Friday, May 24, 2013

Miracle of Hearing by Billie Timmons (Previously Penned "White Picket Fence"

If you read my first blog for Train Up a Child called “White Picket Fence,” then you know my daughter, Abbi was born profoundly deaf. I believe God prepares us for every trial we go through. We don't usually see that preparation until we are in the midst of, or more often than not, on the other side of our trial. I remember as a teenager being fascinated with sign language. I checked out sign language books from the library to try and learn it. Later on, a young deaf man joined our church. I sat mesmerized watching his sister sign the sermon to him. Recently, my mom brought me a piece of paper she found in our big family Bible that sat on the coffee table for many years. The paper had a poem hand written by me that I had copied from the newspaper. The poem was about God giving disabled children to special mothers. I don't remember copying this poem, but the date I had written on it was 1979. I was 14 years old. God knew then, and He gently prepared me.
            After finding out Abbi was deaf, I prayed for her healing, had her anointed with oil, and prayed over. A local church devoted an entire service just to pray for her healing. As I said before, I finally prayed an unselfish prayer to God. I lay in the bed that night and instead of begging and even telling Him to heal her like I had in the weeks before, I asked Him to heal her if it were His will. I asked Him to give me peace and the ability to accept and deal with her deafness if it were not in His will to heal her. I felt instant peace and the tears stopped. I didn't give up the desire for her to hear, nor did I stop praying for her to one day hear me say "I love you." I just knew He wasn't going to heal her at that time, and I accepted that.
            My husband, as I said in the previous blog, didn't come to accept it as quickly as I did. He eventually did after a "little nudge" from me...wink, wink! I hope that I didn't make him appear cold and uncaring in my description of how that unfolded. He was and still is a very caring and loving father, but like most men he had a difficult time dealing with and expressing his feelings. I knew when he said he had faith God would heal Abbi, and she wouldn't be deaf forever. We shared the same faith that God would one day heal her. It would be in His time and in His way.
   I worked with Abbi while I waited. We went to therapies and had in-home therapies as well. Because she was just a baby, we learned baby signs. Beginning when she was about 8 months old until she was 2 years old, she eventually came to understand some basic commands and requests: "Go get your shoes;" "Let's go take a bath;" "Do you want a cookie?", etc. The only vocal sound Abbi made was a high-pitched squeal that I was sure could break glass. The first time she signed "Momma" was so exciting for me, but I still longed to hear her say it.
            When Abbi was a little over a year old, our therapist mentioned something about a cochlear implant. I didn't know what that was, so she did her best to explain it to me. She worked with another young child that had one, but she didn't want to mention it to me until she saw the results firsthand. She was impressed enough to tell me about it. Part of me was excited about the possibility of her hearing, but part of me was unsure if we should put her through a surgery like that with no guarantee it would work for her.
            After much prayer and a very long evaluation process, we went through with her cochlear implant when Abbi turned two years old. I was prepared for it to work wonderfully, but I was also expecting it to not work wonderfully. I've always been a "prepare for the best, but expect the worst" kind of person, but I'm finally moving past that.

            After a brief healing time from her surgery, the audiologist "turned her on" to the world of sound. Sitting in my lap with her back to me, the very first words Abbi heard was her mommy telling her that she loved her. She jerked her head around and looked at me with a confused look on her face. She heard me! Six weeks after Abbi began to hear with her cochlear implant, it was Valentine's Day, and for the very first time I heard her say, "Momma" with her beautiful voice. My Abbi was healed. Some people say, "Isn't technology wonderful!" I say, "Isn't God wonderful!" After all, He gave someone the knowledge and the desire to create a device to give my Abbi the ability to hear me say "I love you".Abbi's cochlear implant

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Always by Lori Timmons Berry

I do not believe in coincidence.  I believe in the almighty power of God who orchestrates even the finest details of my life.  Last week, I left work at Willis Knighton North and was headed to pick up our daughters from school on Linwood Avenue.  I could clearly see that the weather was deteriorating quickly.  I noticed the dark clouds that were hanging way too low and the mysterious two funnel-shaped clouds that dropped down out of them in the distance.  As I entered I-49 South, Michael called, and I knew I needed to answer the call.  For the first time in 18 plus years of marriage, my meteorologist husband told me not to come home because there was a bad storm with a tornado headed for our house where he was at the time.  He also told me to get to the kids’ school quickly and take shelter with them because this storm was about to get very dangerous very quickly.  I looked to the South once again at the funnel shaped clouds and realized that one was likely headed for my house where I later found out that my husband was in the hallway crouched over our little dog praying for safety, and I realized that the other could possibly be headed for my children.  Needless to say, I was not going the speed limit on I-49 that day.  I really have no idea how fast I was driving, but I do know that I arrived at the school very quickly.  It’s funny how a short drive can seem so long, though.  During that drive, I began to pray that kind of feverish, panicked prayer that we tend to pray when we are in a desperate situation.  I prayed over and over for God to please keep my husband and children safe.  Please keep my husband and children safe!  Please keep my husband and children safe!  Please keep my husband and children safe!  In the midst of my desperate plea, Jesus began singing the chorus of “Always” in my heart.  We had just sung it in choir practice the night before – no coincidence.

