Thursday, November 9, 2017

Parenting is so easy.

Hey Peeps—

Today when I was at Target, for my daily Target run, I had an unpleasant realization.  Right as I was reaching for the Prilosec for Billy, and Tums for me, BOOM, it hit: we have officially reached the category called: “middle age”.  Instead of going home and crying about it, I stopped at Panera and bought a cherry pastry, AND a cinnamon crunch bagel with crème cheese.  I proceeded to eat them both in a 10 minute span of time, and when I was done, I concluded: eating my feelings tastes better than feeling them. 

The fact that I am finally admitting we are middle age may seem ridiculous to some, I mean c’mon, Billy will be 50 in 2018.  We’ve been checking the “middle age” box on all the forms for longer than I want to admit.  I think having a 5 year old has helped me to live in my previous state of denial.  Sometimes I even think I can relate to all the other mom’s of 5 year olds.  When I approach them awkwardly as we wait for the children to be let out of kindergarten, I realize 2 things immediately: 1. I am not wearing yoga pants with Uggs, and 2. I am probably the only one wearing cotton underwear that actually covers my butt. 

Thankfully we have teenagers to help us feel young and hip.  Just the other day Faith commented “that is so tumbler mom”.  Naturally I agreed with her that whatever IT was, was actually “super tumbler”.  She laughed and tried to explain it to me, so I shushed her and said I already knew what all the cool lingo means, no need to try and help me out.  Later, when she was gone, I googled the word.  I knew it was some kind of social media thing, but when I looked deeper, I saw that there wasn’t even a definition for it on any of the slang sites.  The takeaway is this: if you want to appear cool, make up words and use them with confidence. 

Speaking of teenagers, wow, they sure eat a lot.  Not to mention they need money at every turn, and also give really good dirty looks.   I wonder if anyone has written any good books on how to help teens eat less, work more, and speak nicely to their parents.  That would be a book I would read.  My sister and I have a phrase that we text each other from time to time that reads, “parenting is so easy”.  We know that if we receive that text, it means there has been some sort of hard conversation had, a dirty look given, or someone had to be bailed out of jail. 

Actually, in all honesty, this is an amazing phase of life, and I love getting to experience having teenagers.  Dinner conversations are lively, opinions are interesting, and the worldview our kids are developing is unique.  Billy and I love talking to the kids about what they are struggling with, or how they see God working in their life.  We laugh at the same dumb stuff, and we find that being honest and real is opening doors to conversations we never knew we would get to have with our kids.  We have hard days too, where hormones are flying and everyone is grumpy.  Those times make me miss the days where all they did was follow me into the bathroom so I never had any time alone. 

Recently I announced to my 2 eldest children, Jack and Faith, that I was no longer going to be their laundry-go-to girl.  Furthermore, I told them they are now completely responsible for their clean clothes from hanger to hanger and every step in between.  It was either this, or I continue to feel used and frustrated.  This information came particularly hard for Jack, my first born, as he prefers being served.  Tonight we will have a few educational moments with the washer and dryer as I explain how they are to be used.  I’m almost giddy with excitement. 

As usual, Billy and I are learning as we go, and this season of life has been very educational.  We are learning to give space to our kids when we don’t agree.  We are learning to let them make their own choices and be there to help them up when they fall down.  We are learning to listen better and say sorry when they tell us we have hurt them.  We are learning to hug them even when they are a foot taller than we are and it seems like they don’t want a hug.  We are learning that their personalities are still in process, just like ours are too. 

For now, all the big kids are still out doing their thing: working, volleyball, youth group.  The house isn’t empty though, and Zoe reminds me that she is ready for me to read her a book.  The age gap is wide, between her and her big siblings, and some days it makes me tired to think about the big picture.   But this is not the time to start worrying about how old I’ll be when she graduates.  For now, we will read about giving a mouse a cookie, sit in Grandma Ruby’s rocker, cuddle, and listen to “Jesus Loves Me”.   Then its time for hugs and prayers.  And may the peace of God cover us all. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Florida before the hurricane

Hey Peeps—

September has arrived, and I hope you spent your Labor Day not laboring.  Unless you were giving birth, than I do hope you labored well.  Billy and I spent our Labor Day flying all over the United States, from Florida, up the East Coast, and then across the country to home sweet home, Colorado. 

Being gone for 5 days means coming home to about 7 million loads of laundry, among other tasks.  I have been playing catch up all morning, restocking the fridge, and running errands.  I have paid bills and caught up on emails, work, and other responsibilities.  Adulting is so hard.  Two of the four children also needed to be reminded to bathe, after all, they had a long weekend too, and Aunt Laura was less than worried about their personal hygiene.  Re-entry back into the real world is not glamorous. 

