Tuesday, July 28, 2009
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4, NIV)
Okay, I admit it. My husband and I struggle through life just like every other married couple out there. In fact, there are times when I don't like him very much. Why? Because he doesn't meet my expectations.
Here are some of those expectations of mine. I expect that he's going to know my likes and dislikes. I expect that he knows how I think. I expect that he knows what needs to get done within the household ever day (ie meals, homework, treatments). I expect to go out on a date with him at least once a month. I expect that he's going to help me in the evenings and on weekends. After all, he does get to use a bathroom and eat meals by himself all day! I expect him to keep me informed of what's going on (extended family, work, etc). I expect him to work with my on our finances.
Now here is how his brain typically works. He's got a lot to get done at work. "How am I going to provide for my family?" "Geez, the weather is perfect for doing what I like to do with my buddies today!" Work. He expects that the wife is going to handle all things kid-related today, including school, doctors, therapists, playmates, clothing and the like. "How am I going to pay for all this?" Work. He expects that his wife will handle all things household today, including cleaning, laundry, gardening, grocery shopping and bill paying. "What's for dinner?" "I need to get on the computer after supper to get the rest of my work done." "What's going on with the kids?" Yell. Pass out from exhaustion.
Now, of course both of these mindsets are a bit of a caricature. Still, I suspect that our thoughts are quite similar to other married couples. And you can see with a husband and wife having such divergent thinking, why the divorce rate is so high (and even 30% higher in the special needs community). Each has expectations that are far too lofty, setting up major disappointment and conflict.
Several years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts when I read the book LOVE & RESPECT by Emerson Eggerichs with a small group of women over the summer. It was a real love-hate relationship that I had with this volume. There were times that I wanted to hurl it across the room, it made me so angry. But that was only because it was so convicting.
Making a long story short, the book confirmed a phrase I have proclaimed for years: Even the best man is still a man! Most women laugh when I blurt this out, thinking it a sexist dig. But it's true! My hubby is NOT God! He's a fallible human being just like I am. He deserves what he needs most (respect), no matter if his behavior commands it or not. In the same way, I deserve what I need most (love), whether or not my behavior evokes it.
Now this isn't to say that we are each entitled to run roughshod over one another as a couple. No, God dictates in His word the selflessness we're to treat one another with. But He also commands us to show one another the same mercy He has lavishly granted each of us.
I find my marriage to be much more enjoyable when I let God reign on His throne of perfection rather than trying to place my spouse there. When we talk out expectations ahead of a situation, and both have a willingness to adjust to the others needs, life runs much more smoothly. When we can both laugh at ourselves and each others mistakes, less comes between us. And when our first love is our Lord and Savior, disappointment doesn't act as the house guest who never leaves.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
"I prayed for this child, and the Lord answered my prayer and gave him to me. Now I give him back to the Lord. He will belong to the Lord all his life." (1 Samuel 1:27-28, NCV)
This morning I put my eldest on a bus for her very first missions trip to help remaining hurricane victims in Waveland, Mississippi. Excitement and tears marked the departure. She had her fears, but was looking forward to the week ahead. I was so proud of her, but knew that I would be missing her while she was gone.
When we had told people that she was making this trip, all sorts of questions came up. Were we sending her with a cell phone? How could we let her travel so far away without us at only 12 years old? Were we going to be checking in every day? I was surprised at some of the questions. In my mind, this is an opportunity to let her try her wings before she leaves the nest. And I've always felt that God has something special planned for each of my children, no matter what that might be.
Like Hannah in the Bible's book of 1 Samuel, children did not come easily to our family. We experienced numerous miscarriages and repeated infertility treatment. We had even begun down the path of adoption. When the Lord blessed us with a second child who had a bleeding disorder, we could even see how the trials of building a family were merely preparation to be good medical advocates for our son. And we know all too well that each of our children's 3 lives are an amazing miracle.
