Saturday, December 01, 2012

It Just Looks Easy

It is easy to celebrate people who turn their lives around; the drunk who stops drinking, the druggie who puts down the needle, the rebellious child who comes home. Sometimes, as we celebrate these victories (and I do believe they are victories), we can forget that people who don't get caught up in such socially unacceptable behavior struggle, too.

Just because a teenage girl doesn't get pregnant, one can not assume the temptation has not presented itself. And just because someone doesn't get caught up in drugs or drinking doesn't mean their life is easy with no cause to self-medicate. Nor does it mean that they don't struggle. Sometimes life looks easy from the outside, but it really isn't.

I know an amazing woman who is finishing her race here on earth. Literally, she has days left before cancer will claim her life. Yet she is facing the inevitable with such grace and peace, it could be tempting to write off her struggles, heartache, disappointment, and pain because she makes dying with dignity look so easy when it most definitely is not.

Marriage is another good example; it is easy to assume that people who are happily married never struggle. I guarantee you, they do. If you've been married for more than a day, you've probably been disappointed or hurt by, and you've hurt and disappointed, the one you love.

The difference between those who have the amazing recovery stories and those who never had anything to recover from, the difference between those whose marriages are restored through a marriage conference or counseling, the difference between those who die with dignity and those who don't; choices.

Anyone can choose to do what is easy, to take the path of least resistance. Many do. It is a daily battle to choose what is right, to speak with grace to someone who has been rude to you, to wipe up the counters (again) after your spouse or child helps in the kitchen, to pick up towels or put down toilet seats or wipe up tooth paste AGAIN, to hold that crying infant without shaking him, to calm a panicked toddler when you are panicking inside. All these victories (and many more) go unrecognized and uncelebrated because those who do them make it look easy. It is not.

So, to my friends in difficult situations, who walk without compromise in a compromising world, I applaud you!! To teenagers who resist the temptation to find love in the wrong places, I celebrate your decision. To men and women who struggle in their relationship but refuse to quit, GREAT JOB! Living life with character and integrity make look easy, but it's definitely not, and those who do need to be celebrated just as much as those who fall and get back up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Peace and Quiet?

Because my oldest daughter was having surgery, our other kids were farmed out to family and friends. It was, for the first time in recent memory, quiet and peaceful at my house. And I realized I don't really like it!

It was quite novel to actually finish a task. It was refreshing to finish my food without anyone asking for a bite, or spilling anything, or any bickering. The toys stayed in their respective locations, as did the dog food and kitty litter. And it was much quieter than normal. Nobody had a meltdown, nobody got hurt, nobody needed Mommy to settle their quarrel or get them a drink or change their diaper or wash their hands or wipe their nose.

As nice as that sounds, on the surface, I didn't like it. It was too quiet. Honestly, it was rather lonely. In spite of the pleasure of peace and quiet, in spite of the novelty of finishing a task (or meal) without interruption, I missed my family!! The blessing of community far outweighs the "cost" of our large family (and I am not talking about dollars and cents). It is good to be reminded again how very much I love my family and how very blessed I am to be the mother of eight. Yes, the last several months have been difficult. Yes, I get tired, impatient, irritated, and overwhelmed. Yes, my house is rarely clean and my laundry is rarely done, but that is because my life is so full, and that is a precious gift.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leaves and Bean Stalks

I became a gardener almost by accident. Memories of weeding my parents' 37 square mile half acre garden, and being forced to eat vegetables from said garden (against my will) soured me on gardening for the first 35+ years of my life. My husband has gardened most of his life, so I enjoyed the fruits of his labors. I just didn't engage in the process of growing that fruit.

Then, quite by accident, I picked up a copy of a "granola" type magazine; the five minute bread recipe caught my eye, but several articles on vegetable gardening kept my attention. Slowly, over the course of several months (and multiple issues said magazine) I was converted; suddenly I wanted to garden! Before the planting season started, I drew up plans for several containers, designing in a pattern around a bean stalk. The pattern was based on the French "potage" or kitchen garden. And it turned out really well, if I do say so myself.

Being a kitchen garden, the idea was to locate it close to the kitchen, which has the added benefit of creating beauty right outside my window. What a treat. As the vines on the bean pole slowly shrivel, and my heart grieves the passing of the gardening season, bright, crackly fall leaves fill the void. Though the days outside are cold and dreary, though the garden season is over, color brightens the day. Leaves of maple and ash trees tumble about, blown by the wind. And then I remember; I love fall. The gardening season comes to an end, yes. But so much remains to be enjoyed. What a treasure to watch those leaves. The vibrant green vines are gone. In their place, a different vibrancy fills my view and my heart.

Anxiety vs Rest

Driving my youngest son to the hospital for yet another test, anxiety and fear threatened to overtake me. This precious boy, who is so dear to me, is about to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Our doctor and I agreed that the benefits outweighed the risks, but it is still scary.

As the feelings of panic welled up, God reminded me that He is still in control and the verse that has been on My heart often came to mind, Lamentations 3:21. It says (in the Marchauna Revised version), "But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope...the steadfast love of the Lord never changes. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness." What an amazing promise!! It isn't a guarantee that life will go smoothly, that everything will be ok, and that I'll never experience pain. Instead, it is a promise that I am not alone, that God is faithful, and that no matter what I do, I will never come to the end of His mercy. What a gift.

We are still waiting for the results from the MRI. I have no promise that tomorrow will dawn bright or clear. But I still have a reason to hope, and that gives me rest.

Not So Simple Anymore

Until I had a child with anxiety issues, I had no idea what kind of challenges it could present. Now, I am getting an education. Every day, my daughter struggles with some thing. Changes in routine, so easily adapted to by most people, cause intense trauma and panic attacks for my precious little one. Issues with clothing, socks, shoes, turtle neck sweaters, even where the seatbelt hits her on the neck can cause an overwhelming sense of panic.

Today, we are heading out to find a Christmas tree. Anticipating the anxiety such an unfamiliar adventure may cause, I've been preparing my sweet daughter. And, I have purchased clothing intended to make the layering experience as painless as possible. No way could I have anticipated all the ways the additional layers of clothing would cause issues. Consequently, what was hoped to be a fun, entertaining, bonding experience has been wrought with anxiety, tears, meltdowns (hers, not ine), and frustration (mine, not hers) over the helplessness of the situation.

Finally, over an hour after the process of dressing began, we are heading to the car. My little anxious girl is properly attired (with a different coat, no sweater, and her brother's boots) and getting buckled into her seat. My youngest son, who also struggles with anxiety and sensory issues (as well as thermoregulation issues, which means he easily gets too hot or too cold) has adjusted to his snow pants and boots, and we are ready to go.

The only problem is, I'm worn out! I don't want to go cut a Christmas tree (a tradition dating back more than 18 years). I want to go find a quiet spot where I can sip tea and read a really good book, for a very long time.

