We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.”
I don’t know how to deal with this pain so the pain deals with me.
By overtaking my body in fits of sobbing that come from somewhere deeper than I can reach myself, a hidden place known only to the pain itself. Only pain itself can tolerate it or hold space for it. Anything else or anyone else would crumble under its weight.
So I let my pain feel my pain for me. I let it absorb my hurt and consume my agony, shielding me from being paralyzed by the grief or being swallowed whole by the sorrow.
It breathes for me, protecting me from suffocation. It somehow keeps my body from being torn in two by the wild clawing from both outside and within myself.
My pain deals with what I cannot, must not, in order for me to go on surviving. I can only suppress screams and sing silent songs from deep within.
If the sound escaped, glass would shatter and my children would be afraid. My knowing pain holds my body upright and keeps me from collapsing into a formless heap on the ground. It keeps me awake and somewhat aware of life happening all around me. It forces my lips to smile at what someone says and pushes me to care about someone else’s pain. But I can’t reside there, where my pain might surface unannounced.
Pain gives me the strength to turn the conversation away from myself so that I don’t unravel into a million threads or give away too much of my heart.
Pain lets me put it onto a shelf and wonder where I left it, giving me a respite from the burning ache and the memories. Sometimes I look for it, but I can’t find it. And I wonder…was the pain even real? Or was it imagined? Because I seem okay now without it. Until pain itself reminds me that I am not okay-not deeply. It knows when I need reminding because it knows my body better than I know it myself. And my body looks to my pain to cry out for me or it will break under the pressure. It will burst open at the cracks with too many wounds to heal all at once. And where will that leave me? Bleeding out in too many places for a hundred hands to save me.
Pain knows I need saving and it won’t ever stop fighting to see me and to heal me.
Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that pain would be my friend?
“We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.” (Cesar Chavez, “Four Winds”)
I have known that I wanted to start writing here again, but have been having a hard time getting myself together to do it regularly. Today, I knew I would write, but wasn’t sure about what (too much to choose from), and this is what I landed on, so these words are meant to be for today.
This morning as I got ready for the day, I wanted to fill the silence with words about God, so I tapped on my Pray As You Go app (haven’t listed to it in months). The story of David was being read from 1 Samuel 17. I was so struck today by the fact that David was only a boy (probably 15 years old). I was befuddled by his adamant faith and I wondered, ‘How was he so SURE that he would defeat Goliath?’ I mean I know his assuredness came from believing in the power of God, but how did he KNOW that God’s power would fight through David in those future moments, taking Goliath to his defeat? Maybe we can relate in the TRUST that God has the power and the ability, but how often can we say that we KNOW He is going to do it? And I longed for this faith of David in my own life. And I pondered it. Did God speak to him in a specific way that isn’t recorded? Did David have chills from the Holy Spirit when he saw Goliath and he just know that this was his calling? Was there a promise God had given him in a dream? He must have either been so certain that God would defeat Goliath or he was so sure of God’s presence that even if David died, he was confident and at peace with his decision. Either way, he was sure of God. That’s for sure. 🙂
These words stood apart to me in regards to David’s certainty. ” The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” He had rescued sheep from his flock out of their literal mouths. He went after them, struck them, and rescued the sheep from their mouths. (v. 35). What in the world would give him the courage to chase after bears and lions?? What could possibly be the reason he would think he could overtake them and save his sheep? He is only 15 years old! Insanity? Pride? His older brother does say to him, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is…” Ouch. The courage of someone with nothing to lose? Recklessness? Maybe a little bit of all of the above? But at its root, it has to be God’s presence in his life. Nothing can make us do more insane and outrageous, “foolish to the world” things than God’s presence. Nothing else can give us this kind of absurd, nonsensical courage.
And that is my word for this year. Presence. I had a list written of possibilities that included: gentle, mystery, mindful, treasure, ponder, cherish, shift, reset, present, and presence. I was leaning towards “Reset.” I definitely need one. I am sure a lot of us do. But my heart was drawn to presence. And I knew that was where my heart needs to be this year and every year. Always brought back to His presence. That is always where the rest, the joy, the peace, and the courage to do “it” (whatever that may be for us) no matter what anyone else thinks is. I also love this word as a double meaning, also focusing on being PRESENT with my husband and my kids. Living in the moment. This is so challenging for me. But again, when I am IN His presence and focused ON His presence WITH me, being present happens more gently and naturally.
