Monday, July 30, 2012

Picture Board Shenanigans

So, I've noticed my big brother has this really cool board with lots of pictures velcroed to it.

Mommy and Daddy try to keep it organized for him so that he always knows where his picture cards are.  This way he can give them cards to tell them what he wants.

But see, I recently figured out that it is lots of fun to crawl over to to his picture board and pull the pictures off one by one.

I inspect each card, taste it, and then toss it aside to find another another card that better suits my fancy.

I don't understand why Mommy keeps scooping me up, moving me away, and then putting the pictures back on.  I mean, what's a boy to do?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Land of Narnia - Part 2

Click here to read Part 1.

While Zach is thoroughly enjoying listening to The Chronicles of Narnia and dreaming of battles and knights, I believe that I have benefited far more from the stories this time around.

As an adult, having now experienced more of what it means to live as a Christian in this world, I am ever more grateful for C. S. Lewis and these words he has written.  As I listen to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, my heart grasps, even just a bit more, the depth of the pain and sorrow that Jesus experienced as He gave His life for me.  I am filled with gratefulness that while my traitorous self ran from Jesus, pursuing the things of this world, my Savior pursued me, saved me from my sin, and gave His own life to purchase me forevermore.

When I hear the words from Prince Caspian, I am again reminded that I am called to follow Jesus even when I do not see Him or understand why He is leading me in a direction that seems intuitively to make no sense.  I am called to follow Him even when others around me do not do the same.  And, I recall that Jesus does not always show Himself as He has in the past.  I am not to expect that He will always step in and mightily save the day, although I know that He can. Sometimes He calls me to trust Him and follow Him and believe He is there even when I cannot see Him and do not understand His plan.

Then I listen to The Voyage of the Dawntreader and my longing for Heaven only grows deeper. As I step farther into the book, with each turn of the page, my anticipation of Aslan's country only increases.  Great risks must be taken and great trials experienced, with much perseverance, but oh how great the joy when we finally reach the end of our journey.  How I long for the day when I will see my Savior, the Lamb of God, and fall at His feet to worship Him.  Then there will be only joy.  All my tears will be washed away, and there will be no more pain or suffering.

But my favorite of all the books in this series is The Horse and His Boy.  I have never been able to put my finger on why, but ever since I was a young girl I have been drawn back to this story time and time again.  This week as I listened to the dramatization of this book, the words have grabbed hold of my soul once again.  While we are walking through trials, we do not know why the Lord has called us to go through them.  Often we do not see how there can possibly be any good that can come from them.  Many times when our circumstances seem to be at their very worst, we question how God could even permit these things to happen to us at all if He truly loves us.

Unlike with the hero of this story, God often does not answer our questions and explain His reasons to us in this life.  When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we do not have the opportunity to tell God that we are indeed the most unfortunate person in the whole world and then have Him show us how He has orchestrated every circumstance in our entire life, though possibly painful at the time, to work for our eventual and eternal good.  But this book reminds me that even though I cannot always see it, God truly is working all things for good in my life.

And we know that for those who love God all things to work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also called predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son....  Romans 8:28-32

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Land of Narnia - Part 1

Growing up, some of my favorite books were the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I remember reading them countless times as a child, vividly imagining each scene as it played out in my mind.  What fond memories I have of curling up on my bed and reading one of these books until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  Not only were the stories captivating, but the way that C. S. Lewis wove the gospel and the character of God into these books opened my eyes to better understand and rejoice in the gospel, God's sovereignty, and His love for His children.  I saw and began to understand, although I had not yet begun to experience personally, how God orchestrates our circumstances, no matter how difficult and unfortunate they may seem at the time, for our good and for His glory.

Soon after Zach was born, my mind began counting the years until I could introduce him to these stories.  I imagined reading these books to him while he listened, motionless and awestruck, soaking in every word just as I had done many years before.  While his introduction to these books has not been exactly as I imagined, his response has not disappointed.

This summer, the highly anticipated moment came.  Upon deciding that Zach was probably ready to be introduced to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the thought occurred to me that since we often spend up to an hour in the car each day, it might be well worth investing in Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre production of these books.  I cannot speak highly enough of these dramatizations of the stories.  Although we're not curled up on the couch reading and turning the pages together, Zach sits with rapt attention for hours as we drive along in the car. And I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to them as well.

