Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lack of Decorum

Today was a first for our family. Any time we are in public, Bud and I realize that we attract attention. Maybe it's simply the fact that we have three children age five or under. Maybe it's because my husband is just so handsome. (He would deny that as the cause!) Maybe it's because Asher is such a little sweetie, Greta's eyes are deep and mysterious, and Sadie looks like the child actress in Matilda. Or maybe people can sense (at least on good days) how much we truly love each other. Random folks regularly come up to us with positive comments on our parenting, our children, or our expressed emotional state.

We traversed a whopping 4 miles to Messiah Village, a local retirement community. The occasion was to dine at the Fireside Grille, utilizing a gift card that would completely cover the bill. We had prepped the girls and fully answered their questions ahead of time. Yes- we were going out to eat. No- it wasn't McDonald's. (Praise the Lord!) No- we didn't know if they had a kid's meal. No-other children would probably not be there, although plenty of older adults would enjoy them. No-toys will not be offered with the meal. And finally no-we would not be enjoying an indoor play area after our meal. In other words, the world of adult food was awaiting them for Sunday brunch. Did we dare to place our children in such a setting? YES YES YES!

I walked into the restaurant with the girls, and they were mesmerized by the water flowing down a pane of glass, trickling from the ceiling to the floor. Greta quite loudly remarked that she "loved that splashing water" and wanted to "touch it with my finger." Immediately, a hostess commented that she had a very large voice for such a small girl. Possible translation: This kid really is loud and may not be appropriate for this setting! Inside, my heart just sank as I wondered what other veil criticism might be lurking in the next hour. The five of us were led to a table clothed in linen with clothe napkins and two forks. I had to remind myself to keep breathing, since I recognized the delicate balance of manners, patience, and respect that would ensue. The environment was lovely...beautiful wall hangings, elegant upholstery, carpet, a fireplace, a player piano singing sweetly. Older couples and small groups of ladies were quietly eating their meal and turned their heads to take us in visually. We soon made our presence known audibly, too. Greta decided to test her lungs by seemingly YELLING to us about her numerous observations and desires. So also quickly picked up her utensils and starting beating them together. She then decided to give both of them a pitch as another hostess swooped in to rescue them from the floor. You could almost hear the TISK TISKING as she gave me a glance that spoke of my inability to control my children. Sadie was afloat with questions including "Why do we have two forks? What are these towels for? What are these cups with handles and plates underneath?" Delightful. In the meantime, Asher was in the middle of pushing out some poops and his brute grunts certainly added to the ambiance.

We all chose the breakfast buffet, which was quiet tasty. It featured eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, and friend potatoes. Plus, we even enjoyed Boston creme pie for dessert! The food was splendid, really. We managed to enjoy ourselves, albeit leaving eggs on the carpet, peaches that Asher spit at me on the tablecloth, and a half-used ketchup container.

And yes...many folks came up to us and commented how wonderful it was to see a family. (Did we have someone who lived there that we were visiting? Uh, no.) They thought that Asher was adorable and that we certainly did enjoy our children. So, in the end, a little rowdiness, a slight change of pace for Fireside Grill was a good thing. Bring in some youthful energy, some exuberant voices, provocative question, a pooping professional, and these older folks were just reconnected with themselves from yesteryear. We left, thankful that we didn't have to cook and clean up lunch at our house and happy with the entire experience. We stuck out from the crowd and didn't fit the expected demographic nor behavior. We walked away, satisfied and ready to apply this lesson of nontraditionalness to future situations. Our family is called to be different, and we love it. And yes, we'll return for another visit to Fireside Grille. I have another gift card tucked into my coupon file for a future Sunday when Mama just can't muster up the gumption to cook. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Peace. Quiet. Different.

Since July 20, my girls have been spending overnight and all-day quality time with their grandparents. As Bud and I drove away that fateful evening with only one car seat occupied, we both turned to each other with knowing glances. Yes, we missed them almost instantly!

So, after Bud goes to work, it's just me and Asher. His bright eyes and spiky hair are oh-so amusing. It's been fun carrying him around the house, talking and singing with him, and simply being silly together. Yet, strange as it may sound, the house is too quiet. I haven't had the opportunity to listening to whining, to wipe a wanna-be-toilet trained bottom, to break up a sisterly-love fight, or to cut up anyone's food. There were no lost toys, crayoned cushions, or fingerprints on my freshly Basic H wiped glass.

