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 wanted anything except a half-dead lamb on my kitchen floor.
I had dropped the girls off with their Abuelos for two days. With the school year finally over, I was eager for a chance to pusue some projects while the girls were happily beginning their summer. Like so many parents around the nation, sheltering-in-place while homeschooling my children had been quite an experience and we all needed the break.
I took care of breakfast, dressed, did my chores, and rolled up my sleeves to gaze at my to-do list with shining eyes. With excited determination I pointed my toes towards my first task.
Someone knocked at the door. A little monster inside me growled as I noted the first minute of the day roll by. And then I saw who was at my door. My dad stood with a limp figure in his arms. The very same arms that rocked me to sleep as a baby, held a half-dead lamb.
He apologized. I sighed. The poor little critter was cold and mostly unresponsive. I had never saved one this far gone. My eyes flicked to my agenda for the day as I grabbed the milk, bottles, and equipment for tubing milk directly into the baby's stomach. Dad got back to checking the rest of farm. I worked with the lamb for a half-hour, trying to get her warm, watching her anxiously for a flicker of an ear or a bat of an eye that would show that wome warmth or nutrition would bring life back to the tiny creature. Nothing. Annoyed and heart-sore, I left her in a box with a warm towel and got back to my to-do list.
I tubed her again a half-hour later, traded out warm towels, and noted that nothing about her changed. Once again, I wouldn't save this lamb. I looked at the clock and, from experience, guessed she would be dead within the hour.
I walked away, annoyed at how my eyes stung with sadness and frustrated at the lost time. I finished sorting a box in the office and went to take a load of trash to the dumpster. I passed the lamb's box and froze in my tracks. There wasn't any movement, no sign of change, but, that still small voice spoke into my heart. She needed me.
I crouched next to her, wondering what else could possibly be done. Before I knew it, I was making a bottle and bundling the tiny creature into my lap. I shifted her limp weight and rubbed her body. I lifted the warm bottle of milk to her mouth and let the taste of it hit her tongue. A strange sense of love came over me. It wasn't there a second before, but suddenly I knew that whether she lived or died, she needed love. She needed my time. My warmth. She needed to be more important than an item on a list.
So, I sat there and talked to her and stroked her newborn baby lamb hair.
How many things in life have I refused to love simply because I was too busy?
How many people do I speak to curtly, shortly, or not at all because I do not have the time?
Many of us are guilty of this. It seems the new "cool thing" to be is someone who has so much on their plate that they cannot be bothered with idle chats or a moment of silence with a hurting friend.
Eventually I set the lamb down, carefully, where the warm sunlight would hit her body, and stayed close while I worked quietly. I prayed for her. I waited for her passing, thankful that I wouldn't regret that I hadn't tried enough or given enough of myself.
When shifting a load of laundry into the dryer her thin bleat nearly made me fall down to the ground.
My little visitor was not only alive, she was awake and on her feet. I grabbed the bottle, warmed it, and went over. I gathered her up and offered the milk. She sucked and wagged her tail.
I did cry a little.
We named her Princess Buttercup. She was sick for a few days but eventually found her feet and is quickly becoming one of our biggest and strongest ewe dogie lambs.
All because God made me stop and consider a life.
Lambing is mostly done now and we have several sets of triplets and countless sets of twins. With it has come 13 dogies (orphans) that my family and I care for. They are happy, busy little babies.
I pray my lesson with this lamb stays with me a long time. May my time never be as important as life and love.
Have you ever neglected a friend or loved one because you were too busy?
How do You Help People During a Time of Personal Tragedy?
I sipped my coffee automatically. My friend sat across from me at the table, her own cup growing cold. I fidgeted with my napkin, folding and unfolding it.
All the while, my friend continued to tell me her story. My mind and heart rolled over and over, lost in her hurt.
How do you handle other people’s pain? I am a fixer and a "do-er". I am on a long difficult journey learning how to handle these situations. My reaction is usually trying to find a solution and give other people the "right" answers so they can move forward. However, I am learning that most the time this is a misguided thing to do.
I love that story in the Bible when the pregnant maidservant, Hagar, runs away and cries in the desert (Genesis 16). This woman was mistreated and full of fear. She had no hope and was consumed by emotional pain. God hears Hagar and sends His angel to care for her. But, though the angel surely knew her whole story, he began by asking, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”
The angel’s first step in ministering to Hagar was to come close to her in her loneliness and give someone who would listen to her story. It was only after she spoke that He gave her the message from God. He didn’t weigh her down with opinions of his own.
I tend to over-talk someone in pain, trying to fix their world with my poor assembly of knowledge. However, the reality of it is that until someone has their heart ministered to, they are often unable to use their head to make decision and plans.
If you want to help someone in pain, even if you don’t agree with all they say, you can let them know that you hear them, that they are heard. That they are loved. That they are not alone.
So, as my friend let out her story, I concentrated on simply listening to her. I didn’t try to fix it or judge the situation, I let her talk. Later there was time to discuss a solution and a course of action, but, while she was still in so much pain, all I could do was listen.
How did you react the last time someone came to you in emotional pain?
I take no credit for the truth I'm about to share with you. But I am thankful for this new revelation. It could not have come at a better time.
