Saturday, July 4, 2015

Embracing Reality

Penny and I danced for 2 1/2 hours straight- not the romantic side to side swaying of eighth graders, not the arms apart kind of slow dancing, not a slow waltz,  not even your typical wedding dancing- but an all out turn the red lights on it's after midnight Saturday in the club kind of dancing. We bounced up and down and spun circles for so long my calves burned and my arms were on fire.

Beyoncé has nothing on Audrey and Isabel's hair flips. The boys all have moves that totally makes me question what goes on in this house especially knowing their home-schooled and we don't have television! I even watched Charlotte move her arms and fingers in a way that made me question her Cerebral palsy diagnosis.

I looked down at the six week old baby with big bright blue eyes staring intently at me..... And while Pharell with his sick beats jammed in the background,  for a moment everything was perfect.

I now interrupt this blog post six weeks late to share the readers digest version of child number seven.

Penelope Ellen Kolanowski was born at home May 7 at 5:15 AM. She decided to grace us with her presence three weeks early and was a little peanut weighing just over 6 pounds.

The day before she was born a wonderful friend of mine stopped by and helped me put a third coat of Tungoil on our newly installed hardwood floors in the living room. She listened to me pour my heart out about how scared I was to have another baby. I had been feeling pretty crappy and told her to keep praying that this little girl waited until her due date of May 25th because we had so very much to try and get done before then. I chatted on and on about how excited I was to go to my favorite garden center tomorrow and get my flowers and veggies. She even brought me a gift knowing how very much I cherished my garden.

All was normal for the evening, but somewhere around midnight that night my water broke. For a good hour I was in denial that this couldn't possibly be happening three weeks early. I remembered how intense my other two births were so I decided to get in a nice warm bath tub and drink a special glass of wine. And there in the middle of the night I cried intensely and poured my heart out to God. And for one hour it was like Jesus sat right there next to me.

I cried because I knew having a baby with these six kids would be impossible. I knew I only had one set of arms but would now have three children that literally daily needed my arms to get dressed to be fed to be bathed to go to the bathroom- and then four more who would need these arms for hugs and wiping cuts and scrapes, for art projects and dinners prepared- six little people already needed me so much and a new little baby was going to need me at all hours all day.  She would need to eat all the time and be held all the time she would cry all the time..... So I told Jesus I couldn't do it.  I told him after my water broke and just moments literally before she was born into this world.  I told him I was an utter failure. And I sobbed uncontrollably. 

After my confession the first thought that popped into my head was how lucky I was to be sipping on such a delicious wine. I thought about what a good God we had that provided just the right soil conditions with just the right amount of water and sunshine with skilled workers and technology that put this wine all the way from Argentina in a bottle and I sit sipping it. A smile slowly cracked my lips. For a moment everything was perfect.

It is now 10:30 at night and the dance party is over. A husband and six children are in bed. The vacuum cleaner is still running and the words of Frankie are quietly playing over the whooshing of the vacuum. 

For six weeks I've held her. I've barely set her down. She's nursed almost every hour sometimes more. Most days I don't get dressed. I am lucky to get my contacts in. Most days someone has had to either help us with dinner or bring us dinner. I have looked up the definition of sleep and I'm convinced that Webster's dictionary lies.

I do not feel pretty. I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am not giving my other children the attention they need. There's no more 8 o'clock book reading because little Miss Penny from the hours of five till midnight has decided to practice voice training. In the words of a friend she has altitude sickness and does not want to be set down. I've missed therapy for the kids that go for almost the last six weeks. In addition to me having a hard time with this baby, some of the kids are struggling too. Literally I am mommy number five to some of them and Penelope is a threat. They've had to make sacrifices too. I miss the sunshine. I miss being in my garden. I miss the life that I once complained was so hard. Only twice have I been in the car with Penny somewhere. She fusses and cries and is so discontent. 

I received a text today from someone saying they had a friend who was dealing with postpartum depression and asked if I had dealt with that after any of my kids. 

