When I started blogging I did so for basically two reasons. I needed to journal and yet knew I would only do so if there were some form of accountability and I had read enough blogs that blessed me that I wanted to be that kind of blessing to others. One of the benefits of blogging that I did not expect to get was friends. As all of you know, before a person begins blogging, there is absolutely no understanding of the sense of community we have in the blogging world. On days that I feel so completely alone, I find encouragement here. So, in honor of that and because I cleaned out a closet and found this perfectly good, never taken out of the box, picture frame I thought I would host my first giveaway. The terms are simple, leave a comment. I will close it down 9:00 pm on Wednesday and announce the winner then.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY! What am I thankful for today? First, I am thankful that this has been a weekly habit for me for the last six months. It has changed the way I think on a daily basis.
I am thankful for the ability to read. I have recently read Fearless, am currently reading Promises from God for Single Women, and of course the Bible. I am thankful for the encouragement that comes from reading books like this.
I am thankful for my home. I know that seems like such a simple, automatic thing, but if you have ever been without one, feared losing yours, or lived in a substandard home you know it is not automatic. In that same vein, I am thankful for food in abundance at our home. I am thankful for the opportunity to buy things for the local food pantry.
I am thankful for health. Even though Butterfly still has issues from her TBI, that is really the only thing we are dealing with this year. Another thing you will not understand unless you have been there; this is a relief. Her TBI is not life threatening or life ending. Yes, it is life altering. But we all have life.
I am thankful for friends. Julie was able to come visit a few weeks ago and we have been able to talk on the phone since, plus I am looking forward to seeing her if only for a few minutes on Sunday. Autumn was able to come visit a few weeks before that. I am hoping to see her in February, though I haven't cleared that with her yet. I am thankful for the promise that I will get to go to GA to see a few more special people in January.
I am thankful for God's provision. A few weeks ago when the car broke down, it took every penny we had to live on for the rest of the month to fix it. I asked God for provision and then I asked my church. The church was able to help, but there was still a very uncomfortable tightness to the finances (read the power bill still not paid). Then, someone I had not asked for help provided the rest of the need on Sunday. That is God's provision.
I am thankful for my girls. I am thankful for the opportunity to spend every day with them. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach them and mold them. I am thankful for the things that they teach me and the joys they bring into my life.
I am thankful for God's mercy and forgiveness. I am thankful that He is who He says He is.
A bloggy friend, Carol, made the girls these beautiful quilts and sent them to us this past week. They are lightweight and yet toasty warm. The other night while we were watching the movie mentioned below, I said that I was freezing and asked FigNewTon if she was. She said, "No. I have this toasty warm quilt." I sat there with my mouth agape for a few minutes and then when she got up, I exchanged my blanket for her quilt. I was reluctant to give it back at the end of the evening. Carol makes quilts for something she calls Quilts for the North. It is a wonderful ministry. Stop by her blog. Pray for her and her ministry. She is truly a blessing to me.
We are watching Little House on the Prairie, the movie, as a family. We checked it out of the library. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of watching it because it does not have the familiar characters from the television show. I was surprised at how good it is. It is about a six hour movie so we are watching it in segments. Anyway, last night we saw the part about the Christmas where Mr. Edwards brought a cup and a candy for the girls. Butterfly commented on the difference between that and what the typical American child receives and expects for Christmas. She said that we, as a nation, are greedy. I am not sure I would have put it in those words, but I understand her perspective. The movie also helped her to understand a lesson I have been trying her whole life to teach, that happiness is not gained or lost by the things you do and don't have, but by your perspective. We can have much and feel like we have little or we can have little and feel like we have much. It is all about perspective.
I am broken. I have been thinking that this is not a good place to be and that I definitely should not blog about being here. But sometime today I realized that this is EXACTLY where I need to be. I do not like what got me here or what is keeping me here. The situation is not one I would choose, nor would I wish it upon any person, no matter how much I dislike them. The long-term illness of FigNewTon, the things going on with Butterfly, the demons from my childhood that have come back to haunt me, the pressures of being poor long before this economy turned south, the loneliness that comes of not having family, the ache that comes of missing people I love dearly. Any one of these could break a person. Maybe there are drawbacks to being strong, stubborn, determined to be OK. The combination is such that some days I do not think I can stand. But the result is fabulous. I am broken. And when I am broken, I cling more tightly to the One who can heal me, the One who can put me back together again. So, for today, this moment, I am thanking God that I am broken.
