Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.


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God gave you the sun.

The sky has been gray and dark and the rain has fallen for days. I am not sure when we last saw the sun cast shadows. It feels like Seattle with the cold and the rain and the dark. Except it’s not. And seasonal affective disorder might just being setting in, or maybe I am just weepy. And the last thing you said last night before bed? “I wish the sun would come out for my birthday.”

And then here it is, the morning of your birth.

It is still early and you are still sleeping, but you have to know that God brought the sun. It was only for a moment, but the sun glowed through the clouds and the fog. I didn’t know if it would last and I wanted you to see. I grabbed my phone and snapped some pictures right through the window. But they just dId not do it justice. The brilliant glow and the brightness that was spilling through the cracks of the blinds and dancing across the floor. I almost woke you from your dreams so you could breathe it in. But you were so peaceful.

I sat down next to you on the bed and brushed the hair from your face. I watched as your breath came and went. A steady slow rhythm. Memories of how I used to watch you breathe as a baby, how tiny you were, how I held you in my arms, how I could not believe that you were mine, how deep a love could really run, they all raced through my head.

Today, you are thirteen. If you want to be technical you won’t be thirteen until 4:45 pm, and yeah I am going to do just that. Be technical. Hold you to these last few hours of being twelve. Because I have to. Because once you turn thirteen I think it might all just be downhill. That i just might blink and you will be eighteen. The state will consider you an adult. We are closer to that than we are to you being that little baby that I held in my arms and watched breath. And I am just not ready.

I can’t help but wonder where all these years have gone. And what if I got it all wrong and what if I missed something, and that clock is about to roll over and you will officially be a teenager. Officially thirteen. Then what if it will be too late?

But there you are.

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This amazing young lady with more wisdom and grace than thirteen years can carry. I could tell you the obvious of the beauty that you are, but you can see that in the mirror. As you grow through your teen years I pray that the mirror does not become your friend. Because that mirror is a lie. It distorts and misaligns. And it’s all a lie. The only true beauty is that of your heart. And your heart sweet girl is full of beauty.

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Your heart is pure. And it shines. And this is not my doing, but God’s. You invited Him in and let Him fill all the secret places. You etched His words on your heart. And you trusted them.

And now I see you brave.

Conquering fears that once crippled you. Trusting that perfect Love that casts out fear and jumping in.That time you stood and sang His bow is on the strings… the time you sat through a thunderstorm without ears plugged tight with fingers… the time you danced in the puddles after the storm… that time you danced across a stage… It was right there on your face. A smile. The confidence. The brave.

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I pray you remember this feeling. I pray you always jump!

The clock is ticking and there is no stopping it. It’s not mine to stop. Time is always moving forward.

And there you are thirteen.

sydney

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And on this morning God gave you the sun.


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One of Your Favorite Days.

Hey daddy-

It was three years ago today I got the call from Melissa. It was 9:14 am. I was walking through the neighborhood yard sale on a beautiful fall morning. You know the kind. The air is crisp with a slight breeze, leaves starting to change their colors and the sky bluer than blue. I sometimes wonder if God made the skies bluer in the fall so that the changing colors of the leaves would be so much more brilliant? Hmmm, that would be just like the artist that he is, wouldn’t it? Maybe you could ask Him for me?

Melissa’s tone on the phone was not one I expected. I thought she was calling to see if I had found any treasures. Instead her voice was somber. They took daddy in the ambulance. He is in the ER. I will keep you posted. Ok. Keep me posted. I think that’s how the conversation went.

Everything will be just fine. I whispered it as I slid the phone back into my pocket and carried on seeking treasures.

They admitted you into the hospital that day. The doctors were not sure what was wrong other than your iron levels were low once again. But you were the same, daddy. You didn’t seem sick. You didn’t seem like you needed to be there in that hospital. Everything was just fine. Until it wasn’t.

The last time I saw you outside that hospital room was at Cassie’s birthday party. Remember that day?  It was at Darin’s house and the kids swam in the freezing pool? I made some grain free vegan cakes for Sydney so she wouldn’t feel left out. You ate two pieces of that chocolate cake. You always said my crazy recipes were good even when they weren’t. Haha! I am still trying to figure out how to bake yummy treats for Sydney. One day I might just get it right.

