Saturday, September 27, 2014

For those Enduring the Storms of Life

I have been wrestling with being away from my family and friends.  I have been feeling out of sorts, as I watch and listen from a far to the struggles those I love are enduring.  It seems as if my prayers are just rote as my heart and mind desires to jump in and assist in a physical and tangible way.  However, as I sit this morning praying for them, and considering the seasons in my life and theirs, I wonder is God attempting to show us a fresh new start.  Are our trials, our circumstances, even our joys that alter our current reality, not fresh new starts, gifts from God to motivate us to draw closer to Him and to trust Him more? 

This is a challenge to me.  I thought I would live and die in Pennsylvania. While never opposed to an adventure, I married my high school sweetheart (the Prince) and never lived more than 10 miles from either of our birth homes, and had a secure and comfortable life.   People have come in and out of our lives over the years and we were always the constant steady that they could return to for a visit, for encouragement and for a sense of connection to what they had left behind.    But in my prayers this morning, I began to see a trend.  When God moves, (and not just geographically) and we face situations that are not what we desire, or that we are surprised by, is He saying stay where we are,  this is your lot in life, or is He prompting us to open our eyes, focus on Him, and start over with a new plan, His plan. 

New plans are not comfortable. For most of us they are not enjoyable, and it is a hassle, takes more energy than we want to expend, and causes us too much heartache, to get past where we currently are sitting.  Stuck in a rut, on the side of the road.  But more often than not, we are stuck in the rut on the side of the road, because we tried to do it our way.  While I may have made overtures to bring God into my plans, catch Him up to speed on my vision as it were,  have I really yielded to Him, just trusted Him to work on my behalf?  My spouse has left me. My kids are leaving home.  My spouse has passed away.  My boss is a jerk.  My spouse just lost their job.  Myself or my spouse is sick.  I am the caregiver for my aging parents.  My finances are a wreck.  I am a wreck.  Hear my heart in this, I do not have the answers and  this early Saturday morning musing is more for my own sanity than perhaps any of yours.

Here is the what came to mind today as I prayed for all my friends in positions of transition today, for all those that are faced with trials that seem overwhelming, with sadness, with rejection and with grief and even in joyous times that alter our current reality. God is not surprised by this.  I know even as I type those words, it comes across as a bit trite.  However, with 100% confidence, I can say that as a believer in Christ, nothing that comes my way is a surprise to Him, as it has first passed through His hand before ever reaching me!  He has ordained it, He has allowed this situation to come to my attention.  Why?  Because He knows I need this challenge, this transition, this trial, this struggle, and yes even this joy, so that I can grow closer to Him, and He can continue to do His good and perfect work in me.

The following passages came to mind this morning, and if you are reading this and are in the midst of a struggle, it is my prayer that these verses with bring comfort, clarity of thought, peace and joy to you today in your journey. 

"Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything."  James 1:2-4

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In this you greatly rejoice,  though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of  Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

It is because of Christ and His Word that I can proclaim loudly,  I am glad that I don't have to make this stuff up, to find peace and joy in life.

Friday, September 19, 2014

In the Midst of it all, God is not Surprised

Following a couple rough weeks in the kingdom,  I keep coming back to the above statement.  In the midst of it all, God is not surprised.

I often wonder, why is that I am surprised?  Why is it that I am disappointed?  Why is it that I struggle and wrestle with the how's and the why's of the situations at hand?  Oh, right...because I am NOT God.  Well Duh, you would say.  None of us are.  But do we not try our hand at the "god" thing by attempting  to control our circumstances, and their outcomes?  Do we not make decisions based on feelings not facts? Are we not occasionally swayed by our emotions in how we respond, and react?

If you are not that person, good for you!  You have just saved yourself from years of heart ache, heart break and stress.  I sadly, have not yet arrived.  I am however trying very diligently to not get d-railed when life comes at me fast and furious.

