If You Don’t Like The Way Things Are


I don’t know why stuffed animals have to disappear at bedtime.  It drives me crazy.  Everything was going smoothly.  The girls had brushed their teeth and changed into their nightgowns.  And then it happened. Bomb was missing.  Our little sweetheart who sleeps with Bomb every night wasn’t happy. She asked “Where’s Bomb?”  I told her I didn’t know where he was but she needed to go look for him.  She got mad. She screamed and she stomped her foot.  I told her again to go look for him.  She just stood there and stared at me. So I said “If you want to sleep with Bomb you need to go look for him.  If you don’t like the way things are then you need to do something to change it.”  She reluctantly left the room to look for him.

Wow.  Did you hear what you just said?  If you don’t like the way things are then you need to do something to change it.  That’s good.  I need to write that down.    

Within a matter of minutes our little sweetheart came back in the room carrying Bomb.  I asked her “Did screaming and stomping your foot help you find Bomb?” She said no.  “Did you find him because you went and looked for him?”  She said yes.  I told her the next time she can’t find something she needs to look for it and skip the screaming and stomping.  I hope she remembers.

It’s hard to go to sleep when you realize you’re a hypocrite.  I’d just told my daughter that if she didn’t like the way things are then she needed to do something to change it.  But I wasn’t doing that in my own life. As I lay there wide awake I found myself thinking about a day at the beginning of 2017. I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. I was feeling hopeless and angry.  Nothing seemed to be going right. Everything seemed to be going wrong.  Struggle after struggle had piled on top of each other.   A few huge disappointments had been thrown into the mix.  I found myself drowning under the weight of it all.  This picture of my life wasn’t at all what I expected.  I started thinking about Jeremiah 29:11.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   At that moment I honestly didn’t feel like those words were true.  How is this situation going to prosper me?  How is this plan going to give me hope and a future? I felt the Lord speak to my heart “I know the plans I have for you.  My plans are different from your plans.  But I promise My plans for you are good.”  I would like to say that as I stood at the kitchen sink that day that I traded my plan in for God’s plan.  But I didn’t.

Instead I chose to let disappointment consume me and my emotions control me.  I cried way too many tears over things that I couldn’t change. Insomnia plagued me for months.  Anxiety reared its ugly head and started tormenting me once again. I could feel all of the hope being sucked out of my life.  I started doubting. I wasn’t sure if God was really good.  I felt like He didn’t love me.  Because if He loved me then something would be going right, wouldn’t it?  I became angry with God and my prayer life suffered.   It’s hard to talk to someone you’re mad at.  I found myself in a pit and I didn’t know how to get out of it.

And then Bomb disappeared and those words of truth came out of my mouth.  If you don’t like the way things are then you need to do something to change it.   I was miserable.  I didn’t like the way things were in my life.  But what could I do to change it?  The truth is that there was nothing I could do to change my situation.  I realized the only thing I could do was change was my attitude.

I had been driving through life expecting my plans to succeed.  Why wouldn’t God want these plans for me and my family? They were good plans.  But for whatever reason God put a road closed sign in my path.  I was stunned.  Why would He do that?  The best thing to do when you come to a road closed sign is to turn around and find a road that’s open.  But what did I do instead?  I grabbed the gear shift, put it in park, and planted myself in front of the road closed sign.  I didn’t move for months because I didn’t want to take a different road.  This was the road I wanted to be on.  As far as I was concerned there was no other road.  I chose to stay stuck in the middle of my grief and disappointment.  I looked exactly like my little sweetheart who didn’t want to go look for her stuffed animal.  We were both saying the same thing.  I don’t like this and I’m mad.  Don’t ask me to do anything to make it  better.  I’m just going to stand here and pout.

So after Bomb was found I decided it was time for me to start practicing what I was preaching.  It was time to stop camping out in front of a road closed sign.   I had to stop grieving what would’ve been and I needed to start focusing on what can still be.  So I made a choice.  I grabbed the gear shift, put it in reverse, turned around, and decided to see what other road God has for me.  And a funny thing happened.  I started sleeping again.  I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time letting my disappointment paralyze me.  But the good news is that I’m moving again.  And I’ll keep going.  I’ll trust that God will direct my path.  He’ll show me the road that He knows is best for me.  And I hope that if and when I encounter another road closed sign that I won’t stomp my foot, pout, and get mad because I don’t like it.  But instead I’ll thank Him for closing the roads that keep me from settling for less than His best for me.

