Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's beautiful. It sucks.

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." ~ Psalm 19:21

March 13, 2017: 
It shouldn't have caught me by surprise. I knew this day was coming. I hoped it wouldn't. I prayed it wouldn't. I almost convinced myself it wouldn't. And then it did. Today was beautiful, and today sucked.

March 14, 2017:
I don't talk about life as a "special needs" parent or about my "special needs son" because I don't see myself or my son in that light.  I am a parent - he is a child - we are both in the process of becoming. But there are some things that are unique to people in our particular position. There are some things that only another person walking your path can fully understand. There are words only another parent on your journey can say to make you feel like someone gets you.

Yesterday was beautiful. My husband and I had the rare opportunity to devote ourselves 100% to celebrating our son.  Thanks to the amazing men and women of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Special Children's Committee, Landon experienced the kind of day dreams are made of - he got to be a real cowboy! Family members came to the rodeo to cheer him on as his cowboy buddy took him through the events. He got a trophy and real cowboy belt buckle. He was so proud. The image of him waving his American flag (that he somehow convinced the photographer he needed more than they did) as he rode a horse around the arena is beautifully imprinted on my heart.

Yesterday also sucked. It's funny, I didn't have the right word for how I was feeling, but when I mentioned it to the mom of one of Landon's friends (because I had to tell someone who would understand), she looked at me and said: "It sucks." And it does. I think I just needed permission to feel that way. 

You see, yesterday morning Landon was having a hard time. There was a problem with a game on his Wii-U. This seems minor in the realm of all things, but to Landon this represented a significant glitch in the matrix - this one thing stood to wreck his entire day. He sat on my bed, face buried, repeatedly saying the name of the game and rocking back and forth. His 4 year-old brother climbed up next to him, rubbed his back and said "It's okay buddy, it's just not working. It's not broken. It's okay. Mom and Dad can fix it." 

It was so sweet to see his little brother comfort him and try to help him understand the situation - and it was like a frozen shock through my heart. The little brother had become the shepherd, the guide, the comforter. The roles reversed. We knew it would come. We knew that even though Landon often presents as a neurotypical 6-year-old, he is still different in many ways. We knew one day little brother would surpass big brother in his abilities to navigate and understand the world around him. We knew that little brother would likely one day take on the role of "big brother," and for the first time yesterday - we saw it.  

Landon is amazing. Landon is perfect. Landon is our joy. Landon makes us laugh, and cry, and worry, and smile. He is such a blessing. But to be honest, I can't say "I couldn't imagine life any other way," because I can. I did. When I was pregnant, we struggled with choosing the right name - strong, solid, equally fitting for a future Texas high school football player and the outstanding adult he would someday be as he went about conquering the world. I imagined his entire life. His friends, his sports, his interests. And, I remember vividly driving away from a specialists' office on a snowy December day, when those dreams shattered into a million pieces. I remember excruciating days and nights, trying to collect all of those shattered shards and chips and forge them back together. Eventually, with God's help (and my mother's patience and intervention), a new and beautiful reality emerged from the destruction of the dreams I had built. 

Landon and his Cowboy Buddy

Landon with his trophy and belt buckle
Landon riding a horse in the arena
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." ~ Psalm 19:21  

This life was not my plan. Sometimes the unfairness hurts. Landon didn't get to choose his path - it was chosen for him, for reasons I can never know and probably couldn't understand. But Landon is awesome, and I love him more than words, and this verse reminded me that even when my plans don't come to be, God's do. He is all--knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-seeing, and he loves Landon even more desperately than I do. I would never have chosen this life, but I am thankful for it. I love it for the highs and the lows and the daily reminders that God is bigger, God is greater, His purpose will stand, and that is beautiful yesterday, today and forever.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

