Image

Image

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Halfway there

Every session when we sign Ben in at Brain Balance, we see how many sessions we have brought him in for.  I was shocked today to see that we are really at the halfway marker.  WHAT!?!?!  No way have we been doing this for over three months.  No way have we been back and forth to Fort Wayne over 35 times in that time frame.  There is just. no. way.

It has been a very discouraging three weeks for our family.  For the first part, we had struggled with the Brain Balance Center about a month ago.  Ben's coaches were changing every session, which meant that every session he was getting out of doing a lot of work through his passive-aggressive, sneaky ways.  Fort Wayne is way too far away for us to drive so that Ben can goof off for an hour.  Ben wasn't really establishing a relationship with any one coach, and if you've ever been in early childhood education, you know that the relationship a child has with their teacher is critical.  I called the director and asked that this be remedied, but the solution has been more of a struggle to enact than we had anticipated. 

It's taken three weeks for Ben to now have a coach for all of his sessions that he really connects with.  She's not afraid of making him work, and she knows how to call his bluff.  Not only that, she volunteered to be Ben's coach.  Asked to take him for every session.  And is now committed to helping Ben get to where he needs to be.  This is a huge encouragement, and we are pushing forward with her, thrilled that she has taken a personal interest in our son and his goals.

In the meantime, the homefront has gotten increasingly stressful.  Ben has been doing great with his specialized diet, but he fights us every day on the exercises, trying to cut corners and do the least amount of work possible.  Yes, Mom, I do realize that this is my consequence for years of driving you crazy in homeschool.  David and I are trying to be creative in how we motivate Ben to do the work, but it drives me bananas that we have to have the same fights every. stinking. day even though he knows that he will have to do the work regardless.  We're tired of this.  He's tired of this.  We're all tired of this. 

Today Ben was crying huge crocodile tears as he mourned that Laura and Emily were going to my mom's for a playdate with their cousins and Ben never gets to go to playdates anymore.  And it's the truth.  Three days a week, that boy has to be in Fort Wayne.  One day a week we normally are going to doctor/dentist/specialist appointments for him or for one of the girls.  And the other day of the week often holds MOPS or errands.  I want to give him a playdate. I just don't know where to squeeze it in.  I know he's lonely (imagine that in our house!), but it's hard to know how to solve that problem when the schedule has NO breathing room.

We've also seen an increase in the number of fits that Ben is having.  Any time a decision doesn't go his way, he doesn't get what he wants, or one of the other children gets something he doesn't, Ben breaks down.  There's screaming, crying, flailing, and sometimes throwing.  A response I would expect from a 3 year old, but definitely not from a 5 year old.  Add to that the fact that he has moved backwards in some of his physical goals, and this momma's going a bit cuckoo.  We were told that there would be a second struggle period, and I think we've arrived.

While I want to be positive (we aren't where we started!), I want to be real for the sake of anyone out there who is considering this program.  It's not a cure-all.  It's a boatload of work.  And at the halfway marker, we still don't know what life is going to look like on the other end.  Also, there are issues in Ben's life... heart issues... that are becoming more apparent now that physical barriers have come down.   I know a huge part of our struggle is that Ben hasn't come to a place of surrender with Jesus Christ. 

All that said, thank you to those of you who still faithfully lift up our family through this season.  Because that's what it definitely is... a season.  A period where we are stretching our strength for the greater good and praying that we don't lose more than we gain.  If you're still on that prayer team, would you pray specifically for Ben on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday?  That he would do his best to obey his coach so he can get the most out of his sessions.  And would you pray for David and me?  That we would surrender ourselves to Jesus so that Ben has the parents he needs to finish this journey well.  And would you pray that Ben would come to understand and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior?  I know every problem in our life isn't miraculously solved when we come to faith in Christ, but having spent so much time with Ben in the last four months, I see so clearly that he needs the Holy Spirit just as much as his rebellious, broken momma.


And thanks.  Thank for reading this.  For praying.  For supporting us with your encouragement and for wanting the best for Ben right along with us.  We are blessing beyond measure even when we feel buried under the weight of all that life is for us right now.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reading to Write

(FYI: This post was written back in early fall.  These are the books that fed my mind over the summer.  I definitely need to write another post about this fall/winter's good reads!)

