Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is that all really necessary?

"Is that all really necessary?" the "nice lady" leaned over and asked me at the movie theater today.  No ma'am.  "It" as in Joseph's loud and inappropriate laughing isn't necessary.  I simply said "He has autism" and then she said not once, not twice, but three times "Well then no problem."  But yes madam...there is a problem.  There are MANY problems.  None of which I can fix and very few of them which I can even handle, deal with, or talk about without having emotional meltdown. 

I could type yet another blog entry about the difficulties of being a family with a child on the spectrum.  I won't bore you with my diatribe.  Perhaps I could use this little corner of cyberspace to vent my feelings, disappointments and heart breaks.  It really doesn't do the reader any good.  I simply am going to ponder the question...."Is that all really necessary?"

That IS the question.  Truthfully it's the question I've wanted to ask God and have pretended that I shouldn't, couldn't or didn't want to do so.  The issue is that I don't understand.  I say I do.  I say I trust.  I say there's got to be something good in it all and that there is a plan.  Yet my heart for years has ached so deeply that at times I physically couldn't breathe.  I even wrote on my prayer request card this past week a very personal request involving Joseph.  Since writing those words on that tiny piece of paper my heart has been challenged, stretched and wounded several times.  If I can't trust and rest in the unconditional love of my God how can I introduce Him to my children? 

I say that I want people to ask questions about Joseph instead of assuming, but I really don't want that.  Every time I have to answer them it is too painful.  I say that I wish we could live in a world where people with autism were understood and allowed to just live at peace, yet I am not living in peace.  The truth is I don't want a different world.  Most of the time I want a different life.  Several of the autism support sites have a saying "I wouldn't change you for the world, but I would change the world for you." I personally think that is hogwash.  If I could change Joseph I would in a heartbeat.  Day after day, after day of verbal abuse is truly taking it's toll on me.  Weariness has attached itself to my soul and I don't' know how many more tears I have.  I'm tired of wishing away, thinking about, giving mental time and attention to a life that isn't mine.  I just wish I knew how to live.  I wish I knew how to deeply, passionately and completely love my son JUST the way he is.  It is becoming more and more evident to me that he is incapable of change.  I'm tired of the years that I've wasted trying to change him and I ashamed, deeply ashamed for even trying.  His siblings are sad and it is a very difficult time for the Flint family.

The big pink elephant in the room..."Is that all really necessary?".  God, please hear the heart of a woman that's broken, a mother that's hurting and a daughter that believes but is begging you to help her unbelief.  Show me, somehow, someway, please let me know that this has a purpose.  Please help me to trust you that this life has a meaning.  Please, please, please teach me that the bigger picture is one full of color and beauty.  Help me to rest.  That's what I really want is just to rest and please give my boy a day, just one day, just a moment of clarity where he can see you, feel you, know you because if he can experience your presence then I will know that all of this was necessary.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lessons Taught by a Six Year Old

Dear friends of ours, the Russell family, will be burying their six year old daughter Emilee in the next few days.  She died yesterday from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while on a family vacation to Texas.  It was the trip from hell and they only made it as far as LA before they had to transport her to a hospital for treatment.  The entire story is too long to recount and I don't have every detail.  I did speak with Beth (Emilee's mom) via text a few times this week and there have been numerous FB messages and posts.  All the nitty gritty details aren't important.  Emilee is with Jesus and it's heartbreaking. 

Heartbreaking for oh so many reasons.  One that is especially prominent in my mind is the fact that  Emilee left behind a twin.  Her brother Charlie Jr. is now an only child.  As a mother of multiples I know the bond that twins have.  Siblings are close, but twins ARE closer.  They just are and I can't imagine the pain that little boy will feel, is feeling, as he tries to reconcile that his partner in this duet dance of life is no more.  Trying to process this in the last few days with my nine year old twins (Jesse and JoyAnn) has been difficult, but oh so good.  We've had hard and encouraging conversations about heaven, God's sovereignty, justice and holiness.  There have been tears shed and sadness verbalized.  JoyAnn has spoken of the last time she saw Emilee, March of this year.  Jesse has been a bit more reserved, but has at times whispered prayers for the Russell family as we all have shared our requests and thoughts with God as a family.  Even my three year old twins, Jonathan and James, have prayed for the Russell family. 