As a child, Zach is wrapped up in the battles, coming home and re-enacting fights with his sword in the back yard.  In fact, his love of Narnian battles has grown into a love of sword fights of any kind.  I often find him in battle, "good guys vs. bad guys" around the trees, over the berm, onto the deck, and down the hill in our back yard.  He will then come into the house to excitedly announce the winners and losers of the battle and how that might affect our family's next outside adventure.  It seems he has even passed his love of sword fighting on to his younger brother.  Wesley now picks up his swords, swinging them around while yelling "Yah! Yah! Yah!"

We have also enjoyed discussing the meanings of the stories, and Zach is truly fascinated with the concept of allegories.  His questions have led to rich conversations, which I pray the Lord will use to open the eyes of his heart to truly see and believe the gospel.

Click here to read Part 2.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Who Are We Trying to Impress Anyway?

Zach loves to entertain his younger brother, often screeching obnoxious noises that startle and then annoy me almost instantly.  I often feel as if my instructions to him are on repeat:  "Zach, use words!"  I am constantly reminding him to encourage Wesley to imitate speech rather than whatever new and grating noise he can come up with.

But this week it finally dawned on me that while these noises truly are obnoxious, loud, and sometimes inappropriate, I am discouraging them for the wrong reasons.  I want to nip them in the bud because I am embarrassed by them.  When Zach makes these noises and then Wesley imitates them, it sounds as if I have two non-verbal children with disabilities.  My stomach knots up inside as soon as a new noise launches from Zach's mouth, as I fear not only that people will look down on Wesley because of these noises, but that they will do the same with Zach.  I worry that he will be mocked and jeered by his peers for his behavior.

You see, while Zach is loving his brother and finding ways to play with him and entertain him, I am too wrapped up in fearing what other people think to enjoy the games they play together.  So this week God is using my son to show me the sin in my own heart.  Instead of fearing the thoughts of others, I ought to be fearing God.  When I train my children, the ultimate outcome I ought to be seeking is that their behavior reflects a heart of obedience and love for their Savior.  My motives in discouraging certain behaviors should be because they are not pleasing to the Lord - not because they are obnoxious and might cause others to look at my children with disdain.  Instead of being concerned that a person might judge my son unfavorably because he is playing with his brother in a way that his brother enjoys instead of insisting that his brother be able to play at a level that he cannot, my heart ought to be concerned with whether or not my response is pleasing to the Lord.  Is my greatest desire in that moment that others are impressed with my parenting and the behavior of my boys or that God is glorified as my sons enthusiastically play together?

The least of my worries should be what other people think of my children.  Let's be honest, Wesley will be mocked many times in his life.  And as his brothers, Zach and Liam will be mocked as well.  As much as it saddens me, I am sure that there will even be times that they are downright embarrassed of their brother and wish they could pretend they don't know him. But right now Zach is oblivious of what other people think.  He truly couldn't care less what the opinions of others are regarding his behavior.  So, as long as this lasts, I ought to encourage his joyful playing with his brother and just smile when people stare at my strange entourage.

I pray that God will continue to bless Zach with a greater love for his brother than for the good opinions of others.  May his heart's desire be to please the Lord in his words (and noises) and actions. For while man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.

And may this be a reminder to me, too, to seek to follow the example of my eldest son and fear not what others think. For, who am I trying to impress anyway?

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight!

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.  Proverbs 29:25

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Roles Reversed

While Wesley has been a big brother for almost eight months now, it is really in the past two months that he has begun to learn what this really means.  For three years, he has listened to me teach Zach to be kind to him and share with him.  He has been the beneficiary many times when he screamed for a toy that Zach had and he wanted.  He often receives the benefit of the doubt while his big brother (unfairly at times) is held to a higher standard.  But now that Liam is becoming more mobile, Wesley is receiving a crash course in big brotherhood:

No, you may not take your brother's toys away from him, even if they look way more fun than the ones you are playing with.  Yes, you must share your toys with your brother if he crawls over and takes them from you.  Yes, you must give that toy back to your brother that you just took from him.  No, you may not hit your brother if he gets too close to your things.  In fact you may not hit him for any reason!  Yes, you must be gentle with your brother.  No, you may not step on him.  (Even if it's accidental, trust me, it still hurts!)

