She Runs A Good Race

mothering is a marathon

That Post Christmas Blah

Some years it hits me.  Some years it does not.

On December 26th.  Or even sometimes RIGHT after the Christmas morning of fun and frenzy and children’s delights are all over.

Even though I don’t believe in Santa Clause or any Christmas magic per se, I have realized my adult self still has this longing and expectation at Christmastime.  That somehow a special fulfillment will arrive on December 25th.  And then the day comes and goes and poof, it doesn’t happen.

Unmet expectations.

Longings unfulfilled.

Wishes not granted.

Hopes disappointed.

Dreams dashed into despair.

This is the reality for many, at any time of the year.

This reminds me of a time my husband, Chris, had an opportunity to share at church. The theme was surrounding suffering and desires unfulfilled. He did an eloquent job, (if I do say so myself), and its so worth passing on right now.

Here is an excerpt:

Doesn’t it seem the bigger the shattered expectation or the greater the desire that isn’t satisfied, the greater our unhappiness, pain, and suffering?  It was painful to learn that our son, Ryan, has Prader-Willi syndrome, and it shattered our desires for a son who would naturally develop friendships, graduate from college, get married, have children, and grow up to live an independent life.

The most unique characteristic of persons with PWS is that they have an insatiable appetite–actually they never feel full; hunger is never satisfied.  Eventually persons with PWS become very food-seeking and develop an extreme food obsession.  Although Ryan does not sneak or steal food, one of his biggest anxieties arises around his eating schedule.  He needs constant reassurance every day that he will get his breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner without fail.  Cutting off a meal or snack-time for Ryan is like cutting off his oxygen.

C.S. Lewis has an intriguing quote in Mere Christianity:

   “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another wold.”

In light of all our struggles with Ryan, and losses in our family, that quote is challenging to me for a few reasons.  

The first part of that quote is hard, because I often wonder why do we live in a world where some of my deepest desires are not satisfied?  Does God bear any responsibility? If not directly, can’t He heal and fix things here and now?  After all, aren’t all things possible through Him?   I haven’t discovered all the answers to those questions, but in the midst of daily heartache of life with a child with special needs, God does show up sometimes and I had one of those moments recently.

I was spending some time is prayer one early Saturday morning. Ryan walked in the room after just waking up.  He asked what I was doing and I told him that I was praying and listening to God.  He came and sat on my lap.  I asked him if he wanted to listen to God, too.   I told him that if you sit quietly, God will speak to you in your mind.  He said ok, and put his head down on my shoulder and we sat still. Together.

After a few minutes, I asked, “Did God say anything to you?”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

I asked him what he said.

Ryan responded, “God told me I’m a great boy and He likes me.”

I said, “That’s great. Did God tell you anything else?”

He paused for a moment and answered, “Moses makes great dinners in Heaven.”

I responded, “Yes, Ryan, Moses makes great dinners in Heaven.”

God didn’t just speak to Ryan at that moment; he also spoke to me.  God cares enough about Ryan in a personal way to reassure him that his hunger will be satisfied in Heaven.  There’s nothing more I’d want for Ryan than for him to truly believe that God loves him, and despite his challenges, to understand that God can satisfy the deepest longings of his heart. 
I may never know why we, or Ryan, have to endure such trials and challenges, but its a great joy to know that Heaven is a place Ryan can look forward to and long for. Where our deepest desires and longings will be fulfilled. Forever.

ME, TOO.

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A Curved Spine & A Curved Heart

early-onset-scoliosis1-238x300 

Ryan has scoliosis, and I have another kind of OSIS.

Ryan has had it since he was a baby.  It’s a “C” curve to his left side.  His OT and I noticed it as Ryan would lean to one side in his infant seat.  Today, its not obvious to others unless in a bathing suit and swim shirt.  You can see him lean and favor one side.  And with his shirt off, well, it just makes me sad.

