Ritual or Relational

Ugh, ugh, UGH! People can I just say that after what feels like a bazillion years of being a Christian and I still cannot seem to get this ‘daily devotional’ thing down. It’s not you, Lord… it’s me. There… I said it. I’m terrible at doing this particular part of the Christian walk well.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I do have my devo time, but I also have 4 littles (all under 6!). I do read my Word, but I also have <several> part-time jobs. It gets done, but geez! it never looks like I want it to.

I want my daily devotions to be different. I imagine everyone else on the planet has this lovely picturesque spot on a back porch, by a serene lake, watching the sun rise over the mountains in the background, sipping their perfectly temp’ed coffee, reading a well-worn Bible and journaling endlessly to God. Pinterest and Instagram make this seem attainable right? I long for those quiet moments… I want them so badly.

But reality is different from pictures- and while everyone else on the planet is sipping their lattes'- I’m getting in a chapter here and a paragraph there (dictated wholly by feeding and napping times), coffee (if I have time to brew any at all!) is cold (with no milk because I probably forgot to get some), I’m still in my pajamas (so maybe I have that in common with the above scenario), and there is no less that at least two children who need my attention. Later that night as I tumble into bed at God-knows-what-time I try to finish up my devos, do a bit of journaling (if I’m really lucky!). My Bible is well-worn… but mostly from crayon pictures and coffee stains, its taped on three sides with medical tape… filled between the pages with an inordinate amount of my kids’s church drawings and doodles. My scenery consists of my bed usually, exhausted (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not), and I may or may not be still in my pajamas (the truth hurts people.) Though I try for better, more often than not, this is what my Jesus-time looks like.

I want more. I want better. I want to spend better time with Him- better interaction, better conversation. But more often than not, it just isn’t there.

Later in the night, it’s a guarantee that one or more of the kids comes upstairs and nestles in next to me. I asked my oldest one night why he was coming up and in his sleepy voice he said, “Because I just want to be with you Mommy.”

And just like that… I got it.

I don’t care that he’s sweaty and (usually) stinky (as boy’s tend to perpetually be!), I don’t care that he’s sleepy, I don’t care that it’s the middle of the night, I don’t care that we aren’t talking.

I just love that he’s come to be with me. The time doesn’t matter, nor does the place, or even how long he stays (often he’ll make his little way back down to his own bed). No, it only matters that we were together for a bit, that he chose and wanted to be with me for awhile.

Ugh. I just love that.

I guess God’s the same. He doesn’t care when I spend time with Him- only that I do. He doesn’t care what I’m wearing or if I’ve showered. He won’t notice if my coffee is cold (or even if I have coffee). He’s not looking at the scenery that I am- He’s too busy looking at me. Just like I will take any time alone with my kids that I can get, He craves whatever time I can give Him. No questions asked. He’s just happy to be with me.

I’m not a hassle to God, my presence is heartwarming to Him. Conversely He is never a hassle to me, and I need to stop looking at it like that. He’s no more hassle to me than I am to Him.

And that, my friends, is a very heartwarming thing. Maybe I’m doing this daily-devo thing just right. It may not be what the pictures look like, but it certainly is mine and I’m offering what I can. Thank you Lord for meeting me where I am, how I am, and loving me for who I am.

Going Number Two

I'm excited to feature another writer today. My sister Alicia Costello has graciously written a wonderful blog for us to enjoy. Please check out her brand-new website too! ~B

My son is 4 years old and 2 months, and this kid is not. potty. trained.

Trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. He took to going number one in the potty fairly well. He goes to the potty every single time to go number one. It’s just, um, number two. He won’t go. No matter how long he is sat on the potty, he won’t do it. The second he gets that Pull-Up back on, he goes. We’ve tried everything. And it’s not only that he won’t go in the potty, but his face is one of no remorse. He’s resolved. He does not care about what we’ve asked him to do. Heck, after changing 4 Pull-Ups today before 2pm, he’s walking around my house literally butt naked because I just don’t have the mental capacity today to change another Pull-Up.

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I’m sure any mom who has potty trained can sympathize. Unless your children are robots, and in that case where do I buy robot children??!!

My husband once said, “I never understood before I had kids why it seemed like every preacher’s story was about their kids. Now I get it. Everything they do preaches to you.”

And God’s never one to waste an opportunity so of course he’s been talking to me through it.

My child has one job: to poop in the potty. We have had many, many talks about this. I have told him he can’t go to big-boy classes at school or church until he poops in the potty. He understands poop goes in the potty. I feel like God has told me, you have one job. You are to go and preach my gospel. Use the tools I’ve given you.

