Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Calling

Today I read a word from God via the heart of a mother: "Life is not an emergency. Life is brief and it is fleeting but is not an emergency... Emergencies are sudden unexpected events- but is anything under the sun unexpected to God?" 

{Sigh} My heart resonates with desire to live every moment fully, to ferret out paths of gratitude which buoy up the soul and sustain- even when life is chaotic, unclear.

The question: But what if life- my life- is speckled with emergencies? The words on the page answer back, " is so urgent it necessitates living slow." I nod; there is much in my life that I would call urgent. "In Christ, urgent means slow. In Christ the most urgent necessitates a slow and steady reverence." 1

I think back across weeks and months, even years, and understanding lights. The paradox in our many emergencies is this: these sudden unexpected events require me to slow down. To watch carefully. To live fully in the moment. Yes, there is the flurry and the fear and the lightning trip to the hospital, the ER, the children's medical center. But what follows is always time to wait.

When I am so still anxiety billows up, and I have to pray away fear. I take seriously this care- giving, this challenge to do my part in seeking after ways to help a not big enough boy to grow. I watch carefully the peaks and valleys of managing blood sugars and digestive issues and aiming towards balance. But sometimes I grasp more responsibility than is mine to shoulder; I think it is my job to keep my son alive. Oh, Father God! How does a mother's heart become utterly spent? When this mother tries to claim that which is for the hands of God alone.

It is mine to love and soothe and serve, and offer care in the ways that my son's uniquely designed body and soul need. But it is not my job to keep my baby alive.

I weep with the truth of it. Mothering a child with medical needs is hard and helpless all at once. I've spoken the strain and struggle- "I spend my life just trying to keep him alive." I am consumed, depleted. I pour out all I am and still it is not enough. It has been my pursuit but it is not my calling. As if I could breathe life and breath and wholeness into his body with all my striving. But there is a breath that comes only and always from heaven.

My calling is to let go. When devastating unknowns compel me to run into my prayer closet and cry out to God, his sweet whisper urges, let go. Not of the tenderness in a mother's heart, not of prayer- for it is a most powerful weapon against the enemy. Not even of the natural desire to protect, and resolve medical struggles. Let go- but not of the desire that a precious little one JUST FEEL BETTER and GROW. The Voice seeking to calm and sustain invites, 

 Let go of your expectations of yourself. 

And I breathe hard and grasp truth, and pour out words onto a page. But can I live this way? There is risk in release. Yet I know that too often I labor under a load I was never called to carry. The true calling when faced with a season of urgent waiting is this: release the urge to control and linger in the arms of love. He is the gift within the suffering. 

Now is the moment to walk free; to throw off fear and expectation and allow God to equip me for what He's called me to and let go of the rest. I am certain this will be a process, a journey with many needed reminders. But I am also sure that abundant living is not possible without this letting go. So I seek the altar, the place of release. And the Voice resounds with love I need like breath:

God does not expect me to be perfect, He simply asks me to be real and allow the blanket of grace to cover that which I cannot... and was never meant to. We tarry here, in this holy place, and I find rest for my soul.

~Just Me

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trying Too Hard

Anyone who follows this blog or the others I have done knows that my house is filled with medical diagnoses that shape how we go about life. Most life altering has been Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Type One Diabetes, Celiac Disease (a gluten intolerance), and Sensory Processing Disorder. Throw in a additional terms for various other issues (IBS, Failure to Thrive, and the like) and it seems like A LOT to be gathered all under one roof.

Recently I was called for jury duty, and made it to the final round of interviews. The prosecuting attorney said, "How in the world do you deal with all of this?" My answer was fluid, the way words come when they are not of myself, "I know where strength is to be found."

Though I am often overwhelmed, I've learned to step back, breathe, and release. There is a lot of prayer that goes on when one or the other (or all) of the issues are inflamed at once. And so on the days when there are struggles, I cry out, I fight hard, I press in to the One who is abundant strength-- and I do much work to stay connected. And so there is a level of intimate presence to be found when I walk through the catastrophic. When my precious son is having diabetes complications and we are rushing to the hospital,  or when my husband is having a PTSD "incident", or when my youngest son is bouncing off the wall with sensory issues... In those times my natural impulse is to RUN to the one in whom I find comfort and profound holiness and HELP. In crisis, I draw near, am filled, and cling to one who sustains.

