Category Archives: Culture, News, & Reviews

What Everyone Should Know about Raising a Child with Special Needs

When Dana Hemminger asked me to review her new book about raising a child with Down Syndrome, I readily agreed.  Knowing Dana’s blog, I knew the book would bless me.  But to be honest, I was motivated for one other reason: sheer curiosity.  BookCoverImage

In 1987, Emily Perl Kingsley coined an analogy to describe the experience of raising a child with disabilities.  In the analogy, pregnancy is like planning a trip to Italy.  Parents eagerly pack and dream and make preparations with Italy in mind, only to deliver their baby and realize the “plane” has landed in Holland.  Naturally they’re shocked, grieved, and confused.  Nothing is as expected.  But eventually, as they learn to adapt, they realize Holland is beautiful in its own way.  Dana borrows this analogy for the title of her book, Reflections from Holland.  

The Shameful Truth
Here’s what we moms who have only been to Italy don’t like to admit: Holland scares us.  We’re curious about it because, on some level, we fear that a journey there might destroy us.  Much of that fear is due to the fact that Holland is entirely unknown territory.  But these past few weeks, that changed for me.  When I sat down with Dana’s book, I thought she was going to teach me about raising a child with Down Syndrome from a biblical perspective.  And she did.  But she did so much more than just that.  Dana invited me onto the plane with her.  She let me climb inside her heart and journey to Holland, beginning from the very moment her pregnancy test was positive.

DSCF9075_editedAs a result, reading Dana’s book felt like reading her diary, and I found myself unable to put it down.  The lessons weren’t grouped in clever phrases or listed in simple steps.  Instead they were woven into her life.  Shimmering on the surface of her tears.  Rising from the ashes of her prayers.  They were everywhere.  In the big moments when Benjamin endured open-heart surgery at two months old, and when his parents (and I!) cried as he finally took his first steps at nearly four years old.  And the lessons were in the small moments, when Dana opened a Christmas card with “perfect” pictures of a friend’s baby, or listened to her 8-month-old daughter say “Mama” before her 4-year-old son had ever said it.

What Everyone Should Know about Raising a Child with Special Needs (or Why You Need to Read This Book!)
Of all the things I learned from this book, 3 things especially stand out:

Ignorance is hurtful.
Before reading Reflections from Holland, I had no idea how many medical challenges Down DSCN2189Syndrome can present, including hearing and vision loss, heart problems, seizures and more.  I knew it caused developmental delays, but I underestimated those as well.  By the time I had journeyed with the Hemmingers in and out of hospitals, through multiple forms of therapy, and heard their desperate prayers for their son, I, too, felt the sting of insensitive comments like: “Just wait until he does learn to crawl; you’ll be wishing he didn’t!”

In one of my favorite chapters, entitled “Help that Hurts,” Dana gives several examples of ignorant comments like this, and graciously explains why they are hurtful.  I was so grateful for this knowledge.  In my opinion, it is invaluable.  As the church, one of our greatest callings is to minister to people in their suffering.  But sometimes we have no idea how to do that, because the form of suffering is so foreign to us.  Educating ourselves is crucial in becoming equipped to love others as Jesus does.

Everyone will face disappointment in parenting.
This book is about so much more than Down Syndrome.  The reality is, we are all going to face disappointment in parenting, whether or not God calls us to Holland.  This book is about experiencing God in the face of that disappointment.  It’s about laying our plans and our dreams on the altar, and delighting ourselves in God’s will for our life, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s not what we had in mind.

Hope in Christ withstands every storm.
In other words, you can do more than survive Holland; you can thrive in it.  When it came to parenting Benjamin, almost nothing went according to Dana’s plan, from the smallest details of the delivery to the greatest challenges presented by Down Syndrome.  For some people, this DSCF8919would justify lifelong resentment and bitterness.  But there was one crucial key to Dana’s ability to thrive in Holland–she made Jesus her treasure.  She chose to treasure Christ more than milestones, or expectations, or appearances.  And in so doing, she found great comfort, overflowing promise, and abundant reasons to rejoice.

