What do you do with a snowball in your face?

They were wild the other night. Spun up on sugar and a day full of being indoors, months of being indoors. These have been months of being only outside until you couldn’t stand the cold any longer, which is like five minutes or twenty, if you are my oldest son.

And then it was birthday night at church last night so of course cupcakes at 7pm are a perfect recipe for hyper little boys. I picked them up.  After the neon yellow and orange shoes flew across the lobby while one refused his sweatshirt and the other refused his gloves, we headed out into the zero degree night. Our boots crunched over the icy snow as we stepped out of the warm glow of the church building. Before I could catch my breath from the bite of the bitter cold they were both off, down the path into the inky dark night of the parking lot. My heart caught in my throat because they don’t know how dangerous the dark is. Every time it is like this…with boys who are primed and ready for adventure but a mama whose trying to protect her nestlings as they learn to fly.

The younger one, he is more likely to listen to mamma’s pleas, he slows, returns to walk with me down the path toward the car. The older adventurer, he is out of sight. My eyes scan the shadows urgently, needing to know where to look. Then, thank you, Lord, the tip of a red hat behind a huge snow bank bobs up for an instant.

“Make it a game. Relax. Have some fun.” I tell myself because I know I worry too much and I don’t want my boys to just tune me out because mamma always spoils the fun.

So the youngest and I loudly wonder where oh where has that big boy gone?

Then, just as we round the end of the snow bank, ready for a surprise and a laugh and a sigh of relief that I didn’t loose my every loving mind when he ran and hid, that boy of mine threw a snowball. Right. In. My. Face.

I was so surprised I could barely breath. And it was so cold. I wanted to explode but somehow, instead…

I laughed.

As my face stung and I caught my breath.

I laughed.

They asked me why I was laughing.

Because, dear sons, if I don’t I will dissolve into a puddle of mamma tears and fire right here in the dark parking lot.

I think laughing was probably the best thing I could have done just then.

And then we got into the car. I have to confess, I was still steaming but once I was able to calm down we could discuss why icy snowballs in someone’s face in the dark are dangerous and not a good idea.

These boys of mine – I love them wildly, of course, but it still amazes me how they can push my buttons. I’m working on remembering to laugh, when I want to scream, and to find a safe way to release my emotions. And then to talk through the issues with my boys. This is one of those places I’m being refined by the hot fires of motherhood.

Have you ever had a moment where you thought you might implode? What strategies do you use to diffuse in those situations?

2014 – Focus

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As the first month of the year has come to a close, its time press the publish button on this post, which has been in draft form for several weeks…

Last year I decided to participate in One Word 365 – choosing a word for the year, foregoing New Year’s Resolutions. Last year’s word was Renew. It was a good word for the year. I felt the renewal of many things – joy, energy, goals. It was a word chosen in faith from deep in the shadows of grief, that somehow I could figure out how to fully live again.

While the sadness and missing remain, and always will, at some point this past year the heavy shroud of perpetual grief did lift. And in some ways, because of journeying through those sad, desperate, lonely places, I have felt a deeper sense of the sacredness of this one life I’ve been given. I’ve sensed renewed purpose in my role as mother to all three of my children. God has given me glimpses, as the year drew to a close, of how my daughter’s story and our family’s story has been and continues to be used for His glory. This brings deep joy to my heart – to know that Naomi’s brief life continues to impact others. Obviously, it continues to impact my life and our family’s life, but the ripples gently expand and it is humbling to see.

Turning toward this new year, I find the word focus coming to the forefront of my mind. As my heart has healed I have been able to embrace more activity, more of life. Yet, one of the things that I found in those early days of grief was that I had to create space in my days in order to process all that was in my heart and mind. Grief was a convenient excuse. I have spent a lot of time asking myself, why did I need an excuse to make space in my life? At the same time, as life has gotten busier, I’ve had less of that space in which to sit and think (and write!). Life is full of so many distractions – some helpful, others not so much. To that end, I find the need to focus my time and energies on the things that are the most important to me. I’ve sensed the Lord nudging me toward certain things, laying burdens on my heart and I want to be faithful to those things.