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And like God, I’ve given my child tools. Pull-ups. Access to the potty. And God’s given us tools, although they’re different. He’s given some an extra measure of encouragement, or some a teaching gift, or some a hospitality gift. God’s given me everything I need to do the job he’s asked me to do. And with my kid, I’ve given him everything he needs to do what I asked him to do successfully. And he still won’t do it. In fact, he takes my tools I’ve given him and just poops all over them, which is the opposite of why he has them. And I don’t know if you’re honest enough with yourself to point to a time in your life where you, even you, have taken the tools God has given us to do the exact opposite of what he wants us to do with them. I know I’ve done that more times than I care to remember.

As a mom, the second my kid actually poops in that potty, I will be so relieved and elated, I won’t even care about the years he spent being disobedient. I will just be so happy he’s being obedient now. I’ll just let that preach itself.

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But for now, I’m stuck changing Pull-Up after Pull-up. I get frustrated until I literally take the Pull-Ups away. He couldn’t even go in his pants if he tried. He has no pants. Even the act of taking the Pull-Up away preaches to me on some deeper level. Like, it reminds me of the parable of the talent where Jesus says about the unfruitful servant “even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matt 25:29)

But, thankfully, unlike me, God is so, so patient. Even if it takes us years, God continues to give us unmerited second chance after unmerited second or third or forth or seventy-ninth chance.

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The Bible says very explicitly that God’s mercies are new every morning. So, consider today a great place to start. Apologize to him, and begin using those tools God gave you to do to accomplish the goals he’s set up just for you. Don’t be afraid of how many days you’ve spent being disobedient, just worry about your obedience today.

Take these next few sentences as your challenge:

I’ve given you the goal. I’ve given you the tools. I can’t move you on to the next season until you start being obedient in this season. I’m ready to go if you are. I’ll be beside you on this journey. I see the way. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your job is just to trust me and obey. And if you follow me, we’ll go on an adventure together.

End of An Era

My first-born, who started Kindergarten this year, informed me earlier this month that he had twenty days left of school. I was caught off-guard since we were still solidly in April… and, let’s face it, I birthed him last week. Or at least it feels that way. Ugh! It continually amazes me how quickly time flies. I look back at the many years before we had kids and wonder (not rarely) what the heck did I do with all that time!? I know it felt busy during that season, but knowing what I know now… I literally could’ve established world peace with all that time sans kids… But I digress…

My son will soon be in first-grade and in my mind, into legit, big-kids school. (I realize this actually occurred this current year... but #denial) It’s the end of an era. A short-lived one, but one all the same. He is super excited, and my momma heart celebrates along with him. May has hit!

I’m coming to notice more and more that May is quickly becoming the busiest time of year for almost everyone. Forget Christmas or the beginning of school… no, May has got the lock on extreme scheduling. It marks the end of so many things for people. Whether it be sports tournaments, end-of-the-year choir or music concerts, church classes coming to a close, graduation… you get the idea. May is the quintessential month of ‘ends’. It is always a bittersweet time as we put a period at the end of the chapter and turn over the page into a new season, a new pace of life, a new job, a new school or grade.

Like parents bemoaning their littles growing too fast, or graduates bemoaning their entry into the #adulting world… we all meet change with just a little trepidation and bewilderment. Excitement usually, fear commonly, and a healthy dose of faith always. The end of eras always causes a bit of self-reflection- looking back and what we woulda, coulda, shoulda while looking forward to lots of maybes, hopefuls, fingers-crossed, and unknowns.

Depending on what your view backwards looks like, I would imagine that most of us have our fair share of self-improvement ideas. Whether we have a short list or an entire Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of corrections... know this- God’s got a new thing going for you. If this era has been too dark, too hard, filled with regret and shame, please know that God can turn this new season into something wonderful and promising. He can turn your dark and ugly into light and beautiful. You do not have to carry your guilt with you. Our heavenly Father loves to put His divine period at the end of an era and start another season full of His promises, hope, supernatural revelation, and anointing. While we may not just love to jump into the new and uncomfortable, God thrives in it. And He will cause us to thrive in it as well.

Romans 8:28 ESV promises, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Be of good cheer as we turn over the calendar this month into what will be many ‘ends’. God is gearing up to do a new thing for you!

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9

14 Verses to Overcome Mom Fear

It is a pleasure to reblog a great post about overcoming fear. Abbey has wonderful advice and pulled some amazing scriptures out! She is giving away a copy of Helicopter Mom as well. You can enter the giveaway here.  

