Monday, July 10, 2017

Rest Now, Superman. Saying Goodnight to My Spiritual Father

  Girls have this thing with their fathers.  They tend to see them a certain way.  My own natural father wasn't around as I grew up; but when he comes around, even as an adult, I somehow turned into a little girl needing to settle underneath his wing.

But at age 25, which wasn't exactly a highlight year for me, I laid in bed flipping the channels until I saw something I had never seen.  I wasn't one for watching ministers on television; but I stopped.  I could not look away from this guy.  He was walking but his feet didn't seem to touch the ground. Then he took off running, knees high in the air.  Oh and he had yet to stop talking.

The next week, I searched and found the program again.  And the next week I found it again.  He was still running.  He had his bible; but for the most part it was closed.  Didn't stop him from quoting multiple scriptures in that time.

On July 27, 1997, I got there for my first service.  Only July 27, 1997, I signed on as a member.  It wasn't long before I was that little girl, settled under the wings of (at that time) Pastor Frank Summerfield, later ordained as Bishop Frank Summerfield.

Over the years, he prayed, he walked, he talked, he taught, he loved.  He prayed, he walked, he talked, he taught, he loved.  He did what a father all of us.  He corrected, he prayed, he walked, he talked, he taught, he loved.  He corrected, he prayed, he walked, he talked, he taught, he loved.  The greatest of these was love.

I was doing great, he loved.  I wasn't doing so great, he loved.  The moments I am sure he was frustrated, he pushed and he loved.  He said try harder.  If I did, he loved.  If I didn't, he loved more.

"Love like God.  Wait like God.  Forgive like God.  God's Love always forgives in advance."
Bishop Frank Summerfield 

There hadn't been anything like it for me from someone without a natural familial bond.  But I understood quickly this bond was different.  God had done this.  He was dad.  My hero.  He was Superman.  In every way he was a Super Man.  

In that time, he made sure we knew God was the source of it all.  He wanted us to see God and not him.  Still, God empowers some who still don't manage to correct, pray, walk, talk, teach and love in the way he did.  In all of the accomplishments was a humble character, a servant who just wanted the best for everyone.  Like a hero, he used what God gave him to come to the rescue.

At 37, I had to revert to a little girl when life got scary.  After a long illness, my husband died leaving me with a 6 year-old daughter, a 2 month old son and a big grieving family.  He corrected, he prayed, he walked, he talked, he loved.  He helped me bury his spiritual son and he helped me take the steps to go forward on my own.  He loved me.  He loved my children.  And when it got crazy, and it does, I could hear his voice.  

"How long should I say it?  Say it until you can see it.  How long should I confess it?  Confess it until you possess it.  Don't give up."
Bishop Frank Summerfield

At 44, I had to say goodnight to Bishop Frank hero.  He was Superman.  He was a Super Man.  Even as he walked slower, and the reality came to the front, his body wasn't invincible, his spirit, which was of God was faithful to love.

I will miss him.  I will miss his smile, his sure steps, his humor, and that goofy "Look what I've got, I'm so in love," look he had whenever he looked at Pastor Joe Nell.  But he left us so much.  

He corrected, he prayed, he walked, he talked, he taught, he loved.  He did it all with everything God gave him and now, God, in his infinite wisdom has taken him home.  It hurts.  I want to question, "why now?" but I would have never been ready.  I want to ask "why us?" But he taught us we were most definitely not above tragedy, just equipped to push through it.

All that's left is Rest now Bishop Frank hero.  Rest Now Superman.  I love you.  Thank you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Six Years Later: I Remember Day One

 It's said you have a vivid memory of the most significant days in your life.  That every sight, sound and even the smells of the moment come back to you and it's like you are back in the moment.  It's true for me too.  The best days like the day each of my children were born and the nightmare I lived six years ago today when I got home with them and found my husband had died and life flipped upside down.  I went to bed last night keenly aware of the dates of this week.  I woke up this morning keenly aware of the date.  I have not forgotten anything about it.