When I think of what I have taken for granted with my neuro-typical children, and what challenges lie ahead with my two youngest, I'm incredibly thankful for friends and family who will walk this journey with me. Life isn't so simple anymore, and at times I wonder if I'm going to be able to find a new normal, but at least I'm not alone in the process.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Blessed Boo Boos

The other day, my youngest son was pushed by his big sister. It resulted in a scratch and bump on his face, and a great deal of tears. It was also, for me, a reason to celebrate.

"Why?" you may be asking, and rightly so. Let me explain.

My son has spent most of his mobile months with bumps, bruises, and scratches on the right side of his face because of his low muscle tone, vestibular/balance issues and right-sided weakness. He falls often and his right side usually takes the brunt of the fall. We have done what we can to help him, tried to protect him (sometimes too much), and created the safest environment possible, but because of his challenges, boo boos happen. Consequently, when he fell for a "normal" reason, I was very excited!!

It is easy, as I recently posted, to take simple blessings for granted, or to miss precious gifts because they aren't what you expect. This is a perfect example. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not glad my son was pushed by his (not much bigger) big sister. I do not condone that kind of behavior, at all. But, this is a normal reason for a boy to have a boo boo, and that is a blessing.

Monday, October 01, 2012

One Step at a Time

This is from last year, but I just noticed it didn't publish when I (thought I'd) posted it. And, having recovered from the post traumatic stress I was suffering (I know, because I once again experienced it hearing a newborn baby cry incessantly recently), I can celebrate that my little one hasn't spent his existence crying for quite some time. The things I left for another day are getting done, and my children are fairly well adjusted in spite of the chaos and craziness of our lives the last year and a half. I have so much to be thankful for. Now for last year's post...

Well, we are now beginning week two of something less than constant crying. It has truly been wonderful, though I think in some ways I'm suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder from all that crying, just waiting for my son to begin screaming again and anxious that when he does I won't be able to calm him. But, as each day holds less screaming and more quiet, I'm incredibly thankful!

As the crying begins to decrease, I'm finally able to look around a little and see the rest of my house. Things are in a state! But, if I've learned anything over the years, I've learned that I can take life one step at a time. Everything doesn't need to be solved today. Somethings really can wait until tomorrow, and that is a good thing to know.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Celebrating Unrecognized Blessings

It is easy to take blessings for granted, especially when you don't realize what those blessings are in the first place. And it can be easy, in the midst of challenges, for blessings to go unrecognized, because they aren't the blessings you expect or hope for. But, somehow, God in His grace helps us see His gifts, if we are willing to look.

Lately, I've been noticing small gifts and recognizing here-to-for unrecognized blessings. My little man is walking, quite well, and looking like a little boy. He is investigating things little boys should investigate, he is getting into things little boys should be getting into, and it is very fun. The funny thing is, even though I've had seven other children, I didn't realize what "little boy" things he hadn't been doing until he started doing them. It has been incredibly sweet to see this little man, who has struggled with so many things, just being a kid. I love it.

And, as I've been enjoying the little things my baby boy  young son is finally able to do, I've come to recognize what my other children did, and with so little effort. I'm also celebrating the fact that though he needs extra help, my son is learning and meeting his developmental milestones.

Not everyone enjoys the simple blessing of watching their child develop and meet those famous milestones. Not every parent will celebrate their child's first step, or hear that precious first word, or marvel as the wheels of understanding begin to turn. Not every parent will battle the "Terrible Twos" because their child will never get there.

It is a sobering realization, and one that I hope I don't lose sight of. I want to enjoy treasure all of my children, completely. The parenting process is messy, with lots of fits and starts and mistakes along the way. It is painful emotionally, stretching mentally, and draining physically. But, if we are drained, stretched, or hurting, it is because we have been so greatly blessed. And that is a reason to celebrate.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Celebration and Praise

Eighteen months ago today, we welcomed a baby boy into our family, unable to imagine the challenges and struggles his arrival would bring. The first night should have been an indicator; fussy, restless, unable to settle and sleep. But I didn't really think about it. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I can see now so clearly what I didn't recognize then.

If someone had told me what the next eighteen months would entail, I wouldn't have been able to comprehend the craziness, chaos, and brokenness headed my way. Looking back, I'm thankful God spared me that insight. And I'm really thankful God made my baby boy so cute (yes, that is a mother's bias talking) because some days, it was the only thing going for him.

Today, though, I want to sing and dance and stand on a mountain top to proclaim how very good God is!! We've survived. The fog and exhaustion of months without enough sleep are fading, I'm beginning to function again, and it feels SO good!! I can say with greater conviction than ever before in my life, God is good! God isn't good because life feels good (it doesn't always) or because He has protected me from difficulty or pain (He hasn't), but because in the midst of my pain, in the midst of exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, anger, in spite of making the wrong choice (again) or  doing the wrong thing (again), God has carried me through some of the most painful, difficult, agonizing, lonely times of my life. He has met me in my despair, carried me through my pain, and whispered of His love in the midst of  my tantrums and doubt.

God is good!!!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How Sweet It Is

If JJ wasn't crying...
Today, as I was driving, it struck me; life is getting easier!! I wasn't exhausted, no one was sick, and we were going to be on time somewhere without too much effort or anxiety. It was a miraculous realization. And, my life suddenly became much sweeter, not because it is problem-free or without challenge (it isn't), but because of where we have been.

Sleep helps; getting a good night's sleep has definitely made a difference in my life. Answers also really help; we have understanding and diagnoses, treatments and plans. Mostly, though, God has carried me through some of the darkest, most difficult days I have ever experienced. He gave me was the strength I needed to take just one more step, just one more.
He was really sick.
But mostly, he was crying.

Isn't he cute?!
And now that steps are not nearly so difficult, I find that the effort and investment in taking those agonizingly difficult ones paying off. Though this journey has been lonely, though few have walked beside me through the dark, God has never left my side. As I face an uncertain future (with more doctors to see, understanding to seek, diagnoses to get, and plans to put together), the confidence I've gained in God's grace and love is priceless.

Friday, August 24, 2012

To Stand Alone

Today (August 23), in 1305, Sir William Wallace was executed for high treason against the king of England. To commemorate his life, and to recognize the ultimate price he paid for the freedom of his native country, we watched the movie "Braveheart" starring Mel Gibson.

The very theatrically compelling (though somewhat inaccurate) story paints the portrait of a man who, before he dies, truly lives.

Watching the movie through the eyes of a mother who encourages her children to be willing to stand alone, it gave me a whole new perspective on character. It is easy to celebrate William Wallace from my side of the television screen, seeing his passion and understanding his heart. The thought that distracted me from the story and captivated my imagination, however, was how did people perceive Sir William when they didn't share my view? He was ruthless, pillaging and murdering people where ever he went. The English were right to fear him. To borrow a 21st century term, he was a domestic terrorist!

I'm not sure how I'd respond if William Wallace was fighting for freedom today. How would my perspective be changed by the media, which side of the battle I was one (my husband is a descendent of Edward I), and whether Sir William murdered anyone in my family. Would I respect him? Would I consider him a hero?

