Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, life, Own your Story, Uncategorized, Waiting Sucks

The Waiting Place

My husband and I are waiting for a phone call. If we hear a “yes” on the other end of the line, our entire life is going to change. Wild, scary, exciting, growing types of change.

In January, we were told that we would get this phone call on March 8.
On March 8, we found out the date was pushed to April 15.
On April 15, we were told we would have to wait at least another 3 weeks.

So many times we have looked at each other and  sighed, “I feel like our entire life is on hold.”

We’re in the Waiting Place.

I’ve been in the Waiting Place a lot in the past year.

It’s an infuriating place to be.
You feel stuck.
You want to fly out of your skin but you’re forced to stand still.
You want to scream to the the sky, the doctor, the therapist, the school, yourself, God–HURRY UP!!!!

FullSizeRender
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

There are long sleepless nights of “What if…this? What if…that? What if…nothing?”
There are long conversations discussing every scenario under the sun and every response to “this one” or “that one” but you can’t pick any one because you are in the Waiting Place.

I wish I had some big, wise, amazing thing to write about “How to be patient” or “How to Wait Well.”

I don’t.

Right now, I feel like I’m in that quiet place you get to when you’ve cried your eyes out: Your shoulders stop heaving; your breath comes in shaky waves, but it’s slowing.

And you feel still.

I’m spent with the waiting. I was spent last year when we were waiting for answers from the school about Benji’s Child Study, about whether or not he would pass first grade, about the Autism testing.

I’ve reached the still place at the end of all my anticipation, scenarios, worries, and what-ifs.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

I can’t fight my way out of the Waiting Place, like the boy does in Oh! The Places You’ll Go.

It’s too exhausting.

WaitingPlace
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

But, if I’ve learned anything in the last year, waiting doesn’t last forever. It does come to an end.

And in the meantime, while my soul is still in the Waiting Place, life goes on. We may feel like our life is standing still right now but it isn’t.

Our Real Life is happening right now, not three weeks from now, not next month, not in the fall, not next year.

I have dinners to cook, stories to read, homework to check, friends to visit, boo-boos to kiss, a husband to dream with, a house to care for.
I have my family to love.

Love always moves forward. There is so much Good to be done.

Even in the Waiting Place.

Are you in the Waiting Place right now?
How do you cope?
Teach me how you “Wait Well!”

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

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Posted in boys, Christianity, culture, Education, kids, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Parenting Ideas, public school, Uncategorized

The day I taught my son the F-word

Teachable moments. You know the ones–they come up out of nowhere and scare the living daylights out of you.

“Mommy, is there a bad F-word?”

My heart stumbled. I cocked my head at my first grader. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Some kids in my art class said there was a bad F-word.”

First grade?! Already? Is this what I get for sending my kids to Public School? “Can you tell me the word?”

He smiled sheepishly and whispered, “Fruck.”

Laughter bubbled up, unbidden. So he’s still a first grader. “Well, honey, there is a bad F-word, but it’s not ‘fruck’.”

“So, what is the bad F-word?” He asked, sticking his pencil in the corner of his mouth.

“Uhhh…”
scarterstudios M018I paused, my heart tripping over itself once again. Is this what the Teachable Moment looks like? Wide-eyed, innocent, and 7 years old?

While my pause was calm and calculated, the tension I felt inside twisted tighter until it was a palpable ache: I wanted to preserve his innocence. I wanted to tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to worry about bad words.”
But as much as I mentally chided myself about the “bad influence” of public school kids, I knew that was a non-issue.

Public school or not, my kids were going to hear things and learn things from others as they grew up, public school, private school, homeschool, or Sunday school. I can’t control the moments they are not with me.

But he was here with me right now. This moment, at our kitchen table, in our home, was a safe, teachable moment.

If not now, when?

He was asking me for truth. And the truth was, “asking Mom” wasn’t always going to be his first choice.

So I took a deep breath and said, “Well…yes, honey. There is a bad F-Word.”

I told him what it was. I said the word and he repeated it, making sure he heard me right. I tried not to cringe at the profanity coming out of my baby’s mouth. Instead I pushed forward, plunging down this new path.

“Sweetheart, I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth. But with knowledge comes power and just because you know this word doesn’t mean you should say it or teach it to anyone else.

It is not your job to tell kids at school that you know this word. That’s their parent’s job, not yours. I am very serious about this. Do you understand me?”

He nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am.”

