Friday, October 29, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. I want to know who the middle-aged, wrinkled woman is who jumps in front of me each morning when I look in the mirror. She seems vaguely familiar, but when I try to get closer to see just exactly who she is, she has this strange ability to make herself blurry. Seriously, she is really starting to get on my nerves.

2. Why is it when my 2-month old grandbaby yawns, everyone smiles and says "how cute", but when I yawn without covering my mouth, my family thinks it's disgusting. "Ewwww, Mom! Cover your mouth!"

3. Sometimes I wish God would pay just a little bit more attention when I'm trying to give Him advice on how to run things. Honestly, I think I have some pretty good ideas.

4. Why do mice and fleas (that nobody likes or wants) seem to multiply exponentially, but money does just the opposite?

5. It has been stated that wearing a shirt with horizontal stripes makes you look heavier. Puhlease! Like if I wore a shirt with vertical stripes, I'd look taller than 5 feet and less round than I already am? Let's be honest. I'd look like a chunky, middle-aged jail cell.

6. Whatever I think always sounds funnier, smarter, etc. than when I actually say it.

7. Just because I occasionally mix my words up and say things like "stooting shar" or "palt and sepper" does NOT mean that I'm losing my mind. Losing the ability to talk distinctly maybe ... but not my mind.

8. My dog thinks I'm wonderful. It would be nice if everyone else shared his same opinion.

9. Note to self: Never lick a steak knife.

10. If God really wanted me to write a blog, He'd give me brilliant ideas for posts instead of ten random thoughts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mommy Radar

For some reason, God gave me "Mommy Radar". For those of you not cursed blessed enough to have this strange ability, let me explain it to you. Much like Doppler Radar (anyone in Oklahoma is familiar with that term) can see and predict a violent storm within a weather pattern, Mommy Radar can see what's going on in the lives of her children. The radar isn't particularly detailed in that I know all the in's and out's of a situation, but it's there enough for me to know something wrong is going on. Some people may call it intuition. Others have been known to hint that there are spells and voodoo involved (those are only my children who have hinted that -- they're a little bitter). But I call it Mommy Radar, and it simply is a family-coined term for the Holy Spirit revealing something (always something neither me nor my children want me to see) about one of my children.

The Radar usually starts with a sense of unease that something is not as it should be. That unease not only doesn't go away, but it just continues to get stronger as time goes by. Within 24 to 48 hours, something will happen (e.g. someone will say something or I'll piece together different events) and I'll have a general idea of what's going on. Yes, it sounds pretty sketchy, but the amazing thing is that in 100% of the cases where Mommy Radar has gone off, it's always right. It might be a little late (like after the event), but it's never failed. They can't run. They can't hide. They can't wear aluminum hats made of foil to keep their brain waves to themselves. My kids hate it, and honestly, I'm not too crazy about it myself, simply because of the pain that often accompanies revelation.

My kids have always hated the dreaded conversation that Mommy Radar brings about.

Me: We need to talk. (Yes, those are the words that can make any of my four children sweat profusely, become nauseous, and experience insanely fast heart rates.)

Kid: Uhm, what about? (At this point, his/her mind is racing wildly over anything s/he's done lately that could bring this conversation about. His/her eyes start seeking out the nearest exit to the room.)

Me: [Deep sigh] My Mommy Radar is going crazy. (By that, Mom means that she's unable to sleep and has calluses on her knees from constant prayer.)

Kid: [Rolling of the eyes] Seriously, Mom. This has got to stop. I'm {insert age here] now! (Meaning: I'm old enough to do what I want and I shouldn't have to answer to you or anyone else.)

Me: Believe me when I say I would be only too happy if it would stop!! But I can't help it. God just keeps revealing things to me! (At this point, Mom's eyes are beginning to get a little teary and her voice is getting shaky.)

Kid: [Slumping the shoulders, wiping brow wearily] Fine. When did you find out? (There's no argument that everything is hunky-dory. Both Mom and Kid know the truth. Kid knows the details ... Mom knows the generalities. Discussion follows.)

