Monday, July 28, 2014

Coincidence...or God?

Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, I guess you were just in the right place at the right time!" or "Wow, what a coincidence!" Over the years I've heard those phrases a lot, and until just the past couple of years never really thought too much about them...other than they seem to be used quite frequently. Lately, though, as I see more and more details line up that seem "coincidental", it just continues to reinforce that God is in the details...ALL of them.

Our lives today are so busy that many times we fail to stop and truly see the significance of circumstances or experiences in our day-to-day comings and goings. Yes, running in to someone at the grocery store as you're frantically trying to grab a few essentials while already running late to pick up the kids from their activities may seem like a huge, untimely inconvenience, but you just never know what taking a couple minutes out of your busy day could lead to. I'm finding the more closely I look, the more intertwined and connected each detail is, regardless of how big or small they are. His planning is ridiculously cool – the trick is to be still long enough to not miss the connection and to make sure you're seeing this experience/detail/incident with the right perspective.

A couple weeks back we were up north at our cabin and there was a guest speaker at our "cabin church" {awesome job, by the way, Fred!}. He spoke on truly knowing the Lord and all that He has for you. He talked about the significance of people in his life and how it related to community, feeling as though he belonged and was loved not only by others, but also by Him. One of his stories was about him visiting his grandmothers as a young child and how each one had their unique way of welcoming him and making him feel as though he was loved and valued beyond measure. Another was about how during the week he was doing his usual day-to-day stuff, out on his route delivering mail, when he looked up and saw the pastor, his dear brother in the Lord drive past – a sweet reminder from above to encourage and brighten his day. Sitting there that Sunday morning, with tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened to his message, I was reminded of how good the Lord is. He can take the most depressing, frustrating, unfair, and even mundane things and turn them into something beautiful for His glory.

Those close to me know that I have a love-hate relationship with summer time. I love the weather and all the fun times we have together with family and friends, but being self-employed, I loathe how bogged down and behind I tend to get with work stuff during the summer months. It feels like an uphill battle. I'm torn between wanting to be a "good mom" and do all the fun summer things with the kids while they're out of school, but then I log in to my email account and our bank account, and the crushing reality of business and finances scream at me, "What on earth are you doing? There's work to be done and invoices to send out, and bills to be paid, and additional work/clients to drum up, and..." Ugh. Some days, it's insanely overwhelming. And usually when I'm already feeling overwhelmed with that stuff, my mind starts to move on to the other areas I need to put some more time and energy into – like scheduling doctor/therapy/specialist appointments for the kids, reviewing and making any changes/adaptations to Peyton's IEP before we sign it and send it back in for this coming school year, pulling together the latest dates/times/locations/coaches/etc. for our next Special Olympics sport, and catching up with girlfriends I haven't seen in way too long. And have I mentioned the state of my house? Oh boy. Time to get that under control, too. The more I think about things, the more overwhelmed I feel.

But it never fails...right as I can physically feel myself starting to deflate, feeling buried by "stuff", God plops something in my path that helps me re-focus and remember I'm not doing this all alone, and it's all temporary here on earth, but ultimately for HIS glory in eternity.

Perfect example, last week we tried a VBS-type day camp with Peyton. It was Monday - Thursday from 9am to 3pm. It was at a local church {our church is under construction, so no VBS this year}, and there were several girls Peyton knew in her group. She was very excited about it and made sure I knew it was "time to leave" when I dropped her off Monday morning.  My heart was bursting with excitement as I walked out to my car. THIS was it. The day I'd dreamed of for so long. Miss Peyton was going to be part of something "normal"...this was right up her alley and I was so, so, SO excited for her. I headed home to get some work done.

As I had just gotten in to "the zone" {all you other creatives know what I mean}, my phone rang. I grabbed my phone and saw the number, and...my heart sank. I answered the call only to find out that day camp wasn't going so well. I quickly headed out to go rescue Peyton. When I arrived she was in tears, embarrassed like any other 10 yr. old girl would've been, trying to hide her face from her friends who were wanting to console her. The staff was so great, worried that they'd done something wrong. After I assured them it was nothing they did {or didn't do}, Peyton and I headed home. On our ride home, through her tears, Peyton told me why she had gotten upset. During game time the instructions were hard for her to follow and she wasn't able to do many of the relay tasks which was overwhelming for her. As we talked more about what had made her upset, the stark reality hit me like a ton of bricks {yet again}...and by the time we got home, we were both in tears.

