Saying Goodbye to 2013

As I reflect over 2013, it has truly been full of trials and triumphs.  Last year seemed to be a year of blessing, but this year things went a little deeper.  I can see that the Lord has been moving, and it’s exciting, making me eager to see what He has in store for the future.

There are so many things to celebrate and be thankful for.  Some of them (in no particular order):

  • William!
  • Gabriel learned to communicate and speak, and is starting to catch up developmentally
  • Michael began experience sharing for the first time and is finally starting to emotionally relate to his family
  • Nate got a raise that was promised to him for three years at his job
  • I learned a lot about my health this year and made steps towards improvement, including getting rid of depression
  • I’m adjusting to running a house with three kids
  • Most importantly, my relationship with God went deeper than it ever has before

Each of these triumphs didn’t just happen.  They were born out of struggle, hard work, tears, and prayer, and for that they are all the more appreciated.  I feel like for the first time in years I’m maturing in my faith, and all the credit and glory goes to God.  He put the right people and right information into my life at the right times.  He has been teaching me to pray and giving me words in season.  I’m getting a taste of how sustaining faith can be, and it’s making me hungry for more.

I want to say thank you to God and to all of you, for encouraging me, praying for me, and walking beside me.  I couldn’t ask for better friends or a better family.  I pray that you too will see the hand of God in your lives as you look over this past year, and may it fill you with hope and excitement for 2014.

Letting Go

I feel like God is having me let go of my expectations more and more.  We go through life with these preconceived ideas of what parenting is going to be like (or how smoothly a Christmas holiday should go!).  When my expectations don’t come true, I struggle and push and try to make them happen.  I can get frustrated and even angry because things don’t turn out the way I think they should.  It feels like the last two months have been one failed expectation after another.  I’ve noticed I’m complaining a lot again, worrying why things aren’t turning out in certain ways.

God’s been having to reach in again, reminding me He has me where He wants me.  It helps because I know I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else except His will.  Sometimes it’s hard to let go, to mourn dreams you have to put down, but doing so frees me to embrace what God has given me in my moment.  Living with gratitude is much more liberating.  I feel like God is having to teach me this one over and over and over again.

I truly did enjoy seeing family over the holidays.  We probably did overwhelm the children however.  We did two trips over five days to see both sides of our family, and we’re having a rough re-entry.  Michael has insomnia again, and Gabriel and William are fighting strep.  It’s good to be home and just try to settle in and get everyone relaxed and re-acclimated and healthy.  I have some good memories to hang on to, and I learned some lessons about how to help things go a little smoother next year.  (All I can say is thank God for portable, inflatable trampolines!)

Here’s a funny family photo my aunt took of us at our annual Christmas Death By Chocolate event.  I married into a totally awesome, fun family.

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I hope you all had lots of fun with your families over Christmas as well.  I’m looking forward to 2014 now!

One Step At A time

Nate and Michael muscled through this weekend spectacularly.  After 4 months of rehearsals, Michael was in his second Christmas pageant, this time as a little toy soldier.  I have to be honest, I didn’t think he could do it.  He’s been receding away from us more and more the last few days, and I wasn’t sure he had a double header performance in him, but Nate was beside him the whole time, helping him focus and comforting him when he got overwhelmed, and they made it!

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Nate made sure to treat him to a box of McDonald’s french fries as a reward afterwards.  Michael’s favorite!!

It’s going to be a hard week.  I’ve always loved and looked forward to Christmas, but this year it will be difficult.  Michael needs quiet right now, not a series of parties and family gatherings, and we need a lot of prayer and wisdom to help us navigate, strategize, and plan the smoothest way through this.  And just to keep things more interesting, Gabriel’s got a cold.  I have two very happy fellows on my hands!

To ease the pain, their Christmas present arrived early this year.  A ball pit from their grandparents!  it’s really helped them relax and unwind!  I’m so grateful.

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If you think of us, we need prayer this week.  Here’s hoping you have a wonderful and stress free Christmas week!

A New Front

It’s a sad fact that parents of children with special needs are much more likely to get divorced or go bankrupt.  I’m not sure of the current exact number, but it’s really high.  I think they’re about ten times more likely.  (**edit – A friend of mine, just sent me the number, the divorce rate is 75-85%)  But it’s even more than that.  Ninety percent of families with children like these can’t even do something as simple as go to church, because it’s too hard.  The ridiculous amounts of stress and financial burden coupled with the sleep deprivation make folks want to go crazy, and looking for an escape hatch is understandably tempting.  The parents’ relationship disintegrates, not because they don’t want to maintain it, but because simply, at the end of the day, there’s nothing left.

We have been incredibly blessed beyond belief when I look at other families.  While Michael’s and Gabriel’s medical costs may seem high to us, they’re a drop in the bucket of what other families spend.  Desperate parents mortgage entire homes in hopes of finding a treatment that will help their child.  Our family loves and supports us and embraces our children and their idiosyncrasies, other extended families are often not so understanding, accusing parents of making things up or simply abandoning them if the strain is too great.  Even churches are guilty of ostracizing families in need, asking parents not to return if their child is too violent or high maintenance.  God has filled our church with people who have a heart for those in need of extra help, going out of their way to serve children who need extra love and parents who just need a break.

