Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Lesson in Suffering from a Fish

Recently Tim and I got the most amazing gift. We were given an entire day. ALONE. With just each other!! Tim's parents were in town from New York and told us they'd keep the kids.

We ran for the suburban, jumped in and hit the gas. We were at least 20 miles out of town before the hysterical giggling subsided.

When we were a safe distance from College Station, we began to have the first uninterrupted conversation in months.  Normally our conversations go a bit schizophrenically like this:

Tim: "Tara, what if I do this song on Sunday?"
Lockett: "MOMMMMMM Harrison keeps attacking my face!"
Me:  "GAH! You MUST do something with that child you made."
Tim: "ok. Did you know the sink leaks?"
Lockett: "Mom, I am going to donkey kick him if he looks at me again!"
Me: "Since Thanksgiving. Did you call your dad?"
Harrison: "Mom, can zombies survive under water? They don't have to breathe..."
Tim:  "Sort of. When's dinner?"

I mean honestly, people. WE NEVER FINISH A CONVERSATION unless we lock ourselves in a room and ignore the hysterical cries on the other side of the door demanding immediate attention. Because seriously, that lost Lego is a matter of life or death!!

So, as we sped away, we took a breath. I reached over and held my husband's hand. I said, "Honey, I need to tell you something I've been dealing with this week. All alone. I haven't had two minutes alone to share with you something that broke my heart this week."

He looked at me and said, "Ok. Let's do this."

I said, "You are gonna think I've lost it, but here goes: So, about a week ago I noticed Harrison's fish swimming crazy. You know, one of the long skinny ones we bought as a pair? You know how one lives upstairs in the shipwreck and one lives downstairs?..."

He looks at me, He's tracking...

I say, "So, one started swimming crazy and I knew his days were numbered." (this is not new, we are great at flushing fish...) "I watched him and he began to show some spots, breath crazy, etc... He moved from upstairs in the ship to a plant leaf near the top of the tank. And he rested there. Laying on the leaf.... Alive but suffering. When he relocated to the leaf, his partner moved out from downstairs in the ship. His fish-friend moved to laying beside him. He put his body up next to his suffering friend and stayed by his side for three days. Until he died. When the fish died, his friend went back inside the ship. It broke my heart."

I looked at Tim and waited for the laughter, the crazy eyes, letting me know I'd tripped and landed in a pile of crazy.

But he looked at me and said, "I didn't need that!!  Oh good grief! I think I need to pull over and cry for a few minutes."

He was deadly serious. I love him. God made him for me. He gets me. He didn't make fun of me. He teared up.

This led Tim and I to discussing our roll in suffering in this world. Recently, we've walked through some pain and we watched with heavy hearts our friends walk through sorrow upon sorrow. Experiencing the death of someone you love is one of this world's greatest heart breaks.

We talked about how not only to suffer, but to suffer with a friend. To bear one another's burdens and how that looks. How does it look to suffer with someone?

Sometimes it looks like laying beside a broken, hurting friend. Because death is not something we were intended to experience, it is NOT natural at anytime, in anyway. We were made to be eternal with Christ and sin entered and death was the consequence. So, because it is so broken, and foreign, our words will never make it feel any better. Sometimes it means just being there.

And as Tim and I discussed the inevitability of suffering, and how the greatest, wisest people we know have suffered incredible pain, we talked about how Christ came, walked every bit of humanity we would and He suffered. He hurt, he bled, he walked every bit in human flesh. And He has overcome.

Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."

 Ps 31:24 says, "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord."

I am in love with this song that speaks to exactly this.

"So take heart, let His love lead us through the night. Hold on to hope, and take courage again."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Love That Your Crazy is Showing...

If you have known me for all of 5 minutes or read much of what I've been layin' down you know that I live life as an open book. What I am, is what you see. This has been my friend and my enemy on many occasions. It means you can safely know I am being completely real and honest, but it also means I've often wished I'd kept my mouth shut. Oh, the insanity of what I've thrown down in a public arena before would make everyone of you stare in utter shock at the level of asinine.

And if you know me on facebook you know I struggle with the My-World-Is-Perfect facebook syndrome. "Here, take a look at this awesome picture of me and my 4 boys making cookies in perfect harmony with zero mess. While I am homeschooling them. Currently we are working through Latin. Backwards..."

Don't even get me started on Pinterest. Oh, hang on, my 4-D shark cake just came out of the oven perfect.

People, you can find me on Pinterest under "nailed it".