When the church hurts the Church

"14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
*** I want to start this with a MAJOR disclaimer.  This is coming from my personal conviction - from having my eyes opened to where I have been failing as a member of the Body of Christ.  I am not directing this toward anyone or about anyone. If you find it strikes a chord, I pray it quickens you to action, and I pray that you help hold me accountable to my attempts to do better as well.***
This week, I had the opportunity to teach a Life group (Sunday School. Bible Study, Connection Group... whatever you want to call it) for a friend.  Nick was teaching our class as he does every week.  We taught the same lesson (admittedly the lesson he researched and developed - I was just a delivery vessel) on the Church - both the Church with a capital "C" and the little "c" church - the first one being the body of believers in Christ, and the second being the brick and mortar unit with local members where we act on our expressions of faith in a communal setting.
The lesson addressed the "test" against which every activity of the church (and the Church) should be measured, with the reminder that anything not committed to glorifying God is outside the realm of healthy church activity.  1 Corinthians 10:31 - “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”  This simple instruction is the charge of every believer. Mutual accountability to this command must be the “DNA” of our churches. This is the only pure motive. Anything less is an impure offering. 
This is where the conviction started to rise up.
Here I was, teaching a class and realizing that I had been in church with these ladies for 2 years, and I didn't know them.  I had seen some of the faces, but I knew nothing about them.  Are they married? Widowed? Divorced? Single? Do they have children? Grandchildren?  Where do they work?  I recognized one from my son's karate school - we had never talked there.  I recognized then that I had failed as a member of both the Body and the body.  
I wondered then - on a larger scale - is my church hurting others in our Church?  Are we hurting them by leaving them unnoticed?

During the service, from the vantage point of the platform, I surveyed the congregation.  There each family sat in "their" rows.  I found the ladies from the class, primarily scattered around the back of the church - many sitting alone.  I recognized looking around that my church looked an awful lot like a high school cafeteria.  There was the youth row; the "cool kids (adults)" row where you only sit if you know you are "in" that group; the young marrieds row; the family rows (where each family literally fills their own pew).  There were faces in the places I expected them.  And then I noticed, around each of these rows were scattered the occasional lone male, the woman who is there without her husband (whose kids are sitting with the youth so she is left alone), the middle-aged woman who is just another face in the crowd... and my heart broke.  
The first time I visited my church, I was alone.  I remember looking around for a seat and knowing intuitively where I could not sit.  The spread out belongings, the group conversations - the fact that I seemingly passed by unnoticed - so I finally took a seat off to the side.  An older member of the church came and took a seat next to me.  She introduced herself to me at the "welcome" and at the end of the service, she stopped me to say "I'm glad you came today," and she asked me "is there anything I can pray for you about?"  That single act was the greatest influence in my return visit, my eventually joining the church, and my finding my place of service within the body.
As I considered this, I wondered, how many times have I missed an opportunity to give that welcome.  How many times have I passed a "face in the crowd" on my way to "my row", or been so caught up in catching up with my church friends, that I failed to greet or acknowledge another?  How often am I preoccupied with my friends while waiting in the nursery line that I fail to to engage with the visitor in line behind me?  
I am not saying that it's wrong for me to have friends in the church, but I think often the church becomes the hub of our social world such that we inadvertently become exclusive.  We say we welcome others - but do we really?  I wonder if we took a survey in the church - how many people would say they felt welcome?  How many people would say they feel "included"?  Are we taking people back to the days in high school where they could hear kids at the next table talking about weekend plans they aren't invited to?  Are we asking people to join our "organization" (our church body), but not allowing them into our exclusive unit within the body?
The Body - the Church with a capital "C" - is made up of all of us as believers and in many instances, we are neglecting parts of our own body as we pursue relationships and "do life" (a new catch phrase in a lot of churches) with others.  It's a tricky balance to reach in making sure that "doing life" with others means community and not exclusivity.  It struck me as I sat in a Life Group that was not my own that when they "do life" together, and my Life Group does "life" together, and the young marrieds "do life" together, sometimes instead of creating community and being the Body (the Church, made up of many parts - each contributing to the whole) - we are create the high school cafeteria.  
So what do we do?  I am not a theologian, but I think it's a simple answer with a tough follow through.  Jesus gave some clear directives: love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; love your neighbor as yourself; and go into all the world a preach the gospel...
So that's what we do. We love God.  By loving God and truly loving His creation - we love people (yes, even if we don't like them; even if we feel they have wronged us -- we don't let the enemy get a stronghold in our heart and ultimately our church through bitterness).  We love the unloveable.  We love those we don't know yet.  We care. We speak. We invite. We share the news of the amazing gift God gave us through His son.  And we ask ourselves "is everything we are doing bringing glory to God" - and if it's not, we make a change.
I know what my first change will be - next week at my church, don't look for me in "my spot." I am moving someplace new in the sanctuary. I am going to sit with someone other than the same old friends. I am going to offer a welcome. I am going to ask someone how I can pray for them. And if more people do the same, maybe - just maybe - the "high school cafeteria" can be transformed into a community where we can see what it really means to "do life" together.  I know I am excited to give it a try.  

