Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sacrifice of Praise on Thanksgiving

Heading into the holiday season this year, my kids have been a bit melancholy. Grandparents and aunties are all out of town for Thanksgiving, and many will be gone for Christmas, too. They are feeling lonely, missing family and friends we won't see during this special time. And it is hard. Ours is a very close-knit family, sharing life very intimately. So, when people aren't around, their absence is keenly felt. Adding to the disappointment is our diet...Thanksgiving just isn't the same on the GAPS mashed potatoes, no flaky pie crust, no jellied cranberry sauce, no fluffy stuffing, no fresh-from-the-oven get the idea.

And, our house won't be bursting at the seams with people. It isn't unusual to have groups of over twenty crowding around our dining room table, filling our home with laughter and gaiety. This year, however, we'll only have five guests (that's still fifteen people, but only five don't live at our house), and that is making folks feel kind of lonely.

Because of the GAPS diet, we won't be going Black Friday shopping, either. We simply don't have the money. That is disappointing...very disappointing.

As I was visiting with one particular child, however, we both remembered family and friends who are missing loved ones, and this is the first time to celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without their precious husband, father, sister, or brother. That gave us a little bit of perspective.

Then we thought about families who are separated because of the ongoing war on terror. Military families can visit via Skype or Apple FaceTime, which is better than nothing, but they are still separated by thousands of miles. And, they have no guarantee that their loved one will be alive for their next scheduled visit. That gave us even more perspective.

And we've been loving on a family who is homeless, with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs. They won't be going Black Friday shopping, either. They barely have the money to pay for gas. Without the generosity of strangers, they won't have any gifts for Christmas, either. Even more perspective...

Those healthy doses of perspective adjusted our thinking a bit. Though we won't be enjoying the sweet fellowship of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, we have the hope of celebrating with them again in the near future. And though our situation isn't what we'd prefer, it is definitely worth being thankful for!

Hebrews 13:15 describes bringing a sacrifice of praise to God continually. To a people very familiar with the sacrificial system, the picture would have been very clear...praise isn't always easy. It isn't always simple. It isn't always a result of feelings. Sometimes, praise is a sacrifice! Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, 

"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" NLT

That is most definitely a sacrifice of praise. And it comes from focusing on something beyond our circumstances. It comes from focusing on the God of our salvation. And truly, nothing is more praise-worthy, nothing is more precious, nothing is more worth celebrating than the God of our salvation!

So, on this day before Thanksgiving, I am choosing to offer a sacrifice of praise to the God of my salvation, thanking Him for my family, even though my parents, sister, and only niece are miles and miles away. I thank God for the guests who will surround our table, even if we have just a few. I will thank God for the privilege of celebrating such a precious holiday without fear of reprisal or attack, and I will thank God for those who are standing in harm's way so that I can. I will thank God for the blessings we enjoy, and for the special treats we'll have on our table tomorrow, even though ours is a very different holiday. In the end, I choose to offer a sacrifice of praise, because I have so very much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Worst. Day, Ever.

Last Friday was truly the worst day ever. But it wasn't the circumstances that made the day so horrible; it was my response to them.

Days before I had suffered an epic disappointment, made worse by the pain that disappointment caused my daughter. And I was tired. Caring for special needs kids, especially kids with "hidden disabilities," is exhausting. The burdens and struggles, day in and day out, wear you down. And, I had just begun to understand the depth of my mental exhaustion. Normally a pretty laid-back kind of person, I don't generally freak out about anything. Lately, though, I have been freaking out about every. little. thing. Driving in a new place completely stressed me out; I had never experienced that emotion before. I didn't like it. 

So, I cried. For a long time. But not until I had spewed my hurt, frustration, and disappointment on my husband. He listened patiently while I spewed, comforted me while I cried, and generally did an amazing job taking care of me. 

For my part, as I cried and vented, it was like a dam burst. Every negative thing I had experienced came to mind. The glass was definitely half (or three-quarters) empty. Not my usual pattern, even feeling that way frustrated me. It was truly a no-win situation. 

And then God met me, in the midst of my despair. And He demonstrated the truth of His promise in 2 Timothy 2:13, that even if I am faithless, He remains faithful. I experienced that. 

Ultimately, God is good. Period. Not because He makes my life "feel" good. Not because He protects me from disappointment or heartache. God is good because He is. He just is.

Sometimes trusting God requires more faith than other times. Sometimes it is easy. But His goodness is not dependent on my circumstances. His goodness is dependent on His character. And His character can be completely trusted. You may disagree with me, thinking back over your own heartbreaking story of God's apparent unfaithfulness. Let me say now that I'm sorry you've experienced such heartache and pain. But your circumstances still don't define the character of God. His goodness can not be called into question because your life hasn't been what you wanted it to be. God's goodness certainly can not be called into question because my life hasn't been what I wanted it to be, but I can tell you for certain it has not been. 

If my life was what I wanted it to be, I would never experience disappointment.
I would never be lonely, or sad, or hungry, or tired, or uncomfortable. But without all those experiences, I would never be the person God has made me to be. The process, just like for a butterfly or baby chick, isn't easy or comfortable, but it is very, very good.