I got that call on a Saturday and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I actually saw you. The day was a complete blur, we were running to attorney appointments, guardian ad litems, visitation, all for the sake of that little baby.

I lost a lot of time with you daddy, because of that situation. It was worth it though. She is all ours now. You would love the little girl she has become. She is this beautiful soul with such spunk, autism gets in her way from time to time, but you just look past it. You can’t help but look past it. Because she is just that special.

The girls stayed at the hospital with you and mom while we went to our appointments. When we picked them up you were smiling and laughing, watching tv, it seemed all so normal. Just like every other visit to the hospital. We had this down daddy. This routine. Every 6 months we went to the hospital. You stayed a few days and got patched up and came home. How many years did we do this?

On Thursday, Sydney wanted to come see you and show off her new haircut. She cut it short. It was so cute. She was so happy to be free of the tangles. Her hair is long now. Just past her shoulders. And she is as tall as me now, can you believe it? You would be so proud of her, Daddy. She is truly amazing.

Everyone that meets her loves her and they all say the same thing. She has this sprit that you just connect with and they are drawn to her in a way they cannot even explain. But I can explain it. She is the closest thing to Jesus that you might actually meet here on earth. She has such grace and love. It is unconditional. There is this gentleness about her and she forgives without a thought. She is amazing. You know she is almost thirteen years old?

They transferred you the next day, Friday, to the heart hospital for your heart catheterization. How many would this make? I lost count. You needed more some stents. Your arteries were blocked again, 100% blocked. How in the world were you still standing?

I didn’t make it to see you that night after they finished. These horrible migraines. I still get them, but the doctors are getting closer to getting me fixed. I wish It hadn’t been raining that day. I wish I didn’t have a migraine. I wish they didn’t transfer you to that heart hospital on the other side of town. You know they made our favorite hospital a heart hospital shortly after you left? Yup. They finally did it.

Daddy, they gave you medicine that night and you slipped away from us. Right through our fingers and we couldn’t stop you. I don’t know what happened. You just kept slipping. It was only 36 hours later that you headed on home to glory.

The night you left daddy, I couldn’t be with you. Another migraine, of course, a debilitating one. I barely made it to the parking lot to get home. I tried to everything I knew to end it so I could back to you at the hospital. It just wouldn’t let me go. The moment it let up enough, I packed a bag to come back to the hospital. But It was too late. Just as we were headed out the door, Melissa was calling again. She said, “Say goodbye Shelly.” I tried, Daddy. I tried getting everyone in that car and get back to you at the hospital that was 30 minutes away. I just wanted to see you. I wanted to be there with you.

You took your last breath before we were out of the driveway.

I miss you daddy. So much has changed here. Some days are really hard and they are really lonely. I’m dreaming of the day when I am finally there with you. So save a place for me and save some grace for me…

Today the air feels just like that day you went into the hospital. The leaves outside my window are turning orange and the blue sky, daddy! The blue is so beautiful.

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This would be one of your favorite days.

I love you. Always.

Shelly

 


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Some Days You Just Have to Let Go.

31 days a writing challenge

 

Calendars. I have several in my arsenal. My iPhone calendar, I use it only to for the ease of sharing our schedules and they are all tucked neatly in one place. But really this isn’t functional to me in the everyday. I have 3 school calendars. One with plans laid out for the week, one for daily schoolwork and field trips, and one to track the days we school. Yes, I am a homeschooling mom. I have a symptom tracker calendar to measure my health issues to report to my doctor. I have my dry erase calendar so I can see the whole month laid out in front of me, because I just need that old school visual hands on calendar, not just a bunch of dots that I have to click on to see what is planned that day.

With all these calendars one would think we would be organized. That schedules would run on time and we would make it to all of our appointments. That errands would be run and tasks completed each day as planned. You would think this would lessen the chaos. But in effect it can be quite the opposite.

When I try to hold tight to our schedule and plans for the day, it doesn’t leave room for the unexpected. No time for tired kids, sensory overload, migraines, allergies or for the simply off days where everything seems to go wrong. The more I struggle to stick to the plan the more power the chaos holds. The house fills with frustration and anxiety. Its not long before everyone feels it and the chaos is unleashed.

