Friday, December 20, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Visit With Natalie (Part 5)

Deep breath.

I no longer had to wonder how the parent of a service man feels when his child returns home from battle....or how the parent of a missionary who is ministering oceans away reacts when she sees her child for the first time after months of separation.  When the door opened, I was living it.

"Hey mom," she said.

Your first inclination might be to take that simple greeting for granted.  However, those two words hold an entire story.  Natalie's story completely entwined with me.  And it is remarkable.

This teenage girl who was once an orphan, who has been pushed to and pulled from four different treatment centers over the course of a single year, who has been placed on and off all sorts of medications to ultimately be taken off of it all....the girl who has been made to dissect feelings she couldn't possibly understand, who was asked to dredge up a past she cannot remember....the one forced to confront anger she never intended, and to deal with actions she regrets with every fiber of her being...this teenager who hated me and sought ways to hurt me....in facing me for the first time in eight months was comfortable enough to simply greet me with:  "Hey mom".

The words symbolized home.  They are two words typical, run of the mill, ordinary teenagers use every single day when greeting their moms.  The words are normal.  They are indicative of a fresh start.

My arms opened for a hug:  "Hey Natalie."

She met me half way.  The hug was mutual, not one-sided.

We were given the great room couches to use for our visit.  A beautifully decorated Christmas tree adorned the front window, lights seeming to twinkle with joy for this occasion.  Lydia quickly pulled out her phone to share pictures and video from home.  The pictures of Hope and Charlie helped bring all the tales from home to life.  We laughed.

When was the last time I had seen Natalie laugh?  I couldn't remember.  But it didn't matter.  Here she was, seated beside me, tickled about the funny stories we never would've had if Hope and Charlie were not part of our lives.  Hope and Charlie, the two little ones in our lives who have no words, who have sensory disorders, and who both bear an extra chromosome.  Isn't it funny?  Two who are thought to bring no tangible value to the world are the very ones who brought our family back together that day on a sofa in Missouri.

For a split second, as I sat there, I actually felt the awe and majesty of ONE who sees ahead and provides. Of ONE who knew the adversity Natalie would face when she was still in her birth mother's womb, and in turn, the ONE who saw the trauma our entire family would encounter years after she became part of our own family through adoption.  Only the Masterful Creator of all things would think to use the least of the world...ones like Hope and Charlie....to heal and to restore.

After nearly four hours, when we were standing near the Christmas tree preparing to say our goodbyes, Natalie turned to me.  Chappy and Lydia were still speaking with Mrs. Debbie who had just given us a complete tour of the cozy home that is currently providing therapy and education for 20 teenage girls.  This was a blip in time meant only for Natalie and me.  A blip in time wrapped up as a gift especially for me.  It was appropriate we were near the tree, as if the Almighty Himself planned the whole thing.

She didn't look at the floor and she didn't mumble her words.  Natalie looked directly into my eyes when she spoke:

"If you had not found this place and sent me here, I would be dead.  I had made up my mind that I couldn't live with the pain anymore.  I was going to take my life.  I was going to do it."

Peace washed over me, cleansing me from all doubt and guilt.

"I'm getting better every day.  I'm going to have a good life, I promise I am."

Our goodbyes were full of tears.   But when Lydia, Chappy, and I climbed back into the SUV, returned Natalie's wave, and turned to head back to the hotel, our hearts were full of hope.

The miracle of Christmas is of a Father, who so driven by love for the children who rejected Him, left the comforts of home to enter a foreign place to rescue them.  to love them.  to know them.

The miracle of Christmas for me this year was in my leaving the comforts of home to go to Natalie, the one who had rejected me.  Twelve years ago, I went to her in the foreign land of Russia.  Two weeks ago, I went to her in Missouri.  On this day, she accepted me as her mom.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." 

Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia.  She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing.  The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen.  To order your Loyalty Lock, visit:  http://www.loyaltylock.org/  They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping:


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Visit With Natalie (Part 4)

Walking through the doors of the market was like taking a step back in time.  A bell, attached to the top of the door, actually rang when we entered.  I couldn't help but think of ZuZu Bailey when I heard it:  "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."  I needed an angel.

Lydia and I came out of the restroom all washed up and ready to complete the final leg of our journey.  I observed the inventory belonging to this roadside market plunked down on a country road in the middle of nowhere.  It was sparse indicating the place was not accustomed to entertaining large numbers of visitors. The windows in the front of the store nearly reached from the floor to the ceiling, and a fair haired girl with ringlet curls who looked to be three years old pressed her face onto the panes, leaving the print of her nose and mouth behind.  Each time she would pull her face away, she giggled with abandon at the piece of herself left behind on the glass.

She tugged on the shirt of an older gentleman who remained close by her side, even though she could have safely inhabited the entire store with no fear or worries.  Pointing at the disappearing prints, she shined:  "Look Papaw!  It's me on the window!"

He was so kind to her,  patiently standing beside her, laughing out loud along with her.

Near the cash register, stood a woman I guessed to be the girl's mother.  I hadn't noticed her before, but quickly put two and two together and surmised the old gentleman was also her father.  Our eyes met.

"You doin' alright today?"  she asked.

"Yes", then dipping my head toward the window:  "I guess with all this snow and ice, you guys are really feeling the Christmas spirit!"

The twenty something year old, wearing natural beauty in the place of makeup with her hair pulled up into a simple high ponytail said:  "Yep", then looking to the little girl, "especially her."

The one called Papaw was now holding his granddaughter's hand while she carefully hopped from window sill to window sill.  It was her game, and he was happily playing it with a broad smile across his face.

"We don't have much, but we got love.  And that's all that matters this time of year", she continued with a smile.  I could tell she was proud to be the momma of that little giggling bundle of energy.

Then Papaw looked up and spoke to me for the first time.  He had been so in tune to the girl with the ringlet curls, I was unsure he even knew I was nearby.  The dark leathery skin belonging to the man at the center of his granddaughter's affection displayed lines around his eyes proving he had spent many days smiling.  His eyes, though, were deceiving.  They were as blue and as young as those belonging to a teenage boy:

"That's all that matters ANY time of year."

The white haired grandfather then turned back to the frolicking angel.  At the counter, his daughter turned to pour herself another cup of coffee.  And I opened the door, again heard the bell ring, and left.

Chappy had been sitting out in the car waiting.  The car felt warm and comfortable.  The butterflies in my stomach were gone.

When we entered the gates of the "Wings Of Faith Academy", I thought to myself:  "We have love, and that's all that matters."

Chappy parked the car, turned to Lydia and me and announced:  "We are finally here girls.  Let's go have a great visit with Nat-Nat!"

