Friday, December 30, 2011

Contemplating the New Year...


I've been feeling contemplative the last few days.  It happens every year when there are less days left on the calendar than there are fingers on one hand.  Thinking on the where I was last year this time and how it compares to who I am today.  Thinking about who I want to be a year from now.  Thinking on fresh starts, clean calendar pages, new beginnings.

God gave me a passage yesterday.  And, yes, I am bold enough in my faith today to say that He put it in my life that very day for me to read.  See, I've been thinking about the year ahead, wondering what my faith will look like as enter a new year, knowing what I want from myself, knowing the power I need Jesus to display in my life.  This verse summed it all up for me through challenge and conviction in a way only the Living Word of God can.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make ever effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our  Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  {2 Peter 1:3-11}

Wow.  Powerful words on building a spiritual foundation.  I can see the progression in my faith, but if we view it in terms of steps, I still have a ways to go.  

I think I will always be in the pursuit of knowledge.  For me, reading the Word and finding new applicable things each time is something I will never grow tired of.  But where I fall short is finding a challenge in the Word, feeling convicted by something I read, but not taking the steps to act it out in my life.  Typing those words hurt my own feelings a little, but I am only being honest.  Faith is easy; faith through action is where I get a little tripped up.

I keep trying to write about what I want to achieve this year, spiritually speaking, and, truth is, I can't get it out right.  I don't have the words to say it or explain myself well.  But that Scripture moves me and outlines so many attributes I would like to achieve.  Faith.  Goodness.  Self-control. Perseverance.  Godliness.  Kindness.  Love.  But there are also two words I focus in on in the verse (once I remove their prefixes and turn them into positive words): effective and productive.  I want to be effective and productive for the Lord.  I want to start right here in my own house being more effective and productive for Jesus, showing my kids my faith, where it comes from, and what He looks like, not just in the big moments of life, but in the moments quiet and small as well.  I want to be a better advocate for the Lord, and boy have I got my work cut out for me.

Happy New Year, my friends!  May we all be more effective and productive this upcoming year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Wrap Up

Another one in the books.  Hard to believe.

Each year, I anticipate Christmas in several different ways.  There's the financial planning and fretful way as I wonder how on earth we will get it all figured out.  This year was perhaps a little more stressful on that front.  We had the job change which left us a little short as the car lot Scott worked for skated us out of a nice hunk of his paycheck.  This is just a part of the car business, by the way, so be extra nice and patient the next time you make that purchase... you have no idea what these guys go through just to get the money they have earned.  Though we're tickled pink with the career change, we've had to get used to a totally different pay schedule, and we we not-so-pleasantly surprised when we learned that our final check of the year would come on the final Friday of the year, leaving us a little strapped in between.  Amazing how it has all worked out, though.  It always does.  Thank you, Lord.

I normally anticipate Christmas Eve with my mom's family at my grandmother's home.  But this year, them being in the nursing home and the house having been sold months ago, it wasn't to be as usual.  This left my heart a little sad, but it also left room for a new tradition to be born.  Me, Scott and the kids went to the Christmas Eve service and were so blessed because of it.  A young man played the most moving rendition of Drummer Boy I have ever (and possibly will ever) hear.  And I saw the Christmas story in a totally different light.  The faith it took.  God's calling on certain people like the wise men and the shepherds to be a witness for Him.  Can you imagine the faith it took to journey to see a baby?  A baby.  Unbelievable, isn't it?  Makes me think about what lengths I will go to experience my Savior.  If I had been sitting on my grandmother's wood floor, I would have missed that lesson.  I would have missed watching a man play his heart out for the Lord.  Learning to live in the now is tough sometimes, but it is definitely worth it when we choose to think that way.

