Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Those Darn Dandelions

I can tell by looking at him that he is older, though the hat that keeps his face protected from the sun always blocks his face from view, so I couldn't tell you how old he is.  He is a bit stooped in stature and I wouldn't say his body looks young or agile.  What I can tell you is he is just about the hardest working man I have ever seen.  Not only that, he pushes forward in what appears from the outside looking in to be a discouraging situation.

Just down the street from our house is a fairly large old historical cemetery.  It covers a full town block and then crosses the street and there is another little patch of it on the other side.  Each and every year, the instant that grass starts growing, this man is out there, pushing a push mower, trash bags at hand to rake up the excess grass so he doesn't leave clumps of grass on the cemetery lawn.  From daybreak to well into the late afternoon, he is out there pushing that

This time of year, in my own yard, the dandelions make me want to throw a temper tantrum of monumental proportions.  I spent all day Monday working on my own lawn.  All of that time and effort to make it look so pretty when you pull up in front of the house.  It is now Wednesday morning and the dandelions have already overtaken our yard again.  Insert screaming noise here......

So this hard working gentleman gets one part of the cemetery grounds looking immaculate in one days' time, then moves on to another part on day two, things are looking great.  By day three, he is working on his third section, but guess what is happening in section one...yep, dandelion heaven. So no matter how hard he works, he never, ever gets to see the entire cemetery mowed and looking groomed all at once.  Yet he keeps on trucking along, oblivious to everything around him, clearly taking great pride in what he does.  I like to think he is a believer and he is out there doing what God called him to do to the absolute best of his ability, despite the fact that he will never see a perfect end result.

I have discovered over the past few months of muddling my way through some extremely difficult personal growth that God and The Yankee are in cahoots.  Apparently God let the Yankee in on what it is He is trying to teach me (after all isn't it so very difficult to see solutions to our own problems when others can see those solutions so well?) but both God and the Yankee are allowing me to figure everything out in my own sweet time (insert the ever so slow tic-toc of a clock noise here).  How very generous of them.  I would be much more appreciative of neon flashing signs, having people jump out in front of me in traffic saying "Hey, are you Melissa?  God told me to tell you....."  Billboards...yes, that would be fantastic!!!!  Anything really. But instead I struggle each day in certain areas of my life facing hurdles that I just can't seem to jump over (seriously, have you ever seen how short my legs are???).  The Yankee says we all have to learn everything in our own time and even if he were to tell me what it is he thinks I need to hear, I might nod my head and listen, but until I see it for myself, it's really a nonsensical conversation to even have. And I know this to be true because years ago, a lifetime ago really, I went through the same with him.

Logically I know what I am supposed to do each and every day.  My main "job" is to take care of my kids, our home, and make sure anything my husband needs is done.  I am really good at those jobs AND I enjoy doing them.  There is nothing else I would rather do actually.  It never matters to me that our kids will never be perfect or there is only so much I can do from here to help my husband.  Much like those pesky dandelions, I just keep on pruning this family and doing what it is God has called me to do.

But then there is MY, no, I am not sick...blessed beyond belief to be so very healthy...only there are those two things that do make me very sick...wheat and sugar.  Two ingredients that just happen to be in almost every food we consume nowadays.  And the struggle to not eat them at all each and every day is a battle unto itself. I do not even get one area of this part of my life pruned before I forget exactly how sick these foods make me and I fall back into them all over again.

 Last week, I had been going along pretty well, when suddenly I began craving these muffins I used to make and actually used to think were "healthy".  You take a cake mix of any flavor you like and mix it with a can of pumpkin and some applesauce instead of all of the ingredients that actually go into a cake.  Well, I made those for the first time since I realized how sick wheat and sugar make me.  I had three of them in one day.  The next day in a huge pinch we went to Wendy's which we very rarely do.  Normally if we do have to go to Wendy's I will get a salad or a baked potato and it is fine.  But because of the wheat and sugar from the previous night, I was hurting bad and craving even more wheat and sugar, so I had a kids meal cheeseburger and fries with a miniature Frosty.  Doesn't sound too, too bad does it?  I mean really, everything in moderation right?  I literally could not tell you the last time I ate a cheeseburger.  I have zero memory of when that could have been it has been so long.  Thirty minutes and a splitting headache later, I was lying on the couch, overwhelmed with exhaustion and woke up the next morning shaking.

