Thursday, April 23, 2015

Breakfast Time With Mr. Blue Eyes - My Morning Cup of Sunshine!

Today I'm blogging from Disaster Zone 5, also known as the guest bedroom/office/school supply overflow room/"if you don't know where it goes, just throw it in there" room.  (Do you have one of those?) Our house is a battle field. Total wreckage every day.  And I know it will all get better just as soon as I grow a third arm and no longer require sleep. So, basically never.  

Okay, super.

How am I handling my opposite of Pinterest life? Welp, first there's wine (of course), but also I'm really just striving to embrace *says between grit teeth* the chaos, to soak in all the laughter and joy that raising six robust boys brings.

Really, how can you even worry about the six inch crack in the wall or bacterial formations taking shape in the bathroom when you've got Mr. Blue Eyes gazing at you from across the room??
Joey has made the early morning hours a much less painful time of day for all of us night owls. His rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes have a way of making the weight of the world light as a feather.  
Check out my pearly whites. They're new. Cute, huh?
Every day the boys and I look forward to breakfast time with Fofalicious, because he really loves to eat, as you can see by the adorable addition of the second chin. (More to smooch!)
Shhh...I'm contemplating making a move for mom's bacon.
Joseph has completely fallen out of love with baby food, and prefers instead to play "I spy with my little eye" everyone else's munchies. Thankfully, his wittle tummy impedes the the extent of his grasp by a good six inches, giving us all just enough reaction time to move any choking hazards or allergy-inducing succulents away from his quick little grasp.

Feeding our babies has always brought me so much joy.  I love to cook, and even though filling eight hungry tummies three times a day can sometimes be tedious, for the most part, I really do enjoy nourishing not just the bodies but the souls of everyone who sits around our table.
Currently on the 10 month old's breakfast menu is Rice Krispies and bananas.  
I love to watch him focus in on the exact piece of cereal he wants and try over and over to pick it up with his chubby little pinchers. 

After about five minutes, feeding himself with the "chopsticks" is obviously not getting the hungry job done.  That's when he throws all cuteness out the window and takes the shove it in by the fist full approach.
Do not try this at home.  Or, on a date.
Oopsie daisy.  Too much, too much.  I think I might gag.  Keep it in, keep it in.
Whoa.  Boys.  That was a close one.
Yeah, baby! Two more months and I'll be ready for cake!

You might think that the baby feeding routine surely gets a little old after having six children, but I can't tell you with enough virtual emphasis that it truly never does.  I love it.  Every time our babies reach a milestone it's special.  To be able to spend my life with our children, watching them grow and develop is a privilege.  Within the sometimes overwhelming challenges that come with raising a big family, thanks to an outpouring of grace, my heart swells with joy and thanksgiving each and every day for these little moments.  They really are the two scoops in the feast of life.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Restoration of the Summer Lounge Room, Also Known as the Deck

Oh, blessed Friday!!

I've been waking up these past few days to the sound of the birds chattering outside my window. They get cranked up about fifteen minutes before my alarm goes off (grrrrr). My son, George, has offered to apply his bb gun skills to the "problem," but I don't think the neighbors would appreciate the carnage being strung all over the yard.

Anyway, since the tweeting fowl aren't loud enough to break any of the other seven members of the household out of a snore, I'm getting in some good quiet time before the troops arise in hunger. I was thinking this morning about the post I wrote yesterday on suffering and the deep gratitude Steve and I have for those who have helped us out in so many ways throughout the past year.

One act of generosity that truly touched our hearts came from Steve's family.  They gave up two entire Saturdays to help us rebuild our deck.  In the past year, due severe weather, our home has taken quite a beating. Last spring a massive hail storm tore up our roof, garage doors and the screen that wraps around our deck.  Then, just a few weeks ago, a wind storm came through and blew a huge portion of our fence down.

