Psalm 46:10

Be Still

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God…….”

Earlier this year my church offered a 21-day fasting and prayer challenge.  The goal:  to give up something hindering my time, in relationship to God.  Oh, that shouldn’t be too hard, it’s like Lent, only early, right?

Our church congregation had just completed a “read through the Bible in two years” program and I was looking for a way to maintain my focus in God’s word.  I’m handed the perfect solution.  I would give up my nightly/before bed novel reading, replacing it with reading the Bible and praying for others.  I admire Christians with their devout prayer habits, so this could be my launch to a deeper relationship with God through prayer.

I prayerfully considered what God was calling me to read…..Esther…..Galatians…..Acts…..

I settled on the exploits of Esther and her cousin Mordecai.  While contemplating Esther’s rise to the throne….um…I need to call my mom and….um….put deodorant on the grocery list……um……remember to take paper towels to work tomorrow…..WHAT?   No, no that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.  Let me start again.  After Esther becomes queen, her cousin Mordecai refuses to bow to a high official of the King…..um when I wash my new pants next I have to remember not to dry them…..um….my car needs an oil change…..and….um….don’t forget to make a dinner reservation for ….. WHAT?  Here I go again,….what in the heck am I doing?  God, I’m so sorry, why can’t I stay on track with my prayer and reading?

I decided I must be too tired to complete my reading and prayer, so I turned off the light, said my personal prayers and slept.

The next night, I settled in for further reading in Esther.  The reading went well, much better than the night before, so I closed my Bible and began specific prayers for others.  Father, I lift up to you my mother, who’s suffering from bronchitis, please provide the healing she needs…..oh healing….um….I need to put triple antibiotic ointment on my grocery list….um….oh my goodness, here I go again!!  I tried again several times, with the same result.

I decided I must be too tired to completed my prayers, so I turned off the light, said my personal prayers and slept.

This continued off and on, mostly on, for the full 21 days.  Concerned with my lack of focus, I reached out to my pastor, who assured me I was in good company, that it’s better to talk (pray) with God than not, and that who better could you sleep with every night?  I wasn’t a matter of my not being prayerful enough, only that I was trying to force the timing.  My being still, came after the lights were out and not when I was making time for it.  God always has a plan…………..

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

and what it means to me

 

My family adopted our sweet little girl out of the foster care system in 2014. We could tell from the first day we met her, that she was dealing with something. Not quite sure what the cause of her many delays were, we started down the avenue of Early On Education. Every home visit and evaluation would bring about stress for both of us. What a huge sense of rejection and failure when your kid can’t build a tower or find the toy under the blanket, or whatever developmental thing they’re supposed to be able to do at that given age. As a mom, I wanted her to be on track so I worked with her and went to play therapies with her. I tried not to worry, I tried not to resent her, but in brutal honesty, I failed. Every time another child passed her in milestones and development I could feel myself disappointed. I hate myself for those feelings.

While in foster care we requested a comprehensive neurodevelopmental trauma assessment at a well-known office in our town. It was there that we would receive her FAS diagnosis. My thoughts and feelings bounced from being surprised to relieved to terrified and several more in between. I had (and still have) no idea what this would all mean. Everything I knew about FAS was from an episode of Law and Order, and let me tell you it wasn’t good.

We adopted her later that year and enrolled her in school. She was in an Early Childhood Special Education class with about 6 other kids. She managed to get through the year and would head back the next. The new year rolled around and with it a new teacher. (The thing is, she does not do transitions…) It was within a matter of weeks that I had to sign papers saying I would not be bringing her back to that school, LOL.  So we were blessed in transferring her to an all special needs school in our county. (This new school is where it’s at!)  I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly hurtful and damaging it is for you to entrust teachers, educators, bus transporters etc. with your child and feel as if everything about them is an inconvenience and burden to them. They were so done with her at the first school that on her IEP under “strengths” all they had written was “she likes to read books”. While I will admit that stepping into the “Special Needs” world was shocking and terrifying, I can honestly tell you I couldn’t have asked for anything better! She still has “issues”, we get incident reports home multiple times a week, she hits, pinches, throws stuff, runs away, breaks almost everything, swears, screams, yada yada yada, but they love her. They see potential, they see strengths (plural), they are willing and able to work with her and we are forever grateful!