BLAH! It creates a sense of complete failure in each of us. I value, no, I  LOVE, desire, CRAVE, authenticity so deeply that when I see someone being real I want to run up and hug them. I try to post pictures of our struggles, our failures, our tears, our fears all in an effort to keep it real.

When I see the imperfections in people it makes me see them as REAL PEOPLE. People who hurt, struggle, need, love, and give.

My brother-in-law is a great guy. I don't live in the same town as he does and I don't see him often enough for me to know him deeply. (I wish this weren't the case but it is). So, in all openness, I didn't think much about him on a regular basis and when family shared stories I was quick to form an opinion and move on.

Then, oh, but then, my sister told me something about him one day. She and I were giggling about who-knows-what and she mentions, "Oh, David doesn't like comforters or blankets on our bed". I roll my eyes and just says, "Really??! Who doesn't like comforters?? or blankets?"  Roll, roll, roll. I'm awesome at judgy eyes.

So she lays this on me: "No, it's not temperature or style, he doesn't like any weight on his toes. He doesn't know what to do with them when he's on his back. Toes straight up with weight on them hurts, so does he fold them back or forward? It's a toe/blanket battle."

Hold up a sec people. Can I just say, "WHAT??!" and now I love him. I want to put him in my pocket and carry him everywhere around with me. Discuss amongst yourselves my weirdness but oh, how I love him now.

So I discovered that when I find out some quirk about someone it makes them REAL to me. It makes me smile when I think of them. It makes me love them. Weirdness=real=love in my bizarre little mind.

And as I thought about the approaching end of year, I began bracing myself for the onslaught of end of the year lists. And dear reader, I have to tell you, I hate end of the year resolutions. I have never partaken. I don't understand it.

The minute someone starts running down the list of amazing feats they are going to accomplish simply because it is now January, I tune out. I am so sorry, friends. But if you start telling me how you are gonna work out 17 days a week, and eat only organicafied organic food, I retreat to a safe place in my mind. I'm going dark, people. Over and out. Cant. partake. of. this. madness. 

Perhaps it's my deep seeded fear of having a list I won't accomplish. Oh sure, I could write a novel on the resolutions I NEED to accomplish. But actually accomplish?? It won't happen. Then I have derailed for the entire calendar year. All hope will fly out the window and I will walk around lamenting about how I can't cross #2 off the list because I ate a non-organic gummy bear.

So, peace out end of the year baloney. It's a no-go here.

However, I have decided that I will make a list. A very different kind of list. I saw someone else do this list and it made me feel sooooo accepted.  In an effort to promote authenticity and because I LONG with such a ferocious fire to know and love the people around me, I want to know your list. 

Here I give to you,  my list of crazy. In the process of coming up with my crazy list I asked Tim to name 5 things or "quirks" about me. Oh and how he quickly spouted off the top 5. Before I could adamantly defend these quirks, I realized they matched exactly the 5 I came up with. Open book, people. Open book.

So I give you mine but as you read, start thinking of yours. Cause I want to hear them. I NEED TO HEAR THEM. 

Here goes:

1. I cannot under any circumstances drink the last 10 percent of a bottled or canned drink. Won't happen. Sorry. Perhaps it's my tithe to the backwash gods. I don't know and it has driven Tim crazy for years. He used to lecture me about the incredible waste, throwing away all those gallons and gallons of drinks. Sorry. I've tried. I can't. Last 10 percent is going down the drain. Tim has thrown in the towel attempting to reform this weird behavior.

2. I can't walk forward in the dark. If I am walking through a room and someone turns out the lights, I will freeze and stand there until either someone turns the light on, brings me a flashlight, I locate my phone to illuminate the path or I have to turn around and continue backwards. It's possible I am afraid of breaking a toe. This is the best explanation I can come up with.

3. I only drink diet soda and I am PARANOID someone is trying to intentionally slip me the real deal. I always confirm with the waiter or fast food worker that it is DIET. I give them the Tell Me the Truth Big Eye Stare Down then ask them again.  And when they assure me it is DIET SODA, I go, "oh. Ok".  Like it's no big deal. Then as they walk away I make Tim taste it to make sure. He doesn't even bother with this one anymore. He just takes a sip. And confirms it's diet.  Bless him. 

4. I cannot stand to screw things on. Lids, light bulbs, caps.... if I have to screw a top or lid on a bottle or light bulb into a socket, I'm out. I don't know why. I can't stand it. Unscrewing, no problem. Screw it on, BIG PROBLEM. You know, that as a mother, I have not been able to escape all lids that screw. Medicines, vitamins, etc.... So I do have to overcome occasionally but I despise it. I close my eyes, grit my teeth and screw on the lid when I have to. However, number one biggest issue in this house is lost lids. Because I won't put them on. How am I married???!

