And That’s Enough

I can’t wait for them to go to bed. It’s around 7 PM and I’m thinking- I just have one more hour until it’s quiet.  And then it’s 8:30 and it’s quiet and I’m wishing they were still awake. Only calm and adult-like, or maybe actually adults. I’m lonely.

I’m alone now, with the dog beside me on the floor.
Since October, my husband and I have lived in separate states. He has work there, but not enough to afford housing around the big, loud city in the flat, flat, flat land. And I have housing here in the mountains, with our people at hand, but he can’t find work. It’s one of the stranger in-betweens we have been in.

This time last year, Not The Mama had a well-paying job with a wealthy businessman, full of great promise and potential. We didn’t know a couple months later his boss would decide that vacationing was more important than paying a salary (or even a severance) and we would be without income. We didn’t know we would lose housing, twice. We didn’t know when we chose to live with Greg’s family that it would drag on and on without inclination of realistic income. Or that two weeks after we left, Momo would die and we wouldn’t get back in time to say goodbye. We didn’t know that just a few months later, my oldest friend would suddenly and shockingly pass away as well. And we would be living seperatly, once more living in a house that’s a temporary solution to a bigger problem, the prospect of moving a certainty. And soon.
I didn’t know I would begin to question if I could continue homeschooling. That I would worry that I would be forced to find a job at minimum wage and only spend a couple hours a day with them. That I would find myself questioning if could continue in some of circles without feeling as though I’ll never fit anywhere.

I didn’t know 2015 would be so hard. That’s what I mean. And I’m glad it’s almost over.

So here I sit, another night alone, the stress just tampered by the Christmas lights on the tree and the sound of sleeping children and the patter of the dog as he moves from spot to spot, the dryer humming steadily to catch us up on the laundry I let get behind for two days worth of haircuts and coffee dates and throwing a little birthday celebration for my friend’s three year old who will not remember her. I remember how I got here but I don’t know why.
A year ago I would have thrown my hands up and asked why. A year ago I would have dug through every last sin and ugly thought and blamed myself. I would have pondered and questioned and agonized. But that is for fools, I know. That is for Job’s friends and that’s for the past.
This is a season.
And I’ve had enough hard years, goodbyes and losses, difficult decisions, tough conversations and seasons almost just exactly like this one to know that they end. There is an ending to these seasons and beginnings to new ones. There will be a spring once more.
Today, twice, when people asked me how I’m staying sane, parenting four kids alone on little income, grieving deeply, wondering about the next day and the next job and the next year, I answered “who says I am sane?” without laughing. Because, really, I’m getting through. And that’s enough.

