Relief, Forgiveness and Love…

I have thought about what I wanted to write all morning. You had to know I was going to write something about the recent news of Bin Laden’s death. I know that my Facebook comment did not sit well with some of you. In case you missed it:

“It’s interesting how times have changed. I learned about his death through FB. I watched the President on CNN Live on my computer & am instantly watching everyone’s reaction through FB again. So many seem excited… to a fault. While I am with you on the wickedness and hurt he caused, in the end he was still a person. father, a husband and someone God loved enough to send His Son to die for. In the end, his sin was no greater than ours and there’s no turning back for him. I am sad his life ended before he knew peace with God.

13 hours ago · Like · 3 people

Please do not misinterpret my feelings on the matter. I am not being tolerant nor am I ignoring the feelings of relief, joy, and closure of those directly affected by 9/11. My comment stemmed from seeing a series of comments in my FB stream that were rather heartbreaking to me. Just a quick sample of the some statements I saw in my FB feed between last night and this morning included, “May you rest in hell”, “Hell called and their VIP guest has arrived”, and the most disturbing to me, “Wrap him in bacon and hang his body at Ground Zero.”
 I do not wish hell on anyone. Why would you? If you aren’t a Christian and you said or thought any of the above, do you even understand what that statement means? If you are a Christian and you took joy in the fact that he is in hell, then what does that say about you? Aren’t we (those who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior) supposed to be different? Aren’t we supposed to love everyone? Aren’t we supposed to hate the sin, not the sinner? Yes, I am all about punishment for our sins hence why I believe that I need Jesus to go to Heaven. My sins are just as bad as his. I understand the evil things this man did, I understand the hurt he caused this nation but to usher his death in with statements of excitement because he is burning in hell for all eternity is upsetting to me. Proverbs 24: 17-18, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” I am eternally grateful that God sacrificed His Son so that I could be forgiven, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He gives me grace even though I am undeserving of it. He sees me for who I am and the good bad and ugly that comes with me and still is willing to love me and cast my sin into the deepest part of the ocean (never remembered again) Micah 7:18-19. God loves each one of us alike and is willing to forgive each of us no matter the sin because no one sin is greater than another. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to get to know my loving Father. If you would like to have joy unspeakable, peace unsurpassing, forgiveness, guidance and love I know exactly who you should talk with. I am more than happy to help you walk through that prayer.
My friend, Jana Debney, said it very well in her blog: Just Makin’ It. I stand with her and her feelings about this. She put it so much more nicely than I could so I urge you to read her post.

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Running to the Hills for the weekend

Before I get started on a series of blog posts about my friend Galit Hill and her food, I would like to formally introduce her. I have slipped her name in a few blog posts but never told the story of our friendship. You see, Galit and I met in the strangest of ways… in the hospital. We were in a birthing class together. I had never formally met the Hills in the class but remembered her and Jon (her husband) only because in one of the classes Jon brought beer for the men and Galit brought cookies. It was a hilarious gesture and the men greatly appreciated it. That was all that I knew of the Hills. I was only able to attend half of the birthing classes because I ended up in the hospital at week 27 due to blood pressure issues. At week 29, I had an emergency C-section and Thing 1 was born, weighing all of 2 pounds. I’ll save the details of her birth for another time because this post is about the Hills.  While in recovery, I received a call from our instructor asking me to visit the Hills, that they were in the hospital and she was on bed rest. The instructor had no idea I also was in the hospital and had just given birth. She gave me the name of the hospital and the floor she was on and I realized we were across the hall from one another. I asked my doctor about Galit and she asked me if I would share with Galit my thoughts on the c-section, that Galit could use some reassurance. Who was I to give reassurance. The NICU was telling the man and I  our baby could live with complications or die. Nonetheless, I did. I walked in her room, very shy and told her my name and my story. I assured her that the C-section was not at all as scary as it sounded and described what happened so that she was prepared. Neither of us had made it to that point in the class and I was unprepared for the emergency birth myself and thought it would be less scary for her if she actually knew what was going to happen. Over the course of a few weeks she eventually gave birth to her first son. He too was a preemie. I walked into the NICU one morning to find our children side by side, getting their suntans to get rid of jaundice.  I am getting emotional just reliving that memory. Thing 1 was in the NICU for 41 days. Other than a collapsed lung, apnea and a feeding tube, she did remarkably well. She was the miracle child that they thought would not live. The Hills and us became friends in the NICU. We lived through similar heartbreaks and through a full year of uncertainty as we waited to see what damage had been done due to the premature birth of our children. We lost touch after we brought our babies home. I became bogged down with first year appointments with specialists and physical and occupational therapy  with Thing 1. Though we were not in touch with each other during that time, I thought of them often and knew eventually we would reconnect.

