When Life is Hard

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Abigail has been wearing her glasses for about a week now.  She is as cute as a button in them, but they are not to help her see. Yes, they have a slight prescription for her far-sightedness but the glasses are mainly to try to help strengthen those eye muscles. Abigail’s eyes are actually what began this long, on-going process of finding what is going on with her. At two months her vision alerted the pediatrician something was not right, and we were sent to a pediatric ophthalmologist. For about her first year of life Abigail constantly looked up. Her eyes have fixed themselves, but she still gets cross eyed at times and her eyes are still shaky. Her eye muscles, as they are in every part of her body, are very weak. So the glasses are here to hopefully help that. We are supposed to wear them as much as possible. We normally get about six to eight hours a day in them. And honestly she does a lot better with them than I would ever imagine. When we first put them on on the mornings she does not like them and touches them repeatedly. But after the initial touching she really does not bother them, unless you leave her alone with them. Then they are off in a heartbeat. She knows the glasses are weird and she does not wear them unless we are around to watch her.

The glasses are new and I’m sure they are not the most comfortable things in the world. Her vision is adjusting to a new prescription and her unsteady eyes have to get used to seeing things completely different. Change is hard. It is hard for a young child and it is hard for a grown adult. As adults we learn to cope with change. It is the only sure thing out there, so we know our life will constantly be changing in some way or the other. Some people are better with change than others. I am one of those people who hate change with all my heart. I like order, routine and sameness. I literally could do the same thing everyday and be quite content. I understand that makes you world changers out there cringe to even read that last sentence, but that’s who I am.

This past year has had a lot of changes. Between moving, changing therapies, finding new doctors and new programs for Abigail, finding Jordan a new job, becoming a full- time mom, and trying to find a church home I am drained. That does not even include the little everyday routine shifts that naturally pop up with life and having small children. Life is crazy and I am starting to feel it. My body is tired, my head hurts and I am just worn out physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

As I watched Abigail touching her glasses this morning I could not help but be reminded I am just like her. Life bothers me sometimes. It is annoying and I want to throw in the towel and go hide in my bed all day and never see anyone. It would be a much easier life that way. But those glasses have to be worn. No matter the amount of times I have to get little smudgy fingerprints off them, or how many times Abigail pulls them off they have to go on and be worn. They are helping Abigail whether she wants them to or not. She does not understand, but I know she has to wear them for them to help her. And in my heart I know I have to continue to live life because every stress, every worry, every decision, every tear shed, and every change is making me stronger.

God is still working on me. He gave me this life to reflect His Son, and I cannot do that the way I am as a rotten, spoiled sinner. Life is shaping me to be more Christlike everyday. Is the process fun? No. I wish I could rip off all the burdens and struggles like Abigail does her glasses, but this is the life God has given me. Today it feels very heavy, but it is often because I try to carry my load all alone. I am stubborn and independent to my very core. But God made us to be dependent people relying fully on Him. And oh do I need Him today to carry my load, to pick me up, and to stand my feet on solid ground. So my prayer today is that if you, like me, feel like life is hard or even just annoying then may us seek God’s face and may we fully rely on God who can take every worry, fear, burden and tear and give us freedom and life more abundant then we ever thought possible. May you dear reader find this abundant life in Christ today!

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My Dependence

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Me trying to help her up, but Abigail is trying to sit up on her own.

As a parent, praise about your child is the best thing you can hear. There is just a sense of pride about your children at all times, and when someone else expresses just a pinch of what you feel everyday it is wonderful! Today it was Abigail’s therapists that bragged on her. These ladies have been working with Abigail for about 8 months now, so they have been with her for about half of her life. They knew the 7 month old baby girl I brought in that could not even lift her own head and could barely even look at toys much less play with any of them. But today, therapy was a different story. Today Abigail sat on her little play bench and picked up toys and dropped them in a bucket. Today she loved reaching for bubbles and rattles that the therapist put in front of her. Today she even stood on her own two feet and was somewhat happy about it. Today she was amazing!

