What This Blog is Not…

I am a homeschooling mom of three kids, one of which is ADHD and another was visually impaired up until third grade.  In my past life, I had lost 30 lbs, ran 240 miles in a year, and became a Zumba Instructor.  Then Rheumatoid Arthritis humbly knocked me off that high horse, and life has me rebuilding pretty much from scratch at this point.  I may potentially be ADHD as well, I suspect.  I’m Hispanic.  I’ve been happily married to my high school sweet heart for 12+ years. I live in Alaska though I was born in Venezuela and raised in South Florida.  And I’ve been a born-again Christian since I was 15 years old.  With my family 4 time zones and 6000 miles away, my church IS my family.  And I’m a reader.

Some of my readers know me from way back in my blogger.com days, others joined me when I was at confessions1st.com, and some of you may just now have started following me.  But in case you didn’t know, here are 10 things this blog is DEFINATELY not:

  1. Advertisement. Ugh I hate clicking stuff away from the article I want to read.  I’m willing to pay to keep you from that.  While maybe some day I may do a sponsored post, it’s not really my style.  I don’t want to sell you anything. Really.

    Disclaimer: I do book reviews.  I normally don’t get paid to share my opinion on the books, I just get the books for free – and more frequently I give a copy of the book away!

  • Gospel or Professional Advice. Nope. I’m an average mom.
  • Pinterest Worthy: If you’re waiting for me to share, “7 crafts you can do for St. Patrick’s Day” or “5 ways to grow closer to God”, I can point you in the direction of some GREAT bloggers.  That’s just not my style.
  • Photogenic: I write, visual arts are NOT my forte, so most of the pics featured here are either from pixabay.com or they are from my phone.
  • Word vomit venting: While I’m transparent about struggling through some tough times, I don’t want to share with you anything without a ray of light somehow.
  • Exclusively, Entirely Christian: I’ve prayed about this a lot.  And while I am exclusively, entirely Bible-believing Christian myself, that’s not the only audience I want to reach.  It’s not the only thing I want to write about. It’s not even the only thing I talk about! I mean in all sincerity, I meet up with friends and talk about television shows, funny youtube cat videos, parenting, and sports.  If I only blogged in “Christianese”, it would be very fake of me.
  • Political: Bleeeegh
  • Bashing of Anyone Else: I don’t beat anyone down with changes that need to be made, except me.
  • Without Error.
  • Anyone Else’s Opinion But My Own.
I love my husband! So I bug him for #selfies. He obliges. #selfie #nofilter #marriage

confessions1rst I love my husband! So I bug him for #selfies. He obliges. #selfie #nofilter #marriage

Like it so far? Subscribe/Follow! I’d appreciate keeping in touch.  I want to know who my audience is. It’s the greatest compliment you can give a blogger!

Got any suggestions you’d like to see here? Share below!

Faith and Fitness Building Music

My dear friend Lo Tanner shared on her email list a play list of worship songs that help carry her through difficult moments.  It inspired me to share a little list of my own…

Confession: Exercising NOW is increasingly more difficult than it was 3 years ago.  Where I used to run 5 miles, now I struggle to walk one.  Where I used to squat 80 lbs, now I have a hard time getting up from the couch.  Where I was a Zumba instructor and I used to teach one hour classes, now I find myself successful if I get through 20 minutes of yoga.

Life happens and Rheumatoid Arthritis sucks. But I know I need to keep moving.  My fitness goals have changed to reflect that, but I’m not going to lie: When I hit the work out zone, I beat myself up a lot.  It’s so difficult to NOT get discouraged.

This is why now, more than ever, I need to build my faith along with my fitness.  I can’t compartmentalize, these two are indistinguishable from each other.  So whether it’s the motivation to stay on the treadmill five more minutes, or not give up on the yoga, I need the words in my headphones to be more powerful than the self-defeating lies that creep up every time…

… and a nice beat helps too…

Here’s a list (in no particular order) that has both!

