Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Don't We Have Fun?

My days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those are the ones that are set in stone. I don't miss those days. Then on the weekends I add either Saturday or Sunday, depending on our schedule as a family. Either way, three times a week, I drive to Irving to visit my dad at the skilled nursing facility. Some days it is a struggle to get into my car and make the 40 minute drive. I miss out on tucking my son into bed, or I end up getting home way past time to start dinner, depending on the day and my visiting time. Sometimes I am just plain tired, and I don't feel like doing anything at all. But I am always glad once I go. I am always glad to get to spend time with my dad, even in this current situation. Some days I take my guitar. I play him songs that I have spent my life hearing him sing. I take my Bible, and I read to him. Occasionally, I take my worn copy of My Utmost for His Highest, given to me by Mr. Tant, my high school math and science teacher. I sometimes have to read those twice, just to be sure I am getting it. But I take advantage of the fact that my dad is still living. He is still with us. It may not look the way we want it to look, but he is still here. There is so much for which I am grateful.

Several months ago, I met Ms. Bonnie*. She regularly sits in a wheelchair in the lobby, and she always calls out to Jude, who promptly runs the other direction. I usually pick him up and walk over to her. He is good at high fives, and she is content with that, even though she always asks for hugs. So I started stopping by to visit Ms. Bonnie even on the days when she wasn't out in the lobby in her wheelchair. I found her room, and there is rarely a visit where I don't see her. 

But one day, last month, Ms. Bonnie was resting. So I peeked behind the roommate curtain to say hello to her neighbor, and I met Ms. Carla. Carla was holding a baby doll, patting its bottom the way a mother does when she is trying to soothe a baby to sleep. She was talking out loud. To no one. And about nothing, I soon realized. 

Carla has dementia. It didn't take long to realize that. Most of the time she is talkative, but most of the sentences she puts together make no sense at all. Sometimes she struggles to find the right words to use, and other times she is happily oblivious to the fact that she is not forming understandable sentences. But she is cheery, and she greets me with a smile, even though I am a stranger. I have a feeling that everyone is a stranger to her these days. So we pretend like we are old friends.

Now we make it a point to go see them both. Bonnie is quite the napper, a woman after my own heart, and so, most often, it is Carla we see. She can almost always be found in her bed, holding a baby. She squeals with delight when I bring Jude to see her. She asks for a kiss, but like Bonnie, she settles for handshakes. When we leave, she always calls out "I love you!". We always tell her we love her back. Because everyone deserves to hear that.

Last night I went to visit my dad, right on schedule. During a time when a nurse was tending to him, I slipped out of his room and headed down the hall to say hello to my two favorite ladies. Bonnie was sleeping, just as I figured she would be. But Carla was lying in bed, watching music videos on BET, patting her baby's bottom like a good mama should. 

Is this a channel that you like?

She responded with words that didn't make sense, but her tone and facial expressions communicated that she was just fine with BET. I have a feeling in her regular life, she was not a BET watcher.

I asked about her baby, as I always do, and she told me that baby Addie slept in the morning but not the rest of the day. I asked her how she herself was doing, and she told me stories. Long stories. Stories that I couldn't decipher the details of, but I knew when to act surprised and when to laugh. I am positive that she was a character before her mind betrayed her.

I picked up a framed picture from her dresser. It was a younger Carla, probably 20 years ago. She is dressed in black dress pants and a holiday sweater. Her gray hair is perfectly sprayed in place, and she looks very classy. She is sitting on the stairs of a house next to a blonde little boy, probably 8 years old. She looks really happy. I asked her about the picture, and she couldn't tell me who anyone was. I told her that she looked beautiful in the picture, and she understood. She looked kind of embarrassed and flicked her hand at me, as if to shoo away the compliment. 

She looked sad when I told her that I had to leave. I told her I was going home, and she wanted to know where home was. I told her I lived in Fort Worth, and she said "I knew it was somewhere in that vicinity," which was the most coherent thing she had said all night. 

"I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing", I said.

She picked up baby Addie, looked her straight in the eye, and said "Oh, we always have fun. Don't we have fun?" 

And she kissed that plastic baby on the forehead twice before laying her back down on her chest. 

And the way I see it, if sweet Ms. Carla can find that kind of joy in the middle of her hardship, then so can I.

