It was the last few minutes before the girls' bedtime. Micaela had crossed over into the persona of an exhausted two-year old and adamantly refused to put pajamas on. Adela whined tiredly about not getting to finish setting up a Lego dinosaur zoo she was building. Anger and frustration blossomed into lies about my abilities as a mom and the personalities of my children.
I've been through this scene a hundred times. Usually I just plow through it and grit my teeth. I skip reading a book, rush through prayers and lullabies, and shut their door firmly behind me. However, the other night I tried something new. I'm going through a series right now about self-talk by Karen Stubbs and so I took a deep breath as Adela went to brush her teeth and Micaela went to retrieve a baby doll. "Lora," I asked myself, "how are you doing?" As if a trusted friend had asked me the question, I answered sincerely, "I'm really tired tonight." Just like that, my eyes opened to truth. I was so very tired. My head was full of fog and my body was weary. I did not have the energy to pretend cheerfulness but I wanted to be kind. The truth turned into prayer and I asked God to help me.
Feelings of peace and compassion rushed through my soul. The frustration and anger melted away as I acknowledged my true condition and my inability to achieve perfection.
The miracle followed. I returned to my wrestling match with Micaela and the pajamas, but now, calm and kind, I got her ready for bed without yelling and ended with many hugs. I got through three pages in our chapter book, said prayers with sincerity, and sang their lullabies with love. I closed their door, still weary, but intensely moved by how powerful it had been to give myself compassion and ask God to come along side me.
I think we all know what our red-flag moments are: those attitudes, thoughts, actions, and words that warn us that we have come to the end of ourselves. Dear Lord, I wish I would invite you in before I become too empty, but I am thankful You are always willing to come to me in my weakness.
Have you ever stopped and taken stock of your own red-flag moments?
I gathered up all the supplies and invited Micaela to the couch for our afterschool homework. I have been so excited to have Micaela interested in "reading " again. For nearly 3 months she was on total strike of all academic-related activities. However, for the last few weeks she has engaged in reading books and doing some learning activities on the tablet.
On today's stack of books was "Dear Dragon Goes to the hospital." She loved it, flapping her hands excitedly with terms and scenery she is more than familiar with. However, she didn't want to say all the words with me, instead, for several pages, she became fixed on saying, "Oh, no, he has owie." It wasn't even part of the text. It was just a comment I had made. Frustrated at her lack of attention on the following pages, I let out a deep angry breath. Disappointment and a familiar fear filled me. What if she never learns to read?
I buried my head in my hands and felt my heart pulse in my ears.
Micaela's small fingers reached up and pulled my hands away from my eyes. A grin, reaching from ear to ear, filled her face and she said, "Peek-a-boo!" I chuckled and remembered something I had learned that day called "The Manual".
It was on a podcast for weight loss where a physician was talking about relationships. She said, that often we are at odds with the people in our life simply because they are not acting in compliance to the "manual" we have in our heads about the way they are supposed to act. Usually, neither they nor us are aware of this detailed collection we have about the way they are supposed to act and talk. All we are aware of is our disappointment, anger, and frustration we feel when they don't toe the line.
Micaela has no idea her Mama expects her to read, go to the bathroom by herself, and behave like a normal human being. In her world, she just wants to talk about "owies" and play peek-a-boo. My expectations for her future get in the way of enjoying who she is. Period. And, it is not just her. I have manuals for all the people in my life that do not serve me in my interactions with them. Those expectations dirty the lens from which I view the people that I love.
We finished the homework and played peek-a-boo. I realized that on so many levels, making sure Micaela feels loved, balms both her soul and my own. I can do the hard work of helping her learn and grow, but I have to accept that she is the one who will do that learning and growing. Just like I have my own areas of imperfections in need of change.
God loves us beyond our brokenness with a complete and perfect love. I ask Him to give me a heart more like His as I parent my girls.
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
In what ways are your expectations for other people getting in the way of enjoying who they are?
I felt like my eyeballs were going to burst from my skull from the inner pressure of built-up frustration. Adela sat on the bed, oblivious to the fact that she only had one leg in her pants and launched into some long explanation of the eating habits of hippos. For some reason, she cannot dress and talk at the same time.
