This Roller Coaster of Life

I can’t believe it’s been 9 months since I last posted on here. I had such good intentions of updating, then life happened. I thought the roller coaster we were on was one with a few hills and descents- little did I know last July that just around the corner lurked a roller coaster that would rival anything I had dealt with before. Due to health issues just about all home reno has had to stop. I’ll explain more on that in a bit. Gene’s recently changed jobs, but that was for the good and we are so happy about it. We have had a lot of doctors’ appointments & a few therapy sessions. In August and September I took the girls to a combined total of 50 appointments. We stopped seeing the chiropractor in August when we realized the adjustments were causing us to have more dislocations (this may not be the case for everyone, but all 4 of us agreed on this for us). In the last 9 or so months Hannah, Rachel, Caroline, & I also started getting treatment for Fibromyalgia. We have had a few ups and downs during this time and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Sarah has been much improved in the last few months. The first struggle since her breakdown was overcoming her feeling of rejection and grieving that. The next biggest struggle was her eating. It seemed like most everything caused her stomach issues, which in turn caused extreme pain, which led to anger and lashing out. Sarah is mentally about 6, deaf, and autistic. When she begins to hurt, she doesn’t understand where it is coming from and doesn’t know how to communicate that, much like a young child. We have been doing a lot to work on her gut health with probiotics as of late and have seen tremendous strides. She is happier, more engaged, and sleeping much better. 

Caroline’s health journey has had the most ups and downs. Last summer she started by having gastro problems, trouble eating, and feeling extreme nausea- all of the time. She still has this issue but all of her gastro tests came back as normal. She has also had some neurological issues with buzzing in her head (imagine a lawnmower in your head), tinnitus, migraines, night terrors, and a type of paralysis that comes with her allergic attacks. The allergic attacks range from passing out when she smells, touches, or eats something (the list of things in this list is ever growing and we never know what new thing will cause it to happen). She has also reacted by having mild anaphylaxis (which at any time could go to full blown) and the paralysis I mentioned which will last from 30 minutes to an hour. We have seen many doctors about these issues. This week we are seeing our second neurologist and we are traveling to Jackson to see our third allergist. Many doctors will look at the symptom list and either tell you it’s not their field, they don’t recognize it, or the really wonderful ones (note sarcasm) will tell you it’s all in your head- no pun intended. She is also going to be seeing an endocrinologist and cardiologist in the near future. 

Rachel has seen huge improvements in the last 9 months. In October of 2015 we bought her a wheelchair because she was gradually getting weaker and by January of 2016 she couldn’t walk more than a few steps without collapsing. Part of this is due to POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), and part of it has a neurologic component that we haven’t pinned down yet. The neurologist initially thought she had cataplexy (part of narcolepsy) but the sleep study didn’t show that. We go back in a few weeks to see what we can determine there. She also began having a lot of neck pain last summer and began using a neck brace. In August she began PT and they helped her a great deal. By the end of it she was able to walk around with the aid of a walker. Then her aunt and uncle gave her a treadmill which helped her endurance and by Oct she was walking in a store for the first time unaided. Now she only uses the chair very rarely on a really bad pain/weakness day and she hardly ever needs the neck brace. Rachel is also having some issues that seem similar to Caroline’s allergy issues (not the passing out though) so we have been using some antihistamines with her and they seem to be helping.

Hannah has many of the same issues that Rachel and Caroline experience but sadly can take little medicine to alleviate the issues. Back in the fall the doctor put her on Claritin to try to help the issues and after taking one pill (it was gluten free) it had her in bed barely able to function for 2 weeks. Thankfully she is able to take Gabapentin for her fibro which is really helping. She has started to take some vitamins that seem to be helping, but she has to add them in very slowly. It can take two weeks to get her up to a full dose. She has to start by holding the pill, then she moves on to tasting a little and gradually increases until she is able to take the pill. We have found that by going this slowly we can often find something that causes her a reaction. Though that didn’t work with the Claritin. She is also able to take BC when she has pain (most days) and we are very thankful she is able to tolerate it. 

I was able to go to the doctor in November and was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I suspected that I had it for years, but back when it first flared up there wasn’t really anything doctors were doing for it and it seemed manageable, so I didn’t worry about it. The doctor started me on Gabapentin as well but unfortunately I don’t respond as well as the girls do to it. For me it makes me really tired and run down feeling. I have heard from others that it causes them severe neurological issues. I will go back in a few weeks and will talk to him about some other alternatives. The day after Christmas was a very sad day for us because my mother died. She had been in declining health for 2 1/2 years. It was a very sad time, but it was good to be able to re-connect with family we hadn’t seen in so very long.

Here are some stats from the last 9 months:
Caroline: 
ER visits: 4

Hospital admissions: 1

MRIs: 2

Major Tests: 6- colonoscopy, endoscopy, swallow study, gastric emptying, gall bladder function (2) 

Rachel:

MRIs: 2

Major Tests: 2- sleep study, nerve conduction

Hannah:

ER visits: 1

Every time they go to the doctor there is usually some type of bloodwork to be done, so we wouldn’t really count that as unusual. 

This brings you up to date on our life and the wild roller coaster ride that it is. We have been truly blessed through these trying times with strengthening love for one another and seeing how God sustains us even in the most difficult of times. This slideshow is a small glimpse into our life over the last 9 or so months. I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and let me know who you are. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Blessings! 