As I walked out the door of her room, she called out one last "I love you". 

I love you, too, Carla. Love you, too.

*I have changed Bonnie and Carla's names to protect their privacy. Because that's the nice thing to do.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How the Affordable Care Act Failed Me

I am not a political person. I don't watch the news. When election time comes, I educate myself as much as is necessary to make an intelligent decision. I do vote. But overall, I don't have the energy to watch Fox News and CNN and then balance the two to try to come up with the truth of a situation.

Today, though, I will tell my story. And it sounds political. I will tell it because what happened to me is so incredibly unfair, and I feel like someone needs to know about it. Hopefully my voice will make a difference for someone else. It is a long story, but it is a story about life and it is a story that matters. It is also a story about death. But maybe it didn't have to be.

Several weeks ago, on a Saturday, I felt weird. I felt dizzy and nauseous. Something just felt off. I was at home sitting on the couch, and when I stood, I felt a strange tightening across my abdomen. I hadn't felt that since... well, I was pregnant with my son. I mumbled an excuse to my husband Jake for why I needed to make a trip to the grocery store, and I went. To buy pregnancy tests.

Positive. Two pink lines. I felt nervous and excited. I cried a little when I broke the news to Jake. We were going to have a baby. Such happy news after months of hard things.

I knew that I needed to see a doctor quickly, but it was Saturday, so that would have to wait until Monday. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at eleven weeks, so I knew I may need some intervention to sustain this pregnancy. My hope was that, come Monday, I would find a doctor, get some blood work done, and start taking progesterone supplements. The supplements had made a difference with my second pregnancy, so I was counting on them to help with this one.

Monday came, and I tried to find a doctor that took my Marketplace insurance. Obamacare. We had enrolled in March, but we had not had to use the insurance yet. The problem was, out of the 68 OB/GYNs in my area that were listed as providers, I could not find a doctor that actually was a provider. I called the insurance company. Everyone I spoke with seemed to know that their lists were not accurate, and each representative agreed to help me find a participating provider. I was told that someone would call me back when a provider was found. I called doctors. The insurance company called doctors. I called back to the insurance company on Tuesday. And Wednesday. Not one of the providers that had been called were still accepting my insurance. So I changed strategies. I called the Marketplace.

My purpose in calling was to see if I could change insurance plans. I needed a plan that was widely accepted. I needed to see a doctor. The longer I went without progesterone, the more nervous I became about the little life inside me. The Marketplace representative said I might qualify for special enrollment since I was pregnant. I might be able to change plans. She did a little bit of typing and checking on her end. What happened next is unbelievable to me, even still. She said that I qualified for Medicaid, and so she had to submit that application for me. She also said that she was terminating my insurance effective that day. I tried to tell her that I didn't want to apply for Medicaid. I wanted to keep my coverage, but I just needed a different plan. It didn't matter.

What if I need to go to the emergency room tomorrow?

Medicaid will cover it if you are eventually approved.

But what if I am not approved for Medicaid?

Basically, she said, I would be responsible for paying for it myself. She said that since I qualified for Medicaid, I could not keep my Marketplace plan. She had no choice but to drop my coverage, despite the fact that I had paid premiums for coverage through the end of month. By the end of that call, I had no insurance coverage, and I had been forced to apply for Medicaid.

I got in my car, and I drove to the Fort Worth Pregnancy Center. I needed care, and I needed someone to help me to get into a doctor quickly. I felt like time was running out. The people at the pregnancy center were kind and compassionate. They gave me a list of doctors who might take me as a self-pay patient since I no longer had insurance. I spent the afternoon making calls. Several doctors wouldn't see me because I was considered  a high risk patient. The last doctor I spoke to said that he would see me, but only with a $500 deposit, in addition to whatever charges I incurred from my first visit. He could not, however, see me that day. In the end, at the suggestion of a friend, I called and scheduled an appointment with a local midwife who agreed to run my blood work at cost. I scheduled another appointment with a nurse midwife, in case it turned out that I needed a prescription for the progesterone.

Friday's blood work looked good. Progesterone level needed to be a little higher. Monday's blood work showed the thing I had prayed against. My HCG levels had dropped. I was going to lose the pregnancy. By Tuesday evening, I was actively miscarrying. I was devastated. I am still devastated.

