Seeking Gratitude Even When Life is Hard

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Sometimes life is hard, and in those times it seems like such a daunting task to find something to be grateful for. It’s so easy to look at all the things that are wrong instead of all the things that are right.

I’ve been really convicted of this lately. I’ve been tired, there have been a lot of things going on, and quite frankly, complaining is easy. But, there are so many blessings in my life, and I think it’s important to focus on those things. Of course I know it’s easier said than done. I might resolve myself to only think about the good things in my life, but two minutes later I’m back focused on my problems.

Recently, however, I read an article that really helped my perspective, and gave a simple, yet profound tip for counting your blessings. Imagine that everything you have, everything you are was suddenly taken away. It has all been returned to you. How thankful are you for those things you had once taken for granted?

God’s unending love…

My family…their laughter…their health…

My dishwasher and washing machine…

My hands that get things done and feet that take me where I need to go…

A reliable car…

The food in our cabinets…

Hot water…

Our refrigerator that keeps food cold…

Bookshelves full of books…

My son’s cochlear implants so he can hear my voice…

The warm blanket on my bed…

A soft couch for relaxing…

Cooking utensils…(have you seen Cutthroat Kitchen? I’m never taking a pan or spatula for granted again.)

I’m not perfect at this exercise yet; I think it takes a lot of effort to move to a mindset of gratitude, but I’m trying and am already feeling more thankful.

As a sign in my parent’s house attests: There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

No Matter What Anyone Else Says…

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Like many children, I was bullied and teased throughout my school years. I was profoundly deaf in one ear, my legs twisted in instead of out so I walked funny, I had severe permanent skin depigmentation on my neck, chest, and stomach, and I had to wear very strong glasses. Looking back, I also had sensory issues that would have been labeled if I were a child today. Apparently, I was different from all the other kids, and they made sure to tell me about it.

But, my parents worked hard to make sure I never felt different. The things that could have been considered impediments were just a part of who I was. My parents constantly encouraged me that I will always have something worthwhile to offer, no matter what anyone else says. That everyone has a special gift or talent to share with the world. They inspired me to find the things I could do, instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t do.

My parents always encouraged me in whatever activities I wanted to undertake. I had a hard time running for any distance, but baseball became my passion from a young age. I would spend hours poring over statistic books and sports magazines and watching my favorite Major League Baseball team play. I struggled with handwriting and anything that required fine motor skills, but exceled in spelling, eventually reaching the State Spelling Bee twice. My single sided deafness made it hard to play group games on the school playground because it was too noisy to hear, but in carving out a quiet place, I was able to have meaningful conversations with kids who would later become lifelong friends.

My parents told me I was enough, over and over, day after day, even when I didn’t feel like it. They made me feel like I was enough by always encouraging me to find my strengths and offering praise when I improved in any area I struggled in, however insignificant a gain.

Fast forward, I’m all grown up and now the mommy of a precious little boy who is profoundly deaf in both ears and also has severe sensory processing disorder that impacts our everyday life. I desperately want to give him the same gift that my parents gave me. The gift of enough. I want him to feel loved, talented, confident, and full of worth. Even–no, especially–when he realizes that he may be a little different than other kids.

I want to help him find the things that he will excel in, the things that will bring him a sense of accomplishment, and help him focus on those, while instilling in him the courage and tenacity to try to improve in the areas where he is challenged. His limitations can be turned into assets if he has the right frame of mind. He has so very much to offer this world, and I never want him to forget it just because his talents look different than someone else’s.

Despite any limitations that seem to stand in our way, each one of us has some unique and special gift or talent to offer, no matter what anyone else says.

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A Bittersweet Season

IMG_9401The last few months have been tough around here.

Besides the usual busyness of Junior’s appointments and therapies and continuous monitoring of his fairly slow progress, Tater has been seeing a specialist for some potential health concerns. I’m a worrier, and was in Mommy Worry Mode for a while. But, once December rolled around, I was determined to enjoy every second of the Christmas season, and put all my anxieties on the back burner. The kids and I did crafts, baked cookies, and made ornaments. We decorated the tree, had family movie nights, and went out to see all the best Christmas lights San Diego had to offer nearly every single evening.

But, two weeks before Christmas, we got a phone call. One of those phone calls. The kind you always dread in the back of your mind every time the phone rings.

Your dad has advanced cancer.

My dad has battled many health issues over the years, but nothing his great attitude and sense of humor couldn’t overcome. We were shocked…this diagnosis came out of left field, and at Christmastime no less.