Sweet Meg

Megan loved Lifetime movies. I mean, we would watch them and discuss them 10 times. She literally lived off of coffee. So. Much. Coffee. She loved to eat cheesy bread and pizza. She loved the ranch dressing at Chef’s- and drinking Vanilla Coke. Jersey Mike’s was the way to her heart. She loved rocking babies, that was her happy place, truly. Anybody’s baby, especially her own babies. She loved playing video games. Megan could beat any Mario-related game…and has, several times. We even talked about renting a cabin in Gatlinburg for just me and her and taking only food, coffee and the Nintendo’s for a weekend-long gaming session uninterrupted by kids and chores.She could cook me (and most of us) under the table. She made the best dips and soups. She made the cleverest Walking Dead meals (chicken parm with olive eyes, anyone?) She loved DB football and the Florida Gators.
She was so funny but she didn’t know she was funny, and that’s the best kind, really. Megan loved holidays. Loved parties. She loved having people in her home, I think that may have been her favorite thing, a house full of people laughing and talking and eating. She loved her dog, Reba…and she is why we have our dog, Olaf. She loved patios and picnics. She loved watching our kids play together and imagined a world where at least one of her kids married one of mine and so we often called each other ‘the mother in law’. She never has met a stranger and every where you go with her, someone knows her, and to know her is to love her.
She loved Tim Johnson with a fierce, undying love ever since we were young kids who didn’t even know what love was. She adored her mama, counted her siblings as her best friends, loved time with her Grandma, her aunts and her cousins. She was their biggest fans.
Meg was a champion of the forgotten….she noticed the person alone in the corner, she recognized the lonely, the friendless, the lost, the orphan. She valued the people others had ignored.
She would not let you quit her. She would forgive over and over, she has given me grace so many times over so many years. And she literally would not let you remember the wrong you’d done against her. She loved so hard, so deep. I believe you could call her love true devotion, for once she loved you, she always loved you, through every flaw and every wrong.
Megan could get so ticked off…and be over it two seconds later. She would give you anything she had- her last cup of coffee, clothes, food, money- you would have to literally offend her to get her to keep whatever she had decided you needed. I failed at that a lot. Once she wanted it done, she did it. I’m sure you can ask Tim Johnson Emma Clark Marisa Moore Clark Russell Clark about that one.
Megan loves her kids. She loves Marlon so hard. I remember when she brought him to town for the first time and that look in her eye: completely devoted. She fought for that boy. It’s hard for me to even talk about it, to talk about Marlon, because is my boys’ favorite friend and I love him like he is mine, like I have shared in her love for him as a mom somehow. Megan, I will never let him forget all the days you had with him and how much you loved him. I will never stop loving him either and I look forward to a million more slumber parties and visits to bounce places and putt-putt and games and midnight movies and Michael Jackson dance-off’s. I will love you, my friend, by loving your boy, just like I promised you.
Megan loved being pregnant with Edie, loved expecting a daughter. She loves how much Edie looks like her (and has her sass!!!) Her mini-me with fair hair, we say. Edie is a special girl, she is special like her mama; she has never met a stranger, will make you laugh so hard you cry, and has that light- just like Meg. She was a dream come true for Meg and I know she will know it. I know she will grow all her days knowing what her mama gave to give her life and how very, very loved she is.
Megan was determined, I mean, DETERMINED to rescue Levi. When she overheard that he had been called undesirable, unadoptable, well, that was that. The battle armor she donned and fought for him she did. He knew her for such an unfairly short time but she is how he will know love, Megan is how he will grow up in a family. She gave him that. And that beautiful boy may only remember her through our stories, but tell the stories we will!
I will never forget Meg’s call when she had learned about Mila, her tiny mini-Marlon. You can’t know the work it takes to parent a child born drug addicted until you do it, or watch someone do it but Megan did it. She and Marisa and Tim have worked endlessly for that baby and it has paid off. Mila is bright and smart and beautiful and happy. You did that, Meg! You did that. Mila, your mama took such delight in you, you gave her so much joy. You’re a little spark, tiny friend, and you are loved so much.

Megan has been my friend over a lifetime. I remember the first time I talked her into going to Rascal’s, organizing something for our senior float (mostly that we were both cranky about it- she always said it’s because we had yet to discover coffee), talking about boys (uh-hum, Tim) and a million teenaged things. And then those talks morphed after some years into talking about diaper brands and ear infections and trading clothes for our kids.
She was a real person, with real flaws. Honestly I think she would hate for people to remember her as perfect or flawless. She might even have a few creative choice words about that. But she was doing her best and trying her hardest all the time. I believe that with my whole heart.
When I had surgery a couple years ago and developed an infection, she was there for me throughout that time, she changed dressings and helped with the IV’s. When I have had hard days, she’s been there. When I have had hard years, she’s been there. When I sat at my Momo’s funeral a few months ago, she sat right across the aisle from me. I wish I could see her face at everyone’s sweet words and memories of her. She didn’t value herself the way we all value her. She couldn’t see how lovable she was, she didn’t believe people loved her this much. She just didn’t know how beautiful she was. She just didn’t know. But now she knows.
She has been my cheerleader as long as I can remember. I never deserved her friendship and how very good she was to me. I will miss her every day.

