Archives for December 2014

Joy in the Midst of the Messy by Ellen Stumbo

Joy in the Midst of the Messy
source: jjjj56cp

Parenting a child with mental health issues is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Parenting techniques don’t apply, and trying to reason with a child who is convinced a shark will attack her while she sleeps means sleepless nights for the parents, too.

It’s exhausting.

I hear friends say, “My son used to do that too! We gave him melatonin and that helped settle him down.” Or, “My daughter used to have illogical fears too, she grew out of it.” The thing is, mental illness is not fixed with melatonin or time.

For us, mental health issues stem from trauma. We adopted our daughter before her fourth birthday from a Ukrainian orphanage. We know she endured abuse, we know there was trauma, and not just one traumatic event, the essence of her situation is surrounded by trauma.

It’s hard.

Holidays are a time of celebration and cheer, but for our family these times seem to bring out more anxieties and emotions that are too big to control. She can go from crying to laughing within minutes, unable to explain what she is feeling, or why she is feeling it.

Where do we find the joy of Christmas?

Our joy is not found on the presents – although that is a pretty great part of the season – or the traditional Christmas events. Our joy is found in knowing that Christ is with us now. In these moments, in the middle of our circumstances.

Christ is in the middle of the hard. He is the middle of the messy. I can cling to Him and know that He will handle things for me. And there is no greater joy than to know I don’t have to do life alone, I do life with the One that became flesh to save me.

This is the joy of the Holidays, to know Him, to have Him, to know His great love for me, and for my hurting child.

Ellen Stumbo Head Shot

 

 

 

Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her atellenstumbo.com

Friday Links

Did you read anything great this week, or write something that you’d like us to link to? Leave us a link in the comments, and we’ll check it out!

Added to Saturday Linky Love at JessieWeaver.net.

In Defense of Fun Food

In Defense of Fun Foods

Every time my kids go to their Grandma’s, they want to make “spiders.”

These spiders are made by spreading peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, sticking straight pretzels in for legs, and adding a few raisin eyes. They take about 45 seconds to put together. And my little ones think they are the best thing ever.

Is it because they truly adore crackers, peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins? Not really. Those are all foods they like. But the excitement comes from the whimsy. From the silly act of eating an arachnid.

Surprise – there is a lot of criticism on the Internet. And whenever someone shares a picture of a silly or creative food made for kids, there are haters. “Who has time for that?” “It’s tricking your kids!” “You obviously have too much time on your hands.” “Kids don’t care anyway.”

And if it’s not your thing, I get that.

But I love the light in my kids’ eyes when they have a “spider,” a pumpkin sandwich with candy eyes, a sandwich cut into a butterfly shape. It’s such a simple act that truly brings them enjoyment.

It makes me think of how Jesus said we should come to Him like a child. My little ones grow wide-eyed and giggly every time they hear a jingle bell, open a Christmas book during December, or see a wreath on a door. They just take joy in the little things. They are in awe of Jesus and the world around them.

I’m taking advantage of their childish joy while I can … and trying to grasp a little of my own through them.

Tomorrow we’re all having snowman pancakes for breakfast.

photo via Kraft Foods

Weekend Links

 

Some thought-provoking posts going on here this week. Let us know what you think. And as always, if you have your own links to share, leave them in the comments!

 

 

Winner Winner!

The five winners of the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift giveaway are:

Michelle La

Jenny Rapson

Jeanne Nation

Erin Fullam

Jill Anderson

Congratulations and thanks all for entering! We will be in touch via e-mail.

Friday Links

 

Enjoy the links this week! And as always, if you have something to share from your own writing, leave a link here in the comments for us to check out.

Added to Saturday Linky Love at jessieweaver.net

The Relief You’ve Always Wanted for Christmas by Ann Voskamp {GIVEAWAY}

The kids have Adore Him playing and they’re singing along and off key.

And the house wafts of sugar cookies and anticipation and names of neighbors to bless!

“You done drawing now, Mama?”

Kai’s leaning hard over my shoulder. “Can we just call it done?” And I’m thinking so, and we cut out this little hand drawn cookie envelope template. Shalom and Levi have angel and nativity cookie cutters all over the table.

And Kai cuts out these envelopes for each cookie. And Shalom slides in cookies shaped like angels and stars and a wee silhouette of that God-Baby Who came to the manger & the Cross & offers Himself as a Savior for the world — and who doesn’t need the gift of Him most, again and again?

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It’s written right there on the liner for every cookie envelope:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,

and they will call Him

Immanuel

which means “God with us”

Matt.1:23

God with us — is the only comfort for the wounds within us.

Kai looks up from his cutting out of the verse — “Mom? God really came, didn’t He?”

And I nod — He came.

He gave up the heavens who were not even large enough to contain Him and lets Himself be held in a hand.

He forsook the boundlessness of space and confined Himself to skin and He gave up the starfields and took on shape and wore the bones.

He gave up the River of the water of Life that flows from His Throne Room to float the nine months on the amniotic waters. And He who carved the edges of the Cosmos, He curved Himself into fetal ball in the dark, tethered Himself to the uterine wall of a virgin, and lets His cells divide, light all splitting white.

