The Messiness of Life

Life has a way of being unpredictable at times. Mix those surprises into a large family with multiple members who have ADHD and anxiety, and things get even more interesting. Since my last post, which was admittedly a bit too long ago, the family dynamics have changed a bit.

Choices we make in life have a way of coming back to bite us, or sometimes just proving to be a rough patch on the ocean of life. This recently came to my mind as I was struggling to adjust to being a single mother again while working a full time job and taking online classes to acquire my master’s degree in social work. In trying to re-vamp my world for better functioning, I knew that the online university work was a big stressor on our family functioning. That inevitable inner critic wanted to point out how quitting half way through would improve day-to-day life.

At the same time, financial crises that most single parents face at times came calling at my door. One full time income with four male eating machines just wasn’t cutting it. In trying to figure out a solution, it became apparent that there was no way I needed to quit that master’s program half way through! Completing it means that my income will triple, so that seemed like a no-brainer to me.

As I was selling the artwork off the walls in my home to buy food and gas to get to work, it occurred to me that life is just messy sometimes. Having been raised as an idealist, it has taken a lot of bumps and bruises to finally get that through my head. The “picket fence” American dream is just that…a dream. When we are young it looks possible, but as the sanding of life knocks of our rough edges, we come to accept the fact that we will have a unique set of life experiences.

I love going to flea markets and antique shops. I seldom buy anything, but walking through is like taking a peek into history. My oldest son says it is like “Going to a museum where you can touch and handle everything.” My reason for loving this venue is that there is so much LIFE in each piece. The wood may have a stain or two, but in each stain is a story, a human connection where someone left proof of their existence and imperfection. Every time I walk through a place like this, I get the instinctive impression that I am not alone in this thing we call life. Others have lived and walked before me, with their own brand of mistakes, choices, and stories.

Life just gets complicated for each of us. If each item in an antique store could talk, we would all learn about the varied experiences of nameless others who have struggled with the same difficulties we experience. Difficult relationships, single parenting, financial crises, we would hear all about this and so much more. What would people learn from listening to the stories your furniture could share?

When Money Fails

I’ve been lamenting lately the power of money over my life. We don’t think about it so much when we have it, but when there’s a shortage, we realize how much are slaves to those little green pieces of paper.

Well have limited control over how much money we earn. Although some live on the inheritance of others, most of us struggle to survive on what we can come up with through our own hard work.

This verse says that money is a protection. Saving up three month’s wages for an emergency is a goal many people have, myself included. However, it can be scary when there’s never enough to pay all the bills, much less save up. We tend to feel unprotected, worried, and afraid.

But this verse introduces us to wisdom…something can pursue wholeheartedly without limitations. We find out that wisdom is an even better protection than money.

Once you have wisdom, it’s harder to lose. When you use it, instead of reducing your supply, it grows stronger and increases in power. Best of all…it can save your life.

Ecclesiastes 7:12New Living Translation (NLT)

12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything,

but only wisdom can save your life.

Dollar Commanders

I find it so appallin”

That they’re rulin’ my life,

Dictatin’ my decisions

And causin’ me strife.

Who gave em’ this power,

To choose all my meals,

And put me in places

Where I depend on “good deals”?

They ride in my pocket

Folded up tight,

But they’re takin’ me everywhere…

Never let me out of sight.

They command me to do

Things I’mm loathe to endure

‘Cause they’ve got me dependent,

Only with them is my future sure.

I need these”bucks”

Can’t survive without…

If I could only plant em’

And watch ’em sprout!

Pompous, filthy papers,

Tired of em’ bossin’ me ’round

But I can’t be without ’em,

At least no way’s been found.

A Father’s Protection and Provision

My dad wasn’t a perfect dad, rather like I’m not a perfect mom. But my dad did a great job of providing his family and protecting us. He worked at least two jobs most of my life, and we were always clothed, fed, and our needs were met. You’ve heard of the mama bear who gets livid and hard to deal with if she thinks you are mistreating her children? In our family it was daddy bear that people trembled before.