Almost a year later, Jon contacted Paul via email. That email rekindled our friendship and we invited them to Thing 1’s first birthday. We quickly cemented our friendship as we realized we truly were not alone in our struggles. While everyone we knew had children that could walk  by twelve months, our children were struggling to learn to crawl. Therefore, having play dates with other families was hard and heartbreaking. We started having play dates in the evenings because I still worked. She adjusted her son’s nap and dinner schedule so that he could come visit later in the evening. It was as though we had been friends forever. She was the kind of mom I aspired to be. She cooked and made wonderful meals for her family. When they would have us over for dinner I studied and watched how she made our meal. It was Galit that inspired me to learn how to cook. Up until I met her, I did not cook. We ate out most nights because the man and I both worked and it was easier that way. One of Galit’s best attributes is that she loves to share. She was/is always giving me tips on how to make baby food, the best deal on baby snacks, the newest toys on the market etc. Her friendliness and good naturedness oozed into my character.

We moved to Texas just as Thing 1 turned 15 months old. We kept in touch the entire time we lived in Texas through email, phone calls, texts, facebook. They went to Disney World with us and we celebrated the kid’s 4th birthday together. Throughout the 5 years we lived in Texas, Galit and I continued to share similar experiences. Both of our doctors advised us against having more children. They warned the danger of doing so. Shortly after we moved to Texas, I heard a sermon about healing from Pastor Haggee. I had just had a conversation with Galit about feeling as though I was in mourning as I was trying to adjust to the idea of never having another child. I called her about a week after hearing that sermon and told her I was asking God for healing. That He is the same today as He was yesterday. So if He could heal yesterday, He can heal today. I began to pray for healing and for God to tell me when my body was ready to conceive another child. I remember it very clearly as if it was yesterday. I felt God telling me it was time and that we would conceive a son. I shared the news with Galit. She asked me if I was scared. I told her no that I would not let other’s fears distract me from the promise God gave me. It wasn’t until we found out that we were in fact having our first son that others began to have faith in my assurance. As week 29 approached, family members began to get concerned and wanted to make plans to be there. We quickly told them, get on board and believe with us or let us be until the baby is born. Week 29 came and went and Thing 2 was born full term with absolutely no complications. It was the miracle of the healthy full term birth of Thing 2 and my absolute faith that  led to Galit’s decision to have faith and conceive again. She quickly told family and friends to believe with her or keep their concerns to themselves. We talked frequently throughout her pregnancy as I assured her that everything would be fine. We prayed for her and for her body every night and proclaimed protection over the sweet child she carried. She had a healthy full term boy. God is so good. You all know the rest. I had one more miracle, another boy and here we are today. God blessed us with our friendship. Without our friendship I can’t imagine how lonely I would have been through all of these trials. Praise God for giving us exactly what we need.

We never knew if God would bring us back to Florida, but I am sure glad He did. We now live 2 hours away from them which is such a blessing. This past weekend we drove to the Hills to stay with them. We are the type of friends that it does not matter how far apart we are, or how many years we go without seeing each other. The moment we do see each other we literally pick back up where we left off. She is an amazing wife, mother, friend, cook and host and I love her and her family to death. Coming up, I am going to blog about the amazing food she made for us. Some of the recipes will include her salads, brie, main entree, desert and breakfast for the next morning. Also, I will share with you some of the things our host did to make us feel right at home.

