Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace - 2016 and my word of the year

Twelve months ago I picked grace for my word of the year. I wanted to focus on it, find it in big and small ways, and maybe reflect and write on it a bit throughout 2016. And while it did show up on my radar every now and then, I did not reflect on it as much as I had wanted, and I did not write about it at all.

In fact I wrote very little on my blog this year.

I was several months behind on a birthday letter and still haven't written another. I intended to blog through Advent but left out week four, love. I wanted to find the word and themes of grace everywhere,  but honestly,  hope (my word from 2015) showed up more for me.

So I am sitting here on New Year's Eve realizing that grace is what got me through 2016, even when I didn't notice. I know there were times I prayed that the Lord would give the grace, the strength, to deal with something. There were definitely days when I was aware that I was resting in His grace because I had completely messed up a situation or a relationship. And I am realizing tonight that I should have focused on the defintions of the word more than just the feelings of what I thought grace was.

Grace:
1 a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
   b: a virtue coming from God
   c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
2 a: approval, favor
   b: mercy, pardon
   c: a special favor: privilege
   d: a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
...

Grace may have been the best or worst word to ever pick for a word of the year. It is not something I can earn or create or even really feel physically or emotionally. Grace is what I have been given through Jesus Christ, not for 2016 alone, but since 1996 and forever forward.

2016 - you have been an interesting year. I am thankful for lessons learned, a sold house, a plan to move across the country in the months ahead.

2017 - I plan to write more often, stress less, and focus on my new word... Home.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent - Joy

Dear C and G,

Tonight we lit three candles and we focused on the word joy. John writes in his third letter, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth."

There is so much I want to share with you about joy, boys. I want you to understand what it is and what it is not. I want you to be able to see who the source of joy is and rest in that. I pray that you would discern all of your days that trusting in Jesus and obeying His word will bring you joy, even when deciding to do so brings you discomfort or pain.

I believe it brought the apostle John joy to know that his fellow believers were walking in truth because the truth is joy will only be found in truth. The world around you will tell you that you can determine your own truth, but your own truth will not lead to eternal joy. There actually is no such thing as your own truth. You will know  joy as you rest in Jesus and receive the promise that He came to earth to die for your sins. You will know joy as you set your hope in His resurrection and the promise that He is coming again, and that when He does He will right every wrong, and there will be no more sin, sickness, or sadness.

Walking in His truth will bring you joy. You cannot earn joy by following His law just as you cannot earn your salvation that way. But as you find joy in Him, that joy will compel you to trust Him enough to obey Him even when it is hard to do or understand. And when you fail to walk in His way, He is there with the grace to cover your failures and to keep you pressing heavenward.

Joy is not a Christmas wish list fulfilled. Joy is not the Christmas songs on the radio. Joy is not even happiness. Joy is rest, joy is contentment, joy is obedience, and joy is trust - all of which are only really possible through Jesus.

Love,
Mom

John 1:14-17 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent - peace

Dear C and G,
I posted a wonderful quote from Spurgeon on my Facebook page after church this morning. It reminded me of the peace I have from knowing who God is. It was lovely.

And then five o'clock came. I needed to get you both a snack, take care of the dog and get us to church for musical practice and a meeting by six. We now live thirty-five to forty minutes from church due to holiday traffic and life in the country. Drivers were annoying. The drive-thru line was long. I had a list of things still to accomplish tonight that should have been done earlier and won't be done till tomorrow. I felt frazzled, the complete opposite of peace.

"Jesus, I need Your peace," I prayed aloud on East Sunshine.

"Amen!" came the five year old voice from the back.

I did not get instant warm fuzzies or better drivers in front of me. I did get a little perspective, but I still sat down in the sanctuary mid-hymn and unkempt.

We had a bunch of things to do still after 7:30. Normally we start our bedtime routine then. At 8:45 I wiped up Taco Bell crumbs, and we lit two candles. Hope from last week, and peace for this week. I grabbed my phone for my Bible app intending to only read Psalm 34:4 because it was the verse I remember posting earlier today. But I read the whole psalm, not knowing for sure if it matched today's Advent theme, but knowing for sure that it is God's Word and that is enough.