What is an FASD: “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is not a diagnosis, but is an umbrella term (including FAS, ARND, ARBD & pFAS) describing the range of effects that can occur when a developing baby is prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifetime disability that affects each child differently. Some children with an FASD have specific facial features and tend to be smaller in height and weight. They often have a brain injury that never goes away. The only cause of FASD is alcohol use during pregnancy. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. There is also no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol can affect the baby during every trimester of pregnancy. Unfortunately, FASD cannot be cured. The brain damage that occurs to an unborn baby when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol cannot be changed or reversed.  However, people with an FASD can function very well in life when given the right supports.  Supports include a stable and loving home or a job coach and placement program”. (https://www.mofas.org)

We have such a long road in front of us. I’m not sure what she will and won’t be able to do. Will she graduate, will she be able to drive, will she be able to work, to live on her own, get married? Will she end up in jail, be taken advantage of, struggle with substance abuse? So many future worries, however we are so focused on getting through each day that I don’t spend too much time thinking about the future. I struggle with the day to day because it seems like I’m the only one she’ll listen to, both a blessing and a curse. Babysitters are non-existent and our social lives have fizzled out. Church is challenging, family gatherings are stressful. It’s a broken record of “she did this, she did that, no don’t touch that, mom she is doing… etc”. Everyone thinks she’s cute but no one wants to take her for a while (and if they attempt to, I get the laundry list of all the naughty things she did). Luckily I have a spouse that lets me go and do pretty much whatever, whenever I want! We also have friends and family who support us and love us. It’s just this crazy ride that I never knew we’d be getting on and sitting in the driver’s seat is this beautiful, energetic, kind, helpful, funny, sneaky, crazy little girl. She tells me I’m pretty and thinks I’m amazing. She also peels her fingernails off and says “hi” to EVERY SINGLE PERSON we pass (half of the time asking loudly if that was a boy or a girl). There are so many days I feel defeated, inferior, not enough, but I try to imagine her as my lifelong bestie, my wingman, my partner in crime. We can’t be mad at the hand she was dealt, it won’t change anything. We can remind ourselves everyday, that she was handcrafted by God with a purpose.

 

There are new resources and groups on FASD popping up every day. If you need to be connected to answers and help, please feel free to reach out to me. I get it.

You’re Making Me Crazy

creating space in the everyday hustle

‘You’re making me crazy!’

I can’t count the times that these words have come out of my mouth since becoming a parent. 

Maybe you’d never dream of saying such a thing to your kids…but seriously when it’s 9 pm and ‘the boy’ still isn’t finished with his homework because he’s spent the last 97 minutes talking about how he needs to take a shower but his elbow hurts and his beloved pet lizard looks kinda’ pale and he can’t find the socks he needs for tomorrow and his sister is singing because she’s annoying and stupid and he forgot his binder at school so he can’t even do his homework…seriously……I might lose my mind.

 Up until a couple of years ago, I found myself constantly stressed, nagging, yelling, and rushing from one thing to the next. A night like the one described above would have set me off because I would have had too much to do and no time to deal with my son who just needed my patience. My schedule did not honor God and, more often than I care to admit, I was one commitment away from a mental breakdown. I needed to seriously reevaluate the pace of our family’s day to day hustle and create some breathing room in our home life. When we take a look at the life of Jesus we see that He was never frenzied or rushed. He was present. There were always more people to heal and more mouths to feed and yet He was content with the work He did in the time He had to do it. He often took time away with just the apostles or to be alone to pray rather than cramming in one more act of service or miracle. Time to build relationships with those closest to Him and quiet time with His Father were just as important as His ‘work.’ Finding and maintaining balance honors God. This requires listening to His prompting which is nearly impossible when we keep a jam-packed daily schedule. It is a tension that I have to regularly manage as my own seasons of busyness rise and fall. Here are just a few of the things that help our family create space in the everyday hustle.