Wednesday I kept my appointment with the nurse midwife. She was compassionate and helpful. She listened to my story, and she performed an ultrasound to make sure that my body was handling the miscarriage like it should. She helped me put a plan in place in case I got another positive pregnancy test. The appointment cost me almost $200, and of course, I had no insurance or Medicaid to cover it. I scheduled another follow-up appointment that would cost another $100.

In the end, I was denied for Medicaid. Because I worked in the last 90 days, that income was used to determine eligibility. Apparently, the Medicaid qualifications that the Marketplace has are not the actual qualifications. I was dropped from my insurance and forced to apply for something for which I did not even qualify.

I know that it's possible that this pregnancy might have ended even if had the progesterone supplements that I needed. But at this point, I will never know. I needed medical care, and I did not have access to it, thanks to the lack of providers in my area. When I called to see if I could change plans, to increase my chances of receiving care for my baby, they took that coverage away from me. It just feels wrong that a plan that was supposed to ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare was the very thing that prevented me from getting the care that I needed in time.

I don't tell my story to start a fight. This isn't meant to fuel a conservative vs. liberal fire. Maybe there are thousands of Americans who have had wonderful success with Marketplace insurance. It's possible that there a hundreds of success stories, stories where Marketplace insurance saved the day and saved a life. If that's the case, good for them. But something has gone very wrong when a pregnant woman that needs urgent medical care can't get it.

This is my story. My situation. Marketplace insurance failed me. It failed my baby. And my baby matters.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Bike in the Bushes

The summer after I turned nine, my family moved to Rotorua, New Zealand. We moved into a little house at 3 Totaravale Street. I have incredibly vivid memories of living in this house. I remember a tree in the front yard that had perfect Y-shaped limbs. I would climb up into this tree with a pillow and a book, and I would rest my pillow on the upper branches of the Y to lie back on and read Nancy Drew. The backyard had red clay, and I dug it up by the handfuls, positive that I would be able to make my own dishes out of it. I was sorely disappointed when I went outside after two days of letting my clay cups sit in the sun and they were still clay-like. No handmade dishes for me. I also recall wetting the bed in this house. I was old enough to get up, change my own sheets and clothes, and pray that no one noticed. Lots of funny kid-like memories here.

But the thing I remember the most about the house on Totaravale is the hill. If you walked outside our front door and turned to the right, there was a slight hill that led up to a cul-de-sac. It was a bike rider's dream. We hadn't been in New Zealand very long when my dad found a deal of a group of used bicycles. There were, at the time, five kids in our family, so purchasing bikes for all of us was a costly thing. But everywhere we ever lived, my dad made an effort to make it home by purchasing bikes and trampolines and whatever else children needed to pass the time. So we got new-to-us bicycles. For whatever reason, I will blame it on being the middle child, I got a bike with faulty brakes. And by faulty, I mean that it had no brakes. I was not a daredevil, and so for a while, this suited me fine. I would ride slowly down the street, dragging my feet when necessary to slow down and stop.

Then there was the hill. We all learned to love to ride down the hill. It was fun without being too steep. It was the perfect balance between cautious and carefree. I always chose to ride on the sidewalk because the street was just too uncertain. There were too many things that could go wrong riding in the street, especially without brakes. There was next to no traffic on our street.  I mean, the house number was a single digit. Just a handful of houses on a quiet little street. So the danger was more imagined than reality. Even so, the sidewalk was my safe place. Until.

One Wednesday- I remember it was a Wednesday because we had church- I was at the top of the hill, and I braced myself for a thrilling ride down. I began to pedal slowly and started to gain momentum. Then I saw it. Straight ahead of me, a car was pulling out of their driveway. They were backing out slowly, and I noticed that they saw me and stopped short of pulling into the road. At this point, they were blocking the sidewalk with their vehicle, and in my head, I was left with only two reasonable choices. I could veer to the left and ride my bike into the street, missing their car completely and probably safely returning to the bottom of the hill. Or I could swerve right and land directly in their bushes. A normal person might have chosen the street. Not me, though. I was nine, and I was scared of everything. I chose the bushes.

The next moments were humiliating. They got out of the car and helped me up. I managed to roll my bike back across the street to our little house, and my mom felt so bad about my scrapes and bruises that she let me stay home from church that night. As a preacher's kid that was in church at least three times a week, it felt like a nice consolation prize. But that day, I let my fear of the unknown supersede logic. Logic would have said to ride into the road. Fear said to choose the painful thing because then at least you know what's coming.