Abigail is growing up. She is still dependent on us for nearly everything from moving around, to eating, to caring for all the necessities of life. But for being such a dependent little oddler, she sure is stubborn (she gets that from her daddy, of course). As dependent as she is, she is the most independent little soul you will ever meet. She wants to sit up on her own so bad, and will not accept help until you literally start pulling her up yourself. She is not able to help herself in any way, and yet she will not accept the help a lot of times.  She has developed her own way of telling you she does not like what you are doing whether you don’t feed her fast enough or you make her exercise too long.

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Are we not the same way with God? I know I am. I am totally dependent on God for every breath, every dollar, and every bite of food. Yet, just like Abigail, I fight against Him and try to do it all on my own. Surrender to the one true King would be the best way, but it is not the easiest way. At least we make it a lot harder than it should be. I still cannot sing the words to the hymn, “I Surrender All” because so often I do not surrender much of anything. I want to hold on so tightly to all I have and all my goals, and dreams, and ideas. God is patiently saying, “Give them to me child. I will care for you. I love you. In me you can find all you ever want and need.” Yet, I strive for independence. When will I truly surrender all, and realize that God’s way is the best way? God’s way is the right way? And God’s way is actually the easiest way? When will I become fully dependent on God?

I am a completely dependent soul trying to be fiercely independent with my life. And God loves me so much He simply lets me. In a book I read once by Jeanette Oke, it compared God to a parent of a toddler. The parent would watch the toddler learn to walk and see the child starting to fall, but they would not help them. They child would tumble and fall to the ground and then the parent would help the child up to start the process over. When asked why the parent didn’t just step in before the child fell, the parent simply said, ‘if I didn’t let him fall He would never learn that I will be there to help him after.’ And that is how God is. He is always there. He knows if we are about to fall, but we must learn that we are solely dependent on Him. And if we were to fall, He is there to catch us every time!

As much as I love to hear praises about Abigail, I think God loves to hear His praises about Himself and His children. And just like with children, we all have baby steps to take to become the spiritually adults God has called us to become. But it takes laying it all down at His feet and saying ‘Thy will be done.’ It is a daily battle between the flesh and our hearts to say, ‘Here I am God. Use me and let me be all yours.’ May we die out to ourselves and take up our cross to live a life that is unashamedly all His, dependent on His every word.

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Encouragement for my Soul

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I love storms! I like to go out to our screen porch and listen to the rain coming down. I love watching storms roll in and lightning coming down. The thunder is loud at times, but it amazing that a storm has so much power and strength. It is amazing to see God’s handiwork even in the midst of something that is not always pleasant for a lot of people. It has been raining a lot this summer, and I love it. I remember last summer we never even got a drop of rain. We were in a drought and the land was suffering without the needed supply of water.

So often my soul is like the rain. I have had times in my life where my soul is refreshed continually with the rains of grace, newness, and growth in Christ. I have also had times of drought in my soul when my life was filled with doubts and worries. I would much rather live in those times of constant rain and refreshment any day. However, in those times of drought I am desperate to seek to Lord’s face and I know seasons of grace like rain will shower upon me once again.

I am reading 1 Kings in my quiet times, and I am in chapter 17 where the prophet Elijah is introduced. In verse one Elijah prophesies a time of drought in Israel. Drought and rain is a common theme in the Bible, as it is in life. But I love chapter 19. Elijah has prophesied the drought, a widow has taken care of him with her never-ending supply of bread, and he has seen God work miracle after miracle. Despite all that has happened, Elijah has run off to hide in a cave and die. He feels as if he is all alone, and the pressure to be God’s prophet is too much. However, at the end of verse 9 God comes to Elijah and asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah.” God tries to get his attention, and even calls him by name. God has to ask this question a second time and Elijah gives the same response. He still feels alone even with God speaking directly to him. So God sends refreshing rains into his heart. God tells him in verses 16-18 that he is not alone. God has someone perfect to take over for Elijah and he himself has saved a remnant of Israel. Elijah was never alone, but he had to be reassured that God was still for him.

