For By Grace

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Your grace, let it surround me,
Let faith change the atmosphere. – Remember, The Passion

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Some days I find myself counting time relative to Kreade outgrowing his colic. Today I know so much more about why that first year of his life was so hard. More than a physical ailment, infant colic is often linked to temperament. Do I think that he suffered from tummy aches and discomfort for 11 months? Maybe. Do I think that his inherent personality contributed to his symptoms? For sure. Because most days even now Kreade can be difficult to live with.

Those days of waking up every 2-3 hours to nurse him  morning and night for eleven months straight seem so long ago. But I can never forget them. Those days of crying and bouncing and attempting to soothe will always stay with me. When Kreade cries now, at two years of age, all of the memories come flooding back.

And he is still so passionate in everything he does. Instead of tantruming because he wants to nurse, he tantrums in the grocery store when he has to sit in the shopping cart. Instead of crying because he couldn’t communicate what he needed or wanted as an infant, he still cries because language has been slow to come for him and we still don’t know what he needs or wants.

Honestly, I still wonder if he will ever make it one whole day without crying. It’s almost like his preferred method of communication. Like his emotions are just so overwhelming for things big and things that I perceive as small he just handles them by crying. He is all in or all out. Either screaming “Bye! Love you!” at the top of his lungs and being heard two miles away, or screaming “Nooooooooooo!” because he doesn’t want to leave and being heard four miles away.

It’s either Kreade’s way or no way. I wish that I could describe to you the volume, passion, and intensity of his tantrums. Which happen probably at least every hour that he is awake. And then there are his snuggles and hugs and kisses. He hugs with such effort and passion – you never want him to stop. He is the best hugger I know (except maybe for his Pa, could be that’s where he gets it from).

Some days he won’t eat because, well, because he doesn’t want to. Or because you gave him the wrong fork, not his Lightning McQueen fork. And he is so totally thrown off by this poor choice on your end he can’t calm down enough to even realize you quickly washed the Lightning fork and put it in his hand. Instead, he just keeps screaming and you skip straight to nap time and save lunch for when he wakes up.

I’ve never met a child like Kreade. And I have met a lot of children. I don’t think that there are many children out there like him. And he is already so misunderstood. I’ve gotten some nasty stares in the grocery store. And I’m sure that there are family and friends that think we are “spoiling” him. After all, he is two and really shouldn’t be crying so much all of the time. And while I’m sure that there are some things we could do better with him, I’d invite anyone who thinks we have created a naughty kid to spend a day with him. It’s not always that he means to be troublesome (although sometimes his intent is clear), he just is so different. Again, I wish that I could explain it. But those of you who have children who are passionate, spirited, and high-needs know exactly what I am talking about. Normal kids function on 100% and spirited kids function on 500%. No kidding.

And I refuse to completely break that spirit, because someday it is going to be such a good trait. He’ll go far, that boy, and do great things. Because he doesn’t take no for an answer and has the passion of probably a thousand suns, literally pouring his heart into everything he does. If you stop for a minute and block out the screams and tears and difficulty of the situation, your heart will realize the beauty of spirited children.

I wish that I was better at realizing the beauty in it all. But most days I still feel like I’m hanging on by a thread.

Parenting any child is hard and tiring. Parenting a spirited child is exhausting. EXHAUSTING! Exhausting!

Yesterday was a particularly rough day. it was rainy, and I was busy, and Kreade was extra loud and passionate (as in, running around with the slats I was trying to paint for his toddler bed hitting his sister on the head and laughing like he was at a Broadway show). I yelled and threatened and was so frustrated with him I almost cried.

Somedays, Kreade leaves me feeling like I’ll never be good enough.

I’ve been reading this book that my father in law let me borrow. I personally think that everyone should read it. I’ve been in tears through most of it. The stories of redemption and being saved from drug and other addictions by the love of Jesus are nothing short of a miracle. And they are beautiful, beautiful stories. The work that Teen Challenge does is amazing. I became interested in the subject of addiction after learning in one of my secular psychology classes that religious based addiction programs are significantly more effective than any other secular programs. Since then, this topic has really been on my heart.

And I love the stories.

