Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anti-Diarrhea Medicine and Crying on the Floor. Again.

I never know when it will hit me, but it often does when life is busy and I am so focused on myself that I can't see past my own to-do list. December is especially hard that way, with its holidays and events and activities. Today, it happened again.

I was cleaning out the medicine cabinet, organizing the bins that have been mixed together over time so that instead of adult medicine, kids' medicine, first aid, etc., we had a jumbled mess of everything strewn all over. I began the process of checking expiration dates and tossing out expired allergy pills and grumbling over the fact that I somehow have three refills of Drew's asthma inhaler on hand and they just don't fit in the bin right and this is a mess and we have too much stuff.

I tossed out two packages of anti-diarrhea medicines. Add to that more kids' allergy medicines. I notice that the current box of allergy meds will expire in two months, so I make a mental note to buy another when I see a good sale. You know we always have to have that stuff on hand, just in case we need it, even though it rarely gets used.

I glanced at the growing pile in the garbage can, and suddenly faces started to fill my mind. Faces of sweet babies in Kenya, children whose parents can't afford life-saving medicines like I have the ability to just throw away. Faces of children who live in a place where the common cold can kill and asthma goes untreated.

And I started to cry.

I strongly believe that an abundance of wealth like we have here in the United States is not, in fact, the definition of a blessing. Yes, we are very blessed in that we have access to these drugs that can save our children's lives, but I think that we have so much that it becomes really easy to forget where it all comes from. It's not from my husband's paycheck, although he works very hard to support our family. It's not from the store, although we are blessed that we can just run to town and stock up on stuff just in case of a bee sting. But truly, it all comes from God. All of it. Every day. The fact that it is so easy for us to acquire makes us forget that all of our success is from God, not man.

Not a single one of my children would be alive today without our access to modern medicine. I don't take that blessing lightly, but I don't want to rely on modern medicine so much that I forget that it truly is a blessing from God.

And here I am, in my small-ish house that I complain about its size because it's filled with our possessions so tightly that we don't have places to put it all, and I whine and I grumble and I complain about this or that and I forget that all that I have is from God. I get so focused on my to-do list that mostly involves dealing with our over-abundance of stuff. Laundry, dishes, bathrooms, picking up papers and schoolwork and kids toys and dog hair and cat hair because we can afford to feed animals just to keep them around for fun and darn it, another lego on the floor!

I grumble and I grumble and I grumble and I forget to have joy and I forget to be thankful. I forget that I don't need all this stuff. I forget that most of the world doesn't have what we have. And suddenly, as I throw out another bottle of children's fever reducer, I cry on the floor and ask God to forgive me for being so selfish and materialistic and self-centered. I truly am thankful that I have the ability to have a fully stocked medicine cabinet on hand. I just wish I could remember to be thankful constantly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Love Remembers

Well hello, old friend.  I've missed you.

It's interesting how life changes over time.  Stories that I want to tell about the children become abandoned in the drafts folder, as the kids are old enough now to have a choice in what gets shared publicly.  Things that can be shared get quickly forgotten as the pace of life moves so quickly at times that once bedtime comes, once all the children are sweetly and silently sleeping and the house is still intact, once the feet are propped up on the couch with the laptop in the lap, all the memories of the day are gone.  "What was that earlier that I wanted to write about?" I wonder to myself more often than not.  Sometimes I remember, and often times I don't.  Well intentioned plans to write things down as they happen are displayed by the large number of blank journals with fancy pens, covered in dust.

Day after day until the days become years.  And it all goes by so fast, memories lost in a blur of good intentions and blank journal pages.

I've never written about this part of my life before, as privacy and respect are very important to me.  I have permission to share with you today though.

My mother has Alzheimer's disease.

Many know this, she is not secretive about it.  However, there is a difference between talking to those closest to you about things such as this, and putting out there to all.

She was diagnosed ten or twelve years ago, after years of being told she had an amnesia disorder.  She is doing remarkably well, considering how long it has been.  But the decline is unavoidable.  Alzheimer's leaves no survivors.

As a teen, I watched my mother lovingly care for my grandpa after he was diagnosed with the same disease.  I watched him slowly slip away, pieces of him disappearing long before his body eventually failed.  They say that Alzheimer's is known as "the long goodbye," and the truth in that statement is something you never fully understand till you have lived it.  At the age of twelve, I remember visiting my grandpa in the group home where he lived, and he often thought I was his wife.  Grandma had died a few years earlier, but he would sit at the kitchen table, holding my hand, and patting it as he told me he loved me.  At the time, I was slightly creeped out ("he's not going to try to kiss me, is he?!?") but I obliged, knowing it would make him happy, and it did.