Life, I thought, surely couldn't have gotten busier or more stressful. But it did. I've more responsibities at home and on our farm. Micaela has more clinics, doctors, and therapists than ever. Adela comes home with a small mountain of homework each evening from school, and it is the holidays.
One sad evening I sat at my kitchen table and despaired. When would the rest of my dreams be realized? I had hoped to finish the first draft of a new book and successfully establish crop-pruducing greens . Instead I was thankful to have clean dishes and a day where we didn't go to the ER.
I think you reach a point like this in your life and all you feel is confused. You start asking the questions like "How did I get here?" "When is this going to get better?" "What am I supposed to do?" and worst of all, "What am I doing wrong?".
God in His great mercy sent me some answers.
I love listening to Podcasts when I work and the girls are at school. I fell upon one titled RESOLUTION FOR WOMEN // SURPRISINGLY SATISFIED by Priscilla Shirer. As I listened to the wise words I felt great peace settle into me.
The truth is, there is nothing wrong with where I am or where my family is. God has planted us here. If I can honestly confess to God that I am doing my best with the time He has given me while I honor Him, my husband, and my children, then I am to be blessed with contentment. And, with that contentment, comes strength.
If you are feeling the pain of disappointments, the pressure of burdens, or the discomfort of uncertainty, perhaps it is time that you take a step back. I took a step back and saw that, in all truth, my family and I are fine. I am fine. We are honoring God, doing the best we can with His blessings as we grow in His wisdom. If we want peace, it is right there in acceptance that we have been provided for and trust that God has us covered tomorrow.
Contentment is strength. With that strength I have reached out and reclaimed my joy, my love, my hope.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
How have you found strength in contentment?
Breathe in. Breathe out. Think about where you feel your breath. Concentrate on that part of you body. Breathe.
My mind concentrates on my breath for about ten seconds. Unruly and untamed thoughts bounce back and forth, ping pong balls in my mind. I can’t focus for long.
Recognizing my undisciplined mind is important. Knowing that I have no control over my thoughts, makes me aware of how easy those downward spirals are or those tangents of panic and paranoia.
This year I have found myself on the battleground of my mind. My fears and concerns are real, daily, and many in number. How do I not allow them to control my life?
Micaela’s seizures are life-threatening and while she sleeps. She was recently implanted with a VNS. We have been working with Phoenix Children's Hospital who are hopeful that the VNS will lessen the severity of her seizures. In the meantime, Jovani and I check her hourly during the night.
During the day, Micaela is a bright bundle of energy. She can walk holding on to one of our hands. She jabbers away, daily adding to her vocabulary of single-syllable words. We are potty training which at our rate will most likely take years. Yes. Years.
She is now eating and drinking water. We continue to wean from the G-tube feedings.
God's blessing fill our lives.
Our family life is busy with Adela in second grade and Micaela going to Kindergarten. The farm continues to grow and our responsibilities grow with it.
On paper, it is easy to see the blessings. However, a few months ago, it was growing harder to live with joy.
I don’t live in the present anymore. A lot of us don’t. We live in a memory of the past or the fear of the future. We work out problems or dwell on issues. We walk through 90% of life outside of the here and now. Then we are stressed and full of fear.
For the first time in several months I feel hopeful and awake. I have been given the possibility of learning to live in the moment, enjoy it even, instead of constantly juggling a heavy load of what-if’s and if-only’s.
I’ll share more about this next week, but, if anything I’ve shared has struck a cord with you, I want you to take a moment to look up “Mindfulness.” It is incredible how many health benefits are connected to practices that have been around for thousands of years.
God is in the here and now. He wants us to release the past and the future and take our seat in front of His presence in this very moment.
I’m just having to re-learn how to get there.
The Christmas Season can be full of hustle and bustle. Do you find yourself having a difficult time enjoying the holidays?
How do You Harness the Power of Community When You Are a Farming Stay-at-Home Mom?
from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
There are coutless ways to spend time with others in the Body of Christ. Can you share more in the comments below?
How I've Been Blessed By the People Who Come Alongside Me as I Parent.
I glanced at the news and didn’t know whether to wrinkle my nose or bury my head in my hands. I know it has been said, but I will say it again, “What is this world coming to?”
And, “What can I do?”
The truth is, a lot of our cultural problems could be solved with good parenting, but, if the mom’s of today are anything like me, they are living in survival mode. They make decisions day to day, moment by moment, with full heads, bruised hearts, and exhausted bodies. We need help.
I think about the amazing women who have become “mothers” to me. Each have their own sweet styles of coming into my life and helping me. If you are a woman (or a man) in the more mature generation and feel drawn to helping young parents cope, I need to give you two very happy thumbs up.
I have found myself incredibly blessed by the advice and love of others as I parent. Especially in these ways:
If you want to change the world, change the life a mother or father. Come along side their journey as they do God’s precious work. We don’t need someone to do it for us, we need someone supporting our hearts and sanity as we move forward. And, we need the maturity, wisdom, and life perspective of that older generation to bring us out of survival mode and into joy in the journey.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25, NIV
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?
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?
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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"...and God was already there with me."