election friday five

Friday, October 26, 2012

I don’t plan to delve into politics too often (or ever, really) in this space. I come from a tradition of principled disengagement with the political process, and I have mixed feelings about how I, as a follower of Christ, can fully engage with a clear conscience. I do vote, I will vote, but I don’t always vote for every single thing or every single office. I have opinions, but none that are set in stone. I am not nor will I ever be a member of any political party. So with that being as clear as mud, here are five things election-related to check out.

P.S. Living in a swing state is its own special kind of hell. I might enjoy politics more if I didn’t live where I happen to live. Praise Jesus if you live somewhere where your vote doesn’t count as much.

1) How I Got Asked to Pray After the First Lady - Jena Nardella for Storyline Blog: “I walked up to the podium and felt the most amazing sense of peace and confidence in what I was supposed to pray…I meant every word and have been encouraged by the thousands of you who prayed alongside of me. May justice and mercy trump partisanship in our lives..”

2) The Election: Thoughts from a Christian Independent - Jen Hatmaker: “No president can take the Kingdom out of our hearts. No candidate can steal what Jesus has already won. As the Kingdom came, so will it continue – not through Empire but through radical, subversive faith. It cannot be shaken, it cannot be removed.”

3) Thou Shalt Follow These 10 Commandments of the Presidential Election. - Eugene Cho: “May our love for politics, ideology, philosophy, or even theology, never supersede our love for God and neighbor – including neighbors who don’t share our politics. Amen. Amen. Amen.”

4) Election Day Communion: “But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let’s again choose differently. But this time, let’s do it together. Let’s meet at the same table, with the same host, to remember the same things. We’ll remember that real power in this world — the power to save, to transform, to change — ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests but in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.”

5) And just because I love you:

 

we’re still expecting hope

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yesterday, I experienced another first in our foster parenting experience: a ‘Family Stability Team’ meeting. The goal of FSTs is to determine whether the agency will file for temporary custody of children. If the police are not involved when a child is removed due to abuse or neglect, that means that the decision has been made by the agency in one of these meetings. (Just an explanatory note: there’s also another type of team called a ‘Crisis Response Team’ that also makes these decisions. I’m really uncertain why a case would go to one team versus another, except I think it might have to do with an emergency removal versus a planned removal)

I really had no idea what to expect when I walked in that room. An uneasy participant in the proceedings about to occur, I chose the chairs lining the wall instead of taking a seat at the table like I would normally do at team meetings. There were probably a dozen people in the room, representatives from mental health agencies, substance abuse agencies, CASA, Children’s Services…I think I’m missing a couple, but basically all of the major social service agencies in the county were represented.

This meeting was the real deal. The final decisions get approved in court, but the judge is unlikely to disagree with the recommendations of this team. I was struck with just the sheer burden that these men and women face. To plan to remove a child from their family of origin and place them in foster care isn’t a decision that can be taken lightly. The questioning involved was intrusive and painful, but necessary to determine whether or not a child is safe in his or her current living environment. With very few exceptions (at least from my perspective), the parents were treated with respect, with kindness, with as much deference as the situation would allow.

There are lots of emotions when you are foster parents, but in my experience, the occasions that elicit pure grief are few. Any feelings of grief are usually complicated by anger or frustration or even relief, but that moment yesterday, in that conference room? It was just grief. No one wants to see a child taken from her mother. No one wants to relegate a dad’s playtime with his son to four hours a week. No one wants to be in such a demeaning position as to have a room full of strangers assess you, your lifestyle, your parenting. No one wants the future of their family held in the hands of the state.

No matter how valid the reasons, it is a devastating experience to hear a room full of people one after the other, with a couple exceptions, recommend that children be removed from their families and put in the care of the state. The devastation of oppressive poverty, the consequences of poor choices, the unfairness of being taken advantage of when people are already down and out, the murky waters of mental health, and it’s the children who continue to suffer. Even if foster care is the best place, it is still trauma. It is still a terrible injustice to these little children.

