Monday, July 10, 2017

Not Better or Worse, Just Different

Scott led a team of 23 people from our church to the Dominican Republic last week.  We had one purpose - to support a local Christian school, Makarios International, and we did this by leading VBS in two villages, helping with soccer and basketball camps, participating in a youth outreach event, and completing various projects at the school.  Our team consisted of 6 recent high school graduates, 2 HS seniors, 1 junior, 2 freshmen, 2 seventh graders, and 10 adults. 
One of the finest teams we have ever
worked with on a mission trip.

It was an incredible trip, and it changed our lives.  Here are the top 7 things I discovered for the first time or perhaps rediscovered:

1.  The body of Christ is amazing and beautiful.  We came from different life experiences with different gifts and talents, yet we were truly one, unified team.  We used our gifts and talents to serve the communities, the local church, the school, the staff, and one another. 

2.  Teenagers are AWESOME!  Watching our teenagers jump in and love on the local kiddos was such a joy.  They worked hard and never complained.  They fully immersed themselves in the culture and loved openly, honestly and without judgment.  I think every mission trip should include teenagers because it is life changing for them and their contribution is valuable.  Our world will change for the better, if we encourage and equip this generation to serve and love.

3.  Watching first-timers experience mission trips will forever be one of my MOST favorite things.  I love watching those who are nervous or hesitant learn to relax and enjoy the experience.  I smile when I watch them talk or laugh with locals.  We had the privilege of watching their life and perspectives change forever.

 4.  Some people are truly called to missions.  It might not be as a full-time missionary, but it might.  It is exciting when you see it happen, and now I have the honor to encourage and confirm how they feel.  And if you are not called to full-time missions, it is SO important that we encourage and support those who are called.  Pray.  Give money.  Send hard-to-get items.  They have a hard and lonely job, but we can be a part of the bigger mission of spreading the gospel by loving them well.

5.  Our job on short term mission trips is NOT to rescue the locals from poverty.  My job is NOT to save them.  There is only one Rescuer and Savior and his name is Jesus.  My job is to share truth, encourage the local Christians, and love and serve BIG. 

6.  Happiness is not about what you have or don’t have.  More money does not mean you are happier.  Some of the happiest, most content people are those who live in impoverished areas, because they understand better than most that true contentment comes from relationships.  They live beautifully in community.  They enjoy being with one another and are some of the most generous people.  They have very little, but offer you their chair, a meal, coffee, etc. They give because they believe that by being generous, God will be generous with them. 

7.  In the beginning of the week, many struggle with comparing how Americans do things or the American way of life to how seemingly wrong the locals are doing it or living.  We cannot fully process how hard it is to see a little girl cleaning aluminum foil in dirty water, or the lack of plumbing, or the shack-type homes made from whatever they could find.  We notice the trash thrown in the streets or fields, and the super thin horses, cows, and dogs.  We talk about wanting to take a kid home because somehow, we believe that America would be better for them.  But by the end of the week, we begin to realize that they have families, friends, and communities and they are loved; why would you take them away from that? They care for what they do have instead of hating their homes; they invite you in and are proud of what God has given them.  You stop feeling sorry for them and instead begin to realize that different doesn’t mean worse.  Different is what heaven will look like one day.  Different is beautiful.  Different teaches us to love deeper, wider, and fully.  Different has the power to mold us into a compassionate, empathetic people.  Different is amazing!

Emma Grace patiently working with
a little girl at VBS.
I found Jake outside playing with three boys.
Look at the complete JOY on both of their faces!
Scott and I took our two oldest kiddos with us.  Jacob is 18 and Emma Grace is 16.  This was their 5th international mission trip and the 2nd time to the Dominican Republic.  I haven’t been on a trip with them in over 6 years.  I am reminded, once again, how AWESOME my kids are and that these mission trips have changed them from the inside out.  I watched with admiration as Emma Grace helped with the Bible story skits, danced with kids, and took time to love and support a couple of children with special needs.  Jacob was a kid magnet and within minutes he would have little boys climbing onto his shoulders or sitting in his lap.  He never smiled bigger or more brightly.  He spent hours playing soccer and basketball with high schoolers and never complained about the heat…it was HOT!  If you have the opportunity to take your children on a mission trip, please consider it.  I have never met anyone who has regretted the decision!
The little boys enjoyed our teenage boys!
Emma Grace shining brightly during
one of our Bible story skits.
So now what? So much to process still, but my heart’s desire is that what we saw and experience won’t simply be a momentary feeling.  I pray that God will continue to work in us and through us and that we will slow down and assess how we are living our lives now, here in Texas.  What can we do differently to live better in biblical community? How can we continue to support the Dominican people and Makarios?  How can we continue to bring awareness to those we encounter?  How can we put into practice the truth and observations that we gathered during our time in the Dominican?
I cannot expect anyone to change me, my way of thinking or acting, except for me.  God reveals himself to me and now I must act. 
Scary, but exciting. 
Confusing, yet so clear.
Complicated, but really it is simple.