This is a book well worth every mom’s time.  Initially, when I sat down to write this review, I was going to say that by the time you close the last page, you will feel like Dana is a close friend.  But perhaps it’s more fitting to say, by the time you close the last page, you will wish you had a friend like her.

For more from Dana Hemminger, visit her blog or buy her book on Amazon.

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A Different Kind of Book about Lust

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I used to view lust like an ugly garden snake, lurking behind bushes to snare the unsuspecting.  I was always surprised to learn that so-and-so was battling a pornography addiction, or such-and-such friend read those kind of novels, or sweet Lucy-Sue from our youth group was texting…wait, what kind of pictures?  

Then life happened.  And with it came exposure…to people, and college, and dating, and marriage, and ministry.  Gradually, my ability to be surprised eroded entirely.  And I was glad.  Because when a timid teenage girl sat down to confide in me, I could confidently promise, “You can tell me anything.  I won’t judge.  Trust me, I’ve heard it all.”  I preferred this un-shockable version of myself because she had far more compassion and humility than the naive girl I’d left behind.

The only problem was, the “new me” began to teem with doubt.  Somewhere along my road to awareness, the sneaky little garden snake had morphed into Godzilla, and try as I might, I couldn’t muster much hope for those struggling with sexual sin.

Then one day this summer I found Heath Lambert’s new book Finally Free sitting on our doorstep in an Amazon package.  The book is specifically geared toward breaking free from pornography, and my husband (who’s counseled several men battling porn) planned to read it with a friend as a ministry resource.

“You want to read it, too?”  Clint asked when he caught me perusing the back cover.

I shook my head.  “Nah, how’s a book about porn going to help me?”

But one boring evening when Clint was completely engrossed in some theology blog, I picked it up again.  “Wow,” I said, twenty minutes later.  “This book is incredible.”

“I know,” Clint remarked without looking up from his iPad.

“Do you know what I’m reading?”

“Yup,” he said.

What the Book is About
Like most Christians, I’ve put in my due time with purity books, especially as a teenager.  But what makes Finally Free different is its approach.  So many books about purity enlist outward techniques as tools in the war against lust.  But Lambert’s book enlists one far mightier tool: the gospel of Christ.

I know what you’re thinking: impractical.  Actually, it’s just the opposite.  Chapter one teaches that grace is the foundation in the fight against pornography.  While most people recognize the importance of forgiving grace, Lambert points out that there is also a deep need for transforming grace.  In the remaining chapters, he explains eight essential strategies for fighting pornography, each rooted and saturated in Scripture.  To win the battle against porn, Christians must use sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, their spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.  Each chapter covers one of these principles, faithfully tied back to the need for forgiving and transforming grace as the power behind the principle.

Why You Ought to Read It (Even if You’re a Girl)
We all know girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.  We smell better than boys, organize our stuff better, and certainly don’t struggle with pornography, right?    Maybe.  But sugar and spice notwithstanding, you and I have been touched by the Fall.  Whether we realize it or not, sin has marred virtually every aspect of our lives, including our understanding of sexuality.  So the first reason you ought to read this book is…

Because everyone battles lust to some degree.
You can apply 95% of this book to your life if you simply substitute the concept of “pornography” with the concept of “lust.”  For instance, pretend you struggle with watching romantic movies that make you discontent in your marriage.  Yearning for somebody else’s love story is a form of lust.  For the sake of brevity let’s just call it “fantasizing.”  Now consider this excerpt from chapter 8, and substitute “porn” for “fantasizing”:

“If you struggle with porn, one of your greatest needs is to grow in the grace of gratitude.  Porn is only consumed by thankless people.  The desire for porn is a desire to escape from what the Lord has given you into a fake universe full of things you do not have and will never have.  Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed.  Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not.  Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.”

