Monday, April 30, 2012


“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
-Proverbs 13:20

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"Are you in therapy?  Don’t you think you need therapy?  Are you a counselor?  Do you seek counsel?  Do you recommend therapy for mental health?"

I have been asked various versions of all of these questions over the past few years.  And I have one answer for them all: “YES!”

My desire on this blog is to always be as real as I possibly can be.  Why? Because I have found that honesty with God, myself, and others is the only way to navigate life and loss and still come out on the other side (or to simply rest or struggle in the “in between places”) with faith in tact.

Those of you who have read the “About” page on this blog know that I have a Masters in Counseling and am a Nationally Certified Counselor.  I do not have my license at this point.  I was put on bed rest with the twins shortly after graduation while I was beginning to work on licensure hours.  I also have a coaching certification. 

I believe in godly counsel, both in professional and interpersonal realms depending on what the season of your life requires.  For those of you who know me, this will be old news.  I am very open about the counseling I’ve received.  Let’s get real: God has used it and my counselor to basically resuscitate me and bring me to the place where I can say we have more good days than bad ones.  

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I hope that discussing this issue will be helpful and empowering, because it is an issue that oftentimes continues to be taboo and hush-hush in our “have it all together” culture.

I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks throughout my entire life.  I didn’t necessarily know what it was at every moment, but looking back it is clear I’ve been a poster child for this challenge.  My anxiety maxed out both in middle school (who didn’t have a hard time in middle school??) and then again when I moved to Virginia Beach as a 23 year old newly-wed.  My life was perfect on the outside.  Yet as a new wife, in a new home, in a new town, with a new family, new friends, no real job leads or direction, and looking for a new church, anxiety took over for awhile and we even made one trip to the ER with a panic attack where I was certain I was dying.  It is comical now but was not so funny at the time.  And I know I scared my sweet husband stupid! 

Many came alongside me, but one happened to be a counselor.  She truly walked me through that difficult season.  I promised the Lord that if he delivered me and helped me cope with my anxiety and panic attacks that I would use this cross for Him.  This is how I came to pursue a degree in counseling, which on the surface seemed totally unrelated to my undergraduate degree in religious studies and foreign affairs.

Once in counseling school, a class required us to seek out a licensed professional counselor to participate in four therapy sessions as the client. We were supposed to experience what it felt like to be the client and hopefully increase our self-awareness in the process.  I figured if I was going to spend my time doing this then I might as well make the most of it and work on a few things (including anxiety) during these sessions.  A professor recommended a wonderful counselor who I began to see for my four sessions.  Well, let’s just say I can’t even count how many sessions there have been since the original four.

And boy, did the Lord know what He was doing when he placed this amazing woman in my life.  Our counseling relationship was well-established by the time Meade and I faced any parent’s worst fears: children with failing health, life in the NICU, the tragic death of a child, another child fighting for his life and later struggling with special needs, deciding whether or not to have another child when doctors recommended holding off.  This counselor just happened to specialize in grief, loss, and trauma.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I tear up thinking about it.  God truly provided for us through our counselor.  In the early days after Warren went to be with the Lord and everything was still so tenuous with John, I typically would have two sessions per week.  As the journey continued, our counselor helped us find our footing again…. Find joy despite pain.  Learn to “sing our boys’ songs.”  Grow in confidence.  Learn to grieve and mourn.  Learn to celebrate.  Grasp how to appreciate our modified and ever-changing faith. Learn how to embrace the gift of freedom Warren has given us. And to discover we are open to life here while also looking forward to reuniting as a family in heaven one day.

When it comes to counseling, I like to say that on my good days, it is life coaching.  On my bad days, it’s therapy. (Smile.)  Thanks Jodi.  This post is dedicated to you!

I will close with a few reasons why I love and promote counseling for myself and for others:

-It keeps me humble and helps me acknowledge I am a needy person… in need of God’s grace, in need of guidance, in need of self-insight, in need of help loving those God has placed in my life... 

-As much as I'd liked to be, I'm not self-sufficient and can't figure it all out on my own. 

-Counseling has stretched and challenged my faith, my views of myself, and how I see the world. 

