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Challenges and Rewards

January 29, 2013 — Leave a comment
The following is a guest post by Ashley Furman. She is a fellow blogger, mommy of two and living with Lupus. I am so thrilled that she has written a post for me and I know that you will enjoy her writing as much as I have. Make sure to head on over to her blog and check it out Oh, my aunt has Lupus.

Being a mom is challenging. I don’t think that statement is a surprise to anyone. Being a mom with Lupus certainly adds to that challenge.

guest blogMy husband and I got pregnant with our second child when our daughter was only 10 months old. If you are unaware, 10 months is right on the difficult cusp of toddlerdom. Let me fill you in, in case you haven’t been there before- this is the time when your sweet little happy baby starts turning into this autonomous being, who refuses to eat and sleep, and goes into full blown panic attacks every time you leave their field of vision for more than 3 seconds. I quickly began seeking advice on what life would be like with 2 kids under 2 years old, and something I was told often was essentially “prepare for a crazy hard first year.” Some people were more encouraging than others, but I was left in a constant limbo between excitement for the beautiful chaos that would take place, and “Oh God. What have we done?”

Being pregnant with an infant-eventually-turned-toddler was definitely hard for me, especially during the weeks that I had my head shoved in a toilet 5+ times per day. And I reflect on those days often when I’m having a particularly difficult time mothering my kids during painful Lupus junk. Feeling so sick while pregnant but knowing you are still responsible for the life that you already brought into this world is a lot like the dilemma you face as a mom with a chronic illness. (I guess when you can compare your pregnancy with a chronic disease, it’s safe to say they’ve been rough…) You’re tired, you don’t feel good, you would give your left middle toe to stay in bed just a little longer. But your kid is crying and you remember, much to your disappointment, that stay-at-home-moms don’t get “sick days.” You have to get up, you have to make breakfast, and you have to find a way to get through the next 12-15 hours before they go back to sleep and you can be longingly reunited with Mr. Sandman. That almost sounds dirty, but it isn’t, I swear. The bottom line is, you don’t have a choice. As a parent, your kids await. And whether you’re sick or not, I’m a firm believer that if you’re doing it right, parenting will be hard. It’s supposed to be. Children are a gift from God, and I believe He uses the challenges that parenting brings to refine us and to draw us closer to Him. I now consider living with Lupus similarly. Having a chronic disease is a constant reminder of my weakness, but it’s one that Jesus is ready to answer with His own strength, drawing me closer to Him. And how thankful am I for that, because sometimes it’s near laughable at the circumstances that I’m functioning under.

My husband is a second year Medical Student. When you account for time he spends in class and time studying, it more often than not adds up to approximately 80 hour work weeks. Because I stay at home with our daughter Makaila, who just turned 2, and our 5 month old son, Cohen, I definitely feel the burden when my husband isn’t available to help during any hour of the day. However, by the grace of God we were given a baby who, unlike his sister, is one of the easiest, happiest babies of all time. However, also unlike his sister, he still wakes up every 2 hours throughout the night. So although I am dealing with Lupus fatigue on top of standard motherhood exhaustion, the ear-to-ear grins from my toothless babe at 2 am help to keep me going.

Beyond sleep deprivation, having a baby and a toddler has naturally come with its own challenges. Possibly the biggest of which with Cohen has been that he has a mild form of plagiocephaly, aka “flat head syndrome.” We were told at his 2 month appointment what was going on, and essentially given doctors orders to NEVER put him down, in hopes it would “correct itself.”Luckily I was already prepared to do my fair share of baby-wearing, so I had a great wrap on hand (because how else do you take care of a newborn and a 19 month old?) but in practice, keeping him off his head and in my arms at all times has been downright exhausting. (Side-note: I would like to say right now that if his head does round out over time, I am fully claiming it as a fruit of MY hard labor, and not giving any credit to his greedy skull bones. Correct itself? Give me a break. Mom did that.)

So really, in perspective, the most difficult part of having Lupus for me is simply trying to keep up with life while having Lupus. Does that make sense? I guess what I mean is, Lupus isn’t the hardest part of my life. Life is the hardest part of my life. For example, last Sunday, Cohen screamed and cried all night long. Literally. All night. Since it was so out of character for him, I took him in to see the Pediatrician first thing the next morning. Come to find out, the poor bugger had a double ear infection. Then the very next day we found out that my daughter somehow contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease, and she was struggling to even drink a glass of milk without screaming in pain. Totally heartbreaking. A few days later it became apparent that my husband had managed to catch the virus from my daughter, and then he too was hardly functioning. So, all week long I had an entire family of sickies to take care of, including two extremely needy, demanding, and frequently crying children, all while working through my own joint pain, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. That’s just a recent example of how Lupus made some standard life circumstances that much harder. And while things may be less taxing during a normal week, honestly my normal is always hard.