Do you see how easily (and powerfully) the principle of gratitude applies to the temptation to fantasize?  In fact, you could take almost any sin stronghold, sexual or otherwise, and bear fruit from the principles in this book.  But another reason you ought to read it is…

Because you know (or will know) someone broken by pornography.
The greatest thing this book did for me was restore my hope.  It made me see that lust may be Godzilla, re-orienting our world in the wake of its destruction, but the gospel of Christ is mightier still.  If you know someone struggling with pornography, especially if it’s a spouse, this book can give you great insight into the battle so that you know how to partner with him.  (There is also an appendix specifically written for families of men struggling with porn.)  It will also equip you to engage in the war against pornography that may one day threaten your own son.  Or the teenagers in your church.  Or your best friend’s husband.

As believers, we are called to engage the culture with a biblical perspective on all aspects of life.  Before reading this book I lacked that perspective on lust, and as a result I approached it with a multitude of wrong attitudes: self-righteousness, pride, fear, doubt, and discouragement.  But with Heath Lambert’s help…or more accurately, Scripture’s help…I now look at this mighty beast with two new attitudes: FAITH and HOPE.

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Returning to the Rhythm

Boy, have I missed you!  As always, the season for rest has flown by, and suddenly it’s back to the grind.  I don’t know what the daily grind looks like for you, but I imagine it may include packing lunches and buying pencils, putting away the sunscreen and inflatables, breaking out a college textbook, or heading to the office by 7am.  There’s a sense of comfort and order to it…but also dread, isn’t there?  Here. we. go.  There’s no escaping the stresses and struggles when vacation is over and we’re returning to the rhythm.

And yet a week ago, when I thought about all the mundane work ahead, the strangest sensation came over me.  I felt grateful.  If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know contentment is not my forte, so the sensation shocked me.  I found myself driving down the road, thanking God for work.  The pleasure and purpose of hard work.  In the past sixteen weeks I’ve been reminded that it is, indeed, a gift.  Why sixteen weeks?  Because that’s how long I’ve been carrying baby #3!

Coming this Christmas...baby #3!

Coming this Christmas…baby #3!

It’s been 2½ years since I’ve been pregnant, and let me just say–wow.  I forgot how exhausting it is.  That’s part of the reason I took a summer sabbatical.  For weeks as I laid on the sofa, trying to stay awake and not hurl my breakfast across the living room, I kept thinking about my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses.  I have always admired their outlook on life, but as pregnancy changed my daily agenda from “thrive” to “survive” I began to wonder, how do they do it?  How do they transcend their body’s cry for physical relief?  For weeks, I felt like I didn’t care if I read the Bible or put away the dishes.  I was a toddler intent on one thing only–my immediate, felt needs.  Give me that hotdog before I puke.  If you let me take a nap, I’ll let you eat all the chocolate in the house.  Everytime I thought about the women I know who thrive spiritually and emotionally in the face of constant physical discomfort, I was deeply convicted.  I can’t say that I overcame the way my friends have.  By God’s grace, I just sort of stumbled into trimester #2.  But I can say that as the morning sickness eased and my strength returned, I embraced work with renewed vigor…and thankfulness.

Speaking of work, let me update you on some of mine.  This summer I gave my blog a little facelift and (finally!) set up a Loving My Lot Pinterest page, which you can follow by clicking on the link to the right.  Months ago I was invited to join the Christian bloggers’ Pinterest board “Heart and Home.”  Feel free to check it out if you’re Pinterest savvy!  I’ve also undertaken another writing project I feel strongly called to pursue…in the midst of pregnancy and preschoolers!  All this to say, thank God I’m thanking God for work, because I’ve got mine cut out for me!

And I know you do, too.  As we move forward into fall, may we rejoice in the work God has set before us, “look(ing) to the Lord and his strength; seek(ing) his face always” (Psalm 105:4).

