To The Weary Mama of Sick Kids

Hello mama of sick kids.

I woke up this morning weary after getting very little sleep. Our 8 month old has an ear infection and pneumonia. After trying to rock, cradle, nurse and soothe her to sleep for hours, I gave up around midnight. In all honesty, I was getting frustrated with the situation, and with her.

I mean, just GO TO SLEEP already.

But being frustrated was not good for either of us. What she needed was her mama to help her feel better and just be there. I needed to stop trying to force sleep and just accept we were doing the best we could. So, we just got up. At midnight.

We came downstairs where she was happy to just crawl around on the floor. With her content, I did prayed and my bible study homework (although my answers sure needed some help in the morning – a little jumbled and scribbled with bleary eyes). She finally went to sleep after 3 am and slept for a couple of hours. Then she was up for 2 more and back down just when the big kids were getting up.

Some days, there just isn’t enough rest to go around. Are you in this place too?

You are not alone. I am walking through this season right along with you. Every time one child gets sick, it sets off a chain reaction and the others get sick too. One by one. Sometimes it is hard to tell when the first sickness ended and the next one began.

These winter months can feel incredibly long.

And isolating.

I am sorry you’ve had to cancel play dates, volunteering, your own doctor appointments and so much more. I know you were counting on these activities to break up your week. I know you needed a change of pace from just being at home with the kids all day, every day. Missing these activities leaves a void for your children and for you. It is hard when you have little adult interaction for days (or weeks).

I also know how cancelling over and over can make you – a responsible and good friend – feel flaky. Parenting little ones sometimes makes you feel like you have no control over your schedule – because the sickness and these little people control the schedule instead.

Although you may feel that way, as I’ve experienced in my own life, your friends and family DO understand. Many experienced the same with their kids and are happy to extend grace and encouragement to you. They also appreciate you not sharing your illness when you do show up. Be honest and just reach out when you can. Then, extend grace when this happens the other way around.

Because we’re all in this thing together.

This morning I was greeted by a now-healthy child who brought the plague home in the first place. He was ready for breakfast and all I could do was muster a smile and grunt as I rolled out of bed.

So. Very. Tired.

I sent him downstairs so I could take a few minutes to myself before jumping into the day. My main thought was sleep. In moments like this, I must confess I may be worshiping sleep – as if I will never, ever get any more again. I speak from experience when I say being mad about sleep is not helpful. With three kids, a nap for me will not happen. So I decided to just pray for help to survive the day.

But as I prayed, I gained some perspective and realized sleep will come, as it did with all other sicknesses, and with the other two babies. Then the following came to mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

Today it will not be my power but God’s as He equips me to serve Him and my family well. For His power is perfect in my weakness. And it is certainly enough for my tiredness.

It is no coincidence that my daily devotion later this morning just ‘happened’ to be based on this same scripture. Apparently God really wanted me to hang onto this truth today. I’m so glad He did. It’s a lifeline I desperately need today (and every day).

Now I am passing it along to you.

What do you need an extra measure of today? (Besides the obvious need for sleep and healthy kids – lets just trust He will cover those in His perfect timing). Maybe you need more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control? I sure do. I believe He delights in being generous to us when we ask Him for more fruit of the Spirit.

Ask Him to shine through your tired eyes and work with those worn out arms and hands. And He will. Just surrender – you’re too tired to stifle His power, and that is to your benefit.

He is strong. He is capable. He is full of energy and joy when we feel depleted. And He has compassion on us and our children when we are struggling.

Tap into His strength and power today. He will carry all of you to easier, healthy days.

Hang in there mama, you’re not alone. These kids are worth it and you are exactly the mama they need today.

sick-baby

She may be sick, but she has amazing hair 🙂

Goodbye sickness, we’re over you. Go away.

 

Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – God is faithful, still.

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent: 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope | thisgratefulmama.com

Watching our third baby suffer in pain from silent reflux is not any easier than with the first or second child.

A tiny baby writhing in pain, arching their back and screaming, red-faced until they have no more breath, is gut-wrenching for even the seasoned reflux parent.

Silent reflux is still awful.

While this time around we were more proactive in asking for and accepting help, daily, we were in the trenches, trying to soothe our hurting child. And, as I shared before, this time around, we also struggled to help our older children cope.

It was not easy for our children to watch their baby sister suffer either.

Many days, I sat back and observed how our entire family was affected by our baby’s pain. I often wonder why? Now when I say why, I don’t mean the science behind it – I actually understand that quite well by now.

No, I mean WHY?

Why would God allow a baby to suffer this way?

Why our children?

Why is this so hard?

Why isn’t He answering my prayers NOW?

My emotional response is to ask why, neglecting to go any deeper. Asking why only allows me to dwell in a dark place of mourning and frustration. It is not wrong to come to this place on occasion, but staying there long does only damage. There is no hope there, and as your little one suffers, trust me, you need all the hope you can get.

Like many injustices and suffering, we may never know why on this side of heaven, so dwelling there is not a fruitful endeavor.

Instead of asking why, I should be asking where God is as we walk through it.

I don’t know why He allowed this again, but I do know where God IS.

Right here.

With me. With my husband. With our baby. With our older kids.

He has not looked away even for even one second, even thought there were times we took our eyes off of Him.