Over the course of the afternoon, we talked through how she could handle situations like this in the future, and Peyton said she wanted to try going half-days the rest of the week. Sounded like a good plan to me, and I was pretty excited that she wanted to give it another go. The next day we packed up lunches and headed to day camp. As we walked in to find the kid's name tags, Peyton lost it and began sobbing. Carson tried to encourage her to stay and told her, "It'll be fun, Peyton - I'll be here too! I can sit by you for the song time." Peyton thought about it for a minute, then shook her head no. Carson asked her, "But why don't you want to stay?" Peyton's response was like a dagger to my heart, she said angrily, "Because everything is HARD...and God made me that way".

This was the first time Peyton had ever verbalized that she realized things were harder for her than for most others. I bit my quivering lip as we told Carson goodbye, and I did my best not to make eye contact with anyone as we walked through the entryway back out to the car because I knew I was on the verge of losing it, too. We made it out to the car and headed home. I felt like a failure because I could tell Peyton felt like a failure. Over the course of the day we planned out a few things for her and I to do while Carson was at day camp the remainder of the week. One of those things was to go use a gift card Peyton had received as a birthday present.

Shopping has never been something Peyton enjoys or will even partake in...unless it's for Hot Wheels. Well, today she protested just a bit, but finally agreed to go in the store if it was just going to be a short visit. We walked into the store and I was instantly overwhelmed by the glittery-flashy-obnoxious-over-the-top-gaudy tween trinkets and apparel. Whew. But we continued to walk further in to the store. Secretly, in my head I was thinking, "Please God, help this visit not to turn out like the last one"...we had an unfortunate experience the previous time we'd visited this store. It involved a mannequin and Peyton very non-discreetly inspecting to see if said mannequin was wearing important undergarments. It was quite the memorable experience. Thankfully today's visit was different. Peyton surprised me and was very attentive and engaged during our visit, picking out some clothes she liked, asking ME if I liked any of the ones she picked, and then even going so far as wanting to try them on in the store. Whoa. I was shocked. Who is this girl? Certainly not the Peyton I've had to drag in to stores kicking and screaming over the years. It was crazy.

Driving home after our shopping trip, I was re-playing the events of our time together. I couldn't help but smile thinking how I would have completely missed this special time with my girl if day camp hadn't been an epic fail. And I nearly missed seeing this anyway, as I was busy having a pity party for myself, frustrated that for ONCE something couldn't be easy or a "success" {in the eyes of the world} for Peyton. God knew this. And as difficult as it was to see Peyton disappointed and distraught when day camp was a flop, He knew. He had a plan. And He gave her and I some time just the two of us, experiencing a big step forward...so I could be reminded of what a beautiful creation He made when He created Peyton – in His image.

This morning I had another situation come up where I saw Him working in the {seemingly mundane} details. I'd gotten a call from a neighbor asking if she could leave a note for UPS to drop a package by our house since they were going to be gone. I had no plans to go anywhere, so I told her sure, not thinking much of it. A couple hours later, the doorbell rang and as I walked to the front door, I saw through the side window it was the UPS man. I opened the door, stepped out on to the sidewalk, and he mentioned the neighbor had left a note on their door to drop the package off across the street at our place. We briefly talked and he saw Carson in the window. He made the comment, "He looks about the age of one of my little guys". That led to us chatting for a bit about our kids and how busy life is with sports and activities. Through the course of our conversation, he mentioned that 3 of his 4 kids play sports...because there wasn't "much out there for my other daughter". Long story short, as we talked, he began to tell me about his daughter with special needs who is just a few years older than Peyton. The similarities were astounding. He said though that she doesn't really have any friends and she's often left out because things can be overwhelming or difficult for her. The more we talked, the more it became evident that this was an opportunity to reach out and invite this girl and her family into a group where they would be loved on and embraced. I mentioned something about heading up our local Special Olympics team and his face lit up. He said his daughter has done gymnastics, but other than that she hasn't seemed too interested in sports...besides the Twins – she LOVES the Minnesota Twins!

Here's where that whole "What a coincidence" {i.e. God's timing} thing comes in...our Special Olympics team just purchased a block of tickets to go see the Twins play in August when it's Special Olympics night at Target Field. And we've got a few extra tickets left. The UPS man and I talked on our front sidewalk for over 30 minutes, turns out him and his family live just 10 minutes away and have been feeling really discouraged lately with all of their daughter's "stuff". He said it's tough not having other people to talk to who "get it" as they work through the various challenges their daughter faces. As we finished up our conversation, I quickly ran inside, grabbed some paper and a pen to write my name and number down on. He must have sent my contact info off to his wife right away, because within 20 minutes of him driving away, my phone rang and it was his wife calling wanting to find out more about our Special Olympics team and our Twins outing. They're all set to join us for the Twins game with a group of amazing people who I can't wait for them to meet!

Now, c'mon. You can't tell me that was "just a coincidence" or that since I'd decided to wait and go to Target tomorrow, I was "in the right place at the right time".

