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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Low-down on My Down Low

Some of you know I have been going through a tough season for the last seven months or so.  Some of you know bits and pieces.  Some of you don’t have any idea.  I thought it was high time I just share a bit of what’s been going on.

Last summer I embarked on a journey to really get healthy, eating right and exercising.  I was pushing myself pretty hard but nothing over the top—at least not for the average person (let me just say, I have horrible joints & ligaments—loose and weak, they don’t like to support my muscles very much).   I was experiencing some fantastic results—weight loss, getting stronger, feeling better…

Then in October, I started having a pretty nagging and sometimes severe pain on my right hip/groin area.  I took it easy and rested a bit, hoping it would go away, then finally saw my doctor.  Turns out my hips and pelvis were a mess (I was ordered NOT to do anymore one-legged squats since my joints would rather rearrange my muscles rather than support them).  I got adjusted, started seeing a chiropractor regularly but the pain persisted.  During all this time I was also told to stop exercising (except walking—which is not something I can do because of my terrible feet…see reference to joints, above), and not to lift anything over 10 pounds. 

I followed doctor’s orders, I switched to an anti-inflammatory diet and tried to get better.  Eventually, after finding a swollen lymph node in my groin, which ultimately went down on it’s own, the doctors also discovered a femoral hernia.  I had surgery in January to fix the hernia, and as it turned out, to sew up my entire right inguinal area, as well, which was about to herniate.  Recovering was slow and painful but in late March I was ready to clean up my diet again and start some activity.  

Then my lower back started hurting…

I tried to ignore it.  I tried some stretches and at-home interventions but ultimately made another trip to the doctor.  She was pretty mad at me.  My back was a wreck—she couldn’t even adjust me.  Home I went with a lecture, steroids, and muscle relaxers.  A week later she adjusted me and prescribed physical therapy.

Through this journey, and especially when my lower back went out in March, I got very angry.  I am so frustrated by the fact that I can’t do my life.  How do you take care of a home, or your kids, or work, or anything when you can’t lift over 10 pounds?!  When you’re told, “Don’t do anything.”  I was having a pity party.  I was rebelling against the way my body was telling me to behave and I did stuff I wasn’t supposed to…guess how that worked out?

I came to the realization a few weeks ago that for whatever reason, the Lord really wants me to walk through this season where I cannot depend on my own strength.  For whatever reason, I am dependent on those around me for my practical needs and Him for my comfort and peace.  In order to drive this point home, in the last couple of weeks whenever I tried to do even the smallest task, I ended up further injured and limited.  Now I am not allowed to do any kind of rotating of my torso—so no sweeping or mopping.  I’m not to bend over—so no dishes, laundry, picking stuff up off the floor.  I thought I was limited before…

It is a very big change for me.  I am the doer.  I am the fixer.  I am the one who gets things done when others don’t.  If I asked one of my kids or husband to help with something and it didn’t
happen—I just did it myself, even if I probably shouldn’t have.  That’s not an option for me right now.  I’m learning a lot about accepting my limitations (previously, I got angry about my limitations and forced my body to do things I wanted to do), about accepting and asking for help (I like being a helper and receiving help is a challenge), about accepting the condition of things I can’t change (like the tufts of dog hair blowing across my floor, the dishes in the sink, and the laundry piling up), and about spending a lot more quiet moments with the Lord.

We were just talking a few mornings ago.  I was thanking Him for bringing me through this journey and hoping I would learn the valuable lessons in this that I need to learn.  I want to move on.  I want to regain my health and vitality but I know I need to do it at a different pace than what I would force myself to do.  God had some challenging words for me…

I have totally bought into and am a product of our culture’s self-indulgent nature.  I want what I want and I want it now.  I will run to the store if I don’t have it.  I will charge it if I can’t afford it.  I do what I want when I want and while I know that is a serious character flaw and I continue to work on it, it has been a constant struggle.  I do well for a while, then I see something I really want, or I come up with some brilliant idea that I need to act on right now (nevermind that if it really were a brilliant idea it would be just as great a year from now as it would be tomorrow).  I know logically that I need to trust in God’s timing, that I need to stop making things happen in my own strength, that I really need to SUBMIT.  I have been praying about submission for years, now.  

