A Letter to My Son on His Third Birthday

Junior Turns 3

Dear Sweet Boy,

You’re turning three years old this week. You have spent the last couple days trying to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself, a precious sound I thought I…or you…would never hear. Each word you utter is a miracle I will never take for granted. Your little voice represents hard work, determination, and most of all, hope.

Three years ago, my heart grieved for you…the innocent little babe wrapped in my arms. I grieved that, even at birth, your future wasn’t exactly clear. Your birth day should have been filled with dreams and possibilities that you could achieve anything and everything you set your mind to.

Instead, that day was filled with more questions than answers when you failed your newborn hearing screen.

Would you ever learn to talk? Would you ever hear my voice? What caused your deafness? Why you?

So many doctor’s appointments followed, and you never had a nap schedule because you were always in the car.

When you were 8 months old, you received cochlear implant surgery. We knew this was a gift, but you only felt pain and didn’t understand why. Yet, you endured it and trusted us even through the hurt.

At 9 months old, your “ears” were switched on, and you began to hear for the first time. What joy to my momma heart. I said “I love you”, and I knew you were finally able to hear it.

Time passed, you spent hundreds of hours of hard work learning to listen, and you became a toddler. A strong willed, wide smiling, little momma’s boy who wanted to swing upside down and hit everything you saw and scream at the top of your lungs for no reason. Those “quirky” habits led to more assessments and more appointments and more therapies to your already full appointment schedule. But, you love your “teachers”, and they love you in return.

Three years ago, I never knew that mundane milestones could bring so much joy:

The first time you turned your head to my voice.

The first time you sat in a restaurant without screaming.

The first time you walked next to the stroller and actually held on.

The first time you put your “ears” back on your head after they fell off.

Everything that’s happened in the last three years has molded and shaped me into becoming the perfect momma for you. You have given me so many gifts, just by being you.

Three years ago may as well have been a lifetime; you have changed me in more ways than you can imagine. And for that I thank you. Happy birthday my little one.

I love you now and always,

Momma

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.

The Destructive Habit Christians Buy Into…and how it’s ruining us

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God designed the church to be a great source of encouragement, edification and building each other up for His glory. But lately I have noticed a nasty trend of denying grace and promoting works and self, sadly, even within Christian circles. It’s breaking people apart…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

For me, I think it all started in a Christian Mom’s Group, where a debate on some hot parenting topic got out of hand. Where opinions became dogma and “because God convicted me to do something, YOU must do the same regardless of what God has told you to do.”

The discussion elevated into condemning judgment from both sides, and at the end of the day, a divided group went back to their homes, more determined than ever to prove their side of the argument, even if they had to break relationships to do so. Grace was dead that day, as each person sought to make their own personal experiences the sole bringer of truth for everyone else.

In the book of John, after Jesus describes the death Peter would eventually face, Peter asks Jesus “What of him?” pointing to the apostle John. I can see Jesus looking at Peter, his God-light eyes full of love for this headstrong fisherman. He replied with a truth that transcends the ages: “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”

What is that to you? As for you, follow me.

Such a simple truth that could transform our lives and bring us more joy and peace! What is it to you if people make different decisions on topics the Bible has no specific commands about? What is it to you if someone breastfeeds or doesn’t? Vaccinates or doesn’t? Cloth diapers or doesn’t? What is it to you if a mom down the street doesn’t want to homeschool, feeds her kids Goldfish and non-organic apples, gets an epidural, and is done after 2 kids when you want 12?

What is that to you? Are you following what God has put on your heart? That’s great. Maybe she is too. And maybe…just maybe…what God has convicted her to do is completely different from His plan for you. As for you, follow me.

The Bible commands us not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world. The world criticizes, judges, breaks down, and condemns.

The same thing I saw in that mom’s group, and the same thing I see whenever someone brings up one of those touchy topics I mentioned earlier, even (especially) among Christians.

The same thing I felt when, after diagnosed with an endocrine issue that made breastfeeding an absolute nightmare, I chose to bottle feed. The decision came after my husband and I prayed about it and I felt God’s peace to give up nursing so I could better care for my baby. But, even after sharing the peace I was given, I was reprimanded more than once for “poisoning” my child. It broke me and sent me reeling. I felt abandoned by the very people who were supposed to be lifting me up and encouraging me.

What is that to you? As for you, follow me.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have opinions. No, very much the opposite. Strong opinions keep us firm in our convictions and allow us to stand up for our faith. Ialso believe that debate can be healthy when voiced in a respectful and responsible way. But we get ourselves into trouble when our opinions become the only truth.

God put us all on different paths, on different roads. He gave us all different experiences that mold and shape us into the people we eventually become. Among subjects where there are no specific Biblical commands, it’s up to each person and each family to figure out what God wants of them. And only them. A map of California, while having the same universal legend and cardinal directions as any other map, isn’t going to do much good in New York. No. You’ll get hopelessly lost trying to use someone else’s road map for your own God-ordained path.

What is that to you? As for you, follow me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some spilled Goldfish to clean up before we leave for church.

Living Joyfully…Editing out Life’s Joy…

On our recent trip to the Bay Area for my 30th Birthday, we were driving through a beautiful stretch of land in the Napa Valley. I had my phone out, taking pictures, and looking at each photo right after taking it. (Does anyone remember the 90s, and that loooooong week waiting for film to be developed, only to get it back and realize none of the photos came out? Torturous. Anyway, I digress.)

So, I was looking at one photo in particular, and started editing it while we were driving. I was oblivious while cropping and changing colors, etc., until I heard “Wow, look at that!” By the time I looked up, whatever beautiful view had caught my husband’s attention was in the rearview mirror, and I had missed it because I was so busy editing a photo I had already taken.

How often do I do that in life? How much time do I spend thinking about the things I would change in life, that I miss out on the good stuff right in front of me? The “if only”s and “what if”s that plague my thoughts take away my joy in the now. I’m so busy critiquing things in my life that I don’t look up in time to see the beauty before it rushes past.

Life isn’t easy. There are things I wish I could change. There are really hard, frustrating, sad, cruddy things I’ve had to deal with. But, even in all the difficult circumstances, there are good things too. Things I don’t want to regret not enjoying when I had the chance.

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