Wednesday, April 27, 2016

a game of cat and mouse

Most of the excitement in our house occurs before 9 am.

Take last Wednesday, for example. Brad left before the crack of dawn to meet with one of the hundreds (I do not think I'm exaggerating here) of people he meets with regularly, and two of four kids were awake to get food in their bellies before we took Brody to school at 8:30.

Brecken and Oaklee were just rubbing the sleep out of their eyes when Clementine came sauntering out into the kitchen to see the light of day. Brody loves to sleep in, so he missed all of the "excitement" that was about to ensue.

I left Oaklee in our master bedroom to play around while heading to the kitchen to get some food on the table. Brecken opened the back door in our kitchen to pee off the back deck. (I wish I could tell you this was not a regular occurrence, but this is one of the perks of living in the country, and "ability to pee off the back deck" will probably be on our list of needs if we ever go house hunting again.)

Seeing an opportunity with the door open, Banjo, our indoor-turned-outdoor-turned-"just live in the wild" cat, came barging in with something hairy in his mouth.

I took a closer look to confirm my suspicions...mouse. Banjo occasionally brings us these little "treats" and leaves them at our doorstep, but they usually don't make it past the threshold. This one was still alive, and I could see him kicking his freaky little legs as Banjo clenched him in his jaw.

Banjo was headed for our master bedroom where Oaklee was hanging out, practicing her speed-crawling and pulling up on everything she could reach.

(Here is where you need to start using your imagination to see this scene playing out at our house...)

I grabbed Banjo to stop him from making it to our bedroom with that rodent. When I picked him up he dropped the stinking limping mouse on the kitchen floor. It started hobbling away quickly for a wounded little thing, so I dropped Banjo back down so he could grab the mouse again, thus preventing me from needing to actually touch the thing with any part of my body. He performed just as I desired, but then he DARTED back to our bedroom with that thing in its mouth, headed for our closet where he likes to hide. (Hide from what? Just eight small hands that are constantly poking, prodding and pulling hair.)

I hope that, as you have imagined this little scene in your head, you have been imaging me with all of my squealing and screeching, along with Brecken and Clementine who had no idea what to think of this little rodent and their mom's ridiculous hopping around and squealing. I'm not saying I squealed and jumped around like a looney tune, but I'm not saying I didn't.

Banjo made it to the closet door with that thing, and when I caught up with him he must have been deciding where to hide. Oaklee was a few feet away, gawking and squealing happily because she loves to try to snuggle that cat. She actually tries to grab his hair, put her face in it, and then suck her thumb. What a weirdo. Regardless, it is unrequited love, as you can see from this picture:

I grabbed the cat in his moment of indecision, but he dropped that stinking mouse again. I wavered for a moment before deciding to get the cat outside and out of the picture. He was clearly no help to me. The mouse was limping around slowly in our closet, trying without success to climb my husband's shoes to find a hiding place. I glanced at Oaklee to see how close she was, knowing that she would try to snuggle that mouse if she could get her hands on it. (GROSSSSS.) Meanwhile, Banjo was clawing me and freaking out to get back to his mouse, and I had to make a quick decision, sprinting him to the backdoor to put him outside and then sprinting back ensure that Oaklee hadn't found a tiny new snuggle mate. This was my biggest concern in the whole ordeal: Do not let Oaklee snuggle that near-dead mouse. Well, it was my first big concern.

I removed Oaklee from the situation and shut the closet door to keep the mouse inside, then ran to the garage to find a box. I ran back to the closet, opened the door, and looked by my husband's shoes to find the mouse so I could trap it with the box and take it outside.

It wasn't there. This is the very worst thing, thus making it my second big concern. I began walking on my tiptoes around the closet (because of course this helps), looking for this nasty little thing that I didn't think could walk. Couldn't find it, even after shuffling everything on the floor around. (My closet was recently cleaned, by the way, due to the fact that we moved Oaklee in there to sleep at night. Yes, she sleeps in our closet. We have a room situation; maybe I'll explain that one later.)

So, I shut the door again and went back outside to get the cat to trap in the closet with the mouse. By this time, Brody was awake and wondering why I was out of breath. I threw the cat in, expecting him to be hot on the trail. He sniffed around near Brad's shoes, then sauntered to the back of the closet. I gave up on watching and instead shut the door, because by this time we were going to be late for school if we didn't get a move on.

I called Brad. He laughed, then told me that mice can squeeze through dime-sized holes, so it was probably under our bed. Nice.

Putting that thought out of my head, I quickly finished up the breakfast I had started before the spectacle and served it up while wondering how I was going to get ready with most of my clothes in that closet. (We did have a blackened pancake casualty, due to said spectacle.)