After my little chat with God, He let me know that this was a very practical, physical lesson on my very struggle.  I have been angry and frustrated because I want what I want and I want it now.  I want to be able to clean my house, to build chicken coops, to plant gardens, to work out, to do, do, do whatever I deem is necessary now and I can force myself to accomplish.  While I have been praying for God to help me submit my strong will and live in His timing and guidance, I have not applied all that knowledge and desire practically with much success.  And here, I find myself doing exactly that, in a very practical and physical way.  

God knows that I am good at thinking, contemplating, problem-solving, but I have always learned best when I could apply the lesson practically.  I’ve been contemplating these issues and character flaws for some time but I guess I needed the practical application to bring it home.  God was letting me know that He is teaching me about submitting my own will and desires, not operating (or forcing myself to operate) in my own strength, and learning dependence.  I am in the midst of it now and while I still have moments of frustration, my attitude has changed dramatically in the last few weeks.  I get it now (that’s not to say I’m cured of my natural tendency for self-gratification but it’s a work in progress!).

After my convo with the Lord, I logged onto Facebook to see what the world outside my home was up to.  A dear friend, who is walking through her own horrific struggle right now, posted at that very moment this excerpt from Jesus Calling:

"THANK ME for the conditions that are requiring you to be still. Do not spoil these quiet times by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in my kingdom have been done from sickbeds and prison walls. Instead of resenting the limitations of your weakened body, search for MY way in the midst of these very circumstances. Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to Me.
  Quietness and trust enhance your awareness of My Presence with you. Do not despise these simple ways of serving Me. Although you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms. My strength and Power show themselves most effective in weakness.
Zechariah 2:13; Isaiah 30:15; 2 Corinthians 12:9"

Nothing like talking with God and then getting immediate confirmation right afterward.  God is so good!

So that’s been my journey over the last half a year or so.  I am so grateful for His grace and strength in this time.  I AM grateful for the important things that I can still do.  I am thankful for a job that I can primarily do from my Lazyboy (or even bed when I’m flat on my back), I’m thankful for cuddle time and reading stories to by precious boys, I am thankful I can spend a day sitting with a grieving friend and providing companionship, I am thankful for extra time to spend in the Word and prayer time—there is so much more!  Have I said it yet…God is so good!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Talent Show Recap 2014

This year my boys were, once again, excited to be in the talent show at school.  They started thinking about it in early March as the announcement for tryouts came home in homework folders.  Asher was sure that he wanted to do jokes again.  Cainan had wanted to dance with a group of kids to "What Does the Fox Say?".  We couldn’t get a group of kids together to do this.  He decided he would sing something instead but was struggling to find a song.

Since January, Cainan has been singing a song he learned from Martin Luther King Jr Day.  He sang it almost every day from the end of January through mid-February.  He sang it for anyone who said they wanted to hear it.  He sang it when people didn't want to year it.  He was singing it one afternoon in March when I said, "Cainan, why don't you sing that song for the talent show?".  "What?!  I could sing that for the talent show?!", he started flapping his hands and his voice went up a couple of octaves.  "Yes!  Yes! I want to sing that for the talent show!"  

Over the month leading up to tryouts, both boys worked on their acts.  I suggested to Asher that he do jokes with his best friend, Dylan.  He loved the idea and they set about picking out jokes from some kid joke sites on the internet and practicing them together.  It was hilarious to watch the process.

Cainan continued to practice his MLK song.  In my search to find the music for it, I came across a PowerPoint presentation with the lyrics that is meant to accompany the song.  We looked at it together and he decided he wanted to use it for his performance.  In the meantime, as he was asking me about the civil rights movement that lead to Mr. King’s fame and admiration, we discussed the current civil rights movement for people with disabilities. 