So I sat there, wishing I could go around the table and just offer a hug. Wanting to pass tissues to dry tears, to hold hands to impart strength, to say all the things in my heart for this woman whom I now care for deeply because I love her son. I didn’t. I didn’t say the things I wanted to say. Maybe I should have. Being unfamiliar with the situation relegated me to a more observatory position than I typically would take. I’ve been wishing I could have some of that time back. Wishing I could’ve said a few more items of praise. Wishing I could just somehow change the whole situation for good. I know that what I said wouldn’t have made a difference, but at least I could’ve spoken up. Spoken for the mama who this precious boy in our home loves so deeply.

I came home with the weight of brokenness sitting heavy on my heart. A day later, it hasn’t yet lifted. So I hug our Baby D extra tight, snuggle him in close, and pray blessings over his little life, future still so uncertain. Smoothing his hair, rubbing his back, kissing his head, these are the tangible offerings I have for him even though I know they’re not enough to overcome what’s happening to him right now. He’s safe. He’s loved. But he’s still suffering. I believe in what we’re doing with all my soul, but this is not how it should be.

He’s not ‘lucky’ he’s with us. He’s not ‘fortunate’ to have been placed in our home. Nothing about this situation is lucky. Nothing about what’s happened to this sweet boy is fortunate. He’s sad. He’s traumatized. His family is broken, and he knows it. He will bear the scars from this the rest of his life.

We’re not doing ‘noble’ work. Nothing about this situation is noble. It’s messy and ugly and painful and sacrificial, and we do it because the children deserve every single bit of us. We pour ourselves out in love, not in misplaced piety. Far from offering a hand-out or a judgmental eye, we more often than not find ourselves side by side with the broken, with the needy. We’re living life alongside them. We’re crying with them, praying with them, taking them into our homes.

It’s not as easy as putting together a Christmas basket or serving a Thanksgiving meal. It’s not as satisfying as paying someone’s electric bill while they’re having a hard month. It’s not as simple as striking up a brief, meaningful conversation with someone you meet at a store or a park. (Nothing wrong with any of those things; we’ve done all of them.) It’s down and dirty, everyday, sacrificial work, even when I’d rather forget about it and try to live our happy little holiday party lives. I can’t do this stuff and go back to my regularly scheduled programming without my own life, my own family, my own home being affected.

Like it or not, we’re in the middle of the mess. Our kids are in the middle of the mess. This isn’t something we go and do on the weekends or holidays. It’s not a special church service event. It’s our lives. It’s daily. It’s unrelenting. It’s heart-wrenching.

And yet…we still expect hope. It’s because this is all worth it no matter how it turns out. The kids we bring into our home and love, whether for a time or forever, are worth it. The families we meet, share life with, share kids with, learn to love in the complicated middle of it, are worth it.

We expect hope will rise from even this pit, shining, lifting, pulling us through, keeping our eyes on the prize. In the end, the why and what and how of it is all about love – and for those of you who maybe haven’t read the ending yet (spoiler alert): love wins.

queasy parenting and still…gifts

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Parenting a house full of sick children isn’t fun. Then, when you get sick yourself, and your husband is feeling sketchy as well, it’s even more not-fun. Did I mention that one of our two bathrooms has been essentially out of commission for a few days? The worst part about a large family is that even when the stomach virus has already hit four of you, you can’t feel relieved because you're only halfway done. Hopefully my big kids will avoid the heavy-duty sickness since this is Trick-or-Treat week and school costume parade week and Girl Scouts costume party week. Oh, the aching disappointment of having to miss a school party.

Even in the midst, I can count gifts:

  • teamwork to clean up the baby’s crib after a middle-of-the-night vomiting spell
  • the resources to make an immediate purchase when we desperately need a carpet cleaner to remove the traces of the stomach bug from our living room
  • cuddly sick babies
  • wiping the cold sweat off of a brown-skinned brow
  • holding her for hours while she retches
  • a husband who knows how to check vitals when we’re not getting good responses
  • a day with him at home – even with both of us not feeling well, we can still get things done
  • chicken and noodles
  • saltine crackers
  • Sprite
  • a handy husband to fix a broken toilet (p.s. plastic airplanes don’t go down the drain)
  • helpful big kids
  • Strawberry Shortcake, PBS kids, and all the other television that keeps the kids semi-occupied so we can rest
  • Lysol
  • hot tea
  • afternoon naps

All of this, and I’m thankful.

music for your saturday

Saturday, October 20, 2012

friday five

Friday, October 19, 2012

1) Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Thus shall it be. Amen.

