The Struggle Is Real

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I sat proudly with other parents at Evie’s school while each child in the 3rd grade class took turns giving presentations on their countries of origin.  Only after the adorable Indian boy started passing around books about his country and another kid shared a native snack did I got that sick, sinking feeling.  That one where I realized that I had not even thought to ask Evie to rehearse with me.  She exudes confidence and never asked for help and (gulp)….I’m pretty sure she didn’t have anything to pass around and why didnt her mother send in mini-American flags or make chocolate chip cookies to pass out?  My nervousness culminated with the power point slide Evie confidently presented about American presidents in which she listed (….wait for it…..)

George Washington
Abraham Lincoln
and
Mark Twain!!

I didnt know whether to laugh or cry.  Poor girl had worked so hard on her own and where was I while the other mommies were guiding their 3rd graders oh-so-brilliantly and creatively?
Where was I?
The question I ask when I lay my weary body down every night.
Where was I?
Did I really see their needs and hear their hearts or just put out fires?


The over-stimulus that drives every moment of every day for a mother-of-multiples is indicator either that she possesses the coordination of an air-traffic controller, the thought process of a genius and the skills of a brain surgeon….or that she is a complete bona fide flake.

I believe I fall into the later category most days.

The rate at which questions, comments, suggestions and complaints are hurled at me would be enough to send even the most weathered Navy seal into retreat!  My brain actually hurts sometimes from the bombardment.

My best laid plans for afternoon homemade cookies served warm from the oven to contented children harmoniously doing their homework quickly dissolve into the chaotic reality of the “Valley of the Shadow Hour”….that “glazed over” zombie-like state from 4:00pm onwards when the honey is coming in from work, the kids are hungry, math homework has gotten the best of you and dinner prep is running late and all you want to do is hide…..or go to the bathroom by yourself.

Actually, that’s what I wanted to do 3 hours ago.  I realize it when I sit down to feed Eden again.  I had to pee last time I sat down to feed him and haven’t yet gotten a chance.


He finishes nursing and starts sneezing snot bubbles.  (darned teething)

I interrupt Britain who is reading me her book-report to yell at Evie to bring me toilet paper to wipe the snot rocket that is now smeared on my shoulder.  As I try to turn my attention back to Britain, Evie yells back that there is no toilet paper which ensues an argument about who should have to climb up to the the supply closet and restock the bathroom with toilet paper.
Meanwhile, he’s now wiped his own nose with the back of his hand and rubbed it all over his cheek.  “Just get me a washcloth” I beg Evie.

A hairbrush is waving in my face as I try to prod Britain to carry on — Gigi needs the tangles brushed out of her hair after her shower.  I start brushing only to realize there are actual globs of conditioner she hasn’t rinsed out.  Back to the shower I send her along with instructions to use a “quarter sized amount” next time….not three pumps full!

Simultaneously, Izzy is turning cartwheels and asking for feedback on her form.  She knocks Eden over with her shenanigans.  There are tears and wails.  The phone rings.  Tristan is calling to tell me he’s on his way home from soccer practice but I can barely hear him over the pounding of piano keys.  Abi’s practicing Beethoven’s 5th.

Izzy, who has taken a break from somersaulting through the living room, wants to talk about making birthday plans (mind you, her birthday isn’t for another 5 months) and then tells me she needs help with her math homework. (groan…this punishment inflicted on parents is barbaric!)  Being the mature adult that I am, I bribe Britain with chocolate if she’ll assist with the 5th grade math homework.

I go to get her a truffle from my hidden stash only to realize upon walking into the kitchen that I forgot about the granola I had put in the oven an hour ago.

Extra crunchy it’ll be!

Evie follows me into the kitchen with “that look” on her face.  The one that says I really need to sit and hear about her day and mean girls that say they don’t want to be her friend.  Mama bear is really stirred up now!

Conversation is cut short by Tristan who needs a bandaid.  Izzy cant find a clean uniform.  And Eden, I discover, is meticulously and thoroughly unfolding the laundry piece by piece and scattering it through the living room.  He needs a diaper change.  (Are we down to the last diaper again?)

Dinner is promising tho — I made potato soup at Gigi’s request so Im guaranteed there will be no dispute with our picky eater.

Wrong

She meant “tomato” not potato.

She whines.  Tristan asks for more.  Eden spills his cup.  Someone farts.  Laughter erupts.  Not exactly the serenity pictured in magazines of family mealtime.

C is my hero when he takes the kids upstairs after dinner so I can clear the table all. by. my. self!!

I still have to pee….and when I finally close myself in the bathroom all by my blessed self and exhale, I realize…there is still no toilet paper!


I go to sleep tempted to feel like a failure – again.  Did any of my kids get the answers they wanted or the time they needed with me?

My mom’s words of advice from a quick phone conversation last week echo in my ears…..“You’ll never regret spending yourself on your children

Your time, your energy, your sanity mommas — there is no better investment.  We will each do it imperfectly, of that we can be sure.  But over the course of hours and days and weeks and months and years, those crazy, chaotic, loud and noisy, fun, frenzied afternoons will comprise memories for our littles of their momma doing what she does best…..wiping snotty noses and slapping on bandaids and passing out hugs.
And I want to remember too….because someday it’ll be quiet and there will be time for uninterrupted conversations and completed thoughts and creative outlets.
And when there is always toilet paper on the roll and my dinner is hot and my laundry only gets folded once….I will undoubtedly miss this too!