I looked at his face, at the soft, smooth skin on his cheeks, knowing that they wouldn’t always be soft and smooth. I would be kissing stubble on my firstborn’s face before I knew it.IMG_4869I pulled myself back to the present, savoring his innocence and openness and the questions that he asked without fear or embarrassment. That precious door was wide open and I wanted to keep it that way.

“You know, sweetie, sometimes kids talk about stuff at school. Kids think they know stuff. But that’s not always true. But Mommy and Daddy—we do know stuff. So if you ever have questions about anything that kids talk about at school, you can come to us and we will tell you the truth.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

And then I helped him do his homework.

It was such a bittersweet conversation.

As much as I want to plant goodness into every corner of my children’s lives, the fact is that the world is full of hard, nasty, evil things. I want to shelter them from that darkness. But I also want to help my sons grow to be men who will be lights in a dark world. And if I am going to teach them to be lights, I can’t ignore the darkness.
F-wordI I have to be proactive.

So, when he asked, I taught my son the F-word.

Should I have told him that we would have this conversation when he’s older? Perhaps. Maybe it was too early.

But at 7 years old, his first instinct was to come to me.  As he gets older, that instinct will fade.

The conversations we have now about language, what’s right and wrong, about light and darkness are forming his very soul.

The Teachable Moment is terrifying but, for me, being keeping the door open in order to teach my children the truth is a gift that can’t wait.

PS. House Church, Cussing, and ASD (teachable moments that DO NOT go as planned!)

How do you navigate these terrifying Teachable Moments?
Have you taught your child something huge and scary? How did it go?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Autism and Church, Benji's Story, Christianity, Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

God, Autism, and the Fruit of the Gospel

When I was growing up, verses like Matthew 7: 18-19 both baffled and scared me:

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

I wanted to be a good tree: But how did I know if I was bearing fruit? And, furthermore, how did I know I was bearing GOOD fruit?

It was all very metaphorical and confusing.

Of course, the fruit that I wanted was the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control (Gal. 5:22).

Those were Good Fruits. They had names and actions attached to them. Easy, right?

But I fell into self-doubt over and over again. How did I know if the fruit I was bearing was actually  Good Fruit? What if my efforts at love, peace, and patience were just my human attempts to muscle my way towards Good Moral Character?

If I took a deep breath and didn’t yell at my kids when they spilled their milk on my freshly mopped floors, was I producing Patience?

How could I know if I was actually bearing fruit?

I believe the answer lies within the very nature of fruit itself.
FullSizeRender[1]The defining characteristic of fruit is that it has seeds.* You can’t grow fruit without planting seeds, and all fruit has the ability to reproduce itself because it contains seeds within.

With this foundational nature of fruit in mind, my questions shifted:
Am I planting seeds?
Is the fruit that is growing reproducing itself?

The first question is a bit easier for me to answer. Yes, I am trying to plant seeds. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about seeds lately since it’s been a year since I published this post about planting seeds.

When I published this post, I had no idea that a little over a month later, we would be sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast and Micah would ask me, “What does it mean to believe in Jesus?”

So I talked to him about about what it means to make Jesus your king and follow him with your life.
“Do you want to follow Jesus with your life?”
“Yes, I do!”

And Micah made a decision to follow Jesus on May 15, 2015.

I think, for Christian parents, we rejoice in our child’s decision to follow Christ, but we still wonder, “Is this real? Does he really get it?” (Am I alone in my doubts?).

I wondered how I could know that my son’s faith was genuine and not just a child’s attempt to please his parents or go through some sort of religious ritual.

But looking back at this first year of Micah’s faith, I don’t wonder if it was real or not. I know it was real because I’ve seen growth.

He is sprouting all over the place!

I specifically remember one day where he was furious at Benji, mostly because of some of Benji’s Autistic tendencies.
“Benji is such a selfish JERK!” Micah cried.
We had had “a day.” I couldn’t disagree. But what could I say? I dug down deep and found the truth, growing in my heart.
“Honey, sometimes it’s hard to love people, ever brothers. But Benji needs love–he needs you.”
“I don’t want to love him!”
“I know. And I can’t make you love him. But I would like you to think about it and pray about it. Pray for him and ask God to help you know how to love him. Can you do that?”
Micah shrugged and gave a half-way nod.

The next morning he came into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I’m feeling a lot better. And I did! I prayed for Benji! I prayed and asked God to help me love him and understand him. And I do love him. I do!”

IMG_5341.jpg
One loved Benji

And there it was: Fruit. Luscious, juicy, ripe, wonderful, delicious fruit that was full of seeds.
It was fruit from my life, seeds of love that I asked God to give me for Benji that I then planted in Micah’s life.
The seeds germinated and grew in his little fertile heart, a heart that said yes to Jesus and yes to growth.

