Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Departing, and Parting Ways, Pt. 1

 

I'm a little nervous, writing this, because I have so very much to say that I'm not sure how to pick and choose what to include.  Also because parting ways is a sensitive topic, and I know I need to exercise care in writing about it.  But it's on the forefront of my mind because...

One of my small groups has but two remaining sessions of our current study, and I thought we might read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, next.  I follow Voskamp's blog but haven't yet made it past the second chapter of her book, and--thinking I might just read her book along with the others in my group--I decided to do the reponsible thing and read some reviews.

Let me tell you, there is some harsh criticism out there: not just of the book, but of Ann Voskamp's theology.  By other Christians

Now, Ann Voskamp doesn't need me to defend her book or her theology; are you kidding me?  So I'm not even going to try.  Again, I haven't finished reading her book.  I have read enough of her blog posts to believe she's as Christian as the most Christian person I know, personally.

Which begs the question: why do other Christians feel the need for such harsh criticism?  Do they truly believe Ann Voskamp is, with her words, doing more harm than good?  Drawing others, perhaps, toward hell (instead of heaven) with her poetic prose?  Because, if not, why don't they close their copies of her book quietly, drop them off at Good Will, and use their energy to win souls for Christ (instead of to warn others about Voskamp's book and theology)?

Here's the thing.  When people accept Christ as their Savior, Christ doesn't change them all at once.  If He did, their heads would pop off!  Growing in Christ is a long (lifelong!), slow process, and every Christian is at a different place on his or her journey.  People come to Christ for different reasons and remain with Christ for different reasons. 

Ann Voskamp isn't going to reach everyone.  I would ask the critics: if she doesn't reach you, can you not feel happy she's reaching someone else?  Perhaps her theology is different than yours, but I wonder how much really matters beyond: Christ shed His blood and died for my sins, and please learn more about that, and Him, by reading the Bible?

If someone else departs from our ideas of how things "should be done," or even our very theology, can we not part ways, well?  If the blood of Jesus covers, can't we quietly "hide" or "defriend" on facebook?  Can't we avoid the blog?  Close the book?  Can't we decide, simply, to stop answering the phone or e-mail?  Can't we slide out the door and find ourselves a new church?  And, if questioned, can't we say, simply and sweetly: it just wasn't quite right for me?

To borrow a phrase from Pastor David, I'm stepping on my own toes.  Really, I am.  One of my favorite things to say about someone who has what I would call a "funny idea" is: (s)he ain't got no sense.  I say it, often, and sometimes I say it about fellow believers.

But, truth be told, I ain't got no sense, either.

According to Isaiah 64:6: "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."  That includes the righteousness of the Pope, y'all.  And of Mother Teresa, while she was alive.  And of my dearly departed Mister Rogers.  It includes my righteousness.  Filthy.

So much of it is a matter of prayer.  I don't believe we'll always be called to part ways.  Sometimes we'll be called to speak truth, in love.  Sometimes we'll be called to help, to fix, to make a difference.  Sometimes we'll be called to do a combination, thereof.

I think of my former church.  After I remarried, it wasn't quite right for me, anymore, but it took about eighteen months for me to move past my grief and leave.  And, even then, I didn't slide out: I went to my former pastor and bawled in his office.  I told him where I was going and why, and I asked if I could continue serving at his church. 

It makes me cry to think of his grace, in that moment.

In the past two years, I have attended three services at my former church: a child dedication, a marriage-vow renewal, and a funeral.  But I host two of that church's small groups here, in my house.  I feed its people.  I pray with its people. 

A couple weeks ago, I asked my new stylist if she attends church, and we talked for awhile.  When she explained where she is in her walk, I recommended my former church.

I am rooted at my current church.  Pastor David has my allegiance.  But Pastor Brian has given me the freedom to live out God's calling on my life at his church: even if that means I'm gone but, somehow, still there.

If the blood of Jesus covers, shouldn't we all be working together?  Doesn't The Church matter more than a church?

Two closing thoughts for someone whose ideas or theology is offensive to someone else: 1) Perhaps best not to say, ever: "If you don't like me the way I am, kiss my you-know-what."  Or: "If you don't like it, just leave."  Because perhaps the parting of ways can be avoided.  Or because the parting of ways, while imminent, is grieving the person to whom you're speaking, and your words (even if, ultimately, wise!) will cause further pain.  2) Consider this quote from Theodore Roosevelt (and, no, I don't know his theology, and in sharing this quote I am in no way proclaiming I like everything he ever thought, or wrote):

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Let's all just do our Jesus thing where we are, in the way we think best.  Let's get out of each others' way and win souls for Christ!  We're not really wrestling against one another, anyway (Ephesians 6:12); we are being pitted against one another by evil...

