Wednesday, October 22, 2014

art by Precious

my shallow and petty and deep and profound wish list.....

1.  I want my neighbor who is now a widow and his four children to get a glimpse into why they lost their wife and mom to cancer.  I don't need to know but I would love it if God would give this family a hint tonight after her funeral.

2.  I want the teen moms I am working with to have a safe, stable and positive home to learn and grow and heal in.  I want to make this happen.  Like.....yesterday.

3.  I want to be less frustrated with my own children.....and more patient....and have more to give them.

4.  I want to be out of debt.

5.  I want Claire to be a confident, competent driver so she can get a school permit....and a license in 11 months.  I want to not drive her around all day and all night.

6.  I want daddies to take responsibility for their babies....and the mommies to feel loved and affirmed.
7.  I want to be thin and strong and well.
8.  I want a really big dog who is intelligent and sensitive, to be therapeutic for me and for my family.  I love Jedi but he is not a therapy dog.  He's cute.  He's not quite there.
9.  I want contentment and peace and rest and a depth of wisdom and acceptance that comes with living a seasoned, purposeful life.  I don't want to strive and ache and yearn all the time.
10.  I want a clean house.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A few words for my neighbor, and a few tears for me.

I've been feeling like I want to throw up since Saturday morning. That's when I learned that my next-door neighbor yielded her battle of cancer.....she died quickly.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years ago, when her fourth child was about 3 months old.  She thought it was mastitis.  She wanted to nurse him a long time because he would be her last child.  Instead of mastitis it was a tumor....and it spread quickly.  For 2 years she battled this ugly disease and was willing to do whatever medical technology had to offer her to fight it....and when technology ran dry she yielded....and went to glory.  Four children and a husband who now has to learn to be mom and dad.  We live about 12 feet from them.

I am waiting expectantly for the rest of their case I can help them from one day to the next.  They have lots of family and friends....but we live 12 feet away so I will see things.  I will know things.  I will help in the daily things if they will allow it.

I start Wednesday.  The baby, who is now 2 years old, likely cannot tolerate all of the ceremony of the prayer service and cemetary service....and the family asked me to look after him.  They know that he is familiar with me and that I have experience with children.  They asked if I would keep track of baby Grant so that all the rest of the family...the aunties and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and cousins can be present in the moments of the day and grieve for the good-bye of Rachael.  I'm a yes.  I can do that.  I can keep track of the little man....knowing that if his mama were still here she would want to do it herself.  Rachael....I'm doing this for you.  On your good-bye day I will keep track of your baby and keep him happy and as involved as he can possibly be, while allowing the rest of your family to be present in this day.  Rachael...if I get the chance, I will tell each of your 4 children that you didn't give up easily.  You fought this thing because you loved them and wanted every day you could have with them.   I will.  I promise.

I will also strive to be present with my own children every day and play catch with balls and color and listen and laugh and tickle and hug.  Because I can....and because, Rachael, you cannot any more.  I will do it for both of us.  I will miss you.  I will see you in Heaven one day.  You got there early.  I'll try keep track of your family....but just don't worry about them, ok?  Enjoy the celebration you have in Heaven and the "job well done" you have earned.  See you there eventually, neighbor.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014


HOME.    It's good to be home.  All 3 big kids verbalized that even though they enjoyed spending a weekend in another family.....they liked being our family better.  That makes my heart sing.....the two little kids have been relentlessly punishing me since I picked them up.  Meltdowns, tantrums, is common and it is typical....but I've been up since 6am and I just want to collapse here and not deal with there...and there.....but I'm mom.  I got a brief respite and enjoyed myself tremendously....and the little kids that call me mom did fine.  They were brave and they had fun with their family of caregivers....but seconds after we got home, Precious began to wail and sob and let go of all she had held in for 4 days.  Josiah was just snarky....and naughty....and adorable.  It's tough when he wants and deserves mama but Precious is having an epic meltdown and needs me more.....ugh.  welcome home, mom.  It's fine.  Roger helped and at some point in the next few hours, I will get to crawl under the covers of this bed....if only for awhile.....and we are home.  Home is good.  

