The Gift of Pain

It sounds crazy.  Who would look at pain as a gift.  Who would want it.  Who would be grateful for it.

Pain hurts.

Our hearts, our emotions, our memories, our thoughts, our body, our loved ones.

Pain hurts.

and that is GOOD, very, very GOOD.

 

October of 2007 –We have a child that doesn’t feel pain.  Half of her body is numb from nerve damage of Spina Bifida.  She can’t feel her legs.  As a result she can’t move her muscles.  Because nerves that feel, tell your muscles- hey move!

When we first moved into our old house in CT there was radiant heaters on the base board areas of the rooms.  One day Jamie was playing with pretend food sitting right next to one.  Other kids did it. THey loved to warm their toes on the baseboards.  Sooner or later you move your foot.  It gets hot.  Jamie didn’t.  Time passed.  Kids played happily.  The house was new to us so we didn’t know yet where a problem lie waiting.  She crawled away to another area of the room and I saw her back.  Her shirt bloody and oozing.  I lifted up her shirt to find a massive burn.  She didn’t feel it.  Not one bit.  Later as she was healing up she would complain about an “Itchy pain” in her shoulder. But the burn was down way low near her waist.  We found out that pain was shooting up her nerves in her back!!!

January of 2011– On the day of her birth our dear Jocelyn died.  We were blindsided by this mack truck of pain & sorrow.  We dug deep searching for reason and purpose in what seemed like a huge hole in our hearts.  By God’s grace we found that reason and purpose.  We saw a greater value and worth in her short little life than we could have ever imagined.  We saw the impact she had on healing so many peoples hearts that were wounded from loss in the past.  But that initial mack truck of pain was beautifully hard and retchedly awesome.  WHY?  Because it was sooo BIG and SOOO PAINFUL that we HAD to face it.  We HAD dig it out.  We HAD to beg God to open our eyes to understanding greater than our humanity could see.  If it didn’t hurt, if the pain had been minor, we, in time, would have “moved on”.  OH HOW GRATEFUL I AM THAT WE NEVER “MOVED ON” AND THAT WE HAD DEEP, DEEP PAIN!!!! Because we clung together with our children, we grew closer to them, we sought the Lord more than ever, we shared to Truths of Scripture with confidence and no shame or worry of appropriateness. And we will NEVER NEVER NEVER forget.  She is a permanent part of our hearts and minds not just because she is our daughter (of course that is true) but because the pain was SOOO immense we will never forget. We can’t.

July of 2013– In the daily routines of parenting, we catch a glimpse, and it stops us in our tracts.  Jamie looked at us with only one eye while the other stared into the distance.  We knew right away.  Shunt failure.  Sean swooped her up and took her to children’s hospital ER.  At first, they didn’t think it was shunt failure.  We insisted. They pushed back.  No it’s not.  Shunt failure is sooooooo painful.  The migraines alone or so intense that it causes one to vomit.  And look at her- she’s happy as a clam.  And she was.  Now, we had had some behavior issues.  But that’s it.  24 hours later she ended up in surgery with nuero getting a new shunt on her brain.

Nothing. Nothing at all.  Came home with NO pain meds. NO PAIN MEDS!!! after they had literally just drilled a new hole in her skull, placed a shunt in and had two very large sets of stitches on her head (with some of her hair shaved off). NOTHING.  She wakes up the next day.  I look at my daughter all stitched up on her brain, missing hair, and I shake my head in amazement of God’s timing and causing us to see her eye problem quickly. I am “wowed” by God causing us to look at her in a such a way that we “happened” to catch her eye not moving.  Had she gone to sleep that night she may not have woken up. God is AMAZING.  We do not believe in coincidence. It is not of our own accord by any stretch of the imagination.  God’s timing was impeccable.  I shake my head again as I look at her and say good morning. She says “mom, my head is kinda itchy”.  I couldn’t help it.  I laughed out loud.  I picked her up and showed her her head in the mirror and said “yes honey, thats where they cut into your head for your new shunt. It’ll probably be itchy for a while as it heals”  “oh, ok” she says and “MOVES ON”.  She did what I am glad that I can NOT do so easily- she MOVED ON.  She had NO pain. So, she didn’t care.  It didn’t matter.

