Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Time I Knew I Was A True Mama

I remember one distinct moment when I knew I was no longer just a girl, I was a mama.

We were camping in Door County, Wisconsin. Sabrina had invited a friend to stay with us for the week. Uninvited, but equally present, was a horrible stomach virus.

First, her friend puked all over the back part of the camper, including all over the cute, little blue shag rug I put between the girl's beds. I pulled it out and suds it out in a hot bucket of soapy water.

I called her girlfriend's mom, and (after many rounds of sickness) I fed her saltines and 7-up. This particular bug was hard-hitting and relentless and highly contagious.

But I remember first staring long and hard at that smelly, revolting mess and thinking, "Now. I am truly a mother. Only a mom would do this."

There was no one else to clean it up. I was it. I was the one who called upon to fix the problem. I was the mama.

So I cleaned it up.

And then, Sabrina got sick. And then, my husband followed suit.

Each time I would take a deep breath and talk to myself. "This is it," I would say. "You can do this. You love these people."

Myself would answer back with angry hissing sounds. "I absolutely, positively cannot do this. There is no possible way."

The commentary would wage back and forth between myself and myself. And myself won.

I washed that stupid blue rug until the fourth time it got soiled . . . I threw it out.

I washed and cleaned because I loved them all: my daughter, my husband, and my daughter's friend.

They say you marry in sickness and health, but you mother the same way. You mother when you don't feel like it anymore, when you are sad, when you are tired, when you are angry, when you are pukey.

You mother because a deep part of you loves this person - and you have absolutely no choice. You mother because you love.

So thank you, to my mom. To my grandma. To my mother-in-law. To all the moms who do the impossible every day because they have no choice and because they choose to mother.

You are loved and needed and appreciated.

When we were children, we had no understanding of what it means to parent. You thought that your mom and dad were invincible, that they could do anything and cure anything. You no understanding of the days they almost turned away, when they didn't think they had an ounce of can-do-spirit left in them. But, moms (and dads), you did it anyway.

For that, I am forever thankful.

Blessings on you today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My New Jet Setting Life and What I've Learned About Airports and Planes

I have never flown as often as I have in the past six months. And, I've traveled solo.

Relocating from Chicago to Florida meant that I would need to travel back to home base, occasionally, for my job. Plus, I've added in conferences, work meetings in other states, speaking engagements, and one more trip for my daughter to attend an anime convention. So, I've been in and out of airports... a lot.

Following is a list of unrelated incidents and observations from this newbie frequent flier:

1) Orlando Airport has the most children. Children bearing Mickey Mouse ears and in full-blown meltdowns from over stimulation. I have never, ever in my life seen so many cranky kids and adults with glazed-over eyes clutching their cups of coffee.

2) There is something joyous about going through security alone. For all of you mamas out there, you know what I mean. You only need to take off your shoes and coat, and unpack your Ziploc baggie of essentials. You only need to keep track of you.

3) Even then, I mess up. In the tiniest airport ever - Grand Rapids - I was pulled aside for an extra security check. The TSA agent asked me if I had any weapons. Really? Me? No. What I did have - I soon discovered was a renegade bottle of water.

4) Women have it rough. I stood next to one woman who was shouting to the TSA agent: "It's a breast pump." "Great," she told me. "Now the entire airport knows I'm lactating." She said that one time she even had to take a drink of her breast milk to show it was the real thing. Oh dear.

5) Starbucks is your friend. I only went through one airport - Midway - where Starbucks was not clearly evident and abounding. I hated that. I almost felt paralyzed with confusion.

6) I am always fearful I will drop my suitcase on someone's head while lifting it into the overhead bin. Thankful for the chivalrous man who helped me on the last flight. Thank you kind sir. You have no idea.

7) Southwest rules. They just do.

8) There is no gum for sale in the Orlando Airport. I know. Travesty. The clerk told me to buy Mentos. Really?! How will my ears ever pop?

9) I still get a childlike thrill at take-off - and always put my hand out to help the pilot break when we land. Always.

10) I have enjoyed many, many packets of Ritz Cracker Chips - which we all delightfully accept - and I will probably never ever buy or eat them anywhere else. They're kind of like 7up when you are sick. You are so grateful and happy just to have a little treat.

11) You really do need to check in 24 hours in advance. I once went renegade and didn't. I was in something like the "E" section - behind everyone else. When I got to the boarding gate, they needed to "check" my bag. Bummer. Now, I sit by my computer like a hawk searching for its prey - ready to pounce at that exact minute. Once, I claimed B-1!!!!

12) Choosing your seat is strategic. In Southwest, you choose your seat. Avoid the screaming kids (I know - I had one once - but I don't now). Avoid the coughers - you just know you'll be sick two days later. Avoid the strange chatty men that smile and pat the seat next to them. Avoid the center seat. Try to get near the front for a quick escape.

13) I really like flying. It is like a little mini-vacation. I can read, chew my gum, eat my little bag of Ritz Cracker Chips, have a Coke with ice, watch a little home decorating, do some writing, and then I'm there - somewhere else.

14) Coming home is the best. Tap my sparkly red shoes and take me home. As much as I enjoy the momentary sense of freedom and the quiet hotel room with full control of the lights, air and tv channel, I miss everyone the minute I leave.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Prayer for Nepal

Like thousands of others, I am praying today for the people of Nepal.

