Her hot little fingers searched out mine and held on tight. The technician placed another concoction of glue, metal, and medical tape on her scalp. Micaela wanted to go to sleep so desperately. It was two hours past her normal bedtime and there were still a handful of sensors and cables that needed to be attached to her body for the sleep study to commence. The technician was kind and patient. Micaela protested loudly and consistently. But, as her body began lose it's fight with sleep, her hand found an anchor in my touch.
As the night progressed, Micaela woke often and tried to sleepily tear off her leads and nasal canula. The technician and I would hold her down until she fell asleep again, and then reattach whatever had fell prey to her angry fingers. However, I learned quickly that if I could notice her waking up quickly and put my arm on her back, she would settle before becoming fully awake. Touch is so powerful.
But, more than that, as the years go on, I do believe that physical affection is Micaela's love language. If you don't know about the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you should check it out. I have known my husband's, Adela, and my own love languages for years, but discovering Micaela's has put a precious edge on the relationship we share as mother and daughter. I know that spending extra time in the morning to massage her feet, hug her good morning, or sit by her while she eats, seems to fill her love tank up, preventing her from becoming irritable or frustrated.
Micaela left the sleep study exhausted, but, I didn't realize how much she was needing love and reassurance until we got home. If any of us sat still for longer than half a minute, she was on our lap, head, or whatever part of our body she could get a hold of or touch. Eventually, Jovani simply stopped working on projects and paperwork, settled her in his chair, and cuddled her for the rest of the afternoon and evening. That left me free to spend special quality time with Adela as she told me all about another Lego creation she was making.
I fill with gratitude to my Heavenly Father that he has showed us how to love our children and each other. Family's like ours who have a child with special needs and multiple disabilities undergo a lot of stress and hardship. Yet, our little family is close to each other. We feel loved, seen, and appreciated even when we are exhausted.
If you are struggling within your own family I would take some time to learn your love language and the love languages of the people you do life with. We all could use a full love tank these days.
Can you remember the last time someone came to you for love, affection, and reassurance?
I sat down that morning with a feeling of dread and defeat. My only thought was, "Let the funk continue." It had been one of those weeks. Everyone's mood was off. The days were long. The list of work and chores grew ever longer. I seemed to go to bed defeated and wake up resigned.
All the while, I had a growing premonition that I might be the source of all my bad attitudes. This premonition was verified when reading a book by Levi Lusko. He explained that we are created in the image of God who spoke galaxies into existence and our words hold power over our life. He said, "Your words can unlock a life you love or one you loathe."
What had I been speaking over my life the last few days? Well, it is too embarrassing to say it all.
I stepped out in faith and proclaimed, before the coffee was fully drunk, that the day would be a good day, full of blessed things. I proclaimed to have a kind and caring family, a fantastic job, and abundant love and energy to serve others.
There is a scene in the biography of Helen Keller, born deaf and blind, when she finally realizes that the signs her teacher has been tapping into her hand hold meaning. The ecstatic little girl runs around touching objects and people so that her teacher can sign the name into her hand. I was reminded of this as I eagerly ran around (in my mind) and began to label things with delighted faith in God's promise that He brings all things together for the good of those who love Him (James 1:17). There is a fearful power in what we label, verbally and in our thoughts, the people and circumstances of our life.
Yes, Micaela is going through a late "terrible twos" phase, but she is blooming and discovering her voice.
Yes, Adela wants to stay home with her dogie calf and complains about getter ready to go in the morning, but how great that she has such a love for the outdoors and her home.
Yes, Jovani has a lot on his plate and works constantly, but I have been given the great privilege of being a wife to a hard-working man who cares deeply for me and our family.
Truly, we can label anything blessed. We just give it to God and trust Him.
I know there will still be moments and days that I forget to speak life over my family and work, but, there is grace for that. For now, I am thrilled to discover this precious power God has given each of us.
What have you been speaking over your own life?
Two days of fierce wind had left our new-to-us kittens in dire straights. In a new home and environment, it is common for these little critters to get mild eye infections, but, after two days of dirt and sand assalting them, we had several cats and kittens who couldn't see at all.
One by one, Adela caught them and set them in a towel on my lap. Then, I worked on them with soap and water and patience. The crust and gunk removed, they blinked at the daylight, then hungrily made their way to food and water.
For days, we treated those little ones, washing and medicating them. We waited for their eyes to stay open and clean on their own and did our best to prevent more serious infections.
