My Pause

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I might be in the midst of the busiest week of the year. My mind has been spinning with all that needs to be done and all the places and times we need to be wherever it is we need to be. Yet, earlier today I forced myself into a much needed pause.

When on the brink of negative emotions, I pause. It is the number one thing that has been essential since I started homeschooling––well actually has been essential my entire life. It is a theme repeated over and over again in my blog and in my everyday conversations with those I am closest to.

I think of all my family has accomplished this year and astonished doesn’t quite seem to cover it. By the end of 2018 my spirit was crushed, as was the rest of my household’s. My mind carries me through the detailed list of the craziness of our house renovations, the few health scares I had, kidney stones that threw Matt for a loop, Luke’s struggles, and Oliver who had to sit back and just endure it all with us. Wow, just wow.

Sunday morning Luke slept in until 9:30. I had to wake him up because church started at 10:15. Talk about rushing out the door! How delightful the little act of him sleeping in was to me when I remembered our reality not too long ago. Back even in early January his body, his tics, wouldn’t settle down enough to allow him to even fall asleep. Now, he’s falling asleep on his own and sleeping in. Luke still may have his thorns, but boy, I love seeing the peace he has found despite all of them. It brings me great joy to watch him thrive more each week.

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Today, Oliver’s smile stretched wide as he ran toward me. The excitement to see my face after a long day at school revived him. I could just see the love in his eyes. At almost seven years old, my little old soul brings joy and peace as he enjoys the simple presence of another. He talks about his day and gives us his every thought…which I might add is pretty thorough. This year he’s truly developed into himself. Sunday morning he walked over to a table, looked up to an older man and said, “Well, hello there.” It took the man off guard because the Oliver’s tone did not match what you’d expect from a little guy. The man finally chuckled and said hello back. Now, he definitely has his crazy boy moments…especially with his friends…but I love to see how much he’s grown to be comfortable in his own skin since things have calmed down for the rest of us.

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Through my pause, I find solace. I find strength and I am reminded of all our blessings. I am reminded of how God has been here through our struggles and He alone has carried us through. My dear Lord. My reason to wake up before the rest of my family to have my quiet moments with God in prayer and in His word. My reason to pause in the midst of a crazy day just because. My why I can have peace, real peace, after a long day like today that led my brain to feel like it could literally (almost literally?) explode. I couldn’t do this life with all the weight I must carry without You, God. I simply thank you.

What We See

The other day I was trying to turn right on a busy road. A man pulled up next to me to make a left turn. The way his truck was angled I couldn’t see the road at all. So I decided to wait until he made his turn. A car pulled up behind me. The driver began honking and making motions at me as if I were an idiot. I still couldn’t see and by golly I am not going to place mine and my kids life to some stranger in a car behind me. I turned around and pointed to the truck next to me, and lipped “I can’t see”. I then shrugged my shoulders and ignored her until I could safely turn. She couldn’t see what I was seeing and I couldn’t see what she could see. I wonder if she ever realized that.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow. As I think of how much has changed since I became a mom, I am overwhelmed with emotions. I don’t even recoginze the person I used to be. I’m not even sure if I recognize the me from a year ago. If anyone told me that I would homeschool one of my kids I’d laugh at them. Yet here I am. I even read homeschool memes on Facebook and laugh hysterically because I can relate so much. The thing is, there was no way of seeing what I see now.

When I was a kid I questioned my parents, my faith, my town. Everything. I wondered why my parents made the choices they did. I wondered, God where are you?  I wondered why we had to live in the small town instead the big city. And on and on. Today I am beyond thankful to have had the awesome parents I did growing up. God, of course, was always right there and I look back and see his mark everywhere. I even love the town I grew up in and would choose that over any big city. I truly couldn’t see a darn thing back then!

Crazy what we see and can’t see and then sometimes see later. I wonder what my boys see and can’t see and will see when they get older.

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I Will Try to Explain

There’s suffering and pain. There’s sin small and large constantly eating away at our conscience. There’s hate driving people against one another. There’s crippling disease. There’s the dying of people too young. There’s the dying of old ones we can’t bear to live life without. There’s just so much evil and wrong in this world.

Quite naturally so, we look to God and wonder why bad things must happen. To some, it leads to questioning God’s very existence. If there really is a God He would stop these things from happening. Right? It is easy to see it that way. The thing is, there isn’t an ounce of truth or reason in thinking of God, our loving God, in this way.

