Venues of Vulnerability.

A little backstory.

I like to write from the promise in my life, from those jagged, rocky places where you come across reminders of God’s goodness, His grace.  Places in the journey where He brings you comfort and peace in His everlasting word.  I write in the hope of encouraging, maybe challenging my reader.  I write to keep myself accountable and tuned in to that which I know is true.

Today, I write from a dark place.  I open a door that common sense says is better left shut.  I let words drip off my fingertips onto the keyboard that are oh, so hard.  It’s time, though.  When the Holy Spirit keeps you up long into the night, and He stirs such a fiery restlessness in your bones, it’s time.  I have chosen to write from an intellectual and experiential place.  Leaving my desire to insert God’s word in all my posts is difficult; however, not all readers will be able to get past their resistance to “religion” to join me in thinking….good old thinking, contemplating, considering.  So, let’s hash out reason.

I am a fully-healed, yet ever-changed victim of childhood sexual abuse.  Not once.  Not twice.  Repeated over the course of my 5th year of life.  I’ve never written or spoken publicly of this because I want to honor my parents who did not know of it at the time.  I waited years to tell them.  So, please allow me to make this very clear, I was blessed with healthy men in my family who loved and nurtured me as God intended .  I was the victim of an UNRELATED male offender.  I’ve even worried about unintentionally implicating all the healthy men I grew up in close contact with.    That’s a victim mentality, I challenge you to look for that in your own life or in the lives of ones you love.  I challenge you because given the statistics,

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old (NSVRC),

many of you reading this have also been victimized.   Here’s the deal though.  You simply can not debate the gender-neutral bathroom push on only an intellectual level.  There is an experiential component to this that, in the world of an abuse victim, supersedes legal arguments.  That, my friends, is why I bare my soul.

Moving on to the issue at hand…

Venues of Vulnerability is a term I’ve given to a place or places where a predator can hang out to gain easy access to his or her prey.  These avenues of assault are everywhere thanks in big part to social media.  A venue of vulnerability can be a sleepover, a bar, a frat party, a bonfire, a car, a taxi, Facebook, Snap Chat, Twitter, Instagram…..etc.  Now, it seems we want to add public restrooms and locker rooms to the predator’s playgrounds.  Who gets to join me in the bathroom?  Who gets to sit on the toilet next to me with large cracks in stall walls and doors while I am exposed and vulnerable?  Worse yet, who gets to be there with my young ones?

Can we just lay down angry agendas and this crazy need to categorize ourselves so we can blow the stall door off the bathroom bills and expose the danger lurking under the guise of “freedoms”, “rights”, “sexual identity”?  We can’t “vet” every man that walks in a woman’s bathroom.  We can’t “vet” every woman who walks into a men’s room.  No one is  going to hire security guards for bathroom patrol.  More and more innocent victims of sex trafficking are being enticed by other victims in venues of vulnerability.  We have to close this loophole!

  I am not scared of a transgender in my bathroom, but I’m terrified of the pretender! 

All of us should be, no matter what our sexual identity is.

One of the sadly ironic things that we see often in our society is media-fueled, attention-seeking activist’s agendas to “further the cause” of a group who has decided their desires trump other’s rights which in the end, actually bring chaos and destruction to the very groups screaming for equality.  I do not believe the greater LGTBQ community believes these are healthy legislations.  How can they?  Let’s look at how many of them have experiential knowledge of victimization:

46.4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3%
heterosexual women reported sexual violence other
than rape during their lifetimes, while 40.2% gay
men, 47.4% bisexual men and 20.8% heterosexual
men reported sexual violence other than rape during
their lifetimes. (NSVRC)

Please, LGTBQ citizens, SPEAK against the machine driven to destroy you in the name of advancing you.  Are you all okay with earning the right to use whatever gender-labeled bathroom you feel most comfortable with if that very privilege costs just one precious child their innocence? Many of you are parents.  Are you comfortable with making your daughter available for the sexual predator to gaze upon in a restroom or locker room, perhaps see him performing a sex act on himself while he does so?  Gross?  You bet!  She won’t unsee that, and she won’t unfeel the disgust that the sight of her incited that.  If you feel squirmy reading it, I feel the same writing it. Folks, it is our reality.  Are you really okay standing on the front line of pushy political preference when your freedom to use a certain restroom trumps  religious freedoms of that of a Muslim woman who can’t even uncover her head, let alone share a bathroom with a man?  How does it sync with the greater belief of the LGTB community that everyone is entitled to their rights, be it sexual, reproductive, or religious when I lose mine for you to gain yours?   Private bathrooms?  I’m all for it.  I would prefer that to sharing any day, but we all know how quickly public facilities will be jumping to construct multiple private restrooms.

