Heal Him

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been collecting thoughts and tears and Scripture for the past three years. This one’s from the recesses of my heart–the places I want to hide but the Lord wants me to share.

Joey and I (and many of you) have been praying for healing of Finn’s body since before he was born. I spent just about every night of my pregnancy on my knees in Finn’s nursery, begging God to heal the child inside my body.

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I’ve struggled with the purpose of prayer, and continue to struggle. (See my posts on prayer: The Question of Prayer, Even if He Does Not, Bow Your Head, Fourteen Thousand Sheep). God has heard my prayers and your prayers, but Finn was still born with Spina Bifida. Despite our faith-filled, sometimes sobbing and sometimes screaming pleas, he cannot walk…among countless other complications.

When things are bad, I want someone to blame. So, why not blame the Creator for an “imperfect” creation? Oh, but I was so wrong. Finn is perfect. It was my definition of perfection that was flawed.

at the doctor

at the doctor

So who’s fault is it?

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.…” (John 9:1-3).

Though I know it’s irrational, I felt guilty for Finn’s disability for a long time. Somehow I felt surely it was my fault…after all, he was formed inside my body. But Jesus told his disciples that disability is not a result of sin. It’s for His glory. Doesn’t God receive enough glory without maiming my child for more? I missed the point…God displays his glory–His power–through weaknesses like disability or disease. I’ve seen it a million times in Finn’s life. Each time he counts to twenty or calls each wooden train by name.

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Or asks me, “What’s wrong, momma? You are sad.” His mind is a miracle. His smile brightens a room. His kindness is alarming.

We do not serve a God who punishes children for sin. He is not a God of karma or folklore. He is the God of David, Abraham, Moses, Judas, Joseph, Rahab, Ruth, Paul, Peter…flawed humans. He is the God who loves us despite our unloveliness. Who redeems us out of our sin and brings beauty from ashes.

This morning’s sermon at LifeChurch.tv was about Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan who was paralyzed as a small child. I looked at the ceiling with tears streaming down my face to keep from ugly sobbing. One of my biggest fears is that Finn feels shame for his disability; that he feels marginalized, worthless or less than.

At church today.

At church today.

Mephibosheth felt so inferior that he likened himself to a “dead dog.” But the kindness and integrity of David, the King, restored his hope. David finds Mephibosheth several years later:

 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (2 Sam. 9).

A lame child grew to be a broken man whom the King restored to honor. He “ate at David’s table like one of the King’s sons.” Joey says Finn is a beacon of hope. His life is a testimony for all of us because we’re all broken. We all need healing. Finn is a visible representation of that depravity…and a beautiful display of God’s glory.

Riding the tractor at Nana and Papa Armstrong's log cabin! Papa Mike cheering him on.

Riding the tractor at Nana and Papa Armstrong’s log cabin! Papa Mike cheering him on.

I gave up being mad at God a long time ago. His goodness and love wooed me back into right relationship with Him where I am the child and He is the Father. He knows better than I do, and though I don’t understand, I trust. Because He is good. Always.

I settled on this: After countless prayers asking for healing, I sensed the Lord responding.

He said to me, “I have healed him.”

This angered me because Finn was not healed. But the Lord revealed this truth to my heart: though He has not healed Finn (or many of your loved ones) physically, He has healed him spiritually. Once and for all. And that is so much more significant, so much more profound a kind of healing than untwisting his spine or strengthening his legs. I long for the day Finn acknowledges and accepts this eternal healing from his Father, restoring him.

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Laughing in Bed

My mom really loves my dad.

I know this because when it was dad’s turn to make the bed in the morning, he would awkwardly place the pillows–like one on top of the headboard and one upside down, etc. Mom didn’t care. I got my love for the outdoors from him. He collects pieces of driftwood that look like animals, fills his pockets with quartz rocks and took us arrowhead hunting when we were kids. My mom would let him display these treasures all over the house. She loves him.

Pastor Craig Groeschel’s message this morning was the last of his Love Song series. Joey and I listened attentively, holding hands. His sermons are all pretty fantastic, but one profound thought stuck out to me this morning. He said something like this:

We will value things we don’t naturally value because we value the person who values them.

