Monthly Archives: August 2017

Sophie’s Story: Jesus in My Heart

Today was Sophie’s second full day of preschool, and we knew there was going to be a fire drill. Sophie is very afraid of loud noises, and she was very anxious about the fire drill. Afraid is actually maybe the wrong word. Sophie’s whole being is affected by loud noises because of the way her brain processes them. She enjoys the bands in the holiday parades, but her whole 35 pound body shakes as they pass by. She does not enjoy fire alarms, so I imagine it’s the same physical reaction, except with a negative emotional association.

I trace this back to Sophie’s very early experiences — when she was just one year old she underwent multiple MRIs because of her developmental delays, and she was awake for them. I can’t recount the horror of these experiences, because my husband bravely went into the MRI tube with her instead of me because I was pregnant with our son, Micah. He tells a harrowing tale though… Anyways, loud noises are an issue for Sophie, so much so that, along with other issues we see, we expect her to be diagnosed with sensory processing disorder when we see her developmental pediatrician in the fall.

Back to the fire drill. Sophie was filled with anxiety about this fire drill. My mama’s heart was hurting for my girl, big time. I wanted to be with her to comfort her through the experience, but 1) I don’t attend preschool, and 2) that wouldn’t help her grow. So I did the best I could coaching her the day before and the morning before school that day. I had no idea the doors that would be opening in our conversation on the way to school that day all because of a little fire drill. And I want to share that conversation with you.

“Sophie, Jesus can help you when you feel afraid. Remember our Bible verse? ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in Jesus.’ Jesus can keep you safe when you’re scared.”

Sophie responded, “But I can’t see Jesus. Where is he?”

“Jesus is invisible. But he is real. And he can come and live in our hearts so that he is always with us. And he helps us whenever we ask for help, like when we’re scared and we need to be brave. But we have to ask him to come into our hearts so he can help us. He saves us from everything that’s bad in the world,” I replied.

My eyes filled with tears as I heard her reply, though it wasn’t directed to me. “Jesus, come in to my heart. I don’t want to be bad.” What a sweet prayer. Sophie continued, “But I didn’t see anything,” confused that she hadn’t seen Jesus enter her heart.

So, I explained, “We don’t see Jesus come into our hearts, but we can feel him. Because he’s in our hearts we can feel different. Like when we are scared, Jesus can help us to be brave.”

“But, I’m scared of the fire drill,” she affirmed.

“It’s ok to be scared,” I said, “You can ask Jesus to help you when you feel scared.”

“Help me, Jesus,” she prayed. And then she asked me, “But why do we have to ask Jesus into our hearts?” (Best “why” question I’ve EVER been asked!)

And I explained, “It’s like when we have a friend over to our house. We have to invite them over before they come over and come in to the house, otherwise they don’t come over. So we have to invite Jesus into our hearts just like that.”

Again, she prayed, “Jesus, come in to my heart.”

I love these unprompted prayers. I know I’m hearing her heart.

When we arrived at the school, I asked her if she wanted to pray together before I took her in for the day. And she nodded. So I prayed, “Dear Jesus…”

And she repeated, “Dear Jesus,” then added right away, “I’m scared.”

I love hearing her heart pour out to Jesus! And I added, “Help me to be brave today.”

“Help me to be brave today” she repeated.

And off we went to class. Her teacher tells me she did great with the drill. I knew she would because her tiny 35 pound self was carrying the King of the Universe in her heart.

In the end, all I want to do is point my kids towards Jesus. That’s it. He’s the whole deal. I’ve never been more thankful for a fire drill.

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Sophie’s Story: Left Behind

Hundreds of thousands of five year olds are headed off to kindergarten this week. But not my five year old. I see dozens of first day of kindergarten pictures cropping up on the newsfeed. But not on my wall. And it hurts every bit as much as I thought it would. My sweet Sophie is left behind. Several of my close friends also had children the same year that Sophie was born, and I am watching them all head off to kindergarten this fall, as Sophie prepares to go back to preschool for another year.

