Posted by: angelnorman | January 8, 2011

jan 8

Question: Is there a smell more divine than onions (or shallots, in this case) and garlic saute-ing together in perfect harmony?

Is saute-ing not a word? My spell checker won’t even recognize saute by itself. Hmph. (Hmph is also not recognized, so you know.)

Anyways, the answer to the first question is no, at least from my point of view. It is simply heavenly. Makes me want to hop in the pan and bathe in it. Okay, not really, but it does make me hungry and that’s important because I’m making my signature white bean and italian sausage soup in time for some football today. I can hardly wait to scorch my tongue (it is always so super hot when it’s done, but, like, I simply cannot wait for it to cool and I always end up with a burnt tongue after eating it. It’s totally worth it though.)

I have busted my own balls this week on getting organized in the “outer rooms”, i.e., my bedroom, Nick’s bedroom, the office, the laundry room… Anything that isn’t in the main hub of where the family spends its time. So far, I’ve completed everything but the laundry room and the office. The office is half done. The laundry room needs A LOT of work. Basically, I need to do what I did to the bedrooms and just take trashbags into each place and dispose of half the stuff that’s in there. It’s all junk. You know, the other day, I left Nick’s room with two bags of toys to donate to the Goodwill. I simply did not care what was going into the bag– if I haven’t seen him play with it in a while, I threw it out. I left mine with 2 bags of clothes– all my clothes, none of that was Mike’s. I won’t touch his side of the closet. That’s his job, which he’ll never ever get to because he’s 1) lazy and 2) completely unaware that he doesn’t wear half of the things in there. I mean, he seriously wears the same four shirts all the time. Why keep the other 50 he has stuffed into our side of the closet? I don’t know. Mike says I’m the packrat, and I am A packrat, but I’m not the biggest one that lives here. That award goes to him. Anyways, I did the same with my clothes– if I haven’t worn it in six months, it left.

And if it was a size 2x or a size 20, it is gone too. WOOT. Never going back!

Okay, some of my 2x’s I had to keep, ’cause I’m still a size 18. But I got rid of a lot. And it felt dang good, let me just say.

It will probably bite me in the butt though because despite the days I worked out this week, I have gained weight… no doubt thanks to a visit from my kind and generous Aunt Flo. She arrived with a vengeance on Wednesday, a whopping 46 days after her last visit, and man, did she seem mad at me. Not only did she vex me with an unusually high, um, volume, but she also made sure that I ruined as many pairs of underwear as possible, if you know what I mean. And if that’s not enough, she has made me crave chocolate like nobody’s business. It has been rough. Like, the worst one I’ve had since the miscarriage episode, to the point where I wondered if I was anemic (Probably am). But that’s okay, because now it’s the weekend, and things are simmering down in that department. I’m slowly coming down off the raging hormones and snippy attitude I’ve been displaying. I’ve apologized profusely to Michael for my behavior, and like a good husband he said, “What crazy behavior?” Oh, you clever, clever boy. And I’ve been trying to make it up to Nick by letting him play his DS whenever he asks.

One day at a time, that’s all I can do.

Alright, the soup is calling to me. I can’t resist the garlic.

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Posted by: angelnorman | January 6, 2011

Toys? Pfft.

Nicholas has been having a rough week. Several nights ago, he woke up crying and spent about 3 hours trying to “cope” with some outer-ear pain. The little flappy bit that protects the ear canal was sore to the touch and the entire outside of the ear was red and he claimed it was “aching”, so much so that he couldn’t even lie on that side of his head without the pressure being too much. Oh, he cried and cried. For hours. We tried everything- a warm towel to lay on, a dose of his nighttime meds, and lots and lots of snuggling. I even had him in my bed with me, so I could constantly rub his head, back, belly, and even scratch his butt (the Normans are big fans of cheek-scratching!) for him, but nothing would work to calm him or help him sleep. Finally the acetaminophen kicked in and he slept (in his bed) peacefully.

The next day, his ear was fine. I watched him all day, waiting for a fever or a sign of any ear issues, and he had nothing. I was on the phone with Kristi who was once a dental assistant, and she said, “Has he got his six year molars yet?” I told her that at his last appointment, he had one molar arriving, so she had me check and sure enough, on his left side, the other molar had already broken through AND the top one was a tiny spike of a tooth that no doubt had been causing all of the pain and heartache the night before.