I am grateful for the thinner Christmas we had this year.  Seems like no one on either side of our family had an abundance of money this year, so the gift load was much lighter.  We are not bringing in a whole lot of new stuff to the household.  Yet the kids had such a great time.  What they did get, they really loved.  One of David's gifts under the tree from Mama and Daddy was the Action Bible.  When he picked up the package to shake and test it once it was wrapped, he immediately said, "It's a book... why did you buy me a book?  I bet it's a Bible..."  But once he opened it and realized what kind of Bible it was, he was thrilled.  I look forward to sitting down with him and reading some of it.  I want more than anything for all the people closest to me to love the Word of God even half as much as I do.  Madalyn's favorite gift was a bag of school supplies all from the Dollar Tree.  I mean, how much simpler can you get?  But the hours of joy she will get playing school with $12 worth of stuff is priceless.  It's not how much you spend; it's knowing that what you've spent will be far less than the happiness the gift brings.

Perhaps the best gift of all this year was another Christmas with my mom.  Back in the summer, when she was doing so poorly and declining quickly, I didn't think we would see the holiday season with her in it.  I am so grateful.  Beyond words.  I saw so many Facebook posts about spending a first Christmas without a loved one, and my heart just ached.  I don't know why, nor do I need to understand it, but the Lord saw fit for us to have her with us longer.  And I will take every day with her that I can get.  Her handwriting on a gift tag... her paper plates atop chargers on the dining room table... her tree with all her ornaments... they were just icing on the cake.  Her being here was the most amazing earthly gift this year.

Another one in the books.  Hard to believe.  Even harder still to believe that at 35, I am still learning what this season is all about.  Still taking it all in.  Still learning so much about life and trying to appreciate all the little moments all year round.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We made the trip this morning to see Santa.  Every year, once school lets out for the holidays, we make the drive to the big mall nearby to visit him and have our picture made.  I used to go to the Galleria in Hoover, but they changed Santas a few years ago, and I nicknamed the new one Butter Teeth.  I am not trying to be particular, but if I am going to wait in line and pay for a photo, then I at least want Santa's teeth to be as white or whiter than his beard.  So last year, we went to a much smaller mall in Vestavia and waited a shorter amount of time and were grateful that Santa had pretty teeth.

The car ride to the mall was filled with talk about what would be asked for.  David reiterated that all he really wanted was an Xbox.  Madalyn has had quite the time this year narrowing down her wishes.  Number one on her list is a hamster.  Well, in all honesty, on the list she made at school, she requested eight hamsters.  Why eight, I don't know.  I don't think she realizes that we would have close to 100 by next year's end if we had eight stinking hamsters in a cage together.  Nor does she realize that Mama doesn't do critters in the house.  I have informed her that Santa must have written approval before delivering live animals for Christmas gifts, and that I will not be granting permission for any such thing.

Also on her list is eight puppies, a kitten, a chalkboard, clothes, hang earrings, school supplies, and a few other things that she couldn't remember and couldn't interpret from her own handwriting.  Surprisingly, though, those weren't on her mind this morning.  She announced that she'd be asking Santa for $20,000 so that she could go to the Dollar Tree and buy everything.  In a way, I almost wanted her to ask for the money... maybe we'd have a Miracle on 34th Street type Christmas miracle and get exactly what she asked for.  But then the adult in me realized that not even Santa has $20,000 to spare at this point.

When they finally made it to Santa's lap, David completely changed his tune and asked for an Ipod touch. Madalyn asked for Christmas songs.  And me... well, I just took it all in.  I know these days are fleeting.  I know the moment they logically dismiss away the magic is fast approaching.  Truth is, I enjoy the magic as much as they do.  The wishes.  The dreaming.  The wonder and delight.  It reminds me of a time when life was simple and imagination was big.  It's a place I can visit with through my kids where there is no cancer and no bills.  And I will miss it when it's gone.

So Merry Christmas to all my friends out there!  Wishing you all the happiness and magic the season has to offer, and hoping you will take some time to thank God for the amazing gift of Jesus He has given us!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Strong...

