Knotted Hair and a God Who Cares

I spent thirty minutes unknotting my daughter’s hair this evening. I have never seen a mess like it, and I have very thick hair myself. This was unreal. She had just come upstairs from her shower, and she had already wrapped a neon scrunchie in her soaking wet hair. I could see some tangles in the ponytail, so I took it out and was just astounded at the mess after she had just washed it. I asked her how it got this bad, and she just said that she keeps it in a scrunchie so no one can see it.

I had no idea that over half her hair was a giant tangled mess. I sent her to bed after the process was complete, and my first thought was, “I am a horrible mom.” How could I not know that her hair was such a mess? How could I be so oblivious? This tangled bird’s nest on her head symbolized for me the many messes I have had to manage or clean up with her, and this was just another one that I never saw coming. My next thought was that someone else, almost anyone else, would be a better mom to this child than I am.

Yeah. I thought it. Then I decided to confront that thought with some truth. The truth is that being a mother to this child has exposed so much of my own sin nature, failures, ways I fall short, and inadequacies. As I have been forced to face those issues I would rather ignore, I have been thrust into the loving arms of the God who knows every single thing about me and loves me with an everlasting love. I have learned so much about God through my experience as a mother. I didn’t know how much I needed His grace. I really didn’t have a clue. I loved to follow the rules and make everyone happy and check all the boxes, but I did not have a clear picture of how desperately I needed His grace until I was confronted with my failure. And I fail a lot as I try to figure out parenting the child that God gave me. It is not as straightforward as the many books I have read explain it to be.

I have found this scripture from Romans to be a comfort in various seasons of life where the messes are many and the answers are few.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭11:33-36‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/111/rom.11.34-35.NIV

God doesn’t have to explain to me why He chose me to be her mom. I don’t have His view. My sight is obstructed compared to His. He is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful. I defer to Him when I don’t understand. I may not have all the answers, but I have Him. He is faithful. He has never failed me. I rest in Him tonight, and I pray that you will, too.

I’ve been listening to this a lot lately. I can’t resist sharing the soundtrack of my days whenever possible.

When the Storm Rolls In Part 2

This is a continuation of my post from last week.

I took the kids home on Saturday night, got them into bed with plans to drop them off with Grandma Cyndi the next morning in time for Matt’s dad Vern and I to get to the ICU at 11:00 AM. I talked to my mom for a bit, and settled in for a restless night of sleep.

On Sunday morning, I called the ICU to get an update on Matt’s condition. The nurse said he was stable, which was good news but it didn’t sound like he had improved much. We were pretty nervous heading to the hospital. I don’t remember a lot about walking into his room that day, just that he was pretty drowsy and out of it.

It was a really hard day. Matt’s condition did not improve, but it didn’t get worse, either. It was really hard to watch him stuck in a bed, too weak to even adjust his position. They brought liquids, but he didn’t take anything. By mid-afternoon, he was going to try to take a nap and told us that we could leave. So we got ready go, and as soon as Matt put his CPAP on, he projectile vomited everywhere. It was horrible. I couldn’t leave after that, so we waited as the nurses cleaned it all up. They had the best attitudes, they teased him as they wiped every inch of the ICU room.

Finally, we had to leave for the night. I picked up the kids and took them home. Once I finally got them into bed, I had a chance to cry. This was such a hard day, but two things happened to encourage me before I went to bed. I called our pastor and his wife and they prayed for me and Matt. Then I was messaging my good friend, and one of her friends texted me asking about Matt. Her husband is a doctor, and they helped me understand a few things as well as have a few questions to ask the next day. I felt much better after those two interactions.

On Monday morning, I dropped the kids off with my friend Steph. They love her and her house is so much fun, I knew they would have the best time. She hugged me and prayed for us, and I headed to the ICU again. I was a bit nervous to have another day like Sunday, so I blasted some worship songs that declared strength and victory, and I was ready to go.

Pastors Jonathan and Dan met me there, and we walked up together. Only two visitors were allowed in the room at a time, so I headed back to see if his parents were still in there. As I stepped into the room, I was shocked to see Matt’s face. The change from Sunday night was remarkable. His color was better, he looked more alert and was sitting up a bit instead of laying down. My heart leapt in my chest as I grabbed his hand. “You look so much better!” I said. I told him the pastors were coming in, and I stepped back out to eat my lunch.

After Pastors Dan and Jonathan left, Matt’s mom and I stayed the afternoon with him. I had to pick up the kids around dinner time, but it was much easier to leave on Monday than it had been just 24 hours before. I believe God healed Matt’s infection, and I was ecstatic.