Last spring I went to Haiti on a medical mission trip.  I was pretty sure I would die,  so when I arrived home alive, I was pleasantly surprised.  I decided I needed to travel again in order to keep up my momentum of not dying when I travel.  After Haiti, where I worked my butt off, I decided the next trip needed to be one of leisure and one without children.  Billy was on board before I could finish, “Hey you wanna go somewhere without the kids?”

We chose Florida, because trip advisor told us they had one of the top 10 beaches in the world.  I’m a sucker for a top 10. 

Now I know what you are thinking, “this is going to be a big fat braggy column about her travels to fancy Florida”.  But before you get mad at me for writing about my sweet weekend, just know this is a rare event for Billy and I to travel.  The last time we got away from our kids for a few days was 10 years ago.  We’ve been married 21 years.  You do the math.  This was uncommon for both of us, and more than once, we looked around wondering how we lost our kids so easily. 

Once we realized we didn’t have the kids with us, and the screaming baby on the plane was not ours to appease, we relaxed and enjoyed the ride.  Except that I hate to fly, so I didn’t really enjoy it, but more endured it.   I knew that plane, if we didn’t go down in a burning ball of fire, would take me to one of the prettiest places (or top 10 anyway) on earth.  Once on the ground, Billy did his thing, and ubered us a ride. 

Clearwater Beach is literally amazing.  The sand is white and smooth like the flour I use to make chocolate chip cookies.  The water was warm like a summer bath, and the sky was expansive and blue, with clouds that rolled and gathered, and changed by the minute.  I planted myself down and didn’t move for the following 3 days. 

Okay, that’s not completely true, I did move a few times.  A girl has to eat, am I right?  Our good friends Randy and Sara told us all the places we needed to eat, and we set out to at least try a few of them.  Grouper sandwich from Frenchies—check! Mahi Mahi tacos from Pearlies—check!  I was in heaven, trying new foods, the kind of fish you can’t get fresh here in our beloved state.  We talked over meals and took our time.  Billy enlightened me on the music of Bob Marley, and how his beer tasted of carmel and chocolate.   What a treat, to eat dinner with no agenda, no timeline, and to be with the one I married 21 years ago.

The time on the beach was our most favorite.  On the first day there, a pod of 6 manatees came swimming by us and beached themselves up on the shore.  They lay in the splashing waves for several hours, and Billy ran around them like a child at Christmas.  Have you ever seen God show off, and know it was specifically for you?  That’s what those manatees were for Billy, God’s gift.   Before the Aquarium people came to guard them, Billy even touched one of them.  He was yelled at by a lifeguard, but he says it was completely worth it.  Now he won’t shut up about his “manatee hand”.  We saw stingrays jumping above the waves, dolphins swimming not far from where we were, and hundreds of clams digging themselves in the sand. 

And the sunsets, oh man the sunsets.  I have never seen anything so beautiful.  Each night was a show, full of color and tone filling the entire sky.   Walking away from that sunset on our last night brought me to tears.  What a blessing to have witnessed such creation, and such a gift to share with someone I love. 

For a few days we were given the gift to focus on peace and the good gifts we have been given.  Our return home is full of joy because of the faces of our kids, knowing we have been given a clear purpose in raising 4 people to love God and love others.  We jump back into the fray of life with satisfaction in knowing the challenge to raise kids in our culture is more than just hard at times.  We are thankful for a few days to step away from it all, refresh ourselves in the space between us, and gear up for what is to come.  Above all, we thank God that we are never alone, and He is the one who gives us everything we need for life on earth.  He makes sunsets and manatees, and beauty in the mire. He holds our hands, pours water on fire, and dries the floods.  He settles our hearts and eases pain, all we have to do is look for Him.  I saw Him in Florida, and I see Him here today.  He is a good, good Father. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The first first day, and the Last first day.

Hey Peeps,

There’s nothing like this time of year.  Each August I think I have prepared myself for the back to school frenzy, and then boom, I have spent  $4739.00 on paper, pens, new shoes, and fancy calculators, because, “Mom there is no way we can share the other one”.  My mourning over the outrageous financial setback is only replaced by extreme disgruntlement at trying to get my kids to smile for the “first day” pictures on the front porch.  And just like that, they are gone.  House quiet.  Empty.  Lonely.   

