A Ramp for Finn

Five of my favorite men + 2 pots of strong coffee + 3 loads of lumber + the inspiration of one little boy = a beautiful deck and ramp finished in less than 6 hours!

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We couldn’t have done this without our families. I love having them near. It’s the best part of living in Tulsa. Everyone is just a few hours drive (or less) away.

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The Cousins! (Minus Tucker)

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“Uncle Chad is my best friend.”

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The boys collaborated on a DIY project that will make our home more accessible for Finn. He watched the big boys build from inside, asking, “They are making that for me? So I can wheel?” Yes, love.

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The forecast of course promised rain, but God literally held it off until the minute we stood back and admired the finished product. I envisioned Him holding a yellow polka-dotted cosmic umbrella over our home for Finn. All for Finn.

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He is one deeply loved and richly blessed little boy. Sure, he’s as naughty as any 3 year old, but there’s just something special about him. I like to think God gave him an extra dose of sugar, perceptiveness, and confidence.

Thank you, Terry, Dad, Chad, Tyler and Joey! We are grateful.

Angels and Pine Trees

Mother’s Day of 2012 I asked for a shock collar so I could walk Jersey, our 100 lb. black lab, and not lose my arm. (Post: Shocker)

Last Mother’s Day I carried Paisley in my swollen belly, counting down the final weeks to her due date.

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Mother’s Day 2014

This year I asked for three things: 1) An edger  2) A pine tree (or three) and 3) a haircut. Well, today I received all but the edger. We got four pine trees on sale at Southwood’s Nursery and I used a gift card from my fabulous clients to get an eyebrow wax (it’s shameful how long it’s been) and a haircut.

There’s no denying mommyhood is difficult. Exhausting. Oftentimes thankless. Sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating in selflessness.

But today I felt so happy and so richly blessed to be Finn and Paisley’s mom. My eyes are welling with tears just thinking about it.

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Because of Finn’s disability, I’m acutely aware that every gift is a miracle. Every giggle, every perfectly grammatical sentence of Finn’s, every muscle twitch in Paisley’s quads, every wet diaper, every tear, every kiss. These are blessings I don’t deserve.

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Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

These children sleeping soundly on the sheets I washed in the jammies I picked out for them are truly angels. They are gifts from a God that doesn’t change. He is good. He is good. And He is good.

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Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to be a mommy. Help me to get better at it. I give Paisley and Finn back to you; they are Yours. Be my strength and shield when I’m weak. Breathe Your energy into me when I’m tired. Whisper Your love from my lips when I’m angry. Love them through me. Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you Warrior Moms. You rock. And NO ONE beats my mom, Deb and my MIL, Bec.You both inspire me to be a better mom.

(Read Post: Ode to the Mom)

Invincible Summers

Summer is coming.

The colicky newborn days and nights have turned to giggling and peek-a-boo.

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My fears for Finn at school–though still very present–have subsided, and I love to watch his classmates hug (and kiss) him at pick up. Yesterday a new family was touring the school. We walked out together and two little boys watched as Finn raced down the ramp to our van. They were obviously staring at him, so their sharp mom kindly ushered them over to us to introduce themselves. [Side note: introduce yourself and your kids to people who are different. It’s a teaching moment for your kids and a display of respect for the person.] “I’m Ethan and this is my little brother, Will.” “I’m Finn Joseph Armstrong.” Finn spun a few donuts for them and finished it off with a wheelie. Will exclaimed, “I want one of those!” While strapping Finn into his car seat, he asked, “They love me, Momma?” Yes baby, you’re so cool.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

I first came across Camus’ writings in one of my college Literature classes. This particular quote spoke to those cavernous places in my soul and has influenced my life ever since. At the time, I was drowning in an unhealthy relationship. I quite literally lost myself. I had forgotten the confidence and bravado of my childhood, I temporarily neglected my parents’ nurturing and biblical upbringing, I denied the redemption I had found in Christ as a child and then again as a young adult.

Freshman TWIRP date. See Joey in the back row?! He was NOT my date. ;)

Freshman TWIRP group date. See Joey in the back row?! He was NOT my date. I actually can’t remember who was.

It was winter in my heart. My dreams were icicles, hanging above me, threatening to fall. I was bitter and angry, struggling with the sting of rejection and emotional abuse. If you want to destroy me, speak ill of me or deny me verbal affirmation. I will crumble. I pretended to be strong but I was brittle inside. Despite the changing seasons, this winter of mine lasted about two and 1/2 years. I finally went through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free bible study and spent a lot of time memorizing and praying Scripture. I went to counseling and learned how to distinguish truth from a lie. Most pleasant afternoons, you’d find me lying on my back in a field behind the dorms, singing or crying out to my Redeemer. He thawed me. He reminded me of my worth, showed me others who were hurting much more than I was, and re-established who He created me to be. A daughter of the King.

These girls were my laughter.

These girls were my laughter.

