Monday, September 16, 2019

Bursting the Bubble

“Being an advocate is almost always emotionally, physically, mentally, & spiritually exhausting. It's a heck of a lot easier to live within our bubbles--where everyone looks and thinks and acts like us--than to burst those bubbles.”

“It’s only when our circumstances do not require advocacy that we get to decide whether we want to be an advocate. And that ability to choose advocacy is a privilege I once possessed before kids with Down syndrome or dark skin entered my life.”

“Jesus was the greatest advocate and shouter of worth to ever live.”

“So if we love Jesus, if we are familiar with His work on earth, then we can no longer say we don’t know. And if we know, then we have the privilege of choosing to step boldly into our roles as advocates for others.  As people who love Jesus and strive to be more like Him, none of us get to sit this one out. Advocacy is not only for those of us born into privileged space; it’s for everyone.  Even if you are among those who need others to shout your worth, there is someone sitting behind you who needs you to shout theirs. Just imagine then, a whole world of people who love radically, who live a lifestyle of looking beyond their bubbles to see who’s left out, who scoot over to make some room, who shout at the top of their lungs, ‘I see your worth! You are worthy of life! Worthy of a place to live! Worthy of an education! Worthy of a job! Worthy of our love! Worthy of our forgiveness! Worthy of our positive assumptions!’ When we use our voices to shout the worth of others, it drowns out all the other voices, and the world hears just one thing—the love of Jesus!”

This is an excerpt from Heather Avis’ book, “Scoot Over and Make Some Room” and it is preaching to me right now!

I can so relate to this because my bubble was burst when Deacon was born with Down syndrome.  I lost the privilege of getting to decide whether or not to be an advocate.  But that new path of advocacy led to adoption.  And that led to foster care.  And who knows where things will go next.

It’s hard and it puts me in very uncomfortable positions, but it has also strengthened my relationship with The Lord.   It allows me to see Him and others in a way like never before.  It makes me want to keep pushing past my comfort zone to whatever direction He leads.  And it allows me to give Him the glory for things that I know without a doubt I could have never done in my own power.

I'm not going to lie, there are a lot of days when I feel completely exhausted and emotionally drained.  Here lately my days have been filled with some major anxiety over some of the day to day battles we're facing.  (I am a worrier by nature and sometimes it gets reeeal bad.)  BUT when I stop, get out of my head, and get into the Word all of that begins to fade.  I begin to feel more at peace and more up for the challenge.  I even become grateful for it because I know it means He's stretching and growing me.

I am mediating on these words today...

"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." (Philippians 4:6-9)

Friends, I encourage you...don’t wait til you don’t have a choice.  Be an advocate!  Shout for the underdog!  Step out, step up, speak up, and allow God to do things with your life that you could have never imagined or thought you had in you.  It will NOT be easy.   And if you are like me,  you will feel completely unequipped, mess up on the daily, and be afraid.   But that’s the beauty of don’t have to be equipped because He will equip you, He's not keeping count of your failures, and it's okay to be scared.  As my pastor said last week, "Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is not needed until there is fear."  Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

If you feel the Lord leading you to do something but you're letting fear get in the way, just take the first step.  If you're doing it by His Word, you cannot fail.

You should also go get Heather's book, "Scoot Over and Make Room".   The excerpt I shared is from a chapter titled "Shout Their Worth,  and if you liked it, you'll love the rest of it.  So much goodness in this book!  After my morning devotion, I started rereading through a few chapters for inspiration.  The next chapter is titled "Sit in the tension" and if you travel the path of advocacy, you will definitely be sitting in some tension! Anyway, one thing led to another and I ended up on this blog that I haven't posted to in months.  It always helps clear out my jumbled head when I write here. This whole post is basically a pep talk to myself, but I figured somebody else might need it to.

And here are some pics of some of my favorite moments from the past several months.  We took a big road trip this summer to the east coast, and I haven't had a chance to edit those yet.  Maybe that will be my next post.

Have a blessed day, Friends!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Secret to Doing it All

I've received multiple messages over the past few days asking me how I keep it all together or do it all or maintain such a great marriage...several different things along those lines, so I felt really compelled to come here and say I absolutely DO NOT! And that nothing you see me do is in my own strength.  I have to tell you that Saturday morning (and several other days before that) I was in my bed crying uncontrollably and feeling overwhelmed by life.  I have to tell you that I feel like I've had a dark cloud hanging over me for most of January.  I have to tell you that I have felt disconnected from my husband and have not been the mom that I need to be.  But I also have to tell you that I know why!  Satan is the Father of lies, y'all.  He's good at what he does.  He had me believing things about myself and others that absolutely were not true.  He had me worrying about situations I have no control over.  He had me thinking I had the power to control them.  He had me comparing myself to others and feeling unworthy.  He had me not caring about the people and things I am most passionate about.  And he almost got away with using my pride to keep me from overcoming the state I was in.

