Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Morning Sickness Myth

       There are some commonly accepted terms in the English language that hold very little resemblance to what actually can occur in reality.  The term "morning sickness" is such a term used frequently to describe the length of time during pregnancy when a woman is most likely to be sick- typically during the first trimester.  I am currently almost 13 weeks pregnant and have a deep grievance with the misnomer of "morning sickness".  I am convinced that a male came up with this description- knowing nothing of what women can actually experience.  Or perhaps it was a lucky woman (hate her) who actually experienced "just morning sickness".  Whoever coined the term, they have done a severe disservice to those of us who aren't quite so lucky as to only have "morning sickness".  

       If you are one of the lucky ones who fits the standard mold of typical morning sickness symptoms, count yourself blessed.  If you are one of the cursed that has a story similar to mine- God bless you, sister.  You are not alone.  No matter where you fall on the pregnancy sickness spectrum, I write this piece in order to help spread understanding that this journey of pregnancy isn't a pleasant one for all of us.  So before you pass someone off as being overly dramatic when they talk about how sick they've been, or before you casually offer pat remedies of "preggie pops" and gingerale, take a moment to gain some understanding of the other side and just how severe "morning sickness" can be.

     Before I go any further though, I feel compelled to lay out a few disclaimers.  First and foremost, I am in no way saying or implying through this "airing of pregnancy grievances" that I am ungrateful to have the blessing and ability of growing a precious life in my womb.  I know that it is a privilege and I am beyond thankful for each life that the Lord has given us.  I look forward to holding this sweet babe more than anything.  After giving birth to 3 healthy babies and also having experienced 2 painful and heartbreaking miscarriages, I am ever-aware and grateful for the life that currently grows within. But the journey... the journey getting there is not a smooth one for me.   Secondly, there will be some frank, matter-of-fact, "this is my reality", TMI-pregnancy talk that goes into this blog entry.  If you embarrass easily, don't want to know such details, or get squeamish please quit reading.  Thirdly, I can be sarcastic.  Pregnancy brings it out in me more.  You have been warned.  If you don't want to read such a take on pregnancy, go break out your sunshine and roses article about pregnancy where every pregnant woman has a glow, never throws up, only gains 10 lbs. and leaves the hospital in her pre-pregnancy jeans.  There are some out there.  I relate in NO WAY to any of them.  I want to flick those women in the noses.  Fourthly, I know this is not every one's experience.  Some women have had it much worse; I pray most have had it better.  This is my experience.  

         "Morning Sickness"- it's something I had heard multiple times before even getting married or considering having babies.  Like many other naive, uninformed people, I thought of pregnancy through rose-colored glasses.  Someday I would marry Prince Charming and start a family.  We would leap for joy upon seeing the positive pregnancy test and bask in glorious wonder during 9 months of bliss as my tummy expanded and baby bumped around inside. Sure, there may be some morning sickness, but through those rose colored glasses, I envisioned maybe waking up in the morning and feeling a little queasy, perhaps even spitting up a bit in the sink as I tried to brush my teeth.  Having an aversion to smells, maybe... having a craving for pickles and ice cream, certainly, because that's what they do in the movies.  No problem.  I would be ready.  I would be armed.  I would read the pregnancy how-to books.  My nightstand will be prepared with crackers and ginger to nibble on before getting out of bed and from there I'd be "good to go" for the rest of the day.  After all, it's "just morning sickness". 

        And then reality hit.  A year after marrying my Prince Charming we did, in fact, gather around that positive pregnancy test and for 2 weeks basked in the "parents-to-be" glow.  And then the morning sickness hit at 6 weeks gestation.  Whoa.... What was this?  Around the clock morning sickness?  Incessant vomiting?  Non-stop nausea?  No one had warned me about this.  By my 8 week appointment with the OB I was begging for relief.  I had been couch bound and hurling for 2 weeks straight and thought I was going to die.  He prescribed Zofran, and though it didn't cure the 24-hour nausea, it did lessen the vomiting.  I was able to once again keep most foods and liquid down and looked forward to that magical week 12 everyone talked about when I would be past the worst of it.  Unfortunately that magical week didn't come for me until 22 weeks along.  It was a miserable 5 1/2 months.  I still threw up almost every day, but the Zofran was enough to allow me to function so I plugged along and finally gave birth to our daughter.

      Nearly 2 years later I went into my second pregnancy a little wiser.  I scheduled my first appointment for the earliest they would see me- right at 6 weeks- and I wasn't going to leave the office without a Zofran prescription.   By the time my next appointment came 4 weeks later, I was in the office crying that the Zofran wasn't working.  I was throwing up multiple times a day- the worst day I can remember I had lost count after 14.  When my stomach was empty, I would throw up bile, when that was empty, I would dry heave.  I went from the bed, to the couch, to the bathroom, and not much of anywhere else.  My 2 year old memorized every Disney movie we owned almost word for word, because that's all I could manage to do with her.  My doctor wanted to try a new "non medicated" device on me in conjunction with the Zofran.  Since Zofran was the only medicine I had known anyone to take and it wasn't working for me, I was game to try anything.  I don't even remember the name of the device, but it was basically a tight wrist band that gave electrical shocks to the pressure points on your wrist every 90 seconds.  It did nothing to alleviate the sickness, just added to the frustration of the whole situation.  Because who doesn't want something sending shocks into their wrist every minute and a half and still be dealing with continuous vomiting.  I put up with the device for almost 10 days before determining it was not going to work and was back in the OB office begging for something- anything.  Finally, it was here I was given the only thing that works for me to alleviate the constant "morning sickness"- Prednisone, also known as, steroids.   Once again, it didn't take away every single symptom.  I still felt nauseous daily, and I was still throwing up several times a week, but I was able to regain some functionality.  The "morning sickness" this time around lasted until 25 weeks and then ultimately I gave birth to a healthy son.

     Another 2 years went by which included one miscarriage, and then another positive pregnancy test that would give us our third child.  By now my doctor knew my history and I was given the Zofran right away and allowed to start the steriods by week 8.  As was my previous experiences, each pregnancy gets worse, and this time a 3rd medication had to be added to combat severe ulcer and acid reflux issues.  Despite the 3 meds, I still threw up frequently, felt nauseous almost 24/7, and didn't make my "no more vomitting" turn-around until 28 weeks.  Having 2 kids to care for made things even more difficult.  At 31 weeks I was put on modified bed rest for 3 weeks due to low amniotic fluid levels and possible pre-eclampsia symptoms. It was miserable.  I was "emergency-induced" to have my second son at 38 weeks and was sure then that I was done with this baby-making journey.  I knew I had always wanted 4 kids, but I couldn't imagine going through another pregnancy and having 3 kids to try to care for in the process.  It was an overwhelming thought.  

