Why Not Me?

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The hopeless feeling started at the same place it always starts.  You would think that I would see it coming, but it always seems to blind side me.  Hopeless feelings always latch on to me like a parasite after the girls have had an evaluation.  After each evaluation we receive a letter in the mail that is really hard to open.  Sometimes the letter will sit on the table for a week before I even open it.   I have never read anything in one of the evaluation letters that has surprised me, but seeing it all on paper is just difficult.

As I entered the doctor’s office to hear the results of our very last evaluation, I thought I would handle it well.  I really liked the doctor and I knew that I would be given a lot of ideas on how to help our girls.   The doctor focused on our daughter’s abilities rather than on her disabilities.  Everything seemed really positive and I was feeling really good about things.  And then the doctor spoke one sentence over my child’s future that sent me into despair.  All I could think about was that one sentence.  I couldn’t sleep because of that one sentence.  My hope had vanished because of that one sentence.

The week that followed was horrible.  The only thought that kept running through my mind was that I can’t do this anymore.  It’s too hard.  Why my girls?  Why do they have to struggle so much?  Why me? Why was I chosen to be a mom to girls with special needs?  It’s just not fair.

On Sunday morning, I began preparing to go to church.  I didn’t feel like getting ready and I certainly didn’t feel like making the hour-long drive to church.  But I did it anyway.  As we entered the church I began to play the game that I play so well.  Someone would say “Hi…..how are you?”  I would smile and say “Fine….how are you?” And then the next person would come along and we’d do the same routine again.  But I was not fine.  I was a complete mess.

As I took my seat a friend came to give me a hug.  She’s one of those friends that you just don’t play the “Hi….how are you?….I’m fine…how are you?” game with.  She asked how I was and I told her it had been a difficult week and I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking “why me?”

She began to tell me a story that was exactly what I needed to hear.  A few years ago, her son was killed in an automobile accident.  As she was going through the grieving process, she questioned God and asked Him “Why me?” She said that she heard Him say “Why not you?”  This past August she was on the mission field in Kenya, Africa. God opened a door for her to share her story with a grieving family who had just lost their six-year-old son.  She spoke at the funeral and she shared how the love and faithfulness of God carried her through her own experience of losing her son.  God had placed her in Kenya on the very day that a grieving family needed to hear her story.  I’m sure that God was proud of His daughter because she had turned her “Why me?” into “Why not me?” and allowed Him to use her pain to reach another family who was in pain.

My friend’s words echo in my head.  Why not me?   “Why me?” focuses only on me.  When I start thinking “Why not me?” the focus is on something bigger than me. Why have I been given this life? What can I do at this moment in my life that will make a difference in someone else’s life?  Who can I encourage today?  I know that I will still have hard days.  But if I choose to turn my “Why me?” into “Why not me?” I believe that my life will suddenly have new meaning and purpose.  

I don’t know what the future holds for our girls, but I believe that it will be much better than that one sentence that tried to steal all of my hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 says  For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Yes, the Lord has a future and a hope for our girls.  I believe that He will do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Jesus came to fix the broken pieces

As we were decorating the Christmas tree this year, I watched in horror as an ornament tumbled off of the tree, landed on the carpet, and broke.  It was a special ornament because it was a gift from grandma.  I’m extremely sentimental.  I’m amazed that I didn’t cry,  but my heart was heavy because I knew that the ornament was never going to be the same again.

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My husband said he would try to glue the ornament back together, so I picked up the pieces and placed them in my bookcase.   One day as I walked past the broken pieces,  I realized that it was a symbol of the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus came to this world because we’re all broken.  He wants to put our broken pieces back together and give each of us a new life.  Jesus looks at our brokenness and He says “I can fix that.”

Each of our girls have an ornament like the one that was broken.  I had no idea how I was going to decide which one of the girls would get the broken ornament.  One day Mikayla walked past the ornament and said “Daddy’s gonna fix MY ornament.”  I asked her “You want the broken ornament to be yours?”  She said “Yes, it’s MY ornament.”  I wondered what went on in her mind that made her want the broken ornament.   Most of us look at something that is broken and it has less value than something that is not broken.  Mikayla saw value in that which was broken.  Does she know that sometimes people look at her and they think that she is broken?  I believe that she knows that she is valuable even in the midst of her brokenness.  Jesus looks at us, just like Mikayla looked at the ornament, and He sees value in that which is broken.

