Lessons I Learned Watching My Eldest Care for Her Little Sister
I stepped into my office and was assaulted by a disasterous collection of stickers, notecards, glue sticks, and glitter strewn across the large white craft table. I have no idea how my seven-year old had managed to make such a mess in the ten minutes left before the bus came.
She grinned and held up her creation. "Look, Mom, I made Micaela notecards so I can teach her more words."
My heart melted. The cards were gaudy with their flamboyant lettering. She proudly flipped through them and read the words.
Adela and Micaela have such an interesting relationship. Like all siblings, they fight and bicker, but Adela's heart is softened toward the difficult journey her sister has. She keeps her chin up even when Jovani and I are gone for days with Micaela for hospital stays and specialists. She understands the extra time Micaela demands as we help her eat, dress, potty, and keep her glasses on. As Adela matures, I see her stepping up more and more to help her sister progress.
Have you ever stopped and considered the older sisters in your life? We have ones we are raised with and others that God placed along side us. Our older sisters encourage us, cheer us on, and are there for laughter and tears.
One of my favorite sister memories was when I snuck into my sister's drawer and grabbed the intense, round, bristly brush she had told me not to touch. Exultant, I wrapped a chunk of hair around the brush and yanked, expecting a ringlet to emerge. Instead, the brush laid claim to my hair in a terrible impossible tangle. My sister came in. I ran, sobbing to a corner to hide my disaster. My sister followed, and without yelling, sat on the floor and began the slow process of detaching my hair from her brush. I felt unjudged. I felt loved. Many years later I shared that memory with her and she told me that she had done the same thing when she was little, so when I tangled myself up, it was easy to be kind.
We should be ever thankful that the sisters around us who know what we have been through and emphatically share our pain. May we also never miss the opportunity to help our little sisters get untangled.
What a blessing Micaela and Adela have in each other, one that will continue to bless them the rest of their lives.
Who are the God-given sisters, young and old, in your life?
How a Mother Feels When She No Longer Spends All Day Every Day with Her Child
My eyes traveled down the hall and settled on the door of Micaela's classroom. It was hard to keep my feet from picking up into a trot. "No running in the halls"... even for mommies.
I reached the door sporting a happy collection of kindergarten decorations and turned the knob. Micaela was waiting for me inside, her EA helping her cut out a pair of paper shoes for her paper person.
I took a seat at the child-size table, my knees coming up to my chest in the tiny chairs. Fascinated, I watched her pudgy fingers work the sissors up and down with the EA's guidance. Her little pink lips made a perfect "o" as she concentrated on her work.
My arms ached to hold her, but my mind and heart filled with a hunger I had never considered. I wanted to watch her like a biologist sitting before a beehive or astronomer measuring stars.
I wanted to know her.
I was hungry to know her.
Micaela has a limited vocabulary. Adela, as a kindergartener, would come home and tell me about the games she played at recess and complain about her homework. Learning about Micaela is a constant challenge. How I long to know what is going on in her sweet head.
However, I admit that I feel the same about Adela. I love having someone stop me and tell me what my girls did that day in school or have a friend recount a funny thing they said. I want to know if they ate their lunch and if it tasted good. I want to know when they were sad and what made them laugh.
I want to know everything. It is a hunger that makes me catch my breath.
Did God breathe this into me? A distant echo of what He feels about me? Of how He longs to be invited into to every intimate corner of my world? Or, is it an invitation to long for knowledge of our Abba Father the way we long to know the constantly progressing character of our loved ones?
Eventually, the shoes were cut out and my girl was handed back to my care. The EA let me know the answers to some of the mysteries: what she ate, what she learned, what made her angry, and how much she smiled. But, the challenge to know my girls continues.
I am so thankful for family dinners and bedtime prayers. They are the moments in daily life when I get to peek inside their world. I like to believe that my Heavenly Father thinks about me the same way, that He gobbles up our every conversation. That He anxiously awaits the moments that I come to Him, to be held inside His arms.