The mystery so large becomes the baby so small and infinite God becomes infant.

“Yeah, Kai,” I fold one of the cookie templates, “The story of Christmas is about a baby who came — for the greatest give-away ever. To be the Gift.”

This is what I tell the kids making up Christmas packages for the neighbors — He came, love come down.

Love that gave — but not to those who loved Him.

Love that gave — but not to those who could give back.

Love that gave — to those who were the poor, the bankrupt, the enemies.

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Love that gave even to the likes of us. “And I don’t know… ” I am telling the story again now to me.

Who will give away, and with their lives? Why is the world hungry when God’s people have bread? Are bread? What is there more to be in this life than to be bread for another man?

And Hope looks up from the oven. “Remember, Mama?” She turns off the timer. “We’re calling Christmas the Greatest Give-Aways — and Jesus is the Gift!”

That’s really all we have to get ready for Christmas – our hearts. We need to get our hearts ready to welcome Jesus into every part of our lives.

And guess how you best get your heart ready for Jesus? Come to Him just as you are.

God gives Himself as the greatest Gift, and He doesn’t keep any truly good thing from you. Because the greatest things aren’t ever things!

God never, ever withholds the greatest Gift from you – Jesus!

Jesus is all good, and He is all yours, and this is always your miracle – your greatest Gift.

Jesus is the Gift and we keep giving Him away, down the road and around the corner and the world — He is the best Christmas to give — because when we share Christ, we most have Him.

And on the backside of that little verse liner, we write a Christmas note to our neighbors and tape up the back of the little cookie envelope — and tuck The Greatest Gift cookie envelope in with a little love-something for the neighbors — a hot chocolate mix, a bag of coffee, a good book, a little candle, a loaf of bread.

“Look at how many cookies we have got done now!” Kai grins from the table.

And Shalom, she counts a bit giddy, this giving away that gives the Great Gift...

 

 

 

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Weary mamas? Wound-up kids? This December? Could be The Greatest Christmas! This is the relief you’ve always wanted for your Christmas.

Open this book & your Christmas will begin where you never expected — and it will end where you only dreamed.

A book that is like your own larger-than-life Advent Calendar, opening up to 25 wondrous stories that tell the family tree of Jesus, from Creation to His Coming.

Because if we want our Christmas tree to really stand full of wonder & real meaning? The tree we need to understand & be astonished by —- is the wonder of the family tree of Jesus! Because this is your family’s real family tree, your real story.

Each day’s story has its very own ornament, one for each day of Advent — all unwrapping a bit more of a story that’s far better than the greatest fairy tale you’ve ever read —- because this story is all true. So come Christmas day — your kids, and your Christmas tree with all 25 ornaments, will be telling the full love story of Jesus’ coming, right from the very beginning!

Full colour, vibrant 2 page spreads. Romping, shimmering words — for every kid from ages 4- 94.

Known through the ages as the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree, named after Jesus’ ancestor, Jesse, the father of King David, this is one Christmas experience your family will never forget — that they will be passing down from your Christmases to their Christmases — because this is the gift we all want.

What better gift to give the whole family this Christmas — than the wonder of the full love story of Jesus?

Check out all the Free Resources available, free ornaments, free cookie envelopes for the kids, free Jesse Tree ornaments for the kids, all over at www.TheGreatestChristmas.com

Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mother to 6 children. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts.
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Want to win a copy of Ann’s new book for Advent, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift? Enter using the Rafflecopter below. (Subscribers may need to click through.)

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What Is Special Needs Parenting? by Ellen Stumbo

specialneeds

I heard someone say, “All children are special, and all children have needs.” While parenting children with disabilities does present an extra set of challenges, I do think it is helpful to think about the commonalities of parenting.

Many special needs parents feel isolated, but I have discovered that isolation is not reserved for special needs parents. I have heard from many young parents, single parents, and those with young children in the home that they too feel isolated. Maybe we can help each other feel a little less alone.

Special needs parents need friends. But so do parents of typical children. Friendship is a need we all have, and we all want to have meaningful relationships, friends that we can call up at any time and share life with.

Special needs parents worry about their kids constantly. Yes, our worries are exponential, especially if we have medically fragile children. There is no comparison, but all parents worry about their children too. I have friends who worry that their kid is hanging out with the wrong friends, or that they’re experimenting with drugs, or that their teenage daughter could get pregnant. While our worries might be different, we all worry. Maybe we can pray for each other, lift our kids up to God, and ask for wisdom and guidance as we parent.

Special needs parents worry their kids won’t have any friends or that they’ll be picked on. Yet I have talked to so many parents of typical children that worry about the same thing. And I have seen their tears and watched as they try to protect their kids. We love our kids fiercely, not one of us has more love than the other.

Special needs parents don’t have a manual or road map to know how to parent their kids. Parents of typical kids don’t either. We are all doing the best we can.

We are all parents, just parents, trusting that God will guide us in this lifetime adventure.

Ellen Stumbo Head Shot

 

 

 

Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com