Happy, blessed.

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This guy here, he’s my youngest out of three boys and he’s about to turn five. And here in New Zealand, turning five is quite a big deal. Most kids start school on or as close to their fifth birthday as possible. So, as you can imagine I’m feeling all the feels.

I could write a post about how we all gotta stop blinking. These kids just grow like weeds and they will have flown the nest before we even know it.

I could write a post about how amazing this little dude is and how he lives up to his very name, meaning happy and blessed.

But really, all I can think about is his birth story and seeing the touch of God, the fingerprints of grace, every step of the way.  And I see relevance in this for each and every one of us; young, old, married, single, childless, parent, sister, brother. All of us…..I’ll even keep the mention of bodily fluids to the very minimum.

Asher’s coming ‘to be’ was very much a planned and wanted happening in our lives.  We’d always wanted three kids and then some unexplained medical issues and moving countries kinda put some blips on our path.  In fact if ‘he’ hadn’t have happened exactly when he did, we were just gonna prepare our hearts to be a family of four.  We plan and we strive.  We spend a lot of time scheduling life, putting order in our days.  But there’s a deep peace that comes from living in the knowledge that at the very start of the day, and at the end of the day, our steps are ordered by the Lord.  He also knows what our hearts cry out for.  What our deepest longings are.  We read in the book of James in the Bible that ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above’.  

To make a very long story way shorter, from 28 weeks I had to have weekly ultrasounds to check on my baby, because of being exposed to a certain illness that I had no immunity to. You never know when and where you’re gonna get hit with one of life’s curveballs.  Peace can come from ‘building your lifeboat‘, especially in the times when the sailing is smooth.  And that curveball ended up working in our favour, maybe even to the point of saving his life.

I was a day shy of 38 weeks, at my regular weekly scan when the technician left the room in search of my Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist.  You know something’s up when that happens.  Turns out the baby had ripped his amniotic sac to shreds.  Who knew that was a possibility?  So I was sent straight to the hospital…the risk being if the amniotic sac had started leaking fluids, a great gushing, it could have caused a prolapsed cord.  Ain’t nobody got no time for that.  Once again, a surprise for us, but not for God.  And as always – impeccable timing.  My husband had just come home from being away, a six hour flight across the country, away.  He had come along to that appointment with me, on what we thought was a whim, because he had been away and had time off due to him.  But God knew he should have been with me.  How many times do things happen in our lives, at just the right time, with just the right people around us?  God knows.

My labour progressed very slowly, because I went into labour naturally with the shock of everything….then the medical staff intervened to try to speed things along…but still…it was was a long and painkiller free process.  My regular obstetrician was called in, on his day off.  He’d been golfing, of course..  He came and went, only to be called back in right in the last five minutes of labour…Sometime we feel like we’re inconveniencing people.  And sometimes we really are.  But I also think that sometimes we need to realize that we actually do matter.  My doc was on a very infrequent day off, but my delivery really mattered to him.  There were others who could have taken over for him, partners in his practice, but the care of my baby actually meant something to him.  Sometimes people move in and through their inconvenienced lives to prove to people that they actually matter to them.  It boils down to relationship doesn’t it, and the fact that love really does.  And to be on the receiving end of that means a great amount. 

In those last few minutes, my OB stepped aside and gave my husband the spot to actually deliver Asher.  Pity he couldn’t have wiped his delivery fee too…but in that handing over….it was quite a powerful moment I realized, in hindsight of course.  The Doctor talked Michael through what he needed to do, but he gave him the responsibility to actually bring our baby into the world.  Michael’s gentle hands were the first to touch Asher.  I can’t help but see this as a picture of God guiding us in our everyday lives to be Jesus with skin on.  He’s right there, beside us, helping us, guiding us, but we’re His hands.  We’re the ones who need to step up and put hands and feet to this love we know.  