  • Pentatonix “Can’t Hold Us” – don’t ask, it just works.
  • Beckah Shae “I’ll Be Alright”
  • Beckah Shae “Life”
  • Beckah Shae “No More” – ok so I really recommend her. But this one here is my power song!
  • Mercy Me “Move”
  • Kerrie Roberts “Outcast”
  • Mary Mary “Shackles (Praise You)” – yup, I just dated myself here… I’m a dinasour.
  • Melinda Watts “So Good”
  • Ayiesha Woods “Crazy”
  • Cadia “Inside Out”

I’ll interject here, that I’m not always needing something to pump up my cardio to 140 bpm.  I like listening to stuff that gets me pumped, but also that helps me maintain endurance; if it keeps a steady rhythm, and it verbally encourages me not to give up, then it makes my list.

  • DC Talk “Jesus Freak” – I’m pretty sure my T-Rex arms give me away by now… I’m so old…
  • Group 1 Crew “His Kind of Love”
  • John Reuben “Do Not”
  • Jonathan Thulin “Dead Come to Life” Featuring Charmaine
  • Lecrae “Give In” Featuring Crystal Nicole)
  • Newsboys “God’s Not Dead”
  • Rachel Lampa “Savior Song”
  • Jars of Clay “Dead Man (Carry Me)” – appropriate after Leg Day
  • Jars of Clay “Flood”
  • Third Day “Lift Up Your Face”
  • Jimmy Needham “Come Thou Fount”
  • Grits “Fly Away”

Go ahead and check some of these out on Spotify or iTunes and add them to your work out playlist.


Do you have any faith-based work out songs you’d recommend? Share below!

Pilgrimage

Draggin my feet

Trying to keep moving forward

When it seems like every step I take

Pulls me further behind

Sweat stings my eyes

As I keep looking toward

The horizon for a sign of life

With no hope in sight

I thought I heard You

Calling me deeper

I thought I sensed You

Taking me further

How did I end up

In the middle of nowhere…

sunrise-1226471_1280

This dream I thought I had

This big adventure We would go to

Looks so different now that, finally

Reality has arrived

It’s a lot more work

More disappointments that I work through

Than some happy little ending

Will I even survive?

I need Your presence

Here in the desert

I need a fountain

To wash this dirt

Your living waters

This dryness hurts…

oasis-1997849_1280

Only You can show me

The cheers being shouted by that heavenly crowd

They’ve traveled this way in times before

They tell me not to give up now

You’re a Good Shepherd

And my journey won’t end in regret

We’ll reach a spring here, soon enough

You haven’t lost a soul yet!

You’re all I need

Your ways are higher

Your sight is perfect

Your yoke is lighter

When I am weary

You’ll carry me…

shepherd

All Things Are Possible… With ADHD

This is blog 3 of 3 on the subject.  If you’ve just joined me, you can check out post 1 and post 2 first at these links!

Confession: I am realizing now that my apprehension against Ritalin is kind of like judging a diabetic for using insulin instead of dieting and exercising regularly.

But after a lot of research I’ve realized where my negative stereotype came from:

  • Seeing so many kids diagnosed early: What kind of four year old ISN’T a wiggle butt?
  • Reports of “zombie like” side effects on the medication.
  • The stereotypical “welfare mom” who takes advantage of the diagnosis to dump the kid from dawn to dusk at day care.
  • The ease of the diagnosis in the first place: even teachers and social workers can diagnose a child and refer him to get medications!

There’s always a little bit of truth to these stereotypes after all, or they wouldn’t stick.  Really difficult kids drive referrals, which is why boys are diagnosed in day care and most girls fall through the cracks.  That “zombie” kid may have been over-medicated because there isn’t an exact science to the amount of medication each individual kid needs – and as I’ve learned full well through  my RA journey, sometimes it takes months (in my case, a year and 2 months) to get the balance of medication right!  Lower income parents have a more difficult time with ADHD children and less support, having to work more and not necessarily having the child’s needs be any cheaper…

I’m no expert, but I have read enough on the subject to understand that the medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants to help an underactive part of the brain – the part that helps with slowing down and thinking things through.  It’s not easy to dial it down!  But it makes sense to me because after Anakin would stand in the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, for 15 minutes, I would have him drink a cup of coffee with me in the mornings.

