About Alyssa Tracy

Co-Owner of Ruby Rose Market, a long awaited dream. Marketing Coordinator for Children’s Lantern, an amazing non-profit helping helpless children. Wife to Adam, my best friend for 19 years. Biological, Foster and Adoptive Mom and we ended with 8 kids. Missionary. Lover of photography and encouragement.

I can’t

I can’t handle so many things.

Though-out this crazy thing called life, I’ve said “I can’t” in my mind and OUT LOUD (with and without tears) more times than I can count. There are seasons of life that we feel overwhelmed but we know it’s just a season. Toddlers. Toddlers are one of those seasons. Can I get a witness? Soccer… having two High School Varsity soccer players, two Strykers players on the same soccer team and then another Strykers soccer player on his own team… add in a High School football player and last fall was another one of those seasons of saying no to things, because we can’t. We just can’t do all the things. We focus on the kids.

The “I can’t” I’m working through in my mind is different than last fall. It’s more like when Adam had what we thought was a heart attack and I instantly thought, “I can’t handle loosing him God. PLEASE don’t take him from me.” That feeling of I CAN’T.

I can’t send them to Kindergarten.

I can’t handle giving them back.

I can’t handle meeting biological parents… they’ll hate me.

I can’t handle it if one of the kids was hurt.

I can’t handle it if my kid says “I HATE YOU.”

I can’t handle it if something were to happen to one of our biological kids.

I can’t handle going to the grocery store with 7 kids.

I can’t handle leaving them all for a week.

I can’t handle putting him/her back in her own bed at night.

I can’t handle them driving away on their own, their own hands on the wheel.

I can’t handle it if one of my kids goes to jail.

Girlfriends… BOYFRIENDS?!

I can’t handle having this hard conversation.

I can’t handle my kid on a motorcycle… on his own.

I can’t handle it if we have to see an oncologist.

I can’t handle it if they go back to their biological parents.

I can’t… I can’t… I can’t….

You know what I’m learning? I CAN. WE CAN. We do. There are people we meet and cross our paths every single day that ARE. You are. I am. WE ARE. We are handling it.  

There’s a Bible verse thrown around VERY loosely sometimes— I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13) I’d venture to guess it’s one of the most well know verses there is. But how well to we REALLY KNOW it? Sure, we can quote it. But I’ve had to learn to walk it out, to feel it deep in the marrow of my bones. Many of us have, maybe we need another walk around this block to remember it. Maybe you and I should pick it up soon to get us through where we are right now.

You know what? Jesus is giving me strength each day. Through a text from friends and loved ones. Through the words of a worship song that I belt out unashamedly (but prolly should be a tad) just to make it through the next hour of my life. It has been through a few stolen minutes of quiet or even through hugging and tears of one of my littles. He is where my strength comes from. I can. I have. I have walked through and I’ll continue to walk through. WE CAN. Each one of these things I’ve walked through or am walking through now.

One hour.

One day.

One decision.

One kid.

One moment.

WE CAN. We will. We are.

Hebrews 10:35- 39
35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

37 “For in just a little while,
    the Coming One will come and not delay.
38 And my righteous ones will live by faith.
    But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”

39 But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.

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Uncharted waters

Humans don’t naturally LOVE uncharted waters. I don’t naturally love uncharted waters. I’m pretty good with change, but when my expectations are met with change and uncharted waters… I struggle. We’ve been here with many different life circumstances.

We are walking in uncharted waters… and we have to lean in. Headed directly toward them, by choice, hand-in-hand, staring at the eyes of our Heavenly Father. I may need my tribe to remind me to look up when the waters start to crash over us. Gasping for air. I honestly don’t know what the future looks like, but then again… we never really know do we? And I gasp for air again.

I spent January reading through this book and holding tightly to the Word and His promises. White-knuckled tightly. When things don’t look like you thought they would, it tends make your world feel like it is off it’s axis. Not only did my world spin, but that of my family did too. It’s hard to walk yourself through the thoughts of unmet expectation, but then trying to hold the hands of our other kiddos through these waters… it becomes quite a load I can’t carry.

Raising kids is HARD. Much harder than I ever anticipated. EVER. I recently went back and re-read this post from my 2014 self… oh dear heart, how I thought life was tough?!  The deep heart connections are amazing and yet so terrifying all at the same time. You connect and connect and then work to release them to the world! It’s so hard to put into words the feelings of being a parent. If you’ve been a parent you just know. That’s why there’s such community in walking with other foster moms or adoptive moms. There are things we understand about this life that we don’t even have to put words, they just know.

With our raising kids journey, we’ve answered the call to add on top of all of the general raising kids tough stuff. We’ve walked through foster care and adoption. Here we are, 10 years out and throughout those 10 years, I’ve said to myself, “it’s not supposed to be this way” more times than I can count. Here we are, finding ourselves at those same crossroads once again. [How on earth has it been ten years already?!]