My friend Steph gave us a meal as well as another friend from church, plus another wonderful friend gave us a gift card to help out. I was overflowing with gratefulness for all the blessings and care we received.

I will finish the hospital portion of the story in one more post, hopefully tomorrow.

When the Storm Rolls In

Joshua told the Israelites to set up stones of remembrance to remind themselves and future generations of the miracle God had done for them. It builds my faith greatly to be reminded of God’s faithfulness. I will always tell the story of how God saved my husband Matt’s life, and I am writing it here so it will stand for anyone who reads it as a reminder that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Our God is faithful, and His miracle-working power is the same today as it was in the days of Joshua and the Israelites.

Matt was sick for most of the week before we went to the hospital. For a few days, it was a typical head cold. He has seasonal and environmental allergies, so he tends to get a lot of stuffy noses, cough, itchy eyes, etc. We do our part to keep Kleenex in business. Later in the week, he had new symptoms, and he ended up sleeping in the living room, telling me later that he had been up much of the night vomiting. This isn’t terribly uncommon for him, either, so I just figured it was a typical illness for him. By Friday, he had been home from work for 3 days. I picked up our older two kids from camp, and it was a busy day with their return.

On Saturday morning, Matt said he might need to go to the doctor. He said he felt dehydrated. I worked on getting ready and finding someone to watch the kids. He finally said we should go, so I got everyone ready. He asked me to help him get dressed. He was too weak to put on his clothes, which kind of surprised me. But I figured if he was dehydrated, that would be a good reason for the weakness. We dropped off the kids at Matt’s parents house, and we headed to urgent care.

I walked in to the office, and we were the only ones there so we didn’t even sit in the waiting room. The nurse who watched Matt walk in grabbed a wheelchair immediately. They pushed him back to a room, and we answered all the questions as they checked his vitals. It was probably 10-15 minutes before the doctor walked in and solemnly told us that they could not help him at urgent care and he needed to go to an emergency room. They wanted to call an ambulance, but our local ER is about 10-12 blocks away, so I signed him out and said I would take him straight there.

As soon as the nurses had helped him into the passenger seat and closed the car door, I started crying. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know. I didn’t know you were so sick.” He said, “It’s okay, I didn’t know, either.” I just knew from their reaction that he was sicker than we imagined.

I pulled up to the ER and ran in to ask for a help and a wheelchair. Someone came out to help him and wheel him in while I parked the car. Once I got inside, we sat in a small ER waiting room for what felt like an eternity. I was just listening to his breathing, watching people walk by and joke in the hall while I was screaming inside, “We need help! Don’t leave us here!”

Being treated in the Waverly emergency room

Eventually, he asked me to find the bathroom. I checked with someone, and they said that they would be able to take him back to a room now. They wheeled him down the hall and helped him onto a bed. I sat in the only chair as we went through the same questions we had answered at urgent care. It had been a very hot day, and they seemed to think he was overheated. I explained that he had done absolutely nothing that day and had not been outside at all. It took a little while, but finally they realized the situation was more dire than they had assumed. They tested him for COVID right away as some of his symptoms fit, but it came back negative.

One thing that stands out to me is the doctor repeating quite a few times, “You are very sick. You’re very, very sick.” They looked at his tongue and said it was very white, apparently a sign of dehydration. They asked him when was the last time he had urinated. He thought about it and answered, “Maybe 2-3 days?” I could not believe it. He had never told me, I definitely would have known that was a really bad thing. I think he was just so sick that it must not have sunk in that it would be cause for concern.

My poor husband had to have a catheter inserted, and even then they could not get any urine out. She was asking someone else to come in and push on his bladder to help. I was just sitting there, watching all of this transpire as he remained conscious, talking and regularly responding that he was in no pain. It seemed incongruous to me. How could he be as sick as they said and be conscious, talking and even joking, and in no pain? I still don’t understand it, except that maybe it was a gift from God to keep us calm and not freaking out under the circumstances.

They had a lot of trouble getting his blood pressure. I wasn’t really comprehending that as a big problem myself, but eventually I heard 70 which I know is very low. The doctor told me he had sepsis. I have watched more than enough episodes of “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to know that they only mention sepsis when someone is gravely ill. I was texting his parents and mine with updates, and when I sent that, his parents answered, “What is sepsis?” I didn’t know how to define it, so I asked what to tell them, and she said it’s an infection in the blood.