This is something I think about quite often. I feel its truth and yet when I sit down to write about it, I struggle to find the words. Maybe I have never gotten to the point of desperation trying to plead with someone who doesn’t know God. That too, I wonder why I don’t feel that desperation. I guess if I’m honest, I probably do and merely have not had the courage or confidence to step into the den. Don’t get me wrong. I write about God. I am open about my faith. I love to talk about God. I just feel like it is never quite enough. It always fall a bit short of how I really see Him. Maybe it never can be enough. Maybe that’s the point.

So, there’s a loving God I proclaim to be real. There’s pain, suffering, and evil that tears things apart. How do they exist together and make any sort of sense? Original sin, of course. Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit. Adam followed suit. Boom, we’re all born into sin. Not enough to feel what I feel? Let me try some more.

Why would God allow it in the first place? If He’s God then He could have stopped it or not had the forbidden fruit in the first place. Well, I don’t know all the answers and I’m not supposed to––because I am not God. I will try to explain just a little bit more.

God loves us. Pause and think about real love and what it is and what it isn’t. Yep, He loves us, not “controls” us. Out of that love He made man. Adam and Eve messed up. Big time. Satan was then able to step in. Sin and destruction were released into the world. There you have it. But see, God’s love still finds its way through sin, disease, death, sorrow, pain…through all of our gunk and the gunk we cause. Just look at the cross.

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It Must be Holy Week

Worship music stirs my soul and it is as though I can physically feel the heaviness of life lift. I glance at my youngest bouncing as the beat pulses through every part of him, through his innermost being. I watch my oldest son kneel after communion and wonder if his prayers are the same as the ones I pray for him. I feel my husband squeeze my hand as we pray together as a church, as one mind in the body of Christ. It must be Holy Week. This is my favorite week of the year. I must add that I always fear its departure because, at least for me, I feel His love and my faith for what it really is during this week. I want to hold tightly to all of it. I don’t want it to escape me as it does more often than it should in my everyday life.

This moment I remember all He does and has done for me. I am thankful for His beautiful amazing grace that He gives to me even when I fall asleep in the garden…even when the rooster crows…even when my thorns press down on His head…even when my nails hold Him to the cross where He took His last breath. That is the power in it all though. With His last breath the curtain was torn and I can, with boldness and confidence, approach Him even in my ugliest of moments.

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Today’s Been a Good Day

Today’s been a good day. Luke’s tics are low, his spirits high. He woke up early and read an entire chapter book. He wrote a book report. He aced his Social Studies test. He whipped through Math. He carefully and neatly did his Handwriting. He cooked his own lunch. He cleaned his room. He studied his spelling words with no complaints. I gave him time to do coding and he got off his technology the first time I asked. Days like today, we fit in extra and more thorough work to make up for the days that aren’t so good.

Some days are bad. Yet, we get through and finish his work. It just may take longer. Some days end in tears because it is hard to be a kid whose life is mostly involuntary. Imagine not being able to control your own body. That’s one of the reason’s homeschooling felt like the right choice. It gives us the freedom to follow the ebb and flow of Tourette’s. It gives Luke the freedom to be Luke.

I remember a day right before we had made our final decision to homeschool. We were at a trampoline park with friends. Luke’s tics were bad, so bad. There was this mom who kept staring at him. Luke noticed. He came over to me, bent down, and hid his head between my legs. We left shortly after. That night it all became clear. I thought back to the way he would pull his hood over his head and put his head down at the most random times. Also, times when he would freeze and not answer me or someone else when they tried talking to him. So many times of him trying to hide because he was afraid of his own body’s movements that he couldn’t control and had no clue why.

It isn’t easy to look back on things for what they really were. We didn’t know exactly what was going on, but we knew something was. Slowly the tics got worse and worse. I began thinking, it could be…no it can’t be…oh I know it is what it is…it is most definitely Tourette’s. 

I wish people could see what it is really like to live this way. People just don’t get it. I’m not even mentioning the other diagnoses Luke struggles with. Ugh. Don’t get me going. It’s his life though. It is our life and all we can do is embrace it, trust God, and lean on those who have chosen to walk through this life with us.

Therapy helps. A less busy schedule helps. Understanding friends and family helps. For us, homeschooling has been a huge blessing. Also just knowing and understanding what Tourette’s is helps. I remember when Luke first got diagnosed, the doctor looked him in the eye and told him there was nothing wrong with him. It wasn’t his fault, she said. I saw his eyes light up for the first time in a long time. Every day since, more and more of his light has returned.

