Monday, June 08, 2015

Everything


Ever since Brooklyn started talking, we’ve had a “rule” that she is not allowed to say the words “I can’t.” If something is too hard for her to do on her own, she needs to try one more time, and if she still can’t do it, she simply needs to ask for help.

I also made a promise to myself that I would never say “no” or make the decision to bow out of something because of Brooklyn’s disability. That was never a good reason. Somehow, some way, we would make it work.

My goal has always been to show Brooklyn that she could do anything she wanted. That if there was a will, there was a way. I wanted her to see life as a constant adventure, not a constant disappointment.

This strategy has worked well for our girl, and it really hasn’t been that hard to “teach.” God has made her feisty and motivated, and I’ve never really had to push her too hard. From the start, it was clear that Brooklyn was going places, regardless of what test results showed. Her abilities far exceed any of our specialists’ expectations. She has, and continues to be, the exception in more ways than one.





As her mom, this makes me extremely proud. I love her spirit, and I love the way she approaches life. I love when specialists tell me how amazed they are, and I love that her teachers constantly tell me what a joy she is to be around. My daughter is strong and happy, and in her eyes, she has no limits.

This is exactly what I wanted for her.

There is only one little problem: She actually has limits. 

And as it turns out, so do I.

This is a lesson God has to keep teaching me, and I have a feeling it’s a lesson most of our generation needs to learn.

Somewhere along the way, we learned that we should push and push and push until we reach some level of super power and only then, maybe, can we feel as if we’ve reached success. Most of us, though, never really reach a level where we are satisfied, so we keep raising the bar, taking on more and more until we either get to the point that we are neglecting all of the good things in our life, or we break and then live in some deep sense of failure and shame.

I watch Brooklyn, and I see her determination and desire to do everything her sisters are doing. So far, I have been able to help her do those things. But as she gets older (and heavier), we are coming face to face with the reality that she and I are both physically limited in what we can allow her to do.  

We can still try—we will always try—but sometimes when there is a will, there still isn’t a way. Sometimes “no” is the answer, and you know what? That is okay.

We don’t have to be able to do everything.

And, better yet, no one expects us to do everything. It is healthy, even necessary, to set limits for ourselves. It is also healthy, even necessary, to admit that we have limits.

Because we actually can’t do everything.

This sounds a little silly, I know. Obviously, we can’t do everything. But I truly think that most of us walk around believing the lie that everyone else is, in fact, doing everything, and that somehow, we should be too.

For almost 10 years, I have juggled raising kids and working from home. The convenience and flexibility are wonderful, and I have been able to blow bubbles and help with school parties and be home when my girls get off the bus. But I won’t lie: Most of those years I ran on fumes, sacrificing things like sleep and health, and it eventually took its toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

About three years ago, I pushed myself way too far, and I almost lost “it.” And by “it,” I mean any sense of joy in my kids, my husband, my work, and most everything else in my life.

I was miserable.

Right at my breaking point, I decided that I didn’t want to live like this anymore. I wanted joy in my life, and I wanted to just.stop.pushing.

That required the hard work of adding necessary things to my life and letting go of some of the less necessary things. None of these steps were easy for me, and in all honestly, I did it more for my family at the time than for myself. I knew they deserved the best parts of me, and I needed to find those things again.

So I took action. I went and saw a counselor for a few months to talk through some hard things. I also hired a babysitter who allowed me to get my work done during normal hours of the day. And as much as I am still a little embarrassed to admit this, I have (more recently) hired a cleaning crew to come to my home once a month because I just can’t get to it all.

I also started working out again, seeking more time with God, and going to bed at a normal(ish) hour. I started saying “no” if I was asked to take on something I knew was too much, even if there was a nice paycheck attached to it.

I realized that at the end of the day, I only had 100% to offer, not 10,000%. I realized that saying yes to something took from something else. It’s simple math, of course, but somehow in the midst of push, push, push, I forgot how to add—and subtract.



Here’s the truth: If you think for one second that someone in your life (or on Facebook or Pinterest) is doing it all, it just isn’t true. They either have help, or they are probably running on fumes and/or miserable.

I know not everyone can afford to hire a cleaning crew or turn down a paycheck. And trust me, we have been there. But I think all of us could probably afford to say “no” a little more, and I’m almost certain most of us could use a few more hours of sleep.