Looking Back- 2014

This last year has been one of changes and growth for our family. It started out with our family being in a very hard place. We had been dealing with Sarah’s breakdown for 9 months and it was taking a toll on us all. A year later we are still dealing with it, but we are in a much better place spiritually and emotionally.

In 2014 we confirmed what I had  suspected for years, Sarah is autistic. It plays a great role in her breakdown and inability to handle the great rejection that was placed upon her.  We have learned so much in the last year about how diet can help or hinder her autism. Sarah now eats gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free and low sugar foods. She also avoids artificial preservatives, colorings and additives. This has put us on a huge learning curve as to how diet, nutrition and medications affect her.We found out that some foods are like a drug to Sarah and she is addicted to them just like an addict is to drugs. We also found out the hard way how something as simple as rice can send her to a place you don’t want to go.  Sarah has been off of her seizure meds for over a year now and hasn’t had a single breakthrough seizure. She used to have them whenever she didn’t sleep enough, but she has had some nights with no sleep and still no seizures. We are working on getting her on a decent sleep schedule which hopefully will allow me to get to sleep before 4:30am (sometimes it’s 10am).  

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Gene has been working 10 hrs a day (before dawn to late afternoon) 7 days a week since July only having a couple of days off during that time until last week at Christmas. When he did have a day off he was on the road to Louisiana (more on that in a bit). Hannah, Rachel & Caroline have been such a blessing to me during this time. I couldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for them and I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep. Thankfully, when I can’t stay awake any more they can usually take over for me. Though there were several days where I only had an hour of sleep a day for several days in a row. Thankfully we seem to be past that and boy am I thankful. 

From August until October things with Sarah were off the charts crazy (that’s when I got little to no sleep) but things have evened off greatly. Sarah is much more cooperative and has improved greatly since then. We still have a few days of craziness when her hormones flair, but she is much better than during those 3 months. 

Sarah is improving in obedience and awareness of others, though there is still much work to be done. We are so thankful for what the Lord has shown us in this area. A year ago I wanted the “old Sarah” back. This year I am much more realistic about it (more on what the Lord has taught me in a subsequent post). Now she is the new and in some ways improved Sarah. I would say she is at about 75% of where she was. I think it will probably be harder for her to trust others in the future. It’s hard for anyone to learn to trust again after being hurt in such a way. 

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I can see a great deal of spiritual growth in the girls this last year. They have been my right hand and my left. They have encouraged me when I am discouraged and helped me greatly when Gene is working. They are each battling Lyme and are at different stages of treatment. Hannah and Rachel are both seeing progress with their treatment. Caroline will be starting back on hers after the first of the year.

The last half of the year has been prepping for a move back to the town in Louisiana where Gene and I grew up. We hope to be moving back in early  spring, Lord willing. Gene has already made a couple of trips up there with boxes and will make a couple of more before the big move. Last Sept it seemed like spring would take forever to get here, but now that it’s a mere 12 weeks away, it seems awfully close and there is just so much to do. 

We’re ending our year on a very special day as we do every year.Today Gene and I will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary. I am so thankful to be married to the man I am! He is above gracious and understanding with me. He has been a rock for me during these difficult times and I am so blessed to have him here to help me. 

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As our year wraps up I look back and thank the Lord for every day in it. He has taught us to rely on Him, to rest in Him, and to trust in His faithfulness (I will share more on that in a following post). We have been blessed beyond measure and the Lord has given us what we have needed moment by moment. I pray that this new year will find you seeking the One from whom all blessings flow. 

 

 

 If you’d like to read more about what’s been going on with Sarah, this link will give you all of the articles I have written on her.  

A Break in the Storm

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We are rejoicing that there is a break in the storm that has been in our lives for the last year! The Lord has been so faithful! I don’t want to give the impression that He is faithful because the storm is breaking, He was faithful when the storm was at it’s worst. He was there to calm the stormy seas that were about to topple us, not by removing the storm, but by helping us through it.

Sarah has been on the SCD diet for almost a month now and she is showing great signs of improvement. Since I first wrote about putting her on the diet I have done more research and made further changes. One of the things we have eliminated is all dairy. Apparently dairy can work like a narcotic on the brain of an autistic child. I can believe it. Since we have taken her off of cheese she has behaved like an addict about it. We finally had to duct tape the cheese bin shut so that she would not be able to steal it before we could get to her. In the last few days we have had to remove eggs as well. We were suspecting that they were causing some issues and I did some research on them and found out that many who are negatively affected by dairy and gluten are also affected by eggs. This article was very interesting on the subject.

In the last week it is as if a fog has lifted from her brain. She is alert and you can see clarity when you look into her eyes. She will tell you what she wants and answer questions (sometimes). She is much more attentive and is paying attention to things. She has become interested in her surroundings and is actually focusing on movies, coloring and conversations. For the past year she would just sit stimming for most of the day seemingly staring into space. We still have a lot to overcome. If you ask her what she wants, needs or is upset about her first response will be, “I don’t know”. If she initiates it though, she has very precise desires. I found that out on a recent shopping trip. Her favorite color is yellow and she wanted a yellow hand towel to match her bath towel. I was fine with that, but then she started getting towels of every color of the rainbow to put in the cart. It took everything I had and a few tears on her part, to get out of there with only 2 towels.

