Monday, July 18, 2016

Rubber Duckies and Hotel Prayer Altars.

"Because I love my duck, and that is why I can't be bothered, love my duck, so let the army run amuck." VeggieTales, "King George and the Ducky"

Yesterday, the pastor referred to a man in the Bible named Mephibosheth and I immediately had to VeggieTales song from King George and the Ducky running through my head.

The triplets were five years old when Mason was faced with his first big surgery. We had traveled to St. Louis for the operation and watched VeggieTales the entire way there. Everyone was exhausted from travel and so the night before the surgery, all five of us were in one hotel room where Wade and the kids were sleeping soundly. I was wide awake. Wide awake.

Summer of surgery.

As stealthily as possible I crept to the bathroom with a pillow, and my Bible. I was desperate for a word assuring me that Mason was going to be ok....I was desperate for assurance.

For the days leading up to the surgery my precious friends in Minnesota had surrounded me with love, hugs and prayers. But repeatedly I had heard from wise leaders that I had to "let go of Mason and trust God with his life" like Abraham did when he was willing to lay Isaac on the altar.

I couldn't. I really couldn't. I could not bear to tell God that it was ok if Mason did not survive surgery.

And so the guilt of the whole thing was weighing on me heavily. I was afraid for my child. I was scared and exhausted and my Mama-heart was so worried.

And then I remembered King George and the ducky....I mean the tune was forever glued to my brain. I was never going to forget King George. This particular VeggieTale was based on King David. George loved taking baths with his rubber duck and one day he saw another duck and began to covet it. A lightbulb went off in my head -- David (the real King David not the VeggieTale version) had been described as a "Man after God's own heart," and yet, he sinned. He saw a beautiful woman and wanted her for his own wife even though she was married. He sinned.

Suddenly, I was desperate for all the facts. I needed to read the story and so I opened my Bible to read about David. But instead of opening to the story of David and Bathsheba, I opened to another story altogether. One I had never noted.

"The king [David] asked, 'Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?'

Zibo answered the king, 'There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.'

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, 'Mephibosheth!'

'At your service,' he replied.

'Don't be afraid,' David said to him, 'for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul and you will always eat at my table.' " Samuel 9: 3, 6-7 (NIV)

Oh my goodness, this young man with special needs was being welcomed to the table of the King forever! God was showing me how much He cared for my sons -- how much He cared for Mason. I closed the Bible, took a deep breath, and praised God right there in the middle of the hotel bathroom before I took my pillow back to my bed and slept a peaceful sleep.

Mason and Mom, Summer 2015

Can I tell you today that God is faithful to meet us exactly where we are -- even if it requires a cute cartoon and a rubber ducky to get us there!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shame on you, Representative Guice. Shame on you.

Dear State Representative Jeffrey Guice,

Please do not blame my Southern mama for the fact that I am ignoring good etiquette and writing you a letter without asking how you are doing, or even inquiring about your family. I don't have to ask to know that if you have children, they obviously want for little,  have had few medical needs, and were able to depend on your financial fortitude for all they required. Good for you. I hope you recognize the blessing there and give thanks every single day.

I am writing because your email reply to Nicole Nichols is everywhere I turn today. I can not ignore it.

I was 28 years old when my triplets were born three months early. I had been arrogant like you prior to that delivery. I assumed that with hard work my husband and I could meet any and every need that these little gifts had.

I assumed wrong.

We worked hard. Please do not question that. My husband is an engineer-turned-surgeon. He was in his second year of medical school when the triplets were born. For the next eight years, he worked 100-plus hours a week every single week.

We did the math and paying for child care times three would have cost more than my salary. We opted for me to stay home. I spent my days caring for our little babies and attempting to balance a checkbook that required creative maneuvering in order to stretch his small resident salary to cover our family of five.

Our pediatrician suggested we try WIC (The Federal food and nutrition aid for Women, Infant Children). Formula cost more a week than Dad brought home. We signed up.

Rep. Guice, it was men like you who made me feel shame every time I used one of those coupons. I wanted to ensure my babies'  health while we worked to better our lives, their lives and frankly today, the lives of children in Mississippi who my husband provides medical care for, so I used the coupons. I bought first formula and then milk as they grew. I thanked God for the provision of helping my children grow healthy bones.

Because Rep Guice, the fact is my babies were born very early and as a result both my boys -- two of three babies -- have Cerebral Palsy. Formula and milk would soon be the least of our needs.