I have profoundly realized that I have been blessed with so. many. choices. Opportunities have been before me all my life. I’ve felt both the privilege and the burden of all these opportunities for quite some time. Often, I’ve interpreted my wide array of opportunities to mean that I should do all these Good Things. As a mom, as a wife, as a professional – I have this sense of I should do it all. But perhaps I am maturing a bit because now I am ready to say – I cannot do everything. In fact, I can’t even do most things. But I can and want to do a few things really well.

So I have a list. I am an INFP personality type, according to Myers-Briggs and as all “P’s” know, lists are more like suggestions than actual things that will be done. Still – it rules out some things. Six things this year that I am going to FOCUS on. It goes like this:

1) Reading God’s Word – soaking it in one book at a time. The past few years I’ve been reading through the whole Bible or large portions of it, which has been great, but this year, I want to really dig deep. And I’m starting in Genesis, which conveniently is the study for our women’s group at church. So excited to delve into this story of beginnings.

2) My Marriage – started out this year with a week long focus on our marriage as we spent seven whole days together, just the two of us (an 2,400 of our closest friends) aboard a cruise ship. Seriously, though, after 10 years of marriage I love him so much more than I did on our wedding day. The past two years have been hard but by God’s grace we are working through it and are growing stronger together. Want to keep that going!

3) My Health – After my bout of sickness the past two months of 2013 that ended with pneumonia, focusing on staying healthy, which for me starts with getting AT LEAST eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, is so important. There are lots of mini goals here to include fitness and healthy eating. Bottom line, when I take care of me I can do what it is I have been called by God to do!

4) My Children – they are one of the most precious gifts I have been given. But being a mom to two boys here on earth and a girl in heaven is not something I ever expected. I am learning to embrace being a boy mom…it keeps getting crazier and sometimes a bit stinky and uncomfortable, but there is so much joy there too. Two books I want to read this year are Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys and Boys Should Be Boys. There are a whole bunch more, but ….focus, remember?

5) My Career – this has been a confusing subject for me for many years. I’ve wrestled with a lot of guilt for working outside the home. But finally, I feel like I’ve come to a place where I am embracing this aspect of my life for the long haul. I am a working mom, a career woman. This year I’ve got some specific goals I’m excited about in this area, but I’m gonna keep those off-line.🙂

6) Writing – And last but not least, writing…what, when, where, how? All yet to be decided. Here more, I hope. I love words. I always have. I’ve filled many notebooks with ponderings and musings and stories of life and of God. Its a bit scary for me to put out here that writing is something I’m going to actually focus on. I’ve never considered myself a writer. But I’m convinced that our stories are such an important part of who we are and how we come to know the God who created us. I have this dream of telling my stories – stories to give testimony to how God is at work in my life and in the lives of those around me. Stories that I hope bring others closer to Him.

So there it is…written out, by God’s grace. And in that grace I will attempt to focus on just these things in 2014.

Five Minute Friday: SEE

Five Minute FridayToday’s prompt from Lisa Jo is SEE! Five minutes, no editing…here we go…

GO

I see a mother whose belly would have been rounding out by now, full of life.

I see a father, so proud of his son, but so broken because he is now gone, putting one. Foot. In. Front. Of . The. Other.

I see a brother, still so young, missing his little sister and in the same breath loving his favorite toy, embracing life but feeling the empty spot in his soul, not even having words to describe how it feels.

I see a husband faithfully loving his wife through the broken. Serving her, feeding her, praying that she will someday see the sun again and emerge from the darkness that covers her soul.

I see so much pain. I believe God sees it to.

I see a Savior, with hands bloody, who sits down in the midst of the darkness and weeps with His broken children. I see Him gently tending the wounds of the soul, whispering words of hope – This. Is. Not. The. End. I have overcome. Believe in Me and you will have life.

I see men and women walking through the deepest dark, clinging to the One who makes all things new in raw faith that feels so small.