I need reassurance a lot. Jordan hates this because so often I will ask him questions I already know the answers to. I just need to hear Jordan tell me those things again and again. So often the fear of being unloved, unwanted, or useless creep up into my mind and I need to be reassured that none of these things are true. Every person desires to be loved, cared for, and needed for a purpose. But as much as Jordan tells me these things, there is only one place I can find true assurance and that is in Jesus Christ. He loves me like no other person can. He gave everything to gain me, to call me his own, and he will not ever quit loving me. He cares for me and chose me to call his own. And in him I find my purpose and calling in life. Yes, I am a wife. Yes, I am a mom. Yes, I wear many hats, but my number one calling is a follower of God, a daughter of the King.

Does life get lonely sometimes? Yes. Do I need extra encouragement sometimes? Yes. Are there times I feel like my soul is thirsty for God’s grace and love? Yes. But I stand on the promises that God reveals in His Word. Just like he told Elijah and reassured him in his doubts, God reassures me every day that I am loved, cared for, and I have a purpose that can only be fulfilled through Him. That question He asked Elijah penetrates deep within my heart, “What are you doing here, Heather?” All I can say is that I am surrendering my life to God, and giving Him all I have.

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The Game of Life

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Our family Cribbage board

We are a card playing family, and Cribbage has always been a favorite. I grew up playing Cribbage and now when I stay over at my parents’ house for a long weekend we always try to get a game or two in. If you do not know how to play Cribbage that’s okay. This post is not about that. Basically, all you need to understand is that those pegs pictured are what you count with. You obviously want to have the most points, and have your pegs in the lead. A lot of times though you get dealt not so great hands and your poor pegs lag further and further behind everyone else’s. In Cribbage you can get so far behind the winner you get skunked. It’s a very technical term. Basically, if you lose you don’t want to lose so bad you get skunked. See, it’s really a rather fun family game! And two fun facts about this particular Cribbage board: 1.) my brother made this by hand (pegs and all) for my mom’s birthday one year, so it’s a very special board. 2.) See those words my mom wrote on the board, “Heater’s Curve.” It is supposed to be my name not Heater. This is the particular spot on the board I always began to lose, no matter how far I was in the lead. It became the family joke that when I was approaching this curve they knew I was going to start losing, so Mom nicknamed it Heather’s Curve, or at least she thought she did. Yes, my own mother misspelled my name, so now it’s affectionately called, “Heater’s Curve.”

The game of Cribbage, and many games in fact, is just like life. Sometimes you get dealt great hands that make you feel good and help you win, and sometimes you get awful hands that do not move you ahead at all. You feel like you are stuck in quicksand of life, and you will never catch up to the people ahead of you. This is often how being a special needs parent feels like. Every time your child does something good or conquers a task you realize that your friend’s baby did that six months or two years ago. As other children progress around you, you feel as if you are chugging as you hard as can and still are not able to gain any ground.

I am so excited, and so is everyone else because Abigail loves to give hugs now! It is precious and makes you feel extra loved when she wraps those little arms so tightly around your neck. She is truly the best hugger! She is beginning to eat better and better and even attempting to eat on her own in small ways. She is rolling from side to side and trying to sit up and move so much more. There are signs of progress everywhere. But right when we are gaining so much progress, I took her to the eye doctor because we have seen some small concerns with her eyes twitching, not focusing, and going cross-eyed. Well it is a good thing I took her because her muscles in her eyes are very weak. While the eye itself is as healthy as can be, the muscles are not controlling her eyes properly. So, soon Abigail will begin wearing glasses to try to strengthen those muscles. She has four months in glasses, and then if there is no progress the next step is surgery.

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When we feel like we are gaining ground with negative genetic testing and physical progress, we are hit with this reality. Our little girl may be faced with eye surgery at the end of the year. Oh, we are praying these glasses are miracle glasses!! But in our two-year journey we have seen this over and over. We gain some ground and are reassured everything will be okay and we will overcome anything, and then we are told she has very low muscle tone, it might be a genetic problem, there are still no answers, or that surgery may be the only solution. The life of a special needs parent is one big rollercoaster of emotion, filled with excitement, worry, and the unknown.

