Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kindred Spirits

I just got back from the International 22q Conference in Orlando, FL.  I've mentioned it before that my oldest son has a chromosome disorder called 22q (DiGeorge Syndrome, Velocardiofacial Syndrome).  Basically he is missing genetic information on his twenty-second chromosome which affects him in various ways.  I can't tell  you how it touched my heart to be around hundreds of other parents with a child just like mine.  I usually feel so alone with the syndrome as I usually have to explain it to the professionals who are the ones I had hoped could tell me something.

My eight year old is so much different than other eight year olds.  While other kids his age are running around playing superhero or ninjas or shooting each other with Nerf guns, my child is standing in the closet by himself pushing pretend buttons and saying out loud, "going up" in his best elevator operator voice.  Sometimes the kids will invite him to play along but he continues pushing his imaginary buttons without making eye contact.  It's not easy when your child is different.

Over the past two days I've met some folks from Michigan, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Georgia, and New Jersey.   They all had an elementary school aged child who also had the 22q deletion syndrome.  We compared notes on sphincter pharyngoplasty and the small stature of our kids.  We talked about hypernasal speech and low muscle tone.  We discussed the autistic-like repetative and obsessive behaviors we've noticed in our kids.  Almost all of their children had been held back at least a year in school, just like my son.  I was no longer alone in a big world of typically developing children and doctors who have never heard of the condition before.  For two days, I was among fellow travelers along this journey.  People who understood my frustrations and fears when trying to navigate the medical world because they had been there.  It was so refreshing.

In addition to meeting other parents who've "been there," I also came away with different new bits and pieces of research, techniques, and knowledge to help me be a better mom to my very special little boy.

One of my other favorite parts of the conference was this afternoon just before lunch when I got to talk to that very special little boy on the telephone and also to his equally adorable kid brother.  I told him of all the elevators I had ridden on and filmed for him while I was there.  He asked me what floors I went to, what kinds of elevators they were, and what time it was on my phone... his favorite topics to discuss.  My four year old told me all about his sticky hand toy that he had been playing with and flinging up against the wall just before they had to hang up for lunch.

I love it how when you're feeling overwhelmed by life, God provides an opportunity for relief and a feeing of normalcy in a crazy and sometimes chaotic world.  I always think the same thing when I sit outside in nature and just look up at the clouds and trees blowing in the breeze and I remember the perfect parts of God's creation even while the terribly fallen parts of this world play across the evening news inside on the television.  I think it helps keep me sane.  Thanks, Lord.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Life After Loving a Narcissist

"With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him."  Proverbs 7:21

Right now in Sunday School we're doing a very in depth study of the Proverbs.  It's been quite interesting learning about Hebrew poetry and how the way the Proverbs are written portrays what the scriptures are saying directly as well as poetically. 

I have to admit that today's study of Chapter 7 hit very close to home for me.  Today we met the "strange woman" again.  (Or in my case, it was the strange man).  The strange woman is lovely.  She is enticing.  Her lips drip honey and her words are smooth as oil.  She is charming and has a way with words.  She is a prowess.  In chapter 7, we see her standing on the street corner seeking a young, naive man as her prey.

Reading about this strange woman is very familiar to me because I have been that young, naive (wo)man devoid of understanding (v7) before who has wandered into the path of a charmer.  I have been like the ox led to the slaughter (v22).  There is an interesting phenomenon that happens when you are an idealistically naive person wanting to be loved and you encounter someone such as the narcissist.  It can be difficult not to be pulled in by those honey dripped lips and smooth, carefully crafted words.  From all outward appearances, this person seems to be a perfect match.

However, before you start to feel too sorry for me, let me tell you there were red flags.  I just chose to overlook them because I was "in love."  Honestly, though, I believe that all of us has a bent towards narcissism although not everyone turns out to be a pathological narcissist.  You can see it all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God.  To be honest, I had an unconscious need to be taken care of... to be told I was lovely and that I was loved.  When I found someone who appeared to meet that need, I was able to rationalize the red flags and sometimes flat out ignore them.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, it wasn't that I had fallen in true love but that this person made me feel good and met my own narcissistic need.

This morning we talked about verse 21, "With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him."  Was this only the fault of the strange woman?  Certainly she was guilty and there will be consequences for luring in the youth for her own prowess.  She will not go unpunished.  However, the youth was still responsible for his own actions as well.  Regardless of who was more at fault, they each had their own choices to make.  I believe the youth will bear his own consequences for choosing to overlook the red flags, even if he was enticed.

Identifying with the youth myself, I would probably take his side.  He was not wicked.  He was simply naive and blinded by the appearance of love.  He did not know it would cost him his life (v23).  The strange woman is the true villian.  Maybe, but he still has to deal with his response to her and the consequences of his actions... the overlooked signs, the enabling behavior, the rationalizations... Wait.  Am I still talking about him or am I talking about me?  Hard to say.

