Unimaginable sacrifices….

no fear..
no fear..

I have a brother.. Well actually I have 5 brothers.  But one of those brothers was only a little more than a year older than I was (then I am).  He was my closest friend growing up.  My brother let me follow him everywhere.. him and his best friend.  They never minded that I was slower.  Ok.. maybe they minded.. but neither of them ever let on.  They would adjust their walking speed for me.  They pounded in wooden steps, where I could not climb.  When I was too afraid to keep going..? They talked me through.  And if there was danger.. my brother would always warn me…  “Step back Julie.. we’re gonna get stung.. ok!?!”

Ahhh??

What???

My confusion didn’t stop my feet from stepping back though.  Once my brother felt I was at a safe distance?  Well then he would carry out whatever experiment he had in mind for the poor bee’s nest.  As I would watch from my safe distance.. watch my brother getting stung.. (because INDEED he did get stung).. I would marvel at his ability to stay calm.  My brother would simply pull each stinging bee off his skin.. and calmly crush it before reaching for the next one.

It is said that our childhood memories magnify things that we remember, by leaving out details we didn’t notice.. and giving super human powers to the details that were significant to us.  But regardless of any other details that my childish brain leaves out of my memories.. I can be sure of who my brother was.

My brother was the bravest person I had ever met.   Brave.. and he was very curious.  Kind of a lethal combination I fear.  Now my brother never died.. he never came close .. as far as I can remember.  But I think my heart stopped a couple times.  They say the events that happen TO you are the most traumatic … Well “they” are wrong!! (whoever “they” are.)  They are wrong because the events most engraved into my brain?  They were the events when I had to watch someone I care about IN a dangerous situation?  When I stand by powerless.. worrying?  Those memories will be forever ingrained into my memory.  By far more crippling ..than anything I lived through.

I was a curious child by nature.  Curiosity by itself isn’t really a bad thing.  But unbridled curiosity?? That can be.  You see.. kids do not always see the danger in the world around them.  And ohhh was I blind…

I was travelling through the woods with my brother and his best friend.  Travelling in the company of the bravest person I had ever met.. and his faithful companion.. Almost like travelling with Robin Hood and Little John.. or King Arthur and Lancelot.. Batman and Robin..  To my adoring childish brain?? I was in the safest place.  I never worried when I was with my brother..  My hero.  What could harm me when he was looking out for me?

Nothing.

And most of the time?? This proved true.

And then.. Then we found a barn… Ok, in truth the barn had probably always been there.  But somehow we stumbled across it.  Stumbled through the rows of field corn.. to find a gigantic red barn.. HA .. Alright, alright.. it doesn’t sound that amazing when I say it out loud.. But to a young girl who loves history?  It was like a fantastic fanfare was playing .. as the wind blew through corn stalks… As we walked closer, I could see bigger glimpses of this beautiful old barn through the gaps of the tall plants.  And when we came to a stop in front of the old doors?  History came alive for me.  All the books I had read about pioneers?  All the history we learned in class?  HERE was proof.. Proof that it existed.

And I needed to know more.  My curious brain didn’t stop to think about danger.. because it KNEW that my brother would protect me.

SOOO?? I convinced them.. my brother and his friend… I convinced them to take me inside.  After a moment of thinking.. they agreed.  We stepped through that magical portal of time and I fell in love.  I saw the dowel ladders.. the peg construction.. the stalls for horses.  I didn’t stop to take in the fact that this barn was not ONLY historic.. I didn’t stop to think that Historic barns are OLD.. old and falling apart.  And neither did my brother.  While I was constructing historical scenes in my mind?  While I was created imaginary farm animals?  While I was creating imaginary people.. people who needed this important barn for their farm?  While I was locked in my imaginary world.. my brother and his friend were exploring the rafters of that old barn.. And I imagine that barn was doing much more than swaying in the wind.

We were never quite sure how that farmer knew we were in his barn.  We really never talked about it.  That farmer that called our friend’s dad.  All we knew was that farmer spoiled our fun.. and got us in so much trouble.

When our friend’s dad stepped into the doorway of the barn?  It was like he blocked all the sun from my life.. Because he was evil?? Nope!  But because in the moment that I saw his face.. I knew.. I knew how much trouble we were in.  With a call to the boys, they scurried down the ladder and outside.  I followed close behind… barely breathing… Why had we gone in that barn?  “Julie wanted to see the inside of the barn.. so we took her,” one of the boys explained.  I nodded.. that IS what happened.  But this man.. this neighbor that seemed like family?  He too wanted to protect me.  “Don’t you dare blame this on her.. She wasn’t in that hayloft.. she was on the ground waiting for you..,” and you know what?  They never denied it.  Neither one of them mentioned my guilt again after that moment.  Neither one of them tried to get me to share in their punishment.  While they were scolded.. all the way home?? (And we had travelled quite a ways from home..).. While they were scolded? I was getting carried.

You see it is far worse to see someone punished for your crimes.. then it is to take credit for them yourself.  The sacrifice that my brother made for me.. The sacrifice he made to save me from punishment?  It was painful for me.  It pressed on my chest like the heaviest weight.  Whenever I saw his face after that.. I saw him taking credit for going into that barn.  Bravely taking the punishment that should have been mine.  It hurt.

Now as an adult.. I know why that farmer was so “Mean”.. why he had to spoil our clean fun.  It is true.. we were not hurting that old barn.. We were simply curious and exploring.  But that farmer knew what we could not see.  He saw the danger in our situation.  I trusted my brother to protect me.  My brother knew that his bravery could help him in any situation.  But that farmer knew the barn was rickety.  I remember hearing the creaks and groans.. I remember thinking it added to the mystery of it all.

But imagine being a father.. Being a father and stepping into that rickety barn.  Seeing your child and his friend playing in the loft of an old barn.  Your child making the barn sway.. making it groan and creak.. Groaning and creaking loudly, while this curious curly-haired girl explored below.  Imagine being a father.. and SEEING the danger in the whole innocent situation??  And now I know why he was so angry.  I know why he yelled all the way home.

But when I was a child?  I didn’t see the worried anger.. I never saw the danger.. I only saw my brother’s sacrifice for me.

And I never forgot.

Last year, I was cleaning out my chicken coop.  A disgusting job.. but necessary.  And rewarding.. to take a mess and clean it up?  Nothing feels more fulfilling then that.. But my mind started to wander with each shovelful.. with each disgusting shovelful.  My mind wander and I began to think.. (hey.. thinking is my life..)..

I thought back to my brother.. the sacrifice he made to protect me.. and it got me thinking..

Thinking about Easter.. Easter is about how Jesus died for our sins, right?  Died and rose again.  Jesus protected us from the punishments we deserve.  We all deserve to be punished for our sins.  And Oh the sins we have ALL sinned.

BEFORE Jesus’ sacrifice, we (God’s people) would offer up the life of an animal to pay for our sins.  If we told a small falsehood about a neighbor, you would take a dove to the altar.  If you stole a calf from your cousin.. You would take a goat to the altar.  If you killed a man in a fight?  I think you get the picture.. the bigger the sin.. the bigger the animal.  (In my memories.. it felt like my brother had paid the price of at LEAST a Moose..)..

But when Jesus died for us. Died for all mankind?  He didn’t just have to sit on his bed until His Heavenly father came to talk to him.  Jesus didn’t have to simply do extra chores.  And He certainly didn’t get to be grounded to Nazareth.  Jesus took the blame for every sin that any of us every did .. or WERE going to do…  A man who had done nothing wrong.. took the blame for not only His earthly sister and brothers.. but for every earthly sister and every earthly brother… That to me.. makes him the bravest man I have ever met.  Even braver than my brother.

The memory of my guilt came back to me then.  That crushing guilt I felt for years (Ok.. I was a kid.. it was probably only months..).. the guilt that made it hard to breathe when I thought of my brother’s sacrifice.  If the guilt I felt for one sin?  One innocent childish sin?  If the guilt from that one sin.. crushed my heart making it hard to breathe?  What would a whole world of guilt.. a whole world of sin feel like?

As the tears fell from my eyes.. running down my cheeks and dripping onto the disgusting shovel I was leaning on.. I started to wonder..

Did Jesus actually die from the crucifixion?   Did He actually die from the holes in His hands or the spear holes in His sides?  Or did Jesus die as the weight of all our guilt crushed his pure heart?  That our sins were too much for His Godly soul.

And that’s when I remembered my brother’s smile.

You see.. my brother was never bitter about taking my punishment.  He never once scowled in my direction.. He never even got angry.  In fact, at one point he did turn to me and smile.  A smile with such bravery.. and such brotherly love.  And that is how I think Jesus looked as He was being punished for our crimes.

