Friday, June 17, 2016

Taking Our eyes Off Our Dreams

 We were blessed to spend the past week in the outer banks of North Carolina. Pretty much every part of our vacation was perfect. 

This was the first year we've been able to stay in a home with a pool. Blythe was in heaven. She swam for hours. She learned to twirl with her arms out and she danced and laughed in the water. I wish I had gotten a video so I could show you her joy. This morning when we left I told her to say," Bye pool" and she did. That's how much she loved it. 

The living area of the house was on the third foor. There were windows that looked down onto the pool. She would stand at the window and point excitedly and lift her leg and try to climb up on the window to get to the pool. 

Despite the fact that we had many times gone down the stairs to get to the pool in her mind she could see it from the window so walking toward the stairs was walking away from what she wanted.  She could not take her eyes off her happy place. She would stand and point and cry to get in the pool. All the while we stood on the stairs ready and willing to take her down to swim. 

She couldn't trust us that the path we had chosen was the safest or best. She knew what she wanted and our way didn't make and sense to her. 

At one point when I was home alone trying to get her down the stairs I yelled in frustration, " Why won't you just trust me!?!"  In that moment I looked at Blythe  and saw myself. And I wept because so often I have kicked and screamed and pointed at what I wanted. I have insisted that Gods plan for my life could not be best. 

Honestly sometimes,  I don't fully understand. I have very hard days. And then I have these days where I get glimpses of how full and rich my life is because of the hard things. 

Sometimes we just have to take our eyes off our dreams and follow Him. We have to let the picture of what we wanted go and watch him build something better. 

Remembering that It might not be something we understand this side of heaven. We know this from Hebrews 11. 

" All these people were still living by faith when they died, they had not received the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance."

The distance is hard. For those of you staring off unable to grasp the things promised I see you. There is so much I still don't understand. You are not alone. 

But let's remember the pain of the distance will never compare to the fullness of eternity. God has planned something BETTER for us that only together with Him will we be made perfect. 

I believe He can be trusted. Let's take His hand and see. 


Friday, May 20, 2016

All He Sees Is Blue.

 In Alden's class they have a behavior chart. Everyone starts the day on green. "Ready to learn". When they show initiative, participate basically are seen doing something good they move up to purple. If they do something else good they can land on blue. If they don't listen to the teacher, are mean to a friend or show disrespect to others they go down to yellow and then if they continue not to listen they go down to red and the teacher calls their parent.

 Alden's life goal has been to be blue since day one. He's spent a lot of days on green and purple and a few sad days on yellow but not until the past week did he finally get to move his clip up to blue. Blue, "flying high". 

While I completely understand the need for this kind of system in the classroom I think it can foster the idea that you have to do good things to earn the approval of others. That in order to make your parents proud you have to get to purple or blue. Yes, actions have consequences in life and I know it teaches this lesson too but if we aren't careful as parents it can slide into defining your worth by your performance. 

Today when Alden was lamenting that he has not made it to blue enough this year it broke my heart. I don't want him to think that his worth is baised on proformance. And yet I know my parenting often contradicts this. It's so easy to use behavior as a gage for worth because it works. It gives us sweet little obedient children. 

When I really think about it though I don't  want perfect children. I want children who know their worth comes from the one who bought them with His own blood. Who know that repentance bares good fruit but ultimately there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

I decided to try to change the conversation. 

"Actually Alden, you are blue everyday" 

He was confused and disagreed with me immediately because that's what he does best these days. 

I explained that when God looks at us all he sees in blue. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, because he lived a life where he was never yellow and always blue and he took the punishment for all of us anyway, now when we trust Jesus with all those times we miss the mark, all those yellow days and red days he trades with us. He moves our clips to blue forever. Nothing we can ever say or do will make God see us as anything but blue. 

 It's funny how many times I'm in the middle of trying to teach something to my children and I realize how badly I needed to hear it myself. 

  It is finished. Did I fail today? Did I lose my patience? Did I miss the mark? Maybe I did, I usually do but none of it changes the fact that He didn't. Not ever, not once. And that's my story now. His story is mine because He wrote it forever in His blood. 

  Is something broken because of choices I made today? I can give it to Him, He will make it new. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 

  Live free my friends. No mater what you do, all He sees is blue.❤️

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When You Are Afraid To Ask


     
I just finished up a  ten week Sunday school class on the book of James.  I enjoy going back and studying a book that I have spent a lot of time studying in the past but not recently. Such a powerful little book packed full of beautiful truth about how life works best, about loving the underdog, about having the same heart for the world as the one who made it.