            I will not fear the war.
            I will not fear the storm.
            My help is on the way.
            My help is on the way.
            Oh my God, He will not delay!
            My refuge and strength, always!
            I will not fear!
            His promise is true!
            My God will come through, always!

I do not know how many times this went through my heart and mind until I got to school to huddle with the children, but Jesus sang this to my heart over and over until the storm passed. 
            We were so blessed that day.  God spared us, and we were safe!  Not only were we safe, but Jesus had provided strength and peace to my heart during the storm.  No, there are no coincidences - no coincidences at all.  After I got home with the girls, Michael had already left for work.  I called the girls to me and pointed out to them how God had just spared us and kept us safe from a dangerous storm.  I asked them what they thought we should do, and they responded, “Thank Him!”  So the three of us gathered around and thanked Him that we need not fear the storm, that He is our refuge and strength, that His promise is true, and that He will come through…Always!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tips for Talking with Children After A Natural Disaster by Lori Berry

Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods… it seems like we are hearing about more and more about such natural disasters every day.  With our world becoming more accessible via the internet and the news media, our children are likely more exposed to tragedy such as natural disaster than previous generations of children have been exposed to.  The frequency and magnitude of these natural disasters and the access that our children have to national and world news make it vital that the trusted adults in their lives be prepared to talk to them about what has happened and to answer their questions.  The following are some basic tips when talking with children about natural disasters and the trauma that all too often ensues:
1)                              Information.  Ask the children what they know about the event and then provide information based on what they already know.  For very young children, give basic, concrete information about what happened and assure them that there are many people working to make sure that they are safe.  Do not provide unnecessary details of the event as this is likely to overwhelm them.  Older children will likely want and need more information depending on their age.  However, it is important to limit media coverage of the event no matter the age of the child as children can become overwhelmed by information and graphic images.
2)                              Answering questions.  Young children especially may ask very direct questions that may be difficult to answer.  Some children may ask questions such as “Why did God allow this to happen?”  There are no clear answers to many of the questions that often follow a disaster.  If you do not know the answer, it is ok to say that you do not know.  However, it is important to reassure children of God’s love for us and that He is always with us to help us get through even the most difficult of times.
2)               Feelings and emotions.  Encourage children to express the emotions that they are feeling about the event.  Allowing children to keep their fears to themselves is often more damaging than having an open discussion.  If you feel like your child is having an especially difficult time coping with the event, seek advice from other trusted adults or from a professional counselor. Young children may express their stress in seemingly unusual ways such as behavioral changes, withdrawal, and reverting to behaviors characteristic of their younger years (i.e. bed wetting, tantrums, etc.).  Older children such as preteens and teenagers may act aloof as if they are not bothered by the disaster.  In any case, it is important to model healthy coping skills such as talking about your own feelings as an adult and asking about their feelings as well.   Tell them how you cope yourself -- that you sometimes go for a walk, talk to others, listen to music, read the Bible, and pray.  Tell them that you pray when you get upset and that they can pray or come to you to pray together when they are upset. 
3)                              Reassurance.  Reassure them that Jesus is with us even during the difficult times and will help us get through them.  Assure them that God loves them. When parents give children time, love and hope through Jesus Christ, parents help them to cope with their fears, anger and confusion.  Share Bible verses together that reassure them of God’s love for them.
4)                              Maintain normalcy.  Normal routine equates to a sense of security for children.  The familiarity of everyday routines is critical to children’s ability to cope effectively with uncontrollable circumstances in their lives.  Unless children have been directly affected by the disaster (home damages or destroyed, death or injury to loved ones, etc.), it is helpful to not have their lives revolve around the disaster and its effects.  Too much exposure is overwhelming and unsettling, but normalcy provides a sense of control and security. 
5)               Get them involved.  Like adults, children may feel helpless after a natural disaster.  You might allow them to participate in relief efforts, write letters, sending care packages, or collecting needed supplies. Pray together as a family for the victims and their families, the doctors and medical personnel, and other helpers such fire fighters and police officers.  School age children may want to donate their change or get involved with fundraisers to donate to disaster funds. These actions show children that the parents and adults have hope, and these actions demonstrate children that something can be done to help people in Jesus’ name. 

