Tuesday, February 27, 2018

5 Years

She didn't once tell me she didn't have time. She always said, rest a bit, come and sit with me awhile. She would drop whatever she was doing and take time to look me in the eyes and connect with me. She once said she would sit with me all day and she did.

I was ill when I 14,  and I thrashed in pain at night. My legs hurt constantly. She sat with me, made sure I had heat packs and sang over me. She read the Bible to me. She prayed over me. She advocated for adult muscle relaxers and pain meds knowing the risk of addiction was high. She knew what I needed to get the pain under control.

Two months later, she had me off the pain meds and muscle relaxers she brought me 3 days a week to physical therapy and promised me that I would be ready to go to school in September. She said I would be going to school without canes or a walker. She believed it was possible when I did not.

My mom taught me about faith, perseverance and strength. She taught me about advocating on my own behalf and being a woman of my word. She taught me what I needed do know to be a wife, a mom, a woman in this crazy world. She loved me. Encouraged me and desired to see me succeed. But mostly she loved me.

Our mom passed away 5 years ago today. Not a day passes that I don't think of her and smile. She was a warrior mom. And I too, hope to be like her someday. 💜

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Zach is 15

Our son Zach turned 15 on February 17, 2018 and I can hardly believe it.  This amazing man size child has grown into a mighty gentle giant and he is nothing short of amazing.

Many parents of 15 year old's are dealing with driver's permits, school dances, navigating friendships and relationships with the opposite sex, sports and activities.  They are concerned about their teenage children being exposed to drugs and alcohol, about bullying and the possible damaging effects of social media exposure. Sometimes it is a time of mourning the loss of a child as they grow into a young adult and learn to explore the world around them. The days of needing to be ever present now just turn into chauffeuring children around town from one thing to the next. Soon, these teens will apply for colleges and before you know it, they will be moving out of the house and starting their lives as adults.

Zach has Autism, and his life is very different than that of most typical teens. Zach's biggest concerns daily are if small children will cry at the library.  If his ipad will run out of battery when he is watching Sports Center or Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader. If he will get popcorn right away after dinner or closer to bedtime.  Zach will not be able to ever drive a car, he will not live on his own, and he will never get married. These are not sad things for me as a parent, more of a reality for our amazing son.

Zach is home from school every day by 3:30, which means, I need to be home from work every day before then to unlock the door, as knocking and waiting and not knowing if I am home stresses him out.  Zach wants dinner every night and is absolutely starving before 5:30 which means, I often start meal prep at around 4 pm. He wants to ensure that I don't forget to pack his backpack for the next day so he gathers backpacks and winter gear and assists with visual prompts to make sure I stop whatever I am doing and pack said backpack.
Zach wants his shower done by 7:30 each evening so that he can draw and play a bit before his 8 pm bedtime.

Our evenings together after school are often structured, yet simple. He will want to watch the Fox 9 evening news at 5 to find out who the meteorologist is, and possibly at 5:30 if Randy and Amy are on.  He will want to cuddle and read or talk about what will happen the next day. He will often want to hang out with dad right before bed and make sure that the door is slammed shut about a million times. (Pretending to slam and changing the air pressure in the room. The rush of air delights him.)

When Zach graduates from typical high school at the age of 18, he is then able to continue on until age 21 in the Star Program for kids with special needs. Josh and I would like to keep Zach for as long as possible with us in our home. We know that his care needs will be great as he can never be left alone except for when he sleeps. We know that we will need to make plans for Zach and continue working on financial planning for his future care.

Knowing all of this, what does the future look like? It looks like a whole lot of the same of what we are experiencing now.  Hugs and laughter, and silliness and structure and boring meal requests, and cuddles and reading the same books over and over again and watching the same shows time and time again.  ---I have been gifted with an eternal child.  A child that will not mature mentally, only physically. I will always have that child who will pause for Blue's Clues, Dora and Sesame Street. That child who isn't afraid to sing at the top of his lungs or dancing until he can't dance any longer in a public setting. Zach will continue seeking attention from Josh and I and hurrahs each time he makes a basket. He will seek affirmation that he is an amazing artist each time he comes up with a new marker drawn creation.  He will want his neck and head rubbed by me and pressure on his arms and hands from dad.  These amazing things will never cease.

Most teens doubt the amazingness of their parents. They think they are boring, old, and clueless. Zach will never think that of me. He will always ask me for help because I am the problem solver. He will always want my attention because I exclaim loudly and have the best facial expression responses. Zach will always need the comfort from Josh and I because it is firm, true, constant, and never changing. I will never be old to Zach as age is mystery to him.

