Baby Number Three

When Gart and I moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1997, we were a family of four. Our son, Robert, was 2 ½ and our daughter, Rachel, was only a month old. Although I do not recommend moving with a one-month-old, we were excited about this new adventure.

The house we purchased was built in 1924 and only had around 900 square feet. The outside was red brick with an arched front porch. Inside, there were wood floors, lots of character and only two bedrooms. Though it was small, it was perfect for our little family.

At that time, I was a stay-at-home-mom. Our one boy and one girl was the perfect combination. Friends and family assumed we would not have any more children, and we pretty much thought the same thing. That is until around the time Rachel started walking…

Suddenly, I wanted to have another baby. I just knew our family was not complete. When I mentioned it to Gart he asked, “Where in the world would we put another baby?” His argument was logical. We did not have room, nor could we afford to have another baby.

Despite his logic, I could not shake this feeling. It did not help that my closest friends were pregnant. Everywhere I turned, it seemed as if there were more babies. I would often cry, but discussions with Gart were not successful. We would only end up arguing.

I soon realized that this was not the right time for discussions and began to pray. My prayer was simple, “Take this desire for another baby away from me or give Gart the same desire.” Sometimes I felt silly praying the same thing over and over, yet I continued.

Almost a year passed. Although the desire was not completely gone, at least I was not crying all the time. My restlessness was easing. I was about ready to accept that the answer must have been no, and I must have missed it. Though a little sad, I knew it would be ok.

About a week after my revelation, the most amazing thing happened. Out of the blue, Gart said to me, “You know, I think you were right. We should have another baby.” What a surprise! And Ryan Lee Morris was born in November of 2000.

Now we were a family of five, still living in a 900 square foot house. We remained in that house for two more years until a job change took us on another adventure. What a sweet two years. I still miss the times we had in that tiny cottage home.

Well, baby number three graduates from high school tomorrow. He is 6’3 and handsome. A kind, sensitive and funny soul. He is also an artist. I am so proud of the young man he has become and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Our family would not be the same without him.

We love you, Ryan! ❤

Rollercoaster

A rollercoaster often starts out slow, moving upward, tension building as it climbs. Once it reaches the top of the first incline, the real adventure begins. Twists, turns, rolls, and spins jolt the whole body. Squeals and screams express excitement and/or fear, depending on the rider. Then it stops, just abruptly as it began. Cue feelings of relief.

When I was younger, rollercoasters were a thrill. Riding over and over, I would laugh and scream, loving that rush of adrenaline. That is no longer the case, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I once had an anxiety attack in front of my kids involving a rollercoaster.

We had taken a family vacation to Kansas City. A fun road trip which would include shopping, museums, eating, and an amusement park. The kids were excited. Each had a favorite activity on the list. And everyone was looking forward to the amusement park. Everyone except me.

Looking back, I now realize anxiety crept in before we even arrived in Kansas City. Any mention of the park would cause my stomach to nervously turn and tears would start to form. I would suddenly feel tense, my heart racing. And then I would push it all away, trying to breathe and focus on the activity at hand.

What I didn’t realize, was that pushing these feelings away did not get rid of them. It only buried them temporarily. And when we simply bury feelings, they are sure to resurface at some unsuspecting moment. When they do, controlling them becomes almost impossible.

We stood in line for a ride, the Patriot, I think. As we waited, I felt sick. I found myself taking deep breaths, working hard to keep it together. I told myself, “You are not being logical. There is nothing to be afraid of.” But I could not seem to accept what I knew to be true.

As we approached our turn, I didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were frantic, not making any sense. Once the gate opened for our family to take our seats, I couldn’t get on. Embarrassed, I said, “I can’t do this,” and walked through to the exit.

My tears could not be held any longer. I was so mortified. My family was having an adventure, and I was missing out. Not wanting the kids to see me so upset, I attempted to pull it together.

As my husband and the boys took off to ride more rides, my sweet Rachel hung out with me. We got snow-cones and sat and talked. She reassured me that it was ok. My embarrassment was not erased, but I knew my family understood.

I did manage to return to that ride before our day was done. Somehow, I pushed through the anxiety and rode the darn thing one time. Once was enough. I certainly cannot say I enjoyed the experience, but there was a brief sense of relief. A few minutes of overcoming the illogical which often accompanies anxiety.

Support of family and friends, medication, recognition, and prayer have helped decrease these feelings and make the remaining ones more manageable. It would be foolish to think I will never experience anxiety again. Since life itself is much like that rollercoaster, it is to be expected.

My goal is to continue learning how to live contently, despite events or circumstances. That includes times of grief and celebration. Recognizing that the rollercoaster does not control my reactions. That is on me. And admitting that I sometimes need a little help is the first step in beating those feelings of anxiety.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11

Flat on my Face

Flat on my face, not a position I would intentionally choose. This phrase conveys negative connotations and feelings of discomfort. Though it was not from a fall, I spent some time in this unpleasant position today.