I trust I will see the day when Jesus will redeem all our pain and sorrow.

STOP

The end of a year

The last two months of 2013 were a blur of activity book-ended by sickness and punctuated by tears. Sounds pretty awful, when I write it down, eh? But it was in fact all covered in grace. Still, I am weary and needing to regroup. It feels like I just sort of fell across the finish line of last year, limped into 2014 and am still trying to catch my breath.

I found this year that, as the calendar page turned to November, it grated hard on my soul. After the beautiful day of the Hot Chocolate 5K, I found myself sick with a bad chest cold that lingered too long. The weather turned cold, too. We celebrated a special seven-year-old and, thank God for whoever invented the Indoor Waterpark!

Through the end of November and into December, with the press of the holiday activities, I tried to close my eyes and not miss my baby girl so much – but I did. Then there was deep sorrow, that isn’t mine to share here, but made me weep for other mothers and fathers dear to my heart who now walk without their precious babes on this earth. So many tears. God must have a very big bottle to hold all the tears, I think.

Then came the time to remember, to celebrate God come to be with us, and to long for Jesus’ second coming. I found myself sick with fever and cough and aches so bad there was nothing to do but stay in bed. So my amazing husband made Christmas for us – cooking and cleaning and feeding us all – while I slept. All the way until New Years and a diagnosis of pneumonia. Oh, and in the midst of me being sick all three of them had the stomach bug – fun (um, not really). And a gerbil escaped…and was found while up in the middle of the night with a sick child – a silver lining?🙂

And that grace? In-laws who welcomed us – sickness and all – for Christmas. My momma cleaning my kitchen. A sweet friend bringing soup and pie, a movie and yellow flowers on New Years Eve. Medicines and prayers and kind doctors.

Slowly I can breath again. Breathing slowly into this new year – resting and healing.

Running for Chocolate

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On Sunday I completed the Chicago Hot Chocolate 5K.
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There was a beautiful sunrise above Lake Michigan.
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And good friends.
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And there was chocolate.
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But most of all it was so special to reach a goal I had set, way back last October when I was in the midst of grief and sickness and still frustrated by my post-baby body — to run this race. I finally dared myself to actually sign up in September of this year, still not totally sure I’d be able to do it. But I was ready to step out and was so thankful for friends who were willing to do it with me!

I chose this race in particular because the proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House Charity.  As many who have followed our story know, we spent the eight weeks of Naomi’s life living at the Advocate Children’s Hospital Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn. I still remember the first moment I walked into the House after being discharged from the Maternity floor barely 24 hours after giving birth to Naomi. Going from the business and urgency of the hospital to the calm oasis of the House felt like a refreshing waterfall of hope and strength just poured over me. We were closer to Naomi’s room at the House than I had been on the Maternity floor and knowing that we had a place to sleep, eat, shower, and be a family with our boys while still being able to be with Naomi at a moments notice was such a gift. Looking back on that time, the Ronald McDonald House, and the beautiful staff and volunteers who run it, made it possible for us to be a family during Naomi’s brief life. This is a priceless gift to me and I will be forever grateful for that place and the people in it.

To those of my family and friends who donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charity in memory of Naomi…thank you for your generosity! Your gift will help others who are needing the services of the RMH while their children are in the hospital.

The race was also a lot of fun! It was the biggest race I’ve ever run (and only my second one at that). I was also super happy with my time of 30 min 30 sec. When I signed up for the race in September I was running around an 11 minute mile so I was very happy with the improvement I was able to make. My training was pretty much solely interval training Fit Yummy Mummy style. (More on that soon!) Now I’m deciding what race to do next as I had so much fun with this one. If only it wasn’t getting so cold here in the Midwest! Time to invest in some winter running gear, I think.

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As I crossed the finish line on Sunday, I was just overwhelmed with such joy and love for my sweet daughter that I miss so much. I just can’t wait for that day when we will run together on the streets of heaven. Until that day I keep holding on to the hope Jesus has given.