I've noticed something.  There are seasons of my life where the words just do not come.  Sometimes it's the incredible pain of living that just hits the brakes on my train of thought, but more often than not it's that I'm not reading.  I'm not letting fresh words wash over my brain.  I'm not delighting in a story.  I'm not feeling the power of others' words in my life.  This makes my own writing seem unimportant and just... well... flat.

Perhaps that's why this may be a writing season.  It's been a spring and summer of words!  Now I know what you're thinking... How on earth do I claim to be a busy mom but still have time to read stuff just for my own enjoyment?  The answer: I'm a nursing mom.  And due to the fact that I have a baby that likes to eat in a distraction-free environment, I'm alone and able to read for HOURS of my day.  It's delightful.  And I'm pretty sure when this sweet baby girl is done nursing, I will go into deep mourning for my totally justifiable reading time.  For now, I'm just enjoying what I've got.

Also, I need to give credit where credit is due.  This summer's ridiculous number of books read is brought to you by Kindle.  Yep.  This book-sniffing, pages-loving girl caved because I just can't manage to feed a baby, balance a book, and turn pages all at the same stinkin' time.  And that's my life, ya'll.  Teacher Man's totally perfect birthday present to me this year was a Kindle Paperwhite, and thanks to Overdrive (our library's ebook resource) I have read far more than I ever have with any of our other babies.  Plus, I can read in the dark with my Kindle... a must for those middle-of-the-night feedings.  If you have a reader friend who is having a baby, get her a Kindle.  You'll be her new best friend.  For reals.

Last summer and this summer, I've gotten some GREAT book suggestions from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide.  But this year, I need to be honest.  Some of these books, I would rather not have read.  I love great writing.  Clear voices.  Quirky characters.  Unexpected endings. And I get hooked.  When I start a book, I am an unsettled mess until I find out how it ends. But I'm also realizing that I'm an HSP (highly sensitive person), and a lot of the content found in modern narratives affects me negatively.  I'm not saying that evil and raw don't exist.  I'm just saying that I don't want to dwell on it in my "free" time.  For me, there's enough awful in reality that I don't need to manufacture it for entertainment.  And as an HSP, I tend to absorb and use the vocabulary I read.  Sometimes this is great skill; however, certain books have made me wish there was such a thing as brainwash.  Wouldn't it be great to have your brain feel minty fresh?  That said, I straight up wish I hadn't read some of these books.  It just wasn't the best choice for me.

I am convinced that we will be the same people next year that we are this year but for the books we read and the people we meet.  Ugh.  I have no desire to stay the same.  None.  So there's my motivation for reading great non-fiction.  The more I read, the more I understand myself, those around me, and my place in the Kingdom.  Worth. every. minute.

Lies Women Believe  by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
This was my second foray into this book (my first since becoming a mom), and I have to say the first few chapters about lies we believe about God, sin, and ourselves broke me right where I most needed breaking.  When it comes right down to it, I cannot say I'm on board with every word of this book, but there is SO much more right than wrong here.  If you haven't read it, pick it up.

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
I get it.  It's an old classic for a reason.  The concept of remembering God's presence with us in every act is HUGE, and I'm glad I read it.  With so many moments of my days being filled with the mundane, it was a timely read to remember God is in all those moments.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
I cannot believe I'd never read anything by Brene until this summer.  Incredibly insightful, research-based writing about coming to peace with who you've been created to be.  Her words resonated with me, and her research on vulnerability is life-changing.  Her most recent book Rising Strong is now on my must-read list.