I am 38 years old now. Most days, I am not the fearful kid I was when I was 9. Most things don't scare me like they used to. But I still hate uncertainty. I hate walking a road when I can't see what comes next, and unfortunately, that is most of life. And since February 17, my dad's life has hung in the balance. Following a traumatic brain injury, he has sat in a coma and the outcome is no clearer today than it was the day of his accident. We have no idea how this will turn out.

We go to visit him regularly. We walk ourselves through the motions, telling him that we are there. We check his monitor and allow his blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels to tell us how he is. This is how he speaks to us. We get warm washcloths, and we clean his face and tell him stories about our day. I apologize profusely for having to impose on his personal space like that, and I remind him that he often did this for me as a child. We read Scripture and play music and pray over him. And we cry, even though we try not to sometimes. It feels terrible to leave him, and I always feel pangs of guilt as I go back to my car and my ability to speak and walk and drive. And he is just there in bed, helpless. It's the hardest thing I have ever done.

I have to tell you, that it is not getting easier. We aren't adjusting to life without him. We are missing him more and more each day. Faith is harder to come by at week 15 than it was at week 1. Hard decisions are having to be made. He is going to be moved into a Skilled Nursing Facility next week, and that just feels like too much. We have prayed over and over that it wouldn't come to this and yet, here we are.

Can I just be honest with you here? On my most faithless days, I think to myself

God, if you are going to take his life, just let him go now. Let him be reunited with his mom and dad. He has served you faithfully for over 40 years. Let him be at peace now. 

And in part, this is for him. But it's also for me. Because even though it is not the answer we want, it is an answer. The uncertainty of what comes next feels like an unbearable weight. Some days, I would rather ride right into the bushes and just feel the pain of the crash than have to ride into the street and not know what comes next.

There are lessons to be learned in the street, though. And while I do not believe for one moment that God allowed all of this to transpire because we all need to learn lessons, I think every hard situation we walk through is an opportunity. To exercise our faith. To grow our trust. To learn to rightly navigate deep waters. To realize our complete and total dependence on a Sovereign God. To learn to suffer well. (Thanks, Angela, for this reminder)

So we ride in the street. No brakes, no control. Moment by moment. We are given grace for each day. And I want to walk this way always. I don't want to walk away from friendships because I feel like a friend may be pulling away from me first. I don't want to walk away from a dream because I am afraid of failing. I don't want to shut down the potential for growth and change because it feels hard to do. I want to choose faith and hope.

We're riding on, Dad. We are believing in, praying for, and counting on healing for you! You are so loved.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Well Behaved Women

Well behaved women seldom make history.  It is a quote often incorrectly attributed to Marilyn Monroe and Eleanor Roosevelt, but is actually a book by Mormon feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  She used the book to highlight notable women in history, such as Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. While I certainly understand the original intention behind the book, I have to say that I can't wholly agree with Laurel's assessment of well behaved women.  Well behaved women make history, change the course of history, even, every day.  I should know.  I am the daughter of a well-behaved woman.

My mother is a gentle soul.  If you are blessed to know her, you probably know that she and I are complete opposites in many ways.  I am loud, and she is quiet.  I am bold, and she is cautious.  I am a confronter, and she is a peacemaker.  She is well behaved.  And me?  Well, I try.

She talks about how she grew up wanting to be a nun, before she realized that being a nun required being Catholic.  She just wanted to serve God.  And so God took the willing heart of a little girl, and he planned something greater.

She married a preacher when she was only 20.  And for over forty years, she has followed him wherever God led.  Across states and oceans and back again.   She has sold and re-bought housefuls of furniture and has made-do and sacrificed in the name of obedience to Christ.  I have seen her struggles, but I have never seen defiance.  She has faithfully relied on God as her direction and provision for as long as I can tell.

She became a mother when she was only 21, and spent most of the two following decades caring for babies.  She taught at Christian schools so that all six of her kids could have a Christian education.  She parented us with repeated little phrases that we still repeat to one another like "It's always right to do right" and "Pretty is as pretty does".  Those phrases were true when she started saying them, and they are still true.  She woke us with early morning songs and lots of clapping.  She made chore charts, and the words "pitch in" were regularly on her tongue.

