November 25, 2007

There and Back Again-A Daughter's Tale-Bit 7 of "That's My Life"

The hospital cafeteria coffee was rank. We didn't eat anything because none of us could. Finally, after about 20 minutes, someone sighed and we all stood in unison. It had been an intense week; one we hadn't been expecting. As the elevator carried us up to the 3rd floor of the hospital, my brothers, their wives and I tried to shake off the sadness and weariness of the week, knowing that more was to come. When we stepped off the elevator and looked toward her room, we saw a nurse was barring the way. With tears in her eyes she shook her head. We knew mom was gone. One of my brothers muttered something like, "The little stinker. She was proud and independent right up to the end. She wouldn't even let her kids hold her hand as she died."

We all went into mom's room and could tell immediately the nurse wasn't mistaken. One by one each of us went up to mom....someone touched her now cold cheek. Another one of us kissed her forehead. I think I uselessly pulled the blanket up to cover her shoulders. We silently said our goodbyes to our mom and left the room.

As I drove through town on my way home, I was shocked to see everyone going about, business as usual. I wanted to stop my car in the middle of the road and stand in the street and yell, "HEY! Someone has just died! A person has left the planet! Can't you feel it? Didn't you feel her spirit leave this earth? Stop for just a minute and think about that. Show her some respect!" I somehow managed to keep driving-Maybe somewhere in my grief I knew I'd end up in a padded cell if I followed my heart in this instance.

That evening, as my mom's body was finding it's way to the hospital morgue or the funeral home or wherever bodies are taken when they're empty, my brothers, sisters-in-law, husband and myself gathered to grieve. We had a wonderful, bittersweet evening. We shared stories about mom's life...memories she'd given us.... and things we were going to miss about her. We laughed until we cried. Some of her skeletons came out of her closet and danced in the light, no longer needing to stay hidden. She'd had a long, eventful, rich, hard life. At her memorial service my nephew said, "Granny was weathered."

Later in the week my one sister-in-law and I went to mom's apartment to sort through her stuff and move "mom" out. She'd been living in a senior citizen apartment building and there was a waiting list for any apartments that were empty. We weren't allowed time to grieve in peace. We sorted through everything she had. Her clothes, her dishes, her books and pictures. Houseplants, food, and make-up. Everything that makes life comfortable and everything that makes even a tiny apartment feel like home. As we worked, it struck me-mom had lived 71 years. She'd had a not-so-easy childhood. A not-so-easy marriage that had ended in divorce. She'd lost a son. She was dead. All this "stuff" was meaningless. Just a pile of belongings that either ended up in other peoples' homes or Goodwill. We just pile our treasures around us and then others are left to sort through it all when we go. What's the point? What is really truly the point of piling it all up here? We won't be Here long.

In the weeks that followed I found questions that needed answers. Where was mom now? Where exactly is heaven? Is it here, around us but invisible? Is it billions of miles away tucked into a corner of the Galaxy? What did it feel like for mom as her spirit left her body? What was she doing now? How long did it take to get from here to Jesus' feet?

Something else happened to me as well. Something that's really hard to explain. As the weeks unfolded my relationship with Jesus changed. It was like I was here but in His actual presence at the same time. I became aware of everything I said and everything I did and my motives for everything in a new way. I saw how un-like Jesus I truly am. My sin was so obvious to me. It sounds so strange but I spent entire days like I was just sitting at Jesus' feet. I talked to Him all day long like He was attached to me-my Siamese twin. I know I lived in repentance. Sin was so incredibly easy to see and so impossible to ignore. Every breath was a prayer. It was an awesome and amazing tiny taste of what it must be like to finally be done with this earth and live with Jesus. I could almost audibly hear His voice loving on me throughout the days. I felt weightless. I saw that all the things I stress about are just plain stupid. There IS a much bigger picture going on if only we could see it. For the first time in my life that verse that talks about us being strangers and aliens here, visitors if you will, hit home in a very real way. This is truly just a passing through place and there's somewhere so wonderful, so indescribable, so full of love and light and joy just waiting for anyone who loves Jesus.

