To my soon to be adult child(ren)

You are a teenager on the edge of independence, almost ready to leave the comfort and safety of the nest. You can see the freedom of the world outside and long to enjoy all life has to offer.

To you, my protection has sometimes felt like a straight jacket, because you can’t feel my arms in the sleeves hugging you. You don’t see the detours I know are there. You don’t have the wisdom of my years of life experience to warn you of dangers around the corner.

I know because of the unique challenges our family has faced, you are much wiser than your years. But you are still young, and that emotional maturity cannot replace life experience.

I challenge you, as you prepare to make your own way in the world, to remember these 5 things:

1. Everyone has something to offer.

No matter how young or old, everyone has had some experience that you haven’t. They can offer you a different perspective on life or share a unique tidbit of wisdom that nobody else can. It could be the innocent view of a child, untouched by a cynical world, or the calm patience of someone who has learned to stop and savor each moment.

2. Choose your friends wisely.

You can be friendly without getting too close. Don’t trust until you know someone is trustworthy. Don’t follow the crowd because it’s easier than making your own decision. Make sure your friends are a good influence on you, and you are a good influence on them.

3. Don’t give too much of yourself.

It is important to be a good friend and to give back to society. Just be sure you don’t give to the point that there is nothing left. Protecting yourself from harm is just as important as giving and doing good. If you can’t function, how will you be able to serve others?

4. Do what brings you joy and peace.

Do you enjoy drawing? Then grab your sketch pad a few times a week and get lost in the art. Does music calm you or lift you up? Make sure to take a few minutes every day to listen to some favorite songs. Whether your passion lies in animals, dancing, baking, or playing an instrument or a sport, make time for it regularly. This is what takes you from being alive to really living.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The only stupid question is the one that you already know the answer. It is easier to ask or answer a question than to fix a mistake. If someone thinks less of you because you asked, they are the one with the problem. Know that they are not wise enough to help you learn, and move on. Never lose your thirst for knowledge.

I can see you becoming a fine young adult with a faith and compassion that are not common in our world. I love you and am beyond proud to have had a hand in shaping who you are. You are a precious child of God and many, many people care about you.

Don’t ever lose the spark that makes you uniquely you.

Photo credit http://elderberry.blogspot.com

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Blessings in Disguise

We’ve all heard the saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” People keep saying it because it’s true.
For over a year now, I’ve been trying to make a certain change in my life that just wasn’t happening.  For one reason or another, God kept closing doors. The one time it seemed to be an urgent need, He provided another solution to the urgency. Because of this, I have been patient, looking for solutions regularly.
Recently a solution practically fell in my lap.  Through a course of events, and a little nudging from the Holy Spirit, my son was the broker for an act of kindness that our family gave to one of his friends. Although it was not a big deal for us, it meant a lot to the friend.  What I didn’t realize was that it would turn into a big deal for us, providing a solution to that year-long quest. 
After we made the initial gesture to the friend, I felt God telling me to take it one step farther. This next step was one that most people would think is completely illogical, but I trusted God. During that conversation with the friend, we both cried, hugged and talked about options. Immediately I felt a sense of peace that I haven’t felt in a long time.
She accepted the offer, and in doing so managed to open that door that had remained closed for so long. There is one other step to take before we can walk through that door, but God has already shown me the way to navigate that brief delay.
By doing what I thought God was telling me to do for someone else, He provided me with a blessing I have waited for over a year.

To my son’s first girlfriend 

I wasn’t ready for you. I was just getting used to him driving and working. He’s not even close to being independent. I know that is supposed to be the goal, but deep down I have to admit I don’t want it. 

I have always told my kids they are growing too fast. I imagine most parents feel that way. Those feeling are purely selfish. The goal of every young person is to have the freedom of being independent, even if they don’t understand the responsibility that comes with it. 

He seems to think I don’t like you. That’s not the case at all. I don’t know you very well, but what I know is a sweet, likable girl who happened to catch the eye of my first baby. That is hard for me to swallow. 

 

Wasn’t this just last week?

 
My job as a mother is to protect and nurture my kids, and teach them to be responsible, caring adults who love God and family. So far I think I’ve managed to do that, even if my ways are not the most conventional. Yes, things have happened that were beyond our control, but I was there to pick up the pieces when our world was turned upside down. 

Of course, I want to guard my son’s heart. It’s only natural. It’s hard for me to let go and allow him to make his own choices. I’m trying very hard to offer advice without telling him what to do.

I’m glad he is comfortable enough with me to talk about you in ways most teens wouldn’t share with their parents. He knows I won’t judge or jump to conclusions. He also sees the value of lessons I learned by making bad choices when I was young. 

I hope I have a chance to spend time with you soon, just the two of us. I would like to get to know you myself, instead of just hearing what he thinks of you (which seems to be all good, by the way). If you’re lucky I may tell you some of the cute things he did when he was little. I may even show you some of those embarrassing pictures every parent seems to have. 

December 21, 2008

Today is a bittersweet anniversary. Seven years ago our family joined an exclusive club that nobody wants to be in but has the most wonderful people on earth.

We have laughed and cried. We have felt joy and pain. We have had moments of complete despair and of grateful thanksgiving. We have met some absolutely wonderful people in the most devastating circumstances. We have been encouraged and have encouraged others.

Our family, like so many others, had a trial by fire so to speak and came out victorious. I asked my son yesterday how he deals with the constant pain and he said it was a supernatural God-given strength. I believe my daughter and I were given a similar mental strength to live the lifestyle that comes with having a special needs family member.

We have all had an education we didn’t want. We have learned medical jargon, coping skills, accommodation law, pain management, and how to maneuver the maze that is public school for differently-abled students. We have gained extraordinary patience, empathy, endurance and flexibility. We have become closer to each other and to God.

I would never wish this journey on anyone, but am beyond thankful for the friends I have made along the way. I have fond memories of a weekend this summer with a small group of these friends in New York City, thanks to the research efforts of the Novartis pharmaceutical company. I frequently spend time online with these friends and others discussing the joys and trials of life with chronic medical issues. Many of us have come close to losing our precious children to a devastating illness that most people aren’t even aware of.

If a nickel was donated to research every time one of us heard, “She is too young to have arthritis,” or “He was fine yesterday,” or “Isn’t she over that by now?”, scientists would have found a cure years ago.

Life is full of contradictions. Life with a chronic illness is no exception. Today I mourn the loss of my healthy son but at the same time celebrate the gift of the life we share with close friends who also grieve.