How Are You Doing?

How Are You Doing?

How are you doing? It is a question that is easy for us to quickly answer most of the time. But for my daughter, Mallory, and others who have brain injuries, the reply depends on multiple factors. I would love to have an opportunity to give you an idea, to the best of my ability, to tell you “how she is doing.” 

Mallory suffered her 4th concussion in a basketball game in December of 2016, and her 5th in a car accident in February of 2017.  She has seen many professionals, all with the best intentions, but not all with positive effects. She has been prescribed various therapies, supplements, and medications with differing results. So far, many have made the “Not Effective” or “Made Her Feel Worse” lists. Right now she is in the midst of a couple new therapies that we are hopeful will give her a much prayed-for breakthrough.

Since December of 2016, she has struggled with a vast array of symptoms at different degrees of severity depending on several components including the time of day, how tired she is, how full her schedule is, and how much cognitive activity has taken place that day. 

There are bad days and there are “not-quite-as-bad” days, and rarely any indication of what kind of day it will be until she is smack-dab in the middle of it. Some symptoms she battles on a daily basis include a constant headache, fatigue, and insomnia. Also, her autonomic nervous system refuses to calm down, so she is constantly in fight or flight mode. She has short-term memory issues (the reason she writes in a notebook and types many reminders on her phone to keep track of what she needs to do that day, her homework assignments that are due, and even conversations that she has had because she is embarrassed when she repeats stories to people) soreness in her back, shoulders, and neck, because her brain is trying to coax her into the fetal position for protection purposes, focus problems, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to different sounds, sensitivity to overstimulation in her environment, anxiety, and because of the part of her brain that is injured, a difficult time trusting people. Add in the fact that she is a teenage girl and there is built-in stress with that and therefore…bad days can be, well, pretty bad. From my perspective, her “not-quite-as-bad-days” sometimes have me thinking (hoping) she is on the upward swing, when I can’t physically see her grimace in pain or suffer from fatigue, for instance. But it comes down to the fact that I often do not realize how bad her day has been since this young lady copes with her new life like a champ.

Quite possibly the most disturbing of all of her TBI effects is that Mallory feels like her brain belongs to someone else. She does not feel like herself anymore. She is on a roller coaster ride that she did not ask to get on. It’s as if her emotions, physical symptoms, and neurological functions conspired against her and boarded a different roller coaster that’s running right next to her. That ride is within reach, but she has no control over the ups, downs, twists, and turns.      

If you don’t mind, I would like to be “that mom” for just a few moments and say that brain injury is an invisible injury that doesn’t require a cast or crutches while healing, but it is just as real. I would like to shout from the rooftops that she is not faking it, it is not an attention-seeking ploy, she sometimes just needs a break from the world and to not take it personally, and, no she is not “lucky” that she has some school accommodations to help her cope with the fact that schoolwork is all of a sudden challenging. (She would much rather have a healthy brain and no accommodations, thank you very much.)  I want to say that because she seems happy-go-lucky one day and maybe not the next, it is to be expected, because it is a very up-and down-healing process. “That mom” in me wants you to know that she gears up for activities and does those activities to the best of her ability…but the “gearing up” takes a toll on her even before the activity begins, so after a busy week or a big event, her body and brain require extra time to get back to normal, or rather, whatever her new normal is.  “That mom” in me wants to say that the thing she wants the most from people is understanding. 

Mallory is attempting to figure out her new normal, and she is doing it while being a pretty amazing young lady.  She will soon be graduating high school and registering for college classes, she is involved in many music endeavors (I believe music is extremely therapeutic) she is on the local ambulance squad, she has started a blog (mallorythielgesblog.com) which I highly recommend checking out, and she does it all (most of it) with a smile. 😉

My husband and I have said that this is a whole new territory for us, and truth be told, we are getting educated on something we would rather have not known this much about!  However, the “all things work together for good” promise that God gives us in Romans 8:28 reminds us to look for the positives in this situation. The most important one is that Mallory’s faith and boldness in sharing with others about her faith have been renewed and revitalized. Engage her in a conversation, and you’ll likely be reminded of God’s plan and peace for your life. 

