Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Another Year of Learning

 Well, today's the last day of school for our kiddos. While that evokes some sentimental feelings for many of us parents, it also made me stop and reflect back on how much our kids have grown and learned this year. There have been many things academically that our kids have learned over the past school year thanks to the diligent and careful instruction of many awesome teachers. But there have also been many things our kids have learned as a result of slowly maturing and being encouraged both at home and school to look at situations from a variety of angles.

As a parent, I share the same battles I'm sure many of you do with your kids – the constant sassing back, the "attitudes", the self-centered behaviors, the verbal jabs, all the things that come with our kids being young and thinking they know everything...and most certainly exempt from needing mom and dad to correct them on anything. Honestly, more days than not, I find myself shaking my head, wondering if I'm doing anything right as a parent. Then every once in a while, I see glimmers of hope and reassurance that all of my praying, nagging, and reinforcing might be sinking in a little bit.

Last night we'd tucked the kids in and about 20 minutes later, I heard little feet sneaking down the stairs to my office where I was doing some work. I sighed thinking, "Seriously, just GO TO BED!", slightly annoyed because I wanted to finish what I was working on without interruption. But I took a deep breath and turned away from my computer to see what Carson needed. I had sort of rushed bedtime because the kids had been up late the past couple nights and I wanted them to get to sleep at a decent time, and in my haste, I skirted around our usual "quiet time" where Carson and I lay in the dark for a few minutes and he whispers things to me about his day.

He had this very intense, excited, half-smile look on his face – it was obvious he needed to talk. I asked him what was up and he says:

"I just needed to tell someone about this or else I think I'm gonna EXPLODE! Well, remember when I told you about that girl K at school who acts kind of different sometimes? Today when we had our kickball tournament at school, K kicked the ball right to me and when I saw it was her, I remembered when we'd talked and you said she acts different and sometimes gets extra help because she was a foster kid who didn't have a family for a while and she has had a pretty hard life without a family until 3rd grade. So when she kicked the ball to me, I pretended like I fumbled the ball and took extra time to throw the ball so she wouldn't get out. I just wanted her to get on base and she was SO happy when she did! She was jumping up and down, and I was trying to act frustrated like I had really tried my best to get her."

Then he flung his arms around my neck, hugged me and said, "I was just so happy to see her smile and do good!".

I had tears welling up in my eyes as I told him how proud I was of him for thinking about how to help make K feel successful and happy without making a big deal about it. We talked for a bit more about how our actions will always show others more about our hearts than words will. He said a couple other boys gave him a hard time for not getting K out, but he said, "I told them it wasn't a big deal and we were just having fun – and K deserved to have fun, too".

As I was thinking more about this, I was reflecting on how refreshing it is to see kids today who have parents working so hard to mold and shape them into honorable individuals of integrity and character who show acts of kindness even if it's not necessarily the "popular" thing to do. We've been blessed with many kids like this who our family has come to know and love, and when I see them treat others lovingly with respect, I always try to let their parents know how much I appreciate that and how it's impacted me. Some specific examples that come to mind over the course of this past school year that have warmed my heart to witness (pertaining to Peyton):

• Being approached by a lovely girl Peyton has known since daycare and having her ask if she could attend our weekly Special Olympics practices to be a "helper" with Peyton and other athletes. {Thank you, Alaina!}

• Seeing our sweet neighbor boys agree to sit in the front seat with Peyton on the bus per her request...even though their buddies were calling them to their usual seats further back on the bus. {Thank you, Isaac & Colin!}

• Seeing another darling neighbor friend gladly accept Peyton's invitation to come over and play...even though that basically meant her sitting and watching Peyton sort through the ever-growing collection of Hot Wheels cars. {Thank you, Julia!}

• Hearing from Peyton how a boy who is friends with both Peyton and Carson takes the time to chat and play with Peyton at school...even though he could chose to go run around with some of the "cooler" kids. {Thank you, Jake!}

