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. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pop of Color

One of my favorite past times is watching HGTV and perusing home decorating/improvement magazines.  I will happily sit and look for hours at how to take something bland or broken and turn it into something useful and beautiful.  I love watching stories unfold through the places people choose to live. 

There are a few houses in our neighborhood that I just think are so beautiful on the outside.  We live in an older neighborhood. Not a neighborhood with quaint 100 year old houses.  I'm talking about houses built in the 70s and 80s (like 1970 and 1980).  Most of the houses are dull brick with bland trim.  Let me pause and give this specific time period credit in regards to home design .  The houses in our neighborhood are not yardless, cookie-cutter houses.  We bought in our neighborhood because of the mature trees, large rooms and closets, and the pool in the backyard all at an affordable price.  But character... we have to create the character.  So if I drive past a house and it causes me to do a double take...well, I look again.  I am drawn to houses with just a pop of color.  Whether it is a yellow awning, red door, big pink crepe myrtles, or contrasting, colorful trim, I am drawn to the house that is classic and polished with a pop of color. 

Ten years ago, I traveled to Latvia on a mission trip.  Latvia is a little Eastern European country that was once part of the USSR.  The contrasting building structures told a story of life before communist Russia and one of life during.  We stayed in a grey, concrete building that houses teachers during the school year.  Every room was bland, uniform and the plumbing was questionable.  No color.  No life.  These concrete buildings were built one after another after another.  During our off time, we spent a few evenings in downtown Riga and walked along cobblestone streets lined with beautiful, interesting buildings.  Each building was unique and full of character.  After staying in the communist buildings, I truly appreciated the character and uniqueness of the Latvian buildings. 

Buildings built during the communist period in Latvia.

Latvian buildings that are unique and full of character.

One of the things we noticed on our trip to Latvia was how incredibly beautiful the flowers are.  The color seems so vibrant and breathes life and hope into their setting.  The flowers can be found in the landscaping of the town square, window boxes of the homes, or they would pop up in the unexpectedness of every day life.  The pop of color among the remnants of communist Russia is a visual experience that will stay with me forever.

 I cannot get enough of these pictures.  Imagine living in a country void of hope and walking by seeing this...

This morning, I stopped at the end of our street and looked at the house in front of me.  The same house I drive past several times a day.  And there it stood with its yellow awning and I thought how fun it must be to have a yellow awning.  The yellow awning made me happy.  It causes me to wonder about what is inside of the it just as colorful, whimsical, and bold.  I turned left to begin my afternoon of school pick ups and I pondered my love for a pop of color and why it gives my heart so much joy.  As I thought about this idea of color, I remembered the beauty in Latvia amongst the oppression and uniformity. 
The pop of color in these different environments exudes life,
 happiness, and refreshment.  I want to surround myself with pops of color.

Pop of Color

But the truth is, I want to BE a pop of color.  I don't want to be like the communist buildings in Latvia.  They all looked the same with no individuality.  They are functional, serve a purpose, and overly predictable.  I want to be like the Latvian buildings full of history and a story.  I want to stand out in a crowd...not for the attention to be on me, but rather to be a beacon of light, truth, and joy.  When someone talks to me, I want them to want to be around me.  I don't want to bring negativity and pessimism to the conversation, but rather hope and encouragement. 

Whether we live in our suburban, American neighborhood surrounded by Christian churches and "church" folks or we live in a former communist country, there is still room and a need for a pop of color.  We fill our churches with people playing a part, but I want to be amongst people living a part.  We practice common courtesy on the street and at the store.  We ask one another "how are you", but we don't stop to listen, really listen.  We live our lives like the concrete, communist buildings because it is easier and we can go unnoticed.  But I have the strongest desire to be something more.

I want to be

A pop of hope
A pop of encouragement
A pop of joy
A pop of laughter
A pop of listening
A pop of understanding
A pop of truth
A pop of life
A pop of happiness
A pop of love
A pop of Jesus

I think there is a reason why designers incorporate colorful accents into home décor.  I believe that it is what draws people into the setting, creates a colorful story, and creates a polished visual experience.  I want to draw people in because it is only then do I truly have permission to share my story with them.

This month, I am going to put my thinking cap on and do two things.  First, I am going to find something to put on our front porch that is a pop of color.  This item will remind me to do the second thing.  I am going to take a good look at my life and how I live it each day.  Am I pop of color to those in my home?  Neighborhood?  Church?  Community?  World?  Am I someone that you want to be around because the love of Jesus is pouring out of my words and actions?  Or am I communist concrete building lined up neatly with all of the other buildings?

