As I pondered the status of my heart this morning-not wanting to pull the covers back and let the light in, I couldn’t help but remember that this was supposed to be the year of choosing joy. We were finally beginning to pick up the pieces and find our way after a difficult transition out of the church I grew up in where my husband had pastored for 10 years.
Then three weeks into January, we experienced the horribly tragic loss of Chris’ dad – Grampy to our four children. Simultaneously, my beloved grandmother was in a hospital fighting for her life in an ICU across the country. What a way to start the ‘year of joy’ right?
I have not figured out much. I have questioned my faith in who God is. I have refused to pray because I will not utter words unless I really mean them. I believe this is all okay. It’s part of the process of walking through great pain and loss. But that doesn’t make it one stitch easier.
The second part of the Psalm 30:5 verse, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” has been running through my mind this week. What about when weeping lasts longer? What about the fact that ‘a night’ might mean months?
I don’t know. But I have seen God’s promises fulfilled more times than I can count. So I choose to believe that yes, joy will come in the morning. And joining in with one of my favorite blogs, I will post my list every Monday and choose to be thankful for something. Even to be thankful when life doesn’t look or feel wonderful.
#1 a cozy home full of love and messes
#2 food on the table
#3 tender words shared in the dark, quiet night
#4 sleeping in till 8 AM
#5 the comfort of a stranger who gave me her shoulder to cry on
Before I could write this birthday post, I had to write yesterday’s post so that the full awesomeness of the birthday could be understood. I don’t want to forget this part of the journey. It was Caleb’s third birthday, at a train museum with a bunch of kids, that I began to realize that I really didn’t understand what was going on in his little brain. The noise, all the people, the attention, the pressure….everything completely overwhelmed him. He didn’t have any fun, it was so sad. I won’t post the pictures I have that prove it. From that point, with a lot of help and support, we began to figure out how to do things so that he could enjoy them. His next two birthdays were small, simple family events.
This past year he’s taken leaps and bounds and as soon as we started the birthday party brainstorming (this was the first party we let him invite just who he wanted to and actually plan with us!) – I really felt like he could handle a big, boisterous party.
Handle it he did. Enjoy it he did. Experience it by the minute in sheer delight he did.
And we watched in wonder. Only those who’ve known him for years could fully understand the changes and appreciate what a monumental, life victory kind of day this was for our sweet six year old.
We made a last minute change of plans due to weather and met up at an elementary school so we could eat lunch at my parents house. The phone call the night before went something like this:
Me: “Mom, I was just calling to see if you think we should move the party since it’s raining and cold?”
Mom (not stopping to think): “Might be a good idea. You could have it here, we could use the woods at the school and then eat at our house.”
Me: “Um, Mom, don’t you remember there are 18 children between the ages of 2 and 8 coming?” And don’t you remember that you just remodeled your kitchen and that you have cream colored carpets?
Mom (cheerful and certain): “Sure, it’s no problem, it will be just fine.”
Sort of in disbelief but very grateful at the offer, I said yes. I almost called back and said we’d have it here. But the reality of 32 people in our little rambler was enough to keep me from it.
First the kids decorated little burlap satchels that our kids had sewn for them. They would hold their (chocolate) gold coins from the forest hunt.
Then everyone lined up to get instruction for the Sherwood forest adventure. Chris had hidden dozens of gold coins in the forest and we also hid a bunch of canned food. I explained that Robin Hood always wanted to help the poor and that in the spirit of Robin Hood, we would hunt for food then donate it all to the food bank after the party. I also told any that might not know that when Robin needed help from the members of his band he would blow three horns on his bugle. So everyone got handed a bugle (my friends may not forgive me for the OBNOXIOUS noise they make!) and they were off.
After the mad frenzy search for coins and food, we all took turns shooting with Caleb’s new bow and arrows that he graciously shared with everyone. Check out that handsome archer!
After everyone had had a hand at the bow and their fill of gold in their purse, we headed for Nana and Papa’s. The kids pulled the red wagon full of food and walked the few blocks home in a darling parade. Then there was food and feasting!
We shared many sweet glances throughout the day, that said more than words could have. All the hard work, late nights sewing, etc was worth it. Way beyond the party work, I think we both felt like life in general was worth it. And for all that life has been these last couple months, we really needed a day like that. All of us.
