Tuesday, December 20

A story of grace (and happy, happy anniversary #13)


Back when I was in college, I traveled for two summers representing Northland at churches and schools, and we'd stay with families overnight. I am TERRIBLE at making small talk, so I had a few questions prepared to avoid awkward silences. And, I used to ask the people who'd been married for many years the secret to a happy and long marriage. Often, I got these answers: 

Have a sense of humor, and laugh together a lot. 

Put the other person's happiness above your own. 

Be quick to forgive.

Stay committed. 

I tucked those words away for later - expecting, perhaps, MUCH later.


It was a series of Very Providential Events. It was Spring of my senior year of college, and I had a very exciting prospect for employment after graduation. I was going to be a world traveling adventurous woman. I was deep into the process of going to Vienna, Austria to teach music in an international school. However, God orchestrated a halt to that process, and I ended up with no teaching job. An offer of employment at Northland in the Admissions department presented itself, with room and board paid, and additional options to take free classes, and I agreed. 

I ended up with a roommate from Colorado, Autumn! I was very excited to be staying with her, and we had so much fun. Most of the people I'd known closely had graduated and left. But two of my closer friends remained, friends I'd traveled with two different summers, Tim and Andrew. They lived off campus with two other guys who were all in their senior year. We all went to the same church, and I knew Jim from music ed classes and Michael from church, and around campus. Tim's fiance Sarah was a dorm student, and my roommate Autumn had grown up with Michael in Colorado, so the three of us girls found ourselves over at the guys' house pretty often on the weekends, along with a huge group of other friends looking for a non-dorm place to hang out, eat, watch movies, do laundry, etc. 

Tim and a few others planned a road trip with a van full of friends to visit a former professor who had moved to Iowa, and I was invited along. I sat next to Michael the entire time and we chatted about a LOT of basics - just getting to know each other, family backgrounds, likes and dislikes, and it was pretty fun! I knew at this point that Michael was a great guy that I wanted to be better friends with for sure. We laughed a lot.

When we got back, I was approached about auditioning for a play. I remember I was nervous about taking the role because the director had told me that I'd be working a lot with the main actor - and that guy was none other than Michael Muth! I remember wrestling with the decision (which seems so so silly now) because I didn't want to manipulate circumstances to my advantage in order to get to know him better. It was serious stuff back then. But I did take the role, as HIS MOM. So funny now. We did have a LOT of rehearsals, much of the play was dialogue that involved the two of us. Many rehearsals with just us and the director, and it was great to work together. We did definitely get to know each other better!  

After the play, we kept hanging out with the group of friends, including Tim and Andrew, who, unbeknownst to me, were trying to work magic and wizardry to bring the two of us together! So, winter came and we went to our respective homes for 5 weeks of Christmas break, having exchanged email addresses. We kept in touch almost every day that break, and when we returned to campus mid-January, I expected to see him a little bit more, but he took his time and stayed away. (I admit, I was a little confused but trying super hard to be cool about it!)

In February, we had a talk. He apologized for his silence and said he'd like to keep going with our friendship which of course I was excited about, although a bit confused why the this was such a "big talk." He asked me to go with him to a concert, and I accepted. I told Autumn about it when I got back to our room and she was almost more excited than I was! She said "this is a VERY big deal" and she, knowing Michael, was right. I didn't know until much later that I was the first girl that Michael had ever asked out on any type of date. Not because he was socially awkward, ha! And it definitely wasn't a lack of interest from girls toward him (oh the stories I could tell!). It was because, growing up as one of six siblings, he had watched a lot of broken hearts happen and he'd decided on his own as a young teen not to date casually. He thought this would be a good way to not build up expectations and avoid heartache. So the asking was more of a commitment than I knew - which was probably a very good thing - I am not good under pressure! I kind of treated it like a casual date!

Fast forward to April, and Michael was driving me back to campus - I was teaching him to drive stick shift in my Mazda and - the conversation went something like, "I think we've been dating for awhile..." and much laughter. We had some serious discussions several times after that about marriage, and timing - he mentioned an October wedding and I panicked a little - OK a lot - and said MAYBE December (I had always wanted a Christmas wedding). I invited him home with me for Spring Break, and we told my parents that we were in it for the long haul. We were engaged on my birthday in August and set the date - December 20! Less than a year after our first official date. 

And 13 years ago today, as I read my vows, I thought I was head over heels in love, as in love as I'd ever be. And boy was I wrong.