I’m one of those moms who makes a big effort to keep my kids engaged in things other than the television (or iPad, iPod, computer, whatever…) My baby boy won’t be allowed screen time for at least another year, and my very spirited (and thus very energy consuming) toddler has her’s kept to a minimum. To keep children occupied, happy and safe while simultaneously trying to shape them into responsible, moral, gospel-centered, educated, and kind individuals, is no easy task. There are days when I’m so tired that my oldest will get permission to watch an extra episode of Yo Gabba Gabba (in which I have to extend grace to myself, as to not feel like I’m failing her. Perhaps silly, but true.) But the meat of the day is spent together putting together activities that foster her creativity and development. And although he’s still a little tot, the same goes for my 5 month old. There are definitely times I think of how much easier my life would be if I could stick both kids in front of the television and zone out for an hour or two, but alas, my convictions always come up stronger than my desire for a morning of inactivity. So while I’m fantasizing of going back to sleep, what actually happens is I gulp down some form of caffeinated beverage, take a horse pill of ibuprofen if I’m feeling extra achey, and I try to remember that it’s only going to be on the Lord’s strength that I can get through the day in any type of meaningful way. And then I take it as it comes. And it can be good, and hard, and exhausting, but it’s all beautiful. And I’m thankful.

For me, having 2 kids under 2 has already proved to be challenging, no doubt. As is being the wife of a Med Student, as is living with an illness like Lupus. But what I expect from challenges is that they also offer us the biggest rewards. My family brings me amazing amounts of joy. Every day, every hour. How could they not? I was given 3 incredible people to love. And although there are a lot of trying times within the dynamics of our relationships, I am beyond blessed by all of it. I really believe that God is also going to use the challenges of my Lupus in a similar way. If I am handing it all over to Him- submitting to Him my head, heart, and hands, including this disease in its entirety- He will lighten my burdens and I will be conformed more to the likeness of Christ. It’s not like He’s going to leave me hanging as if I’m less valuable to Him now that I’m sick. On the contrary, I think the Lord actually has big blessings He wants to bestow on me in the midst of my relationship with Lupus, and that ultimately, He will use this disease in my life to bring glory to Himself. And although it can be difficult, in the end that is the biggest reward I could ever hope for.
sunset

Our trip to California to visit my family

You might find this little known fact about me interesting.. seven years is the longest I have ever stayed in any one place (which is where we are at currently). Growing up my family moved around a lot. No, my dad was not military. He worked for a heating and air supply company that moved him around. I can honestly say that I didn’t mind the moving, I hated the process of moving all our stuff and getting settled in, but the move itself was exciting. New places, new friends and an entirely different place to call home, for a short time.

horses

Nothing like a good horseback ride in east Texas

We typically would move about every five years, sometimes it would be less time than that. Each time that we moved my brother and I would take turns getting to pick which room we wanted, (you know siblings tend to argue and the youngest sibling-aka me-always wants whatever the older sibling picks). So to make life easier and a little more fun my mom made the rule that each time we moved one of us would get to look at the bedrooms and pick first, then the next move we would switch. Don’t ask me why this was so exciting to us but it really was! (Oh the things that will make a kid happy!)

Despite the typical sibling squabbles all the moving really did bring me, my brother and the entire family closer. Especially when we made the big move from Oklahoma to South Carolina. We knew absolutely no one so we relied on each other completely. That was one of the best moves we ever made. Yes, friendships and memories were made that will be lifelong, but the best part is our family grew together in a way that could only happen when you are in a place that you have no one else, but each other.

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The house I lived in while in South Carolina. I loved this house!

For those that are curious we never made any crazy moves beside the one from Oklahoma to South Carolina, we did move through the state of Oklahoma many times though. Now you find me here, seven years in the same town! Wow, it is kind of weird! So many times when you hear of families, especially military families that have moved so often their children want to find one place and stay put. Is that the same with me? To be completely honest, no!

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He’s already happy traveling! I can’t wait to take him to see the world!

