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On the Red Carpet..

For anyone who has read Shadows.. 

  
Or who knows me.. 

  
.. knows that this is exciting news for me… Not because I need anyone to tell me that “Shadows” is a great novel.. I am confident in my novel because it took on a life of its own as I wrote it.. 

And because everyone who reads it.. Writes me to say how they can’t put it down… Even people who don’t read Fiction.. Or Historical novels.. 

  
So .. no.. I don’t need an award to know my novel is good.. Or to know the sequel (Road Home) will be a hit.. 

But it is exciting for me because being a Finalist will get the word out there that Shadows exists. Because people can’t buy something they don’t know about… 

So congratulations Shadows!!!

You now have a red carpet.. Now we can get out there and shine… 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N10MHRK

http://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-jules-nelson/1120182205?ean=9781490848389

My landscape.. 

…in the distance…

I have always had a love of landscape paintings. Even as a child, I would stare at their beauty… Search their depths for color and stories. Each one told a story of a journey to me… a journey that would end in the clouds in the distance.. Those clouds representing Heaven to me. The weightlessness of the clouds.. representing all our cares being lifted from us when we die.

As I have matured, I have started to see these landscapes differently. I still see those clouds as representing Heaven.. Standing firmly in my Horizon.. often with the light of God shining through them.. But I now see the background.. the mountains or distance fields.. not as where I am heading.. but where I have been. Each color representing a different event in my life. Darker colors for the harder trials or disappointments. Brighter colors for the joys that God has blessed me with.

Leaving the Valley in the focus of the portrait.. the valley being what we are living now. And that is how it should be.. focusing on the here and now.. not on the past or the future.. but focusing on what God has set before us.

But sometimes it is good to see where we have come from.

I have a lot of dark shades in my landscape. Disappointment in choices I made when I was younger. Mistakes I have made. Events in my past.. events I had no control over. Events that I had to struggle through.. such as the first few years with my son’s diagnosis of Bipolar. Those years of medicines that didn’t work.. years of trying strategy after strategy. The days I broke down from exhaustion. All of these add darker shades and shadows.

I wouldn’t give up any of those dark colors.. those blacks.. grays.. dark blues… the shadows.. Those shadows? Those shadows made the bright colors.. the deep hues stand out all the more. Because I had known great disappointments.. great sorrow…?  Because of those events, I could appreciate good people.. good memories.. my accomplishments.. my son’s & daughter’s accomplishments.. and the joy my children bring THAT much more.

Having good people in my life definitely makes my landscape prettier. And as I have said before.. it takes a whole village to raise a child… That whole village becomes that child’s landscape. I have a very extensive landscape. So many people have been Blessings in my life. I have been very Blessed indeed.

This week I am looking off into my landscape. At one particular bright spot.. or maybe a few.

I have an Uncle that married into my family. A very jolly man. He always had a smile and a greeting for everyone.. I remember staying at their house and having it always full of people and activity. His enthusiasm for everything.. when we took our annual bike trip. Listening to his strong voice praying in front of groups.. not caring who could hear him.  I listened to stories he told of Mission trips that he went on with my Aunt.. sometimes with a little envy.. (for I know that my Mission field is here in my back yard.. and not around the world.)..  and he always had stories filled with pride for his loving family.

Not that my Uncle couldn’t be serious or firm.. I know I saw those sides of him also… They just don’t stand out like the joy that shone from his face when he caught sight of you.

My Uncle passed away suddenly this last week. He wasn’t sick.. he didn’t suffer.. but God called him home.

You may think that a dark patch of paint has appeared in my landscape because of this… but other than the slight shadow of sadness behind his bright shape? I can’t find any new dark patches.

Now don’t get me wrong.. I will probably tear up when he doesn’t come out to greet us when I go to visit my Aunt the next time. It doesn’t mean I won’t think of my cousins when I hug my own sweet Dad the next time. And it definitely doesn’t mean I am not looking forward to seeing him when I am called Home myself.

