comply.

Regularly we lose Micah in between rows of corn, or he is found taking a huge bite out of a freshly picked zucchini or squash, radish or sugar snap pea, well, anything we pick, really. Sometimes we find him trying to climb into the Longhorn's pasture (eek!). The kids eat cilantro right off the bush, scour the fields for wild growing dill they found once, take turns pulling carrots and radishes out of the ground. We cut lettuce (did you know that you can just cut leaves from the plant and leave it growing?) and spinach, arugula and parsley. We watch the flowers turn to fruit from week to week... right now there are baby tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, green peppers, squash, zucchini, green beans, butternut squash, onions, and other things I am likely forgetting, just beginning to grow and mature into a lovely bounty of vegetable goodness.

This is all quite fun for this city girl. The kids most love climbing onto the bales of hay and jumping from bale to bale. Or helping muck the horse stalls, shovel the cow manure or "wash" the tractor. We have a wonderful time. It is a joy to be out in God's creation, interacting with it, studying it, and pretending to be like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What else do we do? I bake. When my friend sends me home with an armful of spinach, I bring him back quiche. When I take a load of zucchini home, I bring back dark chocolate zucchini muffins (currently in the oven). I hope to learn how to make pico de gallo this summer. And I owe my friend some mexican rice with all my cilantro I have brought home. It is a lovely trade.

As a bonus, we have been able to observe wildlife in its natural habitat, like the baby deer in my friend's front yard the other morning, left by its mother right after birth (she did come back to get the little darling later that day). We found a Northern Cardinal's nest just by accident as we were observing the female flitting around in a tree, and right into her nest she went. We watch hummingbirds dash to a feeder, fight with rival hummingbirds and when alone and unopposed at the feeders, they sit... something I had never seen them do. Red-tailed hawks fly over head, as do Turkey Vultures and Cattle Egrets. It is a joy, and two of my favorite times of the week. We are thankful. And it is a joy to behold the fun our children have at the farm.