Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lifes Little Surprises

Six seemed like a nice, round number. It works well with seating arrangements nearly everywhere: airplanes, Disneyland, restaurants, and of course, our own kitchen table. Jump up to seven and you've got an uneven number. It's definition as an "odd" number is true.

Why all the talk about numbers? Well, we're currently a family of six. Some time in the month of April that will change. We will become a family of seven. That's right. The Lord has chosen to bless us with another one of His precious children! We're genuinely surprised but also incredibly grateful.

As I reflect over the past few days, it's been a whirlwind of activity: a positive pregnancy test, deliberating when to announce the "big news" and thoughts coming from every direction. Rob and I both come from large families and we always knew ours would be on the larger side. A while back, we had toyed with the thought of five, but you could say we didn't want to "play with fire". Three of the four have varying degrees of special needs and we sorta have this mind set: If we have another, all bets are off, so let's not even go there. Plus, kids aren't inexpensive! So it was settled. Four it was. Of course, God had other plans!

So here we are. So many thoughts have consumed us. One particular weighs the heaviest: Will this child be healthy? What is healthy? What is perfect? To be completely honest, I'm scared. Our track record isn't great. Yes, all of the kid's issues have been manageable, but I question how much more we could handle. Yet these are human feelings, not those of Christ. I catch myself and hear Him saying, "Trust in Me and believe in me. Have faith."

I often say the Lord doesn't give us more than we can handle with Him by our side. It's scary, yet so very true. This week I found myself re-reading Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." I have no idea how the sweet baby growing inside of me will be presented. It may be a child that, in the worlds eyes, does have perfect health. It may have "perfect health" as defined by God. Between now and the time that "perfect child" is placed in my arms, I am certain of one thing: my faith will be tested. I will attend doctor appointments where I will be told this and that and offered more tests than the average pregnant women. It's part of my life with my medical history. I will agree to take some of the tests. I will elect not to take some. It's a scary road to embark on and Satan will be tailgating me all the way. But I have to keep my eyes on my destination and remember to refuel through prayer and time in God's word every single day.
It won't be easy, but I'm aware of who's tailgating me. I have complete confidence that a fender-bender can...and avoided!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

To Bake A Cake

When I asked my son, Jeremy, what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he didn't hesitate. "Herbie!" he said as he smiled big. I smiled back...and swallowed hard. For each of the kids birthdays I make their cake. I design it after whatever they are completely and totally in love with at the time. It's a tradition I've created. Jeremy's been obsessed with Herbie (the Love Bug) for over a year and I'm crossing my fingers that the phase ends....soon!

As his birthday approached, I asked him one final time what he wanted. Nothing had changed. I knew this cake was going to take some time and thought. I bought the ingredients and decorations. I did on-line research at my favorite cake website....and yes, it had examples of Herbie cakes, much to my surprise and relief!

When cake-baking day arrived, I was scared. I didn't want to disappoint him. I've often done cupcake-cakes, but knew that wouldn't cut it this time around. It had to be a three-dimensional Volkswagen. That meant multiple cakes, cutting, shaping and strategic icing.

As I began, I thought of Dylan's IEP. In many ways, it's like baking a cake. It takes time and preparation. Lists are made to ensure all ingredients are bought and then a recipe must be followed. I baked and thought of Dylan's IEP and a grin crossed my face. He just started 3rd grade and is off to a great start, but this great start has taken a lot of prep. Then I thought back to his 2nd grade year and I'm sure my brow furrowed a bit. It had been a rough year. We had attempted to get his "cake" just right, but the recipe was off. It was no one's fault. Things just hadn't mixed quite right. There was too much of that, too little of this and the timing was off....creating a half-baked cake at the years end. We had to make a decision. Would we learn from the mistakes that had been made or repeat them? Re-baking isn't fun. It takes time and energy, but sometimes you have to do it in order for something to turn out right.

If I were to describe how it is too raise Dylan, I would say that it is much like baking a cake. You keep trying different recipes until you find one you like. The funny thing is that this year we like chocolate with white frosting but next year it might be white cake with strawberry frosting. We have to be willing to try new "flavors", add extra "filling" now and then and take away a few decorations on occasion in order to see Dylan grow and thrive. This applies to ALL areas (not just his IEP): discipline, entertainment, what he eats - you name it!

There are times when this whole cake baking thing is just down right miserable. Slaving over a stove non-stop isn't a pleasant feeling and washing all of the bake ware is tedious, not to mention the non-stop trips to the store to try something new, in hopes that the correct ingredient will finally be found. Fortunately, I'm just a cook in the kitchen who is overseen by the greatest chef I will ever know. Yes, I have to figure out which ingredients to combine, but if I'm going to His great cookbook daily, He will lead me and guide. He helps me think outside the box. He shows me ingredients I may not have considered before. And in the end, He sees the entire menu. It will taste amazing and the temperature will be perfect!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Scar or Souvenir?

I filled the tub with warm water and slowly undressed my infant daughter. As I put her into the tub, I knew the time had come. It had been a solid six weeks and the bandage was beginning to peel away. I had been putting this moment off. She was off all medications and slowly putting on weight. This was the last thing that needed to be done. I knew I would be relieved in the end, but in that moment, I was anxious.