The next thing you know, I was standing on a covered porch, Chappy and Lydia behind me, ringing a doorbell.

The door opened slightly, and we were immediately knocked back by sounds of screaming girls and clapping hands.  At first I couldn't make out what they were saying, probably because I was so surprised by the sound.  But then it became clear:  "We are so proud of you Natalie!  Have a great visit with your family!"

The door continued to open until she appeared.  It was Natalie.

(continued tomorrow)----Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia.  She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing.  The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen.  To order your Loyalty Lock, visit:  http://www.loyaltylock.org/  They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping:




    

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Visit With Natalie (Part 3)

Snow flakes seemed to dance through the air to the Downhere Christmas melody playing on the radio.   So I turned my thoughts to Him.  To the King who gave up His throne for me.  And I wondered about the season called "Christmas" and the adopted Christ child, Jesus.  It was very solemn in the car.  By this time Lydia was nodding in and out of sleep while Chappy focused on following the winding country road that would soon lead to Natalie.  Neither noticed when God wrapped His big arms around me, tenderly tilted my head back onto his chest, and encouraged my mind to once again, take a journey:

"You know, Father, when Joseph adopted Jesus, he didn't get a baby with a lot of problems.  He became the Father of YOUR Son, who by the way, was literally perfect!"

I let the statement settle, making my point.

No answer came, so I considered poor Joseph. His heart must have turned flips when the angel said:  'Joseph, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child growing within her was conceived by God....oh, and by the way, He's the promised Messiah.'

AND regardless of the angel's warning to not be afraid, I think it is safe to bet he was very afraid!  Although he grew up well versed in scripture and knew God had spoken to Noah, to Moses, and to Elijah.....the simple carpenter could have never, in his wildest dreams, expected to get a personal call from God.  But there it was.  The Messiah, the long awaited One, would be Joseph's adopted son.    

Hmmmm.  Did Joseph immediately attach to Jesus?  Did he pick the Savior up from the manger, cradle Him in his arms and say:  "My son!"  or did he simply look down upon his tiny face and think:  "You are God's son."

How does one, after all, connect with the Son of God?  What am I asking?  Of course Joseph connected with One who is perfect love, right?  OR....were there issues?

Well at first, when Jesus was just a toddler, things had to be blissful.  Joseph teaching the little fella' to manage His first steps, playing games like peek-a-boo with Him, and encouraging Him to speak His first words:  "Da-Da...go ahead and say it Jesus....I'm your Da-Da".

Oh, well, that might have been awkward. Joseph, knowing the Creator of the Universe sees and hears everything.  He must have felt uncomfortable asking God's son to call him "Da-Da".

(Pause) Why had I never contemplated Jesus' adoption before?

And when did Mary and Joseph tell Jesus He was God's Son?  Surely they did when He was old enough to understand.  How did that earth-saving knowledge impact the relationship between Joseph and Jesus?

Adoption isn't perfect in the very best scenario, so why do I spend time dissecting what I should have done or could have done....when the truth of the matter is I have done my best?  I'm not perfect, so I fit in right with Joseph.

God didn't look for a perfect man to be Jesus' adopted father, because there is no perfect man.  Likewise, God wasn't looking for a perfect mother for Natalie, because there is no perfect female.  In fact, God's proof that He is NOT looking for perfection is the Christmas story.  If human beings were perfect, there would have been no need for the virgin birth.

My head still resting back on Father's chest, He finally spoke with a question:  "Joseph believed.  Do you believe?"

"Do I believe?  I want to believe with everything in my being, Lord.  But I am so afraid.  You know, I have been praying eight years for you to heal Hope's heart, but You haven't.  And you have given neither Hope nor Charlie the ability to talk...and on top of that, they both battle extreme sensory issues.  They are trying so hard to fit into this world You created, but every single day is a monumental struggle for them. People stare at them, feel uncomfortable around them, and reject them.  And it makes my heart hurt so bad.  Then there is Natalie.  I didn't even see Reactive Attachment Disorder coming at me until it had run completely over me. One day my daughter was Natalie, and then the next day she was someone I didn't even recognize.  She was abandoned as a baby, and now she must feel like I have abandoned her too. How can a fifteen year old girl comprehend all she's going through?  Yes, I am doing my best....but my best right now is....."

The car stopped?  When had I dozed off?  I didn't remember feeling sleepy.

"Everybody out.  We are about 20 minutes away and this is the last pit stop before we enter the gates of the Wings Of Faith Academy,"  Chappy said as he unbuckled his seat belt.

I followed his lead, stepped out into the bitter cold, and walked  toward a tiny market alongside a desolate road. There wasn't a car in the parking lot, and not even a single car passed by on the road in front of the market.  Little did I know my chat with God was setting me up for this moment....

(continued tomorrow)----Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia.  She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing.  The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen.  To order your Loyalty Lock, visit:  http://www.loyaltylock.org/  They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping:







  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Visit With Natalie (Part 2)

Fear.  He is a tormentor, isn't he?  A sort of invisible thief who cruelly swipes all security from his target only to replace it with a terror that literally chokes the freedom from life.

What a quandary.  The enemy of fear loomed heavily, yet there Lydia sat.  I wondered when she had mustered the strength. I questioned where her resolve had come from.  And I hoped she was preparing to face fear and to once and for all put the thief away, outside the bars of her heart.

While Lydia occupied a part of my mind, reflections of Natalie consumed the much larger part.  Oh, how my mind raced with thoughts of Natalie.

The first stop along my remembrance path was at a Russian orphanage when I saw Natalie for the first time. You know, it's funny.....I expected to be drawn to her that first moment.  Looking back on it, I believe I expected a bit of magic.  But the truth is, I wasn't drawn to her at all. Sure, I felt sympathy for her.  Who wouldn't? But I was taken aback by my lack of compassion.  

She entered the room whose light was gifted by bulbs topped with old dusty lampshades hanging from the ceiling and whatever trickle of sunlight could wiggle it's way through the heavy curtains donning the narrow windows.  Chappy and I had been seated upon a 1970's velour couch blossoming with burnt orange, mustard yellow, and muddy brown flowers.  By all accounts, it looked like a very ordinary room.  The walls were painted a hospital color of cream, the floors a laminate grayish brown, and a few toys were lying around alongside a child sized table.  The most noticeable quality was the overwhelming stench of cooked cabbage mixed with urine.  The scent made me queasy.

We were told this was the "adoption room" for new parents, a place set aside for the few lucky children who are being inspected by prospective families.  Natalie would enter the room for the first time this day. She had never seen the room in her three years at the Vidnoye baby orphanage, because she had never been lucky enough for a visit from a prospective family.  She had never had a visitor at all.  Until us.

