Thursday, May 29, 2014

When Your Flower Girl Becomes a Bride

It rained all week, but the forecast for Saturday was sunny.  I even took a screen shot of the forecast and sent it to my niece because her wedding was planned for the outdoors.  We were all happy and ready for the sun!

Saturday arrived, though, and it was wet.  All morning.  All afternoon.  I was nervous on her behalf but prayed, along with the rest of the family, for the skies to clear in time for the ceremony, which was scheduled for six o'clock.

4:30 came and we drove to the venue to help with preparations.  My sweet 9 year old was a flower girl and, oh, the excitement as we neared the Gardens at West Green and the sprinkles stopped!  The tents were not up!  The twinkle lights in the trees stood ready to illuminate the magical moments that were about to happen.  My girl was in awe.  It was beautiful.

We went upstairs to find the bridal party and join in the pre-wedding fun.  Makeup and hair (BIG Texas hair!) was in full swing and my daughter stood in her ivory lace dress, taking it all in.  She is the romantic of my bunch.  This was right up her alley.

And all along I was looking at her, remembering my wedding day.  I smiled at my daughter and sighed that 18 years had gone by and now my daughter was a flower girl...for my flower girl.

wedding, flower girl, christmas, bride
My wedding day, when my niece was my flower girl.

and now...
the gardens at west green, flower girls, dresses, outdoor wedding
My daughter and her little cousin on my niece's wedding day.

bride, groom, kiss, wedding, the gradens at west green, wedding dress,  mermaid gown, tuxedo
The sweet couple, sealing what God has done with a kiss.
I might have cried when she put on that dress.  She was absolutely beautiful...radiant.  

A little while later, my sister-in-law (the bride's mama) asked if my oldest daughter and I would take the big bags of flower petals and line the aisle before the guests arrived.  We found the bags and went outside to do what was a simple task that turned out to be profound in my heart.  I knelt down with my hand full of white rose petals and I was struck:

Jesus, our Savior, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey...the streets lined with palm branches to honor the King.

Jesus...our groom, awaiting his Bride, his chosen.  Preparing a place for us, preparing a feast to celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb.  On that day, all of our baggage will be laid aside.  It will no longer matter that we were faulty, that we often forgot who we were and Whose we were.  What will matter to our groom will be that moment when we behold Him, wearing robes of pure white and faces radiant with His glory.

Laying down those petals suddenly became a holy task in my heart.  It was an honor to prepare the path for my niece, to watch her bite her lip to hold back tears as she laid eyes on her groom and to see him jam his hands into his pockets and take long, deep breaths through the lump in his throat because of the beauty that floated down the flower-lined aisle to him.  Only to him.

In this day when marriage is attacked and family is redefined, I take hope in moments like these when a couple can stand before those who love them most and promise forever...and mean it.  They come from a legacy of love, of families who stay the course...Grandmas and Grandpas and parents who have been married for a lifetime and love each other even more now than then.  These two, they are going to make it.  

They have us and they have Jesus.  

We've got their back and love wins.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Packing up.

Every year I intend to finish our school year strong.  It always feels great to complete workbooks, look back at improvements made, and generally make a big stinkin' deal about my babes moving on to the next grade level!  Our last few weeks are spent diligently working and looking forward to Summer and all its' freedom.

This year?

Not so much.

We are finishing school, not with a bang, but a creak.  It was a slow winding down as we navigated surgeries, funerals, and miscellaneous appointments for people, animals, house repairs and automobiles.

It felt like we were becoming unschoolers, for crying out loud!

But in the midst of all the crazy, my little boy who struggled so much with reading GOT IT.  His lightbulb came on and all of a sudden he wants to read and he is doing it!  All the kids are ahead in Math, which has given a us a nice cushion in this nuts-o season of life.

I'm so thankful God has allowed us to homeschool another year.  Despite the perceived chaos this go-round, I have been allowed to see my kids grow and learn and watch their faces light up when they "get it" and celebrate with hugs, high-fives, and Skittles.  (Yes, I bribe my kids.  Don't judge.  It works.)  They have all made great strides in learning this year and we have read more books as a family than ever before.  We have learned to love great adventure and realized that sometimes the best school days are the ones where we get sidetracked.