All that considered, we have held them with an open hand. Like Hannah, we have dedicated each one to the Lord. We realize that these precious individuals are on loan to us for 18 years at the most. We consider it a solemn responsibility to nurture and raise them as God's children.
Is this always easy? Of course, not! Is micro-managing and worrying a hard habit to rebuff? Absolutely!
Nevertheless, I am always repeating to my children that it's my job to train myself out of a job. I need to teach them how to make decisions, live life and risk failure. If they don't learn to do these things under my roof, how will they ever learn to do them on their own?
Besides, some of the worst mistakes come either when I'm right with them or when I push too hard. Charlie has had some of his worst bleeds when I'm standing next to him, doing nothing. Thankfully, I was there to help with his recovery. Lexi, had struggles with choosing between going on this trip or having fun going to camp. The more I kept my mouth shut, the more room there was for God to work on her heart.
The key is to push through the racing of our hearts and pray like crazy. As I often say to parents in crisis, God loves these kids even more than we ever could. He's numbered every hair on their heads. (Luke 12:7) Our calling as parents is to "train a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6) and let God do the rest. While there's no doubt that it's difficult, trusting God is not only divinely pleasing, but is also the best legacy we can give those cherished offspring.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me... (Psalm 23:4, NETBible)
It's Sunday night. The kids are excitedly planning what they'd like to do with the next 7 Summer days. We have to disappoint their plans for Monday by announcing that we have hematology clinic at Children's Hospital at 10. Running low on time and cash, I fail to call a sitter, so both little ones will have to make the trip.
Anxiety rises. "Do we have to go?", he pleads. He's scared. Even so, we get them settled in for the night.
Morning comes and the hurried pace begins. Do we have all his medical supplies packed for treatment? Do I have snacks and drinks packed for everyone to satisfied during the overly long appointment? Are the kids cleaned and dressed on time? Have they packed toys to help the time pass? Do I have everything? As usual, I'm running late.
Whew! We're here. There's a long line to check in at the hematology and oncology clinic today. We're ushered into our exam room, no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet, where we'll reside for the next 3 1/2 hours while the parade of professionals streams through.
First, comes the social worker, asking the survey questions then addressing all the psycho-social issues we're dealing with. We're advised to start teaching our 9 year old to only aim towards career choices that provide good, big-company insurance benefits and safe activities. No future as a police officer or small business owner for him!
Next, comes the financial counselor. Is our health insurance the same? Is Medicaid still our secondary insurance? What about the financial assistance program that dropped us because we'd reached our maximum number of allowed years of participation? Are there any other assistance programs for us, the working poor, or do we have to be jobless? The kids are getting restless now, wrestling in this little space.
Our medication provider is next. There are no concerns or issues there, so we turn to personal conversation. These people become like family when they're such a regular, important part of your life.
The physical therapist is next. Examining range of motion for every joint, every muscle takes quite awhile. He has found a sprained shoulder that our son hid from us. It seems he'll be okay. Our youngest is now crawling the walls. Dad takes her for a walk. The therapist tries to impress upon our boy the need to get back to regular low-impact exercise like swimming and biking, in order to build strength and prevent internal bleeding.
Ah, the hematologist is finally here! She has an inquisitive student with her, who thinks the disruptive behavior of our youngest is hilarious. Since we can't hear the doctor, another tour of the floor takes place with Dad and the energetic tag-along. A reasonably good exam results. Can we get out of here now?
No such luck! The nurse coordinator still needs to see us. She introduces us to the professional who will fill in for her during her imminent maternity leave. She runs through her litany of questions, followed by discussions of training our local school and hospital staff.
The worst part is saved for the last. We're all escorted down to the research lab. After much coaching, compromising and comforting, he refuses to cooperate with putting the IV line in his arm. Dad and a nurse need to physically restrain him as he sobs and cries out in terror. For the next 15 minutes he sweats and whimpers as vial after vial after vial of blood is drawn for tests and studies. He's getting light-headed and finally leans into Dad for relief. Once the blood is drawn, I infuse, all the while his restless little sister waiting at the door.
