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LAST POST ON THIS BLOG!

SEE YOU OVER AT LAFREELAND.COM! (http://www.lafreeland.com/)

In case you missed it,

This is the story I wrote about our Christmas in 2004,

less than two months after

Kyle was diagnosed with leukemia.

Conceding Christmas

PART ONE

3 AM

I burrow deeper under the covers, the bed large and lonely. Thirteen days until Christmas, but I’m not planning a celebration.

Arranging a funeral seems more likely.

My husband stayed at the hospital tonight with our ten-year-old son. This time, Kyle struggles with fever, low blood counts, and multiple infections—staph in his central line and fungus in his left lung. READ THE REST AT LAFREELAND.COM

PART TWO

I curl up in a ball. Think about that verse from Matthew 11. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Do I believe it? Can I live it?

Release him. Trust me.

Every moment I don’t let go, fear eats away at me. I live in bondage to the terror that Kyle will die and leave me. I can’t hold out any longer on the tugging of my heart.

READ THE REST AT LAFREELAND.COM 

Thanks!

Lori

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In the state of Indiana, automated toll machines stand in place of live operators. Makes sense. More profit. No need for on-site restrooms.

During a recent road trip with my mom, I experienced this marvel of technology. Entering the toll way worked out fine—even though the wind tried to call dibs on my ticket as it spit out of the machine.

Exiting proved more difficult. Desperate for a restroom break, I took the off-ramp and waited behind a red pick-up. Never having used an automated machine, I rolled down my window and read the instructions.

Insert ticket according to picture.

Not too hard. I leaned out the window and popped in my ticket according to the diagram. The slot spit the ticket out. I studied the picture and tried again. This time the breeze caught it before I did.

I threw the shifter in park and rushed out to grab the ticket from underneath my front tire. By now, twelve cars waited behind me. Reinserting the ticket ten additional times did nothing for my emotional distress, the disposition of the other drivers, or my chances for finding a restroom anytime soon.

Decoding diagrams and maps isn’t my thing. What happened to throwing change into a basket? My hands shook and a trickle of sweat ran down my back as I slid in the car and looked at my mom. Even though I am a mom, letting someone else be the mom for a moment can sometimes take the pressure off. “Any ideas?” I asked her.

“Let’s just go through it and pay later.”

I nodded and put the car in drive. Her mom wisdom would have been great, had a long wooden arm not blocked our way. I took a deep breath and begged my bladder to hang on.

My wise mom pointed to the machine. “There’s a help button.”

Help. That’s exactly what I needed.

After I pushed the button, a scratchy voice prompted, “What’s your problem?”

I yelled over the honking behind me. “You mean besides the fifteen cars of aggravated people behind me?”

“Where did you get on the toll road, Ma’am?”

I gave my entrance point and seconds later, the correct exit fee popped up on the Pay This Amount screen. Ever helpful, my mom passed me a cupful of change. The woman in the Hummer inches from my bumper got out of her car. “It’s good,” I held up the change. “Be out of here in just a sec.”

She raised her eyebrows, punctuated her irritation with a sigh, and slid back into her car.

With shaky hands, I force fed the machine. It spit out every other coin. $3.25 and many coin feeds later, the arm raised. I escaped before it fell back down.

Whose idea was it to get rid of the live operators—the people who knew what to do and acted before one stuck traveler multiplied into many?

Not too long after my harrowing ticket booth debacle my oldest son, Kyle, returned from youth camp pumped-up on a vital message—Get a mentor. Be a mentor. People need people.

The message stuck. My tollbooth fiasco would have been a non-event had an attendant been there to help me. I need a mentor to steer me in the right direction when I’m stuck. I need to be a mentor and share the wisdom I’ve learned from others who have taken time to guide me.

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:12-14 NIV).

Link to this article in The Christian Pulse  http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/09/16/a-mentor%e2%80%99s-worth/

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I have a love/hate relationship with the month of September.

Strolling the Back to School aisles of Target and tossing twenty-five cent crayons, pencils and glue sticks into my cart makes me giddy. Pretty folders decorated with kittens and flowers beckon to me, while the notebook aisle disperses that new paper smell and packages of dollar markers, with their untouched ink-filled tips, whisper of new beginnings.

Yet in the midst of my back-to-school euphoria, lurking just around the corner is heaviness, a foreshadowing of all the labor that is to come, and it slips down around my shoulders like a mantle, harnessing me until Spring.

For the last three years, since my homeschooling career began, I have wrestled with all that September offers.

September offers an end to chaos, re-instating organization, neatness, schedules, activities and goals. Skyrocketed bedtimes plummet back to earth. Family dinner hour resurfaces. My calendar, filled with weekly repetition, makes expectations clear.

