Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I just finished the midnight prevention potty trip and it is 3 am. Got the blessings again. A few hugs and sleepy I love yous. My cup overfloweth, and their bladders did not... I think that is win/win.

I went to the pool today with my dad, my step mom and my kids. It was really a good time. You pretty much have to go to the pool in Birmingham in the summer. Not many other options. If you take your kids to the park on a nice, sunny day, not only do you have to pack drinks and lunch, but you might as well take along some IV fluids for the dehydration that is likely to ensue.

I love the South.

It was great to see my dad in the pool with my kids. He was throwing them all over the place in the best way for about three hours. They were showing him all their tricks and talents. I think it is cool to watch my dad with my kids. It sorta gives me a little glimpse into what it was like when I was the little one being thrown around in the pool.

You need little reminders of that stuff because memory is so flawed. It is good to see the fun, laughter, hugs and such... because when you get older moments like those don't seem to have as often an occasion. And besides, it would be weird for my dad to throw me in the pool now. He's already gonna be super sore tomorrow, or today I guess. Perhaps as I write this he is aching in his bed at the Embassy Suites.

I have crossed a significant line in my adult life and I will share it with you. I have become old enough now to talk about my aches and pains in my body. I mean, in normal conversation with non family members. Not strangers yet, not acquaintances yet, but close friends and family. This is a rude awakening. This is something I generally think of older people doing. Talking about the weather and their back pain. But, here I am talking about my aching back, my nagging hip and my toe for crying out loud. And I already said something about weather a few lines back. Ugh. What the heck! I noticed it when my friend and her husband came to visit. A decent amount of the conversation centered on our physical discomforts. This is a bittersweet reality.

Bitter in that I am seriously surprised by my aching body. I still see myself as a kid in some ways. Yeh, I have thousands of dollars of debt, been married for 10 years, have three kids, finished medical school and residency, but still, inside, I don't FEEL that differently than I did before. I think differently, make better decisions I hope, and have a more informed worldview, but I generally feel the same inside.

That tends to explain the SHOCK I feel at my body aging. (Don't get me wrong, I know that 36 is not "old" and all that, but it is not 18, and if that is the frame of reference one has, then one is going to be sorta continually appalled at the way the outside is not matching the inside.) I think the frame of reference is almost always half of your true age. I have not scientifically tested this, but I think it would work out that way.

I think I am not alone in this experience. I wonder if that "feeling" is sorta tied to your spirit's existence as opposed to your mind and body. My mind certainly knows I am older. I mean, I CAN count. And we have already established that my body is fully aware of what is up.

The facts are inescapable. My body is wasting away and there is a 100% chance that one day I am going to die. But something completely opposite is going on in my mind and spirit. A little reminiscent of that "I wish I knew then what I know now" kinda thing I suppose, where when the physical ability was there the wisdom was not. Now, the know how is there and the perspective is there, but the dang BODY just ain't cooperating. Of course, sometimes, I beat my body and make it cooperate, and pay later. Some things are just worth that pain. I guess my dad just thought that throwing my son up in the air and into the pool about 100 times was one of those necessary beatings. I am glad I got to see it.

When my kids ask me about death, I have come up with this little definition... "Well, death is when your body stops working and you are just left with your spirit." I am not sure if this is the best way to answer that question or not. It is what I am confident happens, but I really don't know. You only die once and my time has not happened yet. So far as I know, only one Person has ever commented upon this reality with some experience. Lots of others have made statements with, what I consider, much less experience than He.

Am I really talking about death at entry number 5 on this blog? Seriously? I am not sure we know each other well enough for our relationship to stand this - or at least, your subscribing to these musings. But, it is 4 a.m. and I am typing on my computer so who knows what might come up.

You might need some chocolate, this could get depressing.

I jest. I have had some serious fears of dying in my 36 years. And rightfully so. I have made some really dangerous choices in the past, and I have made some really great ones that resulted in things that I would be devastated to lose. There was a time I was overcome with fear regarding this topic. Notice I am talking in the past tense. There's hope.

