Friday, November 16, 2012
Yesterday we celebrated Dad's 68th birthday, and I woke up feeling a little emotional about it. I am so thankful for my dad, for the years I grew up in a fun, loving, fun-loving, awesome home filled with not only my own seven siblings, but pretty much the neighborhood as well. My mom and dad went out of their way to make sure everyone felt loved and welcomed in our home.
I feel like we have been given a second chance with my dad because six (or maybe it's even seven) years ago, my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was told years later that had he not responded so well to the chemo, he wouldn't have had many weeks to live. Thankfully, God answered the many prayers we all had for my dad's response to those meds and for his recovery. There are many prayer warriors out there who we don't even know by name, but who were praying for my dad. Thank you!
I realized yesterday that the relationship my daughters have with their grandpop is nothing short of AMAZING! Their grandpop is amazing, and the things he stops his world for revolve around his family. What's awesome is that in the last six years, our family has literally doubled in size. Four of the eight siblings have gotten married, and there have been four more grandchildren added with a fifth on the way. Literally...exactly double the numbers before Dad's diagnosis. What I marvel at is how even though there are double the people, the love factor is exponential...and infinite.
Thank you, Dad, for teaching your children and grandchildren the power of loving your family well. Happy Birthday!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
While this is true, I have seen amazing things from Lauren because of her unique responsibilities and the gifts God's given her. Not only is she a gifted scholar, a terrific athlete, and compassionate young lady, she is also Taylor's best friend and advocate. While these girls are sisters to the core (including arguing and pestering one another), there have been some shining moments in their bond.
Lauren just started middle school, and the campus shares a lot with the girls' elementary school. These schools are 1/2 mile from home, and we've come to where the girls are wanting to walk home from school each day. (The backpacks and Taylor's slower pace have made the walk a little more arduous than you think.) Mike's been amazing to pick the girls up after school every day I am working, but we thought we should have a back-up plan in case he can't be there on time. Mike was thinking about the girls walking home alone. (There are many other kids we know walking the same route, so technically they're not really alone.) Me, being the overprotective mom wasn't so sure. I especially wasn't so sure because I didn't want Lauren feeling awkward about starting middle school and having to walk Taylor home...drawing attention to them. (Lauren would rather hide than seek attention from her peers.)
So, we asked Lauren if she'd be comfortable walking Taylor home. Her reply was so revealing. I was expecting the typical pre-teen answer, "Mom, I don't really want people looking at us." Her answer was priceless. "Sure Mom, but who will watch Taylor til I can pick her up? She gets out a lot earlier." No worries about herself or others, just the one she loves and does worry about...her sister. I learned so much from Lauren in that brief exchange.
Thank you Lauren for teaching Mom not to worry so much about what others think. I love you.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
When I look back on our earliest days and months...really years...with Taylor, it was all I could do some mornings to get up and face the day. Now, I can look back and see God's hand on us and look forward to an incredibly bright future while Taylor still lives in physical darkness. I can see people we've met, challenges we've triumphantly overcome, victories that are so much sweeter because the hurdles seemed insurmountable at the time, lessons I've learned only because of these circumstances, and a strength in my girls they've had to draw on from God Himself. Not always understanding the Why, but learning to see things from a bigger perspective has given each step a little more spring all the time. Thank you for a Wider-angled lens, Lord!
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
1 Samuel 16:6-8
I realize this verse is talking about our own hearts and what they are like, but I am reminded of others too when I think of this verse. I realize so often that people look just fine on the outside, but we rarely know what hurts or celebrations they're having because we don't often take the time to really find out. It reminds me of a funny (well, now it's funny...at the time a little shocking and embarrassing!) story that happened a couple of years ago. (Taylor reminded me of this story when we were at John's last week. She loves to recall it and the absolute shock she produced for all parties involved!)
We were at John Kennedy's getting a pair of Taylor's eyes made...back in the days that we could get a new set in one full day. Taylor and I would have to pass the hours of time it would take for John to complete the eyes, so we had fun shopping, eating, having coffee...you know all the girlie things Moms and Daughters love to do together. There was just one problem. Taylor didn't have her prosthetic eyes in, so we would keep sunglasses on her at all times. From the outside, no one would really know what was going on behind the glasses. It honestly was a great coverup.