It has been heartbreaking to think of this Sunday.  As people all over celebrate Father's Day, Charlie Russell will be grieving the loss of his daughter, but wrestling with the joy of still fathering Charlie Jr.  How joy and pain can co-exist is so difficult to fathom.  It is vaguely reminiscent of Emily's passing in the movie Courageous.  One of the lead characters has to grieve his daughters passing while learning how to father his only son and lead the family well through this time of pain and into a further, growing life in Christ.  My husband Nathan has been especially saddened by this passing.  Although Wednesday morning over our coffee and morning talk time the Lord spoke clearly to Nathan.  He had prayed on Monday morning aloud with our family asking God to heal Emilee.  On Wednesday the Lord reminded Nathan that he had not forgotten Nathan's request and he was going to heal her.  It was just a few hours later that we learned of her passing.  God is faithful even when we have a hard time reconciling His plans and ways. 

Here's the really hard part for me to handle, deal with and speak of when it comes to Emilee's passing.  I feel it's important though because it banishes my pride, destroying my stubborn will, allowing integrity, honesty and light bringing freedom to my soul.  Emilee lived a full and wonderful life in her 6 short years.  To honor her memory and the freedom she walked in I need to really take a look at what I'm feeling.  There is grief.  That is obvious.  There is anger.  Once again expected.  How about sadness, confusion and doubt.  I would say that all of those are normal for a friend to feel upon the death of someone dear to them. 

What kept me awake last night and has filled my thoughts today are the feelings of guilt and shame.  I am ashamed of myself because of the thoughts and feelings that I've had about my own children.  Oh the times I've wished for my "own life" back.  I've wanted vacations with Nathan, alone on a deserted island.  I've been so overwhelmed by Joseph's incessant barrage of verbal ammunition, the pain and destruction that autism has caused our family, the countless hours in therapy for barely apparent reasons. Some days I've even wished that Joseph was non-verbal.  That's shocking just to even see in writing.  I can't believe I've thought that.  Many days I've wondered why I have five children with two sets of twins.  My house is SOOOO noisy.  Weariness grips me most days because of the constant flow of stimulation, noise, fussing, squeals of glee, laughter, crying, you name it.  It's just LOUD!!!  I feel ashamed because Beth and Charlie will never hear "I love you" spoken by Emilee (this side of glory).  Quite often I wish I could send them to public school, not because I feel less passionate about home education, but just so I can sleep late, take a long, uninterrupted bath, get a haircut or my nails done.  How about a coffee date with a friend?  Some days I feel as if I'll vomit if I hear "MOM" once more.  Beth would give anything to hear Emilee say "Mom".  I'm so tired of wiping noses, butts and brows.  I had 16 days in NICU.  The Russell family had MANY more.  I get angry when I have to cook for 7.  Now she can breeze through a meal for three.  I won't take my kids to the doctor because we don't have insurance and can't afford it.  They are looking at thousands of dollars in medical bills AND funeral expenses on top of that.  I don't want to take my kids anywhere.  Transporting them is a hassle, packing extra clothes, fastening car seats, taking a stroller, making sure that Joseph knows the plan, water bottles for us all, timing it just right so we aren't out at snack time or lunch time.  They are having to transport her body from LA to NC.

My selfishness astounds me.  My pride and lack of patience with my children and myself is disheartening.   I spent time last night in prayer repenting of my lack of belief, my lack of gratitude for my life and gifts that God has bestowed upon me.   I ONCE again asked Him for strength to see my children through His eyes.  I vowed to do more loving and less yelling.   I once again asked for forgiveness for trying so hard to make my children grow up too quickly and to change them into what I wish they could become.  Today I've tried to slow down.  I want to spend less time on FB, my phone and hiding from my life and my children by always being "busy".  I'll take my hard days.  I'll take being tired.  Being yelled at by Joseph and feeling constantly misunderstood and disrespected isn't easy, but at least Joseph is with me.  I'll take the noise.  Every messy, frustrating, challenging part of parenthood is mine.  God grant me the strength to embrace it, the grace to be grateful and the desire to dream big in you for me and for my children.  I want to stop talking about living and START living.  Yes, BIG mistakes have been made in the past in the arena of parenting.  I'm sure I'll make more, as soon as tomorrow (the kids are all in bed).  I'm not going to stop.  I'm going to keep doing my best, realizing His mercies are new and that my children DO love me.  I'm not as bad a mom as I think I am.  We all have room to grow and change.  Family is a gift and I want to enjoy every moment of it.