(Photo Credit)

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A Fresh Summer’s Work (and Rest)

It’s that time again.  Last summer, I took a two month blogging sabbatical, and this summer I am sorely tempted to forge on through.  Partly because I love to write, partly because I fear loss of readership (oh, vanity, my constant companion!), but mostly because of you.  Every few days when I scroll through my emails, there will be one or two from readers.  Always, I can’t wait to see what you’ll say.  Sometimes you have an idea or an opportunity to offer, and sometimes you just want to share a little bit of your life.  With me.  Few things in this world make me feel more undeservedly blessed.  Somehow, amazingly, through the wonders of technology and the grace of God, He has allowed me to meet people all over the world.  And what’s more, to encourage them, share my broken story with them, and celebrate Christ’s mercy together.  That is my favorite part of blogging.  I thought it would be the writing, but it’s actually the impacting.  It’s you.  Being a small part of your life.

For this very reason, I’m reluctant to say farewell for the summer.  But if I were honest (which is always my first priority in writing), I would admit that my batteries need recharging.  My soul needs time to meditate on God’s Word for no purpose other than personal growth.  To soak it in without immediately thinking about how to spew it back out.  Not to mention, I welcome the chance to spend a little less time online and a little more time like this. P1060355
Besides quiet reflection and loud play, there’s one other item on my summer agenda.  It’s a project of sorts that’s been sitting on the back burner of my mind for months now.  This summer I want to explore it–maybe embrace it, maybe chuck it.  Either way, if God brings me to mind, I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Here’s to hoping God grants us both a rejuvenating summer, filled with laughter, purpose, and the peaceful satisfaction of Christ.  See you in August!

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Moms Night Out

In case you’ve been wondering, I haven’t been abducted, just sick!  Our busy schedule is winding down as summer approaches, and all at once my body is exhausted.  So last night, when my kids’ MMO program offered childcare and a free ticket to the new movie Moms Night Out, I was right on time.
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I hadn’t seen a single trailer and had no idea what the movie was about, although for free childcare I would’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The movie began by introducing a clean-freak wannabe Mommy blogger barely holding it together in the crazy, messy chaos of her world.  Yikes.  If I had red hair (and a nicer house) it would’ve been like watching the story of my life.  At one point, the main character tells her husband something like, “This is the life I always wanted.  So…why do I feel so unhappy?”  So much work, so much exhaustion, so little sense of self.  That was what her life looked like.  And boy, could I relate to her.  I could relate all the way down in my bones.  And as I watched her story unfold, it struck me that all these feelings must be much more common than I realize.

Patricia Heaton (of Everybody Loves Raymond) plays the wise and like-able pastor’s wife, who gives us a glimpse of mothering a teenager.  When I realized her husband was played by Alex Kendrick (think Facing the Giants, Courageous…etc.) I’ll admit I had a moment of “eesh, I hope this isn’t cheesy.”   And you know what?  It was, at moments.  There were spells of over-acting and slapstick humor.  But there were also truly hysterical moments, that prove you don’t have to be crude to be funny.  And more importantly, there was a sense of resolution for the main character, a recognition that maybe a lot of the discouragement and discontentment in motherhood comes from expectations we heap upon ourselves.  The unrealistic standards that nobody (except you) expect of you.

Is it Oscar worthy?  Of course not.  This movie has been trashed among Hollywood critics.  But for the first time in a long time, I left a movie feeling like my heart had been a little bit refreshed.  I left a movie grateful for my messy life, and not longing for the romantic adventure of Charlize Theron’s sexy life.  I left a movie without the slightest twinge of guilt over the things I’d just seen and enjoyed.  And to me, that’s a pretty good moms night out.

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Counter-Cultural Parenting

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

Yesterday I got to chat with Jenny Schmidt of Channelmom about making special occasions more Christ-centered for our kids.  If you’re not familiar with Channelmom, it’s a radio show broadcasted out of Denver that tackles a wide variety of “Mommy issues” from a Christian perspective.  If you’re free TODAY around 6:30pm (Eastern Time), click on the link below to listen to the interview live!

http://channelmom.com/listen-live/ 

Why the Bunny Makes Me Nervous

easter-basket-ideas-1024x810There are so many things I do just because.  Because that’s the way my parents did it.  Because that’s the way everybody does it.  Because that’s just what you do.  But daily I am growing more convinced that just because living is not only foolish, but dangerous.  The Bible calls us very clearly to a single purpose–that everything we do, say, think, believe, desire, accept, reject, love, and hate must glorify God so that His name will be great in our lives and among the nations.  If that is the mission then everything we do or don’t do must be filtered through that lens.