Praises

(Random, happy updates for those of you who've been wondering. 
And especially for those of you who've been praying.)


  • The exterminator returned for the third time last week.  Since then, we've seen three live fleas.  We didn't see any live fleas, yesterday.  I hesitate to proclaim the plague behind us because--without going into disgusting details regarding life cycle--it can be complicated, with fleas.  And even one flea can present serious problems for Clementine.
  • Clementine is healing.  We were blessed to celebrate Memorial Day with dear friends, and the chlorine in their pool--in one hour--did more to help Clementine than oral antibiotics, antibiotic ointment, antibacterial spray, Aquaphor, calamine, the Itch Eraser, baking soda, and liquid and regular bandaids.  Combined!
  • Cade's poison ivy is healing, nicely. 
  • Cade's attitude has improved dramatically.  Jim and I have addressed slip-ups with consistency and praised with care, when praise has been due.  Tension has lifted between Cade and Jim.  Yay for peace in the home!
  • Someone blessed us in giving us a beautiful! toddler bed over the weekend.  So Clementine's days of sleeping in the crib (and Charleigh's days of sleeping in my arms!) are, perhaps, numbered?
  • We turned our addition into a play room over the long weekend.  I am still moving and sorting toys but am moving quickly toward reclaiming our main living space.
  • We've tried out different kid- or family-friendly devotionals in the past but happened to find one at a thrift store, over the weekend, that we really like!  We're reading and sharing at dinnertime and recording our thoughts, with ink, in the book.
  • Clementine continues praying at dinnertime, and her prayer has evolved from "God. Food. Amen," to "Thank you, God, for the food. Amen."  What a blessing to hear her little voice praying those words!
Thank you for every prayer you've prayed for us.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Three Quarters of a Year


Charleigh is nine months old, today.  She has six teeth and says mama and dada.  She's just starting to crawl and pull up: mostly because we hold her too much.  She's no rock star in the sleeping-through-the-night area, either.  Or in the eating-solid-foods area.  Again, spoiled.  But seriously?  She's the happiest baby I've ever known in my life, and everyone agrees.  She's just incredibly chilled out and pleasant.  I can always count on a smile from Charleigh.  She likes to ride my hip and kick her little legs.  Imagine a mule kicking its legs backward at the same time: that's how Charleigh likes to kick her legs while she rides my hip, but forward.  Oh, and when music plays?  She chair dances like it's a sport.  Love her!

Watching a baby develop from a newborn into a nine-month-old has a way of giving someone a different perspective on how much can happen in three quarters of a year.

Charleigh at Birth

Charleigh, Now

Check out Clementine's life in nine month increments:

Clementine, 5 Days Old

Clementine, 9 Months Old
(This is about the time I got pregnant w/ her sister.)
 
Clementine, 18 Months Old
(Just days before her sister was born.)

Clementine, Now (27 Months Old)

And this is happening all the time, all around us.  In nine months, a baby goes from egg+seed to ready-for-the-world.  In another nine months (s)he goes from infancy to mobility.  With a fair amount of teeth! 

Heavens.  I've just inspired myself to get up off the couch and make the next nine months really count!

Happy Three Quarters of a Year, Stinkerbell!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prediction: May 21, 2011


Pastor David, this morning, talked about Harold Camping's end-of-the-world prediction for May 21, 2011 and what we can learn from its being incorrect.  I want to preface my summary of Pastor David's sermon by saying: across the board, I have so much respect for his careful words and sensitive heart, and he didn't disappoint, this morning; he started both by saying he had no interest in throwing Mr. Camping under the bus, and by reminding that some of Mr. Camping's followers used their entire life savings to warn others of the impending end of the world, and there's nothing funny about that.

Pastor David shared three points.  Firstly, he said we must be careful whom we follow.  He wondered if we would've taken the prediction more seriously had it come from Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, or Billy Graham.  (I leaned toward Cade and whispered: "Or Oprah?")  And Pastor David reminded: we should not follow man; we should follow God.  Pastor David encouraged us to talk with him if he ever says anything that seems to depart from God's word.  Again, I have so much respect!

Secondly, Pastor David challenged us to ask ourselves: are we ready?  He reminded us that Jesus is coming, even if a billboard doesn't warn as much.  The day will come as a thief in the night (I Thessalonians 5:2).

Thirdly, Pastor David challenged us to ask ourselves: what would we do differently, today, if we truly believed the world would end tomorrow?  He read the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 24:14-30) and talked about how we should use that with which we have been entrusted to serve the Lord with a sense of urgency.