Brett glued the ornament back together and it’s new again.  When Jesus comes into our life, He does the same thing. He mends our broken hearts, He heals our hurts, and He makes us new again.

 Therefore, if anyone is in  Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 

~ II Corinthians 5:17 ~

If I look really hard, I can see that the ornament was once broken, but it’s still beautiful.  This is true for our lives as well.  People may look at us and remember that we were once broken.  But they will also see that Jesus is able to take our broken life and make something beautiful out of it.

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A change in our circumstances this past week gave me a small glimpse of another reason that Jesus came to this world.  My husband was sent home from work and within 3 days we were sitting in the hospital waiting for him to have surgery.  A nurse took me to see him before they started the surgery.  I have never seen my husband in a hospital bed, and it was pretty upsetting.  I held his hand and I told him that I would take his place if I could.  If the doctors and nurses had come and said that they were taking me to surgery so that my husband wouldn’t have to go, I would have done it.  I would do that for him because I love him.

God loves each of us so deeply that He sent his Son, Jesus to the cross to take our place.  Jesus was without sin, yet He went to the cross and died for the sins of the whole world.   That kind of love is truly amazing.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins    ~  I John 4:10 ~

I’m so thankful this Christmas season that Jesus came to fix our brokenness and that He loves us enough to take our place.  Jesus is the best gift that we will ever receive.  May each and everyone of you experience the joy that only He can bring.

An Abundance of Christmas Memories

Christmas always makes me feel a bit nostalgic.  I’ve been thinking about my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood as well as my favorite Christmas memories with my husband and our girls.  I thought it might be fun for my readers to join me on a journey through my favorite Christmas memories.

The “I want a stuft puppy and a baton” Christmas – When I was in 2nd grade, I wrote a letter to Santa. I asked him to bring me a stuft puppy.  Santa wasn’t planning on giving me a stuft puppy.  But since he didn’t want to disappoint me on Christmas morning, he made a last-minute trip to get a stuft puppy.   Santa gave me the best stuft puppy ever.  

Grandma still had my letter to Santa 20 years after I wrote it

Grandma still had my letter to Santa 20 years after I wrote it

Christmas 1978

The best stuft puppy ever

That same Christmas I asked Mom & Dad to get me a baton.   I was so excited when I woke up on Christmas morning and found it under the tree.  I started twirling it with the wrapping paper still on it.   I had my stuft puppy and a new baton.  I was a girl who had it all.       

Christmas 1978

Christmas 1978

The “I got you an egg” Christmas –  It was 1979 and I kept asking my older sister “What did you get me for Christmas?”  Every time I asked the question, I got the same answer.  She would say “An egg”.  I would get so aggravated at her because I knew I was not getting an egg for Christmas.  She truly enjoyed every moment of teasing me.  On Christmas morning I opened her package and sure enough it was an egg.  It was a glass egg with Ziggy on it that said “Joy to the World….and especially to you!” Santa brought presents for my sister that year.  I thought she had been pretty naughty, but apparently Santa knew something I didn’t know.  I still have my Ziggy egg and I get it out every Christmas.

Christmas 1979

Christmas 1979

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

The “What in the World is in that great big box” Christmas – It was Christmas 1979.   My sisters and I were just about to lose our minds trying to figure out what was in a huge box.  The three of us tore into that box on Christmas morning and we were absolutely in heaven when we discovered that we had our very own TV to put in our bedroom.  The TV hadn’t been in our bedroom very long at all and it disappeared. Mom said we were fighting constantly about what we were going to watch and it was driving her and Dad crazy.  So, the TV went to Mom & Dad’s bedroom.  Rats!  It’s really not a good idea to put three sisters in the same bedroom.

The “Dad decided to make Mom a stocking” Christmas – One Christmas my Dad decided to make Mom a stocking.  He had the stocking hidden in the basement.  We watched in awe as Dad pulled Mom’s stocking up the steps.  It was a pair of pantyhose filled with apples, oranges, caramels and peanuts.  Dad was at the top of the stairs holding the waistband  and the bottom of the pantyhose was nowhere to be seen.  It’s truly amazing how many apples, oranges, peanuts, and caramels you can stuff into a pair of pantyhose without the pantyhose tearing.