Cafe con leche, also known as cafe au lait.  Half brewed coffee, half milk, and some sugar.  It saved my life on more than one school morning myself… But I digress.  I did this every so often, specially on challenging school days.

I tackled all these concerns with his pediatrician too.  I came to understand that for most public school kids, they get put on longer-lasting medication.  Many schools are not exactly tolerant of a daily trip to the nurse’s office for another dose.  So when the aim is to help a child get through an 8-12 hour day, it’s not inconceivable that the dosage can be largely over-shot.

We decided to try a small dose that a) works immediately (side effects and all) and b) lasts only 3-4 hours.  If it was going to be too much, and negatively affect him, I wanted to know pretty immediately and call it good.  I also homeschool, and have been doing so the past 2 school years successfully without any medication.  In this time:

  • He learned to swim.
  • He published a book on Amazon.
  • He is a Cub Scout
  • He reads high school level fiction and even Kathy Reichs (we’re all a fan of the television show Bones)
  • He designs video games and learned coding
  • He’s an excellent chef – with the best mac and cheese in Alaska, I’m sure!
  • He’s made and kept a few good friends
  • Shot a .22 with outstanding accuracy
  • Premiered in a Christmas production with a local theater company
  • Performed in a choir, singing middle school level pieces of music with at least two part harmonies.

Needless to say, all things ARE possible.  Even with ADHD.

anakin-naan

The particular issue in this season of our lives is that the distractions and noise are constant and at times chaotic.  Not only was he having a difficult time focusing but the stress of trying to concentrate with the odds against him were also giving him headaches, depression, and an upset stomach.

So far, I’ve tried a dose of Ritalin twice – and always with his consent.  I’ve asked him, “Do you want to take your medication for XYZ this morning? Or do you think you can handle without?”  He’s asked me to do cub scouts and church without meds.  But on meds, he tackled a lot of chores and a lot of school work – might I add in an impressive amount of time.  DRASTICALLY less fussing with the sibling over every. single. chore.

Rabbit trail: How do I know this kid is a math genious? Because he’ll tell me, “Caleb only vacuumed 1/3 of the surface area upstairs.  Mean while, I have swept and mopped the entire floor down stairs, which is about twice the surface area Caleb has to vacuum upstairs in the first place! Therefore, it stands to reason that I should get on the computer first and not do any more chores – not even his chores!”  For the record, Caleb is 7.

He has complained it bugs his stomach but not enough to slow him down.  No change in personality either, just more task efficient; seeing the problem as “what needs to get done?” and then doing just that without complaining, fussing, or bullying his siblings into taking his place.

I don’t doubt that with or without medication Anakin, along many other kids, will accomplish things that will surpass anything his father and I could’ve hoped for!  While we read through the literature and learn better skills, we can certainly use treatment as our ally.

anakin-and-me

And we will probably BOTH need treatment.  All my research shows me that ADHD is hereditary, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Anakin probably inherited it from me.  If I braved this process for him, I owe it to him to brave it for myself too because I can only parent as far as I know.  If you want to know how this saga progresses, you’ll have to follow my blog.  Only time will tell!

Do you face medication concerns when it comes to your loved ones? How do you handle that conversation? Share below!

Modesty

My daughter is working on her “My Style” badge for American Heritage Girls and she asked my phone, “Siri, what is the definition of modesty?”

modesty

Confession: I’m glad she asked my phone before she asked me.  I wasn’t quite sure how to explain it.  It’s a term that gets tossed around a lot, more to girls than to boys, and definitely in religious circles.  But whenever it was brought up to me, it was always used to bring me shame and condemnation no matter how hard I tried to do what is right.

Last thing I want is to butcher this with her, she’s so sweet and innocent!

