Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spring Game, Special O, Memorial Day 2013

When you have older teens/college age is fun and exciting and unpredictable. You basically need to have no plans, be able to MAKE plans at a moment's notice...and you need to always have food. Lots and lots of food. And it...meals, snacks, desserts...must appear out of nowhere, because you will never know when or if you will need them...or how many people will be there to eat. If any. That is my life right now.

Take this morning: Logan is home from college for the summer. Clark is done with high school for the summer. Holly and Aaron now live in our same town (yay), and, of course, Joshua is here with us every day. We are LOVING the family time with all the kids more than I can say! Logan's girlfriend, Morgan, came up last night, and we were so excited to see her! She is working this summer AND taking 12 hours of summer classes, so she doesn't have a lot of free time to just come up and spend the day. I knew that she and Logan had a meeting and needed to leave the house by 9:30. Since I was already up, I decided to make a big breakfast. I tried to be verrrrry quiet getting things ready. I managed to make biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, and have it all ready by around 8:30 or so. one ate it. 

Well,  Joshua did, of course. He has a keen sense of smell, and he came downstairs as soon as he smelled bacon cooking! But the rest of them? They all left to go to their various places and didn't touch a bit of food. So...yeah. And I think we all know that there's nothing more fun than getting up early IN THE SUMMER to make a big meal that no one eats.

Except not.

BUT...we had such a great week last week, and I want to write it all down before I forget. Clark had his Spring football game on Thursday night. The weather was great and he got to play AND no one got injured. Win, win, WIN! Oh! And it was a blue/white game and he was on the white team...and they WON!

Early Friday morning, we all...Jim and I, our 4 kids, and Clark's friend, Faith...all headed over to watch Joshua compete in the State Special Olympics games in Searcy, Arkansas. We had the best day ever! Jim's parents got to come. It's a 2 hour drive from where they live, and they texted to let us know they had made it...all before we had even left our house! And we live an hour and 15 minutes away! They are so funny! And so very supportive of Joshua...and of all the grandchildren. We also had several friends come by the fieldhouse while we were there...just to say hi and to lend Joshua their support. He was in all of his glory! He said he was back in his "old, old stomping grounds," (his words) because we lived in Searcy for 15 years and it is basically "home" to our children. The weather was the best it has been in years and years. Seriously, the fieldhouse turns into an easy bake oven on the hot summer days, and Friday was mild and breezy. Sooo nice! And Joshua did GREAT! He tied his personal best record. It was really hard for him this year. He only weighed in at 116 lbs, but he bench-pressed 150 lbs...that's 34 lbs over his body weight! WOW! He dead-lifted 195 lbs. He definitely gave it his all. The expression on his face from a picture that Holly took shows how hard he was trying. Bless his heart! I was so nervous for him! He won 3 GOLD medals!  

(And I know that I've been saying this for forever, but I really AM getting a new laptop with a card reader that will actually enable me to get the pictures from my camera and POST them on here (wonders never cease!)...because, after Joshua's last dead-lift, he took off slow jogging and when he got around to the front of the weight bar, he JUMPED into the air! It was so funny and I want to post it on here!)

On Saturday, the 3 boys were here most of the day. Holly and Aaron came, too. Morgan had to work and we missed her being here. Logan, Clark and Aaron spent half-the-day watching the door for the FedEx little kids. Last year when we moved here, Logan was wanting a pool basketball goal, but it was mid-July and everything was already sold out. So we found one early this year and ordered it, and those silly boys were tracking it's every move on-line..."it's in North Little has now been loaded onto a truck...this is not a drill!" Crazy! It finally arrived around 4, and by the time they got it put together and the base completely filled with sand...and took a quick dinner was after 7 p.m. But Logan and Aaron were able to play a fierce game before they called it a night. Jim built a fire in the fire pit, and the kids made s'mores.

After church on Sunday, Joshua wanted Jim and the boys to go to a move for Jim's birthday. Joshua calls it "bruh time." He wanted Aaron to come, too, but he and Holly had already headed down to the lakehouse for the day. The guys went to see Iron Man in 3D.

On Monday, everyone was off work and school for Memorial Day so they came over here. Joshua would NOT get in the pool. I couldn't figure out why because he typically loves it. I think he was nervous about the loud and highly competitive pool basketball games that were going on. He would not even come join the family outside for anything! But my son-in-law, Aaron, is the "Joshua-whisperer." He convinced Joshua to come outside with everyone, and then got him to sit on the side of the pool and toss the ball back and forth...and was casually talking to him the whole time. In just a few minutes, Joshua was in the water playing basketball with the boys! It was the sweetest thing. All 3 of the other boys worked together to include Joshua, and to make him feel successful. They were playing like the Bad News Bears...and Joshua was playing like a super star!