I can relate to them. In the last several months with the holidays, the surge in COVID cases, virtual schooling, and the election, I feel like my head and heart are so full of worries and gunk that I can't see anymore. I bump around, dazed and unsure.
There is a lot going on in my world. In preparation for Micaela's upcoming sleep study, we will need to isolate from school which means going back to virtual schooling. I'm back in the swing of taking orders for freezer beef and am also facilitating the sale of retail cuts. However, most of all, I am missing writing. I do have extra time. I just can't figure out a direction and focus to go. Every morning and evening I come to my Heavenly Father asking Him to clean up and clear out the gunk that has accumulated around my heart and in my mind. I will have to continue this until I learn to put on the armor God gave me so that nothing sticks in the first place.
We are all being assaulted right now. Some of us are wearing it, letting it build up and fester. Others are hiding from the assault, waiting for it to pass, waiting to live again.
However, we will be assaulted for a while. The dust storm on the farm comes and goes, but the crud blowing around in the world right now seems to just be gaining speed. To ignore or to hide cannot be an option forever. We need armor.
Have you been feeling the attack these days? How are you responding?
It was strange to have him gone. The office felt bare and quiet. Adela gleefully filled the empty desktop with the Lego jungle she was creating. I tucked a stray paperclip into a drawer and wandered back into the kitchen. A second pot of coffee gurgled forth from the old coffee maker. Jovani had taken the thermos full into the bunkhouse where he had set up camp out of the house. After nine months, we agreed that having a office inside the house was providing more distraction than it was worth. A few yards away he would have a chance to focus.
I get that. I know mankind has touted the "multitasking" badge around for a few decades, but I doubt we were ever created to do that with peace. Believe me, I've tried. I can either watch a movie OR clean up after dinner. If I try to do both I lose my patience with everyone and everything. I'm a terrible listener if I'm looking at my phone. I fail to remember Micaela's meds if I'm already planning tomorrows agenda.
Truly, we were made to have distinction in our lives. Distinction that separates one task from another. One day from the next. One season from what comes ahead.
In Genesis, God spends the first few days, creating the earth in opposites. There is dark and then He makes light. He makes day and then night. He makes dry ground come up from the waters. He marks the seasons.
It was time for Jovani to get some separation from us and our happy chaos so that work could be work and home could be home. Family time feels more complete when he is there to spend time with us and doesn't need to juggle anything else.
As I begin this new year, I want to stay sensitive to the areas of my own life that need distinction. Even the little things need their separate space so that I came experience them fully. May God mark the spaces of my life and leave me little question to treasure their individual space.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
Where do you sense you need some separation or distinction in places of your own life?
I attacked the bottom of the stainless steel pan, raking the S.O.S pad across the surface as if that cookware had affronted me personally. A little hand came to rest on the side of my leg.
Micaela happily announced, "Uh, oh, Mama. Can you help me put it on the tree?"
Her hands clutched a sparkly green ornament whose marketing promise of "shatter free" has been put to the test an exhausting number of times in the last few days.
It was my own fault.
Micaela's talking is so exciting. Last year she said a handful of single words. Now she is talking up a storm. Last year she thought the round ornaments on the tree were all toy balls that had accidently landed in their prickly perches. This year she loves to admire them and leave the where they are...except the sparkly green ones. You see, the first time she made one fall off, I patiently said, "Uh, oh. That fell off. Would you like me to help you put it on the tree?"
And the game began.
Poor thing. No one thinks this is as fun as she does. Out of desperation I've begun to hide those horrid green sparkling balls and even have got angry enough to put them in "time out." However, Micaela will not be ignored. She is fighting to connect with us. As her language grows she is discovering new ways to interact with her family and it is more exciting to her than almost any other activity in her world these days.
I think more a few of us can sympathize with that hunger. Humans are social creatures with an inborn love of connecting with others. Some of us need more connection than others but we all crave something. I admit to being very blessed during this pandemic. Living on a farm right across the road from my father and brother, I have regular meaningful connections with some of my family. In fact, with the work of ranching, we connect often with much of our extended family. It is an essential part of life. Still, there are friends and family I miss dearly. I can't wait for this to be over.
Micaela found this one, silly, but fun way to connect with us. It makes her so happy.
I think about all the loved ones I am missing these days and ask God to help me connect with each one in a way that brings us all some peace.
How have you been able to connect with the people you love these days?
The world was white when we woke up. A soft, heavy snow fell silently to the ground. The air held a pensive quality, as though it might be holding its breath. There was none of our usual wind to whip the snow into drifts. It sat gently on every leaf, every twig, and every living creature that held still long enough to gather a flake or two.