Surely if you have followed the saga of the dwarfs and their shenanigans over the course of the years I have been blogging, you will know that some of the dwarfs have a handle on life, and some of them are on the struggle bus of life.  I try to be an equal opportunity blogging mom, and mix up the posts with small stories and antics from a variety of them, but historically, there are a few that keep getting starring roles.  The last few weeks have been a good mix of hard times, and in the middle of the hard times, refreshing moments of grace and goodness, all that shed  light on the fact that God is not surprised by any of this thing that I call life.  Because of His love for me, He knows when in my humanness, I am at the end of a rope, and need a glimpse of his grace.

Below are the highlights of the last few weeks, the good and the bad, and why I am leaning towards making my life's motto,  In the midst of it all, God is not surprised.

A girl's weekend spontaneously planned and executed, that was a blessing and a gift that not only energized me in the moment, but  prepared me for the weeks that would follow.  There is something so healing and so precious about friends, and their ability to land just when it is needed. We shared laughs in the rain, gain survival skills for the future, and were able to cross items off of  a bucket list together!  

Shocking I know, but three weeks into the school year and we are facing suspensions and potential expulsion for a dwarf.  Yet even with offenses at the highest degree, this dwarf's heart is responsive and remorseful and seeks forgiveness from those that have been offended and hurt in the situation.  The situation still remains, and there are still consequences to be doled out, but in the end we know that whatever they may be will be in the best interest of said dwarf. 

Help has arrived to our family in ways never before accessible in the state of Pennsylvania.  Clinics that specialize in Fetal Alcohol Testing, that I can take my dwarfs into for testing, and walk away that day with a yes or no diagnosis and the severity of the syndrome. While this potential for a diagnosis in no way makes up for their poor choices, it will go a very long way in figuring out how to best communicate with them, and care for them.   For years this diagnosis has been danced around, but there was never a way for a formal diagnosis to be given.  One phone call, one transfer, and one week later two dwarfs are scheduled for testing in December.  The cost for the testing $3500 each.  The cost passed on to us, close your eyes and what do you see?  NOTHING!  I am shocked...but God is not!

A dwarf whom since the third grade has been sharing plans of joining the military has been presented with an amazing gift of the JROTC.  While by the week's end we may have 3 Cadet Lingle's in the kingdom, and are proud to be the parents of all three of them, we are most certainly proud of the one that is embracing the lifestyle and challenges of the program with gusto and enthusiasm.  He knows the desires of our kids hearts and works in advance to see them fulfilled.

There seems to be a break down in the process of  securing an education for one of the dwarfs as we struggle to make our way through finding a good spot for this young one academically.  While the school is insisting that we mainstream this dwarf, it is clear that this dwarf is not mainstream material.  What the staff views as defiance and and outright disobedience, I am struggling to show that there are reasons for the struggle.  Tremors, Autism,  Verbal Turrets just to glaze the surface.  Sadly when your kids present as a " normal child" it is hard to help strangers see their brokenness.  As the mom I feel that the task at hand to get the services needed is an uphill climb and as I crest over a peak, I am confronted with yet another rise to tackle.  Not only is this challenge one that I feel I am ill prepared for, but with the change in states and rules, I am in flux trying to figure out all the new rules and policies.   Just when I am at my lowest along comes help, in the form of a staff member that has the occasion to work one on one with this dwarf, and has picked up on many of these issues because prior to teaching she dedicated her time to assisting  special needs children in an out patient facility.  With one email, the ball is rolling in a new direction and there is much hope for the future. 

Time with family, planned the first weekend of our move, in June, happened at a perfect time two weeks ago.  Again, no surprise to God, that we would need that time to be silly, to relax and to catch up on all the things that you miss when you move away from your siblings! Grateful for a brother and sister and their children that filled our home with a taste familiarity, and fun.  With kindness and grace in the midst of a challenging time, were able to fill a void that we did not realize we had!  

There is a saying that things are all good, when funding is all good... so we add a bit too the stress of life, by having miscalculated the "cost" of sunshine.  But even in this, as I scheduled an energy audit for our home next week,(because I am sure that my neighbors must be hooked into our home's electric somehow)  dear Mr. Monty was able to share with me that the last home owners peak month of usage was $825 for the month... What an encouragement to us, while our bill is double what we budgeted for, it is no where near that amount!  It is also wonderful that the Prince in his wisdom, has been able to provide us with ways already, to be frugal with our energy and that there is such a thing as an energy audit, that will hopefully show us other great ways to cut costs!