It starts with me and me alone. 


Monday, March 6, 2017

Trench Foot

"I think I have trench foot."

Jacob, our son who is a few months shy of 18, works every Sunday morning helping at our portable church.  Yesterday was a rainy really never stopped...just rained.  And in our neck of the woods, puddles begin to form immediately. 

Jacob comes home after lunch and goes to bed.  He sleeps for several hours and wakes up and realizes that his feet hurt.  They hurt to walk on and are beginning to blister (ok we didn't actually see the blisters, but he insists they are there).  He must have googled his symptoms to find out what in the world was wrong with him. 

He walks into our room and says, "I think I have trench foot."

Scott replies, "You don't have trench foot."

Jacob says, "No, I think it is trench foot."

Scott asks, "Like World War I trench foot?"

Jacob smiles and replies, "Yes."

Scott reminds Jacob that trench foot happened when men spent days in wet trenches.  Days, not hours.  There is NO way that Jacob's sore feet is the same thing.

Jacob, ever our stubborn child, says, "I have all the symptoms.  Wet feet.  Sore.  Blistering.  Ok you can't see the blisters, but I can feel them.  They are there.  A few more hours in the water and my feet could have been amputated!"

Scott laughs and says again, "You do not have trench foot."

Jacob smirks and says, "Ok.  It could also be wet feet."

I cannot make this stuff up if I tried.  And even in the outlandish declarations of a WW1 condition, I learned a few lessons:
  1. Don't google symptoms.  It won't work out well.
  2. Trying to illicit comfort or advice on a "medical" condition from your parents does not bode well if you choose the WW1 ailment as your own and try to compare your soggy-sock morning with men who served our country in actual wet, unsanitary trenches. 
  3. Although laughing at your children isn't great parenting advice, sometimes there is no other way to react.  And laughing is, after all, good medicine.  I mean it won't help Jacob's "trench foot", but it is good medicine for mom and dad.
  4. Sometimes, we make things bigger than they actually are.  Jacob's trench foot was really just sore feet from working in the rain for a few hours.  No need to boil the water to sanitize our sharpest knife and create a sterile environment because an amputation isn't warranted.  (Although, it would make for a fantastic Grey's Anatomy moment.)
It is the last point that kept me thinking last night.  How many times have I read something or heard something and allowed the what ifs run rampant?  I allow my head to follow illogical and unknown scenarios all the while my emotions begin to get wrapped up in my head game.  I begin to feel anxious, scared, depressed, mournful, angry...over what?  Over what ifs.  Over maybes.  Over made up scenarios.  Over someone else's experiences or opinions that may or may not pertain to me.

I love stories.  One of my favorite things is to sit and ask people questions.  I want to know their story.  I love fiction, Christian non-fiction, movies, reality television, and history.  I want to know the happy parts, the pivotal moments, and the sad, heart hurts.  I am intrigued by all the parts that make up the whole story.

Why would I allow my what ifs and made up scenarios to change how I experience MY story?  The things that I make up in my head are not my reality, and I am exhausting all of this time, energy, and emotions as I play them out in my head. 

What if Scottie lives with us forever?  What will that look like for her?  For us?  What if we die, who will take care of Scottie?  What if Scottie never learns to button her jeans?  What if, as Scottie gets older, people are cruel and stare at her more?  Will she notice?  How will she feel?  As Zoey gets older, will she be embarrassed by Scottie?  What if Zoey is the rebellious child, and we are too old and tired to notice?  What if the relationship between Zoey and Jacob changes when he goes to college?  What if Jacob goes to college and doesn't eat?  Or can't drive?  What if Emma Grace leaves me for college?  What if she gets her heart broken?  What if she is lonely and afraid?  What if I waste all of my time doing laundry instead of discipling her? 