But it does mean that sometimes we don’t notice how brightly someone shines in our lives.. until that small shadow of sadness appears behind them.. making their colors.. their strengths.. the Blessings they had to offer… Those shadows make their colors shine all the more brightly.  Especially when the light of God is shining down through the clouds of Heaven onto them.

Stranger than fiction…

1800 books..
1800 books..

I love to read! And I read everything.. YES I really mean everything!! I read children’s books, I read teen fiction.. I read fantasy, I read young adult.. I read self-help, I read non-fiction… I read historical fiction.. and non-fiction.. I read futuristic sci-fi.. English literature… Old lit, new lit….

I read anything…

I don’t LIKE everything I read.. but I still have to finish..

It is actually addictive. My first and only real addiction. An addiction that, at times in my life, keeps me from being productive and functioning. I had to learn to control it.. and believe me there are NO nicotine patches to help Reading Addicts. No Readers Anonymous groups. Some people (maybe even you) think that I am funny to even try to curb my addiction. However, I KNEW that I had (ok.. ok.. I HAVE) a problem.. and I KNEW that I needed to control it. And control it I have.

Now, I can’t give up reading.. that would be like asking me to give up breathing.. but I have learned to keep it to free time.

..well mostly…

Through my years of reading I can honestly say TWO things..

FIRST.. Students miss out on so much History because we insist that they learn all the “dates”. I honestly can’t tell you the exact month and day the civil war ended. But I can tell you why the Civil War started.. why it was important to our history.. and why it was different than any other war we fought. I could tell you that they used Maggots for Medicinal purposes.. and that the North was over dressed. Students can learn so much from our History.. but instead most of them hate it… Is this our teachers faults? Absolutely not.. it is because the schools rely on test results for funding. And what are ON those tests? Exactly… Dates!

SECOND.. Fact is stranger than fiction. In point of truth.. all my research shows that History? OUR History… is stranger than fiction. Strange weather phenomenons… wildcat attacks in Michigan… a trend to abduct the girl next door so she would be forced to marry you? These are all facts. And shoving maggots into gunshot wounds during the civil war? While turning my stomach.. I still find it interesting that this FACT saved so many lives..

In fact, when you read about all the things that pioneers in this country did? When you read about the things they saw.. what they lived through? It makes my life seem so boring.. so sheltered.  And while the pioneers’ lives were much shorter in 1860? While the Civil War soldiers may have died fighting for what they believed in at a young age? They still lived much fuller lives that I am…

So my goal this year is to go out and actually LIVE my life .. as fully as they did their short ones. And hopefully encourage others to do so as well….

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. It feels like a report card.. Yikes..

Just thought I would share .. If you are interested (that is) ..

I hope your Christmas was Merry!!! And have a Happy New Year!

Jules

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Inside Shadows..

IMG_7878-0.JPGAuthors are mysterious people.. Citizens who live in secretive places .. with secretive lives.. right?

Well …that isn’t me.

I am just an average Joe (or Joe-etta)! I’m the mom who donates all her daughter’s old books to the school library.. in a sweatshirt and jeans.. and a messy ponytail. (gasp– shocking I know).. I’m the lady who you pass on the road, singing her heart out. I’m the stranger who smiles at the toddlers in grocery carts… and yes.. I am the lady who cries in the lobby of the school when her son has a hard day.

I am NOT mysterious at all.

So maybe I can’t really be an author?!?

HOWEVER… I have written a book.. Shadows!!! (note the extremely proud.. and excited smile.. almost like it is my newborn child)… and four months later?!? Four months after contacting a publisher .. it is published. On that day?  The day that my book, Shadows, went “Live” online? YUP… I was the lady doing the happy dance .. in her pj’s! I was so happy to have that long process done.. and so happy to be able to introduce my beloved characters to the world.