God is not surprised that our baby has reflux.

He made her. Carefully. Without mistake.

God is allowing reflux to happen for a reason, even though I want it to be over without all the suffering.

I also need to ask WHAT is God doing?  

What is He teaching our family?

What is He working out in me?

What is He equipping me to do?

For now, it is evident He is teaching each member of our family to be more dependent on Him. He is teaching my husband and I to trust Him with each child He has given us, and to parent with His strength.

And to trust His perfect timing.

I am grateful that we have already seen Him work in this situation twice before – and He has an excellent track record. God never changes. I am confident He will work here too. I have already seen how He has used these experiences already to encourage other reflux families, just like I have seen Him work for good in our family’s life because of our son’s food allergies.

I expect Him to show up big here too.

God walks through all suffering with us – comforting, supporting, equipping, and carrying us through the worst of circumstances. He gently, lovingly guides us freely offering peace, kindness, love and forgiveness along the way.

From day one.

I admit, I do not agree with our baby suffering, but God’s character is good, regardless of our circumstance.

I trust Him and believe He will use this suffering for good. The countless hours spent fervently praying over our babies for relief have not been spent in vain, although I do wish He would answer those prayers now.

He answers all prayers in His timing. And I do trust His perfect timing and care. And that His ways are higher than my ways.

He knows the entire plan for my life, my family’s life, and this sweet baby. He is working for good, in something that feels only bad. The Bible is clear that God works for the good in ALL things of those who love Him – And I believe Him. And so I cling to this truth.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

He has shown Himself faithful to me and to each of our children.

So, while we walk through this, we keep our eyes fixed on Him. We expectantly wait for Him to make His presence known.

And every day, He does.

Because He is faithful, still.

 

*I CANNOT wait to share how God has worked in this situation already – our daughter has improved SO much since I started writing this in July. In the craziness of those days, I never published this – so here it is (With a few more posts to come explaining new lessons learned about infant reflux the third time around, and just how God’s timing was perfect in this situation).

It is Well With My Soul.

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I woke up this morning surprised at the election results. I really had no idea who would win, and to be honest, I would have felt surprised no matter who won.

Regardless of how you voted yesterday or of how weary you feel after this political season – the wounds revealed and created during this election must be addressed. This election was heartbreakingly divisive. My heart hurts – although today the presidency has been won, the path to get here makes it feel like no one really won.

There is no easy fix – the pain in our nation simply cannot be erased just because the votes have been counted.

I think moving on is going to be difficult for many on both sides of the vote.  Throughout the election, my eyes were opened as the band-aids were ripped off old wounds and as new wounds formed and festered in the issues that divide us all.

I may not be able to fix all that is wrong in our nation, but beginning to move on starts with me. 

Today, I step back and focus on TRUTH.

We have much to be grateful for. Today, the TV will stay off and social media can take a hike. My house is full of the best medicine I know – piano hymns, a baby babbling, and a little girl playing dress up. I thank God I live in a democratic country, and have the privilege to vote that many fought and died for. My focus is on the people I love, and the God I serve. Why not take time to be grateful every day? It is November 9. Today is a great day to begin th HABIT of practicing gratitude with your family as you prepare for Thanksgiving. Start a family gratitude journal or set up a gratitude tree.

There are no perfect voters or candidates. See me. See you. See Donald. See Hillary. Need I say more? Each is imperfect, and we pull from an imperfect pool of candidates for leadership. We make decisions based on carefully calculated glimpses of who candidates are. Then our voting decisions are clouded by our own imperfection and sin. The only true judge is Jesus Christ who knows all things, and who examines the heart and mind. And to this measure, we all fall short.

The only future we know for certain is in Jesus Christ. Just as we cannot ever truly know the hearts of those we seek to elect, we cannot foresee the future repercussions of our choices. We choose the candidate who best suits us and our own vision for our future.  Only God, the Beginning and the End, can see all of eternity. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that eternity has already been won, even if it doesn’t detail everything that will happen between now than then. We don’t know exactly how, but we know the victor is Jesus Christ and He mercifully invites each of us to join Him.

No leader can stop the plan of the perfect God. He is sovereign over ALL creation, knows all things, and has already won eternity. No matter our circumstance, He has overcome the world. If you are disheartened today, step back and look UP.

O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 2 Chronicles 20:6.

One nation, under God. Many in our nation have tried to eliminate God from society. But the truth is, we are a Nation Under God whether we like it or not. He is still sovereign, even when we ignore, disrespect, or don’t believe it. Jesus is King, no matter who our president is. And He can and will use any leader to bring about His purposes on earth. Trying to stifle God’s presence has not done much to improve our nation has it? Instead we are more divided than ever. Instead of pushing God out, we need to cry out to Him and ask Him to heal our nation as only He can.