            Most importantly, answer questions and provide support according to the child’s developmental age, temperament, and individual circumstances.  Children are much more capable of understanding than we often give them credit for; however, they will need your guidance to help them cope with disasters that may come through their lives. 

Lori Berry, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Shreveport, Louisiana

Monday, May 20, 2013

Many Are the Plans in the Mind of Jenna Lorrick

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.  Proverbs 19:9
I had no idea that it would take 2 ½ years to get from starting our adoption paperwork to here…

The airport homecoming on Thanksgiving evening 2012…finally a family of 6!

For 2 ½ years I waited to be the mommy to a sweet little girl from Uganda that I knew the Lord had chosen for us.  During those years our family was serving at a wonderful church where my husband was pastor.  Those precious saints came along side us and loved our sweet girl from a far right just like we did.  They helped us raise funds, they prayed for us, and rejoiced with us when we finally got that first picture.  I was part of the most wonderful group of godly women who were always there to help or encourage me.  I had it all planned out…what it would be like to bring our new baby girl home.  We would have friends and family and our precious church to support us and help us as we adjusted to being a family of 6.   I had a room planned and friends to help me decorate it.  After all we had been waiting for over 2 years…plenty of time to plan every last detail.

But God…usually those are some of my favorite words. 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…BUT GOD being rich in mercy…made us alive together with Christ. Eph 2:1-5

However, this time the “But God” meant totally abandoning my plans and following Him so that His purposes would stand.

The week before we got that first picture of our sweet Kenzi we learned that God was calling my husband to a totally new role in ministry.  Instead of pastoring full time God was calling my husband to lead the evangelism department for our state convention.  He was charged with the task reaching and helping churches reach our entire state for Christ.  We knew that it was the Lord’s calling and we willing obeyed. 

We moved into a new home in a new city 8 days before we boarded a plane to Uganda to pick up Kenzi.  6 weeks later I landed back in America with a new baby in a new house in a new town without friends or family near by and without the support system of a church I was no longer the pastor’s wife or the bible study teacher.  Every part of my life was new and unfamiliar.  I struggled to find my place.  I struggled to learn how to balance 4 kids instead of 3.  I struggled through the first months of learning to bond with our new daughter.  I struggled as we visited churches and I was “the new girl”.  I struggled to find a new routine for our family.  But mostly I struggled with the Lord.  I didn’t understand His timing.  I didn’t understand why we couldn’t have brought our sweet girl home when we were still where everything was familiar, where I had it all figured out.  Why did this have to so hard?

And then I heard Him whisper to my heart one day as I carried yet another toy up the stairs…”don’t you know my timing is perfect?  Don’t you know I did it just like this so you would trust me and only me?”
Suddenly I realized that He is truly the God who makes beauty out of ashes.  It was through my
struggles that He has been drawing me to Him.  He has been teaching me of my great need for Him…that when all of my comforts, roles, and familiar things are gone He is still God and still the only one who can supply all of my needs.

There are still struggles.  There are still days when I miss the familiar.  Things just don’t always go the way we plan but I am finding more and more that while my plans maybe many and may seem great it is His purpose that is the most important.  My willingness to surrender to His plan even when it is not the way I would have written the story is so key to Him showing up and working big.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

