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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