"Chappy and Melanie, meet your new daughter, Natalia".  The little Russian girl wore a very bulky sweater stuffed beneath denim overalls.  The words of introduction came with a big smile from our beloved Susha, the translator who was with us every day during our three week stay in Russia.

The orphanage worker standing beside Natalie in the doorway gave her a nudge, spoke something in Russian, and called her Natash.

I turned to Susha:  "Is her name Natalia or Natash?"

"Oh, her given name is Natalia, but a common nickname is Natash", she answered.

"What do we call her?"

"Ha! Ha!  She is your daughter now, so you may call her anything you want!"

Chappy and I giggled along with Susha, but this was a bit much for me.  The orphanage was proving to be a quite horrible, and this little girl looked very much like a boy.  In fact, our driver (Vitali) asked if we wanted to inspect her to make sure she was a girl.

"Uhm, no, I think we will just trust that she is a girl."

She walked gingerly up to Chappy, as if every step was a difficult one for her to take, and then she put her hand upon his knee. That was the first touch.  I can still see her little face looking up at him.  It was dirty, but not in the sense that most parents think of as dirty.  She was three years old and had never been bathed. Her face was really really dirty. Her hair had been shaved close to her head and the inside of her ears were black with something crusty. She kept her eyes focused on the floor, head down, until the orphanage worker left the room.  Once she heard the door close, she looked up at Chappy and spoke a single word very softly, almost in a whisper:  "Papa".

My heart literally leapt up into my throat as Chappy answered her with a bright smile:  "Yes, I am your papa."  I think I must have used my hand to shut my mouth; it had dropped wide open.  This was actually happening.

We had brought her a few gifts and immediately began giving them to her.  We played together, laughed together, and made a connection.  When our time was up, the door opened to show the orphanage worker again. She showed no emotion whatsoever and did not speak a word.  She simply opened the door and stood, but her presence permeated the room.  In response, Natalie hastily transformed from a little girl into a solider of sorts.  She gently reached out and gave a dutiful hug to each of us, turned with head down, and marched out of the room.

I was astounded.  And at once, I was full of compassion for this child.

My mind then drifted to how my own feelings for Natalie grew over time.  I recalled our trip home to meet family members and friends, of our teaching her the English language, introducing her to different foods, and tucking her safely into her bed each night. I reminisced about her first splash in the swimming pool, her first glance at a Christmas tree, and the way she cuddled her first teddy bear.

Throughout the stream of memories, however, my accusers continued to invade.  Those are the ones who have, in one way or another, sent the message that I am a terrible mom for sending my daughter away, and that Natalie's issues arose because I had not loved her enough.  Their allegations rumbled as intensely as the butterflies in my stomach.  I considered my own failure and silently spoke to God:  "Forgive me for the times I fell short with Natalie.  Forgive me! For...give... me!"

My introspection meandered away from Russia and settled upon the time a teenage Natalie carved words deep into my dining room table.  She later admitted she had used a knife that day and hoped those words would forever remind me of how much she despised and hated me.  So as the car passed by the sleeping fields dotted with rolled up heaps of hay, I went back to the moment I rubbed my fingers over the jagged edges of the grooves she had left upon the once smooth surface of my dining table and demanded she explain why she had destroyed it. I saw the room, me standing on one side of the table and Natalie on the other with Lydia looking on, wide-eyed, from the hallway.  I remembered how angry I became when she seemed pleased with my exasperation, how I had swiftly grounded her for the behavior, and how she didn't seem to care. My accusers were correct in this instance.  I hadn't shown her love or mercy or grace.  What she saw that day, in her mother, was bitterness.

I then remembered how days later I found the same markings on an end table in the great room.  How when I turned to look at her with disbelief, she quickly said with a grin:  "Oh, that was an accident.  I must have been bearing down too hard with my pencil when I was doing my school work."

"You're going to test me, Natalie? Really?"  I thundered,  "You've made up a lie to see if I will give you a consequence for what you are calling an accident?"

She replied flatly:  "I'm not lying.  It was an accident this time."

I saw myself standing over the end table as I spoke to Natalie who was seated at the table in the kitchen: "The same deep groves with jagged edges, written haphazardly all across this table could not have been caused by your writing too heavily on your notebook paper.  This was caused by a knife or a screwdriver....what did you use? and why did you do it?....again?"

She answered with no emotion:  "I'm not lying.  It was an accident this time."

I knew it wasn't.  It was obvious it wasn't.  It was even obvious that Natalie knew her marks could not be misinterpreted.  So again, my daughter....the one who had been deeply wounded in an orphanage the first three years of her life...found no mercy and no grace from me.  Instead, I judged her and lengthened her time of being grounded.

These incidents were followed by so many others.  The incidents began to occur daily, carefully and strategically plotted and planned by a teenage girl who seemed ever determined to prove she would rather be an orphan than my daughter.  I recounted them all as the SUV rolled ever onward. I have recounted them, every single one, for months.  And as I think of them, the faces of those who have accused me pop into my head.  I see their looks of utter disgust.  I feel the cuts from their daggers of judgment.  And I lie down beneath them, rolled into a ball, and I cry out:  "You are all correct! I have not loved her deeply enough!"

A tear escaped my eye...and then another. I immediately brushed them away, making my best attempt to appear I was scratching a bothersome itch on my face so Chappy and Lydia wouldn't notice.

"Wow, how much further 'til we get there?"  I ask, pursuing a way to re-direct my thoughts to something else.  To anything else.

(continued tomorrow)----Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia.  She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing.  The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen.  To order your Loyalty Lock, visit:  http://www.loyaltylock.org/  They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping:
  


    

  


Monday, December 16, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Visit With Natalie (Part 1)

We awoke to local news reports: "Freezing rain has left the roads covered in ice and has caused more than 30 automobile accidents within the first hour of the morning commute."  Really?  We've waited 8 months to see Natalie and this is how the day begins?  And then:  "Four to five inches of snow is expected later today and will fall fast.  If you are on the roads after 6pm, all bets are off."

As Lydia and I carefully gathered all of Natalie's Christmas gifts into a large rolling suitcase, Chappy stood nearby:  "Don't worry, we'll get there today.  We won't be able to visit with Nat as long as we planned, but we'll get there and we'll see her."  We zipped the bag, began rolling it toward the door.....and so our journey began.

