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Parenthood

Family, Life, Marriage, Parenthood, Reflections

The Father’s Love

Every morning when my children come down the stairs; my younger ones carrying a blanket or stuffed animal and my older ones searching for their first cup of coffee, I make an effort to stop what I am doing and reach out to them physically and emotionally. I embrace them. With this daily action, I look into their eyes and whether exhausted or busy, I stop and force my eyes to meet theirs. I call Christ forefront into this exchange and I feel the softening. My eyes crinkle just thinking of it and my lips lift into a smile. I speak truth and love into their hearts, every morning. I look for ways to do this throughout the day as well. I ask them how I can bless them. I go and sit upon a bed, ignoring the soda cans and popcorn bowl and listen. I swing on a hammock and listen about the colors of the rainbow within the horizon.  I sit upon a swing and let my body relax into the moment with a son who has a story to tell.  A ministry of presence is paramount in building relationships in my home. 

I look forward to my mornings. Rolling over and seeing my husband beside me, I am in awe of the blessing he is to us all. Sensing my presence, he will sleepily open an eye, reach out and roll me into his embrace. We murmur morning prayers of thanksgiving and start our day. This continues throughout the day as my husband works from home and our witness of connecting with each other manifests itself in how our children seek to engage with us and with each other. My children seek me out in the morning if I miss their entrance. This routine of connecting has become necessary and beloved. It has extended itself to our evenings as well and even while away, they call or text to connect; every night. Some mornings or bedtimes can seem like the never ending sign of peace in my home as hugs are given, small siblings snuggle into bigger sibling’s laps. Older siblings have established their rituals as well but they all seek an encounter with the other. 

I often think of the gaze of the father upon us. Our Father in Heaven who ever more so seeks to engage and connect with us. The image of the joy upon the father of the prodigal son from the book of Luke Chapter 15 comes to mind. I can see this father’s eyes light up upon seeing his son. I can feel his smile spread wide as he runs to greet his lost son. I can feel the gratitude within his soul, and I believe ever more so, this is the love the Lord has for us. With just the tilt of our head and heart we have the ability to reconnect to the father countless times a day and there He is ready to run; his face filled with joy that we have turned to Him. Sometimes I find myself on my knees where the physical act of lifting my head can seem too much. From that place, I lift my heart to my Father and he is there, engaged and ready to carry me. In other moments, I am watching something beautiful, whether it be a tender family moment or a sunrise that brings forth the day, and I lift my soul to Him in recognition of the gift of this moment and we connect.  

            In his book, Abba Father, Finding our way back to the Father’s Heart, by Neil and Mathew Lozano, we are reminded of the privilege of calling God, our Father. “When Jesus teaches us to address God, as Father, [in the Lord’s Prayer] He is inviting us into a relationship with the Father based on trust, confidence and the openness to ask.” Reflecting back on the prodigal son, it is exactly these virtues that the father has instilled in his relationship with the prodigal son that allow his son to come back. Our Lord has paid into these virtues with His relationship with us by his precious body and blood. Luke 11:9 tells us “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  We must have faith that Lord is actively waiting for us to call out and seek Him. 

            Jesus’s whole ministry here on Earth was a manual on how to build authentic relationships that call us back to The Father’s heart through a ministry of presence. It is easy to let the distractions and preoccupations of this world steal us from this necessity but scripture reminds us to “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel. – Joshua 24:23 The Lord is present for us in all the countless moments throughout our days and all we need to do is incline our hearts to Him; and he calms every storm, wipes every tear, and celebrates every little victory. As we actively invite Jesus into these moments, we see it all through His lenses. This rose colored view shows us we are not alone and regardless of the content of the situation in which we are seeking Him out, like the Father in Luke’s gospel, our Father’s eyes light up, they glisten and he runs to meet us. The embrace of the Father is unlike any other. 

Family, Life, Marriage, Parenthood, Reflections, Special Needs

The Land of If Only

The slippery slope of comparing our lives robs us of the beauty of the suffering moment.

I’m wishing upon a star tonight. Leaning on the edge of my deck looking into the bright country sky where God displays his artistry, I sense his presence. Perhaps it’s not a star I’m wishing on, but rather a door I’m knocking upon. I often do that in prayer. I visualize my encounter with God. Tonight I’m knocking. It’s an unexpected visit. I hadn’t intended to go out in the crisp night air and pray, but just as I suddenly break into conversation with my husband, I felt the need to just start conversing with my Lord. 

