Monday, March 26, 2018

I Wouldn't Want It Any Different

And here we are again: tomorrow is March 27th. Every year is different. Last year I wrote about how no matter how hard today is, tomorrow always comes. It's now been 11 years and yes, many tomorrows have come. The deep heartache and sorrow have slowly been replaced with a quiet sadness and anticipation for the day that I will get to meet my daughter. I remember her and the journey every day, but March 27th still hits me hard. The memories are more vivid, the feelings more raw. But this year, something is different...

We were sitting around the dinner table one night last week, and somehow we started talking about Sammy. With the boys being older now, they have more questions than we have answers. "Why did God take her home?" "Did you get to see her and hold her?" "What was wrong with her?" But one question really got me thinking... "Would Tyler be here if Sammy had lived?" That then led to, "Would Zachary and Benjamin be here, too?"

I never thought about it. I never once thought about how different life would be IF Sammy had lived. My answer was not confident... "I don't think Tyler would be here. I would have still been pregnant with Sammy during the time I got pregnant with Tyler. And, I don't know if we would have had Zach and Ben." Tyler's response was something along the lines of "I'm sad for Sammy but I am very happy for me!"  And I realized I felt the same way.

After that conversation with the boys, I started really thinking about how different things would have been. And I found myself being grateful that things worked out the way they did. I LOVE my life. I LOVE my boys. I cannot fathom life any differently. Who would I be without the journey I've been on? Who would I be without the life lessons from Tyler? I have learned more about God and His love for me through Tyler than anyone else.

Are there days I wish I could have known Sammy? ABSOLUTELY! Are there days when I wonder what it would be like to have a daughter? SURE! But, everyday, I am so grateful for the four boys who make my life full and crazy and wonderful!

I miss Sammy deeply. But this year, rather than focusing on what I lost, I want to focus on what I gained. Focusing on the loss doesn't bring her back. It doesn't change what is. But, focusing on what I have and what I will have brings joy and delight into my life. And, I am pretty sure that's how Sammy would want it.

11 years is a long time to miss your child. It's a long time to crave just one glimpse of who she is, what she looks like. But 11 years is also a wonderful time of memories with those who are here. 11 years of silliness and giggles, stories and adventures, cuddles and kisses. I wake up every morning to Tyler's long winded explanations of things I do not understand, knowing that I would miss that if it weren't a part of my life. I listen to the constant chatter between Ben and Zach, reminding myself that this is how it should be.

11 years ago, God knew better than I did... He knew the life He wanted for me and for my family. Despite the pain and grief and deep sorrow that came with the loss of Sammy, I am forever grateful for the life He has given us. God knew better then, and He still knows better now. Even when I don't understand!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Submit, Love, Honor, Respect Revisited

I wrote the following post three years ago, just as we were about to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We, as a married couple, had faced a good bit in 10 years. We had four babies in four years, the loss of a baby, a massive home renovation, job changes, major surgeries for me. And yet it was, and still is, the little things that cause us to struggle the most. It’s the daily “annoyances” that cause me to lose my cool. It’s the little habits that make me want to scream. It’s the day to day grind that leaves me not “feeling” like loving, submitting, honoring and respecting. But, it doesn’t matter if I feel like it... it is what I was called to do when I married Kevin, and it is still what God calls me to do every day.

When I said "I do" I had no idea how amazing AND how hard things would be. Some of the hardest things for me throughout these 10 years fall under these four words: Submit... Honor... Love... Respect... 

Yep, all four words should be not only in our vocabulary, but in our hearts and in our actions, especially if we are wives. But, they aren't exactly the easiest things to do. Sure, to show love can be easy, particularly when we FEEL love. It becomes more challenging when that wonderful, mushy feeling isn't there anymore.

Respect can be relatively easy, too. Most of us are taught to be respectful at an early age, and so we have that skill set engrained in us. In the real world, we have learned to respect people, even if we may not agree with them. Respecting our husbands when we don't agree with them is a tad bit harder.