We’ve all endured (or are enduring) those seemingly endless winters; the ones that leave a little frostbite on our hearts. Finn’s diagnosis and disability is oftentimes heart-breaking. One of my friends has lost both her mother and mother-in-law to tragedy. A client lost her brother, her niece and now her daddy–all too soon. I ran into a sweet momma at Target today, and though we had never met before, she reads my blog and recognized Finn. She said she was directed here by a friend-of-a-friend because she gave birth to a stillborn little boy at 40 weeks. Then several months later became pregnant with a precious daughter who has Down syndrome. One of my best and most faithful friends endured divorce when she was counting on forever. Many of you have suffered multiple miscarriages. You’ve felt the sting of abuse or neglect.

These pains can freeze us up; cause us to lock ourselves away from the world, curl up with a blanket over our heads and let the blizzard rage. And that’s okay for a while, but at some point, summer will come. It’s relentless. In your life, allow buds to grow, flowers to bloom, and eventually pluck those petals to share them with others who are still in the shadows.

...my blogging spot. Carrots and hummus. Overripe peach. Birds. Breeze. Summer.

My blogging spot. Carrots and hummus. Overripe peach. Birds. Breeze. Baby monitor.

If you’re shivering in winter, there’s hope. Summer is coming. I hear it right outside my window.

Things That Aren’t

Finn’s so smart. I know, I know…your kid is smart too. But Finn is really smart. ;) His brain is most impressive because we were told in the NICU that he may not ever be able to communicate with us. He would be severely mentally handicapped.

Not this kid! He’s truly a miracle. We can read a library book to him once or twice and he will recite it the third time. His mind is a steel trap. He reminds you that two days ago you said he could go to church and that he could have chocolate milk at Starbucks. He knows all 43 of his trains by name.

With Daddy at Easter!

With Daddy at Easter!

 

But he’s also emotionally intelligent. If my brow is furrowed while I’m strapping him into his carseat, he’ll ask, “Why are you frustrated, Momma?”

 

Landscaping problems...

Landscaping problems…

 

We recently read a library book called “Some Kids Use Wheelchairs.” I was hesitant to read Finn this book, worried that a conversation about his disability might ensue. I’m not sure I’m ready for that discussion emotionally. Anyhow, the first few pages discuss why some kids are in wheelchairs.

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Some kids use wheelchairs because their legs are weak or they had an accident. They can’t walk.

I sheepishly asked Finn if he could walk. “Yes I can.” Oh? Can you stand up? “Yes.” So why do you use a wheelchair? No response. He turned the page…

We read this book many more times before it returning it to the Book Drop. Each time, Finn was adamant: he can walk.

Whether this is a display of faith or ignorance really doesn’t matter. I count it a blessing that Finn is confident and relatively unaware that he’s not like everyone else. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought we were the weird ones…walking around on two feet and whatnot.

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“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. 4:18).

In Finn’s mind, he is able to do anything. I believe this is a result of prayer, God’s lavish grace, and decent parenting. God gives life to things that aren’t alive. He redeems the broken. Makes the sick well. He bestows honor and power and courage on a child in a wheelchair. I’m so thankful to be Finn’s momma. I can’t hardly wait to see all God continues to do in his little, important life.

Cilantro

I stood in front of the sink and huffed, rinsing cilantro. I hate how the green leaves stick to my fingers. It’s a mess to chop, much less sprinkle into a soup or fresh guacamole. Plucking the tiny leaves off the stem one by one is the definition of tedium. I have better things to do with my time. ;)

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While chopping cilantro for my brothy chicken tortilla soup, I realized something:

Cilantro will never change.

If I want to continue cooking with it–and I do; I love cilantro–then I’ll have to de-stem it, rinse it, peel it from my fingers and chop it. For the rest of my life.

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Nothing will ever change about cilantro. I either have to give it up, or get over it. This simple truth applies to so many of life’s frustrations, tediums and obstacles.

Brothy Chicken Tortilla Soup

(This is a light, healthy and restaurant-quality soup recipe from my girl, Laura. One of our favs!)

Ingredients: 1 T olive oil, 1 c. chopped onions, 2 tsp chopped garlic, 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped OR 1 green bell pepper, chopped plus 1 jalapeno, chopped, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1 T. tomato paste, 6 c. chicken stock, 1 lb. chicken breast, juice of 1-2 limes, 1 avocado, 1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Directions: Heat oil in large stock pot and add onions, garlic, peppers and seasonings. Cook until onions are clear. Then add tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add chicken breast(s) until fully cooked. Remove chicken breast(s) and shred. Return shredded chicken to pot. Simmer 20 minutes. Add lime juice and cilantro, stir. Serve with tortilla chips and avocado. Optional: sour cream and cheese.

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Fitness and Social Media

Ethical crisis here.