So we walked through it step by step.  She’s an auditory learner (a fact I’d be wise to remember when I’m dumb enough give her multiplication flash cards… Duh.), so conversation helps her to learn and process information.  Here’s what we discussed:

  1. It starts with being “unassuming”, or in other words, not drawing attention to ourselves as more special or hyped up than we really are.  So it has a quality of humility to it.  It’s like the ranks on a soldier’s uniform; it’s totally appropriate for the captain to wear captain’s uniform, but it’s a disgrace for someone of low rank (or worse, as has been seen before, someone who is not enlisted) to wear the captain’s rank.  It’s appropriate to dress for the job or rank we have earned – or in her case, wear her American Heritage Girls uniform with all her badges.  That would not be considered immodest.
  2. It means we are showing a limited, moderate, or small amounts of ourselves.  I told her that just because we  may have the money or the good looks to wear certain things doesn’t mean we necessarily should.  We even brought up Victoria’s Secret Models (we were surprised with their New Year’s Fashion show on the television of a Dairy Queen dinner date once) and we talked about how even though these women looked great, it wasn’t exactly modest to show so much of their nakedness on national TV.  We give people limited amounts of ourselves not just physically, but also to some degree emotionally and financially too.
  3. It means we behave and dress as is appropriate for the occassion, using these as a way to honor others above ourselves.  We talked about different outfits she wears during the week for different things.  Although a one piece bathing suit is perfectly modest for swimming, it’s entirely inappropriate for church on Sunday mornings!  So being proper and decent also has to do with discerning the occassion.  It’s why people don’t wear flashy colors at funerals, but flowery and bright colors are appropriate for weddings.  It’s why tight capris and a tank top are perfectly fine for yoga or running in the summer heat, but she really doesn’t need to wear form fitting clothes like that to co-op or Kid’s World at church.

brielle

I think this is all withing the realm of possibility for her – not legalistic, which kills your spirit, but not rebellious either (which kills your soul).  It was imperative with me, in this conversation with my 9 year old girl, that we addressed modesty without at all addressing sex.

It’s nauseating to me how hyper-sexualized everything is to a younger and younger audience.  And while the feminist in me says, “I’m not going to repress my daughter because some perv might be oogling her!” The maternal instinct in me says, “I don’t want to give a perv anything to look at!”  We don’t need to bring sex up to talk about the length of her skirt because modesty is so much more than the avoidance of sexual temptation in the first place.

I always try to approach every subject with my kids through the heart of God’s Word, as best I understand it.  I don’t want to restrict them in frustration; I want them to willingly make God-honoring choices.

How would you describe modesty to a young girl?

 

If Y’all Could Make Mental Health Not So Scary… That Would Be Great.

I last shared about the pivoting point that made a potential Ritalin believer for my son, Anakin.  But first, I had to go to his pediatrician and get a diagnosis.

Confession: I wish this process wasn’t so … scary.  There’s so much stigma attached to not having a perfectly wired brain!

… So many of these boys do poorly in High School.  They are also more likely to struggle with depression and as a result, turn to drug addiction.  Or they can be psychopaths, quite literally, with severe defiant disorders… Yikes! This is my ten year old Larry boy we’re talking about! The one who memorized and quizzed on the whole book of Acts, who got baptized at church camp!

Trust me when I say: Don’t google anything.  But take notes of everything about your kid – everything he feels physically, emotionally, and every behavior issue and bring that to a professional.  In my case, my Pediatrician has treated Anakin since he was 3 years old!  He has a history of all of Anakin’s developmental assessments through out the years as well as his vaccines.  He knows how smart Anakin is.

We talked about some physical symptoms that were concerning me; insomnia (I wonder who he gets THAT from?!), upset stomach, and a clumsy impulsivity that is above and beyond a preteen.  We also talked about how Anakin has always been forgetful but it feels that this school year he can’t find the pocket on his own pants.  Anakin himself shared that he’s frustrated because he stutters more often, isn’t getting along well with his friends like he used to, and that he feels worried or anxious all the time.

We didn’t need to talk about how Anakin has a difficult time with negative feelings.  And there’s no mild discomfort; everything on his pain scale is a 12 over 10 or a 0.  He’s been this way since he was two years old…

He sent us home with some questionaires – one for him to complete about himself, and one for parents to complete.  We came in another day with questionnaires filled and Anakin sat through about 45 minutes of testing to assess various neurological responses.

It was after all this that the doctor sat us down and said my suspicions were correct; although Anakin is very smart and has undoubtedly developed some good coping mechanisms thus far, he has ADHD.

