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.
Amen

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." 
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=NIV
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,
Maureen 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Losing Control and Being Thankful.

I have a tradition I unknowingly started several years ago.  Unknowingly as in, I started doing it and now it has become something I do every fall.  I enjoy it as well.  I like making Gratitude Lists each day.

If you follow my blog, then you know of my love for Fall.  More to the point, I love all things Fall, except for Halloween, I can take or leave it.  I love the colors and so many other things about Fall, but one of my favorite things is Thanksgiving.  I love finding reasons to be thankful and I find that especially in times of trial or exceptionally awful times that making a list of things to be thankful for, keeps me humble, and it helps me keep my eye on the fact that even though tough times come, so do good times, it's really all about waiting out the storm.

I also find that in listing my reasons to be grateful that it helps me stay positive.  In a world with constant headlines and negative press right and left that can be a daunting task.  It takes an awful lot of energy to find good things in bad situations.  It also doesn't take as much energy to find the negative, but in reality how we view tough times is about our perspective. 

Right now, money is tight for us.  We are managing, but there isn't a lot of wiggle room for extras really.  I can choose to be pessimistic or I can choose to remember that God is always providing for our family and that He is faithful.  I choose the latter of the two.  And I have noticed that it helps me sleep better.  Before I would have been a mess, I would have had awful insomnia and struggled to stay positive.  It's easy to default to that, but I choose instead to be thankful that we have food to eat, a roof over our heads and enough money to pay the bills.  It sounds odd I know, but it is still important to keep that positive attitude because it also means I am doing several things.  First, staying positive means I am trusting God to take care of us.  As someone who came from instability that isn't an easy task for me to accomplish.  However, I know that in Matthew  Jesus himself said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drinks; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6: 25 & 26  You are more valuable than the animals God created?  He takes care of them, so how much more is he going to take care of us?!  That's an awesome thing to think about.  Those verses have comforted me more often than I can tell you.  Secondly, I am slowly giving up control.  Believe me when I tell you that giving up control is not easy.  I like being in control, but I know that when I am in control that I mess things up.  And when I give God control, I see a much more favorable outcome.  So as I age, I am more willing to let God have control.   And when God has it under control, I know I can be thankful.

What are you grateful for today?  I will share my list, feel free to share your reasons to be thankful in the comments section.

1. I am thankful that God always takes care of our needs and that he is patient with me when I struggle to have control.

2. I am thankful that Chris really likes his job and he gets to chance to travel for work from time to time.  He enjoys traveling and seeing new places and things.

3. I am thankful that Lizzie and Beka are both feeling better today after needing a down day yesterday.

4.  I am thankful that we have phones now so we can stay connected to other people.  Can you imagine how lonely people must have been before phones came along?

Those are just a few things I have for today.  I would like to challenge you to find reasons to be thankful this Fall, yes, I said Fall.  Make this a season of being Thankful, not just for the holiday but for every day and see how it changes your perspective. 

In Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Do You Do With Sick Kids


Today is one of those days when I have two out of three sick children at home.  I am one of the fortunate few who gets the privilege of being a stay at home mom.  It isn't something I take lightly because I have friends who don't have that option.  And I happen to like being a stay at home mom.

So what do I do when my girls feel under the weather?  It isn't a ton of fun, but it's our method.  When I was a little girl, if I was sick there was no tv until Mom was certain I was really sick.  Given how often I was home sick (it wasn't often), it didn't take long for Mom to realize that I was truly sick.  Once I began feeling a little bit better, I was allowed to lounge on the sofa for a bit, maybe watch TV, depending on if I felt well enough to do so.

1.  Lots of fluids.  Hydration is important and given that the average American is not properly hydrated, to begin with, I would be surprised if remember this one.  So drink up when you are sick, water is always best, but juice, tea, something fizzy if you have a funny tummy, I think you get my point.

2. Jello.  It sounds weird I know, but I add fruit juice into my Jello Knox Blox so they get calories and it's soft and easy on the throat.

3. Lots of rest.  Even now, the girls are snuggled up on the sofa with blankets and pillows resting and reading for now.  Depending on how they feel throughout the day, I may have them spend time on their school work.

