Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A New Question

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Over the years, I have received many difficult questions and comments regarding John that catch me off guard. I have also been surprised by the answers I have given and the thoughts that invade. 

“How many children do you have?”  “Is he your first?”  “Oh, he must be sleepy…”  “How old is he?” “Oh really? 3 years old?”

We have heard a new question recently… one we certainly were not expecting:  “Are they twins?”

Yes, that is the question we are hearing these days when we are out with John and Daniel. I heard it twice just this morning at the post office.  So many mixed emotions emerge.  For the first time in public, John is acknowledged as a twin.  The twin that he is.  And that feels right and validating. However, John’s twin is not present.  Warren is in heaven, yet we cannot go into the whole story with these unsuspecting bystanders.  And clearly, to us at least, Daniel is much younger and couldn’t possibly be John’s twin.

Nevertheless, the question stings.  The tears well.  And I walk out of the post office angry, deflated…the deeper feeling is sadness and popping up, before I can even filter it, is disappointment about the reality of our life not matching what we had anticipated.

I have been truly wrestling with this question ever since we started hearing it the last few weeks. Therefore, after our trip to the post office, the boys and I went on a walk and I laid my struggle before the Lord.  I silently asked Him to show me what I was to take away from this question, “Are they twins?”, and the deep emotions it has summoned. The Lord tenderly spoke to me and gave me two insights I’d love to share with you. 

First, He gave me a thought pertaining to my beloved twins, John and Warren, by giving me a new response.  Instead of simply stating, “No, they (John and Daniel) aren’t twins,” and hanging my head, I can say, “No, but John actually does have a twin.” I can speak the truth without the baggage, acknowledge all three of my sons, and part ways with a smile.  

Then as I walked on pushing the stroller, my mind wandered to my potential response to the questions that may follow, “Oh, well where is his twin? At home?”  Immediately came my heart’s response: YES, Warren is Home.  A smile invaded, emotions that didn’t require filtering.  I definitely couldn’t have come up with that on my own.  Thank you, Lord.

Second, God showed me how this question ("Are they twins?") that has been hurtful actually points to how abundantly blessed I am…  That I even get the great honor to be out and about with two precious little boys, even if they are mistaken for twins!  Undoubtedly, John and Daniel represent so much that God is doing:  John does get to be and have a brother here on earth. There are two smiling children staring back at me whom I absolutely adore. God is filling my quiver and bringing contentment where there once was only a sense of loss and urgency to catch up in the baby bearing process and fill our minivan.

What started with a new question is ending with a new perspective… or hopefully a continuing outlook.  I simply asked God to breathe some fresh life into this struggle (I am a stubborn lady; it took me awhile to get to this point!).  And it didn’t hurt that I had accidently left my cell phone (and its distractions!) at home.  I'll have to do that again!   

Ask God to show you what He wants you to see in your own difficult situation.  I know life can be hard and challenging at times; I am not suggesting using your willpower to “turn lemons into lemonade.”  Simply ask God for a glimpse into His mindset, and I think you’ll be surprised by what He kindly whispers back…

Thank you, Lord, for your perspective.  Thank you for making all things new.
*Warren is HOME.
*I am one blessed mama with two boys in tow.

Daniel and John with their Uncle William

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2

Thursday, May 24, 2012

People Who Shout

The Lord is surely making all things new.  This blog attempts to discuss this process as we encounter life and loss.  This particular entry is about LIFE and one example of how it is found and pursued.

One of the things I have cherished the most about being in Atlanta the last few months is being able to participate in the conclusion of my youngest brother’s high school experience.  Since Cole and I are almost eleven years apart, I have missed a lot of the day-to-day things as he has grown up, pursued many activities and sports, advanced in his studies, and most importantly become a godly young man.
After the final soccer game of Cole's high school career

My parents and I are with Cole and his precious girlfriend before Prom

Since I’ve been back in Atlanta, I have made it a point to attend as many soccer games, track meets, and school events as possible (including his Eagle Scout ceremony the week we arrived).  I am one proud big sister!  A true highlight was hearing Cole speak at the Senior Chapel at his amazing Christian school.  I could go on and on about his message, but for the sake of this blog, I’d like to share something else about that morning that captured my mind and heart.

