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
Lessons I Learned Watching My Eldest Care for Her Little Sister
I stepped into my office and was assaulted by a disasterous collection of stickers, notecards, glue sticks, and glitter strewn across the large white craft table. I have no idea how my seven-year old had managed to make such a mess in the ten minutes left before the bus came.
She grinned and held up her creation. "Look, Mom, I made Micaela notecards so I can teach her more words."
My heart melted. The cards were gaudy with their flamboyant lettering. She proudly flipped through them and read the words.
Adela and Micaela have such an interesting relationship. Like all siblings, they fight and bicker, but Adela's heart is softened toward the difficult journey her sister has. She keeps her chin up even when Jovani and I are gone for days with Micaela for hospital stays and specialists. She understands the extra time Micaela demands as we help her eat, dress, potty, and keep her glasses on. As Adela matures, I see her stepping up more and more to help her sister progress.
Have you ever stopped and considered the older sisters in your life? We have ones we are raised with and others that God placed along side us. Our older sisters encourage us, cheer us on, and are there for laughter and tears.
One of my favorite sister memories was when I snuck into my sister's drawer and grabbed the intense, round, bristly brush she had told me not to touch. Exultant, I wrapped a chunk of hair around the brush and yanked, expecting a ringlet to emerge. Instead, the brush laid claim to my hair in a terrible impossible tangle. My sister came in. I ran, sobbing to a corner to hide my disaster. My sister followed, and without yelling, sat on the floor and began the slow process of detaching my hair from her brush. I felt unjudged. I felt loved. Many years later I shared that memory with her and she told me that she had done the same thing when she was little, so when I tangled myself up, it was easy to be kind.
We should be ever thankful that the sisters around us who know what we have been through and emphatically share our pain. May we also never miss the opportunity to help our little sisters get untangled.
What a blessing Micaela and Adela have in each other, one that will continue to bless them the rest of their lives.
Who are the God-given sisters, young and old, in your life?
How a Mother Feels When She No Longer Spends All Day Every Day with Her Child
My eyes traveled down the hall and settled on the door of Micaela's classroom. It was hard to keep my feet from picking up into a trot. "No running in the halls"... even for mommies.
I reached the door sporting a happy collection of kindergarten decorations and turned the knob. Micaela was waiting for me inside, her EA helping her cut out a pair of paper shoes for her paper person.
I took a seat at the child-size table, my knees coming up to my chest in the tiny chairs. Fascinated, I watched her pudgy fingers work the sissors up and down with the EA's guidance. Her little pink lips made a perfect "o" as she concentrated on her work.
My arms ached to hold her, but my mind and heart filled with a hunger I had never considered. I wanted to watch her like a biologist sitting before a beehive or astronomer measuring stars.
I wanted to know her.
I was hungry to know her.
Micaela has a limited vocabulary. Adela, as a kindergartener, would come home and tell me about the games she played at recess and complain about her homework. Learning about Micaela is a constant challenge. How I long to know what is going on in her sweet head.
However, I admit that I feel the same about Adela. I love having someone stop me and tell me what my girls did that day in school or have a friend recount a funny thing they said. I want to know if they ate their lunch and if it tasted good. I want to know when they were sad and what made them laugh.
I want to know everything. It is a hunger that makes me catch my breath.
Did God breathe this into me? A distant echo of what He feels about me? Of how He longs to be invited into to every intimate corner of my world? Or, is it an invitation to long for knowledge of our Abba Father the way we long to know the constantly progressing character of our loved ones?
Eventually, the shoes were cut out and my girl was handed back to my care. The EA let me know the answers to some of the mysteries: what she ate, what she learned, what made her angry, and how much she smiled. But, the challenge to know my girls continues.
I am so thankful for family dinners and bedtime prayers. They are the moments in daily life when I get to peek inside their world. I like to believe that my Heavenly Father thinks about me the same way, that He gobbles up our every conversation. That He anxiously awaits the moments that I come to Him, to be held inside His arms.
It is such a precious kind of hunger.
Are you eager to know and understand your loved ones better? How do you see this mirrored in your relationship with God?
A New Home and New Dreams
My boots made hollow thumps as I stepped into the empty rooms. The bare floors and empty walls held a thousand dreams and promises of memories. I reached out and touched the smooth gloss of yellow paint. My nose filled with the scents of paint, vinyl, and hard work. My stomach gave an anxious flutter. A new chapter in life of my family beckoned.
I just needed to pack.
Moving is an incredible process. You weed through your life, deciding what will go and what will be sent away from your home. There will be bags of forgotten toys, ill-fitting clothes, and ratty furniture that won't make the cut. But, other items will be treasured and put in places of honor.
I love this process. I like cleaning out cupboards, filling boxes, and unpacking everything. As I organize my little kingdom, the world makes more sense.
I wonder how you do this for your soul.
Recently I watched the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the series, Ms. Kondo goes to homes and has the families put things in piles, weeding out what will go and what will stay. Then, everything that stays gets folded, stacked, put away neatly. Afterwards, the family lives with more breathing room, space, and clarity.
