Tag Archives: God

Serve One Another

As I cared for Katie this week, who was home from school not feeling so great, I came across scripture that spoke to me. She was having one of her days, just rocking back and forth crying inconsolably. It is so sad to watch because she is uncomfortable, but can’t tell me why. Is she hungry? Is she cold? Is her stomach hurting? So I spend the day attempting to fix all those problems to no avail. This is one of those times I just want to run and hide, but I can’t…I am her mother.

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28

Caring for Katie has transformed my spiritual life and this message from Jesus to His apostles is a huge clue why. It’s because Andy and I serve her every day. We dress her, we bathe her, we brush her teeth, we change her diaper, we feed her, all of these things once seemed like a burden to me, but now I know they are actually my gifts from God. He calls us to serve one another, to put others needs and wants above our own, but that is difficult to do. If Katie was a healthy self-sufficient 12 year old who knows how often I would be serving others. image5 (1)But God gave me an opportunity to do it every day for the rest of her life. When I look at it that way, it is a great privilege.

I believe that once I understood this teaching my perspective on being Katie’s mommy completely changed. God blesses those who serve others and when my heart is grateful rather than disgruntled, I am open to His graces. When it’s just me and Katie I care for her out of complete love because I know she can’t say thank you. But often after a long day I want to hear the words that I’ve done good, so I seek it from others. Why? Because I’m human. I learned at an early age it feels good to hear people say nice things about you, but that’s just my ego. Jesus wants us to be humble and to do all things for God alone.

“Human recognition is passing; it doesn’t even last a lifetime. Even in heaven human recognition will be useless-our eyes will be fixed on God, not on each other or ourselves. However, we do know by faith that God will reward us in heaven according to our merits. He will exalt us for serving others, especially when we bring others to love and serve him.” Regnum Christi Feb. 24th, 2016

We are all called to serve others. Remember the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus was a poor man who sat at the rich man’s door begging for just a morsel of food, but the rich man did nothing. When they both died Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hades. Abraham told the rich man that his life of comfort was now reversed and so was Lazarus’ life of torment. We have to share our gifts with others.

We are weak when we are alone, without God in our hearts we grow weary and serving others just does not seem possible. But when we discover the supernatural power that God provides service flows so beautifully.image1 (12) We also realize it is not something we can boast about because to God be all glory. Every day I have a choice, I can grumble about the extra work I have to do or I can thank God realizing not everyone gets the chance to love another human being in such a special way.

This Little Light of Mine

I have fond childhood memories of singing the song This Little Light of Mine. My favorite part was, “Hide it under a Bushel,” and we all shouted at the top of our lungs, “NO!” A recent devotional brought back this memory and made me think of how the song relates to my faith journey in several ways.

When Katie was a baby she looked different from most children.image (2) I thought she was adorable, but I felt the stares as people tried to figure out what was wrong with my child. One time a sales clerk even said, “Your baby looks drunk,” referring to her eyes rolling up as she struggled to focus. I was devastated, so I “hid her under a bushel,” avoiding many public outings. Because of my weakness there were failed opportunities to let her light shine. Now I don’t just think she’s adorable, I know the true beauty of her soul and her power to change lives, so I love sharing her. My hope is that this blog illuminates her light to the world.

For so long, before I allowed Katie to teach me what is important, I lived behind a veil. I tried to only shine a light on my good qualities. I hid the things that weren’t so attractive and then felt guilt for them. But through Katie I’ve learned to accept everything about myself. She could care less if someone stares at her. In God’s eyes we are all lit up and He sees every part of us…the good, the bad and the ugly. And He loves us anyway. I decided when I started writing about my life with Katie I would do so with transparency because there is beauty in our weaknesses and this beauty can help others.

Notice the words of the song…I’m going to LET it shine, not I’m going to shine it bright or I’m going to replace the blub with a more efficient one so mine is brighter for longer. Not only would that be a terrible tune, but it’s always my problem. Instead of letting God have control, instead of just sitting back and relaxing in His grace, I try to guide my own way.IMG_6180 Katie exhibits this so well, she doesn’t interfere with God, she just allows Him to work through her. We have to let go, let God, and let it shine to the world.