I was overcome by emotion, pride, and the desire to jump up from my seat and join in as Cole and the rest of the senior class stood (surrounded by the other high school students and teachers) and began to recite the 24th Psalm to usher in their final high school chapel service.  This is the norm at every chapel, even as elementary school students.  Therefore, I imagine it doesn’t take long for the students to memorize this psalm since it is a staple of their school experience.

Read Psalm 24 below and truly soak it in.  As you read it, imagine 105 eighteen year olds shouting these truths with great confidence and JOY, momentum building, courage rising.  They literally banged on their pews, stamped their feet, and raised their hands.  They were rowdy, in the way eighteen year olds were meant to be rowdy.  Like warriors prepared for battle, these seniors shouted this psalm, declaring to all who were present, “I am the Lord’s! He goes before me!”

Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?

The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

The seniors recited Psalm 24 to close out their senior year. Yet as they shouted its promises, reminding themselves and each other of God’s Truth as their voices rose, they actually inaugurated the rest of their lives.  As a generation who seeks His name, a people who welcome the King of Glory in their midst.

The call rang out: Who is this King of Glory?
And the answer rushed swift and bold: The Lord strong and mighty!

What marks us?  What banner do we hold?

Are we a people who shout?

My sweet friend, Elizabeth, currently is encouraging us to memorize scripture on her blog, Long to Love.  I encourage you to check it out and perhaps choose to memorize a portion or all of Psalm 24.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Will Happen... ?

Ask any parent of a child with special needs what his/her greatest fear is, and they will give you some variation of my own answer: “What will happen to John when I die?”  And the disturbing questions snowball: “Who will take care of him?”  “Who will love him like we do?”  “Who will believe in him and give him opportunities if it isn’t even old age that takes us?”

Of course, all these fears are in “the flesh.”  When I tap into my spiritual vision, the God-enabled eyes to see, I trust God is far from being finished with His healing work in John’s life (Philippians 1:6).  I trust the original vision God gave me of John’s complete healing on earth (Mark 11:22-25).  I trust Him to bind up our wounds, ease the striving, and give us life full of joy and peace (Psalm 34:18, John 15:11).

But in the flesh, in my human weakness and doubt, I lie awake at night with that haunting question and fear…  What will happen to John when we die?

You may not have a child with special needs and thus your greatest fear may be different, but I imagine that the root issue of our fears is the same: the perceived need for control, grasping to the illusion of control, and fear of giving up control.  In our minds, is death not the ultimate forced release of control?  Yet we even try to influence and manipulate the circumstances after we die with funeral wishes expressed in advance, an obituary drafted, wills in place, the attic sorted.  These things are not bad in and of themselves; in fact, they are usually quite helpful.  However, we must assess our motivation and spiritual health in this.

Let’s take this struggle a step further.  What is behind my panicked need for control and fear of losing it?  Instead of easily falling asleep Monday night, I was wide awake contemplating this question after spending far too much time playing out the different scenarios in my head of what would happen to John (and Daniel) if Meade and I both died.

The illusion that I possess control while I am alive basically denies WHO actually and rightly is in control when I am both alive and dead. I change, I fall short, I grow, I die…  yet God remains the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The same God who loves my children more than I ever could, even while I’m alive, will also be the same God by their side, loving them long after I am gone.

Do we trust that God is good?  Do I really believe He loves me and loves what is most important to me?  I have to remember that God is not the steward of these precious gifts.  He is the origin of the gifts, their Creator… their times are in HIS hands, not mine.  My children, the things and people that matter most to me, belong to Him; I am merely the steward.

I am grateful that my eventual death does not sway the God of the universe.  He will remain on the Throne.  He will continue to provide. 

Lord, I pray I will release control and the desire to “fix” everything, anticipate everything, and manipulate life’s events in an effort to provide for everything myself.  Instead, I pray I will lean into you, even when I don’t understand your ways, even when I doubt your goodness.  Lord, give me the strength and enable me to trust you with the things I hold so tightly.  Thank you that you are for my good.

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8:31

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Secret Place

(With recent little glimpses and updates at the end)

I’ll be honest… having a blog can be intimidating.  I will work on a post, hit “publish,” and then immediately re-read that post once again… almost second-guessing putting myself out there or putting the Lord and what He has taught me out there.  Out in the fuzzy, strangely intimate yet simultaneously impersonal land of cyber space.

