Five Prayers for My Daughter

Abigail’s future is a blank slate, and our hopes for her probably look different than an average two year old’s parents’ dreams would be. While most parents pray that their toddlers grow up to be influential, honorable citizens we are over here just hoping her legs will one day work and she will walk. But even though we have no idea what Abigail’s future holds for her I still have five specific prayers for her that are constantly running through my head at any given moment. But I especially pray these prayers over her as she sleeps. There is just something special about sleeping children that makes you know that good things will come.

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Announcing we were having a girl – our Christmas present that year!

1.) I pray she is a servant. I know that’s a weird one, but it’s why we named her Abigail Paige. Her name has servant written all over it, and I only pray she lives up (or should I say down?) to her name. There was an Abigail in the Bible. She saved her husband and family by serving David and being humble in the future king’s presence. And Paige literally means ‘one who serves.’ I want Abigail to be a servant in a world that scorns that idea. I want her to seek humility and serve all she comes in contact with. Oh Lord, let her have a servant’s heart.

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Working hard and getting stronger everyday!

2) I pray for physical and emotional strength for Abigail. She is such a motivated little thing and is so strong in her own way. I pray her strength allows her to go a long ways in life. I pray her little body continues to get stronger day by day. Those muscles are our biggest problems and I think they will continue to get stronger as we continue to work with her. But not only physical strength, but Abigail will need emotional strength too. She’s going to have to overcome a lot as she gets older. I’m sure kids will stare at her or even say things to her as she gets older and goes to school. She has the possibility of being in a wheelchair her whole life. That’s prime staring material. And I know as she becomes more and more aware she will realize that kids are running around and playing and she cannot physically keep up with them. Oh she will need lots of prayers for strength and determination as she conquers all these things.

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Even when she looks different than everyone else, she is still beautiful!

3) I also pray that Abigail remembers she is beautiful and perfect just the way God made her. I’m not sure why God made her so weird, and why her body doesn’t work like normal. But she is still perfect and sweet and I pray she doesn’t look at all she can’t do or compare herself to others. She has so much personality and she can do so much but she just has to remember that. I pray Jordan and I always encourage her to be happy in her own skin and that she is beautiful, smart and important just he way she is.

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This is one of those pictures to put in Abigail’s senior yearbook, but look at that happiness!

4) Abigail has always had such a joyful little personality. She is our sunshine because she brightens up the room. Our physical therapist always says she has an amazing sense of humor. And her laughter is contagious. I pray that this joy sticks with her throughout life. So many people lose their joy as life happens around them. Abigail might have a lot against her, but I want her joy to remain.

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Abigail playing with her cousin. Hopefully they will be lifelong friends.

5) The last prayer is a little odd probably but still a very dear prayer to me. I pray for the people in Abigail’s life to be a benefit and support for her. I want to find a doctor that will support us and help us seek the best for Abigail. I want her therapists to continue to love her and help us learn how to help her best. (Thankfully we have been blessed with amazing therapists that have done this so far and I know it will continue!!) I pray that her teachers will help her grow and will be patient with her as they see her potential. I pray for friends to come along in her life and have fun and can socialize with her. I pray these friends can support one another and live each other unconditionally. I pray for Abigail’s best friend to come along and be bosom buddies as Anne of Green Gables would say because everyone needs a bosom buddy.

These are my top five prayers for Abigail. Of course I pray we find answers one day. I pray we find the right school. I even think about Abigail’s future mate, but honestly I don’t know if she will be married right now. She may always be a home body with her mom and dad at this rate. That’s why praying for future things is hard. We just don’t know.

The one thing I don’t think to pray for is healing. I sooo want Abigail to walk one day. I want her to be a normal kid and run around and talk and sing. But there’s nothing wrong with Abigail. She isn’t broken or messed up. Everyday she progresses forward and that’s what I pray for – progress. Quick fixes are not in our future. Could Abigail wake up tomorrow and walk? Yes, that’s a possibility but more likely we will build to that point if she is capable of walking. Abigail’s progress may be slow and frustrating at times. But my goodness, when she learns a new skill it makes you want to get up and do a jig. We celebrate the small victories here and I like that. Yes, we want our daughter to be normal, but I wouldn’t trade this process for the world. Abigail’s disability is not only shaping her into the person she is becoming, it is shaping me into a new person too. So today these are the prayers I pray for Abigail!

What are some prayers that you pray for your children?

 

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When all you have is God

Yesterday we started going to a music class for toddlers in our area. Abigail loves music and our therapist thought this would be a good way for Abigail to have some social interaction with children her age. We showed up and the teacher was terrific! We sat in the circle with about seven other toddlers and their mothers. Well the class got started and in true toddler fashion there was chaos! Kids were running everywhere. Moms were trying to calm screaming boys. And on top of it all there was musical shakers and drums being played. I honestly did not think Abigail was going to make it, but she did. She never jumped or cried. She also did not move a lot, but she sat and watched all of this going on around her. I was so proud of her! Then a mother of a particularly rowdy boy sat beside me and said, “Wow, I wish we could switch kids. She is so calm!” I simply gave her a sympathetic smile and kept singing. How could I tell this perfect stranger that this was huge for my daughter to not be scared to death right now? How could I explain Abigail is not calm, she just cannot move? How could I explain that I wish my daughter was running around and singing on the top of her lungs?  How do I explain that for us to be here with her child is a big step for us? I couldn’t, so I simply smiled and kept trying to keep Abigail calm.

I love my little girl! She is beautiful and wonderful and such a hard worker. She has come so far, and I know she is a fighter. But days like today I wonder why could she not be normal. She has no idea that anything is wrong with her, but she will never be able to play with kids her age. She will always be behind in some way. Having a special needs child is hard and it is lonely. But it is the not knowing for me that drives me crazy. Not knowing what her future holds. The unknown is scary.

No one likes the unknown. No one likes waiting. Whether it is waiting to hear back from a job interview or waiting to hear news about a love one   waiting and not knowing are hard. And we have been in this period of our lives for over two years now. I have asked God why many times. Why us? Why Abigail? I have asked for answers. I struggle with many things, so I have asked for more faith because that is what living in the unknown takes. Tried and true faith.

I do not like faith. I do not like it because to have faith it means you often cannot see. You have to rely on another to guide and lead you. I like to be in charge. I like to be independent and alone. I do not like asking for help and it is hard for me to trust other people. But that is what God requires of us. He requires total obedience and little steps of faith daily. He requires complete surrender and complete trust in Him. But most days I just feel like that dad in the New Testament who cried out to Jesus, “I believe but help me in my unbelief.”

I believe lots of things. I believe God is good. I believe He is love – not that He loves us (He does that too). But that He simply is the embodiment of love itself. I believe God is just, sovereign, merciful and full of grace. I believe He has made One Way for us to receive eternal life through His Son, Jesus. I believe He is holy. I believe God is who the Bible says He is. But I question His ways. I doubt His goodness. I do not understand His purposes. That is where I need faith. When I have a hundred questions that cannot be answered I must have faith in what I do know. And what I do know is that God is the God of gods and King of kings. He has this whole world in His hands and in the end He is the victor. He has defeated sin, death and Hell itself and I will follow Him no matter what. Because while my faith may be small, my God is big!!

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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!!!