Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gazing At My Tree

Although we have awesome trees in our backyard, I'm not talking about any of those trees. I'm speaking of the project my cousin (actually a few cousins) have been working on: our family tree.

Perhaps because my children are fascinated with the fact that we are indeed decedents of John Adams from my father's side of the family (I think), and the interesting fact that my grandparents along with all of my uncles, aunt and my mother were born in Palermo Italy, and according to documentation (and first hand account) arrived at Ellis Island in 1940, among other very exciting details of people in our lineage that keep coming up on our tree. It has made me think about how about my parents. I lost my mother when I was 10 years old and my father when I was in my 20s. I'm going to be officially middle aged tomorrow. My mother was not much older than I am now when she passed away.

I know..this is not a light and fun post. I'm about to change that - hang in to the end. As we prayed before bedtime tonight, my boys wished me a happy birthday, and thanked God for me, told me how much they loved me...I was keenly aware of the many blessings in my life.

Yes, I did live a very difficult life. My one cousin fills me in on some details of my childhood from time to time..and I sit back and mourn for that little girl. This little girl, who was being raised so tumultuously, who was placed in environments no child should ever have to endure. Yet...even in the worst of times, it is as plain as the nose on my face...the Lord had me in the palm of His hand.

I can remember the people he placed in my life that brought rays of sunshine in some of the darkest moments. That included my parents...both of difficult as it was for my mother during those years...she loved me deeply. There were others that God placed in my life too: camp counselors, Sunday School teachers, teachers, principals, friends, extended family....and I am who I am...because of their influence, their prayers and the Grace of God. (Oh Lord may we be rays of sunshine to others, may we look beyond their difficult disposition or the weight that they carry...and be a ray of sunshine to someone else!)

I can't help but think that 44 years ago, when my mother went into labor with me (and apparently almost died), that the Lord knew every detail of my life. The darkest moments as well as the rays of sunshine that he would place at those strategic times so I can recognize His glory. He knew and still knows all that lies before me. Reflecting on all of this has made me so aware of the enormous joy it brings our Heavenly Father knowing what He has planned for me is wonderful, amazing and far better than I could ever think or imagine. I'm sure I wasn't thinking that He had great plans for me when I was being abused, but that doesn't change the fact that He did indeed have great plans for me (and still does). 
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
I'm living them right now. I believe if God were, in haste, tell us what lies before us, we wouldn't be able to be as appreciative. Perhaps we'd even come to feel like we are somehow entitled. Friends, it is only His Grace...and never ending, unconditional, incomprehensible love that we can indeed have a Hope! I so desperately want to always remember, and continue to shout it from the rooftop, to always be on the look out for His personal love notes to us. They are there. Those little rays of sunshine in our dark times. They are always there.

So as my cousins work on the family tree, I sit and gaze in awe and wonder. My Father in Heaven, created this tree. Every single leaf was intentional. Every single leaf that has died, was special to Him. He watered that tree, He nurtured every single leaf on that tree. However, I know that some of the leaves weren't even aware of His presence. They were unable to see the Son shining. Some still refuse to see His tender hand pruning, and tending, and loving. Not me. Especially as I gaze on the tree and look at the very young leaves, I think...oh my Master Gardner has such great plans for these precious leaves. They will bloom, bring Him glory, do their part for the Glory of His Kingdom. Likewise, as I turn a year older, I know I'm changing color on that tree, but I will take all the tending, pruning, watering, and Son shine that I can soak in until He calls me home. I want to bring Him Glory! I like the trees that David talks about in the Psalms, I too will clap my hands before Him and sing praises to His name. He has done great and mighty deeds when it comes to this ever changing leaf...and I don't want to ever take one moment for granted. Thank you Lord...even though the words don't seem to do know what lies deep in my heart!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Someday I'm Gonna Be!

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  1 Thes. 5:11
He's the object of much of my learning and much of my writing. I love him so much! With all of his challenges, learning disabilities and social issues, he continues to draw most everyone he meets to see Jesus in a special way. I can't really explain it. He is just a genuine love, uniquely created to bring Him glory!

As I have written in the past, this boy was my last to pull out of school to homeschool. Yes, I was fearful, I admit it. Could I possibly help him more than he is already being helped? If I can't, then I am the only one to blame.

Throughout the past 9 years since he was first diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder an autism spectrum disorder) I have been very conscious of how we have encouraged him. We have cried and pondered and hoped and wondered and prayed about his future. There is no doubt that we have made the right decision to bring him home. He has grown so much academically, but most importantly he has grown up so much more in so many other areas of his life...we are so incredibly blessed to be a first hand witness to the miraculous hand of God in this child's life.

The truth is, my sweet boy is getting older. (I know...I don't like this part!) He is becoming so much more aware of his abilities and even his disabilities. He is having a hard time accepting that he is "behind" others in his age or grade (including his twin brother...and even his younger brother in some areas). Typically we have always accentuated each of their strengths. "Oh you are an amazing artist!" or "You are such a studious child!" or "You have a gift for athletics!" They even realize each others gifts...and encourage one another by praising each other in their differences.  What about aspirations for the future?

Well, in the past, I've concentrated on encouraging anything and everything he might be interested in. "I'm going to be a zookeeper when I grow up Mom!" You will be a great zookeeper! "I want to be a 'smoothie guy' (a guy who makes smoothies)" You will an amazing smoothie guy if that is what you want to be. See, that would be my encouraging him in whatever he wants to pursue.