I feel like the biggest part of my job has become helping him see that he has Tourette’s, but Tourette’s does not have him––God has him. He always has and always will.

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My Story. His Story.

bible-biblia-book-1112048 (1)A few years back as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a video of my grandpa. His church, my childhood church, did a series of interviews from some of their members. They were all focused on connecting their stories with Jesus’ story. My grandpa spoke a lot about my grandma and the life they built together. He mentioned a verse they relied on throughout their life together. “And we know that all things work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). His eyes were tear-filled as he recalled their past and his pain of her death. It was powerful. I never imagined though, the twist his story would take after that interview.

He met someone in a bible study and remarried. His new wife is a very kind lady and they seem to balance each other. It is weird and yet it makes me happy at the same time. He has a new life, a different life. Last summer he showed up to a cookout wearing a shirt I would’ve never seen him in before. I know it is just a shirt, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. After my grandma’s death watching his pain was almost unbearable. I thought he had completely given up. Now, he is living again and even sporting a new style of shirt.

When I think of my story and all the plot twists that have brought me to where I am right now, I see how He is and has always been working to bring me closer to Him. I see how struggles and weaknesses that pull me to draw from His strength and not my own often tend to bring out my authentic self. I know who I am and whose I am now. When I was a teenager I searched inside myself only to find happiness is fleeting. It took pain and heartache to realize I’ll never find contentment in myself or this world. I needed those years of nullity because without them I wouldn’t have the dependence on God that I do today. I wouldn’t have the ability to lean into His presence in my darkest hours like I do today.

When I was a child, I thought praying should yield some sort of magical Jesus dust to instantly fall upon me and take my troubles away. When that didn’t occur, I assumed I was just doing something wrong. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I wasn’t worthy enough. No one taught me to think this way…it was my own misunderstanding. I do not even wish someone would have told me otherwise. Without that misunderstanding, my moment of revelation wouldn’t have been so powerful.

Today, I see Jesus and His story through my kids and their struggles and weaknesses. Through homeschooling Luke and helping him through all that has been happened, I see his true personality beginning to shine through once again. I see how his weaknesses are helping to shape him into the man he will someday be. Homeschooling has also pulled me into a natural rhythm I never thought possible.

With Luke doing better and being calmer, Oliver has been able to relax into his own self better as well. I’ve had more time and energy to hang with Oliver. Last night we worked on some Algebra problems and he lit up with joy. Oliver loves math. He just may reach his goal of learning Calculus by third grade…as long as his momma can brush up on her math skills in the next couple of years!

Matt and I have created this life together (with God’s help). The more we grow as one, the more our faith deepens, and the more we recognize His hand in everything we see and appreciate the beauty in our simple life. So much has changed from our younger days and I never imagined the struggles we would face and yet I wouldn’t change a thing.

Stories don’t need to be perfect or big and profound to matter. We don’t need to wait until things become smoother to share what Jesus has done or is doing for us. Even in the midst of our mess, He is working. We need to remember during hard times that He has an eternity mindset. Eternity, not today. He really is working for the good of those who love Him. Thank you, Lord.

Brittle Leaves

3A03A5F5-7F37-41F4-B7C8-073DFB8EA448As we drove down the snow-covered highway, I watched out my window as the scenery slipped by. Some of the trees had a few brown leaves still hanging on the branches. I wondered how the brittle leaves survived the ice, snow, and wind this winter has inflicted on them. There were large powerful looking trees that lost their fight to the wintry forces. What was helping those brittle leaves hang on? Maybe the leaf stalk? Pure luck? I’m not sure why I found it so amazing and why I spent any time trying to figure it out.

I knew there’s surely some scientific reason, but those sort of things tend to put my metaphorical-thinking brain into overdrive. My curiosity into finding the real reason quickly dwindled and turned into a pondering of strength and resilience.

I recently celebrated my fortieth birthday. There are many things I could share about my life and things I’ve learned. Strength, though, is one thing I feel I know something about and is something that can change someone’s perspective on everything.

When I was younger, I never felt like I was tough enough for this world. I tried, I pretended, but eventually I realized there really is no such thing as a strong person. There are only those who act strong. Once I accepted this I saw the power of weakness and it helped deepen my faith. It became more understandable to me, I guess is the best way to describe it. There was no longer a need to even try to be strong anymore. I no longer needed to pretend to be something I never could authentically be. I could just rely on God’s strength: the only real strength there is.

