5 Ways to Survive Life Crisis: from my perspective

 Put Your Oxygen Mask on First  

I know it is said often, but it really holds true.  You cannot help anyone else if you are down and out.  It is critical to take care of yourself and the opposite of selfishness.  It has taken me a loooooong time to learn this.  During this last time of crisis I did a much better job.  I rested and only did what I was able to do and no more than that.   The laundry piled up, the toys became scattered, the floors got icky, the weeds got taller and multiplied by ten and the kids became needier for lack of attention.  Only the critical things made it on the “to do” list: read extra praise and snuggles for the kids.  The rest will wait.

Ask For Help

When I woke up unable to move except for a few inches, I knew I needed someone to take care of me.  My husband was not the person to ask.  He had six kids to feed and love on and a mile-long list of his own critical tasks.  Who is the next capable person?  Can I call a friend?  Well, my 11-year-old daughter is very attentive and loves getting texts.  So, I texted and asked her if she would like to be my nurse.  One minute later she was at my side and did an excellent job caring for me.  Also, talk with a trusted friend and let him/her know what you are going through.  For me, just sharing my struggle brought me great relief.  It somehow made it more manageable.  A friend’s empathy and encouragement can mean the world during a crisis.

I was able to make lists and do a little planning the next day, so I planned meals and helped make the grocery list.  Then, I asked my 18-year-old to do the shopping.  During the non-crisis times I had been teaching my kids to cook and this payed off big time in the times of  crisis.  The kids also began tackling the laundry a little at a time.  Mornings are my worst as far as functionality, so I asked for help in getting the kids to VBS.  Everyone will have unique circumstances, so think about the resources available to you, prioritize your needs in order of most critical and then ask someone for help.  It is much easier for people to help if they know you have a specific need.  And if you are the one being asked, the opposite is true: just offer to do whatever you are able.  When someone is in the midst of a crisis it is often difficult to make a decision of what you need.

Look for the Positive

Having a crisis is the very definition of things going wrong.  The key here is to recognize that EVERYTHING is not going wrong.  Something has to be right or you would not be here.  For me it was all the little things: my husband poking his head in to ask if I needed anything, the kids giving me snuggles, the flowers blooming amidst the weeds, the sun shining, my comfortable bed, my caring friends… Well, you get the idea.  Make a mental note of every little thing that brings you joy and thank God for it.  He is there in the suffering with you and is patiently waiting to pour out the grace and peace for just the asking.

Minimize the Negative

It is good and healthy to acknowledge all that is going wrong.  It sucks to be sick.  It feels crappy and you can’t do anything about it.  I have had 7 straight weeks of not feeling well beginning with a case of laryngitis and continuing through this last week of reacting to gluten.  It is easy to get discouraged.  And it seems to pile up.  Mom is down, Dad’s stress goes up, the kids’ stress goes up, the house starts to fall apart, the car breaks down, kids get sick, and the list can go on and on.  Name those crappy things and cry it out if you need to.  “God has big shoulders,” Fr. Jim used to tell us.  Pray and cry out to Him and name all those things that are burdensome.  Then ask God what you should do about it.  If you can take action without causing yourself more harm, then do it.  Otherwise, let it go.  The floors, the laundry, the weeds will all be there another day and it really won’t take long to get it back on track.  Don’t get bogged down by the negative. I know, easier said than done.  But, I can assure you that you will get better with practice.  God has been giving me lots of practice.

Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Feeling irritable when you are stressed is a normal response.  But, try not to alienate those closest to you.  In my personal experience, I would get upset when my husband seemingly avoided me, or was short with me when I was at my weakest.  I would take his absence as a form of abandonment.  In reality, he was doing double time taking care of work, house, kids, shopping and trying to deal with his own emotions and stress of seeing me so sick.  We can easily focus on our own pain and suffering and forget how strongly it affects others.  My kids are also affected.  It is frightening to see Mom so sick and weak.  Mom is supposed to take care of them, not the other way around.  My kids take on extra chores as well.  After a few days, it can wear everyone down.  Try to remember to say “thank you” for the smallest acts of kindness.  Praise the good that others are doing.  Don’t let guilt over what you cannot control spill over into bitterness and irritability towards others.  Another burden I often add to my baggage is to take on the added stress expressed by others.  If my husband gets short with the kids, or the kids start bickering with one another, I have to take great effort to remember that is not my fault.  I cannot control others and I cannot control my health.  So, I just *try* to speak gently and offer praise and encouragement where I can.  Everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have.  None of us are perfect.