-It is always beneficial to place yourself in a position where fresh life can come in and thus fresh life can pour out.  I know I do not want to become an insulated and stagnate person.  This is easy to do, because we all tend to seek out what is safe, familiar, and simply “like us.”

-Counseling gives perspective... an objective sounding board, a mirror, a fresh outlook.

-Counseling is an investment in myself, my marriage, and in those I love.  They benefit as I grow.

-Counseling has given me a safe place to vent yet also has prevented my heart from becoming permanently embittered or cold.

-The Lord provides in so many interesting and even unconventional ways.  I’d encourage you to be open to how He wants to provide for you.

“The world is full of suffering. It is also filled with overcoming it.”
– Mother Theresa

*Prayer request for today: John has a follow up appointment with his new doctor.  He will have a full evaluation and screening.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just Like You

A brief post to tie into Tuesday’s entry: 
(I realize some of the email subscribers didn't get Tuesday's post until Wednesday... Sorry!  Still working out the kinks.  If you missed that post all together, click on "That Could be John" to read it.)

My mom has given talks to young mothers in the past, many who were unwed teenagers and found themselves seeking guidance and support at a crisis pregnancy center.  These talks include simple ways to show tangible love to their children, to display Christ to these precious gifts that have been placed in their care. 

During one of my mom's trips to Virginia Beach, I asked her to deliver this talk to a group of my friends who all had young children at the time. I had heard excerpts over the years but was excited to hear the entire presentation myself, especially now that I had the perspective of a young mother. 

One of the many things that stood out was when she told us to make sure our children knew how desired and cherished they were (whether they had been “planned” or not).  If you had a daughter, for example, my wise mama said to make certain you frequently told her, “I always wanted a little girl just like you.”  This has stayed with me.  Wow, what a gift for a child to feel so loved.  I assume most parents feel this way about their kids, and I assume children grasp that.  Sadly, the older I get, I realize this isn't always the case.  And even if something is assumed, it isn't always stated in a clear and direct way... in a way small children can understand and take to heart.

Since I heard my mother's talk and absorbed her godly advice, I have told John and Daniel individually, “I always wanted a little boy just like you.” And I mean it.  I love having a special way to communicate my love to them.  I hope this becomes something they grow so accustomed to hearing from us that they even grow tired of it, are embarrassed by it, finish my sentence for me... all the while secretly delighting in it.  Yes, we all fall short as parents, but I hope to always incorporate this simple but powerful statement as I raise my children. 

As I stated in Tuesday's post, “This is my John, and while I eagerly anticipate what his future holds, I want him to know he is PERFECT just as he is." 
John, the ham 

I always wanted a little boy just like him.  Just like Warren.  Just like Daniel.  Like Mary in the Bible, I feel blessed among women (Luke 1:42, 48). And I will make it a point not to keep it a secret.
Warren at 16 days old

Daniel exploring our boxes :)  10.5 months old now!

Here is an excerpt from "A Holy Experience" this Monday that truly touched me: 

The scars can be beauty marks.” I tell this one little girl, a girl just beginning down her road. “The scars can carve you to be more like Christ.”
Beauty always bears scars because of Love.
Click Here to read the full post from Ann Voskamp.  Her profound insights into the Christian walk, its joys and sufferings, are a blessing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

That Could Be John

(This was an emotional post to write, but stick with me.  I feel the lesson I’ve learned and what God has done in my heart is worth reading to the end. And there is a cute video! Thanks!)

One of the struggles throughout our almost 3.5 year journey with our children has been comparison.  As short-sited human beings, we all can relate to the temptation to compare and to the chains we find ourselves in when we succumb.  We hold the keys to our shackles, yet so often we continue in bondage rather than claiming freedom.

In this journey, I have certainly compared my situation to other families of multiples, for example.  Seeing twins in a double stroller when we are out and about, I can grieve and think, “That could be John and Warren.”  And oftentimes, I not only compare but also allow bitterness to quickly creep in as I think, “That should be John and Warren.”

Then of course, there has been the long struggle of comparing John to typically developing children.  I’d observe them doing the simplest things, withdraw into my own little world, and sadly think, “That could be John.”  At first, it was comparing John to children of his own age.  When John was a baby, the gap wasn’t so apparent.  Kind friends would tell me, “My child did that late too,” and I’d have hope.  Or a baby John’s age may have had better head control or have been able to sit independently, but I would tell myself as I sized him up, “Well, John is only a few months behind, so he has time.”