This “first day” brings a day of giant changes and new beginnings.  For the first time since 2005, I am home alone part of the day with all of my children in school.   I’m no mathematician, but that seems like a lot of years I have spent in the presence of my children.  Don’t get me wrong, I would not change the past for anything.  Raising my kids is and will always be my greatest joy, and the best gift I have ever been given.  But I would be lying if I did not admit that I am ready for a year of some downtime.  A little R & R.  Some “me time”.  Walking around the house singing out loud just because I can. 

Yesterday, after our first morning rush, pictures, and everyone off to their place, respectively from 12th down to Kindergarten, I sat down on my couch.  This lasted for about 2 seconds before the quiet creepy empty house freaked me out.   Even the giant 100 lb dog couldn’t fill the void.  I jumped on my bike, and took my time.  I couldn’t help but remember when I bought that old bike, for $50.00 from a garage sale.  For YEARS I had a bike trailer attached to that bike, and all 4 kids at different times was pulled behind me, sometimes 2 kids at a time.   Now that old bike only carries me. 

By the time everyone arrived home and in their place, life felt normal again.  The older 3 kids, all in high school and jr. high did the usual, “it was fine” and barely gave any other details, which happens to kill their mom who is a detailed kind of girl.  Lucky for me, Zoe recapped every single thing that happened in Kindergarten, from Mrs. Ryberg telling them it is “important to keep your tongues in your mouth” to how many times she (Zoe, not Mrs. Ryberg)  used the potty.  (4X) She recounted how she sits at the “allergy table” because she has to, and how her new friend has a hard name to say. 

The best news of the day was that Faith made the volleyball team for her school and she is very happy to represent!  We are so proud of her hard work, attitude, and skills.  I am so excited to watch her play! 

The worst news of the day was that Billy’s recent stomachache is still “very active”. 

Billy texted me during the day to ask how everything was going, and all I could say was, “I want a re-do”.  You know how everyone says to enjoy your kids because it flies by?  Well, they weren’t lying.   It did fly by, and now I’m looking at my son, a senior in high school and all I want is a re-do.  I don’t want to think about college applications or the FAFSA.  I want to take him back to that first day with Mrs.  Ryberg, hold his hand, and watch him for a few more minutes before I have to go.  I want to go back to when all my children were home all day, and the biggest decision I had to make was whether or not to serve mac and cheese or chicken nuggets for lunch.  I want our 1:00 nap time where we cuddled and played quietly, and no one bugged mom, for a little while.  I want front yard picnics, and walks to the park.   I want little hands holding mine, instead of a cell phone.  More than anything I wish I could go back.  Even if for just a few minutes. 

And then I see Zoe, in her 5 year old little body, taking me back to the simpler days.  What an amazing gift she is, that I don’t always appreciate, to have a little one still.   One that helps me remember what it is to love the simple things in life, and to find joy in nothing more than a butterfly to chase across the yard.  She has been and is a surprise, daily.   

This family of 6 continues to grow, change, adapt, resist, all of the above.  Our stuff is no different than any other family out there.  Some days are great, and some days we’d rather forget about forever.  The one way we are different, at least we hope to be anyway, is the way we depend on God to sustain us through it all.  He holds our hands, much like Billy held Zoe’s on Day 1.  He looks at us with such love, we can not fathom the depths this love will go.  Parenthood is a taste of this love, this devotion, this relationship the Father has with us.  And as our kids go on to do great things, we pray they never let go of His hands.    He is a good, good, Father. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Milestones and memory making

Hey Peeps---

This very morning I sat at the kitchen table with my son Will, and my husband Billy, and listened to the two of them in deep conversation.   They are basically the same person, except Will has yet to develop his father’s calf structures.  I give it a year or two, before the boy has fully morphed into his dad.   Anyway, the two of them were discussing what it would take for a vomiting incident to register on the Richter scale.  They also discussed fracking, and something about scientific measurements.  I try really hard to not miss the little moments of my kids’ lives, but honestly, I wish I had those 20 minutes back.  

Some might think that having a summer full of mornings around the kitchen table and staycations might turn out to be boring or worse yet, unworthy to write about here.  However, this is not so.  In fact, I have tried to sit down many times and describe all the great things we have to do here in our beautiful state, but there are always about 17 children at my side, and at least one giant dog.  I. am. never. alone. 

For the record, we are having a great summer.  We have enjoyed Boulder Resevoir, The Bay, Marshall Mesa, the bike path along Hwy 36 and a variety of other outings in this great town.   My kids are learning to appreciate the park in our neighborhood again, like they did when they were younger, and they meet up with friends at least once a week.   We eat out back all the time, and sit around the fire pit in the dark and enjoy warming our feet after a long day.  Life is good.  And it is moving along way too quickly.  I cannot even begin to explain how badly I would like to stop the clock. 

