Tag Archives: christian

Art and Soul!

A space of my own has been a dream for my whole life. Not just any space, but a peaceful, joyful, beautiful, feminine, creative and holy space! Maybe you can relate?

A part of me realizes that this is my inner desire for Heaven – an ache that is ever present. That niggling feeling that says, “There is more.” Sometimes this feeling is more pronounced. Other times it is just a whisper in my heart and soul. Nonetheless it is always there, waiting for me.

This art space is part of my solution to the way Jesus taught us to pray: On Earth as it is in Heaven…

Through the years I have carved out corners, closets, cubbies, tables, rooms, decks, porches, lawns and patios as a private retreat space. As an art space. As a breathing space. As a quiet space to meet with God.

This year, thanks largely to my husband, I have designed – prayed over – and am now using “The Upper Room.” A space of my own!

Of course it is an evolving space – just as I am evolving – ever growing – in my walk with Jesus and my creative endeavors.

So – If you haven’t seen me lately…I’m hanging out in the Upper Room with Jesus!

Soon to follow: More photos and Upper Room Creations!

Thanks for letting me share! Be blessed!

Is God a Snitch?

My son asked this of me the other day.

“Is God a snitch?”

Max was not particularly happy when he asked me this question. He was late getting home from a friend’s house. I had greeted him with the question, “So…where were you?”

“You know. I already told you I was going to Hank’s house,” came his cautionary reply.

“I know that’s where you told me you were going. But where were you really?” I raised an eyebrow and tried to look stern. Inside I was giggling, I knew he hadn’t been at his friend’s home.

“Fine. I went to Monte’s house.” He was honest. That was a huge plus in my book!

“I  knew that is where you went.”

Max was exasperated. “Mom! Quit praying that stupid prayer! Is God a snitch?”

Max was referring to a prayer I began praying about eight years ago. It goes something like this: Dear Lord, please grant me the wisdom to be the type of parent you want me to be. Reveal to me only what I need to know, today, to be that kind of parent – that I might protect the children you have placed in my care. That I would be wise, merciful, gracious and loving AND fully informed!

God has been so faithful in answering that prayer. Totally on a need to know basis.

When my children are in trouble, when they aren’t where they say they will be, when they need to confess something, when they need an extra hug or encouragement – God lets me know.

I have three sons. God knows what I need to know and when I need to know it. I haven’t been able to protect my sons from everything – I guess I am not supposed to.

Sometimes it’s more about me trusting God, no matter what has happened or is happening.

God has also led me to the discovery of the firecracker in the toilet, the car rolled out of the driveway, the gasoline bomb and a few other ‘boy’ actions that I’m sure to share at a later date…

God also lets me know when I need to keep my mouth shut, my opinions to myself or when I need to disengage. I have learned, through His guidance, that it is often wise for me to go to my own ‘time out.’ Of course, I am still growing in all these areas…

God is not a snitch. He is a faithful God. There is no deceit in HIM. He is jealous for us (not of us). Anything that attempts to separate us from His love is unacceptable!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39).

I am convinced that God simply wants to help me train my child in the way he should go. How could I even try that without the grace, mercy and supernatural power of Jesus?

This is a two-way street!

My own faults and shortcomings are always revealed to me. The Lord often uses my children in this endeavor (bless their hearts…).

It’s only fair that we would both (parents and children) have an edifying, enlightening, loving, inspiring, life changing, personal and encouraging relationship with our Creator.

Isn’t that why He came?

Beneath the Questions

Have you ever tried to force something? Because you thought it was the right or best way? Even though the circumstances were telling you different? Even though everything pointed in the opposite direction? Even when it was hard? Did you give up? Give in? Surrender? Change your mind? Compromise? Or did you hold fast, rigid and determined to stay course? Your way or the highway? Is your way the ‘highest’ way?

What is your motive? How do you make your decisions? What about when there is no clear right or wrong?

Here is my dilemma. We have chose to homeschool our thirteen year old. Very specifically, at his tearful request to do so. Now six weeks later we are at his tearful request to NOT do so. What should we do?

It would be so easy for me to admit defeat and send him back to public school. You see, I have not ever felt called to home school.

I have felt homeschooling a better option for our son, Max, than public school (when HE was the driving force behind the the decision).