2) Nitrous Oxide
I’m in the middle of getting a tooth crowned, and today I had a two surface filling put in the other side. Translation: I’ve been seeing my dentist quite a bit. I used to be able to go the dentist with freedom and without a care. No longer. I get so tense the assistant rubs my arm and says, ‘It’s ok, honey.’ annnd…that’s why I now get the gas. Goodbye crippling anxiety.

3) Sciatic nerve pain
This is no joke. Apparently just walking or running on the treadmill can cause this. Apart from making me feel really old, it also makes it hard to walk and function. Thank goodness for Aleve. (It occurs to me as I type this that perhaps I’m dwelling on medical substances too much. You can just call this “friday five: the drug edition”) In related news, I love my chiropractor.

4) Song Pop
Why can’t I stop playing this game?? Why am I so bad at Modern Country?

5) My son has his first serious crush. It’s adorable. He’s on the news team at school, and in the mornings they draw the ‘hot ticket’ winners. (The schools’ version of positive behavior rewards). He drew her name. THRILLING. And then he kept that ratty, frayed little raffle ticket with her name on it in his pocket all day. When he got home, I said, “how was your day?” He says, “Better than most” and pulls out that limp ticket with his grubby 5th grade fingers. Like I said, ADORABLE.
P.S. Don’t tell him I told you.

 

What random bullet points do you have to share with me today? Share em below.

autoimmune, part 3

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The last-for-now installment of my journey through a chronic autoimmune disease…here you can find part 1 and part 2.

 

…Every day for the rest of my life, I will take a pill, sometimes two, depending on the current dose I need to keep functioning. There’s a humble grief in that. My disease is not particularly life-threatening in the physical sense. The cardiac issues were scary, but there’s much less danger now that I’m hypothyroid. It steals the life straight out of me just the same. When my thyroid isn’t functioning up to speed, my hair and my fingernails stop growing, my skin dries up, my digestive system stops working, my brain doesn’t function normally. Sometimes I think this must be what it’s like when you know your body is shutting down and preparing for physical death, only in my case it occurs in slow motion.

I was too sick for a long time to process through all of this. I’ve only recently begun to grieve the losses a chronic illness brings in my life. I’ve had plenty of medical ‘issues’ in my life, this just felt like one more for a long time. A permanent dependency on medication, a disease that drastically affects my mental state, years of my children’s lives that I barely remember. The thought that I will never be the healthy adult that I imagined I would be. Those are losses. They are real. They are worth grieving. My life has forever changed.

I still battle pride. Admission of weakness, acknowledging need: those come easy in the trusted embrace of a loved one, but much harder when in the presence of ‘others’. The humility of being bound to a medication for the rest of my life still stings. Surrender doesn’t come easily to me, and this is just one more area where I’m being forced to learn it daily.

I now battle fear. I have hideous nightmares about losing all of my hair. I check the bathroom mirror in the middle of the night, making sure my nightmare wasn’t real. I fear the future. I know that once you have one autoimmune disease, you are much more likely to develop another, so I fear any new symptom or health issue. Pain in my hip? I hope it’s not rheumatoid arthritis. Or maybe it’s the beginnings of multiple sclerosis. It’s just always at the back of my mind.

I still battle an immense amount of guilt over these years. I feel guilty about our finances. I know medical bills are expensive – we have thousands in medical debt. I feel guilty that part of the reason my husband works so hard, works two jobs is because of my health. I feel guilt over the snarky almost-anger that rises up deep in me when I see all the fundraisers for various, more understandable illnesses that it’s so PC to raise money for.

I feel guilty for the burden my husband carried all on his own all of those years. I feel guilty that he did his job and mine too. I feel guilty that my anxiety caused him to miss family events. I feel guilty for making him the brunt of my hugely fluctuating emotions – the depression, the anxiety, the anger, the fear.

I feel guilt and regret and if I’m truly honest, shame, over how I parented (or didn’t parent) my children during those years. All the hours of TV. Will what they remember of me be how much I slept on the couch? I didn’t make them enough cookies. I didn’t play with them enough. I abdicated almost all of my role to Nick Jr. and Wendell. I wish I had been more honest about what life was like for me during the day. I wish I had not allowed Wendell to bear so much of the load.

