Morning Confession

I woke up today tired and poured out. I just wanted to climb back into bed with my blanket and let someone else be the mom for awhile. It has been such a difficult week and I just didn’t think I could bear up anymore. Alas, such thoughts are only a fantasy because responsibilities are waiting and I must bear up and press on, so I went to the computer to turn on a song which speaks to my heart and pour out my troubles in song to the Lord. When I did, this picture was waiting for me on the desktop.10712722_892717707405914_1318212237148835834_n It was God the Father, waiting to meet me at my point of need. He sees me. He knows. He loves me and is for me. He is waiting for me and we will face this day together.

From time to time, people will say to me, “You are _______________. I don’t know how you do it,” and I recoil because I am not, I really am not. Can I get a witness? I AM NOT. But God…. The Great I AM, HE IS.

I don’t like being this raw, this exposed; but 2 Cor. 1: 3-4 says

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

No matter how alone I feel, and trust me there are days when I feel utterly alone, I know I am not alone. There are many others struggling to find the strength to face this day and I say to you, we are not alone. God sees you. He knows. He loves you and is for you. He is waiting and you can face this day together. And you know what? I am rooting for you too.

 

Hope for Messy Families

This is the article that started it all.  It got me thinking; took me down memory lane and about some lessons that God has taught me.  But what good is it to learn lessons the hard way, if not to share your stories with others so they don’t make the same mistakes you did?  So here goes, this is a word for the young moms and the tired moms and discouraged moms: TAKE HEART.

I have been a born again Christian for over 30 years.  I have been a stay at home mom for 22 years.  I have been a homeschooling mom for 15 years.  (Did I really say those things out loud?  Now I feel old.)  One would think that with a resume like that, I would have this parenting thing down and our family would be the picture of love and tranquility.  Did you hear that sound?  That is the sound of God and all his angels laughing at what I just said.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are a very messy family.

When I began homeschooling, I went with my friends to the annual homeschooling convention.  These days were promoted as a time of encouragement and refreshment.  At these conventions, I would see other homeschooling families with their children:  Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect ; all wearing matching, homemade outfits.  I came home to my own messy family:  Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient, wearing clothes that may or may not be stained, have holes, or match. Rather than encouraged and refreshed, I was discouraged and disheartened.  I don’t go to homeschooling conventions anymore.  (Please note that this is not in any way intended to be critical of homeschooling conventions.  The people who put them on work very hard and many people are blessed by them.  They are just not a good fit for me.)

But this is the good news:  God, does indeed, specialize in messy families.  Messy families are the perfect place to learn forgiveness and grace, the heartbeat of the gospel.  Those things don’t take place in a perfect, sanitized setting; they can only happen surrounded by messy, sinful people who trust in a gracious, forgiving God (Eph. 4:32).  God is not done with us yet, but He is faithful to complete the good work that He started in each one of us. (Phil 1:6)

Comparison is a trap that we set for ourselves.  So what if that mom at the convention has Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect?  God did not give her the grace to raise my family.  He gave me the grace to raise my family.  He gave her the grace to raise hers. (Eph.4:7)  And if I was honest, sometimes Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect turn into Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient too (Ro. 3:23).

If you are a mom who woke up tired and discouraged this morning, take heart.  God’s grace is new every morning.  He does not grow tired or weary and in His strength you can meet the challenges that this day holds (Isa. 40:28, 2 Cor. 12:9, Heb. 4:16).  So have the courage to be real, think Biblicaly, and live the gospel.  And you have my permission to let your kids wear the play clothes.  They are the perfect attire for messy people like us.

I Want You to Know…Revisited

April is Autism Awareness Month and yesterday my newsfeed was filled with posts calling for acceptance of neurodiversity and contending that autism is not a disease, but rather a difference to be celebrated.  While I support and cheer on each and every one of my sister-moms, to a large extent I find myself on the outside looking in because their experiences are not my experience.  As my friend Laura rightly pointed out, “If you know one kid with autism, you know one kid with autism.”  each of our journeys is unique.

This morning seemed like a perfect time to revisit something I wrote four years ago.