It is at this point that my kiddo and I will have a serious discussion about what God has revealed to me. I'd love to say that all of these discussions have had "happily ever after" endings, but I'd be a big fat liar if I did. I'd also love to say that in each situation, my child repented of {take your pick: wrong choice, sin, dangerous life pattern, etc.}, hugged me enthusiastically, thanked me profusely, and our relationship was stronger and better than ever before ... but, in the extremely slim chance that any of my children read my blog, I need to set a good example of always telling the truth. Sometimes, everything WAS positive and immediate changes came about. Other times weren't quite as "rewarding", but my child definitely heard the truth according to Scripture ... and it was his choice as to what he was going to do with it.

I haven't totally understood why God chooses to do this Mommy Radar stuff with our family, but here are some theories. There have been times that I needed to be my child's self-control and discipline when he was having a hard time exercising his own. I've had to be the brick wall to hedge my child in to protect him from the world ... and had to be the "bad guy" to protect him from himself. I've had to show my child he was believing a lie, justifying wrong behavior, or going down a dangerous road. And, as they've gotten older, I've had to confront as one Christian adult to another.

There has never been a time when Mommy Radar has gone off that I thought it was wonderful. It's always been painful. But I learned a long time ago that I need to be obedient when God's Spirit says something to me. He doesn't reveal just for revelation's sake ... a salvation (of sorts) is always involved. Honestly, if I could see that my child was driving a car and ignoring the "Bridge Out" signs and continuing merrily on his way, I wouldn't hesitate to stop him as much as I was able simply because I could see the road ahead and knew that he was in danger. In fact, Scripture tells us to step in and to "save a lamb from slaughter" when we see a Christian brother heading down a wrong way. Mommy Radar does the same thing. And God has chosen me to torture (Sorry! That's how our kids have seen it) serve our children in this way.

Blessing or curse. I guess it just depends on how you look at it. As for me, I see God's extreme love for my children through it all ... and that makes it a blessing (definitely in disguise sometimes), but a blessing nevertheless. My prayer? That every one of my children will be given this strange ability as well. No, not for revenge or pay-back on my part (although that's a little odd it even occurred to me), but so that they, too, can come up alongside their children (my wonderful grandchildren!!) in a time when they desperately need to hear the Truth.

"I have no great joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the Truth."
3 John 4

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All the Bunco Ladies ...

One Thursday night a month, a group of twelve women (and usually a few extra women who are filling in as subs) get together to play Bunco. All of us love our chocolate ... love talking about our families ... and love not having to think through a strategy (or even really have to think!) as we throw the dice. Some evenings, it's a rowdy and loud evening, particularly when there are quite a few Buncos! There's hollering and the throwing of a green monkey (yes, it's true. We throw small animals) and loud laments about never winning. There's talk of ditties and "What number are we on?" or "Who's keeping score?" On other nights, it can be fairly subdued. No one seems to really be winning ... no one seems to really be losing ... and everyone else is just consistently winning AND losing.  But, the food is good, the fellowship is great, and I've never been where I haven't thoroughly enjoyed myself. By 9:00, most of us are yawning and looking at our watches (or cell phones), commenting that it's getting close to our bedtime. We either have to work bright and early in the morning ... or we're just plain getting old -- we haven't really stopped to figure out which.

We all met through our church. Some of these women, I've known for more than 25 years ... others, maybe closer to 15. We've had babies together and talked about nursing and diapers. We attended MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and enjoyed getting out of the house, away from Sesame Street and Legos, and actually experiencing adult conversation. Some of us had children attend the same school and we went on field trips and supervised elementary class parties. Others of us homeschooled together and attended the annual homeschool convention to purchase educational supplies for the upcoming year. Our kids participated in youth group together ... played sports together ... went on retreats (sometimes with a few of us moms as adult sponsors) ... and some of our kids even got grounded together (ahhh! The memories!). Some of us have gone on family vacations together or on double dates.  We've gone to weddings of our children and held each other's grandbabies. And, if we haven't gotten to actually meet those grandbabies, we've definitely seen pictures!! As we've gotten older, our conversations have turned to chin hairs, menopause, hot flashes, and weight control. We'll discuss mammograms, colonoscopies, and which cereal has the most fiber. Over the years we've rejoiced with each other ... cried with each other ... prayed for each other ... seen tragedy ... witnessed triumph ... and still we continue.