He was first braced at a little over age 1.  He would wear the little toddler-sized brace at naptimes and bedtime.  Every time we squeezed his skinny low-toned body into it, he would gasp a touch, and breathe harder.  Until at last he would adjust and relax into the brace.  Not that it was a relaxing thing, but he would just surrender to the process, the sweetie pie.  Ryan wore that brace until he was finally up and walking at three years of age.  How we waited for both of those major milestones!

The protocol after that was to watch and wait and get yearly x-rays.  We would have check-ins and check-ups with our “orthopod” in Beverly Hills.  Notice I say weWhen you are a mother, sometimes the lines just get blurred, don’t they?

Ryan is “9-almost-10,” as he says it, and he has a new brace.  The curve is at a 28-30 degree again, and surgery is recommended at a 50 degree curve.  His new brace is huge and clunky and cumbersome compared to the toddler brace of days gone by.  It has spaceships all over it as if somehow that is comforting to him, even though he cannot see it when he wears it.  (ok, my sad-bad attitude about this is poking out…)

However, Ryan, yet again, exceeds our expectations and WILLINGLY wears his blue brace.  And sometimes the sweet boy actually seems proud of it.  Luke calls him “Ironman” when he wears it, and Kate reminds him, “It’ll make your back so strong.”  And sometimes I smile-the-proud-mama-smile, and sometimes I hold back tears.  Will we surprise the doctor again with dramatic improvement after 1-2 years of bracing?  OR is surgery completely inevitable?  I tell myself, “Wait and see…wait and see. Hope.  Have some hope, Jessica.”  (I know you talk to yourselves, too.)

I have a different kind of OSIS—-perfection-osis.  Yes, I just made up a word.  My heart is curved.  Figuratively speaking of course.  The more years go on (just had my 43rd birthday), the more I am aware of my perfectionism.

I do not say this like it’s a wonderful badge of honor.  Its more like an admission and confession, an owning up of a condition that has plagued me since I was a kid.  Which is why I have had headaches, and now migraines, since I was 12.  I’m sure of it.  I even had a neurologist tell my mom when I was in college that headaches come with my type of personality and expectations.  I may have food allergies, but truly I think I have heart and soul allergies.

There is a brace for this sort of problem:  God’s love.  For me.  Wrapped around me.  If I would be so willing, as Ryan, to accept the brace daily.

Lately, through books, devotionals, and messages from my pastor, loud and clear, this is what’s coming through:

That if I could “live increasingly from my real Center, where God’s love has an eternal grip on me, “ I could let  go of my perfectionism.

If  I truly understood the depth of how the amazing God of the Universe sees me, loves me, accepts me, cherishes me, supports me, heals me, and embraces me unconditionally:

–I would care less about others’ opinions or approval of me.

–I would be less obsessive about working out and staying fit.  (Yes, I do this to be healthy, it’s a passion of mine, but honestly there is vanity mixed in as well.)

–I would spend less on the frivolous stuff.

–I would probably be a more patient mom and more fun, too.

–I would not be driven by such self-imposed high expectations.

–I would therefore have less stress and less headaches.

–I would be more “others-focused” and giving of myself.

–I would probably never or less often hear the words, “Oh, Jess, you are so hard on yourself.”

Which you might be saying as you read this blog post.

Yet, I say all this openly and share this because I so want to live my life with intention, and grow, and not be stuck with my curved heart.  Perfection-osis leads to heart and soul death.

Ryan must wear his brace.

And so must I.

 

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Divine Appointments & Chili

Touchdown_Chili_Recipe.ashxToday’s post may not be full of a thousand words.  But its packed chock full.

Of heart.

Of soul.

Of spirit.

Of joy.

Of awe.

Of humble appreciation.

Of gratitude.

Of humanity.

What comes out of a simple invitation for hot chili on a cold winter day astounds me.

A new family, new to us, and us, new to them, came over for lunch.  The house was picked up. Bathroom cleaned. Table set. Flowers in a vase. Nice-smelly candle lit. Fireplace on.  Cozy was the call.