Now, I'm the daughter, watching my own parent go down the same path.  And there is a 50% chance that my own children will walk that path with me.  Genetics are a beast sometimes.

Our family is participating in the Walk To End Alzheimer's in September in Everett, WA.  I want to raise money to find a cure.  I never want to watch my own memories slip away, clouded behind a fog that can't be navigated.  I don't want my children to know about their younger years by only what makes it into the dusty journal or from a blog.  I want to be there to tell them, and I want to remember.

Will you join us?  Please consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association or joining our team.  Thanks.

Click here to go to the Walk To End Alzheimer's page, or copy and paste this: http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/WA-WesternandCentralWashingtonState?px=9386064&pg=personal&fr_id=5781

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Life or His Life?

(This post was originally published at whatislovely.com so I am moving it here. It's been a while since I blogged, so I'll have it here in case you wanna catch up on who I am now. Or, who I was when I wrote this.)

 Hi.

 Nice to meet ya. My name is Tiff, and I am so honored to be a part of this amazing group of women who have become my family. They are the sweetest, kindest, most loving and Godly women out there. And for some reason, they are allowing me to be a part of this, even though I tend to blog about poop.

 I had four kids in four and a half years. Potty training twin boys (and another boy who was born just two years later) involves a whole lot of bloggable moments about pee and poop. If I had a nickel for every time I have been peed on in a public bathroom, well, I would still only have less than a dollar, but at least I would have something to show for it, rather than just clothes that were wet with pee. 

Anywhoo. I am married to my wonderful husband Marty, and I stay home with the kiddos, mostly. Except for when I'm working as a wedding photographer. And except when I babysit extra kids, because really, six isn't much more crazy or loud than four. Oh, and when I'm working for an IT company doing administrative stuff. Really, I guess I'm a work at home mom. The kids are all potty trained now, so have no fear, there will be very few blog posts about children's bodily functions. It's no longer funny that I have to remind the boys "you may pee on a tree, but you may not try to poop on it. Now put your pants back on and come inside." I am so thankful we live in the country.

 I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where everything is green year round and umbrellas are for tourists. I love it here, we are in the middle of farm country, just a few miles from the bay and a couple hours from the mountains. You really can't beat that. I love my home, and I love my life, but a big part of my heart is in the beautiful continent of Africa. I went to Kenya and Tanzania two years ago on my first mission trip ever, and I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, and their kind hearts and open smiles. I fell in love with the children, with their pure joy and their laughter that doesn't stop. I fell in love with the red dirt and the mud huts and the slums and the garbage and the filth and the pure faith that shines through it all. I fell in love, and I can't wait to go back.

 Thankfully, Yah saw fit for me to go back, and I leave soon to return to my beloved Kenya for a two week trip. My best friend (who just so happens to be my husband) will be going with me this time, which will be a wonderfully different experience and I can't wait for him to meet my Africa family, and for him to experience what I did when God totally and completely wrecked my life and started the process of making it His life, the one He had chosen for me. I know it sounds horrible to smile at my beloved and say, "I hope God totally destroys you!" but that's what I want for both of us. I want Him to destroy us, destroy everything about us that is of this world and to make us more like Jesus. You can't get there without completely shattering what is of this world first.

 The kids are staying home, although they long to go with us at some point, it's not time yet. Some day, we dream of a family mission trip. We desire above all else to raise children who can see the big picture, who know that life is much more than the longings of the American dream filled with fancy cars and flat screen tv's and the latest tech gadgets. We want to raise kids who love to serve, and to honor God in all they do, and who put others first. We don't want to live in Americanized Christianity, where an hour a week on Sundays is good enough. We want to give. We want to serve. We want to put Him first in all we do and in all we say.

 I was listening to a wonderful speaker by the name of Ray Vander Laan recently. Google him. You will be blessed. One thing he said that so stuck with me is that many of us think that belief is enough. Now, I know that salvation is through faith alone, and belief and faith can sometimes be synonymous. However, we tend to think that belief is enough.

Think about this: do you believe that God created the heavens and the earth? So you believe that Jesus/Yeshua(his name in Hebrew) is the son of God, that He died on the cross to save us from our sins, and that he rose again on the third day? Do you believe that the only way to eternal life is through Him?

Yes?