September also offers an end to spontaneity, stifling my impulsive nature. No more sleeping in or late night TV. No more ordering out or yelling, “Get your own!” No more spur of the moment afternoon movies and days at the pool—there are too many things on the schedule for that!

It’s love/hate because it’s hard to pick a side. Chaotic “make up your own rules” days vs. “consistent know what to expect” days. I love order and structure—but not if I’m tied to them!

Does God understand my war?

He does! The Bible promises He is always the same, never changing, and dependable without fail. In Revelation 1:8 (NIV) God tells me that He is the “…Alpha and the Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come…” And Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) assures me that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Yet, God’s character is still filled with novelty and my relationship with Him never needs to be idle. There is always a fresh start. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-20, NIV).

As I press on through September, going from one extreme to another, I know that I am not walking this path alone and I love that God understands me, even in all my strangeness and contradiction. He sprints beside me through my chaotic impulsiveness and marches evenly alongside me through my structured organization. And one day when my kids are grown and gone, we will make a brand new path together. Although, I think September may always lure me in with its nostalgic memories and my desire to reconcile the two sides of myself.

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Through the tiny glass oval, I watched ant-size cars enlarge as my plane descended into Milwaukee. My morning coffee puddled in my stomach. Shoulders tight, I pulled my purse from under the seat and waited to deplane.

I questioned my decision to fly to Wisconsin to drive my mom to our family reunion in Ohio. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go—but locking two polar opposites in a Toyota Corolla for a day couldn’t end well. Could Laissez-faire Lori and Calendar Kay make it a day, let alone ten, without killing each other?

My mom picked me up and we switched seats. As we entered the ramp for 90/94, my phone rang.

She reached for it. “Talking and driving kills people.”

Miles later, she glanced at the speedometer. “Are you going eighty-five?”

I peeked at the gauge and lifted my foot. “No, I’m only going seventy-six.”

Halfway to Indiana, a theater sign jutted from the road. I changed lanes. “Want to take a break and see a movie?”

She frowned. “That’s not on our schedule.”

With a sigh, I shot past the exit. “How about a spontaneous latte?”

“Great.” She smiled. “I’ll buy.”

By the time we pulled into the motel parking lot to pick up the room key, my neck ached.

A stack of stained mattresses sat piled next to our room. I grimaced, having already paid online at a site where the hotel remains a mystery until you enter your credit card. Hoping the inside proved better than the outside, we swiped the key and went in.

I yanked off the blue floral comforters. My mom rested on the edge of her bed and held up the corner of the blanket.

Think camel hair. With burn holes.

She chuckled. “Did I tell you the news story about the bed bugs?”

I ripped off my blanket and scoured the white sheet for movement. “Can you see them?”

“Of course not. Otherwise people wouldn’t sleep on them.”

While I continued my sheet inspection, she went to the sink to wash her face. The faucet handle fell off.

I dialed the front desk. A monotone voice informed me we could switch rooms to one double bed or stay here with a broken sink. I thanked her for being so helpful and hung up.

I groaned. “What else is wrong with this room?”

Turned out a lot. The TV outlet protruded from a duct-taped hole in the wall. The towel rack had ripped out of the shower. And the corners of the bathroom floor contained various unknown debris. Each time we found a new disaster, my mom laughed louder.

I stared at the carpet with a frown, pulled on socks and sent my friend Tracy pictures of our motel debacle. She texted me back this song.

My faucet broke and my towel bars missin’
The A/C’s on and the grates are hissin’
Lord, bring me back to Texas!

My mom grabbed the coffee pot off the counter. “I’m making some decaf. Want some?”

“There’s no water.”

“Sure there is.”

Watching her make coffee using faucet water from the tub sent me over the edge and I giggled so hard I fell off the bed. “I’m so not drinking that.”

As laughter escalated to tears rolling down our faces, the tension and stress of the day disappeared. This Broken Inn bonded us, tempered our differences, and pasted a memory into the scrapbook of our lives.

Sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine. “He will fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy” (NIV Job 8:21).

Link to this article in the Christian Pulse

http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/08/19/broken-inn/

 

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Some days I wonder why I bother to do anything for myself. Whether it’s reading a good book, which I’ve relegated to the quiet hours of late night. Taking a nap, which happened once last year. Or making good on my promise to write a little bit every day, which I’m attempting to do now.

I began the edit of this article at 9:30 a.m. and it’s now 11:17 a.m.

600 words. One page. Plus a barrage of questions from the three children who occupy my house. One by one, they rotate in to stand at the foot of my bed. I tiptoed into the bedroom earlier, when I thought they were not looking.

My fingers pause, suspended over the keyboard, as I grasp to freeze my train of thought for later.

The exchange goes something like this—
“Can I call Dad? I lost my tiny fairy book. The dog threw up on the stairs. Can I watch Martha Speaks? Do we have legal-size paper for my project—it’s due in an hour? Can I take a bath? Who ate all the Cookie Crisp?”