The “I remembered the jewelry box that you wanted a year ago” Christmas – On New Year’s Day 1991, Brett and I went shopping.  I had some Christmas money and I wanted to buy a jewelry box.  I fell in love with one at Service Merchandise.  I took one of the bar-coded pull tags  for the jewelry box and we went and stood in an extremely long line.   After an eternity had passed it was finally my turn to pay for my jewelry box.  I handed the cashier my pull tag and she started the process of getting my jewelry box from the stockroom.  I was horrified when she told me that they didn’t have any more of the jewelry boxes. We had stood in line for a very long time only to find out that I wasn’t going to get my jewelry box.  Brett wanted to keep shopping and see if we could find the jewelry box at another store, but I was tired and totally irritated, so we went home.

The next Christmas Brett handed me a package to open.  As I tore the wrapping paper off,  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was the exact same jewelry box that I had wanted nearly a year ago.  He had been shopping at JcPenney and he stumbled across it accidentally.  I cried over that jewelry box.  Yes, I was very happy to finally have my jewelry box.  But the real gift was that I’m married to a man who could remember what the jewelry box looked like when he hadn’t seen it in a year.

Christmas 1991

Christmas 1991

The “I want a dollhouse and everything that goes in the dollhouse or I’m going to cry” Christmas Taylor was almost 3 years old when she asked for a dollhouse for Christmas.  She told her Daddy that she needed the doll house and everything that went in the dollhouse or she was going to cry.  We went to Toys R Us to get the dollhouse and Brett started cleaning off the shelves.  He put every single person and every piece of furniture into the cart.  There was no way that he was going to let his only daughter in the whole world cry on Christmas morning.  She was all smiles and a little bit spoiled that Christmas.  

Taylor 1999

Taylor 1999

The “My daughter is a kangaroo” Christmas –  Yep…..it’s true.  Brynna was a kangaroo in our church’s Christmas musical in 2002.  I was one proud Mommy.  I was the only one who could say “That absolutely adorable kangaroo belongs to me”.  Isn’t she cute?

Brynna 2002

Brynna 2002

The “Daddy needs a stretchy alligator” Christmas – When Brynna was 3, I asked her what she wanted to get her Daddy for Christmas.  Without hesitation she said she wanted to get him a stretchy alligator. We had recently been to Toys R Us and Brynna and her Daddy had a lot of fun playing with the stretchy reptiles.  It was the perfect gift for Brynna to give him.   What 34-year-old man wouldn’t want a stretchy alligator for Christmas? It brought a smile to his face when he opened his gift from Brynna.  He didn’t get to play with his stretchy alligator though.  He sort of disappeared and ended up hanging out with Brynna, a stretchy lizard, and a stretchy turtle. 

The “All I want is a flamingo movie” Christmas – When Hope was 5 years old she saw a flamingo movie at Walmart.  Every time anyone asked her what she wanted for Christmas she would say “a flamingo movie”.   I didn’t think she would actually sit and watch this flamingo movie because it wasn’t a cartoon.  But I bought it anyway because it was the only thing that she wanted for Christmas.  Oh, how she loved that flamingo movie.  She watched it over and over and over and over again.  

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Hope 2010

The “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” Christmas – There’s nothing cuter than twin girls missing their two front teeth on Christmas.

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

The “I want a rubber chicken” Christmas – When Mikayla & Hope were 7 years old they both wanted a rubber chicken for Christmas.  Yep….you heard me correctly.  They wanted a rubber chicken.  I began to search every store for rubber chickens and I couldn’t find them anywhere.  I had lost all hope that I was going to make our girls Christmas dream come  true.  Then I realized where I needed to look.  I was relieved to find that you can buy really cheap rubber chickens on Ebay.  It’s amazing how many smiles and giggles you can get from two little girls who pull a rubber chicken out of their stockings on Christmas morning.    

Mikayla 2012

Mikayla 2012

Hope 2012

Hope 2012

I would like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas. May your Christmas be filled with smiles, laughter, and joy. 

All I Want for Christmas is a Jar of Jelly

It happened every Christmas.  Grandma always gave us a box of her homemade goodies. The box was full of peanut brittle, bread, grape jelly, and apple jelly.  I loved Grandma’s gift and anticipated it every single year.  I will never forget Grandpa sharing his wisdom with me.  He told me that if I would spread the jelly really thin then my jars would last longer.   He said it with a grin that told me that he preferred to spread his jelly thick because it tastes better that way.

