Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Friday, September 23, 2011


 Thinking of 10 years ago when September 11th was a fresh event.  The loss was incomprehensible at that point.  I truly could not wrap my mind around that many people just gone.  10 years later the stories of those people's lives and those who loved them is all around.  It’s amazing.  We talk about 3 degrees of separation.  Ripples in a pond.  The number of people impacted by the ones who died that day is what is incomprehensible now.  1 life well-lived, loved by many, mourned by thousands.  Multiply that times the many lives lost that day.  Wow. 

It makes me think back to other lives I’ve mourned.  A college friend who felt so alone that a couple years later he took his own precious life.  He had a fiance, a loving brother, friends.  Yet he felt alone.  His funeral was packed with people he impacted.

A miscarriage.  A life not even born yet.  And both our families’ mourned. 

And Alyssa.  The pain of the day she left us is still tucked into my heart.  I think of her less but always remember.  It’s been almost 12 years since we met her.  We were finished with our adoption class and all the paperwork and we waited.  We had requested a girl under age 3.  After what seemed like forever we got a call that they had a 6 week baby girl if we were interested.  Just as the pain is still close, so is the euphoria from that moment!  We could pick her up the next day! 

We could not sleep that night.  We ended up at Walmart about 11:30 pm shopping for a crib mattress and asking some kind, white-haired grandmother what a 6 week old baby needed!  We were elated and terrified at the same time. 

The next day was a Friday in mid-October.  Almost Halloween.  We went to pick her up after work and I just stared at her in amazement!  She was precious from her bouffant of black hair to the fattest checks I’ve ever seen!  She had a swollen eye from an eye infection that made it look like she was winking at us. J  We took her home after the foster mother made sure we both knew how to change a diaper and gave us the run down on her eating/sleeping habits. 

Neither of us slept much that night nor did we eat the next day (I think around 5pm we realized it and had carrots for dinner.  Why I remember the carrots is beyond me but they stick out in my mind!).  We just watched Alyssa and tried to make her smile.  What a smile!  It was like the sun.  And her laugh was such a belly laugh!  I could always get her to laugh. 

We were like a kid at Christmas!  We bought her 2 Halloween outfits because they were too cute and changed her ½ way thru the night of answering the door!  We were pretty ridiculous!  That kid had more cute baby clothes! 

We had 6 amazing, carefree weeks before the social workers told us that despite the fact that mom had abandoned her and didn’t want her, things were not the 99% done deal we’d been led to believe.  Mom changed her mind.  Wanted her back.  She had 6 other kids by 3 other dads.  Would we keep Alyssa while mom tried to prove she was a good mom and get her back.  Turns out the social workers didn’t have her sign the papers to relinquish her rights when they should have.  In the beginning.  It would have been a done deal. 

What would you do?  We agonized.  How to be the “foster parent” to a child I was imagining sending off to Kindergarten in a few years and envisioning in a wedding dress by Tony’s side one day.  Could I take her for visits with this woman who lived in abject poverty and drop “my baby” off there?  A woman who we were pretty sure was doing drugs?  Whose children all were sick all the time?

But what if we said no and they decided not to return her.  Would they allow us to adopt her still or would they feel we were too selfish?  It was the hardest decision I’d ever made.  Little did I know, harder ones were still to come. 
We chose to keep her.  From December to February we took her for visits and nursed her back to health when she came back sick.  Fended off social workers who did not believe us that she came back to us sick because the birth mom said she’d been fine with her.  Spent the time she was away from us, sick to my stomach with fear for her.  There was no heat in their house and winter nights in the desert are very cold.  Called anyone we could think of to see if there was any way we could stop her going home and made every social worker in town mad at us for trying. 

Then they gave us a date.  She was to be returned.  I managed to sit through the court hearing then fled the court room racked with sobs.  Tony just hardened himself and fussed at me for making a scene.  I could not breathe or function.  She would be gone in just a few days. 

Then a co-worker approached me.  She had a friend who worked for the government chasing down people who kidnap children and non-custodial parents who take their children.  She had heard our story and asked my co-worker to let me know that if I chose to take this child and go to Mexico, no one would come to get me. 