Kids that have not chosen the life presented to them, have trauma. The kids put into the foster care system have been through some sort of trauma for them to find themselves in that place. Just the removal from biological family to a family unknown to them is trauma all on its own. It’s truly taken me back how deep trauma goes, how long it takes (if ever) to repair things that have been broken. We have one kiddo that was removed at 8 months old, spent nearly the next 16 months in an amazing foster family and then came directly to us just as he turned two years old. This young man is now 11 and STILL struggles with food issues. Still. He was only 8 months old.

We have one that was only 9 years old when he was entrusted to my heart. God knew we were the parents for him and he would be our son. God knew his story before we did. God knows his past in more detail than even we do. Our son remembers much. His story before coming into my heart, completely broke me and still does. This young man has overcome SO. VERY. MUCH. and is so much stronger than he knows. His heart is beyond caring and has so much room for love, even still. This I know… his story isn’t over yet, no matter where the story is now.

So many things that we’ve worked on in the past 9 years of his life with us: teaching, loving, and showing a new way of thinking and doing. We’ve sown many seeds. Have we done it all perfectly? NO. WAY. Have we done everything good? Still nope. Have we tried our very best? YES. Could we have done some things different? Most definitely. Are we done parenting because he’s 18 years old now? Absolutely not. Well, we pray we aren’t done yet and that he’ll allow us to continue to help guide him someday.

I struggle with planning a graduation party for one and not the other. It’s a little like loss and joy all wrapped up with one very messy bow. Again, I want to share my story without sharing too much of my kids’, to honor their lives and who they are. I know I’ve found such help in community, in someone that knows what I’m going through.

Comparison is a thief of joy. They are both supposed to be graduating and spreading their wings to fly, not a comparison but just the stage of life we are at for both boys. One will be and the other has chosen not to. My expectations not being met in this way spells failure (on the parenting side) in my mind (at first) and most of those outside looking in would think that at first too. Maybe the journey isn’t over yet? I surely know it’s not. It’s been a roller coaster to get to this point in my brain, but here we are right now. We rejoice in sending one off to college about two hours away in less than six months. Yet, we have all of the crazy feelings of sending him to the big wide world too. Oh. my. goodness. It’s too much some days. For all of us. Looking through all the photos of childhood to now of the both of my 18 year olds and I find myself eating all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms to cope. You’ll find me wearing his soccer hoodie on days I’m struggling. I miss him so, but hurrying the process wouldn’t be right. We both might miss something we need to learn in here.

I want to share out of my scars. The ones that say to me… I showed up. I made it. WE made it. I want those scars to show the world that WITH HIM (God), NOTHING is impossible. It might hurt like the dickens, but it’s oh, sooooo worth it. Scars and all. I must choose to see them as, “I showed up” and God will take care of the rest.

Right now, I feel as though I’m sharing out of my wounds a bit as we are directly in the middle of the rough seas. The raging storm has washed over us a few times in the last couple of months. Our tribe has taken us by the hand and reminded us to LOOK UP. I’m not where I started, I’m not where we are going to end up (I know this because I’m still standing on promises for GOOD), but I’m not lost in the middle either. This story is not over yet. I’ve found some sure footing on the sturdiest Rock there ever was or will be.  Uncharted waters usually build something new and more beautiful than we had before. That’s what I’m praying for. Believing. Standing on. Old becoming new. Dead things coming to life. Darkness into light and trusting in His goodness and mercy. I’m just gonna stand still. He’s gone to win my war as I look to Him while the seas are rough.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

A song that has played round and round a million times in the last few months…
Defender— Rita Springer 

You go before I know
That You’ve gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory

You go before I know
That You’ve gone to win my war
Your love becomes my greatest defense
It leads me from the dry wilderness

All I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down
All I did was stay still

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way

You know before I do
Where my heart can seek to find Your truth
Your mercy is the shade I’m living in
You restore my faith and hope again

All I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down
All I did was stay still

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better this way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better this way

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way

When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart
[x2]

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better this way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way
[x2]

All I did was praise
All I need to do is worship
Lord I will just bow down
I’m just gonna stay still

Going through

Do you have any “goals” or “resolutions” or “expectations” for yourself this year?

A few of mine look like this:

1. READ ONE BOOK EACH MONTH
My choice for January is called “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered” by Lysa Terkeurst. This is right where I am at this moment, shattered. Through the words and wisdom in her recent book, Lysa is taking me by the hand and leading me through. Through, yet again. Right now, I am walking through a season of my thought-life that I keep thinking… it’s not supposed to be this way. Basically, I have unmet expectations. My caring husband likes to remind of one of his favorite sayings from time-to-time… “lower your expectations.” But I usually find myself with this rebuttal, “I can’t do that, or I won’t make it out of bed the next day.” There HAS to be hope. I have to be able to expect certain things right? Don’t we? Expectations and hope are two very different things. Okay, got it.