What happened for me was something I like to call "mental flooding." In behavioral medicine the technique of "flooding" is sometimes used to help people conquer fears that are disrupting their lives. It can seem kinda harsh to immerse someone in his worst fear in order to overcome it. But I think that is sorta what I did.

I was afraid of the physical pain of dying, or of being in an accident and one of my kids dying because I could not rescue all of them, or my husband dying and my living out the rest of my time on this planet specifically without HIM. These are some basic fears I think are relatable, but there were other weird ones that I am just NOT going to describe, so don't ask.

This went on for years. Granted I was pregnant most of the time which could not have helped in the rationality department, but it is sorta hard to argue with the basic fact that one day "my body will die and I will be only spirit." There is that whole idea of nihilism, where one believes that after the body dies there is just no existence, nothing except the chemistry and physiology ever made one "real".  By the way, that chemistry and physiology is pretty majestic, rational, intricate and organized in and of itself.  Qualities that one generally does not ascribe to  uncreated, spontaneous, ultimately meaningless "processes. " Maybe you would not describe them that way, but if you really looked into them, I bet you would.

Well, there's not much evidence to support nihilism to my knowledge PLUS is does not really match my experience. I mean, are we really only ever experiencing chemical reactions? Is what I witnessed at the pool today simply chemistry and physiology? I know the movement of the muscles and the ATP expended in the use of said muscles is happening, but wasn't there also more happening in a different realm? I am sure I REALLY experienced something more than just electrical charges and physiologic cascades of reactions. I just don't buy what nihilism is sellin'. I KNOW what makes me "ME" is more than the sum of my measurable particles.

My "flooding" went a little like this... "So, Melissa. What would happen if all this DID happen? I mean, God has not promised you that tragedy and calamity will not come your way. You should not trust Him for something He has not promised. There could be real let down in that." I kept going. I began to understand that at the root of all of this fear, was a fear that I might be wrong about God and calamity would prove it. Can I be that honest?

But God proved to me, that He is big enough and real enough for my honesty. He answered the question I did not even know to ask. That is just so what He does!

I shared with my husband my fear that if serious hardship came my way I might fall away from God. And if that can happen, is this whole God thing even real? You know what he said? of course you don't so I will tell you. He said, "Melissa, when you first became a Christian, and God was a REALITY for you, it was God who had been pursing you. It was not just you 'figuring out' stuff. He was actually pursuing you. And if you stray, He may have to fetch you again." I am sorta paraphrasing because it has been several years and I have slept since then. But, I am NOT sleeping now. It is 4 a.m.

Pursuing me, fetching me, shoot, even having me on His mind. I like the idea of that, but I cannot base my life on something I like to think is true because it makes me feel better - I have to know it is more than that. There were parts of what my husband described I knew to be true by experience. But, I was still afraid. Still waking up in the middle of the night running disaster scenarios of how to escape tragedy. Still trying to find ways to make myself feel like my worst fear had already happened and how was I going to answer my theological questions so I could still love God and trust in Jesus.

And, literally, one day, a familiar and favorite Old Testament story and scripture put a seal over a fear that has not been able to haunt me since.

Moses was trying to lead some really irritating people who were hard headed toward a destination that God had said would be a great place for them. But, the folks kept doing the wrong thing again and again. So, God said something like "OK, you guys can still go to that destination, but I am not going to be going with you." Moses totally flipped out.

It was like getting to go to that pinnacle, but not having the one thing you love the most, and it feeling empty and meaningless. I remembered that feeling. AND I also remembered when that feeling left my life. Who it was Who chased it away. And I remembered Who I loved the most.

Moses flipped out at not having God's presence with him where he was going. Apparently, Moses had become a little wooed and accustomed to living in an experiential REALITY with God, and living, now, without that was like... dying.

And I realized I had grown accustomed to it as well. The thing that saved me, was a promise. God HAS PROMISED that His Presence will go with me... no matter what. No matter if my child dies. No matter if my husband does not out live me. No matter if I get sick or injured. God's Presence will be REAL TO ME past, present and future. And THAT is something HE controls. Not me. I used to think it was something I conjured up (hence the fear when I thought I might lose my will to conjure should calamity strike), but no. Knowing that He is real and active in my life, is something He does. He is responsible. And He is not One to fall asleep on the job, or lie.

