Thursday, December 9, 2010

Regan's healing

The most amazing thing happened the other day. I'm still trying to process it, actually. Here's the story; let me know what you think:
Sunday, 4 a.m. My 6-year old daughter wakes up complaining of a stomach ache. To the best of my memory she's never done this before. I ask her if she feels like she might be sick. No, she says, but my tummy reeeeally hurts. So we get the "barf-bowl" just in case and settle in and watch her. She is really in pain, and I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out why. We all ate the same thing for dinner, and it was homemade so I can't blame a restauarant. No one else is sick. We hadn't done anything unusual over the last couple days. I'm stumped. After a little while the vomit did appear. And appear. And appear. Around 5:30 I decided to make a couch-nest for her, since it was apparent neither one of us would be sleeping any more that night. Here's where things took off. That little girl vomited 11 times in 90 minutes and then I stopped keeping track. I could barely get the barf-bowl emptied and cleaned before the next round started. At one point she was retching every 5 minutes. Gut-wrenching heaves, where she convulsed like nothing I've ever witnessed, even while working at a hospital and having two kids. All the while she was writhing in pain from the original stomach-ache. I'm emotionally frantic, calling up all my medical training trying to figure out what is going on. No right-quadrant sensitivity (which is difficult to ascertain when your entire belly hurts), no fever. She appears to not have appendicitis or the flu. That's good. But what on earth IS it? Nothing is seeming to fit. I call the pharmacy to check on their stock of Emetrol; they're not yet open. I call the pediatrician; they're not yet open. I am five minutes away from packing my little barfling in the car (in the rain and cold) and driving her to the ER--that's how extreme was her condition. She couldn't talk. If you know Regan, you know how extreme this is. I'm not being sarcastic--this child talks all the time and the only time she doesn't is when she is seriously ill or asleep. So I'm thinking I'm all out of options and we're going to the hospital when I remember something: I'm taking a Spiritual Gifts class at my church. Just the day before, we learned about the spiritual gift of healing. Now, I've read Mark 16:17-18* in the past, and I've tried the laying on of hands. I did it in faith, even though it felt ... a little strange. But I've learned that that strange feeling is earthly, not from God Himself. So I've done it. I've laid hands on both my kids when they've had colds and frankly, it didn't seem to do much. I told Paul, the pastor teaching the class and a good friend, and he said, "You know, it may not work every time, Lisa--we have to keep trying, in faith." At the very least, in obedience, right? With that thought I laid my hands on my little 6-year old, but honestly, my primary emotion at that time most closely resembled desperation. And I think that's OK. God loves desperation as well as faith, and hears us when we are anguished, the way any loving parent hears their pleading child's cry for help. I laid hands on that little girl, and I desperately claimed God's promise for her health. I prayed that He remove all illness from her and restore her to wellness. Part of me felt like I was on some sort of video for a charismatic religion, and I pondered getting a couple snakes just to complete the picture. That part was definitely not Godly, but there you have it.
And this time, it did work.
I laid hands on my daughter and prayed. I let go of her. I looked down at her. This took a total of maybe 30 seconds in all, maybe less.
And then I witnessed a little miracle.
Regan sat up, said, "I feel better, Mommy!" and started asking for food. Food! I asked her how her tummy felt. I asked her if she thought she was going to be sick again. Fine, and nope. I thought, "This won't last," and prepared for yet another onslaught of sick. It never came. From that point on, Regan chatted happily, ate breakfast and acted as though the entire sick-fest never occured at all. It was all I could do to keep her on the couch and resting for the remainder of the morning, and in the afternoon I gave up. She showed absolutely no sign of having been ill at all. She woke up at 4 a.m., 4 hours earlier than usual and didn't go to bed till 10:00 p.m. that night, 2 hours after her bedtime. She was in good spirits and full of energy the entire day.
I was another story.
I still don't know what to make of this. Wait--yes, I do. I am just having trouble believing what I witnessed. For me, faith is not difficult. I can easily have faith in something I cannot see as long as I feel it. But when presented with compelling visual evidence of that faith, I am gobsmacked. Whaaaa? What just happened here? I kept asking myself. Some people need to see "proof" before believing in miracles, some of us don't.
This may not seem so miraculous when viewed in print. I wish you could have been here that day. I wish you could have watched the agony in which my little girl writhed, in pain so fierce, she couldn't even cry. I wish you could have witnessed her distress as she puked over and over and over and over, for hours. My graphic description is not for nothing--it's to give you the picture of how sick she was. I've dealt with a lot of sick. This was something very, very atypical. I wish you could have seen the difference that 30 seconds made. How she went from writhing in pain to sitting up and acting as though nothing had happened. I wish you could have been here because part of me needs a witness to what I witnessed. Part of me still thinks, "Naaah. This just couldn't have happened. It's too ... 'out there'." Although skeptical about many things, I do believe in the supernatural.
I just honestly never expected to encounter it in my family room.
Miraculous signs, indeed.
With God all things are possible.
* "These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will place their hands on the sick and they will be healed."
Mark 16:17-18 (edits mine)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Goodbye, Grandpa Ray