Around this time of year, moms often ask me whether we “do” the Easter bunny.  And I offer a very vague response.  “No, I never grew up with the Easter bunny.”  I’m vague because I know the Easter bunny is not sinful, in and of himself.  I know that many parents who are passionate about Jesus and His mission, choose to surprise their children on Easter morning with a basket of gifts from the Easter bunny.  I know that to many it is a special, even magical, family tradition.  And I know that of every people group on the planet, no one heaps as much guilt upon themselves as mothers.  Our hearts are fodder for guilt.  And the last thing I ever want to do is fan the flame of false condemnation.

So hear my heart when I say, I’m not writing as Super-Mom or Super-Holier-Than-Thou-Mom.  Those things disgust me, because they’re lies.  They discredit all Christ’s work in my life.  I am writing as a sister, who is learning something that I want to share in love:  We don’t do the Easter bunny because we don’t think the Easter bunny is the most effective way to glorify God at Easter.

It’s not the bunny, so much as the gifts he brings.  A few weeks ago, we took our kids to a downtown festival.  Disaster.  Much of it was poor parenting–we didn’t set limits in advance or warn them that we weren’t going to ride, play, eat, and buy everything in sight.  Suffice to say, it was miserable.  On the way home, my husband made the remark that the festival was like Sin City for kids.  It had everything they desired.  It catered to all their cravings.  And the more they consumed, the more demanding and ungrateful they became.  In essence, we thrust them into temptation without any training to stand up under it.

The Bible warns against putting obstacles or “stumbling blocks” in the way of a brother or sister (Rom 14:13, I Cor 8:9), and this is my greatest fear when it comes to the Easter bunny.  If the gospel is the most important message I can ever convey to my children, and if their understanding of it and receptivity to it determines the satisfaction of their life and the security of their eternal home, then why would I put any obstacle in their path that may distract from the gospel?  When my girls hear the word Easter, I don’t want them to squeal in delight because their first thought is that a bunny will bring them a Barbie doll.  And I know my girls.  I know that just like their mom, their flesh is weak toward materialism.  I know that just like their mom, they constantly seek false refuges for satisfaction.  Just like their mom, they’re tempted to believe that things can fulfill them more than Jesus can fulfill them.

I know that only God saves (Jn 6:44), but I want to set my daughters up to see the gospel by creating a home where as few things as possible compete with it.  My daughters have a mother who still believes that television and the latest Pamela Schoenewaldt novel is more satisfying and restful than Christ.  They have a mother who still studies the Bible like it’s suggested summer reading.  Who still can’t even wrestle her own weak flesh out of the bed to meet with the God of the universe.  It is hard enough.  It is hard enough to grasp the magnitude and implications of the gospel.  It’s hard enough to shake the worldliness out of our vastly diluted cultural Christianity.  Why add one more opportunity for our kids to turn the focus of Easter into a focus on self?

Let me, please, pour out this confession in closing: sometimes I don’t want to write anything to you because I am so deeply and painfully aware of my own failure as a Christian.  If only you could really see me (I’m talking Nanny-cam see me), you would never feel threatened by me.  Instead, you would say, Man, God is INCREDIBLE to have not given up on her.

And that’s why I have the confidence to write to you.  Because God is incredible.  His grace is incredible!  We still do Easter egg hunts and bouncy house family fun days, and a thousand other things every day of the year that could threaten to distract from the gospel.  We are by no means that perfect family.  We are simply growing by grace, and I want to share with you the things God is teaching me so that we can think together, worship together, and rejoice in the grace of God together.

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