Being afraid for our kids comes naturally, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Fear is not from God. Thankfully, God gives us promises in His Word to help us overcome the all-too-common “mom fear.”

(This post may contain affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.)

The first time Selah put herself back to sleep without one of us picking her up, I begged my husband to go in and make sure she was still breathing. I was terrified that in the 15 minutes between her waking up and going back to sleep, she had somehow gotten herself into a weird position and died.

My husband loves me, so in he went. Lo and behold, she was fine, curled up on her side, snoozing away. But that was a lesson for me.

I can choose to be afraid for my children. I can live in fear that they’re going to stop breathing or hit their head one too many times or break a bone or electrocute themselves. I can stress over every little thing and let anxiety rule my life.

But is that how God has called me to live? Absolutely not.

I can’t be afraid for my children. I can’t live in that. It’s not healthy and it’s not from God.

If He can hold the world He can hold this moment; not a field or flower escapes His notice. Oh, even the sparrow knows He holds tomorrow. (Sparrows, Jason Gray)

Fear for our kids comes all too naturally. We read horror stories online or in books, and the devil uses them to draw us farther into fear. We start automatically picturing the dresser falling on top of them when we hear a loud noise, or suffocating on a blanket when they fall asleep quickly, or falling out of their crib when we don’t go get them the second we hear them in the morning.

And of course, as good parents, we should do everything we can to keep them safe. Lower the crib mattress. Don’t pack their crib full of blankets. Secure the dressers. Cover the electrical outlets. Those are precautions, and they are good and necessary.

But living in constant fear isn’t good, it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t from God. In fact, He specifically calls us to overcome fear, and He gives us verses in His Word, time and time again, to empower us to do so.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety and thanksgiving cannot coexist. When your heart is feeling anxious for your children, begin to thank God for all His blessings. In return, He will send His peace to guard your heart and mind from fear.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew‬ ‭6:25‬-26

As moms, we fear that our children won’t have everything they need. Maybe we don’t know how we’re going to pay for groceries this month or we can’t afford to send them to a good school. Friend, God loves you, and He loves your kids. He will provide EVERYTHING you need.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I want you take a few minutes a memorize this verse. Set it as the background on your phone. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Hire a blimp and drag it across the sky. Whatever it takes.

Mama, this verse is your battle cry. God has not given you a spirit of fear. He has not given you an anxious heart. He has given you POWER over the lies of the enemy, LOVE for your babies, and a SOUND MIND to trust in Him. Meditate on that truth.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:8

There is no fear in love. NONE. Do you love your kids? Then do not be afraid for them. Christ loves you, and when He died to demonstrate that love, He drove out fear once and for all. He now calls you to be made perfect in His love and to let go of your fear.

“If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm‬ ‭91:9-12‬

Your tent=your family. If you make God your refuge and trust in Him, no harm or disaster will overtake your family. He will send His angels to protect you, guard you, and keep you safe. There’s no need to fear, because God is with you!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

When we trust in God, He fills us with joy and peace. Fear cannot live in a peaceful heart. If you find yourself overwhelmed with fear, you are not trusting in God. Take a moment, pray to your Father, and be filled with His peace. Then, watch your fear fade away in the light of His hope.

We cannot overcome mom fear on our own. We need the truths of the Word of God to fill us with peace and take away our anxiety and fears.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

God doesn’t give as the world gives. He doesn’t take it back and He doesn’t give you less than you need. He has given you His peace, just enough for today. Make the choice to accept and live out His peace. Remember, you are a living gospel to your kids. Show them how to accept God’s gift of peace.

“For He Himself is our peace…” Ephesians 2:14

This fills my heart with such a feeling of safety. God Himself is my peace. He doesn’t send an angel to take His place, and He doesn’t take a day off. He is my peace. He is with me, and He will protect me from all fear.

Repeat that last line to yourself. “He is with me, and He will protect me from all fear.” That, mama, is the truth your heart needs to hear.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

We have no reason to be afraid. God has promised to never leave us and never forsake us. He’s there, always, forever. Man can do nothing to us, nothing to our kids. There is no need for fear.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

When we keep our minds on God, He keeps us in perfect peace. Think about it. If we are constantly thinking on the Lord, thanking Him for His blessings, remembering His promises, fear cannot exist. It is overtaken by thoughts of God, and replaced with beautiful peace.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

This verse gives me such confidence! God is FOR US! He wants us to be safe and protected and at peace. And if He wants that for us, then that’s how it will be, and nothing can come against that. God’s will for our life is not one of anxiety and fear, and when we realize that, we can begin to live in peace.

