Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back to School

Back to school routines started tonight. After a couple weeks with a grandma filling the house with joy and loud, crazy bedtimes, there was instead a peace filled stillness that crept through our house around 7:30 PM as the wind-down began. Bubble baths, soaped up kids who used the entire bottle of body wash, squeaky clean bodies curled up beside us, my chin resting on the damp locks of a redhead who's about to turn five. Storytime, prayer time, then rest.

Well, before you think we're rockstar parents at this back to school routine, that's about the 3rd time all summer that this event occurred, and my guess is we'll keep it up for about 4.2 weeks then return to getting to bed too late and night time tantrums. On that note, there was one of those this evening as well.

Somewhere wedged between bath time and reading time I realized that this is our first ever actual back to school bedtime routine. Three years ago we had a not-quite four year old who I was teaching bits and pieces of letters and numbers to, a one year old just two weeks shy of turning 2, and was about fifteen days away from a positive pregnancy test. Two years ago we had decided to homeschool preschool due to our youngest's NICU stay and germs, and were kissing and crying our kids away as we drove the two hours back to the hospital where we'd hold and rock our sweet four month old to sleep the eve of her first heart surgery {that she wasn't expected to survive}. And last year we were once again living in tight quarters at the Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City, watching the days on the calendar play a game called wait out the virus and get to the next heart surgery before her shunt closed off. While other parents were dropping their kids off on their first day of Kindergarten, we were dropping ours off at the O.R.

So this is the first year, I guess, that we get to tackle this back to school routine thing. The first year that I get to purchase school supplies, bring them home, and disperse of them in the correct cubbies, nooks, and crannies of the homeschool room instead of shoving all the books plus two colored pencils and one broken pencil sharpener into the Thirty-One tote(s), haul it to the van, and try to figure out what subject isn't worth the weight in gold, or in carrying strength, once we arrive at our temporary second home. This is the first year that I get to have all three kiddos in the same house as we read aloud and sing songs, learn to write our full name and full sentences and full wean off the vent. Learn more about counting our ABC's and numbering our alphabet to twenty-six. We wrote out a schedule and are starting new routines.

Routine is a strong word in our household, but also a mysterious word. Routine means meds at 8am//9am//9:30am//2pm//3pm//4pm//8pm//9pm//12am. Routine means daily trach cares and physical therapy and cuddles. Routine means we all ate a breakfast//lunch//dinner without a minor {or major} medical issue. Routine means we're home and thriving.

But routine around here means it can be broken at anytime. Take the kids to the park? You bet. What? Chloe needs an emergency trach change? Sideline that park time, but I'll make it up to you with a movie tonight and popcorn. Help you clean your room like I promised? Well, we need to wait a bit until Daddy is home so that Mommy can keep helping Chloe in the front room. Date day Friday with the hubs all scheduled while the nurse watches Chloe and the kids watch the sitter. Scratch that, sitter sick, no back ups on short notice and nurse doesn't work the weekend so we'll reschedule for one, maybe two more weeks out due to appointments and therapies the following week. It's OK, that date day only took three weeks to plan out. Family vacation? HA! Oy. Not even gonna go there...

It's so weird, this juxtaposition of actually being home and having routines, yet at the same time needing to be so incredibly flexible. But in all honesty, our kids rock flexible. Then again, this life is all they've ever known since the ages of 3 and 1. They don't really understand that this many therapies and appointments and phone calls to the doctor and pieces of medical equipment aren't usually found in the common household. While most parents worry that they locked the cleaning supply cupboard, we try to hide the sharps container out of sight and reach.

I was standing over the kitchen counter last week was hovering over the steaming coffee pot last week (the one that I forgot to fill the water in before turning on), half awake after a long night that could rival a newborn on day four at home when that surreal thought just washed over me for the umpteenth time.

I didn't sign up for this.
I didn't see this coming.
I didn't know this was in the realm of possibilities when I accepted my college diploma and thought about where I want to be in ten years life plan. This sort of stuff happened to other people. Not me.  Meet handsome man: CHECK. Serve the Lord and hope our household honors Him: CHECK. Have adventures with handsome man: CHECK. Have this type of adventure where we allow God to walk deeper into our lives, ironically the life He is allowing us to breathe in each day in the first place, and let Him interrupt it for His glory and kingdom and let Him call the shots: Whoa. Check, I guess? Yes. Check. YES. CHECK.

We're there now. We get it now, three years into this path, this unexpected twist in the gravel road of our almost-perfect little American life, the reminder of whose life this really is, and how much more there is to this life if we let God direct it. We've learned to trust God that whatever this is He's walking us into, that He will see us through it. Daily. Each moment. The scary chest compression//purple baby moments. The celebration of the end of summer reading moments. The weaning off the vent moments. The joy in seeing my child read moments.  The learning to have a flexible routine. And when we're weary, we go back to Him. Again and again to fill our cups. Because we get drained often on this adventure. But He continues to fill us up. And it's worth it.