Through it all though I am thankful that life is not just one big game. We are not pawns being pushed around a board. Through it all God has a purpose for each and every person. He knows what we are going through, and He has a beautiful plan unfolding everyday. Is it frustrating? YES. Is it lonely? YES. Is it what I would choose? No. But it is still a beautiful plan, and I trust that with all my heart. In the end, I am thankful for this plan, this path of life God has set us on. It is making me a better person, a more trusting person. The last two years has changed me, and giving me a whole new perspective on life. Do I want this for my little girl? Never in a million years, but this is the life God has blessed us with and we will take each day and be thankful for the gift it is. We have so much to be thankful for, and I will not ever forget that!

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Our happy little blessing!

Clinging

“To grip tightly, to hold as if glued firmly,” that’s how the dictionary defines clinging. I have experienced a lot of clinging this week. I helped with the 13-18 month olds at Vacation Bible School this week. They are precious, every single one of them. But since I was there all morning working with those little ones, I was away from my daughter every morning. The little guys would cling to me as the morning wore on and they become tired. They wanted their own mommies, but in the mean time I had to do for them. Then I would come home and my sweetie would go crazy trying to get to me in her own way. I would pick her up and she would desperately cling to me, pleading with me not to leave her again.

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All those snuggles!!!

It makes me wonder what have I clanged to in my own life? What have I run to when I am hurt or tired or afraid? The things we cling to show where are heart really is because these are the things that we love most, the things we truly treasure. I personally have clung to my husband, to food, to worry, to writing, to busyness, and to television. It is in these things (and probably lots of other things) that I find comfort from the hardships and worries of life.

A man from my home church used to sing, “The Anchor Holds.” It is a beautiful song and so true. The chorus says, “The anchor holds though the ship’s been battered. The anchor holds though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas. The anchor holds in spite of the storm.” In the midst of life, worries, and hardships God is still there anchoring us to Him. He desires us to cling to Him. Just as Abigail would not let go of me when I have been away from her all morning, He wants us to run to Him and hold on tight.

As Father’s Day is this weekend, I cannot help but think about how my heavenly Father has loved me and watched over me all my life. I live a very tiny life, but it is blessed in so many ways. I am thankful that God is a Father who loves us despite ourselves. He loves us despite what we have done or how we look or even how we love Him in return. He loves us because He made us, and desires us to know Him and His own Son. I am so thankful to have a heavenly Father who holds us, who comforts us, and who gives us grace and mercy every single day when we deserve none of it.

When worries and troubles come, or when times of joy and celebrating arrive, I want to run to my Father and cling to Him alone. I want to be so close with God that I know His heart and can reflect His love to others. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That is the God we serve, a God of all comfort who we can cling to tightly despite what we have gone through or what we have done. He desires us to come close to Him, and see whom He is. God loves you so much. My prayer is that this Father’s Day we all cling to the Father who has given us so much!

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Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!!!

Thus Far

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I love the Old Testament, and right now I’m reading through 1 & 2 Samuel. In 2 Samuel chapter 7, God has just revealed to David the Davidic Promise of how he will always have a relative on the throne for all eternity. David goes in, sits before the Lord, and says, “Oh Lord, who am I and who is family that you have brought us thus far.” I obviously cannot relate to how David felt at this moment, but I can repeat those words. “Who am I oh Lord, that you have brought me and my family thus far!” I was reflecting today where the Lord has led me in the last 10 years. I would never have planned any of it, but I am thankful to be here and to know God has brought me thus far and He will continue to lead me and my family!!

When I was fifteen I got serious about my relationship with Christ. I knew it was something more and that relationship needed all of me. God needed all of me. So I made the decision to jump head first into my relationship with God and I never looked back. There have been lots of times of doubt, struggles, and fear but God has been with me every step of the way! I had my life all planned out by the time I was a freshman year of high school. I had always wanted to be an elementary school librarian (my dream since second grade) and I planned to go to college at Berry in Rome, GA. I like plans and hate change so when I make my mind up it does not change a lot, but low and behold God had other plans for me. I had already applied for Berry and a few other choices by my senior year. But my friend was looking into a school named Truett-McConnell for a soccer scholarship. The ironic thing was this friend did not have a relationship with Christ, and to apply for Truett you have to have a written testimony. She even asked me to write a testimony for her. Needless to say I had to explain that was not an option. But because of this friend I found myself at the TMC table during a college fair talking to the admissions rep. The rep was great at her job and convinced me to tour the school and meet the librarian there. I was so excited to meet a librarian I agreed to come visit the next week.