Today when I was listening to the app, the answer in my heart as to how David knew he would defeat Goliath with God’s power was that He remembered God’s presence and faithfulness in his life up to this point—in the lion and bear stories, and most likely other stories he didn’t share. A couple hours later, I opened my email and was drawn to this book below. Beautiful cover and beautiful soul-stirring words that drew me in. I went to amazon to check it out and saw the subtitle. “How remembering God’s presence in our past brings hope to our future.” And it was a jolt because it was almost word for word what I had been pondering about David’s faith. So, I knew that it was my next book and I can’t wait to see what God speaks to me through it.
My other confirmation came a couple days ago. These were in an email (oops on their “e” :)). Okay, not reset then. Presence. And all of the words I was considering go under the umbrella of His Presence, because His Presence covers it all. And I wanted to share this with whoever reads this today.
In chapter 16, David was anointed to be the king. “Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one’….And from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” I wonder if David killed the bear and the lion after this moment. I don’t know. But I know that David based his confidence in defeating Goliath on what God had already done for him, how He had already been with him and rescued him. But even if David had been killed, he went forward in strength and assuredness because of the promise of God’s presence, no matter what. When we can’t remember what He has DONE, can we remember who He was? That’s still who He is, now, in our unique and different challenging circumstances. His Presence IS His faithfulness to us.
Side note: 15 years old. Right in between two of my sons, ages 13 and 16. Our children are never too young for God to speak to them, to tell them to rise up, to call them to Himself and His Presence. I can rest in that today, because His Presence is with me and His Presence is with them.
In typical morning breakfast fashion, I whisk the raw eggs in a bowl and pour them into the pan hot with melted butter. My dad taught me how to cook scrambled eggs perfectly, turning the heat down and moving the spatula back and forth slowly the whole time the eggs are cooking. I always think about my dad when I make scrambled eggs. I enjoy the habitual way I make the eggs. It’s a small ritual that brings me comfort. It’s always a satisfying feeling to dump the eggs out onto the plate, cooked just right, never over-cooked. I think about my Gramma, who made the best “dippy eggs” I ever had as a child. I think about how small, seemingly insignificant objects, like eggs, can have meaning in a person’s life and bring about such strong memories.
I bring my thoughts back to the present and notice that the eggs aren’t cooking. Did the flame not light? I bend down and look under the pan. The fire is glowing red and blue on the highest setting. Hmmm. The breeze from the dining room window lands on my cheek in the kitchen. Ah. It must be the wind. I close the window reluctantly, considering it’s probably almost 90 degrees in our house in the middle of a Taiwan summer. I return to the eggs and they have started cooking now that the fire has settled down beneath them. I cook them just right and enjoy the crackle of the pink Himalayan salt as it lands on the top of the eggs. I love this salt. Nepal is one of my favorite places in the world. The Himalayan mountains make up a majority of my favorite memories from high school with my family. The salt makes me happy.
Yesterday, I was making eggs again, and I asked one of our sons to close the window, the wind hindering the eggs cooking again. It’s annoying. I mentioned it to Clive, my husband, and he said, “Yeah because of the direction of the wind.” The wind doesn’t just cross directly through the dining room and living room out the back door onto the balcony. It also comes in sideways at just the right angle to affect the flame. And I was struck in that moment. Now I am thinking about fire and wind and the closing of windows.
Why won’t the eggs cook? We stand there confused, moving the spatula around the soupy eggs with no sign of the eggs actually scrambling. We try so dang hard to cook the eggs with that window still open. Surely, they will eventually cook. Because flames cook things, even if it takes awhile. Most of the time, we don’t even know it’s the open window that is the problem. It’s not directly in front of us. The breeze is at our back and we aren’t paying attention. The reason doesn’t necessarily even really matter to us. We aren’t thinking about it. We aren’t curious. We aren’t aware enough to wonder what is hindering this flame. That would take too much work. As long as the eggs get cooked and we can eat, we can just ignore the reason. Until the next time. And the next time. And we get fed up and decide it’s time to get to the bottom of this perpetually annoying issue.