The Real Thing: Lessons on Life and Love from a Wedding Reporter's Notebook by Ellen McCarthy
In a world where committed relationships are not the norm, this writer's perspectives on love and marriage are enlightening.  After interviewing hundreds of engaged and married couples, she shares the fascinating pearls of wisdom gleaned.  An easy, breezy read that inspired me to give even more to the man I love.  Disclaimer: This is not a Christian book, and couples from all walks of life were interviewed.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Loved the concept.  Bill and a friend take on the Appalachian Trail together in this memoir.  For those of you who love camping and roughing it, it will make you laugh out loud and then be thankful that you are reading this book in the A/C of your semi-sterile home.  However, the language of this book made me wish I'd had the self-control to leave it unfinished.  Ugh.. ever become way too obsessed with the adventure going on in your book?  If you're an HSP, you'd probably better leave this one in the woods.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
It took me two summers to finally get through the whole thing, but it was well worth it.  A year in the life of a family who seeks to grow or know the farmer behind every. last. thing. they put in their mouths.  Incredible.  I learned a ton about what I'm eating, why I need to consider change, and the richness that's in store for those who are willing to support local agriculture.  Great writing.  Fascinating research.  Hilarious anecdotes.  A must for foodies.

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst
I look back fondly at last year as the year of burnout.  Pregnant. Struggling with chronic back pain. Three kids. And tons of commitments.  I needed to read this badly.  I needed Lysa to remind me that every "yes" means that I am saying "no" to something else I could be doing with my time.  Right now, those "no's" in my life allow me to do what only I can do in this world, and that feels pretty awesome.


Okay, are you read for the fiction?  I thought I should write down the non-fiction first because, ya know... I'm pretty proud of the fact that I actually had the focus to read something without plot twists.  It's pretty stinking amazing, especially if you know my addiction to a good story.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Yep. I'm the last person on the planet to read these books.  Let me start by saying that I was raised in a conservative home.  I'm sure I could have petitioned to read these, but I just wasn't that motivated.  Fast-forward to my present-day life with a 6 year old who is reading me out of house and home. I have a strong suspicion my little reader is going to want to pick these up, and for all the reasons that I've been given to not give these books to my children, I've encountered others who have said the opposite so I felt that I just needed to read them for myself.  I know why everyone's addicted.  Really.  Because I lay in my hospital bed in labor with Emily, reading book 6 because I was NOT going to wait for the ending just because I was having a contraction.  So much great content, but books 4-7 are definitely for older readers... especially HSP readers.  Intense.  Artful.  And OH MY WORD... I don't know how you all waited for years for the series to finish.  I binge read these like I was watching a good Netflix series.  We can argue about whether it's appropriate for children to read books about wizards, and I don't think there is any book (minus the Bible) that everyone has to read.  In my opinion though, I think the good far outweighs the questionable in these books.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I'm not a sci-fi reader, but if it's about a used bookstore, I'll read it.  I actually liked this book a lot. Not sure I can really say much about it without ruining the plot twists, but it was a great read.  Modern Mrs. Darcy says that this book is "Harry Potter meets National Treasure." Can't say it better than that.

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett
Great book!  Even though I could only get a paper copy of this book, the writing kept me engrossed so that every awkward page turn while feeding a baby was totally worth it.  If you're an Austen fan, you're gonna love this one!

Still Life by Louise Penny
This is the first of the Inspector Gamache Mysteries, and it hooked me!  Set in an idyllic little town in Canada, the vibrant characters and great writing had me guessing until the very end.  Loved this one so much that I immediately read A Fatal Grace, the second in this series.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Okay, now I know what all the fuss was about.  Fantastic book, weaving true stories of life during World War 2 on the British island of Guernsey with a fictional plot that will have you blazing your way through the pages.  Read this one in 3 days.  I have 4 kids.  That NEVER happens.

Lizzy and Jane  by Katherine Reay
I was almost halfway through this book when I realized that it was Christian fiction, and I say that as a compliment.  Reay is a wonderful storyteller, and her references to Austen only made me love this book more, even though the main story line had nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
For whatever reason, I did NOT like the ending of this book, but it was still one of my favorites from this summer.  Reay is an author to watch, and I'm waiting excitedly for her new book to be released this fall.


Should this list have included more John Piper and Francis Chan?  Probably.  And after my pastor's message on Sunday morning, I made some new commitments to my husband concerning what I will be picking up in the future.  I'm way too much of a sponge.  And I'd rather look up from a book smiling or inspired than embarrassed, no matter how many bestseller lists it's on.  But even amongst the disappointing picks, I feel like I found a few new treasures and have been inspired so now it's your turn.  What have you been reading that has fed your soul or inspired you to action?  Absolutely itching to know!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Explaining Eternity

A very dear friend from our church was promoted to heaven this week.  She was a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother.  She was a friend, a teacher, a nurturer.  She was a window into the heart of God for all who knew her.  She loved people well; and, more specifically, she loved my babies well.  If you are a momma, you know that's a forever kind of bond.

