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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3 Simple Things to Pray Over Sex in Your Marriage and Why

new blog picI am super excited about this post. I have long admired Sheila Gregoire and her site To Love Honor and Vacuum. I think the issue of sex and intimacy in Christian marriage is not talked about enough, but Sheila has been changing that for 9 years. I had the privilege of writing and sharing 3 things that I pray over sex in my marriage and she has published it today her on her blog.

Here is a sneak peak at it and you can click the link to read the rest:

For most who will be honest, if you have a rocky marriage, sex is the last thing on your mind. Therefore, whether your marital problems started with sex or not, it becomes a big issue or rather the “not having it” becomes the issue adding to marital turmoil.

In my past, I was mistreated and told that a true woman pleases her man sexually no matter how depraved his request may be. There have also been times when I was that woman that used sex as punishment or reward. I’ve also been through the deep pain of divorce. I am happily remarried now. I want to learn from my past and not make the same mistakes. I want to change unhealthy attitudes I have had about intimacy. I also have a very strong belief in the absolute power of prayer. I thought I would share three simple things that I pray over sex in my marriage.

To find out the 3 things I pray over sex in my marriage and why, visit 3 Key Things to Pray Over Your Sex Life.

 

A Devotional Thought for the Stepmom Dealing With Some Difficult Feelings

a-new-heartAre you a stepmom that is having a hard time right now because of some difficulties you are facing? We have all been there. I wrote this short devotional post three years ago but feel it is still a hot topic for struggling stepmoms.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. ~Ezekiel 36:26

During my engagement to my husband, I scoured the internet reading posts, forums, articles, etc….about blended families and being a stepmom. The relationship with my little 6 year old stepson was very important to me and I wanted to do things right. I remember reading forums, posts and articles about stepfamilies and stepmoms.

I was surprised at how many stepmoms are struggling. There were numerous posts about how the stepmom can’t stand the stepkids, or how the stepchild tries to manipulate to get more attention from their father, or that the husband doesn’t understand.

The thing is, the father and his kids are a package deal.

Maybe you are one of those moms. You may feel hopeless in your family situation but prayer changes things. Maybe it’s not the stepchildren, but your relationship with your husband that needs mending. God doesn’t want your family to fail. God wants your family to be strong, compassionate, and loving. And I truly believe it starts inside our own heart first.

I encourage you to pray for your husband and your children no matter how you “feel”. Ask Him to help you see them through His eyes and ask Him to change your heart. Ezekiel 36:26 is a promise that God will change your heart if you are willing and open. Don’t think for one second that because your family was a product of divorce or brokenness that God thinks less of you or doesn’t want your family to succeed! Remember that Jesus lived in a blended family…

Let God work healing in your marriage and family. Let Him start by giving you a new heart and renewed spirit.

Are You Having A Moment?

This Christmas was filled with lots of moments for our blended family, wonderful boring moments and I couldn’t be happier with that. Yes you read that right. I did say boring and I did say happy. This Christmas was very mellow. We carried out our yearly traditions. Made memories and visited a few new places together to make new ones. We even managed to sneak in a “pajama day” at the request of my sweet stepson just a few days before Christmas. We celebrated with family and shared lots of laughter. The darkness, the worry cloud that sat on my shoulder last year was gone. So like I said, boring, and grateful for it.

Luke ChristmasLast year, as many know, just before Christmas, we learned that our youngest son was going to have brain surgery for Chiari Malformation at the first of the year. So the holidays were consumed with big moments, such as staying strong and not letting him see how utterly scared I was. Moments like hiding how worried I was that this might, just might, be our last Christmas with Luke. Lost in thought of how there is no cure and what if something goes wrong during the surgery and he isn’t the same. Moments while among all the holiday gift shopping, I was searching for pajamas to fit a ten year old that buttoned down the front. And when finally finding some complete with a star wars theme, a moment when I could barely see my way to the cashier for the tears as I imagined when he would have to wear them while having to deal with doctors, nurses, medications, pain, and anxiety.  However, in those moments surrounded by all three kids, wonderful family, our amazing church and supportive friends and community God chose last Christmas to be one of the best we have ever had!

And from last Christmas to this Christmas God has felt so close. His perfect peace was truly a key to surviving all the moments we faced. Life has been rapid, busy for me this year. Writing, homeschooling, volunteering and Bible study classes have consumed me. In fact I’ve realized that the only thing I haven’t done much of is take a moment for me. blog post 3

It got me to thinking how moms like me give so much to every one else. A few months ago I had the privilege of writing a book endorsement for a fellow “blendermom”, Kristie Carpenter, and it was published in her latest devotional book Blended Mom Moments.