A few days ago Billy and I accompanied our beautiful friend Danielle to Marshall Mesa to watch her take pictures of our son Jack, who happens to be heading into his senior year in a few weeks.  Jack was annoyed his mom and dad had to tag along to an already “dumb” event, but I told him, “Jack, this is the kind of crap parent’s look forward to your whole life”. 

We met up at sunset and walked a trail we’ve hiked with our family too many times to count.  The setting was gorgeous and Danielle was able to make Jack look like he was happy to be there.  When he started to get grumpy, I began to re-tell Jack’s “birth story”.  He didn’t exactly LOVE that, but he did laugh, and we all enjoyed the sweet moments caught on camera.  This was the kind of evening that I will cherish in the depths of my heart forever.  Except the part where he wore a Star Wars tee shirt for several pictures.   That, I’d like to erase. 

The year ahead will be full of milestones such as Jack’s senior pictures.  He is our firstborn and an ever constant reminder of God’s grace on Billy and I.  Just this morning we were having a difficult conversation about a miscommunication and I had to remind Jack that we never had a 17 year old before and we need some room to make mistakes and figure this whole thing out together.  I think he seemed a little surprised at my honesty, but in the end he was relieved that we don’t try and fake our way through parenthood but take the “we are giant messes” approach. 

In a month, Jack will wrap up his college visits and his summer job will come to an end.  We will close the door on this, his final summer as a school boy, and face the reality that adulthood is around the corner.  The saving grace of all this is Jack remains young at heart, innocent, and always the kind of kid who isn’t afraid to say I love you. 

Words don’t do justice to explain the gratitude I feel for being chosen to be a mom to this kid, as well as his siblings.  18 years ago, I was pregnant with Jack, walking around France, wondering what lay ahead in life and how parenthood would change Billy and I.  Nothing could prepare me for what joys we have experienced, what lessons we have learned, and what love we have been given.  We are nowhere close to being done raising kids, as the youngest is 5, but boy the ride has been something so far.

Matthew 6: 34 says, “So then don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself.  Today has enough trouble of its own”.

We have just about one month left to run through the sprinklers, and go get Sonic Slushies.  One month left to find a new hike and go to Water World.  One month before I have to buy 4 pairs of shoes—one for each child, as this is the first year, and the last, that they will all be in school at the same time.  While soon, I may have more time on my hands, my heart will long for the days when we woke up when we wanted, took our time, and didn’t care about grades, tests, entrance exams, and the opposite sex.  Growing up is good, and the road ahead will be sweet.  Today we cling to what we have, for all we have is today.  And today is full, abounding, richly lavished in God’s goodness.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Photo Shoot for Moms!

Hey Peeps—

At least six weeks have passed since the last time I sat down to write.  I just completed 5 weeks of full time work, training for a new job.  My brain is literally about to explode.  In the past several weeks, milestones and life changes have occurred under our little roof.  Flowers have bloomed and the Will’s strawberry plants have produced fruit.  The kids were introduced to Young Frankenstein and we froze our butts off camping over the 3 day weekend.  Life went into hyper drive and finally today, time is starting to slow down.   

For starters, Billy and I both began new jobs this May.  We both also turned a year older but still feel like a couple of young kids, who happen to have a mortgage, four mouths to feed and we are thinking about paying for college in our very near future.  Zoe graduated from preschool, and Will graduated from 6th grade.  Faith left Junior high behind (with joy) and Jack continues to blaze through high school at a speed I am NOT okay with. 

The fun doesn’t stop there.  Billy joined a gym.  I on the other hand, have worked so much in the last month my flat butt is now dragging 3 feet behind me everywhere I go.  I have not shaved my legs in weeks, however I have made time to paint my toenails.  It’s all about priorities, is it not?  And to top off the sweet, insanely busy, changes-around-every-corner month, I spent the last night of May with 5 other amazing moms getting our pictures taken. 

I’m not typically invited to “photo shoots”, even though I obviously missed my calling in the arts and humanities.  However, my sweet friend Christy won a night with Heidi Howard, an amazing photographer from Superior, and invited all her mom friends who have adopted children.  What a gift to give 5 moms who are busy, not always told “thank you” by our children, and mostly wear pants with elastic waist bands.  I made sure to brag about the “photo shoot” in front of my kids every chance I had. 