     When we passed the typical 2 year time span and there was no new pregnancy to report, I had mixed emotions.  On one hand I wasn't sure our family was complete, on the other I didn't have a strong urge or even willingness to go through another pregnancy.   Each one was progressively harder on my body.  Harder on me mentally and emotionally.  Harder on my family.  We didn't do anything "permanent" to prevent, yet we weren't intentionally trying for anything either. 

        In the fall of 2013, my oldest daughter began praying every night for another baby in our family.  Oh boy... What do you do with that?!  We couldn't discourage her prayers, yet we weren't encouraging them either.  We just told her it was up to God.   Another year passed, and we had a big surprise when I took a positive pregnancy test while on vacation in Florida in August of 2014.  The pregnancy dread set in, but with it an excitement that this was God's answer to whether or not we were done growing our family.  Because of timing issues I made my first appointment for 8 weeks and was getting by at home with some of my kid's left over Zofran prescriptions.  The "morning sickness" never hit hard and I was feeling optimistic, as I wasn't feeling nearly as sick as with my previous pregnancies.  I thought I had hit the lottery and caught a lucky break this time around.  Just 3 days before my first appointment, the reason behind why I wasn't feeling as sick fell upon me.  I began the painful, difficult process of going through my second miscarriage.  You can read about that in my previous post "Silent Suffering".  The effects of the miscarriage lasted nearly 4 months, required multiple doctor's appointments, and took a physical and emotional toll on me and my family.   Ending the family-building  journey with a miscarriage seemed to be such a sad closing to a large chapter in our lives.  But I was coming to terms with the fact that maybe my body couldn't go through another pregnancy. 

       And that brings us up to date:  Still raw from a miscarriage, but trusting that God still held our future, we began 2015 feeling grateful for renewed health and the family that we have.  And then, just 5 months after my difficult miscarriage, it came as HUGE shock when I was suddenly taking another pregnancy test and was surprised by the positive results.  My mind raced.... What are you doing, God??  What if I miscarry again?  How can I go through that again?

       Because of the recent miscarriage I went in to see the doctor just before my 5th week to have my blood levels checked.  My blood levels confirmed the pregnancy and my levels looked healthy and an appointment was set for half way into my 6th week.  I went ahead and requested a Zofran prescription while I was in there because I had already started to feel really sick.  This was definitely different than the miscarried pregnancy from 5 months earlier when I hadn't felt that bad.  Just how different it would be from all previous pregnancies would soon be discovered.

        I had decided to switch doctors just before miscarrying in the fall, and decided to stick with my new OB for this newly discovered pregnancy.  By the time my appointment came around at 6 weeks,  I was already in the complete throws of "morning sickness".  Worse than I had experienced in any pregnancy before, and the Zofran wasn't touching it.   I went in and had to give a brief run-down of my history of severe sickness and what we had tried in the past and what had finally worked in the past.  For better or worse, my new OB is more conservative when it comes to giving prescriptions, particularly steroids.  Since he didn't have direct experience with my pregnancy history, he wanted to try a new medication and avoid the steroids if possible.  I reluctantly but hopefully agreed to try this new medication, Diclegis, in conjunction with the Zofran.  And this is when things started to go downhill very quickly.  This is when I became familiar with the more appropriate term for my pregnancy condition.  It wasn't just morning sickness.  For severe cases, it is termed hypermesis gravidarum.  You can google the technical definition but here's my take on it:  absolute and utter misery and extreme sickness during pregnancy with little to no relief no matter what you try. 

       At just 6 weeks along and on 2 prescription meds, I was already bed-to-couch-to-bathroom-bound.  Unable to stand or even move much due to severe nausea that would lead easily to vomiting.  Think of the worst case of the stomach virus you have ever had and extend that awful 24-48 hour bug over the course of 6 weeks, and you may come close to understanding the misery.  My days began to blur together. As the weeks progressed, the symptoms grew worse.  I would wake up in the morning when my kids did, but often couldn't even bring myself to transfer to the couch until well past noon.  I couldn't even make it to the bathroom for the rounds of vomiting and had to rely on puking into a bowl instead.  In between vomiting, the nausea was crippling.  It felt as though there was a volcano ready to erupt at any time just below my throat- like the food I was able to get in my system would just sit there, threatening to come back up at any time.  I lived primarily on water, occasional ginger ale, plain baked potatoes, and chicken and rice soup- but I had to take the chicken out- it required too much chewing and led to gagging and vomiting.

        I had suggestions out the wazoo on what could help me- some bizarre, some worth trying, some not even feasible because I couldn't stomach the thought of the suggestion none-the-less actually try it.  My snarky side wanted to throw stuff at these well-meaning people and shout, "Sure- the meds I'm on aren't helping, but a frozen ginger-pop will be my miracle cure." 

        I quit brushing my teeth, absolutely couldn't do it- I resorted to wiping them off with a paper towel.  I went 4-5 days in between showers because I simply couldn't stand that long and when I did get a shower, it was always followed by an intense episode of puking.  My hair was nearly matted to my head and constantly itchy.  My hair even started falling out.  My lips were constantly peeling skin from them.  I stunk.   I was too sick to care.  I didn't leave the bed or couch, never the less my house.  I couldn't care for my kids.  My husband and mom stepped in to take over laundry, food, and cleaning duties.  We wouldn't have survived without their self-sacrifice.  My kids would come into my room to do their school work on the floor while I "supervised" from the bed.  I couldn't even make them lunch, or get them a drink.  I had to have them bring me water and food.  Ava took over breakfast and lunch duties on many days, or Shannon would have to premake lunches before he left.   The kids had free-reign over the house and would leave it in shambles.  We were constantly in disaster-mode, as much as my hubby tried to keep up between work and laundry and dinners and bedtime- it was just too much.  The inability to help made me feel worse.  There were days when I would just break down and cry. Feeling constantly sick was physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. There seemed to be no end in sight.  The only relief came while I slept, but would resume as soon as I woke and another day would repeat like the one before.  I spiraled into terrible thoughts, almost to the point of praying for a miscarriage just to bring relief from the cycle of sickness.  Then I would feel guilty for having these awful thoughts.  And in the rare moment when I would feel slightly better, I was crippled by those same thoughts and worried and cried that I might in fact be miscarrying.  It was all taking a toll on me.