In Exodus, God told Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh because it was time for God's people to no longer be slaves.  Moses played the what if game.  What if they don't believe me?  Who should I say sent me?  What if they don't understand me or take me seriously because I am not very eloquent?  What happens if Pharaoh doesn't do what I say?  And for every what if, God had an answer.  God always has the answer. 

Ultimately, God is the I Am.  And the truth is that the I Am can do all and be my all.  God has a plan and I just need to walk into that plan.  I don't need to what if new plans... I am told to just step into the plan God already designed for me and do life by loving God and loving others. 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10 
  • When I begin to what if, I must stop and remember that the I Am is the one who created me and is the Author of my story.
  • When I begin to what if, I must trust that the I Am knows my past, present and future; He has prepared (before now, from the beginning) my good works (my story), and I just need to walk into them.
  • When I begin to what if, I must have faith that the One who knows and loves me the most has THE plan.
No more outlandish trench foot declarations because often the truth is quieter, less dramatic and not found by googling!

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Mom, I did it."

We have 4 kids and they have all taken turns being sick over the last 6 weeks.  Flu. Fever. Coughing.  Zoey had fever for a week, a little cough, but energetic and running around the house playing and laughing.  But after a week, we began to wonder and took her in to see the doc.  She had pneumonia.  I missed it.  Wouldn't have guessed it.  What kind of mom lets her kid go a week with fever?


Zoey pretending to be sick so the doctor
wouldn't think we were crazy for coming in for a sick visit.

Scottie has fever for over a week and coughing ALL the stinking time.  I finally take her in to the doctor and guess what?  Pneumonia!  What kind of mom let's her kid (no, both kids) go a week with fever and coughing?


I second guess myself constantly.  I don't want to spend the $50 copay if it is just a little virus that just needs to run its course.  Wait...I am waiting too long.  What if something is really wrong and I waited because of money?  What will the pediatrician think of me?  A mom who waits a week with not just one sick kid, but two, what kind of mom is that?  Will they write something in their chart? I feel embarrassed.  I should have known.  I should have acted.  I should have...something.

The truth is that there is always this voice in my head telling me that I am not enough.  I am not the wife Scott wants.  I am not the mother that my kids deserve.  I am not a good pastor's wife.  I am not a good daughter, sister, friend, neighbor... oh the list is endless.  I can give solid arguments about why I am not good enough.  Sure I can think of a few things that I do well, but they don't come close to the list of the should haves and not enoughs.

Tuesday morning I wake up and make Scottie her doctor appointment.  I am anxious about what the doctor will think, but also how much I will beat myself up afterwards.  I have been sleeping in Zoey's bed next to Scottie at night, so I can pull Scottie to a sitting position when she begins to uncontrollably cough.  The first few nights it was constant.  Pull her up.  Tell her to breathe.  Give her water.  Comfort her as she falls back to sleep.  Repeat every 10 minutes.  I am just tired. 

The doctor had a difficult time listening to Scottie's lungs because she wasn't breathing deeply.  She told me to go to the hospital across the street and get a chest x-ray.  No problem doc, of course I will.  I cannot tell her the truth because the truth is ugly and embarrassing.  The truth of not being enough is one I try to keep very quiet and secret.

It's raining.  Scottie is not a fan of the rain.

I cannot find the stupid building.  Why are there so many buildings and none are labeled well?  I keep texting and calling Scott and he isn't responding.  Why isn't he responding?  I cannot do this.  I cannot be the calm, rational one to help Scottie navigate this new experience.  Scott is the calm one.  Scott is the one who can get Scottie to do almost anything.  He doesn't get as frustrated.  He is sweet.  For goodness sake, he has slept!  She needs him.  I need him.  WHERE IS HE!!! 

I leave and run through Wendy's because Scottie needs to eat lunch and maybe Scott will call me back.  Scottie doesn't want to get out of the minivan because of the rain, so we sit in the parking lot and I call Scott and text him again and again.  I email his assistant and ask if he has a meeting.  He always responds.  I cannot find the building and I cannot do this!