What about the convictions I hold? Some of my convictions are unpopular; I'm traditional compared to some, but very liberal to others. What if I had to make a choice between submitting to authority (my normal tendency) and living out my convictions? The answer isn't nearly as clear in real life as it is in technicolor on a tv or movie screen.

I wish it was. I wish the good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black, and it was obvious when I was tempted by compromise. But it isn't.

Honestly, though I've sought to teach my children to stand alone if necessary, I'm realizing it is much easier to talk about than it is to do. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has their perspective. And everyone seems quite willing to share when they think you are doing something wrong. How can you know truth? The king of England believed he was right. The executioner believed he was right. William Wallace believed he was right. So who really was? And how has our perspective be affected by our culture? Would we still see Sir William as a hero if we couldn't, as a nation, identify with his heart-cry for freedom? What about places where the freedoms we take for granted don't exist? Do they see Sir William as a hero? Do they even know his name?

To stand alone is to invite ridicule, opposition, and persecution. Knowing when to stand requires wisdom. To pass that wisdom and courage on to my children is a much weightier responsibility than I had, to this point, understood. May I have the strength to do my job well, regardless...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First World Problems

Everyone knows the challenges faced by those living in the "Third World;" abject poverty, dismal living conditions, almost non-existent health care. Just getting a drink of fresh, clean water can be more of a challenge than getting a taxi in NYC (though I don't personally know how hard it is to get a cab in NYC). The struggles of those living in the terrible Third World are well documented; just turn on the evening news and you're almost guaranteed to see heart-breaking photos of small children (flies buzzing around their faces) with big, rotund tummies filling the camera's lens.

But we don't live in the Third World. You can turn on the tap, and (generally) safe water comes flowing out. A simple flip of a switch fills the room with light. The grocery store shelves are filled with every manner of treasure, edible and otherwise. Yes, there are starving children in Africa, but it doesn't really seem to impact our daily lives. After all, we don't live in Africa, and our children aren't starving.

We do have problems, here in our First World home. Just ask the Occupy Movement members, or anyone struggling over the income inequality in our country, or someone (like our dear neighbors) who is losing their home, or someone can't find a job (or a job for which they've trained), because of the economic difficulties in our country. These problems are very really (well, income inequality isn't really a problem - it just makes for interesting headlines and effective political fodder), but they are nothing compared to the tragedies faced by so many around the world.

I was reminded of that truth recently. Our power has been going out. It has helped me with some very valuable perspective. I really like electricity. Flooding a room with light at the flip of a switch, pushing a button for climate control, or twisting a dial to get heat for cooking are all wonderful benefits of living in a developed country. And because I've lost the blessing of such conveniences recently, I appreciate them that much more.

Even the health challenges we've experienced over the last eighteen months have been "First World" health challenges! In most of the "undeveloped" or "Third World" infant mortality is significant. Life is harsh and general survival (finding fresh water, having enough food, avoiding ruffians and war lords) is much more important than helping (mildly) crippled boys learn to walk or anxious little girls avoid panic attacks. I'll take the problems I have any day, thank you.

Celebrating Small Steps

The last eighteen months have been pretty brutal. It started with a difficult pregnancy, then a family plague. Then, the baby arrived. Thus began our descent into the chaos of illness, health challenges and the labyrinth of medical professionals and their various opinions.

Now, in addition to medical diagnoses, we've  entered into the netherworld of psychological diagnoses as well. For the better part of two years, survival has been our focus; not thriving, not overcoming.

Just. Simple. Survival.

Success continues to be redefined. Simple milestones haven't been so simple. I've celebrated small victories. But, in celebrating small victories, I've been able to celebrate! We have had victories, small and otherwise, well worth celebrating.

Life is beginning to change. It isn't necessarily that much easier; actually, we have more issues now than we did at this time last year, and more kids with issues. But, I have changed.


In a way, it feels almost like I've hit my stride, if that makes sense. That feels very, very good. Kids still cry, problems (and the ensuing medical appointments) continue to develop. But, I no longer feel so completely overwhelmed or out of control. It is a wonderful, exciting, and rather freeing, feeling.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Not Greatly Shaken

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 62. Though I don't know the exact time it was written, I do know that it was written by David, probably after he became king.

The psalm starts with the words, " For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation." It goes on to say, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken."

It has always been my opinion that the reason David said he was not greatly shaken was because he had been shaken. He was struggling with something difficult. The reason I am of that opinion is because of what David writes a few verses later, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

So what takes David from not being greatly shaken to not being shaken? The answer is in the previous verses, where David explains where he is placing his trust; in God alone.

Faith has been described as confidence properly placed. God is a rock. He is faithful and and a safe place to hide. Faith (or confidence) in Him is properly placed. It can be difficult to choose faith at times, though.

Tonight, I was shaken. I made a mistake, which isn't that uncommon. But tonight, my mistake could have been deadly. As I contemplate it now, I was greatly shaken. My choice (and one that I'm honestly struggling with) is whether I'm going to turn to God, who is my rock, or keep my focus on my failures, wallowing in the slime of self-pity.

The "Faith Process" is a powerful tool that I learned from an amazing couple. The first step is to review the definition of faith, "Faith is choosing to live as though God's Word is true, regardless of circumstances, emotions, or cultural trends."  The second step is to ask myself the question, "If I'm going to live as though God's Word is true, how will I live in this situation?" And finally, ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to live out what is true.

This post is actually a result of putting the Faith Process to work. First, am I going to live as though it is true that God is my rock and my salvation, or not? Second, if I'm going to live as though God is my rock, how am I going to respond to this mistake I've made?

God has given me another verse; Zephaniah 3:17. "He (God) will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will exult over you with loud singing."

I don't feel like something to be rejoiced over you, or exulted (another translation says "delight"). I feel like an irresponsible horrible person who should be exiled for the safety of society. It is a WAY over-the-top response to something that truly isn't that terrible (when someone else does it), but feels terrible to me. Yet, God delights over me?! He rejoices over me with singing. Wow. If I'm going to live as though that is true, I'll certainly not wallow in the pit of despair. If God really is my fortress and my rock, I don't have to be shaken! And God IS my fortress. God is my salvation. And He delights over me (though I don't understand why), with singing!!

So, like the psalmist, I say because God is my rock and my salvation, I shall not be shaken. Instead, I'm going to cry out to my precious Savior for comfort, receive His love, forgiveness, and grace, and go to sleep. My stomach ache is gone, my sense of panic and fear is gone. Finally, more than five hours after the event, I'm feeling sleepy and ready to rest. God is good and I am forgiven. Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Two Weeks of Hell, or Not

For whatever reason, I sat down with my teenage daughter, to watch a little tv before heading to bed. We don't have regular tv, like I had when I was a kid. No, we have Netflix, and can watch whatever we choose, and there are probably thousands of choices. The selection was a documentary on the (then) two (now three) week selection process to be part of the Army's Green Berets.