Then as John turned a year old and the months passed, it was easy to look at younger babies, babies that were not even born yet but had due dates on the calendar, and see them only as children who would quickly surpass John in development.  And I’d mourn and think, “That could be John.”  We could have the family that didn’t have despair forever mixed in with the joys, the family that could happily assume our unborn baby or newborn would be healthy.

The comparison came in more surprising places as time elapsed.  Through therapies, doctors’ appointments, supports groups, and treatment centers, we found ourselves in a community of other children with special needs and their parents.  Whether I was aware of it or not, I’d check out their children and once again think, “That could be John.”  This is difficult to admit.  In those comparisons, sometimes John came out “ahead.”  After all, he became increasingly medically stable.  No seizures. No medications. No tubes.  He smiles and laughs (and has one of the best smiles and laughs I know!).  We can tell he feels our love and can communicate it back to us.

However, oftentimes in these comparisons with other children facing challenges, depression sets in as John’s external deficits outweigh those of the other children.  I’ll never forget driving home from John’s first early intervention group class when he was almost 2 years old.  This program was just one two-hour morning per week and was run like a preschool, only the moms attended as well.  On the drive home, I almost had to pull over because of the tears blinding my vision.  In a class of special needs children under 3, John was the only one there who could not sit independently.  He was the only one who seemed not to engage with the singing.  He was the only one not really using his hands.  It was easy to look at the kids with Down Syndrome, muscular problems, or visual problems and retreat to self-pity and envy, again thinking, “That could be John,” wanting to trade my son’s challenges for different ones.

Now, even having a healthy son myself, it is not that I compare them so much as I realize what I missed out on with John (bringing Daniel home from the hospital right after his birth, breast feeding, watching him crawl, watching him spot the tiniest thing across the room and be able to walk to it and grab it with his thumb and index finger, etc)…or what I perceive John has missed out on. 

But here is the bottom line… comparison is from the pit of hell.  It robs.  It steals the joy the Lord has for us.  And his joy, ultimately, IS our strength.  Comparison leaves us lacking because, with its eyes, we are blinded by only seeing what lacks (in ourselves and in others).  When God looks at each one of us, He sees a beautiful whole.  When we compare, we pervert this image and trade the spiritual eyes He wants to give us for eyes that zero in on what falls short. And yet, these are the things that only fall short in our estimations.  Our limited estimations.
Yes, I have hope for what tomorrow holds for John and for our family.  But yes, I also am learning to take the keys Jesus has given me and use them to unlock my chains and step boldly into abundant freedom.

I’ve learned that joy and being present in THIS moment means to discard, “That could be John,” and instead boldly proclaim: “This is John.”  

We all have “Johns” in our lives.  And what gifts they are!!  Think about what you are currently facing, struggling with, even feeling ashamed of.  Lesser than.  Waiting to arrive.  Wondering what if.  God wants to take us from the places to which we withdraw, bring us into His light, and enable us to embrace our circumstances which are the gifts He gives us. 

I pray we can all see the blessings, not despite the pain but even in the midst of the pain, as we allow the joy of the Lord to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  I encourage you to give yourself grace in your journey.  God has utilized all the stages of comparison I have experienced to get me to where I am today, to begin to set my feet upon His rock…  the rock of freedom where comparisons begin to fade and they no longer hold their power.
This is my John, and while I eagerly anticipate what his future holds, I want him to know he is PERFECT just as he is. 

Email subscribers: CLICK HERE to see this video of John playing his piano.

**We praise God that John continues to use his hands so much more and with so much more efficacy.

**An additional note of praise: Right after I posted last week asking for prayer for an aid for John, we were put in touch with a woman who was looking for a job.  She will start today and we are grateful for the Lord’s provision!

**Lastly, John has an appointment with a new doctor here today at 11:30.  This is a doctor we heard about from one of the naturopathic doctors at the Institutes in Philadelphia.  When he heard we were moving to Atlanta, he said we MUST see this doctor.  And I called yesterday and they had just had a cancellation for today!  Praise God!  We are excited to see how God will use this man in John’s healing process.  Thank you for praying!