Infant ‘Silent’ Reflux is NOT Silent: 5 Survival Tips for Parents

silent-reflux-is-not-silent

1. MAKE Time For Sleep

Duh-this may seem like a no-brainer if you haven’t had a hurting baby. But our baby hurt, and could not sleep. We rarely slept more than 4 hours per night, and those were non-consecutive 40 minute spurts. Sleep broken up like that is not restorative. As days months pass, the need for any solid chunk of sleep becomes desperate.

Here are a few ideas to schedule sleep:

  • Trade off – one parent goes to bed early while the other takes the evening shift. Take turns during the week.
    • If your child cries most of the night, use a loud fan, ear plugs or noise machine to block the noise so you CAN sleep while the other parent is awake.
  • If you are a working parent, allow yourself one day a week to go home and sleep for an hour or two before picking your child up from daycare.
    • If daycare isn’t a possible outlet for you, ask a trusted family member or friend to come hold the baby while you sleep. And when they come, don’t do anything else. Just sleep.
  • Do whatever it takes to help your child sleep – I held our son on my chest in a big chair with pillows propping my arms up so he couldn’t fall for his first 3 months of ‘sleep’.

2. See a specialist

No matter how good your pediatrician is, see a specialist. A pediatric Gastroenterologist (GI) just knows more because of their specialized training. They see more cases of severe reflux than a pediatrician and have resources and ideas even the best pediatrician may not.

3. Be Honest and Transparent

While no one wants to complain about their child, it is not complaining to admit or explain what is really going on. Take time to explain why you can’t volunteer, go to an event, or why you might be late or need to leave early. Being open and honest will help others understand, give grace, and even offer to help. People who don’t know you need help will not offer to help.

Another reason to be open and honest is that sharing your experience will add a new level of authenticity and trust in your relationships. You may be surprised which relationships thrive in this time and which ones do not – true friendships are forged in fire. These are the people who walk through struggles with you. Life isn’t perfect and we shouldn’t pretend it is – don’t be afraid to share the hard stuff.

4. Seek Experienced Reflux Parents

In addition to a great pediatrician and GI specialist, others have been in these trenches before you. They have spent their days and nights loving and doing everything they can to not only soothe their child, but also to learn how to do it better. As a mom who has gone through what you are going through now three times – I know the advice and encouragement from seasoned veterans is invaluable. If you don’t know any such moms, here’s a few resources that may help:

5. Pray and Then Pray Some More

In the middle of the night, all day long, when your ears, back and arms hurt from rocking and soothing the screaming, prayer is your lifeline to the God of all creation. He made you, your baby, and He knows exactly how hard this is for all of you.

He listens, He answers, and He equips. Reach out to Him for strength, comfort, and peace.

I recently studied John 11 and was so moved by Jesus’ compassion and how deeply troubled He was over the death of Lazarus. He comforted Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha and wept beside Lazarus’ grave. Even though death had to happen for Him to show His power over death as He raised Lazarus from the grave, He took NO joy in seeing the sorrow of those He loved. And, He felt His own sorrow over the situation. Cry out to Him, He hears you. He is your help and holds you both in His good, sovereign hands when there is simply nothing else you can do for your child.

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)

Infant 'Silent' Reflux Is NOT Silent - 5 Survival Tips for Parents | thisgratefulmama.com Infant 'Silent' Reflux Is NOT Silent | thisgratefulmama.com

Hello 2017. God is Good, All The Time.

Two weeks ago, if you asked me what I planned to write in the first blog post of 2017, this was not it. What I planned, was to summarize 2016 and about hopes, dreams and goals for 2017.

But that is not what I’m writing today.

No, I want to just talk about the past two, life-changing weeks. One week in 2016, one in 2017.

During the last week of 2016, my husband’s beloved grandma unexpectedly began her hospice journey following a heart attack. She later died on New Year’s Eve and began 2017  and the rest of eternity in the arms of her loving savior, Jesus Christ.

Another day I’d like to write a post honoring this special woman but I haven’t gathered my thoughts coherently to do so today. What I do want to say today is this – God was ever-present in her hospice room, cradling grandma in His good, sovereign hands. He was present in the condolences, encouragement, prayers and help of family and friends who supported our family. God was present and tangible as my mother-in-law and her sisters walked through the process of saying goodbye to their mom. Without question, they relied on God’s strength to support and love their parents well.

I saw God’s goodness in action as I watched my husband try to balance being a dad, husband, son, uncle, brother, nephew and grandson as he grieved and ran back and forth between the airport, home, and hospital. He was able to be present in each relationship and to rely on God’s strength to be ‘all things’ to each of us. I saw God as my husband grieved, loved and supported others while remaining steady, eyes fixed on Jesus.