Micah’s faith is real. It’s growing and producing fruit, with lots and lots of seeds.

I’ve seen his tenderness toward Benji in other ways too.

In January, we joined Awana. Micah has soared (In fact, he just finished his first Sparks book–in 3 months!!)
Benji has struggled.

But there are so many weeks that I hear my twins earnestly conversing in the back seat of the car on the way to Awana: Micah patiently helping Benji with his verses.
“Ok, Benji: Repeat after me.” And they practice together, over and over again.

Week after week, Micah celebrates Benji’s small victories, even accepting less praise over his impressive scripture memorization in the light that “Benji said one verse tonight!”

Last night, as we drove to Awana, the boys practiced again in the back of the car. But the conversation shifted away from the verses Micah was helping Benji memorize to seed scattering.
“Benji, if you believe in God, you will have life with Jesus!” Micah said.
“I do believe in God, Micah!”

I listened intently. I was amazed at Benji’s confession. His Autistic mind is so fixed on the concrete; I honestly wondered if he would ever grasp the abstract concept of an invisible God who loves and cares for him. Coupling his lack of abstract thinking with his hatred of church, I seriously doubted if he would ever come to know and love God.

But for months I have prayed, “God, you made my son. You know how his mind works. I know you can reach him. Help him to come to know you.”

“You do, Benji?” I asked, looking at him in the rear view mirror at a stop light.
“Yes, and I believe in Jesus too! I want to tell God I believe in him and I want to follow Jesus with my life.”
And he did.

I asked him a lot of questions, my heart overflowing, but still tinged with doubt: “Is this real? Does he really get it?”
FruitI have faith that it is.

Benji received new life yesterday. God answered my prayers–I don’t know exactly how but I kept trying, I kept talking, I kept listening, I kept accepting him as he is, and I kept praying. And now? A seed has sprouted and I am going do to my best to cultivate this new growth with love and faith.

Every seed starts with faith. We put it in the ground and bury it, having faith that something will happen if we do. Sometimes seeds grow. Sometimes they don’t. But we have to keep trying because it is only by planting a seed that the fruit has a chance to grow, and in growing, multiplying in others to produce a good, good harvest.

*As opposed to a vegetable, where we eat the root (carrot), leaves (lettuce) or flowers (broccoli).

PS. Some other fruit stories:
The Other Side of Despair
Searching for Beauty
When Holy Desire and Motherhood Collide

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow!
Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?

If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Christianity, Encouragement, grief, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Uncategorized

The other side of despair

You know that part in the Anne of Green Gables movie where Anne dyes her hair green and hides in her bed?
“Go away!” she sobs to Marilla. “I’m in the depths of despair!”

“I’m in the depths of despair” became a tongue-in-cheek catch-phrase for my sisters and me as we navigated our teenage years.

Like Anne, most of our woes were trite and worthy of eye-rolling, not sympathy. I really had no idea what despair was until I became an adult.

When I had my miscarriage, I was baptized in grief for the first time.
I learned what hopelessness feels like.

My motherhood journey has looked wildly different than I thought it would be.
On many occasions, especially in the last year, I have literally thrown up my hands, saying “I’ve got nothing. I have no idea what to do.”

And all I can do is ride the wave of that moment, or day, or month, and pray we all come out intact on the other side.

Sometimes I’ve stood on the edge of that deep, black pit, wondering if I am going to fall in. Other times, it’s only when I look back, far removed from the experience, that I realize how close I was to collapsing.

I probably overshare on my blog–I know it’s one of my faults when I teach in the classroom. When the semester ends, all my students know WAY more about me (and my husband, kids, and first crush) than I do about them.

But sometimes I think that if I didn‘t share–blogging or otherwise–I’d step over the edge, into all that blackness, and tumble down, down, down.

And it’s not just the act writing, though that’s cathartic.
It’s the sharing.
It’s a way of saying, ” I have a burden. Will you help me carry it?”
_mg_2860_1We all need a good friend to listen to us vent about our bad day. The sharing helps us carry the burden. In those really dark moments, it helps us back away from the edge.

But sharing is a two-way street. Every good friend knows that you can’t just vent about your own bad day–you have to make space to listen too.

And, for me, this act of “making space” has been key to me not succumbing to despair in some of my darkest moments.

I read an amazing blog post last week by Rachel at Hands Free Mama. In her article, “Your Role in a Loved One’s Struggle” she wrote,

On the other side of despair is connection—connection that comes from recognizing a familiar look of pain in someone else’s eyes and reaching out your hand.