I should be in the shower.  But I am not.  A chipper and very awake (as in way more awake than I am in the morning) lady called at 7:00 this morning to tell me that I shouldn't show up to the intermediate school until 9:30 instead of the scheduled 8:00 to assist with the Santa Shop.  I will let you in on a secret... I would have never made it by 8:00 anyway, so this works out golden for me!

This week... where can I begin.  I filled you in a little the other day, but the ups and downs and all arounds of life don't translate to black and white (or whatever color my words on my blog are... maybe pink?) very well.  I can tell you a story about it, but what I can't get across to you is how it really feels.

On Tuesday, we were smacked in the face with news about fluid around my mother's heart.  I knew she wasn't well and hadn't been for a several weeks.  A skin infection several weeks ago had prompted swelling in her left arm, and even though the infection was gone, the size of her arm never quite went back to normal.  The shortness of breath was steadily becoming more noticeable.  On Saturday when I saw her, she looked very swollen in her feet and her arms, and she couldn't walk very far without having to stop to catch her breath.  Disheartening doesn't describe how it feels to see your mother like this.  There's this ugly bitterness that threatens to bubble up within me... Why can't she have just one good day? She's been through so much... just make her feel better!!!

But through it all, my mom has this amazing quiet strength.  It's not an in your face strength, flamboyant and showy in nature.  It's a calmness and ease about her, one that doesn't want anyone to know how difficult it is for her to carry on her daily tasks, and one that maintains this even-keeled tenacity.  I bet you have never strung those two words together in a sentence... even-keeled and tenacity.  They typically don't mix, but they do inside my mother.  She's a fighter, resilient, strong, but she never lets anyone see her sweat.  When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

After tests and doctors and residents and two days in the hospital, she was discharged yesterday only to go sit and wait at the doctor's office to have fluid drained from her lung.  No procedure was ever done in the hospital.  We went from this is a critical situation to we're discharging you having done nothing.  Of course, I am relieved that they determined it wasn't a serious situation, but it would be nice if they could make those determinations without sticking my mom in a hospital bed for two days and worrying us all half to death.

And still, my mom sounds the same.  Through it all, she just remains the same.  Calm.  Patient.  Strong.

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.  For who is God besides the LORD?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  Psalm 18:30-32

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In no particular order...

Random thoughts by me, and in no particular order:

Don't mistake my kindness for a weakness. Oh, and don't mistake it for stupidity either. I am neither weak nor stupid; I simply choose (most of the time) to be kind.

Madalyn wishes that school never existed because she is tired and is bored at school. I wish it never existed so I didn't have to get her dressed and out the door five mornings a week. Oh, and make her sit down to read and do spelling. It's just not her thing.

Patience is a virtue, and I hope there's a large tank of it somewhere waiting on me to tap into it. Like a big ole' water tank full of copious amounts of the blessed virtue. Something tells me that I'm gonna need lots of it in the days to come.

Do you know what a batch of brownies looks like after it has baked in the oven for an hour and a half? I do...

Nothing says Merry Christmas like the ginormous, bright red zit on my nose. Think Rudolph.

As of tonight, Madalyn will have finished an entire bottle of the putrid tasting antibiotic, 27 of the capsules swallowed. If you don't think this is an accomplishment, I have no idea why you bother to read my blog.

I wonder when the phrase it is what it is will lose its meaning in my life. Maybe when I am 87. Maybe then I won't have to remind myself that things are simply what they are. Or maybe I really won't care.

Why is it that when I go to the store nearly every day in a week that I forget the same item every single time? The answer is Qtips, folks. I will buy them today. I WILL.

Another thing I am pondering is why some box brownie mixes are for an 8x8 pan, others for 9x9, and still others for 9x13 (aka family size). I happen to think they should all be the latter, because there is nothing better than fudgy brownies for the entire family. I seem to have a lot to say about brownies, don't I?