Perhaps most remarkably, God was powerfully present in my husband’s grandpa who freely and deeply grieved as he said goodbye to his bride of 69 years. Despite deep pain and sadness, he was grateful and overjoyed by each visitor and family member who came to the hospital. He took time to pray for us as we dealt with a separate issue in the middle of his own grieving. He modeled beautifully what it looks like to truly walk with Jesus – to rely on His strength, to have deep-rooted joy in salvation, and to have a personal, real relationship with Him.

Watching faith of those in this family in a painful circumstance as they experienced the comfort and peace of Jesus personally testified to the compassion, faithfulness and goodness of the God we serve. And in my own life, I felt the prayers and support of many and His energy as I supported the family as best I could – in prayer, by taking care of our kids so my husband could be fully present for his family, and making our home available and comfortable to the influx of family from out-of-town.

One of the greatest joys of celebrating the life of a loved one is that family comes together, from all over. We had the joy of having our niece and her husband stay with us for almost a week, and our nephew, my sister and brother-in-law stay some as well. We spent New Year’s Eve playing games and enjoying quality time with family we would not have seen otherwise. The time spent with family during this process has been a priceless gift as relationships are deepened and strengthened in mourning together and in lifting each other up.

On New Year’s Day, the entire family went to accompany and support grandpa at his church. We saw his church family greet him, offering condolences and sharing in tears. The body of Christ is such a gift. As the service began, the family filled several rows in the front and began singing O Come All Ye Faithful.

As our 3-year-old daughter joined in and I listened to her and our family, worshiping in the midst of mourning, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of joy through sorrow. My eyes were glistening with tears as we sang, experiencing the welcome relief of worship and just being in the presence of God.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Just as we were finishing the final verse, we heard a loud noise and turned. The beautiful moment of worship was cut short. The noise was a woman collapsing in one of the back rows. 911 was called and she later passed away in the church sanctuary.

We took our kids out to the lobby as many rushed to assist her. Members of our family responded and administered CPR until the EMTs arrived. The pastor who had loved our family well during the previous week began to comfort and support a member of his congregation as she passed away, and then her family as they arrived to begin their grieving. God’s love and strength were clearly lived out in the pastor, yet again.

While our children were too young to fully comprehend the situation in church, our nieces and nephews are older and did understand. I spent much of the day praying for them and all involved. The day was heavy. This seemed to just pile mourning upon mourning and I left feeling numb. After all our family had been through, this seemed like a kick in the teeth for all for this happen on the day after grandma died, in her church, and when we’d come together in worship, seeking the solace and comfort of God.

And yet, the unmistakable solace and comfort of God were there. God’s presence was unmistakable and thick. Literally, God and the comfort of being together as family was all we could cling to at this point. The church was singing, ‘O Come let us adore Him’ just before she passed away – I believe that as a follower of Jesus she woke in His presence where she will praise and adore Him forevermore.

We returned home and had a ‘normal’ relaxing day running errands, watching football and spending time together as family, while trying to process everything that had happened. The next day was Monday and the plan was to attend grandma’s visitation in the afternoon and have a big family pizza dinner at grandpa’s house before the funeral on Tuesday.

In the morning, I was on my way back from buying mixes to make brownies to serve at the funeral when I walked in the door to our son holding my cell phone.

Mom, your phone is ringing.’

It was my sister, I picked it up and prepared myself to catch up. Instead, what I heard stoppped me in my tracks.

‘Dad is having a heart attack. They are transporting him to St. Josephs now.’

All I could muster was to say that I was coming, NOW.

The next moments are a blur – yelling to my husband what was happening and running out the door. I left so fast, I left my husband behind with no car. He called me as I left our neighborhood, right about the moment when I realized I shouldn’t be driving myself. I turned around and he took over driving as I called and texted dear friends who began praying. SO MANY prayed. THANK YOU.

Because of the circumstances with grandma, our niece and her husband were at our house and stayed with our kids. We never have people at our house. And my husband isn’t usually home but since it was a holiday, he was. In fact, it was why my dad was with my mom when it happened, and why my each of my siblings were with their significant others and no one was alone. We were so blessed to know the kids were in such loving and capable hands.  God’s timing is always perfect. There is never a good time for a crisis, but He always provides.

My husband and I held hands and prayed in the car as I choked back tears of emotion I just couldn’t keep in.

I was scared.

But, oh, how we felt those prayers. Still scared, but trusting God would walk us all through whatever may come, we made our way to the hospital, joining my siblings and my mom. And, oh, how I saw the presence of God in my mom as she drove herself to the hospital and remained calm and focused on God as we waited.