            Today has been a full day. Every person within this large family of mine has needed me in big and small ways. From drinks of water to close the door and can I talk to you serious conversations, the onslaught of need was intense today and all the while I felt as if I couldn’t keep up. 

As a mom of many and adding in the special needs of my family, life is very fast paced and fluid. We have physical, occupational, assistive technology and aqua therapy. We have speech and sensory challenges. We have counseling and durable medical equipment appointments. I am constantly checking skin breakdown and bones are brittle around here. I am Chief Operating Officer of Eberhard Inc. and it can be a daunting job indeed. When you add in the schoolwork, outside activities and our commitment to place our church activities first, one outburst or unplanned trip to Urgent Care has the potential to throw the day into a tailspin.

My younger son recently broke his arm and the turn around time to the car was less than 7 minutes. My kids know this drill and executed the plan flawlessly. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to wallow in the what ifs. It’s ever so much harder to accept what is and take the next step forward. A friend once referred to this danger zone of comparison as the Land Of If Only. If only I had a smaller family. If only I didn’t have kids with special needs. If only we had this or that. Comparison is the thief of joy says Teddy Roosevelt and I wholeheartedly agree. The slippery slope of comparing our lives to the lives of anyone else robs us of the beauty of the suffering moment. Some of my most powerful encounters with Jesus are in my suffering and surrendered moments, on my knees in my room by my crucifix or kneeling in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by our family altar. This is where Jesus heals me constantly. He heals my feelings of inadequacy. He heals my self doubt. He fills my heart with His grace like I fill my car with fuel.

            I am so gifted to know who I am and whose I am.  My creator and redeemer stand by my side with every breath and from that realization I draw my strength. God promises us enough manna for today;  and from that truth, we need to draw our strength and comfort. In our home, when momma looks overwhelmed and maybe a little teary-eyed; actually if anyone in our family feels this way, we call them moments. If you are overwhelmed, have lost your self-control, or made the wrong choice, it is just a moment; and our days are filled with moments; good and bad. Let our hearts be led by mercy; for others and for ourselves. 

            Traveling to the Land of If Only is not a mental vacation spot I advise.  Instead, I draw strength from the realization that as a mom of this incredible family of mine, God has revealed His plan for my path to heaven. I am sanctified in every “moment” by my “Yes Lord!” and my “More, Lord” (Both of which some of my children now call out loudly when things go a bit haywire.. I think they are a wee bit mocking me, but we plant seeds as parents right?) These are our fiats and the consistent reminder that by disciplining our minds and hearts to live in The Land That Is and see its transformative beauty, we can enter the gates of What Will Be with trusting hearts and the assurance of hearing the beautiful affirmation from Mathew 25:23 “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Parenthood, Reflections

This Mom is Strong

The hours tick slowly by as I knew they would. No one remembers this day as I do. How could they? It is mine to experience. I remember the protest outfit of sunglasses, a black skull cap, and his black clothes. He was nervous and done with having this be part of his life; this was his voice. It is an odd feeling helping someone prepare for something they do not want to go through; being both their strength and the one walking him back to the operating room. We had sat through countless surgeries. It was sadly an old routine for us.  10-12 hours: go get breakfast, pray a rosary, take a walk, try to read, check in with the other kids, get an update from the doctors, repeat… But this one was different. We kept getting called back in: sign for blood transfusion, (if necessary), need to do one more procedure (2x). It just felt different. The what if’s were palpable between my husband and me, yet we stayed trusting in the process and the knowledge that we have one of the best orthopedic surgeons for Gabe’s condition in the world. He has known Gabriel since he was 4 weeks old! Deep breath… We met Gabe in the ICU after the surgery. He was sleeping, medicine was being administered; finally, we were on to the next stage where we could be a part. I sent Ryan back to the Ronald McDonald House to get some sleep. I would take this night shift.