Doorbell rang. We did the usual introductions. Hung in the foyer a few minutes. And then invited them in. Fully in.  Some of the kids were shy, some eager to play together, one full of questions (always, wink wink…).

We sat down and the floodgates opened.  We shared. We exchanged. We laughed. We over-shared and apologized, but it didn’t matter, not one bit.  It was rich.

And the whole time I am thinking and feeling grateful to be a part of a Larger God-Story going on here.

I love those moments, conversations, and meetings of new people, when you know God is behind the whole thing.  That there is a reason I am now in your life.  That there is a reason you are now in my life.  Its naught for naught.  Its deep. Its spiritual.  I call these Divine Appointments.

And always, a Divine Appointment is orchestrated by God, who loves and cares deeply about people.  He brings people together because someone needs wisdom.  Or inspiration. Or healing. Or love. Or a word of encouragement. Or an act of kindness. Or a new friend.  Or a special connection for personal or even business reasons.  Or deep spiritual truth and conviction that always points one or another back to the Lord.

Yesterday’s hot chili-and-chips-or-cornbread-lunch may have filled up my tummy.  Which lasts a few hours.

Yet our exchange with this new family filled up my heart and spirit forever.  I am so very humble to be a part of what God is doing in someone else’s life. I am grateful that God would use me, (really, Chris and me), a person so flawed, so messy, so full of my own sinfulness and mistakes, to be of inspiration to another.

I always say that crisis brings clarity to one’s life. And it does.  But on the happier flip-side, Divine Appointments with another human being also bring clarity and perspective on what really matters in this short life on Earth.

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Moses Makes Great Dinners In Heaven

Some years it hits me.  Some years it does not. That post-Christmas blah. The let-down.

On December 26th.  Or even sometimes RIGHT after the Christmas morning of fun and frenzy and children’s delights are all over.

Even though I don’t believe in Santa Clause or any Christmas magic per se, I have realized my adult self still has this longing and expectation at Christmastime.  That somehow a special fulfillment will arrive on December 25th.  And then the day comes and goes and poof, it doesn’t happen.

Unmet expectations.

Longings unfulfilled.

Wishes not granted.

Hopes disappointed.

Dreams dashed into despair.

This is the reality for many, at any time of the year.

This reminds me of a time my husband, Chris, had an opportunity to share at church. The theme was surrounding suffering and desires unfulfilled. He did an eloquent job, (if I do say so myself), and its so worth passing on right now.

Here is an excerpt:

Doesn’t it seem the bigger the shattered expectation or the greater the desire that isn’t satisfied, the greater our unhappiness, pain, and suffering?  It was painful to learn that our son, Ryan, has Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS), and it shattered our desires for a son who would naturally develop friendships, graduate from college, get married, have children, and grow up to live an independent life.

The most unique characteristic of persons with PWS is that they have an insatiable appetite–actually they never feel full.  Hunger is never satisfied.  Eventually persons with PWS become very food-seeking and develop an extreme food obsession.  Although Ryan does not sneak or steal food, one of his biggest anxieties arises around his eating schedule.  He needs constant reassurance every day that he will get his breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner without fail.  Cutting off a meal or snack-time for Ryan is like cutting off his oxygen.

C.S. Lewis has an intriguing quote in Mere Christianity:

   “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another wold.”

In light of all our struggles with Ryan, and other rough seasons for our family, that quote is challenging to me for a few reasons.  

Why is it that we live in a world where some of our deepest desires are not satisfied?   For Ryan, it’s his hunger.  It’s something for all of us.   If God created this world, doesn’t He bear some responsibility for our struggles and unsatisfied lives?   If  God doesn’t directly cause our suffering, can’t He nonetheless heal and fix things here and now — in this world?   How can I trust that heaven will truly satisfy all longings of my heart?   I haven’t discovered the best answers to those hard questions, but in the midst of daily heartache of life with a child with special needs, Ryan has helped me learn more about who God is.  I had one of those moments recently.

