4 Times Is CLEARLY Not Enough

I went to yoga for the fourth time in two weeks.

Okay, one of the times was a relaxation/stretchy/destress-y thing and not so much a strength building thing. It was my favorite of the four.

When it comes to actually doing yoga, I strongly resemble a walrus on a tread mill. It is just not pretty. Seriously, I cannot now, nor have I ever been able to touch my toes while my legs were straight. The only way I can put my palms on the ground is sitting on my rump.

Midway through every class I have absolutely no idea what in the love of all that is sane I am doing there.

Something is certain, however, and that is after 4 times at yoga I am not stronger. My clothes don’t fit better. I don’t love it.

CLEARLY it will take more than this to achieve my goals.

At the stretchy/relx-y yoga thing I loved, the instructor said the foundation of her life is her relationship with her Lord and Savior. HE spoke directly, through this perky teacher, to the nagging voice in my head whispering yoga and Christianity were not compatible.

I can assure you, as I am holding my aging body in Downward Dog AGAIN, I am praying to the Lord. When I am breathing at the beginning of class, I am praying for His will and strength to become. 

I am overwhelmingly convinced that for my life to move forward I must become who HE wants me to become; and exercise is part of the discipline in doing that.

This morning the instructor mentioned over and over that yoga is a practice. I hate practice.

I love to do things that come naturally. I don’t want to have to work hard or get better. This is likely why I am middle aged, soft around the middle and less affluent than I wish I was.

Lying on the mat, my mother on one side and my daughter on the other, I must face that life is often delicate and sometimes broken. My mom (who has been losing her ability to speak clearly from a yet-to-be-diagnosed issue) and my daughter (who has not yet learned to over come her disability and still can’t speak) remind me time is fragile. So is hope.

I want 4 times to be enough with every fiber of my being. Enough to get my mom’s brain to start sending signals to the right side of her body; enough for my daughter to fully engage in the practice because an amazing speech therapist once said, “What you see in the body, you see in the mouth,” which means that becoming proficient at yoga poses may help her learn to talk; enough for me to be comfortable in my own body.

Although it may not be enough to arrive, today was a step forward. Forbidden from evaluating results for 6 weeks, I am focusing instead on breathing in His grace. I am practicing focus on Him. Breathing deeply I am praying silently, asking and listening, when conviction washes over.

Slowly the thoughts create an unmistakable picture in my mind, showing me a pattern desperate for change: Rather than asking God what His plans are for my life, I am coming to Him asking for blessings on my plans.

Sigh. Of course four times is not nearly enough. I have to keep coming back…to yoga, to prayers, to listening, to a place of repentance…and remind myself that God’s ways are better than mine.

THAT is going to take practice.

 

 

 

A New Corner

A New Corner

There has been wailing and gnashing of teeth here on Park Hill Road.

Mostly from me.

It was slowly becoming more and more apparent that I should homeschool my precious little peanut full time this year. A thousand little pieces of information added up to a clear picture: In order to make progress we’d have to make a change.

Homeschooling is time consuming and patience strengthening, but that is not where the wailing and gnashing originated.

I am just so sad that I am the best option for my daughter.

This is not some whoah is me, the sacrifices I must make thing. It is truth.

Last summer my little person and I hopped on a plane and flew to Connecticut to meet with a speech therapist and an aqua therapist. They worked with her and taught me and she bloomed.

When I pulled out of the parking space on the last day, I was a mess. In that school lot, the smell of chlorine thick in the rental car, a new realization was forged in my heart: We only grieve things we are grateful for.

I was so, so grateful for the time we had been given. And I was so, so heartbroken that we had to fly to other side of the country and leave them behind.

People who are excellent at what they do are unique. To see people who are gifted at helping my daughter was vulnerably beautiful. To come home where I have been unable to such find help was hard. And sad.

I had to grieve the loss.

I would MUCH rather have gifted, great therapists to work with my daughter than have to do it all myself as an amateur.

But we have rounded another corner and here we are: A homeschooling family.

I have it all thought out:

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I have prayed and researched and I believe God has guided me to the right focus and approaches for Ryan…If I do all I have set out to she will thrive.

If I do all I set out to do, our family will thrive.

My goals for the first trimester are fairly simple:

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For my Precious Little Peanut, that means stronger jaw, tongue and lips for speech; and core and hands for writing. For the rest of the family, it would just be good.

Here we are prayerfully, humbly on a new adventure; hauntingly optimistic that we will make progress. This I know: The biggest weak spot is me.

I am flakey.

I can be lazy.

I naturally gravitate toward chaos which means I have to fight me very nature in order to succeed at this.

But God.

I believe HE is for me. I have prayed through my natural laziness and made great strides. I have people praying for my character, so that I may be the educator my daughter needs.

So here and now, for this season, I am coming out of my corner swinging.

 

 

Missed Boat: A Letter to Women’s Ministry Leaders

Missed Boat: A Letter to Women’s Ministry Leaders

In my minds eye I see a group of women circling around a kiddie pool. There are rubber ducks and floating boats. There is splashing and laughing and chubby toddlers spilling out of swimsuits.

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Sitting close by are older, more experienced moms chatting with the younger gals engaging and listening. The sun is shining. The colors are vibrant. There is fruit cut and skin tanned and it is beautiful.

