Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mom, Mother, Mama

Halloween is coming at the end of this month.  Our family doesn't celebrate Halloween really, we celebrate fall instead and the season coming - a season of thankfulness and giving.  But since it is just around the corner, my mind drifted towards Christmas instead. 

Beka tonight began singing, "You're Here" by Francesca Battistelli a song about Mary and her song to Jesus as a baby.  And I began wondering.  What kind of mother was Mary really?  Was she jolly? Was she a lax mother or a strict mother.  Did she laugh if Jesus accidentally got her in the face during a change of clothe diaper?  Or was she incredibly strict and in control constantly? 

Keep in mind I only speak from experience I've seen several types of mothers.

1. The mom who is in control of every single aspect of their child's life.  They are so in their child's life, the child has no real identity of their own.

2. The mom who is strict and in control, but only for some things.  I tend to be this mom - we are cautious about what we allow the girls to watch, they can listen to different types of music, but not without us talking about the lyrics and then once they have the information they make an informed choice, but we are cautious about books, with Elizabeth this is a necessity.  However, the girls can walk to the library, the park and around our neighborhood because children need to be independent to some degree.  As they grow older we give more freedom.  We buy things that are needed, anything extra is for Christmas or birthdays.  The one exception to this rule is books.  I will buy my kids books all day long if I have the money to afford to do so. 

3. The mom who only creates rules as needed.  Leanne Tuohy is a good example - she allows her kids to live their life, but will create rules if it is needed because they made a poor choice.

4.  The inconsistent mom who issues a punishment for some random rule she's made up and then a day later forgets all about it and the punishment ends.    This is not a good strategy really - and it leaves a child wondering where they stand and they have no moral compass. 

5. The parent with no rules, but they care about their kids.  They just don't realize that rules are needed and would rather their kids like them than risk being unpopular or dealing with unhappy children.  This parent also usually spends money on their child for things they don't really need but gives them whatever they want whenever they want it.  These children are terrible to attempt to entertain - I speak from experience here.    I've seen parents who actually fit into 4 and 5 together and then I've seen parents who are one or the other.

6. The parents that have no rule, and don't even meet a child's needs at all   These are often the parents you read about in the news. 

7. Parents who abuse their child - not because they don't love them, but because they don't know how to love and it is often a cycle of abuse being repeated.   My late ex-stepdad, Jim fit into this .  he made sure we had food and clothing and medical care, always made sure we had what we needed.  But when you weren't raised by mentally healthy parents who are either mentally ill or a raging alcoholic and then in foster care or boys homes, it makes being a good parent tough.  I can forgive Jim because I know he didn't want to be that man, he just didn't know how to be any different.  And really, how can you hate a man who is miserable and whose brain is sick?

8. People who should just never be allowed to have children ever again.  I'm sure we have all seen a few examples of this.

Anyway as I was thinking over the lyrics of this song, I decided we won't know while we were alive.  We only have a few clues really.  Somehow I don't think Mary was an incredibly strict mother who never allowed Jesus any independence, after all, they were three days away from Jerusalem before they realized he wasn't with them.  But I don't know how joyful she could be either?  After all, it's very hard to be joyful when your country is under Roman rule and you are at the mercy of soldiers and a roman governor and his whims.  We know she loved Jesus, she was there at the cross as he was dying.  We know Jesus cared for her because he asked John the Beloved to watch over her.  Maybe she was in the middle of uber strict and a lax mom?  We won't know really until we get to heaven. 

I hope you all have a good week.

In Christ,

Monday, October 2, 2017

PANIC and Prayer!

Every parent has something that sets their panic buttons off.  For some, it's health issues, for some it's not seeing their children, for others it might be a fear that they will stop breathing (Terms of Endearment, moments right here a few times). The point is everyone has something that leaves them suddenly worried and concerned or their heart racing in concern.  Obviously, being Elizabeth's mom, I have several.

1. Croupy, barky coughs.  After spending years racing for a nebulizer, to the urgent care of worse, the Emergency Room, that sound makes my hair on the back of my neck raise, my heart starts racing, I'm immediately vigilant and watching Lizzie or Beka like a hawk. I hate croup, hate is not a strong enough word for how I feel, really.

2. Three letters. I. E. P. I think we'd discussed this one ad nauseum.

3. When my girls don't come home on time.  Elizabeth was a little Houdini from birth.  She had three separate ankle and wrist cufflets in the hospital and she consistently managed to find a way to remove them as 2 days old.   I wish I were kidding.  I had no idea that it was a portent of things to come.
By the time Elizabeth was six years old, she had shut down the Kansas Visitor center on I-35.  She literally had a dress that blended with the neighbors of friends we visited swing set - I'm not kidding - it was the exact same pattern and colors.  Then she shut down both levels of Wichita's Towne East Mall because she decided to play hide and seek in the clothing racks.  And then let's not forget the debacle of 2013 when she gave me the wrong child's name and was upstairs while we all frantically searched for her throughout Everett.