Today, I am grateful, thankful and truly blessed for this amazing kid that I have the privilege of  calling my son. God deemed me strong enough, courageous enough and able to be Zach's mom. And I never plan on disappointing Him.

Happy Birthday to my son, Zachary Eric Gavin. 15 never looked so good.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Little 1-2-3 Magic and Whole Lotta Jesus

One would think that after 15 years, I would have this parenting thing down pat.  I haven't even mastered adulting yet.  Every single day, parenting is something that challenges me.  My children love doing the exact opposite of what I request, feel the need to argue about everything, and are as lazy as the day is long. The latest installment of Let's See How Long It Takes Mom to Loose Her Mind happened this morning.

I told Lily (11) last evening she needed to take a shower. She guffawed at me with such an extreme eye roll, I thought her neck was going to become unhinged. She said she just took a shower that morning and she was fine. I reminded her that she wasn't going to have to the chance to take a shower this morning because she had to use that time before school to study for her spelling test. 6:25am rolls around and Lily comes bolting into my bathroom and appears to be preparing to jump in the shower.

Me: Lily, you are not taking a shower. Remember, last evening when I said you needed to take a shower because you wouldn't have the chance to this morning because you needed this time to study for your test?!

Lily: (Avoiding eye contact , she reaches inside the shower and turns the water on.)  Oh I know. It is early, and I am taking a shower.

Me: Lily, you are doing the exact opposite of what we talked about and doing whatever you want rather than obeying me.

Lily: Watch, fastest shower of my life. (She jumps into a freezing cold shower, screams because of the temperature and acts like her defiance means nothing. As if the barrier of the shower door redeems her.)

I stand there stupefied and irritated starring at the shower door as she begins to get used to the artic water, and starts singing the song First by Lauren Daigle.

This child. This child I love, this child I prayed for for years!  How dare she oppose me. How dare she think that she can do what I have asked her not to and get away with it. Where in all of her 11 years did she find the guts to do what she does and not worry about any ramifications whatsoever?  And then it hits me. She is totally my daughter.

I am resistant, defiant and uncooperative and that is all on a good day!  The reason my daughter's behavior bothers me so much, in all truth, is because, she is exactly like me!  Every single word that bugs me, every single mannerism that makes my blood boil, every single assertion of her will are all things that I do or characteristics that I possess.

When I am falling apart and praying over my children as they sleep, I feel that God has said to me,  "I have given you Lily. She is exactly like you. It is going to be hard, but most of the time, it is going to amazing.  You will find that she is a sponge and wants to learn everything at lightening pace. She will test you and make you grow as a person and as a mother. She will enable you to learn everything you didn't learn in school because of the hours you will spend working on homework together. She will break your heart, but more times than not, she will make your heart soar. She will covet your prayers and seek you out to ask the hard questions. Most days you feel ill equipped. But I have entrusted My Child to you as parent. Love her, teach her, guide her. Speak truth to her constantly and share My Word with her daily. Enable her to grow into a young woman who values her identity in Christ over her identity in the world. Challenge her to try harder and do things that aren't comfortable.  Show her that it is her character that matters more than all the knowledge in the world.  Teach her to be kind and encouraging, caring and compassionate. Teach her to love and give when she may not receive anything in return.  Love her deeply, even when you feel like you have nothing left.  But turn to Me. Rely on Me. Rest in Me. Because I have never asked you to parent the children that I have entrusted to you alone. I will be there every step of the way. I will walk with you when your mom heart breaks and rejoice with you in times of triumph.  But not a day will go by, when you will need to rely on your own knowledge, your own resources to fight this battle. I am by your side. Your constant companion. Your Savior and Guide."

Often, when my breathing has calmed, I am then able to approach thankfulness. I am able to thank God for difficult mornings and for sass that threatens tongues to fall out. But when I struggle, I can then revert to a tried and true method.

When the kids were little, I read a book called 1-2-3 Magic! It is about counting to three to enable your child to respond to your requests and understand urgency and expected time frame. It worked wonders with both my kids and I was amazed that I often only had to say the number 1, and my kids would respond immediately.

As my kids have grown, I have changed 1-2-3 Magic into something that will benefit me. I now count to three before I respond.  If they aren't listening, if the sassing starts, if they are arguing, I pause, count to 3 silently and then proceed. By counting to three it enables me me not lash out, not to yell as much and I actually think my silence is something to be feared. I believe my kids expect an immediate response from me. And when I don't respond, they take a moment to calm down also.  (Plus, a little fear, a little reverence, never hurt a parent!) 