The greatest gift I have been given as a result of sharing about my life on my blog is that on a weekly basis, I have friends (and even strangers!) send me private messages saying, “me too.” The other night I sat chatting with three women on facebook, in awe of the gift I have been given.

They share their stories with me, stories of their grief, their waiting, their adjustment of their expectations, and always their overwhelming love for their children.

I share.
They share.
We carry each others’ burdens.
We back away from the edge, hand in hand, walking towards light, in hope, together.
_mg_2809Everybody has something. But you aren’t alone in your pain.
Take the first step–share.

You never know how God will use your story to bring hope to another person.

 

What’s your story? If you shared it, what would happen?
What COULD happen?

I hope that this story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Benji's Story, Christianity, Encouragement, life, Mom Confessions, Special Needs, Uncategorized

Amazing Grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru

I was already on shaky emotional ground when I left to take Benji to therapy. It’s never a good sign when you break down and cry on the phone with your Health Insurance agent.

Why is insurance so freakin’ hard to understand?
Can you please explain what you are saying in plain English?
Why are they not covering these therapies for my son?
Why am I having to choose between helping my son and paying our bills?

My thoughts ran ragged but I tried to be polite on the phone, “I’m not annoyed at you…it’s just this situation…” I told the agent.

I found a roll of toilet paper on my night stand, tore off a wad and swiped my cheeks and nose.

Crap. It is 10:37. I have to pick up Benji at 10:40.

I rushed out the door.

When I got to school, I realized that I forgot to pack him lunch and because his appointment is over the lunch hour, he would miss school lunch by the time he got back.

I texted my husband: #failfailfail

He tried to bolster my spirits: Try not to stress. Just pick up food on the way home.

Armed with a stack of papers bills and insurance statements, I sent my 8 year old to therapy while I waited my turn to talk to the billing woman at the Autism Center.

She was kind and encouraging but I didn’t get any answers today. Soon. (the story of my life. This saga needs to end soon).

A misunderstanding when Benji came out of therapy sent him bolting outside. I had to chase him down the sidewalk; I didn’t even get a chance to hear  how his appointment went from his therapist.

“How about we get lunch out? McDonalds?”

And he was all smiles; his bad mood floated away. If only the pressures of motherhood could melt away so easily.

The clock was ticking down. I had 23 minutes to get food for Benji, then drive to the other side of town to pick up my 3 year old from preschool by noon. It was going to be tight.

I quickly ordered a Big Kids chicken nugget meal from the drive through, breathing a sigh of relief that there was only one car in front of us in line.

Then I reached in my purse for my wallet…

…and remembered that it was on my bed at home, my insurance cards strewn about on the bedspread.

No. no no no no. Wait! Checkbook. Please, please take checks!

I pulled up to the window. “Do you take checks?” My voice was shaking, falsely cheerful.

“No, we don’t.”

And everything crumpled: my shoulders, my head, my whole body sagged and I burst into tears.

“Oh, oh! Don’t be upset!” The young woman in the drive-thru window exclaimed.

“I don’t have any money!” I sobbed. “I don’t have lunch for my son! I left my wallet at home…it was the insurance…I was on the phone with them and…and this is just the worst day ever!”

I was blabbering like an idiot, tears streaming down my face.

“Hold on, hold on!” She dashed away from the window.

All I could do was hold my temples between my thumb and forefinger and cry.

She was back. “I got this. We got this. Don’t worry about paying today.”

Oh….

The tears fell harder. “Oh…no…! No! Please, you don’t have to do that…! I–”

“Now, then! You are going to make me cry! I have kids too. It’s ok. You’re going to be ok. Today is going to get better, you’ll see.”

I pulled forward and my wet, streaming eyes were met by another women’s, whose face held compassion and tenderness as she handing me a Happy Meal box and a bottle of chocolate milk for my baby.
FullSizeRenderThank you,” I gulped, my voice cracking. “Thank you.”

I pulled out of the parking lot, my eyes still blurred with tears as I turned my heart-gaze heavenward:

Thank you.

It was a gift of amazing, unmerited, overflowing grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru.

Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, grief, Kelly Clarkson, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Piece by Piece, Self Care, Uncategorized

Ladies, let’s stop aplogizing for our tears

I loved watching Kelly Clarkson sing “Piece by Piece” on American Idol earlier this month. It was a moving, emotional ballad; Kelly struggled with tears through the whole song, at times even losing her voice to tears as she pushed through to the end.