We enjoyed time being with our family. I know there are people all over the world who would love to feel safe in their own back yards with their families. We never take that for granted. Being the 4th generation of a military family, we are thankful for those who served and fought and died for our freedom. My boys will call my Dad and my brother on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, just to tell them thank you for their service to our country. I also have 2 nephews currently serving in the military as well. When I was a kid growing up, we lived all over the United States, and in 2 foreign countries. We never lived near our family, but the bases we lived on usually had some sort of remembrance event on military "holidays." We went to parades and picnics; we went to special services at church; we wore our patriotic clothes and we put out our flag (my dad put out our flag every day, still does); we went to the cemeteries; we have gone to nursing homes and hospitals to visit veterans. and we have just stayed home. I'm sure there's nothing my family could do or say to take away the pain of loss that many military families feel on this day (and every day), but we try to be respectful of them and honor their memories in small ways. Our country has its share of problems, but I am still thankful for our freedoms, and proud to be an American.

"If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Confidence in Motherhood

Today I am linking up with Kelly's Build 'Em Up series. Before I post anything, I just want to say that my prayers are with the people of Oklahoma. We used to live in that area when I was in high school. My heart is breaking for the families because of the children...oh, all the children.

So, confidence in motherhood...hmmm...where to even start?

Motherhood is the hardest, best, most challenging, enriching and life-changing job. Going into it, I never dreamed it would be this wonderful. Or this hard. Oh, everyone tells you about the sleepless nights and the "terrible twos," but no one tells you about how you feel like your heart will absolutely rip apart when they leave for proud of them you are, how much you'll pray, how hard you'll have to trust that the God who made them and loves them more than you ever could...will hold, protect and guide them.

I didn't really know what kind of mom I would be. I had a great mom, don't get me wrong. She just wasn't very "mother-ish." I am drawn to HOME and the things involved in creating a "home." My own mom loved to go, go, GO! She was always on the move! I like to stop and sit and savor the moments. My mom was always all put, lipstick, clothes. Me? You'll usually find me in comfy warm-ups, or shorts and tennies. My hair is in a ponytail most days.

Surprisingly, for me, motherhood came naturally. And also a little unexpectedly. Our first child was born with Down Syndrome, and I was not prepared for the intense "momma bear" instincts that came almost immediately after I had him. I instantly loved him. I instantly wanted to protect fight for him. I instantly would have laid down my life for him. want to fee insecure about being a new mom? Try having a precious child with special needs when alllllll of your friends have precious non-challenged children. From day one, our game plan was different. When they were doing all the fun, new mommy things that I didn't get to do until later on with my other kids, I was attending physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions with Joshua. I was taking him to doctor's appointments. He was hospitalized a couple of times as a baby, and had heart surgery at 3 1/2 months of age. I was giving meds, watching his vitals and monitoring every feeding. Jim and I had to take an infant CPR class after his heart surgery, before they would even let us take him home from the hospital.

So, I was on a "different" path from the rest of my family and friends from the very beginning. I had a lot of insecurities...and no one who really understood my situation. This is not to say I didn't feel the pressures or experience the judgments that other moms can put on each other (and I put on myself!) when I had my other children. I did. Breasts vs bottle, paci vs no paci, when to wean, when to potty-train, SAHMs vs working moms, public vs private school...vs homeschooling. When the kids got older, there was when/if to wear make-up, what type of swimsuit you let them wear, when/if to play sports, when/if/how to date, and whether or not to buy them a car when they turn 16 (this turns into a huge deal among many parents who try to out-do each other with new cars or fancier cars...even giving their children a car when they are 14 or 15...just so they can be the first in their "friend group" to get one). It's a mess sometimes, and if you happen to be the stick-in-the-mud parent who doesn't cave under this pressure (this would be my husband) (not that he was wrong) (it's never a good idea to allow others to determine the values of your family, or the ideals you want to pass on to your children)...just be prepared that, at times, you will have some frustrated kids...but they'll learn that you can't have everything you want when you want it...and they will learn patience (hopefully) and grace (hopefully) and that they cannot live their lives trying to compete with others.

