big boy beds and bursts of blubbering

Moving Boxes

Sometimes it’s the pile of too-small clothes in the donation box that makes a parent cry.

Sometimes it’s breaking down the crib and carrying it out for the yard sale pile that makes a parent cry.

I did both of those things today without shedding tears.

And then.

Maybe somewhere between re-folding the stacks of yard sale blankets and picking up the 700th Hot Wheels car, I lost it.

It started small with pinched, down-turned corners of my mouth and squinty eyes.  That’s a pretty picture, huh?  Did you just try it?  Yup, it was that awkward.  So thankful that the kids were out on the river with my husband and not at home to see me twisting my face crazy ways.  Within about 5 minutes, irregular rhythms of previously stifled sobs and sniffles were bursting into the empty house.

Nobody’s going off to college; Nobody’s going for an extended stay in a hospital room.

I’m moving our girl out of the room she’s shared with middle brother for the last 2 1/2 years, and she’s only going on the other side of the wall.  She’ll have her own space, and baby brother will move to the bottom bunk.  I’m not too upset about being done with the crib (yet.)  I’m sad that moving her out probably means changes in her relationship with her brother. 

She needs her own space more and more as she is getting older, and there are several other great reasons that swapping rooms has to be done.

But the way they play together 80% of the time?  It’s precious, and I hate being the one to initiate changes that might mean they’re not as close.

My sister pointed out today that I don’t know what positive changes between them it might bring about that I can’t foresee.  She’s right.  And already tonight, I heard middle brother talking about himself in ways that sounded like he might be gaining some much-needed sense of maturation. Halleluuuu-yer! That brought tremendous relief, because I was seriously concerned about jealousy on his part, too.

In an odd way, the pain of moving on from one chapter in their childhood brought me joy.  There are days when I’m too busy or too self-absorbed to be the mom I really want to be, but having my heart break over 10 feet of floor space reminds me that God is slowly making me into who he wants me to be.

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3, emphasis mine)

on forgetting important stuff

A dear friend, who shall remain unnamed in order to protect the guilty, and I were discussing some of our mutual flaws.  Though many elements of our stories are different, we struggle with so many of the same issues – like the monumental, soul-crushing task of changing bedsheets.  We laughed about how long it had been since one of us had last changed the sheets and how the other of us was currently sleeping on top of quilts while clean sheets lay in a laundry basket on the floor.

She laughed again and said something like, “Lauren, when it comes to us, sometimes I feel like it’s the blind leading the blind.”  And I said, “No, we’re sighted.  We just have really poor hand-eye coordination.”

remember3Isn’t this all of us in one place or another, when it comes to how we are versus how we want to be?

We get it.  We can see what should be done.  But somewhere, the connection is lost between what we saw and what we’re doing.  We forget.

This is why New Year’s Resolutions are the target of so many jokes.  We forget the beauty of the goal we’d set with the best of intentions.

This is why reading through parts of the Old Testament sounds like a broken record playing, “Then they served other gods and did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  The Israelites, like me, forgot what they’d seen God do.

This is why marriage conferences and parenting books will always be in demand.  We forget the ways we want to serve those we love most.

This is why I didn’t complete any of my health goals this week.  I forget in the moment how important this leg of the table is and how many things may fall off if I don’t tighten it up.

This is why you are constantly enduring professional development on the job.  Somebody forgot that a Diet Coke 12-pack doesn’t belong in the freezer, and now you must be reminded of courteous workplace practices.

If I may say, forgetting is a big part of being human.

remember2You’ve probably heard that quote that just begs to be cross-stitched: “A friend is a person who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you’ve forgotten it.”  It’s so true.  (That is, unless the tune you were humming was “Murderous Revenge.”  If someone sings that back to you, get a new song, and get a new friend.)  I need people to remind me of the good things that I know.  Isn’t it weird how we easily remember the bad, but it takes effort to remember the good?

These are some things that help me remember the life-balancing good:

I’m so grateful for my friend who is hopefully sleeping on [clean] sheets tonight.  She helps me remember that despite my frustrations and failures, I’m a good teacher.  She reminds me that too much TV for my kids is stealing too much happiness from our home.  It takes effort to maintain our friendship, but I need it.  I’ll even guess that we both do.

I struggle to take in God’s Word on a daily basis, but if I don’t, I can forget how all the dots connect.  My heart forgets peace.  My hands forget love. (I’m still feebly kickin’ it Hello Mornings style, but that’s another post.)

