Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Lighthouse

lighthouseThis year for Christmas I was given not one, not two, but three lighthouse Christmas ornaments for my tree. Some might feel disappointment over receiving so many similar things, but not I. I have long loved lighthouses; we frequently visited one as I was growing up, so they are already special to me. Over the past week I have pondered the importance of the lighthouse. I’ve thought about those desperate situations where sailors were swallowed up by the darkness and the blackness of the sea, needing to reach the land. That beam of light, it was their only savior. It alone pointed them in the way they should go.

This Christmas was one of those moments where I felt like God thought it appropriate to use a megaphone to speak his message to my heart. I’ll see to it that she gets not just one lighthouse, but three, so that maybe she’ll hear me. And I’ll even speak this word out loud to her through one of her family members. Alright. Got it. Loud and clear, Lord.

The word was this: With the year that you have had, so many trials and ups and downs, know that the Lord is your beacon of light, always showing you the way you should go, always directing you to the truth. He will thus make you a light to others.

This word caused me to reflect on the year we’ve had. With two little ones, I don’t often pause and spend much time in reflection, though this time of year, that is often the trend in our culture. I’ve asked myself: What was 2015 like for me? What do I hope for in 2016?

What was 2015 like for me? From sleepless nights last winter due to our young son, along with stringent dietary restrictions from a milk allergy, to a relapse of trichotillomania and an apraxia diagnosis for Sophie, to the failure of my own health this fall, and a possible genetic diagnosis for Sophie, 2015 has been a year of many challenges.

More specifically, 2015 held a lot of heartbreak for me over Sophie’s differences; it was a very hard year in that regard. I’ve wrestled with the enemy (and, quite frankly, with the Lord) over her relapse into hair-pulling, her diagnosis with apraxia, setting out on a long journey of speech therapy, and a possible genetic mutation. These are hard truths that our family has faced. They have years-long, if not life-long, implications. They are not what I hoped for as 2015 began.

Even though this synopsis seems to point towards a tough year, I haven’t thought about it as a tough year until now because there have been a lot of good occurrences in 2015, too. We’ve taken great delight in the emerging personality of our son (and his improvements in sleeping), and we’ve watched our daughter learn to communicate through words. It still makes my heart soar to see her progression with verbal communication in the past six months. In addition, we’ve been blessed with a financial outpouring which will keep Sophie in private speech for the foreseeable future. I’ve been blessed to continue staying at home with my children, and I’ve made great strides in my writing (this was the year of the blog!).

In my reflections, I indeed see the aforementioned ups and downs. And truly, at every single up, every single down, I’ve seen God’s loving hand directing us, holding us, comforting us, strengthening us, guiding us, giving us glimpses of his deep love for us. It’s all too easy to feel lost in the darkness of my broken reality, to feel like my heart, my life, is a bunch of broken, meaningless pieces. But whenever my thoughts and my gaze began to stray into the darkness, he shone the perfect piece of truth that I needed to see. (Remember when He showed me Sophie’s friends at school? Or when Sophie began saying all her letters without any prompting?) He has met me at each and every turn. He has been the guiding light, the source of truth, through all of the mayhem. He has, indeed, been our lighthouse, our constant beacon, shining the truth of his goodness into our lives.  Although our circumstances may not have always been good, we have seen that our God is very good to us right in the middle of heartbreaking circumstances.

What do I hope for in 2016? More of God’s goodness. No matter the trials, I just want to see more of his goodness in my life. And I know that often times, for me, I can’t see God’s goodness as clearly unless I’m in the midst of trials and brokenness. So be it, if more of that should come. But I’m refusing to sit here in the grip of my brokenness. Rather, I’m moving forward, pressing in, striving to be a better version of myself in the power of Christ Jesus. Maybe all these broken pieces of my life will be shaped into a beautiful mosaic, through which my Lighthouse can shine his light.

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To the Neurotologist

What did this amazing ear doctor have to say??

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Well, the tests are in. And they do not currently show a problem with my vestibular system, which would be causing vertigo. I’m not sure whether to jump up and down because that is GOOD news, or to be a little frustrated that I still have no answers for the two months of vertigo I experienced. The doctor said that if my vertigo should return, they would like to retest me (Oh, joy!) to see if I score on a larger margin of “abnormal” than I did this time. (Apparently, 17% is not abnormal enough to be considered actually abnormal. Okaaaaay. 25% is that magic number, and I’m 8% off. So, it’s really not outside the realm of possibility that there is in fact something going on there.) He did not feel, at this time, that Meniere’s was a probable cause. Something about changeable hearing and positional room-spinning vertigo. I’m glad that we can tentatively scratch that off the list.

Another helpful tidbit that he did reveal, though, was the location of my stroke. The damage did occur on the right side (where I have hearing problems and scored abnormally on the vestibular test), in the area of my brain that controls balance. Okay. So, that could actually explain why I’ve become very motion sensitive since my mini-stroke of two years ago. A possible explanation.