Our nation needs healing and love. Let it start with you as you love your friends, family and neighbors. Now is not the time for ‘I told you so’ or to tell others they got it wrong. What is done is done. Reserve judgement, offer encouragement, hope and practical help. Start listening more than talking. Freely extend forgiveness, love and respect. Since there are no perfect people, this means we need to give respect even if you don’t think a person has earned it – even those in leadership. Choose to treat all people as God’s beloved. Stop comparing – we are all in need of a savior. Here is a good place to start:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There is peace that transcends all understanding. The Bible has a lot to say about peace offered by Jesus Christ. Months ago in the mess of the election, I chose to fix my eyes on Jesus. It wasn’t easy keeping them locked there with everything going on around me – only by His strength. Last night, I went to bed early with the firm trust that no election result can pluck me from God’s good, sovereign hand. I slept well. Have you ever felt such peace? It is more valuable and more powerful than any assurance a world leader can offer.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer keeps us grounded in Him. We can not be in line with the will of God if we are not spending time in His presence in study and prayer. He will give you direction and where to go from here. Focusing on WHO God is and WHAT He has already done in a time that seems hopeless gives joy and peace that transcends comprehension. Spend time now in His presence and ask for His view of our situation and practical ways to extend love and grace to others.

In this day of seeming uncertainty, I pray we can claim peace, cling to the certainty of God’s promises and let the healing of our nation begin with us.

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

It is well with my soul. How is yours?

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. 10 Reasons I Like 34.

At 7 months pregnant with our third child, the belly began getting in the way of leaning over the counter to put on mascara. Pregnant problems serious.

The solution? A small stand mirror. For ten bucks, it was just a bonus that it had both 1x and 3x magnification.

Well, maybe not.

I’m not sure how many years have passed since I looked at my face under 3x magnification, but lets just say it is a little different (wrinkles).

AND, under that 3x magnification – I noticed something extra shiny in my hair. Curiosity got the best of me and soon I held my very first, 4 inch long, white-gray hair. And a second. A week later, my sister noticed a plethora of gray hairs when she was coloring and cutting my hair. Higher magnification sure does open our eyes to reality.

In addition to the wrinkles and gray hairs, last month marked another birthday.

So, this is where I confess my sadness about aging, right?  

Nope.

I can honestly say that the overnight increase from 33 to 34 doesn’t feel any different. Neither does the discovery of gray hair or wrinkles (although they certainly did surprise me – I am either very unobservant, or they came out of nowhere!).

Thankfully, God wisely created time go slow enough that we don’t feel age changes overnight. However, I am older, and now have gray hair and laugh lines prove it. This third pregnancy also confirms my age increase with more aches and pains, blood sugar issues, and weight that is harder to control. Oh, and those gray hairs – I’m fairly sure they are the direct result of pregnancy hormones since they are all exactly the same length.

But is all this evidence such a bad thing?

It may be taboo to ask a woman’s age, but some women don’t tell the truth anyway. Instead, many pick an age and claim it in perpetuity – forever 21…or 29…or 39…

By refusing to acknowledge and gracefully accept our age, we put way too much stock into those numbers. We allow a number to offend us while we wonder what others will think of it.

We cover up outward aging signs by dying our hair (my sister was adding highlights while discovering those grays, so I’m not judging!). And we use expensive skin creams to reduce and slow wrinkles in an attempt to hide outward signs of aging.

Some of us look older than we are. Some of us look younger than we are. And yet, ALL of us are exactly the age that we ARE. But so often, we want to ignore it. Pretend it isn’t happening.

But why?

The accumulation of days and years lived on this earth is unavoidable. Instead of avoiding the issue, or putting too much stock in it, I say we embrace it.

I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying my 30’s. I plan to love my 40’s too. Do you love your age?

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. 10 Reasons I Like 34.

  1. Children: These little people did not even exist in my 20’s. I love how they fill my days with new challenges and joy. They give me a greater understanding of how God loves ME, our children, and others. These years are BUSY, but I am in no rush to get past them.
  2. Body Image: Having babies has forever changed my perspective on body-image. This body has carried and fed 3 babies.This work does leave a mark. My body is different and won’t ever be the same again. But I am grateful God equipped my body to do such rewarding and beautiful things.
  3. Self Esteem: I spent much of my 20’s unsure of myself and uncomfortable in social situations. I was nervous in groups, especially groups of women. I would second-guess every word, if I was brave enough to speak up. Many (not all) of my relational insecurities have faded as I’ve begun to better understand how God sees me and how to humbly view myself.
  4. Wisdom: 30 is the new 20, right? I hope not – I was pretty dumb when I was 20. I was poor at managing friendships, wasteful with my time, had a narrow world-view and a much-too-small and low understanding of God and His character. The lessons learned in my 20’s are invaluable. I’m still makin mistakes but I’m learning more now that I can take into my 40s.
  5. Authentic Friendships: Gone are the days of trying to be someone I am not. And with less free time for friends and meaningful conversations, friendships have become very real. We don’t waste time with small talk. Conversations express what we’re struggling with, celebrating, and hoping for. And some of my deepest friendships are with family, which was not true in my 20’s. With age, friendships continue to become deeper, more authentic, and thankful.
  6. Priorities: With increased responsibility comes the need for prioritization. I’ve had to become more and more intentional with my time and energy. Our time is spent on what we need and want to do, and with the people we want to spend it with.
  7. Marriage: How I love looking back on what God has done in our marriage over the past 11 years. We are not the same and neither is our marriage – we’ve both grown up a lot. We know each other better and have acknowledged many of our own weaknesses. We’ve let go of most of those petty things that used to drive us crazy when we were first married. Disagreements and conflicts still happen but are resolved quicker, with fewer tears, and with more respect. We enjoy greater commitment, deeper love, sweeter moments, quick forgiveness, and the depth of trust and respect that can only develop over time. He’s still my favorite – more so each day.
  8. Peace: Much of my 20s was spent worrying – finances, work, relationships, current events…you name it. God has taught me some very important lessons about fear in my 30s, especially when it comes to our children. Although fear still rises sometimes, I am better equipped to turn it over to God and to rest and trust in His peace.
  9. Gratitude: I’ve focused more in recent years on gratitude. With each passing year, I am more grateful for the people in my life. I am much more aware of just how sinful I am and how much God has saved me from through Jesus’ work on the cross – gratitude is the natural response! There is less sense of entitlement, and less frustration with what I do not have. We have so much to be grateful for and I am hoping to only grow in the practice of gratitude.
  10. Faith: All our days and years tell our unique story – challenges, sadness, joy, pain, lessons learned, successes and failures. Combined, they make us who we are today. God has used our circumstances to refine us – sometimes by fire. I have found Him to be trustworthy and faithful. He has walked through each year with me and isn’t about to stop. He is the good, good Father. I see how His Spirit and the study of His word have changed me over the years and cling to the promise that He is not done with me yet. I’m not the same as I once was. And I don’t want to go back. Even if I could.