Saying “no” does not equal failure. A strong person knows herself well enough to set limits and abide by them. She is confident enough to admit weakness and ask for help from God and from other people in her life.

In this new season with Brooklyn, I can see that this is something I am still working through. My instinct is to always push. I want Brooklyn to achieve far more than this world expects from her—and far more than she even thinks she’s capable of—but I also don’t want her feeling a deep sense of failure or shame when she can’t do something. As I learned firsthand, this is no way to live.

The balance is tricky, and she may have to learn the hard way, like I did. In fact, I am already watching my older girls reach limits in their own ways, and several times I have went to bed in tears over their disappointment.

Limits are hard, especially when it comes to our children. We want everything for our kids.

But everything just isn’t possible.




My job, as their mom, is to always encourage them to try, but more importantly, to provide a soft place for them to land when they reach a limit. I need to remind them that “no” is okay and that limits are good. Disappointment forces us to grow in ways accomplishment never would have allowed. 

Above all else, I need to remind them that they are not loved because of what they can or can’t do, but because of what Christ did for them. Their worth does not come from this world or their own abilities. It comes from God and His ability to work all things for our good and His glory.

I also need to provide space in my life to remind myself of the same truth. That means saying “no,” and it also means not feeling bad about saying “yes” to myself once in a while.

There is a reason most of us are exhausted. There is a reason many of us are living in shame. We are doing too much. We are forgetting that limits are a very important part of growth. Instead of hitting our knees, we are climbing ladders so high that they are buckling underneath us.

We need people to lean against. We need a solid foundation to stand on.

As it turns out, we weren’t designed to do everything.

That, my friends, is what God is for.




But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, May 29, 2015

In Faith

It's been such a long time since I've written here, I barely know where to start. It seems odd and awkward to dive in without some sort of "I'm back" declaration, but history proves that may or may not be true. This time, though, it's different. Or at least I think it is different.

I hope it is.

Here's the truth: I want to write here. In fact, I do write here -- in my head -- almost every day. I have posts floating around my mind and my heart that get hashed out as I drive or in the shower, but they never seem to make it on the screen for many reasons. A lot of those reasons revolve around time, energy, and children that want to be fed, but after a year of self reflection, I have realized the real reason is fear.

Fear of failure, fear of not being enough, fear of judgment, and I'll just go ahead and throw it out there:

Fear of doing what I think God is calling me to do. 

Wow. It feels good to admit that.

For about 3 years now, I've felt God's nudge to write and speak for Him. I've never shared that on here because it made me feel uncomfortable. In fact, the whole idea made me uncomfortable.

Part of that is because I already have a writing career. I have worked hard, built up a steady stream of clients, and even took a few risks -- all of which have paid off. Surely, God wouldn't want me to give all of that up.

And then, of course, there is the fact that I feel totally unworthy of the job. Who am I to be teaching, preaching, or pointing anyone else to God when I can barely get my Bible study done or go 20 minutes without losing it with my kids? Anyone peeking through our windows would know right away that I am no different than any other mom just trying to get through the day. I yell too much and often drown my sorrows in a jar of peanut butter. My kids run wild and throw Barbies at each other. Our family is more likely to watch a movie together than to sit down and play a game because it is only then that there is NO FIGHTING. The struggle to get anyone around here to listen or help or care sends me to my knees multiple times a day. Clearly, this does not describe a woman with any sort of authority.

Perhaps my biggest hang up, though, is that others might also see me as unworthy. Or, worse, that they would classify me as self-righteous, narcissistic, or hypocritical...maybe all three.

At first, I allowed these fears to silence me. I stopped writing because deep down, I was afraid that all of those things were true. What were my motives? Was this really a "calling" on my life, or was it my own selfish dream? How do you know for sure what you are "meant" to do?

God allowed those questions to eat at me enough to finally do something about them. Even though I stayed silent, I have spent the last year praying and really seeking God's direction. I've done a lot of hard heart work that has been both exhausting and liberating. I have opened old wounds, opened my Bible, and opened my hands to both release and accept God's plan for my life.

And so here I am.

I am not here because I am qualified or because I think I am special or to become famous. I am here because I think I am supposed to be, which is really just another way of saying I still have no clue what I am doing or where I am headed. I am just showing up. That, as shaky as it feels, is my plan.

