January 24, 2015

Just a wife and mom

I used to think there had to be something more than this. 'Surely,' I thought, 'I've been created for something greater than adding cream of mushroom soup to chopped, cooked chicken. But what? What is my purpose?' (other than the Great Commission, of course, but that is everyone's purpose). The answer came to me quite quickly. Writing. Writing, for me, is like kissing my husband in the kitchen. It is exhilarating, to be sure, and yet it is the most natural thing in the world. So I wrote a novel, loving every painstaking minute of it. My blood ran warmer, my dreams came clearer, and the sun shone brighter. I was more alive than the day I was born. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And with each passing month that no word came from an interested publisher, the picture I had of myself in my mind began to fade around the edges, until I could no longer distinguish its features. Was I an author? Or was I just a wife and mom? I no longer knew. No one was offering me a publishing contract, and because of that it seemed all of my self worth hung in the balance. I checked my email several times a day, halfheartedly attending to my other tasks. I wasn't writing anymore, as I was waiting for someone to confirm that I had talent before going to all the trouble of pouring my heart out again.
Daniel on his rented motorcycle here in Thailand.
But then we came to Thailand for January, as we are accustomed to doing. This is the place where I usually get the most writing done, since the guesthouse provides meals and laundry services. But this time the L0RD whispered, "Don't write," into my heart.  I felt Him urging me, "There will be years and years to write books, Kayla, but Gene is just a few hot showers away from needing to wear deodorant and your youngest doesn't need you between meals, and faster than an author can finish writing a mystery series, these kids will be gone." It was a big thing for G0D to be asking of me, giving up this one thing that keeps me sane. But alas His ways are higher than mine and He can be trusted, and so I told Him I would not write this month. In fact I will not write until further notice, other than this silly blog, of course, which is really more of a gift to my kids than anything else. So instead of plunking away at the computer while the kids play, I will be playing right along with them.
Eugene and his new glasses, which he refuses to wear. He says he doesn't feel like himself. If he only knew how handsome he looks!
Because you see, it doesn't matter that no one has offered me a publishing contract. Someone much more important offered me a diamond ring 13 years ago, and his are still the furry forearms I depend on to guide me through the doors of life. And every day, it seems, someone offers me a crayon drawing, or a drooping flower for my hair. I am offered handmade bracelets, faulty in the middle and too small for my wrist. Funny-colored pot holders like the ones I used to make for my own mom (and those were the only pot holders she ever used). Hugs around the middle, bleeding knees, peanut butter kisses on the mouth...all offered to me. Only me. Lucky me. And so it would seem I have come full circle, losing myself, and then finding myself again, in the daily miracle of being just a wife and mom.

January 12, 2015

Staying married for the full 8 seconds

Dad "bull-riding" at a rodeo in Texas last week. Pure awesomeness.
I have a special diet. This is tricky when we travel, especially to places where I won't be having my own kitchen. Right now we are at a guest house in Thailand, which has always felt like a second home to me. But on our first morning here, I got my heart broken by the management when they bawled me out for writing a "bloody rude" email about what I can and can not eat. I ended up running from the dining hall in tears.

After coming out to comfort me, Daniel went back to finish feeding the kids their breakfast, and so there I was, alone in our cabin, where I cried without consolation. I realized my heart was broken because I felt so completely unknown, so I decided I needed to call the two people in this world who know me the best.

My parents.

The Facetime call rang and rang, and for a moment I thought maybe they wouldn't or couldn't pick up. But then they did, and there they were, their smiling faces crammed together into the camera shot on Mom's iPhone. The backdrop behind them was the color of dust and filled with the sound of blaring country music.

"Hi Honey!" they hollered over the noise. "We're at a rodeo in Texas with Denny and Laura."

"Hi!" I said. I tried to smile but my swollen face and quivering lip betrayed me.

"Honey, are you okay?" They both leaned in closer to the camera, looks of concern on both of their brows.

"I'm okay," I said, and then the tears started to flow again, along with the whole story.

"I'd like to get my hands on them," Mom said lovingly when my story was through. Only moms can say stuff like that and sound loving.

"If they only knew your heart, Honey," Dad said, his voice deep and even. A constant.

We talked a little more and then I let them go, and Mom sent me the above pic a minute later to lift my spirits. It is a perfect picture of Dad because my parents, like most married people, had a rough go of it there for while. But Mom and Dad refused to give up on each other. They hung on, white knuckles and all, for the full 8 seconds, until the buzzer finally sounded this year and Dad retired! Now he has a wife who loves him and an RV that still runs, and six months of open road ahead of them to do whatever they please (like go to the rodeo with Denny and Laura). And here's the thing: when I needed them most, there they were, crammed together in the camera shot on Mom's iPhone. My parents, married. And all the world was right.

Everybody knows that kids never stop needing their parents, but maybe kids never stop needing their parents married. Maybe moms and dads considering divorce should look down the road at their daughter when she's 34, calling from across the world in tears to be utterly comforted by the fact that her parents are still together. A pastor was once asked by a couple in marriage counseling, "Are the kids reason enough to stay married?" To which the pastor responded by saying, "What better reason is there in all the world?"

So thanks, Mom and Dad, for hanging on for the full 8 seconds. Your love for each other, richer now than it ever was (in spite of, or because of, the tough times) is the best gift you have ever given me. I love you.

January 10, 2015

A Tween in Thailand

Momo leaves Monday. I have a lump in my throat just typing it out. We always loathe seeing grandparents off. It feels like throwing out a half-eaten, freshly-baked cake, frosting and all.

But at least she came! At least we got to enjoy her, and she us, while it lasted. And we'll be Stateside again before we know it, so that softens the blow a bit. It's just rotten, though, saying goodbye. It always has been, and it always, always will be.

We've spent this last week in Thailand for Daniel's class. It was Momo's first time in The Kingdom of Thailand. She loved it, of course. Crispy kao soi for lunch, traveling by tuk-tuk, and shopping for handmade shoes. That's our kind of January.

And this time we've had a full-blown tween in Thailand. Too old for ball-pits at the mall, he says, though he reluctantly went to one and ended up having a blast. Too old for this and too old for that, he says. We roll our eyes and tuck him in for bed, kissing his face that displays two small pimples, even as his muscled arms hold tightly to a plush toy fox Zion gave him for Christmas. Ahh, the awkwardness of growing up. The letting go and the grabbing hold, like a gibbon swinging from one branch to another.

The other day Momo watched with delight as a perfect coming-of-age scenario unfolded before her very eyes. Eugene, our tween of whom I speak, was swaggering through the gardens of the guest house with an older kid (12 or so, I'd guess) named Micah. Micah had a flop of curls on his forehead and long, teenage legs. Gene was trying very hard to keep stride.

At that moment, Eugene's 5-year-old sister Jubilee burst onto the scene and hollered from the other side of the hedges, "Gene! Gene, did you make a new friend?"

The Tween turned and glared at the Halfling, who stood smiling at her big brother, oblivious to the fact that she had just dealt him a cripling blow in the social sense. "Yeah, of course I did, Jubi," he hollered back, fuming. Turning on his heel he fell back into step with Micah. Jubilee stood looking confused, and Momo sat chuckling in her lawn chair, happy to have been here to see it.