Thursday, September 29, 2016

Not Many Words

Some nights, when the house quiets down after being filled with energy all day long, I find myself with words left over, ready to spill them out here.

Other nights, I've already poured out as many words as I can; and if I have the strength to stay up late, it's to be filled up with others' words, not put out more of my own.

Tonight is the second kind of night, and the words are flowing into me, not out--this time, they are the words of Jesse Stuart's classic book, The Thread that Runs So True which has sat on my bookshelf for years--a hand-me-down from my mother--but which I've never read.  I'm not sure why I waited so long.  It's inspiring me not only in how I approach education, but in how I approach life.

Before I read another chapter--and likely fall asleep while doing so--let me squeeze out a few thoughts.

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This evening, on my way to Josiah's speech and debate club meeting, I was half-listening to Moriah's prattle from two seats behind me in the big white van; but when I heard her describing her future, I tuned in more closely.  From her, I found out that she's going to have a cat named Love and is going to defend her home with guns and cannons.  She's also going to put a sign at the end of her driveway that says, "NO BAD GUYS.  But yes, good people allowed."  I'm sure with a sign like that, she'll never need to use those cannons.  ;-)  I don't think she's ever heard Theodore Roosevelt's saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," but I think she's got the concept down quite sufficiently.  :)

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A few days ago, I cleaned off the bathroom counter in preparation for our neighbor girl to come and clean.  She has started coming every week to clean the two bathrooms and the kitchen floor, and I CANNOT TELL YOU WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT MAKES in the feel of our home and the stress level of my soul.  Life-changing!  :)

As I removed random debris from the counter, I came across this scrap of paper, and paused to smile.
You see, ever since the kids heard how Jeff used to write notes to me in gum wrappers and hand them to me as if they were pieces of gum, they have been inspired to do the same.  This particular gum wrapper was given to me one day as I was in the bathroom, maybe after a shower.  I heard footsteps approaching and tensed a little, not because I expected someone to physically enter the bathroom (our bathroom doors have locks, after all, and I KNOW HOW TO USE THEM), but because I expected some request to be forthcoming from the lips of the child drawing near, or perhaps a complaint about a sibling's treatment of them.

Instead, a slip of paper was pushed by Tobin's hands under the crack at the bottom of the door, and on it he had written this simple message--a short, sweet "I love you," strong enough to melt me.

That might be the best bathroom interruption I've ever had.  :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Angels Watching Over Her {Moriah's Story}

Sometime around the moment when she sees her first pregnancy test turn positive, a new mental battleground opens up for a mother--the fight to conquer fear and worry--and suddenly, "do not worry" verses like Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-7 become incredibly difficult to obey.  Worrying about our children seems to go hand-in-hand with being a mom, even when we know it shouldn't.  Even when we strive to walk in peace and rest in trust.

At least, that's how it's been for me.  

Not only have there been some real-life, heart-stopping moments of sheer terror when my children have been injured or in danger (at the top of the list is Josiah's near-drowning, told here and here and here; but it also includes Shav's fall when he was a baby; as well as an incident at a water park in Tennessee when Tobin was just a little guy and slipped and went under water, completely unable to pull himself upright against the force of the water flowing over him, until I reached out and pulled him up; and I can't forget Moriah's cracked skull or Shav's perilous ride down the driveway), I've also had my share of terrifying dreams involving the safety of my kids--the kind of dreams that are so vivid that the impression of them lingers far after wakefulness comes.  Besides all of that, I also have a strange occurrence that doesn't happen every night but happens far more often than I would like: when I lie down at night to go to sleep, I regularly have a...I hardly know the word...a thought? a feeling? an impression? of something bad happening to me or my children.  I'm not asleep yet, so it's not a dream.  And I don't lay there and think, "Oh, I wonder what scary thought I'll have tonight," so it's not anything I'm drumming up on my own.  But completely unbidden will come a strange sensation of some tragedy happening--a different one each time.  Maybe I'm falling from a great height.  Maybe one of my children is.  Maybe we're in a car and a speeding truck is fast approaching.  Maybe a storm is coming.  Maybe a person, with intent to do harm.  One second I'm lying there peaceful and oblivious to anything fearful, and the next I'm feeling with such strength a strange sensation of fear related to something horrible happening.  Does that even make sense?  Perhaps not, but it happens quite often to me, and I hate it.

Well, enough about that.  It's time for Moriah's story.
This summer, there have been two times when near-tragedy struck Moriah; and I wonder if she'll remember them as she grows up.  So far, she does, and she brings them up every so often; but I know that as children grow, certain memories fade.  I don't mind if these particular memories are erased from her sweet mind; but if she does remember, I want her to know accurately what happened--and most of all, give glory to God for His hand of protection upon her. 

