Becky Shultz is a homeschooling mom who has been parenting for 24 years now. She is passionate about encouraging mommas in every age and stage along the journey of parenting. From My Heart to Yours is where she shares the joys, pains, and laughs of motherhood and the grace and faithfulness of our God.

I woke up on Sunday, May 8 feeling absolutely pulverized. Since September, we have been trying our darndest to live a semi-normal life while searching for answers to Hannah’s health issues. If you’ve followed along, you know that our college-sophomore daughter got sick just after classes started at Pepperdine University last fall. After three weeks of illness in Southern California with no answers, I had to help Hannah withdraw from classes, come home and begin searching for answers here. To make a long story short, our 20-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare, neurological auto-immune disorder (CIDP — Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy) and began regular IVIG treatments. In late November, she began having seizures. We’ve been to countless doctors (including Neurology at Mayo Clinic), had the gamut of tests run, and still there are more questions than answers. Currently, Hannah is seeing a cardiologist, who just hooked her up to a 30-day event monitor (Hannah’s heart will be monitored at all times for 30 days), has scheduled an echo cardiogram and tilt-table test, and has us keeping track of her blood pressure multiple times a day. She also had another EMG test this week after being off of IVIG for the past 3 months (per Mayo Clinic’s suggestion). That test still points to CIDP, so Hannah will begin regular IVIG treatments again next month.

At yet another appointment -- being put on a 30-day heart monitor.

At yet another appointment — being put on a 30-day heart monitor.

Hannah's 6th or 7th EMG (we've lost count). Still points to CIDP.

Hannah’s 6th or 7th EMG (we’ve lost count). Still points to CIDP.

The hardest part about all of this has been not knowing what we’re dealing with. And, It. Has. Been. Hard!

So, Mother’s Day was coming. A few weeks before, Hannah had nearly one week of a reprieve from most of her symptoms. I was hopeful.

Lord, please be finished doing whatever work you’re doing. Please do NOT let the numbness and tingling return. Please give Hannah strength back in her body. Please HEAL OUR DAUGHTER!

I even went so far as to remind the Lord what day was coming.

Lord, you know Mother’s Day is right around the corner. I WILL be content with whatever you have in store, but oh, Abba Father, you know the desire of my heart. All I want is for Hannah to be healed. Would you see fit to give me this gift for Mother’s Day?

Hannah had spent an entire week sleeping, resting, saving up her energy so that she could attend a home school prom (ages 15-20) with her brothers and some friends. That special night out happened to be the night before Mother’s Day. Hannah had a blast. Her numbness and tingling had returned, but she danced and laughed, and danced and laughed. A great time, but the night took everything out of her.

There I was, getting ready for a Mother’s Day breakfast (cooked up by B and sons for Grandma and me) and for church immediately after, when Hannah came into my room.

Mom, Happy Mother’s Day.

*Hugs*

I know we all planned to be together today, but I’m not sure what to do. I just don’t have it in me to get out of bed yet.

All I could say was, I know, Hannah. And I understand. Go back to bed. We’ll spend time together later.

*Sigh*

Mother’s Day breakfast was delicious. There were nine of us around our table, laughing, sharing, talking. And all I could think was…

There should be ten of us.

After breakfast, seven Shultzes entered the doors at Cherry Creek Pres. and filed into a back pew (breakfast had gone late and church was packed by the time we got there). Worship began and I tried to look down the row and thank the Lord for my family — the gift of worshiping together. Almost all eight of us. But, not quite. And all I could think was…

There should be eight of us.

We are in a season of life in which there is a darkness over everything. The Lord comes along side and gives us joy in the midst of the pain. He has rallied some of His people around us. He has given my husband a full-time coaching position. He gave us (in advance) two extra cars for this year, knowing our need and meeting it fully. He has provided monetarily (sometimes many times at the 11th hour). He has given the gift of amazing friends for our sons and a theater program that we are all blessed by. He has given our youngest two a passion for soccer, and allowed us to watch them play with other soccer parents we love. He has given our oldest daughter a good job and an even better man who will become part of our family in July. He has given Hannah rest, and a college scholarship that’s being held for her.

What an absolute gift that B gets to coach full-time.

What an absolute gift that B gets to coach full-time.

Watching our boys perform gives us great joy!

Watching our boys perform gives us great joy!

Watching our boys play soccer gives us great joy!

Watching our boys play soccer gives us great joy!

Our oldest daughter is getting married!!!!!! :)

Our oldest daughter is getting married!!!!!! 🙂

We recognize all of these things as gifts to us, and honestly, I think the Lord just knows. He knows the pain we feel. He understands the darkness that is pressing in on us. And, He knows how weak and frail we are. He gives. He gives Himself daily. Momently. And we miss it. In our humanity, we need something more. Something tangible. So, He gives more. He gives tangible. But He doesn’t give that exact thing that we want so badly.

So there I was on Mother’s Day morning. I did not feel like worshiping the God who chose not to give me the gift of a healed daughter. There was this part of me — this very ugly part of me — that wanted to run to the front, grab a microphone and shout a warning to all who would listen:

It’s a SHAM! God is NOT with us! He is NOT good! He is NOT faithful! He does NOT love us!

Thank the Lord that ugly part didn’t win out, but I knew I had a choice to make in that moment. I did not feel our Savior’s presence. I did not feel His goodness. I did not feel His faithfulness. I did not feel His love. But, I know Him. And I know His Word. His Word tells me He is with me, He is good, He is faithful, He is love. I had to remind my heart of these things, so as we began to sing, I looked up at the cross and said, You are with me. You are good. You are faithful. You do love me.