For the most part, Wesley is easily stepping into his new role.  He delights in his little brother, which is a joy to see.  When Liam comes into a room, Wesley's eyes light up and he comes up to him with a big smile.  He regularly runs over to his baby brother and starts laughing, encouraging Liam to laugh with him.  This is a favorite pastime of theirs.  As well, Wesley has learned how play peek-a-boo, and he is so proud of himself as he seeks to entertain Liam with his antics.  He covers his eyes and then says "boo" as he lifts his hands away.  He then immediately starts applauding himself and cheering for what a great job he's done.  And if Liam is not interested in his entertainment, Wesley scoots around so that he is directly in front of his face and then tries again.

My favorite thing, though, is listening to Wesley encourage Liam to speak.  Just from watching us, Wesley has picked up on the fact that Liam now says "dadada" and that Mommy and Daddy love to hear his sweet voice vocalizing.  So, often when Wesley sees his baby brother, he will run up to him and say "dada" with the hope that Liam will imitate him.  How this melts my Mommy heart as I see that Wesley is already his brother's biggest fan, modeling words and then cheering him on as he learns to speak.

Sharing is a bit more difficult, but I am very pleased with how well Wesley is making this transition.  He clearly understands when I explain to him that Liam is playing with "Liam's toys" and Wesley must not take them.  If he does take one, most of the time he is quick to return it when instructed to do so.  He also enjoys playing with Liam, which is a beautiful thing to see. What a joy it is to my heart to watch my two boys taking turns pulling rings off of a stacking toy or passing toys back and forth with smiles on their faces.

It is a bit harder for Wesley when Liam is playing with "Wesley's toys".  When asked to return one of these toys, Wesley usually does comply with our instructions, but he does so begrudgingly. We are still working on teaching him how to go and get another toy to trade with Liam.  So far this concepts seems a bit too abstract for him.  If Wesley has multiple toys on the floor, though, and is instructed to give a toy to his baby brother, he does a very good job of scanning the room and choosing one to give.  He often holds his favorite toys tightly while selecting a different toy to share with his brother.  For now, I am happy that he is choosing to share, even if the toys he shares are not his top favorites.  Since Liam is happy with whatever Wesley gives him right now, this is a great way to start learning what it means to share.  Over time, we will also have to learn how to share even our most treasured possessions.  Thankfully, we're not there yet!

Liam is blessed to have a big brother so desirous of entertaining and pleasing him.  Wesley is gentle and kind, patting his head when he cries and cheering him on as he learns new things. Wesley, on the other hand, has also been given the gift of a younger brother to teach him the things his older brother cannot and to delight in his friendship.  I often ask the Lord that these precious boys will become wonderful playmates.

I pray that my two boys, along with their older brother, will build strong friendships together that will stand the test of time.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken, and it is my prayer that the Lord will wind these three strands together into a tightly knit cord that remains strong over the years.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I have a confession to make.  My children are sinners.  Even more so, they are sinners not yet saved by grace.  It may be of some surprise to you, but indeed, it is true. They hit other children, say mean things, don't share, disobey their parents, talk back, yell, and throw their glasses.  So, it might be in your best interest to inform your children of this before coming into contact with my children.  This way they can expect to be sinned against rather than be surprised by the shocking behavior that they see.

It might also be helpful for your children to know that while I have three sinful children, I am only one sinful mom.  So, if they choose to tattle on the sin of one of my children, they had best be prepared for what is to come. While I address the sin of one child, it is likely that another child will run off in a fit of rage while throwing his glasses. Then, I will need to neglect addressing the sin of the first child as I attempt to calm the second child, secure said child in a safe place, and begin the search for the thrown glasses.  Once the glasses have been found, it is probably safe to assume that my sinful self will be fighting to push down the seething anger toward all parties involved that is beginning to boil up within me as I resume my conversation with the first child.  I will most likely speak harshly to the first child, words that will require a humble apology once my hard heart has been sufficiently convicted.

At this point, it is usually wisest to remove our entire family from the situation as I see the wide eyes of onlookers.  Surprise!  You have just witnessed sin, compounded by disability, at its finest. I'll bet you weren't expecting a first row seat to such a grand show.