My mom and I went to TMC to meet with the Admissions team and take a tour. The weather was awful and I had to sit in my moms lap while taking the tour so I would not get wet. An eighteen-year-old riding around a college campus on her mom’s lap was not a good start to the tour. But the last stop before we went home was the library. I do not even know why but I told the librarian I would be there in the Fall. I went home and applied to TMC that night and was accepted in the following weeks. I was going to TMC to major in Education to get one step further in my dream of becoming a librarian.

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Me as a little tiny Freshman. The hair cut was a huge mistake!

Truett-McConnell changed my life in many, many ways! I wish I had the time and space to write everything, but since I don’t I will just have to hit the highlights. The first and biggest thing was that God continued to change my plans. I felt God tugging at my heart and leading me into ministry but I struggled because if I heeded to Him all my plans would be shot. I had already changed schools (which was a marvelous decision) and now He was taking away my only other dream. But by the end of my fist semester of college I was ready to surrender my dreams to God too. It is a story in itself, and everyone who knows me calls it my FROG story. Maybe one day I’ll share it with you too, but I accepted Gods call to ministry, changed major to Christian Studies, and again never looked back. Three years later I graduated with a Christian Studies degree, and I pray to use my calling to encourage and disciple women all my life!

But not only did I receive a whole new calling and a degree there, I received a husband and a child. My family grew there, literally. I was not even planning to get married going into college. Having a family was not a thought for me. I just was not one of those girls who dreamed of marriage and family. I guess I figured one day I would get married and have kids, but it was not something I desired. I liked living my life, and growing closer to God, but as always God had other plans for my and my mystery man.

Jordan and I both became Resident Assistants for the 2012-2013 school year. That was fated to bring us together, though I am not sure exactly how. We could not be more opposite. He was your typical athletic, popular, blonde hair jock, and I was your shy, dweeby average nerd. We did not hang out in the same circles (mostly because I never left the all girls’ dorm and he never left the all boys’ dorm), we did not share the same interests, and we had no clue the other existed though we sat a couple chairs apart in most of our classes the semester before.

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I think this is our first picture together at the TMC Hoedown.

But the summer we came to school for RA training we got to know each other and kept having weird, awkward encounters around campus. One time we passed each other in the stairwell and just stared at one another for about a solid minute without saying anything. I practically ran back to my dorm room mortified! Oh, to be a young college kid again. So after a lot awkward encounters, and a lot of volleyball games later we both confessed we liked each other for some reason or another and we became, as the kids say, ‘official.’ That was September 4, 2012. We both knew after two months of dating we were going to get married. Jordan proposed in June the following year and then in February 2014 we were married.

Our first year of marriage was probably kind of weird looking back, but we did not think anything of it at the time. Our first home was a small apartment inside the all girls’ dorm where I resided as Resident Director. So Jordan lived with 60 other girls for about four months. Then we moved down the hill to another on campus apartment to become the Resident Directors to more college kids. Six months into marriage I was pregnant and sick as a dog most days. Again, not the life I had planned but I would not trade these things for the world. They have made me who I am today.

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The day we left our ‘first home’ aka Otwell. I had lived there for three years by then.

Soon after Abigail was born we left TMC. It was a sad farewell, but we both knew it was time to move on. This is when the adventures with Abigail started. At two months we knew something was wrong with our child, and it has been a journey since. I will not go into details because I have told Abigail’s story so many times, but she is yet another thing we did not plan. We planned the having a baby part, but not the ‘your baby has special needs’ part. No one can plan that.