Waiting is not fun. It was over 45 minutes before we heard anything from anyone about how my dad was doing. To make a long story short(er), my dad had a minor heart attack for an unknown reason. We praise the God who hears our prayers that my dad’s heart did not suffer damage and he is doing well.  Now we just need to move forward trusting the God who has already protected my dad to protect him going forward.

Assured he was stable and my sister and brother staying with my mom the next day, my husband and I went to the funeral for his grandma. A funeral for a believer in Christ is full of mourning and sorrow but also full of hope, celebration and joy of a life well-lived for Jesus. Family members participated by singing, reading and speaking of her impact on their lives and of her faith. It was one of the most beautiful and meaningful funerals I have attended and I left feeling sad and a deep sense of loss, but also filled with peace.

A friend who prayed for my dad volunteered to watch our kids. She showed up promptly at 8am and stayed not only during the funeral, but also all afternoon so my husband and I could return to the hospital. It was a long, but good day. This friend served our family and loved us well. We are so grateful and recognize the provision of God through her. We were able to be fully present for all in our family who needed us, we were able to grieve without being brave for our kids, and our kids were poured into by her.

My dad is home and recovering well. Grandma is being missed but in light of the truth that she lives in eternity. Our out-of-town family has returned home. I still cannot believe all that happened in just under 2 weeks. We are all trying to get some rest and I am spending today reflecting on what has transpired.

I pray the rest of this year is filled with life and is less eventful than it has begun. But, I can tell you with confidence that the past two weeks have deepened my faith, my trust and my reliance on God. He showed up in mighty ways and these are just the tip of those ways that I could put into words. In truth, it’s all much deeper than all this.

I’ll leave you with this – God is good, all the time.

 

The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!

Cook

 Events (Twin Cities)

Do

  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn

Make

Go (Minnesota)

The ‘A’-Word

Sitting in the doctor’s office for the third time this month with a coughing, wheezing child, again, yet another doctor uttered the dreaded ‘A’-word (don’t worry, you won’t find profanity here – this is a more difficult word for this mama to stomach).

Asthma.

With every mention, the likelihood of asthma becoming our reality increases.

We already deal with that other ‘A’-word (allergy) and all the paperwork, medications, food precautions and disappointments that come with it. Our son handles it well but I have been hoping and praying against another health issue requiring a medical action plan.

Each wheezing trip to the doctor yields increased medication and building concern over an escalating problem we do not yet have under control. A problem none of us fully comprehend.

The word ‘asthma’ initially triggered a knee-jerk parental response filled with worry, emotion, and denial. Why? Perhaps because naming it means acknowledging a real problem that may be here to stay. Or because I long for him to be healthy and care-free. We are already equipped with an Epi-Pen, Benadryl and managing safety of every single bite…isn’t that enough for one little person (and his mama) to handle?

I just don’t want him to have asthma. I want him to run, play and climb and do not want good activities and exercise to trigger wheezing.

I just don’t want him to need an inhaler or nebulizer. And I certainly abhor the thought of him ever having a full-blown asthma attack (on a side note – if your doctor mentions asthma, DO NOT immediately google ‘asthma attack’ YouTube videos. Trust me, you need to be prepared to watch that. Scary stuff).

Like allergies, asthma is simply out of my control. I can’t stop it. It can be managed, but it is hard to stomach that I can’t fix it. Doesn’t every mama want to just fix it? Sigh. I hate feeling so helpless!

But my helplessness forces me to drop to my knees in prayer for healing, answers and a solution. It reminds me that my God is faithful – but His ways do not always conform to my plans.

Asthma is not my plan. But weeks of prayer have revealed that asthma may be in God’s plan for our son. I don’t know why, but trust that God will walk with (or carry) us.

Like it or not, asthma is an answer. Treating asthma is a solution – just not the one I wanted.

I can already see good from ‘asthma’ on his medical chart. We already see a more streamlined response at the doctor. His oxygen levels are now assessed right away. As long as within acceptable values, we wait in line like everyone else. If in danger, I have no doubt he will be treated immediately. The doctors ask us pointed questions, address our questions thoroughly, and explain next steps. They gave a ‘tentative’ asthma action plan so we can be proactive until we see the specialist in June. With each appointment, I arrive defeated but leave better equipped and more informed. I am increasingly grateful for the team of professionals helping him be as healthy as possible.

I have proudly watched this brave, grateful child thrive as his character is strengthened even as he gasps for air.

As he sits, coughing excessively into the nebulizer mask, the resilience and hope in his eyes literally steals my breath. He doesn’t hear the word ‘asthma’ and shrink back. He listens, wanting to know more. I’m amazed at how much he understands!

