Tag Archives: brothers

Have a Chai…

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No man’s land..

I always joke around about things changing my life. I say this phrase at least a few times a week. “Chai changed my life.” or “Jane Austen changed my life.” or “Pond scum”.. anything that seems funny and creates a smile on someone’s face. But in truth only a few things actually changed me. Don’t get me wrong there are quite a few things or people that have enhanced me.. helped me to be a better person. My faith in God, some wonderful friends, my family, etc. But in 1986, I changed. My little brother Dave was born that year. The year after that my littlest brother Mark.  Now, it’s true that I have one other little brother, a couple older ones and a sister. All wonderful siblings, who were the best companions growing up. But these 2 young boys changed my life almost completely.

You see before Dave was born, I knew what I wanted from my life. I wanted to be a writer. Not wanted like a wish, but more like I KNEW that was what I was going to be. I daydreamed stories, I wrote stories, I created characters. It consumed all my spare time. Consumed every idle thought.  I poured my soul into the written word.

With the birth of my little brothers, the burning desire to write slowly died out. In its place was born this fascination with watching children grow and develop into young people. My ability to tell stories didn’t die, I would create stories for them all the time.  Rather,  My desire to write stories.. it didn’t seem to be as important. In fact nothing else seemed as important. I can’t remember a single Christmas present I got after they were born, but I remember what they got each year. Especially remember the joy on their faces the year they opened their gigantic Teenage mutant ninja turtles. Now don’t get me wrong. I know that I had fun getting presents and I know that I was still a selfish creature at times, as all children are in their time. But my sole purpose in life changed from writing and thinking on my works of fiction TO watching young souls develop and grow. A career as a “Best Seller” was swapped for a career of Early Childhood teacher. But most of all, I changed from only wanting to satisfy my self-centered needs into someone who would gladly spend my last dollar on someone else. All my joy now coming from others.

I am thankful for these two blessings in my life. I have watched them both grow into wonderful young men. (Wonderful and TALL young men.)  They have married amazing women and have started families of their own. And I still find myself learning from them.

Then in 1997, shortly after I married my dear romantic husband, my life changed again.

First, I gave life to the most beautiful spirited, out-going, strong willed child.. in existence… Ok.. maybe not in ALL of God’s kingdom.. but in my tiny corner she was.  All the children in my family had been born with a primal fear of strangers ..ALREADY downloaded into their brain.  My beautiful daughter.. didn’t get that download.  In fact, she didn’t seem to have a single fear.  Now.. I didn’t want my daughter to be fearful like I was.. but SOME fears were beneficial.. weren’t they?

So here I was changing again… I had to learn to decide what fears were MINE.. and which fears my daughter needed… often ON THE FLY.. And I learned to control my quivering heart to calmly and patiently explain to my daughter WHY she couldn’t walk off with anyone who looked like her Grandma.. (often explaining IN FRONT of the look-a-like grandma).. I had to explain WHY she couldn’t drive my van across the parking lot.. (she tried to listen to me through the haze of pride shining out of her 2 year old eyes)..

I also learned not to leave my van running… even to jump start the air conditioning .. NO matter HOW hot it was.. because 2000 Dodge Caravans did NOT have the safety feature of having to apply the brake to shift… deep breath…  I learned a lot of random facts from parenting my daughter..

With my daughter, I learned that it wasn’t always about being right all the time.  Some days I stood my ground, for her own good.. sigh.. And some days I gave up and bought 10 more dresses online.. So again.. I was changing…

Then 15 years ago.. My son joined us.. He joined us 19 days earlier than we had planned … and in the last 15 years he has continued to NOT follow ANY of the plans I have had for him… He crawled earlier than I expected, talked later, drew better, computed better, talked less, climbed more, cleaned more.. Always different than what I had planned…

So Yes.. I was learning to adapt my parenting skills.  This second child so .. opposite.. of my first child.. I often felt like I had multiple personalities with the different parenting techniques I needed with each.

When you look at my son?  You see a beautiful (Ok.. handsome..) souled boy.. a boy that towers above you.  He has a calmness about him that is soothing to watch.  He is helpful and eager to please.  And Joyful.. so joyful.  But when he starts to talk, you’ll see a difference then.  You see my son has Autism.. with a splash of Bipolar.. and a healthy dose of language delay.  So even though my son would LOVE to talk to you.. he doesn’t know how.. or what to say… so he tells you a story.. OK.. it will actually be from his favorite shows.. but hey.. it is still a story.  When he was younger, he could literally recite an entire episode of Dora the Explorer.. Theme song, exact words, sound effects, choices.. voice changes.. etc.  It was amazing in itself..

But it is NOT what I wanted for my son.

