Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Experiences....And Lessons In Survival

Valentine's Day was last week, right?  It's usually not a holiday we observe with anything special...that is unless you count addressing what seems like hundreds of Valentines cards for all Will's buddies at school...add Micah in this year.  But for Gregg and I, we do the customary card and maybe some chocolate, but going out (especially on that exact day) is normally out of the question.  "It's too busy" or "We don't want to get a sitter" or whatever.  I wasn't expecting anything, so when Gregg mentioned almost in passing that he had rented a snowmobile for a day I almost missed it.  So that was the agenda for the day.  He set up the babysitter (thank you SO MUCH, Mom and Dad!) and the sled rental and off we went!

Gregg and his family grew up snowmobiling, but I had never been.  He's been talking about going for a while now, but it's just never materialized.  He finally decided it was time...time to get me out on my first snowmobiling adventure.  I really didn't know what to expect and I was pretty excited!  That excitement dwindled a little as we approached the lodge.  The beautiful day and recent snow fall had drawn what seemed to be hundreds of snowmobilers to the hills.  A day full of dodging sled traffic just wasn't what I had in mind.  But as soon as we got out on the trail away from the lodge the hustle and bustle, along with the people seemed to fade away.

We were weaving through groves of aspen trees on trails that seemed to be forged just for the two of us.  It took me back to our dating days when motorcycle rides were a commonality...just the two of us out enjoying being together.  Everything from our normal everyday life seemed to fade and we were just able to take in the beauty of the Black Hills.  I could stop worrying about where we're going to send Will to school next year and wonder why that tree grew in that particular way.  I could stop focusing on the pain of RA and could start noticing the magnificent intentionality that is God's creation.  He did all this for we could experience true beauty and give Him the glory.

Up on top of a summit we were able to see for miles, even with the near white-out conditions up there (the wind was kickin'!).  It was absolutely breath taking and if it hadn't been for the weather and Gregg's "this is borderline dangerous" comment, I could've stayed for hours taking it all in.  But even down in the lower elevations we were still able to enjoy the beauty of winter.  The whole way back to the lodge we flirted with this huge weather system...always seeming to be on its edge.  A perfectly blue sky to one side and a looming wall of grey to the other.  Just beautiful!

We ended our date eating in Spearfish Canyon with a beautiful view of the limestone cliffs.  It was one of the best dates we've ever been on...before or after kids.  Over the past year or so Gregg and I have come to realize the importance of getting out alone together.  It's not only good for our souls, it's essential for the survival of our marriage.  If we don't intentionally set aside time for just the two of us we drift apart, and if we're not careful we become nothing more than roommates who happen to be parents to the same children.  Our love tank starts running on fumes and if it finally runs dry...let's just say it's not pretty.  If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...right, guys?

So Survival Lessons from today:

1. Never go snowmobiling unprepared.  Up on that summit so close to the edge with those crazy winds and not much protection, I really came to appreciate Gregg's experience.  I rolled my eyes when he packed 17 pairs of extra gloves.  Then I thanked him for the very same thing after my second pair got too wet and had to be replaced with a third.

2. Never put your relationship with your spouse on the back burner.  Second only to my relationship with my Creator, this is the most important earthly relationship I have.  If I don't fill up the love tank often, we start to live parallel lives and priorities get skewed.  At that point we're not a team anymore...we become individuals.  Separate.  Divided.  I'm so thankful that God brought circumstances and people into our lives over the past few years that have shown us the importance of our marital relationship.  I'm so thankful God - and spouses - give us second chances.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them,  
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, 
and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."  
~Matthew 12:25

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life With Boys

I'm not much of a girly-girl...never have been.  Sure I like a pedicure as much as the next girl, but you can count me out on romantic comedies or doing each other's hair.  I actually always wondered if I'd be a good mom to a girl, so when God gave us two boys I sort of breathed a sigh of relief.  Not that my boys are easy or anything, but I feel I can relate to them a little easier than I could a girl.  Don't ask me why, 'cuz our days are full of sword fights and wrestling matches...not the sort of stuff you'll catch me public anyway.  Boy stuff...all day, every day...24/7/365.  On any given day you may find us...