It pays to have professional friends. If anyone knows of a fertility doctor, a pediatrician, and/or a veterinarian I could be BFFs with, please let me know.

But this whole week has been rough on Nick. He still has what he calls “the coughs”. We just can’t seem to shake that mean ol’ cough or his friend, mr. head congestion.  We’ve had to get back to a normal schedule for school, which in itself is rough because no matter how much Nick missed school, he loves his DS much too much to want to leave it all day. So between being sick and having to get up SUPER early for school, Nick has not been having a good week. He needs a nap like every day but of course he can’t take one because then he’ll be awake till 11 or 12 every night.

Today when he came home from school, he asked first thing to play the Wii. I said no, of course. Then he asked to play his DS. Again, no, he may not. He has a zillion Christmas toys that I spent all of yesterday finding a home for in that room of his, so I told him he should play in there. He stomped around like a wild person till I told him if he kicked my wall once more, I would kick his DS straight into the trash can, and then he went into his room and said, “What am I supposed to play with in here?” I told him he could play with any of his toys. “What toys?” he cried. I told him any of his toys again, only this time with a bit of a yell.

So a few minutes go by, and I hear very little from his room. Maybe he’s asleep, I thought. Then a few more minutes go by, and I hear him gtting things out of his cleaned closet (great) and he comes to me and says, “Look where I am!” So I turn around and there he is… in his collapsible laundry hamper.

$200 spent on random toys for Christmas, and that’s just our part. Another $200 worth from other places, I’m sure, is all neatly incorporated into his toy storage bins and closet. And what does he choose to play with?

A hamper.

Kids are so crazy. Praising Jesus I only have one today.

Posted by: angelnorman | January 3, 2011

blogging with the sting of onion in my eyes

The Normans have had a fantastic start to the New Year, filled with good times, lots of laughs, and getting back to a normal (and much saner) routine. We even managed to throw in a date night (score!) So far I’ve managed to smoke less than half a pack of cigarettes a day (so, 5-10 cigs max, which is an improvement from my, say, 20-30 cigs a day throughout the holidaze) and we’re already eating a lot healthier thanks to organic baby green salads and cooking at home. No fast food for this bunch, although I did eat my weight in shrimp scampi at Red Lobster on Saturday. Hey, you win some, you lose some.

Oh, and I’ve exercised in some form every day, mostly yoga and pilates. Need to amp it up with some cardio but I’m not feeling it yet.

Also, I’ve been spending insane amounts of time trying to organize things around here. The first to get “hit” was my plasticwares cabinet. Oh, Tupperware, how I loathe thee. But oh how I so often need your help in saving my dinners for meals on different days! For Christmas, my mother got me a 40-piece set of rubbermaid containers in various sizes and shapes. I thought I was going to die when I tried to incorporate them into my existing collection, but somehow I survived, throwing out any pieces that looked “flaky” and disgusting, and yes, that does mean that I trashed them. To the landfill they go to pollute the earth! You’re welcome.

Then I attacked the fridge and got rid of all expired goods, as well as ones I tried and hate. I later did the same with both my spice cabinet (90% of my spices were expired and I was pretty sure I used at least 10 of them last month, long after they had past their date– oops!) and the pantry. I could not believe the amount of garbage I accumulated (for the landfill– again, you’re welcome.)

I joke about it now, but it is appalling at how much we waste in this household. Also, it’s appalling to how much I keep, thinking that I will use whatever the item in question is eventually, if the circumstances are right, if I made this recipe or that, if I weighed a little less, or if the planets were all aligned. It seems I have excuses for everything I keep, from food products to clothes to craft supplies. So I have been tackling everything with a “Take 30” approach– I plan to go into every “area” that I dislike and I take up to 30 items out to either donate or use to destroy the earth. that means 30 clothes items, 30 things in my craft closet, 30 toys from Nick’s closet… and on and on. I’ve already managed to do this in my kitchen, and now I have only 7248 more areas to go.