The first incident occurred maybe a month or so ago.  I had all the children with me, except for Josiah; and we had been in the library.  I hadn't been able to find a spot in the regular area where we park for library trips, so I had ended up parking in a parking garage downtown.  It's not that far to walk from there to the library, but we did have to cross a street to get from the garage to the library; and as we exited the library to return to our van, I was pushing Benjamin in the stroller, and the other four children were walking alongside.  When we got to the street we needed to cross, I stopped the stroller a little way back from the street like I routinely do, one of the younger boys (Shav, I believe) was asking if he could push the button for the crosswalk (to which I said yes), and I specifically remember that I said, "Wait!" with some urgency to make sure the kids knew that it wasn't time yet to cross.

But for some reason that I still don't understand, Moriah darted out in the street.

My heart stopped, and I COULD NOT GET TO HER physically because the stroller was between me and the street, and the other boys were around me.  I remember hoping in a split-second that David or someone else could grab her, but I knew they couldn't, and my words would have to stop her.

"MORIAH! NO!!" I yelled with probably more force than my kids have ever heard me use.

Thanks be to our merciful God, it worked; and she turned and ran back to the sidewalk where we were waiting.  It seemed like it took half of forever for the sound waves to reach her ears, register in her brain, and cause her steps to slow, then reverse; but I guess it wouldn't have seemed quite that long to a casual onlooker!  It sure did to me though.

Moriah was completely unhurt physically, but the aftermath of such an it-could-have-been-so-much-worse episode left me shaken--and Moriah, too, I think.  I still tremble when I remember that day, but it was especially frightening to me the next time I pulled up in front of the library for one of the boys to drop off books or run in and pick some up, and I noticed how many very large vehicles--trucks, buses, construction vehicles, etc.--go right down that street.  Two dump trucks went by while I was sitting there, and the wind thrown off those trucks caused my van to shake...and my knees and heart, too.  If something like that had been going by when Moriah ran out in the road............

After that happened, I kept Moriah's hand firmly in mine as we crossed the street and made our way back to our van, even though I felt confident she had learned her lesson and wouldn't do that again.  And then God comforted my heart.  You see, there is a tiny stream that we had to cross; and every since Josiah and David were my small boys, we would pause on the bridge and look down in the water to see if we could spot any ducks.  Sometimes we did, and we called them Mr. and Mrs. Mallard (from Make Way for Ducklings, of course). :)  On this day, I didn't see any ducks in the stream, but I did notice that the water was muddied and sort of idly thought that something must have done it.  And then I spotted a turtle--a large one, that had an ancient sort of look about him (her?) although I understand full well he could have been young.  What do I know about the age of turtles at the bottom of a creek bed?  :)  I had just enough time to call to all the kids to look in the water at the turtle, and they did, and then he slid down into the muddy water and disappeared from view entirely.  I don't recall ever seeing a turtle there before in all the times we've looked in that water, so that was a meaningful reassurance to me of God's presence and sovereignty--that He would cause me to look in the water at just the right time to spot the turtle.  It might seem silly, but it brought a little comfort to my heart--as did the fact that I was walking along, holding my daughter's hand, and she was safe and whole and unharmed.

Before I write about the second incident, let me say that we have been blessed this summer to get to go swimming quite often, especially in the pool of one of the families from our church.  The grandma Janie has the pool at her house, and she adores Benjamin and loves to hang out with him since he doesn't stay in the pool the whole time.  The mom Amanda works right beside the pool, and her kids Hannah and Dean are good friends of my kids, so it's a great situation all the way around, and we have been so grateful to have gotten to spend so much time there this summer.

One night, before we had a pool party there with some of the other kids from church, I had a dream in which Tobin was drowning in that pool, and I was trying to save him.  It didn't really make much sense (do dreams ever?) because Tobin can actually swim, but at that point in the summer, Shav and Moriah always wore life jackets so I didn't really worry about them, and I guess my anxiety manifested itself in the dream related to my newest, most inexperienced swimmer, and that would be Tobin.  It was one of those dreams that doesn't give up its fearful hold immediately, and I lay in bed after waking and tried to imagine what I would do if Tobin really did get in distress.  Could I save him?  I'm not a very strong swimmer, and I just wasn't sure I could lift him out of the water if he started to drown.  I lay there and thought and thought and felt and felt all the fear of such a terrifying experience.  I tried my old trick of rewriting the ending, but it didn't work very well; instead, my thoughts were like a broken record, and I couldn't get past the horrifying part of Tobin sinking down to the bottom of the pool.

It took me so long to get over those strong, strong feelings that I carried some of that anxiety into the pool party and was relieved when everything went fine, and Tobin didn't drown or even come close, and no one else did either.

Little did I know what would happen another time we were swimming there.

