Mothering many with gentle grace

"But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children." 1 Thessalonians 2:7

Confessions of the ugly kid

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more articles and blog posts and opinion pieces advising parents to not tell their daughters that they are pretty, to say things like “You’re smart” “You’re creative” “You’re Strong, and brave”  But don’t tell your daughters they are pretty because they might take that to mean that all that matters is their looks.

Well.  You SHOULD be telling your daughter than she is smart, creative, strong, brave, kind, generous, loving, sweet, AND pretty.  Everything that makes her special and wonderful you SHOULD tell her about.    I grew up believing that I was “The Ugly Duckling” or hoping that I was the Ugly Duckling hoping that I’d grow out of being a buck toothed, stringy mousy brown haired, freckle faced, tub of lard. Whose only saving grace was that I was only dog ugly, not butt ugly…so there was hope.   I did not hear the message that I was pretty from those who should have told me, the people I trusted most.  The only time my looks were ever mentioned were in comparison to someone else and I always felt second or third best.   So the  feedback I received was from my peers…and well…Kids are cruel.  And my mother was cruel…yes my mother.  She’s the one who said that my hair was stringy and mousy brown and hopeless, she’s the one who “teased” me that my freckles were splatters of cow poop, she’s the one who pointed out every last overweight person and told me that when I grew up I’d be just as fat as that person right there.   So not only did I have to endure the teasing from classmates I also endured it from my mother.

Fact is.  I never had buck teeth.  My two front teeth had a slight gap during my later elementary years.  My hair is not stringy.  It is fine and requires care, something I am happy to help my daughters with but was obviously too much trouble for my own mother.  My hair isn’t mousy brown either.  It is a perfectly acceptable medium brown.  My freckles are beautiful, they fade in the winter and grow dark in the summer, they splatter me with color.   I am fat…oh well.  I come from fat people.

I catch myself saying things to my kids about their looks, or their hygiene skills and I mentally slap myself because I don’t want to be that parent.  The parent that points out flaws, but doesn’t call their child beautiful, or handsome.  I try everyday to point out a positive about my kids.  Some days are harder than others.  But I NEVER want them to look back and remember that time their Mother pointed to a zit on their chin and declared their whole face nasty.  I NEVER want them to look back and only remember being told they were attractive once or twice and always as an afterthought.

Where am I going with this.

Tell your children that they are attractive, that they are beautiful, that they are Handsome.  You don’t know what they are hearing elsewhere.  So tell them.  They trust that you are right.

From the Ugly Kid….who might have grown out of the ugly duckling, but isn’t sure she’d call herself a swan.

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When I feel discouraged

I’m sitting here on my dirty couch in my cluttered living room watching 2 of my kids watch TV, 1 of them crawl around the floor chasing a ball he throws for himself to fetch.  The smell of the squash I am roasting is mingling with the sausage that is waiting to be served for dinner.  The sliding glass door is open allowing the warm fall air to float through my house.  I occasionally have to remind my 9 year old to stop hovering in the hall to watch tv and go read his book.  Soon I’ll serve dinner, check homework, sign papers, send kids for showers, verify that teeth have been brushed and faces washed then send 4 out of 5 kids to bed.  I’ll stay up too late before drifting off into a not particularly restful sleep.  Tomorrow I’ll crawl out of bed at 5am to start my day again.  It’s essentially the same every day.   It’s not exciting, it’s not particularly difficult, but it’s definitely not easy.  Sometimes I get into a funk.  I feel lost and discouraged, I feel unappreciated, I feel taken for granted…I feel mean because my rules have caused someone to regret their decisions and mistakes.  I feel like a well trained monkey could do my “job”   

Motherhood is my calling…at least at this point of my life.  Sadly some days…weeks…months it is the most soul sucking heart wrenching mind numbing thing I’ve ever done.  I see all the areas where I could do better.  I could yell less, I could hug more, I could make better meals (we’ve fed the children frozen pizza 2 out of the last 3 nights) I could make sure to do a load of laundry every day instead of my usual “No one has clean underwear!!!” mad dash to wash enough to last a few days.   I could spend more time with God, more time with friends, I could volunteer at the kids schools.  I see all my shortcomings and nothing that I am doing well.  

I looked up “What does the Bible say about Discouragement”  Real original I know. One of the first verses to pop up wasJohn 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  
I’m not one to take things out of context so of course I read the rest of the passage.  Jesus is talking about the shepherd who lays down his life to protect his sheep.  The thief is of course the devil and Jesus is the shepherd.   What does it mean to have life abundantly?  Some people think it means that we should have all material things we need (or want) that we be blessed beyond measure with stuff and things and positive situations.  That’s a really immature way to think about it.  I know that sometimes life abundant means just being ALIVE…What a gift! To have a life! To be alive and able to serve the Lord and Savior.