We blew out the candles and headed upstairs. Teeth were brushed, and prayers began. And I want you to remember what I prayed for us tonight. I pray that we would know that peace is not a feeling. Peace is knowing that Jesus paid the price for our sins, and because of placing faith in what He has done, we can have peace with God. The world is chaotic. Our plans do not go the way we have ordered them. But Jesus is our peace and we must cling to that.

Love,
Mom


Psalm34
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Why I share

I never know how much to share on Facebook or this blog about our life as a special needs family. I am pretty open about the highs and lows, and I try to highlight the highs. When I point out the hard things or the different aspects of our life it isn't because I want people to feel bad for us. Our life is really good. My children don't fight. I witness miracles in the ordinary. We celebrate the mundane.
But I point out our differences, our struggles and our sadness to promote understanding, to educate, and to start conversations that might lead to positive changes.

It is hard to still be working on skills that other kindergarteners mastered years ago. Our potty training journey has not been typical, so commiserating in those conversations with friends is slightly awkward. Meltdowns have decreased, but there are still things, often unknown, which can cause frustration,anxiety or sadness for G. And we are just now really beginning to see how much life is different not only for our son with CP and autism, but also for our neurotypical som as well. My child  with special needs has many adult "buddies," but few peer interactions. It is hard for kids his age to want to talk to him because of their age and his needs. The Hubs and I will likely never have an empty nest, so whe friends joke about counting down till their kids leave for college it is hard to laugh.

This doesn't mean I want our friends to censor their conversations, walk on eggshells or force their children to be friends with mine, or even make sure that G is included in every activity. He can't do every activity due to limitations or lack of interest. We have been so fortunate to have friends invite us to birthday parties (we can't always attend), to greet him with a smile and hello and patiently wait for a response, and a church that is willing to make accomodations in classes and activities.

I share what our life is like because I believe we are meant to bear one another's burdens. My son is not a burden, he is a joy and delight. But the obstacles and issues we face can be burdensome. We were not created to do life alone. I share because awhile ago a dear person ahead of me in this autism journey blogged about their life - not just autism but the regular stuff, too. It was such an encouragement to read even before I was an autism mom, and especially after I became one. Maybe my sharing can encourage someone just starting on this path. We all need encouragement and prayer and support during different seasons. And the amazing thing about sharing the needs that we have is that we also get to share the celebration of the milestones and miracles we see.

Our family most likely doesn't look like most. We laugh, we cry, we go to a lot of appointments, we learn, we advocate, we play Trouble almost every night. We are exactly like you, yet we are nothing like you. We want to be noticed and yet we want to blend in. We long for God to show up in big ways, and we covet your prayers for Him to keep faithfully answering the smaller ones, the ones we do not even know how to pray yet.


"Jesus answered, 'This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him.'" John 9:3 NLT

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent - hope

Dear C and G,

Today I set out the candles in our temporary house. I couldn't find more than two that coordinated, so I found four different candles and set them in a platter. They are each labeled with one of the Advent words - hope, love, joy, peace. I never remember which order they are supposed to go in, and when I search the Internet to find out, I am given a couple of different options. But we start with hope.

Advent comes every year and serves as a reminder of the need to anticipate and the need to hope. We remember when the nation of Israel was waiting for the Messiah and the world was lost in sin and darkness. Advent reminds us of the waiting then, and it reminds me of the waiting now. Jesus came bringing hope because He brought the good news of salvation. He went away, but He promised to return and to give us a new heaven and a new earth. When we think of hope during this season, we remember the hope He has given us - a way to know Him and fully rest in His victory over sin - and we also hope for the day that has yet to come.

We cling to the hope that He will one day make all that has gone wrong right. We cling to the hope that there will one day no longer be autism or cancer or abandonment or violence. The world is still dark, but we know that the light has come and is coming again. We light a candle to remind us of that hope, that truth, for those of us who trust in Him for salvation.