 

I could list a 1000 more examples God has given us through our children with special needs.  From jumping out of trees and belly flopping on hard ground only to brush off the grass and MOVE ON, to ripping braces off your teeth with your bare hands because they were annoying, or ripping all your toenails off (yes and the flesh too) while in bed one night because they were “too long”, or maybe something even more hair raising than toenails- like twisting out 3 teeth in one night (with your bare hands) that we NOT EVEN AT ALL loose so that you could have teeth come out like a sibling did!!!

and so on…….

next time somethings hurts

next time something wrenches your gut in pain and sorrow

next time pain blindsides you

next time pain slowly etches away at your mind, emotions, and memories……

it may take you time, but don’t “MOVE ON” and be “tough”

there’s no great godly glory in “toughness”

instead

dig deep, keep your eyes open even when you want to look away

beg the Lord for wisdom and discernment, for perspective to see what God sees and not what you see

you WILL NOT be diminishing the event of pain, nor will you “MOVE ON” quickly

instead

you will heal and find you have within yourself a great capacity to care

(and less and less of an ability to “move on”)

And THAT is a VERY good gift that pain will give you.

 

 

 

CELEBRATE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Families have traditions.

Big ones and little ones.  Sometimes you even make new ones.  Since living in Texas we have stumbled upon a new tradition in our family.  It happens every night at dinner, the kids ask Sean “Daddy, how many babies were saved today?”  and he always has an answer.

Today OFL reached 800 babies saved!!!!!!!!! Over 100 of those babies were just this past month in April 🙂 If they keep it up at this rate with out any growth they will save 800 more this year….but if they grow every month 🙂  Man, we love math like that!!!

800

eachday

 

Now we know that the ministry at Online For Life is much more than that and it runs deeper in the lives of individuals they reach out to, but for our littlest kiddos, they don’t get counseling women in crisis, marketing, development/training of pregnancy centers, or national strategies to blanket cities in godly pregnancy centers and wipe out abortion city by city….

….they get babies.  Cute, adorable bundles of life that grow up to be brothers and sisters.  So that is what they ask Daddy-  how many babies Daddy how many today?

babies

Good Clean Fun

The Color Run is a short 5k run/ fund raiser that travels from city to city.  It’s an absolute BLAST!!!! They douce powdered color on you throughout the run.  It’s really more of a walk than a run- surely a family and friends type event. So Jill’s sister, nephew and friend came into town to join all of us Martins at the Dallas Color Run.  If you are curious you can check out their website at www.thecolorrun.com

So we set out for a good time, family bonding, opportunity to encourage and be silly as a family!!! We started clean, all white, but with each turn in the run came another color station.  The stations have color dust everywhere, as well as workers showering you with color at every moment!  We took the opportunity at a few stations to make a few “snow angels” in the dust.  Hey why not?  We HIGHLY recommend this event to every family.  It may be in a city near you soon.

The pictures tell the story best….

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color run

 

12 Baskets Full

Sometimes God has a special gift for us.  Waiting.  We don’t even know it’s there.  Then one day, when we least expect it.  We are asking God for our daily bread, and He gives us more than we can ask or imagine.  A little bit like the fish and loaves story in scripture.

 

At the beginning of March we brought a special therapist to our home, Nancy Thomas.  She came here for 5 full days, 6:00 am until 10:00 pm, WOW long days!!! Nancy Thomas specializes in helping children with attachment issues and conscious development.  So most of her work is with adoptive children from challenging pasts.  Even though our children were adopted at young ages, many of our children still struggled with things.  We’ve spent their entire lives helping shape their character, bond as a family, and work hard to be overcomers in all areas of life.  No matter how much we prayed, worked, encouraged, taught, disciplined, encouraged more, taught more, etc there still seemed to be a piece of the puzzle missing. So we brought Nancy to our home to help us identify the missing pieces, see what we needed to do differently or keep the same, and most importantly- how could we help ALL of our children become God’s best in each of their lives.

Well it was a tall order in this unique house, but not for Nancy!  She has spent years rehabilitating children from extremely abusive pasts.  Helping them overcome horrific things such as childhood molestation, neglect, trauma, and more.  She helped us see that even though our kids came to us young, their long lists of infant surgeries, PICU life, foster care, and drug exposure added up to a lot.