My mother has always been resourceful. A woman with six kids has to be resourceful. When we were younger, our least favorite thing was when we found something we wanted to buy (or to be bought for us), and mom would whisper "That would be so easy to make". But now, my sisters and I say the same thing... because Mom was right. So many of my clothes were homemade. Taffeta dresses for school banquets, sweatshirts with puff paint for my middle school cheerleading days, bedroom curtains in teal and purple. As a child, I remember hours of thrift store shopping, stretching small amounts of money into complete wardrobes for six children. We were always well-dressed while mama dressed us. And ironed. Wrinkles were not acceptable. They still are not acceptable.

I watched as my mother battled depression, and I saw how she dove head-first into Bible study and prayer to bring her through it. I have pictures in my head of her at the kitchen table, Bible and notebooks and pens spread across. These are wonderful things I hope to model for my family, too.

Over the last few months, she has watched as my dad's life was so fragile, so uncertain. He has been on the verge of passing from this life several times. With every infection and fever and prognosis, she has been right there, praying and hoping. We have all grieved the loss of him from our daily lives, but no one feels it like my mom. Everything about her life has been turned upside down. She has had to be brave and make difficult decisions. Until the day my dad wakes up, more difficult decisions will be hers to make. And still, she is praying and hoping for the moment that he wakes up. She talks about their Alaskan cruise they have always wanted to take. I believe they will get to take it. It's just a matter of time.

You might not see her name in the history books. She is not famous. But she has six children and thirteen grandchildren whose lives have been shaped by her influence. There are people all over the world who have been impacted by her life and ministry.

My mother is faith-filled. She is kind-hearted and sympathetic. She is a listener, a counselor by nature. She loves people, and she loves Jesus.

She is indeed well behaved.

And I think she's pretty special.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nothing to Say

I hope you'll allow me another previously unpublished blog post, originally from August of 2013.

It was the first Andrew Peterson song I had ever heard.  It played on Christian radio in Nashville several times a day, and before I knew it, I was in love.  I had to have the whole album.  I mentioned the album to a friend, and within a day or so, I was holding Carried Along, Andrew Peterson's first major label album.  (Thanks again, Kenny, for the gift)  Over the last thirteen years, I have grown to love everything about AP's music.  I love his songwriting, the humility in his song delivery, the truth he conveys in his music.  I have found several of my favorite singer-songwriters because of their association with him.  In fact, Jake and I met because of a Facebook concert invite of an artist that I learned of through Andrew Peterson.  So, you know, I feel like I owe him one.  I have been to four of his Behold the Lamb of God shows held every Christmas season, and as long as he continues to perform them, I will continue to go.

But as much as I love his current music and the beautiful things he has written along the way, my sentimental heart is still deeply connected to the Carried Along album.  I am all tied up in the lyrics and the harmonies.  I know just when to come in with my background vocals as I sing along.  When one song ends, I know in exactly what key the next song starts.  It's on my list of go-to music when nothing else sounds good (Nickel Creek's self titled album and The Weepies Say I am You is also on this list).  I love every song on this album with equal affection with the exception of the song The Coral Castle.  (Sorry, Andrew, it's just weird and dark sounding, and I don't think I will ever learn to love it or even understand it)  I even have the song Rise and Shine as my alarm clock for Sunday mornings.  So appropriate.  I love this album.

Last Saturday Jake and I had planned to attend the Greene County Fair.  I was looking forward to funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos.  We had saved up a little money specifically for fair food, since rides are pretty much off limits to me right now.  The fair didn't open until 1 p.m., so we decided to head to our favorite local Amish store to look around.  Jake goes to the Amish store to look at health foods and to buy local honey.  But I had a secret agenda for going to the Amish store.  Every Saturday they make fresh donuts and pretzels.  The donuts are huge, and they may well be the best plain donuts I have ever eaten, especially because they are almost always warm.  So we went, I got a donut and Jake refused to eat any of it.   It was almost lunchtime, and we were trying to think of something to eat (never mind that I had just had a donut).  Jake looked up the mileage between the Amish store, which is on the outskirts of town, and Asheville, North Carolina.  We are never really too far from Asheville, no matter where we are in town, but he calculated that a drive to Asheville was only about an hour long from where we were.  We had not left the house prepared for such a drive.  Generally I don't leave the house for the day without wearing comfortable clothes and shoes or without a car charger for my phone.  I was wearing my super-tight TOMS that I have only worn twice, my under-belly maternity pants (which I can only handle for about an hour or so before I want to scream), and my car phone charger had been left at home.  We decided to ignore the inconveniences, bypass the fair, and we headed to Asheville.