It is such a precious kind of hunger.
Are you eager to know and understand your loved ones better? How do you see this mirrored in your relationship with God?
Recovering Before Rushing into the Next Season
I watched the bus pull away. I waved frantically, trying to catch Adela or Micaela's eyes, but they were already busy with friends. Then they were gone. The farm yard was full of the sound of sheep. The wind tugged strands of my messy bun out.
Alarm filled my heart.
I was alone. Unencumbered by the needs of little souls. What if I didn't honor this new season? What if I let the unfilled hours fall waywardly to the ground instead of doing something with them? And that "something", what is it? What does God want of me? What does my family most need from me? How do I strategically fill the hours in just the right way?
I turned around and whirled into action. I attacked the house and farm chores, pushing my anxiety aside. That still small voice whispered but I brushed it away. Later. I thought. Later.
At lunch I pulled out my journal and scanned some notes. My eyes fell upon an entry from a few days ago when I had been reading a book by Ruth Graham. In the book she spoke about how important it is that we utilize seasons of transition because these seasons are rare and they often are the times that God speaks to us about a direction He wants us to go.
But, the key to transitions is that you have to give yourself over to the quiet. You have to give it to God. If you try to cram every second with busyness, you will miss out on the blessing of building a closer relationship with God.
I pushed the journal back and put my head in my hands, breathing in and out. How I have longed for the quiet. My soul feels like the soil beneath my geranium, dry and cracking. Like my brave little geranium, I am still upright, but not up for extending my branches. I want to draw myself in, retaining whatever is left to sustain me. My geranium would never turn down a nice cool drink from the tap water. Why would I turn down a rare season in which I can refresh my walk with God and settle my roots deeper in His truths?
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been faced with a new season with more space and quiet? Did you rush to fill the empty spaces with more work, tasks, or responsibilities? In her book, Ruth Graham, filled her space with busyness. She made choices that ended up having devastating consequences. She encouraged the reader to never give up an opportunity to seek God during a time of transition.
I am no longer a mother of preschoolers. I am a mother with two girls in school. I thought this day would never come. My over-achieving mind wants to jump into a million projects, but my exhausted heart craves rest.
I stop and finally listen to that still small voice. I relax the grip I have on my life and give it over to God.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
What would prevent you from allowing time for study, reflection, prayer, and quiet in a season of transition?
A New Home and New Dreams
My boots made hollow thumps as I stepped into the empty rooms. The bare floors and empty walls held a thousand dreams and promises of memories. I reached out and touched the smooth gloss of yellow paint. My nose filled with the scents of paint, vinyl, and hard work. My stomach gave an anxious flutter. A new chapter in life of my family beckoned.
I just needed to pack.
Moving is an incredible process. You weed through your life, deciding what will go and what will be sent away from your home. There will be bags of forgotten toys, ill-fitting clothes, and ratty furniture that won't make the cut. But, other items will be treasured and put in places of honor.
I love this process. I like cleaning out cupboards, filling boxes, and unpacking everything. As I organize my little kingdom, the world makes more sense.
I wonder how you do this for your soul.
Recently I watched the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the series, Ms. Kondo goes to homes and has the families put things in piles, weeding out what will go and what will stay. Then, everything that stays gets folded, stacked, put away neatly. Afterwards, the family lives with more breathing room, space, and clarity.
Right now my heart and mind are so cluttered I find it difficult to walk straight. I wish I could throw all the priorities, memories, responsibilities, longings, and dreams into the middle of my living room floor. I would step back, hold things in my paint-smeared hands, and gently put many in the trash. Others I might pack away for a different season. I would make room for the vitality of my family and remove the guilt I feel and I see certain projects or hopes gathering dust on a cluttered shelf.
Yes, a good soul-cleaning sounds lovely.
Someday soon, when I have unpacked the boxes, I will put on those cleaning gloves, roll up my sleeves, and make space for God's light to expand into the dusty spaces of my life.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What is your favorite part of moving? What do you learn about yourself in the process?
