Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Girl

It was almost 4 years ago now that we met our girls for the first time.  Amie was 2 ½ and had only a few words - “agua” (the girls had lived in a Spanish only speaking home for quite awhile), “no”, and “Emy”, which she called Annie, almost as if she had no identity and Annie was an extension of herself.  There was no laughter and there were no tears from this girl.  Just a pathetic little patting of the spot next to her in her bed wanting me to snuggle her.  That was all the communicating her needs that she could muster.  I wrote a post about this on her third birthday, sharing that she really had no concept of who she was, no identity, and how giving her a new name began a process of her coming into her own.  Now that I really know her, I see that she had learned really quickly that being quiet and sitting on someone’s lap had kept her safe - from her sister’s inability to control her own body, and probably from adults as well.  I remember our first walk to the park took two adults and 4 older children to keep the girls safe - Annie from running absolutely everywhere, including the street, and pulling Amie along, because she had never really walked anywhere before - I don’t think, anyway.

But this girl.  This little girl has become herself in so many ways.  She is a superhero loving, princess dress wearing, tree climbing, Taylor Swift dancing, coloring sweetheart of a girl.  In four years she has learned to talk, to walk, run, ride a bike, scooter, and skateboard.  She is a good friend.  She is a cuddler who loves to have her back scratched.  And she knows who she is.  For pajama day this week at school, she wore “boy” Spiderman jammies and owned them so much no one even questioned it, while all the other girls had pink.  She rocks her Star Wars vans, while wearing bows in her hair.  She can rival any boy her age in the tree climbing, soccer ball kicking, basketball shooting categories.  

She no longer allows Annie to take her sensory needs out on her - she defends herself AND uses her words.  She asks for what she needs.  She laughs and she cries, and throws temper tantrums on occasion.  And I’m okay with that, because she feels safe enough now to do the developmental things she should have felt safe to do when she was two.

Yesterday, she won third place in a coloring contest.  (Which, by the way, is huge for a FASD kid, they usually are a number of years behind in development, so for her to “be in step” with her fine motor skills to kids of all ages is incredible).  Today was Superhero day at school, so today was basically, for her, the BEST DAY EVER, because she gets to share her accomplishment by showing her class the stuffed spider she won yesterday in the contest AND wear a Wonder Woman costume.  She walked onto that playground this morning with the biggest smile on her face, and was still grinning like crazy when I left her back at her classroom.  

I stood and watched from afar for awhile, crying happy tears at that sweet, happy little face. Because this girl.  This girl with her athletic ability, tree climbing, superhero loving, princess dress wearing, sweet loving heart, has come into her own. Her superpower? Overcoming incredible obstacles and blooming into one amazing little person who has our hearts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This Book Saved My Marriage

10 years ago, my life had fallen apart.  Brent and I had been separated for 6 months, which meant no more full-time ministry, losing friendships, and selling our beautiful home.  The loss was great, the heartache was intense, the grief nearly unbearable.

Then God placed the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian in my hands.  Not a book I was too excited about reading at the moment, let me tell you.  I was weary, hurting, and beginning to lose hope.  But I decided to obey.

Starting October 1, 2004, I began reading, a chapter a day, each chapter with a prayer at the end.  The first prayer was for my husband’s wife.  Ahem.  I thought this was a “change all the things I think are wrong with him right now” book. Nope.  It started with me.  Prayers that God would change MY heart, MY attitude, MY commitment.  And it worked.  

That month of prayers changed my life, and eventually, with a lot of hard work and forgiveness on both our ends, our marriage.  On October 1, we were barely speaking.  By October 31 we were bringing Caleb to a church harvest carnival together and agreeing to go to counseling.  By November we were in counseling, and by August of 2005, after 17 months of separation, we were reunited as husband and wife.  This last August, we celebrated 19 years of marriage.

I still read the prayers in that book almost every day.  One a day for 10 years.  After that first month, I added in Stormie's book, The Power of a Praying Parent, and have read a prayer a day in that book faithfully for ten years as well.  The prayers in the book are not a replacement for an intimate conversation with God, but rather a guide for how to pray for my husband and my kids, and I have seen God work in amazing ways through them!

Every time I cycle through the prayers again, I can see how they were answered specifically that last month, that last year, over the last DECADE!  They are constant reminders of me humbling myself and entrusting my life and our family to the Lord, and of how He is So. Very. Faithful.  Every prayer in those books has been answered in a tangible way.  Every one.  Prayers for friends, teachers, relationships, health, career, fears, family, relationships with God.  

Prayer, my friends, works.  When we sit down at the feet of Jesus submitting to His will, asking for His help, He answers, and it is beautiful.  Sometimes it is as simple as a little temper tantrum problem with a toddler, and sometimes it is a miracle in a marriage.  God cares about it all, and will work in it all when we ask Him.  Have a marriage that needs saving? It starts with you, God, prayer, and trust that He will do what He promises!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are You Still My Mom?

