Twice in a summer

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We argue. We fight. We disappoint each other and intentionally do things to annoy. These are some of the rather unsavory characteristics of my family.

On occasion our clothes are left on the ground, someone “forgets” to empty the dishwasher, the carpet needs vacuuming and the kitchen floor hasn’t seen a broom in a few days.

We battle big things too in this house…depression, anxiety, temptation and Ambien, to name a few.

But then there are these halcyon moments –

And it’s like one of us is a polished diamond

And we get it right

I didn’t grow up going to church. Raising a Christian family means so much to me. Sitting next to one of my guys makes it even sweeter.

Maybe not for the whole day, for that might be too strenuous

But for a snapshot of time, we experience a flash of heaven

Which is what happened Sunday morning…

Aaron helping lead worship. He did a great job and found it to be a very emotional experience.

It was Aaron’s last Sunday at church before leaving to attend college in Chicago. This summer Aaron has acted as one of our church’s interns. For a small church of about 50 people, I must say, they put my OS to work like a boss. In addition to holding a paid, part-time job as a pool attendant, Aaron had many church projects to accomplish. Whereas many nearly 18-year-old young people are majorly chilling the summer before going off to school, Aaron has been learning Greek, reading church leadership books and writing reports about them. Aaron worked tirelessly compiling a hymnal for our church filled with rich, beautiful hymns that are still reverent and true. Each time my OS showed me progress on this hymnal, he beamed with excitement and joy. Aaron and the two other summer interns led an entire church service and my middle OS was so moved by the experience, he ended up in tears before our small congregation recently one Sunday morning. Incidentally as a result, most of the congregation was equally emotional especially the mama with pink highlights in her hair = me!

The three pastors poured into our boy’s life and gave him a glimpse into how to truly minister and shepherd a flock of people. They showed Aaron the inner workings of a healthy church body, how to receive feedback before and after the sermon (something I’ve never heard of pastors doing before attending this church). Through their personal investment in my OS’s life, Aaron is developing into a vibrant and active young leader.

And on Sunday, our pastors blessed him in a grand way before sending him off to the Windy City. Although the Hubs and I knew about this previously, it came as a surprise to Aaron when he was asked to come up to the front of the church. Jerry, one of our pastors, explained to the crowd that Aaron was leaving to attend Moody Bible Institute and this would be his last Sunday with us. He then asked the men of the church to come forward and to pray over my boy. It wasn’t creepy and it didn’t offend my former feminist ways in case the mere thought of this bristles you.

Twice in a summer I have witnessed a moment like this.

My sandy-haired boy bowed his head and I realized at that moment, wow, this is the second child in a summer that I have seen kneeling before Jesus and his followers. (Click here to read about the first time with Nathan). We weren’t at West Point; we were in the suburbs of North Carolina but another one of my olive shoots was submitting his life to the Lord and receiving from His people, words of blessing and protection. Honestly, I think the statistics for something like this happening twice in a summer are quite small. And when I consider my wretchedness, I think it is nothing short of miraculous that something this beautiful could happen to me as a mother. And furthermore, this is the second time the orange hair, freckle face OS has laid hands on a brother and helped usher him into a new season of life. Not your everyday, run of the mill brother stuff but something lofty, holy and lovely.

The prayer didn’t last too long, no one spoke in tongues, snakes were not handled. 😉

Seeing godly men praying for my olive shoot, thank you Jesus for this glorious moment. That’s my orange hair, freckle face guy in the black shirt, his hands on his bro.

As the prayer finished and the men made their way back to their seats, Pastor Rob asked Aaron to stay up front for a moment.

And that’s when they gave Aaron another gift as if the gift of prayer, love, protection, shepherding, accountability and manly, godly leadership weren’t enough.

Sitting next to my boy one last time before college, Aaron getting his hymnal, the actual hymnal

He sweetly handed my boy the very first copy of our church’s new hymnal. The project Aaron had devoted hours on was finished and my OS got first dibs. Aaron hugged our pastors fiercely and shined like a diamond holding that hymnal in his hand. He sat down next to me and while he began flipping through the pages, I patted his knee, tears in my eyes. As sad as I think Aaron might feel about leaving his family, I think he feels even sadder leaving his church. He will be a part of our fellowship even if he’s thousands of miles away.

Here’s one of Aaron’s favorite songs, Jesus, Savior Pilot Me which can be found on page 82 in our hymnal. Surely I will think of the precious child who sat and snuggled next to me even as a teenager each Sunday morning. As a benefit of birthing this fine olive shoot, I too, was handed a copy of the hymnal which Aaron will be signing for me. I cherish it already. (Btw, yes, I’m crying while writing this.)