TANTRUMS -- It's a Teachable Moment

He had on the CUTEST cowboy costume a two-year old could wear. He donned a cowboy hat,
bandana, cowboy shirt, buckle, boots and a holster. He even liked what he was wearing but that was no guarantee that we were going to have a good time. We were at the Fall Family Festival, and my son was carrying his orange pumpkin from table to table getting candy he would never eat when he decided he was tired of it all and wanted his daddy who was working one of the tables. I told my beautiful son, we needed to get his sister off the jumpy (an inflatable bounce house of some sort) before finding his daddy and that’s when it started.
I was in complete shock and horror! He started throwing himself a good, old-fashioned, temper tantrum in front of God and everybody! We were in the middle of an open field, and there were no bathrooms in sight to whisk him off to. So, I told my daughter to go to her daddy’s table all the while my plump, little two-year-old darlin’ was pulling and screaming and bucking. He was madder than a hornet. Now he was getting ever madder because his sister was getting to go to his daddy which is where he wanted to be, but instead, I sat down.
In the middle of the field, I sat down, crossed my legs, and plopped his little behind in my lap. I placed his feet between my legs and crossed his arms in front of him and leaned forward. It was all I could do. He was screaming at the top of his lungs trying to throw himself backwards and thrashed around. He kept screaming, “Let me go! Let me go!” I kept calmly saying, “When you calm down, I can let go.” That made him even angrier. I don’t know how long this scene went on. Parents and their cute kids walked passed, staring down at me and my red-faced, two-year old screaming at the top of his lungs. I know we were there at least 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes. That is the shortest amount of time one of his temper tantrums would last regardless of location and time.
Most of the time he could pitch a fit (like we say in the South) that could last 30 minutes or more. My husband and I used that hold more times than I can count. It wore him out. When he had no self-control, this could at least control his body. He could fight against the resistance and wear his little self out. He learned that the more he was in control the looser my grip on his arms would be, and when he was in complete control, I could release his legs. But when he was completely out of control the tighter the constraint and the further forward I would lean.
I could have been embarrassed sitting down in that field and for a brief moment I was, but I would be more embarrassed raising a child who was not disciplined and who did not exercise self-control and self-restraint. I told my son that I would do this little thing with him wherever and whenever he decided to pull his tantrum and that I was up to the task. Would he try me? ARE YOU KIDDING?! Yes, he tried me. Sea World in their bathroom, I helped my son until he got himself under control. It was and is my preference to discipline my child in private, but sometimes that just isn’t an option, and my child needed to know that I was still the parent even in those situations.
There were times his tantrums were so bad that I was praying the power of the blood of the cross from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. I prayed it over and over and over again while I wept holding my son thrashing and fighting against me, and I prayed it out loud. My son heard me praying for him and over him.
In all my days, I had NEVER seen anything like this. My daughter didn’t have the Terrible Twos or Trying Threes. She was so easy at that stage, so for my son to come out swinging like this was a shocker.
Momma Friends, I want to encourage you. Do we still have issues with anger? Yes. Do we have to put him in that hold? Very rarely. When we have to put him in that hold does it last 30 minutes or more? No, it does not. Please keep in mind, Momma Friends, this is a stage. What are they going to learn from you in this stage? What are they going to hear from you? What will they feel from you?
After every incident when he had regained self-control and was contrite, I led him in prayer to ask God to forgive him for being disrespectful and ugly and hateful. He may not have understood the words, but He knew who God was and that he had to apologize to him.
I can tell you I’ve done a lot of things wrong in rearing my kids, but this is one thing I think God will be pleased with in my choices of how I discipline my child, His child.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How Could THIS Happen? by Sandra Timmons

“How did This Happen?”
If you are the mom of two or more children, I’m almost positive that this thought has crossed your mind more than once:  “How can two children who were created by the same two parents and parented the same way be so different?”  (And if you have adopted children, don’t say, “Whew” and think that just because you have pulled from two different gene pools instead of yours and your husband’s that you have skipped out on this delightful aspect of parenting.  If you haven’t already discovered it, God has a sense of humor when it comes to pairing up adoptive parents and their adopted children.)
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as parents is thinking that all our children should be treated, disciplined, and reared exactly alike.  Hopefully, as an adult, we know that children must be reared and disciplined differently.  But if we treat one child differently from the other, the one might think that he’s being “picked on” and that we don’t love him as much as we do his little sister.  And then, Heaven forbid, that little darling will let you know in no uncertain terms that he hates you and that he wishes you weren’t his mother!  If we’re not careful, we will allow our hearts to be wounded by the words out of that five-year-old’s mouth because we love him,  we want the very best for him and we want to be “Mommy of the Year.”  My advice to you—Get over it!  Not gonna happen!  He’s five (or whatever); you’re the adult in this relationship so act like it!  I hate to tell you this, but the role of a mom is not to be the best bud to her child. (Gasp!)  Our role is to get to know our child(ren) well and then go about rearing him/her in the way that he/she will benefit the most.  (That’s why we often develop such an awesome prayer life!)
Okay—back to the question:  Why do children of the same parents reared in the same environment turn out so differently?  Well, the most basic answer to that question is to look at the two parents.  Does the statement Opposites attract ring a bell? That’s true for magnets  and people. Take a good look at the father of your children; is he your opposite?  Ta-da!  There’s your answer.  Your child has some of you and some of his father in his genetic makeup; therefore, he’s a totally different creation.  And he will grow, learn, and flourish better if he is treated as the different creation that he is.  Treat him exactly as you treat his little sister, and he probably won’t do as well.  That is because we are all created differently; we’re “wired” differently according to the way God put us together, and that is the definition of the term temperament. 
Florence Littauer, author and international speaker, and Tim LaHaye, of the Left Behind series, did separate studies and wrote separate, but similar, books on the temperaments.  It is fascinating information, and I wish I had known about the temperaments when our daughters were growing up; it would have made our family life so much easier.  Before we discuss the four temperaments, it’s important that we know three definitions:
            1)  TEMPERAMENT—the combination of traits with which we were born
                        --These traits are based on hereditary factors which were arranged at the
                        moment of conception.  Six people contribute through the gene pool.
                        a) Two parents
                        b) Four grandparents
2)  CHARACTER—our “civilized” temperament
                        --Combines our TEMPERAMENT with training, moral values, beliefs,
                        and habit patterns
                        --The net result of ALL the influences and religious commitment on our life
                        --What we REALLY are when there is no one else around
1 Peter 3:4—(AMP)—But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the
                        hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a
                        gentle and peaceful spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
3)  PERSONALITY—the “face” we show others
                        --The outward expression of what one WANTS herself to be
                        --May or may not be the same as a person’s CHARACTER
                        --Is often a pleasing façade for an unpleasant or weak CHARACTER
1 Samuel 16:7b,c—For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the
                        outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
A person’s TEMPERAMENT (the way God put him together) affects every aspect of his life, from the way he is as a child even to, as an adult, the way he drives a car, keeps his checkbook, and does yardwork.  And that is why it’s important that you know your child’s temperament.  (It will also help you understand your spouse!)
We will be going through the temperaments, and hopefully, you will be able to see your child(ren) in one or two of them. If you have questions, please feel free to post them because if you have that question, I’m sure another mother will as well.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What My Mom Did Right by Claire Sader

