Monday, May 11, 2015

So near to God

This is a first for me: I'm not prepping dinner. I'm writing this as my boys help my husband grill a special meal for me in honor of Mothers Day. I've turned up Spotify and am tuning out the minor bickering and choosing to be grateful for the messy-kitchen-spills, a result of their gracious attempts at a fancy meal prepared with love. My children are far from perfect - - which is fine, because so am I!  Yet, I take time today to be thankful for each of their precious lives. Both children born in my prayers and heart long before they entered my life. Both children held so near to God before they were held in my arms.

I'm thankful for each of their unique personalities, about as polar opposite as two brothers could be. I'm thankful for their silliness and laughter and constant chatter. I'm learning to be thankful for burps and body noises because it means they are healthy enough to be rambunctious. I'm thankful for stinky, sweaty socks because it means they played hard and exercised their bodies. I'm thankful for dirty dishes piled up in the sink because it means our bellies are full and content with plenty.

I'm learning to be thankful for disability because it has taught me that I can do nothing on my own, but all things through Christ. I'm thankful for disability because it opened up a new world of friendship with some spectacularly awesome families I would otherwise not have taken interest in. (Shame on me!)

I'm thankful for the wisdom and truth that God gives me on this journey. I'm thankful that every human being - - from the developing babe in the womb with Trisomy 18;  the non-verbal one with autism longing to express themselves; the orphan in Nepal who is frightened;  the beggar under the Portland bridge seeking hope; the one who is wheelchair bound craving legs to run; whether their skin be red, brown, yellow, black or white- - every person created has value in the eyes of God!

Here's a wonderful quote to remind us to dwell on the beauty of that truth:

If man really is fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being. The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity of the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset. Certainly that is why there is nothing in the new testament about beautiful sunsets.- Mike Mason -Author of "The Mystery of Marriage

Monday, April 20, 2015

Nourish

Welcome to a new week! I don't know about you, but my soul was wonderfully refreshed yesterday as I spent time with God and took a day of rest with my family.  I have no doubt that God had our spiritual, emotional and physical bodies in mind when He incorporated a "Sabbath" rest for us.

It's Monday: back to school, groceries, laundry and helping people achieve personal goals in their lives. We're also under a thunderstorm and flash flood watch, so I've got a double batch of muffins in the oven right now, waiting to be eaten during that afternoon crazy hour when our bodies need refueling & rehydration. Now that I've nourished my soul, here's a fantastic way to nourish the body. 



Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free Banana Muffins in minutes.

You'll want to make these right now.  Best news: they are healthy and they are quick! 30 minutes and you'll have them prepped, baked and cleaned up. No kidding.  I think I based my recipe on this one I found on Pinterest. but I've been making them for so many years, I'm not sure. Enjoy it nonetheless!

Banana Muffins:
  • 1 medium/large ripe banana, peeled   (FYI, ripe bananas are soft and brown & very high glycemic. Green bananas are lower in sugar, but don't give the liquid to the recipe)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup creamy GF peanut butter or sunbutter (DO NOT use almond butter!)
  • 3 Tbls agave 
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips (gf, df, nut free)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 standard or 350 convection

Grab your Demarle silicone mini muffin pans.  Or, prepare mini muffin pans by spraying very, very well with cooking spray; set aside.

Grab a blender: Vitamin, Blendtec, Magic Bullet...whatever spins your world.

Add to blender in this order:  agave, egg, vanilla, banana, peanut/sun butter, cinnamon & baking soda, then blend on high speed until smooth and creamy, NO MORE than 1 minute. Seriously. You'll heat up the butter and your chips will melt into a gooey mess. Just sayin.

Add heaping 1/2 cup Enjoy Life chips and stir in by hand; don't use the blender because it will pulverize or melt them.

Using a small Pampered Chef scoop, drop 2 scoops into mini muffin pans. Each muffin should be filled to no more than 3/4 full (any fuller & the muffins will not rise properly).

 

Sprinkle each muffin with a generous pinch of chocolate chips. Just because I love chocolate.

For best results, bake at 350 convection for 9 minutes
Or, bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes



Do not over bake. Muffins will rise greatly in oven & fall as they cool on counter. Do not panic. They will taste fantastic!!!