Will our morning challenges miraculously cease? All the counting in the world couldn't make that happen. But I can be more patient. I can rely on God and not my own strength.  I can count to 3, and when that fails, I can count to 10.  And I can love my kids and parent them the way God wants me to.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day and I Am Not Feeling It

I have been married for a ridiculous amount of time. Like I don't really remember what it is like to not be married.  The day before I turned 20 I said I Do. We will be celebrating 23 this years this June. Sometimes when I share with friends, younger friends, how long we have been married, they often respond with WOW! That is a long time!  Oh my gosh! Amazing!  And I thought 15 years was long time!

I started thinking about why the reaction to 23 years is often disbelief, astonishing, or something they have never heard was possible.  The average American marriage lasts 27 years.  Actually, much less the younger couples are married.  Most people are used to 2nd and 3rd marriages by the time the age of 50 rolls around.  So very sad when someone thinks 10 years was good go at it.

Marriage is an interesting, challenging, amazing, heartbreaking, adventure and journey.  Some days, you cry from happiness and others you cry in despair.  I am often asked about how we make it work.  I have 5 solid answers.

1. Always say I love you back.
2.  Hug longer than you want to.
3. Spend time in prayer together. Often. Daily.
4. Fight Fair. Never bring up the past. Forgive Daily.
5.  Remember why you fell in love.

I once shared my list with a young woman who was really struggling to love her husband well. She rattled off a long laundry list of grievances, failures and disappointments.  I waited for her to wind down and said, "Is that it?!  That's nothing!"  I caught her off guard.  Reminded her that she wasn't perfect and that she was forgetting pretty much everything we just talked about.

If he says I love you, don't withhold your words of love.  I love you.  But do not add a condition such as I love you, but I am really upset you don't help me more around the house.  Or sure, ditto.  You want to feel loved, so does your husband. Say the words.  Because truthfully,  there is always something to love about your husband.  It might just be his new haircut.  But it is something that you love.

Hug. Embrace. Hug tighter and longer than necessary.  Because those hugs can life giving, an infusion to a weary soul. His days are just as difficult as yours.  Be a physical refuge for each other at the end of each day.

When I say pray together, I mean PRAY TOGETHER. Get on your knees. Pray for each other, for your marriage, for your children, for your extended families, for your jobs and coworkers, for your finances, for your relationships with the Lord.  The point is to just pray.  Sure, if you haven't done this from the beginning, it can be very awkward. But why not be awkward together?! You don't have to have the right words.  Just make a plan to get before the Savior and PRAY. God can do a mighty work in marriages.  Restore. Refresh and Rejuvenate.

YOU ALWAYS DO THAT WRONG!  Why do you always give up so easy? It has never worked for you before, why do you think it will work now.  You can't cook, you failed me, you suck at being a partner!  Whoa. Wait a minute. When in the history of wanting a partner to change has a partner changed when you have demeaned them, brought up the past and used hurtful language?  I don't care if your partner is the biggest hot mess in the world. Forgive daily. Forgive often. Just forgive. Chances are, you have been a mess to live with too and could stand a bit of personal forgiveness.  When you hold onto that list of past grievances so tightly, you have gained nothing but a whole lot of bitterness and regret. Let it go quickly.

When did you fall in love? Where did you meet? What was your first date like? Who said I love you first? How did the proposal play out? What have been the 5 greatest joys that you have experienced together? When you spend time on your own and together remembering how you fell in love, the fact that the garbage didn't get taken out last night, or the bedroom door squeaks, or you are a horrible cook all just seems a bit more trivial.

No, my 5 point list won't fix everything. Some marriages where true hurt and heartache have taken up permanent residence, need more help and resources than what the two of you possess.  Know when to pull in the professionals. Seek help, and seek help sooner than later.

Today, when it is Valentine's Day, I woke up and I just wasn't feeling it. I had slept maybe 4 hours last night, struggled my way through two tough clients today and only wanted to take a 20 minute nap that never happened. But when I was ready to change my attitude, I got up, cooked an amazing dinner of stuffed peppers, scalloped potatoes and Caesar salad. I washed my face, spent some time and prayer and resolved to change my attitude. Tonight, after the kids go to bed, I plan on sitting face to face with my husband.  I plan on telling him why I love him. Why I have loved him all these years. I will relive adventures and vacations and times we have laughed until it hurt.  I will tell him each thing that he does that I am thankful for. I will hug him tighter and longer than necessary.  I will not do all of this because it is Valentine's Day.  I will do it because I am excited to see where the next 23 years takes us.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

First Game of Hide and Seek

I am a crying heap of messy joy filled tears this evening. Lily, our 11 year old daughter was a bundle of ridiculous energy when she got home from school today. I could hardly entertain her enough.  We moved from homework to dinner to doll house to books to the longest bath ever. When she finished we searched for curlers and couldn't find them so I combed her hair all the way through and promised a pretty braid before school in the morning. She helped me put away a load of laundry as I helped Zach in the shower.