But I think I do know what Mary felt as she watched from the crowd.  I think I know how Jesus’s friends felt as they watched.  AND I definitely know how Peter felt.  Peter who had denied knowing Jesus just hours before.  Such a simple sin.. denial.. but a sin nevertheless.  Peter would have felt that crushing guilt..

Jesus gave us the cure for that crushing guilt.. forgiveness.  He gave us a way to breathe again.. A way to live.  Through His sacrifice for His sisters (and brothers).. He gave us ALL .. Life..

After that fateful day in a barn.. I don’t have many memories of tagging along after my brother.  Whether they decided later that I should have told everyone it had been my idea.  Whether they tired of my slowness.. Whether my guilt over the punishment they took for me prevent me from following them.. or simply that summer ended and we returned to school.  Whatever the reason .. I don’t have many memories of tagging along after that day.  I do have memories of that guilt creeping up, time after time.  That guilt lingered with me for years.  But also loyalty.  Loyalty and love for someone who stood by me no matter what.  I would have done anything.. and I still would.. for my brother.

So today.. I am going to honor the sacrifice my brave brother made for me.

And I am going to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for me.  Because whether I try to be good or not.. at least a couple of the thorns on that Crown they placed on His noble brow? They were for me.  At least ONE of the blows from the hammer… nailing Jesus to the cross.. was for me.  But when I think about His brave sacrifice.. Imagine that he made it with a beautiful brave smile .. full of love.. A smile that I imagine looked a lot like my brave brother’s?  If I Honor that sacrifice?  Then His sacrifice will have been worth it..

Treading water….

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Here let me carry you..

When I was younger, I decided to swim across a lake.  I had been swimming with my brother and having a good time, but we were bored (as kids often are).  We were bored.. and the other side of the lake just beckoned to us.  Since we were young.. and we were used to swimming.. we went for it.

You may be thinking that we never made it.  Oh.. we made it..  The great thing about swimming is that when your legs are tired you can just use your arms… When your arms are tired? You simply use your legs.  When your whole body is tired?  You can roll over and just float.  Float and let the peaceful sky above you soak into your muscles, strengthening you for the next leg of your journey.  When you see a rough patch ahead of you.. a strong current.. or a tall weedy patch (shudder)…??  You simply rest for a moment.. and then swim harder than usual to get through.  And if you aren’t sure what to do next.. simple.. just tread water while you figure it out.

My brother and I made it all the way across.  Well… technically we never touched the shore.. because it would have meant wading through muck and weeds.. But we made it close enough that we felt we had accomplished our goals.  As I lay there.. floating on my back… staring up at the sky… letting my tired muscles rest momentarily? I admit it.  I wished for a boat.  I wished that a boat would come by and tow us back across.  Now.. I would NEVER have admitted that to my brother.  Nope!  I wanted to appear tough and in control.  In FACT.. I wanted to appear so tough and in control that I asked my brother if he was ready to swim back .. BEFORE he could ask me.  Lucky for me, my brother was wiser than me.

“Give me a minute,” he said calmly.

“K,” I replied equally as calmly.. but inside I could hear the Halleluiah chorus being sung by all of Heaven’s choir…!!

As I gave my brother his minute, I remember wondering.. WHY did we think this was such a great plan?  Really when were we really going to tell people that we swam across a lake.. ALL BY OURSELVES!  Would it make us proud? Yes.  But really when would we be able to use it?.. was there a place for that on a college application?  .. was there a section of a job resume it would fit under?  The answer is no where.  It is simply a matter of accomplishment.. a matter of pride.  I had made it across the lake.. all by myself.. No one helped me… I was self-reliant and NOW I had proof.

I swam across a lake as a child.. Knowing this?  It used to annoy me to watch movies about shipwrecks.  I mean honestly?? How hard is it to swim .. or float on your back.. or simply tread water until help came?  If I could do it?  A wimpy book worm!  Anyone could right?  Ok, I’ll admit the thought of sharks under my feet might make me panic a little … and the fact that no land was in sight might make you feel hopeless.. AND that I have never TRIED to sleep while floating on my back.. but in my teenage mind? YUP! My teenage mind was confident that I could do it if I had to.

This matter of pride and self-reliance followed me from Childhood into adulthood.  In fact, I frequently have to check my Pride at the door.  When I get angry, I usually have to ask God to help me take pride out of the situation.  When pride isn’t in the way?  I don’t feel like I should be able to do everything myself.  I don’t HOLD onto the ideal.. that this SHOULD have worked.  Those moments where Pride gets in my way?? All I am doing is treading water.  It doesn’t matter that I had the best intentions.  It doesn’t matter that I am a strong person.  It doesn’t matter how intelligent I am.  If my desire to say I did it ALONE is what drives me?  That means no help is in sight.  Once I am tired?  There is no shore of hope to aim for.  If I continue to tread water? ALONE?  Yup.. eventually I will be too tired to survive .. on my own.

Lucky for me.. I usually abandon my pride as soon as I feel like I am treading water.  You know that feeling you get.. when you clean all day.. then cook.. then clean the dinner dishes .. then clean the kitchen.. and when you want to rest on the couch?? Your daughter wants you to pitch to her .. so SHE can have practice hitting.. (or homework.. or favorite tv show.. or.. or.. )  That feeling that your work will never end?

That is treading water..

That is when your Pride kept you from asking for help.  The pride of saying, “I keep my house clean ALL by myself.”  Asking for help?  Or (in the case of teenagers) assigning help?  It’s like asking for a life line.

Recently, my family and I moved back to Michigan.  We love being closer to home.  At first, we were gone every weekend.  But as our lives (and our visits) slowed down, I began to miss having a church.

Now missing church IS NOT the same as missing God.  I visit with God everyday.  I talk to Him throughout the day.  I try to read the Bible every day.  I sing hymns and praise songs.. every day.  And I thank God for His blessings everyday.

But Church?  I began to really miss church.

Finding a church for us isn’t that simple.  With a child having special needs, you need to find a group of accepting people.. People strong enough in their own Faith.. that a small outburst of laughter won’t offend them.  People who can forgive tiny disruptions.  When you have a 6 foot tall child with special needs?  Yeah.. you need a group of VERY accepting strong faith-ed people.

It is a very daunting journey sometimes. A journey so scary to me that.. I sit here.. just treading water.  If I have Faith in my heart?  And God in my everyday life?  YUP.. maybe I can do it on my own.  I can tread water!!

But you know what?  My legs are getting tired.

Moving 500 miles, cost my family a lot of money.  Living in a hotel for 3 weeks?  That cost my family a lot of money.  Setting up a new home?  That cost a lot of money.  But we did it.  On our own.  (Okay, not on our own.  Our families helped us whenever they could, with what they could.)  And.. we pay the money on our credit card every month.  We are making it financially .. on our own.

Then with life… and Faith.. we found answers through medical tests.  Tests that cost money.  More money than we wanted to spend, but money we knew would be well worth it in the end.. So we spent it…

But then.. my kids had to start this new diet.  I never realized how much of our food actually had Gluten in it.  So I headed off to the store.

And then.. my kids couldn’t have dairy either.. more label reading.. more surprises… So again I headed off to the store…

THEN .. my daughter’s tests came back.. No more corn.. or dextrose or maltodextrin.. (ps.. corn is in EVERYTHING).. so I headed to the store.. and found nothing.. I headed to another store.. and found one kind of chip.  So I headed to the health food store.. You know that expensive little store that is only found in a big city?  I headed to THAT health food store.  And paid premium prices..

AND THEN?? My kids became healthy and lost a ton of weight.  So I bought them new clothes.. When they lost more weight?  I bought them more clothes.. and when they lost more?  YUP.. you start to wish they weren’t quite so healthy.  All in all, we had so many blessings because I had FAITH that God could help me heal my kids.

But financially?  We have had no such blessings.  Why you ask?  Because we show God no Faith in Him providing for us.  We know that this is something we can do.. on our own.. BY OURSELVES!!  You guessed it.. we don’t tithe.

Now I know “tithing” is like a bad word to some people.  I know when you see it on the schedule for the sermon?  Most of us groan.  It’s not that interesting.. OK.. it’s really boring to hear someone preach about it.  And I don’t always agree.

God would like us to Tithe.. Yes.. But God wants it to be voluntary.. God wants it to come from the heart.  God wants us to be the widow who gives Him the last 2 coins.. the 2 coins that stand between us and Poverty.  He wants us to demonstrate that we have FAITH that He will provide for us.  Otherwise? Otherwise it means that we would like to Financially .. do it ALONE.  And God lets us try.