What have you done with yourself, Heather? How have you spent these delightful days of 2/3 less responsibility? :) Well, the Super Structured Mama would have created a detailed 20 point list of massive projects to conquer. And then, when I only finished 19 of them, I would have sulked about the one that got away, annoyed with my lack of skill, energy, or zest to complete the whole shebang. So, I took the slightly less anal approach and just did what came into my head. Thus, I've done some scrap booking, prep for my college courses, prep for a new psychological assessment case, laundry, cooking recipes the girls would never eat, and packing for our vacation. I've also helped to organize a party, got a hair cut, ate lunch out at Arby's and Chick-Fil-A using FREE coupons, baby-sat a friend's 3 girls, had a major heart-to-heart encouragement session with a friend, watched some 24 (Season 6) with my husband, cheered him on at a softball game, and read a few chapters about what makes good professors great. Plus, I cleaned the entire house, finished paperwork for childcare, AND got Asher's 6-month portrait taken. And it's only Wednesday! The girls return on Friday evening.

Suffice it to say, I've also learned a lot about myself. I realize that I am just a nicer person when I'm not stressed. It is very difficult to reiterate the SAME message over and over again during the day. Above all, I want my children to know that love is always the best choice. We work on practical ways offer love to one another like sharing, letting others choose first, giving others the benefit of the doubt, using kind words and gentle touches. I want them to prefer other people's desires and wants over their own...not it a martyr-filled sense of humility yet in a way that honors others. I want my children's hearts to leap when other people win a game, get a new toy, or have an experience that they haven't yet. Maybe that's idealistic, yet I know that these lessons are FAR harder to learn when they become adolescents or even adults. Still, some says it feels like I'm beating my head against the wall. Will my intervention (i.e. the 8th time today for the same issue) ever truly make it from their ears to their hearts and then come back through their hands and tongues? If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, then I feel like I am losing it! YET...the one thing that keeps me going is that I am shaping these precious ones for the Lord. In my weakness (and there's an awful lot of it lately!), His power is made perfect. When I am at the end of my rope, the Lord will give me the mercy and grace to continue. Breath prayers (e.g. HELP ME! I NEED YOU! PLEASE, LORD!) are continually being offered up as I go about my day. He is my life-line, my refuge, and the one who lifts my chin off the floor when I am the one who wants to have a tantrum.

Given this physical and mental space to clear the air, I have gained perspective. For those of you who know we well, you have permission to remind me about this perspective-giving when I am in the thick of frustration. It's good to breath and remember to savor the otherwise mundane tasks that really do have an eternal impact. For all of you weary parents, grandparents, or caregivers out there, press on! Your life lived in honesty and love is making a deep, lasting impact on generations.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Top 10 Things I Love About Being a Mom

If you know me well, you have undoubtedly been exposed to my TOP 10 list creations. As a way to honor David Letterman, a high school friend Scott Wible, and to interject humor (albeit in an organized fashion!) into life, I create these usually silly lists. This one has been marinating in my brain juice for about a week.

10. Before I became a mom, I became a wife. Getting married to Bud had added such joy, richness, and blessing to my life...and dare I say his?! :) He and I are life-long parenting partners. Life would be boring without him as my steady confidante and encourager.

9. Changing diapers. Yes, honestly, I do like to change diapers. (Although that doesn't mean that I'll never hand off the activity to someone else.) It offers uninterrupted fun time to give tickles, zerberts, and rubs to those sweetly soft baby parts. And no, I don't like what fills the diapers. It's all about the process.

8. Getting referred to by my children and their friends as MOMMY, MAMA, or whatever they can yell with great enthusiasm to get my attention.

7. Surprising them with "special treats." When I give them something (tangible or intangible) they weren't expecting or do something that knocks their socks off, they give me a look of total glee.

6. Watching them tackle new feats. From writing their name to hopping on one foot to singing a song, every day is full of wonder and awe as they take on challenges and keep trying. I get to be their biggest fan and cheerleader. (Heinz Kohut principle here, all you psychologists!)

