Please God, Not Isaiah

When I was a teen, I remember watching a movie called “Losing Isaiah”. It was about a crack addicted mother who left her baby in a dumpster while high. Unknown to the mother, the baby is found and rescued, but the devastated woman is left to desperately pull her life together. Years later she has gone through rehab, holds a steady job, and she finds out that her baby didn’t die, but is actually alive! After losing her child, she ends up receiving him back after all those years. The deeply touching film made me fall in love with the name Isaiah. The name holds hope and promise. It holds second chances and forgiveness. In Hebrew it literally means “The Salvation of the Lord”. To me, it simply means “God’s Second chance”.

For that is what Isaiah was to me.

I believed in God as a teen, yet I was stuck. I prayed desperately for a way out of the destructive life I was living, yet I felt powerless to do anything. It had all started with one bad choice, which led to another, which led to another. And suddenly my life that had once held so much promise was stuck in an endless downwards spiral. I didn’t know how to stop it. I desperately wanted a way out of the endless parties, the destructive relationships,  the drinking, the cutting, the eating problems and depression. Just a couple years earlier, I had been an honour roll student with dreams of becoming a doctor. Now, that dream was dying before my eyes.

At the beginning of grade 12 everything changed: I found out I was pregnant. For many it would’ve been a time of great crisis, but not for me…I finally felt hope. It was as if God was saying, “Here Heather, I’m giving you the most precious gift you don’t deserve: A child. Now you will finally be willing to change because this child will mean everything to you.”

And he did. Isaiah’s existence changed everything! Every decision I made in the next nine months was for him and because of him. Isaiah changed me forever. When my perfect son was born, I named him Isaiah. My second chance.

He was a complete joy and the sweetest, easiest baby ever! He smiled around three or four weeks and just wouldn’t stop. He slept through the night by only two months old. Like I said, PERFECT baby. He was so happy! I was so happy.

fall.JPGIsaiah at two months old

But then, only two and a half months into our lives together, something awful happened that shattered our perfect little world: My sweet Isaiah got sick.

It started slowly enough, one day he just began to throw up after every feed. He always seemed hungry, as if he wasn’t getting full. The scary cycle would repeat itself: nurse, throw up, nurse, throw up, nurse, throw up, until he would finally get too exhausted to nurse and give up. Now, the first few days I just shrugged it off…but then he stopped smiling…and I panicked. I brought him to the doctors, who rolled their eyes at me and explained to this nervous teenage mom that spitting up was normal. When I protested, they assured me that he was fine and that I could always come back in if Isaiah got worse. And he did. So just like they suggested, I went to the doctors again, only to get sent home just as before. This went on for three full weeks. He began to wake three to four times a night completely soaked and I had no clue what was happening. Later I found out that it was his diarrhea, not urine or vomit that I was cleaning up…it was so runny, no one could tell the difference. One day, Isaiah became lethargic and was unable to lift his head any longer. I went to the emergency room and this time, I asked the doctor to please, PLEASE, at least take some blood work. When the results were back, the doctor came and explained that Isaiah’s Albumin levels were extremely low and that he was very sick (ummmm, DUH!).

The main protein which one cannot afford to lose in their bodies is called Albumin. Albumin normally is produced by one’s liver and circulates in the bloodstream acting as a carrier for biochemicals that require transport but cannot actually dissolve in blood. Albumin is also is responsible for keeping water in our bloodstream.  When water cannot be held within the veins, it leaks out which causes swelling. The intestine is actually leaking nutrients out instead of absorbing them and the result is a nutritional crisis! This was exactly what we were seeing in Isaiah, as he looked chubby and healthy, but he was really just swollen. We were sent home and told to go to the Children’s Hospital the first thing the next morning.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I had never been more afraid in my entire life! The next day we got up early to go to the hospital. After a long day of tests and questions, Isaiah was put on IV fluids and admitted into the hospital, we still had no answers. Each day he just got worse.

DSC01672.JPGOur first day at the hospital, after just being admitted into Children’s.

The doctors decided to put him on “bowel rest”, really just another term for fasting. The doctors were hoping that by allowing Isaiah’s digestive system to rest for a couple of days the diarrhea would slow down and the swelling in his intestines would decrease. I was no longer allowed to nurse my son and I sat by helplessly as he screamed in pain and hunger. The discomfort of not be allowed to breastfeed anymore was painful, but watching my sick boy cry for me to nurse him and refusing to give him what he wanted was almost more than my heart could bear. Also, since he was only getting electrolytes and fluids from his IV, they had to draw more blood from his tiny veins every 2-3 hours to test his levels. This was complete torture.

I wished with all my heart that I could take his place, that he could go home with my husband and I could suffer for him.

I only slept about 2-3 hours a night for the next few days. Isaiah screamed most of the time and when he slept, the nurses would be coming in and out of the room. The few times that we were left alone I would lie down, only to suddenly be interrupted by another doctor coming to take a look at him or take more blood work.

DSC01675.JPGIsaiah’s first week in the hospital

Finally, after three days, I was allowed to feed him again. Only I was to feed him Nutramigen (A special formula for baby’s allergic to cows milk). I pumped for the next four months so I could resume nursing when he got better, but little did I know that it was all for nothing, as I never breastfed him again.

The doctors seemed incredibly frustrated with Isaiah’s case. He went through test after test, and they could just not figure out what was happening. They slowly ruled out different theories: lactose intolerance, allergy to cow’s milk, liver failure, and on and on.