Great sermon, and it caused me to think even more about Harold Camping's prediction and how I have been affected by it.

I have blogged, before, about Emily Wierenga's imperfect prose community and how much it means to me.  A few days ago, I clicked on a link, there, and read a post by "Old Ollie" that shook me in the best of ways and left me feeling (if I am to be perfectly honest) quite convicted.

Because, truth be told, I am no Rose.  I love Jesus and look forward to meeting Him, someday.  But--when May 21 ended without incident--I felt something akin to relief.  I am glad to be here, still.  I am.

I asked Jim: "If it were up to you, would you want Jesus to come right now?"

And with almost no hesitation, he answered something like: "I would.  Cade's been saved, the girls haven't yet reached the age of accountability, and we would all be together in heaven.  And I would get to see my dad again."

It bothers me, a little, that I don't feel that way.  I'm 100% sure of my salvation, but I wonder: if I choose here over heaven (at least for now) am I walking close enough to Jesus?  Am I choosing them (my family) over HIM?  It's a matter of prayer, but I'm almost afraid to pray; would something terrible have to happen to make me want to leave this place? 

So, for now, the only prayer I have is this:

Thank you, Lord, that I find what You've given me so incredible that I'm not sure I want to leave here, just yet.  Thank You for giving me my heart's desire in this creaky, leaky, fleasie log cabin.  Thank You for my husband.  I see You in him, Lord; I do.   And in the boy with drying-up poison ivy on his face, who crowds me in the pew and on the sofa.  I see You in the flea-bitten Wild Orange with patriotic sundress and floral rain boots, who tilts her face and says, "Happy Birthday, Mommy," because that's the nicest thing she can think to say.  And I see you in the Stinkerbell baby of neon hair and uneven smile.  Please keep us safe, Lord, and keep us together: here or there.  We want You in the midst no matter where.  Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On Vacuum Cleaners


My former Comp II students will confirm: I light up when I tell about my mom and the Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner salesman. 

Now, Mom's loosened up a great deal, but she was anal-retentive about the house, back in the day.  Having been born a happy piggy,  I was the family member most vexed by her particularity, and--to this day, if you were to visit my (cleaner than usual) house--you would see: my rebellion has persisted near four decades. 

But back when I was a girl living with Mom, the Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner salesman showed up at the kitchen door one day.  How he found us, I'll never know; my parents live in the middle of nowhere and have a long, gravel driveway.  I mean, like, you can't even see their house from the road!  So Mom invited the saleman in for iced tea, undoubtedly, out of respect for his pluckiness.

The salesman, sitting at the dining-room table, nodded toward the rug in the living room.  "Now," he asked Mom, "would you say that rug is clean?"

"Well, yes," she said.  "Of course it's clean."

"Are you sure?" he asked. 

She frowned.  "I'm sure," she said.  "I just vacuumed it today."

"Would you mind if I vacuumed it?"  he asked.

"Go right ahead," she said, testily.  They both stood.  She crossed her arms.  He explained how the vacuum cleaner's water filtration system worked and proceeded to vacuum the rug.  The water turned gray almost immediately and--in no time flat--looked downright murky. 

All the color drained from Mom's face, and the salesman barely hit the "off" switch when she hollered, horrified: "I'll take it!" 

I can still see her expression and sit here, now, grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

But, as usual, Mom gets the last laugh.  And the next-to-last laugh. 

Because, firstly, would you believe she is still using (and loving) that twenty-plus-year-old Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner?

Ok, and secondly?  Our flea killer suggested, gently, that my Maxima might not be doing the trick.  My beloved (who would never, in his brilliant frugality, spring for a Rainbow) ordered me a Shark Navigator.  It arrived today, and he could hardly wait to assemble it.  I vacuumed our living room yesterday (and many in-a-row days prior) with the Maxima, and lmtellya: I could scarce believe how much stuff came out of my carpet, tonight, with the new vacuum. 

I shudder to think. 

Where's my mom with her Rainbow while I'm trying to rid my house of fleas?  Why, she's states away, drinkin' iced tea in her remarkably clean house, y'all!

Love you, Mommy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Story of God's Provision

When Jim and I reconnected over Easter of 2007, he lived in North Carolina, and I lived in Virginia.  He had been working for his company for almost seven years and had transferred from his home town in Tennessee to South Carolina and subsequently to North Carolina, where he had been living for less than two years. He didn't care for North Carolina and had attempted 10-15 times to transfer yet again: preferably back to Tennessee, or to Georgia. The only opportunity he'd been afforded would have required him to train help-desk employees in Mumbia, India for 8-9 months. Many of Jim's co-workers were trying to transfer from North Carolina, as well, and most weren't having any luck.