I truly hear the cry of the bullied.  I just don’t know how a male child dressed in female clothes who insists on using the girl’s restroom or locker room will be any less exposed to suicide-inducing bullying.  Can anyone answer that?  Talk about a Venue of Vulnerability!  Then, to add to the far over-reach of government; here in Michigan, we have a bill that would allow our children to use any name they choose, pick their sexual identity, and the parents will not be entitled to that knowledge.  I was under the impression that our sophisticated society was working to create healthy families where children learned and thrived yet, our schools will help them harbor secrets from their parents encouraging the child to live further underground in their fear and shame.  So, are we assured that suicide rates will drop when the district helps the child hide out?   There is no prescription for how a family deals with finding out their child is gay.  How dare a broken educational system dictate what the one-size fits all fix is and when that occurs.  How dare the system want me involved in homework and academic performance yet my momma hands have to be off my child’s sexuality during formative years.  No!  Can anyone explain that?

One of the things that prompted me to write this now was a “lively” debate with a stranger on social media.  She asked that I read an article titled: Who’s Afraid of Gender-Neutral Bathrooms? by Jeannie Suk for The New Yorker, published January 25, 2016.  I read it.  I laughed.  Let me provide you a quote from the article:

“Perhaps the point is precisely that the public restroom is the only everyday social institution remaining in which separation by gender is the norm, and undoing that separation would f eel like the last shot in the “war on gender” itself.”

Seriously?  She tied this to LGTBQ rights why??  I’m not sure gender-neutral bathroom proponents even know what they are fighting for!  I’m positive they don’t want what they are going to get when these bills pass UNLESS they are just in it because they like a fight, a social cause.  You might win the battle but lose the war at the cost of our innocents.   I can’t even address my opinions on this nonsense because women’s rights and equality should include safety.  The author refers to segregated bathrooms as being a “Victorian phenomenon”.  Not in my 2016 world, so let’s get back to the real issue.

Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.  Every 107 seconds! (RAINN).

In an article written by Emily Thomas by the Huffington Post in November of 2013, she cited a report from the National Research Council.  Within the pages of stats compiled in the book Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault was this statement.

“Rape and sexual assault are among the most injurious crimes a person can inflict on another. The effects are devastating, extending beyond the initial victimization to consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sleep and eating disorders, and other emotional and physical problems. Understanding the frequency and context under which rape and sexual assault are committed is vital in directing resources for law enforcement and support for victims. These data can influence public health and mental health policies and help identify interventions that will reduce the risk of future attacks. Sadly, accurate information about the extent of sexual assault and rape is difficult to obtain because most of these crimes go unreported to police.”

Sadly, we will never know the real statistics on rape and assault because it’s estimated that only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.  Combine that with rape being the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police  (NSVRC), this is not the time to provide Venues of Vulnerability.

How do I end what is an emotionally-charged piece?  Experientially.   Maybe with a request.  At age 5, I did not know how to keep myself safe, and it would not have mattered if I did.   I get we can’t stop all victimization, but all of childhood and some of my adult life was lived under the shadow of fear, mistrust, vulnerability and shame, acutely aware that this world was so unsafe.   It has been through God’s grace and freedom that I am that “fully-healed, yet ever changed” woman.  While I am thankful that my abuse has been redeemed and has provided me with great understanding and insight, I will lift my voice in  a cry of warning and plead with my fellow citizens to shut down this Venue of Vulnerability.  If my words can save just one child, one adolescent, one adult from living under the shadow, then let it be.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center – Info and Stats for Journalists

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

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Dance of the Daffodil

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From brown and barren ground, you make your promised presence known.  Enduring icy frosts and winter storms, your growth’s timing is not your own.

And when it seems cruel winter has spoken its last goodbye, stinging snow falls once again through foreboding, greying skies.

Beautiful, brilliant daffodil, you live not your’s, but HIS good will.  So, bend with grace beneath this season’s unfair weight and kinder times anticipate.

Trust in the One with whom you dance.  None of this is happenstance.