Behind them (just out of ear shot) is a grey, damp, worn down industrial shipyard. Lurching away from an old, beat up, barely functional dock pulls out a huge cargo ship. There are no windows. There is no color. Its destination is not clear, but trapped inside are the moms of teenagers who can barely catch their breath.

Leaders in women’s ministries everywhere: YOU ARE MISSING THE BOAT.

I remember my teen years well and do NOT hope to repeat them with my kids. (Do as I say, please, not as I did.) Our oldest is 26 and our middle is now a teen. It is MUCH harder today than it was a decade ago to raise sane teenagers.

There are moments when I feel I have this thing NAILED; then, without any warning, those feelings are replaced by a tight chest and sick stomach. I am nauseous at how many things there are seeking to poison our kids.

Poison their minds.

Poison their hearts.

Poison their values.

Poison their wills and want-tos.

It is not only the things looking to destroy them, but the very nature of the season of life that stack the odds against us. In her book The Teenage Brain, author Frances E Jensen, MD, explains:

Before leaving adolescence behind, a boy can have thirty times as much testosterone in his body as he had before puberty began…That explains why adolescents not only are emotionally volatile but may even seek out emotionally charged experiences–everything from a book that makes her sob to a roller coaster that makes him scream. This double whammy–a jacked up, stimulus-seeking brain not yet fully capable of making mature decisions–hits teens pretty hard, and the consequences to them, and their families, can sometimes be catastrophic.

The thing is, teens today have access to far more degrading and damaging things to excite them. Sexual images are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on hand held cell phones that can be tucked away in their pockets. Medical marijuana cards and prescription pain killers have put drugs in more homes than anything I could have imagined when I was a teen. It is easy access for almost any high school student to acquire mood altering substances.

Kids from middle class, activity attending families are crumbling under the weight of the realities our kids are facing. Imagine a Friday night, kids are drunk, a boy decides a girl (who can barely even walk and will not remember) must want to have sex…so he takes it from her.

Cast into the dirt, she is not sure what happened. Zipping up his pants, he is sure he’s done nothing wrong. At home, asleep, are the parents (of yet a different teenager) who bought the alcohol that got the kids drunk and started it all…

Versions of this scenario are playing out weekend after weekend after weekend…

Where can any of these moms go for help? Church?

YES! to MOPS and Mom’s mentoring groups and so many other programs sweeping the young mom cultures around us. That work is vital and holy.

But I personally have sat and watch thousands of tears roll from the eyes of moms of teens. Kids are gone–at boarding schools and military programs–last ditch efforts to stop the spiral. Women are sharing stories of feeling like their families are being damaged by this season of life with teenagers…living daily with an invisible anvil sitting on their chests crushing hope and joy. What can we do for them?

In our own area we have lost dozens to heroin. These were good kids from loving families.

The days of the typical addict laying in an filthy alley with a needle stuck in their arm are over. These are our friends and neighbors. We must wake up!

Let women’s ministries be a haven. May they be real and transparent full of answers and hope.

YES! Make meals for the brand new mama just home from the hospital. But are we helping the mom of the 15 year old connect around the table as well? With more than just words, can we come along side with answers and aid? Can we use our voices to tell the kids, “The future is bright. Set your standards high. Don’t sell yourself to the lowest bidder.”

Can we look each other in the eye and say, “I will hold your hand while we hold each other and our kids accountable?”

Can we gather around tables and collaborate, acknowledging that the teenage brain is seeking high impact activities? Let’s brainstorm about healthy opportunities to fill that need in the faint hope of keeping them from finding their own ways?

Yes, they may roll their eyes. No, they probably won’t volunteer to join our quest. Let’s parent anyway.

Recently I had the privilege of helping to plan a prom for a local boy who was restricted from going to his own senior highlight because of medical complications. A whole group of parents came to put the event together. I was STUNNED by the conversations…”You know, the high school just had their prom. If we don’t make this REALLY special no one will want to come.”

“You can’t serve a sit down dinner to high school kids. They don’t like that. They want, like, sliders and finger foods…”

Parents’ expectations of teenagers has hit an all-time low.

Our kids are going to be adults someday. Are we doing all we can to help them be productive ones?

500 teenagers got dressed up, sat down for a polite dinner, and celebrated with that boy–giving him the prom of his dreams. 125 other kids showed up in their finest to dance and join the after party…where tons of teenage favorite foods were served. The parents who doubted the kids would behave well were wrong.

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This is war for our children. We are fighting low expectations and morals, along with easy access to pornography, drugs and alcohol. Other parents and teachers are turning a blind eye saying, “Kids will be kids,” but, church, let’s not join their cry.

I often say that parenting is a crap-shoot. It is a roll of the dice, where we can guarantee no out comes. Let’s lock arms, look each other in the eye and say, “We are going to face this head on and do all we can to stack the odds in our favor.” Let’s listen to each other’s heartaches and fear. Let’s commit to praying boldly and telling our truths. Let’s tell God’s truth to our kids and your kids and their kids.

Let’s find ways to have fun with our teenagers and with each other. Laughter can build a bridge…Let’s see great examples and paint bright futures and let high school students everywhere know that we believe in them. Let’s invest in them and tell them we want them to make good choices and make their marks on the world, leaving a trail of beauty behind them.