Oh, how I want to be a POP of COLOR!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Are Seen

Sometimes God gives me specific words that I am supposed to speak to someone or about something.  I cannot ignore the words...I try sometimes because I am not sure if I can speak or write them the way they need to be presented.  I doubt if I am capable or worthy to deliver a message.  Then the words just marinate in my brain...they come to life...I can see them, and that is when I know that if I do not share them I will miss the moment.  Someone needs to hear them, so here they are...

You are Seen

You are Known

A few years ago at a women's Bible study, I listened as a grandmother shared that she is sad because her daughter doesn't truly know her.  She felt like her daughter did not know her...see her. These words marked a moment in time for me.  I don't want to look up in 30 years and my daughters not know me.  My thoughts.  My heart.  My beliefs.  My hurt.  My story.  I did not want to look up in 30 years and not have a relationship with my daughters that was based on knowing and being known.  I came home and shared with Emma Grace what I felt and what I worried about, and her response was simple.  "Mom.  I know you.  I know you too well.  Please stop sharing so much."  She laughed at me and reminded me that instead of worrying about what might be, I should just live my authentic life today.  (God's gift in the shape of a petite, blonde child will always be one of my favorites.  One day she will be my very best friend and I cannot wait!)

A few months ago, I watched from the distance as a marriage fell apart.  The husband worked long hours and was often away.  He was working in order to provide a certain lifestyle for his family.  But his absence caused his wife to feel unseen...unknown.  When she decided she was done, she was done.  No turning the relationship clock back to the time when she felt fully seen my this amazing man of her dreams.  The damage was done and she was tired.  She wanted desperately to be known.  I don't want to wake up one morning and feel like Scott doesn't know me.

A few weeks ago, I had two conversations with two different teenage girls.  They were struggling to find their place at school.  They explained that they felt like no one truly knew who they were and if they did know, they didn't feel like they would be accepted.  Two amazing, young ladies who struggle with forming close friendships because they either couldn't or chose not to play the part of the American Teenage Girl.  Was there a guide on what to wear, what to say, and how to act?  Were there other girls who felt the same way, but just didn't let their guards down in order to allow truth to prevail?  Truth of how desperately they just wanted to be known and to be seen.  I don't want to walk into a room of "friends" and feel like I am putting on a show.  I don't want to go through life playing a part.  And I certainly don't want that for these young ladies!

After my conversation with these sweet girls, I just couldn't shake this feeling that we are desperately failing the next generation of women.

If women were able and willing to be totally transparent and honest
If women were able to share their failures
If women were able to be free to live their life authentically
If women modeled to the next generation that their self worth came only from God
If women believed that God created us perfectly
If women understood that they were truly loveable
If women were kind to other women without judgment
If women would stop comparing
If women spoke words of truth
If women encouraged other women
If women loved God above all else...above husbands, children, family, friends, possessions, power, status, etc.

Maybe then women would feel seen because they would know with every ounce of their being that they are seen by the One who created them.  When we begin to feel known by an all knowing God who does not need us to explain who are or what we think, then we can live our lives being known by others.  When we agree to live our lives in truth and to act courageously, then the next generation will have a much better chance of becoming all that God designed them to be. 

We ALL want to feel connected to someone.  We seek this connection through people, service, work, success, and various other ways.  This sense of connection is part of us.  God created us to want this connection because this connection is what draws us to Him.  As we connect to God, we will no longer try to fill the void with people and stuff of this world.  As we connect to God, we begin to feel known and seen.  Because God sees us and knows, we are then able to live our authentic lives.  As we live authentic lives, we are able to be truthful with other people and share our hearts.  When we share our hearts, we begin to feel connected to others. 

Oh sweet friends, that feeling of not being known...we have all felt it.  So many of us still feel it.  You are not alone.

I don't want to be unknown or unseen by my daughters, my son, my husband, the church, or the world.  I don't want to waste one more second living a lie.  I choose to see and know others and to be seen and known.  It starts with me. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dear Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher,

I find it necessary to pre-explain the upcoming year for Zoey.  I think you need to have a full understanding of who this sweet child is and why this common occurrence (you know, going to school) has her mother acting like a crazy person.  I fully realize that this isn't something special.  Thousands of parents drop their sweet, baby-faced children off for their first day of school.  But for me, this first year of school is a huge deal and it is complicated and messy. 

