How the Rapids Showed me Beauty

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Life can be like a journey down a winding river. Rivers can be calm and smooth, but usually along the way rapids appear. Life is like that. Sometimes the rapids are exciting and fun, like moving overseas. Other times they are downright frightening, like an unwanted diagnosis.

During those rapids I find myself wanting and sometimes even desperately trying to paddle back upstream away from it all. I long for an easier way, but usually there is no other way. And in the end, I find that God uses those hard situations in my life to transform me.

Fifteen years ago I found myself at one of those bends.

This week I’m a guest writer at Velvet Ashes. You can read more about my story and the lessons I learned by clicking here.

 

*PC Credit: Free-photos via pixaby

Sisters

I grew up with my extended family. Every Sunday after church all my aunts, uncles, and cousins would meet at my grandparent’s farm. My grandmother prepared what most people would consider a Thanksgiving dinner every week – mashed potatoes, homemade noodles, roast or turkey… My mom has continued this tradition with my siblings and their growing families. It is amazing to go back to. After my sisters and I clean up the table we sit with our steaming hot coffee and catch up. I love those moments.

I live too far to do that every week. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t happen in a calendar year. That’s just how home assignments go.

But, God has been good to me. He has provided “family” in every location we’ve moved. 20190306_092308He has provided “sister’s in Christ”. I just returned from a ladies retreat where I got to see some of those sisters and to be honest I adopted a few more. It was a retreat for English speaking Christians here on the island. It wasn’t affiliated with a specific sending organization, nor was it focused on a specific nationality. It was beautiful.

  • God’s girls hiking in the mountains together.
  • God’s girls playing “Catch Phrase” together.
  • God’s girls singing His praises together.
  • God’s girls crying together over some tough circumstances.
  • God’s girls giggling in bed like two schoolgirls trying to be quiet so they don’t get in trouble from their mother.

God’s girls are sisters. He has no boundaries in his family. There is no nationality boundary. No racial boundary. No age boundary. No ability/disability boundary. My sisters in Christ are a beautiful bunch of gals.

How about you? Have you been able to find “sisters” among the women you meet where you are located?

 

Allowing Bravery

This week I was challenged to start writing again – 5 min. a day. To set my alarm and to write. It’s baby steps, but I believe it will push me forward. So, this weekend, I’m linking up with The Groove, over at Velvet Ashes. I haven’t linked up with them since this summer, but this week’s theme challenged me. It’s on Bravery.

I read some really good posts that challeraged me (challenged-encouraged?) One was finding bravery in the Bible and the other was on the practicality of bravery – that full-force out-of-this-world bravery. It all starts with baby-steps. Yep, you should go and read those two posts now. You can thank me later.

But….they got me thinking. At midnight – okay 1am, I’ll be honest. I know I should have started that 5-min. alarm a few hours earlier…

I always wanted to be married to a brave man. One who wasn’t afraid to go out and fight for me and the kids. Someone who would do what is right even when it was hard. A man willing to obey God completely. A man of integrity.

I got what I asked for. He is all of that – and I’m so thankful…most of the time. I say “most of the time” because you see, there are times that his bravery calls me to be brave – and that just doesn’t always “feel” cozy and safe. In fact, it feels more like a couple of liters of icy-cold soda poured over my head on a freezing-cold day. It’s extremely uncomfortable, makes me shiver to the bone, and it’s sticky.

But, as his wife, his help-mate, I should be encouraging and well, helpful. I should be a support during those times when he needs to be brave. But the biggest question that loomed over my head tonight was simply this:

Do I give my husband permission to be brave?

Do I allow him to do the hard things? How do I react when he confronts me on issues? What is my facial expression when he gets a new idea to try at school or for our ministry – that I think is too much work? What do I say when he tells me he’s looking at property, new apartments, and/or a new “job”?

Do I immediately tell him “NO way” or do I listen completely and humbly to what he is saying. Do I let him stroll easily in obedience or am I pulling and yanking his arm to slow down because either I’m afraid or just down-right don’t want to do it?

Challenging isn’t it? I’m challenged to not let my first reaction be a negative one, but to instead, respond. To stop and listen completely. To pray about it, to seek God’s wisdom – especially on the major issues that require bravery. Although, I am finding out from experience that bravery isn’t always a move. It is obedience to God ~ even in the small stuff.

How about you? Do you allow bravery in your home? I didn’t even start with the kids, but do we allow our kids to be brave? 

Coming out of Grief

I’m joining in today with Velvet Ashes in their Friday “The Grove” linkup. This week the topic is on what every expat knows well – GRIEF.

Grief comes in various forms for the expat.

  • Every spring we say good-bye – either we are moving or someone we know and have grown to love is moving.
  • We say good-bye after every “home” visit – each getting a little harder as we see our grandparents, parents aging.
  • We miss family gatherings for birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, World Cup parties, or whatever…fill in the blank.
  • Death of dearly loved ones – either family or tragic accidents

For me, those have been true – but as a parent to a child with special needs I seem to grieve regularly. I don’t mean it is there every single day all the time. No, my grief hits me when I least expect it. It sometimes hits hard like a punch in the gut. It is strong enough to bring instant tears – but not strong enough to leave me in a pit of despair. I wrote a story for the anthology MONDAY COFFEE & OTHER STORIES OF MOTHERING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS. The section below, I feel, illustrates how grief tries to pull me down.

 I’m told that parenting a child with special needs stays difficult. It doesn’t just “go away.” I have found that to be true. Grief finds me at odd places. It finds me at the park where I see girls playing and laughing together while my daughter stumbles up the stairs to go down the slide. Grief finds me in the hospital holding the results from yet another developmental testing and I see she isn’t mentally where I thought she was. And Grief brings tears to my eyes when party invitations are passed out and she didn’t get one. Grief reminds me that she doesn’t have friends her age. She doesn’t seem to notice, but I do. I hurt.

Through all the grief and mourning, joy does come. It always does. It comes with a kiss and a hug. Joy comes with each new word she speaks. It comes when she dresses up in her cowboy hat, boots, and comes out swinging her pretend lasso. Joy comes from watching her love life in the way I sometimes wish I could.

Yes, joy does come after the mourning.

 

I read a recent blog post from another parent of a child with special needs and she stated it, too.

She is happy. She is totally fine. She doesn’t feel like she’s missing out. It’s not her dream, it’s mine.

Grief comes to everyone – unless you are a hermit who lives in a cave with no pets. As expats we must learn to go through the grieving process, to embrace it knowing that it will pass. And as a parent of a child with special needs, I’m learning that it’s okay to grieve – but that I need to not stay there. Here’s how I get out…

1. Count my blessings – you know that song, “10,000 Reasons”. I made a chart on the wall – but even just saying them out loud helps.

2. Sing Louder – speaking of songs, I put on praise music and turn it up real loud and usually break out dancing. It gets all of us into giggles.

3. Remind myself that my daughter is not sad – in fact she loves life to the fullest (most of the time). Just yesterday I used this…at the water park I started to feel sad because she couldn’t run off with the others to zip down the slide, but I looked up at her jumping in her life vest laughing and splashing around. She was fine – so I would be, too.

4. Take note of the gifts and talents that my children, especially my daughter with special needs, have. Not in a “I have the best kids in the world” kind of way, but in a “Wow, look how they are growing and giving to others” kind of way. (but, just so you know….I do have some pretty awesome kids!)

Your Turn: How has grief affected you? What has helped you through the process? Please share in the comments below.