It’s not easy to get myself and my dancing, hiding, whining, laughing, loud, squirming children to church every week, but there’s a reason that God says in the book of Hebrews: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see  the Day drawing near.” [emphasis mine]  He made it so that worshiping together makes us remember, too.

In other words, I’ve got to remember to do something to help me remember what it is I’m trying to do.  Need to read that sentence again?  I do, and I wrote it.

And maybe the beauty in forgetting is that we get a chance to experience joy all over again every time we remember.

update: {new normal} how it feels to be me

31days new normalThis post is for any gracious person who read this series last October.

It’s been a year since my first brain scan, and I thought I’d celebrate by having another one done later this month.  Ain’t no party like a Lauren Lutz party…

But seriously, y’all.  This party could happily stop with a diagnosis, and I’m encouraged that it could soon.  I’m almost through with another round of tests that have included about 2 gallons of bloodwork and a skin punch biopsy.

The results for the biopsy will be in at the end of this week, and I expect it to show damage to the network of small fiber nerves.  (I think I said that right.)  While that will technically give a diagnosis, it’s really only like a sub-diagnosis under the Big Question Mark.  I’ve been working jigsaw and crossword puzzles this week, and I’m appreciative of every piece that pops into place in health matters, too!

puzzle perspective

In other happy news, it has been thoroughly proven that I do not have Diabetes, and for that I am very thankful.  My grandfather is a severely brittle diabetic (I think I said that right) and I’ve seen enough to know that them’s tough cookies.  {*Comic Relief Alert*} During one of the bloodwork days, I was having 13 vials of blood drawn after about 8 vials drawn 3 days prior.  I was about 2 seconds from passing out when I started vomiting.  A second nurse ran to help us and boy, was she was overjoyed to hold my barf bag!  Me an’ my raging stomach virus rescued her from having to stick the head of the Board of Directors for the hospital.  You’re welcome, Nervous Nurse Nelly.

My joint and muscle pain continues, but recently I’ve recognized that at least some of the pains are recurring in the same spots.  The weird new pains feel like bee stings (infrequent, but annoying!) and an instant locking up of a joint.  Me hopping through the local discount store on one good knee audibly cracks me up, even as I’m wincing holding the “cramping” knee.

My vertigo came back for a few weeks, but I think it’s leaving again. *jumps & clicks heels together* It is so embarrassing when you look like you’re drunk and you’re not.  Numbness has become a problem from time to time in my limbs.  That makes it surprisingly hard to sleep sometimes!

I had one vision change where I couldn’t focus on the face I was looking at.  That only lasted for 3-5 seconds, and then I was fine.  Very odd, and really hoping that one never happens again.

The most frustrating symptoms for me right now are barely noticeable to anyone else.  I can tell that sometimes I’m not pronouncing things the way I want to, and I’m dropping smaller objects more than what I think is normal for me.  Those two seem a little scary.

Am I crazy to post this on the internet for the world to see?  Perhaps a career coach may say I’m ruining my chances at future employment. Maybe friends or family will exclude me from activities or opportunities because they’ll assume I can’t or shouldn’t participate.

Displaying my weaknesses is worth those risks to me if it helps you see those around you a little more compassionately.  Invisible illnesses are in front of you at the cash register, beside you at the baseball game, above you in the company hierarchy, and behind you in the generations to come.  What harm could it do to assume that everybody needs a little grace?

Displaying my weaknesses is worth those risks to me if it helps you hear one more time that God is worthy of your trust.  I don’t worry that whatever is wrong with me will make me ineligible for life.  God has a place and a way for me to do my thang, and is perfectly capable of using my strengths and weaknesses.  I trust that he’ll do that.

31 days of a new normal {day 26} from fast to frail

This post is part of a month-long series.  You can read the rest here.

I’m quite tired of talking about myself at this point in the series.  Really, that happened about a week ago.  Today, may I share the story of someone else’s new normal?

I have a friend who used to be a runner.  She could work an on-your-feet job for 10 hours, cook dinner for her child, mow the grass, and then go out and run 3 miles.  I don’t know too many people with that kind of stamina.  I forgot to mention that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 12.

Runner - Brighton Marathon 2011I think it was around 40 that she was diagnosed with cancer.  By the mercy of God, she beat it.  Then a few years later, she had to have a aortic valve replacement.

Guess what?

She doesn’t have the stamina she used to have.  You’re not shocked?

I think my friend is still shocked several years later.  Major health events have taken their toll on her body in so many ways, and she struggles to accept her new normal.  While I hurt for her as she wrestles life and frustration in frail flesh, I admire the tenacity with which she clings to her dream of being healthy.  Most of us would have given up after what she’s experienced.  We would have stopped expecting ourselves to be able to do much, but she hasn’t.