AND if those weren’t enough things to try and do this week, I’m also starting week one of budgeting! I’m super excited to start our new budget, and I HATE the word “budget” as much as I hate the word “diet”. I mean, I don’t know how many times in the past, when Mike and I reached less than $100 in our checking account (or you know, less than $10) that he has said to me, “We need to go on a budget” and just hearing those words have made me cringe. Countless times, I am sure.  It really is offensive to me to think that someone suggests I need to be budgeted, about as offensive as if he were to say, “You are fat and lazy and need to be on a diet and exercise plan.” In fact, I think I would respond to both with, “Your face needs…” But in all seriousness, this time I am on board with the budgeting because last month we sat down, looked at our income versus expenses and oh dear sweet Baby Jesus! We are wasting so much money each month. I literally have no idea where it all goes– it appears to go in $20-$30 increments at various places like Dollar Tree, Old Navy, Wal-Mart… etc. So we began our year by trying to correct all that. We’ve started a savings account (yep, that’s right– we didn’t have one before), we have paid all our bills, and we’ve bought all the groceries we’ll buy for this week thanks to my trip to the store today. The only thing we’ll need is gas next week and cigarettes (and I’m really working on that, I promise.)

So, yeah, so far so good. Hope your New Year is just as spectacular in its third day as mine is!

Posted by: angelnorman | January 1, 2011

oh, almost forgot…

this:

is Jimmy!

Jimmy is 4 years old, and is responsible for running the family errands. He lives with his mother and 3 siblings in a village in Uganda. His interests are playing with musical instruments and toy cars. Jimmy is currently not in school but he attends some of the Christian classes that Compassion International oversees in his area. I am already infatuated with him, if you want me to be completely honest.

For $38 a month you can help a child like Jimmy… Just click the link on my left sidebar to Compassion, Intl. They will let you pick your sponsor child from all over the place, and every bit of the money you sent is tax deductible, if that matters to you. Also, Compassion is registered with the Better Business Bureau, and that SHOULD matter to you 🙂

Posted by: angelnorman | January 1, 2011

mercy

2010? Not a fan.

I spent the majority of my year bitter and heartbroken about a lack of baby. I shed many tears, had many a mood swing, and took many steps toward fertility, all in vain.

Finally I got on my knees and asked this prayer:

“If you can’t give me a baby right now, take this desire from me. Please, I beg you.”

And for awhile I thought He had indeed quenched my thirst to be fertile, but it wasn’t until last week when my friend Shea announced her pregnancy that I KNEW He had answered my prayer.

I know it’s going to sound bad, but I’m going to say it any way, ’cause that’s what I do. I say things that seem very wrong of me to say and then I go into an explanation of why I said that. So here we go. Shea, if you’re reading this, bear with me.

I have never been truly happy for anyone who was or became pregnant while I was trying to get pregnant too.

There. It’s out there.

Now let me explain. I have congratulated, applauded, attended baby showers, hung baby announcements I received in the mail on my fridge or bulletin board. I have prayed for healthy pregnancies, healthy mommies, and for babies to be blessed. I have taken a lot of pleasure in buying gifts and planning showers and doing things of that sort.

But not because I was truly happy. I did what I did out of love for the people who were pregnant and blessed with wombs that were more fertile than my own. I didn’t congratulate from a place of happiness or joy, but a place of love. And you might ask, well, what’s the difference? Who cares if you were happy or if you just being loving?

Well, I care. Because in my heart, I was hurting. I wanted to be genuinely happy for the mothers I love as I watched their families grow, but it was hard for me, because I felt overlooked by God. This was not the fault of the friends and relatives who had their babies, no, not at all. But somehow I made it their fault, and I felt… awful. I don’t even know another word for it. Every pregnancy announcement was met with gladness AND sadness at the same time, and that’s how I know my happiness wasn’t genuine. It was forced.

Then, for the first time in months and for the first time since I prayed the prayer, someone I love announced she was pregnant.  I felt… oh my goodness… what is that emotion? Joy? Really? YES! I felt joy! My eyes teared up and not because I was angry, hurt, or wondering when it was gonna be me. For the first time, I was legitimately thrilled to congratulate someone! (And I’m glad it was Shea, because I love her a lot, I know a bit about how she herself has struggled, and I would’ve hated having to fake it with her. I’m pretty sure she would’ve been able to tell. :))

I immediately rejoiced in the fact that my Father above had removed within me that desire for more. “Thank you Jesus!” I think I cried out. Once for Shea’s pregnancy, and once for my happiness.

God is so good to me. I am so undeserving of that mercy that He pours out on me, and I surely don’t deserve someone to have my back like He does all the time, especially because I am so imperfect, so flawed compared to so many of His children. But oh how He loves me to hear my prayer and to take that burden away.