At the end of this weekend, Claire is asking when she can start dating....and luckily Roger and I had discussed this years ago so my answer was ready.  Isaac spent the weekend with his best friend who is very sick with a fever and we are praying his buddy will heal quickly...and Isaac won't get sick!  Jeremiah had a fun weekend but burned his finger badly just hours before we got there so when he saw me he burst into tears and I've been nurse/mom ever since.  He'll be ok but it hurts.  As mentioned, Precious had some emotions but she's now tucked into bed with her sweet daddy...and Josiah is next to me watching a video and drinking his milk.  He's had a bath and he is clean and soft and smells really good.  I'll get to this bed....eventually.

I'm glad to be home.

a special gift

This plate was a gift from my dad-in-law.  He volunteers at a place called Sunshine Acres that sells used things and the proceeds go to the children who live in group homes on the property.  My dad-in-law is in his 80s, and he worked hard, in his own business, for many years.  When he retired, they started wintering in Arizona and he has found himself involved in this charity called Sunshine Acres.  While we were in Arizona this weekend for a family wedding, Roger wanted to stop there.  I didn't.  Roger hoped to find a designer shirt know, that secret valuable find.....that diamond in the ruff.....I was mildly annoyed because I just wanted to go back to the pool and spend an hour in the sun.

My dad-in-law walked up to me with a smile.  "I found something for you".  He smiled because he knew that I was annoyed to be perusing the second-hand junk when I myself have way more junk at home than I know what to do with.  He and I have this thing.....he finds yard sale "treasures" and digs through their own personal closets and brings me boxes of.....well.....stuff.....and I try not to be annoyed as I figure out where to put it.  

This plate is different.  He noticed all the different children of the world.....and all their different colored faces and on the back it says "Save the children" and he decided I should have it.  I teased him and said he could buy it for my birthday.....which is in the spring.  He bought it for me and he said, "I love what you do"....and in that very moment I knew that he understands me.

He does't have to agree with my passion and relentless pursuit of peace and joy and a future for all fatherless children.  He fears what it could cost our family in time and money and resources....and yet he cannot deny that it is good work.  He loves what I do.  He approves of me and what I believe in.  

When I look at this plate, on the shelf above my fireplace, I will know that a man I love and respect as a father understands my passion and loves what I do.  Our relaxing weekend away was wonderful, but the validation I got from my sweet dad-in-law surpasses it.  Thanks, Ken.  You have blessed me.  And.....the plate survived in my luggage!  :)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday morning.....

I woke up this morning to the view of this mountain in Phoenix, Arizona.  I had slept a full night beside my husband of 18 years, in a soft, fluffy bed.....with no children in it.  There was not a single sound to be heard.....all....night.....long.  Last night we attended a beautiful wedding event, and celebrated with Roger's nephew Ken and his new bride Sarah.  We had such a great time.  I feel rested and blessed this morning.  The day is long before us, and sunny and lazy.  I'm definitely not ready to go home yet.  It's a good thing we don't fly out until tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

going on a long date soon...

The 10:00 news is on.  The children are finally all home and in their beds.  For now.  I didn't get done 5 of the most significant things on my list....but I also didn't sit down until just now  I did my best.  It is really a challenge to leave town for 4 days with my husband and get 5 kids situated elsewhere.

Roger had just crawled into bed.  I changed into pajamas and heard Josiah weakly crying, "mom....come here!" from the next room.  It was the first conversation Roger and I had had face to face all day so I quietly said, "be there soon, Joe" and kept talking to my husband.  I was trying to share some details from the day that were particularly hard and then I stopped and said.  "I sure hope this wedding is worth all the stress and effort it is taking to get us there."  Roger said this.....and I hope I never forget it.  He said, "What wedding?  Who cares about the wedding!  It's just an excuse to get away together for awhile.  I just want to be with you!".  

