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?
What Do We Do When the Future is Uncharted?
I pushed down the horror that rose in my throat as the middle-aged neurologist gave us an over-view of surgery. The most extreme surgery they did was cut out half of the brain. It would leave an individual with limited use of the left side of the body.
I resisted the urge to gather Micaela up in my arms and flee the little room with it’s cheerful paint tones.
He was a smart doctor, laying out the worst possible scenario and getting us past the shock. Most likely, if Micaela was a candidate for the surgery, they would only have to remove a tiny part of her frontal lobes and the side effects would be minimal. Still, it was brain surgery. I swallowed. Were we doing the right thing?
Next to me, Jovani listened intently while Micaela slept in his arms. You could barely see the cute pink shirt and blue jeans she sported underneath my sweater that we had tucked about her. I had taken painful care to make sure she arrived clean and wrinkle-free, but she had chosen to sleep through our appointment.
It gave us time to talk.
There were many options for our little Micaela. There were diets, supplements, VNS, alternative medicines, and prescription drugs. They might succeed in lowering her number of seizures and make them less severe, but they would never make her seizure free for the rest of her life. With the recent episode of 7 + hours of night seizures that she had January 1st still fresh in our head, we were ready to proceed with the screening process to see if she was a candidate for surgery.
Do you ever feel like you live your life as a parent in the gray area? Rarely do we encounter a black and white choice for our children. My mind spun with “what if’s” and my anxiety rose until that still small voice broke in.
You are only here now.
I breathed. In and out. Right now we weren’t making any decisions at all except agreeing to more EEGs. Right now Micaela was peacefully spending her morning in the warm security of her father’s arms. She was happy and her parents were exploring all their options to give her a better future.
God promises to be our rock, our fortress, our salvation, and our rest. (Psalm 62:1-2) So, when things seem gray, commit yourself to mentally stay in the moment and move forward one toe at a time. You will find God’s peace shines light on the path in front of you.
We will be heading to Children’s Hospital Colorado again in a week for several days of EEG video monitoring. God goes with us every step of the way and keeps us close.
If you feel paralyzed in a gray area of your life, ask God for enough light to move forward with peace. We don’t have to have all the answers right now. We just need enough of God’s truth to see the next step we need to make.
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
What is the hardest choice you ever had to make? What made it hard and how did you move forward?
Learning the Art of Living in the Present
The house stood quiet, asleep and surrounded by snow. It had been the best day ever. I smiled.
I sunk lower into the chair and cupped the warm peppermint tea, breathing in the soothing scent. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the kitchen sink stacked high with dirty dishes. I let out a deep sigh and shook my head. I would let God provide time to care for the dishes tomorrow. Today I was on holiday.
It really didn’t make sense. I had been awake since 5:30am, had cooked three meals and three snacks. I had chased four children and kept them entertained in the freezing weather. But, it had all seemed so…fun. Our snow day with Jovani home had been a blast.
Perhaps the key simply was that I had decided to take a day off. Therefore, I designated every task as an enjoyable activity and not work. Nothing had been a chore though many chores had been done.
Vacation. Holidays. Days off. My mentality changes when I am supposed to be enjoying myself. Today I slowed down to notice the shade of Micaela’s eyes when she smiles. I dove in to coloring when Adela wanted to do an Art project that took up the kitchen table. I laughed with my nephews as we played card games. I snuggled up to Jovani and crunched popcorn.
I was busy all day, but I savored the moments with my family. I savored sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and touches that ordinarily get brushed out of the way as my mind zooms to the next thing I need to get done. I was present with my family today.
I don’t do that much anymore.
How sad. How difficult it must be for my little girls to connect to a mother who is more engaged with her to-do list than their delights and fears. How disappointing it must be for Jovani to try and enjoy my company when all I can do is re-hash my day or agonize over what tomorrow will bring.
Any of you there with me?
Goodness, we have to change this. We keep praying to God to help us handle our responsibilities and ease our stress but we don’t trust God enough to settle into a single moment without hopping our minds away to the past or future.
I think I found what I want to work on this year.
I want to work on being here.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
What have you had trouble engaging with and enjoying lately?
My stomach was nauseous, my heart sick for days. Should I? Or should I not? The question went in cycles in my head. I knew what felt most right for the moment, but when I thought forward to the months and years ahead I feared the repercussions of my decision.