I get very frustrated at not being able to eat like a "normal" person, but as one of my friends pointed out, today's American diet is not "normal" and it is actually a blessing that God made my body so super-duper-hyper-sensitive to wheat and sugar.  But never, not once do I finish what He started in this area of my life because the big picture is too overwhelming, everyone I know eats whatever they want so I do not have anyone to join in this experience with me.  Most of all it's insane to me to think about missing wheat and sugar for the rest of  my life.

Then there is the small matter of exercise, which again, beginning of the week, I start out like a champ, but become so overwhelmed as the week goes on that I drop it and the only exercise this body sees by Friday and the weekend is walking the dog. Yes, THIS dog :)

Photo courtesy of Elaine Fox

 I know God wants me to exercise and take care of this body He has blessed me with, but instead of doing it and doing it for His glory, I stop a quarter of the way through the job and don't complete the work. Once again I become seriously overwhelmed at the thought of having to do this day in and day out to maintain a good level of health.

Finally there is the matter of what I am going to be when I grow up.  All I know to do is write, however even in that area in I get in my own way.  I write one thing, but before I even start to write again, dandelions are popping up on that piece, it is getting old, no one is reading it anymore.

What does the cemetery caretaker have that I don't?  Diligence, most definitely.  Self-discipline, for sure.  Possibly he has a clearer vision that this is the person Jesus created him to be, therefore giving him the will to do the job to the best of his ability and without discouragement. Without expecting perfection, because he knows he can't stop the grass from growing where he has already completed his job. He knows that all he can do is the job God has given him to do, without all of the questions, without all of the excuses, without the lack of self-discipline.

Just maybe the care-taker knows that with every blade of grass, every dandelion he mows down, God is teaching him to become the person He wants the care-taker to be.  Now if only I could just teach myself to listen!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Who's Driving?

Can you picture it?  Little children all under the age of nine running around everywhere, food all over the floor, and almost every single one of those little ones had free reign over an event that was meant to honor an adult.

Sometimes I let my fear of where this world is heading take over.  Momentarily mind you, because pretty quickly I go back to the realization that there is a mighty God who is in control of everything.  Training our kids up to be decent human beings is one part The Yankee and I can play in trying to contribute something to this world after we are long gone from it.  All I can say is, I know 100% percent that our kids are decent human beings when they are around us.  Once they are out of our sight, I can only pray they don't dance around like wild monkeys and back sass every adult they come across.  Had they been toddlers, and at said event with me (which they would not have been because I would have found a sitter or sacrificed going to the event myself), they would have sat quietly by my side while we honored the hostess and the person the party was for. Why? Because I said so.  

People have gotten aggravated with me and accused me of thinking our kids are perfect. I always have the same response to this….Ummm, no, they aren’t perfect, ya know how I know this? I’m the one who disciplines them!!!  Besides we are well aware in this house that God only made one perfect creation, His son, Jesus.  Yet I refuse to apologize for having well behaved kids.  It seems that this is what the world would want me to do, but it’s not going to happen. 

One precious little toddler at the event took to beating the hostess over the head with a large balloon as she sat in the middle of the floor trying her hardest to accomplish her hostess duties.  Precious toddler did not hit her once, or twice, but the entire time this part of the event was going on.  Where was her parent? At the table right next to her, grinning and saying “OMG, isn’t that funny?”  Well, actually, no.  There is nothing funny about a child not being made to behave.  Not just for the inconveniences it causes the people around them at that particular time, but what about their future?  Disciplining your child is the best thing you can do for them, unless you want them to grow up a narcissistic menace to society who believes they should do whatever they want, whenever they want.

“Our goal as parents:  we must not transfer power too early, even if our children take us daily to the battlefield.” ~ Dr. James Dobson (

Another mother allowed her multiple children to sit there and drop food all over the floor.  When they left, their spot and only their spot looked as though 20 zoo animals had been trying to eat in that location.  I get that accidents happen, toddlers drop things, moms get tired, but back in my day, we cleaned up the messes our children made before we left the event, exhausted or not.  To take that one step further, how about, if your children are dropping that much food, make them sit still, over the table, so that they actually stop dropping the food to begin with, old fashioned I know.  Maybe even mean.  Maybe I squelched our children’s’ free spirit by making them behave?  At what point in history did parents become bad guys for making their children mind?