Where we were in America it was the law to fill out all the official birth paperwork before leaving the hospital. Including the birth certificate.  I have my suspicions that the time pressure for naming your baby results in some of the pretty out there names we see….but it did mean that we left the hospital with a bona fide American citizen, who is also a New Zealand Citiizen.  This dual citizenship isn’t something we take for granted.  While not everyone can hold dual citizenship in two earthly countries, all of us can have dual citizenship of sorts.  Heaven and earth.  And while some of us may be stuck with some very interesting names….let’s not forget what names God calls us.  Beloved.  Cherished. Friend.  Accepted.  Chosen.  Blameless. Complete. We can all learn to accept these treasured names.

 My prayer today is that you could catch a glimpse of just how loved you are. I can see God’s love, protection and provision woven clearly throughout all of Asher’s birth story…..and I know this same love is there for you. 

Happy and blessed is our Asher.  Happy and blessed are we.

 

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With grace kissed cheeks.

Rose-tinted glasses aren’t for everyone.  I’d prefer to try to have a fairly balanced, feet firmly planted on the ground, perspective on things.  Especially on things concerning the world of me, myself and I.  I thought I had a pretty good, a very realistic handle on my talents and abilities, limitations, giftings and failings.  I thought I did.

Then Love swooped down.

Why is it so much easier to look at the character traits in our children and people close to us, and although we may not always appreciate these traits at face value, we can see how they can be flipped and used for good, than to possibly say the same for us?

The bossy kid.  That’s leadership ability.

The stubborn child.  Well they won’t be easily swayed.

But in myself?  Well the negative, the lack, the gap between who I am and who I’d like to be, that’s always a bad thing. Always a sticking point.  Always a thing to block, ignore or explain away.

Until Love swoops down, kneels gently beside us, and grace kisses us on the cheeks.

I’ve been swept upon.  I’ve been blown away.  Regarding two separate specifics, who I thought I was, who I declared I wasn’t, they have been completely turned around.  I’ve been corrected and re-aligned, as only a Father with the very gentlest of touches can do.  This is the way, walk ye in it.  No longer shall you limit yourself in these ways.

You may be in a similar place to where I was.  Loudly proclaiming that there’s no way you could do x, y or z.  That’s not your gifting.  You’re not able to do that.  Or this part of you that others see as a negative thing, a hindering thing, is a stumbling block for you.

But maybe, God’s just waiting, lingering, hovering close, until you need to know that actually yes, your limitations are sometimes of your own doing.  And then, if you make room for him, then He’ll swoop down, and give you grace for the journey, grace for the task, grace for your own lack of ability, and He’ll make what you thought was impossible simply possible…..

And with that re-alignment comes a new confidence.  Because you know you’re not operating out of self and all that you know you can or cannot do – but what He is equipping you to do.  The path of obedience can be walked in confidence because God is leading the way, lighting the path in the dark places, and you can walk this new path with head held high because you are no longer a slave to fear and your own very cheeks, they have been kissed with grace.

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When Hope enters in. 

I think there are times in many people’s lives where they feel stuck in their story, when pain and suffering acts as quicksand that they cannot climb free from. 

Sometimes the curveballs of life have a way of blinding us from seeing above and beyond our right here and right now. 

I’m no expert in grief and suffering, but I can speak from some experience. Sometimes you don’t know when it – pain, heartache, the great big balls of ugly we hold onto – will end. But. Times do get better. Relief does come. Scars do heal. And for me, the greatest times of poignant reminders that ‘this too shall pass’ have come about as a result of lifting my hands and raising my week, feeble, out of tune voice, and declaring God’s goodness in song.

There’s amazing power and healing that comes forth, when we acknowledge that even in the midst of storms, God is still good.  I titled this post ‘when hope enters in’, but I sincerely believe that hope is always there. God’s presence is always there. His never ending love. His provision. It’s just a powerful thing when we declare that with our voices, when something breaks in us, when our focus becomes clear again and focused on Him again,  that’s when hope re-enters our hearts. That’s where I believe we can find new strength for another day. In the midst of grief, heartache and suffering, that’s been my number one survival skill. Declaring His goodness. It’s almost a form of recalibration for the soul. 