This is a cool song. Beautiful, timeless words. ❤

So today, we’ll see how it goes. One of us might be grouchy. The Hubs and I might bicker, the guys might not initiate folding the mounds of laundry. We are alas a very human bunch. Still, I will praise the Lord. I will exalt His name. I will rejoice in the blessings I am given, those moments when we transcend our selfishness, stubbornness and foolishness and I see extraordinary beauty in the land of the living. May it be so with you and those you love as well. ❤

Ambien – setback, stepback, not giving up

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Wednesday around 3am, I felt like a puny junior high girl in PE class…

Good times posing in the Kmart photo booth

Circa 1974ish

My opponent this time wasn’t the rope that was hooked to the gym ceiling that I never could climb at Jefferson Junior HIgh

And it wasn’t the chin-up bar from which I couldn’t pull myself to save my life or my dignity

Wednesday morning, I wasn’t the last one picked for the volleyball match or the girl who lost the softball game

in my red PE  shorts, red and white thin-striped polyester PE shirt with red trim, a lithe and flat female frame devoid of all muscle tone either

No, in the wee hours of Wednesday, I was in bed, in my pajamas, a grown woman!

but I just as felt defeated that night (or should I say morning) sleep mask, pillows, fan going full blast

Tired

because I took the stupid Ambien

it was 3am and I told the Lord I was going to do it

There have been times when I have told Jesus I was going to do something and I knew He wasn’t going to like it

I bet you have too

but I was so tired

and having been up with my orange hair, freckle face OS for yet another night

feeling helpless about how to care for him and desperate for some rest

I swallowed that tiny pill and fell asleep with my sick boy nearby

I continue to trust in the Lord

Middle school Cindy

Blocking out the Enemy’s voices that remind me of my failings

My Holy One is teaching me things

I may falter and get distracted

Day and night

Ambien and life

But there is grace

My Heavenly Father presides over me

And through Him, I can do all things

Even sleep

The Lord loved that little wimpy middle school Cindy way back then and is compassionate towards me now. I’m on his team, He picked me many years ago and doesn’t laugh at my shortcomings but gives me the courage to press on

And so I will try again and claim this promise

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Thanks for listening….I welcome your thoughts and prayers

What to do when pastors are people

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I might NOT be the world’s best sleeper but I am a pretty decent cook and I can throw a good dinner party so I got that going for me. Things are going well with me not using Ambien but I really want to have my sleep become an effortless aspect of my life and not something that requires much time and practice. One day I pray this will be so. Until then, I keep moving forward and looking for SAFE and NATURAL ways to get restful sleep. Keep sharing my friends, I really appreciate it!

Welcome to my home!

But back to two things I manage to do fairly well. Last night we hosted a dinner party and invited our pastors to join us. Gulp! That adds an additional measure of pressure, don’t you think? Sure they are just people but you really don’t want to do anything stupid when your pastor’s just arm’s length away from you, right?  Plus you want everything to taste good, for conversation to flow and for there to be a sweet fellowship among the guests. And you certainly don’t want your kids to embarrass you by discussing that less than stellar parenting moment you had during the week…so I’m wondering if based on all of their congregants’ insecurities, can pastors really have any social life at all? Hmmm…we need to change the paradigm and bless these folks.

Getting ready for company

For days I had been planning Saturday night’s dinner. I moved furniture, consulted with the family regarding the menu, bought groceries and made the chicken broth for the gumbo. I ironed napkins, wrote on our kitchen chalkboard and did one of my all-time favorite things, set the tables. Oh how I love to make a pretty table for my family and friends.

It wasn’t the easiest thing to put on the wall but definitely worth it.

A few days prior, the Hubs had placed a super cool decal on our dining room wall. It aptly expresses who we strive to be as a family. Here’s a link if you want one of these decals.

Water lily napkin fold with a dehydrated tomatillo husk in the middle, they are so pretty!

For this dinner, I did a super easy water-lily napkin fold technique and added some tomatillo husks that I had dehydrated to the center of the napkin. I have never cooked with tomatillos until a few weeks ago and I was simply smitten with the husks. They looked like little flowers to me. Yes, I felt like a fancy girl and it reminded me of playing with my doll house many years ago. A smattering of the husks dotted the tables. Privately I prayed the pastors and their wives would shriek with delight the moment they entered the room.

And while I’m not sure that happened, we had an absolutely lovely time.

Pastors and their wives can be super fun! Trust me, we know!