   As I prepared for our last couple of lessons on patience and prayer, the Lord made something very clear to me. There are some things for which I have become afraid to pray.


  One great lesson I've learned over the past four or so years of my life is that God's goodness is not based on circumstances. It is not based on how He answers prayers. That He can say "no" and still be good, that the best things can actually be the things that are the hardest things. This has been an invaluable lesson for me. Prayer is not magic. Magic is trying to manipulate something stronger than you into doing your will. Prayer is aligning our hearts with His to see and accept HIS will in our lives and the world. Prayer is about surrendering power, not taking it.


    But surrender doesn't mean you become complacent. That you expect life to be hard and so you just quit asking, which is where I found myself as I studied James.


  If there is one place where my heart hurts more than anything else, it is in the fact that I can't understand what my daughter is trying to say to me. After years of speech therapy and doing 

what everyone else was doing, she is still far behind even most of the kids we know her age with Down syndrome. And I would say in the past year after some discouraging conversations with parents of older non verable children, I began to believe that this was just the way it was going to be.


  I want to be clear here and say that I was also encouraged by these conversations. I was encouraged by how much love and joy there can be without the power of words. That people's value and fullness in life is not based on verbal communication, which is part of the reason I found some peace in the prospect of this being our story. And mostly it felt safe. If I mourned the loss and accepted what was possibly our future, I could avoid being hurt any more than I already was. I could be content in my circumstances.  Or at least I could appear to be.


  So I quit asking. I continued to pray that Blythe would find effective ways to communicate, but I quit asking for words to come out of her mouth. I quit pleading that her speech would increase and I could hear her through her own words. We didn't stop therapy, and I didn't give up working with her at home, but I walked away from discussing this thing that hurt my heart the most with my Savior. Because I was afraid to ask. Because I believed that asking was admitting that what He's given me isn't enough.


    However, continually bringing a need before the Lord does not mean you aren't willing to submit to His will.  It is an act of obedience.  We have been commanded to pray.  It is right to bring the things that hurt your heart to Jesus.  He already knows, but that is not an excuse for disobedience. The Lord knows that we need to share these things. We need to be honest about the things we are scared to hope for. Because while fighting for contentment and at the same time acknowledging what breaks our hearts is hard work. It's much easier when we aren't alone.


  Jesus did not hang on that cross so I could swallow my pain over the broken world. He did it so I can confidently approach the throne of grace and find grace to help me in my time of need. 


  Why are you afraid to ask?


 Maybe you worry that your prayers won't be  effective  because who are you to ask the God of the universe to reach His hand down and make things new?


In the end of James when he's talking about the importance of bringing our needs to the Body of Christ and sharing them with each other, he references Elijah.


   "Elijah was a man just like us, he  prayed earnestly that it would not rain on the land and it did not rain for three years and six months. Again he prayed and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced it's crops." James 5;18-19


  I don't believe this is a coincidence. James is saying, dear sweet sister, you have been blessed with the same spirit as the prophet Elijah.  Your prayers are powerful and effective.


 Are you afraid to ask? Ask for courage to ask, and believe that He will meet you there.


 I have begun to boldly approach the throne of grace and plead for words to come from my daughters mouth. It doesn't mean that I don't love her as she is, or that I think if they never come that my God is not good and powerful enough to do it. It means that I am learning the value and freedom in obedience.


 What are you afraid to ask for? What burden have you buried deep inside because you don't believe it can change? Because it is too scary that the answer might be no. It's time to go get a shovel, to dig it out, bring it into the light and see what a difference it makes when it's sitting at the feet of Jesus.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Don't Just Stand There, Bust A Move

 Almost a year and a half ago I picked up my paintbrushes and pencils for the first time since I had became a mom.  It felt good to get back into making things, creating things, to have something to do that was not  connected to my identity as a mother.

  While I believe that being a mom is something that God has called me to, obviously he gave me children, I don't often feel good at it. Most of the time I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.  This of course, is not a terrible thing. It is always good to stay on our knees and remember that without him we cannot succeed.  But it is exhausting.  Both mentally and physically.  So when I discovered my love for creating again it was like coming up for fresh air.  It was good to remember the gifts I have been given. The years of art lessons that had not actually fallen into the deep abyss of forgotten memories  reminded me that I am still me.