“The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8

This goes for you and your family. God will keep you safe. He is always watching you and taking care of you and your husband and your kids. There’s not one moment of your life that He misses, not one danger that He doesn’t see coming. God’s got you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

This is one of my favorite promises. God is with us, so there is no need to fear. He is our God, He is strengthening us, He is helping us, and He is upholding us. How much better can it get??

We cannot overcome mom fear on our own. We need the truths of the Word of God to fill us with peace and take away our anxiety and fears.

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

Not only is God looking out for us, but for our children, as well. When we fear the Lord, love Him, and serve Him, He surrounds and protects us. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! He does the same FOR OUR CHILDREN. OUR hope, OUR trust, OUR peace, it all trickles down to our kids. When we trust in God, they are protected. That is the best motivation for me to overcome my anxiety, fears, and sin, and truly TRUST God.

KEEP READING FOR A GIVEAWAY!

A couple of weeks after Selah was born, I began to struggle with mom fear. A few days later, in an answer to prayer, I came across the book “Helicopter Mom” by Bethany L. Douglas, and it changed my life.

Bethany is a mom who has struggled deeply with fear for her children. From little things to big, she knows what it is to be afraid, but she also knows how everything changes when you begin to trust God and His promises. Here are a few of my favorite quotes form the book:

“God promises so much help in return for giving up our worry and fear (in short, for obeying Him): His peace. God not only commands us not to worry, He ensures an easy pathway to peace. He promises peace and doles it out freely in exchange for our fear! All we have to do is give it to Him!”

“That’s right: Fear is an idol. Hear me well: We are sinning! We wallow in the fear, of the fear for our kids- so we put up false idols to make us feel better. This idea that we know best because we have researched it, that we know the ideal way, and we have the knowledge to back this up is nothing more than so many false idols.”

“It does not do your kids any good if all you do is focus on the image-the idea-the possibility of blood shooting out of his leg and totally miss the work of faith God is asking you to do in yourself and your children.”

This book changed my entire outlook on mothering. Fear is a lie and an idol and if I choose to live in it, I am not being the mother that God has created me to be. If this sounds like your kind of book (it is), you’re in luck, because I’m giving away a signed copy to one lucky winner! Just enter below for your chance to win!

Why I'm Not Afraid to Say "Retarded"

This particular article has been one in the making in my head for about 6 months now. It's been close to my heart to write but I didn't know when the appropriate time to post it would be. It would seem that I can't keep my thoughts silent any longer. I want to add a different perspective to the "R-word" debate- one I haven't seen or read yet. I'm quite sure there will be many people who immediately disagree with me, but I would ask you to just read on and see where I'm coming from. Yesterday was the national #spreadthewordtoendtheword campaign; and while I don't necessarily disagree with this sentiment, I do have some thoughts on how very sad it is that this absolutely innocuous word-"retardation"- has been vilified in a completely unfair way.

The words "retardation, retard, retardant" do not bother me one little bit. I'm not offended by them, I'm not hurt by them, and hearing them in conversation doesn't cause me to run to the other side of the room.

Meet my retarded daughter, Anna. She was born with Trisomy 21, Down syndrome. And yes, she is retarded in many, many ways.

Let me give you some background. I became familiar with the special needs community and started working with them back in 1998 while employed at a summer camp for disabled kids. I worked at this camp for 3 full summers. I met my husband, who was also working as a counselor there. Largely due to my interaction with this community, I got a BS in Psychology and eventually degrees in nursing as well. The earliest years of our marriage Gabe and I worked as program directors for a group home- we physically lived on-site with our clients. We were with them 24-7 for 3 years. Later, by God's awesome plan, we had our very own special needs baby, Anna, who came into our family just 14 months ago. Around the same time, I became the medical director for the same camp that started it all. Crazy full-circle stuff right? Our entire family spends 3 months of each year living, playing with, serving, and loving on all sorts of people with special needs.

I know this community. I love and adore this community.

And, still, the word "retarded" doesn't bother me.

Why you ask? Because there is power in words, but there is MORE power in understanding what those words MEAN. "Retarded" doesn't bother me because "retarded" is simply and only a measure of time. It is an objective measurement to describe the growth of something. Merriam-Webster defines the word "retarded" (adjective) as slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development :  characterized by mental retardation. Moreover, the word "retard" which is really what all this flashpoint offense is over, simply means to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment, synonyms include brake, decelerate, slow, slackenhalt, stophandicap, hinder, hobble, hold back, hold up, impede, inhibit, obstruct, set back, tie uparrest, check, constrain, curb, rein, restrain.