I pray that just as Peter wrote a suffering and persecuted church, that you would prepare your minds for action and be sober-minded and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I pray that your hope wouldn't be in a political system or a well-rounded eduction or even your own abilities or personality, but that your hope would be in what Jesus has done for you. Rest in that grace, rely on that truth, put your hope in His promise.

Love,
Mom


1 Peter 1:3-13 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

To Bubby, who has been seven for quite a while now

Dear Bubby,
I have drafted this letter several times now, always meaning to sit down and write the whole thing. Yet, here it is October, and I am finally writing it. It isn't for lack of love or motivation, but lack of brain power once I get you and your brother to bed.

You are seven now. We celebrated at the end of spring with pizza and bowling with just a few friends from Sunday school. I brought Star Wars plates and masks, and it was delightful watching you have such a good time with your buddies. They are good friends to you - both the boys and their families - and I pray that in each season of your life you will have friends such as these.

You are reading chapter books, and you devour Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl stories. I love that you love to read some of the things I once loved. You pick out audiobooks for the car, and we listen to them at least every Thursday, sometimes more often, and sometimes you bring them inside for free time. You played basketball again last winter, and I could tell the difference a year makes. I wonder what we will see this year. You have decided soccer is not the sport for you at this time, and that was a good conversation you had with me and Daddy. You like thinking about inventions and things you will create some day. You like building your Lego sets and then you like taking them apart. You love Star Wars, and I think the highlight of your year was when Daddy surprised you with a trip to the movies to see Episode 7 - just you and him. You saved your money and bought the DVD when it came out. I have lost track of how many times you have watched it.

You are a good brother and a good friend. You are patient with others, even with your parents. You are quick to forgive. You are good with little kids - your new cousin and our preschool friend. You are tenderhearted, and I hope the world never steals that tender heart away from you. You ask questions all of the time. All of the time. You are often silly, but you are also a deep thinker because some of the questions you come up with baffle us.

We have watched you grown in height and wisdom and age this year, but we have also watched you grow spiritually. You came to faith, and the Lord continues to grow that in you. You are interested in missions, and I pray that if that is the path Jesus has for you, that I can continue to entrust you to Him, no matter where that leads.

I am sorry this letter is late, but I know you understand. You see the day-to-day stuff of our lives, and I am so glad you are a part of it. I am so thankful for the seven-plus years you have been with us, and I am looking forward to the adventures ahead.


Love,
Mom

Friday, August 5, 2016

No Good Thing Does He Withhold

I think it will be the hand of God if we are able to sell our house before we move. I don't say this flippantly or irreverently. I say this as a person who rejects prosperity gospel theology, but who wants to believe in the God who sees - who sees every need, every stress - and who cares about the little details of our lives.

Because my earthly father withheld so much from me, I often to default to assuming God the Father operates in a similar way. He does not. "No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless." Too often I am tempted to believe He shouldn't withhold healing, He should take care of my wishlist, He should want what I want instead of it being the other way around. I point out all the ways I have given, sacrificed, and am worthy of His blessings forgetting that all my "goodness" is nothing but filthy rags. 

"No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless." This line from Psalm 84 isn't for me to remind God that He needs to give me stuff. Instead, last night the Holy Spirit use it to remind me that because of Christ, I am counted as blameless. Because of Christ, He has given me that which is good - forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven.

There is a voice whispering to me to question God's goodness, to attempt to exploit His promises, to compare my blessings and struggles and good works with everyone else's, to assume that God owes me. Instead I must choose to say, "I will trust You, God. I will trust You in every circumstance because You are with me and that is enough. When I am discouraged, tired, and weary, help me to rest in You."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nine Months

Over the last couple of weeks The Hubs has applied for a job, interviewed for a job, been offered a job and then accepted that job. Starting some time in March our family will be moving to Tucson, Arizona, for The Hubs to begin working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He posted this news online for us the other day, and we have been blessed with kind words, well wishes and a few questions.