5. This last one is half normal, half weird. Maybe..... To me anyway. I hate port-a-potties. Not only for the stench and germs, but mostly because I have an incredible, disabling fear that as soon as I latch the door to the port-a-pottie, the company will come to pick it up. WITH ME IN IT. This could stem from one too many YouTube prank videos, whatever the reason, I am terrified. You're probably thinking this is not a huge issue, I mean how often do you encounter a port-a-pottie?? Where I work, twice a year for ten days at a stretch. Freak out, people. That's 20 days of port-a-pottie hell.

So there. There are my 5 top wierds. Your turn. I MUST KNOW THEM. GO.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come from a Store....

The year we had our first child we were rapidly approaching Christmas and we saw a certain reality heading straight for us, mack-truck style. We were about to be hit by a run away train we would be powerless to stop.

So we did the only thing two strong-willed, out-spoken people do. We stood defiantly in front of the train and ticked off everyone on board. Cause that's how we roll. 

Let me explain.  

Christmas was approaching.  And I took a look at my family and our budget. I counted it all up. We had 9 nieces and nephews, 6 adult siblings, and 4 grandparents, each other, and one child to buy for. That equals 22 gifts. Just for the immediate family, never mind great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, secret santas, etc.... 

If we spent 20-30 bucks per person that's $660 bucks. Realistically we were looking at spending $1000 bucks on toys and junk gifts no one would even want in two weeks. We didn't have a problem spending a thousand bucks (well, we may have shed a few tears) but we had the hardest time swallowing spending so much money on toys doomed for a garage sale that summer.  Especially when there were people in our own back yard starving and homeless.

So we called all the family members and said something like: "Guys, we love y'all. And we love your kids. And we want to celebrate Christ's birth with y'all but we want OUT... We want to opt out. Please understand, we won't buy gifts for anyone. No kids, grandparents, parents, siblings, nada... And DO NOT BUY FOR US. We have calculated what we'd spend and we want to spend it on a family we know who is in dire need.  Please by all means, exchange gifts amongst yourselves, but count us out."

There was an uprising. There was angering and misunderstanding. That first year was the hardest. And being no strangers to awesome family dramas, we took this all in stride. When we all sat down for Christmas the family asked us what we'd done with the money. So we shared our story.

I told them about a family with four kids and the only guardian, a home bound grandparent. I explained that as a teacher one of my students was struggling tremendously in class and when I sat with her to talk about why, I noticed she was of covered in bites. I asked her what they were. She said, "Ants." I said "Ants?? Baby, why are you letting ants bite you??" She teared up and said, "They just keep coming...at night." 

When I closed my mouth and regained my thoughts I gently talked with her. She told me she had to sleep on the floor, she didn't have a bed, and parts of the floor were bare dirt. She said the ants bit her at night.

I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting, "Come home with me!!! I'll be your new mommy!"

I visited her home and saw that what they lived in was barely standing boards holding up a hole-filled roof. And friends, THIS IS NOT UNCOMMON IN OUR OWN TOWN.

I went home and wept. For hours. I told Tim we had to do something. 

After he talked me out of my very well-planned kidnapping plans, we decided we'd buy them everything they needed for Christmas. The money we'd allocated for gifts bought this family food, housecoats, house shoes, jeans, bikes, shirts, hats, a Christmas tree, bubble bath, everything for a great Christmas. 

Christmas eve we snuck to their house black-op style and, with our home group, we descended. We unloaded suburbans full of gifts. Some were needed items and some to them were luxuries unseen before.

The grandmother wept. I wept. We hugged. And I didn't want to leave. My friends drug me out of the house.

When we shared our story with my family no one spoke. All were silent, all were transfixed. I looked at my dad. He was crying.

We went home, we gave our son one gift. He was perfectly happy. 

The next year approached and we steadied ourselves for reexplaining to our family our stance. But before we could, the phone rang. It was my family. They wanted IN. They wanted to know the ground rules. They were sold. Hook, line and sinker, they wanted it. They were in deep. 