Now if you are looking for spoilers for Shadows?? Then you would be in the wrong place… I love that no one expects the twists and turns in my book. I love that readers say they (literally) can’t put Shadows down. I love that my friends call me to say they love where Shadows leaves off.. but that they couldn’t have predicted the ending. And if I gave you spoilers?? Well that would.. umm… “spoil” the surprise for you… So in a sense.. by not giving you spoilers.. I am giving you a gift.

But this morning? This morning as I sit here, sipping my chai.. all warm and cozy in my favorite sweater and my thick.. warm.. wool socks.. I realize that I can really identify with Emma..

Shadows follows the life of Emma.. Emma Fern Wells… Emma feels she is plain. Plain with no distinguishing characteristics. Everything about her is average… and she is ok with this. Add to this that Emma is busy.. so busy that she feels like she has no identity.. no chance at being noticed by anyone. And she accepts this.. content for now. It sounds dramatic.. but it isn’t! Emma just… exists…

I can relate to Emma… In my life I don’t stand out.. and I like it that way. Why? Well.. because I like to watch people and observe their natural behaviors. When you don’t stand out? Well… everyone relaxes around you. It’s a wonderful life! And I understand busy.. (Ok.. my husband says I crave busy.. While I don’t know that I would go so far.. I will admit I volunteer my time freely.)

But here is where our similarities stop..

For one.. Emma is young.. (alas.. with 2 children taller than me.. I cannot claim youth.. Although I am not sure at what point I became “not young”.. hmm?? I seem to have missed the transition)..

Beyond that?? Emma stays focused on her work long enough to finish each task.. She lets her mind wonder while she churns her butter .. but her feet stay firmly planted. Me??? Well the chapter in Shadows .. the one where Emma burns the cookies? Sigh.. that describes me much better.. especially when I am in the mood to write..

Now.. I placed this young (and focused) girl in the community of Vermontville, Michigan.. shortly after it was settled.. so 1850 era. I used common names in this valley.. common family names… and the fact that it was a farming community.. Then? Then my book took flight… the characters came alive… I laughed with them.. cried with them.. and fell in love with them..

But the storyline? I have had that in me for awhile.. long before I moved to this picturesque valley. Where do my stories come from? Sometimes from a section of a song.. you know the phrase that has you wondering what happened in the songwriter’s life that would make them write it? My ideas are sometimes born in that moment. Sometimes when I see people in public.. with happiness or love.. or worry.. painted on their face.. Ideas are sometimes born in their emotions. Sometimes when I read other books.. by other authors.. the characters that are overlooked.. the storylines they leave undeveloped.. ideas are just waiting to be born there.. Sometimes during research, I will come across old traditions, commonplace crimes of the times, historic events, natural disasters.. weird unexplained phenomenons… I have found these facts to be a lot stranger (and more unpredictable) than fiction. In these facts.. stories are just begging to be told.

But a lot of the time? Ha.. a lot of my story ideas are born from my dreams.

I have some of the craziest.. most vivid dreams.. Dreams that seem so real.. I am still thinking about them when I wake. In fact, well into my day.. I will still be wondering how they would have ended. From these dreams? YUP.. the best of my ideas are born.

But storylines aren’t straight.. they curve.. and stop… They veer off.. and merge with other storylines.. THIS “maze” of storylines?  This is what makes a good story.. This is what kept me up typing until my eyes wouldn’t stay open.. This is what prompted me to take a notebook with me to every appointment.. every meeting… every spare second that I could jot down notes…

Confused?

Ok.. take my life… I am so excited about my book being published!?! So excited that I do a crazy book lady dance every time there is a “first” in my life.. First book sold online.. first blog read in a new country.. first book sold overseas.. first review posted online… etc.. you get the picture. But my excitement? It doesn’t overwhelm me like you would think.. Why? Because life doesn’t travel in a straight line. I have kids.. I have a family… I have responsibilities.. ha…. I have LAUNDRY…  and right now I have a 3 year old nephew who has to have 18 months of chemotherapy. If those things didn’t affect my excitement? Well? Then I would be a robot..