Shame is the most insidious of emotions. I feel shame that I didn’t deal with this better. What about all those women out there with truly life threatening diseases that have severe pain and just soldier on? I didn’t even have severe pain. I feel shame that I wasn’t woman enough. That I wasn’t selfless enough to suck it up for “the sake of the family”. Was I even Christian enough? Did I choose joy in the face of difficulty? Did I just fall into a pit of self-pity? Why wasn’t I good enough, strong enough, graceful enough, joyful enough…

I choose not to stay in those places anymore. Even as I still battle this illness. It’s not as intense as it was at first, but it’s still a continual war. I get my blood drawn fairly regularly. I haven’t ever been on the same dose for more than six months at a time. This summer brought one of the worst times I’ve had since the beginning. My hormone levels were significantly off. I knew it but didn’t want to admit it. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening. When I finally went in, it was too late for a quick fix. Now, almost two months later, I can feel myself finally beginning to feel a little more normal.

This isn’t all over, but I’m living beyond it. I’m better at choosing joy. The rest of my life has taught me a lot about dealing with uncertainty, grief, joy, and pain all intertwined together. I counted steadily to 1000 gifts (and more). I’m learning to see the beauty in the mess. I’ve seen redemption in the hearts of my children. I am being healed. I keep watch with my words over this life that I’m living. I am living a better story.

 

 

As I watch and wait with my sweet friend who is battling her own chronic illness, I continue to pray for a miraculous healing that I never received and a remission that I never experienced because I believe that my God is big enough to do just that. She’s a wife, a mama to the sweetest one-year-old little girl, and she is one of the purest pictures of redemption that you’ll ever meet. She is just beginning to learn about this life that she would never have chosen. God may not perform a miraculous healing in her life, but I know His miracles don’t always come in the way we expect. I pray for her courage and resolve. I pray for her husband and daughter. I pray for pain alleviated, for joy experienced, for strength renewed. I pray grace, overflowing, relentless, and amazing. Join me in interceding for her? Will you please?

autoimmune, part 2

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This week, I’m chronicling some of my battle with a chronic illness. You can catch part 1 here, where I explain a little bit of why I’m writing this and why it may not seem as congruous as it should.

…The first thing that had to be done was attempt to manage most of the symptoms with medication. Actually, the first thing they wanted to do was permanently treat the disease – meaning they would give me a radioactive iodine that would kill off (ideally) enough of the thyroid that it would function normally. I was resistant to a permanent option; I had read about remission, and I was determined that was how things were going to work for me. So we did ‘maintenance’ meds. Meds to regulate my heart rate, meds to regulate my thyroid, meds to reduce my anxiety, a couple of other medications that I can’t for the life of me remember.

I spent most of that first year on the couch. Literally. Lying on the couch for hours on end. The fatigue was debilitating. I got up late (thankfully I had some late sleepers at that point), got the kids dressed and fed, then laid on the couch. Turned on the TV, Nick Jr. and PBS all morning long, the toddler tucked into the crook of my legs so that I could sleep and still know if she got down from the couch. Ben learned early on how to get himself and Maggie breakfast and snacks when I couldn’t get up.

When my husband came home, I was still lying down. He cleaned, he took care of children, he cooked. He went to work. He got little sleep. He picked up all the slack when I had nothing to give. It was overwhelming and exhausting for him. He made our family function when it was on the edge of falling completely apart. I wish we had been more honest about this part of our lives. I just felt like there wasn’t anything anybody could do for me. I was embarrassed that we needed help. I was ashamed that I couldn’t get off the couch. All of those things were true. The thing I was forgetting: the help wouldn’t have been for me. It would’ve been for him. But we didn’t ask. He did everything, and he didn’t complain about how hard it was.

Anxiety ran high. If I dug my fingernails into my palms, again and again and again, I didn’t feel so out of control. I didn’t have any desire to self-harm, but I did develop a new understanding for people who do. It’s just that small part of your life that you can control. I remember my dad driving me to my first endocrinologist appointment, and all I could do all the way there was clench and unclench my fists over and over again.

I took meds. Three times a day, four times a day, pill after pill after pill. Calm my racing heart, calm my frazzled nerves. Anti-thyroid medications, beta blockers, anti-anxiety meds, herbs to help combat depression, vitamins, fish oil, I tried so many different things in a desperate attempt to ‘naturally’ manage this whole thing.

