Pink and Purple Hearts

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If life is about compromise this year has been full of life. 

I’ve said before that birthday cakes might be my love language.  My baby girl turns four tomorrow.  My helpful,  sassy,  thoughtful baby girl. 

I don’t have time to bake her cupcakes this year.  I can’t stay up until 3 a.m. making fancy cookies for her school treats.

She stood right beside me while I pulled the store bought sugar cookies from the package and piped fake strawberry flavored frosting into little heart shapes. She counted down how many I had left.  She cheered for me when I got done.  And then her eyes sparkled and her mouth opened like a baby bird for some of the leftover frosting. 

The grace and acceptance that this girl gives never fails to amaze me –even when I’m not living up to my own standards, or especially when. 

She really doesn’t care that she won’t have fancy cupcakes.

I saw Jesus in my baby girl tonight.  She accepted those pink hearts not because they were perfect, or beautiful,  or gourmet flavored, but because I gave them to her.

Jesus accepts our hearts,  bruised and broken that they are.  He loves us because our brokenness is the best we have to offer. Then he takes it and gives us a way to love others.

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Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day: 1 in 4

psalm-100-5-squareI don’t talk about it much anymore. I didn’t even know there was a day for remembering pregnancy loss. It’s been a long time — twelve years, in fact. My days of remembering are usually December 26th and March 22nd.

Today, I saw a shared post that said that October 15th is Pregnancy & Loss Awareness day. But, I felt like today would be a good day to post since I haven’t in so long. I finally have a day off from school, though I probably should be doing homework.

Like I said, it’s been twelve years. I’m still a little sad after all this time. I think more than anything the time has allowed me to realize that the loss was more real when I was going through it. Sure, I felt it. I thought my heart had been ripped out. But it took years to see that there is hope even in the loss of a child. And even more years to finally understand that I lost more than a tiny life that I was carrying. Two lifetimes of daydreams and expectations disappeared instantly. That was when the grief came full circle.

The hope came, of course with our third pregnancy. Fear came too. But before that came a person who taught me what prayer was really supposed to be. With the simple gesture of giving me a slender pink book, she opened the door for me to tap into God’s grace, and freedom from fear. Just by reading over his promises and committing them to my heart.

The verses that I learned are still some of my favorites. Over time, speaking his truths changed my life… and healed my heart.

Psalm 137:3

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

If you are grieving a loss today, let me tell you, first, that you are not alone, and that you are not being silly or over-dramatic. Second, I want you to know that there is hope for healing even without all the answers. It’s OK to be angry and confused. There are people out there who understand. Find them.

I also want you to know that I’m praying for you today and that you are on my mind often. I understand your heartache — how your arms feel empty and how you wish you could look in your baby’s eyes. I want you to know that the love that you feel is genuine. Love is never wasted. No matter how small, love changes this world for the better.

I can’t make you any promises except one. God, Our Father, understands what it’s like to lose a child. He hears you when you call out. He is always listening. If you call to him, he will be there and with time, you will recover.

One Year

365 chalk

One year.

A year to find my place. 12 months that I never once searched the internet for a job. 52 Saturday nights that my stomach hasn’t been tied in knots because the weekend was almost over. 365 days of knowing that I have the power to make someone’s day by helping them.

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I took my first step into a hurdling run toward a new career. When I walked through the gate and down that sidewalk sandwiched between manicured grass for the last time, I drove off and literally did not look back. I was free from trying to fit a mold that was clearly not something my soul was meant to be crammed into.

I walked into CNA classes one month later and knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I wasn’t just switching my vocation, I was finding and fulfilling my life-purpose. It was real. It was deep. And it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I was leaving everything I had prepared my whole adult life for.

When I was high school and then college I wrestled with The Questions. “What should I do forever?” and “What is my calling?” because that’s how seventeen and eighteen-year-olds and twenty-somethings think. I made the choice that I thought would please my people. Then, I backed out and made the choice that felt like the right one at the time. Perhaps it was. I still love environmental science. Truth be told, if I had done things like I should have, I’d probably still be in that field.