Fortunately, I had a couple of moms that were a little ahead of me in this mothering journey. Altho their kids did not have special needs, they were huge sources of encouragement and support. I think having mentors like that are KEY to feeling confident as a mom. Also, you and your husband need to figure out what is important for YOU and your family. And own those decisions. You might have to explain your reasoning to a curious friend or FAMILY MEMBER, but you don't have to justify your choices to anyone. Own your mistakes as well. Be happy for others and encourage them in their own mothering choices. What's good for one may not be good for another, and that's okay. Be flexible. What works for you now might not work for you in the future. Try not to make your child's accomplishments about YOU. This is sometimes easier said than done. In our case, we had a Special Olympian. We also had some who were naturally gifted in athletics. We had some gifted academically. We had some who struggled, and some who did well at things because they work hard at it. And we have one who wouldn't do "well" by the world's standards no matter how hard he worked at it. When your child excels at something, they may get a ton of accolades. Some of those will fall on you, as the parents. Make sure to keep it all in perspective, because it doesn't last. Your child could go from the hero who made the winning being known at the next game as the one who threw that interception. Just trust me on this one! Don't be afraid to seek out advice from others, but make your own choices. My husband and I prayed about the decisions and choices we made for our family, and we're okay with them. The most important thing we wanted to do for our kids was to point them to Christ...and, after that, to teach them the tools they would need to make their own ways thru the trials of life.

The most important key to confidence in motherhood (or anything else for that matter!) is to realize that your confidence has to come from God. The days when your children bring you flowers and say, "I love you, Mommy," and hang onto your every word are so precious...and so fleeting. Before long, you may have raised voices, rolled eyes and slammed doors. You may have the "quiet" phase that lasts months...or even years...those times when you get very little out of your child. You have to keep plugging along...doing the hard work that God has called you to do as a Mom, and try not to get bogged down in the circumstances of each day.

"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." Galatians 6:9

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Easter 2013

We just spent the first Easter in our new our new community. It was great having most everyone here for at least some part of the weekend. One thing I've really tried with my own kids is something I learned from my mother-in-law, Mammaw Jack. She never made a particular fuss for us to be "home" for a holiday on that specific date. She said you can celebrate anytime the family is all together. She realizes that her 3 boys each have wives and children and traditions all their own. We don't see my family very much, because they all live out-of-state. Mammaw Jack never made me feel guilty about the times we missed part (or all) of a holiday weekend at her house, because we were with my family. In fact, she encouraged me to spend as much time as possible with them. I'm trying to do the same with my children, especially since one is already married...and the others will likely all be married at some point in the future. I absolutely LOVE it when everyone is here, but I try not to make anyone feel guilty if they aren't.

Easter is known for a lot of things. It's tied with Christmas as my favorite holiday. Seriously, as a Christian, these two celebrations are the cornerstones on which my faith is built. Without Jesus' birth, death and resurrection, the world would never know HOPE...and we wouldn't be able to live forever in Heaven with God when we die!

I take the meaning of these holidays very seriously, but holidays also mean family gatherings, and family gatherings mean...FOOD.

In my family, Easter means deviled eggs. I don't eat deviled eggs. I mean, YUCK. Jim and Joshua are about the only ones in our family who do...but in the spirit of Grandma Ellen (may she rest in peace), I feel the need to continue the legacy of smelling up the house and refrigerator with food that is disgusting when you watch someone eat it; Especially if they don't have their dentures in. Or, if they are talking and eating one at the same time. Or, if you can hear them chewing it. Or, if they don't chew it at all, but just swallow it nearly whole.

Talk about jump-starting a vomit.

In fact, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

I make deviled eggs maybe 3 or 4 times a year...and I don't know what I'm doing...I just do what my Mom did: mayo, mustard and some sweet relish...topped with a sprinkle of Paprika.


I never know how long to boil the you cover them and let them sit after the boil? I don't know! What I DO know is that I don't want to slice it open and find that it's oozing that yellow stuff, so I boil the fire out of them, just to be sure.

About a week before Easter, an article popped up on my news-feed on how to properly boil an egg. It had pictures and everything! The first couple of pictures showed undercooked eggs, and then there was one labeled the "perfect egg..." followed by a couple more pictures. The last picture showed an egg that looked exactly like every egg I've ever boiled in my entire life: yellow center, dark ring around the yolk. They said if it had that dark ring, it was "overcooked."

Under that picture, this caption: "bless your heart."

("He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Does God still heal?

Our pastor asked our congregation last Sunday if we believed that God still heals. I believe it. I do. But I guess the older I get and the more experiences I have...the more I realize that God has a plan...and that His plans are often beyond my understanding.  His plans are always best, and they're always FOR our best.