To which I reply, in order—
“Is your room clean? Did you look in your backpack? Go clean it up, it’s your dog. Is your room clean? Why didn’t you ask me this sooner? Is your room clean? Dad ate the cereal.”

Maybe a recording of my top ten answers would buy me some personal time? Or maybe I should surrender and realize I do not own my time. I may never own my time—as long as small people live in my house.

Lord, I need a revelation. A communiqué. An email. A text message. A tweet. Can nothing ever be about me?

You’re asking the wrong question.

Well, Lord, I often ask the wrong question.

Are you looking through My eyes? Do you want what I want?

Lord, I need more than Your eyes. I’m desperate for Your heart. Help me want to want Your desires. Make them mine. I whisper the verse I’ve hidden in my heart:

“Trust in the LORD…Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart…” (Psalm 37:3-5 NIV).

http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/07/19/why-bother/

Just For Fun:

Ever had one of those days? Take a picture and share your best Why Bother? expression! Check back on my website for the craziest looks! Faces only please. Check out the first pictures on the Why Bother? page.

Email your pictures to lafreeland@hotmail.com

 

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http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/06/21/failing-fast/

A lone piece of pizza taunted me from the cardboard box. A perfect triangle of hot and greasy heaven—mozzarella browned just so. I sidestepped the mouth-watering heap of cheese and pepperoni and grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl.

“Hey,” I yelled to the kids. “Someone come eat this pizza!”

No one came.

I peeled the banana, shoved it in my mouth, and waited a minute or two for the sound of pounding footsteps on the stairs.

The only sound came from my nails as I clicked them against the white Formica countertop, inches from the pizza box. I wandered around the kitchen, gliding past that last slice of pizza for at least another thirty seconds before grabbing the delicious, gooey pile of Pizza Hut mastery and devouring it.

Nineteen days of self-denial gone in less than a minute.

I’d like to say the pizza sat like a rock in my stomach, but it didn’t. I’d like to say I regretted eating it, but I didn’t. Heaven from the first bite—the tangy sauce danced in my mouth—the richness of the browned cheese tantalized my tongue and warmed my stomach.

How sad to trade twenty-one days of the Daniel Fast for a piece of pizza that took twenty seconds to inhale. Did my moment of weakness undo the other nineteen days? Or the TV I’d given up? Did it negate the prayers seeking God’s blessing over my writing?

Guilt slammed me. What a loser—I couldn’t even make it two more days. Deflated, I curled up on my bed and hugged my pillow.

I had given up sugar, meat, dairy, coffee, and hours of DVR. Despite the natural, healthy food and the extra hours of sleep, I felt awful. And further from God than ever.

As I cried, curled up under the covers, a verse played through the soundtrack in my head. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).

It’s not about the food. It’s about Me. Giving up food and TV pushed you into the arms of books and friends when you were supposed to run to Me with your burdens. Not to other things.

As God whispered truth into my heart, the tears stopped running down my cheeks, and I realized my whole perspective had been off. I hadn’t understood the real reason for the fast.

“Lord,” I whispered,”I’m sorry about the pizza. Help me remember You made me to need You. Help me to run to You first because You are the only One who will truly satisfy.”

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There were years I gave ties and years I gave tools. Those were the good years. Then there were years I gave nothing. Those were the bad years. Being Daddy’s girl only works if Daddy sticks around. Mine didn’t, and Father’s Day quickly morphed into Forget Him Day. Not that that worked very well. How could I miss him and hate him at the same time? For years, I prayed, “Heal our relationship.” Still, there was no relationship. So I prayed, “Help me love him anyway.” We spoke a few times a year. The prayer changed to, “God, please bring restoration.”

Then, my son got cancer.

But before that, my Father’s Days went something like this:

Father’s Day 1979. Elkhart, Indiana. I am ten.

“Daddy, can we go to the pool one more time and go down the big slide?” I let go of his hand and run down the hotel hallway. “Please,” I swivel and run backwards. “Please, please, please!”

Laughing, he sprints past me. “First one with their suit on gets to pick off the room service menu!”

I turn to catch up, running faster and faster, until I slide into the room behind him.

“I win!” He throws my pink swimsuit over my head. “And I pick, hmm…” He places his fist under his chin, his eyes focus in deep concentration.

I silently plead hamburgers and onion rings. Our favorite.

“Hamburgers with onion rings!” he roars.

“And mustard,” I remind him with a grin.

Father’s Day 1987. Roseville, MN. I am 17.

“I miss you, Dad.”

My sigh crosses two hundred fifty six miles in less than a second. I picture him in his office downstairs behind his massive oak desk and smell the cedar on the walls of the office we built together when I was eleven. He let me drill holes and mount planks for hours, never complaining about how much time my help cost him in the process.