FigNewTon is on the right, Butterfly is on the left. This is the only picture we got that day that my girls are smiling. Butterfly had stubbed her toe and we were all tired from the drive to GA. My girls were just not sure they wanted to smile, but trust Stephanie to get a smile out of them, if anyone could.
I don't do book reviews, mostly because I don't usually read them when other people do. And this really isn't a book review as much as it is thoughts stirred by a book. But in order for you to understand my ramblings, you will need to understand the setting of the book.
Uprising was set in NYC in the early 1900's, at the time leading up to the shirtwaist factory fire. There were actually several fires, but one is famous. One changed the way America did business, mostly for the good.
So, the book got me thinking seriously. I read it a month or so ago and it is still affecting my thoughts. Ideally, I would like to change the way I shop, but I cannot figure out how. I like the idea of buying local for a myriad of reasons, but nothing that went to the core of my being until now. So, until now it did not bother me that I often cannot buy local products from local people where I can know the history of the people and the products.
Most things I buy used. For those things, I really don't put much thought into it. Someone else has already paid to support the manufacturer, regardless of the way it was produced. By purchasing used, I am helping people in my community who would not normally be able to secure work because of a handicap to work at a decent wage. So, I would not change that even if I had more money at my disposal.
Some things are gifts. That absolves me of the need to know where and how the product was produced. I am not going to refuse a gift because I do not like the manufacturer or the fact that the manufacturer avoids the fair labor laws we have in place in this country by producing it in another country. That would be imposing my convictions on another and would be downright rude and hurtful.
So that leaves the few things that I buy new. Things like toilet paper and socks, detergent and shampoo, food and light bulbs, etc. I cannot live without these things and yet I cannot afford to buy them locally. That is my quandary. I do not want to support the corporations that exploit their workers. Yet, I do not have the finances to do any different.
Is this a subject you have thought much on? What do you do? What would you do in my shoes?
I am thankful that the car is fixed. It was a simple fix that did not require any more money.
I am thankful to have the computer turned back on. I did not realize how much we had come to rely on it thorughout the course of each school day.
I am thankful for morning walks.
I am thankful for mail and anticipation of mail to come. :)
I am thankful for friends to visit. I am thankful for special foods. I enjoyed our visit, J.
I am thankful for friends that call to check on me or just to say hi.
I am thankful for several new toys that make my life easier and more fun. I have had them for several weeks, but was too sick to enjoy them until this past week. Specifically, I am thankful for a food processor and paper shredder. I have never had either before. Thanks again, A.
I am thankful for Thanksgiving and the automatic opportunity to rest and just be home, the three of us. Sometimes, not having extended family is a huge blessing.
I am thankful for memories of fun times shared with my family that carry me through the hard times with them.
I am thankful for life lessons that help me be the person I am today.
I am thankful for hope. I am almost too tired to believe that what I am hoping for will come and yet God somehow keeps the hope alive within me.
Most of all, I am thankful for the grace of God extended to an underserving person like me. Without Him, I don't know where I would be.
I will not have access to my computer for the next week. So, I will get behind on the blogs I have just caught up reading, I won't catch up on the last few, and I won't post anything at all. My car is broke down and I am plugging the battery into my only polarized outlet from now until Saturday. That means the computer must be unplugged. I will miss you guys. :)
This was her Kindergarten picture. She was adamant that she wanted hair like Pippi Longstocking. I tried to talk her out of it, but eventually gave in because it was her hair and it was a perfect representation of how she greeted each day. She loved books and lived life with a happy outlook. She was determined and independent. Not much has changed, except the hair. Now she wears it a bit more conventional. :)
Her button says "waiting for a miracle." When we made the button, we were waiting. Now we are in the middle of that miracle just waiting for completion. Some miracles take time.
Before this day, Butterfly was functioning like an 8 1/2 year old. The doctors expected her to stay that way. In fact, the one doctor who had held out hope the longest told me that morning to expect her to continue functioning as she currently was. Then he went over the reality of what that meant for her lifetime. I listened, because if he was right, I would need the information, but inside I knew he was wrong. So, I walked out of that office placing complete trust in God, Who had seen me through countless trials and had already healed my other child. That afternoon, Butterfly remembered a year and a half in one moment.
For the next month, we learned to function at that level. I chose new curriculum for her to learn and mostly let her sleep schedule dictate our schedule. And then, on Halloween, she remembered another three years. This brought her up to shortly after her 13th birthday. In so many ways, she appeared to be a normal teenager.
