Monday, July 25, 2011

Turning heads at McDonalds

Today, as promised, I took the kids to their favorite place on Earth...the thrift store. This store is about 40 minutes away but well worth the drive!
The kids always find great bargains there and it makes them happy finding treasures they can't find in the retail stores.

Their behavior (and my growling stomach) warranted a McDonald's visit directly after. As I patiently waited for the older lady in front of us, to move aside so we could place our order, I noted her careworn wrinkles and her absence. Though she was twice my age, she was carrying a baby less than a year old in her arms and a boy stood by her side not more than 8 years old. It was such a rainy cloudy day yet her black shades covered her eyes. She seemed unaware that she was preventing other customers from ordering food but somehow she managed to step aside, collect her tray and move to a booth.

We unknowingly chose a table near them when our food was placed on a tray. As I finished my meal, the kids gobbled up their fries while engrossed in a deep conversation about all their ideas of pretend play with their 'new' toys upon arriving home. I watched the lady, still in her seat in body, but something was missing from her presence. When the older child finished his meal, they got up...and slowly walked out. They left a cheeseburger wrapper on the floor, and their drink containers and ketchup packets now decorated the table.

Most of the crowded McDonald's, full of lunch hour local employees, never knew she was even there. The remaining tables packed with Moms and their children who were within close vicinity, noticed. I saw heads turning in disbelief as the lady and children left the restaurant. My kids were the loudest (as usual) and began to verbally disapprove. "They just left? Who's gonna pick up that mess?" Thoughts ran through my head and for a moment, I was caught up in the shaming of the lady too. Although I said nothing aloud, I watched Moms roll their eyes, finish their meals and leave. I watched other families coming in and walking up to the booth only to turn away because it was dirty and find other seats. My kids were still complaining when their meals were finished and for a moment, I mentally asked how can I make this better? I stood up, took my tray over to the table, cleaned it off and threw away the trash. Again, heads turned. I walked back to our table, collected my kids and the most adorable family with matching shirts sat down at the messy lady's table completely unaware. As my children quickly followed behind me, scolding me as we walked out the door, "Why would you do that? That was HER MESS!" and all I could do was smile.

Before I cranked the car I told the kids, "I didn't have to do that. But it's not my place to judge the lady. She's likely doing all that she can do right now at this point in time. For all we know, she could have just lost a daughter, maybe she's having to raise those kids now and didn't even realize she'd left a mess. It was no big deal at all for me to take 30 seconds, clean up the mess and let someone else sit down there and enjoy time with their family."

The silence was quickly broken when my daughter said, "Ok, Mom, can you do surgery on my this doll when we get home? She's cut her arm!"

And we all went home. I could have left the McDonald's without cleaning up the table. But as my preacher once told us, ask God how to make it better, he'll show you. And just like that, I was a better Christian today. I still need a lot of work, but I'm getting better. Most importantly, I have four little eyes that watch everything I do. And giving them a better example than what I've given in the past is all I can ask for right now.

The Alabama Sunrise

I wrote about feeling life yesterday after church, and I mean that both literally and spiritually.

I used to find plenty of reasons not to attend church but these days I find more reasons to go. I think it's a maturity thing with me.

When the service began, God had decided one of the other preachers we have as part of the congregation would give the sermon. He spoke through tears as he had just received God's words to deliver onto us. He asked us a question during the service "Have you ever seen an Alabama sunrise?" He had spoke of strong winds that sometimes rock our vessels, and then the beauty of that rising sun. He basically told us that if God brought you to it, He'll bring you through it.

When I saw my friend go up and pray, we all followed in behind her. With her grandmother's grave condition, I thought immediately of my own Grandmother who was already in Heaven. As I knelt down, I saw her seven year old following in behind her and her husband. Her seven year old is the one kid that can bring tears to my eyes sometimes just by looking at her. There's just something about her.

