Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Birthday Tribute for My Eldest

I can hardly believe that tomorrow is K's 5th Birthday. Next year is kindergarten (a very scary thought for me) and five years gone by seems like yesterday and yet a lifetime ago.

Although I can remember the day that I found out that I was pregnant with clarity, and the day that I gave birth to her equally well, the middle 34 weeks are a little more fuzzy. In case you've done the math on your own, or happen to know me fairly well, you know that my wedding anniversary is always a year behind K's birthday. The pregnancy was a rather dark one in my life, and yet the changes in my life because of K, because of Down Syndrome, are immeasurable.

I remember hearing other people tell me that they were glad their children had Down Syndrome, or that Down Syndrome had brought so many good things into their lives, and it always sounded like such hollow words. Now I can see it more clearly. I would never have wished a cognitive disability on K, if I could have chosen for her I would have chosen differently.

There are things that I feel sad about, things that she will likely miss out on. Things I will likely miss out on as a mom. But, the things she's brought to my life are so much greater.  My entire life I can remember searching for more meaning, more understanding, I never thought Christianity made much sense, but I always wanted to believe.

I had done things I regretted deeply, hurt people that I didn't mean to hurt, let down parents that had been supportive and loving, and I was really searching for something more. Something to cling to. When K was born, I didn't just "believe" in God's Word anymore, I wanted to live by God's Word. It has changed my life. God has changed my life. She has changed my life.

I have become more open minded, I am more kind, more compassionate, this isn't saying that I have achieved some great thing, but rather it really highlights to me how unloving and selfish I was growing up. Because of K having DS, I decided not to pursue a law career, but devote my time to raising her. It's no small task with all of the doctor's appointments, therapy appointments, intervention therapies, researching new ideas, funding, etc,

If I had read this posting 5 years ago, I would have berated myself for the decision. I was so devoted to success in the eyes of others. I wanted to achieve more money, the big house, the nice car, the prestige, power. I am so so grateful that I chose a different path. I'm so grateful that I had a husband who loved me despite my many mistakes, and supported me in choosing God's way instead of the World's way. 

I am mostly grateful for a daughter who is loving, healthy, and beautiful. Sweet (when she wants to be), head strong like her mama, silly, a lover of music and family. My baby girl, I hope one day you can read this and know how much you have given me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Changing Pride

Today, studying Matthew with my group of bible study friends, it struck me that my preoccupation with fairness is really just the same old problem resurfacing, dressed differently. My Pride, whether it surfaces as self pity (which is really what the cry for fairness is all about) or just plain pride....different sides of the same coin.

My pride takes ownership of my own accomplishments, wants recognition, to echo my son's words, my pride says "I want to do it by myself"  so that the praise is for me alone. I exalt myself, thinking I've earned the good things that are coming my way....

My "it's not faiiiir" cry usually places ownership of the problem somewhere else.... I deserve better than this. I take exception to others' "good fortune" because didn't I work hard? Don't I deserve more than they have?

Ah conviction. It's a weird feeling isn't it?  For those of you who maybe aren't Christian...I'd liken the feeling to a mixture of inspiration, guilt, excitement, devotion.... like a growing butterfly-ish feeling in your stomach. You know what you're being called to do and your passion to do right, be better, grow more has been renewed.

Today my bible study focused on a passage that screamed out to me as exactly what I was looking for as I wrote yesterday. It's found in Matthew 20. The parable of the workers in the vineyard. If you're unfamiliar with it, I'll try to sum it up:

Workers are in their master's vineyard working, the owner is very generous, they've agreed upon a very fair wage for their day of work. Workers continue showing up all day, even as late as 4pm. We'll call them the late comers. The early risers watch as the late comers get paid the same amount as they were promised and become enraged. Why should they earn as much as we earned? We worked all day long, and "they" don't deserve as much as we are getting.

It sounds awfully familiar to my own ears. I know I couldn't have come up with a better response than Jesus did.