Then I knew the hardest decision I’d ever faced.  Could I “steal” a child for its own good?  Could I go to a country to live where I did not speak the language and leave all I knew behind, including my husband who was military and would have been chased if he went AWOL?  What would I tell Alyssa if I did that?  It was “for her own good”?  She would have hated me, I think.  And yet what fate was I leaving her to if I didn’t.  Would she one day hate me for leaving her to her fate? 

Fear of the unknown is probably what stopped me.  I still question what would have happened had I chosen to take her and run.  Life as I know it would certainly not exist.  Nor would my family.  Sometimes I wish life was like one of those books where you can choose the ending and if you didn’t like it, you could go back and choose a different one.  Just to see where that choice would have led. 

If Alyssa’s life had turned out beautifully, I probably would not question that decision.  Especially because I would not have the 4 wonderful children I have today.  But it did not. 

Her return home was put on hold for 2 weeks while a small issue was sorted out.  Drugs were found in the home by the CASA worker.  For a couple days it looked like things would change.  But on March 12, I was summoned to the school office for a phone call.  Alyssa’s social worker wanted to know how soon we could bring her to the office.  The judge decided she could go home.  I told her not until after work.  I promptly went into the restroom and almost threw up.  I was going to have to give my baby away. 

I left work within minutes and picked her up from the sitter and took her home.  Tony came home and we had about 2 hours to spend with her.  I cried the whole time and Tony just watched her play.  It was the worst day of my entire life, bar none.  I don’t think I have ever felt that depth of sadness and anger.  It consumed me to the point that I could not function. 

Yes, we really dressed the
child up like a cow!
When we took Alyssa to the office I could not look the social workers in the face.  Tony wanted to stay with her as long as he could but I could not face them for fear I was going to hit one of them.  I ran from the office, wanting to scream at the top of my lungs!!  How could they do this! 

The next month or so was like a child died.  I sat up nights in her room smelling her blanket.  I would not wash anything because it had her scent.  Have you ever imagined seeing your child in someone else’s arms and not being allowed to touch her?  That was what it was like.  We were in a small town and would randomly run into them in the store.  The shock was always the same.  I’d try to act normal and hope to get to hold Alyssa.  Then I’d cry all the way home. 

We saw her from time to time around town and her mom let us come visit for a couple months.  But it became too painful to see our precious baby so dirty, never smiling, and too soon looking at us like complete strangers.  She forgot us.  We did not see her for a month or 2.  Then we got news about her.  The social worker felt we deserved to know in person so she came to our house. 

All 8 kids (new baby had been born) were now in foster care.  Alyssa had been left, at 8 months old, in the bathtub with 2 of her siblings aged 3 and 4.  They got out and left her in the tub.  No one knew how long she was under the water.  Or how long it had been since she had been breathing. 

They managed to resuscitate her.  She was not the same.  She had sustained brain damage from how long she’d been under water.  Her personality had changed from joyful to belligerent.  She was described as“difficult to control”.  Her foster home was just 2 blocks from our house (small town).  We were reeling. 

The next sentence out of the social workers mouth were, “We have a little girl for you”.  Her name is Gabby.   

Had we made the right choice?  Why did this happen to an innocent child?  Why did we experience this pain?  So many unanswered questions.

Some people believe in “Karma”.  That something that child did in a past life condemned her to pain in this life.  That something we had done caused us to have this experience.  I could never quite wrap my head around the validity of that argument.  How do you learn from a past life you don’t remember.  At the time I had a vague belief in “God” but absolutely no understanding of God at all. 

Along the way in the past 12 years I met someone who told me He understood my pain from that day.  He could empathize with seeing your child far from you, out of your reach.  The child He was speaking of was me.  Neither Alyssa, nor Tony and I, were paying for a past life when all that happened.  We were simply living in a fallen world full of creatures far from their creator.  It’s a world full of pain. 

I heard a speaker once describing the abuse she suffered as a child and I wondered at her peace.  She said that when she had been struggling early in adulthood to cope with what had happened to her, people had described Jesus as crying as she was hurt.  What an impotent, and wrong image she thought.  Who wants that kind of savior? 

God later communicated to her that Jesus and His angels were fighting a battle in the heaven-lies for her very soul while Satan used men to hurt her body and mind.  And God won her soul!  What a conquering image!  That is my Savior!! 