BUT God!! As I laid in the bed Saturday afternoon in what felt like one of the lowest places I've been in a while, I knew I had two choices...keep allowing the enemy to feed me lies or to get up and turn to what I knew deep down in my heart to be the truth.  I'm going to be honest with you, it was a struggle, but I forced myself to get up out of my bed, and I got in the Word.  I was immediately led to Psalm 40:1-6...

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his truth,
who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds
and your thoughts toward us;
NONE can compare with you!

I WILL proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told!"

These are the words of David as he exclaims that true happiness can only come from putting our trust in the Lord and not settling in our pride or believing the lies we're told.  He knew from experience! You see, David was committed to following after the Lord, but there were times when he was overwhelmed by his own weakness and helplessness.  Times when his faith was tested and he failed.  He was far from perfect, but his heart was pointed towards God.  He knew to turn back to what was right and true and ask for forgiveness.

From my bathroom floor, (low point, y'all) I repeatedly read the same words David proclaimed.   I prayed and asked God to put me back on my feet and to put a new song of praise in my heart. To help me to see past the lies and turn back to the truth.  And He did!  I immediately felt that cloud lift and was overcome with peace.  Isn't that a good God??!

Did I have some tragic reason for being knocked off my feet? No, I don’t have to.  I’m a human living in a world full of brokenness and sin.  I know for myself there are things in my life that I push down in the day to day.  That thing my husband did that upset me.  That bill we're not sure how we're gonna pay.  Those things I think I have control over but really don't.  All the stuff that goes with foster care and parenting a child with special needs and just motherhood and life in general.  I don't know if I push it down intentionally, but what I need to be doing is acknowleging it as it comes along, praying over it, and giving it to God.  Because what happens if I don't is it just builds up and builds up and something happens that triggers me and it just explodes like a dang volcano.  Apparently there have been a lot of triggers lately!

I love a quote that I heard recently that says "His sanctity is my sanity."  It's so true! Any time I start to forget that God is in control and I’m not is when I start to lose control.  And that also happens when I depend on people or things to make me happy.  My joy can only come from the Lord.  Not my husband.  Not my kids.  Not my friends.  Not my finances.  Not the things I’m passionate about.  But when I let go of my expectations and truly put my faith and trust in the Lord, I am able to be okay even when there are things in my life that aren't okay.  I am also able appreciate and enjoy the people and things I love so much more! And that is a lot of what you see in my pictures and videos on my social media.

I need you to see the ugly stuff too though.  The other day somebody on Instagram asked me how I kept my house so clean, and I had to explain to her that I mostly post from downstairs and that in order to remain sane, I clean that area five bazillion times a day.  Then I went upstairs and shot a quick video of a few rooms, and she immediately felt better about herself.  We have to take people upstairs with us and be real and raw and vulnerable and share the not so pretty stuff so that they know they are not alone.  (I'm preaching to the choir when I say this cause even though I'm mostly an open book, I don't always share the hard stuff.)  And we need to respond to each other in love and not judgement, encouraging and lifting each other up.

Our pastor talked to other day about how he can't stand it for someone to say he's standing on a stage.  A stage is for show and used to impress or please people.  He only wants it referred to as a platform because the purpose of a platform is to lift people up.  I always want to use whatever platform God blesses me with to lift people up, love them where they are, and point them to Him.

So if I happen to appear like I have it even somewhat together, it’s only by the GRACE of GOD!

And y'all know I don't do posts without pics, so here are some from when I was put back on my feet. I baked cake pops with my kids.  I picked up my camera.  I made invitations for Sister's birthday.  I danced in the kitchen with my husband (when hours earlier I was having trouble looking at or talking to him).   I went fishing with my kids.  I refused to allow Satan to steal my joy!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Why I Share

Do you follow people (like me) and wonder...why do they share so much of their lives?  Or think, I'm such a private person, I could not put myself or my family out there like that?  Well, let me tell you sometimes I get anxiety about being the person with a public Instagram account and letting tons of strangers into a large portion of our world, but way more times than that I am reminded of why I do it! The good that comes from our little corner of the internet far outweighs the bad.  So I wanted to share with you a big part of why I share our lives so openly.  