I try not to relive it and as time has gone on I have done much better even though I won't forget.  I still don't know how I survived the evening that I now call: The invasion.  Death, after all the times we fought it off, it invaded.  And despite all we had been through, when 911 had to be called, it was the first time.  And the strangers invaded.  I recall answering the police's questions while nursing my son under a blanket.  Yes, that's right.  He was 2 months old.  The moment meant nothing to him when his dinner time came.  But the police had questions.  The firemen had questions.  The EMS people had questions. I still remember. 

I still remember the pain in people's voices when I made the dreaded phone calls.  I still remember the quiet tears from my baby girl and her words, "So now we don't have a father?"  A month shy of seven years old, her grasp of the moment struck me then.  Her sadness was only interrupted by her many many questions.  Now a month from being a teenager, her grief journey has changed over and over.  She has begun to discover herself.  It's a challenged life; but it ain't dull.  She has the answers to all of those questions she had back then and can express herself in ways now that she couldn't then.  She's a poet, a musician, a humorist, and a real work of art who can push every button I forgot I ever had.  I so want her belief in herself at a level nothing can bring it down.  I want that for her that much more because I didn't have it.  It's work.

But that little baby, the tiny little boy who kept me from losing my mind that day (and a lot of days since), he is not a baby anymore.  He's happy; but he's no longer happily unaware of things.  Seems like such a short time ago he came into the world.  But he is a little person.  He's funny, energetic, obsessed with cars, trains, and legos.  He loves soccer and football.  He has gone on to school and is participating in his first sport.

 Now, he is the one with the questions.  He's in Kindergarten and he has friends.  He loves school; but he knows his house isn't like that of his two best buddies.  He talks to me about how "N" and "C" have daddies at home and he doesn't.  It's like day one, only instead of Ariana, it's Elijah asking these questions.  "Is he going to stay gone, mom?"  "Is he still sick, mom."  "Is he going to come back mom?"  "Can he just come back and give me a hug, mom."  "Did he go far mom?"  I answer as best I can and I hold him when he buries his head because the answers are never what he wants.

But we continue.  No matter how many times Elijah takes me back to day one, we continue.  No matter society's ideas of the fatherless home, we continue.  The number of times I have to change myself to fit this role don't matter.  That I'm just doing what I should while a father can stroke a brush once across his daughter's head and glitter falls from the sky, that really doesn't matter.  Just makes me roll my eyes some days.  Yeah, I know.  How I have to work during the day, support learning and activities and manage to get in 30 volunteer hours at their school...doesn't matter either.  I made them and I'm the one left. 

So we continue.  And I learn.  I taught my son how to write his name and I taught him how to tuck a football.  I watch the Avengers and The Descendants.  I hold him when he cries.  I tackle him when he wants to play rough.   I'm a poet, a humorist, a soccer defender, a musician, a historian, a wrestler, a driver and the rest.  Still working on my spiral though.

It's life day one and still is nearly 2200 days later and life is for remembering, learning, moving, pushing, loving, changing.  It's for living. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

He's Been Faithful to See Us Through: Five Years of Life With the Five Percent

In some ways my children and I have grown up together since we have been "three".  As they have gone through their changes I have changed.  As they have been challenged, so have I.  I think they have taught me as much as I've taught them, definitely more than I expected to learn.  They have both tested my sanity and kept me sane.  Motherhood has been an adventure of  heartbreak and hurray, holding on and letting go, troubling times and celebrations, confidence and uncertainty.  God has seen us through it all.  He's been that force that kept me going in the absence of their father.  To let me know I could keep going when I felt like stopping.  I still struggle with the fact that I'm still one person.  I find myself trying to overcompensate for it even though the reality is I can't.  That's something I'm still learning to put in God's hands.  But, we have enjoyed a lot of triumphs over the years.  It's sometimes hard to believe they were so little once.

It wasn't long after Thomas' departure that I started facing important events without him.  Just weeks later we were at church to have Elijah dedicated to the Lord. 