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. I like 34.

Surrender

Surrender is not a natural thing.

We want control. We want OUR plans. We want our way.

My way.

This week presented two ‘possibilities’ that I basically have no control over. Sure, we have choices to make, but overall, these things are out of my control.

These things surfaced at once, just as our family starts the fall schedule we’ve been counting on, and waiting for.

They threaten to alter MY plans.

While I’ve been careful to avoid rabbit trail daydreams during the day, last night I made the mistake of letting my mind wander…imagining crazy ‘what ifs’, and worst-case scenarios.

Then I made the even bigger mistake of investigating one of the ‘possibilities’ on Google. Are you cringing as you read this? Of COURSE that was not a good idea! Google may offer information, but it does not offer peace. Unfortunately, the new wealth of information and lack of peace resulted in tears and a somewhat one-sided conversation with at my husband.

All my angst came flowing out in one…BIG…Bleh. Not my best moment (sorry honey).

The silly thing is, none of these possibilities are a sure thing. We have decisions to make. Nothing is locked in stone, and we have choices. None of these things are emergencies.

But I do not have control over them. And I don’t like it.

This week I’ve been praying myself to sleep while pondering the attributes of God. Mercifully, He has granted sleep every night. What a faithful God we serve! There is much peace and rest in knowing and remembering WHO God IS and what He has DONE.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

God IS good.

He has a plan.

God loves families and made them. He loves unity. Whatever He is calling ONE of us to do, He is calling the rest of us to support and help in.

His will IS perfect, even when we don’t understand it.

He works in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him – such a profound promise!

With these truths, I was baffled as to why I was still lacking peace. What I’ve come to realize today is that I cannot find true peace until I fully surrender to His will for me and our family. While I’ve surrendered these things to God before, the possibility of change distracted me and I lost sight of His face.

Instead of focusing on God, I’ve been focused on what might be…I refuse to persist this way. I choose to seek His face regardless of our circumstance. And to step into a deeper faith as I trust Him with more and more of our present and future.

I may not be in control – but HE is.

These ‘possibilities’ must be intentionally surrendered to His will. It is time to quit dwelling in my own self-pity and worst-case daydreams and it is time to trust the God who is LORD over ALL. Over me. Over our family. Over our circumstances. Come what may…He is still LORD.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all. – “I Surrender All” Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896.

I surrender…even if the answer He chooses for our family isn’t what I want. Even if it doesn’t match MY plans. God does not make mistakes.

God HAS called me to do things for Him this fall. His peace and assurance as I have stepped into those roles is unmistakable. But He may be calling our family to stretch and change more than we ever imagined in the coming year.

If so, HE will guide us through it. HIS will is never accompanied by asking us to flail about on our own.

HE equips.

HE loves.

HE goes with us and before us.

Today I seek my peace in the capable arms of Jesus, instead of the bottomless pit of Google and daydreams.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. –Mathew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Surrender | thisgratefulmama.com

He is Risen! – But We Must Have Faith To Claim Victory In Our Everyday Lives

John 1633

This Easter, the best way to celebrate the gift of Jesus is to share what God has been doing in my life this past year. Last year, Easter exposed a void in my faith that I ddin’t even know was there. Deeply painful at the time and very personal even today, I wasn’t sure I would ever share this here – but the work of God and His victories in our lives is always worth sharing, even when it is beyond our comfort level. Sorry, this is going to be a long one…Here goes…

Last spring, the women’s bible study studied the book ‘Fearless” by Max Lucado. After the first session, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) told my husband, “The book seems good, but I really don’t struggle with fear”.

Somehow, I thought that learning what God’s word has to say about fear didn’t apply to me –  a grievous mistake. We completed one chapter of the book before Easter.

You know how some years Easter seems to creep up on you? I’ve had plenty of years when I’ve neglected time with the Lord and haven’t been in His Word as much as I should have been. But, last year, I had been studying the book of Matthew in BSF. For months, I studied Jesus’ life and ministry. Last year I felt ready for Easter with the study of Jesus’ life and death fresh in my mind. I anticipated an Easter with family, filled with gratitude, joy and peace.