And so, my worst day ever turned into a pretty amazing experience of seeing God's faithfulness in spite of me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sensory Sunday

Getting sensory kids dressed is never simple or easy. But when you are trying to get kids ready for church, it somehow makes everything more complicated. This morning was slightly easier than Friday, but today I wanted to get somewhere by a certain time. Not a good situation. 

My youngest son usually has trouble with pants; the waistband bothers his tummy. So, he is very picky about what goes around his belly. Today, after convincing him to wear clothes (as opposed to pajamas) to church, the pants went on easily. It was the shirt that didn't work. Once I buttoned the sleeves, he couldn't stand the sensation of the cuffs on his wrists. So, we tried a few different shirts before finding one he could tolerate. 

My youngest daughter usually struggles with shoes. And she was true to form today. Her shoes didn't fit. They were shoes she picked out. So, she decided she didn't want to go to church. I gave her the option of wearing shoes or going barefoot. She didn't have the option of staying home. So, she found shoes that DID fit. They were fluorescent orange, with bright pink buckles; not exactly a good color match with a red and black dress. But, I figured shoes were better than nothing. We headed off to church. 

Barely out of the car, my sweet girl began to meltdown, because of her shoes. Again, she demanded to go home. Again, I gave her the option of going barefoot. Her daddy offered to carry her. She refused. All she could think about was the discomfort of her shoes. Panic, induced by the overwhelming input from her uncomfortable shoes, brought on tears (in the girl, not the parent). Finally, we were able to get her inside. Finally, both kids went to their classes and we went to church, albeit thirty minutes late and rather frazzled. But we made it. 

Some days, I don't have the energy for such challenges. Some days, I simply want to get kids up, get them dressed without difficulty, to be able to walk out the door when it's time to leave, and not have to think twice about sensory issues. That is not my life. My children will always be "sensory kids." We can help them in some way. We can provide them with a rich daily sensory diet, we can help them learn to accommodate their most challenging sensory issues, we can help them achieve a high level of function in a world that can so often be overwhelming. But it is tiring, emotionally and mentally. And some days I just don't want to do it anymore.  

Samson's Secret of Success

Samson and success aren't always two words people think of in the same sentence. Honestly, does Samson really seem that successful? After all, he disobeyed God, he married (or tried to, anyway) a Philistine woman, and died a slave. This man who was set apart for God from before his conception, who never (willingly) cut his hair, who God called a judge in Israel; this is the man who defied God's ways, at almost every turn.

Just where is Samson's success? It certainly isn't obvious. The most common sermon topic I've heard on his life is definitely not dealing with success. It is usually an example of why we need to obey God, and what happens when we walk in opposition to God's ways. And with good reason. Samson definitely walked in defiance of God's Law - the very law he was ordained (from before his birth) to uphold!

Yet, when you look past the obvious, a precious nugget begins to emerge, precisely because Samson didn't care about walking on obedience to God. The power of the Spirit came upon him at times, but it wasn't because Samson wanted it. God used Samson to judge the Philistines, but not because Samson wanted to be used, or even submitted to God's authority. And yet, Samson still ultimately accomplished what God ordained him to accomplish.

The reason Samson was successful is because God worked through Samson's life! His purposes were not thwarted, regardless of Samson's attitude, behavior, disrespect, or arrogance. In the end, Samson accomplished exactly what God wanted him to. The angel who spoke to Manoah's wife said, "...he shall begin to save Israel from the Philistines." Judges 13:5 ESV. And he did.

But take a minute to really examine the nugget; God accomplished what He'd planned through spite of Samson's attitude AND behavior.

Samson didn't submit to God's authority. He wasn't indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He didn't obey God's Law; the only part of his oath that he kept was not to cut his hair, and that was probably because of his own selfish pleasure of being strong!! Samson didn't care. The average follower of Jesus, however, cares...deeply.

If God could accomplish His purposes through Samson, who was SO not seeking to be God's vessel, what can God do through His people who truly desire to, in our frail, broken ways, walk in His way? If God can work through Samson, He can work through anyone! And that gives me peace, comfort, and confidence.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

No Guarantees

When I was growing up, I was of the opinion that Romans 8:28 (which says that all things work together for good for those who know God and are called according to His purpose) meant God would fix up my mix-ups, and life would feel good.

I was wrong!

I was also of the opinion that if I obeyed my mommy and daddy, told the truth, didn't smoke, chew, or play with girls who do, then life would feel good.

I was wrong!

For a long time, I thought that if I did what the "experts" said was right, with my money, and my time, and I followed the Golden Rule, and I worked hard, life would feel good.

I was wrong!

Unfortunately, Romans 8:28 doesn't mean that God will fix up my mix-ups and make life feel good. Romans 8:28 has proven, in my experience, to mean that life doesn't always feel good, but God is always good, and I can always trust Him.

For many years, my bad theology didn't really do me any harm. Each bad experience I had in life could pretty much be directly tied to my own stupid choices, and (based on my interpretation of Romans 8:28) God fixed up my mix-ups and made life feel pretty good. Then, quite suddenly, on a very normal day in November, life ceased to feel good. My precious, and much anticipated baby, was dead. I was four months pregnant with a baby I desperately wanted. And I was doing everything right; getting enough sleep, eating right, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, trying to exercise. I was doing everything right. But my baby still died.

Then, four months later, my sister died. I didn't even get to say goodbye.