Zach is our 6'2" giant of 14 year old man sized child.  He overwhelms many with his large close talking personality, but many just can't help to be drawn to him. Zach has Autism and even so, loves fiercely, enjoys tight hugs and many a high fives within his treasured circle.  He was so excited about his pretzel he drew in art class today and he said he is going to attempt to draw cookies and milk tomorrow.

Lily has long believed that the days of playing with her brother have passed.  When she was tiny, it hurt her heart that her brother usually didn't want to play with her.  She came to understand that if she didn't overwhelm Zach with words and played near him, they could parallel play for hours. No, they have never really played games together or sports outside. But they do enjoy swimming together, walking together and occasionally reading together.

Tonight as I exited the bathroom after placing fresh towels I removed from a laundry basket, I heard Lily counting. "16, 17, 18, 19, 20! Ready or not here I come!" She squealed with glee as she raced into my bedroom in search of her big brother.  My heart was in my chest. The tears came quickly. She met my eye and I fell in love with the excited look on her face.  This is what she was waiting for.  This very first game of Hide and Seek. At the ages of 11 and 14, my daughter and son played Hide and Seek tonight. Over and over they took turns hiding and seeking and laughing and exclaiming, "You found me!"  I wiped tear after tear as I shared in my daughters joy.

We laughed together as we whispered.  When children are young, they often believe that if they can't see you, you can't see them. Zach still believes this.  Lily found him once in the closet with his head facing the wall under my dresses and dress pants with his long legs completely exposed in the walkway. Another time, she found him my dark master bathroom, kneeling backwards on the toilet facing the wall.  She praised him over and over. "What a good hiding place, Zach!"  "You are so good at this game!"  "I love playing Hide and Seek with Zach! Great Job!"

Lily gets it. Tonight, playing their very first game of Hide and Seek, she got it. She didn't tell him he was playing wrong, needed to find better hiding places or try to teach him new rules that he may not understand. She met him where he was at.  She knew he wanted to play, and played the game the only way he knew how. Quickly and continually praising him.

My mom heart is full. So full it could burst.  While most parents are helping their high school kids register for next years classes and activities, I am experiencing the joy of my children playing well together and enjoying each others company. And for tonight, and maybe the rest of February, that is enough for me.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Kleenex Lessons from Jethro

Seeking wisdom from all the Jethro's out there. (Moses's wise father in law who knew him so well encouraged bim and thought him that delegation would benefit him and all the Israelites.)  I came home from church to find an entire box of kleenex's resting on top of the trash can in my bathroom. Come on. That has gotta be about 5000 kleenex. The box was shredded to pieces and laying all over the floor. I do not know as of yet which child thought this would be a good idea. As in let's be destructive and wasteful but boy,  isn't my cardboard art project amazing?!? Or, oh my mom, look at this new invention, it will pay for my college tuition! So this is what I am asking, if you are a wise parent, an in law, a wise adult who is adulting at a much better rate than I am, please provide me with wise council on why these things keep happening in my home and how I should deal with it. ( please note, I deal well with snark, tomfoolery and shenanigans, not with Judgey McJudgeysons AND I am already smiling because of the silliness of it all. Because otherwise I cry, sometimes over kleenex's.)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Robert Murray McCheyne



“I fear there are some Christians among you to whom Christ cannot say ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’  Your haughty dwelling arises in the midst of thousands who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost, and yet you never darkened their door.  You heave a sigh perhaps at a distance, but you do not visit them.  Ah my dear friends, I am concerned for the poor, but more for you.  I know not what Christ will say to you on the great day.  You seem to be Christians, and yet you care not for his poor.  Oh, what a change will pass upon you as you enter the gates of heaven!  You will be saved, but that will be all.  There will be no abundant entrance for you.  ‘He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.’

And I fear that there may be many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians, because they do not love to give.  To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart.  An old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money.  Oh my friends, enjoy your money.  Make the most of it.  Give none of it away.  Enjoy it quickly, for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.”

Robert Murray McCheyne, Works (New York, 1847), II:482.

Going Back

Michael winced at the pain in his shoulder. It had started hurting by about the fifth time he put the oar in the water.  How was he goin...