She was content - smiling and splashing her little hands in the soapy water. I started to peel back the tape and gauze and it practically fell off. I looked down at her chest and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. I had no idea what to expect. I stared intently, slowly running my finger along the thin, long line with a purplish tint. They had stitched her sternum but only taped the surface incision, which had surprised me. The purple seemed dark against the fair skin it surrounded. I was told it would fade and appear more white over time.

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I was so incredibly thankful. She was "PINK"! The doctors were confident that this would to be the only incision she would ever have to bare, although there was no guarantee. But it was there - for life. As I bathed her, running the washcloth down her chest, I heard Him: "It's not a scar, it's a souvenir." I froze. I understood instantly. How could I have been so blind? All this time it had been referred to as a "scar", which is thought of as a bad thing. But it wasn't just a scar - it was a souvenir.

She had been born with an imperfect heart. In order to live a full life, she had needed surgery, which would leave her with a "scar" that she would carry forever...and in a fairly obvious place. I wrapped her in her towel. As I dressed her, I leaned down and kissed her "souvenir". Just moments before I was looking at it, unsure of how to describe how I felt. Now all I could see was beauty. It is a reminder of His faithfulness. It is a reminder of His constant hand on our life - her life - now and forever. It is a reminder of His healing touch. It is a SOUVENIR.

It has been well over a year since I first saw her souvenir. It has faded and has indeed become a long, thin white line...just as promised. During the summer, I notice it more....when she's in her swimsuit, wearing tank tops or in a sweet summer dress. I make no attempt to hide it. On occasion, others notice it. It has become a bridge to share the greatness of the Lord with others. In time she will ask about it. I look forward to that. I look forward to sharing how amazing our God is and how He chose her to be a testament to His ever present glory and power.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

House Upon A Rock

The doors swung open. The music started to play and the congregation rose to their feet. I started to walk forward. I glanced to the right and into the eyes of the man who holds the honor of holding me first. My gaze shifted to the left, to another wonderful man who had entered my life a bit later, making the life of my mom and I complete. I linked my arms in theirs and proceeded forward. As I walked, my gaze met his. He was tall and handsome. He was waiting for me, just as I had been waiting for him. In a single moment, two great men who loved me dearly entrusted me to another man.

Remember to remember. Those were the words I kept repeating in my mind throughout the ceremony. Someone close had shared them with me (and it seemed like an odd thing to say), but in that moment I understood: Soak it in! So much had led up to this day: preparation, anticipation and pure excitement. This day would come and go, just like any other day. It wouldn't last forever. In the years to come it's clarity would fade. I stared at his sunburned face and smiled. I would always remember that sunburn. There was no doubt about it.

The candles were finally lit, even with the air conditioner blowing strong. I heard giggles. Maybe four little girls were too many, but I couldn't bear to leave anyone out! We knelled. We took communion. We were giving our marriage to Him. As we kneeled, whispering to one another, the sweetest voice sung in the background. The song itself was not anything extraordinary, just a simple prayer about what we hoped our marriage would be....

Household of Faith by Steve Green

Here we are at the start committing to each other
By His word and from our hearts
We will be a family in a house that will be a home

And with faith we'll build it strong

We'll build a household of faith
That together we can make

And when the strong winds blow it won't fall down

As one in Him we'll grow and the whole world will know

We are a household of faith

Now to be a family we've got to love each other

At any cost unselfishly

And our home must be a place that fully abounds with grace

A reflection of His face

On July 24, 2010, we celebrated eleven years of marriage. We have shared tears of joy and those of sorrow. We have fought and we have kissed. Most importantly, we have built a house upon a rock....the rock of Christ. He is the center of our marriage.

Marriage is not easy and I often think of ours as a series of books. The number of books in the series is dependent on how hard we are willing to work at it. Some volumes will be full of love and excitement while others will be full of trials and tribulations. At the end they read something like, "....too be continued" rather than "....happily ever after." That is not a bad thing, it just means we are living in reality.

The book entitled "Dylan" was an essential volume in our series. Shortly after his birth, the same person who told me "Remember to remember" also told me that Dylan would "make or break" our marriage. I thought that was a horrific thing to tell a mother at the time, but as the years have passed, the truth has revealed itself. Marriage is hard. It takes effort - daily - to ensure its existence. Some days are easier than others. Add a special-needs child into the mix and everything magnifies itself.

We are not perfect, but we have kept faith in our heavenly father, the base of our marriage. When we do begin to trip and fall and wonder what's going on, we realize we were not turning to Him first. We have faced strong winds and even some hurricanes, but our home is weathering the storm. There are some loose nails and the paint needs to be touched up now and then, but we make repairs when we see these things happening. We get on our knees and pray. We open the word ask Him to show us what to do and how to do it. Some things are done quickly with just a few quick swings of a hammer, other things need to be stripped, sanded down and refinished.

Our house enjoys the summer breeze but we also know that more winds will come - and go. During breezy times we store up on supplies so that we can face the storms that await us. We enjoy still, blue skies and when we see the clouds forming, we know our house is built upon a rock. If we're keeping our foundation up to date, our house will stand the test of time.