The audience—and America—wept with her, as she sang about how her father abandoned her as a child, but now that she is a mother, she knows that her children’s father will never leave their children…or her. Piece by piece, her husband’s love slowly put her heart and hope back together.

When Ryan came up to conclude the show with her, she apologized for crying over and over. “I’m really pregnant!” she laughed.

There was something profoundly familiar about her tears and her response. So often, our knee-jerk reaction as women to our own sudden tears is to say, “I’m sorry! I don’t know why I am so emotional!”
Our second response is to look for a scapegoat, usually a hormonal one:
“Stupid PMS!”
“Pregnancy hormones! They get you every time!”
We even use the hormonal excuse when there is no hormonal excuse:
“I don’t know why I am so emotional. It isn’t even that time of the month!”

We believe that our tears, sudden and uncomfortable, always need to be explained away. And if they can’t be easily excused, we make jokes about the emotional weakness of being a woman.

100_4647
I am smiling in this picture I vividly remember this day. I was going through a miscarriage and tears came unexpectedly and often.

The thing is, emotions or tears aren’t right or wrong. They simply are. It’s how we act in response to our feelings that is right or wrong.*

We shouldn’t have to apologize for feeling.
But so often, as women, we do.
I have a friend who is a passionate and vibrant person. She also cries very easily—about seeing her daughter learn and grow, about her passion to help women in our community, about the beauty in the world. Her tears and apologies flow freely.
Though I know she often is embarrassed by her strong emotions, I find her tears refreshing and honest.
Crying often expresses emotions in a way that words cannot.
It can reveal truth about our deeply felt experiences.
So instead of apologizing for our emotions,** what if we looked a little deeper and asked “Why am I crying?”

Hormones may be an easy answer but, the thing is, hormones don’t give us emotions; they simply highlight or emphasize emotions that are already there.  

Kelly’s song was deeply emotional on its own. It would have been difficult to sing even if she had not been pregnant and it had not been the final season of American Idol. Adding all that together made her performance even more impressive.  The reality is, her tears were what made the song even more beautiful, raw and relateable to listeners.

I wish she didn’t feel like she had to apologize for crying.

But if I were in her shoes, I would have done the same thing. Somehow it’s the socially acceptable thing to do as women.

It is a lot harder to simply let our tears be, without explaining them away (
It really is easier to blame our hormones, isn’t it?).

But owning our emotions is a part of embracing what it means to be a woman, a women who was created with God-given emotions, God-given hormones, and yes, even God-honored tears (Psalm 56:8).

When we stop apologizing and dismissing our tears, and start asking “Why?” about our emotional experiences, it helps us to build self-awareness. Owning our tears helps us to realize that our stories are real, valuable, and worth telling.

And when we can own our stories, we can more readily empathize with the emotional experiences of others.
We are able to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”  (Romans 12:15).
Tears
Our tears don’t need an apology or a hormonal explanation. Embracing our emotions and our tears is actually an act of love and respect. When we embrace our emotions as part of being a woman, we can more freely respect our own tears as healthy and normal.

And in loving and respecting ourselves, we can also more freely respond to the emotional needs of others with love and respect as well.

*Sadly, I often respond to my emotions with negative actions. When I choose to hurt others because I am angry or upset (or whatever), an apology is needed in order restore my relationships.

** I’ll admit, saying “I’m sorry!” is my first response when I cry unexpectedly! Instead of apologizing, here are a few suggestions for an alternative way to respond to our tears:

“Thank you for listening. I feel really emotional right now.”
“As you can see by my tears, I’m really passionate about this.”
“This always make me cry.”
“Hang on. I need a minute to collect myself.”
“I am so overwhelmingly happy!”
“This reminds me of my grandma. I miss her.”
“This makes me really sad/angry/upset/overwhelmed.”
“Darn you, Hallmark!”

Why do you think we feel the need to say “I’m sorry!” when we cry?

Why it is hard to accept our emotions, even our tearful ones?
What would we gain by accepting our tears as normal and part of “our story”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in childhood dreams, Christianity, Expectations, goals, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized, WAHM, Writing

I’m [NOT] writing a book: Saying No When you want to say Yes

I had this post all planned out a few weeks ago, the post where I would announce, “I’M WRITING A BOOK!”

But this is not that post.

The truth is, I want to write a book, but I’m not. At least not right now.

I’ve had an idea for a book for the better part of a year. Six weeks ago opened my file of notes and asked myself, “Why not now?
IMG_4878
I asked for feedback from friends.
 And they gave it: We love this idea!
I wrote a rough draft of a proposal.
I set up a meeting with a former professor who has published a few books.
I emailed another professor-friend who gave me encouragement and a sample of her last book proposal.
I listened to a podcast on how to write a proposal.
I got more great feedback and encouragement from friends and mentors.

