Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Live For Eternity, My Son!

Dear Zach,

I have procrastinated in writing this letter to you because I have so much to say but feel that my words will be inadequate to express all that I want to share with you.  But considering that it has now been two weeks since your birthday, and your younger brother's birthday is rapidly approaching, I think it is time that I at least attempt to write your birthday letter.

In the last few months, it feels like I blinked my eyes and then re-opened them to find a more grown-up you. You have become more tender and compassionate toward me and your brothers, and in doing so, you have touched my heart.  For example, I was unaware that you even realized I have been experiencing lots of headaches and back pain lately.  But the other night, as you prayed that God would heal me of my headaches and back pain, I realized that God was opening your eyes to look past yourself and see the struggles and hurts of others. What has encouraged me the most, though, is seeing how you have continued to ask about my back and my head, rejoicing when I am feeling well and praying for me when I am not. Being aware of the sorrows of others is a good thing in and of itself.  But faithfully caring for others and praying for them is a posture of the heart that can only come from the Lord.  So, my son, I rejoice that God is doing this work in your heart.

I have also seen you encouraging your brothers more regularly and even reminding me to praise them for their successes.  What joy it brings to my heart when I see you helping Wesley count or work on other activities.  Your excitement as you set up his play environment and hand him things to do is beautiful.  And you and Liam have begun to develop a sweet friendship as well.  I smile often as I watch you playing with him and setting off waves of baby giggles.  Your brothers adore you, as well they should.  You are your brothers' protector, always keeping them out of harm's way and quick to step in and take the pain for yourself rather than allowing them to get hurt.

We gave you your own Bible last year for Christmas, and you have been reading it each morning since the day you first received it.  I pray that God will continue to give you a heart that loves His word and delights in it.  Just last week you came to me excitedly and informed me that you were hiding God's word in your heart. Then you showed me the following verse from Proverbs that you had written out:  "A harsh word stirs up anger, but a soft answer turns away wrath."  You explained to me that you were hiding this verse in your heart so that God would help you.  Oh my precious son, this is the beautiful thing about God's word!  He promises that His word does not return void.  So, as you hide His word in your heart, I am excited to see the work that He will do in and through you.

Zach, as I have prayed for you every day since the day you were born, I continue to pray for you each day that you will give your life to Christ, trusting in Jesus as your Savior.  May this be the year that you trust in His blood as payment for your sins.  For as much as I am proud of your many accomplishments in this life, this is by far my greatest desire for you.  For the things of this world are transient, but eternity is just around the corner.  Live for eternity, my son!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trials Produce Steadfastness

We are learning that trials produce steadfastness of faith not because you do anything specific in them but simply because at the end you still believe. You still trust God and hope in Him. That means you persevered. So we are praying for this perseverance, because that in and of itself is a grace from God. We know God is faithful, even in suffering.

- Michael Thiel, who blogs at henryk

Monday, November 12, 2012

Upheld Until the Evening Comes

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.*

"So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

For I know Thy power will keep me
Till I'm home with Thee at last.*

Whatever afflictions we are passing through, and whatever trials lie before us, we do not lose heart.  For these trials are only momentary afflictions in light of all eternity.  While our outer natures most certainly are wasting away, let us lift our eyes from our transient circumstances and look to Jesus.  For we know that His power will keep us and uphold us as He prepares for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.  One day we will be home with Him at last, and on that day He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

We will be singing when the evening comes.

* lyrics from 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman and Come Thou Fount

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Long (and long-awaited) Update

Six months have flown by since my last update on Wesley's developmental progress, so I thoght I'd take a minute to stop and reflect on all that the Lord is doing in his life.

Wesley has been blessed with a fantastic team at school.  God has truly given his teacher a gift.  She manages a classroom of children with special needs with extraordinary skill and customizes her teaching to each individual child.  She is also backed up by a wonderful team of therapists and teaching assistants.  We are so thankful that the Lord has provided Wesley with such a good learning environment that so perfectly fits his needs.

Just in the past two months, since school started back up for the fall, we've seen Wesley grow by leaps and bounds.