Something to Consider the Next Time You Snap
I never felt more human than I did right then while my six-year old aped-back my own discipline tactic. We had scuffled over her homework. She was whining, complaining, and dragging out the process. Supper needed to happen soon. I kept looking at the clock and the tension built. Then snapped.
She had only complained that her pencil wasn’t sharp enough, but she might as well have committed an act of terror. The forceful words were out of my mouth and I couldn’t take them back.
Adela’s face crumpled. She said, “That was very unkind, Mommy.” (Yeah, that’s what I usually say to her.)
I apologized. Tears continued to stream down her face. “I think you need timeout, Mommy.”
I was caught in a million memories. I wanted to simply repeat what I heard growing up, that I was the adult. That I was right. That she shouldn’t argue. She was wrong.
But, she wasn’t. She was an exhausted six-year old trying to get through forty-five minutes of homework while her four-year old sister enjoyed TV. She was frustrated. So was I. But I had taken my frustration to the next level. I did need time out. I need to calm down, to reconnect with God, to breathe.
I don’t do this enough. I don’t give myself space or a margin for error. I try to handle everything and be on the go all the time.
I need more timeouts. I’d like to say that I can get through the girls’ wakeful hours and refill my soul when they are asleep, but I just can’t. Perhaps my soul "gas-mileage" has decreased with all the extra needs of my family. However, if my soul was a vehicle, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere if I was out of fuel.
We all need balance between our times of action and our moments of reflection. I am thankful for Adela’s compassion to tell me to take some time away from the situation. I pray that I never ignore God’s reminders to take time with Him.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
Have you ever paid attention to the moments when you are spiritually exhausted? Have you learned to go to God before you snap?
Has the Enemy Sold You the Lie About Serving Others?
Any farming or ranching wife braces herself about this time of the year. The days are getting longer and the work is getting harder.
I am blessed by my hard-working and driven husband. I love the adventures that come with being his partner in life. Right now that involves sheep, cattle, chickens, farming fields, and starting up a greenhouse. However, I am always caught off guard when this time of the year hits full force. By now I have my teeth set on writing a new novel, re-vamping my website along with all the other fun stuff like potty-training Micaela and teaching Adela how to do simple household chores.
To be honest, I've been stomping around the house trying to squeeze hours out of minutes and then becoming angry when I didn't cross off anything from my to-do list. I start to feel lost and as if there were something inherently wrong with my normal process for getting things done. Surely, surely, there is something else I could be doing...
A few days ago, I took a break midday and did my devotional on the Bible App. It is called Strange Kingdom by Ken Costa. The day's reflection was on how Jesus paid the price for our sin and built a bridge for us to God. We can have a relationship with God and do life with Him. However, we still find ourselves trying to do things our own way. We have to trust God and be willing to do things His way. We have to humble ourselves, admitting that He is greater. Lastly, we need to be hopeful for we know that He is loving God with beautiful plans for us.
I let out a deep breath and prayed.
God, I am willing. In this season, I am willing to do the work you have put in front of me.
I am willing to put Your plans first.
I am willing to obey and serve others with love.
My hope in you is an anchor for my soul.
If there ever was a nasty lie the enemy told mothers, it is that we could be or should be doing more. The enemy would love to fill our hearts with the pain of feeling that raising our children and loving our husbands is not enough. The enemy rejoices when we denounce this job as a side-action chore and chase something else.
Yes, it takes all of your heart, all of your head, and all of your body to be a mom and wife in these years. But, let us be willing. Let us be humble. And, let us be full of hope.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Do you ever find yourself resenting the extra work that comes with this season of your life as you serve others?
Spring Break, Potty Training, and Art
I laid down on my bed and closed my eyes. Fully clothed and still on top of the green and red quilt, I listened to the sound of the girls giggling. Today is Day 5 of Spring Break. By noon I was worn thin.
