Sleep Is Not Refreshing

I’ve been reading through Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan to my kids.  We do a few pages at the breakfast table in the mornings.  I know they’re young, but I’m hoping to go through it several times over the coming years, and I pray that the spiritual truths will slowly sink into their hearts.  In the meantime, they’re captivated by an exciting story like I was at their age.

I just pulled out a fascinating little nugget from this story for myself that I wanted to share.  For those of you not familiar with this story, it is a beautiful allegory of our Christian walk with the Lord, depicted through the tale of a man named Christian who takes a journey from his City of Destruction to Mount Zion and of all the adventures and encounters he has along the way.

The part that really struck me a few days ago was the bit about the Hill of Difficulty.  Christian is climbing this hill, and it’s really tough going.  He has to pull himself up this mountainside on his hands and knees, and he is brutally exhausted.  On the side of the road is an arbor that God made to provide him with some rest, so he steps off the road for a moment to sit on this little bench and take a break.  He pulls out a scroll with words from Jesus that was given to him when he received his salvation and means to encourage and refresh himself a little from the hard journey.  What really happens is that he’s so worn out he falls asleep, and when he does, he drops his scroll under the bench.  He wakes up several hours later, in horror that he’s slept the afternoon away, and rushes off to make it to shelter before night fall.  As he’s traveling along, he meets some men who are terrified of lions up ahead.  He wants to fight his fears with the words of Jesus but he realizes he doesn’t have his scroll anymore.  As it’s his ticket into Mount Zion, he has to go back and get it.  He retraces his steps in tears and prayers and finally finds it under the bench where he slept and repents to the Lord for falling asleep before continuing on his way.

DSCN3666

This is a photograph of an illustration from the Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress edition released by the Moody Bible Institute in 1960.

Now, as a child, I could never understand why Christian would repent for falling asleep on the bench.  I mean it was placed there for him to get a rest, and if he was tired, wasn’t a nap a good thing?  But now as an adult, I get it.  He was in a trial in his life, and it was really, really hard.  It was totally wearing him out, and he needed a moment to catch his breath before his difficulty got the better of him and he gave out in the middle of the road.  God provided a moment of rest for him, time he was supposed to use to refresh his spirit by connecting with the Lord through the word, and instead he fell asleep.  Instead of digging deeper into the Lord and finding strength for the journey ahead, he loses his focus, he stops keeping watch and drops his connection to Jesus.  And when he does wake up and remember he’s supposed to be moving forward, this forgetfulness causes him to lose time by having to retrace his steps.

How many times have I done this?  I’m so worn out by fighting my spiritual battles, by climbing my hills of difficulty, that when God gives me a breather, a few days of rest, I use it to pull away from Him, to forget everything, to forget to connect deeper to Jesus and just wander away spiritually and mentally.  Then when it’s time to resume my fight again, I’ve lost ground because I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned and need to retrace my steps again.  This was such a powerful reminder to me that just because things get a little easier for a moment, that doesn’t mean I should loosen my tenacious grip on the Lord, even for a second.  The time of peace should be used to dig in deeper and bring strength to myself through my connection with Jesus during in my quiet times.  I’m going to need that strength and that connection again when I resume my road, which always comes sooner than I expect.  It’s time to stop falling asleep.

Advertisements

Take My Yoke Upon You

In the two weeks since my last blog, it’s like I was going through some sort of test to make sure I really meant all the things I wrote.  It was fun, let me tell you.

Everybody had a thing.  Everybody.  Michael lost it due to excitement stress, full moon, and who knows what else.  Gabriel uttered the magic words “my tummy hurts” (he just finished a round of treatment for Bartonella which among other things had inflamed his stomach), William suddenly lapsed into major abdominal pain like he hadn’t experienced for over a year (as in waking up in the middle of the night screaming hysterically for long periods of time), and Caleb grew two teeth.  Oh and don’t forget we had Thanksgiving and two birthdays.

I wanted to slip back into my old ways and figure everything out, and I did  do a bit of work helping my people.  I’m Mommy, it’s what I have to do.  But it was different this time.  Even if I could do nothing else but deal with crises while chanting “God, I’m putting You first” under my breath, I tried to keep my focus on Him.  I told Him I was going to trust Him and stay in His peace whether or not my kids got better.

