The Gratitude Challenge

Sabrina from Hospital Flowers tagged me for this challenge going through the social media. Here's how the challenge is supposed to work: For 5 days, you write three things you are thankful for. In five days, that comes to fifteen things on your gratitude list. Then, you tag some people, and they write their own, so on and so forth.

This challenge is quite timely. With all that's going on, writing down the things I'm grateful for should be good for me. While I will be posting these things three at a time on G+, I'm going to put the whole long list here. Which may or may not be only 15 items long.

Okay, here goes:

1. One of the most wonderful things about summer is the clothesline. In my little corner of the world, few smells are sweeter than slipping between sheets that have been dried with sunshine. I could literally stay awake all night inhaling the scent.

2. Music. Music is one of the knot of things around which I revolve. It has taught me lessons, ministered to me in the hard times, and changed my mood so fast I didn't even see it coming. It's a powerful tool.

3. Man has no ability to truly comprehend the incredible awesomeness (in the truest sense of the word) of the human body. Okay, just take the brain. Common, perhaps, but far from ordinary. This would become a massively long post if I were to go into some of the details of the amazing-ness of the human physical mind. And some of you may become a little green. So I digress. But, really, it is fascinating. Here we are in the 21st century, and we act like we know all there is to know, but, in reality, when it comes to the brain, we know only so much, practically next-to-nothing.

4. Nutella is one of the staples of my diet. I may or may not have been caught eating it with a spoon directly from the jar. But then, I'd have to silence the witnesses if they decided to make this knowledge public. :)

5. Intimacy with Christ is a beautiful, beautiful thing. He and I go way back, and He's been so good to me. I'd always known of Him, but a few years ago, He let me know that He wasn't happy with being "just friends". That He wanted my heart. So I gave it to Him. And being His beloved has satisfied me more than anything I've ever known in my entire life. And it's only gotten better! In fact, as I go through each struggle, He's proven Himself Wonderful time and time and time again. What more could a girl ask for?

6. Being Italian. Does anything more need to be said? I mean, really?

7. The stars have never ceased to amaze me. Just read Psalms. The stars point to God, to what He's done, what He can do, and where we stand in comparison. God used the stars to teach me that lesson a few years ago. Everything looked bleak, then He made me see the stars, and realize what His hands can do. And that gave me that Peace that passes understanding.

8. Coffee is the staff of Italian life. This is a given. In our house I'm the self-appointed Coffee Officer. If you've ever walked through our doors, I remember whether or not you drink coffee, and if you do, whether you prefer caf or decaf, as well as how you like it fixed (and how you don't). It's just one of those weird quirks that people probably don't know about me. I take to coffee like a fish to water or a Brit to tea.

9. Friends. Real friends. Men were real men. Women were real women. Small furry creatures from Alpha-Centuri were real small furry creatures from Alpha-Centuri. (yes, that is a quote.) Seriously, though, friends have lifted my family up through prayer and support more in the past 3 months than anyone else. There's nothing like a hard time to show who your real friends are. And with all that's gone on this past summer, quite frankly, I don't have time for friends (or Christians for that matter) who aren't real in the realest sense.

10. The human hand is almost as fascinating has the human mind. And the fact that I can use the two God gave me uninhibited is a gift. I was marveling over this while playing piano last night. I'm no Billy Joel, but you don't have to be to appreciate the complexity of the human hand. If I had no use of my hands, I'd go insane. I love to sew and to play piano too much. So thank You, God for my hands; may they always be used to Your glory.

11. Color. Life would be dreary without color. Imagine what life would be like without color. How dull, how boring. When it comes to faith, I believe very strongly in the concept of Black and White. But if God meant for life to be black and white, He would have made it that way. Instead we can see a whole range of color (all by-products of light--that could be a whole post in itself) that make our world beautiful. After all, color serves no actual purpose other than to please the eye.

12. I have absolutely no fear of being generic: my family is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. Easily could I have listed my family members individually for the first 10 of these fifteen items. In which case, this post would grow into a trilogy of books. :) My family lifts each other up in the hard, prays each other through pain, laughs each other through the funny, cries through the sad, smiles through the joyful and hugs all the time. We know each other's buttons and soft spots, weaknesses and strengths. We understand each other perfectly and can even know what the other is thinking most of the time. Never have I had a group of friends that so encouraged and challenged me.

13. Owls. Owls. Owls. They've become my babies. [figuratively, of course] We tease Mom that she has Grandowls. As each of my little parliment is finished being stuffed, I squeal with joy. Not that I'd ever admit that on the internet. Remember those witnesses from before? Still stands. And you know who you are... I'm grateful for my owls because I've seen God pull some amazing stunts. Like last years' Buddy Walk sales numbers. Like the I Can Bike camp this summer. Like people jumping in with both feet to help the cause. Like friends stepping in to help. Even if they have no clue what they're doing. :) I can't wait to see what comes in the future!

14. Love. I'm sorry if this is, perhaps, again, generic, but, then again, it's not. (and that was a lot of commas for such a short sentence.) No, definitely not. Love is never generic. Not true love. Not the love that God is. Not the love He gives us. Not the love that nails the God/man to a cross to bleed for me. That's not generic, and I take it back. I'm not a bit sorry. I'm glad. Are you?

And the pièce de résistance: Henry. I'm grateful for Henry. Because of him, I've been pushed to do not what I think I can (like the little engine) but what God can do through me. He taught me what real love is. He taught me what expressing gratitude when you aren't grateful can do. How to look out for others when you are hurting and your hurt will be lost in trying to help. Which is, in essence, real love. So it kind of rounds out the whole last bit, doesn't it?

So there you have it. The 15 things that I am gratful for in this moment. Which, hopefully will expand tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after....you get the idea.

Now: what about you? What are you grateful for? If you post about the challenge, I'd love to hear from you!