That same morning I had sifted through my Monday morning emails and found an article about being present for our children. I looked at the clock. The time was ticking for me to jump in the truck and go to work, but, wanting to be a "good" mom I took a breath and focused on my half-dressed 8-year-old.
Time slowed. I smiled. She was so stinkin' cute. Her entire face lit up as she described the animal's behavior she had learned in some book or another. Her hands lifted and waved with her words. Her expressions changed with her drama-filled explanation. My frustration was replaced by fascination as I watched this child alive with passion for animals.
Then she stopped. "So, now you know how they eat, Mama."
I blinked, just like that she was sliding her other leg into her pants and flipping back her hair. Moment done.
I think it was shame that fell over me next. I often ignore or brush off Adela's strange animal-fact-tirades. They are simply just not on my agenda. But, the whole thing had taken less than a minute and my eye-contact showed her how much I respected and loved her. What a small but very powerful gift I had been withholding from my precious daughter.
Micaela crawled out of bed and grabbed one shoe, shoving it at my face. "Mama, another one shoe?" I grabbed her other. She happily hugged them as we prepared her for school and handed them to me so we could fit them over her braces. She reached up and pushed her finger onto my nose and said, ever so sincerely, "Mama, I love your nose." I laughed and rubbed my nose against hers. "I love your nose, too."
Somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware of the clock ticking, but, for this moment, I didn't care so much. I was here, now.
Oh, how incredible it is to live in the present. Worry and fear are truly emotions that come from living in the future, agonizing on what might come. I am so thankful for that article Monday morning that has set the course for the week as I engage in the present with the people I love. It is the space where God slides peacefully into my spirit as I invite Him back in. It is the practice that gives me strength and perspective.
Where in life do you feel your own agenda gets in the way of being present for the people you love?
I cooked three different meals that we could re-heat, if needed, on the portable propane burners. I closed all the curtains. I filled pitchers with water and filled both bathtubs in case we lost power or our water lines froze. Jovani set up a portable gas heater and left it ready in case our heaters failed us.
We were as ready as we could be for the cold-snap that followed.
Even when we lived in Patagonia it never got to -7 degrees. While we prepared, I tried to hide my nerves from Adela who sees everything, but it didn't work. She finally pried the information from me. When I told her what was happening her eyes went wide and she went into action, working alongside me. She helped fill the pitchers then went and rounded up everyone's water bottles and filled them all up, too. Shortly it was time for bed. After a quick prayer to God, asking for His protection, she was sound asleep.
I watched her deep breathing and tucked her quilt in around tighter. What a delicate balance we live with our Heavenly Father. We must work but also trust. We must move forward but believe that He ultimately controls every outcome. We must prepare but have peace that God is our true Protector and Provider. Life is still teaching me how to keep this balance. I totally lean in to my own responsibilities and could prepare and plan endlessly. I often wait until I've reached the end of myself before turning to God and trusting Him with the rest.
Jovani had to haul hay during the cold snap and snow. A few times I went outside to break ice and do a handful of farm chores. The cold was biting and breath-taking. However, when I went to break ice for our ewes I stopped in amazement. Spread out in the pen sat our group of pregnant ewes. Fat and happy, they sat chewing their cud and blinking at me. The area was filled with peace. They were not frantically searching for shelter or pushing at each other trying to secure the best spot under the shed or next to the windbreak. They were utterly content. They had everything they needed with no thought that it all might go wrong for them later.
I broke ice and wandered back to the house. The scene of those peaceful ladies was still on my mind as I took off the multiple layers of clothing and warmed myself up with a cup of coffee. Micaela was stacking cans by the pantry. Adela was reading her latest copy of National Geographic Kids. Even my daughters were filled with peace and contentment.
I once heard Barb Mulvey from Hope Ahead Ministries explain it like this: God give us an umbrella of protection for today. However, when we become anxious, worrying about tomorrow, we step out from under the umbrella and are assaulted by all the what-if's.
I let out a deep breath and chose to settle into God's protection. Right then, right that moment, we were prepared for whatever might happen and we were warm and safe. After a few days, the temperature crawled back above freezing. I drained the bathtubs and poured out the pitchers of water. I was thankful that I had stopped worrying because the days were delightful with extra snuggles, books, movies, and bowls of popcorn. I would have missed out on it all if I had paced and worried instead of settling into trust.
How were you through the cold snap?
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?
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"...and God was already there with me."