And when that light is shining in us we have to use it for good. It’s extremely tough to share advice with someone who may not want to hear it. But as disciples of God it is our job to help each other. We have to plant those seeds that open hearts to God. We worry too much about minding our own business. The song goes, let it shine til Jesus comes. Just imagine that day, don’t you want to be prepared and wouldn’t you want someone to help you get there if you were headed down the wrong path.

photo (4)Katie illuminates joy wherever she goes. What I used to see as doom and gloom staring, is now light kindling in others because she sets them on fire. So I still love to shout NO to hiding our magnificent light that is Jesus Christ.

Changing My Desire

IMG_6555Over the last 12 years of parenting a child with severe special needs one might think I had mastered the art of prayer, but that would be false. In fact, it is an area in my life that I experience great struggle. When I pray I often second guess what I ask of God, if He knows the plans He has for me then who am I to ask for something different. But His plan can be tough and I have a long list of requests. So what words should form my daily prayers?

Way too often I ask God for changes that would make my life easier here on earth. “God, please help Katie learn to communicate!”, “Dear Lord, if you could stop Drew’s temper tantrum, right now, that would be great!” or “Please, make that annoying person in my life a little more bearable!” and my favorite, “I need help with this crazy chocolate addiction, make it go away.” The problem with these prayers are the desires behind them. I’m too focused on what God can change in the world around me, when I should concentrate on my own heart.

Brody-War-Room-690Andy and I recently watched the movie War Room (which I highly recommend)! In the movie Elizabeth’s marriage is on the brink of divorce, but when Miss Clara teaches her how to pray, her change of heart transforms their family. We can fight our battles every second of every day, and we can waste our time trying to change things that are out of our control or we can hit the floor and use the only weapon that really works.

“To win the fight, you’ve got to have the right strategy and the right resources, because victories don’t come by accident.” Miss Clara in War Room

We have to have the desires of Jesus. When my ego is at the center of my prayer I want others to change, I’m too proud to admit that I may need some fine tuning. But if our goal in prayer is asking for help to emulate Jesus’ qualities, then God is happy to oblige. God wants us to look beyond ourselves and love like Jesus does.

“But to you who are listening I say: LOVE your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

And that my friend takes the right kind of prayer, because our earthly egos default to the exact opposite of these words. We all need a War Room like Miss Clara’s, a place where we can adjust the desires of our heart, a place where we can talk to God and listen to His precious guidance for our daily lives.

image2 (9)But what about all those BIG miracles I ask of God? The ones for Katie to be physically spared from the disorder that takes so much from her, or those prayer requests I encounter every week asking for miraculous healings for a one year old with cancer or for God’s saving grace for a dying mother of three. I do believe in modern day miracles. Like saints who have died, but their bodies stay incorrupt. Or the two miracles in which communion hosts physically turned into bloody flesh and when they were analyzed they were scientifically linked to the heart tissue of a man from the Middle East who had been beaten in the chest…Jesus. These miracles like the ones occurring in Biblical times serve a purpose, they are gifts from God to say, “I am here even though you can’t physically see me.” So when we pray for miracles our intention has to be focused only on God’s glory, not the easing of suffering in our own life here on earth.

“It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where he was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, ‘Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.’ Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’” Luke 5:12-13

The words “Lord, if you wish” are key. My Regnum Christi devotional says those words portray the lepers true desire…he wants God more than he wants his cure. When I pray for a miracle for Katie, no matter how hard I try, my primary desire is for her to have a normal life, to eliminate her suffering and to ease the extra workload that our family experiences. I have promised God that I would claim His miracle every day for the rest of my life if He healed Katie, but God knows in my selfish flesh that I want it for us more than I want it for Him. My prayer now is that my spiritual life will mature in a way that all I want is His glory, not my own escape.