Depression is real. It hurts and it's hard. It makes you want to hide away from the entire world. I have felt lost and lonely. I have felt like I can't possibly go on one more day- even one more hour. I've wished I could close my eyes and when I open them every thing is different. I've asked myself questions like why don't people understand? Why do I feel like I'm the only one? And then after I asked the questions I have dealt with shame and guilt. Guilt over not being a good mommy. Guilt over not being a good wife. Hours after Penny is still crying I have cried feeling like it's my fault. I've cried feeling like my daughter is the only one that's ever dealt with this- I start listing nieces and nephews and friends kids that to my knowledge are perfect and happy and I feel like they all must be throwing it in my face about what a terrible person I am. I feel like everyone hates me because I can't make it to an event or party or Church. I start to feel like everything has strings attached. I feel so beat down that I am on the brink of tears all the time.

Amidst all of these random stories and ramblings there are three things that I'm holding onto.

1. Embracing reality. This is my life right now. There is all kinds of practical wisdom and advice regarding depression - stuff like diet and nutrition,  getting good sleep, exercise, enhancing your gut bacteria, high omega-3's, having help, having a support group, having people to talk to.... The list could go on and on and while all of that is true, important and valid. These things are things I have done and do and I find myself still struggling.

Embracing reality- well.

I need to learn how to handle these hard times sadness and depression and I need to learn to be in this place and to do so well. Which personally I have felt in this culture is counter intuitive. Somehow I have believed the lie that there is no such thing as being sad in a biblical way or being depressed in a biblical way or being in turmoil in a biblical way. Somehow I have believed that the American way and the biblical way is to put a smile on and act happy all the time. And that couldn't be further from the truth. The Psalms in particular are full of emotions and one emotion in particular being depression. Entire books have been written on just Psalm 42 and depression. John Piper has an absolutely wonderful sermon on the subject that I love and have watched and read over and over again. (see below)

I could share all the ways this has practically helped me, however the point for me to remember is that there is a way to embrace sadness and do so well. That there is a way to embrace pain and to do so well. That there is a way to embrace reality- well.

2. Remembering the little moments.  The dance party and the good wine, those memories I like to reflect on often, and by reflecting on those little snipets of time, that are near perfect, I find I train myself to get in the habit of looking for those little snipets more often. Those two memories are so full of happiness and goodness that they help drown out the struggles. They make the struggles worth it.  Those little moments are really big moments because of how big of a deal they have become to me.

3.  My Identity.  This is the big one.  This is the one for me that I could do all the right things, all the right nutrition, all the right friends, make sure I embrace reality well, and remember the little moments... but... it's the big... but... If I am not secure in where my identity is then nothing else matters.  And, there is only one place that my identity is secure, and that place is in Jesus.

Example:  I find myself getting stressed out to go to the boys baseball game with Penny.  I start thinking of the crying in the car, and how to handle Isabell and Charlotte and Penny.  I find anxiety creeping in with figuring out breastfeeding her.  And then it happens.  I start to think about the things well meaning people will ask me... "Is she sleeping through the night?"  "Can't you put her down yet?"  I start worrying about the looks people might give me as I nurse her in the bleachers.  I start worrying about what people might say about the bags under my eyes, or my lack of makeup and a hairstyle..... 


Why do these thoughts creep into my mind?  Because I am letting "who I am" be found in things like how nice I look or how happy my baby is... instead of the finished work of Jesus... instead of His perfect life... somehow I get things all mixed up and start thinking it's my life that defines me.  

Galations 2:20 It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me...

My life and what I do or don't do does not define me.  My identity is in Christ's life, who now lives in me.

It's sorta become my mantra right now.  My identity is in Christ.  I am getting ready to get out of the car and go the boys game, I take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.  Someone stops over, and I'm a mess, still in my pajamas, bed head, and no makeup, I stop take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.  I walk out and look at the pathetic excuse of a garden I have this year, I take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.
Things are hard right now. 
I am learning to embrace it-well. (More on that subject later.)
I am remembering and finding the little moments that are near perfect.
My identity is in Christ. So much so that I share a picture of me. No makeup, bags and circles under my eyes, a baby screaming in my ear, a messy canning project in the background, hair not fixed, pjs still on, but its okay.

My identity is in Christ.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ever cleaned up vomit?

Ever cleaned up vomit?

Absolutely disgusting, and messy and stinky, and bits of chunks of stuff and pieces.... vomit is a big giant mess.

I am about to vomit. Vomit a big, stinky, messy pile, full of all kinds of stuff and pieces.  Be warned. It's messy, it's gross, it's embarrassing and shameful, but I am ready to get the gross mess out and cleaned up.

Here goes.

I am not so happy that I spent months and months of my time in the summer with a daughter who hated every part of the recovery process of her hip replacement surgery.