I could go on and on with other examples from this past school year, but my point is this – as another school year comes to a close, I want to thank parents and school staff for encouraging kids to be conscientious of others needs and feelings. Don't miss opportunities to celebrate non-academic things our kids are learning because, in all honesty–in the grand scheme of things, they're even more important than a standardized test score or a grade {although those are obviously important as well}. Our society tends to have such an ego-centric focus, and learning to put others needs before your own is most definitely not the "popular" thing to do, BUT it makes such a difference in the lives of the individual(s) who are on the receiving end of that kindness...and you just never know how one simple act might impact that person or their family...or how it may influence others watching. Keep up the great work moms, dads and school staff, enjoy the summer, and be intentional in seeking out ways to appreciate and serve others so our kids have opportunities to experience what it does for the soul when you love on people. It's pretty amazing...and can be world-changing. Cheers to another great year of learning!

"Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."

 - 1 John 3:18


Friday, May 15, 2015

Seeing His Glory

Well hello, friends. It's been a while. Too long of a while, actually. I've had great intentions and then that pesky thing people call "extra time" eludes me. But I was so struck by something this past Mother's Day weekend that I decided I needed to MAKE time to sit down and write about it.

The months of April and May have always been a bit emotional for me ever since Miss Peyton was born. Her original due date was April 24, 2004...four days after my birthday. I remember being so excited about the possibility of us sharing a birthday. But instead, she was born on May 8, 2004. Huge. With a birth injury to boot. I remember spending my first Mother's Day in the hospital, with some people bringing by flowers and all the nurses oohing and aahing about how special it was to have become a new mom just hours before MOTHER'S DAY. Peyton was a pretty special gift.

As the years have gone on and we've learned more and more how her birth injury is still affecting her {and most likely will for the rest of her life}, I've found myself running through so many different emotions as we enter the month of April. I flashback to my OB visits and expressing concern at each one about having a large baby (due to family history). I've been hard on myself looking back, thinking in my mind, "If only I'd been more insistent or assertive with the doctor...", or, "Why didn't I better educate myself? Maybe I could've prevented this from happening to Peyton...". So many things swirl around my head leading up to her actual birthday. I've never shared this with anyone before, but the eve before her birthday, I find myself restless, waking to look at the clock and rewinding to what I could've done differently in the delivery room as the hours slowly ticked by during her delivery...why wasn't that a clue to me that something was wrong? And why didn't I have enough sense to DEMAND better for myself and for Peyton? This year, on the eve of Peyton's birthday she got up to use the bathroom in the night and as I tucked her back in, I happened to glance at the clock. It was 1:23am...the exact time she was born. And I lost it. I sat on the floor in the hallway sobbing until I was finally able to gather myself up and return to bed.

Needless to say, I've carried a lot of "mom guilt" around with me for many years. And in my head and heart, I KNOW that I was a first time mom who trusted a trained medical professional. I KNOW there was really nothing else I could've done given my inexperience as a first-time-mom-to-be. And I KNOW that God allowed our circumstances to happen for a reason. Even if some days it rips my heart out seeing Peyton struggle.

Last Sunday we were at our cabin church {Crossroads Christian Church} for Mother's Day. And just a little sidebar here, I am so very thankful God led us to this little church tucked away out in the middle of no-where western Wisconsin. They've really helped get us through some tough stuff since we started to attend there on the weekends we head "up north". We're beyond grateful for this quaint congregation and it's been exciting to see God using them! Anyway, Pastor Tryg has been preaching through the Beattitudes and he started out by apologizing that this Sunday's passage happened to be on the topic of "Mourning"...not exactly what you think of when you think of Mother's Day. As he began his sermon, he said, "Hopefully there's at least one person here who needs to hear this, though". Throughout his sermon, he apologized for the seemingly heavy topic that was being covered. But I've gotta tell ya, as I sat and listened, it was as if a light bulb turned on for me and a heavy weight was lifted. He talked about how God sometimes allows things to happen in our lives that we can't understand or that don't make sense...and we mourn. But it's in those times, when we're spiritually broken that God meets us where we're at and works in us. I felt like standing up on my chair and yelling "AMEN!!!" when he said that. But being the good 'lil reserved baptist girl I was raised to be, I sat silently in my chair {in my defense, I was sitting in the FRONT row...out of character for us "back-row baptists"}.