He also said that disembarkment syndrome was a possibility, especially given my sensitivity to motion, though it usually presents with “more severity” (really? I felt it was pretty severe at the time…) and does not “last as long as” my case did. (This is actually contrary to what I’ve read about that condition though, so I’m not so quick to rule that one out, even though he is technically the expert and I am not.)

As for my hearing loss… More tests. He felt there were two possible explanations for that (because stroke doesn’t usually explain it, and because I passed the vestibular test, which could also explain it), which can be confirmed by a CT scan. So, one more time, I will go in for tests. But seriously, guys, if this test is fine, I’m just done. And if it’s not, I may need surgery down the road if my hearing gets too bad. Evidently, my ear bones and drum are not responding properly — they are somewhat immobilized. (This explains why the loud screeching of my son is so incredibly painful in my right ear!! — my right ear has no reflexes.) There are two conditions that can cause this; they can be exacerbated by pregnancy, so as far as the timeline is concerned, they fit. They don’t cause dizziness, but they fit otherwise.

And how am I feeling? Pretty good, really. I haven’t had a lasting dizzy spell in about six weeks — no complaints there! I still have momentary dizziness, but it’s only momentary. My hearing is still not good in one ear, but God has placed numerous women in my life, whom I look up to, who have dealt with similar hearing loss, so that doesn’t concern me terribly. The popping and crackling sounds are annoying, but they come and go and typically don’t interfere with my life a whole lot.

Since I’m feeling good,  I’m just about ready to take these two months and wrap them up and put them away with a giant question mark on the bag, somewhere in the back of my mental closet, and not worry about them anymore. We’ve done ALL. the. tests. And nothing. Nothing. Dollars and dollars, and hours and hours later, nothing. I’ve thrown fistfuls of time and money at this health mystery, and I’m ready to be done with that. Again, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because it is GOOD news that all my tests are “normal.” But, to have no answer for my episodes of vertigo is still slightly disconcerting. It’s troubling in terms of the future, though, I know in my heart that my future is secure in God’s hands. If he could save me from a stroke that I didn’t even realize I was having, then he can continue to carry me as we go forward. He’s got it. Sometimes faith is more important than answers. So we’ll just go with that.

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On Self-Judgment: The Lord is able to make you stand

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I’ve been crushed in recent weeks under the weighty baggage of self-judgment. I’d like to imagine that I’m not the only one hearing that gavel pounding in my mind: Not a good enough mom; not a good enough wife; not a good enough friend. The reasons for these judgments go on and on, but I won’t take the time to vent them all here. Suffice it to say, in my own eyes, I have been constantly falling short. I have been hating every moment of feeling like a failure. Sure, I’ve made legitimate mistakes every day in the past few weeks. But this weight of judgment has been something to be reckoned with. It’s deeper than just a short upset over a wrong choice or a harsh word. The Bible teaches that there is a good guilt, which leads to repentance, but there is also another guilt that comes from the pit of hell. It tries to tie you up in chains. It tells you you’re a failure. It steals your hope. It steals your joy. This is the guilt of self-judgment.

Partly I know that, for me, this season of motherhood is just so consuming; it’s easy to feel like a failure because I took 15 minutes to wash the dishes so that we’d have plates and silverware to eat off of, rather than spend those 15 minutes frolicking with my children. (Do you hear that logic there? It’s solid, right? Right.) Mom guilt is just everywhere. I have no Christmas crafts from Pinterest to post to my Facebook. I hear my own angry tone reflected in my son’s echoes. I see the tears that I caused by my overreaction. Sigh.

Yes, mistakes happen. But they are not meant to weigh us down like heavy baggage.

In Romans 14, Paul is talking about how the Christians were judging each other for their differences — it began with Jew and Gentile, but it moved on to things like which foods were acceptable to eat, and which holidays were important to celebrate. (I wonder what Paul would have to say about our current holiday debates???) Tucked in this discussion is a verse that brought me so much freedom from my own harsh judgments. Verse 4 declares, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

To my soul I heard the soft voice of the Lord: You ARE SOMEONE ELSE’S servant. You are NOT your own master. You do not judge yourself. You stand before me, the Lord, and I AM ABLE to make you stand.

What a sweet relief.

Even if we are displeased with our own efforts and see room for improvement, this verse clearly shows me that I am not even to be my own judge (let alone someone else’s).

Even if I’m falling short in my own eyes, I know that I stand before a loving Father who is able to make me stand.

Even if I am not enough, his grace is enough. His strength is enough. He is enough.

No matter how you find your own self falling short these days, know that your master is able to make you stand. He alone is your judge, and he has spoken grace over your life.