Why March? Well the simple answer is because that is what his future place of employment said. The reason behind that is because The Hubs graduates in December, and it is after that he will take his licensing exams and then wait for all of the paperwork process in getting licensed.

Why Arizona? Arizona is a good place for NPs to work, Missouri is not. Also, we both hate snow and ice. We do not get much snow where we currently live, but we do get ice on unplowed/unsalted roads. The Hubs is from California, and I lived in Arizona for two years right after college. I prefer July in the desert to January in the Midwest. We have been about a seven hour drive from my family for the last eleven years; now we will be about seven hours from The Hubs' family. Also we will be closer to In-N-Out and Disneyland. Arizona is a homeschool friendly and second amendment friendly state, which were also factors in our decision making process.

Do you know anyone in Tucson? I know one family in Tucson - they were pastors I met in Venezuela when I went to Venezuela. I have family friends in the Phoenix area, and some teacher friends still in Yuma.

We have nine months to prepare to leave, which we and others note is like a pregnancy. Of course I have never carried a baby to full term, so I don't actually know what it is like to wait nine months for something!

In all seriousness, please pray for us over the next weeks and months. This was not a decision we made lightly, and though we are excited that The Hubs has a job in a state we actually would want to live, Missouri has been our home for eleven years (me for fifteen total).

I have already cried three times at the thought of leaving our church. It is not a perfect place (no church is), but we came to our church three and a half years ago disillusioned and hurt by a past church experience, and we have experienced such love, discipleship, and friendship at our church. It will be especially hard to uproot our boys from such a place where they have been taught, cared for, cheered for, and poured into. Please pray for both C&G as we transition in the spring. Pray for us to find the right church for our family, and for meaningful new friendships for all of us. Pray that G would understand and adapt to changes and for C's nervousness and sadness about the months ahead. Pray for me as I investigate church possibilities via the Internet. There were several to look at thanks to The Gospel Coalition directory.

Please pray as we try to get our house ready to sell. I already have some things checked off the list, but there is much to do. Pray for good time management as we fit the extra chores in around work, school, clinicals, homeschooling, therapy, etc. Pray the house will sell at just the right time at the right price - preferably before March.

Please also pray for the paperwork and other "research" I have to do, especially in light of all of G's physical, social, medical and emotional needs. Pray we find the right doctors, therapists and other support systems in Tucson.

There is much still to do with just living and enjoying life while we are here. I look forward to doing a better job catching the remaining lightning bugs this summer and admiring the autumn leaves, as well as rejoicing that this is my last Midwest winter. But knowing how I am, all of that will be done in between a lot of tears because I would put up with ice storms and tornado warnings any day for the friendships we have been given in Missouri.




Saturday, July 2, 2016

The light

The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine a little more brightly. We are less than six months  away from graduation, and the weeks after that will be the licensing process for The Hubs to become a psychNP. The job hunting/interview process has already started, and we are facing decisions of where do we want to/need to move?

We knew we would probably have to move away from here. We have tried a couple of different times before, but it never quite worked out. So in my mind I think I felt like we would always be here even though that was never the original plan. Originally the plan was to live here for about five years. This summer marks eleven years, and if you count my four college years, fifteen years.  I have lived here almost my entire adult life, except  for those two years when I up and moved to live all by myself and teach in a random town in Arizona.

Moving wasn't that scary when I was twenty-two. But now it isn't just me I am thinking about - the big picture is me, The Hubs, and our two kids. On one hand an adventure and a fresh start somewhere that doesn't have snow sounds exciting and wonderful. Yet on the other hand it sounds terrifying and exhausting. Will my kids make friends? Will we find a good church? Will The Hubs like the place where he works? What is the right place for us? Will I be able to homeschool and get Bug to his therapies and get this house ready to sell? That last question makes me want to go eat a tub of ice cream and take a nap.