Nephew Ken and your sweet bride Sarah.....we are thrilled to be able to attend your wedding in 2 days.  We will celebrate this glorious day with you.....and you may even comment that it was really awesome that we made it.  We are happy to be a part of your big day.  We are more happy to be able to be together, and just be for a few days.  We love our kids.  We wouldn't want any other life but ours....but the idea of having 4 days of not being needed and summoned and interrupted every 5 minutes is pure bliss.

What makes me feel the most grateful and blessed is knowing that even though we have been together for 20 years, he is still excited to go away with me.  That is really, really, really awesome.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ironing....and clothing....but not ironing clothing. and lo.

I really want to start writing about thing that are inspiring and convicting again.  I believe that the Lord wants that, too, so I will be eager for the day (soon) when we can break out of "survival mode" and into the striving and reaching and yearning for the things of God season.  It's coming, people.  I promise.  I need it to come and the Lord has much to share with me......but tonight I'm not quite there yet.  Keep checking.  Hopefulness and refinement and celebration is right around the corner......

Tonight, I am 36 hours away from leaving town for a 4 day-date with Roger.....flying to Arizona to attend a wedding.  It's been 6 years since we have been away together for more than an overnighter.  That was 2 children ago.  I'm scrambling to cross all of my t's and dot all of my i's....and make sure everyone gets to where they need to be, etc.  Sack lunches need to be tended and laundry and such.  I need to make sure Precious has enough melatonin and night-time pullups.  Joe needs foods he will eat and his blankies washed (all 3 of them) so that his care-givers don't gag at the smell of them.  He drags them around everywhere.  I personally think they all smell like baby pee.  The boys need cash for their weekend plans with a trip to the bank is scheduled for tomorrow.  Claire needs.....ugh.  She needs me to make a snicker salad before 8:30am for her school group retreat.  I didn't get it done tonight.  She needs me to take her weekend bag to Orange City, and her dance bag to the studio and......well......what she really needs is a mom who can parent a teenager.

They dress up on Fridays for home football games, as a dance team ( the half time show)....and she doesn't have much for dress up clothing.  We've gone shopping once or twice but she is very fussy and still trying to figure out her style....and its a private school so there is dress code.....and she is downstairs in her room stressing out because she has NOTHING to wear friday.  This translates into her wanting to be impressive to her dance teammates, and feel good about herself.....but she's a teenager and dissatisfied with, well, everything.  I can't fix that.

I want to take her to India soon.  She needs to see poverty and humility and that dress up day for dance team ceases to be such a huge issue to her attitude of well-being.  I was a freshman too once.  I get it.....unfortunately I don't have any more means than my mother did.  She couldn't take me shopping on a moments notice either, nor gaurantee me a spot in the popular crowd based on my wardrobe.  I strongly dislike this learning curve of parenting teens......

Oh, and the terrible two stage is kicking my butt as well.  Josiah will be two next month.  He is attitude, spit and vinegar.  Its just a really good thing he is so gosh darn cute.  He still screams for mama at night....and wakes up about every 3 I'm tired.

Did I mention I hope to have more inspiring posts soon?  I do.  I just need to iron out a few details of life first.  Bear with me.  The Lord promised to bear with me, too.  I was whining to him one night recently about all things hard here.....and he said this, "But lo I am with you always" the quiet of the night.  and I'm like, "I'm not Lo, I'm Niki!".....just kidding.  I said "ok".  I believe Him.  He is here.  Even tonight.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

a moment

Today I pulled up to the curb in the rain in a distant town for a visit.  It was cold today.  And dreary  I was anxious to see this mommy and visit, but I stayed in my car a bit.  One of my new favorite worship songs was playing and I just couldn't turn off the car and stop the music.  I chose to sing out loud and worship and love Jesus in the music, in the rain, in my car.  Sometimes worship is incovenient, and today it was.  Who cares.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A crabby......prayer?

