Things I’m thankful for this year that I wasn’t thankful for last year

thanksgiving-snoopy

A change in our circumstances can often lead to a change in our perspective.  I guess God knew I needed a new perspective, so He chose to change our circumstances.  The last two years have definitely been the most difficult of our 24 year marriage.  I have not enjoyed the journey, but I’m thankful for the new perspective that the long and bumpy road has given me.

As I began to think about what I’m thankful for, I realized that there were several things that I’m thankful for this year that I wasn’t thankful for last year:

Health Insurance:  We had health insurance for the first 22 years of our marriage and we took it for granted.   Then 2012 rolled around and everything changed. My husband went into work one day and was told that in 6 months his job was going to be eliminated.  So he went to work for a new company. He had to work for the company’s temp service until the company officially hired him. The temp service provided us with a limited coverage insurance.  One of our girls had to have 2 MRI’s in January.  The insurance  paid for the first MRI, but paid nothing on the second one.  We had reached the maximum amount they were going to pay on our daughter for the whole year and it was only January.  Our limited insurance coverage was much more limited than we ever imagined.  We spent several extremely long months with no health coverage for our daughter.  Then one day the letter finally came in the mail. My husband would be hired at the end of June and we would have new health insurance.  It was like a dream come true.  We now have excellent insurance coverage.  It’s even better than the insurance we had for the first 22 years of our marriage.  Every time I am asked for my insurance card, I am so thankful to have one to pull out of my wallet.

Our girls can walk:  We live in a world where people often focus on the negative instead of the positive. When people look at a child with a disability they tend to focus on what the child can’t do and don’t consider what the child can do.   Earlier this year, I found myself focusing on all that our girls can’t do.  I felt angry and hopeless.  God stepped in because He knew that I needed to change my perspective. We decided that the girls needed to have a fresh start and we began to look for new therapists for them. The biggest blessing of their lives happened when we found Easter Seals.  I have spent every Monday afternoon since March of this year sitting in the waiting room at Easter Seals.  Almost every time we are there we see someone come in the front door who is in a wheelchair.  One day we were standing out front waiting for my husband to pick us up.  Two little girls were having a race to see who’s wheelchair could go the fastest.  The little girl who won the race was all smiles because her new wheelchair went so much faster than her old one.  As I stood there and watched those little girls, I got tears in my eyes.  It was a divine appointment from God .  He had me standing on the sidewalk in front of Easter Seals at that exact moment for a reason.  He wanted me to realize that I need to be thankful that my girls can walk and run. We pull into the parking lot of Easter Seals every week and our girls unbuckle, climb out of the van, and walk to the front door.  So many parents pull up, unload a wheelchair, lift their child into the wheelchair, and push their child’s wheelchair through the front door. Our life could be so much harder than it is.  I’m so thankful for the gentle reminder I received that day that I should be grateful that our girls can walk and run.

Our girls can talk:  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish that our girls didn’t have the speech and language problems that they have.  Every Monday we enter the Easter Seals waiting room and every Monday we have the exact same problem  Our girls talk too loud.  They definitely lack volume control.  We are constantly telling them that they are talking too loudly.  It’s embarrassing at times.  But then God once again steps in and gives me new perspective.  I see children all the time who have severe cognitive disabilities and what we deal with suddenly doesn’t seem as big as it once did.  There are Mommy’s who have never heard their child talk.  They have never heard their child say “I love you, Mommy”.   My girls tell me “I love you, Mommy” all day long.   It is a gift to have children who can talk and I shouldn’t take it for granted.

Easter Seals:  Easter Seals is a place where a child is accepted exactly as they are.  At Easter Seals the therapists focus on our girls abilities instead of their disabilities.  Our girls are thriving because the focus is on what they can do instead of what they can’t do.  I’m thankful for Kayla, Susan, Lisa, and Jill.  They are excellent therapists who are so caring and loving towards our girls.  We spend 2 1/2 hours just driving to Easter Seals for the girls to have therapies that last for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  It’s worth every moment of driving and every dollar spent on the gas to get there.  Last year I had only heard of Easter Seals.  This year my heart is filled with gratitude for all that they do for our girls.

