Back to School Musings

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It’s getting to be that time of the year where supplies are bought and packed away in backpacks, calendars are filling up with start of school year activities, and the house is abuzz with the excitement of new beginnings.

As a school nurse, I love this time of year! A fresh clean slate, the clinic back into order and decorated for the year, and the excitement of getting to see my students again. I love my job and feel very thankful I get to do what I do.

As a mom, it is always on the bittersweet side. I love watching my kids grow and do new things, but it is also a reminder of the swift passage of time. I’m sending a baby to kindergarten this year. Not just A baby, but THE baby, as in the last one. That’s tough. He is more than ready and I know it, but it is still hard to step into that new phase of life. He will be with someone besides family for nearly 8 hours a day! I have full trust in our school and his teacher but he is my BABY, ya’ know?

On the flip side, I am also sending one of my babies to…. high school. How? I mean seriously, how? I mean, I understand how the passage of time works but how did it actually go so fast these last 14 years? Wasn’t I just getting HIM ready for kindergarten? I met my husband (his dad) in high school. I made memories I still talk about in high school. I met some of the dearest people in my life in high school. And I’m excited for him to do the same, it just seems impossible that we are here already. 4 short years and he will be moving out. I feel that sense of urgency to my core. It’s gone too fast and I don’t imagine it will slow down these next 4 years.

So, yeah, that’s where I am at this back to school time of year. Not to mention that my twins are starting middle school, my middle son is starting 4th grade, and my only little girl will be in 3rd! It’s a year of transitions and excitement here at our house! I’m going to be smiling a lot over the next several months as I watch my kids do what they do. But I have a feeling some tears will be shed as well at the overwhelmingness of life and time. So thankful to be here in this place with this life.

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The Great Cross-Section of Humanity

There is a place that does not discriminate. Nearly all will walk through their doors at one point or another in their lives. Young/old, rich/poor, black/white and everything in between! Society, as a whole, comes together here and intermingles. Where is this glorious place I speak of? Why none other than the DMV!

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It was the last day of the month and I needed to renew the tags on my car. I knew it was going to be crazy and I had kind of sort of mentally prepared myself for it. I try to consciously be a positive person because if I’m not conscious about it, I tend towards negativity very quickly.  I grabbed my number, 169, and noticed they were on 154. Ok, gonna be here a while! There was barely a seat in the place, but I found one.

As I looked around I saw people from every walk of life and I kind of just took it all in. Sometimes I get this overwhelmingly intense love for humanity that is almost painful. Like, look at all of us here right now living this life and doing our thing. It’s quite beautiful really. I think it is a reason I went into nursing: this intense love of humanity. I see beauty and struggle and strength in each face as they fiddle with their papers and look at their phones and try to get their kids to sit down. We are all just here, right here, right now. It’s the most simple and complex thing in the world.

A young mom came in and was struggling with her 4 little ones. She had a toddler on her back in a carrier, a newborn in an infant carrier on a stroller, and 2 what looked to be preschool age kiddos. By the sounds of them, it must have been about nap time. The toddler was crying, the preschoolers didn’t want to listen, at least the newborn was sleeping peacefully! The women next to me sighed heavily when this mom walked by with all here kids and this upset me. It upset me because I have been there and done that! As she finished her business at the counter and made her way back out the door I made the conscious effort to make eye contact with her and to smile. I am betting she does not get that too often. She smiled back and headed out the door.

My time to renew my tags came and went with little incident and before I knew it, I was on the road back home.  As I drove I reflected on how that little connection of humanity meant a lot to ME. I encourage you to seek out situations like this in your own life. Observe, take it all in, love people, and let them know it. Even in someplace as hated as the DMV.

Less Than, Left Out, & Lonely: The Down Side of Social Media

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One of my favorite authors, Lysa Terkeurst, said this at a women’s conference I attended. We need to be mindful of when social media makes us feel less than (‘Sure wish my kids dressed that nicely.’ or ‘My house never looks like that.’), left out (‘Seems like everyone but me is into XYX.’ or ‘Too bad I didn’t get the invite out for coffee.’), or lonely (‘They all look like they are having so much fun and here I am stuck a home!’ or ‘Must be nice to have so many friends.’).

I was just gone at church camp for a few days and I was on a total media blackout: no email, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing! And it was really, really….NICE! I laughed, I talked, I slept, I played, and my face was not buried in a screen. It felt pretty awesome to be interacting with people and kids from my church and feel like I was really living out the experience. I get home, log onto Facebook and immediately begin feeling terrible. I’m feeling all of the above: less than, left out, lonely. My friends aren’t trying to make me feel that way with their posts (hopefully…) but it is when I let those feeling of inadequacy creep in that the idea burrows itself into my mind.