When the wheels come off the bus, as they certainly will, let’s sit together without judgement and give support until we can breathe again. When our kids fail, which they MUST if they are to learn, let’s remind them that mistakes don’t have to define them; that taking responsibility is ALWAYS the best way to move forward; and that tomorrow provides a new opportunity to do better.

Time is running out…we can do this.

In Life, The Choice Is Often Either/Or

In Life, The Choice Is Often Either/Or

I am linking up today with the wonderful Kelly at Mrs. Disciple for her FRIDAY FIVE. This week’s topic is leadership.

In the Academy Award Winning film, Braveheart, there is a scene where the Scottish Rebels are lined up on one side of a field, and the British nobles and their soldiers are lined up on the other side of the field waiting for the impending battle. William Wallace (Braveheart) comes riding up in full battle attire and paint. As he gets ready to ride across the field to talk to the British, one of his men asks him, “What are you doing?”

Wallace, in a thick Scottish accent says, “I am going to pick a fight.”

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Photo from Hollywoodreporter.com

This election season.

It’s hard to even come up with a complete sentence without sighing and shaking my head, but I fully realize to many these words are picking a fight.

Keep in mind that I have a daughter named Reagan and a MacArthur Study Bible, so stereotyping me is not a huge challenge. I am incredibly comfortable in heated discussions smiling and saying, “Well…you know that I am a right-wing, religious nut.”

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I am not actually a nut, but I believe most of the things that the other side associates with the far right. I am not at all ashamed of my beliefs because I am also committed to a life that is filled with grace and service, and spend infinitely more time working the many, many logs in my own eye than searching for other people’s specks.

MY GUY was the first one out of the race. Long before I knew Scott Walker had suspended his campaign, I was getting text messages and Facebook posts asking me who I was for in light of the new facts. RARELY, do people not know where I stand. (Walker/Gowdy 2016 would have been so, so good.) My next choice hung in there for a while, but then also stepped down.

Who is left was my last choice going in, but I am a pragmatist and I am keenly aware that life is often comprised of either/or choices.

I am an ABC gal. Anybody But Clinton. I also concede that is a weak position to take and a sad reason to vote for the leader of the free world. As time has gone on and I have re-examined what I believe and why, I am moving from ambivalence to believing that Trump could be the one for this moment in history. (Look up Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency and see if you find similarities economically.) I will share with you five reasons why.

The Hope Of Getting Rid Of Monopoly Money.

That is what we call it in our home.

Congress and the Executive Branch so easily spend money that is not theirs, it might as well come from a boxed game you buy at Target.

When the current president took office, the national debt stood at 10.6 trillion dollars. With the last budget signed, he will leave with 20 trillion dollars worth of national debt. That number is staggering and, frankly, disgusting. There is no rational reason to believe the trend won’t continue with Hillary Clinton as president.

Over in the Trump camp, however, they seem to see the potential and power of a dollar much differently. As the media and pundits on both sides  say Trump’s chances are slim because he has 1.2 million in his coffers compared to Hillary’s 42 million, you can almost hear Trump and his people laughing in disbelief as they respond: “‘Donald has proven before that he doesn’t need as much money as the other candidates.'”

This graph from NHPR.org is quite telling:

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Seriously, do you see that tiny little Trump slice? If that kind of efficiency were brought to the Federal Government, I would celebrate!

Obamacare.

I hate it.

I have a daughter with special needs and a mother in law with severe dementia and neither of them have anywhere near the quality insurance coverage or medical care  they had before Congress “passed the bill in order to see what was in the bill.”

My daughter has specialists who no longer take insurance because of Obamacare.

We pay a doctor, I would never actually choose if I had other options, $2500 a year just to consider my mother in law a patient. He then bills for all appointments. Why? Obamacare.

Proponents of the monstrosity acknowledge that while my family has been pummeled by the plan, the greater good has been served. I neither agree with that, nor do I actually care.

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I want my daughter and my husband’s mother to have good medical care more than I want the greater good ESPECIALLY since we were willing to work hard to provide it. Those who call me selfish for such thoughts make no difference to me.

Trump is the only hope I have for eliminating Obamacare.

The Way Things Are MUST Change.

The Democrats are against him. The media is against him. Many in the Republican establishment are against him.

That’s good enough for me.

We are numb to the ineptness that rules this country.

There was no budget passed by our leaders for six straight years, including years when the same party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.

America’s credit rating was downgraded under this administration. How much more in interest do the American people pay as a result?

I find this all to be untenable. If Trump is a disaster and what is crumbles, okay. If Trump brings a tenacious business mind set to these issues and fixes them, okay! It is difficult to believe that an entrepreneur with phenomenal success in many areas would not desire to also see the country turn a profit under his leadership. He might begin with the basics of making a budget and increasing the credit rating.

I Don’t Think A Wall is Racist.

I am from California. I’ve spent most of my employed hours working in the restaurant business.

My husband works in the housing industry. We both have extensive experience with hard working, family-loving immigrants who also believe that illegal immigration must be dealt with.

Some sort of a border deterrent (like a wall) has been mentioned for years by people from both parties. I think there are sound bites available from both Clintons talking about such things.