He Overcame!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

[I know I have used this verse in a blog before, but this verse returns to me almost daily and it's the promise that sustains us through so much.]


When I had my first son I thought I had a handle on the whole baby thing, but about a week after he was born, friends started sharing the truths no one tells you about the first months of parenting.  I learned about hormone slumps, marital stress, physical stress, and the horrors of what really happens to your body.  Everyone's tales were similar and the consensus seemed to be: this time is horrible in many ways and you might hate life for a minute, but it's all worth it.

Nick and I recently entered the world of foster parenting.  We were prepared.  We went to all of the classes, watched the videos, and heard the horror stories.  I have prosecuted multiple cases that involved children who were in foster care and had seen that side of the equation.  We have friends who foster.  We knew what we were getting into.  Right.

Our first placement came to us in mid-June.  About a week later, a friend who fosters reached out with the truths no one tells you.  Her words: "Praying for you!  When you do foster care or adoption, you are bringing hell into your home.  Many of these kids are firmly in the grip of the enemy.  There is no hope of meeting Christ in their birth homes.  When they are snatched from the enemy's hand, he fights for them.  He will stress you beyond belief, attack your marriage, attack your children.  Recognize it.  Claim victory."

The day after our foster arrived, the upstairs A/C broke.  The next day the dryer checked out.  The DVD player in the car broke at the start of a 45-hour road trip around the U.S.  Nick and I had to have a heart-to-heart about how to deal with the new stresses (if you read between the lines, that means it was a rough go there for a minute - I laughed to keep from crying and he "got something in his eyes").  Then just when we thought we were finally at least dog-paddling along in the deep-end with our head above water, our eldest son fell from a tree in another state while visiting relatives and landed in the PICU with a fractured pelvis, broken wrist, and a long recovery ahead of him.  That tree was 12-hours away from me and 15-hours from his dad, and we were heartbroken and scared and worried.  And you know what?  I was not okay with this new development.

You see, throughout the last month with our placement, I have prayed.  I have recognized the attacks.  I have claimed victory - but I always added the caveat "please leave my children out of this."  At first blush, it may seem that God refused to honor that plea.  But, I want you to look at the verse at the top of this blog.  "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  

Yes, my son fell.  Yes, he was hurt.  Yes, I do attribute this to another attack.  But God has overcome.  He has overcome.  It is finished.  We may encounter attacks, but HE OVERCAME and the power of the blood of the lamb outweighs any weapon formed against us.  He protected my son and my little man will recover and have a tremendous testimony to share.  But God didn't just protect - no, he is our God of love and mercy who seeks to comfort His children, so He went further than we could ask and He also provided for us and our son.  Nick (my son's stepdad) was supposed to be in Las Vegas for work this week, but plans changed and he ended up going to a far less glamorous place in the middle of nowhere - less than 4 hours away from that stinkin' tree and our precious son who needed a parent by his side.  Nick's presence gave our son, my son's dad and step-mom, and me peace even though our little tree climber is far from home.  

Our little man has a long road to recovery ahead of him, and there are still many more questions than answers, but God's promise is the final answer - "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Life may not be the party you hoped for, but while you are here, you might as well dance

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

It's 2:00 a.m. I hear a voice across the darkness. "Mommy!" I run to his room. He screeches and screams. He's hysterical. I go through routines until I find the one that is the salve this time. He looks at me and says "bed" - he wants me to stay. I am awake and tired but couldn't be happier. I cuddle my little boy close to me. His chubby hand pats my arm gently. I nuzzle his velvet cheek and breathe in his Johnson and Johnson's hair. For the moment I live the dream I had all those months I carried him. I cradle the little boy I imagined I'd have. For a moment I forget the life we have - therapy, meds, tantrums, hysteria - it all fades into the background as my angel actually welcomes my attention. I feel his foot shift and I will the dream not to end. It shifts again. I know what's coming but I hold onto the moment for as long as I can. A rhythmic pattern emerges. He's stimming. Reality slams into the room like a spotlight being switched on. The screaming starts. I'm no longer welcome. He has returned to his own world. But thank you, God, for my visit with the angel from my dreams tonight. I hold onto the dream praying one day "autism" won't be part of our vocabulary. And I go back to my bed and sleep to gain strength for another day.

