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Sometimes I’m Not Okay… and That’s Ok

Sometimes Friday comes around, and when Matthew gets home from work, we shake hands and introduce ourselves.  Does this ever happen to any other married couples?  It only takes a few days of work and collapsing into bed each night before the distance between our hearts starts to grow.  When we were dating, we could talk for hours on the phone.  Back then, we had to wait until 7 o’clock in the evening, when the “long distance” between Coatesville and Philadelphia was less expensive.  Yup.  When the time on the phone with him got excessive, my dad would highlight my conversations on our phone bill and I’d have to pay him back.   It was always worth it.  And it’s still worth the lack of sleep, to sit on the front porch to refill our emotional cups and reconnect again.  To get past the handshake stage and dig deeper.  If we only ever give each other the dregs of our day, this will eventually make us forget what it’s like to really know the other person.  Dregs are not as delicious or fulfilling as the freshly made batch of coffee or tea, or some freshly squeezed orange juice.  Allow your spouse more than just your dregs.

It’s been a tough couple of months for us.  I’ve actually been avoiding this blog.  Because I WANT everything to be okay.  I hate fake, so as to avoid writing truth, I don’t write anything at all.  But it’s been 11 doctor visits in 4 months and I completely broke down yesterday.  After our initial positive visit with Matthew’s specialist, things went slowly downhill.  He started to lose his voice and has had some sinus infections which have been incredibly persistent in nature.  Long story short, we are almost at a turning point.  Yesterday he had a biopsy taken of his sinus tissue to see if it is indeed Wegener’s flaring up again (bloodwork was iffy and inconclusive) or just a really bad infection.  Given the permanently scarred and damaged sinus cavity he has, from twelve years of surgeries and disease-damaged tissue, we know things will never be “normal” again.  It makes figuring out if a “stuffy nose” is something which warrants buying a box of tissues, or getting a round of blood work done.  I should call it LWW.  Life with Wegeners.  Remission is so fun, because this stupid disease is not the first thing people chatter to us about when they see us.  It’s awesome to feel “normal” and not like you’re wearing a t-shirt that says, “ask me how I’m feeling.”  Don’t get me wrong, we totally appreciate people’s concern for us, and how Matthew’s feeling.  But it’s so exhausting to be sick.  It’s lonely too, because you want to act like nothing is wrong, all while fighting something that is very wrong.  So I’ve somewhat angrily been avoiding this topic, because I’m so over it.  Wegeners took a back seat for two beautiful years.  It is never welcome, in my book.  Which is exactly why I’m not the one writing the story.

Someone close to us recently asked me how I was doing with Matthew being sick.  It kind of threw me for a bit, because I realized I’m not really okay.  I want to kick and scream and order a large pizza.  I’m jealous of people who can eat whatever they want and get a stinkin’ cold without worrying about it turning south.  I’m jealous of people who don’t have doctor visits flooding their calendar and drying up their bank accounts.  Then all of a sudden, I realize where I’ve gone wrong.  My eyes have completely turned from Jesus to the waves.  Like Peter, I’m sinking.  It’s not the first time.  These churning waves and I have met before.  They’re scary and ugly and as my focus turns to their depths, my faith gets lost in their darkness.

So our late night porch talk covered a lot of this, and Jesus has reminded me again of His faithfulness.  He hasn’t moved.  It’s okay to be weak, because then He is strong.  And believe me, we’re not weak in the sense of giving up.  That phrase doesn’t belong in our vocabulary: Give up.  We’re weak in our OWN strength to get through what this storm-filled life throws our way.  Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus.

When you pray for us, pray for our faith to be strengthened.  For Jesus to be glorified.  For us to be bold.  No fishy handshakes or wimpy hugs and sighs.  He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind!  Look us in the eye and remind us not to give up.  To rest, not quit.  You can ask God for healing if you want, but more importantly, please pray for our eyes to stay focused on Jesus, and our marriage to grow even deeper in love and grace.  We already know a day is coming very soon where we will be completely healed.

Now I need to go and enjoy a fresh cup of tea with my love.  It’s Saturday, and we have two full days together, and I still haven’t run out of things to talk about with him.  And there’s no long distance bill to worry about anymore.

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Milk and Algebra

Nursing a baby and helping with Algebra.  Two things I never thought I’d be doing at the same time.  Okay, I should be honest here and say I’m not actually the one helping with Algebra.  It’s super helpful to be married to a man who gets excited over lower case letters jammed between parentheses.  I thought math was about numbers?  Anyway.  My expertise is milk production.  I do love having teenagers in the house, though.  Nadine is awesome with Harry.  They have a ton of fun together.  She gets some great pictures of him, too.