We had a two hour drive ahead of us into a town with just a handful more than 1800 inhabitants according to the latest census.  We passed field after field blanketed in brand new cottony snow and glistening with ice. The two hour road trip brought back memories of another time and another place when Chappy and I made a two hour drive through ice and snow to visit a then three year old orphan called Natalia in Vidnoye Russia. I thought about the irony just before Chappy spoke it:  "Oh my gosh, Mel, this reminds me of our trip to that run down orphanage."  It was as if the Almighty planted the memory into our thoughts at the same moment. Surreal, yet perfect.

Our car ride was quiet for the most part, but sprinkled with bits of conversation about what we would say to Natalie or what we were expecting.  The last time we saw her, she hated us....hoped to never see us again....and was determined to take her life and to ruin ours.  Mental illness comes in many different forms. I can only speak of Natalie's. Hers showed itself as a character who was soft, gracious, and kind to those outside of our home, but as a cunning villain bent on utter destruction within our home.   Her mental illness held us hostage with a furor and sliced us deep with razor sharp words, daily plunging into our gut and bleeding us out.  The words and actions never come from the person, but from the disability.  Unfortunately, that knowledge does not protect wounded souls or broken hearts.

My mother in law asked me not to take Lydia on the trip, and about half way to our destination, I began to wonder if she was right.  She feared it would be too much for Lydia and worried about the consequences if the visit was not a good one.  When I had mentioned her grandmother's concern a month earlier, Lydia stood her ground with such strength and resolve:  "She's my sister.  I walked through the whole break down with you day in and day out.  I deserve to have this chance to see her for myself!"  And so here she was with us now, a fifteen years old tucked into the backseat of a rented SUV.  Her big chocolate brown eyes scanned the foreign landscape around her. I glanced back at her from time to time, trying to imagine what was going through her mind:

"Are you ok, Lydia?"

With a gentle nod and a bit of a shoulder shrug:  "Yeh, I'm great!"

The words of a typical teenager.  But I knew better, because I too battle the memory of what we endured those last months with Natalie.  Seeing her sister would be facing much more than the rejection.  For Lydia, a girl who has enough compassion to fill the deepest sea, this journey was about facing the enemy within Natalie who had stolen from her, lied to her, raged at her with the intensity of a wild fire, and even threatened to harm her while she slept.

On the one hand, she must have recalled the good times.....times when she and Natalie gently cradled their dolls as mothers, had tea at the imaginary royal table dressed as princesses, and of the hundreds of times they ran barefoot through the grass playing a never ending game of tag....giggling until tears streamed down their faces leaving trails of dirt as evidence of the great outdoors.  But on the other hand, were the memories just as real of one who became as frightening as a monster.  The one who caused her big brother to lock his bedroom door at night.  The one who caused Lydia to sleep on the floor next to my bedside every night.  The one who introduced fear into Lydia's world.

(continued tomorrow)----Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia.  She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing.  The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen.  To order your Loyalty Lock, visit:  http://www.loyaltylock.org/  They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping:



Friday, December 6, 2013

Locking Your Loyalty In Prayer...For The Holidays

My name is Lydia.  I am 15 years old.  And I am wishing for a Christmas miracle. 

I recently created a special gift called "The Loyalty Lock".  It is a very pretty antiqued charm that comes with a 26" cord of black leather and a 40 day promise to pray written on what looks like a weathered piece of scroll.  I designed it so it would look good on both guys and girls.  If I sell 1800 Loyalty Locks in the next two weeks, I will be able to give $8,000.00 ($2,000 each) as a Christmas gift to 4 different and amazing organizations who support the special needs community:
 
1.  Best Buddies of Tennessee
2.  Reeces Rainbow
3.  The Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee
4.  The Therapeutic Boarding School where my sister currently resides

As a big sister to 2 little rays of sunshine who have Down syndrome, I am constantly looking for ways to get the word out about the special needs community.  About the value of these incredible individuals, about how they have unique qualities and gifts, and about how much they add to the world just by being a part of it.  That has been my goal, my mission, and my calling in life. 

But recently, my mission became much much larger. In addition to Hope and Charlie, I have another sister who is 15.  My parents adopted her when she was only 3 from a very abusive orphanage in Russia.  Throughout my entire life, she was my very best friend.  When Natalie turned 13, though, she began to suffer with lots of issues.  She started stealing, lying, harming herself and others, throwing tantrums, destroying property, and she also became extremely paranoid....she even started believing my family had stolen her from Russia.  There was a time when I thought I had lost my sister forever. 

My parents looked for help, but help was almost impossible to find.  My mom started talking about it and blogging about it and found out there were many other parents struggling with this same issue.  And like my family, those families were having a difficult time finding help.  My sister was finally diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder which is a good thing.  We were so happy for the diagnosis, because it meant she could finally receive help.  She is now in a therapeutic boarding school that is making a huge impact on her life.  She is making progress.  It is taking time, but she is getting better and better and better.  I even get to visit her next week.

This experience with Natalie has shown me that the special needs community reaches all the way to mental illnesses too.  These are people I didn't even know existed until my sister was diagosed with RAD.  There are thousands of teenagers who are just like Natalie, and those people need support and should never be forgotten or left out.  Ever.  So this is the newest part of my mission.  I want to help this therapeutic boarding school grow so more kids can get the help they need.

So, basically I need to sell 1800 Loyalty Locks in 2 weeks to meet my goal.  The Loyalty Lock makes a great stocking stuffer or Christmas gift, and since it comes with a 40 day promise to pray, it is a gift that hopefully produces lots of miracles.  Maybe even 1800 miracles!  Prayer does change things.  And God still works miracles.  So if you want to be a part of this Christmas miracle, go to http://www.loyaltylock.org/ and purchase yours today.  They are $14.99 each with a flat shipping rate of $2.00 (to make things simple).  My mom and I are shipping these things out of Franklin, TN every single day, so getting yours by Christmas will not be a problem if you order SOON!  

May you ALL have a wonderful Holiday season filled with Joy, Joy, and more Joy!!!  My Christmas wish is to give these organizations the $8,000.00 gift this year.  I'm expecting a Christmas Miracle!  Thank you for helping me be a small part of helping others!!!

http://www.loyaltylock.org/  



Love,
Lydia Hollis

(From Melanie Hollis (Mom):  Natalie continues to improve....we are so thankful for the hard work she is putting into getting better.  Her school work has especially improved by leaps and bounds which is allowing her to feel more confidence and better about herself.  Sometimes it is the little things.  We visit her next week and cannot wait to see her face to face.  We will be bringing loads of Christmas gifts with us for her to enjoy.  To all the moms who have contacted me about issues and struggles you are having at home with your own children...know I pray for you, I think of you, and I am here for you!  Thank you (as always) for all of your prayers and support for Natalie, Hope, and little Charlie-man!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Did Nothing


I remember that face on the left well.  The first time I saw it come across the Reece's Rainbow orphan photo list, I thought:  "Well this little cutie will be snatched up by some adoring family quick!" 

