Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Grieve

My Grandpa died yesterday.  While it wasn't unexpected, it still hit like a ton of bricks.  My Grandpa is dead.  I know I will see him again when I leave this earth, and I know he was in pain and lived a long life (he was 93), but it still hurts.

At the same time every news site, my Facebook feed, and passerby are talking about the world.  It seems like the entire world took a vote and decided to blow up at the same time.  Genocide, martyrs, drug trafficking, human trafficking, civil wars, refugees and people wanting to send them back, the list is endless.  And it's everywhere.

I have been following it, reading the articles, on my knees praying and interceding for these situations and these people.  It has consumed my mind for weeks.

Today I just could. not. take. it. one. second. more.  I turned off mobile data on my phone in an attempt to shut the world out.  I decided a media fast was in order.  I crawled back into bed and pulled the blankets up over my head.

Wake me up when it's all over was my heart's cry.  Please, God.  Wake me up when it's all over.

I am a fixer.  I want to fix everything.  And 99% of the things that consume my mind right now are things that I cannot fix.  They are things that even entire governments cannot fix.

Jesus, how can You stand it?  How can You watch Your people be slaughtered?  Displaced?  Every day.  You see it all, even the parts that the news doesn't report.  How do You do it?

I asked Him with my head under the blankets, as I tried to shut out the world.

I cry.  I grieve for every life that is cut short.  I know every one of my children by name and I grieve for Anya and Amar and Oscar.  Every life I created and filled with hopes and dreams, every single life that is taken away--I grieve.  I grieve for every life that ends--even your Grandpa.  

But then I rejoice because I know that this is not the end.  I have already Won!  While my children's earthly lives are cut off, their eternal lives with Me are just beginning.  I rejoice because I know how the evils of this world end.  I Win.  Every day.  I Win.  That is how I stand it.  I grieve and then rejoice.

So today I grieve and rejoice for my Grandpa.  I grieve and rejoice for every person who has been slaughtered, displaced, stolen from their family and sold into slavery or worse.  Because I know that this is not the end.  Jesus wins.  He wins every battle.  Every situation.  He always wins. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why You Wouldn't Want To Go On Vacation With My Family

The Smoky Mountains--The view from my balcony

Last week the Hubs, David and Lizzy went to summer camp while Joy and I went to the Smoky Mountains with my parents, my sister and her family, and my brother and his family.  I went into the vacation expecting to have a good time and to end the week refreshed after a week in the mountains.

God laughed.

Instead God had a plan to test me in every area where I am weak.  Safety, security, physical endurance and personal space.

We came prepared for the 10 hour drive

Sunday we went for a hike to a waterfall.  It wasn't a hard hike, but it involved preventing little children from throwing themselves off a cliff every few feet.  But the waterfall was beautiful and I let Joy take her shoes off and splash in the pool of the falls.  I thought about saying no, but then I realized that she'd hiked all this way, and why the heck shouldn't she get to play in the water?  I told her to take her shoes off and have fun.

Splashing in the waterfall

Sunday night was when all the fun happened.  It started with my family all wanting to go into town after dinner.  I didn't, so Joy and I stayed back to go to the indoor water park at our resort.  Twenty minutes into our fun, the pool was closed due to thunder and lightening.  As we were waiting at the shuttle stop to take us up back up the mountain to our condo, the cell phones of the other people waiting at the shuttle stop started going crazy with beeping.  Tornado warning!

Suddenly I am the only adult in a foreign place having to make a decision--do I stay at the bottom of the mountain and camp out in the lobby or do I take Joy back to our room at the top of the mountain?  To our fourth story room.  I needed a second opinion because I come from Michigan, the flat lands.  I don't know anything about tornadoes in Tennessee in the mountains.  I asked a security guard and he said we'd be fine in our room.  So up the mountain we went.  In a golf cart.  That struggled the entire way up.  With Joy freaking out next to me because we are in a foreign land, alone, in a struggling golf cart, on our way up a mountain with clear views of the quickly approaching storm, and the wind whipping all around us.