I have four children.  I love each and every one of them, but that doesn't mean that I can express my love for them in the same ways or that it's always easy to love them.  So when this sweet lady came to me years ago and told me that she had a special love for one of my children that is often especially hard to love, I became undone.  In a big way.  Mommas with challenging children, you get this.  You have that child who always gets the so-so or awful report after he spends time with any caregiver.  That child that people seem to tolerate but never really connect with.  It's hard.  And it hurts.  And then someone tells you that this child is their favorite.  That moment seems like a very appropriate time for the ugly cry.  And that person immediately becomes one of your favorites.

I'm feeling the void left by this lady's presence in our church and our home and cannot fathom the grief of her immediate family right now.  I just can't.  They have my prayers and my deepest sympathy, but we are all mourning as a people with hope.  Not a flighty anticipation kind of hope, but a deep-flowing confidence that their mom and grandmother is living whole and happy in the presence of her Savior.  After struggling for the last few months for her daily strength, she is basking in the light of the all-powerful God.  We feel a void, but she feels a wholeness that is unknown to us.

We've struggled to explain this to our children.  This is the first time they have had to say goodbye to someone they loved and who was a part of their daily lives.  After sharing the news of her passing, my oldest was broken, understanding that she would no longer be a part of his life; but my younger two surprised me even more.  After saying they would miss her, they were not sad.  Not a bit.  In fact, they could not understand why the rest of us were struggling to be cheery.  "But, Mom, isn't she in heaven?  Isn't she with Jesus?  That's a good thing."

My children's response to this loss reminds me of an account from Jesus' life...when Jesus gathers the children around him and rebukes His disciples for trying to shoo them away.  Jesus had time for children.  They were His priority, and their hearts were incredibly dear to Him.  These children's faith in the unseen and seen parts of His truth were equal.  Heaven was just as real to them as His hug.  And Jesus told every grown-up, with-it person that was within hearing of Him that day that the Kingdom of God was made of these faith-full ones.

I'd like to pretend that I'm a with-it parent who can explain eternity to my kids in a way that really connects with them, but in fact it's my children who normally teach me what it means to have faith that every word of His Word is reality.  That the world to come is just as real as my stubbed toe and the food on my plate.  And we have hope, knowing the promises of His Word. But in case all this talk of hope makes you think that we've moved on and are done mourning, you're wrong. Grief still hits each of us like a wave we didn't see coming.

And when it hits, we remind ourselves that the loss is ours, but the gain is hers (and all our other loved ones who have died in Christ).  And we are miraculously given strength and comfort to pick up where our loved ones left off, and to continue the journey to eternity.  This world is not our home, but our lives were so much better for knowing this beloved lady.  And we will continue to mourn with hope, awaiting the day that we will embrace again and tell her that she was one of our favorites too.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Invisible Enemies

The title sounds pretty spiritual, but it's not.  Fair warning, ok?

A few weeks ago I took Ben back to his allergist.  With all the foods we were avoiding, I really wanted to get his allergies retested to see what we were actually dealing with as legitimate allergies and which foods were just "sensitivities" that could be instigating behavior issues.  As part of our conversation, I talked with the allergist about Ben's potential for asthma, which I had never even considered before.  Last winter we had a particularly terrible bout with the flu that lasted for weeks, which led the doctor to believe that Ben probably has a cold-induced asthma that makes him super susceptible to respiratory infections.  Our allergist shared a list of symptoms that can indicate a child suffers from asthma, and as he spoke, I started thinking not of Ben but of Caleb!

Caleb missed over 20 days of school last year due to illness.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't alarmed at the time because 1) I was pregnant and didn't have the emotional energy. 2) I had 3 sick kids and was living one day at a time. 3) I was pregnant and didn't have the physical energy. 4) It was kindergarten, and while Caleb had an amazing teacher with lots of fun things planned, I knew he could catch up quickly on the core material he had missed. 5) I was pregnant and didn't have the mental energy.  Did I mention I was pregnant?  Needless to say, I now realized that Caleb needed more preventative care than we had done last year, especially before cold season really set in.  As I left Ben's appointment with a promise of his allergy panel lab results soon, I made an appointment to bring Caleb in to be tested for asthma and allergies.