While others may be surprised by and uncomfortable with the sin in my heart and in the hearts of my children, I am so thankful that God is not.  Not only is he not surprised, but he knows the depths of our sin far better than even we do.  And yet, he loves us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Slip 'n Slide

There is nothing better than a slip 'n slide when it is 100+ degrees outside and the boys are going stir crazy in the house.  How I never thought of purchasing one before this summer is beyond me.  It requires significantly less set up time than a pool and the fun lasts much longer. The boys could play in the water for hours, pausing only to drink lemonade and request that I take more pictures.

Wesley is Zach's biggest fan, applauding his every antic and laughing in response to his enthusiastic shouts.  Based on Wesley's cheering, one might think that Zach has the best moves ever seen on the slick plastic runway.

The big boys run back and forth, making up their own games and enjoying each other's company.

Meanwhile, I have my sweet little companion as well, who is happy to sit next to me on the towel, play with his toys, and watch his brothers.

His eyes sparkle as they run past him on their way to new adventures.  It is only a matter of time before he leaves the safety of the towel to join them.

There's nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon
Waking to the sunlight, being cradled by the moon
Catching fireflies at night, building castles in the sand
Kissing mama's face goodnight and holding Daddy's hand
Thank you, Lord, how could I ask for more?
"How Could I Ask for More?" - Cindy Morgan

Friday, July 6, 2012

He Cares for Us

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  
1 Peter 5:6-11

The battle lines have been drawn; the strategies are in place.  The results of this war are very real, for our very souls are at stake.

Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, and it seems as if at Wesley's birth he identified a family upon whom to pounce.  His desire, more than anything, is to devour our family, destroy our faith, ruin our marriage, lead our children into rebellion against their Savior, and ruin our witness.  He will stop at nothing to accomplish his purposes.

We have been sober-minded.  We have been watchful.  But yet here we lie beneath the extended claws that await God's permission to destroy our very lives.  We fight to resist him, desiring to be firm in our faith but yet trembling in fear and sometimes resigned to the outcome.  We have been made aware of our complete and utter dependence on the Lord for salvation.  For we fight not against flesh and blood.  Against man, we might have a chance of standing, but against the prince of darkness, we tremble feebly.

I often feel like Peter, of whom Jesus said in Luke 22:31, "Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."

We are most certainly being sifted.  Every blackened speck of our sinful hearts is being shaken to the surface and mixed with sins of each other to create a cesspool that pulls us down as if to drown us as we tenuously grip the line of faith being offered.

Sometimes the promise that the God of all grace has called us to His eternal glory in Christ seems so far off that it doesn't even apply to today's battle.  Where is His grace for today?  The promise that He Himself will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us can feel like a fairy tale ending rather than a firm rock to stand on in this very moment.

But yet, His promise is true.  One day, God will restore to us the years that the locust has eaten. (Joel 2:25)  We may be sowing in tears, but we shall reap with shouts of joy.  As the ESV Study Bible says, "Thus, no matter how long or intense one's suffering may be, it will be short compared to the joys of eternity. Four verbs (restore, confirm, strengthen, establish) remind believers that God will eventually restore whatever they have lost for the sake of Christ. Though suffering will come first, it will be followed by eternal glory.  The God who effectually called believers by his grace will fortify them with his strength, so that they are able to endure to the end."

Praise God that no matter how weak our faith or tenuous our grasp, He will never let us go. He will give us His strength to endure to the end.  And one day, He will restore us.  And He will confirm us.  And He will strengthen us.  And He will establish us.  Forever.

So for now, "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." Habakkuk 3:17-19

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Brothers & Best Buds

As every younger brother does, Wesley adores his older brother, following him wherever he goes, getting into his stuff, preferring his toys, laughing at his every joke (even when it's not funny), and imitating his every move.

The other evening, the boys went outside to play together.  Just being able to say that brings such joy to my heart.  My boys play together!  I can send them outside without watching Wesley every moment and trust that Zach will keep an eye on him and they will have fun. They enjoy each other's company, and Wesley now understands the concepts of simple games enough that he can join in the fun and take turns.

Anyway, Zach and Wesley went out in the backyard to play ball, and my mommy heart was so touched as I watched them kicking the ball together and chasing it all around the yard. Zach's exuberant yells and encouraging words to Wesley were punctuated by Wesley's gleeful giggles.

