Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Elijah Graduates!

I mentioned when Elijah turned two that we were doing early intervention with him. His pediatrician had some development concerns, especially in the area of communication delays, so beginning in March or April of last year, we had a teacher coming to the house once a week to work with him.

Last month, it was time for his annual review, to look at our goals for him and see how he was doing. His teacher and I decided that it would be good to get a new evaluation done, so a few weeks ago, a developmental specialist came and took him through the same testing that we did a year ago.

We were delighted to hear that he has made so much progress, he is no longer eligible for early intervention services! Our little man has grown SO much in the last year. He still has a delay in communication, but it's not enough to qualify for ongoing help. So, it was with gratitude and some sadness that we recently said goodbye to Miss Holly, Elijah's teacher, who has become a sweet friend over the past twelve months. Elijah enjoyed her visits so much that I had to be sure not to mention she was coming until I saw her car in the driveway!

We're certainly thankful that some of the early questions/concerns are no longer on the table, and glad to see Elijah growing and talking more and more. Yet it seems appropriate to revisit the words I wrote last August about this subject:
...more and more I'm inclined to think our little guy is simply a late bloomer, but the questions remain the same: Is my hope in my son being "normal" (or even "exceptionally bright"), or is my hope in God? Is Christ my greatest treasure? Do I believe that He is sovereign, good, and loving, regardless of whatever challenges my son may or may not face? Will I let my fearful heart run away with "what-ifs," or will I choose to put my trust in the Lord?

I'm reminded of a conversation Steve and I had over a year ago, in which he drew a comparison between two men we know: one brilliant, but obnoxiously so; the other simple, yet loving and wise. Steve remarked that while of course he’d love to have a bright, intelligent child, comparing these two men showed him that intelligence isn’t the best or most important thing to hope for. Wouldn’t we rather have a wise son, one who is devoted to God and trusts Him, than a brilliant son, when brilliance is so often a stumbling block (both in relationships with other people and in submission to God)?

Rather than hoping that Elijah would be smart or being disappointed if he’s not, rather than worrying about all his milestones and whether he’s developmentally behind other children, our job is to nurture and enjoy him for who he is—not who we might foolishly think we want him to be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 153

The practice of gratitude was put to the test for me last Thursday night.

I didn't put up a thankful list last Monday, but I had plenty to be thankful for. Steve left last Sunday night for a business trip, so rather than spend the weekend alone, Elijah and I headed to Memphis to spend a few days with one of my favorite families. We drove home on Thursday, expecting to joyfully (if tiredly) greet Steve around midnight after a late flight.

I don't know how single moms do it, honestly...I do not handle single parenting well. Even surrounded by dear friends, I struggled. My patience was near nonexistent, my frustration high, my joy definitely missing. By Thursday afternoon, I was counting down the hours until Steve got home--not only because I missed him, but also (selfishly) because I looked forward to dumping Elijah on him Friday and taking a break.

So you can imagine how I felt when Steve called to say that the flight out of New York was delayed, and they might miss their connection in D.C. And how I felt a few hours later when he called again to say that not only was he definitely stuck in D.C. for the night, but that he was only on standby for Friday flights home.

I wanted to whine and complain. I wanted to wallow in bitterness and resentment and self-pity. Even now with a few days' perspective, it seems such a foolish, petty thing. But at the time, it was a battle. And I did wallow, for a while.

But by the grace of God, some words from sweet, wise Ann came to mind. I remembered her Monday gratitude post, in which she said:
The only way to live in the joy of the Lord... is to believe that the Lord only gives life for joy. That's the real reality I realize, fight wild to cling to on a Friday...when it seems just a matter of time until I have my mothering license revoked...That's the truth I whisper when I look in the mirror on a Monday morning.

That our Creator God passionately wraps each moment different but He's actually the most predictable of gift givers. God gives only one kind of gift: All is for joy. I remember it again: In the midst of the ugly, there's always a window through to the joy beauty.