“Being self-absorbed and not accepting problems and defects is, in itself, an obstacle to being cured of them. Some lose patients in the fight because they want the cure more than they want the one who cures. … Openness to God’s time, detachment from an easy life, and total abandonment into Our Lords hands permits illness to cure the soul.” Regnum Christi

IMG_0113I believe the pain can sometimes be our miracle, it can be our healing. Katie’s suffering has changed my soul, as well as the souls of many others. It may not be the miracle I was asking for, but it’s pretty amazing. I think miracles like the healing of the leper happen to people who have soaked up every ounce of good that comes with the bad, those who seek Him above ALL else, those who want only what God wants, those willing to suffer for His glory. So as I enter my War Room and alter my desires, I pray… “Dear Lord, may my desires be your desires, may I want what you want, and may I accept what you give me with strength and dignity. Please humble me to love others the way you love me always forgiving and always looking for the good!”

Mommy Guilt

Is it seriously almost July?? On some days summer seems to be flying by,IMG_8624 but on others…you know those “I’m SO Bored” days, it is as if the second hand on my watch is taking 60 hours to circle. At the beginning of June I challenged myself to a New Summer Attitude. One filled with appreciating each moment and being truly present to my children, rather than my normal, “When are these kids going back to school?” attitude. But in this quest for a new attitude I have discovered one issue that is sucking the life out of me…Mommy Guilt.

As I’m cleaning the kitchen after breakfast the inner voice starts, “Clean up later, play with your kids now!” So I do, then the voice says, “This playing is great, but Katie needs to be working on communication!” So I switch gears, then the voice responds to my son complaining that I never play with him, “You don’t, bless his heart, that poor 3rd child! Oh and by the way, your house is a wreck, there are still breakfast dishes in the sink!” Then the cycle starts back at the beginning and continues all day long with me never accomplishing anything. Nothing I do is ever enough for ME!

IMG_8646I have an image of what a “good” mom is supposed to be, she’s featured in those Mother’s Day Hallmark commercials. She is patient 24/7 and NEVER yells at her kids, her home always looks as if her entire extended family is coming over, she always has healthy meals and would never think about using spray sunscreen. And guess what? On most days I feel the polar opposite of this mom, because my life is not “normal”.

Instead my oldest daughter is tube fed manufactured formula and many of our summer days are spent at the doctor’s office or therapy rather than licking popsicles in a hammock. I often think, I’d be a better mom if my life was “normal”. The guilt is intensified by Katie’s impairments. I know in my heart there is a neurological reason she can’t talk or walk independently, but I often wonder why I can’t fix it all by pushing harder. I ask myself, if she had a different mother would she be doing more in life. That inner voice is exhausting!!

So I pray, and recall a conversation I had with my priest a few years back (because yes, my mommy guilt is an ongoing issue). I asked him if guilt is from God or if it is just made up in my head. He said you truly have to look at the cause, guilt can actually be a grace from God when we are doing something wrong. But feeling guilty because you don’t live up to an image you set for yourself (hello, Hallmark commercial) comes from your ego…WHAT? He said when you are focusing on an image of perfection you are too focused on what you appear to be and that leads to false guilt.

We were each made in the likeness of God so when we set unreasonable goals and then beat ourselves up for not obtaining them it is like a slap in Gods face. It is the same as saying God you messed up, I’m no good. But He never messes up! The false guilt stills my joy, it constantly distracts me from living in the moment and enjoying my perfectly not so normal life. I’m too busy thinking about what I SHOULD be doing.

I don’t think I’m alone in my mommy guilt, I recently saw a video of moms watching their kids on camera talk about why they loved them. Each mom sobbed in disbelief, they couldn’t believe the special moments and attributes the kids were describing. If I could only see myself through my children’s eyes. Every day is dedicated to them, I am the only mommy they will ever have and in their tiny world I am the center.IMG_8589 If Katie could speak I know she would say you are doing enough Mommy, you love me and that is more than enough.

As I strive for this New Summer Attitude I have to also look through Gods forgiving eyes. He does not have unreasonable expectations, He simply wants me to get up every day and LOVE. It is that plain and simple! It is okay if Legos line my stairs and my kids eat an occasional Oreo, as long as live for Him. As long as I never take one moment for granted and stop “guilting” my life away.