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Getting to the Top of the Mountain

This year we went to Chattanooga for our vacation.  I experienced a pretty massive panic attack at a cave on the first day.  You can read about it here. We left the cave and drove 4 hours to our hotel in Chattanooga.  We arrived at 11 p.m.  Brett went inside to check in.  15 minutes passed.  What in the world is taking so long?  He came out and said the hotel had canceled our reservations.  Really?  They had one room left if we wanted it.  Brett didn’t have a good feeling about the place.  But he took the room because it was late and he had 5 exhausted females he was trying to keep happy.  Bless his heart.

The room was awful.  I’ve always said I can stay anywhere for one night.  But this was pushing it. TripAdvisor had steered us wrong on this place.  I went down to the front desk and made one simple request.  My request was denied.  I was mad and the lady at the front desk knew I was mad. TripAdvisor will be getting a negative review from me about this place.  You can count on that.  We were supposed to stay for 2 nights.  There was no way I was staying 2 nights. I grabbed my iPad and I started searching for another hotel.  I found one just up the road that had rooms available. Brett called and made a reservation for the next night.  It can’t be worse than this place.  I was still awake at 2 a.m.

The next day we went to the Tennessee Aquarium.  Mikayla and Hope love animals so we knew it would be a fun place to take them.  As soon as we entered the building Brett noticed the sign beside the escalator.  You can’t use the escalator if you’re wearing crocs.  Great.  The girls have their crocs on since I accidentally brought 2 right tennis shoes for Hope.   We took them to the restroom and then we got on the elevator and headed to the 4th floor.

The girls were excited when they got to pet the stingrays.  We stayed for a long time since Mikayla and Hope were enjoying it so much.  Then we went to the 3rd floor.  We’d only been there for a few minutes when one of the girls yelled that she needed the bathroom.  We couldn’t find a restroom anywhere.  Brett asked an employee and she said there weren’t any restrooms on the 3rd floor.  We’d have to go to the 2nd or 4th floor. Back to the elevator we go.  Our girls go to the bathroom frequently.  When they’re in an unfamiliar place they get anxious and they go even more frequently.  It makes traveling a lot of fun.  At one point I had a little sweetheart crying on the 3rd floor and saying she was going to wet her pants.  I grabbed her and her croc covered feet and we jumped on the escalator.  There was no time for the elevator.  I’m normally a rule follower but during a bathroom emergency all rules can fly out the window.

We enjoyed the aquarium but we spent entirely too much time in the restroom.  Mikayla and Hope eventually started fighting with each other and it became very stressful.  Clearly it was time to leave.  We went to the gift shop so the girls could buy a souvenir.  It was taking forever for Mikayla and Hope to pick something out so Taylor and I decided to walk up the street and look at another gift shop.  When we were done I called Brett to tell him that we would meet him at the van.  He told me he was at the check out and the credit card was denied.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  He asked me to bring some cash in so he could pay.  I paid the cashier while Brett was on the phone with the credit card company.  Then we went to the van.

The man from the credit card company told Brett that our credit card was deactivated because of a fraud attempt.  Brett was on hold forever while the man checked into why it was deactivated.  The more minutes that passed the more frustrated I became.   We’re not going to be able to pay for our hotel if our credit card is deactivated.  I totally flipped out and I told Brett we just needed to go home.  He agreed that we might have to.  Finally the man from the credit card company came back on the line.  The hotel from the night before had charged us 3 times for our room.  Now why doesn’t that surprise me?  They reactivated our card.  The man told Brett he needed to go back to the hotel and get it straightened out.  He said to call him back if they wouldn’t cooperate and he would take care of it for us.

Brett dropped us off at our new hotel.  I was scared to open the door.  What if this place is as bad as the last place?  We opened the door and I was relieved to find out that the place was very nice and super clean. Hallelujah! Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight.  Brett went and talked to the first hotel and they said it would be straightened out by morning.  I certainly hope so.  We were exhausted and didn’t feel like going out for supper.  Brett and Taylor ran and got milkshakes.  Yes.  I fed my kids milkshakes for supper.  And they liked it.  I collapsed into bed.   This was definitely not how I had pictured vacation.  I hope our trip tomorrow to Lookout Mountain will be relaxing and fun.

As soon as Brett opened his eyes the next morning he called the credit card company.  They told him the hotel had credited back the 2 charges that we didn’t owe.  Phew!  Glad that’s off our minds.  We ate breakfast and headed to Lookout Mountain.  It felt relaxing as we walked the trails.   It was a very hot day but Mikayla and Hope didn’t seem to mind the heat.