I have decided that Faith requires you to step out, even when you don't see the path ahead. Faith, if it is real, is uncertain and scary and risky. It is making the choice to believe more in who He is than who we aren't.

So little by little, I am taking steps. This was one of them, and I'll be sharing more as I go.

I may fail. I may be judged. I may even do it all wrong. But I will do it in Faith and that, I know, means I am already on the right path...wherever it leads.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When the Enemy Whispers, “It’s Your Fault”


I know the right answer. I know what I should feel. This was the plan. His plan. I had nothing to do with it. I couldn’t have prevented it, and I couldn’t have changed it.

She was born this way, and she is beautiful just as she is. She is fearfully and wonderfully made.

This I know full well.

Yet there are days, nights, when the enemy sneaks in and whispers, “It’s your fault.” Most days, my armor is strong and I deflect the lies with Truth, in my soul and if necessary, out loud.

But there are days, nights, when my humanness takes over and I wonder if he is right. If there is something I could have done had I known. Or, worse, if this had to happen for me to trust my Savior fully.

My daughter is four and amazing and fighting the obstacles life has given her with an inspiring mix of innocence and drive that only He could have placed in her. She takes this life and runs with it, even if she needs a little help to get there. Her spirit has changed me forever. I have grown, surrendered, and embraced this new life – this life of a special needs mom – and I am better for it. In ways I never expected, I am better for it.

For this, I am grateful, but a mama is never really thinking of herself. So in the midst of all of the blessings, there is a small voice that reminds me that my gain is her loss. That some of the greatest victories of my soul came with a price paid by my own daughter.

Right now, she is joyful and content, but I have seen her noticing the differences. I can see the questions stirring around in her head, not quite able to find their way out. With a cracked voice and heart, I sing His promises into her soul, reminding her that she is loved and that her worth is found in God and His special design for her. That she is whole in Him. I believe it and she does too, for now. But she is only four, and I know this journey –- one that has more to do with her heart than her body -- has only just begun.

So in those moments when dark murmurs sneak in and my flesh fails, I enter a space I know He is desperately trying to cover. I crack open the door, and I give in to the question that is always lurking.

What if?

What if I had known I was pregnant...acted like I was pregnant. What if I took the prenatals they said could have prevented it all? What if I had more faith and didn’t need brain surgeries, physical disabilities, and a life of unknowns to fully rely on a God I always knew was there?

Could the blessings of a mother have been found without the sacrifices of her daughter?

The heaviness of it all forces me to my knees, and like always, I find the answer –- the mystery of the answer -- at the foot of the cross, and I wonder if He asks Himself the same question.

Could the blessings of a Father have been found without the sacrifice of his Son?

The mystery of the answer, it has become our connection; a connection that is deeper than it ever was, leaving me with an emotion somewhere between utter humility and eternal clarity. It feels both wrong and right to compare our stories, but then I remember that He intended it to be all of our stories.

Not the pain, but the victory. It is His. It is mine. It is hers.

It is all of ours.

So I push out the murmurs with the powerful, deafening Truth, and I slam the door, hoping that one of these days it will stay shut, locking out the lies and forcing the whispers into silence.

Or that one of these days, they will finally fall on deaf ears.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Answered Prayers!

I apologize that I didn't post this sooner...it's been quite a week. But I have some good news about our Brooklyn! Thanks to our amazing God, we were able to CANCEL Brooklyn's shunt surgery that was scheduled for this past Wednesday. Several tests on Tuesday showed that God heard our prayers. In fact, Brooklyn's MRI showed a slight DECREASE in spinal fluid! Thank you, Jesus! Although we are still not 100% positive that Brooklyn's shunt is fully functioning, the decreased fluid in her spine and stable fluid levels in her head are good indicators that our girl is doing just fine. She also continues to show no major symptoms. Our neurosurgeon feels strongly that intervening now would cause more harm than good, and Jeff and I agree. As much as we want to be proactive, Spina Bifida is more of a "wait and see" journey. We won't lie... this is the hardest part. But we are following what Brooklyn's body is telling us, trusting our neurosurgeon, and putting our faith in the ultimate Healer. We believe with all of our hearts that He is guiding our journey and will make it clear if and when we need to intervene.