These people have led hard lives. Lives fraught with doubt, anger, hardship, hopelessness, fear, regret… But it’s the hopelessness that stands out to me. And yet, one by one they finish their stories with voices that exude hope. As a reader, you can’t help but wonder how such an adverse life experience can end with a life full of hope.

It’s because of grace.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their sanctification :  a virtue coming from God :  a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace : approval, favor, mercy, pardon.

I often wish that I had more of a ‘story’ to narrate my own life. It’s not that I am jealous of the hardship and heartbreak that these recovered addicts experienced. But I have often wished that I really knew just what I was saved from.

I don’t believe there is any greater way to understand and comprehend grace and forgiveness than to recover from addiction because of Jesus. Reading their stories causes me to look at Him with such awe for the exceptional act that grace in their lives is.

Approved of. Favored by. Extended mercy. Pardoned by God.

And while I do not have the experiences of an addict, I think that parenting might be the runner up when it comes to understanding and comprehending grace.

Not only do we, as Christian parents, have the privilege to extend grace to our children, we do so knowing that we ourselves have been covered in His grace.

Tried really hard but still had a bad day? Ended up yelling at your kids? Feeling exhausted and unworthy to be a parent? Feeling overwhelmed? Want to give up? Feeling bad that a choice or action or something you should have done but forgot to do is going to result in something catastrophic happening to your child as in maybe he will get chicken pox because I scheduled his immunization a month after the recommended time-frame or maybe she is going to catch a cold because I didn’t use the shopping cart cover in the grocery store and I really just feel like I suck at this whole parenting thing.

Grace.

No matter how much we mess up. No matter how much of a failure we think we are. No matter how inadequate we view ourselves as.

Grace.

Because He knows we are doing the best that we can.

You are favored by Him. You are approved of by Him. Mercy is extended to you by Him.

Even when your spirited two year old is screaming in the grocery store because you didn’t get to the race car shopping cart fast enough.

You are pardoned by Him.

All because of Grace.

So let’s remember that His grace is sufficient for us tired and weary parents. And that His strength is made perfect in our weakest moments – the ones where we just want to throw in the towel (or leave the grocery store crying along with our tantruming child).

And let’s remember that the POWER of Christs rests upon us.

And we can do this parenting thing!

Romans 5:19-21 NKJV

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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A Little More

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Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you

And grace tonight will pull us through
Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you
And grace tonight will pull us through
Until the tears have left your eyes
Until the fears can sleep at night
Until the demons that you’re scared of disappear inside
Until this guilt begins to crack
And the weight falls from your back
Oh, my dear, I’ll keep you in my arms tonight.

~ Tenth Avenue North

We are going on month four of Kreade’s metamorphosis from cranky, colicky baby to happyish, well-adjusted toddler. Honestly, those days of terror are starting to fade in the wake of new, happier memories. But before I completely forget those dark months, there is one thing that I want to remember: Ellie.

Because colic isn’t just hard for Mommy. And while it’s definitely hard on Daddy too, it’s also hard for the siblings that are forced into the whole dreadful experience by no fault of their own.

And they really just become sort of lost.

Their whole world was just turned upside down, and after two years and three months of being the ONLY sparkle in Mom and Dad’s eye, now there is this baby to contend with. And when that baby turns out to cry more often than he doesn’t cry (I won’t even say smile, because that’s totally unrealistic), that poor little two year old gets lost.

Lost in a life that she never asked for, never knew existed, and doesn’t really understand. How could she understand that most babies don’t cry this much? How could she understand why mom was so stressed out all the time? How could she know that it was okay to love this little bundle of fury?

Because colic wasn’t just hard on me. It was hard on Ellie too. And only now, coming out of it, can I look back and see just how likely traumatic of an experience that was for her. We lost ourselves. We lost so much in an effort to cope and just get through it all.

Positive guidance gave way to bribes and “whatever means necessary to prevent both these twerps…er children-who-i-love from crying at the same time”. Cuddles and stories became sit on one knee while mom bounces the still-crying-Kreade on the other and reading over his screams. No kidding. Can you imagine? We loved books together. And here came this awful, crying baby who ruined it all.

Gentle instruction on social interaction and sharing has basically come to a halt. I mean, really. How COULD I ask her to share with him? He already was taking up so much of our time…so much of our time, some of which should have been hers.