But life- even my life- is not always in chaos. There are quieter days, praise God, for--let's be honest--I desperately need them. Yet in the mundane, it is somehow harder to "connect", to be immersed in the beauty of His presence. And discouragement creeps in when I try to "recreate an experience", as Amanda Pavlik addresses here. I found this nook on the web during one of those quieter days, and can say a resounding Yes!!  And though I've learned that gratitude for This Moment sets me free to experience His goodness on days when the greatest stress touching my life is the carpool lane at the elementary school, I often need the reminder found here of what it means to look for His gifts in every day experiences. (You can read about my own process of moving away from un-grateful living here.) Still, those quiet moments are not quite flood I sometimes wish for.

Like Paul, I would stay up on the mountain with the transfigured Jesus and revel in his presence if I could. Yet there are needs to be met, meds to dispense, gluten free meals to be made. I know I am called to this life of loving my special needs family. I know my journey is to learn how to care for them-- and myself-- in the way that works best for us, even if it looks different from "everyone else". My mission field is my family, my calling is to be wife and mother and honorary nurse and the hands and feet of Jesus in the natural world. So I can't live there, on the mountain top.

Yet still I carry a longing to taste His presence. Even in the day to day, I want to find Him in every moment. Do I ask too much? Or could it be that I need to stop trying so hard and just enjoy?  Perhaps life does not always have to be profound.  Perhaps my soul can be filled by simplicity, too.

And so I bake bread and listen to my children laughing and sorting through Legos and I wonder if I can learn to connect with Jesus in the moment, even when life is not falling apart.

I refocus, setting my heart on walking in the light, being filled, giving thanks, and living with the awareness that He is here, every moment-- and that, perhaps, this thirst can be quenched by simply journeying along the path set before me with an open heart.

~Just Me 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monkey Surprise Pancakes

To be healthy and to eat well has been a battle in my home for what feels like a very long time. Upon being diagnosed with diabetes at the tender age of four, a bright brown eyed boy figured out:
If I eat, I get a shot, so I will simply NOT eat.

 Panic ensued (for Mom), as did many low BG levels as well as some seizures (until we changed doctors and got the insulin ratios under control). And so began a battle with food that my very determined son has waged for 9 years now.

Since that difficult year, meals have been a struggle. Even when T gets to pick what he wants. We were just getting to the place where he would eat enough to counteract the lowest possible dose of insulin, when the boy was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. So the eating took another plunge. Over time I have learned that not all Gluten Free food is palatable. And that not all gluten food is (even remotely) healthy. And recent stomach difficulties have proved that not all gluten food is entirely digest-able.

 Due to "intestinal troubles" the diet is shifting again. With dread I anticipated yet another dietary adjustment. I've been sneaking veggies into food for months now, but this week I decided that if the boy is ever going to learn to eat healthy it is time to come clean. Might as well, since change is a comin'. And so I have set out to research the BEST gluten free/whole food based recipes. Also, I have determined to no longer make two meals- one GF and one "regular". Since I have three guys to please now, each particular in their own way, each meal has one requirement above all:  taste good.

Using food from an organic farm co-op, (which you local folks can join by clicking here), I have been planning healthy veggie and fruit laden meals- with no fake or processed ingredients. Only good, healthy, REAL food.

The recipe which has been the best (small) crowd pleaser is Monkey Surprise Pancakes. First, two steps leading up to the actual recipe.

Step One: Give credit where credit is due
Hodgson Mill Multi purpose (gluten free) baking mix, which I found on the GF shelf at Walmart, was a starting point. I modified the recipe on the box to add more fiber. FYI- the multi purpose baking mix includes the following ingredients: Whole Grain Millet Flour, Whole Grain Sorghum flour,Whole Grain brown rice flour, and Xanthan gum.

Step Two: Grind up GF Flours (It's easier than it sounds. Really!)
 I ground up (pre-sliced) raw almonds with my husband's coffee grinder to make "almond flour" or almond meal. Next I ground up GF oats with my husband's coffee grinder. I added 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed as well. (Love that coffee grinder!) This only took a couple of minutes, but the health benefits for these few extra steps are well worth it.

