from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand

“from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand”

It was a Facebook comment I read this morning, by someone whom I don’t know, but through Facebook orchestration, I am united with through mutual love and support of another.

I have a friend I have not seen since 10th grade. We were buddies. We mostly hung out at school or football games. She lived a few towns away, and before drivers’ licenses, that might as well have been states away. {It’s a lovely bonus sidenote to this story that I am going to see her TODAY!}

Paula and her daughter CarmynNow, she does live states away. But we are close. Facebook, that little tool that can be used for good or evil, has been so fruitful in bringing this woman, her family, her perspective into my life… and it is one I have come to count on.

We love a lot of the same things… family life, cooking and food, Jesus, our husbands, fun TV. But our lives are different. She has 4 littles. I have a unconventional blend. She is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools. I have a few part-time gigs and am happy with public school for now. She gardens. I edit a teen magazine. She churches at home. I practically live at my church.

And the one factor that our American Society of Modern Moms seems to say should divide us, does not.

She has a child with special needs. I do not.

I have read countless articles about being a friend to parents of special needs children (I hate them, mostly… what to say, what not to say…). I am often flabbergasted at the challenges faced by the families in my circle, from juvenile diabetes to epidermolysis bullosa, Downs syndrome to spina bifida, food allergies to Angelman syndrome. The range of lifestyles and decisions and emotions and lessons and stress experienced by these mamas often leaves me feeling breathless and absolutely helpless. How many times can I say “Sending love and prayers?” How many times can I ask God “WHY” do some children have to struggle and suffer this way? How long before my lack of these challenges becomes an obstacle in my compassion and my ability to be the kind of friend these women need?

The truth is, though, that in the big ways, mamas are the same. We stress over how to Do This Thing that is raising our children in a safe, loving, educational environment, teaching them to be good people, advocating for them and empowering them all at once. We do our best but often feel inadequate, criticized, or judged. We want to feed them healthy foods and take advantage of teachable moments and expose them to a well-rounded cultural experience, but sometimes, we just want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix in peace for 5 minutes, even if it means we’re having PB&J for dinner.

And we all want to know we are not alone in this.

A few nights ago, I was talking to another friend. She, too, has friends facing the struggle of children with severe medical issues or special needs. We talked exhaustively about this subject, about how to best reach out, encourage, minister.

As we talked, the thought rang in my head that we were, indeed, advocating for these mamas, just amongst ourselves. We are saying to them, to you,

“Hey! We don’t get it. We likely never can and never will. But we get you. We see you and your struggle. We are here praying for you and cheering you on. We are loving your babies and making donations and telling your stories. It’s not much… it might not change a thing, but we are in this together.”

American mamahood is fully of petty competition and sometimes foolish worry. If we are not careful, we become products of marketing and media, rather than the organic fruit of one of creation’s most sacred and rewarding callings: motherhood. It doesn’t matter if we arrive at the same conclusions (breast vs. bottle, public vs. private vs. home, organic vs. processed, vaccines vs. not…). It matters that we value the walk we are all taking. It matters that when I turn my head and see another mama next to me, struggling, I do my best to give her a hand up and not to judge her. It matters that when I see a mama who is facing more, doing more, or “doing it better,” I don’t judge myself, because my lot is the lot given to me, and I have to do my own best on my own path.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know each other’s hearts, because maybe we never can. It matters that we try to understand, that we respect each other, that we cheer for each other’s children. Let’s stop being afraid of having the wrong kind of compassion and instead just make sure we are not without it.

To learn more about Angelman Syndrome, please click here.

 

The power of laughter

laughIt’s probably impossible to play catch-up here, not only because it’s been 6 months, but because it has been a jam-packed 6 months… some of the most surprising of my life.

The summary is that in February, we found ourselves very unexpectedly pregnant. The range of emotions went from terror to shock to utter bliss in the matter of about 10 minutes, and then 2 weeks later, to devastation, as we were told the baby had no heartbeat.

Miscarriage. I have checked that off my bucket list of nightmares I hoped never to face. It sucked. It still sucks. But we survived.

I remember the day I found my laughter again. It was probably 3 or 4 weeks after my D&C. We were lounging in bed on a Saturday morning waiting for the girls to come and jump on us. They did. And for some reason, I grabbed my iPhone and turned on the song “Happy.” (You so know the one). Then I started lip syncing. And dancing. Rod was watching me with the light in his eyes you can only have for the person you adore when she is being completely odd.

And I cracked up. And I couldn’t stop.

That was the day I found myself again. Even though when I look back at my early life, I see a thread of melancholy, the real truth that has arisen as I have “found myself” in adulthood is that I am a joyful person. I smile. I laugh. I embrace happiness. Having a family of my own, becoming a mama, helped me to see that and be that. And while losing a child could have been the thing that changed it (as indeed, it did change me to my core, but that’s another blog), I refuse to let it.