4. Snuggles:  Snuggles help make everything seem less bleak.  In fact, it's often one of the orders I give, you need snuggles twice a day prescribed by Dr. Mom.

5.  Doctor's visit:  Depending on the severity of the illness a doctor's office visit may be in the cards.  Two years ago Beka was dreadfully sick near her birthday and actually on her birthday.  She even took naps snuggling with Chris or I and she was 8 years old at the time, so snuggles weren't usually something she enjoyed doing when she could run outside and play instead.  She lay listless and lethargic, it was scary to see her that way.  I am not especially fond of seeing Elizabeth sick either, but Beka is so rarely ill that is was especially scary.

6.  Stay on top of medicine.  If your child is sick enough to visit the doctor, the odds are good that they will tell you to give Tylenol and ibuprofen or some kind of medication.  Stay on top of that medication - it eases your child's suffering AND it eases your suffering as well.  I don't know about your child but mine tend to be whiny when they don't feel well so medication helps with a lot of things, but especially the whinies.

7.  Be patient.  This one sounds simple in practice, but in truth it is tough to be patient when you have things to get done and you can't leave the house because your child is sick.  I usually can send Chris or he gives me a break so I can run to the store or do what I need to do to grab what we all need.  But I admit even I get antsy if the girls are confined to the house for too long, but you want them to get better quickly, so be patients and rest with them.  

8.  Last but certainly not least. Pray.  It is a privilege to pray for our children. Never is this more needed than when they are sick or facing challenges.  Plus you can slip in a prayer for yourself as well if the illness is prolonged and let's be honest here, by the time our kids feel better we are just as ready as they are for them to feel better. 

I hope you all have a good week.

In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dear Mom, I See You

Dear Mom who is new the Autism journey,

I see you.  I have felt your pain.  And I want you to know you are not alone.  All of us who are on this roller coaster ride with Autism have been at the beginning of the journey struggling to remain strong while wanting to fall apart.  All of us heard those words, Autism or Autism Spectrum.

My journey started in 2006 when my daughter was four years old.  Eleven years later she has come a long way.  The child who could barely speak now talks non-stop.  The girl who would bang her head when she was frustrated now can somewhat tell me what's going on, at the very least, she has found a less self-destructive way to express her frustration and angst.  It won't always be an easy road, but it can come with amazing blessings.  The first time your child talks to you when their therapy begins to do what it's designed to do if you are fortunate enough when your child hugs you.  These seem so small to other families, but to us and those living with Autism, they are huge.  So again let me share some of the lessons I learned as we live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

1.  Some people will strive to be awesome and supportive - keep those people.  Some people won't get it and more importantly they have zero desire to get it - walk away now while you can, it won't get better or easier and honestly, you will expend enough emotional energy advocating for your child so save that extra energy instead of wasting on people who won't be supportive of you.  Some people won't get it, but they want to get it.  You need to keep these people, give them a few extra measures of grace and mercy when they say something stupid because we are all human and we all say stupid stuff from time to time, Heaven knows I sure do.

2. A good team can be a huge asset.  Speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA, the list goes on, but all of these are designed to help you and your child grow and meet the challenges he or she faces daily. 

3.  It's okay to have bad days.  First, you are not alone on having bad days.  When we first began the journey with Elizabeth we had a lot of bad days.  Change would set her off, sugar set her off, food coloring set her off, anything really could set her off.  Some days she woke up and was all over the place, so I closed up the house, called her in to school, let her watch Veggie Tales until I thought I'd lose my mind if I heard the theme song again (and it's a catchy little song, but not 20 times in one day).  Thankfully, because she had a great team, they understood that when she was off, she needed to stay someplace safe and familiar.  School at that time was not that place.  It became that place slowly though with great teachers and team members who helped Lizzie adjust. 

4. You didn't do anything wrong.  If you are like me, when you read this, it will take a while before it sinks in that really nothing we said, ate, drank or did caused our child to have Autism, it wasn't vaccines, because Autism is in the brain, all of those neural networks are working on overdrive, a vaccine did not cause that, something else did, but it wasn't you.  I say this as the mom who beat herself up for a year because I felt as if I had failed my daughter in so many ways.  I still occasionally struggle with those feelings, but really there isn't anything we did.  It isn't our fault and it's okay to give yourself time to get your heart and head to catch up.