Quiet and peaceful bedtime routines instantly changed to “tiptoe and whisper so Kreade doesn’t wake up”.

Playing outside and exploring and having adventures was put on hold because, well it would just be rude to make the neighbors have to hear Kreade crying.

We lost ourselves. I lost my patience. And I’m only now beginning to get it back…and realize just how much we lost.

But while it is certain that we lost so much, it is also certain that we have so much to gain.

And while those days were definitely oh so hard on Ellie. But there is much to gain.

We are all starting to get to know Kreade, Ellie included.

She is starting to talk about the old Kreade. I guess even three year olds can recognize such a dramatic change. While before her usual complaint was “why is he crying?!” now she complains that he isn’t big enough to do all the things she wants to do with him.

Now they play together. Now Ellie talks with him and is starting to gently guide him. She is starting to learn that it’s okay to love him. That he can be loved. That is is more than just tears and cries and very difficult.

Every time I see them interacting with each other, my heart stops just for a moment.

And now I realize just how hard it all was for her. I feel so bad.

But what can we do? Reality is, life isn’t happy all of the time. Life is hard. Life is really hard. People are hard. People are really hard.

Some of us experience this when we are much older, and some of us experience this when we are two.

And Ellie, I never want you to forget. Because people are hard. People are difficult. Some more than others. But God in His infinite grace calls us to love them nevertheless; waiting for Him to turn their ashes into beauty. And all the while we wait, to hold them in our arms. Though you may feel lost, trust that He will pull you through. And pull them through. Because people are hard. But they’re worth waiting for.

And Kreade, never forget that your sister loves you. She learned to love you through all of your crankiness and tears. And through his grace the tears have left your eyes, and now you literally can sleep at night. Ellie asked me “when is he gonna be god enough like me?” The truth is, you will never be just like her, and you will probably always require a bit more patience and love than she does.

But like I told Ellie, that’s the point.

Some people need a little more love, and a little more grace. But people are always worth it.

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Abundantly More: Happy Birthday Kreade

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Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Today, April 1st, 2015, it has been exactly a year since Baby K was born.

Exactly a year since all the crying began.

But today he is one. And what a transformation has taken place!

Not only is it amazing to watch all of the miraculous developmental changes that children undergo naturally, it has been even more amazing to watch an infant go from a screaming little ball of misery to a happy, independent one year old.

This has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Perhaps even the most difficult. I don’t do well with babies in general. Never mind the ones that cry. All. The. Time. And though I said I could never do it – I did! And I survived with most of my hair and most of my sanity.

But through it all I have learned so much. I’ve learned to be flexible, and not become too attached to the plans that are my design. Because sometimes, even though the road is often narrow, His plans are so much better. But we cannot know them until we have learned to let go of our own. And Kreade taught me to let go.

And through it all I’ve learned that I can do things that I never thought I could do. But I also learned that I’m not actually a superhero and I can’t do everything myself. Yet, through Him I can do all things. Kreade taught me that I can do anything, through His love and power living and working in me.

And though I feel like Kreade’s personal version of Jesus, loving him through the sleepless, scream-filled nights and days, I have such a better understanding of the love that He has for me. Unconditional. Even at 10 PM, 12 AM, 2 AM, 4 AM, 6 AM…love never fails. I’ve loved him through it all. And come to understand His love through it all.

I never dared to hope that this day would come. I honestly lost hope that Kreade would ever sleep through the night. That he would ever be somewhat happy. That he would grow up to be even partly normal and well-adjusted. I know it sounds crazy – but when all you’ve ever known is an infant that cries all the times and needs you all the time ( literally ALL the time). You really do begin to lose hope that they will ever be…normal.

But guess what!

The day has come…exactly a year later, when I can say that through it all has emerged a somewhat normal, beginning to be well adjusted, somewhat happy one year old. It’s really been in the last month that things have really come together.

Like the flip of a switch. One calendar day to another.

He started sleeping through the night. I mean like 11 or so hours all night long. Hallelujah!

He stopped nursing every 3 hours and weaned himself to a sippy cup of regular milk. Literally all by himself. Wow!

He has learned to entertain himself for short periods of time. And the days of cooking one handed with a  baby on my hip are slowing starting to fade. Amazing!