And then, right there in the very back row of our church, I did what I did not feel like doing. I worshiped the God who chose not to give me the gift of a healed daughter.

With tears streaming down my face, I raised my arm (I’m a presbyterian, so it was just one arm. Ha! 🙂 )  and praised the God I know.

Are you in a season of darkness? Do you cry out to the Lord only to hear the sound of silence? Are you waiting and watching and wondering? You are not alone!

What I have come to learn in these days of grief is that I cannot follow my heart. I have to lead it! When I do not feel His presence, His goodness, His faithfulness, His love, I have to remind myself of those things. I have to say aloud, You are with me. You are good. You are faithful. You do love me. I must declare those things or I will get lost in this darkness. And, I must…MUST…continue praising the Lord, even when I do not feel like praising Him.

Brothers and sisters, may the Lord give us the courage to do these things. May He bolster us to live these words out:

Though the darkness has not lifted, YET, I will praise you.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

~Psalm 34:1-3

 

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Reading time: 7 min

When our daughter, Hannah, left for leadership training near her college campus back on August 20, we had no idea what was in store for her…for all of us. We did not see the twist in the road that lay before us. She was looking forward to her 2nd year at Pepperdine University, continuing to learn and prepare for a job in the medical field. She was really looking forward to leading a team of students as they work with underprivileged preschool children. We were looking forward to phone calls, texts, FaceTimes. We were really looking forward to Christmas Break!

All of that changed when Hannah got sick. Her immune system decided to go a little crazy, causing neurological issues that have kept her from continuing her 3rd semester at Pepperdine (we’re hoping it’s just for the semester).

A group of soccer players, coaches and families praying for Hannah.

A group of soccer players, coaches and families praying for Hannah.

Hannah ready for more testing.

Hannah ready for more testing.

We now seem to have a diagnosis (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy) and a treatment plan (regular IVIG therapy), but the road before her (and the rest of our family) seems daunting and long. As Mom, I feel like the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), begging the Lord to just touch her body and right her immune system. He absolutely can do this! But, in the same breath, I feel like Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane…

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from [HANNAH]; yet not my will, but yours be done.

This is definitely NOT our will.

This is definitely NOT our will.

Neither was a hospital stay.

We all feel like our lives have been “hijacked” or “put on hold”, but that’s absolutely not true. This. Is. Life. This is the path He set before us. We have no choice. We have to walk through this. What we do have a choice about is how we walk through.

This morning, I’m begging the Lord again for complete healing in Jesus’ Name. I will continue to “bug” Him with this plea. 🙂 But, I’m also thanking the Lord for the strength, wisdom and grace He has breathed into my daughter as she persistently plods through.

Sweet Hannah is a writer. A very private writer. The Lord has begun to prompt her to share some of her writing with others. Four weeks ago, she posted some words on Facebook. Having been home less than one week after having to medically withdraw from school, these words were on her mind and in her heart…

Pain is temporary. Suffering is fleeting. Illness is momentary. Affliction is passing. These things I have come to know. The word chronic tries to put God in a box. Chronic illness only has power when we are on earth. So thank God my true home is in Heaven above. Doctors may or may not be able to heal me for this life, but I rest in the knowledge and assurance that God will heal me one day for eternity. I may know pain and suffering now, and I may know it for the rest of my “life,” but I believe in Him. He may choose not to heal me in this life, but one day, he will resurrect my broken body and I will be made new and never again will I be touched with pain. Tonight my tears are not from fear or hurt or sadness, because I know my God is more powerful than any force on earth, and I have all of eternity to praise Him in a body that is renewed. Time now may seem long. Chronic may seem debilitating. But if this is the course God has made for me, I will run it to completion, for waiting for me is Jesus with arms wide open. And I know, that while on earth, He will fill me with the strength to live with my suffering, and my suffering is also His suffering. And so together, we can show the world a taste of God’s eternal love. I have hope and I have faith, that my affliction, my bad health, is Christ’s tool. Here I am World, and I am broken and sick for now, but Christ is in me and one day when I slip home, He will be the only thing in me, no more pain and no more illness, only Christ will fill me.

Now, more than 7 weeks into this vast unknown world of autoimmune diseases and disorders, not knowing what the future holds, here is what Hannah has written, what Hannah is learning, what Hannah is teaching…

Many goals now forever out of reach,

For a lifetime of hopes, there is now simply a breach.

All that mattered, now means no more,

Everything I believed in has been shaken to my core.

 

Through the turmoil and the breaking,

Through the disaster, all my pain, and so much aching,

Only one thought has mattered to me,

If I can just surge on a little longer, I will soon be free.

 

Now I lose sight of all I used to want,

Thoughts of my old way of life are only good to haunt.

Many intentions now morphed to one,

In with the new, for with the old I am forever done.                            

 

Some look at me and say I am trapped,

For trapped I am in a body that seems to have snapped.

But as my body starts to malfunction,

It is clear that my soul has now come to a new junction.

 

“To live is Christ, to die is gain,”

I am being tested of this as I go through all this pain.

How I react in these times of trial,

Will either cause my God to frown or to give me a smile.

 

What purpose do I have on this earth,

If I cannot show the world my crazy journey of rebirth?

From a girl with it all, the world in my hand,

To a girl with nothing, who needs help to even stand.

 

Yet now I have way more than I did,

Of everything selfish I strived for, God said, “be rid”

Now I know that my purpose here,

Is to show off my God, and to give Him all my fear.