We talked about how people with disabilities can legally be paid far less than minimum wage, even if they’re working hard for many hours; we talked about how a student with disabilities who graduates with a diploma that does not meet “standard” diploma criteria cannot get government aid to attend college; we talked about how often people with disabilities are in classrooms with other people with disabilities, segregated from their peers without disabilities.  Cainan really saw the correlation between Mr. King’s civil rights movement and the current one for people with disabilities. He particularly recalled how he had been in a segregated class and how much he wanted to be in a “regular” class at the same school as his brother.   He was even more excited to sing the song.  We decided to edit the PowerPoint to include images of people from all different races and of varying abilities.  We felt this helped show how much Cainan loved the song and made it personal to his own experiences.

Cainan began to talk to others about the current civil rights issues for people with disabilities.  He has always been a great self-advocate and once he realized that there were some things that just were not fair, he picked up on it and started sharing these issues.  I was a little worried that his simple song he wanted to sing might be a little too political for the talent show, but we carried on in preparation for tryouts.

 The day before tryouts I was lamenting the fact that I was going to have to write up 30 queue cards each for Asher and Dylan to have for their jokes (yes, they had picked out 30 jokes!).  “If only there were a way for them to share…like if they were one person…”  And in my quest to be lazy, I came up with the idea of dressing them in Joe’s clothes so they would be one comedian with two heads.  I told them about the idea and crammed them into the outfit.  It was hysterical…everyone would be laughing even if they never got a joke out.  What made it even funnier is that Asher’s friend Dylan has a very thick British accent. The two talking heads couldn’t be much more different!

They all did great for tryouts.  Asher and Dyan made it into the show but had to pare down their jokes to 12.  We added to their costumes with funny glasses and had them practice their delivery.

Cainan also made it into the show and we were told the PowerPoint was beautiful (Yea! Not too political!).  The music teacher did call me the day after tryouts with concerns about how soft Cainan’s voice is.  She asked if some of the other students who did not make it into the show, could sing with him.  I told her I would ask Cainan—he has always wanted to do a group act but it hadn’t work out with finding other kids to participate.  I asked him if it was ok and he was super excited to include them, but wanted to make sure he still got to sing some of the song as a solo.  We practiced at lunch time a few times and everyone was ready for the big day.

I got to see the dress rehearsal the day before.  The MC for the show was an enthusiastic man named Coach Kid.  He did a short intro for each act, then interviewed the kids after their act.  When he asked Cainan who was mastermind for his act, he said, “My mom.” Which is not entirely true—he wanted to sing for talent show and had been singing that song for months!  When he asked Asher and Dylan if they wrote their own material, they said, “yes”.  I mentioned to Cainan that he was the one that really wanted to sing the song.  And I told Asher and Dylan that they got their jokes from joke books—they didn’t write them themselves.

The day of the talent show, there were two performances.  One in the morning for the kids in the school, then one in the afternoon for the parents.  At the morning performance, Cainan, once again gave me credit for being the “mastermind” of his act.  Asher and Dylan told Coach Kid that I wrote all their jokes…I was getting way too much credit for stuff that I just didn’t do!
Another round of chit chat with the kiddos, letting them know how awesome they did and that mommy did not write their jokes, nor come up with all the ideas for Cainan’s song.  Then the afternoon parent performance.

They killed it again!  This time when asked where they got the jokes, Asher said, “…[long pause]…The Book…”  It sounded so ominous, or hallowed…they weren’t jokes from the Bible.  Then Coach Kid went off script and asked the boys who came up with their great costume.  Asher took credit for this.  The one thing I actually did and could take credit for…nope.

Cainan and his group sang their song.  Once again he gave me credit for coming up with the whole thing.  Once again, Coach Kid went off script and said, “You know, Mr. King did have a great dream, and it’s coming true since all of us get to be here together and watch you sing.”  At which point, Cainan grabs the microphone and announces, “For people with disabilities, there’s a civil rights issue now!”  Did I mention Coach Kid is a black man?  He just patted Cainan on the back and asked for a round of applause.  I think I was three shades of red but also super proud of my boys.  I wish one of us had captured that particular outburst on camera but we missed it.

So here are the videos.  Both videos are of the afternoon performances for the parents.  Enjoy!