We had been on the road maybe about 25 minutes when we realized it.  Driving down the interstate, everywhere we looked there was green and there were mountains.  And though I am a Texas girl that loves big sky and long, flat roads that never seem to end, I was overwhelmed by the beauty.  Everywhere I looked there was a breathtaking view.  I wanted to stop right in the middle of the interstate and stand and take it all in.  The clouds were billowy and gray, but everything about the trees and the mountains spoke life.  And we were speechless.  I reached for my iPhone, and Jake knew what I was going to play.  Nothing to Say was perfectly appropriate.  As we wound our way through the mountains, we were both quiet as we listened to the song playing both inside and outside.

Our day in Asheville was a success. We made a quick trip to the cloth diaper store so that my baby will be both diapered AND environmentally conscious. Coffee from Waking Life, something decaffeinated for me, and something iced for Jake. Lingering in Malaprops Book Store before our dinner at Sunny Point Cafe, where I had breakfast for dinner and Jake had the boldly-named Mighty Good Chicken Sandwich.

We took a different, faster way back home. A back way that is filled with scary two lane roads that cut through the mountains in a series of sharp twists and turns. It is beautiful during the daytime but terrifying in the dark. Thankfully we made it home to tell the story.

It isn't often that I find myself without words. If you know me, you know this. I am... um, verbose. But it's a lovely feeling. To be so wrapped up in the beauty and goodness of God that you just have to be still, nothing at all to say.

And if you want to hear the song...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Living the Dream

Note: This is a previously unpublished blog post from last June. It is not a post that reflects my current life situation, but it was where I was in my heart and mind then. Interestingly enough, I wrote this because I genuinely wanted to be able to stay at home with Jude, and it just wasn't possible. Within three days of writing this, Jake lost his job at the church in Delaware and we started planning a move to Fort Worth, where I currently stay home with Jude most days of the week. God knows our hearts. He cares about our pain. And sometimes His solution doesn't always look like we think it will. But He is always working behind the scenes on our behalf... I know He was when I wrote this.

My son was sick this morning, and so Jake and I spent the morning having the "who needs to work more?" debate, and I won.  Or lost, depending on how you look at it.  So I left my baby in the capable hands of his father, and they went to the doctor to discover that my little guy has a double ear infection.  His first.  And I wasn't there to hear what the doctor said or to hold him as he was examined.  Instead I drove off to work to take care of other people's children while they work.  And so the cycle goes.  If we are all working, someone has to be watching all of these kids.

Motherhood wasn't supposed to look like this.  I did not dream of spending my mornings in a whirlwind of diaper changes, shower turn taking, diaper bag packing, pumping so the baby has bottles, and rushing, rushing, rushing to make sure we are out the door on time.  We are rarely out the door on time.  This was not my plan.  I imagined leisurely mornings of nursing and rocking and reading books.  I dreamed of playmats and peek-a-boo.  Of library story time.  Of babywearing mommy groups... they have these, you know.  I dreamed of play dates.  I knew that being a stay-at-home mom would be hard.  We might be a little poor.  I would clip coupons and make my own baby food.  I chose cloth diapering because it would be cheaper in the long run (and it totally is).  And for the first four months, I had this life.  I was exhausted and spent so much of the time in a sleep-deprived stupor.  But it was good.  The baby was held and rocked and fed and we managed to pull off simple, stress-free days, mostly.

Then we moved.  The cost of living is higher here in Delaware.  The job offer we got included jobs for both me and Jake.  And it meant daycare for Jude.  So I cried.  Because of all of the things I knew I wanted for my son, being at home with me was one of the top priorities.  A thousand worries flooded my mind, some realistic, some not.  Sickness.  Freak accidents. Germs. Abuse.  All of the things I felt like I could protect him from while he is in my presence.  And can I be really, really honest for a minute?  I felt angry.  Angry that churches preach that women should be keepers at home but do not pay their staff members enough to allow their wives to do just that.  The conflict within me was real.  Is real.  Because I spend my days raising other people's children while down the hall, someone else is raising mine.  And every day that I pick him up and he hasn't slept well or he is running a fever or has wet through his clothes... again, I feel like I am the one that has failed him.  I have this one job, to be his mom, and I am not doing it well.  I feel like I get so few hours to do it.