It was just the tip of the (glorious) iceberg.


Michael makes it easy to follow those bits of advice from long-married couples. He is so easy to laugh with; life is never dull. His unselfish service to our family makes it easy to want to make his happiness a priority. We wrote our own vows and as I watched our wedding DVD again, I was impressed with his maturity as a 23 year old, promising in front of God and everyone that he would leave no option for divorce. You don't often hear the word "divorce" at a wedding, but he went there!!  I definitely got the best husband and the most perfect one for me. I am continuously out-loved and out-served. I keep trying, but he always wins!

And I say it's Michael, but it's really GOD, and His blessing of grace. He gives the grace to sustain us, on the hard days, through the storms, through the real life struggles of frustration with each other and parenting these four kids - we have been given, and schedules and ministry and finances and oops I forgot to do that again and breakdowns in many categories - emotional, mental and physical. God's grace is what keeps us going, and keeps us growing more deeply in love. He holds us together, with the same power He uses to hold the world together. And that is a humbling realization. We point to Him in awe.

So. On this day - Happy Anniversary to us! Glad to be standing together for 13 years! Amazing. I'm so overwhelmed with thankfulness. Here's to celebrating as many anniversaries as we are given!! (I not-so-secretly hope it's at least 60 more!)

Wednesday, September 28

Simplicity (and a song in my heart.)

I like to keep things simple - my wardrobe, my schedule, my to-do list. I walked down the aisle at my wedding to the folk tune "Simple Gifts." I buy two of most things so I don't have to shop for awhile. I don't enjoy conflict or confrontation. I don't thrive on drama (unless it's on stage!). When I find articles of clothing that work, I stock up or write down the style number so I have a no-brainer choice the next time.You could say I'm not a huge fan of change (you'd be right). Conversely, I also love surprises, colors, and adventures. And I love trying new foods. So I'm not totally boring. HA. I'm pretty boring.

Knowing all this, God decided to give us each other, four kids, a fixer upper, and a ministry outlet with a bunch of energetic middle school people (and the grace to love it all). He decided to throw in a little uncertainty over the future, gifts, losses, some twists and turns, ups and downs, and a whole lot of learning from our mistakes.

And, He made a way to keep it simple.

"Trust Me."

This life, in general, isn't all that simple. And yet, it is. It's heartache and loss, euphoria and happy endings, confusion, fear, uncertainty, joy, pleasure, contentment. It's everything. And it's nothing. And the only One who can make it all work together is the One who has had it all planned from the beginning. There is nothing for me to control, nothing for me to stress about. I have one job.

Trust Him.

And after the trusting, more things will come. The rejoicing, the satisfaction, the peace. I don't always remember this. And so, songs like this help. It has become the song in my heart, the sermon I sing to myself daily (or more as needed). Click the link to listen (and sing a sermon to yourself, if you like).

"My Worth is Not in What I Own"

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer,
Greatest treasure, wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other
My soul is satisfied in Him alone

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

(Refrain)

Two wonders here now I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed, my ransom paid
At the cross

--Keith & Kristyn Getty

Tuesday, August 30

I Can't Do It All (and other shocking revelations)

So, after homeschooling for 6+ years, my first and second born children are off to a brick and mortar school. I feel...TOTALLY conflicted.

You see, I love homeschooling. The lightbulb moments, the lesson plan making, the TOTAL CONTROL over the curriculum my children are taught, the flexible schedule, the daily interactions with the people God put in my life, and did I mention the total control over the curriculum? So why the change? One reason: God's plan.

About 2 years ago, I became pregnant with our fourth child, which was at once a surprise and a blessing beyond words. However, since that time, I've struggled intensely with anxiety, panic, and mild depression. Hormones can be wonderful and they can terrorize. I muscled through the pregnancy craziness with extra sleep, adjustments to our home school curriculum and the addition of some more independent subjects, and lots of tears. I'd never experienced panic attacks up to that point. If you haven't either, let me tell you - they are nothing to shrug at. They are awful, terrifying episodes of torture. I was waking up multiple times nightly, unable to breathe, heart racing, and inexplicably in fight or flight mode. I'd take laps around the house, worried that something was wrong with the kids or the baby. I'd always been able to trust my instincts and "gut" and this was playing games with my head in a big way.