And, when I got home from my sister's funeral, my "big" boss was waiting to talk to me; we were being transferred.

Life suddenly felt really, really bad. And I couldn't see anything that I had done wrong. My interpretation of Romans 8:28 was obviously very incorrect. My understanding of God's character was shaken, to the core.

In the years since my heartbreaking, life-shattering experience, I have come to learn what I was looking for in my bad interpretation. I wanted a guarantee, that if I lived right, life would feel good, nothing bad would happen, and I'd have what I wanted. My bad interpretation was based on bad theology. God wasn't created in my image; I was created in His. He is the One who writes the rules, and those rules don't include any promises or guarantees that life will always feel good. 

Instead, what God promises is to be with me through the times in life that are the hardest. And that is very precious indeed.

Actually, the promise never to leave us or forsake us is a distinctly "Christian" concept. Other religions base support and fellowship on performance, and if you don't perform, you get what you deserve. We've begun to think like that in our culture, as well, and in grieves me. Instead of acknowledging that we're all broken and hurting, and extending God's love to each other, we've begun to look down our noses at others who suffer, because we know they must have done something to deserve it. The really scary part is, sometimes I am the one who thinks that way?!

God promises never to leave me or forsake me. He doesn't promise to make life feel good. He doesn't promise life will never be difficult, or that bad things won't happen, or that I'll be rich or beautiful or famous, even if I do everything He commands, just the way He commands it. In this life, there are no guarantees. There just aren't. But if I've learned anything through the struggles and pain and suffering I've experienced, it is that God is good, and I can trust Him, even when nothing makes sense.

I don't pretend to be able to explain why bad things happen to good people, or why children starve to death in Africa, or whether God sends people who have never heard about Him to Hell. I don't know. I don't understand God. But what I do know, and what I've experienced over and over and over again is that God is good and I can trust Him. Does that mean I always like what He does?  NO!!  Not at all. Do I always understand why suffering happens? Absolutely not. Have I struggled with God's decision to allow my youngest children to suffer so greatly at such young ages? You better believe it. But, when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I rest comfortably, knowing that my God will never leave me or forsake me. I look forward to hugging my sister again, introducing her to the nieces and nephews she has never met, and holding my precious Hannah and my sweet Kinza Noelle. I look forward to a big hug from my precious Savior, and He will wipe all my tears away.

Life is oh so hard, but God is so good.

And that is a guarantee.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

For love or money

I read an article about how the SEC is considering a rule that would require companies to publish the difference between how much the CEO makes and the average pay of the average employee. It appears, from the article, that at least part of the motivation is to shame companies into either paying CEOs less or average employees more. 

We all know, of course, that the only way to get rich is to get paid lots of money. And the only reason people don't have enough money is because they don't get paid enough. 

Oh. Wait. That isn't true. 

In the book The Millionaire Next Door, the authors compare people who have money with those who look like they do. And what they found was interesting; it didn't matter how much you made. It mattered how much you spent. And people who had money spent more wisely than people who didn't, even if they earned the same six-figure income. 

Money is not the most important factor in life. It just isn't. Yes, it "makes the world go 'round" and it is difficult to survive in our world without money. But how much you have isn't nearly as important as what you do with it. 

Herman Cain's father is a great example of that. A hard working man, he held down three jobs so he could support his family. But he didn't live paycheck-to-paycheck. He saved enough money to buy his family a home. And, both of his children received a college education. When you consider this took place during the racially segregated period in our history, where such an accomplishment wasn't aided by any "equal opportunity" or civil rights laws, then it becomes even more remarkable. 

My own grandfather left his father's farm with little more than the clothes on his back, and he saved enough money to live comfortably for over twenty years after he retired. He literally paid cash for the home he had built when my dad was in high school. He did what he could, when he could, and waited until he could do more instead of going into debt.  And he was a logger. He made his money cutting trees. He was never the big-wig in the logging company, either. He was just a regular Joe, working, making average pay, and spending less than he made. 

We seem to think that money, especially lots of money, will solve all the problems in the world. But it doesn't. Everyone knows the famous quote by J.D. Rockefeller about how much money was enough. The answer is telling..."just a little bit more." People with millions aren't necessarily happier than those with next to nothing. Some aspects of life are definitely easier. But that doesn't make people happy. 

My other grandfather, who was cheated out of two fortunes (by shady bankers who stole thousands because he trusted) worked hard his whole life. When he retired, he didn't have much, but he and my grandmother were very happy. He always said "Happiness and contentment are a state of mind, nurtured by a heart full of concern for others." And he lived by his belief. My grandfather was a very content man, and his heart was full of genuine concern for others. 

Instead of trying to shame CEOs for making so much money, what we really need to do is educate people on wise financial management (think Dave Ramsey) and get people to think about others instead of just them selves. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

Things My Mother Never Had to Say

My mother had girls - three of them. And she only had three girls, not eight. So, my adventures in parenting have been different from hers. This has, on more than one occasion, provided great comic relief. Yesterday's story is particularly entertaining.

As the mother of eight children, and two boys, cleaning is a full-time job. As quickly as possible, I begin to enlist help, from anyone who can move. The latest recruit for sweeping is my six-year old son. He doesn't enjoy sweeping nearly as much as he enjoys climbing on his fort. But, it is an essential skill for anyone to learn, and he is plenty old enough to start perfecting his technique.