I am a nurse by primary vocation. I have a secondary degree in Biomedical Sciences. Over the course of many science classes during these degrees, the word "retard" or "retardation" comes up often. In fact, the word in used not rarely in many other avenues and situations as well- all of which involve the slowing or slowness of something. What the word is NOT is a diatribe on intelligence, personality, worth, or importance. "Retard" is a transitive verb that has been used for over 500 years as a descriptor of growth or advancement (or lack thereof). It's meaning has nothing to do with good or bad, so at what point did slowness (i.e. retardation) become such a bad thing? Why does our society immediately equate being slow as having a negative connotation? I don't get it. This poor word has been hijacked and it's meaning completely changed!

Fire retardant slows or stops a fire- a good thing.

Chemotherapy retards and hinders cancerous cells from growing- a good thing.

Antibiotics retard and impede bacteria's ability from spreading in the body- a good thing.

Retardation can be (and IS) and very. good. thing.

So what is the deal with avoiding this word like the plague? Yes, I absolutely acknowledge that it has been and is being used a a flaming arrow of insult at people. I'm not arguing that the word is not slang for really mean insinuations. I understand that the heart of the usage can be very hurtful. But only if we let it be hurtful! I have had several people use this word towards Anna (one of which was very much trying to hurl an offense in our direction).

But it didn't stick.

Happy 1st birthday! #caketasting

Because my daughter IS retarded in so many ways. She is slow in her physical development. She is slow to meet milestones verbally and cognitively. She is slow! And I adore that about her!

As a mom, I cherish the extra time it is taking her to learn to sit and crawl and pull up (which she still has no interest in) and walk (something that's not even on her radar yet!) I revel in knowing that I am blessed with just that extra bit of time in each season with her, knowing that her retardation gives me just that many more moments with her. Her retardation has retarded my life as well. What a blessing!

As a frantic, first-world American I desire my life in general to be more retarded. I wish the pace would slacken, my eating would be hindered, my activities held up, my parenting patience elongated, my career path slowed. I imagine many of us have these same thoughts. We want retardation! Do you see what I'm getting at here? How many times do you see people celebrating (or longing for?!) the ability to take life more slowly? To "stop and smell the roses"? To watch the clouds sweep by or the rain patter on the grass? We long for the dizzying effects of our crazy life to slow down, to retard don't we?

As a Christian I wish I were more retarded in my patience, in my speaking, in my anger. We are instructed to be this way dear ones! James 1:19 (NLT) "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." Have you ever prayed for retardation in these areas?

That this poor word has been associated negatively with these precious populations blows my mind. It is an objective measurement of time and ability and yet somehow has come to mean something entirely different. When did this innocent word become such a way to degrade intelligence? I mean seriously? Talk about inventing a new definition! Since when does "retard" (which is a verb not a noun...) mean 'not smart'?  Why can something slow not also be gentle and kind, witty and valuable? How did "retarded" become synonymous with 'less worthy' or 'not good enough'?

Retardation is measurable, it is objective, it carries no emotion, it carries no weight of worth.

Anna's growth is slow, Anna's cognitive milestones take more time than normal to reach. (Which by the way, what is normal anyway? That's a discussion for another day...) There is no sentiment or emotion placed on her condition, it is what it is as I love to say. BUT her retardation has zero to do with her intelligence, her kindness, her gentleness, her happiness, her ability to touch people's lives, her worth as a human being. So why on earth would I ever be offended or hurt when she's called retarded? She IS retarded! She's ALSO joyful, happy, silly, smart, gentle, patient, a blessing, valuable, and worthy! None of this is mutually exclusive.

When people are unwise enough to think they're informing me of my child's (or any of my friend's) condition- I go out of my way to tell them they have no idea how correct they are. This special needs population are slowed, praise the Lord and to His glory they are so retarded! And they are better than me in almost everything that's important in life because of it.

Oh, to be more retarded like they are! These amazing human beings that see the world in a way we unretarded people never will because we're too busy being busy. They, who experience life and God in ways we never will or could because we are so very handicapped by our own actual disabilities (pride, selfishness, envy, power, greed, self-doubt, etc.) If there is anything at all that I've come to learn about the retarded population over the years is that they are by far better humans than I can ever hope to be. Their retardation, their slowness and arrested development, has freed them to see and pursue and learn and interact with life in much more meaningful ways. And I do long to be more like them in these ways!