"I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't we agree upon a denarius [for payment]....I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I am giving you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with what is my own?  Or is your eye envious because I am generous?"  Matthew 20:13-15

I am a very prideful person. I've grown up in a society that encourages "earning your way" "getting what you deserve". Study hard, earn good grades. Work harder than everyone else, earn more money. You get what you work for. But in God's upside down economy, it's hard to reconcile that we are already getting MORE than we deserve. It's hard not to look with envy upon "blessings" that others have. It's hard not to feel prideful about your own accomplishments (or sometimes even harder to not feel prideful about our children's accomplishments)

I'm not sure how to change. It seems too hard. In fact, impossible. But yet.... the disciples felt the same way.... "how then can anyone be saved" they asked Jesus..... "It's humanly impossible. But with God, all things are possible." He replied.

The funniest thing to me about conviction is the way we push it aside, bury it deep inside of us, try to hide it so that we don't have to change. Get lost in the busy-ness of every day life and push our thoughts of God's Way aside.

Hold that thought, my phone is ringing. and the TV is loud, making it hard to finish this thought.... and oh shoot, I think dinner is burning. That butterfly feeling was probably just the greasy lunch I had.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Not Fair

What can I write about the fairness of life that you and I both don't already know? Nothing. But reading my kids' It's Not Fair book last night has inspired me to review it anyways...and I hope it can be a good reminder for me in the weeks to come.

Having a child born with Down Syndrome, I'm no stranger to the "It's No Fair" whine, and if it weren't so exhausting, depressing, and discouraging, it would be amusing to me that even at 27 years of age, I still have the tendency to complain to God that things in my life aren't what I thought they'd be.
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So, I thought I'd do a quick mental review of history:

Eve: But it's Not Fair! I want the tree in the MIDDLE of the garden!
God: (my own thoughts on what he was thinking)  Where did you learn that word from? I certainly didn't plant it there in your heart

Israelites (as related in Numbers 11) : But this isn't fair! This is too hard! We want real food, not this manna!
God: Really? REALLY? Do you not remember how much I've given you?

D: But this isn't fair! K's ice cream is bigger than mine!
Me: Where did you learn that word from?? Be grateful for what you have!

Me: But this isn't fair!! I didn't ask for this!
God: Do you not remember how much I've given you? Be grateful for what you have.

Some things just don't change. Sin, the world, greed, anger, self-pity.... They are as old as time. And yet, without saying the words out loud, I can feel that my heart still harbors these feelings. I still find myself giving in to self pity at times (too many times)  And there's nothing that speaks to an ungrateful heart than the words "It's Not Fair"

How much more has God given me than what I've deserved? If He were to give me all I had earned, it would be an awfully short, worthless life I'd be leading. I can't imagine how it would feel to give up my only Son. Even worse to imagine, to have the gift be rendered insignificant by constant complaining and whining by those it saves.

Maybe life isn't fair. I'm sure if I wanted to dwell on it, I could come up with a list of complaints, grumbles, ways that my life could seem "better"      Or.... I could come up with a list of ways that God has blessed me. Things he has given me that I haven't earned. Salvation, Grace, Love, a wonderful steady husband who loves me despite my whiny childlike behavior, three children who, despite my shortcomings, are growing, living and learning about a God who gives more than we deserve.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Incidental Learning

As Gibbs and I bumble our way through another attempt to re-understand our various difficulties with communication, I find myself amazed, and frightened, at how much of our lives are a result of incidental learning.

A marriage counselor told me last week that most of my communication techniques (and Gibbs') have been learned through our parents' method of communicating. Gestures, Tones, A Look, Body Language.... This is not to blame my husband's parents at all (or mine) His way isn't "bad"...my way isn't "bad"  It just so happens that they don't naturally blend. They have to be slowly changed by God, will, or force (haha kidding!)

This has me thinking a lot about my children. I am sure you have heard the statistic about 90% of a child's education being incidental, but I never really thought about it before this. I did understand as far as crawling, or how to eat with a fork, or how to pick up a cup... all of which I didn't actively try to teach them, but somehow they did anyways.

But it scares me a little to think of how much "learned" communication they already have imprinted on their hearts. I'm a screamer (I admit this with much shame and embarassment, really I do.)  I really hate that about myself. And as much as I try to change, and I do.... I still find myself with a raised voice when the kids have really gotten under my skin. I suspect this comes from having a mother who has a very loud voice...