I thought maybe this "stuff" was a result of our previous losses during pregnancy and that maybe I was internalizing them. I thought, "surely it will get better after the first trimester and I'm past the most common time of miscarriage," and then when it didn't get better, I thought, "I'll feel better when the baby gets big enough to survive on the outside," but the 28 week mark passed and it didn't get any better. "Maybe when the baby is born," I thought, and then, "when I can get through these six weeks of intense sleep deprivation." But, here we are at just over a year postpartum and guess what? I'm still messed up. Irrational thoughts, anxiety, panic. So, I'm on the path to healing, to seeking some opinions and medical treatment, and praying that it will get better, eventually.

We, by God's grace, made it through the school year last year, finally finishing our pared-down-to-the-basics curriculum by mid-July. I was exhausted just THINKING about school for next year, but wearily scrambled to put together my curriculum for the coming year as my school room became more and more crowded with papers, craft projects, origami creations, and dust. I was trying to survive "AND THRIVE" of course, but thinking about trying to home school with an active toddler and a 4 year old desperately wanting to learn to read and thinking about managing the four kids (and educating three!) and the house, and additionally stressed out about other things beyond our control - well. Definitely Not Helping in the mental health arena.

But I would sit and ponder - what are my options? I REALLY wanted a university model school - 2 or 3 days with friends and a teacher, and the rest of the week at home. (I *still* think this would be an excellent fit for us!) I know many people use the public schools and it is a wonderful experience for them, but for our family, it isn't a good fit. I'm NOT saying that to be judgemental, and you'll just have to take my word for it! Anyhow, the elementary school down the street was not on my list of options.

We have a school attached to our church, but that wasn't an option either, mostly because we can't afford to pay more for schooling than we do for housing, and I know (because I went there and taught there) that there are tons of hidden costs when you add in uniforms and fees. Adding that huge reason of simple economics with a few other reasons, it wasn't really a good fit for our family either. Strike two. There is a charter school that I've heard great things about, and I looked into that one also, but it is quite a drive from our house - almost half an hour each way, so also not a good fit. Third strike. My panic built as I began to look into maybe a video school option, checked on some co-ops in our area, began talking with other moms about student swapping a few days a week. I was scraping the bottom. I felt that my only real option was to simplify and press on.

Then a friend moved to our area and found a small parochial school with intensely subsidized (by the church who started it) tuition. I mean, neither one of us could believe how reasonable it was. As in, compatible with my homeschooling budget. And they had extra classes like PE, Technology, Music, Spanish and Art, and sports opportunities and - SMALL CLASSES. And it is a school whose desire it is to teach every subject through the lense of Scripture. My friend's kids who had only ever been homeschooled "just happen" to be in the same grades as my boys...so we scheduled a visit. And then we prayed. And cried. And decided. And cried some more.

And two weeks ago, we quietly had our first day of school. I posted no first day of school photos on social media, because we're super involved at church and I didn't want anyone to think that we don't support the academy attached to the church. I didn't want to be "in your face" about this choice we had made. And I didn't want to feel even more defeated by the looks of surprise (or heaven help me, judgement) - remember that school attached to our church? I'm an alumni - K4-12th grade. My dad still teaches there. Awkward. (By the way, my parents are SO amazing. Supportive of us and this and just so so wonderful. They are treasures.)

The bottom line is, I can't do it all. I need help right now. This year has to be about prioritizing my health so I can be better for my family. One year in school, we told the boys. Enjoy it to the max, or endure it well. Our plan is to be back to homeschooling next year, because it is an important part of our family. I miss my boys. I am also enjoying my littles in a way I wouldn't be able to if everyone was together. There are good things and bad things. Equal parts wonderful and awful. The boys are adjusting well, I'm seeing improvements in that process every day. I still cry most of the way home from dropoff and count down the minutes until pickup. I love them so fiercely. I will admit, it is neat to see them become a little more independent, even as it tears up my mama heart. Letting go is so hard.






In the second week of school, I can hardly speak definitively. I cannot draw conclusions. I realize that I have a long way to go and a lot more lessons to learn. I have a lot of personal stuff to work through and a lot of adjustments to make to try to regain my health. It's going to be okay. God will use this year for all of us, to accomplish His awesome plan. It will make us stronger, grow us as people, as a family - and we will give Him glory. These hard choices - to do what's best even when I want things to be different - are so agonizing, but through it all, God remains steadfast and unchanging. He is my rock, my refuge, even as the storms of self-doubt, emotional instability, and wacky messed up hormones pelt me and try to beat me down.  I am so grateful for my God who does not waver.