We want to thank all of you who have been praying for her over the last year. It means more to us than you can know. We still covet your prayers as we now have to go through the stage of re-establishing boundaries and getting her on a schedule and getting some semblance of normalcy in our life. I’m sure there will be times of regression, they are to be expected. Today I feel more confident in her prognosis than I have all year. We are so thankful for the Lord’s provision and direction in all of this.

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Making Hard Decisions

Last night as I was typing up my post I got the kind of phone call we all dread. My brother called me to tell me that my mother had fallen in a hospital parking lot (actually she was blown over by a strong wind) and had broken her hip. I was faced with some hard decisions. My parents live a 6 hour drive from us, so that makes things complicated. For some people picking up and going at the drop of a hat isn’t a big deal. For us, it’s a big deal. I have two daughters who can’t eat anything other than what we prepare, and we have to make all of our food in advance. The last few times we have gone Hannah and I have pulled all nighters preparing several days worth of food, for 6 people with 3 different food restrictions/diets.

As moms we all have many decisions that we have to make every day. What meals to cook, what errands to run, how to do school. . . the list is endless. Some decisions are easier than others. Trying to decide what to do about traveling was making me physically ill. I don’t know about you, but I hate to feel like I’m letting someone down and not living up to their expectations of me.

As I tried to decide what to do several things were weighing on me.

Sarah- I’ve shared about her trials here, here, and here. Just last night I was up with her all night. Caroline relieved me at 8 am and Sarah finally fell asleep at 8:30am and slept for a few hours. Right now Sarah sleeps well about every third night. Sleeping well means that she is asleep sometime between 12 am-2 am and waking between 5am-8am. We just started her on the SCD diet and are starting to see some results. A trip might throw a wrench into things as she tends to regress after a trip or any additional stress.

Hannah- has been battling Lyme which presents in her differently than the rest of us. She has vestibular hyperacusis which can cause her to have anxiety issues, which can in turn lead to bouts of depression. These are chemical issues that we are treating, but it has flared to a severe level lately like it has only one time before. I have been staying up at night keeping watch over her. She often wakes between 4-6am having a mild panic attack and needs someone to be with her. Since we have added some supplements to help with this she is doing better, but they are not completely effective yet.

Rachel- has been battling her Lyme which can present with atonic seizures and many other symptoms. She has to take things easy a lot, though she tries to do as much as she can when she is up to it. She has written about her Lyme here, here and here.

Caroline- has also been battling Lyme, her symptoms have started getting more severe in the last few months. She has a lot of fatigue and brain fog. She has also been battling her asthma  a lot lately.

Gene- works long hours and has been working 6-7 days a week since last September. Between my schedule and his, we are getting to see each other occasionally on Sundays and about an hour and a half before he goes to bed.

Right now my sleeping schedule has roughly been 8 am – 2 pm. As I was going to bed this morning I got a text telling me that my mom’s surgery was happening in just a few minutes. At that point I was too exhausted and emotionally drained to think about what to do. I prayed before I went to sleep wanting some direction. It took me a while to fall asleep but once I got to sleep I rested well. When I awoke, I knew the decision I needed to make. We already have a trip planned to see all of our parents for Memorial Day weekend, so I decided to wait until then to go home.

This decision wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the right one. Often there will be demands coming at us from all directions. All of these things may seem urgent and like something we must do. It helps me to stop and think about my priorities. Right now the most important thing for Gene, the girls and me is to get Sarah better. We will sacrifice most anything for that to happen. So as I weighed out making a rushed trip, lots of long hours and the stress this would put on Sarah and the other girls (I knew that if we did this, there was a high probability that the girls would be in bed for up to 2 weeks after, trying to recuperate) I decided that the cost was too high. Going by myself wasn’t an option due to Sarah needing my constant attention. I also didn’t feel that I could juggle Sarah’s needs and the other girls while on the road alone.

Was this decision hard? You bet, but once I made it I knew it was right. I decided to stop beating myself up because I can’t be everything to everyone. I have made the wrong decision plenty of times, and my whole family has paid the price. It is so easy to fall into the trap of doing a lot of good things and pushing yourself harder than you should. It is important to know your priorities, which will help you not over-commit.

Choices come in different forms, whether to let the kids play ball, or take a class, to go on a trip or commit to something at church. All should be weighed according to the responsibilities God has given to you. We need to be good stewards of our time, just like we are with our money. I have also learned to sleep on such decisions before I make them. Things always seem clearer after sleeping on them.

Over the last 30 years I have made the wrong decision many times. I have worked over the years to streamline our commitments and to focus on our priorities, but I don’t always get it right. Everything we have been going through in the last year has really helped me solidify my priorities. My hope is that when life gets back to normal (whatever that is), that I will continue to be diligent in guarding our time and making the right decisions for it.

How do you make the tough decisions? How do you know you are making the right one?

5 Reasons I Want My Daughters To Watch Frozen

Spoiler Alert!! There will be many plot spoilers in this article. Read at your own risk.

1. Conceal, Don’t Feel, Don’t Let It Show— Elsa’s parents in not knowing how to deal with her abilities and differences told her to hide them. They were told that fear is what would be a danger for Elsa, but instead of teaching her to deal with her differences they told her she must suppress them. They created the very fear that would be a danger to her. She was afraid to feel, afraid of herself.  If there is anything I have learned over the last year it is that suppressing feelings and emotions doesn’t make them go away. They will come out eventually. We have to learn to address the issues in our life head on and learn how to work out our differences. If we don’t they will come bursting forth in ways we don’t expect with unintended consequences. As a mom, I want to teach my daughters to deal with their emotions in a scriptural and healthy way. They don’t need to bottle their feelings up, deny them or be afraid to face them.