...race car driving...

...or you may find Buzz pounding nails. 

It's not uncommon to have Lightening McQueen and Mater as dinner guests...

...or Thomas and Friends as bed mates. 

Spare Nerf bullets can be found about the kitchen counter...

...or maybe in your light fixture.  Okay, to be fair...I think this one was my handy work.  Oops.  And the guns that house those bullets can be found anywhere, too.

Behind the couch for example.  Ever so strategically placed in case an intruder comes into the living room...or your little brother tries to play with your most favorite construction truck.  Yeah, how's a bullet to the face for touching that bulldozer?  Brother won't let you play with his toys, huh?  No worries, because anything can be made into a gun...anything.

That includes hockey sticks...Legos...banana shaped puzzle pieces...fingers...whatever.  So be careful where you stand, because you might get blasted with a broom stick...or shrunk with a shrink ray...

...or hit in the face with a helicopter or any other object doing a gazillion miles an hour.  

Yup.  Never a dull moment around here.  All rough and tumble, boogers and farts...not much drama except for that provided by the almost 5-year-old if he can't find his foam sword or some obscure Matchbox car we haven't seen in two years.  That's about as girly as we get...oh, and his favorite color is pink.  Herein lies some of the problem...  Not the pink part.  The lack of girly part.  Don't worry...I'll get there.

They say boys are harder when they're little.  That when they get older they're a breeze.  I bought into this philosophy and through many of their temper tantrums I reassured myself - t's only for a few years, it's only for a few years.  Well that may be true for the tantrums, but I think it was a mistake to have this mentality...almost like I can check out as a parent when they reach X number of years.  Gregg and I have already made some mistakes on the intentionality part of parenting.  We're already having to play catch-up.  I don't want that to continue to happen, especially during the part of their lives when they are becoming men and getting ready to be husbands and daddies.

They say they're easier, but...  How do we teach our boys to become men of God in the world we live in today?  How do we teach them to not buy into the philosophies of this world or their solutions to the problem?  How do we teach them to value women and treat them as beautiful because of who they are, when our culture does the exact opposite?  How do we teach them to be a leader, but not the kind society seems to value...the domineering kind?  To be a servant leader who will love their wives and teach their children.  And to do all this in a home where there's not a whole lot of girly influence...remember, I'm not a girly-girl.  After all how are they supposed to know how to treat a lady when they don't really know what one looks like?  When I let myself think about it too long, I start to get anxious...fearful.  I just want Jesus to come back today!  

And then I realize...there's my answer.  How can I even think I can do anything good or like it's supposed to be done if I'm not seeking Him first.  Only by His grace can we even attempt to tackle the huge responsibility that is parenting boys.  Only by looking to Him first and asking for His forgiveness for the mistakes we've already made and His wisdom to not make them again, can we hope to accomplish what He's set before us.  I need to be on my knees daily for His Word daily for this...I need to be totally dependent on Him for this.  I love these boys with all my heart, I can't even begin to express really how much.  I want what's best for them and I'm willing to do what it takes to get them there....and that takes constant fixation on Him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Still Waiting....Ever So Impatiently

I'm down today.  Discouraged.  Disappointed.  And yes, still a little fearful.  It's been four weeks since I saw my rheumatologist for the first time.  Four weeks since we came up with a game plan for fighting this rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Four weeks since I took my first dose of methotrexate.  Four weeks and I don't feel any different.  I'm a pharmacist...I know these drugs.  I know the onset of some can take months.  My doctor told me it would be three to six weeks...I heard three.  I'm throwing what I know out the window and replacing it with what I expect to happen...what I want to happen.  I expected to be back to normal by now.  I expected to be on my way to training for a mini-marathon by now.  Okay, maybe these are a little unrealistic, but I expected to at least feel better by now....

