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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Camp and confession

Last week I told you about my daughter’s birthmark puzzle, her something different. This is my week for confession and to tell you about a camp that changed her thinking and in turn will impact her life. Ok, and my thinking changed too.

She sits in my lap and we look at pictures from camp. There are so many things I want to say. So many questions I want to ask. Who are these kids? Why are they at camp? What qualified them to be there? When I look at the faces, I see such happiness. But I keep looking. Trying to see what puzzle pieces don’t fit in them. I want to point and ask questions. Why doesn’t she have hair? What’s on her arm? She looks fine, so what’s wrong with her? In that moment I become like every person that has ever asked the dreaded question.

The “What’s on your face?” question.

That is when I learned a big lesson. This was not a camp for kids to discuss skin issues, have lessons on skin care, or therapy for living with something different. It was a camp that invited kids who have skin disorders to find a safe place to have fun with others who had something in common with them. Every time I asked what was wrong with one of her new friends, I was reminding her that there was something different with her too.

She didn’t see the girl with spotted arms as a girl with spots on her arms, but her friend she whispered secrets to after lights out.

She didn’t ask her friends why they were at camp. She just played with them. Without questions. Without seeing them as someone with a disorder – a something different.

If I look at others with skin issues as having something different about them, I’m doing the same with her. That hit me – hard. So I stopped asking. I looked at each one as someone who made my daughter smile. Her new friends. I saw her new friends with different puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together.

I have to confess something else: I didn’t just ask her about the kids in the pictures, when I dropped her off at camp, I wanted to stare at the other kids. I wanted to know why each one was there. I was curious. But there was something more… I wanted to see something different in them. I wanted to see people with more struggles than we have. I didn’t – until we were leaving. A group of kids were just arriving. Covered from head to toe and wearing shields over their faces, they definitely had something different. You know what, they still smiled. Huge smiles. I left thankful that our struggles are so small, with a sprinkling of guilt for the selfishness of my thoughts. After we picked my daughter up from camp, we did talk about that group of kids. It was the only time my daughter gave us information about the kid’s skin issues. She explained it this way “Mom, you have food allergies. They have an allergy to the sun. It’s kinda the same.” Schooled by my daughter! Yes, we are all the same.

So… she went to a camp for kids with skin disorders and didn’t have lesson on skin care? What was the purpose??? The purpose went far deeper than lessons on skin care. Community and Normalcy. It was for kids who normally have struggles to just have fun – to just be kids with others who can relate.

The skin care lessons came from it being ok and normal to have a skin care routine. I’m sure the counselors slipped in comments about skin care. How do I know? My daughter (post-camp) doesn’t go outside without a sun hat and puts on sun screen like a pro. She also doesn’t fuss about her skin care routine. Just so you know, this is a complete turn-around!
At this point you are probably wondering what my daughter’s skin condition is. That answer will come next week. I’ve not shared it publicly before because I didn’t want people who know her to think of her differently. If people are going to think differently of her, they already do. This is my chance to bring awareness of what some people face. Oh, and she gave me permission.  I will also tell you guys what she said about something in my last post. I made an error. (It also shows me her post-camp thinking and how she has changed!)

This is my chance to make a difference by showing how living with a “something different” doesn’t mean you have to live differently.

Build bridges in relationship with others mean not allowing your something different to set you apart as someone different. Always be who you are – unique and special. Let your identity define you without letting who you are be defined by your something different.

The Birthmark Puzzle

I have four beautiful daughters. They all have things that make them unique. I know — that’s every family. But we have something that really is unique — something different. My youngest has a birthmark. At first glance, it’s a puzzle piece on her face that looks like it’s from a different puzzle. As soon as you get to know her, it becomes such a part of who she is that the lines of the puzzle pieces fit together seamlessly and fades into a part of her personality. The more you know her (and love her) the more her birthmark fades until it isn’t even visible as something different.

Here’s a little secret that sometimes I don’t even believe myself:

She likes her birthmark. She even treasures it.

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them the secret. Maybe I’m deluding myself and don’t see reality. It’s just so contrary to the world we live in. People question me about removing it and I’ve even been accused of not doing the best for my daughter because we haven’t “taken care of it.” I know they mean well, but they aren’t the ones who know her. Sometimes I watch her primp in the mirror. She angles her chin a little to the side to check out her birthmark. Touching it gently, she smiles. That loving gesture speaks louder than words. Yes, she loves her birthmark. It’s as much a part of her as her fingers and toes.

This profound acceptance of her birthmark is probably our fault because of how we’ve raised her. I’ll proudly take the blame for that one. I know one day her thinking might change. I can’t begin to count how many people have assured me it will. They say one day she’ll come to us and tell us how much she hates it. It might happen that way. But I will not speak that unacceptance over her. If she comes to me one day thinking differently than she does now, we’ll tackle it them, with open arms and loving hearts. But for now, I know that we’ve raised her with the knowledge of how much God loves her, and each one of us. We all have something different and it makes us unique and that much more special! God puts our puzzle pieces together and although the world might think the pieces don’t fit or belong to a different puzzle, each puzzle is complete just the way it is.