I do hope this helps you when you are in time of crisis.  Unfortunately no one is able to avoid life crisis.  Yours will be unique to you, so my story and advice may not apply.  I pray for you all that God give you peace and healing, grace and joy as you walk your journey in sickness and in health.  And I thank you for your prayers and encouragement as well.


Off to School we Go!

God always, ALWAYS, is with us.  He provided me an opportunity to go on a private retreat the first weekend of August.  At this point, only Benjamin was accepted into school.  The others were on the waitlist in positions ranging from 10-27, which didn’t look too hopeful.  I struggled with grabbing back the familiar and the control.  It’s my default move to just take it all back and not trust in the bigger plan.  But, God patiently and lovingly spoke to me: to my heart in adoration and through the books I read.  I called Patrick and was so confident in God’s will for us that I was able to speak my need clearly and succinctly.  We had to enroll the kids in school and UME was the right school for us.  If they didn’t get in at first, then Patrick agreed to oversee the daily checklist and grading the Math and I would oversee the school during the day.  Our intermediate plan was to homeschool until they were accepted.  The next week a friend alerted me that the kids may not be listed as Benjamin’s siblings, which would affect the waitlist status.  Sure enough, when I called the school we discovered that a change in the computer system had left them detached from Benjamin.  When this error was corrected all the kids were moved up to positions ranging from 1 to 10.  It was a little sliver of hope and encouragement.

Benjamin started school on August 17.  I took all six kids with me to the Open House, so that in the event they were admitted they would be familiar with the school and some of the teachers.  Patrick was supposed to go with us, but his dentist appointment ran long and he could no longer meet up with us.  This event alone would have put me into a full panic attack just a mere 6 months ago.  But, God equips us to do His will.  There was no anxiety within me.  We saw a few families that we knew, but mostly it felt as if we just floated from room to room in a bubble, met the teachers we needed to meet and I left feeling excited and at peace about the new possibilities.  This is God’s grace in action.

By Friday, Daniel, Samuel and Sophia were enrolled.  One week later Joshua began his first day of 7th grade.  It only took 10 days for five of the six kids to be fully enrolled!  While I was on retreat, it looked like it could be the next semester or not at all; but, God was just giving me the opportunity to put my trust in Him.  He is such a loving, gentle and patient teacher.

So, we happily pack our lunches and backpacks, the kids cheerily skip off to school each morning and I sit drinking my coffee and lay by the pool soaking in the quiet.  Not a all.  The early mornings are a definite struggle.  Patrick oversees breakfast, getting the kids awake and dressed, and takes them to Shelly’s. (We carpool with a friend, but our car is the only one big enough to carry everyone, so it’s quite the system of exchanging vehicles in order to get the kids from point A to point B; but, it is also quite a blessing).  I haven’t slept well since school started, so my rising and my movement is very slow and limited.  I manage to get a few tasks accomplished and then I go to pick the kids up.  It is a 25 minute drive one direction.  We arrive home and dig into homework, which leads directly into dinner preparation and clean up, family reading time, prayers and bedtime.  This six-hour period of constant activity leaves me feeling like a wrung out washrag.  At the same time, Patrick is finishing a fourteen-hour work day and isn’t in much better shape.  After a week, the kids excitement and fascination with going to school has worn off and it takes a little more effort to get everyone motivated and moving.  Homeschooling was actually much easier and more efficient.  I won’t lie, I’ve already thought about throwing in the towel.

I was actually contemplating if we had made a huge mistake by putting them in school when I saw a video that my doctor posted on Facebook.  He spoke about walking through the fire.  He said things like “we always have something to learn” and “maybe it’s not about us, but about what other people see in our journey.” BAM!  God lead us to this path.  We are here at this moment, in this place for a reason.  It is hard, brutally difficult and challenging.  It is especially a struggle because I know that the hardships we are facing to make this school thing happen can be relieved by just going back to homeschooling.  But, I can not–must not–look back.  No, comparison and “what ifs” are the handy  work of the enemy.  God is calling us to go forward, to trust in Him completely.  He has a plan for us and the lesson in it is not only for me.  God wants to use our family and our story to show His goodness.  I will not stand in His way.

I beg your prayers for us during this time of transition.  We really are feeling the physical effects of this effort.  Pray for strength for us, for perseverance for all, and for all to learn the lesson that God is teaching us through the experience.  Thank you for journeying with me.