My mom fishes rocks out of her washing machine because she loves my dad. My dad hangs up his collared shirts because he loves my mom.

Marriage requires that we give. And give again. And give when the other person isn’t giving.

One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to my parents laugh in bed before I fell asleep. Belly laugh. This happened just about every night. I’m not sure there’s anything that could have made me feel more secure than knowing my parents loved each other. What’s more; they liked each other.

I hope Finn and Paisley grow up with the same assurance that their parents honor and love each other deeply. And I pray the last thing they hear before they drift off to sleep is their daddy laughing at their mommy. Because I’m pretty hilarious. ;)

Date weekend a year ago. Sigh.

Date weekend a year ago. Sigh.

You’re my hero, J.

Piñata

Over the last month or two, I’ve felt like a human piñata, swung at by a blindfolded toddler with a baseball bat. Brightly wrapped candy spills on the ground beneath my family.

Humor me:

We are in our fourth contract on our home in Norman. Three have fallen through for various ridiculous reasons.

We gave away our dog, our first child, Jersey. It makes me sad.

After a full day of daycare tours, we couldn’t find one that would accept Finn (we have found one since), and when we returned to Norman that evening, the left headlight and bumper of our van were smashed in. I guess in a parking lot?

Our van broke down on the way to Big Cedar Lodge.

We found out our Norman roof is double-shingled and we may have to replace it covering the full cost with no help from insurance in order for it to sell.

On Monday night, I ran into a mini fridge in the middle lane of the highway going 65 mph. I’m so thankful there’s no more than bumper damage on the right side of our SUV. Could have been bad.

We went to a walk through of our new house in Tulsa on Tuesday to assess the repairs, but alas: repairs had not begun. We were set to close the next day.

A handyman was grouting the tile in our shower and replacing shingles while we signed closing papers on Wednesday. Hard to believe, but we are home owners (of two houses at once)! Planning my paint palette now…can’t wait to make this home ours.

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The previous owners turned utilities off and didn’t settle payments with the water company, so we had to call them and convince them to pay their bill so we could turn on our faucet.

They left pancake batter on the counter tops, dog snot all over the windows and the floors were filthy. I cried on the way back to work from our walk through. Our Tulsa realtor/family friend so generously scheduled housecleaning for our new home after closing.

Apparently Paisley cries all day long at our new daycare. This is sad and confusing…she’s gotten so much better for us at home.

Our budget doesn’t work. The numbers won’t fit. We’ll have to be really creative over the next several months.

The U-Haul we had rented for moving our stuff from Norman to Tulsa was not available when Joey called Wednesday night. Yesterday he convinced them to wrangle one up for our big day today where our friends, FBC college students and several of my Next Level clients/boss came to help us load our Norman home into a 26 foot truck. They doubted us, but it all fit and the door closed. It’s a miracle.

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Leading the U-Haul to Tulsa with my babies and a full car.

Leading the U-Haul to Tulsa with my babies and a full car.

Then Joey’s LifeChurch.tv boss and co-workers (and of course his dad) met us at our new house to help unload. Thank you, friends!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4: 8, 9, 16-18).

These blows to our piñata, though overwhelming, are momentary and superficial. We will not lose heart. We are healthy and together; blessings worth so much more than money in the bank or an easy, comfortable life.

So thankful for Joey's parents and all their help over the past few weeks.

So thankful for Joey’s parents and all their help over the past few weeks.

My mom encouraged me this morning via email. She said,

“I remember some of our moves were a nightmare too. I only hope you kids never felt my anxiousness.  I remember always wanting things to feel homey right away, and after a while it even got worse as the trend seemed to be a move every two years.  I learned to be a master at cheap decorating and painting in the wee hours after you kids went to bed…All I want you to hear is give yourself a break and enjoy the simple things today like what really matters: your family. “

Thanks, Mom; you’re absolutely right. Gratitude wins again.

My loves. (Staying with Nana and Papa Rosell while we enjoyed a weekend with buds in Dallas).