Zoey at Kindergarten Round Up

Zoey is special.  Yes, I realize ALL children are special.  And I love all of my children and adore them and their first year of school was just as dramatic and traumatic for me.  I have issues...another letter for another time.  Zoey is our bonus baby.  She is either our "you are doing a great job with this parenting thing so here is one more for you" or "oh boy do you need a do-over so please don't screw this one up too".  Zoey is the only child in our home who still thinks her mommy is beautiful, perfect, and can do no wrong.  The other kids have my number and their eye rolling or blank stare full of judgment and silent thoughts is in full force.  But Zoey will still crawl up into my lap.  She still tells me a hundred times a day that she loves me.  I know that I am still her person.  I also know that school was created to ruin that for me.  (Sarcasm...maybe...)

Our Bonus Baby, Zoey Makenna Grace

Zoey has not been in MDO programs or preschool.  Ok there was a 3 month stint when she was 3.  She broke her leg and we pulled her out in November and she never returned.  I "homeschooled" her at home.  I use quotes because it wasn't super structured once Scottie went back to school.  She is super smart.  Super social.  Loves people,  She is freakishly good with numbers.  She knows her letters, sounds, numbers, colors and shapes.  She can count to 15 in Spanish and plays a mean game of "I Spy" in Español.  She cannot read.  Not sure how I failed in this particular area, but I did.  So learning to read is high on her priorities, so we greatly appreciate your help in this area.  Zoey doesn't know the words to Old MacDonald, but she does a mean lip sync to Meghan Trainor. 

Zoey is funny.  She is quick-witted and can make us laugh.  I could write a book about the funny things she has said or done, publish it, and make enough money to pay for her college one day.  She will most likely be extremely inappropriate.  I am sorry...ok, kind of sorry.  You see she is the youngest of 4.  Her audience is numerous and mature.  Her 17 year old brother and 15 year old sister have given her quite a bit of  comedic material.  She will most likely say penis and vagina.  I don't have time or energy to make up cute names.  It is what it is. 

Zoey and her sisters, Scottie and Emma Grace

Zoey will talk too much, too loud, and be super sassy.  She is kind and sweet and will make a good friend.  She knows what it is like to have someone in her life with learning differences and she is patient, caring, nurturing and so very accepting. 

Zoey's father is a "master" (pastor) at our church.  Please don't judge her or us by his occupation.  She will most likely tell someone the story of Jesus' death and resurrection, but she will embellish and add to the story.  With the older kids, I would have corrected her, but now I have decided that creative story telling is a gift.  It is totally a gifted and talented trait, right?

Speaking of "master", there are several words that Zoey says incorrectly.  I know I should correct her, but the truth is that I think organized should be n'organized.  Why change Zoey's word when it is in fact the best word.  Don't think we didn't notice the words.  We noticed.  We just liked Zoey's language better.

We are old parents.  I am no longer the energetic, super involved 29 year old I was with Jacob.  I am old.  Tired.  Busy.  When I cannot show up to something and there are other moms there, please do not judge me when my friend Jennifer shows up in my place.  I have learned with my old age that the only way to do this parenting thing is to have a village, and well she is my village. 

I detest homework.  Too many years of watching it suck my family time away.  I cannot stand it, but we will do it. 

I will encourage my girl to have a good day, to be brave, to work hard, but above all to be kind.  I will always tell her that how she treats others is the thing that will make me most proud and not if she can stay on green all day for not talking.  Her spirit and being a light to everyone around her is more important than finishing first and making the highest grades. 

When I drop Zoey off at school on Monday, I will not be excited.  I will smile and take her picture, but I will not be excited.  You see, Zoey going to Kindergarten is happening at the same time that my first baby, Jacob, begins his senior year.  No one should have a senior and a kindergartener.  It is just too much for my heart to take.  I remember stalking my Jacob the first week of school.   I would park my car with Emma Grace and Scottie buckled in the back watching a movie.  I would watch him walk around at recess all alone.  I just wanted to rescue him and take him home. 

As Zoey has all of these firsts, Jacob will have all of his lasts.  (Ugh and all of his new adult firsts.)

As Zoey prepares for elementary school and learns to read and write, Jacob will continue to become independent and prepare to leave our home.  As Zoey makes first friends, Jacob will be applying for college and choosing roommates. 

Jacob and Zoey
I am so sorry Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher.  I know that your job is to teach and serve your 22 students.  I know that each student has a unique story.  I know that the world does not revolve around Zoey, but for this mom the world does revolve around her kids.  Forgive me for the emails I will send.  Forgive me for forgetting to send forms back signed.  Forgive me for not volunteering 15 hours a week.  It isn't because I don't care about my child's education, but rather because I care too much about lots of people.