THIS is one of the darkest valleys we are required to face every 6 months. There's no escaping it -- We've been assigned this diagnosis for life. Facing all the angles of dealing with this disorders for 4 concentrated hours leaves you feeling like you've been spun around and turned on your head once you're finished. It's difficult to think in a logical, sequential order after an appointment like that. Tempers flare. A good meal and refreshing sleep can't come fast enough.
Even so, He is with us. We have nothing to fear. Though we're exhausted, we have HOPE. This is just one more step we need to get through to get on with the daily living. How do parents who don't have HIM do it?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31, MSG)
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, NIV)
Of all the people in the world, parents of children with special needs are most aware of the fragility of life. Seeing such young bodies and minds challenged with tests, procedures and treatments of every kind brings about the ever-present knowledge of life being here today and gone tomorrow. How we all grieve when a young life is cut short -- But really, couldn't any life be?
One of my favorite songs is by Chris Rice, entitled "Life Means So Much". His lyrics remind us we're each given an allotment of time to use, "Everyday is a bank account, And time is our currency, So no one’s rich, nobody’s poor, We get twenty-four hours each. So how are you gonna spend, Will you invest or squander..."
Too many people I see (including myself at times) worry about things that won't matter one bit a year from now. Families divide over who was or wasn't invited to the wedding, who got the painting from Grandma's estate, or whose house Thanksgiving dinner was hosted at. How we ruin the time we could have been loving on each other, laughing and building memories that last into the next generation! Each day is a gift to be cherished and treasured with its own possibilities. Things we take for granted can become delights we rejoice in -- birds singing, a crystal clear blue sky, a dumb joke.
When we're worn down by the exhaustion of money troubles, heavy decisions or medical traumas, it's easy to have our focus cast downward. How natural to be short-sighted when we barely know how we will make it through this day.
Nevertheless, the comfort and joy God intended for us will flood our lives if we commit to finding something good in each day. Finding the humor in people, with all their countless imperfections, helps us blow off the minutiae rather than finding ourselves constantly wounded. What if this day were the last for us, our children or our spouse? How would it be lived? Spend wisely!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
"Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." (Mark 5:19)
Somehow we always seem to think that God expects monumental things from us when it comes to making a difference in this world. We stand in awe of friends who have traveled to places like Africa or China or India to perform acts of compassion and share hope with those in desperate need.
Yet, no life, regardless of the circumstances, is without the need for eternal hope. Every soul, whether living in a mansion in Malibu or a hut in Honduras, has equal value in God's economy. That makes each of us a missionary starting at home.
It's been said that no one can argue with your personal story. That's the one item that cannot be debated by those who would be nay-sayers. If your life has been transformed, share that experience with others close to you. Look for opportunities to let people know what God is doing in your life. Let your behavior be a wordless witness to the blessings you've received, drawing others to seek what you have.
Be mindful that you are a living and breathing message to everyone with whom you come into contact. Are you a positive message or a negative one? Who are you a message to? Other parents of children with special needs? PTA members? Fellow factory workers? Bowling team members?
Once your news is delivered, pray for those you've come into contact with. They may completely reject what you have to say -- Jesus experienced no less. But you will have been found faithful in God's eyes, sharing His good news of hope in your little piece of the world.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? ...But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless... You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (Psalm 10:1, 14, 17-18, NIV)
In the noisy world of a busy mom, silence is usually attractive. But there is one type of silence that nobody wants -- the silence of God. When we seek God's face for wisdom, discernment or help in times of trouble, nothing feels worse than the sense that He suddenly left for a Hawaiian vacation. If we don't sense God's presence, comfort and care in the hour of deepest need, anxiety is sure to follow.
This is where our history with God and our knowledge of Him needs to be drawn upon. As we cling to God in times of trouble despite our feelings of abandonment, He reveals His presence to us. When we get on the other side of a trial, we can look back to see, though we didn't sense it at the time, He was carrying us through all along.