I can not continue to try to do life alone when the seas get stormy. I’ve built this ability to hide and retreat at times like these, and I’ve learned the hard way that it’s in that place that the enemy wants me to stay. I’m great at building walls around my heart and life to “protect” what is mine, but at the same time walls keep others out. Being tucked inside those walls are the place that enemy can wreck havoc on my mind and in turn, on my life. This month’s book choice is SPOT ON for where I am at the beginning or 2019, thankfully I know I won’t stay in this place… I’m moving THROUGH. Even if it’s going through to the other side like a Jeep put in four wheel drive through a 3 foot snow drift in your yard. Sometimes life is like that I guess.

2. WRITE MORE
Really, by this I mean journal more, but posting blogs too. I went through 2018 without taking notes. We made it to the other side of 2018 and came through to 2019, even though most of the time, we weren’t sure we were gonna make it. I wish I could go back and read over my notes. The things I’ve learned in the last year or even my thoughts or feelings. I wish I had more of the small victories written down so I can still praise over those. It’s so easy to forget how many amazing things happen every single day. As I reflect on 2018, we have MUCH to be thankful for as we would call it one of the hardest years to date.

  • Both Adam and I withdrawing from Children’s Lantern on the daily and him moving to President and overseer only. This is something I have yet to process through fully. I don’t think either one of us have. I did say that it was like learning to pass on our baby to the big wide world. Like we were graduating our teenager into adulthood in its own hands… but in the perfectly capable hands of Nate Taylor, our new Director. But we took this organization from ground zero to something and then handed it off with white knuckles, even though God’s timing is perfect. We got to learn how to “graduate” this baby before we graduate our first born from high school in a few months.
  • Starting up a second location of Cabin Fever Coffee. This alone. So fun and exciting for us, this is something we’ve always dreamed of! But talk about stress. HOLY CRAP Ya’ll. I’ll stop there for now. It’s a dream come true. It’s new.
  • Adam’s heart condition. We went through a mini-heart attack/stress induced heart issue that included a heart cath that came back clear! Such a scary couple of months with that. But he is GOOD! One of the scariest places I’ve found myself in ever. ever. ever.
  • Elyse’s health stuff. Too much for such a small space.
  • The list goes on. Some are my stories to share and some are those of my children so I’ll respect their confidence and testimony of their own.

3. DRINK MORE
There we go, I said it. Although, you may think I meant alcohol, I actually meant water. LOL I have joked many many times about my addictive personality and taking up drinking. Although my life very much gives me ample opportunities to justify taking up drinking, I must refrain for many reasons.

  • I want to drink more water. 64 oz everyday.
  • I want to drink more tea and coffee.

With friends and family. Not just in TO GO cups, but in a mug, a mug that says, “I’ma stay here for a while” and taking TIME to enjoy it. Finding time to s-l-o-w down and enjoy friends and family. To learn to engage and re-enter my life.

It seems cliche to say, but if someone wouldn’t told me 19 years ago that Adam and I would have walked the path and roads we have in the last 19 years… Ya’ll, we’ve been happily married for 19 years this month. I’d have never believed the path we were headed straight toward. The path of foster care and adoption is a road all its own, but it’s a road that feels lonely and deeply hard at times. For my introverted self, I have spent the last 10 years of our journey retreating into myself and hiding away from others just to cope with life and try to figure out how to “survive” in my own way. To find our “new normal” and that still hasn’t arrived. I must lose that expectation. Normal is ever changing and isn’t something we’ll arrive at. But I must re-enter my life and stop living for later. Now is the time. Life is much too short to wait.

Do you have any expectations of yourself this year? Above are three of my personal ones. These do NOT include the expectations I am going to take off my list. Some that I’m going to leave in the dust where they belong….

Even the word “New Year” gives me the feeling of hope. The time where things feel fresh and new. A blank and clear slate. Here. we. go. A day where every single day is the best day of the year. Through. We are going through.

Bad days

You have to fight through some of the worst days to get to the best days of your life.

Yesterday was one of those days. One of the bad ones. All month we’ve been planning the trek to Cleveland Clinic for our next PetScan for #caboosebaby. It’s a mental and emotional taxing thing AND a logistical nightmare to plan for. Two nights, scan day full of trauma for her, and then result day with two doctor appointments was planned to be Friday. On the way there, my helper and big brother Reggie was along for the trip. He blurts out in the middle of the movie playing on the iPad, “Mom, this is dumb. Elyse is perfect. Why does she has to be tested?!”

Sigh. How to explain such big things to tiny people is beyond me. I’m watching my amazing friend navigate harder things than I am with such grace and faith. Sure, I know there are rough times, she’s an AMAZING human but she’s human too. We all are. Even still, neither of us have all the answers so we make one decision at a time and trust in the one who knows and holds the universe. I answered Reggie with, “We can’t see what’s going on on inside with our eyes. She has to have these tests so we can make sure everything is good on the inside. That way if it’s not, we can help her.” Sufficient answer for him and they were both back to their movie watching.

We arrived to the outskirts of Cleveland around 7:40p last night. We were headed to Ronald McDonald House for the night when my phone rang. That phone call covered up my GPS as my guide. Even though I know my way there and back, it’s nice to have that back up for piece of mind.

