Love Like You Mean It

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Love Like You Mean It.  That was the name of the marriage conference at our church last Saturday.  I decided I was going to go to the conference even if Brett couldn’t go.  He never knows what time he’s going to get home from work so it was questionable if he would get home in time to go with me.  I’m not much of a morning person and we needed to leave by 7:00.  So I decided to save time and skip the whole wash my hair/dry my hair routine.  I just took a bath and quickly straightened my hair. Brett came in the door at 6:30, had a quick shower, and we left by 7:00.

As I was pulling out of the driveway I realized I forgot to put my makeup on.  Oh well.  At least Brett is with me and we’re actually going to be on time.  A couple of photographers were at the conference to take pictures of all the happy couples.  Oh no!  Pictures.  And I didn’t wash my hair!  And I forgot to put on my makeup!  And Brett hasn’t had any sleep.  One of the photographers asked us to pose in front of the backdrop.  I couldn’t tell this gal no because she’s our daughter. Yep. Taylor was one of the photographers for the conference.  And I forgot they would be taking pictures?  What’s wrong with my brain? or do I even have one anymore?  And before I forget……photo credit for the picture above goes to our Taylor.

I thought I would have to spend the morning lovingly placing my elbow in Brett’s rib cage to keep him awake.  But the speakers were interesting and they did a great job keeping Brett awake.  My elbow didn’t touch his rib cage even one time.  During intermission prizes were given away.  They were giving away gift cards for dinner and a movie.  I could go for dinner and a movie.  Draw our name!  Draw our name! Nope. We didn’t win.  And we didn’t win the box of chocolates or the grand prize either.   But I felt like I had won the grand prize because my husband gave up sleep just to be with me.

The conference ended with a vow renewal ceremony.  Brett and I held hands, looked into each others eyes, and said our vows.  The moment only happened because he chose me over sleep.  He loves like he means it.  We stopped for lunch on the way home.  I sat and looked into his beautiful, tired eyes as we ate lunch. We didn’t talk about the conference.  We didn’t talk much at all.  We just ate.  Sometimes love is just being silent when Brett hasn’t slept in the last 24 hours.

The day after the conference wasn’t a magical day filled with love.   Part of the problem was that one of our two turtles had a canker sore that was the size of the Grand Canyon.   She was angry, irritable, and out of control.  If I had been in her shoes I would’ve been angry, irritable, and out of control too.  That thing was huge. The medicine we put on it didn’t help.   By evening I was exhausted, irritable, and I snapped.  I snapped at my man who gave up sleep for me and said beautiful vows to me only a day ago.  I snapped at him while he was chopping up vegetables to put in the slow cooker so that supper would be ready the next night when we got home from Easter Seals.

Life felt good when we were at the marriage conference.  And then we went home.  Parenting has a way of becoming top priority.  But special needs parenting has a way of consuming your life. Everything feels like it’s urgent.  That canker sore the size of the Grand Canyon was urgent.  Trying to plan our girls futures is time-consuming. Should we do the parent-child interaction therapy that the speech therapists think would be good for our family? Should we look into that communication disorder classroom that we heard about?  or should we enroll the girls in the other school we’ve heard about?  We really need an advocate to help us figure this all out.  Where do we find one?  Teaching the girls to ask nicely instead of demanding is an all day every day task.  I need to schedule a hair cut for our gal who keeps twisting, pulling, and damaging her hair.  Our two older girls need us as much as our two turtles need us.  We need to go buy a new oven and the washer isn’t acting right.  I need to sit down and pay the bills.  And for some reason our family wants to eat every single day.  My list of things to do and things to think about never ends.  Sometimes I reach a point when I just snap.  And unfortunately I snapped a lot this week.

It’s been one of those weeks where we just thank God that we survived it and we survived it together.  Maybe this week I’ll handle life a little better than I handled it last week.  Maybe this week I won’t snap at my handsome man.  But even if I do snap I know that he will always be here for me.  And he knows that I will always be here for him. We’ll love when it’s easy to love and we’ll love when it’s hard to love.  Because that’s the promise we made to each other 25 years ago.

 

 

 

 

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The Case Of The Missing Coats

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The insurance paper had the words “not medically necessary” printed on it.  Mikayla and Hope’s speech and occupational therapy will no longer be covered by insurance. I felt totally helpless.  What do we do now?  One person said we should do this.  Another person said we need to do that.  And another person said we need to do something else.  How do we decide where to go from here?  I’ve not slept much.  I’ve worried and I’ve cried.  I’ve wondered what God is doing. I’ve prayed and asked Him to direct our steps and to show us what’s next for our girls.