"In every thing give thanks[not feel thankful]: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."- I Thess. 5:18, emphasis mine


"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."- Edward Abbey

A wilderness is a desert wasteland. At first at appears devoid of anything living, green and wet. Quiet, lonely, desolate... Until you take a closer look. Only when you do will you see the magnificent flowers blooming on the cacti. Scorpions, tortoises and birds, skittering, lumbering or flitting into their respective hidey-holes.

Israel spent forty years lost in the desert. They complain of heat, hunger, thirst; they grew weary of the seeming lack of leadership and not being settled into their own place.

Hagar spent some days in the wilderness alone with her son. Rejected by her mistress and the father of her child, she fell into despair, surrendering to the elements, and turning over her only son to the desert's harsh temperatures.

Elijah, running from a livid queen after stumping her religion's priests, hid in a cave in the wilderness. Not exactly a Hilton. He felt alone, depressed, abandoned.

Are you starting to see a theme?

Abraham lived in the wilderness. In a tent. Sarah must've been a strong woman. :)  His nephew turned his back on Abraham's faith and fell in with the wrong crowd. He was old and childless. And, to top it off, three uninvited, unannounced guests turned up at his door expecting to be served a meal!

Christ, while on earth, spent 40 consecutive days fasting in the wilderness following his baptism. He suffered hunger and severe temptation from Satan.

After reading about all the above circumstances, we can know that we aren't the only ones who've been through some tight spots. Also, in each story we see how God was faithful to these hurting people.

Jesus immediately began His three year ministry. Abraham saw his nephew rescued and his wife bear a son and entertained Christ at his table. Elijah heard the voice of God. Hagar received a promise that her son would survive this desert and become father to a great nation. Israel was given great victories and a land of their own.

Another way God proved loving and comforting in their hard times was ministering to them. Israel was miraculously provided for: bread from heaven, quails arriving on the wind (literally) and water coursing from a rock. Elijah, Hagar and Christ all were given physical sustenance and spiritual encouragement and instruction from angels.

As the desert comes to life upon reflection, so our seemingly "dry" days can fulfill us like no others can.

So don't gripe about the heat. Don't while about the pain. Don't pull a "poor me" act. God uses the wilderness to make us thirst for Him.

Like Israel, let's walk out of our wilderness claiming the victory He's already won for us. Like Hagar, let's cling to our new found hope. Like Abraham, give your all, and claim the promise offered. Like Christ, fight temptation, even when you're weak. Like Elijah, don't focus on the winds, earthquakes, tornadoes, thundering and lightning- listen for the still small voice.

And don't forget to look for the angels, for they will come. They may arrive in the form of your neighbor who drops by to see if you're okay. A church member who brings a meal. A friend who frequently lets you know that they are praying for you.

One way to keep your mind off your trials is to reach out to someone else who's hurting. "Bearing one another's burdens" and all that.

One faithless giant upon the crest of Hebron's lofty heightHas vowed that he's the one to make me flee.I'll come from out the wilderness and trust Jehovah's might.I want that mountain, it belongs to me!-I Want That Mountain


Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.-Psalm 8:2

For only being one year old, Henry sure has been through a lot of hardships. Physically speaking, his small body has taken some serious hits. Trisomy 21 alone has loads of effects. Besides hindered natural development (physical and mental), other systems affected include air passages, lungs, heart, brain, digestion, even fertility. And that doesn't scratch the surface. Just in the past 16 months, I've become well-informed of medical specialists and types of therapist that, before, I didn't know existed. Thanks to my well-read mother, our whole family has had crash courses in many of Henry's daily needs from speech therapy to checking a blood pressure and glucose numbers. Mom even taught me how to change sheets with a patient still in the bed.

Long and short, because of Addison, I've learned some important lessons. Here are a few:

  • Keep fighting when you've no fight left.
  • Love doesn't travel and easy road.
  • We are intrepid.
  • Unconditional love is a choice, and the most beautiful thing God created.
  • Sometimes a hug is all it takes to make things seem much brighter.
  • A sincere smile can make someone's day.
  • Don't waste what God has given you, whether it be time, talent or simply the ability to walk.
  • Life, even in the tough parts is a beautiful, beautiful gift.
  • Never take anything for granted.
  • Just when the storm looks bleakest, Jesus walks out to you across the waves.
  • Administering liquid medication to a child with a severe posterior tongue-tie is tortuous until God inspires a plan. (we recently discovered a great trick that reduced our "dosing" time from 30 minutes to 5 minutes or less...definitely a God-thing!)
  • Turning the ones you love over to God is a daily necessity. It isn't easy, but gives great blessings once it's done.
  • "God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." (Isaiah 26:3)
  • Prayer is way more powerful than any of us will ever be able to comprehend.
  • Life is too precious to not spend every single moment crammed full of living, savoring everything thrown your way, and finding the beautiful in it.
Addison, Henry, I love you my little man. Thank you.

Proud. You make me proud.Don't know how to say it any better.Proud. You make me proud.Win or lose, well it really doesn't matter.'Cause you step up to the plate, Swinging for the fence.You're gonna change the world around you, I'm convinced.Just look how you're changing me-Making me proud.-Proud, Steven Curtis Chapman



"Paper faces on parade.
Hide your face so the world will never find you."

God has been teaching me a lot of tough lessons in the past month, but one has come to the forefront recently. It started with a verse, which lead to a song, which made the cranial wires connect, and the light bulb turn on. Come to think of it, that's usually the pattern God uses to teach me. Step one, the verse:
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:20
Since I was very young, I've heard this verse quoted as a call to minister to our fellow-Christians. And so it is. But ministering to others is only half the command.  "One another" is a two-way street. You have to minister and be ministered to. Lots of very dear friends have ministered to our family in these past 3 weeks. Actually, in the past year, since Addison was born, our "friends in need are friends indeed" have manifested and established themselves. Some bring meals when they know Pa and Mom have to take Henry to the hospital. Some call us at random hours just to ask how we're holding up. Some email us  links to songs that are encouraging. Some text a verse that God put on their heart to share with us, or just to let us know they're praying. These may not seem like huge things, but each has not gone un-noticed by our family and is so very you'll-never-know-how-much-it-means-to-us encouraging. Because, you see, God has, without fail, lined up your "random" contact, whether a word or deed,  with exactly what we needed at the time. If I haven't thanked you personally for the encouragement you've been, I thank you now: Thank you, thank you thank you!