He proceeds to explain to Anakin, eye to eye, what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder means, with a drawing of brain neurons, and leaves me with a prescription of Ritalin which is completely optional and the list of a few authors.  He gives Anakin two books on how to slow down his mind to think.

We head over to the library and I leave Anakin happily playing a computer game on army tanks to brave section 616 in the adult floor.

anakin_tank

Dementia… PTSD… Anorexia… Depression… Psychopathy… Autism… 

Lord Jesus, what have I done to my son?!

scary-books

Attention Deficit Disorder… Here it is… A quarter of the shelf.  I’m hoping it’s more because so many books have been checked out and not necessarily because not enough books are written.

adhd-books

This is what makes asking for help so scary!  To venture down a path of needing mental health walks you through all these terrifiying and very real potential problems, much like how I felt walking down aisle 616 at my local library (even the number sounds ominous!).

But none of these things are beyond Jesus’ ability to heal or work through.  Autism, like ADHD, is an inherited different wiring of the brain – nothing more, nothing less.  Nothing God can’t use.  It’s not the nails on the coffin; it’s the nails on the Cross!  They are souls Jesus died for who have a role to play in God’s Kingdom.  While I would ask God to help someone heal from PTSD or Anorexia, I wouldn’t ask God to “heal” someone with autism or ADHD; they are some of the most wonderful geniuses I have ever met.  

PS About the video of Anakin three years ago… we all laugh about it now.  I’m sharing now confident that he isn’t as mortified about the incident as he was then.  He is a good sport and has a good sense of humor.

Do you know and love someone who is “differently abled”?  How has that changed your perspective on people with these different diagnosis? Share below!

This “What Were You Thinking?!” Moment Is Brought To You By…

Confession: I was that mom to whom teachers could not say the word “Ritalin” to.  And when I heard it for the third time, I pulled him out and began to homeschool.

I think there’s a stigma to mental health among Hispanic communities.  We were raised with “Chanclaterapia” = “Flip-flop therapy”, ie: There isn’t any behavior that can’t be fixed by smacking him upside the head with your sandals.  I don’t think it’s cruelty as much as it may be ignorance, but I also know that for many families in third world countries, failure is not an option.  To do poorly in school is to do poorly in life, and unlike the U.S., to do poorly in these countries is to be destined for poverty in it’s most unforgiving forms.  Graduating high school and going to college thus becomes the Holy Grail of the Hispanic community.

But about my son… He’s 10 and a half and in 5th grade.  And I’ve homeschooled him since.  He writes very well – but only one paragraph at a time.  His current major research project has taken him 4 weeks.  Because if I have him sit down and write 5 paragraphs all at once, it’s a disaster of syntax and grammar that I’m sure, if he read it out loud just once, he’d realize how an automated call center machine from India has better English than him…

This “What were you thinking?!” moment is brought to you by…

In Math, we’re doing remedial elementary school coursework.  Because I want to make sure he doesn’t advance to 6th grade still having trouble lining up his place values when he multiplies and divides – although he’s done these operations since 3rd grade, he … still… can’t put his numbers in the right place consistently and … still… makes these mistakes.  But he can do it right in his head!  He just can’t consistently perform well on paper!

This “What were you thinking?!” moment is brought to you by…

He burned his hand twice in one week.  The first time he was making Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwhiches so for the life of me I don’t even know why.  The second time I saw it happen and no one would believe me unless they were there…

… We were at church early one Sunday morning, and I’m in the process of making myself some tea.  He sees me put the tea bag into the disposable cup and says, “There’s hot water right here!” and proceeds to touch it.  Touch the metal hot water dispenser that is plugged in to the wall to keep the water boiling hot.  With the sign that says: “Careful.  Hot Water.”  I’m standing there stunned, he’s shaking his hand and in tears.  He wasn’t even close to it! He had to take two steps toward it to touch it.  He looks at me like he can’t even understand the pain he’s in, and I ask him the question of the day: “Anakin, what were you thinking?”  to which he replies, “I don’t know!” and breaks down into sobs.

