A Stranger’s Words in a Private Place

img_0344Two minutes, then she was gone. I wiped the tears that trailed down my face. I couldn’t give in to the sobs that threatened to overtake me. I had to be strong.

I looked at the empty spot where the stranger had stood a moment earlier. Had that just happened? Maybe not – it had been a crazy day, after all.

It was the day we would find out the answer to many questions. My sweet Kristen had been diagnosed with LAM and on this day, we would visit a specialist who would tell us her prognosis. We would find out if she would live a significantly shorter life; if she would suffer; if we needed to make lifestyle changes. We were scared but trying not to be.

Kristen, who is developmentally delayed and has autism, read us like a book. She had heard our conversations more than we realized. She recognized our anxiety level. She didn’t for one minute buy into our soothing words. She acted out on what she had heard, what she saw in our body language, and what she’d overheard earlier in the week.

It was awful.

Have you ever heard the school chant, Everywhere we go, people always know, Broncos! Broncos! Broncos! (not Denver; Denton High School)

That’s how our day was. Everywhere we went, people always knew.

Our visit to the medical facility was a two-part appointment, one in the morning for a breathing test and the doctor visit after lunch. When we returned to the medical center, I urged Kristen to come with me to the restroom. She yelled no, stomped her feet, then followed me in.

“Okay, go ahead and go to the bathroom, honey,” I told her as I headed in to a stall.

“No!” she yelled. “I don’t need to go!” Her arms were firmly weaved together in what she calls the “mad arms” position.

I knew she had to go. She just had two drinks. “Kristen, please, just go. It’s not a big deal. Just go.”

And then I heard a woman’s soft voice say, “Excuse me.” I winced as I heard Kristen’s usual response of, “No! Excuse ME! I’m upset!” yelled out, and I could see and hear stomping and flailing arms, and the slamming door of the stall next to mine.

I put my head in my hands and thought, Lord, please…

When I came out, there was a woman washing her hands. I turned on the water, thinking, I could ignore this or address it.

I smiled at her and said, “I’m sorry she was rude to you.”

The woman smiled and shook her head. Her voice was soft and sweet. “She wasn’t rude to me.” She hesitated, then said, “You know, I just started praying for you. I prayed that you would have peace and just an extra measure of patience.”

Her gentle words touched my bruised heart. All day long, Kristen’s out of control behavior had been turning heads. Her words had been poisonous to Rick and me. It was my birthday, but all she knew was that something bad was happening today, and it was about this doctor’s visit. No amount of cajoling or positive rewards could make up for her perception.

My eyes teared up as I took in this sweet stranger’s words, thinking how badly I needed extra patience with my daughter on this crazy day, and how badly I needed peace for our uncertain future. I think her eyes were misty, too. I would have hugged her, but I would’ve been a basket case – and then what would Kristen do?

So I thanked her, and I felt encouraged.

This sweet stranger, who had nothing to gain, gave me so much that day. Her prayers and her words of mercy were rejuvenating. They were just what I needed to keep going, to look at my daughter with fresh eyes and say, Okay, I can do this, no matter what people think, or say, or how grim the prognosis.

That sweet woman changed everything for me.

I want to do that for someone. Lord, open my eyes to the needs only You know.

Kristen’s prognosis was better than we imagined. We left the medical center feeling optimistic about the future and encouraged by a stranger’s prayer.

 

—Teresa

A Perfectionist’s Christmas: Jesus, Not the Hoopla

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No Christmas will ever live up to the hype.

I don’t know about you, friend, but all the commercials, Pinterest posts, magazine covers can make me feel my Christmas doesn’t live up to expectations.

My tree isn’t perfectly trimmed, even though it holds ornaments that are cherished and important to my family.

My house looks more cluttered than decorated, even though I dearly love each one of my displays. They have significance and precious memories, and I’d like to think they’re pretty, too.

My kitchen hasn’t yielded beautifully shaped, meticulously frosted Christmas cookies– because who am I kidding? I don’t like to bake.

My car has made the rounds of looking at lights exactly once this year, even though we adore piling in the car and gazing at brightly lit homes in our area.

My shopping is still incomplete, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t finish. Some years are like that — this is one of those. Life has interrupted our normal. How about you? Has life interrupted your normal?

Maybe you’re like me, trying not to compare yourself to the Pinterest-perfect posts and commercials. For me, it’s a struggle. I’m a perfectionist. I want to get everything right. But this year especially, my struggle to get everything right will be pure stress, so I’m trying not to try. I’m taking a breath and saying, It’s fine. And if it’s not fine with somebody, I’m going to try to shake it off. (I think that somebody will be me, mostly. I’m pretty hard on myself. You, too?)

