Monday, July 21, 2014

Nineteen Years

Large French fries, Big Macs, Rafferty’s, Red Robin. 
The Jubilee in Rome.  The lost child.

Call sign "Moses"…thank you, Jaks.

Lake Las Vegas.

Alpenglow Stube. 

Third floor.  Bitburg, Germany. 

Broccoli pizza.   Anchovy pizza and cow pastures.

Tucson and rattlesnakes.      

Monte Carlo.  The argument. 

Those statements mean nothing to anyone except to me and my husband.  Yet, both of us, without thinking, will rattle off the exact same memory when we hear those statements.   They are our memories~evidence of our life lived together~markers set that remind us of where we've been and the fact that we've walked this road together.   A shared life.  These seemingly unimportant events and millions more provide a framework for the nineteen years of journeying that we've traveled as a couple.

Greek gyro and food poisoning. 

Worst concert ever.  

Best movie series.   No debate.  (Bourne btw)

JLCK.  (What I thought was Preston's middle name for a month.)

The Peppermill.

Zachary James Smith?? 

Our memories.  Our shared life.   Yesterday, my husband and I stole an hour with just the baby for a date to Lowes and Home Depot for yet another home organization project.    I took control of the music.   Before we knew it, we were touring through memories of our past as I randomly played snippets of songs from our old heathen playlist.     First song, “I'll Be” by Edwin McCain.   "Quick, what do you think of when you hear this song?" I asked him.   He didn’t skip a beat.  Mississippi.   Next song, "3:00 a.m."   "First thought?"  He entered my memory and answered,  "Chad and Susie."    Bingo.  Next.  “Here Without You.”   "Weapons School," he smirked. (We both kinda feel sick when we here that song.)   Moving on.   “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”   "Watching your pregnant stomach move on a houseboat at Lake of the Ozarks right before we had Zach."   The next song on the list, “You and Me.”   He smiled, "Your brother’s wedding."  How about this one, “Home.”  He didn't even have to think.  "Qatar 2007."  Another song, "Chocolate’" He did a little dance in his seat, "Dancing the father/daughter dance with the girls."  
On and on we journeyed back in time.   Songs that don't mean anything, but yet took us back to moments spent together.   As "I'll Be" played, we both could envision ourselves as a young couple driving around Columbus, Mississippi enjoying each other and friends after an exhausting week of pilot training.   Other Matchbox Twenty songs took us back to Germany where their music played almost everywhere we went.  "Jessie's Girl" always makes us laugh as we remember our second son remarking that he wished all Christian music was as good as his favorite Christian song, "Jessie's Girl."  Our memories.   A life uniquely designed by the Lord to be shared together. We are one another's witness to this life we've walked.
Today is our anniversary.  On July 21, 1995, our life as a couple began.    A new family that would start with Preston and I standing at the front of the breathtaking Air Force Academy chapel in Colorado Springs full of love, hope, and excitement at the future.   We confidently stood in front of our favorite people and made a covenant before the Lord that we would live life together.   We promised love.  Support.    Faithfulness.   Commitment.    We promised God would be glorified by us.   We promised to raise Godly children.   We vowed to be one another’s biggest cheerleader.   To fight for one another.   The vows tumbled out with readiness---the statements so eager to be said on that day.   Our love for one another flowed easy.   Nothing, no one, would ever separate us.  Nothing.  No one. The Lord presided.   He sealed our promises with His grace.   He rejoiced in our commitment to bring Him glory.  He knew the children He would knit.  The length of our days.   He saw it all and He entered into our marriage covenant with us.  He would be on our side.  He would fight for us.   Our marriage.   Our family.   When we said our vows, there was no mistaking that His Will would include one another until death do us part.      

We messed with that.  We tampered with God's will.  We turned away.  From God.  From each other.   We chose a hard road.   We took that which was precious and treated it carelessly.  We threw our pearls to swine.  We don't know about drug addictions.  We haven't walked through infertility or miscarriages.  We don't have abusive parents.   We don't know what it's like to lose a job.  There's much we don't know.  Many hard things that we've only read about.  But this is what we do know...we know how it feels to have a marriage in shambles, a family broken, piles of rubble surrounding us brought on by our own stupid choices.  We do know heartache in marriage.    That one, unfortunately, is part of our testimony.     

Maybe that's why my anniversary is one of my most favorite days to celebrate.    I love my anniversary.  I love to celebrate this day side by side my husband.  Because it's evidence that God can resurrect the dead.   He took our lifeless marriage, scarred by lots, and breathed new life.  Just because He's that amazing.   Not because we deserved it, not even because we wanted it, but because He had a plan that included us together.   His plan, His Will, was for our family to work and He made it happen.  All Him.  Nothing in us thought this was possible and He did the impossible.  That's worthy of a pretty big celebration!  

In recent years, we've used our anniversary to remember.   To remember our good.  To remember all of the joy-filled gigantic and minuscule moments that were reserved just for us to experience together.  (Believe me, we spent so many years talking and living the bad, that we try to protect this one day a year just to remember the gift of living precious life together).   Little experiences that have created this life that is uniquely ours.   We make the kids listen to our memories as we walk them through the years. 