I Want You to Know…

In a Facebook world where we share a status for an hour to show we care, there is something I want you to know about me.  Being a parent of a child with disabilities isn’t just about the disappointment of altered dreams for what your child could become…although there is that.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities is also the heartbreak of seeing him not included; not because his peers are mean, but because they just don’t know how to relate to his world.  It’s seeing friends move on and leave him behind and there is no one to get mad at because they are just growing up normally and your child is not.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities means making a thousand hard choices every day; sometimes in the blink of an eye.  It means choosing carefully which hills to die on and accepting the judgement of friends and strangers because they would never make those choices and knowing that now they think less of you as a parent because their child would never act that way.  I want you to know that I am acutely aware that your child would never act that way and that makes the world a lonely place sometimes because when faced with the choice of explaining my actions so you will like me or protecting her privacy, I will choose her privacy every time. It means knowing that in my fatigue I will sometimes make poor choices and it means asking her forgiveness and forgiving myself and moving on.

Being the parent of a child with disabilities means remembering that there are other children in my family who have needs too and making sure those needs get met.  It means knowing full well that there is not enough of me to go around and trusting God to enable me.

I want you to know the words I dread most in the world are “You must be so ________.  I could never do that.”  I take them in the spirit of the encouragement they are intended to be, but I dread them because I know that I am not.

I want you to know that although my child has cognitive disabilities, he is not stupid and he is aware that he is not like other children.  I want you to know that she feels deeply and her pain is real and her joy is real even when it is not something that would move you at all.

I want you to know that I celebrate small accomplishments and victories and that I know the value of a really good day.

I want you to know that the greatest gifts you could give me and my family are genuine love and grace extended freely, being included, being invited, and providing a safe place to be weak when necessary.

Four years later, I still mean every word.  Four years later, there are a few words that I would add.

I want you to know that I have become quite adept at discerning true friends from those who are just polite enough to stay out of trouble.  If you belong to the former group I want you to know that I owe you a debt I can never repay and I pray that God rewards you richly for your kindness.  If you belong to the latter group, I want you to know that your condescending smiles and utter lack of room in your world for him are daggers in my heart.  I know, I get it.  He can be weird, she can be exasperating, you don’t know how to relate; but it still hurts…a lot…every single time.  But I also feel sad for you because you are missing out.  God has lovingly created each one of us in His image and He makes no mistakes.  That means God made him the way he is for a reason.  That means that if she is in your life, she has something to contribute to it.  That means by dismissing him, you  have missed out, in some small way, of seeing the glory of God.

To those who have befriended our family and included us in your lives, I want you to know how deeply I treasure your friendship; because I know we aren’t always easy to love.  I know that your friendship has come at the cost of forgiveness and grace extended on more than one occasion.

Finally I want you to know, I want ME to know, there is hope.  The mind is a mysterious thing and we are so much farther than I could have ever imagined four years ago.  Life is still hard and there will never be any escape from that in this life; and some days hope all but disappears.  But no one knows the future but God and He is good.  I want you to know, I want ME to know, there is hope.

Praising God in the Hallway

As the sparkling white of icy winter gives way to the gray-brown snows of approaching spring, my arms start to ache to work in my gardens again.  I have been dreaming all winter of plans for my kitchen garden and the herbs and teas I want to plant this year (BTW, if anyone knows where I can purchase a chammomile plant, please let me know!)

I think this is why I’ve been struggling with a touch of homesickness lately.  When I visit the farm and see windows boarded up and the lawn littered with demolition debris or see strange men with dirty boots tramping through my house, it crushes my spirit a little bit every time.

I can give in to these feelings and keep my eyes on my circumstances or I can turn my eyes to God and allow Him to give me a fresh perspective. As the saying goes, “While you are waiting for God to open another door, praise Him in the hallway.”

The following are pictures from our temporary home:

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641. The company which provided the furnishings did not want me to put plants on any of their tables, but this bay window is just perfect.  And really, if one has to do dishes, this view is a blessing.  My soap dispenser was broken in the move, so on one of our (seemingly) daily trips to Wal-Mart I picked up this blue one. I don’t care if it’s a cheap plastic soap pump, I love that it matches my blue Mason jars! (642.)

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643.  My dad sent me these lovely roses for Lions Rose Day.  Being the daughter of a Lion and the wife of a Lion, I am doubly blessed❤  They were especially meaningful to me this year and made the place feel a little more like home.  (Aren’t they gorgeous?)

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644.  I could not find my napkin holder after the move.  I walked into Goodwill for something totally unrelated and someone had just dropped off several Longeberger baskets.  Perfect!

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645. This is a little reading nook the housing company set up for me.  It is right next to sliding glass doors with lots of natural light to do my quiet times in the morning.Or at least it will be the perfect place to do my quiet times if I can beat John to it some morning; he is also quite fond of my reading nook.

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646.  I didn’t have a really good place for the kids to practice tumbling at our farm; but the large, unfinished basement is just the thing!