Lord, this wasn't the party we hoped for, but we know your ways are higher than our ways and we praise you for the chance to see a beautiful side of life and experience your world through a different perspective. Thank you for the strength to meet this challenge!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Even in the Desert...

"Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. . . 6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land —a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. 10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you." ~ Deuteronomy 8:1-10

I read these verses as part of my daily devotional this morning, and boy did I ever need to hear their message.

My family is a military family.  I spent 8 years on active duty with the Air Force.  My husband is currently in year 10 of his service.  When I joined the military, I was excited for the adventure - see new places, meet new people, engage in exciting missions.  In my first six and a half years, the Air Force let me live in Alabama, Germany, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia, and my duties took me to 27 countries and 37 different US states.  My husband lived in Colorado, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Washington state, and regularly flew his C-17 to points all over the globe.  It was a whirlwind of adventure.

Then in my last year and a half of service, I moved to New Mexico, and my soon-to-be husband also took an assignment here... and it all stopped.

Four years, almost 2 more kids (one is due in 5 weeks), and a second house (to fit our growing family) later, here we are.  His daily grind in the new aircraft and the new mission he joined to be with me here has become only more grinding and some days, completely pulverizing.

And even though I did my own time in the service and I know the drill -- salute sharply and execute - period -- it doesn't always make the sacrifice any easier.

If you've read previous blogs, you know our four years here have been rewarding, but also challenging - our marriage, court battles, the loss of a child, career changes, the birth of a child, more court battles, the coming of another baby - you name it.  And recently, I have begun to get discouraged in still being here.  It's time to move on.  It seems everyone else who relocated when we did is at least one, if not two assignments removed from this place.  Among those who haven't moved yet, it seems like there's at least a light at the end of their tunnel - a new airframe, a staff job... yet here we sit.  The few other families who are still hanging in on a similar timeline seem to be having a similar experience.  This particular job and location take a toll unlike other assignments for many reasons.

I will also be completely honest - I am tired of being away from my family, and they are definitely not coming here!  For once I would like to have a baby with my family present (not that I don't love every one of the girlfriends at the different points of the globe who've stepped in to help with my three previous births - but selfishly, I do want my mom or sisters around).  I want to be able to just pop in and say "hi" to my parents, I want to have coffee with one of my many siblings without traveling 8 - 12 hours to do so.  I want my kids to see their cousins at church with them on Sunday.

But, right now, that isn't part of the plan.  And that's okay.  When God led the Israelites into the desert, He provided for them.  For 40 years "[their] clothes did not wear out and [their] feet did not swell" (Deuteronomy 8:4).  They weren't "home" - they weren't in the land God had planned for them to flourish.  They were in the desert - in a transient place.  I am sure the journey was grinding and sometimes pulverizing.  I am sure their families sometimes got discouraged.  But God met their every need.  And God has met our every need.  We have a beautiful home, well-adjusted children, and amazing network of friends and surrogate family here in New Mexico.  We are part of a loving, mission-minded church.  Our church family has embraced us and our children just as if we were "home folk".  We have become a part of this community and love the people.

So my prayer today is that I will remember: that there is a promised future; that when God tests my heart and humbles me, that I will keep His commands; that though this time is challenging, something else is coming - and when it does we will "praise the Lord [our] God for the good land he has given us."  And I pray we keep our eyes focused, lest we forget to "observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him" (Deuteronomy 8:6).  And most of all, I pray I will keep close to my heart and mind all the good and wonderful things He has given us through our time here in New Mexico - relationships, blessings, lessons learned - and we trust and believe there's so much more yet to come.  Thank you, Lord, for our time here.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me today to trust you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  Jeremiah 29:11

In the hallway between my two oldest sons' bedrooms, I have a picture.  It appears to be the hands of an adult male wrapped around the hands of a small child whose head is bowed in prayer.  To the right of the picture is the verse above.  I see that picture everyday, and often am struck that God, the God of the universe, has a plan for each of my boys... they weren't accidents or mistakes.  They are divinely appointed creations of a merciful and loving Father.