I’m just as guilty as the next person of maybe, perhaps, portraying my life a little more peachy on social media than it is in reality. I also realize that all of you are reading this post on some type of electronic device. They can be used for good! I keep up with family members more closely, I’m able to shop and save time, I have books/movies/music at my fingertips, and I love finding things that make me laugh. I guess it really is just all about balance. These few days without it all didn’t really leave me wanting for anything. I think I just need to remember how good that felt and act accordingly.

Jonah and the WORM (Part 3 on Jonah)

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I’ve got to admit it: I’m in love with the book of Jonah! As my 8 week study on this short little book full of wisdom comes to and end I find myself missing him already. I see so much of myself in Jonah: trying to run form God’s plan for my life, saying I love everyone but not truly meaning it, getting upset when things go well for someone I don’t like, etc. A lot of times when you read a book it ends with a nice little bow. Everything is cleared up, the main character learns his lesson, and they all live happily ever after: the end! Sadly, that is not the way life works. So it makes me glad that the book of Jonah doesn’t end that way either!

So by the end of the book, Jonah has seen God do amazing things. He has saved not only Jonah from a huge storm (literally) and saved the sailors on board (spiritually), but He saw God show kindness and compassion on an entire city that repented of it’s sinful ways. You would think Jonah would be bursting at the seems with love for his God, but you would be wrong. Jonah is pissed! Pissed that God saved these people He said He would destroy. Pissed that he had to come all this way and go through all he went through. So he did what any grown adult would do: he went outside the city limits to pout.

God could have been DONE with Jonah. He could have just cut him off or given him his wish of just being killed. But what did our ever loving and patient God do? He appointed a plant to grow and give Jonah shade. God gives us opportunity after opportunity to get right with Him and see the err of our ways. Jonah enjoys the shade of the plant, but he is also watching Ninevah in hopes that they screw up. So God needs to continue to teach Jonah and mold his heart. So he sends in our little friend the worm! This little worm slithers right over and chews through the stem of the plant causing it to fall over and die.  As you can guess, Jonah did not take that very well!

I love the symbolism of something so tiny being able to ruin our lives if we let it. I think we can all relate to that on some level! God uses this to humble Jonah. Jonah is so mad at God for killing this plant that was giving him shade. God reminds Jonah that the plant was here and gone in a day and that Jonah himself had nothing to do with growing it yet it made him angry to lose it? But Jonah was totes ok with an entire city being destroyed? Ouch, right in the heart! We can be selfish like this at times as well and not even realize it. We think if things are going bad for us personally then it is just the worst thing in the entire world and we tend to forget the suffering of others. Not that it is some kind of sick contest, but just to remember that we are not the only people here and the only people hurting.

What can we take from this? What can we take from an entire book about a man of God who never really gets it time after time?

*God has infinite love and patience for us

*God gives us plenty of time to find our way to Him

*We should never be so confident as to think that because we are Christians that we know it all and are always right

*God uses our missteps to bring us as well as others to Him

*Our theology can be right on, but that doesn’t mean our heart is in the right place

I am SO glad I got the chance to study the book of Jonah. I had no idea there was so much crammed into those four little chapters and that is is so much more than just a story about a whale!

Anxiety, Depression, and Phobias! Oh, My!

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I fight this constant monster telling me I’m not good enough. Everyone else has it more together than I do. Everyone’s house is better kept than mine. Everyone else’s kids listen more than mine. Everyone else is happier than I am. Everyone else has a better marriage than I do. Everyone else is better with their money than I am. Everyone is more content and has all the answers. I want to get in bed and stay there, it’s overwhelming. And this is just what is right off the top of my head right this second…

The anxiety is real. I once had a minor (ok…major) freak out at the renaissance festival because I was just certain my toddler twins were going to fall to their death from these 3 foot tall bleachers. I was screaming and crying and had to get up a leave. I’m sure it sounds funny, and looking back now it kind of is, but at the time it was real and true. It was a reaction to what I was feeling. They were fine, they were safe, they were surrounded by adults in the family but my brain could not process that.

Phobias are crippling as well. I once had to drop a biology class in college because it was in a hallway filled with taxidermy heads. Yes, stuffed animal heads. It sounds absolutely ridiculous and I can’t explain it. All I know is that the deep down terror and dread they filled me with was so, so real. I would start shaking and crying uncontrollably and try to find a place to flee.  It wasn’t just being ‘scared’, it was a soul deep terror. Don’t even get me started on the panic attack I had in high school when we were at Sea World. I exaggerate not. A full blown panic attack.

My depression was so bad after I had my daughter that my husband and parents had an intervention: get help or go to the hospital. It’s hard though because you always think tomorrow will be different, tomorrow will be better. It finally got to the point where I realized it was NOT going t be different and it was NOT going to get better if I did not do something.  Medication has been a life saver for me. A true lifesaver. I am aware of feeling better and dealing with life on a more level headed plane. Some people can ‘get over it’ or deal with it by other means. But I, for one am thankful for Zoloft. It saved my life. It gave me my life back.