UPDATE:  In the midst of this transition, we have a new granddaughter!  Savannah Grace made her appearance at 5 am this morning.  And this Saturday we will gain a son when our daughter, Lauren celebrates the Sacrament of Matrimony with Matthew Perrier.  Such blessings in our lives!!  All Praise and Glory to God be given.

Amazing Grace (Part 3)

“’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

Patrick got me to the airport without a minute to spare due to the icy roads. If he wasn’t so versed on the roads of the DFW metroplex (he is my personal GPS) I would have never made it. The highways were bumper-to-bumper with cars all over the place, so he went though the city streets and got me there under an hour. My flight to Kansas City left right on time without a single empty seat thanks to Icemageddon. After he dropped me off, Patrick continued to Dallas to pick up the boys. I landed in Kansas City before he and the boys had made it back to our house.

Sr. Connie met me at the airport and we walked out to the car in bone-chilling cold Kansas City. Even with three layers, this Texas girl cannot tolerate cold weather. I went along for the ride with Sr. Connie to run a few errands and pick up Sr. Gracelea from her work at the Bishop’s residence. I arrived at the Convent to warm, smiling faces and great big welcoming hugs. We had arrived just in time for Mass followed by dinner.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

My days at the convent were peace-filled and stress-free. Since it was Advent, it was only the Sisters and me; and my job was to rest and recover. I was able to stay in the main building and simply walk down the hallway to the chapel where Jesus was waiting for me to meet him in Adoration. My daily routine was simple: eat breakfast, spend an hour in Adoration, rest, read, eat lunch, visit with the Sisters or one of the workers, rest, read, pray, Mass, and Skype with my husband and kids before an early bedtime. A few times I was able to get out for a walk, but most days—especially the first few—I just needed rest. By the end of the retreat I had accomplished two goals: I was somewhat rested and I had been able to completely wean myself off hydrocortisone, which meant my body was starting to make it on its own again. I knew that I wouldn’t be fully healed and that the hard part was yet to come. My husband and I and our family of ten would have to make major changes in our home life to keep the momentum going.

Adoration in the morning and Skyping with my husband each evening were bookends of my days at the convent. I tried to give my will over to God each morning and allow him to direct my path and inspire my thoughts. Through prayer, scripture and spiritual reading I gained much insight on my life. My husband and I could talk about what I learned about myself each day and how our daily life and marriage intertwined with that new-found knowledge. I soon realized that most of what I was learning, I had really known all along. For instance, in times of complete exhaustion I would dream—not literally since sleeping was elusive–of leaving the house to go out into our Travel Trailer or to a Hotel just to sleep. I would quickly brush the thought from my mind thinking that I was a terrible mother to want to run away. During the retreat I realized that I was not wanting to run away, I was just wanting and needing to sleep! My mind and body were constantly telling me what I needed, but I kept ignoring the messages because of preconceived notions about myself.

After Day 6, I met with a priest to help clear my thoughts and put them in perspective. I was actually surprised by what he told me. He said that I wasn’t loving myself. He said that over the years of marriage and family I had given myself away and loved others to the exclusion of myself. I had to let this sink in. Our world sends a constant message of “everything is about you,” and “please yourself,” “do what makes you feel good”, etc. In an effort to keep from falling into this selfish trap, I had gone to the other extreme and that wasn’t any better in the long run. By not loving myself and meeting my basic needs, I was actually taking away from the potential wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend that I was made to be. I was expecting way more from myself than I would ever even consider asking of another person. I wasn’t even allowing myself a day off or breaks for rest or to use the bathroom. And I know I am not alone in this trap. I think many mothers make the same mistakes. We don’t listen to ourselves and our bodies and the messages they are sometimes screaming at us. My biggest lesson is to learn how to trust myself with the knowledge of myself and to make the proper changes.