Bow your head and take this rest.  Accept the trials, accept you’re blessed.

One day the sun again will shine.  You’ll lift your head and find it’s time, to raise your weathered petals high and sway in praise to Adonai.

Yes, Adonai (our Lord and Master) provides so many lessons in nature.  We can stand in awe of his might and grand design, or like today, we can identify with the tender plant being assaulted by a heavy, late Spring snow.

Is this you?  Are you a tender daffodil emerging from crisis, trying to heal from pain, redefining your life after loss, facing an unknown future?  Please know that with your full cooperation, God will redeem it, meaning he will purchase your pain, disillusionment, fear, whatever you are holding, and he will present you with His peace in its place.

Peace I leave with 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

We get to choose whether or not we accept what he gives when he purchases our pain.  We can stand there at the cash register of life with our arms folded, shaking our heads no and demanding what we think we should receive; or, we can hold out trembling, empty hands extending from battle-weary bodies that house trusting hearts.  We get to choose to  believe what he places in those hungry hands is what we need to grasp for His glory to be displayed in our weakness!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

daffodil in snow

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So today, see your storm as His power being made perfect in your weakness, and see this weight of your circumstances as a spiritual workout preparing you for an eternal weight of glory!!  Doesn’t that twist the tears of sorrow to Yes, Jesus! tears of joy?!

 

 

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The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy of Chronic Illness

If you don’t ask, I won’t tell. That sometimes becomes the easiest way to dance around being in relationship with the healthy while managing chronic illness.  

Please keep in mind that this article is written with the very broad spectrum of chronic illnesses in mind, from mental health issues to debilitating and degenerative diseases.  I’ve written this to both the one who struggles with illness and the one in relationship with him or her.

I had some surgery recently which was the result of one of those perfectly constructed domino displays where treating one problem lead to another to another. Now, I’m smack dab in the middle of missing my “this is working” treatment protocol thanks to one more falling domino. I didn’t tell people other than my family, a sweet lady from church who prayed me through it, and a close friend who happened to be on the receiving end of my “help” text, scooping up my child from school on one of the days where a quick recheck turned into a three hour doctor visit. I privately asked my pastor for prayer and gave him the date of the procedure, explaining I don’t share things on the prayer chain anymore because, honestly, it could be something every week.  

We must decide when and what is “big enough” to call in reinforcements. Doing that too often can cause our dignity to take a hit because no one wants to be the needy one, the reason for a sigh or roll of the eyes amongst friends, the “again?” burden.  

Most likely, the dear one reading this knows this scenario all too well; however, if you are outside of the chronic illness circle, you do not, will not, and should not (because we don’t wish this on anyone) truly understand the persistence of our illnesses or the ways it dictates our days.

This does present some challenges as we seek deep and intimate relationships with others. What do we share? When do we share? With whom do we share? How much detail do we share? How often do we share?

For those of us who are sidelined, social media can be this sweet connection with others in the outside world yet at the same time, awakens a longing for the normalcy our friends enjoy. Jealousy can easily creep in like the sneaky sin it is, as we read of shopping, travels, and schedules brimming with activities. She whispers, “Don’t you wish you could do that”? Judgement can raise her ugly fist when we read “woe is me” posts about passing and temporary illnesses. She shouts, “Are you kidding me, you don’t know how much you should be thankful that all you have is a sore throat, wake up”! Next, comes Resentment or Resignation, whichever you allow to take hold.  

For my fellow Cibs (chronic illness buddies) and those of you who rub shoulders with us, I want to propose that Resentment shows up loud, proud, and aggressive. She is in-your-face opinionated and speaks unapologetically in negative tones. She is angry at living a life she didn’t chose and has not yet embraced any beauty from her ashes. Her unresolved anger at God for allowing her suffering spills into her everyday relationships with fellow humans. She fights a losing battle, exhausting all of her limited emotional and physical resources, against a life lived with limitations she doesn’t want. Resentment is just plain stuck in the mud of self pity.
Resignation, on the other hand, is more composed…..quiet, actually. She has come to a place of acceptance. She may even be able to look for the hidden blessings in her situation and relish the relationship she is developing with the Lord that springs from trials. Healthy Resignation has to be true. It isn’t resignation if it pseudo acceptance.  That, my friends, is the sin of manipulation.

Pseudo acceptance is an act in Satan’s grand theatrical production. God sees through it, and you will never have peace just playing the role of a martyr to your illness.

