What, you mean I have to wait?

delayed gratification

 

This week is Desta’s school book fair.  Not only do they sell books, there are also trinkets, plastic thing a jigs, pencils, toys and posters.  Yep, an elementary student’s paradise for spending their parent’s money.

Every year this book fair causes so much frustration and tears in our home.  “But Mama, this girl gets to take HER money to school. Why can’t I? I just want one, okay, maybe two, but honestly only three things.” The conversations are endless – the passion to own STUFF is insatiable.

I know my child is not the only one.  I’ve been to the BOOK FAIR and I’ve heard PLENTY of conversations between a parent and child that have ended in tears.  Because kids are not that much different than adults are they?  They see something, they think that something will make them feel better, they WANT that something and they gotta have that something.  Oh sure, the stakes are pretty low when it comes to plastic pen toppers and invisible ink.  Those stakes are so much higher when it comes to adulthood.

In an effort to help Desta learn a bit about delayed gratification and patience, Matt made a deal with her.  Today she must wait until 3:15 when he comes for the conference before she can get her wish list items.  You’d have thought we were suggesting she’d enter a torture chamber.  Wait until 3:15? OH.MY.GOSH

And at that very moment, I was painfully reminded of my own tantrums.  Little does Desta know that when her Daddy shows up, he’s going to get that entire list for her.  He has a plan for AMAZING things for her, gifts that will be abundant and lovely.  However, all she sees is that she cannot buy a gummy bear eraser during the day today.

I’m like that.  I know exactly what I think I need and want.  I have my plans. I KNOW what is best for me right?  So when God says “wait” I throw a fit.  What, you mean I have to be patient? I have to actually rest and wait.

Ah….there is an abundance waiting for me but instead of just sitting and letting God work in his time, I’m so set on my time that I miss the big gift, the blessing.  See, we aren’t that much different from our kids are we?

 

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It’s official….I have a NEW JOB….

hope

 

It’s official!  I’m now an employee of Compassion International as an international trip leader.  Yes, you read that right.  I have the privilege of taking sponsors and church groups to visit Compassion Child Development Centers, meeting families, seeing the difference monthly giving makes, and experiencing the countries where their sponsored children live.  This is truly a dream job for me.

But how did I get here?  Ah….there is a back story – always is right?

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word for the year.  As January rolled around, I had a word in mind but frankly was terrified to declare it out loud.

I had coffee with a friend that month and while sharing, I was moved to tell her the word given to me.

HOPE

As I said it out loud, I knew in my heart that I had to believe that word was for me.

HOPE:  A feeling of trust; a feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen

Last year was hard.  It was filled with lots of doctor and therapist appointments (for Desta and ME!).  It was laden with schedules and busy driving.  Matt and I found ourselves wondering how we could manage it all – and were missing important pieces because the tyranny of the urgent always took precedence.  I entered Christmas with a half-hearted spirit and not much joy.  I was filled with despair and deep disappointment.

So HOPE was the last word I expected to pop in my heart as I began to contemplate 2018.

Since January, HOPE has become not just a word but an actual mentality for me. I’ve found it appearing in my life in so many ways.

My Children:  I have specific burdens and prayers for each of them.  I’ve committed to not only HOPING but writing down my hopes for them, praying that God will channel my heart towards the things he wishes for them.  Just recently I prayed specifically for Desta – that she would see her worthiness and stand up for herself with others.  She advocated for herself at school in a situation that in previous months would have created weeks of anxiety, anger and bitterness.   She is healing.

Around Christmas I was telling Matt how much I wanted and hoped that my international years and non-profit experiences would somehow be used.  I had the privilege of sharing about Africa with elementary students.  I figured that was where these skills would be used.  HOWEVER, bigger plans were in store for me.

This job at Compassion took several weeks of waiting.  I applied and waited. I interviewed and waited. I interviewed again and waited.  On the morning of my last interview, I sat at our dining room table and audibly spoke “God, if this is the job for me AND OUR FAMILY, I’ll know.”

That afternoon while walking the dog, I got a call from Compassion. “We’d like to offer you the job.”

I’m not saying my word for the year is a magic potion or that everything I speak or want will happen.  HOWEVER, I am learning, SLOWLY, that as I speak and write words of HOPE, my desires and dreams begin to align with a bigger story.

I am so excited to begin this journey with Compassion.  This nonprofit has been a part of our lives since we got married almost 20 years ago.  I have seen, FIRSTHAND, the life changes for both our sponsored child AND us.  The letters over years of time, the visits, the pictures, the prayers and the stories – these are the things that have eternal consequences.