 

So while others say I have lost so much,

I laugh and know all has been replaced with God’s touch.

I may not be able to do all the world holds,

But I patiently await as the rest of my journey unfolds.

 

I long for the day when I am finally home,

But until that happens I will no longer just aimlessly roam.

Each thought I think, each thing I do,

I now realize must be in reflection of you.

If this is where the Lord has our daughter, we rejoice in what He is doing. He is binding her heart to His.

I keep begging the Lord to take this cup from Hannah, but just as drinking from the cup (going to the cross) was good and right for Jesus, so too, is it good and right for Hannah and for the rest of our family. We will continue to drink and may His Name be glorified in the process. Praise HIS holy, holy, HOLY name!

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Reading time: 6 min

As I think back over the past couple of weeks, they seem to me to be a blur. Having been home for three days now, in some ways it feels as if I never left, except for the fact that we’re about to enter the month of October. In other ways, being out in California, taking care of our sick college-student daughter, it feels as if I was away from my regularly scheduled life for a long time.

Without my normal distractions (four sons), I had plenty of time to talk to the Lord and plenty of time to think.

It was Day 6. It happened to be our youngest son’s 10th birthday. When I left the house six days earlier, Jake asked, “Will you be home in time for my birthday?”

He turned 10 without me.

He turned 10 without me.

At that time we thought I’d fly out for a few days and be home for part of the weekend. “I’m sure! I can’t imagine needing to stay with Hannah for that long.”

We were wrong.

And there I was, feeling all sad and sulky about not having returned home in time for this special day. With tears pouring down my face, I began to pray and think (really…I don’t think I ever stopped praying and thinking). It felt unfair that Hannah wasn’t getting any better. It felt unfair that I couldn’t be home. But, having known the Lord for as long as I can remember, and having danced through some serious highs and been carried through some serious lows, and being a lover of His Word, I know who He is. I know He can be trusted.

So, I told the Lord that I knew He had a purpose (or purposes) in all of this. A purpose that would prosper us and not harm us. A purpose to give us hope and a future. I told the Lord I trusted Him with my time. I trusted Him with my son’s tender heart (he was missing his mama). I trusted Him with my daughter’s health. And I told the Lord that my heart was broken. That this felt like too much.

I expected what came next. He held me in that moment. He assured me that as a Father He understood my pain. He reminded me that grief is a part of life and He just let me cry.

There is something healing about tears.

As I lifted my tear-stained face, the burden felt lighter.

However, I did not expect what came next. It was one word…gift.

Gift?

Gift.

Lord, how is this a gift????

His gentle words to my soul encouraged me to remember. To look back over the years of Hannah’s life and health journey.

As I did, I realized that through every one of Hannah’s medical issues, every time her symptoms have baffled doctors, every time she’s had surgery, every time she’s needed to be woken in the middle of the night to take meds, every time she’s needed to be taken care of for an extended period of time, I’ve been there. I was the one carting her around from doctor to doctor. I was the one kissing her cheek and praying over her as she lay on a gurney. I was the one waking her in the middle of the night, bringing her water and medicine. I was the one taking care of her.

The Lord reminded me that to be Hannah’s mom, to journey with her in times of health AND in times of sickness is a gift.

There was no sudden healing, there were still no answers, but, in that moment I realized I should treasure being there…in southern California…walking alongside my sweet girl in this time of sickness.

A gift to be with Hannah for blood work.

A gift to be with Hannah for blood work.

A gift to be with Hannah in the ER at UCLA.

A gift to be with Hannah in the ER at UCLA.

A gift to be Hannah's mama and to journey alongside her.

A gift to be Hannah’s mama and to journey alongside her.

What a GIFT!!!!!

It doesn’t end there. You get a 2-for-1 today. 🙂

Just one week before Hannah got sick, I had been feeling as if I wasn’t doing enough. I began asking the Lord to give me Kingdom work to do.

Not only did the Lord speak clearly to my heart about the gift of journeying alongside my children, but He reminded me that my job as Mom is Kingdom work.

I don’t know what kind of “walking alongside” you’re doing. It might be teaching littles at home; it might be going out to work, then coming home to cook and clean and tuck into bed; it might be taking care of a sick one; it might be disciplining a wayward one; it might be down on your knees, begging the Lord for reconciliation or restoration. Whatever your walking alongside looks like, you’re likely tired today.

So, hear this:

Keep trusting. Keep resting. Keep walking. Walking alongside is a gift. And…YOU ARE DOING KINGDOM WORK!

*Update on Hannah: Still struggling with neurological symptoms — extreme fatigue, tingling and numbness in legs, tingling in chest and face, back and eye pain. We meet with her doctor Friday morning to try to figure out who to see, what to do next. Thanks for your prayers!

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Reading time: 4 min

To All My Mama Friends Whose Babies are Far Away Today,

I feel like we belong to some sort of club. As I’ve watched you post pictures of your goodbyes the past few weeks, I’ve cried with you. I’ve been there. I AM there.

I spent three years saying goodbye to our eldest as she studied at Westmont College in California. Watching siblings hug and kiss and cry. Rip. My. Heart. Out!

Less than three weeks ago, I said goodbye (again) to our second daughter, Hannah — she’s studying at Pepperdine, also in California. I miss her. Her little brothers miss her.

This brother misses Hannah a TON when she's far away.

This brother misses Hannah a TON when she’s far away.

These goodbyes have become part of our normal around here, but they’re still hard. So hard. I get that pit in my stomach, that lump in my throat, those tears that I can’t contain.

I hate saying goodbye.