Then there’s this teenage scientist.  When he’s not building legos or playing with his brother… he’s thinking about what else to build.  One day I came home and he had dyed his hair blue.  It was a fun experiment.  Very thankful for our fantastic hair stylist.  She always has fun with his hair and does something different.  Elijah also has a special bond with Harry.  There is a precious gentle side that exudes when he’s around him, and he can’t stand to hear him crying.  They look so much alike!  The other day we discovered that somehow he is about an inch from surpassing me in height.  Every hug feels more and more like I’m hugging a young man and not a little boy.

Jack is extremely excited to have mastered a standing back flip.  And a round-off back handspring.  He is completely self-taught, with just YouTube videos to help guide him.  The gumption to do it is all him and isn’t something that can be taught.  He turns 11 this month and though his hands have been bigger than mine for a year or two now, his body is also swiftly catching up.  Matthew’s family rented out an ice hockey rink last week, to celebrate the April birthdays. He and Harry have a unique bond as well.  Today he read stories to him on our bed, while Harry played with his feet and listened intently.  It was precious.

Elsie is a great big sister.  She and Betty are pretty much inseparable.  I love their bond.  They’re always into building forts and changing outfits and planning great adventures.  She loved the VR headset Elijah made out of an old cereal box and duct tape.

The other day Betty came up to me and asked me if I heard her whistle.  I said, yes.  “Then why didn’t you answer?!”  I had to laugh.  “Um.  I didn’t know you were calling me!”  She says the funniest things.  Like, “On it!” when I ask her to do something.  Or, “No can do!” when she knows she can’t or shouldn’t do something.  She’s reading up a storm, and it’s so much fun to see the lightbulbs going off in her head.  I asked her to please not read my text that had come through and she looked at me with a very straight face and said, “You want me to learn to read better, don’t you?”  She loves her baby brother.  This was a for real conversation: “His head is the most touchablest.  Mr. Harry, you are the most cutest baby I’ve ever seen.  You’re so heavy because of all your eats!”  Elijah put it very well when he said this about her: “I’m absolutely sure there is no one else on this earth like Betty.  I mean, she is so unique.”

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Then there’s Harry.  He makes us laugh with some of his non-facial expressions.  He can be so deadpan!  He can also be hilarious.

We can hardly imagine or remember life without him.  He’s starting to sleep 8-10 hours each night which has been fabulous.  In fact, I need to capitalize on that amazing fact right now and go to bed so I can enjoy some rest!  I will close with this meme which cracks us up all the time.

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Happy Spring!


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Island Love

It’s been really difficult to sit down and write about our island experience.  Words don’t seem capable of conveying or summarizing the depth of adventure it was for us.  I didn’t even wash my hair for a couple of days after we got home, because I didn’t want the sunshine and saltwater to disappear.  There is something magical about knowing the last thing to rinse through your hair is the crystal clear water of the Caribbean ocean.

We weren’t prepared for the wave of emotion hitting us in our gut as the airplane circled the island.

The tears were rolling down Matthew’s cheeks.  We both glanced around the airplane at the six beautiful bodies accompanying us on this epic adventure.  When I stepped out onto the tarmac and was met with the warm tropical breeze, the smell of jet fuel hugged me like an old friend, making me feel immediately at ease.

While getting our rental van sorted out, we saw a nice-looking young man who looked like he needed a ride.  After offering him a ride to wherever he was going, it turned out he was going to the same place we were going!  It later became very clear just how Providential a meeting this was when we arrived at our hotel.  For some reason, our reservation was coming up on their end for only one bedroom and they had no more rooms left.  Our new friend, Will, offered us his room and said he could easily find another room somewhere, but it would be pretty near impossible to find a place for 8 people for the next 10 days.  God bless Will.  2017-02-24 17.05.33The following days were spent playing “Where’s Will”, and we ran into him a couple times each day, somewhere on the island.

When we lived on Roatan thirteen years ago, we spent the majority of our time at the hotel where we stayed.  We visited a couple places, but didn’t play tourist very much.  This time we had a deep bucket list and hit just about everything on that list.  We reunited with old friends, went back to where we used to live, and took in gorgeous views of the island from our fantastic van.

One of my favorite parts was always being together.  Hot and sweaty and often sandy, but always together.