 

 

Birthday lesson

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Yesterday was my 42nd birthday.  I woke up around 4:30 and snuck downstairs in the dark.  I had my coffee in one hand and my expectations in the other.  Having observed Desta over the past several years of birthdays, I knew this one would be no different.  I used that dark hour to process how I’d feel if what I wanted for my birthday – recognition and peace – was disrupted.  I had a plan.

As we all know, sometimes the best laid plans often turn awry.

By 6:30 am I was in tears and holed up in our room.  I could not face my youngest and I just wanted to head to work.  Despite my early morning resolve, I could not hold it together.

For those of us with children from hard places and wounded hearts, holidays, particularly birthdays, bring out the worst emotions.  Add in anxiety and ADHD and the circus has just come to town!

I spent the better part of yesterday morning in tears. How could one child create such chaos?  As the day moved on, I started getting texts and calls from dear friends.  They spoke words of life into my soul.  I started believing again that I am not the sum of my daughter’s behavior or words.  I chose to believe that this was my day, a day to celebrate me.

The day did not end well.  There were more words.  I chose to head to bed early, letting go of this day and resolving to begin a new one tomorrow.

As I’ve reflected on yesterday, I have come to realize this.  Ultimately at the end of the day, what I want for my birthday is validation that I am enough and what I do matters.  My dear sweet husband sent out a few SOS texts to friends in my life, asking that they call me and encourage me.  I had started to buy the lie that I didn’t have community, that I didn’t have people who really cared.

I love how CS Lewis describes this loneliness in Screwtape Letters.

Create loneliness in your victim. Make each of them believe they don’t fit in. I don’t care how old or young they are. Make them believe they have no friends and that no one loves them.

Keep their eyes on people around them, because if they can only lose sight of the One who loves them with perfect love, we can pretend we’ve won.

If only it could ever be true.

 

I needed to be reminded that I do have people who are on my side; I have friends who “GET IT” in all ways.  They are living this in the trench life too.  They know the deep hurt the wounded and the wounder both feel.

For those of us with children who look normal on the outside but have currents of pain running through them all the time, we can easily sit in the space of shame and isolation.

It’s humiliating to allow my child to speak that way to me in public (never mind that it’s actually the combination of red dye with medication that is causing the havoc).  It’s lonely to always feel like we need to leave early or just not go because of the potential fallout that will happen if we do show up.  There are moments of deep anger and yes, resentment that I have to once again forfeit something I want for the greater good of the family – and to keep peace (which is often replaced with loud rage and frustration).

Yet, at the end of the day all this mess is the stuff that falls between birth and death – it’s called living.  It’s the living part that makes us who we are.  It’s the mess and the scars and the tears that eventually, if we allow it, make us stronger and compassionate.

So while my 42nd birthdate wasn’t too great, in fact it pretty much sucked for most of the day, this 42nd year is already teaching me lessons that I’m thankful I have a chance to learn.

PS  I realized as I was working on this post that I didn’t take one photo yesterday.  I’ll let another day’s photo represent.

Lessons from THE summer list

Ah…the ol’e blog.  It’s been so long since I’ve sat down and put words to my thoughts.  At least its been a long time since I’ve done it publicly.  There have been pages and pages of emotions spilled in blue and black ink, oozing all over my journals as I’ve processed this summer. Scattered throughout this post are photos of our summer.  Everyone looks happy and content, all appears to be so well!

I started out the summer with such hope.  I had energy and excitement – even made a “Summer List” and posted in on the wall.  It fell down during the night – an unfortunate omen I did not heed.

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We had a plan for everyone – Desta was at camp and then summer school, Tobin was in sports and Caroline was traveling the world.  I had learned my lessons from last summer – I was committed to being “the best flexible” mom this summer. I was going to work in the yard, transform the dirt into beauty.  My garden would feed us all winter long and the deck would FINALLY be pressure washed.  We were going to hike and camp, exploring Colorado as one big happy family.  Every night we’d fish in the nearby reservoir and I’d finally be 100% vigilant with gluten-free living.

Goals are good.  Heck, they are necessary.  However, I overestimated what could be done this summer.

There were so many moments of raging and screaming.  I am actually surprised our neighbors did not call child protective services as it sounded like war happening in our home on a daily basis.  As soon as the screaming commenced, I’d yell “Get the windows” as we frantically sprinted around the house slamming windows shut (thank God for air conditioning!) Camping trips happened and for the most part, were successful.  However, we learned the hard way that while the idea of taking a pogo stick to a campground SEEMS like a good idea, it’s really not – at least not at 5 am in the morning.