The view from the top of Lookout Mountain was amazing.  It was definitely the highlight of our vacation. We could see 7 states from the top of the mountain.  We could hear a waterfall.  There was relaxing music playing.  Mikayla and Hope were happy because they got to hug Rocky the Gnome. What more could we ask for?

We left the top of the mountain and continued our way along the trails.  I was feeling totally relaxed and happy.  It finally felt like we were on vacation. And then it happened.

We arrived at Fat Man Squeeze.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  I didn’t want to see another Fat Man’s anything on this trip.  First it was Fat Man’s Misery at Mammoth Cave.  And now this?  Good grief.  Can’t a claustrophobic woman catch a break while she’s on vacation?  They really need to warn people about these things before they buy a ticket.  I took a deep breath and away I went into Fat Man Squeeze.

Ok.  That wasn’t bad.  Fat Man Squeeze was a breeze compared to Fat Man’s Misery.   I didn’t sweat my clothes through and my heart never started racing.  I’d been to the top of the mountain and I’d conquered Fat Man Squeeze.  This 3rd day of vacation was pretty amazing.

We finished our tour and we all agreed we would love to visit again.  We drove back down the mountain and started looking for a place to eat lunch. And then suddenly one of our sweethearts got that look in her eye.  And I knew what was about to happen.  I grabbed the bucket and got it under her chin right before the vomit started flying out of her.  I might be the gal who packs 2 right shoes for her kid.  But I didn’t forget the puke buckets.

Something didn’t feel quite right.  Looks like my little sweetheart’s aim was a little off.  I could feel the vomit running down my hand and collecting under my wedding ring.  Ugh.  I suddenly was no longer hungry for lunch.  We pulled into the Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que restaurant parking lot, deposited our mountain sickness into a trash can, and then walked into the restaurant.  I convinced my stomach that it needed to let me eat something.  It was going to be a long ride home if I didn’t.  The food was amazing.  TripAdvisor had got this one right.  We finished our meals and started our trip home.

The trip home was uneventful until we were an hour from home.  And then the sweethearts started freaking out.   They were exhausted.  She knocked her french fries on the floor.  And then she knocked her hamburger on the floor.  And then there was a whole lot of screaming.  Are we ever going to get home? There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.  I never want to go on vacation again.

I crawled into bed and I felt angry.  That was not the vacation that I’d hoped for.  I’d experienced the worst panic attack of my life.  Our hotel reservations had been cancelled.  Our credit card was deactivated.  And the minor issues of mismatched shoes, frequent restroom visits, elevators instead of escalators, and vomit weren’t fun either.  Overall our vacation was just really disappointing.  In my frustration I asked God “What was that vacation all about, anyway?  Why did all of those things happen? Why couldn’t our vacation be relaxing?”

He answered my prayer immediately.  He said If you’d given up and went home you wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain. Wow.  I hadn’t thought of that.  Thank you, God for wrapping up this vacation with a valuable life lesson.  2017 has been an extremely difficult year. We had to make several really tough decisions one right after another.  It’s been exhausting. I’ve had a few disappointments that were difficult to get through.  And I’ve been battling some physical issues in the midst of everything else. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed and face the day. Honestly, there have been days when my family went to church and I stayed in bed feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve felt like giving up at least a million times.  So what does God do to teach me to be an overcomer?  He takes me to the top of a mountain.

This vacation wasn’t about relaxing.  This vacation was about learning to overcome some stuff.  The biggest thing I had to overcome was my this is too hard, let’s just go home attitude.  If my family had listened to me the Chattanooga vacation of 2017 would be remembered as the year that we gave up and went home. But it will be remembered as the year we made it to the top of the mountain.  I was talking to Taylor about our vacation after we got home.  I told her I was sorry it wasn’t the best vacation we’d ever had.  She said “It had its moments of not being easy.  But Lookout Mountain was worth it.”  I want to be like Taylor when I grow up.  The valleys of life make us appreciate the mountaintops more.

Next time I feel like giving up on life I’m pretty sure God will say: Remember Lookout Mountain?  If you’d given up and went home you wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain.  Don’t give up now either. This is the valley that you’re in right now.  You have to keep going if you want to get to the top of the mountain.  