In Defense of Womens Rights – The Women No One Is Talking About

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

This week is history in the making.  While hundreds of thousands of women march and advocate for rights to equality and promote the fair treatment of women who are bearers of the image of God and thus deserve equality, respect, protection and rights, Im reminded of another event in my life that was history-making.  9 years ago this week, I delivered a baby at 42 weeks gestation which (had we known of her condition before she was born), we would have been advised to terminate.

Ive read countless stories of other devastated moms who discovered their babies had heart defects at their 20 week ultrasound and were given the option, and sometimes advice, to end the pregnancy.
To end the life that likely would end anyway.
To spare their child pain and suffering.
Because the variables are just too complicated — the surgical “fix” may not work, may fail over time, may cause other medical complications, may hinder development, may reduce life-expectancy.  Live birth and initial surgery are only the first hurdle.  Should your child survive that, there are no guarantees and a special needs child like this will never outgrow the risks.  There will always be the fear that as they grow and mature, that their repair may not hold up.  No parent should have to see their child suffer the way mine has.  I would gladly have given my right arm, or taken her place, as I watched her struggle for life in the first months, writhe in pain from an incision the length of her tiny torso, cry without a voice because of the ventilator tube down her throat and bruise from literally hundreds of needles and blood draws.

The issues surrounding the march today center around women’s rights.  Around human rights.  I too am gravely concerned about rights.  About the rights of all who are marginalized.  About the right to life.  The rights of women, yet to be born, who cannot speak for themselves and yet, are no less “human” than you or I.

In the hospital where I work, I witnessed the stillbirth of a baby last year that stopped developing in the second trimester.  The doctors tried to console the mom by saying that the fetus would be unrecognizable.  But when this brave and bereaved momma pushed out the tiny frame of her underdeveloped babe, it was not as they had said.
Tiny, yes.
Undeveloped, yes.
But undeniably, intricately, beautifully formed and whole.  A baby.  A human.

Let me say, this is not a political post.  I too am deeply saddened and concerned about the leadership of our country.  And as a general rule, Id steer away from an issue as controversial and polarizing as abortion.  First of all, because there is probably already an understanding of where I stand on this issue and second, I believe my opinion is unlikely to change anyones mind.   However, the oversight of little lives in this huge campaign to liberate and empower cannot go unnoticed.  I know many of you women marching do so out of love and concern for our daughters and in a hope to create something better for the next generation.  But we are neglecting a fundamental value we believe in when we make right to abortion our battle call.  Banners blaze claiming our uterus is private property.
And it is.
But for some, its also the home of a helpless, tiny human of which early eviction will mean extinction!  We are violating the right to life of our unborn children and thats counterintuitive to our belief as we advocate for equal rights!!  Im not going to try to tackle every reason for an abortion, which would require a whole series of blog posts.  But in my years of working for and even directing a Pregnancy Resource Center, my compassion has only grown for women who find themselves in the impossible situation of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.  Theirs is a hard road to walk often without the love and support that they desperately need to continue a pregnancy.  Ive counseled victims of rape, teen moms and women in crisis situations.  I was advised myself by doctors during my last two pregnancies that my own health was in danger and I was at increased risk of sudden death because of a heart condition of my own. Ive held hands as well with women who have been told their unborn child will be incompatible with life.  Likewise, Ive supported through post-abortive counseling, women who made decisions that left them wrecked with regret and guilt and shame.  My heart bleeds for them and I hope that all women will find grace, healing, hope and support!  There is no room for anger in my heart – only love and compassion!  Many women believe they have no other choice.

There are no easy, simplistic answers to the very painful and excruciating circumstances under which women have made impossible decisions.  Decisions in which there is no easy out.  Decisions that all bear ramifications no matter what you decide.  But any decision to end a life as we claim our rights – is denying one for someone else.  Abortion does not simply preserve and protect our rights to our bodies – it denies the rights of the unborn and takes a life. 

My children are studying WWII and the mass execution of the disabled and mentally handicapped.  We all find it unfathomable that such evil would possess mankind to make a judgement as to someones right to live based on their definition of the quality of life.  And yet the same selection is made routinely when pregnancy is terminated based on assessment that the baby has defects or abnormalities.  My two Downs-syndrome cousins (one of which was adopted knowingly accepting her handicap) are individuals that are adored by their siblings and that bring joy to all who know them.  A niece of mine was found to have a cleft lip in utero.  They, along with Evie, are lives that some would deem “imperfect”.
Is perfection the definition of worthiness of life?  What about birth marks or vision problems or big ears or clubbed feet?  Where do we draw the line qualifying ourselves as the almighty judge on worthiness of life?  A great many handicapped, special needs and individuals with defects have been contributing members to society.  And prenatal diagnosis we know for a fact, are not always correct.  Yes, the potential for heartbreak is there.  Babies with the most complex deformities wont live to adulthood.  But that doesnt negate the fact that their lives served a purpose whether that be for months in utero, hours after birth, days, weeks or years.  Life has meaning!