My Heavenly Father is perfect in every way. How much more is He my provider and protector!

Lately He has shown me repeatedly that I’m His child and. I can be dependent upon Him. Two weeks ago I was out of gas and He sent someone to provide just enough gas to get through until payday.

Two weeks ago a mass showed up in a sonogram. With a history of cancer, I was worried. At church I was prayed for, and my pastor prayed, “In Jesus name we’re praying and believing that the MRI is going to show no mass at all, and everything completely normal.”  I wrote Monday about the peace and trust God grave me going into the MRI. A couple of days later the nurse called and used the exact words my pastor had prayed over me”there is no mass of any kind and everything looks normal.” My God was in control!

Today I drove all over town searching for a used tire. I’d had a flat on the way home from work yesterday, on a tire that was completely bald and had wires sticking out. No used tires in that size were available anywhere, and grocery money would have to be used to get one anyway.

I told my son, “I’m not worried about my tires. God just removed a mass from my body this week! He’s in the miracle business.”

My son replied, “Are you kidding? He INVENTED miracles!”

Thirty minutes later we got a call and God provided two brand new tires for my car. No charge to us. ..and we were able to buy groceries!

We have three days to see how God is going to provide gas for me to get to work next week, because we are completely broke…but again, I’m not worried. He’s proven he’s got it all under control. That’s My Father!

Leaning on my Father

Several months ago I began having what I assumed were premenopausal symptoms. After all, I am forty one, and getting a gray streak in my hair.

A couple of weeks ago the doctor assured me that wasn’t what is going on. Today I’m going for an MRI find out the nature of the mass they found in my uterus.

At first, I was terrified. As a cancer survivor of thirteen years, the last time I heard the word “mass”, it ended up with me having Renal Cell Carcinoma, and a major operation having a kidney removed.

Then I realized that kidney cancer usually comes back as lung cancer, not uterine cancer. Fibroids are also a possibility. Still, it was worrisome to notice increased symptoms the last couple weeks.

However, this weekend God reminded me that I’m His child. I’m right in the middle working for Hi

Being struck by lightening gave this wood it's valuable scar.

Being struck by lightening gave this wood it’s valuable scar.

m, and I’m under His protection.

As I wait here in the lobby of the hospital, I truly have peace. Whatever this is, if it’s alright with Him, then it’s alright with me.

That’s why I named this site Fragile Strength in the first place. I have the treasure of His spirit in a weak earthly vessel, so any glory is His, not mine. His strength is made perfect in my fragility.

Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity!

Working in the the field case management has it’s ups and downs. Tonight it’s more down than up. I was scheduled to teach a parenting class, and boy was I ultra prepared for once!

I had major points written on the board, handouts copied and ready, pens and snacks, everything was perfectly organized and set up. Not only that, but this was a key lesson, that in my mind at least, had the potential to really change some of the homes of the children I work with.

I patiently sat for thirty minutes past time to start, hoping at least one parent out of the fifty would actually show and hear this fantastically life altering message.

I finally had to conclude that sometimes parents are too busy parenting to take the time to find out how to be better at it. Not everyone will be as inspired as I was when I learned this concept.

I’m disappointed…oh yeah. I was counting on the money I’d make for teaching the class. Now I get paid nada, zero, nil for staying two hours after work, apparently for nothing…pun intended.

A few days ago I was reading Ecclesiastes again, and for the first time in my life, I really agreed with Solomon. Life really is nothing more than Vanity, if you don’t consider the eternal aspects.

Every day I work hard, bringing home barely enough to survive…and that’s with my bachelor’s degree. My tired are bald, I don’t have enough money to do anything about it, and I broke my favorite pair of sandals at work today. Food is hard to buy these days, with two teen boys in the house. The cats and dogs are foraging and eating table scraps, because all money has to go into feeding kids.

