Friday, July 26, 2013

The Church is not a Building

We are fortunate indeed. We belong to a church whose members have rallied around us during this difficult time in our lives. They are praying for us, they call to check on us, our associate pastor came to visit us, & we've even gotten multiple offers for them to mow our lawn! And, I've already mentioned how instrumental one of our dear church friends was in navigating paperwork for Michael's medical leave. We are so thankful for their love & support. 

Incredibly, our blessings don't stop there. A little more than six years ago, we became members of a local church. I've told you about them before, along with our continued regret over trading their fellowship for what we thought at the time were greener pastures (to put it in very simplified terms). What continues to astonish me - & warm my heart down to my toes - is how they immediately surround us any time we have a crisis. When I went into the hospital with preeclampsia a month before Emma was born, several people came to visit (one in particular, darling Abby, multiple times). They called, they brought us meals, they sat & talked with me when Michael was at work. In short, they blessed us in a major way! Now that we're dealing with this new challenge, there they are again, sending text messages, calling to give encouragement, even doing what they can to help us generate an income while Michael's out of work! I can't even begin to express what it means to me to have them love us like this. And I know that their actions are bringing glory to Christ as they show the world that His body is not strictly contained between the four walls of a building.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Submission Is Downright Hard

I know what the Bible says about submission. I've read it myself & I've read books studying it. 

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. ~Eph. 5:22-24

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. ~Col. 3:18

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ~Titus 2:3-5

I believe these words are true, authoritative, & are for my good. Even so, I struggle. I struggle because submission is all about acquiescing to something you don't agree with; otherwise, it's not submission.

For instance, I know that Michael doesn't want me to watch a particular TV show on Netflix because he's unsure of the content. He's a gracious husband, so he doesn't demand that I not watch it, he even tells me that I can. And, honestly, I really want to, especially because I don't agree with his assessment of it. But I know he'd rather I not, & that means I really shouldn't. Even so, sometimes the thought crosses my mind that "he's napping & will never know". After all, I wouldn't be watching it in his presence. True, but that's not really the spirit of submission. Thankfully, God grants me the strength to overcome my desire, & I abstain from watching the program. 

Michael feels that a certain decision is right for our family. I really do not agree. I don't think it's necessary, & I really don't want to do it. Not now, anyways. Or maybe I even think his decision could put us in a tough spot.  I know that as the head of our family I should leave it up to him, & follow where he leads. But I don't. Instead, I keep presenting my case, forcing him into the position of convincing me that he's right. Or just giving in to the path I think we should take. Which means that, ultimately, I'm putting myself forth as the head of our family, & this is contrary to God's design. Eventually, I do realize this & hand control back to Michael. 

I could probably give you dozens more examples of how I fail at submission. Even when I do submit, I often really dislike it. Blame my sin nature, blame the Fall, blame the feministic culture - no matter what the reason, submission is just downright hard. And maybe it's supposed to be - at least post-Fall - because in the end I am brought face-to-face with my inability to fulfill God's command. I'm forced to acknowledge that I need His help to be submissive to my husband. And I don't just need it once, I need it every single day. Which means that I have to keep striving every day, trusting Him to supply the strength & will to fulfill His commands. I hope one day I'll be able to call myself a submissive wife, a wife who is submissive more times than not. But I also hope that I will always remember that it's only by the grace of God that I can be that woman . . . & find forgiveness when I fail.