In order for Emma to be realistic? In order for this character to seem ALIVE… she has to let her surroundings affect her. She has to let her friend’s life-changes affect her thoughts. She has to let her previous encounters effect her future actions. She HAS to let her emotions affect her choices…

If I can make Emma comes “alive” for a reader? Then they won’t be able to put her “life” .. her story.. down. They will want to keep reading until they know how her story ends..

.. and for me… life doesn’t end..

So neither does Emma’s story….

We got this…

kayak pic

Our annual Family camp is a fun time for everyone … and I would never miss it. Swimming, taking hikes, great food, games, kayaking, water balloon fights.. lots of photographs.. and laughter. Then at night everything slows down with singing and talking around the campfire.

But camp can get a little stressful for some of us. Whether you are a mom of twin babies.. or a parent with cranky kids… or my own child is having an OCD day.. With 19 cousins? We are bound to have at least one set of parents who are over-loaded.

THAT is where the kayaks come in…

We have a lot of kayaks.. the cousins will all set off in large groups to explore the world unknown… explore a hidden cove .. or go around the island.. There are always animals and sites to see…  perfect for adventurous kids…

But sometimes? They are perfect for parents… You see? We put stressed out parents into kayaks and push them out into the lake.

Those stressed out parents always look back once and call out, “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” and a promised, “We won’t be gone long.”

With a laugh, we call back, “Take your time–We got this..” And we prepare ourselves to distract, cuddle and entertain.. And we plan on taking that responsibility until the parents come back.. relaxed and rested..

As a parent of a child with special needs? That time in a kayak is amazing.. Our family always chooses small rustic campgrounds with remote lakes.. Where the kids can kayak easily and safely. Without fear of fast boats.. and small enough we can always see where the kids are at.

So when we launch our kayak onto that lake? It is extremely peaceful. The wind whips away the sounds of the world around you.. as you gracefully slide through the water. As you paddle further and further from camp, that peace seeps in .. and you lose track of all time. The noise (and stresses) from camp disappear .. and all you can see is the lake .. reflecting like a mirror as you drift along.

I imagine that is how heaven feels. That peace that fills you as you drift. Occasionally looking back toward camp… the noise and worries hidden from you… so all you know is the peace…..

At family camp this year, we missed someone. My uncle is pretty sick and was unable to make his annual visit.. He was unable to bring his Arizona tea and small gifts.. He was unable to brighten camp with his laughter and teasing…

As we pray everyday.. every hour.. that God will touch him and heal him if it is in His will … I am preparing myself in case God is calling my uncle home. I can’t imagine not having him come to our family holiday celebrations, my kid’s plays and especially family camp. But I do know that God has a plan.. a plan that is perfect.

I also know that my uncle feels he has unfinished business here. He would be leaving behind a son and a grandson.. but my uncle trusts God to know what is best for him..

It is kind of like that kayak ride… As we put my uncle in the kayak .. and launch him into the water… he is saying to us, “I’ll be right back.. as soon as my body heals.” And I really hope he will..

But if God wants him to keep going? If God is calling my uncle home?

Then.. I don’t want my uncle to worry…

With tears in our eyes … we will call back to him,

“We’ll miss you.. but until we see you again… We got this!”

My garden…

ImageLast year, we pulled the most beautiful zucchini out of our garden.  Beautiful and huge.  And far too many for our family alone to eat.  In fact, we had so many?? … that we dubbed 2 of them the “twins” and took to carrying them around in preparation for the birth of twin cousins we were looking forward to… 

I love to watch my husband work in our garden.  

Night after wintery night, he maps out his garden.  Maps out and plans where to plant the varieties.  Ordering his chosen seeds well before he could even dream of planting them.  Then my husband starts to prep the ground.  Tilling… and tilling… then tilling it again.. Just when I think he must be bored beyond imagination… with tilling… he is finally ready to plant.  So.. he carefully paces out the rows.  He paints the row markers.  And then it begins… We follow the directions on each little packet.. 12″ apart… 1/4″ deep…. plant in rows… plant in hills… build trellis…. Each little seed gets its own specialized growing conditions… 

And then we wait for them to grow…

Water daily… plant in full sun… fertilize… water….