Riding Bikes, Dreaming Bigger, and Changing the World

Last month I wrote a blog post about Mikayla and Hope riding their adaptive bikes to raise money for a special needs school in Kenya.  I’m so proud of our girls.  They often begged to ride their bikes.   They pedaled for hours and hours to help kids across the world that they will never meet. They never complained when they were tired and I told them to keep riding.  Just keep pedaling.  Just keep pedaling. And they would keep pedaling with a smile on their faces even when they were exhausted.

I had a certain amount in mind that I was hoping the girls would be able to raise for the Daisy School.  I announced the fundraiser on Facebook on April 29th.  At church the very next day people started giving me money to support the girls and their fundraiser.   I went home and I realized that I needed to dream bigger because it was only the first day of the fundraiser and we were already half way to the goal I had set.

As I was sitting in church on Mother’s Day I felt very strongly in my heart that I was supposed to believe that the girls would raise $1,000.  Believe for $1,000? Gulp.  That sounds impossible.  As I was leaving church I ran into a friend and  I told her that I felt like I was supposed to believe for $1000 for the kids in Kenya.  She said she would love to partner with me in prayer for $1000 for the Daisy School.

Something always happens when you decide to believe for something.  Discouragement.  It always has a way of trying to come in and take away your faith.  The week after I started believing for $1000 the donations stopped.  And I began to listen to the voice in my head that kept saying “It was crazy for me to believe for $1000.  We’ll never get there.  No way.  It’s not gonna happen.”

We went through a dry spell but eventually the donations started coming in again.  We were 10 days away from the end of the fundraiser and the girls had raised $750.  We’re $250 away from our goal.  Is this really going to happen?  I would go out to the mailbox and find a check.  The doorbell would ring and when I answered the door someone would hand me money. Yes, it’s really going to happen.  Mikayla and Hope are going to raise $1000.  Just a few days before the fundraiser was to end a car pulled up in our driveway.  3 donations came in from 3 ladies and we had suddenly reached our goal. Actually, we had not only reached our goal but we had exceeded it.  Above and beyond what we were hoping for.  That’s how God works.  He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).  But God still wasn’t done yet.  More donations came in and we ended the fundraiser with $1,200.

I believe that God had a lot of things in mind when He put the idea in my heart to have a fundraiser for the Daisy School.  Obviously, He wanted the Daisy School to receive funds to help their school prosper.   I believe He wanted to show the world what a generous group of people can do to help kids across the world.  He taught me that I need to dream bigger dreams.  As I watched my girls pedal day after day He taught me what perseverance looks like.  Perhaps the best thing this experience did for my mom heart was to see what my girls can do.  They can change another child’s life by pedaling their bikes.  As a special needs mom I daily face the things that my girls can’t do.  Sometimes it’s really hard to accept why so many things are hard for them.   I’ve found myself crying in the middle of the night more than once lately.  They weren’t tears of sadness but rather tears of joy.  Joy that my girls have found something that they’re good at.  Joy that God showed us a way to use what they’re good at to help other kids who have special needs. Joy that God can do amazing things through our girls even though they don’t fully understand why they’ve been riding their bicycles so much.

The team from our church has arrived in Kenya.  They will be visiting the Daisy School and they will personally deliver the money that the girls raised. And I’m anxiously sitting here in America waiting for my friend Mona to post pictures on Facebook of the kids at the Daisy School.  It’s amazing what God can do with two little girls, a couple of bikes, and a lot of generous people.

One day as Hope was riding her bike she took a corner too fast and her bike flipped over.  Her feet were strapped to the pedals and she was wearing a seat belt.  She lay there helpless waiting for me to come and unfasten her so she could stand up.  I smiled as I unfastened her feet from the pedals. This helpless little girl of mine who’s all tangled up in her bicycle is changing the world.  This little girl who goes too fast,  falls down, and gets back up again is changing the world.  And her twin sister who doesn’t ride as fast or fall as much is also changing the world.  All of us can change the world.   My friend changed the world by praying for Mikayla and Hope to reach their goal of $1000.  Many people changed the world when they gave money towards the Daisy School fundraiser.  Some people change the world by being a missionary in Kenya.  And sometimes little girls who have special needs change the world by simply riding their bicycles and sending $1,200 to Kenya.

Pedaling to Change the World

On a Wednesday night last fall my life changed.  I wasn’t planning on going to church that night.  I had a really bad headache so I had decided to stay home.  But then my friend, Mona, posted on Facebook that she was speaking during the service.  She mentioned her topic for the evening and it was something that I was struggling with.  So I took some pain medicine, got the girls ready, and we went to church.