Since I knew that losing Him (by losing my faith due to tragedy) was the real root of my fear, having it made REAL to me that He is committed to me, would fetch me from anywhere anytime, and has promised me an experience of His presence for my entire physical life, I don't fear death anymore - mine or anyone else's who knows Him.

And THAT is how life is also, SWEET.  My body may age, my mind may slip, my memories may fade. But what I have experienced is real and has eternal significance. And Who I have experienced will be with me until my body quits and He and I see face to face.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Membership Has It's Privileges

So, it's out. You know. I have not been able to keep up with my high aspirations of posting DAILY Monday-Friday. I cannot pretend to be one of those types who has it all together. Did you really ever think that about me? I did, once. Now, I am over it.

I've been in a mood lately. A bad one for everyone involved. Just descended upon me about 5 days ago out of NOWHERE. Don't you love those? Just irritated by things that are just a part of LIFE man, and if I am that frustrated by it, I gotta lot of growing up to do. Come to think of it, growing UP would be great - it would solve that "I am short for my weight" issue!

In the Robert household we have practiced hospitality lately. I had one of my very best friends for 2 days and it was not long enough. She, her husband and three kids drove through our town and took a rest at our casa. They got some Shrimp Scampi with Linguine, and I got some reminder of how much I love my friend, not that I really forgot. We even got a grown up night with dinner and movie. It was an unmet need long over due.

Do you have friends who just became your friends in about a split second? I mean they told you their stuff and visa versa and you just got to be closer and closer? I have had an unnatural amount of these types of friendships in my life. It's sorta become my expectation now, and when it is not happening with some frequency, I get disturbed. I like the real deal relationship, much like I mentioned I like the Truth, and having something casual and meaningless when it comes to the real stuff of life just seems like a let down and a real waste of time. Knowing someone and being known is a privilege.

Of course that puts one at some serious risk. You gotta kinda know how to pick 'em. And, at times, my picker has been broke, and then my heart followed shortly afterward. What do you do when you have a broken picker (translation = you are not a quick and accurate judge of character, or, you ARE, and are just so needy of intimacy you disclose anyway to heck with the fallout)? I think you really only have to make one good PICK, and the rest works out. I'll explain, I know your dying to know.

I've been (and at times remain in the struggle) bound up in my "issues." I totally despise that word. It is too vague. Let me go further. I have been in need of some attention, naive then heartbroken, angry as a consequence, seemingly rejected, reflexively self destructive and sad, repeatedly, for years, then, finally hopeless. Sounds fun, huh? Like a person you really want to be friends with right? I thought so.

Outwardly, I think it must have looked like I did have it all together. Hence, my earlier comment above saying that I used to think I did have it all together. I believed my own lie. Very dangerous. I was smart by effort, a hard worker, OK attractive, had friends, a promising career, perhaps all that I thought I needed to be happy. But what is more hopeless than reaching the pinnacle and being shockingly disappointed with no where to go?

I was found by a Friend. Who, when I was at my weakest moment, found me appealing.

And I believed Him, not because I was naive, but because I accepted the fact that I had no idea what life was about. Making the DECISION FIRST to enter into this relationship was paramount. After much effort (which I would not have made if I had not FIRST committed to pursuit) I realized that He was REAL, not a story made up by men to make themselves feel better. I researched it, thoroughly, but more importantly, I felt it.

And although I can totally relate to the seeming irrelevance of god this day in age, this age ain't got nothing on Him for those who know Him." Particles and progress" is how I once heard it described. Meaning, you are made of particles and everything is moving towards progress, in a nutshell. Try building a LIFE on that one. Let me know, if you live long enough, how it turns out.

I don't mean to be harsh, but I gotta say, this pervasive, unquestioned, subtle 'fact' that science and achievement is all there REALLY IS (if you are intelligent and not deluded into thinking you need a 'crutch') is not only false, but deadly. And the way I see it, it is MEAN not to expose it. Right? I mean, if you have something AWESOME and it is free to everyone, are you not the scum of the earth if you don't share it? What is implicit in that is that one is SHARING out of LOVE.