Saying goodbye to these precious daughters is so difficult to do.

Saying goodbye to these precious daughters is so difficult to do.

Yesterday I got a call from Hannah. She’s sick. All I could do was pray with her over the phone, assure her that we’d continue to pray for her throughout the day, tell her I love her and remind her to stay hydrated. Last year she got the flu and had to be taken to the hospital, suffering from severe dehydration, so that’s always on my mind when she gets sick. Before she had been diagnosed (last year), docs were concerned about meningitis, so they did a spinal tap. She called. Scared (mostly because she knew it would hurt). She cried. I cried. There was absolutely nothing I could do but pray. That far away felt even farther away!

Last night she texted to say she had passed out and the school called an ambulance. Paramedics mentioned meningitis and whisked her away to the hospital. Here I am again…3 states and 18 hours away. Unable to do much. Hannah was scared about the possibility of another spinal tap.

Docs discovered pretty quickly that she has an infection that’s easy to treat and “flu-like symptoms”. The rest of her blood work came back clean, so she didn’t have to have another spinal tap. *high kick*

I hate saying goodbye. I also hate not being able to be there for my sick daughter. For the first 18 years of her life, I was the one who was up in the night with her, comforting her, cleaning up her messes, giving her medicine, praying with her. Now I can only lie here in my bed, waiting for the next text or phone call of information, praying that the Lord will somehow comfort her when I can’t.

You know what I’ve learned? He does.

Rest assured of that today, Mamas. He’s got our babies who are far away. They may be sick, they may be healthy, they may be struggling, they may be full of excitement, they may be making poor decisions, they may be making wise decisions, they may be sad, they may be light-hearted, they may feel lonely, they may feel loved. Whatever they’re feeling, whatever they’re experiencing, whatever they’re going through, they are not alone. The Lord is with them. He’s on their side. He will fight for them. Rest in that, sweet Mama friends whose babies are far away today.

 

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Reading time: 2 min

Two weekends ago, my husband and I were able to get away to the mountains for a wonderful, relaxing time celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary. It was glorious! We took drives, walks, sat outside listening to the birds, sipped tea and coffee, read (my reading was for pleasure, his for work, so for him it sounds way better than it actually was). We watched movies, visited Beaver Creek Village, rode the ski lift, climbed the ski slopes, enjoying amazing views. We played a little bocce ball, soaked in the hot tub, listened to some live music, enjoyed local food. Just to be away with each other with no distractions, no responsibilities. So. Good.

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So good to be away together.

Beautiful views...

Beautiful views…

Yet somewhere in the midst of all that good, free, lovely time, we remembered we did have a responsibility. One that involved our family. One that involved our time.

Many times a year, our small group from church gathers to fellowship, worship, eat, pray and play. On two of those occasions, we have to bring our calendars to sync up and plan our get-togethers. We don’t always look forward to these calendar sessions — with four different families (18 kids), it’s not always easy to find dates that work for everyone. But, we know how important it is.

So, when Brian asked me to bring my calendar to our weekend getaway so the two of us could have a “calendar session”, I groaned. How is it that we have to sync up our calendars???

If you have children who are involved in any activity outside of school hours, then you know.

We did it. We met. We had our little calendar session. Fall is my favorite season. But, this year? It’s a little tricky. B’s coaching, Aaron and Ben are in theater, Drew and Jake are playing soccer. It didn’t take long to figure out that three nights a week family supper would have to be around 8pm. Two nights are whoever-shows-up-will-eat nights. Early into this calendar session, B tossed his pen down and said, “That’s it. I’m quitting my job!”

Calendar sessions can be frustrating!

Calendar sessions can be frustrating!

That sounded enticing. At first. Then we realized that wasn’t possible. Nor was it what the Lord was moving us toward.

What we realized is this — there are seasons in a family’s life when even greater intentionality are required. There are seasons in a family’s life when creative planning are necessary. I put B’s games on the calendar, marking the dates that Drew and Jake would miss soccer practice in order to continue watching Valor soccer and cheering Daddy on. We planned for those late supper times (I’m not a fan of late-eating, but sometimes you just have to “take one for the team”). We chose a One Year Bible devo book to enjoy (hopefully) together at night.

When all was said and done, I was proud of my husband. If you know him, then you know he loathes the ‘p’ word. That word is rarely uttered from his mouth, and when it is, he stumbles over it like a stuttering school boy telling a cute girl how he feels. P…P…P…P…l…an. I can say it just fine. Plan. Brian? That word is his arch nemesis.

As I think back to my own childhood, I remember similar seasons. Due to work schedules and sports’ practices, our family meal became breakfast — we’d read the Word together, laugh, take time to connect. We found other ways to do this, too, but it looked differently, more than it ever had before. And that was OK.

I wish we could all just throw away our calendars, because if we’re honest with one another, we’ve become a people who are enslaved to them. But, I know that’s not possible. There’s no wisdom in that. But, what we can do is live with GREAT intentionality and be creative with our time.

May we be a people who make time with our families a priority. May we be a people who intentionally spend time together, connecting, listening and loving each other. May we be a people who creatively figure out how to be together. May we not be afraid to have calendar sessions. 🙂

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Reading time: 3 min

When I get to spend time with the East Coast Shultzes, I find that I get to see life from a different perspective. Being around loved ones I don’t get to be around very often has a way of doing that. I married into the Shultz family and I sometimes joke that I married into “CRAZY“! But let’s be real — all families have a bit of crazy.

