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?
A Recap of Our Time Spent at Children's Hospital Colorado.
Last week was not what we hoped, but we trust in God’s sovereignty. For those sweet friends and loved ones who have been praying and wishing us warmly, I wanted to let you know how our trip to Children’s Hospital Colorado went.
We checked in at the hospital at 7:30 Monday morning. By 9:30 they had hooked her up to the EEG machine so they could watch for seizure activity in her brain waves.
Micaela got used to her new head gear quicker than Jovani and I expected. It was actually a neat set up. They hooked all the electrodes to her scalp with a conducting “goop” and then glued gauze on top of that. Afterwards, they wrapped her head and tucked the wires in gauze before sticking the EEG box into a little backpack. The box had such a long cord that as long as she kept her backpack on, she was able to roam around the room. Thank goodness for that! She is such a busy girl, I was worried I would have to keep her confined to sitting most the time, but she was able to do her thing.
Jovani and I took shifts. The first night he went back to the hotel to sleep. The doctors put Micaela on half her normal dose of medicine. As soon as Micaela went to sleep I slept as well. Occasionally I would pop my head up to look at the monitors showing her vitals to be normal. We weren’t surprised when she didn’t seize that night.
Tuesday they took her off meds completely. It was my turn to sleep at the hotel. With a lot of prayer I settled into sleep. Jovani and I both felt like the seizure would happen soon.
At 5:30am, Wednesday morning, she went into a seizure. They were on their third medicine trying to stop it before they decided to intubate her (give her a breathing tube) so they could push even more medicine without compromising her respiration. In all, the seizure lasted 4 hours.
As scary as that was, the neurologists were disappointed to find that the seizure had come from the unexpected side of her brain.
Micaela’s seizures usually cause jerking and twitching on the left side of her body. Those seizures come from the right side of her brain. A handful of times we’ve seen her go into a seizure where she was stiff with a fixed gaze to the left. The doctors got to witness her rare seizure, the stiff or “catatonic” seizure and it came from the left side of her brain. With Micaela’s brain injury from birth, the neurosurgeon doesn’t want to take out parts of her brain from both sides. It could permanently compromise her mobility and other areas of her daily function.
However, God is amazing. If she had went into her normal seizure of jerking and twitching, the doctors might have never seen the seizure activity on the other side of her brain. We would have qualified for the surgery, had part of her brain removed, and then still had dangerous seizures. How great is our God?!
Micaela recovered 36 hours quicker than the doctors predicted. They removed her breathing tube by about 8pm and I spent Wednesday night trying to keep her quiet and calm so her IV would stay attached.
Our care at Children’s Hospital Colorado was exceptional. I loved the time multiple doctors and specialists took with us. They even came by and made plans for next-steps for our seizure care. We will be getting a VNS implanted near the end of the month. Who knows, it might be exactly what our little girl has needed all along. (If you want to read about a VNS click here.)
We were discharged Friday morning. Too tired to drive, but sick of being in tiny enclosed spaces we walked through Bass Pro Shop and went out to eat dinner that wasn’t served with paper napkins.
Saturday Adela was super excited to have us back, but maybe not as excited as we were to have her. She loved every minute she spent with her grandpa and Abuelos while we were gone.
Sometimes things don’t work out like we want, but our Pastor gave me a challenge a few weeks ago, he said it was okay not to pretend that everything was fine. He said that our joy can be found in finding all the ways God provides us. I have taken that challenge and been blessed to see God move in our lives this past month.
The adventure will continue. Today we are home—safe and happy—and that is enough.
I just wonder if I will ever get all that glue washed out of her hair.
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
If you are going through a hard time, know that you don’t have to pretend to be okay. Find joy in God’s provision. He always stays close.
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?
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?
I wish I could go to my mom, give her a big hug, and tell her she was an amazing woman. At one point she had four children age six and under. I am sure our house rang with a lion’s share of tantrums, screams, yelling, and tears that came with the territory of raising young children and babies. So, I totally understand why she reached the point where she didn’t tolerate shows of negative emotions. We were told to stop. We were told to be quiet.
Later, as an adult, I saw any show of sadness or anger as embarrassing, even rude. To make matters worse, I didn’t really understand how to deal with my own reactions to many situations in a healthy matter.
I was visiting a close friend a few years ago. Her son had just turned four. He had a bad case of the “whines”. Instead of getting onto him about his display of emotion, she quickly put an end to the bouts by simply asking him what he was upset about and then giving him some options about how he could deal with his sadness, fear, anger, etc.
I wondered if this tactic was not “baby-ing” the boy. Our parents would have bluntly told us to stop crying. However, today, that same little boy is very emotionally solid. He not only deals with disappointments and hurt in appropriate matters, but he also is positive and encouraging to others.
Recently, I reflected on how powerful it is for us to acknowledge the feelings of our little ones. The girls and I were in Target and Adela desperately wanted to buy an extravagant beaded and feathered pillow (so weird!). Unfortunately there was neither room in our budget or our vehicle for such an item so I told her, “No”. She immediately fell apart.