“Oh sorry you guys, I won’t be able to hang out with you guys tonight since I’ll be at my “PHOTO SHOOT” getting PAMPERED.” And, “Hey you guys, what outfit do you think make my butt look less flat for my PHOTO SHOOT?”  The boys and Zoe naturally tuned me out the minute I said, “Hey guys”, but Faith looked at me with a combination of surprise, jealousy, and disdain, all in one startling glance.   I continued to brag, as I knew this was probably my first, and last, official photo shoot.  In 45 wonderful years I have learned this:  one must take full advantage of what life hands you. 

The night turned out to be one I will always remember with joy and tenderness.  There were 6 of us moms, and most of us were strangers to the group.  You would not know that we had met just minutes before, the way we connected and shared our different stories with each other.  Within minutes, tears were flowing, and hearts were united with the ability to relate on a level that few can understand.  Parenting children who come into our lives with their own stories of despair, abuse, abandonment, and hurts is not an easy task.   No matter how much love is showered on a child, their pain is never magically erased.  Being able to talk with other moms who have walked a similar road filled me with hope and renewal. 

The thing that touched my heart the most was being able to admit my imperfections as a mom with others, talking about our lowest moments with these amazing little people God has graced us with, and being able to encourage each other that their story is not yet written.  We reminded one another of the way God can redeem any situation, any person, any family, any past, and that apart from Him, we really have nothing. 

We laughed as we smiled for the cameras, feeling light and free, enjoying a night off from the reality that we all share.  Motherhood is the most rewarding job on earth, but sometimes a night away is necessary.  Being with these other women was a gift, and I learned that the road I am walking is full of other moms doing their best too. Turns out I’m not the only one going to bed defeated and sad, and waking up covered in new mercy.  

Summer is here.  The days will be full of adventure, sunshine, lazy afternoons, and being together.  There will be popsicles and I will yell that someone dripped on the floor.  Kids will say “I’m bored” and I will give them a chore to help them remember it’s best to not complain.  They might want to hang out with friends instead of me, and I’ll reluctantly drive them to their friend’s house, and maybe even cry a little as I drive home alone.  I will cherish the moments we have and pray for them when they aren’t in my little nest.  No matter their journey, these 4 kids are mine.   There is no place on this earth that I’d rather be.  Not even a photo shoot. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

No long underwear in Haiti

Hey Peeps—

I may have spoken too soon a few weeks ago when I boldly pronounced “my long johns are nicely tucked away in the drawer, not be worn again until Fall” or something ridiculous like that.  I know it’s almost May, but I’m freezing.   And yes, I know the weather may change in the next 5 minutes, so even though I am going to don the long underwear, I’ll be sure to keep my attire simple in case I need to start stripping off the layers.   I’m a native of this lovely state so the weather switch-a-roo doesn’t surprise me, nor does it annoy me.  Unless it’s wind.  Everyone hates wind.  Poor Wyoming.  At least they have Old Faithful. 

I’ll tell you there is a place on this earth that you won’t ever need long underwear.  Not even wool socks.  I wouldn’t have believed it unless I’d been there myself.  But it’s the gospel truth.  Haiti.  The country is amazing, beautiful, desperate.  And very, very hot. 

The climate of Haiti took my breath away.  Literally.  The second I walked out of the airport in Port au Prince, I felt a weight on my chest, as if I couldn’t breathe.  Everyone tells me that was the humidity.  For this born and raised Colorado girl, humidity is something my body does not recognize.  Twenty minutes later we were riding in an open air truck, through the heat, and I was thankful for 2 things: 1. The slight breeze, and 2. That I had removed my second pair of  leggings in Florida and was only wearing one layer of yoga pants. 

For the following 6 days my life was dynamically changed.  I was uncomfortable, scared, alone, unworthy, and wrecked.  For each negative feeling I experienced, the opposite emotion flooded my heart.  I was filled with faith, joy, comfort, peace, and hope. 

My trip to Haiti was with an organization called Haiti Lifeline Ministries.  I was one of several medically inclined folks who spent 6 days at an orphanage providing medical care to the kids at the orphanage, as well as in the community.  Each day  people in the community began lining up early in the morning.  Sadly, there was still a line at the end of the day, when we had to wrap up and stop.   I saw so many broken and hurting people.  Most people had skin infections, stomach pain, high blood pressure, to name a few of the illnesses we treated.   

In each room, every provider had a translator.  I was happy to have two different girls that lived at the orphanage to help me.  One was Gretchen, and one was Edna.  They were both about 17, and their English was amazing compared to my Creole.  By the end of 4 days, I loved these girls and not surprisingly, wanted to bring them home.   I offered my son Jack to Edna for a husband, and she declined.  Too bad for Jack, because marrying someone who is bilingual is always a plus. 