Do you know how much a power wheelchair costs? More than my first two cars combined. Do you know that when a child can navigate his own environment -- even from a power wheelchair -- his brain develops better, faster, more capable of critical thinking? Isn't the promise of a bright young voice to help our state worth the medical costs incurred?

Do you know how much surgeries, therapies, gait training tools cost for growing boys?

Would you seriously have looked at me and told me Mississippi could offer no help? Really?

Representative Guice, when Nicole Nichols reached out to you, she did so as the voice of a mother not just desperate for her own child, but for the other children in our state who require medical aid. She reached out to you because you have been entrusted with the power to help. Your unwillingness was only matched by your ignorance in thinking that email would not be seen by every mother in this state.

And so I say, how dare you. How dare you use your power over my money as a taxpayer in Mississippi to deny the medication that keeps Mrs. Nichols's daughter alive. How dare you shame the women of this state trying to provide for their children. And how dare you not turn your attention instead to improving the healthcare providers' network for our state and thereby ensuring that we are raising healthy leaders for tomorrow.

Until you do this, Rep. Guice, I say the shame is on you.

With absolute sincerity,
Carol Shrader

(Jeffrey Guice is a Mississippi state representative from Ocean Springs. He is a Republican.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Just a little crying in softball.

I cried through pitching practice tonight. Not blubbering or anything, I just couldn't stop my eyes from um, leaking.

I feel like I have stumbled through Cate's first three years of softball. I didn't know to bring chairs. I didn't know to bring snacks. I had to learn about sunflower seeds and the flavors -- all the flavors!

Little Red during her first season playing softball. She was only 8 but when a ball popped off the bat, she threw her mask off and caught it!

We had the sweetest team mates in Phoenix. Those mamas held my hand and walked me through. By the end of Cate's second year with these precious girls, I was not only feeling like I had my bearings, I was taking pictures and keeping score. Ok. Admittedly, I did one or the other. I couldn't manage both. But we all made some wonderful friends and memories and developed a love of softball that follows us still.

As a result, I may have strutted onto the softball field for fall ball for Cate after our move to Mississippi. I was no longer a novice. I had a chair after all.  And for that first season, I sat and encouraged the Mamas just beginning the softball journey and took a deep breath. Yes, here, pull your chair next to mine. I know what I am doing. Cheesy smile.

Then my girl decided to do tournament ball. 

Oh my merciful heavens. Not only did I need a chair -- my precious Facebook friends gave me a list a mile long of things to take: water coolers, iPhone chargers, blankets, cooling cloths (sometimes used on the same day), sunscreen, lip balm, clean socks, extra pants, a wagon.....thank goodness for all those dear ones who answered my call for help. We didn't show up unprepared to one tournament this Spring. (Except that one time we had taken the chairs out of the wagon and Claire had to make a run to the local Wal-Mart for replacements!)

The rules are even different. Cate is much much quicker on the learning curve of course, but I have assumed the position I thought I had left behind....that of novice, newbie, much-to-learn-mama. Sigh.

But none of that -- NONE OF IT -- were the reason for my tears tonight.

Tonight at pitching practice with Coach Meredith.

No, these were happy tears. These tears were the overflow of my heart as I prayerfully thanked God for the little legs on this girl that work so hard. The little arms that heed the instructions of her amazing pitching coach and conform to do exactly as Meredith tells her.  I find myself constantly wanting to photograph her pitching. I want to photograph her playing. I want to share. And then share. And finally overshare. I don't want to brag on her. That is really not it -- well, maybe a bit -- but the pride is something I can't quite put into words. I tried tonight when Cate asked why I was crying.

We climbed in the van and I was choked up telling her how proud I was of how hard she worked. She had the sweetest smile as she asked why that made me cry. And I tried to be gentle as I reminded her that sometimes children's legs don't work on command. Sometimes their arms can't lift a ball much less throw it. I told her that I never for one second want to take her abilities for granted. I always always want to give thanks.

We talked about the importance of using our gifts to glorify God for a bit before we turned up the only music she ever wants to listen to and belted the soundtrack from "Newsies" all the way home.

Nothing like singing "Now is the time to seize the day" at the top of your lungs to bring levity to the entire situation.

But I am pretty sure we haven't seen the last of my tears.

Carol - The Blessings Counter