I'm crabby tonight.  I came home close to 7pm.  It was a busy day with some work, some personal primping (fancy wedding happening in Arizona next weekend so I had some work to do on the "me"), and a healthy dose of parenting....all rolled into a 10 hour day.  I came in to the two youngest running to me crying and fussing....which is always fun.  Or not.  The boys dutifully worked on homework, were helpful and pleasant and unassuming.....*makes me wonder what they want, or what they are up to?????, and when I tried to go down and sit with Claire she was teen-ager-rude.    Roger was busy, and distracted.  It's 9:30pm and I'm still waiting for those moments in the day that I can call relax and just breathe.

Joe is sitting straight up, watching PBS kids on the Ipad......Precious generously conceded to let daddy lay with her instead of mommy so that Joe would stop screaming.  I sincerely hope the 3 big kids are in bed as expected......because there is no hope of me going down to check and bless them any time soon.  I just want this little boy to go to sleep so I can go out and wipe down the kitchen counter to wage war on the fruit flies, and switch the laundry, and say good-night to the big kids.  I want to open the window and feel the fall night breeze and watch the news......and make sure I'm ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow?  forget about it.  I can't seem to finish today!  Tomorrow is full.  Again.  More to do than minutes to do it.  Thank goodness Nana Barb can help taxi kids and be present in those moments after school when my children need it.  I wish I didn't have to work.  I am so jealous of moms who are home waiting for their children to get home from school.  I HATE that I am on visits and in meetings when my kiddos need me.  It makes me very, very crabby.

So here sits crabby the dark bedroom of my youngest child.  He is sweet and he is smart and he is a miracle.  He's watching cartoons on an Ipad and wanting me to just be next to him in his bedroom.  I don't deserve crabby.  My 5 year old is working so hard to be a big girl with daycare and school and dance and music and after school time with her brothers.....and she has lots of issues.  Life is hard for her.  She's now snoring in her bedroom and her dad just left her room.  Crabby me needs to be grateful that God heard our prayers to give her life and protect her and hide her away in the secret place.....and not be so worked up about her issues.  Crabby me needs to give my husband a break and not bust his chops.  He's doing a good job.  Life is hard everywhere.....not just here.

Crabby me needs to celebrate those 3 kids downstairs who are smart and sensitive and redeemed of the Lord.  They have all three accepted Jesus into their hearts.  He dwells in them.  Already.  He is moving in them.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow....and forgive me for my whining and lamenting.  I have it really good.

Dear Lord.....forgive crabby me.  Help crabby me to worship and yield  and defer to you each day.  It's hard at 9:30 at night, Lord.  Grant me fogiveness and cleansing tonight.  I know that your mercies are new every morning.  Morning will always does.  I look forward to a new day with you tomorrow, Lord Jesus.  Protect my sweet family tonight, and help us put this day to bed so that we can start fresh tomorrow.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grandma's tea set

In my china cabinet there is a Delft china tea set.  It is Dutch, which is my heritage.  It is blue and white with little tea cups and saucers, spoons, a cream and sugar container and a tea pot.  Precious Maryn loves this tea set.  It was my grandmother's set and it forever lived in her china hutch.  Who knows where she got it.  I don't.  When she was failing in health and moving to a nursing home, we cleaned out her home and this was one of the things that I received.  I boxed it up and put it out on display in my dining room, just as she had.  Precious loved my grandma.  Alot.  Grandma Wilma loved her, too.  My grandma raised 8 children and tolerated alot of bs from her kids and grandkids over the years but she maintained unconditional love and a gentle and warm spirit.  Gosh.  I miss her.  I think she may have even been a quiet democrat in this very republican farming community.....and she approved of me.  She approved of me adopting a black child.  She approved.  This china set sometimes represents that to me.  Her approval.

Precious loves this tea set and wants to play with it often.  When she has a friend over, she wants to take it out and put apple juice in the tea pot and get treats and set things up for tea.  I hold my breath as she pulls things out of the china cabinet.  She is rough and not very coordinated.  Things tip over and clang together.....but not because she doesn't care.  She cares.  She is being as loving as she can be to these cherished heirlooms of Grandma Wilma.  One of these days, a cup or saucer will crack.  It will no longer be perfect.  I have to just let that happen.

