What I Learned: Fall Edition

When I remember, I try to participate in a community post organized by Emily Freeman, titled What We Learned. It’s a good way to press pause on this season before the next one rolls around. The topics can be about anything really. This autumnal post ranges from a food I rediscovered, encouragement for parents with a special needs child, learning to do hard things, and keeping it simple.

IMG_2298

Head on over to see more seasonal posts from others and what they are learning too. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are 5 things I learned this fall:

 

  1.  I like apples again and apparently so does my child.

I don’t know when I stopped eating apples, but it’s been a few years I’m sure (unless it happened to be covered in caramel- duh). But I saw a Pioneer Woman recipe to make an apple tart so I marched myself to the grocery store and bought a bag of Honey crisp apples. I never got around to actually making the recipe because Jesse and I accidentally devoured most of them.

IMG_2414

I had no idea he liked apples. He didn’t last year, but somewhere in between he took a fancy to them. He prefers them just plain, but I like apples with peanut butter, or fruit dip or salt or even in a turkey sandwich! Still planning to make that recipe, but who knew it would evolve into more than an apple tart?

 

  1.  Listening to another mom talk about her child with autism made me cry.

I listened to a podcast interview from a mom who has a young adult autistic son. It was very helpful to hear her perspective, since I’m more on the front end of the journey. Terri Conlin shares her experience in her son’s diagnosis at an early age, dealing with behavioral issues, learning obstacles, as well as how siblings fit into the mix.

Her feelings match my own. I found myself blinking back tears because even though the autism spectrum is broad, the emotional rollercoaster is very much the same. She helped me remember that I am not alone in this. Raising a special needs child can be a maddening enigma, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

You can find Terri’s interview on the God Centered Mom Podcast . She also writes lovely words on her blog www.whitepitchers.com. I hope her message encourages you or someone you know with a child on the autism spectrum.

 

  1.  Running is a great stress reliever.

This fall I started running consistently in order to prepare for two 5K races. There is something intoxicatingly free about running outside. As the weather cooled down I tied up my shoelaces to do just that. I’m not very fast, but I can run distance with enough preparation. Just to finish the first race was my goal. The second race happened this past week and I ran a personal best in my running time.

 

After a bizarre collapse and my heart going into atrial fibrillation last fall, I silently thanked God for allowing me the privilege to run again- to have a healthy body. I don’t take it for granted at all. It showed me that with God’s grace, I could discipline myself to do hard things – like running a race, finishing, and running well.

 

 4. I don’t love Daylight Savings Time.

I don’t know what important person came up with the idea to move the clocks in the fall/winter so we have LESS daylight, but I am not a fan. It gets dark by 4pm and I’m ready to crawl into my pajamas by 6pm because it feels so much later than what it actually is. Would it be so bad to do away with DST altogether?

 

5. Keep It Simple Sweetie (K.I.S.S.) is more than just an acronym.

If the holiday season stresses you out this is a saying to practice. As I started to get the Christmas decorations out this year, a familiar cloud of anxiety loomed overhead. Up until now I have put up TWO Christmas trees (because I’m a crazy person) and crammed every single decoration we own in whatever white space was left.

IMG_2446

I’m not a fan of clutter or excess, so this was the exact opposite of what I find relaxing and enjoyable. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I’m a grown up. This is my house. There aren’t Christmas police that say I have to deck the halls to the brim of losing my mind.

So this year I put up ONE tree and half of the decorations. I have to say that I absolutely love it. It won’t be a bear to take down after the New Year and my family’s everyday clutter is still welcome.

 

What are ways you keep this season of Advent? Are there hard things you have to do or want to do but haven’t yet? Maybe you listened to or read something encouraging you can pass along to others. Or perhaps you too tried a new food or rediscovered an old favorite. I hope you enjoyed fall as much as I did. I was a little surprised by how brilliant the colors were in Alabama! That’s always the best I think, to be surprised by beauty and count it as a blessing.

 

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Advertisements

A Matter of the Heart

lightstock_365881_download_medium_april_box_

I failed with flying colors. This is not the Christian success story you were hoping to hear. Instead, it is a story of failure, failure to respond biblically and maturely. I don’t like admitting that about myself, but I am beginning to see how even my response in the midst of affliction is grace. Exposed and raw, I saw my sin amplified more than I thought possible. So God does this work of “letting bad things happen” to reveal our sin nature. I find out who I really am before He can rebuild again.

 

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Before He can use us He must gently crush us.” This is part of an ongoing story because faith is never wrapped up in a neat little bow this side of heaven. Life is messy and unpredictable. That is when we are called to simply trust, working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) until Jesus takes us home.

 

Tuesday, October 25th I kept Jesse home from school due to a sleepless night before. There was nothing out of the ordinary that day as Jason went to work and I set about getting house chores done while Jesse quietly played. I felt completely fine with no warning signs to indicate the rest of the day. Shortly before noon I read a text from a friend when suddenly I became horribly dizzy and nauseous. The feeling sent me reeling, as I hit the floor to keep the room from spinning (which did not help). Right before falling to the ground I had the forethought of grabbing my phone if this became an emergency. It escalated to emergency status within seconds as I started vomiting uncontrollably. Jesse found me and started crying because he knew I was in distress. He ran to another part of the house, where I listened to him cry, and I didn’t see him again.