The five of us got ready as quickly as four tiny people and one freaked out adult can be expected to get ready. (I wore the clothes I had slept in, due to said spectacle.)

When we came back I truly expected the cat to have the mouse taken care of so that I could just box it up and take it out.

Instead, the cat was curled up, sleeping in Oaklee's bed. (GROSSS.)

I finally found that thing--dead--behind Brad's shoes about 30 minutes later. (A small wicked part of me ALMOST wished it had died inside his boot to repay him for laughing at my dilemma.) I scooped it into the box and took it outside, only to find it missing about 4 hours later with a few large holes in the top of the box lid.

If the mouse had, instead, been a snake, we would have just sold the house and moved. I'm not even joking.

(And who knows what was going through Clementine's head this whole time. She is not an animal lover, but she has seen things that are much more dirty than a field mouse inside a house, you know?)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

all of the things

I want to tell you all of the things.

But because of all of the things, I do not have time to write about them.

Here is one of the things:

We are about one month out from the launch Hill City Church in SGF MO. I have had so many mixed emotions about this particular part of our journey, about the unknown and the change and the instability and the work.

But at this very moment I am excited about the journey God has us on with so many of our great friends and fellow laborers. There is much to be done, but God is providing the energy and inspiration to fuel the fires and get things done. (And that means I am often putting extra energy into the "laborers at home" end of things, since Brad has a lot on his plate at the moment, particularly because of "all of the things" mentioned above. I am thankful to have more energy for this endeavor, now that we are out of the three-month-home zone with Clementine, as well as into the "Oaklee is now sleeping in our closet instead of our bed" zone.)

I was able to travel with Brad to Austin, TX, to meet with leaders from The Austin Stone and Austin New Church. (My poor parents had to watch our four small kids. We've been ruining my parents' plans for years, folks. Five years, to be exact, which just happens to be the number of years we have had kids. I hope to be back to the blog soon to explain ALL OF THE WAYS we've ruined their plans. It's ridiculous.)

That visit with the leaders of those two churches, though...sooo encouraging, so inspiring, so exciting. It was thrilling to see the potential of a church plant in Springfield, particularly the potential of a church plant with GOSPEL RESTORATION at its center. It has been so hard to be fully excited about this church plant because we are leaving our church home of eight years, which means that along with it we are leaving so many amazing people. Seriously, that church is filled with SUCH GREAT PEOPLE. And I know we are not physically moving anywhere, but we are losing that experience of seeing many of those people on a nearly weekly basis. That's sad. That said, I think my inclusion on the Austin trip and meetings were divinely appointed, in part because He has replaced much of my sadness and reluctance with excitement. Because of some of the conversations in Austin my mind is spinning with ideas about how this thing could go and how our community and "the least of these" could see the love of Christ up close.

When Brad joined a church staff, a wise man semi-jokingly warned us that working in a church in like working with sausage: "Once you know how it's made you won't want to eat it." I have found that to be mostly true (as it is true in nearly every workplace, I believe). This new church will have problems. Every church will have problems, as they are all filled with people who have problems. I am not naive enough to believe our church will be perfect. But that's ok. I'm praying for the future of the church we are starting, as well as the church we are leaving.

In fact, we are covering this thing in prayer, and it's important that we continue to do so. We are absolutely nothing without the one who died for us, which means our ideas and inspirations are nothing without His clear direction and blessing. But it's so very exciting to see where He may, in fact, be leading.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

All clear

A quick medical report regarding Clementine...

A few weeks after she came home, we took her to a clinic for initial TB skin tests and chest x-rays. (She had to be held down when she got SIX sad!)

Her results came back CLEAR from the x-ray and the skin test. Apparently she never had TB.

A few weeks ago we took her in for another consultation with a regular pediatrician and he suggested further testing (an ultrasound on her kidneys) regarding the kidney issues listed on the paperwork that permitted her to get an emergency exit letter. He also requested blood work to check kidney functioning and Hep C and HIV status. 

The ultrasound was all clear, meaning her kidney functioning seemed to be normal. However, initial round of bloodwork came back a bit iffy on the kidney functioning, so she has more bloodwork done. (The ultrasound, which required her to lie still while they essentially rubbed lotion on her belly, involved a lot of crying and wiggling, so you can imagine how much fun her bloodwork was. I sent Brad in for that.)

The second round of bloodwork came back all clear. 

We have a healthy girl! We still aren't sure why her lymph nodes were so swollen when they first diagnosed her with TB, and she has a huge scar there where it looks like someone just stuck a giant needle in her neck to drain it, but we are thrilled she is healthy. 