I have learned that expectation is a thief.  It robs me of contentment and joy. When I expect one thing and I get another, I feel cheated.  I feel resentful.  I feel like I have been given a raw deal.  And I end my days feeling frustrated, and when the frustration gets too much, I turn it off and exchange it for numbness.  And this, this situation I am in, is not what I expected.

I can't change my circumstances.  I have looked at it from a thousand different ways, desperate to change things.  I want to stay home with my son.  I have cried and prayed for the chance.  I really have.  And I know that if God were to release me from this thing I am doing to stay home, He would provide. I know He would.  He always does.  But I don't feel it.  Not right now.  So the only thing I can change is me.  My attitude, my heart, my expectations.  And really, I can't even do that.  But God can.  And He does.  I just have to let Him.

I long to feel a release.  To hear God say "Yep, you're done"... in my heart God talks like that.  But instead the thing I feel is the gentle presence of God as it shows up in our morning worship, and it says "My grace is sufficient".  And when I dance and sing with three year olds "Our God is a great big God" or teach about the simplest of Bible stories, I am reminded that He is capable.  He is mindful.  He is in the process of changing my heart and my dream.  Instead of longing for time at home, I want to long for obedience.  Instead of wishing that I was at home rocking my son, I want to pour hope and truth into the little hearts of the kids that enter my classroom each day.  We will rock when we get home.  And we do.  And God will fill in the gaps.  He will heal the sicknesses and make the time I have with my son profitable.  And He will keep giving me chances to be Jesus to a room full of three-year-olds.

May this be my new dream.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

But If He Doesn't

This is one of my favorite recent pictures of my dad. Thank you to everyone that has prayed us through these last few weeks. We love and appreciate you all.

I am a Bible story girl. From my earliest days, I was taught the stories of ordinary people that God used to do extraordinary things. Stories of miracles and city walls falling and giants and waters parting.

I believed those stories.

I believe those stories.

The story of David killing Goliath with one stone. Sarah having a baby as an old woman. God speaking the earth into existence. And then there are the three Hebrew children. You know them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They wouldn't bow before the statue created by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were thrown into the fiery furnace. They survived it all. Not a singed hair. No smoke smell on their coats. The fire had no power over their bodies*. It's an unlikely story. And yet, it's true.

I love this story. I was reading it over yesterday morning and there were so many things that stood out to me, that excited me about the detail that is communicated in these verses. The faith that is exhibited. The deliverance that was experienced. The glory that went to the only one worth of it... God himself.

These three wouldn't bow to the giant statue. They were brought before the King, threatened with a fiery death, and this is what they said. (Bear with me, y'all. I am not going to preach. Probably. But you might need this as much as I do.)

Standing before an angry king that had the power to kill them, these three brave young men still said...

Our God is able to deliver us. 

Our God will deliver us. 

It is one thing to know that God is able to deliver. It is entirely another to know that God will deliver.

And then they said something that still sends shivers up my spine because of it's brazenness.

But even if He doesn't, we will not serve your god or bow down to your image.

But even if He doesn't. We won't bow.

We are almost to the four week mark of my dad being in a coma. He has suffered a brain injury after a fall that resulted in a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. It has been the hardest four weeks of our lives, without question. With good reports, we have felt hope. With the negative reports, we have felt despair. There have been three separate times where the hospital called for us to come quickly because they thought he wouldn't make it. Each time we went and we prayed, sang, and read scripture, preparing for the worst and praying for a miracle. Each time, we experienced deliverance.

This morning, my dad is still alive. He is breathing on his own. He yawns and moves his mouth and his eyelids flutter. He stretches, and we see a change in his heart rate when we are around and talking to him. Some of the doctors and nurses are negative. They speak doubt and fear into our circumstances, and since they are the medical experts, it's difficult not to let their words sink into our hearts and settle there. It is hard not to bow down to the fear and uncertainty.