It was blessedly different.  Usually I get angry and frustrated because I feel like I’m losing control of everything.  By telling God it was all in His hands and relinquishing control up front, I didn’t have anything to get mad over.  And He took care of stuff.  Not everything got better, but some things did.  Miracles happened, like same-day and next-day visits were available at our doctors so we could take care of William’s pain.  Gabriel’s hurting stomach was just his way of telling me he was hungry (that kid must be in a growth spurt or something, I hear “Mommy, my tummy’s hungry” about every 20 minutes), and Michael’s unwinding slowly.  Stuff’s not great, but I’m OK, and I’m trying to keep my focus where it belongs.  Every day’s different right now, some are hard, some are a little easier, and I’m still practicing my walk, but I’m starting to understand when Jesus said,

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

It’s true.  While all the drama around me is mostly the same, it’s just a little bit easier to carry.  There’s rest and peace for the soul.

It’s just what this mama needed. 🙂

On Fighting And Letting Go

I just realized it’s nearly been a year since I last put up a post.  I’d say I don’t have enough energy to blog while I’m pregnant, except our little Caleb is now 6 months old, so I’m not sure that’s a valid excuse anymore.

It’s been an interesting year.  We’re constantly riding out ups and downs.  Very high ups and very low downs.  Everything happens in extremes around here.

I want to share something that I learned earlier this year, just before Caleb was born.  Spring was a very dark time for me.  I was in my final trimester, huge, pregnant, and in a lot of pain.  Psychologically I was a mess as well.  Not only did the end of my pregnancy seem so very far away, but Michael was not in a good place.  He had lost all of his self-control and had zero self-regulation whatsoever.  The result was a child who screamed, kicked, punched, and had meltdown after meltdown ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.  I would be down on the floor with my gigantic belly, wrestling with him to keep him from hurting someone, carrying him kicking and screaming to his bed so he could calm down.

It was hell.  I was so miserable, I just wanted everything to be different.  I wanted a child who wasn’t violent.  I wanted to not be pregnant, to not be in pain every moment of the day.  I wanted to not have to care for three very demanding boys.  It didn’t help that my husband was at the climax of a major project at work and was required to work several weekends in a row.  I felt like we didn’t see him for almost my entire 8th month of pregnancy.  I was really desperate for a change.  I researched and researched and tried to find answers for Michael’s behavior.  I spent hours in front of the computer, hours fighting with him, hours struggling emotionally and mentally.  I began to despair when potential problems were ruled out by his doctor.  I really began to sink into a depression.

At that time, I was so busy trying to fix our home life that I just couldn’t be still and wait on the Lord.  Every time a problem cropped up, I didn’t turn it into a prayer, I turned it into a research project.  I was going to find a problem that I could fix!  I just needed to be able to make things better.  God had been gently reminding me through various means that I needed to put Him first, but I just couldn’t figure out what that looked like when it seemed like my little guys were tearing the house down right on top of us.

In my mothers’ Bible study and support group, a mom spoke about how she had searched for two years for a cure for her daughter’s condition and things didn’t get better until she just told the Lord she was done searching and would leave her daughter in His hands.  At first, I just disregarded her story.  It sounded like the attitude of someone who had given up.  How could a mother stop fighting, stop pushing for the well-being of her child?  I couldn’t see how I was being consumed by the fight for my children’s health, that it was actually an idol in my life.  It was pulling me away from God.

I hit rock bottom a few weeks later.  I had exhausted all my avenues of research.  I had hit a dead end everywhere I looked.  Michael was just as out of control as he ever was, and I had burnt myself out in my search to help him.  I finally threw myself at God.  I told Him I was done.  I was done struggling and fighting because I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I was too tired.  I repented for not turning to Him first in my time of trouble.  I asked Him to show me what putting Him first in my life looked like.  And I asked Him to give me the grace to accept Michael’s health, no matter what it was.

I spent the next few weeks focusing on God instead of on my kids’ issues.  I tried to put Him first in my day and keep Him in the forefront of my mind at all times.  It was hard, it was discipline.  It was new to me, but I prayed and asked God to give me the strength and show me how.

And then it happened.  Michael calmed down.  For no earthly explainable reason.  Weeks before Caleb was born, Michael became a different child.  He found his self-regulation again.  The violence was over.  I didn’t have to wrestle and restrain him or shield my belly from his attacks.  It really blew my mind.  God had used the situation to draw me to Him, and it was only my own blindness that made the trial last as long as it did.

