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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I Don’t Feel Blessed

blessedJunior turns three next month. Sometimes I look back at those early days after his birth. I was in a tough place. We were finding out that something was “wrong” with our new baby, and thrown into the special needs world immediately. It’s been a long, hard road, but I wouldn’t change it now, as devastating as the initial diagnosis was.

So, why then, is there one well-meaning phrase tossed around casually that always gives me pause? Makes my heart sink a little? Meets me with just a tinge of regret? What benign phrase could possibly affect me so?

We/I am/are SO blessed.

Yes, we are blessed abundantly and in different ways, but this phrase is too often thrown around flippantly, like a lucky charm almost.

When I see the photo of a friend’s new baby with the caption, “So blessed he’s HEALTHY!”, or the friend that tells me how “blessed” they are to afford another major vacation, or the neighbor that is “blessed” with a husband who works from home and takes the kids during the day, I admit, I give a little sigh. Not because I don’t think those things are blessings, but because, in society as a whole, we don’t understand what it actually means to be blessed.

Junior’s road has given me some wonderful perspective about the true meaning of being blessed. At the beginning of our journey, I had many well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters offer to pray for the “blessing of health” or the “blessing of a miraculous healing.” Not once did anyone offer to pray for the “blessing of contentment and peace”, which is what this long, winding, rocky path has eventually brought me to.

We all long to be blessed, but on our own terms, not God’s.

Several years ago, my Pastor father-in-law had the chance to minister to some tribes in Africa, and he brought back many stories of the joy these people, destitute by our definition, carried with them and radiated. They had joy and peace and contentment in the midst of having no material possessions and watching their children die of illness and disease. Still, they considered themselves completely blessed.

Yet, judging from how our society sees blessings, these tribes were “afflicted”, “unfortunate”, and “stricken”. They had no money, no health, no worldly possessions to call their own, yet they were content having just Jesus and nothing else.

So what are we missing?

For a long time, I listened to the people who told me to have more faith, to trust that God would bless us with a miracle for Junior and erase the “curse” of sickness if I only believed. And I kept falling. Deeper. Deeper. Thinking I had somehow displeased God so He was withholding the health of my child as a result. Believing that because I didn’t have the things I considered to be a blessing, that I was somehow less blessed or unblessed.

Never did it occur to me that our difficult road was the blessing. That I have been blessed with contentment (I would not change any part of Junior), compassion, unconditional love, and peace…things that can’t be taken away by a job loss, a car accident, or health crisis.

In the Biblical Greek, the word “blessed” literally means “happy”. We all know that money, health, good looks and a spouse and perfect little children don’t bring happiness. Only our contentment in God’s grace brings true happiness, true blessings. I am grateful for Junior’s journey, because God used him to heal me, not the other way around.

Our Simple Strategy to Keep Kids Balanced

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Ever since the last time change, our morning routine has been a little off. For the most part, it was because the kids were falling asleep late and waking up late, so we barely had time for breakfast before Junior’s appointments in the mornings. So granola bars and fruit leathers were quick and easy on-the-go “meals”.

Unfortunately, I noticed that Tater was beginning to have attitude issues…things like getting easily frustrated, melting down at the slightest little inconveniences, and crying because she couldn’t focus during school. Tater has always been a strong-willed child, but this was something different. I chalked it up to her being tired, then to too much screen time, then to being nervous about a couple of dentist appointments, and finally I planned on scheduling an appointment with Junior’s OT to discuss possible behavioral issues.

But, before I scheduled anything, I decided to run a little experiment.

Within 3 days, there was a huge improvement in her attitude. It’s been a complete 180! She’s calmer, more focused, and overall more balanced.

What did I do?

First, let’s start with me. My husband insists I eat three square meals every day, and my own mother refuses to answer the phone until I’ve eaten something in the morning. When I get low blood sugar, I get reaallllyyyy crabby. Tater eats healthy, but her snacks are usually just fruit…which has a lot of sugar (albeit natural sugar) but no protein to balance it. So, I decided to add in protein to all her meals and snacks to see if that would help keep her moods balanced.