But unlike Ariana's dedication, the children's Godparents stood with me during the ceremony.  That was the first of many.  Between the two children we've done eleven birthdays, seven "first day of school", two graduations, several recitals and performances, Ariana has entered middle school and Elijah will enter Kindergarten this fall.  But somehow we made it to where we are today.  It's been a ride.  Finding ways to use their gifts and energy has kept me on my toes, used a lot of time and highway miles.  It's all been worth it. 

Elijah started preschool.  And while he loved to learn, he wasn't real traditional either.  He wasn't much on his school work during the day; but the technology based learning he got into when he pirated my tablet was another matter.  Then the transition from the first year of preschool to the 2nd tested my faith.  He didn't understand moving to another class.  At one point he even stopped talking. 

His teachers had to meet him halfway in a lot of ways, engaging him talking about outer space, science, trains and football.  Those are things he continues to be obsessed with even now.  He could name all of the planets at age 3; but the eight basic colors not so much.  Knows it all now though and more.  Still not much on worksheets though.  But we made it.  Kindergarten, here we come.
During all of that though, both roads were rough.  The path to finding out Ariana was Dyslexic was one of the most challenging times of my life.  The time before we found out, was like I was treading water while she slowly drowned three feet away.  It was close to three years during which I dropped an insane amount of money I couldn't afford on the wrong kind of help.  It was close to three years I spent being told I wasn't doing enough to help her.  It was close to three years of homework time ending with tears or just giving up and going to bed.  It was close to three years of her hearing she just needed to try harder, occasionally from me.

The first clues probably showed up in Kindergarten.  The struggle intensified though in first grade.  In 2nd grade her teacher experimented by asking her the same test questions in a different order immediately after she graded a test.  Written test grade was an F.  But she answered all but one questions correctly when asked in conversation.  She knew the material.  I was more confused than ever.  We sometimes took trips to escape the everyday grind.  She was finally diagnosed in third grade.  For 4th grade I hired a Reading Specialist and a homework helper.  She had classrooms accommodations and adjusted tests and homework, the implementation of which her teacher was brilliant.  She flourished.  She even won the Science Fair.

The following year was a whole different challenge.  I dove deeper into the world of Special Education Law, various reading programs and therapies.  I ended up with a 2nd homework helper by the end.  I had to hand it to my daughter.  She pushed through at times when I wanted give in.  She worked on homework from the last bite of dinner until way past my bedtime without complaint.  Knowing about the Dyslexia gave us both more patience.  I can admit, a lot of the time she displayed more of it than I did.  My soldier finished.  The last year of Elementary school challenged us to the point though that a transition from private school became necessary.

At the start of middle school we found ourselves in a new place with some familiar features.  The new school still had documented expectations of character, uniforms, small classes, carpool and it was all in one building.  This might have been the toughest first day of school for me.  I think it was tougher than leaving her for Kindergarten.

It was a relief to have an active (IEP) Individualized Education Plan set up prior to school starting.  With placement in a special learning summer program, I saw our confidence return enough to pursue her dream of an education in music.  Prior to school starting, I placed her in her very first after school activity.  She just finished her first year in a local group of young singers.  They just happen to meet just 10 minutes from her new school.  They had a winter concert, a spring concert, and some other performances in between.

God's had His work cut out for him the last five years.  But even when I felt alone, in my mind, I knew He was still there.  It's just who He is whether we deserve it or not.  With every challenge, I still see His faithfulness to us.  In my times of anger, and moments of unbelief, He'd show me that one little thing so I'd feel His love.  When I look back on all of these moments and some others, there's always a twinge in my heart; but I'm grateful He's kept me in a place where I can experience joy in the small and large things. This tragedy nor the circumstances we faced afterwards had the power to steal that from me.  As we go on, I'll do my best to hang on to that because while I know we have more challenges ahead, I also know God doesn't change.  He's got nothing left to prove, never has; but He's been strong for me.  And I need Him.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Help, I Want to Trust You: Five Years of Life With the Five Percent

Of course I couldn't get it all in one blog post right? 