Moms are the best!
My mother and I have an amazing relationship, and we have this relationship not just because she’s my mom, but because she has always been there for me.   When I would come home from school and in my mind i had the worst day ever and thought my world was over, she was always there to listen to my “horrible” day and encourage me.  Those times always made my days better, and if it was a more horrible than a normal “horrible” day, we would just have to make a stop at marble slab, because ice cream always makes it better! But being able to look back on the crazy things that I thought was going on in life or even the best times in life, I can always remember my mom being right by my side through them all.  Four things that my mom always did or showed me, that made all the difference in my life were:
First thing, which is extremely important, is your kids need you to know that you love them!  I have heard from many people who knew their parents loved them, but they never once heard them say the actual words to them.  Your kids need to hear those words, because no matter what they do in life, good or bad, they need to know you love them. My mom tells me that she loves me every day and sometimes even multiple times a day.  When we get off the phone with each other or leave each other to go do something with friends or other family, the last thing we say to each other to end our time together is “I love you.”  I know sometimes life gets busy and that doesn’t always seem important, but I know no matter how much time it has been since I have seen or talked to my mom, the last thing she told me was that she loved me and that is what I remember till we talk again, whether its later that day or a couple days from then.
Secondly, listen to them; they need to feel like their voice is important to you.  You may have had a difficult day at work and are tired and don’t want to hear about everyone else’s bad day or great day, but your kids’ days are important, and they have been waiting for you to get home to tell you all about it.  Sometimes they don’t want to talk about their day, but they still want to feel like you care to hear about it. I remember days when my mom would come home and say “how was your day” or “what did you do today,” and I would say “it was fine” or “nothing,” even when that wasn’t the total truth. Since she asked I knew that she cared to hear about my day, so when I was ready to talk I knew she would be there to listen. When you listen to them, it opens them up to communicate things to you, instead of going to their friends or other people for advice.  I knew that no matter what I had done or what question I had about something, my mom was there to talk to me about it and guide me to make the right decision.  So listen to your kids and let them know you are there to help them through things even when it may be hard for them to come to you.
Third, it is OK to tell your kids NO.  At the time, we think that it is the end of the world that you told us that we couldn’t do something.  But we all need boundaries as kids, and you as the parent are placed in our lives to make them for us.  At the moment they may “hate” you for it, but in the end they will see that it was the best thing for them.  I may have been so mad and not wanted to talk to my mom for days because she told me I couldn’t go do something that I thought was totally innocent, but when it was all I over, I learned what my mom saw all along.  And as kids we think our parents know nothing and they were born yesterday, but every single day I see that she knew more than I could ever have thought because to my surprise she had already lived through that and was my age at one point in time. You are there to lead your kids, so lead them no matter how mad they get, they will soon see that you were only looking out for their own good.
And lastly, guide your kids in the ways of the lord. You are the person who gets the privilege to tell them about God, and lead them into a personal relationship with him. When they come to you with problems and want advice on what to do, give them godly advice.  Build them up with biblical truths that they can lean on later in life.  Don’t just tell them what the world would expect from them, but encourage them in the way that God tells us to live.  Those principles will stick with your kids and grow them into better people, and that will make the BIGGEST difference in their lives!!  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Loving Someone Else's Child -- by Wendy Blackwell

Perhaps it was in the emptiness that I learned to cherish the fullness of motherhood.

When I chose adoption for my daughters (15 months apart) I chose a better life for them, a stable family, provision, and all the things I couldn’t provide. I carried them, held them, loved them and gave them away.

And for several years I lived in that empty place. A place where I wasn’t a mother, but I was all consumed by a love for someone else’s children. There’s no book, or class, or program that can teach you to live through the grief of choosing to let go of your children. But, like all of our empty places God will fill them with Himself and allow us a glimpse of grace that defies words.