They told me they were going to admit him and run a bunch of tests. That changed rather quickly, and the main nurse explained to me that his blood pressure was dangerously low. He needed a medication to raise it, but this medication is very serious and needs to be administered by an ICU nurse who would constantly be monitoring him to keep it at the right level. So it was determined he would be sent to the ICU at MercyOne in Waterloo. I know how it is with paperwork, but when people are telling you that your husband is “very, very sick,” you just expect things to move more quickly. But we still had to do some paperwork, insurance stuff, and eventually I realized it was about 6:45. The visiting hours at the ICU ended at 7 pm, and therefore I would be unable to go with Matt that evening.

It was hard to walk away as they wheeled him to the ambulance. Once I got to the car, I was in such shock that somehow I managed to get to his parent’s house, eat with them for dinner, and get the kids home and only cry once when I stepped out of the car and saw his dad standing there.

I’m going to split this up into a couple of posts so it is a little easier to read. But I promise it is worth finishing. We don’t get to see the end when we are trapped in a dark place with no light to be found. He is there, always, and this is just one of the many times in my life He has proven Himself faithful.

Bring on the Dead Flowers

I was gifted these flowers today by a child who was not happy about the consequences of the choices they made. I get my share of hate mail, but these are my first dead flowers.

This might have upset me or even caused tears to well up in my eyes a few years ago, but my skin has grown thicker and thicker the longer I have lived the parent life. It’s more typical for parents to encounter this behavior in the teen years, but we have a child who started much earlier. I never considered myself tough. Words of encouragement is my love language, and I’m an Enneagram 2, so words really impact me to my core. I still remember things that were said to me years and years ago. Once when I was in a had a falling out with friend in my 20s, I saw an email from her in my inbox at work. I grabbed a friend and asked her to delete it all the way so I was not tempted to read those words. I knew they would stick with me for a long time, so I chose not to read them.

In my earliest years of challenging parenting, I asked God why exactly He chose me for this job. It was exhausting me on a daily basis. I struggled to see the good in it. I felt defeated and discouraged all day long. Then one day as I folded laundry and prayed, God told me that He gave me this job because He knew I wouldn’t give up. He knew I would know where to turn when it became more than I could handle.

I didn’t always make the right choice. For a while, I sought things that satisfied me for a moment but never filled the void that was growing in me. I didn’t feel strong in any way. Post-partum depression combined with life circumstances tried to take me down, and I was tempted to let it. But I never got away from the fact that He is my only true hope.

There is no easy road in parenting. Or in life. We may take what seems like the easy way out early on, but we will pay for it later. If we choose the hard road now, we will reap the rewards of those choices in years to come. Sowing and reaping is a biblical principle that cannot be avoided.

I wanted to write this because I saw a glimmer of hope last night. This child experienced some unwanted consequences from me and from Dad, and usually this situation would result in at least a day or two of pouting before they could get over it. This time, within a couple of hours I received a sincere apology. I see that as a sign of growth, even if today still has its difficulties.

I challenge you to look for the glimmer of hope in your situation. If you struggle to find one, just remember that God loves you, and He is for you. And I’m always hear with a listening ear.

I have a hard time writing and not including a song that is filling me up right now. Today, it’s this one. I hope it encourages you, too.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pXqrF1vTzjY

Strength in Waiting

This is my view on a regular basis during the summer season. Last year, I ended up taking over most of the mowing duties since I was home and the kids were old enough to play outside while I mow.

I would prefer not to mow, but I try to use the time to listen to podcasts or pray. Last week as I rode across the bumpy lawn, I was praying about our future, our desire to move to a new home, and the challenges we face in getting there. I was (maybe) trying to rush God because the market is good for selling.

Then God said, “Do you think I care about the housing market situation?”

And I sheepishly answered, “No.”

I was looking through human lenses, and God reminded me that He works outside of time and the constraints we assume will be challenging for our situation.

Are you looking for a house in a market where they get snatched up before they are listed? Are you frustrated in your relationship with someone who stubbornly refuses to change? Are you devastated that your arms remain empty even as you pray and beg God for a child?

When I feel like I’ve been waiting far too long, I remember Joseph who spent two years in prison without knowing how God was working and if he would ever be released. The Israelites wandering in the wilderness for decades waiting for the last generation to die out so they could enter the Promised Land (our pastor illustrates this so well a few weeks ago). David waiting years to be crowned king.