I could tell story after story of how God continues to change our plans. How we have interviewed at countless jobs for Jordan’s ministry position and yet have been turned down for one reason or another. I could tell of the tears that have been shed or the questions we have asked God as to why He continues to change our direction and path. But today I want to celebrate where God has brought us as David did all those years ago. I want to thank God for the life He has led me on. I want to praise His name for His faithful and continual care and provision for us. We have never been without what we need. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. He may not seem like He is always there or that He is listening to our pleas for answers and direction, but He has a bigger plan than I could ever dream or imagine. So while we are in the unknown in so many areas of our life, all I can do is trust God to see us through, and remember how far He has brought us thus far.

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My family! We are BLESSED!!!

Things Treasured

My blog was original titled “Treasured Encounters.” It started as a blog about my treasured encounters with God as I spent time with Him. But then I became a mom, and I learned that you have many, many treasured encounters with your children that people love to read and I love to share. And these moments are more sharable moments than intimate moments between my God and I. Like Mary I love to ponder these moments in my own heart. So I began what my blog is today, sweet moments about Abigail. But with resurrection Sunday tomorrow, and yesterday being Good Friday I wanted to share my treasured God encounter with my readers.

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The Bible tells us that Mary “treasured these things” on multiple occasions especially when Jesus was first-born. This young mother treasured all the moments she could with her son, the very Son of God. As Easter is approaching this weekend I love being able to take an extra long look at the cross and what God has done for all mankind so many years ago. Easter is a beautiful time of remembrance for an event that impacts our life every day. An event that should be thought about often as we humble ourselves and worship God in awe of what He has done for us. I want to be like Mary who ponders these things in her heart. She knew these were moments, when she saw shepherds bowing down to her newborn baby and wise men bringing gifts fit for a king to her bouncing toddler, that she would remember and look back on years later.

Since having my own child I can relate more with Mary as a mother. Obviously, I have no idea what it is like mothering God himself, nor would I ever want that. Just think of the worries and pressures that come with that!! But I can sense her mother’s heart as she looks lovingly into her newborn son’s perfect face moments after giving birth. I can feel her panic as she realizes her teenage son is no longer with them, and they cannot find him anywhere. And I do not want to imagine her grief and sorrow as she follows Him up Golgotha’s hill. But she has watched Him become a man and known in all her pondering that her son, God himself, was leading to do something more. He was never hers to hold on to forever. God blessed Mary with a wonderful gift of birthing and rearing the Son of God. However, Jesus answered to God alone, and was here to do His will, to save man from sin and death. But Mary had to watch.

There are things about Abigail and mine’s relationship that I could never put into words. My pride, my joy in her, my love for her are all too much for basic words to describe. The bond we have is something I never knew existed until I was blessed to experience it myself. Yet, this love pales in respect to the love Jesus showed for us that day on the cross. Two thousand years ago a young Jewish man died a gruesome death for people crosswho despised Him, rejected Him, and hated Him all because they did not understand Him. God knew His Son was the only way to reconcile man to Himself. God desired a relationship with us so badly, he sacrificed everything to bring us back to Him. My human love stretches to just a few people in this world, but God’s love is “never stopping, never giving up, unbreakable, always and forever.”  (Jesus Storybook Bible) And it reaches every. single. person.

God always reveals a new aspect of the Easter weekend to me each year, and this year I want to ponder as Mary did. I want to store these things in my heart and reflect them in my life. I want to learn more about God’s mysterious love for me and for mankind. I want to put my fingers in His nail scarred wrists and trust Him with everything. I want to learn to surrender all in the light of my Lord and Savior who was beaten and broken for my name’s sake. I want to remember the torn veil, and know I have a mediator who stands in my defense. I want to be like the ground under the cross where Jesus gave His all, and be covered in His blood. I want to be more like Jesus, and be willing to carry my cross as scary as that is. I want to worship Him in spirit and in Truth daily. I want to live in His resurrection power, and know that same power lives in me. I want to experience that same joy Christ experienced as he reconciled sinful man and holy God. I never want to forget what God gave to show His love for me. I want to find my hope and peace in this God who loves me unconditional. Oh, and I want to treasure the moments of our relationship in my heart forever!

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