So the question remains: why did I decide to go cold turkey off my meds a month or so ago? The lasting effects of the meds lingered around in my system for a while but those are all gone now. I feel that fear, that anxiety, that depression creeping back in to every area of my life. My husband has pleaded with me, “Please, I love you. Please get back on your meds.” I need to, I know I do. It’s just scary to know your literal life depends on medication. Scary to know you physically cannot function in a normal way without it. But it is to the point where being off of the is more scary than going back on them.

 

 

The Parents of Riverdale

I started watching Riverdale this past week. I had heard about the show and thought it was a cool concept: the characters from the Archie comics set in modern times with a dark twist. (TV Guide, if you need a blurb writer, I’m your gal!) It popped up on Netflix so I started in. It’s great! I was hooked soon into the first episode. Then, I saw him: Luke Perry. He was playing Archie’s dad…old

Then Skeet Ulrich, then Lochlyn Monroe (look him up, you know him, trust me), and now Molly Ringwold ALLL playing parents! Um, excuse me! I’m still a young, fun, vibrant, care free person. My childhood heartthrobs cannot play PARENTS on a hip, cool, teenage show.  Then I come back to reality and realize I’m a parent and have been out of high school for 17 years and all these folks mentioned are nearing 50. Life is weird! How it just really and truly zooms right on by like that.

The passage of time is so strange to me. Will I always feel this way? Will I be 70 and be like, “Did you see that Neil Patrick Harris playing a corpse on that hot new show?”  I’m sure I will. I think one of the things that keeps my husband and I young though is that we do still feel young. So I’m going to keep watching Riverdale (because seriously, it’s a great show…check it out) and being weirded out about being old and that’s ok!

On Being Mortal

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One of the scariest things about having a chronic, degenerative disease is knowing that said disease or some complication of said disease is going to be what kills you. The medications I take and the way I take care of my body are only slowing down an inevitable process. That process could take decades, that process could take years: there is really no way of knowing. Yes, you could say that everyone is fighting against that same battle. We are all going to die of something at some point, duh! But to actually have a name to it and be face to face with it every day is a strange feeling.

I’ve been on chemotherapy shots for over a year now to treat my psoriatic arthritis. Aside from the nausea, fatigue, and bruising it seemed to be working! My joint’s didn’t swell as often, my pain was not constant, and my skin psoriasis cleared up. Hello, wonder drug! Don’t worry about the fact that I have a cytotoxic agent stored in my bathroom, a bucket full of used needles, and I have to be 110% cautious to not accidentally get pregnant as the effects to the fetus would be catastrophic. But, hey, minor details right?? Well, it’s not working anymore. My pain is back, my joints are swelling, and that stinkin’ little patch of psoriasis by my right eye has reared it’s ugly head again.

Luckily, there are other meds we can move on to and try. And I am so thankful to modern medicine that this is even an option. I have several more medications I can move through before it gets to the point where we have ‘tried everything’. Some people say this next drug I’m going on is a ‘wonder drug’: they felt great, they had good results, etc. That’s all fine and dandy but each person is different. I could try it and have terrible side effects. I could try it and it could not work for me. I could try it and it could only work for a few months before we have to move down the not very long list of meds to treat my disease.

It’s that unknown, that darn unknown, that always gets me. I’m a planner. It would be nice if I could be like: “Ok, methotrexate worked for a year. Now we are going to do Humira for 15 years before we move onto Otzela for a while then Remicade infusions and then I’ll happily die in my sleep at age 92.” But there is no way of knowing how my body will react to each med or how long it will work for me. I try not to dwell on it, but this is big stuff. Kind of hard to ignore that crippling, debilitating elephant in the room.

Capturing the Real Deal

I’ll admit it. I was that mom who bought all the Old Navy flag shirts for the kids, dutifully lined them up to snap a pic, and kept snapping until I got the one where they all looked angelic. Of course, it’s much easier to stuff a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers into a mold than it is a gangly teen and a couple of moody middle schoolers. I’m not sure who I was trying to impress with these highly posed pics (you? are you impressed?) or what message I was trying to send (see? see how I have it all together?) but in all honesty it stressed me the heck out!

I don’t know what changed or when exactly it changed, but I am 100% over all of that. Maybe it is having six kids, maybe it is the fact that their age range (14-5) doesn’t really lend well to that kind of thing, maybe it is because I’m an older more mature mom (ha!), or maybe I just got tired of putting on a show. It takes enough of my time and energy to make sure I’m being a good mom to them without working on the highly posed pics to post on social media.

