Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Stuff That Keeps Us Going

My dear friend Jess is flying over the ocean right now. She and her husband are bringing their third child home. She has most graciously included me on each one of their adoption journeys. Reading her blog updates from China these passed two weeks has been so inspiring, and so humbling. Who am I to be included? How do I deserve to be privy to these precious first pictures? I feel as though I have witnessed something sacred, and I have.




For twenty-five years she has included me.




As different from me as night and day.




Knit to my soul. Forever.










My sister, Fran, celebrated her fortieth birthday last week. Her sweet husband tried to include me on the birthday surprise. Apparently, it has been her life long dream to have a huge collection of throw pillows. He asked me to send her a pillow or two. I wanted to. I tried, I really tried. I looked and looked and then I froze. Because, I wanted the pillow to be perfect and extra special. I wanted it to symbolize just how grateful I am for her friendship. She isn't just my sister, she's the second half of my brain. She is the best.




I never did pick out a pillow.




Instead, I showed up at her house at midnight, with my husband, my kids and one of my dogs. Happy Birthday!










Today I called a friend that has recently moved away. She isn't someone that I have known for too long, but somehow the roots go deep. Perhaps it's because we share some of the same heartaches... It was so good to hear her voice. We laughed and we cried, because isn't that the ingredients for a really good phone call?




Together, she and I would make the perfect wife. I could cook, she could clean....I'm pretty sure our temperaments would compliment each other.




Although, she's thinner than me....so that might be a deal breaker.










The other night I got a text from a friend that I rarely see anymore. It was a picture of her oldest son, all dressed and ready for the homecoming dance. That boy had his first ever sleep-over at my house when he was seven.....AND HE DID NOT SLEEP OVER! He was still awake at 2:00, at 3:00, at 4:00....etc. I was knocking on her door at 8:00 the next morning.....




It's a shame that I have let months go by without a call or text.




Does she have any idea how much she means to me?










My life has been richly blessed with wonderful friendships. Some that have remained despite the distance or our differences. I rarely have the luxury of a "girls night"....or weekends away. In fact, this summer when I finally made it up north to see a friend, our only time alone together was when we snuck off to Target to get a pair of shoes. But I know this to be fact, true and honest friendship offers hope and renewal.....in a blog post, a chaotic meal, a mid-day phone call, or even a short text message.






Sometimes I wish I had a backdoor neighbor, like we had in seminary. My friend Hope and I used to swap recipes and watch babies while sitting on a little porch stoop. It was awesome to tap on her door and borrow sugar or an egg....I miss that. But I could call her right now and completely forget that it's been thirteen years ago.






Just a few weeks ago, we found ourselves at the table of friends not once but twice in the same week... They live across the river....the right side of the river, where there is shopping and veterinarians. I have to be honest and say that it's unusual for our family to be invited over for dinner AT ALL....and in their home we enjoyed sweet fellowship and really good coffee.




Friendship is the stuff that keeps us going.




It's the beginning. And it's the end.




It is my prayer that my children would experience this same gift. That they will be a friend.


Always a friend.













Monday, October 14, 2013

You're Not My Friend

"You're in a Facebook fight, aren't you Mom?"

"No. I am not."

"Yes you are! I can tell by how fast you're typing and your face looks mad."

The kid knows his mama. And I'm not too proud of myself right now.

For all the time and attention that I have devoted to Facebook you'd think I'd have more to show for it. You'd think me and FB would be great "friends". Instead I'm stuck in this horrible cycle where I delete my entire account in disgust only to log back on a few hours later... I need FB and I hate FB all at the same time. I have a problem.

I don't enjoy the void. You know, the what-do-I--do-with-this-blasted-smartphone-now void.

I miss the pictures of my cousin's sweet babies, and the terrific blogs my friends share, and the coupon alerts, and the recipes, and the homeschooling tips and pretty much knowing what's going on in everybody else's world....

While I'm only vaguely aware of what's going on in mine.

It's. Way. Past. Time. To. Quit.

I know it. I have to stop justifying it.

I see myself slipping into the ugly side of Facebook. Let me be honest, I'm already six feet under the ugly side. I've been cropping out laundry and dirty dishes for years, posting my highlights and thoughtful insights, all the while neglecting to share statuses like:

I checked FB this morning before the kids got up and didn't get off for more than hour. It's way past breakfast and nobody has eaten. #momoftheyear

On a hot date with husband but I'm more interested in sneaking a peak at FB. #moretruththanfiction

God has been moving in an amazing way within our family. The top of my blog reads, Living the life of our dreams.... and recently we have seen so much of that unfolding. We have had three precious children in our home through foster care respite. Each one of them unique and full of promise. Each one of them a survivor, in the truest sense. Last night I rocked a sweet baby boy to sleep for the fourth night in a row and I just sobbed. It's all so overwhelming. We have been respite for two different foster families and let me tell you, these parents are really super-heroes in street clothes. They haven't just opened their homes, they've given away their hearts. I feel honored to serve them.

So, I have to get this monkey off my back once and for all. I don't have room in this dream for all that Facebook drama.