I have a tendency to over-analyze things, and I’m certain this issue is no exception…However, for months, I’ve felt that it’s time to take my fitness career to the next level, expanding my training services to the online community and my former/long-distance clients. Friends and acquaintances ask me weekly for workouts and/or fitness advice. I love to help people on their fitness journeys and am grateful for their trust. I consider it my calling; my ministry. (I’ll be launching my online training site very soon, so stay tuned!) A sure-fire, convenient way to promote myself is through social media. Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, YouTube and Twitter offer free marketing and easy access to thousands of potential clients.

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Here’s my dilemma: I’m prideful.

In the fitness industry, my body is my advertisement. I wouldn’t train to become fit with someone who isn’t fit. Sorry; that’s common sense. The most obvious way to show your fitness progress via social media is through pictures. But these are snapshots of our outcomes, not our processes. An Instagram of the twist-iest, most beautifully silhouetted yoga pose, a Facebook before/after bikini pic, or a #fitmom ‘s blog post doesn’t give you the whole story. It’s a glimpse into the person’s proud moments, not their failures along the way. Not the hours, months or years it took to reach their goal. Cellulite is filtered out. The crow pose blunders are deleted. I show you my best angle.

Flexing and posing and flaunting are normal for my industry, and it’s what my flesh desires to do. I’ve craved attention and been a show off since the glory days of my neighborhood rollerblade girl band. I see this desire in Finn as he pops wheelies and zooms fast for strangers. Or says things so others will laugh, like, “Hi. I’m Finn Joseph Applesauce.”

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We like to do what we’re good at and we want others to notice. I took a picture of my flexed back in the gym locker room about a month ago. Embarrassed by my vanity, I deleted it the next day. No one cares about my back.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Prov. 31:30)

I want to be praised for my faith, not my flex.

Don’t get me wrong…visual exposure is not all bad. Maybe these pictures inspire someone–motivate them to get off the couch or eat a cleaner diet. It’s encouraging to follow others’ journeys and to know that a six-pack is possible after babies. Or that there are people out there rejecting processed foods and losing hundreds of pounds as a result. Many of my close friends follow (or post as) fitness fanatics via social media.

But for me, social media can be dangerous because it feeds my desire to self-promote. This is my own conviction. It shouldn’t necessarily be yours. I get addicted to your “likes,” enticed by your compliments and encouraged by your following. If I’m not careful, my workout becomes about you and not about my health. I run so I can take a picture of the impressive distance on my watch, not so I can keep my heart healthy, declutter my mind, or pray.

Last Tuesday, I fell victim myself. The weather was nice and several clients were on Spring Break so I got to go on a long road ride. All alone. It was heavenly. At the end of the ride, I took an exhausted picture of my helmeted self (actually I took three and looked like a 12 yr old boy in all of them), then checked Map My Ride so I could boast about my stats online, but the app was blank. I must not have “started the workout.” Distance: 0:00. Average MPH: 0. Bragging Rights: 0. I smirked. It would be just like God to teach me a lesson in this way.

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Is it possible to blend fitness and social media (particularly photos) in a manner that glorifies God and not me? Probably. I just haven’t figured it out yet. I guess a lot of it depends on my motives–and a purpose beyond my own love for affirmation.

1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

I’m passionate about my physical health–and yours. But as a Christian, I’m acutely aware that my spiritual health (and yours) is so much more important. More valuable. And I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of spiritual training two-a-days.

We Prayed for You

Teachers, we prayed for you tonight. We prayed that you would equip Finn with challenging thoughts and more questions than answers. Teach him that his mind is powerful. Help him find what he’s good at and excel at it. We prayed that you would make accommodations for him but not isolate him. Empower him, please.

LifeKids volunteers, we prayed for you tonight. We prayed you would engage Finn in meaningful play; that you would encourage him to join the kids in the bounce house or at the tiny tables, even though it is difficult and unnatural. We prayed that you would show him who Jesus is: that He’s good and kind.

Kids, we prayed for you tonight. We prayed that one or two of you would be kind, inclusive and accepting of Finn and the ways he’s different. We prayed you’d be brave enough to stick up for him, make a place for him at the lunch table, pass him the ball and hold the door. Be his friend.

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Girls, we prayed for you tonight. Take care of your body. Then cover it up. Let your inner beauty shine brighter than your outer beauty. We prayed that one of you might fall in love with the boy in the wheelchair. You’d love his humor, his hazel eyes, and his tenacity. He would be your hero and you’d be his.

Doctors and nurses, we prayed for you tonight. That you’d sleep well and be clear-minded to keep Finn and other kids like him healthy and strong. That you’d know what to do in emergencies and save his life if you have to. Be patient with us parents…we’re sensitive.

Thankful for a great neurology appointment this week.

Thankful for a great neurology appointment this week.

Jesus, I prayed to you tonight. My boy isn’t like other boys. Most of the time I love that; I’m thankful for that. But for a minute tonight, I hated it. Sometimes I’m strong, but today the kids pointing at Finn and the stares and the exclusion made me weak. Please help me be the best mom to him (and Paisley) that I can. Thank you for my angel and the miracles you’ve displayed in his life. Thank you for all you will do with his future.