No way.

After taking some time to reflect on the last few times I've experienced situations like the ones I described above, I'm realizing that when times get tough or when things are unclear or even when things seem pretty average and uneventful – no matter what the circumstance, I need to be asking myself this question:

“God, is there something you want to teach me through this?”

 

 As John 10:27 says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Regardless of the situation, the mood we're in, the circumstances we're up against, or, quite frankly, how "lame", inconvenient, or uneventful something may seem {i.e. getting a neighbor's UPS package for them}, God can work through it...we just have to have our eyes, ears, mind, and heart open to hear Him.

Because there's so much more He wants to show us, to teach us, and to have us experience...if we'd just slow down, take a deep breath, and keep everything in perspective.

He's busy working behind the scenes, aligning interactions and circumstances so that we can experience them and, with His help, make the most of them – all for His glory.

Some call it coincidence, I call it God.

Think about that.


"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love the him, who have been called according to his purpose" 

Romans 8:28


"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed are those to take refuge in him" 

Psalm 34:8

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28) - See more at: http://www.allaboutgod.com/gods-goodness-faq.htm#sthash.MtO4L3Y7.dpuf




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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No Words Needed

As a parent, sometimes there are things we do when our kids are young that we don't realize the true significance of until years later. I'm sure we can all think back to something our mom, dad or grandparent even may have done when we were younger that we can still remember vividly in our minds. Oddly enough, it's often the teeniest tiniest things we do that somehow stick in these little minds we're so anxious and concerned about properly molding.

When Miss Peyton was probably about 15 months old and we started to realize there was more going on than just complications from her shoulder injury at birth, we so desperately wanted to hear her babble and start to talk. As she neared 2 and still had no "real" words, it was clear she was becoming more frustrated with her inability to express her wants and needs. One of the fabulous therapists we worked with suggested we teach Peyton a few signs to help alleviate some of her frustrations until her words came. We started out with many of the basics - more, milk, play, all done, etc. These signs helped some, but they still didn't replace hearing Peyton's voice. Those were very frustrating days for all of us.

At bedtime as I was about to tuck Peyton in one night, I sat with her on my lap as she stared back at me with her big, gorgeous eyes – I told her "I love you!", and as I said each word, I squeezed her hand. From that day on, every time I said those three words, I squeezed her hand in sequence with each word. After about a couple days of doing this with her, Peyton caught on and would give me a big smile when we did our secret little "love squeezes". Sometimes we'd even do it without the words, and each time her eyes would light up.

I remember several years later when Peyton finally had some {very broken} words, and at bedtime she would hold my hand, smile and say "I wa you", squeezing my hand with each word. My heart melted. Ever since, that's been our "thing" we do...not just at bedtime anymore, but whenever we say those three special words to each other. Or even if we're sitting someplace where it's not appropriate to talk - no words are necessary. The three hand squeezes are enough. It still makes her {and me} smile.


This morning Peyton had an important "date" with one of her favorite friends, Vivian. Vivian is a sweet, elderly woman in her 90s who we first met several years ago when Chad's grandpa was living at Clare Bridge, a memory care facility. From the first time Viv met Peyton, her eyes lit up and still do when Peyton walks through those doors. They've got a sweet, sweet friendship that many would give just about anything to have with someone. Even though it's been a few years now since Chad's grandpa passed away, Peyton still insists on going to visit Vivian on a regular basis. As the years have passed, Vivian's ability to carry on a conversation has started to diminish. But that doesn't stop Peyton from continuing to bring her favorite Hot Wheel to show Viv or her latest Special Olympics medals. Each story Peyton has to share makes Vivian's day.

Tonight as I tucked Peyton in, I asked her how her visit with Vivian had gone {grandma had taken her to see Viv this morning}. Peyton thought for a moment, and then said, "She doesn't talk much now". I asked her what all they did during their visit, Peyton responded, "We took Viv Caribou and a chocolate graham cracker. Those are her favorite!" We talked for a bit more about their visit and the plans they made for the next time Peyton goes to visit. Just before I turned the light out, I asked Peyton if she gave Vivian a big hug before she left. Peyton excitedly sat up in bed, grabbed my hand, and said, "No, I did this!" ... she squeezed my hand three times, then smiling Peyton said, 'I-love-you'. Again, my heart melted...and my eyes may have begun to "sweat" a bit. I was humbled and reminded just how blessed I am to have this precious little lady in my life. It blows me away to watch her as she shares love with everyone she meets. God created something unimaginably special when He created her, and I'm so grateful He's entrusted Peyton to Chad and I here on this earth.

I'm eagerly awaiting to see what He has in store for her in the years ahead...surely, it's something GREAT.