I still get distracted.  Discipline is hard, it’s not very much fun.  But I’ve learned.  I sometimes fall back, but I’m quicker to recover and run back to Jesus now.  I’m learning to walk the fine line of fighting for my children, doing the hard work but still putting the final result in the Lord’s hands.

The holiday season is always a test for me.  There’s a lot more going on that usual, and it is my prayer that I keep my focus where it belongs.  And then let God handle the rest.

Since it’s been a year, I clearly owe everyone some pictures!

Me and my crew.  They’re why I do what I do.

DSCN2922

Nate has just been the most incredible, supportive husband.  He’s wonderful with the kids, and more importantly, he’s never stops patiently loving me, no matter how crazy my drama gets.  The boys just LOVE him.

Our little Caleb joined us in May.  I will admit I was terrified at first that we’d see some of the same issues we had with our other boys, but this little guy has just been terrific.  He has the sweetest disposition, and HE SLEEPS!!  He’s seriously the first baby we had that sleeps.  He’s healthy so far, and super fun.  The older boys love him.  I haven’t seen any jealousy at all, for which I am grateful.  It seems like he’s going to fit in just fine.

I’m still figuring out what life with four kids and homeschooling looks like, so I don’t know how often I will update my blog, but I like to think it’ll be more than once a year.  We’ll see! 🙂

A Day In The Life

The last couple of days have definitely been interesting.  You never know what kind of day you’re going to get with Michael.  Some days his brain and body are in sync and you’d never know he was autistic, but then you have days like today….

We started out OK, but he totally hyper-focused and colored for two hours, and I should have known I’d pay for it later.  He went nuts and overcompensated with the sensory processing disorder kicking in.  He was running everywhere, touching things compulsively, pushing his brothers, screaming, squeaking, and losing his communication and self control.  When his therapist showed up in the early afternoon, he sneaked into the cookie jar and ate six Hershey kisses while she and I were in one of the bedrooms talking.  What followed was a 45 minute meltdown which required physical manhandling.  Thank God the therapist was there, it was the first time she had seen him lose it that badly.  She showed me how to wrap my body around his to keep him from breaking free and punching me.  She also kept the other kids out of the room every time they tried to come in.  Michael really took me for a ride, screaming, crying, writhing, wrestling, and flailing with almost no breaks for three quarters of an hour.  We were finally able to talk him down (I would have never been able to do this if I was alone), but by the time we were finished, I was exhausted, shaking, and nearly crying myself.  Thank God Nate came home this evening in time to handle another meltdown because honestly, I don’t think I have another fight left in me tonight.

As I write this, I’m sitting in Gabriel and William’s room, trying to train Gabriel to stay in his bed.  He’s new to the toddler bed and he seems to enjoy keeping William up till very late and jumping into his crib and squashing him.  It’s been a very long day and there’s still a lot to get through tonight.

I have to say though that it helps to remember that this is all important.  It’s a training ground and the foundation for discipline and growth for all of them.  The hard work and effort is totally worth it, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of all the labor in the hopefully not-too-distant future.  I try to use these opportunities to hold these boys up in prayer and remember that none of this took God by surprise, and none of these experiences is wasted.

Hang tough, all of you.

Shaking Off The Heaviness

I absolutely did not mean to drop off the radar for two weeks, it just happened.  God knew though, and He prepared me by having me write that last post about fear.  Within a few hours of me finishing that piece, I found a tick embedded in Gabriel’s head.  Chronic Lyme’s Disease has affected me and my mom, so that’s something that can strike fear down in my core immediately.  By that night, Gabriel was sick and feverish with something I believe was unrelated to the tick bite, and after he spent the night in our bed because Michael was screaming and kicking the walls in their room, I was sick too.  I remained sick for the entire week and tried to conduct interviews over the phone for a new special instructor for Gabriel while coughing and trying to cover up the sounds of the complete carnage my kids were creating whenever I was on the phone.  One day they threw so many toys down the stairs while I was on the phone that Gabriel’s therapist couldn’t even make it in the house till we shoved some things aside.