Our two weeks in Virginia were beautiful, filled with joy, laughter, love. It was also messy, filled with challenges, tears, discord. Gather together that many people with different backgrounds, upbringings, preferences, political ideas, beliefs and it won’t be all smiles all the time. Ha! Funny thing is, put my nuclear family in a Suburban together for a 24-hour trek across country and talk about messy! Whew..

I loved our time away. Good-food-eating, kayaking, tubing, cornholing (I’m sure that’s a real word, right?), fishing (not for me — YUCK!), porch-swinging, hammock-laying, reading, laughing, chatting. So good.

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For those of you who know me well, you know I am very talented at chatting. 🙂

Several chats from our trip were meaningful and challenging. One in particular. I was talking with a sweet sister who said, “I’m having to learn to give up my dreams…”

I put that ellipsis there because she said some other profound things after, but here’s where I want to sit.

She said this because her life doesn’t look like what she thought it would look like.

Wherever you are right now, whatever you’re doing, STOP! Mull that over for a minute. Think back to your childhood. What were some of your dreams? Think back to your teen years, high school days, college days. What did you think your life would look like?

If your life doesn’t look like what you thought it would look like…HOLLA!

We have some well-laid plans. But, let’s be real. Sometimes (a lot of times) our well-laid plans are not the best-laid plans. His best-laid plans. I had these plans and have these plans that seem to involve my happiness and “good” things. Health, financial stability, college graduation, a top-notch marriage, obedient children. I don’t plan difficult things — sickness, financial struggle, stress in my marriage, disobedient children. I don’t dream of tragedy striking. Yet, these things happen.

Here’s an example of something little from our lives:

We live paycheck to paycheck. We have for nearly 22 years (our wedding anniversary is next month). When I was a young girl, I dreamed of having a pool in my backyard. As I got older, I planned to have financial stability and I dreamed of having extra. A lot of extra. Some things have prevented that. Two of those things? Having a big-ish family (6 kids) and being called to homeschool our children (I don’t work outside the home and we pay for curriculum). I would not trade those two things for all the money in the world.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned. I had to let go of that dream of having extra. But, what the Lord had in store for us because of it was WAY BETTER! As we’ve waited and said “no” to things, the Lord has poured out His provision for us time and time again. The latest? A car. We went to a dealership because we really need another car. We looked around, pointed out what we like, what we dislike. We dreamed of owning a new car. We went home, sat on it, prayed about it. We decided now was not the time to add a car payment to our tight budget. But, we also couldn’t afford to lay down a chunk of change for a used car. So, we waited. And we shared. Husband B’s tiny 2-seater is not shareable, so there were three of us sharing our family Suburban (which is such a gas hog, by the way). Plus, we have a son in the mix, desperately wanting to get his license by taking that shared vehicle (and me) out to practice.

If we had extra, if we didn’t live paycheck to paycheck, we would have bought a car. But, instead, the Lord had something else in store for us — a family on Jake’s soccer team who had been looking to give away their older car to a family who needed it. As only God can, He orchestrated a weekend of guest playing together and a conversation about our plans for the rest of the day, which happened to involve a lot of driving around to various places in one shared vehicle. Bam! Another need met. All because we have to rely on Him and His timing. Rejoicing, once again, in the Lord’s provision.

A need met. Again.

A need met. Again.

I could tell you all sorts of stories about our good dreams that don’t come true, our well-laid plans that don’t turn out. Some are little things, like family arguments or having to forego buying new shoes for a time. Some are big things, painful things, like abuse, divorce, death. I could also tell you all sorts of stories about His best-laid plans that we only discovered after our well-laid plans fell through. After all, isn’t our God One who gives a “crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”? (Isaiah 61:3)

We have a God we can trust. A God who is completely sovereign! It’s okay to give up our dreams. It’s okay to hold loosely to our plans. It’s okay to let go of what we think our lives should look like. I have a book that I think everyone should read — Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy by Larry Crabb. You should read it.

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There is this joy in the journey that only comes when we experience what Yahweh has in store for us. Our stories aren’t just ones of health, financial stability, a top-notch marriage, obedient children. They’re also ones of sickness, financial struggle, divorce, disobedient children. Our stories are full of beauty and ugliness. They’re full of love and discord. They’re full of order and brokenness.

When our well-laid plans don’t work out, may we trust the One who holds all the best-laid plans in the palm of His hand, and who freely gives them to us.

 

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Reading time: 5 min

I LOVE summertime — vacations, family visits, pool time, trips up to our Colorado mountains, eating just about every meal on the deck, laid-back, lazy mornings. My favorite time of year.

Last week we had family (my aunt, cousin, cousin-in-law, and their 2 little girls) visiting from Chicago. What fun! Such a great way to kick off Shultz Summer 2015.

My cousin has been visiting us in Colorado since we moved here in 2002. She was just a teenager when she first started coming, and I remember those early visits well. In 2003, I was already Mom to 5 little ones. She was still a teenager who wanted to do some “cool” things. I remember going to 16th Street Mall and the movie theater to see Legally Blonde 2. I don’t like the mall, and although I like Reese Witherspoon, the Legally Blonde movies were not that great (in my humble opinion).

Before we move on, there’s something you need to know about my cousin: Back in her teenage years, she did not like children. Did I mention we had 5 children at the time????? Not only did she not really like them, I’m pretty sure my cousin didn’t even know their names. She called each one “kid”.

Then something happened. This cousin of mine fell in love with a wonderful young man. I remember talking late into the night on her next visit. We talked about the Lord and love, she showed me pictures of her boyfriend, she asked questions and sought my advice. We talked about having children. We still went to the mall, but that’s the year I remember a change in our relationship.