Leaving Virginia wasn't, and isn't, really an option for me because I share custody of my son with my ex-husband, who also lives here.  So, when Jim and I decided that we wanted to spend our lives together, we started praying. Hard. It was clear that Jim would have to move to Virginia, but that meant his finding new employment. Almost unbelievably, he found an opening with his company about forty minutes down the road.  He applied, and he was offered the position at an increase in salary. Jim and I married on July 15, 2007: three months after reconnecting. He started his new position days later.

But, in August of last year, Jim was given two options: to lose his job, or to return to North Carolina (at his own expense) and keep his job. There were no openings, here, with his company; however, Jim could have taken a new position with his company had he been willing to transfer to one of four locations at some distance from where we live. The only way for Jim to keep our family [of four with Clementine's arrival] together was for him to leave his company. His last day was December 29th of last year. We learned that I was pregnant a week or so later.

The next seven months were frustrating, to say the least. We prayed earnestly and often and asked others to pray with us. We told ourselves, and one another, that God had not made a way for us to be together only to divide or leave us. We also told ourselves, and one another, that God had a plan for my son to be raised by his dad and me, and for Jim's and my children to be raised by Jim and me...here, in Virginia. And, to complicate matters, we knew that my remaining a stay-at-home mom was a priority. In this economy, all of it seemed like a complicated and tall order.

As the months passed, the balance in our bank account diminished bit by bit, the rejection letters arrived steadily, and the phone sat cradled, mostly silently, in its charger. We were snowed in for long periods at a time last winter, and the transmission in our minivan went out.

We both had moments of doubt.

Jim wondered if he should have relocated to North Carolina with his company and come home on weekends. Additionally, he wondered if he had made the right decision in turning down a poor offer (very early in his unemployment) from a small company nearby. 

I struggled, mostly, with feeling trapped here by my joint-custodial relationship with my ex-husband. That's a difficult thing to admit, but I'm not trying to be ugly in any way; the fact of the matter is that Jim, Cade, Clementine, and I are here (7-8 hours from Jim's and my parents in Tennessee) because my ex-husband has a job, here.  And during those long months that Jim did NOT have a job (while there were plenty of jobs available to him in other places), I asked myself: what about Clementine? Should Clementine have to move from our log cabin into my bitty house, or go into daycare, because we are trapped in this place, where Jim cannot find a job? Am I somehow favoring one of my children over the other?

I kept praying prayers that are so familiar to me at this point: Father, forgive me for being angry, bitter, and resentful, and help me to do better. Also: Father, help me to remember that You love my children even more than I do, and that you have perfect plans for them. And I prayed a new prayer: Father, forgive me for having moments of doubt when You have always taken care of me. Meanwhile, Jim and I continued to attend church regularly and to do God's work as we felt led.

This past Friday evening, just like that, everything changed. Jim was extended a solid offer to pursue a new career beginning August 16th. Our family will remain intact. Cade will continue to divide his time between my ex-husband and me. I will remain a stay-at-home mom. Almost unbelievably--thanks to Jim's severance package from his previous company and the unemployment he has received since December--we are no worse off than the day he lost his position seven months ago. Meanwhile, he has spent the past seven months bonding with Clementine and caring for me throughout this latest pregnancy.

I overheard Jim talking to our pastor, earlier, saying: "I think I'm supposed to learn something from this." Indeed, both of us are supposed to take things from our recent experience, namely: God had a plan all along. Negative thoughts and feelings didn't help. And all of the better, more positive things that we thought and said were true: God had not made a way for us to be together only to divide or leave us; God had a plan for my son to be raised by his dad and me, and for Jim's and my children to be raised by Jim and me...here, in Virginia, and God wanted me to remain a stay-at-home mom.

I know that some of my friends are in a place similar to the one from which Jim and I have just come. Seek God's face, and hold on a little while longer.

Charleigh Evangeline, born 08/30/10.
(Approx. 2 wks. after Jim started his new job.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wite-Out


I started looking for the man who would become my (second) husband when I was a tiny girl.  I knew Mom had been seventeen when she'd married Dad, twenty-one when she'd had me, and I expected to meet THE ONE at a young age. 

All through high school and college, I looked, pushed, rushed.  I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself, and those who've known me longest will confirm: I've spent precious little time, in my adult life, being single. 

I was on a mission, but I was no missionary; I'd given my heart to Christ when I was eight, but I didn't ask Him to help me find THE ONE.

I met my first husband five months after graduating from college and married him one year later, when I was twenty-three.  I'd broken, already, two wedding engagements, and I felt old.  When Mom was twenty-three, she'd been married for six years, and she was pregnant with her second child. 