I remember staring at her red face and teary eyes. The words, “Stop crying.” Were ready to fall off my tongue, especially with half the people in the store staring at us. Instead, I took a deep breath and got down on eye-level with Adela. I said, “Hey, that makes you sad, doesn’t it, that we aren’t going to buy the pillow? I am sorry. We can’t buy that right now.”
I swallowed and continued. “So, sometimes when we are disappointed we can’t have something, then we need to remember to be happy with what we have and that we have other things to look forward to.” I went on to talk about the new school supplies we were buying and that we were headed to her cousins’ house to play.
Her tears dried. She smiled. Life went on.
Just like that.
Acknowledging the feelings of our children is a tough job. It takes an extra level of patience. It asks us to be compassionate. If we simply discipline them and don’t take the time to teach them, then they will never know how to handle hurt at a level of deep maturity.
Goodness, even Jesus cried. Jesus was angry. Jesus experienced hurt and disappointment. It is part of life and I am thankful that I have an opportunity now to help my girls grow.
What tactics have you used to help your children understand how to deal with their emotions?
I wanted to write a great, fantastic, and helpful post about marriage, but I kept staring, paralyzed, at the screen.
Marriage is too complicated, messy, beautiful, and varied for me to write anything helpful. Not me, anyways. But, I do feel passionate about the subject. God gave us marriage. It isn’t something to take lightly.
I love my husband. He is my favorite blessing. He is my biggest fan, my most ardent supporter. He makes me feel strong and beautiful. Because God gave me a man like him, I have become the woman I am.
That is my story and my marriage.
This month we will have been married 11 years, lived in four countries, welcomed three children into the world, said good-bye to one. We’ve cried together, laughed together, and committed to be a dedicated team with our eyes fixed on God.
But what makes a good marriage? How is it shaped and sheltered? I’ve read lots of books and articles and listened to many speeches and sermons on this topic. There is a plethora of advice to choose from. But, the one that sticks out the most for me is that a good marriage has been fought for.
A good marriage has been under-siege but has come out stronger. A good marriage has seen dark days but fought hard so that vows and promises wouldn’t fall apart. A good marriage has had to become flexible while still unbreakable. A good marriage has been anchored in love—a husband’s love, a wife’s love, and God’s love.
Romantic love is on the minds of many during the lovey-dovey season of Valentine’s. I totally understand. There are few things sweeter, here on Earth, than the love of a good man and a marriage that stands the test of time.
If God has blessed you with a partner, I pray He gives you both the strength, wisdom, and love to fight for your life together.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!
In your own relationships, what advice have you found to be helpful?
Being the mother of young children is the hardest chapter of my life. I've talked to mothers who have survived this phase and they tell me that motherhood is not easy. They tell me that those years when your children still wear diapers and and live off froot loops are some of the most difficult times to get through, but also the sweetest. They remembered those years of having no breathing room, little sleep, and little voices constantly begging for hugs and fun.
Its rough. But each woman told me they learned more in those difficult years than ever before and the women who emerged were stronger with more inner beauty. Check out the list below and take comfort in the intense training ground that comes with parenting these little ones. This is why beautiful and strong women emerge from motherhood.
1. Singing the words to "If Your Happy and You Know It" for the 100th time that day, because you hurt, too, with the crankiness of teething. Seeing your children hurt makes you empathize on a new level.
2. Choosing to discipline your child though it pains you more than them because you must give your child a better future.
3. Finding inner peace in the middle of the 10th epic tantrum of the day. If you can do that, you can find peace almost anywhere.
4. Connecting with strangers in stores because we understand when their kids are just as grumpy as ours are. Now we know what it means to put ourselves in other peoples' shoes.
5. Learning how to give up pride and accept the love and help of others.
6. Learning the hard way that in order to take care of our families we must also treat ourselves with respect.
7. Giving our own selves mercy as we realize we could do everything poorly or do a few things well.
8. Letting go of plans, ideas, and dreams not because we gave up, but because we realized something sweeter.
9. Being pushed beyond known physical limits as we carried a child, gave birth, then went without good sleep for months--now we know where true strength comes from.
10. The countless days, weeks, and months that went by when you were unable to meet with friends or have long phone conversations undisturbed by crying or dirty diapers, you found a perfect friend in your Savior.
11. Leaving the house with no makeup and a 30-second hairdo because other things were more important made you find you self-worth in something deeper.
12. Learning how to budget, prioritize, and use all resources wisely because there was really no other option.
13. Making a marriage or relationship work and continue to grow even when the demands of home and family seemed to eclipse your life.
14. When we finally make it out of this season, we are going to know how to care deeply about and for families with small children.
Look at that woman in the mirror and give her a smile. She is much different now. She is stronger, her heart is bigger, and she is beautiful.
My love to you! Thank you for blessing the world as you raise up beautiful children.
I just felt so lost, so empty, after I put Micaela down for her nap. My heart tore with the hurt that I am messing us this motherhood stuff. Poor Micaela. Monday mornings are always hectic. It always makes me feel guilty because I’m not a mom who has to gulp coffee from a travel mug, send kids to school/daycare, and then commute to work. No, I sip my coffee from a decorated cup and simply roll up my sleeves. My husband and I are constantly thankful that I get to stay home and care for our family full-time, but I still struggle and feel incompetent.