  Over the past year and a half I have done the odd commission here and there and sold a few original pieces.  During that time I watched as my younger sister also found joy in creating beautiful things.  Her talent for calligraphy  encouraged me to continue working on my own craft.  But then over the holidays we got an idea.  What if we put the two things together?   What if we took my drawings and her beautiful letter work and  saw what we might come up with as a team.

   It is always a little frightening to create something and then put it out there for the world to see.  It is a very real raw form of vulnerability, but there comes a time when our need to lean into who we are created to be, is greater than our fear of rejection. So Christy and I began to dream about a little space online where we might show up and be seen.

   I remember back in August when I read, "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker her chapter on Running your race really spoke to me. She says..

      "How many trot out that tired cliché-" I'm waiting for God to open a door" - and He is all, "I love    you but get going pumpkin, because usually chasing a dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don't just stand there, bust a move." You are good at something for reason. God designed you this way on purpose. It isn't fake or a fluke or small. These are the mind and heart and hands and voice you've been given, so use them."

   And so, after many hours of work and research and late night FaceTime meetings we are almost ready to "open our doors" at TheBlissfulWillow.com. My desire is to devlope pieces that we would help others create places of peace in their homes. To paint pictures of families that will be cherished for years to come. To bring joy to others through notes of encouragement passed and received. But in all this we just want to lean in to who we were made to be. I want to run our race and I hope someone is encouraged to run there's along the way.

  ''The timing is never right. Forget that. It rarely just falls into your lap. You are probably not guaranteed success. This might be a risk. It will require sacrifices from you and maybe your people, and you might step out on shaky, shaky legs. But off you go because we were not created to standstill,  even though that is safe and familar and you are guaranteed never to fall or stumble or grow weary. We were made to run.  So run."- Jen Hatmaker




Friday, October 30, 2015

Presume Competence

This morning as I was rushing to get Blythe dressed I grabbed a pair of yellow pants and a blue shirt and immediately I thought of Down syndrome awareness month. Which of course is over tomorrow. It is almost come and gone and I have done next to nothing to spread awareness. I swallowed my guilt and reached for a hair bow only then remembering that Blythe needed a costume for school today. I knew that she needed one or rather had the option of wearing one today her teachers never said it was mandatory, but honestly I hadn't made it a priority. In the past I have figured out a costume for Blythe and it has been more for pictures and me than anything else. She just hasn't seem to care in years past and so I didn't care. On the surface this may seem OK, it may seem like I'm just trying to survive the hectic little years but it's so much more than that. 

I grabbed the minion sweatshirt from last Halloween that I had setting out to give to someone else. I said a quick prayer and put it on her and tried to zip it up. Thankfully it must be a miraculous growing hoodie because it fit even though last year it was pretty tight. I finished getting her ready and we headed for the bus stop. I grabbed my phone so we could take the obligatory selfie before I put her on the bus. On a regular day I take about 15 pictures before I get a good one of her actually looking at the camera and smiling maybe a little bit. She just doesn't get very excited about taking pictures maybe it's because I've taken a lot of that and she's over it. 

But today when I got out my phone and switched the camera to the front screen she got so excited. She hugged my neck, she post she pointed at the phone and laughed ,she was so obviously visibly happy with her own face. 

The bus arrived and both her driver and aid made a big deal about how she looked like a little minion. She beamed with pride and climbed aboard not saying goodbye as usual and I headed in the house to pick a picture for Instagram of course.

 And as I was about to post it it hit me like a ton of bricks. She wasn't excited about taking a picture because she's finally getting into selfies she was excited because she looked like a minion. She was thrilled to be in the costume. She understood the concept of pretending to be something other than what she was. 

One campaign I have loved this month has a simple tagline. Presume competence. It was all I could think about as I stared at her smiling face. Here I am feeling guilty about not spreading awareness this month when I should be upset about something so much worse

It is so heartbreaking  and humbling to admit my own inability to believe in my daughters competence. It's certainly easy to make excuses, i'm busy, I see her every day, she's changed a lot in the past three months and I've been focused on the newborn. And none of these are good enough to excuse my assumption that she doesn't care, that it doesn't matter, that I didn't bother to find her a costume because "she won't notice anyway." How can I expect the world to presume competence when I haven't even done it myself? 