We had spent years parenting the “fetal alcohol” and “disability” side of our kids.  She helped us turn our eyes to the heart of the matter…. attachment.  It is something that we take for granted as we parent our kids, snuggling them, kissing them, telling them stories.  But when kids spend countless days in hospitals, 9 months in the womb cringing from burning alcohol and drugs, and more— it causes ones brain to develop different.  The part of the brain that we use in bonding with others (the cause and effect part of the frontal lobe and temporal lobes) is atrophied. Brain scans show those parts of the brain look like swiss cheese.  So even though we loved on our kiddos day and night, it wasn’t enough. Even though we teach them character, it’s not enough.  There are parts of their brains that “need an extra workout” to help them attach appropriately to people and in turn, care about themselves and others. Learning how to love, really love, not just enjoy others.

Here’s how it usually works:

1) RESPECT (wow- my parents are all powerful and they meet my needs when I cry)

2) TRUST (wow- they keep meeting my needs, now I know if I cry they will help me)

3) LOVE (I bond to my parents BECAUSE I first respected then trusted them.  That bond is love)

4) CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE AND THINGS (I care about things because I am cared for)

You see this developmental cycle doesn’t develop correctly in lots of adoptive children as well as children with disabilities.  We try so hard to fill them with #3, that #4 doesn’t happen. They learn to enjoy things and learn to manipulate others.  They learn how to reflect character qualities that we teach them to get what they want.  But there’s something missing.  So we start at square one.  Even though some of our kids are 10 years old, they need to start from the beginning. RESPECT 1st above all in every little thing.  Love is 3rd.  I’m sure part of you is thinking- that’s a bit extreme- shouldn’t it be a balance? OK OK it’s not that we are not loving them- of course we are still loving them!! Remember first that their brains are already out of balance- so we need to rebuild the brain and the heart.  Just imagine if you broke your leg.  When you got the cast off you would have to work extra hard to rebuild it.  It’s not that you are neglecting the rest of your body.  You are focusing hard and deep on your leg SO THAT your WHOLE body can work together BALANCED in a healthy way.  … and THAT is what are now purposing to do.  Rebuild our children’s hearts and brains in a HEALTHY way.  The end goal- that they can truly be TRANSFORMED by the Word of God in all areas of their lives, not just mimic the Word of God.

So this Daily Bread turned into overflowing baskets of fish and loaves.  More than we could ask or imagine.  It’s a lot of work when God gives you more than you can imagine. A lot of work.  But sometimes that is part of the deal.  Surely when all those people got tons of fish and loaves on the hillside there with Jesus, they had to pass it out, clean it up, and cook it before they could enjoy it.  Part of the deal.  So right now we feel like we are holding 12 baskets full.  Full of more than we could imagine.  Everyday we ask for grace and wisdom to parent God’s children well.  God, in His sovereignty, knew that some of our kids would have these obstacles in their past, and He knew this day, Today, would come too.

We share this with you so you can SEE God at work in the lives of children with broken pasts.  So that you will SEE that God can do more than man can imagine.  Sometimes, people are afraid to adopt.  They hear stories or hard times and struggles with kids.  Yes that is true sometimes.  But NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING is impossible for God!!!! Adopting an older kid with a broken past-  HA! God says- HA!  I’ve totally got that covered! Stop fearing and start believing— It’s the same with our relationship with God…

1) Respect

2) Trust

3) Love

4) Care- that transformational work in and through us.

 

One last food for thought…. over 400,00 children are in Foster Case in the United States alone.  Over 53,000 are already legally freed for adoption and just waiting for homes.

53,000

53,000

53,000 !!!

 

Keeping your heart

One of the phrases we hear the most is, “How in the world do you do it? If I were you I would go crazy!”

Well, there is a fine line between crazy in a good way and crazy in a…well… not so good way 🙂  Living passionately can sometimes appear crazy and a little nuts (is there a difference), but we know that it is fully different than feeling like you are going crazy with what you have on your plate.

In a world full of change, growth, love, loss, challenges, hard times, abundant blessings, and everything in-between,  it is of the utmost importance that we “keep ‘our’ hearts with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life”.  The longer you have been around, then the more you read that verse and shout “AMEN!”.   You know deeply that it is true.