When they told me they would prefer I not get pregnant, I asked them for the meds that would be safest just in case. Not quite ready to say no more, yet ready enough to not fight against it too hard. After a certain point, I was just too sick to care. I’m sure part of the reason they allowed me the fantasy is because they knew I was unlikely to get pregnant while I was so sick anyway. I wasn’t that fertile even when I was healthy, we had already talked about adoption for the rest of our family, but something about being told you ‘shouldn’t’ do something makes you reluctant to agree.

I had my blood drawn. And drawn again and drawn again. Measuring thyroid hormones, measuring liver function and blood count (the meds make you more susceptible to liver failure and low white blood cells, increasing risk of infections), attempting to make sure that my body was working as well as it could under the circumstances. I had been queasy around needles, but after close to three years of blood work every 4-6 weeks makes you a little more at ease. I took my kids to the lab with me; they became intimately familiar with the smell of alcohol, the sight of needles, and watching blood pour from their mother’s arm.

When my hair turned greasy, fell out by the handful, when I could see the thinning spots on my scalp and the bald spots on my eyebrows, I just colored it in with pencil and tried to wash my hair as often as possible.

When the thought of going to a reunion for the weekend, packing, socializing, travelling reduced me to a crying, out of control wreck of anxiety, my husband called his family last minute and told them we couldn’t come.

I didn’t get to reap the more popular side effects of Grave’s. Increased energy? Try everlasting exhaustion combined with constant insomnia. Weight loss? The opposite. Grave’s causes increased appetite, and my metabolism didn’t kick into high gear like it typically does with hyperthyroidism.

I battled depression, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, intestinal difficulties, and acne. I got hives with regularity. Extreme sensitivity to heat. Infrequent menstrual cycles. Non-existent libido. Unexplained rashes. Difficulty with focused thinking. Poor memory. Dozens of tiny symptoms, most of them not at all bad on their own, but dealing with thing after thing after thing wears a person down.

Praying for healing, praying for remission, praying for relief became part of my daily schedule. I desperately clung to medication that merely attempted to manage symptoms, knowing there was a more permanent course of action to take, yet unwilling to go there for more than a year.

I finally decided to do the treatment that would kill off my overactive thyroid. Even then I pushed, asked for a significantly smaller dose of radiation than the doctor recommended. I decided I’d rather do it twice than to overshoot it the first time. I knew what killing off too much would mean: hypothyroidism, making me dependent on medication for the rest of my life.

Ironically, even that bit of control I pushed for was taken away from me. The smaller dose killed off a huge part of my thyroid. It would be months before we finally increased the dose of artificial thyroid hormone enough to make up for what my thyroid was no longer producing. I ended up being on one of the highest doses of Synthroid my endocrinologist had ever prescribed.

 

This post only begins to touch on the day-to-day of living with a chronic illness, and the emotional and mental processing of all of this is yet to come…back tomorrow.

autoimmune, part 1

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

No surprise to my husband, I am rarely at a loss for words. There are few things in my life that render me speechless. Even the Very Hard Things tend to get processed with language, the cathartic sound and flow of a sentence brings solace, brings healing. Given that, the block that has been plaguing my writing for the past couple weeks has come unexpectedly. This part of my life that I’ve been working through never seemed like that big of a thing, definitely not something that would render me without the ability to process aloud (or in print). The next couple posts are likely to be a bit different. I finally began to write on Saturday, but things are choppy, not as smooth as I prefer, and even today, I find myself unable to really edit them.

My sweet friend was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s funny how walking with someone as they go through something can bring back your own journey through an extremely similar time. I think part of the difficulty in writing this all out is just recognizing how much of this part of my life I had not yet dealt with. I just did what I had to do, the next thing, making it through until the next change, without taking the time or having the ability to process. So, over the past couple weeks, that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s been more painful than I expected, but freeing in a way that I didn’t anticipate either…

 

The thing that clued me in that something wasn’t right was when someone else remarked on my shaking hands. Of course, I had noticed the shakiness, but for someone else to see it gave me pause. At first I just assumed it was too much caffeine, as if I had finally started to be truly affected by the amount of coffee I was consuming. My hands shook all the time. I couldn’t hold a pen still enough to even sign my name correctly. I have looked back at a bit of writing I did during that time, and my handwriting had become nearly illegible, even to me. A couple weeks off caffeine and no cessation in symptoms, I was ready for something different. At my doctor’s visit, she watched my hands tremor, felt my pulse racing, and immediately felt my neck (hello, unattractive goiter) and said, “I think it’s your thyroid.”