Right now we see two options.  We can move to the state where Brett works.  His commute would be shorter and more services would be available for our girls than we have in our state.  Or the girls can get the therapies they need if we enroll them in a school that’s 50 minutes from our house.  To be honest, neither option sounds very appealing to me.  I don’t really feel like relocating.  I’m not opposed to the school but I don’t like the fact that it’s 50 minutes away from our house.

I decided that I want to talk to someone who has worked at the school and I also want to talk to a parent whose child goes to the school.  A friend from church volunteered at the school several years ago.  We’ll be meeting with her soon and getting her thoughts on our situation.  But I don’t know anyone who has a child in the school.  But I do know God and I’ve prayed for Him to direct our steps to the right places and the right people.  Last night He directed my steps in a rather unique way.

It was 37 degrees when I pulled into the church parking lot.  I pulled up to the door and let the girls out so that they wouldn’t have to walk in the cold.  I didn’t want to mess with putting their coats on since they only needed to take 3 steps to get inside.  I told them I would bring their coats in with me so they would have them for our walk back out to the van after church.  I parked the van.  I grabbed the coats and my purse and walked into church.

As worship service was getting ready to start I took my coat off and I put it on the seat next to me. Wait a minute.  Where are the girls coats?  Oh great.  I left them in the restroom.  I ran to the restroom.  No coats.  I went to their classroom.  Maybe the girls were carrying them and I just don’t remember.  Nope. No coats in the classroom either.  I walked up and down the hallways.  No coats anywhere.  I saw Amanda and Kathy standing at the check-in station;  I asked them if anyone had turned in a couple of coats.  They said no one had.  Amanda told me to go into the worship service and relax.  They would find the coats for me.

I went into the service.  I began to sing but I wasn’t able to relax.  There’s nothing in this world that makes me crazier than not being able to find something. Amanda and Kathy had enough to take care of without having to look for my girls coats.  So I prayed.  I asked God to help them find the coats quickly.  And then I heard a still small voice that said “You didn’t bring them in……they’re still in the van.”  I grabbed my keys and I went out to the van.  Sure enough both coats were in Mikayla’s seat.  I realized what had happened.  I parked the van, opened the hatch, and grabbed the coats. And then I noticed I’d done a terrible job of parking.  I was way too far away from that line and way too close to that one.  So I put the coats in Mikayla’s seat, got back in the van, and straightened up my bad parking job.  Then I got out of the van, forgot to grab the coats, and went into church.  The case of the missing coats was solved.

I was feeling like a complete fool as I walked towards the kids classes.  But I had to let the ladies know that they could stop looking for the coats.  I found Kathy and I told her that I hadn’t actually brought the coats into the building.  We laughed about my brain malfunction.  I told her that I hadn’t been sleeping much.  She asked me why I hadn’t been sleeping.  I told her that we’re needing to make decisions about Mikayla & Hope’s future.  I told her that sending them to a school almost an hour from our house may be the only way they can get the therapies they need.  She told me that she has a friend whose daughter will soon graduate from the same school.  She’s sure she would be glad to talk to me about the school.  Ok, Lord.  This whole missing coat fiasco makes sense now.  I went back into the worship service just in time to sing the last half of the last song.  And all I could think about was how good God is.  He directs my steps no matter what.  Even during a moment when I felt like a complete fool He directed my steps towards Kathy.  He knew that Kathy had a friend who can help me.

I learned a valuable lesson last night.  Searching for the answers to our girls futures is much like searching for their missing coats.   I ran all over the church trying to find their coats but I couldn’t find them.  It was when I stopped and asked God for His help that the coats were found.  I can run all over this earth searching for services, therapists, and schools and not find them.  But if I just stop and ask God to help me He will answer.  He delights in every detail of our lives.  He even delights in me during those moments when I’m looking for something that was never lost.

I Remember Your Eyes

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I remember your eyes.  I saw them for the first time on our blind date.   I’d never seen eyes like yours. Were they blue? or were they green? or were they gray? or did it even matter?  They were beautiful.  I went to bed that night thinking about you and your beautiful eyes.

