Gum and a Ring and a Simple Truth for Greedy Hearts (Like Mine)

I turned 48 last week. At this point in our lives, we have 4 adult children: 3 who live independently and 1 in college who spends summers and school breaks at home. That leaves 4 kids at home full-time, and means an inconsistent showing of our kids at family meals and other special events, like my 48th birthday dinner.

For this little birthday celebration, we had 4 of our 8 kids present plus one French house guest. Lately, we've housed several French guests because God put them in our path years ago and the relationships continue to grow. 


This ring, though, is what I need to tell you about, because our Mighty Joe—the brain-damaged 10-year-old—wrapped it up in a piece of black construction paper adorned with his own artwork of a train done in white crayon, and presented it to me after dinner. 

After I dramatically declared my love for the tiny heart with the faux red ruby, Joe needed to let me know how he came by it as my birthday present. 

"Daddy gave me a quarter. I wanted to buy gum but then I saw the ring and bought that for you instead."

Be still my heart.

"If Daddy had given me two quarters, I could have bought you the ring and the gum."

Well, there it is. Honesty. Out of the mouths of babes and all that.

But I often treat God this way, knowing that he's given me a gift to give to someone else, only to turn and wish he'd given me something I obviously wanted from him instead, or in addition to. I'm happy to give to others, but most of the time I think I'd be happier if I got to keep something for myself, as well. I mean, if I'm being as honest as Mighty Joe was the night he gave me the ring with the tiny heart. 

And again, this is why I need Jesus. It's the theme of my life. I wish I could tell you my heart is purer than that, but the truth is, without the perfect heart of the Savior standing in my place, it's just about as valuable as a ring bought for a quarter out of the machine in the grocery store. 

What made that ring valuable was the giver. What makes my own heart and your own heart so is the giver. And his gifts are always, always, always the best. 


Hope For Parenting the Extraordinary

Before Mighty Joe came along and fought the Enterovirus, I had no real understanding of seizures and medical issues and pretty much anything parents of kids with special needs go through. Joe has fewer "issues" then other kids with brain damage to the extent of his, but we still live our lives in a flux state that has to allow for what happened this morning.

I'm going to spare you the details, but here's what's good for folks without special needs in their homes to know: We parents with these extraordinary kiddos never get to turn off. 

Remember when you had a toddler or two? Remember how you always had to have an ear and an eye cocked in order to know what exactly they were doing at all times? This is the unrelenting reality of the parent of a child with special needs. There is no "off". 

I won't drag you into a pity party because Joe is now 9 and this has been our 9-year reality. It has actually been my 24-year reality because of the older kids and their toddler years that just all smooshed into Joe's life. He's the preschooler that doesn't progress. 

It doesn't end.

I sit with my closest friend-mom-of-a-child-with-special-needs and we spill our frustrations and joys. Kid you not, last night she texted me at 11:30 PM from the ER because her 18-year-old mentally retarded daughter got a ring stuck so firmly on her finger, it turned purple and took an entire ER team an hour to get the offending ring off while she spit in anger and kicked her mother and sister and screamed. 

This morning I texted her that Joe had just finished an 8-minute seizure that showed no signs of stopping until I pushed his heavy body onto its side so I could get the emergency meds suppository administered (that was fun) and watch him come down from the convulsing that left a huge, foaming pool of spit all over him and a sore hand that smacked the wall repeatedly before I got to him and held it down.

Neither my friend nor I know when the next event like these will occur. There is no "off". 

Joe is in the bath as I'm writing this. My day has had to change, from plans to be out and accomplishing tasks to what I can get done while keeping my ears and eyes wide open on him. 

Where is the hope for parents on seizure watch and parents of toddlers and parents of adult kids with the mentality of a preschooler? We're all parenting the extraordinary in one way or another. Where is the hope for me?

Hope always, always, always abounds in the goodness of God. I'm not one for prescribing anything, because I well know after years spent placing my hope in methods and "prescriptions" that the only true hope is in what God has done for us, but if you need a tool of ministry, there is no better RX than the Word of God. Start here?

Many are saying of my soul,
‘There is no salvation for him in God.’
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill.
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
— Psalm 3:2-6, ESV

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When It Feels As If Everyone Else is Doing it Right #ForRealFriday

Things aren't always as they seem. 

In the past few months we've had families or kids in families or parents contact us by varying avenues and lament their very real, very raw struggles. 

"This man-child needs to move out."

"My parents are at each other's throats."

"I'm so depressed, I can't face another complaint about what I'm serving for dinner or how slowly the laundry was delivered."

"They are sleeping together but we can't tell anyone because of the judgment we'll receive in our church."

These are real struggles, and we've lived long enough to get to a place where we now say, "Nothing - and I do mean nothing - shocks us anymore."

And then I open up my laptop and there appears Facebook. Ahhhh, Facebook. 

The same families - the one with the disrespectful and ungrateful young man, the one with the volatile marriage, the depressed mom, the teens having sex - those families are gushing about how beautiful and sweet life is within their four walls, as if they have found the key to everlasting domestic bliss. 

My eyes widen in disbelief. And that's my point: maybe your eyes should widen in disbelief, too, because maybe you are the mom, the dad, the adult child who is wondering why everyone else got such a cool, loving, supportive, excellent family and you got, well, something less. 

I'm not calling out the families who are posting their supposed family harmony. I understand the appropriateness of not airing dirty laundry, as it were, to the 1.35 billion people on that one social media platform. I also understand that sometimes, you just need to focus on what's going right.

But if your tendency is to think those families are doing it right and you are doing it wrong, here's what you need to know:

Everyone is doing it wrong. 

It would be wonderful and life-changing if everyone could feel safe enough to be transparent in every arena, but it's a fallen world and we don't. We don't feel like we're safe to talk about the real stuff around real people. Some of us have a few friends we trust to love us through our bad choices and mistakes, but many don't even have one. 

If that's you, remember this: no one has it all right, except Jesus. That's what makes the gospel such good news! We can't be perfect and we won't be perfect while we're on earth, but God sees Jesus when He looks at us, and Jesus is perfectly perfect. 

#ForRealFriday reality check.