5. It is okay to mourn.  In some ways a diagnosis, no matter if it is health related, developmental related, or mentally related means a death of our dreams.  All parents have dreams for their children when they are born or expecting them (at least the parents I know did and do).  You will dream again, but first, you have to let go of what you thought your journey would be with your child - that is like a death of sorts.  It's normal to grieve, even be in denial, or struggle with acceptance and just as the cycle doesn't really end for those who lose a loved one, it doesn't really end for us either, it just shifts and changes as time goes on.

6.  It's okay to be scared and uncertain of the future.  It's also okay to research like crazy.  Goodness knows I researched everything and anything.  I even had a period of time where I shut down for a little bit.  It was too much, and we had too many things happen in our family and I just couldn't keep on keeping on anymore. 

7. Be patient with your spouse, they are grieving too and it is also hard for them.  Men compartmentalize things more than women.  Not all men, but a good chunk of them.  So Chris didn't talk to me about his grief over Elizabeth's diagnosis and I didn't talk to him and then we came together and started talking and discovered we weren't alone.  It helped a lot.

8.  Be your child's advocate.  If you can't do it, find someone who can help you learn how.  You are the difference between your child falling through the cracks versus your child getting the services and the help they need. 

9. Listen to your instincts. If your intuition says something isn't right at school, I find that unexpected visits help a lot.  I am a big fan of dropping in unannounced.  I have been fortunate to never find a problem, but not all parents have been so lucky.

10.  Work with your child's team, not against them.  This one is important, they need to know what is going on at home because if something is off at home, it makes for an off day at school. Keep them in the loop, talk to them.  Let them know you are on their side.  Being a parent of a child with special needs isn't easy, but neither is being a teacher and you don't have to constantly attend seminars or conferences and classes to keep your license to be a parent.  Teachers do, so it's tough to do your job if parents are working against you.  In our house we have a strict rule, if you get in trouble at school, you get in trouble at home. 

11. Know when to fight and when to let something slide.  Some battles will be big and need to be fought, like whether your child should join a self contained classroom or not - that is a big battle.  Especially, if you feel that it isn't the best place for your child.  Other battles are small, so let them slide, like clothing choices.  Decide what is important to you and go from there.

12. It's okay to tell your child no.  This one is tough because I think as we are adjusting to our new normal, it is easy to over indulge our children.  Chris and I certainly fell into this trap after Lizzie was diagnosed, then once the shock began wearing off, we got back on track and insisted on better behavior.  So if you have fallen into this trap, just know you aren't the first parent and you won't be the last parent to slide for a little while. 

I hope this helps you as you start your journey.  You can do this, it will be tough, but it doesn't mean the world is ending.  It may feel that way for a while, but it isn't really, it's just going to take some time to grieve and adjust.

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, September 15, 2017

So Happy!

I am thrilled right now. It is Friday evening,  the mornings are wonderfully cool and I have a song to sing.

To a conga tune sing with me if you want.
I am wearing flannel
And it makes me happy.
(Repeat as often or not as you prefer)

I am loving this beautiful cool weather.  I love how it smells. I love seeing leaves on the ground, I love it all. But this year I have even more reasons to love the cooler weather.

Since not everyone who reads my blog is my friend on Facebook.  I will share on here. In early June I was lighting our grill and used too much lighter fluid, I also unwisely closed the lid to the grill and went to light the charcoal and whoosh,  flames shot out. I lost my eyebrows, and some of my hair. I also sustained second degree burns on my lips, hands and arms. I am feeling better and stronger now, but as a result I must wear gloves for one to two years while my burns finish healing completely.  Have you ever tried wearing gloves when it's hot outside? It is unpleasant to say the least. It is why we cancelled our trip to Vegas, gloves in arid dry hot climates are not fun and if I am truly being a stickler I should probably wear long sleeves, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it during the warm season.