We absolutely adored being able to squeeze Harry’s chunky thighs as we ditched the winter garb for ten glorious days.2017-02-27 16.19.11Another one of my favorite parts of our time there was every morning.  We would wander downstairs to the cafeteria, which was under the hotel.  It faced the ocean, and we would order hot coffee or tea, a delicious breakfast, and simply be.  No agenda but to sip tea and snuggle a baby.DSC_0024

DSC_9884We really enjoyed going to a Gumbalimba Park one day, where we went zip-lining, held macaws, monkeys and more!  I was totally impressed by Betty, who fearlessly zipped her way through the canopy.

A huge highlight for the boys was swimming with the dolphins.  I learned that Matthew has always wanted to do this, so it was incredibly special to watch him fulfil that dream.

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The spaces of our days were spent in the sun, paddleboarding, cartwheeling, climbing, playing, snorkeling, eating, dreaming, talking, and enjoying every single moment to its fullest.

Never did we think this dream of returning to our Island home would come true.  But God knew we needed this time and provided incredibly for us to be here.  Many thanks to Matt’s employer, who made it possible to go.  So grateful, too, for my Plexus business which made it possible to buy passports for 8 and eat for 10 days!  Our trip home was bittersweet.

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Our not-so-comfortable layover in Texas

We now have our hearts all over the globe.

There is so much more I could write about, but it’s almost April, and I really need to hit “publish”.  We will treasure these memories and are blessed to be able to share a small bit of our adventure with you.

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Better Than a Box of Chocolates

Why are some days so hard?  This question was texted to me from the other room.  I sat upstairs feeding Harry, while a raucous crew finished their supper.  For various reasons, we both had an uphill day.  I woke up with the urge and desire to make our bedroom look cute and tidy.  But all I managed to do today in my room was eat chocolate.  Because even though the incredible supplements we use have taken away my cravings for donuts, candy, just about every cereal, and most things found in the center aisles of the grocery store… chocolate is still okay in my book.  In fact, today I did something I’ve always wanted to do.  A rather nicely sized box of mixed chocolates came into my possession this week, and I took a bite out of every single one.  Just to see what was inside it.  None of this dainty and mysterious picking out of what you really hope isn’t orange-cream-filled chocolate or weird chocolate liquor.  (At least that’s not my favorite.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.)  I bit into each one, leaving a tooth-marked morsel in its place.  It looks like an animal sniffed out and sampled the box of crack.  I mean chocolate.  Nope.  Just a mama of six who may have had one or more things overwhelm her slightly sleep-deprived mind.  I claim with Anne of Green Gables: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.  Yet.”

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Betty decided today was a great day to pull out all of the summer clothes and try them on for size.  I suppose I forgot to mention where we are heading in twenty days.  Our entire family will be boarding a plane and flying to Roatan, Honduras!  2017-01-25-19-24-25-1It has been our dream to return, since Matthew and I lived there for six months when Nadine and Elijah were babies.  Now, thirteen years later, we are.

It’s hard to imagine Caribbean temperatures and bathing suits as I sit wrapped in my scarf, clutching yet another hot drink.  2017-02-01-18-11-07-1As Betty squealed with excitement over her shorts still fitting her, it slowly started to sink in today.  The last time we traveled outside of the country was to Belize, when Jack was Harry’s age.  I guess I should start thinking about fitting into my bathing suit.  Stupid chocolates.

So why are some days so hard?  I don’t have a solid answer, but my reply was: So we will long a bit more for Heaven.  Because as awesome and beautiful as our life is here, it’s covered in pain and sickness and brokenness and imperfection.  If you don’t know where you’re going when you die, this is as good as it gets.  But if you have peace in the finished work of Christ, then the best is yet to come!  Better than a box of chocolates.  With no mistakes in it.  Ever and for eternity.  Come, Lord Jesus.


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This is Not a Normal Life

“This is NOT a normal life!” she exclaimed from the back seat.  I glanced back at the stop sign to see what she was doing.  She had a small notebook and pencil.  Her legs were crossed, the tips of her fuzzy boots sticking up almost to her knees.  “This is NOT a normal life.”  She was playing MASH. With herself.  I laughed out loud while Betty told me how she was living in a mansion with THREE children and driving a Ford.  Oh, and she was married to Toby Mac.  When something is interesting or exciting for her and she wants me to listen she will say, “Hear this!”  Such a herald.  She is doing fabulously in school, reading sentences like, “The path led to the shed.”  She recently celebrated her 6th birthday.

Elsie is a great teacher and when she’s not DOING school, she is PLAYING school.  She has a vim and vigor for life.  A shaker and a mover.  Literally.  The other day she and Betty rearranged their room.  A girl after her mama’s own heart.  She is our pancake-maker, and does a fine job of it!

