Thursday, December 23, 2010

The True Spirit of Christmas

Bright beautiful lights, piles of gifts under the tree, cookies, parties, shopping… these are the things that have defined all my past Christmases. Don’t get me wrong.. I never forgot the true reason for the season. Everything I did, I did in celebration of the Savior’s birth. It is traditionally a busy, hectic, and happy time of year.

This year is different. Economics and lack of employment opportunities have forced us to rethink the holiday. An imminent move has kept our holiday decorating to the very minimum. There is no 6ft tree proudly displaying ornaments collected over the years. Instead, we have a small Charlie Brown tree sitting humbly on the end table. There is really no “under the tree” although that’s not much of an issue, as we have very few gifts to put there. My heart breaks for my boys, for they deserve so much more. But my heart also bursts with pride as they remind me and their dad that Christmas isn’t about gifts.

No Christmas tree, very few gifts.. it’s enough to really stomp out any Christmas Spirit. Yet, I think this is the first year that I have really felt even close to how that little family felt in Bethlehem all those years ago.

Mary was due to give birth at any time, yet had to travel a long arduous journey away from the comfort of her own home. What should have been a happy time of nesting and preparation was instead of difficult time of walking and donkey riding. Poor Mary could only hope that she actually made it to an inn, and pray that the accommodations were nice. We all know how that ended. There was no room for her inside the inn, so her baby was born in a stable… forget about clean linens. She was hoping for clean hay. Her precious baby’s first bed was a manger, a trough for the animals. I can only imagine how her heart broke, just like mine, thinking her baby deserved so much more.

And what about Joseph? The weight on his shoulders must have been unbearable. I’m sure he blamed himself and his heritage that required this trip to his homeland so late in his wife’s pregnancy. It didn’t matter that he was dealing with circumstances beyond his control. He wanted more for Mary and the baby. God had entrusted them into his care and the best that he could do was stables far, far from home. Could this be how my dear husband feels this season?

Despite all the struggles Mary and Joseph faced, I am sure that peace reigned that night. The same is true for us. This Christmas we have experienced peace in the midst of chaos, and joy in the midst of sorrow. Things have changed for me this Christmas, and I’m certain that this Christmas will change all other Christmases to come.

Merry Christmas!

May you experience true peace and joy this season, despite what the world is offering you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Roller Coasters

I used to like roller coasters. Really. But lately if feels like I've been on one far too long and I'm ready to get off.

I don't mind the highs and lows of life. Just like the grandmother on Parenthood (the movie version) said. It's what makes life interesting and exciting, unlike the merry-go-round which just goes round and round. (And it is interesting to note that the merry-go-round will make me sick, while the roller coaster just scares me.)

Anyway, I was talking about the highs and lows of life... I like them to be spread out a bit, but for the past few weeks, I feel like we are up, down, up, down, up down. I'm not only getting sick, but a little case of whiplash too.

My dear husband has entered the job market. Enough said... but let's say more.

"I've got a job you'd be perfect for -- but they went a different way with it"

We find a job online tailor made for Jim -- but no one responds to his resume.

We spend money we don't have to get certified for a job that apparently we might not have either.

I'm trying to help as well, but my resume distribution isn't fairing any better than Jim's.

I've been told that one company likes my writing and may even consider using me for some video production, but until I hear from them, I'm not getting my hopes up.

I really don't like it when they come crashing down.

I really do know God is in control and He is closing all the wrong doors and there is a door that will be open that no man can shut. But our knuckles are getting bruised and bloody from knocking on every door we can find. Lord, please lead us to your door quickly.

I'm pretty sure that your door is where the are finally able to disembark this roller coaster!

Monday, July 12, 2010


God is certainly doing something in my family that doesn't feel comfortable at all. We are dealing with health concerns as well as major financial concerns. My husband is making a career change which appears to be going about as well as Abram's big move in Genesis 12:1. God told Abraham to leave his home, leave his family and go the place "that I will show you". Abram left his old home without ever scouting out his new home. He never talked to a real estate agent, never read a community brochure... He simply knew that God wanted him to move, and he set out knowing he would know he was home when he got there. That's why Abraham is mentioned in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.