But like I said, yesterday I read Daniel 3. I read it out loud to my dad when I visited him. And God spoke directly to me through that story. We need deliverance. We are desperate for miracle. We are begging God for an awakening. For complete healing and restoration. For my sweet dad to have another 15 or so years of life and ministry. We want him back.

And the first part is easy.

Our God is able to deliver us. 

Of course He is. He is all-powerful.

The second part is harder.

Our God will deliver us.

That's pretty bold. But for the past couple of weeks, this is settled in my heart. I believe deliverance and healing is coming.

But the last part. The last part is rough.

But if He doesn't.

But if He doesn't, y'all.

If this confidence I feel in my heart proves to be faulty. If this deliverance and healing isn't earthly like I believe it will be. If God chooses to take my dad home to heaven.

We will not bow.

Not to fear. Not to despair. Not to unbelief.

But if He doesn't, God will still be God. All-powerful. All-knowing. Loving, compassionate, with new mercies every morning. He will still be ever present in our situation. It will all be for our good and for His glory. With my human eyes, I don't see how it will work. But I believe it.

I have so many friends right now dealing with hard things. These things have weighed heavy on my heart over the last few weeks. I am thankful that God has placed me here in this situation, where we are dependent on the prayers of other people, to remind me that other people are dependent on my prayers. And I have prayed. Some of these situations seem more impossible than others. But I am praying for a miraculous deliverance. You might need deliverance. You might need God to come through in a way that seems completely impossible. God is able. And he will deliver. But if he doesn't, He is still sovereign. He is still faithful. He is still good. He is still able to redeem your circumstance and use it to reveal himself to people who are watching you walk through it.

He is still God.

*If you need to strengthen you faith a little, turn to Daniel 3:27 and read about how they "saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power". Your fire has no power either. I mean, this whole chapter is so filled with good stuff.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Sound of Silence

It has been almost eight months since my last post.

Eight months.

In that time, we moved. My baby turned one. Jake started seminary. I began teaching again. Time has passed in a fairly unremarkable way. Eight months of regular days and loads of laundry and baby bath times. And while I would like to say that my reason for not posting is the lack of spectacularly interesting topics, that's not the real reason.

I like to be honest. I think honesty is one of the best gifts I can give as a writer, and sometimes honesty isn't easy. I have felt too weary for honesty. I have felt confused and hurt and angry. Those things are not easy to write about without pointing fingers, without placing blame. And because my mama raised me right,  if you can't say something nice...

Therefore, I have been silent. I have felt the weight of the silence. It has been tangible for me. I have been processing. I have been sitting back and just hoping to see some kind of clarity about our cross country journey that brought us back home. Basically home, anyway. Close enough to home. We are less than an hour away from both of our families. I can drive an hour and have coffee with some of the best girls I know. I don't always, but I can and that's important.

We have found a new church home. After a semester of spiritual rest at my dad's church, which is as familiar and comfortable as my parents' living room, Jake began searching for a new ministry and found a new job as a worship pastor. The people that make up our church family are kind and generous, and we feel right at home. We have a class filled with college students that we genuinely like. We are looking forward to learning them and also teaching them.

I have a teaching job that is perfect. I teach two days and week, and I get to be a mama the rest of the time. After a few months of having Jude in daycare in Delaware, I learned to be extra grateful for these moments. The daily grind of washing cloth diapers and cutting strawberries into tiny pieces and refilling sippy cups is sweetened significantly by the fact that I know what it feels like not to have these things. This is better. Time with him is better.

Tonight I am sitting at a coffee shop in Fort Worth with people that are much cooler than I. It just finished lesson planning for the week, and I am taking advantage of this rare, kid-free moment. I have on no makeup, and I am wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants. But no matter. I am not here to look cute. I am here to breathe. And to have really great coffee. And to write. Hopefully there will be more writing to come.

There are so many things to be thankful for. Last Saturday I met my mom and sisters for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. We live close enough to do that. Today I took a walk in the 70 degree sunshine (in February, people!) with my son and husband across the lovely campus where we live. Afterward, Jude and I went to the library. I searched for books on World War I, and Jude walked up and down the aisles, squealing loudly and throwing books onto the floor. Tomorrow night I will meet two of my siblings to practice singing at an upcoming event. This is what my family does, and it's nice to be right in the middle of it again.

Here they are, my words. I am okay. I am blessed. I don't need to be silent anymore.


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