The clouds to the north built into black and blue mushrooms. The kids on the playground laughed and squealed. I wondered if we would have to move inside the church a little earlier. The storm looked like a serious one. I mentally counted the kids in my class. They were amazing. I enjoyed teaching them, hearing their thoughts about God, and the powerful connections they had made to the Bible stories and concepts in our class. I breathed in deeply and sighed. Vacation Bible School never fails to nourish my soul. Closing activities would include songs, laughter, and dancing.
Micaela let out a loud cry. I wheeled around. She had fell again. Angry and exhausted, she held her hands to me. I scooped her up. The breeze brought the smell of rain. Adela sprinted to my side.
"Mama, are we going home soon?" Her brown eyes were full of fear and worry. A few years ago she studied natural disasters in school and my smart little girl has never befriended storms. Micaela continued to cry in my arms.
My lips tightened. "There is only half an hour left, Adela. We're fine."
Adela reached up to grab my free hand. "Is there going to be any tornadoes?"
"No," I snapped, and switched Micaela to my other hip.
I stood there, both my girls upset and increasingly melting-down. I have no idea what shifted in my soul, but suddenly I just wanted to put them both in the car and to get away. There was only half an hour left and my responsibilities as a teacher for Vacation Bible School were over for the day. The kids in my class were playing. Other teachers stood and watched and talked.
Micaela tightened her grip on me. I shrugged, "I suppose we could. go. Micaela is so tired." She had got fitted with new orthotics that day and I knew she was especially weary. Perhaps I was, too.
I hated doing it. I entertained a thousand thoughts about what others would think when I left the church early, before the closing exercises and songs, but Micaela still sobbed in my arms and Adela had a death grip on my other arm. Annoyance filled me as I gathered up my things and packed them and the girls into the little red car. Ashamed of my early retreat, I let the church leaders and another teacher know before I set the wheels in the direction of home.
I gazed at those clouds. They loomed ahead of me. The sheets of rain were the deep hue of a night sky and moving toward us. I blinked. My stomach did a little flip. Rain drop began to pelt the windows and I ramped the speed of the wipers up another notch.
By the time we reached our little farm, puddles were beginning to form. The rain soaked our clothes as we sprinted the few feet to the door. It poured for a good hour. It rained so hard here at the farm and the surrounding area that the draw swelled and filled, covering the road until it was impassable. It happened so fast that if I had not come home when I did, I would not have made it home in our little red car.
Wow, God can truly use anything for His purposes. He used the unreasonable melt-downs of my daughters to get me in the car and home. My perfectionistic tendencies make shirking responsibilities very difficult. I want to do everything and do it completely. However, that day, I gave in and gave up, because my daughters' fear and exhaustion.
I have to laugh. God is so creative.
So, the next time I think a situation is a disaster, I am going to remember this day when God used melt-downs to protect me and my family.
When has God surprised you by turning a disaster into an unexpected blessing?
I made the bottle quickly. My hands mixed the sweet formula into the warm water, the smell always reminds me of smarties candy. The milk filled the bottle and I squeezed the nipple in place. Out the front door I went. The lamb's cries hit me along with the blanket of hot air. I fisted my empty hand. How could I have forgotten to feed her? As I walked to the shed, I glanced at the full clothesline. I needed to get them down soon and put them away. I also needed to put the kids to bed, do the dishes, sweep the floor...
My fist gripped tighter. I was falling behind in my chores. Between the work I am doing to prepare for teaching in the fall, the visits from family, and my determination to have some fun with the kids, the normal bread-and-butter activities of keeping up the home were falling through the cracks.
With that thought, my attitude fell lower. The next day I called a friend and we talked about my attitude toward summer "fun". On top of my frantic activities, I had not been able to get time alone in several days. After listening, my friend asked if I ever snuck outside to sit on the front porch and breathe. The answer was no. However, she insisted that getting outside with no chores or purpose would help me cultivate a more peaceful heart.