If you are just catching up with my family, Ben is in a therapy program that requires him to be gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, processed sugar-free, low-soy, and low-corn.  If you're wondering what we eat, think whole 30.  There are very few shelf-stable foods that I can give Ben, and when the nurse called with Ben's allergy testing results, I almost cried.  Drumroll please.........................Ben is allergic to peanuts.  Yep.  Yet another food that has been scratched off our OK-list.  No other foods registered as allergies, but Ben also had a violent reaction to dust mites.

In case you are not a dust mite expert (cause I really didn't care about them until a month ago), I'll just tell you that they are microscopic organisms whose whole life is feeding off of dead human skin cells and pooping.  Darling, right?  They love towels, clothes, mattresses, and pillows.  You'll never be able to kill all of them.  The best you can do is keep the population at bay by putting your mattresses and pillows in protective cases and washing all bedding in hot water once a week.  Oh... and putting all the stuffed animals in the freezer for 6 hours once a week.

So just in case life didn't seem nutty enough, I now wash Ben's bedding once a week in hot water and kidnap every stuffed animal in the house for an extended stay in my deep freeze.  No lie.  Please don't turn to me to stuffed animal protective services.

Apparently God thought I was doing a pretty good job with Ben's allergies because Caleb's allergy testing revealed a violent dust mite allergy as well.  No big deal.  We are now dust mite professionals.  And since we have been taking the bedding precautions, Caleb's ongoing cough has cleared completely and Ben's runny nose is GONE.  I didn't even realize how sickly we had been until I realized how much better the boys were doing a couple weeks into our new laundry/panda-bear-freezing routine.

Despite the fact that I wish we didn't struggle with ANY of this, I am incredibly grateful that we now know our enemies and even if we can't see them, we can wage war pretty effectively.  I never wanted to be "that mom."  You know the one.  Her kids can't have any of the food at the birthday party and carry their own snacks everywhere.  The one who talks about gluten and who cares about the ingredients in everything.  But this is who I need to be right now, and SPOILER ALERT: it's not about me.  It's about my kids and doing what's best for them so they can go out and have the best odds at a healthy childhood.  Not a perfect childhood or even a sheltered existence but what's best for them and the bodies that God gave them.  Selfishly, I'm still praying that dairy and gluten will return to our regularly scheduled programming because.... pizza.  But until then, I'll keep waging war on our invisible enemies and freezing teddy bears.

Another piece of the parenting puzzle solved.  Only 2,372,498 to go until I feel like I know what I'm doing.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Marker: Two Months in at BBC

Christmas break was great.  A breath of fresh air... literally.  Since we had springtime temperatures, I had all the windows open for a good airing out and the kids actually got to play outside without snow pants.  Ben had a LONG break from his sessions at the Brain Balance Center, and Caleb had a two-week break from first grade.  All my babies under one roof.  So good.

I was not ready for Monday morning, and it took an unusual amount of gumption to help Ben through his exercises that morning.  Even though we are definitely seeing an increase in his creativity, focus, and comprehension; he still hates exercises.  (We continue to appreciate prayers for our patience with him during these times.)  Not gonna lie to you.  I hate exercises too.  But here's one of the reasons I still do them:

Ben at two.  I just want to squish him!!!!!
(photo credit: Renee J Photography)

Seriously... what a little man!
(Photo credit: Renee J Photography)

Ben at three.  Good grief.  The cuteness!
(photo credit: Nathan Holloway Photography)

Ben at four. My buddy.

So many days I feel like we are putting in SO much effort for small results and changes.  Perhaps others outside our family have noticed more changes in Ben that we miss by living with him day in and day out.  For my own benefit, I feel like I need to write down some of what I've been seeing this week to remember where we are (and so two months from now I can see where we've been). We need to write these words...look for the change... have these "stones of remembrance" to remind us of what God is doing in Ben's life through this program.  Thankfulness will carry us far.  