The next verse was Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.     Oh how weak I am, and how often am I stuck with all these feelings and needs that I cannot articulate.  But The Spirit knows.  God knows my heart my mind better than I do.   How encouraging to know that he is interceding for me…not just on days that I feel less than, but everyday.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Paul is talking about his thorn in his side here.  But since all of us have thorns of one thing or another I love this verse.  It kind of goes along with the Romans 8:26 verse above.  Christ’s grace is enough, His power is made perfect in weakness.  His GRACE is there to cover our weaknesses MY weaknesses.  I sparkly heart love this. 

When I feel discouraged My Lord is there to give me abundant life, to intercede on my behalf, to cover me with Grace. And he is there for you too.❤

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What happens?

I used to write a lot. A blog, devotionals, a journal. I loved to write.

I can’t remember when the love faded. Somewhere in the midst of chaos and crisis, the love of writing turned into bitterness.

I wrote a devotional once about praising the Lord amidst hardship. Looking back, the hardship was fairly trite at the time…or maybe I’m just more bitter, I’m not sure which.

I suppose I could go along and list everything that’s happened in the last 5 years to produce such bitterness and chaos…but who cares? What difference does it make? My pain is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. Someone always has it worse. Someone always has it better. That does not negate my pain.

But I digress. Or I digest, if you watch Family Guy (I do, ok? Don’t judge me.)

Anyways, I was thinking the other day about what happens when you have nothing left in you to offer praise? What happens when you have nothing left to offer worship? To offer cliches and platitudes to oneself, “It’s just a season”, “God loves me” “I’ll praise Him in the storm”. I have nothing left.

I have to be honest, I am so tired. The storm has lasted 5+ years. I’m tired. My heart hurts. My head hurts. I’m tired. I see snippets here and there of provision, maybe…but I almost don’t care for God’s pittance. I know how blasphemous that sounds…but in the interest on honesty, here you are. But in the end, we are struggling to survive, and I am ever so exhausted from the struggle.

I suppose it says something that I’ve had the urge to write for the first time in a long time…but I’m so ensconced in my own bitterness and pain, that I kind of don’t care.

I don’t sing anymore. I don’t write. I’m drained.

I don’t like who I am anymore, I feel so overwhelmed with survival, that I have no joy left.

I have been a Christian for 10 years. In that 10 years we have seen a lot of good, and a lot of bad…and never, NEVER in my life as a Christian have I ever been so close to walking away from my faith. I want to walk away..but I can’t.

I don’t pray anymore. I doubt God hears it anyways.

I don’t even have a witty remark or insightful closing remark. All I have is…nothing.

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Platitudes, the scourge of meaningful communication.

Platitude: A trite  , meaningless, biased, or prosaic statement often presented as if it were significant and original.

We’ve all heard them, we’ve all used them.  They are a space filler when we feel like we HAVE to say something but have no idea what to say.   Some seem like good things “Everything happens for a reason” “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” “This too shall pass”  “Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”   The problem with platitudes is they aren’t meaningful. It is something we say to absolve ourselves of a sense of responsibility to make someone feel better.  Or to take up that awkward space in a conversation where someone has expressed their pain or their grief.

What we say may have truth to it.  But it may also have unseen barbs attached.  For instance,  when I had a miscarriage a friend said “Everything happens for a reason”  When my tears didn’t stop and I didn’t respond that awkward silence was filled with “There was probably something wrong….”   Yes truth…but also sharp jagged barbs that tore my tender grieving heart.

So what do we do when we find ourselves face to face with a Platitude ready situation?  STOP, we don’t have to fill silent spaces with words.  We don’t have to try to smooth over pain.  We can use other words.  “I’m sorry”  or “What can I do to help?”  or “Can I pray with you?”  Or just reach out and hold their hand, hug them, show them you care without throwing meaningless oft repeated phrases that no one wants to hear in the midst of a difficult time.

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365 Days

So a year ago…This happened.  In many ways it feels like a lifetime ago.  Then there are moments when my breath catches in my throat and the tears well up and I am suddenly transported through foggy memories into an operating room, or into the NICU.  Remembering the pain, then fear, and the conversations that followed.   Thankfully those moments are becoming fewer and farther between.  I’m not stuck in emotional limbo, I suppose that is a sign that I am healing.