And so I did nothing. 

Because I did nothing, little brown eyes was sent to an over crowded mental institution.  The photo on the right is what he looked like after spending just a few short months in the institution.  When the dramatic transformation was posted on the internet, I was reminded:

I did nothing.

Today I learned that precious baby boy has gone on to be with his Creator.  He didn't survive the institution.  

Lesson learned. 

Russia and Putin didn't fail this little guy....the church didn't fail him either....humanity failed him.  He was a human being filled with desire to be held, touched, spoken to, and loved.  He should have mattered more to me while he was alive, but in his death, he has left an indelible print on my heart.  I am different today because of his story.  Next time, I'll do something!  

"If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."
--
William Penn    

Friday, September 13, 2013

Obstacles And Dreams Culminate This Evening



I'm in love with an 18 year old boy with sandy brown hair, chocolate brown puppy dog eyes, and eyelashes long enough to sweep the floor.  When he was 10 weeks of age, I bundled him up in my arms and held him tightly as we escaped my first marriage.  In some ways it seems like yesterday:

OBSTACLES   

As a result of my first marriage choice, Caleb's life has not been an easy one.  While most little boys were enjoying a weekend around a boy scout campfire, he was often on required visitation with one who had a fiery temper.  And when the neighbor kid came home with a bruise from being tackled by a fellow team mate, my little kid sometimes came home with a bruise from one who should've been on his team.  We fought the family court for years, but as my lawschool professors often tell us:  "If you are looking for justice, you're never going to find it in the courtroom." 

At the age of 13, my sandy haired hero found courage to stand up and say "no more".  He hasn't visited or spoken to the man since.  A few months ago, he legally changed his name to Hollis, which symbolized, to him, freedom.  Sweet freedom.

AND DREAMS

Even with the many obstacles that stood in his way, Caleb always allowed himself to dream.  From the time he could stand, he was throwing a ball, swinging a golf club, and shooting hoops.  And while other boys' first dreams were to be a firefighter or a cowboy, his was to be a football star.  When I fled my home in 1994 carrying a little fella in my arms, I didn't fully realize that I was also clutching a dream that day.  My dream that his life would be safe, full, and happy one.  Because I held that little 10 week old dream in my arms, he is now able to hold his dream.  

CULMINATE THIS EVENING!
 
This evening, Caleb's game will be broadcasted on CSS for 5.5 million people to see.  This evening, he IS a football star.  At 7pm, I will be sitting in the stands surrounded by hundreds of screaming Independence Eagle fans.  The fan section will be painted with the team's colors of blue, gold, and green....cheerleaders will be shouting and jumping about while band members blow their horns and bang their cymbals.  But I will block it all out.  My ears will be listening for the sound of two size 14 shoes entering the gates of the field.  Give me 100 men, and I'll be able to choose the cadence of my son's footsteps in the mix of them all.  I will calculate every play with him, throw every ball with him, and take every tackle with him this evening.  But most of all, I will bask in the dream with him.

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous...leading to the most amazing view.  May your mountains rise into and above the clouds!"  (Edward Abbey)

       

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Victory In Jesus

Today would normally be greeted with excitement and anticipation.  Hugs would be given, gifts opened, and a cake would be cut.  Today is Natalie's 15th birthday, but she's not here.  And the house seems empty.

This week has been a tough one.  I've dreaded today, a day that symbolizes our daughter's entry into the world.  Reactive Attachment Disorder has hijacked two years from Natalie and from my family.  Her pictures decorate the house and serve as a reminder of how life was BEFORE the disorder climbed from the pit of hell and wrapped it's talons tightly around our unsuspecting girl.  Every single day, I long to go back in time.

Natalie is still struggling even though she is, thankfully, making steady progress at the therapeutic boarding school.  So far, we've all been forced to accept a slow healing instead of the parting of the Red Sea type miracle we pray and faith for.  And in it all, I feel lost.  Totally lost and completely dependent upon a God I wish I could see, touch, and hear. 

Sure, He shows up routinely in many ways:  a message from a friend, a particularly tight squeeze from Hopey, or an "I love you so much Momma" from Caleb....but at this place in my life, I want to hold his nail-scarred hands, see the sparkle of love in His eyes, and feel His warm breath in my ear as He speaks  the power of truth over me and my family.  I want to give My Father a big bear hug and cry on His shoulder!  Would I fall on my knees if the Lord showed up at my front door today?  No, I would pack Him up in my Suburban, drive Him to Natalie as fast as I could, and watch Him heal her.  It's the absolute truth! I'm ready for healing NOW!   

Lydia has days where she bursts into tears, missing her sister.  At 15, she is still trying to process Natalie's mental breakdown, her physical aggression, and the hateful words spoken.  She knows none of the hysteria was Natalie's fault...that it was the result of a disorder triggered by a latent memory of the Russian orphanage experience...but her heart is still hurting.  On the phone, when I speak to Natalie, she always cries.  At 15, she is lost in the confusion of her breakdown, trying to figure out why she battles the feelings of aggression and hate, and wondering if she'll ever feel whole and happy again.

And they both reach out to me.  At 45 years of age, you'd think I would've garnered enough wisdom to fix this.  I'm their mom, and know them better than anyone, so where are the words...where are the words.....WHERE ARE THE WORDS? 

When you choose to believe in a God you cannot see or hear (and make no mistake, it is a choice), the only answer is to go to the foundation of what you believe....His Story.  His Word.  So today, on Natalie's birthday, I celebrate what I believe.  I believe Psalm 139 is true...that nothing is lacking and no detail has been left unattended. Everything Natalie is going through is part of the grand plan of the One who created her.  Her days were numbered and ALL was put in place and ready to go from the moment His heart conceived her.  And I absolutely believe in those beautiful nail scarred hands.  When Jesus was hanging on the cross, and the pain was almost more than He could bear, I believe the Almighty King of Kings thought of me and He thought of Natalie. Although the angels were camped around Him, ready to rescue Him from that gruesome scene , He knew how much we needed that cross and He went all the way for us.  He finished strong.  Then, when he burst with life from the tomb with victory, that too, was for us!  Victory was ours the moment He awoke from death and stepped from the grave!  WHERE ARE THE WORDS????  There is only one word needed:  VICTORY!