Friday, July 19, 2013

All About Emma

Our darling girl is just about halfway between 13 & 14 months. That seems impossible! She's positively adorable, an absolute delight. She has the sweetest smile that turns into the cutest smile - her "Munchkin Grin" - when she's really happy or excited. Sometimes she shows me her "Munchkin Grin" & soundlessly snorts, leading the two of us into a snorting competition. She loves to be spun around, either securely in my arms or out away from my body like the swings at the fair. When I swing her out, she kicks her legs & giggles gleefully. Which, of course, makes me laugh, too. She loves to read sitting in my lap, & even handed me a book to read to her the other day. I thought that was impressive! She's always on the go, either crawling, cruising, or in her Joovy. And, boy, is she fast! We expect she'll be walking soon. She loves to play with her toys, but she also is amused by anything ordinary:  sunglasses, ponytail holders, measuring spoons, the contents of the refrigerator, her Daddy's socks . . . you name it, she wants to play with it. She's in love with "Baby Einstein", & that's sometimes the only way I can keep our sleepy girl content while I get ready for bed. She's very talkative, & can say "Mama", "Daddy", "Emma", & "up"; she also said "bye-bye" a few times, but never since. She's learned to wave bye-bye, but she thinks it's always followed by clapping because I always say, "YEA!" & clap when she does it. (So cute!) She hates for us to go in the bathroom & shut the door, so I sometimes do this when I want her to come to me. Sure enough, as soon I close that door, I hear her whining & the slapping of her palms on the floor. (As you can probably tell, she keeps us laughing!) She likes bath time, & her squirting otter is her favorite toy. It doesn't take much to correct her; a point of the finger & a firm "no" will make her cry from hurt feelings. At which point we comfort her. She loves music, & always dances to it, which is so precious when she's crawling because she shakes her hiney! (Yep, another laughter-inducing event.) She loves animals & gets very upset with Callie not letting her pet her. She wakes up happy & vocal. She loves to play "Where's Emma/Mama/Daddy?", especially when we hide behind blankets. She's a really good eater & is doing great learning to drink from a cup. She's opening up better around strangers & family in familiar environments. She's incredibly observant. She doesn't really smile at strangers in public, which has caused some people to erroneously say she's not happy, when she's just watching & evaluating. She likes other children, but I do think she prefers them to be a bit older than she. She loves kisses, cuddles, being sung to,  & being tickled. Her favorite song is "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", & she fusses every time I finish singing it; strangely, she never has that reaction when she hears it anywhere else. She adores her Daddy & loves to play with him. She's still very attached to me, & even sleeps in my arms (which is when I write these posts). We are so in love with her! She is the light of our life, our joy, our angel, & we are so incredibly blessed - rich beyond measure - to be her Mama & Daddy. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Days Are So Hard - Like Today

I am exhausted. Completely emotionally drained. This was a very bad morning. A bad morning that began last evening when Michael received a phone call from our primary care physician saying that they were fixing to fax paperwork to Michael's work clearing him for duty. Now, just to give you an idea of how absurdly shocking this is, let me walk you through a typical day here:

-Morning: Michael takes Tylox, Neurontin, Flexeril, & sometimes Advil to get out of bed then grabs his crutches to walk to the dining table for breakfast. He has to sit in an ultra padded office chair that allows him to slightly recline. After breakfast, he uses this chair to roll himself over to the computer (or anywhere around the house). Sometimes he sits in the recliner for a bit.

-Afternoon:  His pain is worsening a bit (uh huh, you read that right, he's even worse now), so that the crutches & chair that were helpful earlier are now needed for movement. He eats lunch with us, takes more meds, & lays down. This is at my insistence, because I've seen how staying up & trying to help me (again, from his chair) are making his pain worse. 

-Evening:  Michael is up spending time with us (I also take Emma into our room sometimes so we're all together; she & I play & he can join in some from a laying position). We eat supper, & he relaxes in the living room until it's time for bed. Once it's time for bed, he can barely move from the pain because the meds aren't working as well now. Now, this is if he hasn't been trying to help out around the house off & on. If he has, then I have to help him get in bed by lifting one leg, letting him slowly lower himself, then lifting the other & helping him get centered.

What do I mean by "pain"? Shooting, searing, cry-out-loud pain that radiates down his back & into his buttocks, pelvis, thighs, & calves. This is accompanied by cramping pains in his legs, as well as weakness & numbness. Some of these are even happening at rest now. Sometimes he feels like he's going to fall over. And sometimes, the pain is so severe mid-move (sitting, standing, walking) that he simply cannot complete it.  