We try to manage stress, find peace, relax, organize, enjoy, fellowship, serve, and grow– sometimes all at once.  There is a saying, “First things first”, and now is when it holds true.  Managing our lives will only become a band aide if our hearts are not kept right with God.  David knew this first hand when he wrote the Psalms.  As a man in leadership, a husband and a father, he knew all the levels of “life that gets in the way” between us and God.  That is why he tells us to keep our hearts.

How then shall we live?  A checklist of sorts for summer time and life.

8) Keep perspective. David constantly reminded himself of all the things God had done in the past.  Giving himself perspective on life and the way God worked in it.

8) Give thanks.  Paul exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances and David also tells to praise God for WHO he is and WHAT he does and has done.

8) Know the Truth.  In a world full of opinions and great ideas of what we should and should not do, we MUST know the Truth.  Paul reminds us that the truth will set you free.  At many levels, truth is the key to freedom from believing and living trapped by lies.

8) Pray.  Sometimes you hear people say, “I am sorry I can’t help, but I can at least pray”.  Oh, it should surely be the opposite. “I can SURELY pray, and maybe I can lend a physical hand too”!!!  The power of prayer is bigger than most of us give it credit.  We are conversing with the Creator of the entire Universe here!!!!

8) Surround yourself with a cloud of witnesses.  What we do and who we are with effects our habits and attitudes.  Spend time with people that build you up and challenge you.

8) Get fresh air.  Seriously.  God made creation full of beauty and wonder for a reason.  If it was not important, then the whole world would be beige.  It is not!  It is vibrant and full of life- go enjoy it!!!

8) Feed your mind wholesome food.  Read scripture every day.  Even the same section over and over.  God tells us that His word is alive and active and sharper than a two edged sword. THAT is powerful.  But you can’t know it to be true unless you try it for yourself. Try reading the PSalm and Proverb of the day.  If it is the 2nd of the month, read Psalm 2 and Proverb 2.

8) Get a good book.  Sometimes we like to relax to a “good book” or movie.  But what are you REALY gaining from the book or movie you choose.  NOTHING IS NEUTRAL. What goes in must come out.  Be careful what you let in there!!!  Here are two great books to read.  One is old and one is new. Both are great in different ways.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp  – This is book is a challenge of gratitude in the very deepest sense in the midst of severe loss and pain. As my friend put it, the first chapter is rough in a raw heart wrenching way, but life grows out of it.  Very personal, very honest. This link tells you more about it as well as the author. Well worth a read.  A great book for you alone or with a close friend.

and

Keeping The Heart by John Flavel    A  pastor from the late 1600’s, Flavel charges his congregation to keep their hearts with all diligence.  Full of wise advice and practical living.  It’s age does NOT outdate it, it makes it all the more impressive that it is perfectly applicable today.  A great book for small groups as well as individuals.

8) Honor the Sabbath.  A day of rest is vital in this busy world.  Finishing a list of chores is NOT resting.  Playing in a hockey game (or any other organized sport that now meets on sundays) is NOT resting (sorry sports fans- I know you probably disagree here). Spending time with family and friends, worshiping, and truly resting.  It will replenish your soul and your body.  Try it and see– I promise you God knew what He was talking about when He told us to do it!!!  I trust His wisdom on the issue 🙂

 

Chickadee Cherub

Many o’ times I am caught singing it to myself, “Thank you I’ve never know it to fail when you say… Thank you…each and every moment becomes a prayer”  In that moment I mean it completely.  I am grateful for that moment, that passing, that word, that person, that warm breeze, that bird chirping, that child laughing, I am thankful.

 

Many o’ times I am caught singing “Thank you….5 part harmony for my weary soul”  because in that moment I WANT to mean it, I KNOW it’s medicine for my soul, I KNOW gratitude is the very best thing, giving thanks in ALL circumstances.  “Thank you” rings in my head as I gain perspective on the moment.

 

In the BIG BIG moments, joyful or sorrow filled,  it is somehow easier to remember, well, because they are big and you MUST face them.  It’s the in-between moments.  The passing by moments.  The discipline of a child moments. The _____________.  THESE are the moments where gratitude may start more of a discipline and transform itself into a purposeful moment.

 

I thank you, God, on purpose and  “each and every moment becomes a prayer”.

…and thank you Michael Kelly Blanchard for writing a song that has been running through the nooks and crannies of my mind for nearly 18 years now. I am grateful God made you as you- I wouldn’t change a bit.

Song:  Click here 06 Chickadee Cherub