Friday, March 28, 2014

In the quiet


You see me, running and chasing
a world full of distraction and judgment
my heart torn and shameful; my words quick and angry;
my hands clutching too tightly to receive

You see me, worrying and forcing
a life that can’t satisfy or salve
my head questioning and doubting; my soul searching and longing;
my joy stolen by expectations

You see me, in all my mess and mistakes and futile attempts
to earn a gift I've already been given
my blessings countless and merciful; my sins forgiven and forgotten
my worth bound in your grace

You see me, and you wait
for my heart to soften, for my hands to open
for my soul to quiet

And you whisper,
You are loved.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saved

Today, during lunch, Brooklyn asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. I had been washing dishes -- those annoying ones that can't go in the dishwasher -- and thinking about absolutely nothing. I could hear the crunch of Brooklyn's carrot and feel the warm suds on my hands, but my mind was at rest. This may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who overthinks and overanalyzes and always has something on her mind (just ask my hubby), that in itself was a big deal. But what was even more amazing was the question that came out of my daughter's mouth:

"Mommy, why are you smiling?"


And you know what? I couldn't answer her. I didn't even know I had been smiling.

For the last few weeks, I have been spending a lot of time digging around my soul and doing some much needed work. I have been drowning out the world and seeking more time with God. I have been letting go of myself and offering my everything to figure out what is next for my life. I believe they call that surrender.

I am still digging, still praying, and still figuring it out, but in the process, I have felt an amazing sense of contentment that I have not felt in a long time. In some ways, I am emotionally exhausted, but at the same time, I have this overwhelming feeling of peace and security that comes from knowing I am living for something bigger than myself. That the world and its approval no longer matters. I am learning who I am, what I was made for, and where my heart belongs. I believe they call that joy.

Joy. It is such a powerful word. To me, it represents so much more than happiness. Too many people treat happiness as a destination, but it's not. It's a fleeting emotion. But joy...to me, joy is something to strive for. It is learning to live this life with hope, compassion, and love, regardless of the circumstances. To walk the walk and talk the talk with such grace that it flows freely and naturally. To smile without even realizing it.

A few months ago, someone shared this translation of Matthew 11:28-30 with me, and I just can't stop reading it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace... to live freely and lightly....

Yes, that is what I want. That is what I am seeking. More than answers, more than a fleeting sense of happiness, more than this world, I want those things, and I think I am getting closer. The more time I spend with Him -- the more I am distracted by Him -- the more I am enjoying this life.

I believe they call that salvation.







Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ashes

It is late – well past bedtime – and we are at church. Jeff has been out of town on business all week, and my mommy patience is wearing thin. My two older girls – the ones the world tells me should be meek and mild and obedient – are anything but and they are barely making it through the service. Or maybe I am barely making it through the service. Arms tugging and hanging, too-loud-whispers begging for bathroom breaks, busy hands digging through my purse… my heart wrestles with patience and frustration as I try to find a peaceful way to manage them while receiving the Message that is clear tonight… “Create in me a pure heart.” The irony is not lost on me.
 
I feel a breath of relief sneak out when the service ends, my tension subsiding, until Emma asks if she can have ashes on her forehead. Kendall catches on quickly, and they are both bouncing and asking and my head is spinning. Our church has never done ashes before – this was the first time – so I don’t know if they are “too young” or if that even matters. I end up settling on “yes” because I don’t have the energy to say “no” more than once. So we all receive our ashes and walk out the door.

The night, unfortunately, only gets crazier from there, and I find myself in an all-too-familiar scenario… smiling and waving and attempting to appear calm as I hold quick conversations with friends and simultaneously search for my girls – one on wheels and two that are purposely hiding and running from me. The more I give them “the eyes,” the more they giggle. I am now literally chasing them, and I know that any efforts to appear calm are futile. The gig is up.

As we pour into the truck, snow boots stomping, doors slamming, "the church lecture" begins. It’s the same lecture I give every Sunday morning, and the one I am sick of repeating because it clearly doesn’t penetrate. The words come out stronger than they should; my tone harsh and condemning. The apologies and sniffles from the back seat fill my ears, but the pure heart I asked for just isn’t there. I am angry and embarrassed, and we drive the rest of the way in silence.

When we arrive home, obedience comes in an attempt to win back my favor. Teeth are brushed and pajamas are on in record time, but before tucking them in, I make a quick pit stop in the laundry room. Exhaustion rises up as I pick up scattered gloves and scarves, but then I quickly catch my reflection in the mirror. And that's when I see them... the ashes.

They are black but not permanent, reminding me of the sins I am going to try and purge the next 40 days to honor the Savior who died for me. They are there to encourage me to turn those sins into beauty – the easy sins and the secret ones and the ones I can’t seem to shake and find myself apologizing for again and again and again.

They are also, I now remember, the same ashes my daughters received. The same ashes His daughters received.

Oh, Father, forgive me.  We are the same.