Why? Because he can’t sit still! He was labeled a ‘problem’ by many teachers. He has ADHD (although maybe it’s just ADH – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and the other D – Disorder is wrong, maybe it’s not a disorder at all, just how he rolls). When Max begged to homeschool, I thought maybe we stood a chance. Now when he is begging not to, our chances for success seem dwindling.

It would also be an easy decision to force homeschool, persevere and see what happens. The decision would be easy, but the day to day reality would be a completely different story. Arguments, head butting, not at all what I signed up for! I just don’t know if I have the fortitude for the trial. Not that we didn’t have arguments and head butting with public school – we simply had some other parties involved in the skirmish!

I am also not sure this is really all about homeschool. I think homeschool might be the surface topic, but what is underneath may be more important. So what is underneath? Because I really don’t want this to be about me. Yet I am half the equation in the homeschool dilemma.

And there lies the first ‘what lies beneath’: I believe my husband Jeff, Max’s father, should play a more active role if we are to homeschool.

Here are the other ‘underneaths’

  •  I love learning and school. Max doesn’t.
  • Max is becoming resentful toward me.
  • Max is more like Jeff than myself in personality, learning style, communication and love language.
  • Jeff quit school in the ninth grade (Yes you may read between the lines concerning Jeff’s view toward school…).
  • I have perfectionist tendencies – not a good teacher quality!
  • I love teaching and training – willing and eager students…
  • Jeff and I both have Attention Deficit traits ourselves (we are not the best ‘set and stick to a schedule’ people).
  • Structure is a great concept. We lack a team effort to maintain a daily structure.
  • I am losing all confidence in my ability to lovingly mother Max.
  • I am becoming resentful of my husband’s lack of interest in and support of: homeschooling, parenting and solution based action. I don’t want all these decisions to be mine alone!
  • Jeff feels attacked when I try to discuss my feelings on this situation with him.
  • Homeschooling was not on my radar, but I was willing to take it on if (and only if) Max was the driving force for his own success in the endeavor. And this has changed…

My other considerations:

  • Max has a tendency to relentlessly pursue something until he attains it. Then he quickly loses interest.
  • I am not a quitter.
  • I don’t want to raise a quitter.
  • I honor my commitments.
  • I want our child to honor his commitments.
  • I want what is best for Max!
  • I don’t want Max to see himself as a problem at home, at homeschool, at other school or anywhere else!

Okay, and very honestly, Underneath EVERYthing:

  • This situation has exposed some personal dissatisfactions with my own life.
  • Jeff and I have some conflict resolution work to do.
  • Our marriage needs some strengthening in the communication skills department.
  • Our parenting skills need brushing up and tweaking to adapt to parenting Max.

Where is God in all this?


 What does He say?

 He says it’s all about love. Seeking Him first.

 For me this means each nanosecond requires a Jesus connection.

 Next, it’s all about loving each other (aren’t Jeff and Max my neighbors?) as our selves. Making sure there are healthy ways I am loving myself, so that Jesus’ love flows out from me to my family (and others).

Matthew 22: 36-40

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

I am prayerfully seeking the answer to homeschool or not. (To be continued…)

This Summer

This summer I deactivated my Facebook account, tried not to carry my phone with me everywhere, quit watching the news, took a break from a month of church services, turned the t.v. off, limited my internet time and didn’t buy a newspaper.

I’d like to say this was an experiment. Honestly it was more of a necessity. I needed to unplug. Trust me when I say that, ‘need’ is the correct word here.

I had a vision for this summer. We would spend quality time together as a family. Us and the Lord. We even included a place setting at our table for Him. I would prepare home cooked healthy recipes (using vegetables and herbs from my garden) for our frequent family meals. I would take long walks with God and my dogs. We would bike ride and boat as a family. My sons would enjoy each other’s company. My husband, Jeff, and I would continue our weekly date nights. We would pray together, work together and play together (in relative harmony). I would read some books. All while seamlessly and stress free completing all of life’s daily responsibilities on top of the exciting projects we had planned. I know – What was I thinking?!

I read some fiction books – I truly had to be disciplined to finish a couple of them. They didn’t feed my soul.

I read some Christian non fiction books – I truly had to be disciplined to finish a couple of them. They didn’t bring me closer to Jesus.

I went on a family vacation. Now I need a vacation.

I tried to be a hermit. Hermitsville is not where I live.