So yes, you who use the R-word, yes. You've hit the nail on the head! My daughter, my friends, are indeed retarded. And that quality within them is perhaps one of the most cherished things about them in my humble opinion. "Retard" does not offend me, even if you mean it for ill, because

  • You're using it incorrectly (it takes the sting out when they're basically saying {with as much venom as they can muster} "So, you have a delayed kid." Not quite as powerful right?)
  • The word carries nothing but a scientific, innocuous definition for me... one that is actually completely correct. I don't get offended when people hurl "You're so blond!" at me... Saying "Anna is retarded." has the same impact.
  • Shoot! Even the slang definition (which is almost exclusively how it is used nowadays), stupid or foolish, is not true to of this population. Anna and my friends with special needs are neither stupid nor foolish! So again, insult hurled- it's not true, therefore it doesn't stick.
  • Plus, as a bonus, I celebrate retardation! I love it, I want more of it in my life and in the lives of those around me!

So, in conclusion (if you've made it this far) though I get the sentiment behind the whole #spreadthewordtoendtheword movement, I feel moreso like we simply need to take the word back- to reclaim it's original meaning. Back in 2000 when I directed the group home, the 'proper' wording had moved from mental/physical "retardation" (which had been in use for years at that point) to mental/physical "handicapped"- nowadays even "handicapped" has started to denote a negative connotation and I see the movement towards mental/physical "disabled" or "special needs" being more 'appropriate'. How long will it be before those are blacklisted as well? 5 years? 10 years? Will those who adore these populations (that society just loves to stamp labels on) continue to give away ground in the name of incorrectly syntaxed words- just so not to be offensive? How about we go to war with "stupid" or "idiot" instead? At least those words are spoken maliciously hurtful in a subjective, unmeasurable, and purposeful way. Yet, I fear that even having such a movement as the one this last Wednesday has given more power and credence to an otherwise purely under-educated group of bullies who obviously failed English 101. Why not correct their incorrect meaning and use it as an educational moment to celebrate retardation instead? Knowledge is power and education will always be key in integrating these amazing people better into the folds of society- all us 'normal' people could certainly learn a thing or two from them being around more.

I do not say "retarded" around people much, simply because there is no reason to use it. I know Anna is retarded, I know many of my friends are. It's not something that needs discussion. And because society has overtaken the meaning, I don't use it often because I don't want to inadvertently hurt anyone's feelings. This article, in fact, is not meant to necessarily change anyone's mind about using the word (or not using it), this is simply a different take on the debate. But those of you who read this, know that when I do use ''retarded" it is in celebration, in respect, in honor, and in awe of such a gift they possess that I do not.

 

I don't hope to reverse the trend into eventual dictionarial (is that even a word?) oblivion that this word will probably eventually find itself; I think the movement is too far gone for that. It's just too bad that we are losing an innocent, objective, and useful word to describe many, many things all around us. I fear this whole concept is dying a slow and unneeded societal death.

 Anna is slow, she is delayed, her development is held back... she is very much retarded. God made her exactly right, exactly according to His plan. She. is. perfect!

I will never, ever be afraid or offended of Anna being retarded.

Praying for Hulk- Why I Love When My Kids Pray for Their Superheroes

This, my friends, is my 3-year old's bedside table. It gives me hives just to look at it, and what little OCD I do have tends to go into overdrive when I walk in his room. We don't actually allow toys with them during naptimes and overnight (as clearly shown by the picture!), however Jonah has found a way to work my mama-heartstrings... he prays for his toys.

Each night, he brings the ones (dozens?) he wants to pray for into his bed and one by one he prays for them and then places them next to him on the table. Jonah is a little prayer-warrior, it's not unusual for him to pray for 5+ minutes sometimes. He's especially good at asking for protection and safety over people, objects, food, and all manner of random items. He's a bit like Goodnight Moon but with prayers.

I. Love. It.

Jonah has taken to praying extensively over his superhero collection recently. Gabe and I discussed for a bit about the 'parenting' aspect of whether we should allow him to do this- after all, they aren't real and don't exist. It bothered me for a little while, but God gave me an epiphany (thank Jesus for Parenting Epiphany's- hereafter known as PEs forevermore... copyrights to follow!)

In short, we decided we want our children praying over their superheroes.