There’s wisdom in recognizing your reality, and there’s beauty in the hope for change.  This is the dichotomy that we all have to live with, isn’t it?

31 days of a new normal {day 15} effects on our marriage – part 2

This post is part of a month-long series.  You can read the rest here.

Yesterday, I was telling you about how my husband has carried a serious weight because of my new normal.  It’s not unheard of for marriages to fall apart under the strain of chronic or terminal illness.

Why am I not terrified of my marriage falling apart when life is so “unfair” to my husband and it seems like it’s because of me?

1)  I see dedication in my husband in other areas of his life, even when circumstances are tough.  He does the hard things and barely grumbles.  (If I said he never grumbles, he’d call me out.)

2) When we locked up our life courses together, we did it in covenant, which is quite different from contract.  We both strongly believe in the concept of “I’m holding my end, no matter what you do,” because we daily receive that kind of grace from God.  In other words, we’re just trying to be a picture of God’s love.  “In sickness and in health” had a whole new meaning for us when listened to my cousin repeat his vows last weekend.

3) He tells me when he gets frustrated.  Communication, y’all.  Sometimes we really suck at it, but when we get it right, it makes everything better.  Just dragging things into the light makes it not so scary.

4) I know that God cares for my husband and will take care of him, just as they are taking care of me.  Look at Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11…

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That’s seriously comforting.

31 days of a new normal {day 7} something to look forward to

This post is part of a month-long series.  You can read the rest here.

A few weeks ago, we turned the sanctuary piano around so that I’m now facing the congregation.  Sometimes, that can be a bummer.  It’s kind of hard to lose yourself in worshiping immortal God when you’re looking at people who look depressed by their own mortality. I’m just sayin, y’all.

PianoToday, being able to see the congregation was the most amazing, worship-inspiring thing I could have asked for.  An elderly woman who’s been struggling with her health for months was wheeled into the sanctuary, and her family parked her right in front of the piano.  I asked her daughter if it would be too loud.  (I get a little, um, happy sometimes.)  “Nope.  Mom asked to be put right here.”

Have you worshiped alongside someone who was dying?  Have you listened to a 91 year old man preach about what awaits us on the other side of death?  Have you whispered prayers during a funeral or sung that it’s well with your soul after you just talked about the times “when sorrows like sea billows roll”?

I’m not eager to leave my children without a mother, nor my husband without a wife.  I have plenty to look forward to in the many years that I hope I have remaining here, but tasting a little bit of continuous pain and fatigue has made cherish in a new way all those old songs about heaven.  I cannot wait to see Jesus and be totally undistracted in my worship of him.

BANG! {and they’re off!}

The boys are down for a nap, and I’m waiting for my brand spankin’ new 1st grader to come home.  (New to first grade, not to me.)  “Waiting” makes it sound like I’m killing time, but I just finished writing my to-do list in green dry erase ink.  Everything needs to be purposeful (including blogging!) because school is back in session.  Go back and read that last phrase in your slow motion voice.

Whiteboard Markers

The kids’ laundry is cooling in the dryer, my big honkin’ pink binder impatiently waits to collect yet unwritten lesson plans, and a black leotard is faintly calling, “Find me!  T minus 2 hours…”

There is some wisdom in advice that says to leave your work at work, but I find that impossible to do, even if I leave my copy of my curriculum standards in the school building. During the opening day assembly in the dim gymnatorium, I smiled to myself remembering how excited G was this morning.  When I got home, I wondered how many of my recruits will actually get to have their schedule changed to include a music class.  My two worlds bleed into each other in my mind and heart, whether I like it or not.

I loved the reminder from Lara Williams today that God prepared these jobs (big and small) for me.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by them as long as I remember that he chose and has equipped/is equipping/will equip me for this spot I inhabit today.  I feel like I have quiplash after typing that.

T minus 30 minutes til I hear how awe-inspiring it is to be a first grader.  Better get that laundry before it’s stone cold!

possibly too much pre-coffee irony

A few of you may have noticed that button over to the left that says something about mornings.  You may have groaned at the sight of it just because of the ‘m’ word, but it’s a heart warmer for me!

Columbia River Gorge at Sunrise, From an Elevation of About 7,000 Feet 05/1973

Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent to some other women who are taking the Hello Mornings Challenge.