God's grace and provision has been enough to sustain us these last eleven years (well even more so these last thirty-five.) I can look back and see how He has ordained each and every step, even the painful ones. Through each trial and each success, every loss and every blessing, He has continued to draw me closer to Himself and strengthen my faith. Sometimes I feel weary of my faith needing to be strengthened. But I will trust Him. I will trust Him with all of the uncertainties, and I will trust Him if the light illuminates the next step or if it does not.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

For Siblings' Day

On Thursday afternoon we took a last minute visit to our little local zoo.  We saw the giraffes first, at Bug's request, and then spent some time in the snake building for you. Because we didn't make it to the elephants last time, we hiked to the far end of the zoo, and then the crying started. Nothing we did worked, but you remained calm while I wiped up tears and a runny nose. You said things that are your inside jokes with your brother, but they did not work, and so you knew we would have to leave.

I watched you calmly leave the zoo, even though it took forever to get back to the front and then to our car. Once again, you did not yell or cry or tantrum, you just held my hand as we looked both ways, and you settled for a scoop of ice cream as a consolation prize. And although you were a little more upset when something similar happened at the circus the next night, you still did not take your disappointment out on your little brother.

You teach me every day what it looks like to be an above-and-beyond sibling. I am only an average sister, on my best day. But you are gracious and loving and kind. You have a friendship with your brother that I can only partially understand. You push boundaries with your dad and me, as every child does at almost-seven years old. I am still figuring out how best to guide and disciple and encourage and correct you. But I rarely have to correct you in your role as big brother.

So on National Siblings' Day and Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to let you know that I see you. I see your strengths and weaknesses, I see the gift you are to our family, I see all that you are learning and what you are still figuring out. I hear you ask your deep theological questions about God's will and autism, and I hear the faith that you have when you say, "One day when..."

Bug has told you all week this week that you are his best friend, and that you two are the best boys, and what he said is true.I know you hear your little brother say that he loves you. I just wanted to remind you that I love you, too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Conversation for Autism Awareness Day

It's Autism Awareness Day. Would you please take a moment to explain to the children in your life about autism? On  World Cerebral Palsy Day I presented a possible conversation. Here is what it could look like when talking about autism:

Adult: I want to talk to you for a minute about your friend G. Do you know G has something called autism?
Child: What is that? Is he sick?
Adult: No, autism is not a sickness. You cannot catch autism. It just means that G's brain works a little different than yours.
Child: What does that mean? How is it different?
Adult: Well, it's a little hard to explain. Everyone, whether they have autism or not, have things that make them different or unique, things that are hard for them to do and things that are easy for them.
Child: What is hard for G?
Adult: Sometimes it is hard for him to play with you and other kids. He likes going to Cubbies and playdates and Sunday school, but sometimes it is hard for him to know exactly how to play with you. He might not look at you or talk to you in the same way other kids do. He may not know how to ask you if he can join your game or ask you to play with something. That doesn't mean he doesn't like you. You can be a good friend by still talking to him or asking him to play even if he doesn't talk back to you.
Child: He talks about Veggie Tales a lot. Sometimes he says the same thing over and over.
Adult: When he says the same thing over and over, that is called echolalia. It is something he does to try to have a conversation with others or sometimes it just makes him feel calm and good to repeat these phrases. You know how you like to sing the same song all the time because you love it so much? It is kind of like that.
Child: Sometimes he cries or yells when we do things differently in Cubbies. Is that because he has autism?
Adult: Probably. Many people on the autism spectrum really like routine or doing things in the same order. Sometimes a change is upsetting. Remember when you organized your Legos just so and the dog knocked over your container? That was upsetting because you had things set up just the way you liked it. G likes when everything goes the way it has before. He likes to be sure of what will happen next.
Child: He doesn't like to hold my hand at game time.
Adult: Some people with autism don't like certain kinds of touches. G doesn't like anyone to touch his hands very much. It feels bad to him. But he does like hugs and he will give you a high five if you ask.
Child: What does G do well?
Adult: G likes many of the same things you like. He likes music and dogs and books. That isn't because he has autism, that is just because he is a kid who likes those things. One thing he does very well is memorize things. He has many poems and songs in his head that he likes to say sometimes. He loves books and letters. Even when it looks like he isn't paying attention, he really is. His mom can read a history book to his big brother, and then two days later G will randomly tell them about King Arthur or Lake Michigan. The Bible tells us that man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart. That is really important to remember that who G is inside is really just like you - a boy who likes stories and his family and who wants to have friends and to learn.
Child: How can I be a better friend to G?
Adult: You can start by saying hi. You can sit by him in class or play with him on the playground. Maybe you could read a book with him or talk to him about Veggie Tales or Disney movies. You could ask him about his dog, Scout. Even if it is hard to know what to say, just talk to him like you would any of your other friends.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The backyard in February

