Saturday, April 22, 2017

Challenge update

Like most words, the verb form of "challenge" helps explain the noun form a little better.

Merriam Webster defines the transitive verb form :
to demand as due or deserved; to order to halt and prove identity; to dispute especially as being unjust; to question formally; to confront or defy boldly 

Levi's challenges (noun) don't challenge (verb) me quite as perfectly defined as Silas' challenges challenge me. The four-year old "appears" to have more control over his challenges as he purposely challenges my authority with sweet perceived innocence. Yet, Levi's two-year old physical challenges aren't as emotionally frustrating because they are certainly outside of his little control.
HOWEVER, what I have humbly come to realize it that I need to embrace my eldest buddy's challenges and have gratitude for them as I do with my middle baby because they are also outside of his control. Just as I try to help Levi embrace and use his developmental challenges to make the world a better place, I need to do the same with Silas. Both boys are unaware of their current idiosyncrasies, so it is my humble job to point them in the right direction. They will face "challenges" their entire life, this is just the training field, and since their daddy and I are their current coaches, now is the time to show them how to become brave, strong, godly young men.

Please pray for our little man Levi in the coming weeks. He currently has a third ear infection (but praise God this one has no perceivable symptoms), so we are schedule for another ear tube surgery missed with a partial adenoidectomy. Because of his size and history, we have to go to Children's for the surgery. Also, because of the shape and structure of his mouth, the doctor will have to gage how much of his adenoids to take out during surgery so that he doesn't have any speech or breathing issues in the future. Even though this will take a toll on his eating since he'll basically not eat for 24 hours, we know it'll hopefully help his immune system next cold and flu. As always, two step forward.

Also, please pray that Levi can continue to learn to "suck" from a straw. This would help him tremendously with taking down all of his Pediasure by himself throughout the day for weight-gain. He's done it a couple times now, but like everything with Levi, his strength and muscle memory are very weak. I've noticed that it takes Levi a while to do anything in Physical, occupational, or speech therapy until about 20 minutes into the session because that "motor planning" is just weak, and he forgets how to do what they have already taught him to do. Until the proverbial "light bulb" goes off, it takes him a while to remember how to use certain muscles he never used the first year of his life (plus 6 months in utero).

Thank you for continued prayers for all around health for our family as its just been a sick-challenging year!  We are so encouraged at how God is using all our boys, as well as our own, challenges to grow us and transform us into His image!

His favorite way to use his weak hand! :)
Big man's first swim lesson!

Levi finally got to join brother for some bath painting

We have some lovely Picassos in our home right now.

Who needs a tool belt when Daddy's belt is sufficient?

Little man is really loving "walking" on the trike. 
Can't let this sweet boy miss out on a shout out! He's about as big as Levi (they can wear the same size diapers and almost same size clothes, which actually makes life a little less complicated). He is so much pure joy and laughter that my heart is full every time I see him. 
~Challenge Buster

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stress-free living

Ten minute massage? Good cup of coffee? Absolute quiet and stillness? There are many quick ways of relieving stress if you only have a few minutes, but in actuality, stress, anxiety and pressure are man-made, completely avoidable phenomenons. Now of course among many of Jesus' promises of love, security and joy, there was also the promise that we will have hardship in this world. Illness, yes. Sadness, of course. Anger and frustration, without a doubt. These are all products of a broken world. But anxiety or stress- no, I don't believe He ever meant for us to feel such things. If you are feeling those emotions, something has gone wrong. Either you are unable to hear God's voice, you are  taking on God's job for yourself, or you are ignoring personal conviction.
Do I ever feel stressed or anxious? Absolutely! My world may be full of coffee, an occasional ten-minute massage and forced stillness, but that doesn't mean I remember to abide (or remain) in God's perfect arms all the time, especially when my three boys all seem to need my arms at the same time.  As we approached the sacred and special Easter holiday, I began to notice Jesus' own frustration with the sin of those He loved. Just after the last supper, Jesus began to prepare his heart for the hardest calling of all time:
(Matthew 26: 36-44)

 36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Talk about a potentially anxiety-driven, stressful time. Knowing he was about to suffer and die, Jesus is a bit perturbed that his closest "brothers" are fast asleep. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious, it seems to be moments when I am most vulnerable. I am tired, sick, or feel that I am alone in my circumstances. This is the perfect recipe for stress to emerge. Jesus was up all night praying, he was physically alone as his pals slept with heavy eyes, and he was overwhelmed to the point he was sweating drops of blood. Even with all of these elements, Jesus was not anxious. Frustrated at sin, yes. But not stressed as we understand and feel it today. He never sinned; he merely stayed as close as possible to His father, thus, trusting His will above all else. "Be anxious for NOTHING" (Phil. 4:6). "He will remain in perfect peace, He who remains steadfast because he trusts the Lord" (Isa. 26:3). 

This may be a bit too much scripture for those who don't pick up a Bible unless moving it from a local hotel nightstand, but it's how I have learned to deal with the falsehoods creeping into my simple life. As Levi has been doing amazing with his eating the past couple of weeks, one would assume I'd be doing cartwheels, or at least some java dance moves. Instead, Satan has tried to steal my joy with the anxiety and exhaustion of normal parenting. A strong-willed and drama-filled four-year old, and a very very hungry (he weighs about as much as Levi) baby, has lengthened my work hours without paying me overtime. We have been through much worse the past few years, so normalcy causing stress somehow makes me feel alone in the trenches. Once again I get back to why Jesus had to die in the first place. Without his death, there would be no hope, and without his resurrection, there would be no healing. Without my Bible, I would probably be on anxiety-meds or non-stop coffee-drink. Either way, we must remember that we are never alone. Even when it appeared that all his friends and family had abandoned Him, Jesus never felt alone. I believe that is why He never felt stressed. When we stay close to our maker, we stay far from falsehood.  Thank you Jesus for giving your life so that I may always feel peace regardless of my circumstances.