That night, I put the kids to bed, and stepped outside onto the porch. It was spectacular. I expected quiet, but was greeting with hundreds of birds songs, insect chips, sheep baas, and cattle moos. It was chaotic and brilliant, like sitting next to my own bubbling brook of life. I felt my shoulders drop. I smiled. God is handling this whole wide world of life, why am I fretting over my own tiny corner of it?
I am so caught up in managing and manipulating, afraid of dropping or forgetting a single thing, yet God has it all covered. The chaos is not chaotic to Him, but part of a perfectly balanced world that He lovingly tends. I can let it go. His hands are already holding everything up.
His yoke is easy, the burden light, (Matthew 11:28-30) if I will turn my head and allow Him to take the lead.
Chores. They can go on for days and are never finished. Lord, please give me a heart of compassion towards this. Let me trust You and rest in You.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with chores?
My heart gave that little flutter as I sat down and opened up the decorated pages of my planner. It was the last week. The last week of summer was upon us. I sipped my coffee and smiled, allowing a few minutes of pure day-dreaming delight as I imagined the months ahead. I thought of ice cream and snuggles with the girls of them squealing as they played in the sprinklers and of the time we would spend exploring their interests.
I smiled as my optimistic heart decided that it would be the best summer ever. Micaela is incredible mobile and confident outside, Adela has a thousand interests and things that excite her heart, and I am ready for the change.
I almost...almost...didn't need my cup of coffee.
Hope and positive expectations are powerful.
I tried a new Bible Study program recently called "She Reads Truth" and the study I did was about the Kindom of God. The study awed me. As I poured over God's Kingdom, His promises, and His plans for us, I was filled with hope and expectation that fueled every day with the determination to show up as a loving and compassionate child of God. There is nothing like looking at God's big picture and being reminded that He is in total control and that great things are in store.
I have so much trust in God's plans for my family and that faith helps me look to the summer with even more joy. Yes, there will be sun burns and sweaty mosquito bites and weeds to pull, but, the sun will shine and everything will grow. My garden, my flowers, my girls, and my heart.
I'm so ready.
What are you looking forward to that is fueling your life today?
The car smelled like McDonald's chicken nuggets and Walmart donut holes. Micaela cried in the back seat, having thrown her toy on the floor...again...and wanting it back. Adela rested her tired head against the window, her eyes glassy and feverish. I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles were white.
If I had run a marathon or worked cattle all day, I wouldn't have been as tired as I was last Sunday after going to urgent care with the girls. The best place to go was an hour away. We spend three hours there, another hour waiting for our prescriptions, and then drove home again. It was miserable, but Adela, who had been sick all weekend, developed sores on the back of her throat. Feverish and in so much pain, I didn't want to make her wait until Monday. Besides, I needed to get Micaela checked out, too. She still won't tell me when she is feeling bad.
Honestly, while in the actual doctor's office, both the girls did great. It was the waiting that was so hard. I left the house completely unprepared to keep us entertained. We sang songs, played games, and kept our masks on. The minutes dragged on. I could have brought out my phone and let them watch a show or two, but knowing that Micaela would have a complete meltdown the moment I had to put the device away again, I kept it in my purse. I kept listening to the sound of footsteps, hoping our turn would come, but the waiting room had been busy and I knew it would take time.
The next morning, when I wrote about the experience in my journal, I got an idea. Why not stick a few simple items like a bag of cheap balloon, coloring books, and pipe cleaners into the diaper bag along with a list of activities we can do with the materials? A day like Sunday happens only once or twice a year, but that doesn't mean I can't be proactive and plan for it. I can also plan better self-care than donut holes...maybe.
We all go through things that are stressful and difficult. Usually, we have two options afterward: decide to be a victim to circumstances or take proactive action to learn from the experience while making a better plan for next time. Who knows, perhaps God allowed that day to wake me up to this need because He knows I'll be doing this again soon.
God's precious provision and care is evident daily in my life. Adela is already doing great and back in school. Micaela and I didn't get her bug which is a miracle in itself, and I am still learning and growing under God's gentle guidance and love.
Is there something you went through recently that didn't go as well as you wished? What proactive steps could you take to improve that experience next time. Can you make a plan?
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?
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