Brooklyn also had a series of urology tests this past week. The preliminary results look good, but we aren't quite out of the weeds yet. We will meet with our urologist this week to make sure there haven't been any major changes in Brooklyn's bowel or bladder. If there have been major changes, we could be dealing with tethered cord surgery instead of shunt replacement (worst case scenario)...but for now, we are just thankful for the good news we received this week. We will keep you posted as we know more.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers! They are powerful!!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Waiting

Many of you have been checking in on Brooklyn, which touches me more than you know. And since so many of you are praying, I wanted to give you a quick update.

Overall, Brooklyn is doing well. Right now, we are in wait and see mode until her doctor appointments on December 9. That is when we will do more MRIs and scans to see if we need to perform the surgery on December 10.

Some good (helpful) news... she recently had an eye appointment that confirmed NO pressure behind her eyes, which is a really good thing. If there was pressure, we'd definitely have to intervene with surgery. Knowing that there is no pressure building in her head was a huge relief and gave us some peace of mind as we wait on the Lord this next week. It also helps that our little rock star is as spunky as ever and seems to be feeling just fine. I keep telling myself that is she is joyful, I should be too! Her smile and all of your prayers are helping us stay strong.

We are so blessed to have a community of prayer warriors going through this with us, and we promise to keep you posted as we know more!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Move

If you think of it, can you say a prayer for our girl? We have been questioning whether or not her shunt has been working for some time now, and a recent series of tests revealed that her shunt is indeed not draining the fluid properly. We have adjusted the settings as a last resort, but if there is no improvement over the next month, we will have to intervene with surgery. My heart and my head are wrestling with fear and trust, and so I know the only helpful thing to do right now is to pray and to ask for prayer.

We know this place -- this waiting -- but it isn't any easier this time around. Not when she is 4 and talking and such an enormous part of our lives. Not when we have to hope that everything is okay, yet be aware just in case it isn't. Not when she is old enough to tell me she's scared.

It's been a good, healthy 2-year run, and I know there are always bumps. Always. This one just feels a little more like a mountain.

But we know what to do. We cling to the Truth, we ask God to move that mountain, and we try with all our hearts to believe that He will.

"Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:23-24 ESV

Monday, July 14, 2014

We Need Your Help

Okay, friends. I have a favor...and an opportunity. One of the biggest heartbreaks in our journey has been watching Brooklyn get left out while other kids run off and play. At our home, at play dates, at church, at school...it literally makes my heart ache and my stomach drop. Every.single.time. Yes, exclusion is a reality when you are physically limited, but we can make it better. I have to believe we can make it better.

A few days ago, I posted a photo of Brooklyn and the girls playing at an all-inclusive (wheelchair-accessible) playground. It is located near our home and can only be used after school hours, but it is awesome. ALL THREE OF MY GIRLS loved it. After I shared a photo on Facebook, many of our friends liked the photo and agreed that this should be all parks. One of our new Spina Bifida friends also saw my post and ended up going there a few days later with her 6-year-old son who also uses a wheelchair. According to her, this was the first time she watched BOTH of her sons enjoy a playground TOGETHER. THE FIRST TIME. It's just not right, friends.



While I really feel ALL playgrounds should be inclusive, I know that change starts small. One playground at a time. And here's where you come in. We have an amazing opportunity RIGHT NOW to support the building of a BRAND NEW all-inclusive playground right here in my community. Thanks to my friend Keith and all the folks at the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association (LWSRA), Brooklyn and all of her friends are going to get brand new place to feel included and, even better, TO HAVE FUN!! To do one of their biggest kid jobs safely and ANY TIME THEY PLEASE!

So I am asking you to donate. I am asking you to skip the Starbucks (maybe 2!) and help. As a family, we haven't really raised money for our cause yet. I've been waiting for God's nudge, and I am getting that nudge right now. We do have plans to do something else very soon (STAY TUNED!), but this LWSRA project is just so important that I am putting all pride aside and asking you to make a difference -- for Brooklyn and for so many other deserving kids out there.

I have already put my money where my heart is, and I hope you can do the same. No amount is too small, and you can even make a monthly donation. The goal is $300,000 and as you will see, we have a LONG way to go. But I have faith that we can do this. I have to believe we can do this.

Don't all kids deserve the right to play?!?


(You can donate by clicking here.)