 

By God’s grace Jason answered his phone when I tried to call him. I remember feeling like I might pass out or die, because I’ve never experienced either until that moment. My body shut down as I lost control of my senses, becoming incredibly weak and incoherent. Jason called one of our neighbors to come over before he could get home. She was also an agent of grace, occupying Jesse while Jason took care of me. The paramedics soon arrived and took my vitals, which were fine even though I was the worst kind of sick I have ever felt. They noted my electrolytes were low and concluded that it must be a virus of some kind. So my very first ambulance ride I missed because I wasn’t all there to say the least.

img_7113

I remember the ER room. It was like a dream I wanted to wake from, being poked with needles, beeping machines, T.V. noise, endless emergency hallway chatter, and so many nurses in and out of a space that could have been a walk-in closet. Everyone hovers over the bed like I’m a riddle to be solved. But the medical staff is there to save lives no matter the cost, especially sans dignity. I’ve not had many hospital encounters, but there is none of that whatsoever and it doesn’t really even matter at that point. Everyone is there to do his or her job.

 

I’m told my heart went into an abnormal rhythm in the Emergency Room. Atrial Fibrillation. My heart was off running a marathon, leaving me in a hospital bed. The anti-nausea medicine finally kicked in and I became more lucid. Finally, I started to notice my surroundings more, trying to comprehend all that had taken place in the last few hours. My poor, sweet husband was wrestling with that same question too. He bore the brunt of my drama trauma fielding phone calls, text messages, and questions from paramedics, nurses, doctors, friends and family.

 

I wasn’t angry until the next day, even after God had answered many prayers from loved ones allowing my heart to convert back again to a normal rhythm. I was still grasping for answers, trying to wrap my mind around everything. I barely kept my head above water each day before all of this happened and now I was completely knocked down. I was tired. Tired of striving. Tired of wanting God to care because I thought he must not. I started listening to my fickle emotions instead of firmly setting my hope in the promises of God:

 

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” He says in His Word over and over (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8). I forgot that God is always faithful, even when I’m wretched and hostile. But He calls me to be faithful as well, and I instead turned the other way. “How could God do this to me?” I asked in pride and anger. “Is it not enough to take care of an autistic son, sleep very little and live a stress-filled existence without this on my plate?”

fullsizerender

I was trying so hard to pursue God, and I believe I was, but at the same time I left little room to just rest. Rest in His grace that doesn’t require a juggling act or high marks.

 

Jesus used Peter, a common fisherman, hotheaded and impulsive to later become the rock of the church (Matthew 16:15-19). He called Saul, and renamed him Paul, from persecuting Christians to preaching the gospel to them. These two men were imprisoned for their faith and died because they followed Jesus Christ, knowing that the hope they had would be made sight. And it has for them.

 

I hope that for you and me too. Sometimes living out our faith feels more like a boxing match. But in the end, I want to say along with Paul that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). If anything, I’ve learned that we are not meant to have all the answers. There is still no explainable medical reason as to why all of this happened on that Tuesday – just a bunch of guesses.

 

We are called to simply trust that God is Good and Sovereign even when we don’t understand our life circumstances. And I am learning that He really is faithful. “Bad things happen even to forgiven people”, says Pastor Stephen Davey, but it doesn’t mean God does not love you or has stopped loving you. What if it means quite the opposite? What if growth can only happen in the storms?

img_7346

When you find yourself there remember that the heart of the matter is how your heart responds to Him. Will you run to Him or from Him? Don’t follow my example of pitching a fit when things get hard. God will show you the exact measure of your faith when life doesn’t turn out right. You might find it humbling. But it’s also grace – the hard places, because my pride and self-reliance was and is being chipped away. And that is very good news.

 

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Coffee Addiction

IMG_1145

For those who know me, you understand my appreciation of the coffee bean; some may even call it love. The thing is, I talk about it so much that others have concluded I’m a 12 cups-a-day addict. Not so, friend. In the past I have just reallllly looked forward to my morning cup of joe. My sanity and irritability level depended on it.

I occasionally indulged in a second cup by early afternoon, especially in the winter, but that was more for warmth than anything else. Caffeine after 3pm just makes me jumpy and jittery like a spooked cat (or my parents’ insane dog).

I always had a huge crash from coffee, leaving me feeling zombie-like. There is regular tired and then there is the heavy, exhausted curl up on the couch and never get up tired. My whole body felt like it was weighted down with no energy.

So, like a crazy person I decided to do the next logical thing. Roughly over a month ago, I stopped drinking coffee cold turkey. It’s funny because I said that I wasn’t a coffee addict, but my body told me otherwise. The next day consisted of a full-blown migraine. It wasn’t pretty ya’ll. But after getting over that I have felt like an entirely different human being: calmer, nicer, not likely to fall asleep at 10am… I still get tired occasionally like every other normal person because hello, life? But I don’t feel like a zombie either.

I am also known for getting frequent headaches. Basically anytime the wind changes direction it seems like I have one. It’s due partly to living in an area surrounded by hills, which is the equivalent to living in a bowl with all pollen, air pressure, pet dander, and grass serving as a petri dish for the natives. I don’t claim to have a firm knowledge on how all this works, I only experience it, but I digress.

Would you believe I have had just a couple since coming off caffeine? That takes the percentage down like 85% or something. And it’s a down right miracle compared to a couple each week!

All I’m saying is that one simple change has made a big difference. Even my husband Jason notices I’m a little sweeter, patient, and present in life. It just goes to show that life changes don’t have to be big, drastic (although this might qualify), or scary. Sometimes an effective change can be very simple, like choosing to take vitamins, drink more water, or walk outside for 30 minutes a day. I realize my examples are all health related, but it doesn’t have to be for you. Choose something that would help you feel better physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. After a while you forget to have to make yourself, and discipline becomes habit.

Do I miss coffee? Heck yes. And eventually I may treat myself to a latte or iced coffee, but it won’t be a regular thing anymore. I feel so much better that the benefits actually outweigh my love for the coffee bean.

Is there a simple change you have been thinking about making? I’d love to know! Share in the comments section.

Grace upon grace,

April