It is filled with weekly scriptural devotions interspersed with stories and nuggets of wisdom. I am really looking forward to diving into this book and spending some time with God. He really wants to spend time with you, minister to you, shepherd you and speak to your heart. I’m reminded of the words of the song What Do I Know Of Holy, by Addison Road, “I tried to hear from Heaven but I talked the whole time…” Sometimes we just need to stop talking in order to hear God speak to us.

Psalm 46:10a, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

This new year I encourage you to stop. Put your feet up, savor a nice cup of coffee and have a moment. Have a moment of quiet, a moment of prayer, a moment of renewal. It will strengthen you during life’s big moments!

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

blog post 2*You can purchase a copy of “Blended Mom Moments” Signed Copy Here and Amazon here. I have also had the privilege of getting to know Tara Furman, founder of Knowing God Ministries. I purchased her “Intimacy with God” which truly changed my prayer time years ago. Click the link and go to resources to learn more.

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Why Purple Sometimes Makes Me Cry

My Son Chiari WarriorSeptember is Chiari Malformation awareness month. To be honest, I didn’t know there was such a month until my social media began to fill up with purple. So I began to look up quotes and things that I could post on my sites in order to bring awareness and as I was pondering this issue a flood of emotion began to squeeze my throat as I really reflected on just what Chiari has taught me.

Chiari Malformation is what my then ten year old son, Luke was diagnosed with just one year ago. Chiari turned our world upside down. Chiari was a game changer. Chiari taught me just how strong a mother I really am. Chiari taught me about the warrior heart my little boy has inside of him. Chiari has shown me just how much the Lord Jesus loves not only my son but how much He loves me.

The color purple typically stands for invisible illnesses and conditions that can be debilitating or even fatal with no cure. Invisible illness meaning a person painfully hears the words often uttered “he/she/you don’t look sick” or show outward signs of the battle raging inside their body.

Purple. Invisible illness. What no one sees.  Like when my son was diagnosed and suddenly reality got very real. Invisible illness. Purple. As my spirit began to fill with fear as I read all the possible neurological problems that can come with this monster. Night time was the worst for me. Purple. Invisible illness as in no one knowing how I would tuck Luke in, hug him tight and every time I turned out the light and walked out of his room I felt I was leaving a dark presence hovering over him named Chiari. Invisible illness and purple as in no one seeing from the time he was diagnosed until his surgery, night after night I would set my alarm every few hours to get up to check on him because Chiari can block the CSF flow and not send the signal to tell my sweet little boy to breath or not tell his heart to beat. Words can’t describe how my feet, so burdened with fear, would walk me up to his bed heart pounding for what I might find.

IMG_20150203_055813668But here is the twist…Luke, after the initial fearful reaction to learning of his diagnosis and impending brain surgery slept with a peace that I had never seen before. (You can read my post here: How to tell your son he’s going to have brain surgery without exploding into a million pieces.) 

Because for him what I saw as purple, invisible illness, a monster named Chiari; he saw God. God turned our world upside down. God was a game changer. God showed him just how strong a mother he has. God showed him the warrior heart he has inside of him. God has shown him just how much He loves him and how much He loves me and has done it all through Chiari.

Now the color purple has taken on a whole new meaning to me and yes it causes me to cry. Not because he has Chiari but because it reminds me of the warrior spirit of faith and the power of prayer that has grown from Chiari; grown in my family, in my son, in me. Purple reminds me of the absolute power, the incomprehensible grace and God’s perfect plan that although is not always understandable but will always make us all the better for it.

Psalm 138:3 and 138:8 “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.” “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

blog chiariMy son Luke feels better than he has ever felt since his surgery. It breaks my heart how he must have suffered before being diagnosed, when we were told he was just dehydrated. Please help share and spread awareness about Arnold Chiari Malformation. Someone you may know and love could be suffering with this and not know. For more information on Chiari and how to help:

http://asap.org/index.php/disorders/chiari-malformation/

http://www.conquerchiari.org/index.html

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/detail_chiari.htm

Disclaimer: These images and links are used for the sole purpose of awareness and information. I am not receiving any monetary gain.

Have You Ever Asked Yourself, Why Pray?