 

  1. Make time for God daily! When I am connected and intentional about my relationship with Jesus, it spills over onto every aspect of my life. I am aware of His presence and follow His guidance.

 

  1.  Scheduled Downtime. I learned to fiercely guard our school nights and try to stay home as much as possible. I make an effort not to schedule more than 1 night per week to be away from home where I’m needed most. It used to be a common occurrence that I would say yes to things like meetings or dinners Sunday through Thursday. I work in ministry…definitely not your average 9-5.  For example, meeting with a couple of ladies from church on a Wednesday night to talk about an upcoming event seemed like a noble endeavor but it created an imbalance at home. My kids need their mom to be present, to help with homework (which is kind of nature’s cruel joke because I already went to school for 17 years and really didn’t think I’d need to remember any of this stuff…but I digress…) to shuttle them to and from activities and just to be around for those precious times that they decide to let me into their teenage world and tell me what their day was like. If I had been in a big-stressed-frenzied rush I may not have learned today that ‘the boy’ buys chips and ice cream on his school lunch account for his friends…like EVERY day….he’s like the Santa Clause of the 6th-grade lunch room!!! Ugh.

 

  1. Nutrition! I have the luxury of a really flexible part time job so I can be home most days when the kids get off the bus. At least a couple of days a week I try to have dinner ready at 4 pm. This ends the 3 hours of snacking and the rest of the night just goes smoother.  When 6 pm rolls around and a flurry of activity seems to brew…drop-offs and pick-ups from activities, homework, showers…if the kids have already had dinner, it’s one less thing for me to juggle during the ‘rush hour’ of our evening. I also try to keep sugar and processed foods to a minimum because when our bodies are fueled well, we get sick less, accomplish more, and are just nicer people to be around.

 

  1. Regular Self Care! When I carve out time to do things that I truly enjoy I feel whole. For me, it’s riding my horse. For you it may be running, yoga, reading, crafting, coffee with a friend, etc. Whatever it is, don’t feel guilty about it! Our culture perpetuates this strange notion that a woman who does things for herself is selfish. Nonsense. Women who tend to their hearts are more compassionate. You can’t pour from an empty cup so keep yours filled!

  1. The Selective Yes and the Polite No. What if we were self-aware enough to know just how God wired us? And what if we were in tune enough to His leading that we were able to say YES to the right things and politely decline the things that may not be our best fit? For me this concept was liberating. My staff does a lot of leadership development. Several years ago I was introduced to a few self-assessments including Strengths Finder, DiSC personality profile, spiritual gift testing, and a personal passion profile. Discovering my unique design gave me the guidance I needed to find my sweet spot. Rather than saying yes to a whole bunch of ‘good’ things that I may not have been ‘good’ at, this understanding has allowed me to focus my efforts and be more intentional in the things I pursue.

 

It is only when I create space and quiet time in my daily life that I am able to grow. I fully accept that I am a work in progress and will continue to work less frenzied!

Respect

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”

EPH 4:2

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Life can be so difficult sometimes and I’m reminded that we all need to respect one another, for our similarities, differences, struggles and triumphs.

I’m currently in a difficult season with an Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis for an aging parent.  As the short term memory slips away and simple daily tasks become cumbersome; an inability to reason and problem solve; and the long-term memory reminding him that he still “has it all going on” I’m faced with the need for patience and ongoing respect. Being a medical professional I’ve worked with clients and families going through the same situation, however, I  have a newfound respect for all of them, as I find myself actually “living” it now, as they have done.

This is a man who’s provided for his family, been reliable, supportive and loving.  He’s now faced with the need for 24-hour caregivers, money management tasks being performed by someone other than himself and being reminded that he isn’t making good decisions.  So hard to take and just as hard to have to explain.

