Heart Trouble

I am wired today. No, I’m not wound up or hyper. I’m actually wired, connected to a heart monitor. Why? My irregular heartbeat is more irregular than usual. So for 24 hours, I am sporting a very fashionable group of wires, attached to my chest with pretty red, green, brown, and black snaps–almost Christmasy.

Prior to placement of this lovely monitor, I underwent an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. The technician, Tim, is a very nice young man. He did my last echocardiogram four years ago. He hasn’t changed a bit, wish I could say the same for me. Tim should play poker. He is an expert at not reacting to what he sees or hears on his equipment. I don’t know what he thought about it, but I can tell you, it didn’t sound anything like a heartbeat. No distinct thump, thump. No gentle swishing heard on baby ultrasounds. Nope. My heart sounded like an alien conversation from a Star Wars bar scene. I think it was insulting some other alien and was about to be vaporized.

After leaving the cardiology office, I needed to stop at the post office. My red snap and wire were clearly visible. I hoped the postal employee didn’t think I had a bomb strapped to my chest. I just wanted to send a Christmas present to my granddaughter and get out without a SWAT team surrounding the building. The postal employee may also play poker. If he noticed my wiring, he didn’t react to it, unless there’s an under-the-counter alert button. But I left before SWAT arrived.

Along with the monitor, I was given a chart to track the time and symptoms if I feel chest pain or shortness of breath. They will compare my chart with the monitor, which will help them diagnose what’s happening. This got me thinking (while checking my rearview mirror for the SWAT team). Wouldn’t it be great if I had another heart monitor, a monitor that would alert me when my spiritual heart is not right.

It could beep if my motives are questionable. Maybe it would give me a little jolt when my attitude is bad. When my sarcasm is not funny, but hurtful, the little line would jump. I’m pretty good at justifying my motives, attitudes, and quirky personality. (See, I just did it.) But if I got a print out of what my heart was doing during the day, would I be shocked to learn how bad off it is?

But God has already supplied a monitor to test our hearts. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” So it seems to me the best way to monitor my heart is to study God’s Word daily and talk to him about what changes need to be made to correct my heart problems. I am confident at least one of my hearts can be correctly diagnosed and treated. And a healthy heart is a happy heart, which I hear is good medicine, so there is hope for both hearts after all.


Raising Boys (or Fights, Football, and Stinky Feet)

In the past few months, a few parents of young boys have asked me the secret to raising boys without losing your mind. I’m not sure I achieved that, but my boys have grown into really wonderful men–that, I think, is what they are really asking about.

It’s hard to believe that one day these boys, who at the moment are half killing each other, could possibly turn out OK. Most of us aren’t trying to raise the next president of the United States. We just want them to stop fighting, stop calling their brother names, and stop making such a mess. These parents just need a little encouragement that this, too, shall pass.

Talking with these parents has caused me to remember the days of having three young boys in the house. There were days (most of them) that it was total chaos. Since we homeschooled, they were with me all day, every day. There were always books and papers and toys everywhere. Buzz Lightyear broke the glass on a museum-hung, signed artist print as he was “falling with style.” They used whatever they could find to sled down the stairs. And, in case you didn’t know, boys’ laundry smells bad–really, really, bad.

One of the things I remember them doing happened when I thought the older two were mature enough to stay at home alone for a short time. But when I returned home, I saw the glass in the bird feeder was shattered all over the ground. What could have happened? I asked the boys about it.

“How did the bird feeder glass get broken?”

“Jason shot it with the bb gun.”

“Why were you shooting at the bird feeder? You know you are not allowed to do any shooting when I’m not home, and definitely not from the kitchen window toward the neighbor’s house.”

“I wasn’t shooting at the bird feeder. I was shooting the onion off the top of it and missed.”

“Why was there an onion on the bird feeder?”

“Because we didn’t have any apples.”

“Why were you going to shoot an apple off the bird feeder?”

“Because that was safer than shooting it off Tim’s head.”

Can’t really argue with that. As a creative homeschool mom, the thought went through my mind that this could count as music and history. No, no, I need to use this teachable moment to let them know what they did was very wrong.

“Don’t tell your father. Someday this will be a funny story. Today is not that day.”

And that’s how we survived boys, not taking anything too seriously, and always having each other’s back. Sometimes that meant not telling the other parent everything that happened in a day. It worked for us. We were always on the same page with discipline and direction for our family. So, it was OK if sometimes I didn’t know things they did and sometimes Dad didn’t know–we were on a “need to know” basis. I don’t even like it now when they tell me things they did that I wasn’t aware of at the time.

That’s how we kept our sanity. Well, that, and a lot of prayer. We prayed individually, as a couple, and as a family. We didn’t do everything right, but we loved each other. I see their cherubic faces when I read in Proverbs that love covers a multitude of sins. I think we had a good balance of overlooking inconsequential wrongs, disciplining when necessary, forgiving quickly, and laughing whenever possible.

So, I guess that will be my advice to these frazzled parents. And one more thing, hold the things of this world lightly because they are probably going to get broken.

Before you know it, the boys will be grown and dealing with their own little ones while you relax in the quiet of your empty nest and melt at the faces of your perfect grandchildren, who are driving their parents crazy.

Meet My Friend, Laughter

Laughter and I are best friends. Of course, I share her liberally with my other best friends. We recently took her with us on a road trip. The seven of us squeezed into a mini van and took off on an adventure. Our first stop was The Crazy Lady antique store, of course it was. Laughter insisted on coming into the overly-crowded converted house and almost caused a calamity, as she bent us over or threw our heads back. She can be trouble sometimes.

We continued on our trip with Laughter leading the way. She was loud all day long. Every now and then, she brought tears to our eyes. Even when we were completely worn out, laughter just wouldn’t stop. As we said our goodbyes, Laughter quieted down but never stopped completely. In fact, she kept me awake longer than I expected as we reminisced about our day together.

Laughter has always lived with me. She was close to my boys growing up. Even if she hadn’t been around all day, she showed up at meal time. Perhaps her favorite activity was our family vacations. It was hard to get Laughter to go to bed, and she often woke us up in the wee hours of the night. Even as I told the boys to go to sleep, I would hear Laughter quietly egging them on. Yes, she can be a troublemaker, but I just can’t stay mad at her.

Now Laughter has been introduced to my grandchildren. I love the smiles she puts on their faces. And I love when she joins in my conversations with these precious little ones. My best efforts to keep Laughter quiet when the parents of my grandchildren are not amused by their antics is almost impossible. She just bubbles up and can’t always be controlled. Sometimes I have to take her out of the room so the parents can make their point without her interrupting them.

Laughter was introduced to me by my mom. The three of us spent long hours together. Even during trials. The day after I had been in a car accident, which was also the day before my wedding, I was having trouble moving. I couldn’t bend, so I laid down on the floor to get my shoes out from under the bed. But then I couldn’t get up. I called for my mom to help me. But she and Laughter just joined me on the floor, none of us able to get up until Laughter finally settled down.

Recently, I found out that Laughter was a good friend of my birth mother as well. Not only did they spend a lot of time together, she shared Laughter with her family, too. What’s really strange is my friend, Laughter, sounds exactly the same as her friend, Laughter. Life is funny, which is why Laughter is such a good friend to have along for the ride.

Perhaps the best thing about Laughter is she introduced me to her friend, Joy. Joy hangs around long after Laughter is gone. She’s there no matter what, even when Laughter fails to show up. Joy is a true friend I can count on in any circumstance. But even she is more fun when Laughter joins us. I’m so thankful God has brought both of them into my life!

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by what you have done, I will sing for joy at the works of your hands.” (Psalm 92:4 NASB)