DSC_0840 (2)

The word asthma means nothing to him, except that it potentially gives his coughing a name – a name that means a plan, treatment and a chance to feel better. Our little man is a trooper. He hopes and trusts without reservation and does not dwell in useless self-pity.

He rarely protests his two (now) three treatments of asthma maintenance medication even though he has to stop playing and sit still with an uncomfortable mask on his face for 30 minutes. He knows when he needs albuterol and asks for it before I can offer. His attitude teaches his mama that the mere word, ‘asthma’, isn’t all-powerful or all-condemning.

So wise at just four and a half.

I’ve given this word far too much credit. We are already dealing with the symptoms, no matter what we call it. We were helpless as he coughed so hard he vomited, only to continue without relief. Now, we use the nebulizer and gratefully pray over him as we he peacefully falls back asleep. We are increasingly educated to know when he needs more help.

I may not want him to need the nebulizer, but I am grateful for it. We are no longer fighting a nameless issue without proper tools. 

Even a troubling diagnosis is far better than being ill-equipped.

Waiting for the specialist, I am increasingly prepared for the outcome. Regardless of whether his chart says ‘asthma’ or not, we will continue to receive invaluable advice, instructions and tools so he can feel his best.

I still do not want him to have asthma, but I see how diagnosis ensures streamlined, proper care. I appreciate how an asthma plan can help us do what we can to prevent an asthma attack and treat symptoms. I recognize how this struggle is increasing my trust and dependence on God as I surrender, admitting it is out of my hands. I know my peace (or lack thereof) will teach our son more about what walking with God is really about than any Sunday School lesson. I will choose to focus on God instead of some medical term.

Most importantly, I see how God is lovingly building our son’s character with perseverance, hope, gratitude, and responsibility. I believe God will use this struggle for good (He already is).

I’m not ready to embrace it, but it might be time to quit treating a mere word as my enemy and call it what this probably is…

Asthma.

Here we (probably) go.

Fear Rises…

Fear

On November 26, 2014, a young man named Chandler Swink died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. I wrote this article that day. I waited to post this because I didn’t feel right discussing my fears as if they were as important as this man’s death. They aren’t; my fears are nothing in comparison to what he, his family and friends have gone through, and what so many other families have gone through when a loved one is lost due to a food allergy.   

To the family of Chandler Swink: My heart is broken over your loss. I have thought of and prayed for you often since I read your story and will continue to do so. I am praying for your comfort, for you to find peace, and that God and your loved ones will carry you through the difficult days and years to come.  I pray that the memories of your son will be vivid and will bring you joy and solace through your pain. I thank you for speaking out about your family’s experience with food allergies and for advocating for other children. 

From November 26, 2014.

Today was just a normal day. I woke up and spent time reading my bible, praying and journaling in the warmth of my bed. I felt great.

A quick shower, and the kids were awake. I spent some time snuggling with my 4-year-old, talking about what we to do today, and we prayed to start our day. By now, we could hear my daughter squealing and playing in her room. We cracked the door open and peaked in to find her jumping up and down in her crib, giggling as we entered. As always, she was ready to go and full of joy.

Thanksgiving on the way, these sweeties to spend the day with…I went downstairs with smiling kids, and an even bigger smile oozing off my face. Today would be a good day.

I served breakfast and sat down with a piping hot cup of coffee to check my email before heading out to run errands. Nothing important in my email and the kids were still eating so I opened Facebook and started to scroll down the news feed.

The second post stopped me in my tracks. I spilled that hot coffee on my hand. It burned, but my reaction to the coffee was nothing compared to what I read.

A college student in a coma from an allergic reaction for a week. A grim outlook. It didn’t even sound like he’d eaten a nut.  A contact reaction. Later that day, I’d read of his death.

I can’t adequately describe the tightness in my chest and the intensity  and loudness of my heart throbbing wildly I looked across the room our son.

Innocently eating breakfast, giggling with his sister. All smiles and silliness with a mouth full of cereal.

My eyes welled up with tears instantly, and I walked out of the room. I tried to compose myself. This news was much too heavy for a 4-year-old to bear and he doesn’t need to see me cry. When he is older, perhaps I will let him see my tears over these stories, but for now, I spare him.

It saddens me that this is not the first or last time that I will read news like this. To say my world is turned upside down is an understatement. It releases fears that I usually give to God and move on from. But today…

The fear rises…

Welling up with a ferocity and power I can’t control. I suddenly find myself paralyzed by fear and subject to my own terrifying daydreams of my worst fears. My mind wanders to places it shouldn’t be allowed to go. Thinking horrible and terrifying things, down a rabbit hole I go…The story of a child being harmed or dying is enough to make ANY parent find heart stopping dread in the possibility of what could happen to their own child.

