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?
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?
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"...and God was already there with me."