To make a long story short, my cousin married that young man. One of our sons was the ring-bearer and I (full-blown pregnant with #6) got to fly with him to Chicago to celebrate. My cousin now calls each of our kids by name, she and her husband are a part of our family ministry, and…this girl who once did not like children has two of her own. LOVE!

It’s been an honor for me to watch my cousin grow into the woman, wife, mother she is now.

My cousin, her husband and two little girls.

My cousin, her husband and two little girls.

Here’s my encouragement to you…

This was the first visit my cousin’s mom (Aunt Sharon) was able to make out here since my cousin had children. My kids are now older — our youngest is 9. I’m in such a different place. I was able to sit back and watch. I noticed something that I think my cousin (and her husband) do very well. On several occasions, Aunt Sharon said something to one of her granddaughters (doesn’t really matter what it was she said). The minute one of those little girls did not listen to G’ma (that’s what they call their grandma. So cute!), my cousin (and her husband) swiftly reminded her that she needed to listen to and obey G’ma. End of story. I watched this happen several times.

For my cousin and husband, it didn’t matter what G’ma said. They may not have even agreed with everything G’ma said, but the message they sent their daughters was loud and clear — Respecting G’ma is important!

G'ma and her granddaughters.

G’ma and her granddaughters.

Respect is something that a lot of kids are lacking today. But, respect is something that should not be lacking in our children. It starts at home. With parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. May we be parents who diligently teach our children to respect authority, even when we don’t agree with that authority.

It was a good reminder for me, and I thought maybe…just maybe…it might be a good reminder for you. 🙂

 

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As many of you know, this month has been a big one in the life of our family. Less than three weeks ago we cheered, celebrated and rejoiced as we watched our eldest, Laura, walk across the stage to receive her diploma from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. That great day started off the evening before with Westmont’s Baccalaureate. It was knock-your-socks-off good! What a time of worship — praising the One who has faithfully gone before our daughter (and all of the graduates) during these years of school. The music played as the class of 2015 began their procession.

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What better song could have been playing than this old hymn? I had tears in my eyes as I sang the words in my heart:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

He is the Fount of every blessing! His streams of mercy are constant. His love is redeeming. His help is great. Our beautiful inheritance is coming. He seeks and rescues. His blood intercedes. His grace is consuming. He is worthy of our loudest praise and our unabashed proclamation (which is not even good enough). Oh, praise Him for all He has done!

As a mom with olders — two college-age, one high school-age, two middle school-age, I’m asked regularly what it takes to parent well — especially in the teen years.

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You see her beautiful smile, you hear about her outstanding GPA, you discover her long list of accomplishments and the many talents she’s been given. But behind this face is a story — one that is 21 years in the making. As parents, we are a part of that story every step of the way.

I’ve been praying about what it takes to parent well. How do I answer when a mom of a pre-teen looks at me wide-eyed, fearing what might be ahead?

Let me make this short (is that even possible for me?). There are a lot of different parenting styles. I’m a big believer that one size does not fit all. That there is not one and only one way to parent correctly.

BUT…as I’ve spent some time reflecting, I realize there are some things that were critical in helping our daughter grow into the woman she is today.

Serving

This one is HUGE. It starts at home. When your child is very young, look for ways to help her (I’ll use “her” because this blog is about my first-born, a “her”) help out. She could help put Daddy’s shoes away or help make the bed for a sibling. As your child gets older, serve a sick friend by making a meal. Serve an aging neighbor by dog-walking, visiting or yard clean-up. Then, look for ways to serve your community. Regularly visit a nursing home. Volunteer in a hospital. Serve food at a local ministry. Something. Anything. Just look for ways to serve. Be intentional in this area.

Helping

Let’s be honest. It’s way easier to cook a meal without “help” from a 5-yr-old or 10-yr-old. I could sort the laundry in 7 minutes flat, but it dragged out to 15 minutes when I began enlisting the “help” of my 6-yr-old. Water gets sloshed out of the toilet when I have “help” with bathroom cleanup. It might be torture for Mom or Dad (or Grandpa, as in our case) to have “help” with preparing a garden, but these moments of “helping” are extremely valuable for our children. Get their “help”!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll enlist “help” for about 15 minutes, use up all your patience, shoo everyone away and finish the job yourself. *Sigh* Story of my life. Thank God my daughter turned out the way she did in spite of me.

Being in Charge

When Laura was 9, I asked her if she’d be our lunch lady. The deal was this: If she made lunches for her brothers and sister, she would not have to help with lunch cleanup. Laura hated cleaning up, so she went down to the kitchen every school day to make pb&j sandwiches, cut up apples, load carrots onto plates and pour milks. She owned it like a boss!

There were countless (and by countless, I really mean a few) lemonade stands. Our kids worked together, but they were in charge of making the signs, making the lemonade and setting up down the street.

Those lemonade stands led to an Operation Shoe Box yard sale. One year, Samaritan’s Purse had a special not-at-Christmas-time shoe box gathering for friends who were affected by a tsunami. Just six months earlier we had spent a decent chunk of money filling 12 Christmas shoe boxes. Money-making Dad didn’t really have any money to give for these special boxes, but our kids really wanted to participate. So, we encouraged them to think of ways to raise some money. Long story short, Laura led the charge and our children worked hard to hold a yard sale with the proceeds going to fill shoe boxes. I helped gather belongings we were willing to part with, but that was all the adult help they got.