There were many highs and lows during this trip.  Knowing there were tarantulas hiding in the ground where we were staying was a low.   Mice in our guest house was a low.  Eating spam was a low at first, but I was so hungry, it actually turned into a high.   Who knew?!?!

In all seriousness, the lowest points are hard to even put down on paper.  My head and my eyes knew what I would see, but once I was there, my heart was unprepared.  Even after 4 days of seeing patients, I felt inadequate and questioned my purpose.  We were such a small help, it left me wondering if we did more harm than good.  As Americans, we often go with good intentions, to countries like Haiti, but in the end are we hindering them more than benefiting?  I had to honestly ask so many questions like this as we offered our services.   I’ve been home two weeks, and these questions still roll around in my head. 

The one thing I do know, and thank God for, is that my faith grew as I experienced God’s presence those days in Haiti.  The absolute best part of this trip was on our last day when we saw close to 100 patients in a church out in the country.  After each patient encounter, Edna would ask, “Can we pray for you?” Every single person said “yes”.  These were the moments there was no language barrier.  In English, I prayed aloud, that God would bless the person sitting before me, and that God would heal him/her.  And that if they had not experienced His love, that please God, show Yourself to them today.  I never got through my prayers without tears.  This was by far the best part of my trip to Haiti.  Praying words of life, even if they didn’t understand them, was a gift I was blessed to give. 

Coming home was better than Christmas.  My whole family was there to greet me, and the smiles on their faces filled me with the happiest joy!   I am beyond thankful to have had this experience in Haiti.  Many folks have asked if I will go back.  Who knows?  Maybe.  But I do know there is work to be done here too.  If you look outside of yourself, you will see the needs are real, and much closer than you might be comfortable to admit.  And if all you can do is pray, then pray.  There is no better gift than to bring a name directly to the heart of God.  Sometimes it takes traveling across the ocean to learn this lesson.  God loves Haiti, and God is good. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring Break in Haiti!

Hey Peeps—

Spring is in the air, flowers are already busting through the dirt, and I am wearing shorts.  I feel like I have arrived early for an event that isn’t supposed to happen for at least another month.  My long underwear sits in the drawer, unworn, and the task to “shave legs” is no longer an option I can put off till May.  Spring is here people.  Embrace it!

Good old Jefferson County schools will be spring breaking in a few days, much to my children’s joy.  Mine too.  We love Spring Break.   And how fitting that this year’s first day of Spring Break is going to be “possibly the wettest day since May 2016”? I love Colorado. 

We don’t do much during Spring Break at our house.    Lazy mornings, baking cookies, hanging with friends—nothing fancy, but completely satisfying.   I plan on enjoying this break more than I ever.  Every day will count and every moment will matter to me.  Lord willing, on the last day of my kid’s break, I will say my quick goodbye’s, give hugs and kisses, and head to DIA for an 8 day Medical Mission trip to the country of Haiti. 

Why Haiti?  Well, I’m glad you asked!

Last summer I met a new friend who has taken multiple trips with an organization called Haiti Lifeline Ministries.   They support medical staff, construction crews, and youth groups that take trips each year to this impoverished part of the world.  While we are in Haiti, our team will live at an orphanage run by a Haitian Christian woman and her staff.  There are kids of all ages who live at this orphanage, some of whom will be adopted into a family, and some that never will. 

Our trip consists of a team of medical and administrative staff.  Because I’ve never been before, I have no idea what to expect.  I suppose I should take my stethoscope, and maybe some Neosporin.  I was told to bring 4 sets of scrubs, and be ready to sweat.  Growing up in the church, I have gone on many mission trips, but never to a country such as Haiti.  Even more, I have never gone as a Registered Nurse!  

The other day in church, my dear friend Christy described Haiti as having a “fourth world” kind of poverty.  I have read several books and talked for many hours with Christy, but I know none of that is going to fully prepare me for what I am about to witness. 

I am beyond certain my heart is going to break.

Billy has been completely supportive of this trip.  He has told me from the moment I said the word “Haiti” to go.  Sometimes I wish he wasn’t so easy.  As the days get closer and the countdown is on, I have asked him “why don’t you ever tell me no?”  He laughs.  Out loud.  This annoys me to no end. 

