Opening Our Heart

“Your babies are always welcome in our home.”

I told a friend this recently.  I was blessed to take her kids for a few hours so she could get some rest.  I was happy to do it.  I’ve actually always wanted to be THAT mom in the neighborhood.  The one that when the other moms are missing their kids they’d call because all the kids in the neighborhood would be at her house.  I love that.  A big, messy, happy-kid house.  I haven’t given up on that dream, but it’s put on hold for awhile.  Our neighborhood isn’t conducive to the concept and Daniel needs friends who understand.  He has a few now, thanks to our wonderful church.  It has truly been a blessing to us.

I know how being alone feels.  I was isolated and lonely.  I missed friends that I worked with.  I missed having adults to talk to.  I tried mom’s groups but it was too complicated.  It’s hard to understand unless you have a child with Autism or know someone who does.  I would get on Autism forums and read the litany of complaints from moms just like me.  Finally, it struck me that we are isolated because we isolate ourselves.  No one knows about what we go through because we don’t tell our hard stories.  Our heartbreaking stories.  The stories that come near to breaking us.  I decided that those stories needed to be told.

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Social media is fine for lovely pictures of happy times.  I take those.  I cherish those times, but it’s also important to tell the other times.  Not so happy times.  Meltdown stories.  Aggression stories.  People are not going to understand until we tell them.  We have to open our life and our heart.  Risk judgement and condemnation.  I’ve thrown caution to the winds.  I tell my stories.  I take the risk.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Lots of people pray for us.  It gets us through the worst times.

In return people open up to me.  They tell me their stories.  Their bad times.  The exhaustion.  The pain.  The loneliness.  They know I can understand.  I know how bad things can be for us moms.  I get it.  I understand.  I’ve had meltdowns of my own.  I’ve been so exhausted that all I could do was cry.  I’ve been, literally, on my knees, praying for a miracle.  I cried to God that I couldn’t do it.  He responded that I could.  I didn’t have a choice, so I did.  Now, I reap the blessings of helping others.  I’ve run the race of endurance.  I still endure our bad days.  I still wait for our miracle.  I still pray.

The God who invented you knows all about you.  He loves you no matter what.  Others can love you too.  But you have to let them in.  Open your life to them.  Open your heart to them.  If they reject you, then you can be just like Jesus and shake their dust off your feet as you move on.  But you’ll never know until you try.  You will never know people’s reaction to your story unless you share.

Be bold.  Be courageous.  Open your heart.

 

Becky

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A Biblical Marriage in a Modern World

There’s not a whole lot in my life I’ve done right.  I’ve done a few things right.  One of the things I did right was my marriage.  I knew when I met my husband that God sent him to me.  I know that God has plans for him.  I knew that I wanted a 1st Corinthians 13 kind of love.  Let me refresh your memory:

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I had been in love before, but it hadn’t been the 1st Corinthians 13 kind of love.  It was the kind of love that DID keep a record of wrongs.  It was a jealous kind of love.  It was a provoked and self-seeking and arrogant kind of love.  I didn’t want that kind of love this time.  This time I wanted the 1st Corinthians 13 kind of love.  The love that the bible describes.  The love I still believe is possible between people.  So how do you start a biblical kind of love?  I started by being a biblical kind of lover.  I loved as patiently and kindly as I could.  I tried hard not to be jealous or a braggart.  I didn’t provoke nor did I keep a record of his wrongs.  What I found was that it worked.  I invited God into my relationship.  And He stayed.

He is still there.  What I also found was that my husband responded accordingly.  Imagine that.  The bible was right all along.  Since I didn’t keep record neither did he.  Since I was kind and patient, so was he.  It worked, y’all.  I am as amazed as anyone.  What kind of marriage does a couple with a 1st Corinthians 13 kind of love have?  You guessed it, a biblical one.

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I was prepared to say it.  You know the word.  The one that’s been erased from the marriage vows because women tend not to like it?  Starts with an “O?”  I was perfectly prepared to say that word.  And I was perfectly prepared to actually do the deed.  You know, obey my husband.  (I didn’t get the chance to say it.  They don’t ask these days I guess.)  I like to think that I do obey him.  But I’ll admit that my husband makes it very easy.

I still remember a conversation we had early in our marriage.  My husband said that the “kids come first, I know.”  I disabused him of that notion:  “No, they don’t come first.  We come first.  If we don’t make this marriage work everyone loses.  Including the kids.”  I meant every word.  In our household, first comes God, then my husband, then our children.  It sounds old-fashioned, I know, but it works.

I know a marriage like ours is unusual in this modern world.  But I also know it’s a good marriage.  A Godly marriage.  When it seems like marriages and relationships have little or no chance to make it, we have.  Invite God into your relationship.  Do it His way and I promise you won’t regret it.