Filled with love.


"Be ye imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love..."

Ephesians 5:1-2


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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

He's In The Details



Sometimes when I look back over the past nearly 14 years, I become physically and emotionally exhausted thinking about how much work {and faith} it's taken to get to where we are today in our marriage, our family, our church, our careers, and our community – pretty much every aspect of life. It's been a long 14 years with many challenges – some expected and some not. When Chad and I first were married, I was still in college. I'd been forced to transfer schools {again} because Chad was offered a teaching job with Wayzata Public Schools the week before our wedding. So I was commuting to St. Cloud State University taking classes there while working part-time and completing my internship. I put a ridiculous number of miles on our car driving between St. Cloud and Minnetonka where my internship was. Then we built our house in Hanover ... still not sure how we afforded that, considering I was just finishing up school and we were living on a beginning teacher's salary. Somehow we managed. Next, we decided to start a family which turned out a little differently than how we'd planned in our minds. It altered life as we knew it, and initially put us into a tailspin for the first few years with Peyton's birth injury. These were the early years in our marriage where Chad was getting his Master's degree while Peyton was a baby – so many long weekends of him gone at class and even longer weeks in between sitting up late at night helping him proof assignments before the next weekend cohort group met. Once we finished up what he needed to have done, I'd start my 2nd job – doing freelance graphic design work until the wee hours of the morning before I had to get up at 5:00am. As we struggled to make ends meet with all of the extra expenses we had due to Peyton's many therapies on top of the "normal" kid expenses, it seemed as though it was a never ending uphill battle. There were days where there sure didn't seem to be much hope.

But we kept pushing forward.

We kept trusting Him.

And He kept providing.

Even though we felt stretched pretty thin, it didn't stop us from getting plugged in with our church and community as much as we could. While we've literally spent hundreds upon HUNDREDS of hours over the years in waiting rooms for therapy appointments and countless hours at home working with Miss Peyton, we've also spent a crazy amount of hours volunteering our time and talents {including lots of free graphic design work} for everything from school levy campaigns to school committees/organizations, parties, field trips, and events, to church giving campaigns, co-leading small groups and Women's/Men's Ministry, and to most recently helping start up and manage our STMA Special Olympics team.

In January of 2007, I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that I could barely stand up. Peyton was almost 3 {and the size of a 5 year old} and she'd finally started to take some steps. Carson was just shy of his 1st birthday and was the world's worst sleeper – up 3-4 times per night. There were days I honestly don't even remember driving to work. I'd get there as early as possible so I could get in my work day and still be able to get back home to pick Peyton up from daycare and drive 30 minutes away to where her therapies were, then back home to make dinner, do baths for the kids, laundry and all the other household chores before getting the kids to bed. Usually about 10:30 or 11:00pm I'd start my freelance job. It became very evident that something had to give ... for my sanity and physical health. We decided to take a giant leap of faith and I left my full-time job as Senior Graphic Designer for a large medical manufacturer in hopes that I could build up some more freelance work and still have the flexibility that we needed for me to get Peyton to all of her appointments. I was blessed to have an awesome mentor during this time who brought me in to help out with several large freelance projects for his biggest client, General Mills - Jon, you have no idea how crucial that was for our family in a time of so much uncertainty, so thank you! There were so many details to work out and details that were "unknown". Oh the joys of self-employment! :) But as the months turned in to years, God provided clients and the bills were somehow paid – even during the months where work was pretty scarce.

A few years later, Chad decided it was time to go back to school again to get his Administrative Licensure. His dream was to become a Principal at some point down the road – just like his Dad. So we went back to the late nights and long weekends working on more grad school. I'm not going to lie, this took a toll on our marriage. The kids were young. Peyton had 4 therapy appointments per week. We had other obligations at church and within our community. We were still living paycheck-to-paycheck, hoping work would come in for me to help pay the bills – right as the economy tanked out. We were trying to juggle so many things all at once. We were sleep deprived. We were overwhelmed. We were exhausted.

But we kept pushing forward.

We kept trusting Him.

And He kept providing.

Finally, with Chad's Administrative Licensure program complete, we took another leap of faith when he was offered a position to start up an area school's Teacher Evaluation {Q Comp} program. He left the school district he'd been with for 12 years for this new position – he left the security of the tenure he'd been granted, the deep friendships he'd made, and the respect he'd established there with families and colleagues. It was a difficult decision, and it was during a time when we were working through some other struggles with Peyton as she transitioned from the school she'd been at for 4 years {3 years ECSE and 1 year of Kindergarten}. To be completely honest, I was having a pretty tough time. Peyton had plateaued in her therapies and we had that sick "what if this is as far as she gets" feeling. She needed me A LOT as she was making this transition to 1st grade in a new building with all new staff, Carson was starting Kindergarten, Chad was starting this new position, my freelance work schedule was becoming more tricky ... there was just a lot going on that was draining us, both physically and emotionally.