Then wait….

My husband is so sweet those first weeks… when he walks his carefully marked garden looking for signs of life…. The joy from those first sprouts?  Beautiful to behold….

And then the weeds start to grow… 

Weeds are unimaginably horrid things… they grow where nothing else can grow… And grow well… Soon?!?  Soon tall, healthy looking weeds tower over those tiny little sprouts struggling to grow.  

And we begin to pull them… On hand and knee, we pull each weed from the base… hoping to get the whole root system with it so that it won’t resurface.  After an hour?  After an hour.. we start to simply grab handfuls of weeds and pull… not caring about the whole root…

After weeks and weeks of fruitless weeding… Days and days of weeding ..only to see the same weeds resurface again and again…?  We buy a bottle of professional weed killing spray…. 

Then we turn our attention back to the care of our plants.. My husband makes sure they are watered when it doesn’t rain… builds supports where needed… 

Over and over… day after day… 

Until harvest…. 

Sometimes we find that no matter how much work we put into a crop.. they turn out deformed.. or small in size… And sometimes they don’t grow at all… 

Now deformed fruit.. is fruit that looks DIFFERENT from the typical crop… our curved neck squash?  It never “curved”… But most of the time.. deformed fruit tastes just as sweet… It is harder to show it off to your friends or brag it up… but it is just as enjoyable… Small fruit is the same… 

But our zucchini?  Those were something to behold… Showing pictures of a beautiful zucchini over a foot long?  That is easily brag-able.  To have such obvious evidence of ALL your hard work?  

Truly satisfying….

Sometimes I feel like parenting is like gardening… 

We carefully plan the size of our garden on cold wintery nights…. Order all the supplies we will need WELL before we will ever need them… Talking about the special instructions we think we will need to follow… 

Then we wait… Wait and see what God has given us to grow.

Sometimes we don’t get what we expect .. Boy versus a girl.. artist versus an athlete… Or TWINS…. 

Sometimes we get deformed crops.. disabilities we hadn’t planned for… disorders we have to read up on… But these crops tend to be the sweetest… but they are harder to brag up…

NOW.. I said “harder” to brag up.. not impossible… my son has Autism.. and a splash of Mood disorder… and I brag him up all the time… Just takes a different audience… And my son definitely has his own fan club…

But still you water them… you give them plenty of sunlight (praise and love)… you build a “trellis” if you need to give them extra support… and fertilize them (My son cleans me out of “fertilizer” daily)…. and then there is nothing to do but pull the weeds that spring up…. 

Those weeds?  Those weeds are everywhere… weeds grow by your “prize” kids… they grow by your “average” kids.. and they grow by the “hard to brag on” kids… Weeds grow EVERYWHERE… Honestly???  Honestly sometimes I would prefer to pull crabgrass and Canadian thistles.. when you compare them to bad attitudes, rolling eyes, bad words, exasperated sighs, bad grades, aggression, irritating habits.. or medical issues.. (or heaven help us drugs and alcohol)… But if you don’t pull those weeds?  Then pretty soon they over run your kids.. and your garden!  Just like your crops.. your kids will still continue to grow with the “weeds” stealing their sunlight… but they won’t be as strong.. and you won’t want to show them off to your friends and family.  

I know.. I know.. kids don’t actually need sunlight to grow..  But when a child’s most obvious traits are bad habits.. snotty phrases.. stubborn silence… That child may as well be covered in weeds.. It is harder to smile warmly (at least genuinely) at a child covered in bad habits… It is harder to hug a child who is stiff with resentment… It is harder to shower pride on a low achiever… So in effect?? YUP.. those weeds steal the sunlight in your child’s life..