Pippin is amazing.  He is doing things that his MRI report says he shouldn’t be doing.  His therapists say that he is incredibly smart.  I know that not only is he smart but he is determined to do ALL.THE.THINGS!  He figured out crawling about 3 weeks ago, after working at it for about 3 months.  He also worked out how to get from hands and knees to sitting up, that only took him about 3 weeks to figure out.  He is pulling to a stand now though he’s not able to do anything once he’s standing.  We fully expect him to figure out this walking business by 18 months old.

We celebrated his first birthday last weekend.  We chose a Frog theme…which has been Pippin’s life long “theme”   F.R.O.G.  Fully Rely On God  Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

 

He is an absolute blessing and his life is a precious miracle.  Thank you to all of our friends and family who have kept us in your thoughts, and prayers these last 365 days.  You have helped make this year a year of hope moving forward.
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Bittersweet

My 2 kids with ASD have birthdays this month.  It’s so bittersweet.  Obviously because it’s hard to see one’s babies get older and whatnot..but mostly because it serves as a really unpleasant reminder of the reality of SN kids.  

Sissy turned 9 today.  9 physically.  Not emotionally.  Not cognitively.  Not really 9.  

She’ll never live alone. Never get married. Have babies. I feel so…defeated today. Of all days…
Wesley’s birthday was friday. It’s weird that our two children with ASD were born 2 days apart.
A weekend that should be awesome…has been good, but not good. I hate Autism today.

 

It feels like a slap in the face.  On her birthday, I am firmly reminded of everything that is “wrong” with her.  Everything that won’t be.  I realize that is …I dunno, wrong of me?  I know that she is awesome in her own way..but sometimes the grief hits me so hard, I almost can’t handle it.  

It’s times like this that I question God.  Why?  I just don’t get it.  I guess I do get it, but I don’t want to get it.  I want to whine and cry and lament my lot in life.  The toll this takes on her, our family, our marriage.  But in the end, He’s still sovereign.  He loves her and crafted her just so.  But sometimes…I hate it.  Sometimes.  And by sometimes, I mean often, ok? 

Happy freakin’ birthday.  I will have a pity party today.  I will wallow and be sad.  I will also hug her tightly, tell her I love her, and hope for a response that isn’t grunts and gibberish.  

 

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Putting up pictures.

My darling husband and I have been married for 12 years.  We have moved 7 times, we have lived in 8 different spaces (I don’t include our first home in the moves since technically I was the only one moving😉 )  Somewhere along the way I stopped putting pictures on the walls because I didn’t want to damage the walls of a rental unit.  And to be quite honest I knew it was temporary so why would I make the space homey?  We’ve never lived anywhere longer than 2 years…there seemed to be no point in doing anything more than to make the space comfortable to live in.  We have lived in the home we are in now for almost 3 years, with a minimum of 2 more years before we could possibly be in a position to purchase a home.  The thought of not having my own space for that much longer broke my heart and angered me.  I looked at the mostly bare walls glaring white stark cold and I decided that I would take the pictures of my children and put them up.  It took me nearly a month to gather the courage to actually hammer a nail into the dry wall.  But I did it.  Yesterday I balanced on my couch, hammer in one hand nail and picture hook in the other and did my best to hang 5 8×10 frames filled with school pictures and shopping mall portraits on the wall, and then I repeated my balancing act on another wall to hang up an 11×14 portrait of all 5 of my kids.  Now as I sit here looking at my children’s faces smiling out from their rather crooked places on the walls I wonder why I didn’t do this 3 yrs ago.  This is our HOME no matter how impermanent it may be.  My family lives here.   There needs to be more evidence of our lives than crumbs on the counters, and the dark trail on the carpet marking the path from the front door to the kitchen.  This home is full of loving vibrant funny kids.  And now everyone who comes in can see their beautiful faces even if the kids aren’t here.

 

 

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I have a love/hate relationship with Autism

Inspired by OrchardMomma, I wanted to share too.  What I mean is, she beat me too it, and I’m copying her.  But I’m also awesome, so I hope she won’t mind.😛

Two of our 6 kids are on the spectrum.  Our 8yog, and 6yob. Sissy has classic Autism.  BB has Asperger’s.

I was a pretty young mom when I had Sissy.  My oldest was only 21 months.  We lived in a foreign country.  I knew ONE family that had kids with SN, and it was a family that has a delightful son with DS.  I never saw it coming.

She cried all.the.time.  It went well beyond having high needs.  She refused baby food unless it was a specific brand (I kid you not).  She wouldn’t eat homemade.  By 2, she still wasn’t speaking anything other than grunts.