If you aren't sure who I am on the first day, I am the old mom whose old husband will be prying my old, wrinkled hands off of my sweet daughter's arms.  I will be the one who looks panicked and sad.  I will be the one whose daughter will pet my head and tell me that it is "ok silly mommy.  I have to grow up some time and I will still love you the most, but I need to learn now."  (Yes, Zoey is well adjusted and normal and excited about school...gag!)  I will not be high fiving the other moms celebrating the freedom gained when the kids are in school.  I will slowly walk out the room, looking over my shoulder to make sure that Zoey looks happy and confident.  I will check my phone and read a text sent to me from Emma Grace making fun of me and my melodramatic antics.

Oh how I hope you enjoy our Zoey.  She is loved so much by her family and our "village".  We get her.  Enjoy her.  I hope you enjoy her as well.  Zoey is going to change the world!


Zoey's Mom

P.S. Did I mention that I already kept her home a year longer than she had to because I really don't EVER want her to go to school???

Shine BRIGHT my sweet girl!


Friday, June 10, 2016

10-Year-Old Amy

A few months ago, I reorganized our bathrooms, linen closet, kitchen, and files.  Every item taken out.  Cabinets and shelves cleaned.  New shelf paper put in.  Every item placed in the most efficient place and clearly labeled. 
While reorganizing our files, I discovered a couple of things.  1.) We keep things we don’t need.  2.) We don’t keep things that we should.  I labeled folders and reminded myself that although I loathe paper, I need to start keeping some important documents.  3.) I found in black and white what my next big step must be!
One of the things that I came across while cleaning out our paper work is a report that my 5th grade teacher wrote about me.  I guess she was in grad school and had to observe and write a report about a student.  Guess who she!  Of course, my parents gave permission and when her report was finished she gave my parents a copy.  At some point, their copy made it to me, and I stuck it in our files.
It’s an odd thing to read about your own childhood from someone else’s perspective.  It has helped to give me a truer perspective about so many things, including who I am as a 41-year-old woman.
I want to share one particular part because it was a huge “a-ha” moment for me.  But first, I want you to know that I have very few childhood memories.  Nothing bad or traumatic happened to make me forget.  I just simply don’t have very many memories.  Scott remembers everything and everyone!  I just don’t.  So reading about situations, people, and events that happened to me is odd.  It is like I am reading about someone else and as it goes, we often see things more clearly when we are on the outside looking in…and boy did some things seem clearer.
“During Amy’s social studies class the subject of shyness came up.  The teacher explained that as a child their age, she was very shy.  The class as a whole reacted in a surprised manner.  The teacher went on to say, ‘Think of the shyest student in this class.’  Several students pointed to and replied, ‘Angelica.’  The teacher looked at Angelica and said, ‘Think of Angelica without all that talent (Angelica is extremely creative in art, expresses herself superbly in writing, and usually receives A’s on any work).  One student quietly said, ‘Amy.’  At that point, the teacher made no comment but went on with the lesson.  At the end of the day while the students were waiting for their bus, Amy came up to the teacher with tears in her eyes.  She had her head down to her chest and quietly accused the teacher, ‘You don’t think I have any talent.’  The teacher apologized, “I’m sorry, Amy, if you got that impression.  I was not indicating you had not talent.  You have a great deal of talent.  It’s just more hidden than Angie’s.  Not everyone can be as creative as Angie, but that doesn’t mean you are less capable.  In fact, you remind me a great deal of myself at your age: very shy and not sure I could do anything right.  I hope it doesn’t take you thirty years to find out how talented you are.’  Amy looked up with a grave expression, nodded, and went back to mingle with the few students left waiting for the bus.
(Next day)  Amy came into class with a huge smile on her face.  She came to the teacher... ‘Do you remember what you said to me yesterday about having talent?  Well, my talent is organizing.  I’m a great organizer.  I love to organize things.  My mom lets me organize her things at home.  Do you have anything you want me to organize?”…