Taste and see that He is good, and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him.

And ask yourself if you are willing to let God interrupt your routine//life for His glory.

{And if you're already on one of His adventures, then we pray for endurance and strength balanced with the utmost of joy.}

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Through the tall dusty door that hung below the home made basketball hoop, paint chipping and falling as my fingers touched the wood, sliding it to the left on its worn and rusty track, would slowly appear before me a playground of rusty metal, vintage signs, tin containers, bike parts, metal cabinets, dirt covered empty feed sacks. Piles of old window frames, buried beneath layers of rusted tools and nails. 

I would sneak in quietly and stand among the dust that floated in the light coming through the broken glass of the window pane in my grandfather's shop and pretend to be a statue. If I moved, then the kittens would scatter and hide in the debris of farm life. But if I stood as still as possible, moving only a few inches every few minutes, then I was better able to catch a glimpse of the calico fur hiding inside the hallow tire. And maybe, just maybe, if I was still enough, they'd come out of hiding so I could scoop them up and play with them. Sometimes I was lucky and still enough for this to happen, but most of the time was spent being that statue that wouldn't blink as to spook the kittens. As I stood still, I'd take in everything around me and think through the layers and piles of metal and wood that sprawled out haphazardly before me. 

I'm still in love with that scene. I still decorate with a balance of wood and metal. Tin and worn, distressed furniture. Perhaps its because it takes me back to my childhood spent on my grandparent's farm. Or perhaps it's simply because I love the distressed, time-worn pieces. They have life to me. I can picture what my grandpa must have been trying to fix when he probably dropped that tin can on the floor and dented the side in. Mason jars lined his workbench, filled with nails and screws. I can smell the sawdust whirling around in the air as the wood was stripped from its original glory and created into its new glory, like the little wooden trailer that would be hooked to the old rusty red truck and toted around the fields carrying cousins and friends through the corn under the harvest's heavy orange moon. 

Judging from the home products featured in stores these days, and popular home shows that teach how to take old furniture or old homes and restore them to a new glory, I'm guessing I'm not the only one who likes the vintage farmhouse look. There are those who love the thrill of the pick as they sort through piles of someone else's junk to find that one piece of treasure that they can redeem and make new again. I recently watched a show on Netflix where a team of guys goes around to old homes or 19th century warehouses and takes history from that building-things like mantels and original hardwood floors, Victorian lamp posts and old makeshift cupboards, then they put a little string through a marked-up price tag and sell that piece of history for profit. Because people will buy it. They'll buy the marked up and scar covered old church pew. They purchase the 1859 original bay window seat and work it into the floor plans of their new construction home. They take the old battered hardwood floor and lay it carefully into their home and walk into the future while stepping on the past. 

One particular scene struck me. The team took a large, elaborate bay window out of a house built around the mid 1800's. It was a delicate step by step process as they first sawed off around the window while another set of guys hoisted straps around the window. Outside the house there was a forklift waiting for the window. The idea was to gently slide the window out of the house standing all around it, a team of men on the inside and a team on the outside having a tug of war with the straps so that the window balanced straight up, while at the same time allowing the fork lift to slowly lower the window down to the ground, hopefully in one piece. I was in awe of how careful of a process it was to remove this tattered yet beautiful piece from its original location so that it could be restored and made beautiful once again in a new location. 

Let's apply that same principle of restoring something worn but beautiful to our own lives, which God takes, no matter how messy and torn, and He restores them. Like the team of eight men that carefully lowered that window without breaking a single window pane, God gently pulls us out of our current location of pain or affliction or selfishness or wherever our heart might be, and kindly and carefully restores us back, but this time refining us each step of the way. He takes something that was already beautiful and He sees past the scars and marks and scratches, and He restores it into something new. There might still be physical scars, but our hearts will be changed. He restores to us the joy of our salvation. 

Can we let the Lord toss us and turn us toward Him, even if it means temporary affliction and tattered dreams? Will we be able to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," if we don't have a single scar to show because we were more concerned about a life of perfection, than recognizing our sins, repenting, and allowing the Lord to graciously refurbish us again? Do we allow Him to restore us often enough, or do we seek the world to do so? Do we trust the original carpenter of our life to make us new, over and over again, refining us through fire and flood? God's word does not say that the flood waters won't ever come or that the fires will always stay without flame. No, God's word says, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you," Isaiah 43:1-2. 

Sin and suffering will enter our lives, at least as long as we're following the Lord. But the question is if we will allow those times to make us more beautiful in His eyes? Will we rejoice and dance at a life lived with risks and leaps of faith and seasons of waiting and tears of sorrow and wrinkles of understanding and scars of faith? 

Whatever the trial or affliction, or even small and temporary pains, whether it's just a gentle rainstorm  of a rough patch in a friendship, or a massive thunderstorm of illness or loss of job-press into it and find what it is that God is trying to rebuild in you, how is it that He is working to refine you in order to make you even more beautiful than you already are.