2. Be The Good Girl You Always Have To Be— Elsa didn’t fit the mold of what was expected of her. She was different, and this caused problems. She was told she had to be a “good girl” and hide who she really was.  Having been in the homeschooling movement for the last 20+ years I have seen this same thought process and have seen it be terribly detrimental. Young women (and men) are expected to fit a cookie cutter mold. They should dress alike, talk alike, like the same books and movies (but only those that are approved by the gurus), do the same crafts/hobbies and pursue a common dream. I fell prey to that as a parent. It’s so easy to think if I just check the right boxes and use the right formulas I will have the perfect adult children. I hate to be the one to break the bad news to you, but it just ain’t so. You can do everything perfectly(not that any of us can achieve this) and still have children who aren’t what you expected when they are adults. God has created us uniquely and we need to develop and encourage our children in their God given talents. We have to be cautious that we don’t allow legalism into our families. We shouldn’t be following gurus, they are just sinners like us, we should following scripture.

3. Prince Charming- Maybe Not— In the movie Prince Charming wasn’t so charming after all. I want my daughters to be discerning about young men. To know the character qualities and personality traits that are important to their success as a wife. I don’t want them to fall for the first guy who shows interest, just because he is showing interest. I would rather them marry a blue collar man who loves the Lord with all his heart and wants to serve Him, than a man who desires riches, position or fame.

4. Actions Have Consequences–  Some of them unintended— Elsa had kept her emotions pent up for so long that releasing them felt good. She didn’t realize that letting go like that had unintended consequences. We don’t live in a vacuum and everything we do affects someone else- either positively or negatively. We have seen that in the last year in more ways than you can imagine. I want my daughters to know that they are responsible for setting things right when their actions have unintended consequences.

5. Selfless and Self-Sacrificing Love— Anna was told that the only way to get the coldness out of her heart and to be healed was to do an act of true love. Everyone thought of a true love’s kiss. This time Disney got it right. It wasn’t the kiss of a prince or a pauper that would save Anna, but her act of selfless and self-sacrificing love. She was willing to sacrifice her life to protect her sister. I want my daughters to see that message and apply it. As a Christian we have the example of Christ laying down His life for us and it is how we should be living. We may not have to actually give our lives, but we should give them every day in service to one another. When we put someone else’s needs and wants above our own we are being selfless, that is a lesson our world needs to see.

I am not a Disney fanatic, I think some of their movies send a wrong message about many things. We have chosen to take those things in the movies we watch and make examples of them to our daughters. One of my goals as a mom of daughters is to raise my girls to be discerning and to be able to see the deeper meaning in what they are reading and watching. I want them to not just see the surface issues, but to understand the motives and thoughts of the characters they read about and watch. I often see many Christians parroting what they have heard some guru claim about a book or a movie without having taken the time to read or watch it. Scripture tells us to be like the Bereans and to study for ourselves, comparing what we see and hear against scripture. Paul told them to check what he said to make sure it was truth. When we start repeating what someone else has said without checking the veracity of a statement for ourselves, what we are doing is akin to gossip. It isn’t much different that telling everyone that Sally told you Joe had an affair. If you don’t know the fact to be true for yourself, then you shouldn’t be discussing it.

On more than one occasion we have had an adult tell our young adult daughters why they didn’t like this or that book or movie and in some situations tell them why we shouldn’t have let them read or watch it. This is dangerous ground for a couple of reasons. First, they are out of line for correcting our daughters for something we have allowed. Second, they usually have not read or watched the movie or book they are talking about, but parroting what someone “they trust” has told them. Going back to Paul, he didn’t say, “trust what I’m telling you”, he said to check it out for yourself. Things get really sticky when these well meaning people say such things to my daughters because our daughters  have been taught to be critical thinkers and know how to discuss the complexities of these subjects. The adults who felt the need to criticize the choices we have made are then shocked when my daughters will defend our choices. When our daughters were young we taught them a phrase that applied to different choices our family made, “Others may, but you may not.” There need not be judgment about such things.

Being a Godly woman doesn’t mean you are demure, sitting and waiting for someone to tell you to think or believe. There isn’t a uniform, or certain hairstyle, or a certain type of literature you have to read. We are all made as unique creations with our different giftings and personalities. We do our young women a disservice if we try to make them all cookie cutter copies and don’t allow them to develop the gifts that the Lord has given them. There are limitations set up in scripture and we should follow those, but we must be cautious about adding to scripture and being legalistic.

How Do We Show Love?

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Today is Valentine’s Day and I know that most people write about love for our spouses today, but I have been thinking about a different type of love. Love for friends, family, acquaintances and the lost. Scripture tells us that we are to be devoted to one another, show love to one another, and of course, love your neighbor as yourself. We can’t forget the love chapter of 1 Cor. 13; in it we are given many examples of what love is.

Several years ago I wrote a post in which I shared some practical ways to show love. In this post I want to cover heart issues as opposed to practical suggestions. This past year has taught us many things that you can only learn through heartache, sorrow and despair.  I am still working on many of these areas as well and am learning from my own failings.