Summer is upon us and our school year is officially ending, but the learning will continue.  I will continue working on math and spelling with the 1st-almost-2nd graders and the bigs will complete two math lessons each week along with their summer reading assignment from their tutorial which will help them keep their brains sharp.  My sweet middle will do two math lessons plus work on spelling over the summer as well.

But we will find plenty of time for travel, camping, swimming, and maybe even go fly a kite!  I am looking forward to the end of basketball season and evenings on the deck.  It is time to pack up another year, take a deep breath, and rest.  I'm so proud of my kids.  Shoot, I'm even proud of me.  This year was the hardest one so far.  But we did it.  With God's guidance and by His grace, we have successfully completed four years of homeschooling.

Is it easy?  There was a time when I said yes, but not anymore.  Five kids with five vastly different needs and learning styles are not easy.  It has been very challenging, often frustrating.  But we pushed through and, though we didn't get everything done, we got the important things done.

I am satisfied and thankful.  And I am tired.

tired mom homeschool yellow exhausted sleepy sleeping mom

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hollie and the Hand of God (Part 2)

"You need to get home."

My husband's voice was soft with concern.  There had been an accident.  Nothing malicious, the details do not matter here.  But one dog, in trying to play with the puppy, had accidentally hurt her.  She had been put up in her crate and we thought was separated and safe, but nothing is foolproof, is it?

I raced home and picked up the tiny fur ball.  She was whimpering and not breathing well.  I comforted her and held her and still she cried.  It went on and on and I knew she was more than scared.  She was hurt.  My daughter was afraid.  So was I.

We took Hollie to the local Veterinary ER.  After X-rays and oxygen they informed us her left lung had collapsed.  Without life support she would pass during the night.

Oh God, this can't be happening.  Not after the joy.  Not this soon.  Oh, Lord, please.  

We made the agonizing decision to take her home and keep her comfortable because a $5000 hospital bill for a 50% chance of survival couldn't be justified, no matter how much it hurt.  The Veterinarian gave her pain medicine and an injection to try to cause her bronchial tubes to expand, hoping it might help.  My daughter cried tears that burned my soul, then she mustered up the strength to ask the hardest question:
"Mama, should we put her to sleep so she won't suffer?"

Lord, why?  Do you see her heart?  Do you know that this had been a really hard year and Christmas is in two weeks and we do not feel strong enough for this?  

The Veterinarian sighed.  "Well, that possibility is not off the table.  If she begins to show signs of more distress and suffering you can bring her in and we will do that.  But for now we can see how she does through the night."

With heavy hearts and tears running down our faces we carried our tiny bundle home.  We set up a humidifier to help the air quality in the guest room and I decided to sleep up there, near Hollie, to take care of her.  My daughter wept.

"If she dies, Mom, I don't want to see her.  Please, if she dies, will you bury her?  I can't see her dead."

"I will, baby.  I'll do it.  Try to sleep.  But first let's pray because God could heal her.  He is Lord over all Creation and we can ask Him to heal her.  He might say no...but He might do it.  We have to at least ask."

So we did.  We held her and prayed and everyone cried.  Every single one of us.

I slept fitfully.  I went onto Facebook and asked for prayer.  I watched Hollie breath, noting how her left side did not rise and fall.  She struggled for every breath.  I caressed her back.  I begged her to fight.  I got on my face before God and I begged for the life of this dog.

"Because, Lord, this is NOT about this dog.  This is about my daughter's heart.  Father, I need you to do this for her.  Please, God, please.  Inflate her lung and heal her, please!"

I would doze off for about ten minutes then pop awake when Hollie made a sound.  Twice she stopped breathing and I massaged her, stimulating her, willing her to breathe.  Somehow she did.  She would inhale again and I would exhale and continue praying, begging for a miracle.

I don't know how long I slept, but around 5am I awakened and jumped up.  Hollie was quiet, but she was awake.  I crawled over to her little bed and her tail wagged.  My heart leapt with hope!  I put my hand to her face and she began to lick and walked out of her bed to me!  She then walked over to her pee pad and used it, then looked at me with that little tail still wagging!

