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When Sleep is a Gift.

31 days a writing challenge

 

It is too early to be awake. The house is dark and the sun is barely breaking the horizon. Yet we are awake. For some this is the norm, but for us it is not. Neither of our children have functional sleep patterns. Between the two of them there is a 4-6 hour window we can actually sleep.

sunrise in the dark

 

Sleep is definitely a gift in this house. Sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions, it is during sleep that our body repairs itself.

There are 5 stages in the sleep cycle. Stage 1 – falling asleep. Stage 2 – disengaging from your surroundings. Stage 3 – falling into deep sleep and beginning restorative functions. Stage 4 – deep sleep, most high level functions of the brain are shut down. Stage 5 – REM sleep. The areas of the brain that handle emotions and memory to become highly active.

During deep sleep your body is restoring itself from the damages that occurred during the day from toxins in our environment, hormones released from stress, toxins in our water and food, illness, etc. Research has shown that the brain needs at least 3 hours to shut down. That’s 3 hours of sleep minimum for your body to begin the process of repair.

Sleep is vital.

Without we cannot be prepared to handle the chaos the happens each day. We become impatient. Anxious. Frustrated. All of this only escalates the chaos. not just for us as parents, but for our children. When they have not slept enough their bodies react in chaos, perhaps even to the extreme. Every little thing becomes an irritant to them. It can be a vicious cycle, this lack of sleep.

But how do you find it when you live with dysfunctional sleep patterns? The answer is not easy for us. It is a matter of trial and error and being flexible. Creating an environment where sleep cycles correct. Taking turns on the awakening. And we are still seeking the solution.

In the mean time, a strong cup of coffee might just be in order.

 

This is day seven in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.

 

 


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But We Were Unwilling.

31 days a writing challenge

 

Our house is filled with chaos and it answers to many names. Autism. Aspergers. Obsessive Compulsive disorder. Sensory processing disorder. Celiac disease. Hormone imbalance. Migraines. Food allergies.

This chaos is like a vortex that sucks you in without warning, and there appears no way out. The more you struggle, the deeper you go, and you fear you might just drown. We fight against it, drawing escape plans, creating ways to wrangle it, but really there is no fighting it. It is uncontrollable. Unpredictable. Undeniable.

For years we have lived in this chaos. Always running just on the edge of that vortex and for years we have continuously been sucked right into it.  We always say we need to find a way to stop this. We need to learn how to live. We need to learn how to stop the chaos.

This is where we erred. 

These things we bundle together and call chaos, they cannot be stopped. Sure we have doctors, therapists, medications; all tools to assist us in the chaos. But this chaos is and will always be a part of our lives. The answer is not in finding a way of stopping the chaos to find quiet, but finding the quiet in the chaos.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

This verse in its context is a warning to the rebellious. To those who have light, but choose darkness. Thinking themselves wiser than God and pursuing their own measures to salvation, but this path leads only to hasten their ruin.

This is where we erred. 

We rebelled. We took matters into our own hands and we sought to put an end to our chaos, instead of embracing it and turning toward the only one who could provide true quiet in the chaos. We rebelled. We were unwilling.

Pulpit Commentary puts it oh so perfectly for our circumstance.

“in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; in a quiet submission to the will of God, and in quietly waiting upon him for the issue and event of things, abiding in their own houses, and not in a hurrying tumultuous manner, running here and there for help; and in a holy and humble confidence in the Lord, and in the power of his might, where they should find such strength and security”

In all of our church going, bible reading and prayers, we have not simply sought Him for the quiet. In all of our hurrying and running we created more chaos. How simple would it be to return to God and seek Him in our chaos?  

To trust in His promise that  in returning and rest, you shall be saved, not the salvation we already have in Christ, but salvation from our chaos. Not that it be removed, but in that returning to Him, resting in Him, being quiet and waiting on Him would we not find quiet in our chaos?

 

Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:17

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:18

 

This is day six in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.


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Finding Purpose in the Midst

In March of 2013, I gave this short testimony at our women’s conference at church. And now nearly a year later, I look back and see how much has changed in our lives and I am thankful that I take time to write down moments. These little reminders of how God moves in the little things and the big and finding Him in the details.

The following is what I shared that day…

In preparation of this short testimony, I heard all the reasons why I could not do it. You are sick. You will probably have a migraine, one of those really bad ones that put you in bed for days. And if not the migraine, then a panic attack. The anxiety that comes and shuts you down. You will not be able to do it. You know you cannot make commitments. So just what is the point? Thoughts like these rolled over and over in my head. But the biggest thing I heard, the most threatening was this… there will most likely only be a handful of women that will know who I am, so what will it matter what I have to say. Wow, how that one really stung. Made it difficult to string a thought into a sentence that was comprehensible. But what a lie that is… because it does not matter who knows me. It is not about me. It is all about Him and what He has done. His story being played out through my life. It is all for His glory.