My thoughts after reading these words…
1.) I would still react the exact same way.  I would still take the comment to heart and question my talents and abilities.  Why can’t I stop caring what others think of me? (another blog for sure)
2.) Ugh.  I am 41 years old and I am still doubting myself.  I still don’t know what to do when I grow up.  I still feel less than those around me.  I still don’t know what it is that I am most passionate about (other than being a wife and mom).
3.) Are you kidding me?!  Organizing was my talent at 10 and it is still my thing. Creating efficient ways of storing items and organizing a home comes naturally to me and I enjoy it. 
So what?
Last January Scott and I had our annual year-in-review and dream planning session.  They are usually lengthy and we try to cover every imaginable topic.  One of the topics we talked about was the feeling that I need to grow up and do something I am passionate about and that something should be how I make money.  If I have to work, shouldn’t it be what I enjoy doing?  We talked about going back to school…but I have watched Scott take classes for years and he squeezes hours in the evening to finish papers, watch lectures, and take tests.  He falls asleep with a book on his chest and has settled for “getting it done without needing A’s” because that’s all he has to give.  I have NO desire to do that!  In our conversation, I shared that I like to organize and help other people.  I want others to not feel overwhelmed by piles and stuff, when they don’t have to feel that way.  Scott immediately told me to do it. 
I started to do research about professional organizers and began dreaming (I traveled this road once before 10 years ago and stopped).  Scott bought a website domain and created social media accounts, so that I could begin this dream.  I began to believe and then I stopped.  Fear crept in.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  What if it worked and others were willing to pay for my help.  Would I really be able to handle a business?  Would I be able to balance my home, busy family, and still give my clients what they needed?  Fear stopped me in my tracks.  Research halted.  Reading and fact-gathering stopped.
Then I read these words and observations of a 10-year-old Amy.  In 30 years, I am still stuck.  I know what I am good at and what I would enjoy doing.  But, I lack the braveness to just step out and do it.  I allow fear and self-doubt to cripple my ability to move forward. 
I listen to my 17 year old son, and he has big dreams.  I spent years trying to encourage a plan B, but now I want him to just go after it.  Live his dream.  I believe with everything in me that he can do BIG things and that he is talented and amazing.  Why can I NOT believe that for myself?
I want to bravely move forward and take a step.  If I fail, at least I tried.  If I have success, then my kids can watch me have a career for the first time doing something I love doing.  I need to do this for my kids, my family, my 10-year-old self... but it is imperative I do this for my 41-year-old self. 

Be Brave.

Now what?  I have no idea what to do or where to start and I want to run and hide. 

Be Brave.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Our Face of Autism

What does autism look like?
Autism changes your family.  Totally.  Completely. 
  • You love your child differently.
  • Your son doesn't hesitate to walk his sister onto a basketball court at half time to help her shoot a basket in front of all of his peers despite the fact his sister is wearing huge pink noise cancellation headphones. 
  • Your oldest daughter loves and cares for her sister exactly how mom would when she sees her getting stressed and frightened, even if it means she misses something.
  • The little sister helps her big sister with buttoning her clothes.  Not understanding why her big sister can't, but simply does it. 
Autism makes the easy things difficult. 
  • Going to eat for dinner. 
  • Birthday Parties. 
  • Watching your son/daughter at a sporting event.
Autism alters how you think of the world…forever.  What seems like no big deal is a BIG deal. 
  • The neighbors lawn people weed eating. 
  • The stranger chewing gum. 
  • The sprinklers. 
  • The balloons that come through a restaurant with a group celebrating a birthday. 
  • The whistles at a basketball game. 
  • Your home not being perfect and orderly because there is a 5 year old and two teenagers who are actually living life in the home.
Autism makes life harder for your child.  It just does. 
  • She has difficulty making friends, conversation, and forming relationships with others outside of her little circle. (And we have the most amazing circle for her.) 
  • Her anxiety about noises stops her in her tracks.  Literally.  Stops walking and begins to retreat.
  • Her ability to express and receive language (which is HUGE) is incredibly difficult.  So we don't always know what she is thinking, feeling or wants.
  • Social situations are tough.  Like real work.  Like exhausting!

Autism sucks.

But, autism is also beautiful.

We love more completely because of autism.
We see God’s grace, mercy, and provision more clearly because of autism.
We see others differently because of autism.  It turns out that we all have something…may not be autism…but we have something that makes us different.  We all struggle.  Now we see the struggle and feel compassion for others.
We see the world through her eyes.  And some of the world is scary, but oh how we see the beauty because of autism.
We learn to talk about what someone else wants to talk about because of autism.  We are often wrapped up in what we want and what we enjoy.  But this child forces us to think about someone else and about what they want and enjoy.
We rely on our faith just a little more because some days are so SO hard, and our faith is all we have in that moment.
We exercise forgiveness more freely because of autism.  For one another.  For ourselves.
We are so privileged to have a face for autism.  It is an incredible face.  A beautiful face.
We are so privileged to have a laugh for autism.  It is the most amazing giggle, and you desperately want to hear it again and again.
We are so privileged to receive love from autism.  It is the purest, simplest love.
We are so privileged to experience the world through autism.  It is an amazing world.

Cate Scotlyn Denton is autism.  We are beyond thankful for her.  We adore her.  We like her.  We enjoy her.  We love her.  She is ours and we are hers.  She is our face of autism. 

As Autism Awareness Month begins, challenge yourself to see the face(s) of autism.  The diagnosis belongs to child/adult.  The child/adult can change your life in ways you never expected.  You will never regret discovering the faces (the lives) of autism.