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.