Living Life to the Fullest

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll fairly quickly discover a few things about me: 1)I always error on the side of experiences instead of giving my kids things. 2)The Woodford’s love a good party 3)I always want my kids and their friends to know our house is a safe place to land. So, in the grand scheme of things, no one should really be surprised that I agreed to throw my kids a killer end of school party. I called a buddy with a limo service and worked out a decent deal, had them pick the kids up at 3 different schools, and came back here for a day of food (9 large pizzas, 100 bags of chips and sweet snacks, 2 dozen apples and a dozen oranges to be exact), swimming, 600 water balloons, and jumping on the trampoline. I’m fairly confident all 18 kids were sound asleep by 7:00pm.

But, this post isn’t so much about the party itself. It’s about how God orchestrates things in our life. First of all, I’m an introvert and I don’t particularly love to be surrounded by lots of people. I debated letting each of my kids having separate smaller parties. But, then I decided that was twice as much work, and I might as well rip the band- aid off and have one big party. This left me with the dilemma of how to get 18 kids to my house after a 2 hour school day without inconveniencing parents. Earlier LK had asked to have a limo, and I said “no way”. But, then as I’m thinking about getting these kids to my house, I thought “why not?”. Is it normal for elementary and middle school kids to ride in a limo? No, of course not. Do I want my kids to get used to such luxury, nope. But, today it was something I could do to invest in them and their friends, so I did it.

You can imagine, rolling up into an elementary school and middle school in a limo got lots of attention and talk. But, one lady’s comment really struck me. I recognize this lady, but I do not know her. I simply know that she was a parent at the middle school LK attended in the fall. I’ve never even spoken to her. But, with a scowl and huff, she looks at another mom and says, “That woman can spend money faster than they print it.” Hmmm, interesting that someone I don’t even know their name knows my spending habits. Normally, I give zero concern to what others think of me. But, this has been an interesting week in terms of mom judgement, so I really wanted to retaliate. This woman doesn’t know that 3 of my 4 grandparents died before 65, 2 of them before 55. She doesn’t know my mom died at 55. She doesn’t know I have a family history of every flavor of cancer they make, and heart disease on both sides of my family. So, my gene pool history leans to the fact that I’m not going to be on this earth 100 years. If I’ve only got 15-20 years left to live, I am damn sure not going to waste a minute of time celebrating my kids. Should I spend that money on saving for college? Maybe, but we do have college funds set up, and my kids are wicked smart. So, college funds aren’t a high priority in my life. Should I save for retirement? Maybe, but, again, history doesn’t indicate I’ll need much. Should we put money in savings? Yes, and we do. Should we donate to the less fortunate? Absolutely, and we give not only our money, but our time. However, at a time we have expendable income, I simply choose to enjoy these precious times I have with my kids. So, until you’ve examined my bank account, and understand my life, you really don’t get to judge how I spend my money.

We are raising these kids in a super hard world. Social media, television ads, and peer pressure feeds so much negativity into their lives. I honestly feel my greatest struggle as a parent is to make sure my kids understand that they are known, heard and loved, not only by me, but by their Heavenly Father. He loves us in big ways, so I’m going to love them in big ways. I’m going to be present in the school pick up line. My house is always going to be full of plenty junk food, messy floors, and kids running in and out from the pool. Why? Because when a bunch of 16 year olds ask my kids and their friends if they want to go out drinking and driving around town, I want the 18 kids at my house today to say, No thanks, we’re going to go hang out at the Woodford’s. I remember growing up I had 3-4 mommas, and I was happy to hang out at home with my friends. Never once did I feel the need to make bad choices to feel accepted and loved. I want my kids to have the same. So, if that means throwing ridiculous birthday parties, or picking up kids from school in a limo, I make zero apologies for that. My kid may be the only 6th grader without an iPhone, but she knows her momma loves her big and wants to be part of her life.