Then last weekend, I let her go to youth convention with our church. It was a really rough weekend on her. She couldn't handle the level of noise or the flashing lights, so she and I spent most of each service in the hallway or leaders lounge. She fell asleep involuntarily while sitting in bright and loud locations. She had a huge outburst on Sunday which was mostly impulse control issues. This is not bad choices on her part, though some of my reaction was. This is her not having the ability to think through an action and rather just acting on impulse. She took two naps on Sunday, totaling 5 hours.
On Wednesday, we were talking about evolution and she asked how that was like the big bang theory and then her face lit up because she realized she was remembering 7th grade. So, as of this moment, she is functioning with the intelligence level of a 14 year old and has all of her memories. The last two years are foggy, as she puts it.
I know to most of you that would sound like she is healed. There are still many obstacles to overcome. She sleeps 16 hours a day. That is 14 hours at night and a 2 hour nap. If her schedule is interrupted, we can expect more episodes like this past weekend. She still has unbearable headaches and extreme dizziness as part of her everyday life. She still cannot control her impulses. Usually, I settle for controlling her environment to limit undesirable impulses. These last hurdles are the hardest. Typically with TBI, these are the symptoms that become permanent. But I know that God has called her to reach the people of northern Africa when she is older. She cannot do that if she is not functioning at 100%. Therefore, I know that God will continue what He has started and heal her brain. So, for now, we are in the midst of a miracle. What a wonderful place to be!
Through FigNewTon's illness, through Butterfly's TBI, through my singleness, through all of the ups and downs that have comprised my life to this point, I was able to face this morning with constant assurance that this did not take God by surprise. It did me. But it did not Him. It really doesn't matter what "it" is this time. There are several "its" in a lifetime.
This one today caught me completely off guard, yet, as I went for my morning walk, I had the constant refrain in my brain that it did not catch Him by surprise. And then I stopped in my tracks and contemplated that for a moment finally settling on a prayer that went something like this.
God, I know this did not catch You by surprise. I know You knew this was coming all along. I didn't and I am not sure how to handle this. But I know You can handle it. So I trust You.
And then I started walking again, basking in the peace that comes of knowing God can handle whatever life throws my way.
Disclaimer, mostly for Autumn, because she walked with me through FigNewTon's illness and was here when Butterfly first got her TBI: it's not as bad as all that, just a simple every day thing that was more than I can handle on my own.
The first Saturday of the month, we went on a homeschool field trip to historic Fort Atkinson. It was chilly, but fun. This is a picture of the girls that went.
The girls joined Girl Scouts again. This was taken at a spaghetti feed that the GS helped serve the meal. We had a blast. FigNewTon was taking a break and watching the soda bubbles fizzle at the top of her drink. Too funny!
I love the first snow fall of the season. The second Saturday, we were greeted with this. It was gone by evening and we have not seen a glimmer of snow since.
That next week, my friend Autumn surprised me with a visit. We had such fun while she was here. And we went to the zoo, which is always a good day.
After her visit, we had a lot of down time at home. Lots of games, movies, reading nights, and pizza. The type of memories that fill the every day, but never seem to warrant a picture.
On Halloween, FigNewTon went ice skating with a friend before we headed out as a family.
I am tired. I am hurting. More than just having been sick, although I know that is a lot of it.
My child has a brain injury. And no one, truly no one, understands when I must treat her like a four year old and take her by the hand to remove her from a situation because she is not handling it well. I don't even understand. I just do it. No one understands when she falls asleep just sitting there in a church service. They think I should wake her up, that I am enabling a behavior that should be changed, that I am coddling her. But it cannot be controlled. She tries oh so hard to stay awake because she really wants to be there. And usually she can. But if she is off schedule or if she has recently made progress, she can't. She requires more sleep when her brain is actively healing. No one understands that I cannot participate in events because she needs a babysitter. It is not that I do not trust her, and want her to be supervised. It is that she is incapable of doing it herself. And that the risk is too great that something would go wrong. She needs a babysitter. And since no one gets this, I participate in nothing that she also cannot participate in. No one understands that she can't participate in youth events if I am not present. I have been told that I am isolating her from the other teens. Oh, if that were only the case. I would back off. This, of course comes from parents who are not in the room and have not seen these teens isolate my child. She is isolated because she is different. No one understands that I cannot work because she needs constant care and yet I cannot get her care because she is too old. Everything is a risk. Her schedule must be constant, her environment secure. And she is not my only concern.