Yet, this is only one way to be ministered to. What about ministering on the deepest level? Where it hurts? Where a sterile spiritual "band aid" isn't going to help heal? In order to find healing there we must be open with each other.

We must be vulnerable.
So you thought you had to keep this up.All the work that you do So we think that you're good. And you can't believe it's not enough. All the walls you built up Are just glass on the outside.So let 'em fall down. There's freedom waiting in the sound. When you let your walls fall to the ground. We're here now- Afraid to let your secrets out. Everything that you hide Can come crashing through the door now. But too scared to face all your fear.So you hide but you find That the shame won't disappear. So let it fall down. There's freedom waiting in the sound When you let your walls fall to the ground. We're here now. Sparks will fly as grace collides With the dark inside of us. So please don't fight This coming light. Let this blood come cover us-His blood can cover us.This is where the healing begins, oh, This is where the healing starts.When you come to where you're broken within The light meets the dark.The light meets the dark.-Healing Begins, Tenth Avenue North

Vulnerability isn't easy. It requires us to be painfully honest, to bare the deepest part of our being to others. For me, at least, this doesn't come naturally. I've always been of the mindset if it's my problem, it's my problem, and it's for me and God to deal with, and there's no need to bother anyone else. Until just recently, when I realized the opposites of vulnerability, and they are not pretty. In fact, they're ugly, blatant words that aren't going to make me Miss Popularity.

Pride & Hypocrisy.

They're glaring, garish words, aren't they? Words that every "good" Christian avoids. Words that we attach to alleged heathens. Certainly NOT anything we'd participate in  ourselves! God forbid! We are are loyal and true, besides being the very model of humility!

Or are we? "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall."- 1Cor. 10:12
This is a fool's parade,
The way we masquerade-Trying to make everybody think it's all okay.When the truth is we're all living a story.What if we all got brave?Enough to take awayAll we're hiding behind even for just a day.And let the scars show even a little.But I know the honesty Will show us all to be-Broken.We're all broken-And we all need a Savior.Broken.We're all broken-And we all need a Savior.We don't have to pretend about it.We don't have to keep acting like we're all okay.If we lift our eyes to the crossWe'll see The reality:That we're all broken.-Broken, Steven Curtis Chapman

All of us will readily admit that we're not perfect, generally speaking. But how many are willing to let on when we are going to pieces? The first step in  fixing a problem is to admitting the problems existence. This is where our pride kicks in, putting up barricades and denying our brokenness.

An unbroken heart is dark. No light can infiltrate its dank, musty interior. Nasty growths form in the the damp darkness. However, if we allow our dark, rock-hard hearts to be cracked open, Light floods in, killing the mildew lining it's walls. Darkness is expelled, for "what communion hath light with darkness"? (2 Cor. 6:14)

It could be compared to scraping the grime off an authentic stained glass window. It takes serious elbow grease to rub away the dirt, and you'll probably be a bit sore from meticulously laboring to clean out the crevices. But when you are finished, the light shines through the window, lighting the inside, and illuminating the message of Jesus. Of course, you'll also see how badly the other windows need the same, but that's another topic for another day.

Most my life I’ve been doing my best to
Try and hide Anything less than perfect.
I covered up all my scars.
I gotta make them think I’ve got it together.
Make believe Nobody ever
Has to see What I keep in the dark.
Truth is, I was wrong.
That’s the part that You
Have wanted all along.
Coast is clear We got nothing to hide.
All are welcome here-Step into the light!
Where there’s no more fear Can you hear
The freedom song our souls are singing:
Come just as you are-
Take those walls around you
And tear ‘em all apart!
We are the weak, the wrong,
The too far gone
We are the outcasts, yeah,
But today we belong.
We are the lost, the found,
The been knocked down,
But we got back up
And now we are the city on a hill
Is filled with stained glass hearts,
But we come as we are
We come as we are
And we shine like stars, shine like stars
We come as we are and we shine like stars.
We are, we are, we are the broken.
But we are, we are, we are the chosen.
So come on shine, shine, shine
Your beautiful light
Through the cracks inside our hearts tonight.
‘Cause we are, we are, we are the broken.
-We are the Broken, Matthew West

As for the hypocrisy's role in this, well, just answer these questions:

1. What is it called when we deny or cover truth? (hint: hypocrisy)
2. What is it called when we talk one way and act another? (hint: hypocrisy)

The answers could both be hypocrisy, right? (hint: yes.)

Now we've laid out the crime (a closed heart) method (hypocrisy) and the motive (pride).

Scary things to have on your spiritual resume.

*When looking up the word "vulnerable", I came across a definition from the game of bridge that was enlightening:  "liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge" courtesy of Merriam-Webster dictionary . Just a side note.*

I want to know who you are,Even if you're falling apart.Reach in and touch your scarsAnd all the shame you've kept in your heart.
'Cause it's not enoughIt's not enoughJust to say that you're okay.I need your hurt. I need your pain.It's not love any other way.
Let's not pretend.Stop your parade,Trying to convince meThat you're alright and everything's okay.Yet, do you even know Me?
'Cause I already know who you are-And all things that kept us apart.So reach in and touch My scars,And know the price I paid for your heart.
'Cause it's not enoughIt's not enoughJust to say that you're okayI need your hurt. I need your pain.It's not love any other way.-Any Other Way, Tenth Avenue North

The good news? It doesn't have to stay that way. At the end of a masquerade ball, everyone removes their mask. So stop dancing, and pull off your papier mâche veil and let others see who you truly are. It's the next step in being real, authentic, true, the next step in being more like Christ.