So this evening, our family will gather around and cut a cake for Natalie's birthday in her absence...but we won't be singing Happy Birthday.  Instead, in honor of Natalie, we'll be singing:

OH, VICTORY IN JESUS,
MY SAVIOUR FOREVER
HE SOUGHT ME
AND HE BOUGHT ME
WITH HIS REDEEMING BLOOD

HE LOVED ME
ERE I KNEW HIM
AND ALL MY LOVE
IS DUE HIM
HE PLUNGED ME TO VICTORY
BENEATH THE
CLEANSING BLOOD

Psalm 139: 13-16:  Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.




  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

14 Hours Of Miracles!

In the last 14 hours, two miracles have happened in our family.  Two Miracles.  I am overwhelmed.  The first miracle involves her:


Hopey turns 8 years old on September 5th and remains completely non-verbal.  This morning, she awoke EARLY and started playing with her angel (yep, it's a real angel that none of the rest of us can see---if you're ever around Hopey for a long period of time, you'll witness it yourself).  She was running all over the house giggling and playing when ALL OF A SUDDEN, she said:  "Where is it?"  followed by:  "There it is!"  and a whole bunch of giggles.  My heart just about popped out of my chest.  She hasn't said anything since, but God is answering our prayers.  Hopey is going to speak! 

The second miracle involves him:
who looked like THIS exactly one year ago after breaking two bones in his arm after a scrimmage:


 

It happened just before Caleb's junior season....he missed every game and was only able to play in a single play-off game.  Over the 3 months that it took his arm to heal, Caleb battled depression as he considered, for the first time, that his dreams of playing college football might not come true. 

But ever the athlete, he worked diligently this summer to rehabilitate (thank you Axel Burgos!):

Last night, in a full pre-season scrimmage in Tullahoma, TN, Caleb completed 12 of 15 passes and threw just shy of 300 yards in the first quarter and a half of the game.  The coach then put the second string quarterback into the game.  Caleb, in the first quarter and a half completed three touchdown throws.  The score when they pulled him was 34-3. 

The miracle wasn't the athletic feat of Caleb last night, even though that was amazing.  The miracle for me was in seeing Caleb's face after the game.  God allowed Caleb's faith to be tested last year, and while Caleb wrestled with God as he stood on the sideline last year with a cast on his arm, he ultimately made the decision to preservere with much faith, with dedication, and with hard work.....trusting God....and believing He has a plan and purpose for all things.   

For football fans, here is film from last night's miracle: 



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0eJeDsAdEQ    

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Friend Called 'Harley'

You would all be proud of Natalie.  Your prayers for her are being answered.  Each time I hear from her by letter or talk to her on the phone, she speaks of how God is doing amazing things in her life....how she is learning to place the burdens of her heart upon Him....and how she is giving herself permission to receive His healing from past abuse and neglect that happened in a Russian orphanage when she was just a little girl. 

Life is a process, isn't it?  Many days I have wished God had chosen to make us all like Samantha of 'Bewitched'.  Wouldn't it be nice to have the capability to change things or erase things with a simple wiggle of our chin?  "Wiggle"....erase the fact that I'm hurting.  "Wiggle"...erase the harsh words I just spoke.   "Wiggle"....well, you get the picture. 

But God, in His wisdom, decided we needed to learn life's lessons through the hard stuff.  And, as always, He was correct.  The heartaches we go through, indeed, are often blessings in disguise.  Those bumps in our proverbial life path are what teach us to preservere, to have faith, to cling to God, and to realize how much we NEED our Savior.  Natalie is now facing a bump in her life's path because of a friend called Harley.  Here is the story:

Recently, Natalie earned the responsibility of caring for the horses at the therapeutic boarding school where she is temporarily residing.  And with that responsibility came JOY!  It has been a long time since I've heard a spark in Natalie's voice, so when I heard it, I basked in it.  Oh, so thankful to God for those horses she was getting to care for each morning.  One particular horse, Harley, she talked about...and talked about....and talked about.  This horse followed her around like a puppy dog and would nudge her in the back whenever she would pay attention to any other horse.  Natalie giggled when she talked about Harley.  I could "hear" the smile in Natalie's voice.  I smiled with her.  I thanked God for Harley.  I even wondered how Natalie would leave the boarding school without Harley.  I began thinking of how we might need to bring Harley home WITH Natalie.  ha! ha!

This morning, I received the following email from the boarding school:

I wanted to let all of you know of something that happened this past week so if your daughter needs to talk about it with you, you will know what happened.

15 months ago today a baby horse, Harley, was born here at the school. At three months she spooked and did a back flip and hurt her neck and caused a slight vision problem. We kept hoping and praying that we could work her through this.

We did not know it at first but then came to realize that she was born with a club foot. We always wondered why she had to do a giraffe stretch to get her head down to eat grass. Her body could not stay lined up (chiropractically speaking) and this was causing constant issues and continual pains. We kept the ferrier, vet, and chiropractic vet helping her and watching her. She could not turn her head back to reach herself when she needed to itch, she could not lift her legs to help either. This past week when we went out to brush her, she could not pick up her back leg which was one of her good legs. She just drug it behind her.

It was not fair to keep her in constant sufferings. She was never going to be pain free, never going to grow out of her deformities, and never would be able to be ridden.

No matter how much we wanted to keep her and love her, it was not fair to her. We had to do what was best for her and she was put to sleep yesterday. This was a very hard decision but one that had to be done. Our house is sad but this is part of life. I wanted to let all of you know.
My heart is breaking for Natalie.  And yet I know God saw this "bump" all those days when Natalie was lovingly brushing Harley, when Harley was following her around like a puppy....and perhaps He giggled along with Natalie when Harley would nudge her back saying:  "I still want your attention!"  God sees it all.  He knows it all. 
And as I've cried a river over a horse I don't even know this morning, three things have stuck out in my head:  
1.  how awesome is it that Natalie never noticed that Harley had special needs? She never once mentioned it.   She simply loved her.  And think about it, Natalie has special needs as well.  And Harley didn't notice.  What a beautiful picture the two of them made of God's perfect love for all of us....His children!!! 
2.  I reached out to this therapeutic boarding school a little more than a year ago when Natalie first began to show the extreme signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder....and that would've been just around the time of Harley's accident.  At the time, I knew in my heart this was the place for Natalie, but I just wasn't ready to let go and let her get care so far away from home.  
3.  and what strikes me the most, is that Harley LIVED in spite of her neck injury, the problem with her eyesight, and the club foot....she lived long enough to meet and become Natalie's buddy.  The truth is, Natalie should've been at that school a year ago when the Lord first led me in that direction, but my own fear caused me to chase after avenues that were more pleasing to me....I was driven by my desire to keep Natalie either at home or as close to home as possible.  But God spared Harley.  He kept her going through all of her pain until she could meet the one she was created for.   
Some may think I am nuts, but yes, I honestly believe when God created Natalie, He saw ahead at all the struggles she would face and placed a horse called Harley on her life's path....and when Harley came into the world, I believe He whispered secrets to her about Natalie, the little girl that she was to love and follow around like a puppy.  I believe we serve a God who is that big, who is that creative, and who is that amazing.  Afterall, how else would you explain that fact that Harley is the one who helped Natalie find her spark of joy again?   
Please pray for Natalie as she grieves....and pray that she will continue to grow and blossom into the incredible young woman God created her to be.  
As for me, I will forever be grateful for Natalie's friend called "Harley".
"God gives.  God takes.  God's name be ever blessed!"  (Job 1:21)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Want To Be Just Like Him