And then there is Beka and her six-hour adventure in which she decided for some unknown reason to walk from our house to Burlington and see the Best Buy, stopping for popcorn along the way and seeing the chicks at The Country Store.  Six hours of police, Chris, Sarah and the search and rescue team looking for her while I was trapped in the house because I had second-degree burns and couldn't go outside without covering up.   I won't even paint a picture of how traumatic it was for Chris searching through the creek for Beka.  And people wonder why I have gray hair?!

So today Lizzie missed her bus, instead of calling us from the office at school, she decides to walk home instead.  So about the time, I began worrying and getting anxious, she walked into the house.  I knew she was coming because Lily heard her first and began going to the door looking for her.  Having a dog has proved very helpful.  One of these days the girls will be grown and out of the house.  Even Elizabeth will eventually have her own place and hopefully her own family and when those days come I will miss my girls.  I won't miss the moments when my hair became grayer faster.

And yet in these moments, I have learned to stop, pray and listen for God to prompt me.  When Elizabeth went missing the last time in 2013 praying told me I should head home.  When Beka went missing, it was a prayer that kept me calm and praying for Sarah and Chris to hear God speaking to them that helped find Miss Beka - walking downtown.

I hope you all have a good week.

In Christ,

Friday, September 29, 2017

God is Real to Me

Chris and I went for a drive this evening on a date.  It's something we enjoy doing sometimes, to just spend time together and talk about our days or things on our hearts. It is always lovely and I always enjoy these drives.  Tonight was no exception.

As we drove towards home, I glanced over and then stared a bit longer.  It's been raining here off and on all day and as I looked at the sunset I was amazed.  The clouds met the skyline as a large black mass, but not an ominous mass, it was just there.  The sky we could see was colored dark blue, deep orange and some pink and we could see the rain coming down from the clouds and I was in awe.  These are those moments when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real. 

Those moments when you see the ocean waves coming into the shore and going back out again.  When it is worked up and tumultuous and the waves are topped with white caps and you wonder if anyone could ever survive on an ocean like that.  When I see babies or people when I hear my girls laugh and giggle. When the stars come out at night and they are so vibrant, I feel as if I could almost touch then - those are those moments when I know absolutely 100 percent that God is real. 

Tonight the house is quiet for the night.  Sarah is at work, the girls are sleeping, the dog is laying nearby and softly snoring.  I hear Chris snoring softly in our bedroom and I know that God is real. 

It hasn't always been so.  I still even occasionally ask myself What if I'm wrong and God isn't real?  Even Thomas doubted and so did the apostles after Jesus arose from the dead.  They wondered if it were really possible he was alive. But I find as I grow older and see God working in lives and intervening more, I know He is real.  I have seen him take my brother from death's doorstep and turn it around so that he is still with us.  He has healed me from emotional scars and worries and self-doubt.  I've seen him do amazing things in the lives of others and heal them in ways people would never dream could happen or intervene.  Like when Beka was missing for 6 hours. I was praying that God would help Sarah and Chris hear Him speaking to them and guide them where to find her.  Sarah was ready to come home when something told her that she should go back through downtown one more time and voila, there was Beka.  Or when after a year of financial hardship within two weeks time everything fell perfectly into place so we could move into a nice apartment complex while we waited to begin house hunting.  Seriously, it couldn't have happened that way by coincidence and the manner in which it all happened, I knew it was God at work.  And for some reason, he seems to really like February for our family. 

Tonight as you go to bed, I pray you rest well, have sweet dreams and that you find answers for your doubt. 

In Christ,

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Walk It Out

 Have you ever read a book and felt convicted?  It was God using that author to speak to your heart and you knew you needed to listen closely.  Then you know how I felt reading Walk It Out by Tricia Goyer. 

I had the privilege of meeting Tricia online via Twitter after I wrote a blog post about how God can forgive you even after abortion.  It was one of those times God laid something heavily on my heart and I knew I needed to write it down and share it.  Tricia began following me and if I remember correctly she even shared my blog post.  I had never heard of her before that time, and I hadn't learned her story yet, but when I did I was amazed and inspired.