It was 3 years of fighting, waiting, and wondering to get her diagnosed.  THREE.YEARS.  We lived in NY at the time, which thankyouverymuch, has little to nothing to offer kids with ASD and what they do have sucks.  I have so many horror stories.  I had to learn how to stand up for myself and advocate for her.  It was a very tough time.

Oh, did I also mention that the bulk of the hardest year what when Hubby was in Iraq?  Yeah, cause he was.

Anyways.  Getting our 6yo diagnosed was a breeze compared to that.

I digress some.

I love my kids, in all of the messy delightfulness God has seen fit to create them in.

I hate IT.  I hate Autism.  Blah blah, acceptance.  I hate that Sissy can’t control her own body, I hate that BB can’t eat anything that isn’t freaking peanut butter.  I hate the allergies, the raging, the sleepless nights.  The wondering what will happen when we die?  Who will take care of her?  BB, we can totally see him as a really functional adult.  He’ll be a great husband and daddy someday.  But Sissy?  At this point, we don’t even know that she’ll ever live on her own.

I hate going to church.  She can’t handle the music and people for more than a minute.  I hate the stares and people moving away.  Real or perceived, I’m so bitter.

I hate that we can’t go anywhere without a contingency plan.

Of course I love my kids.  All of them.  The Autism doesn’t make me love them any less.  But I don’t have to like it. So there.

One thing I think no one really grasps until they’re there: the grief comes and goes.  It’s a wave that I have to ride forever.  I’ll be fine for awhile.  Then the anger.  Then the pleading, “PLease God.  Just a break.”.  Then back to acceptance, of sorts.

I do love God, no matter how angry I get with Him.  No matter how little I understand this road He’s chosen for us.  I do love Him, and by extension, I love what He’s chosen, if only because it is for His glory.  And one of the best things about His grace: I can get as pissy as I want, He’ll still love me.

My flesh hates it.  My soul thanks Him for it.  My heart prays for His glory and strength to endure it.

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Autism

Autism Awareness

I knew.  I knew before the appointment in March of 2006.  I knew as soon as his hearing test came back normal.  I knew my beautiful baby son had Autism.  Knowing didn’t soften the blow of the words when the Developmental Pediatrician uttered the words, “It looks like he has Autism”    My 17 month old son sat on the floor at my feet fiddling with his fingers, staring blankly around him.  I cried a little, then I steeled myself put on a brave face picked up my son and walked out.  I held him close and closer still.  I held it together until I had him safely buckled in his car seat and then I wept. I cried bitter tears, I cried tears of fear, and tears of anger.  I saw all of our hopes and dreams shatter and slip through my fingers like sand, I saw them picked up by the wind and thrown a hundred miles away.  The only thing I knew about Autism was the stereotypical non-verbal child sitting alone in a corner rocking.  My baby boy who had been so bright eyed and funny and then one day…was like an empty shell with no light in his eyes.  We started the necessary therapies, Occupational therapy to work on his sensory needs, Physical therapy for his gross motor skill delay (he was also diagnosed with Global developmental delay…later an MRI showed mild damage to his mid brain that probably caused the motor skills delays) and Speech Therapy.  It was almost 5 months before he took his first independent steps.  Nearly 10 months before we made any headway in him understanding language.  A full year after we first saw him change. I remember the day it all clicked…he spun in circles dancing with joy that he understood that the ASL sign for fish, the word fish, and that thing swimming in the water all meant the same thing.  The sparkle in his eyes was back.  He was over 3 before he spoke to us with his own voice and his own words.  He is now 8.5 years old.  He is in a typical 3rd grade class room, he has special education intervention and support where he needs it.

Meanwhile our older son was having his own troubles.  His behavior was off the charts hyper active, zero impulse control, very poor social skills.  We tried everything we could on our own to help him, we had some minor help implementing behavior plans for him during kindergarten.  It wasn’t until just after he turned 6 when he punched a classmate in the nose that the real help started.  He was diagnosed with severe ADHD.  We were assured that once the ADHD was under control that his social skills would blossom.  6 months later they had not.  And I knew.  I knew, and I tried to ignore it.  I tried to keep working and keep teaching.  I fought with him and for him for 9 months…then I took him to a specialist.  It wasn’t even 5 minutes into the appointment that the Dr. turned to me and said “Has anyone mentioned the possibility of Autism?”   I didn’t cry this time.  It was solemn acknowledgment of what I already knew.  He was formally diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 7.