But instead my hands are getting worse.  So bad that I'm afraid if it continues at this rate, I'll be out of a job in six months.  In addition to that I found a rheumatoid nodule (RN) on my wrist.  This is one of those extra-articular (not involving the joints) manifestations of RA that usually shows up later in the disease course, but can sometimes show up before joint involvement.  This discovery has put me on high alert...this and the words of my doctor that confirmed my own suspicions and are still ringing so clear to me, "You have a more severe form."  Now I'm looking for other complications.  Two small sores on my ankle have become rheumatoid vasculitis to me.  Every little bit of chest tightening or shortness of matter how small...has become the beginnings of pulmonary fibrosis to me.  In my head I've already returned to the doctor and they've told me, "I've never seen this before.  You have an incredibly aggressive form.  There's not going to be anything we can do."

Dramatic?  Maybe.  That's what happens when you let fear come in and take over.  This fear has caused me to lash out at those I love (mainly Gregg).  It's made me distant and withdrawn.  It's made me focus inward...I'm worried

It's Valentine's Day.  My husband gave me a card and a gift before he left and I could barely muster up a 'thank you.'  When I finally did roll out of bed, I opened my email too see I had received another Valentine's Day gift from Gregg.  He sent me an email sharing what he had read in Scripture the night before.

"The LORD will guide you always;
   He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
   and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
   like a spring whose waters never fail."  ~Isaiah 58:11

This really made me stop and take a good hard look at how I was approaching this whole thing over these past few weeks.  When I started this journey, I made a decision to put my trust in the Lord.  I know He has a plan for my life and I trust He knows what He's doing.  My thoughts and actions over these past few weeks really haven't reflected that, though.  I'm putting all my trust in this medication....waiting on it to work for me....but I have forgotten to daily ask the Lord to guide me.  I say with my mouth I trust Him.  I believe in my heart He will take care of me.  I need to follow suit with my mind.  I need to daily make a decision to follow Him and trust His plan for me and He will strengthen me.  Isaiah says He will satisfy all my needs, so I don't have to worry about me.  I can get out of this pit of self-pity and look outward again.  I can focus on others around me.  I can do what I have been put here to do...glorify my Father in Heaven.

So thankful I have a husband who looks to God's Word 
and uses it to encourage me in what I'm going through.  
Please continue to pray for all of us as we navigate 
this uncharted territory.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Just Can't....Let....Go....

Control.  I say I don't want it, yet it's so hard for me to give it up.  The man is supposed to be the leader.  I don't want that responsibility.  Yet when it comes to decision making time, I want it to be mine...but I want my husband to be the one to make it.  Hmmmm....can someone say manipulation?  This is so well played out in so many examples around the Schmidt house....the resistance to the relinquishment of power...of control.  Even little every day things are hard to give up.  Take this weekend for example...

Our church did Focus on the Family's Date Night Challenge.  Part of the night was a dinner prepared by the men for their wives followed by a Cake Bake...also done by the men.  The guys had to bake and decorate a cake.  No help from their wives except a little coaching if needed.  If needed?  Of course he's gonna need it.  I had ideas in my head of what I wanted the cake to look like.  I finally asked him, "So what are you going to do?"  He already has his cake planned out.

Uh.  Okay.  I guess we'll go with it.  So we started on the journey of the cake making.  Notice I say "we."  I just couldn't stay out of it.  I found examples on the internet.  I told him how to prepare the cake for frosting.  How to color the frosting.  How to actually frost the cake.  It was so hard for me to just let him do it.  He did come up with the design all on his own, though.  Can you guess what he did?  Does anyone know my husband?

Can you see it?  It's a gun.  A Glock 19 to be exact.  It doesn't take long for my husband to get labeled "The Gun Guy" at churches we've attended.  They know him (and my boys) down at the local gun store by first name.  He works for a firearm manufacturer.  Hel-LO???  Does this surprise anyone?  So he cut the design cake pans for this guy.  He probably could have done it from memory, but....

He used a model...and I must turned out pretty good!  And he is solely responsible for the design.  He thought it up and frosted it and decorated it himself.

