THANKFUL? No Way!

Reflecting on our recent holiday of Thanksgiving, I felt challenged to thank God for things I wish I didn’t have to. The saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” makes me cringe because I know for a fact He will give me whatever it takes to draw me to Him. He will do the same to you.

The reason He gives those He loves more than we can handle is because He knows we need almost brokenness to get past our human selves to seek Him.

If everything were manageable why would we need God? I also believe He wants us to thank Him for the things that break us because it’s then that we are able to grow into His likeness. He has to stretch us beyond comfort. It’s a dichotomy, but it’s very real.

I had been very self sufficient and a hard worker since my youth because I believed that if I put forth 100% effort and gave my everything, good would come my way. I relied on that mentality and it served me well through high school and college. Sure, I had many positive accolades and awards, but it still didn’t prepare me for what was to come.

Once, when my husband and I were early married, we served as ministry staff at a retreat. We were prayed over and the lady praying was taken aback. I didn’t understand at the time but now I get it. She stood up and said, “Oh my, you have a powerful path in your future.” We had no clue what she meant and just went about the normal business of living. Little did we know, she was foreshadowing our future.

After praying for years that I would be able to have children, low and behold, I got WAY more than I ever could have hoped for. I had a beautiful, little girl and a year later came identical, natural triplet males. Sure, our cup runneth over and yes, we had a quiver full, but the pathway there was a frightening trial.

I found out I was having triplets while having an ultrasound at the local hospital. My husband was home on his lunch hour while our one year old daughter was napping. Another family was also in the waiting room but had many family present for their baby’s first, grainy photos. My mother, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease couldn’t be there nor could my in laws who both were working. I sat all alone waiting my turn for the cold metal strobe to tell me all was well with my baby.

I was slightly afraid because I had experienced a complication. However, that wasn’t near the complications I would be having shortly! As I lie there having the ultrasound, my technician abruptly stopped and said, “Oh my! I see two- you are having twins! You can cry now.” I lay there thinking, “What? Twins?” And then she became startled and said, “Wait! I see another. Wait. Let me go get the radiologist. I’ll be right back.” I lay there dumbfounded. How in the world could this be happening? I’m barely a mother. My mother is dying of Alzheimer’s disease down the street and I don’t know enough on how to mother that many children. I began selling my too small car and home when she came back to the ultrasound room. My first comments were, “Are there any more?” Once she said no, I began the task of realigning the Earth on its axis.

After arriving home, I tried to tell my husband the news but no words came. Instead, I handed him three stuffed animals. In true, pied piper sense his response was only, “Cool!”

I haven’t been as cool. This journey has broken me many times over the past two decades. Remember, I’m a believer in hard work and effort overcomes all. But guess what? Nope, it doesn’t. You can’t work good to occur. You can’t hope people will change. You can’t pretend good is happening when it’s not. You also can’t ignore difficulty and pretend it doesn’t exist. All of it is very real. We all struggle. We all have something or someone that brings us to our breaking point.

I recently read the book “Prison to Praise” by Merlin Carothers that says we need to thank God for the very painful, difficult situations we have. He says it’s then that God can unleash His power to make change. Usually, it seems, that powerful change is in our attitude and therefore, our behaviors. I’m no Pollyanna and I am real in that I struggle mightily. I wrestle against circumstances and their perceived unfairness like anyone. However, I’ve grown weary trying to make things like I think “they should be.”

Letting go of results and expectations seem to be my struggle. I’ve wanted things to be just so and people to do this or that but have only met frustration over and over. I suppose God wants me to let Him be God and me be Katie? Maybe I’m supposed to leave results to Him and enjoy the process of raising children the good and the bad?

I’ve found the self restraint required to let things be almost impossible. I’ve wanted so much to “fix” things to how in my mind seem appropriate. But where has it gotten me? No where I’d like. So, in an effort to do the unthinkable, I am going to try thanking Him for things I don’t like and for those I want to change. I am going to ask Him to do His bidding rather than my all too faulty, presumptuous ideas. Maybe then, I can finally relax? Thankfully, it really doesn’t matter because I’m not in charge anyway. That much I DO know.

