Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
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sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
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hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

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Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

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snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
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We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

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Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

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Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

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The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

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I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

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Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!

Outfits

Here’s a story about outfits – both physical AND metaphorical.  It’s deeper than it sounds.

It starts a few weeks back when I was searching for a Christmas outfit for a tea I was going to sing at.  I was pretty excited about it, because I haven’t sang at anything for like a couple of years.  And I actually at one point thought, maybe I wouldn’t get to sing anymore, but then God was like, “Okay, breaks over, you can sing again!”.

So, I was really, really excited, because when I sing, I feel like I get to say in my best, most clear voice: who God is, and what He’s done.  I can’t explain it super good in words, but I feel like a big part of my soul gets to connect with Jesus, and even join with other people when we all praise the same God.  It just feels amazing and I love it.  It’s what I imagine heaven to be like in a way.

Singing is also great, because it’s like a very concentrated time of focusing on just God.  I can’t think about laundry very well when I’m singing to Jesus, so it’s great for undistracted focus on Him.

That all being said, I was pretty jazzed about finding the perfect “debut” outfit for singing.  At this point I thought that was high on the importance level: finding an outfit.

So I picked a dress, but it was more of a leggings dress, so after scouring all the stores, I ordered some cranberry leggings online.  I figured once they showed, I could then move onto picking shoes.  All the men have just checked out of my story, I’m sorry, it gets better.

Saturday comes (6 days to the tea countdown) and no leggings in the mail.  They were lost. Among a few other life stressers, this was topping my list.  So when my husband sat me down and asked me what was wrong on a frazzled Saturday morning, and I said my leggings hadn’t shown up in the mail he had a confused look.

I told him they were important.  I told him how important my outfit was.

Then he asked, “doesn’t the bible say something about not worrying about what you’re going to wear?”.

Yes.

Yes it does.

Stinkers, he was right.  Again, I am stumbling all over my stupid self.  I can’t even get to a tea to sing without bumbling all over about nothing.

So, I prayed with him, and gave my leggings to Jesus.  And it was kinda hard.

Then in church that night, in worship, I gave my whole outfit to him again.  I felt so much better.  I would wear whatever he said.  It didn’t matter.

As our pastor was introducing a new series about Being Jesus.  He said something like, the reason Jesus was born was so that He could die.  The whole culmination of His life was so that He could die on the cross for us.  It was his BIG moment.

Then Jesus said to me, “And I didn’t even get to pick my outfit.”

Yes.  He said that.

I felt like an idiot.  And I was also laughing in my head.

Just to attempt to compare the importance of Jesus’ BIG moment, and me having an outfit for a tea – it’s mathematically impossible, because my life itself in all it’s summation is not even a speck of dust in the entire universe compared to anything Jesus.

And yet, He still talks to me, and makes jokes in church.

Besides, He didn’t even get to wear pants on the cross.  AND, they put a crown of thorns on His head.  That had to be not only humiliating but painful.  Blood was His accessory.

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And I was worried about my leggings.  And I am lame.

Skip to the tea.

My leggings were re-shipped, I found shoes.  Everything was fine.

We sang.  People had an opportunity to worship God.

Here is the interesting thing, this is where the other outfit comes in.  The metaphorical one.

Old me, old worship leader me, would have sang and felt like that was apart of who I was.

But this time, it was different.

I felt free.

Old me would have wrapped herself in a cloak that said, “singer, or worship leader, or worship team member-fancy pants”.

That cloak is heavy, it’s made of steel and iron.  It’s like a magnet that people can throw heavy objects of criticism to and they stick.  It drags the wearer down, down and down to the ground. It’s full of judgement, and fear of failure, it’s restricting and limiting, and keeps my head to the ground in hopelessness.  It’s also full of pride, and self glory, and it resembles someone else who is an enemy of God.  It’s a horrible, dark and ugly cloak to wear.

The original cloak came off when our church closed and I was out of ministry for almost three years. For three years I asked God who I was.  If I wasn’t a worship leader, then who was I? Where did I get my value?  My worth?  What did I DO to deserve Jesus?

Years and years, I built who I was around what I thought I did for God.

My works.

Me.

After he stripped all that away, I was almost afraid to go back to any of it.

But this time it was different.