1102202.JPEGIsaiah drinking a bottle of Nutramigen formula

At the end of the first week, Isaiah’s veins were so fragile that they would collapse when an IV was put in and he would scream in pain as the burning fluids would pour into the tissue in his arm instead. I clearly remember the horror of the first night this happened. He screamed for 8 hours straight, until he lost his voice. He could not cry but could only make a scratchy, pitiful sound for the next few days.

This was the lowest night of my life, I just lay awake and exhasted beside Isaiah’s bed and cried with him. I believe that night I met an angel. Maybe it was really just a doctor, I’m not really sure. I can’t claim anything supernatural about her, but I still remember her clearly. It was about 4 or 5 in the morning and I was trying in vain to comfort little Isaiah, when a smaller Asian woman came into my room introducing herself as Dr. Whosit(spelling?). She gently took Isaiah from me and he quieted instantly. She told me to lie down and as she rocked him, she compassionately talked to me. She softly spoke to me about many years ago rocking her own sick baby. She told me that she understood how I felt and she told me of the pain she endured while her son died in her arms. That’s the last thing I remember as I drifted to sleep. When I woke up, Isaiah was peacefully asleep in his crib and the doctor was gone. I asked around about her and no one knew who I was talking about. The nursing staff simply said that she must usually work on a different floor. I’ve since tried to look her up and have been unable to find her. Only ten years later, when I was telling my children about her did I catch on to her name “Whosit” or “Who is it?” This is forever burnt in my memory as one of the most tender and compassionate experiences of my life.

The next day, the doctors could no longer find any veins that would hold an IV and Isaiah’s electrolyte levels dipped dangerously low. He was brought to intensive care and a PICC line was surgically inserted into his leg. This is a permanent and more reliable line that goes into a larger vein, where the blood flows quickly. After this surgery he was once again able to receive fluids from intravenous. Isaiah was kept in a special room by the nursing station where he could be monitored extra closely.

1090354.JPEGIsaiah’s PICC line 

1178611.JPEGIsaiah being closely monitored at the nursing station.

We were blessed with many visitors during this time. Family came by bringing food, money and gifts. Some people brought blankets, wet wipes and toys for Isaiah. Friends came to pray and share scripture. Some people sent encouraging emails. The support was overwhelming! I will never be able to fully thank all of those who were there for us during our hospital stay.

Three weeks passed and I still had not left the hospital. Ryan resumed working since we desperately needed the money, but I quit my job so that I could stay by Isaiah’s side. Ryan and I were still newly wed, we had said our vows only six short months before, but now it seemed so long ago. One night, as I lay beside Isaiah’s crib, I asked God if he could please make it possible for me to stay in a nearby hotel with Ryan for just one night. I needed sleep, a break from the constant up and downs of hospital life and I needed to just be with Ryan. The next morning I would’ve probably forgotten all about it if it hadn’t been for an email we received from a very dear woman. She wrote that as she was lying down in her bed praying for us the night before, a thought had popped into her head and she was wondering if she could pay for a night in a hotel for me and Ryan. I wept. These were the moments that convinced me without a doubt that God was real. This wasn’t just some strange coincidence. God had heard my prayers and was not only providing for my needs, but blessing me by answering my specific request.

Soon after this, the doctors diagnosed Isaiah with Intestinal Lymphangiectasia, a rare disorder in which the lymph vessels supplying the lining of the small intestine are blocked. This is why the protein was being lost from his body. People with IL have problems holding onto fluid in their blood system and develop swelling. Loss of white blood cells and loss of antibodies also meant that Isaiah was unable to fight infections. Symptoms can be helped by eating a low-fat, high-protein diet and taking supplements of vitamins, and medium-chain fats, which are absorbed directly into the blood. This disease is incredibly rare. At the time we were told that only 1 in about 200,000 people have it. I was so relieved to hear that they finally knew what was going on, but crushed after I was informed that there was no cure. The only thing we could do was to put Isaiah on yet another new formula called Tolerex, and continue to give Isaiah albumin injections and IVIG as needed. Tolerex was shipped into the province especially for us, since only one other person in Manitoba had IL at the time. It costed us a whopping $600 a month, and for two teenagers barely scrapping by on a $24,000 a year salary, this seemed completely impossible.

1088348.JPEGIsaiah’s swelling was so bad some days that he could barely open his eyes.

I thought that finally having the diagnosis would help improve Isaiah’s health, and the formula did help a bit. However, three days before Christmas he got an infection in his PICC line. The line had to be removed, much to our disappointment. Soon after, a second PICC line was put in and also got infected within days, this too had to be removed. As soon as his infection improved, we were sent home, but Isaiah’s symptoms still weren’t much better so as eager as I was to live back in my own home, I felt incredibly uneasy about this decision.

We were only home for a couple of weeks before Isaiah was sent back to the hospital, worse than ever before. The doctors agreed that his situation was bad enough that they had to put a central line in. They also did a scope during this operation, and he was put under for a few hours while I waited nervously in the recovery room.

It was during this first week of being back at the hospital that I found out that I was pregnant with our second child. I wish I could remember more about the next few months, honestly I feel that I sort of just shut down from all the stress. I stopped keeping track of the days or the visitors. I didn’t think of the baby on the way. I just existed there in the hospital, not really doing anything. I could only sit back and watch everything happen to a child I loved more than life itself. It was extremely unfair and unbearably painful. After months of standing up to doctors who I disagreed with, or telling the nurses when enough was enough, I just sort of gave in. I stopped defending him. I watched him go through the most sickening tests and though my heart screamed, my body stopped responding…I could no longer defend my boy. I felt helpless and useless.