And I really think it also has a lot to do with the fact that for the first time in a LONG time, I found something else to concentrate on that mattered more to me than my failing ovaries… I found… Myself. Ever since I have been focusing on my health and my weight, I have been renewed and refreshed… Because honestly, really, for the first time ever, I would rather be healthy than be pregnant. I would rather have my blood pressure down, my metabolism/thyroid under control, my insulin at its proper place. I’d rather weigh 160… but um, that’s a lonnnnng way away, lol.

I’d rather give myself a chance at a healthier life, so that I can be a good mother to the kid I have AND any that God might want to give me on down the road, either via  the natural way or via adoption. (Half my heart already belongs to the children of Africa, so who knows? :))

So, what I’m trying to say is that God does answer prayers… and maybe He doesn’t answer them exactly how we’d expect, but He doesn’t ever ignore His children. He will always be there, working in the background, making sure that we feel His Presence, His perfect and unending love. And for that, I am so grateful! Are you?

 

Posted by: angelnorman | December 29, 2010

i don’t have a title, but thanks for asking.

Now that Christmas has drawn to a close, I am living in what FlyLady calls CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). The trees are still up, one stocking hangs mockingly from the faux-mantle (my kitchen doorway), and there is stuff everywhere; my head hurts just looking at it. This is why I say that I would rather have gift cards and/or cash as Christmas gifts– we have an over-abundance of “stuff” and not enough storage. We could use the money more… perhaps to buy shelves to store all the stuff people insist on buying for us! Or you know, to pay bills. Or copays for our doctor appointments…

Right now my boys are sick. The little one has been sick since Christmas Day. He woke up coughing, incredibly congested, and with watery eyes; this has gone on for days, and he has had no appetite whatsoever. I’ve had to force him to eat, even things like peanut butter and jelly sammies, which is his favorite food! So you know he’s sick if he’s not eating something he loves. Then the bigger one, Mike, woke up yesterday feeling run-down. I didn’t think much of it, because I myself have been run-down. I haven’t made it through a day since Christmas without taking a nap. Like I literally have to nap, or I feel like I will just fall out. Then napping leads to late nights, and sometimes I don’t get to sleep in much… So, yeah, we’re all thrown off around here lately. I figured Mike and I were just experiencing a tiredness from all the holiday running and such. Well this morning, he woke up with a fever and I insisted he make an appointment to see the doctor. At first they said Mike had the flu, but then they retracted that because he’s not really coughing. His strep test came back negative, so the final diagnosis was “a bad virus” (different than a good one?) and he was given some antibiotics for the upper respiratory infection he will most certainly get if this virus gets any worse. I am still treating him as though he has the flu and quarantining him to our bedroom. He’s not complaining though; he’s got his BFF Nyquil, so he’s happy. And very much asleep.

I want so badly to whip this house back into shape, but like I said, I’ve been kind of run-down and feeling blah lately. And of course, I’m having to play nurse/maid/waitress to my sickly little lovebugs. It’s taking its toll on me, that’s for sure. But I will keep on trucking and realize that I am only one person and I can only do so much.

Besides, nobody would come over anyways, even if I invited them. Who wants to come to a house full of sick people? I don’t even want to be here, much less invite people to come join me in possibly getting a viral infection. I thought about having a little gathering Friday night to play games, eat snacks, and pray in the New Year, but now I’m thinking I probably 1) won’t get my house cleaned enough for that and 2) would rather no one come over just in case either of my boys (or you know, me when I eventually get sick and let’s face it, I WILL get sick before this is over) are contagious. I’m not being antisocial! I’m only looking out for my loved ones here!

You’re welcome.

Posted by: angelnorman | December 27, 2010

Resolutions I can live with

1. To devote more time to God and Godly pursuits in the coming year.

2. To get- and stay- into at least a size 14.

3. To exercise more and eat better and enjoy life more.

4. To find a church home.

5. To eventually stop smoking. 🙂 (Can you tell I really kind of don’t want to do this?)

6. To appreciate the little things more.

7. To feel better.

8. To focus on what is important to me and to eliminate everything else.

9. To realize that just because so-and-so isn’t happy, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy. You can’t please everyone. This is a fairly hard-to-follow concept for me, the people-pleaser that I am. Some people are just always going to be miserable and I don’t have to let them drag me down with them anymore.

10. Be less of a packrat, more of a financial saver 🙂

11. Craft more.

12. Write more.

Twelve resolutions, twelve months to accomplish them.

