Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sting of Grief

I always knew this day would come.  But yet, as I faced this situation for the first time, I was not prepared.

It was never supposed to be this way.

I blinked back tears as I read the invitation to a birthday party for big boys, quickly realizing that only one of my big boys was invited.

In that moment, the dagger of disability again pierced my heart.

If not for his disability, my son and this boy would be friends. They would run around together, playing and fighting and talking and getting into trouble as big boys do.  It was my son's disability, not his age, that disqualified him from being a big boy.

No one meant to be hurtful.  It is true; Wesley is not friends with this boy.  He probably has never even noticed him.  And he certainly had no idea that he was missing out on a birthday party.  In fact, if he had gone, he would have played by himself rather than joining in on the big boy fun.

But I knew.  And my heart was crushed at the unexpected and painful reminder that this is not how it was supposed to be.

As we entered the Christmas season, I often thought, "this is why Jesus came".  He came to offer us a hope beyond the suffering we experience in this world.  "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.  As one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not."  Isaiah 53:3

Jesus knows what it is to be rejected.  He experienced this sorrow firsthand when even His closest of friends walked away from Him in his darkest moments, as He was overwhelmed to the point of death.  While this does not take away the sting of my own grief, knowing that Jesus understands my bleeding heart brings comfort to my soul.  And because He understands, He is a safe person for me to draw near to when life is hard.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."  Isaiah 53:4-5

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nap Time Blessings

This fall, nap time took a turn for the worse, stretching my patience thin and changing our family routine.  About two months ago, Wesley discovered that he doesn't actually have to stay in bed.  With his newfound freedom, if I leave him in his room before he falls asleep, he quickly slips out of bed to play.  This exacerbates the already existing problem that Wesley has always had a difficult time unwinding and falling asleep.  It routinely takes him at least an hour to settle down and close his eyes.

So now, instead of playing games and chatting with Zach while his brothers nap, I get Zach settled with his legos and books before going in to lay down on Wesley's floor.  I set my voice to repeat, hearing the same words come out of my mouth every few minutes. "Wesley, head on pillow.  Wesley, be quiet."  Some days he falls asleep rather quickly, and I tiptoe back out of his room after only twenty or thirty minutes.  On those days, I consider myself lucky.  Most days, though, I lie in there with him at least an hour.

As I lie there, I often find anger stirring in my heart.  Why won't he just be quiet?  Why do I have to continue to tell him to lie down?  Doesn't he understand?  Where is the disconnect that causes him to forget my command over and over again?  Why is this so hard for him?

The other day, though, God opened my eyes to see a more beautiful picture. As I lay there on the floor, the Lord quieted my heart and I just listened to my son.  This is what I heard:  "I want play!  I want out!  I want all done!  Mommy!"  He then proceeded to begin counting his fingers, going from one to five and cheering Yay! for himself upon completion each time.  He missed three and four sometimes, but he carefully put up his fingers one at a time and counted them over and over again.

In that moment, my heart quickly changed from frustration to joy.  Look at what the Lord has done!  My boy is speaking so well...better than I would have thought possible at this point in his life.  This is the Lord's work in him, and it is beautiful.

When I lie down with him at nap time, I still instruct him to lay down and be quiet, but I also thank God for my little boy who can tell me that he'd rather play.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where Did My Baby Go?

My Dearest and Most Precious Liam,

Where has the time gone?  From the beginning, I have done everything in my power to soak up every moment with you, breathing in your sweet baby smell, enjoying those middle of the night feedings because I knew they would soon be over, holding you in my arms for hours as you slept, and doing my best to make time to play with you even in the midst of our busy schedule. But it seems that despite my best attempts, I blinked and you grew up.

Since the day you were born, it has truly amazed me to see how perfectly you have fit into our family and completed us.  Your cheerful disposition brings joy to our days, your playful antics put a smile on the faces of your brothers, and your peaceful, calm demeanor is an example to us all.

 You loved your birthday cake and gobbled it up as fast as you could!

Daddy recently commented on how much Wesley likes you.  It is such a delight to your Daddy and I to watch the two of you pal around.  You adoringly follow him everywhere, waiting for him to share with you, and eventually he obliges.  I often chuckle when I see his spilled bowl of snacks on the floor and the two of you both shoveling snacks into your mouths as fast as you can so that the other doesn't eat too many.  When you see me, you both look up with guilty faces.  Wesley is also teaching you the ropes when it comes to stacking cups, playing with the train set, and dancing to Christmas music.