      By 8 weeks pregnant not only had the Hypermesis symptoms worsened, but the side effects of the medications I was on were in full swing.  Zofran is clearly labeled with warnings about causing headaches, and as one who often suffers migraines, I was not exempt from this side effect.  The lesser talked about side effect of Zofran, however, is constipation. (Yep, here comes the TMI).  Crippling constipation.  Having started the Zofran at 5 weeks, I was on my 3rd week of being backed up and unable to pass anything more than rabbit pellets from my system.  Granted, I wasn't eating a lot or keeping down a lot, but even then, quite a bit had built up in my digestive tract, and it wasn't moving at all.  I tried everything- juices, fiber pills, fiber drinks- nothing brought relief, just extra gas pains, which were blocked from passing too, and just added to the misery.  It caused constant burping, which always threatened to evolve to vomiting.  The back up got so bad that I could no longer keep soup down- there was simply no where for it to go.  I would almost immediately throw up after trying to eat.  I was in a constant cycle of hunger-caused nausea, then trying to eat, then throwing up, then feeling hungry and nauseous and weak, and the cycle continued.  Then the debilitating stomach cramping started.  I would sit on the toilet, often for over an hour, and have little to show for it except a trash can full of vomit- nothing like having both ends active at once.  If something did manage to pass, it was extremely painful, and disappointingly non-helpful as it brought no relief.  You know those spiked, prickly seed pods that fall from trees in the autumn?  Imagine the feeling of trying to pass one of those, but it never quite passes.  Sometimes it comes close, but seems to get stuck and just sits there until your next hour long session in the bathroom.  The cramps don't go away, but they don't produce any relief.  Debilitating is the only way I can describe it.  Awful.  Nothing glamorous about this.  The situation became urgent, as I was in danger of dehydrating from not keeping anything down, and in danger of becoming impacted from not getting anything to pass.  I ultimately had to resort to calling my OB on a Sunday and sending my husband out for an emergency purchase of a Fleet Enema.  Just another thing to add to my lovely experience.  Gross.  Disgusting.  Nothing magical about this.  The enemas did, thankfully, bring some relief.  But until I am off the Zofran, these enemas will be a part of my bi-weekly routine. 

     By 9 weeks pregnant, I had found a solution to the terrible constipation, but was still severely sick- throwing up multiple times a day to the point of throwing up bile and then dry-heaving.  I had an unceasing burning/fullness-sensation in my stomach and terrible reflux unlike anything I had ever experienced.  After a little research, (hello, Google) it was discovered that the Diclegis I was on could cause and worsen symptoms of ulcers for those that are susceptible to ulcers.  Of course.  Why not.  Because I needed to add one more thing to my issues.  One more thing to keep me from functioning and taking care of myself and my family.

      Just 2 days before my 10 week check-up, I had reached a new level of desperation.   I hadn't kept anything down but sips of water and a few bites of food in 3 days.   I had lost 13 pounds in 5 weeks.  I was weak and at a mental breaking point.  My mom volunteered to come over, and despite not wanting to be seen in such a condition, I didn't protest.  She brought with her some contraband Prednisone from my sister's arthritis prescription.  Within an hour after taking it, I was able to get out of bed.  I was able to take a shower.  I still threw up after the shower, but was then able to eat and kept that food down.  Just 2.5 mg and I was able to sit up and feel more human.  Once again, the pill I had needed with my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies seemed to be the miracle cure for this one. 

      I went into my next appointment armed with my pitiful experience over the previous 4 weeks and was ready to beg, borrow, or steal in order to be prescribed some Prednisone.  I presented my case thoroughly and left his office with a scrip for steroids.  He only prescribes it for extreme cases.  Steroids aren't something to take lightly.  I get it.  They have side effects all their own, including mood changes, weight gain,  fluid retention, increased blood pressure, sleep disturbance, and the possibility of suppressing your body's natural adrenal gland hormone production.  He determined the risks outweighed the detriment caused by the way I was living up to that point.  I was to start out with a mega-dose of 40 mg and step it down by 5 milligrams every 3 days until I was down to just 5 mg after 3 1/2 weeks.  He also discontinued my use of Diclegis, and put me on Zantac 2 times a day to try to repair any ulcer damage and bring relief to the reflux.

       And that brings us to today.  I am on my second week of being on steroids, still taking Zofran, and now also Zantac.   I never take so many medications as when I am pregnant.  I am thankful for something that is working though.  Some women with Hypermesis are unable to find any relief and remain sick until delivery.  I can't imagine.  Overall, I have had a major turn around.   I seem to have fallen into a pattern of 2 good days in row, where almost I feel completely normal, save some slight nausea.  Some slight nausea that I can only imagine is what text book cases of "morning sickness" experiencers feel.  After 2 good days, I then seem to completely crash for one.  Back to being bed-bound, but not throwing up non-stop, so I'll still take that.  Then I have a mediocre day before starting the cycle again.  I have been able to slowly add foods back into my diet, and it feels good to be able to eat more normally again and keep it down.  I haven't weighed, but I'm sure my weight will be coming back up quickly, particularly with the steroids.  The most troublesome side effect of the steroids has been the interrupted sleep.  I haven't gotten more than 4-5 hours per night since starting the steroids, and even that is choppy.  It is frustrating, but compared to how I had been feeling, I will take the trade off.  I also have a higher susceptibility to infection while on steroids, and like clock-work, have contracted a nasty cough/sinus infection that has drained me for the past 4 days.  Because, why not, let's just add something else to the mix. 

        Tomorrow I go back to the OB to update him on how the new meds are working.  Overall, two thumbs up.  I am most anxious about checking on how baby is doing.  Even though I know it must be the meds making me feel better, my mind still worries about miscarrying.  In a warped way, feeling so sick constantly was a small comfort in knowing that I was still pregnant and plugging along.  Feeling better offers me no such reassurance.  I know... It's a roller-coaster ride through crazy town. 

       And that is my journey with baby #4 thus far.  I have another pre-approved week and a half of being on steroids before being weaned off of them.  I am praying that I won't revert back to how it was before I started them.  I anticipate needing to stay on the Zofran and Zantac up through the 3rd trimester, as each pregnancy the sickness lasted longer and with the last one I was still throwing up at 28 weeks.

       If you have stuck it out reading this far, bless you- sorry for my wordiness.  I hope it will offer some insight to those who cannot relate, and some comfort to know you aren't alone to those who can.  Pregnancy sickness can't always be minimized down to "morning sickness".  Pregnancy sickness, particularly HG, can be a difficult, tumultuous, worry-filled, agonizing journey.  To me the only redeeming part of being pregnant is when I start to feel the baby move.  But even then, I'd go through labor 100 times over to just skip the 9 months of pregnancy.  I don't enjoy being pregnant, even remotely.  I no longer feel guilty about saying that.  It doesn't make me a bad mom.  It doesn't make me a bad person. I just no longer feel a need to conform to the world's expectations of a glowing, raving, happy pregnant woman.  I am still ever so grateful for the new life that will come from this.  But until we get there, please forgive me if I slap the next person who asks me how the "morning sickness" is going and suggests I try some ginger pops. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Silent Suffering

Don’t Suffer in Silence

This has been my mantra to my life group and my discipleship group for several years now.  It comes from a desire to be authentic.  To be genuine.  To allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable with the very people who make up the body of Christ.  1 Cor. 12:25-26, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together…”

But how can we suffer together if we aren't aware of each other's suffering?  So often in the Christian realm we put on our Sunday best, accessorize with our Bibles and a smile, and greet one another under the church steeple with a “Hi!  How are you?” and a disingenuous “I’m fine” through a plastered smile.  Where in truth, on any given day, we may be cloaking a deep pain or grief that threatens to overtake us at any moment and dissolve us into a pile of tears. 