I was in the midst of ordering our Starbuck's concoctions with the very sweet, young, jovial gal when I hear Taylor say, "Can I show you something?" The woman's reply was cut short, and her smile turned to full-blown open mouth silence. I didn't even have to look down to see what was going on. I knew Taylor had taken off her sunglasses to show this lady what her open eye sockets looked like. I can't say I've been around too many people (OK, ANYone) who's had the same experience. I felt so awkward, embarrassed, shocked, and then nearly hysterical in laughter within a matter of seconds. It totally hit me that only Taylor could pull something like this off without missing a beat. She was truly proud of herself.
I wish I could say I recovered quickly or that the young woman recovered at all. I often wonder how she retold that story to people over time. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in her house that night!
What I thought though was that we never know what's behind the outward appearance...and oh, how often I judge by the outside looks, smiles, clothes, everything! I also got to thinking about my coverups. What do I try to hide behind? It's not too often we get Taylors in our lives who will just let it out without being asked and not caring what the response in return will be. I have no idea what is REALLY going on with someone unless I ask and take the time to listen. I want to be an asker, a listener, and be ready to hear and see the raw truth...the good and the bad.
Every couple of years Taylor needs new prosthetic eyes. It used to be a heinous process of crying til she'd pass out, as I've said in the past. Now it's just a day out of our schedule and we walk out with a shiny new pair of blue eyes. Well, it's been that easy until this set of eyes. So far (and we're still going) we've made 5 visits to John to get this set just right. They aren't quite there yet. It's quite a job to get the pupils straight forward, the color matched perfectly, and the shapes to stay in place. We've finally got one eye just right, but the other keeps moving upward so Taylor gets really frustrated knowing they don't feel right. (At the moment, Taylor has one new eye in and one old one. It's pretty funny looking at her with mismatched eyes when John works so hard to get them to be exactly the same.)
This process of getting things perfectly lined up reminds me of how we are always in a refining process with the Lord. To the outside world, we may look just right, but we really know what's beyond the outward appearance and in our own hearts. Often times, I realize that is where and why I need the Lord every day. I may seem like everything is just fine, but there are struggles that rage within all the time. I am so thankful I can be honest with myself and ask God for strength to change those things so that I can be the REAL person He wants me to be and that I want to be.
There is a song called "Refiner's Fire." It says, "My heart's one desire is to be holy...set apart for you Lord. I want to be set apart and refined until that final day when I reflect the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
The highlight came when they were just about to finish their repertoire of songs with "By Your Side," by Tenth Avenue North. Taylor held Miss Tina's hand and led her from her chair to her microphone. Taylor proudly announced, "Hey, it's the blind leading the blind!" We all hesitated for about 1/4 of a second while Tina and Taylor giggled which gave the rest of us the OK to laugh alongside them. It was so precious to see the natural bond between these two. Their bond has formed quickly, and I have had the privilege of learning from Tina (an independent 50-something-year-old woman) what some of Taylor's successes and challenges as an independent blind woman may be in the future.
Yesterday was a spectacular event indeed. Taylor participated in CaneQuest, a competition in which blind students show off their cane traveling skills. For the younger kiddos, they got to be the guide for some of these challenges. That meant I was blindfolded while Taylor led me for a change! What a learning experience for me! Last year, I participated in a blindfolded walk which was a life-changer for me indeed. This walk was another of those. I had joked around for the last few weeks knowing I'd be blindfolded and asked Taylor's mobility teacher, "Andy, should I wear a helmet? mouthguard? knee, elbow, or shin pads?" Taylor and I also joked each time I did something to upset her or accidentally bump her into an object. "Taylor, please don't use this against me on our CaneQuest," I would beg.
The challenge came. Taylor proudly took my hand and placed it on her elbow (proper guide technique). I squeezed pretty tightly as I held on to my 9-year-old blind daughter for dear life! (I felt a little better knowing there were lots of people watching to be sure we wouldn't run into too many obstacles or smash my head into something. (Notice, I wasn't even concerned about Taylor...great mom, huh? just kidding...I knew she'd be fine...) Anyway, what I noticed right away was how I dropped my head when the darkness came with the blindfold, how confident Taylor was, how I didn't care about all the other people but had to trust in my precious little girl, and how gentle she was with me.
Of course, I thought about Tina and Taylor...blind leading the blind. I knew my blindness was temporary and theirs their lifetime. I knew my head dropped immediately and thought about how much confidence I lost the second I couldn't see. It made me think of my confidence in the Lord My God! Each time I walk in His Light, I hold my head a little higher. When I find myself in those dark times, I lose confidence and my head is definitely a bit lowered. That's when I can look at His Words and find immense promises that slowly but surely lift my head. I also think about when my head is lifted toward the heavens, day or night, that is where God-given light is for us. He leads us daily by the light of the sun and the light of the stars. He is there, we just have to lift our heads.