And that is my attempt to sum up how Mallory is doing. She is experiencing something she could be complaining about; something that could make her feel hopeless at times, but at the end of the day, she is finding and focusing on the positive. She is reminding others and herself of God’s plan and peace. And this mom thinks she is doing quite well.

 

Enjoy the Ride

IMG_2734When I was a young mother, I remember being appreciative of some advice that experienced parents shared with me.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” “Pick your battles,” and “Time goes by quickly, so enjoy every moment with your children.” I wholeheartedly agree with these words of wisdom and have passed them along to others from time to time.

I went into motherhood armed with that short list of recommendations found above, but the list of things I didn’t know yet was much, much longer. A couple of decades of parenting has given me new insight. I’m crossing my fingers that a couple more decades will only increase the amount of knowledge! (Well, I’m praying it will, because the finger-crossing trick isn’t very effective.)

This is not a list of advice, as much as a list of “Things You Won’t Realize Until…You Realize Them.”

I now know being a mother is the most exhausting, emotional, educational, enlightening, and extraordinary experience known to mankind.

I now know that you are going to want to give anything to go through the sicknesses and injuries your children are facing in place of your child. Anything. If there was a way to do some sort of Disney-style Freaky Friday movie flip-flop, this mom and every mom I know would have found it by now.

I now know that you will want to shout it from the rooftops (and all of your social media accounts) when your child wins an award or is recognized for an achievement, but the moments when they stand up for themselves or others, stretch out their hand in kindness, or step into bold faith make you beam with an even greater pride. And those instances make you attempt to think of ways to shout from rooftops and post on social media about what an awesome human being your child is without sounding like “that mom.”

I now know that kids can bring you so much joy that the risk of being “that mom” is worth it.

I now know “mother’s intuition” is real and “perfect mothers” are not.

I now know that kids are quite forgiving of parenting mistakes, and staying mad at yourself is pointless and damaging. Decide to do better and be better. When we screw up again, we can decide to do better and be better. Again. Repeat as often as necessary.

I now know that being in unknown territory as a parent is a real feeling, but it is not a reality. God is there through it all. I mean, honestly…He is already there – the territory is not unknown to HIm. He is ready to ride along with you.

Motherhood is full of moments of triumph and turmoil; satisfaction and sorrow: glee and gloom. It is a roller-coaster ride evidenced by the fact that you will scream, throw your hands up in the air, brace yourself, laugh, hold on to your loved ones, and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, find yourself in line to get right back on and continue the ride.

Remember not to ride alone. Through every twist and turn, God is eager and willing to sit beside you, hold on to you, and guide you through unknown territory.

Daughter of the King

Daughter of the King

In today’s world, young women can find themselves tying their self-worth to a number. It might be the number of total favorites, followers, or retweets that their smartphone notifies them of each day. It might the number of likes or comments that their selfies generate. Whether it is social media-induced or not, many preteen and teenage girls measure their self-worth and identity in ways that they were never intended to.

One of my most earnest prayers is that young girls would come to the realization that their identity is only found in God. That prayer led me to write a song a few years ago, entitled, “Daughter of the King,” The lyrics are as follows:

The cruel phrases echo in her mind – the battle rages within. She struggles to ignore the words, but they laugh and win again. They say, “Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough to be,” what she had dreamed she would be when she was just a little girl, like you and like me. Oh, how I long for her to see that she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure.

It seems now she’s convinced herself that she’s a failure, so what’s the use? When a challenge rises to meet her, she is ready with an excuse. When there are hills to climb, she hurries to hide, and those harsh words win again. They drown out the voice of Jesus Christ and the words He wants her to hear and to believe instead. Oh, how she has been misled. ‘Cause she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure. Lord, hold her closely. How I long for her to see that she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure.

‘Beyond measure’  – There really is no number that can accurately represent the identity and value of young women!

My husband and I are blessed with three sons and a daughter. Of course, we think they are all flat-out incredible human beings! But since the title of this is Daughter of the King, allow me to tell you just a little bit about our last-born, Mallory. She’s beautiful, talented, intelligent, compassionate, witty, and kind-hearted. (I’m trying hard to be unbiased here…)

Her dad and I strive to help her realize all this about herself and that she knows that glorifying God through the unique set of gifts that He designed for her is one of the most important things she can do as His child,  Although we strive to put forth parenting efforts that are sincere, sensitive, and somewhat skillful, we are human. So unfortunately, there are times that our best efforts end up being screwed-up, sloppy, and just plain sad! I think we can all agree that parenting is not for the weak.