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647. We had a toy room at the farm, affectionately known as “The Toy Shop”.  It was a converted porch that was very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, so it was mainly used for toy storage.  In the basement of this house, there is one finished room (that is quite toasty) that we have set aside for the kids’ toy room.  Sam and Emma hosted a few friends over yesterday and I can tell you I was quite happy to have all the happy screaming noises downstairs.

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648. This is the back deck (complete with bunny tracks from last night’s snow), but do you know what I see?  I see a perfect place for planters filled with herbs and teas to plant in my kitchen garden when I move back home.

Spontaneous Stops and Cold Meat Sandwiches

We moved into temporary housing on Tuesday.  The housing company delivered most of the furniture.  On Wednesday, the rental company delivered the washer and dryer.  On Thursday, the plumber hooked them up.  On Friday, the housing company delivered the rest of the furniture.  Saturday we left for a five day family vacation.  Boxes are piled high, waiting to be unpacked, our internet was still not yet hooked up, and our homeschool books are waiting patiently for me to find my stride again so we can catch up.  Suffice to say, this was not a convenient time to take a family vacation.  In fact, it was a very inconvenient time to take a family vacation.  Turns out, it was a great time to take a family vacation.

The five days we spent on the road were filled with all the hallmarks of a great family vacation (or at least our family vacations)…audiobooks read by Jim Weiss, picnic lunches, small treats and activities to help distract children from long hours on the road.  John spent many hours planning our route, finding interesting places to stop,and making hotel reservations, and yet we found once again that some of the most delightful stops were completely unplanned.

To quote Dr. Suess, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”  I am such a structured person, wanting to plan every detail ahead of time, and the planned stops were fun but the most delightful ones were spontaneous.  Even the picnic lunches were delightful (and as all my children know, Momma is not fond of cold meat sandwiches).  

It was a really, really inconvenient time to take a family vacation…John & I both have so much work to do at home, but for those five days on the road we were completely powerless to do anything about it.  I do not like being powerless.  I like being in control, but the time spent on the road was a gentle reminder to trust God because He is in control.  Long hours on the road gave me time to examine how much I really do trust Him.  Do I trust God so long as I get to retain control over all the details?  Or do I trust Him even when I am completely powerless?  

I don’t think I will ever be a go-with-the-flow kind of girl this side of heaven, but as we return home to our not-quite-home and face a lot of uncertainties I would rather not face, I think I am a little better prepared to relax and trust God and trust His timing.  He is in complete control and all His gifts are good.  After all, if he can make cold meat lunches enjoyable, He can do anything.  

God at Work

On the afternoon of Tuesday, January  28 a fire began in the attic of our home.  By the time the fire trucks left at 8 p.m. our home was unlivable and our lives were turned upside down.  But in the midst of all of this, my crazy, control-freak, doesn’t-like-to-be-overstimulated heart remains calm.  When friends ask how we’re doing, all I want to do is tell them about all that God has been doing.  Our house burned.  We are so blessed.  These two statements should be incompatible but they are not.  Praise God, they are not.

 

Praising God for His Protection….

Nathan’s classes were cancelled for the day.  Since he was home, I asked him to help me rearrange the furniture in Emma’s room.  Because we were working upstairs, we were able to detect the fire much earlier in the middle of the afternoon.  The epicenter of the fire was right above Anna’s closet.  If the fire had gone undetected or had broken out at night, we might have lost one or both of our daughters.  We are all safe.  Everything else is just stuff.

 

Praising God for His Provision…

Before the fire trucks left our yard, my friend Lisa was texting me with an offer to stay in a house they had not yet sold while our home was being rebuilt.  She could only do this because months earlier, the Lord had laid it on her husband’s heart not to pursue selling the house because someone may have need of it.  It shouldn’t surprise me.  I believe and teach that God is omniscient—He knows everything and that God is eternal—to Him all moments are “now”.  But I have to admit, every time I think of it, my heart skips a beat to know that God was at work providing for my needs long before the first spark.

My brothers Justin and Jason were on the scene the next day to begin the process of clean up and demolition.  They are both highly competent men of integrity and God has gifted each of them with unique abilities that work well together.  It has been so comforting to me to have them at my side, not just because they are my brothers, but also because they are good at what they do and I know it will be done well.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Health…

While we wait to move into the rental house, we are staying with my parents, their dog Molly, and their five cats.  I am highly allergic to cats.  To be fair, four of them live in the basement waiting to be relocated in the spring; but as we learned the year we hatched baby chicks and kept rabbits in our basement, basements count when it comes to breathing.  I am very thankful for a warm place to stay while we are waiting, but by all rights my health should be a wreck.  To the contrary, I can count on one hand the number of times I have needed to take an OTC medicine.  I can only attribute this to God’s sustaining grace.