You asked me to go out again.  I said no.  Sorry about that.  I thought you were too old for me.  5 years difference seemed like a big deal back then.  You’d just graduated from college and were starting your new job.  I’d just graduated from high school and was getting ready to start college.  But the real reason I said no was because I was afraid of getting hurt again.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about you.  It took me awhile to work up my nerve to call you.  Kinda wish cell phones and texting had been a thing in 1989. That would’ve been a lot easier.  So your phone finally rang and it was me on the other end.  Were you surprised?  Yeah.  Me too.

I remember your eyes when you leaned in to kiss me for the first time.  You were such a gentleman as you asked if it would be ok if you kissed me. I won’t say how long we dated before we kissed.  Because no one has ever believed that story anyway.  But it was worth the wait.

After 10 months of dating you got down on one knee at the Olive Garden and you asked me to marry you.  I looked into your eyes and without hesitation I said yes. Of course I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.  We were excited to get home and tell our families.  As we got close to home we realized something terrible had happened. You stopped and talked to a policeman.  He said a tornado had blown through and a woman had been killed.   I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

You drove down the road that my grandma lived on.  You quickly realized you should’ve went the other way.  The debris was horrible.  I started crying because I was afraid that grandma was the woman who’d been killed.  You asked me to lie down in the seat because if grandma’s house was gone you didn’t want me to see it.  When you saw that grandma’s house was ok you told me I could sit up.  I felt so loved and protected in that moment.  And I knew I wanted you to love and protect me for the rest of our lives.

I was relieved as we pulled into my driveway and my house was still standing.  My family was gathered in the living room watching the news reports about the tornado. You couldn’t believe it when your college roommate’s family was being interviewed because their house had been destroyed.  It was probably during a commercial break that we said “We’re engaged!”  I don’t really remember.

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The preacher told us at the wedding rehearsal to look at each other and not at him when we said our vows.  Why would I want to look at him when I could be looking into your eyes?  I remember your eyes as I said my vows to you.  My knees were shaking but not because I wasn’t sure you were the one.  I’d never been so sure of anything in my whole life.  Yes these are the eyes I want to look at for the rest of my life.  This is the man I want to spend my life with.

We agreed that we would wait 3 years before starting our family.  Those 3 years went by faster than we expected them to.  You suggested we wait 3 more.  Ok.  Why not?  I’m only 22.  Let’s wait 3 more years.  I remember your eyes on the day that you held Taylor in your arms for the first time.   Your name was now Daddy.  I remember your eyes the day you held Brynna for the first time.  And I remember how big your eyes were when you glanced at the ultrasound picture that showed 2 babies instead of 1.  I’ll never forget the relief in your eyes when you saw Mikayla for the first time.  She was a really good size for being born at 34 weeks.   And I’ll never forget the worry in your eyes when you saw Hopey for the first time.  She was so much smaller than Mikayla.

Now we’ve been married 25 years.  We’re so busy answering questions, refereeing quarrels, paying bills, cooking supper, washing dishes, and folding laundry, that I often forget to stop and look into your eyes.  We know there’s a higher risk of divorce among special needs parents.  And there are days when we understand why.  But there’s one thing I can count on every single night.  You will kiss me and hug me before you leave for work.  I guess there’s another thing I can count on.  After you leave Mikayla will ask “You kiss Daddy?  You hug Daddy?” And I always say yes.  It’s like she’s on a mission to make sure that we stay married.  And we will.

I know your eyes are going to look very tired this Valentine’s Day.  You’ll come home from work, sleep a couple of hours, and we’ll leave for church.  I know you’ll be too tired to take me out for dinner.  I honestly don’t care.  Maybe we can just sit, hold hands, and watch a movie together. And when you fall asleep I won’t be disappointed.  I’ll just be glad that we’re together.  So much has changed throughout our years together.  I love you even though you don’t have as much hair as you used to have.  And you love me even though I have more “fluff” than I used to have.  But one thing will never change.  I will always love you and your beautiful eyes.

 

A Hexagon, A Fat Cat, And A Rubber Chicken

I allowed the words they spoke to keep me up at night.  They said the girls aren’t progressing.  They’re not doing as well as they were several months ago.  It was one of those times when I wished I could put my fingers in my ears, hum a tune, and drown out what they were telling me.  I know what they said is true and fear began to grip my heart.  But then I began to truly look at our girls and I noticed that they are progressing in everyday life.

Hope crawled into my bed with her iPad and asked me to watch her play Monkey Math.  The game showed her 3 different shapes and she was supposed to press the oval.  Every time she pressed the oval it gave her 3 new shapes.  She was pressing ovals like crazy until she accidentally pressed the wrong shape.  She said “Oops…..that was a hexagon.  I need to poke the oval.”  What?  She knows what a hexagon is?  I had no idea she knew that.