He is almost walking.

He doesn’t cry all of the time.

He smiles at people and lets other people hold him.

He cuddles with Klayton.

He goes to bed sleep all on his own after a snuggle and Bible story.

And though I doubted that it would ever be possible, Kreade has transformed from a needy, fussy, screaming ball of misery to a thriving little boy.

All thanks to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think.

So Kreade, I pray that your heart will know His love as I have known His love for me through loving you. Always remember that we all are a work in progress. But through His power at work in you, you can be and do abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.

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Living My Worst Nightmare: Kreade, The Colicky One

Babies. So many people just “oooh” and “ahhh” and fawn over infants whenever they see one. Babies, you know those sweet little bundles of joy.

But not me. I am a self-proclaimed “not-a-baby-person”. My worst nightmare, other than the obvious fear of losing a child somehow, was having a colicky baby.

Meet my worst nightmare.

IMG_8117Kreade Aksel. The one who was supposed to be peaceful. The one who was supposed to be the content little cherub who sat around in his bouncer while his sister and I enjoyed the opportunities of summer. The little side-kick who would “watch” me do my homework, and sit with me peacefully while I read my textbooks.

And that picture isn’t even his full-blown cry face.

Things never started out easily with Kreade. Even in the hospital the problems began. He began spitting up volumes in that tiny plastic bassinet the hospital provides. We had to tip up the side his head was on to try and get him to keep things down. And unlike his sister he really didn’t sleep much in that tiny plastic space. I ended up taking him in my bed, right there in the hospital just so that I could sleep. Otherwise he squeaked and sputtered… We should have known then. But we hoped for the best and took him home.

Home to where he continued to projectile vomit LOADS of unidentified liquid matter. He lost a considerable amount of weight. He had trouble latching and nursing. He loved and hated his pacifier. He always wanted to be held. And he cried.

A lot.

A lot. A lot. A lot.

Honestly, after having such a perfect angel baby as Ellie was I kind of thought that he was simply a normal baby. But when he would fall asleep and then wake up wailing after 5 minutes I began to wonder. Truly though, it wan’t until  I was bouncing him on my hip standing in our camper when my mother-in-law suggested that he might be colicky that it all came together…

Now other people were beginning to notice that he was not a normal baby. And around the time he was five months old I began to piece the events of the previous five months together. I know, I know…how could you live five months and not know your baby is colicky?

You have a colicky baby. That’s exactly how. You don’t have time to think about anything else except “the baby is crying, I need to do something” or “the baby is about to cry, quick do something”.

Kreade was the baby that lived in my worst dreams, and soon became my reality.

He was clingy. He refused to let anyone by me hold him – and if they did it was quickly followed by ear-piercing screams. He needed to constantly be on the move…in the swing on the highest setting, in the stroller careening down the road, in the car – but you better pray and hope you don’t get a red light, in your arms – but don’t you dare stop moving or God forbid have to sit down and pee (because yes, when you have a colicky baby you hold them while you pee).

And the crying…the crying that doesn’t stop. Sometimes even when you’re holding them. But at least when you’re holding them they only cry instead of scream…that ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping scream.

According to leading health professionals colic affects 40% of infants. It usually starts between 3 and 6 weeks and improves around 4 and 5 months of age. There is no obvious cause for an infant’s colicky behavior…but lot’s of people want to offer their advice. And I spent loads of time walking around with a crying baby on my hip and a frustrated two year old dragging her blanket and following us while reading about the possible causes and suggested solutions that people freely offer via the internet.

Your baby is probably allergic to dairy…you’re spoiling your baby…they’re gassy…they just need a diaper change…change your diet, feed them laying down, swaddle them, burp them more, play music, don’t overstimulate them…bla bla bla.

But colicky babies…real colicky babies cry a lot. And they can’t be settled. This is the foremost symptom of this mysterious infant problem that affects breast and bottle fed infants equally. Some babies may cry for predictable periods of time at predictable periods of time. Their crying is generally intense and inconsolable and appears to be for no apparent reason. And colicky babies tend to have tense bodies, curled fists, and curled up legs when they’re crying.

Ah yes…the inconsolable crying…it seriously doesn’t stop. And you wonder if there will ever be a day when he just. stops. crying. Even when he is not crying, you hear crying. You might begin to resent your baby and the fact that he cries all of the time.