Now when I post pics of my kids you will see mismatched clothes, dirty knees, unkempt hair, death stares, and grumpy faces. But you will also see genuine smiles, siblings bonding, and you see true memories being made.  I feel like I am capturing the real memories of their childhood. They will look back at these pics and share a laugh or a smile. “Oh, man! Remember how mad you were that day?” “Look how dirty our feet were. Wasn’t that an awesome day?” “That summer where we bummed around the yard for 2 months was amazing!” I’ll take real over staged any day!

But I do still make them allllllll dress alike for Easter because it’s just my thing now. I mean, you can’t have six kids without some good old fashioned matching outfits now and then! But I don’t stress about how it will all come across. Their personalities still shine through in their faces when I snap the pic and I don’t snap 100 to try and get a ‘perfect’ one. They are all perfect because they perfectly capture the moment.

When God Puts Us ‘In the Whale’ (Part 2 on Jonah)

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Ever felt like this?

So there’s Jonah, trying to flee from God. How desperate and out of his mind is he to think He could flee God’s presence? He was a man of God, he knew this was really not an option. So God needed to do something major, something drastic to get Jonah’s attention and snap him out of his selfishness. Enter ‘the whale’.

Now depending on your theology and your interpretation of the Bible, you may or may not believe that there was an actual, physical whale that swallowed Jonah. And honestly, I don’t really think it maters if you see it as real or symbolic when it comes to the purpose and meaning of the story.  (Side bar: my personal belief is that he was lost at sea for 3 days under a whale shaped constellation but anywho…) The point is that God needed to get Jonah’s attention in a major way. He needed him to be in a place where he was face to face with himself and with God to work it all out. Sound familiar? I think we have all had those situation.

I know in my life there has been times when God needed to do something drastic to pull me back in or help me to refocus on His plan for my life. One certain time that comes to mind is when I finally answered His call to become a nurse. He had placed it on my heart for several years and I kept making excuses and doubting myself. Still, that pull was always there. I made every excuse in the book not to pursue it. Then one November my husband lost his job. Ok God, got it!! And off to nursing school I went. It was hard, so hard, but it has been one of the biggest blessing in my life to be a nurse. And that job my husband lost? Nothing compared to what he is doing now. Dang it, God, you do always know what is best!! It’s our dang stubbornness that gets in the way. I feel like that was my ‘in the whale’ moment. God needed to do something big to get my attention and get me back on track just like He did with Jonah.

I’m sure we can all recall times when God has done something drastic like this. When He has put us in situations that make us stop, come to Him, and get back on track. At the time, it may seem like the worst thing in the world but when you trust in Him and go with it, you’ll look back you realize it all went the way it was supposed to.

I bet this meant Jonah was good to go and never screwed up or got it wrong again, right? Ha! Wrong. Just like us, this feeling of closeness to God and sense of purpose did not last. Seems like we drift back away and God has to reel us back in time after time.

We Are All Jonah (Part 1 on Jonah)

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“Seriously?? Nineveh???”

I’ve started this study on the book of Jonah. I’ve been a Christian my whole life and I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first time I’ve read the book in it’s entirety. When I came across this study I was like, “Blah, blah blah, 3 days in a fish (sure…), blah, blah, blah.” To me it was a kid book, a kid story. But something told me to watch the trailer for the study and he started talking about things like being a person of God yet not being loving (oh…), or only loving people that it is comfortable to love (eek…), and not having a true understanding of God’s love for us if we can judge who to love (oops…). Yeah, maybe this book was more than just a big fish story for kids.

Jonah was a prophet, he was a man of God. He probably quoted scripture and attended church regularly. But when God called him to go to Nineveh he was like, ‘Nah’. Nineveh was filled with people who loved war and who were sworn enemies of Jonah’s people. How many times have we done the same? ‘God, send me where you want me! Do with me what you need!” Then God calls us to do something even slightly uncomfortable and we are not so much into doing that whole ‘what God God called us to do’ thing anymore. Couldn’t I do your work in a place that I want with people that I am comfortable with? Seeing it written out like that is ugly!

One of the things Eric Mason (pastor and author of the study) says that I just can’t get out of my head is what if God loved us that way? What if He used our human system of judging and deeming who is and isn’t worthy of love. Ouch. I don’t want to live that way and I don’t want God to be that way. (Praise be that He is not!).  God loves us. Period. You, too. Right now. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, where ever you have been. When Jesus died on the cross it was for everyone, everywhere. Even if you curse His name until the day you die, He loves you.

It’s comforting for me to know that I am loved for who I am, right where I am. Imagine how we could make the whole world feel if we treated everyone that way? Anyone you meet, you can make them feel loved and valued. Not just the people who make it easy or comfortable: everyone. Try it. As you go about your day and interact with all different types of people, try to look at them like Go, does. Treat everyone as if they matter and are loved and have value because they do.

More to come about Jonah…..I could write a dang book!