‘We make a joyful noise. Let every rescued heart rejoice. Into Your presence we have come. With a song.  You’re good hallelujah You are good’ – Your Love Remains, Grace Vineyard Christchurch NZ

‘And I still believe You’re the same yesterday, today and forever. And I still believe Your blood is sufficient for me’ – Still Believe, Kim Walker- Smith

‘Blessed be Your name. When I’m found in the desert place. Though I walk through the wilderness. Blessed be Your name. ‘ – Blesed be Your Name, Tree63

Many, many, many times, when you’re going through schtufff you don’t have the right words to say, or the right people to say these stuffed up words to….and your heart may be quietly but steadily shattering, I’m so very sorry. I’m sorry that we walk through valleys of pain and that quite simply bad things do happen. But this I know. I know that I know that I know…when we declare/ shout/ quietly utter or even simply muster up the courage and energy to whisper songs of adoration to our God, then hope re-enters……

For me, worship ushers in Gods presence. Hope always re-enters. 

‘Even more than the answers to the question, why? We need an affirmation of God’s presence in our grief’ – Philip Yancey. 

Life Interrupted

Wouldn’t it be nice if life ran to our agenda, to our timetable? Wouldn’t it be nice to be in total control of the events of our days? But we’re not. And life, especially with little people in the picture, has many an interruption to its flow.
I’ve just done a little stint as a solo parent…not my favourite thing in the world, but when the Spunky Hunk’s work beckons him away, away he must go. Thankfully it doesn’t happen much….but every time it does it makes me realize how amazing the people are that have to parent by themselves day in and day out. When you’re the only person brushing little people’s teeth, washing dishes and reading stories – it gets tiring. And the interruptions that happen to your day seem even more frustrating. So I’ve been working on this.
When I have to pull out the toaster for yet another round of toast, just after I’ve put it away, I’ve been working on holding in that sigh.
When World War Three is erupting just as I sit down for a hot cup of tea, then I’ve been working on putting on my best diplomat’s hat and being reasonable, instead of erupting myself into Grumpy Mum.
When the kids are wanting a turn on the computer and I’m in the middle of ‘stalking’ my friends and their news on facebook, I’ve been working on setting up time limits and sharing properly.
Funny how it is the 37 year old who needs to learn how to share properly huh.

So I’m working on how I react to my interruptions. Working on the first response that I give to people. Working on my attitude.

Who is the best role for this? Jesus of course. I’ve been thinking about how his days were interrupted all the time. Here he is, on a three year mission to reach as many people as possible, and his days just keep getting interrupted. Wherever he goes people want a piece of him. The woman with the issue of blood. Jairus with his dead daughter. Simon’s mother-in-law. The list goes on. Jesus could go nowhere without sick people coming to him for healing, the task of providing enough food for the crowds that followed him and he can’t even attend a wedding, a joyous time of celebrating, without being called on to perform a miracle.

Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate before reaching out and helping. He faced his interruptions with love and grace and patience, and long -suffering. I’m sure he didn’t sigh with frustration either outloud or inwardly as I so often do.

In fact he turned his interruptions into opportunities to illustrate the Father’s love. To provide real answers and to fulfill real needs. The very interruptions that I face can be the same – they can be the opportunities I have every day to illustrate real love and patience with my family and friends. To show them that this life is not about ME and my needs and agenda, but rather about Him and me becoming more like Him.

That is my prayer today. That my interruptions become my opportunities.

Pain and ‘the others’

I’m on a bit of a theme at the moment, with what I’m reading and the stories and articles that catch my eye…I’ve been looking  at ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ partly because it is always interesting to see how Christians approach these topics, partly to process and refine my own views on these matters, and partly because I want to be a person that doesn’t just give pat answers to others who are hurting, but can offer real and honest empathy and hope and also have the ability to look at situations not just through my own limited lenses.  So these thoughts of mine may turn into a series, I don’t know…..but I’ll just roll with what may come…..

Deep down in my innerds I have an ulcer. I’m about halfway through my medicine to fix this here ulcer. In the meantime it is a little painful on some days on other days it is a lot painful and on other days I’m blissfully unaware of it. 