When I left the Convent to return home I learned a lesson that all business men and women who fly out of Kansas City already know. Don’t take the last flight out on a Friday night. My plane was coming from DFW and had trouble part way through the flight with the landing gear. It was safer for them to return to Dallas than to try to land in Kansas City. My fellow travelers kept me posted on the flight delays and latest information as they received email updates. Our flight that was supposed to leave at 8pm did not take off until 12:30 am. This was not a good thing for a person with Adrenal Fatigue to whom sleep is critical and who has a Christmas celebration with her in-laws in less than twelve hours. I had to take the flight out that night because a storm was coming through and they were calling for flight cancellations across the Midwest and northeast. My nephew, his family and our other two children had left Nebraska early in the evening just missing the storms as they drove through the night to reach Ft. Worth by morning. My flight touched down at 2:30 am and I texted my husbanded. His response back was not edifying. To my text: on the runway, his reply was: in KC or DFW? Due to the lack of updates he was not aware that my flight had actually taken off. I would have to wait another 40 minutes for him to drive through torrential downpours to pick me up. We crawled into bed at 4:30 am and my incredible, self-sacrificing, loving husband got up at 6am to meet and pick up the kids when they arrived in Fort Worth. By 7am the house was stirring and we sent the kids ahead of us to Grandma’s house to begin Christmas with the promise that we would follow within the next couple of hours.

Our oldest daughter called from the road. They were stranded on the side of the Interstate with a flat tire and a flat spare. Lauren stopped on her way through and picked up one of the grandkids, but the other four were still in the car and the tow truck driver could not tow the car with anyone inside. No other vehicles of ours or her mom’s (she’s my daughter by marriage) would fit five more people. The tow driver was merciful and took Johnny (my son-in-law) to get a new tire and then came back to change the tire and to give the battery a jump when the car wouldn’t start. All of this in the pouring rain. I felt like I had left the safety of the Convent and the devil had been unleashed on my family! Fear not, it all went well from that point on. We made it to Grandma’s and had a wonderful celebration with our whole family present. The sun came out and my cortisol held up long enough to make it through the day until I grabbed a full night’s sleep.

Since arriving home, we are making those major changes in small ways, one day at a time. My family seems happier already just to have me home and, in time, God willing, I will have recovered my energy to be able to run and play and frolic with them again. For now I am thankful to be able to be at the table and in the living room enjoying their company and my new perspective (mostly from the couch) which has allowed me to appreciate them as the incredible individuals that they are instead of busily rushing from one task to the next. We have hired outside help with the kids from 9am – 2pm during the week and this has proved to be the most beneficial decision we could have made. But, that’s a whole blog post in itself. God’s grace suffices and I am thankful for the whole of this journey: the ups and the downs. I have learned so much about life, about myself, but I am most thankful because I have experienced the loving mercy of God.

Amazing Grace (part 1)

“I was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

I am a stubborn child, strong willed and strong minded. I have learned to depend on myself and thus I learned how weak I am. In His goodness and mercy and gentleness God has guided me to this place and now I share it with you.

I have been struggling with my health, as you know. Finally, I was forced to my knees in prayer when my body protested and I was too exhausted to even leave my bed. At times my anxiety was so much that I had to stop eating with the family and take meals in my room. Humiliated I had to call several friends and ask for help with childcare during the day while my husband worked. With seven children to care for, rest and a stress-free environment was nearly impossible. My husband was maxed out as well. We had a vacation planned to Mexico for our twentieth wedding anniversary, but we knew that even that would not be enough to get us through. In tears I left the house and called a friend. After sharing my worries with her through sobs and sniffles, she suggested I go on a sabbatical, or to a place where all my needs would be met and I could just heal. I immediately thought of the Sisters.

The Sisters are The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Missouri. I have visited the Sisters on a number of occasions over the last twenty years. My father has worked for them since I was in college and I have taken groups of girls on Vocation Awareness trips where we stay, work, eat and pray alongside the Sisters for several days at a time. After one phone call my stay was arranged and a few clicks on the computer locked in my flights.

Then fear set in. How could I leave my children and my husband for eleven days? What would people think? Who could I get to watch them? What will happen if I get homesick? All these questions presented themselves, but I still had a great sense of peace that this was what I needed to do if I was going to ever be healthy again. I took one step at a time and trusted that God would provide if this was truly his will and provide He did. Friends stepped up to offer childcare, my neighbors offered to prepare meals while I was away, and my family was very supportive and encouraging.

A last-minute change in plans came about as we packed the kids to go to three different places during our Mexico vacation. My nephew and his wife were in town from Nebraska visiting with their three young children. We didn’t see them on Thanksgiving because we were visiting with different family members that day, but Patrick and I were able to squeeze in a quick visit at Chik Fil A to see their beautiful faces and give them the update on my health. An hour later I received a text asking if they could take some of the kids home with them for three weeks until they returned for Christmas. Angela (8) and Daniel (5) were disappointed to miss the visit with their friend, but jumped at the chance to go to Nebraska—especially if it included the possibility of snow. We repacked their bags and sent them off to Nebraska minutes before heading to the airport ourselves. We were actually going to make the trip! Six days alone in Mexico was a dream come true and we intended to make the most of our time together without children—complete with uninterrupted thoughts and sentences–and with sleep, and food that we don’t have to prepare, and sleep, and no work to accomplish, no deadlines to meet, and did I mention sleep?