1146217.JPEGIsaiah’s Final Hospital Stay

My boy was changing too. One day he just stopped eating, he hid behind his little blanket and whimpered when he was touched. I saw fear in his eyes when people came near him. He was acting like an abused child and that’s when I realized this could not go on any longer. I prayed, “God, I love this boy more than anything else in this world, but we can not go on like this. Please God, either heal him or take him home. I can’t watch him suffer any longer.” I wept the first time in many weeks that day, for I truly believed that Isaiah was going to die. He didn’t eat or drink for three days. He refused any drops of water. And each day I was more and more sure that it was he wasn’t going to be alive much longer…”Please God, please! Not my baby Isaiah.”

And suddenly, just like that, the nightmare was over. One day shortly after I prayed this, Isaiah drank his formula and cried for more when he was done. This was a total miracle. He began to put on weight. He started smiling again. Within a couple of weeks, he was off the lipids and the TPN (Total parenteral nutrition) which was given through IV the past months, keeping him alive. I just kept watching him recover, stunned and somewhat disbelieving. I kept expecting something really bad to happen…another illness, another infection, but nothing did. Finally, six full months after his first admission into the hospital, we were discharged. But the story doesn’t end there.

1170282.JPEGIsaiah at home with his central line. 

We got home and the first week out of hospital, Isaiah’s central line got plugged and had to be removed. I was devastated as I didn’t want him to go through any more surgeries, and I was convinced that he would need it regularly as was expected with people who have IL.

The next thing that happened also seemed to be a big accident. A few weeks after being home, I was at my sister’s house visiting her and my nephew, when suddenly I noticed that her little boy had given his sippy cup full of chocolate milk to Isaiah and Isaiah had gone and downed the entire thing! This was a HUGE “no-no” and I was certain that this incident would send us right back to the hospital, but to my complete amazement, nothing happened! He didn’t throw it up, he didn’t have diarrhea, he was completely fine! This shocked the doctors as well at his next appointment. But it gave me courage to slip other foods to him which also contained long chain fat. Each time I did this I cautiously watched him, but his bowel movements became even better and he seemed to get even stronger. His doctors were VERY uneasy about me trying new foods on him, however, after they received the results from his blood work they were completely amazed. His albumin levels had returned to normal! I remember a group of doctors coming in and looking at him in awe, saying that in all their years of experience they had never seen anything like this! One doctor looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “It’s a miracle! He’s healed!”

A few months later, Isaiah was eating everything any other boy his age could eat. He even enjoyed chocolate cake and gummy bears on his first birthday!!!

There’s so much more I could write about…the financial miracles we saw, the people we met in the hospital, everything we learnt…but I couldn’t possibly fit it in one post, it would fill an entire book!

This is just one story of many others I’ve lived through. But it is a foundational story in my life.

This is my story of growing up too soon.

This is a story of miracle upon miracle in my life.

This is a story of pain.

This is a story of when my faith in God became real.

This is my story of losing Isaiah, and getting him back again.

This is the story of Isaiah, my second chance, who also received a second chance.

1188767.JPEGA happy healthy, completely HEALED Isaiah at one year old.

 

 

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Undeserved Grace

“I NEVER get the respect I deserve!”

“I just deserve a break once in a while!”

“I did nothing to deserve this hurtful treatment!”

These are all things we say to ourselves. And quite honestly, after the rough past few years, my mind thought about these things daily: “I don’t deserve this! I deserve better! I’ve done my best!”

Again and again, hurtful words said to me and actions done against me, replayed in my mind. And oh! The scenarios I made up in my thoughts about how I could change things, how I could defend myself, how I could make myself look better…even how I could make others look bad!

But you know what this type of thinking brought me? No peace at all. 

None.

I was tormented by my thoughts, by self pity, and as hard as I tried I could not, COULD NOT, see any chance of break through for the future. I felt hopeless. I felt like I needed justice and I needed to be set free by the person who had wronged me. And I knew that aside from a miracle, that would never happen.

Finally, I cried out to God one day saying: “God! You know I’ve been treated unfairly, you know I’ve been wronged…but it’s no longer that person who’s torturing me day after day…It’s my own THOUGHTS! How can I change?!? I’ve tried so hard! How can I be set free? I sat with my bible open and scanned the pages waiting, hoping for something to stand out, for something to give me peace…but the minutes ticked by and nothing happened. There I sat, alone in my room. The silence was deafening, the loneliness was painful. God seemed to be far away.

The next day again, I pleaded: “God! I’m just numbing my pain day after day! I sit on my phone and play games. I browse aimlessly on social media, waiting, hoping, YEARNING to fill the empty void that was once filled! Where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” And nothing. Just the sound of the clock on my wall counting the seconds away. Oh, once in a while I’d get a verse that spoke of God’s love for me or of his faithfulness to us, and I’d feel hope. Once in a while I’d read the book of Job or the story of Joseph and be comforted that God was working in my pain. But most of the time, I just felt like I was on a constant waiting list. Just holding on to hope that “joy would come in the morning”. When would morning come, God?

Then one night I had a dream, a sad dream. I dreamed that my sister, who loves me dearly, came over and was watching me. I’d do I bit of work, then sit back, drink wine, and play games on my phone. She looked at me, full of compassion, and said, “Heather, this isn’t you. I know that you’ve been beaten down, but this isn’t you.  Please, choose your next steps carefully because the road you’re on is a very dark path.” I woke up and felt deeply convicted. For this was the very thing I had been doing for the past while. Immediately, in the middle of the night, I deleted the games, social media and any distractions on my phone. That was the first thing.

This freed up much of my wasted time, but still, my thought’s drifted more then ever to what had happened to me. And I still felt discouraged reading God’s word. But I didn’t give up. Day after day, morning after morning I pushed through the pain and I opened the bible that had once given me so much joy.