I have become antsy and craving for some adventure, some travel, something out of the norm for our everyday routine. Recently I have come across an amazing blog of a family, the Dennings, that has made the choice to be world travelers, nomads if you will. What did this blog do to me? It awakened my adventurous spirit and made me dream of a day that I could take my family and travel the world! You are probably saying to yourself “this girl is crazy, doesn’t she remember the stress of moving again and again?” Why yes I do remember that, but it doesn’t make the adventure less worth it. Sometimes you have to do things a little crazy for the amazing to happen! Chase and I dream of a day that we can live abroad, teaching our kids the cultures beyond the United States, loving the people of God that we wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. We dream of traveling even in the United States because there are adventures still to be had here. Just last night Chase and I were talking about these things and I ended the conversation saying “there are so many beautiful things God placed on this Earth that it is a waste not to see all that we can.”

Could you be a nomad?

For those of you that have followed the guest blog posts you will remember Michelle Clark of Miss Banana Pants from her earlier post she did for me about All Moms are Liars. Well today she brings some great insight into her journey of a seven month fast…

 

We’ve all felt the clutter of life at one time or another. I think that it comforts us to a certain degree. Having more “stuff” makes us feel secure, distracted, and accomplished.  I’ve truthfully never been very materialistic. Stuff doesn’t mean very much to me. Just ask my husband in the way that I take care of my mess of a car, continuously pile clutter in every corner of my house, and resolve to the fact that we will never have super nice furniture because we have kids. I’m okay with it. To a certain extent.  The truth is I’ve been a horrible steward of my stuff. I should take better care of what I’m given/what we can afford. I’ve just always had a very “disposable” mentality about stuff. It’s here today, it’s helpful, if it breaks/is stolen/goes through the ringer, it’s okay. It’s all disposable and we will just get something else. I trick myself into thinking that my stuff does not own me.  Maybe it doesn’t. But my perspective on my stuff does. Just because I don’t cling to my stuff, doesn’t mean I don’t take it for granted. I’m not concerned with it being gone, because “out with the old, in with the new”. Do you struggle with this? Or do you hold on to your possessions as if they define you?

Enter the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker and my life is wrecked.

I made the massive mistake of taking this “simple-looking” book with me on vacation to read by the beach. I think I must be the very first girl ever to sit in a lounge chair in the sand staring at the ocean waves and reading a book about EXCESS. Seems a bit hypocritical.  Not an easy book to read while on vacation, I’ll tell ya!  Try reading it at the pool…in your ocean condo…while your kids argue about cable TV stations.  It did feel wrong.  I was so spoiled at that moment.  No, it wasn’t wrong to go on vacation.  Actually, it was an amazing free blessing/gift to our family and we were humbled by the love that has been shown to us.  It just wasn’t an ideal place to read about excess. Not at all.  We just have so much stuff and are so selfish.  Don’t you ever get tired of how greedy we have become?  It seems like the more we get  –  the more we THINK we need.  We feel like we DESERVE it all.  It’s a terrible cycle and I was ready to get off.  Something definitely had to give.  I soaked in each word and let it simmer in my mind and heart throughout vacation and came home with a resolve.  This stuff that Jen Hatmaker covered in her book wasn’t “new” new but she did something about it.  She put feet to her words.  I knew that I wanted to begin to put feet to mine as well.  I was not going to be just another woman who simply reads this book and says that it’s a “life changing” theory and experiment.  I wanted to do.  I wanted to act.  I wanted to be wrecked to the point of change.  It was official.  I didn’t want to be comfortable anymore. I wanted to take on Jen Hatmaker’s challenge to fast in the seven areas of my life that were defining who I was:  Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Spending, Waste, and Stress.

Currently, I’m just finishing up my Food Fast for month one and boy, am I glad it’s almost over! Not because I didn’t learn a TON, but because I am ready to try to be a better steward in this department on my own. In the book, “7”, Jen just chose seven different foods and ate nothing but those seven things all month-long. What dedication! I am not that spiritual! Ha! I, instead, made seven food rules for myself to adhere to for the entire 4 weeks, and I have to say, I followed most of them pretty well.  They were:  No Fast Food, No Pop/Soda, No Alcohol, No Pork, No Chocolate, No Eating After 7 pm, and Only ONE grocery trip per week.