Last spring we labored over the decision of whether or not to register Sophie for kindergarten this fall. And we (wisely) chose to wait, giving her one more year to grow and progress with her fine motor skills and social skills in preschool. We know we made the right decision, the best decision for Sophie. But that doesn’t minimize the pain of our choice. If you are a special needs mom, I guarantee you know this dichotomy well. We don’t doubt that we made the right choice, but sometimes the right choice is still one filled with pain. Yes, I feel peace and a certainty that I’ve done what’s best, but not gladness. I wish I didn’t have to make this choice for Sophie. I wish that she were going off to kindergarten with all those other babes born in 2012. My heart breaks that she’s not. Yes, of course I love my daughter just as she is. But I find that at each new stage of life, acceptance is a new process to start all over again, especially in these moments where Sophie seems to be left behind.

I really feel like I’ve been watching her get left behind her whole life, as her peers sat up and crawled, then walked, as babies. As they began to talk. As they began to make new little friendships. Left behind. It’s painful. And it leads to the fear that she will always be left behind, throughout all of her life. Never take for granted the gift of having your kiddos be doing the right thing at the right time. Everyone always says, “It’s ok, she’s just doing things on her own time. She’s perfect the way she is. Don’t worry.” And I smile, always appreciating the sentiment, for sure. But the reality of having a child who doesn’t do what society says is “normal” or “on time” will never not be hard as a mother. Please realize that. It will never not be hard for me. If she’s 5 and not ready for kindergarten or 16 and not ready to drive… it will never not be hard… acceptance will always be a process.

I am equally sure that she will have a wonderful year of growth this year in preschool. We are so happy with the all day program that she’ll be in. And her teacher and aides are WONDERFUL! I expect to see her much more fully prepared for kindergarten after this year, and that brings my heart a lot of peace. Her fine motor skills are growing in leaps and bounds. She’s actually interested in writing letters now, even though she still can’t do it. Interest is always the first step, so I know her writing skills will begin to emerge soon. She’s become quite a whiz with the scissors this summer, too. (My floor is often adorned with multi-colored construction paper confetti!) And I hope that her social skills will also improve this year. Hopefully they’re just lagging behind, like other things, and not another serious red flag to consider.

So where is God in all of this? I’m not sure. Usually my Sophie Stories are full of faith and how God is leading me to trust him. This, my friends, is different. This is raw. This is the sanctification of my soul through mothering Sophie with all the delays she has had and continues to have. And God is in this too. But it’s a different kind of journey. It’s less of a faith journey right now, and more of a battle for my soul to look more like Jesus as I labor through parenting Sophie. I’m ok with that.

I’m also reminded that I’m playing, once again, at the dangerous game of comparison. I learned early on as Sophie was left behind that the comparison game did little but steal my joy. So I’m choosing to turn my eyes, or at least my hurting eyes, away from all those adorable pictures of new kindergartners. I’m choosing to look instead on the beautiful child God gave me, and I’m trusting that he knew what he was doing when he gave her to me, just as she is, just as I am. I’m trusting that the eye of Jesus is never turned from Sophie, and I’m remembering that he loves her more than I do. I know this year may hold some difficult things for Sophie as we head back to her developmental pediatrician in the fall. My mama’s heart is already aching. But I’m trying to beyond all of that, searching for that big picture faith that helps me walk through all of it.

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

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Battling for Transformation

Motherhood is not for the faint at heart. It presses upon a woman in a way that few things do. My days are not my own. They are run by three tiny bosses who think they own the joint. And these bosses, my children, threaten my sanity on a daily basis. On one particularly rough tear-filled, attitude-riddled day when Hannie was less than two months old, I sat down to a lovely fresh salad at noon, my stomach growling in anticipation. Four poops (a contribution from each and every child of mine) and a nursing session later, I sat back down to a slightly wilty salad at one o’clock. On top of fighting the hanger, there is, of course, also the sleep deprivation, as well as everyone’s adjustment to our new little baby joining the family. And, of course, it’s also summer break.