As I tuck my girls in and kiss them goodnight tonight, I will thank God that they can walk and that they can talk.  I will thank Him that I am blessed to hear “I love you, Mommy” all day long.  I encourage each one of you who are reading this to think of something that you are thankful for this year that you were not thankful for last year.  As you kiss your kids goodnight, thank God for all the many ways that He has blessed your children.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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I used to look like a good Mom

Several years ago someone walked up to me and said “You used to look like a good mom…..until you had the twins”.  This person proceeded to laugh as if it was the funniest thing ever said.  We chatted a few minutes and then we parted ways.  I was stunned.  This person lives in Italy and has never been to Holland.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  I don’t know who had the bright idea of coming up with that saying, but it’s a lie.  Words can cut, words can wound, and words can hurt someone so deeply that they never recover from it.  These words hurt me deeply, and I began to wonder if they might be true.   If the girls misbehaved in public I heard a voice in my head that said “You used to be a good mom….but now you’re not.”

The girls once both had a meltdown while we were in Kohls.  I walked past the returns department with my two little ducklings following closely behind me.  I decided to turn around and see if the people in line were staring.  Yep…sure enough four complete strangers were staring at us. And I thought I knew what they were thinking.  They were thinking that if I were a good mom, I would be able to control my children.

I started to hear the “you used to be a good mom” voice more frequently and it became louder and louder.  I heard it at church, I heard it at Walmart, and I heard it at family gatherings.  I was hearing it just about every time I went anywhere.   The voice began to torment me.  It made me not even want to leave our house.

perfect-mom

I went through a time of having an emotional breakdown every Wednesday night while we were at church.  I would drop the girls off at their class, the older girls would be in youth group, and I was alone where they couldn’t see me cry.  So I would cry every single Wednesday night.  I wondered why I couldn’t just have my cry at home in private where no one would see me.  The answer was simple.  God knew that I needed someone to hug me, to pray with me, and to love me.  You know the saying “You can’t hide from God”.  Well, I’ve also learned “You can’t hide from Mona”

Mona is a wonderful woman of God who I am privileged to attend church with.  One Wednesday night I was sitting and having my usual cry while I was waiting for church to start.  Mona was talking to someone a few rows in front of me and she glanced up and noticed I was upset.   She did not know me, but she came up to me and she started praying for me.  I felt a heavy burden lift from me as she prayed for me.

Then on another Wednesday night, the girls were misbehaving on the way to class and I was weary and frustrated. I sat through church not really hearing anything that was said.  Towards the end of the service, the tears started flowing once again.  Church dismissed and all I wanted to do was grab the girls and head straight to the van.  As I was walking to their class, Mona spotted me.  Yep….you can’t hide from Mona.

She began to pray for me.  She had no idea what I was going through.  As she was praying she said the words “God says you are a good mom.”  I began crying uncontrollably.   God wanted the “you’re not a good mom” lie to be broke off from my life.  I was healed that night.  Once the tears stopped I was a new person.

Yes, I used to be a mom who appeared to have it all together.  But the truth is that I never really had it all together even when it appeared that I did.  Appearances aren’t always reality.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where appearance takes top priority.  People see our faults and they like pointing them out to us. They seem to enjoy making us feel like we are less than we are.  And I believe that God is looking down from heaven with a tear in His eye and He’s longing for His children to just love each other.  He wants us to speak words of encouragement over each other instead of words that wound.

I also believe that God looks down from heaven and He smiles when His children choose to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  He smiled at Mona when she stopped her world to enter my world.  She accepted me in the middle of my mess and she loved me anyway.  She chose to say you are rather than tell me what I used to be.   She did all of these things because she knows Jesus.  Jesus does all of these things. He always wants to enter our world.  He accepts us in the middle of our mess.  He loves us no matter what.  He never reminds us of what we used to be.  He only tells us who we are and what we can become.

