Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oh Grave, Where is Thy Sting?

Ten years ago today, my sister's earthly existence ended. Her body began to return to dust, and our opportunity to enjoy her company was over. But, for those of us who believe in the God of the Bible and His plan,  death is not the end. 

Paul, in a letter to Corinthian believers, penned the words "Oh grave, where is thy sting? Oh death, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor 15:22 KJV), referring to the reality that death does not have the final word and followers of Jesus can look forward to something beyond the grave.

On this tenth anniversary of my sister's death, it is a great comfort to know that the grave where her body lies (or what is left of it, after this long) is not her final resting place. It takes the sting out of her loss, to a great degree, because I have the hope of  seeing her again.

Some people will read this and think I'm crazy. Some who read these words will shake their heads at my ignorance and reliance on fairy tales and fabrications of days gone by. You can enjoy your cynicism all you want to. I'll not try to argue with you or change your opinion. That isn't the point of this post.

The point of this post is to celebrate my sister's life, and to acknowledge as publicly as I know how that I have hope! Hope of being reunited with my sister, hope of seeing my grandparents once more, hope of snuggling in my arms the baby girl who was delivered to Heaven before she took her first breath of air. 

I have hope.
And that is a very sweet thing.

Hope made visiting the cemetery bearable. Hope made remembering my sister's favorite things precious. Hope made celebrating a possibility, instead of sinking into a pit of darkness and heartache over my loss. Hope made today special, instead of miserable. 

Don't think my eyes have been dry, however. They haven't been. Don't think that I'm unaffected by my sister's death. That simply isn't true. My heart aches with all that has happened over the last ten years that we weren't able to share together; the babies she never  held, and who have never been held by her, the Christmases and birthdays she has missed, and the memories we've made without her. 

It isn't easy to recognize that the grave has lost its sting. 

But it has. 

And on this anniversary, this "Golden Birthday" 
of my sister's arrival in Heaven, 
I am choosing to celebrate what her life has been and what we will enjoy together someday.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Milestones and Mistaken Expectations

My son hit his milestones on time for the first time since his birth. It was an exciting day. First, his preschool teacher came and did an evaluation; he was right where he needed to be socially and emotionally (even if he doesn't know how to play with other little children his age), developmentally, he was doing just what he should be doing. Yeah!

Then, we saw his physical therapist and his speech therapist; they both agreed that the problems we were seeing weren't significant enough to require ongoing treatment. He was discharged. The orthotist refitted his DAFOs and scheduled a recheck for three months - he may be done with those soon, as well.

All these milestones are very exciting! It is wonderfully delightful to see my son running around, imitating words and phrases, harassing his sisters and telling me "NO!"; in short, to see him being a "normal" little boy. It has been a long time in coming, and (as I've come to realize) by no means guaranteed.

When we began this journey (was it just eighteen months ago?!), I couldn't see past the seemingly endless number of medical appointments, visits to specialists, and therapy sessions. The list of tasks to practice seemed overwhelming, made even more complicated by the struggles and challenges of his older sister (who remains in OT and speech). For some reason (i.e. my innocence and ignorance?) I thought that when all those appointments were done, life would be easier, maybe even simple.

I was sorely mistaken.

Life is not simple. It is easier, because we aren't spending hours in therapy every week, and we understand how to manage many of the issues that drove us to therapy in the first place. But it is not "easy," at all. The issues remain; we just understand how to manage them better. His Cerebral Palsy, however mild, still impacts his life every day. His sensory issues (probably secondary to the CP) cause tears and trauma multiple times through out each day. Even something as simple as changing his clothes causes far too many tears. 
It is exhausting.

This isn't like a cold or the flu; he won't ever get "over it." He will continue to improve, and as the specialist who first diagnosed the CP said, he will do whatever he sets his mind to. But, it will never be easy. It will probably never even be simple. And that, like so many other aspects of special needs parenting, is a reality I wasn't prepared for. This journey has taught me many  unexpected lessons, and I've made so many mistakes along the way (and I'll undoubtedly make more, many more), but I'm definitely learning - lots!