That was me this weekend.  Cloaking grief.  Forcing smiles.  Hiding the pain.  Carrying on because I must carry on.   But here’s the thing:  I don’t like feeling fake.  I don’t particularly like baring my pain for all to see either, but quiet suffering doesn’t help healing.  Not to mention I am one who has frequently found writing and baring my soul a cathartic and healing exercise.

So here goes:  I am currently, as I type, in the midst of a miscarriage.  Actually, my 2nd miscarriage.  My emotions are raw.  My tears depleted.  My hormones in overdrive.  My hopes for what could have been are dashed. 
While on vacation in August, Shannon and I were surprised to discover that we were pregnant.  Yes, SURPRISED, but trusting God’s plan and looking forward to a bonus addition to our current family of 5. 
The subsequent 4 weeks after our discovery went along as expected- nausea and queasiness and a growing excitement for the time when we could share the news with our family- but only AFTER the long anticipated first doctor’s appointment and confirmation.  On the day before that scheduled appointment, something just didn’t quite feel right.  My queasiness had very suddenly subsided, and rather than feel grateful, I felt uneasy about it.  I had been through a miscarriage between the births of my 2nd and 3rd child, so I knew feeling sick was a “good sign”.  Suddenly not feeling sick worried me a bit.  Later that night I had a sharp abdominal pain, and then the telltale signs of the beginnings of a miscarriage.

I didn’t sleep well that night leading up to my doctor’s appointment.  We got our appointment time bumped up a little and went in to see the OB.  A well-meaning nurse came in clapping and cheerful for my filled out paperwork report of a positive pregnancy test as my "reason for visit", but quickly changed her demeanor as I told her through tears that something was not right.
The doctor came in and compassionately talked with me before the ultrasound.  He is a believer, and encouraged me that either way, God is in control.  I know this.  My faith is unwavering.  My heart and emotions though don’t always want to keep in line with my faith. 

The scan was ultimately not comforting.  Though I should have been 8 weeks pregnant, the baby measured somewhere between 5-6 weeks, and no heartbeat was conclusively found.  My doctor still offered some hope that all was not yet lost- my dates could be off, the heartbeat not yet detectable- I would return next week for follow up blood tests and another scan.  But in my heart I just knew.  And my heart was breaking.
I was sent home to “wait and see”, but scheduled commitments prevented me from just sitting around in my tears to wait.  I have a family to care for- and thankfully a wonderful husband to pick up the slack.  But I also have a business to run.  And for that I have no back up.  I teach painting classes to groups of people who have been on my schedule for well over 2 months.  Knowing there was nothing I could do to either prevent or further cause a miscarriage, I went ahead on Friday night to my already scheduled painting party. 

Just 3 hours after leaving the doctor with potentially devastating news, I put on my apron, grasped my paint brushes, and stood before a group of strangers.  And I carried on “as usual” for what turned out to be one of my LONGEST classes ever.  I was friendly.  I was upbeat.  I was patient and kind as I instructed.  But I was silently dying on the inside with each cramp and pain that I knew were signs of a life leaving me. 

As it turned out, I had to repeat this ritual for yet another class on Saturday, well after the bleeding had increased and the inevitable was obvious.  Smile.  Talk.  Be kind.  Be helpful.  Keep on smiling.  Force that smile for the pregnant girl in the room and the gushing of the other women as they congratulate her on her due date which is just one week from what mine would have been.  Turn it on auto-pilot and keep on keeping on.

Sunday I dragged myself out of bed and went to church.  The despair of being home alone with my grief seemed harder than faking a smile and actually being around people.  I mostly avoided any contact with anyone other than family.  Eye contact that was too long or a hug that was too personal may have broken my wall of protection and burst forth the floodgates.  So I avoided.
Where am I going with this?  Why do I share something so personal already?  Partly because I know I'm not alone in this particular loss, yet it seems miscarriage is often relegated to the "secret" and "the not talked about".  Partly because writing is my release.  Partly because if you see me and I look sad, at least you'll know why.
But I could have kept silent.  Or I could have at least waited until I was on the other side of the suffering and written a message that could be wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end.  There is no pretty bow, but there are a few things I do know as I wade in the midst of this pain.  So as my pastor often concludes his messages with “walking points”, let me leave you with this:

1.     Without a doubt, I know God is sovereign.  He is in control.  I know He has a purpose for everything that He allows into our lives. I don't know why He allowed this surprise pregnancy to begin with, and then took it away.  I can't understand His ways.  But I do know He will sustain and heal my family as we work through and move past this difficult life event.  Ps. 119:50, “My comfort in my suffering is this:  Your promise preserves my life.”  God is good.  All the time.  He promises to work things together for His goodness.  His goodness is most evident through times of suffering.  It seems it would be the opposite, but in times of pain we are drawn closer to His goodness and can receive His comfort.  We are not guaranteed a life without pain, but we are given the HOPE that comes only from Him when that pain comes.

2.    You never know what someone else is going through.  This weekend was rough.  It was among the toughest I’ve endured.  It caused me to reflect on how often there are others walking around, carrying on with life while masking a deep hurt within their hearts.  Oh that we could see others as Jesus sees.  Maybe we’d be more compassionate with the short-tempered check-out lady, or more patient with the car that drives too slowly in front of us, or more loving to the rude customer service employee who answered the phone.  Sure, some of them may just be being ugly for no reason, but it may also be that they are going through their day suffering in silence.

3.    Speaking of which, I will repeat this once more:  Don’t suffer in silence.  Does this mean you have to bear your soul to everyone you come into contact with?  Write a blog detailing your pain and post it on FB?  No.  (But don’t judge me for doing so- we all get through things differently.)  You should, however, have a core group of people with whom you can “share in suffering”.  Before leaving for my doctor’s appointment, I messaged my family and a core group of ladies that I knew would uphold me in prayer, cry tears with me, and support me with words of understanding and encouragement.  God did not create us to be islands, rather “one body”.  The joy of unity is found when we not only suffer in grief and trials with one another, but also when we get to rejoice- when we come through the other side of that grief and see God’s faithfulness in action.

So, have you been guilty of suffering in silence before?   Of putting on the mask and pretending all is OK.  I urge you to take off the mask.  There is a strength that is found in vulnerability.  There is a comfort that is found in sharing your pain with others.  There is soul-soothing that is offered by Christ when we open our hearts to others in His body of believers.  There is sweet fellowship that is found beyond the surface of being OK and allowing ourselves to share one another’s burdens. 
There is hope.  There is grace.  There is healing.  There is love.  We have Christ and we have each other.  And ultimately, I know that is enough.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stop Signs

In the fast paced nature that is our world now, there are very few times when we welcome stop signs.  We see it coming.  We know it's there.  We will make the required brief pause, but we don't want to linger too long because we have a destination in mind.  We want to roll through.  We have things to do and people to see.  Schedules to keep and better places to go.  We stop, but we don't want to sit. 

