Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Could Never...

In my Sunday school class (of just ladies this quarter), our facilitator has been having us discuss many things. A recent topic of conversation has been our words. Words we can say to be helpful, phrases we should avoid, words (and actions) that show that we genuinely care.

A phrase has been in mind since Sunday afternoon - probably because the Lord is convicting me of all of the times I have said it (or at least thought it) - "I could never.../I would never..." This is slightly different than the phrase I talked about in class of "I don't know how you do it!" Whereas that "I don't know how you do it" phrase usually comes in a form a (strange/frustrating) compliment, the "I could never..." is often coming from a place of judgment. If not a judgment, at the very least least it is from a place of not trying to understand someone's background/story/decision. 

I remember I was a teenager the first time that statement really stood out to me, was when I was indirectly on the receiving end (though the person who said it didn't know she was being hurtful, and I still think very highly of this person). She said, "I could never let my kids date someone from a divorced home." This broke my heart since I was a kid from a divorced home.

Other phrases that have been hard to hear (directly or indirectly);

  • I could never raise a child with special needs.
  • I would never live on the northside of town.
  • I could never go to a Pentecostal church. Or a Baptist church. Or a Reformed church.Or a church that doesn't have kids' church. Or a church that...
  • I would never homeschool.

But I haven't only been on the receiving end. I am going to be completely transparent here. I hesitated to share this, but wearing a mask about my struggles doesn't help anyone.  I have at different times of my life said hurtful "I could never/ I would never" statements, 

  • "I could never be a stay at home mom" (oh how things change) 
  • And on the opposite end, "I could never work outside of the home." Yes, in my short lifetime, I have made both of those statements. I'm very sorry for saying both of those things. 
  • I would never send my kids to public school. (Well, I ended up doing that for a few months this year. Never say never.)
  • I would never go to college in Springfield, MO (Ha!)
  • I would never wear _________.
  • I would never let my kids _________.

When we say the, "I could never.." it is most often out of fear/pride/envy or even what we try to claim as "concern," With each of these statements, whether said aloud, written or even just harbored in our heart for too long,  we end up alienating the people we are called to love and encourage. These statements often stop us from caring for one another and instead start us competing with one another. I don't know if that makes sense, but in my "year of quiet" I think God started working on this issue in my heart (and my tongue - or more like my written words, in my case). After spending a few days thinking about our class on Sunday, I know He isn't finished working on me in this area.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What I Read - Over the Holidays And In January

It is amazing how much more reading I can get done when I don't get on the computer as often.  December it was easier to read because I was not on Facebook until after Christmas and because I was in lazy-holiday-vacation mode. I did get a few books finished in January as well. A few books didn't make the list because I did not finish them for various reasons.  But here is what I read - in no particular order:

  • Crazy-Busy by Kevin DeYoung - Our pastor had a few copies of this to give away. It was a great read. Quick, practical, and a lot of things that I have started applying to my life. I think it will also be helpful to revisit once my kids are a bit older, to keep our time-management priorities straight.
  • The Bean Tree by Barbara Kingsolver - Really loved the characters in this novel. I don't know how to say more about what I liked about this book without giving away the plot.
  • The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell - A crime novel, but not really in the traditional way - I thought this book would be better than what it was. I needed to know how everything worked out in the end, but if it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't have finished it.
  • Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet by Sara Haggerty - a memoir on infertility - and although I have two children, I felt much of what she wrote I could relate to. The second half of the book flowed better, in my opinion, so I'm glad I hung on to finish the book.
  • Sun Shine Down by Gillian Marchenko - a memoir of a mom after the birth of her child, who is born with Down Syndrome. I wanted to like this book more than I did. I related to some of the mom's emotions/struggles, but not as much as I had hoped when I picked up the book. 
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells - Two or three people recommended this memoir to me. What an amazing story! I found myself crying, cheering, cringing, and so much more throughout this book. It also made me want to move back to the southwest. I highly recommend this book.
  • The Geography of Memory by Jeanne Murray Walker - A woman remembering her journey with her mother before, during and after her mother's struggle with Alzheimer's. Powerful story with not just dealing with the disease but also family relationship dynamics, memories of growing up in a conservative Baptist home, wrestling with (and changing) faith, and probably other things I am failing to mention. 
  • Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwieler - I am pretty sure I have read this woman's blog a few times, but I didn't remember it when I picked up this book from the library.  A memoir of an atheist becoming Catholic. I love a good memoir of pretty much any religious sort. For some reason love learning why people change/convert/leave their faith. I love the stories behind theologies.
  • The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts - One of my Sunday school teachers pointed many of us to Kara's blog - a mother of four dying of cancer. It is a heart-wrenching story, but Kara's realness as she hangs onto her faith in one of the worst situations out there is challenging, encouraging, and convicting. 
  • Eight-Twenty-Eight by Ian and Larissa Murphy - I watched a video clip Ian and Larissa did about a year ago, and cried my way through watching. I knew I would read their book when it was published. Ian suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident while the two were seriously dating. This book chronicles their journey through that time and beyond. Although my situation is not the same, I found so much to take from, as a "special needs mom" from Ian and Larissa's story, as Larissa has stayed by Ian's side throughout this incredibly difficult path they are on. If you read this book, have a box of tissue nearby. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

on our tenth anniversary

“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I've been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I've learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won't stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.” ~ Madeline L'Engle

Dear M,

We celebrate our tenth anniversary tomorrow. So when I read this Madeline L'Engle quote tonight, I felt it speak to my heart. It is so completely true. How did she so accurately and beautifully describe what marriage is?

I cannot believe we have been married ten years.

I look around our little house, the one in which we have spent 95% of our married life, the one we thought we would be in for just four or five years, and it is easy in the chaos and stress of life to get distracted and dissatisfied.  I didn't know what I was signing up for when I said, "Hey, why don't we just elope?" I didn't know that marriage would be so hard. I didn't understand the work it would entail to grow together.

I didn't know that there would be days and weeks and seasons of being so angry or disappointed or confused - not necessarily just in marriage but in what life has handed us in general.  I didn't know that I was such a selfish person until it was a struggle for me to not always get my own way. I didn't know we would handle loss differently - loss of a pregnancy, loss of a job, loss of faith in people, loss of hopes and dreams and expectations. And I didn't know these differences would often frustrate me.

But I also didn't know, ten years ago, how much living with a person, day after day, in a covenant relationship, would grow me. I didn't know that there would be times I would want to walk out the door, and I didn't know the relief I would feel that you would always stay. I didn't realize that growth would be painful but beautiful, and that I would not trade any of the pain because I am a better person for going through it with you.

I didn't know that Jerry Maguire's "You complete me," was a bunch of crap - and that trying to be completed by another person, even you my husband, would only leave me disillusioned.  Instead I would say that I have learned that, "You complete me" should actually be "You sharpen me," or "You challenge me," or "You encourage me," or "You love me."

You have loved me at some of my worst moments, in times when I did not even love myself. You are steady and methodical.  You are patient and wise. You are hard-working and you make me laugh.  You never complain that I would rather look over educational theories and curricula than learn to be a better cook. You  listen to my endless theological rants (you know which one). You still hold my hand in the car.  

You have taken the phone from my hands and stood up for me at the moment I most needed you to do such a thing.  You have been given my trust, even though in some ways it took awhile for me,  and you have been faithful with that trust. 

I love you. Thank you for being my husband of ten years and counting on more...


(picture by Sarah Bottarel)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This Week in (Smartphone) Pictures - Weeks 9, 10, & 11

I got very behind in posting pictures of our weeks at the end of December and the first 2/3 of January. I haven't taken any on my real camera, so I need to put that on my to do list for the end of the month. Take real pictures.
Here are some highlights from my phone though:

The week after Christmas we focused on A New Coat for Anna for literature. (Yes, we did school some days while other kids were on break!) I taught Bubby to weave paper to go along with the concept of weaving that was presented in the book because I thought that would be the easiest thing to do. I remember making placemats like this in elementary school.