She knelt beside me and placed her head all the way down on the ground. I couldn't help but place my hand on her back. At first I thought she would pop her little head up and look around as the others were deep in prayer. Her head did not come up. And I knew that He was there.

As I began to pray, I could feel her heart on my palm. The rhythmic beating seemed so deep, not the rapid pace I'd expected for a seven year old. I again drifted in thought of my own grandmother as I prayed for the child's great-grandmother. My own Maw Maw once told me that my daughter would grow up to be a beautiful young lady and although she knew she wouldn't be around to see it, she knew it was so.

Maw Maw also used to take my first born in her arms and tell me, "God's got His hands on this one." I always knew it to be true too. Somehow she knew. That's kinda how I feel about this little girl. As I removed my hand from her back, I knew that God's hands were still there...and it felt good being that close to Him.

Brook asked me on the way home "why do the preachers always cry?" I explained how it felt when God puts his hands on you, when everything you do makes sense, a reason presents itself or when God gives your words the right meaning.

It's like watching the sun rise after a storm. You realize that if He brought you to a storm, he'll get you to that sunrise if you just believe. Beauty awaits for us, even if we pass ugly storms along the way.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Father's Will

With an open hand, I stretched my fingers out wide and placed my palm flat against the church piano. I could no longer hear but I knelt behind a Deacon and felt the song that was playing on those ivory keys. I had not thought too much about church prior to arriving because I never have any sort of expectations for the place, it's different every time I go. Although the general assembly and structure is the same, I never leave there the same as I walked in. But let's back up a bit...

Today, as we watched two young fathers with mics in their hands sing so beautifully that visions were completely blurred by tears that poured from eyes of those watching. I watched one of the handsome Dads lift his hand up as The Spirit filled him. The preacher's daughter walked up to the alter and she knelt down to pray as she too had been moved by The Spirit. Without thinking at all, sinner after sinner walked up to the front, and the piano played on.

I, being one of the sinners who walked up front, felt the vibrations of the music move through me. I was briefly taken back to a time when I prayed for my unborn daughter to be deaf. Feeling life, was a way of life for us at the time since my first born had no hearing. I practically begged the Lord to make her deaf too so he wouldn't feel so alone. Life had completely slowed down for us and although it was hard, hard had taught us the true meaning of life, and shown me God. Those first few years of my son's life had brought more blessings with each hardship we faced and it was all I had known as a parent.

It just wasn't my Father's will at the time. She was born hearing and although saddened for a brief moment, I rejoiced in the fact she was a healthy baby. We loved her as a hearing child just as we had loved our son as a deaf one. One day, God decided that she would be deaf also. I had settled in the fact she was an average, common child when He chose to show me otherwise...and again, life slowed.

Some of my most favorite memories, proudest moments, and greatest achievements, have been feeling my Father's will. It's one thing to do it, but when you feel it, it's a whole other story.

Thank you to my church, they always help me FEEL.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Child's Prayer

I have been making an effort to pray with the children. I know many families do this without thinking but we have not. So I've made a conscious effort to pray aloud with the kids this week. We had an unfortunate incidence when our rabbit had 6 babies and three have died (so far).

A very upset seven year old came to me in tears. She asked me, while choking on salt water, if there was anything she could do to bring them back. I had to give her the sad news that although God could do anything, he's likely teaching us a valuable lesson about handling newborn animals before their mommy gets 'attached' to them.

She asked me if we could say a prayer. I began and when it was her turn she surprised me to the extent I ended up in tears.

"Dear Jesus, I know I want the rabbits back....but it seems like Heaven is just a much safer place right now. It can be dangerous down here for 'em. I love 'em and thank you, I hope they will be there when I come to Heaven."

I was shocked. I actually expected her to beg them back! My son even contributed to the prayer and I'm so glad that I was blessed with these two! And Brook closed with saying "Mama, I feel better after I prayed!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Dunk

You might think it's inappropriate for children to be throwing large softballs towards their pastor but when he's in a dunking booth, the gloves are off! And guess who got him in?

