How do You Help People During a Time of Personal Tragedy?
I sipped my coffee automatically. My friend sat across from me at the table, her own cup growing cold. I fidgeted with my napkin, folding and unfolding it.
All the while, my friend continued to tell me her story. My mind and heart rolled over and over, lost in her hurt.
How do you handle other people’s pain? I am a fixer and a "do-er". I am on a long difficult journey learning how to handle these situations. My reaction is usually trying to find a solution and give other people the "right" answers so they can move forward. However, I am learning that most the time this is a misguided thing to do.
I love that story in the Bible when the pregnant maidservant, Hagar, runs away and cries in the desert (Genesis 16). This woman was mistreated and full of fear. She had no hope and was consumed by emotional pain. God hears Hagar and sends His angel to care for her. But, though the angel surely knew her whole story, he began by asking, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”
The angel’s first step in ministering to Hagar was to come close to her in her loneliness and give someone who would listen to her story. It was only after she spoke that He gave her the message from God. He didn’t weigh her down with opinions of his own.
I tend to over-talk someone in pain, trying to fix their world with my poor assembly of knowledge. However, the reality of it is that until someone has their heart ministered to, they are often unable to use their head to make decision and plans.
If you want to help someone in pain, even if you don’t agree with all they say, you can let them know that you hear them, that they are heard. That they are loved. That they are not alone.
So, as my friend let out her story, I concentrated on simply listening to her. I didn’t try to fix it or judge the situation, I let her talk. Later there was time to discuss a solution and a course of action, but, while she was still in so much pain, all I could do was listen.
How did you react the last time someone came to you in emotional pain?
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 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
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?
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?
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?
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"...and God was already there with me."