Honor and submission, I think, are the two hardest things to do as a wife. Honoring my husband doesn't just mean during times when I like him. Or when I agree with him. Or when I think he's the most amazing man in the world. Nope, honoring him must still be done when I don't like him. And when I don't agree with him. And, even when he's being a dingdong. We are called to honor our husbands by God. Honoring our husbands honors God. Honor is a VERB, it calls us to action. It requires intentionality.

Then there's the whole submitting thing. I have heard SO many women try to argue that in this day and age we shouldn't be submitting to our husbands. That it's antiquated and some even believe it's some form of us being slaves to our husbands. But here's the thing, God isn't calling us to be slaves to our husbands... He's calling us to do so much more! In Ephesians 5:22-24 (MSG), it says 

"Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands."  (HUSBANDS you should note that there's work for you too! Continue reading the next couple verses!)

I LOVE this! It clearly states that we are to understand and support our husbands... He is our leader, the head of the household. We need to support him (even when we don't always agree). We need to understand him, and if we don't we need to continue to try to understand him. Submitting isn't about saying, "Yes, Master!" "Whatever you say, Master!" "What is your bidding, Master?" (We are not slaves or droids.) Submitting is about abiding to him and his needs, thoughts, desires... 

Loving, respecting, honoring and submitting to our husbands isn't about feelings. Sure, when we FEEL great and wonderful things for our husbands, it's a lot easier to be and do those things. But, we are not to be fair-weather wives. We still need to love and respect, honor and submit, even when we don't WANT to. (Insert stomping of feet!) 

This is where it becomes HARD. This is where our intentions and our attitudes greatly affect our actions. My attitude tends to get in the way of a lot of things, and this area of being a wife is NO exception. When I think I am right, I AM right. What I think is best to do, IS best. But here's the thing, sometimes what I think is right, what I think is best, does NOT feel right to my husband. Sometimes, I have to put my stubbornness aside and say, "I can't move on this unless Kevin is also on board. And since he's not, then I have to support his feelings." (NOT EASY TO DO, by the way!) 

But it's not just about "giving in" or surrendering. It's about changing your heart from "fine, have it your way" (with a snotty tone included) to "I love you, and I don't want to force you into something you're not comfortable with." I can tell you from recent experience that the "fine, have it your way" is FAR from being respectful and honoring. It cuts deep in your husband's heart, and everyone around you can see your stinky attitude.

I know I won't always agree with my husband. After almost 10 years of marriage, I have learned that we do NOT see eye to eye on a good bit of things. He is not always the most attentive, caring, and giving man (but, hey, I am far from perfect, too). He is not always right. But how I treat him is not dependent on any of that. It's dependent on the fact that almost 10 years ago, I vowed to love him and honor him in all the great stuff AND in all the not so great stuff. It's not dependent on how I FEEL about him at that moment. It's dependent on the fact that I am called by God to love him, to respect him, to honor him, and to submit to him.

Let your LOVE, your RESPECT, your HONOR, and your SUBMISSION be VERBS, not just nouns. Let your heart and mind shift from what he is or isn't doing for you to what you can be doing for him. Keep your heart focused on what God is calling YOU to do, and let God and your husband work on your husband's stuff.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What We Don't Need As Parents...

It's March... I can't believe it's March! I have noticed how time seems to be flying faster than it used to. As I have gotten older, time slips through my fingers so much faster...

I've been thinking a lot about parenting and how hard it can be. As I am typing, I am sitting next to our youngest, Ben, who is recovering from being sick. Watching him tire so quickly makes my heart sad. The boy that has energy to spare barely could muster up the energy to play his favorite video game. It's looking like a short lived bug, but this Mama wishes I could make it disappear. I know there are many parents who feel the same way right now...