5. Seeing them soar to new heights with the Lord. I am thrilled to be one of the first to hear about their dreams, how they see angels, speak in tongues, or hear what Jesus told them in time out! I have the huge, joyful job of cultivating an atmosphere of love and worship in our home.

4. Tucking them in at night. Yes, it does (usually, although not always) signal the final time I'll see their peepers until morning. The rituals (baths, brushing teeth, songs, books, prayers, choosing stuffed animals, hugs and kisses) are comforting and familiar. Plus, they are usually starting to gloss over and will lay still enough for me to get close to them for some snuggling.

3. That leads in beautifully to my next addition- SNUGGLING or SCHOODLING! How great is it when my precious ones bury their heads in my chest or shoulder and just lay there quietly. I get to rub their back, play with their hair, stroke their cheek, smell their unique scent, and feel their heart beat. We are warm and safe together.

2. Playing. I love to play with my kids...doing art, reading, picking berries, cooking, getting checked out with the doctor's kit, dancing, rolling down hills, building, climbing, splashing, or whatever. As long as I have the energy, my heart is with them.

1. The BEST thing about being a Mom is hearing their laughter. From giggles to deep belly laughs, it is my honor to know exactly what makes each of my children belt out squeals of delight. I will NEVER, EVER tire of hearing them laugh!

When People Know What They Need or Want

One of my major pet peeves is the use of the word WHATEVER. It just makes me want to scream! Ah yes, I've caught myself uttering this word of desolate nothingness and berated my own self for acting with such nonchalance. I mean, come on! As long as you have breath, make it count for something. Have an opinion, make a statement, express your desire. Don't melt so much into someone else or into someone that you aren't that you mind can't even connect with your mouth enough to verbalize something half-way meaningful.

On the flip side, I am elated when people know what they want or need. For instance, my 5-year-old daughter no longer takes naps. Instead, she is loosely required to rest (i.e. be quiet and laying horizontal) for 30 minutes daily. This gives her little mouth a chance to cool off and Mama's ears time enough to listen to the sound of silence. So, I was starting to clean up from lunch today, when she started prepping herself for said quiet time. She collected some books and brought an afghan to the couch. I stepped outside to clean up some water toys and to swing my infant son for about 10 minutes. When I returned inside, lo and behold was a SLEEPING little girl all snuggled under the blanket. It was a phenomenal sight! I was so pleased that she simply decided that she was tired, would lay down (without being told, mind you!), and that her little eyes would shut. No fights, no debates, no hassles. I have now had a full hour of church-mouse quiet in our town house.

I should take a lesson. Usually what I want is costly. Yes, sometimes financially, yet mostly in terms of time or energy or a learning curve. If I do one thing, I can't do something else. If only I could be superhuman and do two things (folding laundry and napping, reading a psych textbook and organizing our vacation meals, emailing and cooking dinner) or more. I choose one thing and get annoyed that I can't do more or buy more or whatever. If knowing what I want or need and doing it spells confidence, then compromising is all about whining and associated nastiness. Then, of course, I don't want to get into any performance traps and focus on accomplishing while sacrificing the loveliness of being. Goals are often overrated.

Lest I get ahead of myself...I am grateful that my daughter is STILL asleep. YOU GO GIRL!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friends and Family

Without a doubt, I am blessed with some of the best friends and family in the world! (And I truly think that Bud is a stellar, unique gem of a husband and best friend as well!) I have the privilege of watching you, talking with you, and living shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we walk out our lives. You bless me with your honesty, your correction, your generosity, your humor, your wisdom, and your perseverance! When I am down, you pick me up. When I am flying high, you join me. My life is better because you halve the sorrow and double the joy. The best things in life truly are free!

