5 Dinner Guests

5 Dinner Guests

My friend Kelly from Mrs. Disciple has a Friday 5 link up each week. AAaaaanndddd each week I tell myself I am going to “DO THIS THING!” Then each week I don’t.

Maybe this time I will.

5 Dinner Guests is SUCH an intriguing concept. In fact, my hubby and I already discussed ours this morning over coffee in the hot tub. (A favorite morning activity…soaking, chatting, watching the night sky disappear in the daylight.)

Here goes:

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Clearly I like words. If this is insight into my life, I am most definitely in a season longing for growth and learning, and this list of 5 proves it.

1.) Antonin Scalia. My father was a Superior Court Judge who served as president of the California Judge’s Association. His father was also a lawyer who clerked for Earl Warren. If Grandpa Hal had not died at 43, there is every likelihood he would have gone with Earl Warren to clerk for him in the Supreme Court.

It is in my blood.

Mr. Scalia is brilliant. His judicial acumen and ability to write decisions that illuminate application for the common man are inspiring. My brain might hurt after, and I would likely have to write things down to look up later, but it would be fascinating.

2.) Stanley Greenspan. This one’s tough. He died in 2010, but before his death he was a pioneer in brain development and special needs diagnosis and treatment. His work on “floor time” was revolutionary.

“Floortime meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through creating a warm relationship and interacting. It challenges them to go further and to develop who they are rather than what their diagnosis says.”stanleygreenspan.com

That makes me cry.

The ability to collaborate with, learn from and listen to a man of his expertise would be life changing for my daughter.

3.) Hyrum Smith. He is the founder of the Franklin Quest Company and author of the book  The Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time & Life Management. He is one of the most powerful speakers I have ever seen, and his book is life changing.

“Natural laws are fundamental patterns of nature and life that human experience and testing have shown to be valid. They describe things as they really are, as opposed to how we think they are or how we wish they were.” page 12

Well said. Walking through his process of figuring out my governing values was brutally insightful. Putting priorities in order is a skill that I have carried into many, many other situations.

You can only ever have one #1 priority at any given moment. Accepting that is freeing.

4.) Albert Mohler. (Could also be John MacArthur…either/or.) Mohler is a theologian and apologist I deeply respect. His reverence for the Lord inspires me.

Growing in my understanding and application of God’s word is of the most importance to me. I LOVE to fill my brain with Scripture. Talking about how to apply it and live life helping others to do the same is something that would keep my attention raptured for hours and hours and hours.

What a joy that would be.

5.) Lysa Terkeurst. “We have to put our hearts and minds in places where wisdom gathers, not scatters.” Exactly.

Lysa is married to a business owner, is a mom, started a ministry, writes and speaks. She is passionate about applying Biblical truth to life.

She does what I do times a million, with far greater excellence.

She is my hero.

She is funny. She is moving. She is insightful.

And most importantly she is an example.

Both times I went to the Proverbs 31 Conference SHE SPEAKS, I was gobsmacked by how humble and edifying the entire team was. I had never seen women treat each other that way before, and I wanted more of it.

When I read this blog of hers, I was a devoted fan forever.

I would be a better person for interacting with those 5… What about you? Who are YOUR 5 DINNER GUESTS?

My Demented Oreo

My Demented Oreo

I am part of what is called the sandwich generation, tucked between nurturing and growing my children and caring for aging parents. Because I am naturally soft in the middle, it makes sense to me that if I have to be a sandwich, I should be a cookie one.

So I have decided to be an Oreo.

Just over a year ago my father in law passed away from Alzheimer’s. The last few years of his life were a roller coaster. There were hospital stays and care facilities; anger and emptiness. The journey of Alzheimer’s is learning to grieve the living.

Although my father in law died first of Alzheimer’s, many years before he began to show signs my mother in law’s memory was disappearing.

My husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary this fall, and for over 15 years of that my mother in law has been fading. Her mother had dementia, and she resigned herself to the same fate. She has never been responsible for caring for my kids. My girls have never gone to grandma’s for the weekend.

She is still one of my favorite people in the world.