Waiting is never an accident in God’s plans. My path from full-time ministry to years of volunteer ministry doesn’t make sense to me. But all along the way, I have seen His hand working. I have felt the peace that I am doing what He wants me to do. I have seen the necessity of certain seasons even as I simultaneously begged for them to end.

God knows your situation, too. He loves you and He loves to work things so beautifully that we have no doubt He made it happen. This is one of my favorite songs right now. Don’t waste the wait. Seek Him.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/59/isa.40.31.esv

The Return of Reading

I was the girl with the flashlight under my comforter, reading as much as I could as far back as I can remember. Becoming a mother changed my reading habit, and I have read more sporadically over the past ten years or so. At the beginning of 2020, I decided I wanted to get back to reading. I didn’t set a specific goal, but I took a trip without kids in January and got off to a good start. I ended up reading 31 books this year (and a few partials). I am very happy with my progress, and I look forward to reading more in 2021!

These 6 books were my favorites of what I read this year. I read more fiction than non-fiction, but the non-fiction I chose really impacted me. Our small group at church also read one portion of the Immerse Bible, and it was so memorable to read and discuss with my dear friends.

Did you read in 2020? I love to talk about books! Let me know what you read that impacted you. I am always looking to add more to my list!

Be a Friend, Get a Friend

2020, right? It has been a crazy year for the world, for our country and our city and in our home as well. I prefer to be real in these posts, not covering up the mess with a colorful wrapping paper and a shiny bow. But even as I often share the mess, there is so much beauty to behold in seeing God work in ways we didn’t expect. Today I want to share two things that God did this year that brought joy in the midst of the many struggles.

I have had my ministerial license through Open Bible Churches since 2002. Through the course of life and ministry, our family ended up at Crosspoint Church in Waverly, an Assemblies of God church. I attended an Assemblies of God Bible college and worked at the A/G Headquarters when I lived in Springfield, so the A/G isn’t new to me. When our amazing pastor asked me if I wanted to change my credentials last year, I decided to go for it. I took my test a year ago, and my interview was in January. Then came COVID, and I was forced to wait months for the actual approval. I received my credentials this summer, although I still have not participated the ceremony yet.

Throughout the process of getting credentialed with a new organization, the best part was the support and encouragement I received from everyone at our current church, from friends and colleagues who wrote references for me, and from our pastor who is incredible if I haven’t mentioned it before. We love Crosspoint Church so much, and I am honored to serve alongside the ministers here and arm-in-arm with so many of my college friends who are doing amazing things around the country and the world. I know this was the right step at the right time in my ministry, and I am so humbled at the way God moves in spite of my failures and weaknesses.

The week prior to Thanksgiving, I had my yearly mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and then a biopsy. The doctors were pretty confident that the mass they were seeing was benign, but we chose to have the biopsy to find out now rather than wait and see what happened.

Once again, through the process of testing and praying, wondering and trusting, what stood out the most to me was the love of my friends and family, the relationships that have helped me survive 2020. My mom came up and sat in the waiting room while I had my biopsy. A dear friend brought us dinner that night. A number of friends prayed as we waited for results. The mass is benign, no cancer was found, praise God. I am so grateful for the results and for the people who were with us in the waiting.

God is good. He keeps His promises, and I am reminded today that, no matter what we face, He is with us and that the relationships we invest in are the ones that will hold us up when we need it. Even as we have faced other challenges I have not shared here, my closest friends have been a source of comfort and strength throughout this year. I hope you can say the same, and if not, seek out those relationships that will build you up in Christ. And seek to be that friend for others as well!

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lilacs in September

Today is September 25. It is officially autumn, and I have a lilac bush in bloom. In a row of brown, lifeless bushes, one stands out with lavender blossoms and green leaves.

I am not a master gardener or anything close to it, but I know that lilacs bloom for a very short time in May (at least in Iowa, maybe it differs in other climates?). As I mowed the lawn yesterday, I was amazed at this lilac bush daring to bloom when everything around it has been dormant for months.

I contemplated this fall-blooming lilac bush for a while during and after my lawn mowing, and I was reminded of God’s ability to bring life where there was none. We see examples of physical resurrection in the Bible in I Kings 17, Luke 8, John 11, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The examples are endless of spiritual resurrection, of a spirit and soul that was dead being resurrected and infused with new life.

The challenges of this year have brought many of us to our knees. The world around us seems to spin in chaos and madness. For some of us, the madness has presented itself inside our homes as well. Things have occurred inside our four walls that no one else knows, but the Heavenly Father sees. I know He is making a way for you where there seems to be absolutely no way. That blooming lilac bush? I never would have imagined it would spring back to life in September. And God has a funny way of working things for our good in a time and a way that are beyond our understanding and not at all what we expected.