Are you dealing with this, too? I think there are lots more women who, for various reasons, are finding it hard to muster a cheery smile while they try to do all-the-things, like bake beautiful cookies and invite friends and family to beautifully decorated, perfectly clean homes for gourmet meals and have brilliant, meaningful conversation.

Does anyone really do all that? If so, please don’t tell me. I’d rather think it was the legendary June Cleaver. It’s not me. I’ll bet it’s not you, either.

A week ago, when life interrupted our normal with a health issue, I couldn’t have cared less about Christmas decorations or gifts or gatherings. What I kept thinking was, It’s Jesus, not the hoopla. Today, with things getting back to normal, I’m still thinking along those lines. It’s Jesus. He is the reason for this Christmas season. We’ve allowed all the shiny things take our eyes off our Savior, but the distilled, pure message of Christmas is Jesus.

Sometimes it takes a life interruption to focus our vision. At least, it did for me. It doesn’t matter that my house isn’t just-so when my family gathers, or that I’m not the “perfect” hostess. I just want to be with the people I love, and I want to celebrate the One I love.

Christmas isn’t about the hype. It’s about Jesus.

A Few Lines in a Journal

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The times, they are stressful.

 

Last week, my husband was out of town. Not a big deal, except that Kristen had constant pain from her dental visit. This worried me because she held her jaw, acted extremely grumpy (code for she screamed and yelled), and told me she felt fine (code for it really hurts a lot but I’m sure not telling you because you won’t let me do anything). Disseminating truth was difficult.

 

So, I’m glad this week is better (code for Hallelujah, thank you Jesus!).

 

Last week was one for the books – but we’re still around, and after a second visit to the dentist, Kristen is fine (code for great!).

 

Our motto has always been, “You do what you gotta do.” That’s a “true-grit Texan” kind of motto that’s inspired us to do the hard stuff that comes with special needs parenting.

 

But this week, I had to dig deeper. Mottos like that might get me headed in the right direction, but as far as keeping me going, I need Jesus.

 

So I remembered my prayer journal.

 

For the past few months, I’ve turned my prayer journal into something more. Instead of just prayers, I’ve been writing how thankful I am for God. My focus is on Him, not what He can do for me.

 

“Lord, you are faithful. You are loving and wise. You are just. You are righteous and perfect in all your ways. You are the comforter, the judge, the mediator, the listener, the righteous ruler. You are ever faithful, never abandoning us.” (excerpt from my 9/26 journal entry)

 

When I was too stressed to murmur Bible verses, I thanked God for His attributes. As I spoke them, I felt my shoulders relax. Kristen stopped yelling and started listening. It was as if God was spreading balm on our spirits by taking our eyes off our circumstances. Talking about the character of God was healing. It took our thoughts to a higher level.

 

Even though our situation hadn’t changed, our mindset had. We were calm.

 

Who would’ve thought a few lines in a journal could change the day.

 

 

—Teresa

 

 

Finding Common Ground in the Dentist Office

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When they came into the waiting room, I summed up our differences quicker than our likenesses. She was tall and willowy, a single mom, brunette, all business. Her son’s special need diagnosis was known to be “happy” and “sociable,” and sure enough, he sat in the chair right next to me, listening to his iPod through cool headphones. My own child sat as far away from me as possible, her posture tense, a pouty frown on her pretty face. She kept reminding me that she didn’t want to be here.

This dental visit wasn’t going to be fun.

A half hour later, in a different waiting area, the brunette mom slipped into a comfy chair next to mine. I noticed her out of the corner of my eye as I was speaking to the dental assistant about the plan for my daughter’s treatment. The brunette mom had the whole empty room to choose from, but she chose to sit in the seat next to me. Just like her son had earlier.

After the dental assistant left, I looked at the book in my lap. I’d looked forward to reading it, knowing I’d have about an hour to myself — no wifi, no excuse to plug in. Just read. But a little nagging voice inside me said Talk to her. Tell her what you’re thinking.

So I did. I turned, shook my head, and said, “It’s never easy, is it?”

She knew exactly what I meant. “It sure isn’t,” she said.

You see, both of our children — adults, really — were under general anesthesia in rooms closed off from our view. That alone is stressful. But after years of seeking dental care without anesthesia, and either the rare dentists enduring kicking, screaming, and biting, or in most cases, dentists turning Kristen away, saying “we just don’t have the resources to treat someone like her,” this is the only way to get treatment. It tears me up every time. I’m so thankful for this place, but it’s hard.

So this brunette woman and I have common ground, right here in this hard part of life.

My book remained closed, but my heart opened. Though her son had a different diagnosis initially, our kids shared many characteristics. She told me about her breast cancer. We traded special needs parent tips, chuckled about things our kids did and said, and talked about faith. When Kristen and I left, my soul was full.