News of severe and fatal allergic reactions occurs too often and reduces me to tears and heart seizing fears almost every time. It wasn’t even a month ago when I was reading about another child who had a fatal reaction on Halloween. I don’t think they ever learned what caused the reaction to occur. It shook me then, and now, again, it shakes me today. But deeper. Building on the knowledge that this isn’t a one-time news story. These deaths are too frequent. Too real. They make me realize our own frailty, and to fear this outcome for my son who has a peanut and tree nut allergy.

These death are accidents that happen to vigilant and responsible people. It is not carelessness. They are doing everything they can to protect themselves and their loved ones from allergic reactions. Then suddenly, an unforeseen, unplanned interaction with an allergen, and suddenly what should have been a normal day becomes deadly.

On what started as a normal day for me, I suddenly find myself trembling, my white knuckled fist clutching a tissue as I struggle to catch my breath. I desperately plead with God to not only save this young man and comfort his loved ones, but also to protect my own child. And to help me simply continue on with the day and enjoy my children who are here with me now, safe and sound.

I’m sure this child and his loved ones started that fateful day just as simply as I began my own. Unassuming. Hopeful. Joyful. Unaware that it would be the last day he would ever wake. As parents of children with food allergies, we always have that nagging voice that reminds us to keep them safe. But most of the time, I don’t wake thinking that today will be the day that a reaction occurs; that this could be it. We don’t think about how even if we do everything right that a reaction could occur and that an Epi-Pen may not save them. We can’t thrive if we spend all of our moments like that. But it could be a reality we may face, any day.

Too often, I find myself soothing my fears with the Epi-Pen. Not good. News like this reminds me that an Epi-Pen isn’t a cure. It’s not a security blanket. It surely gives them a fighting chance, but for a severe reaction, sometimes it is no more than a Hail-Mary.

It. Might. Not. Work. There are no guarantees.

These stories. These deaths. These children and broken-hearted families. We stand with them. We know these families are living the truth that we often want to forget and that society doesn’t always understand or acknowledge. Proof that food allergies can be deadly. Proof that deadly reactions do happen to responsible children and adults. Proof that food allergies are not just a nuisance we live with. They are a real, powerful reality that requires vigilance at ALL times.

Food allergies require empathy and help from the community. This particular story followed news of a school administrator who made light of food allergies, and of parents and community members who thought she was actually funny. She rightly paid for her comments with her job, but these children and families pay with a life. A precious life. There are no appropriate jokes when it comes to this.

All these thoughts swirling…I found myself this morning, and again this afternoon in our downstairs bathroom, sobbing. Stifling the sound so the kids wouldn’t hear me. I’m not sure I can explain this to my 4-year-old today but I know the day is approaching when we will have to. So here I am. Broken. Helpless. Fearful. Sucking air.

The burden is heavy. And much too real. I wish he didn’t have a food allergy. But he does. And we must go on. I cannot stay in the bathroom all day weeping. I will not squander the moments I have with these kids wallowing in fear. I can’t prevent the fear or the unknown, but I do have control over my own actions.

SO I pull myself together and focus on what I can do:

  • Keep going: I wipe my eyes and compose myself and open the bathroom door. I put one foot in front of the other, pull myself up, and move forward. I continue to love and parent our children. They are a gift, not to be squandered.
  • Pray: I pray for all allergic children to be protected. I pray for a treatment that would be effective when Epi-Pens are not. I pray for answers to why allergies are affecting kids with increasing frequency and for a way to stop it. I pray that these deaths would cease and that no more would be lost due to FOOD; eaten or touched. I pray that my son will NEVER have a life-threatening reaction.
  • Trust: I do the only thing I can do in moments like this. I put my faith in the Lord and remember that He has given me these children to raise and care for. I remember that He is Lord and He is sovereign and faithful. I pray that God would help me trust Him to protect our son because trust doesn’t come naturally. I believe that no matter what, God will see us through whatever happens. I trust in His promises in scripture to give us rest and peace:
    •  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)
    •  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known 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 (ESV)
  • Advocate: I will speak out for my son’s safety no matter what the situation. I will educate others and make sure they understand his needs and the true risks of his needs not being met. I will do whatever I can to make the world safer for him.
  • Equip:  I will continue to educate our son how to protect himself. I will ensure that those caring for him are educated as well. I will take time to learn all I can about allergies, scientific research and technologies.
  • Be Grateful: I commit to be grateful for each moment and that my son is sitting in my kitchen eating his cereal. I will be grateful we found out about his allergy with a test, not an ER visit and that he has never had a life threatening reaction. I will be grateful for family and friends who made our holidays nut-free and safe this year so we could relax and enjoy the day. We are so grateful for all of you who keep our son safe…it truly takes a village…