Our Christmas Story

Before the man left for Florida before Christmas he mentioned it would be great to buy a James Avery ring he has wanted since we moved here (there is no James Avery stores where we are moving). This was the first time I had ever heard him mention a desire to have a James Avery ring so I started probing. “What does it look like? ” “A band with a cross. It’s like $60.” We didn’t talk about it further and I decided that was going to be his Christmas gift. Side note: We haven’t really exchanged gifts since we had our first child. We sort of operate under if you want it/need it/get it policy. I am a pretty frugal person and can’t stand the thought of him buying me something just so I have something under the tree. Back to my story. I realized he would know what I was up to if I asked him his ring size. Since he NEVER takes his wedding ring off that was a no go. I remembered he had a Man of God ring. A special ring he received from our church after completing a 12 week course called Man of God. The guy who made these rings for the graduates of the class has since retired so there is really no way to get another one. I asked him how to get into our new safe so I could get it resized for him. He very quickly told me, nope, leave it, I will deal with it being big. I don’t want anything to happen to it. So I quickly mentioned I was looking for a pair of earrings he gave me that I knew was in the safe and he finally told me how to get into it. I took his Man of God ring and left with a list of errands for that day.

Thing 2 was out of sorts that day. He needed a nap badly and I needed to push through to get some errands  done and finish my Christmas shopping. First we went to James Avery. I took his ring in, had it sized and asked them to get me the ring he wanted in a half size down. Purchased it and we were off to the next store. I threw his Man of God ring in a pocket in my purse and didn’t give it a second thought. After leaving James Avery I went straight to Claire’s so Thing 2 could buy Thing 1 some gifts. While getting the kids out of the car, my purse fell out of the van. I quickly put everything back in my purse and we got in and out of there pretty quickly. Then we went to Hobby Lobby. I had to pick up some material to make a dress. While getting the stroller out of the van, my purse fell out again. After a horrible trip in there with the kids, I loaded them up and pulled over to call the man and ask him to pray over me. I told him I felt like I was under spiritual attack and just needed peace in this confusion. He prayed and I went to Target. The kids were great. While leaving Target I hit a curve. I mean HIT the curve. I hit it so hard my van jumped. At this, I screamed out loud, “LORD WHERE ARE YOU??? SATAN GO BOTHER SOMEONE ELSE!” Thing 2 , who had his headphones on, heard me screaming and ripped off his headphones to ask, “Who are you yelling at momma.” To that I responded, “Just the devil honey, watch your movie.” We go to the bank, which was my last errand, and I set out to go to Starbucks. At this point I am feeling a tall coffee is in order. After getting my coffee at the window I look back to check on the kids. Everyone is asleep. Peace, coffee, ahhhh.

Driving down the road I hear a little voice, “Where’s the ring, Tara?” “Right here in my purse.” “Check.” So I look, … nothing.  “Really God, I mean REALLY?? Where have you been all day??” I am driving, checking my purse and then re-checking it to find nothing. Dumping it. Going through bags, panicking, “God, come on, help me down here.” Driving still, throwing stuff out of bags, waking Thing 2 up to ask if he took a ring out of my purse. I finally arrive at my neighborhood and just throw my van in park with the emergency flashers going. I jump out and check the trunk, check under the seats, check the bags again, check my purse, check Thing 2’s pockets… nothing. My mind is racing.. what do I do? Do I call the man and tell him? I pull receipts out and start calling the stores. Hobby Lobby never answers and Claire’s hasn’t seen anything. Looking at the time and realizing it’s almost time to pick up Thing 1 from school I resolve to God I will not go pick her up until He tells me where it is.

I throw the car in drive and I am off to Hobby Lobby. I get in the parking lot and just start looking. Nothing. I get back in my car ready to just cry and I tell God, “Just tell me, just show me, supernaturally put it in front of my face where I can’t miss it. PLEASE!” I hear a small voice again, “Go to Claire’s.” I go and I get the same exact parking spot I had originally (right in front of the store.) I start looking and nothing. “Get on your knees.” So here I am, on my knees in the parking lot of Claire’s. Right in front of the store. Looking under cars. Nothing. I am ready to give up. Something flashes in the corner of my eye and I look over on the step of our van and there it is. Just sitting there. Not wedged or anything. It’s literally just sitting there. Ya’ll, I couldn’t believe it. If you understood the layout of San Antonio and where I had been, the speeds I had accelerated to, how hard I hit the curb, you would realize what a miracle this was. I get in the car and I am crying and thanking God. I head out to pick up Thing 1 and I hear, “Here you were asking me where I had been all day. I was on the side of your van with my hand on the ring keeping it from falling off.”