Be genuine- So many times we use the phrase “How are you doing?” as a greeting and aren’t really interested in how that person is. We would be shocked if they actually shared what is happening in their life. We live in a culture that boasts of self-sufficiency and independence which makes it difficult for people to be transparent and genuine. We need to be willing to listen to & help those who have needs and also be willing to share ours.

Be Selfless- We live in a time that everyone has their days booked and scheduled to the point that we get frustrated when someone’s needs interrupts our day. We should be on the lookout to meet the needs of others. Christ showed His compassion to many by meeting their physical needs. Shouldn’t we strive to follow His example?

Be Thoughtful- Valentine’s day (and other holidays) are special and everyone needs to be shown love on special days. We need to look to those who may not have someone in their life to show them love on these days and encourage them. I had not thought of this until I saw the example set by a family I know. They showed up at the door of a single woman from our fellowship with a bouquet of balloons to wish her happy Valentine’s day. Maybe you know a widow, widower or single adult who needs someone to show they care. Perhaps a young mom would enjoy meeting at Chick fil a to chat. Also be thoughtful and don’t put added pressure on those you are trying to minister to. For instance the young mom might prefer to meet out as opposed to you coming to her house because she would feel pressure to clean, or maybe just getting out of the house and letting the kids play on the CFA playground would be nice.

Be Encouraging- Try to catch a child doing something good when you are out and tell the parent about how well they did. Something as simple as, “Joe held the door open for me on my way into church this morning. He sure blessed me and I’m sure he blesses you too.” I fondly, with tears in my eyes, remember Mrs. Bennett. I was the only homeschooler in our church and our growing family caused great consternation for those around us. I would get the rudest & most critical comments from friends about my pregnancies. Not from Mrs. Bennett. She was about 80 years old and every time I saw her she would give me a big hug and say something about the blessing all of my children would be and how she loved big families because she came from one. Those words literally made my time at church bearable. It is hard to be different from everyone, even if you are following your convictions.

Don’t judge- Let me start out by saying, there are things we are told in scripture to judge and those are things that God has deemed sinful. We are not to be speck inspectors though. We aren’t to judge whether we think someone’s need is great enough for compassion. The rule should be that we show compassion and let God worry about the rest of it. We should never judge someone’s motives. We can judge their actions but we don’t know their hearts. For instance, we can say someone acted in a prideful (angry, rude, you fill in the blank with the adjective) manner but we cannot say the did the because of ______. We don’t know their motives. I had a woman get very angry at me and when she finally came to me she exploded in a tirade of judgment and assumptions. She was mad because I didn’t hug her on the way into church, and that I didn’t talk to her as much anymore and on and on. She then gave all of the reasons I was doing these things. When I said that my reasons were quite different, she called me a liar. What she didn’t take into account was that I was going through a lot emotionally at that time. If she had watched, she would have seen that I didn’t hug anyone (unless they came to me to hug me) because I’m just not a huggy person. We don’t know what someone is going through and it is best not to assign motives. If a person’s actions hurt you, go to them calmly and in love and ask them about it. Don’t judge and assume.

Don’t take a meal- I know that sounds crazy. Everyone knows that when a person is in need you take a meal. At least that’s how we do it in the South. I have been the recipient of countless casseroles (way too many frozen lasagnas. . . whatever you do, don’t do that) after babies, miscarriages, surgeries and during illnesses and I appreciated them all. But it also would have been nice to have a conversation. A real conversation about how I was really doing. Oh, and don’t say call me if you need anything. You call, be there, let them know you care.

Live it- In many churches I have seen that so often we spend time studying and learning about what we should do as Christians but not a lot of living it. We spend a great deal of time in busy activities that make us look good and feel good about ourselves, but what are we doing for the cause of Christ? Do the lost see our compassion? Do they feel we empathize with their pain? Or do they hear us criticize them? Make judgments about what they do? There is a passage in scripture that I seldom hear discussed. It points out that we aren’t to be judging the unsaved that’s for God. We weren’t told to judge them, we were told to love them and pray for them.

 For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. . .   1 Cor 5:12-13

As Christians we should be continuously showing love and compassion. We are to be a light to the world. Not by hammering the lost over the head, or shouting at them, but by showing them the truth in love. We should be showing the love of Christ to our brother’s & sisters in Christ as well.  We often hear 1 Cor 13 during this season of love, usually they begin at verse 4, but to me the truly telling verse is verse 1. Are you a clanging cymbal? Am I?

 If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Cor 13:1-7

His Power Is Made Perfect In My Weakness

I have shared that we have been in the midst of a storm in our family. Many wounds and injuries are in the process of healing. Today I received some news that ripped open the healing wounds and made my knees buckle. I told the person who gave me the news that I was too numb to talk. I couldn’t think. Immediately my mind began to race and to think of ways I could fix the problem.

Then I cried– and sobbed. My mind was a jumble of emotions and I didn’t know what was right. What should I do? How should I respond?

A quick prayer went up, “Lord help me!” It’s really such a simple prayer. I didn’t need to share with Him what my burden was, or how my mind was a maze of confusion. In those three simple words He knew everything.

Clarity came. Not some great plan or great words of wisdom, just clarity. I remembered whom I serve. Not who serves me, but to whose will I am subject. I remembered another moment of clarity I had in the not so distant past.