Losing a spouse does something to your world.  I had thought a few times what it might be like if Thomas didn't survive one of his episodes; but nothing prepared me for his departure.  Something blew up that day in March and a lot of damage was left.  But slowly and surely as I allowed Him, God put our earth back on its axis and we put a life together as a family.  I didn't always make it easy for Him; but He did it anyway.

This Didn't Mean God Had Left Us

Not as easy as it sounds when you spend years hoping for a miracle; but one thing was for sure.  I wasn't going to get through this without God.  I wasn't wired to do that.  He was a major part of my life before this happened.  I was dependent upon Him everyday.  So navigating life on my own at my lowest point wasn't an option.  Interesting thing is it was being at my lowest point that had me considering it.  Yes, I said it.  I thought of walking away. 

Things were just that dark.  I had to work hard to get past the "I can't believe you left me here with these babies" with Thomas and the "I believed and what did it get me?" mentality with God.  If I'm honest I still have trouble with that first one. 

I read a book by a woman who lost her husband when he was killed in the line of duty.  She said she looked up and asked, "God, are you even there?"  The struggle is real.  So was Thomas' struggle; but as long as he had breath, there was at least a small chance.  When he'd taken his last that was gone.  So what was left?

This is Elijah.  He's about a day old here.  And what very few people know is that this is a person I longed to have in my life for what seemed like forever.  For various reasons I had always wanted to give birth to two children.  This isn't something you can really discuss with people in a world where so many experience the difficulties of infertility and infant loss.  You come across as ungrateful expressing sadness over not having the number of children you want.  When I did choose I thought carefully to mention it, I was told to just be grateful for the one child I had.

But it was more than that.  No one was infertile.  This was another thing the illness stripped from us...from me.  It was insult to injury.  I wasn't going to have another baby because our marriage...well, it wasn't like many other ones.  So when I look at my souvenir from that one rare night on a rare vacation, it's like God returned something to me.  Even now five plus years later Elijah represents knowledge that God had not forgotten my desires.  It felt like He remembered me.  It felt like He remembered us.  See after Thomas' health got to a certain point, I didn't say I was done having children.  Someone I love had advised against that.  But I had stopped asking God for another child.  But there was still someone asking.


Everyday she asked.  Every single day that God mercifully gave us, she asked for a little brother.  She sometimes tells him he wouldn't be here without her.  So when I thought about picking up the pieces of my life and walking a different path, I held on sometimes by a thread to the fact that God remembered me...He remembered us.

Some days in our family it felt like Thomas was all that mattered and after he died, there were days it felt like God left with Thomas; but that's a possible side effect of grief as a Christian.  I knew that.  Eventually I settled on the knowledge that it was going to take God's presence to put the pieces back together. 

It doesn't mean I've done everything right.  Far from it.  I've had dumb days and done some dumb things.  I've gone one way with my little family and had to turn and go another and had that to admit to my daughter in the process of making the correction.  I've had days where I didn't handle the pressures the way I should have.  See, there was some distance between knowing God could and would heal my heart and actually handing Him the pieces so He could do the work.  After March 9, 2010, that took a level of trust I struggled with more often than I like to admit.

God Knew I Was Ticked Off

I talked about being mad in the last entry and I see and hear  and read about not having such emotions towards such a kind, perfect, loving being.  But God is also omnipotent.  As much as I tried especially in those early months to focus on Thomas being free from the suffering he endured, that feeling of abandonment persisted.  As much as I tried focusing on my children not having their father to even talk to was like a 50lb weight. 