The Old Me

Andy and I celebrated 13 years of marriage this week. IMG_7819 I was so excited to sit down with the kids to watch the VHS wedding video that hadn’t been played in years. But what I felt at the end was completely opposite of what I expected. I thought I would look back to that day and feel envious of the carefree, young person I once was, the young lady with my whole life lying ahead. But I wasn’t, instead I felt grateful for the battle wounds that have me in the here and now.

As I watched my friends and family speak beautiful words from their hearts and the sweet things Andy and I said to each on camera, I felt warm inside remembering such a special day. But as I watched myself I saw right through the old me. I couldn’t help but cringe a bit when my memory flashed back to where my mind was as I sat on the altar. I remember being way more worried about how I looked in my beautiful wedding dress and who was sitting in the pews in front of me, than the fact that an actual sacrament was taking place. IMG_7820 (1) I regret that I don’t even remember what the priest said to us that day. Don’t get me wrong, the day was perfect and the love between Andy and I was so very special. But I wish I fully understood then, that we were making a covenant with God and how very important that was.

After thinking about all of this for a little while I realized it is okay, and that life is about accepting each stage in life and learning from it. So if I could go back to that day I would do it the same because it was who I was at the time and that played a role in who I am today. God has a special way of loving us even when we don’t show Him the love and attention He deserves.

Andy and I joked this week saying, if our lives had flashed before our eyes the minute we first met, we probably both would have run far away from each other. But thankfully that is not how God works. We don’t get to see what the future holds because God saves each obstacle until we are ready, all the while preparing us.

I have a perfect example of this in my life. Before Katie was born God led me from a career in TV journalism to a public relations position at United Cerebral Palsy. When Andy and I got engaged my contract was ending so we decided it was best for me to move closer to him since we had been dating long distance. I considered a career change at that time and almost interviewed for a position that was available at UCP, but I ultimately decided to take another TV job instead. After only a few months I realized that it was indeed time for a change and by God’s planning that same position at UCP was still open, I interviewed and changed careers. I remember thinking this job was just meant for me, little did I know how that would play out in my life.

I had never been so exposed to the world of special needs. At this job I learned all about the different therapies we provided children with special needs. I wrote press releases, did interviews and helped plan fundraising events for these new precious people in my life. But I never even thought for one second that I would soon be one of them. When Katie was born I was exactly where I needed to be thanks to God putting me where He did.

So if God has prepared me and equipped me why have my last few blog posts been focused on how I am struggling so much? Haven’t I made it yet? With all we have been through shouldn’t I be sitting on easy street popping my troubles away like tennis balls with my very experienced racket? I wish it were that easy, but we never truly finish struggling until the day we die.

IMG_6489Katie’s impairments are truly my biggest struggle in life, but at the same time they are my greatest gifts from God. I get to experience a relationship with God that the “young wedding dress me” may have never found. Katie’s life has been my pathway to a richer and deeper existence. The “today me” still struggles, but I handle it differently. I have not mastered it, but with God as my guide my GPS is set in the right direction.

Fear Not

On a recent Sunday afternoon Andy and I were preparing dinner while Katie tube fed in the next room, Drew and Lexi were in Huntsville enjoying spring break with their Nana and Papa. I noticed Katie was unusually quiet so I went to check on her. When I entered the room I saw her limp body slumped over and her head lying in a pool of vomit. Her eyes stared straight through me, instantly I knew it was happening again. But this seizure was different, she was not convulsing, but she was breathing and not responding so we could only assume she was having a seizure, we went into action to administer a new “rescue” drug and call 911. The very familiar paramedics quickly arrived and we were off to the hospital. As I sat in the front seat unable to even see her, my fears ran wild. Once at the hospital it took 2 hours and several IV medications to finally bring life back into Katie’s eyes. But my thankfulness quickly turned into extreme anxiety.

