When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle

When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle
My absolute least favorite Christian catch-phrase has to be “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Does anyone actually think it is true? I mean, if you are willing to spout that nonsense to someone, you surely must’ve not encountered much turmoil in your life. 
Let’s consider for just a moment that the phrase is true. Would stating it to someone in the middle of a scary diagnosis, a sick child, an ugly divorce (or anything else for that matter) make them feel better? I sincerely doubt it. Even worse, could it cause them to waiver in their faith? I can almost hear the voices in their head saying things like, “I don’t feel like I can handle this, so what’s wrong with me? Maybe God really isn't good.” I’m imploring you to stop repeating this phrase in times of trouble. Strike it from your vocabulary altogether.
I believe that God often allows things to continue in our lives for our own good. Oh, don’t mishear me. God didn’t make your child ill, make your spouse fall out of love, or give you a scary medical diagnosis. God is good. Period. All of the aforementioned things are a result of a fallen world, our sin nature, and continual litany of terrible choices. 
Genesis chapter three tells us that when God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He told Adam he would toil all the days of his life. Eve was told that she would suffer in childbirth. (I don’t know about you ladies out there, but I have a little bone to pick with her when I meet her on the other side of the veil over that one.) Life was going to be full of challenges as a result of their choice to disobey God and sin.
When God kicked them out, it was for their own good. No. Really. Stick with me here because it’s about to get good. 
What was in the middle of the Garden of Eden? Two trees, right? One was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The other was the Tree of Life. God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden after their eyes were opened to good and evil. Why would He do that? I think He did it out of great love for them. If they would have then eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have been forever separated from God. His great love for them caused Him to banish them from the garden and remove the temptation. I don’t know about you, but that is both deeply reassuring and deeply troubling.
With that background, let’s go back to “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” In the case of Adam and Eve (and the entire start of this fallen world we live in) God absolutely handed it out to them. Things snowballed from there. If you are a woman who has birthed a baby, you know a little about pain you don’t think you can bear. If you have lost a loved one, you likely know about a heartbreak that felt like more than you can bear. We, as humans, know turmoil and pain.
How we deal with that pain makes all the difference in the world. Do we grumble, curse, and shake our fist at the sky? If we are being honest, yes, yes we do. Anyone that says they don’t is either Jesus or a liar. But what about after the initial anger/sadness/despair/heartache passes and we settle into the dull ache? What do we do when there is no end in sight to the situation? What do we do when the crisis is really over, but we are left with pieces of our heart missing? What do we do when we are certain that we’ve either reached the end of our rope or discovered that it’s actually a noose?
What we do next is everything. What we do next is the whole reason I brought up this topic. We have two choices in this space. We can turn our back on God and say, “Since I am suffering without release, there must be no God or at least no loving God.” Or, we can lean in, listen to that still, small voice and trust. 
My priest posted a status update on Facebook that has caused me to ponder these things this week. Father Stavros said, “Faith is not about finding the reasons for the bad things that happen to people. Faith is when we continue walking even when we can’t find a reason.”
I’ve had worse weeks than this one for sure, but the stress is there this week just the same. My husband had to make an emergency trip to Ohio and his father passed away (not unexpectedly) Friday evening. A couple of my kids are going through some challenges that Mama can’t swoop in and fix anymore. (Bigger kids = bigger issues…..I’d give just about anything to be bandaging scraped knees again!) Our house is going on the market this coming week. Life is busy and full and there are heartaches. Nothing unexpected or even unusual…..just….STUFF. 
All this “stuff” is absolutely more than I can handle. It is. God in His infinite wisdom knows that I’m woefully unequipped to handle all that is being thrown at me. He also knows that NOTHING is too much for Him.
The real statement that we could gently (that word is very important….don’t miss it!) be making to folks as we love on them and minister to them is this:
God will never give you more than you and He can handle together.
We aren’t meant to deal with things alone. Far from it. We are meant to love God and trust Him to walk us through every single challenge we face. When we do just that we find that no matter the outcome of our trial, He is still good and faithful. Our trials are for our sanctification. That is worth believing!