Confessions

Just wanted to apologize for not starting this blog thing sooner. While I'm not even remotely "techy", I finally verbalized today the exact reason why I put this off for so long. Truth be told, I thought that each blog entry had to be brilliant, publishable, or exceedingly excellent. Maybe it was my perfectionistic self rearing its ugly head, yet I duped myself into thinking that nothing I had to say would be helpful, useful, or even remotely interesting. Thus, no one would read it. Or, if they did read it, the judging laughter would reverberate around the world, offering me a plate full of shame. My delusions of anti-grandeur! So, I readily admit that I was wrong. I'm simply being a steward of the wisdom, knowledge, and experience that's been offered to me. May you find it encouraging! And remember to give yourself permission to slack off, be goofy, or veg too! Being is often so much harder than doing. :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Power of IF

Have you ever caught yourself travelling pitifully to the land of IF ONLY? I caught myself today, much faster than usual...avoiding any additional preparations for a self-pity party. It was a relatively typical (yet thankfully they frequently last for brief moments) scene at our house. You know, the kind where everyone needs you. Your attention is commanded by another, your blood sugar is dropping, you are nearly doing a split from the phone to the fridge, and your ears have had their limit of screeching decibels. All of my children were either whining or crying, my cats were on the counters, I had fed everyone else yet remained calorically-challenged myself, AND I was attempting to have a serious phone conversation with my cousin. Not to mention that my 6-month-old son was finger painting with pureed carrots that were dribbling from his sweet pudgy cheeks, my middle child had just taken off her soiled diaper, and my eldest decided to practice for the Olympic springboard diving competition on our couch.

For a brief moment, I let myself contend with a few IF ONLY. If only I was working full-time, I wouldn't have to deal with this. If only I was a better mother. If only my children would just grow up. If only my husband would come rescue me! Then, I realized that I was wishing away the present to replace it with a no-guarantee future. I was hoping that time would go faster than it does. I was negating the importance of the here-and-now. I was effectively wiping out the powerful impact I could have in this chaos. I was setting myself up for defeat.

This, of course, ties in with simply being content with who I am, with what I have, and with what I'm doing RIGHT NOW. Mind you, there are some things (injustice, abuse, disease, and all of the related social -isms etc.) that should never be tolerated. Nor am I advocating a "roll over and play dead" to reality position. There's no sense going through life with bland complacency. Be passionate! Get excited about what you believe in and what you do! Peace (and maybe even increased faith) comes, however, when we are able to remain in the moment and refuse to allow our senses to be enticed by that which is not ours- be it an object, a role, another person, a fantasy, or even a calling or gifting. We are rooted and sure of exactly who are called to be and what we are called to do at any given moment. We stop the cycle of doing what we don't want to do and not doing what we do want to do. (Thank you, Apostle Paul!)

All right, I feel much better now. :) Back to my life after this blog siesta!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Go Jack Bauer!

I confess that I'm hooked on the Fox TV series "24." Honestly, I'm not much for prime time television. Sitcoms are rather frustrating, usually posing way too much verbal garbage and sexual suggestion for me. Comedies just aren't appealing either since I basically detest animation and get plenty of laughter from real-life sources. So, it has to be a drama or crime who-dun-it fix the world in 40 minutes style to capture my attention. Time is simply too precious to waste on anything mindless. I either need to weep with sadness/compassion/joy OR be so moved as to nearly yell at my set. In essence, the emotional centers of my brain MUST be activated or I'm off the couch.

Kiefer Sutherland's executively produced series "24" moves me. There is about 42 minutes of heart-throbbing intensity. Bud and I were hooked starting in January 2007 (Thank You, Perrys!) during the 6th season. Then, with the writers' strike in spring, "24" was cancelled altogether. Thus, Bud and I have had time to watch (in rapid succession) each series on loan from a fellow junkie. I use that term very loosely. We often sit down and realize that, like a good bag of chips, you can't watch/eat just one!

I must reflect on just WHY this show draws me into its claws. So, here goes.

1. From the first episode, I realized that I don't breathe normally. It's as if opiates are released in my brain and the fight or flight response is activated. The scientist in me wants to check biofeedback indicators during viewing. No doubt blood pressure increases, pupils dilate, breath rate increases, and pores open. YIKES! I can consume more calories when I watch the show because it's like I exercised without moving. LOL (And yes, I really did just laugh out loud.)

2. The show is unpredictably predictable. There are almost always 4 minutes and 24 seconds of commercials during each break. I know this because Bud and I figured it out as the ticking digital clock counts up in real time.

3. You never know who you can trust. The people you love to hate or who are just awkward are the ones you are cheering for later on and vice versa. It is a relational roller coaster.

4. The characters are faced with impossible situations. And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. Maybe that just makes me see how pathetically small my problems truly are. So, perhaps "24" offers self-therapy.