Mona started the service by showing slides from her recent mission trip to Kakemega, Kenya.  She had visited a school for kids with special needs that was called the Daisy School.  As I watched each picture flash across the screen something happened to me.  I started crying.  That might not sound like a big deal.  But it was.  At the time I was battling the worst anxiety of my life.  I couldn’t seem to feel anything anymore and I hadn’t been able to cry. Before anxiety invaded my life I cried very easily.  But I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d cried.  As I saw the pictures of the kids from the Daisy School the tears came like a flood.

I was overwhelmed with emotion.  These kids don’t have much of anything.  I began to realize how much my family has.  Yes, two of our girls have special needs.  And it can be really, really hard at times.  But as I looked at these pictures I realized that I don’t even begin to know what hard is.  I was suddenly faced with the realization that my husband and I can give our girls everything that they need.   And one of the reasons we are able to do that may be just simply because we were born in the United States and we are able to raise our family here.  But what if we were in Kenya?  What if we couldn’t take care of our girls?  That’s a kind of hard that my mind can’t even comprehend.

Mona moved on from the Daisy School presentation into the topic she was speaking on for the evening.   I don’t remember what she talked about because I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daisy School.  I went home and I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daisy School.  I’ve never had a desire to go on a mission trip.  And I still don’t have any desire to go on a mission trip.  But as I sat in church on this night in 2016 God dropped a desire in my heart to help the Daisy School.  I didn’t know how we were going to do it but I believed that God would show me.

At the end of April I still didn’t know what we were supposed to do to raise money for the Daisy School.  Mona was planning her trip to Kenya and I asked her when she would be leaving.  She said June 19th.  June 19th!  That’s less than 2 months away.  We’re running out of time!  I googled fundraiser ideas and nothing felt right.  I began to panic because I only had the month of May left to do anything.  And suddenly the answer came.

I woke up on April 26th at 3:00 in the morning with a thought.  Use the bicycles your girls were blessed with to bless others.   I believe it was God speaking to me.  I had racked my brain for months trying to figure out what to do.  But then in the still of the night the answer came.

Last spring a wonderful organization gave Mikayla and Hope adaptive bicycles. Our girls were 11 years old and I’d never seen them ride a bicycle. Along came these amazing people who gave them bikes free of charge.  My dream to see my girls ride a bike was fulfilled.  And it was because someone saw a need and did something about it.  And now I saw a need in Kenya and I needed to do something about it.

On April 29th I posted on Facebook that Mikayla and Hope were having a fundraiser to bless the Daisy School.  For a $5 donation the girls will ride their bikes for 15 minutes. We made a commitment that they would ride their bikes every day in May.  The very next day at church 4 people gave me donations.  I began to find checks in my mailbox.  And I realized that God was doing something really special.  And He had chosen my girls to be a part of something really big.

Mikayla has pedaled every single day in May.  Hope missed 2 days because she came down with a stomach virus.  I couldn’t be more proud of my girls. Hope was always exhausted after a day of school and a long bus ride home but she still rode her bike for at least 15 minutes.  She even rode on the night that she had torn her pants and scraped her knee up at school.  Most days Mikayla rode for 30 minutes and sometimes for as much as 45 minutes.  We have 9 more days until the fundraiser is over.  On June 1st I will announce how much money will be going to the Daisy School.  I’m excited about what God has done and what He will do in this final week of our fundraising efforts.

I’m thankful for this opportunity to touch Kenya even though our family can’t physically go there. I’m thankful for people like Mona who have a heart to go to other nations and love others like Jesus loves.  I’m thankful for everyone who has given me a donation and shared in this vision of helping the Daisy School.  And I’m thankful that on that night in 2016 I didn’t let a headache stop me from going to church.  God had a plan for our family and the Daisy School.  I’m humbled to be a part of what He’s doing in Kenya.  And I’m blessed to daily watch our girls pedaling to change the world.

When You’re Between Two Paintings

 

Two paintings hang on the wall in our living room.  Our oldest daughter, Taylor, painted both of these masterpieces.  She was only 6 years old when she painted the one on the left.  I can still remember her sweet face and how she beamed with pride as she showed me her very first painting.  She’d only been going to art class for 2 months.  I was amazed at what she was able to accomplish in such a short time.  Taylor was 19 when she completed the painting on the right.  She was all smiles as she turned it around for me to see.  My mouth dropped open and I squealed with delight.  I grabbed it out of her hands and I hung it on the wall in the living room.