And some days when I see that picture, I look up to Heaven and say "REALLY, GOD?!"  I love clean.  I love tranquility.  I love rules, order, and discipline.  I love organization and calm and and structure.  And God made me... I would also argue, He made me this way.  And that verse applies to me as well - He knows the plans He has for me.  And in His divine, omnipotent, omniscient wisdom... he gave me THREE sons.

Sometimes I think He did this just for the comic value in watching me run around like a headless chicken trying in vain to suck up every grain of dirt with the Dustbuster, while simultaneously wiping the finger prints off the stainless steel appliances, en route to the bedroom with an armful of errant toys who somehow escaped from their assigned rooms, as I yell across the room "no shoes on the carpet" to one and "don't forget to wash your hands" to the other as he emerges from the restroom.

And the older my boys get, the funnier this scene must be. 

Some kids collect baseball cards or action figures.  Mine collect rocks, leafs, and all manner of other things that God put on this earth OUTSIDE of the home, with (in my humble opinion) no intention of having them cross the threshold.  Some kids bring home stray animals.  I am pleased my children don't do this as (you can imagine) an animal would not mesh well with my cleanliness rules.  However, what my children DO collect is stray children. 

My seven-year-old actually went door-to-door in the neighborhood looking for kids.  And, when he found them, he brought them all home with him - complete with shoes on the carpet, rocks in their pockets, and that special puppy-dog smell that is exclusive to little boys who've been playing outside! 

Good, former-military officer that I am, I stop them all in their tracks for the inprocessing briefing!  Shoes lined up by the wall in the foyer, no food away from the table, no drinks out of the kitchen, no troop-movement among the assigned toys (each must remain with the unit they are stationed with -- in other words, they don't leave their rooms).  But, I always find a rule I should have briefed: doors are used for passing through and nothing more (exterior doors only open for personnel movements, interior doors remain open, we do not play with doors); light sabers are for outside (these are an exception to the toy troop-movement restrictions); karate IS NOT practiced inside; we do not have pillow fights (this includes: using pillows as shields, "touching" with a pillow, and even "but we weren't fighting, we were playing nice!"); hands must be washed after bathroom, before eating, and after outside; we never touch the walls (WHY do children need to touch walls?); trash goes (GASP) in the trashcan; hand towels should be replaced on hooks after hand washing; we ask to be excused from the dinner table; you eat what you get or you wait for the next meal; and the list goes on and on...

An afternoon play date can take more out of me physically and mentally than a short tour in the desert.  If given the option, I might choose the latter!

And yet, knowing this... knowing this is who I am... God also knows the plans He has for me... and He has blessed my home with three precious little boys who I love more than anything in the world. 

So, okay God... I trust you, and even if this part of your plan is purely based on entertainment value, I know you have plans for these young men.  I just pray that you be patient and guide me as I guide them, show me when and where to give, and let them emerge from this upbringing unscathed by all the restrictions and procedures. 

And P.S.  Lord, please help me find a product to get the puppy-dog smell out of the carpet and couch!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One of those days...

‎"But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people. Who have set themselves against me all around." Psalm 3:3-6


My sister reminded me of this verse today.  How true and how humbling.


At the beginning of my day, my soul was stirring.  The Enemy takes many forms in this world to steal, kill and destroy.  He will stop at nothing to rob us of all of our joy.


It seems that every time something is happening for our family to celebrate - our marriage, our first pregnancy, our current pregnancy and the impending birth of our son - someone or something is used by the Enemy to try to stamp out our flame of joy.


If I allowed myself, I could spend my time in a constant state of worry and distress, continually looking for the arrows that have been promised to be aimed at me.  But God is a God of peace and rest.  He is my shield, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I called to Him today, in my own prayers and in the blessed prayers of many friends and family who are faithful to lift me up.  And now, I can lie down and rest, for I know God protects me and will sustain me.


Blessed assurance.  What a gift.  I am so unworthy and yet God is still so good.