Here as a family, we refined the rules:

1. No gifts exchanged between families. Grandparents can give each grandchild ONE gift. 

2. Parents can give one gift, per child, to only our own children.

3. Each family chooses where to give and how much

4. Stockings are allowed 

5. We give our kids their gifts within our own small families before gathering largely Christmas morning

6. Christmas morning we sit around the tree and exchange STORIES. We each share what we did charitably this Christmas.

We've been doing this now for 8 years. Each year God reveals who we need to help.

My kids know nothing different. They only get three gifts (one from each grandparent set and one from parents- and yes, we geniusly tie this to the three wise men bringing their three gifts) plus stockings.

They've never known any different and they treasure each gift more and love to tell how we helped others each year. They still daily use the one gift Tim and I gave them last Christmas. The gifts are more thought out and appreciated.

I've heard variations of this in other families. One family shared they do three gifts, one thing you want, one thing you need, and one thing to give. 

What family traditions do you have?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Could be a Morning Person if Morning Happened at Noon.

This precious wonderfulness is a plea for mom solidarity. Please friends, tell me, lie to me if you have to, but I must know that there are others out there living the same sort of fresh hell I am each morning.

I am not a morning person. Or a night person. For the love of baby moses, I have three kids under 8 years old. But mornings are especially awesome up in this house.

Let me give you the visual of my morning.

5:07 am, my bed shakes violently. I wake up with a start and lay there wondering, was that one of those weird falling-dream-wake-ups? As I wait for the fog to clear, another earth shaking jolt hits. I lean over and take a look at what on God's green earth is happening.

It's my precious, sweet baby loveliness, middle son. He's standing there, with his head down, backing up slowly from the bed. In confusion I look, squinting, wondering what I am seeing. He backs up and rushes forward again and head butts the side of my mattress. With pure angry confusion I look at this madness and he begins to back up again. Going in for another head butt.

In utter bewilderment and with my 38 year old, vision correcting lense-less eyes I say in a low serious voice, "why are you head-butting our bed??! It is 5:07 IN THE MORNING!  Stop it!!"

He looks at me and says, "But I have a cough."

Oh. Ok. That makes sense. Sure, a cough warrants head-butting my bed at 5:07. A. M.

I tell him, "Go back to bed. It's 5:07 and I can't give you Benadryl at 5 in the morning. You'll be fine. Prop up your head and close your eyes."

This was the most mother-nurturing wisdom I could muster. (feel free to use this pearl anytime)

I close my eyes and begin slipping back to sleep and I begin to feel my covers slipping slowly, steadily off. I jerk them back. They begin sliding off slowly again. I am now aware of a second small human by my bed.

At this moment, I fear my face will split open and an alien will come out and drag these poor babies back to their room when I the two year old say, "Mom, I want juice."

All hope is lost. This sleep is over, the ship is sunk. There is no redeeming the formally peaceful sleep, so I trudge off to the kitchen to serve food to the squalling people who have taken over my house.

I stand in the kitchen with my oldest melting down about how he hates his life because he can't eat granola bars. His life is a miserable sack of poo because he is allergic to nuts. There is no greater misery on planet earth than this. HOW DARE I buy granola bars for the other children to eat and mock him.

I tell him they are not mocking him and begin reciting the offerings I can manage to create at 5:23 in the morning.

cereal? bagel? eggs? poptart? and those fall into the Herculean-effort category.

He sits down pitifully with his bowl of cereal and as all three sit at the counter (because eating anywhere else in this house is forbidden. Don't ask- I'm still recovering from the donut in the couch cushion drama) they launch into a screaming, arguing tirade. Words, insults, and perhaps an object or two are being hurled at each other's faces.

At that moment,  my morning-loving, happy-faced husband walks into the kitchen and I do the most mature, normal, loving thing. I look straight into his face and say, "I'm OUT. I want peace in this house. I NEED peace!"

Tim takes in the scene and tells the children in no uncertain terms, "if you refuse to give us peace in this house, we will sell you on ebay". or some such.

I can threaten, beg, plead, and punish all day long and nothing, nada... Egg thrown into the side of first born's face.

So Tim gets all three into shape and all are crying and sad. I look at him and say, "It makes me sad when they are sad."

Bless him. He can't win. He probably thinks I am straight crazy. And let me tell you, I can lay me down some crazy.

But in the spirit of mom solidarity I want you to know, if your house is anything like mine, it's a daily struggle. I mean some mornings I'd do better facing the rodents of unusual size in the fire swamps.

And if your kids skip arm in arm at 7:30 am to the breakfast table in love and sibling bonding, I'm sorry, we can't be friends. I cannot even begin to relate to your peaceful bliss. I am just trying to make it out of the bog of eternal stench.