So yeah, I dealt with anger.  The only reason it didn't conquer me was because I admitted it and went to Him with it.  But it took me over a year.  I cried for Thomas more often than people know.  But for too long, I was so caught up in how I wanted to handle this, in wanting my daughter to see God could make things alright, in wanting people to see God could make it alright, I didn't really give Him every piece of my broken heart.  I broke down under that pressure around month 18.  I had said, God I trust You.  He had nothing left to prove right?  But after tragedy, the honest thing for me was...Help me, I want to trust You.  It worked in the Bible right?  (Mark 9:24).  I say this a lot; but God is a big boy.  When I said, "God I'm mad," it seemed His response was "Now we are getting somewhere."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Life Out of the Boat: Five Years of Life With the Five Percent

Statistics state that five percent of America's children live with a widowed parent.  That is actually less than the percentage of children who live with neither biological parent.  So it's a small group.  I regularly communicate with men and women in my online widow support group, others who can emphasize with the ups and downs, the triumphs and complications of raising children solo.  In my three dimensional world, I very often feel as though I don't fit in. I've learned to live with it....mostly. 

Here I am five and a quarter years on the road since my husband's death and that is after years as his caregiver.  If I had to pick a few words to describe it?  It's life out of the boat.  That's what it feels like walking this path.  It's an adventure.  There haven't been any dull days.  The challenges have been significant and so have the triumphs.  I have felt pain I didn't know was possible.  I have felt pride I hoped for and love I knew I would.  We have gone through a lot of changes.  I mean now they are 12 and 5.  So I have a child a year from entering the teenage years and another who will start Kindergarten this fall.  At the start of this journey I had a little girl and an infant.