Humbled, I re-enter their room with the pure heart I asked for, and I embrace and apologize and explain with more love than the first time. We say prayers and repent, and while it is not perfect, it is better. Emma is at peace, but Kendall is still upset. I remind myself that dwelling is not always helpful, so I say goodnight and turn off the light.

As I head for the door, Emma asks for one more kiss.  Mustering up one last ounce of patience, I walk over to her bed and bend down to kiss her forehead, only to realize the ashes she received are no longer there. She has already wiped them clean.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Four Years

Today is "the day" -- or, really "that night," -- we found out about Brooklyn's diagnosis. I always know when it's coming, but I always have to look up the date. I think that's a good thing... remembering but not obsessing...reflecting but not reliving. It's all good for the soul.

What's funny is that most people would probably think that I count this day as a turning point in my life. But, honestly, I don't. The turning point was the next morning. "That night" I was vulnerable and heartbroken and engulfed in grief, but the next day... that was when God gently unwrapped me from His arms just enough to open my heart to hear His promise: "It's going to be okay." And if you have followed our story at all, you know that He has kept that promise.

I realize that there is an elephant on this blog. I've tried to bring it to light before, but often stopped out of fear. But interestingly enough, today is the day I feel like it's time to talk about it.

Many times I have talked about "God's plan" on this blog. How we would trust it and follow it. But did God actually plan for my child to be paralyzed? Did God really want my child to be disabled? How could that possibly be His plan?

I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I think God desires us to be whole and perfect, but in this lifetime, that's just not possible. That's what Heaven is all about. I also know He hates suffering and that He loves my daughter far more than I ever could. He also loves me and wants me to go through this life full of joy and hope. These things I believe with every ounce of my being.

I have my own thoughts about the "why" and "how" Spina Bifida was brought into our lives. But every time I find my mind going there, I have to remind myself that Faith isn't about having the answers. In fact, it's the exact opposite. It's not even about figuring out His plan. It is about trusting in His outcome and then waiting as He unveils His goodness and glory in your life.

When you look at our little girl, I truly hope you see that goodness, that glory. I know I do. Even though the plan is still unclear and one I wouldn't have chosen, there is still happiness and hope and beauty and above all else, love.

So.much.love.

That, my friends, is God's plan. For Brooklyn's life, for my life, and for yours.


Four years ago, I had no idea where we'd end up, but I knew that with God, it was, in fact, going to be okay. He never said it wouldn't hurt, but He did tell me that with Him, there can be joy. Who else could turn something so devastating into something so absolutely good?!

That night, as I sat in the darkness, sobbing and pleading with God, I asked Him THE question:  

"Why?"

Almost immediately, I remembered Jesus. His own son...on the cross. Perfect and whole, yet tortured and killed. It makes no sense to us why God would choose this path for His son and, really, for Himself. But we all know what came out of that. The ultimate ashes to beauty story. Surely if He could turn the ultimate suffering into salvation, He could turn our story into one of beauty.

So far He has done just that, and I have no doubt He will continue to do so. That is the plan I believe in. That is the plan I speak of on this blog and the one I will stand up for and tell the world about for as long as He allows.

Whether you believe in God or not, He is there. He is working in your life, and He offers you the same plan that He offers me. The choice is whether or not you let go enough of yourself and your plan to see it, to embrace it, and to live it.

Four years ago, I chose to accept His plan, and it was the best decision I ever made. I didn't choose for my daughter to have Spina Bifida, but I did choose God. And by doing so, I also chose joy and hope and all the good things this life can offer.

Even when our plans change, God is good. All the time, He is good. In fact, that is about the only thing we can plan on.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Grateful

With two arms planted firmly on the handles of her walker, she pushes herself up. Again and again. I  look down at her feet.

She is jumping.

The smile on her face is as contagious as her giggle, and I find myself reaching for my phone to capture this moment. A moment that feels wonderful and victorious.

She is jumping.

I look at this little three-year-old -- full of life and personality and plenty of sass -- and part of me wishes that I could go back to that new Mom of three who was so full of fear and uncertainty. The one sitting in the waiting room, desperately searching for the nurse to tell her that her baby was awake and in recovery. The woman carefully bathing her child so that she wouldn't get water in her leg casts. The Mom wishing she had x-ray vision to prove that a shunt was working properly. The one who grieved over the harsh reality of a wheelchair...

I want to tell her that it is going to be okay. That most days, it will seem like life is just as it should be. That sometimes jumping looks different, but that different is okay. Different is good. Different can be beautiful.

I want to tell her that life isn't black and white, but it isn't gray either. It is colorful. It is walking with braces. It is rolling in a wheelchair. It is scooching across the floor. It is jumping with a walker.

And although what is happening today might not be happening tomorrow, there is still joy and a whole lot of love and a life that is more fulfilling than she ever dreamed.

I want to tell her that those three sisters she worried about...that they would be happy and in love. That they would still wrestle and fight but care deeply and help without hesitation. That their lights would shine a little brighter when they were together.