Two years before I met my first husband, I'd met my second.  In the Center for Campus Ministry, where light streamed through stained glass and, in it, he glowed.  He stood tall, with the wide shoulders of a football player, and I felt a thrill for the hunger in his eyes when he looked at me.  But he was gentle, and fun, and--to see me smile--he borrowed money for flowers, wrote poetry, drew with sidewalk chalk.

It didn't work out, so either it wasn't love, or it was, and I blew it, anyway.  And since I married him three months after reconnecting with him thirteen years later, and since I've spent every single day for four straight years thanking God for second chances, I believe the latter: love, and I blew it. 

I met him in the Center for Campus Ministry in a shaft of colored light; still, I missed it.  I was twenty.  I wasn't ready to see it: the this-is-THE-ONE of it.

It took me more than another decade to get it right, and I'm still trying to understand it. 

I woke my beloved up, the other night, because it dawned on me, suddenly, that--for the first time in my entire life--I trust myself inside a relationship.  Because, truth be told, I'd trusted others, before, but never myself; I'd always wondered if THE ONE might be someone other than my significant other?

But now I rise and rest and sleep and smile and shine in knowing: I have found THE ONE.  He wears my ring, brings home my bacon, draws smiley faces on the pet rocks of our older daughter. 

I can't say I'm angry with myself for not recognizing Jim, in 1994, as my future husband.  I can say I'm proud of myself for recognizing him, now, as my forever husband


Mom is extraordinary and has always been an amazing example, but her timetable was never meant to be my timetable.  I needed to be well into my thirties for marriage to feel just right. 

And, as I try to record thoughts for my children, I just want to say: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV). 

You don't have to be on anyone else's timetable.  Just because (s)he got married, had a baby, earned a degree, or bought a house at a certain age doesn't mean you have to do it at the same age.  Or at all!  Your story is your story, and it's best written by God and understood, by you, through your earnest seeking of His face.

Trust me: if you try to grab the pen and write your own story, you're going to need a lot of Wite-Out.

And Wite-Out won't make your mistakes disappear, entirely.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Itchy Scratchy


After Cade got off the bus, yesterday, I noticed he had this giant...thing...on his face.  I asked, "What is that?  On your face."

Cade raised his eyebrows, shrug-flapped, and said, with disgust, "Flea bite.  I have them all over my legs, too." 

I looked down at the bumps on his legs and said, "Cade, Honey, those don't look like flea bites to me.  And if you're telling people a flea did that to your face, they're going to think our fleas are big as gorillas."  (Then I sprayed him with Clementine's giant can of OFF!, just in case, and applied some calamine lotion.)

When Jim got home, he examined the bumps.  "Those aren't flea bites," he said.  "Besides," he added, looking at me, "I didn't see a thing on his face when he got out of bed this morning.  And I definitely would've noticed that."

By nightfall, bumps appeared near Cade's ear.

By the time Cade got off the bus at his dad's, today, his chest and back were covered.  Cade's stepmom took him to the doctor.  Poison ivy.  Prednisone.

So the Boy Scout who spent the day, Saturday, in the bush is learning (the hard way): he needs to wear long pants while in the woods.  And perhaps the same Boy Scout will take it upon himself to learn to identify poison ivy, and to avoid it. 

In the meantime, if you see my boy?  That giant thing on his face isn't a flea bite.  If you want to know what those look like, Little Sister is your go-to person.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hi-ya!

Before Cade can test for his Senior Brown Belt next month,
he has to spend time working w/ newer students.

Taking a Picture of Brother w/ Her Elmo Camera






Kata Class

"I do my karates!"




Not a Kid Person

I'm not really a kid person.

I didn't pursue my teaching license along with either of my degrees in English.  (I did teach sixth grade in 2005-2006, and it was the second most painful experience of my life: much worse, for me, than divorce.  I'll blog about it, some day.)  I've never taught children's Sunday school.  Aside from making some snacks, I've never helped with Vacation Bible School.  I drop my kids off in the church nursery every week and run for my life head, happily, to the choir room.  I never add my name to the nursery rotation.  Even...at one of my Bible studies?  Each mom was required to sign up to bring breakfast one Monday and stay in the nursery another.  But I found someone to switch her breakfast for my nursery. 

Don't get me wrong: I love the children in my life.  The ones to whom I've given birth are ridiculously spoiled.  The baby will be nine months old in a week, and she sleeps with me.  (Shhh: nothing you say is going to change a thing, so preserve your energy.)  I love my nephews and nieces, my friends' children, and I think of Stacey Michelle and Kimmie Christine (both of whom are grown, now), and I promise you: I have the kid-loving gene.