Answering my phone changed everything. Sometimes life is like that. One call can change everything. The caller told me how they had to cancel our morning appointment because the scanner was out of commission. Instantly, I was moved to anger and then tears. Navigating the city and my turns while crying to the messenger on the other end of the line was a complete change of my plans. We had just driven nearly three hours for nothing.

After driving the long way, talking to Adam between lots of tears and actually checking in to RMDH, we decided it be best to turn back around and head home. We’ll do the work to reschedule all of this in a couple weeks and cancel Friday’s schedule too. All of everything for what seems like nothing. No news this week. No updates or information yet. We don’t get to finally have the clinical trial answers we are looking for… yet.

Trying to get a three year old back in the car after that long ride was difficult. We had already taken a walk around the house and the outdoor play area. We had already taken a ride on the bikes and spent time with the bunnies in the backyard.

The promise of a “cinnamelt” after talking to daddy on the phone helped coax her back into her car seat. Unfortunately, the restaurant that carries the “cinnamelt” she was promised was closed when we got there. We decided to splurge on kid-sized milkshakes and burgers at the next joint down the road. After the twenty-minute wait in the drive-thru and not getting all of the food we ordered… this momma was begging for her bed and so was the tiny one in the back seat.

Finally homeward bound, I was struggling to stay awake. We were just barely outside of Whitehouse on US 24 around 11:40pm, heading west when I felt the grass under my left front tire and heard the loud rumble strips that shook the car. My cruise was set at 74 MPH, and in a split second I had actually fallen asleep. (It kills me to admit that.) Tapping the breaks to release the cruise had caused me to get out of control and we ended up spinning around, flying through a ditch and backing up to a fence. Mud everywhere. I’m thankful for the mud. The office said had it not been muddy, we would have rolled the car and flipped into the field.

I could tell of the million things that ran through my mind in those split seconds and the thoughts I have today that I just can’t shake. I called aloud “Jesus help us” as I knew the car was headed into the grass off the right side of the road this time. The only thing I could think of and pray at that moment was, “Please Lord, protect my babies.”

We came to rest facing the traffic coming toward us as everyone continued traveling westward, just as we were seconds before. I instantly got out to check over the kids and the car and called Adam. The words were hard to choke out. He came to my rescue in a million ways and my husband did too.

The last few weeks I’ve been working on “choosing to see” the good in everything. In each situation, some harder than others, I’m learning to purposely choose to see the good. No matter how small, there IS something good. I have to find it, see it, and focus on it.

Last night it was hard not to focus on the fact that I could’ve killed my kids. It’s a thought I’m struggling to NOT think on today. BUT TODAY. Today, I can make a long list of the GOOD things I CAN see… if I choose to. Today, I’m thankful for the mud. It makes me choose to see once again. I’m thankful for an officer so filled with compassion, I didn’t get a ticket and he helped push the car out with our safety as his number one concern at every moment. I’m thankful for the support and calls from the staff at Cleveland Clinic. I have to fight through some of the bad days in my life to get to the good ones. They’re there for all of us if we choose to see.

My bad day may not be as bad as someone else’s, and your bad day might not be as bad as mine… but we aren’t here to compare whose bad day is the worst. We’re here to remind each other of the good. I’m thankful for all the people helping point my eyes and thoughts in the right direction today and always. But you know, I sure do wish the sun would come out!

Back to Cleveland Clinic in a few weeks…

When threats come

As I sit to type this out, I’m surprised I’m feeling so passionate about even sharing. I’m not sure why I’m feeling so surprised about it though. Shouldn’t I be okay about having passion about something? Shouldn’t I be okay sharing about what we’ve been learning about and working in for almost a decade now?

You see, when the information came across my Facebook feed about an 8th grade boy at my son’s school saying he was “going to shoot up the school tomorrow,” or at least something to that effect, I may or may not have some feelings about it. I don’t have exact words to describe the instant and deep fear that struck immediately. I have an 8th grader!

I am a STRONG believer in going to the source of things and not taking someone else’s word above a source. I despise gossip and what it does. Wildfire. Tiny flames start even the biggest of wildfires.

I definitely had that instant FREAK OUT moment when I read those words on social media. It was the first time I’d heard anything about it. You guys, I have my own 8th grader at that school. I only get one of this one in my lifetime and he’s pretty ridiculously special. I headed over to the Defiance City Schools Facebook page to see if there was information listed there and found nothing. That’s the source of correct information from my point-of-view. My next most reliable source (at that time of day) was my own son. I went in to chat with my cool, calm, and collected 8th grader in his room. Sure, he heard what happened. Wait WHAT?! I couldn’t believe he forgot to mention that part of his day. Of course, my concerned momma bear came out. As we’ve seen on social media in the last 24-36 hours, many other concerned momma and papa bears have come out too. Many times, we react hastily in situations… and can I say this? Maybe we react out of our fears when we are a little too hasty? I’m so thankful my husband can help balance me when we talk!