I call the hospital and ask specifically which building the x-rays are in and we head back to the hospital.  I drive around in the rain until I find the right one.  We finally park and Scottie asks to stay in the minivan because she HATES THE RAIN!  At this point, I am not a big fan of the rain either.

We go in and are waiting for our turn to register.  And she spots balloons.  For the love, why balloons.  She HATES BALLOONS!  We check in and they have to put a wrist band on her.  She's not a big fan of those either, but I convince her to wear it.  She's anxious.  Quiet.  Looking around.  I am anxious.  Looking at my phone desperately wanting a response from Scott.  Wanting him to show up and help because I cannot do this.  I feel sick to my stomach.

The x-ray tech calls us back and I tell the sweet lady and her trainee that Scottie is on the spectrum and will need lots of explanation.  We go back to the room and the machine is making its low humming noise.  The lady asks Scottie, "What is your name?"  Scottie replies, "Scottie Denton." (OK I wasn't sure she would answer even though technically it is Cate.)  Then the tech asks, "What is your birthday?"  I hold my breath because I am not sure if she knows or will answer.  Scottie says, "12.  March" and I finish by saying 2004.  The lady says, "Scottie.  My name is Donna and I'm going to take a picture of your chest."  Scottie puts her hand out so she can shake Donna's hand and says, "Nice to meet you."  (I am overwhelmed with her response and wow what progress she has made the last year or two.)

After 30 seconds of trying to get Scottie into position she finally stays in position for the picture, but jumps when they take the pic.  I tell her that it would make that noise for the picture, but then it stops.  Then Donna gives her a heads up for the next picture.  Scottie does it.  Change position.  Scottie does it. 

Donna tells her that they were perfect pictures and she is finished.  Scottie asks, "Can I see my pictures?"  (After all, she is the selfie queen and these are selfies!)  Donna says of course and has her come into the little office and shows her all 3 pictures.  Scottie says, "They look like me!"  Then we thank her for being so sweet to us and we leave.

As we left the room, Scottie says "Mom. I did it."

Yes, Scottie you did.  You did it.  You were brave and awesome and amazing.  So very proud of you.

As we walk to the car Scott calls, but I cannot answer because I am feeling overwhelmed.  Scottie did it, but so did I.  I kept her calm.  I helped her.  I am capable of being what she needs me to be.

Scott was in a meeting at work and it is the one time that they asked all cell phones and computers not be in the room.  What?  What are the chances?  Truth is had Scott answered my first call, he would have dropped everything and left so he could be there the whole time.  He would have come to save help Scottie.  But on that rainy, balloon filled day, Scottie saved the day!

I just finished reading Chasing Slow by Eric Loechner.  (Read this book.  It's awesome.)  She says this...

"Busyness is a by product of our culture.  It is the sacrifice we make for our religion of more, for our perfectionist tendencies, for our temptation to overschedule, over inform, overprovide.  But the answer is not to lower the expectations we have created.  The answer, I believe, it live up to the expectations we have been created for.  Live up the expectations that you are what your child needs.  That your focus, your time, your attention, your failings-that these are enough."

Live up to the expectations that I was created for NOT the ones I have created.  The expectations I have created are impossible.  I am exactly what my Scottie, my kids, and Scott need.  All of me.  Failures. Anxiety. All of me.  I am enough.

Once again, I learn a valuable, life changing lesson because of our sweet Scottie. 

Scottie did it that Tuesday afternoon, but I also did it because I am enough.

One of Scottie's MANY selfies!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Live Wrecked

Live Wrecked.

Mercy House
Bracelet of the Month Club

Once a month, I receive a bracelet that was made in a developing country.  The money they make helps to provide job opportunities for women who need the money to take care of their families.  The type of bracelet, which country it comes from, and even the organization who supports the fair trade changes from month to month.  It is the grown up version of the "blind bag" that my daughters are obsessed with...why oh why, did I not come up with this idea for kids?!?