As a post script - guess what this year's theme at the school is? God is my Rock. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

Wednesday, June 1

Self Reflection on (my) Entitled Kids

I want my kids to be grateful, not entitled.  Happy with what they are given, not whiny and demanding. Willing to work hard for the things they need or want in life. I think most parents would agree with these goals. Really, I do NOT want to raise kids who are lacking character, work ethic, and integrity.

However, recently I've had some experiences that opened my eyes to the facts: I am on the path to doing just that. It was easy for me to make excuses - "our kids don't have [list of latest technology] so we're good" or, "they don't have too many fancy toys, they're not spoiled," but in the little things? Oh, the choices. SO many choices, and I was shrugging it off as no big deal.

So this week? I've been reducing their choices. And you know what? Positive results, LESS complaining. This is happy. Everyone is happier. And hopefully, I'll stick to the course.

The thing is, even though I am the mom, and the authority, and realize that this is healthy, I STILL want my kids to be *happy* and so I tend to over-do the little choices. The desire for happy kids is not a problem, but ten million choices of what we are eating for lunch does not need to be part of their lives. When I do this, or any other host of choices, I make life harder for myself, and ironically, it tends to produce LESS grateful children. Or at least, that's how it works here.

It's good to do parenting checks. It's good to evaluate where we are helping our kids become better people, and where we are enabling ingratitude or laziness. Sometimes fresh ideas come from observing other parents, sometimes from self evaluation, and sometimes tough changes need to happen.

PLEASE NOTE - I know there's no formula for great kids - I know it's all about God's work and God's grace - but sometimes, it's also important to listen to Him and what He tells me to do! And then obey that!!

What do you do to make sure you are consistent at following through with changes?

Tuesday, May 3

The Winner!

Thanks everyone, for your participate in the book giveaway! The winner is Carrie! I'll be emailing you soon!!

Please don't forget to pick up a copy of each of Adam's books (maybe drop a hint for Mother's Day!) or buy it for a friend!!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 25

Book Giveaway!

A long time ago, I attended school in the north woods of Wisconsin, and there met Adam Blumer, whose fiction works are some of my favorite of this genre (Christian suspense). I've done a couple of interviews (here and here) with Adam over the years, and he contacted me last week upon the release of the paperback version of his second novel, The Tenth Plague, to see if I'd be willing to host a giveaway of his e-book! 

OF COURSE!

So, if you are in the US, and interested in receiving a free copy of Adam's e-book, follow these instructions: for one entry, comment on this post to let me know what your favorite fictional genre is.  For additional entries, "Like" Adam's author page on Facebook, and help spread the word by linking this giveaway on social media!  Then leave a comment letting me know which items you have done! The giveaway closes on Monday the 2nd! Also, don't forget to check out his first book, Fatal Illusions!

Tuesday, April 19

Diagnosis

About a month ago, I received a call that brought both relief and dread. I'm sure many other people have gotten such calls, but it was my first and I was not prepared for the odd mix of feelings.

Our middle son, Evan, has always been a little bit spacey (in a totally endearing way), but this school year, when he was required to do a lot more (it is first grade, after all), I started to wonder if his inattention was a little bit more than just typical childhood daydreaming. I started reading up and highly suspected absence epilepsy. We went to see the family doctor, who referred us to a pediatric neurologist. At the appointment, the doctor evaluated Evan, and although he had several "absences" in her office, she didn't seem to notice - he covered very well as he has done the entire time. She ordered an EEG to rule it out completely, but was fairly confident that the result would be no epilepsy.

Well, she called after the EEG to let me know that he did, indeed, have absence epilepsy, she estimated from his test results that he has been having about 6-10 absence seizures per hour lasting up to 7 seconds. The really good news is that most kids who have a later onset (in Evan's age group) grow out of the absences around the time they hit puberty, which is excellent news.  The bad news was that he will need to be on medication to treat the seizures for a minimum of two years or until the EEG results come back clear, then we will be able to try to wean him off the meds.

Now, I will admit, I balked at the idea of medicating him. I researched and read, and the list of possible side effects was dizzying. I talked to a pharmacist friend who recommended putting the list of side effects away and giving the medication a try. I'm so glad I took his advice.

We've seen a drastic improvement in Evan already, and, while I am sure there are challenges ahead, and more tests and evaluations and things I don't even know about, I'm both happy to know how to help him and thankful that we have an answer.