In the process of supervising my son, I was chatting with my mother on the phone. Of course, the conversation was interrupted by breaking up fights, giving directions, and correcting behavior. It was the later that gave my mom so much entertainment; I told my son to take the broom off the table.

Having raised three girls, who somehow knew brooms don't belong on the table, she found it completely hilarious that my son didn't understand that simple concept. And once she started laughing, of course, it wasn't hard to keep that theme going. Shortly after my six year old removed the broom from the table, but before he'd finished his job of sweeping, my two year old was walking stomping through the dust pile! More peals of laughter rang in my ear, as my mother enjoyed the antics of her grandchildren, albeit at a distance. 

Her joy was contagious, so before long, both of us were laughing as we remembered her parenting adventures with me (let's just say I wasn't the easiest child to raise) and comparing them to my own adventures in parenting. Obviously, with the addition of five more children, my life is a bit crazier than hers was, and she wasn't taking little ones to therapy multiple times a week like I used to, but the biggest difference, by far, is having boys. Raising boys really is different than raising girls, in spite of what the social scientists engineers  experts will say. And, as much as the world discounts the value of girls, I sure love mine! Without the help of my older girls, life with my youngest would have secured me a nicely padded room with a cozy white jacket that buckled in the back.

Children are a blessing, and can be an amazing source of entertainment, especially if you can laugh at their antics instead of crying, or figure out how to do both.

The Cost of Convenience

Because we have several children, and I don't like clutter, I take things to the local thrift store. 


The thrift store I prefer to donate to is a branch of the local homeless shelter, so anything that will benefit the men at the men's emergency shelter, or anything that will help the women and children at the women's emergency shelter or participants in their residential treatment program goes to those programs. And, what they can't use or sell in the thrift store goes over to help clothes children in third-world countries. Plus, the thrift store gives job opportunities to people who are in their residential programs, and generates revenue to help fund the multiple community programs they sponsor. Not only that, but they address issues on a spiritual level, which I believe is an important component of any truly successful program.

It is a great way to donate.


They aren't open late. They close at 7pm some nights, and 6pm on others. They aren't open at all on Sundays. I totally understand their decisions. And, I respect them. But, it isn't always convenient for me to get over to their donation center (which is just a couple of miles from my house) with my donations. Most of the time, I collect items in my garage (which is too small to hold our twelve-passenger van) until I have enough to make it worthwhile to take things. The problem is, the bags of clutter that I've removed from my house clutter up my garage. I don't like it. And, with a large family, a little bit of clutter multiplies, quickly. 

So, recently, instead of waiting until the other thrift store was open, I loaded up the bags that were registering on my clutter-meter and headed to a nationally branded thrift store. They were open after 8pm when it was convenient for me to drop stuff off. And it was incredibly convenient. 

Now don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with donating to any of the well-known thrift stores, whether they are nationwide chains or little local businesses. You don't have to feel guilty if the thrift store you donate to doesn't benefit the homeless or destitute because (unless it is a private thrift store) it definitely benefits someone who is in need. And several give jobs to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to get a job. It is great to donate to any thrift store anywhere.


I chose to donate to a place that gives people jobs instead of supporting an organization that changes lives for eternity. And I did it for convenience. 

Then, as I thought about convenience, I began to think of all the things we've lost in our pursuit of convenience. The Pixar movie "Cars" deals with one aspect; to save a little bit of time, interstates bypass the small towns that were once "the jewels of Route 66." Cell phones make communication more convenient. Washing machines make keeping clothes more convenient. Electric or gas dryers make getting clothes dry more convenient (though nothing has made keeping clothes clean or dry convenient). Convenience foods have changed the way America eats, in more ways than one. 

Gone are the days when women gathered together to make quilts, families gathered together to bring in and put up the harvest, or raising a barn was a community event. Instead, we fly through our days with our cell-phones-turned-pocket-planners directing us to the next activity, rushing from work to take our kids to soccer or ballet or gymnastics, grabbing food on the run as we try to fit in everything that defines a successful American family. And it is all "convenient."

So, I have to ask the question.

Is it really? 

Is it really more convenient to rush through life, ending each day exhausted? Is it really more convenient for the office to have access to you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? Is it really more convenient to grab pre-fab food, when you consider the health issues that more and more experts are saying connect back to what we eat? Is it really?

I don't know. It certainly makes my life easier to wash huge loads of laundry in my front-loading washing machine. If I had to go back to an old wringer-washer, or even worse, washing by hand, one day a week would not be enough! If I had to cart water from the well, I wouldn't be able to get anything else done. The river is only a couple of miles away, but it would definitely interfere with my day if I had to lug buckets back and forth, especially to wash clothes.

We've made some major changes in our diet, basically eliminating convenience. And it has been hard. More than one day has found me preparing food or cleaning up afterwards, literally all day long. I can no longer buy much of anything at the grocery store that doesn't require hours or days of advanced preparation. It is, much of the time, a pain. But, the benefits have been well worth the sacrifices (unless you ask my teenage children - they completely disagree) and we are reaping rewards every day.