Now, let me ask you this. Does Satan himself believe those exact same things? Of course he does, he was THERE! He saw it all, he watched it happen, he knows it better than we do. Knowing that an event happened doesn't save you, it is what you do after you know the Truth that does.

 Are you believing in God, yet refusing to do what He is calling you to do to further His Kingdom? I don't want to live in comfortable Americanized Christianity. To be honest, I lived like that for many years, claiming the promise of salvation and then doing whatever I wanted to do with my life, paying no regard to God or anyone else. I would call out to Him when I was in trouble, begging Him to save me from whatever I had gotten myself into; and ignore Him when times were good, but be pleased at all I had done for myself.

 Anyone else been there?

 Just me?

 I am not fully there yet, but the information has been trickling slowly from he head to my heart, changing the way I see life and the world we live in. I want to see it through the eyes of Yeshua, who walked on this earth to show us how to live our lives. I know that Yahweh is God, I know that Yeshua is His son, and that He died for me. For ME! And because I know that, I know that He lives and I know that He loves and I know that He has a plan for my life, and I would be a fool to think my plans would be better than His because I'm an ignorant human and He is God. Sometimes when you rock the boat, when you go out on a limb, when you do any of those other Christian clich├ęs that basically tell people that you are different and weird, people question. And that's fine.

People can question our decisions to go to Africa, to give up pork and shellfish and eat Biblically clean, to follow Torah and celebrate the Feasts just like Jesus did. But we are ok with it. We are much more concerned with what God thinks of us that what those around us think. Yes, we fail him daily, and we are so thankful for grace. But we want to walk like Yeshua, talk like Yeshua, eat like Yeshua, feast like Yeshua, and live like Yeshua, from the inmost part of our souls. More than anything in the world, I want to be like Jesus. I am nothing but a messed up sinner, saved by grace, who yells at her kids too much and sometimes smells of pee, but thankfully, God can change the world, and He is using me as a part of His great and mighty plan. I don't know why, but I'm honored to be a part of it. I invite you to come and join in. Ask Him how He desires to use you, how He wants to bless others through you. I promise you, whatever He desires for you is so much better than you could ever think up on your own.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Life in 3D

It's amazing where this blogging journey has taken me.  I know, I don't blog much anymore, and I know that I keep saying I plan to do better but I never end up consistently posting.  Well, for the three of you who are left, thank you.  Thanks for sticking it out, and thanks for reading.

Almost three years ago, I posted this story about a dream I had about the author of a blog I just love, Sarah Valente.  It was crazy, and rather than just messaging her saying, "Hey I know you don't know me, but I had this crazy dream about you," (which would sound rather stalker-y,) I decided to blog about it publicly (because clearly, that is the much less stalker-y option.  Clearly.)  Well, she wanted to see where the traffic was coming from and read my post and (thankfully) thought it was hilarious.  Bloggers can appreciate the public posting of private matters, and she wasn't offended (or freaked out)in the least.  A bloggy-friendship was born, which turned into a facebook friendship, which turned into a secret corner of the Internet where a little group of bloggy and facebook friends gathered to lift each other up, to pray together, to study His word together, and to giggle and just be us.  I know it sounds nuts, but I developed some of the most incredible and meaningful friendships with these women whom I had never met in person through the Internet.

Yeah, I'd say it was crazy, too.

The thing is, when you build a relationship based on Christ, it's real.  It's meaningful.  And it's awesome.

So where is this going, you ask?

Well, last weekend it went to Colorado Springs.


From left to right:  Beth, myself, Cindy of Over Koffee, Christi, Renee of Mi Querida Familia, and of course, Sarah of Kingdom Twindom, shiny hair and all.

We were missing a few, including Ellyn of Profoundly Seth and Ashley of Adventures in Twinderland, who couldn't make the trip.

Yes, I might be shamelessly name-dropping.  But these are my peeps, yo.  And I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this group.  