You are my little dare devil!  On the other hand, is there a better way to play the piano?

Your short life has been a roller coaster, and you've brought Mommy on a wild ride.  Over the past twelve months, I have both rejoiced and grieved more often than I could ever count.  It is impossible to not compare you to your older brothers, which has been both a curse and a blessing.  Seeing how easily you learn to do new things is a constant reminder to me of what a miracle life truly is.  The ease with which you maneuver through your world brings me to tears as I am amazed at how effortless life is for you.  I show you something one time and you just start doing it.  You naturally play in positions that Wesley is still unable to play in due to low tone.  I am very aware of how short the time is before you surpass your older brother in every way.

 You have so much fun with your big brothers!  (I'm pretty sure they like you too!)

On the other hand, having both Wesley and Zach as older brothers has been a blessing in more ways than one.  God has used the raising of your big brothers to show me things I would not have otherwise seen in you.  Because of the many struggles that Wesley has had with feeding, fine motor skills, motor planning, and sensory issues, I was able to see red flags in you long before others might have noticed them.  While it has broken my heart to see you evaluated for feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy and qualify for services due to your delays, I thank God regularly for showing me these things early on so that we could intervene and help you.  I continue to pray that these things will rectify themselves so that you may lead a normal life.  But I also cling to the promise of Psalm 139, that the Lord has ordained all of your days.  And I choose to trust His perfect plan for your life.

Those ornaments are irresistible!  Maybe if I'm sneaky, Mommy won't notice when I touch them...

Several weeks ago, we started occupational therapy.  Your spectacular OT (who is also Wesley's OT),  quickly noticed your sensory issues and lack of body awareness and put you on the same brushing and joint compression routine that your big brother was on several years ago.  After only one week of this regimen, we started seeing huge changes in you.  Just two weeks before your first birthday, you suddenly stopped nursing, took your first steps, and said your first word.  Now, you walk everywhere, babble constantly, say at least four words purposefully (cracker, Zach, light, and uh-oh), and have begun to play more appropriately with toys.  You have started trying to stack cups, doing container play, and putting shapes into a shape sorter.

One of my favorite things about you is your infectious laugh.  You are a pro at going up the stairs, even though you know you're not allowed to climb up without Mommy nearby.  When I forget to close the gate, I will hear you crawling across the tile just as fast as you can to reach the bottom step and start climbing.  As soon as you see me, you give me a huge smile, giggle, and start climbing as fast as your little legs can move.  You also laugh whenever we play peek-a-boo, when you dance with your Snoopy Christmas doll, when we tickle you, and any time we do something that humors you - which is all the time.  I have started playing the "come to Mommy" game with you and Wesley, and you both are pretty sure it is the best game ever.  What joy it brings to my heart to see you both laughing as you try to come to me as fast as you possibly can, running into each other along the way.

My precious Liam, I love you so very much, and it is my joy and privilege to be your Mama.  I pray that just as you bring much joy to our hearts now, you will one day join the family of God and bring much joy to the heart of your Heavenly Father.

Happy first birthday, my son.  I love you!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

He Is With Me

Do you see it?  We may not ever fully understand why God allows the suffering that devastates our lives.  We may not ever find the right answers to how we'll dig ourselves out.  There may not be any silver lining, especially not in the ways we would like.  But we don't need answers as much as we need God's presence in and through the suffering itself.  For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true:  God's chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, by Tullian Tchividjian

I don't understand why God is allowing the suffering that is devastating our family, and I may never see why God has not stepped in to stop the destruction.  There may be no answers for how to dig ourselves out, because on this earth, there may be no way out.  Fifty more years feels like an eternity with not even a silver lining promised.

But praise the Lord, I don't need answers.  What I need is God's presence in and through my suffering.  And that, I have.  Surely, Jesus has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows.  As for all of these griefs that threaten to crush me, they did crush him.  Jesus took them upon Himself. When I stop and reflect on the weight of my griefs and sorrows along with the weight of yours and everyone else's, it is staggering.  Yet, Jesus willingly carried them.  And now, in the midst of my suffering, He is with me.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  More than that, as He walks alongside me, He can be Himself for me.  For my great High Priest, who is always interceding for me, intimately knows my greatest suffering.  He knows because He carried it once and for all and because He continues to carry it when I wearily come to Him, hand Him my burdens, and in their place receive rest.

Because He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, we do not lose heart.
(Isaiah 53:4, 2 Corinthians 4:16)