I call my mother in law Winnie the Pooh. She has a heart of gold but a head full of fluff. She is never cranky, always happy. (I called my Father in Law Eyeore, because he was quite the opposite.)

While some in our family have understandably struggled with the reality of both Grandma and Grandpa radically mentally impaired, my youngest–our precious little peanut–knows no different and loves her world. She loved her grandpa.

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She loves her grandma.

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This week was Grandparents Day at my daughter’s school and I knew Ryan would love to have Grandma there. Her school is 20 minutes away, and the memory care facility where my mother in law lives is 40 minutes past that. That meant quite a bit of driving.

As Grandma and I were walking out the door of her home to pile in the car I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

No. She did not.

By the time we reached the first stoplight two blocks away, she asked me half a dozen times who I was. The conversation usually goes like this…

          Me: I am a married to one of your sons. Who are your sons?

          MIL: Let’s see. (Starting to count on her fingers…) Bernie, Carl, Everett.

On occasion she’ll add someone else to the list, her husband or son in law.

         Me: Now which one would have been smart enough to marry me?

She laughs at that every. single. time.

          Me: I am married to your son Carl. Usually if you say it together, you can remember my name. Carl and _______________…

          MIL: Robin.

It is an interesting conversation. Or not. But it is my life.

For the whole drive we chat about the scenery and philosophy; family and the past. It is often the same conversation on repeat. I believe the fact that she is my mother in law and not my mom makes it easier for me to enjoy her as she is. There is not as much loss to bear.

We get the walker out and toddle to the group meeting.

I get Grandma a snack she can eat with her hands. She lost the ability to effectively use silverware a while ago, but she loves a sweet treat.

Then we headed to the classroom.

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Ryan was so happy. Daddy had to come along for the fun.

San Luis Classical Academy, my daughter’s school, is a beautiful part of this season of life. Ryan is on campus two days a week and homeschooled three days a week. I am hauntingly optimistic we will make tremendous progress this year.

Ryan did her “recitation” of Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

 

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When your child can’t talk, you must improvise and prioritize. I decided that for this recitation, being comfortable in front of the class was the goal.

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Look at that face. Today was a winner.

After recitations were art projects and show and tell times with Grandma.

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Keep in mind that at the very moment my these pictures were taken my Mother In Law had absolutely no idea where she was or who she was talking to. None.

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THIS IS GRACE.

THIS IS LOVE.

THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.

My daughter who can’t talk and my Mother in Law who can’t remember have a relationship that looks like this. And they both mean it with all their hearts.

I love this part of the Message version of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:

A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer.

This is my life right now…a crazy, mixed up jumble of lamenting and crying while also laughing and cheering.

It is my demented Oreo of a life, and while I may not have chosen it, I do–in fact–love it.

 

 

 

For the Love of Owning My Own Life

For the Love of Owning My Own Life

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Several years ago I sort of set out on a journey to own my own life.

For me it meant embracing the good and facing the ugly in my world.

Dealing with imperfections and coming up with plans to work on them opened my eyes to beauty peeking out of the cracks and breaks in my systems. Layer upon layer of life–the bold goodness, the nuanced depth, the obvious flaws–began calling me to greater risk and steadier faith.

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Long before I read the pages of For the Love, I had begun the painful process of figuring out what to show up for, if I wanted to have a life that I loved.

Late one night, while finishing up a long day at a Brighten A Corner project, I scrolled casually down my Facebook feed to see that Jen Hatmaker was creating a launch group for her latest book. 500 everyday folks would get an advanced copy, join a private Facebook page, and help to promote the book upon its release….It sounded like an adventure and an opportunity to learn something new. Plus I have this friend who I believe will publish a book someday soon, so I thought perhaps I could steal get a line on some great ideas for her.

Apparently 4,999 other people thought it would be fun, too. Imagine that.

I was tickled when I got an e-mail a few weeks later saying that I had been picked for the launch group, would be receiving my book in the mail soon, and was added to the For the Love Launch Group on Facebook. I decided not to watch from a distance, but to show up and own the opportunity. In an instant everyone else on Facebook disappeared.

The Launch Girls were my world.