There is nothing more a parent hates than to see their child suffer, whether it be physically or emotionally! But, I have found something else that I very much DISLIKE as a parent and that's the judgement and opinions that seem to so easily flow out of people's mouths. SO many people feel they have the right to share their opinions on how we as parents parent. SO many people feel they have the right to judge the way we parent, giving unapproving glances and whispering their thoughts to those around them. But, they don't... We don't.

Parenting is HARD. SUPER HARD. We question EVERYTHING we do. Are we promoting independence at the right age? Are we being stern enough when needed? Are we showing enough grace? Are our children eating the right food? Are we shaping our children to become contributing members of society or are we raising boomerang children who will manage to make their way back into our house when they are grown?

So many questions, so many doubts... AND other people's judgments and opinions do not help us. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I have a few close people that we bounce ideas off of and sort through some of the hardest times of parenting. We value those opinions from those closest to us greatly. What we struggle with are the opinions from those we have not been invited into our struggles. We do not wish to hear from the lady at Walmart who believes that time-outs are inappropriate to give in the store. We do not need the unsolicited advice on what WE should do to fix the craziness of having four boys. And, I KNOW that you all feel the same way!!

So, why do we do it to others? Why do I find myself judging the mom with the screaming child in the aisle of the grocery store? How many times have you done the same? Or maybe expressed your thoughts to another parent when you weren't asked?

We are not called to judge other parents. We are not called to criticize other parents. We are called to raise each other up. We are called to find ways to BUILD EACH OTHER UP.

What if we encouraged the mom with the screaming child by reminding her "this too shall pass"? What if we could wrap the struggling parent with words of kindness and encouragement? What if we asked parents we know HOW we could pray for them?

I can tell you what would happen: we'd have a lot more confident, supported parents. We'd have parents who weren't so afraid to "do the wrong thing". We'd have parents who would learn that they aren't alone. They would have freedom to share the hard times and know they won't be judged (because we struggle with the same things).

How will you help RAISE A PARENT UP? How can you help create an environment for tired, struggling parents that leave them feeling loved and accepted?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Overcome by Doubt...

It's been quite a while since I last wrote on here... I'd love to say it's just because I've been super busy and haven't had a moment to sit and write. BUT, that wouldn't be true. At all. I've had the time, but to be completely honest with you, I have been afraid to write. I've been afraid to post. I have always been honest on here, and I was not in a place where I was ready to be completely honest about the things I've been thinking about and processing. God's been calling me to write for quite a while, and after much disputing with Him about it, I have come to the realization that He's right... It's time to write. It's time to process. It's time to be real.

Before anyone panics, WE ARE ALL FINE AND HEALTHY! The boys are amazing and doing a fantastic job in school. Kevin is still loving his job teaching and has been amazing being him. Those beautiful faces in the picture above are still proving to me how much God loves me EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It's not about them... it's about me. It's about the doubts and fears that have seemed to swarm me lately. My doubts as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a human in general. I have battled with questions of worth and value and the purpose God has for me. I have felt like a nobody, believing that I can easily be replaced in my job and in friendships. Every single thing I would do left me wondering if it was the right thing to do. Was it best for my family, for my job? Would someone else make a better decision? I have spent many hours pleading with God to show me His plan for me, to show me WHY I am where I am doing what I am doing... But, I couldn't hear him. I couldn't see what He was showing me.

You see, I have always had doubts. I think all humans have doubts. We see other people who we think are better, thinner, smarter, etc. and we believe that they have more to offer the world than we do. But, my doubts go further than just the whole "the grass is greener on the other side" mentality. My doubts make me question myself as a mom. It goes as far as thinking that the boys deserve a better mom. A smarter mom. A different mom. A mom I could never be.

I doubt myself as a daughter and as a sister. Am I attentive enough to my parents? Am I caring enough to my sister? In her time of grief, have I been supportive enough?

The doubt creeps into my friendships. Am I too clingy? Do I show enough concern? Am I fun enough? Would they miss me if we didn't see other for a long time?