One day when the seas of my life were rough, the waves were crashing down around me, and making me feel as if my ship would sink, I had a moment of clarity. I was reading for the 1,000th time about Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12 when verses 8 & 9 jumped out at me as if they were in bold lettering.

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul prayed 3 times, not hundreds, not every day for a year, but 3 times. It got me to thinking and examining how I pray about things. Am I willing to just pray about a problem 3 times and then leave it in the hands of the Lord trusting that He will work His perfect will? Or do I become like that whining child who continues to come back to their parent asking repeatedly for the thing they want but have been told they can’t have at that time? Am I really trusting, resting and exhibiting faith when I continually come back asking for the same thing?

We often hear, “The Lord won’t give you more than you can handle.” This statement is based off of 1 Cor 10:13 (you need to read the whole chapter for context) and if you read the last few words it talks of there being a way of escape. That escape is Christ. I can tell you I have faced many things couldn’t handle, only Christ has brought me through it. He has been my escape, my refuge and my strength.

If I am truly trusting the Lord, I must learn to rest in Him. If I am giving my worries and concerns to Him I shouldn’t continue to go back to Him asking if He remembers about them. I need to leave it at the alter and walk away trusting that He will do His will.

This isn’t to say that I don’t do anything. I pray and ask for wisdom and discernment. How am I to respond to situations? What does scripture tell us to do? I should ask for direction, not a change in circumstance. As I was thinking about Paul this afternoon his imprisonment came to mind. What if Paul had spent all of his time in prison trying to find a way out of it instead of being about the Lord’s work while he was there? He wrote many of his epistles while imprisoned. If his focus had been on getting out of the situation, he wouldn’t have been able to do the Lord’s work. When Peter was imprisoned God provided a miraculous way out for him (Acts 12) and when and if the Lord wants these storms to leave my life, He will remove them.

People choose to sin, and their actions have consequences. Sometimes those who are innocent get hurt. Even in that God is in control. He didn’t take a nap and upon waking exclaim, “Would you look what happened there! I can’t believe it!” He is always in control. I rest in that. Nothing, no one escapes His notice. Even my tiny problems are important to Him.

When I am weak, shredded and broken He is strong. He carries me through the inferno that is my life in gentle loving arms. When I can’t go on, not under my own strength. I need Him. I don’t know how to fix the things in my life that are causing such pain, but I can rest in the fact that I don’t have to. He knows. He has a plan. He is in control. And His power is made perfect in my weakness.

How do you do to rest in Him when the storm is raging all about you?

In The Midst Of The Storm

As we were all getting into the van tonight after being out for the eveing, we noticed a storm was brewing. Lightning was flashing across the sky as we all scrambled to get into the van. For a while it seemed as if it was just going to be lightning and wind threatening us. About 20 minutes into our 45 minute drive the bottom fell out of the sky. As the minutes went by the rain began to come down harder and harder. The rain became so hard that you could hardly see the car in front of you, and it began to hail. As the hail was bouncing off of the roof and hood of the van we could barely hear each other talk. The hail lasted a little over 5 minutes, but at the time it seemed as if it was an eternity. The rain kept pounding. As we came to a stretch in our journey where the road is surrounded by fields and there are no houses or businesses, the sky became extremely black. It seemed as if the sky was pressing down on us as the rain continued to pour. It felt lonely, as if we would never see the light again. Gradually we could see hints of light, and the rain began to abate. As we came to an area that is peppered with businesses the rain stopped. The shiny appearance of the road and the signs still wet from the rain gave everything a clean, new appearance. I began to relax from the tenseness that had built up in riding through the storm. I could still see lightning in the distance, and the possibility of another storm coming, but for that moment there was peace.

As I contemplated the storm and all of the emotions it brought along, I began to think of storms that I have had in my life, and of friends who are in the midst of their own storms right now. Often we can look ahead of us and see a storm brewing, with situations resembling lightning flashing in the distance. As the storm comes closer we can feel the wind blowing against us, then the rain begins to fall. Sometimes the rain gradually gets worse and sometimes it comes in an instant downpour. We can’t stop the storm, keep the lightning from flashing, the wind from blowing or the rain from falling. What matters most is what we do when the inevitable storms do come upon us.

Did we prepare for the storm when we saw the first hints of it. Did we ground ourselves in God’s word and go to Him in prayer, or did we think we could handle things just fine on our own? When we began to see things getting worse did we ask for Godly counsel and spend even more time in study and prayer, or did we continue trying to handle things on our own? As the storm became seemingly unbearable did we cower in the corner hoping it would pass quickly, or did we search for His truth and pray for wisdom in how to handle the situation, trusting that God was in control at all times?

When we are in the midst of the storm it is important to remember that we are not on a ship being tossed about on the waves without anyone to guide and steer us. We have only to take the time to read His word, turn our eyes toward Him, and ask for wisdom.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:2-8 (ESV)

Recent Life In Our House

Well, it’s 2 am and I am watching Fellowship of the Ring with Hannah, Rachel & Caroline, and listening to Lindsay cough uncontrollably in her bedroom.  In the last 24 hours the girls have had about 6 breathing treatments for their asthma, we have done several steam treatments tonight, countless doses of medicine, and hot tea by the gallon.  Sarah, the child that though she has special needs is rarely sick, even has an upper respiratory infection.  Gene seems to be getting over his URI, and I hope it stays away for a while.  Me, well, I’m not sick, I’ve just been running like crazy trying to keep up with everything that needs to be done (and quite honestly, I’m not succeeding).  I have started about 5 blog posts, which are currently waiting to be finished.