She doesn’t like eggs in their plain, eggy form (in recipes is okay), and milk/cheese upset her tummy (but yogurt is fine), so I’ve had to come up with good protein sources for breakfast and snacks. (Lunch and dinner are easy…there are usually meat or beans involved.)

Here are some of the breakfasts I’ve been making:

Snacks were very challenging…like I said before, she has always just requested fruit or maybe a little granola bar. So, I had to completely rethink snacks, especially because a hard boiled egg or cheese stick wouldn’t work. Here are some of Tater’s favorite snacks:

  • Apple slices and Peanut Butter
  • Celery sticks and Peanut Butter
  • Hummus and Pita Chips
  • Quick, Easy, No Bake Energy Bites
  • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark (this is a wonderful dessert for Tater. The dark chocolate doesn’t cause a sugar crash, and the pumpkin seeds add protein)
  • Air Popped Popcorn (each serving contains 4 g protein)
  • Trail Mix
  • Organic Soft Pretzel Bites (these are frozen and I found them at Costco. Each serving has 4 g protein)

It’s amazing how much our diet affects everything. I’m so glad that Tater’s behavior and attitude has been helped by such a simple fix, but I do need to keep on top of it. If she doesn’t have at least a little protein every 2 hours or so, it starts to show, and I have to make sure she doesn’t get any artificial colorings in her food, as she’s severely affected by them almost immediately. But, since I’ve started this, I’ve noticed SUCH a difference. Instead of crying because her Junior took a toy, she’ll calmly ask for it back. When I tell her it’s time to do school, she goes to the school room instead of yelling at me that she can’t focus. I guess food and mood do go hand-in-hand!

Do your children have food sensitivities? How does it affect them? Tell me in the comments!

Why I Stopped Couponing (And How I’m Still Saving Money)

Before Junior was born, I was all about couponing. I would look through the ads while comparing them to my coupons, and had a coupon box I would bring with me every time I went shopping. I routinely got products for free (even if I didn’t use them), and several times received cash overages after a grocery shopping trip!

But, after he was born and days became hectic and crazy and exhausting, and I started homeschooling Tater at about the same time, I had to stop. I didn’t have time to eat, much less sit and clip or print coupons and compare ads. Meals became simpler, shopping trips became more infrequent, and coupons slowly died off in my little world. Here are the top reasons I stopped couponing, and the ways I’m still saving money:

1. Time
I used to spend at least an hour a week clipping coupons and comparing prices. I would spend another 2 hours weekly driving to stores and shopping for the items I was going to use coupons for. I decided that those extra three hours a week could be better used, such as making food from scratch while Junior napped, planning out my menu with ingredients from the pantry or making the most of leftovers, or planting a garden (or watering the garden my husband planted =)). All of those efforts combined to save me significantly more than the $10 a week average I was saving in coupons, and I ended up with more time to spend with my family.

2. Product Availability
Whenever there was a good coupon deal, and thousands of money saving bloggers had already alerted the masses, I would find our store shelves empty. Often, I had just gone to the store just for those several items, and ended up wasting time, energy, and gas for nothing. By going to the store less frequently, and only for items I really need, I save money on gas and on impulse buys.

3. Item Quality
We’ve been trying to eat healthier, and that means we rarely eat items that most coupons advertise.We eat more fresh fruits and veggies, more simple meals, and less packaged goods than we used to. Even with coupons (or possibly because of coupons), I used to spend a lot on snack foods, even if we didn’t end up eating them, just so I could use the coupon. Now, I get most of our snack foods from Trader Joes, which are often organic but still less expensive than their brand name grocery store counterparts. We eat mostly organic now, and my grocery budget has actually gone down $20 a week because I buy so much less pre-packaged items. Fruits and vegetables and high quality items don’t have to be expensive. In season fruits and vegetables are often very inexpensive.

On occasion I will clip a coupon for something I need to purchase anyway, and the Target Cartwheel App has been a hassle free way to save, but gone are the days of crazy couponing. In exchange, I have more time, a lower budget, and we’re eating healthier.

Do You Coupon? Why or Why Not? Join in the Conversation on Twitter or Facebook!

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