For years I hated Mother’s Day. A day to celebrate women who could be what I couldn’t. A day to celebrate all I had chosen to give away.

I didn’t dare to dream of being a wife or mother. Somehow I thought I didn’t deserve it or I’d given up my shot. But God had different plans for me, thankfully, and allowed me to begin living dreams I didn’t dare to dream.

Marriage to my hunky hubby brought two beautiful peanuts that we have the incredibly humbling blessing of parenting. From their very first moments I clung to each breath…to each first…to each new thing. Shifting from years of loving someone else’s child to parenting our children was huge…and it began to heal something in me.

And I began to understand the mothers of the daughters I had relinquished. They guarded those girls’ hearts with a lioness’s tenacity and yet were tendered in touch and deed. Sometimes during those wee hour feedings I would rock our oldest daughter in her lavender decorated dreamy nursery and cry over the realizations of all I missed by choosing adoption. You just don’t get it until you live it.

And time, as it does, marched on. Deep in homeschool routines, ministry, laundry and life I found the rhythm of motherhood. Living deep in the security of understanding God has a plan for my children and the overwhelming blessing of being His arms and legs in their lives.

 Mother’s day doesn’t hold a sting anymore, neither does Birthmother’s day (the day before Mother’s day), because God in His plan saw fit to begin to fill in those holes in my heart.

Technology has allowed for communication to open up further between “my girls” and I. As they discover who they are and navigate the difficult teen years with their families I have been allowed to share a bit in their lives. It is exciting and humbling and new and old. When my phone buzzes with a text or facebook pings with a message, I want to go back in time to that young woman wrecking her life under the weight of grief and pain and whisper….God’s got a plan…you’ll know your girls, you’ll be a mama.

There is an empty bedroom in our house today. The furniture in the room makes it feel less empty, but there is no life lived there yet. Here I sit in the midst of emptiness again, and I know that like all of our empty places God will fill this one up too. In the middle of our paperwork pregnancy we wait to be approved to love another child…to parent another child. Foster (care) family and adoption will soon be words that describe our home…our family.

It is an odd feeling to love a child you’ve never met. To anticipate their arrival, pray for their safety and their some days, and to love somebody else’s child. And it is a process that makes me keenly aware that birthmother, adoptive mother, foster mother, spiritual mother, mother-in-law, grandmother…mother…we are all loving somebody else’s child. God gives us these breaths of eternity to love for Him. They are His children and He allows us the pleasure and privilege of wiping noses, bandaging cuts, washing uniforms, driving carpool, making lunches, kissing, teaching, disciplining and loving.

Time, life, trauma, illness, death and more will take our children from our presence. We might share blood ties with some, or legal paperwork with others, or not. God builds families in a million amazing, different ways and His family is eternal.

And motherhood is eternal work.

Do you get that, mama? That even searching for lost binkies, tackling mountains of laundry, driving carpool, checking homework, and all the everyday stuff you do builds God’s kingdom! It is easy for us to believe that lie that we are just mothers…that it is thankless work that doesn’t really matter and no one notices. But God sees every detail. You aren’t just anything to Him. You are a royal woman who searches for treasure, climbs mountains, transports precious cargo, pours foundations, fights enemies, protects, and acts as His arms and legs to His children.

In the years of emptiness I longed for the fullness of motherhood. And, now, I’m ashamed to admit I take the fullness for granted – I see dirty laundry, a massive to do list and I feel tired. I lose sight of the honor of motherhood, but on Mother’s Day now I’m reminded. I no longer hide in my bed or go hiking alone. I revel in crayon covered, glue laden love and little bouquets of dandelion heads, and I thank God for every overwhelming, grace-filled moment.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gifts for the Mother of the Graduate