I quickly got her water and she began to lap it up.  I wonder if she will eat?  I took a few kibbles in my hand and, sure enough, she ate them.

Oh Lord, could it be?  Is this really happening?

I continued to handle her carefully and around 6am the Vet called to check on her.  He fully expected to hear that she had died.

"She is still here.  In fact, she is eating and drinking and peeing and pooping!  Is it ok to feed her?"

Shocked, he said yes, to give her small amounts and see how she handled it.  "Now the first 24 hours can be really touch and go," he warned.

I thanked him for taking the time to check on her and he promised to call again when he was back on duty in a few days.

A while later the children began to awaken.  Slowly, fearfully they entered the room.  "She is still here," I whispered.  "I think she is going to be ok."

We all sat and look at her in wonder.  She walked around a little and slept a little more, but her breathing was normal.  That injured left lung was rising and falling just like the other one!

Finally, around 9:30, my big girl came to the guest room door.  Her face was puffy from crying and her eyes were full of sadness.


"She's still here, baby.  You can come in.  She seems to be better!"

She walked into the room and knelt beside her puppy.  She carefully ran her hand over her soft black fur.  Hollie licked her hand and wagged her tail.

Around 11:00 Hollie jumped up and started to play!  She batted at her toys and chewed her stuffed bunny and acted completely normal.  That was it.  I burst into tears and sobbed.  My kids looked at me in shock.

"Guys, do you realize what has happened?  This is a MIRACLE!  God has heard our prayers and He healed her!  Look at her!  She is playing!"  Then I took my oldest by the shoulders and looked her square in the face.

"Do not ever forget this.  I want you to remember this day.  God did this for YOU.  He did this because He wants you to know He loves you.  He doesn't always say yes, honey.  Often He says no.  But this time...this time He said yes for you, sweet girl!  Don't EVER forget this, do you understand?"

She nodded, wide eyed.

Then, as if healing her wasn't enough, Hollie had not barked even once since we had brought her home.  At 8 weeks old, she apparently had not found her voice.  But that day, she did.  She not only breathed with both sets of lungs, she barked!

And she hasn't stopped.

She is healthy, calm, playful, peaceful, (and hard to house train!) like any normal puppy.  Every time I look at that dog, I am reminded of what God has done.  Another stone of remembrance, placed in our lives by our Father who loves my daughter so much that He healed her puppy.

Her puppy!

Friends, I am fully aware of all the hurts we ask Him to heal every day.  I have had many occasions where I begged for healing but it was not going to come.  I have often questioned angrily how so much suffering, kids losing parents, parents losing kids, children victimized and trafficked, is allowed to continue.  I do not have the answer to that.  I don't know why God says yes to some things and "I'm sorry, but that is not my plan" to others.

But I do know this:  God reminded me that He is perfectly able to do exceedingly above all we ask or imagine.  He cares about the details and He knows our hearts and the hearts of our children.  Like I told my daughter, I want you to remember this because there are times where God does not say yes...

but this time HE DID.

Don't ever forget it.
Because sometimes we need to celebrate Christmas all year long!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hollie and the Hand of God (Part 1)

She had begged for a puppy for three years, researching, printing out pictures, even doing a posterboard presentation of small breed dogs and their pros and cons wo we would know which breed is the right fit for our family. (It was a tie between Yorkie, Shihtzu, and Pomeranian...go figure!)

But we had 5 kids.

And 2 dogs.

And, y’all, my floors are never...ever...clean.

So we blew it off and said when the old dog (who is 10 and slowing down) went to doggie heaven we might consider the possibility.

But she didn’t let up.

Finally her Daddy saw the needs of her heart. It was almost Christmas and we were deciding what to give her for her “big gift.”

“I think she needs a dog, she needs something of her own to love.” In shock at his sudden softening I scrolled through Craig's List and found a litter of six tiny black furballs. They were a mix of Yorkie, Shihtzu, and Pomeranian. (Seriously?) I called the owner and made arrangements to drive up to the city and take a look at them while daughter was at church playing ultimate frisbee with her friends.