Trump is just the first to suggest that Mexico pay for it.

I don’t think putting a fence around my yard means that I’m inhospitable, and I don’t think that putting up a barrier to make it more difficult to enter the country illegally is racist. And I absolutely believe that something  has to be done about illegal immigration.

We Need To Start Understanding Facts.

Trump is not the one I would have suggested for such an endeavor. However, he tells it like it is and it is resonating with people.

If those people get educated and start asking questions and examining information, there could be real hope. We need to encourage thinking citizens.

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The Obama administration claims to have fixed the economy, but how is that possible with national debt doubling? Can you fix your family’s finances by putting everything on a credit card? Why should a nation be any different?

The following numbers are all taken from Factcheck.org.

The Republican party is presented to the world as the party for big business, while the Democrats are supposedly for the middle class. Is that how you understand it?

Compare that paradigm (of Democrats for the middle class and Republicans for the rich) to this: Under this administration, corporate profits are up 166% while real weekly earnings are up 3.4%. Which represents the middle class?

Homicides are down 13% while gun sales are up over 55%. Ownership of firearms is up AND violent crime is down, which party’s belief system lines up with those numbers?

Unemployment is supposedly down by over 600,000 people, while food stamp recipients are up by 42%. Does that seem odd?

If you keep in mind that unemployment reflects the number of people looking for a job, rather than the number of people who are not working, do those two statistics make more sense? (Stop looking for work and just get government aid…)

Trump, if nothing else, knocked a political system out of complacency. Jeb Bush spent $100,000,000 on his failed campaign. I am so, so glad that did not work because we have been bought and paid for, for far too long.

For a while the either/or of candidates this year felt like choosing between Sodom and Gomorrah, but now I believe we are already in Sodom and Gomorrah and the real calling is to run away and not look back.

 

 

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

School got out two weeks ago tomorrow.

Since then we have thrown parties, gone to the Melodrama, had a few trips to the waterpark and dropped one kiddo off at history-loving camp. There have been some real highs.

There have also been a couple of low, low moments. Meltdowns of epic proportion have ruined large chunks of more than one day.

As much as I hate to admit it, the meltdowns were mostly me.

really did not want to melt down today, so when my peanut was starting to be difficult, I took a deep breath and leaned in.

I am trying to do a series of speech videos with her–if not every day–regularly. She was CLEARLY not interested and started to misbehave. She had to sit on timeout, but rather than fighting it through and making the timeout the issue, once she pulled it together and came back to the table we restarted and actually got a lot done!

YAY.

Then she wanted to watch TV. Now, I’ll be honest. I am actually not a mom who limits screen time with my kids. We are pretty busy as a family. My kids go to a Classical Education private school, which mean they read (or are read to) a lot. There are also sports we do, church and youth group every week, trips to the water park and playing in the pool.

We fill their lives with so much good stuff, I don’t feel the need to battle about TV. We also can only watch things on video or DVD, so there’s not a lot of worry about the influence of commercials or things I don’t approve of.

However, today I just didn’t really want her lounging on the couch and sinking in for a binge-fest. Nor did I want to create a commotion over it. So I tried a new approach.

Without saying a word, I got out her light box and began to set it up. I added a dish of ice, food coloring, salt, a spray bottle of water, and a squirt bottle of oil.

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While I was working on that, she turned off the TV and found some “homework” to do on her own.

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When I finished setting it up, I left it.

Again, I said nothing.

A few minutes later, she began exploring…

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The squeezing and spraying strengthen her hands. The ice is refreshing, as it has been so hot the heat radiating from the blacktop burns my feet walking in flip flops. The salt adds texture. Food coloring is just always fun.

She kept herself happily busy while I got some ironing done.

I didn’t melt down.

She didn’t veg out.

We all won.

Summer 2016

Summer 2016

This is the last week of school.

All the happy sounds and dances I can muster are coming. Last year I finished strong. This year? Not so much. We are limping across the finish line, distracted and unclear about some *^%$&&** stuff.

Last week's History Day for Ryan.

Last week’s History Day for Ryan.

Last week's History Day for Reagan

Last week’s History Day for Reagan

But I have mustered up enough clarity in a number of areas to write the Lee Family Summer 2016 Manifesto. Can you even imagine how EXCITED my hubby is about this? (Insert sarcasm font.) Six pages of how I want our life lived out is apparently far more inspirational and impressive to me than it is to him.

The nerve.

He’ll be happy with the results. I know it.

These are the things that are compelling me:

My middle daughter will be a junior next year. That means our days are NUMBERED with her. Rather than feeling like I am trying to squeeze every last drop of time and memories with her, I want to pour in.

As parents of teenagers, it is incumbent on us to help create the adults we want our kids to become.

I want to invest time and attention to help develop skills and maturity that will make life richer for her in the future.

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As I prayed and thought and made lists, it occurred to me that working on life skills for her will help my youngest with special needs also learn life skills. And it will continue to carve away at the sin of laziness that can plague me. (Exhaustion and laziness can be difficult to differentiate sometimes…)

My youngest still has special needs. Did I think somewhere in my little brain that we would outgrow this someday?

Perhaps.

Don’t judge.

I am convinced that much of life is wishful thinking.

I have tried and tried to assemble a team of people to help us help her. But I have failed at that.