Today when she was taking things out and setting the table for tea in her manic, hyperactive way......and I was holding my breath.....I could almost feel Grandma Wilma smiling down from Heaven, watching Precious play with Grandma's tea set.  Grandma doesn't care if it breaks.  She is in her glory.  The things of this earth have grown strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.....and I think, just maybe, she wants Precious to play with her fancy delft tea set from Holland.

I wish Grandma was here.  She would sit with Precious and Precious would set the table for tea and Grandma would sip her apple juice and bite her cookie and they would talk about things that matter and things that don't make sense.....but since Grandma Wilma cannot sit for tea I choose to let Precious have this very special and fragile tea set.  She can set it up for tea whenever she wants to....and I think Grandma will smile.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Tonight is one of those dangerous nights where mid-week meets frustrated working mom.  This post could go sour really quickly.  It's a good thing there is a delete option.  If I don't get to delete, maybe I'll get to a valid, relevant point.  Let's just see.

I've had sickness in our house for 3 weeks straight.  If I was an at home mom, that would be something, but trying to decide if and how to see young families in their homes, with a variety of contagious viruses.....that's exhausting.  I would love to take some days and deep-six clean everything.  Who has time for that?  Not me.  I have work to catch up on.  Lots of work.  To pay for, food, dance, sports......oh, oh.  so lets talk about school.  My kids grade school has lots of new rules this year.....maybe they are good.  I don't know.  I do know they are not fun and hard to abide.  The private school that costs me lots of money is also not much fun right now.  Food.  Precious can't have dairy.  That makes every day/every meal a challenge.  A few times, lately, I just said "screw it" and let her have what she wanted.  (doritos.....and pizza) because when she has a season of hard behaviors, denying her food she loves is just too much.  Her first weeks of life we fought like crazy to get her to eat.  It's so, so hard to tell her no to foods she loves now.  Dance.  Precious loves her dance classes.  Claire does too, but in order to pay for dance, Claire now has to help teach classes at the studio.....which interferes with other things she wants to do with school, such as soccer, and watching junior varsity football.  I seriously don't know what to do about that.  I don't know how to guide her.  I'm at a loss.....I'm in white flag/throw-in-the-towel mode.  Sports:  stinky socks, muddy cleats.  Helmets Josiah won't leave alone.  Other kids breaking bones on the team.....and driving way too far on a week day to watch and cheer for football.  I'm really sick of school, food, dance, sports.  I'm so, so crabby.

Josiah won't let Roger help him sleep at night.  That means he screams for me about 3-6 times every night and won't settle until I lay with him.  Precious will sleep but most nights it has to be in bed with Roger.  I'm tired.  Roger is tired.  Neither of us is getting things done adequately at work.  Did I mention I'm crabby?  I am.  I warned Roger hours ago, before he came home.  Because he is my blessing, all he said was "ok".  That's why God gave him to me.  He is a gift.  18 years we have been married.  We couldn't celebrate on Sunday because Joe was sick and I stayed home from the broadway show and he took Claire for her birthday....and it was fine....but still.  I'm crabb.  I'm feeling really spent and empty.

I need to get filled up.  Soon.  Its hard to know how to do that when every day involves the responsibility of 5 kids and a civil servant kind of career.....and its hard to do that when there is more need than cash flow.  I'm just so, so crabby tonight.  WE need a break....a blessing....a fresh wind of the Spirit to flow through.

When He flows through with fresh love and strength and mercy, all is well again.  The Lord will show up, he always does.  He will infuse my crabby with hope and strength and goodness.  Maybe I need to get to crabby occasionally so He has room to work and show off.  If so, then I'm ready, Lord. Do your thing!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

a work day

My career as a nurse has taken me to this job in public health.  I work with families in the community, and visit them in their homes.  This is very good work.  It is hard work to quantify with documentation....therefore I am always behind on my paperwork and always connecting with mommies and their babies.  Today alone, just since 7pm, I have had contact with 4 different families that are probably, technically in crisis.  Some families stay in crisis.  Some have events that break your heart.....over and over and over.  I get to journey with these families and offer hope and praise and strength.  It's an amazing job to be allowed and paid to do.