I am convinced that Lyme disease's BFF is Mother Nature, and they are camping out with all of their drama and hostility in our back yard. But we are fighting back, and we've got an army of family and friends who are marching right beside us to help!
Last summer, the floor to our deck began to crumble, and was no longer safe for us to use.  Steve insisted that he do the work himself, but good golly, just Google "neurological Lyme Disease symptoms" and tell me if you think he be a little cray-cray.
Despite my best efforts, I couldn't convince Steve to hire someone to rebuild the deck (the mounting medical bills sitting on the desk, didn't exactly help my cause). Well, when Mr. Fix It's family heard about his plans to rebuild the summer lounge room, they jumped right in and helped him get the job done.

And, get it done they did!
Steve's sister, Jennifer, and her husband, Doug, helped us with the construction and painting, and their kiddos jumped in to lend a hand, too!
Joseph is right at home in Brianna's arms.  She's a natural with the babies, that girl!

The boys were right in the middle of the action and were amazingly helpful.  Any time they are able to work along side their dad, I am so thankful.  Steve taught them how to use the table saw to cut some of the lumber, and each of them took a turn with the drill.
I was so proud of Benedict.  Sometimes I can't believe how capable he is when he's working with Steve.  He can take on a lot of the work that adults do on the farm, including running the equipment and wrenching in the shop.  He handled the variety of tools needed to build the deck with confidence and ease.  He is really going to bless his own family and community one day with all of the skills he has learned from his father.
Of course it wasn't all nose-to-the-grindstone all day long. There was time in between tasks for a few creative projects to be built on the side...
In addition to the deck, I also gained some lovely home accessories including a hat rack, a coat rack, and a gun rack (which is funny, because our boys NEVER hang up ANYTHING, which means they won't get used, and are purely decorative).  
Charlie was quality control master.  For those two days, he ran around the yard and the deck making sure that everything was working properly, the ladder, the tool belts, the saw-horses, the paint brushes.  No one needed to give him a job, because he just put himself in charge of everything and everyone.  

Cutest foreman ever!
I think the paint fumes started getting to George.  Little did he know that doing multiple flips on the trampoline would only make him more dizzy. Or did he know....

Oh, Jorge!!

Now that the work is over, it's time to thank our family properly with some good times on the beautiful deck that they helped us build.  I hope, hope, hope that one of those "good times" is a celebratory toast of Steve being healed from Lyme.  Please keep up the prayers, they are working!!

Pictures of the finished product to come....

Until then, have a great weekend, my friends!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just When You Think You Can't Handle Any More...Being Robbed Reminds You That You Can

Last week Steve and I traveled to Kansas City so that he could see a neurologist and hopefully receive some answers to the many questions we have about some of his Lyme-related symptoms. By noon, the appointment was over and we were prepared to head home when Steve suggested that we stay for the rest of the day and enjoy some one-on-one time together.

No one had to twist my arm to get me to say Y.E.S. and Amen! The day before we left, I had truly reached a point where I rolled my eyes so hard at life's trials that I swear I could see the sad crusty pony tail that hadn't felt a good shampoo in days sticking out of the back of my stressed out head.

We both needed a break.  Even if it was only for a few hours.

One thing I've always treasured about our relationship is that Steve and I can literally be up to our armpits in the crapstorms of life, and the very second we shake loose from all of the stress and worries, we are able to really let go, to laugh and have so much fun together.

After a blissful lunch at our favorite BBQ joint, we worked off the slab of ribs and fries with a nice long run and some CrossFit.  To top the afternoon off, the NCAA tournament finals were on.  Right next to Jesus, the second two pillars of strength in our marriage are a mutual love for sports and good beer. (Okay, maybe not right next to Jesus, but pretty close.)

We bellied right up to the bar with our favorite snacks and a couple of pints to enjoy the game. It was heavenly.  But, as soon as the game was over, so was our good-time.  As we approached the suburban, happiness was torn from my heart, and I felt it slowly sinking back into the deep.

I couldn't believe my eyes.  Standing in a sea of broken glass, I stared in shock through shattered windows into the empty darkness of our car.