I entered the weekend on a perceived spiritual high, having no idea what was about to hit me. I was woefully unprepared.

With family visiting, we were invited to join the rest of my husband’s family at his mom’s church on Easter morning. The idea of those we love, standing together and worshipping the Lord is a joyful one.

What could go wrong?

We walked into the church (which is not our home church), and joined our family. As we took our kids to children’s programming, I noticed tables with donuts and pastries, a treat for the special day.

It took just one child running by me, carrying a pastry, dropping bits of almond on the floor for paralyzing fear to seize me. Our son has a nut allergy, and I had forgotten the Epi-Pens and Benedryl at home – an hour away. It isn’t that an Epi-Pen means safety. It does not! But not having it with me was negligent. It showed my lack of preparation and foresight that I usually have before walking into any unknown environment with our son.

I was as unequipped with his medications and planning, as I was in my own faith on a spiritual level.

I dropped him off in his room and had a sigh of relief as the staff asked me if he had allergies before I could tell them – even with it on the tip of my tongue in my now hyper-aware state. Initially they weren’t planning to provide a snack, so I felt comfortable that the room would be safe, even if the hallways were littered with nut-contaminated (albeit TINY) crumbs. I joined our family in the sanctuary and waited for the service to begin.

I tried to keep it together, but felt rattled. Unsettled.

A woman from the childcare came by and showed me a dixie cup of cookies and asked if my son could eat them. I told her without a label to read the answer was no. They came back later and asked about graham crackers, but again, no label. My anxiety climbed in the very room designated for the worship of the all-powerful God.

As the service began, I sang but the words came out hollow. I prayed for peace and protection. But I was preoccupied, fearful and frustrated with my own poor planning the entire service. My prayers pleaded but were powerless as fear exposed my unbelief.

It felt like both the longest and shortest Easter service I’ve ever been in. I longed for it to be done so I could hold our son, but I longed for it to continue so I could find peace and worship Him fully.

When it ended, people all around me were joyful. I felt defeated.

And still very afraid. I could not shake it. I was so ashamed that my faith was so weak. I was discouraged that it took so little to leave me feeling exposed and that I could not find peace. This was beyond anything I had ever felt or encountered before. It hurt.

I ran to our son and found him safe and sound. He had a wonderful time and told me all about how Jesus had risen. We met our family in the hallway. Many of them had donuts. I kept him close to me. As my son looked around, he asked for a donut. Squatting down, I told him that we were going to grandma’s to eat and had plenty of treats. I showed him how his mom, dad and sister didn’t have a donut either.  But as one might expect, he got upset. Tears welled up in his big brown eyes.

He lashed out, pushing me back and crying out in frustration. He was right. This wasn’t fair at all.

Now choking back my own tears, I signaled my husband we were leaving and scooped our son up as he wailed and ran to the parking lot. By the time I reached the car, we were both in tears. And now the poor child thought he was in trouble for pushing me. We were a mess. There was no way I was going to discipline him for being frustrated because yet again, he could not eat what everyone else was having. I was frustrated too, but grateful we were in the car, away from the crumbs.

I told him I was sorry he couldn’t have the donut and just hugged him until everyone else came out. I was afraid to say anything more because I didn’t want him to sense my fear. As we drove to my mother-in-law’s house, I tried to shake it off. I didn’t want to talk about being afraid in front of our son, so I didn’t talk to my husband about it.

The fear and startling lack of peace remained.  All day. As our children delighted in their lovingly and carefully prepared nut-free Easter eggs and baskets, as we laughed and talked, and as we celebrated the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the sacrifice He made to save us from our sins.

Who would expect something as simple as a donut could bring me to my knees, shaking in fear on Easter Sunday? Certainly not me – I was on a spiritual high, remember?

Easter. The day that highlights the POWER of God and the sacrifice, love, grace and mercy of a willing savior. I was there to worship Jesus, who chose to come to earth, humbled in a human body, choosing to serve and forgive His own creation, even as they rejected Him – A creation that should have known He was their savior – A creation that scorned Him, plotted against Him, and ultimately killed Him although He had never sinned. Not once.

He chose to do it, and in doing so, He took upon Himself, not only my sins and but your sins if you believe, confess and call on His name. He died, willingly, not using His power to stop the pain, suffering, and injustice. Instead, He cried out asking the Father to forgive the very men who were crucifying Him. Then, of His own power, He died, and rose again 3 days later, conquering death and sin. He saved me. He chose me. Jesus is now in heaven, alive, mediating on my behalf, and God the Father now sees me through the lens of Jesus’ blood. Forgiven. Sinless. Holy.

If Jesus Christ is all this…how could I not believe that He could protect our son, whom HE created and loves, from a peanut?

As I wallowed in fear and sadness, Satan was momentarily victorious in my life on a day when I should have been joyously celebrating the victory of Jesus Christ. What more could Satan want than to steal the praise of God as I surrendered to fear? In doing so, I made the day about my own fear and lack of trust. A starling defeat in a season when I had been growing spiritually.