Over the last 10 months our precious Katie’s seizures went from short and mild to intense and severe. Now they last hours, she has been hospitalized 5 times and put on a ventilator twice.image (19) - Copy But this time was different for me, I left the hospital with more than just a new seizure medication for Katie, I left with a fear I’ve never felt before. Once home I couldn’t sleep, I would lie awake for hours struggling to catch my breath because anxiety was taking over. The “what if’s?” are just too much for me to handle sometimes. We purchased a new video monitor which I thought would help, but instead I just stared at it watching her every breath. I continued to pray, but when you are consumed by fear it literally takes over. But after about a week I have finally calmed down and let God show me the way. IMG_7697 (1)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

God wants me to rely on Him for everything, so isn’t having fear the same as telling God, “I don’t trust you!”? Fear results from me thinking I am in control. “What if we miss a seizure and don’t get her to the hospital in time? What if I administer her emergency medication wrong? What if I forget one of her 7 daily medications or get the dosage wrong?” Those are real fears, but I have to let go and trust that God is in control. When I live in fear, led by anxiety, I can’t really live at all.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” Matthew 6: 25-27

No, fear and worrying actually shorten our lives. I have to do all I can to make sure I take care of Katie. I need to always watch her, hence the 3 monitors that are now in her bedroom, make sure her medications are administered properly and I have to sleep with one eye open so I don’t miss a thing. But I don’t have to live in fear, there is a difference. Prayer and trust in the Lord will get me through this stage of life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I am a walking example of this verse. A week ago I was in a deep dark hole, walking around like a zombie, just going through the motions because my thoughts could not stray away from what our lives had now become. Depressed about the fact that things somehow changed with this seizure, reality had set in and our way of life had to become much more seizure centered. My thoughts focused on when the next seizure would come and would it be worse than the last one. But then I felt God’s peace.

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

It is difficult to put it into words, but I know God has got this. He is the one in control and when I rely on Him the feeling that comes over me can’t be described. It’s the exact polar opposite of anxiety, it is God’s love holding me when I can’t hold myself.20141019-DSC_0416 - Copy (2) Katie is the most perfect child of God and I know no matter what happens on this earth God holds her too. So my fears of the worse are really pointless because while God’s plan may include a few bumps along the way, He is her ultimate destiny and that is all that really matters.

Her Purpose

When Katie smiles ear to ear it is like a piece of heaven on earth. Her eyes lock with mine and she beams, she reaches up to grab me and the world literally stops. I become truly present in that moment because I know it won’t last long. image1 (1)

In these moments Katie’s eyes say so much. She is saying, “I love you mommy! I am happy! You are doing enough for me! I know you love me!” She is saying all the things I have longed to hear for 11 years. I always say, “I love you, Katie!” over and over because in that moment, when she is more present, that is all I want her to hear. These moments can only be described as God entering my world.

I was reading a Lenten devotional last week about the Transfiguration, it reminded me of these moments with Katie.

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Matthew 17:1-2

Father Robert Barron says the bright white signifies a divine beauty that is only seen on occasion in this world.  To me the moments with Katie are divine beauty. photo (7) I am trying to describe these “moments” but the feeling that overcomes me is indescribable. It is one moment in time where everything just feels perfect, I feel consumed with love like I have never felt before. That is her purpose on this earth, to show us that greater things are to come, much greater than this world could ever provide. I know that is God’s love shining through my precious Katie.

Like Peter I want the moment to last forever, I  don’t want to go back to ordinary life where Katie is distant.

“Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke 9:33

Peter didn’t want that divine moment to pass, but the passage continues with “But he did not know what he was saying.” Father Barron says it is not the point to stay in these mystical moments, instead…“It is to become radiant with divine light so as to share it with the world.”

So often children like Katie are discounted, overlooked and undervalued. God gives the world  image (18)special children for very specific reasons.  I would not have chosen this life 11 years ago, but today knowing what I know, I would. Yes, it is difficult, and sometimes at night I cry because of the extreme challenges we face. But way more often than that I go to bed with a grateful heart, thanking God for choosing me to be a part of His beautiful plan. Katie’s simple smile has a purpose, if we stop to notice her we soak up the message that God is great and eternity with Him is more than we can imagine, then we spread this divine love.

Get away, Satan!

aPlanning a trip to Disney World with a child with Special Needs sucked the life out of me. My sabbatical in writing is due to a Disney trance I’ve been in for a few weeks. My precious parents took my whole family on a very special vacation a few weeks ago.IMG_6186 I am happy to report it was incredibly magical, but I almost missed the magic due to the ball of stress that I became.