My precious nephews, born just a few months apart, were to be Baptized into the Catholic Church. It was a huge moment for the families and for me. I’m not part of the Catholic Church, but there are few things sweeter than having a mother and father dedicate to raise their baby under God’s guidance and protection.
Just a few days before we were to get on the road to head that way, Micaela had a seizure. My mommy-instincts suspected that she seized due to mild sleep deprivation and getting over-stimulated at the New Year’s Eve dinner we had with family. An overnight trip felt like a bad gamble. I knew it. But it was breaking my heart. I don’t want to be a mom that puts unnecessary bubbles around her children. I want them to experience life and family. And yet, …
My husband agreed with me. Micaela’s seizures were becoming more frequent and it made no sense to expose her to a long weekend trip with unpredictable sleeping arrangements, lots of noise, and stress. And yet, …
I despaired and worried that I was turning into that overprotective mom that would keep Micaela from everything she needed. To be honest, I was also very concerned that I would hurt the feelings of the family I loved by not being there.
The morning Jovani and Adela were set to leave, we did our daily devotional, Every Day in His Presence, by Charles F. Stanley. As if God knew my torn heart, the reading of the day was about feeling indecisive. Stanley wrote, “Therefore, rest assured that even at this moment the Father is teaching you to trust Him. And He will give you just enough light on the path to walk with Him one step at a time.”
Wow. I knew the first step before me: protect Micaela. It was obvious.
I looked around at the packed suitcases and sleeping bags and let out a deep sigh. Peace flowed in. The future with Micaela’s progression and development, as well as the relationship I share with my beautiful family were in God’s hand.
The path lit at my feet reflected the need to protect this fragile child from a seizure that could wipe her out for days and land her in the hospital.
Next time, I hope I look down the path and am content that this first step is illuminated. It is enough. It is sufficient. Life is not dark and confusing for those who rest in God. We simply must put one foot in front of another and have faith.
How often do we come to a fork in the road and are terrorized by the unknown? We’re are paralyzed because we fear the long-term ramifications of a bad decision. However, if we breathe and look down, we will see just enough of the path to move our toes.
Have you ever been faced with a huge life decision and felt that you were incapable of making the best choice? How did you pick the direction you would go?
“Mama. Can I have a quarter?”
We were headed to albuqueruqe with a couple hours still left on the road. I shrugged, “Sure, you may have a quarter. What do you want to buy with it?”
Adela’s voice rose in frustration. “No. Not a quarter—a quarter!”
I let out a breath. Obviously we weren’t talking about the same thing. “Okay.” I raised an eyebrow in the rearview mirror. “What are you going to do with the quarter.”
Adela sighed. “I’m going to eat it. I’m going to eat it just like the pigs.”
I laughed. “You mean like your piggy bank? Like the piggy bank at your abuelos house?”
Adela’s voice rose louder yet. “No! Its not funny! I want a quarter. Not like the dinero. Like un Rincon where the mice are.”
We went back and forth like this for a long time. Adela’s language is so much better, but when she can’t say that key word right, we both end up very frustrated. Our “quarter” conversation ended with me telling her we needed to stop talking about "quarters" it for a while.
A couple weeks later, Jovani brought home a brown bag full of fresh ears of corn. Adela squealed in glee and asked, “Oh, Mama, can we eat quarters like a pig?” She demonstrated with her hands, a big smile on her face.
Everything clicked into place. "Quarter" sounds similar to "corncob" and "corner". Rincon in Spanish means corner. We have two kids’ books where the pigs are eating corn on the cob.
I chuckled and grabbed up that goofy girl in a hug.
Miscommunication causes so much hurt in the world. From Adela’s little frustration to generational rifts in families, when people are unable or unwilling to express what is going on the misunderstanding results in pain.
Goodness, I did it just the other day. I was horribly grumpy, especially towards my husband. I didn’t quite understand the mood myself, but I let him know that I was “So tired of all of this.”
You can guess, things were a little off between us, that night. After I spent some quiet time in prayer, I realized that I had short-changed myself on quiet time and rest time for over a week while I tried to meet various demands. And then, because I have an amazing spouse who almost always saves me, I turned to him to fix something I didn’t quite know was wrong.
Sometimes, when our thoughts and emotions are twisting into negativity and anger, our words stopping making sense and simply are hurtful.