One afternoon, I checked the mail and found my monthly package.  I opened it up and saw a misshapen, beautiful bracelet made by women in Haiti with the words "Live Wrecked" engraved on it.  Included in the package was a small card that said

Live the life you're scared to live. 
Live wrecked.
From the moment I read the words, I just couldn't shake them.  I placed the little card on my bathroom mirror to remind me to live wrecked.  To remind me to not be afraid.  I have spent hours thinking about what my response is to my wreckage. 
When life feels wrecked what do I do; what do we do? 

Do we pretend it isn't happening? 
Isn't it odd that we can have our life unraveling around us and yet continue to live life like it isn't happening.  Complete denial.  Denial because we are prideful and cannot admit the part we played in the unraveling.  Denial because we realize that we have NO control over the situation.  Denial because we mapped out our life plan years ago and are so unwilling to follow another, unchartered course.  Denial because we are stubborn.  Denial because taking a real look at what is happening would require us to be vulnerable.  Regardless of the reason, pretending it isn't happening does not change the fact that it IS happening...there is wreckage.

Do we try to piece the wreckage back together in order to restore our life to the way it was? 
Perhaps we are in our take-charge mode and look at the wreckage and desperately want it all to be the way it was.  We want our "old" life back, and we will jam and shove the pieces of the wreckage back into place with some superglue and hope that it all holds up.  Hope that no one will notice the breaks and the gluey mess we've created.  Restoring it gives us something to do.  We can be in control.  We are not leaving anything to chance because chance is scary, and we don't like chance.  Somehow we believe that no one will notice...that we won't notice...that it can all go back and be ok, but the truth is, a little superglue does not change the fact that there IS wreckage...that something happened.

Do we run away and avoid the wreckage?
Maybe we are fully aware that there is wreckage and we just cannot take it in.  Taking it in is too hard.  We cannot comprehend the wreckage.  We are not strong enough to deal with it, so we run.  We run as far away as we possibly can from the wreckage of our life.  Running looks different for us...some will drink too much; some will walk away from the church; some will throw themselves into their job; some will bury themselves under their covers and hide.   The wreckage is overwhelming and so lonely.  We cannot possibly begin to reveal this wreckage to anyone because they won't understand and they will judge us with such condemnation.  So we run and run, but the wreckage is always lingering behind us...because running does not change the fact that there IS is still there.

The bottom line is that the wreckage is so scary, and I don't fully know what to do with it.

The truth is that I want to live the life that I am scared to live.  I want to live wrecked. 

I think to live wrecked means I have to be willing to do two things:

I will sit in the middle of my wreckage and investigate the pieces.  Good.  Bad.  Hard.  Beautiful.  It is all there in the wreckage.  I will plop myself down and not run, but ask the hard questions.  Why?  What does it all mean?  Where are you God?  How can I overcome it?  Where does it lead me?  I will dig through the rubble and pull out the blessings and the truth and cling to it in the days when I feel hopeless.  I will remind myself that even in the middle of the wreckage, I am NOT alone.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave your or forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

Then I will rise.  I will stand up in the midst of the wreckage and ask my Jesus to help me carry the load.  I will seek His guidance.  His path.  His truth.  His forgiveness.  His grace.  His mercy.

"Come to me, all who are labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

I will rise up and not remain stagnant in the hurt and confusion.  I will rise up and take steps out of the wreckage because my Jesus is guiding me...every single step.  I will rise up and praise God because from the ashes, He will glorified.  I will rise up because the wreckage is all part of the redemptive story, and it is the MOST beautiful story.  I will rise up and live the life I am scared to live.  I will rise up because we are all wrecked. 

Wreckage is NOT something to be ashamed of.
Wreckage is NOT something we should allow to hold us back.
Wreckage is NOT the end of our journey. 

May beauty be found in our wreckage.  May we celebrate and encourage one another.  May we be a people who bear our scars for all to see and speak about how we managed to live in and through our wreckage.  Scars show more than hurt...they show healing.  May we be a church that welcomes the broken and pieced together.  May there be beauty found in our wreckage.

Live the life you're scared to live. 
Live wrecked.

Friday, October 28, 2016

My Superhero

Scott is my superhero.
Our 20th Anniversary

Scott and I have been married for 20 years.  I know I don't look old enough to be married for 20 years...ok, I realize that how I look in my head is not reality.  It is mind boggling that this man chose me.  I am a mess.  My self esteem sucks.  He has spent a lifetime building me up.  He believes in me, way more than I believe in myself.  He wants more for me, than I could ever dream for myself.  He is freaking amazing.  He really, really is! 