I am thinking now about what windows need to be closed in our lives that will get to the root issue of our fading or erratic flame. Why is our spiritual fire so dim? Where did the fire even go? We thought our fire was just fine, but we don’t feel it burning recently. So often we look directly at the flame of our spirit and just can’t figure it out. We wonder what more we could do. We wonder what more God could do. We wonder where God is. But what if right now we need to look outside of the internal flame and look at what we are letting in that could be affecting the fire. Closing the window stops the wind from getting to the flame. Such a simple action has such an immediate and profound effect on the flame. What windows in my life do I need to close that are affecting the flame of the Holy Spirit? That are affecting my soul’s ability to stoke the spiritual flame inside of me? That are keeping the flame from even being lit up at all? I’m amazed at the effect an invisible breeze has on a seemingly strong flame. It just won’t cook. What are the invisible sources and forces in our lives that are directed right at our little persistent and struggling flame? If we name them, we can shut them out. By the power of the One that lit our flame and keeps it stoked and burning.
Wind can blow a flame sideways and waste the fuel. The flame is burning but it’s not cooking. It’s burning but it’s not being utilized. It’s burning but it’s burning in the wrong direction. It’s burning but it’s heat isn’t reaching its intended target. It’s burning but it’s erratic and potentially dangerous. It’s burning but it’s being hindered from burning the way it was created to. Praise God, the flame hasn’t been snuffed out…of any of us. It’s there and it has a purpose and it’s life-giving and can ignite in us so much more than we can imagine. I want to stop and ask God what windows have been let open that are bringing in a wind that needs to be blocked out, sent away, so that my flame can grow and stabilize and point in the one direction that it was always intended to. This requires self-reflection. Once we do that, maybe all we will need to do is walk over and shut the window.
Haircuts traumatize Russell. Legit trauma. His screams define screams of bloody murder. When Russell was younger, I would leave the house when Clive said it was time to give the boys haircuts. It was too hard to listen to Russell screaming through the bathroom door. (Clive does their haircuts with them sitting on a booster seat in the bathtub). A miracle happened when he started preschool at a local special needs school here when he was 4 (He is 6 now). Volunteers came in to give all the kids haircuts every few months (I love this so much) and Russell stopped screaming. He and his friends always got haircuts together and this had a huge effect on Russell. Clive always called the school to remind them to have the blessed volunteer use the closest possible clippers so that the haircut would last as long as humanly possible. It was kind of sad, because it made him look sickly. But it was the only way–best for everyone.
Last year Russell started kindergarten at the school where Clive teaches and where his brothers attend. There were many things we were going to miss about his preschool and haircuts was definitely one of them. Clive stepped back into the dreaded role of barber. As Russell got older, I still wanted to flee. But Clive started to need my help. Russell was getting too big and too strong. This year Russell started to get braver. He would even volunteer to be the first of his brothers to step into the bathtub. But I would sit in the living room and brace myself, waiting for Clive to call me.
Here is how the haircut 2 days ago went.
“Haircut now.” He is so ready to be brave. I take his hand and walk with him into the bathroom. There is no point in waiting. He will need me then, and he will do better with me here now. I think. I hope.
Steps into tub and sits down on the booster seat. Clive turns the clippers on.
“Wait. Wait.” Stalling. Clive reassures him that he will do the top first. Russell hates the back and the sides being cut most of all.
“Mom. Hand.” I take his hand and tell him how proud I am of him and that he has got this. He smiles big and yells, “Guys!” excited to show his brothers his bravery. They come in one by one and offer their “Good job,, Russell” and head back to their 1 hour of tech time. I wonder if they have the hope that the screaming might be kept at bay this time or if they even notice it anymore.
The buzzing starts. He is stomping his feet and making cringing noises, but he is doing it. I will take what we can get. Every second matters. Now it’s time for Clive to change the clipper number for sides and back. Uh-oh.
“Pause. Pause. T” He makes the sign for time out vehemently. I giggle. It’s the cutest. I haven’t seen him do that before. He is still not crying or screaming.
He stands up and stalls by trying to wipe hair off his now sweating body to no avail. “Dad, help.” Clive tells him he will rinse it all off when they are done and that he’s doing a good job. Russell sits back down, thank God. But Russell’s bravery is waning and he wants to be done. There is no way we can leave his hair like this. We try to tell him to look at in the mirror, so he can see that he won’t want to leave it like that either, but he is too upset to look.