Now we (my husband & I) have tithed… in the Past.  When we had a church.. we remembered to tithe.. And we have caught a ton of financial breaks.. in the Past.  We have experienced moments of humble prosperity.. in the Past.

These days?  The bills pile up.  We can’t pay extra on the credit card, if we have extra vet bills and doctor bills.  We can’t pay extra on our payments, when our utility bills are outrageous.  We don’t seem to getting promotions or bonuses like we thought we would.. And the interest on our credit card?  It’s like a car payment.

Are we surviving? Yes.. But we are literally treading water… and my legs are getting mighty tired.

Now you may be thinking.. If you send money to the church, hoping God will Bless you financially?? Isn’t that like trying to buy your way into Heaven??  If you THINK of it as “buying” favor with God then.. yes…

BUT.. if you say.. God I am treading water here.. I can no longer do this on my own.  I am going to be the widow.  I am going to give my last 2 coins to You.. To show that I have Faith that You can do a far better job providing for me.. then I can do on my own??  Then I truly believe that God will send you a boat.. It may be a row boat.. it may be a kayak.. That “boat”?… it depends on your show of faith.

How do I know?

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.  If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you.  I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!  Try it!  Let me prove it to you!  Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.  Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.  Malachi 3:10-11

So today?  I am trying to decide.. Do we send off a check (to a random church)?  Do we send a small portion of my tithe?  Do we wait to see how big of a Faithboat God sends to help us with our financial burden?  Or Do we send off a check.. with the whole 10%?  10% of our meager salary is a huge step of Faith.  Do we take that HUGE step of Faith and shout, “We give You our last coin Lord”? … not waiting for a small sign that it is the right thing to do? .. not waiting for a small feeling of financial peace to ease us INTO a stronger show of Faith?

Well honestly.. my answer depends on my Faith in God.. The Faith that my husband and I have together..

..and right now?  Well right now.. We are really tired of treading water.

It’s raining now…

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Rain is in the air…

Yesterday, I was all set to walk out the door.  I was showered.  My hair was pretty (i.e. NOT in a ponytail).  I had discarded my jeans for dress clothes.  I crawled into the closet and found both of my black shoes.  And my face was devoid of any and all makeup.  I was ready.  Ready to go to the funeral for the father of a dear sister in law.  I didn’t know her father very well… but I wanted my sister to know that I love her .. and that I am here for her.  And to hug my nieces.. and possibly my brother if he needed one.  With my hand on the door, I called out last minute instructions to my snowbound kiddos.

AND THEN?  Yup.. then my plans changed.  (It happens a lot with kids in High School.)  In the blink of an eye my plans changed from having plenty of time… to NOT going.  Usually I roll with the changes with a deep breath.. But this made me sad.  When I made my poor sounding excuse to my sister in law .. being the great person she is.. totally forgave me without another thought.

I have an amazing family.

But you aren’t thinking about my amazing family.. are you?  You are probably still wondering WHY I would go to a funeral without any makeup.  A function where everyone tries to look their best?  And I was going so informal?  On purpose?  Well.. the answer is simple.

I am a cry-er.

I cry at everything.  I cry when I am overwhelmed.  I cry when I am sad.. when I am angry..  and when I am happy too.  When I watched someone COMPLETELY embarrass themselves for no good reason?  After I can breathe again.. I cry again.  I even cry at Folger’s commercials.  I cry a lot.  I always have.  Ha.. I remember my older brothers rolling their eyes at my tears more than once.  When someone was truly angry, my eyes would tear up.  When my siblings were truly disappointed by someone or something.. tears.  When I was scared for my brother.. when he would try a MacGyver TV stunt .. you know.. to see if MacGyver would really survive?  Yup.. tears again.

After being asked why I cried so much .. by more than one person?  I tried to control it.  I learned that if I bite the corner of my tongue (JUST enough to hurt) and concentrate on the pain?  I could control the non-stop emotional roller coaster.  And I have gotten good at it ..in certain circumstances.  But when I am busy concentrating on NOT crying?  I tune out.. Then I can’t listen to what someone is saying.  I can’t empathize with their situation.  I basically don’t feel anything.

There are times when this doesn’t work.  Funerals are one of them.  Two hundred years ago, when they would hire people to mourn at funerals? Yup.. I would have had a steady income.  I can not go to a funeral and NOT cry.  Not feel the hole left behind.  Father, mother, sibling, relative, friend.. and especially children.  Even when I know that everything happens according to God’s plan?  When I know His plan is perfect?  I still cry. I still feel that hole as if it were my own.  An overwhelming sadness fills me.. and I can’t control it no matter how hard I bite my tongue.  So I learned.. I learned to not wear makeup.

You see?  I am not a pretty cry-er.  My eyes burn.  My throat burns.  I can not talk without great effort.  It gets hard to breathe.  As the tears course gently down my cheeks…. my eyes turn bright red .. and my face turns extremely blotchy.. Yup… I am an ugly cry-er.  The more overwhelming the emotion?  The uglier my red blotchy face gets… and then?  Then my nose starts to run..

So you can see why I would want to learn to control it.

You may think I inherited my ability to feel emotions from my mother.. but you would be wrong.  My mother is a very empathetic person.  She is kindhearted.  She would drop anything to help you out.  But she is very practical with her emotions.  She stays pretty calm.  I’m not saying she doesn’t cry.  She does.  When our house burned?  She was crying.  When her Dad died?  She cried.  When I crashed a car and made it look like a matchbox car that was stepped on?  She cried again.  And you bet.. I was crying too.  That is not to say she didn’t cry more often.. when she was alone.  Being practical with emotions.. that just means you can control when those emotions overwhelm you …to a certain extent.

Nope!  My ability to feel everyone’s emotions.. to become teary eyed at a moment’s notice?  It actually comes from my Dad.  He will probably cringe when he knows I have let his secret out.  Sorry Dad!  But when we would watch sad movies?  It was my Dad and I passing the kleenex box back and forth.  When my Dad was disappointed with me.. we were both crying again.. At the end of the movie.. when the old dog that NO ONE thought would survive the long trip home.. actually makes it back home?  Yup.. I actually need a tissue now just thinking about it.  Now in our defense, movie tears are MUCH more dignified.  We get choked up and our eyes start flooding.. but at least my face doesn’t look like I’ve been in the sun too long.

I was ashamed of my tears for years.  But knowing that my father cried too.  Knowing that he cried at the same things I do?  That the amazing man who I looked up to more than anyone else in the world.. teared up when he felt the emotions of other people.  I started to feel like it was okay.  It made me accept it as part of who I was.  Who I AM!

But still, I tried to control it in public.  Sometimes it left a bad feeling in my heart.  When my friend told me about her troubled heart.. in public?  I would concentrate on getting my emotions back under control.. and then when I felt I had?  I would focus again on my friend.  But I would often miss something important.  So instead of being able to help my friend.. I let my embarrassment over my emotions take over.  When I missed what they were telling me?  When I couldn’t even give an appropriate response to what they needed?  I felt selfish in those moments.. and I felt like crying again.

Then one day, my daughter was telling me she had to recite a verse for a prize at Vacation Bible school that day.  I laughed softly.  I told her the story of the shortest verse in the Bible.  “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.  You see whenever my siblings or I would be required to tell a Bible verse for some reason?  One of us kids would recite that verse.  Not because we couldn’t remember any other verse.  Not because we didn’t know at least a handful of verses off the top of our head.  We told it simply because it was the shortest.  My daughter raised her eyebrow then.. which told me she had NO IDEA why we would have thought that was funny.  But being a curious child, she asked, “Why did Jesus weep?”  I explained to her how Jesus had arrived to his friend’s town after he had died.  In fact, that he had been in a tomb for 4 days.  When He saw that His friend Lazarus had been laid out in death… That Lazarus had been put in a tomb and a rock rolled to cover the entrance… Jesus wept.  Even though He KNEW before He arrived in Bethany, that Lazarus had died so that a miracle could happen.  He knew that this was all part of God’s perfect plan.  Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise again. … and still He cried.  Jesus was so overwhelmed that He cried to release ALL of the emotions crushing his heart.  I explained to my daughter that the Bible goes on to say that the people could all see from His tears that Jesus truly cared about His loved ones.  That the Son of God truly cares what happens to us.. and weeps with us.

But in that moment, I saw something beyond the words in the Bible.  Jesus trusted God.  He followed the Path God set out for Him.  He never questioned God’s perfect Plan.  Jesus knew without the shadow of a doubt that ALL things work together to Glorify God.. but still.. still the sadness of his friends.. the sadness of the hole that had been left behind.. it overwhelmed Jesus and He cried… but it doesn’t say He cried.. The Bible says that Jesus Wept… Weeping makes me picture enough tears to stain His eyes and cheeks red.. Weeping makes me think His chest burned with the emotion that possibly made it hard for Him to breathe.  Weeping doesn’t sound like “pretty” crying.