My loves. (Staying with Nana and Papa Rosell while we enjoyed a weekend with buds in Dallas).

Our God is bigger than our troubles. He loves us and is with us; that is more than enough.

Surprise Me

Well, friends, it’s been a wild ride–this moving thing.

Last selfie in front of Winston. Our first home--the one we brought our babies home to.

Last selfie in front of Winston. Our first home–the one we brought our babies home to.

We packed our Norman home into boxes on Wednesday and left Thursday morning for Big Cedar Lodge. We surprised Joey’s mom for her 60th birthday. Our van began violently shaking when we would accelerate, so we stopped at a tire shop in Siloam Springs. They couldn’t figure it out. We took it to the Honda dealer on Monday. $950 for new axles. Joey’s charm coaxed them down to $850.

Big Cedar is gorgeous. IMG_9437 IMG_9436The leaves were turning to fire and the air was clean and cool. It was so good to be in a new environment and fun to be with Joey’s immediate family. IMG_9476

Finn and Ev had a blast together–playing with trains, screaming silliness and chasing each other around the lobby. IMG_9463 IMG_9455Happy 60th, Bec! You are such a beautiful, kind woman. I’m blessed to have you as a mother-in-law and friend.

IMG_9449Sunday night, our third buyer on our house backed out. Third. She was a recent widow and got skittish after the inspection. Nothing out of the ordinary, but she was nervous about the repairs nonetheless. So we’re back to square 1 and showing our home while it’s boxed up in our absence. We are praying for a lucid buyer to love it and close soon. We cannot afford two mortgages.

The closing date on our Tulsa home is tomorrow but we still haven’t heard if the TRR repairs have been fixed and the appraisal report hasn’t come through. So I guess we aren’t closing tomorrow. This buying/selling process is frustrating. Please pray with us for provision.

Joey’s had a bit of culture shock switching from a denominational, traditional church to Life Church, but he’s loving the freedom in ministry and the camaraderie he’s found with the staff. He will thrive there. I can’t wait to attend church on Sunday!

It’s been quite humbling to go from maintaining a solid client base at Next Level–oftentimes with a waiting list–to zero clients. I started at Sky Fitness and Wellbeing on Monday. I’m loving this place. And I’m really going to love it once I have something to do. I’ve just been walking around talking to people; interrupting their workouts to introduce myself. It’s pretty awkward, but whatever. I need business, so momma’s gotta hustle.

Extra awkward moment today: News Channel 8 came to SkyKids (the fitness facility’s child care center) to interview moms regarding a new Cake Decorating Play Doh kit. playdoh-sweet-shoppe-cake-mountain-playset-63457-0-1406825406000

So on camera, the reporter handed me a toy piece from the kit. It looked just like a penis. Sorry, but it did. She said some parents are outraged and asked what I thought. I giggled like a twelve year old and said, “Well, that’s definitely phallic.” She asked if I’d let my child play with this toy. It’s made for 3 year olds, and Finn certainly wouldn’t think twice about it, but I’m guessing a couple of seven year old boys would find it hilarious. I said something stupid about how there are lots of penis-shaped things in life…like Popsicles and bananas… Watch this embarrassing ordeal here.

Joey’s Aunt Melinda helped us get the kids into a brand new child care center called Children’s Learning Adventure. Finn would have full accessibility. It’s fantastic. And because it’s fantastic, it would cost us $2,000 a month. Wha?! Not happening.

So we are taking our kids to a small church child care center near the Midtown Life Church location where Joey is working. Still about $500 more than we paid in Norman. There are three steps to even get into the building, so it’s inconvenient trying to get Finn in the door or on the playground, but the staff are kind, inclusive people. We were so disappointed in several places who turned us away simply because Finn is in a wheelchair. They were highly recommended Christian facilities. “We’ve spoken to the board and we’re just not set up for that kind of thing.” Who’s the board and what kind of “thing” is my son? He just needs to get in the building and fit through the doors. That’s it. But several places weren’t even willing to let us get that far. I’ve encountered many Christians in my life who are so afraid of anything different that they end up excluding people and new experiences from their lives. They miss out on the beauty of diversity in the process. It’s their loss, really. Finn’s a rock star.