I was thrilled, excited, ready to leap, and terrified all at the same time.

But I couldn’t jump.

Through all these weeks of excitement I was praying, asking God for his wisdom about my plans: Show me if this is the right time.

I got so much confirmation that this is a Good Thing, a Good Idea, a Good Plan. If I chose to go forward, it would be Right.

But as I tried to take care of my children, grade papers, spend time with my husband and the girls I mentor, blog, and move forward with the book, I realized I was being stretched so thin that I was starting to snap.
IMG_4993

I wasn’t loving the Little Things faithfully in all my plans for the Big.

I realized that I don’t have the time, energy or enough of me to do all the Good Things I want to do in my life right now.

So, despite all the whirlwind of excitement, the confirmations and support, and all the planning I put in, I know the answer to my prayers is this: Pull back. Not yet. Focus on what is going on around you right now. Be faithful.
IMG_5028

I tend to be very future-focused; I find a lot of passion and excitement in making plans and setting goals. I can see the big picture, way in the future. It’s a lot harder to put my binoculars down, stop gazing on dreams, and focus on steps that I need to take to actually make my goals a reality.

But what I really need right now is everyday faithfulness: taking care of my daily responsibilities, building relationships with my family and friends, learning more about blogging, building my audience, and writing regularly.

Writing the book right now could have been a Good Thing but it is not the Best Thing, both for my family and where I am right now as a writer.

There are so many big things in my life that I want to say “Yes” to, but sometimes, saying “No” is the best way to ultimately reach my goals.
IMG_4619
Sometimes the best “Yes” is “Not Yet.”

Have you had to say “No” to a Good Thing in your life?
How do you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! :

Posted in Autism, Autism and Church, Christianity, Mom Confessions, Parenting Ideas, Special Needs, Uncategorized

Benji’s Story: Pokemon is saving my Sunday

My son Benji is on the Autism Spectrum and he hates church.

My husband and I can’t quite put our finger on exactly what bothers him about it.
Maybe it’s the change in routine (it isn’t like school)
Maybe it’s the music (he does have auditory sensitivities but they are inconsistent)
Maybe it’s the sitting still.
Maybe it’s something else.

Disciplining and outlining my expectations of age-appropriate behavior were not working for him or for us as parents. I kept waiting for him to grow into church, to become more mature, to become more disciplined, to change, but it only got worse. We needed to try something new.

But what was “new”? My bag of parenting tricks was empty.

One Sunday, not long ago, Benji dissolved into a silent, furious meltdown in the service. While the music played, he threw himself on the ground, or buried his head in the padded seats, his bum in the air, refusing to talk, refusing to sit next to me. He forcibly pushed me away, only communicating through grunts and puppy-like whines.

I don’t know what to do.  I can’t help him. This is never going to change.

I felt myself falling into the familiar panic and despair, but before I did, I plunged my hand into my purse, hoping and praying that I had some toy in there to distract him out of his funk.
FullSizeRenderA toy train. That was it.

This? I held it up, my eye brows raised, as the congregation sang, the people unaware of the fierce struggle happening in the back pews.

Something clicked, but not in the way I expected. His eyes latched on the the toy; he grinned, but instead of reaching for the train, he flung himself across my lap.

I knew what he wanted, and slowly and firmly, I ran the wheels of the train over his back. He was allowing me to touch him when he was upset!  I was stunned, and pleased and I went with it.

This. This was something I could actually do to help him. It was amazing, rare, and empowering.

Back and forth, back and forth. Ten minutes passed, my baby in my lap.

Then, he sat up.
The fight had left his eyes. He took a deep breath and smiled at me. He went to Sunday School soothed.

The train now lives in my purse. It isn’t magic though so I’ve added a few more tools to my worn-out parenting bag:

One is a small therapeutic brush, given to me by his Occupational therapist. It works a lot like the wheels of the car; by brushing it over the skin, it soothes frazzled sensory input.  Weird, right? but I’ll take all the crazy voo-doo if it helps my son.

Finally, Pokemon  has joined Project: Good Sunday.

I’m going to be honest. Pokemon drives me crazy. I don’t really get it. It is awkward, repetitive,  has way too many characters, no plot, and is all about “battles.”

But Benji loves it. He loves it so much that I save Pokemon for Sunday’s only (otherwise, I go a little insane because I can only handle so much Pokemon monologuing).

