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?

Manipulation

A few months ago Gene and I had gone out to eat. We had been talking about taking a trip to Denver to see Lindsay, Ryan and the boys. We had been talking about it for weeks and something was said that made it plain that we had a communication problem. I was thinking we were talking about going this summer, but Gene was talking about a year from now. I began to cry and my sweet husband immediately began to try to think of a way to give me the desire of my heart.

The ladies at our church have been reading the book Damsels in Distress by Martha Peace. I first heard of her when I read her book The Excellent Wife about 13 years ago. This month’s topic was manipulation. Gene and I have had many great conversations about what it is and what it isn’t and I thought I would share some of our thoughts with you.

What Is Manipulation

Dictionary.com defines it this way:

1. The act of manipulating

2. The state or fact of being manipulated

3.  Skillful or artful management

I find #3 quite telling, when you manipulate someone you are trying to manage them. Manipulation is also a choice. When we choose to manipulate we are being selfish and unloving. We should desire for our husbands, children & friends to make decisions for the right reason not because they have been pressured, bullied, or manipulated into it. By manipulating someone to do our will we are putting ourselves before them and not thinking of their best interest.

If we are trying to manipulate our husbands, who are commanded to love us as Christ loved the church, are we encouraging them in doing right? If we try to manipulate our children into obedience are we teaching them that they should obey because they are in sin and need to stop sinning? Or are we teaching them how to manipulate others to get their desires no matter how selfish?

What Manipulation Isn’t

It isn’t accidental or without thought. Much like lying when you manipulate it is a conscious choice. You can’t do it accidentally. It’s a heart issue and driven by your will. You have to do something to make it happen whether that be cry, yell, ignore, mope or pout. If you do these things with the desire to cause another person to change  their decisions or actions then you are manipulating them.

Don’t Be Quick To Judge

Now if someone had been watching the interaction between my husband and I they may have concluded that I was trying to manipulate him, but I wasn’t. My tears were a direct response to a very real, painful disappointment. After a few minutes of Gene offering to do what he could to give me the desire of my heart, I told him that he was right and making the right choice for our family. At this point in time I am so glad he made that decision. The girls’ health wouldn’t allow us to travel now anyway and it would have been much more disappointing to have to make that decision now.

It is also important to not assume others are trying to manipulate you. It is easy to assume someone is doing something for the wrong reason. If a friend of yours is acting downcast, don’t assume that they are trying to make you feel sorry for them because they are upset with you for not inviting them to your party. If your friend is downcast, go to them and see what is wrong. If they don’t want to share, again don’t assume they are trying to manipulate you. Maybe you have hurt them, ask if you have done anything to cause them pain, and if they say yes, apologize. If not, ask how you can help them. It is so easy to be quick to judge someone else’s motives and we need to be aware that just because we feel we may have been manipulated, doesn’t mean we were.

Don’t Use Your Position 

Don’t use your position of authority to manipulate. Father don’t try to manipulate your wife and children into following your desires. Lead them by example and take the time to explain the reasoning behind your decisions. Allow wise appeals to your decisions as well. We can all make decisions without knowing all of the facts and it is a benefit to listen to those who love us and want to help us. Parents if you manipulate your children you are teaching them to manipulate. What a sad testimony that is for the cause of Christ. Wives, don’t manipulate your husband, but learn to go to him in humility and make wise appeals, and if he feels he needs to stay with his first decision, then show him the love and respect to support him in it. Pastor/Teachers, you have been given a level of responsibility and it is your responsibility to lead by example. Don’t do anything that even hints at manipulation.

Manipulation is a very ugly sin borne out of selfishness. We are told in scripture to “do unto others”. How can we be doing that when we try to manipulate? The only ones who can truly know if you are manipulating are you and God. No one else can judge your heart.  Examine your heart and your motives and see if you have a tendency to manipulate others.  If you consult your husband, family or friends make sure you ask them if they feel manipulated by you. Be willing to have a discussion and have them share examples with you. It may be that someone misunderstood your actions and attributed it to manipulation, or you could have been actually manipulating.  Ask God to show you where you fall short in this area and He will.

What Are Your Travel Plans?

Have you given much thought to the direction your family is heading? Is it the direction you want to be going, or are you off the path that will take you to where you want to finish the race? Are your goals specific or general? To say I want to raise my children to be lovers of Christ is laudable, but how will you attain it?

Often we have a general direction that we would like to travel, but aren’t making conscious choices about how to arrive at our destination. If you were in California and wanting to end up in Virginia, would you just start heading east taking whichever road went in that direction? Or would you take time to plot out your route and plan what you will do along the way?

If we will invest the time to plan our travel and vacations, why do we so often leave the directions of our families to chance? We often take things as they come with our daily lives, not taking the time to research and make decisions that will help us arrive at our destination. Shouldn’t we spend as much time planning for our families as we do our vacation?

What is the travel plan for your family?