So when my 125 IQ’d, published author, high school level reader, amazing artist, self-taught musician son who can do SAT level word analogies like a boss at age 10 can’t explain to me his thought process behind the impulsivity of putting a hand on a known hot object, I knew it was time to seek help.  It’s not a bad behavior modification issue.  It’s not even a discipline issue…

… But if it was a discipline issue, and I addressed it with “chanclaterapia”, how long would I beat him with a flip flop before I realized it just wasn’t working?  Seriously if I used a flip flop every time he forgot something, lost something, spaced out, lied to me on auto pilot, left his shoes in the middle of the dining room floor, or flailed his arms into harm’s way, I’d smack him 9-10 times a day.  That would be the definition of insanity on my part!

So I challenge my readers with difficult children today to stop and think for a moment: If you have been disciplining more than once over the same issue, and the child’s behavior is not improving, maybe it’s because discipline is not the problem!  At one point, we should all as parents be willing to brave the thought that our kids (and us) need professional help.  It was a tough pill for me to swallow, but I’m willing to hold your hand and walk you through it as your friend.

What is your biggest fear in asking your pediatrician or other medical professional for help when it comes to your child?  How have you overcome it? Share below!

And don’t forget to like/subscribe to my blog!  Thank you for your time.

Getting What I Asked For

I am a starter of all trades, a master of none.  I had originally started a blog called “Confessions of a First Timer”.  Thinking I would publish books and write amazing pieces that would lead me to sponsorships and money over the past two years, I started off with the best intentions and then decided I didn’t really want to do the work.  Now that Website is gone.  I find myself writing recreationally from scratch.

I was also a Zumba instructor up until November of last year.  So Zumba looks awesome on TV or that one class live, but when you are doing all the prep work to be ready to TEACH a class, it’s a whole ‘nother level of sweat and stank. Seriously. I would average about 8.5 miles per practice before I taught on Monday nights.  When my RA kicked in furiously I couldn’t work anymore, so I dropped the ZIN membership as well.

I also once tried to become a Veterinary Technician… I probably still owe money for that long distance course…

And a dog groomer…

And a social worker…

And today? I’m a wife and stay at home, homeschooling mom.  Half finished degrees left and right.  A resume that at best makes me look bi-polar.  But I’m still young, right? Got my whole life ahead of me.

I’ll be turning 31 this year!

I think 30s are perfect because you finally know yourself enough to be comfortable in your own skin.  And you’re old enough to not really care about what anyone else says.

I am more confused for what I want to do with the rest of my life, my physical and educational goals, my dreams, and my five-year-plans NOW than I ever did before.  In fact, I remember being 20 years old and completely frozen with indecisiveness and paralyzed with fear.  I had no idea what I wanted! I also had no idea what I was capable of enduring and what kind of mettle I have.

I thought I figured it out for a while, and I have lost it again…

As a Christian in my 20s, I was whatever the rest of the church needed me to be.  I was so preoccupied with acceptance that I never showed my honest, more transparent side.  Now?  My pastors know I’m a kind of heathen-ish Christian who loves Hip Hop, uses birth control, and smacks kids and ignorant folk with her flip-flop in true Latina style.  The beautiful thing is that they just love me anyways – in the good, the bad, and the ugly.  In my 20s I would never let anyone in church see anything other than the good.  But now that I’m 30, I’m a more transparent and honest believer in the body of Christ.  I believe God can use that.

I am finding now, going into 30, that I’m getting more of what I ask for in prayer.  But then again, it’s a thing of beauty to know what I want and have a much more clear direction of what I want God to do in my life and how I want to honor Him.  And it’s not that I’m not flexible or I’m self-centered, but the truth is:

If you aim at nothing, that’s precisely what you’ll get.

You can’t shoot arrows haphazardly and hope you get a bulls eye.  You have to aim for the bulls eye if you’re ever to hit it.  And I’m learning that prayer, faith, and life seem to work that way too.

Blast From The Past

This was a blog post published July 28th, 2015.  Sometimes going back and seeing God’s faithfulness in the past helps to jolt me to the reality that He really is a present help in time of need.

The past three weeks I have not been scheduled to work at my part-time job. This has been a bit of a financial blow that we are trying to overcome.

And as usual, this is the season when things go wrong, need repairs, or somehow we are reminded how much more money don’t have.