So, I am back to the drawing board assessing and making lists and praying that God would transform my character to be that disciplined, scheduled, routined person who will find the way to do all the things I think about doing. Successfully. And make it enjoyable and magical.

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While making money somehow.

No problem.

Let me throw in getting in shape and losing weight while I am at it. Then I’ll REALLY have something to talk about.

My son is so far away. 

I still hate that.

I miss him.

I want to be creative about ways to connect.

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Our life has stress. And it always will. But that does NOT mean that we can’t eliminate or deal with some of the stress that we have. Purposely living my days the way I want them to feel will automatically reduce stress!

I will never have more time in my days. Twenty-four hours will always be my limit.

What I DO with those twenty four hours will make all the difference.

Keeping that in mind, these will be my mental markers for a successful summer:

  • The number of times my family sits down to a meal together. It won’t be all my cooking. We love the BBQ and plan on having our teenager make one family meal each week. In a perfect world, this will also be evaluated on how many different places we eat. Out by the pool? Let’s do that! On the front porch? I love it. Picnic at the park or beach? Absolutely. The manifesto gives gathering a prime position. IMG_3199
  • How much time is spent outside together. No vitamin D deficiencies allowed. After church on Sundays is a great time for us to make this happen. For a while we loaded up the bikes and took the trail to the beach where we would get lunch then head back. Carl and the girls on wheels and me on my two feet, we would trek the five miles. Exercise and sunshine and great for physical and family health, I want to make this a reality again this summer.
  • Consistent chores I encourage my kids to do well. This falls on me. Will I be calm, ordered, and happy as I teach us to organize and clean with excellence? The manifesto lines up specific times to be set aside to approach these skills as a family. Creating a home which is cleaner with less clutter is the BEST thing I can do for my hubby; and helping my kids be more respectful and responsible about living with other humans? That is a MUST.
  • The number of books read aloud. Audio books are fine. In fact, I am hoping to listen to some as a family while sitting around the table coloring. I am making progress with my precious little peanut’s fine motor skills and this would REALLY help. Also, more and more people are talking about the stress/anxiety reducing benefits of adult coloring which would be fabulous for my hubby AND my teen. We will start on audio with Les Miserables. That is my teen’s reading assignment for the summer, so we can support her by joining the conversation. While she is at camp, I will be reading Harry Potter and the Little House series to Ryan…along with the Illustrated Classics from Barnes & Nobles. They are my current obsession. DSCN6146
  • Cards and letters put in the mail. I want to encourage my kids to be letter writers. And thank you note senders. Me too. This will make all of our lives better and sow seeds of friendship and love.

There you have it. The five things that will anchor my summer. (5? Perfect. I will link up a bit late to the FANTASTIC Kelly at Mrs. Disciple.) There are goals and plans about Bible verse jars for the dinner table and prayers for a fresh fire on my Scripture study, each of which will be more likely if I make the manifesto a reality.

Easter: Dead Ahead

Easter: Dead Ahead

I am sitting at the kitchen table, dishes piled in the sink, remnants from last weekend’s birthday party strewn around my world. Over 1100 miles added to the odometer of my car since Monday, as my daughter and I literally drove up and down the state to spend time with gifted therapists.

And as the raindrops splash in their splendor on my driveway, my heart is full.

Full of gratitude. Full of hope. Like the drought parched creeks and reservoirs in my neighborhood, I am soaking in the rain of His provision.

The last several Easters have been seasons of struggle. Aging parents, Alzheimer’s, hospital stays and rehab facilities filled the late winter several years in a row. By the time Easter rolled around my little family was gasping for air.

We didn’t get much out of the Easter Season.

One of those years the kids’ school chose to have spring break NOT in line with the Easter. That turned out to be one of the stupidest things EVER. Let’s NOT do that again, OK?

I am so happy to again be linking up with the spectacularly amazing Kelly over at Mrs.Disciple. Today we are talking about Easter…and what a pleasure to do.

I told my hubby that we were really going to do Easter  this year. Many things are in our favor…Grandpa went to be with Jesus, so there is an area of our world that is naturally simplified. We are kinda figuring things out…and these are FIVE THINGS we will lean into as the season rolls around.

1.) We will celebrate. Because we try to have our faith define our lives, I am super loose with bunnies and eggs. If it makes the season happier, more memorable, and impactful I say GO FOR IT. 

Ryan’s birthday is actually mid-February, but another child in Primary (1/2 combo classes at her school) was having their party the weekend of her birthday, so that was out. I was gone the following weekend, so her party needed to be in March. As it turns out, Easter is also in March this year, so we decided to have an Easter themed party.

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We do our parties family-style. We want you to bring siblings and join us for a meal.

“How many drops of food coloring can they add?” parents would ask.

The answer, of course, is, “As many as they’d like.” We chatted about remembering there were lots of kids who were coloring eggs, and limited resources to share. There can be such beauty in freedom.

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That one egg was worth saying YES. Isn’t is spectacular?

The kids hunted for eggs in the rain.

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And ate ham.

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Jesus gathered and lived and loved and celebrated in the weeks leading to His crucifixion. So will we.

2.) We will continue to bring order to our home. The benefit of my creative calm is that kids can run around, make slime, use an excess of dye on their eggs and I enjoy it. The drawback is that my home can be a bit…disastrous.