Never be deceived by ugly wrapping paper. When I believe that God gives every moment always for ultimate joy, every moment becomes a gift. And I can always unwrap any ugly to discover the beauty of joy.
So with a deep breath, I pulled my angry, disappointed self off the futon. I didn't want to do it. I certainly didn't feel grateful. But I had to admit that wallowing wasn't going to make me feel better, wasn't going to help at all. By grace I picked up my pen and my journal, reread and copied Ann's words, and then started counting blessings. Things like:

381. a toddler who loves Mama so much that he is distraught when she disappears for ten seconds
382. Diane, who loves me in spite of my being a mess
383. a toddler who loves music so much he asks for it incessantly
384. having to leave Memphis three hours later than planned, which meant I got spaghetti for dinner instead of snacks in the car
385. truth blaring through car speakers in song when I am too weak to preach to myself

386. a smooth transfer from carseat to bed, with little crying
387. Steve being one step closer to home
388. Steve having his luggage, since he carried on and didn't check his bag
389. grace to remember Ann's blog post and start this list

Then, in God's lavish, ridiculous grace, I got to thank Him again on Friday when...

390. Steve was one of two guys who got on the first flight out of D.C.
391. Steve walked in the door around 10AM and wrapped me up in a huge hug
392. we got to spend the entire day together, since he didn't have to go to work after that ordeal

Slowly, I am learning that because all things pass through His sovereign, wise, loving hands, all things are gifts, no matter how they look to me at first. I am learning to choose gratitude.

holy experience

Monday, March 15, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 152

Thanking God this week for...

349. safe travels home and back
350. the opportunity to see Steve's little brother in his last high school musical
351. memories of all the musicals we did way back when
352. breakfast out with old friends
353. the fun of seeing Elijah and his cousin run around together

354. time with both families
355. good conversations
356. the new (to us--a refinished antique) chair we brought back, a gift from Steve's parents
357. tiny buds on trees
358. the privilege of staying home with Elijah

359. opportunity to break out the flip-flops!
360. long walks
361. a nice park near our house
362. Elijah swinging: "higher pwease!"
363. fresh pineapple, cheap at Aldi

364. requests for snuggles
365. dear friends' willingness to share their struggles with me
366. sunshine, when the forecast called for rain
367. Steve getting home unexpectedly early, two days in a row
368. grace to preach to myself and let Truth have the last word

369. time with friends and their kids
370. the ways parenting humbles me
371. a chiropractor I trust
372. the way Elijah is so concerned about his mama getting hurt by the chiropractor
373. use of a friend's washing machine when ours is broken

374. Steve's ability to tear apart our washing machine, diagnose the problem, order parts to fix it
375. grace to get up early
376. dinner and great conversation with friends
377. starting marriage with no financial baggage
378. a church we hate to be away from and miss when we're gone

379. providing comfort and encouragement when I need it
380. not treating me as my sins deserve

holy experience

Friday, March 12, 2010

Elijah and the Lion: 30 Months

I realized this morning that I never posted the lion pictures I promised you a month ago. Oops.
I bought this gigantic stuffed lion with some gift money when Elijah was just a couple of months old, stealing a friend's idea to take Elijah's picture with it every so often as he grows up. We took monthly pictures the first year, then about every three months the second year, and now we're down to every six months. Since he turned two and a half in February, it was time for new pictures with "Wonnie." The lion doesn't actually have a name; "wonnie" is just how Elijah mangles the word "lion"--but I think it's so adorable that we'll probably forever call this lion "Wonnie."
This round of lion photos was a pleasant surprise after the last several photo shoots. For a while there it was a crazy wrestling match trying to get a good picture in between keeping Elijah from climbing all over the couch or simply getting down and running away. Suddenly this time he sat still and grinned at the camera on command! Wow!
So without further ado, here's my little man with his lion.

...And if you want to see how he's grown, here's an old post with photos from 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 months.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who Gets the Last Word?

So often my inner monologue goes something like this:

"Lord, I know Your Word says children are a blessing, but this sure doesn't feel like a blessing right now--I am not enjoying it."

"I know we're not supposed to complain about the weather, but I sure am sick of this cold and ready for spring."

"Getting this Mac was a huge blessing, I know, but right now I hate it; I'm so annoyed with learning something new."

Notice a pattern? My emotions get the last word. "Truth, BUT...emotions that drown out that truth."

More and more I'm realizing the need to practice exactly the opposite:

"Lord, I'm really struggling to enjoy and appreciate this blessing, but You have indeed blessed me with a son to raise for Your glory. Through him I can have an impact on places I will never go, people I will never meet, in a time I will not live to see. Through him You are refining me, teaching me patience, exposing my sin, giving me glimpses of my helplessness and Your Father-heart. You have chosen such a kind, gentle, beautiful way to refine me. You love me and are committed to making me holy! You are using motherhood and all its difficulties to glorify Your name and remake me in the image of Your Son. You are graciously teaching me humility and dependence on You; You are tearing down the idols in my heart because You are jealous for my affections. This is hard, but You are with me and I have every reason to praise You!"