The worst doubts for me lately have been surrounding my work at church. I run a Special Needs Ministry, where I spend hours every week focusing on ensuring that individuals and families affected by Special Needs feel God's love and are reminded that they all were made on purpose with a purpose. I work with an amazing team of people who love our ministry with all of their heart. I doubt if I should be leading the team. I doubt if I am good enough for the ministry, for the families, for the church. And yet, in all of the doubt, I KNOW God has called me to be where I am. Which then leaves me feeling like I am failing, because I don't feel like I am living up to what God (or the church) really wants of me.

I have to admit, it's embarrassing to share all of this. It's hard to think about the fact that many of you will be reading this and might be thinking, "Pull yourself together, lady!" Others might think less of me because I am not the confident person many think I am.

And, it's okay. Because, despite the doubts and fears and questions, I have continued to get up every morning. I have continued to fight hard to hear the truth. I have struggled to clear away the doubts and focus on what God says to all of this. I am slowly learning to embrace the fact that God truly wants me right where I am, doing what I am doing. And, I am learning to take the flaws (the MANY flaws) that I see in myself and let them go. I have truly worked on the flaws that needed to be fixed, and now I just need to embrace ME for ME.

I wish I could snap my fingers and make my doubts go away. I wish after ALL THESE YEARS that I didn't struggle so much with this. But, I do and it can't be fixed with the snap of my fingers or the click of my heels. All I can do is continue to fight the doubts and hold on to the truth. And remind myself daily that I, too, was created on purpose with a purpose.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Be The Gold in this Broken Time

The past few months have brought devastation to close family, friends, strangers, cities, and countries. We have watched day after day as natural disasters, cancer, sickness, and evil wreak havoc on the world we know and love. And, as I have been desperately trying to process my own feelings, I am left feeling so unbelievably heart broken. Our world around us is crumbling, literally and figuratively. Evil is finding news ways to rear it's ugly head, and we are left to pick up the pieces. And sometimes, we're left in a place where the pieces may never be truly picked up.

I am deeply saddened by all the deaths and devastation that have occurred. I am angry and frustrated over humans killing humans. I am moved to tears by those living in unlivable places. But, I am even more so heart broken and am in disbelief by the response to all of this devastation.

With the hurricanes that ripped through entire islands and cities, what I see most on Facebook is what the President isn't doing. Or name calling. Or political mumbo jumbo that ultimately means nothing in the face of the devastation for the people who have lost everything. YES, I see great people stepping in and providing help. YES, I know there are amazing things being pulled together to make things better for these people. BUT, what the news covers, what Facebook shows, what I hear people talking about most are the failures of such and such or so and so.

When Las Vegas faced a mass shooting of evil proportions just two days ago, what I heard most was how guns need to be banned and how the NRA is bad. And of course, there was a lot of speculation about the shooter and his evil ways. I am sure over the next several days we will hear differing theories on why this man (a human like you and me) snapped and how we can blame the NRA, satan, aliens and the President (current and past) for this one man's decision to massacre innocent people.

I believe there should be anger. I believe there should be frustration. I believe the pain we are feeling needs to be processed. But, I also believe the anger, frustration, and pain should not be turned into political warfare. I believe blaming, name calling, shaming, disrespect have no place in our homes and in our country right now. We all are too raw from our pain and heart brokenness to effectively make the changes we so desperately want to make. The devastation is too big to make such BIG decisions on topics such as law and policy changes. And an expectation for the political realm to make such changes immediately only leads to more frustration and anger. (Because we all know that any big change moves slower than molasses!)

We all need to take a moment and do some triage... Take stock in what needs to happen immediately. Figure out what we can do to HELP right now. Will my actions help? Or will they only feed the flames? Then, we can start to think and pray about ways we can help lead with positive change. Whether it's signing a petition or writing our Representative or setting up a long term relief program for those affected by the hurricanes. Whatever it is, lead with integrity and maturity and respect.