As much as everyone is all “oh yeah! it’s summer break!” and I’m cheering that school is out too, there’s this other component of my life that just goes to shambles without the structure of school.

It’s named Sophie.

I hardly recognize my daughter right now. If you know Sophie, you know her as the sweet and inquisitive little girl who will take your hand and be your friend, the helper, the complier. Not so this summer. She is now the foot-stomper, the door-slammer, the “NO” shouter. With the intensity of a new baby and summer break falling together, Sophie has just spiraled into chaos. I told my husband one morning as we talked about how to discipline her, “I’m just worried that her behaviors are getting out of control. We’ve got to do something to get her under control.” I felt in my spirit that day the urge to pray about this concern (yes, I should have been doing so all along). And so I began to pray and ask God for wisdom in how to parent Sophie, how to be a better parent to all of my children, really.

So this is motherhood for me right now. High pressure. I’ve been pushed to the max at times with a new baby and sleep deprivation and Sophie’s changes and a three year old. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve yelled. I’ve spoken to my children in ways that are embarrassing and ugly. And I’ve asked God to help me with this. I want to parent my children, especially Sophie, whose needs require infinitely more patience most days, in a way that reflects Jesus to them, rather than a crazed woman teetering on the edge of insanity. So I’ve reinvested in my journey of transformation as a mother and also just as a follower of Christ. Our journey as Christians is mean to be transformative, but sometimes we forget that. We forget that we have to work at it.

Part of my reinvestment in this journey is a commitment to God’s Word and to spending more time in it. God has been leading me in a study of the book of Colossians which has been rich and deep, eye-opening and soul-refreshing.

So, I’m praying for wisdom about how to transform my parenting, particularly for Sophie (and how to survive this season with my sanity in tact and all my children alive) when the words of Colossians suddenly come screaming back to me:

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

This admonition comes after Paul teaches for two chapters about the power of Jesus and how it sets us free. He says, “While you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, naming it to the cross.” Wow. That gives me pause every time I read it. So, because of what Jesus did for us, we are free from the curse of sin. And that’s where transformation comes in. Because of what Jesus did, we can be free to “set our minds on things above.” But what does that mean? How do we do that in real time?

Paul goes into detail about what our former nature, the sin nature, would produce in us — things like rage, anger, malice, filthy language, lust, etc. And he says that we should put those things to death. Pretty intense.

And then he explains what it looks like to “set your minds on things above.” He says we must “clothe ourselves” with things like compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, forgiveness, and above all, love. Clothing ourselves calls to mind the realization that we must put these things on, like our clothes. They are not just part of who we naturally are, unfortunately. But we have access to them because of Jesus, because of his Spirit in us.

So all these words come screaming back to me as I’m praying for wisdom about transforming my parenting. And it all just clicks. This is what it looks like in real time. To be transformed as a mother, I need to set my mind on higher things, not just on my emotions telling me to fly off the handle. I need to clothe myself with the traits that the Spirit gives me access to as I’m dealing with my children. I had the realization this day that I’m not enslaved to my anger or to the filthy words that might try cross my lips when I’m pushed to the breaking point with my children. As a woman set free by the death of Christ who nailed the written code opposing me to the cross, I can instead choose patience, gentleness, kindness, and so on, as I deal with my children. Not an easy choice, no. But a good one. I have to make the choice to take my mind off of my feelings, off of my anger and impatience, and to instead put on compassion, kindness, patience, love. This is wisdom to parent my children.

And it’s also wisdom for a whole variety of other life circumstances you might be going through. Whatever you scenario is, it fits there too. Trouble with coworkers? Set your mind on things above when dealing with that coworker. Trouble with your marriage? Set your mind on things above. You, too, having trouble with your kids? I know you’re out there… many of us have vented together this summer about our battle with insanity during summer break. Join me. Set your mind on things above. Don’t be enslaved to your feelings, to the voice of your sin nature telling you how to act. Choose to clothe yourself instead with all the gifts we have because of Jesus.

 

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