I’m not normally in the habit of sharing my medical woes with strangers, or even with friends, but stay with me, there is a point to all of this. You see at the time of the ulcer’s discovery, my specialist shrugged it off as something that was insignificant. No biggie. Nothing to worry about. However, because I could track the pain I was feeling, to the exact spot of the ulcer’s position in my innerds, my doctor listened to me and validated what I was feeling. And recognised that this issue needed attention and treatment. 

And here’s the thing…. I think we all have pain of different types, emotional, spiritual, and maybe even physical pain, that others have fobbed off as insignificant.  No biggie. Nothing to worry about. 

And so this pain hasn’t ever been dealt with. 

And so this pain has maybe grown, and taken over more space than it should have ever been allowed. 

And so this pain has become a barrier to victory and progress in other areas of your life. 

We all work really hard to deal with physical pain. We have plenty of tools at our disposal to ‘fix’ our physical bodies. We have treatment plans and big pharma in our corner…..but maybe we all need to put a little more effort into firstly identifying emotional pain, and then doing something about it. Just maybe, aye. 

When I look around me and identify the funnest and most joyful people in my circles, they are without a doubt the people who carry with them the least amount of baggage.  They may have had very eventful journeys and they may have walked hard, hard, hard and dark, dark, roads, but when they talk, I lean in and I listen up hard. For these people have chosen to deal with their schtufff, no matter what ‘the others’ have said. 

I want to be a person who can walk through each chapter of life, embracing it for what it is, not tied down by yesterday’s worries and cares. Baggage-less. And victory-ful.

Let’s work together on being wise and being mindful of what pain in our lives needs attention and a little extra loving, what parts of our innerds need healing. We’re all walking wounded in some way or another, but we CAN be each other’s crutches and we CAN make easy the way to the Great Physician. 

Pointe Shoes and What Ifs

I was a late starter in the world of dance.  At the age of eleven I decided that dance was something I really wanted to do and had to do and couldn’t live without.  So I entered the world of leotards, tights, shoes and buns.  I started with modern jazz and quickly added ballet to the list of classes.  Now with ballet you really need to start with the basics and build up from there….so I was placed in a class of five and six year olds.  That’s quite a good motivator for anyone….to be twice someone’s age and to be learning something new……I practiced and I pranced and I danced and a twirled and I skipped, all with good toes and bad toes….and I worked my way up the grades….and I sort of caught up to my age group, but never really got there…

While I had determination and drive, its fair to say I never had a huge amount of natural talent.  I was never going to be an Anna Pavlova.  But it is amazing what you can accomplish through lots of practice and a sheer will to succeed.

Pointe shoes.  They were my nemesis.  They hurt.  They really did hurt. I was never comfortable in them, never felt at ease and never really loved them.  Those pretty, shiny pink satin covered blocks of wood became the enemy.  My barrier to success.

A couple of years ago I was online looking at ordering some pointe shoes for a friend, to send back to NZ from America.  Everything in America was cheaper.  Everything.  I came upon an article on how to find the right size of pointe shoes for your feet, and I realized that all along in my experience with pointe work, I had been wearing the wrong size shoes.  I’d never been properly fitted, never had the best fit for my feet.

And thus began my brief flirt with the idea of the ‘what if?’.

What if I had actually been wearing the right size shoes and what if pointe shoes had no longer hurt?

What if I grew to love them and wearing them became such a natural and easy extension of my life as a dancer?

What if I flew through the upper grades of RAD and my level of talent actually matched my level of enjoyment?

What if?

Now I quickly came to realize that even if any of those things had been true…..I was still not a great dancer….but for the meantime, that flirting with the idea of ‘what if’ gave me a false sense of reality…a warped view of the truth.  Allowing the ‘what ifs’ to creep in….overshadowed some stark realities.

And isn’t it the same with parenting?

Any and every time that we tango with a ‘what if’ with regards to our children, when we’re looking back in hindsight, from my experience….that ‘what if’ doesn’t do us any favours.