Last night, my husband's grandfather died.
It's difficult to explain to someone how this feels. Most people hear "87 years old" and tune out. Perhaps they've never experienced a death in their family, or of anyone close to them. For us, Grandpa Ray's passing will definitely leave a hole in our hearts. The loss of the family patriarch has ramifications that affect the entire family, if only in ways that become apparent sometime in the future.
Grandpa Ray was married to Grandma Marilyn, for longer than anyone reading this has been alive. It is difficult to separate the "himness" from the "herness" when two people have been married for nearly 7 decades. Her recipe for what I call "Rye Bread Thingys" is on an earlier post of mine. It's posted there because we ate them--lots of them. Only at their house, and especially on holidays, which was when we usually visited, and when the incredibly super-nummy food came out of the kitchen. The food that no one checked for "nutritional value" or "fat content" or "whole grain goodness." It was good because it was delicious and it was made with love and served during family gatherings where there was laughter, noise, a dog barking and often a child being scolded by her mother for double-dipping into the Ranch dressing. Grandma Marilyn's Rye Bread Thingys (unfortunately named by me), are my small inheritance from her; my remembrance of her in happier days. They are tradition. Although they are just one little part of who she is they are a tangible legacy for me and my children to pass down to their kids. We spoke of that, my girls and I, just the other day. My oldest has promised to keep them in her (future) family's recipe repertoire as long as she lives.
As much as those little appetizers are part of our memories of the gatherings at Great-Grandpa Ray and Great-Grandma Marilyn's, they are a small part. What else do I remember? Too many people squashed into a house, for starters. G & G had four sons, and they went on to have 2-3 kids each, and those kids went on to have kids in many cases. We all tried to make it to holidays at G & G's house. Consequently, their house was filled with grandchildren and even great-grandchildren who were nearly old enough to have kids of their own. A few years ago, when the gatherings got to be too much for Grandma, we tried to scatter them about to other locations. We soon found out who was the hub of the family wheel. It just didn't seem to be "tradition" if we had to ask around, starting in October, "You wanna do Christmas at your place? Where should we do Thanksgiving?" Someone was always "doing" a holiday at their spouse's family's house, or the new girlfriend's parent's home, or somewhere else. The ease and reliability of a holiday family gathering disappeared when choosing a venue became a weeks-long process in which someone invariably felt left out. While we all managed to make it to Grandpa and Grandma's, that wasn't the case when the location changed. When the foundation of the family gathering crumbled, the tradition itself soon followed. Like a Roman street that couldn't be repaired, our family gatherings during holiday time soon became history. No one did it like Grandma and Grandpa.
My oldest daughter took her time learning how to crawl. Her cousins were crawling around by 5 months, and when my own little punkin' was still sitting on her bottom and fussing to be moved at nearly 9 months, I was getting nervous. On Thanksgiving, at Grandpa Ray's house, wouldn't you know it? She crawled for the first time. Not just a little crawl, either. She crawled all the way across their living room floor, a grand performance, as though she had been practicing in secret for months and was finally ready to debut her newest skill. For me it was a mixture of, "Eeeeee! She's crawling!" mixed with, "Get out of her way! She's finally crawling!", since the house was packed with people. Apparently my baby was just waiting for her audience to be present, with many family members gathered together to ooooh and aaaah over her first-time accomplishment. Now 16 years old, she's gone on to become a performer both on stage and in front of large audiences. Who knew that first time she held court it would be indicative of a future personality trait? One fabulous memory: treasured and stored up safely.
More memories about Grandpa Ray: His chair, and his position in it. His little dog(s); he always had a dauchsund or small terrier that he adored and pampered. His seemingly rough manner, nearly always followed by a face-splitting grin as he watched you realize he was good-naturedly teasing you. His unfailing devotion to his wife, through her spiral downward into dementia. His body failed while his mind remained intact, yet he did all he could to protect and take care of Grandma Marilyn, his bride of 67 years. He and Marilyn raised four sons, all grown and most of them grandfathers themselves now. Grandpa Ray was a man who provided for his family, setting an example for his kids and grandchildren. More memories: stored and locked up safely.
Our last visit to them was a good one. We visited on a very, very hot day, as it often is 6 months out of the year where they live. 100 degrees, my just-turned-6-year-old will tell you. It was miserable outside, but cool inside. Ray opened the door for us, and invited us in with his trademark grin. No Rye Bread Thingys were offered this time around. None were expected. We went with the gut-wrenching realization that this may be our last visit. After a several-month stay in a "Retirement" home that they both hated, G & G were back home, having outside help to cook and clean and drive them to doctor's appointments. I remember feeling grateful they had this time at home. I wanted them both to remember being together, in their own memory-filled surroundings when their time came.
Our latest memories are what we humans seem to remember, even if they are the shortest ones in our decades-long scroll of recollection. I will remember Ray with a beverage in one hand and the TV playing too loudly, while making a corny joke to someone and petting his dog--ever-present and sitting right next to him. I will remember how annoyed he got when his hearing-aid battery squealed. I will treasure other peoples' memories of him and appreciate the stories they tell of his life. Although that may be but a small portion of the man he was, it is what he left for me, his small legacy to me. I will cherish it and pass it along to my own children, for them to pass along to their kids.
Rest In Peace, Raymond O'Brien.
For me and my children, you will always be our beloved "Grandpa Ray".