And that vacation we wanted to take for the last four years? It’d be a miracle for sure!

Sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel. If this was all there was to life, I’d be climbing out. However, this life is like vapor…just a hint of substance passing quickly and disappearing into nothingness. The true substance is eternal, where relationship with Jesus makes it all worth while.1431989317764

Gratitude

A few months before my infant daughter died from intestinal intussusception, I was standing beside the grieving mother of a deformed baby who had passed away, despite her months of love and nursing. Though my belly was large with expectancy, as a mother of two toddlers, I felt so saddened by her pain. At the time, my husband and I were missionaries in Peru, South America. No stranger to the primitive lifestyle of these sweet poverty stricken people, I was still horrified at the experience of that day.

First, the mother was in a very primitive hospital, which was, nonetheless, one of the better ones of its kind. Once we got word she had lost the child, we came, and as per her request, I went and purchased a white knit little garment in which she could bury her little boy. When I brought it to her, I discovered that it was common there for them to take the dead babies to the morgue and have the mother come claim her baby’s body by walking through the morgue filled with dead babies until she found her own. I still shudder with horror to think of it. We are so protected here in our culture.

After she found her baby, she had to clean it and dress it. She took her sister with her for this process. After they had done all the red tape bribes, andpaperwork necessary to have their baby’s body released to them, and had bought a little casket, we drove them to the burial cemetery. Again, I was not equipped for the horror I would experience. The tombs were above ground, built out of bricks and concrete, and anything but sealed. The smell of rotting flesh assaulted my nose as we neared the entrance to the grounds. As we stood there saying a few words of prayer, the caretaker of the graveyard stood with his concrete shovel, ready to attempt a sealing as soon as the little casket was shoved in. He didn’t like that we took time to sing a hymn and he started telling the father of the baby that it would be more expensive because of him having to wait for us to sing. While this altercation was going on, the mother was sobbing uncontrollably, and gnats were weaving in and out of the surrounding graves, where visible holes could be seen, nipping at us to see if we were dead too, or living. When i realized why the gnats were there, I almost threw up.

I was told that the graves were only rented for a few months, at which time the caretakers would remove and burn the bones, reselling the casket and plundering anything left inside. I could not fathom this creature standing there demanding more money while his family lived nearby, among the tombs. What a way to live…a modern day Legion, feeding his family from the dead and sorrowful.

We gave the guy more money, and firmly told him to wait a few more paces away, out of sight from the mother. Even so, we hurried the prayers, and helped the mother walk away. A month later, we were there again to repeat it all with another poor mother’s stillborn babe.

Two months later, my beautiful healthy daughter passed away, at the age of three months, a complication from her vaccinations. I never expected this to happen to me. It was extremely traumatic, and even now, ten years later, any time I go into detail, and relive it, I have nightmares. Still, we have so much to be thankful for, here in the United States. Though she died in Peru, upon arrival in the US with her body, things went smoother. The body of my baby girl lies underground, buried in a beautiful country cemetery, where the branches of the dogwood bloom over her each spring. Her tombstone is granite, engraved with her name, a monument I can still visit, encased in flowers in memory of her short life. Her funeral was a lengthy affair, with many in attendance, where several songs were sung, and various ministers touched my grieving heart at no charge.

As I sat today in church, listening to a missionary from India, and looking at the pictures he shared, I thought of the complaining of my children, and their ungrateful American attitudes at times. I realized that I often get my eyes clouded with the fog of our culture, forgetting that I’m blessed just to live in this place. I asked for forgiveness, as I remembered the tragic horror so many people face around the world. In that moment I remembered life and death, and the fine line that lies between, all too visible in third world countries. I realized then, that, more than my longed for vacation to the beach to show my sons the ocean, what they really need most is a trip overseas to change their lives forever and remind us all how to be grateful.

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