I am not so happy that finances are ALWAYS tight. I've read the Dave Ramsey books (and think they have great advice) but honestly I feel like burning mine. No matter what it can't account for the overwhelming medical needs that come up in this house. The well, the water softener, the septic, the crappy cars with 200K miles, the bonuses that don't pan out, the kids we keep adding, a van door that falls off while driving, a computer that gets hacked and our pictures are held for ransom. We have our debt paid off, we have emergency funds, we have 8 of us in a 1960's ranch that's about 1750sqft, we don't eat out, and still finances are tight.

I am not so happy about the disabilities we deal with. I am tired of learning delays and ADHD, and brain issues, and Cerebral Palsy and Arthrogryposis and hearing loss and vision loss and food issues.

I am tired of 13 therapy appointments every single week.  It leaves no room for anything else.

I am not happy with our house. Ten years ago Kenney and I dreamed a dream about a house and property and a garden. I remember the first property and house we checked out in Lowell.  I am embarrassed when I look at our original plans, but now, ten years later, there seems to be nothing left of the original dreams. We've had 8 or 9 different architects, about 50 revisions, 7 different prints drawn up and now we have arrived at this. No addition. No more square footage. No more loft or second story or pretty ceilings. No extra rooms, just a girls room, a boys room and our room. And to top it all off, most all of the work has to be done by us. (Because we both just have so much extra time on our hands.)

I don't want to deal with another hip replacement surgery for my daughter, the date is set for January 5th, and I'm angry we've got to do it all over again.

I am tired of my only door to the outside looking like this. 

Tired of wiping shoes. Even more tired of the muddy mess the three dogs are. Most tired of our little long-haired white schizophrenic dog...  in the mud then corralling her to wipe her down lest the couch and few pieces of not destroyed furniture become destroyed... yet its futile.

I am not so happy with the cars we drive. A crappy 4-cylinder PT cruiser with 200K miles on it and a 15 passenger rust bucket with no horn, turn signals that do not work below 45 degrees, a side door that fell off and currently can't be open or closed. (Did I mention it was a prison vehicle, so most enjoyable about the van is the cut outs that can still be seen around the windows for the bars and the floor anchors to hold handcuffed prisoners?)

I am tired of people that burn me out.  Tired of hearing words that tear down. Tired of whispers behind my back. Tired of pretend and fake. Tired of people (whom I love) not understanding or caring.

I am tired of tomorrow's. Tired of a life that isn't getting any easier. I don't want to give up my dreams. Kenney and I dreamed dreams of the future. Dreams of our alone time when the kids are all grown up and moved away. Dreams of vacations and a life lived however we choose. Dreams of date nights whenever we wanted, no more scheduling and trying to make it work the 3 or 4 times a year we do now. The harsh reality is we have kids that may forever be in our care. No growing up and moving out.

I am mad Advent had to look like this. Stuff everywhere. Holes in the wall, drywall dust covering everything. No place to put all our decorations out.

Frustrated that Christmas morning was at our kitchen table because the living room was destroyed with construction work. Frustrated the kids didn't get a "magical day" as a matter of fact some of them woke up crabby and some of them cried.

I think its not fair that Kenney gets to go on a guys vacation. A vacation that is exactly one day after we get home from the hospital with Charlotte's surgery. A vacation that couldn't possibly be timed any worse.

I am tired of a hard marriage. Tired of the few (and I mean few, as in two or three) date nights we have get ruined. Tired of laying down at night beyond exhausted. Tired of all conversations being rushed and having to be started, discussed and finished in 2.3 minutes. (Or some child will need to go potty-remember and since they can't all go on their own, and because of physical issues, they can't all hold it very well, and Lord knows we don't want to deal with that mess!) Tired of my husband coming home to such a mess, a mess of a house, messes with the kids, and there I stand when he walks in the front door, looking like I'd just been hit by a truck because I really was hit by a truck called this life. 

Here's the big one- the one that keeps me up at night and makes me cry day after day- the one that makes me sick to think about- the one that I should be happy about, but can't seem to get happy about, the one that I am ashamed and embarrassed to even talk about- the one that feelings crash right on into my mind, without warning, and there I am, having thought the thoughts and felt the feelings, and have no idea what to do with it all. Surprise...Baby #7 is due in May.  