IMG_20150202_174620018The last few weeks have felt like an emotional month for me. Luke had his decompression surgery Monday, Feb 2. Leading up to that date, I had spread the word all over social media for anyone and everyone to pray for him. I received messages and comments from Chicago all the way to New Zealand; so many, even many I have never met, said they had heard what we were going through and were praying. What an immeasurable comfort to my soul to know that hundreds were going to God the Father on behalf of my son and our family.

Luke’s surgery was February 2. As I helped him slip into the hospital gown in the pre-op room, surrounded by the sterile antiseptic smell of the hospital, the moment I had dreaded for weeks weighed down my movements. The moment that played in my head over and over again in a tortuous spiral. It was the moment when they would come and wheel my little boy away and I would have to say goodbye, let go and place him into the hands of the medical team.

I often asked myself what would I say? How do you express in words a love so utterly and achingly deep that words cannot begin to touch? What if something happens and he doesn’t come back my sweet little Luke? The Luke that can do amazing impersonations of characters on TV and in movies and send us all into peals of laughter. The Luke that builds and creates with Legos for hours and comes out with a Lego restaurant complete with grill area and bun warmer. The Luke that writes in his devotional journal about his understanding of the Savior and this deep love for God that is very rare for a ten year old. The Luke that prayed for all the ones that have been praying for him saying that he knew they too have struggles. He asked God to bless and encourage them just as they were blessing and encouraging him through prayer.IMG_20150202_143756345(1)

That dreaded moment came. I looked down into his round blueberry eyes, and unsuccessfully choking back tears, I kissed his soft cheek and told him how very proud I was of him for being so brave and that I loved him so very much and with a wet smile I told him I would be right here when he got back. I will not lie. It was really hard for me to watch them wheel him around the corner and out of sight. But in that dreaded moment, I felt God nudge my heart and remind me that He promised Luke would never be alone. My spirit felt so much comfort in being reminded that my wonderful Lord goes with my children where I cannot.  Deuteronomy 3:16 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Luke walking the PICU on the morning after surgery.

Luke walking the PICU on the morning after surgery.

Luke went through surgery with no complications. He had some pain but his recovery is nothing short of phenomenal. He was walking the next morning up and down the PICU with his physical therapist. His PICU nurse said she had never seen a child do so well and recover so quickly. They moved him into a regular room after therapy that day. And the next day, just 2 days after brain surgery, the neurosurgeon released him to go home.

So now my thoughts turn to prayer. Actually, my thoughts go to all the numerous prayers that were prayed over my son and my family. I am finding it hard to put into words the emotions that bubble up in my heart when I think about it all. I know that there has been so many times when I felt that no matter what I prayed, that my words were not heard and that they went no farther than the ceiling.

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Luke visited the play room at the children’s hospital just one night after decompression brain surgery.

I don’t have all the answers of why. Why do these things happen? Why pray? All I can say is God used it all. All the prayers touched me and encouraged me that people do care. All the prayers touched Luke because it showed him he really does matter. And seeing Luke recover so quickly and miraculously touched all those that prayed that God really really does hear and answers in a way that no one can say it was done by human strength, but to show His glory, His strength. And so I will continue to pray. Even when I am not “feeling” it. Even when the words don’t seem right. Even when God’s answer is different than my wants. Thank you so much Father God that it is truly not my will but Thy will.

A Candle For Jack

Jack is a wonderfully gifted, inquisitive, articulate 9 year old boy with a beautiful, sweet warmth about him.  His strong determined mom is a blogger friend of mine and for the past year or so I’ve been following her powerful emotional story of co-parenting (if you can even call it that) with a narcissist.  For years she has struggled to move mountains to get the help and encouragement for this highly gifted child with an IQ in the 98th percentile. When Jack was 7, because of her efforts of trying to get him enrolled in the Gifted Academy, she lost custody of her son through a very broken court system. A court system that felt it was better to not look to experts in the field of gifted children but rather to the squeaky wheel that was screaming for grease.  Her parenting time has now been reduced to 8 days a month!

Since the custody change, Jack’s anxiety has increased to an all time high.  He has shared with his mom after crying uncontrollably for the first hour of most visits with her that his father is abusing him mentally, emotionally, and physically and since the courts are not monitoring him and this man has complete control, the abuse has escalated to an alarming level.  One small example of this is that Jack is afraid of heights so his father held him by his leg and suspended him over the railing of the deck 20 feet off the ground to teach him not to be afraid!  Countless times he has been called a baby, stupid, and an idiot.  He is not allowed to cry.  I could go on with many other examples.