In that moment, I saw something else.  My emotions didn’t mean that I didn’t have Faith in God’s Plans.  My crying didn’t say to God that I didn’t Trust that His ways were perfect.  My tears weren’t a sign that my heart was weak.  If Jesus can weep … not because He lacked Faith ..but BECAUSE His heart overflowed with love for His friend?  Then my ability to feel the emotions of others.. it meant that my heart overflows with love.. right?  It means that my heart is.. in fact… strong.

What I had seen as my weakness?  It was actually my Super Power.

A Super Power that I had inherited from my Heavenly Father.  A Super Power that I share with my earthly Father.  I have always believed that God gives everyone a super power and a weakness.  The super power that they are supposed to use to make the world a better place.. and to Glorify God’s name.  The weakness is to keep us humble.. Humble and understanding of our fellow man.  I had always thought crying was MY weakness.. but I was wrong.

So now when I feel the sadness of a friend?  I let the tears fall.  When I hear the disappointment in my daughter’s voice?  I hug her and cry with her.  And when I go to a Funeral .. or even a Wedding?  I don’t wear makeup.  There is really no point.. I know the tears will just ruin it.  I would rather look blotchy.. then look like a blotchy raccoon (..when all my mascara runs).

And it feels good to let the tears fall.

But there are days when my emotions are raw.  Days.. or weeks.. when I am so overwhelmed with worries in my own life that my emotions surface too often.  Times when it feels like my heart is bruised.  Times when even tears can’t cleanse the burning in my chest.  On these days?  I wear earplugs.  Well .. headphones actually.. headphones with soothing.. distracting.. much loved music.  On the day I went to the grocery store.. to find my daughter a snack that fit into her Gluten free/Dairy free/Corn free diet?  I was too raw.  I was overcome with guilt that it was the food I was feeding my kids that was causing all their troubles.  All their health issues, their mood disorders… That guilt still burned in my heart.  So I wore my headphones.

Why would I wear headphones to the store?  What could be overwhelming?

Have you ever seen the mother in aisle 7 whose 3 year old is throwing ANOTHER temper tantrum?  The one who looks like she wants to cry?  I do.  Have you ever seen the beautiful grandma in the card aisle?  The one who can barely walk but wants to pick out the perfect card for her daughter? The one who openly admits it may be her last year to do so?  I have.  Have you ever seen the young couple .. just back from their honeymoon.. who came to pick out towels together?  The one’s with love and hope shining from their eyes? I have.  Have you ever seen the person standing in the garden section?  The one picking out the perfect plant to take to a funeral?  The person who would rather be anywhere else.. but wants to be strong for the people left behind?  I have.  I see all of them.  There are days that I leave the grocery store and cry in my car… from all the emotions I saw.. All the emotions I felt for these people.  I flash smiles… send up quiet prayers… and reach frostings that are on the top shelf.

If I am already raw?  These extra emotions almost cripple me… and then I weep.

But I AM becoming more comfortable with my Super Power.  I stay in tune more.. Which means I listen better, I laugh more… I cry more… AND I feel less selfish.  I help more people because I can hear what they need.  I get much more from the world around me.. because I am proud of who I am.. of who I take after.

Just recently, someone asked me if I get my “tears” from my mother… I shook my head and smiled.  No, I get them from my Father.

It Takes a Village TOO…

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Beating the odds….

When we moved to Missouri in 2002, my kids were little.  So our only requirement for a house?  A BIG backyard.  Growing up in the woods, I needed trees and I needed space in our suburban yard.  My husband found it for me.  A huge backyard on a cul-de-sac.  Five mature trees made the backyard somewhat secluded.  He knew I would love it and put a contract on it within minutes.  He was right.. it was perfect for us.

Well God was looking out for us that day.  We were looking at our children’s immediate need.. but God?  He was planning for their future.  So while I was looking for trees for tree swings, a wide open space to play baseball and a shaded place for a playset… God found us a perfect village.  He put us right by the perfect friends for my family.  Close to my husband’s Missouri family.  And he chose the perfect school for my children.

My son is a sweet, lovable boy with a face full of freckles, beautiful blue eyes and the most contagious smile.  When you take your first glance at this tall attractive boy?  You do NOT see Special Needs.  You see a teenage boy.  You do not see that he didn’t talk until he was 3.  You cannot see that he was diagnosed with Autism at 4.  And you cannot see that he was diagnosed with Bipolar at 6.  When we bought a house with a backyard full of trees?  I didn’t see it either.  But God knew our future.. and He planned for us.  He provided the perfect place for my boy to grow.

Why was a school so important a part of my kid’s future?

I wholeheartedly believe that the whole village impacts a child as they grow up and mature.  The village is a child’s family, their church, their friends .. AND their school.  When a child has Special Needs?  That school makes up the large part of their future.

You see.. No mother can do everything on her own.  But a mother with a special needs child.. she HAS to trust the school to provide the things she cannot.  I had to trust the school to take care of my child and provide him a safe environment.  I had to trust the Special Education director to get him the therapies my son needed.  I had to trust the IEP team to develop the best plan for my son’s school year.  And I had to TRUST the teachers to push my son toward success.  Yup, I said PUSH.  I don’t want my son to SURVIVE school… I really want him to excel at school.  You may think that is a lofty set of goals for Special Needs.. It MAY be.. I may aim too high.. But I would rather aim too high and settle slightly.. then to not aim high enough.  My son is amazing.  He is artistic.  He is smart.  He is a hard worker.. and my son wants to go to college.  But he is a child.. children will choose the easier path if you let them.  So I refuse to let him.

This school that God picked for my family?  They wanted everything that I wanted for my son.  The “village” we found at Henderson Elementary?  Principals, Assistant Principals, Special Education Director, Paraprofessionals, Teachers, Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and even the Librarian.  THAT village of amazing people?  They became our family for those 6 years.. and beyond.  When my son had successes, no matter how small.. they celebrated with me.  When I had fun stories to tell.. they were the ones who laughed with me.  When my son was being stubborn, they were the ones who planned WITH me on how to turn it around.  When my son was unstable, they helped develop a plan to keep himself and others safe.  When I had to cry?  They were the ones crying with me.  But the most amazing thing for me?  When the days were long.. and rough.. and there was NO hope shining from those beautiful blue eyes.. These amazing ladies were STILL there rooting for my son to succeed.  No matter how bad the days were..they were the ones who met my son each morning with a smile and forgiveness in their hearts.

Some of those days were really bad.

Bipolar doesn’t sound that terrible.  But it is a terrible disease.  It is also known as Manic Depression.  Basically with this mood disorder?  Your body doesn’t make the right amount of the hormones you use to control your emotions.  Not enough serotonin and you feel depressed.  Too much serotonin and you feel euphoric.  Too much adrenaline and you feel scared/aggressive.  I could go on.. but I think you can see the trend.  With Autism there are triggers.. too hot.. too cold.. too loud.. too frustrated.. too .. anything.  With Bipolar?  Other than the seasons, we can find no pattern.

When my amazing son starts to cry those big crocodile tears because his brain is telling him he is overwhelmingly sad?  My motherly instinct is to hold him and protect him.  When my son wants to laugh at the world because his brain is telling him he is elated?  My instinct is to laugh along.  When my son wants to hurt himself?  Stab himself with a pencil? Pull out his hair?  Punch his head because his brain is too confused for him to think clearly?  I want to step in and protect him… and then cry.  But Bipolar is there for Life.. So Life must go on.

This “village” that God provided for me? For us all?  They were there will us every step of the way.  Cheering for us.. handing out smiles.. encouraging… (keeping straight faces)..  Why did they?  I have no idea!! But I am so grateful.  Because without them?  We wouldn’t be where we are.  Because of their help and their determination?  My son has learned that Life has to go on no matter WHAT your brain is telling you.  They helped him with coping strategies.. and they never made my son feel like there was anything wrong with him.

Because of the acceptance of this amazing group of professionals?  My son was accepted as a valuable part of the “village” by everyone.  (I could write a book on how we all took part in this awesome feat.. and I probably will…)

This amazing accepting “village” was great for more than just the children with Special Needs.  My daughter who absolutely loves to learn and loves school.. this school that God picked for us, provided something for her as well.  Because the school valued her brother as a part of its village.. No matter what… She learned to accept her brother without question.  But more than that.. I think it gave all kids a strong feeling of security.  If a child with an obvious disability can be accepted for who he is .. and loved because of it?  How can a child with a small insecurity NOT feel safer?  The students at this school turned into a wonderful group of kids.