For a few more fun photos, especially of my nephew Isaac at the party, check out my sisters’ blog!
I have felt for a long time compelled to share this part of our story with you…I hope it is an encouragement to someone.
As if raising children isn’t hard enough, being given a child that is extra_________ (you fill in the blank!) is difficult. Of course each person is unique and different and wired in their own intrinsic way. Of course all the things that are difficult about who we are can become our strengths. I’m absolutely not complaining. But I do know that my second born brought me to my knees in so many ways. From birth he was fussy, sensitive and hard to figure out. I won’t go into the nitty gritty but that’s the short of it. For a long while I figured it was because he was a boy. Having grown up with sisters, boys were still somewhat a mystery since I’d not grown up with any in my house.
After walking through some serious post partum depression and getting the help I needed, I began to realize that this boy had unique challenges that weren’t just about being a boy. Gentle words from my sister, who is a teacher, and from others prompted me to dig further. I was so fearful of my son being labeled something that maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. I didn’t want an excuse for his difficult behavior, I wanted tools to help him be successful at coping with life. I didn’t want a badge for him to wear that said “I’m _____”. I wanted him to feel like he could deal with life on a day to day basis and have some fun along the way. Not much fun was being had. Our social life was dictated by what we felt like he could handle.
Two years of occupational therapy proved very helpful. We slowly forged a way forward and learned ways to help make life work better for him. There were still many days I’d like both him and I to forget. But there were finally some good days intermingled. We made many changes, big and small, to help him. We gained tools and understanding for our complex little boy.
We resolved that things were as good as they would likely be when we were done with OT. Last summer a different treatment approach came across my radar from a friend. It was something that wouldn’t be covered by insurance and that would cost a lot of money. It might help as it had been paramount in helping my friends’ son but there would be no guarantee. It was in the realm of alternative medicine which I was already very open to. I did a lot of reading and research into the field and practice of cranial osteopathy.
Since our son was nearing the age where most neurological pathways are formed and made for life, we decided that we would see if this would help bring about any increase in his ability to navigate life and cope with all the sensory input that came his way. His challenge had been (since birth) that as life came at him through the five senses, the brain signals got mixed up and proved really overwhelming for him a lot of the time. This led to very difficult behavior. That is a super simplified explanation of Sensory Processing Disorder.
As with any medical profession, the quality of any provider varies a great deal. In our extensive search, we were deciding between a world respected Osteopathic physician in California, where we would move for a month for treatment. Or one on Whidbey Island, a ferry ride away from our home. We decided to try the one near home first.
We were cautiously optimistic that this would improve our son’s (and in turn our family’s) life.
After a couple of treatments (that were calm, non-invasive and brief), we were nothing short of in awe of what we watched taking place in our son. We talked with tears several nights as we tried to understand and explain what was taking place. As she worked in such a skilled and gentle fashion on the plates (bones) surrounding the brain, his brain and body were able to function in a way they never had before. Messages and sensory input were getting processed in the way they were intended to.
There is no possible way for me to explain to you the blessing and gift this transformation has been for us all. We have watched him blossom and delight us all. It has amazed us. We will be forever grateful for the piece of our son that we’ve seen shine as he has been so much more able to cope with daily life.
As my mom always says “God never wastes pain”.
While Caleb’s story and life have brought great challenge to us and been at times more than we felt equipped to handle, it really has shaped our family mold and not in a bad way. His presence in our family is so full of purpose. He has bred compassion and patience in great measure. He has cultivated creativity and shown us how to think outside the box. He has taught me that there is almost always another way to do something.
I am tremendously grateful to be his mother. He has and will continue to show me a great deal about life. I read this post from an author I deeply admire and sobbed I was so moved. I want to be able to be sensitive to the uniqueness of each child I’ve been entrusted with the way Sally is.
My prayer since his birth is that he would live a life like his namesake, Caleb in the Old Testament. That he would be a courageous boy who is willing to tell the truth and go against the grain to stand for what is right.
Here is a picture to tide you over till I get all his birthday photos loaded….we had a stellar day celebrating this six year old!