Anyhow, Finn and Paisley have had a great first week of school so far. The infant teachers have mentioned how “strong-willed” Paisley is. (You’re telling me). IMG_9488And Finn’s teacher said he was a great influence on the other kids. He was polite and kind and “such a joy to teach.” IMG_9491I think the students in his class are still trying to get used to his wheels, but it’ll happen.

So, we’re living out of suitcases at Joey’s parents house. Navigating our way through two new jobs. Anxious to sell our house in Norman. Waiting to buy a house here in Tulsa. Praying for safe, affordable child care for our kids. And wondering: if we stare at our budget long enough, will there be money at the end of the month?

God surprises me. He doesn’t do things the way I’d do them. He does more. And rarely does He do things in the amount of time I’d like them done. He is outside of time. He works through the impossible.

Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory…”

He thrives on developing our faith, and Joey and I have needed bucket loads of faith over the past two months. Despite the opposition we’ve felt during this move to T-Town, we know it’s right and we are anxious to watch the Lord work it all out…because it sure isn’t happening without Him. He is able to do more than we ask or imagine. Amen.

Goodbye

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh

We’ve said a lot of tough goodbyes this week.

I trained my clients and taught spin at Next Level for the last time. They had the sweetest reception table set up for me all day.

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My favorite Cassie cupcakes, fruit and too many fabulous gifts.

Angie. My boss and partner. Client and trainer. Friend. Love you, girl.

Angie. My boss and partner. Client and trainer. Friend. Of course we matched on our last day together. Unplanned.

And I savored one last workout with Angie and Sara.

We shared life around the table with six of our favorites.

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These people have become like family to us.

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They’ve spent hours with us at the NICU, brought onion burgers to the ER (that stunk up our hospital room), celebrated every birthday with a toast, laughed until we peed our pants, tried thousands of new recipes together, treated Finn as though he weren’t different at all, held Paisley when we needed to breathe and supported us through this difficult year of transition.

Our FBC congregation showered us with the kindest reception, words of affirmation and gifts on Sunday morning. So many extraordinary people in that church. Joey taught his last Sunday School lesson to the university class.

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They are the brightest, kindest, most fun group of students. Such a tight community. We will miss them terribly.

We enjoyed a meal at Pub W with two of our first and finest Norman friends, Cassie and Chase. They are so special to us. If I had a sister, she would be Cassie. She nannied Finn when he was three months old. The three of us have piles of gym memories. Remember the lady who peed in the tanning bed trash can? Twice? We have high hopes that they will move to Tulsa soon…

Thankfully the kids got in to an extra day of daycare today so we could pack. Of course we had to have one last breakfast at Syrup. Said goodbye to our first and last waiter there, Johnny, and chatted with the rest of the staff.

Finn’s teachers sent him home today with gifts and notes and a few of them cried big tears. Our kids were so well loved at GoKids. We finally found a daycare in Tulsa, but it’s double the cost of GoKids and half as nice. Finn can’t really even get in the building…there are three steps to the front door. I’m hoping they’ll surprise us and be awesome.

As the contents of our home fill empty boxes, I’m reminded of all the work we poured into 504 Winston making it ours.

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So much white paint to cover the trim. New floors and doors and windows and knobs. Light fixtures and a fresh coat (or three) of paint in every room. This was a good house. Cozy and small. Just the right size for us. I lifted our bed skirt to pull out the random things beneath and immediately smelled Jersey.

3 months old

3 months old

She used to take naps under our bed. I wish I could bottle up that smell and take it to our new house and put it back under our bed where it belongs. I miss her.

So thankful to have so many wonderful things to miss. And such wonderful things wait for us in Tulsa in the months and years ahead. Psalm 126:3 is written on my heart. It’s the testimony of my life. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

Goodbye, Norman. It’s been real.