This incredible experience lasted a long time. I'm not sure how long-I think it was a couple months. But then one morning I remembered I was a wife, and a mom. "Lord, I don't know how to do this anymore. It is sooooo hard to live in two places at once. I don't know how to be a wife and mom and live this closely in your presence. The boys and Mike need me to be "here" for them and I haven't been....."

All of a sudden I deflated like a balloon that's been pricked. I don't know how else to describe it. I could feel myself coming back to earth. I was still with Jesus, but it was different. Not clear and beautiful like it'd been.

I now have more questions. Why did I "deflate"? Can we live in 2 places at once like that? How can we live here on earth being parents, employees, aunts, uncles etc. and live "outside" the relationships and stresses around us? Are we meant to? Was that the way He wanted me to spend the rest of my life here or was that just a sweet gift to help me get the big picture? Did I choose to "deflate" or was that supposed to be what is was? A temporary experience.

Whatever it was, I'm so thankful for it......

A Wonderful Day

Thanksgiving was wonderful around here. Our 2 oldest sons have slept away most of our Thanksgivings and Christmases in the last few years. They would get up in time to eat, but exhaustion would send them back to sleep shortly after we prayed. (We pray after meals at this house.) However, for some reason they felt good and were even actually alert. :-) We enjoyed laughing and talking and eating together and then we ALL went hiking. I literally cannot remember the last time all 6 of us did anything together. We even rode in the same car! I can't remember the last time that happened either.
It started to get dark while we were out hiking, and because I'm an old woman now, my depth perception isn't what it used to be the closer to "dark" it gets. All 3 of our big guys were so sweet-they kept waiting for me and helping me over the rough spots. (Chivalry is not dead!)
I realize this is probably terribly boring to most of you, but I wanted to write about it anyway. Only God knows how many more holidays we'll have with all our boys together at the same time. Two of them are adults now. Moving, marriages, friends, etc. could all take away time from "this" family. If you still have little people around, soak up the time you have with them.

Thursday was a sweet gift to me. And you know what the whip cream on the pumpkin pie was? Later in the evening our oldest son actually watched a chick-flick with me!

November 20, 2007

A PS to The Strong Willed Boy-Part 3

I don't know if anyone's interested, or even cares, but I did want to explain something about the posts I did on our strong willed son.
I let him read the posts. It wasn't a "gripe behind your kid's back" kind of thing. After he read them we sat down and had a great conversation. I told him about 2 times in my life where I blew it (but good!) in my relationship with the Lord. I'm going to write about them sometime soon so I won't go into all that right now. But I wanted him to know he's not the only strong willed person in the family. He comes by it honestly. :-) We talked about my sin and the consequences and the heartache I've been through because I simply don't trust and obey. I argue with the Lord. I have temper tantrums. I try and negotiate. I told Alec that the Lord loves us and has our best in mind when He asks us to do something or disciplines us or even allows trials to come our way. I told him that it seems to me if he treats his parents like that, (arguing, temper tantrums, etc.) that he will treat the Lord like that as well.
He agreed to pray and ask the Lord to help him with trust, obedience, etc.
He's light years ahead of his stubborn, know-it-all mom.

November 18, 2007

Happy Holidays?

The other day I somehow stumbled onto an amazing, heartbreaking, bittersweet, hopeful, sad, wonderful blog. It was written by a couple in their 20's who just a few weeks ago lost a new baby. It made me think about life and death and pain and Thanksgiving. The holidays are "supposed" to be a time of joy. But sometimes they're not all their cracked up to be.
I've lived through:
  • losing my parents twice-once to the effects of divorce, once to death.
  • "losing" a family because of my parents' divorce
  • the loneliness of being a latch-key kid
  • losing a brother in a motorcycle/car accident
  • 2 babies wait for us in heaven
  • we've experienced financial troubles
  • plus just the normal stresses of marriage and raising kids

If I look over at that little "FEEDJIT" thingy, I see that there are people who stumble onto this blog that I'll never meet. I think about you just the same. I wonder who you are, and what your life is like. I wonder why you stopped by this particular blog. And this week I've been wondering if any of you are in pain. Or stressed. Or lonely.