The country is devastated - physically and emotionally.

How many lives must be lost, oh God? 

I am praying for help and peace and comfort. How it aches our hearts to know that we cannot do much except pray and send a check. Such little to do with such overwhelming need.

When I was a little girl - probably 5th grade or so - my parents talked about becoming missionaries to Nepal. They were both public school teachers, and they had heard of great need in that country for Christian teachers.

We talked about this - as a family - and we were all ready to go. Then, the country closed to outside missionaries, and our plans were cancelled. But dreams of Nepal stayed in my heart.

When I was packing for our move, I found my construction-paper covered report from 5th grade on the country of Nepal, its people, its products, and other random assorted facts written on large-ruled notebook paper with encyclopedia and National Geographic photos cut and carefully pasted on the pages.

Years later, Nepal entered my heart again with a book. Conor Grennan wrote a book titled Little Princes. It is his memoir about life after college. He had decided to spend his first year of post-school freedom traveling the globe. To offset what he saw as a selfish pursuit, he started by volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal.

What he didn't expect was that the needs of those children would break his heart and change the entire course of his life as he began an organization to save children who had been trafficked.

I decided to teach that book for my freshman English class - and was thrilled when I found out that I had an international student from Nepal. Hanna had a gorgeous smile and taught me the correct pronunciation of her beloved home country.

She told me about the beauty of the mountains and endless cups of tea. She talked about her parents who married out of love and broke traditions of arranged betrothals. She lit up as she described her heart to reach the people of her country with God's love.

I pray for Hanna today - she had not heard from her family when I last emailed her. How hard it is not to know. I pray for the orphans of Nepal and Conor's work there. I pray for the people who do not know if there loved ones are safe. I pray for those who lost homes and all of their earthly possessions. I pray for the children who lost parents and the parents who lost children. I pray for the grief of seeing roads broken and buildings crumbled.

I pray for God to heal and to comfort and to be present for His people today.

Praying and weeping with you, Nepal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Prayed for You Today

I walked on the beach this morning. And, as I walked, I prayed.

I asked God to be with my good friend Jill as she says goodbye-for-now, today, to her father.

for Teryn who has battled illness for the past year.

for my friend Amanda and her daughter Meg who is serving God across the seas.

for my friend Ben and his sister Stephanie, who is grappling with a diagnosis.

for my brother-in-law Dave and for Bob and his family.

for my friends Rachel and James and their baby son.

for Junias, and Anna, and Melissa.

for so many of you who have shared with me your fears and worries and struggles and concerns.

I prayed and asked God for His healing and comfort -

for His peace and joy -

to do what only He can do.

And then the sun came out,

it peeked over the clouds,

and it changed everything.

God can do that.

We serve an amazing, awe-inspiring God who can do anything.

He holds all of this - all of our cares, worries, sicknesses, fears, concerns, all of it, in the palm of His hands. Nothing is impossible for Him.

As I walked back home holding the most perfect tiny shell in my hand,

a contrast to the magnificence of the sunrise and the vastness of the ocean.

I was thinking of how God cares for us, despite His grandeur,

and the words of an old hymn came to my mind.

"All your anxieties, all your cares,

Come to the mercy seat, leave them there.

Never a burden, He cannot bear.

Never a friend, like Jesus."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Advice for College Graduates on Getting Your First Job - Part Two

Here's some helpful job-searching advice from former graduates who are now working (many of them in their desired field)! I received so many suggestions that I'm stretching these out over two more posts.

On Getting Your Foot in the Door…

Volunteer! Sharon writes, “My current job, as well as one previous job, I got through volunteering. 
The organization knew me and valued me as a volunteer, and thought I would make a valuable employee.”

“If you can’t work for money, work for free. Don’t be afraid of a day job, but keep building your portfolio,” Karen said.

Nailing That Interview . . .

Candy was impressed by one particular “fresh-out-of-college” candidate, “I hired Kaitlyn right out of college. She was professional, to the interview a few minutes early, sent me a link to her online portfolio, had good questions, and seemed to be a learner. I have continued to be impressed.”

Finding Job Possibilities …

“Make connections and network,” advises Kaitlyn. “Get your name out there. My advisor at school told me about an opening and told the organization about me. Don’t be too picky for your first job; eve if it’s not exactly what you want to do.”

“Don’t be afraid to go for the big guns,” Andie advises. “As long as you’re mostly qualified, there’s no hurt in trying. I never would have thought Christianity Today would interview me.”

David took the wrong job to meet the right people. “So much of the opportunities I have been given are because of networking in circles that I wanted to be a part of. Started as a social media specialist, but I wanted to be in radio. Getting your foot in the door is less about working a job that will be good in the future and more about meeting the people you could work with.”

Don’t Give Up!

Jesse talks about how long this might take: “Persistence! It can be really frustrating to be rejected over and over or to not get a response when you send your resume out. But, you can’t lose heart. It took me a year and a half after graduation to get a job in my field. You just have to keep going.”

“It may take you a while to figure out what God has given you both talent and passion for,” Luci says. “Don’t be afraid to try new jobs.”