Transition

I’m not a yogi, but I appreciate a good yoga session. I just feel better when I leave the studio. Yoga was the kick-starter of  my fitness for about a month soon after Paisley was born. (See post: Namaste) Something one of the instructors said in that awfully humid room stuck with me:

“It’s not about hitting the pose. It’s about maintaining control through the transition.”

Wow. Maintaining control through the transitions…of a headstand or of life.

I always felt like yoga was about posing the most beautiful silhouette. Getting upside-down and staying there until blood dripped out of my eardrums…or until the girl next to me fell first. But it’s not about the twist or the bend, it’s about manipulating my body through the movements in a controlled manner. Strength is displayed in the process, not the end result.

Super Finn for Halloween!

Super Finn for Halloween!

We are thick in transition, and some days I’m not maintaining control at all. I let the stress of the details rule my mind, keeping me awake at night. My mind scrolls through To Do Lists and worries about things like double mortgages, our double-shingled roof, closing dates and still no childcare for my kids. We begin work in Tulsa on the 10th and I still don’t know who will be caring for my children.

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Boo! Paisley is four months old!

Super Finn has my heart.

Super Finn has my heart.

Oh, and we decided to give Jersey away. It was such a difficult decision; she was my first kid.

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But I know she’s going to a good home where she will be well taken care of. She taught us responsibility and how to love something other than ourselves. She prepared us for cleaning up messes and waking up at the crack of dawn. She was so loyal. So kind to Finn and Paisley. She was beautiful and smart. She loved us unconditionally.

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I will miss you terribly, Jersey Girl.

My clients have been so good to listen to me vent for the past month. Eddie, an ultra-marathon runner and one crazy but kind-hearted dude, said yesterday during a quad extension, “If it’s not hard, where’s the fun in that?!” Keep in mind: he runs 100 miles in the mountains for fun. And John, recovering from knee surgery but still training with me twice a week, reminded me this morning that a life void of challenge is boring.

Cass and I in my last Kickboxing class. :(

Cass and I in my last Kickboxing class. :(

It’s not about having everything settled in Tulsa. It’s not about completing my To Do List. It’s not about the pose.

Can I maintain a gentle tone of voice with my kids? Can I laugh with instead of nag at Joey? (Don’t ask him that.)

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Can I pray instead of worry? Can I sing instead of shout? Can I be generous despite the overwhelming amount of cash flow escaping our bank account? It’s about maintaining control through the transition.

Let’s Go

I haven’t lived anywhere as long as I’ve lived in Norman. I moved 8 times growing up and the only constancy in my life has been change. I love change. It builds character. But over the past five years I’ve tasted the comfort of being familiar.

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We’ve developed friends that have become like family whilst our families have been far away. We’ve become regulars at local restaurants. We get honked at on every walk we take…and not because we’re hotties; because people know us here. It’s nice to be known.

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However, God is calling our family toward change once again. We have prayerfully followed His leading over the past year and it seems He’s drawing our hearts to our families and a new, fresh take on church. Life Church, to be exact. We fell in love with the leadership and inner workings of Life Church during our three days of interviews. It is heart-wrenching to leave behind so many fantastic people in Norman–people who have held our hands through three of the most difficult years of our lives. Friends who have become family and are helping us raise our kids.

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Despite the comfort and community we have in Norman, we’re thrilled to join Life Church as they use their resources, creativity and unique gifts to introduce people to Christ.

We’ll be moving to Tulsa in early November, starting at the Midtown location.

In the last ten days we’ve put a couple offers on the same home with the same weirdo sellers, sold our house twice in four days (before it was even listed), called 47 day care centers and been turned away either because of a year-long waiting list or because my son is in a wheelchair (BELIEVE IT–church day care centers do not have to comply with ADA. Sad.), I received three job offerings and took one exciting opportunity with Sky Fitness.

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New doctors and therapists and neighbors and grocery stores. Change is good but it’s also hard. It generates insecurity and uncertainty…sentiments we naturally avoid.

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Nevertheless, God calls us to follow Him and to be brave. So, let’s go.

 

Thank you, Hannah, for shooting our family photos. You rock.