I was consumed with all things Katie in Disney World. How will we tube feed her in the park? What if she has a seizure? What if that seizures is as bad as the last two and we end up in a hospital far away from our own doctors? Will she get too overstimulated by the crowds? What will she think of the rides? How are we going to bathe her in the motor home? (Yes, 7 people in a motor home for 5 days.) Will the weather be too hot or too cold for her since she doesn’t regulate her body temperature well? Will our fast passes be at a good time for her schedule? Will she throw up in the park? (No, but Drew did!!)

Yes, I became that CRAZY while planning this trip. But all the worries washed away the second we entered the Magic Kingdom. The first thing we did was get in line to meet Mickey Mouse, immediately we were whisked to the front of the line so Katie didn’t have to wait. IMG_6005Mickey stopped down to say hello and Katie grabbed his hand and kissed his nose. We were all crying tears of joy, something about that moment was just so special. Then we saw Snow white, the line was short so we went to the end to wait our turn but the worker quickly got us out of line and escorted us to the front. I was scared to look up, afraid people at the end of the line were going to throw stuff at us, but instead they were all smiling ear to ear watching Katie, Lexi and Drew meet Snow White. At the parade we had a special seat and characters came right up to Katie to give her special attention. I commend Disney World for going the extra mile to treat children with special needs and their families extra special.

But when I got home I was still feeling anxious, I just couldn’t get myself back into the swing of life. Then I finally slowed down and realized I haven’t been taking time for The Lord. My focus had shifted from God to this vacation. I had missed several Bible Studies and I was not taking my daily quiet time, so I sat down to tackle my 20 or so devotional emails. And it was like a ton of bricks fell on my head to wake me up.

Father Robert Barron sends out daily Lenten emails to help keep us focused on this 40 day journey. The first one I read centered on the temptations Jesus faced in the desert. He had just realized His mission and faced some tough temptations, just like we all do every day. Just like I had faced, the temptation to put life ahead of God.

Satan used three temptations to try to ruin Jesus. First, as Jesus was starving, satan said turn these stones into bread. If He had done what was asked, Jesus would have had an immediate satisfaction to his extreme hunger. Father Barron says this is a very familiar temptation to us because society says if it feels good do it. We live in a time when no one wants to endure pain or even feel a little uncomfortable. We overeat because it tastes good, we overspend because shopping fills a void, we get wrapped up in vacation planning, and we ignore what God is saying in our hearts because our will just feels better.

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4: 4-5

Father Barron writes, “When we give way to this temptation, it shuts down the soul, for the soul has been wired for God, for journey into the divine. When sensual desires dominate, those deeper and richer desires are never felt or followed.” So when will fill ourselves with what is comfortable we are never forced by the uncomfortable to turn to God.

The second temptation satan used was power. He took Jesus to the Holy City and made him stand above the temple and told him to throw himself down, if he was the son of God then He would be saved. The devil was testing Jesus, trying to get him to use his power of God for the wrong reasons. Barron writes about many of the great leaders in history and the ones today, often power comes to those who cut throats and step on toes. When we chase power for the sake of power, we allow evil to take over. Who doesn’t want power? It feeds our ego and makes us feel important. With that feeling of power it is easy to put God’s will aside for whatever keeps us in that powerful position. If every leader in this world today insistently put God’s will first when making decisions, this world would be a different place. Instead of seeking power, feeding our ego, we should humble ourselves realizing God is the only true power.

“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Matthew 4:7-8

The third and final temptation in the desert was glory over God. He took Jesus to a high mountain that overlooked all the kingdoms of the world. Satan offered all of this to him in exchange for His devotion. We do this every day when we put our will ahead of God’s. Barron says we are called to be servants to God, which means we have to submit to what He wants. That can sometimes lead us down a tough path that we may not want to travel. But we have to listen and be ready to serve God not the world around us.

“Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Matthew 4: 10-11

So as I refocused myself and prepared for the 40 days of lent I realize I had given into all of these temptations when I got wrapped up in my Disney planning. I allowed Satan to suck the joy out my life, I allowed him to persuade me that this trip had to be perfect IMG_6090for everyone and I was the only one who could control that. But in reality God is the only one with that true power. The smiles would have come regardless of my planning. But this is life and there are a million things that we try to control, lent is a time to say “Get away, Satan!” God is the center of my world.

True Beauty

Andy and I recently took a much needed beach getaway. On this trip, I rediscovered something I so often lose sight of, the true meaning of beauty. One thing I learned a long time ago is that in this world of special needs parenting time away is crucial, time to refuel, time to reconnect, and time to notice the things we miss in the daily grind.

image1 (6)As we sat on the beach bundled in coats in the chilly January temperature, I looked out at the ocean, the calm serenity of the water meeting the sand and thought, this is absolutely beautiful. God gave us so much beauty in this world and I’m usually too busy to notice it.

“Hearken to this, O Job! Stand and consider the wondrous works of God! Do you know how God lays his commands upon them, and makes the light shine forth from his clouds? Do you know how the clouds are banked the wondrous work of him who is perfect in knowledge?” Job 37: 14-16

Then I looked to my left to see the beautiful man that God gave me specifically for this journey. image2 (6)So often I take my frustrations out on this man and he loves me anyway. I also overlook his inner beauty as I rush to get a million things done in a day. But as we sit side by side on the beach I am reminded of his precious soul, his constant smile, his sense of humor, his strong voice that always calms me when the world is crashing in around us. In this world I am most thankful that God is very much alive in my husband.

“You are all-beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you.” Songs 4:7

As I continued to relax I was also reminded of the beauty in my family and friends. My sister and brother in law graciously gave us their beach condo for the weekend. My friends pitched in to get Lexi to her school open house, cheerleading practice and girl scouts. image3 (5) And my adorable dad was so excited to take her to the daddy daughter dance in Andy’s absence. My in-laws drove a total of 8 hours to and from Huntsville to take care of Drew and somehow kept the wild man in one piece. And our family there pitched in to entertain him. So many people gave of themselves so we could get away.

But the beauty that brings me to tears is my mom and her love and devotion to our precious Katie. This job was not meant for someone of her age (sorry mom, but at least I didn’t give a number). My mom was very nervous as I explained medication dosages, feeding tube schedules and how to strap her wheelchair. She’s done these things a million times, but to be the sole caregiver is a big task. All weekend she lifted her, changed her diaper and did absolutely everything for her just so we could get a break. She is so very beautiful to me.

I so often forget that beauty is not found in those 5 pounds I need to lose, the perfect skincare regimen, or the cute pair of “skinny” jeans found on sale at Belk. No, beauty is so much deeper, but in this fast pace life true beauty gets overlooked.

“Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

smileWhen people look at Katie I see them recognize this beauty. They always smile ear to ear not because her hair is perfect or her clothes are adorable (quiet frankly, sometimes she looks like a hot mess) but because beauty shines from her soul. We see this so perfectly when we take her to communion, as we push her wheelchair back to our pew after she has consumed the body of Jesus Christ, people’s eyes just light up as if she is the most magnificent sight.

As I said earlier we all need breaks, we need time to stop and take in all the beauty this world has to offer. It is easy to feel guilty for getting away, for asking others to do your job for you. But in this, you share beauty with them. The beauty of giving and helping.

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” Luke 6:38

When we stop the crazy rat race of life and take time to recognize what is beautiful in our lives we realize what beauty really is. I believe true beauty is God, and it is seen most perfectly when we allow Him to shine through us.

The Greatest of these is LOVE

How do you connect with someone who can’t talk, who can’t say I love you, who can’t even look you in the eye? And how do you love someone you can’t connect with? Before I had Katie I often asked those questions when I would meet a person who had severe disabilities. I couldn’t understand how you could build a relationship with someone who couldn’t talk. I also remember a phone conversation with my sister when Katie was a newborn, before we knew the extent of her disabilities. I said, “I can handle a lot, but I don’t think I can deal with this if she can’t talk. She has to be able to talk!!” Fast forward 11 years and Katie has never spoken a single word, but she communicates love like no one else.photo (7)

To answer these questions we have to understand what it means to truly love. On Valentine’s Day a few years ago I was listening to a homily by Father Robert Barron. He was talking about 1st Corinthians 13. You know, the one about love that you’ve heard at most every wedding you have ever been to. It was read at our wedding, but I had never taken the time to study what each verse meant.