Healthy Resignation speaks softly from a place of embracing the path God has allowed and trusting in His sweet promises every stony step of the way. Resignation is not superhuman, but she rests in the One who is.

So, back to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy…..yes, we are aware of the drain that sharing our daily battles would place on our relationship with healthy friends and family. When you ask how we are doing, we must immediately weigh out 1) Do you really want to know or are you being polite? 2) Would you understand the medical jargon I would need to explain it in? 3) Have I recently burdened you? 4) Is this the time or place for this conversation? 5) If I tell you the truth, will you pull away from me?  

Know that watching a friend or loved one with chronic illness withdraw may be their well-intentioned attempt to protect the relationship with you they find so precious. It may well speak to how highly they value your place in their life. 

 A tentative friend may be one who is longing to pour out her angst and discouragement to someone he or she loves (you) but when is enough, enough? Better to keep quiet than risk loss?

Breaking the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy takes bravery. It takes a brave friend to take the time to authentically ask, and on the flip side, it takes a brave friend to truthfully tell. No matter which side of the fence you are on, it is a lot to take on in this hurried, surface-skimming world.

 Time and vulnerability…..neither are as highly valued as they should be. Food for thought.

Opting out of Halloween. We did, should you?

I watched my almost 20-year-old carve a pumpkin for the first time this weekend, and it was quite humorous. We joked about how he was deprived of any prior experience due to his parent’s opt-out of Halloween and anything related. We giggled and had fun at his expense, but it did take me back to the years of parenting after our initial Halloween-boycott decision. It was actually this particular child of mine who brought me to turn a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit’s conviction after watching him spend a fearful Halloween night as a toddler.

I’m in quite a comfortable place on this subject. I’ve found that, after somewhere around 18 years of parenting five kids sans Halloween, I have absolutely no regrets. I have absolutely no apologies. I have absolutely no room for arguments on how silly our stance is. What I do have, is the confidence to speak frankly to fellow Christians. I’m passed the years of having to explain to other parents, teachers, and yes…fellow believers why my children will not be in attendance or participating in anything that so much hints at Halloween. They are now all old enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak over them in regards to decisions such as this. But, here’s the thing, some of you are in the midst of that stage of life, and I remember the conflict. I remember the odd looks that spoke, “Woman, you are one paranoid, religious freak”! If you are there, stand firm, do not for one minute compromise on a conviction the Lord has laid upon your heart.

I’ll share with you where we came from. You can choose to agree with me, or you can choose to lean into the “What’s it going to hurt, it’s all just fun” camp. YOU get to choose and YOU also get to answer to God as to why you participate in things that fly in the face of His Word. Whoa! I just said you might be operating contrary to His word. Are you readying your darts, girlfriend? Stop now, take a deep breath, and pray that beyond reading what my possible inflammatory words, you hear the Holy Spirit. Listen very carefully for his direction for you and yours in this matter.

First off, we took a look at the origins of the holiday. How is it there came to be a Halloween? Let’s go back 2,000 years ago. The Celtic people from what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France, had a new year which began on November 1st. On that eve, October 31st, they celebrated the Festival of Samhein. This was a full out invitation to participate in and acceptance of pagan (that means satanic) practices. Let me share one of the more concise explanations I’ve found and take note, I’m quoting Encyclpedia Britannica, not a religious source of information. I chose this description so it is void of “religious distortion”. I want you to first look from a history student’s viewpoint.

Samhain, also spelled Samain, (Celtic: “End of Summer”), one of the most important and sinister calendar festivals of the Celtic year. At Samhain, held on November 1, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshipers; it was a time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes. Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities. Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween.

It would take me more words, and you more time than we have here so, I challenge you to do some research on your own. Just about everything we see in our present day Halloween observance is taken from the pagan practices of the Celtic people. Masks, bonfires, bobbing for apples, candy, carved pumpkins….it all originated from this. That scary mask or face paint? Yeah, that’s to trick the evil ghosts roaming the earth on the 31st into believing you are also dead. Really, take some time and research this.

People, if it’s not of God, then it’s of Satan. Its black or white. If it incites fear, it is Satan!
Since that time, the church, yes, the church (i.e. All Saints Day), has tweaked the practice, twisted the intent, made it more palatable, and in our day, made it a mega-million dollar business.