I’ve often wondered what he dreams of when he asleep for so long; when the pain is so strong that medicine is being tag teamed and the necessity of not falling behind is incredibly real. There is nothing quite like chasing pain. Time is not your friend. I remember sitting down in my chair next to his bed, next to the hum of the pumps and the intermittent vitals being taken. Restless, I got up. The nurse came in to give him medicine. As I stroked his soft curls, I heard a choking sound. The nurse turned her head and looked at Gabe, then at me. She began to call out his name. Stats began dropping on screens. Alarms went off. She yelled,  “Gabe! Gabe!” She began CPR as I held my son who had stopped breathing.  Nurses rushed in. Doctors came flying through the door just waking up from grabbing a few hours of sleep themselves. “Mom, you are going to need to step out,” said one of the nurses to me. The doctor looked up. We have a relationship he and I. I am Mom. He knows my face; this part of my story too well. “No. She can stay. This mom is strong,” he says.  So I stay. I stay as they call out my son’s name. I stay as they pump repeatedly across his chest. Carts come flying in. People. It’s a whirl of activity and I stay and hold my son. With no response from Gabe coming, they go to intubate. Now I am asked to step out. (all this takes so little time and yet I can replay it over in slow motion.)

The ICU is a fishbowl. All the rooms have glass doors. Our room is on the corner. It’s bigger.  I sat outside the open room on the floor. My Mary medallion hugged close to my chest. Gasping for breath, I called Ryan. Turn around, I cried. He’s not breathing. Ryan began his journey back to the hospital; not knowing if his son would be alive when he arrived. Such different experiences the two have… To this day I am not sure why I called the people I did in those moments. “Gabe has stopped breathing. Please pray.”  I remember calling my oldest son and our dearest friend who is Gabe’s Children’s Hospital nurse. She stayed with the kids at home in Columbus. How helpless she must have felt as I heaved and sobbed, reading stats only she understood, choking, gasping for breath and all the time wondering what was going on?

During the surgery, in one of our activities to pass the time, we sat in the parent waiting room. We met a new family whose child has arthrogryposis as well. We were relaxed and spoke about the many surgeries and recoveries with an easeful reassurance and experience. We looked at pictures of each other’s kids and smiled at all the stories. I remember myself slumped against the door frame of the ICU and this family whose child’s room was next to Gabe’s. I remember seeing them with tears streaming down their face. Would this be their plight as well? The fear and the reality of every family who walks the suffering path of a child is always there. It is an unseen yet always felt shadow upon our souls.

“What’s happening?” I remember asking as nurses rushed in and out. Praying, tears streaming down my face, wondering in shock truly, after everything he has been through, all the struggles, all his successes, this? THIS was how it was going to end? Incredulous, shock, frozen in time I sat. 

Strength is a word that is overused. It is one that, when referenced, one might visualize bulging muscles or a particular number one can carry. It’s funny how small trivial that definition is when one experiences physically the need for inner strength. “This mom is strong.” Or “ What a strong young man.”  Inner strength defines you in a way that forms your core.  When you tap into the reserves of inner strength, your body doesn’t ask why, how, or where. It holds strong to that which has shaped it over time. For us, for Gabe, that is a strong faith. The knowledge that everything has a purpose to form us into the best version of ourselves; and that journey, is overflowing with joy and wracked with pain. It must contain both for us to attain that fullness.  Pain and fear, not understood, produce anxiety and unnecessary worry.  Acknowledged, they can be released and hope and trust step in. Hope and faith are where strength pulls from. We have faith and hope in what is to come.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. Romans: 8: 38-398

“He’s got air!” were the words that shook me out of my surreal moment of shock. Voices changed. There was clapping. A nurse stuck her head out and said, “Mom, He’s gonna be alright.”  I still weep as I mentally walk through it all; how I slept with the lights on for weeks next to his bed, how every surgery now became different. Procedures were no longer procedures. An event like this changed you, your child, and the hospital’s routine ease with which they handle cases like Gabe’s.  I stop cold when I hear a code blue called over the intercom in the hospital. I stop because it transports me. I visualize that child’s momma. I feel her mental and physical gasp and I whisper a silent prayer to her heart. “Be strong momma. Know from whom and where your strength comes.”

Tonight and tomorrow, Gabe is on stage. Three of my amazing kids are. They have been working together for months on these productions.  I am so proud of them. I have seen them reach within themselves rehearsal after rehearsal when fatigue sets in with the demands of schoolwork and other commitments. These are virtues honed over time and Gabe is no stranger to self-discipline.  These next two days on stage, Gabe will make people laugh. He will inspire people with his joy. They will not know that one year ago, his time here was so near to an end. But I will. I will remember and appreciate every laugh, every tear, every breath for I know where true strength comes from.