FB, you are not my friend.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Crochet Mermaid Doll

 
I love to crochet. I get a rush from creating. It helps me cope with the chaos. It also adds to the chaos. When my little girl asked me to make her a mermaid doll I had my doubts that I could deliver. Most of the patterns I found were a little on the ugly side. So this little dollie is the happy marriage of four or five different patterns that I found via the internet.
 
 

Her eyes may still be ripped off and redone...I haven't decided yet. But after two weeks of playing with her I'm pretty much done.
 

Phoebe Ryann Lowe, I hope you love her because Mama sure loves you!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wet Feet

So, we thought way back in July that we would be getting a few new additions to our Chaotic Quiver. We did not.

God had other plans for our summer.

And I would not have wanted to be anywhere else...

But here in this place, this house on the creek. Where kids can literally run down the hill and wash their cares away. If only for a few minutes.

Where lizards are captured and their lost tails are found in the middle of the lunch table, still wiggling. Comic relief.

Where boys feel brave enough to rough out a trail in the woods, only to wake up to chigger bites in the morning. You know where chiggers go, right?

Where the same brave boys spray down hornet nests with the water hose and one boy gets a trip to the ER. Allergic reaction, lesson learned?

Where the kids load up the john boat and head out on a fishing expedition upstream, all on their own. Growing up before my eyes.

Where wet towels and mud and our creek rat dog leave streaks all over the kitchen floor. Kids.

Where I belong.

This past weekend we were respite for a ten year old girl. She enjoyed the creek too! We took her to the ocean Saturday evening, Wayne and I watched as she jumped in the waves with our kids. I could feel the surf under my feet, shifting. I could imagine that to her we were just more faces in a sea of faces. The enormity of it all washed over me. And at that very moment Wayne squeezed my hand and said, I'm ready for this.

That man.

This dream.

This particular boy takes much pleasure in torturing the girls.

Enjoying the perks at the children's ER.

Redneck slip-n-slide...before or after Annie scraped her rear on a rock?

Sometimes, it just takes my breath away.

A little jaunt with Dad.

Cutest little firecrackers around.

Scaring all the fish away.

There's a dog in the crossfire!





Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Looking Back to Go Forward

This blog has recorded my personal history over the past five years. It began as an outlet...It gave me a voice when I felt I had no voice. Five years ago I was a pastor's wife, pregnant with our fifth child. Five years ago I went to every pew, every Sunday morning to shake hands, give hugs and welcome. Five years ago, a couple that we were fond of gave me the cold shoulder when I went to reach for their hands. I remember his words, "I told my wife that I was never going to speak to you again." The husband looked down at my belly. "You do know how this happens?"

Five years ago, after the typical/horrible business meeting, the hospitality committee took stock of the covered dish left-overs....They had been sitting out since before Sunday School, hours earlier. The random fly feasting here and there. "Why don't we wrap all this up for the pastor and his family?' Trying to head off another puke fest, I said, "Oh, no thank you. I just went to the store yesterday and the fridge and freezer are full."

"If the preacher's freezer is full we must be doing something wrong," scoffed the chairman as he threw the food into twenty or so doggy bags for us.

Five years ago I began to slip.

The only voices I heard were the scoffers. I was bitter and torn down.  These church members, who had  supported their previous pastor through his infidelity, were casting stones at us because I was pregnant. My pregnancy was just an excuse though, these were preacher-eaters at their finest. I couldn't see past them and sadly, I didn't even try. One of the biggest regrets in my life is that I didn't look around and notice the cloud of witnesses that surrounded us. There were dear saints, wonderful people who loved our family. They worked so hard to prop us up, to keep us there.

Four years ago, we emerged from that church with just our family intact. Hard to believe that it's been four years, and then again, it feels like a different life ago.

I feel a little guilty conjuring all of this up again. But I have a point, I really do.

The fact is, my short stint as a pastor's wife has had a profound impact on who I am, how I worship...and where I want to go.

It's been a struggle to fit in. We've wrestled with our calling. We've had our hopes dashed and our feelings crushed. And I've felt like a failure because I'm not willing to go back to the same place. Maybe you've picked up on that, in between the lines these past five years.

Back then we sent our kid to school every morning and I chased after the bus in my bathrobe.

We'll start our fifth year of homeschooling in just a few weeks....And even though, it hasn't been all gum drops and lollie pops, I am grateful that my children aren't the only ones who have learned, who have changed, who have grown....I have, by leaps and bounds. There hasn't been any emergency exits...These five kids are mine, all day, everyday... and I wouldn't have it any other way. The growing pains have been real and some days have been inky black. I question my ability to do this only.... everyday.

His strength is made perfect through my weakness.

I'm married to a hard working man who gives to his family sacrificially. I know that being at home and teaching our children is his gift to me. I'm learning to make this place not just his home but his haven. I could have lost him three summers ago....It turned my world upside down to realize how fragile our life together is. I was reminded that our bond goes far beyond man and wife, it's eternal.