I’d be lying if I told you the thought DIDN’T cross my mind last night to keep my son home from school yesterday. Sure, I would have loved for the schools to post something on their Facebook that night or send out an alert call… remember I like things to come from the source and not other places. Check this though, that doesn’t mean I don’t trust the school system my kids go to, to make the correct choices. They’ve never given me a reason to think otherwise. Oh, and guys, we have EIGHT kids remember? We’ve had kids in the school system now for over 12 years. We know teachers, staff, principals, coaches, and hey, we even know the voice of the guidance counselors and a certain Jr. High Assistant Principal’s voice on the phone when they call. Anyone else on a first name basis? For real though… you know many of the staff’s kids attend the school system too right? You see them at the athletic events like I do, don’t you? Surely as parents they are making sound decisions for our kids and theirs too. I also know there are policies and procedures for things, that’s how businesses and schools operate.

Oh wait, sidetracked. Back to yesterday. I woke up with a new song in my heart compared to the night before. Sadly, it took some time to turn my thoughts around as I wrestled with putting my faith over my fears. As I took time to really (honestly) pray and search to have God’s heart in this situation… in the light of last week’s events in Florida… in light of what our world is scarily beginning to look like… He began to change my fear into peace. A certain kind of peace that surpasses all understanding came over me when I hashed out my fears with God. I thanked God for protection over my kids, every one of them, but especially my 8th grader. I put faith in action with a prayer for my son as I heard the car leave with him in it.

kidsAs I was praying, an even bigger thing happened in my heart. I deeply felt reminded of what I’ve learned working with kids who’ve experienced some kind of trauma in the last (nearly) decade. Something has caused this boy to get to the place to actually utter those words. Something has caused that young man in Florida to walk those planned steps out and cause such heart-ache so many of us can’t even grasp. Something has happened to cause their hearts to be okay with such unimaginable things for many of us. I’ve used this quote before, but a “journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” People don’t just “wake up out of the clear blue” and decide to do something like that. Parents don’t decided to sell their children for sex with someone in exchange for drugs on a whim either, but we see that too in our work. One thing at a time, one step at a time. We could even say one extra cookie at a time…

Hear me out. I’m NOT in any way defending or making this act (in just talking about it or actually committing it) okay what-so-ever. My goal is to maybe cause a view point to broaden even just a tiny bit. My goal is to maybe cause a heart to soften even just a tiny bit. There is much more to this situation than meets the eye. Especially the less-than-full-information version that is pieced together via social media.

One of the big things I can not shake about this whole situation that has happened in our school… an expulsion or a suspension must happen (of course, there needs to be consequences enforced) BUT it seems to be just a quick and temporary band-aid for the situation, does it not? Not in any of the comments on social media I read had the suggestion of getting this boy some help. Ya’ll, he’s in EIGHTH grade! He has to attend school again sometime, somehow, somewhere. I have an 8th grader and I had two before this one… they’ve got lots of growing to do am I right? How many people were ready to comment and share, “HOW CAN WE HELP?!”

Crickets chirping…

If you’re still reading this, you must be my family or really close friends. Did anyone call the school and offer support or help? How many calls did the Middle School office have to field today that absolutely took the wind out of their sails? Did anyone offer any encouragement what-so-ever? I hope so. I sure hope someone did. Has anyone tried to rally around the family of this boy yet? We called the school to see if we could help the family in any way as an organization. Maybe we could help find a mentor? Would you comment if you did call or support the schools or family? I think it spreads hope when we share those things.

IMG_9051I know this: I was determined to check my heart and thoughts one way or another. I was determined to put my faith into actions steps and decided to drive around the school and pray. I prayed for peace and safety. For wisdom and mercy. For the kids that are crying out for help and don’t feel seen or heard. For the staff to feel loved and supported. For the kids to know they are safe and have peace. For so many, many things. I’m thankful for friends and family that can spur me on in faith and help guide me through situations like this. Iron sharpens iron… I want (and have) a group of friends that do that, not the ones that will sit around and harshly talk about our school’s faculty and staff only, but that we can share and work through our fears and faith together and find wisdom coupled with action.

I’m so FAR from perfect… but I’m so much closer to that peace that surpasses all understanding and to helping helpless children than I was almost a decade ago. The first step is being able to see that they (helpless children) exist. That kids that need help are in deed in our schools, neighborhoods and home. May we see them, know they are there and decide to take action steps to help and show love. May we also help support the people in their lives that are working daily to grow them into being the best version of themselves. May we all have wisdom to know when and how to react. May we choose peace, encouragement, and FAITH instead of fear.

Bats, Fears and Tumors

Confession time. I have a fear of bats.

Their erratic flying, squealing profusely.
Tiny eyes, flapping wings. The SCREECHING. Yuck. No thank you.

[chills as I type, not even kidding]
Here’s me being a little bit vulnerable and obedient.