Why? Because we're more than just the Bunco ladies. We're part of a family -- God's family. There's a bond that goes deeper than just throwing dice and eating chocolate. We might come from different backgrounds or states ... we might look totally different ... we might be in different income brackets ... we might be a "new person" coming in, or a substitute who isn't there that regularly ... but ultimately, we're the same. We're bound together in Christ, learning and growing as we love each other, love our families, and love our Lord. And THAT is priceless!!

Some of our Bunco Ladies ... and a few subs! :o)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Full House

Well, it's happened. Our kids all grew up and moved away ... moved back ... moved out again ... and now we're at the point where three of our four adult children have moved back in to our home. We just finished moving two of them in this last weekend. There are still boxes, trashbags, and crates of things sitting around ... but the kids are here. I know this is not the first choice for any of them. It's more of a financial necessity than an overwhelming desire to live with Mom and Dad.

My husband and I are excited about their being here ... and nervous at the same time. We're excited because our kids are fun to be with. Wes loves watching football, guy movies, and Ghosthunter with his boys. He likes all of the guy jokes and the looks exchanged between the kids when Mom says something "mom-like". He enjoys all of the laughter, the inside family jokes, and the cuddling he gets from his daughter. Me? I like the fact that our house doesn't seem to echo with emptiness, that I'm not the only female in the house anymore, that the dogs don't follow only me because there's no one else around, that there's always someone to talk to (I don't know if THEY appreciate that!), and that we all basically enjoy being around each other.

But we're nervous, too. Our children are all adults. They're not 15 anymore. We can't treat them like they are. We can't MAKE them pick up socks ... can't MAKE them eat green beans ... can't MAKE them make the choices we think they need to make. Do you know how difficult it is to NOT act like a parent to your own child? After all, I've been doing this for a loooong time. At this point in their lives, our kids don't need a mommy.

For me, that's really difficult. I AM a mom ... and I'm THEIR mom. Our relationship with our children, however, is temporary. Eventually, they all will move out and have families of their own. Yes, we'll still have a relationship, but it won't be the same as when they lived here with us. They won't be here anymore ... leaving shoes in the living room ... leaving dishes by the dishwasher ... leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor. What will they be taking with them? What will be their memories?

My prayer is that while our adult children are living with us that Wes and I will be godly witnesses ... that the kids will see Jesus in us and in spite of us. I don't want them to have memories of a mom hagging about the cleanliness of the house, but one who served cheerfully and gratefully as if she were serving Jesus. I want them to see me as a woman who lives deliberately for Jesus and doesn't react to circumstances. I want them to feel accepted and loved for who they are regardless of their choices ... and their cleanliness!! To me, this is another opportunity to teach, just in different ways than we did when they were younger.

So, it's a full house around here again. What I thought had been a finished chapter has been opened up once again. Obviously, God's not quite finished with the writing of it! In the meantime, we're bursting at the seams (this once empty house is packed!!) and looking forward to all God is doing in our lives and in the lives of our children.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Southern Girl

I was raised a Southern girl. I've lived in Oklahoma my entire life and will be content to be here forever. Why? I love the people ... love the conservativeness ... just basically love it. The only thing that would make it better would be to have a beach. Of course, I could move further south and there are plenty of beaches there! I have to admit it ... if I DID move anywhere, it would still be here in the South. There's just something about the South ...

When I was a little girl, we lived in the "country" about 20 minutes from the "big city". We'd drive down the gravel roads and everyone we'd come in contact with would wave at us as we drove by. No, we didn't know those people ... it was just the friendly, Southern thing to do.