Growing up as a girl, Tricia's dad had abandoned her family when she was just a little girl and her stepdad was emotionally distant.  So Tricia did what girls without a stable and positive father figure do - she looked for love in all of the wrong places.  But after an abortion at 15 and teen pregnancy at 17 Tricia found God and he began to slowly transform her life.  As you read the book, she will share her story with you.  
 Open about her struggles spiritually, as a teen mom, a young wife, a woman hurting who needed healing and now as an adoptive mom of seven children (yes you read that correctly seven children and those are in addition to her three oldest children she and her husband had together biologically) Tricia will challenge you to begin putting your money where your mouth is and add works to your faith.  Her book is challenging and a great read.  I found that tackling a chapter a day was perfect and her questions at the end of each chapter will make you examine who you are and what God is calling you to do for him and the lives of others as well.

Walk It Out is a call to the church to begin being the hands and feet of Jesus to a world in desperate need to see his light.  It will challenge you to get off your tush and reach out to help those in need.  And let's be honest in today's world, there are many who need our help.  But it also acknowledges that we can change the world for Christ, one person at a time.  We just need to be open to listening to God's voice and allowing him to use us. 

Walk It Out is coming out October 1st and you can pre-order the book here today at this link.

Don't wait, it can change your life and help change the world.

Proud Mom Moment

High functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder - what does that mean exactly?  For different families, it can mean different things. Some families it means their child can take care of their own basic needs, toilet, hygiene, basic skills.  For our family, it means several things.

Elizabeth can cook, clean, take care of her basic hygiene needs, sometimes make her own decisions depending on the situation.  Her deficiencies are dimmer than when we started.  She can speak now, although not always with proper grammar, she struggles with social skills, she lives in her own fantasy world - and truthfully after listening to her when she talks to herself I can see the appeal - imaginary friends don't judge you and you can do anything with no struggles.  If only life worked that way.  She is trusting to a fault - although I'm unsure if that is her ASD or just because she is my child and believes the best of everyone.  She struggles with money - as in not spending it or giving it away.  She loves to buy people gifts or little things.  We often hold her back from going overboard.  She also really, really, really, really struggles with impulse control - yes I used that many reallys and it isn't even close to the number it should be.  Thinking things through sometimes happens, but more often than not - it doesn't and if we aren't vigilant it will get her into trouble.

The neat thing is, she loves children and she has been wanting to babysit for some time now.  Tomorrow she gets her first chance.  And from this point forward, I'm going to unapologetically brag on my girl.  Elizabeth is going to babysit tomorrow while our interim pastor and I are interviewing a potential pastoral candidate for our church with other committee members. Chris will be in the house as a safety net so things should be safe. The biggest issue may be whether or not Dakota gets enough licks from Lily and has enough toys to play with from the toy box (not a problem, I assure you, we have a plethora of toys).  Today at church, Elizabeth took it upon herself with zero prompting from me to find Pastor Paul and ask him what she needed to know about babysitting Dakota his daughter.  She asked about food, likes, rules, and I couldn't be prouder of her!!!   These are those moments, I live for when I know she is going to be okay.  She will still need a safety net, but I can see a bright future ahead of her. 

In the beginning, we didn't know if we would have these moments where we could be proud.  It was tough, I won't lie.  Friends would brag about how well their kids were doing in school, and I was just thrilled if Lizzie made it through a day without a call from the school or a teacher's note.  When she began to excel in school and do better, it felt as if we should be throwing a parade.  It would have been a one family parade, but it deserved one nonetheless to me.  When she was given the Tiger Pride Award for most improved in 9 weeks of school, I wept tears of joy.  When she began reading, I cried off and on for a week because until then I wasn't certain if that was going to happen for our girl.  The battles have been hard, but slowly we are winning them.  Yes, we face new challenges sometimes, but it doesn't negate the victories won to get us to this point.  Someday Elizabeth may get married, she could even have children she may even go to college and have a steady job, we don't know what God has planned for her future.  But I know that no matter what, she can succeed and that is a huge win for this mom's heart.

Have a good week.
In Christ,

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tonight I Will. . . .

Cold and flu season has arrived as usual with the dropping temperatures.  While a cold or round of influenza isn't a big deal to someone who is relatively healthy for Elizabeth this means we need to be careful.  This year we are getting a reminder of why.

When we homeschooled, Lizzie was insulated from the majority of the typical illnesses that kids share with each other.  Now that she is back in public school though and so is Rebekah they are both being exposed to a lot of new things we haven't had to deal with for a while.  This may seem like typical kid stuff for everyone else, but for Elizabeth, it means a lot of watchfulness and making sure she stays healthy and she isn't even immunosuppressed.

Last week, Beka wasn't feeling well.  She had a sore throat and stuffy nose and a slight cough.  I figured it was allergies and still sent her to school.  Now I know it wasn't allergies, it was some virus and now Elizabeth has it and began showing symptoms Monday evening. I kept her home on Tuesday so she could rest some and her color improved enough that I felt she could return to school on Wednesday.  I should have kept her home an extra day and I'll be kicking myself for that a while.  We are approaching Friday and I know Lizzie will be remaining home.  She is coughing deeper and deeper from her chest, so tomorrow we go to the doctor's office and get her checked out, but more importantly, she is staying home and will spend the weekend resting, drinking plenty of fluids and trying to get her well.