Lucky for Billy the only real issue he is going to have while I’m gone is remembering to turn off the oven once dinner has been made, and to pick Will up from school at 3:15 every day.  Once I figure out the time change, I’ll probably text him regularly to remind him of his daily tasks.  Some might call this “micromanagement”, or “extremely controlling”.  And unfortunately for me, they would be right. 

Christy and I have met on a weekly basis now for months.   We have prayed desperately that we would be used by God to serve these people, not so that we come home feeling good about ourselves, but because it is a way we can honor God.  Loving the poor and healing the sick—these are two things Jesus exemplified during His time on earth.  What an immense privilege it is to go where there is a need and follow Jesus’ leading. 

I look forward to going and I look forward to coming home.  My family is my purpose, my ministry, and my favorite place to be.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to go and when it’s time to leave, I will be thankful to come home.  I’m sure this week away is going to cut me to my core, and my prayer is that I will allow the eye opening experience to transform my life.  How amazing would it be if this trip helped me to love others better, give of myself more generously, and live with wild abandon?  What a shame it would be if I came home exactly the same as when I left.

So I go to serve, learn, love, and be transformed.  None of this is out of my own power, but that which comes from a God who fills me daily.  For this trip I claim the verse in Isaiah 52:7, “ How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peach, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God reigns!”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lessons from a Will

Hey Peeps—

If I go into a sugar coma and die, please know I died a happy woman.  The lemon supreme pie from Village Inn was an amazing way to go, considering there are a ton of other really hideous ways to leave this earth. 

Oddly enough, that very topic came up at lunch today as I sat with three 12 year old boys at Qdoba.  I don’t normally eat lunch with a gaggle of 12 year old boys, nor do I normally discuss my preferred method of  dying, however, today is Will’s birthday, and you just never know what might be the topic of discussion with his buddies.  After a few morbid minutes of appalling visuals, I mediated the conversation on to “exotic pets”.  This went much better than I had hoped, although I need to be very cautious of letting Will near the internet with my credit card. 

As I mentioned, today is a special day in the Repenning house.  On this day, 12 years ago, Will entered the world, and I will never be the same.  The day began like any other, except that I was ginormously pregnant and I fell in the shower.   While he was not immediately hurt from his pre-birth fall, I do believe that tumble ensured him to go on and live a life of complete clumsiness.  Not a day goes by that Will does not scream out in pain from a fall, stubbed toe, or various other bodily injury.  We’ve learned it’s best to let the pain subside before getting too close or offering words of any kind.

Soon after I fell in the shower, I was back up and playing soccer in the backyard  with Jack and Faith who were 5 and almost 2 at the time.  I noticed a shooting pain as I waddled around and mentioned to Billy it was time.  A few hours later Will entered the world and the first thing the nurse said was, “Wow, he has huge ankles”.  My mother’s intuition knew at that moment he would not only have his dad’s name, he would follow in Billy’s footsteps physically, emotionally, and in every other way possible right down to bone structure. 

Will is humble and kind about almost everything, except his hair.  He struggles with pride when it comes to his hair.  It is long, blonde, and falls just right.  Sometimes when he catches his reflection, he will say, “Oh guy, my hair looks so good right now”.  And he genuinely means it.  In every other way, Will emulates humility and goodness.  We all have our stuff though, am I right? 

I learn so much from being a mom to a person who makes me work for a laugh.  Will’s not into the typical potty humor I can use on Jack.  For example, when I say, “Jack we don’t play with balls in the house” (awkward pause) and then both of us crack up like 12 year old boys on the playground might.  Will just looks at us shamefully and shrugs his shoulders as if to say, “idiots”.  Will’s humor, like everything else, comes from his father.  He finds joy in telling a riddle that takes 30 minutes to get through while I secretly and publically would rather have my ears cleaned by a rhesus monkey.  Thankfully, Billy also enjoys riddles, so the two of them have their alone time each day to share this joy while I don’t have to be around. 

Being Will’s mom also teaches me about patience.  He is the real deal when it comes to explaining something scientific.  I get simple concepts like mass and gravity, but Will likes to take ideas to a much deeper level.  He take concepts that don’t even sound real such as dark matter or kinetic energy and explains them to me.   I think he likes to talk about deep things, but I believe he thinks the new knowledge will help me be a more well rounded person.  I may not learn much from our talks, but more than anything I learn to be patient.  He teaches me to sit and be still.  He teaches me to listen.  He teaches me to appreciate his brain and how amazing it is that he sees everything so differently than I do.  He teaches me that the world is so interesting.  Did you know the universe is constantly expanding?  Well I do, thanks to Will. 