Right now my heart and mind are so cluttered I find it difficult to walk straight. I wish I could throw all the priorities, memories, responsibilities, longings, and dreams into the middle of my living room floor. I would step back, hold things in my paint-smeared hands, and gently put many in the trash. Others I might pack away for a different season. I would make room for the vitality of my family and remove the guilt I feel and I see certain projects or hopes gathering dust on a cluttered shelf.
Yes, a good soul-cleaning sounds lovely.
Someday soon, when I have unpacked the boxes, I will put on those cleaning gloves, roll up my sleeves, and make space for God's light to expand into the dusty spaces of my life.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What is your favorite part of moving? What do you learn about yourself in the process?
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?
Spring Break, Potty Training, and Art
I laid down on my bed and closed my eyes. Fully clothed and still on top of the green and red quilt, I listened to the sound of the girls giggling. Today is Day 5 of Spring Break. By noon I was worn thin.
Adela and I both let out a relieved sigh when Spring Break began a few days ago. School is wonderful, but we were both ready for a week off of our normal routine. We also had big plans for the next two weekends and the week. We were going to work in the greenhouse, do art, play in the sunshine, and go to the big town of Clovis for a “field trip.”
I added Micaela’s potty training to that.
But, I already made Micaela a new chart, laid out the crayons, and started up Sunday morning. I am bound and determined to teach that precious little girl how to pull up and down her own pants, climb onto and off of the toilet, flush, wash her hands, and leave the bathroom safely on her own.
Mommy life gets crazy sometimes. I say that and then laugh.
Mommy life is always crazy.
But it is also beautiful. I love watching Adela’s face as she is painting, her concentration and happiness as she places her imagination in color on white sheet of paper. Micaela’ squeal of joy as we put on tennis shoes and head to the track for some sunshine makes my heart skip a beat. Of course, there has also been arguments, tantrums, hungry children, dirty clothes, and spilled hot cocoa.
Yesterday, our little friend Annabelle came over for a play date and spotted a butterfly bouncing between the growing weeds. My eyes stung with tears. Spring is here. Life is moving forward and we are growing. All of us, but especially me.
I have never felt my heart change as much as it has in the last few years that I have been raising our beloved daughters.
Part of my Bible reading this morning included the first part of Ruth. I thought of her, a young woman, maybe even around my age. She had lived through the tragedy of being widowed young without children and forced to make hard decisions about her world. She chose to move forward in love and commit her life to a woman that would move to another country and re-start her life. But, there was a key factor that made it all worth while. She had God. With God her story wasn't easy, but it was victorious. She now holds a place in the lineage of Christ for her choice to serve the one true God and care for her mother-in-law.
My story isn’t easy either, but it feels beautiful today. I trust God with the journey of our family. I know that we will grow, right where He has planted us.
May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.
How do you feel God growing you, not despite your hard circumstances, but because of the them?
Sometimes God Asks Us to Move. Sometimes He Asks Us to Wait.
I hate it when plans go astray. Something about my nature needs to be moving forward, handling whatever comes next. I hate the ‘not-knowing’ because it might lead to ‘not-doing’. Jovani, my husband, feels the same way. It is one of the reasons we work so well together.
So, when our neurologist in Albuquerque asked us to cancel our procedure for Micaela’s VNS and get a second opinion at another Children’s Hospital, we were disappointed that our plans had to be changed.
The day after Valentine’s Day, I sat in the Specialties Clinic at Albuquerque’s Presbyterian hospital and listened to our precious neurologist make an argument for repeating the long difficult process for a surgery evaluation at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Phoenix has another surgery option that uses lasers on multiple spots of the brain, severing those spots' connection to the rest of the brain, without removing tissue. They can successful treat seizure spots on both side of the brain leaving a patient seizure free.
But, it means no VNS, at least not until we’ve consulted the specialists in Phoenix this summer.
I was devastated. We had a treatment option right within our grasp and then it was gone, shoved to the back-burner. The next available appointment in Phoenix is not until July. That feels like forever.
I’m reading through the Bible again this year. I was reading in Numbers the other morning about the cloud and the fire that God placed above the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. God was in the cloud and the fire. He gave them shade by day and light by night. When He rose above them and moved, they were to move too. When God stopped, they stopped. They might make camp for a day or a year and wouldn’t leave until God showed them the next step.
Right now I feel like those Israelites, encamped in a period of waiting for God’s movement. But, like the Israelites, it is so foolish to grumble. God is my shade when the sun gets too hot and He is my light in the darkness. I have nothing to fear. He will provide me with food, both physical and spiritual, so that I am strengthened and prepared for His plans.
In life we are continually either on the move, hoping for a rest, or we are waiting to break camp. However, God is a constant that we can count on. We have nothing to fear.
Right now Jovani and I are in a holding pattern in our care for Micaela. I will not miss the opportunity to grow with my God as we wait for the next step. Please pray for our patience and peace.
The Lord watches over you--
Do you feel you are in a period of waiting or of moving right now? How do you feel most blessed by God at this moment?
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.
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?
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"...and God was already there with me."