#myHMCstory

I began this challenge back in January, when groups were assigned (randomly, I guess?) and I hadn’t met any of the participants.  The challenge started about a week before I went back to work after having taken a semester off.  A few weeks after that, I began experiencing odd medical symptoms that have had me back and forth to doctors all year long.  Weird symptoms, a stressful teaching environment, an infant who wasn’t sleeping well… It sort of seemed impossible, but it wasn’t!

Because of the Winter session, my heart is believing more and more that early morning time with the Lord is crucial Twenty more minutes of sleep isn’t going to make a difference in my symptoms, but twenty minutes of time with the Lord will make a difference in how focused and loving I am today.  And you know what else?  One of the people I have leaned on the most through these tests and doctor visits is a woman with a similar story that I met through #HMC11.  Think that was a coincidence for us to be put in the same group?  I don’t!

I sent that 2 days ago.  Then this morning, my youngest woke up crying 20 minutes before my alarm went off.  And I was so focused and loving irritated.  The irony is not lost on me.

Really, I was irritated because I knew he wasn’t going back to sleep easily (or maybe at all) and I just wanted the silent morning all to myself.  I’m selfish.  And that is exactly why I need the Hello Mornings Challenge.  I need some accountability – via social media – from other women who have the same thing in mind:  getting up earlier than the rest of the family so I can spend time with God (and maybe even exercise and plan ahead for the day!)  I’m a selfish woman who will become less selfish if she gets that all-to-herself time with God.  (Again, ironic?)

Taking on my days this way has impacted me so much that I decided to be an Accountability Captain this go round!  Being a leader makes me step up my game, so here’s to more consistency!

I’m linking up at Inspired to Action today and Kat (our fearless pre-dawn leader) asked if we have any tips.  I do.

Use a plastic baby utensil to stir your coffee, and you’ll never hate your silverware for being too loud.

the end of the year & dean smith

“If I can’t give this team that enthusiasm, I said I would get out.  And that’s honestly how I feel.”

That’s what Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith said at the press conference to announce his retirement.  He still loved basketball, but he was 66 at the time. He was just ready to do something else.

Former UNC Coach Dean Smith, Tar Heel Basketball Legend

Gallery 2 Images

I’ll be 31 in about a week, but I know that feeling that he’s talking about.  Ready for something else.  I’ve never met a teacher who wasn’t excited about the coming of Summer.  Even the best of us, who love every child and smile every day, need a break.  The end of a year brings testing [groan, sigh, stomp, groan again], weird schedules, squirm-in-your-chair assemblies, inventories, cleaning, remediation, packing… But worst of all, the kids know it’s over.  They’re mentally checked out, leaving them with little motivation for anything constructive.

I spent 7 years working full-time.  Nate (our third child) was born last August, and I took the semester off.  I started working part-time again in January.  Less than five months of only 3-4 hours a day.  So why am I burned out?  It’s not the students.  It’s not the curriculum.  It’s not the administrators.  It’s the end of the year.  This is normal, even in the very best circumstances.

Q: Why did Dean Smith wait to have this press conference on the first day of Fall practice? 

A:  Wisdom.  Every basketball season –unless you win the National Championship– ends with a let-down, and he knew that he shouldn’t allow that to cloud his decision.  He was in a unique position in knowing that if he stepped down, the program to which he’d dedicated his life was in good hands.  He waited out the end-of-the-year blues and waited to see how he’d feel when practice started up again. Normally, he’d feel “charged up” again. But October 1997 rolls around and for the first time, the enthusiasm wasn’t there, and so he left.  I really admire that.  I wish everyone had the option to walk away from a job that they aren’t loving in order to do something they do love.

Unfortunately, in my school district, teachers are asked to sign on the dotted line in April or May every year — right as the descent into the muck begins. Are you coming back or aren’t you? And unfortunately, things like paychecks and benefits and lack of immediate options can force our hand to the contract page.  Furthermore, we don’t all have a Bill Guthridge waiting in the wings to take up where we left off without a hitch, so it wouldn’t be fair to students or administrators if we waited until the first day of class to say, “Um, nah.  Not feeling it.”

We teachers have to do this thing on faith.  While staying late to clean up cumulative folders, make a point to remember the high points of the year.  When you are still tracking down that lost power cord that belongs to someone down the hall, be grateful for the rest you are just about to receive.  When it hurts to think about doing this all over again,  ask yourself if there is a child who is going to wake up soon and wish they could be at school with you.  And if you are a believer, be sure of your calling to this ministry called teaching.  If you’re not sure, it’s time to get that settled, because it could be time to step out in faith in a new direction.  You don’t want this end-of-the-year feeling to be your beginning-of-the-year-feeling, too.