The past few weeks, I have been reflecting on our marriage and who this man is for me, our family, and for everyone else.  What I cannot get out of my head is that he is my superhero.  My knight in shining armor.  He truly is.

A few years ago, I felt like the bottom fell out from beneath me and I could not find my way out of this pit of doubt and humiliation.  I experienced an attack on my character and endured such humiliation.  I struggled with the knowing the difference between being humbled and humiliated. 

The afternoon that I received the phone call that kickstarted this downward spiral, I did not know what to do except call Scott.  He immediately took action.  He asked the right questions.  He assured me that my feelings of disbelief were correct.  And, he made phone calls and demanded answers.  He drove immediately to speak to someone, to anyone.  He fought for me.

The end results were not positive for me.  I spent days, weeks, months...shoot years, feeling humiliated and embarrassed every time I saw some of their faces.  I was left wondering what remained of my character.  But despite the ickiness that I am still dealing with, the entire experience demonstrated to me that my husband would fight for me. 

As I deal with the aftermath, Scott has had to remind me time and time again who I am.  He would remind me of the truth.  The positive things that I have done were not erased.  He has had to singlehandedly build me back up.  When tough love was needed and perspective given, he did so with such love and mercy.  When I just couldn't get past the hurt, he extended grace and allowed me to just feel it without trying to fix it.  He has been incredible.  He was my superhero that summer day, but he has continued to be...he is my biggest fan!

On Sunday, Scott and I went to visit one of our sweet friends who was in her final days with her battle against cancer.  I am not good with death.  I am awkward.  I don't know what to say.  How to say it.  What to do with myself.  But Scott knew that I needed to go and say goodbye to my friend.  I needed to do it for me, for her family, and for her...this woman that I just adore.  A woman whose hunger for God's Word and complete joy was inspiring to me.  My superhero knows me well...

Scott was sitting next to her holding her hand and he would just talk to her.  He told her that we loved her and how amazing heaven would be when she got there.  He assured her that we would help take care of her family and to not worry about them.  He played a song for her.  He found a picture of our Scottie to show her because she just loved our Scottie.  He would pet her bald head.  Lean in and listen to her talk.  When things were confusing and she wasn't making sense, he spoke to her with such dignity knowing she could hear him.  He told her she was going to be in heaven and not feel pain anymore and she said "we all go to heaven."  And he smiled and told her "Yes we will all go to heaven, but you just might beat us there.  And that's ok.  We will see you there." 

And all I could think was that this man who is my superhero is the kindest pastor.  He speaks truth.  He loves with grace and mercy.  He extends hope and peace through his godly reassurances.  He exudes such's like, if he is there then everything will be ok.  He isn't just my superhero...he is actually a superhero.  He doesn't get public recognition for moments like this (and nor does he want it), but I saw it that afternoon.  Those who have experienced moments like this with him know that there is something so special about him.  God has gifted him in extraordinary ways, and I for some reason have the privilege of being his wife...his partner.

Superheroes may not be out front where everyone can see and hear them.
Superheroes may not be the lead story on the news.
Superheroes may not have their names lighting up the sky.

Superheroes fight for those who need someone to fight for them.
Superheroes offer truth with grace and mercy.
Superheroes encourage and build you up...not tear you down.

I believe real superheroes are known for how they love others.

He is fun!

Superheroes look like this...

He loves his kids and leads by example. 
(Here he is with Emma Grace in the
Dominican Republic on a mission trip.)
He is a teacher who wants to make
his lessons memorable and fun!

Scott is my superhero. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

In the Beginning

In the beginning... Perfect pregnancy.  Perfect delivery.  Perfect baby.

The last few days I have been reminiscing about the first year with Scottie.  Of all of the pregnancies and deliveries, hers was textbook perfect.  Within hours, I was sitting up in bed holding my baby, feeling amazing as we waited for Jacob and Emma Grace to come and meet their new sister.  I went home within 24 hours because Scottie was perfect.