When I taught in the public schools I referred to January and February as the third quarter slump. I definitely felt it this year even though I don't teach for money any more and even though our homeschool is on the trimester/modified year-round schedule. I didn't blog very much. I hibernated and tried very hard to not act like a bear in other ways this winter.

Thankfully winter is almost over. The weather this month has been unusually beautiful, so the boys and I have spent many afternoons outside in the backyard. I am not an outside loving type of person, but I am enjoying the sunshine and fresh air all mosquito-free right now. A supplement at the natural food store was recommended to me, so I am taking it and feel I have more energy again. The sky is blue, and my boys don't mind our bumpy backyard that lacks a swimgset or a trampoline. They are content with the water table, chalk, and sticks and rocks. I could probably learn something from them here.

We are on week twenty-nine of thirty-six of school.  I'm not sure what our long break will look like, how Bug will do without our regular routine this summer. Already I am selecting books for his kindergarten and penciling in what our days will look like in August. Bubby had a small victory in handwriting, and I am glad I switched him to cursive for awhile this year. Soccer will start in a few weeks for him, and this spring Bug gets to play baseball on a team for those with disabilities. The Hubs has a crazy and full month ahead, but we will get through it. Today I can see the light at the end of this tunnel.

 I know there will be new tunnels waiting, and we still have almost a year left of this one, but I do see the light. I feel it shining down on me as I sit in a lawn chair, not caring about the dirt that is going to be tracked in and the raw chicken I have to touch in a few minutes.  There is grace in the backyard this February.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

on martyrdom dreams and praying in the bathroom

Three or four nights ago I had a dream that I was a martyr. Normally that sort of dream would terrify me, but this time it didn't. It was a very vivid dream. My family and I were with other people in what appeared to be a high school or college classroom.  Terrorists had come in, and we were forced to lie beneath the desks with our hands behind our heads. I remember looking at Bubby and telling him it would be okay because we were going to heaven, where nothing bad would ever happen again. I remember saying to myself that this would only hurt for a second. I felt complete calm in the dream even though the situation was intense and extreme.  There were shots all around me, one by one, and then I was shot. I woke up, not in a panic, but with peace.  Even if something horrible like this should ever happen to me, I will be okay. This is not my home.

It is strange that I have peace about such a possibility, but yet today I felt weary and worn out just by the day-to-day stresses of life. A child who wanted to sass and argue and the other child who was having a hard time with activities and choices. We have seen many gains in Bugaboo lately, but it is still the two steps forward, one step back dance. I love homeschooling, but there was a moment today when I felt like driving to our neighborhood school and saying, "Have fun doing worksheets and common core, Bubby!" I doubted almost every decision of the last six and half years within a sixty minute span of time this afternoon. I hid in the bathroom for two minutes and cried.

It was there I found myself repeating one of Bubby's review verses for this week: "Casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you."