I have another child who needs me desperately. And though I am with her all day every day, she seldom gets my focus. No matter how hard I try, the energy is spent elsewhere. I remind myself that this is opposite of what it was when she was sick. But I still don't like it. She has dreams of going to the Olympics. And she is talented enough that if she had the opportunity, she might actually make it. But she probably won’t because I cannot fund her dream and she can only get so far on what I can pay for. She wants to participate in youth events without her mother present. I get that. Yet she understands that I have to be there. And she misses out on so many things because her sister cannot participate and I cannot be pulled in so many directions at once. There is only one of me. No family. I am alone in this. And I feel it acutely.
I want desperately to go to GA and see people I love. I want to see the people who are the closest thing to family I have ever had. But it is just not possible right now. I cannot even comfort myself with promises of next summer because it seems so far away and in reality, it may not happen even then, and if it does, it might not be the same. There is a risk that she will be gone, just like he is gone. And then there is all the stuff that I do not put here. All of the ancient history that threatens to swallow me. There is the stuff that I write about elsewhere, but talk about to no one because it has no place in polite conversation.
Oops! I am truly feeling a bit better. Not quite like running marathons, but good enough to begin walking again. :) This past weekend, we had youth convention, and there are lots of memories to share. Hopefully, one or both of my girls will do a post about the convention in a few days. But they may not until I can get the camera working again. It won't downlaod most of the pictures taken. On to this weekend's snapshot into our lives...
This one is framed and on my wall. It always makes me smile.
I am still too sick to really be back to my life and viewing the bigger picture. As I type this, I am so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open and I slept all night. So, I could start there. I am thankful for sleep, which is often elusive, but hasn't been for the past two days.I am constantly aware of real and imagined obligations which I am not fulfilling. Like my monthly post, Memory Making Moments. I really WANT to get that done, as well as the one I do monthly on our homeschool blog. I am not reading other blogs. I am not serving at church. The girls are being schooled abbreviated days. I just don't have the energy. For anything. So, I am thankful for the grace God and people extend when I cannot live up to my end of the bargain.Butterfly has been difficult. This, I know is a result of her TBI. Short of a miracle, she will always have impulse and judgement control problems. She will just have to learn to manage her behavior anyway. And usually she does quite well. When she doesn't, usually I can redirect her easily. These past few days have been a struggle, though. I am thankful that I have gained understanding about her injury. It makes dealing with it on a daily basis easier. I am thankful for the progress she is making. I am thankful for the good days that are more frequent than the bad days. My mind is swirling in circles from the exhaustion, so I guess that is all I can post for now. May God bless each of you in unexpected ways today.
On Saturday, while we were at a fall festival, Butterfly saw a friend from school. Or rather, the friend saw Butterfly and came up to say hello. Butterfly was polite and said hello. When the girl walked away, Butterfly asked me who she was. I told her that they had gone to school together but that I did not know her name. About an hour later, as we were preparing to leave the festival, Butterfly saw the girl again and said, "That's ******! Her brother's name is *******. He was in my class. My teacher's name was Mrs. *****." She was remembering 6th grade. That was a gain of approximately 3 years. She is now only 15 months behind! Praise God!
I do not have pictures of the girls in costume on Saturday because the camera is malfunctioning again. Check back later to see if I have gotten the pictures. :)
Today, on her blog, Autumn asks many questions about perfection. I started to answer in her comment section, but then my answer became long enough to be a post, so I brought it here. I encourage you to go back to her blog and check out her original post, as well as the blogs she references. Mine will make more sense when you know what questions I am answering. Most of her questions I do not answer here, although we did have a nice chat on the phone, so hopefully that makes up for any inadequacies in my answer. :)
Inside somewhere, I still think perfection is a process and one day I will get there. I know this is not true, and yet I still strive for that same goal, just on a different timetable than before. I used to strive to be perfect every day in every way. Now I just view imperfections as something that I can learn to do right on another day, when I have learned and grown more.
I have learned different doesn't mean imperfect. Someone can do a task different from me and so long as the end goal is met, it is just different, not wrong. When I was younger, I would have called it wrong.
I have learned that imperfect doesn't mean stupid.
I have learned that perfection is unattainable.
I have also learned that outer organization minimizes inner turmoil and inner calm reduces chaos in my life, so I still strive to have an orderly and organized life.
I have learned that "No" is an acceptable word to use, though I would do good to use it more often with certain people than I do.
I have learned that God's grace covers all of my imperfections and that everything that I think is perfect is still worthless. His standard is the only standard that matters and there is nothing I can do to live up to that standard without the blood of Christ. That one thought has freed me from attempting perfection. The reminder that His mercies are new every moment increases that freedom. I know the scripture says every morning, but I like to say every moment, because that is about as often as I need to rely on His limitless mercy.