New House vs. Rhino Butt

New House vs. Rhino Butt
            When I think of things that cause me to say things like, “I would rather eat the butt out of a dead rhino,” selling a house makes the list. Oh, yes, I actually typed that phrase. No, it’s not exactly phrasing you’d use in polite company. But, then, a whole lotta people don’t consider me to be polite company, so there is that. And, it makes it clear how I feel, right? Furthermore, my dear husband introduced me to the phrase, so it’s really his fault anyway.
            Back to the reason I am bringing it up. When Clay and I moved to Florida, we had a very narrow range of areas in which to consider a house. We had a daughter heading in one direction for school. Clay’s job was in the totally opposite direction. The two places were roughly 90 minutes apart. So, we tried to split the difference.
            “Why not rent?” you might say. A lovely idea that would have saved us a fair amount of pain in the long run. However, if you are a landlord, you might understand our hesitation. We moved to Florida with eight people and three pets. Adding to the complication was the fact that one of those people was my mother. She needed her own space. We needed her to have her own space. Even if that hadn’t been the case, finding a landlord open to eight people and three pets would have been a challenge. A cursory look at rentals told me that we would pay far more for a place that would house all of us.
            Buying was our option. After laying out a map, we drew a circle around a fairly small area in which to consider houses. Then, we narrowed the list by five bedrooms or more. It left us with…..drum roll, please……SEVEN HOUSES. Yeah. Seven.
             Clay was already in Florida. He had been staying in an Air BNB while job-hunting and ultimately as he started his job. The rest of us were in Illinois finishing out the school year and selling our amazing 5000 square foot home on not quite two acres on a cul-de-sac with only three houses and sunsets that would rival any I ever saw in Hawaii. (You might be able to tell from that last description that we kinda liked that house. We did not, however, like 30 degrees below zero and crappy hockey. Everything is a trade-off, right?)
            After looking at the seven houses, he picked one. It’s in a gated community. Five bedrooms, three baths with a lovely view of a conservation area. The house sits at the end of the road leading to the clubhouse. Our house in Illinois had a pool and the kids had spent copious amounts of time in that pool. I, however, had spent far too much money, energy, and tears on its upkeep. Having access to the community pool was a perfect tradeoff. It was a wonderfully perfect house for our situation.

            But, situations change. Our daughter chose to not attend the aforementioned school. Clay’s commute is challenging. Perhaps at different times of day it would be better, and loads of people do it. However, between you, me, and the fencepost…..he’s getting a little grouchy about it. We’ve been looking for a new location casually for some time.
            A few weeks ago we started driving around and checking things out. He had found a new construction community online and wanted to “just drive by.” You know where I’m going, right? The model “just happened” to be open. It was my idea to walk in and check it out. I sauntered in, walked down the hall past an office, bedroom, bathroom and turned the corner. I immediately knew this would be my house. Oh, not the model, but I’d be building one. 

            I don’t know what you think about the Law of Attraction, but let me tell you something. That kitchen was the kitchen I’d had in my mind for years. The island, ya’ll. THE ISLAND. For the last couple of years, when I've gone to Young Living’s convention, my bestie Heidi and I have stayed in a house with a giant island. Here is what I know about a giant island. ALL the action happens at the island. The cooking, the drinking of the wine, the best conversations. It all happens there. I knew that I wanted a giant island in my dream house.

            I wanted an island that would seat all my babies. I wanted a living room that was all open to the kitchen. I wanted the dining room to fit a giant table. Friends, I looked at this space and knew…..it’s the room where it happens. 
            Clay took us there sneakily, I think. It worked better than he had hoped. We poured over floor plans and played with the online floorplans. But it was the model plan all along. Now, we are all set up and ready to build our house and enjoy that 1.25 acre lot. OH ARE WE READY.
            But, we have to sell our house. That’s why you might want to handle me with kid gloves over the next few weeks. I’m knee-deep in decluttering and cleaning and pretending like we are neat, orderly people. We are not. 
            It’ll all be worth it in about 8 months. Keep reminding me of that, okay? Anyone want a nice house in Florida? It’s a short walk to the pool!

A Great Day

A Great Day
Today was a great day. I took 3/5 of my kids to Orlando. We spent an obscene amount of money eating at Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse. Have you been? My friend, Jean, introduced me to this chain in Scottsdale, AZ about three years ago. I’ve now been to three different Brazilian Steakhouses and none compare to this one. 
If you haven’t been, oh my word. Find one. Plan it. You will NOT regret it. Matthew and I have started a little fun tradition that it’s simply always his birthday when we go. Today he turned twenty. Ha. I know it seems childish and silly, but you know what? I bet it’s being etched in his memory. That’s a good enough reason for me to do it! Make memories with your kids. The silliest things will become great memories for them!