My dryer broke at the beginning of the summer. So I put up a clothes line in my back yard. It isn't more convenient to go hang clothes in the back yard instead of throwing them in the dryer. Until it comes time to fold everything. And the smell; the smell of line-dried clothes is wonderful. Plus the added benefit of the sun helping whiten my whites. It does take longer. It isn't as convenient. But, I'm saving money, which is always a good thing. And, it is a community-building experience. Several of us can hang wet clothes out together, and several of us can take dry clothes down and fold them. All the while, little ones who are too young to help can play and laugh with us in the grass. It isn't faster or easier, but the rewards are tremendous.

Our automatic dishwasher broke a few years ago and our kids all voted not to replace it! Instead of spending time washing dishes to put in the dish washer, we simply wash them and dry them and put them away. A regular assembly line makes quick work of everything, on most days. Sometimes it is a pain, but not enough of a pain to warrant us spending money to buy a new dishwasher.

Over all, I really don't think convenience is worth the cost. It is a price I am not willing to pay, especially when it doesn't really save time or money or energy anyway.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Going Anywhere?

This morning, listening to the radio, I hear a song by Chris Tomlin, "I Will Follow." The chorus said, "Where You go I'll go, Where You stay I'll stay, When You move I'll move. I will follow." 

Though only partly listening, the chorus caught my attention and I realized that while I've always pictured following God as being related to a location, that isn't necessarily the case. Actually, based on my experience over the last few years, following God may have nothing at all to do with a physical location and everything to do with the heart.

Let me explain; God has called me to journey into an emotional and spiritual desert. He hasn't left me alone, thankfully. But sometimes it is very, very lonely. And I haven't always embraced this journey as enthusiastically as I would if He called me to Africa or Thailand or Alaska (I have enthusiastically followed God's call to all three locations, for short term assignments) or somewhere I wanted to go. I haven't followed my Savior into this desert with the same excitement I might have, if the desert was a physical location, rather than an emotional experience, either. With a physical location, people can support you, encourage you, recognize the sacrifices you are making, and celebrate your obedience. With a spiritual or emotional desert, no one celebrates. Few understand, and fewer still celebrate. I certainly haven't.

I've sung songs like the one by Chris Tomlin, many times, with great sincerity. But, I'm not sure I'll sing them quite the same way again. Obedience is difficult; painful, even. It requires sacrifices that aren't always obvious, or easy. The benefits are definitely worth the sacrifice, and the rewards outweigh the pain, but pain and sacrifice are frequently involved.

When my daughter was invited to go on a mission trip to Africa, it required little pain or sacrifice (unless you count the shots required); she wanted to go. When we served lunch to the homeless at a local shelter, it required nothing more than time, and the blessings far outweighed the investment. Telling kids at the fair about Jesus as we painted their faces was a blast. When we help someone move, or help at an Operation Christmas Child collection center, or deliver a meal to a family recovering from illness, the sacrifices are minimal, the discomfort limited, the rewards abundant. My culture and community applaud my investment of time and energy, I feel good about what I've done, and (most of the time) I've had fun in the process.

When I love and nurture a very fussy and mostly miserable two year old, or hold a panic-riddled preschooler while she screams because something caught her by surprise, or explain to my dyslexic daughter what an "a" says again, because she can't remember and traditional teaching methods aren't working, it doesn't feel good. Nobody applauds my efforts. The sacrifices are tremendous (like personal time, reading for pleasure, or getting things done, just to name a few), the rewards (appear to be) minimal. It is not fun.

Yet, as I listened to Chris Tomlin's song, I realized that this very much is "where" God has called me, and I need to decide if I really meant what I said all those times, or not. Am I really willing to go anywhere God calls me to go, even if it is to an unpleasant place, or through an unpleasant experience? Honestly, I don't know. The journey I've been on has proven to me that I can trust God to take me where He wants me to go, and to walk with me every step of the way. But it isn't easy, and I don't always like it. I struggle with embracing "where" God has called me to go. I really do. But, by God's grace, I'm taking one step at a time along this path through the desert. And I can truly say I'm a better person for what I've experienced; I truly am.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Growing Up

Today I became an adult. It isn't quite like I expected, and I'm not sure I was ready, but I grew up.

It all happened with one decision. 

Our beloved family pet, Bootsie, has been going down hill for awhile. We've been wondering just how much longer she could last. Though the vet said she was basically doing fine, it was obvious to us that her days were numbered.

Then, last night, I noticed that she was having trouble walking. She couldn't make it across the room without stopping to rest, and she seemed to be in pain. Walking up the stairs was impossible. Bootsie was miserable. Her condition had deteriorated rapidly.

I knew what had to be done. 
And I knew who had to do it.

This morning I called the veterinarian to schedule the appointment, breaking down repeatedly through the brief conversation.  We made it for later in the afternoon, to give time to say goodbye. That time was well spent, treasuring the precious blessing of our furry friend. We were able to capture a couple of paw prints in modeling clay, and attempted to add her paw prints to a canvas; the shape doesn't really resemble a cat's paw, but we know what it is.

And then came the decision that has forever changed me. 

It was time to go.

Tears stained the faces of everyone in the car, because of my decision. It was one that had to be made. But it was still agonizing to be the one to make it. I could hardly read the consent through my tears.

The tech who walked us through the process was so gentle and kind. She affirmed my decision, explained our options, helped us decide what to do, and asked if we needed more time. 