During this whole first month, the main things that I’ve learned are just how spoiled I am in the area of food. I’ve never had to worry about what I will eat until now. I’m having to plan ahead because I can’t just grab something on the go. Sometimes I have found myself literally consumed with how to organize my day around us having enough time to come home and cook something. I’ve never had to think about food so much in my life! I am realizing what a blessing it’s been to be born into a society that, for the most part, doesn’t have to worry about food.  I live a privileged life.  I’ve never known hunger, poverty, or despair. I have been ridiculously blessed relationally, spiritually, and physically.  My life is so happy, it’s almost embarrassing at times when I think of it in comparison to so many other people in other countries.  And yet, this month, I let the little things like the fact that I couldn’t just run through a drive-thru window for lunch or grab a soda obstruct my view on my reality.  I struggled to see how blessed I am because I wasn’t able to see the forest because I was concentrating on the trees.  Even before this month I did that.  I concentrate too much on the few things that I can’t have instead of all the endless things that I do have at my disposal  I have more food (even with all this month’s limitations) in one single day than most of the earth’s population see their whole lives.  If anything is ridiculous, it’s that fact. But how many times do we really stop and think about that fact?  If we did, it would not only change the way we think about food, but it would revolutionize the way we think about life.

As this month ends and I am about to embark on the next phase of this 7 month fast, I’m excited to see what more God has to teach me. Next month’s focus is “Clothes” and I’ve decided to mirror the experiment that Hatmaker did in her book.  She chose only 7 articles of clothes and wore nothing but those things for an entire month. Sounds completely ridiculous, eh? But I really think that this month might stir in me a new-found appreciation for what it feels like to not only not care about what you look like, but focus more time and energy on changing the ME behind the facade of fashion.  This month I’m sure to see some inner change. I can’t wait.

For those of you who think this whole thing is so WEIRD, you are totally right. I think it is too, actually.  Really, it’s okay to think I’m becoming one of those Christians. But in the words of our pastor, “I welcome WEIRD. Normal isn’t working anymore.” It’s not. I’m sure that most of Jesus’ ideas weren’t so popular either.  I’m convinced that He got the “I-thought-you-were-normal-but-now-I-see-I-was-clearly-wrong” face plenty of times. He seriously knew how to thin out a crowd.  He always gunned for less, reduced, simplified.  He was the most fully and completely unselfish, ungreedy, unpretentious man to ever live, and I just want to be more like Him.  It’s as simple as that. If limiting myself of my favorite things for 7 months can help Jesus overcome me, then so be it.  I’m okay with an oddball label.  I think we should all learn to be a bit more different. One of my all-time favorite quotes came from a speaker at a youth conference I went to almost 10 years ago but it has always stuck with me.  “You cannot make a difference in this world unless you ARE different from this world.”

 

Photo Credit: Rachelulgado

The following post I wrote for a friends blog, Miss Banana Pants. Check her site out and enjoy the post!

20111221-133556.jpgIt is officially the holiday season! I love this time of year. I love the winter, the family gatherings, Christmas trees, I pretty much love it all! I have so many great memories during this time of year, and now I am a parent and get to build those lasting memories with my children. I look back at all the memories and traditions I have with my family and get all excited thinking about passing these same things on to my children. But, the one thing I never thought about was that every family has their own traditions, their own favorite way of doing things. Wait, what? We don’t all celebrate Christmas the same way? No, and I learned this from my husband.

I grew up where Santa did not wrap his presents, in fact not all the gifts under the tree were from him either. We had a mixture from him and from our parents, but the ones from him were always unwrapped. This completely shocked my husband. In his family every gift was wrapped and every gift was from Santa. I would be lying if I were to tell you that our conversation about which way was the correct way didn’t get a little heated. (sad I know, but we both could not comprehend the others tradition) Another example of the difference we found was just how we opened gifts Christmas mornings. We have known some friends whose families would all open gifts at the same time. Both of our families took turns and watched each other open gifts. However, my family made a pile for each person at the beginning and we could decide each turn which one we wanted to open. His family would pick one person each year to pass out the gifts, one gift for everyone to open and then would pass out again like this until all were gone.

The more we talked about different traditions we loved and wanted to pass on, the more we realized that some of those traditions we both did growing up, but differently. I knew that not everyone did things the way my family did, but never really cared or thought about it much until the time came to start thinking about my children. What my husband and I learned during this discussion, and the many more that followed was that we have to find a median, AND make sure that the other person doesn’t feel like we are saying that their traditions are less important than ours. We had to decide what things we wanted to take from both of our childhoods to pass on and then we want to come up with our own traditions for our family to start passing on. The important thing is that we create a family tradition, whatever that might be, but something that is ours and for our children to grow up remembering.

Things will not change. Every family will continue to do things differently. As long as my family has beautiful memories that my children love and that they are shocked to find out later that not all families celebrate Christmas like our family, I know then that we have done a good job. We will have created a legacy that they will find a way to incorporate into their families one day. So, have you started making a legacy for your family?

