Small is Big: What my son taught me about faith and compassion.

donnaandluke-1.jpgHave you ever learned that someone is facing a difficult time and just wanted to do something, say something, anything to ease the pain or bring a sliver of comfort? Often times, we truly feel helpless. Wanting to form words into a perfect sentence that will help them immediately feel better but the only thing that comes out is abject silence, because your mind is suddenly empty of any and all words. However, I have been shown first hand that there is so much we can do, no matter how small it seems.

When my son, Luke, was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation at age 10, our world flipped upside down. I was consumed and twisted with worry. Worried about his impending brain surgery. Worried about him being scared. Worried about what this meant for our future.

During this time, he was given a knitted prayer shawl made by a precious local ladies fellowship church group. Later, he was also given a prayer bear by a sweet friend of mine. His bear was placed at the right corner head of his bed and was there for almost 2 years. His prayer shawl went with us to the hospital and brought so much comfort to him. He told me he could feel all the prayers that had been prayed over it and love that had gone into it. That comfort and peace he got from a small caring gesture spilled over and brought unspeakable comfort to this mommy’s heart through surgery and the months of recovery that followed. DSC_0987

Nearly a year after his surgery, my co-worker was battling cancer. Luke and I wanted to reach out to her, to give her comfort, but in all honesty I simply CANNOT knit. So we decided to send her a prayer bear. Luke picked out the softest one he could find, just the perfect size to hug. We prayed over it, calling her by name and asking that it bring comfort to her as it did Luke. You can read more about this story published on The Mighty.

After that, we decided we could share love and comfort in a very small way through giving prayer bears. To start off, Luke sold some of his toys for donations. Since that first bear, we have given nearly 30 bears in just over a year to others who are sick or hurting, most go to children with Chiari like Luke and other conditions. It has been such an honor to be entrusted by these parents to pray for their precious children! And Luke always writes a card to each person, a kind message that he feels each one needs to hear.

And the sweet spring beauty that has blossomed from his painful surgical winter has been the most precious to me. Through the bears and prayers, I’ve seen my son’s faith and love flame into a burning compassion for others that has spread into all areas of his life. He is the first to meet and befriend others in new settings. He is kind to everyone and sees everyone as a friend. Whenever we are out, he greets strangers with a smile in passing in the grocery store or running errands and tells them he hopes they are having a great day, holds the door for them or helps them unload their cart.

This has taught me so much about the little opportunities we have each and every day. We can be consumed inwardly with ourselves and our struggles, (something of which I am profoundly guilty) or we can look outside of ourselves for small opportunities to share a moment of love.

Thank you my sweet boy for showing me that small things become big when love is in it! Chiari Card

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Huffington Post Left Out

Weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when the editor of Huffington Post Divorce contacted me and asked if they could feature our family for their blended family Friday feature story. I had recently had two pieces published on the Huff Post blog, but this was truly an honor. It was a rare chance to share who we really are with so many. I know that it is not a Christian news outlet. However, I am who I am and in the interview I did not hide how much our faith has been the center of our family.

When the email finally landed in my inbox to let me know they were running our feature this past Friday, I could barely sit still for days. All morning on the big day, I kept checking the site, waiting for it to go live. When it did, mouth dry, I nervously clicked on the link. (You can read the feature here.)

As I began to read, confusion began to swirl and then disappointment settled in my spirit. Although it had several elements of what I had said, sadly, every part about our faith, the essence of who we really are as a family and how we deal with stress and difficulties was edited out completely. (Particularly question #5). Also in vowing to spread awareness, the things I shared about my son’s Chiari had been cut as well. But I want others to know us, see God in us, so I am posting my original interview.

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Our family journey has been filled with change, disappointments, victories, worry and joy. Our faith has been there through it all. Divorce and re-marriage is still an issue where we are looked down on and judged by some within the Christian community. I have a passion to reach out and spiritually encourage other moms like me who may feel judged or shamed so I started my blog www.familiesunbroken.com and it’s kind of evolved from there. As a writer, it only takes one moment, one thought, one written idea to change someone’s life. I don’t have all the answers but I share my heart and hope that it resonates with other families like ours.

1. How many family members do you have? Ages? 

My daughter is 17 years old, my son is 12 this month and Daniel’s son is 13 years old. And we have a furbaby named Brady that just turned 5 years old that is the most spoiled in the house.