Seven years ago, I had no idea that October was Down syndrome awareness month.  I was oblivious to the fact that there was a whole community of amazing people out there that celebrated such an occasion.  And I really had no clue that the very next month, I would be one of those people.

When Deacon was born with an unexpected diagnosis, I was completely ignorant to what that meant for our lives.  I thought it meant doom and gloom and that our life as we knew it was over.  I immediately started scowling the internet to find out what we were facing.   I discovered a blog and IG account of another family with a daughter who was a little bit older than Deacon and also rocked an extra chromosome.  As I scrolled through pictures and posts, their lives looked pretty "normal".  There was no doom.  No gloom.  In fact, what I noticed most was there was just a bunch of joy that radiated from those images.  That's when the picture I had painted in my head of Down syndrome completely changed, and I knew that we were going to be alright.  More than alright actually.  Life as we knew it was over, but in the best way possible!

I used to feel guilt over my feelings and thoughts during those first few weeks of his life, but I have come to realize that they are completely normal.  You don't know til you know.  And boy do I know now!  That little boy is the biggest ray of sunshine I could have ever imagined, and I cannot help but share such a gift with the world.  

So I share for the Andreas of seven years ago...those who are clueless as to what a blessing that extra chromosome is.  I share for the Momma who is scared to death of the diagnosis she just received.  I share for the people who tell me on a daily basis that they were going through a tough time or having a bad day, but seeing Deacon's video or picture brightened their mood.  I share for the people who don't think my son's life has value.  I dare you to look at my pictures and tell me there's no value there.  I share for the people who feel sorry for people like us.  And I actually feel more sorry for them.  I share because I feel so incredibly blessed to be walking this road.  I will continue to share and shout my guy's worth along with all of those like him, because we truly are the lucky few! And as  Deacon would say, "This is the life!"

Happy Down syndrome awareness month, Friends!

Friday, September 14, 2018

My Colorful Fall

Hey friends, it's been a while.  Instagram seems to take the place of blogging for me, but I think about it all the time and still love it.  I know I say this probably every time I post for the first time in months, but I do want to be better about sharing all the things that roll around in my head on a daily basis...Jesus, Down syndrome, adoption, oils, and other random stuff like what I'm about to tell you about.

If you know me, then you know that I am 100% a holiday freak, and I am not ashamed to let that flag fly high! If it's a holiday or a National something day, we're gonna do our best to celebrate.  I lurk the Target Dollar spot before each new season waiting for the newest season/holiday stuff to come out and have even been known to call and ask.  I also have the most random style of decorating my house.  I love so many styles that it is hard for me to pick just one.  I love color. I love things that have a story behind them.  I love unique pieces things that I find at garage sales, thrift shops, antique stores, and sometimes even the trash.  I also love me some Ross!  All that to say that there is no rhyme or reason to how I's all just because I love it for some reason or another.

The 'ber months are my favorite, so when fall comes around I can barely make it to September before I start decorating.  Ok, let's be honest...I didn't make it that far this year.  I decorated around the second week of August, but who's to judge? You do you, man!

Now that my house is full of so many bright colors, I feel like too many fall colors don't really fit, so I was trying to merge the two together.    My fireplace is one of my favorite things to decorate.  We spiced it up this year by painting it teal blue, cause why not?!  Anyway, I had an idea for a garland to put up there that I actually ended up loving when it was done, so I figured I would share it for any of my fellow color-lovers who might want to do the same.

I went into my front yard and collected a bunch of pine cones that were similar in size. I put foil on a pan and baked them on 200 degrees for two hours to get all the bugs and yuck out.  I did get a little fancy and toss them in some cinnamon oil before baking them.  It made my house smell Ah-mazing!!  But I mostly defeated the purpose of that in step two.

I had a bunch of spray paint on hand, so we went outside and painted two pinecones each color.

After they dried, I was going to try hot gluing them, but my husband is a genius and pulled out some little eye hooks that we were able to screw into the bottom of each pine cone by hand.

I laid out my twine and just eyeballed how far apart to spread them out.  (I could have gotten out a tape measure, but I suck at math, and aint nobody got time for that!) I just slid them on one at a time in the order I wanted them, and then tied a knot around the hook.  It ended up being too many after I hung it so I had to take a few off.

 Y'all, I ain't no Martha Stewart, so I was pretty proud of myself for this one!  And looking at it makes me happy.  Also, lurking that Target dollar aisle paid off, and I found some twinkle lights (which also make me happy) on twine that I strung through the hooks right up next to the other twine so it still looks like one strand.  I just haven't had a chance to get a picture of that.  I keep those clear hooks up at all times so I can easily decorate for all the occasions!  So if you, too, want to add some colorful flare to your fall decor, here's a super simple and CHEAP way to do that.