To my dear friends the Russell's...you are loved.  I'm so, so sorry for your loss,  Emilee, you will be missed.  Thank you Beth for making the time to come see us in March.  I have such sweet memories of my last hug from Emilee.  I pray to see the remaining Russell's in NC when God allows.  Emilee, enjoy Jesus, I'll be there before you know it singing beside you. 

To those reading.....Yes joy and sorrow can coincide.  Pain and peace can be roommates.  Not only in grieving a death, but in everyday life.  I can LOVE being a mom and be in pain over dreams shattered or goals left unachieved.  I can watch agendas die and release expectation and simultaneously feel joy, relief and sorrow.  There is a place for all of this. For me that place is at the cross.  Praise be to God.  He is my hope eternal.  The hope of forgiveness, restoration, second, third and fiftieth chances and the hope of eternity with him, pain free, fever free, autism free....oh glory is going to be just that....GLORIOUS. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Anniversary Nathan

Yesterday my husband gave me a wonderful gift.  He went grocery shopping for me.  Shopping has to be one of my LEAST favorite household chores/responsibilities.  So as a gift he and our daughter went to Costco.  It was so thoughtful.

That's Nathan.  His love language is acts of service.  He LOVES to provide for us, to serve and is always looking for ways to make sure that we are taken care of completely and comfortably.  I am ever so thankful for his gentleness in this area.

18 years we celebrated yesterday.  What a gift.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't whisper a prayer of gratitude for this man.  He continues to love me through my fear, pain and failure while bringing me to Jesus daily.  What a man I married!!!

Prayerfully we will be able to have a date soon to celebrate God's faithful provision to us in allowing us 18 years of grace together.  However, I am learning once again that every moment is precious and that I can hold onto the sound of his voice, the look in his eye, the warmth of his smile, the authenticity of his laugh wherever, whenever we are together.  God bless you Nathan Roy Flint.  I'm so honored that you chose me.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Update in Pictures

I wanted to share with you some pics of our outdoor adventures.  I will also try and post some pics of the house and our neighborhood.  Hope you enjoy.

Jesse and JoyAnn's 9th B-Day Celebration

Our first trip to Deception Pass State Park

A shot 2/3 of the way up the climb (It was worth it!)

A view from the bridge over the pass

Climbing back down

Four of the kiddos throwing rocks into the water

JoyAnn after lunch at Ivar's before we board the Mukilteo Ferry to ride across to Whidbey Island to play at the park

The Mukilteo Ferry

Jesse took this shot of Nathan and Me

Jesse's "I don't like seagulls" face

A day at the park (Whidbey Island)

I hope you enjoyed these shots.  We just took a walk to Harborview Park the other night, but I forgot my camera.  It is so beautiful here and I hope that I can keep capturing great shots.  Thanks again for sharing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Difference a Month Makes

30 days ago I didn't live in WA.
30 days ago I could walk next door to my mother's house.
30 days ago I didn't have to figure out time differences.
30 days ago I could take my kids to Chuck E. Cheese, Chick-Fil-A or Fun Depot.
30 days ago I lived in a house that my Nannie and Papa built and filled with memories.
30 days ago I lived in the state that I had called home since 1984. 

Today I live in a house built in 2008.
Today I live in a state where you can stand at the shoreline and look up and see mountain ranges
     covered in snow.
Today I can ride a ferry for fun with my children.
Today I can look outside my windows and see evergreen trees that are three or four stories tall.
Today I am learning that home is more than geography.

The difference a month can make.  Today I'm a little melancholy and a tad homesick, but filled hope and joy for a life of growth, change and faith building.  30 days ago I didn't think I could.  Today I know that not only can I but I did. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Good Campground"

So...we have arrived.  Washington is just lovely and God has blessed us with much sunshine.  Actually we've had some very interesting weather since Mukilteo, WA is an Indian word for "good or happy campground".  I flew with the two sets of twins, my dad and my brother Tyler from Charlotte to Newark, NJ and then on to Seattle, WA.  It was on my 38th birthday.  Happy Birthday to me.  My daughter did buy me donut holes from Dunkin Donuts at the airport and a VERY nice woman bought me a glass of white wine on the plane.  I must have appeared to have needed one (I can only imagine why....).  Overall, the kids did an AMAZING job and I am so glad we decided to travel that way.  I can't imagine a week or more of traveling in a car with five kids.  It actually was less expensive to do it this way!  I simply COULD NOT have done it though without my dad and Tyler's help. 