Wow, was it intense. Not only have I never been in the military, I can tell you without thinking twice that I DO NOT have what it takes to be a Green Beret, nor have I ever dreamed of anything remotely resembling that kind of , torture, torment, training, experience. A young man we knew survived the selection process (which made watching the program more interesting), but he decided it wasn't what he wanted to do. Even so, my respect for him, and all the soldiers in the Special Forces, has gone up significantly

I realized, watching that documentary on the process by which the Army selects soldiers who can train (for a year!) to wear the coveted Green Beret, that motherhood is also pretty intense. Now don't get me wrong; I'm NOT saying that mothers qualify for the Special Forces, nor am I suggesting that parenting is anything at all like combat, where people (who want to kill you) are shooting real bullets right at you (because they don't just want to kill you, they are actively trying to kill you). It is definitely not comparable on so many levels.

But, in some ways, it is. Mothers understand sleep deprivation. Mothers understand stress, being pushed to (and beyond) their limits. Just when you think you can't go on another step, someone is crying, or someone is puking (on you), or the washing machine dumps gallons of water all over your floor, and you have to take care of it. Mothering is an exercise in endurance, if ever there was one. And, at the end of all your efforts, your children (until they become parents themselves) have no clue what it has taken for you to get them to that point alive.

The last sixteen (plus) months have been pretty intense. If I had a choice, I certainly wouldn't volunteer for what I've been through (unlike the amazing men who volunteer for the Special Forces selection process), but, as I look back, I'm thankful for what God has done in my life. It has been good (though miserable), and life-changing.

I do not have what it takes to serve in the Special Forces of the US Army. I have great admiration for each and every person who does; even more so after watching that documentary. What I do have is the confidence that God will give me what I need, even if that means dealing with crying children until the early hours of the morning, cleaning up puke (again), or taking one more step in this journey through the desert. I know, because He has, and that is a very good thing.

Streams of Water describes very well how I'm feeling. Every now and then I get a glimpse of what it might be like to not be worn out all the time, but those are fleeting and few. Even as we make progress in our house, slowly reclaiming areas left unattended for the last year and a half, not as important as comforting infants traumatized by health challenges they don't understand or preschool girls terrified by a world they can't control and don't feel safe in.

Everywhere I turn, it seems, something needs attention. If little ones aren't clinging to my ankles, big girls are pulling on my arms. Everyone wants a piece of me, but there aren't very many pieces left. Yet, the challenges continue.

Tonight, I noticed water on the floor in the laundry room. After closer inspection, it turns out a seal inside the door of my (relatively) new front loading washing machine has a big tear in it, allowing water to streak down the front, puddling before it gets to the floor drain.

Earlier today, I was feeling pretty good; most of the tasks on my list (from the day before) had been checked off, big projects accomplished; I was going into the evening with a little bit of energy. Then I noticed the washer. Suddenly all the wind left my sails and I was completely worn out.

God may have quite a sense of humor, but when I pictured streams in the desert, I certainly didn't picture streams of water coursing down the face of my washing machine as I trudged through my personal desert experience. Somehow, I'm not laughing. My mother always said that life would feel better in the morning. Maybe by tomorrow morning, life will feel better and I will be laughing. Time will tell...

Monday, July 09, 2012

Family Adventures

In an effort to get more exercise, preserve my mental stability (or at least what's left), and just have fun, we embarked on an adventure to a local park. It was wonderful; the weather was perfect, the views amazing, and everyone enjoyed themselves. The process of getting out, though, gave me cause to question my reasoning.

My big girls were amazingly helpful, getting snacks packed, making lunch before we left, and even helping to get little ones in the van. Unfortunately, those little ones weren't as excited to get in the van as the rest of us were, so the process included some frustration and tears. But, finally we were on our way. After enjoying a couple of rather short trails, kids forged out on their own.  It would have been fine, but one little girl needed a potty stop. With no potty in sight and an urgency only a three year old can know, she took care of business on the hill top. But, she missed. So, I left big girls with little ones and headed back to the car.

Quickly assembling the necessary resources, I returned to find my youngest daughter not completely exposed to the elements; one of her big sisters had improvised with an extra (much too large) shirt, adequately covering all the important stuff and keeping the little girl from too much trauma. The rest of the hike/adventure went extremely well. I may even try to get out again!!

Unconventional Appreciation

As the mother of eight, two with very challenging (though "hidden") special-needs, several people have asked us if we are planning to have more kids.So, we've (once again) been contemplating the whole birth-control question. And it's had me thinking; what if my husband had gotten a vasectomy when we planned to, two babies ago?

If my husband had gotten that vasectomy, we would never have been blessed with our two youngest children. In a culture that doesn't value life (pre-born life, the elderly, or those with questionable "quality of life"), it is easy to look at our two youngest and think perhaps we made a mistake. Life would have been so much simpler without them.

Then I realized how much I would have missed if these two blessings had never come into our family; the joy, the lessons, the appreciation for what I've always taken for granted.

Psalm 139:14-16 (ESV) says, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

God didn't make a mistake when He created the man who penned those words, and He didn't make a mistake when He formed my precious son, or my sweet little girl, either. They are both "fearfully and wonderfully made," not just in spite of their challenges, but because of them. 

Exodus 4:11 says, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?"

Perhaps you don't know God the way I do; you don't trust His sovereignty or see His goodness. In which case you won't appreciate the above verses as I do. But, for me, that passage in Exodus brings peace, comfort, and hope. God made Moses "slow of speech." Perhaps he had a stutter or he got his tongue wrapped around his eye teeth, so he couldn't see what he was saying. Whatever it was, suffice it to say Moses was not eloquent. Yet he was God's spokesman to Pharaoh and he led hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people through the wilderness, forging a new nation in the process. Pretty amazing feat for a man who couldn't really talk.

Knowing how God uses people who are broken to accomplish great things, I wonder what He has planned for my two precious blessings. And I'm incredibly thankful I didn't refuse the gifts.Would life have been easier? Yes, and less expensive, too. But I'm not interested in easy, or in amassing (much) worldly wealth. The joy I experience watching my boy who has struggled to walk toddle towards me with his arms open is more valuable than anything money can buy. The pleasure of hearing the day's events from my precious daughter who has struggled to talk fills my heart fuller than Donald Trump's bank account.

So, I want to pose a question; is easy necessarily better? Why or why not?

Hard lesson learned

I love camping. It is truly one of my favorite things to do. I love it so much that I have camped my way across the country, twice (and I was pregnant with babies number five and eight, respectively)! We camped all the way home from Alaska, too. After the last fifteen months, though, I think my camping career is going to be put on hold for a while. Managing my two younges at home is stressful enough; add the challenges of begin away from home, plus the extra effort required for camping, and you have a mess. What once brought refreshment and joy now simply brings exhaustion.