I shared prayer requests. I prayed for others. I had an opinion for everyone about everything. I survived the Supreme Court Decision while disagreeing passionately with people. I learned how to hashtag. I grew as a writer because of the input and support of the team. I found delightful friends. I laughed until I cried. I wept over losses. I shook my head in awe at how wacky life can be.

I lived out the words of the book that brought us all together.

Which is why I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Life is a kick in the pants. Being a Jen Hatmaker fan has been a bi-polar experience for me. I have liked and unliked her page numerous times based on a moment, or a mood, or a half-understood perception.

Sometimes I just don’t get it.

This book, this group, this season of life forced me to figure out if I was looking for agreement or honesty.  I realized if I want a life that profoundly honors God, I was going to have to get used to the tension that comes with differences. Living in that tension is where the love people talk about really exists. It is not waiting for me to surround myself with homogenized versions of me. It is tucked away in community with variety.

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The book and the launch team could not have come at a better time. My life is richer, fuller, more on track to my dreams in the Lord than it has been in a long, long time. I so, so, so want that for you. I want you, and me, to own our lives. There is so much room for others when we do….THIS is what I am talking about:

Now fully able to cheer wildly for friends and colleagues, I am free to be me without the constrictive mesh netting around my heart. Everyone else is free to be themselves, and I am thrilled about us all. For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker.

 

 

Exposed

Exposed

I was caught unaware.

Scrolling through my social media feed, mindlessly, lazily filling my afternoon with unproductivity, and there it was. A beautiful picture of someone who I will always be connected to.  There came a catch in my throat.

The words were loving and seemed so sincere, and my inner conversation began, “Why am I not good enough for this? Why are there no words like this for me?”

Relationships, and people, are so messy.

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And the extended version of the winsome photograph I found myself staring at is the most disheveled human connection in my world. Sometimes family feels like it is on life support.

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In the swirling, I realize that I am feeling a wee bit vulnerable right this moment. My beloved Tuesday Night Bible Study needed to come to a close; my precious little ministry is flailing trying to plan for the next project; and unexpectedly I find myself discouraged.

I didn’t see it coming.

Mostly things are really good.

And my hubby and I are thinking through other things to make them better. There is no crisis. There is no overarching angst. But…every once in while…when I am looking in another direction…I suddenly feel exposed and at risk.

Here’s the truth I must face: Life is imperfect. Am I brave enough to accept that with grace?

The wacky thing is God is moving in my life. He has lovingly connected me with new friends, most of whom are writers, and I feel the itching to grow and learn in the very best of ways. I can sincerely cheer them on, applauding great work in the form of poignant words, embracing stories. It is lovely.

I am tackling a large project that has been laid on my heart. It is one that will hopefully bring women into deeper connection to God and stronger faith. I will find solutions for the ministry project and will be involved in a different Bible Study this fall. It will all be okay.

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Except for the situation in that photo staring at me from the computer screen. For that I have no answers. And although it doesn’t impact the totality of life, or daily happiness, there are moments–like this one–that leave me feeling hauntingly sad and exposed.

The Gap Widens

The Gap Widens

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Parenting a child with special needs is that times a gazillion.

My precious little peanut lights my life. She stretches the boundaries of my heart and tugs at the capacity of my mind. She puts a mirror smack dab in front of my laziness for me to face, whether I want to or not.

I am a much better human being because of this journey.

But it isn’t easy.

She has rounded past her first decade and still cannot talk. She has a few words but they are hard work. She has sounds and a few signs, and ideas and stories and things to get across. (Mostly so you’ll do things her way, but I can’t criticize that.)

We’ve had some beautiful moments of learning. There have been many times when things looked and felt exactly like my heart imagines homeschooling could be for her.

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And many, many dry, disorganized, exhausted moments in between.

But the number 10 is keeping me up at night.

It feels so old.

Have we missed the chance to get it right? To help her all we can?

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I had my heart set on taking her to a speech clinic for Apraxic kids in Michigan this summer. But the Michigan therapist says Ryan is not yet ready for her. Ten years later, and we are still at the beginning.

Go to Connecticut, she says. Get more help with Oral Motor Placement Therapy.

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Okay. I will.

On the phone I chat with the specialist in Connecticut who tells me, “What you see in the body, you see in the mouth.”