So at the end of the day.. when I am exhausted… and my daughter shows signs of “sassafrass tree” growing on her roots… I can chose to ignore it this once.. to save my energy.. hoping it will go away.. or I can choose to pull it up by its base… and watch carefully for signs of its return… 

And I really don’t want anything to steal my daughter’s sunlight.. 

Is it Enough?

IMG_7166 (2)I have always wanted to have a lot of kids.  You will notice that I didn’t say “have a lot of babies”… Don’t get me wrong.. I love babies.. I could sit and hold my twin nephews all day if I had time.. and I long to hold my far off nieces… But my dream of a house full of kids was a little different than you could imagine…

And God’s plan for me was far different than even I imagined…

You see.. even as a child… I wanted to adopt all the children in the world who needed a family… all the children who needed love… who needed safety.. all the kids who needed a listening ear.. or a shoulder to cry on…  I knew I was going to need a BIG house..  But as a child I felt like that was my calling… and it continues to live in my heart to this day.

You may think that once I gave birth to my own two beautiful babies… That once I looked into their precious faces… I would change my mind… That once I had 1 girl and 1 boy of my own I would be quite content with my own family… You would be wrong.  My children ARE beautiful.. inside and out… They are everything a parent could wish for… but I still feel God has called on me to have a lot of children.

God has a plan for me… and it has involved a number of children .. but God did NOT plan for those children to be of my own flesh and blood.  God even used my husband to guide me to the right path.  For my husband?  2 pregnancies were quite enough… Why?!?  THAT my friends is a tale for another day… What I will say?  Sometimes God whispers His plans in a still small voice… sometimes He uses a megaphone…  My husband heard God’s voice loud and clear…

Today I have over 40 kids who live in my heart.  Over 40 kids whom I pray for.. 40 kids whose pictures Bless my shelves.  40 kids who are scattered all over these United States…

17 of those kids are my nieces and nephews… 17 kids with bits and pieces of my siblings… a few with bits and pieces of myself.. 17 Blessings whom I love to see when ever time allows… 17 kids who range from newborn to age 21…

Over the last 16 years, I have accepted children into my home on a daily basis.  I have lost track of the exact count of children shared with me through the years…   but I could give you every child’s name and age.. Every child I cared for while their parents had to work.  Every child I cared for while their parents took a much needed break.  Every child I cared for while their parents mourned a loss… while they needed to be somewhere else.  And then I returned these children to their parents at the end of the day.. the end of the week.. and once .. I returned a child at the end of an extended stay.  When I moved home to Michigan?  It broke my heart to say good-bye to those pieces of my heart.  I go to visit them when ever time and money allow.. but I frequently miss them… So?  So.. I follow each child in pictures (internet is a Blessing to me).. and I pray for each child in turn..

Today?  On this exact moment in time?  I have 2 daughters…. (and a son)…. Two daughters who are 16 years old.  Two daughters who are reluctant to go to sleep at night… who hate to get up in the morning.. two daughters who beg for a pop (different flavors of course..)… two daughters who eat chocolate… two daughters who love ice cream… love to sing at the top of their lungs… who love to laugh… Two daughters who love life…

The difference between them?  One was born here in Michigan… the other was born Egypt…

YUP.. my second daughter is borrowed.  My Egyptian daughter is part of an exchange program.  A program designed to promote understanding of other cultures and religions from around the world.  A program designed to help promote peaceful relations around the world.  Through this program I have come to realize .. that teenagers around the world are pretty much the same.  They all love to laugh… they all love to LOVE.. they all love to have fun… they love to sing  (I have heard the song “Let it Go” in a number of languages)!!!   They all think their country is the best at times.. and the worst at others… The teenagers in this program are the bravest kids I have met.. strong kids with hopes and dreams all their own.. but each one still needed a safe and loving environment for the year that they are here in the US..