I broke all the Alabama Child Nutrition guidelines yesterday at the elementary school. What are they gonna do? Fire me from being room mom? I dare them... better yet, I think I am sort of begging them to...

Some days it's easier to keep your sanity in check. Today is one of the harder days. Do you notice that I tend to have these type posts on my difficult days? It helps to get it out. I am sorry you are the victim today. But it's better you than one of my children.




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Perfect Peace...

I woke with it on my heart. Words. Divine and Inspired. Sent from Him, passed through the ages, ringing in my ear.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

Perfect peace.

Nothing about the past week and a half has been peaceful. My very-limited-budget Christmas shopping has begun. My 92 year old grandmother was admitted to the hospital. My mother was admitted just yesterday to the hospital with fluid around her heart. I've had a few moments when the realization that my world, so rapidly changing around me, is so utterly out my control... that the very realization of it has threatened to push me over the edge. I've wanted my grandmother to pass to her permanent home where she could be comfortable and my mother wouldn't have to worry about her anymore. I've wanted my mother to wake up one morning and just be restored to who she was before the cancer took so much away from her. I've wanted money to fall from the sky like fall leaves in an October wind. But I can't wave a magic wand and make any of those things happen, and for some reason unknown to me right now, they aren't in the plan.

Why can't raining money be in the plan? If not a healthy Mama, then why not? {That's the 5 year old within me that rears her ugly head every now and again.}

I am amazed to find that God's plan is so perfect that someone as imperfect as me can't understand it. If my grandmother had been called home, we'd be in a real pickle right now with my mother in hospital in Birmingham. If my mother woke up one day and was miraculously restored to perfect health, I wouldn't have the honor of witnessing her strength and grace in the midst of difficult situations. If money rained from the sky, then I wouldn't have been granted a blessing through someone that so blatantly shouts to me Tamara, I am listening to you! Do you ever have those moments? Moments so beautiful and still in which a need is met and you know it's the hand of God, where there's no doubt whose hand is at work.

And so I woke this morning with this Scripture on my mind. Not in perfect wording, mind you, and not reciting book, chapter and verse. But the first part of it I remembered, and I knew where I had it written down. And I was drawn to the Words, words God penned for you and me, ones He wanted me to focus on today, tomorrow, forever.

Perfect peace. Only the peace that can be found in Him. In knowing that I will have everything in every moment because He is within me. It won't always be easy, but I have Him to hold me through it. And so does my mother. And father. And brothers. And you, too. Do you have it yet? Have you found it? Have you even looked for it?

Spend a moment today looking for the Rock eternal. He will sustain you through whatever twists and turns you life may take. I know because I am feeling it now for the first time in my life. It doesn't mean I don't cry or get angry or scared... it simply means that there's this place inside of me that no one can take away. No one. It's my own little Ark of the Covenant, if you will, where the very Spirit of the Living God, the One who raised Jesus from the tomb, resides. He comforts me. He gives me strength to get up and carry on even when the sinful part of me just wants to curl in a ball and cry. He is the reason I can move on through all this imperfect crap of the world.

To Him be the glory always and forever. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No words of my own...

I've got so much to say but not the words to say it. So much on my brain and my heart. Good things, disappointing things, stressful things, sad things. In other words, life.

So, since I am without my own words, I will share with you someone else's. Here are the lyrics to my all time favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night. It's one I heard all my life, but the first time I listened to the words and let them sit on my brain for a little while, I fell in love with it.

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's been a week...

Boxes and trees. Dropping a large ornament on my foot. Lights that work and others that don't. Strep. Again. Doctor. Again. It's been a week.

I have officially given the pediatrician's office $192 in the past 30 days, and I still owe them $80. You see, in the month of November, we were technically without health insurance. We were eligible for Cobra coverage, but I didn't receive paperwork for that until the latter part of the month. And why pay $785 for coverage when you can just pay your doctor outright for two visits? It's a lot cheaper that way I have discovered. So the new insurance was effective December 1st which corresponded nicely with this statement from Madalyn: "My throat hurts." I let it ride for a couple of days mainly because her fever never climbed above 100.5, until yesterday when I took a peak in her throat with a little flash light. I'm no doctor, but what I saw alarmed my uneducated eyes, and I knew we needed to go in for a throat swab.