But--even though I'm an extreme extrovert--kids make me feel out of sorts.  To be more specific, I feel uncomfortable dealing with the behavioral issues of children.  I think myself pretty responsible in addressing my children's bad behavior, but I very often feel inadequate and ill-equipped.  And I feel even moreso when it comes to other people's children. 

Anyway, I said all that to turn around and say: I'm starting to feel like someone's missing from our family.  You can't imagine the hilarity with which I write that.  I have an eleven-year-old with newfound attitude, a two-year-old who's been eaten up with attitude since she was in the womb, and a not-quite-nine-month-old baby whom I've spoiled beyond belief.  I have fleas in my carpet, I'm giving away my cat because I can't deal, everything's a disorganized mess, and I really think I want one more baby.

I'm laughing as I type this.  Am I just hearing the ticking of my biological clock?  Have I been possessed by the Octomom?  Aye ya ya.  I think I'll sign off, now, and go to bed.  With the baby.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Who Can Open the Door?

Yesterday, Rachel and I talked about my door story (published, originally, on myspace in April 2008), and I've decided to share, here.  Clementine has not been bitten by fleas since I prayed over her Wednesday night (although one live flea was spotted in the house, yesterday).  I should've taken a break in my vacuuming and prayed over her earlier than I did!  I doubt she will be bitten, again; after all (as my door story proves), God cares very much about our children's faith!

***
My Letterboxer    Brandee
Cade, Letterboxing September 2008

Jimmy went to Atlanta for training at the tail end of February. I had keys to the new house and wanted to move as much as possible while he was gone. I had these visions of his returning and being unbelievably proud of me, absolutely stunned at what I'd accomplished.

I loaded the back of my truck the afternoon Jim flew south, and Cade and I drove over to the new house. But I couldn't get the door unlocked! My keys wouldn't turn the deadbolt! I tried to get in until my fingers were red and sore. I punched Jim's number into my cell phone, but he was still on the plane. I tried my friend David's number, but he didn't answer. I called my ex-husband; he was cooking chicken and said he'd try to help in a little while. I called my friend Rachel. She said, "I'll send Scott [her husband] over."

Now, Scott is a manly man. He's one of those guys who works outside all the time, and I believed him when he looked at me and said, "I'll get you in. No problem." But, 45 minutes later, the door was still locked tight. He shook his head and said, "I don't think you're getting in this house without a different key. I thought sure if I pulled or pushed the door a certain way, I'd be able to get you in, but I can't. If Jim calls with a trick, I'll be more than happy to come back over and try again."

I called Alice the realtor. She offered to drive out, but I assured her that--if she didn't have a trick for unlocking the door--she would just be wasting gas. I called my ex-husband and told him not to rush through his dinner; I promised him that, if Scott couldn't get in the house with my keys, no one could. Defeated, Cade and I drove back to the old house and waited for Jim to call.

It started to get dark, and I was afraid the items in the back of my truck would get wet. I looked at Cade and said, "Honey, let's go back over to the new house and put this stuff in the shed. Mommy doesn't want it to get wet, and I don't see the sense of bringing it back into the old house."

Parked in the circular driveway at the new house, I said, "Cade, before we carry this stuff into the shed, Mommy is going to try to unlock the door one more time. But, before I do, let's pray." Cade agreed and bowed his little head, and I prayed aloud that God would help us get into the house. I climbed the porch steps and put my key into the lock. I leaned into the door (no harder than I had fifty times earlier that day), and...it swung open.

Just like that, the door was open!

Cade jumped up and down and said, "I knew it, Mommy! I knew God would open the door if we asked for His help!"

And I thought...what a merciful, splendid Father to take time out of His busy day to open a door for my little boy and me! Then I thought, how wonderful: for the rest of my life, I will be able to look at Cade and say, "But Son, we know God is capable of opening doors that men can't open."

Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Vacuuming Must Go On

I took the Wild Orange to the pediatrician, yesterday, because she has two very swollen lymph nodes behind her left ear.  I figured she was fighting infection from the flea bites, and the doctor thought so, too: not necessarily from bacteria transmitted directly from fleas, but from bacteria entering Clementine's many scratched-open bites.  The pediatrician I saw was very gentle and understanding; her body chemistry, like Clementine's, is such that bugs are drawn to her, and her skin, like Clementine's, blisters when she's been bitten.  She prescribed an oral antibiotic for Clementine to take for ten days, also an antiobiotic ointment for bites after the ten-day period.  I left CVS with the two prescriptions, Claritin Chewables; generic Benadryl, an Itch Eraser, and a giant can of generic OFF!: all for Clementine. 