To say that my world changed drastically is an understatement.  I never thought of myself as an advocate.  But here I am, fighting for my boys.  I believe in them.  I know they can achieve everything.  I have gone from fear and sadness to confidence and joy.  They may not fulfill all the hopes and dreams we had for them the day they were placed in our arms.  But they will fulfill every hope and dream they have.  There are challenges.  But there are also great triumphs and in those moments I see what strong capable and determined children I have.  I may be fighting for them, but they are also fighting for themselves.  They work hard to overcome their challenges.  I often hear how brave and strong I am for being their Mother.  I could not be brave and strong for them if they were not brave and strong for me and for themselves.

I love my Autistic Children.  I believe they can accomplish anything they set out to do with the right support and help along the way.  They may go about it a bit differently than their typical peers, but they will get there.  They are Autistic and they are Awesome.

 

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Miracles, Provisions, Coincidence, Luck, and a Loving God

I’ve been mulling this over for the last several months, trying to come up with something intelligent, profound, thought provoking to write.  But with 5 kids and a house to run being those things is really time consuming :-D

I heard someone say that they didn’t believe that God cares about the little things in our lives.  That he is more concerned with the big picture and can’t be bothered with day to day living.  I’ve heard that sentiment before, and I have even felt that way before.  Here is the vastness of the universe…and then little ol’ me.  How could my little problems matter at all to the One who created eternity?

What I believe now is that that feeling and that thought process stems ultimately from a lack of trust (not a lack of faith…that’s different)  Perhaps it has been ingrained from a young age to not trust.  That’s my story, raised in an abusive and neglectful home I learned not to trust.  Perhaps the belief that God doesn’t care about our small hurts comes from living years in “hard times”.  The woes and struggles of this world hardening hearts to the Miracles and Provisions that God provides.  Either way we tend to chalk things up to coincidence or luck. Refusing or not wanting to believe that our God is so invested in our everyday lives that he would provide for us in small ways.

I freely admit that I am a blessed woman.  Admit sounds like a bad thing…I freely and fully ACCEPT that I am a blessed woman. I honor the fact that I am blessed.  I praise God that I am blessed as often as I am reminded of my blessings.  But I didn’t always feel blessed.  I often felt forgotten, forsaken, lost, and alone.  It is a terrible feeling to know that you are a child of the most high and to feel so utterly alone.  So what changed?  Did I suddenly become such an awesome Christian that my world brightened up and miracles started falling from the sky?  Well no.  I’m still the same  woman who felt forgotten, who sometimes loses her cool, yells screams, and throws 2yr old sized temper tantrums. I am still the woman who struggles with her past.  I still struggle with sin.  So then, what changed?

It started slowly really.  It started with praying about lost keys.  It started with a gas gauge on E 2 days until pay day and finding a $5 bill in my pocket.  It started with a verbal hug from a stranger on a bad day.  Small things really.  Things that I chalked up to coincidence, and luck. Things that I was too afraid to consider may have been from a Loving God.

It wasn’t an epiphany, or a sudden bolt of knowledge and understanding that changed me.  It was a slow and gradual process.  A process of learning gratitude and thankfulness.  Of taking the 30 seconds to say “Thank you for helping me find my keys”  or “Praise the Lord for putting gas in my car today”  I felt a bit silly at first.  I mean really I found my keys exactly where I had forgotten I had put them.  I obviously left money in my coat pocket.  It was coincidence or luck that my hand found the needed item right?  God didn’t REALLY care about such insignificant things did he?  Well…did he?  What I found when I remembered to be grateful is that it became easier to trust that God cares about me.  I found it easier to believe that I was special and loved and cared for.  I began to believe that verse in Luke where Jesus compares the lilies of the field to the richest of kings.  If he cares about how the flowers LOOK how much more does he care for me?

Where I had once seen only coincidence and luck. I began to see provision.  I began to believe that God was actively providing me and my family with the things we needed. As for miracles, I wasn’t sure I had experienced any.  There is no way to explain our youngest son’s life other than miraculous.  And then I remembered how I was rescued from an abusive home.  How I was placed in foster care at the age of 17 with a Christian woman.  Out of the hundreds of potential foster homes I landed in the one with a strong active faith being lived out in it.  How is that NOT a miracle?

I want to challenge you to practice some gratefulness this week.  When you find the address you weren’t sure how to get to Thank God.  When you are encouraged by someone or something.  Thank God.  When someone offers to pay for your lunch, or you find an extra little bit of money just at the right moment.  Stop and remember, it’s not coincidence.  It’s not Luck.  It is the work of a Loving God, who provides for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air.  It is the work of a Loving God who is actively providing for YOU.

Blessings
Orchard Momma

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