7 Plagues

Contracting an illness in a large family can often mean weeks or months of dealing with that illness as it spreads from one person to another and, occasionally, back around again. I often become frustrated when I get comments that we get sick a lot because I take it personally. I feel judged that it is somehow my fault that I’m not clean enough, or feed my kids right, or something. Overall, these trials have strengthened my faith in God as most should do if we allow God to work through them. I will warn you that the following is not for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk.

1. The Stomach Bug of 2004. Actually, it was a series of stomach bugs. It started in August. I remember the date well. Karen and I decided to travel to Wichita, KS for the Catholic Family Conference with her 6 children and 3 of my children. It wasn’t God’s will for us to go, but we *wanted* to go and nothing was going to get in our my way. So, we drove six hours, paid for two hotel rooms for two nights and walked across the street to hear John Michael Talbot sing. Not 30 minutes into the concert, Mary came down with a headache and Joshua, just a baby at the time, was fussy. I left to take them back to the hotel room. By midnight Mary was running fever and vomiting, so I crossed the hallway to alert Karen. I had the girls and Joshua with me and she had the boys with her. She opened the door and I discovered that Brandon was in the same boat. We decided to head out first thing before more kids succumbed to it. The car ride home was miserable for those two kids. Not only did we have to stop frequently to find a bathroom, but the situation forced Lauren and Allison to be seated together in the car. They fought incessantly! We made it home and the bug spread through both households. Worse yet, I had somebody sick every week from that point on until March of the following year.

2. Lice. In the summer of 2009 we came home from camping and I discovered these pesky critters in the hair of my almost four-year old daughter. Thankfully, my friend Fifi was over helping to clean the house. She stayed all day to help me pick the critters out of hair and collect all the bedding and clothing to be washed. 80 loads of laundry! I am not exaggerating, people. We did 80 loads of laundry and spent countless hours picking bugs and their nits out of 5 heads of hair. Thankfully, the baby was bald and my husband has baby fine hair; so they did not even need to be treated. The older girls only had a few nits and I escaped untouched. The boys were an easy fix with clippers and a good summer hair cut. Poor Angela! Her head was infested and that baby girl lay on the counter and had her head combed through for hours. She was indeed an Angel about it. The process had to be repeated daily for 10 days and we were glad when it was over. On New Year’s 2010 the little bugs reappeared. I had taken the kids to Open Gym at the local gymnastics club and it was cool enough to wear jackets. Their jackets had been placed in the cubbies with other jackets and we brought the little boogers home once again. This time was way worse! All the kids had picked it up and now the baby had hair. Patrick was the only one to escape untouched. It took 3 weeks and 8 hours a day of picking heads to rid ourselves of these pests. It was humiliating and embarrassing to no end. I have never cried so much as when I found yet another live bug on a head! My husband would leave for work and I would envy that he got to leave while I was stuck picking nits and learning so much about lice that I became known as the “lice expert” among my friends and family. The poison did not affect the lice this time. My pediatrician proved completely useless in giving advice. So, the internet became my only resource. Lice MD became the solution. A natural product, it basically makes the hair too greasy for the bugs to move and too slick for the nits to attach. Once we were bug free, we loaded the clan up in the Travel Trailer and went camping for three days. This served two purposes: 1. We got to leave the house and 2. The bugs cannot live off of a human head for more than 24 hours, so if there were any critters in the carpets or clothing they would be dead before our return. It worked!

3. Lice. Again! My husband and I took a trip to Mexico for our anniversary, our last fling before baby nine would arrive in the Spring. Our oldest daughter came and stayed at our home with her husband and four children. unbeknownst to them, their daughter had picked up lice from a cousin at Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t discovered until we returned from our trip. Our house was infested as were all the kids! I cried and then got creative. I knew the drill this time and was quick to carry out it. Allison checked my head and we added flat ironing our hair into the picking routine. If a nit was overlooked, it was fried in the heat of the iron and we had great hairstyles when we were done. We took a 3 day camping trip at the end of 10 days this time as well. Lice is a word that is never spoken in our home. I will not talk about this again.