This time I didn’t’ put the cloak back on.

How?  I’m still not sure, other then Jesus made that happen.

He helped me finally understand that He loves me unconditionally.  He doesn’t love me because I sing for Him.  He doesn’t love me because I try to be a good christian.  He doesn’t love me for my efforts.  He doesn’t love me for anything I “do.”

He loved us first.  His love is enough.

And you know what else?  He took another cloak off me the next day.

My homemaker/mother/wife cloak.

The one where I tied my identity and value to what I do at home.  How hard I work all day in my roles as a mother, wife and homemaker.  The cloak where I find my value in who I am, based on what I accomplish, how perfect my kids behave, how tasty and on time dinner is, how clean my home is and how organized my life appears.

Realizing that I can relax because Jesus, the God of the entire universe, the maker of it all, loves me just for who I am – His.  My performance, success, failure, efforts – none of it are tied to who I am.  I am just His.

Do you even understand how chill I have become the last two days?  This is THE BEST Christmas gift I’ve ever been given.  EVER!

How did this truth elude me for years?

His love, His action of dying for me is enough.  It covers it all.  He did it.  Not me.  He does it, not me.

God’s yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:30).  That could totally say cloak in another version, I’m just saying (it doesn’t but still, they rhyme.)

He doesn’t want me wearing any cloaks of self identity.

Just walking freely with Him.  In cranberry leggings, apparently;-)

an actual example of grace, like… in real life

Here’s an interesting story. The other day, I sat outside in our beautiful backyard, enjoying the sunshine as my older daughter swam in the pool, and my youngest daughter jumped in the trampoline.

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Notice the trampoline in the background.  Mind blowing photography.

My son and husband had just left to get semi-matching father/son haircuts (which I think is adorable).

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When styled, it looks like his dad’s. But that only happens on church days 😉
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Thanks for posing for me babe!

Back to the yard.  As I’m flipping through a magazine, I glance over at my youngest who was moments ago was happily bouncing on the trampoline in just a diaper.

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Pre-jump attire, boots and all!

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And here is where the story goes from happy everyday to miraculous.  But it’s a rough go, so give it a chance.

As I look now, to my horror, I watch my 18 month old bounce high in the trampoline, somehow, right through the open zipper part of the netting, and land DIRECTLY on her head (no hands, no feet to “help” in this fall) and then make a second BOUNCE right into the pool, face down, straight into the shallow (18 inch shelf) part of the water.

She missed the stair.

My heart leaps out of my throat.

She is face down, arms out, legs out in the shallow water.

At this point I am already running across the shelf to get to her. She’s been facedown in the water for maybe three to four seconds.  I knew as I was about to grab her that it wasn’t too long to be facedown in the water.  I knew when she gasped for air as I picked up her body that she wasn’t drowning.

As her wet, shaky body soaked my shirt, I just held her while she cried.  I held her against my body and began to pray.  I prayed fervently, in the Spirit, I prayed and prayed.  I didn’t have real words.  I just said things out loud in a hurried whisper to the Lord, asking Him to intervene.

She stopped crying after maybe 12 seconds.  She’s cried longer over us not letting her put on her shoes.

My older daughter decides she ready to get out of the pool.  I pull back my youngest to examine her head.  I notice a purple bump starting to form.  I am familiar with this type of bump that shoots out immediately, my son had one awhile back and it was shocking how fast that part of his head could make a mini black and blue golf ball appear out of his skull.

I realize I need to get something cold on her head immediately.  I get my older daughter into a towel and head inside, hoping I have some frozen vegetables in the freezer.

That was a huge fall. Not only did she fall OUT of the trampoline (at least a good two feet), she then took a second and bounced off the concrete INTO the pool hard enough to miss the stair.

HOW does that happen?  WHY does this happen?

I get a bag of peas.  I try to lay her down and put the peas on her head.  She starts to scream, she is not having any of it. I get a second frozen bag of vegetables, and let her play with the cold corn while she sits in my lap.  She lets me put the peas on her head for maybe five or ten seconds before swatting the away.  I continue to pray.

I send my oldest upstairs to go play trains by herself.  She protests a bit.  It is only at this point she realizes I’m serious, and her eyes get big for a second.  It registers.  Mom is not joking.