We sat in Renee's house, and we chatted and laughed and drank wine (but not too much) and studies the Bible and worshiped the One who created us and brought us all together.  It was fantastic.  I loved every minute and I can't wait to see these amazing ladies again.  It has been said that "if you show me who your friends are, I'll tell you who you are."  Well, I really feel like I am totally unworthy of being included in this amazing group of women, but I'll take it.  Go ahead, read their blogs.  They are awesome.  And besides, it'll fill the time till I blog again. ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Time

Where does the time go?  The time since the kids were little, since summer was here, since I last blogged.  Life is busy and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

All the kids are in school.  Yup, you heard that right, ALL of them.  Emma is in third grade, the twins started Kindergarten, and Drew is officially a preschooler.  Yes, Drew who is seven months old in the sidebar picture because I haven't taken the time to update them in three years. Although the pics on the blog are the same age as the most recent pics of my kids on the walls in my living room, so at least I am an equal-opportunity picture ignore-er.  If the doctor's children are sick, and the shoemaker's kids go barefoot;  I guess it makes sense that the photographer's kids get their pics taken often but they never make it out of the computer and up on the wall.  Well, maybe they do at first.  Just not after four kids.

My days have been filled with the normal everyday stuff that fills the days of a mom of four.  I really thought that this "everyone in school" thing would free up my days, but I think I am busier than ever.  Also, with Drew being here and no other children to entertain him, it has been challenging as there are no other children to tattle on him as he is trying to dance on the bathroom counter/climb the bookcase again/teach the cat gymnastics.  OK, I don't think the cat would put up with being taught gymnastics.  He's a feisty cat, which is a necessary skill for being an animal in this family.

Also, Drew is a talker.  And when I say he is a talker, I mean that I have been working on getting him to understand that you have to stop and take a breath while you are talking, and that you cannot just continue talking while you are breathing in.  No one can understand you that way, and it makes you dizzy.  And drives Mama batty.  And there isn't enough chocolate in the world to deal with that for six hours straight.

And I know all of you dear blog followers are just so excited because you have just missed reading a whole slew of sentenced that start with "and".  You are welcome.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ungrateful and Grateful

It's been a year since I went to Africa.  I can't believe it.  The team went again this year, and I was not a part of it.  I wanted to be, but God said to wait.  I will say that the time the team was gone was a rough two weeks for me.  I sat and watched as team members posted pictures on facebook of the sweet children that I got to love on last year, and the school that we were at and the slum that we walked through and experienced, and the very same park that we had brought the very same kids to, and I missed it all. I wanted to be crammed in a bus packed with children so tight that you couldn't move and you didn't know if that puddle on your lap was sweat form being pressed in with seven children on your lap or of you had been peed on, and there was no room to check.  I wanted hear their little voices sing their little hearts out and smell the stench of rotting, burning garbage on the streets as we rumbled down pothole-filled streets, jostling and bumping for miles.

I stood in my bathroom and looked at my shiny, clean toilet.  The toilet that I was so grateful for when I got home last year, the toilet with a seat and water that ran through it and that wasn't just a hole in the ground to hover over.  And I was not grateful for my toilet like I had been, because I wanted nothing other than to pee in a hole while swatting flies and holding my breath with all my might because the stench was so strong.

I wanted that.  I wanted to be uncomfortable and hot and sweaty as the children pressed in and to be constantly using hand sanitizer for fear of e-coli and typhoid and a host of other things carried on the children's filthy hands.  Hands that I held, and loved, and caressed with all my might for such a short time. Hands that played in my hair, braiding and smoothing; hands that pressed into my white skin, amazed that it changed color with pressure.  Fingers that fiddled with the rough skin on my elbows, fascinated for some reason.  I miss it so much my heart hurts a physical pain in my chest and I want to go back.

And I laid in my bed and I sobbed.  I sobbed with ungratefulness for my soft bed and my warm sheets and my house and my green yard.  I cried out with the pain of heartache of missing these people, these lives that I experienced for such a short time but had such a profound impact on my entire being.  I left a huge part of my heart in Africa, and my heart ached with the separation and I wanted to be there to feel whole again.

But God had told me to to wait.  I had argued Him for a while, back in January when we had signed up for the trip, excited to go back, but whenever God and I disagree, He is always right.  So I waited.  My husband and I hope to go next year, if it is God's will.  Oh, how I hope it is God's will, because if I don't go back I might explode.  I want to see those kids, and love on those amazing people who have absolutely nothing that America deems of value but who have joy and contentment like I have never seen in this country because they know that stuff doesn't matter.  The faith of those people is amazing, and my heart longs to be a part of that circle of faith again, even for a short time.  Where the name of Jesus is intertwined into everyday conversation in the most natural way, because they know that they only have life and breath because of Him.  I am tired of being afraid, afraid in a land where the name of our savior is spoken hesitantly to see if it will cause offense.  To see if we will be labeled as a freak.  Where we value a life of blending in and being "normal".  I don't want to be normal.