 


"I want to be just like him some day".... I must have thought that thought more than a million times when I was growing up.  I watched him care for his crippled wife who couldn't feed herself, couldn't dress herself, couldn't bathe herself, and who was bound to a wheelchair.  He treated her with such tenderness, honor, and unyielding devotion.....she repaid him with the unabashed kind of love you only read about in famous novels that have passed the test of time.

Fast forward the reel of life, and I am now a caretaker.  Isn't it ironic how God uses life lessons to prepare you for His divine plans?  I now see "why" that incredible man was placed into my life.  The picture is clear, because now I feed two little one's who cannot feed themselves, I dress them, bathe them, support their sensory issues and since they cannot speak, I get to be their voice too.  The tenderness and unyielding devotion that man had to his wife makes perfect sense to me now.  It was easy for him, because he put himself into her shoes every moment of every day.  A day never passed that he didn't stop to imagine what it would be like to be handicapped like her.  I know this is true, because I now do the same.  And that unabashed love she had for him, my little ones now lavish upon me.  Oh, how blessed I am to hold these truths close to my heart.

The June 16th devotion from Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost For His Highest" left me sobbing.  It talked of just this very subject.  To quote:  "Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him....It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God...Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much.  But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult." 

That man with the crippled wife understood these words.  And now I do.

My nature is to be social.  I am a people person who enjoys going out with friends and having a grand time.  I would love to be able to go on misson trips to Africa, to be a regular part of a book club, to lead a Bible study for women in my neighborhood, etc.....But my calling is to give up that part of me, to sacrifice that part of me, and to be a caretaker.  To be the absolute center of two little lives who need me.

We recently hired a babysitter to come once a week, on Sunday evenings, to watch Hope and Charlie for a few hours so we could get out and enjoy intentional time with our older children.  This sitter was very trained, she has a degree teemed with experience working with special needs children in the local school system.  I had high hopes, but last Sunday when we returned home, I knew this was going to be another sitter (from a very long line of many) to never return to my home again.  Her words over a facebook message to me today:

I hope your having a great week! I want to first say that I loved meeting you and your family on Sunday. Charlie and Hope are adorable and very sweet. I am writing to let you know that I have been thinking and praying about this situation since Sunday night. I enjoyed babysitting Hope and Charlie, but I was very worried or Hope's safety and my ability to keep both of them safe. After much thought and prayer, I have decided to cancel the babysitting job we have set for Sunday. I wish you all the best and I know you will find the right fit for your family, but at this time I don't feel that it's me. Thanks again for allowing me to take care of your babies and best of luck to you.

And it stings.  No, it is worse than a sting.  It is actually physically painful to my heart.  My darlings have been rejected yet again.

The truth is, I live with two little ones who are rejected by society daily because they are so different.  Even typing those words causes me to begin sobbing all over again.  Churches have told us there is no place for Hope and Charlie because of their "unique" needs...we no longer get social invitations from "friends"; in fact, our last invitation was when Hopey was still a very small baby....and babysitters are typically only a one time deal.   In restaurants, people move tables to get away from our family.  In malls, people stare and shake their heads in disgust.  Recently, a man stopped to inform Chappy that Hopey was too big to be in a stroller...that she needed to walk like everyone else.  Chappy just smiled and walked on, knowing that Hopey heard and understood the words the man had said.  But she didn't have a voice to be able to explain how her body goes into sensory overload in a crowded space and how her stroller gives her security.  For the sake of all that is good in this world, she is seven and doesn't have a voice!  I remain in a horrible state of awe about how our world treats the weak.  After nearly 8 years, I am still shocked by the cruelty of it all.

But then Oswald Chambers comes along to remind me that what matters to God is that I am true to His calling for my life.  My life is not my own.  I have been bought with a price.   And the lessons I am learning are FOR ME!  The hurt and the pain is FOR ME!  So that I may step out and use that pain for good.  And that is the real message of this post. 

The man in the picture above is my grandfather, and his crippled wife was my beloved grandmother.  I grew up hearing stories of how she was rejected, even told that "people like her should stay home where they belonged".  But my grandfather wouldn't allow it.  He paraded her around with such pride.  I watched it.  He applied her makeup, fixed her hair, dressed her in beautiful clothes and showed the world how much he loved her.  And it made a difference.  To me.

So, in spite of the world, I will do the same.  Because I want to be just like him!

NOTE:  In a few weeks, Chappy and I are going to be partnering with a wonderful church in our area to begin a Saturday service that will be open for special needs families.....where families can openly worship together!  Will some of the individuals who have special needs shout out and make noise during the service?  Oh, I hope so.  What a heavenly noise that will be!!!  Will some get up and dance?  I REALLY hope so!  I can think of nothing that would please the Lord more than a special needs child jumping up to dance for Him.  Our goal is for people to come just as they are to worship our incredible God who is Creator of ALL and Who never makes mistakes!  The percentage is pretty staggering:  90% of families who have special needs members do NOT attend church.  We are so thrilled about this new ministry and will post more specific details as we have them!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Modern Day Miracle Of Sorts



This video is sadly based on fact....too many times people are afraid of things they are not familiar with.  By choosing to embrace our circumstances and laugh, we are hopefully making a powerful statement.  Life is too short to focus on the negative.  We choose JOY!!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Parenting A Special Needs Child

"Everyone needs to experience what its like to parent a special needs child!",  said a friend of mine more than 10 years ago.  Long before I had Hope.  I watched Andrew play soccer on Caleb's team week after week.  Andrew was born with an extra chromosome and was precious.  Our whole team loved him. 