My son smiles as I walk in. He and his sister won’t know why they receive such intense hugs and kisses on the head. Today, they are oblivious. I’m glad I can protect them from this reality for a little while longer, but the time is coming when they, too, will have to know and understand these things. Today I am grateful my son is a carefree 4-year-old boy who knows there is food he cannot eat and medicine he has to carry. For now, he thinks nuts will make him feel sick and knows to ask before he eats anything…

But he knows nothing of death. This looming potential threat won’t always be hidden from him. His own fears will be tangible, real and heavy. The responsibility will be huge. My daughter will have fears for her brother’s safety, just like my husband and I do. I pray that by the time they have to carry this burden, I will have learned how to carry my own so I can help them carry theirs.

In the long run, I can’t control this, fix it, or heal my son. I can’t make his allergy go away, even though I would gladly take it on myself if I could. I will keep moving on when fear rises because there will be plenty more days like this. The fear creeps up often; when I’m unprepared with alternative safe food, when we’re in an unknown church, school or home, when a dessert loaded with nuts passes by us in a restaurant, when I learn my son ate something before a label was read, and when I read stories of those who have had reactions or have paid the ultimate price. I will keep looking forward and prepare as best I can for the days when I send him to kindergarten, summer camp, and someday, college. I know this fear will certainly be present in the days to come, but I cannot let it rule me.

So I hug these two little ones tightly. And today, I rise above the fear.

My Thoughts On Riots…More Heartbreak…More Damage

In wake of recent events, I think few of us have escaped the images on our screens and newspapers after the rioting broke out. No matter what your view of the Ferguson decision is, I think we can all agree that the rioting is heartbreaking. News stories like these grab the attention of even the most sheltered news consumer.

I have often been guilty of turning off the TV during times like these. To shut it out and pretend it isn’t happening. My life is easier that way. My soul, lighter. But this summer the news of persecution in Iraq threw me for a loop and I was challenged to approach difficult news differently. While I don’t write about emotionally charged topics like these often, sometimes I can’t sleep until I do. In fact, I’ve written and rewritten this post several times, searching for peace-of-mind over these events in the haven of writing. Here are my thoughts and reflections – I apologize in advance that they are a bit jumbled; this is hard to wrap my head around.

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “ri·ot (noun): is a situation in which a large group of people behave in a violent and uncontrolled way”

I guess if rioting had a purpose, it would be to attract attention. So, in that way, I guess the rioters in Ferguson achieved their purpose.

Attention.

However, I must say, the effectiveness of rioting goes no further. The kind of attention they have drawn does nothing for their ’cause’.

Now, I am a suburb-living, stay-at-home mom, living a generally sheltered life. So let me be CLEAR that I make ZERO claim to know whether this decision served justice or not. It is not mine to decide and I am so far removed that I would consider myself far too ignorant to pass judgement. Please don’t read into these words as me saying what was right or wrong about the incident that sparked these riots. What I am pondering here is the riot that ensued. What I know is that what has resulted from the decision is utter chaos.

And yes, rioters, we are ALL seeing this; WE SEE YOU.

But instead of making me want to understand what has transpired, and who has been hurt and why, I find myself shrinking back, and just SAD. This behavior isn’t going to change or fix anything. A riot is painful to watch; painful to ponder.

Damage being done to the physical property of residents of the community, BY other residents. And to what end? Neighbor against neighbor. Creating a greater rift between the people and those who swear to protect it. And which of those store owners who were looted were involved in the event that sparked this? On what planet did their store and livelihood deserve to be the punching bag for your unleashed anger?

Where healing is needed…an already deep wound is instead ripped open. Exposed. Infected.

Uncontrolled anger and hate is a tangled and sticky web, snatching up more as it spreads. Those whose lives were already at risk serving the people are at even greater risk of harm.  In danger, just because of their uniform as people stew in emotion.  A riot can begin from just ONE person, intent on violence. I wonder if those who began this riot were trying to express an opinion, or just to stir up trouble and cause chaos? I wonder if the decision had been different if the riot would have occurred anyway?

Whether the anger and hurt are justified or not, these actions are NOT.

I’m sure some who joined in the chaos did so because they got swept up in the moment and did what others were doing.  I’m guessing many ended up where they maybe didn’t intend to be. These hurt, frustrated, and at-the-end-of-their-rope people rioting in the streets, requiring force to be subdued to restore the peace. People finding themselves arrested. Jailed. Now a part of criminal acts against their own city. For many, a city they actually love.