One day as I was sitting on the couch admiring Taylor’s artwork I started thinking about all that had happened between those two paintings.  It took 13 years to get from the painting on the left to the painting on the right.  So many things happened that people will never see.  Taylor spent many hours learning how to paint and practicing over and over again.  She painted over mistakes that none of us will ever know about.  I drove her to class every week and I waited 2 hours for class to get over.  I wrote more checks than I can count.  And there’s dad who worked hard those 13 years to pay for the art classes.  And we can’t forget about Grandma.  Grandma took Taylor to art class for an entire year after Mikayla and Hope were born.  She didn’t want me to have the stress of packing them up and taking them with us.  Getting from one painting to the next painting cost our family something.  It wasn’t always easy.  But it was worth it.

In the last two months our family has been faced with two extremely difficult decisions.  We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.  Anxiety wrapped itself around me and nearly choked me.  My sweet husband and I have had a lot of discussions (um….I mean fights) about what we should do.   I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate.  And finally we’ve found the answer to both situations.  The answer to the first decision is yes.  This yes came with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear attached to it. Our family will be going through a lot of changes because of this decision.  But even in the midst of fear we chose to say yes.  The answer to the second decision is no.  This no came with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.  I wanted the answer to be yes.  I dug my heels in and I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Why can’t Brett see that the answer is yes?  It’s so obvious that the answer is yes. And then the day finally came when I heard God whisper the answer into my heart.  And His answer was no.   I was devastated.

Something happened to me once the decisions were made.  Even though I knew we’d made the right decisions I felt empty and hopeless.  I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks.  The process of walking through the decisions has been difficult.  I’ve had to give up something that I really wanted.  I’ve had to say yes to something that scares me out of my mind.  Life’s going to look different than I thought it would look.  As all of the disappointment and uncertainty were swirling around inside of me God reminded me of the paintings.

He said: You’re between two paintings.  This is the part that no one sees.  This is the part that costs something that no one will ever know about.  This is the part when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and yet you choose to go on.  Trust me during this time of disappointment.  Trust me when My plans look different than your plans.  You’re acting like this is the final painting in your story.  But it’s not.  You’re in the middle of your story.  I know the plans that I have for you.  And they are good.   

This moment with God gave me hope.  God can paint a better picture for my life than I could ever paint.  He’s taken the paintbrush and He’s painting over my mistakes.  He’s painting over the plans that I made.  He’s painting over the disappointment that makes my heart ache.  And I believe one day I will step back and look at His painting of my life.  And the no that broke my heart in 2017 will suddenly make sense.  Because I will see that His plan was better than my plan.  I will see that He painted things into my life story that I would’ve never thought to add.  I pray that if today you are feeling hopeless and disappointed that you will turn to the One who will give you hope.  If life doesn’t look anything like you want it to look turn to the One who is writing your story.  And trust Him.  Trust that His Word is true.   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

 

Someone Has Anger Issues

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Mikayla, come brush your teeth!

Total silence.  Where is she?

Mikayla, come brush your teeth!!

Still total silence.  I’m tired and slightly irritated.

Mikayla!  Get in here right now!!!!  I’m not gonna say it again!!!!

That girl knows when momma means business.  She stumbled into the bathroom with her yellow angry bird tucked under her arm.  She squeezed his wing and he said “Someone has anger issues!”   And there you have it.  Truth straight from the bird’s mouth.  That crazy bird says all kinds of phrases.  But at this exact moment he decided to focus on my anger issues.  Really?

Life as a parent to little sweethearts who have special needs isn’t easy.  Our girls talk all day long.  They perseverate on a certain question or phrase and they say it a million times a day.  I constantly deal with behavior issues (the girls and my own).  My brain usually turns into a pile of goo by 3 p.m. When bedtime rolls around I’m exhausted.  I want little girls to show up when it’s time to brush their teeth.  I want people to stop talking.  I want my bed.  I have a right to be impatient at bedtime.  Right?

It’s been several months since my encounter with that angry bird.  Every time anger begins to rise up within me I hear his words ringing in my ears. Someone has anger issues.  And that someone is me.  Anger is my enemy.  It sneaks in and it steals my joy.  It makes me bitter instead of better. God is gently and consistently reminding me that anger and impatience are not ok.  Together we’re going to conquer my anger issues.  He’s making me painfully aware of how often I allow anger to control me.  Countless times in the last few months I’ve felt anger rising up within me.  And each time He gently shows me that I’m allowing anger to control my life.