It is so important to believe and understand that just because a person doesn't have the words to express their feelings doesn't mean that they don't have them. I have said this 1000 times and I still see myself living like I don't believe it. So as we say goodbye to another October I promise this to my sweet smart beautiful girl. I will presume competence. I will. I will operate from a place of knowing that you do understand. That your thoughts and feelings are just as valid as others who can express them with words. I am so grateful for you, for your amazing life and how much you have taught me without even uttering a single word. That my dear girl is an amazing gift that few possess. And I will not take it for granted again. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Curious Beginning of George Crosby

   Two and a half weeks later I'm still having a hard time believing that he's here and mostly how he got here and what happened next. 

   On Tuesday the 28th I had a regular OB appointment. I was 37 weeks and two days. Everything seem to be going fine except I did have some pain while I was having Braxton Hicks contractions near where my previous C-section scars were. My doctor decided to do an ultrasound just to check to make sure everything was OK.

 What they found on the ultrasound was concerning. My doctor showed the pictures to some other doctors and in about 10 minutes they all decided that I needed to have the baby now.

Thankfully Seth was at home watching the kids and not in Winston at work. So he was able to make it there before they took me in for the C-section. It all happened very fast and similar to when B was born. 

My whole pregnancy I kept saying all I wanted was no drama. I wanted to schedule the C-section, go to the hospital and just have the baby. A  baby that would then go to recovery with me and to my room and then come home when I went home.

 Maybe it seems like a lot to ask but it happens that way for so many people. Part of me felt like it had to happen that way so that I could feel better about Blythe and her birth and her birthday. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, doesn't really make a lot of sense to me now but that is how I felt. 

Other than the fact that I had three doctors the C-section was pretty routine and went quickly. Crosby was born and they went ahead and put him on me and I got to smell him and see him for about a minute. After that they just didn't feel like he was breathing well so they took him to the regular nursery while I went to recovery by myself again. 

This was the part that I was most not looking forward to. It was in recovery they came and told me that Blythe had Down syndrome. I didn't want to go back in that room alone. My doctor and I had discussed it and she told me that if my husband had to go with the baby they would make sure that someone else could go with me and to recovery. Except because of how it all happened and how half fast it was there wasn't anybody to come with me so I went by myself. To the same room to the same spot, by myself.  

When I was in that room when B was born I started out with a nurse who was a little grumpy and hungry I guess it was lunchtime and she was upset that I was taking me so long to feel my legs so that I can get out of there and she could eat lunch. I just had the biggest moment of my life and she just wanted to eat lunch. (Totally get it, it's her job, she does it everyday and we all get grumpy when we're hungry) Eventually she passed me off to another nurse and went about her day. 

   That nurses name was Nancy. I remember because she was very excited that I had just named my baby Nancy. She was wonderful I made the rest of my time in recovery bearable. I guess she had already eaten lunch. 😉 

  This time when they took me back to recovery by myself again. There was Nancy. Somehow she remembered me and my Nancy. She wanted to know how she was and I got to lay there in the spot where they told me Blythes diagnosis and tell her all about how amazing she is. I can't explain to you how healing this was for me. It was like a victory lap three years later. A place that I thought would bring me sadness brought joy and that friends is what Jesus does with the broken parts of us. ❤️ 

 But this story is about Crosby so I digress. Meanwhile Crosby was stable in the regular nursery his breathing was being monitored. They thought he just had fluid in his lungs he needed to work out. Eventually they choose to bring him to me so I could have him skin to skin still on a pulse ox. 

After an hour or so a nurse or doctor came in and decided they could take him off the monitor. I wasn't very comfortable with this because I noticed his stats weren't constant but what do I know....

  Here's the thing. After having a baby who was sick I knew I was going to be a little bit crazy when it came to wondering if there was anything wrong with him. So I decided even though I didn't feel he was alright to just keep him on me and watch out for him. 

  That first night I hardly slept. I kept watching his breathing. I asked the nurse why his feet were still blue and she said that was normal they are always the last to pink up. His fingernails were blue too but no one was worried. 

  Throughout the morning he got worse and by three in the afternoon I was ready to march him up to the NICU myself. I didn't want him to have to be there but I just knew something was wrong. The nurse checked his oxygen for me and he was at 63. In about a minute there were two more nurses and he was being hooked up to O2 and headed out to the nursery. 

They decided to take him up to the NICU and we went up when they got him settled to talk to the doctors. Being wheeled back in through those doors I almost threw up. Thankfully I was in a wheel chair because I was dizzy and close to a complet break down. 

Then they said they'd called the cardiologist on call to come check him out and I quit listening. See babies born with CHD often do okay for the first day of life. It was all pretty typical to what I knew about heart defects. We went back to our room to wait. My dad and sister came and sat with us. It seemed like it took forever. 