Monday, October 25, 2010

Make a Difference Monday

I went MAD today and took all the stuff I'd gathered into all those bags and donated it to the local Food Pantry/Clothes Closet. Since I found out they will accept gently used toys, I knew I'd finally found the right place to give all our "excess" stuff still in good condition. While I was there, I conquered their "Share" corner, a new creation by the Director. Last week, it had a few paperbacks and some extra canned food. This week, it looked as though someone had dropped a house on it. I suspected as much and came armed with a container of baby wipes and other stuff to help me clean and organize. I had only one hour to work, as I needed to be home, but I made a really good dent. I threw away a lot of stuff that people had donated. Let me just say this: donation centers are not garbage dumps, people. They do not need one decrepit bootie. Or a game with half the pieces missing. Or books written in the '70s. Or really old newspapers and margarine tubs. Blech. Pass the latex gloves. Seriously? Half a kimono? And what is the other half of my body supposed to wear? Or is this for the person who already has many half-kimonos laying around the house and is just looking to pick up a few spare halves? Come. On. Because someone is down and out doesn't mean they want your trash. If you wouldn't use it/put it on, there's a good chance no one else will, either. Not talking fashion here. Talking, "I wouldn't put this on because it looks like fleas have nested in it for centuries." THAT's the kind of thing that just shouldn't be donated. Common sense, people.
I'll return to the food pantry with more stuff. I have half a garage full of excess that I've been collecting for decades. I'm betting you do, too. Perhaps not intentionally, but collecting nonetheless.
"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Luke 12:33-34

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Kitchen! (Almost)

Here are some photos from our kitchen mini-remodel: First, how the kitchen looks now: This is during the mini-remodel. All the drawers were in another room, but the new granite was up, and our wonderful, huge new stainless steel farm-style sink was installed. So. Nice. Although the granite looks greenish here, it's black, tan and gold. Very pretty:

During. Not much to talk about here. Except how I couldn't cook anything and suddenly, all I wanted to do was cook, hee-hee!

I'll try to find a "before" shot. The difference is stunning. A huge thanks to our landlords for doing this when they really didn't have to. All I did was break off a stove knob and they not only replaced the stove, but gave us new countetops and a fabulous new sink as well! Woot!

THIS is what I gathered in just a few minutes of (slightly manic) purging:
  • FOUR large trash bags of "stuff". Just excess "stuff" from around the house. I haven't even gone into the drawers, closets, cupboards, etc. Most of it was from my 6-year old's room. Most kids have waaaay too many toys, my lil' darling included.
  • TWO grocery bags of videos, DVDs and ... cassettes. Yes, I still had some of those around. We'll never miss them and our entertainment center looks so much cleaner!
  • A grocery sack of miscellaneous items of whose origins I'm not sure. I know the cement-like hair gel is from my eldest daughter's Shakespearean production. One year ago. Seriously.

