Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dear Sarah...

Just a quick note...

Because that's all you have time for as you stay home alone with your two young boys as your husband travels again...

You are doing a good job at being your sons' mama. I don't say this generically. I mean it. You are showing up. You are loving beyond your capacity to give of yourself. You are trying and giving it all you have... And trusting that Jesus will provide the rest that is needed to raise small humans into big humans. 

In this task that's far beyond us you will sometimes need to reevaluate and try again... but you will ALWAYS need to trust more! 

Believe that God has and is creating you to be the mother He chose for your sons. 

Choose faith that God is shaping your sons over the fear that you're ruining them. 

Believe that you are NOT alone and that He will provide the strength you need to get out of bed, off the couch, to play and discipline, to explain and correct, to hug and wrestle, to enforce the boundaries and apologize when you mess up... the exact amount of His never-ending strength in each moment. 

Trust that His strength really is enough for your weakness... Perfect in it, even. 

Claim what He says about you and your sons over what your feelings are screaming... This means doing whatever it takes to hear from His Word and to listen for His voice EVERYDAY... No matter what you need to sacrifice {sleep, down time, TV, Facebook, this blog post, a phone call...} it will be worth it. (And you'll regularly see Him give you back what you lay down at His feet that is beneficial for you in this time...)

It's supposed to feel like this!!! You cannot make him obey... You can only consistently provide the consequence for the choice he makes. Remember that you do not discipline in order to change a behavior {although all mamas really, really, really, really hope it eventually has that effect), you are disciplining in order to teach them in a loving, safe environment that there are consequences to every choice... Keep doing this because the world they are growing up to enter is not loving or safe. 

This requires laying down your pride. Your children's behavior does not determine your success as a mom. Your obedience to what the Holy Spirit leads you to do determines your "success"... If that can even be measured. {And your VALUE has been determined by the price the God of this creation paid to save you!} Give the praise to the Lord when they behave and request the Holy Spirit's continued intervention when they don't. 

He has started this good work {of mothering} in you and He will carry it out to completion until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Find your rest and strength and consistency in Him. Keep being honest about your struggles and victories. Enjoy the good moments, cry in the bad, apologize after the wrong and soldier on. 

God is growing and shaping you and your boys... And you get a front row seat to that miracle. 

In this alongside of you...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Things I Learned from Missing the Birth of my Son

1) This world is strange. 
There are all sorts of feelings and depths that are way more comparable to the writings of Dr. Seuss than the text books I've studied. 

2) Happy happenings and sad happenings are often the same happenings. 
We were in the distance waiting, hoping, praying, fighting off discouragement... While she was right there fearful, dreading, praying, fighting off anxiety... We didn't know her or even about her. She didn't know us or about us. She looked at the tiny miracle baby and lovingly mustered the strength to give him the life and family and home that she wanted for him... Even if that meant mourning the fact that it wasn't with her. Heart breaking in love. We received "the call" that we were chosen to be his parents. Hearts rejoicing in love. 

3) Nurses are amazing... so, so, so amazing.
They ran every test. Distributed every medication. Followed through with every treatment. Changed every diaper. Monitored every stat. Answered every alarm. Fed him every meal. Gave him every hug. Offered every stimulus... They cared for him deeply and wonderfully in the time between families. And four years later I'm still moved to tears considering all they did for him...

4) Moving forward when you are terrified is true bravery. 
I saw this in a birth mom who could've chosen differently for many reasons at many different points... But she didn't. She went through a birth only 24 weeks into a pregnancy she only recently had found out about to a teeny baby who they said {in a language she didn't speak} wasn't "healthy"... With no one supporting her, she reached out for the support of those who offered adoption... And I am forever indebted to her bravery for walking that path. 
I saw this in our adoption journey. We did not know how to adopt. Nor did we know what raising a child with special needs was going to be like. We were afraid of the costs involved and the energy and patience we lacked. We were afraid to continue to hope when time after time we were "not selected" as the family. But we walked on anyways... And I'm continually grateful for the Holy Spirit who makes us brave. 

5) The odds being stacked against a person doesn't eliminate a different outcome. 
Boys who are premature have a lower survival rate than girls. Babies born at 24 weeks gestation weeks undeveloped lungs and hearts that have holes in them. Down syndrome increases the likelihood of having heart issues that require surgery and lifelong cardiac care. Babies who are tube fed have a high risk of struggling with oral feeding. Preemies as well as babies who have Down syndrome typically have a low suck reflex making nursing problematic.
Yet... The hole in Theo's heart closed up as his body grew and survived. This allowed us to be chosen as his family (as our location was too far from pediatric cardiac care to qualify for anyone with heart issues). He passed his swallow study and latched the first time he attempted nursing (as I had given birth to his brother 1 month previous to Theo becoming "ours"). Theo didn't know all the things he "should've" been or not done... He just soldiered on from one miracle to the next. 