Hundreds of dollars in lab tests plus an ultrasound and a visit to the endocrinologist (the first one, whom I hated) later, and I had a diagnosis of Grave’s Disease. This began a lengthy journey towards learning to manage my body and an autoimmune disease.

I remember learning the facts. Grave’s Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism. Most people are familiar with the thyroid as the gland that controls metabolism. The thyroid does way more than that, and trust me, you notice when it’s not working appropriately. Grave’s is associated with several other autoimmune disorders, one of them rheumatoid arthritis, and once you have one, you are more susceptible to others as well. The symptoms are myriad and varied, more on that later. The thing about a disease affecting a hormone producing part of your body, however, is that the mental and emotional symptoms are often just as bad, if not worse, than the physical ones.

Fair warning for the rest of this series, I don’t remember nearly enough of these years. Bits and pieces, here and there. If you asked me to provide a chronology of my disease, there’s no possible way I could tell you. Even still, I rely on my husband for many of the details. I wish I had been a good note-taker at that point in my life – I wish I had known that I should be taking notes, marking the memories of happenings that I recall only through a thick haze.

Working through the haze tomorrow…see you then.

sunday [23]

Sunday, October 14, 2012

compassion quote

farther along

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Around here, it’s been Josh Garrels on repeat all week long:

cryin’

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It’s been quiet here this week. I’m processing through some things, and it happens to be more in my head than on the page at this point. A little unusual for me, I know.

Unfortunately, the blog silence does not equal silence in my home. Baby D has been crying for two whole days. There are brief periods of reprieve, mostly when we’re driving, but he’s not napping, he’s not playing, he’s just crying, crying, crying. Oh, and screaming. Did I mention the solid hour he screamed with rage yesterday? A literal hour. The constancy of it is really about to drive me insane. I wish I were exaggerating, but today, I really almost started to lose it. Something about the pitch and incessancy is just worming its way into my brain and causing some misfires.

I wish I knew what was going on. Maybe it’s grief. Maybe it’s just anger. It is definitely not his pain/hurt/sad cry, so I don’t think he’s sick. I just spend most of my day feeling like he hates me. It doesn’t help that when Wendell comes in, it’s all smiles and hold me and glare at Mama time.

In the meantime, I’ve drunk gallons of hot tea, played Song Pop way too often, and watched mindless TV attempting to relax, relax, relax. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in self-talk: Let it go. Make smart choices. I am more than my feelings. I am more than my circumstances. It’s not working as well as I’d like.

In spite of how I feel, I’ll continue to swallow back my frustration and try to parent and love him the best way I can. Hope that I can continue to worm my way into his little heart. I really thought we were making some strides since visits have slowed down; hopefully this is just a glitch in our progress. In the meantime, I’m just praying for clarity and focus and compassion. Oh, and that Baby D stops crying.

five links for your weekend

Friday, October 5, 2012

If you find yourself with some extra time this weekend, you won’t go wrong to click through to these brilliant writers…

1) This one is older, but oh so timely as we’re in the midst of this election season. Boy, how the church is messed up right now. I have been filled with sadness this week over some of the ways that people who profess to be followers of Christ talk about politics and the people that they ‘oppose’. We need a refocus on what, on Who matters…

The Missing Jesus - Jonathan Martin: “And yet what if [Jesus] has never been more relevant?  What if the world has never been more ripe for the surprise of His embodied grace?  What if He still has the capacity to surprise, to astonish, to mystify, to defy all of our expectations?”

 

2) Oh feminism. Subject of jokes, of derision, of fear, and some of that is deserved. That man-hating, bra-burning feminism of all the stereotypes isn’t the kind of feminist I am. In fact, it’s not the kind of feminist that most people are. So I claim the title with pride, albeit with a bit of disappointment that I have to qualify it so often.