It happened on September 14.  We had been having a fantastic time playing in the pool and had taken a break to eat some yummy pizza.  I was sitting at a picnic table not far from the pool and was talking with Amanda when I heard Moriah crying--hard, loud crying.  I instantly got up and went towards the sound and discovered Moriah walking up the steps out of the pool, so I got down on my knees and wrapped her in my arms and held her as she cried.  And then I discovered what had happened.

Moriah had finished her pizza--her pizza that she had been eating right at my table in clear view of me--and without me noticing her departure, she left the table and went back to the pool, not stopping to put on her life jacket that we had taken off when we started eating.  She walked down into the pool and discovered, to her horror, that it was too deep and she couldn't touch the bottom; but thank God, she was holding on to the edge of the pool and could pull herself back up.  Once her head came back above water, she started crying and--here is the terrifying part for me--THAT WAS MY FIRST CLUE THAT SHE WAS IN THE POOL.  I had been COMPLETELY oblivious to her leaving the table and getting into the water.

For the most part, I consider myself an attentive, involved, cautious parent; and even that day, I had been counting heads NUMEROUS times to make sure all my children were safe.  When Moriah went to the bathroom in the porta potty (the cleanest one I've ever seen, by the way!) by the pool, I went with her and kept a hand near her to catch her in case she started to slip in.  I always make sure my children's seatbelts are buckled in the car, I check on them once or twice or more in the night, I didn't even let Benjamin have a single stuffed animal in his crib until he turned a year old, etc.  I think I'm pretty careful.

And yet...

There I was, stuffing pizza in my face, talking with my friend, while my precious little girl walked right into that pool without her life jacket and COULD HAVE DROWNED.  It sickens my heart to think that I WOULDN'T HAVE EVEN KNOWN IT.  I ask myself, "WHEN would I have looked up and noticed her absence?  When would I have done my next head count and come up one short?"  And then my mind starts to race with appalling imaginations of where she might have been, and...  I can't even go there, but it's hard to stop those terrorizing thoughts.

As I held Moriah in my arms, she sobbed, "I just want to go home!" and I was reminded of how Josiah said that exact thing when he nearly drowned so many years ago.  As it turned out, we didn't leave immediately, and Moriah calmed down, and she has enjoyed being in the pool since then (although the next time we went, there were strong warnings about how she was not to go in the pool without her life jacket and was not to go in without me knowing); but my mind has replayed those events a thousand times with equal parts revulsion that I let my daughter get into such danger in the first place and gratitude that even when I was not doing my job of protecting her, GOD WAS.

So many times I battled with the thought of "how could I ever forgive myself if something had happened to her?" and I even emailed Jeff about it with words of apology for what I saw as a monumental failure on my part.  He so kindly reassured me by saying, "There is no other woman on the planet I trust as much as you," and then continued on with words of love and a reminder of God's protection.  That helped my heart immensely.

In the days after these incidents, especially the one in the pool, I looked at Moriah with new eyes--eyes that were refreshed by thankfulness, eyes that had the film of ordinariness swept away by the thought of what life would be like without her.  She is so alive!  And lively!  So vivacious!  Filled with color and movement and light and laughter!  So real, so present, so warm and solid as her little body snuggles against me and her arms reach around my neck.  I watch her frolic, and my heart sings a mighty chorus of thanksgiving.  I tiptoe into her room at night and heave a sigh of relief as I watch her breathe (I especially did that the first night after she went in the pool unannounced; I just HAD to make sure she was OK, so I kept checking on her every little bit).
She's fine, totally fine, but it might not have turned out this way.  But for the grace of God, we could have been enduring our greatest tragedy.

I can't count how many times I've thanked God for His hand of protection on Moriah after these two incidents, but I don't plan to stop anytime soon!  I'm reminded of the old Amy Grant song "Angels Watching Over Me."  When I was at summer camp as a child, my cabin acted out that song in a skit we did for the camp's talent show.  It was great fun, and I appreciated the message of that song even then.  How much more so now, as I've seen so vividly how fragile is the cord of life and how quickly it can be broken.

In years to come, I want Moriah to know about these incidents--and by knowing, to give glory to God as she knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that His hand has been on her life.  He's been the one who has guided her, protected her, and given her life, and He's the one who has a glorious plan for her future.  All praise to Him!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday {SVCC Retreat, Last Saturday}

Such a fun day!!





 For some of the day, I had all the kids with me, so occasionally I had to take pictures of my pre-SVCC children, too...in addition to all the pictures I was taking of the choirs.  :)


































 Sharon is a dear, dear lady; and when she bent down to talk to Benjamin, he grabbed hold of her and would not let go.  He was loving all the attention from her!!  :)












 While the choristers were inside the auditorium doing/watching skits, I had to take Benjamin out because he decided he needed to try out his voice then, too.  ;-)  I didn't get to photograph the skits, but I did get to photograph the boy!  ;-)









My three favorite choristers!  :)


We sure do love the SVCC!  :)