He is hunching his whole body over and tucking shoulders up to his ears and crying and screaming as Clive turns the clippers back on. It’s time for me to hold both his hands with my strength now, so that he can’t pull away and so that Clive can get access to the tiny crevices that are left around Russell’s head. I hate doing this. His tears are falling off his face into the bathtub now and one drop hits my hand and I notice how heavy it feels. It was such a big tear.
“Count to 20 Russell. 1….2….3….” I stop to adjust my grip and stop counting as I do. He yells desperately, “Count!” I resume counting. I should have said count to 30. Clive isn’t gonna finish by 20. “18….18.5…..19….” I ask Clive if he is almost done. He tells me what I already know and with precision and skill that comes from years of doing this, he keeps on buzzing despite Russell’s jerking movements and the sweat forming on his head. Russell’s not listening to my counting anymore.
“All done! All done!” Russell’s anguish comes through clearly in his desperate hope that the end is in sight.
“Almost done, Buddy. You are doing such a great job!”
Clive starts counting down. Phew, I feel relief coming. “5…4…3…2..”
“All done!” We both victoriously cry. “You did it!” Russell wipes his face, his eyes, his hair, and internally knows that he can stop crying now, but his body isn’t ready just yet. His face is still full of sadness.
I sit down on the couch to recover and wait for him to come be with me after Clive rinses him off. Tears continue as he climbs onto me and buries his head, all tears and snot, into my shoulder. We breathe together and I hold him tight.
“Is it hard for you, Russell?” I already know the answer, but I want him to know that I know and that he can tell me. He nods yes without lifting off of me.
“I’m so sorry that it’s so hard for you. I’m so proud of you. You were so brave.” He nods. His crying stops and his tears diminish. He just lets me hold him as his breathing slows. I love the weight of him in my arms, as I feel the weight of his burden lifting slowly.
He sits up and gives me several kisses on the lips and wipes his eyes and smiles. He lets out a big sigh. I feel the sigh between us.
“All done now. Thank you, Mommy.”
He kisses me again and gets down. “Haircut,” he says proudly and touches his head to show me with a big grin. He sits down and resumes his ipad time. I smile as I look at his adorableness that has just increased exponentially with his haircut and his proud smiles.
Two minutes later, he looks at me, “All done? Mommy, picture. Me. Haircut.” He stands up proudly and waits for me to snap the photo.
“Thank you, Mommy.”
For those of you outside of Taiwan, this journal entry made me think about you today. I prayed for you. I grieved with you as our kids all started their first day of school today. (I do not take this for granted. We are back to masks as cases went up recently. I know that nothing is guaranteed). I especially grieve for the moms who are caring for kids with special needs, knowing that they may need to do online or homeschool as their kids miss out on all their physical and occupation and speech therapies. There is no break, no end in sight. These moms and dads are my heroes. You guys are ALL so brave. You are facing trauma. You are facing pain. You are facing fear. And God is with you, holding your hands. I pray that you hear Him whispering how much He loves you, how proud He is of you, how He is going to get you through this. How there WILL be relief. How your hope is not unfounded. How your wishful thinking is an arrow pointing to Him in your desperation. Russell faces trauma every time he gets a haircut. His tears and his screaming and his thrasing through it do not change my words. “You did it. I am proud of you.” I know that is how God sees each one of you in this world of upheaval. Your screaming, your crying, your thrashing, your desperation never changes His words for you. It might not be pretty to us, but He still says, “You are doing it. Look! You are doing it. I am proud of you. I am here. Take my hands. Let me hold you. You are mine. Let me cry with you. Let me be with you.”
Yesterday after church, Russell did the same thing he has done every Sunday after church for the last few weeks. He jumped off three steps into his father’s arms. But today, it was different. Today, he started his run from as far back on the deck as he possibly could, and ran with all of his might, full speed ahead. He was holding his mask in his left hand (we had been wearing them at church), and as he jumped in the air, he flung his mask out of his hand and it went flying as his smile continued to spread all the way across his face in the very definition of beaming. And thanks to Hudson’s request, we have the moment captured in slow motion. (See video on my facebook or instagram. It won’t let me post the slow motion video here.)
When Clive first encouraged Russell to jump off these steps into his arms, Russell was tentative and afraid, and wasn’t even sure if he wanted to. He more fell off the steps into his dad’s arms, rather than jumping. He giggled, but you could still feel and see the fear coming through.