Japan has an amazing tradition that has fascinated me over the past few months. When a bowl or dish or cup breaks, rather than picking up the pieces and throwing them away, they glue the pieces back together. But, they don't use ugly super glue. Rather, they use gold to carefully hold things together. When everything is dry, you see a beautiful piece of art work. The broken pieces together with the gold share a story of not only brokenness but shares a much bigger story of healing.

Yes, they could absolutely use super glue to hold it all together. Super glue would certainly serve it's function. BUT, it's ugly and bumpy and when all is said and done, not many people would really see beauty in the final healing. Rather, the gold not only serves the function of putting it back together, it provides a beauty that ADDS to the dish. It takes something broken and gives it's cracks beauty.

Let's be the gold during this time of extreme brokenness. Let's help put the pieces back in such a way that people see the beauty in healing (and in the process of healing). Let's put aside differences and opinions and come together to show how rich, deep beauty can shine even in the most broken of worlds. Push aside your desire to blame, shame, name call, etc, and be the beauty. God has given us so many amazing qualities as humans, let's use them to shine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Journey

The boys are well into their new school year and I am learning to embrace the quiet that comes with them being in school. The silence is no longer deafening, however it can be a little uncomfortable. It's been rather eye-opening for me these past couple weeks, as I am discovering things about myself and about my journey that I never noticed before. So, today I thought I would share some of those things with you...

A couple days ago, I was talking with some people about life and how fast the boys have grown and all of the typical surface type conversational topics. At some point in the conversation, one person was talking about the hardships of raising a child who has been affected by Special Needs. She was sharing about the emotional roller coaster she's been on and how tired she is. I gave an empathetic response, and she said to me, "You don't really understand. Your boys are great."

That comment felt like a sucker punch to the stomach. I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know what to say to her. I don't understand?!? She is right, I don't understand her exact situation. But, boy do I understand the emotional roller coaster. I understand the sleepless nights, the fear, the confusion. I know first hand the grief that comes with facing a diagnosis, with knowing that my child will never be like the other kids. I couldn't quite pull my internal thoughts and feelings together in time to respond to her, but it stuck with me...

In my almost 37 years of existence, I have experienced a lot. And, although I tend to put up a fa├žade in public (because not everybody needs to know my struggles), it's been a wild, crazy and tough journey. I wake up every day in pain from a stupid thing called Fibromyalgia. I have been waking up that way for over 20 years now. The struggle to get to the shower is real EVERY DAY. No one sees it because by the time I am dressed and ready for my day I have done what I need to do to pull it together. But that doesn't mean I don't understand what it's like to struggle daily in pain and exhaustion.

I have experienced grief in a multitude of ways. I have lost three grandparents. I have lost a daughter. I have mourned the loss of the life I thought Tyler would have because of Autism. My life has been torn apart by the unexpected actions of a friend. These are all things that my journey has brought.

There have been surgeries, sickness, and other health issues. There has been counseling and spiritual direction. There's been doubts in my faith, doubts in my marriage, and certainly doubts in myself. To this day I struggle with the doubts in myself.

And when it comes to parenting, the journey is NEVER easy. Just this morning, I snapped at my seven year old over something really insignificant. I made him cry. And as I hugged him and apologized, I felt like the worst parent ever. I don't fully know what other parents are going through. But, I know their journey is tough in their own way.

I guess in all the rambling I am trying to get to the point... In a way, the woman was right. I don't really "understand" her exact situation. But what I do understand is that this journey is hard. And my hard, although different from yours, is HARD. To me. And your hard is hard to you.

Rather than spending our time finding the differences in our hardships, I think life would be easier if we could find the commonalities. Grief is grief. Betrayal is betrayal. Pain is pain. Although the situations differ, the gut wrenching, heart breaking, defeating feelings feel the same.

The old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes might not be possible, but it certainly is possible to take a step back and try to hear someone's heart and their story. For me, listening to moms talk of the struggle to get their one or two children out the door on time tends to lead me to thoughts of "you should try having four!" That's NOT what I should be thinking. Rather, I should be thinking of ways to encourage them. Because in that moment, their journey is hard.