I will not have answers to my questions until I get to heaven I’m sure.  But until then, each day I will pray that God will send his angels to fight for Alyssa’s soul and that they will win the day!  That He will be victorious over Satan for her heart and soul. 

Today was a challenge...4/22/10

I originally wrote this Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 12:12am (staying up late is the only way I could get things done in quiet!).  Our kids had just been with us a few days.

Today was a challenge. We learned not to let children with food issues help prepare breakfast! And a 1 year old can look adorable and still whack her sister pretty dang hard! I'm not sure I remember how many times we sat someone in timeout. Success of the day...they did sit, while wailing like they were dying, but they did sit!

Will got to see his new school and we all got very overly excited by that outing. We weren't sure how he was going to do with other kids. We went to the park and he did great playing with a friend. I kept forgetting that I had to count 4 kids, not just 1, and decided we need a "team" color for every public outing so I can keep track!

After Lydia asked for the umpteenth time if Tony and I were married, she then announced that we shouldn't be married and said, "I don't like y'all". We know she was trying to figure some things out, we just weren't sure if she was feeling conflicted about her caring about birth or foster parents or making sure we really like her.

Later she called to me from the tub and said, "Mommy, can Daddy marry me?"

I remember Gabby going through the, I'm gonna marry daddy phase so I smiled and answered, "Yes"

"He can marry you and me?" she asks

"Yes, because he loves us both."

"Because he loves me and I'm his princess!" Clarity came amidst the exhaustion! Needless to say, I'm doubling my prayers for her to feel that daddy loves her tons!

On Sunday, Will told Tony they had only been to church once before. We sat together in the overflow room as a family and then spent time talking about how special they were to God. We've talked about it a little each day and now Will & Lydia are asking to say the blessing at mealtimes (while Madi cries because her food isn't ready). Lydia has been requesting Jesus Loves Me as her song at nap and bedtimes.

They have so many needs and they are so amazing at the same time. Everyone has been telling us how wonderful we are, but God is the amazing one. He loves me so much that he put the love for these children in my heart months ago. It's still surreal that they are here, but as each day passes I see their hearts more and more. God has blessed us so abundantly we cannot even fathom it. If you are reading this note, you are one of our blessings. Thanks for all of your love, support, and prayers! We are becoming a family.

Our adoption story...so far...the abreviated version!

I actually posted this on Facebook on Tuesday, August 24, 2010.  When I started this Blog, I thought it would be more appropriate here.

Our adoption journey began when we were dating and my husband Tony and I decided that we would have two birth children and adopt two children.  I'm not sure where the concept came from.  It was just there always. 
A year into trying to get pregnant without success and we decided that we'd go ahead and go through the process of adopting.  Neither of us was a fan of me taking drugs nor all that went along with the different infertility treatments.  We wanted children.  Getting pregnant would have been a wonderful thing to experience but it seemed God had other plans so we proceeded with adoption. 