Because a baby that cries all of the time puts load of indescribable stress on everyone in the family. Your own mental health. Your marriage. Your children and their well-being.

I was depressed. We talked over screams. Ellie began singing to herself in an attempt to drown out the sound of his cries.

It was awful. So awful. You feel as if you’re trapped in a snow-globe…and the cries and screams echo back off the walls of your glass-encased existence…and you can’t get out. There is no end in sight…because you’re not in a tunnel. You’re in the globe of colic, where your entire world is that inconsolable crying baby.

The baby that you feel unattached to…but who needs you so much. And you can’t get out.

So you cling to the hope that age will improve your reality…and four months, five months, six months pass…and still he cries.

And cries and cries and cries.

You have re-designed, and re-defined yourself and your life. While the first child was never held, this one is never put down – and that’s okay, because I just can’t take the crying anymore.

While the first child sat contentedly on the couch while you watched TV on volume 10, this one is bounced furiously in his bouncer with your foot with the volume on 40 because he is still making noise. And if you get up off the couch you do this perfectly-timed switcheroo where you husband starts bouncing the bouncer exactly as you stop.

Where the first child experienced the front-pack maybe once or twice, the second child practically lives in it.

The first child drifted off to sleep peacefully in her crib, while the second has to be nursed to sleep, rocked for a while, and gingerly placed on the mattress while you tip-toe out praying that his pacifier doesn’t fall out of his mouth. And while the first one slept for eight hour stretches, you know this second one will but up in an hour again (two if you’re lucky). And you had better be prepared to repeat this ritual all night long.

You spend all day on your feet simultaneously walking and bouncing, or on the front porch rocking at the speed of light. You learn how to cook supper one-handed, and use the bathroom while holding a child. You become “fine” with nursing all of the time…because it’s probably the only time that the crying ever truly stops. You learn how to time grocery shopping with the thirty minute naps he takes. You look forward to bedtime, and the hour or so of actual quiet that you might get.

You learn to let go of perfection and all of the expectations you had of yourself and your children.

And you survive.

My favorite part of the day was the nighttime, when I could finally be unattached from my baby while he slept in his crib and I slept in my bed. This was my sanity – my baby and kid free sanity. I would spend all day trying to console the crying-one and entertain the frustrated-one…ending it with an easy to make while one-handed supper…then to the front porch to pass the time until bed-time, after which I would run around cleaning my entire house because I just. can’t. function. in a mess.

And you survive.

You begin to seriously believe that the crying will never end. That he literally will just keep on crying forever. That you will have to hold him forever. That you will feel depressed forever. That you will never feel attached to this crying little face. That your life will never be the same again.

And you’re right. Your life never will be the same again.

I remember a play-date at the playground with a close friend who has experienced colic first hand. She told me that eventually, the bond you have with  your colicky baby will be so much stronger than with an “average” baby.

It doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

Somehow, that crying, tense little body that has basically welded himself to your own body also practically cements his heart in yours. Maybe it’s the fact that he just needs you so much. Or that you feel like you’re his one-and-only (which sometimes is overwhelming and frustrating, but eventually becomes precious). Maybe it’s the fact that you have spent every waking moment trying to love and care for this tiny little being…and eventually the time develops into a bond.

A bond that really is stronger than anything you can imagine.

And while the crying may never stop…eventually it will. For us it wasn’t until Kreade was about seven months old.

Yep, seven months. Two months past the far end of the ‘span of colic’.

And slowly, life begins to fade into something that seems more normal.

Instead of holding the crying baby while you pee, you can actually set him down on the floor to watch you and HE DOESN”T CRY!!!!

You might still be cooking supper one-handed, but at least he isn’t fussing the whole time.

And slowly…slowly…the crying fades even more. And you can eventually walk out of the room and he will continue to play with his toys while you cook dinner.

Until finally, you have a recovered-from-colic baby.

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And your world feels right again. Finally, your body begins to relax. And you feel like a real person.

A real person, with a baby you love, who loves you back.

And when he starts crying you know you can get him to stop. Usually with a hug and a kiss, and a snuggle from the one person who has loved him through…well, through everything.

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