6) The value of a life is not determined by popular consensus. 
He was completely dependent on machines and professionals to keep him alive for the first 3 months of his life. He has an extra chromosome that will make many things that come "naturally" for the majority of the population be a struggle for him. He has a team of doctors and therapists who he regularly sees. He needs extra help and time to do what most four year olds do. And yet... What would this world be like without him?

7) God has got my children. 
We weren't there with Theodore when he weighed 1 pound 12 ounces. We didn't speak soothingly to him during the many invasive blood draws, ROP exams, EKG's, O2 sat monitorings, swallow studies... We didn't pray for his lungs to grow strong enough that he might be released from the ventilator. We didn't swaddle him to sleep. Kangaroo care didn't come from his parents. We didn't make his first (or second) scrapbook pages {have I mentioned how amazing nurses are?}... Our time as his parents began when he was 4 months old and 10 pounds heavy (he looked enormous next to those other preemies in good Payne-baby fashion). Sure we (& many others) had prayed. But while we didn't even know who to pray what for, God was in control. While I am beyond thankful that the Creator of this world chooses to use my mothering to grow some little lives, how clear it became that I'm simply "going to work with Dad" on this whole parenting gig. He blesses me with responsibility and graciously gives the strength to meet it as well as the forgiveness when I don't... But by missing my son's birth, it made it ever so clear to me that I must not mistake the roles. God showed Himself enough for my premature baby who didn't have a family for his first months... and He continues to want to show us the same thing now. 

Happy fourth birthday!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Growing Payne-Full Oaks

Tonight we cried together over oak trees and acorns...

Tears blurring my eyes as I read Max Lucado's lines about the yearning for the {now} great oak to be able to tell the young girl that there is a great woman in her, and she just needs to be the kind of person God made her to be...

I knew it was coming. The sweet acorn who feared letting go of his mom's branches... The way the straining of the small oak to produce oranges and flowers was depressingly futile... The introduction of the little girl character... I saw its approach... But I had already gone too far. I even had a decent oak tree voice going on...

I held it together when the image of the small oak judging himself as less because of his inability to grow fruit struck really close to my inner monologue of comparing myself to the homeschool or working or all-natural or volunteering mothers surrounding me. A mental note was made to let the picture of the oak tree straining to grow flowers in order to be beautiful lacking impact on a single fiber of his being sink in to the way I talk to the mirror... But tears did not fall. I faked it through the description of how quickly the girl grew and changed...

But the longing to speak broke through. 

The {now} big oak tree had learned the complex truth from the simple saying his mother oak consistently repeated "You have a mighty oak inside you. Just be the tree God made you to be." He wanted to speak this truth over the scared young women getting ready to set off on her own for the first time... But trees can't speak to girls... At least not in this fictional story...

That longing was just too much as I sat with two of my {now} small oaks on either side of me. It wasn't the wording or the illustration (masterful, though they were); it was the fact that I fear being unable to speak that simple deep truth that I can clearly see in these Paynes growing under me... 

Even as I struggle to consistently grasp it for my own self. 

I'm overwhelmed with the desire for what ground I've found in freedom to be grasped by these {now} young lives so they can wander even farther into the depths of Jesus. I see so vividly the great oaks their little acorn bodies contain. I hear in a still, strong voice repeating that it is God, and not me, who is their Farmer... And I can speak. 

And cry. 

Because the way they rubbed my back when my voice cracked was so tender. And my big boy had tears so instantly when he saw one trickle out of my eye he must've had them on the ready. I heard my own awkward chuckle come from the daughter who didn't know how to respond to two thirds of us crying over the bedtime story...

So we all snuggled and cried and laughed... Because this journey is hard and fast but full of randomly awe-inspiring moments... 

Friday, January 1, 2016

It's the Little Things...

Parenthood brings about many causes for celebration. We rejoice at wonderful new milestones that our children reach. Having a child with the superpower of Down syndrome has shown us even more clearly the progression toward these accomplishments and the fun in acknowledging these breakthroughs. Yet, not all breakthroughs are even. There are a handful of regularly celebrated and noted milestones, that aren't 100% wins for the parents... 
Baby rolled over! Note to self: stop leaving baby on sofa. 
Baby pulls self up to standing! Realize how many sharp and flammable and heavy and fragile items are left near the edge of tables. 
Baby's first word! Good bye sane-permitting silence. 
Baby's first taste of food! Hello spoon feeding chore. 
Baby's first step! No longer know where baby is ever...

The list continues. I'm not saying we shouldn't celebrate these cool new necessary-for-survival skills. I'd just like to point out that there are some awesome milestones that parents truly rejoice over, yet never seem to have their spot in the baby books (not that any third or later born child even has a baby book...)