Then one day there it was, a verse that I had read many many times, but never really seen:

“Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2 NLT

Undeserved privilege. Completely, utterly undeserved.

And I broke down weeping, because no, I didn’t “deserve” the pain of this last year.

What I really deserve is hell itself. That’s what I deserve. That’s what my sins deserve. But losing sight of this undeserved grace had led me to where I believed I actually deserved better.

I am completely undeserving, but able to stand confidently and joyfully before God, sharing in his glory!

My heart wasn’t able to find joy because I was focusing on all the things I deserved, but didn’t get. Now joy flooded my soul because I saw all the things God has given me that I HAVEN’T deserved. And the list is very long!

I have been saved from a meaningless life because of HIS sacrifice. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally and forgives me again and again and again, I have five beautiful HEALTHY children, I have many loving and caring friends and family who pray for me, I have an amazing church, I live in a free country that I never had to fight for, I have food on my table every single day. I have hope of one day going to heaven to meet God and you know what? I don’t deserve any of it. 

It’s SO hard to change this way of thinking. It really is. But, man, the joy is worth it. Living from a heart of thankfulness, instead of a heart full of pain is worth meditating on these things and taking every thought captive.

Friends, it’s worth seeking him through the hard times, because in the ups and downs of life there is only One that has never changed. He’s there every morning when I rise, and every night as I drift to sleep, even when I can not feel him. And I lived long enough to know from experience that while there are many things that can numb the pain, there is only one that can heal it: Jesus.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 NLT

A Mother’s Poem

I wrote a poem the other day with the purpose to describe some of the thoughts and feelings that run deep within a mother’s heart.

I know that poems aren’t everyone’s thing, however, I strongly believe that certain emotions can not be fully expressed in an article format, but only caught in glimpses of time. So I used snapshots of everyday life in each stanza to help capture the full essence of what it is to be a Mother.

A Mothers Poem

Deepest dreams come true, the best moments of life! Tiny hands reaching, stroking, hugging; my heart is melting! Pulling, grabbing, pinching; okay, now leave me alone!

Panic sets in. Where is he? Have my worst fears come true? Am I the horrible mother they think I am? There, he sits outside playing safe and sound. One quick glance calms the fears but, for just one more moment.

Heart swelling, that’s MY little girl. Pretty, smart and strong. Where did that confidence come from, or those lovely full lips? But those deep blue eyes are all mine.

Sit down for a breath and work stacks up like Jenga blocks, just waiting to come crashing down on my head. Just one more moment, just another second. Outside, the kitten just lies still while the dog devours it, until I knock on the window and save the poor soul. I guess I got up.

That time you came and told me that my thighs jiggled when I ran and I laughed so hard with you, but when you left, I cried. They were once firm like yours.

Just over this wave, is another one really coming up so fast? Waiting for the calm in the storm. Another question I can’t answer, another job I won’t do. But no one else does it either, so I guess I will.

When I dumped a full bucket over you and the shock on your wet face made me laugh. Squealing, because you smiled with revenge. A small glimpse in time but forever burnt into my memory. See, Mommy can have fun too.

Am I in this alone? Sometimes. Me, and a billion others. On an island of kids. Make those smoke signals high, no one will come. Find help for yourself. If you have any idea where to start looking for it.

The girl sings softly as she wanders alone, two boys dig in the mud together, each with a stick, searching for some hidden treasures that are lost to the rest of the world. The littlest one lovingly pets that poor kitten the wrong way. And I take it all in like a breath of fresh air. The best day.

No! You ruined it! It can never be replaced! Your sticky hands, marking it forever with a piece of you. The regret isn’t the tiny fingerprints but the way your eyes dropped down when I yelled. I’m so sorry.

Is it the end of the day, or the beginning of the night? Really can’t tell anymore. What is sleep? The lights are on and off like a summer lightening storm, while the rest of the world sleeps in peace.

Peace. When the work is done, when they lie down still. Peace. When the nightmares fade and the light in the bathroom glows softly, just in case.

Sleep soft, sweet angels, Mama loves you with every aching breath.

10 Confessions Behind those “Perfect” Posts

Someone said something to me the other day that sort of bothered me.

Oh, it had nothing to do with her as it was very kind and meant as a complete compliment…but it hit a very sensitive subject that I carry close to my heart: Authenticity. The compliment was something like this: “I can’t believe what you all do with your children and homeschooling, plus the cakes you make and your blog…you’re just amazing.” And I smiled and told her she was far too kind because in NO WAY am I anywhere near amazing, but I still think it was totally sweet of her.

However, it  got me to thinking: Who am I showing the world that I am? Really.

Am I authentic? Am I being honest? Are my posts misleading people to think that I’m some super mom that has it all together? Because, believe me, I don’t. So I decided to be really raw with you. So raw that I may just be tempted to delete this piece five minutes after I post it. But it needs to be said, because social media has tricked us. It’s tricked us into believing that everyone elses lives are just great but ours actually suck. So I wrote a list of ten confessions behind the “Perfect” posts you see.

10) It’s not all that perfect – Every post you see was well-timed, well placed, and captured the best of the best. For every perfect shot, there were ten pictures deleted…for every perfect moment, there were fifty filled with sweat, tears, pain and sorrow. For every time I bragged about my pride in my accomplishments, my kids, my possessions and my friends, there were a hundred more disappointments, failures and let downs.