Because we live in a society where Self is valued above all else, and I want to go back to where God is valued because I know that God is so much greater then Self.  I hear people talk in words that whisper little nudgings that Self is the most important, that we "deserve" this or that reward or break or purchase because we need to put our own needs first and I just want to scream and to go back and to love on some people who teach me so much more than I cousd ever bring to them with all the money in the world.  Because I know that what I deserve, and I know that what I deserve is not what I will get, because He died for me to make sure I don't have to feel the burn of the consequences of my choices.  He saved me.  He died for me.  He is the most important.

I am grateful for my house, and I am grateful for my money, and I am grateful for my toilet.  I am grateful that my children will not die of preventable disease or starvation.  I am grateful and I am humbled and I am thankful that He chose to give this life to me.  I also know that to whom much is given, much is required, an now that I have seen the difference in what I have been given I know I need to act.  Much is required of me, and it is not to go to the mall because I "deserve it".  It is to live to serve, and I'm still figuring out what that looks like, even a year later.  But it will come, small stirrings in my heart to lead me down God's path for my life.

And I can't wait to see what He does.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Things We Have Learned, Camping Edition

1.  Our families are awesome.  That isn't something new that we learned, but rather something that we are constantly reminded of every time we all get together.

2.  If you forget your camera on a camping trip, it's good to be related to someone like Holly who always brings hers everywhere.  That way, you can lift pics off of her Facebook page and make a blog post.  (Thanks, Holly!)

3.  Our crew has finally reached the age where we can let them hang out at the campfire without constantly being within arm's reach.  Hallelujah!!


4.  Emma loves a good grandpa snuggle...


...and a good baby cousin snuggle...

...and another good grandpa snuggle, along with having her hair braided by Papa.


5.  My mom can still skip rocks with the best of 'em.  She has always been the most incredible rock-skipper I have ever known.

6.  When you don't want to walk across the cold river, if you look at your older cousin Nate with big, adorable eyes, he might take pity on you can carry you across.  You might lose your shorts in the process, but it's a small price to pay.

7.  Mud is awesome.  However, if you get yourself covered in mud because the river is too cold to play in, you will be dunked in the river anyway to get washed off.  You will probably scream.  Your dad probably will do it anyway.


8.  Great Grandmas make good drinking buddies.  They will share straws with you and clink your cup in cheers before every sip.  Even if you feel the need to drink two or three cups full of lemonade in order to cheers with Great Grandma a whole lot of times.


9.  Drew has no shame, and will pee on a tree in the open in front of everyone after a couple of cups full of lemonade.

10.  Drew will actually run, buck naked, out of the motor home to go pee on a tree at the opposite side of camp, and will sing a little "I'm a nakey boy!" song as he proudly struts his way across the open camp in front of the entire family.

11.  Camping in someone's field instead of a campground is the best choice for our family.  Definitely the best choice.

12. Camping in someone's field that is actually used as an airstrip is a wonderful way to entertain the kids.  However, screaming, "Get off the field, a plane's coming in to land!"  probably isn't something most parents yell to their kids during an average camping adventure.


13.  Papa Wayne is the best deep-fryer around.  And family potluck deep fry night is still a favorite annual tradition.

14.  Deep fried onion rings look absolutely amazing after you find out you have to be gluten-free and can't eat them.  Even if you've never liked onion rings before.

15.  Butterfly nets are not just for catching butterflies.  Sometimes they are for catching Aunties...




...and sometimes they are for catching Jack Jacks!

16.  Camping on the mountain provides great kite-flying winds.


17.  Riding your bike while trying to fly a kite from the dollar store only works till the kite string gets wrapped around the bike axle.  The kite won't make it.



18.  If you ask a five year old boy to "show me your cute face!"  This is what you get.  And I have to say, it's a cute face!


19.  My hubby is a rock star and can run five miles in the rain, over rough terrain, through the mud and muck.  Oh, and Wayne and Heather aren't too shabby, either!


 20.  Jack Jack even looks adorable in time-out.



And what was he in time out for, you ask?  Well, that brings us to our biggest and most important Thing We have Learned, which is...

21. Our borrowed motor home can be put into neutral by a three year old without the keys in the ignition or a foot on the brake.  And it will roll off the blocks and go backwards about four feet.




22.  Emergency brakes in motor homes are a really good idea.

(No one was hurt during the making of these memories.  By the grace of God, the older kids had stopped playing hide and seek under the motor home about ten minutes before Jack Jack drove the motor home.  We are very, very thankful to God for watching out for our family!)