So now, I can lower my electric bill, wear the flannel I love so much,  and sip hot tea inside and outside. It is marvelous! And then tonight I found a huge maple leaf that had turned yellow and was on our deck. It was a sweet sight and made my heart sing with joy.  It made me equally happy to hear we may have another winter like last year.  I would dearly love another winter with snow. I love how it looks when it's all freshly fallen and clean. I don't even mind when it's dirty (Nope, I am not a neat freak). 

Enjoy your weekend and I will see you next week.

In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Consequences

I can honestly say that Beka is in good company.  he came home with a slip that needed signing because she had a red card pulled. I have to laugh quietly with Chris because she is off to a stellar start with her teacher.  Her sisters also struggled to adapt to school from home.

We missed Sarah's struggle to adjust to school. We did not miss Elizabeth's one bit.  If she hadn't had an IEP in place she would have been suspended several times.  I will say this for my girls, it's never boring being their mom.

As I thought about it, I wondered how often do we make God shake his head at us. Personally,  I am sure he shakes his head often at me. I'm pretty sure he was thinking, "Maybe we should have made her less accident prone" when I caught fire. Or looks at me and wonders why on earth would I be so foolish and do my own thing when experience tells me it is better to allow God to lead my choices.   I know I am guilty of breaking his heart more than once. And yet God loves me anyway. 

Tonight our Bible Study was over Balaam in Numbers 22 through 25. Balaam was a sorcerer and the Moab King Balak wanted to pay, Balaam to curse the children of Israel. While in the end he did not and only blessed them because God sent an angel to kill him, Balaam still told the King how to weaken Israel by sharing their women who would encourage men to worship another God.  Why would he do this? Because he wanted the money.  Balaam did do what God told him, but only after he realized he would die otherwise and even then he still didn't do exactly as God said. In the end it did cost him his life.  While many of our consequences aren't that dire, we do still face consequences after we choose to not listen to God or obey Him.  We as humans want to be in charge, we want to have control (I know I struggle with this one myself) and so we fight God tooth and nail and then wonder why he allowed something bad to happen . . . Consequences. And just as we as parents have to sometimes step back and allow our children to learn from poor choices or suffer consequences, God does the same with us. And just as I as a mom and Chris as a dad comfort our children after a tough lesson, God comforts us at times.

Do you struggle to trust in God implicitly?  Do you fight to be the one calling the shots?  I know I do over and over again.  And yet, let me reassure you that God still loves you.  He realizes we are flawed, we are human and we have been given free will.  That includes the free will to make mistakes, poor choices and it also means we will face consequences of those mistakes and poor choices.  The good news is, Jesus intercedes for us and his death and resurrection mean that we do not have to remain slaves to sin and we can always ask forgiveness.  I have found that even after receiving baptism by the Holy Spirit that I still need to ask forgiveness sometimes.  I am flesh and blood, I am not perfect yet.  

Papa,
Thank you that no matter how many times we fall down, you still pick us up and encourages us running the race that you've set before us.  Thank you that each person has a different pace and you don't insist we keep up with others.  Thank you that even when I fall, you love me anyway.  
Help us as we seek you and learn more about having a deep relationship with you.  Bless us with courage, wisdom and a hunger to know more of you.  

Amen.


Monday, September 11, 2017

New Week and Not So New Challenges

We started a new school week today.  I thought certainly today would go better than last week.  It did .  .for Elizabeth.  For Beka not so much. A part of the problem is that while Elizabeth has faced challenges from birth on, Beka was born in perfect health and without any delays.  This makes these challenges seem especially tough for her to face and this is just elementary school.  Can you imagine how she would do if she faced something serious? 

As she walked in the door I performed several different things.  First, we snuggled.  Then we giggled a bit.  Then we talked about why she felt her day wasn't so great.  She is bored in Math - I can see that she is used to being constantly challenged education wise.  But she isn't proficient in her multiplication facts and I pointed this out to her.  So she is bored for now, but she won't be bored for the whole school year.  Then she complained that her teacher made her sit up and didn't care that she was sulking.  So we covered that Mrs. Forslund has other students who need her attention and she will have to get used to not being the sole focus of her teacher.  This one is going to take some time.  Somewhere along the way, we seem to have inadvertently sent our youngest the message that the world revolves around her.  Newsflash - it doesn't so she's sucking it up.  Then some kid took her headphones off of her ears and purposely screamed in her ears.  Now this one, I can get involved in and will tomorrow.  Beka doesn't know that is my plan, but doggone it, it isn't okay. 