Let me encourage you today to keep believing, keep trusting in Him to come through for you. He is faithful, and He has never let us enter into a situation where He didn’t have the resources to get us out of that situation. If you don’t trust in Him, I would love to talk to you about the many ways He has been faithful to me.

I read Romans chapter 8 in my Bible a LOT. This is one of the many verses that has helped me through countless dark nights:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:31-32, 38-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Unexpected

I didn’t expect it. We decided sort of last minute to send our youngest to preschool in September of 2019. Our older kids did 2 mornings of preschool a week. We signed Evangeline up for a 4 afternoon a week program. Suddenly, I had time. For a few hours four days a week, I was alone.

My husband quickly signed me up to help him at his office, but I still was without kids on a regular basis. I could listen to my music loudly without constant talking. I could run a quick errand ALONE without arranging for someone else to watch the kids. I could think. I have been a work from home or stay at home mother for ten years now, and I have really missed these freedoms that I previously took for granted. I really love my kids, but I also love my freedom and independence. I had not experienced regularly scheduled time with no kids in ten years.

It. Was. Amazing. I relished those moments. My parched, weary soul was being rehydrated little bit by little bit.

Then the lockdown. With so little warning, I lost it all. I thought I would have time to mentally prepare for summer and the craziness that it is. I had no time. It was all the kids, all the time. No dropping the kids off with grandma to run a quick errand. Nothing.

After a few weeks passed, I asked my husband if I could run to get a Starbucks on a Saturday. A couple weeks later, I did it again. And I ate lunch alone in my car. And I picked up a few essentials (and a few non-essentials) at Target. Those couple of hours refreshed my soul more than I expected.

I don’t know what the next months hold. I know the unexpected can be challenging and devastating. It can also be beautiful and amazing. I know that He gives and takes away, and I trust that what He plans to give and take away is for my good and His glory. A lot has been taken away from us in the past few months. Much has also been given to us if we look closely and see clearly.

If you are struggling in this season, please don’t hesitate to email me here. I will be there for you.

Quarantinaversary

Today is our 14 year anniversary. We will happily postpone our celebration until we can do something special, i.e. without children. How special it will be to celebrate after this quarantine is over!

I watched the wedding of a girl I used to baby-sit a few weeks ago on Facebook Live. They were unable to have the wedding they had planned due to the virus, but she had moved her wedding date up so her dad could walk her down the aisle. He has been in treatment for stage 4 colon cancer. He was a youth pastor in Springfield, and I worked for him for a few months during and after college. As I watched him walk her down the aisle and then perform the ceremony, it was such an emotional moment.

I listened closely to the wedding message as his marriage to his beautiful wife and my friend is one I have admired for two decades now. He talked to the newlyweds about how to relate to each other when life gets hard, and it will get hard. He talked about being grateful, and as I listened I thought about how God has been teaching me that very lesson for the length of my marriage as well.

I thought I was in good shape getting married at 28. I figured I knew a lot more than the kids who get married at 20, 21, 22. But as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. I had an expectation that because I had made some great choices and had followed God’s plan for my life as a single, I thought that I would be rewarded with a perfect(ish) marriage. I forgot we were both human. Sinners. People with flaws joining their lives together is a recipe for some conflict. I didn’t talk about this expectation nor was it at the forefront of my mind. It lingered around the edges, tempting me with unhappiness and frustration at every turn. God used a lot of unpleasant, frustrating, devastating circumstances to strip away the fluff and show me the truth: I didn’t deserve anything. Marriage isn’t easy for anyone, and as I let God reshape me personally, I saw my perception of marriage change as well. Is it about what I can get? Or what I can give? Is it about who is doing their part? Or is it about doing everything I can no matter what he does?

The more I grew, the more I saw all I have to be grateful for in life and in marriage. I am not the woman I was 14 years ago. I could wish away the struggles, the hard years and the time I spent clinging to what I wanted instead of letting go and taking what God wanted to give me. But I don’t wish it away because every bit of it has brought me to today, to being able to be grateful for 14 years and 3 kids and life doesn’t look like what I planned or dreamed 14 years ago. It is much better than I could have put together, because the One who knows us best put it all together. He is still fitting the pieces in place, but I am so grateful I can rest in knowing that He loves me, He is for me and my husband and my marriage and my family.

Happy 14 years, Matt. The best is yet to come. I know it is. ❤️ I love you.