Storm rolling in over the mountains--the lightning was amazing

"Joy, God did not bring us to Tennessee just so we would die in a tornado.  We are going to be fine."  And then I prayed with her to be peaceful.  Thankfully we didn't die.  The tornado stayed north of us.  But we did get some really cool pictures and videos from our balcony of lightening strikes until they got a little too close for comfort and went back inside our room.

But the adventure didn't end there.  Oh no.  We were all tucked into bed, sound asleep, all 12 of us, when it hit.  Sirens and flashing lights all around us.  Have you ever been woken up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night in a foreign place?  I stood up and looked around me trying to figure out what was going on.  Everyone converged on my living room/bedroom and we stood around trying to figure out what was going on.  "Is that a fire alarm?"  some not-so-quick-witted person finally asked.  My goodness, I think it is!

Sweaters and jackets were hastily thrown on over our pajamas--because it was cold outside--and shoes were put on.  SOME of us even took the time to get fully dressed (not naming any names here, but they were over the age of 50 if that tells you anything).  I grabbed my purse and Joy, who was completely out of it after I woke her up because the sirens didn't (and she claims to be a light sleeper).  And out the door we went where we were told to exit the building.  Down 4 flights of stairs and out into the night.  We stood around not sure if this was real or a prank.  After a few minutes the resort security told us to go further away from the building.  We walked to the lower parking lot.  All 12 of us.  When the heavens opened up and the rains started.  Noah worthy rain.

Our condo in the middle of the night.  2 of our cars were up high.
We were told to move to the lower area so the fire trucks could come.

"Run for the cars!"  Which was good advice, except 2 of our vehicles were in the upper parking lot that was currently closed off for the fire trucks.  Which left all 12 of us and 1 van.  Which we somehow all squished into.  Which is when I started laughing.  Hysterically.  I laughed until I cried.  Because this is exactly how our family vacations always go down.  Somehow we always end up with a crazy story to tell at the end of our vacation.  ER trips, falling over a waterfall, nearly falling off a cliff, monsoon rains that flatten our tent, fire alarms in the middle of the night.  I have stories, oh so many stories.  I'm not sure if we've ever taken a non-dramatic vacation.

The good news is that the alarm was due to a short in the system and not an actual fire.  So after about a half hour we were all back in bed.  Wet from dashing through the rain, but safe.

Monday we went on a leisurely hike.  Or so I thought.  Unfortunately Joy was tired out from the day before and I ended up carrying her on my back for about one out of the four mile hike.  But the views were pretty.  We followed a river for almost the entire hike and it ended in a little waterfall where we sat and ate our lunches.

I'm too tired to hike another step

Tuesday I declared a day of rest for Joy and me.  We spent the day at the water park.

This shot was for Hubby--We sent it to say hi

Wednesday we went on a bear hunt at Cades Cove.  This is the highlight of every trip to the Smokys for my parents who come every year.  For the rest of us, it is not nearly so exciting.  It involves driving around an 11 mile loop at 5 miles an hour looking for bears.  If a bear is sighted, it results in a traffic jam that would rival any rush hour situation in a major city as people stop dead in their cars and all get out, take pictures of the bears, and try to get close as the park rangers yell at everyone to get back in their cars and move along.  Thankfully, this year we got lucky.  We took a cut through road that most don't take and came across 2 bears up in a tree.  No crowds.  No rangers.  We got lots of pictures, got way up close, and it was really cool.

Bear in a tree

Thursday we went the Ripley's Aquarium in the Smokys.  Which has been rated the fifth best aquarium in the world according to TripAdvisor.  I agree with them.  It is a really cool place and well worth visiting if you are ever in the area.

Manta Rays are such happy fish

Thursday night, as we were deciding what to do on Friday, I made the mistake of telling Joy that it was our last day there so if there was anything that she really wanted to do, let me know.  And the waterworks started.

"I don't want to go home!  This is the best vacation ever!  I will miss my cousins and my aunts and uncles.  I want to stay here forever!"  On and on she wailed.  Finally she sniffled and asked, "Mom, since it's our last day, can we make tomorrow the best day?  Can we goto the water park and then get ice cream at the stand?"  Sure.  Which is exactly what we did.