A friend once told me in a restaurant (as her children were under the table and mine were on the edge of their seats itching to be under the table but knowing better), “Well, you were just blessed with good kids.”  Yes, maybe. I do completely give God the credit for they are HIS children before they are my children.  But their daddy and I also did lots and lots of WORK to assure they were not under the table, in the clothes wracks, or acting like terrors in public.

Here’s a shocker…in our household, we didn’t use pacifiers (personal choice, I have nothing against pacifiers), or baby gates, or little plastic locks to keep our cabinets closed.  We didn’t hide things the children were not supposed to touch or put valuables behind lock and key.  We began by allowing our children to learn to calm themselves without a pacifier.  It involved nights and nights of no sleep on our part, and it was DIFFICULT, but only for about a week.  Once that week was over I knew if one of my babies was crying, they needed changed or were hungry because they weren’t crying just to have some piece of rubber put in their mouth.  And no baby gate! Well, someone should have called CPS because we always lived in a house with stairs…but you know what worked? Telling them that they couldn’t climb up the stairs!  How amazing is that? A little tap on the bum if they started to try it, which was WORK, because I always had to have one eye on them and one eye on whatever else I was doing, but the reality is, it never took more than a couple of times for them to learn they weren’t supposed to do it.  

My mother-in-law was the absolute queen of knick-knacks.  Let me tell you, if it was little and glass, she had it on her coffee table, her dining room table and her bookshelves.  Image her joy when we could take our kids to her house and she never once had to ask them not to touch anything!  I know it’s shocking but we never put protectors in the electrical outlets either.  My parents never had them for us growing up so I decided there must have been some way they helped me get to high school graduation without getting electrocuted…upon asking my mom about this, amazingly, they took the time to teach me not to touch them!  Brilliant idea!!!

Once when our daughter was teething, I was holding her on my hip and wearing a tank top because it was the middle of summer.  She rested her head on my shoulder, I thought because she was tired, but, instead, she proceeded to take a bite out of my shoulder.  It was painful!! In my shock I reached out and smacked her little mouth, not hard mind you, just enough to tell her NO, you don’t do that.  Even at that tiny age, I could tell by the look in her eyes that it registered.  And she never bit anyone again.  I have a friend whose mother tells a hysterical story about when her children were teething and they bit her, she bit them back!!!!  It only took one time for them to see, Hey, wait a minute that hurts!  And they all got it!!!  They get it folks, they want to be taught right from wrong, need to be taught it in fact. But in today's society we seem to be overcome with the fear of being mean to our kids.

The other day we were in the optometrists office, a woman walked in for her appointment with five children all under the age of 8.  Like little ducks in a row, the all followed her in quietly, sat down side by side, and waited for her name to be called.  They had been taught how to behave and you could tell every single person in that office appreciated and admired that this mother had taken the time to train five children so well.

Psychologically, I would love to study why newer generations feel so horrible for making kids behave. I really appreciated the following article a friend of mine posted on Facebook:

Even when you look at the nutrition, here in the US, our kids want a snack, we give them a snack (me included), because it is easier than listening to them complain about being hungry and because we don’t want them to WANT for anything.  And there we have come full circle.   

Parents it’s time to get behind the wheel.  YOU are in the driver’s seat of your child’s life, NOT THEM.  It isn’t child abuse to allow them to ride in the passenger seat until they are old enough to take the wheel themselves. Just as the Dobson quote above states..stop, take a minute, and think about it.  Who has power in your house? You? Or have you already transferred power over to your children.  Because if you have, trust me, THEY KNOW IT!!

Parents it’s time to get behind the wheel.

Our kids are going to want for things in their lives, everything will not always go one hundred percent the way they want it to.  We are not doing them any favors by succumbing to their every whim and not disciplining them when their behavior calls for it! Yes, in the short term, not disciplining them is easier, because we are tired or stressed or we feel guilty for something or whatever the million excuses we have for not disciplining them are.  But in the end, we truly only create more stress by succumbing to their every whim and then not disciplining them when they do something wrong. Imagine what a world it would be if we ourselves were not disciplined and reined in by a loving God?  Shouldn’t we, in turn, use the same disciplining love on the children He has been kind enough to bless us with?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life Support

Suffering is all around us.  Always.  Hard times befall us all and there is no escape hatch. This week it is a family that we know of from our earlier days of football here in WV.  The husband is on life support.  Hearing of a husband on life support always instantly transports me back in time to when my own husband was on life support.  So this morning, in running an errand that had to do with that local family, I returned home with our story fresh on my mind, only to hit the power button on the computer and see there was a shooting this morning at Bostons Brigham and Womens hospital.  B & W is the place where the Yankee and I spent his life support time.