2. How long have you and your spouse been together?
Daniel and I have been together nearly 9 years and will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary in a few weeks.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
I think it is the same as in many blended families. It is trying to find balance between home and work while coordinating schedules, parenting time, school and other events.
What’s one specific problem you’ve faced time and time again and how have you sought to address it?
Daniel is the “every other weekend and one night a week” parent so we have to cram family time as well as one on one parenting time into a very limited space. Because of this, he feels he never sees his son enough. What we have found that works is we deliberately set aside one on one quality time with him and we plan it before his parenting weekend. Sometimes it’s going to breakfast on Saturday mornings or mountain biking on Sunday afternoons, etc… As a family, we try to simply do activities to make memories. We do a lot of day trips. I think I have a talent for finding activities to do or places to visit that are out of the ordinary (lol). Daniel tells me all the time how much he loves me for that. His son appreciates that we respect the short time he has with his dad and it has helped us to appreciate the family time we do have together and the memories we are able to make.
4. What’s the best thing about being part of a blended family?
I feel that it’s learning to love each other coming in from the outside. More of an effort goes into learning our children’s individual uniqueness and as we have grown more as a family, the effect is that we love and appreciate each other all the more for that effort.5. How do you deal with stress in your household?
We have a very strong faith that is rooted in grace, acceptance and forgiveness. During times of stress in our home we have tried to teach and practice extending grace to each other. We try to accept each other, that we are not the same and each of us has our own thoughts and feelings, as well as reactions. We are not robots. We then try to forgive each other, learn from it and move forward.
As far as handling the internal and emotional stress that comes with being blended, prayer helps us a lot. Daniel works out at the gym several times a week. He calls it his therapy, and I love to write.

6. What makes you proudest of your family?
What makes me most proud of our family are delicious ordinary moments. It’s those moments when we are not a blended family, we are just family. Moments where we are at the dinner table eating together, laughing hysterically at inside jokes and sharing about our day. Those moments where we are riding together in the car singing and dancing to the radio, playing at the park, or camped out on the living room floor watching a movie. It is those moments where we are not a blended family around the dinner table, we are just a family around the dinner table. We are not a blended family having fun, we are just a family having fun. I really am proud to say over the years we have shared countless moments like that.
7. What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful family dynamic is out of reach? The best advice I can give is only what has seemed to work for us with a lot of time and patience. First, throw your preconceived ideas out the window. It will never be what you expect. Accept that there will be tears, yelling, confusion, and adjustment. Second, make your marriage a priority. That doesn’t mean your children are less, but because your children deserve more, and don’t need to go through another divorce. The kids will learn to appreciate the stability of a healthy family home. Finally, learn to be selfless not selfish. Focus on making memories instead of what you can’t control.
I also want to share just over a year ago, my son was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and underwent brain decompression surgery. It was an emotional eye-opening experience for both his father and me, but from that came better communication, patience and appreciation for each other as his parents. It affected every one in both families. It helped to solidify in our hearts that at the end of the day, what truly is important, is each other.
I would like to sincerely thank Huffington Post for everything, especially the wonderful opportunity to share with so many that otherwise would not be possible to reach. I want to say thank you for including a link to my blog so that I could write this post and share what was left out. Allow me to share more of a part of who I am, who we are.
But most of all, I want to thank God for opportunities to allow me to share Him and how he truly has helped make something new out of our brokenness.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
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You may have started out broken but God heals and restores to unbroken.

 

When I Felt Judged at the Grocery Store After my Son’s Diagnosis

Mighty blog 2I only had a moment to run in for an emergency stop at the grocery store. I had so much stuff to try to fit in that day, (like trying to find big boy pajamas that buttoned down the front). I had just found out my sweet little boy had to have brain surgery.

During the first few days of learning he had Chiari Malformation, an incurable condition and needed surgery, I had such a hard time being in public. It was difficult seeing everyone go about their normal lives when it took everything I had to not fall apart with worry about what was to come. The hysterical emotions rocketing through me at that time made it exceedingly hard to fight the urge to scream, cry or both, so a trip to the grocery store was not an easy task that day.

My goal was to just get in, get out and I had almost succeeded when I turned the corner and passed her. She looked me up and down, judgement etched on her face, then scoffed and smirked as she passed. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Maybe she didn’t like the way I looked or what I was wearing. Who in the world knows? I made a beeline toward the register swallowing back tears, refusing to allow them freedom until I got to the car.

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The whole incident only lasted five seconds, but in that brief moment, my fragile spirit was crushed. Although it’s been over a year since my son’s surgery, I have still not forgotten the look on her face that day in the grocery store. It woke me up and got me to thinking. We have hundreds of five second interactions every day and we really have absolutely no idea what others around us are going through. It made me realize how in just five seconds, we have the power to change things, to go a little farther, or to do a little extra for others, (even encourage a mom who is carrying a world of worry on her shoulders).