My definition of success has changed. Hearing my thirteen year old son read bedtime stories to his little sisters makes me feel pretty successful. I'd rather relationships be my legacy than
 to chair a committee or speak into a microphone. I have observed how some pastors walk around with their cell phones strapped to their hip, rushing from one meeting to the next, stressed over this budget and that proposal, and I'm relieved....honestly relieved that this isn't my husband's life anymore.

I want us to be apart of the wonderful. I want the dreams that started us down this ministry path to come true. I want us to be untangled.

It all started because we thought we could make a difference.

Back sixteen years ago, when Michael Silver said, "Please, take me with you."

We always said that someday we would help out. Someday....we'd start a ministry for kids like him.

Someday is today or possibly Friday. When the life we now know smashes into our new one. The feeling that I'm unprepared rattles me. But how do we prepare?

We've have our supporters and I am choosing to hear them over any distractors.... Because the scoffers are wrong! I endured cruelty when I was pregnant with Ruby, not well, but by the grace of God we made it through. I have no doubt that we will be subject to stares, glares and rude observations now that we are opening our home to needy children. We will endure it because this is the work, the difference, we dreamt about all those years ago.

I know my heart will break. Just like with everything else, we can't control the outcome. But it's my prayer that we become stronger and more dependent all at the same time.

This blog is turning the corner. I've reflected enough on being a pastor's wife or my lack there-of. It has been healing for me to type it all out. And I hope, have always hoped, that being honest with my own experiences has been an encouragement to someone else. If only to say, "You are not alone." But I'm excited to shift gears!! We could possibly add two more children to our chaotic quiver by this weekend.

Fostering/Adoption. I'll keep you posted.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Texting

The other day my phone wheezed out, "D-R-O-I-D", in the middle of our it's-almost-summer homeschool pandemonium. I was happy to see a text from Jess. She sent me a picture from our senior trip...eighteen years ago....

Jess: Was looking for something else this AM and found this. Thought you'd want to walk down memory lane with me.

Me: I'm glad I was in the back!!!

Me: South of the Border...tip can in the bathroom...frozen sandwich meat defrosted on the dash...how could one forget.

Jess: Why did you let me dress like a bumble bee?

Me: I had a mustache!

Jess: Just the shadows, I'm sure.

Me: You've made my day.

And she did make my day. I needed to laugh. The clouds parted and the birds sang...and then the kids scattered because mom got sidetracked...again. But it was worth it, so worth it. My friend lives across the country. We shoot these random one-liners back and forth every so often and she doesn't feel so far away and eighteen years ago feels like yesterday.

God bless texting.

Last week I was wasting time (who me?) scrolling down my FB feed when I saw a picture of one of our dear seminary friends standing in front of a national monument with his kiddos.

Me: Our y'all in DC?? Come see us!

I knew it was a long shot. And I'm sure he regretted putting that picture up...But a few days later, his sweet wife texted me. Stalking/time wasting/mindless facebook pays off every once in awhile. For a little over an hour last Saturday, while making their long drive home to South Carolina, the Kuckel clan stopped over to see us! It's been eleven years since we shared a duplex on Judson Drive...but it could have been last week... plus five kids. I'd like to spend hours talking about babies and homeschooling with Hope, but that one hour in between the traffic jams meant the world!

I love friends.

Fran and I have clocked 200 texts since I got my new phone in March. The topics range from Barbara Walters to diarrhea...

Fran: Are we green people or blue people?

Yup. She is the other half of my brain and sometimes that's just scary.  Texting keeps her right here...in the mix. Hard to believe that we only see each other twice a year, she's apart of my everyday.

See, the truth is I stink at texting. I'm pretty much a below average texter, probably. But look at what I've gleaned!



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Taking the Plunge....To Swim In Grace

I have been hosting Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts DVD Bible Study in my home for the last several weeks. I read her book two years ago. The truth is, her writing style hurts my brain sometimes, but she speaks to me.... She says what I feel. She's as real and transparent as I want to be. And that's what I crave, the truth. I struggle with grace and finding joy and all the stuff that comes in between. I'm not a natural born wife and mother and winging it has only taken me so far. I want to live fully aware of all the gifts that surround me. Because, it's all a gift...

Every moment in my life has brought me to this point where I recognize that I have not arrived. I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and be the perfect mommy. I am a sinner walking on a path that I have never seen before.  The fact is, I am in desperate need of a Savior, now more than ever. He knows where I'm from, where I've been, and where I'm going. The older I get and the longer I am a Christian, I realize just how huge salvation is. I don't deserve it. I'm NOT... good enough, modest enough, submissive enough, educated enough, convicted enough,...I. Am. Not. Enough.

He is.

Jesus bridged the abyss the separated me from the Father. I don't have to fear the fall anymore.

He's got me.

He already knew that I wasn't enough.

And He loved me despite it.

That sacrifice amazes me.

How can I do anything less than to count the many, many gifts He has given me? To open my eyes to grace??

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am swimming in grace. Even when I feel like I'm drowning in poo.

Sam and Tebow the Water Pup.

Brave souls....Mama don't swim in brown water.

One of my all time favorite pictures. Right here is the proof that His gifts are good!

Don't be fooled....they were "sceered" of snakes!