Nathan and Joseph with God's gracious mercy arrived safely in Mukilteo on Wednesday the 20th.  It was a precious reunion.  I MISSED my men.  Tim and Melissa Moore made our first few days not only bearable but downright pleasant.  Thursday the 21st brought a birthday to Jesse and JoyAnn and we celebrated in FULL fashion.  We had lunch at Azteca and the kids wore sombreros and were sung to over free ice cream.  Then that night we celebrated at Outback with glow sticks, balloons and red velvet cake afterwards.  It was a GREAT day. 

The pacific NW is a beautiful place, but we certainly have been reminded of the differences between the east and west coasts.  Adjusting has been a process.  Nathan I think is having the hardest time of all of us.  Physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally he has the most to process.  Keep praying for him. 

There is so much to process and I have some wonderful pics to share.  I just need to get them from the phone to the computer.  I'm learning how to use my smart phone and the Windows 8 platform still boggles me. 

I'm going to do my best to keep the blog updated and share our new adventures.  Thanks for reading.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Learning to Breathe"

For years my blog has been titled "Joy in the Journey".  I felt like I needed to change the title in honor of this new grand adventure, this new chapter in our lives.  The last decade has been filled with unmet expectation of God, myself and others that have left me disillusioned and overwhelmed.  I feel as if I'm drowning in the sea of life and I need to "Learn to Breathe". 

Day by day I'm learning to let go of more of myself and fall headlong into the deep, deep love of Jesus Christ.  Here are some things that help me learn to breathe IN the goodness of God and breathe out the worries of life.
  1. Spending time in God's Word.  I read many translations.  Predominantly I read the NASB New American Standard translation.  Currently I am using the New Inductive Study Bible published by Precept Ministries International.  Precept is a particular study method that helps me focus by reading and re-reading a passage and marking particular words or phrases (www.precept.org).  I listen to the Bible online (www.bible.is).  Usually the ESV version.  There is also a great app for my droid (www.youversion.com).  I I also read daily devotionals (My Utmost for His Highest, Checklist or Life and Jesus Calling).  This past year I was introduced to www.project345.com.  Our faith family has been collectively participating in this reading plan and I feel it has made a difference personally and collectively.
  2. True, lasting friendships that hold me accountable, lift me up and always bring me back to the cross. 
  3. Journaling and blogging
  4. Working the steps and principles through Celebrate Recovery.  I have been a part of this program for 7+ years.
  5. Exercising regularly-this includes jogging, lifting weights, hiking and some yoga
  6. Eating cleaner
  7. Drinking more water
  8. Prayer.  I used to think this was some very serious, arduous task.  I've come to realize that prayer IS breathing in the goodness of God and breathing out my hurt, pain and pride.  Prayer is more peaceful, personal, practical and purposeful these days.
  9. Resting.  This is a difficult one for me.  I need more sleep than I like to admit.  I am coming to appreciate an early bedtime or the gift of an afternoon nap.
  10. Laughing.  I so appreciate laughter.  It's always fun when combined with chocolate, friends, a nice wine, my sweet kiddos, date night and late night coffee talks.
For those of you who have helped me find joy as I've journeyed I pray you will continue to follow my musing while I learn to breathe.  This move to the pacific NW is going to be full of adventure and I will have LOTS to write about.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hello 2013

So, I'm back after NOT finishing the "30 Days of Gratitude".  An epic fail.  Oh well....that was so last year anyway...hehehe

Often new years are started with promises lofty and dreams of grandeur.  Not my year.  Not this year.  This year, 2013, I'm just gonna be real.  Here's my one resolution.  Hear me...just one.  I want to LIVE.  I want to engage fully, fearlessly in all aspects of my life.  This year I'm going to LIVE and live intentionally, abundantly, passionately.  I'm stepping out of my comfort zone of fear, complacency and glass half empty mentality. My life, this life, the ONE I've been given, is going to be a grand adventure. 

In March of this year we will be moving to the greater Seattle, WA area.  We are looking at Mukilteo or Everett.  Our family is submitting to God's calling to serve as missionaries.  Please check us out at this site.  2700+ miles, a new world, a new start, yet what we've always been walking towards.  Although every part of this feels exciting, new, and a little scary it also feels comfortable, familiar with a sense of coming home. 