I must remember to respect who he was and who he is today, while providing for his needs that he is no longer able to manage himself, all while remaining patient, even if I’m hearing the same story for the 100th time.  I want to allow him as much freedom and independence as possible, for as long as possible, while managing to maintain a safe environment for him as well.

 

Prayer guides me, communication with family confirms me, and knowing God holds me in his precious hands to provide me (and dad) the hedge of protection we need, sustains me.  

God, thank you for your ongoing guidance, every day.

Rise Up and Pray

It was one of those nights.  I went to bed later than my husband, trying to get some work done in preparation for the coming day.  Though I had only slept 4 hours, I was awakened by it.  You know, “it”.  Not worry, not panic.  Just the deep need to pray.

I poured my heart out to God as my husband slept next to me.  So much was on my mind, and every bit of it I knew I had no real control over.  I had so much to be thankful for yet so many concerns to lift to my Creator and Sustainer, my Abba Father.  Jeremiah 29:11 immediately played in my brain.  “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future”.  I laid there acknowledging the Lord’s words, asking if there was anything that I could do to assist Him with His plans.  Nothing.  Silence.  Though I almost felt a laughter stirring somewhere.  

As I entered the shower, I began repeating the concerns weighing heavily on my heart.  Again, Jeremiah 29:11 filled my brain.  I knew this time there was no need for me to ask if God needed my help with anything.  The verse consumed me as the water poured over me.  “I know the plans I have for you.”

I know them.  You don’t need to know them.  Do you trust Me?  Have I not proven Myself to you?  Aren’t you living a vibrant life, despite the damage you tried to do to yourself early on?  Didn’t I give you a man of integrity to become your spouse?  Did I not see you through hazardous situations with not even a scratch?  Have I not provided for you when you were not sure how to pay the bills?  Did I not give you two beautiful children, though you were infertile?  Didn’t I open a door for you where there was none?  Have I not shown you that you are far stronger and more capable than you ever believed yourself to be?  Why wouldn’t you trust me to have plans for you that are good!?  Haven’t I proven My plans are greater than yours!?

The words of Psalm 5:3 took over my thoughts.  “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice.  In the morning, I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.”  I had poured out the concerns of my heart to God and now I had to leave them at His feet.  The running water refreshed my weary eyes and the burdens of my heart began to lift as I started to ponder the Truths of my God through the experiences that we have had together.  He is trustworthy.  He always provides.  His plans are better.  He is faithful to completion.  He is my Rock in times of trouble.  He is the same today, tomorrow and always. I can do far more than I ever thought possible through Him who gives me strength.  

One of my friends always says “If He brings you to it, He will see you through it.”  Isn’t that the truth!? I am not sure exactly what this year holds for me nor for you, but I do know that we have a God who has good plans for us.  Plans to prosper us, not to harm us.  Plans to give us hope and a future.  He has those plans already worked out.  He doesn’t need my assistance but He does ask that I know who I am – in and through Him.  This changes daily for me, but today…..  today, I am His.

As you look into what this year has for you, I hope you are saying bring it on, because I am…..

Ahhhhhhhhh Vacation

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays……..”   EZE 34:16

Ah, the excitement of readying ourselves for vacation. The packing and list making (of items not to be forgotten), locating sunscreen, swimsuits and water shoes not seen for a couple of seasons; purchasing with anticipation, the new items we didn’t think we could travel without and overpacking layers of clothing possibly needed for the changing weather. Little did I know, the weather in the Hawaiian Islands is as steady and consistent as it comes. Unencumbered blue sky (not a cloud to be seen for miles), easy breezes and temperatures 72-80 degrees EVERY SINGLE DAY! Ahhhhhhhhh vacation.

What I didn’t remember was the anxiety of not knowing the roads, landscape and directions for traveling from one location to another. Thank heavens for the GPS app on our phones.  With a few clicks of the buttons, suddenly we have the map and step by step directions to whatever location we want, simple, right? Not so fast, seasoned traveler, we have surprises in store for your adventure!!