My husband is just a bit on the sarcastic side... I've already noticed my son quickly picking up on his father's tone.... D still calls it "teasing" but I recognize the voice when I hear it. In fact, I just heard it last weekend when I was in Minnesota visiting my in-laws :-)

I try to instill in my children the right values. I tell them to say please and thank you. I tell them to never hit, even when you've been hit first (this is especially important to K & D right now)  I tell them not to use mean words.... but I wonder what I've been teaching them. How often do I say please and thank you to my husband for helping me with something? How often do they hear us using unkind tones with each other?

On Friday, Gibbs leaned over in our van and whispered to me, I see some deer in the field, but I don't want to say anything because I don't think the kids will be able to see them. From the backseat, with a movie on, D asks, Where are the deer daddy??

I fear that they are hearing, and learning, more than we think.

I'm trying to be more of a role model lately. Doing is so much more important than telling. I did know this before I had children, but somehow, sadly, the stakes have never seemed to matter until now.

And, as an unexpected benefit, Gibbs and I are communicating with much more ease as we both use tones, gestures, and words that we would want the kids to learn :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New things we're doing

On my friend's blog, my favorite postings are the one where I get to know her boys a little better, and see the fun activities they are trying, and new foods they are making. So, every once in awhile, I'd like to just do posts like this for other moms who are looking for fun new ideas.

We are learning new letters each day. On "i" we made igloos. I cut out pieces of white paper, that they had to glue on to their igloo (like ice cubes) and then cut out a door themselves. They also practiced writing their i's on their little ice cubes. You'd be surprised how many kids in preschool that have never held a pair of kids scissors, or used glue! It's so good for their fine motor skills!

We also have played outside a LOT (thank goodness for good weather!!)  D had the great idea of going on a rock hunt (this was totally his idea...I was so proud of his creativity!)  He thought we could bring them home, wash them, then paint them like Easter Eggs. Grandma gave us the good idea of putting them in baskets around the house for decoration afterwards. She also suggested adding food coloring to corn syrup for some very shiny coloring! Here's D's first one:

This has also been a week of playing dress up. D and K both dressed up like cowboys, practiced catching their cattle (this was a great day to learn the letter "C")  D even insisted upon sleeping in his cowboy attire....


Isn't he so funny?? My favorite quote of the week: Me: (after hearing some tooting..) Do you have to go potty?  D: No, cowboys are supposed to be rootin and tootin!

We also have been trying to be more healthy this week. More deliberately healthy I mean. No more goldfish and fruit snacks as a default easy afternoon snack every day, no processed chicken nuggets for lunch every day.... I'm determined to have healthy food options at each meal for the kids. And each option they have on their plate is something I'd be ok with them eating.  I don't want to have to hide their healthy food, I want them to grow up realizing that they LIKE eating healthy food. That healthy food doesn't taste like cardboard!  So here are some of the fun things we tried and LOVED this week:

Spinach Nuggets (made with pureed spinach, cheddar cheese, crushed cracker crumps, and 2 eggs) Even K LOVED these and she is my most picky picky picky eater.

We also had "green eggs"   I made scrambled eggs and added some steamed broccoli cut up into little pieces. The Kids thought it was very fun to eat like Sam I Am.

Sweet potato chips (baked with cinnamon and brown sugar sprinkled on top)

Smoothies, with bananas, frozen peaches, yogurt, milk and cinnamon

Fresh mango (on sale at Aldi)

The things that didn't go over well:  fresh avocado. Ah well, I Tried! :-)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dreams

As a mom of three little ones, I don't have much time for thinking about my own dreams, or hopes, or goals...I have even less time to pursue any of them. And that's ok, I think it comes with the territory of having young children. I want to be the type of mom who is sacrificing. I think that's the kind of parent we all strive to be for our children.

But yesterday I was encouraged by a good friend to start working on a project I have wanted to do for awhile, and I started thinking about this long time dream I have. I thought .... well, maybe God is trying to prepare me for fulfilling it, accomplishing this goal. I went to my husband, hoping to get some honest feedback (read: some encouragement that this dream wasn't ridiculous)  What I got was a little less than I hoped for, it was actually quite discouraging.

To explain how it made me feel..well, I doubt I need to. I'm sure that you have had a moment where someone you love doesn't believe in your dreams. Maybe it's not your spouse, maybe it's a parent, or a child, or a good friend. I took it in stride and the hurtful comment didn't waver in my faith in myself (hahaha, this is obviously a joke if you know me!) 