In the days that followed I felt shell-shocked. I downplayed my fear when I mentioned it my husband before bed that night, and then he left on a business trip in the morning. I couldn’t figure out why the fear remained and was so powerful. I decided not talking about it would make it go away.

I was wrong. Once you’ve experienced paralyzing fear, it is far too easy to let your mind wander to what could have happened. It is far too easy to let your mind dwell in dark places that only heighten the intensity of fear and fuel it with more power. I tried to ignore it, but instead it consumed my thoughts, running rampant.

Looking back, the entire situation caught me off guard for a few reasons. First, I had not yet experienced seizing fear about our son’s peanut allergy, even when he was diagnosed two years before. Why? I controlled his environment and food. I had never really had to trust Him because I was trusting myself. Second, my lack of preparation forced me to see my lack of control over our son’s safety. I never forget the Epi-Pen! Third, I tried to pretend I wasn’t afraid because I knew in my head I should trust God, but lacked the perspective and trust to surrender my son’s life.

While doing all I can to keep him safe is absolutely my job, there is simply no way I can control everything. Practically, I should have simply had him sit with us in church, because that would have been the safe and wise choice. And my lack of preparation was a problem I do not plan to repeat. But this was much more than just forgetting the Epi-Pen and being surprised by a donut. There was a much deeper heart issue. I had been so prepared up until that point that I had a false sense of security. By feeling like I had everything under my control, I didn’t have to face reality. I had never surrendered to or even considered the fact that I don’t have this all buttoned up. I never asked myself if I trusted God in this area.

Not having control and ability to keep our son safe was a new feeling – one I still don’t like. But it is the reality all parents face. We will all face fears; of allergies, strangers, accidents, bullies, and choices they will make. We will face the reality that we cannot possibly control everything in our children’s lives as they grow up. Whether we want to or not.

In the middle of the night, my husband out of town, I found myself seized by fear, and crying. Not just weeping, but I think I’ve heard it termed –ugly crying. That following Tuesday, still struggling, I shared with our bible study what had happened. In a rare show of public emotion, I not only teared up, but I sobbed. I choked on my words.  Women dug in their purses and handed me tissues, squeezed my shoulders and gave hugs. They offering wise and Godly advice. They prayed for me. I left encouraged instead of embarassed. They blessed my socks off

They changed my thinking by pointing me to a powerful God who can conquer all of my fears for me if I give surrender to Him and trust that He has them under control. This time, with the truth spilled and prayers of wise Godly women spoken on my behalf, when I then asked God to give me peace, I felt it. Tangible. Powerful. Real.

It wasn’t that the peace wasn’t available on Easter Sunday. It was. But I trusted what my eyes saw – nut covered pastry crumbs – and not what my faith and the Holy Spirit were shouting within me. I learned a very powerful lesson. Fear is a not to be underestimated. It cannot be ignored. It has to be addressed. It cannot be stuffed, or we will give it reign in our life. Delaying the admission of my fear was wrong, and at my detriment.

Fear must be named and brought into the light.

I know now that despite being deep in the study of God’s word, I had neglected to ask God what I was holding back. Self-reliance and thinking we are in control of anything is nothing but pride in disguise. It is dangerous. God was gracious to me by letting me experience the fear 2 years before I have to send our son to Kindergarten. Now I have time to learn to trust God all-the-more before that day. And as I gradually have to surrender my control of our son’s life as he grows up, I need to trust MORE and MORE in God’s control and sovereignty.

I still struggle with fear. As I’ve shared before, it rises often, and has surprised me time and time again this past year. In fact, I have struggled with fear this past year more than ever in my life. The situations I cannot control are not going anywhere and are increasing in frequency. They will continue without ceasing, until both of our children are adults and on their own.

But I refuse to give fear victory in my life. With every test of fear, with every prayer for peace and with every moment I surrender fear to God, the more powerful the light of Jesus shines and the less I dwell in the stifling darkness and oppression of fear. I am learning to turn to God rather than to allow rabbit trails of fearful daydreams. The greatest thing I have to report today is that I have consistently seen victory in the area of fear on a daily basis. It is not easy. Fear for me is an ongoing struggle but with daily struggle comes the opportunity for daily victory. And let me be clear – without the power of Jesus in my life, I am helpless against this fear. There is no victory without Him for me.

As I prepare for Easter this year, I look at Jesus’ victory over sin and death a little differently. Same Jesus. Same sacrifice. But I feel more victory in my life. I see how He has worked in me this past year to deepen my faith, to rely less on my own strength, and to strengthen and prepare me for new challenges. I have felt the peace and comfort that can only come from surrendering to His will and trusting that He will be with us. I know to my bones that no matter what I cannot control, He will still be God, He will still be good, and He IS faithful. I cannot hold onto anything too tight – even our children. I cling to the truth that they were HIS even before they were mine.  He loves them even more than I do.

This past year I have been given tangible evidence that He longs to carry our burdens, knowing I am ill-equipped to carry my own. He has shown me how thinking I don’t struggle with fear is an open door to let it consume me. I must be prepared and be willing to ask myself where I have not surrendered to God because I am controlling things and trusting myself instead of HIM. I find myself grateful for the struggle because the victory is so sweet. This fear is no joke. It rises up and it when it was exposed it felt like a wound ripped open that might never heal. But slowly, I’ve been equipped and althogh it rises up, the fear loses it’s power as I claim Jesus’ victory and promises in my life. I am grateful that instead of letting me dwell in fear, He redeems it and makes me stronger for the next time. At the cross, we become heirs to peace, and heirs to His victory.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV)

He is risen! But we must walk in faith to share in His victory and we must let Him be God.