I was deeply moved by this brave mom’s post, her message of hope that she has received from God through her son and her anxious fear as she goes to the court of appeals on April 15 to plead with them to overturn the custody ruling.  This is the link to this post and I encourage you to please read it!  You will be so inspired by this amazing little boy.

http://scatteredsmotheredandcovered.com/2014/04/07/one-word-365-submit-to-hope/

Today we had a prayer service at church.  A time where we can be prayed over, take communion,light candles and also literally carry our burdens and nail them to a wooden cross.  My daughter and I solemnly lit a candle for Jack.  And we prayed.  Prayer changes things and so I asked God would surround this situation with His almighty power.  I prayed that Jack and his mom would feel that power and strength in such a way that they would know a peace that they have never known in the midst of this raging storm.  I am asking that everyone will join me on April 15, in the middle of working, business of life, tax deadlines, etc…to stop just a moment and pray for this hearing.  Pray for this dedicated mom.  Pray for Jack.

I have been thinking and meditating on Psalms 10 which is such a powerful chapter.  Here are a few verses that really speak to me.  Psalms 10:10-11 ESVThe helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”  Verses 14, 17-18  “But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.  O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

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Pray for Jack.
   

Small Words Big Meaning

Have you ever noticed how the smallest words seem to have the biggest meaning?  Words such as “love”, “care”, “hate”, “hurt”,  and “kind”.  God has shown me in the last 5 years just how much those words can impact your life! As a pastor’s kid, growing up, we would go from church to church helping rebuild them and a lot of the churches were filled with “hurt” and “hate” from the division they had already gone through. At one point, we had moved to Florida when I was in the 5th grade.  The church members were very loving but it was still difficult being away from our home state.  I don’t remember a lot about school during that time, but I would come to remember a girl named April very well.  April sat next to me and she was different from the rest of the students.  She dressed a little differently and wore her hair in braids which some thought was not really in style at the time.  She had very thick glasses that made her eyes look very large and later I learned that she was legally blind.  I didn’t talk to her very much but I would some times chat with her while waiting for class to start.  We would exchange paper or a pencil if needed and that was about the extent of it.  After living there for six months we left Florida and went back to my home state. In 2008 I received an email on a social website from April. “Hi we were together for a while in 5th grade.  I am the one with the deformed eyes but you were nice to me anyway.”  “Nice”. I was so humbled in that moment by that word! I had to wonder that in the small interactions I had with her for her to say that I was nice, just how very hard it must have been for her growing up!  Kids can be so cruel.  (In blended families teaching your children to be “nice” and “kind” is especially important.  When you are not all related by blood and with all the difficult issues that come with it, being kind to one another can make an enormous impact.)  April and I exchanged a few more emails.  I shared with her my desire to tell women about my past, the abuse, and what God had done for me.  She replied   : “Many women have been beaten down by society’s unrealistic expectations reguarding sexual beauty and the ability to do it all: work full time, raise kids, look sexy everynight for the hubby.  Also too many women have been in domestic violence situations and too many women have been sexually abused. It’s my hope that God opens up an opportunity to witness to those who have been abused. I just prayed for you.”  Now there is a small word with big meaning: “Pray”.  When we pray, things happen.  In any situation that you feel there is not a thing you can do, you can pray.  “Positive praying is much more powerful than positive thinking. People may resist our help, spurn our appeals, and reject our suggestions, but they are powerless against our prayers.” ~Rick Warren, Daily Hope.  When you have been told by someone you love that you’re a failure, pray!  When you are worried about how the bills are going to get paid, pray!  When your marriage is in trouble, pray!  When you are caught in the middle between stepchildren, children, your spouse and the other parent, pray!  When you don’t know what to do, always pray!  “I just prayed for you.”  It was as if right in the middle of everything she stopped to pray for me.  That was the last email I ever got from her.  I sent a few more with no response so I made some inquiries and received a msg from her best friend Betty telling me that April had been battling cancer and on Sept 23, 2009 she had gone to be with the Lord.  “Thank” is another word, isn’t it?  I never got to really thank her for what her prayers and encouragement meant to me. Don’t forget to thank those who mean so much to you and most importantly don’t forget to thank God for the work he is doing in your life.  And last, another small word is “do”.  Get up and “do”. You only get one chance in this one life to do all you can do! Don’t wait to thank someone, pray for them, or show kindness to others, especially your blended family.  God hand picked them from other families and situations, no matter the circumstances, and blended them into your family for a reason.  It is not by accident but Divine purpose that you are in that family so don’t underestimate that.  Thank you so much April for showing me that even the smallest things can have the biggest impact!

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