Confessions of an Accidental Feminist - Rachel Held Evans: “I am an accidental feminist, for my liberation did not come from  Simone de Beauvoir or Betty Friedan, but from Mary and Martha, Junia and Priscilla, Phoebe and Tabitha. It came from the marvelous and radical recognition that if the gospel is good news for them, then maybe it is good news for me too... “

 

3) I have happily resumed ‘bible study’ with our little group of mamas as of this past week. I’ve desperately missed them and our every-other-week meetings. We talk about babies and breastfeeding and health and crafts – all those things are worthwhile, to be sure, but this study promises to be something a bit transformational, I think. Something that causes each of us to come alive, to move forward, to be awake. This post reminds me of the journey we’re beginning together this fall.

Don’t Go Back to Sleep – Kathy Escobar for SheLoves/Magazine.com: “Yes, my friends, it’s time to wake up, brush off the dust, get to our feet and live. I don’t want any more years to go by where I waste them sleeping because I was afraid—afraid of disapproval, afraid of people leaving me, afraid of getting hurt again, afraid of being misunderstood. Being awake is harder. Sleep protects us from feeling pain, but it also protects us from feeling life.”

 

4) I am struggling a bit with finding my voice here in this space. We’ve been trained, most of us, to disguise our true voice with prettiness, with well-crafted sentences (even though there is and always will be a place for good grammar), and with a mask of Pinterest beauty where all the world is made right with some chalkboard paint and a mason jar. I find it’s easy to put the text to page when that’s the goal I’m writing towards; it’s far harder to wait for the sacredness of my true self, my honest voice. Letting our voices shine through is scary and brave and exactly what each of us need, whether we are the writers OR the readers.

Say It Holy and Broken - Elora Nicole: “I refuse to come of age as a mask. I pray daily to say it hot and piercing and holy and broken. And until I feel those embers spark, I’ll rest in the undone.”

 

5) If there is one thing that I’m most grateful I’ve begun to truly understand, it’s grace. True, free, relentless, violent, undeserved, unimaginable grace. Grace that doesn’t tread lightly over the victims, but overflows on both the innocent and the condemned. It’s for all of us…

sacrificing privilege on the altar of grace – suzannah paul.the smitten word: “Privileged and powerful, weak and wounded. To transform one is to change us all, and grace looks like accountability and boundaries as much as forgiveness and reconciliation….Love serves and sacrifices. Grace surrenders advantage, levels hierarchy, and lifts the humble, not striving to fix or police pain from a comfortable distance but sitting together in its midst.”

the day my son wrote his name

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

041

When my younger son came to live with us, he didn’t even know how to play peek-a-boo. Patty cake? Nope. Itsy Bitsy Spider? Nothing. The first two years of his life had largely been without adult interaction. He was developmentally behind. The first time he did something just to be cute was a milestone in our home. Babies learn at a very young age how to please the adults in their life. They smile…we smile, they flirt…we give affection, they make funny noises…it makes us laugh. They learn cause and effect; they learn that they are precious and loved and entertaining and important. No one had ever rewarded Brenden for being adorable, for hamming it up, or for any accomplishments. He did get attention, but it was the negative kind. He didn’t know how it felt to please anyone.

I knew we were behind when it came to letters, numbers, basic reading skills. I gave him several months because trust and relationships are more important than learning letters and numbers. The first time I decided we would start working on stuff, I began with trepidation. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about teaching him something that he didn’t have the basic building blocks or perhaps even the DNA for. Not to mention the complicating factors of drug exposure, traumatic events, and violence.

Let’s just say it didn’t go well. We left it for several months, then we tried again. That didn’t go well either. I could barely get him to make a straight line, and letter recognition was just out of the question. He simply could not remember one letter from the other even after we had been over them several times. He was frustrated. I was frustrated. We waited awhile more, tried again, and still got the same results.

I wish I didn’t care quite so much, but I had begun to obsess a bit over it. While a large part of what we think of as ‘smart’ is biologically determined, there is a lot that parents can do to assist with academic success. My older kids are exceptional readers. They could write their names at 3, could read before they entered kindergarten, etc. (To be fair, Ben learned his letters from a LeapFrog DVD, and Maggie refused to allow me to teach her to read. I just found her one day reading all by herself. I tend to overestimate my importance in my children’s academic success.) I know that’s developmentally advanced, but I also know that Brenden is developmentally behind. The gap was causing me some concern. Would he ever be ready for kindergarten? What if he just couldn’t do it? How do I teach a kid who is uninterested in learning?