My husband decided he didn’t wish to return to “real life” and was going to take up residence on the big island of Hawaii, so he set forth looking for real estate. After a walk by of a realty office and a quick glance at the advertised property, he settled on the purchase of a small coffee, macadamia nut, avocado farm. No worries that we know nothing of farming…..anything at all, in fact, we have been known to botch the growth of tomatoes.  Nevertheless, we plugged the address into the GPS and set out to view the farm. After several turn arounds, choice words and a discussion about giving up the hunt, we located the property, literally on the side of a mountain, with a steep single lane driveway at a nearly 90-degree angle and precarious, loose stones and gravel.

During the hunt, the GPS kept “recalculating” as we completed one turn around after another.  I was struck by how often I “recalculate” my journey with God. How at times I find myself on the wrong road and need to turn around or select a different path. Although I may stumble or slip on the loose stones, or find I need to “recalculate”, I know He holds me solidly in His hands.

 

So, we passed on the farm and returned to “real life”, rejuvenated in the security of God and His GPS that awaits us, wherever we may be.

Developing A Daily Routine

One of my goals for 2017 was to read my Jesus Calling, a book I received about 4 years ago, but not something I had consistently made part of my daily routine. There are a couple key points that made this book something that I felt I could reasonably incorporate it into my daily routine.

  1. Its short. Like, an average of 150ish short. My mom has a weekly small group where they have a devotional, and she does hours of work for it each week. I just got out of school, I am NOT about to go back to the homework daily grind. 🙂

 

  1. I felt the book was meeting me where I was at in life. As a 26 year old single female who works full time and owns a house, I have been feeling a little lost in who I am. I am not a recent college graduate, fresh faced and excited about finally being an adult. (Adults, that was a cruel trick you played on kids. It is not as exciting to be an adult as we were led to think.) But, at the same time, I am not settled into being an adult either. I am not married, and while I have a job I enjoy, I have no idea what I want to do when I “grow up”. I always feel like I am in some middle ground, floating and waiting for some directly. I am a task-oriented person, so when I was given directives and had something to follow, I felt a little less like a floater, and was able to keep my feet on the ground.

  1. Finally, and most importantly, this book was meeting me where my faith is at. I grew up in the Church, and have been learning about God since I was born. I was not looking for something to explain Christ’s story to me, but rather, I was looking for something that would help me cultivate a personal relationship with Him. But- like I said above- I am not ready to be a full adult yet. So my Jesus Calling helps me cultivate a habit while helping me grow as a human, and a Christian. So, to sum, I would encourage you to find something that can fill that niche in your life. Maybe for you, it is Jesus Calling, or maybe not. It can be a small group in your church, more regular prayer time with your family, or 5 minutes where you are alone with your coffee and your God. Whatever it is, take the time to find it, and then hold on to make a priority

 

There Is No Need To Rush

Sometimes I think that the things that put me in a state of hurry, are things that aren’t even entirely necessary in the first place.

I recently fell and hurt myself. I had had a very full day and was getting ready to leave the house for the last of the day’s activities. I had all the kids ready and waiting for me in the car. As I headed out the door I decided that I should run back in for a phone charger. As I rounded the corner of the kitchen into the dining room, I tripped head-first over the dog gate. I laid there on the floor in pain and disbelief, and I analyzed the situation and its severity. After a few moments passed and I realized I was ok, I hobbled back to the car and headed out for the night. We had a great time and as I thought about it, I laughed at the fact that I hadn’t even needed the phone charger, the very thing that had made me hurry. If I could have avoided my hurry, I could have avoided my hurt.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Sometimes I need to remind myself that if I was aligned more evenly with God, my life wouldn’t be as laborious and burdened as it feels. I have a tendency to add more and more to my life, to my responsibilities and schedules, without thinking about the strain it causes me and my family. Do you find yourself doing the same? I find myself in a hurry all the time just to keep up with the things I keep adding to my life.

I would love to encourage you, as well as myself to yoke up with God and stop adding unnecessary busyness to our lives! His burdens are light, He will give us rest and most of the stuff that we are in a hurry to do, doesn’t need to be done.