These folks are growing fast.  Everyone agrees on that.  For the most part I like our life.  The children are loved.  They have had nice things, they've been on vacations, they've had challenges facing new things.  They pray and believe in Jesus.  They've also questioned Him as to why their father isn't here.  Well, Ariana has questioned Him.  Elijah?  He questions me.  I can't fix that.  God walks us through and I'm grateful.  He's seen us through some rough periods and shown me the beauty of motherhood no matter what I was facing at the time.  He's been kind.  He's been my protector.  He's been the breath of life.  I love Him like a love song.
Now that all of that is established, here's what else I have to say about it.  I mean we're talking about a grief journey after all.  Let's be real. There's been many days, I really wanted to find that boat and my conversations with God sometimes showed it. But He could handle it.
God, I...I'm Tired...
I don't always remember to project that I'm so full of faith.  One day I see a meme that says "A Single Mother Who Believes in God Never Raises Her Children Alone," and I think to myself, "Amen!  He's Amazing!"  If I see it on a different day, my mind spins and after I say "Amen! He's Amazing! I love Him like a love song; but dang, I'm tired.  Dang, it was me changing every diaper, wiping every nose, wiping every other part that doesn't need to be named. God thanks by the way for stretching my check so I could get the diapers.  God I'm tired.  There's no more diapers.  The boy practically toilet trained himself once he decided he was okay with it (and yes, I waited) and I still get tired; but that's okay.
God, is This The Right Way or What...
There's this thing called "decision fatigue" and I'm here to tell you the struggle is real when that one person that's equally invested in the children is gone. In the past few years I have been on a journey, not just as a widowed parent, but also a parent of a child with a learning difference.  I've had to make a number of adjustments in how I parent and in how I manage education.  It meant going off of the path Thomas and I had decided on for the children.  We had decided on a private Christian School.  But it became necessary to change schools to get the IEP my daughter needed. 
I lost a lot of sleep deciding on a new school. Gone are the days you just send your child to the school closest to your house.  Choices range from the base public school to the local magnet around to any charter within driving distance and the two private schools with programs in place for children like Ariana that didn't cost more per month than my house. 
On the first day at her new school, she looked a lot like she did every other first day of school, freshly permed hair, a new backpack with supplies and a uniform.  She couldn't believe I managed to find a school with a tighter dress code than her old one.  I drove away still wondering, God is this the right way or what?  The waters calmed on that one around the 2nd IEP meeting.  It was around that time Ariana introduce me to several new friends. 
God, Another Loss...
Then I had to pick a new home.  I mean it makes sense going from two working people to one just after adding a second child was bound to cause some financial adjustments.  Add to it the fact that at times I just didn't have my head together to make the decision I should have and I really had little room for error. 
Our home became a weight I could not carry alone.  I made the most sense to find a new one that would be easier to care for and more affordable.  But after being in the same home for nearly 15 years making the transition was like a shock to my system.  And the question of whether I should stay and fight to keep it ran through my head all the way through the first two months after the move.   Some days I think of the other house and it just feels like another loss, one more thing taken from me. 
But I realized this move was God's way of giving me something.  See, when I walk around our new home, a cute little town house in the same area, there's no traumatic memories in any room.  It's not Thomas house, it's ours and in several ways, we brought him with us.  I realized I had fought a fight; but it wasn't necessarily a good one.
God, Help, I Want to Be Enough...
They are loved, they eat, they have experienced a lot of things already that some people never will.  I run around getting Ariana to choir rehearsals because she loves to sing and her new school doesn't have a choir yet.  Okay so some of it is my sheer determination that they won't feel inferior to children with two parents who either share a home or don't.  They don't have anyone to call daddy there when they wake up, to call on the phone, to write to who will write back, to talk to who will talk back without some supernatural visitation.  It hit me like a ton of bricks when I took this photo of them on Father's Day in 2012.
That's the time of year we get to hear it seems every other minute how important fathers are.  And they are; but it also comes with a message how children with one in their lives turn out so much better, have more confidence in themselves, make better grades, I mean you'd think the air must be better or something.  I took on the mentality that I wasn't going to cower under that notion.  I've raged against it this whole time.  No one was going to tell us we weren't a real family.  No one was going to suggest my children couldn't have every chance.  Okay it was part determination, and part anger.  It was like the world was trying to say I wasn't enough no matter how much I dedicated myself to my children like I didn't battle with that in my own mind oh all the time.   
God, I'm Mad...
Yeah I get angry.  He was sick and then he died and it was rough.  I lost my husband.  Four people lost a father.  A son was lost, a brother, an uncle, a mentor, a friend, a community leader, you get it.   I would like to be able to say that over the time since Thomas died, that I always keep it in the front of my mind God's grace that keeps us and His love that carries us and His faithfulness that strengthens us.  In truth I confess I ask His forgiveness because I don't.  I'd love to be able to say that I have never wallowed in grief or let the pain and fear take over at all because of the knowledge of God's hand on our lives. 
I can't do that.  I would love to say that I kept my eyes on Jesus every moment and because of that He kept us.  But I know there were many days He did that despite me because I was all in my feelings.  The heartbreak, feeling abandoned, cheated and deserted, the anger, the fatigue, it's all real.  I take time for breaks.  We like to have fun.  It releases stress.
God, Thank You for Not Leaving Me...
The thing about life out of the boat is I've felt His love for me in ways I never imagined.  His patience I can't even describe it.  I've seen that even when I take my eyes off the prize, Jesus never does.  If I turn my head because some life change brings that heartbreak, fear or anger to the surface, eventually I close my eyes and lean back looking for that feeling that He's still there.  When Peter lost focus and began to sink, Jesus extended His hand to save him (Matt 14:22-33).  
Yes, I feel the challenge of solo parenting.  School volunteer hours requirement anyone?  But Jesus has handled every emotion, every bout with depression, and every fit of anger.  He's seen me through battles with fatigue and irritation and the times I acted on shattered faith.  Had He not I would have drowned.    Grief tried to blind me to what is in front of me; but, His love continues to conquer it.  His strength is made perfect in my weakness (Col 2:10).  And my babies.  They're worth it all.



Monday, January 13, 2014

The LD/ADHD Journey is More than Emotionally Challenging: The Price of Help

We are at almost two years on our LD/ADHD journey and it continues to have its ups and downs and it probably always will. She has worked hard and so have the various people that work with her. Her 3rd grade teacher whom she adores helped her with Math weekly over the summer and she has gone to her twice weekly since school started. She actually does most of the math homework with her. She’s had a reading specialist she has seen weekly for 18 months too. But middle school is looming.

Though her accommodations have been minimal she has to work very hard and I really wish we were armed with more strategies. I’m at the point in the year where I begin again to look at summer programs and evaluate her progress. It’s a tough time of year. Why?