4. Spring of 2012. We had a horrible case of strep go through 3 of the kids. By the time it finished, two of them got it a second time. Both cases included vomiting and fever and horrible sore throats. Allison got it a third time but recovered under the threat of having her tonsils removed. At the same time, Benjamin was turning one and had back-to-back double ear infections, a third infection and we would be sent to a specialist to have tubes inserted. This same spring is when I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue, low thyroid and food allergies to the tune of wheat, soy, corn, potatoes, yeast, and dairy. I had to learn a whole new way to cook and eat while caring for sick kids and barely functioning myself. Thank God for my teen daughters who willingly stepped in to cook, clean and care for their siblings. Once we were all healthy, my daughter and grandkids came over for a visit. Daniel came in crying and I knew at first glance that we were dealing with a broken bone. It turned out to be a complete fracture right above his elbow and surgery with 3 pins was required to fix it.

On our way home

On our way home

Patrick and I arrived home at 2 am, got a little bit of rest and then dressed all the kids to head up to church for our family picture in the church directory. That bright orange cast in the picture always makes me smile. We survived the spring and Lauren graduated albeit July instead of May.

5. Summer brought with it the wonderful new experience of pinworms. Yes, pinworms. If lice hadn’t been disgusting enough, pinworms challenged my tolerance for all things gross and disgusting at a whole new level. Although if I had to choose one plague over the other, pinworms are much easier to treat. Other than doing a whole lotta laundry EVERY day, the fix is taking a chewable pill one time and then repeating the dose two weeks later. Bedding, towels, and clothing had to be washed every day and every person had to bathe every morning. That is a whole lot of baths for a family of ten. The bigger challenge proved to be getting the prescription for the magic pills. My regular doctor was out of the office and his partner wanted everyone to be seen. At $80 per person per visit, this would have cost $800 just to see the doctor, not to mention the hassle of ten appointments! I opted to take Sophia into the night clinic and prayed for a doctor with mercy, sympathy and common sense. My prayers were answered. I only had to describe what I saw and within minutes the kind man wrote a script for everyone in the house, except the baby who had to take an over the counter remedy due to his young age. Of course, we were treated like we had the plague for two weeks and felt very lonely without friends or visitors during our outcast. Somehow the mere mention of lice or pinworms makes people head for the hills.

6. Fall 2012 brought new challenges of its own. Lauren was off to college and Allison and I were on our own most days with the “gang of six.” In October Allison came down with a cough that was diagnosed as bronchitis. It got so bad that she would vomit and lose her breath. We returned to the doctor, got a new script and some steroids. It had no affect on the cough. Mother’s intuition kicked in and I suspected Pertussis. A third trip to the doctor for Allison and one other coughing sibling gave me the courage to insist on a test for Whooping Cough. Since I had done my research before hand, I was more familiar than the doctor about the testing and my insistence paid off. This was a Friday afternoon. I took the baby into the Emergency Room to get the test and called both Saturday and Sunday until they finally gave me the test results. By this time two more children were coughing and I was prepared with a positive test result when speaking with the on-call doctor. They were all on antibiotics by Sunday evening and Patrick and I were taking shifts staying up with sick kids.

Preparing the sick room

Preparing the sick room

The cough gets significantly worse at night, so there would be no sleep for about five consecutive days. A follow-up call from the health department proved to be a shock to the unsuspecting caller. She thought that she had one case and ended up with nine. Only four of the children showed symptoms, but the whole household went on antibiotics as a precaution. We had to alert our church and volleyball team. Again the humiliation set in as we alerted family and friends to our contagious ailment. For the record, all of my children were vaccinated against Whooping Cough. I would recommend you to do some research as my research revealed a greater susceptibility to contracting it among those who were vaccinated. Interesting stuff.

7. Finally, in January of 2013 Allison came down with the flu. She spent 7 days in bed and missed her trip to Washington DC for the March For Life. Just when she was coming back to life, I succumbed to the nasty virus and spent 8 days in bed with fever and aches like never before. I don’t think it went through the household, but I honestly don’t remember much of that time. I spent most of the days sleeping and it took weeks before my strength came back. It wasn’t so much of a plague as it was just a lengthy recovery for two of the main cogs who were responsible for keeping the household functioning. My poor husband! In the end we survived and our health was restored. We have been thankful for six months of health and for the lessons learned in humility, patience and perseverance.