Death doesn’t win.

Fear doesn’t win.

Joy, love, laughter… it will, it must conquer the sad things in life. It will give us wings.

It did this year. But news of another Burton Baby certainly has also helped.  Our first grandchild will be born to Josh and Kirsten this fall! And in May, in the spirit of twofold blessings and almost 3 months to the day we lost our baby, we found out we will be having another, one whose heart is beating and arms are waving.

And I laughed…

baby burton

Chicagolina 2014

The holidays were wonderful – the wedding was beautiful.
We said goodbye to my dear Gramma, the day I turned 37.
There are a million thoughts, but also, a few changes, and so,
this space remains, but is perhaps a little less visited these days.

See, I’ve been remade from the inside out over these past 3 years.
Now, I’m focusing work on the outside. I want…and NEED… to be stronger and healthier and for my outside to reflect who I really am.

I am pleased to be featured at A MOTHER’S HEART bi-weekly and ABSOLUTELY GOSPEL monthly. I am also the humbled and proud new co-Senior Editor of TRU Magazine! Please keep visiting… there is always a spot on my Chicagolina beach for you!

chicagolina 2014

Steps

As far as blended families go, we never had it very rough. It never got very complicated.

But that doesn’t mean we were always a smoothie.

Sometimes we were blended about as much as oil and water, particularly when it came to a certain teenage boy and his 15-years-older stepmom.

That would be us:

josh-kel.2006
familydec2005

Oh, we had some things we enjoyed together: amusement parks. superheroes. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. guacamole. But for a few years, there was pretty much nothing we could talk about without one or both of us getting mad.

Thank God, we made it through.

I dropped the “step” from his title long ago, around the time the first of his baby sisters was born, and I realized that our kids are our kids. I did not give birth to Josh. I didn’t have the frogs-snails-puppy-dog-tails part of his growing up; I never got to dress him in cute overalls or help him learn to ride a bike, but nonetheless, I was going to help guide him toward the goal of being a man… a good man. And with that realization, he became my son.

With maturity, I could also embrace the difference between having him for my son and being his mom. There is a distinct difference, and it’s all good. He has a mom, who did have his babydom and childhood and who doesn’t need to be replaced. That’s part of the blend, folks.

This week, I will likely share some stories with her. I will stand beside his dad as we watch him become a man in a very important way… as he makes vows to his new wife… as he takes steps to do something we did not: have a family that never needs blending.

(Although… is there such a thing? I mean, even though my parents have been married to each other for 40 years, they still had to blend as my brother and I brought our spouses, stepkids, kids, in-laws into the family. Hmmm… Maybe we need a different term. But, we definitely pray that Josh and Kirsten are only married to each other, for their lives!)

moving2012

I am so grateful, so proud, to have inherited the boy he was, to have grown with him and butted heads with him and helped shape the teen he was, to have the man he is for my friend and family and ally, and for my babies to have him as their big brother.

When I watch him take those vows this week, when I dance our “non-special” dance at his reception, when I bask in our C-RA-ZY blended family this Christmas (think Four Christmases, all in one house!), every time we get a few minutes to have Starbucks or a warehouse shopping trip by ourselves or a Chipotle/Abuelo’s/beach/movie date with the whole family, it won’t really matter to me whether he is my stepson or son or whatever we call it. I am his, and he is mine, and thanks to God for all the gracious and unexpected ways He chooses to bless our lives!

 

 

It’s always raining

I remember the day he sang at this church. The call came in the middle of the night, literally. The opportunity was so refreshing. The financial blessing was so needed. We were on the starting edge of the biggest drought and hardest challenge of our lives, even though we were fighting it off and maybe even denying it a little.

I was looking for a different song he’s sang today and came across this one. I had to giggle. This isn’t the same guy, and I am not the same either. November 2011 might as well have been a decade ago instead of two short years for all the ways our lives have changed – and all the ways we have changed.

But the message holds. The rain is coming.

I’d like to hear Rod sing it now, with his long hair and wearing his flip-flops, strumming his guitar, on the beach or the porch. Part of our change has been letting go of religion in all its hidden forms, in the legalism, the formality, the appearances, the parts that build walls instead of shine lights.

Part of our change is a realization that even though we have dry seasons, it never actually stops raining..

Jesus said this:

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. – Matthew 5: 43-48, The Message

I’m grateful for those who gave us water when our season was dry. I am grateful we have some water to share this year. I’m grateful for the lesson learned that we should always be watching and waiting for a bouty of blessings to come to us.