Tonight, in the middle of feeling very sad and in awe of some of these families.....I am also grateful and impressed with how resilient the human species is.  Especially her children.  People are resilient. They want to reach higher and believe for better.  Even when knocked down and buried under, the human spirit says, "dig out".  Part of digging out, for some of my more fragile families, is letting me into their hearts and lives.  Did I mention I get paid to love them?  I really do.

Today I threw out a lifeline to someone who felt like she was drowning.  I didn't plan to, but in the moment of her sinking it dawned on me that I could give her a long-term promise.  A decade-from-now promise.  Little have trouble today but in 10 years, lets celebrate and do something awesome.  I offered her the pact and she said yes.  In the middle of her despair, and as she was sinking she could still say a 10 years in the future reward for surviving this hard season.

I am fairly sure that this girl is stronger than I have ever been.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do Something - Matthew West

A tale of rice and beans....

Our church  has formed a bond with a church in Liberia, called Abide in The Vine Discipleship Church.  Our mission team challenged us to eat rice and beans once a week to increase our awareness and compassion for our sister church, and to consider donating money that we saved by not cooking a full meal.  The rice and beans cost less than $3.00 to prepare......and I typically make a meal with meat and veggies and starches for at least $10.00 or more.  I'm committing to $50.00 at the end of September after we have eaten rice and beans for 5 different Mondays.

I really enjoy the rice and beans.  I've sauteed onions and tomatoes (given to me for free from my dad's garden) and peppers with it several times....and it is a very satisfying meal.  Isaac and Jeremiah look forward to it, and Josiah likes it too.  Roger tolerates it.  Precious and Claire refuse.  They typically eat leftovers or I make P a smoothie.....which is fine.  It's my challenge, not theirs.

Tonight I started the beans early so it would be done before Jeremiah went to football.  Last night I filled the bowl with water to soak the beans, today I rinsed them and started the pot boiling for its 1 1/2 to 2 hour simmer......and then I left to bring Claire to violin.  I meant to tell Isaac to watch the pot and turn it off when the water was almost gone.  I did.  But then Josiah started stirring from a nap and I didn't want him to see me or I would have to take him along across town for the violin lesson so I snuck out the door really fast......and about 10 minutes later, Isaac called me and said, "Mom, am I supposed to be doing something wit these beans?".....He's a smart boy.  And my right-hand man at home.  I told him to turn the burner off and mash a few of the beans if he wanted to, and just wait and I would finish it when I got home.  I got home about a half hour a really wretched smell.  I went to the pot of beans and saw something that looked like pinto bean.....pulp.  I think when I said, mash a few beans......Isaac heard......"pulverize each and every bean with a karate chop hay-ya.....every bean".....and that is what he did.  Have you ever seen cooked pinto beans that look like popcorn?  That's what was in the pot.

Claire headed down to her room gagging, and I started a repair mission for the beans and rice.  I could have dumped it and just opened a can, but really.....this is a meal of sacrifice.  I poured in some tomato juice and some spices.....and it was just fine.  Claire ate a leftover burger.  I made smoothies with peanut butter and banana (no dairy) for the littles.....and the rest of us feasted on a meal that my friends in Liberia probably don't see every day right now.  The Ebola virus is terrorizing this country.  Most adults don't eat every day, and I'm sure none of these brothers and sisters in Christ would ever consider dumping a pot full of beans.  Of course, they probably know enough to not walk away from the pot or burn them, too.

We've had a kitchen light that hasn't worked for months.  I threatened to call an electrician the other day, so Roger went over to a friend at work who has electrical knowledge.  Michael said he'd stop over and look at it today.  He came....and fixed the light.  (Roger, because I love you, I won't go into detail about what it took to fix this light.)....and it turns out that Michael loves beans and rice.  I had just enough left to send some home with him.  Go figure.