Here, in no particular order, are some of the behaviors that we are seeing from Ben: 

Ben is saying "I smell something."  This may sound crazy, but Ben never really commented on smelling anything before.  Now he'll stop and say he smells things, and I have to stop and ask him if it's a good smell or a bad smell as I try to figure out what he is taking in. 

He is making up words to every song he has ever heard.  He has made up a song called "Ninja Bunnies" to the tune of "Jingle Bells" that almost made me spit food across the table I was laughing so hard.  He is funny with a new-found intelligibility that makes me want to walk around with a recording device to get all of his one-liners.

He has been super focused in imaginative play with the boys' Legos.  Hours of time is spent in their room with or without Caleb.  You know how I know he is focused?  My house is SO much cleaner when he doesn't go from activity to activity in 5-minute intervals.  Legos stay on the Lego table, and so far this week, I'm pretty sure Ben has played with Legos and books. Period.

He was able to sit still and read for almost 45 minutes at the doctor's office while we waited for his sister's doctor to be ready for us.  We read and re-read stories in a magazine, but there was no fussing and ZERO meltdowns.

Although he has always been interested in "reading" books, he has started tracking and finding letters and sounds that he recognizes.  The other night Caleb was helping him spell words out loud at the table.  I pretty much lost my mind with happiness.  Ben didn't have 100% success, but in all fairness, Caleb was trying to get him to spell "metamorphosis."

Ben talks constantly (and drives his siblings INSANE on car trips), but the things he is saying now directly relate to things that he has picked up in church, at home, from a book, from a song, or from the Center.  He is relating learned/heard material to his life or at least retelling for us the lessons that he's learned.  This is a huge step forward from "I dunno" and "I forget" ...two of his favorite phrases that are seeing a lot less use these days.  Overall, I feel like I am talking to an older kid than the Ben I knew two months ago.

We hear a lot of "Say what?!?!" whenever we ask Ben to do things that he canNOT believe we are asking him to do.  Imagine a 13 year old saying this phrase to you when you tell them they have two hours of homework to do.  That's pretty much the voice and inflection Ben uses when we tell him that he has to do exercises, chores, appointments, etc.  I'd be upset about the attitude, but I'm too happy that he's actually acknowledging that we are talking to him.  In the past, Ben might not make any eye contact at all when we asked him to do something and would be silent.  So frustrating.  I'll take "Say what?!?!" any day of the week over a kiddo who struggles to be attentive.

Ben is also showing a lot more self-care initiative that I can ever remember him demonstrating.  Without being directed to, Ben dresses himself for the day and brushes his teeth because he knows that's what he's supposed to do and is excited to do it by himself.

I had to read of these to David to make sure I wasn't dramatizing anything.  He's a tell-it-like-it-is guy if you don't know him, and he approved this list.  I don't want to say that this program is a cure-all.  It's not.  But the four aspects of the program (diet, environment, sessions, and at-home exercises) are serving Ben well.  So even if I feel like we are going forward like a herd of turtles, we are going FORWARD, and we will continue to be grateful that we are on this journey together right now.

(photo credit: Nathan Holloway Photography)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Have You Emptied Your Bucket Today??

I'm an ISFJ.  For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality typing, you know that means I'm an introvert (I recharge alone) who tends to make decisions based on what I sense and feel about a situation and ..... I'm a judger.  I am.  It's one of things I hate the most about myself.  I know it allows me to make decisions and stick to them.  It helps me to help others process through choices.  But it also means that I judge situations even when I don't even realize it.  Sometimes Dave will see "the expression" on my face and do a sign language "J" to me.  Yep.  Can't even hide it in my face.  And one of the downfalls of being a judger is that (1) we tend to have very definite views about who is right and who is wrong in a situation and (2) we have a hard time letting go of past injustices and wounds.  Basically, when I feel I have been wronged, it is FOR SURE a supernatural act that helps me to forgive and walk my emotional health back from crisis mode to normal operational mode.

What's more, these hurts tend to attach themselves to experiences, people, and places.  Sometimes, I can feel a past hurt wash over me just by hearing a song, being in the grocery store at a particular time of year, or smelling a certain scent.  Hurts like embarrassment, betrayal, and rejection run deep, and even when I think that time has healed all wounds, they surge when I expect them the least and have the power to ruin whatever moment of my life that I'm living at the time.  In fact, masking the hurt often makes it worse.