I don’t know why I thought they were so different from us. We share the same heart.

–Teresa

 

Photo credit: Joey Sforza, Unsplash.com

 

 

How accessible is God?

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I read something the other day and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Not because it was cute or witty. But because it was a contrast to the truth.

It went like this:

 “The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” 

Daniel 2:11

I know, it’s kind of random by itself. You can read the whole story here.

Here’s what bugged me: when these people needed their gods to show up, they weren’t around. They said their gods didn’t live “with flesh” (humans).

What a desperate situation. And what a contrast to reality.

The one true God shows up when we call. He’s never far away. He’s omnipresent.

I can’t imagine life without God. I can’t imagine the loneliness of not having a supreme being to call out to, knowing I’m not in charge of this world. I am humbled to be able to cry out to the God who is in charge of the world. Even though I don’t understand how He does things or decisions He makes, I’m thankful He listens when I pray. I’m awestruck to know He loves me.  The God of the Universe wants to be near me — and you.

And I’m thankful I don’t have to respond, EVER, by saying, “I’m sorry, my God isn’t available because he doesn’t live with humans.” My God — your God — takes pleasure in the people He created. He is all around us, always. He is near.

He is always available to us.

We have a living, caring God who is not like those false gods “whose dwelling is not with flesh.” Our God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus, to live among us, to dwell with flesh.  Our God listens and answers our prayers. How wonderful is that!

Think about that today. God is always available to you!

—Teresa

Photo credit: Finn Hackshaw, Unsplash.com

A Loving Legacy

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We had a party at my house recently. It marked a very significant birthday for my wonderful mom. My brother and I honored her by gathering all the family to celebrate.

 

And when I say all the family, I’m talking close to 50 people. They came from many miles away, traveling hours in order to be celebrate.

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Four generations!

It was a glorious day of madness and mayhem and endless fun, with children running all over the place, guitars strumming tunes, people young and otherwise clustered around tables laden with food and drink, leaning in to hear each other, the walls ringing with so much laughter.

One sentence was heard repeatedly:

“We have such a great family!”

And we do. Every one of these people are great people.

The funny thing is, as a group, there are many differences:

  • Different faiths
  • Different political beliefs
  • Different careers
  • Different educational levels
  • Different geographical locations
  • Different recreational past times

In a lot of families, any difference would be a division. So what makes our family harmonious?

It’s an easy answer: love.

We love each other fiercely, tenderly, protectively. It was what we all saw in our grandparents, our mothers’ parents, Glen and Irene Rothell. They were humble, sweet and loving. Their love showed in every smile, every gesture, every hug and kiss, every word they spoke or letter they wrote. They loved God, they loved their children, they loved their grandchildren. They loved their parents and honored them. They were honest, good, God-fearing, humble people.

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Grandpa and Grandma Rothell

Grandpa and Grandma were farmers. They weren’t famous. But their rich legacy of love gives them more renown than any spotlight, stage or newspaper ever could.

 

The day of Mom’s party, we felt their presence, even though they’ve been in Heaven since the early 1990’s. Their legacy lives on in all of us. It lives on in our love for one another.

 

That’s what I want my legacy to do, too. How about you?

–Teresa

Thanks to my cousin DeRenda for most of these great pics!

 

Great book, plus a giveaway!

By Teresa on Sep 23, 2016 02:05 pm

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. —Jacqueline Kennedy

Read a good book lately?

I’m always coming across good books. I’m no longer a school librarian, so my books are usually of the 14+ age, and are either inspirational or fiction. But last month I read a book that’s totally different, and I’d like to tell you about it.

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, by Jamie C. Martin

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            This book is aimed at parents who seek to expand their child’s view of life through books, with the goal of raising their compassion and understanding of people who live in other places.

Jamie C. Martin asks this: How can we strengthen our kids’ natural love for the world so it doesn’t disappear after awhile? How can we nurture it and grow it, allow it to naturally lead into caring for others around the earth?

Her answer: grow our children’s love of people through books. Aim our children toward stories from cultures different from theirs. By exposing them to literature from other places, their eyes will be opened to other ways of doing things, seeing things, and celebrating customs. Simultaneously, it will prove how much every person has in common with one another.

Seem simple? Yes. Too simple? Maybe. But ask yourself: Do we do this, as parents? As teachers? As grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, or ministry leaders? Do we talk about how much we have in common with the people across the world? Do we discuss the customs practiced 15 hours to the east? To the west? And if not, why not? Would our discussions broaden our scope and that of our children?

If you are like me, the answer is time. Or know-how. There’s no time, or I don’t know enough about the customs of “those places.”

So have we considered that there is a simple way to teach compassion?