May He bless you richly as you consider His sacrifice this holy week.

Happy Easter.

I am THAT Allergy Mama: Something Good HAS To Come From All Of This {6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy}

There Must Be Good That Comes From This: Here are 6 life-skills our kids can develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Something good HAS to come from all of this..6 life-skills our kids CAN develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Yes, calling out ‘benefits’ of food allergies may be putting on rose-colored glasses. But I am a mama who needs to see that there is good that comes from such strenuous effort and from these challenging experiences. I need to know that there are things I can do to help my child thrive in the midst of something very serious and not-so-fun.

Food allergies can be incredibly scary for parents and children who live with the reality that food can cause harm. In no way by writing this, am I saying that food allergies are desirable; all of us would rather not deal with them and put our Epi-Pens prescriptions to rest. But what I AM saying is this: as parents of children with food allergies, we are charged to not only teach our children to navigate food safely, but to make the most of the experiences they encounter. And yes, this is also true of parents whose children do not have food allergies; we need to make the most of WHATEVER experiences they have.

What does that mean for us? It means we praise and encourage skills and character traits that are both required for safety and developed as a result of having a food allergy. All those lessons in label reading, asking questions and in developing personal discipline and responsibility can be an opportunity for you, your child, and family. Despite our fears, and the harsh reality when a reaction occurs, something good can and will come of all of this, if we are committed to it.

The key word here is can. While a select few children will harness these skills on their own, most need our help. We help them apply their food allergy skills to other areas of life. Instead of raising children who view their allergy as a hindrance, we can help them see it as an experience that taught them life lessons and skills that they will actually use as adultsAs we teach the skills they NEED to keep themselves safe, we can champion their efforts, recognize their growing independence, and encourage their empathy for others.

But before listing the skills and character traits we can encourage, we must first ask ourselves…How do I view my child’s allergy? What do I convey to them? Do my attitudes, words and actions reflect that I am annoyed with it, frustrated by it, or hindered by it? They are looking to US to see how to act. Our attitudes must show that we will make the most of this. We must make it our goal to equip, empower and trust these little ones…first with a little, and step by step, we will have to trust them a LOT….they won’t be in our care 24/7 for very long. It starts with US.

It is my goal to make sure our child knows I am in their corner. That I am doing what I NEED to be doing to keep them safe, and at the same time, they need to do the same. There are times when a feeling is hurt, a food can’t be eaten, a child is excluded, or a reaction happens and all they need is someone to grieve with and to be comforted by. I’m there. But otherwise, I want to be sure they know to be proactive and take necessary precautions, but to also ENJOY life. I want them to tangibly know what they are learning from this, and that they will succeed in other areas because of what they’ve learned and endured.

6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

1. Food Awareness and Healthy Choices

In a society filled with wide availability of sugar, fat, and sodium packed foods, there is value in knowing that what we put into our body MATTERS. Children with food allergies and their parents KNOW this on a whole new level. Why not use this food-awareness as a stimulus for life-long healthy eating habits? With intentional education from us, these safe, and healthy food habits will promote a lifetime of food choices for our whole family. Here are a few of the lessons we intend to pass on to our children (allergic or not):

  • Label Reading Fosters Wise Decision-Making: In general, the more food is processed, the more likely it can be cross contaminated with a food allergen. AND the more likely it is loaded with less-than-healthy additives. Diligence is key and can be taught NOW. Teaching that we read labels not only to check for an allergen, but also to see if it is healthy. You know, you are what you eat – It may not be scientifically proven, but I am convinced that if you eat enough processed, high sodium food, that you can pickle your body from the inside out! Food allergy kids and parents have to read the label anyway, so why not read it together and make wise decisions together?
  • Whole Foods are Safer and Healthier: Even with diligent label reading, we all know from recalls that the label isn’t always right. WHOLE, RAW fruits and vegetables and plain, unflavored meats are safest. Not only is the raw food less likely to be contaminated, but is packed with natural nutrients. They are also free from strange chemicals with complex names that I used to use for science experiments in the genetics lab.
  • Cooking at Home Promotes a Love To Cook:  Watching and helping a parent cook creates lasting memories and imparts life-long skills. Sure, it takes longer to let a 4-year-old help, but it is worth it. I hope his future wife appreciates that he will know how to cook before he leaves his stay in this house.
  • Knowledge is Powerful: A child with a food allergy and their siblings simply HAVE  to know more about food than others.  It goes with the territory; they know about cross contamination, manufacturing, and how reactions happen. It is my hope that knowledge about how allergies work will someday generate curiosity about science and drive our children to search for their own answers.
  • Passing on Dessert is a Good Idea: As adults, we all know that passing on dessert is a good skill. In an allergy household, pre-made desserts can be particularly difficult to find allergen-free, so food allergies often make baked goods a rare treat. Instead, fruit at the end of our meal has become our go-to dessert; grapes, blueberries, and strawberries are the coveted ‘treats’. These kids won’t expect a baked or creamy treat after every meal because most have not grown up that way.