Not bad, huh?  I know what you're thinking.  There's no way he can lose, right?  Well there are apparently some veteran cake decorators in our church.  There was this crazy cute owl complete with pineapple eyes and almond sliver feathers made by none other than our lead pastor.  Guess who won?  Scandalous, I tell you.  :)  Okay, he won fair and square, but you know what I'm thinking?  We have a year to practice...we'll blast that owl next year!  Just kidding...sort of...  All in good fun.  :)

Either way, the point is....he did a really good job.  And it was his idea...not mine.  I helped with some of the foundation, the ground work, but in the end it was his.  Isn't this the way it's supposed to be?  The way things were designed to be?  If I just let go of a little bit of control...or the illusion of control I seem to have...I give him the room he needs to lead.  I can help him...I'm supposed to...but he has been given the responsibility of leading.  And much like with his Christmas letter this year (I'll post that just in case we missed sorry!), when I move over a little bit and give him his rightful place as leader, he does a pretty good job....a great job, actually.  Don't tell him I said so.  Just kidding about that too...sort of... :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stinkin' Deer

There they are back up to their old tricks again....

Yeah, you better run!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Never Say Never

I think a little bit of me died that day...  We've been looking at minivans for a while now - going back and forth...and back and forth...and back and forth.  Are we going to do it?  Do we want to spend the money right now?  Maybe we should just get a 4 Runner with a third row.  Maybe we should just be content with the two very well-running vehicles we have.  We came to the conclusion a week ago Sunday that we'd just wait...the time wasn't right...we'd wait on God's timing. Well Monday morning a pretty good deal showed up at one of the local dealers.  Not too new, not too old, super low miles and a fair asking price.  We thought about it, prayed about it, talked 'em down a little, and voila - we are now the proud owners of a 2006 Honda Odyssey!

Proud?  Ha!  This was on my Never Ever list....ever.  I will never own a minivan.  I would rather buy the biggest, gas-guzzling SUV they make to haul around all our stuff.  It's just not cool, and I'm cool....right?  Time went on and my friends were dropping like flies...all giving in to the power of the minivan.  "It's so convenient," they said.  "So easy to get kids in and out of...they pretty much do it themselves," they said.  "They're so practical."  Ugh!  I don't care!

Well, guess what?  Two kids, tons of road trips, and an RA diagnosis later, I finally decided, 'Hmmm...a minivan would be nice.'  Will's to the point where he can get himself into and out of the Rav...nice, but I know on one of theses windy SD days he's gonna fling that door open and put a huge ding in someone else's ride.  My RA has made it about impossible to lift Micah, let alone Will, up into the truck.  And road trips...they've become almost nightmarish. we are...

I was thinking about my waning disdain for minivans...why did I hate them so much?  It made me think about how different my life is compared to ten years ago.  All the changes that have gone on...the transformations.  I'm doing a slow crawl through Ephesians right now (thanks to the recommendation from a fellow minivan-driving-mom and friend) and I'm loving it.  In the first few chapters Paul talks about our spiritual transformation...

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient...But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved."  ~Ephesians 2: 1-2,5

I think sometimes as Christians its easy to take on the Us-Them Mentality.  After all, there is a war going on and we need to stand up against evil, right?  Right, but let us not forget where we came from...what we've been through, and who it was that brought us through it.  Paul says all of us lived among the world at one time.  We all gratified the cravings of our sinful nature.  The truth is I was once completely lost...a sinner by nature and an object of wrath.  I carried a disdain for Christians, much like the disdain I had for minivans.  Being labeled as a 'Follower of Christ' was on my Never Ever list.  But my life has changed, and it has not been my own doing.  I did not come to the point of salvation by myself.  It is by grace you have been saved.  My Jesus died on the cross for my sins 2000 years ago, and because of what He did, I have the promise of salvation.  I'm so glad He brought me past the point of 'Never Ever.'  Let us remember this...let us not have the Us-Them Mentality...let us remember where we came from and show love to those who have not yet experienced God's incomparable love.  You never know who He's going to choose to pour His grace onto next.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sweetest Things