I had given a friend the brief version of our near death experience this morning and she replied, "Look at him now!"  Yes indeed, look at him now.  Wth God, all things ARE possible.  God's grace, even when we choose to neither see it or acknowledge it, is nothing short of phenominal. Now, we prepare for Homecoming again! Times filled with a great static of excitement, anticipation, airport pick ups, and getting used to having a man in the house again. And, for my part, lots and lots of prayers of making a home for him he can SO enjoy, considering he spends 24/7 eating out of Styrofoam containers with plastic utensils..and guns, lots and lots of guns.  And though home means more to him than fine china, good silverware, and resting peacefully, it is all of those little things that can help bring the man joy in the miniscule amounts of time he has to enjoy his own home.

Must a man go off to a dangerous job for his Homecoming to be special? What if he works 9 - 5 or he works the night shift and comes home exhausted.

Engrained on my heart is a story a dear friend once told me of how she had been yelling at her husband only to have him turn around and walk out the front door, completely deflated.  She followed him, ignoring his sagging shoulders, determined to keep up the arguing...until she took one look at his face. "What is it?" she said, still mad as he turned to her with the saddest face and said, "I have never felt like less of a man than you just made me feel in there."  And we are talking about a couple that loves one another dearly.  But we all do it, don't we ladies?  And we either learn, or we choose not to learn. Its one of the things I love so dearly about this friend.  She always takes those teachable moments and turns them into opportunities to love her husband even more, give him the respect as the head of their household even when he isn't doing things exactly the way she would do them.

1 Corinthians 11: 3-9
In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband, and from husband to wife. The authority of Christ is the authority of God. Any man who speaks with God or about God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ, dishonors Christ. In the same way, a wife who speaks with God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of her husband, dishonors her husband. Worse, she dishonors herself—an ugly sight

Shortly after the Yankee almost died, we went out to dinner a lot because there were a lot of people who wanted to see him and get to spend time with him.  People we didn't normally get to see on a regular basis.  I remember one couple in particular that had so many questions for us.  It had been about a month since The Yankee had been out of the hospital and the wife looked at me and said, "Wow, I bet after almost losing him, you two NEVER fight any more."  Well now!!!!  How I would have enjoyed the fairy tale answer on that one!!  "Oh no, life is too precious, we never, ever fight!!"  But the truth was, not only did near death NOT KEEP us from fighting, we were actually on a road that neither of us even saw at the time, one that, in the next couple of years, would lead us to contemplating our own divorce!  Lesson learned? I THINK NOT!!!!

Lots of years would go by before I learned what God was trying to show me in this part of our life.  Truth be told, we are still learning, always learning.  Now we have an inside joke (well, not so inside now because I am sharing it with all of you!)  that if we even start to argue, one of us will just say "choose joy" and the argument will be over. Sounds simple doesn't it?.....Choose joy.  Funny thing is, it works like a champ!  All of those years I couldn't choose joy, not even after facing his death and almost losing him.  Choosing joy wasn't an option because I needed to make sure my voice was being heard, my needs were being met, my happiness was important.....ugh!  That pretty much sums up why I hate the phrase "It's all about me" so much, because apparently, at one time in my life, that WAS me!!!  Ever not want to do something nice for someone until they have lavished your world with niceness first?  Hey, hello..yes you, the one reading this, sometimes...and this is an amazing thing...sometimes, when we do the nice gesture first ( EVEN WHEN WE THINK THE OTHER PERSON DOESN'T DESERVE IT), do you know it actually makes that other person want to be nice to us too?  Its amazing really!!! The same goes for respecting our husbands even if we do not believe they deserve our respect.  It works. Funny thing when I finally realized God actually knew what He was talking about!

So, its no secret my husbands job is dangerous.  Police officers, soldiers, firemen, coal miners...heck, the list goes on and on and on of dangerous jobs.  And granted, a dangerous job can help you to NOT take your man for granted a little more than a non-dangerous job.  But I encourage you today, right here, right now, at  5:30pm or 5:30 am,  when your man walks through the door from his dangerous or his not so dangerous job...don't wait around for him to do something nice for you. Let him know he is welcome and accepted and respected in his own home just the way he is, every single day.  Because you never, ever know when life support could be just around the corner.