Once I was satisfied that I had addressed her complaints, we had a chat.  Today's chat was about perspective and perseverance.  Perspective, to help her look for the positive stuff in the day instead of always looking for the bad stuff.  Perspective so that she can find a way to not feel quite so gloomy.  She was so excited to attend school and it is entirely too early for her to hate it right now.

Now for Perseverance.  We read James 1: 2 -4 "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." (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=NIV).  We even looked up the word perseverance - which is a fancy way of saying being determined, or stubborn, in short, it means you don't give up easily and keep trying even when it looks tough.  Life will be full of difficult things, it will be full of trials and obstacles that come our way, but we must persevere or remain determined to finish what we start.  I admit I struggle with this one a lot, especially lately.  It isn't that I don't want to finish what I start, it's that illness or injury stood in my way this year.  I am very ready for 2018 to start.  I reminded Beka that she promised to attend school for the entire year.  And I stand by that.  I don't necessarily like seeing my daughter unhappy, but it's time that she learned to stick with her commitments.  For that matter, I think it needs to be my New Year's Resolution as well this coming year to start a project and finish it.  

Today wasn't so great for Beka, but tomorrow is a new day and I think it can improve and that she has some great lessons to learn this year. I look forward to watching her grow as a young lady and see the growth it will bring in her.  

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jesus' Love

I am taking part in scripture writing this month.  Truthfully, I am considering it a daily thing for a year.  I really enjoy it and it is a great way to help hide the word of God in my heart and I can see it helping me grow.

Today's verses were John 15: 9-14.  Great paragraph, but the two verses that stuck out to me are verses 12 and 13, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."  New Living Translation (NLT)
As I read through those verses I felt compelled to visit several different translations and each time I saw that the words remained remarkably similar with only a few differences.  Each time Jesus is commanding that we are brothers and sisters in Christ love each other the same way God loves us.

What exactly does that love mean?  Well, lets take a look.  We see examples of how much God loves us in many ways throughout the New Testament.  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
1 John 4:9 says something very similar "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  But perhaps one of the most famous verses that talk to us about what love is, in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails. . . "  Jesus even takes it a step further than Paul in Corinthians, he tells us to love our enemies.  Luke 6: 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who loved them." verse 35 carries on, "But love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting anything back".  He continues on about mercy and extending it because God extends mercy to us, even though we don't deserve it.

Then I began thinking about whether or not we love others as we should often.  I admit it, I am guilty of failing to love those who aren't kind to me.  I struggle with wanting them to pay. I want justice, sometimes I want to be the one who dishes it out.  Is that normal for me as a human being?  Of course, it is.  However, it is not what God wants me to do.  He wants me to love those who hurt me, who are my enemy or who persecute me.  Let's be honest, that is a tough pill to swallow for many of us.  Do you tend to love others who hurt your feelings or harm you?  Probably not because like me, you too are human and flawed.  Can God change our heart so that we still love others when they harm us?  ABSOLUTELY!!!

Now for the real rub. Do we as the Body of Christ, truly love each other the way we should?   In all honesty, often times no we don't love others as God loves us.  After all, would we love others enough to sacrifice our own children to save other lives?  As a mom, I am uncertain if I could do it. 

My mother in law and I were discussing it the other day and admitted to each other we would most likely be unable to sacrifice our own child.  This brought us to the story of Abraham and God asking Abraham to love him (God) enough to offer up the son he and his wife had waited almost a century for as the sacrifice.  Let's stop for a second, and let me point out, this is a story that took place in the Torah, before King David, before the years in which Israel flaunted their lack of obedience, eventually earning them many years in exile in the country Babylon (or Persia).   And I would like to point out how Abraham, who loved Isaac so greatly, obeyed God and laid his son on the altar and had the knife raised to sacrifice him before God interceded.  Do you see the parallel?  A man who loved his son greatly would have sacrificed his son to atone for sin.  God gave his only son to atone for our sins - a son who did nothing wrong.  And he showed us this act years before prophets began predicting the Messiah would come.  That is an amazing love.  Just as Abraham would never have another son, God only has Jesus as his son.  Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for sin, God did actually sacrifice his son for us so that we can be free.  If someone told you today that if you sacrifice your child that you could save the entire world from sin, would you sacrifice your son or daughter?  I'm pretty sure most of us are unwilling to do that.  I know I would deeply wrestle with that decision if God asked it of me.  In fact, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have the strength to sacrifice one of my girls even if it would save the whole world. 