I was so thankful to see Blythes cardiologist walk into our room. Having someone we know and trust already was really helpful in a time like that. And then I was was even more grateful to hear that while Crosby does in fact have a heart defect it was not likely what was causing his difficulty breathing. We don't have to go back to see him for six months. 

But then the question was of course what was wrong. He spent that night in the NICU and I spent it with the dreaded breast pump. 

The next morning they said they had found a tiny hole in Crosby's lung. This whole had let a little bit of air into his chest cavity making it harder for his lungs to work. So they were going to insert a needle and let out the air. 

By the afternoon they did another Xray and the air in his chest was much worse rendering his left lung useless. Crosby was 37 weeks but his lungs were not acting that way. The next time I saw him he had a tube in his chest and was sudated breathing with a respirator. I didn't take a picture. I didn't touch him. I could hardly look at his tiny little face. 

  We went back to out room and decided it was time to ask people to pray. Originally I wanted to pretend all of this wasn't happening. To keep it to ourselves and hope it all just got better. But that's not how the body of Christ works. It was time to admit my fairytale wasn't happening. Time to be real about the fact that we needed help. And Gods people prayed.  

  Around 3:30 in the morning, unable to sleep I walked up to see him and found they had moved him to a CPAP machine. The tube had drained the air and his lungs were both working. The medicine they put in his lungs was also working and most of all his precious little feet...were pink. 

   I stood there and held his little hand with pink fingernails and cried. I know that Gods goodness and love is not based on how he answers prayer. Sometimes he says no, sometimes the test comes back positive. And even in those times, perhaps especially in those times He is still good. 

  From there on out Crosby got better and stronger. One night I went home having been told it could be two more weeks and the next morning he was doing so well they said he could go home the next day. 

  In all there were only five days I couldn't hold him and three nights I had to leave him behind. While there we reconnected with old friends and got to show everyone pictures of Blythe. 

  One of my favorite parts of the week was when I was introduced to a new mom and her precious baby girl who was born with Down Syndrome. I got to listen to her and cry with her and tell her all about everything her little girl will do and be. How healing it was to sit with that mother in her beginning and remember mine. 

 All I all the week was not how I pictured it. It was not how I planned. But in every moment I was reminded of all the Lord has done for us making it impossible to doubt his faithfulness in the now. 

We brought Crosby home on our 8th wedding anniversary. He is such a good and perfect gift. And the most wonderful way to complet our family...at least for now. ❤️


  

  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The End of Early Intervention.


  Today we had our last session with an Early Intervention therapist. Since the age of one month Blythe has seen various therapist through the early intervention program in North Carolina. There were times when she has had as many as seven appointments a week. Sometime she loved it, sometime she hated it but it has been a constant in our life for three years. It has been hard. There seems like so much pressure comes with EI. Like a race against the clock to try to get your child as far as you can because you know once they turn three that door in their brain closes and you've either given them what they need to succeed or failed them for life. That of course isn't true but it is how I felt for a lot of the past three years of early intervention. We had an amazing service coordinator and some wonderful therapists. Blythe has come a long way but it's safe to say we are both tired and ready for a break. 

  So for the next two months and two weeks there will be no organized therapy. Alden won't have to play quietly in his room. Blythe wont have to miss naps because of squeezing in appointments. We are all going to do whatever we want to do. Within reason of course because it is summer and it is hot and I am very pregnant. 

  The next step for Blythe is preschool. We found out yesterday that she will be attending full-time preschool at one of the special schools here in Guilford County. I'm very excited about what this means for her growth and development. While it's not easy to put your three-year-old on the bus and send them to school full-time I know that it is what is best for her. She will be loved and cared for by some of the best teachers and therapists that our school district has to offer. And hopefully the break I get during the day will give me the renewed strength needed to reinforce things better home. Like pushing her to sign rather than just giving her what she wants. 

  All in all the end of early intervention feels like I'm coming up for air. I know communication will be more difficult when I'm not present for all her therapy and that this transion doesn't mean I will no longer be involved in therapy homework but I do have hope that I will get to do more of just being her momma. That for the first time in her little life we aren't living by a list of goals. At least not for the next two months anyway. 

  And regardless of what the fall will actually look like today starts our offical summer vacation. Let there be bubbles and kiddie pools and ice cream sandwhiches. Let there be air conditioning and Curious George and puzzles just for fun. I have two months before our lives will change again forever. The days are long and the years are short. Pass the iced coffee lets get this vacation started.