Somehow what we first saw as bad news turned into the very thing that brought her home to us more quickly than we ever imagined. God is good. God is sovereign. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

the prayer that ruined me

Last week I prayed a very special prayer that might have ruined my life and redeemed it at the same time.

(This is not the first time I have prayed prayers that have ruined me. I truly meant it when I sang "Oceans" at church and even repeated those words to God when I was alone with him, and he definitely took me where my faith was without borders. He continues to take me there, and it is good because He is good.)

My prayer last week went like this:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

You might recognize those words. They're the words of David, written in Psalm 139:23-24, in response to his realization that God knew him--his good and bad--inside and out. 

The fact that God knows me inside and out is often frightening enough for me in and of itself, because I am generally aware of my faults. But David embraced it, asking God to search him, know him, test him and lead him. 

For me, this was essentially a prayer for God to throw down on my heart, to take a deep look inside, test me, see my sin and lead me out of it. I have prayed the words before, but God probably knew I wasn't ready for Him to completely "try me" and "see if there be any grievous way in me." Because BOY, was there a grievous way in me!

This time, I guess I was ready for the (nearly) full effect of his testing. Last week was horrendous. I may be overstating it a bit, but we had some rough moments, and those rough moments in combination with my cold symptoms and lack of sleep led me to the realization that without allowing the Spirit to control my life I am absolutely out of control.

Kids were picking on one another. So I picked on them.

Dishonor was a problem. The kids dishonored eachother. They dishonored me. So I dishonored them.

I was consumed with worry about things. Lots of things. 

We had approximately 35 spills at the table. Per day. I, myself, had approximately 34 outbursts of anger regarding literal spilled milk and the resulting soggy papers. ( I did not have 34 outbursts because the first spill was gimme.) Clearly, grace was absent from our home.

I had to physically hold Clementine down for about 30 minutes for an ultrasound on her kidneys to investigate the proclamations on her medical reports from DRC. An ultrasound is similar to having lotion rubbed on you. It is SO not a big deal. But she made it a spectacle. That said, she probably does have very bad memories of doctor's visits that did not end well for her, evidenced in part by a large scar on her neck where they drained some sort of swelling, probably by using a knife that was left lying around somewhere in the hospital. Nonetheless, all the unnecessary wailing and writhing was exhausting. I chose to waiver somewhere between silently laughing the craziness of it and having compassion in the moment, but by Minute 29 my jaw was beginning to clench involuntarily. Her ultrasound came back normal, as did her second round of bloodwork.)

Clementine was easily annoyed and angered by everyone, and I spent much of the week looking into her mad face and defiant eyes and trying to figure out the best plan of action that would indicate love and discipline at the same time. 

We had to run several errands on Thursday and the "get out of the car," "get in the car," "put on your seatbelt," "stay close in the parking lot," "no, we can't get that" conversations we were having over and over again were wearing on my last nerve. 

And every kid cried--or at least whined annoyingly--about the fact that I wasn't carrying him or her through the stores. I need to have a more consistent presence in the gym for that sort of stamina. 

Then we had to go back into a store for a coat that was left behind. (Eyes rolling...)

By Thursday afternoon, I had texted Brad to tell him I needed help with the kids at the dinner we were both headed to because I was five kinds of mad and could not deal with it anymore. My edges were raw and easily irritated. Life was not fun. 

By the time it was time to drive to said dinner, I had reevaluated my heart and repented because my attitude absolutely stunk. So many things went right in those days, but the small things led me to an absolute explosion of anger and frustration. God was showing me the evil in my heart, alright. 

I remembered that on Wednesday night Brecken had been extremely upset (not a shock...screaming is his MO at bedtime these days...eyes rolling again), and I very faintly heard Brody whisper to him from their bedroom, "Brecken, I prayed for you." (All the warm fuzzies in my heart!!!)

And Clementine had loved her Easter dress and new pink Converse kicks. (I have waited so long to give my daughter some of those, because Converse shoes look like clown shoes on me.)

And both boys had grabbed her hands to hold them when she was getting her hair brushed so she wouldn't be sad. 

And Brody thanked God that Clementine was here. 

And Clementine had snuggled me so much!

And Oaklee had given me lots of kisses (open mouth slobbers on my face, but whatev). 

But all of that and the many other amazing moments of last week fell through the cracks as my selfishness stifled the joy. I can't explain it, except to say that I asked for this. God showed me virtually every terrible symptom of my fleshly desires.  

This week I started anew with morning prayers that went something like this: 

"Lord, you revealed a lot of junk last week. OUCH. You've proven I can't deal with all of this craziness alone. Please lead me now, and rule in my heart."

And that has been the difference. We have still had some issues. We have still struggled some. But we have had been JOY, too.