Think about that level of sacrifice and what it calls for.  Then think about how much that means Jesus loved us that he was willing to be the sacrifice of all sacrifices.  Even if he did know he would come back from the dead, his death was far from an easy one.  The fact that he survived the flogging from the Romans is amazing, then the shock and exhaustion he was already facing from lack of sleep and excruciating pain of being beaten, flogged and then nailed to cross.  The fact that he survived at all to make it to the cross is fairly miraculous to me.  That is love. 

God tells us of his love over and over again, but nowhere more clearly than in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.  That isn't just how we are to love others, but it also is how God loves us!  So now let me ask you a really tough question.  Do you live this command out?  If not, are you willing to ask God to help you live it out?  Will you be real love?  Not the lie the world is attempting to sell to us these days that says you must agree with others if you love them, or you give them your body if you love them. Will you be patient, kind, will you not boast, lose your pride, be willing to be self-less, slow to anger, will you always protect, never give up and always persevere?  Will you love each other enough that you put aside the petty things?  Will you show them grace, mercy, and forgiveness just as God has shown you?

Papa,
Thank you for your Word.  Thank you that you love us even though we are hopelessly flawed.  Thank you for sharing with us how you want us to live daily in the Bible.
 Help me to love my fellow human beings as you love me and to remember how much you love me, you forgive me my faults, sins, and stupidity and to extend that same love to others. Make me a beacon of light and hope into the darkness surrounding our world and may others see you instead of me.
Amen

Have a good weekend.

In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

First Day of School






Today is a big day in the Koeppel household.  Today the girls began school.  For the first time in six years, I am sitting in a house without laptops pulled out.  This year there are no notebooks, pencil boxes scattered in the morning routine of learning at our kitchen table.  This morning, I am sipping hot tea and trusting in the verse in the picture. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your Heart and lean not on your own understanding,  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3: 5 & 6.  Talking about trust is easy when the words are coming out of your mouth.  Trusting when the bank account is overdrawn, groceries are dwindling and you aren't certain how to get through the month is a lot tougher.  Trusting when you allow others to help you after being hurt and let down, is exponentially tougher.  But that is a part of this journey as we seek a deeper relationship with God.  Allowing God to tear down walls and soften our hearts is scary.  After all, isn't our fear that maybe what we hear isn't right and God won't love us.  In truth, God already knows our hearts and whether they are loveable or not.  By the world's standards, we may seem like good people.  But God expects more from us.  He sees past our hurts, wounds, and scars and knows all that we can be now and in the future. Our walls don't fool God, he can see past them and through them already.  He knows every wound, every betrayal, he also knows our weaknesses and strengths and He loves us anyway.

My prayer for today is that God speaks to your heart and soul, gives you healing where you need the healing. Let us pray together.

Lord,
Thank you for new school years, new teachers, new students, and new adventures.  Lord, please be with our teachers as they work to engage and excite our children to learn.  Please bless them with an extra measure of strength and stamina. Bless our teachers with giggles and smiles.  Bless them with parents who truly wish to see their children learn and work with teachers instead of against them.

Please be with our children as they go to school with new teachers.  Calm their fears and concerns, ease their minds and help them sit still and pay attention when needed.  Help them to see that teachers are meant to be their friends.  Help them make friends and have a good year as they learn. 

Be with special needs children and teachers and parents.  Bless them as they struggle and strive to aid our special babies in growth and moving towards the goals set before them. 

Shine your light into the darkness, protect our children and our teachers and staff.  Keep your hand on this school year and all who bravely go into public school.

Amen.

I would like to say this prayer is just for you, but in truth, I am a bit nervous about leaving the girls in the hands of public schools.  There are some great things about public schools, but for me it is about giving up control and that is tough aftering being Mom and teacher for six years. 