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Peace

“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear.” (Ps. 112:7-8)
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It’s interesting that I’m sitting here working on a lesson about peace for my high school crew, all the while battling anxious thoughts about my own health. Next week I will undergo testing for Meniere’s Disease, which is a disorder affecting the inner ear. There is no cure for this disease. Typically, it results in deafness in the affected ear. It would explain everything that I have been experiencing, from the intermittent vertigo, to the hearing loss, to the crackling in my right ear. Unfortunately, it fits. That doesn’t mean that I have it; but my mind has been reeling from just the possibility. For Pete’s sake, I’m 32 years old! I’m not supposed to be one of those people in “poor health.” And when the crackling began to occur in my left ear also, my adrenaline inched up towards the ceiling. If both ears are affected, I could lose my hearing altogether. It’s one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” moments. I cannot hear my children at night. I cannot hear my husband’s voice sometimes. I cannot hear what my cat is up to, until she’s making a ruckus in my room, terrifying me of another possible bat invasion. Hearing is a precious thing. And right now, my hearing loss is still minimal. Yet, all those sounds are already gone. My heart quickens with unspoken questions: What if it is Meniere’s? What if it does attack both ears? What if I learned sign language with my daughter for my future?! There are so many questions flooding my mind.

But today I worked through the Psalms, recording verses that have brought me peace, hoping they will bring peace to my Sunday school students. And I happened upon this one — “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear.” I noticed first that this Psalm never indicates that bad news won’t come. But what it does promise is that we don’t need to have fear of that bad news. Why? Because our Psalmist trusts the Lord, so his heart is steadfast. I love that word — steadfast. It seems so sturdy, so immovable, so secure. It’s because my heart is secure in the Lord that I can look down the barrel of a possible Meniere’s diagnosis and feel a steadfast peace invade my heart. Like David, I realize that this physical world is full of threats, imperfections, diseases, and brokenness. It would be naive, at best, to assume that none of this will ever affect me. I know that it’s going to affect me. But I also know that it’s ok. Because I, too, was made for someday, for another place, where all of those imperfections are banished forever. And until then, I can be ok with today. If December 14th comes with a Meniere’s diagnosis, then I will ask God for the grace to be ok with that day. And each day after, I will continue to seek his grace to be ok with this temporary struggle, day by day. May my heart be steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

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Into Sophie’s World: Learning to Talk — Please Ignore the F-Word

apraxiakids2We are all so thrilled about Sophie’s newfound ability to communicate her wants and needs verbally. It’s so great. But it can also be really frustrating. Why? You ask. Because the apraxia and hypotonia are not gone. So, what you have is a four year old mentality (vocabulary, opinions, feelings) with a one year old’s verbal expression. We learned soon after she began to speak that she knew most of the 26 letters of the alphabet, and recognized them in random order, along with many of her numbers. We’ve discovered that Sophie knows a lot of stuff that’s been trapped inside for a long time. Just last week she was naming bizarre animals like the octopus for her teacher. Other times, I just cannot understand her to save my life, and she can get frustrated in these moments. It’s necessary and beneficial for Sophie to continue in speech therapy to more quickly refine those sounds and close the gap of delay in which she currently stands.

Even though we do experience some frustration with these ugly reigns of apraxia and hypotonia that keep Sophie’s speech held back, we do also get some humor out of the deal. For instance, I find myself embarrassed and needing to explain to people that we do not use the F-word at home… As Sophie has played with different sounds, I have begun hearing that word very frequently. It’s a bit shocking at first. So I explain to people (when we are at public places like church, or the library, or the hair salon, or a friend’s house), she’s not repeating a word that she’s heard; she’s trying to say something else and that’s what’s coming out. Thank GOODNESS we have the F sound and the K sound down …. In time, I know that she will sort out the sounds she is trying to say. But in the meantime, if you hear the F-word 1) Don’t judge me; and 2) Just ignore it. (You can add a 3 — Laugh a little with me, if you like.)

Laughter helps me keep perspective during this new challenge of parenting Sophie. I’m thankful for the challenges, because I know that without them, God’s grace just wouldn’t be as evident to me. It’s the struggle that allows me to see the beauty, the miracles that are happening in her life every single day. My son’s growth is every bit as miraculous, but because he’s “typical” I don’t recognize the great grace poured out in every one of his days. I’m thankful for the struggle, because it makes us more aware of God’s goodness. It opens our eyes to beauty that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

With all that Sophie has struggled through, we have released her into God’s hands, again and again. And we always find that he is so faithful to reassure us of his care for her. As I wrote my last post and expressed my desire again to release her into God’s hands, no fear of what the future may hold, my loving Father was so quick to show me everything that is actually going on in Sophie’s head by turning on her “speech lightbulb,” as I like to call it. I wonder if all he wanted was for me to relinquish control and embrace her future, trusting that he does have the BEST plan for her life. I know I’ve made that choice time and again in her almost four years of life. It’s probably a good choice to make daily. I love my children fiercely, but I know their Heavenly Father loves them even more. No amount of my perceived control over their lives can get them to heaven. Only God can do that in his loving and mighty plan. Holding on with a death grip won’t do anything but suffocate them and tire myself. Giving them to God, that will actually make a difference. May their hearts always be turned towards the One who created them and loves them with an everlasting love.

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