We were working on auditory memory cards.   This is the story that I read individually to the girls.

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These were the answers the girls gave me to the questions.

Who has a magic backpack?    Hope: Zack        Mikayla: Jack (Oh….so close!)

Why is it magic?    Hope: Because things won’t break     Mikayla:  Holds only things that aren’t heavy

If you look inside it, what will you see?    Hope:  A rubber chicken    Mikayla:  A cat.  Zoe’s too big for the backpack.  (Zoe is our cat)

We worked on these same cards last year.  The girls could never remember the name of the person mentioned in the story.  Remembering names has always been hard for them.  But Hope got it right and Mikayla’s answer rhymed with the correct answer.  I couldn’t believe it.  That’s progress.

Why questions are the hardest questions for our girls to answer.  I didn’t expect them to answer the “Why is it magic?” question.  But they gave me answers. They weren’t the correct answers but I thought they were good answers.

When Hope blurted out rubber chicken I laughed and she grinned.   When Mikayla said Zoe’s too big for the backpack it showed that she’s developing critical thinking skills.  Our cat is huge and she wouldn’t fit in a backpack.  That’s the truth.

As I was putting the cards back in the case I was thinking about how I answer questions.  If I don’t know the answer I will say “I don’t know.”  It’s safe to respond that way.  I’m certainly not going to blurt out an answer and possibly be wrong.  That would be embarrassing and risky.  But our girls aren’t afraid to risk.  If I ask them a question they’re going to give me an answer.  If it’s the wrong answer they don’t care.  They just go on with life.  If they don’t know the answer then they’re going to make something up.  And let’s be honest.  Isn’t a backpack with a rubber chicken and a cat in it more fun than a sock, a rock, and a clock?  Oh how I need to be more like our girls.  They live life and they don’t worry about what anyone thinks.

Progress doesn’t always show up in a 45 minute therapy session.  But it shows up in the moments that we’re just living life.  It shows up when a little girl recognizes a hexagon.   It shows up when a fat cat can’t fit in a backpack.  Progress is important.  But I’m learning to not worry so much when progress doesn’t show up on a piece of paper.  Worrying takes away the joy of living life.   And sometimes I just need to stop, laugh at a rubber chicken in a backpack, and savor the grins on the faces of little girls who make my world a better place

Just Like Taylor

I was feeling a little depressed as I was standing in worship service at church.  Is there more for our family than what we’re experiencing? More than just struggling through each day and hoping that the next day will be better?  More for Brett? More for me?  More for all of our girls?  More joy? More peace? As all of these questions were floating around in my head God took me back to the year 1999.

Taylor was our only child and she was almost 3 years old.  One day she marched up to Brett  and she said “Daddy, I want a dollhouse for Christmas.  And I want ALL of the stuff that goes in the dollhouse…..or I will cry!!!!”  She was very assertive and clear about what she wanted.

So Brett and I went to Toys R Us.  We put the Fisher-Price dollhouse in the cart and then Brett did what I knew he was going to do.  Yep.  He cleaned off the shelves. If it went with the dollhouse it went in the cart.  I asked the question that the gal who takes care of the budget is supposed to ask.  “Are you sure that we need to get everything that goes with the dollhouse?  Could we just start with a mommy, a daddy, a daughter, and a couple of sets of furniture?  Her birthday is 6 weeks after Christmas. We can come back and get more later, right?”

Nope.  Daddy wasn’t going to mess this up.  She asked for EVERYTHING that goes in the dollhouse. So she’s going to get EVERYTHING that goes in the dollhouse. Forget the budget.  Daddy’s love for his little girl was more important than the budget.  There were no tears on Christmas morning.  Daddy had done his job well.

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As my mind returned back to the worship service I knew what God was telling me “Yes, I have more for you.  But are you expecting more? Are you asking for more? Or are you acting like you did that day in Toys R Us?  Do you think just a few things are enough?  Do you not realize that I want to give you so much more than you can even imagine? Maybe you should be more like Taylor.  Maybe you should march up to me, your heavenly Daddy,  and let Me know what you want.