Becky

Listening: A Way of Showing Love

The longer I live the more I realize how important it is to listen.  On Valentine’s Day, I listed 14 reasons why I love my husband on Facebook.  First on the list was that he listens to me.  I mean, really listens.  Sometimes he gives advice, but mostly he just listens without rushing me or acting impatient.  I was reminded again today how important that is.  For each of us to find someone who will listen to us.  I’m learning that it is the most valuable skill we could possess.  When we listen we make the other person feel valued and important.

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I’m a fixer, I think I’ve said that.  Being a fixer means I like to give advice.  But there are situations that can’t be fixed.  Sometimes there is no advice to give.  Most of the time, I’ve learned, advice isn’t necessary or even wanted.  Simply to listen, without judgement and with empathy.  I try to be understanding.  I try to be a friend.  In return, they valued and loved.  That’s right.  Loved.  All of us need to feel loved.  Nothing quite like it.

I have 2 friends struggling with relationship issues.  They feel devalued and unloved.  I want to help them.  I want to be a good friend.  The “fixer” in me rises to the surface, but there’s no way to fix it.  I flounder for awhile, wondering what to say.  I wind up listening, not because I know that’s what to do, but because I don’t know what else TO do.  But I’m beginning to learn that that’s all they needed.  They needed to feel loved and valued.  They needed to be heard.

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My favorite time of day is in the afternoon, when my husband comes home and we share coffee and conversation about our day.  I wonder if that’s really rare, in our society and our time, for a couple to spend a valuable few minutes every day to listen to each other.  Perhaps someone can tell me whether or not it’s rare.  I don’t know.  I know it’s part of us.  I know it’s part of how we connect with each other.  I know it’s part of how we stay together when dealing with a child with issues is so difficult.  Relationships are hard.  Children are hard.  Sleep deprivation is hard.  All three is really tough.

I wonder what could happen if we all began to listen to each other.  How much love we could show each other.  How much more valued we would all feel.

Becky

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7681361@N04/6813010169″>IMG_4867</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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Screen Addiction and Autism

Okay, shortly before Christmas I realized we had a problem.  D was screen addicted.  Don’t get me wrong, D and I had battled forever.  Over everything.  Lately it was about homeschool, whether he was going to do it or not and how much, and OT, his only therapy left.  He usually left OT in a meltdown, either running across the parking lot or having to be dragged to the car.  I was at a serious loss as what to do.  I tried rewards, which is what usually caused the meltdowns when he didn’t earn them.

Our daily schedule left much to be desired.  After school, D was able to watch tv and some days that’s all he did all day.  It simply didn’t occur to me to equate some of the behavior issues with television in any way.  The days we’d have therapy I resorted to the iPad in the waiting room, and a couple of days per week we’d be there hours.  Plus, the therapy waiting room had PBS on the whole time as well.  It was an exercise in futility and frustration.  I had long since tried meds, only to be refused behavior meds by our doctor because D wasn’t “severe enough.”

Finally, one day the lightbulb came on.  D was watching tv.  It had been a therapy day, so D hadn’t had as much tv as he usually did.  He had an accident in his pants (not unusual), and refused to go to the potty because the tv was on.  When I insisted he gets cleaned up he melted down.  I realized he was behaving exactly as my alcoholic father had when he didn’t have enough to drink.  I had a screen addict.

So, I had to come up with a solution.  First, we did no screen time for almost 72 hours. It was during christmas break so I didn’t have to battle over schoolwork.  Then it was time to portion it out and make him work for it.  The first rule I made was that he earned 1 hour for completing his schoolwork.  If he didn’t want to do his schoolwork that was fine.  His decision.  BUT he had to accept the consequences which were 2 fold:  1. No screen time earned  and 2.  We added Saturday as a school day so no spending the night at Memaw’s Friday night.

The second was this:

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I had long since wanted to start D on chores, but daily battle was so exhausting that I couldn’t even imagine it.  These days it’s up to him.  Being lazy cost him his screen time.  Younger brother, A, also has chores, but his are less tied to screen time since in general he is more cooperative.

We also came up with a schedule:

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I mostly use the schedule to advert the blame for not being able to watch tv or having to do school or any of the other such things he doesn’t want to do.

Currently, screen time is maxed at 2 hours.  His iPad is given as reward in 30 minute increments and everything on it is educational.  He can’t do video games because his emotional regulation is poor and he gets too upset.  I must say this has improved our life immensely.  We do still have behavior issues, especially since spring is on it’s way.  I never realized how much of his behavior is due to too much screen time until I stopped it.  I will say life without as much screen time is a lot of work.  D doesn’t play a lot and much of my time is spent trying to engage him in an activity.  Fortunately, hubby is understanding about the housework.

Guarding your heart

“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;”  Luke 21:34

I love social media.  I really do.  It gives this occasionally lonely homeschooling mama a chance to feel like she’s actually among adults for a change.  I have certain blogs I keep up with along with certain people I respect and admire.  I even keep up with headlines of local and national news, but just enough to stay semi-current.