The opening to this post isn’t very cheery, but in all honesty, it’s not as depressing as it all may sound.  The Lord is teaching us all a great deal through this trial, and for that, I am very thankful.  Our holidays, while not full of activities, parties, and excitement, were full of meaningful times and expressions of love for one another.   For Christmas it is our common practice to have the girls draw another sister’s name, and they are given a certain amount of money to buy that sister a gift, or gifts.  They look forward to this with great anticipation, not looking forward to what they will get, but toward what they will give.  They spend countless hours in thought and preparation of their gift.  This year something spontaneous happened that surprised me.  The girls individually began spending their own allowances to buy small things to make for the sisters whose names they didn’t draw.  I know of many people who eschew gift giving at Christmas because of the belief that it causes greediness and the desire to get more and more.  In our family I have found the opposite to be true. The girls are appreciative of the gifts they receive, but generally have trouble even telling you what they want as gifts.  We have tried to nuture in them a desire to be cheerful givers whenever the opportunity arises, and we have seen good fruit from this thus far.December 31st, was our 25th wedding anniversary and Gene planned a big surprise for me.  On Wednesday evening, December 17th, Gene told me that first thing Thursday morning we would be heading out for a trip to San Antonio.  I have wanted to go for years, and love history, so this was the perfect surprise for me.  I was so excited to get to go to the Alamo after hearing about it for so many years. This may sound strange, but it was all I could do to not start crying as I entered the building for the first time. The realization of what had taken place there was heavy upon my heart.  The grounds of the Alamo are beautiful; it is hard to believe that they are right in the center of the city.

After the Alamo we went and checked into our Bed & Breakfast before going to the Riverwalk. It was a beautiful little B&B right on the river.  It was so peaceful and beautiful. It was quite overcast the two days we were there, which gave the city an unusual feel.  The river was beautiful, as was the boat ride down it.  As I was riding on the river, in the fog, under all of the bridges, it felt as if I was in London.  Once the sun went down and all of the Christmas lights came on, it was even more beautiful on the river.  I felt as if I was a child in a wonderland of lights.  After walking along the river for a while, we then at dinner at Boudro’s.  The food was amazing, and the bread pudding was a great end to the meal.  It was nice to eat on the riverwalk, watching the people as they walked by.  After we walked a while longer we went back to the van.  Gene knows how I love to take pictures, so he took me by the Alamo, so that I could get pictures at night.  It was an amazing site to see it with the lights illuminating it’s historic walls.  The next morning we ate breakfast at the B & B and then drove through a historic district nearby.  After a quick stop at the Buckhorn Museum downtown, we headed home.  The trip was wonderful for me, as it gave me a much needed break from the holiday rush.  It was nice to spend a day not thinking about all that I had to do to finish preparing for the holidays.  I don’t know that I have ever been so completely able to lay my thinking and planning aside.

San Antonio Album 1

San Antonio Album 2

San Antonio Album 3

Lindsay went to Little Rock the afternoon we returned from San Antonio for the wedding of some friends.  While there she was able to stay with Gene’s sister and to see her cousin’s new baby.  She had a wonderful trip, but picked up a bug on the return plane ride.

We had a very subdued but nice Christmas enjoying a lot of time together, with us all playing the new Wii together when the girls were up to it. Gene surprised me, and the girls, with a very nice present for Christmas. He had taken the girls shopping, and they picked out several nice things for me, not knowing about the secret gift.  He surprised us all with a top of the line Kitchen Aid Professional mixer.  The girls were as excited as I was to receive it.  We didn’t wait long to try it out either!

Since we had already celebrated our anniversary on our trip, on the 31st we just went to our favorite pizza place, New York Pizzeria and the mall.  Gene didn’t make it until midnight (I think he was beginning to get sick at that point) but the girls and I did.  We went outside at midnight to watch the fireworks, which lasted quite a while.  The next day Gene’s brother, Guy, came for a visit. We had a really nice visit while he was here, though the girls weren’t feeling quite up to snuff.I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures as of late, but I did get a chance to Friday at Gene’s office.  Lindsay was taking pictures inside for a brochure and the website, so I went outside to take pictures.  Gene’s new office is located on an acre of land in old Katy, in the middle of a neighborhood, which provided a few flowers and such to take pictures of around the office.

These are a few of my favorites.

It was fun to watch this little fellow flit from flower to flower. He almost looks as if he could fall in on his head and get stuck!

One of the things I have come to appreciate about nature photography, is the details that pop out at you that you didn’t even notice while taking the pictures.

I have also come to see many things I would have overlooked before, such as this flower.

These little fellows were none too happy that I kicked their mound to see if they were home. Yes, they are fire ants, but none of them got me…. mwahahaha.

This tiny fellow was almost invisible, until I got down really close to take this picture. Isn’t his little red self cute?Well, it’s after 4 am now.  Fellowship has finished, they have taken another round of breathing treatments, and they have started Two Towers.  I hope they are feeling better before it ends, but we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.  You are pretty much caught up with everything going on here.  I hope to begin posting more often, but only time will tell.

It’s A Wonderful Life

One of our family Christmas traditions is to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together.  This year as we watched it together many thoughts came to me.  Maybe it is because of the economic climate and the realization that many are having a very hard time this year, or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older that I saw the movie through a different light.  I see so many parallels in this movie to our Christian walk, and it was a much needed reminder that my life, no matter how humble, is really quite wonderful.