So tell me, does this sound to any sane person like someone who needs to be running around taking care of critically ill patients? No? Not to you either? So, that must mean that the "specialist" who saw him once, did not re-evaluate him, & yet flippantly declared him fit for work needs a mental health evaluation. That's my conclusion, anyways. 

So, that brings us to this morning. Knowing that Michael is being told he has to go back to work tomorrow . . . & knowing that he physically can't . . . & further knowing that if he doesn't he will lose his job, I start my day calling our PCP trying to get an appointment. My thought here is that we need to document his condition & that he truly isn't fit for work. My relief was profound when the scheduler worked us in for 9:30. Until she called back less than 5 minutes later telling us that there was nothing our doctor could do for us, so we needed to go to the ER. Now, I know you can't sit here all night reading this post, so I won't get into the finer points of the tussle that ensued. Suffice it to say that I made them aware of the gravity of the situation, including the consequences they would be facing if they forced him to go back to work & caused him permanent damage. It wasn't long before I got the good doctor himself on the phone. We, too, tussled - which is so very contrary to our normal interactions - until I finally broke down in tears, & told him I wasn't trying to be adversarial; I was just trying to care of my husband. I reminded him that he knows how much we trust & love him (we really do), & we just needed an advocate. All of this was through tears. He softened, called the specialist donkey (3 guesses which word I want to use), & agreed to resubmit the paperwork with an amendment saying that he - in fact - is not fit for work until released by the neurosurgeon. I hung up & sobbed, the sheer weight of all of these pressures finally breaking me.

This has been so hard. Two things that I am so thankful for today are 1) God softening our doctor's heart to be our advocate, & 2) the invaluable help of a church friend who works in Employee Health (& let me sob all over her when I called asking for more paperwork). We are definitely in the Refiner's fire right now, & it's very uncomfortable. I'm so thankful for Him showing us in big & little ways that He's right here with us, carrying us through the fire that He's ordained for our good. Please, Lord, don't let me lose sight of this. For Your glory, for our good. Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From a Novice

I just read a blog post that gives some very good advice to "experienced moms". (Seriously, stop right here, click on "blog post", & go read it.) Here's one part that really resonated with me:  "The next time you're tempted to write off a friend's parenting stage or struggle, listen empathetically without relating or comparing her problems to your own."  I can tell you, from a new mother's point of view, I have found this to be needed advice. Especially the italicized portion above. And not even just when a new mom is struggling. I personally haven't received a lot of understanding or support from some of my "mom" friends since Emma came along. Because of that, here are some other tips that this new mom would like to pass along (plus it's good to have this written down to remind myself, lest I forget):

-Everyone parents differently, so please don't judge or look down on me for not doing it like you.

-Every child achieves milestones at different rates, so don't freak me out by saying (with furrowed brow & worried voice), "She hasn't done ____ yet?"  (That's one reason I loved What To Expect the First Year so much, because each chapter starts out saying this.)

-Remember, sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it. Just with a change in your tone, the same words can either encourage or discourage me. 

-Every child has a different temperament, so don't say with certainty that she's going to do or be like this. That may have been your experience with your child, but it may not happen that way for us.

-Building on the last few points, remember that I'm not in competition with you, nor is my child in competition with yours. So there's no need to "relate or compare" your situation & children to mine.

-Every mom has a different temperament, so I may not be comfortable with the same things you are. Please don't belittle me or make me feel odd.

-Everything about motherhood is wondrous & new to me, & I'm going to want to learn a lot for myself. Sometimes I'll come to you for sage advice, but most of the time I'll want you to be my friend, not my guide.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've had many wonderful interactions with my "mom friends". We've traded "my child did this" stories & "has he done this?" or "how do you deal with this?" conversations. We've had a lot of fun & laughter. But I have also come up against a lot more judgement than I expected, & it's hurt a couple of friendships because I didn't want to walk away from yet another conversation feeling like I'm doing it all wrong, so I stopped pursuing the relationship. So, I guess that's the reason I'm writing this post, because none of us really wants it to be like that, & the good news is it doesn't have to be. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Challenging Times - Take 2