9) Those great moments didn’t happen often – Jealous that I’m such a cool mom that seems to be always doing amazing, fun things with my kids? Really you got it all wrong. I never spend enough time with them. I post almost every single good time with them as if somehow it will make up for the many times I tell them to leave me alone or “go play” or say “maybe later” when they just want to be with me. My posts are merely ways I have tried to make up for all the times I haven’t been that cool mom that does amazing and fun things with her kids.

8) I’m insecure – My thoughts after almost every single thing I post online: “Will they like it? Will this offend someone? Maybe I should just take this post off before anyone sees it… Why didn’t so and so comment on this? Maybe they don’t like it. Maybe they don’t like me…” Think I’m confidant and fearless? Think again. These things have literally kept me up at night.

7) It’s never good enough – For every beautiful cake I’ve made, there’s a thousand better ones on Pinterest.  For every great blog post, there’s a hundred others just like it. That cute picture I took of my kids? I really can’t stop wishing that I had changed them into clothes that matched a bit better, that I had a better looking yard in the backround, that I was a better photographer…I see the flaws that you don’t.

6) I’m jealous of your posts too – Okay not ALL the time…often I am happy for you. But sometimes I see your posts and I think “Seriously, what! How can she look so good in a swimsuit? Am I the only mom in the world who’s gotten stretch marks EVERYWHERE?!?” or “How can they afford to travel all the time? I could only wish!” or “No way, her husband gave her flowers AGAIN? That’s like the third time this month!” or “She is so effortlessly witty and funny, why do I have to try so hard all the time?” These thoughts are ugly, aren’t they? But they’re real. And sometimes I feel them towards your “perfect” life, because I don’t see your real life either.

5) My flaws are carefully hidden – Wow!! Don’t you love that photo of me?!? Because it actually looks NOTHING like me. Not the real me. Before the makeup covers the bags under my eyes. Before my frizzy hair that slightly resembles a lions mane is curled or straightened. Before I sucked in my stomach for the photo, choosing the angle that best hides my crooked nose and extra skin. Before I picked the instagram filter that accented the blue in my eyes or that hid whatever else the makeup couldn’t. Now you’re probably waiting for a real picture of me aren’t you? Well HA! Not happening because…

4) You’re only seeing what I want you to see – because if I don’t want you to know, I won’t post it. I don’t like to document those ugly moments. I don’t want you to see me after I just woke up and my hair is sticking out every which way. I don’t often talk about the things that went horribly wrong like the temper tantrums, the fights, the wonky looking cakes and the blog post flops (ohhh yes, for every one I post there’s five I delete)…if I don’t want you to see it, simple: I DON’T POST IT.

3) I check my stats/comments/likes way too often – because I care FAR too much what everyone else thinks…really do I have to watch every single hit of my blog in real-time? One would think not, but once again, you aren’t seeing the reality of how pathetic I can actually be…you’re only seeing what I want you to see.

2) It’s all too soon forgotten – Remember the name of that white police officer who shared that heart-felt message to the black man he pulled over for texting and driving? No? Then maybe you’ll remember the name of that woman who was deaf and got the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent? Or how about that brother who convinced his drugged up sister that she was in a zombie apocalypse? Or how about the photo with the little girl in the hotdog suit and all the other girls dressed as princesses? No? Well guess what…even if I do someday accomplish what so many only hope to do on Facebook and “go viral”, I’ll be forgotten in a matter of weeks or even days for the newest exciting post. By the way…whatever DID happen with Kony2012?

1) It was often a waste of my time – “Mom! Mom! Look at this!!” … “Just a second honey.”   “Mom come play outside with us.”…. “One moment please!!”   “Mom! Did you see that?!? You missed it mom! I told you to watch me but you’re just on your phone” ……I’ve totally wasted some of the most precious moments of my life behind a screen! On our one on one dates, I wasn’t fully focused on enjoying my child, I was too busy posting about them! During my children’s milestones I didn’t just want to celebrate with them, I wanted to celebrate with the world! Only they didn’t see it that way because all they saw was their mommy staring at her phone instead of at them. I missed out on so much while I was busy posting about all these great moments. I wasted so much time checking likes and comments, which never fulfilled me anyway. And I wish some of the time I could go back and change those moments.

Life on social media is not always what it seems. When we put our phones down and actually hang out with our friends we begin to see their reality: Their kids have temper tantrums too! Their marriage isn’t as perfect as we thought it was. Those nice “expensive” clothes they always wear, were actually second hand. They also burn supper sometimes and their house usually looks messier than a garbage dump! We don’t see these things on Facebook, but we DO see them when real, authentic friendships are formed and that’s why it’s so important that much of our time is spent with our phones put away.

My life’s far from perfect, and so is yours…I just needed the reminder today and thought I’d share in case you did too 🙂

 

 

The Power of Praying Scripture

Most of us would agree that prayer is one of the most important things in our Christian walk. Our walk with God is a relationship, and relationships are only built through communication. You can not have a relationship without communication and prayer is communication with God! Therefore, one can not have a relationship with God if they don’t pray because it’s the very core of our connection to God!

Yet many people seem to hit a brick wall in their prayer life. They try to pray but after a while their prayers all end up sounding the same. And we begin to wonder, what’s the point? Are my prayers doing anything at all?? There are seasons in my life where my prayers seem alive and vibrant! They just seem to flow naturally. But it isn’t always that way.

A few weeks ago, I was at a loss on how to pray for certain people in my life. I had been told that praying for my “enemies” was the only way to actually love and forgive them. But there was a problem…I wasn’t sure on how to pray for my enemies. To just pray “God, help so and so to have a good day” didn’t seem beneficial at all! I mean really, do I expect God to give everyone in my life a good day just because I prayed that for them each morning? These prayers soon became so habitual that they seemed meaningless, like a ritual or a superstition. And I didn’t want this for my prayer life. I didn’t want to just babble some meaningless words out of habit! I wanted to PRAY! I wanted my prayers to make a difference in the lives around me! I wanted my prayers to transform and change my heart!!