After Joshua was born, it became even more obvious to me that there are just some things I will never understand, but I was determined to trust God. And what I did, back all those years ago, was to claim as my banner the truth that "God is sovereign." For me, that one thing took away the stress of the "whys" and "what ifs" of our situation...and of all the situations in life that were and are to come. I'm not saying it was easy. It was not. At times, the phrase, "God is sovereign" felt like a thin rope...but I clung to it for dear life.

Did God heal Joshua?

Well, Joshua still has Down Syndrome. He has struggles every single day because of it. When he was younger, he was bullied and teased at school. And even though we tell him he can do and be anything he wants, he is physically and mentally limited. He just is.

Even typing those words is about to break my heart.

No, God did not heal Joshua. But while he has some limitations, he has spiritual insight like you wouldn't believe. Oh, he can't prounounce many of the big words of the Bible, or tell you the original meaning of words in Hebrew or Greek.

Can you?

But he is spiritually sensitive beyond belief, and God speaks to him. And God has used him mightily. As an 'ordinary" kid, I seriously doubt that he would've made the impact on lives that he has because of how God made him. There aren't enough pages to write about the lives he has touched, or the many ways he has blessed our lives.

Then there's Clark. I like to say that from the time he got INTO my womb, he was trying to get OUT. Seriously almost lost him a couple of times before he was eventually born. But God spared Him. When I was just 26 weeks pregnant and threatening to give birth at any moment, God enabled Clark to stay inside my tummy for another week, allowing time for life-saving, lung maturing drugs to be administered. When Clark was born at 27 week 4 days, he was so very tiny. And I was so very sick. And although it took a long time, God used medication and physicians, and He healed Clark from any issues resulting from his prematurity. And he healed me as well.

Fast forward two years, and Baby Clark is diagnosed with cancer. I prayed for healing. We all did...from the first inkling of a when we received the pathology report...until the surgery he had to remove the tumor. I knew God could heal Clark immediately. Why didn't He? I'll never know. But, again, God used doctors and chemo and other meds to heal Clark...and we were so thankful, and we rejoiced, and we gave all praise and glory to God. In fact, not a day goes by that we aren't reminded of God's protection and healing when it comes to Clark Joseph. He's a boy, which means I see him shirtless approximately 15 times a day...and his scars remind us that there is a story being written for his life...for all of our lives. We all have scars of one kind or another.

Our scars tell our stories.

In the summer of 1998, my Mom got sick. So sick. She thought it was a stomach bug that would eventually pass. That's even what the doctor said when, after 2 weeks of not getting better, she went in to see him. The doctor checked her out and ran some lab work. The results arrived in the mail on a Monday: all tests came back normal. My mom died that night. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Part of God's plan, apparently, because attempts to revive her failed. When my Dad called to tell me, I just couldn't believe it. Neither could he. She was his rock, his life partner and friend. They had done much together, and had plans to do much more.

How could this be?

"They have to be wrong...they didn't try hard enough to save her." Those were my thoughts. When my Dad called, she had been dead just minutes. I began to BEG...for God to heal raise her up right then and there. Haven't we all heard or read about people who suddenly wake up in the morgue after being pronounced dead? It's rare, for sure...but nothing is too big for my God, right?

My Mom was fairly well-known in her circle of work and church and ministry. I thought of the ones who would undoubtedly be saved and influenced by her miraculous healing and the testimonies that would follow. Surely God could see that revival would break out in Tulsa if He performed this miraculous event. But He didn't. He could've healed her, but He chose not to. Correction: He chose to heal her in His way...not mine.

In 2010, a young couple in a ministry position at our church, expecting a baby, found out that their unborn child had a condition that would be "inconsistent with life." He was alive and active in his Mother's womb, but would die soon after birth. There was no surgery could be medicines could be given to reverse this condition. How could this be?

Collectively, as a church, we hit our knees. And we prayed. And we begged God to heal this miraculously change the outcome. Every month...every test...we pleaded. And every month...every test...showed the same thing. On the days leading up to his birth, and on his actual birth-day, there was prayer and fasting and pleading by many in our church body, and among family and friends. Prayer groups had been formed among friends and Bible Study groups, and even by those in other congregations. And God laid it on the heart of a 9th grade girl to start a prayer group at the local high school. It continues to meet to this day...3 years later. Lives had been touched by Believers and unbelievers alike, as it had become widely known matter the matter the medical counsel they had been given...the parents had bravely stated they would carry this baby to full term, unless GOD intervened.

Did God heal?

No. At least not in the way we had hoped. Karston Lloyd Steelman took one breath, and then was carried into the arms of Jesus.

What I know: God heals.

What I've learned: His will, His way.

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)