When I got my RA diagnosis I figured I had to start thinking about finding some sort of physical outlet since I couldn't run anymore.  I decided to try swimming.  So I bought a pass to our local swim center and decided I might as well get the family pass so it could be something we could all do together.  We've been trying to go at least once a week as a family and it's been such a good time to get out of the house together and be active at the same time.  Will discovered my goggles pretty early on and has been asking almost on a daily basis if we can get him some too (mine were just too big for his little noggin).  Well we finally made a trip to buy the highly prized goggles, and he was so happy with his new treasure that he hardly took them off the entire day.  Seriously he wore them everywhere...on all our errands, out to lunch, in the know, testing them out.  He was also non-stop asking...of course...when are we going swimming?!?!?!

So today after church we decided Gregg would take Will while I stayed home with Micah so he could nap.  On our way home from church Gregg asked me if I wanted to take him.  Oh no, that's okay...I'm really can take him...I'll stay home and maybe take a nap, too.  I have been fighting crazy fatigue with this RA, so this seemed like a logical thing to do this afternoon...I need a NAP!!  Not too long after this I decided that yes, I would be the one to take Will.  I'll push through the tired and just do it...sounded like Gregg was hoping to get a run in while Micah was sleeping.  Ok, Will...let's go.

I don't know why I all of a sudden decided to be the one to take him.  I don't know if it was mommy guilt, or obligation, or just a poor judgement call of a tired brain, but I took Will swimming.  He was so crazy excited to go and just chattered the whole way over to the swim center.  He could hardly wait to get into the pool...

 "Mom, put my goggles on... you have yours? 

Put your goggles on...

...take my shoes off...

...we got to go under the water." 

Again, I don't know why I decided to go, but I'm so grateful for the time we had today...just me and my Will.  We swam for an hour at least...which really consisted of him, shielded with a huge dose of big boy confidence afforded him by his newly purchased goggles, submerging himself under the water for as long as he could stand it and me standing ever so closely by making sure he was still...for lack of a better word...alive under there.  He was having the time of his life...and I was enjoying every second of it too.  After too many "Just one more time, mom"'s and "how 'bout five more minutes"'s, we finally decided to end our afternoon at another one of our favorite family hangouts...the DQ.

So I got some fries and he got a blizzard and we shared.  He kept on chattering...told me about his days at school, about how he's doing a good job listening, about how he loves Jesus.  It truly was one of the sweetest times we've had together.  Before he went off to bed tonight he snuggled with me under a blanket and I asked him if he had fun today.  "YES!"  What was your favorite you remember what we did?  "We went swimming, we had ice cream, and we had fun talking."  Yes, my little baby boy who's growing up way faster than I'd like, those were my favorite parts too.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Where Did My Baby Go?

It's the curse of being a momma.  Life happens and all of a sudden your baby's not a baby anymore.  This has become so apparent to me over the past month or so with Micah.  This kid is all of a sudden a toddler who's developing his own little personality that is both extraordinarily cute and extremely frustrating at times.  He certainly keeps us on our toes, but at the end of the day I always find myself thanking God for this incredibly sweet little boy He's given us.

This kid is fun-loving and trouble-finding to the max.  He is into everything and is the reason we have gates up at our bathroom and kitchen doors.  For some reason the cupboard with all the cleaning products and the garage are favorite places for this kid.  Things I never had to worry about with Will, like making sure the toilet is inaccessible, are daily realities now.  Seriously, why is that germ-infested bowl of water so appealing?  Everything is an adventure for him and the "Wow!!!!" that he interjects into almost all situations is so incredibly infectious you can't help but let yourself indulge in his little pleasures as well...except the toilet...I draw the line there!

And you can probably tell from the pictures this kid likes to eat...always has.  He's getting a little pickier as his independence grows...has his favorites.  Cheese (chee), cookie, and yogurt (yo-gee) are at the top of his list and he will hold out as long as he thinks necessary at meal time (or any other time for that matter) until you give in to his request.  Now, before you make judgements on my parenting style, I've limited myself to giving in only once a day...there's no way I can resist this face for more than 24 hours and the look on his face  when you finally relent to his request for a slice of processed American goodness is priceless. :)  And by the way, he can down a piece in five seconds flat...I'm not kidding.