Is there anyone that fails?Is there anyone that falls?Am I the only one in church today,Feeling so small?When I take a look around,Everybody seems so strong.I know they'll soon discoverThat I don't belong.So with a painted grin,I play the part again-Hoping that they'll see meThe way that I see them. Is there anyone who's been there? Are there any hands raised?Am I the only one who's tradedIn the Altar for a Stage?The performance is convincing.We know every line by heart.Only when no one is watchingCan we really fall apart.Would it set me freeIf I dared to let you seeThe truth behind the personYou imagine me to be?Would your arms be openWould you walk away? Or would the love of JesusBe enough to make you stay?Are we happy plastic peopleUnder shiny plastic steeples-With walls around our weakness,Smiles that hide our pain?When the invitations openedTo every heart that has been broken, Maybe then we'll close the curtainOn our stained glass masquerade.-Stained Glass Masquerade, Casting Crowns


Making Joyful Noises

Our family is very fond of music. Almost always there is music playing. During school, making dinner, going to sleep, working outside, you name it, we probably do it while listening to music, or at least singing. Broadway has always been my favorite genre. However, when I'm "where I need to be", spiritually speaking, I crave godly music.

One may ask, does the type of music we listen to really matter? I believe it does. Mankind is an emotional creature, and, at least for me, music is a massive influence. When I'm down, stressed, tired or excited, or worried, or hurting, or joyful, or in a song-in-my-heart mood, I play piano or sing. Sometimes both. (And sometimes I even do a little dance--but if you bring that up, I'll deny it!) So, in short, our almost-200-year-old baby grand has gotten to know my fingertips intimately. Music can sympathize with the soul on an subconscious level (quite literally) thus effecting our emotional responses. Music can lift up or drag down. Because man was made to glorify God, and music is one way to bring Him glory, one may conclude that man was made for music.

But so was Satan. More than being made for musical ability (as man is) Satan was a musical instrument. It was a part of his literal being.
" ...the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. "- Ezekiel 28: 13
Obviously, when in perfection, this ability was used for the praise of God. But, as with all other God-honoring things, he has perverted them to bring his own glory. We must be discerning. In reality, anything that doesn't bring honor to God is dishonoring. This is tough to swallow, I know. Especially if you think you  are listening to "harmless" and "fun" music. But I have found that when I listen to music that isn't specifically God-honoring, I feel...well... grimy. Try it. See if you go back.

There are many ways to make joyful noises. The catbirds in their nest outside my bedroom window make joyful noise every single morning, rain or shine, starting about 5-something AM. Not that I'm usually up that early... My brothers make joyful noises when they're tussling each other on the hill beside our house or riding their bikes down said hill as fast as possible. Our family's 6 piece orchestra makes joyful noises. Our late pastor used to say " if you can't sing good, sing loud." and he practiced what he preached...

But let's stick to music so as not to complicate things.

Joyful noises don't have to be on key or even on-tune. Like singing a lullaby to a baby. They don't care how you sound- it's just soothing to hear your voice. Think of it this way- we're God's children, right? Who doesn't like to hear kids singing? When the church's progeny are up front around Christmas belting out Silent Night, who cares if their all on the same note/word/song at the same time? Except for the frustrated music directors, no one cares. Especially not the proud Mums and Dads.

Do yourself a favor--Wherever you find yourself today, sing a song. Hum a little. Let a spring come to your step. Blare a hymn out your car windows on the highway. Belt out a favorite you haven't sung for a while.  Let loose of the reigns for a bit. Just praise the King.

Or better yet, praise Him with a friend.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.-Psalm: 34:1-3


Two Questions

All the people who read here also read my Mom's blog, and most read my sister's-both of whom are much better at staying on top of things than yours truly. Therefore, by now, you are all probably well informed of Addison's latest miracle story of last week. So, I will be as brief as I can while still covering the general gist.

For the last three weeks, Henry had become less alert, more lethargic, which came to a head last Monday when mom had a hard time waking him up from his nap (not normal-this kid is like clockwork). He'd also been doing this odd little movement where his left side appeared to collapse for a half-second. Then he'd recover and seem fine. These "drops" became more frequent and sudden, and usually occurred at certain points throughout the day. Mom described this to his physical therapist, thinking it was muscular, and she thought seizures and recommended we see his doctor. So Mom called his geneticist, who said she thought it was indeed seizures, and to bring him to Children's Intl. Hospital right away for an EEG.

Five whirlwind minutes later, I was master of the house, and we were all in a well-what-do-we-do-now? mindset. So we did what all good Italians do under stress. We ate lunch. Pa and Mom sent word later that the CIH was keeping Henry overnight for the EEG, and resourceful, level-headed Brianna fixed an overnight bag for the three of them. Our gracious house guest proved to be a true friend in time of need, pitching in and lending a hand when- and where-ever needed (such as hauling the 8 of us into the can and driving the 1-1/2 hours into DC for us to visit Henry and the Parental Unit).

During rounds the next morning, Henry's EEG was read and the hypsarrhythmia confirmed seizures and a diagnosis of West Syndrome- a very rare form of Infantile Epilepsy. In typically developing children, there is an underlying cause for such seizures. However, in children with Down Syndrome, they really don't have any trigger/cause whatsoever. The 12 neurologists that studied him that morning prescribed a steroid to stop the seizures and an ulcer med to spare the lining of his poor stomach the pain of being eaten through by the actual medication. Yeah, some pretty harsh stuff.