He can now walk safely up and down a flight of stairs just holding the rail.  In fact, this week I watched him walk up a flight of stairs with alternating steps.  As well, he can walk up about six steps and down two without holding onto anything.  He is much safer at playgrounds as well.  I find myself not hovering six inches away from him to protect him from obliviously walking off an opening eight feet up and crashing to the ground.  Instead, I can step back and watch as he explores and goes down the slides himself.

Fine motor skills are not one of Wesley's strengths, but we have seen improvements here as well.  He can now string beads on a string, imitate drawing horizontal and vertical lines, and he is beginning to imitate drawing circles.  He loves to stack duplo blocks to create large towers and patiently works to set up his bowling pins so he can knock them down.  Wesley also does a great job of eating with a spoon and is slowly improving with his fork eating.  (At this point, fingers are way easier than forks, so we are having to push through that a bit.)

Jumping on the cushions...a favorite pastime!

On the other hand, in the last few months we have watched Wesley take several large steps backward with regard to sensory issues.  While he had mostly stopped licking things at the start of the school year, after several illnesses he's back into wanting to lick and spin everything all the time.  So we are working to help him find other ways to explore his environment, but this has been an uphill battle.

One thing we often try to do with Wesley when he's struggling to regulate his body sensorywise is read books.  We received an an amazing home-made book from Courtney at Pudge & Biggs, which we've used to teach Wesley how to count to five.  (If anyone creative ever wants a suggestion for what to give Wesley, more books like this to work on other things we're trying to teach him would be a godsend!)  As well, we pull out his magnadoodle and write letters for him to identify.  He currently knows all of his capital letters except for W.  Poor kid has crazy parents who gave him a first name that starts with the most difficult letter to say in the entire alphabet.  Someone should have told them not to make things so hard on their son!

Pinning big brother!  Such fun!

At the recommendation of Wesley's occupational therapist at Easter Seals, we switched his communication device to accommodate a 32 picture screen rather than it's previous 15 picture screen.  I think all of us have been a bit shocked at how quickly Wesley learned to maneuver through his new device.  That kid knows where every picture is and how it is categorized.  It is a reminder to us of just how much he knows and understands.

The update of his communication device has also sparked an explosion of words.  Wesley regularly sits at his device, pushes buttons, and then repeats the words.  As a result, Wesley now has about 50 words* that he uses on a consistent basis.  He is beginning to use more and more of these words independently without being cued to speak, which is a huge step for him.  His verbal motor plan is starting to come together.  As well, he has started to string two words together.  This is still very difficult for him, but the other day Daddy was very proud of his defiance when he was instructed to go one way and instead pointed the opposite direction and said, "No, that!"

Sometimes it is hard to keep your little brother away from your communication device!

Wesley now answers yes and no questions, which is something we have been working on for over a year now.  What a joy it is to ask him if he wants something and get a clear answer rather than having to guess.

As well, Wesley now initiates playing games more often than he used to.  Just in the last week, he has pulled out a puzzle to put together, pulled out his bowling pins and asked me to set them up, asked me to get his sword so he could run around swinging it and yelling "yah, yah!" in the back yard, and brought his counting book to me for us to read together.

Caught in the act of sharing a snack with baby brother!

We are so proud of our precious son.  Learning is an uphill battle for him, but he keeps at it, and every milestone met is a huge accomplishment for him.  And what a joy it is to look back over six months and see how far he has come.

* Wesley's words:  Mommy, Daddy, Zach (gak), baby, Liam (mum), yes (ess), no, more, up, off, in, open (ohpuh), juice (guih), teddy graham (teddy mahm), cracker, sauce, eat, snack  (nagh), this (dis), that (dat), all done (ah dee), car, go, on, ball, ball popper (bah pah), coke, I, want, poopy, one, two (koo), three (pee), four, five, help (pep), clap (pup), night night (nah nah), burp (bup), toy (gee), cake, milk (muh), bowling (buh buh), gears, play, hi, bye, Wes.

I'll protect you Mom!  Yah!  Yah!