There are mornings when I wake with a wound on my heart that has come up in a dream.  There are afternoons where I have to pull myself out of victim mode because of something that I've read or seen on social media.  There are evenings where David becomes my therapist as I just talk out why I feel hurt and why that is (most of the time) totally unreasonable.  In the end, I have a choice.  I can hold onto a feeling of hurt and nurse it like a grudge, dismiss it and bury it under logical reasoning and the busyness of the moment, or lay it at the foot of the Cross, asking my Savior to lead me to action if any action is left to be done towards healing.

Many times, I truly believe that I have left most of these hurtful situations having asked forgiveness for my sin and leaving the door open for the relationship or the situation to go forward in a healthy manner.  But it is unbelievable how often I forget that.  The majority of the time David has to remind me that the past has been forgiven, and everyone else has moved on.  I'm the only one stuck hauling around the muck from the past.  Sheesh.  I hope this is true.  I deeply desire to, as much as it is in my power, live at peace with all men (and women, of course).

A couple of years ago, a friend recommended a book called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? SPOILER ALERT: The gist of this children's book is that we each go through the day with a bucket, and it is our job throughout the course of the day to help fill others' buckets by doing and saying kind things, by looking for a minimum of one person whose bucket we can fill with goodness.  The book reminds us that by filling others' buckets, the miraculous happens, and our own buckets then are even more filled by the act of helping others.

It's so true, right?  When we are kind to others, we are blessed with the knowledge that we've made someone else's day easier/better/brighter.  I love the concept and have read this book with my kiddos several times, hoping and praying that they will remember this lesson long into their lives, but I think the book may need another chapter.

I'm entitling this chapter "Have You Emptied Your Other Bucket Today?"  While I do believe that we each carry around a bucket that is filled by doing and receiving kindness from others, I believe this bucket has very little impact on our daily lives unless we learn to dump our Other Bucket.  You see, the Other Bucket is what some of us (especially judgers) use to carry around all the hurts, wounds, and disappointments of our ENTIRE LIVES.  We sweat the accidents we've had, cry over the words that have hurt us, and live in agony over the relationships that have crumbled.  We feel ALL THE FEELINGS over and over again.  And guess what? We totally haul all that trash around with us every. single. day.

And as I'm sure you can imagine, the Other Bucket gets heavier and heavier as we walk around wounded and more than a little bit edgy over the past that just doesn't look as cozy and comfortable as we'd like it to.  No matter how many people say kind things or perform random acts of awesomeness, we are just unable to move forward.  Situations that should be completely joyful are marred by all the trash in the Other Bucket that we just can't seem to lose, but there is hope!

I've tried many times to dump my Other Bucket in my own strength.  To make things right with that friend who was hurt or was hurtful.  To move past an embarrassing situation to redemption.  But I've discovered that healing isn't human.  Healing is divine, and until we invite a Holy God to help us dump our Other Bucket, we will continue to haul this rotting, crippling stench around.  It will continue to sour our new relationships and will cast a gloomy shadow over all the new rich days that our God wants to give us.

So in addition to trying to fill one person's bucket today, I want God to help me dump something (or many somethings) out of my Other Bucket.  I want to choose forgiveness for the hurt that comes to mind rather than bitterness.  I want to choose to embrace grace rather than trek around with the guilt that I can easily heap on myself for every screwed-up situation that I take responsibility for.  Because here's the kicker: taking responsibility doesn't mean hauling around the hurt.  I will make restitution as much as I am able and humble myself, and then I will leave my sin at the foot of the Cross, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ more than paid the penalty for my sin.  And I will not allow the enemy of my soul to continue to effectively debilitate me by flashing my sins in front of my heart day after day.  We are more than hurt-haulers.  We are conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Perhaps someone who is reading this is one of many who have been hurt as a consequence of my sin.  Ugh.  I hate even thinking that, but I know how human I truly am.  If you think I don't care about you and your pain, you couldn't be more wrong.  And if we need to talk, I'm all in.  There is nothing I'd love more than to bring more unity and healing to the Body of Christ.  Let's grab a coffee.  I'm buying.  But I'm done walking around wondering if the silent treatment I'm receiving is justified or not, real or imagined.  My Other Bucket is too heavy, and I can haul it no more.