My heart is going out to that young couple who lost their baby. They know Jesus loves them and have clung to Him for comfort during this time. Jesus is the one who kept me going through everything that's been hard in my life. I just wanted to offer you the same comfort and hope.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

You can have joy in the midst of sorrow or stress. Trust me. I've experienced it.

If you're not going through anything particularly difficult right now, you might want to read about the young couple I've mentioned. And pray for them. Here's how to find them:http://conorbootheandgirls.blogspot.com/

November 16, 2007

The Strong Willed Boy-Part 2

This is more a post on communication in marriage than it is about our strong willed boy-but it was, in a way, "through him" we learned the lesson that I'm going to write about.
It's sort-of an embarrassing story, but oh well. Here goes. (I'll try and keep it short for Mr. Shumway's sake.)
Throughout the course of raising and homeschooling 3, then a 4th boy, there were naturally good and bad days. Sibling rivalry, bad attitudes, wild amounts of energy, messes, and spiritual lessons all had to be dealt with. I tried to be patient and would pray for wisdom more than just daily. However, there were days when I would be drained of both. Especially on those days when our 3rd son (the strong willed one) was being pillish to the best of his ability. My husband would come home and I'd be running on fumes. "I've had it! That kid, (or those kids) drove me crazy today! Would you please do something with him/them?!"
Then Mike would be annoyed with Alec, or all 3 boys, and lecture them on being obedient or respectful, or whatever I'd complained about. Then I'd get annoyed with him because he was being grouchy or stern with the kids. I'd then jump to their defense which confused my husband because not ten minutes earlier I'd asked him for help. This circus went on for years!! I'd have a bad day, whine and complain, Mike would try and "rescue" me, then I'd get angry at him. It built up an unhealthy wall in our marriage, needless to say.
Finally LAST YEAR I read a great book: For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. It not only helped me understand Mike in general, it helped us get out of the revolving door we'd been stuck in.
One night last spring Mike and I were walking and we were finally "having it out" about this "issue" in our marriage.
I couldn't understand why he treated the boy/s like he did when I'd told him I'VE HAD IT and he couldn't understand why I was angry at him for dealing with the boy/s.
We were getting really annoyed with each other, but finally we both stopped talking, and got lost in our own thoughts. I started thinking about the book For Women Only. I put myself in his shoes and tried to think like a man. (Not an easy task, let me tell you.) But then it hit me-Mike was trying to be my hero! He was trying to get on his white horse and slay the dragon of pain-in-the-neck moments with our son/s. He heard my distress call and wanted to come to my aid.
When I shared my thoughts with him he basically said, "Yes, you dope. What took you so long to see THAT?" (Of course those weren't his exact words:-) )
So I said, "Mike, I look at parenting as a relay race. I run with the baton all day. By the time you get home, I'm tired of running. The boys need patience, love, humor, etc. and by dinner time I'm weary. When I tell you I've had it, I'm trying to pass the baton on to you. I just want you to take it for a couple hours so I can regenerate."
Talk about a "Duh" moment for both of us. So, even now, with only a 15 year old and a 6 year old "in the house", (our other 2 still live at home but we hardly ever get to see them) there are moments where "I've had it." But now I just say, "Mike, please take the baton for a while! I'm pooped."

November 11, 2007

Discipleship Award

My friend "Sniz" has given me another award! Thank you so much Sniz! Like you, I have no clue how to post the award on my blog-when you find out how to do it, let me know. :-)

Anyway-here's the award:

This award originated with Dan King over at Management by God, who states, "Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) is to make more disciples. The role of a disciple of Christ is to carry His message to the ends of the earth. It is with this heart that I have created the Mathetes Award."Those who receive it are to pass it on to other disciples who are sharing the good news in their own bloggity ways.Here are the rules: Winners of this award to pass this on to five other "disciples". As you pass it on, I just ask that you mention and provide links for(1)the originator of the award (Dan King of management by God), (2) the person that awarded it to you, and then (3) name the sites of those you believe are fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ.


I couldn't even copy and paste the acutal award to drag it over here from her blog: http://misssniz.blogspot.com/



I would like to pass the award on to these people:

Rachel @http://simplicitysoup.blogspot.com/

Jen @http://henzegirls.blogspot.com/

I guess I need my very own personal IT guy. Yep, that would be perfect. He could sit at my feet every time I touch the computer and help me out. My age is showing.
Anyway-thanks again misssniz!