Jim and I added up our flea-related expenses, tonight; so far, they total $523, counting neither gas nor the impending bill from the pediatrician. 

The exterminator made a follow-up visit, today.  The babies and I left the house shortly after 9 AM, this morning, and returned around 1:30 PM.  We were in the house for less than 15 minutes before I picked a flea off my leg.  We saw a total of two live fleas today and (including these two) have seen a total of six live fleas since Sunday, when we set foggers off in our house.  But even one flea can do a lot of damage when it comes to Clementine; the one that leapt from her pants, that day, left a ring of thirty bites around her left ankle.

I am exhausted from battling fleas.

Tonight, I pulled the Wild Orange from the bathtub and into a hooded towel in my lap.  I looked at her and said, "Clementine, Mommy is going to pray over you, for your flea bites."

She said, "Ok, Mommy," leaned her head against my chest, and--for the entire length of my prayer--sat still and silent as I prayed for her healing and protection.  It was one thing I hadn't done: pray aloud while holding her. 

And now I need to close down this computer and get some rest, as, tomorrow, the vacuuming must go on.  Thank you for the prayers you're offering up, on our behalf.  The Lord is working in our hearts, lives, family, and home, and I would trade this for nothing: even an absence of fleas.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Making, from Lemons, Lemonade

(Or: My Weekend of Making Lemonade from the Biggest, Sourest, Yellowist Lemons in Town)
  • Remind myself of Oprah's writing (after one of her dogs died) something like: what is it I can learn from this that nothing else can teach me?  Ask myself what I can learn from my situation.
  • Remind myself that all things will work together for good because I love God and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
  • Request prayer.
  • Go from mid-length to short.
  • Remember that baking soda takes the sting out of bee stings.  Wonder if it will take the itch out of flea bites?  Make a paste and dot the Wild Orange.  Allow myself to laugh when she runs, diapered and dusty, into the living room and announces: "Look, Daddy!  I a giant cookie!"  (The baking soda does seem comforting, by the way, so I dotted her a second time, tonight.)
  • Vacuum.
  • Do the Sunday school / church thing with the family plus Cade's our curly-headed friend.
  •  Facilitate a gentle family meeting in which I draw a complex (but easily understood) analogy between fleas and behavioral issues.  Put a plan in motion.  Join hands and pray.  Move a step closer to thanking God for the fleas.
  • Donate some unused items.
  • Clean out and vacuum van.
  • Flea-bomb house.
  • In an attempt to make the mountain manageable, launder 75% of our dirty laundry--at one fell swoop--at the laundromat.
  • Watch MeMe blow bubbles and ride her tricycle at the laundromat.



"I do it!"

 

  • Buy peach milkshakes for all.
  • Make the children's beds with fresh sheets and blankets.
  • Vacuum some more.
  • Blog.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heartbreak


You may have noticed I've been blogging less frequently, lately.  I've spent so much time vacuuming that I've had none left for blogging.

I've been vacuuming so much that--when I vacuum my entire house (including under my furniture) and dutifully uncap and empty my canister--what lands in the bushes is smaller than a cottonball.  My carpets have never been so well-vacuumed.

I have no choice.  I'm trying to reclaim my house from fleas.

I'm not sure exactly when the problem began.  My mom didn't see any fleas when she visited toward the end of March.  I'd seen the cat scratching here and there but thought nothing of it because she's strictly indoor; I'd never treated her for fleas. 

I saw the first flea shortly after Mom left.  Clementine was wearing her black pajama pants inside-out and couldn't see the glow-in-the-dark, skeleton bones on them, so I stripped them down to turn them right-side-out.  When I did, I saw a flea leap out of her pants.  She had a ring of bites on her left ankle.

Shamefully, even then, I didn't think we had a problem.  Instead, I laughed and thought: how like the Wild Orange to manage to get a flea (of all things!) trapped in her pants!

About a month passed, and I didn't see any more fleas, but within the past two weeks?  An eruption!  They're everywhere! 

We've treated the cat three times, in three different ways.  We've vacuumed obsessively.  We've changed our sheets, sprinkled stuff into our carpets, and set up homemade flea traps with flashlights and soapy water.

We've sent Cade to sleep at his dad's.  (Cade and Jim have gotten bitten a few times, and the fleas like to gather on their white socks.  The fleas ignore Charleigh and me almost entirely.)