The final recipe (below) is preservative/processed ingredient free.

Little brother had some qualms about trying gluten free pancakes.  Big brother has been GF for going on 7 years, but we have found that not all GF mixes and flours are the same. And little brother is a foodie. Most of those GF mixes do not hit his sweet spot. "Mom, I will stick with gluten!" He is prone to say. But these pancakes are delicious! I received the much coveted BEST MOM EVER and BEST PANCAKES EVER awards, along with plenty of squeezes and one jump on my head. (Then Hubby saved me and wrestled Monkey away...)

(FYI- the large purple spot on Monkey's cheek is a temp tattoo from Lego Land. Lovely spot to place it, I know.) 

Big brother, the resident GF expert, proclaimed that these were better than any he'd had ever before. He asked what was in them. I said there was a secret ingredient: Love. To which he made the teenager face. So I admitted that I put in a little surprise, too. After a rousing game of Guess what Mom Put In the Pancakes, the Big Reveal: Pumpkin! ("So that was why there was a pumpkin in the crock pot yesterday. Hmmm..." Monkey remarked.)

And then, my oldest, with a maturity that caused my heart to swell said, "Mom, I don't care what you put in it. As long as the food tastes this good, I will eat it!" [Mom note: without complaining. He can sit at that table for hours waiting to eat his food. And sometimes does.]

For those that know my son, the Pickiest 13 Year Old in Texas, this is quite a victory! I am so excited! And when I am excited, what do I do? First I jump up and down and hug little boys with chocolate drop eyes (see where monkey gets it?) And then, I write! And so, fellow sojourners, I share this recipe with hopes that you too will have lots of compliments and plenty of monkey love in your future, as well.

Here's the recipe:

Monkey Surprise Pancakes

1 cup of  Hodgson Mill Multi purpose or other gluten free flour
1 cup almond flour
1/2 c ground gluten free oats
2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp sugar in the raw (which I left out at first, but a taste test convinced me to add in, after all)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocnut oil -(It's SO much healthier than canola/ veggie oil- and good for the skin, too)
1 egg
1 1/2 c almond milk
1 c pumpkin puree
(which I made easily in the crock pot the day before. See instructions here. Totally easy, and without the massive sodium content of canned food.)

Optional: 1 banana (to make a smiley face for the monkeys)

Variations: I omitted the 'called for' 1/4 tsp salt (T is a salt lover and I worry that he gets too much salt as it is)-- and I ended up adding another tablespoon of the ground flaxseed after the pumpkin puree to thicken it up just a bit. You can add more or less flour or milk depending upon your desired consistency of pancake.

You will want to add xanthan gum or guar gum if not using a mix that already has it. Otherwise the dough does not thicken. (Learned this a few weeks back when trying to make GF cookies with almond flour only. Had very thin, flat cookies.) See here for more info on the two types of  gum.

I coated the pan with more coconut oil and cooked on "3" (medium low) for 3 minutes on each side. This makes about 12 pancakes, but I held about a cup of batter back, put in a (greased) loaf pan, added chocolate chips, and voila:

Next on the list of things to make: Monkey Bread! We will see how it goes... if it turns out this well, I am sure to blog about it!

Friday, October 12, 2012


 A simple sign with translations in English and Spanish conveys a message of assurance and hope. One word stands out, touching the crux of where I am: in-quietudes. For here we are again, at the Children's Hospital, seeking solutions. The road driven with my son who seems to always be ill, the way ahead uncertain. Here I stand, not panicked, but simply planted in the place of in-quietudes, soul longing to be soothed.

When I am in the midst of turmoil, when we have rushed to the ER, or called 911, my heart fragments, and I cry out to my healer- "Jesus, help us!" But this is a hushed chaos. Lingering uncertainty permeates and all I want is for my son to feel better.

So we traipse from test to test, x-rays taken, blood drawn, the boy being brave through it all, though he's weary, too. The verdict set down from one who should know is ambiguous; nothing more than a stab in the dark, so I seek a second opinion. There are no pie in the sky, easy solutions. No sudden release, no immediate healing.