I occasionally still hear the “you’re not a good mom” voice but I choose to not listen to it.  I am all that God says I am.  And He says that I am a good mom.  He says you are a good mom.  He says you are a good dad. His opinion is the only one that will ever matter.

Put down your phone and just ride that merry-go-round

A few years ago I became totally irritated at a complete stranger.  We were standing in line waiting for the girls to ride the merry-go-round.  I noticed a little girl who was smiling and having the time of her life as she spun around and around.  Her mom was right beside her riding her own horse.  My blood began to boil as I watched that mom. She was texting the entire time she was on the merry-go-round.  She had never even noticed the joy on her little girl’s face.  All the girl wanted was her mom’s attention.  She yearned for her mom to look at her, to smile at her, and to just love being with her.  But in that moment some nameless, faceless person was taking her mom’s attention away from her.  My heart ached for that little girl.

Taylor

Taylor

I’m not much of a texter.  As a matter of fact, I learned to text only 6 months ago.  I’m still not good at it.  I can’t walk and text at the same time. I certainly couldn’t text while riding a merry-go-round.  It was easy for me to judge that mom because she was allowing something unimportant to me to consume her.  But the truth is that I often become distracted by things and I don’t give my girls the attention that they deserve.  I am merry-go-round mom.

My weeks are filled with chores, therapies, dance class, art class, church, and homeschooling.  All of these things are time-consuming and they need to be done.  I often get distracted by the urgency of the daily tasks and I fail to give my girls the attention that they deserve.  I will be paying the bills and I hear “Mommy, look at this!”  I say “Wow, that’s great!” but I really didn’t take the time to look at what my daughter is showing me.  In that moment the checkbook and my calculator were more important than my child.  Yes, I am merry-go-round mom.  

Hope is constantly showing me pictures and videos on her Leapster GS.  I’m so guilty of kinda-sorta glancing at them but not really stopping what I’m doing to be with her in that moment.  One night I was sitting on the couch and Hope crawled up and sat beside me.  She started showing me pictures on her Leapster.  I stopped what I was doing and I gave her my full attention.  She had taken numerous pictures of her big sister. She had used some clip art and added things to the pictures.  As she showed me each picture, we began to laugh together.  Within minutes, we were laughing hysterically.   I’m so glad that I chose to just sit and enjoy my little girl.  I chose not to be merry-go-round mom.

Brynna

Brynna

Just yesterday we had a little 2-year-old girl who loved to watch the Little Mermaid over and over again.  She called her “Fire” because she couldn’t remember the name Ariel.   She fell in love with books when she was 6 years old and she would read every book that she could get her hands on.  She started going to art classes when she was 6 years old and at 8 years old she began playing the violin. We blinked and she graduated 8th grade.  We blinked again and she got her driver’s license.  That little girl will be 18 years old in just 3 months.

Just yesterday we had another little 2-year-old girl with the cutest pigtails.  She absolutely loved Dora the Explorer. When she was 4 years old her favorite thing to do was catch toads.  When she was 6 years old she joined her big sister at art class.  At 11 years old she decided that she wanted to learn ballet.  We signed her up for dance class and she has fallen in love with dancing.  We blinked and she graduated from 8th grade.  She’s now in her first year of high school.

Mikayla

Mikayla

Time has a way of going by way too quickly.  Moments slip past us that we can never get back.  I’m tired of being merry-go-round mom.  Yes, the dishes have to be washed, the laundry has to be folded, the floors have to be mopped, and the toilets have to be scrubbed.  But I’m tired of those things stealing moments away from my children. I want to put down the mop, the toilet brush, and the dish rag and just be mom. There are girls in my home who yearn for their mom to look at them, to smile at them, and to just love being with them.  My girls aren’t going to one day think about their childhood and be thankful that they had a mom who could keep a house clean.  They are going to look back and be thankful that they had a mom who loved them and who took time to make memories with them.

I’ve been thinking about that merry-go-round mom a lot lately.  I hope she has chosen to put her phone down and just enjoy her little girl.  I’m thankful for the lesson she taught me that day.  Today and every day I want to choose to get on the merry-go-round with my girls and just leave my phone in the van.