For the sake of my sanity, and to protect the innocent, I'll spare you the details. Just imagine the worst camping trip ever, then multiply it by a very stressed out mama, unusually hot AND cold weather, unrealistic expectations (by that stressed out mama), and eight children (two who need structure, don't do well with changes, and have physical challenges); you have a perfect storm!

The experience wasn't a total wash, however. I learned some very valuable lessons. You may have learned these quite some time ago, and not have a clue why it's taken me so long. My explanation? I am a slow learner, and I (generally) only learn from experience. Painful experience. So, here are the lessons I've learned:
  • camping when exhausted is a bad idea
  • camping with special-needs kids can be extra stressful (especially with two kids who fall more than the average bear, and you are cooking around a campfire), even if you've camped with them before
  • camping after an incredibly stressful year is incredibly stupid and should not be attempted by the faint-of-heart  anyone!
  • when you go camping under the above conditions, don't expect to have fun, and don't expect people (even the ones you are camping with) to understand why you are not having fun.
After the worst camping trip ever, I have made a decision; I am not going camping again, for a long, long, LONG time. It is just too hard. I've also learned something else; disappointment and adjusted expectations are the harsh realities of my new life. It is a hard lesson learned the hard way. But, now it is learned, along with a few other valuable lessons. Though God has me on a difficult journey through the desert, I am planning to do the rest of it in the comfort of my own home!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Yes; we did that on purpose...

Little man has discovered the toilet paper. Even with close supervision, he will somehow figure out how to grab the end of the toilet roll and run (in his halting little gait), toilet paper trailing behind him. I'd say our consumption of toilet paper has doubled greatly increased!

So, I decided to take drastic measures; I took the roll of toilet paper of the toilet paper roller! But, I forgot to tell all my children. They have been trained put the roll of toilet paper back ON the roller. Oops.

As my children have begun to understand my plan, the consumption of toilet paper decreased slightly. It has only decreased slightly because well-meaning guests continue to put the toilet paper back on the roller! I think I'm going to tape a sign just above the empty toilet paper holder, saying "Yes; we did this on purpose. Please do not replace the toilet paper roll." At this point, I'm not sure if we should go on to explain why, or simply leave it to their imagination. Or, perhaps I should post a photo of the little man making his get-away instead.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Renewing My Strength

Weary; someone used that word recently to describe how they were feeling. Not "tired;" they said they were weary. I can relate. Though my situation has improved greatly over the last few months (meaning I am doing more than simply surviving), I have by no means recovered from the struggles or stress of the last eighteen months.

According to the free online Merriam-Webster dictionary, weary means "exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness" or "having one's patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted." However you define it, the indication is you are plain worn out.

That word describes how I feel; worn out.

The cries and struggles of my two youngest have drained me dryer than I imagined one could be drained. Simple tasks can feel overwhelming; sorting folded clothes for kids to put away or planning a menu (which I've done for years) is almost too much. I hate feeling like this. But, I do.

So, when a verse came to mind earlier this evening, I was very excited. It isn't a solution, per se, but rather an refreshing new perspective of a passage I've known for a very long time.

Isaiah 40:28 says God does not faint or grow weary. Instead, "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might, He increases strength." (Isaiah 40:29 ESV) Isaiah goes on to say, "Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength..." (Isaiah 40:31a  ESV).

It hit me; this verse isn't just (or primarily) about overcoming, like I've always thought. It is much more complex and precious. Though God doesn't grow weary, He understands that I do. Waiting on Him means my strength can be renewed. Why do I need my strength renewed if it isn't ebbing? This is written to people who are weary. I am weary. I can relate. And, God can help. What a comfort.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Enough, already

I have been on a quest, to figure out how to help my three year old daughter manage life with fewer traumatic episodes and cosmic meltdowns. It started with speech therapy. Having successfully led six other children through the process of learning to speak, it became apparent that my youngest daughter was not speaking as she ought. Assuming her frequent episodes of crying were related to frustration over her inability to communicate well, it seemed logical that her struggles would improve in correlation with her communication skills. That did not prove to be the case.

So, at the recommendation of our speech therapist (or speech language pathologist - very wise and kind lady), our daughter was evaluated by an occupational therapist. The OT diagnosed sensory processing disorder and some mild developemental delays. So, in addition to the twice-weekly speech therapy appointments, we added occupational therapy to our daughter's schedule. Though she enoyed the time, some behavior issues became worse!

Concluding that some of the problem might be related to my parenting technique or style, I called Focus on the Family to ask for advice. The counselor I spoke to (for free!) encouraged me to seek additional evaluation for my daughter with a pyschologist, among other bits of very helpful insight (like having eight children was a "mental health diagnosis.").

The psychologist suspected a panic/anxiety disorder and recommended counseling, weekly. The counselor, the psychologist, and the speech therapist all recommend a government "developmental" preschool (several times a week), with more speech and occupational therapy, as well as "socialization." We also attended the parenting classes recommended by our OT. If you are interested in what we learned, search "Circle of Security" on Youtube.

Finally, I said, "ENOUGH!!" I don't think my daughter is going to be able to learn effectively until the other issues are sorted out, and I'm not going to have time to do any sorting if all I do is run her from appointment to appointment all week long.

So, we are going back to basics, focusing on simple structure and consistency at home, and making sure my sweet girl knows she is loved, no matter what. The tantrums continue (though holding her tight, in a bear hug, definitely helps), and she still doesn't know all her letters or numbers (colors are getting better), but those things can come with time. Besides, she is only three! Her life (and mine) will go on even if she isn't doesn't learn everything for a while.

If you have any thoughts or ideas, please let me know. As a pretty overwhelmed, over-extended mama of many, I can use all the help I can get

Scaling Mt Never-rest

Laundry is an ongoing challenge in a family of ten. Although, if I were to be completely honest, laundry was difficult when mine was only a family of three. But, I digress. In the interest of humoring others who may (or may not) share my challenge, this is to give you courage to scale the heights of Mt Washmore, Mt. Foldmore, pushing all the way to the very top of Mt. Never-rest, the highest height of motherdom.
The pile is what won't fit anywhere else.
The laundry sorter is full, the blue hamper in the  middle of the page is full.
Laundry is getting out of control!

Here is my exploding pile of laundry, and the photos just don't do justice. Although the pile looked huge when I cowered at its base, somehow it shrunk between the basement and the computer. So, you'll have to take my word for it; the pile is was HUGE. Later, I'll post some beautiful pictures of what it looks most of the time, when Mt. Washmore hasn't recently erupted and Mt. Foldmore is under control.

You are probably wondering, what did I do? How did I manage to so effortlessly scale the heights of Mt. Washmore? Well, the honest answer is, I didn't. My children did. Ah yes, I've learned the art of delegation. I'm mastering it, you might say. Each child is responsible to start and fold at least one basket of laundry a day. And, since we have an extra large capacity front-loading washer, each basket is at least two regular loads.