My "Gather" picture is from Smallwood Home.  Love their stuff too, and they always have great prices.

I put the rest of the pine cones in a little basket, and they still smell yummy!  Here are the other touches I added into my randomness. :)

Now if only the temperatures outside would match the inside of my house!  Haha.  Happy Fall, y'all!  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

World Down syndrome Day 2018

In honor of World Down syndrome Day,  Deacon wanted to share a little bit about himself.  This kid, y'all!  He brightens my days, keeps me on my toes, and I love him like crazy!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Struggle is Real: Reading and Writing Tips & Tools

I'm not usually a person to choose a word of the year, but one that keeps coming to mind is "Intentional".  There are so many areas of my life where I want to work on being more intentional.  One of them is working more with Deacon outside of school.  I'm going to be real honest, homework time with him sometimes stresses me out to the max and there were some weeks leading up to the holidays that we just didn't do any of it.  But the thing is, he needs the extra attention.  Learning to read and write are a huge struggle for him.  Therefore he has pretty much zero interest in them.  So I have to get creative in ways that I work with him so that it doesn't really feel like work.  In my last meeting with his teachers I was given some tips and tools to use, and I wanted to share them with you along with some of the other helpful items we have purchased over time.  I have added all the links.

Deacon has a really weak pincer grasp which is what makes it more difficult for him to write.  In fact, they told me that he is just not ready and we need to focus on strengthening it.  Here are a few ways that we do that...

Theraputty (We bought firm and you can find it here.)

I take a small object and press in into the putty.  He has to use those fingers to pull apart the putty and find the object.  You can use whatever you have around the house.  This time we used a penny.  At Halloween, I put a tiny toy bat inside of there.  You just want it to be small so they really have to dig for it.

Another tool we use are these Crayon Rocks.

Their small shape encourages him to use his thumb along with his first and second fingers thus strengthening his tripod grip and helping to prepare him for using a pencil or regular crayon.

In this exercise I drew random shapes for him to color in.  We also worked on staying in the lines.  We made it a game, and if he went outside of them I dramatically told him he was in hot lava and to get back quick.  He thought it was hilarious and started taking it more seriously after coloring the heart.  Now he will probably go back to school doing this, and his teachers will be clueless as to what he's talking about.  Oh well...whatever works!

Also, lacing tools are good for this.  I got these from the dollar aisle at Target, but you can also find some like this on Amazon.

Apparently they are entertaining at all ages. :)

Another great tool is using some type of tweezers or grabbers to pick up small items and move them from one container to another.  This is the package that I purchased from Amazon.

When we do work on writing, I have found that these Lyra Ferby pencils work best.  A follower suggested them to me a while back, and we love them.  They are short and triangular which make it easier for him to grip them.  When he first saw them, he said, "Well that's a weird shape!"

To practice cutting, we use these Smart Loop Scissors.  I will cut out strips of paper and draw lines using a marker.  Then I will have him use these scissors to try and cut the lines.

And then there are Sight Words...Dear Lord, help me!! This child has a vocabulary and a memory that will blow you away, but when it comes to learning sight words the struggle is REAL!  Thankfully I discovered this DVD that actually holds his interest and makes him practice them.  If you have internet unlike us (country life probs!) you can also find them on Youtube kids for free.  This is the only one have right now, but I plan on buying more.

After he watches them, I try to work with him on the words in some way.  I found these dry erase dice at Dollar Tree and thought they would be good to use for a variety of things.  We throw them in the air and then have to say the word that it lands on.  He thinks it's fun, but the marker rubs off pretty easily.  (If you can't find them or don't have a Dollar Tree, ole trusty Amazon has some too.)

We also purchased this sight word pizza game.  He's not quite ready for it yet, but when he is, I think it will be a great tool! Plus, putting anything with pizza is bound to get this kid's attention!

He got this game for Christmas.  We haven't played it yet, but it looks fun!

Amazon has so many great resources.  We use it the most because we live in the middle of nowhere and it is easiest, but I also love to hit up our local dollar stores and my favorite...the Bullseye section at Target (aka the dollar aisle where most things are not really a dollar anymore).  They usually have some great tools as well like these little felt books we got to help with counting.  

I hope some of you will find these tips, tricks, and tools helpful.  I would also love to hear any ideas or products that work well for you, so please feel free to share them with everyone in the comments below.  I know I need all the help I can get!!! :)