I collapsed into bed on Christmas night.  I began scrolling through facebook.  It looked as if everyone had a picture perfect Christmas.  Anger began to bubble up within me.  Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  But this day wasn’t wonderful.  We were at my parents house and Brett spent most of the day in a room with our little sweetheart who couldn’t maneuver her way through a meltdown.  Our problems don’t disappear just because it’s Christmas.  Sure wish they could disappear for just one day.  Why do some families get to enjoy Christmas and our family just tries to survive Christmas?  It’s not fair. Someone has anger issues.

We pulled into the drive thru to get the girls some lunch.  Chaos ensued.  The girls started screaming their orders.  Why are you doing that?  I asked you what you wanted when we were at Walmart so you wouldn’t do this.  Sigh.  Then they started fighting with each other.  The guy taking our order couldn’t hear us and we couldn’t hear him.  I really get tired of this.  Why does this happen almost every time we eat out?  It must be nice to be one of the families who eats inside of the restaurant.  But look at us.  We can hardly maneuver our way through the drive-thru.  Great.  Now I have a headache.  Someone has anger issues.

Why do I have to attend IEP meetings every year?  Lots of parents don’t even know what an IEP meeting is.  I used to be one of them.  Someone has anger issues.

Why is everything hard for our girls?  Why do they have to struggle every day to do things that come easily to most children?  Someone has anger issues.

Life was already hard enough before anxiety came and pulled the rug out from under me.  I have enough to deal with.  Why does anxiety have to be thrown into the mix?   Someone has anger issues.

Yes, it seems like I’m continually dealing with the issue of anger in my life.  God is lovingly and patiently helping me find my way back to a life of joy. A life of being thankful for what I have instead of angry about what I don’t have.  Thankful for the sweet moments with our girls that God highlights and wants me to remember.  Like the moment when we were walking into Walmart and Mikayla’s little hand reached for mine.  And I heard the Lord say “She may always want to hold your hand.”  I smiled as we walked hand in hand.  Mikayla and Hope may never outgrow their need to hold Mommy’s hand.   I will hold their hands for the rest of my life and enjoy every moment.  I believe that as I begin to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have I will see my anger issues disappear.  And joy will return to my life.  And it all started with a silly angry bird who spoke truth into my life.

Putting My Trash Out For Everyone To See

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I was cleaning the basement and I found a few boxes that needed to be thrown away.  I tossed them onto the ever-growing pile of boxes that’s been in our basement for longer than I care to admit.  As I tossed the last box on the pile I decided it was time to carry them upstairs and get rid of them.  If they are hiding in the basement I’ll never get rid of them.  It was too windy to burn them.  There was no way they would all fit in the trash can for the next trash pickup.  So I decided to put them on the front porch.  If I’m forced to look at them every time I drive up the driveway then I’ll actually get rid of them.  I’ll just add a few of them to the trash each week until they’re gone.

I like things to be neat and tidy so I cringed as I put the boxes out on the front porch.  I was putting my trash out for everyone to see.  And I’m feeling the same way right now as I type these words.  It makes me uncomfortable when I think about everyone knowing what I’m going through.  I’m putting my trash out for everyone to see. Sometimes we have to drag our problems out of the basement so that we’ll actually deal with them.  When we’re forced to look at them we have a greater chance of getting rid of them.  I risk being judged.  But I choose to tell my story anyway because my story matters.  My story may look a lot like your story.  I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone.  Your story may look nothing like mine but I pray that the words I’m getting ready to share will touch your heart in some way.  I’m glad you’re here to join me in my story.

Anxiety.  I really hate that word.  I hate the way that it makes me feel.  It slowly started creeping into my life 2 years ago.   I tried to ignore it.  Then I prayed for God to take it away.  I looked up scriptures about anxiety and I told myself to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6-7).  I went forward at church and had people pray for me. And yet it continued to torment me every single day.   I was having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.   I was experiencing fatigue that was so severe that walking across the house was difficult.   My mind would frequently go blank.  I couldn’t concentrate and I was extremely irritable. Every day I had moments when I felt  like I couldn’t breathe.  I lived like this for a year.  I finally decided it was time to call the doctor.  Tomorrow.  I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.