Was it worth it?

As the national guard and police restore the calm…the peace is fleeting. A mask. Covering the swell of emotion, rising up, and uncontrolled. Deep rooted. Bubbling over. What has been accomplished here? Nothing. Just more damage.

The damage is much more than bruises, burned cars, and broken glass. The cost is higher than the insurance claims. Riots perpetuate despair. Afterwards, all eyes have seen the emotions, but little has been accomplished. Now those who have felt wronged are seen as wrong.  Their purpose of being seen has certainly been accomplished, but they’ve tarnished our empathy. The problem isn’t their emotions; they may have been justified in feeling hurt, angry, bitter. In fact, I have no doubt that the emotion they felt was powerful and painful and awful…it was the ACTIONS that were born out of those emotions that were not right.

Now they have taken what is already a deep-seated issue that needs miraculous healing and have made it worse. Adding to the pain. Adding to the fear. Adding to the damage. Collateral damage. There was no healing here. No pain was relieved. Instead, this historical, emotional pain leaves another physical scar.

And it breaks my heart.

Riots for this reason are not new. Perhaps you remember Cincinnati in 2001. It has happened before but we haven’t prevented more from happening. And as of now, I don’t see an easy way to prevent this from occurring again. This is not a post saying I know how to fix this. I don’t. The solution is not clear-cut. It will take WORK from all in our country, or history will repeat itself in a different city, as it has before.

So while I can’t fix this, I can do my part to step back and ponder if I can do my part to love others. If I can do my part to make sure my actions do not cause others to hurt, or to feel that lashing out is OK. On days like these, especially before a holiday when we’re supposed to gather together and express our gratefulness, we must consider how our actions affect others.

We must realize that justice is only rightly served by God. People are, well, human. Flawed. And our system is equally flawed. Regardless of the issue being decided, someone will always disagree. This is WHY we have courts to decide these things, or we’d have vigilantes deciding for us. The emotions will be strong any time a life has been lost and people have been hurt. Because we love and miss what is lost. I know the rioters are hurting. I have no words to soothe them.

When we lose what we love, why respond with hate? No matter how much it hurts, hating never brings a GOOD solution. It brings more darkness. More pain. More grief. We must THINK before we ACT. And see the long-term consequences of our actions. We must learn that emotions betray us and that they can lead us down a very dark, and destructive path. We must think about how our actions teach children, and how they will learn to either promote peace, or chaos by our actions. 

Chaos and hate are dangerous things. Adding to pain, fueling the fire where emotion has been smoldering, waiting for a chance to erupt.

There are some deep and very real issues at the root of this riot. As a society, we must acknowledge those issues and the hurt and pain associated with them. As a Christian, I know that we are the ones who need to lead the way. We are called to LOVE others by the one who CREATED love. And we are called to love with not just a ‘feeling’ but with action – With a sacrificial, laying-down-MY-rights-for-another kind of love. When so much hurt and hate has ruminated like this for so long…only love can overcome.

While I am saddened by these riots, I find myself angry. But I don’t see how my anger helps anything. I’ve written this post 4 or 5 times in the past couple days, and pretty much every word has been typed, deleted, and rewritten. As I mentioned at the beginning, it has been very difficult for me to write about this, to find words, any words, that adequately describe the mixed emotions I have been thinking and feeling. And now that it’s written, I am sure I could rewrite it again a few more times, but at some point, I need to move on. To think of happier things.

To move to action. But what action? Here are the best I can come up with for now:

First I need to set aside my own anger. While the riots do infuriate me, today I set aside my anger and say that I know I don’t understand where the rioters are coming from. Who am I to judge? I have no right to judge them. So while I do not condone the actions performed by the rioters, I also know that they are hurting. Not a surface level hurt, but a deep and profound, hurt. I won’t diminish it. They don’t know what else to do. I decide to love them and to pray for them. And I ashamedly admit that I was not ready to pray for them yesterday – I know that isn’t right. Lord, forgive me for my OWN anger. It only adds to the problem.

Today, I pray for softened hearts around the country. Hearts open for healing. Hearts willing to seek change and to lift others up when hurting, rather than lashing out and causing more harm. And I pray for the country to stand up and choose hope and love over hurt and hate.

And I pray for a mighty healing work to overcome the hate, so the next riot doesn’t happen. 

I’d love to live in a world without riots. Wouldn’t you?

Thanksgiving Is More Than A Meal With Turkey: Start Practicing Gratitude NOW

Thanksgiving.

By far, one of my favorite days of the year.

I love all of it; the company, the football, and the food that leaves me in a so-full-I can’t-eat-another-bite food coma.

Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. It starts a month of time when people are more gracious, more loving, and more grateful.

Of course, Thanksgiving also marks the moment when consumerism is at its highest and people get nasty fighting over parking spots. And despite meals where we sit together and discuss what and who we are thankful for, many of us lose the holiday spirit before we even walk into the first Black Friday sale. People were so intent on SAVING money, they forget to be KIND getting in the door.

I mean, get out of my way, I have gifts to buy!

How silly is it to run over someone else so you can buy a GIFT for someone else?

Ridiculous.

The holidays can be a stressful time, as people have full schedules, year-end quotas and financials to meet at work, gift buying and budgets to keep. As women, some of us are guilty of taking on too much, and being stretched far too thin because we want to do it all. And some of us also slip into the consuming black hole of perfectionism; we want the perfect gift, the perfect party, the perfect Christmas photo card.

With the holidays looming, a meal where we mention what we’re grateful for isn’t going to prepare me for the long haul to make it with grace through January.

Thanksgiving isn’t a meal with turkey, it’s an attitude.

A lifestyle.

One that isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t easy to achieve.

It takes work to train your mind to be grateful. To stop worrying about your own rights and desires and be thankful for where you are now, what you have, and who you’re with. This year, our family will start focusing on gratitude NOW.

This way, when the holiday stress and busy-ness kicks in, we’ll be well-versed in the practice of gratitude.

All of us.

It is my desire and hope that our intentional focus on gratitude will become habitual; that we will continue to focus on gratitude more and more, right through the end of the year and on into 2015.

Forget the New Year’s Resolution…I’m suggesting making the change before the high stress time sets in.

There are 3 practical ways we will increase our awareness of gratitude:

 1. Replace Complaints with Prayers of Gratitude

thessalonians 516to18

Simple, yet powerful. I can take no credit for this idea; it was suggested today at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) by our teaching leader, Cheri Cameron.

Pausing to be grateful in circumstances that produced complaining gives a complete change of perspective. It doesn’t mean our problems won’t be there when we’re done, but it does mean we rely on God more, and recognize His presence. We take some of our emotion out of the situation, close our mouths, and instead of perpetuating grumbling or hours on end, we say thank you to our creator; for walking through a trial with us, for giving us wisdom, comfort, peace, and people to come alongside.

What does this look like? Here’s a few examples.

  • Complaint: My daughter was up twice in the night last night, waking my son and I, and now we are all TIRED and CRANKY.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for this little girl, that I get to be her mom and help her go back to sleep when her teeth hurt. Thank you for the extra snuggles that I don’t usually get during the day and thank you for the hours of sleep that I DID get last night. I have done with far less sleep
  • Complaint: I have so much to do, I’m just overwhelmed. I feel like no one even notices the work I am doing.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for being here with me today. Thank you for SEEING my efforts and helping me to do the work you’ve given me. Help me to prioritize and to focus on you while I work. Nothing makes the work seem lighter than when I do it while praising the Lord.

When I am grumbling in earshot of my children (sigh, yes it happens), I will confess my poor attitude and pray out loud so they can learn by example. I want them (and me) to stop the pattern of complaining, and to replace it with gratitude.

When our children are complaining, we will help them pause, recognize what is happening, and pray their own prayers of gratitude. This is one skill I want them to learn now.

2. Actively Encourage and Express Gratitude To Others

Thess 511

This month our family will focus on thanking those people who make our life better by being in it. We will actively seek ways to encourage others in their walk of life. We will practice being SPECIFIC on what we are grateful for, not just a generic THANK YOU.

We will thank and lift each other up as a family. Intentionally.

I am too often guilty of the critical-tongue. Things escape my lips and I immediately regret the complaint. It is my goal to internally THINK before I speak and change my complaint into encouragement and thanks.

I am not saying it will be easy. I think it is going to be quite hard! But, I will give it my best effort and ask in faith the Lord to honor it and bless it.

3. Keep a Record

Psalm 665

I am not sure what type of record we will be keeping, but I’m hoping to make a gratitude tree (like this one from http://jonesdesigncompany.com/) or a Daily Gratitude Journal (like this one from http://www.stratejoy.com).

Whatever type we choose, there will a visual, written record. We will record what each member of our household is grateful for each day in November. I hope to do this all year, but we’ll see how this goes.

On Thanksgiving this year, our family will sit down and read these records together, and celebrate the what God is and has done for our family this November.

Since September, I’ve fallen off the wagon on my gratitude journal. It’ time to pick it back up. I miss it. I miss the perspective it gives me when I’m starting my day. I’ve committed to write each day in November, recording the ways God is showing me the blessings in my life and in scripture as I study His word.

Will you join us?