I am a messy. I struggle and fight and progress but it is just. not. easy. Some of you have no clue what I am talking about because cleaning up is like breathing to you.

Bless you. If I fall off the face of the planet tomorrow, I hope that for my hubby’s next wife.

For now he is stuck happy to be with me, but he does like the house in order. Cleaning up, organizing, simplifying is ALWAYS something I can do to move my life in the right direction.

Before the day’s end the sink will be empty, the laundry will be washing, party supplies organized, and many things thrown away because it is such a small thing to do to make peace. And I will pray as I do it, asking the Lord to make HIMSELF known deeply to my family this season.

3.) We will live life in priority. Here’s my belief: Holidays are life intensified. If my life is out of whack going into a holiday season, the holiday season will be whacky.

Obviously parenting is an all-the-time gig, but this particular calendar is FULL of specific, purposeful investments in our kids. YAF Convention for our middle with a friend, therapies for our peanut, great conversations with our son who is too grown up and too far away.

I bought a new game I think our teen will love. I told my hubby he HAD to play with us. He seems willing…

4.) I will serve at church. If I were to be honest, (shocking, I know) part of our struggle for those few years was that we didn’t really care for our church’s Easter Service. It was big and outside and it drizzled, or was cold, or was hot and just… Aaaargh.

So we sometimes went to a church that was not ours for Easter, which was fine.

But I actually don’t want an Easter that is fine.

A year and a half ago, we moved churches so that our middle daughter could attend youth group with the same kids she went to school with. It was a fabulous decision for our family, and opens the door to a different Easter experience. This year, the church wants to go all out and create a wonderful, fun-filled, Gospel-centered service, and I signed up to help.

5.) I will fill my brain with the Easter story. Years ago I taught a Bible Study that looked at the Easter story through the eyes of the Gospel writers. I wanted to examine how their personalities may have shaped their perspectives.

Want medical details? Read the book of Luke.

Want names of the people involved? Read the book of John.

What did they all include? Which details were individual?

I want to go back and re-look at that. Honestly, the Bible Study class I led was one of my least successful ever, but I still think the idea is incredibly interesting…and my Bible digging in is in bit of a dry spell. (Do you have any idea HOW MANY women’s Bible Studies you can sit through without ever opening your Bible? The piercing scream you hear in the distance is me…)

The rain continues to pound on the kitchen skylight. The weeds that were once my beautiful lawn until the water ran out will be an inch taller next week, but I don’t care. The rain is water for the land, and the Easter season is water to my soul. I just need to drink it in.

 

 

My Blank Face

My Blank Face

I am probably fooling myself to think that my face is actually blank. More than likely my expressions are communicating something.

None the less, lately the phrase is swirling through my mind with striking regularity.

It is how I imagine I look when I just DON’T GET a thing. Or am just NOT BUYING a thing, or idea, or–for that matter–a person. That is probably not the most Christian thing I have ever thought…

But, hey, I am a work in progress.

Changes are coming my way. I can feel them blowing in the wind…and the cracks in my denial are getting too obvious for me to ignore any longer. As I have said before, parenting is HARD.

Parenting a child with Special Needs is that times a gazillion.

My daughter’s learning delays are severe.

There. I said it.

It is time to face the fact that we are in a stagnant place of learning…needing some momentum to be built. It is not that there are not pockets of beauty, wonder and progress.

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There are.

But if I stop long enough to face things, the results are not adding up fast enough for us to continue on the path we are on.

Again. Something needs to change.

My hubby and I both feel the Special Education System available in the public schools is not the best fit for her. When I have visited the classrooms I leave feeling fatigued…and so does she.

These last few years have been so good, but time marches on faster than our clock can be set for.

And I know the future is calling to be different than the past.

I hate that I don’t yet know what that means. And I hate that I don’t have a billion dollars to hop on planes, or start a school, or pursue the millions of ideas that flow through my brain in the still, small hours of the night.

And so my face goes blank when things that I thought were good progress change.

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The gymnastics class I put her in, to make her stronger and help with coordination, updated its format and rather than attracting 4 year old kiddos, it is appealing to two year old kiddos. That changed the dynamic irreparably. (She already looked like Honey, I Blew Up The Baby.)

Back to square one, with the next great thing to try 20 minutes further down the road. (Each way.)

When your child has a chromosomal abnormality no one else has ever had there is no road map. It is hard to find a pattern, because there often is not one. What works for so many others falls radically short for us.

Yet in other areas, she shines.

She behaves incredibly well. She is helpful and sweet. We don’t want to change her we just
want to help her become the very best she can be.

So the research begins again to find the ideas; to seek out the help; to look at things differently. Honest question fold into fears and insecurities. Do I need to make money, so we can invest more in her? How can I work outside the home and educate her well? What about Bible Study and the few things I do to keep sane? What will my life look like with changes? Can I do this?

Next week I head to a conference for speech therapists. I am not a speech therapist. I will sit and listen and learn and although I know I won’t understand everything, I believe I will understand enough to come home with more tools than I have right now. It is hard to be parent, teacher and therapist with limited tools. 

Ryan is over it. She needs new ideas to engage her.