Like roads, life seems to be freckled with various stop signs along the journey. And just as with roads, it is rare that we actually take pause and sit and reflect at these life stop signs.

We so often just go day to day accustomed to our routines and working our way through fully planned calendars, that we fail to stop and reflect on what it is that makes our lives worth living.  All the while the sands of time are so quickly sliding through our unaware, busy fingers. 

These small pauses of reflection come naturally at certain stop signs along the road of life.  The first memorable stop sign for me was my highschool graduation.  My reflective mood seemed to start brewing at the beginning of my senior year and percolated all the way up to graduation night where I was just one giant ball of reflecting emotions sitting at the stop sign.

You see, I didn't have the typical tormented high school experience.  Oh, it had its moments, but overall, I loved high school.  LOVED it.  Not the homework.  Not the classes.  Not the sports (I didn't play). Not the boyfriends (I didn't date).  No, I loved highschool because I was given a gift.

In seventh grade I was given a core group of 3 close friends who would eventually help to mold who I became.  The Lord knew what he was doing when He put them in my life.  He knew who to put around me to meet me at some of life's upcoming stop signs.  

We spent 6 years together. Cramming for tests.  Complaining about teachers.  Creating inside jokes. Liking this boy.  Hating that boy.  Liking this boy again.  We spent  birthdays and breaks together.  We shared secrets.  We swapped houses from weekend to weekend.  We had four moms among us that were like moms to us all.  We talked.  We laughed.  We cried.  We laughed til we cried.  We bonded.  

It would take pages upon pages to describe the bond.  To record the memories.  To detail the impact these girls and these years had on my life. 

And then it all culminated in that one night.  That first big stop sign in life.  There was both sadness and excitement.  Both looking back and looking forward.  Thinking of what was and what was to come.  Promises to stay in touch.  Many hugs.  Many more tears.  We paused and reflected and oh-so-suddenly, we graduated.  

We entered the college years.  And as it happens with most high school friendships, our pre-graduation promises led to post-graduation reality.  We'd get together for lunch.  We'd have the occasional reminiscent slumber party.  We'd meet up for coffee and dessert.  Efforts to stay in touch dwindled slowly over the years until we became friends who only saw each other at those other big life stop signs.  

One by one we celebrated engagements and wedding showers.  We saw each other married off.  We cheered for pregnancy announcements and showered each other with baby gifts.  Each time we got together we would pick up where we left off.  Sharing more laughs.  Crying a few tears.  And inevitably voicing regret over lost time, making promises to do better in the years to come, and falling back into old patterns of individually busy lives.

And then it happens. You get the call or read the text and at this stop sign, the busy of life just stops.  You realize one of your precious friends has been hit with a really BIG life changing moment.  The moment that changes life through a life that has ended.  Your friend has lost a parent.  Your friend has lost her mom. 

You take a deep breath and you approach this unwanted stop sign in the road.  This particular pause in the journey has a way of hitting you like no other.  In dealing with death you are forced to reflect on life.  

Last night as we four friends stood there together in the funeral home, I was suddenly overwhelmed by how quickly time has passed.  We weren't supposed to me making a stop here already.  We were just celebrating graduations and weddings and births... We liked to meet at those stop signs.  But at this is one we'd rather keep rolling through.  We don't like this stop.  And yet, we all showed up.  

We were there because we all understood the gift we were given all those many years ago. 

We once again picked up where we had left off.  We shared hugs.  We shed tears.  We shed even more tears.  We reminisced and reflected and laughed to lighten the mood.  We clenched our fists despite that slipping sand of time and for a moment it slowed down and the busy of life went away.  We reflected. 

We came to a complete stop.  

And we sat at the stop sign. 


Monday, April 2, 2012

Our Reality-Dream Home

Have you ever driven by a house and wondered what it looked like inside?  Ever just wanted to knock on a door and ask for a tour?  Or are you obsessed with before and after shots of room re-do's?  If so, you are a girl (or guy) after my own heart! 

 I've always been curious about what people's homes look like inside.  I've never gone so far as to knock on a door, but I have squinted my eyes to peer in a window or two as I drive by.  (A good reason, by the way, for you to invest in blinds... for those other interior drive-by peepers like me.) 

I was lucky growing up working with my dad, The Window Washer, I got to see the interiors of many large, impressive homes.  Even in my teenage years I was interested in art and home decor and loved dreaming about my future home as I walked from room to room looking around washing windows. 

Then in highschool I discovered the show Trading Spaces.  Remember that one?  This was before Ty Pennington was on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and was the energetic carpenter for a variety of quirky designers.  It was this show that got me addicted to room make overs.  There are other great shows now, but this was an original, and it showed you how to do it on a budget.  And that's what I need... interesting ideas and ways to do it on a budget.  Now, I've never covered a wall with hay, or wine labels (yes, those were real episodes), but my love for color and lack of plain white or beige walls in my home now probably stems from this show I watched so many years ago. 

I did my first room make over in college, after my older sister had gotten married, and I had my own room in my parent's house for the first time in my life.  It was nothing extravagant.  I sponge painted the walls (yep, it was the 90's) and bought my first bedroom set with my own money, and bought a new bedding and curtain ensemble.  It wasn't much, but it was enough for my mom to trust me to help her with some more rooms in the house.  Ultimately, I redid her living room and hallway, her dining room, and two bathrooms.  I was bitten by the redecorating bug. 

I have no interior design training.  I wish I did.  What I do have is an inherited love for decorating, an artistic eye, and an ability to see things for what they could be.

The ability to see potential "before and afters" in rooms collided with my love for peering into people's homes when we started our house hunt 6 years ago.  Not counting the homes that I viewed on line or the ones I dragged my mom along for a drive-by, we actually toured over 50 houses looking for our home.  It took 6 months. 

In August of 2006, I planned a group of houses to look at with my mom, then 13 month old Ava, and our realtor, Al.  Our typical house hunting dates would consist of 4 or 5 house viewings in a particular area.  After striking the first 2 houses off the list, we headed to #3. 

And on this day, the third time was a charm!

We drove down a dead end street, pulled into a driveway, and then... the clouds parted, rays of sun shone down, and there was a hint of the hallelujah chorus ringing in my ears... 

OK, so not really, but there was a huge smile on my face before we even unlocked the front door.  I just had "that feeling" that this would be our house. 

We entered the house and were greeted by an abundance of space, sunlight, and a lot of country blue.  If you know me, you know blue is NOT my favorite color, especially not country blue.  But I was unphased.  I looked past the wallpaper that reminded me of one of my jr. high choir dresses, I ignored the hole dug into the carpet by the dog, and I visually replaced the ugly ceiling fans and builder basic lighting fixtures.  I saw the potential that this house could have. I walked from room to room picturing our future in this house.  I was hooked.  I was in love.  Now it just had to pass one test- the husband test. 