Jack is back into wrestling season full swing.  When he’s not wrestling, he is doing pushups.  Hundreds of pushups.  I’m excited when I do 30 in one day.  He’s not satisfied until he does 300.  We also recently discovered a Ninja Warrior gym not too far from us.  He conquered the warped wall the first day there, and loves to challenge himself with the other obstacles.

Elijah is my right-hand man in the kitchen.  We can throw together supper in less than half an hour.  I love teaching him stuff in the kitchen.  He gets my style of cooking, which doesn’t lean on recipes as much as a hunch on how different flavors will work together.  Having an instant pot has made dinner prep SO easy.  He is a geometry whiz, and we are looking in to some sort of coding class, as he is bent in this direction.  Sometimes he explains things to me and I have no clue what he’s talking about.  He’s also doing daily pushups and slowly inching closer to my height.

Nadine is our baby-whisperer.  Harry and her have a special bond.  She is convinced he can say her name, and it does sound pretty close.  I honestly don’t know how I could manage this house without her.

Harry adds the most perfect element of sweetness, joy and delight to our home.  When he starts to talk, everyone comes running.  He smiles and the sun comes out.  He is two months old already!  He is the king of expressions, and makes so many faces.  2017-01-12-10-21-55-2We’re slowly getting onto a sleeping schedule.

Though we often pass like ships in the night (literally), Matthew is my biggest support.  Between coaching, working, and being an amazing dad to these six… 2017-01-09-19-12-48
He is also the one whom my soul loves.  2017-01-21-15-35-34-1
It’s not hard to love him, but sometimes lack of sleep and the demands of being needed by 6 people can sometimes push me over the edge.  He is so patient with me.  It’s not tear-free, anger-free, frustration-free or hardship-free.  But it is full of joy, forgiveness, humor, and faith.  Had we been thrown the life we are living now, I might have also exclaimed: “This is NOT a normal life!”  But it’s the perfect life for me.
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Horses, Blue Hair, Kisses, Fashion & Fall

“When will this stop?!” I exclaimed, as I peered at the sweet little ankles of our youngest daughter, no longer covered up by her pant legs.  As the weather has cooled, all of the jeans have come out of hibernation, and reveal what we all know is going to be true, but is still surprising year after year.  About three inches too short.  High-water pants, without the water.  The funniest part of this observation was when she came over to me, threw her hands up in the air and returned my comment with: “It will NEVER end!”  I just stared at her, both amused and surprised at her accuracy and hilarity.  My old soul of a daughter, who knows a bit more about life than I do sometimes.

Indeed, fall is upon us.  I spied frost this morning, and I think not being able to perform my usual putting our garden to sleep for the winter, has made me feel like it can’t possibly be here already.  Thirty-seven weeks pregnant,  gardening is an activity that has been scratched from my fall to-do list.  Baby Chip is strong and low and starting to make me long for the end.  I want to see these strong legs that make sweeping movements even yet, across my belly, and make me wonder if he has six legs, they are so active and everywhere.  I can hardly wait to see if his hair is straight or curly, and what color eyes he will inherit.  Will he have that joker smile Nadine was born with, or dimples and a cleft in his chin?  So much about which to wonder and wait.

The children have been incredible as they have a lot more on their plates than normal.  Keeping this nesting mama happy with a clean house, washed dishes, and delving into their schoolwork each day.

Nadine has been back in the saddle and doing such an incredible job riding!  She is learning to jump and is almost to a canter.   The other day at her lesson, this horse kept me in very close company!
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She is really into puzzles, and spends hours doing them in her room.  We’re also working on a big one on our dining room table right now.  So yesterday we were sorting through pieces, and I was messing around with a pile of similarities.  She sat down, grabbed a piece out of the box of a thousand pieces, and put it in a spot, first try.  Five seconds later, same thing.  By the fifth time of doing this, I looked up and possibly glared.  How on earth?  She just laughed and shrugged.  Talent, I tell you.

We’re all taking bets as to whether or not we will have another teenager or a new baby first, since both events are due to happen the same week.  Elijah hopes Chip comes first so we’re all home together, and I agree.  Recently, he had the urge to dye his hair blue.  With permission (while I wasn’t home, because that’s just easier on my nerves), he gave it a go.  It was pretty hilarious, because his hair didn’t turn blue as much as his scalp and forehead did.  Eventually it all washed out.  During our family vacation, he was so much fun to photograph, jumping off the pier into the lake.  He is also such a patient teacher and helps me a lot with the younger kiddos during school.