These ‘what ifs’ can be anything from:  what if we’d noticed such and such earlier?  What if we’d been more proactive in this area?  What if we’d made our kid do x, y and z?  What if we’d stopped them from doing x, y and z?  What if we’re not the right parent with this job?  What if I don’t how to handle this issue?

Big and small ‘what ifs’ surround us.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you’ll know that for me, personally, the fact that all three of my boys have speech impediments/ issues (all three are different too!), has been a big thing for us both practically and for this Mama’s heart.  I’ve battled sooooo many ‘what ifs’ over this one.  I once got an email from a well-meaning person with a link to a (poorly written and badly researched) news article about a link between television watching and speech problems in kids.  Whammo.  There’s a massive ‘what if’.  It wasn’t until a saw a speech therapist with my oldest boy and she sat me down and told me straight….GENETICS…..that I realized I could no longer hold onto these ‘what ifs’.  I can’t escape the fact that these issues have been a part of my boys’ journeys, but I can control how I react to these situations.  And believe it or not, I am equipped to help my boys.  While I am lacking in a whole bunch of good qualities, just ask my kids, they’ll put you straight.  One thing I do possess is patience in bucketloads. And patience is what I need with these boys and their impediments.

If I have what I need, to parent my kids as best I can, both in me and my husband with our giftings combined and with calling on friends who are that little bit further along in their parenting journeys, not to mention as a Christian I believe so very strongly in the changing power of prayer….and I’m just as flawed and a mess as the next person, then I believe you too, have in you what you need, to parent your kids as best as you can.

Whatever the issues you’re facing, I’ve found that you can’t hold onto your ‘what ifs’.  They skew your reality.  They take your eyes off the goal.  I’ve found it takes a lot of energy to focus your thought life on all your negative qualities, all the things you’re lacking in.  That energy surely is better spent by focussing on what tools you do have at your disposal to approach different issues, as best you can.  Whether they are tools inside of you, or in people who are alongside you.

What ifs?

So what.  Let’s all work on eliminating parent guilt.  We can live without it.

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Beyond the Smiles

It was my husband’s birthday yesterday. To honour the spunky hunk I posted a reasonably recent photo of him on Facebook, along with a few lines about how I feel about him. Then I got to thinking about that particular photo and what it represented.

The photo was taken in New York, in Times Square. We’d been ‘given’ a glorious 56 hours away from our three kids, and my very generous brother had flown us over to NYC to be there while he was there. The time  was magical in a huge number of ways. I honestly wasn’t expecting to love the city as much as I did, it was awesome to explore it with my brother and his wife, the weather was beautiful, the sights were stunning, it was simply magical. The photo shows a very happy husband, thoroughly enjoying a once in a lifetime experience.

What the photo doesn’t show is that happy husband had at that time begun to exhibit some pretty severe symptoms for type one diabetes. That photo doesn’t show the seriousness of what he was facing. The week after we got back Michael went to the doctor and was diagnosed with this life changing condition.

Beyond that smile, there was a lot more going on than what that smile would let on. Yes, that smile in that photo was genuine. We had an absolute blast in those 56 hours and created memories that will last us a lifetime. But, I’ll always remember there was more going on, there was more beyond that smile.

Last year before my kids started their new school, I remember being weirdly freaked out and overwhelmed by the thought that my kids wouldn’t fit in. It felt like everyone else had it all together, that their kids were all extremely high achieving and I held onto a completely unfounded fear that my boys with their ‘point of difference’, their speech impediments, would suffer and not fit in, when all around them were ‘perfect’ kids.

Yeah, well, it didn’t take long to realize that as I said earlier, this was an unfounded fear. A stupid fear. Ignorant thinking on my part. You see I know, I really do know, that there are no perfect kids. Just like there are no perfect people. We all have our issues. Every kid has something that they struggle with, some things are obvious, others are not. My kids did fit in just fine, because it is an imperfect world we live in.

But that false thinking of mine prompted me to think, more often, what is really going on with  x, y, z kid? How is that family doing?  Just like so much was going on behind the scenes of that photo I took of Michael, a moment in time, in Times Square…..what’s going on beyond the smiles of your kids classmates? Your kindy teacher? The check out operator you see once a week? The basketball coach? Hairdresser? Friend you just texted?