Captiva Island.   The run.       
One of our favorite early marriage stories.  We tell the kids how we went for a run at dusk on our honeymoon on Captiva Island.  As the sun set, the sounds of the swamp around us overwhelmed the darkening sky.    Behind us, we thought we heard the rustle of an alligator.    I did not know my new husband had lightning speed.  You don't have to outrun an alligator~you just have to outrun your new bride.    I could barely make out the outline of his body ahead of me as he boarded a bus to take him back to the hotel.    Hours later...(okay, just minutes) I ran my fastest up to the bus hoping to be saved from the alligator I knew was nipping at my heels, Preston sat sheepishly hoping I made it.   Or at least that's how I remember it.   He tells it a little maybe he didn't make it all the way to the bus before turning back and realizing that I was very very very far behind him.   I have no doubt that if we were in that same situation today, he'd sacrifice himself to an alligator for me...maybe because he'd rather not raise six children alone.

Atlanta Airport.   Moving back from Germany.  Rain storm. 
I have the gift of packing.   Or hoarding.   There was a time that you could fly with two bags, each weighing 70 lbs.  I had this down to a science.    When we moved back from Germany, our family had grown to include Josh, so we were allotted eight bags and eight carry-ons.   The bonus was that the stroller and carseats didn't count, so not only did we have hundreds of pounds of bags, but we also had two carseats and a stroller.   A pack rat's dream.    As I carried and pushed our two little boys toting only a handful of carry-ons, Preston managed the suitcases.   Torrential rain flooded the parking lot.    Dozens of people watched as our young family fumbled through the rain hunting for our rental car.  Our boys were crying.   Preston was fuming (at me.)   I was putting on a good act and smiling for all the people inside the dry rental car agency.  The first luggage cart Preston was pushing hit a huge hole and bags flew off in all directions landing in various levels of water.  Preston completely flipped front of everyone.   He was throwing bags everywhere.  The stroller got chucked with Herculean strength across the parking lot.    The boys instantly stopped crying in fear.   I kept my Stepford wife smile and I gritted my teeth and whispered for him to "stop making a scene," which only made him throw more bags.  And he's the calm one of the two of us.  It's probably the only flip-out in the history of his life...and I'm recording it here for all to read.    

On and on.    
We have a bazillion memories.   Nineteen years worth.   On this day, every year, it's good to take the time to remember.   Our most beautiful moments include each other.   Our most heart-wrenching moments include each other.     What a gift to share life with someone.   To know the best and worst of someone and to be able to say, "I know all about you...and I'd do this whole thing again even with that knowledge." 

So, today my family celebrated and thanked God for second chances and new life!
Tonight, we made the kids persevere through watching our wedding video and listened as they laughed over my poofy sleeves and even poofier hair.   
Deep down, I know they are also thankful for this day.   Thankful that we get to celebrate together the beginning of our family.  

All glory to God...
For giving us a life designed specifically with His power in mind. 
For being an expert in bringing that which was dead back to life.  
For bestowing to us His grace and then teaching us how to extend that grace to one another.
Happy Anniversary to my favorite person!  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dishes and Feet

A dear friend stopped by our house recently witnessing the culmination of a very chaotic evening.  
Dishes overflowed the sink and decorated almost every available inch of counter space in my kitchen.  
Nine children roamed about almost entirely unsupervised.   One fussy baby demanded her need for sustenance.    
Two preteen girls masterfully attempted their first independent try at homemade banana bread. 
Chaos at its most beautiful.   
These are the moments I normally try to hide from people~the completely uncontrolled moments where rules are discarded, messes are exalted, and emotions are high.     
A closed front door gives us permission to live these times PRIVATELY and only those closest are allowed to take a peek.  
Thankfully, this was a good friend.  I let her enter.
Well, I didn't really have a choice.   I did have one of her children that I needed to find.  

She masterfully maneuvered through the toys scattering the floor and plopped down in our kitchen surrounded by the mess of the dinner of a dozen people, banana bread batter, and sticky baby food.
The pots and pans and dishes and cups needed tackled.   The baby protested louder. 
Dishes.  Baby.   Dishes.  Baby.
Easy decision.
The dishes. 
No way I could sit there and look at this disgusting leftover food dripping all over my counter, my sink, and my floor, while nursing my baby.   Baby Hope's delicious chubby rolls of flub told me that she wouldn't starve in the next thirty minutes and her stomach pains could wait a little longer.
I thrust my wiggling, precious baby into the hands of my friend and made a request, "Will you hold this baby while I do my dishes?"   
She stood up, put the baby back into my hands, and said, "No."
No? Not the answer I expected.   She obviously wasn't as good of a friend as I thought.     
"You feed your baby.   I'm going to do your dishes."  
And she rolled up her sleeves, filled up my sink with water, and began to scrub the hardened food off dish after dish.   