“I know…I miss you, too.” His chair squeaks in the background, and I know he is leaning back, rubbing his hand over his face. “It was a good idea to go up early and get a job. You’ll be fine once school starts. I’ll drive up there next week. We’ll go to that hotel in St. Paul for crab legs, okay?”

“Okay. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.”

Father’s Day 1989. Windsor, WI. I am 19.

Butter sizzles on the griddle. My dad stands calmly flipping pancakes. Dishes lie piled next to the sink, forgotten, just like me. Rage pours off my body in waves. The smell that used to comfort pushes me to vomit.

Our roles reverse this morning, and I am the voice of reason. It’s confusing, this turnabout. I shift my weight. Struggle to stay standing.

Dads don’t run away when life gets hard. They don’t stop holding up your world while you’re still getting your bearings. They don’t let you drown in betrayal and bewilderment.

He turns the griddle off and crosses his arms.

“You told me to leave if I was unhappy.”

“Since when do you listen to me?!” I scream. “I’m nineteen years old! You’re the dad!”

“I need to get out. I haven’t been happy for a long time.” He avoids my eyes, looks at the ground. The only sign of remorse he’s shown since this conversation began.

I take a step back against the wall for support.

“So you’re just going to walk out? What about me?”

“You’re all grown up. I did my job. I need something for me.”

“I hate you,” I hiss. “I will never forgive you if you do this.” My heart hardens with every word. “You’ve lost me, too.”

2004. Madison, Wisconsin. I am 33. My son battles leukemia in the fight of his life.

My hands shake. I lean against the bedroom wall, the phone pressed against my ear. Tears stream down my face. I hate Father’s Day. Once a year, my heart rips open, leaving a hole that takes weeks to bandage. Why am I calling my dad today of all days? The last time we talked, it didn’t go so well. That was two years ago.

The phone stops ringing and he answers. Same voice. Familiar and heartbreaking all at the same time. “This is Tom.”

I panic. Go to hang up. Change my mind. How can I still miss him so much? I want to curl up in his lap. But I can’t.

“Hello?”

“Daddy?” My voice shakes. I struggle to breathe “Kyle’s sick. He’s not getting better. The chemo is killing him. Daddy, I don’t know what to do.”

Silence.

Then his voice, hoarse and unsteady, comes across the line. “I’ll be there in three hours.”

“Okay,” I whisper back. The line clicks. I close my phone and slowly slide down the wall into a puddle on the carpet.

“Lord, I’m so tired of all this pain. I can’t do this anymore. Please fix this,” I beg.

The memory our last Father’s Day together grabs me. Pulls me back into our kitchen where my dad is flipping pancakes, wearing a granite face. I smell the fresh batter. Nausea comes in waves—I am there all over again.

Then, an odd thing happens. In this memory, my dad says the words he said before, but as he’s talking, he transforms into a small boy. His angry, impenitent voice lowers. The hurtful words begin to change.

“I’m lonely,” the little boy says. “I want to be loved for who I am.” His eyes, glossy with unshed tears, pierce mine. “I’m hurting. I don’t know what to do.”

Taken back, I push off my bedroom carpet and open my eyes. I want to put my arms around that little boy. My dad desperately wants to be loved. Just like me. This I can understand. The bitterness and anger, buried deep inside my soul, loosens just the tiniest bit. No matter what he did, I love my dad, and I need to tell him.

Father’s Day 2006. Madison, WI. I am 36.

Dad and I sit at Perkins, sipping coffee, our booth hidden behind frosted glass. Glad for the privacy, I gear up to say the words I’ve prepared. Last year when he came for Kyle, I didn’t tell him about the little boy I saw the day I called him sobbing. Will he understand if I tell him now? I need him to understand—it is our bridge to restoration.

“I’m glad you spent the weekend, even if it was because your truck wouldn’t start.” He comes every few months to visit, but never stays longer than a day, and I covet the hours that we have together.

He nods, moves his hand to cover mine. “It’s been a better year,” he begins. “Kyle’s doing better and,” he pauses, his eyes catch mine, “there’s you and I.”

I rest my other hand on his and squeeze. “Dad…I’m sorry for all the awful things I said to you the day you left. And after. I was angry and hurt. I didn’t mean those things–” my voice breaks.

His eyes grow shiny. He pulls his hand from mine to blow his nose with the napkin from the table. “I love you, and I’ll always be your Dad. I’m sorry too.”

He wipes his eyes. “If I could do it all again….” His voice drops. “If I could take it back, I would.”

Words I never thought I would hear. Words I longed to hear. The ache in my heart begins to mend. Sometimes it’s hard to believe my dad is back in my life. And while we can never go back, we can move forward.

Today is a power tool day. And I am grateful.

With a grin, I reach under my coat and hand him a box. “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”

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