It served me well for a time, and I’m not convinced that it won’t serve me still yet.

A year later and I’m in over my head (a good thing) learning about nerves, muscles and diseases and the things I can do to improve someone’s life. I love it. I devour it. I’ve started early because I’m a biology geek like that.

In one week I start classes full time. Sitting with people that have the same goals as I. A huge change from last July. That first step was crazy, scary. But I couldn’t be more convinced that I’m in deepest waters where grace abounds.

Does your next week look drastically different that your one year ago?

P.S. My son says that I’m not a geek. He doesn’t know that I’ve been reading on muscle groups in the legs for the last week. And meditating on the plasticity of synapses. He still thinks I’m cool, “kinda”.

Easy School Day Breakfast

bburritos1The countdown to the first day of school is  winding down to days rather than weeks now. I’m frantically checking and rechecking To-Do lists.

I may have developed some clinical anxiety over this whole life-change thing. I sense the great potential for our fragile morning schedules to nose-dive off a cliff with the resultant ball of fire if there isn’t some serious preparation done beforehand. I have to get a grip on something.

I can’t control a whole lot of things, like how much homework we will have or if the kids socks are just going to feel “wrong” that day. To keep my desperate grasp on sanity the best course of action is for me to have to make as few decisions in the mornings as possible. This translates to preparing a whole bunch of stuff beforehand, from clothes organizers to breakfasts.

I spent all, and by “all” I mean every spare minute, getting heat-and-eat breakfasts and freezer meals ready last weekend.

Some other moms are doing the same thing, so I thought I’d share my ingredient lists and few tips for the breakfast burritos I made. This is not a food blog, but we get pretty ungraceful around here when we are hungry, in a hurry and flustered.

I’m really, really bad at doing step-by step directions. Here are my ingredient lists for the four kinds (yes, four!!!) of breakfast burritos that are now sitting happily in my top freezer basket just waiting for the first day of school.

Note: the measurements for ingredients are estimated. Add or subtract as you see fit.

Sausage, Egg and Cheese 

  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage (I use Jimmy Dean)
  • 12 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 large tortillas

Southwest Breakfast 

  • 6 slices of bacon cooked till crisp and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup anaheim chili chopped
  • 4 medium baked potatoes, cooled completely and diced
  • 12 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 12 tortillas

Spinach, Ham and Mushroom

  • 1/2 package of thin sliced ham
  • 1/2 medium zucchini (optional)
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 can of mushrooms
  • 2/3 package of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 14 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
  • 12 tortillas

Black Bean and Chorizo

  • 1 tube of chorizo, beef or pork
  • 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 12 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 package of queso fresco, crumbled
  • 12 tortillas

The process for each one is essentially the same. Cook the meat and set it aside in a large bowl, saute any fresh ingredients (and potatoes) in the same skillet, set that aside then cook the eggs. Mix them all together and add the cheese while it’s all still hot.

I used a 1/4 cup scoop to fill and put 2 heaping ones in each tortilla (a little more for the southwest because of the potatoes) Once your burritos are filled wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.

Tips

  1. Wait until the filling has cooled before wrapping and freezing
  2. Save the resealable tortilla packages and use them to put the finished burritos in.
  3. Reserve your bacon grease to saute your vegetables in.
  4. Fill each with a 1/2 to 2/3 cup of filling.
  5. I forgot to add the salsa in the Southwest so I didn’t include it here, but 1 cup should do it if you love your salsa like we do!
  6. If you make all four types in the above order you don’t really have to wash any bowls between batches
  7. Use two large bowls: one bowl will be cooling while you are cooking the next one.
  8. Experiment! Meat, veggies, eggs and cheese – the options are endless!

How do you prepare for school? What is your most helpful trick or tip?