The first night, I remember sitting on our family room floor and baby Scottie was sound asleep in my lap.  Everything was perfect and so easy...of course, baby number 3 should be a piece of cake.  I'm a pro at this mommy gig.  I could have easily graduated with honors majoring in mommyhood and baby Scottie was evidence of how awesome I was.

Quickly after, there were small signs that things were not perfect.  She took FOREVER to drink a bottle.  I mean FOREVER.  I would sit there FOREVER, and then just when I thought we were finally finished she would spew the entire contents all over me, the floor, and anything within 3 feet.  And an hour later, it was time to start all over again.  I would go to the store and buy new bottles hoping that perhaps it was just the bottle, but nope...she was just going to take FOREVER to drink her bottle.

The doctor said there was no need to do anything about the reflux because she was thriving and didn't seem to be in any pain.  Good thing I secretly enjoy doing laundry and folding clothes and putting everything away in the perfect order.  Laundry and closets are something I have complete control over.  The long feedings and spewing...well there was no control over those. 

Scottie would cry and cry for two hours every evening.  I would just walk circles holding, singing and loving my baby.  I was convinced that she was the last, the finale, the omega for our family.  I wanted to enjoy every single minute, even the crying for two hours.  I am so grateful that I thought she was my last because it gave me a little extra dose of patience.

But lots of babies have reflux and are colicky.  Nothing to be alarmed about.  Right?

Around 8 months, I vividly remember looking over at a friend as she pushed her baby in a stroller.  Her 6 month old little girl was sitting up and soaking in the world around her.  It was that moment that I knew...something wasn't right.  There was NO way Scottie could sit up in her stroller and she was 8 months old.  We would have to recline her seat just right and prop blankets and toys around her just to make sure she didn't topple over.  Eight months.  She should totally be sitting up and playing.  Shoot, Emma Grace was probably menu planning and cooking by 8 months.  Slight exaggeration...slight...she was walking (more like running) by 9 months and taking steps at 8 1/2 months, but she was a freak of nature (the most amazing freak of nature...the girl had things to do!)

A friend of ours worked for a state organization called ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) who provided services for children from birth through 3 years of age.  She came to our house to do a little informal evaluation.  She told me that Scottie would most likely be able to receive services because she was developmentally behind by at least two months.  So we called ECI and set up a formal evaluation.  Of course, she qualified for services.  (And I must SHOUT from the roof tops how incredible ECI was to our family and life changing for our Scottie!)

It is a hard thing to realize that your "perfect" baby is developmentally behind.  It is a hard thing to wonder what is wrong.  It is a hard thing to question yourself and how you missed it or how you may have caused the delays...what did I eat, drink, do?  It is a hard thing to watch your baby struggle to do what other babies did instinctively.  It is hard to learn for the first time how to teach a baby to reach for a toy when baby #1 and baby #2 did so without any effort.  It is hard to ask for help.  It is hard not knowing...

Remembering how hard it was is important, but knowing that we did it is such motivation to keep on doing it.  We can do hard things!  We loved harder.  We loved more.  We asked questions.  We did research.  We prayed more.  Our hearts grew a little larger because we needed to learn to love differently, better.

I wish someone had told me that it was going to be hard on our hearts to raise a child with special needs.  I wish the doctors who talked to us didn't seem so disappointed for us.  I wish someone had told me that even though it would suck, we would also discover an amazing love and appreciation for the world and all of God's people because of Scottie.  I wish that someone would have said that there would be days when we felt like it was just all too much.  I wish someone had said that there may never be a reason, and that's ok.  I wish someone had said it is acceptable to cry.  It's ok to freak out.  I wish someone had told me that Jacob and Emma Grace would become the most amazing siblings.  I wish someone had enthusiastically told me that even when it all seemed too impossible, that we could do hard things.  That the hardest things in life are often the most beautiful blessings. 

Those first few years were hard because we were living in the moment without realizing the amazing life blessings we would receive because God gave us the most incredible gift.  Ultimately, we are able to do hard things because we are not doing them alone.

In the beginning of Scottie's life, we learned to love unconditionally, to love completely, and to embrace hard things. 

May we not forget to love like that.

May we have the chance to share with new mommas and daddies as they question whether they can do hard things. 

May we use our Scottie story to encourage and speak truth. 

May her story be a story of hope and bravery. 