Having Micah has definitely been good for all of us...including Will whether he thinks so or not.  Will is learning ever so slowly it seems what it means to be a big brother...sharing your toys isn't easy, you know...and there are many fights that have to be broken up.  Right now it's more like mommy coming to Micah's rescue...which of course he's figured out.  He's a master at drama showcased by his high-pitched screams if Will comes within a foot of him...hence the Christmas card this year! :)  There are other times though when Will is overcome with brotherly love so I hear, "Micah, I love you" actually fairly often these days...although it's usually followed within minutes by some sort of disagreement.  Hey, I'll take what I can get!

Micah Man, Micah Moo, Micah the Destroyer, Micah the Moose (I think his doctor gave him this one) many nicknames he's acquired over these past 19 months.  The ear-piercing screams that can be a sign of sheer happiness or frustrated anger has actually caused us to liken him to one of the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings.  The resemblance is uncanny, don't you think?

Oh, my little Micah Moo...I could go on and on about you.  Your kissable face and sweet voice make you irresistible to me.  Even though it makes me a little sad to see you grow, I'm so excited to see what the Lord has in store for your life.  I'm so glad I get to be your momma!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Better is One Day in Your Courts

It's February 1st.  The beginning of a new month.  It's also the beginning of another year without Eric.  One year ago today we said good-bye to Gregg's only brother Eric.  His body was tired of fighting and he finally succumbed to the cancer that had invaded it.  That day was full of a mixture of incredibly sad because our family lost such a good man, but joyful at the same time because we know without a shadow of a doubt that when Eric left this earth, he was welcomed into the loving arms of his savior Jesus Christ.  One year later, these emotions remain.

Gregg and I were talking last night and he reminded me of the verse in Psalm that says, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."  (Psalm 84:10)  "Well, he's had 365 days there," he continued, "and every one of them has been better than his best day here on why am I still sad?"  We believe what the Bible says.  We know that Eric is happier than he ever was here on earth.  But there is no way for our finite minds and hearts to really understand that.  It's hard for us to imagine his everyday reality.  All we really see...all we really understand is the loss.

As I've talked about before, this year has brought us through a lot of different emotions...a lot of valleys that didn't seem to have an end.  There was a lot of painful learning, but God is so good.  He brought us through those valleys and sustained us all the way.  And after each valley He drew us closer to Him.  If I had to choose some theme verses...a passage of Scripture that best describes our walk this past year (really year and a half) it would be James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Joy.  Defined as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.  Doesn't seem to fit, does it?  I'm not elated.  I don't have keen pleasure when I reflect on the loss of Eric.  But the reality is, I don't always see the whole picture.  This trial that has been brought into our life has surely tested our faith.  And as surely as it has tested our faith, it has also developed perseverance.  And we know that this perseverance is necessary for us to become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes I have trouble relating to God's Word.  Sometimes I read and the verses just remain as words on a page.  But then there are times when God makes these words jump off the page and enter your life, and once this happens there is no denying God's presence in the situation.  This past year I've seen these verses come to fruition not only in my life, but even more so in Gregg's.  Though there were some pretty low points for Gregg and his faith (and there may be more to come), he has come out of them with a stronger faith and dependence on God that may not have been possible had it not have been for this trial.  His spiritual maturity has grown exponentially.  This experience has better equipped him so that he is closer to the 'not lacking anything' part of these verses.  He has never been more ready to meet his Maker...and that is producing joy...true that can't be explained by human that can only come from the author and perfecter of our faith.

You know one thing I love about my Jesus?  He didn't leave us to go through these trials without first going through His own.  He was the ultimate example-setter...the best servant leader this world will ever know.  The Bible tells us that we can "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:2)  He's been there.  He's done that.  We can trust Him...He knows what He's doing.