So imagine my distress, when God sent us home to Michigan?

I love Michigan.  It’s beautiful!  It has trees … and lakes.. and rivers.. and trees… did I mention trees?  I didn’t realize how much I loved this home state of mine until we moved away.  And Michigan also holds the majority of my family.  Oh.. we wanted to move home with a passion.

But I was worried.

If we moved schools.. how would my kids live without this amazing village that God had given us all?  How would we survive without it?  So I dove into research.  Websites, school review sites, anecdotal review sites, phone calls to school, joining online support groups to get advice… and yet nothing.  I finally knew the area we wanted to end up in.. but there were still 10 school to choose from.  So more phone calls and house tours.  We narrowed our search finally to 5 houses.. Each in a different school district.  I set up tours.. and I prepared for the whisper of the Still Small Voice of God to lead my way.

What I got was a roar.  I almost cried.. (okay I cry a lot).. This school that God led us to?  From the moment the Special Education director called me ahead of time.. to the secretary asking how she could help me.. to the amazing tour I received from the principal.. and every person I met along the way… Every thing was a roar from God that this was it!! This was the new village He had planned for us… And who was I to argue?

This week I dropped off my son to school.  He walked independently through the front doors and headed to the locker he independently opens.  He independently headed to a meeting he had with his teachers.

You see?  My son still hits sometimes.  This week he hit one of his BIGGEST fans.  His brain told him he was scared or frustrated or angry or something.. and it was so overwhelming he punched one of our favorite people in this new village.  Then he cried.  And so did I.. I am crying again as I type this.  This amazing person doesn’t just want my son to exist.. she wants him to be amazing.. she wants him to be the BEST he can be… so she pushes him to excel.  Unfortunately that puts her on the front lines of the battle.  She has encouraged him to be independent, successful.. and most importantly.. My son is so proud of who he has become.  Then when he snapped?  Since she was on the front lines, she got hurt.  That hurts my heart every time I think about it. But what makes me stop in absolute AWE.  This amazing lady who was hit by my adult sized boy?  She forgave him immediately. “Seven times seventy,” she says is their motto.  That is absolutely amazing .. and it is hard to do.  Even though she forgave him immediately, she is still hurt.

I would like to point out that forgiving is a lot different than accepting.  I do not accept that my son HAS to hit.. and neither do any of his teachers.  Forgiveness means you try harder next time to do it differently.  That is what I teach my son.  We always try again.  And the next time we try ..we WILL do it better.

Through her pain (both physically and mentally), the teacher my son hit is standing with the rest of the team to make a plan, so that we can try to prevent it from happening again.  This plan isn’t to not push him as hard to succeed.  It is a plan to help him deal with the confusing messages his disease sends him.  To help him move toward a successful (and non aggressive) high school career.. To help him move toward being an independent hard working adult.

So today?  Today I am thankful that God has brought this amazing lady into our lives.  Yet this amazing lady is only ONE of the amazing professionals at this small school in the country.  Every person my son has come into contact with has made a huge impact on his life.  So today I am ALSO extremely thankful God has provided another amazing village for my kids to grow up in.

When I watched my son walk through those doors, to head to that meeting on his own.  A meeting to talk about how to turn the next bad day around to make it better.. on his own?  YUP.. I was crying again.  Because he couldn’t be that independent, confident or determined young man without the “villages” that God has given us.  I could never have done it on my own… and to tell you the truth.. I wouldn’t want to try.

At the end of the school year, I always look for the perfect thank you gifts.  How do you tell someone thank you for going to the front lines of battle everyday .. just so your son can be the best that he can possibly be..  A gift card?  A coffee mug?  What I really wish was to give them a trip to Egypt .. or a day at the spa.  But I can’t afford that AND stay home to be available for those bad days.  So I settle for a heartfelt card and home made cookies.  Is it enough? NOPE.. But while I am praying that my son grows in control every day.. I also pray that God will Bless each and every person that has come to care for my children.  That He will keep each and everyone of them in His Glorious hands and protect them.

So in the End?  In the End all I can do is pray for a whole village.

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

The Liebster award is an informal award that is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers, who then nominate other up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. I was nominated by Jenn Lost in Chaos.  Thank you Jenn for the nomination! Please go and check out her blog, especially She Inspires Me.

These are the rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their site.
  • Answer the 10 questions provided.
  • Nominate 10 new up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.
  • Create your own 10 questions to be answered by the bloggers you nominated.

Here are the questions Jenn asked me:

  1. Why did you start blogging?  I love to tell stories and to write.  Recently a friend told me I should share these stories with others.  After a lot of prayer, I went out on a limb… and started blogging.  I started out just on Facebook.. then moved to WordPress. 
  2. What is your favorite time of day?  I LOVE the early morning hours.  Midnight to 3 am are my favorite.  There is no need to feel guilty to be Still .. To just read or write or watch movies.  Cleaning anything would wake up my family.. so it is guilt free time.  When I am not “one” with my insomnia.. I love the early hours of morning before my kids wake up.  A time when the day is fresh and new.. and full of hope.
  3. Who inspires you and why?  My kids inspire me.  In this imperfect world, my kids overcome their “weaknesses” and shine.  What do you see when you look at them?  All you see are their beautiful souls.  That is who I want to be.  Just a beautiful soul.
  4. What is your favorite animal and why?  My favorite animal is (and probably always will be) the elephant.  Why?  I am not sure.  Maybe because they are so graceful.  Maybe because of their understated strength.  Maybe because it is said that an elephant never forgets… or that elephants actually mourn their loved ones when they die.  But honestly?  Honestly I just think they are beautiful.
  5. How do you like to waste time? Reading.. or research.  Or maybe reading research.  I LOVE to read.  I can reread my favorite books, read new books.. or simply read a documentary on the use of vitamins in Autism treatment.  Reading is in my blood.
  6. Name one place you would like to visit and why.  I love to travel with my family.  Our goal is to see every state in the US before my daughter graduates.  But if I had to pick a place outside of the United States… then I would love to visit Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Western Europe.  My family immigrated from those countries over the last 300 years.. and I have a burning desire to see where I come from.  I would tour castles.. and walk through old forests.  Visit old farmhouses.  I just want to breathe the air.. and see what stories the air will tell me.  
  7. If you celebrated Halloween and dressed up as a kid what was your favorite costume and why?  I know I dressed up for Halloween as a kid.. but I don’t remember any of my costumes.  I remember some of my younger brothers’ costumes.. but none of my own.  What I do remember was that amazing feeling of being “safely” scared.  I remember the excitement as you knocked on each door, wondering what treat you would get.  And I remember knowing some of the neighbors so well, that we would all be ushered inside for hot cocoa and candied apples.  So I guess the costumes were really irrelevant.  Only the happiness mattered.
  8. Do you believe in miracles?  Absolutely.  As soon as my firstborn child was born.. all doubts disappeared.  I always knew that God could do all things according with His Plan…  But holding the child that had grown inside me… it erased any doubts.
  9. What is  your favorite book, tv show or movie? Pick one or all three.  (I am going to pause here.. like I am thinking about it.)  Without a doubt.. My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  The movie version that BBC produced of Pride and Prejudice is amazing as well.  I have read and re-read this book every year since I was 16.  It is a marvelous look at life and relationships of England so long ago.  The story itself is ultimately a romance.  But before the romance rears its head.. you have thoroughly learned the characters of everyone in the story.  To live so completely inside someone else’s life?  It is fascinating!!  
  10. What have you learned from blogging? I have learned a lot.  Blogging is like visiting a close friend.  Someone who lets you spill everything on your mind without interrupting ..before they reply.  That refreshing feeling you get when you talk yourself out.  I get that satisfied feeling every time I finish typing a post. That is what blogging has done for me.  But what I didn’t expect to learn from blogging?  I didn’t expect people to understand the way I think and feel.  I didn’t expect for people to feel the emotions that go behind my words.  That was an added Blessing.  

Here are your questions:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What is your favorite season?
  3. If you could have lunch with one person, past or present.. who would it be and why?
  4. What is your favorite animal and why?
  5. How do you like to waste time?
  6. Name one place you would like to visit and why.
  7. What is your favorite holiday to celebrate and why?
  8. What is the first memory you have?
  9. What is  your favorite book, tv show or movie? Pick one or all three.
  10. What have you learned from blogging?

My Nominees are:

It takes a village…

ImageEven in a tight knit, loving family, it still takes a village to raise a child. Actually, I don’t really agree with that statement. A child doesn’t NEED a village to raise her, but rather the village (or community) a child is raised in, impacts her life in a small or big way as she grows.

