When Your Kid is…Different

Sometimes, Moms just know.

They know when all isn’t as it should be. When the other three year olds are able to count to ten but their child can’t articulate “one”, “two” or “three”. Moms know when it’s strange that their three old son can’t ask for a specific food when he’s hungry, but instead opens his mouth and yells, “Eat!”

She knows that something is wrong when her adorable little boy is three and she’s still not heard him say his own name. She knows.

I knew. nate-for-blog

Well meaning people told me not to worry about it. After all, my fun-loving bundle of energy had two big sisters who could speak for him. Why did he need to talk? He just hadn’t found the need to that often. Others told me to chill. He’s a boy. They don’t mature as quickly as girls. Girls are counting early, learning the alphabet, solving world peace and knitting blankets for their future husbands, while boys play in dirt and pick their noses. Nothing to worry about. Right?

I knew, but I didn’t say much. He’s healthy and extremely happy. A handsome boy with mischievous brown eyes, heart-melting dimples and chestnut curls. He makes friends easily and is always smiling. But still, there was something…

The speech delay could no longer be ignored and we had him tested just before Christmas of last year. The results came back for our little guy…severe cognitive delay paired with a severe speech delay. what-if

As I sat at the tiny elementary school table, my legs tucked up under the too-small chair, I listened to the therapists lay out all the options for my little guy. I was calm. I knew God had gone before us and I knew none of this had taken Him by surprise. The therapists told me from what they’d observed, they believed Nate could catch up over time. I listened and nodded and drove away from the school with a heart that was too jumbled for examination. Heavy, sad, overwhelmed, relieved in an odd way that my concern was validated, a thousand ‘what-ifs’ tumbling through my mind, another wash of sadness, and then—

“Hi!”

I looked in the rear view mirror and Nate was grinning that big toothy grin at me, his brown eyes sparkling, one chubby hand waving. “Hi, Monny.” He blew a big, wet sloppy kiss my direction and it happened. That tight bubble of gloom burst in my chest and was instantly replaced with laughter. Joy. Love.

Because in the end, that’s really all that matters.

Nothing has changed. Nate is exactly the same awesome bundle of energy and joy he’s always been, both before the diagnosis and after. The only thing that changed that day was my perspective.

Going through this journey with Nate has been incredibly rewarding. He works so hard to master new skills and concepts each week but here’s the thing…he’s not worried about trying to make anybody happy or do things the ‘right’ way. He just loves life, learning and people. nate-and-susan

And Nate has taught me how to celebrate the small things. After his very first speech session, his amazing speech therapist, Susan Jumper (pictured right), or “Miss Su-Su” as he calls her, led him out of the room with a big smile on her face.

“Nate, do you want to show Mommy what we learned today?”

He nodded and smiled.

Susan asked, “What’s your name?”

He moved his fingers down his arm and tapped his wrist as he said, “Nate!” Perfect enunciation. Perfect smile. Perfect joy.

Perfect tears on this Mommy’s part. Those small victories have turned into big victories for our little guy.

I’m incredibly thankful for his incredible therapists and teachers…people like Miss Diana (pictured below), his cognitive therapist, Miss Su-Su, and Miss Roxie, Miss Stephanie and others who pour endless love and patience into these little guys who have so much to give. And I’m so thankful for a Savior Who sees every need…even before we know we have one. He has provided help every step of the journey.

nate-and-diana

Any more, when people ask me how Nate is doing, I smile and say, “Just fine.” He’s thriving. God has seen to it. If you’re reading this and your child has just received an unexpected diagnosis, a test that wasn’t what you’d hoped for, or is struggling in some other way, take heart. Love fills the gaps where our strength crumbles. There will be days when you’ll have ugly cries in the shower so no one can see. Times when you’ll wonder, “Why?” But there will be victories too. Laughter, love, and joy that will be all the sweeter because of the journey you took to arrive at the place of celebration.

Your child is a great big bundle of love and potential. Tests can’t measure their worth. Focus on what matters. Focus on what will last.

“And the greatest of these is love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:13

I would love to hear from you. Are you the parent of a child going through a similar situation? Are you battling some scary emotions? What have you learned along the journey? Would you like me to pray for you and your family? Drop me a few lines!

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The Mean Stepsister

 

fairytaleRedemption is a beautiful thing. There is something so poignant, something almost sweeping and, dare I say, romantic about someone with power and position plucking a nobody from the crowd and claiming them as their own. Perhaps that’s why I’ve so frequently heard the Gospel compared to a fairy tale story. A king sweeping the lonely girl away to a land where all her dreams come true.