I had an MRI this afternoon as a follow up to some previous tests. The check-in was not unusual. I filled out forms, answered questions, reviewed history, signed consents…donned lovely hospital fashions and prepared for an IV.

For this particular series of images, I had to lay flat on my stomach, face down, arms stretched out above my head. Towels covered everything and cushioned my face and elbows. As I said, not a position I would purposefully choose. But necessary, at least for a short while.

Earplugs in place and a panic button in hand, the table begins to slide into the tube. I would hear no voices until the test was finished, about thirty minutes unless I squeezed that panic button. And even though there were moments I wanted to shout, “Is anybody there? Are we almost done?” I remained still and silent, the panic button un-squeezed.

As the machine began to do its job, loud noises surrounded me. Many different timbres, volumes, and tempos filled the small space. Feelings of panic filled my head. “Just breathe. You can do this.” I began to pray. I silently sang some favorite hymns.

When anxious thoughts crept back in, I would start the whole process over. I must have repeated the same three hymns several times, not to mention Psalm 23. The words, “We’re all done,” never sounded so sweet. Pretty sure my response was, “Thank goodness!” 🙂

Changing back into my clothes, I looked in the mirror. Towel marks imprinted on my face. Gart noticed them as soon as I entered the waiting room. They wouldn’t last but provided a temporary reminder of the previous thirty minutes.

Tonight, those marks have disappeared. The loud noises quieted. Some amazing truths remain. Prayers are powerful (my own and my friends). Hymns and pep talks are powerful. Knowing Gart was in the waiting room the entire time, also powerful.

These truths all worked together to provide assurance. Assurance that I could keep from squeezing that panic button, and that I would not remain flat on my face.

Thinking of summer! 😉

Happy Anniversary!

Fifty-four years
Quite a long time
To spend with someone
Morning, noon, and night

Coffee in the morning
Always a kiss goodnight
Moments in between
Praying for all to be right

An example for our family
And all others they may meet
Showing a love so strong
Though also simple & sweet

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!
Your wedding vows held true
Richer or poorer, sickness & health
To you both-a grateful Thank You!

Stuck in the Mud

Have you ever felt stuck?  You take a step, suddenly realizing it was the wrong step to take. I remember having that literal experience once as a kid. My cousins and I were playing kickball, a common activity when we were together. Someone kicked the ball into a ditch, and I went to get it. The minute my foot sank into the mud, I knew I was stuck.

For a brief moment, I felt a sense of panic. It seems a bit ridiculous looking back now. What could possibly have happened? Maybe I’d seen too many television portrayals of people sinking into quicksand. You know the ones. A bystander yelling at the would-be victim to be calm and still, yet panic sets in and they proceed to sink until their hand finally disappears.

All I needed to do was stand still and call for help. And of course, help came. With a group of cousins around, I certainly was not alone. One of them assisted with pulling my foot out of the mud. The only casualty that day was my tennis shoe.

Many steps taken in this life are much less literal, yet come with much more significant consequences. So what happens when a step is misguided or poorly chosen? Certain decisions in my teen and young adult years left  me feeling trapped, afraid my life was messed up permanently.  Regret and guilt crept in, causing me to feel like I was sinking further down in the mud.

Thankfully I eventually discovered ways to counter those fears. Simply choosing to be still, although difficult, was a start. If I could just wait instead of panic, maybe another bad decision would be avoided. Next, it was time to call for help. That help came in different forms. A prayer, a simple phone call to a friend or family member-often both.

“Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” I Peter 5:7

“…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

A friendly listening ear often guided me toward a fresh perspective. There was not always an easy or instant answer, and that was sometimes hard to accept. Yet in spite of unavoidable consequences, with some guidance and faith, I was able to take a step in a new direction, no longer feeling stuck in the mud.

As We Go

This past Friday was a rainy, inside recess kind of day.  My last class of the day is 2nd grade.  So I made a last minute change of plans and decided to teach them a game, Instrument Bingo.  Fairly certain they would at least be familiar with the concept of Bingo, I began to explain this particular version.

Bingo cards are made up of musical instrument pictures, each one also identified by written names.  Many types of instruments, representing all parts of the world, are shown on the cards.  Students listen to recordings of the instruments being played and a voice also tells them the name.  It’s a win, win kinda game.

I wanted this to be a fun learning activity-reminding them I did not expect them to already know all these instruments, and we would be learning them as we played the game. One sweet girl raised her hand, “You mean, we will all learn together as we go.”  Yes!  That is exactly what we will be doing!

That one statement from an innocent 2nd grader holds much wisdom.  As I wrote it down on my “positives” list, I began to think about all the ways it applies to life. Being a spouse, parent, and teacher are perfect examples.  Often our focus is on the big event-a wedding, birth of a baby, college graduation, our first teaching job-culminating in our suddenly taking on those identities.

Yes, those events are important and grant us that particular role or position in name, but time and experience are required for actual transformation.  And that’s what true learning is-transformation.  I need to remember this when feeling frustrated or disappointed with myself concerning my life responsibilities.