I can't imagine my life getting any harder. I just can't. It is just so very hard already. A baby was NOT part of the plan.

So there you have it.... I just threw up all over the internet. I started writing this all down back in early November, but have been dealing with all these issues for some months now. 

This vomit has been sitting for awhile, and in these last months I've had some time to clean a bit up, and figure some stuff out. Actually there have been a billion thoughts I've had on all of this vomit. Thoughts on fighting for joy, practical things- like getting good sleep (ha!) and spending more time in God's word. Thoughts on complaining and having a pity party. I've been thinking about the things people say to me, and thinking about words, and how very important what we say matters. I've thought a lot about the heart, my heart in particular.  *Side note- about the best analogy I've ever heard regarding the heart  Paul Tripp shares it here- about taking a cap off of a water bottle, shaking the bottle, then asking, why did water come out of the bottle? and of course the generic response is "because you shook the bottle" but, the real answer is, water came out of the bottle because water was in the bottle.  So all this stress, and problems and issues has just revealed more and more the big issues.... what is inside the bottle (my heart) which is a whole lot of sin.

And through these last five months the Holy Spirit has been alive and nursing me back to health. I read a word today used to describe the Holy Spirit “Remembrancer” - and I love it.  It was coined by Charles Wesley (the great Hymn writer) and it's meaning is one who causes to remember.  Because, after all, the Holy Spirit was there, was there when Jesus died, and He saw it happen, and He is alive in me, and He can help me remember what the cross means.

Slowly, over the last 5 months the Holy Spirit, the great Remembrancer has been alive in me, and whispering truth, truth about what He saw happen on the cross and what the Gospel is, and what it means for me, and slowly He has caused me to remember the Gospel. 

While there is so much more that I could type but in the short amount of time I have I'll never get there, so two things for now that I keep coming back to. People/Relationships and Brokenness and Suffering.

One day, a couple of years ago, Tommy brought home from church a little colored cross with a memory verse on it, from Sunday school. It still sits, taped to the back door in my kitchen.

Romans 5:8 " but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

It's one of the most in-comprehensible verses I have ever read, I still pass by it in amazement.  I find myself asking questions, like "What does this mean for my life?" I would imagine there have been millions of sermons, books written and blogs typed, just on this verse alone, because of the infinite complexity and depth of what just this verse means. One thought of the many on this verse is: Does this verse change how I relate to others?

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to share the life story God has written for me thus far to a group of people. (some would call it a testimony) I shared my story and some others shared theirs too. At the end I stood there, while people chatted with all the other people, and I sat at a table alone. I felt so horrible, so exposed and shameful. You see my story doesn't exactly end on a clean and pretty note, and it's full of some embarrassing disgusting maybe a bit more crazy (for lack of a better term) details. And it seemed most people didn't know what to do with my story.

I thought about this for a long while, and I think days later I remember saying to Kenney, I get it, people don't like messy people.  I- and I would guess most others too- despise brokenness.

I, and all of humanity is trying to clean up our and other people's messes and brokenness.  I want friends with good marriages and clean houses. I want friends who aren't suffering, who aren't going through cancer, who aren't in jail, no single parents, no traumatized kids, no sleepless nights, no problems. If, by chance there is a problem, I would prefer it have been in the past. I love "good" testimonies, but I want the last chapter of the book. I want to know how it all ends. I want all the problems fixed and everything wrapped in pretty shiny paper with a perfect bow on top. Even worse, if I have these people in my life, I find myself doing everything I can to "fix" whatever is wrong. I want to change people..... I almost make it my mission, to change them, rid them of suffering and sin and brokenness and sadness.

As a wonderful friend wrote 10 months after her sweet daughter went to be with Jesus:
(you can click on the text to read her story)

We have to stop trying to push people past their pain and heartache. It's part of who they are now, and you're letting them know they're not good enough anymore…not if they have the nerve to bring their baggage with them. You're basically saying, "I'm good with part of you…the part that doesn't make me uncomfortable…but I don't really want to be around that other part. It makes me too sad. I don't like not knowing what to say, so could you stop talking about your sadness. I'll feel better then."

Oh the truth in that statement that I am so guilty of myself. I remember when we lost our 16 week old little baby.  (I wrote some of those thoughts here.)  I remember how it felt and how some people just didn't know what to say, so they said things that didn't help and things that hurt.