Death Procession and Pygmy Eating Cannibals

We went hiking today after church. At one point on our hike we were on a narrow ridge, looking down a loooooooong way-a tiny creek wandered its way through the woods below. My husband was holding our 6 year old son's hand; as they looked down at the water my husband said, "Look Barrett, that water is WAY down there, isn't it?"
No response.
"Well Barrett, you don't have any depth perception yet, so I bet it's hard for you to tell how far below us that water is."
"Um, yeah. What's death procession, Daddy?"

Then, on the way home we were discussing food. We were all starving. It was only natural, since I live with a bunch of Carnivores, that meat would come up:

Barrett: "I want bacon. That's pig meat, right momma?"

"Yes, that's pig meat."

"I've never had meat from Moody Meats, have I momma? Oh, yes I have. They sell bacon don't they momma? We've had bacon before. Does Moody Meats sell pig meat?"

OK-please keep this in mind: I've been the mother of boys and only boys for a very long time. Being gross just comes with the territory. So, here was my reply:

"Yes, Barrett. They sell Pygmies. But I know they don't sell Cannibals."

"What are Pygmies?"

"Well, Pygmies are short people who live in the jungle. They run around eating bananas and coconuts and stuff like that."

"What's a Cannibal, momma?"

Here is where I debated. Do I ruin his sweet innocence and tell him the truth? That there are people out there who actually EAT other people? Would that give him nightmares? Would he throw up in disgust? Should I just make up some weird answer? Tell him to go to sleep? After a 30 second debate within, I settled on the truth.

"Well sweetie, a cannibal is someone who eats another person."

To my surprise Barrett started chuckling.
"That would be funny!"

"What would be funny? Why on earth are you laughing Barrett?"

"It would be funny to see a big person running around the jungle eating little people!"

November 8, 2007

A PS to my last post

I will never learn. That boy somehow manages to push me into letting him have his way. Maybe after you read this you'll know how to pray for me. Maybe THEN I'll learn.
Here's what happened:
Several weeks ago we let Alec spend a hefty amount of his own hard earned money on a lego set.
We gave him one condition. He could only open it on the first rainy, cold, yucky day we had. (Saving something good for a rainy day.) Well, it's been chilly, but we haven't had any rainy, cold, yucky days. I check the forecast every morning and it never changes.
In the meantime, we've had out-of-town company twice since he bought the lego set. That means school gets put on the back burner so we can clean the house before the company arrives, and spend time visiting once they're here. So, Alec has fallen behind in some subjects.
Last Monday I finally changed the deal. I told Alec that since the weather hasn't cooperated he could open his set when he was totally caught up with ALL his school work.
That boy has worked so hard all week, doubling and tripling up on school to get caught up. He's also worked hard at dropping hints about the weather, hints about his lego set collecting dust, hints about maybe being able to open it when he's 34, etc. etc. All that babbling gets to me after a while. I start to feel guilty about making deals about something that, even though Alec agreed to, he did buy the legos with his own money. I feel guilty about making him wait. Would I want to wait to open some new scrapbook stuff? It's like the constant drone of a bug. You want to squish the annoying thing into silence.
By now I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this. I caved. About a half hour after I published my last post. He did get caught up with all but 1 subject. He's even managed to get ahead in 3 subjects. However, he's still behind in one subject. It's a subject he needs me to sit in on with him. I was tired of all the extra time getting caught up took us. I was tired of his babbling and hinting and pushing.
Now he's in the livingroom, victoriously playing with a new lego set.
So, what have I taught him now? Why was it so easy to be firm and consistent with his big brothers? Is he learning to only obey God marginally because of me?
Don't learn the hard way like I do-
Be consistent.

The Strong Willed Boy-Part 1

Our 3rd son is an amazing person. Sweet. Funny. Optimistic. But if you were to ask me about him, the first 3 words that come to mind when I think of him are:

Energy & Strong Willed.