 

Todays post is from a guest blogger, Michelle Clark. She has her own blog you should also check out, Miss Banana Pants. She’s a great writer with an awesome sense of humor and tells the truth exactly how it is. For example, I read the other day on facebook a status update talking about rolling a fitted sheet into a ball after failing to fold it. I laughed out loud because I SO do that and never even thought about whether other people would call that normal! So with that, I will give you her post…

 

Ever had one of those days when your child decides to pick their nose in public, then offers his “finds” to the person behind you in the Wal-Mart check-out line? Or how about one of those days when your toddler asks why it’s okay for you to spank him, but it’s not okay for him to spank his friends? How about one of those days when you try to change a “questionable” diaper in the car, only to realize at the wrong moment that your toddler wasn’t finished with said “questionable business” and thus, proceeds to “finish” all over the front seat and your new Miss Me jeans? As crazy (and disgusting) as all those scenarios sound, I had them ALL 3 this morning. That’s right…..it’s Wednesday, but REALLY, it might as well have been another Monday for me. Usually things like this only happen on that one dreaded day of the week.  I just want to shower, to go back to bed, and start over….

But I press on. I AM supermom, you know! I do have it all together and all is under control. At least I like to pretend so. Because even after mornings like the one I just had, that’s what you do. You run into a fellow mom at the mall or supermarket who asks you how things are going. You respond, “Fantastic!” ……..LIE. “Pretending” sounds much more innocent, but that’s not what’s going on here. Cause we’re ALL liars. Every last over-achieving one of us. ALL MOMS ARE LIARS.

 

We would all like you to think we are the best of the best at all things “parenting”, when, in reality we are just giving you our own opinions and experiences. Those “experiences” are foggy though, but we force our two-cents on other moms so that they won’t know that we have had gruesome, normal, Mommy-mornings like the one I just had. Let me give you an example of our good intentions gone bad:

 

You: “Oh, your daughter isn’t sleeping through the night? That must be awful. My son has always been a good sleeper. He sleeps like, 12 hours now. It’s kind of crazy.”

 

Your intention:  I want this person to know that sleep IS possible.  That one day it’s all going to work out and she’ll have a fantastic night’s sleep. We’re all in this together!

 

How she’s taking it:  I’m a failure.  I’m never going to sleep again.  My life is over.  I hate myself.  My roots are growing in and my footwear is horrendous.

 

See how easily your good intentions have been misunderstood? But here’s the thing you’re forgetting:

 

You’re LYING. Again.

 

You don’t mean to. And yes, we do believe that your child is sort of sleeping but it took you a heck of a long time to make that happen and you forgot to mention that. You crossed out that little tidbit of info in your maternal memory bank because you don’t want to remember how you lost clumps of your hair and consistently told your husband that he was a douche face. You were stressed! Not sleeping is a form a torture. Look what happened to Lady Macbeth! Who wants to remember how hard it was when you can focus your energy on how awesome you feel that you only wake up once or twice now (which technically isn’t sleeping through the night, but never mind.)

 

So here’s the up side: Anytime another mother gives you information about her life that in turn makes you feel like you are FAILING MISERABLY as a parent just whisper under your breath: “she’s lying”.   Because it’s true. She is lying. But not just to you, also to herself. And she doesn’t even know it. (And even if she’s not – who cares – you’ll feel better) So forgive her for not remembering what really happened and find comfort in the fact that there is a chemical in our brains that eliminates pain memory.

 

Because one day it WILL all work out. You will go to sleep and you will leave the house without Cheerios in your hair. You will once again find the matching socks to wear instead of matching a pair that just look kinda sorta similar. And, yes, you will one day wear a bra without flaps on the front – a bra that keeps your boobs pointing UP and not DOWN.

 

But at this point you should probably just offer to buy her a coffee because, seriously, you both deserve it. Just think how different life would have been for Lady Macbeth had someone just given her a hug and offered to buy her a mocha latte. A lot less drama that’s for sure.

 

Why aren’t we honest? Why can’t we say, “Well, I’m doing alright, minus getting pooped on, spit all over, and overcoming the constant public humiliation that my toddler puts me through on a daily basis. Thank you for asking.” We don’t have to be supermoms. We also don’t have to have better kids than every other mom out there. The more honest we are with each other, the more we can learn to survive this crazy journey of motherhood. Let’s hold our tongues and hold each other up more often. We’re all in this together, clothes stained with poop and all. You know it’s true.