My “village” growing up, was large. I had a large family, I had a couple really good friends, a loving church family… and the rest of a large community. Part of this community were some amazing Aunts. I grew up with a lot of aunts. A few of these aunts lived far away but still impacted my life with their personalities when I saw them. But I had a few aunts that lived very close to me and were part of my everyday life.

My Aunt Carla is a wonderful lady and loved to dote on me. Being blessed with 6 handsome boys, she loved to brush my hair and tell me how beautiful I was. She also has a great sense of humor. She helped me develop a good sense of self.. And while I do believe she is biased when it comes to me.. it always felt good to be fussed over.

My Aunt Gerry lives a few hours away, but she always made sure she kept in touch with us. And the fun part?  She would take a couple of us cousins home with her, for a couple weeks during the summer. Not only did her sweet personality and her strong faith in God have an impact on my life, but I also saw the simple joy she got out of doing something for someone else. This is very much a part of who I am.

My Aunt Ann was my example of a working mom.. Her schedule was always busy AND yet she still took time to invite me over to stay with my cousin Mandy. I have to admit that while I saw how she balanced work, home and marriage.. the thing I remember the most was that for a vertically challenged lady, she could hold her own against my tall uncle!! Loving, fun, smart and brave.. I couldn’t have asked for a better aunt.

But the Aunt that had the most impact on me, was my Aunt Dianne. My Aunt Dianne gave me my first job.. I helped her make crafts for her craft shows.. She put up with my slow but meticulous work. Praised me for a job well done.. And we were together for hours. While we worked we would talk.. And laugh. Man could my Aunt Dianne laugh. She laughed all the time. It was the most glorious sound. It made the world seem like such a secure place when someone could laugh like that. And when you are flying along on a scary roller coaster, hanging upside down with your feet danging.. into the sky (yikes!) … that laugh made you feel so much safer.  Because she wouldn’t laugh if you were ACTUALLY in danger (would she??).  My aunt Dianne forced me to face my fears (yes roller coasters), made me tell her what was bothering me (I was a teen.. a lot bothered me), asked me what I thought about everything, read the books I was reading and taught me to laugh at myself.

Now that I am all “grown up”, I find myself wondering if I will have that much of an impact on any one of my nieces or nephews.. But I also realize how much I owe to these wonderful ladies.  You may think that most of my upbringing comes from my parents and they should get the credit.  And you would be right.  My parents were amazing!!  They raised me to be confident, independent and loving.  Yet I owe a lot to my village of Aunts.   They helped me develop my “plan” on how much I wanted to impact this world we live in.

Three of these amazing ladies will possibly read this post and know that I appreciate each and every one of them. But my Aunt Dianne got sick and passed away a few years back..  I was so heart broken about how much I was going to miss her… that I never actually told her how much she meant to me. She probably knew.. but I so wish that I could be sure that she knew how much our long talks meant to me.

So this year I plan on telling every person who impacts my life how much I appreciate them. That way I will never have to wonder if they knew. And even though I still miss my Aunt Dianne every day, I have no fear that when I walk through the pearly gates of Heaven, that one of the first sounds I will hear is that Glorious laugh.

Cracks in the wall…

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If these walls could speak..

We moved back home to Michigan a little over a year ago.  But it feels like it just happened.  For weeks, my husband and I looked at house pictures online and took tours.  My FAVORITE houses were always the old farmhouses.  So much character.. I would wander from room to room almost “hearing” the stories the walls were telling me.  The layers of wallpaper telling the tales through the generations that lived there.  Each layer was probably picked with love and highly treasured.  I could have sat in each house for hours and let the tales spin around in my mind.

But, alas.. my husband is a builder.  While we often agreed that a house had (probably) been beautiful once, he does not always see the charm I still recognize.  He walked each house appalled at the amateur renovations we would find.  Holes cut through walls.. stairways cut through a solid oak stair rail.. Homemade cabinets.  The hours of work involved in pulling wallpaper down, re-drywall-ing, or refinishing wood floors.. honestly exhausted him just thinking about it.  And plumbing.. shudder.. we don’t even want to talk about that.  But the deciding factor for my husband has always been the basement.  The foundation NEEDS to be solid for him.  He would look for cracked or crumbling basement walls.  Looked for evidence of moisture or water damage.  Then he examined the floor joists for cracks or rot.  When my husband started to go through the mechanical room?  YUP.. I tune out.  I go back to imagining all the events that have happened among those walls in the last 100 years.  The wisdom it had seen.

Why is my husband so concerned with the basement?  He said that no matter how much time and money you put into the rooms that everyone sees.. If the basement is damaged? .. Then the house will NOT last.  Honestly, I have gotten teary-eyed on more than one occasion, insisting that we could fix the basement.. make it stable.  He always lovingly (and most patiently) explains that it is possible.  At a huge cost and huge time commitment.. but it could be done.  The upper floors could be jacked up and supported while the walls of the basement are reconstructed… and then re-poured.   To ME this cost would have been worth it.. I mean think of all the memories and stories the house holds.

Marriage is a lot like a house.  If the foundation the marriage is built on is sturdy and intact, then your marriage will last.  If you and your spouse discuss every decision and love each other.. then the floor joists will be solid.  After that, each room is built .. one memory or joyful life event at a time.  When sad or tragic life events happen?  Sometimes you have to patch a hole or add a layer of wall paper to cover it up.

At one time my marriage was like that old farmhouse.

You see.. I was raised with firm Faith in God.  I was very confident that I knew who I was.  And I had (and have) confidence in my love for my husband… We had a solid foundation for our marriage.  We talked about everything and laughed with each other.  So our floor joists were sturdy… We were ready to start building rooms…

So we started a family… We have 2 children.  Our firstborn daughter was very strong willed. (Ok.. she still is.)  She tested every level of patience… and then some.  A wonderful beautiful soul… but very independent.  Our second born is a son who has Special Needs.  Luckily my son, decided to wait until my daughter started to grow out of the daily fights for independence before he started asking for “help”.  Now at first glance, you can see my Blessing in this.  I only had one child at a time, that needed my patience, persistence.. and research.  But it was an exhausting existence for years.

The first crack that showed up in my basement wall was pride.  I knew I could raise my kids by MYSELF.. I didn’t need anyone’s help.  My husband and I could do it all alone.  My pride in not asking for help caused me to be over tired and irritable at times.  But all mothers are tired and irritable at times, right?!?  I would simply research how to improve myself because I knew I could do a good job. But this first crack?  My pride crack weakened our foundation..

My second crack was irritation.  I research everything.. why strong willed children argue.. what causes Autism.. what causes bipolar.. why anxiety is genetic.. I wanted to talk through with it all with my husband when he got home from work.  Sounds reasonable right?  I could read a 300 page book and then try to explain it to my exhausted husband.  And then get irritated because he didn’t understand it enough to discuss it with me.  It seemed that he didn’t care.  What I didn’t see was that he DIDN’T understand all of it.  But he knew that I did ..so he trusted me.   I also didn’t see that my husband was often still in that “mechanical room”.  What is the mechanical room of a marriage, you may wonder?  It’s the job that provides for us.. keeping a roof over his family.. insurance to keep us healthy.. working cars to take us where we need to go.. and also the financial stability that allowed me to stay home with my kids while they grew.  He worried.  He worried a lot more than I ever realized.  Why?  How could I not know?  Well.. when he was in the mechanical room.. YUP.. I tuned out.  How boring.. I have Faith in God.  I have faith that He will provide for us.. End of story for the mechanical room.  I would rather talk about the challenges God was giving us.. the set backs my son was having.. the new interventions that the special education staff was putting into place.. God’s plan for our family and the best way to follow the path He has set before us.  As you can imagine.. I was irritated a lot.

Which is why the 3rd crack, rudeness, was so wide.  I was tired and stressed.. and too prideful to ask for help.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed for peace.  I prayed for my kids.  I prayed for my husband.  But I never prayed for help.  I started to demand it from my husband though.  Not everyday but on occasion.  But often enough that it started to make him hesitate to want to come home at night. Come home he did though.  Every night.

My 4th crack is pretty common with stay at home moms.  I wonder how much more true it is for Moms of children with special needs.  Moms of kids with strong wills, with disabilities, language delays, diagnoses, anxiety, attention disorders .. or any label at all.  Jealousy.  Such an ugly word.  Envy sounds a little better.. but it still sounds like a disease.  I began to envy the fact that my husband got to leave the house by himself.  Envy that he was able to have full intelligent conversations with other adults.  Envy the fact that my husband was a successful and respected part of his company.  Small children do not show respect to their mothers.  Moms at play groups are tired and worn out.  Intelligent conversations aren’t even hoped for.. all we hoped for was to be not interrupted.  That and to hope our kid didn’t bite/hit/kick/pinch anyone else’s child.  And I just wished my son would play along side all the other children.  I never begrudged another child’s successes.  I always rejoiced in each one.  But I would wish that my son could have easy successes too.  Those wishes started to look a lot like envy for awhile.