One day, as I was stumbling over my prayers for someone who I was having a hard time forgiving…I was praying “God, please help them to see what they’ve done. Help them to see that I am also your child…” and suddenly I just stopped! What if I was wrong about them! What if they had done nothing wrong and I had done something wrong? What if…So I started praying the “other” side…”God if I’m in the wrong help me to see what I’ve done…help me to see that they’ve been obedient…” I stumbled over these prayers and something just didn’t seem to flow. This sounded so stupid! I was so unsure of anything I couldn’t even pray! Was I just praying from all angles just to “cover” my bases? Was there any power to these prayers?

Finally out of frustration, I just said out loud: “God! I don’t know how to pray for this situation! I don’t know what’s right and wrong! I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts! How can I pray for them? Teach me how to pray!!”

And you know where God led me? To Psalm 23. And I felt as if he was asking me to pray this Psalm over them:

 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” 

There is nothing more healing than praying these over your enemies. The first time I prayed these words for them I broke down and wept because I realized how much God LOVES them and how he truly wants the best for each one of us. “God, be their shepherd… lead them beside quiet waters…restore their soul. Guide them along right paths for your name sake…be with them through the dark times and comfort them…”

I prayed these verses everyday and I began to see that God isn’t taking sides! He loves ALL people, and he wants the best for ALL of us. He’s not concerned about who’s right and who’s wrong. He doesn’t see things the way we do and he doesn’t work the way we expect him to.

Blessing your enemies day after day changes you. It wasn’t long before I realized that I actually meant what I was praying!  “God, let your goodness and love follow them ALL the days of their lives! May they dwell in your house FOREVER!!!” I meant these words with all my heart…for my enemies!! I was praying God’s will for their lives and the power of God’s words were transforming mine.

For my children my prayers were different because I had specific things I wanted to see in their lives…”God help Isaiah with his test today, help Bella to be kind to her brothers, help Jonas to control his anger, help Dallas to obey the first time, help Emerson to have a good attitude…” These were the types of prayers I’d pray, and I don’t think they were wrong! But after the transformation with my other prayers, I wanted more for my children! I don’t just want them to succeed and be “good” people, I want them to be godly men and women of faith! Once again I asked God to show me a scripture to pray over my children and I started praying Psalm 63:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Finally, I had the words to pray my actual desires for my children! And I KNEW these prayers were in his will for them, because they’re in God’s word!

For “my” three churches (Blumenort EMC, HOPE church, Southland) that I’ve attended and loved in the past 29 years of my life:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousnessthat comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Do you feel unsure of what to pray? Are you in a situation where you don’t know how to pray? Do you feel like you’re just praying the same prayers over and over again? Ask God to show you a verse or passage of scripture to pray over the people in your life. I promise you that if you persist in it, you will see your prayer life transformed!

Just Keep it to Yourself

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with three of my children. My youngest who’s three, usually sits in the cart to save me from a lot of chaos in the store as he’s a runner. This time however, he begged to walk beside me and I knew that I would have a full cart so I let him. Sure enough he was constantly running from me so I tried my best to finish up shopping quickly. I had so much food that I had to carry a bag in one hand and push the cart with the other…and with our family of seven, all that food only lasts for a week!

I realized my dilemma while leaving the store: a running three-year old, a busy parking lot…so I stopped before exiting the doors and very seriously explained to Emerson that he needed to hold on to the cart and not run as there were cars driving all around and it was dangerous. He nodded and his cute, pudgy little fingers curled around the side of the cart. We walked together into the lot, my older children right behind me, Emerson beside me and he was listening great!

But then he saw our van and he BOLTED towards it.

What his three-year old eyes didn’t see was that the van right next to ours was beginning to back out of its spot and was headed right for him. Obviously the driver couldn’t see him because of his size and I immediately let go of my cart and my groceries and ran toward him screaming his name. The van screeched to a halt a split second before hitting my little boy. By now I was in tears, Emerson was in tears and I picked him up scolding him, hugging him, and kissing him. The young lady who was driving got out, thinking that she had already hit my son, and I assured her that it wasn’t her fault and that my son was fine. She told me that hearing my scream had stopped her.

The groceries were left on the van and the counter when we got home, I simply held my precious boy. My day could’ve looked a lot different. It could’ve ended with losing him, with mourning, with funeral arrangements. But by the grace of God I get to hold him close.

In fact this is just one of MANY “close” calls I’ve had with my five kids. I could tell you about the time my oldest got lost at a park with a big pond when he was just a toddler…I was certain he had drowned. Or the time a tractor with a pull behind swather unexpectedly passed by the field beside our house while my child and his kittens were playing on it…the kittens both died, my son got out of the way just in time. I have often thanked God for the hand of protection he’s had over my children because as hard as I try, I can’t ALWAYS be there.

A generation ago people understood this. People understood that most parents would die for their children and would never put their children in a situation where harm would come to them. Previous generations comforted and cared for parents when there was loss. They understood that as hard as we try to protect our children, accidents happen. Tragedy strikes and NO ONE is to blame. They understood that the death of a child is not the time to start spewing off “whose fault it is” or “safety precautions” or most definitely not the time to start the dreaded “I would’ve never” speech.