Megan knew the Lord and she was never ashamed of that. If her life could stand for one thing, she would simply choose this- Love God and Love Others. And so we know our sorrow is not without hope and we will see you again my sweet friend

  
   
  
  
  
  

  
  

Let’s Make A Way For Them to Choose Life, Not Abortion

 

I think maybe some things need to be said. Here’s me throwing in my two cents.

I have a lot of friends on either side of every issue.
I like this about my friends. I like being challenged to consider what I really think and believe and why.
I like that I am not surrounded by people who all look like me, think like me, or even worship like me.  I think it is terribly sad when people only entertain others in their life who are in agreement with them.

And because I have this rich integration of people, I see.

When it comes to pro-life or pro-choice, I know very few who sit on the fence. And I have a number of people I call friends who are pro-choice, although I am not. And what I want to say today is that from time to time, someone will make such a darn good point, I can’t pass it up.

Being pro-life should not be limited to infants.
To those who believe in “the woman’s right to choose,” it is heinous that there are 500,000 children in America’s foster care system. There are half a million children in our backyards who have no home, no parents, no family. This is a number and a problem that is often ignored by those of us on all sides- but very much so in the conservative camp.
Ever heard a conservative talk about cutting free medical care to the poor? How about cutting food stamps?
Of course you have! So have I! I hear it constantly.
This is a contradiction, my dears. If you expect the woman living in poverty to NOT abort her baby because of poverty, you must help her live. This is being pro-life. She can’t feed the baby as he grows up without assistance.  So take away her welfare? And expect her to keep her child? This makes absolutely no sense, folks.

In fact, it makes less and less sense as you consider it, am I right?

Upon sharing that we would like to adopt from foster care again one day, perhaps when our kids are a bit older, we were told by a family member (a conservative) that we wouldn’t want to do that because we will want time to “spoil our grandchildren.”  This is part of the problem, folks.  Our life has revolved completely around ourselves for so long that we can’t even think about the meaning behind our words…we aren’t even ashamed of saying: “Don’t adopt again, it will take too much of your TIME, MONEY, FEELINGS. Don’t you want all that to yourself? It might be an inconvenience to take in an orphan.”

But people aren’t inconveniences.  They are people.

And so are unborn babies people.

Foster kids, kids in poverty, hungry HUMANS in this world are not SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM.  They are my problem.  They are your problem.

This should all go hand-in-hand. Pro-life means Pro-LIFE!

I want Planned Parenthood defunded. I find it disgusting that tax dollars pay for their practices.  I find it depressing that women are desperate enough to abort their babies. I am not defending them. I do not support them.  I am saying that if we want to be a pro-life nation, we have to be a PRO-LIFE nation. We have to support moms who want to keep their babies and are homeless or jobless or need help in any way. Let’s make a way for them to choose life, not abortion.

We have to support foster care adoptions and foster parents.  We have to press our government to change laws that allow birth parents to be harassed, ridiculed, and even sometimes charged for abandoning their children. Leaving an infant at the hospital to be adopted should be an option that goes without penalty. Let’s make a way for them to choose adoption, not abortion.

We have to press our government to make foster care adoptions more available, to not leave adoptable children in the system for years and years without true plans for permanency. People should be able to adopt without so much trauma in our own country.  Let’s make a way for hopeful parents to choose adoption.

We have to support the creation of places that are like Planned Parenthood’s good side- free medical care and support for those who are living in poverty.
We have to bring light to the staggering statistics regarding abortion and the seemingly obvious targeting of specific races. We have to read the numbers and watch the videos and BELIEVE THEM.  And then change.