For most of my life I have dealt with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease that left untreated wreaks havoc on the body and all of its systems. It can leave you with cancer, diabetes, and other autoimmune disorders. Thankfully, so far I only live with daily migraines, nausea, hormonal imbalances, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, joint and bone pain and anxiety. My 11 year old daughter who has the same disease, also lives with Aspergers‘ syndrome, sensory processing disorder, sleep disorder, digestive problems, numerous allergies and anxiety disorder. My 2 year old has allergies, has few words and a temper. I have twin step daughters that are 21. And then I have my husband. Greg. Who is my best friend, who lays down his life everyday for me. He loves like Jesus. And he is healthy.

Here is just a glimpse into what an average day looks like in our home…

It’s a race from the moment eyes are startled open with the words “Mom. Stuff. Up. Throat.” No time for a yawn or stretch. The gun has gone off, the race has begun and the finish line is no where in sight.

Through blurry eyes you try to read it. The level of threat that holds the day hostage. The fear. The pain. The sadness. Will they subside? Will this be a good day? Or will it turn to panic? Every second of your time running. Moving swiftly trying to find the solution that will bring relief. Words lifted up. Please. Let. It. End. In between the pace, you decipher the gestures of the little one with no words. You try to hold on to patience as she screams in frustration.

Please. Let. It. End.

A nibble of food here. A sip of water there. Because there is just not time. You have these two that need you. And you beg for the doorbell to ring. Someone to ask, “how are you? No, really how are you?” You pray long and hard for someone that gets it. That really gets it. Because really? You can’t get it unless you live it. Every. Single. Day.

You search for strength to make it to the finish line. The few hours of sleep, the stress and the lack of food just doesn’t cut it in a body that is already beaten. This is one day. They all blend together now, and there are times I just want to throw in the towel. Wave the white flag.

But I don’t. I would not change a thing. Because right in the middle of all of this I found God. Sure He lived in this heart since I was young, but I never really knew Him. I never heard His whispers. Never felt the brush of His hand across my cheek when the tears fell. His arms wrapped tight when there was nothing left to hold onto. Never felt Him walking right there with me. I never knew it was possible to know Him this way.

I was not good enough to be in His presence. Yes, He is my God, my savior, my ticket to heaven. But I was not good enough, and I never would be, it is just not humanly possible… now just learn to follow the rules and most importantly get out there and tell others about Him. This is what they taught me in church.

And I did my best. I was there for every service straight through high school. I followed the rules. I was a good girl. I went out door to door telling about Jesus. Read my bible. Memorized scriptures. And it was never enough.

Nearly 25 years later, having a diagnosis and the healing beginning, when friends and family were going on mission trips, teaching classes, starting programs, volunteering… I wanted to be right there along side them. I begged God to make us better, to fully heal us. Because didn’t He know what I could do for Him if only I wasn’t stuck in this bed? In these four walls?

Instead of healing, I received something so much greater, so precious to me that it is hard to speak of it and not spill tears. It catches right there in the throat, because there really are no words to describe the joy of this gift, the blessing of knowing who God truly is; how He loves me and how His plans are so much bigger and better than mine. How lying in that bed, staring out a window where treetops touch sky. Where sunlight trickles through leaves in its setting and dances across my room. Where bible stories are told and worship music plays loud. And church services stream through screens. That’s when it happened. The connect. Heart with mind. Me to Him. Simple. Complicated. How did it happen? Brokenness. Gratitude. Surrender. Connection. The knowing. Knowing there is not one answer to the how. Each one comes in his own way, His way, for His purpose. The how… individual, unique to all, but still the same.

He showed me that in this home, with all this chaos, there are hearts for me to nurture. Hearts to teach about His love and grace. That each time I hit send on a letter with words of love and encouragement to those little children around the world, I step out on a missions trip. And with every publish of a blog post, I share a bit of my story, His story. It reaches through tiny screens across the world. It answers prayers of that woman crying out just like me, “Send me someone who gets it. Someone who really gets it.”

His plan for me is clear. Growing hearts. In this house and across the world. He tells me I am right where He wants me, and He gives me purpose.

As crazy as it seems, it all works. This crazy house. Each of us with all our own needs. With illnesses, and sleepless nights, running when there is nothing left of us. Even with statistics stacked us against us, it works. Not only does this family work. It flourishes.

Because we are a cord that cannot easily be broken, because “He is wrapped between us, wrapped within us and wrapped around us.”*

And it’s all Him. Right there in every crazy minute of it. In every detail. He gives us a peace and joy in the midst. Heart bursting joy that you just cannot contain.