In 1999 our family was devastated when we found out that Grandma had lymphoma.  She passed away in September, only 6 weeks after her diagnosis.  As we neared the Christmas season, my heart ached because Grandma was gone.  Christmas was going to seem empty without her.  How could we have Christmas without Grandma and without jelly?  I decided that I needed to fill in for Grandma and make sure that everyone got jelly for Christmas.  The only problem was that I had no idea how to make jelly.

I came up with a plan.  I asked a wonderful lady named Eva to help me make jelly for my family.  She was absolutely thrilled to help me.  We spent a fun afternoon visiting and making grape jelly.  I was so excited about surprising my family with the jelly.

A few days before Christmas there was a knock on our door.  As I opened the door, there stood my Mom and Dad with a box.  My heart skipped a beat as I realized what was in the box.  It was a box of Grandma’s jelly.  Grandma had made the Christmas jelly before she got sick.  It was a true Christmas miracle.  Grandma had put a label on one of the jars that said  Brett, Patricia, Taylor.   My legal name is Patricia and Grandma & Grandpa were the only ones in the whole world who called me Patricia.  I always secretly wished that they would call me Tricia like everyone else did. But as I saw “Patricia” on the label it was like hearing Grandma say my name one last time.

I sat and stared at my last jar of Grandma’s jelly for months.  I didn’t want to eat it because I knew once it was gone, Grandma could never give me anymore.  But I could hear Grandma saying “Patricia, just eat the jelly.  Don’t let it go to waste”  So, I finally allowed the last jar of Grandma’s jelly to be opened and eaten.  I always made sure to spread it thin, so that the jelly would last longer.

My last jelly jar from Grandma is displayed in my curio cabinet.  It still has the sticker on top that says Brett, Patricia, Taylor.   This year I filled the jelly jar with red jingle bells and have it displayed with our other Christmas decor.

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Every Christmas we load up in the van and go to my Mom and  Dad’s house.  We drive by Grandma and Grandpa’s house on the way, and I always look over at their house and get a lump in my throat.  I miss them and I miss Christmas jelly.  My Grandma had figured out that:

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Grandma’s jelly was special because it didn’t come from a store…..it came from her heart.

My Dad has followed in his mom’s footsteps.  He doesn’t give gifts that come from a store either.  He makes something for his daughters and for his grandchildren each Christmas.  He has made numerous Christmas ornaments and last year, he made each grandchild their wooden name.

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Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

Most Christmas gifts that are bought in a store are torn up or forgotten by the next Christmas.   The best gifts are gifts that are given from the heart.  I can look at all of my Christmas ornaments and always remember that my Dad made them for me.  The grandkids will always remember that their wooden name was made by Grandpa.  I have no idea what we’ll be getting this year, but I know that a special Dad/Grandpa is spending a lot of time crafting something out of wood that his family will treasure forever.

Anchor

Anchor by Bethel Music

In every season, in every change
You are near
In every sorrow,
You are my strength
You are near

A peace in the storm
Your voice I will follow
In weakness I rise
Remembering You hold  my world

I’m holding on to hope
I’m holding on to grace
I’m fully letting go
I’m surrendered to Your ways

The anchor for my soul
Father You will never change

I love You, I love You

My great Redeemer,
My constant Friend
You are near
My faithful Father,
You took me in
You are near

A peace in the storm
Your voice I will follow
In weakness I rise
Remembering You hold my world

I’m holding on to hope
I’m holding on to grace
I’m fully letting go
I’m surrendered to Your ways

The anchor for my soul
Father You will never change

I love You, I love You

I will remember Your promise forever
My Strength, my Defender
I can count on You
You are my Savior, My Hope and my Shelter
Your love is forever
I can count on You

It’s not fair! I want a free iPad too!

I never dreamed that a Google search would stir up so much emotion.   Several therapists have told us that Mikayla & Hope would benefit from an iPad.  So, I decided to start looking into getting one.  I clicked on a link that said iPad for special needs children.  A lady posted that her friend had a son with special needs.  He had just received a free iPad through their state government.  She said the iPad had unlimited free apps and was used for his therapy. His parents also used the iPad and were downloading apps for their own personal use.  Then she asked a question that sent me over the edge.  Do you think this is fair to other people who don’t have special needs kids?  