However, in all this, there were still many overwhelming blessings:

  1. Henry's PT was able to come on a work day, on such short notice just to check up on him-an hour's drive out of her way.
  2. His geneticist was able to accurately diagnose him over the phone.
  3. The hospital was able to schedule the EEG for that same night, so he could spend the minimum amount of time there.
  4. No brain damage occurred from the seizures.
  5. The very Down Syndrome that makes his every day harder actually saved him from a more serious outcome. Also, the Doctors told Pa and Mom that children with DS respond to the meds better.
  6. All of his unresolved swallowing issues have not prevented him to be able to take his oral medications.
  7. God arranged for our from-out-of-town-friend to be staying with us at just the right time.
  8. Not one but two friends brought us meals (no cooking!) and even more flooded us with encouraging texts, offers for help/rides and a few if-you-need-anything-and-I-mean-anything-you-just-call offers.
  9. One of his nurses just transferred to neurology from the cardiology dept., where she attended Addison's friend, Madion's, three heart surgeries.
And there are loads more.

So, Henry came home and started the meds. One week, to the day, later, and his seizures are few and far between.

But something else started happening. He slowed down even more. His light seemed to go out. He became even less alert. He wanted to do nothing but lie on your shoulder and suck his thumb. Therapy became a thing of the past. He lost interest in everything. He stopped smiling altogether. 

And then, two days ago, I realized that I miss him. I miss Addison.

It's like he's trapped inside, lost under this tired, sad, fussy baby,

It breaks my heart.

The doctors are sure that within 3 months, tops, he'll be off the meds, and back to normal. It's a hope to cling to, but from this place, it looks like a long, bitter road. Like I wrote before, I've got to continue to let him go every day. It's been tough.

A wise friend told me this past week that when these things happen, we must ask ourselves two questions:

1- Is God Sovereign?
2- Is God Good?

Of course, was my instant mental reply,  of course He's Sovereign and Good. But since that moment, those questions kept reappearing. 

Now, at first, this next statement will sound almost sacrilegious, but stick with me for a moment. I believe it's good to question our faith. Hang in there a second, okay? I'm not saying it's okay to question God. But it is okay to ask questions of Him: He always answers. But you have to have the right question.

If you only ask for answers, you're likely to be as frustrated as the spokesmen for Sages, Astronomers, Philosophers and Other Professional Thinking Persons were at Deep Thought's answer to life, the universe and everything: 42. Some have this theological bee in their bonnet about asking God questions. As if, when a hurting person asks "Father, why?", God would pop out of somewhere and thunder out: HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME AND MY WAYS!  In actuality, God says, "Come now, and let us reason together"(Is.1:18) and "My thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways." (Is. 55:8) That doesn't sound angry, but inviting. 

Take Job, for instance. He's known the world over as the righteous man who lost everything and never questioned God. But the book of Job is chock full of questions asked of God. Then, after 37 chapters of questions (from Job) and debates (Job's 4 friends) God shows up, and from the whirlwind, tells Job not what he thought he wanted to know, but what God knew he needed to hear. And it wasn't the answers. In fact, it was a boatload of questions. God asks him questions like, "where were you when I called the earth into existence?" and "can you invent, let alone, make from dust, such magnificent beings as behemoth and leviathon?" "are you this powerful?" Instead of saying "Job, I let this happen to you because_fill in the blank_". No, not at all. He showed Job how Sovereign He really is.

In two of my blackest moments, God made sure they happened on a clear night, and put me outside where I could see His stars. And by marveling that God created all of the amazing constellations just for man to look at (they serve no other scientific purpose that I know of) I learned that He is Sovereign. In everything that has happened with Addison so far, we've had many trials. But the testimony of miracles He's done through those trials has far outweighed any negativity. And by focusing on those positives, we train our mind to trust Him. He's done it before, He'll do it again.

Is God Good? Oh, yes. In all I've been through (and I'm not even talking about other people's testimonies, just by own) God has been good.

And just this morning, during therapy, Henry was more alert than he has been in almost a month. Not one seizure so far today. And Aedan got him to smile. Maybe, just maybe, God knows what He's doing after all.

Lately I've been looking back, along this winding road
To the old familiar markers of the mercies I have known.
I know it may sound simple, but it's more than a cliche-
There's no better way to tell you, than to say-
God's been good
In my life.
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
As I go to sleep each night.
And though I've had my share of hard times,
I wouldn't change them if I could,
'Cause through it all-
God's been good.

 Times replay and I can see that I've cried some bitter tears.
But I felt His arms around me, as I faced my greatest fears.
You see I've had more gains than losses- I've known more joy than hurt.
As His grace rolled down upon me, undeserved.
God's been good
In my life.
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
As I go to sleep each night.
And though I've had my share of hard times,
I wouldn't change them if I could,
'Cause through it all-
God's been good.

For God has been my Father, my Savior, and my Friend.
His love my my beginning, and His love will be my end.
I could spend forever trying to tell you everything He is.
But the best way I can say it, is this:
God's been good
In my life.
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
As I go to sleep each night.
And though I've had my share of hard times,
I wouldn't change them if I could,
'Cause through it all-
God's been good.
-Legacy 5's God's Been Good 


Saturday Morning...Coffee Anyone?

Anyone who's taken even one step across our threshold has been offered at least one cup of coffee. We're proud of our home brew and readily serve it up nearly constantly. One friend after spending one day with us went home and commented "they drink coffee all the time." *best Maxwell Smart impression* "And. Loving it."  Seriously, we're Italians and, consequently, believe that there is a right and wrong way to brew coffee and that we are the inventors of the right way. Call us snobs. We prefer our coffee to Starbucks and even travel with our espresso machine and beans. A little over-the-top? Definitely. But that's who we are. Brianna likes to say we put the "fun" in dysfunctional. :) But that's beside the point. The point is this: coffee is one way we show hospitality. When we hand you a cuppa joe, we're handing you a wee bit of our life, our hearts, our time. And as those three things are more important to us than coffee, that means a lot.