If you're from the South, when someone asks you if you want a Coke, and you reply yes, they'll usually say, "We've got Dr. Pepper, Sprite, or Pepsi. Which do you want?" And that's not strange. Coke refers to all kinds of pop. And folks from the South LOVE their biscuits and sausage gravy and corn grits (I like mine with cheese, please!). We're also partial to ice-cold sweetened tea -- and it doesn't have to be a hot day to enjoy it.

Or how about when someone from a different region of the US comes to visit, and they are enthralled with our accents? I had a man tell me once that he absolutely could NOT understand how I could make "man" in to a two-syllable word ... and in the next breath, he said he loved my Okie twang. He told me to ask his wife what time it was, and then would just laugh his head off at the way I drawled out the word "time". I take great pride in the way we speak here. Some folks may think it sounds hick or backwoods, but I seriously love it. We roll down a winda in the car ... we're fixin' to go to the store ... we get tuckered out ... and, we have dawgs that live in our house. The best Southern term, though, is our famous "ya'll" (although some spell it "y'all"; regardless of spelling, it still means the same thing). We Southern folk are experts at chopping words up and smushing them together to create our own unique language. Examples: like-at (like that), like-iss (like this), yaunt to (you want to), goff (get off), and whatcha (what do you). See! We're creative!

Our names are often uniquely Southern, too. If you're from this area, I'm willing to bet you know of at least one girl with the middle name of Jo, and she'll often go by both names (Laurie Jo) ... and don't forget the middle name of Lou or Sue, again used with the first name most of the time. My aunt (Sheri Lou) and my mother (Tomi Sue) have about as southern a name as you can get. And it's the same for guys in the South as well. There's Jim Bob (yes, I actually knew a few), Icky Dale (I promise!), and John David. My father-in-law is Bert Ray, and his family called him that for a long time.

What I love about the South the most are the people. We're friendly! We smile at folks in the stores. We make eye contact as we're walking down the street. We hold doors for each other. While waiting at a stop sign, men drivers will wait and let the lady drivers go first. It's not unusual to be called "ma'am" or "sir". Being polite is looked upon highly.

Above all, Southern people tend to have a strong faith in God and a deep attachment to family. I think those two characteristics are the sweetest things to me about Southern folk. Roots grow deep here, and lasting connections are valued.

I'm sure it's wonderful living in other parts of the US, too. Since I've only lived in the South all of my life, I'm sure that's why I'm partial to it. But it seems to me, when you're content where you are, and it's pretty wonderful ... well, no use messing with what works, right?

And so I'll close up my little blog praising my neck of the woods. As Jed Clampett used to say, "Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Doctors Love Us

Okay, I don't mean to brag or anything, but I think my family deserves to win an award ... or at least the lottery. I'll explain, you'll understand, and you'll definitely agree with me.

Back in 1996, we were a sweet little family -- Dad, Mom, three boys, and a girl. We were just living life as all families do ... and then it started. The Allen curse. Our youngest child had a ruptured appendix that led to a 2-week stay in the hospital and a second surgery. And that, my friends, is what started the whole process. In 14 years, our family has had a total of 17 surgeries. Count it up ... but you need both hands and both feet to count that high. Seventeen!!! Fortunately, we've had insurance so that has helped tremendously, but even then, if I were brave enough to total all of the out-of-pocket expenses that we've had, we probably could have purchased a summer house in Hawaii. Okay, that's maybe an exaggeration, but I bet we could have at least bought a house on Grand Lake in Oklahoma!! Most families buy expensive furniture or houses or cars. Not the Allens! We're way past that kind of stuff. We buy medical equipment, pay doctors, and help furnish new wings to hospitals. And I'm not counting the other hospital stays (just one) or emergency room visits (broken nose, five sprained ankles, three sets of stitches, etc.) that don't include surgery!! In fact, I'm not even including the four previous surgeries our family had BEFORE 1996. I think doctors love us.

AND, we're getting ready to add another surgery to our Allen family resume. Our middle son will be having shoulder surgery to repair a three-year-old injury. This will bring our surgery total (from 1996, mind you!) to a grand total of 18.