For heaven’s sake, these things are outrageous. One camp is $2500 for 3 weeks of a half-day camp. It costs $5,000 for 6 weeks-still a half day camp. Now when I went through my school search after the diagnosis I found some schools that provide specialized instruction and found them to be out of my reach financially and that is putting it mildly. There were three I looked at here and the cheapest was $18K per year.

I continue to evaluate the choice of school all of the time. At first I concluded I couldn’t do public school for a few reasons, the main one being she’d end up spending significant time in therapy just getting the tools to deal with the change. So she stayed at her same school, a small private school she’s always been in, and she continues to feel she will go out of her skull if I make a change, even if just for a year or two so we can learn from more experienced educators. I blame myself really for not having her experience more of a variety of things before now. Of course I’d always planned for her to continue there, and I still plan for her to graduate from there, but I didn’t plan on ADHD and Dyslexia. She doesn’t qualify for any free assistance being a parent-placed student and with paying for her additional help, I shell out over $800/month for her education. Then pay another $600/month for daycare. That daycare bill is cheap in comparison to most, but I get a “multi-child” discount because the daycare and school are under the same system. But after doing that through the school year, it is difficult to find money for a special summer program.

It is little wonder so many people parenting children with learning differences homeschool if they can. I read a blog of one lady who has four Dyslexic boys. It’s interesting because I imagine the summer program is like the one at my daughter’s school and mainly aimed at the parents already using the school. These people are paying (unless they are receiving help) a hefty amount already. But then maybe after spending the entire year in the school, they go to a regular summer camp.

It was just very discouraging looking at these numbers, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I researched the programs they use in the summer camps and during the school year and the cost of training and getting educators certified in these programs is anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per person. Then there is the cost of materials, periodic testing, the time put in to make each child's individual plan, etc. They have to push that cost off on the consumer. Still, $5,000 for a half day camp?!?!?!?

My eyes will likely again turn towards Chesterbrook Academy. They were the only ones who have a program embedded in a regular school. I toured the school last year and spoke to the teacher my daughter would have had. Honestly, if I could have afforded the tuition, I would have put my daughter in that school and my son in the preschool down the street from it. I was impressed enough to rearrange everything despite how far out of our way, the campus is located. It is half-day like the others, but a 3-week session at least last summer was about $750, which is paid up front in full at the time of registration. Then the child can spend the rest of each day in the school’s regular summer camp at a discounted price, which last year was $112/week. Oh, and I would have to provide lunch each day. I will have to wait to see what the 2014 price will be, but it did stay the same the last two years. I believe this is the last year I can send her.

This has certainly been an emotional and financial challenge and one of my main challenges is to keep this from defining her, from defining us. I don't want everything to revolve around this, but the way these programs charge you would think that is exactly what is supposed to happen to people.

Mommy is a bit tired.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Unamed Father, I feel you man! Lord, I Believe, Help Thou Mine Unbelief

Sometimes this road is bumpy.  I am often reminded of a passage in Mark 9 where the guy I call the "unamed father" brought his sick child to Jesus in hopes of him being healed.  Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief.  Blatant honesty there and I feel the dude.  On the real I do.  It has been hard for me to navigate with the shaken faith. I have trusted God for provision and I have trusted His patience. What I have doubted even though I try not to is the idea that I am as important as say Thomas was or as important as my children are. It is hard to admit, but sometimes I feel like I'm just here to take care of people.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I could be there for Thomas.  He was my heart.  He outlived his prognosis by over 3 years. And I like to think God allowed me to help that happen.  I also adore my babies and I love being their mother.