Hope

Hope

Why am I in Holland when I really wanted to go to Italy?


I recently read a story that left me in tears. This story captured feelings that I have experienced, but I’ve never been able to put my feelings into words.  After I finished reading this story, I knew that I needed to include it in a blog post.

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this….

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.  The Michaelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags, and off you go.  Several hours later the plane lands.  The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say.  “What do you mean ‘Holland’?  I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland, and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease.  It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks.  And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.  

It’s just a different place.  It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy….and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go.  That’s what I had planned.

And the pain of that will never ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

The Beauty of Italy

The Beauty of Italy

The Beauty of Holland

The Beauty of Holland

My husband and I have been to Italy twice.  We went in 1997 and again in 2000.  No…we haven’t actually traveled to Italy.  But when our oldest daughters were born it was like we were in Italy.  It was exactly like we had pictured it.  Everything that we had hoped and planned for came true.  Our girls were well-behaved.  They were obedient.  They didn’t struggle with school.  Yep…Italy was wonderful.

In 2005 we planned another trip.  We assumed  that when our twins were born we would get to go to Italy once again.  But we soon found ourselves in Holland.  I had to buy new guidebooks because the ones for Italy didn’t make sense in Holland.  The girls were speaking a language that we didn’t understand.

Why did putting on socks always end in a meltdown?  Socks never bothered the older girls.  What in the world was going on?  The guidebooks called it sensory processing disorder.

Why is it hard for the girls to answer simple questions?   It’s because they have receptive and expressive language disorder

Why can’t they sit still and just listen to me?  It’s because they have ADHD

Why do they constantly leave the “s” off of words like spider, spoon, and sticker?  It’s because they have articulation disorder.

Why is it so hard for the girls to write, cut with scissors, and ride a bicycle?  It’s because they have coordination disorder.

Yes, the author of Welcome to Holland is correct.  It is slower paced, and less flashy in Holland.  It’s hard  to sit and watch the parents who are coming and going from Italy.  They are bragging about their star athlete, their child who gets straight A’s, and all of the accomplishments that you can have while you are in Italy.  And there you sit in Holland thinking “Yep…that’s what it was supposed to be like for us.  That’s what we had planned.”

Life in Holland involves giving up the dreams that we had for our girls and trading those dreams in for new ones.  It’s a life where we have to watch labels be put on our girls and there is nothing that we can do about it.  A mom and dad’s job is to kiss the boo-boo, put a band-aid on it, and make it go away. Parents of special needs kids have to teach their kids how to live with boo-boos that aren’t going to go away.  It’s heart-breaking and it makes us feel helpless.

I wish I could have back all of the years that I have spent wishing I wasn’t in Holland.  I haven’t appreciated the beauty that Holland has to offer.   The beauty of a child who giggles endlessly at something that people in Italy don’t even notice.  The beauty of watching the girls hug their therapists and knowing that we would have never met them if we had been in Italy.  The beauty of watching a lady at church…a lady whose name I didn’t even know…walk up to our girls and kiss them both on top of the head.  She is now a very special friend to our family.  She seems to understand Holland even though she lives in Italy.

God has chosen to allow our family to live in both Italy and Holland.  Both places are beautiful and both places have struggles.  I have cried more, questioned more, and hurt more while I’ve been in Holland. But I also pray more, trust more, and depend on the Lord more now than I did while I was only in Italy. I’m learning that I can’t truly enjoy Holland if I’m always longing to be in Italy.  I have to choose to enjoy what I have instead of wishing for what I don’t have.  Holland can actually be a beautiful place when I choose to gaze at the windmills and stop and smell the tulips.  I’m learning to find joy in the journey.

 

 

Image of Italy credited to jmu.edu

Image of Holland credited to http://www.caffeinatedautismmom.com/

You want me to start a blog? Are you kidding me!