Actually, I pouted a little, felt sorry for myself, stewed over it all night.... but now, after 24 hours, I think I have gained a little perspective. Don't get me wrong, I am still hurt. But ultimately, why am I relying on my husband for my self esteem?

It reminded me of the lyrics of the Casting Crowns song, Voice of Truth. It dawned on me that I am not alone in this. I'm sure there are people out there that give up on their dreams every day, I'm willing to bet that there are many Christians that give up on their Calling because of someone who doubts their ability....Why does it hurt so much when someone we love discourages us?  I have a theory ...  The things my husband said to me sounded a lot like the voice in my head. He wasn't being malicious, or even unloving. He's just a human being, maybe a little less sensitive to my feelings than I'd like sometimes ;-)

It hurts so much because we all have the voice in our heads, saying you can't do this, you aren't good enough. The difference between someone who succeeds and fails is probably something so simple, but so hard to do, it's drowning out the doubt and learning to hone in on God's voice.

I realized that God gave me a great teaching lesson last night. He should be the one I am relying on first for encouragement, guidance, love.   A wise cousin told me before I married Gibbs that it would be unfair of me to rely on him for all of my needs, all of my "love" needs especially. He could never fulfill them. He is just a man. But there is One who won't disappoint me, who won't discourage me from following a calling, someone who won't ever "have a bad day and just be human"

I'll go ahead and close this thought by quoting the Voice of Truth, which has greatly encouraged me today:


But the waves are calling out my name
and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed

The waves they keep on telling me
time and time again
"Boy, you'll never win,
You you'll never win
But the Voice of Truth, tells me a different story

Friday, March 11, 2011

Call To Me

My favorite game to play as a child was School. I LOVED forcing my sister to sit down and be my student. I, of course, always got to be the teacher. She never really loved it....

So every few months, I will sit my children down, and try to force school upon them once more. So far, they haven't loved it either.  I know what you're thinking, maybe I'm just not a good teacher.  But that's not the case (at least, I hope it's not...) It's possible that I perhaps, maybe, wasn't great at it when I was 8 years old.....

But this week, D has finally gotten into learning. It excites me to see him wanting more, more, more to learn. He sits down, does workbooks, learns letters, writes out his name (I have dots that he has to connect...he is only 3)  He sounds out words in conversations. It's all just very exciting to me.

I, in turn, find myself much more challenged (in a very good way) to come up with fun activities for my kids to do that feed their learning process. The more my kids seek out learning, the more I want to teach them!

Now of course, being me, can I just leave the blog post at this? Nah, I really can't. I have to find deeper meaning in this.  As much as I love teaching a child who yearns to learn....I can't imagine how much more God loves teaching those who are willing to learn.  He tell us that if you seek him, you will find him. If you ask for wisdom, you shall receive it. "Call to Me, I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know."  - Jeremiah 33:3

Over and over again, the bible makes it clear that if we are not seeking, if we are not willing to learn, He isn't going to waste His wisdom on us. I think the bible is equally clear however that God will steer His Children back to a place that we want to seek Him again....

In my own life, when my kids refuse to listen, when they tell me they don't want to do something I've told them to do....I rarely walk away. Usually, I enforce some sort of discipline on them, because they are my children and I love them. I want them to get to a place where they understand the value in listening and obeying me.

So my question is this.... are you a child of God?  The God that tells us that He loves us, that He WANTS to teach us, wants us to seek him, wants us to know him, to follow him, to believe him...

I am. And once or twice...or a thousand times...I've felt the loving hand of discipline when I want to do my own thing and think there are no consequences to living how I want to live.  But today...feeling the parental joy of seeing my son's desire to learn more.... I feel loved by God. I know He loves me even when I refuse to listen. But, I think I understand a little better the joy that He feels when I willingly choose to obey.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recent Convictions

On Sunday my pastor spoke a little about anxiety. Jesus tells us not to be anxious (more than once) and yet the same word for anxious is used when Jesus commands us to be 'concerned' about others. My pastor (wisely) pointed out that anxiety is inwardly focused, concern is the same root word...but outwardly focused. 