One day, my husband came home.  He helped me with out asking what I needed help with.  Then he told me that he knew my job was a hard one and told me how proud he was of me.  My heart soared for a full 10 seconds… and then.. I snapped.  Why couldn’t he see that everyday.. not just once every 6 months.  And SURE he helped out tonight.. but what about the week I couldn’t do laundry because it was upstairs and my toddler couldn’t be trusted downstairs.. did he help then? NO .. and what about the day he needed to work late.. and what about.. what about..  What I didn’t see was that my husband was trying .. he was trying to come out of the mechanical room.. he was trying to see the character in the rooms upstairs.. and he was trying to help me patch some holes in our home.

I didn’t see this for quite awhile actually.  I simply added things to my “list”..  The list that my pride was constructing.

Then one day, I came across the “Love is patient..” verse in my devotions.  I skipped it because I knew it by heart, right?!? The next day, a friend of mine complimented me on how my Love shines through to everyone around me.. how patient and kind I was. She couldn’t see my discontent because my pride kept it buried.. in the basement.  But her comment made me pause.  I thanked her .. and then shook it off.  Then the next day, I found another reference to this verse in the Bible.  I laughed.. because I believe that God uses our surrounding to whisper to us. Listening to that Still Small Voice whisper to me.. I pulled out my Bible… and read…

“Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.”  1 Corinthians 13: 4-5

The whole world could have walked through my house.. and by all appearances it would have thought my family (and marriage) looked stable.. happy even.  But in that moment, I knew… I knew that the Basement of my house.. the foundation to my marriage had some pretty huge cracks in it.

You may say that the cracks weren’t really my fault.  That I had a lot of stresses.. a lot of storms that rocked that foundation. Parenting, health concerns, special needs, IEP’s, surgeries, mood disorders, medications… The storms we lived through were extensive.  But I could see that I didn’t have as much true Faith as I could have.  That all my tears of frustration with my husband, all the tears of heartache at watching my kids suffer and struggle, all the tears of resentment at changing all my life plans to accommodate my family’s needs (EVEN though those accommodations were what I wanted).. All those tears?  Without true blind Faith in God’s plan for us?  I was causing those cracks to grow bigger everyday.  And soon a wall was going to collapse.

As I walked through the rooms of my Marriage.. I saw all the memories.. all the good times.. and even some bad times.. But just like that old Farmhouse that I wanted to fix up so bad.. I wanted to save my marriage.  Sure it would take a lot of time and hard work.. and a lot prayer.  But I knew it would be worth it.

You might imagine that I called my husband right away and told him of my discovery?  You’d imagine wrong.  I had apologized to him time and time again for snapping at him in frustration.  I had apologized over and over through the years.  What I needed was to prove to him that I had Faith.

Now I would like to say that I was an overnight sensation.  I was not.  There was more than one day, that constant prayer and faith was needed to keep me going.  There were days that I took my good friend’s advice that sometimes we “Fake it to make it.”  And there were days I crashed… and cried at my weakness.  Why do it then?  If I had to fake my happiness why not simply get divorced?  Well I know that divorce is anything but simple…  and..  I didn’t have to fake happiness.  I had to fake patience on irritable days.  I didn’t have to fake love.  I had to fake kindness on a rude day.  NOW.. I do know that sometimes divorce is the only option.  So please don’t think me critical or that I am judging anyone who has chosen to divorce.  But my marriage.. it had a STRONG foundation.  We just needed to fix the cracks before they broke our marriage beyond repair.

Fix them we did.  It took a lot of work.  And I still apologize for my irritable days.  But when I pray for forgiveness.. I pray that I also forgive myself for my weakness.  When I forgive my husband for his bad day, I pray that God wipes it from my heart and my mind.. so I no longer have a list to fall back on.  The result?  The love and faith that painted the rooms in our marriage? It also paints our foundation now.  All that work was so worth it.

We did not buy that old farmhouse.  I saw my husband’s wisdom that we needed to have a home with a sound foundation.  And the character?  Well we are adding our own charm to our home one day at a time.  And these days my husband and I.. well we do a better job “listening” to our marriage.  I explain how I think the hole in the hallway (that we are patching) adds character to our lives, I expand on how the struggles our children go through, in the long run.. well it may be a good story to tell.  And my husband listens to me.. laughs a lot.. but he listens.  And when my husband wants to show me something in our mechanical room.. job, insurance, or car worries.. I follow him all the way to the basement and try to give him my full attention.

How did I know it was going to work you ask?  1 Corinthians 13:13.. There are three things that will ENDURE — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.  I knew that the marriage we built on love would endure if I had faith and hope.  And I had plenty of both.

Stay on the Path…

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I’m right behind you….

There is a path from my back door to my chicken coop.  It is snow covered this morning, and if I didn’t KNOW for sure that it was there.. I would doubt its existence.  This path was formed over the last 2 months and is made up of packed down snow and ice.  Today, I was very frustrated with slipping and sliding along this narrow path.  And when my foot caught the 3rd chunk of ice, causing me to trip .. yet again?? I stepped off the path..

My leg sunk down into the snow.. up to my knee.  After a couple steps (lugging a bucket of water and one of food)?  I realized that the path was the much better option.. even with its icy patches.  So with a little effort, I climbed back up onto the path and carried on.

In my chicken coop, I have 11 chickens and 2 ducks. When we bought our birds, we researched the best kinds for our area.  We wanted birds that would be comfortable and survive our harsh cold winters.  We picked Isa Browns.  It is said that Isa Brown chickens are hearty down to temps of -20.  But to be honest?  I haven’t tested that theory.  I have a heat lamp that comes on when the temperatures get down to 0.  When the windchill was -40, I closed their doors and shoved towels into every crack.  My husband laughed and said that I was babying them.  That chickens and ducks are tougher than I am giving them credit for.  But to me?  If I can make them a LITTLE more comfortable in this extreme cold.. with very little effort?  Why shouldn’t I?

But it makes me think of a time 11 years ago.

When I was pregnant for my daughter, I bought a book.  What to Expect when you are expecting!  And I read it! And then I followed it. I followed it for both my pregnancies.  I stayed away from foods that were bad for my baby.  When I was so sick and I didn’t want to eat anything? I forced myself to eat protein.  I drank so much water ..that I should have floated away.  And I didn’t take any prescription medicine without double checking with 2 doctors.  I did everything “right”..

And yet, 11 years ago,  my son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 4.

After the initial shock?  My first thought was.. “Why ME?”  I mean .. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink, I didn’t even eat chocolate and definitely didn’t drink coffee… So what did I do wrong?  Why did something have to happen to MY baby?  Even though I tried to hide my tears.. my very in-tuned son.. the one who is labelled by the world as “Special Needs”?  He crawled into my lap, wiped my tears with his little fingers and gave me a beautiful smile.  And I knew.  God gave me this Blessed little soul on purpose.  His Blessed personality is not a punishment to my son or to me.  God gave him especially to me to safe guard and protect.  Why Me?  I like to think that God researched me and observed me.. and He knew I was hearty enough to weather the storms.  He knew that with a little extra love and protection, I could get up each morning and smile at the new day.  God thought I would be perfect for this job.

SO.. God hand picked me to be the mother of my beautiful souled son.. (and daughters)…  It wasn’t an accident.  He picked me.  Makes me feel a little like Mary…

So because God thought I was the perfect choice for my son.. does that make me perfect?  No!!  In fact, last night I stepped off the path God set before me, yet again.  “Why me?” I asked.  Sometimes the events of my life aren’t pretty.. and they can get a little slippery.  But honestly, I would choose to stay on this path God has given me..then to head out on my own.  As I struggled to climb back up onto my chosen path… God rewarded me .. with a smile from a beautiful face.  That’s all I needed.  That is all I needed to know that God trusts me with his most precious gifts.  And I know that not only CAN I do this.. but with God’s help?.. I can do this REALLY WELL.

When I opened the chicken coop to feed my birds this morning, the ducks were being very vocal.  No doubt explaining that the heat lamps didn’t come on in their coop last night.. and that it was really cold.  And I laughed.  I explained to them both that I had hand picked them to live here.. because I know that together we can handle the storms.  Then I gave them some sunflower seeds.. just to make it easier…

Inquiring minds….

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Hmm.. I wonder why?!?…

“Why?”