And, on the flip side of that, we need to ask God to help us listen to people with our hearts and spirit and not just our heads. People, especially hurting people, are not often wise in the words they use. That is when it is so important that God fills us with His mercy and love.
Like Adela and her "pigs eating quarters" phrase we might not always understand the people around us, but that should never change the way we love them.
A soft answer turns away wrath,
Have you ever been in a situation when all your words came out wrong and someone was hurt?
Do you have thoughts like this: “So much rests on my shoulders.” “My family is depending on me, I have to get this done.” “I never have enough time.” “I could do more.”
These thoughts have plagued my exhausted brain for years. There is always so much that I must accomplish and I feel like I am constantly falling short. I don’t give the girls enough attention. The house doesn’t ever feel clean enough. I wish I could study more, read more, learn more. I wish I could give Jovani more devoted time, too, but I am so tired.
In our last Monday post, Confessions of a Workaholic Who is Still at Home, I admitted that I was addicted to adrenaline. While I could have claimed that I was overburdened or overworked, the real truth was that I clung to the worry, anxiety, and rush that came with constantly being busy, constantly needing to do more, and constantly maintaining productivity. I cut God’s provisions out of the equation and bullied through life on my own strength. I didn’t sleep enough, care for myself, or trust my connection with God to direct my life.
If you took the Adrenaline Addiction Test at Soulshepparding.org and came up positive for this addiction too, then you might need to pull back and re-examine your life.
I found out about adrenaline addiction four months ago and since then have put in place new practices that have helped me rest in God. We still have to be productive. We still have to care for our families. But we can shift the burden of always needing to know what to do and who to help onto God’s shoulders. We can focus on connecting with Him and trusting Him.
We are not always supposed to be “doing”. Sometimes, we are supposed to rest with no other motivation except to connect with God, be replenished, and refresh our bodies. Crazy notion, right? And sometimes (this is even crazier) sometimes we have to stop and rest even when there are still things to do on our list. In years past, when I have felt frazzled and frustrated, I have self-soothed by getting busy, and getting things done. But, like any other addiction, I am not solving the problems behind why I feel upset.
This week, I want you to consider picking 1 to 3 things from this list and putting them into practice.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live out all my days feeling like it all rests on my shoulders. I want to find some rest. True rest.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
What are some others ways to shift the focus of your day from your own busy-ness to the goodness of God?
I rolled over again and checked the time. 2:12am. Yuck. I stared at Micaela’s sleeping form on the baby monitor and swallowed. In about 5 hours she would be on the bus for her first day of preschool.
My mind thought forward to her day ahead. I thought of the teacher trying to get all those little 3 & 4 year-olds used to class routines while Micaela crawled around and threw her little fits. I knew she would have difficulty with most classroom activities like story time and desk work. I knew it would be hard for everyone trying to find a way for her to participate in PE and art when so many things were designed for children who could walk and talk.
I laid there in bed and tried to push back my panic. I felt like someone sitting at a table with a puzzle and offering a piece that wasn’t even from the box.
There were other options. I could delay it. I could take Micaela to school for her therapies and bring her home with no classroom time, no peer interaction. Then the hurt would be less for everyone, including me.
As I sat, cupping the warmth of a coffee mug, a floodgate of memories opened. You see, I was once a teacher. The last two years I taught I had an inclusion classroom which meant that children with special needs were students in my class. Precious kids with difficult conditions dramatically changed the culture of my classroom those years. And yes, even then, different hurt. Different hurt, but it made me strip away ideals, build and strengthen my teaching techniques, and create little fissures in my heart where love and compassion built new heights of caring. Different hurt, but changed and grew both me and my students.
To be honest, those “different” kids were held closer to my heart and more brightly in my memories than any others. By the end of those school years they were the hardest students to pass on to the next grade level, the most difficult to say goodbye to.
Like so many other times before, I was going to have to trust God. God created Micaela with purpose just like He created each one of us. And everything God makes is good. Even those different lives that make others wiggle and squirm in the discomfort of change. In the end, the growth is precious.
So, Micaela, with a big grin on her face, rode the bus that morning.
It was a long day. It was a difficult day. But it was a day that God had provided for.
You will keep in perfect peace
Have you ever struggled with the differences of others?
I didn’t know what to do with myself. For a few years now I have been very purposefully taking Sundays “off”. Of course, for a young mom, this is still an eventful day. I have little girls to tickle and feed, a husband to chat with, friends to call…yeah, it is just a different kind of demanding. I am busy, but I switch my focus from chores, writing, and child care to quality time with family and worshiping God.