I hate asthma.  I hate that it means her respiratory system is weaker than others. I hate late night ER runs and frantic calls to doctors when medicine and inhalers don't cut it.  But what I really hate is sitting by watching her struggle and being unable to do more for her other than trying to soothe her and keep her calm.  I feel so helpless when these spells come.

I will pray, always, and it really does help.  I know that God is with her and He knows my fears and worries.  It soothes the fear and feelings of being out of control.  Because in truth, life is short.  We do not have control, we have an illusion of control and daily, I take my hands off the wheel and give it to God.  Sometimes this is once a day, sometimes it is hour by hour, minute by minute and quite a few times second by second.

So tonight, I will probably sleep in the living room, listening to make sure she doesn't go into distress.  Tonight, I will pray and give my daughter to God, because he is the Great Physician and tonight, I will trust that come what may, He has a plan and someday I will hopefully get to see it.
Tonight, I will read, I will journal, I will blog, I will pray and pray and pray.  I will pray for blessings on my family, I will pray for healing for Elizabeth, I will pray for Sarah and James and his little girl Victoria.  Tonight, I will pray that tomorrow Elizabeth will be feeling much better or that we can get her some extra support to help ease her breathing.

Thank you, Papa, that we can give you our burdens and worries.  Thank you that you know our needs even before we come to you but that you like to hear us give them to you anyway.  Thank you that ultimately you are in control and you know the bigger picture.

Praising God in the Storms

This morning started off ringing - literally my phone was ringing at 5:30 a.m.  It was a friend on the East Coast, she had accidentally called me.  So I fell back to sleep for a whole whopping hour before it was time to wake and get the girls moving.  As a rule, I struggle with going back to sleep, but today that was not the problem at all.  YEAH!!!!

Then Beka went to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  The problem was she closed the door.  We knew the knob would need to be replaced shortly after we moved into the house. The knob likes to stick and the girls all share one bathroom.  It's nice having a separate bathroom so Chris and I can keep our bathroom cleaner than the girls keep theirs.  Today, however, I heard the familiar sound of someone wrestling with the guest bathroom door.  Usually, after a few tries, I hear a familiar click. This was not the case this time around.  Instead, I heard it become more frantic as Beka realized she was trapped in the bathroom.  I quickly went to go help her, but alas, it would not budge.  So I grabbed a butter knife and went to work removing the knob so I could see inside and figure out the problem.

The problem is that the doorknob and it's mechanism are older, so the inside mechanism is breaking down and it got stuck in the position to keep the door secured.  It took a little finagling but I finally got the mechanism to move into the position to unlock and we were able to free Beka.  Chris will be buying a new knob and system on his way home from work today.

Like the doors knob that became worn after years of wear and tear, our spiritual life can become stuck sometimes. Years of trials can wear us down and we can become stuck.  It's easy when we have spiritual valleys or even deserts to wonder if God cares.  We know he does, Jesus tells us it is true.  Remember we read in Matthew 6 yesterday, we learn from Jesus that God cares for the animals, and how much more must he care for us?!   Sometimes in the middle of the storm, it is hard to feel God's presence, but He is still with us.  I love the Casting Crows Praise You in the Storm and the new Mercy Me song,  Even If , here are the words to the chorus:

Even If

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

It isn't easy to praise God in the midst of a storm.  I say this as a woman who spent the entire summer cooped up in her house because of second degree burns, that was an interesting storm.  For years, I used to shake my head at the first few verses in James Chapter 1, 
 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 
When I was younger I couldn't understand why we should be joyful when problems came our way.  I had certainly had my fair share of problems, but how was I supposed to rejoice when I faced them?  But as time has gone by I realize that God has used my trials to prepare me to help others who face trials.  From understanding Sarah and her unique situation to being able to help talk calmly to a friend who is very freaked out.  Those times of hardship allowed me to gain an empathy I might not have otherwise had if I hadn't gone through them.  
Probably the biggest example I can share though and had the privilege of seeing was a friend of mine who even as she lost her battle with cancer continued to praise God through it all.  She was determined to praise him even as she was dying.  If Cari could praise God through all of that, then I could praise God when I faced my small trials.  I still miss her, and my life will be forever changed for the better because I knew her.  
Today I ask, will you work to face your trials and praise God through them all?  Maybe you are struggling with something right now, I want to encourage you that God knows.  He may not calm the storm, but he can still calm you.  
I hope you have a good rest of the week.
In Christ,