Taylor, thank you for showing me how important it is to lift my head, trust in my Guide, and walk one step at a time in the Light.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Clay has always been one very special young man. He has lived with severe OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) his entire life. It’s taken a huge toll on the whole family and has shaped much of who Clay is. He’s an incredibly talented artist whose work displays an insider view of OCD and its effects on many aspects of his life. Aunt Kathy and I have bonded over these last nine years over what it’s like to have a child with life circumstances that didn’t quite meet our expectations, over the grief of watching your child suffer, over the triumphs our children have claimed, and the victories they’ve gained.
Two years ago, Clay was diagnosed with a form of colon cancer. To know Clay and to see how he’s battled this disease has been grueling, heart-breaking, and inspiring. He’s endured treatments, surgeries, and procedures that no one would imagine he’d be up for. He’s faced each one with determination and courage. He’s battled and triumphed over fear and has risen above each time. He’s not gotten encouraging news from the doctors, but that has not stopped him from going through painful steps to keep this disease at bay.
As I’ve watched Aunt Kathy and Clay these last 2 years, I have thought through so many things. Obviously, I am in awe of a mother caring for her son and a young man whose courage to overcome has overcome me with emotion. I may never understand why there is so much pain some people have to endure or why certain people seem to be hit so hard in this life. I won’t pretend to have answers though I do believe in a bigger plan I may not understand this side of heaven. I am thankful for relentlessly pursuing the hope of a perfect place in heaven where none of these dark days exist and none of these diseases endure.
Watching Clay’s battle has reminded me that Jesus came to earth knowing what He would endure. He knew the pain He would face when He walked the earth, yet He chose to go through it for us. Watching Aunt Kathy with Clay reminds me of Mary who watched her Son be spit upon, tortured, and crucified. I will always say if there were any other way to get to heaven, why would God have sent His one and only Son to go through this? Even Jesus asked for the cup to be spared from Him, yet not His will but His Father’s will be done. I am so grateful for the time I spent with my Florida family and for the constant reminders that the pain of this world is but a vapor compared with the perfection that awaits in heaven.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
On Valentine's Day-Night, about 7:45, we had a blackout. Apparently, a mylar balloon got stuck somewhere that blew a transformer. The girls were at church until we headed home into the eerie darkness at 8:15. We had been warned by friends from church, and the entire way home, I had some pretty scared kids. "Mom, I don't want it to be dark," from Lauren, and Taylor said, "I know I can't see the difference, but I'm pretty freaked out." We had a great opportunity to talk about all we take for granted with the electricity and prayed for those who don't have warm covers, a home, a radio to listen to at night, and lots of other luxuries that come with paid electric bills. We also thought about the hundreds of businesses that were losing tons of cash on the biggest restaurant night of the year.
We got home, and Mike had already lit the candles, set out flashlights, and started to think about when the lights would come on. We were getting texts from other people in the area who were more up-to-speed than we were. The girls were starting to adjust to the "fun" of using flashlights and candles when it was time to head up to bed. Lauren is already scared of the dark, so this just added fuel to her scare factor.
All of a sudden, Taylor blurts out, "Hey, I can lead you around the house everyone. Just follow me!" She bolted up the stairs and started clapping for us to hear and follow her. (She had no idea we were using our flashlights, but I am so thankful I could see the pride radiate from her face!) It was awesome to see her take charge and use her skills to lead us for a change. I was one proud Mom!
Then I started thinking. We take light for granted, of course we do. I also take for granted being able to read my Bible. It truly is a "lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." What happens if I ever lose that chance? I can hide those truths in my heart and learn and love and use them if I read and memorize them. I love reading the promises and truths (even the tough ones) and know that whenever I need a lift, an answer, an encouraging word, I can find it there from God Himself. I love that God's Word provides the true light for my path always.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I love that God loves me! I love that there are so many mentions of love in the Bible. I love that His love is unconditional. I love that God loves me no matter what. I love seeing others love each other well. I love seeing Lauren and Taylor's love for each other grow and change over the years.
Last week Lauren had a rough day. It was just one of those afternoons where things weren't quite going her way, and it was topped off when she found out Taylor got a part in the church musical, and she didn't. It's rare, but the public showing of tears came. Lauren just couldn't help it, and other people saw her crying...and noticed something was amiss. They just didn't know what had happened.