Enter social media: a superficial platform of entitled millennials hidden behind the safety of a screen. Where internet trolls and cold-hearted foe really care less about the child or the family’s loss and pain, but they come for the newest story to comment on. Where perfect parents abound and are ready to spew their fountain of knowledge in the form of hateful comments at any and every tragic news story. If a child slips from their parents grasp and falls into a gorilla cage at the zoo, these vultures are there screaming out comments like “they should’ve shot the mother instead of the gorilla!” When a child drowns, “Where was that mother? She should be charged…I would never let…” blah, blah, blah.

The mother should be shot? For taking her kids to a zoo? She should be charged? With what, may I ask? For having the worst flippin’ day in her entire life? For not being Captain America? What would this help the world? Would it bring justice? Would it bring her beloved child back? Would it “teach” her or anyone else a lesson?

Actually, yes…it would teach us all a lesson! You know what it would teach us? That in our moment of greatest need, tragedy and pain, people are nothing more than a ruthless mob, thirsty for more blood. It would teach us that what we all fear the most is true, no one really cares…we just want someone to blame. And you, the mother are the easiest target.

And it’s not just the commentators, it’s also the “professionals” and the “officers” that feel inclined to comment at the end of every news article things such as “this is a reminder to all of us to keep young children in arms reach when near bodies of water” or “seat-belts aren’t just there as a suggestion, they are there to protect your life!” Now, I’m not saying these things shouldn’t be said, but people, there is a time and a place! And using someone’s tragedy as a platform to spout safety rules is not the time nor the place!!!

I want to finish this by sharing a heartfelt Facebook post written by a Mother who suffered an unimaginable tragedy. I asked Ashley if I could share what she wrote with my readers because the attacks on Mothers in their moments of greatest pain needs to STOP! She wrote:

“As some of you know, I have gone through every mother’s worst fear. On June 2nd, I lost my youngest son in a horrible car accident. I was driving. I had pulled away from a gas station, checking each buckle, and I began to drive the curvy, mountainous road to my family’s house. My son was notorious for doing everything he could to unbuckle in the car…We tried five point harness seats, boosters, I believe even zip ties at one point (probably not safe either) but he always viewed it as a superhero challenge. He was a superhero because he always succeeded. On average, I would usually pull over three or four times on any given trip to firmly make him buckle up again. We were only five minutes out when a large rock rolled into my lane. I had three choices: try to straddle the rock, move to the oncoming lane which was a double line large curve with an angry river at the other side. Rock, head on collision, river. I chose the rock. I chose wrong. And yes, he had already unbuckled along with his 8 year old brother. (They were switching spots and I didn’t know.) The rock hit my axle, and sent us plummeting into the side of a cliff. Our 13 passenger van rolled and my son was instantly gone. Our lives were instantly ripped apart. The little boy who had been my pride and joy was cruelly taken from me in a matter of seconds. I remember being smashed between my console (no airbag engaged) and our three ton van. I had blood everywhere. I fought and fought and then blacked out. When I awoke, I was unbuckling my baby from her car seat (she was upside down) and working to get each child (5 of my children were with me) out of the van. When I came to Titus I worked with all my might to lift the heavy van off his tiny body. My 8 year old son was trying to help me. I could only see the lower half of his body. I rubbed his tummy and tried gentle compressions. But he was already gone. It was instantaneous, which only brings me comfort because I know he felt no pain. What followed was a blur. I refused treatment from the paramedics until they let me hold my dead son. All my children were whipped away and taken to an ambulance to be cared for. I was life flighted and sedated, for the shock made me inconsolable. It was two days later that I saw it all over Facebook. A news report reporting the death of my child as if they were reporting that the weather might change, or a new planet had been discovered. I was thankful they reported that no drugs or alcohol had been a factor. But that’s not what hurt. The readers commented the cruelest things about how horrible of a mother I was. How I deserved it. How my children should be taken from me. I wanted to punch them, shake them. Tell them how close we were, how hard I fought to keep him safe. How we had a special good night kiss and a designated McDonald’s date each week. I wanted to scream that he always told me he wanted to marry me, that I was the best mama ever. That he built me Lego ships, took naps in my bed while holding my hand with his dimpled little fingers…”

People, this is NOT okay! This NEEDS to stop. We brag about how far we’ve come from ancient times, on how accepting we are as a society, on how compassionate we are and then we turn and rip those hurting among us to tiny shreds! Instead of rescuing those who are drowning in sorrow we pull them down the whole way to make sure they don’t get back up! And it happens to EVERY SINGLE FAMILY that ends up in the news.

I don’t ask you to do this often but if you’re reading this, I’d like you to share it… because it seems that my generation needs to be reminded of something that was once just normal etiquette: when tragedy strikes, when someone loses a child, when there is a difficult situation of loss, or pain…if you can’t give any word of encouragement, love or comfort…then please, for heavens sake, do everyone a favour and keep it to yourself!

#MomGuilt

From the moment I saw the hash tag “mom guilt”, it bugged me. Another real, deep life issue had just been turned into a clever marketing scheme…and I didn’t like it! I still don’t like it. Businesses are doing it more and more often and it’s very clever indeed! Advertisements are playing on our emotions and they stay in our memories…but in the end they do absolutely nothing to address or help the deep ache inside that mothers really feel every single day: Guilt for doing their absolute best!

Telling a mom, “Just don’t feel guilty about it, you’ve done your best!” does absolutely nothing to heal the self-condemnation many woman feel day after day after day. Turning it into a light-hearted joke may temporarily ease the pain but in the end, mom-guilt is very, incredibly real and it comes from deep within causing restless nights and illegitimate worries. It causes outbursts from insecurities of our intentions and abilities. It brings many into depression. It causes some to give up and check out emotionally on their children.