Here are some noteworthy (possibly ice cream worthy) milestones I believe should get some acknowledgement:

Pushing Limbs Through Sleeves
Humans are born without this ability. Some babies, more so than others. Parents of a somewhat floppy infant are going to dance a jig when that little one first uses some muscle tone to actually push their arm through their sleeve! The days of reverse toothpaste tube fishing for a wrist stuck up behind a bent elbow in a sleeve made for a tiny person are nearing an end!

Spoon Feeding Self 
The day when you can set a plate of food and the proper eating utensils before your offspring and they consume more of the food than is dropped or thrown should be celebrated! Sure, the home video won't be that thrilling... But recognized it should be, nonetheless. 

Buckling Self Into and Out of Seat
This is next level stuff here. Life with a self buckler can't even be imagined by the parent lugging around an infant carrier. (Side note: get a sling or wrap or back pack and leave that stinking heavy carrier in the car... Those seats are killer on your poor back!) But this day does come! A day when the human child opens a car door, moves themselves into their seat and clips their OWN buckles!!! No more games of Twister while all the weather hits your rear end that's sticking out of the back of your vehicle!!! Rejoice!

Socks and Shoes Selfie
Maybe having multiple sets of baby feet (one set requiring braces) at a time has made me more sensitive to the chore of actually getting all the offspring out the door. Even so, the day when a parent can simply announce "It's time to go. Put on your shoes." is a good day! I know from parenting grade schoolers this doesn't mean getting out the door (especially for school in the mornings) is without drama... It just means less steps for the parent. We'll worry about getting them on the right feet later... Today we celebrate!

Retrieving Skills
I vote that there should be a place in all baby memory books where we proud parents can record "On this day___ in the year ___ my child retrieved something I needed but couldn't reach. (Age:__)" The first time the older toddler can go get you wipes when the new baby's diaper has exploded and you didn't know the container was empty until you started the clean up process is magical! Stuck in the bathroom without toilet paper? Send the child for it! They most likely already followed you in there, anyways! Let's put this awesome skill to use!

Ability To Get Fingers Into Glove Slots
This is like the sleeve thing revisited. Only with gloves, you're already exhausted from putting the rest of the snow gear on them and these tiny digits have NO clue where they are supposed to go! Reaching this milestone should be marked with something beyond the expected hot cocoa!

Safely Swallowing a Pill
Your budget will rejoice when a single ibuprofen pill replaces two syringes full or 3 quick dissolve tablets of expensive children's medicine. The stickiness level of medicine distribution decreases dramatically! No more crushing, hiding, mixing nasty tasting medicine! A whole new world of vitamins opens up! Woo hoo!

Pumping Legs on Swing
You've arrived at the "go outside and play" stage!!! Without the ability to actually make the swings go, outside play time had to be a parent lead activity. When they figure out pumping their legs... That's a fun freedom! (*Disclaimer: I'm not advocating for unsupervised playground play! But more loosely supervised as they grow.)

Wiping Well
Yay for potty training! Yay for the day when the Elmo potty goes away for good (no more dumping!!!)! But come on now!!! The day when you no longer hear "Mom! I pooped!" yelled from behind closed bathroom doors is a milestone if ever there was! 

Solo Playtime 
I'm a firm believer in the importance of the statement "go play." As a parent, I reject the title of "entertainer." I strive to be present, engaged, playful and active with my kids without turning them into dictators of my every moment. There's this whole world that I can only be in one tiny spot of... So let's notice and celebrate and encourage those first interests, explorations, and dare we say, alone-play moments!!!

Nose Blowing Skills
Two words: bulb syringe. My infant's snot constantly dripping down his face might not bother him, but it is a major problem to me! I'll use that sucker on them until they can properly expel the snot out of their sinus cavities without wiping it up into their hairline. Seriously! A good, clean, tissue caught nose blow is a big deal! Let's go ahead and post videos on Facebook celebrating our young kids blowing their noses like Hulk would!! (Superheroes seem to work for us...)

Reading a Clock
Does your child know their numbers? If so, they may be ready for their own digital clock in their bedroom! May I suggest making a sign that shows what 7:00 looks like on the clock (or just 7 and cover up the minutes with the sign) and make this wake up time! It's not a guaranteed win out of the gates, but when the littles stay quiet and contained until a acceptable wake up time it's totally worth the effort!!! 

It's ok to celebrate the ordinary! It's ok to usher out phases with cheers and tears. It's important to recognize the amazement of growth that is life! It's a strange dichotomy of emotions. We don't have to wish it away nor wish it to stay forever... but let's strive to treasure up these things in our hearts that we may grow rich in parenting. 

What are some other phases that parents should celebrate that aren't always noted?