I'm sure you've figured out the ending to this story.  Shannon didn't see the sunbeams or hear the chorus, but he did like the house.  More than that, he loves me and knew how much I loved the house.  We prayed about it, thought about it, made an offer on it, and in October of '06, we closed on our house home. 

We had one month between closing and moving in.  One month to put my Trading Spaces well of knowledge into practice.  One month to remove all white walls and wallpaper.  One month to replace flooring and paint over country blue.  One month of little sleep and lots of work.  One month to transform someone else's house into our home.  

A lot was accomplished in that month, and there have been several more changes, tweaks, and additions over the last five years.  The most recent of which was a total kitchen over haul.  But rather than continuing to tell you about it, would you like to see it?  I won't make you do a slow drive by trying to peer through my blinds.  You don't even have to knock on my door and ask for a tour.  I'm inviting you in.  :) 

I don't claim to have a house worthy of HGTV, nor have we had the budget of a real designer, (and I have a feeling I will always have a list of projects and changes that I want to make), but I do love our home.  It's our "reality-dream home".  A true dream home would be out of our grasp, so this is the home that has fulfilled our dreams in real life.  It's our reality-dream home.  So grab a cup of coffee and over the next few posts,  I'll show you around.

Let's start with the driveway.  Let's start with that very first view that parted clouds and brought rays of sunshine to my soul.  I don't expect you to have the same experience, but maybe you will see why we loved this house.

All it's missing is a green roof, some farm land, and a "lake of shining waters"... yes, I may have been drawn to this house because of my love of Anne of Green Gables and the similarities I saw between the the movie house and this house.  We looked at many newer constructions but none of them caught me with curb appeal in the drive way like this one did.  I must be a country girl at heart.  The full front porch and gazebo packed so much charm.  It almost wouldn't have mattered what I saw when I opened the front door that first time. 
                                                                                     Here's the Anne of Green Gables house. 

Ok, so they don't look exactly alike...

But you get the picture...

But for the what I found when I opened that door, you will have to wait...  I think it's bedtime.  :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

No Pain, No Gain

I ran today. 

Those are 3 words I haven't said since... well, 9th grade P.E. class, maybe....

Yep, I ran today. 

I wasn't being chased by a "boogie man", nor was I chasing one of my kids. Because that's really the only reasons one should run, right?  Well, that's what I've always thought!  I'm not sure I don't still think that a little bit... but...

I ran today.

I hate running.  HATE it.  Running to me is:  Aching knees.  Exploding lungs.  Shooting pains in my side.  Splitting shins.

Why put myself through this torture?

Well, there came this little class at church.  "Run for God".  A running class for beginners.  And there came my sister who told me "we should take this class together!"  I agreed to go to the first meeting "just to see"... I left the first meeting signed up for the class.  Blast you, peer pressure!

So I ran today.

This was our second beginner's run. 

It went better than the first.

I still did not love it.

But- I ran today.

I ran for health.

I ran for a better me.


Now, goodnight ya'll... I'm beat!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A God Moment

Don't you just love the "aha" moments in life?  Well, I had one of those tonight.  Otherwise known as a God Moment! 

I attended our Sunday School ladies Bible study tonight.  We have a small group that meets every other Tuesday night, and we just started a new study entitled "Jonah- Navigating a Life Interrupted". 

Just from the title I was a little cautious about this study.  You know the old saying, "Don't pray for patience...", well, that's how I felt.  I certainly didn't want to study about life interruptions, because I felt it would be an open invitation for God to send a few my way.

I missed the introductory session and video of the study.  Sickness.  Bleh...  So without any in depth thought put into it, my internal dialogue going into the week's homework was as follows:
      "Hhhmmm... life interrupted?  I wonder how this will apply to me?  I feel like my life is somewhat calm right now... somewhat.... I sure hope I'm not doing this study because God is preparing me for something He's planning... something He wants to interrupt...  I don't like change... I don't like being interrupted...."

Great attitude, right?  What can I say... I'm human. 

So I started into the homework.  I applaud the author, Priscilla Shirer, for not making it too difficult or tedious, but still, there are some thought provoking questions.  I don't know why, but it always takes me FOREVER to answer some of the simplest questions in these books.  Like this one from day one of the homework: 

"What are some of your life goals that you've yet to see become a reality?" 

Chew on that one for a minute.

"What are some of your life goals that you've yet to see become a reality?" 

You see?  Maybe it's not such a simple question after all.  Just an easily asked question, but one that is hard to answer.  At least it was for me. 

Why so hard to answer?  Maybe because I am living "the dream life".  I have a wonderful husband, beautiful kids, a nice home, a loving church family... there really isn't anything I feel I should "complain" about.  I know of so many families with serious health concerns, financial burdens, job struggles, marital problems... REAL heartbreaking issues... and anything I would answer the question with personally, pales in comparison.

I  didn't want to answer it because my list of unrealized life goals would seem petty.  But I couldn't leave the space blank, so I thought... and thought... and finally put aside my fear of answering with something insignificant and wrote this real-life, unrealized goal:

"Sending my kids to a private, Christian school."

I was sure that this would be balked at.  It was not a "major enough" issue.  It certainly shouldn't be anything I should be upset over.  There were bound to be more dramatic answers from others... My answer would be viewed as a frivolous "want", not a dashed dream.  There are surely more serious issues in life to get upset over.  

That is all true.  There are many more struggles out there than what I can personally fathom...

But it didn't ask me to answer for anyone else but me. 

And I shouldn't compare my life to others, or my Bible study answers to others. (And yet I do.  Again, it's that human side of me.)

So there it was.  My unrealized dream.  My current life disappointment.  And throughout the course of me thinking about it and answering other homework questions involving it, I came to realize I view it as just that.  A life disappointment. 

And here's the problem with viewing it as a life disappointment... it has affected my life's purpose.  Not being able to send my kids to a Christian school lead to my current situation- I am instead homeschooling my daughter. 


It's something I NEVER thought I would do.  To say I am a reluctant homeschooler is an understatement.  That's a blog all in itself.  But let's just say I had "views" on homeschoolers, and they weren't all flattering.  (or true, for that matter.... again, that's for another blog....)

But here I am.  A homeschooling mom. 

A homeschooling mom....

How do I feel about it?  Well, my Bible study demanded an answer. 

"In the margin list three adjectives that describe how you feel about interruptions you've faced in your life plans."

Relating this to my previous answer, my margin now bears these three words:


Frustration because this is not what I planned for my life.  I didn't necessarily want to be a homeschooler.  Before my kids actually reached school age, I hypothetically put it out there as an option if we couldn't afford private school, but I never thought it would be an option I would have to actually take. 