Adela squealed so loud when she saw it that she jump-started my heart. Miceala laughed. All I could think was, Thank You, God. Our land has become desperately thirsty.
It was a long day indoors. Adela and Micaela began a typical sister-battle. Micaela wants to copy everything her sister does and says. Adela hates it. I'm sure it feels like an intrusion on her autonomy. Jovani and I love watching Micaela developing by leaps and bounds, but it is hard not to notice how difficult it is on our older daughter. Adela was quickly driven outdoors into the snow in order to spend time with the kittens under the shelter of the hay shed.
Later that day, my brother brought home a dogie calf and Adela went outdoors again. When I went outside to inspect the newest addition to the farm, I found a sight that stopped me.
It was that same pensive feeling around the shed. A soft peace that surrounded the area. I found Adela with her arms wrapped around a tiny black calf, talking to it in soft nurturing tones. It was the first time that day I saw her truly at peace. Just as the snow had soaked into our land, time spent with one of God's quiet creatures had eased the frustration in my daughter's heart.
In retrospect, we are never that far from God nurturing our souls. He knows how thirsty we are, how depleted, how desperate. Right when we feel that we could not go another day, another moment, He provides unexpected blessings meant to soak deep into our being and strengthen us in the next breath. It was breathtaking watching Him do this for Adela. It made me pause and consider how He provides for me daily, just the way I need it.
Micaela was gleefully shoving winter squash into our shoes in the entryway when we got back. However, Adela laughed with her sister this time and gently admonished her. Just as I should not worry that God won't provide for me, I should not worry that He won't intimately provide for my daughters' hearts and souls.
How has God surprised you with a heart-healing moment?
Conspiratorily, Adela and I walked into the room where Micaela played. Adela held out a box to her sister and said, "Micaela, we have something for you."
I watched with a proud heart as Adela helped her sister open the box to reveal her new pair of pink glasses with her new prescription and matching shoes that fit her AFO's. Micaela flapped her little hands in excitement as we fitted her braces into the shiny pink shoes and slid the glasses over her head. I hugged her and said, "I like your pink shoes and your pink glasses, Micaela. They are very pretty."
She grinned and exclaimed, "Micaela is pretty!"
Adela and I laughed and hugged her hard enough that she squirmed in our arms. She leaned back and very deliberately articulated, "Thank you." My eyes stung as they filled with tears.
She stood up and flapped her hands the whole way through the house on her way to show Jovani her new kicks and specs. Our little girl is pretty in pink.
Micaela has so much equipment. Another little girl, older and more knowing, might want contact lenses and high heels, but Micaela is content with her family telling her that she is beautiful. That is enough.
Most of all, she is thankful.
We are all thankful. I watch her walk and am reminded of the miracles...the incredible answers to endless prayers. When I watch her, I am at peace. My trust in God fills my heart.
Perhaps, mine is the most miraculous blessing of all. The storms of life have kept me close to God and Micaela reminds me of this with every step, every spoken word, and every night she is brough safely into the morning sun. Thankfulness is etched into the deepest corners of my soul.
Is a grateful heart keeping you close to God today?
I refreshed the weather app on my phone and slid my finger past the next 10 days. No rain. Not even a chance.
My stomach rolled over with fear. Restless, I stood up from my chair and softly padded my sock-covered feet to the windows. I stared at the wind, furiously moving dust and leaves and yellow grass.
Lord, I prayed, please send us some rain.
Determined I went back to my endtable and grabbed up my Bible. God made so many promises to the Isrealites to bless their country with rain and I wanted to hear one. I am an adopted daughter of God, that means He promised rain to me as well, right? My mind eagerly snatched at a formula: Find the verse + pray the verse = God remembering His promise and makes it rain.
This is where you the reader can shake your head and say, "Poor, girl."
Well, God in His mercy directed me to something else. I found Moses blessing to Isreal right before he died in Deuteronomy 33:26-29. While God does promise "dew from Heaven", He primarily emphasises that He is our reguge, that we are in His arms, and that He protects us.
My soul sighed, my shoulders relaxed. God is already here.
We all do this. We fixate on a problem, small or enormous, and all we want is for God to intervene. We want it now. We just know that an answer would set our world right. If you are anything like me, you have a hard time with any semblence of contentment until you get what you "need".
We are already protected and safe. Even before the answer from God or the miraculous intervention from Heaven, we are loved, in God's arms, and overloaded with His blessings.