Despite all that, it’s still hard.  It’s still up to us to deal with whatever nightmare is happening with our kids in the middle of the night.  It’s still up to us to deal with the screaming and the flailing in public places.  The extreme amounts of emotion and energy that fill our house at all hours of the day and night is incredibly draining, and there’s no hiding from it.

And so I too, am guilty of looking at Nate at the end of the day and saying there’s nothing left.  I just want to sleep and hide under the blankets for whatever precious time I’m lucky to get at night, sometimes scared, because I know the same thing is waiting for me the next day.  It’s not that extreme all the time, but it happens way more often than I’d like.

Marriage maintenance is hard under any circumstances and feels downright impossible in others.  I find that I pray for my children a lot, but not as much for Nate or our relationship.  I think it’s time to change that.  But even though I haven’t defended this particular area as well as I should, God has still preserved us.  I’d say we’re doing better than ever because the pressure is making us stronger.  We have our moments, just like every one else, but a lot of them can be solved by a good nap.  I’ve realized that we fight each other less because we have to fight so much together.  It was a neat analogy I found in Jon and Stacy Eldredge’s marriage book Love and War (great book by the way, everyone could benefit from reading it).  If you’re partnered together in some terrific cause, fighting to advance good and God’s kingdom, you’re much less likely to see your spouse as the enemy.  Nate’s been my partner in helping raise our kids, and while that can strain our relationship in some ways, it makes us stronger in so many others.

It’s time for me to start battle on a new front and cover our marriage in prayer.  I want it to be the best is can, no matter what trials happen in the every day.

Nate, I know you’re too busy being a dad and working two jobs to read my blog, but I love you and appreciate you as the blessing from God you are, and I’m going to be praying more for you and for us.

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Getting Back On The Horse

It seems as though last week’s craziness spilled into this week too.  But I see the light at the end of the tunnel!  I finished off my last business project and delivered it yesterday, and we celebrated my dad’s birthday last night.  Three projects, Thanksgiving, and four birthdays down!  Only one birthday and Christmas left!

It’s been a rough ride.  I don’t do sleep deprivation well.  The days of staying up late, falling asleep at the computer, and waking all throughout the night by restless children are a living nightmare for me.  Well, I hope to celebrate the end of my working days by going to bed at a decent hour tonight.  We got the baby an amber necklace for his teething (these are awesome, by the way!), and he’s sleeping better too, so a little extra rest seems within reach.

As I was coming out of this hazy fog of computer projects and no sleep, I realized that I really missed my quiet morning times, and it totally affected the rest of my day.  I had been getting up early, reading my Bible, praying over my day, and then blogging about it.  The writing had really helped solidify my thoughts.  Then we had the last few weeks of working till my body couldn’t take it anymore, and then sleeping in until crying, hungry children woke me (that’s a pleasant way to wake up, let me tell you).  I missed these quiet times, and the habits that I had just started to develop withered away very quickly.  I became that exhausted, cranky person that I really hate being.  You know, the annoying one that complains to my husband a lot.

I miss reading my Bible and receiving a word that carries me through the chaos of my day.  I want that strength back.  I’ve had a taste of victory, and now I need more.  I thank God that He is gracious and forgiving, and always waiting for me to come back to Him.  I’m ready to get back on the horse.

Surviving Hell Week

That’s really what it felt like.  Between the stress of extra responsibilities and the sleep deprivation, last week was a pretty spectacular pressure cooker.  Nate had to cram a 60 hour education course in 5 days and complete a large portion of a big project for our side business.  I had to get through my one big job of the year myself, and William grew about four teeth.

I don’t remember much of last week.  I think we were sort of on autopilot/survival mode.  I dozed off at the computer a lot, trying to get my projects done, but we made it!  God was very good.  In hindsight, He really took good care of us.  We didn’t get sick, which is something that happens to me with the huge amounts of stress and small amounts of sleep.  Michael slowly learned over the course of the week how to handle having Nate at home but not able to play with him.  Nate was blessed by his office with a special paid vacation that we will try to enjoy next year as a thank you for going above and beyond at work.  We officially started our new consulting services for Michael’s Asperger’s on a full scholarship.  And our folks helped us out with babysitting and driving to therapy so I could finish my work.  It was a bruiser of a week, and I don’t want to do it again any time soon, but Nate and I realized at the end of the week that our relationship seems to be getting stronger because of all the stuff we have to deal with in life, particularly lately, and we’ve learned some time management lessons too.

So thank you to everyone who was praying for us and helped us out.  We’re back!

Surviving Boot Camp

It’s been a rough couple of months on this end.  Right now, we’re all just trying to survive.  I hope it turns around soon because I’d really like to just enjoy Christmas instead of being super stressed about life, but we’ll see how things play out.