After we ate our weight in meat, we spent a couple groupon vouchers at a 7D gaming location. We shot zombies and creepy circus clowns. Wren is a serious competitor and left the facility with a nasty blister on her nub. For the record, there was clearly something wrong with my gun because I’m stupid good at shooting games. There is NO CONCEIVABLE WAY that I finished last in both games! 
Included in our groupon was a picture of us playing during the game. I wore a dress and there was wind and a lot of crazy movement. Can I just say that there were times that the photograph could have been taken that I would have been semi-pornographic? I was thankful that we were the only ones playing and the photograph did not reveal my undies!

We rode the sky wheel (a GIANT ferris wheel that goes high enough to see both Kennedy Space Center and the ball at Epcot) and watched Matthew get totally freaked out by the height. To be fair, it was really scary high. Hogwarts and Cinderella’s castle stacked on top of each other high. We were only about 1/3 of the way up with Matthew started to lose his shiz. Wren, however, has zero fear, which is somehow even scarier than a kid that has enough sense to be terrified of heights.
The area of Orlando we were in was new to us. We saw lots of other cool things we would like to do. Madame Toussand’s, an aquarium, pirate miniature golf, and the Shake Shack were just a few of the things that we will return to experience. We saw a man who was either a member of the Orlando Magic team or was tall enough to be. I mean, seriously……he was creepy huge.

I’ve been re-evaluating the seven F’s of OOLA since becoming a coach. The truth is, I totally suck at Fun, Finance, and Fitness. I might’ve taken a step in the wrong direction for finance today because I spent a lot on that lunch. But I took a step in the right direction for Fun. We had a great day. A truly great day. A nothing-particularly-special kind of day, but a day to remember because we were happy, the sun was shining, and we were together.
There were so many laughs. There were pictures with real smiles. The lunch was incredible. It was the third birthday Matthew has celebrated this year. 

Another bonus? I’m in charge of the next getaway weekend that Clay and I take every 6-8 weeks. I found a new place to go with loads of fun things for us to do! Shhhhh…..don’t tell him! I can’t wait to surprise him with a brand new location and brand new activities! If you aren’t actively working on your marriage, you are passively working on your divorce. Take that advice seriously. Seriously.
How about you? What constitutes an incredible day for you? Who is involved? Are you like me? Do you typically just do the same garbage over and over? What would life look like if you broke out of the ordinary? 

Not sure how to do something different? I literally just looked at the Groupon app and searched for activities in my area! I was just trying to get inspiration for something an 18, 14, and 11 year old might all like. And you know what? The day was nearly perfect. Go have yourself a day with people you love. They will be so thankful and you just might make a memory!

Catfish Blessings

Catfish Blessings
Saturday night my boys decided to go night fishing with a friend. They have been so good this entire quarantine. In Florida, we are in an extended opening plan. Fishing is open. Beaches are open with social distancing. And my boys have been patient. Oh. So. Patient. 
So, off they went with my blessing, and I was happy to see them go. I don’t know what your house has looked like for the past few weeks, but I can tell you unashamedly that my house has had far too much screen time. Y'all, I hate screen time. If it’s not a hockey game, I don’t think a screen should be on at all. Do I have movies I like? SURE I DO! But, I could seriously live my life never watching another one and be just fine. My thoughts on Lightning hockey are probably worth a separate blog post, though. Those aren’t optional. But I digress.
My big guy is a great kid, if I do say so myself. I remember reading stories of Mamas who stay up until their kids are all home. I am not that Mama. At least not with this kid. He’s trustworthy and has a great head on his shoulders. I found myself drifting off to sleep around 10:30. I looked at Life 360 (I’m not completely hands off, after all) and noted the location of my boys. I texted him and told him to wake me up when he got home. I fell asleep without worry.
Around 11:30 my phone rang. I had the ringer set to “wake the dead and/or peel yourself off the ceiling.” OOPH. As I answered I had plenty of adrenalin going and even if I didn’t have the ringer set as such, I would have been wired. My guy NEVER calls without a reason, so I knew there was something wrong. 
“Mama, I just got barbed by a catfish.”
“Um. So?”
“Mama, they are wicked poisonous.”
“WHAT? Noooooo”
“Yeah, and the smaller they are the worse it is. It was tiny.”
“Now what?”
“I think I have to go to the hospital.”
“I gotta go.” Click.
Now, I’m AWAKE. I texted him and said to let me know what hospital. I dressed in record time and hopped in the car and sped off toward Tampa. I was about thirty minutes away. Of course, in light of the current crisis, I got to stand in the parking lot with his friend and my youngest boy rather than be in the room with him. We had a great time, to be honest. His friend is pretty awesome and took great care of my younger son in addition to driving to the hospital.
The big guy texted his Mama quite often for reassurance. He had to wear a mask, of course, but he still spoke his mind about masks lowering immunity. He had an x-ray. He got talked into a tetanus shot, but not without giving the nurse a run for her money. He was fortunate that the barb didn’t stay in his finger. Had he not gone in or had the barb stayed in, it could’ve developed into gangrene and in the worse cases, amputation of his pinky. 
All in all, this was a pretty easy experience. Scary? Sure. More inconvenient than the average ER trip? Of course. But. There were unexpected blessings. Tons of them.
He has a great story to tell. He, his friend, and brother have now bonded over a shared experience. He learned something new. He got to experience handling a situation himself. We got to discuss what oils should be in his car at all times. We had important conversations about speaking up for what you want and believe in regards to medical care in respectful and firm ways.
He’s about to fly the coop. Next year he’ll be off to college. Yes, his Mama is very happy that it’s just thirty minutes away. But it’s still away. Some lessons just have to be learned through trial and error. I certainly would not have chosen for him to get barbed, but he left feeling empowered. He said, “I thought there was more to it than that. I just handled it.”
Yes, son, you did. And you did great!