Within seconds I was upset.  I mean really, really upset.  Yes, the parents should buy their own iPad and pay for their own apps.  But that is not what upset me.  It was the question “Is this fair to people who don’t have special needs kids?” that upset me.  It cut through my heart like a knife and I was suddenly overwhelmed with all kinds of thoughts and emotions.

Is it fair that the boy who got the free iPad has special needs?

Is it fair that our twin girls have special needs? 

We watched two little girls have a wheelchair race at Easter Seals.  Is it fair that those girls can’t walk and our girls can?

We saw a man the other day who was mentally disabled and severely autistic.  Is that fair?  

Is it fair that I have 4 children while there are women who struggle with infertility?

Is it fair that people in other countries are starving and don’t have clean water and someone in our country is complaining because they can’t get a free iPad?

I want a free iPad too!!!

I want a free iPad too

Obviously, the woman who asked that question does not understand the daily task of caring for someone with special needs.  You have to be right in the middle of life with someone with special needs to understand.  I didn’t understand until it became our life.  And I still don’t fully understand because there are many disorders that our girls don’t have.  I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with the lady who asked that question.  I would open her eyes to a world that she doesn’t even know exists.  I would share the joys and the struggles of having special needs kids.  The one thing that I would want her to understand more than anything is that if my girls had an iPad, I would gladly give it up if their problems could just go away.  I have a lot of wishes for our life, but “I wish we could have a free iPad” is not one of them.

My wishes are:

I wish I could have a conversation with my husband without any interruptions

I wish I didn’t have to do the Wilbarger therapressure program on our girls every day to reduce their sensory problems

I wish it didn’t take 4 1/2 hours of our time every Monday for our girls to have speech and occupational therapy

I wish our girls wouldn’t have meltdowns in public

I wish I wasn’t exhausted by noon every day

I wish my house was spotless like it used to be

Wishing isn’t going to change my life.  Wishing focuses on what I don’t have instead of what I do have. When I am thankful, I am focusing on what I have instead of what I don’t have.  Being thankful will change my life.            

I am thankful that I have a wonderful husband, even if I can’t have an uninterrupted conversation with him 

I am thankful that the therapressure program is helping lessen the girls sensory problems

I am thankful that our girls have 4 amazing therapists who are helping them reach their full potential 

I am thankful that I have children who leave me exhausted by noon.  Some women are praying, hoping, and waiting for someone to call them mom.

I’m thankful that we have a house to live in, even if it is dirty.

There is one thing that I know without a doubt.  I know that life isn’t always fair.  It’s not fair when a parent loses a child.  It’s not fair when children grow up without their parents.  It’s not fair when a couple desperately wants children and struggles to have them.  It’s not fair that children are born and they never have the opportunity to walk or talk.  It’s not fair that some children have to struggle with special needs every day of their life.

I can’t help but think about Jesus.  The crowd chose to free the prisoner, Barabbas and crucify Jesus (Matthew 27:20-23)  Jesus had done nothing wrong.  Why would the crowd choose to crucify an innocent man and let a notorious prisoner go free? It doesn’t even make sense.  Jesus would have never stomped his foot and said “That’s not fair!”  He didn’t focus on the fact that what was happening to him wasn’t fair. He focused on what God had called Him to do.  He was spit on, mocked, scourged and ultimately died on a cross. His love for us overpowered the unfairness of the situation.  He loved us so much that He was willing to die for each and every one of us.  He wants us to have the opportunity to invite him into our life, live our life for Him here on earth, and spend eternity with Him in heaven.

We all need to be like Jesus.  We shouldn’t focus on the fact that what is happening to us isn’t fair.  We need to focus on what God has called us to do.  He has called me and my husband to be parents to two little girls with special needs and two girls who don’t have special needs.  I often feel like it’s not fair that we have to live this life.  But if I focus on our life being unfair, it just makes me miserable.  I have to focus on our four girls and being the best mom that I can be.  I have to choose to find joy in the journey even when the road is bumpy and I have no idea where the road is going.  I have days when I have trouble finding any joy.  It seems to be buried somewhere like a treasure and I don’t have a map to show me where to find it.  I believe God understands those days.  That’s why He gave us His Word. His Word guides us through those bumpy roads.  His Word gives us hope when we are feeling hopeless. His word brings us joy when our circumstances don’t.  A free iPad with free unlimited apps will not bring us joy or give us any hope.  Only God and His Word can give us the joy and the hope that we need when life isn’t fair.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  ~ Psalm 16:11 ~