Maybe the next blog post will have more to do with the crazy goings-on in our home, but this season of my life more than any other has caused me to have little tolerance for the crazy in my own heart.  I have no time to nurse old wounds when there are real, live souls that need nurturing.  And I have no energy to carry the guilt from past sins when I have four little (and one big) hands to hold who deserve undivided focus and unhampered affection.

May your buckets be full, my sweet friends.  And may you and I have the courage to let Jesus empty our Other Buckets at the foot of His Cross today.  Here's to our Savior and to a very Hope-filled New Year!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lost

For the first time in a very, very long time, I did something that I love.  I got lost with my children.  Lost inside the pages of a book.  So lost were we and desperate to find out what would become of the brave little mouse who was trying to rescue the beautiful princess, that when I looked over at the clock, it was noon, and we had to break for lunch before finding out our hero's fate.

Oh, sure.  We took a break to do Ben's morning exercises.  And every once in a while, we stopped for a minute to switch loads of laundry or change a diaper, but otherwise?  Otherwise, we had no idea what time it was, how much time had passed, or what was going on anywhere but the island of our couch.  It's been a magical day.

So magical, in fact, that when the brave mouse succeeded in freeing his princess, we immediately lost ourselves in the adventures of Polly and Diggory, and I cannot wait for the next chapter when my children will wander for the first time into the land of Narnia.

These are the moments that I have waited for as a mother.  When I only had one little listener, Caleb and I would sit on the couch and read for hours (not an exaggeration).  He was less than two years old, but he LOVED to just sit and listen to a story, to a book on cassette, to music.  When I had two little ones, Caleb would sit and look at books for hours while he waited for Momma to be done with little brother, but somehow, that really never happened.  The open hours we used to spend snuggled up on the couch lost in an adventure have been filled to bursting with laundry, food preparation, doctors' appointments, grocery shopping, school, therapy, and diaper changing.  More often than not, I finish with one task seconds before I have to launch everyone out the door for somewhere we HAVE to be.

But not today.  Today was one of those glorious days where I had nothing on the calendar.  No visitors headed our way (although, we sure do enjoy those!!).  No tasks that had to be done.  I suppose I could've spent the day making gifts for people in our life.  Normally the helpers in our life each receive something as a reminder of how loved they are (and, boy oh boy, they are!), but I'll just admit right now, I got selfish and exhausted this year.  Sorry, mailman and UPS guy.  I'll have to make it up to you on Valentine's Day.  Today I'm getting lost with my children.

Today is one of those rare days that I have all four at home.  Caleb is on break.  Ben doesn't have class.  Laura isn't off on an adventure, and Emily has fully found her personhood as she babbles and crawls around the house.  We needed today.  So we snuggled up on the couch, picked a book we probably wouldn't finish, and read it through to the end.  No regrets.  And my heart is full.  Full of a love for these book lovers I'm raising and for the stories that I'm filing away in their hearts because the reality of life is that we are all a part of a grand story.  Each of these tales of rescue and valor echo the Greatest Story of a Heaven-sent Hero who came down to rescue His lost bride.  Can it only be three days from now that we get to celebrate His coming?

The kids are ecstatic that this may be the first year that our family is able to finish the Jesse Tree book.  We always start with the best of intentions and then get too far behind to ever catch up, but this year looks like the year that our family of six will finally read to the end of the book... to the birth of our Hero.  And hopefully, it will be the first of many years where we finish the Advent book only to be reminded that the Story our Hero is writing still has pages to be written in our lives and our world.  That His rescue continues every day and everywhere that the Gospel is shared.  That we are never lost in His Story... but found.  Held.  Forever loved.

I have no clue what is for dinner, and Emily has successfully hidden toys throughout the family room.  I have had zero alone time today, and the sink is full of dishes, but I'm not going to worry about it.  Today was a day for doing what I don't have time to do.  For turning one more page and finishing one more chapter.  For getting lost and remembering that I am found.

Only three more days.  Our Hero is on the move.