So there you have it.  The recipe for the best vacation ever.  Hiking, tornadoes, fire alarms, water parks, bears, fish, and ice cream.

And a really good story to tell at the end.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Our First Real Summer Vacation Ever

A month ago I had grand plans to continue our schooling all summer.  I've done homeschool lite every summer since David started school.  Math and reading every day we are home, with some science and history thrown in when I have time.  But then I realized I was completely done with school.  While I wasn't experiencing burnout, my kids were.  And my school year of being "sick" and too tired to do much had left me with a really messy house and yard in need of some major TLC.  I prayed and decided it was time to give my kids a real summer.  No school.  No structure.  Just an open day with endless time to play and be creative.  My kids didn't even know what that meant.

The whining of boredom commenced immediately.  I ignored it and told the kids they could fold a hamper of laundry if they were incapable of finding something to do.  Magically they found a game or project to do.

See, I don't cater to my kids' boredom and I never have.  I want them to be bored.  Because boredom makes them turn to new things for entertainment that they generally avoid during the school year.  Books they'd never read unless they were desperate.  Games they're too busy to play when there are other things to do.  My basement is completely filled with a fort the kids built where they play for hours every day, even reading and having their prayer times in their own little beds they've made for themselves.

Making their own Pokemon game

My kids have spent many hours up in our climbing tree.  Hours laying on a blanket watching the clouds.  They paint my driveway with water.  They draw.  Make up games.  This afternoon they asked if they could create their own drinks--which were just really disgusting sounding smoothies involving fruit, tons of cinnamon and a little stevia.  I averted my eyes to the mess they made, happy that they had found an outlet for their creative minds.

Joy teaching Lizzy how to fry an egg--the latest accomplishment for both girls

All this unlimited free time has made me discover a few things about my family.

1. My kids are not used to so much free time.  While I've always summer schooled with good intentions, I'm beginning to realize that maybe dealing with regression is a small price to pay for my kids having the time to discover new hobbies, new games, new books.

2. My kids lead a very structured life.  I've always had a routine and structure to our days.  Always.  My kids could depend on the same daily routine and an almost always same weekly routine.  Not any more.  I can't tell you when we will make it to the library or the grocery store this week.  And I don't care.  We'll go when it's desperate (we're nearly there).  It's good for my kids to have their routine shaken up.  Teaches them to be spontaneous.

3. My kids are creative geniuses.  Up until now I have always wondered if my kids were a little abnormal in that they don't come up with make believe games, stories, or other similar things the way I did as a kid.  They do, but not nearly as much as I did.  But now I can see that I have just never given them the time to be bored enough to get their creative juices flowing fully.

Making Perler bead creations

4. My kids fight when they are bored.  This took me a few days to figure out.  David was constantly pestering the girls just to make them mad.  Hubby pointed out that David just didn't know what to do with himself.  Oh.  So maybe some structure is necessary.  Boo.  Today I decided I would play a game with David.  I don't like games but David does, so I was speaking his love language.  We played Rummy.  Then the girls saw us playing and wanted to play, too.  So we all played Rummy.  This afternoon I read 10 chapters from "The Sign of the Beaver" to the kids before I finally called it quits.  We usually only make it through 2 or 3 before the kids are done.  Guess their attention spans are improved when they have nothing else to do.  Right now they are outside having a squirt gun fight.  And I am choosing not to care that my house is going to get wet when they're done.

5. We all needed a break.  I thought I was fine and could do school all summer.  But after 3 weeks off, I've discovered I needed this time.  To read.  To just sit and stare out the window.  To work on a project when the inspiration strikes.  To have the freedom to drop everything and meet a friend at the park for the afternoon.  To not care that things aren't getting done.  To paint.  Yup, I am going to attempt painting on an actual canvas this week.  It's been about 25 years since I've tried.

I averted my eyes to this little mess--
and made them sweep up the sandy mess in my bathroom

This summer is nothing like anything we've ever done before, but it's exactly what we needed.  So if you decide to drop by unexpectedly, don't be surprised to find three monkeys up a tree, laundry all over the living room, and projects in various state of completeness all over my dining room table.  Because that's how we roll this summer around here.