Though my children don't necessarily enjoy helping with laundry, they all understand the concept; you don't wash, you don't wear. I didn't really know how to do laundry when I left home. Somehow my clothes were always clean when I needed them, and every once in a (great) while, my mother would call me to come help hang Dad's work shirts when the buzzer buzzed on the dryer. Beyond that, laundry was a mystery.

You can imagine my shock, horror, and fear when I realized I must scale the heights of Mt. Washmore, on my own, regularly! Then, just when I was beginning to get the handle of Mt. Washmore, Mt. Foldmore erupted, explosively, all over my house! Adding to the craziness was the arrival of a new baby girl, complete with spit up and dirty (cloth) diapers. Suddenly I found myself at the base of Mt. Never-rest, quivering and quacking. It looked insurmountable, overwhelming, and beyond my ability to comprehend.

But, thanks to a few tips from other "climbers" I noticed the hand holds, the small steps that could be taken, and the ropes that would catch me when I fell. My favorite "rope" is the laundromat. Yes, the infamous laundromat, where you can wash and dry countless loads of laundry, all at once, and get them folded on tables specifically designed for that purpose.

It has been quite some time since I've resorted to taking all my clothes to the laundromat, but knowing that option is available does bring comfort.  In the end, though, my biggest piece of insight is, just keep swimming. Laundry, like dirty dishes or stinky toilets, never goes away. It just keeps being generated, day after day. And, as a very wise woman once told me, when the laundry piles and dish piles and chore piles finally go away, I'll miss the children who helped create them.  Until then, I'll keep climbing.

The Road Less Traveled

We have had an interesting situation develop with our neighbor, quite suddenly. I honestly have no idea what happened to spark the conflict, but spark it did. First, I was confronted by a very irate neighbor, who didn't even wait for me to completely open my front door before expressing her displeasure, with loud, strong words. Then, she posted "No Trespassing" signs on the fence between our yards.

"Posted: No Trespassing."

"Private Property"

I honestly am not sure how to respond. What I do know is that this situation feels icky, I'm uncomfortable in my own backyard, and I feel betrayed. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Streams in the Desert

Isaiah 35:4-7 is a familiar passage. I have heard it before, probably many times. But for some reason it leapt off the page at me when I read it a few days ago. In the English Standard Version, it reads "Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Your God will come...He will come and save you...For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water..."

It is kind of funny; I don't usually picture streams in deserts. They are dry, dusty places, without much rain (the qualification as a "desert" is based on rainfall, or the lack of it) and long distances between pools. Oases exist, but they are not common. And God is speaking to a people who understand deserts. The picture He paints is very clear, and powerful; God will save His people, and the desert in which they find themselves will be transformed. Wow; what an amazing picture!!

For me, the even more amazing part is that I've been experiencing it lately. God has not left me alone in this desert sojourn. Many wonderful people have come alongside me, through prayer, and other more practical methods (thank you Erica and Cynde). A dear friend, who does prayer counseling, spent an afternoon with me recently, and it was incredibly powerful. Since that time, my experience has been more like walking by the streams of living water than stumbling through a dry, dusty desert.

The funny part is, my life hasn't really changed. In addition to my two special-needs kids, one of my girls recently broke her ankle, for the second time in six months ( just weeks after corrective surgery!) and has some serious dietary deficiencies (she may also need major surgery on both her ankles), I spent the night (literally) in the ER with my five year old, and my oldest daughter apparently needs surgery to correct hip dysplasia. The saga with our youngest continues; a possible immune deficiency and allergies to common foods (dairy and eggs) have further complicated an already challenging situation. Yet, God is providing me with streams in this desert!

Don't get me wrong; my days are not full of beautiful scenes fit to inspire Norman Rockwell paintings. Laundry still piles up along the streams in my desert, and I get so tired of kids crying. Dinner still has to be set on the table (which requires making it, ahead of time), toilets still need to be cleaned, and mildew still grows in my shower. But, God is caring for me in the midst of this crazy time. He is tending my heart, bringing encouragement, and helping me see that I'm not alone, even when it feels like I am. This journey is still lonely, but I realize that the trail God has set before me parallels a stream, His stream, and from it I can draw refreshment, take courage, and journey for another day.

Yes, They Are All Mine

For years, I've admired the little stick figure stickers you see on the backs of vehicles. You know, the little sandals, or sea turtles; those kind of cute little stick figure drawings that tell you how many people are in the family. They are so cute and fun, proudly proclaiming to the world how many blessings you have in your family.

And, for years, I've wanted those cute stickers.

But, they are quite frivolous, and (to someone who is very practical) completely unnecessary. So, I have admired those stickers, but haven't been willing to invest in them. My girls noticed my interest, and conspired to bless me for Mother's Day.

Applying the stickers, of course, was a family affair.

First, we started with Mom and Dad...

Then we had to decide what order the rest of the family should go in. Since we had five girls before we had any boys, I didn't want people to be confused about multiples. So, we settled on alternating young kids with big kids, like this...

Finally, everyone was in their rightful place, with a little room to spare, prompting one of the girls to proclaim, "Look, Mom. We have room for more kids."

If you look closely, you'll notice the cat's tail is short and the dog is missing one leg; the girls wanted to be as authentic as possible.

Oh my goodness, you should see the looks we've gotten on the interstate! People starring as they go by, craning their necks around to get a clear view of the person driving, as though perhaps they would see something other than a human being. One woman, so I've been told, mouthed the words, "Wow" as she drove by. It has been quite entertaining, actually. We have enjoyed quite a bit of comic relief, laughing out loud on more than one occasion, thoroughly enjoying the "notoriety" our little stick figure stickers are bringing.

Now, to answer the obvious question; a sticker that says, "Yes, they are all mine." 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blooming in the Desert

The desert is home to many creatures. Depending on your view of evolution, you may believe those creatures slowly adapted to their hostile environment over time. Or, you may believe (as I do) that God created desert creatures to not only survive, but thrive, in a seemingly inhospitable environ.

Regardless of how the desert-dwellers became such, they have embraced the desert as their home. And, to them, it is home; comfortable, familiar, safe.

I am beginning to recognize that my sojourn in the desert will be longer than I expected. A dose of much needed reality was handed to me (quite gently) recently; the challenges I'm facing are not short-term, acute issues. They are long-term, chronic, never-gonna-go-away challenges that redefine normal and force me to (yet again) adjust expectations. The challenges being faced by my precious little ones aren't significant, in the grand world of "special needs." Milestones aren't being missed by much. But, they are being missed and that reality requires adjustment.

The amazing lesson I am learning, however, is that the desert really can be home. It can be familiar, even comfortable. Rest and refreshment, so difficult to find, so overwhelming look for at the beginning of the journey, have some how become not such a burden. The quiet can be peaceful rather than lonely, and the isolation helps draw attention to the incredible value of those friends who have stuck around.