Delay because I home schooled Ava last year for K-5, but thought we'd win that lottery (not really, we don't play) or Shannon would get that promotion (still praying) or money would fall into our laps (still waiting) and by 1st grade we would send her to school.  And that's the same thing I've been thinking this year... by 2nd grade maybe we can send her to school.... just that feeling of waiting and delaying getting back to my plans. 

Bitter.  This is a tough one to describe.  No one wants to admit to feeling bitter.  But some days I do.  I know it's a privelege to get to teach your own child... think of all that extra bonding time you are getting with them.... blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah........Just think of how much more I could get done if I weren't homeschooling.  My days would be easier.  There wouldn't be that constant struggle to fit it all in.  I wouldn't have that constant feeling that I was failing and falling short at what I think other homeschooling moms must be great at.  I might have more "me" time.  I could have the mornings to run errands and devote more time to my two boys... Yes, shamefully I sometimes feel bitter that I am homeschooling. 

I am ashamed about how I feel about homeschooling.  Still, I haven't felt that it is a legitimate thing to be disappointed over, or to feel bitter over, or to feel "interrupted" by.  So I don't say much about it.  I just do it.  Day after day I go through the motions and I do.  And I put aside all of those above feelings because certainly they are trivial.  Certainly not legitimate.

And then as we sat and watched the video tonight, I was hit with my aha-moment.  (You were wondering when I was going to get to that, weren't you?)

I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but a great memory is not my boasting point.  As best I can remember, she was speaking about some of those possible life interruptions that we as the viewers might relate to.  Her list paralleled much of my list above.  You know, the BIG ones: 

Maybe you planned on being married, but still find yourself single.  Maybe you want kids but are childless...   Maybe you based your life around a career and making money and found yourself called into ministry or the mission field....

Truthfully, as she listed more I momentarily tuned out.  I wasn't relating.  I was thinking back to the answer I had written in my book and beating myself up about feeling frustrated, delayed, and bitter over what wasn't a "real" problem. 

And then I snapped back into the present when I heard this final example coming from the speaker- not word for word, but the gist of what was said:

Maybe are a stay at home mom.  You have young kids.  You are tired and stressed, and were longing for the day when they would reach that magical age and you could send them off to school.  You knew at least you would have that time everyday- that 8 to 3 window- and you would get a break.  You were so looking forward to that break, and then- God called you to home school....

Say what?? ...............

Did  she just list homeschooling as an unexpected change in life's plans? 

Did she just legitimize my "minor" life interruption??

Had I not been in a room with other women trying to get their own meat from the message, I would have boo-hooed right then and there.  As it were, I quietly dabbed a few tears before they were able to escape my eyes.  

It was as if God Himself had reached through that screen, put His arm around my shoulder and told me it was ok to feel the way I had been feeling.  I had a legitimate reason to feel interrupted.

From that point in the video I was alert and attentive.  But that poor memory of mine lives on.  I can't tell you any direct words that were spoken, but I can relay that I could sense that God was using those words to start a change in my heart. 

The biggest heart change might spark from this change in thought. 

She explained the difference between viewing life and goal changes as being interrupted vs. divinely intervened. God is not  interrupting our lives for sport.  He is divinely intervening in our lives for a purpose.  And this is a quote- from the book- "Our significance, at least the kind that will leave an eternal mark, can only really be found in how fully we yield to God's purposes for our lives." 

Aha again!  That's it.  I haven't been yielding.  I wasn't looking at this change in my plans as a divine intervention.   

For the past year and a half I have been viewing my current state of homeschooling as a "for now" situation.  I'm doing this "for now", but surely this isn't His ultimate plan for us.   

But in that "it's only for now" viewpoint, I disregarded the fact that homeschooling is truly what God has asked me to do right now

To continue to buck it and view it as temporary "until we can afford Christian school" is to miss out on the now.  To miss the fact that He asked it of me is to miss that He called me to home school.  If I don't view it as His calling, I will likely miss His purposes behind it.  If I don't view it as His calling, I'm not yielding to Him to discover what those purposes are. 

Bottom-line:  I am a homeschooling mom because God has called me to be so.  Whether it's just for now or ends up being forever. 

Aha!  I have been so much like Jonah.  Ready to jump on that ship in the opposite direction (away from homeschooling) as soon as the opportunity would come.  Trying to run from what I feared might be God's calling on my life by labeling it as a "temporary interruption".  

Yikes.  We know what happened to Jonah when he ran. 

My final aha-God-moment came tonight in realizing that I need to stop trying to run.  Am I saying I'm certain God wants me to homeschool all 3 kids through graduation?  No... truthfully, I'm still secretly hoping not.... 

I just realize that I need to embrace where God has me "for now" and pray that He will change the desires of my heart to be in line with His desires and plans for my life for-ever- whatever that plan ends up being.  And pray that I will obey His call and do it cheerfully.   


This is just week one. 

 I'm no longer fearful of what interruptions this study might bring on. 

 I'm pretty excited about the changes God is making in my heart already.

All through a life interrupted intervened.

Monday, January 30, 2012

All of What?

Last Monday was a rough day.

I woke up as I do most other days.  More tired than I felt I should be, and with more to do in the day than what I had the time or energy to do it all with.  I started my day already feeling behind.

In the midst of feeding the kids breakfast, doing school work with Ava, tackling the never-ending piles of laundry, changing the antibiotic-caused-diarrhea-diapers, listening to the whining, breaking up arguments, and wiping runny noses, I soon came to realize that I had another thing I would have to add to my day. 

Yet another doctor's appointment. 

I am not one of those "run-to-the-doctor-if-my-kid-sneezes" kind of mom.  I am more of the "wait-it-out-and-see-what-develops" kind of mom.  I became this latter type at some point during my early years as a mom of one.  When you are a mom to one you do worry if your child has a fever or runny nose...  But it only takes a few appointments of being told:

"This is viral. There is nothing we can do for it.  You'll just have to wait it out, (But thanks for coming so we can still charge you and your insurance for this unnecessary visit.)"

before you transform into the "wait and see" mom.

But this self-proclaimed "wait and see" mom has been to the doctor 5 times with sick or injured kids already this year.  We're still in the first month.  I'm sure I'm not breaking any records here, but this is not our norm, and last Monday, making yet another doctor visit was the last thing I wanted to do. There is always that fear of a "wasted trip" and no remedy to the ailment that sent you there.   After listening to that internal debate waging within between the two afore mentioned types of moms... go now... wait and see... go now... wait and see...  I finally decided to call Shannon for confirmation that I should indeed take Micah to the doctor.  After hearing the update on his symptoms, Daddy confirmed a doctor's appointment was valid.