Yet, there’s something she doesn’t like:

How people respond to her birthmark.

People are uncomfortable around different. Kids can even be afraid. They think it is painful or might be contagious. Most of all they are curious. I’m ok with curious. I learned just how curious I can be! (That’s another post in the works! Stay tuned!) Beyond the comments of the curious, I’m not ok. I get angry. I get tired of the questions. I don’t want to explain why we haven’t “taken care of it.” If you are still asking that question, then you didn’t HEAR anything I’ve said. Yet, many people don’t listen. The puzzle piece of her birthmark makes people uncomfortable.

I will not take away my daughter’s treasure because other people are uncomfortable.

Yet I am not a perfect parent. I make mistakes. I made one last week when she came home from camp. I’ll tell you ALLLLL about it – next week.

Building bridges with people requires you to look past what makes you uncomfortable.

The Day I (almost) Died

Four years ago today

I (almost) died.

It was the night of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. I remember because I asked my husband to go home, get some rest, and make sure it was being recorded. It was also 08-08-08, a date forever seared into my mind.

I was living my life. Doing things my way. I had a job with goals. I dreamed dreams. We talked about God to the kids and went to church – when it was convenient. I trusted God in most things. Sure, there were rocky places, but things were going to work out, and they were going to work out the way I wanted them to. Isn’t that how it worked?

I put off my own health, as many mom’s do. A doctor told me surgery was the easy answer. It was just a little surgery. I would be home in 24 hours. Driving in two weeks. Ready to work when school started.

THEN – Something went wrong.

Very wrong.

My world crashed. Only one thing mattered – to stay alive. I wasn’t ready to leave my family. I didn’t want my daughters growing up motherless. So I fought.

The problems I thought I had – the things that stressed me out  before the surgery – all dissolved around me and I focused on healing. For my family.

I had lots of time to think about what was important. And what wasn’t.

After days in ICU and weeks in the hospital we thought I was on the mend.

Not yet. I was still sick. There were still lessons that needed to be learned.

Back in the hospital, back in ICU, two more weeks in the hospital before I finally could leave.  The best part – a hurricane was coming. Remember Ike? He was knocking on our door as they released me from the hospital. With attachments – a drain I had to keep clean and an IV I had to learn to use. And don’t forget the meds that required refrigeration.

In the midst of all of it – God never left my side. I remember one night in ICU. I was alone and scared. Bad news followed bad news. All my veins collapsed and my lungs were starting to. My kidneys were struggling. I couldn’t have any pain meds because they dropped my heart rate. Two surgeries and no pain meds. Ouch. Through the fog I couldn’t pray, instead I focused on something from my childhood. Jesus Loves Me was my song. My lifeline. My reminder to fight. During the night, nurses checked on me. When no one else was in the room, a figure stood by my bed. An Angel. A physical presence reminding me I wasn’t alone and God cared for me. When I couldn’t pray, the prayers were still there.

The realization that life is a blessing and can be taken away at any time changed my life. I resolved to no longer wait for the important things. The definition of important things changed. Instead of important things being my job and dreams, they became my kids. Important things for my kids were no longer what sport they participated in or what grades they made, but their heart condition and if the know what really matters. And what does really matter? Relationships, number one, our relationship with Christ.

I looked hard at my life and realized I wasn’t living up to the talents God had given me. I wasn’t teaching my children the important things. My legacy was lacking. I was doing convient things instead of kindom things. I was not building bridges. In fact, my bridges were in shambles.

I was given a second chance. I took hold of that chance and made changes. I still am.

One More Question about CFA

To all of those who read my last post, Thank you for stopping by. I really enjoyed all of the discussions that came out of it. I learned so much from these interactions. I am going to try to share with you what I learned, saving the most important for the end… so hang with me.

1. It doesn’t take much to start a debate. (no explanation needed.)

2. It’s good to question good things. Questioning good things doesn’t mean you are knocking them. However, when you question things, people tend to think you are against those things. (Just because I questioned CFA  does NOT mean I am against them or the ideals behind the whole thing.)

3. If a person or group of people see hate all around them, they tend to think anything that is said about them that does not line up with their thinking is a form of hate. This is human nature and they way we protect ourselves. (This is what makes me so sad. All of the stories I’ve heard about Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day were how nice the people were at the stores and in line. They were standing up for their beliefs about family values and freedom of speech. I didn’t hear any of them talk about hate. On the other hand, people were accusing them of being hateful and saying hateful things about CFA and the people who ate there. There is a double standard here.)