I wanted my son to do sports.. I wanted my son to climb trees with the neighbors.. I wanted him to beg to eat at his friend’s house.. I wanted to bandage knees.. I wanted him to have camp outs with his friends in the backyard.. and I wanted to look forward to all his accomplishments.

As I started to realize that hardly ANY of MY plans were going to happen.. I got sadder and sadder..

Until one day..

One day.. through a fresh bout of tears… I heard the Still Small Voice of God whisper.. “As for God.. His way is perfect,” (2 Samuel 22:31a).. Ha.. actually it was my sweet boy’s voice reciting the verse he learned on Veggie tales.  But I believe that God speaks his Still Small voice into the wind.. or the radio.. or my amazing son.

So for those months .. when I was the most sad about the things my son would probably never do.. my son would repeatedly tell me that “As for God.. His way is Perfect!”  It would make me laugh tearfully most days.

Then one day?  One day.. when I sent my daughter off to do an activity.. I felt that familiar ache fill my heart.  That familiar wish that my son would be able to do the same activity.. As that sadness filled my chest, making it so hard to breathe.. My son looked at me and smiled.  Smiled so beautifully.. so fully… and so contently.  Joy filling his eyes and a giggle on his lips… I realized something.. I realized that those wishes?  They were mine.. not his.  He was not sad to stay home with me.  He was not sad that he didn’t go for sleepovers.  He was not sad that he wasn’t at a friend’s house everyday.. He wasn’t sad that he didn’t believe in the tooth fairy or Santa.. He wasn’t sad at all… He was happy with his life.

And in that moment I realized something else.  My son didn’t miss out on the those experiences because he had special needs.  He missed out on those experiences because they just were NOT important to him.  In other words.. he wasn’t missing them at all.  You see?? My son is an amazing person… I have always seen that.. but what I couldn’t see was that he enjoyed a slower life than what I wanted for him.

So the way I saw it.. I had 2 choices..  1.  I could force my busy life style on him.. or 2.  I could let his enthusiasm for life be my guide for his goals.

So I changed again.. and I think for the better.

In those next few months, I learned to look at life through my children’s eyes.  I learned to see what was helpful to them .. and was simply my hopes for them.  Did I want them to learn something new? Or was I asking them to learn something I wanted them to?

I often learn the most through the quiet times .. In the quiet you can hear your children’s thoughts and dreams whisper through their conversations.  You can hear their hopes and fears through their stories.  You can hear their love in their laughter.. and if you listen carefully.. God’s still small voice is there too.. whispering his plans for your children.

There are days when I still struggle to keep my “plans” from interfering with that of my children’s (and often time God’s plans as well).. Days when I realize that I need to step back and take a deep breath.  Days when I need to ask a friend whether something is what my kids “need” or simply what I “want” for them..

And THAT is where Chai comes in..

When I need to step back.. or evaluate my kids’ best interest.. I simply make myself a chai .. or sometimes two.. depending on the decision..   When I realized my daughter had NO INTEREST in writing to the international penpal I had found for her?  I had a chai.   When I realized my daughter was NEVER going to let me braid her hair, so I had to cut it short? (Actually that was before I discovered chai.. but I could have used one..)  When I realized my son had NO interest in History?  YUP… I drink a lot of chai..

While I drink my chai?  I sip it and let stillness fill my soul.. Stillness and serenity… And God helps me see the truth in myself.. truth in my children.. and He gives me soothing comfort when I realize.. again.. that I am not perfect.  He comforts me when I realize that another of my “plans” are unrealistic.. and about to be unrealized..

So I guess I use chai as a portal to spending time with God.  Ha.. my daughter would say it’s like a Tardis..

Today?? Today.. while I sip my chai.. I am thinking of all the dreams my son has for his own life.  He has a checklist, you know.  Those dreams?  I may never have heard them if I hadn’t let go of “my” dreams for him.  He may not have known them himself.. if I hadn’t accepted him for who he is.  So Today I am thankful.. thankful God whispered in my ear that His way is still Perfect.  That my son is perfect the way he is .. Perfect the way he was created… Thankful God whispered that His plan for my son was perfect..

Can’t you just hear Him..

“Julie.. Wait until you see your son all grown up!! You are going to be SO proud.  He won’t be the way you expect or plan.. Your son will be the way I have planned him to be.  Won’t you help Me guide him?  Won’t you help Me support him?  I can’t wait until you see him!! He is going to be Perfect!! Perfect!! Just the way I have planned him to be!  But it will be a long road.. and sometimes it will be hard.. I will be there for you though.. right by your side.. I promise!  Oh.. and Julie?  Have another chai…”

Can you hear Him?

I did…

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..