George Bailey always had a plan for how he wanted to live his life, which included travel, adventure and excitement.  He saw Bedford Falls as a sleepy, boring town that constrained him. He wanted to do something important. Don’t we want this?  I know that I do.   I often see others’ lives as important or exciting and see the life they lead as somehow better or more important than mine.  In reality, I have been placed in this life, to serve the purpose that God has for me.  When all the girls are having asthma trouble, the nights get long, and my work seems never ending, I can feel overwhelmed.  I see my life as mundane and unimportant.  As I begin to pray for encouragement, the Lord reminds me that He has placed me here. He has me going through this circumstance to help me to grow to be more Christ-like.  The role He has given each of us is important.  We only need to serve Him faithfully and work to bring about His purposes.One of George’s greatest character traits was his unselfishness. When there was a run on the bank, in order to keep the Savings & Loan afloat he used his own money to help others out. I know that selfishness is a battle we must all fight.  One of the greatest things I have learned through being a mother of many, and one with special needs, is to set my own wishes aside.  Like George, I often don’t set out to do this and may even resent doing it.  With time I am learning to set aside my desires, and the way I am able to do this without having resentment is by realizing I am doing the task in service to the Lord. When I try to do things with other motives, it always seems to bring about frustration and resentment.  When I see every task as a service to Him, it seems that the frustration and resentment melt away.

Mary Bailey was great at making lemonade out of lemons.  When the money for her honeymoon was gone and George had spent the day saving the Savings & Loan, Mary could have built up resentment toward George and their circumstances.  Instead, she made the best out of a bad situation.  She put her own desires aside and looked for creative ways to serve George and to make their honeymoon special.  We often put pressure upon ourselves to have everything “just right.” We especially heap these expectations upon ourselves during the holidays.  On Christmas Eve as I was cooking our holiday meal and things began to go wrong, I started to feel that pressure. The three younger girls had been down with asthma & colds, and Lindsay was the only one who was able to help me prepare the meal. Then mid-afternoon, she realized she had the flu.  I sent her to bed and continued cooking.  For a while I let the pressure of trying to have everything “just so” get to me.  As the feelings of frustration and defeat began to take hold, I began praying.  I realized that I was taking the burden of the holiday being special on my shoulders, and I felt it’s success or failure rested wholly on me.  It was only when I began to realize what made the holiday special was our time together and enjoying one another, was I able to relax and enjoy the day.  I still had a good deal of work to do, but when I saw it as serving my Lord and my family, it became a joyful task instead of a burden.

As George’s life went on, he became more and more dissatisfied with his circumstances. He seemed to always be wishing for something other than what he had.  Discontentment is a joy robber.  When we are discontent, we are truly being ungrateful. We are saying to God, “I know that these are the circumstances that you have given me, but I would really like to be somewhere else. ”  Think on that for a moment.  We are telling the God of the universe that we have a better plan.  I cannot count the number of times I have done this very thing, and not even subtly.  I have flat out said that I had a better plan.  It makes me cringe to think of it.  How often do we ask God to deliver us from our current circumstances, when we should be looking to see what He is trying to show us.  Through many trials the Lord has shown me so many truths. I look back on my life and see the various trials I have gone through, not with regret or remorse, but with a thankful heart.  I feel blessed that the Lord has seen fit to show me His mercies and truths.

Times of despair will come to all of our lives, just as they did to George’s.  Often they are not of our own doing, just as George’s desperation wasn’t through any fault of his own.  Where do we turn when those times of despair come?  Who or what do we lean on? When we first found out that Sarah had medical problems, all we were told was that her head wasn’t growing.  Because we had no health insurance we had to wait for three months to see a neurologist.  I knew enough to know that if her head wasn’t growing, but her brain was, there were serious issues. All of this sent me into the pit of despair.  I had nowhere to turn, no one with any answers, except God.  I did a lot of praying during those three months.  When we finally did see the neurologist, the news was not good.  We were told to institutionalize Sarah, because she would never walk or talk and would basically be vegetative.  At those words the bottom fell out of my pit.  It felt as if the world were crushing in around me.  The only thing that got me through it all was the knowledge that God was in control.  I knew that He had me in His hand, and that nothing would happen that He wouldn’t help me to handle.  That doesn’t mean it was easy. Each day had a great many struggles, but I made it through each day.  He gave me the grace and mercy to make it through each hour, but He only gave me the grace I needed for that moment.  I learned a great deal about faith , and with each step I learned to have faith that He would be there to hold me up for the next step.

At the end of the movie Harry makes a toast to George saying, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town!”  Harry was right, George was rich . . . in everything that mattered. This is such a wonderful picture. Mr. Potter, who had all the worldly riches a man could desire, had none of the riches that really mattered. He may have lived in comfort, but he was bitter and lonely.  George, while poor in the things of this world, had love, family, and friends.The jewel of life that matters most can’t be purchased for any amount of gold.  That jewel is what Christmas is all about.  It is the redemption that was bought for us through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.  As the decorations and lights come down, please think about the meaning behind your life and who you have served through it.  Though you may be rich or poor in the things of this world, at the end of time only one jewel will matter, that is the jewel of Christ Jesus.  If you would like to understand this better, please read this article.