I finally found a place that will accept our extremely gently used kid's toys for donation straight to a child: Our local food bank. It's very small, but has clothing, household and personal care items as well. The lovely lady who runs it knows each of her clients personally and knows who has a child with a birthday coming up. Christmas is right around the corner and some of the toys I'm donating are brand-new or like-new, just without their original shrink wrapping. No other agency would accept the non-new toys, which broke my heart. Now, I finally have a place to donate these items and I feel better knowing they will go to someone who really needs them rather than to a secondhand store. I know that many people who shop thrift stores end up with the "too much stuff" problem, precisely because the items are so inexpensive and easy to buy (even if you don't really need them). I've done it myself. It's good to donate to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, but if I can actually donate an item directly to an actual child in need, I would rather.

I know many blogs are doing the "10-Item Giveaway" and photographing the items they are getting rid of each day or week. If I'd stopped to photograph everything, I wouldn't have collected as much stuff. I was also trying to get it done before my wee one woke up, since some of the stuff I'm donating is non-negotiable and I didn't want to start the day off with hurt feelings. Although I'm going through most of her stuff with her, to teach her about donating and purging--and hopefully, how not to get in this position in the first place!--there are always items that she wants to keep that I think we should donate. She is so excited by the new clean spaces, she doesn't miss a thing.

If you have kids and clutter, read the book Simplicity Parenting. Check it out of your local library (less cluttering!). It details how kids feel (and the misbehaviors that often materialize) when living in cluttered quarters and how free and easy life becomes after the clutter and excess is removed. Even if you love it. Even if it's still good. Even if you paid a fortune for it. Even if you might need it some day. Even if.

Stop making excuses and go de-excessorize something!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Purging Caveat :/

For those of you who, like me, are great at starting a project and not so good at finishing, some advice: make sure the proper conditions are met before beginning a Purge Project! This morning, despite the weather prediction of 100 degrees in my town, I completely unloaded my daughter's dresser and began to sort all undies, pj's, ballet clothes, mattress covers, etc. Four large drawers of stuff. I had said stuff in little piles all over the room and was doing pretty well, if I do say so myself ;) when wham!!! The temperature suddenly hit "Way Too High To Work" on the thermometer. So now the stuff must sit there till tomorrow, when the thermometer is predicted to read, "Much More Conducive To Getting Things Done". When something is sorted into neat little piles and is easily stepped around, there is the risk that the Purge Project will remain unfinished, at least for a while. Not good! The longer stuff sits, the longer you are tempted to keep it, or justify it's being there when you know it shouldn't be!
Let's face it: If this were easy for all of us, there wouldn't be so much stuff to purge in the first place. Let's set ourselves up to succeed in this. Keep a few simple rules, rules you know you personally need: Finish what you start. Set a time limit and don't quit to check Facebook, or answer the phone or watch TV. Have bags at the ready. Have a destination for your excess stuff and take it to that destination. Failing to follow through means your neatly bagged excess is just sitting around your garage, not blessing anyone. If it's still on your property, it's still something that needs attending to. Do you really need one more thing to attend to?
I thought not!

Purging -- HOT style

It's 100 degrees outside my house right now. I say outside not because we have air-conditioning; we don't. I say outside because inside, it's a nippy 89 degrees. Brrrrr! Although we don't have a/c, we do have weather predictions. So when I read that today was going to be miserable (according to me), I got up early to get some work done. I love getting up early. I really do. I set my alarm for 5:50 a.m. and boinged out of bed to finish the family room project. My daughters and I went through all the bagged clothing yesterday (we rested on Sunday, in accordance with the Sabbath), and I re-Space Sac'd everything up. Love those Space Sacs. This morning, I moved them all back into the under-the-stairs closet. Now you might be thinking, "Hey, that was supposed to be a hidey-hole for your 5-year old!", and yes, you'd be correct. And it will be. Someday. Not this week. Until the weather cools down to a temperature in which I can function, the closet is staying a closet. Since my little one is having a birthday this Saturday (and a birthday party), this will be put on the back burner until after that. It will not be forgotten, since I'm on a mission.
Today, though, I've set my standards fairly low. No school till the organization is complete. THAT is a good motivator, as I don't want to fall too far behind. My husband is very good at doing things in small chunks until complete. He would do a little bit of school, a little bit of decluttering. Not me. I really need to tackle a large project without stopping or it tends to just undo itself. So I'm very, very glad that the weather forecast for tomorrow is a good 15 degrees lower than today.
I'll try to post photos again when I get something interesting enough to photograph ;-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Purge Update