My goal should be learning from my own mistakes as well as from others who have more experience.  Followed by a willingness to share what I learn with those who may have just begun their journey down a similar path.  Always making sure to remember-we are all just learning together as we go.

 

As I Go

I am not the same wife I was

On my wedding day

I am not the same mom I was

On my first child’s birth day

So many people, places, events

Influenced who I am today

So many words, prayers, tears

Helped to light my way

 

As I continue walking along

This path we know as life

Will my desires be persistent

To become a better mom and wife

Should I choose to recognize

I am not alone in my strife

Transformation through lessons learned

Will prove worthy of sacrifice

Instant Friends

Have you ever experienced an instantaneous friendship?  You meet someone for the first time, yet it seems as if you’ve always known them?  That’s exactly what happened when I met Shannon.  Both of our husbands had new jobs which brought us to Liberal, KS.  She was the wife of a pastor and me the wife of a high school assistant principal.  We both had young children and were navigating a new place, far away from old friends and family.

If you’ve never been to Liberal, well…there is an actual edge of town. You can see nothing but fields for miles and miles in all directions. The town had a Walmart, a few restaurants, and a small shopping center.  We would drive an hour and a half to Garden City, KS just to eat at Applebees.  Needless to say, it was quite an adjustment for both families.

Our move to Liberal was the second big move we’d made in nine years of marriage.  Memories from previous moves brought images of tear-filled goodbyes with many dear friends.  Some of those goodbyes turned into lifelong friendships, but in that actual moment of leaving it felt like our world was falling apart.  As for me, the tears often continued as I adjusted and searched to figure out my place in a new location.  Looking back now I understand that those lonely times strengthened our marriage and brought our family closer together, but oh were they hard.

Soon after we settled in our new home, I heard an advertisement on the radio for a MOPs (Moms of Preschoolers) group meeting.  I’d never been to one of these before but was excited at the prospect of meeting other moms with small children.  There was also a weekly storytime at the library.  My two oldest would be starting school soon, so that would give Ryan (my youngest) and I a fun outing.

It’s funny looking back now, I can’t remember if I first met Shannon at the library or MOPs.  I definitely noticed her at both events with her young kids.  She had such a welcoming smile, maybe we would become friends!  We introduced ourselves, and it wasn’t long before we had traded phone numbers.  At least now there would be a familiar face at storytime and our MOPs meetings.

Not long after school started, Shannon asked if I’d like to go for a walk after we dropped our older kids off at school.  Our youngest kids were the same age, and still enjoyed short stroller rides.  That first walk remains etched in my memory.  We chatted about our families, what had brought us to Liberal, our future plans.  And then Shannon shared the most amazing thing.  From the time they knew they would be moving, she had been praying that God would send her a friend.  I will never forget her words, “I think you just might be the answer to my prayers.”

From that point on, we were inseparable.  Playdates, family dinners, babysitting for eachother…things all young moms desperately need. I’m not sure how I would have survived that year without her.  It felt like we had known each other our entire lives.  She would even laugh and say she must have named her daughter Kelli after me before she even knew me.  And to make the year even more exciting, she soon discovered they were expecting their third child!  So much to plan and celebrate!

Telling Shannon that we would be moving back to Oklahoma for the following school year was not easy.  I dreaded making that phone call.  We were in Oklahoma for the interview and she was in Kansas, having just given birth to their sweet baby.  Terrible timing, but I knew it couldn’t wait.  Always gracious, she understood.  Moving would eventually be part of their future as well.  There were tears and promises to keep in touch.  Despite having experienced this kind of goodbye with friends before-it was not any easier.

Although Shannon and I had become close friends in such a short time, I had no idea the lasting impact she would have on my life. After our move, there were regular phone calls in those first months and even a visit despite the distance between us.  But our communications quickly took a different tone as Shannon was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

How could this be possible?  A young mom of three, healthy, no family history…the wife of a pastor.  She fought so hard.  Surgery, treatments, more surgery…and so many prayers.  I witnessed the outpouring of support from their family and friends past and present.  There were also a few misguided individuals who thought if her faith was just strong enough, she would be healed.  Most certainly they did not truly know Shannon.

If ever there was a time in life where I questioned my own faith, this was it.

I had the privilege of spending a week with Shannon and her family shortly before she died.  Oh, my sweet friend-fighting with courage and grace I had never witnessed before. Her cancer had spread once again causing tremendous pain and weakness.  But she was determined we would go shopping, and we did.  She had also planned an outing for us at a lovely tea room, and we went.  I watched as she pushed through, insisting on serving dinner and giving attention to her family-she loved them so much.

Shannon’s kindness as a friend, patience as a mom, and her unwavering faith in the face of terrible tragedy continues to impact my life. We may have only lived in the same town for one year, fifteen years ago, but I miss her.  The grief that she is not here with her family remains.  I keep a picture of the two of us on a shelf in my closet.  When I look at this sweet photo, I think about the power and importance of friends.  And remembering our instantaneous friendship, I am grateful.

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