Yesterday, when he jumped, true joy and trust had overtaken fear. If there was any fear in him, there was no evidence of it. So much so, that he was happy to throw away anything else in his hands that might hinder truly experiencing the full joy of the moment of being caught by his father. It immediately spoke to my heart about the love of our Heavenly Father and how nothing brings Him more joy than when we, His little ones, will run, full speed ahead, throwing off anything that hinders, to experience the joy of being caught and hugged and love by the One we have put our trust in.
Russell not only started to believe that his dad would catch him, he started to believe that his dad would catch him every time, no matter what. No matter how fast he ran, no matter how high he jumped, no matter what he was carrying in his hands.
There are two things I notice and I love as I watch Clive in the video. Clive has his eyes completely focused on Russell. He is watching every step and positioning himself to be at just the right place to catch him. He isn’t telling Russell to slow down, take off his flip flops, move to the left or right, or wait. He is ready and his focus is on doing what he needs to do to make sure that Russell will be absolutely safe and secure and will experience the joy of the jump without fear. And when Russell jumps, he catches him, and Clive lets the weight of Russell move his own body back in a swinging motion that would have made it perfectly easy to continue in that natural motion and set him down. But he doesn’t set him down. He lifts him up closer into him and carries him.
The moment didn’t end with the trusting jump. It continued after the jump. They were close and laughing and experiencing the joy of that moment together after it was over. It was another step of trusting, letting go of fear, and jumping into joy and love. And they experienced all that it meant together. No words were needed, but those few seconds were no small thing.
They would know this in their souls, even if not consciously thought or expressed, because we were created to know these moments in the deepest part of our hearts, where words are less important than the knowing. Because these every day moments are there to point us to the love of our Father. It’s in the deepest part of who we are even when we don’t know it’s Him. We might not always know it, but He does. And He won’t stop communicating His love to us in our every day moments of life.
And He keeps whispering to us. Let it go. Trust Me. Run to Me. Jump into My arms with total abandon. I WILL catch you. And you will experience My joy, My love, and My delight in you. I promise that it will make everything you are holding on to pale in comparison. You were made to live without fear. You were made to live trusting in Me alone. I am here, shifting from left to right, wherever you need Me me to be, to safely catch you, knowing that you are secure, not just in My catch, but in the jumping.
I wrote in my journal during Sharon Garlough Brown’s online retreat, that I am so thankful for this time to STOP.
I have been aimless, scurrying, confused, irritable, restless, depleted, weary, anxious, and distracted.
I have been overeating, overthinking, and overdoing, longing, yearning, failing, flailing, stumbling, falling, falling, falling.
I have been spinning, turning, changing, suppressing, digging, retreating, running, relying, seeking, avoiding, hushing, yelling, tumbling.
Like I have been breathlessly and aimlessly running–no particular goal in sight. Until…I hit a wall, a blessed wall, where everything piled up in me and behind me and led me here–to a hard STOP.
Now, I can stop and slowly turn around and SEE. And take a breath. A deep breath. Another deep breath. Do you feel it? Do you see it? The whole world is there, crying out, longing, yelling, falling, and running.
Confusion swirling in and around us all. We are connected by the crazy.
We all need the gift of a wall standing in our way–a dead end to the endless rumblings–STOP. Turn around and SEE.
The world is as it has always been. Broken. Hurting. Crying out. Helpless and Torn. We feel it. We know it. But on a level we may never have before.
We couldn’t then. And we can’t now. Not much has changed. But this time–we hit a wall that made us STOP and SEE. Things aren’t as they seem. They are less. They are more. They are so much more.
We need to STOP. LISTEN. To our own breathing and the beat of our own hearts. The pain resurfacing. The trauma returning. The fears plaguing. It’s time to turn and face them in ourselves. In others. In the world.
This is our reality. We cannot escape it. He is God. And we are not. He is LOVE here and now and forever. It’s time, once again, to let Him root out, restore, unleash, recover, refine, dig up, return, heal, revive, and resurrect.
There is no one, not one, that has the power to open our own eyes to truly SEE, truly HEAR, truly LOVE besides the One who stands before us–a fortress that rises out of the dust to save us from ourselves–because of His great and perfect LOVE.
The wound on my chest is severe. It’s too scary to reveal it to anyone. I can’t tell them how it got there. They might turn away. They might try to cover it and pretend it isn’t there. They might act like they didn’t even see it. They might pour more pain on it. They might not recognize its treasure. They might tell their friends my story. They might not want to understand. They might forget me after I tell them. My wound might go from severe to gaping if I uncover it and I won’t be able to go back.