Momo and Clock

She told me a few years ago, while we were doing a series of ‘interviews’ that she felt he is who taught her to truly love; that he loved her with such a depth and so unconditionally in a way she hadn’t known was possible or even real. Whenever she spoke of him she would say “I know I was loved” and that love had changed everything for her, to know all her flaws and her mistakes were covered by this great love he carried for her most of his life. That he saw her for who she was and not who others told her she was.

When we told the kids the news, that Momo was gone, Noah, through tears told us he was so sad to lose Momo but he was so happy for her because “now she can be with Clock again.” Even the babes knew their love was special. A rare gift.

Their life together, their true love, is a testament to so many of us, friends and family alike. May we all be able to say “I know I was loved.”

John and Marie Throp, married 1962.

My Momo

I don’t know what you say about an entire lifetime of love.


 What I can say is that my Momo loved everyone SO WELL. Her legacy is one of love for all who knew her.

Momo, Marie, had a particular way of making you believe you were special, she lived out not just “I love you” but “You are loved by me” and not just for those of us in her family but for all who knew her. She had the same best friend her entire life and they talked on the phone every evening with few exceptions. She had deep relationships with cousins in distant lands and “aunts” who had long since changed last names.

Momo valued people, valued discussion, valued emotions, valued positive thinking, valued kindness. She modeled forgiveness and she found joy in every circumstance, even if it took some time. She spent many years building a beautiful legacy for all of us who choose instead of judgment, acceptance and instead of anger, kindness and instead of conditions, true love.

I don’t know yet how to live in a world without my Momo but I have to begin learning as she left this earth today.

As Lily and I stood in an unknown parking lot and cried together too far away from her, I know for sure that we have learned to love from her and will continue on in her legacy.


  
  

 You are Loved.

From the Mountains to the City

We are all so accustomed to that old phrase, “Home is where the Heart is” that I doubt many of us consider it deeply. I believe it is true, that home IS anywhere where those you love reside.  My heart is with my kids and my husband and so my home is anywhere where they are. As long as we are together, we are home.

Where we reside is about to change but home will not.

In February, Greg took an unexpected pay cut at work. It hit us hard but we adjusted. We had just paid off two debts and that helped smooth things out. But in April, we were blindsided when his boss decided to downsize and laid him off of work completely. We expected severance because of the extremely short notice, and we hoped for a new job quickly but it just hasn’t happened. Needless to say, the main provider of a family of 6, without work is not a great recipe for peace.

The other part of that story is that Greg has been laid off of work three times in the last six years. In his area of work this isn’t uncommon but it has sucked us dry, financially and emotionally. Any savings we have had have been wiped out multiple times over. Any strides we make toward homeownership, debt-free life, and emergency funds are constantly started and stopped and begun and emptied. Last time he was laid off, it was eight months of hardships before he had full-time work again. That wasn’t very long ago and truthfully, we are just tired. Tired of the struggle, of the pain, of the pattern.

A few months ago I would have lamented and cried and begged to understand why God was doing this to us again- where was the hidden reason and what had we done to deserve this over and over. But a very significant and life-giving message given this year at our fantastic church on the life of Job has given me much hope and peace. This isn’t a punishment. I truly believe there is a greater reason- but not one of punishment or pain….a greater design. I have days of doubt and frustration and even anger but I know He has us and so I choose to trust.

There has been much wrestling this last month; do we stay, in this position and search in this same career path, and hope that next time it’ll last a couple years longer? Do we find a bigger purpose, the calling Greg felt years ago and burnt us out and try to jump back in? Can we fit into that again? Do we search for bigger areas, bigger job markets?
Oh my, if I could tell the truth of the tears and fears and hopes shared in this last month. But it has come down to this: we have no income. There is nothing coming in. Unemployment is helpful but if you’ve ever had it before, you know it’s not enough to live on. Without the severance that was expected and then not given, we don’t have enough to float us through a few months of waiting, or at this point, even one month. The truth is, we have done this before. We do not want to do it again. The tiny savings account is long wiped and yes, theres a lot of Ramen in this house right now (do you have any idea what it takes to feed a family of 6?) and we’ve been eating a lot of (gluten-free) pasta and sandwiches. Thankful for a good friend who brought groceries last week and the couple who have given us grocery money. It’s no joke, ya’ll, and I’m doing my best to keep in line with all our credit-improving work we have done after the last two layoffs caused repossessed cars and score destruction.  When things happen like this, you have to choose to buy food or pay bills. Trust me, I could teach a class.
I don’t know how long we could last on our own.