Some days you just have to let go of the day. Throw the calendar out the window. Let go of the expected and all the planned, because if not, you will soon be mourning the loss of a day. A day that could have been spent in the moment, being fully present in life instead of worrying that the day is slipping by and nothing is being crossed of the list. I have learned my calendars are simple guidelines for each day meant only for the purpose of helping me stay organized.

I am learning to be flexible. To bend with the day as it twists and turns. To be thankful for whatever and wherever it ends up when my head rests on my pillow each night.

 

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

 

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


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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.

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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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Braving the Chaos.

31 days a writing challenge

 

The breeze blew cool on this early fall morning. The air was crisp and the leaves were quietly rustling in the gentle breeze and I did not miss for a moment that they are slowing into quiet, preparing for winter to come. The sky was a brilliant blue. It always seems so vivid in autumn. Today we decided to create quiet. We were intentional and we braved the chaos. And it was a success.

 

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In being intentional, today I am taking a break from the writing, but am leaving you with the scripture that is the inspiration for my forthcoming post tomorrow.  I hope you will check back in with me tomorrow, it’s going to be good.

 

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

 

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

 


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Beauty and the Mess.

On Fridays, Lisa-Jo Baker invites you to write for 5 minutes without stopping, without editing. 5 minutes on a word prompt. There is a whole bunch of ladies that write and link up and even have a twitter party the night before in anticipation of the event. Yeah, it get’s that exciting! You can find them on Twitter here #FMFParty….. For more information about 5 minute fridays click here.

 

This weeks prompt is Mess

 

GO.

 

Toys are lying across the floor. Like a scene from Toy Story when Andy walks in the room and all the toys freeze and drop so as not to be seen alive. That’s my living room. If you walk into the kitchen most likely there are dishes piled high waiting their turn to feel new again. And please! Do NOT even ask to see the bedroom. That is where the clothes hide. Who knows if they are clean or dirty, at this point in the week the baskets have been pulled through, dumped out and put back so many times there really is no telling. Might as well wash them all again.

To the outsider looking in with their untrained eyes all they see is the mess, but they are missing the beauty. Their eyes never see beyond the mess, because their hearts are closed tight. If only they would open those hearts just for a moment, they would see it, because that is where the magic happens.

It’s the giggles of a little girl twirling and wiggling to the music playing. Her blowing kisses and bowing for applause. Her running to you and giving hugs. They way she chews her food. The “cheese” she smiles as you take a picture. The bear she calls Rawr that she holds oh so tight. He is worn and loved, but you can see in his eyes he doesn’t mind.

 

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The little girl that might have never known what it felt like to be loved. One that might never have survived her first years of her life. All she knew from the moment she was conceived was anger and hatred. I imagine her little body wrapped up in that womb. A place that is supposed to be nurturing and loving that brought nothing but harm to her developing body. Drugs. Chemicals. Alcohol. Nicotine. Things that hold a lasting effect on her physical and emotional being. I imagine the things she must have heard from her womb. Yelling. Fighting. Violence.

Then once her little body entered the world, she didn’t feel the love and the warmth. The feeling of a mother that swaddles her close and tells her she is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. That she could never have known a love like this without her. Instead, she was passed from home to home, person to person. She was starved. Left to cry in playpens. She felt nothing less than abandonment.

Three years ago today, she came to our doorstep, and that day marked the day she became our little girl. Though the ensuing months would still include visits into this other life, we fought for this child. We prayed for this child. There were days I questioned what in the world was God thinking bringing us a little one. Our cups were already filled to the brim with autism and migraines, and chronic illnesses and there just wasn’t room for one more tiny drop. How could we love more, give more, be more. He opened our hearts, gave us bigger cups, and in His time, she was made ours. Forever.

I still question it sometimes, when my eyes focus on the mess, and I miss seeing Him, He reminds me with the soft voice of this little girl as she lies her head on her pillow with Rawr snuggled tight her eyes struggling to stay open, and she whispers it with a note of thankfulness in her voice as if she knows, “I go niat niat. I wuv you too mommy.”

And it’s all a mess. Our beautiful mess.

 

STOP.

 

 

 

To read more stories about Mess, check them out 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