In my prayer journal I write about my children and their future. I prayed about Kyle's concern about being..."behind". It was breaking my heart! Even though I would tell him, that he wasn't behind..he was right where he should is only natural to compare yourself...not healthy but certainly natural.

I have had to dig deep, and try many ways of teaching this child so that he can remember something. Kyle suffers from short term memory problems. We're trying something new...and I think its working. After one of our school day's this week I said these words to him...and little did I know the impact. "Kyle, you are doing so well! I'm so proud of you. You know, you would make a great teacher some day!"

A few days later I'm teaching another superhero at the table and I hear Kyle and his Dad chatting in the other room. As he sits in his Dad's lap, he says these words..."You know, someday, I'm going to be a teacher. Probably I will teach reading!" I was overwhelmed with joy (which of course manifested in tears)! I didn't just encourage him, but clearly, I spoke life into him.

That night as I prayed, the Lord reminded me of a memory stored way deep in my heart. I was a high school teacher, teaching interviewing skills about 15-16 years ago. I had many of my students in several classes. This one girl in particular struggled academically. I remember always trying to say something positive to every student - its important to find something. THERE IS GREAT POWER IN OUR WORDS! They can be used to build up or destroy! I remember saying to her one year when she was in my keyboarding class that she was a great speller. She would rarely have spelling mistakes in her timed writings - so that is where I was able to "speak life" into her - I wasn't much. The following year she was in my class where I was teaching interviewing skills. We had a mock interview with the vice principal and I always video taped it and we would watched them together in class the following week. When the VP asked her what her strengths were, I remember she paused, thought about it, sat up straight in her chair and said..."Well, I'm a really good speller!" I have no idea of the lasting impact of those words in her life. How those words could have made a difference.

I have no idea what Kyle will be when he grows up. But I am going to be more purposeful in planting seeds in his precious heart. I'm going to be more diligent than ever in watering and nurturing the soil of his heart. Finally, I am going to continue to not only agree and encourage all of my children in their aspirations for their future, but also dream big and pray big about what they can/will do and continue to encourage them to reach beyond what seems just a reality! I never want to limit my dreams for them or their own dreams for themselves! I trust God! I've seen him do miraculous things already! Of course you can be a police officer. You could be a lawyer, mayor, yes even president!

You could be a teacher Kyle! Yes you could. In fact, you would be an amazing teacher. So encouraging, so loving, so caring! So able! I don't know what he will be when he grows up...but I do know...he's gonna be!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lessons From The Little House...

April 2011 Loving the flowers in front of the Little House
on Willow Oak! Two of my children are studying early American History and in my opinion there is no better way to watch the expansion of the US than watching Little House On The Prairie. I have always LOVED the show when it was on television. Then it was in syndication while I was pregnant and on bed rest and I was obsessed with watching every episode. That was before Netflix and DVDs.

Now I sit on Monday nights with my two boys while my other is at youth group and we watch a few order of course. There are so many lessons to be learned in each one. Something to take away for today. We have only seen the pilot movie and then we just watch the first 2 episodes of season 1 and I have cried at every one. I wonder if I will cry for every single episode?

So what am I thinking about tonight? As my husband woke up at 8:30pm this evening and we made the transition to bed by 9:00pm for my children, I thought about my life in our little house on Willow Oak.

So many things are falling apart. The car, the shed (very dangerous), the fence, we've got little acrobatic ants now, the electricity in my kitchen is many things. We gave up cable TV about two years ago..and purchased an antenna. What a hoot, this week as my boys and I crowded around my TV as we took turns holding the antenna "just so" so that we could get a halfway decent reception. We went for a walk this weekend and I reminded my husband that a year ago, he didn't have a job, our lives had changed dramatically as Pop had died last March. We prayed big and God provided for our every need. Now he has a job, and we are presently paying off what we owed during our time of famine. I told him how happy it makes me feel for him that he is a homeowner, with a fine nursing job and a family who loves him and is so proud of him. I (in my ever so careful way) also mentioned that he must be 'excited' about getting some things done around the house. Of course I know he has never learned how to fix things, make repairs, or any of that...and he's a bit nervous of doing more damage than good. Then he explained to me, that the dreams he has doesn't match the income he receives. I know it doesn't.
The blessing to do this in our back yard.
Then tonight as I reflect on our little house, I realize that it is full of very big things. Huge miracles from God...priceless treasures in the children that bring so much joy. The honor and privilege we have to homeschool our children, the time we get to spend together...reading together, playing games, laughing, watching Little House episodes. The sacrifices that we have made, to live with less, (in comparison to the rest of the world is NOTHING), but for where we live, it has done a great deal in the raising of my boys. We treasure things like time, laughter, and joy and even sorrow. We've learned contentment (even though at times we long for more). We can look around and see beyond the broken cabinets, old mattresses, and dilapidated sheds and see a sense of humor, a big yard, and have I mentioned laughter. Wow, we giggle a lot around here. This makes me very thankful for Pa (aka.) Mr. Incredible and his love and faith that he models for my children. Thankful for my boys, far from country boys, but their love for one another, the Lord and for others runs true and deep. Thankful that we even have a Little House...and no mortgage. Praise God! So as I listened to the laughter tonight coming from the other side of the house and Pa said goodnight/goodbye to the boys...I smiled and realized we've learned many lessons in our Little House and I'm sure we'll be learning many more.