Hospitality should pinch. You can't show love with out sacrifice, so if you aren't giving 'til it hurts, you aren't giving enough. From an extremely young age, my Mother taught us the value of opening your home and heart to guests. As a girl, I remember Mom hosting dinners, teas, luncheons, snacks, babysittings, Bible studies etc. Many a night passed with someone (or multiple someones) crashing in our living room. For more details, ask Mom. And never have I heard her complain of having people in. Most of my friends live states away from us, and most have come for multiple-night visits, sometimes on pretty short notice. And she jumps at the idea every single time with a fervor that rivals my brother Sam (and anyone who knows Sam understands how fervent that really is!). 

The definition of hospitality is "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers." Abraham is the most famous for his hospitable treatment of 3 strangers, Christ and two angels, that came unexpectedly:

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

So, the great Patriarch-to-be approached strangers, ran here and there to and fro to fix them
a meal and fetch water and only after they were comfortable and fed did they open up the subject of why the
men were there. Hospitality first, business second. Note also that Abraham RAN ( he was enthusiastic) and that ABRAHAM ran. (not Sarah- it's not just the ladies' job to entertain).

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm proud to be an Italian, and according our Mediterranean heritage if you fail to entertain a guest and feed them until they can't eat any more than it is a shame on you and your entire household. No person should pass out through your door frame hungry, tired, stressed or empty. 

And that doesn't just apply to food.

Hospitality can be both physical and spiritual, and the two can be totally separate, but, like coffee and chocolate, are better together. And there's a very good reason. Your guest may turn out to be a blessing to you, like Abraham's visitors, (see Hebrews 13:2) or they may be someone who needs a blessing from you. That brusque church visitor may be going through a serious loss. That reserved neighbor may be insecure in their identity. That young Christian that's not quite up to standard may be fighting some serious temptations. That pastor may be in a valley of depression.

Another good reason to constantly be the touchstone of hospitality--your guest may be Christ! No, I'm not being sacrilegious. Jesus Himself said so in Matthew 25: 35-40:

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Wow. So, next time a guest comes in unexpectedly, or is ungracious, or isn't helpful, remember this: God put them in your path for a reason. They may need some encouragement only you can give. A little hospitality goes a long way.

Here's a little something special to serve to your guests next time they're over:

Espresso Frappicino:

1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chilled espresso
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee
 in a blender.
Add 6-8 ice cubes, blend until smooth.
Pour into two glasses.
Top with whipped cream.
Add a straw and serve!
Makes 2 cups.


Let it Go

As you probably know, Addison spent 2 days at Children's National Hospital, and was officially diagnosed with Infantile Epilepsy. When we first heard that the "dropping" that he was doing on his left side was mostly likely to be a seizure, I started to have one of those firstborn moments. Any firstborn will understand what I mean. All the little people below you are your responsibility to protect, nurture, shield. If something hits them it's a direct hit to you. You've failed to keep them safe. One truth I've had to re-learn almost every day for every sibling is just this: I can't protect them all the time; I can only place them in God's extremely capable hands (He created them after all) and step back, supporting them, encouraging them and otherwise generally staying out of their way. Since Pa and Mom made a hurried departure Monday afternoon, I'd been...off. Quiet (which is NOT me), a bit, well, reserved. The truth is, a terrible amount of stress was on me. (Now that this is over I tell you, but at the time I would've denied it.) I tried all the "quick fixes" that had helped me in the past: piano playing, singing (even though my voice is currently non-existent), reading, laundry, brainless activity, etc.

But nothing worked.

A thoughtful friend stuck around all day to help out, then drove the whole gang to DC to visit Henry. Seeing him in his wires and IV didn't help any. We got home very late, and went straight to bed. The next morning I woke to cloudy skies. And the first thought to hit my head was a still small voice reminding me of a practice I'd half forgotten about. Whenever I'm struggling with something that seems overwhelming, I turn to one of my favorite Psalms, and, that morning, God kept told me to read Psalm 116. After putting on the coffee, I sat down with my Bible, pen and legal pad. And was astounded by what I read. You know those moments where you know something to be true you just sort of, well, forgot? It was one of those moments. Here's what it says:

I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.Psalm 116:1-9
Okay, now here's what jumped off the page at me.

  • In verses 1 & 2, David writes that God "hath heard...hath inclined His ear". Note the past tense. This had all happened before. God had heard David's cries before, and thus, he knew God would hear him again.
  • Verse 3- this guy is in some serious turmoil.
  • But in verse 4 he tells us that he besought (basically begged) God to deliver his soul. To deliver his soul. Why the bold type? Okay, try to follow me here a minute. Our being consists of three parts: Body, Soul and Spirit. Our Body is the physical element, our Spirit is, well, spiritual, and our Soul is our Mind, Will and Emotions (thus, our feelings/decisions/thought processes). David is, therefore, asking God, not to deliver his body from his present circumstances, but to deliver his mind from its own wanderings, it's inner-overwhelming-ness. 
  • "Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful." If I'd had any doubt after the last 4 verses that God had this all in hand, then this was the clincher. When going through a harrowing experience, a nightmare in the daytime, the words gracious, righteous and merciful are not the first adjectives/attributes that come to my mind. Not that I believe that He's anything less than that. But one tends to let fear steal it's clammy, cold, firm hands around your mind, and that drives out everything else. But once God I realized that this verse was not accidentally stuck in the middle of David's plea for help, I just...got it. Ya know? Just simply got it. 
But it doesn't end there:
  • In verse 6, David tells us that God preserves the simple... (not "simple" as in ignorant- those who come to Him simply--remember the faith as a child.)
  • And then, my favorite verse:
P.S.: this is a big wallpaper size when opened up, so, feel free. If you need a custom size, shoot me a line.
Resting in the Lord should be easy. Just as most of our Christian walk ought to be. But we've been over that. Giving our struggles to God should be a natural response. Life hands us the lemons, we hand it over to the lemonade-maker of all time. The One Who will work all things together for good. (Rom.8:28) This is one of the many things that gets easier every time we make the conscious effort to just do it already. The first step is simple LET IT GO!