I want them lifting them up in prayer. Sure, at 3 and 5 years old, that's most likely gonna include Superman, the Ninja Turtles, Peter Pan, Woody, Buzz, Hulk, Thor, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee... and any number of others that this mom can't keep up with. But his prayers also often include praying for the safety of David, Daniel, Samson, and Moses; he even prays for Jesus at times! I get that my son's praying for imaginary characters mixed in with long dead Biblical figures and the occasional inanimate object (he prays nightly for "mama's helicopper") may seem odd- but what a lesson he's learning!

By praying for these things, he's acknowledging that God is bigger, stronger, mightier, and better than they are. In short, his heroes, no matter how awesome he thinks they are, still need God. Because seriously... if Thor needs God's protection... then don't we all?!? The prayers for his heroes now, though make-believe, have the potential to turn into intercession for his heroes in the future- the real ones. The future friends, authors, actors, sports figures, leaders, teachers, or family that become elevated in his eyes as superheroes will need all his prayers. And that is lightning in a bottle I want to nourish! That is behavior I absolutely want to support.

So I will encourage my kids to pray for whoever, whatever, and however they want to place before the Throne. It astounds me the spiritual insight kids have, their soft little hearts feel and see so much more quickly and readily than mine does. Often they will pull out a person we know at random and lift them up- how much we as parent's should pay attention to that!

We should encourage them to pray for everyone on their hearts- the big, powerful, and mighty as well as the meek, humble, poor, and mild; because we ALL need God.

Because you never know when, somewhere on a far distant planet, Thor and Hulk may just need some helping out from the Most High....

 

Like a Hand in a Glove- How to Avoid Being the Octopus

I had to put gloves on my boys today when I sent them outside.  Easier said than done… Because with 3 and 4 year olds, getting them into gloves is not exactly as easy as simply sliding their little fingers into the holes and sending them on their way. In fact, I would venture to say that getting gloves on them is more akin to trying to fit roller skates on an octopus, upside down, with your eyes closed, after the creature has had an injection of pure adrenaline.

Not exactly easy. Or fast. Or efficient. Or particularly enjoyable.

In fact it's downright challenging.

I know all parents can relate. It takes time, patience, not a small amount of dexterity, and amateur sumo-wrestling moves to get all. those. little. fingers. into. the. right. places. Let’s be honest- it’s exhausting and can be frustrating (depending on the level of excitement to go outside and how that translates into wriggles.)  I won’t even mention when, after 5 minutes, they’ve pulled them all off because “it’s making my fingers hurt!” (What is that?? Seriously child!)

How I wish both my boys could just slide their hands into the gloves with the ease that I can! It would be so much easier and faster! But alas, for a while longer, I’m resigned to baby finger wrestling.

I was struck today, while struggling with Jonah’s little digits, how alike this tussle was to reading and understanding God’s word and following His way. There are times and seasons where I feel like there is a lot of grace for discerning what I’m supposed to be learning- for what God is teaching me. It’s obvious. It’s easy, efficient, and effective.

Like slipping my hand into a glove- seamless and effortless.

Other seasons, (like right now!) the wisdom and lessons are not so obvious or easy. In fact, it’s a downright skirmish to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning. Not unlike Jacob wrestling with the angel, there are days where I’m exhausted from the spiritual mats that I’ve been slung down on. It hurts, it bruises even sometimes. It’s a game of patience, of precision (little fingers into little holes), and it often takes time. The exact opposite of the ease of putting my own gloves on.

But just as it makes my job easier if my boys stand still and patiently while I place each finger into the proper place, so also I imagine that it would do me a heckuva lot of good to just be still and let God place the pieces of my life and heart into the proper positions that He wants as well.

This season requires precision work right now!

He is carefully and gently putting pieces where they’re supposed to go. My “helping” Him by trying to anticipate where those locations are… is, in fact, NOT helping. In my eagerness to get ‘outside’ I fear I’m impending and delaying His ability to get my spiritual ‘fingers into my gloves.’

I need to chill out.

I need to be patient.

I need to BACK OFF sometimes.

I need to let my Father put these gloves on me.

One. Finger. At. A. Time.

ChristmasFail

Holidays are hard and wonderful all at the same time. The Christmas season is perhaps the pinnacle of possibilities for stress and (un-needed?) hustle and bustle. It's amazing how God will use this time to knock us between the eyes sometimes. You know, those spiritual 2x4s I love to talk about. I was thusly knocked out this last Sunday, by none other than my own eldest son... who's temper tantrum (x2!) was a new and wholely out-of-character occurance that had both Gabe and I questioning our parenting abilities. He had gotten initially in trouble for trying to play with his cousin's and brother's toys. He'd been kind of 'stalking' them pretty much all day. Upon being corrected, he promptly totally lost it.