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything that I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Love is the center of everything. We can have all the things this world has to offer and all the things God has to offer, but if we don’t know how to love, none of it matters. Love is to will the good of other people. When I heard that statement I instantly thought of my parents.photo (6) They love me so intensely just like that, and never expect anything in return. They taught me how to love Katie with an unconditional love. If we are kind to others just so they will like us, or bring someone dinner in hopes they will return the favor or give a gift knowing they will give us one back, we are thinking about ourselves. We have ulterior motives, not love. When we put other’s happiness in front of our own we are showing pure love.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

I lose my patience with Katie just like with my typical kids and it’s always because I am putting myself ahead of her. I want things done on my own time frame and according to my will. This is a tough one with a special needs child because very few things happen the way I want them to. Milestones are not met, outings are cancelled because she is sick, therapy sessions are cut short because she isn’t cooperating. If I were loving as God wants, my emotions wouldn’t be a factor. If we take ourselves out of the equation and look at what the other person needs, patience comes flowing out of our love for them. And kindness is the expression of this patient love.

“It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests…”

Jealousy isn’t a factor in my relationship with Katie or my other kids, but it does rear its ugly head in other relationships and it always comes from my ego. When someone else has more, does something better or just seems happier than us, we automatically feel less than. When in actuality their accomplishment has nothing to do with us at all. If you are a parent think about how good it feels to find out your child has succeeded at something. Then think about the same scenario with someone you are not as fond of, the accomplishment stings a bit. But we are called to love everyone, even those who don’t always make us smile. Jealousy usually leads to gossip, because if we can find someone to agree with us we inflate our own ego…the opposite of love.

“… it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong doing but rejoices with the truth.”

Being Katie’s mommy requires a lot of one on one work teaching her very basic things, sometimes she does great and others not so much. At times when she has more difficulty learning I get frustrated, quick tempered…why? Because I feel like I am failing, I’m not doing enough to help her. What is that? You guessed it, my ego. It’s not about me, it’s about her and doing all things for her with love and not focusing on the results. Think about a time when someone really ticked you off. Then think about the root of that anger, it likely had something to do with your ego. But if we love properly we are not focused on our own feelings and we let insults roll off our back, because it’s not about us.

“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

It is hard to bear other peoples struggles, sometimes I just want to leave the room when Katie is sobbing inconsolably. Sometimes I do walk out for a breather, but I try to stay by her side, bearing her pain, enduring her suffering because I love her. photo (8)When we love others we are ready to bear anything for them. When they are in pain, we endure that pain too because we are focused on helping them not on our own self-interest. I have great hope for Katie, I have no idea if she will ever speak or walk independently, but I have hope, there is always hope. We have hope for those we love, hope that they will realize that life is about growing in their love for Christ, hope that they realize staying stagnant in their faith walk is never enough for God.

“Love never fails.”

God is love and God is eternal. If we love the way we are called to by God, there is nothing in this world that will end it. That’s a bold statement because people hurt us all the time. But again love is not concerned with our hurt, it’s focused on others. God calls us to love everyone even our enemies, it is His greatest commandment.

“If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”

Father Barron explains this passage as a comparison to our spiritual immaturity. When I was a child, obsessed with myself, with wealth and worldly pleasures I spoke only of that and did not have God as my priority. When I became a man, I put God first, I realized He is the only thing that matters. He also says this passage compares earth to heaven. We only know partially here in our flesh, but in heaven we will know fully and it will be more beautiful than we can even imagine.

“So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

cropped-lA2.jpgSo how do I love Katie when she can’t say it back? Because I LOVE her, I bear her pain, I want what’s best for her, I know it is not about me and what she can do for me. It is the essence of unconditional love. That is the beautiful gift Katie has given me, teaching me that love can be so perfect when we humble ourselves and put our own ego aside for the good and benefit of someone else.