God has us moving (although not physically moving to another land... don't worry, mom). He has us changing career and changing our life.. and the transition is so very difficult. Jim has prayed and the only answer he has recieved is "be still." A friend of ours prayed for us, and said "God is moving but for right now, wait."

It's difficult for us to wait, and even more difficult for the landlord, and the electric, gas and phone companies. They don't wait well.

Jim and I have sent resumes out, knocking on door after door, just waiting to see which God will open, but in the meantime... we don't have the luxury of unemployment or even a savings account. We are literally counting on God for our literal daily bread.

To that end, my mom and dad have been amazing in their support! Words cannot describe our appreciation for them. If my earthly parents care so much for each and every one of our needs, how much more does my Heavenly Father care. Mom and Dad are an incredible picture of God's love, and I pray that they are RICHLY BLESSED, as they have richly blessed us during this time!

Not only are they perfect examples of God's love, they are also perfect examples of what marriage should be. This past November they celebrated 50 years of marriage. There is no way you can compact 50 years in to a few minutes of video, ( even if a picture is worth 1000 words) yet I tried.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Better Late than Never...

Bird (the nickname given to my youngest by his daddy) suffers from migraines that have sent us to the ER twice in the past year. There is not a more helpless feeling than seeing your child in excruciating pain and knowing there is nothing you can do to fix it.

The first migraine that sent us to the ER started with alarming symptoms. His hands and feet went numb and then the pain started. The second ER visit had the numbness but just to keep things exciting, visual disturbances were added. The only thing more frightening than seeing your child in such pain, is hearing him say that he's lost all peripheral vision.

Two ER visits for such pain, is, in my opinion, two too many. Fortunately, Dillon is seeing a new doctor who is not content to just call it a migraine and hope that the next one doesn't come too soon. He referred us to allergist and neurologist to see if we can get to the reasons behind the migraines and hopefully treat them before they even start.

We had our first appointment with the allergist yesterday. The nurse practitioner sat with us for literally hours taking Dillon's history and as she asked her questions and Bird and I answered, it began to slowly sink in. This child is a walking cauldron of allergies, and we have just let them stew for years and years. I began to realize that I had not been an effective advocate for my son. In fact, my advocacy could best be described as EPIC FAIL!

The nurse practitioner said sweetly, "It's a wonder you haven't been in to see us before now."

If the exam room floor could have opened up an swallowed me whole I would have felt more comfortable, but then that would be leaving my son and all his allergies on the exam table, once again without an advocate.

The Allergy Clinic was the most thorough doctor's office we have visited in a long time. They did more in this one visit than in 8 hours spent in the ER. Bird had a CAT scan, and a breathing function test. The breathing test showed that while he does have asthma is it well controlled with his inhaler. The CAT scan showed nothing remarkable, except that he has some infection lingering in one of his sinuses.

He started prednisone and we have discovered two things. One, prednisone makes him hungry and two, apparently you can breathe through your nose. Up till now, he was sure that was some myth.

He is playing me like a fiddle today. His hunger is controlling him and therefore controlling me. Everytime he wants more food, he inches up to me and in his sweetest, most childlike, and most guilt inducing voice, he says.. "I had a CAT scan yesterday". This drives home the seriousness of his stuffy nose that I let go for so long, and he gets anything he wants. At least for today.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Speaking of Independence....

I heard it all the time…

“You are still nursing? You better stop, he’s going to be too dependent.”

"He sleeps in your bed? That will make him too dependent.”

“You plan to homeschool? How will he learn any independence?”

It seemed to me that if I had listened to all these well meaning advice givers, as soon as the child had developed enough neck muscles to hold his head up, I was to kick him out and have him start earning his keep.

I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the thought of too dependent, when in actuality, there was no way my babies could be more dependent. They were unable to walk, talk, eat, dress, or even burp without my help. The idea that I could make them more dependent than they already were was pretty ludicrous to me.

The only thing more ridiculous would be if someone were to walk up to a pregnant woman and demand she give birth immediately lest her child develop and unnatural dependence .
Given that it seemed my options were to send my two year old toddling out into the world to get a job, or to go ahead and ignore the concerned masses and continue to meet my child’s needs the way I saw fit, I went the need-meeting route.

It was a simple decision once I thought about independence and all that entails. I also watched that episode of Mad About You.