As a homeschooling mama, often spread too thin, I gave Laura the “job” of reading to little brother Ben. When she was in 8th grade, she decided to read and do history and science with him. I remember feeling guilty about this, but the Lord gave me the realization that it was good for Laura and Ben to have this time together.

It’s good for our children to have something to be in charge of — whether it’s taking care of a pet or researching colleges, we must let go of the reins and push them to work independently.

Celebrating

Celebrate holidays, celebrate birthdays, celebrate milestones, celebrate the Lord’s provision. I’m not talking big, Pinterest-style celebrations here, people. Just look for reasons to sing, dance, go out for ice cream, throw confetti, make posters. Celebrate together!

These areas have all been life-giving for our children.

But, there are still speed-bumps and blips on radars along the way. Parenting is rewarding, but it is the most life-altering, self-sacrificing, challenging job out there.

If you are parenting teens, or if you will parent teens in the future, I have three words for you…

Pray

Pursue

Persevere

Be on your knees for your child.

Love your child without abandon. No matter the obstacles. No matter the cost.

Never give up.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. I’ve shaken my fist at heaven and yelled, “This SUCKS!!!!!”  (and I loathe that word).

And then I think about how difficult it is for my Father to parent me. Oh, how He loves me. How He pursues me over and over again. How He never gives up on me.

May we be a generation of parents who pray, pursue and persevere.

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Last week the boys and I went on another school adventure. This time to Salt Lake City, UT. In preparation, we did a little study on the Donner-Reed Party, Mormon pioneers, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Mormonism.

We hit the road, entered Utah and followed the Pioneer Trail…pulling over at various stops to see things and read more about the pioneers and their experience entering this land. It was just our travel day, but already It was fascinating!

Here we are reading about the Echo Canyon Breastworks.

Here we are reading about the Echo Canyon Breastworks.

We entered SLC, visited “This is the Place” Heritage Park (the last stop on the Pioneer Trail — designed to give information about the Pony Express and dedicated to Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers who came out of the canyon, saw the land before them and said, “This is the place!”), set up camp, took a walk along the Jordan River (I chuckled at the name, but later learned that this land is Mt. Zion to the Mormons), then hit the sack, preparing to rise the next morning with the sun.

This is the Place Heritage Park

This is the Place Heritage Park

The next few days we explored the area and soaked in as much history as we could.

Day 1: We went to Olympic Park, home of the 2002 winter Olympic games, and tried our hand at the ski jump. We mastered that simulator and the boys somehow think they’re ready for the real thing. Ha! We hiked in Big Cottonwood Canyon, making our way through the snow to Doughnut Falls. We took a dip (the boys, not me…YUCK!) in the Great Salt Lake and learned that there is no outlet for the water besides evaporation, which leaves behind all the sediments. So…the Great Salt Lake can never get rid of its salt and will continue to get saltier. The boys did float and they did stink. Thank the Lord we were at a campground with a shower! 😉 We ended our “school” day late, touring the most beautiful Capitol building we’ve seen so far this year.

The real ski jumps

The real ski jumps

Hiking to Doughnut Falls

Hiking to Doughnut Falls

The boys out in the Great Salt Lake.

The boys out in the Great Salt Lake.

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Stunning inside SLC Capitol building!

Stunning inside SLC Capitol building!

Day 2: We spent about 8 hours or so driving along the Pony Express Trail, pulling over at signposts to read all about the Pony Express. We stopped at Camp Floyd and learned about the three years the Union Army was posted there. We visited the Stagecoach Inn, which became a famous stop for the stagecoach and the Pony Express. We drove on desert, dusty roads out in the middle of nowhere, UT, getting a feel for what it must have been like for the Pony Express riders. The most exciting thing occurred when we were at an interactive stop looking at a monument and reading signs — we were enveloped in a dust devil that was carrying tumbleweeds. I can’t even express to you how crazy and cool that was for four boys and their mama out on an adventure! We ended this day by meeting one of Aaron’s sport stacking friends at the train (he lives just outside SLC) and hiked up Ensign Peak which overlooked the city. Mountains surrounded us as we watched the sun set behind the Great Salt Lake. Spectacular!

The Stagecoach Inn

The Stagecoach Inn

We were seriously out in the middle of nowhere!

We were seriously out in the middle of nowhere!

Tumbleweeds that were caught up in a crazy attacking dust devil. ;)

Tumbleweeds that were caught up in a crazy attacking dust devil. 😉

Our last stop along the Pony Express Trail.

Our last stop along the Pony Express Trail.

Ensign Peak overlooking the city.

Ensign Peak overlooking the city.

Day 3: We got all-day passes for the city train and jumped on early because there was a lot to see downtown. We started at the Pioneer Memorial Museum. Three very full floors and a couple of hours later, we headed to Temple Square. Stunning. After speaking with a Mormon missionary who asked if any of our sons were interested in living the life of a missionary (everyone assumed we were Mormon), we graciously begged off the conversation and walked up the street to tour the Beehive House — a large home Brigham Young had built for his growing family. He did have many wives, after all. It quickly became apparent that we were the odd ones. The two young Filipino missionaries started the tour by asking if we were all a part of the Mormon Church. We were the only non-church members. After the tour and a bit of being “witnessed” to, the next two hours were spent train-hopping. We were attempting to visit Fort Douglas Military Museum, but some confusion about train direction led us to hop on the wrong train. We met some interesting people, learned about different train colors and routes and had fun seeing the University of Utah, so…one of those “life is school” moments. Our last stop of the day (which we were late for) was a pre-scheduled tour of Wheeler Historic Farm. I called as we were driving away from the city to let them know about our afternoon of riding the wrong train. Thankfully, they were understanding and waited for us. We toured the farmhouse, walked the grounds looking at all the animals, then helped milk a cow and bottle-feed her calves. A favorite stop of ours!