And I will begin praying for an Oral Motor Placement Therapist closer than Connecticut. Perhaps those amazing resources I found across the country can be annual pilgrimages, with on going support in state. These are new questions I am asking myself, because I didn’t realize that Ryan wouldn’t love having me do all. the. therapies.

And patching her eye, because one is straying again.

And telling her to make her bed.

And to stop eating peanut butter from the jar.

So the blank look on my face begins to fade…The simple act of writing it out brings new ideas. New hope is arising. God is so good. My eyes can start to look for a new path without my chest feeling strangled.

There is  so much hope in the imperfect. I have moments when I struggle to see it…but those moments are never allowed to reign in victory. That is each of our journeys in parenting, isn’t it?

I am more convinced than ever that all kids have special needs; some just have a diagnosis.

Guardrails

Guardrails

Again, I say, that Kelly from Mrs. Disciple. She hosts a FRIDAY FIVE link up for blogging friends, and her encouragement just keeps us coming back. Her diligence is admired tremendously by this California girl. I wish we lived closer, so she and I could have coffee and chat about all things Bible and Family.

Today her topic is Five Boundaries…so here I go…

I am going to steal from Andy Stanley.

A little while back I facilitated a weekly Bible Study at church. We did one class I called Change Your Mind, Change Your Life. I encouraged the women to read Bob Goff’s book Love Does. (Anytime a woman would walk in shaking her head and laughing I would say, “Chapter 4?”) We also did three Andy Stanley DVD series, Your Move, Take Responsibility for Yourself; Because No One Else Will, and Guardrails.

Andy STanley GuardrailsIn my mind, boundaries are the very farthest you can go, and stay safe. Guardrails are built THIS SIDE of the danger zone…guardrails leave room between where you hit them and where you would get really, really hurt.

I want GUARDRAILS in my life. I want to feel the tension and discomfort that comes from rubbing against the edges BEFORE I am in the disaster area.

Make sense?

Man oh man, it made perfect sense to me.

1.) Plan my calendar according to my priorities. I have read a bazillion books about this. I have listened to tapes watched seminars, and failed over and over again.

Then I gave birth to a child with Special Needs.

She can’t rush. If she needs medicine, I can’t forget or flash by because I am too busy. Her learning takes 10,000 more repeats that my other kids. If I want her to learn to write her name, I must help her write it thousands of times.

I’m not exaggerating.
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The only way to allow her the room to do that is to radically prioritize time.

I am rubbing the guardrail on this now…but the guardrail is here.

2.) I do the Christian basics. I am the poster child for the hypocrite in church.

That’s just the truth.

I pour over the Bible, study with friends, serve in ministry projects, rarely ever miss church, but I have this string of relationships that have crumbled.

People often say, “Well, you know how SHE is…” and the others in the conversation know exactly what they are talking about.

This unfortunate reality of my life would send me off of the cliff except for one thing: MY GUARDRAIL.

Here’s the gig: Because I go to church, listen to Christian music and go to Bible Study, I believe God is working in me.  I am not obligated to repeat the mistakes of my past, AND I am not obligated to conform my behavior to other people’s preferences.

Sometimes I offend people because of following Jesus. (I am not going to play that game, or watch that show…) That is a bummer, but it is easy. My guardrail means I have already made that decision.

Other times I flub up a thing so terribly that I can’t even seem to apologize right.

But God just keeps working in me; showing me this or that passage in the Bible, giving me this new Bible Study to learn a new way, showing me the character I lack in others who do it well.

3.) I evaluate the journey. After every Brighten A Corner project we evaluate thoroughly what happened. The good and the bad are all fair game.

The Leadership Team does not always agree on what is good and what is bad. Years and years of doing this has helped me be FAR LESS THIN SKINNED than I once was. At this point in my life I am much more interested in not repeating mistakes than I am looking good.

My hubby and I sit and write out the pros and cons of holidays, events, school things. We take a hard look and search for new ways for him to do things. (Still a little thin-skinned when I evaluate with my hubby…go figure.)

A ministry I am drawn to, Preemptive Love, puts out a FAILURE REPORT each year. Desiring complete transparency there is open conversation about what went wrong. Why? So you feel sorry for them? NO. Because facing and evaluating failures is one of the most effective tools for moving forward.

4.) I read a lot. Strange guardrail, I know. But a lifetime of learning is important to me.

Mostly I want it for my kids.

But that is unlikely if I don’t do it myself.

Recently I took every single book we owned off the shelves, and grouped them in categories.       This is one table out of 5.

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I gave away bags and bags of books, and grouped the rest of them together.

Classics here. Kids books there. John MacArthur on this shelf. (Yes, he got his own shelf…) Christian books together, success principle books gathered, novels all in one area. Let’s do this life well, and read…a lot.

5.) I laugh. I love to laugh. I laugh at myself. I laugh at funny people and funny things and funny memories.

My friends will tell you that I crack me up. Seriously, sometimes I can’t even control it.

I am so naughty.

Laughing is just a good idea. It is a wise way to get through life.

This past spring my dad had heart surgery. The first 24 hours after were awful. He was in agonizing pain, and an air bubble had gone into his brain so that he was considerably weaker on one side and could not really talk. (The bubble dissolved and all was well.)