A desert journey is not what I would choose. My preference is for mountain tops and secluded valleys, snow capped peaks or wooded glens; fresh water, clear air, and plenty of easy-to-aquire food. Rarely have I looked back on such experiences, though, with a deeper, stronger appreciation for the God I love and serve. The times in my life when I have learned the most about God (His faithfulness, His love, His righteousness) have been the times when He has been with me through the desert.

Surprisingly, I can honestly say that I wouldn't trade what God is teaching me for an easier journey. I wish my children had an easier journey, but even that is a source of praise to my great God; they are home with me and I can help them prepare for their own desert adventure. Jesus said that we would have troubles in this life. Then He gave the admonition not to fear, for He had overcome the world. What a great comfort.

Someone gave me the admonition (and challenge) to bloom where I have been planted. So, by God's grace, that is what I will do, right here in the middle of my desert.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Not Again...

Having parented toddlers for the last sixteen years, I have learned a thing or two about how they behave. I know, for instance, that I am bigger and stronger, so if they have a tantrum, I don't  care. I know that intentional training in the early years will make life much easier later. And I know that kids LOVE to play with dog food and water.

Having enjoyed an extended interlude since our last child found eau d'pooch so enticing, I was not prepared for the discovery I made while preparing dinner recently; my youngest  child savoring the flavor of dog food and mixing said food in the dog water.

Since I know this is a temporary stage, instead of cleaning up right away, I grabbed my camera, so I could share the humor with the world (or at least the one or two people who may read my blog). Here, for your viewing enjoyment, is my son in all his glory...

Here is baby J, enjoying the dog food just a little too much.
Hey, Mom, look what I'm doing.

See what I did? I put dog food in there. Pretty cool, huh?
I love this little man (even though he created a big mess to clean up); with all the challenges he has faced, it is kind of fun to have him acting like a normal baby. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Taking the Next Step (through the desert)

Someone asked me recently how my day was going. The question caught me unprepared; I honestly didn't know. But, the question got me thinking; how was my day going? So, I stopped to think about it. Kids were crying, but only one at a time. My son was asleep (and he doesn't sleep well at all), I'd started a load of laundry, dressed and changed two kids, put out a fire (literally), and fed my kids. Plus, my hubby was coming home that night, and I had recovered from being sick. So, at that point, it had been a good day.  Unfortunately, things went downhill at that point.

Though it isn't worth detailing, I was discouraged and downtrodden, beat down by the daily battle to raise eight children (two with developmental delays), manage a busy home, and keep my mind. The lure to just stop was very tempting, though all my attempts to submit a resignation have been futile; God doesn't work that way.

So, I got back on my feet and took one more step. Taking that step was huge; my situation didn't change, but my attitude did. And, I could again look back over the day and focus on the highlights, realizing that even with the challenges and difficulties, the highlights outweighed the low points, and I really did have a good day.

Sometimes the hardest part of parenting, or life, is to take that next step, the one that comes after falling down AGAIN! Instead of focusing on the failures and falls, choosing to focus on the successes, no matter how small they may seem. So, I'm choosing to celebrate the successes (kids got three meals, some laundry did get done, and everyone got dressed before the day was over) in spite of what seems like overwhelming failures. According to some wise person (on a card I once read), Success is "getting up once oftener than you fall down." At least for now, by that definition, I'm choosing success.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thankful for the Tears

My youngest son has probably spent more of his short life crying than any of my other children. As his ability to deal with life improves and the amount of time he spends crying becomes less, I'm incredibly thankful for the change. It has been slow in coming, and, after a year, well over-due.
He started out crying...

And he kept crying... that is why we don't have many photos

Recently, though, I was reminded of just how wonderful a crying baby really is. You see, only healthy babies cry. Babies who are sick are generally too sick to cry; the sicker they are, the quieter they become. And, only babies who are very much alive can cry; graves (and those in them) are silent.

Orphanages, I've been told, can be silent too, but for a much different reason. Orphans learn very quickly; their tears are silenced by neglect. If no one comes, if no one cares, why invest the energy to cry. The emotional scars may never heal.

Thankfully, my son's cries have not been silenced, either by neglect, death, or serious illness. He is very much alive, and very vocal about his needs, knowing that his cries will be heard by someone who cares.

If you are struggling with a fussy baby, don't lose heart! Fussy babies (whether you have a high-needs baby, a baby with colic, or a refluxer) are incredibly challenging. But, at least they are alive. And that is definitely better than the alternative.
Isn't he cute?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A Life Worth Celebrating

I really believe life is precious; worth celebrating. Whether big or small, young or old, neuro-typical or not, life is worth celebrating. So are milestones. You know, like birthdays and anniversaries and major accomplishments.

But, on the eve of a very significant milestone, I find myself ill-prepared, not ready to celebrate. My son turns one today. One year ago right now, I was in the hospital, working very diligently to bring this boy into the world. He didn't arrive for another twenty hours, but who is counting (besides me)?

It has been a very difficult year. Instead of being amazed at how quickly the last year has gone, we have made very slow progress; each month marked not by celebration and milestones, but by survival and sickness.

Admittedly, baby J isn't as sick as some. But I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted by his needs. The energy and effort required to mount a celebration is simply not there. And that makes me sad.

Baby J will not pass this milestone uncelebrated, however. His big sisters worked on a cake, and his grandma is coming to visit in the afternoon. We won't make his favorite dinner (a long-honored family tradition), because he can't tell us what he wants. But he will eat cake and blow out candles to the tune of "Happy Birthday."

And I will have a choice; to focus on celebrating my sons first year, or on the fact that I am too tired to throw him a party. Honestly, I feel like a terrible mom for not doing a better job with birthdays in general. Instead of letting I ruin my day, however, I am going to make the most of what I've got. My son is a gift. His life is a precious treasure. And though the last year has been incredibly challenging, his is a life worth celebrating.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Stuck in the Desert

As I type this, it is 3 am. Awake and in pain, it has been an interesting journey the last few days. My back is out (though I have no idea what I did); I have a large sliver in my foot (I know how that got there, but not how to get it out) that hurts if I move my foot wrong or touch it to sheets or bed; my youngest son has been throwing up (no idea why that is happening, either), and he threw up on me multiple times.

In spite of the misery, this journey is almost comical, honestly. The problems, the illness, the struggles just keep coming. No sooner has one issue been resolved or overcome than another takes its place. None of the problems are really life-threatening (though the baby's have been close), just difficult; they are draining emotionally and physically.

This journey through the desert is also very isolating. Friends are busy; their lives full of their own challenges and struggles, joys and adventures. Like the old song goes, nobody likes a party-pooper, and people stuck in the desert can easily become party-poopers.

So far, though, God's grace is enough. He is helping me (begin to) embrace this journey in the desert. He is bringing comfort and peace, showing me that this journey is His call on my life right now. As I embrace God's invitation to journey in the desert (and one can either embrace God's invitation or reject the blessings; the invitation cannot be refused), I can clearly see His hand at work, orchestrating details and proving His "Godness" in many little ways. As crazy as it sounds, I am even finding reasons to rejoice and celebrate in this desert of loneliness, isolation, abandonment, and exhaustion.