Yep, my Brook. Here she is just after she hit the target and she's looking around to see if she's in trouble. When she receives high fives she knows it was ok! She wasn't the only child who dunked him. Abby, Morgan, and I don't know who else did as well but looked like the little girls were out to GET HIM. Girls were rockin' last night.  

We had a wonderful time at VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church this week. Sister Jennifer and all the ladies did a fabulous job and my kids had a great time. In fact, when we left last night, they both asked "how long til we have Vacation Bible School again?" Thank you all for 'taking us in' !

Brook loved the songs. She stood up there and sang with all the other kids and I sort of felt bad at first, not prepping the ladies. Usually I would have taken the time to ask for written lyrics, assured them she needed to be in a 'preferred spot' to optimize her hearing the songs, etc. However, this has been a hectic week and I just had to do a little trusting. I had to trust that B could advocate for herself is she needed any 'arrangements' and I had to trust the ladies, knowing they may not even realize she's deaf and wears cochlear implants, but most of all, I simply trusted that God was gonna handle it, and wouldn't you know it, it all worked out fantastic.

Gage however, only attended one day, so during practice of the VBS finale, he stood there like a deer in headlights. I told him he could stay in his seat if he didn't know any of the words. He has less 'good' hearing that Brook does so I knew it was difficult for him, since he sometimes struggles with average I gave him an 'out' and he took it. When we got in the car, Brook was aggravating him about not going up and I assured her, he had my permission, it was ok! "He didn't know the songs, he only came one day," I told her. He responded, "I knew the songs fine! It wasn't that at all, it's just that...I'm not singing in front of ...............GIRLS!" So there you go.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Spin

My daughter and I had big plans to swim after church. She in fact wore her swim suit under her dress today and as soon as we got home, ate lunch, and applied a thick layer of sunscreen, we were out in the pool. I needed to digest the sermon on being content and as I floated on the pink plastic float, my daughter spun me slowly around. When you look up the word content you find it means "satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else".
It was tempting to just close my eyes and enjoy the peace and quiet but my eyes remained opened. I enjoy looking at things from various view points I wanted to know what my life looked like as I continued to spin in circles.

I first saw my favorite freckled nose seven year old. She smiled shyly at me as we locked eyes and she held up three fingers (the I love you sign in sign language) and I was happy and satisfied and content.

I saw my favorite tree, that once had the most beautiful stray horse underneath feeding from a salt block, the one that displays the most beautiful colors every Fall and the one that stands alone in field and has the most beautiful backdrop every morning the sun rises! I was happy and satisfied and content.

I saw my favorite shirtless 10 year old riding four wheelers with his Daddy, who had just picked the vegetables from our garden which we will have at dinner tonight. I was happy and satisfied and content.

I saw my clothes line which held our freshly washed
laundry, held by small pins to dry in the warm sun God has provided for the day. I was happy and satisfied and content.

So what am I missing here? The problem with always looking through your own eyes, is you can't always see yourself. As our preacher asked us today, do we want to sit around being spiritually content? Do we want to sit around and wait for others to do the right thing while we remain in our seats, waiting and watching. Are we going to hang back because we are content on just going to Heaven while one of our friends, one of our children, view that contentment as not wanting more? Don't we want them in Heaven too? I realized how many people are missing out because I've been sitting on being content. Not normally a selfish person, I realized I was just that. The preacher told us today, if you only have oil and meal, make someone else a cake first and your meal will never parish. You will also be fed. I've fed myself for years but haven't offered anyone cake and that is very selfish.

So I signed the kids up for Vacation Bible School and I volunteered to help. I can't wait for next Sunday's sermon. Our preacher makes me think about a lot of things. I always feel so refreshed and love his stories and perspectives. He was sent to us for a reason, and we are so grateful!