Homeschooling is hard.  Hats off to all of you moms and dads that daily provide for the education of your children!  Once a dear friend said, you would make a great homeschooling mom, and I laughed out loud and said every day would be a field trip.  However,  in the face of necessity,  I was able to pull it together for one week.  It was not pretty, and I yelled and kicked and screamed a lot, but we got the job done and then some.  In a very smug and non humble way, I did enjoy one part of the experience, being more physically fit than said young adult dwarf, as we worked our way through PE class each daily for 5 days.  While the dwarf could run faster and bike longer,  the weight training with this 40+ year old momma on the lanai made this dwarf quiver and complain and hurt the next day!  Score one for the mommas!  A reminder that making my health a priority is paying dividends and encourages me that even when I do not feel like it, exercise is important for my over all health and my sanity!  Plus this was a great reminder that homeschooling is not my life calling!

One of our dwarf''s struggles mightily with their past.  The technical term is Reactive Attachment Disorder.   It's definition is this: Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn't establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.  As this young dwarf fast approaches 18, we are concerned about their ability to make good decisions, process situations appropriately and provide for the basic safety and care of them self.  One more phone call on a separate day yielded an appointment with a RAD counselor, again something that specifically was never available in Pennsylvania to us, that is sharing weekly with this dwarf.  Our hope is that upon their "coming of age" this dwarf will see the benefit in this wise council  and continue with these sessions, even though initially opposed as them and was viewed as the Prince and I's attempt to "fix" them.  In this again, a reminder that God is providing for the needs of the dwarfs in ways that in PA were not available.

There is another dwarf that has a love of baseball, in the middle of all the craziness of life, this dwarf has found a nitch... too bad it is at the crack of dawn... 6am!  What high school student willingly attends workouts at that time of day unless they are serious about their sport?  Alas, the Prince and I gladly transport said dwarf to early morning workouts four days a week before school in the hopes that this dedication will result in an opportunity to play for a high school team that game that they have loves since they were little!  It has been hard to make that adjustment to early riser, but the great news is that we are all home from school for the day by 2:30 hence allowing for down time in the afternoons and a time to rest and prepare for the next early morning.

There have been so many "ah-ha" moments in the past three weeks, and I would be remiss in not mentioning another great gift, aside from the Prince and his recognition of my limitations and stress levels,  is the fact that I have a great "get away" just 20 minutes or so from my new home.  I can sit in the sand and feel the waves lap my feet as I stare out over the ocean.  In the midst of the chaos, I can find tranquility in the roar of the ocean.  My happy place can now be reached whenever I need it, with in a short drive.

As I sit, I can reflect on all the great ways that God is tying together our new home, our new surroundings and new opportunities.  I can say that while I desired for our dwarfs and my Prince and I to have a fresh new start at things, I was disappointed when slowly I realized that only our scenery had changed, the shenanigans and the often resulting chaos did not change.   However, keeping it all in perspective, In the midst of this thing I call life, God is not surprised.  He has this!  All I have to do is recognize this truth in my life, and then sit back and trust Him as He continues to work on all fronts for our good!   (Blogging about it also helps keep a written reminder of His faithfulness to our family in the forefront of my mind.) 

Really... You Can't Make this Stuff Up!  

PS: As I was typing the conclusion to this blog, I got a phone call from the school where we are in day 10 of a level three suspension with potential for expulsion for one of the above mentioned dwarfs.  The school is not expelling this dwarf, and is instead recognizing how they(the school) did not set this young adult up for success from the start. Not only are they graciously allowing for the dwarf to have a second chance(with modifications), they have formulated a plan to guarantee future success for our dwarf, and are also making a way for others with similar disabilities to be successful!  I was so surprised I was nearly in tears... but did I mention God is not surprised by this!?