Be STRONG and COURAGEOUS Joshua 1:9

My first memory of WHY I now have an issue with bats started about 13 years ago. We had two boys at the time. Noah was about three years old, ready to turn four and Dom was just a baby. Life was simpler then, or was it really? (Nah, that’s another subject for later.) Anyhoo, Dominic was tucked into his baby swing, content as he usually was, so I took time to get myself put together and showered. I was in the bathroom, blow drying my hair and in comes Noah yelling, “Mom, there’s a BIRD in the house?!” Confused as to how that could be possible, I head out to the hallway to find this bird he’s describing. Obviously, that was NOT what I found! A bat nearly shaved the top of my head! Ducking immediately (while letting a loud scream escape) I quickly closed Noah in the bathroom. Luckily for me, we spent many years living next door to my parents. With Adam not being home at the time and my dad RIGHT next door, I sprinted over BEGGING for help. Definitely a bat and not a bird. *shriek*

Fast forward to Sunday at church where our Youth Pastor, Shawn Vandemark brought the preaching that morning. Man, he was filled to overflowing and the passion and Word was brought. Amen. Amen. Amen! Shawn was bringing truth I needed to hear again. It seems I need repetitive messages?! Anyway, AMEN’S come easily! Especially when him and I share share the same fear of bats. You have to take a listen to his BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS teaching (<— click for link) to hear his hilarious (sorry Shawn) own bat story. Why is it funnier when it’s NOT you personally? Also, kudos to you for knowing Nora was actually talking about a bat and not a bird before going looking for it.

That was Sunday morning.

By Sunday evening, I was Cleveland bound with Elyse and Carvelle. At 6:30a Monday morning, she was scheduled for her 6 month check up and MRI of her tumor at Cleveland Clinic. It’s in the middle time between her scans and check-ups that life seems to become normal and it’s only from time to time that I even remotely think about her neurofibromatosis.

Between scans, in this last six months, we’ve had to increase the dose of her pain medicine. She’s starting to become more vocal about her pain, but that could be because she can now grasp the words to use to vocalize it too. “My elbow hurts,” is something we hear kind of often now, almost daily. Shawn’s teaching about being STRONG and COURAGEOUS was exactly what I needed in so many ways.

By Monday evening, we were back from Cleveland and watching a soccer game. Back into my everyday ordinary life in a snap. But the receiving the results of our morning testing wasn’t far from my mind. If you haven’t read WHY I choose the hashtag #myeverydayordinarylife and why my blog site is titled that as well check it out here—> [NEW] Normal. Intentionally giving the regular everyday moments to Him, back to my regular life by that evening.

Okay, now for Tuesday. It finally rolls around and head to work for the morning and then make a 2.5 hours one direction with our oldest two for their wisdom teeth consultation. Back home another 2.5 hours and then picking kids up from soccer practice and the babysitter too. All of this to say, we had a few very long days in a row. By the time I had gotten all the kids settled for bed that night, Adam finally made it home from his own very long day. If you have been married for any sort of time, you’ll recognize the recipe for a potential fight. One small, out of tone word from my husband sent me off to the grocery store. When we fight, I go to the grocery store. When I need to be alone, I go to the grocery store. This. This is me. Just call me Rosita. Watch this—> Rosita movie clip

… and then it happened. He texted me. I’m cruising the isle in Meijer at 11:30p and get this photo:

and then this…

Oh. My. Geeeeeee. The second time we’ve had a bat in one of our homes. THIS TIME, I wasn’t there hallelujah. Oh how appropriate of a reminder to be strong and courageous right in my own home, two days after Shawn’s teaching. I hate bats.

I blamed Shawn. His preaching on being STRONG and COURAGEOUS and of course I get multiple opportunities to put in to practice what I learned in church. MULTIPLE times in only 2.5 days even. SERIOUSLY?! I’m supposed to rejoice about this aren’t I? #trials #forthelove It could be worse than bats. It could be worse than a check-up MRI. My faith muscles are being strengthened. I’m learning always. The strength muscles of faith have been toned through the years but are FAR from where they should be. I love this quote, it feels like my life:

This time my kids were able to see something directly relevant to the teaching they heard in church and an extremely practical application from their parents. I have to say, I probably would have failed when it came to that bat this time too. Maybe He’s showing me how much He loves me while also showing me how amazing of a husband I have? <– I’ll choose that! Still doing the happy dance that I wasn’t home, I’m not gonna lie.

So now, we’ve made it through our Cleveland Clinic trip and the testing this time around. Test results came back that her tumor has changed very minimally from the last scan. Her super amazing doctor (whom I love to pieces) is taking her scan results and comparisons to the tumor board she is a part of every week. Fear says, “My daughter is part of a tumor board!” Faith says, “She’s HEALED by His stripes and He’s with us wherever we go and she is in the palm of His mighty hand.”They are going to discuss and let us know thoughts and options (if anything) at our next appointment on September 28th. We are praising God that all seems well and stable for now… minus the reminder of her pain.