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We checked off that dang list.  Yep, we sure did!  But I have to admit that as the summer wore on, I hid the list.  Root beer floats meant hyperactive manic behavior until late at night.  Movie nights resulted in fights about “Not another Disney movie again…” Music nights in the park – was I high when I made this list?  There was no way our family could sit quietly for 5 minutes, let alone a concert with people around!

By July, I was DONE.  DONE with summer, DONE with being fun mom and most definitely DONE with being go with the flow mommy.

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Then one day I got a single text from Caroline.  A friend from camp last year had committed suicide.  I knew this beautiful soul.  I had met her and her family, saw them interact just like our family interacts. This lovely girl had an 8-year-old brother adopted from Ethiopia too.  All of a sudden, my “DONE” turned into deep grief.

How could she end her life?  Why did she end her life?  Her parents – dear God, her parents and brothers – how can you possibly recover from that? For almost 3 weeks I walked around so deeply wounded.  I found myself crying in the car, overwhelmed with such deep sadness for this family

Over the past two weeks, I’ve made some realizations.

  • While the summer list is good and can be fun, I made it so important that I forgot why I wrote it in the first place.  I had wanted to create fun memories with my kids.  That was the goal – not crossing off activities for the sake of completing them.

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  • We never know what life will bring.  Rather than retreating when the raging and anxiety reaches maximum levels, I need to lean in.  Each of us has a unique way of dealing with life.  I can’t flee when I need to be present.

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  • It’s okay to grieve and be sad. I had to sit in that sadness for Gillian and her family. I allowed myself to feel it and it was horrible.  Yet, each time I sat and cried for her family, I prayed for them, putting their deep grief before the throne of God, asking for a miracle…the miracle to continue on.

 

  • Feelings are okay.  While I can’t walk around and declare my wounds to the entire world, I need to be okay with being more vulnerable. We are designed to live in community with others. How can we experience any real emotions if we try to manage them alone?

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I did not make a list for fall fun.  I did not have goals for school.  In fact, I was sick in bed for the first 3 days of school – some weird stomach ailment that made me just STOP in my tracks and rest.  I didn’t write the cute notes, have signs for my kids to hold or even make “back to school” treats.  Instead, I have just shown up.  I sit in the car line and when my kids get in, I’m present. I’m working hard to leave my phone on silent when we are home.  I’m trying my darndest to be present.  While my present isn’t always happy and up beat, it’s authentic and real.

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If we want to bring hope to the world, we need to start at home – the hardest place, in my opinion.

A backpack of healing

This blog is a running commentary of my life, thoughts and revelations that I don’t want to forget.  I’ve found that as our kids get older and busier, if I don’t write down my thoughts, I forget them.

It’s also my hope that perhaps one thing I say is an encouragement to someone – perhaps to simply feel that there is another person in this world who wrestle with the same things they do.

I love my Desta girl.  She has grown so much in the past year.  It’s been a joy to see her develop habits that help her.  It’s not been an easy road.  They have been a lot of potholes and bumps to navigate around and over.  Simple tasks are still a struggle more mornings than not.  Go to responses filled with anger and loud frustration happen often.  I cannot recall a time in my life that I’ve been emotionally and physically exhausted as I’ve been this year.  Brain trauma healing is not for the faint of heart!

However, I’ve been working hard to see her – not the behavior but the real her, the little girl who delights in building houses with Legos for hours.  This little girl who can go through 50 sheets of paper with drawings and writing – she’s the one I am looking at daily.

For the past few months, I’ve noticed Desta get her backpack in order and take it with her.  I honestly didn’t think too much of it – I was happy she had a task to do while we were all preparing to leave.  Then it dawned me while we were in Texas!  Desta had figured out how to manage herself.

20170402_194013093_iOSThis little girl, who for so many years has struggled with self regulation and hangry actions has figured out how to care for herself.  She fills her backpack with toys to play with, drawing materials, and snacks.  She knows EXACTLY what she needs, always including some sort of small stuffed animal.

You guys, this is HUGE. Desta has learned what she needs and she does it.  For those who have regulated brain trauma free kids, this behavior is a given right?  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But for my Desta, this is a monumental step toward healing and independence. She has realized how to cope in this world.

I am hanging onto this one today, celebrating and so very thankful that the hours and hours of therapy, of focused attention at home, of good doctors and medication – all this combined is helping heal my sweet daughter’s heart and brain.