And on those days when the race has run out of control, when my legs have grown weary and I stumble, I hear Him whisper it…

I’m here. I am right here.

I am learning to be content in all things. ALL things. I press on toward the goal. And I pray it…

Jesus come quickly.

*quote from Jennifer of studiojru


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Her Voice

She has a gift. Its name is Aspergers. I call it Aspergers with a twist. You see she has the ability to recognize when this gift takes over her life. Most do not. They do not see their actions, or better said reactions. They do not see how their words affect others. Most are self centered, self absorbed. This gift with a twist goes against everything she believes, everything that she truly is. It threatens her. She misses the beauty of it. The brilliance and talent it brings.

In this world she feels she has no voice, so she whispers in the quiet. Scribbles words on paper and screen. She retreats into another world. She feels safe there. Accepted. She shuts out this world. And I let her go.

This gift has robbed her of the joys of childhood. The innocence. She has learned the cold harsh cruelty of this world at far too young an age. She feels judged and sentenced by those around her. Labeled. She is believing these lies. And they are lies. If you could look straight into the heart of this child you would know what I know. The rare gift of a beautiful soul. Something so special there are not words to describe it. This child is held close to the heart of God.

Today I give her a voice…

She sees herself as different. She sees herself as misbehaving. Acting out of turn. Disrespectful. Mean. Spoiled. She punishes herself. Severely. Her hand swipes hard against her cheek. Because she deserves it. She believes that. It swipes again. The sting brims tears. The words pour from her lips. She is horrible, she should never have done that, she is not supposed to speak that way. She is just horrible. She pushes you away. She does not deserve to be held. To be loved.

These words of self image live in her heart. She has learned them from others, and they have taken up residence. But these words, these images she has of herself could never be further from the truth.

She is full of more grace than anyone I know. She forgives in an instant the sideways glance. The look of disdain. The words whispered under breath. The names called out to her… fool, stupid, punk. These names cut and wound her deep. Yet she forgives. She cries in the night, wondering why, trying to understand what she did to deserve this. And still she forgives.

Her heart breaks for the poor and the broken. For those that have no voice. No fresh water to drink. No shoes on their feet. She weeps for them.

She cries when she hears the little brother of her friend stops breathing. He lives and it is a miracle, but the tears fall and the shoulders shudder as she collapses in my arms.

She unselfishly prays for the mother of a child that she desperately wants to make her sister. She prays for the mother. For her to find a new life. For her to find Jesus. She cannot understand why the gift is refused. When arms are wide open offering love and the mother walks the other way. She prays for her.

She feels your emotion when you walk in the room. She knows if you are hurting, angry, or happy. These emotions become hers. She feels them heavy. Her young mind not knowing how to process them. She struggles to keep composure. But they are heavy and she does not understand them. She couldn’t. They are your emotions. The weight of it breaks her and her body screams out in pain.

She says yes to things even when she does not want to, just because she does not want to hurt your feelings. She hesitates to answer questions because she is afraid her answer may not be what you wanted to hear. She lives to please you. If she doesn’t than why would you choose to love her? Accept her? She bears this every. Single. Day.

Her brain tells her everyday that her world is chaos. Chaos. The dictionary defines it like this… Complete disorder. Utter confusion.

In her mind it is a simple change in routine. The temperature being a degree warmer. The tv playing as you talk to her. Your conversation on the phone as she is trying to read. Feeling Starvation and thirst even though she may have just eaten, and if she does not get food or water right this instant, she might just die.

Unimaginable fatigue because her body will just not sleep. She longs for her eyes to close when darkness falls. And for them to open once again when the peaks on the horizon. Frustration sets in as her body just will not cooperate.

Rules not followed by others, or their disobedience makes no since when she lives every moment trying to be obedient and follow the rules.

She bottles the frustration of all these little things that her brain is telling her are huge. But it becomes too much. There is no room left to contain it it. And it spills. She wants to take it back as soon as it happens. She feels you wanting to run from her. She knows you think she is yelling. When simply her tone is the reaction to her chaos. She has lost the fight. And it spills.

She carries all this. She bears through headaches and tummy aches. She does not understand that they come because she carries all this burden of trying to live up to expectation. Your expectation. This image of normal.

Normal. I have to laugh this word. Just what is normal? Are we saying that we all don’t have our little quirks, our own pet peeves? Are we saying we don’t have things that grate on us, that push our buttons, that build up and we snap? Do we not yell at the dog, or the kids, or our spouse? Are we not ugly to the person on the phone just trying to earn a dollar, and we just do not have time to listen? No we are all the same just in different ways. We have our issues, our meltdowns our bad days. And we call this acceptable. Normal.

She wants to be normal. Ironically, she already is normal. Her normal. Our normal. And it is beautiful. She is beautiful.

This is her voice.