What a humbling experience. Here I was upset because I didn’t see God working in the way I thought He should be working… not even knowing what I needed was for Him to be holding on to that ring. I wonder how many times in my life I have yelled at God for not being there when He was busy making the way straight for me. He is so good!

Coming out of the fire

I’ve been thinking about how I was going to write this post for a while. It’s not easy for me to think about the last 7 months and just fork out my feelings and thoughts on them. Beware, I am being real here: raw emotion coming out from 7 months of battle for our future.

For the sake of those reading my blog for the first time, I will start from the beginning. Back in May, my husband, (aka the man) Paul, was getting ready to take some paternity leave. He did this with Thing 1 and Thing 2. He would save all of his vacation time so he could be there to bond with each child when it was time. When he announced he would be doing the same with Thing 3, it was met with some resistance. “You will be the first guy in the history of the company to take this leave…”

“Do you really plan to stay completely unplugged during your leave…”

“Will you be available via email?”

The company he was with has a reputation for tearing apart families and turning married men into bachelors. I had been feeling in my heart for several months that it was time for him to leave. I kept asking him to pray about it with me. The man was SO wrapped up in his world at work, truthfully, he couldn’t see what I was talking about. Up until the day before he left for paternity leave his job came first. First, before God, first, before our family and first, before us. He had never been like this, but he got wrapped up in a job culture that led him to lead his life in fear. Fear of losing his job, fear of lack of respect, fear not being as “dedicated” to job as others. This fear ran so deep that he would work until 6:30-7:00pm in the office and it would take him anywhere between 30minutes-1hour to get home. Once home (the kids and I had already eaten dinner so I was putting kids to bed) he would pop in just in time to say good night or would have to wake sleeping children who insisted he come tell them goodnight the moment he walked through the door. He would eat dinner, alone. Talk to me for 20 minutes and plug back in via blackberry and laptop until 2-3am. There were nights he was on the phone at midnight with his boss’ boss. Trying to be the submissive wife was not easy for me. I can’t say that I did that great of a job doing it. Yep, I probably failed that test, it’s not my best characteristic. There were nights I wanted to smack him silly. Many nights I would just tell him “Wake up! Don’t you see what’s happening? Please pray about this.” I cried, I pleaded, and finally I prayed.

He was on paternity leave for 5 weeks. He committed to me that those 5 weeks were ours. In those 5 weeks we prayed together as a couple that God would restore our family, restore him and make it clear if he truly was supposed to leave his job. I saw him change in the first two weeks. He was devastated that he had become so “unplugged” with our family. We then changed our prayers to be that God would show us in the first week if he was supposed to leave his company. The 5 weeks of paternity leave flew by quickly.

The first week back was hard on us all. Hard on him because he had just reconnected with us. Hard on us because we missed him. Monday went by, nothing. Tuesday, nothing. Finally Wednesday comes and he has a meeting with his boss. Lots of things were said in that meeting, but the one thing that drew the line in the sand for us was,

“How much more of your time can you give us.”

“You need to be fully committed to us..”

“Your team isn’t going to be on board unless you give us more time.”

That was it. That was the sign. It couldn’t be any plainer than that. When your job DEMANDS to be number 1 in your life before everything else, OR ELSE, there’s a problem. At that point in the conversation, the man said, “Let’s talk about the other option.” With that he received a severance and was gone by Friday.

We spent the next 7 months waiting on God to act. We have been through many fires together. NOTHING beats this one. Going through a fire where it only affects myself or the man is EASY. Going through a fire where it affects your 3 children is not. Looking at their faces day in and day out, wondering what will happen to us-if their Christmas will be what they want it to be. Refusing your son MCD’s because you are trying to save where you can. Not buying winter clothes until you can’t go without anymore. Having your children ask for little things at a store and telling them no. I could go on. It sucked. Plain and simple, sucked. Every Monday I would wake up hopeful and ask God, “Please please let it be this week. I don’t think I can do this another week.” Every week would end with no offer and I would be sick to my stomach. God knew what I could and could not handle though and he would offer me hope. You are wondering what I mean.