God’s strength gives me, a brittle leaf, the power to withstand anything. How amazing is that? 

Rooms of my Heart

Reaching in the depths of my soul to take, feel, and apply the words I’ve been pondering.

If I knew how much God loves me…

Of course, I cannot truly know the measure of His love for me. No one can. I get glimpses, mostly passing swiftly through my life. Sometimes I pause and hold tightly as long as I can. Sometimes I cannot hold His love on my own. I think that is why we need each other so much. A smile on a hard day, a reminder of my importance in someone’s life, and a connection of any sort reorientates me to His love. We really are too weak to do this alone.

The challenge at church this week is Forgiveness. It first has focused on God’s forgiveness of our own sins. Thinking of Jesus’ death on the cross has been a great reminder of His love for me. Anyway, it reminded me of a poem I wrote a while back called Rooms of my Heart.

Through the Stillness

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In the rooms of my heart the windows never close.

I watch the swelling of the curtains as memories old and new blow through.

My room of pain is deep within.

Layer upon layer of paint conceal the hurt that lies beneath.

There is a closet of white clothes.

Sometimes I see the crisp white fabric and sometimes all I see are stains.

Down the hall is a room with only darkness.

I try to light a candle, but there’s a force that blows it out.

The room is cold and I feel the chills of life run up and down my spine.

I never stay long there…

I rush into my room of things I love.

It is filled with my kids laughter and my husband’s embrace.

I also have my room of peace.

A worn comfy chair, a warm blanket, and a book await me there.

I stare…

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Our Life Right Now

It’s 11am on a Sunday morning and we should be sitting in church. I want to be in church. Instead, we are home. It has been a rough weekend. It began Friday evening when Luke couldn’t fall asleep. We stayed up late because we were at someone’s house enjoying ourselves. We were doing what “normal” people do. The kids were playing and the adults were talking. Time passed quickly. Looking back, I feel like I should have known better. Luke’s tics become almost violent in nature when he’s too tired. But then, it feels good to have moments to feel “normal”…and so it didn’t cross my mind until I was lying in bed with Luke trying to help him relax in between his tics.

Yesterday was just hard because he didn’t get enough sleep. It carried on all day and even into the night. We tried to get him to bed at 8pm, his regular bedtime, but it didn’t work. We ended up playing cards so he could get his mind off the tics. This morning, we allowed him to get the sleep he needed and so it was too late to make it to church.

A couple years ago, I don’t think we missed one day of Sunday school or church (unless we were sick or out of town). Our church life looks much different now and it makes me sad…yet this is our life. All of it has me thinking of how different life and church is for families with kids who have struggles. I don’t have the energy to say anything else right now except that it is hard and I can’t beat myself up over missing a couple weeks.

The Love For Your Family

I was weary for quite some time. I was a heartbroken momma wanting to know how to help my boy. I was impatiently waiting for God to answer my prayers, not wanting to trust what He was doing behind the scenes to prepare us. 

Last Sunday evening as I was lying in bed, I prayed we were making the right decision. I mean, I already knew we made the right decision. God clearly revealed it to us. It’s just, sometimes my humanness makes me second-guess things. Through all my humanness, all my weakness, there’s one thing I never second-guess: the peace only He can give. In my moment of questioning, that lovely peace enveloped me and has carried me through this entire week.

Over Christmas break, Luke was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. Another diagnosis added to his list. It doesn’t seem right. It definitely isn’t fair. We weren’t surprised by it though. The symptoms described everything we had been noticing.

This year, school became hard. We realized he was spending so much energy trying to suppress his tics that he was unraveling at home. Add that to the energy it takes with his eye disorder and just the normal energy it takes to learn and so on. Plus through all of that, his grades were great. No wonder he was unraveling. On weekends, Luke was worn and anxious thinking about the coming school week. Kids were noticing his tics and were asking him questions. Most were not being mean, but it was pushing him further and further into a shell. He was sad and frustrated at the world. We were trying everything we could and nothing seemed to help him. I was losing my fun-loving bold kid. We had to do something different.

It’s crazy what the love for your family gives you strength to do. Never did I ever think I would homeschool. Yet, here I am. Our first week passed and went great. It felt so natural and right that there is no doubt God’s blessing on all of this. I feel strong and at peace. Thanks to God.

We do have a long road ahead. Luke will be starting a therapy that is known to be the most effective for Tourette’s. Please pray that it is for Luke. I want my boy back.