Somewhere in the Bible, it says that God will never give you more than you can handle. I've wondered how close to the limit He is willing to go (since I am pretty sure we've gotten right up to that line more than once), but as my journey continues, one lesson stands out above the rest; God can be trusted. Knowing I can trust the God of my salvation brings a comfort I can't explain. Do I wish this sojourn in the desert was over? Yes, definitely. But will I trade what God has been doing in my life, what He has been teaching me for a shortcut to a beautiful oasis and an end to the lessons? No! I do not want short-circuit God's plan for me, or miss out on what I will learn about Him along the way. Life, I am learning, is much more about the journey than the destination.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Walking the Marble Halls

I recently spent several hours on the campus of my state capital. That in itself is not too big a deal. but, I wasn't alone; I had five children with me, all under eleven. The day was wonderfully educational. I learned several valuable lessons (I'm sure the kids learned something, too).

First. I learned that our state capital is most definitely NOT family friendly. Parking is terrible. Any spaces relatively close to the building itself are reserved. Residential parking is available for an hour a day, and (if you can find one) visitor spaces are available for $1.50/hr. $1.50 adds up quickly (especially when it takes 15 min just to get unloaded), and an hour can be incredibly short.

Also, capital buildings are filled with very serious looking people (mostly men) who ave completely forgotten what it is like to be a small child. Not only have they forgotten what is like to be a child, I think many of them have forgotten that they were children, or that they are suppose to represent the children in their districts as well as the lobbyists in the marble halls.

Finally, I learned that the marble halls (which can be quite intimidating) are really not so scary. And even in such lofty places, filled with powerful men (and a few women), real people still walk. It was a truly amazing experienc; one I hope to repeat again some day. Next time, though, I want to do it on a sunny day (when I don't mind walking several blocks), before nap time, and with plenty of snacks; for my children, and for those who have forgotten what being a child is like.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning Curve

My eleven month old son loves to climb stairs. Unfortunately, he is not very coordinated, so he is as likely to go down the stairs involuntarily as he is to go up. Consequently, we usually sit beside him as he crawls. Some of the time, however, we really don't have time to sit on the stairs while a not quite one year old practices his climbing skills. So, we push a stand-alone baby gate in the way.

This technique has worked quite well for several weeks. Today, however, our eleven month old made a discovery; the gate moves! So, he deftly pushed it out of the way and began to ascend the stairs without an escort. Life as we've known it is about to change; bummer!

On the bright side, our little guy, who has been plagued by so many struggles in his short life, is no dummy! I guess the change is good, in the end. I certainly don't want him stuck behind gates his whole life. I'll follow Ann VosKamp's lead and choose my son's mobility and ingenuity as something I can celebrate today.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Understanding and acceptance

It appears after almost eleven months of struggle, that we have some answers as to why our baby boy has struggled so much with life. He has some sort of brain injury. The specialist called it "static encephalopathy." In layman's terms; Cerebral Palsy. The reflux may be secondary to the CP and does explain the frequent sinus infections. JJ's fussiness/irritability can most likely be traced back to the CP, as can his thermo-regulation issues. Even his sensory issues can be traced back to the CP.

Though no parent wants to be told their child is less than perfect, I am very relieved. JJ's life will never be easy (whose is), but God knew that from the beginning. Like Bethany Hamilton, I don't need easy; I just need possible. Now that we have answers, finding ways to cope is very possible. And that is something I can accept and celebrate.

God's goodness isn't dependent on circumstances, and in these less-than-perfect circumstances, we choose to celebrate God's goodness, too. What a gift!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blooms in the desert

One of the most amazing lessons I have learned, on this journey through dry loneliness, is that I am not alone. That, and the realization that what I have been looking for is right in my own back yard.

My dreams have always included far away places and people in need. Motherhood was not a dream or desire. Even getting married was more about having a partner to change the world with than settling down and raising a family. God has gifted me, burdened me, and called me to full-time Christian service. But the service I thought I wanted didn't require diaper pails, laundry baskets, and nursery rhymes. How wonderful that God knows what we need even when e don't recognize it.

My children are my most precious disciples. Sharing life together, in a community others only dream about, is priceless. Our life isn't perfect (especially when it comes to birthdays; I'm really terrible at birthdays), but we do have fun. And as I embrace God's plan, my desert is becoming a much more beautiful place.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Rain drops in the desert

Rain doesn't usually fall in a desert. By definition a desert receives less than ten inches of rain a year. Deserts are dry and dusty places, void of life and beauty (at least to the casual observer). But, deserts hold their own unique beauty. And when rains fall, deserts spring to life; flowers bloom, grasses grow, cacti swell to unimaginable sizes. Desert dwellers know how to make the most of rain drops in the desert.

Because deserts are arid places, the natural flora and fauna are prepared for dry times. They must be, or they will die. Some plants sink roots down (sometimes several feet) to tap into deeply buried underground aquifers. Other plants have adapted in more creative and resourceful ways. Peoples native to arid lands know all the tricks for finding water in less-than-obvious places. The desert is, for them, a comfortable and welcoming home.

Christians tend to be surprised by deserts. To store up water in anticipation of days without rain or long periods of dryness does not come naturally. Instead of sinking roots down deep, or learning how to find water in unexpected places, discouragement, even frustration marks our journey. How easy it is to miss out on the blessings and beauty such an experience can provide.

As my sojourn in the desert continues, God is beginning to open my eyes to some of the treasures in this seemingly barren land. Like a plant who has learned to store water in anticipation of long periods without rain, I am learning to embrace my sandy home. It is not what I have chosen (or even desired), but it is where I have been "planted." Now we'll see if I can bloom.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Journey through the desert

The last year has been long and difficult. It started with sickness; it ended with sickness. Isolation; journeying alone in the darkness of fatigue, disappointment, and discouragement. Failure, or perceived failure, perseverance, footprints in the sand.

Not every day has been filled with sand and dust. Simple pleasures and small successes; redefining success. Lowering expectations. Again. Seeing God's hand amidst the dunes, finding a quiet oasis of rest and refreshment.

Mothering was never my dream. Africa, medicine, evangelism, saving lives. Those were my aspirations. All sacrificed on the altar of obedience, though not willingly or completely. Taking up my cross daily, by changing diapers, wiping noses, teaching (unsuccessfully, it seems) reading, writing, arithmetic; teaching my children God's laws as we rise up, and when we fall down. Battling to focus on what is truly important instead of what the world values; helping my children do the same.

Finding gifts where they've never been before. Choosing to embrace gifts never expected or desired. Celebrating through tears.

Jesus spent time in the desert. He understands this journey, even if I don't. The lesson I am learning: trust. The gift; leaning on the everlasting arms, rediscovering true success and ultimate joy.

This journey is not over. I've only taken the first step. But if a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, at least I'm on my way.