"Lord, I definitely like warm weather better than cold, but you are sovereign over everything, including weather, and You know what's best. You wisely send both rain and sunshine; the cold days make me appreciate the warm all the more."

"I'm feeling frustrated with change and it's hard to learn something new--but thank You for the blessing of having a computer at all, let alone a brand-new one!"

Same content...totally different perspective. Who gets the last word? The fact is, my emotions are untrustworthy and God's Word is true, not vice versa. Rather than letting my fickle feelings about my circumstances trump what is eternally true, I need to submit my emotions to the Truth.

I'm not saying it's wrong to be honest about how I feel. The emotions are real, and it's better to acknowledge them than to bury them and pretend they don't exist. But I don't want to let myself be ruled by them. Emotions make terrible masters. My heart can only be ruled by one Master--and how much better to be ruled by the wise, loving, sovereign, NEVER-changing King...than my foolish, self-centered, limited-perspective, constantly-shifting emotions?

Two of the most beautiful words I have memorized over the last few months are "BUT God." Horrible truth about who we were in our sin and the hopelessness of our condition...But God, being rich in mercy, trumped that hopelessness. Reality was bleak--but God was bigger.

This week I'm trying to "...But God" my emotions. I'm learning to let the King have the last word.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 151

Ack...another week goes by with no blog posts other than the gratitude list. Better than nothing, I suppose, but I hope to get some other posts up this week. Thanks for your patience.

Meanwhile, thanking God this week for...

316. phone calls with beloved women who live too far away
317. headset so I can talk while doing dishes or changing diapers
318. dental care
319. no cavities
320. a new hygienist, who was MUCH gentler on my teeth than the old one

321. ability to mail packages cross-country in a matter of days
322. long, refreshing naps
323. free babysitting from my sweet friend Jessie Rae
324. date with friends, awesome food and conversation
325. the look on Elijah's face when we got home

326. magnesium
327. pretty brown & blue journal
328. pearl earrings
329. provocative quotes from books & blogs
330. lunch dates with dear friends

331. refrigerator completely covered with updated photos of friends & family
332. news that Steve's work trip will be shorter than we thought
333. grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup
334. music from the ministry team I traveled with in 2002--blast from the past
335. the amazing opportunity I had to travel with that group for two years

336. the little parenting triumphs: being able to figure out what's wrong at 2 AM and fix it quickly
337. handmade soap from a friend
338. opportunities for Elijah to play outside
339. satisfaction of seeing a disaster of a kitchen transformed as I clean
340. old videos of Elijah, who has grown SO much already

341. Elijah's delight in watching said videos and giggling at himself
342. iMovie, the one (so far) redeeming thing about switching to Mac
343. friends I can be 100% honest with
344. challenging teaching at church yesterday
345. ending the long, full week with dinner at our pastor's home last night

346. patiently, gently teaching and leading me
347. loving me first, when I was still dead
348. circumcising my heart so that I could love Him

holy experience

Monday, March 01, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 150

Thanking God this week for...

292. new music that arrived on my porch this afternoon!
293. my handy husband, who's downstairs attempting to fix our washing machine
294. grace to get up with the alarm
295. the fresh start of Monday mornings
296. Steve's cooking skills, and the way he puts them to use every Sunday breakfast (and often in between!)

297. leftover oatmeal pancakes for breakfast today
298. two long phone calls with beloved friends this afternoon
299. a headset, so I could do dishes while I chatted
300. girls' night out on Saturday
301. fellowship and games on Friday

302. lunch with a friend on Thursday
303. Elijah's hysterical giggles, over the simplest things
304. hearing him say, "Jesus yoves me, this I know..."
305. singing "Splish Splash" with him during a Saturday morning bath
306. dinner + lunch leftovers at Qdoba for $1.98

307. a church that practices biblical church discipline
308. bringing that process to fruition with reconciliation/restoration
309. going to the far country to find His lost sheep
310. helpful customer service reps with our health insurance company
311. little white undershirts, just like Daddy's but in size 2T/3T (E has finally outgrown onesies :)

312. knowledge to understand the flaws in our food system and make better choices
313. being so much more patient with me than I can manage to be with Elijah
314. the helpful TULIP study Steve and I just finished
315. His power and willingness to change hearts like mine

holy experience