Ultimately, I love my son, and I'm so thrilled with how he is doing. 
Even though I've made lots of mistakes, I'm going to celebrate his milestones, 
and thereby meet some of my own. 

Appearances can be Deceiving

Yes, this is the laundry pile, affectionately known as Mt. Foldmore.

My life is not picture-perfect; far from it, actually. Every day, in my home, you can find things in places where they do not belong. You can see evidence of poor choices. I make mistakes; I say, do, and think the wrong things. I don't look beautiful, I'm not skinny, I don't manage my time right, and my house isn't perfectly decorated.

It is easy to compare myself with others and feel like I don't measure up. Honestly, I do it all the time. I believe the lies that everyone else's house is cleaner than mine, that everyone else's kids are smarter and better behaved, that everyone cooks better than I do, that somewhere someone is doing what I'm trying to do, and they are doing it right.

This belief has been reinforced by the disapproval of others. Whether letting my kids play in the dirt or nursing a toddler in public or homeschooling or having eight kids, I have (or haven't) done what someone somewhere thinks I should (or shouldn't) do. And I make mistakes, often.

Isn't she cute, even under all that dirt?
Recently, though, God has given me opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Instead of comparing the inside of me to the outside of others, He has helped me understand how He looks at me.1 Samuel 16:7 says " looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. " (Marchauna's revised version). I have certainly experienced man looking at my outward appearance and being less than impressed. It doesn't feel good, and even though I know God loves me, I still don't like it.

It has been interesting, lately, though. People I have approved of, people others have approved of, people who look good (at least on the outside), people I have admired as having it all together, have demonstrated that they don't. In each case, specific details were different, but the end was the same; they were living in a house of cards and it fell down around them.

Far from reveling in their downfall, my heart aches as I watch them struggle with the consequences of choices nobody could see they were making. Sometimes, they didn't even realize what they were doing themselves. They had the approval of others because of their outward appearance, but God knew, and what He said is true; you really do reap what you sow.

A dear friend recently told me that I can't compare the inside of me with the outside of other people, because appearances can be deceiving. Until recently, I didn't know how true that statement was. We are quick to compare our insides with everyone else's outside, usually coming away from the experience a loser. The world definitely looks at the outward appearance, and the world can be a brutal judge of what they can see. But, the really important part of a person is his or her heart. Only God can judge that, and He doesn't get deceived by how pretty the person is on the outside. 

To many, this thought is a bit less than comforting. But, when you realize that God already knows what we look like on the inside, He knows how broken and "untogether" we really are, and He loves us anyway, that is helpful. When you realize that He not only knows how broken we are, but that He made a provision for fixing up that brokenness, life gets downright exciting!

Kitty Litter and Ah-Ha Moments

Having learned very little about home management as a child, I have always struggled to keep up with chores. Spending several hours each week taking kids to medical and therapy appointments, as well as striving to teach kids in five different grades, plus Kindergarden and preschool, has challenged my weak domestic skills even further. This has reality has left in its wake many unfinished projects and a increasingly messy house.

Increasingly irritated with my children, I began to wonder why they didn't seem to care about the clutter and chaos that seemed to be taking over our home?! Didn't they see the things laying around, the dishes by the couch in the basement, the laundry overflowing the hamper in the hallway?!

Then, sweeping up yet another mess of kitty litter (thanks to my not-quite-two-year old son), the light bulb went on; my kids DIDN'T see the mess!! They didn't notice the irritating and annoying things I noticed, because they are so used to seeing things that way! Ahhh!!! This is all my fault!

The remedy, I've decided, is not to become Super Woman and leap tall piles of laundry in a single bound, nor will my problems be solved by twitching my nose or pulling special tools out of a magic carpet bag or snapping fingers at toys scattered all over the toy room.

The remedy is much less glamorous than all that. I simply have to set a different standard. Yes, it will be difficult, given my a fore mentioned handicaps and current limitations. But, by changing my attitude and expectations (that word, again...), I can change the standard. Simply by recognizing that I've set a standard I don't like, I have the power to change it! It will not be easy, change will not happen overnight. But I am excited about the possibilities! Or at least right now. As soon as I