This summer, as a family, we: hosted a graduation party and attended many, visited family, lost a family member, read the bible together, prayed daily, entertained family and friends, are building a barn, moved horses to our property, are maintaining and improving 10 acres of property, are playing, are active. We: cleaned, gardened, weeded, laughed, fought, are preparing to send a young man to YWAM, cooked together,visited friends, shared some family meals, decided to homeschool for this coming year (pray for me), traveled to visit our oldest son, hosted guests at our home,volunteered our time, visited the emergency room, had doctor and dentist appointments, had haircuts and shopping excursions, successfully kept our businesses afloat…all by the grace of God.

I read some health, parenting, photography, art, cooking, horse training books, articles and magazines. I found an excellent book, Face to Face with God, by Bill Johnson – I have been steeping in it.  It sent me deep into the Word. I did some art, walked a lot, rode our horses, tried some new recipes and signed up for a photography course. I felt a spark.

My spark, right now, is in danger of fizzle. I am tired.

My husband and I let date night slip away…I allowed some negativity into my mind and out of my mouth…my sons tried to kill each other (daily)…something ate all the tomatoes from my garden…sloppy and unintentional words escaped my mouth…my Darth Vader voice returned…frustration levels rose…peace declined…joy thinned out.

Why can’t I unplug? Why can’t I simplify my life? How can I draw closer to Jesus? And, shut the world out? The noise? I am seeking God.

Good Lord – when did I sign up for this over scheduled, stress filled, activity driven, works centered, treadmill of life?

Of course I did not sign up for this!

Then, I must look deeper to figure out what lies beneath where I am at. Some would say it’s all about my choices. Others would say it’s all about my motives. Others would remind me I live in a fallen world. Still others would remind me that I have an enemy. They would all be right!

Is this my fault? Probably, some, after all I am human. Have I made poor choices? Probably, some, after all I am human. Have I had less than pure motives? Same answer…

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Do I live in a fallen world. Yes.

(All creation groans…Romans 8:19-22) This verse reminds me that All of Creation (plants, animals, nature, etc…) is waiting, in expectation, for me to rise up and help bring heaven to earth.

Do I have an enemy? Yes

  •  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.(John 10:10) 
  • He (the enemy)is called the accuser. (Revelation 12:10)

You know, that’s kind of what this feels like!

Kind of what I feel like: Devoured. Accused. Stolen from. Destructed.


 How can I so easily forget this! I teach spiritual warfare to others! I live this, daily. I pray against attack all the time. Yet, have I become mechanical, complacent, lax? I have a leaky mind!

Intentionally I wouldn’t let any enemy anywhere near my home, marriage, children, schedule, or life.

Unintentionally becoming too busy, over scheduled (even with ‘good’ things), tired, trying to please everyone, do everything, satisfy everyone’s needs and expectations – and here I am. Tired. Weary. Vulnerable to attack.

My heart absolutely breaks for those that don’t even know they have an enemy or an option to the dismal condition of their life. I am from that population! I know that life can feel all up hill, defeating and hopeless. Heck, some days it still feels that way! Only now it doesn’t always feel that way! And, I also now know it’s not all about ‘my feelings.’

Thanks goodness God is bigger than all that!

Thank God that I know who I am in Christ. I am a daughter of the most high KING!

When I remember what I know – Who God is. Who Jesus is. Who Holy Spirit is. Who He says I am.

When I am living in the Truth, my life makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not perfect in this, but growing and learning daily. I am working out my salvation. I am still discovering the true meaning and depth of the Gospel.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

So where am I at now?

Reminding myself that I am never alone. I have a constant helper. I have prioritized my life through prayerful planning and life coaching. I can revisit that plan – God’s plan for my life.


I can ask the questions:

  1. Lord, what do YOU say?
  2. Does this fill me up or drain me?
  3. Does this activity (invitation, assignment, promotion, travel opportunity, etc…) align with my values? My family’s values?
  4. Does this activity align with my priorities?
  5. Have I been prioritizing?
  6. Am I mindfully and intentionally living – or kamikaze fire fighting?
  7. What are my motives for wanting to do this?
  8. If I am already at maximum capacity, what can I take off my plate to do this?
  9. Are there items I need to take off my agenda?
  10. Are there spiritual disciplines I have been neglecting?
  11. Have I been spending enough time with Jesus?
  12. Am I practicing good self care? Any self care?
  13. Are there boundaries I need to set or reestablish?
  14. Have I been guarding my heart? (Proverbs 4:23)

You know, when I seek Him in everything. When I slow down to pray and listen and worship and seek HIS face. Then, the answers always become more plain.