And I love people. I totally do. I think it is because I have been loved by Someone who knows me and did and continues to do extraordinary things to prove it. For instance, relieving my pain with His perspective, covering my many failures with His overarching plan for my life, riding me piecemeal of my habitual, powerless coping mechanisms by changing my HEART, and taking away selfishness by reminding me I don't need to take care of myself because He is real and ACTUALLY cares for me. No DNA molecule, lofty theory, human relationship or achievement is gonna do that for you. It is a privilege of friendship alone.

So all I had to do was give veto power over to Him concerning my thoughts on my past, my fears of my future and the haunting futility of my present. That's all. Took about five minutes. I'm kidding.

Early friendships were so clique-ish were'nt they? To be in was totally random, or else required some serious effort and know how. But, as I said before, sometimes entering a really good friendship just happens naturally... or supernaturally.

And when you are with that Friend, you can just sigh and be... be known, be healed, be restored, be invigorated, be reminded, be renewed. Be accepted... no, that's too impersonal. Be embraced. Yeah, that is what He does. You are in, as is, with all the benefits of a best friend.

I needed that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Breakin the Rules

I am not going to be writing on the weekends. But here I am - breaking all my rules, straight away.

I went upstairs at nearly midnight to do the prevention potty trip with all three kids. Helps cut down on the laundry which, when it piles up, is only slightly more irritating than the prevention potty trip. My husband does it 99% of the time so I should not complain, but why let that stop me?

I have discovered that he may be keeping a highly valued secret from me and it goes a little something like this:

I take Libby, my just-turned-three year old first. She barely wakes up as I do all the fundamental things required to place her bare bot-a-min (that is translated "bottom" for those outside our native tongue) on the toilet seat. (I cannot believe I am blogging about this, but there is a treasure.... keep reading.) She produces the product of all my toil, I redress her (still she is asleep) and put her in her crib after giving her a mommy kiss on the lips. I am leaving the room when she whispers, "Mommy. (little pause) I love you." I tell her, "I love you too baby." And close the door.

I move to my eldest daughter's room where I find her loving brother curled up at the foot of her bed. THIS is against "the rules." We never let them sleep together and before you judge me... I am a size 7 1/2... can YOU fit in those shoes? It is already, generally, quite an ordeal to get them to go to sleep in their own beds, ALONE - I just cannot think about the talking, giggling, and general shenanigans that would go on into an obscene hour of the night/morning if we allowed such commraderie. But, I let it slide.

I take her, then him, to the throne, return them to their posts and each barely knew what hit him/her. Four and half hours at the pool with no nap will do that to a kid (make a mental note... you may need that morsel of wisdom one day). I turn and look at my offspring and I can hardly believe in the deepest part of my heart that they are mine and how genuinely AWESOME they are - even in light of their completely irritating arguing, negotiating, deceptiveness, and disobedience I witness multiple times everyday. I cannot help but love them completely. I never want to be without them.

Then I understand how God can love ME in the shape I am in.

I only went through childbirth, with either a spinal or epidural, to have these three treasures... He endured unimaginable limitations, scorn, injustice, unparalleled pain, BY CHOICE to have relationship with me - even before I thought ANY of His actions would be required for such a reality to occur. Showing undeserved favor towards my kids is getting easier each day because of what I know.

I bet He loves it as much as I did when He hears me whisper to Him, "I love you" in the wee hours of the night.

My husband has been holding out on me if he gets this kind of blessing every night. I may take over more prevention potty trips...during the WEEK. I don't want to be breaking any more rules.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Come On, Join in the Fun

I took my kids to the pool today - finally. The kiddie pools had been polluted in some way a week or so ago and it took them FOREVER to get the pool chemicals right. All those wasted UV rays makes my heart sick. But, today we were back in action.

My oldest daughter looked at me from the pool and said, "Come on Mom, join in the fun!" I was sitting in my chair waiting for my sunscreen to soak in. That is what I always say when I am wanting to lay in my chair and just soak up some rays like the old days. But, I was persuaded and got in that cold, newly chemically treated pool. It was fun.