Halloween is the 2nd most commercial holiday coming in only after Christmas, the celebration of our Savior’s birth! It is estimated 6 BILLION dollars are spent on costumes and candy here in the United States.

Let me ask you this, what would happen if that 6 billion were spent to further the kingdom of God in missions and outreach? Another question, how is it that a celebration founded in a pagan religion has become endearing to Christian families?

Beyond the money, though, is my deep concern for our want to flow with societal “norms” when God gives us very clear directives in his word about those things we should align ourselves with and those he finds detestable. I’m concerned with the ease at which we become stupid sheep following a cleverly disguised lion wanting to devour us.

In Deuteronomy 18, God is reviewing his laws with the Israelites and reminding them of the covenant of love he has established with them. They are going to be encountering all sorts of pagan neighbors in the promised land. He says this:

Deuteronomy 18:9
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

This scripture is not intended to be “no longer in effect” after Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that freed us from law. This isn’t a “what meat you can eat kind of scripture”. This is absolutely not in the “freedom to do or not to do” category. When we read this, we should be seeing our Holy, Pure, One True God demanding our total devotion to Him and His ways. We should see his instruction to not defile ourselves by adopting detestable ways. Is endorsement of Halloween imitating such a thing?

Ephesians 5: 6-13
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

And then there is this.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

If you shine the light of the Word over the practice of Halloween, do you still want to partake? Maybe. Maybe not. I can tell you this, I have five kids, some are adults now and none of them are traumatized by not dressing up in costumes and gorging on candy. Two of them were well indoctrinated in Halloween fun when we cut them off. In fact, those of ours who are parenting have made some of these same choices. Together, our kids, my husband, and I learned how to unashamedly explain our decision to be “different”, to leave school on party day, to not do certain art projects, or read certain books leading up to Halloween. We had frank discussions about why we chose this and what God’s word says about these things. That included haunted houses and slasher movies. Often, that meant me being very direct and firm with teachers but that’s okay. I think God is being very direct and firm when he tells us this:

1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Remember who made the apple and all the power of knowledge that came with the crispy bite so attractive? Satan is a master disguiser. All things look good when we view it through the deceiver’s lens. Has he camouflaged Halloween and draped it in the costume of innocent fun? Has he whispered the originations of the day don’t mean a thing to our generation? Because if you believe that, then why should Easter be relevant?

Look, all of this can apply to so many areas of our lives, so why am I picking on good Ole Halloween? Well, it’s that time of year. Haunted houses popping up everywhere, gruesome decorations, trips through the store setting off all sorts of ghoulish sounds from scary things, and because it is blatant. We may have to seek harder, pray more fervently, and be entirely more transparent to fellow believers to tease out other areas of our lives that are out of line with God’s call to purity but this one….this one is a sell out. It is loud and proud! Satan makes it easy to fall in yet God has made it easy to sort out. Maybe it’s time for you and your’s to get out.

I was once trying to plan an alternative to Halloween at a church we had attended when a woman sharply said, “Your children are only going to have a problem with Halloween because you’ve planted that seed in their heads”. I am proud to say she was right! Dear parent, that is your job! Plant the seeds of nonconformity to worldly standards and societal norms in your kids’ heads! Show them throughout your precious and fleeting time with them that non participation in things the world sees as oh so benign is exactly what world changers do!

By the way, I don’t advocate staying at home in the dark and requiring the kids to clean the basement during Trick or Treat hours. I may have tried that one year. Oops. Plan some amazing family time. I have a feeling the memories from precious time spent together will last far longer than the memory of what costume they wore in 2015.

Becoming Nothing for Everything: An open letter to mothers of special needs kids.

Dear Tired Momma,

As I sink into the hot water, exhausted, and all is silent except for the ticking of the wall clock,  I also feel myself sinking into the nothingness that comes in battle.  It’s a familiar place yet one I hate to revisit. ” Again, Lord?”  “But Lord, I thought we were good!”

You know it well.  Life was operating at the status quo, your norm, and then……

So, as I soak in this tub, I start strapping on psychological armor, turning off emotions, allowing nothingness to envelope me, I’m struck by the contrast of emptying myself to the soothing warmth of the water covering my weary body.

Nothingness asks for you to be clinical, concise, goal directed, and it often turns you icy.  Nothingness is when your own fear means nothing.  Your own desires mean nothing.  Your own future plans mean nothing.

Your own desires are nothing….because Everything is on the line…again.