Purge (v): rid of, clean out, abolish, cleanse, clear, dismiss, dispose of, do away with, eject, eradicate, oust, remove, unload. Thank you, Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus. I like you very much. Webster's Thesaurus and Devlin's Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms? Very disappointing. When I needed extra verbage to help me expand my definition of purge, they let me down by not even listing the word. Not. Impressive. Perhaps I should purge them.
Purge is my favorite word this week. Although parts of my body are rebelling (hello, knees, yes I know you're there ~ you are screaming at me nonstop), I am having a good time getting rid of excess. I have an end in sight, a goal. I rarely set and work toward goals. I'm more of a "oh, look--this needs doing, let's do it" type of person. Which isn't necessarily the optimal way to live, as I'm finding out. At least not for me. It's led me to too much excess, and the resultant purge-fest may go on for weeks.
Right now my family room looks ... better. I've worked for over 2 hours today. The closet is completely empty (wheeee!), and the clothes are bagged nicely. I have organized the clothes my 5-year old can wear in the future into Space Bags (I love those things), and I have the baby and toddler clothes in other Space Bags to be gone through one last time. If there is anything "special" in the lot, something either of my girls finds worthy of keeping for their own kids or for memory's sake, it will stay. I can't let my little one do this, since she has shown a distinct attachment to inatimate objects. I don't know where she gets this from ;-) My eldest is very discerning, so she'll be OK doing this. After the bags have had their final look-through, off they go to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center (RealOptions). I don't even know if I will wash them. I want to, but will it hold up the purge? I'm afraid it will. I should take a couple bags from the pregnancy center's stash home and wash them up since there will be no memories attached to someone else's baby clothes. I know, I'm ridiculous. Call me silly. I realize how insane this sounds. But I also thought, as I said before, that I'd have a lot more kids. I think the clothes are somehow a comfort in a strange way--since I didn't have more kids, are they taking up some kid-shaped place in my heart? Who knows. At this point, I just know it's time to lighten up. Blessing someone else with these baby clothes is the right thing to do. It's biblical, it's what everyone around here knows needs to happen, and it's going to make my husband happy. And I know it will make me happy too. Why is it so difficult to give up something like this? I feel like once these baby clothes are out of the house--boom. All chance of another child will go with them. Which is very, very silly--I'm too old to have another baby, so why not bless someone with a real need for them? This argument has gone round and round in my head for some time now. I think it's going to hurt just a bit no matter when they go, no matter how sensible it is, no matter how old I am. Some things in life just sting. The fact that someone in need will be accepting them for their own precious baby is the balm for this kind of boo-boo. My head knows this. Now it's time for my heart to learn as well.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Urge to Purge--with photos!

What. A. Mess.

This is one angle of our family room, the latest "victim" of my purging spree. It wasn't actually the family room that I was cleaning, as that is usually quite tidy. See the lovely shelves that store my 5-year old's art supplies and games? No? Well, they're there. Behind all that ... stuff. Believe it or not, it was the under-the-stairs closet, intended for my little one to use as a fun hidey-hole, that was cleaned out. Sort of. Thanks to Bethany at http.// and her Minimalism Challenge, I've been inspired to minimalize as well. Actually, I just needed a kick. When you're drowning in toomuchstuff, you know you can't breathe. Sometimes you just need someone to toss you a lifesaver and tell you to grab it. Seems obvious, but I can be very dense at times.

What you see in this shot is many Space Bag sacks chock full of children's clothing. You'd assume I had 6 or more kids, from the looks of it, wouldn't you? I have two. Just two. Wanted more, but had only two. After my first daughter was born, in anticipation of the 4 more babies I was certain would follow, I saved just about everything she ever had. Seriously. I found things in these bags that she never even used. I suppose I was saving them for baby number 2, but I honestly don't remember doing so. This kind of amnesia is what lead to the disaster-in-a-bag you see above. Yikes.
In the top photo you see the under-the-stairs closet. Doesn't it look like a great place to make a little kid's hideaway? A carpet runner, a little table, some books and a lamp would make it such a cute little place for a nearly-6-year-old. I am so ashamed that we've lived in this house nearly 3 years and I am just getting to this! My little girl could have been enjoying this for THREE YEARS if I'd done this sooner. Now imagine all the stuff you see in the family room inside that little under-the-stairs closet (along with the stuff still in there), and you have an idea of what my poor husband has endured for the last 3 years. Aaaack! Well, enough with the shame, time for a change. I hope to post photos after the job is done. Stick with me and let me know how you are doing in your purging adventure as well!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Urge to Purge