I don't remember what we were doing here - except both boys were snuggled up on me on the couch, which was lovely.

The Hubs celebrated a birthday. We made him a cake.

We made paper bag owls to go with Owl Moon. I forgot to have us make ears for them, so Bugaboo keeps calling them birdies.

On Golden Globe night I took out our portable DVD player we use in the car for trips to the Children's Hospital or to Illinois and let the boys watch a movie in their room. Because we are a one TV house. And Amy and Tina were hosting. And it started at 7:00 CST, which isn't quite bedtime. I felt a little mom guilt from doing this, but not much.

Sitting with this sweet boy, sharing my coffee, when Bubby had to be at basketball early for pictures. Bug kept saying, "I drink ALL the coffee!"

We had beautiful weather recently, and it happened to correspond with my birthday.  On our way to taking the boys to a basketball game, we tried out a food truck place that serves British food and has a double-decker bus on which you can eat your lunch. The boys and I had the bangers and mash.

 Bubby was not thrilled about me taking his picture. He was also a little disappointed that the bus didn't go anywhere.

 I explained to the iPhone generation what a telephone booth was.

After a wonderful birthday, I was able to get in my pajamas and scruffy, comfortable bathrobe and relax for the rest of the evening. And this same child who didn't want his picture taken on the bus was all about getting in on a selfie.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why I Trust Even on the Scariest of Days

When Bubby was in the NICU, we were often told, "The NICU is a roller coaster ride." And it is true. There's nothing good about leaving your baby in the hospital for several weeks instead of taking him home.  Nothing prepares you for seeing your preemie crying because the doctors have had to stop feeds as a precaution to something that may or may not be wrong. It is heart-wrenching to see wires and tubes and machines hooked up to your little one - and I know that many other families have had to deal with an even harder medical journey.

I think of the roller coaster ride analogy because it fits life for us right now, especially with Bugaboo. We have good days and bad days and days where we feel completely out of control. He is making huge gains in his speech. Longer phrases, less drooling, able to focus and follow directions better. All of these things are amazing.

But there are still days - weeks - when it feels like we are on a wild ride in so many aspects of our journey with him. The meltdowns are back (not that they ever completely left) - but it's not every day, though often it is several days in a row. There is crying and yelling and him not being able to communicate what is bothering him. We try to guess. We try to redirect. We try to re-enforce that it is okay to cry but it is not okay to scream at people. It is heart-breaking to have to watch/hear him on his bed just crying endlessly.

He has improved in potty training - especially with "number two" - ever since we pulled him from preschool. In three weeks we have only had three accidents where that is concerned.  The other aspect of potty training seems more complicated - some days he stays dry most of the day, and other days it is completely doesn't happen. He has started being fearful of the exercise ball and the swings we use for therapy and any kind of swinging motion that we are supposed to be doing to help him. We don't know why this fear has started or how to help him overcome it. He has had nights of waking up for hours in the middle of the night. This is exhausting for mommy and child.

I watch him with his peers - at church, with friends of our family - he likes being around them, but he doesn't engage them, he doesn't interact with them really. He happily plays the beanbag game during Cubbies thanks to the game-leaders modifying it a bit for him, and I help him "run" around the cones of the circle. We work all week on his verses and he knows them - one of the perks of his echolalia - but then on Wednesday night he refuses to say them for anyone to earn his stickers. I know the point of memorizing the Bible isn't for stickers, but it is incredibly disheartening for me to see him not do what I know he can do.

I see Bubby when we are around other families with kids of similar ages. I see him play with other kids' younger brothers and sisters, and I wonder especially in these settings how it affects him to have a little brother with special needs. I see his compassion and patience at home and in public with others, but I also see his sadness and frustration when Bug is screaming all afternoon and he can't have a decent conversation with his own mother.