But we kept pushing forward.

We kept trusting Him.

And He kept providing.

Fast forward a couple of years to now, Chad has been applying for Assistant Principal and Principal jobs within an hour drive from our home. We'd sat down and decided together that we just couldn't uproot the kids at this point, especially for Peyton with all of her services/therapies set up here. So we'd decided that if we had to, we'd deal with Chad commuting up to an hour away for potential jobs. In my head I was trying to prepare for what this would mean for our family, though, if he were to end up getting a position an hour from home. This would mean a lot more on my plate. He wouldn't be available to help with getting kids anywhere for sports or appointments if I had a work meeting. He would most likely be gone in the evenings for various school events – which would mean our kids would miss out on having dad around. And the winter. Oh, the winter. That'd mean multiple hour commutes {like so many in our area already do}.

But we kept pushing forward.

We kept trusting Him.

And He kept providing.

As this school year quickly came to a close for our kids, in the back of my mind, I've secretly been scrambling, frantically looking for a brown paper bag to breathe into thinking that Peyton has just one more year left at her elementary school before - *DUN, DUN, DUN* ... MIDDLE SCHOOL! EEEEK! Having been homeschooled during my middle school years, I don't have anything to really reference other than the horror stories friends have told about how mean kids were and how awful it was. And things are so different now from when I was a kid. My biggest fear is that Peyton, being so innocent and naive, will run into kids who don't give her a chance and mock, make fun of, and tease her. We've worked so hard over the past 10 years for Peyton to feel like she's accepted and valued – so starting over in a whole new school with new kids who don't know her makes me a bit nauseous quite frankly. One of the goals we laid out as we started our STMA Special Olympics team a couple of years ago was to make sure that people understood the value of each person, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. We're working very hard to change the culture of our community so they look for the positive in others rather than the negative – focusing on what people can do vs. what they can't. Thankfully the school Peyton will be going to is a great school and I've heard wonderful things about many of the staff there. But still. I'm anxious thinking about the big change after next year. Especially if I'm the one who will have to deal with most of the school stuff if Chad is working up to an hour from home. Ugh.

But while we've been pushing forward, trusting Him, God has been working in the details over these past 14 years. He's been preparing us. He's been challenging us. He's been testing, strengthening, and building up our faith.

Last week Chad got a call and was offered the Assistant Principal position at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School East.

THE MIDDLE SCHOOL Peyton {and Carson} will be going to.

EIGHT minutes from our house.

FIVE miles away.

IN our community.

No joke.

I have no words.

HE is good.

ALL THE TIME.

Praise God for answered prayers!

Praise Him for always knowing what we need!

Praise Him for working out details that seem impossible or unimaginable!

Praise Him for continuing to teach and prepare us every step of the way...even on the days we feel like giving up!

PRAISE HIM!

And congratulations to Mr. Libby for all of his hard work and dedication paying off – I'm so, SO VERY PROUD of you!!! Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do for our family.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for our family over these past 14+ years – we've sure felt it!

We are truly blessed ... and I can't wait to see what God's got planned for the next 14+ years!

May HE be glorified.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."
{Philippians 4:6}


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."
{Ephesians 3:20}



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Monday, March 24, 2014

It's time to PARTY!

Well, it's Monday. Again. Here we go, starting another week...but this isn't "just another week" - this week something really special is happening. It's happening on Wednesday, March 26th actually. That's the day that my friend Jenny turns 30 - yay! But the something special is even better than that...Jenny's book that she's been working on for several years {her whole life, really} is being launched {book launch party is private/invite-only} and we're gathering to celebrate, not only her birthday, but her incredible book that's going to touch the hearts and lives of so many people. I am SO excited to see how God is going to use this book to inspire and encourage people – people struggling with disability themselves, as well as parents, siblings and friends of individuals with disabilities!


Some of you may remember the post I wrote back before Christmas about our fun surprise we pulled off for Jenny when a local TV news station honored her with an award for the impact she's making as an "Excellent Educator". I shared a bit about what Jenny has meant to our family then, and I'd love to take some time now to share a bit more about our connection.

About a year ago, I found myself standing in the office at our kid's elementary school signing Peyton out for Horse Therapy one Wednesday morning. There sat Jenny, the school's Media Specialist, doing some work on a computer. We exchanged pleasantries and I quickly asked her how it was going. She told me she was working on her book and was getting so close to being done with it. I told her how excited I was for her, and then I remember saying as I ran out the door, "Well if you need any help laying it out or designing a cover for it, let me know!".