So what now?  I'm grateful to say there is life after loving a narcissist if you are able to see your own role in the deception.  If not, you know what they say... if you don't learn from history you are doomed to repeat it.  Looking back, I can say that loving a narcissist did cost me my life.  It cost me my marriage.  It cost me my family.  There's a new spouse.  New children.  Child support issues.  Visitation.  Occassional loneliness. The list goes on.  I am still living with the consequences daily of an unguarded heart. 

The Bible says that we are dust and to dust we will return.  When someone dies, they are typically buried in the ground.  They become part of the dirt.  That was my old life.  The beautiful picture is that in that earthen ground, new trees grow.  When watered and cared for properly, beautiful flowers begin to bud and new life emerges.

Although the consequences of an unguarded heart may be very long lasting, God can and will take a repentent heart and a willing spirit and make it brand new again.  The ultimate new life happens at salvation.  That is the first essential piece to the puzzle before any other type of lasting transformation can take place.  After that, the Lord will continue to transform a life characterized by humility and a willingness to be molded into His image.  That means the willingness to admit failure.  It also means a willingness to recognize our own role in sin and allowing God to purify and fill our own narcissistic needs.  We all have certain and legitimate needs, but looking for someone else to fill them leads to idolatry and vulnerability towards the "strange woman."

There can be life again after loving a narcissist.  Proverbs 8 reminds us that while the strange woman may be crying on the streets, there is also another and her name is Wisdom. 

"For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things that one may desire cannot be compared with her."  (Prov 8:11).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Baskets Full of Bread

"And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes."  Matthew 14:19

Sometimes it boggles my mind that what you see is a small little crumb but what God sees is a basket full of bread.

About three weeks ago, the monthly income that I am used to suddenly and unexpectedly decreased substantially.  Hopefully not forever but realistically, I'm not sure how long it will be.  I was very nervous and shaken up by it at first but in those initial moments and days, I kept remembering Philippians 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  Regardless of the circumstances, God shall supply.

Since then, I've just been realizing again, God's providence:

Today was the boys' last day at summer daycare for a little while which will save me a month's worth of childcare.  Providence.

About a year ago I started couponing.  Nothing extreme but because of that, I have a big enough stockpile of food that I have only had to spend $50 on groceries over the whole last three weeks.  This is just one small cabinet of the loot I still have stored up.  Providence.

I had also made some larger casseroles and such over the past few months that were more than enough to feed my small family of three.  So I also had several meals in the freezer that I've been able to just pop out and heat up recently.  There are a few more meals left in there as well which will save me another week's worth of grocery shopping.  Providence.

Although I am now debt free, some time back I applied for a credit card from a company that gives you reward points whenever you use it.  I use it now for everyday purchases and then pay it right off.  At the end of each month I rack up in gift cards.  If you are self-controlled enough to use it and not let it build up to where you end up paying interest on it, you can really save a lot of money by getting free gift cards with the rewards.  I've had several gift cards that I've used from that recently as well as gift cards I've gotten from other places.  I've used them for gas, food, and other incidentals.  I still have a couple left and one more on it's way.  Providence.

This afternoon, my son and I had dentist appointments but I wasn't worried about how I would pay for it because I work for a great company with an awesome wellness program.  Over the course of a year, it's possible to earn up to $200 in wellness incentives that can be used on tons of qualified medical expenses.  I also have some left over from last year which means today's appointment for both of us came to a grand total of $0 out of my pocket.  Providence.

This didn't really save me money but it still shows that God uses other people to be a blessing as well.  I had posted on facebook the other day to see if anyone local had some hedge trimmers I could borrow to trim the small tree in my front yard.  I actually don't mind doing that kind of work myself but the very next day, three people showed up to trim it for me!  Unfortunately the first group came while I was gone and couldn't find an outlet to plug in the trimmers but then later in the day, my friend Joy and her husband stopped by with gear in hand to get the job done.  Here is my four year old helping to blow away the leaves and the nicely manicured tree in the background.  Providence.

I could go on and on about how God always provides.  When I run the numbers of what is coming in right now, it doesn't work out.  But somehow God continues to provide.  When I first got the news that part of the payments I receive were stopping, it was on payday from my job.  I sat there trying to figure how I was going to stretch that money.  As I opened up my checkbook I knew that most of that check was going to go towards childcare and that I also had some other bills due to pay.  However, I made a conscious decision.  The first entry after that deposit was for my tithe.  I wasn't sure how everything else was going to get paid after that but I am a firm believer that tithe always comes first because if it weren't for the Lord, I wouldn't even have the first little bit.  He has given me the health and well being to work in the first place to provide for my family.  I knew that if I was faithful to thank God through my tithe even when I didn't know how I was going to do anything else, that God would continue to multiply the bread in my basket somehow.

As I walk around my house, I notice other ways God has provided for me in the past and it is a tangible reminder to me of Philippians 4:19.

This is the entertainment center that a friend of a friend who I had never even met before just gave to me when I first became single again and was trying to furnish my new house.

And here is some of the matching bedroom set that went with it (all given to me).

These things were not necessarily needs but the Lord chose to bless me through the kindness of another anyway.

I am just so grateful.  Life is not just all about what you can see.  It's about remaining faithful to the One who can see the unseen.