Have a good day.

In Christ,
Maureen


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Meetings






Today was M Day.  World War 2 had V-Day for victory, but for me, it's an M-Day, because M stands for Meeting.  Graduation for Elizabeth will be V-Day and a huge day to celebrate in the Koeppel household.  But that day is still four or five years away because Lizzie gets more time to finish due to being diagnosed with special needs.

I went into the decision unsure of what to expect from the school.  I worried that the teachers would be like the ones I met at Madison Elementary school (apathetic) or they would talk like they came from backwoods Oklahoma (or how people think all Oklahomans speak), poorly and not up for the challenges of teaching my daughter.  But I met this team and I was impressed, very impressed.  Instead of eye rolls or excuses, I was met with thoughtful and insightful ideas to help Lizzie succeed.  That is always my goal for her - success.  We will face failures and setbacks, but if I have learned anything in raising this amazing young woman is she is tenacious in all the good ways.  She is also determined and willing to meet our challenges.   People will sometimes mistake her kind heart for weakness, but it is one of the things that make her strong and make her doggone amazing!!!

So the school has a psych/social group - which is designed to help her adjust to the changes happening.  They also have English labs which she will have everyday unless they assess her and feel she can go up a level.  Ironically, their green day/white day part of school is more confusing for me than it will probably be for her.  I had to have them explain it to me several times.  But this is how I understand it.  This week they start school on a Wednesday so Wednesday and Friday will be one schedule then Thursday will be the classes she takes for a White Day.  Each class is 84 minutes long (please, Lord let them give the kids a break to stretch?!) and each day is different.  Next week, they start opposite so Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will be White Days, and Tuesday and Thursday will be Green Days.  If you are scratching your head, please don't feel bad.  I needed it explained a couple of times myself to fully catch on.  She also gets speech therapy, and we will wait and see how things go before we continue to progress.

So here is my personal challenge. I know Lizzie is smart.  I never worried about her intelligence, not ever.  However, I struggle with patience.  I am a terrible wait on God person.  It's a character flaw, God has been talking to me about for quite some time now.   So now I get to wait.  I wait to see how Lizzie adjusts, wait to see how well the school does what they need, wait to see if I don't lose my mind because a part of the reason I am not good at waiting is that then I am not in control.  Growing up in upheaval has a tendency to make one be a bit of a control freak.  I'm not type A or anal retentive, but certain things I prefer to be in control of (driving the car, for example, I am a terrible passenger) in life.  So now the waiting begins, and I will wait, trust God that He is watching over each of the girls, and try to remain busy working on this blog, my book and reading for publishing companies, finally decluttering the house without people in it, and working on a small side business I am working on with a friend. 

So here we are.  Tomorrow begins a new season for our family. A season of letting go of control, a season of trusting in God and a season that is saying, I choose to believe that the people in our small town have taught their children well or at the least, the teachers will help somewhat protect my girls. 

I hope you all have a great week.

In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, September 1, 2017

Favorite Seasons!!!

September is here.  This means some of you will be very sad to see summer go. Some of you are more like me and love Fall. I'm sorry to those who love summer, but I also rejoice as Fall officially draws closer and closer.

Things I love about Fall:
1. I LOVE a good cup of hot tea.  Especially, Twinings English or Irish Breakfast tea.  Lately, I have discovered the joys of Bigelow's Black Tea.  It has a nice added taste and aroma to it.  At first, I couldn't quite figure out what it was, now I know it is the smell of clove and maybe a little bit of cinnamon in it.  I love a good cup of tea for a few reasons.  Firstly, I was raised to enjoy tea by my mom and grandma.  Second, when I sip on a nice piping hot mug or carrying a mug of hot tea, it feels as if my Grandma Taylor is with me and it creates a warm and happy memory.  Lastly, a good tea has a healthy dose of caffeine (healthy in my terms, maybe not in the doctor's terms). 

2. I love the colors of Fall, especially when the leaves begin changing colors.  The green leaves turn to vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges that seem as if a tree is ablaze in what is really it's preparing for winter.  But to me it feels as if it glowing in a greeting and waving to me a promise that my favorite season (Winter) is coming.  I love how they smell, how the leaves look on the ground and crunch under my feet. I love watching the girls jump into a pile of leaves.  By the way, they also are great as mulch and to help renew your soil and plants, just a friendly tidbit.  The decay of those leaves feeds the soil, helping it prepare for Spring when we plant again.