Everything is what you do.  Everything has come to define you even when you fight for your freedom.  Everything needs the systematic, robotic approach.  Everything requires all of you.  Everything results in you turning into a cold and calculated assassin, taking out what ever threatens your EverythingEverything can turn you into the crazy mother, fist pounding the table, steely-eyed, and demanding words spoken in a voice that doesn’t sound like our own while glassy-eyed professionals watch you, but you know that Everything needs you to fight with every ounce of strength she doesn’t have.   

Everything survives when you are willing to become Nothing.  THAT, sister, is sacrificial love.

I’d say that’s pretty Christ-like parenting, right there.

Momma of a special one, your shoulders drop and you sigh as you read this because you know, don’t you?

I’m not writing to be psychologically correct, I’m leaving that to the professionals.  I’m writing because it’s when we are raw and honest and transparent that our struggles can be used for good.  It’s when we get brave and share what we hold in secret that we can give another momma some hope, something to cling to!

Yes, I know you don’t feel anything but a bone-deep fatigue.  I know you don’t feel that sweet momma love that comes with our tiny innocents.  I know you can’t find joy in your Everything right now.

Yes, I know you feel enormous guilt because you can’t find that all-consuming love and that palpable joy that is instinctive to mothers.

Yes, I know the tears flow in spite of a disconnect to any true and identifiable emotion.

Yes, I know that in spite of covering those previous battle wounds with the band-aids of experience, the scabs are getting scraped off and the oozing is just a slow trickle of sadness from somewhere deep within.

I want to suggest you don’t feel tender love at this present time because God is holding your heart out of your chest.  Its weight is simply too much for you.  Its wild beating must be calmed by the very One who created it, by the One who created your Everything.  Its screaming, raw emotions are too much for you to comprehend, to contain. You can’t be directed by it!  So, He holds it while you and your nothingness go to work…to battle.

When you are ready, He stands with his open hands, holding your beautiful, intact heart, and releasing it back to you. He has infused it with all His love, and it is overflowing, ready to abundantly pour over your Everything.  That’s the beauty of it!  We never have to remain in that empty place!  God has all you need, oh he is champion of HIS beloved Everything.  Remember, it is His Spirit within you who has given you the strength to wage war on His child’s behalf.

  Your Everything was His Everything before the start of time.

For now, allow yourself to crawl up onto Abba’s lap.  Allow Him to wrap you in his arms.  When a quiet moment comes, and it will come, go there.  Sit with Him while he holds your heart.  Cry with Him.  Rest in Him.  Accept His peace.  Give him Everything, for he loves her more than you do.  Give him your nothingness, and he will give you your full and rested heart.

Sister, this is a way of life we moms of special ones need to embrace.  Our Everythings require much, but our Abba is bigger than all the heartaches, disappointments, failures, and flat out scary unknowns special needs can throw at us.

Know, this day, that what you are doing will always make a difference, even if you don’t see it on this side of heaven.

Know, this day, that all the days you become nothing to benefit your Everything are pleasing to your Lord.

 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25.40  NLT

Know, this day, that you are not alone.

With love,

Everything’s momma

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day – 2015.

Today, September 9th, is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD) Awareness Day.  FASD Awareness Day takes place around the world with communities traditionally pausing at 9.09am, the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the year, representing the nine months of pregnancy.  I’m feeling like this isn’t happening in enough communities, so I’m turning on a bright light in my corner of the world.

What is FASD?  I’ll let the CDC explain.

Different terms are used to describe FASDs, depending on the type of symptoms.

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS represents the most involved end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): People with ARND might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They might do poorly in school and have difficulties with math, memory, attention, judgment, and poor impulse control.
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): People with ARBD might have problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones or with hearing. They might have a mix of these.

FASD became deeply personal the day our family received the phone call that a precious, 6-week old baby girl needed placement.  The next day, the “bonus baby”, our Emma Rose arrived, and so did our new way of life.  It would take at least 3 blog posts for me to explain the details of our life, especially the first few years.  Suffice it to say, we were blessed with just about every Early On service available and multiple physicians from multiple specialties.  My words of  “I will never take a fetal alcohol baby.   I will never take a Crack baby” became, “She’s a fighter.  She will overcome.  We will do whatever it takes.”  Here is the humbling thing:

God has a way of turning our “nevers” into “forevers”.