In a nutshell, Nate and I have both gotten sick and gotten better from colds, plus we both have several projects for our side business we’re trying to finish before Christmas comes.  Nate is also taking an online course this week that runs from 8AM to 8PM all five working days, so that’s turning out to be not so fun.  It’s been rough for the kids because they know he’s home and in his office and they really want to see him, but he can’t come out all that often, and it makes them sad and upset.  Michael got WAY too overstimulated between Thanksgiving and his birthday and really slipped away from us.  He’s going through some crazy emotional cycles, stimming lots more, craving loads of sensory input, and wandering around the house listlessly and moaning.  He doesn’t want to do anything but watch TV, and he falls apart at the drop of a hat.  He screamed for 20 minutes last night because we couldn’t find his flashlight (don’t mess with the bed time routine, am I right, folks?).  William’s so cranky from teething that he can’t be set down for more than a few minutes at a time and he cries almost constantly.  Gabriel’s really feeling like the middle child from all this and has been acting out for his share of attention, and to top it all off, Michael’s insomnia came back, and he’s been sure to wake up Gabriel in the middle of the night when he feels like playing.

So everyone’s got a thing right now.  I’m really trying hard not to complain and just plow through, but it’s getting hard.  It’s mostly the sleep deprivation that I can’t handle.  I am at such a crazy level of exhaustion that I slept in the car in the school parking lot yesterday while waiting for Michael to have his therapy session.  I’m really trying hard to remember all these things God has been teaching me lately.  I’m trying hard to pray and not fall apart.  It’s a rough patch, and I get that we all go through them and it can’t last forever.  I know this is my boot camp for practicing peace and patience, but lately my stomach starts to hurt every time I hear one of my kids cry.  If God’s using this time to prepare me for something in my future, that something is going to be a doozy! 🙂

Right now, it’s all about prayer and survival.  I’m sure later on, I’ll be able to look back and figure out how we made it through and see the hand of God providing what we need, but as for this moment it’s all hands on deck while we weather the storm.  If you think of us, please pray for us, and if I miss a post here or there, I probably fell asleep holding a baby somewhere.

One Small Victory

So.  Wednesday.  The day I prayed for love, peace, and patience.

We were doing OK.  It was a busy day, but I had a plan and prayed over my day.  I felt good about it.  I cleaned up the house a bit, and took Gabriel to have his staples removed.  It went incredibly well, he only had one short protest at the very end, but he is staple free, and I’m so happy that he is healing nicely.  I got home and got the kids settled so I could start the next part of my to do list for the afternoon.

It started about ten minutes later.  I found Michael in the playroom, half naked, legs covered in poop and feces wiped on the floor and furniture.  Not tons (I’ve seen worse), but enough to put a dark cloud on my day.  We’ve done this before.  Michael’s slowly regressing again, and one of the demons I have to deal with during this time is fecal smearing.  I can deal with lots of stuff, but this one really sucks the life out of me.  I get angry and frustrated, and it puts me in a dark mood.  It’s also depressing because I keep thinking this is something we’ve overcome and don’t have to deal with anymore, but it keeps popping up its ugly head periodically.

I felt myself slipping.  I was getting mad at Michael because even though he can’t help it, he’s impossible to deal with when he gets like this.  He always laughs, spreads the mess further, and runs away when I try to wash him.  I was getting frustrated with the situation because it’s just so much fun keeping the kids out of their playroom while I’m trying to clean it up (Gabriel was quite persistent in the call to be let out from his crib).  I phoned Nate, because I wanted to whine and complain.  I truly, truly hate it when this happens.

Then all your and my prayers kicked in, and I saw what was happening.  God showed me how I was reacting before I got full blown crazy.  This was my time to do battle.  I turned on some worship music and started to pray.  I prayed for myself and recited the Scriptures God has been giving me on love and patience.  I prayed for Michael while I cleaned up his mess.  I encouraged myself while listening to the music.  And even though the situation was still the same, it was better because this time I knew I was winning.  I didn’t instantly become this super calm saint.  I still wasn’t loving the moment I was in.  The kids were a little too interested in what I was doing for my comfort.  But there was definitely a small bit of patience and peace there that normally wouldn’t have been in me.  God was taking me out of my point of view and showing me the eternal value of that ordeal.

It was a small victory, but I’ll take it.  It’s been one of the first times I’ve realized what was happening during the situation instead of afterwards.  It’s a start.  I know I’m going to need lots of practice at this, but God is good, and He’s answering my prayers to make me into the woman He wants me to be.  I’m willing to tough it out and keep doing battle because He is willing to do the same for me.

Keep standing.  Keep fighting.  May your day hold victory for you.

Just Passing Through

It was a crazy day yesterday, and it’s a crazy day today.  I just have a moment to thank you all for your prayers.  Gabriel’s staple removal went awesomely, totally a miracle.  He seemed barely bothered by it.  The doctor says he’s healing nicely and can return to his active lifestyle.

Will update more later.  Love you all!