Pants, Wings and a Nudist Beach

 

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Young children are blissfully unencumbered by awkward things we adults have to navigate.  They tend to take things head on and react exactly how they feel or, ignore them altogether. There are three such instances that make me smile every time.

The first occurred when we took our children on a cruise.  Aside from lots of swimming and games, we also took them to an evening show in the ship’s theatre.  It was a show featuring lavishly dressed dancers and music.  One son, being approximately 6 years old had never seen sparkly, dancer’s costumes before.  When the velvet curtains parted, his eyes got wide, he turned around and blurted out, “Daddy, those women forgot their pants!”

Another surprising moment occurred when my husband took one of our 10 year old sons out for wings on a football Saturday.  We were out of town and he took him (here it comes) to Hooters.  When they returned, he said where they had gone. I was very curious how our impressionable, sheltered son would react to the scantily clad servers.  So, I hesitantly asked while fearing the worst but he said he DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE!

Last, but not least, one occurred when our 10 year old went snorkeling with his grandfather in the Caribbean.  When rinsing off in outdoor showers, his grandfather told him not react but a nudist couple was walking nearby on the beach. Not only did his face more than give away his feelings on the matter, but he was reportedly more appalled due to their being old……

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ANIMAL PLANET

 

I used to say the only mother I could relate to was on Animal Planet. My litter, like theirs, would tussle, prod, and generally aggravate one another until an indecipherable mass formed.  It seemed as innate in them as it was in the wild.  I tried everything to eradicate that instinct but failed.  I suppose it’s natural when three or more come from one crammed womb.  I finally just gave up and pushed furniture back or yelled at them to take it outside (mostly).

My boys seemed to always end up in a pile. This pile could be inside our house, in the yard, on a patch of grass at church (I hated it when they were all dressed up), on a playground, or even in the water.  They looked like a three-headed triclops with numerous, flailing appendages. I’d ignore it (outside the water) as long as the noises emitted from said “pile” didn’t indicate pain.  That sound was my cue to intervene with the water hose, pitcher of water or any other mechanism possible.

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Dumbfounded at how to handle the situation as they grew in size and strength, I finally asked one of the boys what he would do if he were a parent and had three sons constantly wrestling and bothering each other.  Being approximately 11 years old, he replied, “What do I look like…a social worker?” I asked him how he knew what a social worker was.  Dead serious, he said, “I saw it on Sponge Bob.”

 

No Words

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Sometimes silence is more powerful than saying anything. There are circumstances in life that not a single word or combination of them could affect any outcome. We offer words to pacify, heal, anger, inform, encourage, inspire, direct and so on. They seem harmless and necessary but aren’t always.

This week I attended a funeral. When approaching the family, I realized there was not one word of comfort I could offer. Nothing seemed right. It felt intrusive to even look them in the eye. Why did we force them to stand in a line and listen to our babble? They were suffering enough without all of our word pollution.

I am and have always been a talker. (Stop smirking, family). I got an award from my college professors for asking the questions everyone else was afraid to ask. It seemed good to speak up then, but now, I realize it might be time to conserve that resource in certain circumstances.

People know when you care. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. If actions speak louder than words why do we talk so much? The alternative band, Coin’s song “Talk Too Much” says it’s due to human nature.  I suppose we are doomed without self discipline. The Bible says if we control our tongue, we can control the whole body. Maybe I’m in the gym exercising the wrong muscles.

Next time the right opportunity comes, I think I will try to be quiet. Maybe then, I can do something that matters more.

Brother Bonding

If you think I am about to share a sappy, bromance story you are highly mistaken.  I am not referring to some mommy moment of actualized, parental expectations either. Instead, I am outlining how bonding became a criminal misdemeanor in the Turner household.

This is how the incident came to pass.

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My husband and I planned a short outing nearby.  We lived 90 seconds from a nearby restaurant. (We actually timed it.) We thought, “We need adult time and the boys are older now.  We can steal away for a half hour.  It will be fine.”  I always fretted leaving them but our daughter was about 13, could call us and we were 90 SECONDS away. What could possibly happen in that short of time?