I remember I found myself arguing with God. And these last months I have done the same. Today, as a Christian, I gave myself permission to argue with God. To get some of the "vomit" out. After all, our God is a big, big God, much bigger than my arguments and whining, and He can take it and redeem it and change me and use me.

On a side note....The Psalms are FILLED with it.

Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Do not ignore my cry for help!

Please listen and answer me,
    for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.

I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more

Here is the thing- people are suffering. This world is broken and suffering. In the next world, there will be no more suffering, it isn't normal, it isn't part of the perfect world, suffering is because we live in a fallen broken world. 

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  Revelation 21:4

But, we have a faith that embraces suffering. We have a Jesus who suffered and was tempted in everything and yet He didn't sin. All our pain all our sadness.. ALL. OF. IT was laid on Him. He is a God who knows suffering, and willingly embraced it all. And because He is Emmanuel, God with us, He is right here, embracing my suffering with me. 

The below video is an awesome conversation between some of my favorite pastors on what to say and not say to someone who is suffering. I myself have been guilty of saying so much of what doesn't help. Telling people in the nicest way possible to get over it, to get up and get back to the mandatory happiness Christianity requires. I have compared people's sadness and suffering to others, telling them what they are going through isn't that bad or could be worse. I have experienced how it feels, especially lately, to be treated like this, and I have been on the other end, dishing out my own version of "get over it."


That brings me back to my verse in Romans.  The verse about how Jesus died for me, loved me when I was a broken messy sinner. Do I love others while they are broken messy sinners, or do I require them to first change, first clean up themselves and their sin, and then they are welcome in my presence?

Which brings me to my last thought for the moment.  Friendship.  Through all of this- through my mess, through my whining and complaining, through my hurts and pains, through the times marriage hasn't been easy, through the times parenting hasn't been easy, to the friends who heard me say horrible things to my kids, things because adoption is so very hard, trauma is so very hard, disabilities are so very hard, to the friends I don't return phone calls, and take months to respond to (and some I haven't even responded) I am a mess and they heard me, saw me and didn't turn away.  They didn't wave their high and mighty flag and tell me what a horrible parent I am, they didn't call their friends or family to talk about how I am mean and mistreating my kids. They didn't whisper that my marriage is a mess behind my back. They sat there with me. They called me and loved me. They let me sit at their table and eat bagels and copious amounts of carbs with them while my children ran around and destroyed their house and they listened and embraced me. They didn't try and fix me. They picked apples with me. They brought me a bottle of wine. They prayed for me. They sent me a text or email every now and then and just told me they cared. They called me back when I hung up the phone on them. They emailed me. They came into my house, into my mess and didn't flinch and didn't back off. They loved me. They didn't try and fix it all. The reality of it is they know they can't. They show me Jesus by eating with me, by sitting at my messy table. They put their children on the floor and let them get covered in dog hair, cause Lord knows I haven't vacuumed in forever, and sit with me and listen. 

The thing about these friends is they are plain and simple lovers of Jesus and they get His marvelous gift of grace. They get it. And lest the world think we do, we don't all meet together weekly for bible study. We are not one big group of friends. Some of them I rarely see. Some of them we text often, others it's weeks and months before we get together. Some of them I spend almost every Sunday with, and some of them I will never share a meal with. Some we talk all the time and some I barely talk to. As a matter of fact, I have an email from one of my friends that is now almost 4 months old, and I still haven't responded to her. But when I do, I know she'll embrace me with open arms... she loves me. She loves me with all my mess and baggage and brokenness.

That's what I am taking away from this today. What loving people like Jesus means. I want to love people like that, because I have been loved first by my heavenly Father like that, and second by an amazing amount of brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you knocked on my door today- there is no bow on the package.  It's messy here.  I am tired of taking care of my little girl after her second major surgery. I am angry my husband went on a ski trip in the midst of this. I am in denial about this little munchkin in my womb and I don't want to be tired one more day. I am dreading therapy this next week. But if you knocked on my door today- we would share the most glorious cup of coffee from the most wonderful coffee shop in Bridgeport (if coffee was your thing.) I'd show you a sample of reclaimed lumber from an old tobacco mill that I want to floor the living room with. We'd talk about delicious food and maybe look at some seed catalogs for the garden (if that was your thing.) We'd talk about this gloriously messy life.  We'd share about brokenness and beauty. 

Right now, that is how God is using my brokenness.  To show me good friends and show me how to be a good friend.