I touch my precious wound gently with my hand and wonder if there is anyone that will handle it, anyone that can handle it, with care. It’s safe here, hidden without exposure. It’s not getting any better, but it’s not getting any worse. I am safe here. There is too much danger and risk in exposing it.
But the pain in my chest is growing. It’s becoming hard not to show it on my face, in my actions, in my words. Maybe just a little revealing won’t be so bad. Just a small corner.
The first friend doesn’t doesn’t notice it. She walks away from our time together sure we are connected in a special way.
The second friend tries so hard to keep her eyes on my face, but I know she saw it. She pretends like nothing has changed.
The third one gasps. She tells me what it must feel like to have that open wound on my chest. She tells me about another friend like me who had a wound too.
The fourth one sees it and also gasps and tells me about the wound she once had and the pain she went through. I hurt for her pain, but feel my own pain searing within my chest all the more.
The fifth one hands me a beautiful scarf off her shoulders and covers it up for me. “There, that’s better,” she says.
The sixth one insists on taking me to the doctor, all the while offering me advice about how to best heal it. I ask her to take me back home. I’m not ready to see the doctor.
The seventh one sees it and sets up meals for me three times a week and visits me often.
Any of them that dared to, would ask me what happened. I told them it was a very long and heart wrenching story. I didn’t dare to say more. They would nod. Tears might well up in their eyes and spill over onto their cheeks. Some hugged me for a very long time. They are loving me in the ways they know how to love, or the ways they imagine I would feel loved, and maybe in the ways they would feel loved. I have never felt more alone.
I am weary. My pain is only getting worse and I think the wound is getting bigger. It’s starting to ooze through the bandages now. I feel the pain of guilt too because I know my friends are trying–oh so very hard–to do what they might want done for them and their wounds.
The eighth friend looks at my wound with compassion and wondering. I also tell her it’s a long and heart wrenching story. She looks at me with love and says, “Will you tell me your story?” And she sits down and waits.
I feel dazed and confused. And lighter somehow. These must be the words I have longed to hear, for as I look down at my wound, I see that it has stopped oozing. I slowly and cautiously remove the bandage in front of my friend–my first friend I have ever revealed my whole wound too. She sits next to me with her hand near my wound as I start to tell her the story of my wound and my pain. As I share with her, I feel the wound slowly starting to close and heal, starting at the very corner that I first exposed.
He drops and flops, refusing to move or come, forcing us to either wait a potentially exorbitant amount of time or pick up his 40 pounds of resistant weight. It has taken over 20 minutes to get from campus to our home, which should take about 2.
He fights us on going pee when it’s time to leave the house or when he needs to wash his hands when he walks in the door–almost 100% of the time.
He usually needs us to feed him at dinner time, or he won’t eat (except for the white rice).
He has started bolting recently. He is gone in the blink of an eye. We are so thankful to live in such a safe community.
He cries hysterically when his brothers get ahead of him, be it walking or riding their scooters or bikes, even if he can still see them.
He will kick or hit at random, although this has improved so much. It has happened so much over the years that his brothers have become pros at dodging it at just the right moment, and moving on as if nothing even happened.
He can throw a fit at any given moment for a transition that he does not want to do. Very often it’s because he is just plain exhausted. Sometimes it’s because he really doesn’t want to stop what he is currently doing.
He comes home after school trying so hard not to melt down, but unable to keep it in. His brain has worked so hard all day long. Everything he does at school, he has to work harder at than typical kids. He is spent at the end of the day and could go to bed at 6 pm. We need to meet his immediate needs, while helping him to regulate his emotions for an extended period of time.
He could decide to just throw the object he is holding, without warning, near your head. This has also greatly improved, but was something that went on for years.
He might push a friend out of frustration, hurt or anger, or out of a desire to play but may have difficulty communicating what he wants.
He is relentless in asking for what he wants, over and over again, with no end in sight. He will not give up.
Raising your voice at him at all can set off a deluge of tears that takes you into the next century where you forget why he was crying and he forgets too.
Russell is challenging. People might not see that side of our lives. His brothers and Clive and I, face challenges with him every day.
But there is another kind of challenge that he brings to our lives too. Russell has changed me.