Additionally and more importantly, writing for a blog can be faith-diminishing. Now let me be clear: most of the time as I stated from the outset, writing is both therapeutic for me and it also challenges, affirms, stretches, and strengthens my faith.  Writing and sharing the Lord’s lessons with you ground me, reminding me of what is true.

Yet as I have discussed this faith-diminishing aspect with fellow bloggers, I have found I am not alone in this dynamic.  We have recognized it can be easy to seek faith and lessons for the sake of the blog and timely communication, rather than seeking faith and God’s teachings because our hearts desire to love Him more deeply.  I can sacrifice longing to know more of God to the drive of having something applicable, poignant, or pithy share.

It MUST be about Him.  His presence must overshadow us.  How do we do this? 

You have read before about our appreciation for Bill Johnson and his ministry. (Quick side note: for those of you on the go or for you full-time moms out there who do not have time to sit down for your quiet time, let alone pull out a journal and pen, I highly recommend searching for one of your favorite preachers on YouTube and listening to a 10 minute clip.  This has encouraged me since our move and has been easy to do while I get out breakfast for the boys, feed them, wipe their faces, clean their trays…you get the point!)

Anyway, I have noticed that in many of Bill Johnson’s sermons he stresses the importance of going to the “secret place.”  The place where we cry out to the Lord, commune with Him, seek Him, and wait for Him with ears ready to listen.  The Lord reminded me of this last night, when I felt so depleted from the week and like I didn’t have anything else to give.  He reminded me to go and seek Him in the secret place.  This is such a struggle for me!  To simply go and spend time with the Lord rather than succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent all around me.  I know you can relate with your massive to-do list, work deadlines, or children pulling that aforementioned journal and pen out of your hands and throwing them on the floor!

But we will find Him in the secret place…even if it has been days, weeks, months, years.  We will come away emboldened.  Bill Johnson reminds us that our ability to take faith risks out in our spheres of influence only stems from our focused time with God…still, quiet, perhaps even heart-wrenching, soul-moaning time with Him. 

Bill Johnson states, “Faith doesn’t come out of determination; it comes out of surrender.”

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.”
-Psalm 40

I’m signing off now (after I add some pictures at the end)… hitting publish… and then I’ll most likely be re-reading what I just launched into your inbox.  ;)  And then after re-reading this, I hope to snap out of it, get over myself, and get busy seeking Him in the secret place!  What a gift that the Lord forgives our pride and lifts us up out of our insecurity!  Thank you for partnering with us.

Recent Little Glimpses/Prayer and Praise Reports:

John continues to make great progress with Pinkie during his horseback riding sessions.  We are also grateful for his new, godly doctor here.  I think the combination of Pinkie, this wonderful doctor's various treatment modalities (he really treats the whole person: mind, body, and spirit), and the stimulation from playing with his new friends in Atlanta has really aided in John's development.

 John is using his hands so much more.  He can immediately give you a high five or switch back and forth between which hand he wants to use to reach out for something.

Also, for the first time in his entire life, John is consistently bearing some weight on his legs when we hold him under his arms.  We have seen glimpses of this in the past, but over the last week it happens every day when we give him the chance!  Praise God!!  I just know my boy will walk! We will keep believing even in the face of doubt.  Thank you for continuing to pray for God's healing touch in John's life.

Speaking of John's friends, we went to the cutest 3rd birthday party last week.  It had a puppy theme and each child was able to pick out a puppy from the basket (I love the "Puppies for Sale" sign the birthday boy's older brother made):

I held up two different puppies for John, and he picked "Brutus" by reaching out for him.  It made my heart melt that John was able to pick his own puppy using his hands.  The other boys were so sweet to read to John, which is still one of his favorite activities.  Daniel is in the background running to the next thing he has spied!
Daniel enjoyed becoming a puppy with these cute puppy-dog ears the sweet and creative mother made.

I love that there are things in life that just make us smile...that when we see them, we can't contain it no matter how hard our day or week has been.  

Lastly, we'd love your prayers for wisdom for us as we attempt to submit our time to God and tune into how He wants us to spend it... in regards to our children, therapies, relationships, etc.  Even as a I type this, I am reminded that as we seek first His Kingdom, everything else will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).