Allow muffins to cool in pans for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 12-14 mini-muffins. They will be eaten before you can pack them away.

I make these ALL THE TIME. I always double the recipe because these muffins freeze fantastically and hold up perfect in school lunches.  Here's a few more options I've tried during the zillion times I've baked them...

Variations:
Add 1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder and 1 Tbls more of agave
Add mint chips instead of chocolate chips.
Add 1/2 tsp of bakers coffee spice blend

To make them sugar free completely:
These are good, but aren't as fabulous as the above recipe.
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp stevia powder
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa nibs
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fitness Bands


At Christmas my wonderful husband gifted me with a Garmin fitness band. It's a handy little gadget for tracking daily steps, whether on walks with kids and dog or running household executive duties (indoor cardio, aka, hauling laundry up & down stairs, unloading groceries).  It's also connected me with others so I can be challenged to keep up my efforts and raise my goals.  How did I ever live without it???


This past month I've noticed how incredibly useful and motivating my fitness band has been in keeping me on track with my steps each day. Those annoying inspiring red dots flashing, reminding me I haven't moved enough in the past hour.

As parents caring for loved ones with disabilities, we are constantly on the go: kids that live on minuscule hours of sleep, therapist appointments, allergy appointments, healthy meals to cook, houses to clean, more therapy visits, juggling calendars for the rest of the family.  Whew! Some days we can rack up steps without too much effort.

Have you noticed, as caretakers, we too often place our needs at the bottom of the list? Sometimes, intentionally, as a servant; sometimes, with a tired, woe-is-me if-only-you-knew attitude.  Which ever the reason may be, we need to stop. We need to take a deep breath and just breathe. 

Try it right now. 

Oh, you thought I was just writing, not speaking to you...  At your desk, on your smart phone, wherever you are reading this: inhale slowly through your nostrils, 1-2-3-4-5; exhale, gently push air out of your mouth, 1-2-3-4-5.  BREATHE.  This time (if you're not on an airplane) stand up and raise your arms above your head as you slowly inhale, filling an imaginary balloon in your stomach.  Now push the air out as your arms fall to your side, releasing the tension.  When is the last time you did this?  Really?!? That long ago!

I came to the realization that I needed a spiritual "fitness band" on my wrist too: something that will remind me while my life is constantly on the move physically, I need to "slow down" spiritually; telling me that I needed to stop and pray, or sit and be quiet with Gods Word.

It is imperative as a caretaker that our tanks be refueled on a daily basis.  Our feet should never hit the floor in the morning without recharging our emotional and spiritual tank for the day.  Place a Bible next to your bedside stand so you see it first thing in the morning. Make a good choice with that smart device you own and download a free app such as the YouVersion Bible or Truth For Life devotional.  She Reads Truth is one of my favorite free apps!



Here's sage advice from Joel Belz of World Magazine: "The “mind of Christ” doesn’t get formed in an instant. It comes through lifelong disciplines. That’s why all of us need to be infused frequently—maybe even constantly—with the life-giving discernment of God’s special revelation in the Bible. Better to try to keep up your physical well-being without eating every day than to keep up your powers of godly discernment without daily recourse to God’s very words and instruction for His children. "

I challenge you to get your spiritual fitness band activated with me each morning. I'd love to hear how you are staying activated spiritually.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

The 12th Man

The 12th man.

If you live on the west coast, particularly the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, an image immediately popped into your head when you read those words: the 12th man.

A certain friend of mine (whose identity shall remain nameless as they mourn loss in Wisconsin) said this weekend, “I’m sick of hearing the hokey 12th man garbage”.  However, if you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan, you know you ARE the 12th man. As the 12th man, YOU are part of the team. 

Follow all the social media posts and hashtags such #12thman, #weare12 or #12manstrong and you'll see its a real phenomena.  Get this: on Instagram alone there were 474,320 posts with the hashtag #12thman.



An article in USA Today quoted the coach as saying, “When you have 12’s behind us like this today, and you have the belief these guys have in one another, there ain’t nothing you can’t do,” Carroll said. “And as crazy as that sounds, they pulled it together. They pulled off a great comeback victory.”