If Benji participates in Sunday school with no meltdowns or fits, then he can watch one episode of Pokemon after church.

There was one Sunday a few weeks ago where he did not have any meltdowns or fits but he sat on the wall the whole time in Sunday School. He did not get to watch Pokemon that day. He was upset but understood the consequences.
But since then, he and Pokemon have had a standing, Sunday afternoon date.

Taking Benji to church is hard (and he is only one of our 4 sons!). I have been really close to giving up church all together; it has been that hard.

But I’ve kept trying because faith is important to me and my husband and we want to share our faith with our family. Going to church is a part of that for us.

My son has unique needs that frustrate and even infuriate me at times. And honestly, he doesn’t really care about singing, God, or learning about Jesus right now.

In the past, I’ve tried to discipline his behavior instead of trying to soothe his system or to give him incentives to be on his best behavior in a structured setting.

Changing my tactics and focus has helped. When I focused on his heart, seeking to love him and connect to the things that are important to him, Sundays got a little bit easier.

A yellow train, a therapeutic brush, and Pokemon have helped my son to feel loved.

And more than anything,  I want him to think, “My mom loves me” when he goes to church, and my prayer is that someday, by helping him feel my lovehis heart will be more open to a loving relationship with God.

Is Church difficult for you and your child?
What do you do to help your child, on the spectrum or off, feel loved?

Share your story below!

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to others. Would this post encourage someone you know? If so, please share!

Posted in Autism, Christianity, Learning Disabilities, life, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Special Needs, Uncategorized

How do you define patience?

“God, give me patience” is a prayer that I refuse to pray.

Why ? Because I’m not stupid.
I know if I pray for patience that God is going to give me situations that require patience, and I don’t need any more of those. 😉

But God doesn’t buy my reverse psychology. Life is complex and “situations” abound.

I used to think, “Once I get through the ‘terrible threes,’ my life will be easier” or “Someday I’ll have more patience.”

I would look at mothers of special needs kids and think, “Wow. I could never do what she does. She has the patience of a saint.” Then I would sigh wistfully, and think, I will never, ever be able to do that.

I never stopped to consider how a saint acquired such virtue.

But now I have kids with special needs and I’ll tell you the secret, though it isn’t very glamourous.

How do you become more patient? You have to be willing to suffer.

Kind of a gut check, isn’t it?

Most days, I spend a lot of energy avoiding suffering. It’s why I  made my twins use sippy cups until they were 5 and why naptime is non-negotiable for my 3 year old.
It’s why I stern-facedly warn my boys,  “DO NOT SPLASH IN THE TUB” before every bath…

…because i just don’t have the patience to deal with spilled drinks, whiny children, and flooded bathrooms.

But then there are the big things, like communication breakdowns, learning disabilities, sensory meltdowns, and Autism.

A lid, a nap, or a warning won’t “fix” these problems. They are complicated, unpredictable, and difficult. They are constant and pervasive.
And, yet, they catch me off guard, and destroy my attempts at patience at every turn.

It’s the big things that cause real suffering, for both me and my children.

I need patience, but for a long time I operated on the understanding that patience was just holding it together until I eventually snapped.

That’s it!
I’m done.
Mom is done.
Patience is DONE!

FullSizeRender
Mary Engelbreit asked me to be the model when she drew the picture of this mother

And yet, I fervently desire the perseverance James talks about:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

I want to be mature and complete, but can I be honest? I don’t want the trial.

I want the fruit of patience (Galatians 5:22-23) but I balk against the idea of “long-suffering.”

I constantly feel my own failure. I wonder how I can even say “I love you” to my sons, when I constantly fall short of the first definition of true love: “Love is patient.” (I. Cor. 13:4).

So I stopped praying for patience (Little good it was doing anyway).
I prayed instead for other things:
I prayed that I could understand how Benji’s mind worked.
I prayed that my heart would be tender, instead of hard, toward my sons.
I prayed that I could love them unconditionally.

And slowly, a new definition of patience formed in my mind.

Patience: def. The willingness to suffer.

Simply redefining patience, (or really, coming to a true understanding Biblical patience) has helped me to step away from my own grit-your-teeth patience, and into an others-focused Love for my children.

Because, let’s face it, motherhood is full of suffering, and in many moments, there is a choice: Either I am going to suffer, or I am going to make my children suffer.

I can say, “It’s ok, honey. Just get a towel. I’ll help you clean up the milk” and absorb the suffering of the moment.

Or I can make my child suffer with my impatience by scolding, huffing, and berating his clumsiness.