Oh crap. Good to know.

I have always placed large motor skills at the bottom of the priority list.

We can only ever have one number one priority at any given moment. Physical therapy has not been my number one for her since she started walking at 2 1/2. But I didn’t know that what you see in the body you see in the mouth.

Gotta be honest, that is not good news.

Because of Ryan’s diagnosis, she doesn’t qualify for any government help. Tri-Counties Regional Center has nothing to offer her. We pulled her out of public school because it wasn’t working. I guess I could figure out services through the district but because her private school is in the town of a different school district than the one she used to attend, I’d have to start over. Yuck.

So we are shifting our focus in the weeks leading up to Connecticut. In that spirit we joined a hike with moms and kids from Ryan’s school. (She goes to a hybrid school where she is on campus two days a week and homeschooled three days a week.)

We all started at the exact same time.

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Soon, we were by ourselves.

Not too long into it she wet her pants. (HOW DID I FORGET TO MAKE SURE SHE WENT POTTY BEFORE WE LEFT? I am not an amateur, for goodness sakes.)

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It would have been so. much. easier. to turn around and go back. We could have waited for everyone else at the beginning. (My older daughter and brother in law were with the group.)

But I am terrified that if I am willing to turn back, I put at risk every good thing that lies ahead of her.

So we plowed forward.

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We saw cows. In the middle of the path.

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It was hard for her. Hard for both of us. I am not a nature girl.

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Turning back could not be an option. I cheered and waited and promised dry clothes at the car. I told her forward was the only direction we could go.

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I fight the thoughts that creep in: What if this is the rest of her life? A series of experiences where the gap between us and them grows until we are totally alone?

It is in these moments that my mantra saves my life: Head up, look to the Lord. Head down, get to work. 

I cannot look around. Comparing us to others will certainly kill my dreams. The only thing that makes sense is to put one foot in front of the other.

On this day, that meant finishing the hike.

In August, it means going to Connecticut.

In September it means totally reorganizing my homeschool days because what you see in the body, you see in the mouth.

And on most days between now and then it means repeating over and over: Head up, look to the Lord. Head down, get to work. 

Great Moments

I love summer. I love the changing of seasons; not seasons of nature but seasons of life. The coming of summer and the end of school inherently provide a time to regroup.

I often need time to regroup.

Here is the truth of my life: I think I am getting better at it. 

I am not perfect. Obviously. But I am also not a perfectionist, I am a pragmatist. What I am constantly trying to move toward is a life that works. For me that means my calendar matches my priorities. In quantity of time my family comes first, but in priority of time my faith comes first.

This season is working for me because, as it turns out, I love to learn. In church and Bible Study I am in a fruitful season of learning God’s word and how it applies to life. In parenting, my girls are in a fantastic school–on campus a few days a weeks and at home the others. Reagan is completely in charge of her own learning, and Ryan is homeschooled a few days a week.

After four years, I may be getting the hang of it. I actually finished the school year with momentum…and I am excited about the coming year.

It’s crazy, I know. I was actually…organized.

I want to push pause on a moment. In one of our homeschool days this spring, there was a breakthrough.

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This is an activity we have done many, many times. Baking soda, vinegar, water, corn starch and food coloring have provided hours of entertaining engagement. This day we were using it as our fine motor activity. All of the squeezing and pinching making her little hands stronger on our road to learn to write.

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Mostly I sat back and watched, letting her explore and combine.

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The breakthrough came…for the first time, ever, Ryan did not combine all the colors into one big brownish-greyish gloomy mess.

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Obviously she is still a bit messy. ($3 clear shower curtains get a lot of use as craft-table covers in our home.) But she was more careful than I have ever seen her.

This summer we want to continue to strengthen her foundational skills so that we can embrace the curriculum more thoroughly this fall. We intend to read more and exercise more. In August she and I will head to Connecticut to get a thorough evaluation and several sessions with an expert in Oral Motor Placement Therapy. It is our attempt to progress in teaching her to talk.

We are not ready to give up hope.

Meanwhile, we will do all we can do to enjoy this season, these moments, this child.

“And God looked at all He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

Genesis 1:31