Where we started motherhood gazing with wonder into the beautiful faces of our newborns, motherhood slowly turns into an endless checklist of chores, appointments, and things to remember.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. But it is.

There was such hope for SO MUCH MORE!! But that hope just seems to fade a bit more everyday, until we check ourselves out of the mothering day as soon as our little ones are in bed, exhausted from the pressure and stress we were never meant to feel in the first place.

Real Mom-guilt story: When I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, I went on a marriage retreat with my husband. It was winter and there was a hot tub at the event. Now, being very self-conscious about my body at that point in my life and during that stage of pregnancy, I really did not want to go in. First of all, because I knew I really shouldn’t for the baby’s sake but also because I was too embarrassed! It so happened that a nurse was along on the trip and she casually mentioned that as long as I was comfortable and stayed in a short time, it was totally ok. So one evening, I went out to the hot tub with my husband when no one else was around. It was really cold, so my plan of just putting in my feet a few minutes quickly changed to me plopping myself down fully emerged in the very hot water. After ten minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable so I stood to get out, but as I stood a huge group of people came out to join us and I awkwardly plopped back down because I was totally self-conscious in my swimsuit. I sat there for another painful twenty minutes until I realized I was feeling very sick and got out anyways. The next few days I was physically sick as a result of this and I kicked myself for it…for caring so much about my appearance that I would put my own health and my baby’s health in jeopardy…but that wasn’t the worst part of it: I felt like the dumbest, most selfish mother on the planet and I worried for the next three months constantly that I had done something that would cause permanent damage to my baby.

You know what’s the craziest part of this all? My son is now eight years old and that memory still haunts me. Because my boy has trouble making friends, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, he tiptoes when he walks and deep down, I blame MYSELF. Every. Single. Day. Is there something wrong with him? Are the issues in his life a result of that one poor choice? Probably not! But I don’t know for sure…I never will. And it haunts me. And this is just one example of the hundreds of ways we Mothers feel guilt!

When I hear my children yelling at each other… it must be my fault for once in a while yelling at them.

When I see my children use bad table manners…it’s probably my fault because I haven’t trained them properly.

When they get sick…I should’ve not let them go outside without their jacket!

If they say something awkward…my fault, I’m homeschooling, they probably don’t get out enough.

If they’re all over tired, fighting and throwing tantrums…my fault, we’re probably too busy and not at home enough.

When we leave them at childcare or crying with a sitter…I am a failure, I can’t even be there for them.

If my boy pees his pants and I forgot extra clothes…I’m such a horrible mom.

It goes on and on and on and ON!

I have personally talked with mothers of kids who have disabilities who blame THEMSELVES!! It’s not their fault! It’s obviously not! But still the nagging, taunting dark questions plague their minds: Maybe I have bad genes, I shouldn’t have had children…Maybe I ate something wrong…Maybe the immunizations did it. Maybe I wasn’t there for them enough…maybe….

REALLY?!?

As if our children were just these flawless, perfect little angels sent straight from heaven, with only the purest of nature, and holiest of thoughts and somehow we RUINED them.

But this is REAL, and it’s deep. And it’s a lie that needs to be addressed head on! I’m sorry to say that there’s no quick solution to this. I can’t just go and tell all the mom’s in the world, “Oh it’s not your fault” and end all the guilt…because sometimes it IS our faults. And as grown ups we need to be responsible and admit when it is. Yet as mothers we can’t separate our failures from what’s actually just our children’s human nature.

But here’s the best steps I could come up with to help heal and move past the guilt that plagues us mothers:

  1. You will make mistakes. Big ones! Don’t waste ONE minute wallowing in “what if’s”…instead use that time to make positive changes. Change your habits. Get help. Ask for forgiveness! You can not change the past, but you can learn from it and change the future.
  2. Your child WILL make mistakes…even if you’ve trained them the right way… because they’re HUMAN. Their choices are NOT your fault.
  3. Be careful of the influences in your child’s life. Friends, caregivers, and media will play the biggest role in their values and who they become. Chose caregivers wisely, allow only good media in your home and encourage positive friendships. If you find out that you’ve made a mistake in one of these areas, do your best to make changes…but remember the first “rule”!
  4. Spend your time wisely and find a balance. Your messy house isn’t a big deal…your kids will NOT remember it. But use your time wisely – if it’s really messy because of hours spent on social media, or Netflix bingeing, take time to develop a balanced schedule of “me” time, “together” time, and “clean” time. Just don’t be so “responsible” that you forget to enjoy life. You will NEVER regret the time you spend just enjoying your children.
  5. DON’T worry about the small things…feeding your children McDonald’s won’t kill them, letting them watch an extra hour of T.V. will not ruin their lives, taking a year off from extra curricular activities will not ruin their chances of playing sports or learning an instrument someday, throwing a simple family birthday party will not damage their future. Life is so much bigger than the type of lotions you buy for your kids or the clothes they wear. Please just don’t go down this trail!! Use your best judgement and respectfully block out unwanted advice!

But above all, learn to accept GRACE. God has unending grace for our shortcomings. Receive this grace. Let it pour into your heart and mind until you can not help but have grace for yourself, your kids, and everyone else around you. God’s grace heals, restores and brings hope to EVERY hopeless situation.

The guilt…it doesn’t go away over night…but it does get better. And when you live your life out of a standpoint of grace, you will begin to see the truth: Mother’s are the first and best gift that any child ever recieves… and to your children there is only one YOU!

YOU are the PERFECT mother for your child! Embrace this and you will find much freedom from that dreaded, ugly #Momguilt.