Do You care, Lord? I know that Your Word says You do, but I don't feel it here and now. I feel sad because Groundhog Day was this week and that is a weird day for me. I don't understand why I lost that baby, and I'm angry that I can't have any more babies, yet I am so incredibly grateful for the two You have given me. (Even if motherhood is stressing me out right at this particular moment.) I feel worried that I am not doing enough therapies with Bug, and I simultaneously feel worried that we are doing too many.  I love our curriculum, but I feel anxious that Bubby hasn't done enough cutesy first grade things and he will one day resent me for not having him make more cotton all snowmen. The Hubs' graduation from his nurse practitioner program is in December, but it feels so far away. I feel like we have been here in this place forever.  I want Your caring to look different. I miss being a charismatic. I miss an altar to pray at with someone else and for a chance to sing with hands raised without looking like a crazy-woman. I need more outlets to cast my anxieties on You, Lord, because my bathroom can be an altar on a Thursday afternoon, but I might need more than that.

I felt a little better after telling God all of that. Little changed, but I wasn't hanging onto my angst any more at that moment, and that is a start. I'm not sure why it is easy for me to trust God with the big things, but not the little things. I guess it is because I think I need to handle the little things all on my own. I don't. I can't. So the grace I am given today is the realization that I am not supposed to handle any of this on my own. And today there was the grace that He cares enough to come alongside me and take my cares as I fling them over to Him from my little altar call in the bathroom on a Thursday afternoon.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What eleven years looks like

Our power went out this morning, right when I was considering doing my hair for church. I found the huge flashlight and you called the utility company, and somehow we still managed to get to Sunday school on time. The power was still out this afternoon for awhile, so you went to the library to work on your paper.  I entertained the kids at the piano, and I don't remember what else we did to keep busy. I forgot to buy you an anniversary card.
This is what eleven years looks like for us.

We are tired most of the time. Not the kids, but you and me. We put one foot in front of the other and then crash into bed late at night most days. You listen to my concerns about which therapies to utiltize, and I do my best to understand the stress of your semester. We see the light at the end of the nurse practitioner tunnel, but December feels far away still.
This is what eleven years looks like for us.

You picked up carry-out from a little Italian place in town while I purchased Sonic for the kids. I put out candles for the four of us at our table, but I didn't manage to light them. You were still in your church clothes, but I was in my sweats. We let Bubby attempt to take our picture, and I said I looked frumpy, but you liked the pictures anyway. I tried to shoo the kids to bed, but you had already promised Bug a game of Trouble, and it was lovely.
This is what eleven years looks like for us.

A few years ago I would have been disappointed by today, the lack of pomp and circumstance. But today it was beautifully imperfect. We are praying for people we know - a baby needs miraculous healing, a friend needs wisdom, a husband needs a job, a missionary needs provision. Our problems, our tiredness, and our questions look smaller this year. We keep putting one foot in front of the other, tripping and crashing sometimes, but still walking together.
This is what eleven years looks like for us. To God be the glory.



(My letter to Mike on ten years of marriage can be found here.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

birthdays

1.
"Mom...where are you? Does your nose hurt?"
This was the start of my birthday - me blowing my nose and Bugaboo concerned and trying to find me. He had been up for a couple of hours reading his books in his room, and he padded into my room in his footie pajamas, leaving a mess of books behind him.

2.
There are a few days each year that have some tough moments. I never fail to wonder if my father thinks about me on this day. Does he feel bad about what he has missed out on? Does he even think for a moment on this day of doing the right thing? I know on my kids' birthdays I remember so many beautiful things about the day they were born. Does my father remember anything beautiful about me?

3.
Sometimes, especially on birthdays, I can think of what I should have accomplished or acquired by now. I make checklists in my head, and very few of the items are marked off. But having a bigger house in a better neighborhood with more money in the bank would not guarantee more happiness. Doing something notable does not equate to doing something valuable.

4.
Birthdays in the 21st century are wonderful and strange. Thanks to Facebook I received birthday messages from friends from every stage of life - it is like having one's life flash before her own eyes via newsfeed. Beautiful memories of birthdays past celebrated with slumber parties in my basement or Cheddar's on South Glenstone. In every season of my life I have been given the gift of amazing and true friends. This year is no exception.