A couple months later, I got an email from Jenny asking, "Were you serious when you said you'd be interested in helping me design and layout my book?". We exchanged a few emails and set a time to meet for coffee to talk through things. As we sat chatting in a Caribou Coffee and Jenny explained more in-depth what her book Walking With Tension was about, I became even more intrigued. When I asked her what she had in mind for a cover design, she didn't have anything too specific in mind other than she wanted to convey something about the journey through life {and her faith} that she'd been walking – something that tied in to the title. Jenny threw out a tentative deadline she had hoped we could meet...her 30th birthday. And I told her, "We'll make it happen!", then we went our separate ways.

After a busy summer and fall adjusting to the school routine again, I finally found time to sit down and work on some cover design ideas. I emailed off a proof of what I thought was "the one", and Jenny agreed wholeheartedly. Then a couple weeks later, I found myself starting to look through the manuscript Jenny had sent over. As I began typesetting the manuscript, I couldn't help but read as I carefully went through line-by-line making sure the formatting, grammar and spelling was correct. The more I read, the more I was drawn in and felt as though I could relate {to a certain degree} on a very personal level. I can't tell you how many times I found myself typesetting through tears as my heart ached reading the difficult times Jenny endured growing up with Cerebral Palsy and the lack of acceptance as a result of her disability. It broke my heart. 

Several times as I was working on this book project, I remember pausing and thinking about Jenny. I remember thinking, "How on earth could someone just dismiss someone because they walk differently?" Through more tears, I had a flashback to kindergarten at the tiny Christian school I attended that year in northwest Wisconsin. I remembered a girl named Tina who had a {repaired} cleft lip/palette. And shamefully, I remembered the day I stood in front of our whole class during our lunch break and made fun of how Tina talked while the teacher briefly left the room. It was a Friday, and Friday's meant we received special Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream treats. We rotated each week which student got to hand them out. It was supposed to be MY day to hand out treats...but Tina stood up and declared it was HER turn. Angrily, I responded back to her, imitating her voice, "No, it's my turn, not yours! You're not the boss!" Oh how vividly I remember that, as if it were yesterday, and not just because I was sent to the principal's office. I remember the sad, hurt look on Tina's face as I mimicked her and talked with slurred speech. I had done the same thing to Tina that kids did to Jenny. And I've been reminded over and over again of this incident as we've experienced similar situations with Peyton and her speech issues. I do remember in that moment instantly being mortified that I'd acted the way I had as I watched Tina sit down, shrink in her chair and begin to cry, but it was too late. The damage had been done. And my heart ached to take back what I'd said. But I couldn't. Ever since that day, I've tried so hard to always THINK before I speak, because never again do I want to spew something out that is hurtful to others. Looking back on this experience, though, I know God was setting me up for where I am today – with a heart for those with disabilities/special needs.

This past January, as Jenny and I sat at my dining room table uploading the final files to the publisher for printing, we were both giddy with excitement! It was finally almost done and ready to be distributed out into the hands of others. For me, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment in this moment, but I also couldn't help but sit and reflect how being a part of this project had changed and impacted me. My perspective on how I view others with disabilities as well as how I talk about and view my own daughter's disability has been altered - in a good way. Walking With Tension has opened my eyes even more to see that everyone has a story...and our stories shape who we are but they don't necessarily define us.

Jenny's book gives such an amazing inside, personal, and honest view into what it's like to grow up with a disability or "being different". My heart ached for her as a peer, and it ached even more as a mom. On several occasions I found myself wishing I'd known Jenny during those years. It absolutely blew my mind that this sweet, funny, spunky, smiley friend who has sat {uncomfortably} on the floor of my daughter's bedroom floor playing cards, and who so energetically embraces everything about Peyton, including dancing the night away for HOURS with Peyton at our last Special Olympics dance, could have been in such a dark, lonely place for all of those years. How could this be?! I look at Jenny today and often think, "Man, I wish I could be like her when I grow up!". Having read Walking With Tension and knowing the very personal background story behind Peyton's hero "Miss Hill" makes me love her even more. And that may sound strange for me to say, but yes, I do love her. I love her boldness, her determination, her quirky sense of humor, her transparency & honesty, and most of all, her ability to smile and show Jesus to others through all of the difficult times. He brought her through those dark times, and I'm confident God is going to do remarkable things as a result of this book. I feel honored and blessed to have been involved in a very minor behind-the-scenes part of this project.

So, on Wednesday, we're going to celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean P-A-R-T-Y! We're going to praise God for the work He has done and continues to do in and through Jenny. We're going to praise God for the fantastic daughter, sister, friend, colleague, teacher/media specialist, author Jenny is. We're going to praise God for the impact her story has had and is going to have on others impacted by disability. And most importantly, we're going to praise God for his faithfulness to carry us through. No matter what. Congratulations, Jenny, on your new book – and thank you for being such a special part of our family. We love you dearly and are blessed to have you in our lives!