Adela and I both let out a relieved sigh when Spring Break began a few days ago. School is wonderful, but we were both ready for a week off of our normal routine. We also had big plans for the next two weekends and the week. We were going to work in the greenhouse, do art, play in the sunshine, and go to the big town of Clovis for a “field trip.”
I added Micaela’s potty training to that.
But, I already made Micaela a new chart, laid out the crayons, and started up Sunday morning. I am bound and determined to teach that precious little girl how to pull up and down her own pants, climb onto and off of the toilet, flush, wash her hands, and leave the bathroom safely on her own.
Mommy life gets crazy sometimes. I say that and then laugh.
Mommy life is always crazy.
But it is also beautiful. I love watching Adela’s face as she is painting, her concentration and happiness as she places her imagination in color on white sheet of paper. Micaela’ squeal of joy as we put on tennis shoes and head to the track for some sunshine makes my heart skip a beat. Of course, there has also been arguments, tantrums, hungry children, dirty clothes, and spilled hot cocoa.
Yesterday, our little friend Annabelle came over for a play date and spotted a butterfly bouncing between the growing weeds. My eyes stung with tears. Spring is here. Life is moving forward and we are growing. All of us, but especially me.
I have never felt my heart change as much as it has in the last few years that I have been raising our beloved daughters.
Part of my Bible reading this morning included the first part of Ruth. I thought of her, a young woman, maybe even around my age. She had lived through the tragedy of being widowed young without children and forced to make hard decisions about her world. She chose to move forward in love and commit her life to a woman that would move to another country and re-start her life. But, there was a key factor that made it all worth while. She had God. With God her story wasn't easy, but it was victorious. She now holds a place in the lineage of Christ for her choice to serve the one true God and care for her mother-in-law.
My story isn’t easy either, but it feels beautiful today. I trust God with the journey of our family. I know that we will grow, right where He has planted us.
May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.
How do you feel God growing you, not despite your hard circumstances, but because of the them?
I settled into my chair and winced as I heard Adela’s squeal of laughter. Nobody else minded. Our preacher, Pastor Tim, grabbed his guitar and we began Bible Study.
Wednesday afternoon Bible Study is new to our church, but I feel incredibly fulfilled by it. For the past few weeks Pastor Tim has been teaching us the commands of Christ. Every week we dig into the Bible and all the theology and history that comes with it. I leave feeling refreshed and hopeful.
I leave well-fed.
Our spiritual hunger is a mighty force. I’ve noticed that the more I feed myself through Bible study, devotions, and Biblical teaching, my appetite only increases. I used to fight to stay off social media, to stop playing little games on my computer, and to not binge watch TV. However, developing an appetite for God’s word naturally weaned me off many worldly interests.
Isn’t that cool?
Right now, we are in a season of Lent. Often, during the 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, Christians opt to give something up in order make space for prayer and reflection. It is such a fantastic practice, but I’ve also noticed that in our human nature we often give up one worldly vice and fill the space with another earthly pleasure. Unless we are purposeful about our plan to grow closer to God, we will find that the Devil is ready and willing to distract us in our quest.
I know that there are many areas of stress in my life that I could easily fill up spaces with negative coping mechanisms or brain-fillers. But, in a step of faith I have chosen to cultivate my hunger for Bible Study and fellowship with my Christian Brothers and Sisters. This is my chosen coping mechanism. My chosen fuel. And, my reward is the peace and joy that comes with God’s truth.
This season of Lent, I am happy to lean in to the emptier spaces that can be filled with God’s word and fellowship. May my hunger be satisfied and the Living Water renew my soul.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12, NLT
Did you give up something for Lent? Were you active in your plan to fill it with God’s word and wisdom?
Sometimes God Asks Us to Move. Sometimes He Asks Us to Wait.
I hate it when plans go astray. Something about my nature needs to be moving forward, handling whatever comes next. I hate the ‘not-knowing’ because it might lead to ‘not-doing’. Jovani, my husband, feels the same way. It is one of the reasons we work so well together.