 

Praising God for The Body…

John and I have been overwhelmed by the love of God as expressed through His people toward us.  Our church, my mom’s church, our homeschool group, our community, saints near and far, we are a part of the Body of Christ and every meal, every card, every collection, every prayer, every hug, everyone who stops to ask “how are you?” is God saying “I love you…I love you…I love you…I love you,” and we have been so loved!   I think this is how the Body is supposed to work.  They have wept as we wept, they have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  They have held us up in prayer, cared for our needs, and done good unto us.  We live in a time when the Church is ridiculed as being hypocritical and dysfunctional.  From my perspective there has been a sacredness in being part of the Church functioning exactly as it was designed to and to quote Eric Liddell, “I can feel God’s pleasure.”

 

Praising God for His work in our Lives…

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Ro. 5:3-5)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28)

“Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

“God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always working all things together for my ultimate and eternal good.  God’s grace abounds to me even through trials.  Because I am a justified one, He subjugates every trial and forces it to do good unto me.” (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, p.63)

I have to confess it is not my natural inclination to exult in this trial but I can exult in my God.  I do not know what God is doing in our lives, but I know that He is at work and that it is good.  I am confident of this because I know that He is faithful and His Word cannot fail.

I’m not sure where this quote came from. Maybe when we move back in our house, I can unpack my box of Bible studies and give the author proper credit; but in the margin of my Bible above James 1 are written these words, “When we endure trials by faith, with joy, it brings glory to God.”  That much I can do.  I don’t know what God is doing, but I know that He is at work to bring about my good and bring Himself glory.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Himself…

When we came back to my parents’ house the night of the fire, my youngest daughter asked me, “Why did this happen to us?”  That is a totally normal question and we talked about Job and how he never lost his love for God or his hope in God and how God restored all that Job had lost.  But for me, the question “Why me?” is very unsatisfying because the inevitable answer is “Why not me?”  As I have been reading the books Be Still, My Soul by Nancy Guthrie and Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian  (I highly recommend both of them), I have discovered a better question is “Who?”

“Thankfully, the good news of the gospel is not an exhortation from above to ‘hang on at all costs or ‘grin and bear it’ in the midst of hardship.  No the good news is that God is hanging on to you, and in the end, when all is said and done, the power of God will triumph over every pain and loss….(God) loves you; his chief concern is to be himself for you….we don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself.  For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true:  God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.”  (Glorious Ruin, p. 10-11)

This is a great and glorious gift and it is the one theme which keeps coming back to me over the past several years—that God is my Enough and my Enough is more than enough.

 

 

My Confession

I blew it.  I really, really blew it.  I can give you a thousand reasons why…I could try and make my defense…but in the end they are just excuses; the facts remain that I was guilty as charged.  My sweet little girl had brought me a beautiful turquoise necklace she had made and asked for my approval.  My words were harsh, critical…Why hadn’t she asked my permission before using my things?…It would be better if the beads were arranged in a more balanced arrangement…I didn’t even notice her face before rushing on to accomplish the tasks I thought were so important for the day.  The day was a demanding one.  I gave my full attention to the deadlines that were loudly demanding it, I gave very little to the sweet, sensitive spirit that asked very little of me.  As the day drew to a close, the Holy Spirit whispered words that were a slam-dunk conviction: “Those were her beads.”  In that instant, my vision was cleared.  Yes, my deadlines were important, but nothing was as important as finding my girl and making things right.  As we found a quiet corner, her face was full of concern.  “Is everything OK, Mommy?”  “Did I do something wrong, Mommy?”  Her words pricked my heart.  How often had I crushed her before this day?  I told her how wrong I was, how sorry I was, how I appreciated the artistic gifts God had given her; I praised her for taking the initiative to create something and be creative without anyone telling her to do it. She snuggled in closer to me. “It’s OK, Mommy.  I forgive you.”  Grace.  Priceless words offered to me.  As we begin our school year, let this grace be before all others.  If we learn math, writing, & science, but miss grace we walk away empty handed.  But this day holds another lesson for me.  Sin can be forgiven, but it always has a consequence.  She may have forgiven me and our relationship was restored, but as I climbed the stairs to attend to the next thing I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she picked up her necklace to work on it again, the way I had told her it should be.    Image