P.S. If you'd like to read more about Jenny's book, here are a few articles:
Monticello Times
St. Cloud Times
North Wright County Today

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Uncertain Times

Eight years ago today, I sat 37.5 weeks pregnant in the passenger seat of our minivan as Chad drove us to the hospital. The ride there was pretty much silent, each of us with a million thoughts running through our heads. We'd just driven away from home where Miss Peyton sat staring at us through the front window, waving with Grandma & Grandpa – at just 21 months old, she had no idea what was about to happen. During the car ride to the hospital, my mind was racing with a bazillion questions:

"Were we making the right choice to be induced early?"

"Should we have chosen to wait until 39 weeks and do a c-section?"

"Did we make the right decision, switching doctors just a week earlier as we sought someone who would listen to our concerns that THIS baby would be big, too?"

 "Would this baby end up with a birth injury like his big sister?"

...so many questions.

As we pulled in to the parking lot at the hospital, Chris Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God" came on the radio. Chad parked the car. We both sat there, motionless. Then the tears started rolling down my face as the song reached the chorus:


"How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God"

I couldn't hold it in any longer, all the uncertainty and anxiety after having just had an appointment at Children's Hospital with specialists to try and find out what issues Miss Peyton would struggle with as a result of her birth injury – it all just spilled out. We sat there in the car and melted in to the dreaded "ugly cry". So much to process all at once. And so much uncertainty. I'll never forget that moment.

After we pulled ourselves together, we headed in to the hospital to get checked-in. The rest of the morning was actually quite relaxing...says the woman who, with the first baby, after pushing for nearly 4 hours to deliver a 10lb., 4oz. baby, with nurses running around frantically at the end and jumping up on the bed to help push the baby out, turned to her husband and said, "Huh. That wasn't as bad as I expected". As our doctor came in to visit, he spent plenty of time with us making sure we were comfortable with everything. He popped back in several other times to chat and see how things were going. Finally, about 3:00pm it was time – and Dr. Elias was there with us nearly as excited as we were to meet Baby #2. At 3:22pm Carson James Libby, weighing in at 8lbs. 4 oz. was in my arms, and Chad and I were both marveling at what a completely different experience this delivery had been.




Looking back over the past 8 years, it's truly been incredible to see all that God's done in our family. Carson is growing up to be such a sweet, compassionate boy with a zest for life! We had his conferences at school the other day and his teacher went on and on about what a great kid he is – always willing to help out, always upbeat and smiling, always giving everything his best effort, and always keeping an eye out for classmates who may need "help". This past weekend I sat on the sidelines at the Special Olympics Basketball Tournament and watched as Carson {the "assistant coach"} helped Chad {the "real coach"} coach one of the half-court teams he's been helping at practice each week. I love watching him work with the athletes – he's got such an understanding of how to relate to them...probably because he hasn't known any different since day one living with his sister. But I love it nonetheless.




I'm not gonna lie, I teared up watching him encourage and cheer on the athletes on his team – he ran to center court jumping up and down with excitement as they won their final game, securing first place in their division. He was BEAMING when he got to be in the photo with the team at the awards presentation...and my heart was beaming as I saw this incredible little man standing there on the other side of the camera. I can't imagine life without him, and I'm so thankful God has allowed Chad and I to be his parents! I love being your mommy, sweet Carson!



I've shared with Carson the story about hearing "How Great Is Our God" as we were about to go check-in to the hospital the day he was born, and now when he hears it he smiles and says, "Hey Mom - it's my song!". How great IS our God. Worthy of all our praise. Worthy of all our time and energy. Because He has GREAT things planned for those who love Him, follow Him, and trust Him...even in times of uncertainty. Especially in times of uncertainty.

"No eye has seen, 
no ear has heard, 
and no mind has imagined
the things that God has prepared
for those who love him."
• I Corinthians 2:9 •

Happy birthday, little man! We love you!

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Valentines. Write on. {FREE DOWNLOAD}

Well, it's almost here...the dreaded "V-day". Valentine's Day. This year, rather than complain about how ridiculous and over-commercialized Valentine's Day is, I decided to have some fun with it. Much to my children's dismay, we will not be distributing packets of sugar for their classmates to ingest. Oh no. The paper-junkie-design-nerd-crafty-nutcase-freak in me went hog wild and I came up with a Valentine that's different...and hopefully "mom & teacher-approved"! I'm so in love with these that I might just hand out some of my own {watch out, friends!}.