Eight years ago I was taking prerequisite classes to go to Nursing School.   Will would sit in my lap and watch the on line tutorials with me for hours.  He’d yell “ATP! ATP!  Mitochondria!!!”.  And I would learn while he sat in my lap.   Will inspired me to become so much more than I ever thought possible.  Because he sat in my lap and was so excited to learn, I became excited to learn.  Because he valued knowledge, I began to value it too.  Will motivates me daily to open my eyes and stretch my brain, my heart, my grace, and my love for others. 

Will is 12 and the clock continues ticking.  The biggest surprise of my life continues to grow, challenge, and surprise me daily.  My prayer for Will is to never stop seeing God in all that you learn.  Listen to God as He leads you down paths that you didn’t know existed.  Remember that simple isn’t bad.  And always remember you are never alone.  Love you Will.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Little old ladies don't lie.

Hey Peeps—

Other than a giant white ball of Great Pyranees puppy snoring next to me, my house is quiet.  This is rare.    Jack and Faith are at youth group, and as much as I may regret my decision, I sent Billy and Will to Target for groceries.  Sending them together is never wise.  They are sure to come home with the following items that are not on the list:  candy, camping gear, televisions, and mentos+2 liter bottles of coke.  Sometimes you have to risk the family budget if it means you might get 30 minutes of quiet. 

A quiet house ranks very high on my list called, “The things I need most”.  Incidentally, a few other things that make the top 5 are:  1.face crème that erases lines, 2. A nanny/housekeeper, and 3. A bra that fits correctly.   Above all, a quiet house is gold to this mom, who is weary, discouraged, apprehensive, and longs for the days when our biggest battle was bathing all the children in one day without anyone pooping in the bathtub.   

Back when I was raising children under 10 years old, I used to think “man, this is so hard.   I’m always running around cleaning things up, and these kids are always sticky”.  I remember passing people in the grocery store, particularly little old ladies, who would say, “enjoy it now, it only gets harder” or “just wait until they are teenagers”.  I wanted to slap those ladies. 

Seriously.  What good does that do for a young mother to hear advice that is only making her feel like she’s not appreciating her children, and all she has to look forward to is watching them transform into demon spawn when they turn 13?  No wonder I went through my “Dreyers” phase during the early 2000’s.  Ice cream was the only way to cope.  Kinda still is.

As it turns out, the little old ladies were spot on.  This annoys me greatly.  Teenagers are…how can I say this without offending my children…well, they are unpredictable.  We currently have 2 kids who are full on teens, one who is a tween, and finally our almost 5 year old who speaks to me as if she is also living her teen years out now.  This giant combination of hormonal, moody, distracted, funny people make for quite a show.  Every day. 

Two weeks ago we went to a meeting with Jack, who is starting to face the process of applying for college.  During the meeting, while the speaker was listing all the tasks that lay before these 17 year olds, I noticed his pupils were dilated.  By the time we got home, he’d moved into full on panic and was barely able to fill out the online application for the ACT test.  Billy and I spoke to him in calm and soothing tones.  We reminded him he could go to Community College down the street.  We offered to make him popcorn.  We sat and supported him.  On the inside, we both felt even more distressed than he did. 

Billy and I keep looking at ourselves and wondering aloud, “How is it that we have raised a child that is looking into colleges?”  He was just buying a lego set at Target with his birthday money LITERALLY two weeks ago.  He doesn’t know how to do his own laundry.  He never puts his clothes on the hangers the right way.  He never remembers to use his inhaler, and he complains that he has to take a vitamin every day.  How is he going to survive AT COLLEGE?  This is a valid question people. 

As these questions remain on my mind, I begin to see Jack through new eyes.  The eyes of a mom who has to start letting him go.  The other day, I made the mistake of watching a dad and his young daughter sing, “You’ve got a friend in me” on a social media site and I began to bawl.  I texted Jack immediately while he was in class and said, “You may never leave home.  I will not allow it”.  He replied, “lol”. 

I have been talking big about letting my children go from Day 1.  None of this is surprising.   What does surprise me is that when the time comes to move on, Jack will be ready.   How do I say this with such confidence, after all my aforementioned concerns?  I know Jack will be ready to move on because Jack knows WHO he is.  He is a 17 year old person who knows his convictions, he knows his fears, and he lives with integrity.  He is becoming a man, right before our eyes.  That tiny, quiet, dark headed little newborn baby boy is over 6 feet tall, hilarious, skinny as a rail, and has already made this world a better place, just by being alive.  What a gift he continues to be.  Thank you God, for blessing us with a house full of life, challenges, joy, and 4 children who have made us who we are.  God is so good.