A Shelter for Me

Chabad.org

image of a tallit from Chabad.org

It was one of those Mondays.

My schedule was new. Again.

It was occupational therapy day. Which meant that we made the four hour round trip to the therapy place. The kind of trip that the very tired kids fight all the way home. And so, I sat on the couch and did exactly nothing except make tacos for supper. I didn’t burn them so I count it as a win for everyone.

It was as though a tidal wave of overwhelm washed through my living room tonight. And that word that seems to pop into my mind so much lately showed up again.

Lately, it seems like it changes as soon as I get it written down on the calendar. I’ve been so busy. You know, that kind of busy…where you finally crash on the sofa and scroll through facebook on your phone while half-way listening to CNN on the TV in complete denial of the very real to-do list sitting on the table just hoping that the kids don’t drip their third popsicle on the rug.

I guess I feel overwhelmed a lot. When I look at all the details, I see how less than capable I really am to do all this. I feel weak and helpless and like a failure.

Self-check: It’s time to step-back.

When I consider the landslide of change that’s going on in our lives, and has been going on since March, it would be an even more concerning detail if I weren’t overpowered by days like today. It is days like these that I’m forced to cry out to God in my weakness. I’m forced to look into the face of my need for guidance and protection. That’s probably the point, after all.

A few days ago, I was flipping through the pages of my New King James Version study bible. My eyes rested on Psalm 61 just long enough to see the word “overwhelmed”. Cue sound of brakes screeching.

I needed this Psalm. My heart needed this.

“Hear my cry, [Elohim]…when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (emphasis mine)

I was desperate for help and rest. It’s rare that I don’t fret over why things happen. It’s almost only when I’m so exhausted that I can’t. I simply needed a moment of relief and safety.

“…For you have been a shelter for me…”

And in the median of my page I had previously sketched a tiny little tent and written “chuppah”.

“…I will abide in your tabernacle forever…”

I found this description on Chabad.org, “The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles. The word chuppah means covering or protection, and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding.”

And it further explains that “it also symbolized the covenantal marriage of G‑d and His people.”

During some Jewish weddings, the requirements to fulfill chuppah is by the groom’s covering of his and the bride’s head with a tallit (prayer shawl). The word for the corners of a garment, including a tallit, is the same Hebrew word as wingskanaph.

“I will trust in the shelter of your wings.”

The groom is covering his new bride, his new family, with his prayer cloth to symbolize their relationship with God.

On the overwhelming days (and weeks), we can trust in our words given to a God who made that covenant with us — the promise to make us his own, to separate us from the unholiness, to protect us, and to listen to us.

He doesn’t only want the people that have it all together; He accepts us in our weakness and does not expect perfection, only trust in our relationship with him.

Please know that you are accepted. You don’t have to be whatever perfect looks like that day. You just have to be willing start a relationship. God is waiting there to cover us and claim us as his own. And no matter how you have been broken he offers hope and healing.

The Best Church

churchThe last 48 hours have been glorious.

This Sunday, we didn’t go to church. We got to be the church.

Friday, I got home in time to see my husband out the door and spent the rest of the day doing stuff. We will assume that it was important stuff because I did it. And mom’s don’t waste time on unimportant things, right? It probably had something to do with laundry. I do remember something about chips and guacamole for supper, and a glass of wine while we watched a movie for the 236th time. Yes, of course it was a Harry Potter movie!

Saturday I was on fire! I cleaned things. I cooked a big lunch. I started a demolition project in our laundry room, I unpacked two boxes, I outsmarted The Padawan to get him to jump on the trampoline (with the help of his competitiveness and The Owlet who thinks she’s the best — at everything). He was insisting that he was only tired while I knew he needed some input. I did the dishes and swept the floor and had time to knit a few rows on a scarf that I started back in 2013.

On. Fire.

After supper, The Padawan and I played video games. According to my fitness app, I burned 876 calories playing Just Dance 3 jumping around and waving my arms randomly to disco and 80s music.