It was positive. And since we just had strep in the early days of November, the doctor didn't want to put her on the same antibiotic again. And since Madalyn is allergic to the penicillin family, the only choice was this absolutely awful tasting stuff. There are no words really to describe just how awful it tastes. We were given capsules and told to sprinkle the contents into food... apple sauce, pudding cup, ice cream. She said to do whatever it took to get it in her three times a day for ten days. I may as well have been sentenced to ten days in the pits of hell.

I tried mixing it in with a bowl of grits. I mean, it's just a wee bit of medicine. How bad oculd it be? I took a little taste and nearly died. The only person who would have eaten that bowl of grits would be one of those adventurous souls who set out to hike a mountain by them self and ended up lost for five days in the wild forced to eat leaves off trees and drink water from puddles on the forest floor. And even they might gag a little when they tasted it.

I eventually got it down her throat by mixing it with a spoon full of frozen strawberry daiquiri mix (and for those of you out there that happen to think like my own mother and are posing the question in your mind, let me state that the frozen mix DOES NOT CONTAIN ALCOHOL, thankyouverymuch). My sister in law had used a similar trick with frozen grape juice concentrate, but there was no way I was making another trip to the store, so I used what we had left over from the summer. The windows were open in my house when the event went down, and I am certain the entire neighborhood heard the play by play, but we got the medicine inside her body. One time. And now she claims she is NEVER taking it again. NEVER. It should be a fun ten days for me (three times a day, at that).

The plus side is that just after one dose, Madalyn slept the entire night without getting up with fever or to cuddle with me and take over the king sized bed. I feel like a new person. Hopefully God refilled my patience bucket while I slept. Please, Lord, tell me You refilled it. It's too early to tell at this point as I haven't forced strawberry daiquiri mix laced with putrid antibiotic powder down my daughter's throat yet. Check back with me later...

Other than force feeding medicine to my child, my plans for today include NOT A WHOLE LOT OF ANYTHING. I started reading The Help over Thanksgiving week, and I want to sit down with it for a little while today and immerse myself in another world that does not involve my children, off brand liquid ibuprofen, and washing my hands 2,593 times a day.

Happy Saturday. Hope it's a good one!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Craving something different...

A couple of months ago, my mom bought me two books, Jesus Calling and Made to Crave. The first I had mentioned that I wanted; the latter my mother apparently thought I needed. I don't say that in an ugly sense at all... she knows me all too well and the long standing battle with food that I have grown weary of fighting.

Truth be told, I am the heaviest I have ever been while not supporting the life of another inside my womb. I am fluffy and frumpy, and, as much as I hate to admit it, my weight and body image effect my self confidence and my relationships.

I have avoided starting to read Made to Crave. I haven't been in the mood. I haven't had the energy. I have just put it off to the side to deal with another day, just like I've done with my issues with food over the past several years. But in the past few days, I've had it on my mind. Satan has been pushing me away from it for the past several weeks, and now I feel like God is urging me to read it and face this issue head on.

He also put it on my heart to ask if there is anyone out there reading these words that want to join me? It wouldn't necessarily be a formal study, but we could read it at a steady pace and talk to one another about how we are doing, have some accountability partners, and blog about what we discover. Follow the link here to see if it's something that sounds like a good fit for you (there's even a sample chapter). If you're interested, leave me a comment with your email address (or email me if you would rather not have your information public). In the meantime, I will be praying over this idea and thinking of a good way to go about this. Maybe a good target date would be the beginning of the new year, giving anyone who wants to participate a chance to get their books.

Give it a thought... I'm tired of craving all the wrong things...