Fortunately, we have access to the ultimate Source of Strength. He also happens to be the supreme example of parenting! We can pray to Him at anytime and be confident that our prayers are heard. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12. We can know that He will give us the wisdom we ask for. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5. 

If we ask God, He will show us ways to express to our daughters the truth about who they are and Whose they are.

That they are precious, priceless jewels…treasures – made by a God who loves them beyond measure.

 

Why Do I Go To The Game?

Why Do I Go To The Game?

Why do I go to my child’s games?

May I ask you: Have you asked yourself lately what your intention is when you sit in the stands at your child’s events?

A while back, I was seated behind a parent of an opposing team member at one of my son’s basketball games. What I saw caused me to reevaluate my genuine answer to the above question. She was a lively spectator. She clapped, she cheered, she shook her head at some bad plays, and every few minutes, she wrote something down on the roster she was holding. The clapping, cheering, and even the shaking of the head seemed pretty typical of any average fan in the stands. I have done all three, and I think I can safely assume you have too. However, my curiosity about activity number four – using her pen to mark that paper – got the best of me. The white piece of paper that was repeatedly picked up and slammed down in disgust was close enough to me to sneak a peek if I wanted to. I confess I wanted to. So I did. In large black letters there was a heading that said, “Bad passes.”

This woman was keeping track of bad passes like it was her job.

From my observations, I am guessing (and it IS a guess) she was recording the bad decisions of her son’s teammates.

I could be wrong, and maybe she was counting the “bad passes” of her own son and was going to talk it over with him after the game. If that’s the case, that is a topic for a different blog post with a possible title of, “Please do not count how many mistakes your child makes in their games in order to point them out later.” Too long of a title? Okay, it could be shortened to something like, “Lousy Parenting Practices”

So let’s suppose she was adding up the mistakes of her son’s teammates to prove some sort of point.

My next question is this: Do I ever do that? And if someone asked you if you do…I wouldn’t expect anyone to raise their hand and confess that they carry a piece of paper and writing utensil to every game for the sole purpose of counting the transgressions of their child’s team members. (If you do, kindly tell us where you are sitting at the next game, so that we can sit nowhere near you and your negativity.) But how many times have I done it mentally? “So-and-so has turned the ball over three times in a row, and my son has a pretty impressive assist-to-turnover ratio…” Or “Practically every time that girl serves, it goes straight into the net, do the coaches not see that?” Reminder: we are complaining about someone who is wearing the same team uniform as our child. They are on the SAME TEAM.

Hoping and cheering for the success of my child’s teammates makes the most sense…every positive play they make is contributing to the success of the entire team.

If we tell our role-player child they should start instead of one of their teammates, our child may actually be hearing, “I’m not good enough in my parents’ eyes unless I start.” Have we forgotten how crucial role players are to a team’s success? What about our child who spends their time on the bench? If we continually complain about their teammates who “shouldn’t be playing in front of them,” 1. We might cause them to lose their enthusiasm for working their way into the playing rotation, because, “What’s the use? My parents are only going to care if I’m a starter…” and 2. We lose an opportunity to teach an important life lesson to our children: EVERY team member is valuable. If instead of being a star player, our child is a role player or a player that spends most of their time on the bench, it doesn’t diminish their worth to the team, right? A team is successful because of a combination of factors including their attitude, their unity, and their preparation in practice. The second and third-string players make the first-string players better through their efforts at every single practice! The players who are on the bench cheering on their teammates on the playing field are imperative to the team’s energy and perseverance. If we instill in our children the truth that EVERY player contributes, it will serve them well for the rest of their life!

If I habitually see the shortcomings of my kid’s teammates, it will make it easier for my kid to see them too. If I point out weaknesses, the people around me are exposed to negativity whether they want to be or not. If I am not a unifying presence in the bleachers, I am a divisive presence. No team needs that!

Will you join me in making a parent pact? It is a pact to support every team member; to be a loyal fan of every single member of team.

Maybe our positivity will rub off on others. It all starts with asking ourselves a question and answering in a genuine way: Why do I go to my child’s games?