One brother, being easily bored, was in the art cabinet when he found a small tube of super glue.  He may or may not have known its efficacy of attaching items together- one will never know.  Apparently, he went to each of his brothers and said, “It’s okay.  It’s okay. Just stick your finger out…”  Being interested and not realizing what they were doing, they stuck two fingers out and pressed two together. And just like that, four little fingers were super glued together.  This “sticky situation” is our family’s definition of brother bonding.  I’ve hidden the super glue ever since.

GRAFFITI

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Some consider graffiti a nuisance that should be covered up and prevented. Others see it as artistic expression. You might see it under bridges, on abandoned structures or inside bathroom stalls.  It’s presence can be defacing but it usually has a message.

I had the privilege of viewing a long, cement wall of graffiti in Prague, Czech. It was an homage to John Lennon after his passing. Apparently, many behind the Iron Curtain grieved deeply and the Communists allowed one spot for them to express themselves.  This was an offensive move by the government to prevent random, public graffiti which was not tolerated. The collective mural featured different artists each with distinct style and was impressive. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder….

Graffiti can also be delinquent, purposeless destruction as well. When our boys were young, one found a can of hunter green spray paint. He impulsively painted the side of our garage. After his brothers let him know we’d see it and he was going to get in trouble, he decided to paint “I love mom and dad” on top of his transgressive “art.”  Of course we weren’t pleased with the graffiti but it sure was disarming to read his “love” for us- his hilarious countermove.  Eventually, but not too soon thereafter, we had him paint over his parental homage.

None have tried or attempted anymore “freelance art” (that we know of).  If anyone knows otherwise, feel free to contact me any time.

THE BLACK HOLE

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Does anyone else have a junk drawer that is basically a black hole? It’s full, but of who knows what?  Recently, I spent hours going through one of these looking for something.  Of course, it never appeared but some other really cool stuff did.  I ended up reminiscing through pictures, children’s art, cards and very old documents from my grandparents.  I highly recommend doing it sometime.  Just sit down and take an inventory of your past years. Updated perspective is truly remarkable.

Some of the amazing items found were over a hundred years old. I happened upon my grandfather’s 1926 certificate of initiation into the Alpha chapter of Pi Kappa Phi at College of Charleston. I also found a tenant farmer deed that was originally signed in 1884.  It was glued to the new one signed and notarized in 1909.  I have no idea what to do with it but just touching the papered history of my family felt special.  The children’s art is way too numerous to detail, but I loved the preschool mom letters.  Ridiculously cute, they described me as 45 pounds and basically perfect (where did that opinion go?). A prized find was a tiny journal I had jotted some hilarious encounters with my children in. If any of you still have small children around, it is so worth it.

One entry in the journal had me at dinner with two of them.  Apparently, one son wanted to say the Lord’s Prayer since he recently learned it. He began and then I noticed he said, “And lead us into temptation…”  Upon finishing, I corrected him that it was actually, “And lead us NOT into temptation.”  He shrugged and said, “What’s the big deal? It’s only ONE word!” Another was driving home from school, our daughter was reading about the Holocaust.  She shared a very tragic story of a woman whose husband was shot in front of her and she delivered a stillborn days later.  It was a very somber, quiet moment until my son said to me, “And you think YOU have stress!” (He had a very good point.)

As funny as the stories were, the art sweet, and the old pictures meaningful, I was amazed at the feeling of positivity that came from reminiscing.  It was like looking back through a filtered, edited frame that provided good light and a beautiful landscape of my life. Sometimes, saved clutter can be good thing (sorry, Martha).

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Candid Kids

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Does anyone remember the television  show “Candid Camera?”  It was the show from the 70’s where a serious newsman would interview children on relevant matters. Usually, the child was very frank in their response and was unintentionally hilarious. Occasionally, the interviewer would get giggly because some kid would say what adults could not.

If I had a Candid Camera crew around to record some of the things that came out of my childrens’ mouths, I’d have done it (most of the time). One example occurred during Vacation Bible School.  It was tribal themed that year and I knew the leader of my son’s tribe. She found me during pick up to share what my son had said to the group.  She had been explaining that tribes work together for the common good and that we do that for our families by completing chores.  When asked who did chores for their family, my son’s hand shot up (he never backed down from an opportunity to talk out). She asked him his chore and he emphatically said, “When my daddy wants a beer, I go get it for him!” Strike one for parenting….