So, when our neurologist in Albuquerque asked us to cancel our procedure for Micaela’s VNS and get a second opinion at another Children’s Hospital, we were disappointed that our plans had to be changed.
The day after Valentine’s Day, I sat in the Specialties Clinic at Albuquerque’s Presbyterian hospital and listened to our precious neurologist make an argument for repeating the long difficult process for a surgery evaluation at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Phoenix has another surgery option that uses lasers on multiple spots of the brain, severing those spots' connection to the rest of the brain, without removing tissue. They can successful treat seizure spots on both side of the brain leaving a patient seizure free.
But, it means no VNS, at least not until we’ve consulted the specialists in Phoenix this summer.
I was devastated. We had a treatment option right within our grasp and then it was gone, shoved to the back-burner. The next available appointment in Phoenix is not until July. That feels like forever.
I’m reading through the Bible again this year. I was reading in Numbers the other morning about the cloud and the fire that God placed above the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. God was in the cloud and the fire. He gave them shade by day and light by night. When He rose above them and moved, they were to move too. When God stopped, they stopped. They might make camp for a day or a year and wouldn’t leave until God showed them the next step.
Right now I feel like those Israelites, encamped in a period of waiting for God’s movement. But, like the Israelites, it is so foolish to grumble. God is my shade when the sun gets too hot and He is my light in the darkness. I have nothing to fear. He will provide me with food, both physical and spiritual, so that I am strengthened and prepared for His plans.
In life we are continually either on the move, hoping for a rest, or we are waiting to break camp. However, God is a constant that we can count on. We have nothing to fear.
Right now Jovani and I are in a holding pattern in our care for Micaela. I will not miss the opportunity to grow with my God as we wait for the next step. Please pray for our patience and peace.
The Lord watches over you--
Do you feel you are in a period of waiting or of moving right now? How do you feel most blessed by God at this moment?
Are You in a Season of Rest and Renewal?
A couple weeks ago I swiped the spoon twice more around the coffee cup, watching the milk blend in in swirls of tan. The smell of that first cup invited me to take a deep sip. I did. Then I put it down.
I was half-way through my daily Bible reading when I remembered the cup. I sipped again. It was cooler now. Funny. When was the last time I let that happen?
Usually I gulped down that first cup like a life-line and was half-way through a second before any written word could make any sense. It was then that I realized that after almost ten months of desperate prayer, God had answered.
I was rested.
My raccoon eyes were fainter. The worry wrinkles softened. My brown eyes smiled back at me in the mirror. I was rested.
Who would have thought God would have brought an answer to my prayers through President Trumps defiant stand on a wall bordering Mexico? Through the Government Shutdown, my husband caught up on work at the farm and gave me many nights of restful sleep.
Last May, Micaela’s seizures worsened. To care for her, Jovani and I would check on her each hour during the night. All of her seizures come while she sleeps. They call them “nocturnal seizures”. Miceala’s seizures are freight trains. Once they get going it takes a lot of rescue medications and care to get them to stop. Always. Its rough.
I was running in the crisp winter air a few days ago, listening to a podcast. It was an interview of Blake Mycoskie by Levi Lesco In the interview Blake, the founder of TOMS Shoes, talked about God giving him a period of rest between seasons of difficult entrepreneur ventures. The rest got him ready to start a new project targeting violence in our country.
I would soon go to Colorado and spend many days in the hospital with Micaela. Jovani and I would have to take shifts and manage her time during a long video EEG. There would be travel and the heartbreak of being far from Adela.
Oh, God! How beautiful is the way you provide for us.
I faced the difficult days of our stay at Children's Hospital Colorado with a rested mind and body.
I don’t know that I could have asked for a more precious blessing.
Life is full of seasons. Perhaps that is the only thing that we know to be true. Whatever season you are in, I pray you find God’s provision constant. It always is.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Are you going through a season of rest and renewal?
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