That evening a picture came across my facebook newsfeed. The top half of the picture was a pill bottle and it said “What they say you need”.  The bottom half was a picture of a Bible and it said “What you really need”.  The picture sent a message that was loud and clear.  If you’re a Christian then all you have to do is read the Bible and your anxiety will go away.  As I sat on my bed and continued to look at that picture I was reminded of the voices from the past.  The voices that said if you’re depressed or have anxiety then you need to pray more and read more.  Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety.  If you go to the doctor for medication then you aren’t trusting God to heal you.  I allowed that picture to condemn me.  As I fell asleep that night condemnation covered me like a blanket.   The next morning I didn’t call the doctor.  I chose to continue suffering.

As 2016 unfolded I believed that this year was going to be a better year.  But then a series of events took place that added a great deal of stress to our life.  Our insurance company quit paying for the girls therapies.   We had to begin the process of finding a way for the girls to receive their therapies.  We decided to stop homeschooling and enroll the girls in public school.  I attended several meetings to set up their IEP for this school year.  The girls behavior problems escalated and we decided to attend PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy).   I spent 10 hours filling out paperwork for our family to start the PCIT.  I jumped through all of the hoops to get us on their schedule only to find out we would have to wait 8 months for our first appointment.  I secretly wondered if our family would survive the long wait. I was relieved when everything was in place for the PCIT and for the girls to start school in the fall. I finally felt like I could rest and that my life was going to get better. But it didn’t.

I started having panic attacks. They would come in the middle of the night, at a graduation ceremony, or even at church. I found myself fleeing from social situations because my heart was pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would drop the girls off at their class at church, go sit in the sanctuary, and then flee from the room as soon as the worship music started. The sounds of the instruments and the crowd were just too much for me to handle. I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks. Then one morning I woke up, took a shower, and went back to bed because the fatigue was so severe. I did this 3 days in a row. On the third day Brett came into the bedroom and he sat down beside me.  He told me that he loved me and he couldn’t stand to see me like this. He asked me to go to the doctor.  I agreed to go because it was clear that the anxiety was no longer just affecting me. It was affecting my entire family.  The next morning I called the doctor and made an appointment.

As I told the nurse my symptoms she smiled and she told me that I’m not alone.   The physician’s assistant also told me that I’m not alone.   As I walked out of the doctor’s office I felt foolish.   I waited 2 years to see a doctor.   I’d let the anxiety get so bad that I couldn’t even get out of bed.  I’d allowed the fear of what people would think of me become more important than my health and my family.  And I regret it.

I’ve been taking anxiety medication for 4 months.   I’m finally able to sleep and fatigue no longer torments me.  I still have moments each day when I feel like I can’t breathe.  And I’m still irritable.  Ask my sweet husband.    So even though I’m on medication I still have some anxiety symptoms.  The boxes on our front porch didn’t disappear overnight and neither has my anxiety.  But each week a few boxes disappear and the pile gets smaller.  I trust that as time passes my anxiety symptoms will decrease and hopefully one day they will disappear.  But right now I recognize and celebrate each victory along the way.  Last Sunday was a victory.  Brett patted my thigh during the sermon.  He could tell I was having a hard time and he was telling me he was proud of me for coming to church and not fleeing from the sanctuary.  I’m learning that victory isn’t just at the end of the race.  But it’s in each step that you take from the beginning to the end.

God heals.  I know that with all of my heart.  But He doesn’t always choose to heal in the way that we want Him to.  I wanted my healing to come in an instant.  I pray and then God makes all of my problems go away.  Isn’t that what we all want?  But it’s not always what God thinks is best for us.  Sometimes God chooses to walk us through our problems instead of around them.  God is choosing to walk me through this one step at a time instead of instantly delivering me from it.   I will learn lessons through the journey that I wouldn’t have learned if I’d been delivered from it.

I don’t understand anxiety.  It knocked me down like a freight train during a time when I felt like things were finally falling into place for our family.  I wasn’t sitting around worrying.  I was hopeful for the future.  But anxiety knocked me down anyway.  11 years ago I became mom to 2 little sweethearts who have disabilities.  And I now understand something that I never understood before.  People who experience anxiety need to be shown grace instead of judgment.  We have no idea how many meltdowns a mom and dad have watched their child have that day.  Or what the test results said.  Or how many times a mom has heard her child say the same phrase over and over again.  Or what kind of battle took place when a child had to put his clothes on.  Or if the mom and dad we see at the store have been sitting beside their daughter’s hospital bed wondering if she’s going to live or die.  There are so many people in this world going through some really hard stuff.  So let’s pause and think before we hit the share button on facebook.  Let’s make sure that we’re showing people grace instead of judgment.