In case you're still unclear about all the 12th man hype, Wikipedia says this, “The 12th man or 12th player is a term for fans of teams playing American football or association football. As most football leagues allow a maximum of eleven players per team on the playing field at a time, referring to a team's fans as the 12th man implies that they have a potentially helpful role in the game. Infrequently, the term has referred to individuals having a notable connection to their football team...”

A few nights ago I lay awake thinking about the 12th man. Raising a child with disabilities requires an incredible amount of endless energy. There isn’t much down time and it often feels like life is throwing endless yellow flags at you. You learn to make the most of every yard you gain.

When emotions run high in your child, joy overflows: there is constant singing, babbling in their own happy language, whistling contended tunes, telling you over & over & over & over how much they love you. Yet emotions can take a quick turnover where it often gets physical: arms start flying, holes appear in walls, clothing gets torn, toys destruct, tears are shed, Legos are broken, dreams are tackled and the wind is knocked clear out of you.

It's when you feel defeated, discouraged and unable to make another move, at that very moment ... the 12th man becomes invaluable.

As a parent, I need my 12th man!  I need to know there is someone out there cheering me on, someone telling me to get up and try again, someone encouraging me to press on for another day.  My child can have tremendous swings in mood and in physical health which means I’m on a direct text line with the school; the 12th man is the one who doesn’t give up on me in spite of my seemingly unpredictableness.

I need a 12th man cheering on my behalf, after having my child screaming for hours. I need a 12th man who dresses up and says “let’s go!”, after spending the day telling my child “please just let it go”. I need a 12th man team who stays for the long haul when my child has just entered the hospital for the 3rd time this month. I need to be 12 man strong when there is yet another IEP battle to wage against a principal who just doesn’t get it, still.

If you’re raising a child with disabilities, who is your 12th man

Here’s a few ideas to get your own cheering squad started:
  • Reach out to other parents in your child's Lifeskill/ERC class; they need to be 12 man strong just like you!
  • Ask your pediatrician if there's a local support group. I’m in a closed Facebook group for other moms in my city who are raising kids with autism.
  • Call local churches or Joni & Friends to find a support group.
  • Can’t find a local group: ask another mom of an exceptional child to meet you at the park...you’ll be surprised how fast word will spread & others will join you.
  • Join a closed or secret Facebook group where you can safely vent to other caregivers who understand your childs unique needs.
  • Follow blogs of others who are on this journey with you.  Jolene Philo, who writes Different Dream for my child, has a great link up every Tuesday where you can follow the blogs some exceptional families.
  • Special Needs Parenting.net reminds you that you are Not Alone, providing resources from amazing writers who are caregivers too.
  • Forward this post so others can learn to be your 12th man.

On the other end of the playing field...are YOU a 12th man?

Here’s how you can be a 12th man for a family raising an exceptional child:
  1. Call and just say, hi.
  2. Meet them at the park for fresh air & coffee.
  3. Offer to watch their child for 1 hour so they can do laundry or nap.
  4. Offer to do their laundry.
  5. Write a simple note of encouragement.
  6. Tell them you are praying for them.
  7. Ask how can you pray specifically.
  8. Ask how they are doing...then stop to listen without offering advice.
  9. Call and just say hi.
  10. Invite some or all of their children for a play-date.
  11. Take a meal...don’t wait for a crisis. Take a meal tomorrow.
  12. Don’t give up on them, remember their life is exceptionally stressful.

Perhaps God had a #12strongteam in mind when writing Hebrews 12:12-13  So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. (NLT)

I challenge you today: thank your #12strongteam, find a #12thman, BECOME a #weare12 for a family.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PTSD: What do they truly remember?

My precious Boy Wonder was adopted when he was still a toddler. He was developmentally delayed and did not speak, neither English nor his native tongue. Over the past 8 years as we've dealt with many "irrational" fears, "annoying" behavior and downright frustrating moments, my husband and I have talked and wondered about what really happened to him in his orphanage. How much does he remember? What did they allow to happen to him physically and emotionally? Obviously, something happened.  Does he have PTSD? If so, it's never been diagnosed.



Our agency told us he was young and wouldn't remember his early years. Books told us to love him enough and he'd grow out of it being raised in our forever home. I've lost count of how many professionals we've seen, how many psychiatrists and psychologists have probed and prodded every nook and cranny of our life. We don't have answers. We may never have answers. But we don't want to give up hope.