There is no handbook for this kind of life. And even if there was, I probably would read it and become frustrated with it.

Tonight during the teeth-brushing/pajama time routine, Bubby asked, "Why did God give Bug C.P.? Does He like that some people can't use their hands?" I fumbled through an answer about how I don't know why God gave his brother disabilities, that God loves everyone, whether they can use their hands or not, and that God is good and has a plan.

I believe this. I believe God is good and has a plan. I don't know what that plan is. I know that a lot of times His plans involve pain - not because He is sadistic but because there is a bigger picture. I trust the plan because I trust my God. Even when I am lying next to my youngest, putting my hand on his back, trying to comfort and calm him and all I can do is pray I trust Him. Even when all I can do sometimes  is text a friend and say, Please pray, I still trust Him. I trust Him because He can handle my questions, my fears, my doubts. I trust Him because to not trust Him feels a whole lot scarier.

I trust this God who has given me a child with disabilities because I know the stories of the man who was born blind so "that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3) I know the story of Lazarus - and how Jesus stayed away two extra days even though His friend was sick, and then Lazarus died. And Jesus wept. And then He asked His friends, the sisters, if they believed. (John 11)

I know every day is a chance for me to believe, a chance to trust, a chance for me to ask for prayer or ask for help or celebrate a new milestone or pray for someone else or rest in the beautiful simplicity of time just to be with my little family. I know that I can have hope that none of these days, none of these experiences, will be wasted.

Monday, January 5, 2015

old friends

I've been spending my free time in the evenings reading. It feels so good, and I already have a few books to recommend. I will probably to a post about that near the end of the month. Lately I find that I am lacking words more than I want to be. But I am filling my head with lots of other people's words, and that is a very good and therapeutic thing.

reading to my babies back when they were babies

Some books are like old friends. It may be a great deal of time between visits, but when you get together it is like no time has passed at all.  That is how I am feeling about Charlotte's Web this week. In the last week or two I started reading it to the boys at night when time and schedule allowed. Now that the holidays are over, I hope to read it every night. The copy of I have is my copy from second grade. In my mom's handwriting on the front cover is my name and first address. I remember reading the book in Mrs. Stegh's class - or she had it as a read aloud. I haven't done many chapter books with the boys yet - I was holding back because I didn't want to rush the picture book phase of life - but I think easing into chapter books now at night will be a good thing.

It really is such a lovely story. As an adult I notice the great way E.B. White uses words. I stopped right before Wilbur meets Charlotte the other night, and Bubby begged for me to keep reading. But I made him wait until tonight.  Even Bugaboo seems to be enjoying it on the nights his crying meltdowns don't keep him from the story. "Chapter One. Charlotte's Web." or "Charlotte's Web. Chapter Four," he will say in the evening before we start.

One of my favorite things about motherhood has been reading books to and with my kids. If I am having a rough day, a guaranteed cure for crankiness is to sit on the floor or the bed or the couch with the boys and begin reading out loud. It is impossible to remain in a bad mood while reading beautiful words or a funny story.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 - one word - hope

I don't do resolutions any more. Instead, I pick one word (or as it seems lately, one word "picks" me), and try to reflect upon, focus on, or live out that word for the entire year. It isn't a to do list or something to have an all-or-nothing approach about for twelve months. Instead, it ends up being an encouragement rather than a burden.

I had two words I thought I was choosing between for this year. A more general word - "focus" - and a more specific word - "health" (which would probably encompass all aspects of health, not just diet and exercise).  But as I was sitting in church last week, right before the service started, my new word for the year seemed to settle into my heart.


I didn't wrestle with this word like I did "quiet," before the start of last year.

I don't know what 2015 will look like with "hope" as my word, but I know I need it. I know without a doubt I need to dwell in hope for the next 365 days, and I'm looking forward to doing so.

Happy New Year!