Every now and then I get an urge. For chocolate, for salt, for hunkering down with a good book and a cozy fire. Then there are the times I get the serious Urge. The Urge with a capital "U". The Urge to Purge.
No, this is not a post about my bulimia. I'll pause here for those of you who know me to stop laughing. This urge to purge is all about ... STUFF. Too much stuff, precisely. Way, way too much stuff.
Most of us in America are blessed with the ability to go to a store and buy what we need. Food, clothing, household items--these are things I rarely have to think about. They're just there. Walk in the house, see the furniture. Open the fridge, see the food. Open the closet -- get knocked over. By STUFF. Way too much, as I mentioned earlier.
A couple times a year, I change from a mild-mannered, Christian homeschooling mama (pause again for my friends to stop laughing at the "mild-mannered" part), to a drill-sargeant hellbent on "cleaning this place UP!". I'm sure my family wonders what on earth they did to bring on the transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mrs. Hyde. Clutter didn't bother me much when I was younger. But it certainly does now. I blame my husband, a man who could live like a monk if he had to. In fact, he was living like a monk when I met him. Turns out my eldest daughter is the same way. And you know what? They're onto something. Who doesn't feel better in uncluttered surroundings? Who actually enjoys being drowned in stuff that no one cares about? No one. Don't tell me you don't mind it. Don't tell me you can find your things just fine in your mess. Don't tell me because I've used all those arguments myself in the past, and I know them for the lies they are. Take a moment and be really honest with yourself. There is no--absolutely no--pleasure in crowded, cluttered, uninviting surroundings.
And you can't clean clutter.
So every few months, I morph into another person and declare war on excess. Somehow, even though I might purge several sackfuls of stuff and re-home it to worthy causes, the clutter comes back. Time for a reality check, complete with transparency: I'm the one bringing it back.
There. I've said it. That wasn't so hard.
Actually, yes, it was.
You see, I wasn't raised right. The sun was in my eyes. My feet hurt and I'm hungry. And I had to walk 5 miles uphill all the way to school while holding 20 pounds of books. In the snow.
You don't believe me? You shouldn't. I'm lying, of course, and I have lied all along when I said the clutter doesn't bother me. What I really meant was, "I don't think I can give this stuff up." And I think most of you packrats out there can relate.
Well, I have good news for you: You can give it up. If I can do it, you can, too. Yes, I'm looking at you.
Yesterday, I turned militant again. Didn't really tell anyone what I was going to do, but made a silent declaration just to myself. First thing to get de-cluttered was my scrapbooking table. What. A. Disaster. It's downright obscene how much there was to clean up. Of course, no actual scrapbooking was able to be done there, since there was no room. Next on the agenda: My 5-year old's wardrobe. There is no better shame-inducer than a child who starts to cry because she can't get to her clothes to dress herself without being injured by falling debris. Got right on that one. It's now organized and fabulous, with just the clothes that actually fit her in it. What a concept. Next on the list was my glasses / plates cupboard. My youngest child is nearly 6 and I still had sippee cups. Lots of them. Way too many to be excused by saying, "If a friend with a toddler comes over, I want to have something in case she forgets to bring a cup with her." Seriously? Is it really my responsibility to plan for every possible scenario that might happen, to the detriment of my family's mental and physical health? I think not. I know not. I got rid of a huge bagful of baby-toddler items and several items that simply were not serving us any longer, like the well-intentioned metal water bottles that make water taste like ... metal ... that no one will use.
Next up in my whirlwind tour-de-declutter: The under-the-stairs closet. This was originally supposed to be a fun hidey-hole for my wee one to play in. It quickly became a place to stash stuff that I didn't want to deal with. Like baby clothes that I might need. Sometime. You get the picture. They're all going to my local shelter for pregnant teenagers.
The funny thing here is that I'm not so different from many of you. I shower every day. I floss. I wash my car often, and have a clean-LOOKING home. But like a clean vessel filled with poison, unnecessary clutter--stuff, excess, junk--taints the recipients, in this case, the people who live in a cluttered home. It's one more thing that weighs on a person's shoulders and soul. It's one more thing to attend to, and I have enough already. I want to have more time with my family. My kids are growing fast, so fast. It's time for me to grow up also and take responsibility for what I've been: a packrat. Perhaps not as bad as you, or her, or him. Definitely not as bad as some. But too much for me and my family.
It doesn't matter that I like this item, or that I might need it sometime. It will not faze me that I paid a lot of money for something. If we're not using it and loving it, it will go. And we will all be happier for it.
For more inspiration about decluttering, see Minimalism Challenge on my buddy Bethany's blog:
Now go clean out a drawer. You'll feel a whole lot better.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Part of my Heart is Sky High

Up, up and away.