Hopped from a train to a bus. Eventually back to the WRONG train.

Hopped from a train to a bus. Eventually back to the WRONG train.

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Brigham Young's Beehive House.

Brigham Young’s Beehive House.

Bottle-feeding a calf

Bottle-feeding a calf

Salt Lake City is a beautiful place with a very rich history. We loved our time and learned a lot. But, I will tell you that I felt a darkness and heaviness in my heart during our time there. Our boys describe the feeling as “awkward”.

If you have an understanding of the Mormon faith, if you study its history, if you read the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants, then you’ll know that such a great distortion of Scripture is NOT from the One True God. Untruth masked to look like truth can only come from Satan.

My niece has a friend whose father remarried — a Mormon woman. Now everyone in her family except this young girl is attending the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which sounds quite lovely). This girl is disheartened that her own family would so easily turn away from their faith.

If you spend time on an LDS (Latter-day Saints) website, you will find it difficult to see any differences between the heart of Christianity and Mormonism. It is hidden. However, those differences are life-altering (or should I say eternity-altering).

So, how do we combat this? How do we remove the mask for our children so they do not so easily turn away from their faith?

It’s all about Jesus and His Word (not the Book of Mormon, but the Holy Bible). The more we read His Word, the more we memorize it, the more we dig deeply into it, the more we understand biblical truths, the more we are able to know who Jesus is. Without a biblical knowledge of Jesus (Truth), it is difficult to know Him intimately.

You see, when we know the Truth, our hearts are not so easily swayed by the Deceiver. When we have a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus, a heart and a head knowledge of Him, our faith is real and vibrant.

May we teach the next generation the importance of knowing Jesus with our hearts and with our heads. May we read His Word and know the stories in it. May we spend time hiding God’s Word in our hearts and in the hearts of our children. This is the best way to remove the mask from untruth made to look and sound like Truth!

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Easter. I love Easter. Holy Week celebrations, family gatherings, the smells, the food (HAM!!!), the traditions, and…the ham! 😉 Seriously, my mom used to say, “We need to buy two hams. One for Becky and one for the rest of us.” I do love me some Easter spiral ham.

Over the years, our Easter traditions have been fun and full. The kids have put on plays, we’ve told and re-told the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in many different ways, we’ve gathered to share what it is about Easter that is so special to us. We eat and laugh. We celebrate.

A couple of Shultz boys acting out a scene from Christ's crucifixion as we retell the story.

A couple of Shultz boys acting out a scene from Christ’s crucifixion as we retell the story.

Of all the celebratory traditions we have, Resurrection Eggs with Grandpa has been the favorite. It began years ago…this hiding of the eggs, Baer grandchildren hunting them down, then gathering with Grandpa to open each egg and tell the story for all of us to hear. A sweet, beautiful time that we will treasure forever.

Resurrection Eggs

Resurrection Eggs

But, gone are the days of “little” Baer grandchildren. It’s time for a new tradition. And I do believe we’ve found it…

It was Grandma’s idea. She handed out passages to each grandchild (well, the 8 we would be celebrating in person with. We couldn’t fly our 2 college girls home for the weekend. I was so sad and may need therapy, but I digress). Those 8 grandchildren were given their specific passages ahead of time and asked to “be creative”. That was pretty much it.

Grandma and Grandpa with 8 grandchildren this Easter.

Grandma and Grandpa with 8 grandchildren this Easter.

All week I heard practicing and was excited to see what our children came up with.

Easter morning arrived. We got up shortly after 5 am, went to the sunrise service and pancake breakfast, then prepared to gather with the rest of our Colorado family. We were all starving by the time my sister and her family showed up, so food was on the agenda first. And believe you me, I ate more than my fair share of ham and I enjoyed every minute of it! 🙂

When it was time to contemplate and reflect, when it was time to tell the story, we gathered in the family room and one by one the Baer grandchildren stood up and shared the Scriptures in a unique, creative way. There was a worship dance with a narrator, Scripture turned into poetry, a PowerPoint, Scripture turned into music, a dramatic memorization and Scripture turned into a rap.

All I can say is, “Wow!” This time was powerful. It was special. It was moving.

Throughout the day, I was texting with my college girls. When they found out that we were not doing Resurrection Eggs, Laura (21) wrote, “NO EGGS?!” I mentioned that we had outgrown the eggs, and Hannah (19) replied, “That’s so sad.”

I realized it was a bit sad. Sitting with Grandpa and the Resurrection Eggs has been a tradition for so long. But, life is full of change and transition. I’ve learned that a lot the past few years. The only constant in my life is the Lord Jesus Christ! Whether you have old traditions or have started new ones, know that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

We have a new Easter tradition, one that I’m really excited about. Not just because of how cool and moving these creative presentations of God’s Holy Word are, but because in preparing these creative presentations, my children (and my nieces and nephew) sit with the Scripture before the celebration of His resurrection even arrives. His Word is sinking deeply into their hearts. I LOVE that!

We’ve outgrown an old tradition, but I’m sure those Resurrection Eggs (which have been so loved that pieces are missing) will be back for my grandchildren. Until then…gone are the days of Resurrection Eggs.

Here are four Baer grandchildren (Emma King, Aaron Shultz, Abby King and Drew Shultz) creatively presenting their passages from God’s Word:





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