I was praying one early Saturday morning (not often I confess) and Ryan walked in the room after just waking up.  He asked what I was doing and I told him that I was praying.  He came and sat on my lap.  I asked him if he wanted to pray, too.   I told him to sit quietly and see if God had anything to say.  Ryan said ok, and put his head down on my shoulder and we sat still. Together.

After a few minutes, I asked, “Did God say anything to you?”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

Surprised, I asked Ryan what He said.

Ryan responded, “God told me I’m a great boy and He likes me.”

Hmm…perhaps God is speaking to him?  “That’s great,” I said.  “Did God tell you anything else?”

Ryan paused for a moment and turned to me and answered, “Moses makes great dinners in Heaven.”

I was truly moved and simply replied “Yes, Ryan, Moses makes great dinners in Heaven.”

God didn’t just speak to Ryan at that moment; He also spoke to me.  If Ryan had asked me what God or heaven is like, that’s certainly not how I’d answer.  However, that IS the way a personal God who cares about Ryan would describe Himself and heaven. God assured Ryan that his hunger — which nothing in this world can ever satisfy — will be satisfied in Heaven.  There’s nothing more I’d want for Ryan than for him to truly believe that God loves him, and despite such exceptional challenges, to understand that God can satisfy the deepest longings of his heart.   

I may never know why we, or Ryan, have to endure such trials and challenges, but it’s a great joy to know that Heaven is a place Ryan can look forward to and long for. Where his deepest desires and longings will be fulfilled. Forever.

Although this year was NOT one of those blah years for me, I am thankful for this reminder that Heaven is real and no blah moments or blah seasons of life exist there.

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God Speaks Through Matt Damon

 

God thinks and acts outside the proverbial box.  He always has.  That, among a trillion other things, makes Him God.

But sometimes I forget He wants to speak to my heart at all.

I forget He cares deeply about what I care deeply about.  And that He speaks in different ways.  Then He does, and I am blown away.  AGAIN.

Last Christmas break I took the kids to see, “We Bought a Zoo,” starring Matt Damon, and Scarlett Johannsen.  The kids really wanted to see the movie. So I relented and off we went in search of buttery popcorn and good seats.  We got there early so they did not miss anything.

I liked the movie, (and I even just ordered it), and some of the dramatic moments between the widowed father (Matt Damon) and his motherless, grieving son.  The kids were disappointed in that there were not enough animals to see, not enough action, lots of “boring” dialogue.  I was disappointed in Matt Damon’s hair, but that’s about it.

I love quotes and there was one in the movie that I particularly loved.  Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, was giving his young son some good advice:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery.  And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Right then in the Palos Verdes movie theater we frequent, I felt THAT FEELING.  From God.  Like He was saying that quote to me, for me, loud and clear, undeniably.

How do I explain that?

It comes from a deep inside place of knowing, something I have experienced time and again.   I know I sound like a crazy church lady.  But I am willing to take that risk right now.  I know that the Bible is clearly His main vehicle of communicating to us, but He also uses people, and circumstances and messages at church, and conversations with wise people, and well, Matt Damon.

Lets get back to that quote, and the moments after I heard it.

RIGHT AFTER Matt Damon said it, I heard, “Start your blog.”  And in the “20 seconds” following that I declared silently, “YES, I WILL.”   God was encouraging me to be brave enough, get some guts, and pursue my lifelong dream of being a WRITER.  A really wise and soulful writer who will hopefully touch and inspire others forward in their lives.  So….I committed to it, with courage, right then and there.

That night I told Chris that I was going to start my blog in 2012.  That I was going to dedicate Monday mornings weekly to write, research, read others’ blogs, and study the business of blogging.  (Who invented that word anyway?)  Chris is my biggest fan and supporter, and always comes alongside my dreams, whispering confidence and love into my perfectionist, fearful self.

God speaks through my husband, too.  And Chris is a LOT cuter than Matt Damon.

 PHOTO BY tvtropes.com

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