Private and overseas adoptions were much too costly for us on a teacher and military salary so we looked into adopting a foster child.  After a year of filling out scads of paperwork and taking classes where we learned all the unthinkable things a neglectful or abusive person could do to a child, and the repercussions on that child, AND the behaviors that child would exhibit, we were ready to expand our family!  We were first given a six week old baby that was not free for adoption but told it was 99% a done deal.  Six weeks later they said, "Um, maybe it's not so done."  Three months later she was returned home.  See my post titled "Alyssa" for the story.  That was our first taste of what the death of a child might be like, except we could see her around town. In someone else's arms.  Three months later she was returned to foster care, along with her seven siblings.  That was the longest, and most difficult, few months of our lives. 
A month later we received a call about our oldest daughter, Gabby.  She was fifteen months old at the time and we'd met her previously at a picnic.  She was a complete doll and everyone was in love with her.  Two weeks later she was ours.  That was August 4, 1999.  I remember just watching everything she did with such joy, marvelling that I got the privilege of watching her grow up! 
Our adoption was complete the following April, just in time for her second birthday.  I don't know what emotion other parents experience who have given birth about their children, but I cannot imagine loving another person more than I love our daughter.  She's now 12 (April 2010) and at times I forget she's adopted!  
For a long time I hoped I'd still get pregnant.  We had some testing done and nothing seemed to be wrong with either my husband or myself.  We discussed adopting again and even went through all of the paperwork and classes again in our new state.   Then I turned up pregnant suddenly!  We put everything on hold and at 7 or 8 weeks pregnant had names picked out, maternity clothes in the closet, and plans for a nursery.  At my 10 week appointment there was no heartbeat.  The next day I had a D & C.  That was the first time I truly lamented not being able to become pregnant and for several months I hated all pregnant women! 
Gradually the pain faded some and we began to discuss adopting again.  But every time I brought it up, finances just didn't support the idea of adding 2 – 3 more to our family.  Tony went through several layoffs and it seemed like for a while that we just could not get ahead.  We constantly strived to just have faith and know that God was in control. 
Spring of 2009, I was speaking to a friend who is a social worker.  I mentioned our desire to adopt a sibling set of 2 or 3 set DOWN THE ROAD a couple years.  Well, she had three children that would be available in a few months ages almost 1, 3, and almost 5.  Would we be interested?  I laughed out loud, thinking Tony would say no way (he was laid off and job hunting at the time).  Instead he asked their ages and commented how perfect they were for us.  Shock but no real belief in it happening. 
We ran into that social worker again in July.  Tony had just begun a new job and this time she and Tony talked for a while.  By the time I joined the conversation, he was asking to see pictures!  Well of course the pictures sealed the deal!  Those pictures went up on our fridge and we prayed all through the summer and fall that we were doing the right thing as a family.  Once we began to share what we were doing with family and friends, we were amazed at the level of support and love we got.  God just supplied us with so many needs ahead of time, from clothes to toys to furniture!  We got lots of, "You guys are nuts!" looks and we still hear how we are assured a place in heaven and must be angels.  Well, I'd argue against that because I'm pretty sure just adopting isn't getting me to heaven and if you saw me blow my top over some of the stupid things I get mad about, you'd KNOW I'm not an angel! 
We completed all of our classes, paperwork, and prepared for a 3rd time.  Once we were approved to adopt, we had to wait for the court proceedings for the termination of their parents' rights to finalize.  Then we had to be officially approved for those specific children.  That last part took the longest.  DFACS does it's best but they aren't known for speed. 
We had been on this journey for a year and the beginning was in sight.  Yes I said beginning.  It reminded me of Dorothy.  The yellow brick road was supposed to take her home but it only led her to a new journey to the witch's castle, this journey more dangerous and rewarding than the first one.  At the staffing they asked and answered questions then told us that the foster family was planning a vacation and didn't want to take the kids due to the severe behaviors from one in particular.  I understood but was angry at the same time.  How could they say that about MY baby!  Again with the possessive feelings!  So would we go meet them today but not tell them who we were.  Then we would come back and get them on Saturday for a week.  Then they'd come back to the foster home until school got out.  Yes to the first, not happy about the second, YES to the 3rd, and hmmm to the last.  Not so excited about 6 weeks of them back in the foster home.  OK focus on the day.
We headed over to meet them.  I was more nervous than I have been for any job interview!  All I could think is, what if they don't like me!  They didn't know who we were so they just thought we were people visiting.  We brought a photo album for the foster parents to show them later with pictures of us, their bedrooms, our house, grandparents, etc.  We were there about an hour and pretty soon they found the photo album.  Will immediately spotted the picture of his room and saw his name. 
He didn't ask until after we left, "Are those my new parents?"  I've tried to imagine how he felt.  Not really possible.  Moved from place to place without your consent.  He'd been in 7 different placements.   The months approaching the court hearing to terminate their rights they saw their dad once a week.  Occasionally mom would show but not often.  Dad kept telling them, you'll be coming home soon.  Can you imagine having to be the one to tell them they weren't going back home?  Yeah, neither could the social workers or foster parents so none of them would.  Finally the attorney told them.  Nice and sensitive there.  Lydia went from difficult and strong-willed to a beast apparently after that!  Can't say I blame her.  She'd asked multiple times a day, "Who is my new mommy?  Will you be my new mommy?"  Can't blame her, she just wanted to know.  Once she was told about us, she and Will sat and looked over that photo album like they were memorizing it. 
We came back a four days later to bring them home for the week.  First we had a conference with Will's teacher.  Now we've got a ream of paper about Will's needs for counseling and hyperactive behavior due to hyper-vigilence.  I was a teacher and wanted to know how my boy was doing with school.  All that woman could tell me is that he could follow directions and he throws rocks on the playground.  I asked how he was reading and writing.  Well he won't listen or follow directions and he throws rocks on the playground.  Hmm.  Maybe if I'd lived with 7 different families I'd throw rocks and have trouble concentrating too!  So, waste of time there.  I was realizing what it was going to mean to advocate for my child. 