It’s really all about Jesus. It’s all about Him and it’s all about love. Nothing else really matters in the long run.

Am I loving HIM?

Am I letting HIM love me?

Am I getting filled up enough in HIM that rivers of living water are flowing out from me to others? (John 7:38) Because of the overwhelming abundance of the presence of the Lord in my life – not from obligation?

I Seek HIM.

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

I know HE is with me. Right here. Right now. Always.

Darth Vader and Fishing

I am confessing. I used the Darth Vader voice yesterday. You know THE Voice – deep, throaty, scary and loud! It kind of sounds like screaming, but instead of high pitched it rumbles and vibrates. It leaves a residue, both for the performer and the receiver. I was the performer and my throat still aches. My thirteen year old, Max, was the receiver and his heart may still ache.

Max was on thin ice this weekend at our home. With only two weeks of school left and the crazy preparation of Clayton’s high school graduation open house my schedule is full! Clayton is our middle child and very social – his guest list for graduation numbers in the small city range! And, I am glad. This is an amazing time of celebration and transition for him. Needless to say, every minute of my schedule for the next three weeks is accounted for.  That was until, Friday after school.

Max hopped in my car with a funny look on his face. “What’s up buddy? How was your day?” I asked.

“Okay,” he responded. Then he gives me the sheepish side glance. “Did the school call you?”

“No.” I wait. Max reaches in his pocket and pulls out the yellow Discipline Report. As he is unfolding it I ask, “Did you get detention?” 

Of course he did – that is what the yellow sheet means. We’ve signed or acknowledged over 40 of them this year. I am kind of hoping for lunch detention because that doesn’t effect my schedule. I then realize that after-school-detention would give me an extra hour to get things done before picking him up. Either way, it’s all good. 

Yes! I realize that this form of reasoning is at least a little pathetic on my part.

“Lunch or after school? What happened?” I can’t ask what he did or he just clams up, but ‘what happened’ seems to charge neutral in his mind.

“I got in a fight.”

“Max!” Okay, I am going to admit that part of my response had to do with my own selfish ambitions. Fighting means OSS (out of school suspension). Of course, my parenting instincts also kicked in and wanted all the details. Which he freely gave. 

Except for the name of who he got in a fight with. When he finally shared the boy’s name, my heart sank. They were friends. I knew the boy’s parents. I called my husband, Jeff. He was on his way home. Max would go over to their home and apologize. We would then determine consequences for his three days of out of school suspension.

It is usually pretty easy to figure out what Max has been doing and where he has been at our home and on our property. We live on a lake in Michigan and have 10 wooded acres. Max is an outdoorsy kid. I love that about him! He is also a slob. That’s not really a fair assessment. He does things in a neat manner and can be very organized. However, he rarely cleans anything up before his body and mind are on to the next thing. He isn’t sitting around being sloppy – he is more like a mini natural disaster occurring repeatedly in subsequent locations around our home and property. He will clean up and do a fair job of it, but he usually requires a reminder. Which gets me back to the Darth Vader voice.

Spring has sprung in Michigan. Kind of. Really, we’ve gone from winter to cold rain to 80 degrees, back to rain again. Did I mention rain? We haven’t had many warm and sunny days. When we get the combination of warm and sunny all activity in my home stops and we head outside!

This Spring our outside activity is joyful as always yet peppered with a deadline! We have entered the frenzy of activity for Clayton’s graduation open house. The funny thing is, Clayton already thinks we are weird for keeping our home and property in the best possible shape – picked up, cleaned, maintained, landscaped and decorated. Clayton feels like we might go a little overboard in the cleaning and maintaining department. I think he will be able to relate to us better when he owns his own home and has his own family…

I love gardening, landscaping, playing in the dirt! This is a season I look forward to all year! I feel so close to God when I am physically connected to creation. I hear the whispers, the song of hope, carried with each new leaf unfurling! I talk to God while I garden. I work out any issues or concerns I have while I am turning soil, pulling weeds or am up to my elbows in dirt. I feel the Creator with me. I pray. I give thanks. I worship. This is a spiritual act for me!