Here is a copy of our "partner letter" and if you have any questions, feel free to ask! 

Dear Co-Laborer,

We are so grateful for the precious love of Jesus that calls us, woes us, carries us moment by moment into a deeper more intimate understanding of Him.  It is this love that has been beckoning us to something more, something special, something weighty, yet so simple.  Loving God and loving people is what the Lord asks us, no, commands us to do, in His word (Mark 12:29-31).  Although we have been walking in this calling for years, God is re-defining us and how we can serve alongside Him in being His hands and feet to a lost, dark and dying world. 

A missionary is defined as someone who is sent to an area to evangelize, and perform ministries of service, such as social justice, education and restoration.  Jesus used this term when sending the disciples to preach in his name.  As followers of Christ we can be “salt and light” wherever we are.  It’s the wherever that is changing for the Flint family.  As we are realizing that God is calling us to a position of service on the mission field, we will be moving to the Mukilteo, WA area to serve as missionaries with Restoration Ministries. 

This is a three-fold ministry including:  planting churches and serving communities at the local level, working to develop and institute recovery programs, in the form of Celebrate Recovery , and to come alongside pastors and their families who have experienced burn-out, moral breakdown, and/or hurts that have prevented them from continuing in ministry.  We will be using the model of the City of Refuge.

Why the Northwest?  People need love everywhere, especially in the Asheville area.  Well, researchers have dubbed the NW area of the United States as the “none zone”.  Nine out of ten people check “none” as a religious affiliation.  In the “Bible belt” where we currently live, nine out of ten check “Christian” as their affiliation.  Oswald Chambers put it this way “…Jesus never measured His life by how or where He was of the greatest use. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.” We didn’t choose the NW.  God chose it for us!  By checking a box, we know that doesn’t give an accurate description of someone’s heart.  However, to check “none” brings with it a definitive position of either a lack of knowledge or concern to the place and divinity of THE Higher Power, Jesus Christ.  Please hear us, people need love, everywhere! 

It’s also vitally important that you hear that we are NOT moving 3200 miles across the country for a man (although we do have friends there), for a man-made program (yes Celebrate Recovery changed our lives as individuals and as a family), or to DO anything for God.  God is the one that redeems, saves, changes and heals.  He simply wants us to follow him, love him and share that love with others.  We are compelled to LOVE people.  People like us AND people very different from us.  God’s perfect love is so delicious that we want to share it with others. It is our prayer that this love spills out from us and helps others to see the true Light.  We take up our mantle as missionaries to love, to serve, to share life with those whom God places in our path. 

We have been loving people in Western North Carolina for years.  By participating and serving in Celebrate Recovery for more than seven years our eyes have been opened to the spiritual poverty of all people (ourselves included). God has blessed us with opportunities to minister in prisons, rehab facilities, have a recovering addict live with us for almost two years, serve in almost every capacity of our local Celebrate Recovery program, minister to homeless Veterans, participate on various worship teams, work with youth, teach Sunday school, become trained Precept Bible study leaders, co-lead a LIFE group and minister through the “Walk to Emmaus” ministry. We also have been able to serve on accountability teams for personal and family restorations, serve as sponsors to recovering addicts and work with the Department of Social Services to help people who are working diligently to get back on track. 

As mentioned previously, all followers of Christ have been called to love their neighbor.  How can you help us love the neighbors in the NW?  First, you can PRAY.  Restoration Ministries and Restoration Church-Mukilteo need a canopy of prayer.  We as a family need prayer for safety, provision, protection and peace during this transition process.  A move of 3200 miles is a grand adventure.  You can participate with Restoration Ministries by getting involved in short-term mission work, or if God should lead you to move to the NW to partner there.  Thirdly you can provide monetarily.  There are many needs: moving costs, housing costs, off-setting salaries (Nathan will be bi-vocational for now), providing specific ministry needs, you name it…we need it!  However, we are expectant to see God provide miraculously.  Giving is monitored through the Puget Sound Baptist Association.  For up-to-date information, a more thorough explanation of the ministry, or to give online, visit www.restoration-ministries.info.  Also feel free to write, email or call us with any questions. 

Thank you for loving us, sowing into our lives, supporting us in prayer and considering partnering.
In His Extravagant Love,
Nathan and Janelle Flint