May Scottie's life be one of overcoming the hard things with laughter and joy always shining through. 

God uses the hard things for good.  He is using Scottie's life and journey for good.  What hard things in your life is He using for good?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

All the Seeds

"He who ears, let him hear." Matthew 13:9

Often times we look at individual circumstances, both the good and the bad, but neglect to look at the whole picture.  We wrap ourselves in excitement over the blessings or we hyper-focus on the trial.  What if we could look at all parts of our journey as truth, Jesus truth?  And if we could do that, how might these truths place us on a new path with Jesus?

One of my most favorite things about God's Word is when I read a familiar story and Jesus sheds new light on it.  When I peel back another layer and the truth of His Word becomes more complex, more beautiful and more applicable to my life.  I recently experienced this peeling back process.  (It just gets me so stinking excited and on fire!)

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus shares the Parable of the Sower.  He explains the 4 different types of soils (the soil represents our individual walk with Jesus) and what happens to the seeds of truth when they are sown onto the specific soils.  Many teachers and commentaries focus on the soils, which makes sense because it is the most obvious focal point.  Jesus goes into great detail about the soil along the path, the rocky ground, the soil among the thorns, and the good soil. We read the parable and the description and we begin to evaluate our walk and which soil best represents us.  We clearly understand that the good soil is the soil we want, but what in the world do we do to make sure our soil is "good". 

The condition of our soil is entirely up to us.  Life circumstances may stir up the soil.  We can ask for help in picking up the rocks and tossing them aside.  We might ask for help in identifying the thorns.  But listen and understand, we have to be the ones to improve the condition of our soil.  Our spouses, pastors, mentors, children, mommas, no one can do it but you and me.  No one.  The quality of our soil is so very important.  It is how we give life.  How we love.  How we serve.  How we walk this journey with Jesus. 

As I studied this parable, I couldn't remove a specific image from my mind.  Jesus, the sower, is holding a handful of seeds in his hands.  These seeds are seeds of truth.  The seeds represent Biblical truth, God's Word, His people, blessings, the good things, but also the hard things.  The truth of who Jesus is will be known not only through the good, but also through the hard.  The truth that Jesus' mercy and grace are demonstrated when we struggle with addiction, sickness, death, disappointment, and unimaginable pain.  Jesus's love and strength can be felt in powerful ways when life is hard.

Imagine Jesus's hands full of seeds.  These seeds are the amazing, good things, but also the hard things.  Imagine these seeds all mixed together.  Jesus holds them above our soil and He sprinkles the seeds...sometimes several fall, but sometimes the Sower only sows one.  He hopes that the seeds will grow beautiful fruit, but the soil must be rich.  Each seed has the potential to grow fruit to bring glory to God and show others the love of Jesus.  They come from His pierced hands, and He entrusts us with them. 

I find so much peace resting in this picture and truth.  What are some of my seeds...

the godly man who leads our family
my beautiful, inside and out, children
the amazing humans God has placed in our path
opportunities to work with teenagers
the privilege to speak encouragement and truth to women
humiliation so deep that it has altered my confidence
grief of lost babies
difficulties in raising a special needs child
confusion over our calling in ministry

My Jesus held all of these seeds in His hands.  The loss of a child next to the life of a child.  He scattered these seeds with the hope that my soil would grow fruit.  I believe my Jesus loves me.  He wants to do no harm to me.  Abba, daddy God, wants the very best for me. 

Close your eyes and imagine the seeds in our Savior's hands.  Think about the life you have lived thus far and the road that lays ahead.  The Sower is holding ALL of the seeds in His hands.  He is in control.  He is all knowing.  He is all powerful. Rest in the knowledge and the truth that not one seed needs to be wasted.

How is your soil?  Do you need help throwing the rocks out?  Do you need a friend to encourage you as you throw your thorns and thistles out?  How is your journey...your walk with Jesus?

If you can only think of the hard things in life because they have been so BIG and so OVERWHELMING, rest in the truth that even those things can be used to grow good fruit.  Begin with assessing your soil.  Cleaning up the garden and seeking someone to encourage and help you. 

Lean in and hear these words...
Jesus loves you.  The Sower holds each seed in His hands and He is sowing with the hopes of a loving relationship with you.  You are adored by the one who created you.