Not long ago, I heard someone compare what God has done to the story of Cinderella. I understand the gist of this kind of thinking, but it just doesn’t ring true. Not for me. See, Cinderella was pure and sweet and perfect. She deserved to win the heart of the prince. We root for her from the very beginning. We see how blameless she is. We witness the unjust circumstances thrust upon her and pray that all will be right in the end. And it is.

But I’m not Cinderella.

I’m not perfect. I’m the one setting traps for the mice and chasing the too-cheerful birds away with a broom. Too often I’m the selfish, mean stepsister, demanding my own way, wanting what I want now! stepsisterScheming, manipulating, taking whatever scraps of affection are dropped my way because, deep down, I’m so hungry for love, I’m sick with it. The only way I know to get love is to whine, parade, beg, and needle. Be more. Say more. Be seen. Be heard. And I turn myself into a royal pain in the process.

So there I stand in the middle of the crowded ballroom, watching all the beautiful girls around me, feeling ugly and out-of-place. My Jimmy Choos are actually knock-offs I found in a bargain basement and they pinch my toes. My spanx are too tight and I feel fat. Worse yet, I know how cruel I can be to those I love most. I see the bright eyes and dazzling smiles of all the other women and I know…I’ll never measure up. The Prince will never want me.

But then He turns to me and smiles. He extends his hand and asks me to dance. Me? No. I shake my head. Tears burn my eyes. He doesn’t understand. If He only knew. If He could only see the ugliness inside. hand

“No, my Lord,” I cry, tears weaving warm tracks down my face, “I’m not worthy. I’m ugly and mean. Broken. You don’t want me.”

The Prince smiles and tucks my hand into his. “Ah, but don’t you know? I mend the broken.”

The Gospel is not a message of God reaching down to elevate those who already have it together. The Good News is that He laid down His life and rose again to save broken and messy people who cannot save themselves. The Gospel is power, dynamite, revolutionary…an inside-out and upside-down message of hope for the unlovable.

It turns murderers into preachers.

It changes thieves into saints.

It transforms mean stepsisters into Cinderellas.

And isn’t that good news?

 

Drowning out Silence

Noise can be a drug.

It’s a numbing anesthesia, insulating us from pain and reality, a distraction that keeps us from looking too deeply at what haunts us most. We do the same with food, with shopping and debit cards, with possessions and degrees, with sex and alcohol, power, possessions, money, relationships, children…yet the more I consider the bombastic nature of our society, the more I believe noise has become the preferred drug of choice.

too-much-noise

By noise I don’t mean only auditory transmission, but sensory overload. Cell phones are nearly sewn on to fingertips. Television shows and music can viewed and heard from nearly any technological device man has dreamed up. Itunes, radio, Youtube, podcasts, streaming…we are a culture saturated with more. Add to that long work days, running children to and from the vast array of extra curriculars they must be a part of in order to succeed as a human being (yes, that is a note of sarcasm you hear in my voice), runs to the drive-through, caring for aging parents, chasing sticky toddlers, sweeping up crushed Cheerios, swallowing down caffeine to keep up with it all, and then throw in church and several ministry projects, because, after all, Jesus comes first, right?

You would think we would crave silence. Yearn for it. Want it with every fiber of our being. Some do.


Yet, truth be told, for many of us, when we are given the option to sit in quiet and wait for God to speak, we reach for our cell phone instead. Rather than walking through a silent house, we turn on the television for some background noise. Instead of talking with our Father on the drive to work, we blast the radio as loud as we can because “music speaks to us”. Does it speak louder to us than God does? Why?

Please understand, there is no condemnation here, for I do it too. All the time. I’ve always loved it when my kids aren’t fighting and the day is calm, but I can’t say that I’ve always loved perfect quiet. There is a big difference between the two.

girl-in-fieldAm I saying noise is wrong? Absolutely not. And God speaks to us beautifully through sound—the rush of a waterfall, the cadence of nature, the laugh of a baby, melodies and rhythms—all of these are tremendous gifts. What I do wonder, however, is how often we use busyness and noise as a way to avoid having to deal with our wounds.

When the electricity goes out, the heat clicks into dead cold, when there’s no hum of currents running through the house, it’s an odd feeling. Quiet. Sudden. It feels as if something has been ripped away. Our natural inclination when something has been taken is to fill that space with something else. So when there is silence, we automatically want to replace it with something. Anything.

boy-hidingSilence, at times, can be terrifying. There’s no hiding. All those thoughts and fears we so successfully shove down during the busyness rise to the surface. There’s no escaping them. The screams of silence soon turn to condemnation and we find ourselves in a place of pain that we knew existed but never wanted to confront.