He also spoke of material gain for yourself, vs storing up treasures in heaven. I just wonder how much of my anxiety is tied to this. Material gain.... enrichment classes for the kids, swimming lessons, new toys, new books, new clothes, boating (um, good for family time! obviously! an investment in memories!)  There's so much in my life that I think I need, but don't.  "D really does need new shoes" I say to myself. And justify spending 15 dollars for a new pair from gymboree.... they are quite stylish, and I got them on sale! But really, I could get him adequete shoes for 2 dollars a second hand store. For free from a friend I know.  If I added all of these "needs" up, I can't imagine the needs that could be met from people who actually are in need of food...shelter... clean water...

This makes me question my faith. Really, it's sad that it takes so little to make me question myself, but if I REALLY believed, wouldn't I be living differently? Giving more? Taking less....  God calls us to be cautious not to store up things on earth for ourselves, but rather be investing in wealth that can't be stolen, rotted, taken from us....   So what does that look like? 

My husband wisely pointed that it's because we don't know what heavenly treasure looks like, that we don't worry about it too much. We do however know how nice temporary treasures look (like that new f250 I've seen his eye on lately...and that playground set that I've been looking at....) and we worry about that a lot.

So my focus this week is to examine my motives in storing up treasure. Where is my heart? I have no clue what they heavenly treasure will look like, but I bet it is lot more beautiful and valuable than that outfit I was thinking of buying tomorrow.... (what?! Kohls is having a HUGE sale!?)

This is a list I've come up with (biblically based of course!) of ways to store up heavenly treasure.  I'd love to hear feedback on how these would look "practically" in your lives:
1. Deeds of mercy
2. Deeds of kindness towards people in distress
3. Giving financially to the poor
4. Rewards according to your own labor (for God)  (1Cor3:8)
5. Anyone who gives up something for God's Sake (Mark 10:29)
6. Running a disciplined race, not being distracted (1Cor 9:24ish)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Put Me In Coach!

Last week my husband asked me why I felt the need to push him in his career. Do I not trust him? Or not believe in him? Do I think he doesn't have any drive? (I'm not asking these questions, he ACTUALLY asked me this!)  I was shocked, I believe in him, trust him, and thinks he has (if anything) too much drive.  This prompted a great conversation between us (and between V and myself) so I thought I'd share my final thoughts on it all..

Occasionally, I find myself asking Gibbs about his future plans, goals, etc.  I ask him what's next? Another degree? A different job? What about saving for the kids' college? Retirement?  I guess I think that with all he has to think about in his day to day responsibilities, he doesn't have the time, or maybe even the inclination, to think about the future. I found out I was wrong, but actually more importantly, I think I figured out WHY I am always asking these questions that feel like "unsubtle pushing & nagging" to my husband.

As I struggled with trying to find a way to explain this to Gibbs, I spoke with V and found out that she does this same thing to her husband! Maybe several women do this? I'm not sure. V & I have always known we were a little high maintenance, so feel free to say you've never done this!

It sometimes feels like being on the sideline at the basketball game. I'm watching Gibbs play. He's doing great. Scoring, Guarding, whatever else you're supposed to do when you are playing. But I'm just watching. I'm on the sidelines, bringing the players water. Making sure the bench is clean. Not to say that hydration isn't important! But I start to feel maybe a little underappreciated, and think, hey?! I have a great idea! I'll coach instead.  Yeah. I can definitely coach WHILE I'm standing here, filling water cups, making food, cleaning the bench. I'm sure I can call plays a lot better than my husband.... after all, he is SO busy PLAYING!

As it turns out, my husband doesn't LOVE it when I coach him. I feel like I'm back in the Garden of Eden. He struggles to work hard, and maintain the head of the home position God calls him to. And I work hard, struggling to call the plays, and make myself the head of the home....

Do women who work feel this struggle also? Is it control or is it a struggle to feel valued? 

I don't have all the answers yet. But, I know that God is calling me to be my husband's helpmate. And if Gibbs doesn't think my pushing/nagging is helping.... well I guess I might want to reconsider how I demonstrate my love and respect for him. Maybe while I'm re-learning respect for my husband,  I'll learn a little something about how trustworthy God's Word is.