But, I can honestly say that I don’t really think me getting a limo today had anything at all to do with my kids. Within minutes of getting in the car, conversation turned to the fact that our limo driver was currently caring for her mom with dementia. Coincidence? I think not. I spent the next 2 hours ministering to this woman from a road I’ve already walked. I was able to pray for her, recommend resources for her. Encourage her that there is a light at the tunnel. Encourage her that it is okay to feel like you are in a living hell and you would do anything to get out of this situation. Encourage her to get help, and some ways that she could get services cheaper than what she is currently paying. And, not to toot my own horn, but it gave me a chance to financially bless this single woman who is seriously struggling to financially take care of herself and her mom. Did my kids need a limo today, not at all. Did Samantha need us today? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. If I hadn’t said “why not” to spoiling my kids today, I would have never met Samantha. I don’t know how Samantha’s story would have panned out if we never met. But, because we’ve met, I’m confident her story gets a little better. She’s already texted me several times today expressing gratitude for our chance meeting. I know she’s told the limo owner about it, because he’s texted me about it. And, I know I’m committed to praying for this woman. And, continuing to help her walk the road of being a care giver for a dementia patient. Would you do me a favor and say a prayer for Samantha tonight?

So, yes, we go a little over board when it comes to celebrating our kids. But, we’re going to live this life to the absolute fullest. I hope instead of judging how we chose to parent our kids, you’d join me in finding ways to celebrate yours- regardless of what scale that is on. Trust me, there were years we had to celebrate our kids and live life to the fullest on a negative budget. It has very little to do with a limo and a swimming pool, and everything to do with being present and loving well.

On this day…

One of my very favorite things about Facebook is the “Facebook Memories” that pop up each morning with the posts and pictures you put up on this day in years past. Usually, I look at them with a gentle smile or a happy tear of how much my kids have grown over the years. But, today, when I saw the memories of past May 6, it was painful. Facebook reminded me that May 6 was a hard day in 2015, 2016, 2017- each year Gran was in the hospital and I was staring death in the face bearing the sole responsibility of making the decision to fight for her life or let her go. I was questioning why in the world God would put me in that place over and over.

So many times over the three years that we were responsible for Gran’s care I remember thinking God, I cannot do this another day. I cannot clean poop up out of the floor, I cannot change and bathe a grown woman, I cannot listen to her tell me how awful I am, I cannot watch her hurt my children- I simply cannot do this one more day. Yet, each time when we were faced with the decision to continue medical care, I continued medical care. And, God gave us the strength to do it one more day. Until last year. Gran went into the hospital on April 19 and as situations progressed we moved her to Hospice on April 25. I felt like a complete and total failure. I felt like I was giving up on her. I felt like I was the one making the decision to let her die, as moving her to hospice was certainly the end. But, I also remember sitting in a conference room crying my heart out to the palliative care doctors saying I didn’t have anything left in me. I could not possibly bring her back into my home. I was exhausted, my husband was exhausted, and my kids were spent. Dementia had taken her brain, heart disease and diabetes had taken her health, and now a stroke had taken her sight and likely ability to walk. Knowing all of this in my head didn’t change the agony in my heart that I was quitting on her. In a way I think those were thoughts brought on by the last 3 years of thinking in the moments mom was sick and dying, that I should have demanded she be transferred to a heart focused hospital in Nashville, that if we could have just gotten her here they could have done something to save her. Maybe, I should have demanded they put her on life support and give her body time to heal from the infection, but we just let her go.

Now, I know these are all crazy thoughts, but the emotion surrounding May always brings me to a place of did I do enough? Did I finish well? I don’t know if I will ever not feel regret about how I cared for Gran in her final days. I don’t even know why I have these thoughts. I guess it is just the fact that we live in a fallen world and Satan will use every foothold he can get into our hearts to make us doubt that God is good and His plan is perfect. So, today, as I look at May 6, I’m part sad that it brings back memories of really hard times. Part of me feels glad that this May 6 brings sunshine, church, a special afternoon with my little man, a sense of peace and gladness of what God has brought us in this last year. And, honestly, a part of me feels guilt- guilt because I’m thankful our whole family is no longer suffering with the burden dementia brought to our lives.

I don’t really know the purpose of this post other than just to confess that the emotions are still raw, the memories are still hard. It’s been over 4 years since mom died, and just a couple days shy of being a year since Gran died and I still question every decision we made over those years. But, the one thing I do not question is the faithfulness of my God who provided us just enough grace and just enough support to make it to the next day.