Before this was an incredibly popular Disney hit, it was a contemporary Christian song recorded by Tenth Avenue North. Originally I was going to do a side-by-side comparison of the conflicting messages between the two songs. Maybe I will in a later post. But for now, the lyrics. To the former, since everyone already knows the words to Frozen's version... :)

I've been holding on so tight
Look at these knuckles
They've gone white
I'm fighting for who I wanna be
I'm just trying to find security

But You say let it go, 
You say let it go
You say life is waiting for the one's who lose control
You say you will be, everything I need
You said if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul-
You say let it go.

Well it's hard enough to hear
Harder still, to move beyond this fear
We know there's nothing I can bring,
So tell me what do you want from me?

But You say let it go, 
You say let it go
You say life is waiting for the one's who lose control
You say You will be, everything I need
You said if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul
You say let it go, 
You say let it go.

What do I love?
What do I hate?
What will I lose?
What will I gain?
How do I save my soul?
What if I bend?
What if I break?
What will it cost?
What will it take?
For you to save my soul.

You say let it go, 
You say let it go
You say life is waiting for the one's who lose control
You say You will be, everything I need
You said if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul

You say let it go.

I will never look at Psalm 116 the same way again. Don't you love it when God throws something you think you know inside out into a different light and you realize you've never seen it that way before and that you don't know it as well as you did? (please pardon my run-on) It had never ceased to amaze me how often I read a scripture and see it a whole different way.

Side note aside, once this all dawned on me, and that quiet whisper asking me to let Him handle things took over, I was flooded with that peace. You know, the one that passes all understanding. Once again, He was in control. No worry. No fretting. No brainless filler work. Resting easy once again was the modus operandi. 

And this isn't just this one incident. I realize that this is going to be a daily ritual. Every day I've got to choose to let Him be the boss, as one can't serve two masters. (Matt. 6:24) I can serve the Father or Fear. The Victorious Assurance or Vicious Anxiety. 

(Somewhat random yet interesting trivia bit:
the word "worry" comes from Old English "wyrgan" meaning "to strangle")

What about you? What has God put in your life that you've let take over? Oh, friend let me tell you this: our God is amazing. He heard and delivered David. He heard and delivered me. He hears you and will deliver you if only you will let it go.


Growth Points & Pains Part 4

Sometimes our Pastor gets excited about the message and forgets to give us a title...either that or I missed it. Anyway, part four is about letting go of "me" and letting God transform me. Real life is only life in Him. This is the sermon  that struck me the most. It was also the one that I struggled with the most. I've had a dream all my life, and I knew it was not the route God or my parents wanted me to go. I wasted 10 years of my life wanting something I shouldn't have. But until this sermon opened my eyes, I didn't realize how wrong I was. During the invitation of this sermon, I told God to take my dream. I told Him I was ready for what He wanted.

When I was eight years old I wanted, more than anything, don't laugh now, to be an actress. Not movies, or Broadway, I was too sensible for that- give me some credit here. I thought, my dreams were pretty practical. I wanted to act. I felt I had to. It's sort of an ingrained thing, a part of me. I had to *ahem* let it go. (forcing myself to keep writing and not break into song...) Anyway, singing and acting were my "thing". I was, let's face it, am a bit of a ham and always loved when an opportunity was proffered. So I took part in church skits, formed musical revues at home, and jumped up and down with joy when visiting friends asked us to perform our signature songs of "Plant a Radish" and "Never Say No" from the Fantasticks. (Great play, by the way.)

I distinctly remember when this dream first presented itself. Mom was working in the kitchen of our townhouse, by the stove. I stood next to her a moment and then told her, "Mama, when I grow up, I want to be an actress." She stopped what is was she was working on, She turned to me, and, in that tone that so many know that know my mom, that tone that distinctly says that she understands all the details and knows what's best for you, said "No." Simple as that. She wasn't being cruel. She wasn't crushing me. (For one thing, I'm not one easily crushed.) She was stating fact. You can't be an actress. For years I thought that if I became good at acting, gained experience, practiced a lot, one day I'd be a great actress, and then Mom would see that she was wrong. That was where I was horribly wrong- my Mom is hardly ever wrong. She simply isn't.

When Sam was about 4, I decided that 3 boys and 3 girls was ideal for a family acting troupe. I don't know how that got in my head, but it was fun. We put on a nativity every year for Pa and Mama, we randomly sang and danced, wrote ridiculous club rules and generally forgot the rule about attending meetings after the first 2 months. The Wachter Wagon Grammar School Drama Club was never officially disbanded, but more died.

As I went through my teen years, I hung onto this. Never breathed a word to anyone, though. Dropped hints to my parents. They loved theater, and for a treat, Pa and Mama would take us 'big girls' to a local dinner theater to see a musical. Fantastic theater, by the way, never seen anything there that wasn't done wonderfully. Back to the point.

A few years pass. It's 2010; I'm now 19 years old. This was to be a year of lessons yet to be learned. I was being worn down by some massive changes. My baby brother miscarries. Some massive changes occur in my extended family. I graduate high school and Bible institute. My dear Pastor dies. One would easily be moved to examine their life. Finally, God has worn down my pride enough that I submit to be baptized and become a member of the church.