You can imagine my annoyance when I come across at least 30 drywall screws dumped in an area I am attempting to grow grass. Or the irritable twinge I have when I enter the garage for fertilizer and have to step over pieces of bike – dismantled, repainted, strewn about with tools, paint, my painter’s masking tape…Sigh. Our woods look like an apocalyptic survival forest with wood shanties and shelters built about every hundred trees (for air soft gun wars). My husband’s tools that we thought were lost are permanently rusted into the ground. So glad the leaves have come out and covered up most the wreckage and hidden the mess…I walk in the house for a drink. I remove dirt, dust and shoes in order to keep our home clean. Apparently no one else got that memo – the one about keeping the house clean.

Max has shoes inside and outside the door. His socks, a water bottle, a juice bottle and an empty bag of donuts are by the couch in the family room. The rest of his clothes from the day before are scattered like a breadcrumb trail leading to his room. His computer is in the living room. His fishing charter brochure is on the kitchen table, along with some drafting and drawing supplies and his detention slip and a job application. Another pair of socks is in the TV room along with a banana peel.

Max has been fishing. Since 7 am. You can smell him from about 10 feet away. We have been in different areas of the same universe for most of the day – until now. He is covered with fish guts and blood, smiling ear to ear, carrying cleaned fish wrapped in newspaper. He is on cloud nine and I am about to burst his bubble.

How can I be so spiritual one moment, so connected to God and immersed in His creation, and blow a gasket the next?

Now I am not saying that Max shouldn’t be held accountable and responsible for cleaning up after himself. Of course he should! What I am saying is that I could use an extra dose of self control, grace and mercy in parenting this child!

Max is also thirteen. Did I already mention that? Thirteen is my least favorite age of the teenage years. Max can argue with almost everything I say, especially if it is a direction. It depends on his mood…At thirteen he is wiser, smarter, stronger and taller than me. He really is taller. Okay, probably stronger too. When I began a discussion of some of the ‘things’ he needed to take care of he began to argue. The discussion (now I am using the term lightly) began to escalate. Before I realized what was happening Darth Vader had appeared and ordered Max to his room.

I headed back to the garden. Just that morning in church I had been reminded about forgiveness. I had been so relieved to search my heart and discover I wasn’t holding any grudges or hurts from others – I didn’t have anyone to forgive today. Then our pastor reminded us that some of us may need to forgive ourselves. Ouch. The place of personal hurt that can still come up and bite me, is my own short fall in parenting. I have apologized to my children for many things I have done and said. I have received forgiveness from them and from my heavenly Father. Jesus already paid for my transgressions. I have forgiven my self, sort of. I can still cry over times I totally missed it in the parenting department.

Little children (and big children) are our most precious gift. They, like us, really just want to be loved. And, if we had the time to celebrate them, and with them, and laugh, then the world would be a better place. People matter. Eye to eye time matters. Seriously, does it matter eternally if my home is clean? Is that business call so important?  Or is it more important that I stopped what I was doing and entered into the life of a child or another human being?

When I went to revoke the Darth Vader verdict I walked into the kitchen to a scene covered in flour. Max had released himself from Darth Vader prison and was covered in flour. I am smiling at him (inside I am biting my tongue).

“I’m cooking you and dad dinner, mom! I have this great recipe for catfish,” said Max.

I look in the bowl, in the midst of the flour, and it looks like bread dough. “Wow, honey, that looks a little thick to dip fish in?”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control. The recipe says it should be thick.” He turns back to stir his creation.

I keep the reminder that I am supposed to be eating gluten free and that I don’t like fish to myself, behind my smiling lips.

I go to the bathroom. There is flour in the bathroom. I decide to go back outside and just let Max cook. There is flour on the deck. There are fishing poles on the dock along with fish guts and blood. Jeff looks at me. I am sending him the silent message that he pray for me. No words are needed. I go back to my garden.

“Dinner is ready,” yells the young man-child standing outside our door.

The table is set with real (not paper) plates. The fish has been grilled and kept warm in the oven. A salad has been cut up and put in a festive ceramic bowl. Max doesn’t even like salad, but he knows I do. We sit down together. We give thanks. The fish is excellent. Max is a really good cook!

Max spent the day fishing, cleaning his catch and preparing it for dinner. He is the real deal – a man’s man in the making! A provider.

After dinner Max and I walked through the dinner clean up steps. Max did a great job. We picked up both inside and outside, the day’s remnants of Max.

In the morning we watched the devastation a tornado had on Joplin, Missouri. We were relieved Tanner was not harmed in the storm. He is our oldest son and lives close to Joplin. Max watched the scenes of mass devastation. He stood up and held out his hand to me, “Mom, let’s pray!”