Posted by: angelnorman | December 26, 2010

Krimmus.

Christmas was a blur of wrapping paper, ungrateful children, and eating until I felt I might pop (and one night, I actually did pop, but I think that had less to do with food and more to do with the  liquor). I made sure my husband and kid was taken care of, and then I did for others as I could. Everyone who was closest to my heart got something from me, so that was lovely, as it’s just not christmas unless I can give some gifts. Nick was a royal pain in the ass, saying stuff like, “Oh. That’s cool. Where’s the next present?” and “This again?” when he opened his 3rd hot-wheels related gift. I may or may not have snapped at him, using a choice word about his presents, on Christmas Eve. Later I had to explain that he hurt my feelings by acting like the stuff I bought- and spent oh, $200 on- was not good enough, and then every gift he opened afterwards was met with no emotion whatsoever for fear that he might be displaying the wrong one. So you know, that was just a bummer.

I pretty much stayed mad at Mike for three days. Mike wanted to go and spend more money, something we have short supply of right now, on himself. You know, after I used my money to buy him a $400 christmas gift. And oh, please ask me what he got me. Nothing but stocking stuffers. Which is exactly what I asked for, because one- I don’t need anything right now and two- I didn’t want to use our last few dollars on something for me. But Mike was fine with using the money on himself… and it made me feel like he didn’t appreciate anything I had done up to that point, either.  Like really? The playstation and the game you’ve been wanting forever isn’t enough? You still want more?! Really?!

It is always more, more, more around here. But then, they are children, one in size, the other in heart.

And then I checked the mail on Christmas Eve and Jimmy’s sponsorship information was there. And my heart leapt into my throat and I said, “I did get something for Christmas after all.” I got Jimmy. Of course, I don’t get to keep him. I don’t get to hold his hand or feed him dinner or give him hugs… but in a way I do. I feel really close to him, and knowing that he’s out there and that he needs me and I’m able to help him is a gift in and of itself. So that’s nice.

I got my new plates from my mom. Just white Corelle ones. Plain jane, like me. And I got a digital picture frame, $50 to use at TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/HomeGoods… and I got some cash.  We got way more $$$ than we deserved, in fact. Like enough to make up for the fact that I bought Mike a playstation. Of course, $75 of that is Nick’s. And the rest is totally mine. Mike can suck it. 🙂

And with my $, I’m buying myself new bedding. And then I’m sending some extra $ Jimmy’s way.

In the end, Christmas turned out to be pretty decent.

Posted by: angelnorman | December 23, 2010

the house that meemaw built

In May of this year, my mother-in-law lost almost everything she had in the floods that devastated so much of Nashville and other areas of Middle Tennessee. In the wake of such destruction, her car was totaled, her home condemned, and so many of her possessions either swept away by the river or completely destroyed. Fortunately, living on a flood plane, she had homeowner’s insurance that included flood protection. So many Tennesseans who were affected by the flood did not have this protection, my grandparents included.

Yesterday we went to her neck of the woods (which is about an hour and a half from our own home), to heelp her move in. We were there from morning till night, hanging curtains, washing dishes and putting them away, mounting her tv’s, etc. It was unbelievably gratifying to finally start making her house, which she’s been building for MONTHS, into a home. While I’m sure she’d love for someone to hand her several thousand dollars and say, “here, pam, finish your house…” I think she was more thrilled yesterday just having those small touches that make a home a home, things so many of us take for granted. Like curtains. Or beds. Or rugs. Things that make you feel comfortable. Those are the things that make you feel like you’ve arrived at home finally, you know, being able to slip off your shoes and walk across YOUR floors. Being able to reach into a cabinet and grab a towel… Heck, using the bathroom on a real toilet and not in a port-a-potty in your front yard.

This has been a long time coming for her. I was thrilled yesterday to be a part of her first night in her new home. Praise God for His blessings.

I will post pics after Christmas!

 

Posted by: angelnorman | December 16, 2010

grace that is greater than all our sins.

The other night I dreamt about Mark, my older brother, who at the time of his death was no longer related to me by the law that had made us family when we were kids. It was such a emotional dream that it woke me up, and I was flooded with the same sadness I had experienced in the dream state all over again, only this time I was fully awake and had already forgotten what the dream was. All I could remember was that it was about Mark, and that I had been sad.