"They say I don't have short-term disability", Michael said incredulously. I sank onto the sofa & covered my mouth with my hand as I grasped the repercussions of his statement. He hasn't been able to work the last 3 weekends because of his back issues. We knew we would have to really cut our expenses, even with short-term disability, which we expected to kick in soon. This curve ball means no money until mid-September, when long-term disability (which we were told we DO have) will kick in. That's 2 months of bills that will come due with no paycheck to cover them. Now, right here, I could have panicked. But I didn't. Instead, I felt this calmness envelope me, & I know with every fiber of my being that it was "the peace that passes understanding" (Phil. 4:7) given to me by God. "Maybe some good will come of this", said my wise husband. I know it will, because God tells us it will (Romans 8:28). I'm not anxious because God tells us that He knows our needs & loves us so much that He provides for them (Luke 12:22-32). So, already something good has come out of this, because my faith is being strengthened. I believe that we will find all sorts of good in this: a more conscious & deliberate thankfulness for what we have, more self-discipline, a crash-course in living ultra frugally, how to not cling to possessions (we'll be selling some things, so be on the look-out!), & I expect more that God will reveal in His time. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers! It means so much to know that you saints are beseeching God on our behalf. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Babies Don't Keep

Ever since Emma was weaned a couple of weeks ago, I've had a little more time to devote to our home. Michael's been such a help this past year, taking on a lot of responsibility around the house - much more than I wanted. But, when Emma was delivered by an unexpected C-section, that meant an unforeseen period of recovery for me. Then came the round-the-clock care of our newborn angel, which didn't leave much time for cooking & cleaning. (In all honesty, it didn't leave much time for sanity because of sleep deprivation!) Then we spent a lot of time & effort establishing nursing, a process that took Emma almost a full hour 3 times a day up until a couple of weeks before she weaned (& even more than that at first!) As Emma's gotten older, I've gradually been able to add some time to my schedule to reverse the load of "home care" back to its proper balance. But I realized today that it will likely be a long time before we live in a perfectly clean house again. And that's actually just fine with me.  I have believed from the first that the little poem "Babies Don't Keep" is spot-on, so I plan to enjoy our little ladybug as much as possible. Because when I look back years from now, I won't regret that there were piles of clean clothes waiting in laundry baskets to be put away or that there were dishes in the sink waiting for an empty dishwasher. But I will regret not spending as much time as possible playing with & loving on my girl. I most definitely will teach her responsibility, discipline, & how to keep a home, but until she's ready for those lessons, 

"...The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby 'cause babies don't keep."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Challenging Times Ahead

Yesterday was tough. As some of you know, Michael hurt his back a few weeks ago. His pain has gotten worse & has now traveled into his legs, accompanied by tingling, numbness, & weakness. The poor fella can hardly move around the house (the office chair is coming in handy), & even has a hard time finding a comfortable position when laying or sitting. We thought we had found the answer in a spinal nerve block injection, which Michael was scheduled to receive tomorrow. Until he met with a neurosurgeon yesterday. A neurosurgeon who walked into the room with the words, "I can't help you" on his lips. Apparently, Michael doesn't just have a herniated disk. He also has congenital spinal stenosis, which in layman's terms means a narrowing of his spinal column that he was born with. The neurosurgeon said Michael has to go to Birmingham to have surgery & emphatically commanded Michael not to get the nerve block injection, saying it could make things worse. I, however, desiring a less invasive solution than surgery, held out hope that a quick call to the doctor who was supposed to give the injection would deliver a different answer. No such luck. They agreed that now that we know we're dealing with more than just a herniated disk, he should forego the shot & have the surgery. I hung up the phone & cried. This whole thing scares me. It scares me for his health, for his job, for our finances, & for what the future holds. People have asked what we need, but right now I'm still processing & couldn't tell you (though I do appreciate the query). Once I get a mental grip on this, maybe once we meet with the UAB neurosurgeon who will handle the operation, I'll be able to answer that question. For now, we covet your prayers, both for Michael's health & for the difficulties that we're facing in this situation. Thanks so much. We love you all.