My friends and readers are rolling their eyes. They don’t believe me. But, let me assure you, I feel so lost. The house is never super clean. There are stains that I just leave in fabrics. I zoom through Adela’s homework with her. Worst of all, I often don’t give Micaela all the time and attention she needs for growth.
So, after a Monday morning where I’ve done a dozen chores, played with Micaela a little here and there, and let her watch cartoons, I feel so USELESS.
I curled up with my devotional after getting off the phone about some business, and my heart started freaking out. I begged God for supernatural understanding of how I am supposed to handle my life, my work, my family. I squished my eyes shut hard, trying to block out the noise of my own thoughts and asked God to show me where I am most broken so that I could do this all perfectly.
He answered me so gently: Control. Worry.
Like a daily death, I must remember to give God my life. Daily. Hourly. Moment-by-moment.
My devotional made my eyes fill with tears. The author spoke of Mother Theresa and how she was once asked who would carry out her work after she passed. She said, “God would find someone even more useless than I.”
God, I am useless. Useless to do any of this well without You flowing through every lifting of my finger, note of my voice, and step of my feet. And when I let You be in everything I will find Your peace and strength.
Probably one of the most liberating things we can do as mothers is admit we are useless. Useless to get any of this right, any of this done well, anything full of goodness without the sweet divine interventions of our loving God.
A friend once told me that with my attitude and background in education I was destined to be Micaela’s mom. But all that equipment never seems like enough. When I focus on what I alone am capable of I am lost in a sea of fear and worry.
I am useless without God.
It is probably one of the most joyful and liberating statements of my life.
Is there an area of your life that you can’t seem to get right no matter how you struggle and strive?
It is a frightening ugly thing to watch your small child have a seizure. Her little body jerks uncontrollably reminding me of a mechanical toy that is running out of batteries. The last couple episodes confirmed undeniably that the seizures come when she sleeps and my own rest has become disturbed.
Sanity can only be mine when I trust God. I spent 2017 battling fears and worries, but through it have more faith and strength than ever before. Micaela’s epilepsy has become my very own version of spiritual super glue, keeping my heart and mind fixed on the Savior.
A friend asked me if I have ever been angry about Micaela’s difficult journey. The honest answer is, “YES.” It isn’t fair that her sweet soul must fight for everything that comes easy to a “normal” child. She has spent the past year working, with endurance, on walking, talking, eating, and a hundred other developmental feats. To throw seizures into the mix feels like a punch below the belt.
But, at the end of the day, epilepsy is simply part of our family’s story and I can either be angry and resentful, or I can go to God, my Father, and find the peace and joy that will carry me through each and every day.
For many years, the story of the storm that Jesus calmed, has been one that I’ve turned to often in the Bible. You can find it in Matthew 8:23-7 and Mark 4:35-41. I can imagine the terrified sailors and panicked disciples. How long did they tug sails, tie ropes, and toss freight overboard before they ran to God? How very human of them, attempting to create their own safety. But true peace can only be found in God. With a single word He can calm the wind and waves.
We all face terrifying storms in our life that threaten to tear apart our world. God waits for us to come to Him. Any situation could become the spiritual super glue that will fix us to our Lord and build us into ever more beautiful souls.
What catalyst in your own world has become spiritual super glue, fixing you close to God?
Adela’s brown eyes were full of exultation and horror. She held out the tiny little tooth to me, her tongue moving over the excavation site slightly filled with blood and said, “It’s gone, Mommy.”
Poor baby. I had a hard time masking my own pain. My little baby was gone and had left to be replaced with this growing daughter. She held in her hand the very first tooth God had ever given her. It was gone, no longer a part of her little body.
I spent many hours talking to her over the next few days about the process of losing teeth. I told her she had new ones, adult ones, pushing their way upward. I told her they would be strong, wonderful teeth that she would use (Lord willing) the rest of her life. It was okay that little pieces of herself would fall away, for they would be replaced by something even better.
What an entirely human experience. It is a lifelong adventure. Little pieces of ourselves are being hacked away or changed so that new, better, more useful parts can be given a place in our life. We often cling to familiarity. We fear the pain that change forces on us, but it must happen. Life is in constant motion.
My mind remembers the passage from 1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV, when Paul said, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." We are called to put things behind us that aren’t necessarily bad, but are no longer fitting for our stage or season.
I admired Adela for the easy way she placed that tooth under her pillow, knowing that in the morning it would be gone. Gone for good. I pray that I know how to do that each time God shows me the things that must be left behind.
What parts of yourself have you let go of as you moved through different seasons of your life?
I loved doing a Facebook live video about setting goals. Enjoy. :) Note: The first 20 minutes are solid but then we had some audio/visual issues. We figured out what happened and thankfully will have a fantastic video this week. If you want to join us, it is at 7:40 pm Thursday, January 11, MST.
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"...and God was already there with me."