I entered this fall determined that things would be different. I have been collecting some different ideas and techniques for teaching letter recognition (since that seemed like the easiest thing to tackle first). I was literally looking up some worksheets on the internet when I found Brenden playing a toddler learning game on my phone. And getting almost all the answers right. Identifying letters, colors, shapes – he wasn’t missing a beat. Apparently, an electronic game was all it took to get him to be interested in this subject. I’ll claim success wherever I find it.

Emboldened by this development, I promptly wrote a sheet with his name. First I wrote his name, then I made dotted letters he could trace. He did it with no trouble. This from the kid I couldn’t get to complete a worksheet where he simply had to trace a straight line. I asked him if he wanted to try it on his own. You can see what happened in the picture at the top of the post. First time I asked him to do it. First time success. It’s safe to say that there are few times in my life that I have been as proud as I was over that piece of paper.

I’m not saying that Brenden is back on track and ready to excel at school. Technically, he is old enough to be attending kindergarten right now. We kept him out for a variety of reasons, academic delay being only one of them. I fully expect him to be a little behind even when/if we decide to send him to public school next year. We will likely even find more areas where he's not quite up to speed or where he struggles to compute things in a typical fashion. The victory isn’t lessened by that probability. It’s still just as sweet. He’s tasted success, and he wants more. For us, that’s enough for now.

where I’m being healed one piece at a time…

Monday, October 1, 2012

I don’t think I was aware there were so many broken pieces of me until some of them began to heal. I’ve been walking around, fragments barely held together, waiting, without even knowing it, to be whole. I’ve been lonely and frustrated, angry and confused, tired and ready to quit. In a thousand small ways, in a few big ways, I am being put back together, piece by piece. Every healing place, a gift.

It’s pure grace when I see my two-year-old daughter stroke the side of my eleven-year-old’s angry, tear-filled face, look into his eyes and give comfort.

On a regular Sunday morning, we have a corporate time of prayer and ministry towards the beginning of the worship service; we never even get to the sermon. We are priests, each of us, all together, all a part of healing one another’s brokenness.

A new friend, our lives bound together by circumstances we never expected, calls, and we encourage one another…and a small, discouraged piece of me is healed.

Our mamas group from church, the one I pleaded and prayed for, is the first place one of us goes when she’s hospitalized and in need. A lonely piece of my heart is made whole.

It’s a tiny piece of healing when I wake up in the morning to see all of my hair still on my head after yet another nightmare about all of it falling out. (My thyroid condition makes me lose hair by the handfuls when it’s not under control. and it hasn’t been under control.)

I spend each day in prayer for my sweetest friend who is battling a painful, degenerative disease. Somehow, strangely, a piece of me is healed in the process of my prayers for her healing.

A friend calls when her marriage is broken; she’s moving out, and even though she’s only ever attended one Sunday morning at our church, she considers it her own and asks to be put on the prayer list. All of the time we’ve spent with them, the time that several young men from the youth group spent time helping her move to a new house, the time my children spend with her daughter – it seems like nothing in her life is improving, but then I remember that she called us…and a piece of me is healed.

I find a photo on my husband’s phone that he secretly took of an object I said I liked when we were on vacation. I know he did it so he could remember exactly what it is that I love. That fragment of me that feels unloved and misunderstood heals with just one picture.

I chase a giggling, toddling baby around the living room. That tired, confused, am-I-doing-the-right-thing piece of me heals a bit with every smile.

Our five-year-old little boy gets up in the middle of the night, and instead of roaming the house alone, he now comes to us to tell us he’s hungry and needs a snack…and a great, great, big piece of me is healed.

The angry pieces seem more than ever lately, and after a day where I failed more than I succeeded with my children, my friend sends home a bouquet leftover from the wedding she just finished. She had no way of knowing what the cheer of fresh, beautiful flowers would do for me that day, but the angry pieces smooth over and heal a bit.

These broken, hurt, betrayed, grieving bits of my life are being pieced back together again. Wholeness coming day by day, all of it sheer gift.

Today, I want to know – what are the things that are healing you?

 

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