5. I secretly want to create a college course based on this series. It would address such issues as ethics, the problem of evil, motivation, decision making, loyalty to authority, and use/misuse of power. If anyone knows of such a course, let me know.

6. This show is full of all of the technical gadgets that I'll never have/use. A cell phone, in my opinion, is to make and receive calls. I've only recently used our phone to take photos. And text messaging just pains me! Checking email is NOT something I want to do on my cell phone. So, I feel "up to date" technologically because "24" uses all of the most specialized knowledge and use of computers. I am simply not that smart.

7. There are definitely spiritual underpinnings to this show, and it speaks to issues of hope, obedience, underlying goals or purpose, resurrection, and sacrifice. Maybe a sermon series could come from it.

8. A particular lingo comes from this show. Phrases or words like "patch me though", "clearance", "protocol", "division", "socket", and many more take on new meaning. Bud and I can never name any children Alan York or Nina or Chloe or Kim or Audrey. When we see President David Palmer doing a Nationwide commercial, we just smile.

I'll be adding to this list, I'm certain. For now, we have 4 more episodes to watch to complete Season 5. We are planning a party for the "24" movie that will air in the fall.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Transparency

Have you ever heard the audible voice of God? Have you ever felt as if the Lord was speaking directly to you...through your senses or via someone else? Last night, Lance Wallnau was the speaker at Christ Community Church, where our family calls home. Call me selfish or arrogant, yet it seems that the Lord was definitely out to encourage me with Lance's message. I just sat there (hopefully my mouth was closed enough that the drool was evident to anyone else), licking my chops, marveling at how his words were so apropos to my stage of life. Thus, I've decided to share my notes. NOTE: This brilliance and wisdom is not mine. Visit http://www.lancelearning.com for more details.

Change alters the future. Change occurs in a moment, although transition is a process. Change is permanent transition into something that is a new reality. Transition changes potentiality into actuality. What could happen does! What could be is! When we undergo change orchestrated by the Lord, we will ultimately look, ac, and think differently. My internal dialogue will be changed. We change from glory to glory in an upward spiral. Thus, we must hold a cup full of blessing with patience and a steady hand.

God works to expand my heart and mind to deal with a new level of anointing. I will be tempted by Satan in the midst of this change process and must engage in warfare regarding three areas: desire for pleasure (lust of the eyes), desire for power (lust of the flesh), and pre-eminence (pride). Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness in these same three areas. He started this temptation by being full of the Holy Spirit, yet ended the dialogue by also being full of POWER.

Jesus overcame temptation by rooting His identity in the Word of God and by receiving affirmation from the Father. He was fully human AND fully God, so he didn't simply tell Satan to bug off! We have these same tools as our disposal as well! In essence, we wrestle with a power (temptation, lies, deception, etc. from Satan) that we are going to dispossess. There is no agreement in heave with Satan's accusations against us! We are who God says we are...beloved, beautiful, His friends, ransomed, chosen, dear, anointed, blessed, free, sealed, redeemed. None of the junk Satan tries to put in front of our faces and deposit into our brains is true NOR will it stick UNLESS we give it permission to stay there. The battle for the mind is huge.

Well, I could go on and on. Can you tell that this really connects with me and fuels my passion to see everyone I know walk in freedom with the Lord? Oh how this connects to mental health and emotional healing, too. Let me know...what do you think about this? Let's talk more. :)

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Every now and then, one of my children says or does something that causes me to pause. (This is different from the nearly constant ability of my children to make me laugh. Laughter is a flows freely at our house, bubbling from a spring of joy that my children drink from frequently.) Mind you, sitting still or just being still does not come easy for me. I've never found the formula for turning off my brain. If psychological research says that we process 1500 words per minute, I can only guess that my brain should probably get a ticket for speeding.