He's been a challenge since conception. Literally. I should've known something was up when I was pregnant with him. I'm putting together a post about that pregnancy (It was that "Interesting".)
Shortly after he was born we discovered he was going to be one of those colicky babies who scream their little heads off for their first 6 months. Not only that... he decided right off the bat to make his presence known by spitting up. But it wasn't your normal little baby spit up. He projectile vomited across our living room, into the laps of people sitting behind us at church, across tables in restaurants, and all over the floor of any store we happened to be in.
Not too long after he passed that fun stage, he started walking. Only he hardly ever walked. He spent the next 5 years either standing on his head, somersaulting his way around our house, or spinning in dizzying circles for hours on end. His brothers, daddy, and I would look at him in confused helplessness and wonder what planet this little thing had come from.
We were, (and are) very thankful we homeschool Alec because I know that boy would've been labeled with every disorder known to mankind. They probably could've used him to make up some new disorders up as well. He was constantly on the move! He learned his multiplication tables by jumping on a mini-tramp as I held up flash cards for him and would somersault around the room listening, but needing to wiggle, as I read out loud to him.
The biggest challenge we've faced with Alec, however, has been his strong will. He used to have major temper tantrums-screaming, yelling, looking us right in the eye and saying, "No.", etc. I made a huge mistake when he was very little. I listened to my mother. As I would get ready to discipline Alec for not obeying me, my mom would say, "Oh, don't discipline him. He's just frustrated. Can't you see the poor little guy doesn't know how to express himself? He can't tell you what he's so upset about." And my brain would be off and running, second guessing myself and letting that little guy rule the roost. There was no consistency and I know he was confused about the rules. His 2 big brothers would shake their heads in amazement. "Mom never let US get away with stuff like that..."
As he grew I would spend literally whole afternoons in the bathroom with him, talking, praying, "etc." trying to get him to admit he was wrong. He'd been naughty. He needed to obey me. We would spend hours looking up bible verses about repentance and talking about what that means. I would even march around play-acting a brat coming face-to-face with God, repenting, and turning around, with a changed attitude. No matter what I did he would out-last me. He figured out quickly that at some point mommy would have to leave the bathroom to cook dinner or see what her other 2 sons were up to and he could leave, without admitting he'd disobeyed. I was truly afraid for him. I'd never seen anyone that stubborn in my life. (Except maybe the person in the mirror. Hmmm......) Mike and I spent a LOT of time praying for wisdom-we had no clue how to parent such a strong willed boy.
Finally, when Alec turned 12 or 13 I couldn't take it anymore. He didn't respect me and would flat-out refuse to obey me. He questioned everything I asked him to do and would try bargaining or changing the subject so he wouldn't have to obey. One afternoon his daddy came home to find me in tears. I'd had it. I was ready to either run away from home or break the 6th commandment. So, Mike took over. He said from that moment on, he would be the one to discipline Alec. I wouldn't do it at all. We sat down with Alec and explained the change. From that moment on I was to call Mike the instant Alec was disobedient or disrespectful. To make a long story short, within 2 weeks Alec was a changed man. I would call Mike at work, he'd get on the phone with Alec, and voila! A different boy would hang up the phone and obey. There were times when dad would have to "deal" with an issue once he got home from work, but the overall change in our family was incredible. There was peace. There was obedience. There was respect. I think Alec knew his parents loved him and he felt safe having his boundaries reinforced. I also think he really needed daddy to show him who the boss was/is. Alec still is hard-headed but we do see the Lord changing his heart. Alec is more teachable than he's ever been. He admits when he's wrong. He prays and asks the Lord to help him obey.

Lessons learned:
  • Be consistent
  • Do not listen to your mother. (Just kidding)
  • Give your kids boundaries and then be consistent.
  • Pray for your kids and the wisdom to parent them.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be patient and loving
  • Be consistent
  • Don't give up. The Lord is on your side and loves your kids more than you ever will. He is able to do way more in their hearts than you can imagine when you're in the middle of raising a strong-willed child.

I can't help but wonder about the whole thing of dad being totally in charge of discipline. The change in Alec, once we made that decision, was remarkable.....It not only helped Alec but it took a HUGE load off my shoulders......

There is a part 2 to this story. Another HUGE lesson we learned about parenting, communication in marriage, and surrender. I'll save that story for another day. Class dismissed. :-)