Away from home, away from me, away from ... everything she's ever known.

My "little girl" got on a plane today and flew off to another state. She and her best friend, who is off to college in a few weeks, have flown the coop--literally.

She'll be fine. I can only imagine the "adventures" she will have simply by being away from home. She can go to bed without me scolding, "It's late--get to bed." She can eat as many Tater Tots as she wants. Ice cream at 10:00 p.m.? No problem. Yes, I'm sure she will be just fine.

As for me? Jury's still out on that one. I'm such a stickler for a child's "first's": First tooth, first steps, first time on an airplane alone without your parents, flying to another state in another time zone--you get the picture. Here's another "first": First time her parents have had to say goodbye to her for more than a day.

When did my little baby turn into a nearly-grown person, sufficiently mature to board a plane and fly off into the wild blue without me beside her?

When on earth did that happen and where was I when it did?

The other day, I paused in front of a classroom at our church. I peeked into the window and watched my daughter teaching a classful of 4-5 year olds during Vacation Bible School. I admired this child of mine (with a little pride, I confess), teaching others. Someone I know passed by and I said, "Look, that's my baby in there!" and he had the audacity to correct me! "She's not a baby" he kept insisting. Well, she may not be a baby, but she's my baby, mister. Best remember that. I can well see from looking at her 5', 11 - 1/2" frame that she's not an actual baby anymore. But even though infancy and young childhood is the shortest period of a person's life, it seems to be the one parents, especially we mothers, hold on to and remember the most. It's the time when our kids are the most dependent on us and it's not easily given up or forgotten. I know she's old enough to take care of herself, but there is still a part of me that wonders if she's hungry or thirsty or if she needs a sweater. "Once a mother, always a mother" is what my own mom is fond of saying as she asks this middle-aged daughter of hers if she's chilly.

That sort of feeling isn't turned off like a switch. My friend can chide me all he wants; part of my heart is cruising at 35,000 feet right now and I won't breathe deeply again till she's home. That's just the way it is. Although I know my job as a parent is to make myself unnecessary, it's just not that simple.

So sweetie, if you're reading this, go put on your jammies and get to bed. Help yourself to some ice cream before you do. I love you tons, my baby, my little girl ~ my heart.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Letting Go

The other day I did something very routine for me. I drove my daughter to her best friend's house. I drove her to the house I've driven to for years. I dropped my daughter off and hugged her friend, who we consider part of our family.

Then I did something very un-routine for me. I got into the car and wept.

My daughter's friend is leaving for college next week. This would be the last time I'd drop off my daughter at her house. The. Last. Time. The realization hit me like a slug to the belly. I would never do this again, never drive this route to have a routine "get-together" (once your kid is over 10, I believe it's illegal to call them "play dates").

I sat in the car and cried for a while. I vascillated between crying my eyes out because I'd miss G so much, and chiding myself for being ridiculous. After all, she's going to college, not prison. This is the natural progression of things, what is supposed to happen. But oh, my goodness ~ how it stings.

A and G have been friends for about 5 years now. We've come to love her like a third daughter and have had the good fortune to take her with us on many family vacations and trips. I'm grateful for that and the fact that I'm a compulsive shutterbug. I have every Pumpkin-Patch, Christmas In The Park and Beach Trip fully documented on film. I've got the Trip To Disneyland, the Dance Competitions and the Birthday Celebrations all nicely printed up and scrapbooked. (OK, they will be scrapbooked.) But still, I want more. More time, more trips, more adventures, more TIME. The girls have had sleepovers beyond number, countless get-togethers and endless phone calls. They've had hundreds of meals together and lost many hours of sleep staying up way too late talking. They've goofed off, shopped and grown up -- together. But it still doesn't feel like enough to me.

I'm grateful G has been my daughter's friend these past years; she couldn't have asked for a better confidante, buddy, companion. To the best of my knowledge, G has never let her down. Those who receive that kind of love from a friend are blessed indeed. But tonight, I feel selfish. It was easy to talk about college when it was "in the future", or "six months from now". Such an abstract concept. I blinked, the months flew by and next week the day will come when my "third daughter" will get on a plane and I will watch it fly away, out of the state and out of our daily lives. And on that day, I will have to let go. I hate this. I really do. I know this is a new chapter in G's life -- new adventures, new independence, new pursuits. But perhaps learning to let go is as admirable a thing as learning about Art History, Oceanography or Calculus. Perhaps it's more valuable. It's definitely more useful than most of the classes I took in college and have since forgotten.