Mad About You was one of my favorite shows ever. Paul and Jamie reminded me so much of me and my husband. The did the things we liked to do, and spoke the way we spoke to each other (except that they had better scripts). They were us.. until they decided to” ferberize” their baby.
Ferberizing sounds to me more like something you would do to new upholstery than to a baby, but Paul and Jamie shot a whole commercial free episode where they sat outside Mabel’s nursery door while she cried herself to sleep. The kick in the stomach was when Mabel had finally given up and gone to sleep and her cries were no longer heard. Jamie looks sadly at Paul and says that they had just taught their daughter that they wouldn’t always be there for her.

This is not the lesson we ever wanted to pass on to our kids. I want my kids to know that we will always be there for them. Even if we aren’t in the same house, city, state or country, we will always be just a phone call away, at the ready with a pep talk, an attaboy, or even just an attentive ear.

Fortunately, right now, they are still far too dependent on us, sponging off us for meals and lodging while they finish high school. And I can see that they may well be dependent on us. But I also see that this dependence is what helps them be independent.

I sense your confusion. Let me ‘splain.

The very idea that my children know that they can rely on me and my husband, gives them courage to move out and try new things. They are not afraid to fail, because they know we will be there to catch them should they fall.

In much the same way, my Heavenly Father is also always there for me. I know if He asks me to do something, I can do it because He is always with me, supporting me.

Child care guru, Penelope Leach, said it best: Independence comes from having dependent needs completely met.

My job is not to make my children independent. My job is to let them know they can depend on me, and therefore find independence.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Independence Day

The 4th of July has always ranked right up there as one of my fave holidays. Nothing beats a good fireworks show!

For years our family tradition was to go to the fairgrounds, spread a blanket under the Driller and bask in the glow that was the Bell's Amusement Park Independence Day Celebration.

That was until the powers that be decided the Bell's was no longer needed or wanted as a Tulsa attraction. The powers that be are idiots.

So there we were, stranded, forced to change, forced to adapt, forced to make alternative 4th of July plans. There was a moment when we thought nothing could replace our fireworks under the Golden Driller. We watched other fireworks shows but they just didn't seem to have the power to replace what we thought was missing.

Our family ended up going to my parents house, for what we thought would be quiet evening with family. It certainly wouldn't have the excitement of the 4th of July crowds, the vendors selling lemonade and glo bracelets, and the loud booms that rock your insides, but we would be with family so it would be ok. We were wrong.

It was way more than OK! And it was way better than Bell's. (Although, we all still resent the politics that shut them down!)

Mom and Dad live on hill and from their comfortable, cool, breezy yard we could see fireworks no matter which way we turned. In fact, it's quite possible to end the evening with a full blown case of whiplash from turning your neck to see in all directions at once.

Dad lovingly prepares hot dogs and smoked bologna in his outdoor kitchen, while Mom prepares salads and cakes and lemonade... It's a feast.. and we don't have to wait in line or keep watch for the vendor carts.

And then there is the do it yourself fireworks. We put on our own show, right there in front of Mom and Dad's house, complete with a finale! I will admit, my family tends to lean towards pyromania and this is something we could never do in the midst of the crowds of Bells.. but now after three years of our new tradition, we can't imagine celebrating the 4th any other way.

Sometimes change is good.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Our Daily Bread

Last night there was a knock at the door. Lately, it seems when we have unexpected visitors, it doesn't turn out to be good news, so we all held our breathe as Jim went to the door.

"Hey buddy!" he exclaimed and we all let out a collective sigh of relief.

It was Gary and he was bearing gifts but pretty much anytime Denise or Gary show up unexpectedly they are bearing gifts. They are cool like that.

This time it was some bags of bread from Panera. Denise has a friend who gets their end of the day stock and since the Graham's are low-carbers, we get to enjoy the fruits.. or should I say grains.

We had already eaten dinner but as soon as we saw what was in the goody bags we knew we had to have Second Dinner! Or maybe it was First Dinner after our Supper, or Supper after Dinner. I'll have to consult my Hobbit Etiquette book to know for sure, but at any rate.. we had Panera Bread Bowls and that called for soup. French Onion, topped with melted Mozzarella... MMMM

I could tell you all about it but why don't I just show you!