3. I absolutely love warm cozy blankets and a good fire.  Some of my favorite evenings in our house so far have been when it is icy cold and the fireplace is working to heat the house and I'm curled up with a good book, a cup of tea and a blanket.  Fall means once I finish deep cleaning and getting the girls into their school work (when I was homeschooling) or off to school, I can sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  It was even more enjoyable this past Fall and Winter with a pretty Lily puppy curled up with me either on her dog bed by the fire or on the couch as she kept my feet warm and I rubbed her ears while reading or knitting.

4. I love what Fall signals.  We all have seasons of positive things and negatives.  Fall for me feels like a promise of things to come.  A time to bake goodies for my family, a time to put a roast to cook in my crockpot so we can eat warm, delicious food for supper.  I love how it means we are closer to celebrating my second favorite holiday, Christmas.  I love Spring for Easter, my first favorite holiday, but I also love the colors and smells that accompany Christmas.  I love seeing pumpkins and their beautiful colors, the squashes that we cook to join our supper, and being able to see a change of scenery outside.

5. I love that it isn't too hot.  Even Indian Summer with its warmer days isn't as hot as Summer in it's prime.  A lot of these feelings probably come from the fact that I grew up in Oklahoma and Kansas where the summer often hit the 100's in Fahrenheit.  I DO NOT enjoy being hot and sticky and sweaty at all.  While I love some of the things that accompany summers, such as flip flops, ice cream, and cool drinks, I prefer overall the cooler temperatures, even as I get older. 

6. Finally, I love Fall because I can snuggle with Chris and not feel as if I will die from the heat.  I suppose if you would like to get really technical, this should join number five, but this is my blog, and I feel as if the two are separate issues. 
Chris is very warm blooded, so in the Summer we rarely touch.  The heat leaves each of us too warm to enjoy adding to the warmth.  In the Fall though, it means we can hold hands and often he warms my hands up for me or my feet.  I will admit since we added window air conditioning to our home, I can snuggle with him more now, but who cares, Fall means no air conditioning needed.  I can snuggle to my heart's content. 
What is your favorite season and why?  I'd be interested in hearing your answers.  

In Christ,
Maureen

Walking It Out


Growing in Christ is not always easy.  Especially in today's world.  The Bible is met with skepticism, following some of his mandates mean we hear that we hate people, even though we actually feel the opposite way.  And then comes along a book that transforms how you look at God's mandates to care for those who need our care and kindness.

My friend, author Tricia Goyer has a new book coming out October 1st.  I am privileged to be a part of the launch team and I have been given access to a free pdf copy of the book. I've taken to reading a chapter a day and it has been transforming.  But first, I should share with you some of Tricia's story.

Tricia grew up in California.  Her dad abandoned them when she was very young and her stepdad struggled with being emotionally available. Tricia began looking for love in all of the wrong places and at age 15 she found herself pregnant.  Her boyfriend at the time encouraged her and helped her obtain an abortion.  The guilt was consuming for her so when she discovered at age 17 she was once again pregnant, she refused his suggestion of having an abortion a second time.  She completely dedicated her life to Christ while 6 months pregnant and later would go on to marry John - and become a pastor's wife.  They have raised three children and adopted seven more and she is an amazing woman of faith - she is also transparent about her struggles.

Walk It Out is Tricia's way of sharing how God lead her and her family to walk out the directives from God and Jesus in the Bible and how it has transformed their lives. Reading it has been a breath of fresh air.   It has also helped me listen more closely to God's word and direction for me.  Ironically, He has been telling me I am where I am supposed to be and I have been feeling led to start a woman's Bible Study. 

The pictures I have shared on here are quotes from Tricia's book, Walk It Out.  If you are interested in seeing how much it speaks to you, you can go to this link and pre-order her book.  http://www.triciagoyer.com/walk-it-out/   It has been a true blessing to read this book and I hope it blesses you as much as it has been blessing me.