So while G takes off in that airplane, my family will be taking a little mini-course down here on terra firma: "Learning to Let Go 101". We won't be getting college credit for it, nor will it appear on any transcript. But it's as precious as any degree, and it will stretch us and eventually serve us well. Because we all love "our G", we want for her what everyone wants for their loved ones: the ability to soar and reach their highest potential.

And one can soar only when one is let go.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Testimony

Below is a copy of the Testimony I gave to over 300 people in April, 2010.

I was raised in a non-spiritual home, the first daughter of a Catholic mother and a Southern Baptist father. I have no memory of God, religion or spirituality ever being discussed when I was a child. My father read to us from a children's Bible only when he became terminally ill. After he died, my mother began taking us to Catholic Mass. I was soon bored with the rituals and learned nothing about having a relationship with God. In my late teens, I stopped going to Mass altogether.
My early 20's were spent engaging in all kinds of sin. While I professed to be a "good person", I spent a lot of time trashing my body, mind and spirit. I dabbled in occult activities, and participated in all kinds of dangerous behaviors. It's only because of God's grace that I am alive to be testifying today. Because I balanced this sinful behavior with "good works" and "kind deeds", I thought I was doing OK spiritually. I'd sin, then rescue a snail from being squished, believing that I was balancing out my "cosmic karma". I began my spiritual quest by looking in all the wrong places. I started attending different churches, being most attracted to the "New Age" type of church. While I enjoyed the lack of dogma, these churches also lacked God. I've believed in God for as long as I can remember, but didn't really know Him. I erroneously learned that since "all roads lead to God", I could do whatever I wanted and still go to Heaven. I read books, attended seminars, watched videos and shopped in metaphysical stores that validated exactly what I wanted to hear. During all those years, the one church I didn't frequent was a Bible-based Christian church. I believed that Christianity was just one way of believing, no more valid or true than any other philosophy. Since they were so big on "sin" and I wasn't interested in being personally responsible for any of mine, it's not difficult to see why I didn't attend. I honestly thought that people needed the Bible's teachings only because they couldn't figure things out for themselves. Even though I had made a shambles out of my life and had little to show for it, I still believed I was perfectly all right on my own. I liked living life on my own terms, and didn't need anyone to tell me anything. Not even God.
I was a totally obstinate brat.
I entered my 30's still thinking that I didn't need anyone's guidance. I was convinced that being Christian meant you couldn't think for yourself, or were judgemental. After marrying and starting a family, I began again to search for -- something. I wasn't even sure what I felt was missing. If God was always with me, as the New Age movement taught, then what was I still hungry for? Something was missing from my life, but again I searched in the wrong direction, this time taking my child along with me. Although the chuches we began attending together were less metaphysical, they were no more godly and certainly not Bible-based. I knew in my soul there was more, but still clung to the belief that the Bible was for someone else, for those who needed someone to tell them what to do and how to live. I was an educated woman, a good person! I rescued snails, for pete's sake! I had a great husband, a lovely home, an adorable child--why did I need more?
In my 40's, I began questioning my Christian friends in earnest. They were patient with me, but I still wasn't getting it. I stopped attending the metaphysical churches and began living like a Christian on the outside. I loved God, gave to charity, listened to K-LOVE and read Christian books and blogs. But I still had a rebellious heart.
I steadfastly refused to accept the gift Jesus was offering.
In September, 2009, I attended my first service here at Christ Community Church. Here, I learned what I needed to know. Here, the blank spots were filled in. The more I questioned, the more answers I received. The puzzle pieces were finally fitting into place. At last ~ it was beginning to make sense! At last ~ I was getting the spiritual food for which I had hungered for decades. I am living proof that one can hit rock bottom, straighten out her life, and still know something is missing. I am living proof that someone who has a good marriage, two beautiful kids and everything she needs can eventually see that we all need a Savior. I am proof that a camel CAN go through the eye of a needle, because one day--one beautiful and glorious day--I finally understood. I don't know why God suddenly saw fit to remove the blinders from my eyes and the chains from my heart, but He did. All my doubts fell away one day last November. I decided to become a follower of Christ, and I wanted my "re-birth" date to be memorable. Since my physical birthday was in 2 months, I decided to dedicate my heart to Jesus then. I prayed fervently that I wouldn't get hit by a bus or struck by lightning between November and January. God spared me, and on my birthday 3 months ago, I prayed the sinner's prayer. I felt the Holy Spirit claim my heart and have not regretted my decision for a single moment.
My journey to Christ has taken many years.
I am thrilled to finally be a true child of God.