I do miss me some fun, but less these days than before. I used to find myself getting so caught up in having everything a certain way, that I was missing out on relationship - and sanity. Jesus said to a couple of gals once (one who was busy and resentful and the other who was sitting around enthralled in relationship) that ONLY ONE THING WAS NEEDED and the one who chose relationship was right. Oh, to be able to discern what that ONE right thing is in any given moment. But, I think the answer is almost always...relationship. I had to sacrifice a lot to live this one out. Well, it seemed like a lot in the beginning, but now it seems like nothing at all.

My house is MUCH less orderly and clean than my previous self would have stood for. My car is a freaking nightmare. I don't get a shower as often as I think is probably socially acceptable. I don't wear makeup much - that requires looking into a mirror and there is NO TIME for crap like that around my house.

Did I mention I have three kids? Three blessings. Three precious little tools who God is using to scrape out, bit by bit, those plaques of selfishness and pride that have been adhered to my heart since I was made. From the outside it looks like I am giving up physique (that may be true), career, money, "self".... but really I AM GAINING.

It's true. I am becoming what none of those things could accomplish in me. And I know that because I know who I was before I received the reward of kids and running a home full time. Academics and medicine (I am a doctor by trade and by debt) really kept me running at a pace that did not allow for much introspection. Maybe I subconsciously chose it for that reason. It also served to distinguish me from being "just another one of those" and to provide a setting for nearly constant verbal praise. I can see now that residing in that world, for me, was not going to rid me anytime soon of my addiction to stature and approval.

Don't I make motherhood sound appealing?

Well, it has been for me but in no way that I would have thought. Becoming patient, it seems, requires a patience testing reality. And, I got that. Check. Getting over myself requires, it turns out, a job of relentless, seemingly menial tasks that get little to no recognition from "the world" (not my family or husband, they praise me often).

I love the truth, you should know that about me from the start. I like to hear it. I like to learn it and incorporate it into my life. I like that it can be known. I like that it is not relative. I like that it does not change. I totally love the Truth.

And in the situation of being a mother, I find the truth is this: becoming the person God has in mind for me to be will happen in relationship, probably challenging and time consuming relationship. Probably in relationship settings that make me want to run for the hills. Probably in relationships with people who cannot be fooled into thinking I am smart, witty, perfect or any other thing I might like to project.

So to submit to this process I had to stop doing what I always did so I could become something more than what I was. I had to join in the fun of life, in all it's different forms, and put off the stuff of life that did not really meaningfully contribute to that metamorphosis. I had to stop doing and start being. Being engaged, being present, being less about what I have to say and want to do and more about what I can hear and enable.

I can sit out in the sun and get a nice tan alone, or I can jump in and join the fun and look all kinds of awesome on the inside.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Your First Glimpse

So this is obviously my first post, but not my first blog. Not to say I am a seasoned blog(her) or anything, but I started one and it was lame - so I erased it all and took a break for about 3 years, had a couple (more) kids and then today decided, I think I might have something to say.

So far this will be, I think, just my thoughts on any number of subjects. I have lots of thoughts and most of them just stay in my head making the rounds and are never fully developed and "outed". So, now I am out.

Stand back.

I just celebrated my 10th anniversary with my husband. He rocks. Literally. He bought me some diamond studs. I think they were named after him. I was crazy surprised to be receiving them, over a fancy shmancy dinner with my kids in the very able care of Ms. Jerry Kay (our sitter, or life saver, whichever you prefer). We have been aggressively re-working our attitudes about money and how we over spend it. So, I was not expecting AT ALL to be gettin' that kind of a gift. I got him a bendable tripod and silver money clip. He won. I did pour out my heart to him in beautiful prose, but I still think he won. But, who am I kidding? I am the one who REALLY WON.

He is the man I was too stupid to dream of. I am super glad I married him without thinking too much about it. Seriously, the best decision I made and the least amount of deliberation. Go figure. That is not generally how my mind works at all.

Welcome to it's world.....