Jack continues to grow like a weed.  He is involved in a pretty intense wrestling league twice a week.  A few weeks ago he got work out with and meet his favorite wrestler of all time: Olympic champion, Jordan Burroughs.  He inspires me to not quit, and I told him he will need to coach me back into shape after baby is born!  I love watching him and Elijah interact.  Elijah recently converted Jack to the love of hot sauce.  Now we will probably go through two bottles a week instead of just one.  This past night at wrestling practice, I stayed to watch him until Matthew could meet me there after work.  It was especially packed out, with more than thirty kids practicing.  I was just leaving and almost to the door when Jack came running up to me and gave me a kiss goodbye.  I think I left part of myself melted on the floor right there.  I don’t take it for granted that my ten-year-old son wouldn’t be the least bit ashamed to show his mama some love in a room full of tough boys and adults.  That’s the type of guy he is.  And yes, he still eats lots of apples.

Sometimes I forget that Elsie is just eight.  She’s incredibly capable and strong.  Her love for life and new adventures is hauntingly familiar.  She loves fashion, and I’m always amazed at the outfits she comes up with, because she certainly never asks my opinion about them.  She dreams of gymnastics, and we hope to be able to say yes to this soon, now that her arm is fully healed.  When she’s not doing her schoolwork, she is playing school with Betty.  She told Nadine the other day that she wants to be in eighth grade.  I realize I don’t take enough pictures of her.

Betty loves school.  She is reading and doing math.  The other day she was writing words with “X” in them.  She wrote “Tax”, then drew a picture of money and a sad face.  When I asked her what it was, she said, “The person has a sad face because they have to pay tax.”  Where does she come up with these things?  She is such a good sleeper, and fell asleep on the stairs the other night.  A dress, hole in the knees of her leggings, and sweetly crossed ankles describes her pretty well.  She brings us so much joy!

Tomorrow is a big day for us!  Matthew and I leave bright and early for a quick trip to Texas!  I’m pretending like our suitcase is being packed, when in reality my bed is unmade, the suitcase is just there, and I’m seriously pondering a second cup of hot tea.  We are so excited to get away and be with some dear sweet friends.  It is a business trip, yet also a retreat.  We need this time to connect and dream and plan before our lives completely change the next month.  God is so gracious to gift this to us, and yes, I’m praying we do not have a Texan baby.  2016-09-02-22-34-52
Stay tuned for more!


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Thirty-four Week Reality

I tried to bend over.  My shoelaces felt like they were a mile away, and I sat back down on the couch, defeated.  My sweet baby girl, who is no longer a baby, knelt down in front of me.  Her own sneakers neatly tied, warm winter coat covering her little body.  It was so chilly this morning.  She deftly took my shoelaces in her pinkies and tied my shoes in her own special Betty way.  Unique like her.  Her helpful servant’s heart overflowed through her fingers to make a perfect bow.  It was a soft moment in a rather rushed and not so gentle morning.

2016-10-11-08-10-03-1My day began around 3 o’clock this morning when a noise woke me up.  Which in turn led my bladder to wake up and I shuffled out of bed to the bathroom.  It’s a dangerous journey these days, down the hall and through the bathroom doors.  As we’ve been painting baby Chip’s room, there are extra things tucked along the edges, making it very tricky for a balance-challenged-half-asleep-pregnant woman.  Often I can fall right back asleep, but this morning my body felt VERY awake, despite the long day of painting before.  I read for a little while, then dozed off right about when Matthew was getting up for work.  The next thing I remember is being fully awakened by a phone call from Matthew, at work, to make sure I was awake.  Only then did I remember hitting my snooze button.  Oops.  So, we had 45 minutes to ALL wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and pack lunches for their day at camp.  Insert my shoes getting tied here, after an incredibly rushed and harried morning.

We did make it in time.  After I dropped them off, I had the entire day alone.  This is both therapeaudic and eery for me.  To not talk to anyone, or hear my name being called for the thousandth time, can actually be a bit lonely.  Right around 1 o’clock I somewhat lost it.  I had many hopes and expectations for my day, and about the only thing I accomplished was putting away the groceries I got and washing the dishes from our incredibly crazy morning.  Something about the water rushing over my hands, and the quiet of the house, made the tears fall freely.

There are other things at play, I’m sure.  Something like pregnancy hormones, and all the changes going on in our family right now.  For the past fourteen years, each and every pregnancy has been coupled together with major changes, as if having a baby isn’t change enough.  Yet their births have been like exciting exclamation points, accentuating God’s blessing on our family.  When we found out we were expecting mid-November, I knew God had something huge in store for us at the end of this year.  We’re still unsure of what that is, but we feel the crescendo of God’s masterful handiwork, as November swiftly approaches.  Stay tuned.
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