His first graduation gift arrived…special delivery by FedEX.
I hold the box in my hand peering down at the name listed on the address label.  Surely this isn’t for my baby.  Surely he is not about to be entering into the next phase of life.
I call the sender (which was my parents) to let them know the package was here, and as I hang up the phone I think to myself, Where’s my gift?
I mean really I am the one that taught my man-child to tie his shoes; I cried when he stepped on the bus and into kindergarten; I made ALL those 1480 sack lunches throughout the years; I sat working on homework or  occasionally doing the craftier ones. (Nope not ashamed to admit I took over a few times for the creative ingeniousness that got some A’s) And I am the one that worried for nights on end that passing grades would be achieved.
Where are my gifts?
But what kind of gifts could you get “Wonder School Mom” of a graduate of any age?
How about a MOM’s Graduation Survival Kit?:
Start with a stylish, washable (you’ll be glad) fabric CARRY ALL with lots of pockets.  Fill with items from the list below that you custom picked for your gift receiver.
For the mom with leaky faucets (eyes)...A colorful box of Kleenex with a handy personal size package tied onto the front with coordinating ribbon.  WARNING: some moms may require something sturdier like a roll of Bounty “the quicker picker upper” or a bucket for all the tears. 
For the mom with bumbling lips…a nice application of the new lip balm labeled “Gorilla Glue”. Applied liberally to the lips before your favorite shade of lipstick to prevent loud sobs and stories about your baby eating dog food in front of his classmates. (Please do not try this at home.)
For the mom with eyes puffy from crying…a Sharpie eye liner.  It helps define the eye, and it’s waterproof, you know.
For the mom with those sticky hand toys for limbs…a strait jacket to keep your arms to yourself.  It is time to allow those babies to fly away, and they can’t if you keep choking the life out of them.
And last but not least…
For the mom with the broken heart…a case of duck-tape. It will hold all the pieces of that heart together, and it comes in many attractive and fun styles these days.
You know moms, they are always running around making everything perfect for their graduate so any mom would be forever grateful for your considerate gift.

Oh and for the mom with the worst case of graduation blues…it never hurts to tuck in a roll of cash.  Some good shopping therapy will always be a good mode of survival for any mom.

But truly the best gift of all is seeing your child succeed, watching your child take the next step into life, and knowing the child's independence is the thing for which you have trained them to accomplish. There will be more than one mom sitting through graduation with flashbacks to kindergarten graduation, with memories of struggles, challenges, and hardships, with cherished snapshots in her mind of those special "firsts," of prom dates and homecoming, and of sporting events or academia accolades. So, grab her hand, smile and hand her a paper towel.

What about you?  What would you add to the Mom of the Graduate Survival Kit?

Monday, May 6, 2013

You've Got Your Hands Full by Sunni Scott

'Wow!  You've got your hands full!'

I hear it on a daily, sometimes multi-daily basis.

Yes!  My hands are full!  Would you like to help, rather than comment?

That's what I want to say on my bad days.

On the normal days I just wish I had a crisp dollar bill for each time that phrase entered my ears.

People love to make comments.  Sometimes well meaning and sometimes not.  Sometimes the well meaning ones stir up bitterness in my heart.  Like today, when a friend told me that she felt sorry for me.  I had to chew on that one for a while and
pray against the feelings of self pity that were trying to take root.

The last thing she meant was to hurt me.  She was trying to sympathize with the fact that Evie's 2 year attitude and Zoë's hungry belly were ruining the trip to the library that we had planned for Belle's birthday.  We ended up leaving the library sooner than planned, and my friend stayed behind to enjoy a morning with her well-behaved children.

Driving away, I replayed all of the things people say over and over in my head.

I also prayed.

It didn't take long for the Lord to remind me of a precious encounter that I had in the grocery store a few weeks ago.

While loading up my girls into the ginormous car buggy that is my saving grace on grocery trips, I was approached by an elderly woman.  Inwardly, I rolled my eyes.  I knew it was coming...

"You've got your hands full."  She said.

"Yes ma'm."  I smiled, wrestling Evie into the seat belt.

"Mine are spaced out just like yours."

"Really?!?!"  I stood up.  That always gets my attention.  I love to look into the face of someone who survived and lived to tell the tale.

"All girls, too."  She told me.

"So you know what it's like!"  I wanted to hug her.

Though my kids were fussing, I sat and talked with her for a good five minutes.  We laughed, bonded over strong-willed toddlers and going out in public with them.  She was a godsend.

As we said goodbye she looked at my fussy, squiggly grocery buggy and with tears in her eyes she asked me to enjoy it.  'They are the greatest blessing of my life."

And so my friends, the next time that someone makes a comment about your children that doesn't sit well, please remember that you are not alone.  Many a mother has gone before us, and they miss the chaos of the young years.

Glancing in my mirror at the car seat laden sight behind me, I decided that the next time someone reminded me that my 'hands are full', I would respond with- 'but so is my heart'.
And I would mean it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Laughing through Puberty -- Is that even Possible?