He challenges me to sit with the emotion of the heartbreak I feel when his words get stuck on a stutter or I can only understand about 30-40% of a story that he is telling me about his day.
He challenges me to “sit down,”“stay,”“help,” “wait,” and “play.”
He challenges me to just stare into his eyes and let my heart just explode with love for a minute.
He challenges me to play the same interactive game over and over just because we can.
He challenges me to giggle and laugh and throw my head back with uninhibited joy in the moment.
He challenges me to sing with all my heart at the top of my lungs.
He challenges me to find all the ways to cuddle as close as possible and to just feel and hear his little sleeping breaths on me and to just breathe in the moment.
He challenges me to a level of patience that has changed motherhood for me and changed life for our other children.
He challenges me to slow down and take my time, to help, but not to fix.
He challenges me to realize, finally, that there is so little in my control and to watch and see it unfold–the ugly and the beautiful.
He challenges me to see his dad through his eyes–his rock and his safety, his playground and his strong arms.
He challenges me to see, to really see, his brothers. Their strengths and beauty and quiet living and loving that would otherwise not be, or might go unnoticed. He helps me to see their pain and struggles too, to see all of it, all of them.
He challenges me to let go of peoples’ opinions and to focus on what matters right in front of me. He challenges me to express my true emotions, no matter what anyone else thinks. Russell is so real.
He challenges me to see that you don’t always have to have any good reason to cry. Sometimes you’re just done. You’re just tired. You just need a good cry.
He challenges me to see the indescribable gifts that children with all special needs are. He, and so many others, are brave beyond words. He challenges me to set absolutely no limits on him. He has exceeded our expectations in countless ways. He perseveres more than anyone I know. He is so good at basketball.
He challenges me to see the wisdom of the world and the foolishness of God. The world has so much upside down. Russell wrote his name for the first time, all on his own. He wrapped his arms around a friend who was crying. He wrapped his arms around a friend, just because. He kissed me and told me he loved me. These are things that matter. The wisdom of God is foolishness to the world.
He challenges me to sit with that painful, unbearable, heart-wrenching mother’s love, to feel the ache and the longing and the joy and the pride. To let it all exist together in one big bubble–bursting at the seams and floating weightlessly all at the same time.
He challenges me to say “sorry” faster than a racing horse. He will not pull on the reins until you have heard it and accepted it.
He challenges me to watch my facial expressions and my body language even more than my words.
He challenges me to see the supernatural all around me. Russell sees angels.
He challenges me to live and love with abandon, wholeheartedly without conditions. Russell’s love is extra. I want to love extra too.
Your life mattered. You were seen by God and you were formed by His hands. There was never a moment that you were an accident to Him and you were never unexpected. You were a perfect miracle–perfectly you. You were seen by human eyes when you were just 8 weeks and 5 days old, with a heartbeat of around 100. Before your mom went to the doctor to get an ultrasound, she was very afraid that she may have already lost you and the tears of sorrow and grieving had already started. But there was still hope that you were alive. An ultrasound would say for sure. But there was the unknown of what would happen if you were still alive. Would your heart keep beating after that day?
The doctor, your mom, and one other person had the honor of seeing your tiny, perfect form. Your mom proudly told me, “A healthy baby, m’am.” When I asked her how she felt when she saw you, she started weeping and said, “Happy, m’am.” And all the love, sorrow, joy, and fear mingled together in her heart and her words and the battle for your life raged on. The battle for your mom’s life raged on too. Many were praying for her and for you, and I hated that your mom felt trapped and helpless; and I did everything I could to show her a way could be made, no matter what. She loved you.
And the enemy hated God, and you, and your mom and he fought with all he had to take you and your mom down, to take life down. And I raged at the sadness and the darkness of it all, because your mom could not possibly know the pain and you were an innocent, beautiful life.
The autumn candle flickers silently and brightly in the dark now and my tears fall with your mom’s. You would have been born in the fall, at the end of October. You mattered and you are loved and you have not been lost to the darkness. And wonder of wonders, and joy of joys, your mom hasn’t been lost to the dark either.
While the enemy plotted and schemed, God plannned and planted, and you were given a name. Jeremiah. It means “raised by God.” I held onto hope that this name meant that courage and love would overcome it all and your mom would fully know that God would be the one to make a way for you to come into this world, but God knew. He made you and formed you and now He alone is the one to raise you. Your Heavenly Father, in perfect peace and love and safety.