I loved Thomas, but I never got to really feel important to him or like I was first after God with him because of his illness. Our lives revolved around his condition. When he died I had a 6 year-old and a 2 month old so it was about them. Nearly 4 years later I have a 3 year-old and a 10 year-old. It is still all about them. My 10 year-old daughter is dealing with Dyslexia and ADHD Predominantly Inattentive and every night it literally school work from the last bite of dinner to past bed time while I try to make time for the 3 year-old and his ever developing brain and personality.  What a worker that child is though.  Once motivated, she puts in the work.  Motivation is a challenge and the same method might not work on consecutive days.  But you could say that about any child.  Somehow, she's developed an internal expectation of herself beyond what is generally expected of a child with Dyslexia and ADHD-PI. But then I haven't shared those typical expectations with her.  She is expected to work at the level at which she is capable.  I spend hours and hours finding ways to increase that level for her.

And I find myself thinking…where am I in all of this? In the midst of 2 jobs, education plans for 2 children, a 20 year-old house with a mortgage that needs work, vehicle maintenance and everything involved in taking care of and truly parenting 2 children, where am I? I want to lean on God, but I can’t seem to permanently and completely escape the feeling I have to make everything happen. Thomas depended on me to run the home when he was here and I remember being very afraid of making mistakes.  I still made them. Usually unless it was a huge screw-up, I could fix whatever happened before he even knew because I thought he couldn’t handle the stress of anything going wrong. There were also times I cried from the stress and he didn't know why.  The medication he was on would not have allowed him to comprehend the situation.  Other times, I figured he had all he could handle going to work (even though he’d been told long ago to stop) and going to church.

Every day was like a battle for survival and as weird as it sounds knowing how unlimited God is, it’s like I somehow thought, we’re using up our share keeping Thomas alive and I can’t ask any more of God. Then afterwards with everything that happened, I converted from that to thinking we’re using up our share with me staying employed in this economy and being able to keep the children on the track on which they started and them being happy and healthy. It’s like provision is all I expect.  For everything else, I literally bust my behind day in and day out.  Nothing wrong with that I guess, except for the fact that I know that sometimes I'm doing it because that's the only way the life I want will happen.

I know in my head I can hand God my shattered heart for mending and I know only He can mend it, but I get half-way in and step back. I’m on guard so the healing process I believe has slowed for me. I spent so much time on guard as a spousal caregiver and now as a solo parent, it is troublesome to think of completely letting my guard down even with Him. Lately when I am brave enough to talk to God about me and listen I hear “true love”. It’s not just what He’s offering. It’s what He’s been giving the entire time. Only that could have stuck with me not just the now nearly 4 years Thomas has been gone, but during the time of caregiving.

I made rash decisions then. I sometimes had a crappy attitude about having to give up so much. I was angry about losing our dreams and sometimes I felt cheated having to be married without certain privileges, others enjoyed. But true love came through in the fresh air, in the love from my (then) little girl, in a rare moment we could laugh together Thomas and I without thought of his condition and in being able to watch him interact with his children, especially the times my stepchildren came to visit. And I was given one dream back when I had my son. His conception was nothing short of miraculous.

God has shown me true love and patience beyond what I have shown. I know it. I’ve even expressed appreciation for it. I just don’t think I have fully embraced it. And I think that’s resulted in some regretful decisions. Some was “I’m going to do what I want right now because I’ve been cheated out of so much already.” Some of it was just not looking far enough down the road to see the full result. Some was thinking I have to make life happen because no one else will.

But I’m smart enough to know that as alone as I have felt, God has been there or I’d likely be somewhere in pajamas looking at the soft walls. Still trust is an issue. It’s like when employers have teams do that trust exercise where you fall back into someone’s arms because if they really trust each other things will work better. Life is decent, fun even with multiple difficulties and challenges, but I think one of my issues lies in wondering how much better it could be if I let myself fall backwards to Him. Am I keeping myself and my children from better? A new love even? God’s never let us down. Not really. And I hear that still small voice: “Trust Me, I’m not out to crush you.” Still with everything that has happened, I haven’t yet been able to completely and permanently shake that nagging feeling that I can’t ask any more of Him and if I lean back I’ll get hurt.

My hope is in His patience and understanding. We can all place hope in that. God loves us.  He loves me and even more than that, He is well aware of how difficult all of this has been.  I'm aware that I can keep going with apprehension as long as I keep going.  Afterall, it worked for that guy.