This weekend my mother-in-law borrowed the girls so I would be able to care for the farm while Jovani was on a trip. As you can imagine, I packed Saturday with those jobs I can’t do with girls in the house. I kept a fast pace and felt great about what I accomplished. But Sunday…
Sunday felt eerie. What was I to do with all that quiet? After farm chores and church I felt like a little boat in the middle of a massive lake, dead in the water. I didn’t like the feeling.
I recently finished an incredible book, Your Best Life in Jesus' Easy Yoke. In one of the chapters, the author discusses people who are addicted to adrenaline. The description of such a person sounded like a workaholic. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me a workaholic is that man or woman who is never home, obsessed with their job, and gives their family a low priority in their lives.
But, as I read the chapter on Adrenaline Addiction in Bill Gaultiere’s book, I was shocked. How he described the person obsessed with being productive to the point where they panic if they are not accomplishing something, that was ME.
I think I pouted and argued with myself about this for a good two weeks before I simply accepted the reality: I am a workaholic.
I am a workaholic who prioritizes her family and is almost always home, but that doesn’t mean it is healthy. In fact, it is very unhealthy, because I struggle against the idea of rest. I struggle against giving God His agenda in my life. God doesn’t want us to always be going. He also wants us to spend a lot of time stopping, listening, and breathing. When I was honest with myself, I realized that I have a tough time trusting God. It seems easier to trust in my own power and strength. What if His will means I don’t get to accomplish my goals and dreams? What if the house is a mess? What if the laundry hasn’t been folded?
Bill Gaultiere’s book, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke, encourages you to constantly live in the rest that Jesus offers. We shouldn’t be striving and struggling and worrying. If we truly live and act in the belief that God wants the best for us and will guide us in all things if we let Him, then life stops feeling like a struggle.
We also must give up that addiction to adrenaline. If we are resting in Jesus’ love, we won’t be getting our adrenaline fix. Like all addictions, it is hard to give these things up.
The road to healing will be long for me, but I am learning. Since reading Bill’s book, I have started to do things that God has asked of me for a long time such as letting the house get cluttered on the days when the girls are needing extra love and attention. Leaving dishes in the sink and using my last hour of quiet for devotional time. Most of all, I don’t write or work on my ministry if I feel spiritually disconnected or disconcerted. I am learning to trust God when He tells me I need to prioritize something that goes against my own thoughts or will for the day. I am learning to stop, breath, and let the day come instead of me attacking the day with my own agenda.
You might have an addiction to adrenaline that turns you into a workaholic as well. Take a moment and visit soulshepparding.org and take the Adrenaline Addiction test.
If your results are positive, stay tuned. We will be discussing this topic further in my next Monday blog post.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Do you see other qualities of yourself that point towards being addicted to work?
Once upon a time, I had a hard heart towards parents with different children. From children who threw tantrums to those with learning disorders, my mind turned judgmental towards their parents. Though I never spoke these horrible thoughts aloud, I am ashamed that they lived in me.
God totally weeded this out of my mind and heart when Micaela joined our family. It is one of countless ways I have seen God use the trials that come with being a mother of a Special Needs child.
Our trials can be dark and desperate times in our lives, but we have an opportunity to use them in the best possible way. When we ask God to open our hearts and minds to what we are living through, we will find that he is using our challenges to bring about beautiful changes in our world.
As we go through these hard seasons or as we evaluate them from the other side, we need to be intentional about using them to grow.
Trials help us:
I smiled as I wrote this list. I don’t mean to make our trials sound desirable, but I wanted to bring a little hope to one of you today. I remember the moments where I sat viewing the desperate chaos of my world and wondering if it would ever be okay again. And it was okay, it was better than okay.
We all need to let ourselves be molded by The Potter if we are ever going to become His work of art.
Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.
What have you learned through your own life struggles?
Taking care of yourself as a mother isn’t complicated, but it does take dedication. Our hearts want us to focus only on others. Our minds worry that there isn’t enough time. Our bodies feel too tired to consider yet another task.
Remember two things: 1. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. 2. You are a beautiful child of God who deserves to be cared for, too.
So, next time you are feeling worn, look at this infographic and consider how you could be treating yourself to some better self-care.
A wife of noble character who can find?
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"...and God was already there with me."