But during those 24 hours, my mom and I found a way to laugh. We howled at private jokes. That laughter released chemicals in our bodies that helped us survive a very difficult time. I would make my mom guffaw with proof of my shady character and the claim that I am “going to hell for sure.”

Now…we know about being saved by grace and there was NOTHING real in it; but it was the perfect tool to lighten things for my mom. Laughter spared her from having to face hard things completely in the dark.

Because laughter is a guardrail, I give myself room not to be stodgy, when fresh air would help.

Guardrails make room for joy.

It is counterintuitive, because we buy the lie of freedom…that being able to do whatever we want whenever we want will make us happy.

But that is not true. And happiness is a pathetic substitution for joy. So I will keep my guardrails; and I will tend them so they remain effective. And I will be grateful for them.

Hello, 2016. Nice to Meet You

Hello, 2016. Nice to Meet You

2015 was not a bad year at all. I was stretched. I had adventures. I am closer to my kids and hubby at the end of it than I was at the beginning.

There were many moments of triumph and many moments of toil. But all in all, I chose to either enjoy or learn from them. Goodbye 2015, it was a pleasure.

And hello 2016, it is nice to meet you.

Again I am connecting with the spectacular Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple for her Friday 5 link up. (Kelly, and the gang of writers I met this summer at Jen Hatmaker’s home, have been a huge blessing to my little world in 2015. The For the Love  launch team experience, from beginning to now, has been an enormous gift.)

Five Goals for 2016

I am a huge proponent of acknowledging our priorities. I have said it before and I will say it again, we can only have one number one priority at any given time. It is because of that deeply held belief that I try to prioritize my goals, so they can build on one another…

#1.) Take Control of What My Family and I Eat. 

In 2015 I put quite a bit of prayer focus on trying to get rid of my laziness. I asked dear friends to pray for me, that God would mold my character and make me more efficient. I have made much progress, but in 2016 I hope to address another area of struggle.

I am tired all the time.

In that spirit, I have new cookbooks with recipes sticky noted. I have my calendar marked out. This will be a new way of doing things, combining foods in different ways to maximize energy. (And hopefully lose a few pounds while I am at it.)

My hubby and I both feel a bit better with just some minor tweaks. Once I get everything together and plow full steam ahead I am very optimistic our energy levels will see new highs.

#2.) Address and Fix Ryan’s Sleeping Issues. 

I was never a co-sleeping advocate. I believe babies in their own beds are a good thing…but then my one day old infant choked on her own mucous and turned blue. At that point we had never heard the term esophageal dysmotility, but suffice it to say she began sleeping right by my side.

For years every time we would talk about moving her to her own room she would get sick. Pneumonia. Epilepsy. Fever of 105.

We gave up, and she spent some or all of each night with us…pulling our hair, thwacking us with flailing arms, and hogging the bed. She would be quite satisfied with Mommy and a cot with one pillow to share.

It’s not very restful.

It needs to stop.

I have a plan in place, and I am hoping that the increased energy from eating well will help us endure the transition. Nearly 11 years of poor sleep has caused sincere fatigue, but I will actually miss her…

Sigh.

#3.) Getting More Organized So We Can Manage an Aggressive Homeschool Agenda

There is no way to fully communicate how organization impacts homeschooling the girls. (Actually, just Ryan. Reagan is completely in charge her home days.) It energizes it, and makes everything feel doable.

We have really high hopes this season. A huge emphasis will be placed on large motor skills, which we will use to help achieve goal #2. Continuing in gymnastics and much time in the pool will be staples. (I plan on making sure she is very, very tired.)

It is working. She can now play with the Wii…an amazing combination of motor planning skills that  show tremendous progress.

It is a huge hope to increase the reading we do with her. Audio books will be a component, but I am hoping to help her fall in love with books to a greater level. My older two kids were both avid readers…So much praying and planning will go into this. If we achieve success in goals 1 & 2, they will have an enormously positive impact on goal #3.

#4.) This Year’s Prayers for My Kids

After much prayer and contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that my prayer/encouragement focus for each of my kids is the same this year. I want all three of them to grow in being grateful, responsible and helpful.

So much of our lives is built around our faith. We only listen to Christian music. We go to church and youth group every week. We pray at every meal. I run a ministry. Bible Study is a large part of life. Both of our older kids attended Christian school for several years.

My heart for my kids’ faith is constant, and not a part of seasonal goals.

Although my middle is thriving academically and diligent about church, my husband and I are having regular conversations about the gaps that need filling before she launches off to college. These gaps, as it turns out, will also benefit our grown son who is just starting college on the GI Bill, and our peanut.

#5.) Honoring The Sabbath

Each of the previous 4 goals are actually part of sabbath success. Honoring the sabbath is not about forcing the family to take the day off, it is about being a good enough steward that I believe 6 days is enough, and the 7th day will add His beauty in  a new and fresh way.

Last year we spent many Sundays walking and biking after church. We’d have lunch by the beach, and head home. I hope to repeat that and take it to the next level. Healthy premade dinners, family games and reading by the fire would round it out beautifully.

Of  course there are other things rumbling around…ministry ideas and writing goals, but these five set the foundation for any other dreams I may have. They excite me about the coming days and make me happily say, “Hello, 2016. It’s nice to meet you.”