But another part me wonders if that Mom would have really appreciated the journey had she seen the outcome. I wonder if she would have felt the joy of the small victories had she not experienced the trials. If she would have seen the beauty, if not for the pain.

I look back, and I know that this path isn't one I would have chosen for that Mom or for that precious little baby. But I also see the many, many blessings that came out of all of it, and when I realize that, this Mom -- the one right here, now -- can only be grateful.





Thank you, God, for today. The pain of yesterday isn't gone and the uncertainty of the future still lingers, but today...today, she is jumping. 

Thank you.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Year of the Coach

We put way too much work into this year's Halloween not to post of few pix. I looked up several wheelchair ideas on Pinterest a while back, and once Brooklyn declared she wanted to be a "pink princess" this year, well, I knew this was going to be The Year of the Coach. :)

Thankfully, it wasn't as hard to make as it seemed, and it was actually very inexpensive. I am also super grateful that the rain managed to stop long enough to give the kids a good hour of trick or treating. It wasn't looking good earlier in the day.

So there you have it: a pink princess and her carriage -- and two big sisters who were more than happy to make sure she got all of her treats!





Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Harder

In the early days of Brooklyn's diagnosis, I wrote. I wrote to heal, and I wrote to release. And I only wrote when I felt led. Somewhere in the middle of that, I started to feel obligated to write, and I hated that. I already have a writing job. This...this was for me. It was also for my family and anyone else who cared to read it, but, really it was for me. For a while, I stopped writing on here because it wasn't helping anymore. In fact, it was making everything confusing.

But today I am going to write for me again. Because I am ready, but mostly, because I need to.

As most of you know, Brooklyn turned 3 years old last week. As in, THREE YEARS OLD. That absolutely blows my mind. It amazes me how far we've come -- how far she has come -- and how life-changing and inspirational these last few years have been. So many questions have been answered; so many unknowns now known. Some of those answers have supplied more joy than I have ever experienced, but some of those answers have been heartbreaking. Some prayers have been answered the way I had hoped, but some of them have been answered in ways I have yet to understand.

It's interesting the way life goes on for everyone else after your world has been rocked. That is just the way it is, I know, but sometimes it is hard to come to terms with that fact when you are the one still dealing with the aftershocks. Most days, you can handle it and maybe even feel blessed by the impact, but there are days -- sometimes, weeks -- when the impact feels a little heavy and scary and maybe even a little unfair.

We are gearing up for Brooklyn to start preschool in a few weeks, which means school supplies and school clothes and lots of excitement. But it also means buying special leggings that will accommodate her braces, special backpacks that will securely attach to her wheelchair, and paperwork that requires me to write things like "paralyzed," "disabled," and "IEP." It also means preparing my heart for the moment when my 3 year old rolls up to a bus and waves goodbye -- a moment that feels way too soon, yet is necessary for the life I want for her.

That is hard.

And as I come to terms with all of this, she, too, is coming to terms with it. We have been talking a lot about her being a big girl now that she is 3 years old. We have ditched the binkie at night and getting ready to transition to a new big girl bed. There has also been lots of talk about big girl preschool and even a big girl dance class. All good stuff.

But then last week, she asked me on two different occasions if being a big girl meant she could stand all by herself..."like Emma."

Oh.my.heart.

Then, this morning, she said this to me...

"Mommy, can you get it for me? I can't reach it. I can't stand."

As her words -- "I can't stand" -- played over and over in my head, I found myself responding, "Yes you can, baby. You just need a little help."

But you know what? She can't stand. I know that. My heart knows that. And, now, she knows it too.

That is hard.

I have spent the last few years trying to pretend that this was getting easier. That I could do this...that we were going to rock this. But it isn't easy. It is hard, and honestly, it is getting harder. Physically and emotionally -- for me and for her -- it is getting harder.

And for some reason, I just needed to write that today. My heart needed to admit it, and I needed to also express it as a reminder to myself that saying it is getting harder doesn't indicate a failure on my end...it just is what it is right now. History has shown me that God will get me through this, and in the meantime, there is no pretending necessary.

Like any mother, I am doing the best I can to give Brooklyn and Emma and Kendall what they need. And like any mother, I am also going to have seasons when it feels harder. Those seasons will come and go... and they will come and go and come and go.

Life doesn't usually get easier. I think you just get a little better at it with every step you take. Some steps will come easy, and some steps will take more effort. Sometimes you will fall, and sometimes you will come to a point where those steps are just too hard. As my rock star is teaching me, in those harder moments, you simply need to ask for help. That doesn't make you any less strong or any less able; it just makes you determined and that much closer to your destination.

We will get there, I know. She will get there, I know. But until then, will you say a little prayer for us as we navigate this tougher terrain? I coveted your prayers in our early "hard days," so I am humbly asking for those prayers again today.  Because I am ready to accept them, but mostly, because I need them.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Philippians 4:6 NIV