I started to ask God for more for our family.  One thing I began to believe for is that God is going to take Mikayla and Hope farther than anyone ever dreamed possible. The very next week we found out our insurance will no longer be paying for their therapies.  I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.  The day the therapists talked to me about it I got really upset.  I mean go home and crawl into bed and cry all night upset.  Without insurance to help pay for their therapies the future seems pretty cloudy.  Our girls love their therapists and they feel like a part of our family.  The thought of starting over again with new therapists makes me sick to my stomach.

I began to do what I do best.  I worried.  I googled for an answer.  I ate chocolate.  I didn’t sleep for a week.  I asked God why.  I worried some more.  And all of those things were a complete waste of time.  Well, except for eating the chocolate.  That was time well spent.  But then it occurred to me that God was probably looking at me and thinking “Are you going to ask me? I want to give good gifts to those who ask.”  Why do I worry, google, question, and go without sleep before I ask God to give me wisdom?

Brett read a devotion to our family at supper a few nights ago.  It said that we need to stop asking God why and start asking Him what now?  And so I’ve started asking God “What now?”  He will show us what we’re supposed to do.  Do I like what we’re going through?  No.  Do I understand what God’s doing right now? No.  Do I wish the girls could stay with their current therapists?  Definitely.  Am I scared out of my mind?  Unfortunately, yes.  But we are starting a journey to find a new place where the girls can get the help that they need.  I don’t know what the future holds.  But I do know this.  God will never leave us and He will never forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).  He wants to lavish His love on us (1 John 3:1) just like Brett lavished his love on  Taylor.   I will trust Him.  I will believe.  And I will ask for everything He wants me to have.  Just like Taylor.

Though my eyes cannot see every single step
And my heart feels unsure again
I’ll remember the strength of your love, oh God
I’ll hold onto the peace you bring 

 

 

My Moment With Mikayla

I’m so excited to introduce you to Amanda Allen.  Amanda recently taught Mikayla and Hope’s class at church and she had a sweet encounter with Mikayla. As you read, please keep in mind that Mikayla has sensory processing disorder.  She has tactile defensiveness which makes her sensitive to people touching her.  I hope you enjoy seeing Mikayla through Amanda’s eyes.

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I was teaching in the Kidz Lab at church a couple of weeks ago.  It was a Wednesday night, and seeing as how it was approaching bedtime, most of the kids were getting wild.  Hope was keeping Ms. Terry busy, and I saw Mikayla sitting all by herself with her purple Bible.  I knew she wasn’t familiar with me, but I felt compelled to go sit beside her.  I had already taught the lesson, and a leader was up front talking to the kids wanting prayers, so I was free for a few moments.

It was a moment I’ll never forget.  Here’s what that moment looked like from my eyes.

I walked over to Mikayla and sat right beside her.  She looked at me from the corner of her eyes….probably wondering who this woman was and why she was invading her space.  I leaned over and asked if we could sit together for a few minutes.  She nodded yes…still looking rather uncertain.  I put my arm around her, and she surprisingly allowed me to hold her!  Not only hold her, she relaxed immediately and melted into my arms.  We stayed like that for several minutes…totally comfortable and at peace.  My heart was won in the moment.  I prayed God’s peace into and over Mikayla as I held her close….her purple Bible resting on her lap.

It came time for me to go to the front of the room to close the prayer.  I asked Mikayla if she wanted to go with me.  She happily nodded yes this time.  So we held hands and walked to the front of the room again.  I kept one arm around Mikayla and put my other hand on the group of kids praying in front of me.  Mikayla watched me a moment, then reached her free arm out to gently touch the kids in front of her as well.  So there we stood, one arm praying over kids, and one arm wrapped around each other so gently.

I glanced at her as she glanced at me.  Both of us smiled at each other.  Then we closed our eyes and finished the prayer.  Then I asked her to go to her seat and I closed the service.  She obeyed right away, walked to her seat, and sat down.

What a calm, sweet, gentle, and peaceful moment.  A moment I’ll always cherish.  It’s a moment I pray we see more of.  It’s in Mikayla.  I want it to be her norm.  I believe it can and will be.

 

Amanda Allen is a wife and mother of 2 beautiful young girls. She is the Children’s Director at her church, as well as a children’s author. She has one book out on how to explain the death of a loved one to children, called “But WHY? How To Trust God When You Lose A Loved One”. Her other books are Christian rhyming books about 2 squirrels named Sally & Sammy. There are 2 already published, but many more in the Sally/Sammy series on the way! The 2 available right now are “Sally & Sammy Learn To Repent” and “Sally & Sammy Learn To Give”. You can check out her author Facebook page by going to facebook.com/amandaallenauthor.