I stopped refreshing my weather app and decided prayer was enough. I am bringing the need for rain to God, often multiple times a day, but I am not waiting for rain to have peace and joy. That, my friend, would be an insult to our Lord who "rides across the heavens to help you".
The next time you feel the agony or fear of an unanswered problem in your life, take a moment and revel in the truth that you rest in the arms of your everlasting Father.
What problems are filling your mind and heart these days?
I wrapped Micaela in my arms and began to play the "face game". Her body was warm, her eyes sleepy. In the opposite recliner chair, Adela was curled up on Jovani's lap. The house smelled like the popcorn I had made on the stove. The news talked to us from the television.
My shoulders dropped. In that moment, the world felt delicious.
I took in all the details of Micaela face as we named emotions and changed our faces from "surprise" to "anger" to "happy" and so on. Every once in a while Micaela would let out her tiny little roar and I would pretend to be scared. She giggled.
Worry niggled at the back of my mind.
The side of her head bore a quickly growing bump. She had fallen five times in the last few minutes before I scooped her up and decided to hold her the last little while before bed.
Falling has become a new norm as we go through the tedious process of slowly introducing Micaela to a new Epiplepsy drug. The medicine makes her dizzy. The neurologist asked that we push through the process and see how her body reacts after it has had some time to acclamate.
The process is scary and frustrating, but necessary.
Isn't this true for all of us? When we move toward good and lasting change, the process is often frustrating. We must compell ourselves to endure through discomfort, people telling us we should give up, loved ones asking us if it is really worth it.
I love reading Nehemiah, the book in the Bible where the Isrealites return to Jeruselum to build a wall of protection around the city. It was tough. The nay-sayers were loud. The enemy was dangerous. But once they finished, the wall protected them from assault.
There are some pretty awesome habits, customs, and atitudes God has called on us the build with Him if we will have the fortitude to stand firm through the process. With God, we can build our own walls of protection.
Have you started working on a wall? Perhaps it is a new prayer habit or a new healthy eating plan or a dedication to learning a new skill. As you strive for this change, you feel the push back from the world, friends, and even your very self.
Don't give up. Ask God for discernment and protection and keep going with His blessing.
Our family has chosen to wait out the side-effects of Micaela's new medicine. In the past, her body gets used to a drug within a few weeks and the side-effects lessen or dissapear. We are hoping for an added layer of protection from her seizure which are markedly decreased since her surgery last year.
As I hold her, I thank God for this moment, a moment of peace, and I ask for His strength as we continue to work on that wall.
Have you ever had to stand firm through a grueling process meant to better your world when you got to the other side?
I absolutely could not sleep. My eyes closed and filled with visions of the laminated lists and perfectly packed lunch boxes.
It was done.
It was all done.
Nothing to worry about.
But still my heart hammered inside my chest.
There is a mom out there, more easy-going than I, probably getting a good chuckle at my anxiety. I know there are plenty of families out there who make through everyday without spreadsheets and timers on their phones. They probably enjoy each other a bit more than me and mine do these days.
I am simply terrified that something isn't going to get done.
Like, what if a teacher texts me that Micaela's breath smells? Or, what if Adela starves at school because she didn't have her lunch?
While I love my children, a more honest voice inside me confesses my motivation is desperation not to mess anything up.
Nearly at the end of my mental and emotional capabilities, I needed God to speak into my life. For this particular instance a few weeks ago, He used my sister. I called her because she is an organization guru and I wanted some tips and tricks to incorporate into my infallable system. I told her about my insomnia. I could hear the smile in her voice when she told me two things: First, I would get used to this new working-mom routine and would start sleeping again. And, second, I would mess up and realize that life could go on with mistakes.
I breathed out slowly and realized that I had not been allowing God any control.
I'm in week six of working and I am now sleeping again. I have gotten used to the new routine. Also, I have a more gorgeous view of my family supportively picking up the slack. Jovani has become a pro at getting the girls school-ready. Adela is feeding animals, emptying the dishwasher, and double-checking her backpack. Micaela kisses me goodbye and gives me a joy-filled grin as I leave.
The more I give up control of what I've held onto so tightly, God fills my hands with blessings. It is so easy to make plans and systems a kind of idol that edges my trust in God out of the way. The more I had focused on trying to become organized and prepared enough, I had taken my focus off of the magnitude of God's love and power.
Sometimes we have to let go of something for God to hand us the blessings we have been waiting for all along.
When has God surprised you most with unexpected blessings?
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