Over the years, I've felt as though I've been mourning as a mom. Mourning all the "typical" things Peyton will never experience or be able to do. Mourning how others view Peyton. Mourning the friendships she'll never have. Mourning all that could've been for Peyton. And the older she gets, the mourning has gotten less intense, but it's still there, kind of like a dull, nagging headache...only in my heart. Some days it hits me much harder than others.

Back to the sermon, a few minutes later Pastor Tryg read a verse that I'd heard before, but never considered in the context of my/our situation. He read I Peter 4:12...and I read on through verse 13:

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

I've lived my whole life doing what was right. And I have often reflected on what a boring testimony I have...I grew up in the church with a great family, always obeyed the rules, stayed on-track through high school and college, was involved with Christian organizations throughout college, married a Christian man and have been actively involved in supporting not only the local church(es) we've been a part of, but also many other Christian ministries around the globe. At a very young age I recognized that I was broken and the only thing that could make me whole was the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I've never fallen "off the path". God has been good to me. Yet sometimes I hear others share their testimonies of going off the "deep end", so far from knowing God, then through unimaginable circumstances, they found the Lord and their lives have never been the same. In the past, hearing those types of testimonies has made me feel like a pretty boring Christian...kind of like the "tortoise" in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady, walking this Christian life.

So why would God allow something like this to happen to Peyton and to our family? WHY? Well this verse finally made everything make sense. Although I've been mourning for many years, I am starting to realize that we're now in the phase of seeing "His glory revealed" through Peyton. I'm sure people get tired of hearing me share stuff about her, but honestly you guys, we are seeing things happen through her that we never would've considered a possibility or never would've had the opportunity to be a part of if it weren't for her...and her birth injury. God wasn't surprised when Peyton suffered her birth injury. We may have been thrown for a loop, but God most certainly wasn't surprised.

More and more lately, our eyes are being opened to all that we would've missed out on if it weren't for her. Do you have any idea how many people she's invited to church or prayed for? Do you have any idea how many people our family has been loved and supported by because of her? Do you have any idea how many people have felt a sense of accomplishment/inspiration and purpose because of working/interacting with her? Do you have any idea how many kids have finally found a friend who will love unconditionally because of her? Do you have any idea how many other special needs families we've had the privilege of meeting and walking alongside because of her?

Seriously, God is working. And His glorious plan is being unveiled. I'm confident of that.

Another verse that struck me in Pastor Tryg's sermon was Romans 12:15. This one made me tear up:

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

I can't tell you what joy there is in being able to rejoice with other families who have encountered similar circumstances as us. And also, to mourn with them on their difficult days. There is no greater feeling of loneliness than trying to walk this special needs journey alone, let me tell ya. While friends with typical kids pour their heart and soul into trying to understand what we're experiencing, only those with a special needs child of their own know the true heartache as we see our kids struggle...and the monumental excitement when our kids accomplish even the most miniscule things. There have been many tears shed in the local coffee shop, sitting and sharing obstacles and accomplishments with other moms I've connected with through Peyton...this is Romans 12:15 in action!

Thinking back on these past 11 years since Peyton was born, it's struck me how different our life would be today if she'd been born without her birth injury. And yes, part of me {selfishly} goes right to the insane amount of money we've spent on appointments with a wide-range of specialists over the years, the on-going therapy appointments, the special equipment Peyton needed early on, and all the time we've invested sitting in waiting rooms. But then I sit and think of all the incredible people we have met, all the amazing friendships that have been established, and all the people who feel valued and loved...because of Peyton. Well that right there is about enough to make me burst into the dreaded ugly cry

While "mourning" on Mother's Day isn't what you typically picture or imagine, sometimes we need to mourn in order to see what God is truly doing through whatever circumstances He's placed in our lives. Like me, it could take years to get to the point where your mourning is replaced with thanksgiving and a sense of overwhelming gratitude for all God's done in your life. But if we seek Him and trust that through everything, His plan is at work, we'll eventually see His glory revealed. And I have a feeling we'll be seeing that glory revealed for many years to come with Miss Peyton. 

God is good. All the time. And it's through our mourning, He reveals His glory. Remember that.