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.”

 

Normal Is Just A Setting On A Dryer

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I never could figure out what category to put our family in to be able to assess if I was “doing it right.” Should we go in the higher order multiples group (fancy term for triplets or more) or a regular, 4 children family, or the identical (“freak of nature”) and therefore, not assessable category? I mean, I had to find that template or else all would be a loss.

As I knew it, everything I undertook, had to have a measurable outcome and THEN I would know if I was doing a good job or not. This uncharted territory gave me hives. Who had a 20 month old, natural identical boys and 3 preemies 10 weeks early on all kinds of monitors? I didn’t know WHAT I was doing and therefore did what came oh so naturally but self-destructive….I compared myself to others. That easy road was open, wide and welcoming, at first. It seemed harmless enough until I realized I wasn’t fitting into “the norm” that others seemed to be. No one could relate. Nobody at the Multiples Group, nobody at preschool, and no one anywhere as far as I could find. I searched everywhere. I read books. I attended workshops by renowned authors, so called “parenting experts.” I asked all the doctors, nurses, and clergy I could about everything. I wrote letters to authors whose books were about parenting (one author was unfortunately deceased and couldn’t answer my maniacal questions). I was a control freak freaking out that I didn’t know how to handle all of it. I had no idea I was adding insult to injury and trying to complete the impossible. I was like a barefooted hiker trying to summit a mountain in -5 degrees with no experience or supplies. It hadn’t dawned on me yet that maybe NOT knowing was good for me, that maybe my fear of failure and lack of understanding would actually draw me closer to my Creator. I had no idea that normal doesn’t even exist! I later joined a Bible Study and heard the saying that “Normal Is Just A Setting On a Dryer.” That has been my motto ever since. There. Is. No. Normal. We are all just here for a while working out this experience called life and trying to make the best of it. That’s all.

God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle

If you, like me, despise the above saying, then you will easily understand me. I absolutely believe there IS a higher power and have come to know him as Jesus. Yes, He most certainly WILL give you more than you can handle. It’s His means to draw you closer. It’s not to disregard your surely, evolved abilities, but to salvage those in overwhelming, unbearable circumstances.  I learned this tough lesson when I, Katie, Miss do-it-all, over-achiever, was given natural, identical triplets 3 months after my mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s and while I was raising a 1 year old. My sister said God did this to get my attention because that was the only way. I beg to differ. I think God did this to bless my husband and me and to teach us. Now there has been a cost: loss of prior beliefs, less invitations and others, but they pale in comparison to the life lessons we’ve gained. Maybe you have a similar story from a different perspective. Maybe you were blessed with a special needs child (greatest nod from God I can imagine) or you have endured a trial that has left you more aware of what really matters. Maybe you lost something that opened your eyes to something greater.  I don’t know, but I do believe we all can learn from and gain perspective from one another. That is why I decided to do this blog that many friends say might help someone else.