My journey has been hard, and it continues to be hard. The hardship leads to empathy and a true understanding of how others feel. YOUR journey, being full of hardship, leads you to a place of understanding as well. We can take what we have experienced, what we have felt, and use it to support others. We can use it to build people up, rather than to compare and make others feel like their journey isn't as hard as others (when to them it is the hardest thing they've ever experienced).

Listen to people... Listen to them share about their journey. Share in the emotions, the feelings, the pain and grief, and joy and excitement. EVERYBODY is on a journey. Let's spend less time comparing and more time supporting. Let's care less about who has had a tougher life and more time focused on how to make other lives better.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Feeling Temporarily Out of Order

The school year has begun, and the boys are off on a wild adventure of learning, growing and discovering more about themselves. Kevin has begun his fourth year of teaching, embracing his dream career and all the amazing things that has come from it. And, I am sitting here in a silent house feeling something I wasn't expecting: loneliness. I was excited to have quiet, something I didn't experience much at all during the summer. But, now, the reality is this quiet is deafening to me...

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of change for me. Most of the change is good stuff, and yet my adjustment to the change has not been exactly smooth. Back in June, I officially stepped down from one of the two positions I held at the church. I no longer work as the childcare director, which allows me more time to focus on our Special Needs ministry, as well as participate in church classes and events. It was a much needed change for me, but the lack of juggling and the calmness of my work schedule surprisingly left me feeling out of sorts. I had been accustomed to chaos and craziness since I first started working for the church, as I had always held multiple roles. Now, I have one role. And I feel lost...

This school year brought change as well. For the very first time in my career as Mama, all four boys are in school ALL DAY. My little shopping buddy, Ben, has made his way to 1st grade, and I must do the grocery shopping and errands all by myself. I was SO looking forward to having the house to myself so I could truly get stuff done. I was SO looking forward to having quiet time and nap when I needed to. And design my schedule around how I want it, not around a mid-day bus schedule. All of these things are awesome, but the adjustment to it is apparently going to take some time. My role is changing at home. And I feel lost...

Our business is taking off. Who would've thought that we'd be running our own sign business? It has been fun, scary, and crazy all wrapped up into one! The chaos of starting a business has subsided, and we are in a good groove. We've worked out many of the kinks, and are now settled into a routine. Now it's time for future planning, dreaming, growth... And I feel lost...

I have struggled with physical exhaustion and weight gain and over all feeling crummy for the last 4-5 months. I have worked at eating better and working out, and I continued to gain. Lo and behold, all the effort was almost pointless because my thyroid meds were out of wack! It left me feeling defeated and frustrated. With the doctor's help, we've fixed the meds issue, and I can hopefully get back into a healthy swing of things. But at the moment, I feel lost...

The last several months have also brought sadness and heartache and immense pain to those I love. I have been unable to fix any of it. I have only been able to sit on the sidelines and support my friends, my family. My heart breaks. I am disappointed in humanity. I am angry over sickness. And I feel lost...

Sitting in my silent house is giving me a wonderful gift... the gift of connectedness with God. Which I NEED badly! It's giving me time to dig down deep and find myself again. To redefine what I want this stage of life to look like. To reimagine how to do day to day life again. It's giving me an opportunity to dream and to realign myself with God's plan for me.

BUT, in THIS moment, I feel temporarily out of order.

The good news is that "temporarily" means it will end. And "out of order" certainly is better than broken forever! I know that the place I am in currently will pass with time and effort. It can't be fixed without work and a repairman. Thankfully, God is pretty darn good repairman! I have a long way to go to be functioning the way I know I am designed to function and to find a place of flourishing.

This daily gift of quiet will lead me to finding myself again. To be less lost, more focused. Until then, my lost self will continue to take one step at a time and find the blessings in the midst of change.