Lauren is so AMAZING! She is amazing on her own, and the way she handles her life as Taylor's sister is as big a part of Taylor's story as Taylor's own successes. Later that night after I explained to Lauren that there was a part in that play written for her and Taylor (though Lauren can't be in it because of her spring softball schedule), it was a little easier to handle. Just knowing she was recognized meant the world to her.
The most amazing part of the evening came later that night as we were all saying prayers together. First of all, Lauren asked if she and Taylor could have a sleepover together (which we usually just let them do on the weekends) and then she prayed. She thanked the Lord for Taylor and for Taylor getting a special part in the play. She explained to the Lord that eventhough she wanted to be in it too, she knew she couldn't and was happy for her sister. She showed me that night the power of love over selfish desires. She reinforced to me God's love for us.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Sunday, February 5, 2012
'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' Jesus said, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.' " John 9:1-3
I've read this passage of scripture many times and am always thrilled that Jesus points out the man's blindness is not caused by anyone's sins and is for God's work displayed through the man. The passage goes on to show Jesus spitting on the ground, creating a mud paste with his saliva, and putting it on the man's eyes. The man goes to the Pool of Siloam, washes, and can see. No one can believe it, and the man has to tell people over and over he is truly the blind man who can now see. (I always love hearing and imagining the passion in this man's voice as he continually says he is the man throughout the religious leaders' arguments about Jesus healing him. He finally says, " 'Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!'
26 Then they asked him, 'What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?'
27 He answered, 'I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?' " I laugh imagining this man's frustations telling the same amazing story over and over since I can only imagine his unbelievable excitement over being able to see for the first time in his life!)
Well, as I read it recently, I realized this man was born blind for this exact moment in time. His birth was for this moment to be recorded for all to know and "that the work of God might be displayed in his life." Those words kept echoing over and over. I think of the pain the parents went through as he was born, throughout his years, and the glory of God displayed this very moment...all planned by God for God.
I am so thankful for all that we see displayed through Lauren and Taylor. I am so thankful for all the lessons I've learned being Mom to both these girls. I am also so thankful for God's Word and for the lessons I learn through it each day. I am blown away as I realize this man was born blind as part of God's plan that on that appointed day, the work of Jesus was displayed through him. I love that I can read this story and know that his story reaches generations over thousands of years and God's glory is still displayed through him. May God be glorified through my life!
Thursday, February 2, 2012
This past weekend was nothing short of AMAZING! I am one proud mama of 2 girls. Lauren had her first softball scrimmage and took a leadership role on the field. We see it everyday as she proudly looks after and walks side-by-side with Taylor, but it was special to see it on the field.
Taylor had her first jiu-jitsu fight. That's right...a real, live grappling fight in a huge tournament. To use the word AWESOME is an understatement. Inspiring, gutsy, courageous, deteremined, WINNER, CHAMPION! I cannot really put into words the right terms for what happened on the mat and in my heart Sunday morning.
Taylor's been training for about seven months. I thank (OK, blame) my dear friend Parisa for getting us into this sport. She's the one who took our teacher, Bill, up on his offer of training blind children for free. You see, he's blind as well and is a black belt in the sport. None of his students are visually impaired, and he wanted to give back to the blind community, as well as teach his students what is was like to train with the visually impaired. It's been a part-time job and one for which I am thankful. Taylor will be able to protect herself that day she's on a bus or walking the streets independently.
So Sunday was her first tournament. Not too many people realized she was blind since there were 3 blind people in the entire gym! (Taylor, her buddy Brennan, and Coach Bill) It was a full house with hundreds of kids signed up to fight in different divisions. She, well really all of us, were so nervous. Taylor's first fight was tough to say the least! She lost 24-0, but I have never been so proud of her in my entire life. She got up from the mat, smiled as her hand was lowered signifying she lost the fight, but inside she knew she was a true champion! This girl has more guts than I ever would have. Her sister has supported her throughout the long practices, the tears and fears each day driving to class, and the victory of finishing.
I learned something huge Sunday...first place, last place, who cares...just finish! I want to fight on here. I watched Taylor and later thought of all the family and friends we know who are fighting for their lives...literally. I thought of all of us fighting against our fears, fighting the spiritual battles that rage, fighting determined to finish strong. I am still in awe of what I learn and how God teaches me all the time.
Here's a video link my talented sister Sarah put together so you can see for yourself.