The next time we face a crisis, God desires us to remember how He has proven faithful in the past. Journaling, flipping through old photos, or sharing stories with our family often helps us to recall all the things we worried about that never came to pass. We can smile and breathe deeply acknowledging, "I don't know how we ever got through THAT but by the grace of God!"
Faith is a growing and dynamic part of our lives, always tested, always stretched. As we work through our bitterness and exhaustion in trials, we gain the ability to increase that trust in God. And though we may only be saying it with our mouths, we will find ourselves on solid ground as we proclaim, "God is real no matter how I feel!"
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (Proverbs 14:1, NIV)
Several years ago, I read one chapter of the Book of Proverbs each day of the month. (31 days, 31 Proverbs) These pithy sayings are notorious for their timeless wisdom. As I read through, I highlighted verses that resonated with me or convicted me. Today's verse, though perhaps not particularly popular in today's culture, hit me right between the eyes.
Proverbs 14:1 causes me to reflect on how I want my household to function. What am I doing to build my family up? What destructive habits need to be eliminated? Ultimately, it all comes down to relationships and behavior.
It's easy to seduce ourselves into identifying only the positive things we do in our households. I doubt that any of us would have a hard time naming the traditions we establish as a family. The efforts we put forth to cook, clean and provide for our family are part of our every day life. We run kids to sports, to friends, to doctors. We may even share hobbies as a family.
Admitting to the destructive isn't always so fun. While we can all admit we probably get more irritable with our kids than we should, there are some less obvious things that prove us the fool. Are we criticizing our spouse openly to others? How about gossiping right in front of the kids? Do we engage in a little too much "retail therapy"? What role does the TV and the things we watch on it play in our household?
Each and every choice we make leaves a powerful legacy with our spouse, our kids and with those who are watching us all. While dads are traditionally the head of the household, moms really set the tone. After all, "If mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy"!
I want to be proven wise in the end, and I can only do that by following God's lead. I struggle every day with my own selfishness, quick temper or unreasonable expectations. But if I commit my ways to being an imitator of Jesus, my household is edified by love, generosity, humor and encouragement.
Spend some quiet time with the Lord assessing your building skills. As you make this a more frequent habit, you will draw closer to becoming a remodeler than a one-woman wrecking ball!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (Galatians 5:13-15, MSG)
If you look at international strife in our current days and throughout time, you will see a long history of various forms of tyranny. Going far beyond moral codes of conduct and laws for public safety, mankind had invented new ways of enslaving and imprisoning populations for ethnicity, religion, philosophical beliefs and societal differences. Unspeakable horrors have resulted as dictators financially oppress their citizens and torture any who would disagree with or disobey them.
Know this, how much more grateful we should be for this little 225+ year experiment in freedom we call America. We enjoy so many liberties that others crave, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to own property, a voice in our government and self determination. We have programs and services galore for the less fortunate that are sadly lacking in too many nations. Our fulfilling pursuit of happiness continues to draw countless immigrants to this land.
However, as the saying goes, "Freedom isn't free." While that's usually pronounced in the context of the faithful men and women who have given their lives for our nation, it goes a bit farther. Our freedom calls us into a great accountability. God reminds us that we are not to use that freedom to run roughshod over others, but to live in community as Jesus exemplified. "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other," pronounced John Adams in 1798. When we have politicians (of any party) and individuals (of any vocation) drunk with power and thinking they know better than the people they serve, that country's freedom is at risk. When the life in "Life Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness" doesn't honor the lives of the weak and voiceless in the population, that nation's freedom is in peril. When citizens disregard their call to generosity, kindness and service, making only the government responsible for these mandates, that land has already begun to relinquish a good portion of its freedom. When self is god above all else, hedonists discriminate as to which citizens will have freedom and which citizens will be denied.
The next time the word "America" crosses your lips, think of all the responsibility that comes with the privilege of citizenship. If each of us would look to improving the way we use our freedom rather than pointing at public figures, what restoration we would bring to "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness"!