It’s then about our embracing and celebrating them instead of resenting them.  Oh, the blessings we would miss if we had it our way!  One look into those endless eyes, one diaper change, one feeding, one night in our crib, one snuggle and there it was….she was ours!

I wish I had kept a journal of all the people who were instrumental in her early years so she could read the stories of love poured into her and prayers poured over her.   Countless stories of our oldest daughter always being the second mom and being my backup caregiver.  Our oldest son swaddling her tight and rocking like a mad man while he watched Monster Garage until she could finally relax to sleep.  My Mom weeping over her, holding her stiff little body while she screamed in pain while Mom prayed for her healing.  My husband and I never feeling more in God’s will than when bonding with, loving, and nurturing our wounded baby.  Our neighbors loving her always with unconditional love and acceptance even when finding  this child, unannounced, in their house.  (She was an escape artist in spite of alarms on doors!)

So, today, on FASD Awareness Day 2015, I honor my very brave and strong survivor daughter by exposing a piece of our family’s fabric that sometimes looks pretty tattered and worn.   We aren’t always good at the challenges FASD offers but today, I honor her by being a voice.

Some who live with FASD were basically “pickled” throughout their prenatal period by alcoholic moms, and in the past we have focused on those easier to diagnosis, well-documented cases.  Now, we must be proactive in our education of women.  We know so much more!  NO time is a safe time to drink.  A college student’s ONE-TIME weekend of binge drinking  can result in a child with FASD.  Physicians used to look at kids with certain facial characteristics and make an FASD diagnosis based on whether or not those were present.  Now, we know that those facial characteristics are found in a very small portion of kids who still have FASD.  The damage to the brain in the quickly dividing cells of an infant happens at all stages of pregnancy, and oftentimes, Momma doesn’t know she’s pregnant when she partakes.  Alcohol, the great toxin:

Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far
the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”
—Institute of Medicine Report to Congress, 1996
Consider this too:
Alcohol can trigger cell death in a number of ways,
causing different parts of the fetus to develop abnormally.
 
Alcohol can disrupt the way nerve cells develop, travel
to form different parts of the brain, and function.
 
By constricting the blood vessels, alcohol interferes with
blood flow in the placenta, which hinders the delivery
of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
 
Toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism may become
concentrated in the brain and contribute to the
development of an FASD.
– FASD Center for Excellence.
Fellow moms, please have these conversations with your teens.  You don’t have to have the big, scary sex talk to educate them on the dangers of alcohol while pregnant.  Your future grandchild will thank you.  That’s a sobering thought, right?   I’m pretty sure most of us are completely unaware of the devastating impact even a small amount of alcohol has on a developing brain.  Below is a link for more information:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/documents/fasd_english.pdf

So, what to do if you’re pregnant and have consumed alcohol?  Be honest.  Tell your OB/GYN and then tell your baby’s pediatrician after his/her birth.  If you are making an adoption plan for your baby, tell your caseworker.  It is imperative that they document the information.  Here’s why…..getting a diagnosis of FASD is incredibly time consuming and difficult without Mom’s honest admission of alcohol use.  Children go years without the proper treatment and worse off, the proper education, discipline, and care.   Love your baby unconditionally by making that a well-documented part of his or her medical chart so that if problems do arise in the future, your baby will have the benefit of a quicker diagnosis and hence, appropriate services.

So, on this FASD Awareness Day, I wanted to educate in general and be a voice for individuals and families with FASD, and  I wanted to be a cautionary voice to women.  If you are struggling with FASD yourself,  I want to leave you with God’s voice straight from HIS heart to your’s, to our Emma’s heart,  to every man, woman, teen, and child who was traumatized by alcohol or other substances before birth.  God has a love letter for you!  Read Psalm 139.  Below is my very loose paraphrase from verses 13-16.

I created your inmost being; I know exactly how your mind works even when others don’t.  I know your heart.

I knit you together in your mother’s womb: I planned you even if she didn’t.

Praise me because I fearfully and wonderfully made you and I don’t make mistakes: You are an exquisite masterpiece.  I adore you.

You weren’t hidden from me as the toxins took their toll.  I knew this was happening:  Trust me enough to be okay with not understanding the whys.

I saw the consequences of her choices:  Know that I cried.  Hating her will destroy you.  Choose forgiveness.

From the beginning of time, I have had big, amazing plans for you regardless of your beginnings. Rely on me, hold my hand.  I’ll walk you into the future.