We went to the foster home.  I could not believe I was more nervous than before.  What  reactions were we going to get.  Refusing to go with us?  A "you're not my mommy?"  Well, as soon as we walked in, Lydia said, "You're my new mommy!" and jumped into my arms.  The baby walked up and wanted Tony to pick her up.  Will just stood there with a grin, his suitcase in his hand.  Then Lydia wiggled down and she and Will walked out the door and began packing their stuff in our car!  It was fairly funny and we were thrilled! 

They spent a week with us and several times in the first couple days, I wondered if we were crazy for doing this!  Going from one to four kids over night?  I couldn't seem to get the hang of meal times, bath times, tantrums, biting, diapers, the mess...I was overwhelmed with the trivialities. "God, you're gonna have to hold me up through this one." 

Then on about the 5th night, it hit me that they were going back to the foster home in a couple days for about 4-6weeks.  I was in the middle of singing Lydia a bedtime song (Jesus Loves Me and You Are My Sunshine every night for a year!)  when my throat is closing and I had to leave to go sob on the couch.  Of course Lydia, the observant girl that she is says, "Why are you crying mama?"  All I could say is, "cause I love you."  That was when I realized, yes we were crazy, but God had His hand on the whole thing so I had to have faith.  And that was when I realized I was beginning to care for them as MY children.  

Tony made a call right then.  They can't go back that long.  It will undo the tenuous beginning we've made with Lydia.  It will undo her.  We talked them into shortening the transition to just one week back. 

2 days later Tony left town for a business trip.  As he drove off at 6 am, I stood there with tears running down my face and fear in my heart.  They were gonna eat me alive!  How will I do this?  All by myself?  The look on Gabby's face said, "When can we give them back and return to normal?!?"  Well this is a great start.  Of course we survived but we didn't leave the house at all.  I had baby gates in all bedroom doors so I knew where everyone was at all times!  In a panic I became General Patton! 

Tony drove all night Saturday night to arrive home Sunday morning so he could go with me to take the kids back to the foster home for the week.  I had a huge mix of emotions, fear, worry, relief.  Yes relief.  I was so grateful for the quiet that week.  But by Tuesday missed them so much! 

The following Saturday they became ours.  We had a wonderful summer full of bumps and messes.  We struggled merely going to the grocery store!  I never knew you couldn't let siblings be in touching distance in the grocery cart (so whoever invented the cute ones where they sit together should have erected a barrier in the middle!)!  We had to institute rules about not asking for treats all the way through the store.  Teach them that there is always food available in our house and to not eat your entire meal in two bites.  We are still working to gain the trust of Will, who is now 6.  He wants to do what it takes to please and is very anxious about the well being of his sisters to the point of trying to parent them over us at times or speak for them.  We'd been warned about major tantrums that involved biting, kicking, and spitting.  To this day we haven't seen anything as severe as they warned us about. 
At times they describe things they've seen that I can't even connect with because I've never experienced that type of scary reality, fear, or loss.  At times I tell myself I can't afford to lose my temper with them because they deserve so much better than what they've had so far.  Then I lose my temper and have to forgive myself for being human.  At times I have to laugh (or I'll cry or die of embarrassment) at the things they tell other people or say out loud (like certain choice curse words!).  Then there are the times when I forget what they've experienced and seen and just see them as my babies.  Those are my favorite times!  But all the other times are what make the best times so absolutely precious! 
We are just a few months into this life time journey of being a family. We read everything we could get before they came about how to help them with the transition and to attach to us.  Now we are realizing that it's a two way street.  We had to transition and to learn to attach to them as well!  It's amazing what's happened in this short four months but we can't wait to see how our family will blossom in the next months and years.  And as the only boy with three sisters, Will already wants to know when we'll adopt him some brothers!

Update: September 2011 Our kids are 13, 7, 5, and 3.  We've been a family of 6 for 18 months, still have challenges, but more and more they are the challenges of normal children than adopted ones.  We pray through both and God gets us to the other side every time.