I knew immediately that my purse had been stolen, but I felt somewhat relieved knowing that there were no valuables or cash inside, just a couple of credit cards which could easily be cancelled. But, what I didn't realize, until I returned to our hotel room hours later, was that the thieves had also stolen my laptop.  Steve thought that I had carried into the hotel room earlier in the day, I thought that he had.

That was when I lost it. Really, really lost it.

The sudden rush of anger that flooded my emotions was driven by grief over the loss of hundreds of photos that I would never get back, and also supreme frustration at myself for not taking the time to back them up.

I didn't realize it, but all of the struggles and challenges that life has thrown our way over the past year had been building pressure inside my heart, and being robbed was the final force that broke open the flood gates.

I buried my face in the pillow that night and wept for what felt like hours. I would be lying if I said I didn't wish with all my might for the hammer of justice to slam down upon the person responsible for my misery, because I felt just that.

But one can only be disgusted at another person's sin for so long. I was empty, and when you're empty and completely at the end of your rope, there is nothing that can fill you back up but Christ. (I've tried a variety of substitutes.  Trust me, no es bueno.)

After tossing back and forth in the discomfort of anger and self-pity, I finally submitted my pathetic little heart to the Healer. I begged the Lord over and over again for the grace to forgive the person who had hurt us. I begged him more for the grace to carry with deeper courage and trust all of the burdens and concerns for our family that weighed so heavily on my shoulders.

The next day, we were blessed by a very generous and kind business that was able to fix our windows in a timely fashion so that we could return home to our boys.  While I was on the phone with the bank, credit card companies, and police, trying to take care of serious business, Steve was avoiding chaos by trying his best to get me to laugh at the ridiculousness of our predicament.

Of course he succeeded.
Even though we were only gone for about 24 hours, those hours felt like an eternity.  When we finally arrived home, seeing the boys' beautiful faces and reaching out to hold them tightly in my arms was such a comfort.  Over and over I said to myself, this right here, this is what matters.

That night, unable to sleep, I sat up on the edge of the bed contemplating what Netflix episode and snack was going to help take my mind off of the former days' events.  Exhaling, I stared up at the crucifix on the wall, looking to the Lord for one tiny consolation, anything that would guide my weary, calloused heart, back to a place of trust and confidence.
I felt Him press these words upon my heart:
"Can you not see that it is only in your poorest, weakest moments that the depths of My love and generosity can truly be known?"

At that very moment, I was able to recall every single act of generosity that had been bestowed upon our family, particularly over the past few months....
Holy hours in the middle of the night offered up,
Meals lovingly prepared for our family,
Offers to shuttle our children to and from music lessons and sports practices,
Countless texts, phone calls and e-mails from family and friends who are praying, fasting, or making sacrifices for Steve,  
Hours upon hours of assistance with household chores and child care from family which has made it possible for me to accompany Steve at his doctor appointments.

At that middle-of-the-night hour, my heart was filled with deep thanksgiving, and I was blessed with a fresh perspective on life.  For months I had been so blinded by the anxiety I carried over the problems and challenges that life had dealt our family, that I could not see the Lord loving us all in spite of them.

I understood, more clearly than ever, that the trials of this world will indeed pass, and soon be forgotten. But, what will live on from now into eternity is the way we respond to those trials, and the way that others love us through them.

We are the living, breathing, mystical body of Christ, you and I.  I can barely begin to understand what that means, but I know that I want to be a part of it.

We are His love, His mercy, His generosity in the flesh, and when we give, when we love, when we serve and even humbly receive, His presence here on Earth is not only felt, it is made known to the world, and that is something that cannot be taken from us

Every single hardship, setback, disappointment, loss, grief, injustice and brokenness that we experience is, in a way, a gift.  A gift wrapped up in the opportunity for others to LOVE us, for Christ to love us through others.  

No one wishes for hard times.  It is not in our nature to run toward the cross, toward suffering. Yet, if we can, but for a moment embrace those sufferings, no matter how big or how small they may be, then truly in those terrible moments of poverty, God's GREAT mercy and generosity can be known, if only we will place our trust in Him and allow Him to love us in this way.