What would He see if He looked in your heart right now?
What would He see if He looked in your heart right now?

I have to be very careful though.  Between fibromyalgia and a child with Autism I can get depressed easily at times.  I try hard to stay upbeat most of the time, and I think I succeed.  I have occasional pity parties that I deal with using time limits.  Time limits are a wonderful way to deal with the stray negative emotion.  I tell myself I’m going to be sad/angry/depressed for x number of hours then I’m going to get over myself.  And it works!

One thing I’ve discovered is that my brain works like the old saying of how computers work:  Garbage In, Garbage Out.  I’m strongly affected by the images, news, memes and other things I see online.  So I’m very careful about what and who I like on social media sites.  I tend toward pages like Proverbs 31 women, Beth Moore and other online christian authors and bloggers.  I steer clear of most news outlets and political pages and other superfluous negative pages.  I have even been known to stop following friends who post numerous negative memes, articles and pictures.  It’s not personal.  I love my friends and would do anything for them.  But I guard my heart and mind.  I’m very careful with the things I dwell on.

After all, I want the Lord to enjoy what He sees there.  What would He think if He looked at your heart right now?

Times of Endurance

Spring is coming.  I don’t know it’s coming because the weather is warmer or because the trees are budding.  My son tells me.  He tells me in the way he behaves.  Every spring from early February to July he struggles.  Things that didn’t used to bother him are now minor issues.  What used to be minor issues are now major issues.  Major issues are now screaming meltdowns, complete with aggression.  Spring is now a time of dread for us.

And once again I am staring at the realities of Autism:  medication.  I hate the thought of medicati9881552473_09df711fd8_bng my child.  But as D gets older D gets bigger.  As D gets bigger D hits harder, and this momma who already struggles with Fibromyalgia struggles a little more.  I know it’s time because it affects his life so much that he struggles with everything.  There’s more of all the bad stuff:  perseverating, meltdowns, fixations, aggression.  The sweet little boy who loves to cuddle fades a little and in his place is this unreasonable and unreachable stranger.  So, off we go to the PCP who will recommend a child psychiatrist.

I’ve entered a time of endurance.  It’s not a happy time.  It’s a time of dogged determination.  Like a marathon runner at the end of the race, winded and sweating, focused on putting one foot in front of the other foot.  I start my mantra by telling myself over and over:  “I don’t have to be excellent.  I just have to endure.”  1st Corinthians 13:7 says it all:

“Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

And I love my son.  So I endure.  For his sake and the sake of my Lord.  Who, for some reason, entrusted me with this child.  I hold on to His hand and I hope for the future. I have to believe theres a better future in store for us.  A future that doesn’t include all these struggles.  It’s how I endure, after all.  All of us have times of endurance.  Times of dogged determination.  Times that we just have to get through.  The bible promises so much to those of us who are able to endure:

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”  Matthew 10:22

So, we pray.  We hope for the future.  We endure, and we hold His hand.

Calluses

 

When I was in school, I played the viola.  (The viola is shaped like a violin with a deeper sound.)  When you’re first starting out playing the viola you pluck the strings quite a bit, to get used to the sound of the instrument.  Plucking the viola for hours on end got very painful until something wonderful happened.  My fingers developed calluses on the ends to protect my skin.  Calluses made for 3503360299_edeb108283less painful viola-plucking.  Over time though, I noticed something.  Calluses meant less pain.  Calluses also meant less feeling.  I noticed that the tips of my fingers couldn’t feel the softness of the old quilt on my bed, or the silky satin of my doll’s dress.  In fact, I had lost much of the sensation on the tips of my fingers.

Some people have calluses over their hearts.  They have been hurt often, so a callus has developed around their heart to protect them from pain.  But, just like my fingers, there’s a cost to a callus.  A callus on the heart leaves out so much of the emotions of life.  Life is messy and emotional.  The loss of a loved one can leave us devastated and broken.  The birth of a child brings feelings of awe and wonder.  The smile on the face of that same child brings such tremendous joy.  To this very day the sight of my children’s sleeping faces brings such feelings of love that I am almost tearful.  The sight of my husband walking up the drive after a hard day brings on such relief.

We are creatures of emotion.  God created us that way on purpose.  To love Him with “all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind.”  (Matt. 22:37)  We were intended to love with all our heart.  We were not intended to protect ourselves with calluses.  Instead, we should lean on the one who created that very heart:  ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. ‘(Proverbs 3:5)  God is big enough to handle our emotions.  I have gone to Him broken and lost.  I have cried out sorrow and anger and pain.  I do it often.  Live life to the fullest.  Experience as much of it as you can with your whole, entire heart.  And if it gets broken, then take it to the Healer…