My dad was admitted to the hospital and began radiation the same day he was diagnosed. He’s battling, but it’s been tough. It’s been 6 weeks and he still hasn’t been able to come home permanently, but we are prayerful that he will fight this thing and be victorious.

We spent Christmas together as a family…my dad received a 4 hour pass from the nursing facility to come home and visit, have brunch, and open presents…and we tried to make each moment count. It was bittersweet. Sweet for the time spent together, Bitter for the circumstances clouding the day.

Now that it’s January and the excitement of the Christmas season is over, real life has begun to set in again. Junior’s delays are still being assessed. Tater still has follow ups with the specialist. My dad still has cancer. And I’m still tired. Tired of there always being something.

My dad had many favorite quotes he used to tell me growing up. (They annoyed me as a teenager, but now I am grateful for the morsels of wisdom.) One of the phrases he used to quote the most came from the movie Apollo 13, in which a set of circumstances devastating for one character, ended up being the saving grace for everyone else.

Things have a way of working out.

And they will. God promises that ALL things work together for the good of those who love him. Because He is the one who created my story, I trust that He is working everything out for my good. I may be exhausted, worn out, anxious, and grieved, but I have to trust that His promise is true. That things do have a way of working out, even when life is out of our control. Because He’s the One who holds all our tomorrows.

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Top 10 Posts of 2015

It’s somehow 2016, and I know I say this every January, but how on earth is last year already over?

Our family had a pretty good year altogether–if you don’t count a rocky December, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Our year consisted of several road trips, lots of school, and some pretty exciting milestones from Junior.

Here are my Top 10 Posts of 2015…which post was your favorite?

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9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

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5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.
Niagara Falls and Upstate NY with Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3,

30 Minute Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.
10 Reasons Having a Child with Cochlear Implants is Awesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
1. Sharing Secrets…A Look Back at Diagnosis Day

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Because He Knew…

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I don’t think I’ve shared this story before, but it’s really been on my heart lately, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning…

With both of my children, one hymn became “their song”, and I would sing that song frequently when I was pregnant with them. Tater’s song was Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. I still sing it to her, and it’s still the first song she requests when I put her to bed.

When I was pregnant with Junior, our family was going through some really tough things. I was on bedrest, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly, and my grampa was diagnosed with cancer. One day, the old hymn Blessed Assurance popped into my head. It soon became “Junior’s song.” I sang it frequently to the little one in my tummy, hoping that his life story would be one of blessings from God.

Once Junior was born, I stopped singing. He couldn’t hear me anyway, so we would both sit in complete silence as I held him and rocked him. My heart broken that he couldn’t hear my voice. That those months of singing blessings on him in my womb had fallen literally upon deaf ears.

This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.

I just couldn’t understand why God had put that song into my heart and upon my lips if Junior wasn’t going to hear it. Why even bother giving me a song? Didn’t he know that Junior was going to be deaf? It felt like a cruel joke.

Fast forward about a year. Junior’s cochlear implants had been activated recently, and he was on the road to hearing. We opted to get genetic testing done to determine the cause of his deafness. There was nothing definite or conclusive, but we did find out that he has a “variant of unknown significance” on a gene that causes progressive blindness. (Three years later and we are still in a wait-and-see mode about that.)

About a year after that, 2 year old Junior was hearing pretty well and was starting to say words. He enjoyed listening to our voices, and one day when he was dozing off in my arms, Blessed Assurance popped back into my head. His ears were still on, so I sang it to him. I sang that hymn for the first time in a very long time.

I reached the second verse, the melody having put him to sleep, and it clicked. The words made sense. I finally understood why God gave this song to Junior.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Visions of Rapture. Echoes of mercy. Whispers of love.

God knew that we would be worried about Junior’s vision. He knew that our little boy’s ears wouldn’t function the way they should. He knew this path we were going to walk, because he gave me this song before our son was even born. He knew that eventually Junior would be able to hear sounds, whispers, and voices.

Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Junior can hear my whispers. Sometimes I whisper across the room, “I love you”, and he whispers back, “I love you too, momma.” That song was a foreshadow. A reminder. A promise.

God knows your journey. He has always known the path you were going to walk. The ups, the downs, the valleys, and the peaks. The road you are traveling was not a random, luck of the draw event. He knew. He knows where you’re going, where you’ve been, and He just wants you to rest in the promise of His whispers of love.

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