As y’all know I’m already a bit of an insomniac. Last week was different: I would stay awake with my heart racing, fighting a supernatural struggle against anxiety. Praying, listening to the Bible as I laid in bed so I wouldn’t hear all the other thoughts that assaulted me.

In my prayer time, I asked God what I was supposed to do with my Zumba certification. Because I can’t really seem to get a job as a Zumba instructor unless I’m also an accredited Group Fitness Certified Instructor… a certification that costs $300-500 I also don’t have. I just felt stuck.

May I add that finances were the LEAST of our trials? Talk about a spiritual assault! I had arrows thrown at me from every side! From family, to our kids, to work, and my husband’s job. I was weary from it! I can’t even begin to share all the details here, though my journal knows, but I was beat down on every side.

When I couldn’t take the stress anymore, I got a little lost with my kids to re-center.

Well the Lord has graciously provided an opportunity for me to substitute three Zumba classes this week. It means I make some extra cash (yay!). But for every one hour of Zumba I would teach, I do four hours at home perfecting the class and making sure my routine works. And then another hour fighting anxiety in prayer because I’m nervous that no one will show up or no one will like me or I’ll screw up. So this is taking a lot of my time.

And I already have to give time to the kids. Anakin’s hand completely healed and he’s ready to ride his bike (two weeks ahead of schedule! Praise God!). And I have to give time first and foremost to the Lord; I’m not that stupid as to be facing so many battles and not spending time working out strategies with my Commander. So the first thing our family has been doing (more consistently now than in the past, I confess) is reading our Bibles and studying it. And praying.

So here is where my fellow introverts ask me: Maria, if you are so anxious, and teaching a Zumba class makes you so nervous, why do you do it? Why don’t you just get a job?

Or my biggest pet peeve ever: Maybe you should just send your kids to public school so you can go work at an office? (Gotta love people who solve your problems without any God-given direction…)

It’s a risk I’m willing to take because I am motivated by the possibility that I could find that John Piper sweet spot where God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If I can make the extra income we need helping other women have a good time (teaching Zumba) and not sacrificing our family life, I am in that sweet spot.

For the record, I’ve also applied for and interviewed other very basic, entry level jobs at local gyms.

My extra motivation this week came after I took the kids to their annual eye checkup.

My silly, beautiful little girl!

I always thought Brielle was dyslexic because I knew that she struggles with doing her letters backwards or spelling words all scrambled. I knew (and I’ve shared this before) that she works twice as hard as any other kid her age to read or write and that she focuses twice as much. Public school told me in Kindergarten that she’d probably outgrow it naturally. The charter school I homeschool through told me that she seems to be an auditory learner, and she has not fallen behind, but enjoys learning more through conversation, music, and movement than through print.

The doctor examines her eyes and notices that her eyes naturally rest looking outward a little instead of straight ahead. Which means to focus, and to see a line of print (like from her Bible, which she reads about a chapter a day or so) she has to hold a strain for a prolonged period of time… where other kids can just stare straight ahead and be just fine.

And now everything I’ve known in my heart makes sense, although it wasn’t dyslexia. But she does need to see a specialist for eye therapy to correct the issue, especially since she’s still young and there’s a good chance that as she grows she can be “cured”. In the meantime I’m just in awe of how dedicated she is to reading and writing, because she’ll write in her journal regularly and she loves the youversion app on the kindle.

And I’m thankful I homeschool because while she’s getting therapy, I can focus a curriculum JUST FOR HER that uses other styles of learning more than book work, so that she doesn’t fall behind on content and she can keep learning without straining her eyes. It’s one of those moments I know God was moving in Brielle’s favor when He told me I needed to homeschool before I even knew what was necessary.

I want the resiliency my kids have. They laugh through everything!

Then my youngest, Caleb, turns out to be quite the conman. We’ve always done his eye exams briefly at the pediatrician, with a chart. He’s always said he appears to have 20/20 vision in both eyes.

It turns out, he has ok vision in one eye and a WHOLE LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHIC memory. He memorized the chart and aced it.

Because at the eye doctor, he was discovered to have been soooooo farsighted in one eye he was in danger of losing the optical nerves in that eye. So he needs to wear prescription glasses as soon as possible. Talk about total surprise!

