I See You by Ellen Stumbo

Angel with dirty face
source: Calhoun Abbott

Dealing with my daughter’s diagnosis of Down syndrome was difficult. There were many tears, and a broken mom shaking her fist at God pleading, “Why me?”

Yet the power of love is strong. Soon the sadness became wonder for my little girl, whom although different in some ways is perfect in the areas where I lack. There are areas in my heart where I have disabilities, yet she is so whole. Love, joy, acceptance, empathy, faith … they come to her so naturally, so effortlessly, and I am the recipient of such gifts when I need it most.

Nichole is five years old, her speech is limited, yet I often wonder if her words are messages from God, reminding me that He is here, that He sees me, and that He cares. She has a keen ability to know when I need to be encouraged.

“Mom,” Nichole grabs my face between her chubby short hands, making sure we make eye contact. Her face breaks into a smile, a smile so full of love she melts my heart and I am overtaken by emotion.

“Mom,” she says again, “You Ah Pee-Tee.”

Her words surprise me. Her message, so clear. My daughter thinks I am pretty. But it is more than that, because I have been struggling with ministry. Sometimes being a pastor’s wife is hard, ministry is difficult, and I wonder if God sees me, struggling, trying to stay afloat, and being faithful to His call.

I see you, I feel Him say, I see you.

Nichole does not let go, she keeps looking at me, smiling. It is not the first time I see His love through her eyes, or His care through her smile. And even His encouragement, through that broken speech that communicates so much to my heart.

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.

Source of Encouragement

We hope that you find each issue of ParentLife as well as the blog to be a great source of encouragement amidst the adventures of parenting! We wanted to let you know about another place you can go for even more advice and inspiration. LifeWay.com has a "Famiy" section that includes lots of previous articles from ParentLife, HomeLife, and Living With Teenagers as well as original content. Be sure to check it out! Here is a list of just a few of the helpful articles you will find there today.

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"Simple Family Activities" by Rachel Blacketter

"Building a ‘Yes" Home" by Rodney and Selma Wilson

"7 Steps to Keep From Yelling at Your Kids" by Shawn R. Lilly

"Cold Weather Activities for Kids" by Linda Mintle, Ph.D.

"Get a Parenting Makeover" by Shelley Leith and Katie Brazelton

Are there other Web sites you use to find parenting encouragement and support? What are your favorite Web sites?

 

Great Expectations

Wm & boys.jpgBoth of my boys, Jonathan and Christopher, love sports. You can be certain we will watch the Super Bowl® this Sunday. But they also will want to get off the couch and play — and my wife hopes not in the house!

Before the season started, Jonathan came to me and asked for us to create a family fantasy football league online — and we did! I observed them play with the neighbors, drafting their own football teams to make franchises filled with players from their football cards. Christopher even reported at his preschool graduation last year that he wants to play for our local team — the Tennessee Titans — when he grows up!

As a parent, you want your children to dream while still maintaining realistic expectations. The question is — How can I balance these two for my children? You don’t want to give your children a limited view on life — what we often call “the box” — the one we want them to think “out of”!

So we let our boys play sports but have not ventured into travel teams or multiple sports at the same time. We know they love sports and certainly want them to be active and healthy but keep their schedules in balance while still developing those areas in which they are talented.

We also want them to be well-rounded and developed in other areas. Both boys are very musical as well but are not as enthusiastic about practicing the piano as they are with practicing baseball! But we have so many friends who say either “I am so glad my parents made me continue taking piano when I wanted to stop” or “I wish I had never stopped taking piano.” So we have to struggle sometimes with holding the boys to some activities that we hope will pay off in years to come.

As parents, our guide should be to train our children in the ways God has already gifted them and in God’s Word (Proverbs 22:6) with hopes of a lifetime relationship serving God. We hope that every issue of ParentLife helps you raise your children to do just that.

What are ways you need help in raising Christ-followers?

Early Arrival

In the December 2009 issue of ParentLife, we chose to cover a topic that is very close to my heart. In our monthly column "On the Way" (for expectant parents), we provided information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about bringing home a premature infant. I can tell you all about this from firsthand experience!

105_NICUJack.jpgDue to pregnancy complications, my little boy (Jack) was born one month early. Because he was early, his lungs were not as strong as they needed to be, and while I’m not sure he was ever in a life-threatening situation, he needed help getting the oxygen he needed. He spent a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where the amazing nurses took fabulous care of him until he was strong enough to come home!

The day we brought him home was very exciting and very scary. For a week, nurses had been there to help us take care of him and oversee that we were doing things correctly. In fact, the night before we brought him home, the hospital allowed us to "room in" with him. They have a special room right next to the NICU where parents are allowed to stay overnight on a test run before sending a baby home. We were responsible for his care all night, but it was comforting knowing that a nurse was only steps away at all times if we needed her! Suddenly, we were home with this tiny life. It’s scary enough bringing home a full-term, healthy baby. But add to that a month of prematurity and breathing issues and it was downright scary. It took us some time to relax and trust that Jack was doing fine and breathing on his own without any trouble.

While the first few weeks with Jack were scary for us, we are very blessed that everything turned out fine and there have been no long-term problems. Not every family, can say that. Many families have babies that spend much more time in the NICU and have long-term complications to worry about. That is why the ParentLife team felt it was important to provide expectant parents with information related to this topic. We want to provide encouragement and support to families, especially those going through a difficult time.

How have your family helped support parents going through a difficut time like this? Or have you been in this kind of situation? Where did you find encouragement and support? What advice would you have for those wanting to help? How can ParentLife provide more support?

Single-Parent Superheroes

About a month ago, my husband, Jason, went out of town for a fun guy’s event. I encouraged him to go because I knew it would be good for him to spend time with friends and recharge his batteries. Everyone needs a break from parenting every now and then. I was excited for him because I knew he would have fun, but I was bit anxious about taking care of our 14-month-old, Jack, all weekend completely by myself.

Jack and I stayed home on Friday night and played together until bedtime. After he went to bed, it was wonderful to have the house completely to myself. I enjoyed just vegging on the couch in my pajamas watching girlie shows my husband doesn’t like to watch with me! I even slept in the very middle of our queen bed … just because I could!

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Saturday was fun too with lots of quality Mom-and-Jack

time. Saturday evening we went to a family cookout where Jack was able to play with his cousins. We had a great time, but by the time I got Jack in bed, I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically. I was starting to wonder how single parents do it day in and day out.

Saturday night ended up being a very long night. Jack started coughing and running a fever in the middle of the night. Neither one of us got much good sleep. And Sunday morning brought the dilemma of what to do about church. I had responsibilities that would be hard to get out of, but I knew I couldn’t take Jack to the church nursery. Thank goodness I have awesome parents who live nearby. They were willing to stay home from church and keep Jack while I took care of my church responsibilities.

Needless to say, I was super glad when Jason got home!

But the weekend gave me a tiny glimpse of how truly difficult single parenting must be. How do single parents have the energy day after day to take care of active, busy children? Where do they turn for help in child-care predicaments … especially if they do not have family nearby? Do they ever feel truly rested? Do they ever have time to themselves?

If you are a single parent, you are my hero!

ParentLife wants to provide encouragement and support specifically for you. Be sure not to miss our monthly column "Single Parent Life." As a single parent, what topics would you like to read about? Let us know so we can do a better job of meeting your needs!