In this monumental day when women refuse to be silenced and many march to protest the oppression of a society that abuses, demeans and undervalues women, I’m campaigning just as ardently for another undervalued minority.  Im standing for rights of the unborn who cannot advocate for themselves, for justice, for fair treatment, for respect, for women.
For all women.
Starting with the little lady who turns 9 this week whose life represents so many others whose rights have been denied, whose birthdays will not be celebrated, whose “defects” could have been beautiful parts of their unique, untold stories.

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then…

 

..and now.

 

Bad Parenting…And Yet God!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017
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2013

With 8 chock-full suitcases, 7 carryons, 6 tearful children, and a partridge in a pear tree, we boarded a plane 4 years ago today that would take us to the uttermost distant corner of the earth from the quite little home we’d raised our family in along the lake in the backwoods of South Carolina.  And Ill admit, there was a lump in my throat too as C and I glanced at eachother across the very full row of littles in between us as the plane pulled away from the gate and as we struggled to fasten seatbelts and divvy out earphones and stow tray tables.  As passengers peered warily waiting for a baby to scream or someone to spill their drink and wondering what would possess us to travel so far, the questions in my own mind brought the fiercest bombardment….
What are we doing taking 6 babies to the other side of the world!!?
Will uprooting our children cause permanent damage to their little hearts?
What about aging grandparents, parents, extended family and the weddings, new babies and cousin-Christmases we will miss?
Is it really God calling us to go?

Im reminded that steps of faith never come with a blueprint or handbook.  If we are certain of the course, it is not really faith, but only taking calculated risks.  Faith requires us to step out into something of which our only certainty and security is the Lord, and usually something far out of our comfort zone!
Knowing this does not mean that I havent gone back repeatedly to question this assurance.  Ive watched my man-child suffer a grief as he’s tried to reconcile himself to a lifestyle out of his “natural habitat” hunting and fishing and instead struggles to tame his wild-side here in this concrete jungle where skyscrapers are a stark contrast to his beloved golden hour on the dock at sunset.
We’ve been saddened for our children to not have the anchor of steady friendships that they had “back at home” and to be navigating life as a missionary kid in an expat community where relationships are transient and typically short-lived.
And those things we deep-down-to-our-core-just miss!!  Like girl-scout “thin mints” and one-stop-shopping at Target and affordable cute kids clothing and ranch dressing mix & taco seasoning!!!

But, glancing back at 4 years of God’s faithfulness here in Thailand, I would board that plane all over again!  We’ve not just survived, we have thrived.  Not necessarily in the material sense, but there has been such a richness of character that has been built and life-altering opportunities for our kids that I wouldn’t trade for all the stability and security in the world!  There is no greater joy than seeing your children walking with the Lord.  Their hearts have waded through some hard things and instead of becoming embittered, they have pressed into that childlike faith and trust of the Father.

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Their compassion has grown as they’ve taken on ministry projects themselves to the underprivileged Cambodian camp we work at.  Tristan has had the unique opportunity to travel the world with his dad and to be challenged in his faith among great men of God and wonderful role models.  We’ve joyfully seen as a family the gospel brought to people in nations that are hearing it for the first time and embracing that hope!  Abi has witnessed the first moments of babies being born into the world.  Britain has learned negotiating skills for market bartering and even the youngest members of our family know how to hail a taxi or tuktuk and give directions in Thai.

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Sometimes God leads us places where we are compelled by something contrary to common sense.  Uprooting our family during formative years of their development….there arent many parenting books out there that will support these wild notions.  And yet, somehow, our big kids are developing into mature, well adjusted, capible, contributing members of society.  Not to the credit of their daddy and I.  There can be no pride on our part because by a lot of standards, we’ve done everything wrong.  We’ve made decisions that dont make sense for a large family.  We’ve asked things of our kids that seem unfair and they’ve had to give up a lot.  And Im not naive in thinking that we dont have some hard years ahead of us still as we anticipate many-teen-years that we are only now entering.
And yet God!!
And yet God has been faithful to shepherd their hearts even in this “barren land” at times.  The friendships they have forged with eachother are, I believe, stronger than they ever would have been because of the nomadic life they’ve experienced together. Four years have grown them in more ways than their stature.   Looking back, Im so glad God has gone before each step of the way on this wild ride!!

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Grateful this morning as I ponder His goodness, for those of you who have been part of our children seeing and experiencing God’s faithfulness.  Our family is supported by financial gifts of individuals who believe in our ministry and come alongside us.  Our children have seen God provide and as a result, their faith has grown.  Those of you who have checked in on us and asked how you can pray, sent care packages (its girl scout cookie time y’all….Im shameless!!), put an extra stamp on an envelope and mailed us a Christmas card or note of encouragement, come on short term teams and participated in our ministry, or just come to visit and encourage our hearts with your presence, thank you!!  If you would like to be included in our family newsletter that goes out monthly, leave me a comment with your email address (or email me directly smithpartyof9@gmail.com)