Okay, so how many of you still have little red heart-shaped suckers in your cupboard from last Valentine's Day? Um. Yeah. That's us {gross, I know}. We've got quart-size ziplock bags of leftover Valentine candy my kids received from classmates last year. Time to toss those...and hope the kids don't notice. I refused to buy something sugary and nasty that would end up in someone's cupboard for a year. So instead, I came up with these:

Dollar store packs of pencils + yarn + custom Valentine designs =


Aren't these FUN!?! Ugh. I can hardly stand it. My kids looked at me like I was asking them to hand out broccoli on Valentine's Day when I showed them. But whatever. They perked up when I told them that THEY would still be getting candy...their friends were the ones who would be receiving these horribly cruel and pathetic Valentine's. The best part about these is that I was able to turn them into an occupational therapy exercise for our daughter as she practiced writing her name on the backside of each tag {first time ever she's been able to!} – and our son also diligently wrote his name on all his tags, too.


So proud of you, Miss Peyton – look at that awesome printing! Years in the making, but TOTALLY worth every second of therapy it's taken to get us to this point – love it! Can't wait to for Peyton to give one of these to each of her therapists, too.

Want to do your own Valentine's this year? Well you're in luck. I'd love to share these with you as a free download if you'd like to do your own "candyless" Valentine's. I've set the tags 12-up on a standard sheet, so all you'll need to do is download the file {see link below}, print these on a standard sheet of cardstock, punch a hole in the corner, have your kids write their names on the back, and *viola!* – tie them on with yarn and you're all set! Enjoy!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - {CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FILE} - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 Please note: These are intended for personal use only and may not be sold or redistributed without permission.




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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anchored in Love

These last few weeks here in Minnesota have left us all longing for some relief...a thread of hope that spring will eventually come and we can leave our homes without wrapping every inch of skin in a mountain of hats, scarves and parkas. Last night as I drove home from dinner out with my in-laws {who are Florida-bound as I'm writing this - no fair!}, I came upon THIS in the street right by our house:


Well hello, snowdrifts.

Get my drift {pun intended}, it's fairly easy to feel overwhelmed or hopeless in this life at times. Maybe it's the season of life you're in {or the weather season!}, maybe it's the loss of a job, maybe it's struggles in your marriage or with your children or a friendship, or maybe it's accepting the reality of having a child with a disability {in my case}. Whatever it is, it's so easy to feel hopeless, buried {no "blizzard" pun intended} in the circumstances of life. It's so easy to let the evil one sneak in, as he tries to steal our joy and convince us that we have no hope...no relief in sight from the troubles and difficulties of this world.


But we DO have hope. Hope in HIM. Even in the midst of whatever circumstances or struggles we're trying to work through. He is right there with us, serving as our anchor in the storm. Lately, I've been so in love with the lyrics of this song:

 

Anchored In Love
I’ve found a sweet haven of sunshine at last
And Jesus abiding above
His dear arms around me are lovingly cast
And sweetly He tells His love

The tempest is o’er
I’m safe evermore
What gladness what rapture is mine
The danger is past
I’m anchored at last
I’m anchored in love Divine

He saw me endangered and lovingly came
To quiet my storm beaten soul
Sweet words He has spoken and bless His dear name
The billows no longer roll

The tempest is o’er
I’m safe evermore
What gladness what rapture is mine
The danger is past
I’m anchored at last
I’m anchored in love Divine

His love shall control me through life and in death
Completely I’ll trust to the end
I’ll praise Him forever and with my last breath
I’ll sing of my soul’s best friend

The tempest is o’er
I’m safe evermore
What gladness what rapture is mine
The danger is past
I’m anchored at last
I’m anchored in love Divine
Let those lyrics sink in for a minute. They're pretty powerful. I remember hearing this song when I was a kid and at that time I didn't really "get it" – I just loved singing the harmony lines with the old June Carter-Cash version {probably why I love Jenny & Tyler's version so much!}. But as I've mentioned before, music has always been the one thing that speaks to me – it hits me at my core. My favorite part of this song is "His love shall control me through life and in death, Completely I'll trust to the end, I'll praise Him forever and with my last breath, I'll sing of my soul's best friend". He loves us unconditionally. He loves us despite our flaws, failures and messiness. He loves us in life and in death. And He's our soul's best friend. I love that. I really do. My soul's best friend.

He's right there with us through the ups and downs, when we feel like we're floating helplessly and hopelessly in the sea of life – unsure what's next. He's our anchor, keeping our "storm beaten soul" safe and secure.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

• Hebrews 6:19 •

I'm thankful today that no matter what storm we're in, we have Hope. A Hope that's firm and secure regardless of what this life may throw at us. Rest in that today.


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