Again, the details were up to me. 

As I type this, everyone is in bed. Bootsie has been laid to rest on my parents' farm, surrounded by treasures from those who will miss her most. The day is over. The carefree days of my youth have been completely laid aside. Innocence, without the weight of deciding life or death, is gone forever. In it's place is a resolve, a strength I didn't know I possessed. And I will never be the same. I wasn't ready, but I have completely grown up.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Maybe it is because I am not sleeping well, or maybe because of this crazy diet we are on, or maybe because life is slowing down and I actually have time to think, for the first time in over two years. Whatever the reason, I have been contemplating life. Somehow, that tends to take me back over mistakes I have made, or through situations I wish I could change. Such was the case last night; exhausted and ready for bed early, I wasn't able to get to bed until I was past that early window for sleeping. So, I stayed awake, for several hours. Before the night was over, I had wandered to a very dark place, thinking of friends who no longer consider me a friend, and reviewing all the times throughout my life when I had been rejected. Like I said, it was a very dark place. 

By God's grace, instead of meditating on those unpleasant awful memories, I cried out to Jesus, and focused on what was true; no matter who rejects me here on Earth, God promises to never leave me or forsake me (Heb 13), I am His name workmanship (Eph 2:10), and I am loved, not only by God, but by my family, too. 

Today, that melancholy has clung to me like mist on a foggy morning. Adding the challenges of life, it has been a less-than-stellar day, made worse by a migraine and malaise, most likely triggered by die-off from the GAPS intro diet (which I could have prevented, if I was more careful). 

Taking some time from the daily grind in my house, I slipped away to "detox," both literally and figuratively. As I was pouring my heart out to the Lord, He reminded me of what I need to do in times like these; keep my crown on!! 

Since God gave me that principle (which I thought was just a clever topic for speaking) it has amazed me how He has used it to encourage me. God has adopted me into His family. I am a daughter of The King. What a treasure?! What a precious reminder. No matter what happens in life, I can choose to keep my crown on. 

Unfortunately, it doesn't take away the pain of being rejected, nor does it magically restore broken relationships or undo mistakes. But, it gives me the grace not to be defined by these realities. It gives me "wind beneath my wings" to soar above my circumstances and keep my eyes on Jesus. 

Wow. The "detox" really helped, at least with the melancholy mood. It didn't take away my headache, or renew my strength and vitality completely, but I am SO thankful for God reminding me, again, who I am, and where my focus needs to be. God is so good!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Another Adventure

I am beginning a new blog. It will describe our journey with the GAPS diet, developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. You can check out my first post here.

Don't worry...I'm not leaving; just adding a page where you can share my adventures, if you so choose, through the ups and downs of eating a very different (and ultra-strict) diet than most Americans. This will continue to be my soapbox, and I will continue to wax eloquent, even if nobody is listening.

Hopefully you will drop in from time to time, to check my progress. I'd definitely love to have you share the journey.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Real Life Priorities

This post is actually from a couple of months ago. Looking over my blog, I realized it had not been published. My situation is different now (thankfully) but the lessons remain unchanged. If you can relate to what I share, please let me know. 

It is Sunday afternoon, by exactly fifteen minutes. Once again, I am home instead of having spent my morning in church. And, once again, it is because my dear son is sick. Over the course of the almost three hours I have been home with only one child, I have used half a box of tissues to wipe his nose, cleaned up multiple messes, started one load of laundry (twice, lol), cleared the table (but didn't get dishes done), started dinner (hurrah for slow cookers) and nursed three times. 

You may wonder why I am still nursing. This little man is two years old, after all. But, he still doesn't eat well, especially when he is sick. So, he nurses. Which, by the way, would be very normal, if we lived in Mongolia. Maybe he will be a really good wrestler, lol. But, I digress. 

Enjoying one of the few times when I am alone (almost), I had some pretty lofty goals. Needless to say, they were far too ambitious. You know what I did with my time, instead. And as I sit here, thinking about all that needs to be done around my house, it has been difficult to enjoy the moment, honestly. 

Oh, I know all about the poem that reminds moms of how fleeting time with our children can be. I know babies grow up, and houses can be cleaned later. But, it is much easier to say or read than to actually do. Especially when the baby is two and has required more time than the average baby. As much as I love my son, I must be honest. Sometimes I really want to get things done. Sometimes I want to be free to invest my time the way I want to instead of caring for a fussy toddler. It has been more frustrating of late, too, maybe because he is sick, again. 

It is difficult. It really is. I get tired. I get frustrated. I get impatient with my kids, and my wonderful husband. I still want to get things done, and I NEED to get things done. Everyone does. The poem is great, but dealing with reality is not nearly so romantic. 

But, even as I struggle with what I am not getting done and wrestle with what my priorities should be, I know what is most important. My house can be cleaned later. My son will not nurse forever. And while my house may bug me now, and I worry about how my older kids will manage their homes when they leave mine, I don't worry about whether my time is being well spent. I know it is. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Woo Hoo!!! Mama's Doing a Happy Dance - Kids Got It (at least once!)