 So I made the next necessary calls- one to the doctor to schedule an appointment and one to my parents to ask for help with my other two kids.  Mom agreed to meet me there and keep Ava and Josiah in the van during the appointment.  The last thing I wanted to do was take them into the sick waiting room and the sick check-up rooms to be exposed to some germs that would infect them and bring us back to the doctor yet again with something new.  I think this is how Micah got sick to begin with.  I had just been to the doctor with Josiah the previous Friday and had my 2 other (healthy-at-the-time) kids tagging along... and as much as I tried to keep Micah and Ava from touching things, they're kids.  That's what they do best.  And I just KNOW that's where he got his illness that had us back there on Monday for him.  There's serious potential for a vicious cycle here... Perhaps it's a doctor conspiracy?  To keep them in business??....

Anyway, I digress....

We finally made it to the doctor after the typical rush of getting us all out of the door.  I've been the mother of 3 for 15 months now, but I am still floored everyday that it takes 5 years to get us all loaded up in the van.  I exaggerate, but seriously... it could be an Olympic event.  Make the athletes get a van loaded up with kids and all their stuff.  Time them.  Fastest time wins!

I'm so glad I rushed to get there too.  Just to sit.  And wait.  Oh, we got called out of the waiting room and into the exam room in a timely-enough manner.  Weight was taken, temperature checked, preliminary nurse questions asked, strep test taken.  I was foolishly encouraged and thought this would be a quick visit.  And then we sat.  And we waited.  And we sat.  And we played Angry Birds.  And we sat and waited some more. I had to go to the bathroom, but dared not leave the room.  You know, in case the doctor came by at that exact time that we were in the restroom and rather than wait 2 minutes for us, he'd move on to the next room and get back to us later.

50 minutes later without even a peek-in-update from a nurse, I finally opened the door.  I was certain we had been forgotten in that room.  I'm not entirely sure I'm wrong about that either.  This was a time I was wishing I was the more assertive type.  It would have been easy enough to catch the receptionist's attention and ask how much longer it would be.  But I am always so afraid of being thought of as "pushy".  I was thankful that Micah was being good, and that I wasn't having to keep an eye on my other two, but I was aware that my mom was having to keep them occupied...  in the van, ... in the parking lot.  And yet I just sat there and steamed silently inside, thinking of all the things I'd like to say about how ridiculous doctor waits are.

(At the very least during my wait I concluded that nurses could take a few cues from waitresses... If they know you are in for a long wait, they should come by your room periodically with an update.  Like, "I just put your strep test order in to the doctor.  We've had a heavy volume of strep-test requests today, so it may be a while before the lab can get your order,... er, results,... to your table... er,... room.  Would you like a complimentary basket of bread while you wait?"  Wouldn't this make doctor's visits more tolerable??)

15 minutes after having the door open, my passive-aggressive self finally moved closer to the doorway and paced back and forth in front of it.  The nurse half-way passed by once and I swear I heard her say, "Oh!" as though she'd forgotten something, and within 5 minutes, the doctor was in my room. 

Nearly an hour and a half of waiting, and 5 minutes with the doctor later, we had a diagnosis of strep.  Since Micah had just finished an antibiotic for an ear infection, I wanted to avoid the medicine regimen and asked for the one time shot. 

Upon hearing that he was getting a shot in his bum, poor Micah got so upset that he threw up.  Of course there was no puke bowl in the room and no nurse in sight.  Seeing that the trash can was nearly full, I rushed him to the sink.... which had tiny little holes meant only for water to pass through... which meant I had to clean up the chunks that would not pass through these holes.  Lovely. 

The nurse returned with the shot, and a few traumatizing moments later, we were free to go on our way. 

After getting home we were all tired, cranky, and no one had napped.  We made it through dinner prep, eating dinner, cleaning up, and part of a family game before realizing that Micah's fever had spiked to 104.  We've never seen 104 in this family so far, so it sent me into an internal panic.  "Wait and see" mom then turned into "call the off-hours doctor line" mom.  An intense hour and a half later, his fever finally started going down and I put him to bed on the floor in our room. 

I wearily came back to the couch, sank down into it, and let out a deep breath that seemed to encapsulate the exhaustion of my day.  Shannon sweetly looked over at me and made the following comment {which drove me to write this (too long) blog entry to begin with}: 

"Thank you for all you do." 

I stared back at him for a second and then I wearily replied with the pat, "You're welcome."

He proceeded to kiss me goodnight and started to head off to bed.  But then my mouth opened and asked the question, "All of what?" 

This question threw him off for a second, but he proceeded to list what he perceived to be my day's accomplishments and his appreciation for each.

I must admit his list was longer than mine would have been.

 In my exhausted mind, I had sunk down into that couch thinking about how wrong my day had gone.  Thinking of how much I hadn't gotten done.  Worrying about poor Micah.  Worrying about my other kids potentially getting sick.  Worrying that I couldn't sterilize the house enough to prevent my other kids from getting sick.  Thinking that I should have done something to prevent Micah's fever from spiking. Worrying that Micah would have a rough night.  Worrying that I would have a rough night.  Thinking that I should be folding laundry rather than taking this moment to worry.  Thinking about all that I needed to do the following day to make up for my day being interrupted today.  Basically, the enemy was just using that brief moment of sinking-couch-reflection to give his final blow to my day and leave me feeling discouraged and defeated. 

So I asked "all of what".

I didn't ask him for specifics so that he could make a list and pat me on the back for "all that I do". 

I didn't ask him so that he would be reminded of how much he should appreciate me. 

I asked because I needed to be reminded.

I needed to hear the events from my day from someone else's point of view.

I needed to quiet that negative, nagging "all that I didn't" voice in my head.

 I needed to see the "all of what" I had done that day and find an appreciation for myself in the midst of it.

Shannon went to bed and I sat and reflected.  The quiet voice of the Holy Spirit within could finally be heard over the self-abusive voice that had just been laid to rest.  I was reminded that not every day is going to go according to plan.  That my "to-do-list" will never be "done".  I was reminded that I had done my best to survive the day, and I was gently chastised for not relying on the One who could have made my day easier. 

The week continued to be hard, Micah continued to be sick, and I continued to reflect on that simple phrase- "all of what" (which is probably not  even grammatically correct... but it's what I said.) 

I started to feel selfish for needing that reassurance on that day.  I started to think of how often I don't fully express my appreciation for others or for my Father. 

Maybe I didn't need to be reminded of my "all of whats" after all.  Maybe I needed to be reminded of all of His.  I needed to be reminded of all that He can accomplish in me and through me by putting me through those hard days.  I should be the one thanking Him for "all that He does".  And all too often, that's where I stop. 

"Thank you, Lord, for this day.  And thank you for all that You are and all that You do." 

From now on I hope I will be reminded to list for Him the "all of what" behind that.  But in this case it's not because He needs the encouragement.  It's because I need to be reminded of  exactly who my God is and ALL THAT HE DOES in my life.

It's simple.  Days get hard. Life gets rough.  But if we can get specific in our appreciation for others and most importantly, our appreciation for our Savior, we can learn to live life with thanksgiving.  Even on "those days". 

Next time you pray and thank the Lord for "all He does", imagine Him asking you "all of what?", and have fun answering Him with a long list of praise!