When Andrea made the comment, I remember thinking to myself:  "It can't be that difficult to parent a child who has Down syndrome....just look at Andrew, he is sooo sweet!"  And then came Hope...followed by Charlie.  And when I have days like today, I repeat Andrea's words almost like a mantra:

Everyone should experience this:

This morning, Hopey found mud in our backyard.  A whole lot of mud.  So much mud we had to give her a bath in the plastic pool in the back yard:



Then as soon as we got her cleaned up....and I do mean just as soon as we got her cleaned up....Charlie comes waltzing into the great room completely nude and covered in poop from head to toe.  While Hopey was outside bathing in mud, he was inside bathing himself and my foyer in poop.

While it was a mess....a TOTAL mess....oddly enough, this experience was actually great sensory stimulation for both of them!  And the fact that Charlie was able to disrobe from his pants, shirt, and pull up....wow!  That took motor planning!

ONLY the parent of a special needs child (or two) could find the silver lining in a morning like this.

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."  (Jeremiah 31:25) 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hopey's Heart Update

While Hope's aortic valve continues to leak, causing some backflow issues....her heart is still functioning normally.  In addition, the aneurysm in her heart remains the same size as last check.  We are thrilled beyond words!  Thank you to all the praying warriors who stand alongside our little angel with much faith. 

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
(James 5:16)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Prayers For A Broken Heart


Today is the day I have dreaded for 365 days....Hopey's heart appointment is at 1:30pm.  At last year's appointment, we learned her aortic valve is leaking more.  In addition to the aneurysm in her heart, the cardiologist will be paying particularly close attention to that. 

As I have anticipated this day, I have marveled at how perfect my baby girl's heart is in spite of the physical brokeness. 

At almost eight years of age, my Hopey is learning to fit into the "typical" world.   For instance, I watch as she makes her best attempts to use a fork and spoon in the restaurant instead of her fingers so the stares will stop.  She'll reach out her chubby little pinchers to easily pick up a carrot from her plate at the Cracker Barrel....but then she'll peer over the top of her glasses to see if the person who was staring earlier is still looking at her. If not, that carrot goes "plop" into her mouth....followed quickly by another....and another.  But if she sees the stare, she'll work for however long it takes to manage that fork...she'll even hand that fork to Chappy and me and have us place a carrot on it for her.....so the staring will stop. 

AND in the grocery store, even though those lights, aisles, shopping carts, different smells and colors bring out the worst in Hope's battle with sensory issues, she now buries her head in her hands and hides so she won't scream out and disturb "the typicals" and their shopping efforts.  Yep, those stares have conditioned my little girl.  

These are only two examples.  There are many more.  Hopey cannot express her needs with words, her muscle tone makes simple tasks like opening a door impossible, and after three open heart surgeries, her ticker is still a complete mess....but she is concerned about pleasing everyone else.  She always has a hug or a smile ready to give to whoever needs it!  She is the most selfless person I know.

Father, I pray for a good report for my little angel today.  Thank you for giving me the gift of "Hope".         

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hitting The High Points


"It will only take me a minute....I'm just going to hit the high points", I said to the kids this week while pushing around my trusty vacuum cleaner.  When I heard the words escape from my mouth, I quickly remembered the time I took in my much younger years to create perfect lines within the piles of carpet.  Back and forth I would work the vacuum, and once complete, I would carefully tiptoe from the room to make sure not to disturb what would shout "Perfectly Clean!" to anyone who entered. 

Not anymore.  Five children later, and I am lucky to have a 30 minute date per week with Mr. Hoover.  How much my entire life is now reflective in that statement:  "I'm just going to hit the high points".  Can you relate?

There was a time in my spiritual walk when I arranged my schedule to be at church every time the doors were open....when asked to serve on a committee, I quickly answered 'yes'....my Bible was read for a solid 30 minutes a day and prayers were kept securely in a journal.  Yes, there was a time when I carefully tiptoed through life so those around me would shout "Perfectly Clean!" whenever they saw me. 

Not anymore.  More often than not, I am simply hitting the high points! 

Hebrews 12:1 says:  "Let us run the race with endurance...the race God has set for us."

To me, this verse means that each of us have our own races to run.  At the moment, my race involves a rising high school senior who is working to obtain a football scholarship, a homeschooled teenager who has a passion to use music to bring awareness to the special needs community, another teenager who is struggling mightily from the effects of Reactive Attachment Disorder, and two little ones who are non-verbal and who have an extra chromosome.  It is quite a race.   

But my race will change soon, and yours will too.  There will come a day when I will have time to make the perfect lines in my carpet again....when I will have time to dust off that old prayer journal....if I choose.  But I don't believe I will, because hitting the high points is actually what I believe scripture teaches us to do.  How it must bless the Father when we are so busy serving, loving, teaching, helping, and experiencing life that we have no time to 'schedule Him into our calendars' or look "Perfectly Clean"!

Natalie Grace is one of my high points right now.  Through her, God is teaching me something  totally new about faith and trusting Him.  This is from a letter I recently received from her:

"Hi everyone.  I am doing good!  Something I forgot to tell you is in the morning we do a devotion and read different chapters aloud.  Yesterday we listened to the preacher of the church we go to on a disc.  It was really good.  Next, we did a 3 mile walk video and boy did that hurt.  Everyone here is really nice.  The biggest news happened at church.  They were talking about people pulling away from God.  The preacher asked us if you don't know if you belonged with God to raise your hand.  There were a few.  Then he asked who doesn't belong to God.  I raised my hand.  That day he said is the day you ask God to come either into your life or back in your life.  I went to a staff member and was crying because I really want Him back in my life.  I told her I lost God and I need Him back in my life.  We looked up some verses and I prayed for forgiveness.  I really meant it with all of my heart.  I am saved.  I know that I won't be perfect but I love God again and I wanted you all to know that.  I truly want to be a new Natalie.  I want you to know, Mom, on the phone before I got here, what you said to me meant so much.  That was all I needed to keep pushing on.  I am so glad God put me here.  It shows how much he cares for both of us.  I love you all and can't wait to call you.  We can only talk for 15 minutes but that will be better than 5.  I know that you all have forgiven me, but I want to say I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart for lying, stealing, having a horrible attitude, and everything else I did that was bad.  You all don't deserve that and I want you to know that I care for you all and love you so much.  You mean everything to me." 

Who cares if my carpet has perfect lines?  Who cares if my prayer journal is kept up to date?  This is the 'high point' stuff that matters!  I am so thankful for a God who cares so much for me and you that he would intentionally call this life a "race"....that is a word we can all relate to.  Each of us have different experiences, different abilities, and unique people who run our races alongside us.  Our job isn't to line the track....it isn't to sound the shot that announces the race has begun....our job isn't to man the snack bar or to hand out the programs.  Our job is to simply keep running.

To my 5 runners, the loves of my life:  Keep Running!  I'm going to run with you all the way to the end!

Run, Natalie, Run!!!