Another doozy occurred when we were all in the car.  My husband was reprimanding the boys about their behavior and told them that their ADHD was not an excuse for D-U-M-B.  Everything got quiet for a minute and a son said, “I didn’t know I had D-U-M-B too.”  We got a kick out of that one.

Once the boys reached double digits, their language became somewhat “colorful.”  I nagged them repeatedly about cleaning up their language, washed mouths out, put in time out, everything.  So, one son began spelling out curse words because he believed God wouldn’t get mad because he actually hadn’t SAID them.  I happened to hear him arguing with his brother one afternoon and heard him say, “You are nothing but a B-A-S-T-E-R!” (I am so glad I wrote that one down. Possible Strike Two in there for us as parents.)

Our daughter had the propensity to create new words and phrases.  She invented the word “reservate” (instead of make a reservation) which I actually use to this day.  Another thing she invented was a term for people who didn’t behave nicely.  She had heard the term “red neck” and “white trash” so when someone was acting ugly, she called them “red trash.”

We have had a dear friend/nanny/housekeeper over the years and once when one of our sons was young and visiting her house he looked around and said, “You sure make poor look good!” Thank goodness she laughs about that one to this day.

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The Baptismal Blunder

 

A few years ago, my mother in law took my husband and two of our sons to the Holy Land.  Our church had sponsored the trip and it was going to several ancient, biblical sites. One of our boys was adamant that he wanted to be baptized in the same river Jesus was by John the Baptist. The pastor wasn’t very excited to get wet and in the cold river because it wasn’t part of their group tour, however, his wife made him do it. He got in and Joshua got baptized. The only fluke was the picture my husband sent. He sent a photo with the caption “Baptized in the river Jordan!”  (HE NEVER LOOKED AT THE SHOT.) Excitedly, I open the image and get a full frame of a bag of POTATO CHIPS.  I could see my sons legs and water, but that was it. Chips. Really?

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YIN YANG

 

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In Chinese philosophy, yin yang describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary.  Can this explain how things can be both wonderful and frustrating at the same time?  It’s like having an absolutely adorable puppy that just won’t stop pooping inside the house. It’s also like atomic fireball candy- it burns your mouth but you can’t stop eating it.  I often find relationships to be like these, so wonderful I won’t leave them but so challenging sometimes I wish I could.  Parenting is the epitome of yin yang to me.

As much as I love, appreciate and want to be a good mother to my brood, I find it to be the most aggravating assignment in the world.  When I look at Facebook and see all the perfectly posed back to school photos, I chuckle to myself wondering what some of the REAL scenarios were like.  I have to guess some moms are behind the camera threatening for all kinds of momentary misdemeanors.  I will never forget a family photo shoot we had. I decided to dress everyone alike and take photos at the waterfront.  (By the way, I regret every day that we wore denim overalls but, it WAS the nineties.) One son was having NONE of it and was not cooperating.  He just got up, turned around, and posed in the opposite direction.  The hippie photographer found his behavior hilarious and snapped a shot.  I treasure that momentary annoyance.

Christmas is full of yin-yang moments.  When we had four toddlers, I put a baby gate around our Christmas tree- the ugly, plastic, white folded kind. This hideous necessity was due to several pulled over, decorated trees.  Thinking I had finally subdued their grabby little hands, I walked in to find my children INSIDE the gate WITH the Christmas tree.  (So much for offense.)  Another gross, yet hilarious moment is the year my husband’s stocking was empty (my bad) and the children wanted to know, “WHY!?”  To satisfy their curiosity, he disappeared for a moment and reappeared with something he said he found in his stocking….it was a pair of boxers with brown magic marker drawn “stains.”  He smiled and said, “Santa only left me skid mark underwear!”  The children howled.  I admit I did too.

Frustration is a guaranteed part of life.  Wonderful moments aren’t guaranteed but sure are nice when they occur.  I’m still working on trying to focus on the latter. Yin wouldn’t be the same without some yang.

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