I stood with Max as Jeff walked into the room. The three of us joined hands while Max prayed for God’s restoration and provision for Joplin, Missouri.

Selfish or Gifted?


Recently my husband, Jeff, and I had to answer the question:

If God was to grant you a special endowment or supernatural grace to influence a specific sphere of society for the Kingdom of God, which one or more of the primary spheres of society would it be?

Family, Business, Government, Education, Media, Art and Entertainment, Religion

My husband immediately answered, “I know it’s selfish of me, but I would have to say, business.”

Really, I thought, that is selfish? How? So, of course, I asked him!

“Well, you know,” he said,  “I love business, it’s what I enjoy doing. And I’m good at it.”

I realized at that moment that my husband does the same thing I do!

I assume that the things (activities, talents) that I love doing couldn’t possibly be the areas of my life God would use. That would simply be too easy, too good, too good to be true – right?

WRONG! Believe it or not, I actually coach people to do the things in their life that they love – because God made them that way! He made each and every one of us with a plan to prosper us, and not to harm us. He made each of us in HIS image. He gifted us.

Why is it, often when we love and enjoy something*, we feel it is not the way we should go?  Is it possible those talents, likes, loves and desires were actually gifts in our lives from the One who knows us and loves us best? Could God have made us with these desires? Even if they aren’t church related? Could He be glorified through common, everyday  joyful actions of people outside a church building doing the things they loved? Hmmm…let me think…yes, Yes and YES!!!

As I discussed this with my husband I was reminded of several stories and passages from the Bible. Here are a few that came to mind: Jesus left the 99 sheep for the one. I’m pretty sure the one wasn’t waiting for him in the local church…the ‘one’ was lost (maybe even hanging out at some business…). God made Isaac to be a real estate developer, Jacob to be a rancher, David to be a shepherd – then in the military and then a king, Deborah to be a judge and a warrior, Mary to be a mother, Paul to be a tent-maker…Of course all these people served God.

They all did so much more than their vocational title. And so do we.

They were so much more than their vocational title. And so are we.

They all glorified God by doing their best in the vocations of their heart and seeking God, always, as their compass in life. And so can we.

I believe Jeff was being deceived into thinking that “business” was a selfish choice. We do have an enemy that longs for us to fear, to doubt and ultimately become powerless for the Kingdom of God.  We are warned that there is a thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy. We are warned that in life, there will be trouble.

And we are reminded that: He (Jesus) who is in you is greater than the one (evil) who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)!

I ended up being so encouraged by my conversation with Jeff. I was able to validate my husband’s gift in the world of business. And his heart for God and people.

I choose, daily to embrace my love of words, art and beauty as strengths, not weaknesses. I choose to believe that I serve the God of love, the God of the Bible, God who is good all the time! I choose to believe that God’s plan for my life would utilize the gifts He has granted me. I choose to use my gifts and talents to please my heavenly Father. I choose to glorify God in all I do. Even laundry (that will be a whole other blog entry)!

*Disclaimer – if the something you love and enjoy happens to be an addiction, this author is in no way telling you that God made you that way. I believe God is heartbroken over what you are giving yourself over to, if it isn’t Him.

Square Pegs & Round Holes

I have one of those children that carry a label. Special isn’t usually how he is described. Words like defiant, loud, disrespectful, disobedient, rude, liar, behavior problem, unruly, inattentive, rebellious, too active, annoying are more common for us to hear when others describe our child. Some compassionate professionals will refer to him as challenging, strong willed or a ‘high flyer.’

I want to tell you about my son. He is amazing! He is our third child, the third son. (For the record, all of our sons are incredible – but this is for Max). His birth was so anticipated! We had tried to conceive after our second child was just over a year old so that all of our children would be about two years apart. It wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t seem to get pregnant. Then, when I did get pregnant, I miscarried. Twice. I prayed for all of our children. But I did pray more for Max. Max was born almost 5 years after our second child.

Max was the sweetest baby, surrounded by so much love. Not only did he have Mom and Dad, but two older brothers who loved him. He never cried or even used a pacifier. There were always people around him and he was easily entertained. At six weeks old he came down with spinal meningitis. We were in Florida on vacation. Our baby, who never cried, wouldn’t stop crying. He was running a fever. It wouldn’t go down. We went to emergency.