It is not my intention to write many entries in this blog because I have my own personal blog, but I posted something on Facebook the other day that got me to thinking.
My beautiful, funny, incredibly smart daughter is entering puberty. How do I know this, you might wonder?  There is a lot of sighing. We have rolling of the eyes. We have to have an answer for everything, and not only that, but we have to have the last word. Does any of this sound familiar to any of you moms out there? It seems that my fun-loving, laid-back girl is taking everything way to seriously and gets embarrassed by anything I do in public. I think she’s embarrassed for others to know she has a mom, but the other day, one of her friends told her she has a cool mom. I really can’t believe my daughter admitted that fact, but she did, and I’m doing my Cabbage Patch dance. Of course, that embarrasses her too. It’s like she has forgotten how to smile and laugh.
I remember going through this age myself. Do you? If you know my daddy, you’d know that he’s a storyteller and a teaser. He would tell me how pretty I was, how proud he was of me, and how much he loved me. He dated me from middle school on up. He still takes me to lunch from time to time. I tell you this to tell you that he taught me to laugh at myself. First off, he told me that if I didn’t learn to laugh at myself that I’d be the only one not laughing and that is what families did. You live together. You love together. You laugh together.
I was painfully thin.  My metabolism was through the roof, and I was skin and bones. Oh to have that metabolism now. My daddy used to tell people and tease me that if I stuck out my tongue I’d look like a zipper. He’d nudge me or put his arm around me while chuckling showing me it was okay to be who I was and to see humor in myself, not to take myself too seriously.
So this week on the way to school my daughter who was sitting in the front seat was sulking for no
particular reason, not that she needs one. I told her she looked so beautiful when she smiled to which I got an ever-so-brief, fake smile. We continued on a little further, and she was still sulking refusing to smile. At the red light, I took my right hand, acted like I was scooping something out of her lap and handed it to her with this goofy look on my face. I told her I thought her lip looked better on her face than on her lap. She couldn’t help herself. She had to grin and chuckle. She quickly recovered and said, “Mom! I’m not in the mood to laugh.” I counted it as a small victory that morning.
Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine…” I’m finding out that parenting through middle school years will require me to teach my daughter at times how to have a merry heart. Will I always be successful? No, but at least she will know that I tried. I think the next time her lip is on the floor I’m going to act like I’m using it for a mop. I wonder how that’ll go over. LOL.
If you are a mom of a kid heading into puberty or is full-blown into puberty, I encourage you to love them and lead them to laugh. I tell my kids all the time that I am one funny mom, or if I do something funny, I tell them, “Now that was some funny material!” There are so many difficult conversations you’ll be having with them over these years, just don’t forget to laugh with them as well.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Flipping the Dog by Teri Foti

                 I would like to start by saying that no dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog.  What I am referring to, flipping the dog, is a Yoga term that is used for a position that is very difficult for me to do.  In Yoga, you start out in a “V” position called, downward facing dog, hands and feet on your mat. Flipping the dog is when you move one of your legs toward the outside of your body and are supposed to end in a kind of back bend position, supported by your legs and one arm. I guess what I don’t like about this move is that I am never sure if my supports, my legs, will hold me, and I cannot see where I am going during the flip.  I compare this to the empty nest that I have experienced in the past year. I was afraid of this new chapter in my life because I was unsure that my supports would hold me, and I had no idea what lie ahead.
                I am a mother of 2 children.  Will, my oldest and only son, is 20. Maggie, my baby, and only daughter is 19. Both are about to finish their sophomore and freshman years in college. When they were 2 and 3 1/2 years old, I decided to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom.  I always knew that this indeed was a privilege and calling on my life by God.  So, for the next 15 years I nurtured my nest and took care to tend to my family’s needs. I can truly say it has been one of the best seasons of my life. For this reason, I was fearful what lie before me with both of my children at college. As I sent Maggie on her new journey, I knew that I would have to find a new purpose. I was also not sure how my one and only of 24 years, Ken, and I would get along without kids in the house.  You know what I mean.  But I found out that God is never finished with us.  No matter what stage of life we are in, He is always here and more than ready to lead us into the next part of our life.
                  This is of course is my story, and I feel as if I need to share some of the ways I coped with this new chapter in  my life.  First of all, nurture your relationship with your husband now.  I know that we mothers tend to put our children’s needs ahead of all things, and sometimes that is necessary. But we, as women, need to realize that our lives began with our mates, and if we both live long enough, will end with our mates.  Have a “date night”, weekend away, or maybe a lunch for just the two of you so that you will not forget why the two of you fell in love.  If you are a single parent, nurture yourself.  Make yourself a priority by scheduling alone time, a “girls night out”, and getting involved in women’s ministry opportunities at your church.  All of these supports will help you stand when your life takes a turn.  Also, find women who are now empty-nesters. Find out what worked for them and what didn’t work.  I got a later start on motherhood, so I have an awesome group of friends, some who are grandmothers now.  They helped me through some difficult days of missing my children.  I have not gone through empty nest perfectly.  I have faced a bout of depression, self-pity, and even went through a rough spot in my marriage.  But I can tell you one thing, God is sooo faithful.  Ken and I have found out that we can now travel more. We don’t have to be home at any particular time.  We can choose what we will do with our time together, because our children are not at home. For something I was so afraid to experience, has turned out to be one of life’s greatest blessings.  Oh, and by the way, I “flipped the dog” the other day.  My two legs did support me, and it didn’t matter that I could not see where I was going. I made it just fine.