Now I do know that most people aren’t going to open up, blab on your shoulder and tell you their life’s woes, just because you’ve bothered to take the time and noticed them, some may though! And we actually don’t have to be in the loop with everyone’s own private business. But I felt this worthy of a blog post because I myself need reminding that so often we only see people’s highlight reels. We’re exposed to all that is good and noteworthy and praiseworthy in life, and it is easy to think how easy some people have it. And that can isolate us in our struggles, especially our kid struggles. But we’re in this together. There are no perfect kids and there are no perfect parents, but we are better together.

We are better when we look beyond the smiles, when instead of highlight reel, we see a real life reel.

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Our Paintbrushes.

Yesterday I may have been vacuuming up a mess, half the playground brought inside in a pair of shoes mess, and I may or may not have uttered a sigh and some grunts of exasperation.

A couple of hours later the four year old was trying to do something and was having difficulties and I heard the same exact sigh and grunts of exasperation that I may or may not have uttered only hours earlier.

Little sponges.

All the time.

Our children – big and small – are sponges.

I was thinking about this sponge business and thinking about how I need to reign in my silly displays of frustration, and then I was struck by a memory of something that happened a while ago.

Some time ago I was present when a friend of mine was with her Mother, and the Mum kept making remarks about the Mum’s weight.  My friend was in her twenties – but even at this age, I could see her crumble at the sound of these remarks.  You see the remarks weren’t even aimed at the daughter – they were a grown woman’s observation of herself, but spoken in her daughter’s presence, and in my presence, they made us feel……weird.  Awkward.  Unsure of where to take the conversation.  Unsure of what our response should be.  Those incidents – not a one-off event – but over a period of time – made me vow to myself that I wouldn’t make any judgement calls on my appearance in front of my children, and in front of their peers.  Especially if I happened to have any girls.  As it turns out we’ve been blessed with three amazing BOYS – but my stance remains firm – I won’t talk negatively about my appearance in front of my children.  Ever.  Because of how it made my friend and I feel, when we heard my friend’s fifty-something year old Mother talk about her appearance.

Sponges.  Our kids are sponges.

Now I know there are Mums and Dads out there who do have real issues with their own appearance and struggle daily with accepting their particular ‘package’.

Pregnancy changes your body in ways that are, quite simply, irreversible.  Blokes your bodies don’t change as a result of childbirth – but you’re often on the receiving end of the struggle to adjust to these changes and the ‘I have NOTHING to wear that fits me’ situations…..

Ageing changes our bodies.  Yep.  That ole Father Time has a lot to answer for.

If you’re having a hard time accepting what you look like, or how pregnancy has changed your outer shell, then please, can I encourage you to read the following two blog pieces I read that prompted me to focus on this issue?  Can I encourage you to have a go at attempting to be at peace with your body?  And can I encourage you to avoid projecting your negative feelings onto your kids?  There’s a whole bunch of junk that comes out of that, and nothing positive.

The first blog piece is by Emily Wierenga.  She’s a former anorexic and writes powerfully, from experience and gives really great advice for this journey we need to walk.   The blog piece can be found here.

The second blog that I’d love you to read is by Glennon Doyle Melton, who blogs under the name Momastery.  ‘Your body is not your masterpiece, your life is’.  Powerful words – and a good dose of reality that I think we all need.  The piece can be found here.

Do yourself a favour, and do your kids a favour…..remind yourself of these truths today….

‘Your body is not your offering. It’s just a really amazing instrument which you can use to create your offering each day. Don’t curse your paintbrush. Don’t sit in a corner wishing you had a different paintbrush. You’re wasting time. You’ve got the one you got. Be grateful, because without it you’d have nothing with which to paint your life’s work.’ – Momastery

If this accepting of yourself, of your outer shell, is something you struggle with, your partner struggles with, your sister or your cousin or your Mother or your daughter……point them in the direction of these links…..

And remember, as I am learning…..our children…..are little sponges.  Always.

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