We read to know we are not alone.—C.S. Lewis

Surely it’s not as easy as opening a book. Surely raising compassionate, globally-minded kids goes beyond just handing them a book and dusting your hands off, presto-chango.

Well, of course. Jamie C. Martin isn’t saying it’s simple. But she does try to make it as easy as possible by giving adults a little background, some pointers, then providing a well-organized collection of more than 600 selected children’s book titles. They’re listed according to age appropriateness, continent, and country, along with annotations.

This is a phenomenal list, y’all.

Jamie C. Martin is a homeschooling mom. While I’ve never homeschooled – I was a public school educator both in a classroom and the library for a total of twenty-five years – I do have one important thing in common with her: we both grew up reading and are passionate about books. She has written several nonfiction books, which are posted on her website (simplehomeschool.net). Give Your Child the World is her most recent endeavor, published in 2016 by Zondervan.

Willing to give this book a try? I’d highly recommend it! But only if you’re a parent, teacher, librarian, grandparent, aunt/uncle, educator, ministry leader, caregiver, or interested in promoting reading. Or just curious.

Here’s the best news: I’m giving away a copy of Give Your Child the World!

All you have to do is comment on the blog by midnight, Wednesday, September 28, 2016, and you will be entered into the drawing! The winner will be announced the following day. I will send the book to the winner via the U. S. postal system, free of charge. What a great deal!

Check back on Thursday to see if you’re a winner. If it’s not you, don’t despair – I’ll post how YOU can get this awesome resource. (it just won’t be free — but it’s a great buy!)

Happy Reading, y’all!

Teresa 

  

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift. —Kate DiCamillo

 

 

Tender Mercy — YES!

I’m a why person. Always have been, ever shall be.

So when I’m reading and the word “because” comes into view, I straighten up, my brain comes to full alert, and I pick up my pen.

So here’s what I was reading this morning.

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:76-79

These were the words of a father, Zechariah, for his newly born son, John, in a spine-tingling prophecy of John’s life purpose.

Can you imagine any of your friends picking up their newborn and proclaiming that baby’s huge path on this earth?

My first thought: “Crazy!” And some of Zechariah’s friends might have said that, too. But this man had been told by an angel that God had a special plan for his son and no matter how outlandish it seemed, it would happen. In fact, Zechariah doubted and suffered for it (read that story in the Bible in Luke 1:-23; 57-80).

So back to those verses — did you see the “because” I was excited about?

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:76-79

So here’s how my brain works:

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And those words — “tender mercy” — are the because this why girl needed.

How expressive those two words are! What more do we need?

In this time of seeking hope in all the wrong places, it’s right in front of our faces. It’s in the tender mercy of our God. And by His tender mercy, He makes the sun rise and shine on those living in darkness. His light shines on those living in the shadow of death.  Why? To guide us to the path of peace.

To guide us to Jesus.

Jesus gives peace. For-real peace, not temporary serenity that I have to work hard for.

With Jesus, all that’s required is belief. He did the hard stuff.

Why would I turn this down? Living in the light instead of living in dark? Um, yes.

Peace instead of turmoil? Yes!

True, down-deep joy traded for despair? Yes!

Yes! By all means, yes!

Tender mercy wins, every time.

 

When Plans Change

 

If you’re like me, you’re full of plans.

  • for your day
  • for your groceries
  • for your meals
  • for your kids
  • for your life

But if you’re like me, my plans often don’t play out. In fact, days I’m muttering, “The best-laid plans of mice and men…” to soothe my ambitious soul.

But on harder days, I’m not muttering. I’m frustrated. I’m resentful. And some days I’m afraid.

And I’m thinking you’re just like me on those days.

So when a monkey wrench crashes into our plans, how do we deal with it?

That was my question years ago. My life turned upside down with my infant daughter’s diagnosis.  The one that took our lives from normal to abnormal.  From golden to rotten.

Or so it seemed.

I was so raw, so hurt . . . and numb. Just getting through the day, giving her injections that cost a fortune we didn’t have . . . that was our new normal.

But I couldn’t stand the pain. Numbness was unacceptable. I had to find happiness and joy again.

Proverbs 15:13 says,”A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”

I had to turn my river.

But saying it and doing it are two different things, right?

When the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.  Broken spirits take awhile to mend. Mine took awhile, too.

I had a family that was incredibly supportive, and friends who reached out, although I was prideful and acted like I needed nothing — “I’m good.” I wasn’t!

But I had to reason things out. I had a lot of questions for God that needed answers. I went to the Bible to get those answers, my disillusionment not set but getting there fast.  I was mainly hurt: why had God afflicted our sweet baby? We’d served Him. We’d been good people. Why us?

It wasn’t long before I got my answer.

One thing I know — when you go looking for answers from God, He will answer.