I am thankful that my faith muscles are growing and I’m beginning to get my breath back after a very long hiatus. Be strong and courageous. He IS with you wherever you go! He comes in close. Whether it’s the grocery isle, Cleveland Clinic, your comfy chair in your own home (even as a bat flies around your head), or even if you are watching the news with hurricane season in full swing. He is with us. He will NEVER leave nor forsake us.

The color of Grace

My birthday happened last week. I am a combined total of 36 years old now… even though I thought I was 36 all last year. I just may be 36 for many years to come. I was spoiled for my birthday year by so many! My friends and family are amazing. It’s great to have people show you love isn’t it?! But what happens when totally unexpected-surprise-blessing type things happen? You I ugly cry at the dinner table- in a nice restaurant- that’s what happens. Stick with me. This is a longer, more unbelievable one.

The week leading up to my birthday was a doozie (which also DEFINTELY had something to do with the ugly cry a week later). We’ve had tooooooo many doozie weeks lately. I’ve been tired. Not the “I want to go to bed kind of tired,” but the “I can’t get out of bed to accomplish anything because I can’t even anymore,” kind of tired. The firery darts have left some burn marks for sure.

<— This kind of tired, have you watched this short, adorable video yet? Click the photo. You’ll love it.

Last Friday, we were holding tightly to one of our oldest boys after he rolled his car going 50mph into a ditch. That’s a phone call from my son that I will never forget. After an ambulance ride, x-rays, CAT scans, more than one IV, and an overnight stay at the hospital, he was released without a scratch! We are beyond amazed, thankful and praising God he’s still here with us. The inventor of the seatbelt as well as General Motors for the durability of their Impalas get our deepest and most sincere gratitude.

Sunday afternoon we had another run-in with the County Sheriff. Yet again, the person who must have it out for us in one way or another, continues to call the Sheriff on my kids. They can’t ride scooters on the road. They can’t play football in the yard and they certainly can’t be off of our front porch. What happened to the days when it was a good thing to play OUTSIDE?! And furthermore, what happened to the time when people could stop in and talk to the parents of said children if they had an issue while driving past our house-yet again?! So frustrating! I was ready to sell and move. The poor Sheriff got the brunt of my frustration with the passerby’s choices.

Sunday night, sometime around 9pm. Adam and I headed to town to tow our other oldest’s car to the local auto shop. We arrived shortly after the Defiance City Police officer and the Defiance Fire Department left the scene of what looked like a car fire. Luckily, a heater core hose just made an extra large mess, scared a couple of teenagers and a very helpful neighbor near their location. We just keep making deposits into our mechanic’s college fund for his kiddos with all the vehicle issues we’ve had in the last year. Ha!

So in three days, our names were on the radar of:

  • the Ohio State Highway Patrol
  • the Richland Township Fire Dept
  • Defiance Regional Medical Center
  • Defiance County Sheriff Dept
  • Defiance City Police
  • Defiance City Fire Department

That has to be some sort of record right?! I can’t make this stuff up. 

Tuesday morning the #caboose took off her poopy diaper and sat down in the little boys’ bedroom- AGAIN. It’s not the first time. Ugh. After I got her showered and cleaned up, I had an inch or two of toilet water (and other yucky items) all over our bathroom floor. Something was defintely stuck in the toilet. Double sigh. Wait, triple sigh. That was before I took the three boys to school.

I then made it to work and the THOUSAND pound (exaggeration because I’m feeling dramatic) stove outside of our office was stolen. Poof, gone! I legit couldn’t stop laughing. New address: the looney bin.

Wednesday, I began totally not feeling well while also trying to keep the #caboose healthy for her upcoming PET scan is a chore with all the sickness going around right now. By that afternoon, Adam and I were finally able to see what caused the toilet probs. Let’s just say an EXTRA LARGE spool of thread in a two year old’s hands can be mighty dangerous when a toilet is involved. Bonus for Wednesday, we got a new toilet ring too. Seesh.

Thursday was HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me day. I was spoiled by friends and family. It feels good to be loved. Everyone loves to be loved. I took the day off. Off from everything: pressure, thinking, cleaning, cooking, everything. I took the day off of thinking/worrying/praying about Elyse’s next trip to Cleveland Clinic this coming Tuesday for her PET scan. I took a break. I was so spoiled for the next three days. By Friday evening, Ellie was asking, “Is it still your Birthday mom?!”

Now to Saturday where my point to all of this craziness comes in. Our oldest boys had an indoor soccer game in Rossford so for the first time in a VERY long time, all ten of us piled in the van and headed that way. We had a plan to eat out together as a family afterwards… for my birthday! Turning 36 is pretty awesome.

Does anyone else out there take their entire family of 10 to watch kids play a football game? Soccer maybe? Wrestling match possibly? I didn’t think we were even going to make it out of the driveway in one piece. Man, it’s HARD. We do not do it very often, unfortunately. Adam and I split up sooo much to make things around here work. Saturday went pretty well all things considered. Elyse ran onto another soccer field during the game but all she accomplished was smiling at the fans cheering on their little girls. No goals scored for her, yet anyway. (Lord help me and please refer to the Looney Bin address above!)