I was terrified. Finally, I was able to get a hold of our doctor in Michigan, he persuaded me to let the ER staff run tests, insert an IV, take blood and perform a spinal tap. Now, remember, this is the baby that never cried. The baby I prayed for, for so long. Our Michigan doctor told me to have my husband hold Max and for me to walk outside the hospital until the tests were done. I was hysterical. My two older boys were with my parents. The spinal tap came back positive for spinal meningitis. I rode to Orlando General Hospital in an ambulance with Max. It would be a 72 hour wait to determine if it was viral or bacterial. While Max and I lived in the hospital, Jeff stayed with our two other sons. My parents had left. We were all alone, in Florida, with a very sick baby. Finally the tests we were waiting for came back as viral. The antibiotics stopped. Max recovered. My heart will always remember the fear and the sheer helplessness I experienced. I still live in the joy of Max’s recovery.

Max was an incredibly beautiful little boy. He had soft wavy hair of angel white blonde, the clearest twinkling blue eyes and dimples that would melt your heart. I am pretty sure that God knew Max would need to be so impossibly beautiful because he was going to be a constant challenge to parent. Max had so much joy, curiosity and get up and go! He was completely self mobile by nine months old. I found him on top his brother’s bunk bed. Of course I scolded my husband immensely for leaving a baby on top a bunk bed. Jeff didn’t have a clue what I was talking about! The next week I found Max on top of the refrigerator. He had opened a pantry door with narrow shelves and apparently used it as a ladder. I don’t think I ever sat down or left him unattended until he started school. I celebrated Max’s energy, innovation and joy of living. We all did. Maybe, his brothers not so much, as he was always into their stuff!

I knew Max had a lot of energy. I guess I didn’t realize just how much until preschool. Max couldn’t sit still at all. Or stand in line. Or follow directions. Or play with the other children. Or color in the lines. Or begin to read or write. I think his poor teacher suffered through us in preschool because she had such a big heart – thank you Mrs. Lull.

Kindergarten was the beginning of a huge change in Max. My sunny, loving, happy, joyful child disappeared. He became sullen, angry, anxious, and so very negative. His kindergarten teacher thought we should have a daily behavior communicator which she safety pinned to Max’s shirt. It either had a happy or a sad face on it. This went on for about a week before he came home one day with just the safety pin. I asked Max about this. He replied, “Oh, my teacher ran out of the papers with the faces on it, but she wanted you to know what a good job I did. She sent just the safety pin so I wouldn’t forget to tell you.” We quit what we liked to call the ‘scarlet safety pin.’

Max’s educational experiences could fill a text book and my tears could fill a river. At age six we were referred to Dr. Sloan, a child behavior pediatrician. He diagnosed Max with very high scores in all areas of ADHD. We were also referred to a psychiatrist for neurological testing. Max again tested positive for ADHD and anxiety disorder. What this  doctor also found was that Max had an extremely low processing speed – only 2%. At this young age it was determined that he had numerous learning disabilities. The neurological testing came back with anomalies that were most likely the result of brain damage from the spinal meningitis. So what could we do?

The medical professionals tried drugs for ADHD. Max could not handle a stimulant drug, or some of the other popular ADHD meds of the time (Concerta, Ritalin, Focalin, Straterra). We were told that Max was too young for an IEP (Individual Education Plan), the school we were in didn’t like to do them until 2nd grade. We later found out we had been given faulty information. After repeated urging we went to an occupational therapist where she explained that Max had many sensory integration issues (why he wouldn’t wear certain clothes, touch certain textures, timing issues for rhythm that would translate into poor coordination for catching a ball and some other sports, cadence for hearing and reading, why he liked to wear work shop ear muffs around the house, why crowds escalated him). The OT gave us extremely useful input for Max. Things like: five minutes of large muscle exertion would allow him to sit and concentrate for about 20 minutes, short – one word directions were more effective than a sentence,  chewing gum and using a straw would help him concentrate, a weighted blanket would help him sleep, a bouncing chair and doodling could help keep his mind engaged. I mean, “hello?” No one teaches parents or teachers  this stuff! I was three years into the education system and this was a huge light bulb moment. I was getting some helpful tools for Max.

During this time we were so overwhelmed as parents. Our marriage had been rocky. I had suffered clinical depression. Every time we tried a new med on Max our family would fall apart. I was reading every book on ADHD, parenting and sensory integration that I could find.  We went to family counseling. Having a Max wasn’t easy for our family, it wasn’t easy for his older brothers. The support groups and forums seemed to have more complaints than solutions.