When my brother Mark died, my heart was so broken and I took my anger out on God. “How could you let this happen?” I questioned Him. After all, Mark had been trying to change his life around. He was trying to be a better person, to get right with God, to prove to everyone and himself that he could change his situation. He had fallen in with the wrong crowds, had been in trouble with the law, and then in the last year of his life, had been moving from home to home while trying to get back on the right path. I could see it, you know. I could see him trying to do the right thing. But at the same time, I was angry at Mark and not as supportive as a sister should’ve been. I was judgmental, and I sure didn’t bite my tongue about how I felt, no sir. In an abnormally confrontational manner, I let him know the last Christmas I saw him that I would physically hurt him if I ever learned that he had done something to hurt or take away from our little brothers, Joseph and Micah. He and I shared this conversation over a cigarette in my Nanny’s front yard. “Sissy,” he told me. “It won’t happen. I’m trying.” I didn’t need any explanation on what trying meant.

And do you know what I said to him? “Try harder.”

Those two words were the last two words I remember speaking to him. Oh, I’m sure that I hugged him and told him I loved him at some point that night. It was Christmas Eve at the Copeland’s and you don’t leave that house without hugging every single family member- sometimes twice. I’m sure we laughed about something later, talked about something we remembered doing as kids, or whatever. I’m 100% positive that it didn’t end on a bad note.

But those words haunt me.

A month later, I got the call. I was sleeping, one of my “after school” naps that I got when I was lucky enough to not have to work that day. It was my then-stepmom, the one who had replaced Mark’s mother several years before. “Did you hear about Mark yet?” she asked me. I, in classic “I’m half asleep but am still going to try to have a conversation” sort of way, said I hadn’t heard from Mark. “He died this morning.”

I think my heart stopped for a moment as her words hit me. And then as those words sunk in, my heart started pounding, racing, breaking.

“You’re like me,” she said. “You don’t exactly know what to say.”

I wanted to scream at her. I knew what to say. I wasn’t like her. I LOVED Mark. She was not close to him since, you know, he wasn’t my dad’s kid like my other two brothers. She didn’t know what to say because she was removed from the situation. But Mark was MY brother. Not by blood, not by law. But by love.

I don’t remember hanging up on her, but I think I did. And then I got up from my bed and screamed. I screamed from the top of my lungs. “Mommmmmmmmma!” I shouted out into the emptiness of the living room. “Mommmmmma!”

The next thing I remember, I was in the kitchen, still looking for my Mom, knowing she was the only one in the world who would be able to comfort me at that time. Instead, I found nothingness. My mom wasn’t home. So when my stepdad ran into the kitchen to find out what the heck was wrong with me, I collapsed into the floor and he was the one who held me in his arms and told me that it was all going to be okay, that my life would go on, that Mark wouldn’t want me to be sad because he was in a better place. I sobbed like nobody’s business. I wept right there on that kitchen floor until my mom returned with groceries and asked, “what in this world happened?” And then after I told her, I cried some more. I am pretty sure she cried too.

Mark had been my (step)brother since I was about 5 years old. Our parents’ (my dad, his mom) divorce had not changed that. And then, 13 years later, he was gone.

And I was angry. At God.

But in reality, I was angry at myself. I was angry for not reaching out to him more, for not being less judgmental and harsh, for being so sure that I was better than him because I stayed on the straight and narrow… well, according to the law anyways. I wasn’t perfect, nor was I any better than anyone else. But what I came to see was that those feelings I had were angry feelings at myself, and not at God. God didn’t make Mark die. God allowed it to happen, sure, because there is NOTHING on this earth that just “happens”. There is a purpose, even in death. It took me three years to realize that, and when I did, I was free. As free as Mark is in Heaven.

***

It was a lesson that I had to learn before 2004.

When Nicholas was born, I could’ve asked, “Why, God?” Why do this to me? Why do this to any of the mothers I met while our children were in NICU? How could God let a little baby be born so sick? How could he let a mother carry a child for 9 (or less than nine) months only to have her baby be sick, dying, or already dead? I didn’t ask Him that, though, because I knew already that it wasn’t God’s wish to break our hearts. He didn’t make Nick sick. He doesn’t hurt His children on purpose. He allows them to hurt for a purpose though. Everything under the sun has been put here for a greater purpose than we can ever imagine. Nick has a purpose. I have a purpose.