I've been parenting toddlers for a long time; about seventeen years, to be (a bit more) precise. And over that time, a few things have become clear. Young children don't share well, they don't play nice, and they have to be taught how to say simple things like "I'm sorry, please forgive me," and "I forgive you." It can require a tremendous amount of time to get them to understand those simple concepts. 

One of the blessings of a large family, however, is sheer numbers; if more people speak politely than not, lessons can be learned more quickly. Such seems to be the case with my two youngest, which is the reason for my happy dance.

Earlier this evening, my youngest took a direct hit from his sister's left hand, because of some less-than-desirable action. As I gently corrected both children, an amazing thing took place; my son apologized to his sister, and she apologized to him! Then, they both forgave each other!!!! 

And no, I didn't make them. 

Doesn't she look angelic?
I could hardly believe it. We've tried diligently to teach all of our children to treat others they way they want to be treated. Patiently, I've walked step-by-step through the process, confronting the wrong behavior, asking the offender if they'd like to be treated that way, and if they'd been treated that way, what they'd want the other person to do. Sometimes, to be quite honest, I wondered if it was ever going to sink in?! 

Doesn't he look sweet?
Then, my two youngest, who have both experienced the conversation AND seen siblings experience it, got it, at least once!! Woo Hoo!! HAPPY DANCE! 

I wish this meant I'd never have to walk through that process ever again; never have to have that conversation; never have to walk through those steps. But, I know better, in spite of how darling they are. I'll probably have to do it hundreds of times, with the two I'm bragging about right now. Who cares. For one moment in time, they both got it. And I'm going to celebrate as long as I can.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Keep Your Crown On

Women wear many hats. Some of us are wives. Some are mothers. We are all daughters, and many of us are sisters. We work in hospitals, board rooms, and bathrooms. Some of the time we soar like eagles. Other times, we fall flat on our faces.

And when we do, the world is quick to put a dunce cap on our heads.

The cap may say different things. One time it may say “Failure.” Another time it may say “Loser,” or “Stupid,” or “Worthless.” But ultimately the world is telling us that what we do is more important than who we are. And, even if we don’t admit it to anyone, much of the time, we believe that lie.

But God has a completely different hat for those who have been adopted into His family.

Ephesians 2:11-19 (NAS) reads (in part), “Therefore, remember that at one time you Gentiles (italics added)…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (bold and italics added). But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has…broken down the…dividing wall of hostility…so making peace, that He might r4econcile us both (Israelites and Gentiles) to God in one body through the cross…for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (bold and italics added)

For those of us who have been adopted into God’s family, as members of God’s household, we are princesses! The world can no longer define us based on our performance. God defines us by His!

But, when the world pulls out the dunce cap, it still fits. The choice then becomes, which hat are we going to wear? Which reality are we going to live in? What are we going to choose to embrace?

So much of the time, it seems, we choose to accept that dunce cap! I definitely do - far more often than I’d like to admit. Actually, as I type this, I’m wearing a cheap imitation tiara because I’m really struggling with the dunce cap labeled “Failure.” I feel like one. People I love have been disappointed in me, so “Disappointment” is blazoned across that cap, too. And, in my kitchen, the dirty dishes are breeding faster than I can wash them (of course, I’m not washing them right now…I’m typing on the computer, lol). It is easy to accept the hat the world wants to force on our heads. That is a choice I face every single day.

The truth is, though, no matter what else happens, no matter what hat the world tries to force on my head, that tiara is still there! It is always there. And it isn’t perched on my head because I deserve it. It has been placed there by the very Creator of the universe.

What I do with that knowledge can change everything.

And, the question becomes, will I keep my crown on, or not? 

Having put that cheap, plastic imitation tiara on my head has helped. My focus is not on my failings, but on my true identity. And as I focus on that, everything comes into perspective. I disappointed someone; I’m not a disappointment. I failed someone; I’m not a failure. I am so much more than a composite of my performances. I am a daughter of the One True King, and that says it all.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Worst Mother's Day. Ever.

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I'm pretty sure it was my worst Mother's Day, ever. A number of factors came together in a kind of "perfect storm" to make the day less than I'd hoped for or expected. And my family tried; they really did. But, it was still a pretty bummer of a day; or at least it felt that way to me.

Having returned late the evening before from an amazing "mountain top" experience, the day started too early; I was exhausted. And having dropped several NOT subtle hints about what I wanted for Mother's Day (even buying some of the materials and leaving them conveniently located on the table), I had some expectations about what I would be receiving. According to more than one reputable source, expectations are premeditated disappointments. Yes. I was disappointed.

As we headed to church (late, even for the "late" service), the cloak of disappointment hung heavy on my shoulders. And, with little notice from my family, tears slowly slipped down my cheeks.

Barely able to exchange simple greetings with fellow church members, I couldn't participate in worship; tears were too close to spilling again.

Then God reminded me of what I'd shared at a ladies' tea just the day before; "Keep your crown on." It was a reference to the idea that we all wear hats of various shapes and colors. The world tries to force us to wear hats that God never intended; dunce caps with words like "failure" and "disappointment" blazoned across them. But, for those of us who have been adopted in to God's family (Eph 2:11-19), no matter what hat the world tries to force us to wear, we are princes and princesses, and we wear a crown. It is our choice whether to keep that crown on when life tries to cram one of those dunce hats on our heads, or not. And yesterday, I was wearing the wrong hat.