Today, like most drill weekends, we ended up not going to church. Our schedule just isn’t going to be normal right now and I’m learning not to compare myself to people with 8 to 5 days and regular work weeks. I also had a dream conversation with The Hunter about staying home. Apparently, that never actually happened. I’m not the only one who does this, right?

We finally had to wake The Hunter up because he didn’t get home until the early morning hours.  It was the whole Family of Four piled in the bed. The Owlet was asking questions and it turned into a discussion of Heaven and Hell. She asked how people go to that real bad place. At first, we thought she meant jail. Then, we figured it out. :facepalm: She asked how you get to Heaven. So, we had Sunday School right there in our bedroom. We talked about loving Jesus and that Jesus is our friend. Then, she summed it all up in her wise little way by saying, “Jesus and Daddy take care of us.”

And, Yes! Yes, they do.

I ran to the store to get butter for our corn on the cob — came home with key lime pie ingredients. What!?

But that trip to the grocery store taught me some things other than that I can come up with the right ingredients for key lime pie on a whim.

The things I learned today:

1) If you skip church and go to the grocery store in a biker t-shirt and messy bun and head band, church ladies may give you that unsmiling head to toe look that isn’t because they are blinded by your brilliant white legs. I wear shorts in public about two times a year y’all — white as snow.

2) My family REALLY likes key lime pie!

3) There are days that spending the first few minutes of our limited family time together talking about Jesus is the best church we can ever be in.

I sincerely believe in the need for corporate worship and service. Most Sundays, our kids are in Sunday School and we are worshipping and listening to the sermon. However, our schedules are intense right now. We have very little time together as a family. It’s rare and special when we are all home and awake at the same time. So, today, in our great mission to be the church, we took time to nurture our children. We used an opportunity to build them up so that they will understand their true purpose in life is to follow Jesus and know that he will take care of us. It was amazing and spontaneous. And most importantly, it never would have happened if we had been doing the Sunday Morning Scuffle trying to get out the door.

Have you ever had to choose to spend time or serve together as a family instead of “going to church”? What did you do?

 

family pic screenc

 

Last Day of School {!!!!!}

brick wall g3It is with great delight that I send my son off to his last day of third grade. I’m sure I will be equally delighted to send him back to school in August, but for now, I can revel that this year is finally over.

I have no more tears left for the phone calls to and from school, the almost daily emails and the mental and physical exhaustion. And today, it’s over. They are over. We are done.

We started this year hoping that it would be better than last year ended. He wouldn’t be the new kid in class. He was in the same class as two boys he already knew — his new best friend and our next door neighbor.

But it was the third grade. That brick wall, that so many kids hit, was right there waiting for us. And we ran into it going ninety miles an hour. It felt as though we were being smashed into tiny pieces. Our lives were shattering.

But, this year didn’t kills us. Although we are bruised and broken, we are healing. As with tough times of the past, I’m learning that our brokenness is necessary for spiritual growth. We learn when our world is crumbling. It is painful, but it produces strength.

Because of an amazing therapy team we ended with a starting point. We know that we are dealing with sensory processing disorder and dysgraphia. We also know that we are probably dealing with dyslexia.

We are stronger in our relationships with each other. I better understand my son. I hope he has grown to understand that there are many, many people on his side — fighting for him.

I was forced to become a better communicator because I was the common link between all The People. Homework management was the ultimate problem solving work out.

I discovered what not to do more often than I found things that worked. I messed up a lot. I dropped the ball a lot. If it’s true that we learn more from our mistakes, I made good on my educational achievement goals.

My husband and I set aside many conversations that we would like to have had in favor of long discussions of how we would survive this year. We pulled together and fought together. We learned about grace and got chances to practice our lessons over and over again.

And now, it’s summer break. We can rest. We will regroup. And we will keep hoping that, eventually, we will hurdle the wall instead of running smack into it. And next year, it will be fourth grade.