5.
My morning started with my three guys bringing me birthday cards. "MOME" was written on one of the envelopes.  Bubby also made a to-do list for the day: "CADS. BLOONC. MAC HOUS LUOK PRID. LOUC. HPENI. PDE HATS." He handed it to me and said, "I messed up on the word lunch." My life is not much like I thought it would be at thirty-five. Yet when I stop and think about it, it is everything I hoped it would be. I lack no good thing. I can say that with confidence. I lack no good thing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What I read in December

Here's a summary of what I read in December:

My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody
Not Without My Daughter was the first grown-up book I read as a kid, so when I saw that the library had a copy of the daughter sharing her story, I knew I needed to read it. Part of the book is about their time in Iran and the escape, but the rest of the book was about what has happened since. Mahtob writes about her childhood, her college years, and wrestling with forgiving her father while still wanting nothing to do with him. So much of this portion was relatable because although my dad never was physically abusive or held me in a foreign country, the heart of who Moody was to Mahtob in his unrepentence and unwillingness to do the right thing is exactly like my dad. The writing in this book was not outstanding, but the story Mahtob shares from her experiences is well worth the read.

Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines
Although I haven't read Amber's blog in a long time, I used to.  She is a fabulous writer, and I knew I wanted to read her memoir. Her writing is poetic and she holds nothing back about the details of her past and her faith struggle. There were some theological things that I didn't agree with, but I am thankful Amber shared her story. I do wish I understood more of the why's in her struggles as a youth- as I am someone who ran toward faith as a teenager instead of away from it. The section where she writes about her child's medical issues resonated with me, as well as some other things about community. (Technically I finished this in January - but most of it was read in December.)

Felicity by Mary Oliver
I picked up a book of poetry this month. It was lovely. I need to do this more.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
So many people recommended this book, and I ended up loving it.  I don't even know how to write a review of this book. It is more than just a World War II novel. The characters seem real, and most of them I wanted to befriend.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
I would like to reread this one when I have time. It is about contendness and smallness and simplicity, but it is written in a way that doesn't feel preachy. Emily writes beautifully, and this book was an easy read, but also an encouraging read.

Books I tried and didn't finish:

Sarah Bessey's Out of Sorts - Love her writing on her blog, and I loved Jesus Feminist, but I couldn't get into this book. I will try again another time, but it went back to the library.

Jefferson Bethke's It's Not What You Think - Many people I like recommended this book, but I found it just so-so and couldn't finish.

We have also been listening to audiobooks in the car. It makes all the driving to Bug's appointments go a little better.

In Novemeber I introduced the boys to Anne of Green Gables - and it was delightful. There were tears as we listened.

In December we got through: Charlotte's Web (I read this to the boys earlier, but hearing EB White read it was such fun!), George's Marvelous Medicine, Matilda, and Pippi Longstocking.




Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 word of the year

I had a list narrowed down to three words.

Peace.
Grace.
Write.

Peace had been in my head because of advent and because it felt similar to hope. It's a good word, but it didn't feel like my word.

Grace jumped out at me on a page of a book I was reading the last couple of days. And then it jumped into my head yesterday and today in the kitchen when I felt that I needed to extend myself some grace. But taking on grace to focus on this year is not what I really want to do. Grace is hard.

Write is the word I wanted because my goal is to write more. Or to write well. I want to become a writer - whatever that really means. However, the word write felt more like a resolution instead of a focus.

Once again, deep in my heart I know what is supposed be my word.

Grace.

I know theologically and intellectually what grace is, but the challenge of focusing on it this year feels exhausting already. Yet I also know I really don't understand grace. I extend it, but not as well or as often as I should. One of my fears is that by picking this word is that when I blow it, someone will say, "I thought your word was grace!?"  But there will be grace for those moments, I am sure.

This word, grace, intimidates me more than I would like to admit, but it is starting to inspire me, too. So here's to the next twelve months of focusing on, wrestling with, extending more, and being amazed by grace.