6 puppies, five boys and one itty bitty girl. The three younger kids were with me and there was no way we were leaving without one! They were all “oohs” and “ahhs” and “Mom, they are so CUTE!”
Of course we took the female home. My daughter would love dressing her up and putting bows in her hair, no doubt. It was an hour’s drive back to our town and all the way I prayed. “Let this puppy be a blessing, Lord. Let her be peaceful and a joy to us. Please let this work out.”

Because, to be honest, we have had puppy fails in the past. Much BIGGER puppies, but still...I was a bit nervous. This little thing weighed just over a pound. I’m telling you, she was TINY. But the trainer of our German Shepherd had taught me a lot and I felt like I was more confident than when we had tried this in the past.

I called my hubby and told him to send my daughter to the front door when I arrived. I placed the teeny tiny shivering pup in her new pink bed, laid it front of the door, and stepped away with my video camera rolling.

The door opened and there was the space of about 2 heartbeats when my daughter registered what she was seeing and of all the screaming and jumping and careful picking up of her new treasure to hold her up and take it all in!

“What’s her name?” she asked through that huge grin. 
“I don’t have to name her,” I said.  She breathed in what I said and responded with a voice brimming with disbelief.
My heart melted. “Yes, she is yours!”

She lifted her up like Simba from the Lion King and brought her down to cradle her against her chest. It was surreal. It was a precious moment of motherhood that I will never, ever forget.

It was the day Hollie became part of our zoo...and it almost ended before it really had a chance to begin.
To be continued... 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Which I Take a Deep Breath and Exhale

A month has gone by since I last shared with you and, in the whirlwind, I have been thrown into survival mode! After the tragic homegoing of my son’s friend and walking out those first hard days (and weeks) of grief, we had a puppy who was spayed (and several days of pitiful pup recovering from surgery) then my youngest boy had his tonsils and adenoids out the next week.

Last night was the first uninterrupted night of sleep I have had since I­-don’t-­know­-when. 

(And the angels rejoiced!)

So what’s up now? 

Well, I’m sitting in an orthodontist office while my big girl gets her full set of braces. How am I at this point of parenthood? Teens and hormones and braces...oh my! School is winding down and we are trying to finish strong. This time of year, the great outdoors calls loudly!  It seems our schedule has been packed with appointments, lessons, practices and good (but time consuming) interruptions to our norm.  We have said “see you later” to two precious friends from a missionary family from Cape Town, South Africa, who lived in our apartment for the past month (with three of the CUTEST babes EVER) and the other a precious younger and wiser brother in Christ who stayed with us over the weekend while gathering support for the calling God has given him to help his people in the remote villages of Wolaita, Ethiopia.

I will have MUCH more to share about that soon. God is working and that we get to be a part of what He is doing just blows my mind. Big stuff, I tell you! Life changing hope is coming to a people with absolutely nothing!

I have been challenged and convicted in ways that are hopefully causing me to grow in my relationship with God. Who do I really trust? When things are in upheaval and life does not go as I planned, how do I respond? In faith or in fear? By giving my burden to God, or trying to manipulate and control the situation?

I am sorry to say my default is the latter. But God is dealing with that. Through my children, as they walk through hard places and ask the tough questions He teaches me. He shows me where I am weak, strengthens those faulty joints, then gives me the grace to pass what He has given me on to my children. Grace. Truly, when I think about the magnitude of God’s involvement in the details of my everyday I am awestruck. That He is that close, that involved, that concerned with the things of my heart is unimaginable when I look back on all the ways I have failed.

But as far as the East is from the West...that is how far He casts my sins. And when my Father looks at me, He doesn’t see a struggling follower covering her stains with more attempts at earning His favor. No, He sees a daughter. He sees me perfected and sinless because I am completely covered by the blood of Jesus. It is beyond my ability to comprehend the depth of His love, but I gladly jump into the deep waters and let them wash over me when the pressures of this world begin to squeeze me and threaten me. I meet this new day, this busy season of parenthood, with the knowledge that He holds me secure.

And when a wrench is thrown in my plans (which happens almost hourly these days) I pray that I will grab onto that grace and respond in faith.

He’s got this. God’s got me and you and we can rest in that truth during the most turbulent of storms.

dogwood, Jesus, trust, breathe, busy, family, parenting
In quietness and trust is my strength...Isaiah 30:15