This past week started off with a very disappointing meeting with the school district regarding Michael’s services for the fall.  Not only were they playing me with their attitudes, but they were pressuring me to put Michael in school, and they refused to pay for the one service he really needs while offering me multiple services I did not want him to have.  It made me so angry it actually took me a whole day of tears and mental arguments to get over it.  The intensity of my emotional reaction surprised me, and I had to remind myself that Michael’s help is not in the school district but in the Lord.  He is going to open and close all the doors we need Him to for Michael’s remediation.  I am now praying that God shows me the next step, whether or not to battle the school district or to leave this one alone.  If I do choose to pursue this, it looks like I will need to find a pro bono lawyer, and I don’t know if this is a road I want to go down yet.

On the upside, I had my first invitation to speak to a women’s group this past Friday, and shared the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge.  It was very exciting, and I got to tell women about this fantastic book (really, if you haven’t read it, you should!) and give some of my own personal testimony about all that God has brought me through.  While it was a new and overwhelming experience, I really enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind doing it again some time.

It’s been a very intense and emotionally packed two weeks.  The kids were spiraling out of control with health issues and we were finally able to get them to the doctor.  As a result, they’re actually sleeping again at night, much to our relief.  I hope they balance out and keep it up!  Thank you all who prayed for me and let me rant about all the frustrations of the past few weeks, you are all truly invaluable to me!  I’m trying to shake off all the heaviness and weariness I’ve been enduring and move forward into this coming week, trusting that God is holding it all in His hands, no matter what it has in store.

God’s Got This

Yesterday was great and a complete washout.  We managed to make it through, Gabriel had all of his therapy sessions and his transitional meeting was a great success.  The kids completely destroyed the house while I was on the phone, but they did it kind of quietly, so at least I was able to finish the meeting before finding them in my room, stripping the bed, jumping on the mattress, and turning over whatever boxes they could find and dumping out the contents.  Let me say, I cannot WAIT until the weather is consistently warmer because I am ready to just toss these little monkeys outside and bring them their meals out there.  They are like a force of nature.

I had been really hoping to cut back on the amount of therapy that my kids receive because it just sort of rules my life and my schedule right now.  Gabriel ended up going from two therapy sessions a week to six, but I know he needs it, so it’s time for me to just suck it up and figure out how to fit it all together.  I can only put it all in God’s hands that there are not going to be that many collisions between Michael’s schedule and Gabriel’s come September.  Gabriel will be receiving special instruction again to help with some of his cognitive delays in addition to an accelerated speech and occupational therapy schedule.  He’s slowly catching up, and I’m hoping after one or two more years of really intense work, he’ll be moving at a pace where we can just drop it altogether.

Thank God for our wonderful homeschooling family who lives around the corner.  They have a fantastic teenage daughter there who likes to come help out with the kids for free (because that’s about what I can afford for help right now).  She came last night to get me through the homestretch of the day.  I was just done.  I had been in therapy sessions and on the phone the entire day.  The kids had taken advantage of that and torn everything apart (William busted through some of the child proof locks and emptied all my kitchen cabinets on the floor while Michael led Gabriel on a merry chase of dumping out every box of toys they could find in the house), and then William cried all afternoon because a tooth was coming in, and he wanted to be held.  Nate came home with a bad two day headache and went straight to bed, so this wonderful girl came and helped us through dinner, baths, and bed.

I am so grateful for how God provides, He knew I just could not make it without an extra pair of hands last night.  He ensured Gabriel would receive all the services he would need.  He’s provided a friend to come today to help me with some management questions.  While I sometimes feel like this is all a bit crazy, He’s caring for and providing for us every step of the way.  When I see that, I can feel some peace and security, knowing He’s got this even if I don’t.

Praying for Vision

I don’t know if it’s the fluctuating weather, the time of year, or the boys’ cabin fever, but we’re sort of aimless right now.  I’m trying to plan out days a little, and we’re certainly getting through life, however, it feels as though we’re kind of drifting rudderless.  I have been thinking about a lot of things lately regarding our family’s future, and I know it’s time to identify and specify our vision.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18

I don’t want our family to spend years and years just doing life and have nothing to show for it.  It has always been our prayer that God uses our family to bring glory to Him, but that’s not enough.  Now I need something a little more specific to aim for.  These are the formative years for our boys, and this is the time when we can choose which direction we want to go.

It’s time to start praying for a clearer vision.  I’m pretty excited to see what adventures He has in store!!