A wise friend of mine wrote an incredible blog about PTSD and children.  I'm not going to attempt to elaborate or summarize it. I'm going to link you to her post: it is a MUST read. You can find wonderful resources on her blog Different Dream for my child

I discovered Key Ministry - which is an awesome resource for parents raising kids with special abilities - at the Accessibility Summit.  Key Ministry knows the value of Jolene's experience and she wrote this guest article on PTSD for their blog entitled: He Won't Remember: Children and PTSD. 

As 2014 draws to a close, I pray you will be encouraged to know that there are "Jolenes" and "Key Ministrys" out there to help you on your journey. You are not alone.

Take hope!


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Season of Hope


I’ve had a favorite Christmas ornament for 13 years. This intricately hand painted scene of Salzburg, Austria on fragile blown glass has traveled the hills of Austria, into Germany, across oceans, through TSA gestapo and the rough hands of movers tossing boxes across 3,000 miles of America. It’s hung gracefully on my tree for 13 years in 5 different houses. Each Christmas as I’ve unpacked and repacked it with care, I’ve told my children the adventure and joy it signifies, a reminder of a beautiful trip with my husband exploring the grandeur of a land dear to us. I’ve told them of the market stalls and grand cathedrals, of the castles and music, of the people and friends that are etched in my memory.

This year I kneel on the floor, my hands shaking, my eyes so blurred I can scarcely see the shattered pieces of tiny glass. While tears stream down my face, Boy Wonder sits in the other room sobbing, knowing that this time he went much too far. It is by no means the first lovely sentimental item he has destroyed. Yet this time, I am so filled with sadness and regret I cannot go near him. My frustration of all he has done this week, culminated in anger at the sight of glass scattered under the tree, the result of direct disobedience and impulsiveness on his part. He squeezed the glass until it shattered... compressing my patience right along with the glass.

My emotions too raw, I order him out of the room. I am repulsed by the sight of him: of his increasingly selfish behavior the past months, of his greediness, of his unending want, of his constant focus on himself, of his meltdowns when he doesn’t get his own way. 

He cries now only because he fears a consequence, not out of sorrow for hurting another. As with most people affected by FASD... he just doesn’t get it. He has no comprehension this ornament is irreplaceable. He doesn’t appreciate the value. He doesn’t have compassion for others. Still my hurt, my anger rages deep inside me and overflows from my wicked tongue to pierce him with my words.

As I sit with tears streaming, softly mixing with remnants of glass in my broken pile, waiting to be cast forever into the rubbish heap, the irony of the beautiful tree and the bright crimson embroidered “Peace on Earth” tree skirt suddenly flood my soul.  Sobs rack my body as I see the brokenness it all portrays.


Such is life with disability: the perfect ornament we want the world to see, a shattered family painted inside, a fragile child hanging in the balance. I reach up to gently unhook the rest of the glass still attached to the tree. I find another thin shard of painted glass resting in the evergreen bough. I am overcome with emotion.

Is this not the reason God sent the Messiah to us one Christmas season so long ago: to sweep up the pieces of His beautiful world that man has shattered. To heal wounded, fragile souls. We took His delicate, hand-painted world and slowly compressed the beauty of His creation with the sin in our hearts: our gluttony, our greed, our sexual preferences, our self-sufficiency, our idols. Until one day the glass could no longer withstand the pressure -- sin shattered our souls into hundreds of tiny pieces, the only hope of rescue being a Savior. And in the fulness of time: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God come to earth as a son of man.  He came in such a fragile form, creating the very womb that gave him life! It is too much for me to comprehend. This grace extended to me. This reconciliation of man to God via a crimson stained Savior.

I’m still shaken as the day passes. I am saddened by what cannot be replaced. More than grieving the temporary beauty of the ornament, I grieve the loss of the things Boy Wonder does not comprehend: of emotions and empathizes that are foreign to him. Yet the crimson words of "Peace on Earth" ring in my mind and I find solace in the eternal beauty of this season... knowing in the Messiah there is found everlasting hope for the parent, for the child, for the family exhausted by disability. I close my eyes at the end of a long day and rest in the promise of peace on this journey.

My heart kneels as I ask for more grace.

Immanuel has come: God with us.