In just five seconds, I can smile and ask how you are doing, or give you a compliment. In five seconds, I can look you in the eye and acknowledge you instead of making you feel less or even invisible. In five seconds, I can give my children a few more kisses or a big bear hug rather than say I’m too busy. In five seconds, I can take my husband’s hand rather than push him away. In five seconds, I can give my loyal furry friend an extra scratch between his ears. In a matter of mere moments I can truly make a difference in those around me and in the lives of those I love so much.

In just five seconds, we have the power to encourage or discourage. What are you doing with yours?

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Help For The Chronic Worrier and Some Updates

IMG_20150113_090049163Just over a week ago, I found myself spending a quiet evening at home with just me and my two kids. My husband was working and my stepson (my sweet bonus son) was at his mom’s. It was a very cold night and it seemed the heat was heaving and sighing, moaning and hissing trying to keep our house warm. So I lit a fire in the fireplace and we settled down to play a game of Sorry.

As we sat there playing, giggling and taking turns sending each other back to start the thought came to me that this is what family to me is all about. My daughter wasn’t worrying about her end of semester exams coming up the following week. My son wasn’t worrying about his frequent headaches and upcoming surgery. I wasn’t worried about getting to work the next day or what was going to be happening in the coming weeks. No. We were all in the present; in the moment. It was warm there. It was peaceful and relaxing there. It was happy there in that moment.

I can be a chronic worrier. When you worry, you tend to be inside of your head. A lot. That means that you may be sitting in the present but in your head, you are in the future of “what if” and “what might”. Your mind is caught in a vicious cycle of worry and what might happen if what if happens. I have learned that the best way to combat this is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is where you bring yourself out of the worry and out of your head and look around. You literally start pointing out things that surround you and switch your focus on them. For example, my drive to work is where I really worry. I worry about whatever is going on with my kids, my job, what some one said, etc. When I practice mindfulness, I stop worrying and think about how bright the sun is at that moment or how blue the sky is, etc…

I use the term “practice” because it sounds simple but it is something I have to work at over and over again because the worry keeps trying to take over. Being mindful helps us to stay focused on the present; focus on the moment you are living in not what’s to come and especially what has been. In His word, God tells us to not worry about tomorrow. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

IMG_20150113_090049163Here is something that we all need to honestly take hold of and remember:  God actually wants us to be happy and enjoy the life He has given us. He doesn’t want us to waste it on our past or worry. (Who would ever want to know Him if we are walking around worried and sad all the time.) Being mindful and staying in the present allows us to live out our potential, to be the best we can be-who we were created to be, moment to moment.

“18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Now on to some other things that are happening. I was so excited to share that I was approached by Pigeonhole Books to do a blog interview for their resource page several months ago. They chose my blog to kick off the new year! Here is a link to that interview about me, my site and where I want to be in all of this. Check it out and show them some love! http://pigeonholebooks.com/2015/01/05/blogger-interview-donna-mott/

We also celebrated a big birthday in our family recently! Our beautiful girl, my oldest, turned sixteen! Where has the time gone?!

I would like to thank you all and ask that you please continue to pray for our son, my youngest, Luke. His chiari surgery is scheduled for February 2. Our family has a lot coming up but God has been so amazing and faithful. I will be sharing more about that later……

 

When You are So Overwhelmed, There are No Words

rock blog photo 2I haven’t posted in a while. My emotions have been so overwhelming that I literally have had no words to describe them. Which I’m pretty sure is bad for a writer. Words, for me, have always been an emotional outlet; expressing and processing my feelings; a way to scream while remaining silent. Lately I’ve been drowning in fear, worry, shock, determination, and focus with no way to get an extra breath except…….One.

Romans 8:26 “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (NLT)

It is so much comfort to me that as a child of God, I don’t have to find the words. I don’t have to articulate the storm inside my heart, the raging in my mind. My Heavenly Father knows.

He is my comforter. 2 Corinthians 1:3 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.”

He is my strength and my help. Psalms 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

He is my hope. Psalms 71:5 “O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O LORD, from childhood.”

He is my rock. 1 Samuel 2:2 “No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

My previous post was about my son. The tests results have come in and we met with the neurosurgeon last week and my little guy will be having decompression brain surgery at the end of January for his chiari malformation. As I have said before, I am so grateful that this has been found while he is young and has not had to suffer, but I have also, as a mom grieved for my son. My heart has ached for what he is facing. I have cried out of fear of the horrible spiral of “what ifs” that could happen.

I don’t want him to go through this. I am scared about so many things but it has been during this time that I have felt God’s closeness more than ever before; His presence touching every aspect of our life; our Comforter, our Strength, our Help, our Hope, our Rock.

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