In short, Jesse finally told us he "hated" his "stupid" toys. There was nothing to "play with".

Ouch...

Total MomFail! Total ChristmasFail. I was simultaneously heart-broken that he would have such a horrible attitude of ungratefulness, extremely angry that his flippancy was so immediate and complete, and somewhat personally saddened that he didn't seem to enjoy anything that I had lovingly hand-picked out for him.  Total FAIL- for SO many reasons.

After his second complete, screaming melt-down (again, totally out of character for him- which further confounded us! This parenting stuff is HARD!!) both Gabe and I attempted to talk/beg/reason/threaten some sense into him. We spoke of kids all over the world that don't have as much as we do and how we need to be thankful for what we do get- even if it's not exactly what we wanted. We threatened to take all the toys away (which he was totally unbothered by and actually started packing them up... ), we prayed with him to ask Jesus to show his heart how to be grateful, etc etc. For a solid hour we worked through this issue with him. Seemingly to no avail. It was stressful to say the least. I was not bothered as much by the melt-down as I was about his heart.

Because Jesse is brilliant, he is charming, he is witty and way too smart for his own good. He has a very strong sense of justice and rightness, and more often than not when he argues he has totally valid points. He also has almost zero empathy. It's something we saw in him (or NOT in him) early on. It's something we've had to intentionally and very purposefully pray and teach into him. He's getting much better at it (and I have no doubt that God sent his baby sister, Anna, with Down syndrome to personally help teach him patience, acceptance, and empathy,) and I have no concern that if we continue "training him up in the way he should go" that he'll be a might, kind, gentle man of God. But it's taking time and energy and a ton of prayer.

But back to Christmas night. I was really, REALLY alarmed by him. It completely took all the wind from my holiday sails and I became consumed by thinking about what we needed to do with him, for him, to him... you get the idea. He was clearly extraordinarily frustrated- with the situation, with my not understanding his point of view, with not understanding my point of view. I was super frustrated as well- it seemed no amount of talking it over with him would change his mind. But we ended the night with prayer, for all of us, and he went to bed.

Later that night, as Gabe and I spoke over what to do, it occurred to me that what Jesse was frustrated about was, in fact, somewhat legit. Upon thinking back on what he actually received for Christmas, the kid got 4 toys (3 of which were outside/summertime toys), several games, and the rest was homeschool related or clothing. The <extensive> list he had written out to Santa was woefully unfilled (he got only 2 things from it). Throughout the day he had been asking to play with his toys and we kept telling him they were outside toys only and he couldn't go out. The couple of times he tried to recruit people to play games with him, we all said no.

The poor kid had been trying to play all day. And I had set him up for failure.

Ugh! I felt even more terrible. He had been trying to play with his toys, he wanted to play with his toys, and I wouldn't let him. So when he got in trouble for stalking other's toys, his little sense of justice was beyond what it could bear. He's only 4 so trying to convey this particular injustice was more than his heart could explain. Suddenly I got it.

Not that his tantrum was acceptable at all. It wasn't. Yes, he did have one toy that was easily played with inside. And it's not at all about how many or what kind of toys we get (all of which we are slowly teaching our children..) But we understood finally what his initial motivation was and what he had been trying to tell us.

I think he was (as all children tend to be) a bit disappointed that there was so little asked for that he actually received. It came out afterwards that he was questioning if he was on the 'naughty list' because of this! Furthermore, the little guy needed toys he could play with- he saw everyone else happily playing with their toys and and try as he might, he had none to play with. Mostly because I wouldn't let him, or wouldn't play with him. Ugh!

It occurred to me, once again in much Christmas glory, that I am so woefully unequipped for parenting sometimes.  I am not a perfect mom and I never will be. My only prayer is to not screw them up too bad! Next year's Christmas will be different- not in the toys or amount of gifts... rather in the preparation, in the knowing my children and their needs, and in continuing to try to walk them in the path they should go. Lessons were learned, for all of us, and for that I'm grateful.

I am the most grateful that our Heavenly Father is a bit more qualified parent me. He doesn't set us up for failure (even by accident!), He doesn't not know the best way to teach us a lesson, He doesn't not have any idea about how to handle our disobedience or shortcomings. He is the Good Father, the Best Father, the PERFECT Father.

And I really love that as my Heavenly Father, he gives grace and covers my own imperfections as a mother. Thank you Abba for that!