Every family faces its own plagues and challenges. I just hope that by sharing mine you feel empowered to overcome whatever difficulties you face. I’ll pray for you. You pray for me. Someday, God willing, we’ll meet on the other side.

My Amazing Daughter

I’ve found myself sharing the amazing story of my oldest daughter and her beautiful family on more than a few occasions lately. Hers is a story of perseverance. I wish to share it with you here, but I should clarify that it is from my perspective not hers, so I will get her approval before posting it publicly on the WWW. Missy is my daughter by marriage. The dictionary would define that relationship as step-mother/step-daughter, but I am not fond of the term “step” because of the horrible press that step-mothers receive in stories and fairy tales. I am not her mother, she has a mother that loves her very much and is very much a part of her life; but, she is my daughter in every sense of the word. I loved her the moment I first saw her and have never looked back. I attach easily to people, especially children and this relationship was no different when it came to my heart attaching to hers.

Her parents divorced when she was a baby, just 18 months old. Her mother remarried when she was 2 or 3 and Her father and I met when she was not quite 5. She had just celebrated her 7th birthday when we married and became an official family in the eyes of God and men. She spent an equal amount of time at both houses and was raised in an almost schizophrenic way, meaning that the two households were drastically different and forced Missy, a pleaser by nature, to change her personality to make each household happy. It worked well when she was young. As a teenager, she could no longer carry the burden of pleasing two different sets of parents, and had limited life skills to solve the issue. This is the crux of most broken homes. Divorce only makes life easier for the adults on occasion and rarely ever does it help the children. In any case, she made the decision to try to create the family that her parents could not give her. At 16 she was a mother and she and Mr. were on their own doing their best to raise a child. Making their own way in the world was more challenging than they had anticipated, but they were humble and wise enough to return home and get their feet under them. They lived with Missy’s mom for a while, saved some money and ventured out again: this time with a running start. Missy had graduated a year early and earned special certification that allowed her to work in the travel industry. By 19 she and Mr. had saved some money and were ready to get married.

This all sounds easy enough, but there was a lot of turmoil in those few years. Lots of prayer and perseverance got all of us through that very difficult time of uncertainty and worry. That is not the amazing part of the story though. Missy and Mr. started making some really smart life decisions. They matured very quickly and did not take the responsibilities of parenting lightly. By age 20 Missy was expecting her second child when she got the phone call. Missy’s cousin, Annie had called with news that CPS had removed her baby girl. Annie had admired Missy and Mr.’s relationship and parenting skills and trusted that they would take good care of her baby girl. Annie wanted to know if Missy would adopt baby girl. If so, Annie agreed to sign over her parental rights. I think Missy’s heart was ready to sign at that very moment, but she and Mr. took the time to seek counsel from her mom and from us before making the commitment. Baby girl was one year old when she came to live with them and a new baby would be born only a few short months later. By the time the couple had celebrated their first wedding anniversary they were the parents to 3 beautiful children and managing quite well.

Three months later another phone call came. This time it was from Mr’s brother. Again CPS had been called and he wanted them to take his 6 month old son until things settled down. Missy and Mr. didn’t think of themselves. They didn’t worry that they would have to pay for a third baby in diapers and formula, or that they didn’t have a car to accommodate them all. They didn’t count the cost of time and energy into caring for another child and Missy didn’t hesitate that the responsibility would fall squarely on her shoulders and would essentially make her captive in her home for most of the day. It is not that they were naive. They knew that each of these things would be a factor. No, the fact is that Missy and Mr. had a deep profound respect for all of human life and to say “No” when asked to help love and care for that life was just not an option in their minds. So for three months, they cared for all four children until the boy was able to find another loving foster home and eventually return to his father.

Since then Missy and Mr. have given us two more grandchildren for a grand total of five. Patrick and I are in awe of Missy and Mr. and their beautiful clan. We have learned patience from watching them with their own children and witnessed a complete self-giving that would make any parent proud. They took their broken childhoods and didn’t settle for being victims of circumstances, but learned from the good and bad alike. They forgave their parents’ mistakes and looked forward to building a better family life for their own children. And that is what makes them both such amazing people, amazing parents, and wonderful witnesses to this broken world.

Missy called to ask what to get her dad for Father’s day. I’ll admit that he is hard to shop for! What she has probably never considered is that she is already giving the best gift a child could ever give to a parent: a life lived selflessly and for God.