Flapping in the Breeze

OK, so I started exercising.  At the beginning of the summer I began going to a nearby park with a nice track and a shady trail.  I walked around it a few times, pouring sweat, more due to the 98 degree temperatures than the amount of exertion.  I even built up to a slow jog.  Took my husband with me one day and by the second time around we had collided and I fell and sprained my ankle. 

I spent the next 2 weeks on the couch with ice on my ankle (not easy with a 2 year old and 4 kids).  2 months later there's still some swelling.  Doesn't hurt to walk or even jog.   But bend it the wrong way?  Ouch!  And my Plantar Facitis won't go away.  Ugh.  Apparently 40 year old ankles and feet don't heal as fast as they used to.  Can I make a confession?  I was relieved!  Tony  kept telling me how that flat, shady track was not challenging me and if I really want to get in shape then I needed to come jogging with him in a nearby neighborhood with something like 90 degree angle hills.  Yeah, right!  So that sprained ankle delayed what I knew he'd talk me into doing at some point.

I wonder if God is punishing me with continued aches in that ankle since I so relished in not being able to exercise for a while.  Probably not but it makes my complaining justified in my mind.  So finally I went with him.  I barely made it one time around (maybe 1/2 - 3/4 mile) and by the time I got up the final GIGANTIC hill (I walked) I was gasping for breath so loudly I thought I was having some sort of attack.  My husband lightly jogs up, waits for me at the top jogging in place and says, "Another time around?"  Yeah right! 

 I was riding in the car the other day.  It was a beautiful fall day so we had the windows down and I'm wallowing in pride that we got up and jogged that morning.  I've built up to 3 times around (still only make it maybe 1/2 way up that blasted hill). Still no difference in my waistline or thighs though.  I'm holding on to the top of the door frame when I notice that in the rear view mirror I can see my upper arm actually flapping in the breeze.  I kid you not.  I stared in disbelief.  What is the deal?  That isn't supposed to happen until I'm at least 40!  Oh yeah, I'm 40 now.  Crap! 

So I start this internal dialogue with God.  "Why, if I'm exercising, isn't my body changing?  I mean it's been like a week!  What am I gonna have to do?  Commit to this exercise thing?  Actually lift some weights?  Go on a diet?"  God nudges me to quit having self pity.  "What is it you want from me?" I ask.  "Everything," He gently responds.  The smart alec in me offers up my first born, who I admit is having a teenagery type of day.  Silence. 

"OK God, so you want me to get serious about exercising?  I should really commit to more than just the occasional jog?"

"Nope.  I want everything." 

"I'm not getting it.  What are you talking about?  Joining a gym?" 

That's when I realized it wasn't my exercise routine He was getting at.  It was me.  "I want your heart and soul.  I want your trust and faith.  I want your doubts.   I want you to follow the road I have placed before your feet and trust that I will guide you.  I want you to KNOW that I love you and I believe you are beautiful.  I want your love.  I want your time. I created you.  You belong to me."

Oooo.  He had me until the word TIME.  I've been fighting with myself for ages.  I need to make myself get up early and spend quiet time reading the Bible and praying.  I need to make myself get up even earlier so I can also exercise.  I need to make myself get my life organized.  I need to make myself clean house.  The list goes on.  I'm perpetually late.  I procrastinate and then claim I work best under a deadline.    I pray on the fly and claim I talk to God all day long.  I memorize one Bible verse and try to make myself believe I'm "in" the Bible.  Yet I'm jealous of people who God's word just flows out of them.  I think I need to clean myself up before I come into God's presence. 

So what exactly do I have to do?  "Spend time with me.  I will lead you and guide you.  Just trust me.  But I want your time.  I want everything.  Start there and the rest will fall into place.  All the needs will be met.  The time will be supplied.  And I will do the cleaning up, not you." 

"OK, so here I am and my time is yours Lord.  That is my heart commitment.  Not sure how to get my body to follow through but I'll trust you to help me." 