We've covered Clementine's face with a towel and sprayed her head to toe with OFF!.  Several times a day.  Still, fleas bite her, and she scratches and bleeds and scabs, and I tell you, few things have ever hurt my heart like the sight of the Wild Orange covered in OFF! and Aquaphor and neon BAND-AIDs and flea bites

We've paid an exterminator.  Whatever he did, a week ago, worked for approximately two days.  I called him yesterday.  He said he can't use his product more frequently than every two weeks or so.  He said: "Just keep vacuuming.  If you're still seeing fleas on Monday, call me, and I'll come out on Wednesday."  In the meantime, my Ana Bana Beana Clementine is sleeping on her belly, in long pant legs and sleeves, with a hood up over the back of her head.

If you were to gaze upon the unclothed body of the Wild Orange, you would think you've never seen a child so neglected-looking and pitiful, and I'm telling you: it breaks my mommy heart. 

I want to rip up every shred of carpet in this house and throw it in the yard, along with every mattress and piece of upholstered furniture we own.  Or, better yet, say goodbye and good riddance to this log cabin in the woods.  I thought we would be so happy, here, but one thing after another has broken, and, now, fleas...

I don't know why this plague; there appear to be no Corrie ten Boom reasons for fleas, here.  I can't help but think God is calling me to focus on my house, and--even as fleas leap and bite--rooms become cleaner and more organized than they've been for some time. 

Additionally, I've had a lot of opportunity to consider the value in proactivity (How I regret not treating my indoor cat for fleas!) and paying attention and addressing problems at the first hint of trouble.  And with that, I close this post with what may be the answer to a different (and even bigger) issue. 

(William Faulker once wrote: "I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.)

Please pray for me?  (I'm so discouraged.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Arising Up

Before Alzheimer's, Grandma loved to tell about Dad's asking her to sign permission for my seventeen-year-old mom to marry.  "I'll sign," Grandma said, "but not until after she graduates."

"But I have to have her," Dad moaned.

Grandma stood her ground.  "You might have to have her," she insisted, "but you have to wait until after she graduates."

Mom was five months from eighteen when she graduated high school and married my dad: 5'8" with chocolate-drop eyes and long, brown legs: more beautiful than a movie star.  On purpose, they waited four years before bringing me into the world and a little house they'd built together. 


Pregnant with Me

Me on Mom's Lap
4 Generations: Grandma B., Mom, Grandma G. Holding Me

Dad will admit, freely: he would've preferred to have Mom to himself forever.  I was born solely out of a desire in my twenty-one-year-old mother's heart. 

And I tell you, honestly: so far as I know and can recollect, my mother always did everything just right.  She breastfed and read stories, sewed dresses, chaperoned field trips, led Girl Scout troops, baked cookies, played games, gardened and cooked, kept a perfect house, and loved her family with her whole heart.

I can't recall my mom's ever smacking or yelling at me.  She chased me with a cake turner a couple times, but she just ended up laughing.  She focused on the good (for which she encouraged and praised), and she forgave easily. 

I have never for one second doubted my mother's love.  At thirty-seven, I want her, still, when I am hurt or sick.  She has attended the births of my three children and made everything well with her care and comfort.  When she comes to town, my house fills with visitors, some of whom have never visited, before.  She remains beautiful and, more importantly, good.

Probably, there is nothing my mother can't do.  In addition to breastfeeding (even while driving a Volkswagen Beetle), sewing, gardening, cooking and baking, I have known her to make candy, run, weave baskets, paint, craft stained glass, ride horses, raise cattle, can food, parachute from an airplane, teach, work as a bank teller and bookkeeper, sing, scrapbook, pray and praise.

If ever I have not been a mommy's girl, it has been only because--even in her human imperfection--my mother is the most perfect human I have ever known. It can be somewhat frustrating, intimidating, to be her daughter.  I am aiming for 25%.  

Yes, 25% would be excellent, and my proudest moments are those in which I feel my mother stirring within me because I have stayed up late, sewing patches onto a gi or Boy Scout shirt.  Or delivered cookies to my son's class or troop.  Or curled into a dimly-lit room with my baby, watching her as she fills her belly with my milk.  Or looked deeply and sadly into my older daughter's eyes while saying, gently, "No-no, MeMe," instead of smacking her for smacking me, or yelling at her for yelling at me.  Those are the moments during which I feel I may be arriving, that there may be hope, yet, for me.  That, perhaps, even during those times I grieved and hurt my mother, some of the seeds she planted took root in me.

I am the only girl to ever slide from my mother's body.  God chose her just for me.  I can barely fathom the gift of it. 

I can't allow Mother's Day 2011 to draw to a close without putting a fine point on it and saying, with pride: I love my mother.  I have sobbed while writing this.  I have arisen up.  I have called her blessed.



Mom Holding My Nephew CJ and Cade


4 Generations (Cade in Mom's Lap)

My Parents and Cade