It was the year 1976 and nervous children gathered in Mrs. Lankford’s kindergarten class for the very first time.  Kindergarten was only a half day back then.  There was enough time to be introduced to the Letter People, hear a story, meet a few new friends, and then get back on the little yellow school bus. Kids went home from that first day of school and told their parents that there was a girl in the class who couldn’t talk.  That little girl was me.

I was painfully shy.  Mrs. Lankford only heard me utter two words the entire year that I was in her class. We had an assignment to cut pictures out of a magazine and bring them to class.  Mrs. Lankford thought my pictures were wonderful and she asked me what magazine I had found them in.  I whispered the words “Sesame Street” into her ear.

Fast forward to 5th grade.  The teacher gave an assignment that left my knees shaking.  Each student had to memorize a poem and recite it to the class.  Memorizing the poem was easy, but I did not want to recite it in front of the class.  I was really hoping that I would get a stomach bug and I would get out of it.  No such luck.  I remember getting up and reciting the poem and feeling as if I could vomit at any moment.

Fast forward to Senior English.  The teacher announced that it was time to start giving speeches.  Didn’t I just do that 7 years ago?  Why-oh-why can’t I get a stomach bug, strep throat, or a migraine so I can get out of this?  Of course, I woke up perfectly healthy.  I was actually going to have to do this.  I walked to the front of the class, lifted my papers up,  and began my speech.  My hands were visibly shaking. They were shaking so much that I was having trouble reading my speech.  It seemed like an eternity, but I finally got to the last line.  As I walked back to my desk, the teacher commented that I seemed so calm and I had done a wonderful job.  I’m pretty sure that she saw my hands shaking, but she chose to compliment my efforts rather than criticize my delivery.

Public speaking has always been my enemy.  All year I’ve felt like I was supposed to start this blog.  But fear kept creeping in.  It whispered in my ear “You know you’re not good at speaking.  You really aren’t qualified to do something like that.”

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I’m pretty sure that Moses and I have the same personality type.  The Lord asked Moses to go and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses asked “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11-12).  He obviously didn’t feel qualified to do what the Lord was asking him to do.  When I first felt as if the Lord was asking me to start this blog, I questioned Him as well.  I asked Him “You want me to bring encouragement to other families when I’m a complete mess myself? Are you kidding me?  How is that even possible?”  The Lord’s response to Moses was “I will be with you”.   He is with me also.  I can’t do this without Him.      

Moses said “Oh Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, I am slow of speech and tongue.”   The Lord said to him “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12).  I have also reminded the Lord that public speaking is not my strength. “Don’t you remember kindergarten, 5th grade, and my Senior year of high school, Lord?  I can just picture Him smiling and saying “Oh, Tricia, stop thinking so much and just go.  I will teach you what to say.”

Christine Caine

Christine Caine

God doesn’t always choose the person who looks qualified for the job.  I can’t help but think about I Samuel 16:7.  It says For the Lord does not see as man sees;  for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  If you look at my outward appearance I certainly don’t look qualified. My knees and my hands shake when I speak.  But the Lord looks at my heart. He sees that my heart breaks every time our two upside down turtles struggle with something that is easy for other kids. He sees me when my heart is ugly and I’m angry because life just doesn’t look like I pictured it.  He sees that my heart aches for others who feel the same things that I feel.  He sees all that is going on in my heart and He wants to heal me. He sees others who are lonely, angry, broken-hearted and disillusioned and He wants them to be healed too. I believe that this blog has been born so that all of us who are struggling could find each other. The Lord never meant for us to be alone.  He wants us to encourage one another. He wants us to bring light to someone’s darkness and to bring joy to someone’s sorrow.

As I end this first post, fear is starting to whisper in my ear again.  My knees are shaking, and I feel a bit nauseous.  Our pastor told me that sometimes you have to run over the fear instead of hoping that it will go away.  I’ve waited all year for the fear of starting a blog to go away, and it never has.  So I’m choosing to push the publish button to this post and run over my fear.  I trust the Lord will bring hope, healing and encouragement to all who read the words that He gives me.