How many times have our kids asked us this one word question?  In my case.. too many. “Why?” and “How?” were a regular part of my daughter’s vocabulary for years.  But I also knew that my daughter had came by these words honestly.. and it was only fair.  YUP.. I was (and probably always will be) a curious child.  I ALWAYS wanted to know “Why?” or “How?” or “Where?” or “Who?” or “How much?” and even “What?!?”.  I eventually learned to look these questions up myself (I LOVE google searches)… but I am sure it wasn’t before I had exasperated the patience of every adult around me.

I wanted to know EVERYTHING.  Sometimes the answers were easy.. “Read the directions.” or “The encyclopedias are in the living room.”  But just as often they weren’t easy to answer.  I remember when I was young.. we had learned about dinosaurs at school.  The teacher had said the dinosaurs had been extinct for THOUSANDS of years before humans “evolved”.  Now.. I had been raised in a Christian home and I KNEW beyond a shadow of doubt that God was the Creator of all things.. and if the Bible said God made everything in creation in 6 days then I believed It.  BUT.. how could they have proof?  Scientific proof to PROVE something that wasn’t true.  This was something that troubled me.. and it kept me up at night.  So I asked my brothers.. They told me to ask my Mom… My Mom told me to ask my Dad.. and my Dad suggested we ask our Pastor.

Our Pastor Cash.. he was a wonderful man.  He always had a smile or a laugh for us kids.  And when he gave a sermon you could tell he believed every word he said.  So.. I decided I would be brave and asked him… (AFTER ALL, I needed to know to survive).  So on Sunday morning, after the sermon (a sermon I guarantee you that I didn’t hear one word of), I patiently stood in line to greet Pastor Cash, with a carefully rehearsed question on my lips.  Now anyone who goes to church can easily envision this next scene.  Each person in their turn, shook Pastor Cash’s hand, smiled and gave a short phrase of encouragement.  These phrases were always short.  Then they passed into the lobby and into their day of Rest.  I knew my question would have to be short as well (yup.. this is what I was carefully preparing while the good Pastor was sharing the Word of God).  The poor man had no idea what was in store for him.  “Great sermon, Pastor Cash.” Hand shake. “Wonderful sermon today.”  Hand shake.  “God is so good,” Hand shake.  “Beautiful day today, Pastor.”  Hand shake.  “Beautiful sermon, thank you.” Hand shake. “Pastor, If God made all creatures PLUS Adam and Eve on the 6th day, how can scientists have scientific proof that Dinosaurs had died 1000’s of years before the first man was created?” Silence…………… and then laughter.  I know my cheeks burned.  But before I could run and hide .. Pastor Cash took my nervous little hand between his two warm ones and smiled down at me.  “The Bible says that a day and a thousand years are the same in God’s eyes.” (…or something similar.. hey.. that was 30 years ago..) I was so happy with that answer that I BARELY heard my Dad apologize to Pastor Cash for the unexpected attack of my question.  And I barely heard the hearty laughter in reply or the assurance that it made his day.  I was just so happy to have that mystery solved.

Now I have, since then, learned what the meaning of “waters from above”, the long life spans of man and beast alike, and the true impact of what the great flood meant in relation to dinosaurs.  AND I have seen where scientists have found much more scientific proof as to the time frame of dinosaurs (or great lizards).  Why? you may ask?? Because I still want to know.  I want to know the answers to so many questions that I will spend hours researching things (not just dinosaurs I assure you).. unless I set timers for myself.

Who do I blame for this horrible, consuming curiosity that both my daughter and I inherited? My mother? My father?  Nope.. I blame Eve.  It was Eve that was curious enough to try the forbidden Fruit.. The fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge.  When I first heard this story of Eve and the serpent.. I wanted to know (shocking.. i know) why God would choose to shield us from knowledge.  To keep knowledge from us?  Now after years and years of struggling with this life of curiosity.. I realize something.  Curiosity.. man made facts… they get in the way of blind heartfelt faith.  I once asked someone a question of how they knew something.. and they answered me, “I just feel it in my heart.. that is how I know.”  I sometimes wish I had that faith.  That I could just accept the truth of God’s creation being perfect and not looking for more ways to prove it is real.  Because I believe the fact that God created all things with all my heart.  I believe that God has the perfect plan in the way He created all things.  And I believe that it needs NO proof!  I just wish I had a better connection between my heart and my mind.  .. maybe if I try an HDMI cable….?

My daughter asked a lot of questions too.. Why does that sign say that?  What does it mean? etc… Now sometimes, she would ask me hard questions.  Questions that I have no hope of ever knowing the answers to.  Questions like, “If God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are really the same person.. do they share the same body in Heaven?  Like you will only see one person?  or is it more like telepathy?  Like they can hear each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences?”  You may be wondering if I TOO directed her to seek the advice of our Pastor?  The answer is a resounding NO!! My daughter has embarrassed me enough in our lifetimes.  Instead, I reply, “You know what?  Why don’t you ask God when you get to Heaven?”  Which of course she frequently wants to know, “Why wait? Why can’t I know now?”  I assure her (while trying not to laugh at her impatience), “Because God is really the only one who knows the answers to YOUR questions.”

My daughter asked me once, if I could ask God any question when I get to Heaven, what question would it be?  Immediately, my mind wants to know why God would have even given Eve the chance to eat from the Tree of Knowledge… but in truth??? In truth, I think that when I stand before My Heavenly Father.. all that curiosity will leave me and I will finally have that Blind Faith.. I think I will be filled with such peaceful blind faith that I will just stand there in awe.. (or kneel)… Either way, I don’t think I will be asking him any questions.

Sweet Nothings…

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young dreams…

I have never been a fan of Romance.. Oh don’t get me wrong, I can watch the 5 hour version of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy falling in love over and over again. I re-read Love Comes Softly at least twice a year. I yell at the screen right along with my daughter when the heroine of a movie makes the dumbest assumptions and re-routes her life most inconveniently. But in real life.. In MY Life? I really have no place for it.. 

Now I did have crushes and I went on more than a few dates in my teenage years.  But when I was dating, I almost treated the first date like it was an interview.  And I was good.  I could tell by the end of that date if I could ever see myself marrying the guy.. if not.. we didn’t go out again.  I never wanted the long courtships or the long phone calls or the flowery words.. and definitely didn’t want the flowers.

And then I met Chad. Oh my sweet romantic husband was SOOO wasted on me. Jewelry.. flowers… sweet cards… romantic dates.. Ha.. In fact, I sat next to him in class for close to a month before I even noticed that he sat NEXT to me EVERY day. It was another couple weeks of talking in class before met outside of class… and then a month of “hanging out” before we went out on our first date. Our first romantic date. I knew I was going to marry him after a month of dating. Yet, my sweet husband still planned the most romantic proposal.. on the pier of Lake Michigan right at sunset.. and he was all dressed up too. He planned every detail.. It would have been so perfect and so Romantic…. But…. I made us run so late that by the time we were on our way, he was SO frustrated at me.. So frustrated in fact that he ended up throwing (gently) my engagement ring at me in his truck.  After he forgave me, he took me to the Pier the next day instead.  And I cried… Great big tears of Joy and LAUGHTER.. because my romantic man kneeled down on a beach FULL of dead fish to proposal.. And he would NOT stand up until I accepted.. which (of course) I did. 

So you are probably wondering… if I didn’t find his romantic side irresistible, what drew me to him? Well he had something else I always melted for.. Laughing and long talks. And Chad had plenty of both. He has the best laugh.. So if you asked me what I liked the most about my husband?  It would be his laugh.. Even when I am really mad and he starts laughing at me?? (Apparently he thinks I am adorable when angry). Yeah… it still melts my heart.

I asked Chad once what was the FIRST thing that he liked about me.. The ONE thing that made him switch his schedule so it matched mine.  The one thing that made him want to sit next to me every day .. The one thing that had him waiting patiently for a month for me to finally notice him?  Then I waited patiently for my romantic-hearted husband to decide on which romantic thing it would be.. And he said, “I guess that you were so sturdy.” Sturdy???  Sturdy to me means like Elephant trunk legs.. like nothing short of gale force winds could knock you over. Now I know that I am not a small boned girl.. I never hoped to be called petite.. but Sturdy?? So as I laugh and say, “Gee thanks..”, he calmly corrected me, “Not sturdy in frame but sturdy in spirit.. That you were so sure of who you were and confident..”. So I guess he thought my personality could survive gale force winds.. I’ll take that.. And I suppose it could be called Romantic. But next time I tell this story to a group of friends? You bet! I will still say “Sturdy? Gee thanks honey, I love you too..” You know why? Because it always makes him laugh! And you know how much I love his laugh.

Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.