With Benji, I’ve learned that when I yell, he falls apart; he can’t listen to me and he just shuts down, sometimes for a long time.

Homework is one of our constant struggles. When he gets stuck on a problem or word, he often takes his frustration out on me. He balks, throws things, breaks pencils, growls, screams, shouts “NO” repeatedly, and refuses to move forward.

It’s really hard.

I have blown up so many, many times when this happens. I lose my cool, my sanity, my patience. And then we are in a worse place, with a broken mother and son, a huge, angry wedge in our relationship, all over a subtraction problem.

But instead of manufacturing my usual “Patience Bomb” (tick, tick tick, BOOM!), I am trying to focus on him, on us, on our relationship. While I don’t let him disrespect or abuse me, I am trying a different way.

I say, “I know it’s hard. Would you like me to help you?”

Sometimes I step away, so I don’t slip into scolding and shouting.

I dig down deep, in the place where prayer resides, breathe to calm my racing heart, and tell myself, I am willing to suffer in this moment, for the sake of my son, for the sake of our relationship, for the sake of love.

There is no perseverance without the trial.
There is no Spirit-fruit without suffering.

It is the willingness to suffer that opens the gateway to that saint-like patience I so desire. And it’s worth it, because relationship is my goal, and Love is the foundation, the means, and the prize.

Posted in Christianity, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Uncategorized

The Yoke of Rest

As I read through my Facebook feed on New Years Eve and New Years Day, I saw some many posts of joyful reflection and praise for 2015, and hope for the new year.

All I could think was, “Last year sucked.”

I felt like Sadness from Inside Out, lying wearily on the floor, worn out and overwhelmed.

All the worst moments from last year keep playing in my head:
Tongue Tie
Newborn exhaustion
Benji’s child study, the IEP process, and the weariness of waiting for answers
Teaching (too many) classes online—while being a mother of four, especially this summer
Potty training Silas
Benji’s Autism diagnosis
Eli’s 3 month long ear infection
Daily 3 year old tantrums
Eli’s ear tubes surgery
Emailing, work deadlines, and grading bad papers
And did I mention exhaustion? I have not gotten 6+ hours of consecutive sleep in well over a year

So often I prayed, “God, I am so weary and burdened. Give me rest; give me rest.”

After all, he said, “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” (Mtt 11: 28-30).

A yoke is a really challenging metaphor for the Christian life. For yoked oxen to be effective in a field, both animals need to pull in the same direction. If one pulls left, while the other walks straight, it will be an exhausting, frustrating, and often fruitless journey.

I say I love Jesus.
I say I want to walk in his ways, and I try to, daily.
And for many years, I willingly said yes to his yoke.

So I waited.
I waited for things to get easier.
But they just got different and harder.

The path of 2015 was awful. I actively resisted it, pulling away, stalling, and collapsing in exhaustion.

I was constantly shocked at every new hardship.
I threw many pity parties for myself.
I bitterly questioned God’s sovereignty
I  wondered why I was given children with special needs.
I have yet to figure out what Nehemiah meant when he wrote, “The joy of the Lord is your strength ” (Neh. 8: 10)
I wish I could say, like Paul,  “I have learned the secret of being content.” (Phil. 4:12).

Sure, at the end of the day, I walked the path with my yoke-partner, but not willingly, gracefully, joyfully, or contentedly.

When I was a child, I used to think that the yoke and burden he offers was the life of faith: Once we trust Jesus with our lives then everything will be easy, right?

Time and experience taught me, of course,that the life of faith is rarely ever easy.

As I grew older, my perspective shifted, “Well, perhaps the yoke and burden is the way that I will approach life’s difficulties. Things may get hard, but with faith, anything is possible, right? Mustard seeds and moving mountains….it’s easy, right?”
But experience has proved this idea to be false as well.

The truth is, life is difficult, overwhelming, and exhausting, and we will have many, many troubles (John 16: 33). My faith has not exempt me from sickness, financial strain, having children with special needs, or mental breakdowns.

But God has gently revealed this truth to my weary heart:

The yoke is the security of his presence and his burden is Love.
The yoke is the way he gently leads us.
Love is the easy burden: Love God, Love Others.

Love is the only thing that gives true rest.
It is the opposite of fear (1 John 4:18).

Going into 2016, I want to trust God’s love, truth and goodness more fully.
I want to share his love with my children and others more selflessly.
I want to resist the hardship of the Narrow Way less and pull with Him more.

The path is hard. Life really sucks sometimes.
But his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
And in his love, there is honest, deep rest for my weary soul.