And so when Greg’s family offered us a place to stay for a time, we took them up on it. Trust me, I know how hard it is to live with someone else. Remember, I’ve done this before. I also know much it takes to keep my family on it’s feet. And so the offer is perhaps the most heady thing I’ve experienced in a long time.

And so as I write this, my family is bringing in boxes. More and more and more boxes. I should honestly be a professional packer at this point.

We are moving.

We are currently living in our dream house (literally)- but you know what? It’s isn’t our’s. Our time in this old farmhouse was always temporary. We can’t make our decision based on it, or the incredible views around us. We are praying the owners will find the perfect family to care for the farmhouse for them this next year. It is truly my dream house and it has been an honor and a blessing to be able to live here for the last five months.
We are currently living in an area with our people….
For me, a lifetime of connections. My precious Momo who is walking through a great war with cancer. Countless people who I’ve known all my life. My dad. Family. Ministries I’ve loved and served. People I’ve invested in and who have invested in me. My entire life has been lived in these mountains.
For Greg, his entire adulthood. He has lived in East Tennessee for nineteen years, longer than he even lived at his family’s home. He grew into a man here. We met here. We have built a family here. There are members of my family we will struggle to leave behind. Even while you’re reading this, say a prayer for my Momo. There are more friends than can be listed here that we will miss every single day. Our kids are already concerned about several of your kids and how they’ll survive without them. Just know we want to keep up on media outlets as much as possible, we will come visit (and some of you will come visit us, I know it!) and that we love you. There are some of you who have been a part of “us” since day one. Knowing you’ll be far is hard but we also believe you’ll be a part of “us” no matter the distance.
We are going to miss our church family more than we ever imagined. Our time at TCBC is the first time many years that we have felt such a deep connection to a church. We will be watching and following along from afar- we are already hurting to be leaving you all. We pray that we will find a church in Indy even half as healthy and authentic as you have been. We love you.

And for days we have cried and searched and begged and let me just tell you, applied for a zillion jobs…doing anything- flipping burgers and unloading trucks and whatever is out there isn’t calling back.
Then this weekend, our hearts took a turn.

We are ready.

I am believing, even, that this was part of an unexpected design. I still have sorrow. But I am trusting.

We are ready for new adventures. New landscapes. New relationships. We are ready to build authentic and deep relationships with Greg’s family. We are ready for cousins and active grandparents and the tons and tons and tons of educational opportunities that await us around Indianapolis; there are so many amazing options for homeschoolers- museums and interactive parks and just incredible educational opportunities that we can’t help but be excited about.

We celebrated 10 years married last week. Ten years here, in these mountains with each other and with this family we have made….and now onto the next ten….in Indy…Beginning in a new place, with some old faces and new friends. We are sad to leave you but know also that we are trusting the Lord with this, that it will be a time of growth and blessing.

So, pray. Pray for the kids, for a smooth trip (it’s long) and a happy transition (they are excited so far). Pray for the packing and the moving days themselves for I loathe them. Pray for jobs to open up before us as we move. Pray for Momo (and Alexa). Pray for the owners of the farmhouse to find replacements for us while they travel overseas (they could not have been more gracious and loving than they were- we were blown away). Pray for the time we will be living in the same house as family members- it’s a trying thing for anyone. Pray we will be able to have stability.  Pray we will allow this to grow us closer together as so many trials have in the past. Just…pray. And know we love you beyond words.