Monday, September 1, 2014

Holy Mole !

Here it is!  My mole.  It resides on my back.  My hair often covers it. Covers it so much that I frankly  do not recall every seeing or feeling it before.  My mole that has changed color recently.  My mole that felt a bit raised.  My mole which Sneezy found on my neck this past Sunday morning.   The mole that I did not believe I had.  The mole that I did not believe had changed color.  So she took this photo to prove to me that it existed. 

"Oh..." I say as my stomach starts to flip a little.  Clearly that is a mole, clearly that is a funny color and clearly I may have a problem.  As I continue to sit at the table with Doc and Dopey, I gingerly feel for the mole on my back.  I pull aside my hair, and yep, there it is.  I wonder in my mind, how long has it been there?   Why did I not every see it before.  I wonder when it started to raise, and change color.   All during which time, there is endless chatter around me about the mole.  Additionally, not only were some of the dwarfs witness to this revelation, but some out of town guests were included in the conversation.  One was figuring out, in advance, how to encourage me, in the face of having to find a doctor here, remind me to not let it go, and to follow up this week to make sure that I did both, called the doctor and scheduled an appointment.  One dwarf, was mocking me for my relentless love of all things sunshine, telling me it was only a matter of time before this happened!   One dwarf was calling me a goner, melanoma victim, and telling me to eat another sweet roll, because it could be my last one.  There was a side conversation between the Prince and another friend, discussing how the Prince needs to be more attentive and make sure since we live now in the sunshine state, that he should be more aware of the areas of my back and neck that get sun that I can not see on a regular basis.  The Prince is a bit caught off guard and I can tell he is as surprised as I am.  Another dwarf is discussing how much I am worth if I am no longer with the family.  Should this mole be the death of me, they have determined to add on to the house, a memorial Ma Lingle wing. 

I ask Doc to open up her laptop and look online about what it says about moles that are raised and change color.  She reports after a brief search that since the edges are still intact that it is not the worst case situation, and that I should just get it looked at as soon as possible. 

At this point I get up to leave the table, still shaking my head at the banter surrounding the mole's appearance and speculation about what it means for my future.   Because it is a Sunday morning and I am getting ready to head out the door to church, I head into the bathroom for a few last minute touch ups.  I pass the Prince, he asks if I am okay.  I say, " yes, for the most part, and that more than anything it is a bit of a surprise, but I am sure it will be fine. "  He says he is also surprised, but agrees that we just need to get it looked at. 

I brush my teeth, put on my shoes, all the while resisting the urge to look at the mole on my own.  I head out of the closet past the mirror one last time.  I stop in front of the mirror,  glance at my reflection,  lift my hair off my neck, pause, take a deep breath and turn to the side to see the offensive mole with my own eyes as it sits on my neck.    I squint because I am not wearing my glasses.  I lean in a bit closer for a better look.  I step away and flip on the overhead light.  I look again.  Move closer... thinking that it clearly does not look right, but for the life of me, I can not remember ever having a mole in this location.  Using my finger, I brush against the mole.  If feels crusty, rough.  I can clearly see it's unique color.  It sort of feels like a scab.  I gently scrape my finger over the surface only to realize that it has lifted off my shoulder and is now under my nail.  In a bit of a mild panic I look at the spot and just see skin.  No blood, no redness.  I look at the offensive mole under my nail, only to find that it was a tiny piece of shell that must have stuck with me after a day in the "splash zone"in the surf, at the beach the day before. 

Oh yea, the mole that caused so much discussion, and speculation, was really just a small piece of rough green shell stuck to my neck that most likely fell out of my hair when I washed it that morning.  Big sigh of relief, and a good reminder to pay more attention to my moles, and skin markings as I spend more time in the hot Florida sun.  I thank the Lord for the gentle reminder, of how quickly things can change, for the good the bad or the indifferent,  and how I need to be more aware and alert about my personal care and saftey.   While many of the dwarfs, seemingly will be fine in my passing, I would like to spend a lot more time here on earth with them!!

You really CAN'T make this stuff up !!