Do eggs have anything to do with Easter? Not really, but primary color-mixing is always fun!

Who knew a medical syringe could have so many uses. 

Levi look under there!

It's like hide and seek with eggs!

Oh that's how you do it!

Oh yeah, just wait till you open them!

Roman, this is how you do it!

Silas taught me how to drink my cereal milk too!

Way easier then hunting for eggs!

Happy Easter from the Smith crew!

~Stress Buster

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Silas is 4!

Every good and perfect gift is from above. --James 1:17

Silas, you are a gift. No doubt about it. Your joy exudes through your tippy toes; your welcoming and loving personality opens a plethora of opportunities to make everyone a friendly face; your strict and stubborn routines make for both challenging show downs, as well as perfect helping hands; you are a wise teacher, an amazing big brother, and a sweet son of God. We love you more than words can express. I cannot believe you are four! It was Oh, a happy happy day when God gifted us with your life. Thank you for your forgiveness as we learn to be your parents, and thank you for your love each and every day. You promised that even when your sixteen you will still hug and kiss mommy. You want to be a typer, a daddy and a train conductor when you get big. The biggest thing in the world to you is the number 100. You too me yesterday that God is the biggest because He is 100 years old. And your constant Curious George inquisitions make for amazing learning on everyone's part. Thank you big boy for being you. We love you dearly! Happy Birthday bud

A dinosaur museum birthday!

A new "real" driver for our little golfer. No more plastic ones.

Perfect "Masters" birthday present.

Look how strong I am mommy! I'm four!

Yes and that means you get to help out more. Lunch-making training.

He said he doesn't like any "white space" on his sandwich 

Oops. I see some white space.
Everyone wanted to do new things this week!

Couldn't wait another month. Ro Ro wanted to try food with his brothers at 5 months old

He's loving it!

Happy Birthday bud!

~Four Buster

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One more

White cotton makes for a perfect wreath against a black door. It also makes for a perfectly soft nest for baby eggs. Recently, I heard a bird singing so loudly that I assumed it was in our attic. Come to find out, the bird had chosen our cotton wreath to knit together the most intricate grass nest. No eggs had been left, yet, but I feared for her future children getting banged by the opening and closing mechanism, so I disposed of the nest ever so sweetly. Exactly twenty-four hours later, another perfect grass nest was located in the exact same location on our front door. The mama bird was not deterred in the slightest. This time my own baby boy asked if we could please leave it there so that we could see her eggs. I assured him that it was not a fitting location for a nest, regardless of how soft and perfect it might appear. We did marvel at the nest's solidity and strength for a while before setting it down gently in the yard, hoping mama herself didn't come peck at us for destroying another masterpiece. On day three, we were pulling into the driveway, when mama bird flew away from our door. When I saw she had only just begun another home base, I waited while imagining her doing the very same patient game. Soon, I heard her whistling as she worked, and that's when I knocked loudly from the inside letting her know someone else owned this property. I haven't seen any new nests since then, but I still hear mama bird singing nearby.
I am struck at the sheer determination mixed with unvexed nerve. Of course I have no earthly way of knowing whether our flying friend was disappointed or frustrated at losing all her hard work almost three times, but I truly doubt she even batted an eyelash. Her happy tunes confirm my suspicions. It's as if she didn't mind building one more nest. And then again, one more nest. And again, one more. It reminds me of a great movie we saw recently, Hacksaw Ridge. If you don't know the premise, it's based on a true story about an unbelievable man, Desmond Doss, who did not believe in carrying a weapon despite his personal conviction to serve in the military as a medic during World War II. The peak of the climax occurs when Desmond, a strong Christian, continues to ask God for "One more, help me get one more," referring to his return to enemy lines hoping to save a wounded soldier. Even though he was all alone physically, and could have been satisfied with saving simply "one more" person, he repeated this request far longer than a sane person would think his strength would allow. But through the strength of God, he continues to save life after life after life. Instead of asking God to help him save five, ten, or even twenty men, he focused on one at a time. One more life, one more nest.
I have been reminding myself of this the past few weeks. With illness after illness in our family, it feels defeating, especially when Levi loses weight. Fever viruses, ear infections, stomach bugs, common colds, less common shingles, and now half our family on antibiotics for another round of strep throat; I feel like someone has been sick since Roman's birth (cue the violins and pity party entourage). Then I ask God for strength in my humility because I realize mom super powers have their own kryptonite. Our strength comes from Him alone. Despite what your environment is telling you, despite being pushed down again and again, when you know you have something to accomplish, pick yourself up, and keep at it. With God's help, you'll be surprised at what you can endure.
Because of His sweet grace, I was reminded of how much we endured two years ago. I was connected with a young mama in South Carolina going through almost the exact same thing we did with Levi. She is trying to care for her two year-old son as her second little boy born 28 weeks gestation has been living in the NICU almost four months now. She was as much a blessing to me as she said I was to her. There is so much purpose in our hardships.
How can I let some common illnesses discourage me when people are battling terminal cancer around the world? How can I let sickness defeat us when we have such great access to medicine and millions do not? How can I have a pity party when there are so many sick babies without parents to rock or soothe them to sleep?
No, I am not a super hero, but I can simply ask my super Father to help us get through one more illness. Just one more. Don't live in the past or future. Just today, help us heal and fill our hearts with gratitude in the meantime.

Thank you God for one more day to help these boys and build up another strong nest for them; give us strength when we are weak, and praise you in sickness and in health because you love us so well.

~one more Buster