I thought about protesting.  
What kind of a hostess allows a friend, who didn't benefit from the joy before the mess, to clean the yuck of the night from the scene? 
My baby settled into my arms as she sensed food was near. 
And I sat there feeding my baby while my friend scrubbed dish after dish, pot after pot, until my kitchen was absent of any sign of disaster.

A servant.  Someone who sees a need and doesn't take into account the lack of glory in the chore. 
One who serves behind the scenes fully aware that there will be no earthly reward in the task.  
As I went to bed that night and thought about this unselfish serving of my friend, all I could think was that she figuratively washed my feet.    She wiped the evidence of my daily journey from the kitchen, scrubbed the junk from the traveling of the day from my people, and left us cleaner than she found us.  

The washing of feet.    Perhaps this was the lesson on service that I'd been after for my children.   Service takes humility.  Humility flies in the face of my house full of big and little sinners.  To do something for another without the promise of reciprocation can sometimes be very painful.  Every day, little voices in my home say, "I didn't make that mess."  "Why do I have to clean that up?" "That's not my game on the floor."  "I didn't drop that cereal."  "They aren't my shoes."  "That toothpaste all over the mirror doesn't look like my toothpaste."  "Those puzzles aren't mine."  "That's not my toilet paper clogging the toilet."  And in stellar acts of parenting, I often squeak back in that high-pitched, insane mom voice, "If I only cleaned up my messes, you all would be living in a complete pig sty."  "  "If I only cleaned up my own dinner, you all would be living in a mess of mold."  "If I only did my own laundry, you all would have no clothes."  And I raise my voice a little louder, "WE ARE A FAMILY.  WE SERVE EACH OTHER JOYFULLY."   The "joyfully" comes out a bit like an animal growl.    

The washing of feet.  This was the pearl I was waiting for in my instruction to my children.  Often I take little nuggets that the Lord whispers to my heart and I attempt to pass them on as a lesson. Sometimes they are well-received.   Sometimes I get an eye roll.   It depends on how well I make the connection and how receptive the heart is that is receiving the nugget.    I waited with excitement for the opportunity to share with a child that serving one of their siblings is comparable to the washing of feet that servants had to do during biblical times.   My children know the scriptures of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an act of absolute humility and service to those he loved.  The Savior of the World washed His disciples feet.   No servant is greater than His master.   We are servants of our Lord Jesus.   Let's wash each other's feet.  That would be the lesson to my kids the next time they protested serving one another in a less than glorious way.          

The seven-year old would provide the first opportunity.  The cousins were visiting and muddy sand toys littered the lawn.   As children raced into the house, she loitered outside.  "Savi~will you pick up all those toys and put them in the bin?"  Such a simple request.  Easy service.  Thirty second job.   Would humility show up?  Not this day. The chin thrusts forward, the hip pops to the side, and a "humph" is exhaled, "But I didn't get these toys out." She stood her ground.   "I know.  Please put them up anyway."  She complied.  Kind of.  Toys are thrown loudly, violently, into the bin to demonstrate the unfairness of the task.  The unwilling servant enters the home irritated.   "I didn't get those toys out."  

The moment I'd been waiting for.   The epiphany waiting to be shared.  The teenagers lazily lounged on the couch and I just knew this lesson for the little sister was going to cause them to turn their haughty eyes to me with pure adoration as they realized the great wisdom of their mother in training their sibling.    I extended the nugget of wisdom to her gently, softly.  "Remember when Jesus washed the disciples feet?    He was literally scrubbing the grime of travel from between their dirty toes as he demonstrated his great love for them.   The Savior of the World served those he would save in a yucky way.  You just served Owen by cleaning up his mess.  In a way, you just washed his feet." 

A blank face stared back at me.   Her eyes squinted and her arms raised in protest.  "I didn't get those toys out.   And I definitely don't want to wash Owen's feet."   Her blond ponytail swished as she stormed out. (So, we obviously have other issues than teaching her to joyfully serve, but one issue at a time, Sweet Jesus. One at a time.)   

I yelled into the next room.  "YOU WASHED HIS FEET FIGURATIVELY, SAV.  FIGURATIVELY."     

She peeked around the corner and shrugged her shoulders, "I don't even know what that word means."    Off she pranced, no longer irritated at Owen, but annoyed that her mother would dare try to teach her lesson and use big words like figuratively.   Crash and burn. 
While Savi didn't quite receive the lesson, the memory of my friend leaning over my kitchen sink, arms deep in suds, cleaning my mess, still ministers to my heart.    No glory for her.   No reward or payback.   The "thanks" from me might even have been a little half-hearted.   Yet, she scrubbed and cleaned my grime just because she's a servant of Christ at heart. 
The washing of feet.  How am I washing my little people's feet these days?   Have I washed my husband's feet this week?   Have I served a friend lately?   Or my church?   Do my neighbors sense that I would humbly serve them or do they see that I'm too busy to take the time?  Lord, give me the grace to follow my Savior's lead and serve others joyfully and diligently.   

John 13:12-17 
"When He finished washing their feet, He put on his clothes and returned to his place.  "Do you understand what I have done for you?"  he asked them.  "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."