So now I've put it out there for the 2 1/2 people who might read this, I'm God's girl.  I'm committing to Him.  Not just in words but in actions.  Doubt that means I will magically be waking up early to read my Bible every morning, but miracles could happen, ya know?  But it does mean that I'll be asking God to help me find time for worship each day and for the desire to spend it with Him.  The desire for His truth and His word.  And I'll be trusting Him to help me.  And I know He can take my faith, my seed of hope, and move mountains with it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fat Guy in a Little Coat

I was trying on a jacket the other day.  It used to be too big.  I found it at the back of my closet and thought, "Oh hurrah!  Something different to wear!"  As soon as I got it on I realized there was a reason it had been relegated to the inner most depths of my closet.  I could barely move. 

Chris Farley's voice was resonating through my head, singing "Fat guy in a little coat...". 

Great.  I couldn't wear it for fear that it would tear if I barely shrugged my shoulders.  But I couldn't get it off either!  Finally my husband came to my rescue and tugged on the wrist until one arm came off, almost dislocating my shoulder in the process.  To his credit, he didn't even smirk.  My husband is the always fit, always eating healthy kind of guy.  I'm more the, "yes I'll have the cheesecake and lick my plate when I'm done" kind of girl.  That worked when I actually exercised regularly.  Not lately, as in the past 2 years.  OK, that's stretching it.  Other than a summer 2 years ago it's been a decade since I got regular exercise!  And it shows.  Or rather it bulges.  Yuck.

I envy the people who have disciplined themselves to go exercise daily and always make good food choices.  I never had huge weight issues growing up but as I've gotten older, I've found myself less motivated to exercise and more interested in that bowl of ice cream after dinner.  Every night.  I mean, let's face it ladies.  If you're married, most of us figure, we got the guy.  He loves us for who we are, right?  So why should we have to kill ourselves to stay slim now?!  Why indeed.  I know I should want him to look at me and see beauty but it's so easy to get complacent. 

In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul says, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (NIV)  Ouch!  How many times have I given someone advice (unsolicited) on how they shouldn't be eating this, that, or the other;  Right before I down a diet soda and something sugary from the vending machine.  OK, Paul, weren't you being a bit tough on yourself here?  Beat your body to make it your slave?  That isn't exactly how I want to get into shape.  But Paul was writing a letter to young Christians trying to survive in a corrupt part of the world, surrounded by sin.  Hmm.  Sounds uncomfortably familiar. 

In the New Living Translation, I Corinthians 9:26-27 says, "So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadow boxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified."   Yikes.  Makes me want to keep my mouth shut! 

I know Paul wasn't necessarily talking about staying in shape.  But a few chapters earlier he said, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body."  Paul is not talking about overeating here but still.  It gives me pause to wonder, if there had been McDonald's in Paul's time, what would he have thought of our "super sized" food culture?  There are several bible verses that refer to gluttons as equal to drunkards and a friend to sinners. 

So I'm in a quandary.  I am totally lazy at heart.  I love nothing better than to sit quietly with a cup of tea or coffee and read a good book for hours.  I love naps and do not get my kicks from finishing the house cleaning.  Yet I want to be disciplined.  I don't want to be ruled by my flesh, but by my spirit instead.  And I want to fit into that jacket again!  ;)  So how can I turn away my favorite foods?  How can I make myself go exercise?  Will my husband ever look at me like he did when I was several sizes smaller and could do a push up? 

I think my answer is, that I can't.  I am not powerful enough to discipline my own flesh.  I need help.  Jesus said if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we can move a mountain, that nothing will be impossible for us (Matt 17:20 paraphrased).  Faith in what?  Our own abilities?  Our personal trainer?  No.  In God.  The disciples had tried to heal a boy possessed by a demon and could not.  When they asked Jesus why, he said they didn't have enough faith.  They had tried to do it themselves, not having faith that God would do it if they asked Him. 

Exercise, eating right, and losing a few pounds  may seem like a petty thing to ask God for His help with.  But I'm pretty sure He isn't proud that his creation loses her breath as I run up a flight of stairs to get something.  There are so many suffering, in our nation in particular, because of their weight.  I once heard someone say that if there is one area of your life that you are struggling to discipline, it affects all the other areas as well.  Don't I know this.  I look at it this way.  Some days I struggle to have faith that God can help with the big things.  They seem too big and overwhelm me.  But getting out and getting some exercise or saying no to dessert, it isn't so big.  And if I can find a grain of faith that God can help me with it if I ask, then I have a seed of hope.