The soccer game ended just before 5pm so I thought I’d make a call and put our name in on the call ahead seating list. Plans go better in my mind more times than I can count. Surely it would take a while to load all of the kids back in the van and drive to the restaurant, so I thought we’d have good timing on this one! WRONG. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I tried calling four different restaurants in Toledo that offer call ahead seating. Each one of them was either rude, booked until 8:30p or transferred me to a manager because our party was so large… and when speaking to them would have to wait until 8:30p or 9p to eat just like all the others. Cue tears. Insert the words, “I quit” and “let’s just go home” came to mind. One last call to Carrabba’s Italian Grill. (Are we seriously thinking about taking all EIGHT of our kids there?!) This restaurant said their current regular wait time was 10-30 mins if we wanted to come in, bring the kids and wait to see what happens. That was the most promising option so we headed that direction. Adam checked us in and we strolled slowly to wait in line inside.

As time ticked on, we checked out the bathroom more times than I can count. We had cell phones going with games and distractions. Finally, after about an hour of waiting, Elyse (#caboose aka the baby girl) was D-O-N-E. Honestly, we all were because we were so hungry. The sweet waitresses and hostesses brought out some bread and a cup of milk with a straw (her FAVORITE) as she was over trying her suippy cup. Tick tock. Tick tock. Our “I spy” game had lost its pizazz, the basketball game kept some of our party’s attention but it was now nearly over and I was holding on by a thread from both being hungry and knowing just what my kids (and their parents) can handle. That’s when I noticed an older gentleman walk past to exit the establishment and give me one of the most unapproving looks I’ve seen in a VERY long time. Crushed. My thread was broken in that instant. Thoughts and feelings came rushing in and momma bear wants to come out. Sometimes the smallest of things can “break the camels back.” The crazy part about this man, I wonder if he was oblivious to the look on his face?

That broke me. Tears began to fall slowly as I stared at my amazing group of kids who did PHENOMENAL in my opinion, standing in line for what would end up being one hour and twenty minutes. We honestly couldn’t have done it without such helpful staff. My eyes caught Adam’s and I said “let’s just go” and Noah AND Adam both responded with “No, we’re staying here.”

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“You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged, oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small.”

I took off for the bathroom to take a breath and sit Elyse down on the baby chancing station. She might be little, but after standing and holding her for that long, she gets heavy!

The kids were coloring with crayons and books when I came out and about 3 minutes later we were seated. How awesome are the workers there?!

Dinner was fantastic! I ordered my favorite dish. The kids were off the charts amazing in my opinion. They played with pizza dough, ate bread and drank pop/milk. Hey, we were celebrating! When the food came, it was like peace had fallen. Our waitress was the sweetest thing…

“Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy
Can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
This world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I will always be there”

 

… and one of the managers made another stop by our table to check on us. Every single person we came in contact with went out of their way to make sure we were having a great time. This time he handed me an envelope and told me to “read it when I got the chance” and “Happy Birthday” and “dessert was coming too.”

Get ready to cue the ugly crying! With my family intently staring at me, I read through what at first I thought was a standard printed Carrabba’s “Happy Birthday” letter, but as I continued to read… each sentence came to be the farthest thing from cookie cutter.

This gentleman, a manager, on a BUSY Saturday night, had taken the time to write this amazing heartfelt letter… I sure do hope it’s okay to share this, but I can’t help but boast about such an amazing place because of it’s people. I was FLOORED. Not many things happen like this for us. I can’t even begin to thank them enough. Our kids each wanted their turn at reading what made momma cry. I can guarantee they were moved by such a gift.

A letter that would end my entire week with feeling like everything is going to be okay. Like someone knew how hard life had been lately… even though I know it could definitely be worse than this culmination of crazy (somewhat laughable) events. Somehow, one tiny little word made it in this letter from an absolute stranger— poise… which transfers to the word grace in my mind. #grace2017

Grace is the word God had given me for this year. We are working on giving each other more grace. I am working on giving myself more grace. I was astounded to be described as acting in such a way. What an amazing blessing from a phenomenal staff at an extremely delicious restaurant… but also what a grace-filled reminder from my Father who loves me. #mydarling He reminds me that He sees me so much differently than I see myself— I’m a work in progress in that department too.

I hope and pray I don’t keep wanting to give up and go home at the hardest points. I want to push through to experience the view at the top of each mountain! It sure is beautiful up there. I pray that each step of the way I learn to extend grace to myself and others.

I sooooo want one of my “True Colors” to be GRACE in every season… no matter what situations come our way. The repeated hugs and grateful handshake do not say “thank you” enough. This gesture will be remembered for years to come.

trolls-truecolors-holiday

If you haven’t watched this movie, check out this clip with one of my new favorite songs. My girls and I LOVE this cheesy movie.

So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
I see your true colors
Shining through (true colors)
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh ooh like a rainbow