So, let me paint the scenario for you. I was eating dinner with the three children since my husband had already left for the night. He came home from work, spent 20 minutes with us, and then whisked himself to a church-league softball game. Thus, I am a softball widow for one or two nights per week. Alas, the quality time he gets with "the guys" is well worth the sacrifice. The phone rang, and I answered it. What followed was a brief exchange with a softball team member named Scott. I hung up the phone, returned to the table, and was greeted by my daughter's inquisitive stare. She asked me who was on the phone, and I told me. Then, with complete sincerity of tone and innocence of motivation, she inquired: "Mommy, do you know everything?" For just a slight moment, I was the inkling to respond with an authoritative YES and hope that she wouldn't figure out the truth until well into her adolescent years. However, I knew better that to dupe this child with my diatribes of wisdom. So, I swallowed down my pride (or was that my lasagna?) and dropped my chin. My head shook as I let out a breathy, "No, honey. Mommy has a lot of learn." Without missing a beat, her eager eyes again met mine. "That's okay, Mommy. I know that you make mistakes sometimes. The only person who really knows everything is Jesus. I still love you." With that, my eyes started getting teary and I quickly realized that my work on this topic was done. Besides, I had to figure out how to get my son's hands out of his mouth in order to get oatmeal cereal in there instead. So, our theological dinner conversation had ended, and a mother's ego was tucked in with the blanket of humility and love.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Commencement

Well, the adventure begins! I've thought about starting to blog for over a year, yet it seemed almost silly when there wasn't anything BIG or extremely IMPORTANT to write about. After inquiring about the logistical details of this endeavor, I've decided to go for it since there IS a particular topic of interest now. This blog, quite truthfully, is for me to record my thoughts and feelings and (hopefully!) encourage others who may be in a similar stage of life now or in the future. Let me start at the beginning in a nutshell.

Ever since I was about 6 years old, I had the dream of obtaining a doctorate degree. In first grade, I was certain that I would become a "Dr." in paleontology. Yet, I quickly realized that I didn't want to spend years in the solitary, hot sun of Mongolia or Montana. Plus, the Lord deposited specific relational gifts in me that were especially prominent and useful in high school. Thus, I pursued a psychology major at Messiah College and eventually realized my dream at Wheaton College with a doctorate degree in clinical psychology at 2005. Needless to say, I love being a student and all of the stress and opportunity that comes with it. My husband, though, has jokingly barred me from even entertaining the thought of getting another degree. (Maybe that could be a birthday present to myself when I turn 50.)

After finishing my postdoctoral internship at Philhaven in Mt. Gretna in August 2006, I was ready to sit for the licensing exam for psychologists in Pennsylvania. Yet a more pressing concern consumed my heart and mind. By now, I had two little girls who I just couldn't imagine leaving each morning as I traipsed out the door to my professional life. Motherhood was calling me, almost screaming at me, and I was overjoyed to answer with a resounding YES, I'LL DO IT. Following vast amounts of prayer, number crunching, tears of grief and joy, and encouragement from friends and family, Bud and I decided that I would stay at home full-time in late August 2006. It took some getting used to, for sure. So, we were faced with paying my educational loans as well as the rest of our family's bills with only one income. Difficult, yes, Stressful, yes. Worth it, you bet...every minute.

To say that I am at home full-time is a misnomer, though. In addition to caring for my three children (ages 5, 2, and 6 months currently), cooking, cleaning, and managing the logistical details of appointments and needs/wants, I'm quite active outside of our house. Over the past 2 years, I've been anything but bored. (That word is seriously not a part of my vocabulary and is basically banned from my children' s mouths as well!) I've been an adjunct instructor at Messiah College, have spoken or presented at various community seminars, taught preschool dance, read manuscripts for a publishing company, and been active with our church in VBS, Moms in Action, Life Groups, and children's ministry. Gee...I'm getting tired just writing all of this stuff. Plus, I savor time alone with Bud (my best friend) and go out often with friends and college roomies for "girl time." Plus, as an only child, I am close to my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My identity is multi-faceted and is in no way defined by any particular role.

All of that history brings me to the current HUGE change in our family. On August 20, I'll begin orientation for a faculty position at Messiah College in the psychology department. What a huge honor and privilege to work with such quality colleagues and students! However, this presents another major shift for our family in terms of childcare, new responsibilities, logistical details, our family calendar, and emotional/physical energy channeling. Plus, we are hoping to purchase a new house in the next year AND my elder daughter will start full-day kindergarten on August 25. Thus, change is a constant for us...ever evolving from glory to glory on this wild ride that the Lord has for us!