My friend, the pain you hide in private will eventually become what you wear in public. The noise, the distractions, are only patches that will work for a little while. Jesus is waiting in the silence. He wants to hold you and heal those cracked places in your heart. To be seen, truly seen, is scary, but He is safe. His grace is greater. He will not turn you away.

In the past few years I’ve learned I’ll never accidentally fall into a closer walk with God. It’s a deliberate choice to lay aside the distractions and noise and seek His presence. I try to take five minutes each day to sit in silence with Jesus. No hiding. Just being still. I’m treasuring this new time. Instead of the condemnation I used to pour on myself, I now hear Him whisper His love to my soul. be-still

He’s with me in the quiet and He’s present in the noise.

Do you like silence? Why or why not? What are ways you unplug from the busyness? Where do you hear God or feel His presence most clearly? 

Lessons Learned in His Presence

Last week I told you my word for the year was presence. I’ve become desperate to release the juggling, the striving, running and cistern-filling that never actually fills. I yearn for Jesus’ presence…to sit at His feet. To learn and love and live. I don’t want to care about what each day brings as long as I can journey through each day with Him.

learn-to-rest

I thought my biggest obstacle to sitting in His presence would be learning to rest. For the past few years, I thought tending to chores around the house was resting. Compared to standing on stage while speaking and singing, or pounding out another book project or some other creative endeavor, mindless activities like folding laundry or scrubbing counters feel like rest. But they’re not. Here’s the tricky thing about living in the cycle of go-go-go for so long…after a while, the nonstop activity is like a drug. When it’s gone, there’s a terrifying hole of quiet that suddenly needs to be filled. Some people automatically understand how to rest. I don’t. For me, it’s a learned behavior, one I have to be taught but I’m getting there.

I thought learning to rest would be the most difficult part of this whole-seeking-God’s-presence-journey. But I was wrong. There are two others that hit me hard.

The first I learned while putting my three-year-old to sleep several nights ago. After two runs to the bathroom, a drink, a ten minute long prayer, and another drink, Nate grabbed my hand and kissed my palm, looking up into my face with a hopeful grin.

“Stay til I sleep, Monny?”

I inwardly sighed. His bedtime routine was growing longer each night and a long list of chores still awaited me. But I kissed his forehead as God’s Spirit spoke to my heart.

Stay. nate-asleep

I settled next to my little man and rubbed his face. Maybe it was the realization that time was fleeting. My children are growing up too fast. Maybe it was pure obedience that kept me rooted in place. Whatever the reason, I stayed and stroked his forehead, toyed with his chestnut curls, ran my fingertips over his eyebrows and temples until those heavy lashes could stand it no longer.

As I watched him succumb to sleep, Jesus pressed this thought into my spirit.

You’ve been seeking My presence. My Spirit is within You and if you long to sit at My feet, it is here, in these humble moments, caring for those entrusted to you that you’ll find Yourself closer to Me. Ministering to the needy. Feeding the hungry. Encouraging the broken. Visiting the prisoner. When you do this, you sit at My feet. I AM with you. I am here.

The next night I was plagued with a nasty bout of insomnia. I tossed and turned but couldn’t get comfortable. One thought kept bugging me over and over.

Rise and write.

I ignored it. I mean, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do when insomnia’s restless fingers flutter over our minds? Lie still. Ignore the TV and phone. Keep the lights off.

Nothing worked and that night was one of the most miserable I’ve endured in ages. The next morning, I sat up in my grump-induced haze and wondered if perhaps the urge to write wasn’t the crazy whim of a hyperactive right-brained blonde, but instead God’s sweet plea pulling me from sleep to offer a divine invitation. interrupted-by-god

As I stared out window, watching the sun streak the morning pink, I prayed, “Lord, was that You?”

Following Me often means interruption. Sitting in My presence may pull you away from other things, but it is always an invitation to know Me. To create with Me. To walk with Me.

Maybe I’ll get the hang of this eventually. I’m glad God is patient. Even when I get it wrong, He is so tender. So patient. And even in my mistakes, He is teaching me.

That’s the amazing thing about being with Jesus. You cannot walk away unchanged. The well of love and knowledge in His presence is unfathomable.

light-of-your-presence