Mark had a purpose, and he apparently had fulfilled his and God called him home.I thought it terribly unfair, but then, I’m not God and I have no place to decide what’s fair and what’s not. Also, I don’t know what my purpose is, let alone what anyone else’s is. I may have already fulfilled mine simply by bringing Nick into the world. And if that’s the case, then I may be on my way home, too. You just never know, because you’re not God. But guess what, friends? God knows. He has a purpose for you, too. Just like He does for the entire world.

Ever since that first Christmas after Nick’s premature birth, the Christmas story has meant so much more to me than it ever has before. God had a purpose for a Baby, the God-child, to be our Redeemer, to save Israel from thousands of year of turmoil, to bring peace to their hearts and lives. Mary didn’t know the extent of His purpose, and she was His mother. It is so hard for me to imagine Mary, the young woman God looked upon in favor, the girl who had birthed a King, at the foot of His cross. I think of Nick, of watching him in the incubator, and then I think of Mary watching her Son die upon a cross. I think of her watching the soldiers pierce His skin with their spears, watching them spit at Him, mock Him, and do whatever they can to deny Him. I think of her at his feet, wanting so badly to take His place. “Please just end his suffering. I’ll gladly suffer it all!” I imagine her saying, which is what I seem to think everytime my kid has the tiniest fever. “Give it to me instead!” I pray.

I wonder if she knew that He did it all for her. I wonder if she really and truly knew that, or if her human nature refused to let her see that God had a purpose for her Son. For His Son. For all of us.

And have mercy, I can’t even listen to “Mary, Did You Know?” without weeping.

Because the truth is, we don’t know the purpose God has for us. We don’t know what He wants us to do on this earth except for what the Bible commands us to do. My heart had been unsettled since Thanksgiving about this very thing. I have been plagued with depression over the state of this country– the greed, the immorality, the materialism and the lack of concern for our fellow man. What is the purpose of celebrating Christmas by giving more to ourselves, who really need nothing, and giving nothing to those who are in desperate need of anything?

What is the purpose of kids being homeless, hungry, dying? What is the purpose of kids in Africa and its third-world nations not living to be any older than five? Why would God allow it?

Matthew 25: 34-40 , The Message
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

There is a purpose.

Maybe there is so much pain in the world, in the hearts of people all over the world, so that you and I can reach out to them. Maybe our purpose is to meet their needs and show them God’s love. Maybe if we spent less time honoring ourselves and more time honoring God, we wouldn’t be so conflicted over Christmas. And I say that for my own sake. Maybe all you have to do is take one step towards a more Christ-centered life to begin the transition from meaningless holiday to a divine, sacred celebration.

And that’s what I’m doing now. I’m reaching out, finally, after weeks of feeling like something was missing and that something was all wrong with how I celebrate my Christmas. I’ve recently sent in the paperwork to sponsor a child named Jimmy who lives in Africa. He is 4 years old, likes musical instruments and playing with cars, and he lives with his mother in an AIDS-infested area of Uganda. I am so incredibly humbled by his story, and honored to have the chance to send in my $45 a month to change his life through Compassion International. I can’t wait to get to know him, to be a difference in his life.

For the first time all season, I am at peace. I’ve done something right. Maybe this is my purpose… to help this one child. Or maybe it’s just one of the many reasons I’ve been put on this earth. We are, after all, called to be good stewards and how can I do that if I never reach out? Never answer the call that He has put in my heart to stop talking about doing something and actually do something?!

And I’m listening, Lord, to that calling. I feel you in my heart, urging me to see beyond the tinsel and the lights, across the ocean, into a home made of concrete and bare furnishings, into the life of a little child who is being raised to know you.

Fill me with your Spirit, oh Lord, so that I may be an example of your love, the biggest part of the Christmas story, and one that we so often forget to celebrate! Because Christmas this year has shown me a purpose that is greater than any gift I could find under a tree– the chance to be more Christ-like throughout the year so that Christmas’s meaning radiates through me. So that your love pours out of me. So that others may see that we have work to do, and none of it can be bought in a mall or department store. None of it can be wrapped up neatly in pretty ribbons and bows. None of it can be stuffed in a stocking to open Christmas morning.

Christmas can only be found by opening our hearts, not our wallets.

“Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”

-Isaiah 30:19-22

Grace for the angry, the hurt, the sick, the poor. Grace for the selfish, the broken, the sinner. Grace beyond what we can even imagine.

I cried out and He answered. “Do this,” He told my heart. And I have obeyed.

And you know what? I feel better already.

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