4. I learned that CFA already spends millions on protecting and advocating for the family. I knew they were a company that stood behind good values – and I’m talking about the value menu – and were pro-family, but I did not realize how much they already donated and gave. Good job! Keep it up Chick-Fil-A!  (I’m eating crow on this one… or is that chicken?)

5. People really do just want acceptance and love. In all of the communication (through personal conversations, facebook posts, and private messages) one hit me hard.

Thank you for saying that Jesus wants to sit and eat with me.

THAT is what my last post was about. Love – what I think Jesus would have done.

In case you missed it somewhere, I want to be completely clear:

  • I support Chick-Fil-A.
  • I support all who ate there on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.
  • I support Freedom of Speech and feels like it needs to protected.
  • I support the traditional view of the family and want it protected.
  • I will vote to keep these things intact.
  • I also support showing love and ending hate, we can all sit together even if we disagree.

So, my question this time to all who ate at Chick-Fil-A:

You showed your support for family values and freedom of speech, now will you go out and VOTE for what you supported?

Would Jesus have eaten at Chick-Fil-A?

Now that I’ve had time to think about all that the whole Chic-Fil-A thing encompasses, honestly, I’m conflicted. 

On one hand, I’m proud of all the people who stood in line and purchased Chic-Fil-A in order to support the traditional values of family. We need to stand up for family values. I do applaud that.

On the other hand, a large group of people felt alienated and unloved.

So I had to ask myself, “Would Jesus have eaten at CFA?”

This verse keeps coming to mind:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Matthew 5:43-47

It’s easy to go one of our favorite hang outs on a specific day and indulge in fast food in the name of all that is good. But is that love? What is the reward?

What if Mike Huckabee asked us to something a little more difficult? If we were asked to sit with someone who does not value family as we do, share the meal with them and show them love, would there be lines wrapped around the building?

That is my challenge to you:

The next time you encounter someone who does not hold traditional beliefs like you do, love them. Yes, even if they are openly gay. That is when the battle for family will be won.

Build bridges. Don’t burn them.

One last thing: Chick-Fil-A, what are you going to do with the profit you made? Bottom line, we made someone rich yesterday. I can think of a ton of things we could have done with that money to make an eternal difference or support family values that don’t involve in indulging in fried food.

It’s all about love and I think we kinda forgot that. Would Jesus have eaten at Chick-Fil-A? I think he would have, but his table would’ve been filled with gay people.

Family Connection: The Olympic Rings

Ideas for Olympic Crafts

If your house is anything like mine, we have Olympic fever. As soon as the theme song comes on, all heads snap to the TV to see what event is competing. Major events like the Olympics bring us sitting together as a family. This is a great opportunity to build bridges and connect with your kids. How about an Olympic Family Devotion?!

The Olympic Rings

Do you know what the Olympic Rings symbolize?

There are five rings. Each ring represents one of the regions of the World — Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceana. The rings are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. If you look at all the National flags of the World, you will see that every flag has a color represented.

A ring is a symbol that never ends. This is the love God has for us. Read Jeremiah 31:3.

In the New International Reader’s Version, the last part of that verse describes God’s love for us as a “faithful love.”

If you ever need a reminder of God’s faithful love, find a circle. Hold it and remember that His love for you never ends. It won’t run out. It is faithful.

Here are some fun, family games to connect and take the learning to a tangible level. All you need are a few Hula Hoops.

Bumper Car Hoops:

  • Put several hoops on the floor. If you have enough hoops for each person, that is ideal, it also works with more than one person in a hoop. You will need a large area for this. The driveway will work if you want to take it outside.
  • Everyone needs to be standing in a hoop, with it on the floor.
  • Move the hoops by shuffling your feet. (little tiny steps that will inch the hoops across the floor)
  • Gently bump the hoops into each other like bumper cars.
  • Play music, then stop it suddenly. When the music stops, everyone freezes. Yell “Switch Hoops!” and everyone runs to a different hoop.
  • Start the music again.
  • You can make it an elimination game by taking away hoops. If more than one person in a hoop – Everyone will have to squeeze into the remaining hoops. If each person has their own hoop at the start of the game – someone will sit out until there are only two remaining.

Don’t break the ring!

  • Stand in a circle and join hands.
  • Put a hoop in the circle, by unclasping two hands and inserting the hoop. Join hands through the hoop so it rests on the arm.
  • Move the hoop around the circle without breaking the ring! (Tip: There are two ways to do this – you will have to step through and lift it over your head, or lift your arm over your head, ducking your head so the hoop will go over it, then step through it.)
  • You can add another hoop and send it around the circle in the opposite direction. It is possible to keep the hoops going in opposite direction, even when they cross!

Don’t forget about doing what hula hoops do best! Hula with them! Have a competition! But most of all, have fun.

While the hoops are going round and round, remind your children of God’s faithful, never-ending love. Celebrate the Olympics, and celebrate God’s faithful love.

When you build bridges and connect with your children, you are giving them the gold.

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