I was humiliated that I couldn’t afford to pay the $29 I needed to at check out for my son’s glasses, and had to ask them to bill me that when I pick them up.

But it motivated me to take on the Zumba classes with a fury because I now know I’ll need more money than I thought. I don’t know how much Brielle’s eye therapy will cost, or how often it will be, or how much our insurance will cover.

In all this, the verse that kept coming to mind over and over was in Philippians 4: Our God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. I had this verse given to me in every Bible app, every Facebook post or comment sent my way. I listened to it at night and read it during the day.

It has given me peace to know God somehow knew the entirety of my situation before I was aware of all of it. I know I’ve been attacked a lot (and so has my church, so it’s nothing unusual honestly), but I also see the Hand of God moving in my favor and having my 6. I can’t explain otherwise how getting the news that two of your children have pretty gnarly vision problems can result in a praise report.

Update: Present day (2017) Caleb’s eyesight has improved, though he wears glasses faithfully.  Brielle “graduated” from vision therapy and is now reading at grade level, hasn’t had any more issues since.  Praise God! Shortly after this post I got a regular Zumba teaching job which I stayed in until the room I used to teach went down for maintenance and I was, in essence, laid off. God has been faithful through out with different opportunities to make ends meet.

Lessons From Within The Storm

I was in a situation recently where it all just felt icky and awful.  In it I was drowning in self-pity and despair! I couldn’t see my way through this or out of this.  I absolutely hate feeling stuck.

Confession: When I was about 5 years old, I was going down from the 9th floor of my grandma’s apartment via elevator with my uncle, when there was a quake that caused the elevator to malfunction, and then it dropped… and then it got stuck.  I remember my uncle injuring his arm trying to hold the doors open from within as my cousins and uncles were prying it open from the outside to get me out.

Irony would have it that about a year later I would be in Miami, FL during Hurricane Andrew (1992) spending the night in a walk-in closet with my family…

As a result, I have developed a phobia of small and tight spaces.  I’ve never let a phobia control my actions though, because I hate being manipulated by my emotions even more.  But I get uncomfortable if I feel squeezed.

And not just physically!  I hate feeling pressured, cornered, boxed in… I don’t like it when it seems others are putting me in a situation where my freedoms are restricted, I don’t like feeling tied down… and when I am, I tend to lash out.

It was precisely in this type of situation last month where I found myself really frustrated and, turning to God’s Word and prayer, came across this Scripture in Matthew 8:23-27:

“As He got into the[h] boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. 25 So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”

26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?—even the winds and the sea obey Him!”

stormIt struck a nerve how… odd Jesus’ response was.  Was it a lack of compassion?  Was the storm just not as bad as the disciples were making it out to be? Did He expect them to know the outcome the way He knew?

I found myself asking, “Jesus, how come You not only slept through the storm, but rebuked the disciples for waking you up?”

This is what I learned:

·        The presence of the storm does not equal the absence of God.  Likewise, God never promised us that His presence would result in the absence of storms either!

·        Jesus got in the boat first because it was the medium necessary to travel from point A to point B.  And if you want to get to point B with Jesus, the best thing for you to do is to get in the boat with Him.

·        Jesus had full confidence in the disciple’s abilities to navigate the boat through the storm.  Some of them were experienced fishermen.  He didn’t take over and start rowing, telling the disciples to move out of His way; He let them do their jobs.  Could it be that Jesus has full confidence in your ability to navigate through this storm too?

·        Jesus had taught the disciples that He was going to die on the cross.  Therefore, the disciples were expected to believe that they were going to make it to the cross!  Their panic that they would die at sea was not only a lack of belief in Jesus’ ability to care for them, but a lack of faith at His words.

I am so thankful that Jesus never told me, “Once you’re saved, you’ll never experience anxiety!”  Rather, He tells me in Philippians 4:6

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

So the lesson from the storm is to expect it, and get through it!  It is not pleasant, it is work… but you are not alone.  He is there with you.  And you are not going through the storm because of His incompetence, but rather because you are capable.  There’s something on the shore that you are uniquely equipped for!  But the only way to get there is to get in the boat!