So, in the midst of the worship service, surrounded by dozens of people, tears once again spilled over (I hate to cry in front of people!!) as I realized how desperately I needed to take my own advice.

I wish I could say the day suddenly and magically improved; it didn't. I still struggled with my attitude. I was still disappointed that the box of supplies I'd purchased sat unopened on the basement table. I still didn't really want to celebrate Mother's Day, with its blatant reminders of my failures as a mom. Honestly, more than anything, I wanted to run away from home! But, as my family rallied around me, and later, as my husband cared for our young son so I could get some desperately needed sleep (which was probably the biggest reason for my struggles yesterday), I was reminded of all the reasons I have to be thankful. No, it wasn't the perfect Mother's Day. No, I didn't get what I wanted (not even that coveted picture with my children nestled around me - I got this, instead), 

or even what I'd asked for (which was this). Instead, I was given a really powerful opportunity to practice what I'd been preaching (just the day before), and the humbling reminder of how desperately I need a savior.

Matthew West has a song out right now that has really been ministering to my heart as I struggle with keeping my crown on. Check it out here

If you do visit Matthew West's site, I'd love to hear from you; please come back and post your thoughts.


My son turned two years old over a month ago. It has absolutely been the longest two years of my life. Even before his arrival, he was making life difficult. The night of his birth, he gave me a glimpse of what life would be like. 

With my previous four hospital deliveries, the newborn nursery wasn't a "service" I was interested in. I wanted to hold in my arms the precious little bundle I'd carried in my womb for so long. With James, it was, unfortunately, no longer available - the hospital where I delivered had gone to an all "rooming in" policy, meaning that unless Mama was really sick or had just going through a surgical delivery, Baby stayed with his mama.

After a very long final stage of pregnancy resulting in extreme exhaustion, and a very intense labor, a 10lb 10oz, almost 2 ft long baby arrived. The nurse said JJ was so difficult to deliver that if I'd had an epidural, he would have been delivered by c-section! Because of complications with the delivery, JJ was whisked away by the NICU team and I was so tired, I barely even noticed. Hearing his first cry a few minutes later gave me the assurance that he was alive. No one seemed overly concerned, so I was pretty confident he had all his fingers and toes. Beyond that, I didn't have the energy to care.

When the nurse brought my precious (not so) little baby and laid him in my arms, I needed help to hold him - I was that weak. Honestly, I remember very few details of that evening, which is probably better. But I do remember, after we'd been moved to the "Mother-Baby" side of the maternity floor, how desperately I wanted sleep and how uncooperative my son was. Finally, I woke Chris up (why is it dads can fall asleep so easily after a baby arrives?!) so he could take care of JJ while I got some sleep!

The next seven weeks were spent in frustration and desperation, trying to figure out how to help my sweet little man quit crying and for both of us get some sleep. It took almost two months because, as a mother of many, I knew babies cry. But, when when we finally went to the doctor, it turns out he wasn't just crying! He was suffering. 

The doctor was great. He immediately assured me that it was wise to bring my son in, ordered a variety tests, and prescribed a couple of very helpful medications. As it turned out, JJ had very severe reflux, so much so that the radiologist commented on it during one of the tests. 

Thus began a very frustrating and exhausting journey, that continues today. And as a result, I missed out on all the fun parts of having a new baby. It wasn't fun, he wasn't cute, and we didn't treasure moments. JJ cried almost constantly, unless he was sleeping, which didn't happen nearly often enough. The car caused particular distress, so we didn't drive him anywhere he didn't need to go for months, which meant we didn't do anything as a family, for months. The baby swing was torture; he screamed until we took him out. One of my daughters discovered a trick to getting him to go to sleep, so we swaddled him, for eight months! Even so, he had to held for any quality sleep. Actually, that is still true.

It didn't really occur to me that JJ was missing milestones until he was about six months old, and he wasn't doing anything he was supposed to be! We figured it was because we held him all the time, due to his reflux and sleeping issues. The specialist informed us that it wasn't due to being held all the time; it was due to "hypostatic encepholopathy" or Cerebral Palsy, low muscle tone (which affects EVERYTHING), and right-sided weakness. The physical therapist also noted general low muscle tone and issues with "proprioception." More diagnoses, more visits with specialists. 

Added to this confusing and very overwhelming mix was frequent illness. JJ was hospitalized with hypothermia secondary to immune insufficiency (though he does not appear to have an actual immune deficiency), treated for pneumonia twice (the first time at two and a half  months), on antibiotics eleven times and hospitalized for the removal of his adenoids, all before he was two. Between visits to doctors and therapists, and visits from preschool teachers,it was crazy. 

Now that JJ is two, and very much NOT a baby (he weighs 36 pounds), I am realizing just how much we've missed. And, I'm disappointed. Disappointed that rolling over was an exercise, that crawling was a task, that walking took months of practice. I'm disappointed that I didn't get to watch my precious little baby sleep in his cradle or rest quietly in my arms. I'm disappointed that I have missed memories of my other children over the last two years; that is time I can never get back.

Life is not over, however, and I can still make memories! So, amidst the disappointment and frustration is a firm resolve to live life differently based on what I've learned, and to figure out how to make life an event instead of just a task. That is, by itself, a worthwhile lesson to learn.