I give the baby a few more minuets of frozen peas intervals until she decides she’s done with that.  I take her upstairs to get dressed, at least she needs some clothes.  As I lay her down to examine her head again, the bump looks smaller, and less purple, and more pink.  I question if I’m imagining things.  I decide I’m not and continue praying.

I check her pupil dilation, I look for any sign of distress, anything that is not normal.  She decides she wants to play with her older sister.  I let her, and continue to keep a hand on her (as much as she will let me) and pray.  I pray and pray.

I ask God to please make up for my huge failings as a mother, to intervene on my behalf, for my baby.  I remind the Lord that He loves her.  That He loves her more than I do.  I begin to calm down internally, a bit.  I remember that He loves her more then I do.

The scriptures in Matthew about sparrows and the number of hairs on our head rush through my mind.  I mix them into one in confusion:

Matthew 10:29-31″What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

So, God knows when the sparrow falls, He knows when my youngest falls.  He knows the hairs on my daughters head… she is valuable.

6:26-27 “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

She is valuable to God.  He will intercede for her if it is in accordance with His will.  I beg Him that it is His will.

We go downstairs.

She eats a huge dinner.

She belches loudly with satisfaction after throwing some food on the ground.

This is my typical youngest. I sigh a momentarily sigh of relief.

I keep checking her head.  The bump resembles a bump you’d have after a fall a few days prior.  It looks light, and although there is still a bit of blue hue to the center, there is a tinge of green and then pink around that.  It is almost completely flat.  I am in wonder and still a bit of confusion.

My husband comes home.  He looks at me like I’ve seen a ghost.  I am emotionally unavailable. I’m still in shock that the entire thing happened.  He looks at Ellie and can’t even find the bump the first time he checks.  I make him look again and point it out.  He’s too relaxed about the whole incident.  I recount all the details, with “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED?”

He can.  He said kids fall all the time.  He said I prayed and God listened, and healed her. Simple enough.

I am still in shock.  I want to hold my baby, but she will have none of it.  She wants to run around and play.  After awhile, we put her to bed.  I check on her hourly.

In all fairness, I feel like we deserve to be in an emergency room.  I feel like I live in some other reality where things are not as they should be. I am confused and am trying to find myself in a place of extreme grace.  A place of close calls.  A place with sighs of relief.

I’m trying to get a grip on what actually happened.

What actually happened is that my youngest hit her head very hard, she then went under water.  What happened is I was right there to grab her out of the water.  What happened is that her head did not swell up, like it probably should have.  What happened is that was almost a week ago, and she is still her complete self, her small bruise is gone.

The laws of physics say my daughter should have had a serious head injury.  Possibly something worse.  The laws of physics say a lot of things that don’t match up with the bible. Sometimes God operates outside of the laws of physics.  Outside the laws of man. Sometimes He does things through us that we cannot do on our own.

All of this occurred a few days before the end of our 40 day fast.  A few days before the worship, prayer and healing night at our church.  Both my husband and I had volunteered to go and pray for others that night, to pray for healing; the spiritual, emotional and even physical kind. I was a firm believer of the first two, but a little bit skeptical of the last.  I knew God could heal people with Jesus in the old times bible days, but today?  In America?  Maaaaaybe.

I witnessed a miracle right before my very own eyes. When I prayed, I did believe He could heal her.  I had been talking to God so much during the fast, that I knew He could hear me, I didn’t doubt that.  I also knew that He could heal her if it was in His will, so I prayed very much that it would be.

I say all of this to remind myself, that sometimes God does miracles.  He does them in the suburbs of America, with a stay at home mom and baby, and a crappy (my fault) set up of trampoline next to pool catastrophe.

He gives us miracles we don’t deserve because He loves us, and doing so will bring us closer to knowing more of Him.  Doing so will tell another beautiful part of the Greater Story going on.

Sometimes He allows us to go through difficult times, and says no, or not yet to a miracle, because He loves us and doing so will benefit us in the long run and will be another beautiful detail in Greater Story going on.

All of this reminds me that although I am but a very, very, very small piece of sand in this huge coastline of life, my requests are still important.

I am still important.

I am still important to the One who is the MOST Important.

And you are too.

He loves you.

Thanks for reading.