Healing happens.  It takes a lot of time!  We brought our Desta girl home almost 8 years ago!  I am so thankful that for the living example I see every day of my daughter working hard to overcome obstacles.  She has taught me so much about determination, healing and hope.

the underlying lie of social media

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I have a love/hate relationship with social media.  There are so many awesome apps that allow me to post photos and then with a few clicks, produce a hands on photo album. Remember the days of scrap booking ladies?  Oh my — the weekends of cutting, taping, stickering.  I love catching up with other people, hearing how their lives are, seeing their kids.  It’s fun to travel vicariously through friend’s trips.  Social media, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

However, there is this world that is easy to slide into – the world of “I’m not quite there yet.”  We typically don’t post photos of the massive tantrums (unless they are of our cute toddlers) or depression.  We shy away from airing our dirty laundry and instead, filter, crop and post our lives to reflect the world we prefer to believe we live.

As my children grow older, I’m more and more hesitant to blog and post about the realities of life. Right now, the lines are blurred between my world and theirs.  However, their stories are theirs and it’s often not my place to speak them to the entire world.

You’ve all seen my photos on Facebook.  We are smiling, traveling (Florida in March without kids – we’re lucky right?) We are celebrating and living big full wonderful lives. Yet there is an under layer to all those pictures.

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What you don’t see are the erratic emotions of each morning challenge and the wild manic ups and downs of unregulated behavior.  You don’t see the deep fears I fight every single day as my kids head into this jungle of a world.  The worry etched deep in my heart that this will be the day something tragic will happen, this will be the season of great despair.

You don’t witness the petty spats between me and my spouse, often brought on by not enough time together where we aren’t just utterly exhausted or discussing our kids.  Add in the season we are in, sandwiched between kids starting to grow wings to fly and parents who are in the late seasons of their lives.  Sandwiched between wanting to dream our dreams while knowing the effect the decisions we make now will have on so many people.

Social media is incapable of showing true life. Sure, I can take a photo and explain and hashtag it’s depth. However, that simply does not share the true burdens of life.

I have removed Facebook from my phone.  I have made a conscious decision to not get on the computer and  phone so regularly.  Instead, I have my journals and Bible in my car, books by my bed and a meditation app on my phone.

I want to see people the way I want to be seen.  I want to be kind because that’s who I am, not because I should.  I want to be authentic and real about life as a mom to a child who is broken and in pain.  I want to walk this second half of my life with eyes wide open to others. Want to join me?

Craving milk

I’m not going to paint a pretty picture and pretend the last several mornings have been great. Each morning I hold my breath, wondering what I will wake up to – will I be yelled at or just simply ignored? How long will it take to get my child to brush her teeth or put her shoes on?  How much hand holding should I do to get her dressed and take her medicine? It’s been downright draining.

I’m weary and worn.  I’m a taxi cab driver and a meal maker.  So many days I feel like my life has been reduced to the tasks I’m called to do, my roles vs. who I am.

This week at my Moms and Beyond group at church, Patricia, our speaker, shared from 1 peter 2.  I came into the morning so worn down.  It was another hard morning filled with yelling, frustration and not a very good hand off.  I walked into church and wondered how I could possibly be a leader, a mentor when my heart was so very tired.

God is gracious. When we are weary, He steps in if we are willing to listen.  Patricia read this verse and a picture came so clearly into my head.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.      (I Peter 2:2 NIV)

Newborn babies think, dream and long for milk  all the time.  They are constantly wailing for and desiring milk. Their cries are not filled until they are fed.

My mind went to Desta.  In those first few months of her life, I wonder how many times she cried for milk and it didn’t come?  How long did she cry for? How long did she yearn and suffer, wanting to be fed?

When those longings were not fulfilled, they created wounds in her heart and mind, in her brain.  Those scars and wounds are manifested today, with bouts of anger and frustration, with deep heart longings for belonging and love.

See, when the longings are not met, growth is stunted and there is not TRUE life.  Rather, there has to be unlearning and healing.  If only Desta could have had that milk right away, if only someone came right when she called, if only…there are so many if onlys!

It’s the same for me and my soul tending.  If I am unwilling to tend to my soul, read the Bible, hear the words of truth, my growth is stunted.  When I’m regularly reading, I find myself more patient.  I read words of encouragement and hear “I’m worth it.” I’m able to remember that I’m not the sum of my tasks.  I breath longer, sit still and walk slow.

I wish I could undo many of the things done in Desta’s early months of life.  I wish I could have been there from the beginning.  However, the lessons we are both learning together about healing have made us both stronger and better.  I cannot wish away the past but I can learn from it.

As I begin this Lenten season, I’ve taken a moment to pause and be still.  I want to keep growing, to be ever seeking goodness and joy rather than busy and task mastering.