Today was rough.  Not the worst we’ve ever had, and not entirely unusual, but worse than it’s been in awhile.

From school pick up at 2pm ‘til I put them to bed at 7:30, it was CHAOS.  This is an incomplete recap of our afternoon and evening.  Yes, yes, there was more.

2:30-5pm Temper tantrum, wailing and gnashing of teeth (literally), rending of bedding, “I’m getting a new family,”  “I want a new mom,” (one kid), while the other was talking incessantly about two new friends she made at school in between getting upset about the other one being upset and responding with verbal abuse to said other child.  Temper tantrum regarding the fact that I let sister play with old (not connected) iPhone while she played with BRAND NEW KINDLE FIRE she owns because she won it in a library raffle.   Said electronics were confiscated for the evening. It was a downward spiral from there.

5-7:30pm.  More crying, fighting, bickering.  “Can we go play with our new bouncy balls in the field behind the house?”  Yes, please.  Stay where you can see our house.  Husband walks in door from 12 hours at work at almond harvest, to eat dinner and leave again, and I turn around and they are out of sight.  I run out into the 30 ACRE  field.  Nowhere to be found.  I hear a blood curdling scream, still can’t see anyone.  After screaming their names myself, I see Annie running to me, “Amie’s stuck”.  I run down our row of houses backing up to the field, to what would be the OTHER END OF THE BLOCK and there is Amie, holding onto a fence crying and screaming like a banshee because HER SHOE IS IN SOMEONE’S BACKYARD.  I retrieve shoe.  I retrieve children and dog and dolls and bouncy balls.

Walk back.  Tell girls to play in back yard.  Feed husband.  Try to talk to husband. “I want water.”  “You can wait.  I’m trying to talk to Dad.”  Look out the window.  She is filling a cup of water from the pool.  I decide I don’t care.  Until she drops said cup and decides to stick her head UNDER THE POOL COVER to try to grab the cup.  Fails.  Decides WHAT THE HELL and throws 3 cups, a plate full of paint from painting earlier (I won’t say how many days earlier), a fairy house from painting unnamed days earlier, and a chair.  Literally all in one minute.  I head out and make her clean it all up.  Walk back in, husband has finished food and is gone.

I had actually been a trouper to this point.  Used my “don’t mess with mommy” voice, but didn’t yell, didn’t spank, held at appropriate times, and held firm at appropriate times.  But this time, I cry.

I tried to explain that their bad choices literally took the 5 minutes we had with Daddy today away from us, and that our tired Daddy came home for a little rest and food, and got CHAOS.  Annie, “I’m sorry, Mommy.”  Amie, “Are you still my mom?”


Are you still my mom.  She knew it was a rough day.  She knew she had crossed several lines, and her fear was if she was still mine.

In my tears, I got down on her level and looked straight in her eyes and with everything in me, said, “Yes, yes, yes.  I am and will always and forever be your mom.  No matter what you say to me, no matter what you do, I am your mom.  I chose you.  YOU ARE MINE.”  Annie wanted forgiveness, but Amie wanted to know her place in my heart was secure.

Wearily, I got them both to bed.  (T shirts and dirty faces and tangled hair and no brushing of teeth this night and I don’t care.)  I did threaten big trouble if there were any nighttime wanderings.  I don’t think I could be held accountable for what I may do if I were to have to parent any more.  I made myself a stiff drink (don’t judge) and sat by the pool in the cool of the evening.  Out came the stars, and right in front of me, the Big Dipper.

I have looked out at that constellation many an evening - particularly when we lived in Washington, I would go out on our balcony each night and look at it a few minutes while listening to the frogs sing in the creek nearby.  It always makes me ponder God’s greatness, His bigness, and His faithfulness.  It’s always there.  He’s always there.

As I looked this night at the Big Dipper so large, so close, framed by the perimeter of our fenced back yard, I thought of Chris Tomlin’s song, “You are Amazing, God”. He sings, “You placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name, you are amazing, God”.  I was reminded again of God’s great love, and God’s great faithfulness to me.  He is bigger than behavioral problems.  He is bigger than chairs in the pool and messes on the floor, and dinner thrown in the trash.  He loves me and has chosen me and I will always be His.  He is faithful to me in this calling he has placed on me to be these children's mommy.  He is faithful to them, to call them to a higher purpose, and to love them as they are.  He chose them, literally pulled them out of the muck and mire of their former homes and gave them a firm place to stand with Him and with us.

And maybe, as I parent them, in a day like to today, and with all my heart can say, “Yes, yes, yes, I am your mommy forever no matter what!”, I will be able to help them get a glimpse of God’s faithfulness, His everlasting love, and their eternal belonging to them.  His choosing of them.  That, my friends, will make it all worth it.  For now, I’ll be happy if they sleep all night.  I’m off to do laundry and bed, and love them more tomorrow.