2. Empathy

Any child who has sat alone at a nut-free table, been excluded from an activity or treat, or had an allergic reaction knows how important it is to have the support of others. Or, even better, someone to step into it with you and pass on dessert WITH you. When they see others going through their own struggles (food or otherwise), it is my hope that they will be better equipped to come alongside others and meet them where they’re at.

As parents, we can guide and encourage our children to reflect on how they have felt in similar situations. We can teach them how to ask questions to understand what others are going through, and how to stand by them and lift them up. It excites me how this will affect them long-term. These kids are going to be some of the most kind and loyal friends out there.

3. Appreciation

Many of us take the freedom we (and our kids) have to eat whatever we want, for granted. Our family never will again. We feel the occasional pang of jealousy or disappointment when a nutty treat is being passed around. And frankly, it will hurt when we see our child hurt. But we will also be proud when he makes the right choice. But, because of those moments, we have learned that where disappointment and self-control is great, so is delight, surprise, and gratefulness when it goes the other way.

When someone makes a special effort to buy or make a dessert my son can eat, it brings delight; he knows it is really special.  We recently attended a birthday party where a parent did her own research and found a store that will sterilize all their equipment to make nut-safe cupcakes (you know who you are-THANK YOU isn’t enough). When that nut-free cupcake was placed in front of my son, he looked at me and said, “But mama, doesn’t it have nuts?”.  I was first proud that he asked first, on his own, and then it was my pleasure to explain that his friend’s mom had gone out of her way to make sure he could have one. His surprise was evident and the look on his face was so sweet.

To say he was grateful is an understatement. He will always know it is a privilege when someone makes a special effort on his behalf. These lessons foster a sense of gratitude that only experience can teach.

4. Self-Advocacy

I recently read this article, which states that children may develop helplessness from their food allergy experience. Helplessness? Sigh. Initially, I was offended. But as I read the whole article, I saw how my PARENTING will largely decide whether this is true. Fear and the knowledge of the danger in food makes it hard for me NOT to control every aspect of their food and environment. But while we need to do our part to keep them safe (and do it WELL), we also need to make sure they are learning to do the same on their own. Whether they’re only 2, or 3, or 4, or…

The article did change my thinking and motivate me. Instead of asking all the questions for my son, we need to help my son learn to ask questions, NOW…This doesn’t mean that we don’t keep asking those food allergy 20-questions before we get together. These questions still need to be asked and I will continue to advocate for my child! But it DOES mean that we need to take the time to help our child learn WHAT to ask, WHEN to ask (always), WHY it is important, and HOW (respectfully, kindly) to ask. In essence, to practice self-advocacy.  As they learn this skill, it will be our job to show them how to use it in others areas of life, and on behalf of others.

5. Real Faith

There are just some things that parents can’t provide on a life-changing, fulfilling level; we are limited, but God is not. When a child finally understands the gravity of what a life-threatening food allergy means, they will need all the hope, comfort and faith they can get. This can only come from a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ our savior.

Tell them when you pray for them; they should know the prayers being said on their behalf and understand that their parents are putting their trust in the Lord’s protection. As they get older and express their own fears and frustrations, it will be time to share some of your own and to show them how you have worked through them with the Lord’s help. Being honest about our struggles and how the Lord helps us will be a powerful example for them to emulate. We will teach our son how we know that no matter what happens, the Lord will be with us ALL as we walk through it.

When our children grapple with their own fear and discouragement (allergy related or not), we WILL turn their faces towards the One and Only God. We will teach them verses about worry, God’s protection and our reliance on Him to meet our needs. We will demonstrate what faith looks like; how we need to do OUR part (wise choices, proactive planning, and carry medications), and then, when we can do no more, how we rely on God to do HIS part.

I can’t think of any better skill to equip them with.

 6. Accountability and Responsibility

A child with a food allergy is responsible for a LOT, at a young age. They need to be aware of their surroundings, what is in EVERY bit of food or beverage they consume, and are responsible for expensive medications that they will need to know how to self-administer. It is a lot on their plate. They need our encouragement, guidance, and TRUST. They need us to equip them as best we can, making sure they understand consequences, and then, we need to pray for them, and let them go….to school, to a friend’s house, to an activity…I feel like this goes without saying, but, when they return from…[insert activity]….we need to hold them accountable. We will ask questions about how they made decisions and we will praise their efforts to be safe, correcting when necessary.

When we make it to the Epi-Pen expiration date and not only has it not been needed, but they haven’t lost it, froze it, or heated it up…that is worth celebrating. When parents, teachers, or their friends mention how our children are being diligent when we’re not there, we need to tell them how proud that makes us.

These are 6 skills, but there are plenty more. Our experiences can make or break us. Lets make sure our children’s allergy experiences (good and bad) are a starting point for something wonderful.  There is no doubt that these lessons will take time and effort. It will often be faster to just do it for them. But, bear with it. The long-term outcome will pay dividends; not only will they be safe, but will excel in many areas as a result.

Our kids are pretty amazing people, whether they have allergies or not. All of these skills (and more) can be learned by any child, but our food-allergic children and their siblings have experiences that require them.

Oh, they are going to be some neat kids…And I can’t wait to see them as adults.