One of the things I was most saddened by when we received Wesley's diagnosis was that Zach would not have that same brother bond and friendship with Wesley as he would have had if Wesley were a normally developing child.  While it still hurts at times when I see Zach play with other boys Wesley's age in ways that he can't play with Wesley, I am reminded as I watch the two of them play that Zach isn't disappointed with Wesley.  He doesn't wish that Wesley were different.  This is all that he knows, and he is perfectly content with how things are.  While we have talked with him about Wesley's special needs, Zach does not see Wesley's delays and differences.  He sees Wesley as a person.  As his younger brother.  And he loves him. He encourages him, laughs with him, teaches him how to do things, patiently plays with him, and of course fights with him and yells at him just as all big brothers do.

Zach taking a break while Wesley begs him to come play again.

Zach has learned what it means to share everything and to give of himself without expectation of anything in return.  Consequently, he has seen what a joy it is to share and to receive the gift of a smile from a younger brother who adores and loves him with every bit of his being.

While I don't know what their relationship will look like as they grow up, I am so thankful that God has given my boys to each other.  God has a wonderful plan for each of their lives, and I already see how having each other is one big way that God has blessed each of them.  They will be better for having each other and for walking alongside each other through thick and thin.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

My prayer for my boys is that they will grow up loving one another with patience and kindness, not insisting on their own way.  May Zach never boast arrogantly in his knowledge or be resentful of Wesley, and may Wesley never envy his brother.  May they bear and endure all things together as they walk side by side down the road of life, finding their hope in Jesus, their Savior.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Miracle of Life

Raising a normally developing baby after a child with special needs has been quite an eye opening experience.

Every day I am filled with fresh amazement and awe as I look at how God has created us as humans and how easily and naturally things come to us.  We have been blessed with the gift of life, and we so often do not realize or even begin to grasp what a gift has been given to us.

I remember thinking when Liam was five and a half months old and nowhere near sitting up, that he was certainly lagging behind and wouldn't be sitting up for months.  Just two weeks later, he started sitting up on his own.  Just like that.  I sat him up, and he stayed there - for five minutes!  We didn't work with him.  We didn't do exercises to strengthen his core for months on end.  He just sat up.

Around this time, I noticed that Liam would pivot around in a circle to reach for toys that he lost.  This floored me.  I remember working on pivoting for what seemed like an eternity with Wesley.*  But it all just came so naturally for Liam.  We did not have to teach him the motor plan for moving and then train his muscles over a length of time.  He just realized that he lost his toy and pivoted to reach it as if it was a simple thing to do.  I, of course, knew better.  As I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I thanked God for giving me the eyes to see what a gift has been given to Liam.  He has been blessed with a body that naturally learns things without struggling to master the motor plan and gain the strength.

Then two weeks later, I looked over at Liam one day and realized he was up on all fours, rocking back and forth.  How could any child possibly go from sitting to rocking on all fours in just two weeks?  This is yet another miracle that we all take for granted.  God did not have to make it so easy for babies to learn things.  But he did.

I comforted myself with the fact that Liam was easygoing and seemed to enjoy sitting and observing his surroundings.  That, coupled with the fact that he had lagged behind in his physical development for the first few months of his life, assured me that it would be a while before he started crawling.

Not so!  Yesterday, just two days after he turned seven months old, Liam started army crawling.  As I watched him push off with his big toes and lunge forward awkwardly, several inches at a time, a priceless expression of delight and anticipation on his face, I fought back tears.  Mike ran for the camera, realizing that if we didn't capture the moment right then, we might miss it forever.  Liam is growing up faster than we can even blink.  Watching his little body and mind develop at lightning speed is awe inspiring.

To think that this is how God has created babies to develop is mind boggling.  Liam's development is nothing special.  He is just doing what babies do.

But Mike and I have been given the unique opportunity of seeing that our children's development is not just something to be expected and assumed.  It is a gift from God.  He did not have to create us to learn so quickly and absorb the world around us at lightning speed. But he did.  Life truly is a miracle.

May we never miss the gifts of God in the midst of the mundane everyday moments of life. May we never take this life for granted.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."  Psalm 139:14

* To this day (to date myself), every time I think of working with a baby on pivoting, I think of the FRIENDS episode where Ross yells "Pivot!" over and over again while he and Rachel and Chandler try to carry a couch up a corner staircase.  (I must add that while this show contains humorous moments, as a whole I do not endorse it.)