There was a time when we'd go to the doctor and I'd come home crying. I'd worry endlessly about how we'd pay the huge mountain of bills. But in each and every circumstance, we would up paying everything off (sometimes after a period of 10 years!!). Even more than that, it's been God's miraculous provision sometimes.  After one surgery, our insurance company cancelled us and we were stuck with the $30,000 bill. Talk about sheer panic!! I was neck-deep in it!! Within two days, however, we had a surgeon who called every single person involved in the operation, and they ALL forgave the debt. When just two days before, we had a HUGE bill, on this day we were totally out of debt because of the surgeon who called everyone on our behalf. Now, when one of our family members is told there's an upcoming surgery, I don't cry or needlessly worry because of what I've seen God accomplish in our past. God's in control. He's the One Who mends the bones, ligaments, and tendons. He's the One Who reconnects the nerves. He's the Master Physician. And He's also the One Who provides so that we can pay the bills -- our Jehovah Jireh.

So, there you go. We're heading in to familiar territory. Familiar territory ... definitely not fun territory. But we don't go in to that territory alone e-v-e-r!!! God always goes with us.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Parenting Debate

I was in on a discussion today about parenting. In the room was a mom of a baby and a preschooler ... a dad of an older elementary student, a middle schooler, and a highschooler ... and me -- an old, tired woman with four adult children. There was a semi-debate on which stage of life was hardest. Hmmmmm. Let's see. Where do we begin?

Was it difficult to get up every two hours and nurse a baby, go through constant diaper changing, all while trying to love and nurture the older child, cook, clean, go to the grocery store, and be an attentive wife? Boy, do I remember those days! I figured up the other day that I was pregnant and/or nursing for a total of 108 months (that's 8 1/2 years, folks!!). I think I spent most of my time sleep-deprived, babbling about Bert and Ernie, stepping on GI Joes, and wiping noses and/or bottoms. And, at the time, I thought it was the hardest stage of parenting simply because of the physical exhaustion that accompanied it. Having adult conversations or going out to eat without cutting someone's meat was a treat! But absolutely NOTHING can compare to holding a sleeping baby, or checking on your precious toddler as she's sleeping, or listening to a preschooler say his prayers to Jesus. It was worth it ...

Then, our children entered the grade school/middle school/high school years. We were every bit as busy, just in different areas. Now we were deep into trying to figure out fair rules for our family (curfew, movies, dating, driving, friends), driving all over the state for athletic events, and surgeries and doctor's appointments (unfortunately, that went along with sports for our family!! During this time, it seemed like most of my time was spent behind the wheel of a car, going from one activity or another. And, a lot more emotions came in to play. I discovered that teenage boys desperately want to be independent and don't want "mommy". It was during this time that our children began pulling tightly on the apron strings, trying to see how much those strings would stretch.Yet, there were times when we'd all be sitting around in the living room, laughing and sharing a family inside joke ... or a teen would sit on our bed at midnight just to talk and share what was going on in his life ... and it was soooo worth it.

Our kids grew up and became young adults. We're not as busy as we were, but we're defininitely older (waaaaaaay older, as a matter of fact). Our young adult children have lived with us and lived in their own places; they've made incredibly smart decisions and unfortunately stupid ones. Mistakes made at this age can't be fixed with a kiss and a band-aid, and we as parents know that and have worried about it. When our kids are living here, we find that we still wake up during the night -- no, not for night feedings, but to check and make sure they've gotten home safely. I think my children turned in to vampires as they got older -- they just didn't seem to require sleep and liked being up all night long, and for parents who can't sleep until everyone's home safely ... oh well!! This stage has been emotionally exhausting, but it's all been worth it when we've seen them become parents ... or they've made an incredibly difficult decision that has shown maturity and wisdom ... or we get a random phone call just to visit.

Each stage of parenting has been difficult ... for different reasons.  But those stages of parenting have all been as incredible as well. Would we do it over again? Yes!! Why? Any parent would know the answer to that question: because it's just been worth it -- every second, every minute, every hour.