We were Blessed to be chosen to Host our Egyptian daughter for half of this school year… Parts of the year were tougher than others… Struggling to master a tough language… Struggling to fit into a different culture… Struggling to learn (and pass) hard school classes…. but those struggles are not what I will remember.  I remember the first time our second daughter held a chicken.. I remember the squeals when she saw her Easter basket… the first time she caught a fish… I will remember the excitement of prom dresses.. the laughter through the cracks of a door… and I will remember the duets sung at loud volumes.. at all hours of the day.

This daughter born into another family?  She has firmly planted herself in my heart… Her strength.. her love… her smiles.. her desire to become the best person possible.. through any tough circumstance…  I am so happy that I was Blessed with the opportunity to allow her into our home.. the opportunity to drive her back and forth to school.. the opportunity to cheer her on at games… to sew a dress for her… to make sure she had enough to eat… and the opportunity to give her a hug when she needed it.

Through out the month of June.. small pieces of my heart will scatter around the world.  As the students from this exchange program go home .. to finally see their families again after almost a year.. many of these students will take a piece of my heart with them.  Brazil, Germany, Mexico.. Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan… Belgium… and a good sized piece to India too.  And a large chunk of my heart with travel to Egypt next week….

You may think I feel good because I am making a difference in so many lives…

It does feel good.  It feels good to see smiles instead of tears… It feels good to hear laughter in any language..

But I don’t think that is what God’s plan is for me.. You see every time I take a child into my heart … It changes me… It changes the way I see the world.. It changes the way I think… and sometimes it changes the way I breathe…

Next Wednesday, when I take my Egyptian daughter to the airport… when I struggle to get her through check-ins and security checks.. when I struggle to breathe… While I am struggling to NOT cry until after she is safely on the plane home to her family… I will not regret one moment … not one tear.. I will not regret taking this child into my home .. or letting her into my heart.  Because the hurt of saying “Good-bye.. for now,”  is nothing compared to the Blessings I have received…

You may ask… Is it enough?  Is it ENOUGH of a Blessing to suffer through the pain?

Yes… I think it is..

Is it enough?  Enough kids in my heart?  Enough chunks of my heart scattered around the world?  Am I now content?

I would have to say No… I feel that God has more planned for me… more to Bless me with…

And who am I … to deny myself a Blessing?

Don’t mind the dust…

Image

We are having an open house tomorrow for our exchange student… our beloved Egyptian daughter.

And I wanted my house to be perfect.. ok.. I wanted the garage to be perfect.  My house is too small.. and the weather too nice to have a gathering indoors.  So my goal was to organize and clean my garage… so in the end it wouldn’t look like a garage.

Well… Garage.. slash… sewing room.. slash storage.. slash art supplies.. slash… Yes, my garage is very multi-purpose.. But my hope was to disguise the “multi”… But alas it was not to be. The shelf I ordered to organize the drawers of overflowing art supplies.. came 3 days late.. arriving late Thursday. Everything I cleaned would get messed back up.. My chickens followed me everywhere… Every complication under the sun.. complicated my week. Nothing went right…

Add to that my teary-eyed-ness as our time with our exchange daughter is coming to an end..

You guessed it.. my garage is barely organized. … I was obviously not thrilled…

But with all the complications that frustrated me to tears… I also had surprises.. 3 surprises to be exact… 3 separate surprise visits from family and friends.. Each visit bringing smiles and laughter with it… It felt just like Christmas. With every smile I began to relax..  I could hear God’s still small voice whispering to me…

What is this really for?

So tomorrow when people begin to arrive at my house… They will see totes and totes of my preschool teacher “tools”. (You never know when you may be called to teach preschool again.  I have to be ready..)  They will see totes of costumes. They will see baskets of material stacked in front of my sewing station… And they will probably EVEN see a toy that we missed picking up from my nephews playtime today…

And they will see me smile… because no one really cares if my garage is cleared. They don’t care if I condensed my teaching totes. They don’t care that I have 2 totes that still need to be unpacked.

Tomorrow is about celebrating our Egyptian daughter… one of the most amazing girls I have ever met… Celebrating that God chose to Bless Us with her…

So that is what we will do….