The Dumbest Question I’ve Never Been Asked

The Dumbest Question I’ve Never Been Asked
When you have daughters from China, there are a few things you should expect. The thing is, no one really warns you about them. When they are little tiny girls errrrybody is gonna stare. I mean, of course they are staring because these little chicks are cute beyond compare. There is just something irresistible about those little chubby Chinese faces. 
Errrrrrybody is gonna ask questions. One of those is to ask if they are adopted. Let me stop there. If you don’t know me, you might not pause at that last question. But if you do, you know…I’m Casper the Ghost white. I’m also from Nowhere, Ohio where racial diversity is something you read about in books. When I brought my girls home, we were well into our military career and no longer living in the middle of a cornfield. But still.
After awhile I finally caught on. They weren’t asking their real question. What these folks really wanted to know was…Did you marry an Asian? But no one will ask what they really want to know. Does this strike you as odd? It certainly struck me as odd. But people will do crazy things when they know that their curiosity is inappropriate. They will try to ask around their real question.
My favorite response to this question was not mine. My friend adopted a baby from Ethiopia. The questions were intense for her. Picking up her son from the YMCA Kid Watch she was asked, “Oh, does he look like his daddy?” She retorted, “I don’t know. I never met him!” She didn’t even wait to see their jaws hit the floor. That’s spunk, I tell you! 
So many things are wrong with this unasked question. Granted, I brought my second China girl home over nine years ago now. Maybe no one is asking this question anymore. I sure hope so. But my realistic side tells me the questions are persisting. 
The first thing that is wrong with it is, who cares? So what if I did marry an Asian? I thought I dated one once during college. (Turns out he just had weird genetics that gave him small stature and Asian eyes and was SUPER offended when folks thought he was Asian…which is probably a topic for another blog, but I digress.) But really. It’s 2020. It was 2010 when I fetched that second nugget from China. Are people really still caught up on interracial relationships? Why in the world would strangers be interested in passing judgement on the person I selected to spend my life with? PEOPLE. GET OVER IT.
Secondly, why the hell is it anyone’s business who I married? These people were strangers, obviously, not folks who knew me. Folks who knew me, knew my husband. Why would strangers care who I married? It’s just baffling, don’t you think?
Anyway, for some reason I’ve been pondering this lately. Maybe because my babies are growing and I’m spending time lamenting that fact. My littlest China doll is now 11. My oldest daughter (homegrown) is about to turn 20. I’d give just about anything to rewind ten years, but that’s not happening. Luckily the current pandemic has brought all my little baby birds back to the nest. And I’m soaking it up…and reliving some of it mentally.
So, tell me. What’s the dumbest question you have never been asked…..
By the way, stay tuned….I began writing this blog post to share my incredible recipe for Fried Rice, but it sort of took on a life of its own. Be sure to watch for that one! You won’t want to miss it!

Right now the platform for this blog doesn't allow me to respond to comments. They are working on it. I am reading them all, I promise. I want to address the use of the term "China doll." Yes, I am aware of the unintended meaning of this phrase. When I brought those girls home, I had a choice to make. In my mind, China dolls are precious, rare, and priceless. So many words and phrases get taken over and made into something they were never intended to be. I decided not to play that game. No one in their right mind would mean anything beyond "treasured" when using that phrase to describe their daughters. I know that the comment was left to make sure I wasn't misspeaking, but I promise, I know. And I just refuse to give in to the disgusting twisting of beautiful words.