And that's when things started changing. Drastically. What I wanted was replaced by an earnest call to ask God what He wanted from me. I learned what "follow me" really meant. It meant dropping my dreams, as Peter, Andrew, James and John dropped their nets, the symbol of their livelihoods, and left all to follow Christ into the unknown. I was thrilled to start the new leg of my journey. But didn't know where God wanted me just yet. But it was a start, to drop the complacency in my walk and discontent in my place and position. Pa offered me a job working as Mom's personal assistant, secretary and assistant/substitute teacher. And I love it. I love working at home, I love the jobs I'm called on to do. The variety, the flexibility, even the essence of controlled chaos are all a cherished part of my life. And I never would have seen it. Nearly unfathomable.

Working at home is lovely, but I still felt like there was something that God wanted me to do. Not many ideas presented themselves, or when they did, didn't last long.

The year, 2012; the season, summer. School was now officially out at the WWA, and so my mornings were a bit more my own. Brianna, Emma and I form a morning study group between the three of us, working through Brett and Alex Harris' books Do Hard Things and Start Here. Together, these books opened my eyes to a whole new level of Christian living. The Active Christian. Now, my parents had always demonstrated this, and taught it to me, but it was through these morning times of study and prayer with two of my best friends that made me claim it as my own.

May came up fast and Sister's Day was upon us (you can read about what this is here) , and I'd found a tutorial online for little patchwork wristlets, and made one for each of my sisters and for Mom. They turned out really cute, and Mom suddenly had a stroke of inspiration-she suggested I make them to sell, both pre-made and custom. Everyone there dubbed it a neat idea, and moved on. But a chord had been struck. Some time passed, prayers and planning going into this little idea until June 2012, when A Stitch In Lives was born. When we told some friends about my new business, they jumped on board big time. People started bringing me old patterns they didn't plan on using again. Some donated yard upon yard of fabrics in all styles, weights and prints, cut or uncut. My Aunt Dawn started clearing out shelves at her local Joann's Fabrics and mightily convenient thrift shop for zippers, buttons, trims, patterns, snaps thread, needles, notions, remnants, you-name-its and what-have-yous. Others gave an encouraging word or placed custom orders. Even our local Joann's ran interfacing (of which you use a LOT of in bag design) on sale. My very tech-talented sister set up and designed a website for me. So every single step of the way, the doors were flung wide, the path made clear. This was without doubt where God wants me.

And here I am, dozens of bags and hundreds of Henry Owls later. And excited to see what's in store.

Do I still struggle with contentment? Of course. This is something I'll most likely battle my whole life. But Christ has already won the victory, so I need not live in a spirit of discontentment. Ever again.

What is it that you fight down every day? Anger, resentment, apathy, bitterness, discontentment? It's tough to keep going, to keep the battle raging. Trying to beat it down on your own is tough, and leads to failure over and over again. So discouraging. But get this:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."-Matthew 11:28

Loosely paraphrased, Jesus calls out to the world and says "If you've got something to heavy to carry-DROP IT! Just come to me, and I'll will give you the sweet rest and peace you've been longing for!" (like I said, loosely) Can't you just picture Jesus with his arms outstretched and a welcoming smile for all those he was addressing?

Just lay it down. Don't be the stubborn child holding onto a sharp knife, while wise father asks him to put it down and come to him. Drop it already! Move on from what you think is best and embrace the best of what God has for you.

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."-Matthew 16:24, 25


Growth Points & Pains Part 3- "Follow Me"

"Follow Me".

A simple enough request.


One definition of "follow" is to "accept the authority of". Another says to "conform to". This means  we are to become Christ-like by treading in His footsteps. Have you ever heard the full song of "Good King Wenceslas"? In the song, the servant of the king can't keep up with his master because of the deep snow. But, the king tells him to walk where he walks. The servant then finds that the snow has melted in the good king's footsteps and he can follow easily. When we step out on faith, we'll find it easier to follow. Not that it will be easy- far from it. But never will be find anything more rewarding that moving forward on faith. Think of some of the heroes who gave all to follow. For example, Gladys Aylward, who left her family and a steady job in England to declare the Gospel in China. Or think of Elisabeth Elliot, who forgave the very men who killed her husband, and determined to tell them of Christ. That took some serious following by faith.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." 

 Just so, we are to move. I'm reminded of a song I learned as a very young girl, "Little by Little". The lyrics start so:

Tall mountains tower, rugged and high.
Rise to the challenge, look to the sky.
Trust in the Lord and seek help divine.
Great things are done one step at a time.
Little by little, inch by inch.
By the yard, it's hard-
By the inch, it's a cinch.
Never stare at the stairs,
Just step up the steps.
Little by little, inch by inch.

 And so it is. God has laid out a plan, usually only clear to Him. He holds the map (for most of us) and the GPS (for the younger generation of us). Simple, right? Should be.

The wrench in the plan is us. We are just too darn proud to accept that He knows what He's talking about. Like the stereotypical male-behind-the-wheel, we know where we are going and aren't going to take any backseat nonsense off of those who obviously are inexperienced...and that goes for the passenger seat, too. We can't see the signs that tell us clearly where the road is. And yet can't seem to find our way. And then, when we are eventually desperately lost, we finally stop and ask God what direction we're to go. And never will God give confusing directions: "turn right, then left. go for a mile, turn left again, 3 miles out, pass the old barn that used to be on the left and make a right..."  That would drive us nuts, and once again, we'd try to trust our own way. No. Instead he takes us by the hand, and leads us down the path we need to go on. And then, before we know it, we've reached our next stop. It could be a ministry we're to be in for a while, a person we need to meet or minister to, a problem that needs to be faced. But, rest assured when the journey is ready to resume, He'll be there, waiting for us, in case we decide to follow His leading to the next landmark.

Another song comes to mind. It's one we most likely all learned at church or vbs when we were young. Maybe it's a child's song, or maybe not. But with faith as a child, read with me through these lyrics. But go slow. Our grownup minds are tempted to rush through these things, thereby missing the deeper meaning.

I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
No turning back, no turning back.