And through it all, comfort came through messages of support- prayers sent out via social media, so many that my phone shut down, and I lingered on words cried out from a sister heart:

Father, You are good. You are The Healer and we can not fix things or heal people, but we trust You can. I trust you, Jesus, to guide the doctors, to figure out what is going on in his body - and heal him! I trust you, Jesus, to calm his mother's fears and not to let her spend her time worrying, but calling out to you. I trust you, Jesus, that you are all the comfort she needs and all the comfort that her son needs. I trust you, Jesus, that you are there with your arms open wide to hold them tight. 

God we hurt when our children hurt, so I imagine it hurts you when we hurt. You know our pain. God, guide these doctors. Calm fears. Bring healing, O God. We love you and praise your name in all things. Amen. 

In times like these, no pretty pictures of an emotionless Jesus will suffice. What we really need, what I really need this very week, is to know that in the messiness and muck and blood and guts that I am not alone. This is what speaks to gaping needs. I do not need God- or even life- entirely explained. I just need to know that when I am on the floor of a hospital hallway with a sick child stuck in the bathroom, I am not forsaken.

For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden his face... but has listened to [my] cry for help.* 

And he restores my soul. 

~Just Me

*Psalm 22:24 and Psalm 23:3

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In This Moment

There it is, that same old question. It comes in many forms... usually when life does not line up with what I would have chosen. Age old wonderings resonate even now in hearts and minds and waiting rooms. Fear rises up and sorrow pushes out the human need to grasp meaning. Why suffering? Why pain? Why loss? Why?

When there are no answers, when every strategy tried seems like running into a wall of solid stone, cold and unyielding this life can be. There are times when diagnoses don't bring resolution. Moments when the frame freezes out of place and one word changes all we know of reality. Why? is the natural knee jerk reaction to that which slices through the mundane, causing every breath to be jagged, every step to feel as if existence is fragmented irrevocably.

I have no final answer. I have no deep spiritual understanding of why there is suffering. Maybe it's because we live in a fallen world, and we've not yet graduated to that place of completeness. Maybe it's because we are sin sick and our bodies do wear out. Maybe it's just the way it is here in this imperfect place. I've not been granted that resounding resolution. I have certainly questioned, yet I don't know why my husband suffers through PTSD. I don't know why my youngest son has SPD and my oldest keeps getting more and more diagnoses, each adding to the list that weighs down my soul. Sometimes, there are no ready answers, despite too many words.

 I've been told that suffering is not in vain, that death of my desires opens me up to new birth. And perhaps that is part of its purpose. Yet knowing something good may come of suffering is hollow comfort at best, especially in the moments when pain pierces to the very depths. I have to believe that there is more to be experienced than simply personal growth. When questions remain unanswered, what I hold to is this: The gift to be found in the midst of sorrow is God's tenderness gathering me up, covering me in his comfort.  The beauty within loss and struggle is knowing his tender touch, allowing me to be where I am and not be overpowered by fear. Overwhelmingly, what I am finding is that when the whys become more about the Who, my life lens alters. 

I've walked through fire holding God at arm's length and I've sought the shelter of his arms when the flames became an inferno, and this I do know; when I am spent, when there is nothing left within me, when I can no longer press on, He invites: Lean in and be covered. And I wonder what took me so long to turn to the one who Nourishes my soul, the one who is Hope in the darkness.

You see, we are not alone. My own experience has been altered by radiant love. I am convinced that:
 Neither death, nor life, nor angels or demons, neither the present nor the future-- (and not the past either)-- nor any powers, neither height or depth or anything else in all of creation can separate us from the love of God. 

Nothing can separate us from his love. But our own will can keep us from knowing His presence moment to moment. He is right here, but we choose whether to connect with him, whether pain is our companion or not. He offers refuge; a place to lay our heads and sob out the stresses of life, with no condemnation,  no judgment, only love without condition.  He offers complete and total acceptance. In him, there is no need for pretending. He loves us where we are, how we are, who we are-- no matter what. He is our safe place.

I may not have revelations or answers to sweep away the whys. But I know Who will sustain me through it all, if I simply choose to invite Him into the moment. And so, with the Psalmist I say:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91: 1-2

~Just Me