Food for thought…

If you came to dinner at my house… you might think that you would want to pass on seconds.  You see..  my house is Gluten free.  Well to be exact… we are Gluten free… dairy free… yeast free… corn free… low sugar… and 20 other free’s.  Everything else is on a 4 day rotation.

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Master chef

In fact.. you may think we eat sticks and twigs… (Ha.. we actually bought a brand of pretzels called “sticks and twigs”… we didn’t buy them twice.. yuck!)  There are a lot of “non-desirable” healthy gluten free options out there.  But we have also found very good options as well.

We hosted an exchange student this year.. and she was more than a little worried about our food.  When her first meal was spaghetti… followed by Angel food cake… she soon relaxed.  She came to realize that dinner may be rushed (especially when I get lost in “Writing Land” or Researching.. or between practices and games)… but it all tastes relatively normal… And fresh… Cooking Gluten free (and corn free) usually means cooking from scratch… So no Chicken with Shake n Bake… But we still have breaded chicken.  We still have Parmesan chicken… We still have roast.. we still have gravy… and …we STILL have brownies…

Gluten free cooking takes a little practice.. and was very overwhelming at first.  So we changed tactics.. Instead of focusing on the things we could no longer have.. We made a list of all the things we COULD eat… and went from there.  Technically.. I went to the store.. with headphones and classical music… I read the labels of 100’s of boxes.  I found which mustard was gluten free.. which dressings… which taco shells… which cereals… which chips… which hot dogs… You get the picture…  It was a lot of research (in the beginning)…

But it was worth it…

It was SOOOOO worth it….

You see.. I see my son improving daily as his body heals.  I can see the symptoms of his Autism… his Bipolar… his confusion… his aggression… I see them slip away as his body can absorb vitamins and nutrition.. I see the light in his eyes more often than the shadows… I hear laughter more often than growling… 

Yes…

It was worth it…

But something unexpected happened… My daughter (I am not going to embarrass my daughter today) and I both improved in health as well.  My asthma.. my headaches… both only occur occasionally now.. My skin cleared up… I lost weight… 

If you could lose weight AND feel better while still eating brownies… would you?  

Yeah … me too…

I was so happy…. but I felt so guilty… and even ashamed.  WHY had it taken me so long to figure this out?  WHY in all my research did I NOT find this sooner?  WHY did God let me go so long without finding this solution?  WHY did it take my son hitting rock bottom before I figured it out?  And HOW ON EARTH did I miss all of the evidence?

YUP.. instead of being happy to find all this research.. I cried.  I cried hard.  My son’s life was a mess… and it was primarily from the food I was giving him.

I have been praying for a year for the Lord to help me forgive myself.  

This morning I was reading my devotion.. and it asked the question… “Why did God let Joseph sit in Jail for 2 whole years before He released him?”  And I sat up a little straighter… “Why didn’t God let Joseph out?  Let him be free and productive while waiting for Pharaoh to have his dream?” And I put my Chai down…. 

Now I am no Joseph… I was not the favorite child of a favored wife… I was not the youngest child of a large family… I was not sold into slavery by jealous siblings… but I think I may have prayed the same prayer as Joseph.  As he sat day after day in prison.  Prayed night after night for answers.. Prayed night after night to be delivered from his prison.

Don’t get me wrong.. Autism isn’t a prison.  My son’s smiles and laughter have always brightened my day.  His hugs and insights have always made me a better person.. But Autism .. aggravated by vitamin deficiency and malnutrition?  It is very limiting.  There were days we didn’t dare go in public.  Afraid he would be overwhelmed… So for us.. It became a prison…

And like Joseph… I think God had a plan for me… And that plan may have called for my son to hit rock bottom… I think God knew I had to be ready to change my whole world… God had a plan.. and He waited for His perfect timing… 

Because.. as my favorite verse (this year) says… “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

When God led me to the Nutrition specialist?  When He delivered all those test results into my lap?  I was ready… 

and It WAS beautiful….