Paul interviewed with a company for 6months. Yes, SIX MONTHS! God allowed this company to talk to him for 6 months so that we would continue to have faith and hope. If this company had not been the constant in our lives for the last 6 months I can not imagine what we would have been like. During this time we watched God supernaturally bat away company after company. Everyone seemed to be interested in the man, and he seemed to be “the perfect fit.” One by one, they would drop like flies for crazy reasons, someone got fired and they need to hire his boss first, the job has been placed on hold, we need to look internally first… on and on. It was neat to see, but still left me wanting it to be over. You can’t build your faith unless each fire is hotter than the last. We even taught a Sunday school lesson on faith before it happened, after coming out of the last fire (We thought we were having a miscarriage with Thing #3). So here we were, praying diligently that God would only open 1 door. At first, we thought this was a great idea. Our thought was, if it’s only 1 door, we can’t screw this up. Yep, you guessed it. As the weeks turned into months we thought, “What in the world were we thinking, forget 1 door, just open ANY door!” It was because of this one prayer that in the end we were able to determine God’s will for us.

The man had 4 opportunities. One of which would allow him to work from our home here in Texas. Another that would allow him to work here in an office, one in Oregon and the one in Orlando. We started getting very confused. From the moment Orlando entered the picture, I told the man I thought this was it. He pushed me off stating we weren’t moving. When we realized we were down to the final stages with all 4 companies he said, “I don’t understand, we asked for one door.” I reminded him that no door had been opened just yet.

We were expecting offers from any one of the companies that final week. Orlando told us that they needed one final interview on Friday. I was devastated. In my mind I knew that meant Tuesday before an offer letter could go out. I had just done the bills and realized we were down to the final 2 weeks of money. I was beat down, heart broken and on the edge of loosing all hope. His interview was at noon. I remember getting in the shower and just crying. I cried and cried and I prayed. I took the boys downstairs and got Thing 2 going on some play dough and Thing 3 was in his bouncer. I looked at Thing 2 and asked him if he would pray with me for daddy. He said yes and stopped and took my hands. I asked for a miracle and an open door. I cried and I kept praying. I realized that Thing 2 never let go of my hands and never cried out for me to stop so he could go back to playing. For him to pray with me for the length of time that I prayed was a miracle in itself. I guess he understood my need at the time. We prayed for about 10 minutes and I let it go. Ten minutes later, the man appears telling me the interview was over. I knew at that moment all hope was lost. I told him I needed to go lie down and I did. Twenty minutes later he comes to me with the baby telling me he just got a call from Florida and he needs to call them back. He does and it’s an offer.

Fearing we would just jump at the first door and it wouldn’t be THE door even though we had prayed for only ONE door, we asked God to shut all of the other doors He didn’t want us to walk through and to make it impossible for us to move forward on Florida if He didn’t want us to move. He shut every door except for Florida and here we are. He starts his first day today. God is faithful even when we are not. Praise God. I learned SO many things in the last 7 months. I am still shaken by the events. I heard God tell me repeatedly, “Not your time but Mine.” We may very well have been in this trial for so long because of me. I kept telling God I needed it now and He kept saying, “Not your time but Mine.” It’s hard for me to be completely vulnerable and without any sort of back up plan. It goes against my nature. I am a planner, I am organized, I am always prepared… but how do you stay prepared for God’s timing and God’s plan when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Prayer and your spouse. It was my husband that was my crutch when I couldn’t stand because of fear. It was his prayers over me for strength when I didn’t think I could face another day. Ecclesiastes 4:10-12, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” We were able to balance each other out many times in the last couple of months and our faith kept us grounded when we wanted to spin out of control with emotions. When he couldn’t have faith, I had enough faith for both of us and visa versa. That is the role of a spouse, to be a help mate and to complete you where you need it. We saw that in each other and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful man that God created for me and for who he is. He is everything that I need, want and more. Thank you Lord for this experience and providing me with someone to help me get through it. Thank you to all of our friends that prayed with us and for us. Your prayers helped us through this fire.