I asked your mom if she had a feeling if you were a boy or a girl. She told me that she was wishing for a boy and she had always had a name picked out if she had a boy someday, with the meaning of gift, because you would be given to her by God. Your life was too short, but you were a true gift.
So, Jeremiah, the enemy’s head has been crushed, for you were not lost to this world. You were not lost to hopelessness. Your life was not snuffed out forever. And your mom….she knows there is a God who loves her and who loves you. And while the next part of this journey will pierce her like knives and almost tear her heart in two, God has already been planning redemption and healing. And when this vapor of a life is over, you will behold your mom and Jesus will hold you both. Healed, whole, and redeemed. It won’t be long, Jeremiah. But you probably already heard that from the One who made you.
No one’s life revolves around mine. Not my kids’ lives (my life revolves around theirs, right? :)) Not my closest friends’, and not even my husband’s. Not today on my birthday (I am 42 now), or any other day of the year. And that’s how life is for all of us. No human can meet all our needs and we can’t meet all of any other person’s needs. We are not at the center of any one person’s universe. I sit here with my journal on my birthday and these thoughts brew in my mind about our humanity as I am wondering about and pondering the thought that I in fact do know ONE whose life revolves around mine and it’s too insane and too good to be true.
Jesus. 24/7, He is available to meet my every single need. Able to carry all my burdens. Able to comfort me in all my pain. Able to answer all of my questions. Able to calm all my fears and worries. Able to understand me when no one else can. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my thoughts before I think them and my words before I speak them. He knows exactly what I need at just the right moment.
He speaks and moves in the deepest parts of my heart where no one but me can hear Him. He believes in me and reaches for me. He opens my eyes to see things that only He knows and only He can reveal. He makes me feel known and understood. He never judges me. He loves me enough to give me the great gift of seeing myself as I truly am, with all my weaknesses and faulty thinking, so that I can be free from captivity.
He gives me gifts year round–just because. And so that I can be filled with vision and purpose and can have a part in touching peoples’ lives and hearts. He gives me so much more than I could possibly handle. Sometimes to the point of drowning. But then He lifts me to walk on water to do the impossible. He takes my hand and leads me through my life. He is so gentle and kind. He never drags me along against my will. He waits for me. He never stops patiently waiting for me.
I can’t visibly see Him, but He lets me see Him every day through being a mom, especially of young ones. He lets me see Him in completely new ways through the journey of adoption. He loves me. I am like a toddler learning to walk and struggling to talk, and He loves me.
He gives me lyrics and music and big dreams. Sometimes too much at once. Sometimes just enough. But actually, always just right. He takes the swirly, spinning parts of my mind and calms the storm. He tells me He is enough and I am really starting to believe Him more and more. He tells me the world isn’t enough and I know now–but have so very far to go.
He has helped me to learn to receive his love for the last 41 years. And now He is helping me to love Him back, to really want to love Him. He has drawn it out of me—or rather, put it in me in the first place. I love because He first loved me. How he has wooed me all these years, and mostly in my pain. The intimate love of suffering companionship. He has walked with me into all the deep places of pain and wrestling and He sat with me for such a long time. He never got up, not once. He never sighed in frustration or impatience. He didn’t watch me struggle from afar. He sat with me. He asked all the right questions, said all the right things, and covered me with the most comforting blanket of silence and peace when He saw me writhing and striving and angsting.
He left the door open for me to escape the pain or the emotion or the calling. He never locked me in. But I couldn’t leave–He was beckoning me deeper. His deep calling to my deep and it was a spiritual knowing, an instinct, a response. Not a mind response. Not a purely human one. One that is in every person if we will let Him enlarge and deepen our hearts and spirits. It is us before time began and after time ends–our eternal longing and reaching, where no human words can suffice.
He took my desire to abide and surrender and change and answered it in all the foolish ways of the world. They make no human sense. But His love never has. The gift of receiving His love has been just that- a gift. It’s the best birthday present I could ever ask for–to be known and loved by Him every year, every day, until I meet Him face to face.
The wonder of His words that are never changing, but always changing for me. And this is only skimming the surface in comparison to the love, wisdom, peace, and joy that is available to us at all times, forever and ever. May I receive His love and His precious gifts, and know Him in more and more revelation and abundance this year, as I learn to love Him back. This is how my freedom, healing, and transformative journey began. And begins again.