And we played Think-ets which became the highlight of the evening. With Think-ets we learned more about each other than we might have just in having simple table talk. Our conversations were personal, deep, hilarious and fascinating. I’ll tell you about Think-ets more in my next post.

We have been blessed to have many Jesus-loving pastors tending our family throughout the years but sadly we have never done anything like this before. It was time to offer hospitality to the people who have cared for us and we sought to bless them. If the thought of having your pastors or members of clergy over to your house invites fear and worry, do it anyway as a way of saying thanks. What to do when pastors are people? Easy. Love them, feed them, pray for them big time because they’re dealing with people like you and me and welcome them into your home. They deserve it and so do you.

We called this table the grown up table! It was a lovely time!

Ambien, part two

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Last night just before we went to bed, my orange hair, freckle face OS went to throw something outside in the trash bin. I was tired and keyed up but knew I needed sleep. I was upstairs, sleep mask on top of my head, wearing my super alluring bite guard and mismatched pajamas when the Hubs told me he needed my help, Ike had been hurt.

I went downstairs and found Ike groaning in pain with a bloody leg and knee. It was past midnight.

After attending to Ike and realizing a trip to the Emergency Room wasn’t necessary, I knew sleep was going to be especially challenging. It would have been so much easier to just pop an Ambien knowing I would fall asleep…

but I didn’t

and I’m telling you this not to brag about myself because truly there is nothing to brag about

but here’s one of things that I did and it will sound really weird to some of you*

I picked a letter in the alphabet and began to pray the attributes of God.

My precious grandma gave me these praying hands/bookends and I have passed them onto my middle OS Aaron. A loving reminder of the power of prayer.

For example, I picked “P” and I let my mind claim the things I know to be true about God…

He’s the Prince of Peace, he’s the Great Physician, he’s my protector and praiseworthy. He pursues me, he is present. He is perfect and pure. The Lord is my portion, etc..

Part of the quilt I made for our bed

Some letters are harder than others but I like the challenge and it helps. I’ve been doing this on and off for years but never without the use of Ambien. I find that without prescription medication, this nighttime ritual gives me a chance to pray and to focus my mind on holy and righteous things since my brain has a tendency to not shut off.

Like many of you have shared with me privately, I can get scared that I might not get enough sleep which then can cause my mind to race but praying and claiming God’s character are drug-free tools with no strange side effects.

I feel the Lord’s presence with me.

He loves me, he loves you.

And while I understand this might sound really ridiculous to some

God speaks to me while I am in my bed

And He tells me, “Daughter, I’ve got this. It’s time to let me fix this.”

For 11 years I have battled insomnia. I have swallowed over 4000 little potent pills chasing rest. When I think about it, I see that I have put myself in serious danger and been careless. And on an unsuspecting Saturday night in July, the Lord said I was done. I can’t do this alone but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. There is a God who bothers with me even though He has a million other things to do and much bigger problems to address.

Why He finds a middle age mama with pink highlights, who wears a sleep mask and a bite guard and who uses no less than three pillows for sleep worthy enough to help, I can’t explain but I’ve got to tell you this. He also finds you worthy of caring about too. And if you have another struggle, the Lord cares about that also. 

So there I am, in the quiet of my bed, though the rest of my family is dreaming, the God who never sleeps stays by my side and holds vigil over my weary head. And He can do the same for you, I promise. 

And here are a few of the things I’ve talked to the Lord about because I really do incline my ear to Him

August 5th marks the one year anniversary of my precious beloved grandma’s passing. Lord, I’m worried about sleeping that night and the night before. Please be near me even if I cry myself to sleep. 

And when I say goodbye to my middle OS Aaron and drop him off at school far from home, Father, could you wrap your arms around me extra tight that night and a few nights after that because I’m really going to miss him? 

Somehow mysteriously, I’m staying in bed and trusting Him. And within my soul, I hear His voice telling me, “Beloved, I will give you rest. I know how much sleep you need for tomorrow. This is going to take time to conquer but when you are weak, I am strong.”

The Shepherd tends to his sheep.

My Heavenly Father calms me, relaxes me and within time, I am asleep.

Yes, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night but I got exactly the amount I needed and for that I give great thanks.

And thank you also for I am deeply touched by the responses to my blog post. To know that others are struggling with similar issues brings both sadness and connection. Bless you for being so transparent, it’s a privilege to be entrusted with your stories and I treasure the honor to care about you. Perhaps we can help each other along the way.

*I do a few other things that seem to be helping and I will share them with you in my next post. Some of them are practical things that are beneficial. I’m also willing to share with you the alphabet prayer thing I’m doing if you are interested. Do not give up or feel hopeless, you don’t have to do this alone.