We turned to church. Individually and as a family finding a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was the answer we had been looking for. Without faith, without Jesus, I don’t know if I could have gone forward. What we didn’t find was any help with Max from the church as a building. If we took him to Sunday school he would usually be out in the hallway after adult service or we would hear the same complaints we heard about him from every where else. He didn’t fit in there either. A dear friend of mine was in charge of a group of children at Vacation Bible School. Max was in her group. She called me in tears, because she felt she was failing with Max – she couldn’t get through to him or control him in a group. I hate to say this, but I felt validated. Her compassion for Max allowed me to admit how difficult it could be to parent him. We were even asked to leave a church because they were not set up for children like Max. We have made some very good Christian friends who have always accepted and loved Max for who he is. They and a few others are the exceptions in Max’s life and for them I will be forever thankful.

Max was permanently suspended from bus privileges as a first grader. I didn’t know that was even possible! In second grade things exploded in his school. We had a person of prominence ignore his IEP. My husband hired an attorney. I felt our parenting skills were being questioned. Many people throughout Max’s life have given us advice such as:

  • Have you tried timeout?
  • Have you considered taking away some of his privileges?
  • Have you ever grounded him?
  • You should spank him more!
  • Do you let him suffer consequences?

You know, I want to just stand up and say, “What a good Idea! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”

I have two other children that don’t have the issues that Max does, we are good parents! We don’t allow or accommodate disobedience, rudeness, lying. Only the parenting that worked for our other two children needed to be tweeked (a lot) for Max. In fact there are areas we are probably on the 1057th teaching repetition for Max and he still has not got it. I’m sure he will get it, it just might take 2054 times, or more.

Since second grade Max has been home schooled, tutored, in and out of the public education system. Right now he is in the public schools and this year he has a pretty darn good support staff around him. He has finally been able to tolerate some of the newer ADHD drugs (Intuniv and Vyvannse). Still he has had about 40 detentions (yes, this school year), 1 expulsion, switched classes, been exposed to language and situations that I am blown away by, has been accused of bullying, has suffered migraine headaches and can become so frustrated he cries. I am in constant contact with his teachers and the school. I know it is not easy to have Max in a classroom.

In our family, with my husband and I, or with a small group of people Max is great! He is just a pretty normal, very fun and funny, big hearted kid turning into a young man. Max is gifted with the ability to drive and maneuver vehicles, heavy equipment, power tools, basically anything with a motor. He is very smart, capable and out-doorsy. He is a hunter. He loves dogs and horses and small children. He loves the Lord! He will often ask me if he can pray for me. He prays for so many people and situations. Max is creative, he has an artist’s eye and is good with a camera or any number of art supplies. He plays the harmonica. He has a servant’s heart and loves having a job to do. We love this kid!

We were recently on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. One night we were able to meet with a group of Haitian refugees to pray with them and bring supplies. The Haitians are not welcome in the Dominican Republic, much like illegal immigrants are not wanted in the United States. Afterward our group was meeting together to process our time spent with the Haitian people. Max shared. “I know how they feel,” he said. “I have been a reject in the schools I have been in. I really felt for them (the Haitian people) because it hurts to be left out and not wanted.” My heart broke, again.

Max is the kid that is picked last for the team sports. He is the kid sitting in the hallway, principal’s office, alone at lunch, or in the detention room. Max is the annoying kid in your class. Max is the kid that cannot calm down when everyone else does. He is the kid that others can and do rile up, because it’s easy and entertaining for them. Max is the kid that says what he thinks, immediately and loudly, without thinking about the consequences. Max knows if you don’t like him. In his attempt to get you to like him he probably bugs you more. Max is the kid that isn’t invited over to play, or to the birthday party, or fun group event.  He notices this, he just isn’t capable of being any different than he is. He desperately wants to fit in. He lies, acts funny or outrageous and exaggerates in hope of getting your attention. Max wants you to like him. Max wants to be your friend. Max wants to be loved and accepted. He is maturing, growing and learning each year. He is a square peg that will never fit into a round hole.

Max and kids like Max have so much to offer. They are smart, funny, loving and desperately seeking approval. We have the privilege of knowing more of these kids than the average household because one of them lives here. They tend to be drawn to each other. Our peg holes are in every shape we can imagine!

Love these kids!