Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"It's Easy to Praise Jesus"

I leaned in close - I struggled to read his lips and understanding his whisper was difficult. The disease had taken so much from him- now his ability to communicate.

it's easy to praise Jesus

I don't remember the very first time I met him, he was just always there. Rex is his uncle, but Brad and Keith were more like his brothers. The three of them together - well, it was usually like this.

Rex, Keith and Brad
March 2012
Brad, Rex, Iris & Keith
July 2011 

When I first met Brad I was intimidated by him. He seemed to have it all together. So confident. So smart and determined. It would take me a while, but not too long, to figure out that he had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. He invested time into my husband and my kids, without fanfare. He'd just show up and shower with attention and then go. He stood on the side of right. Always. A man of integrity.

Brad loved family- and the Allen family is nothing if it isn't amazing.

Insert thirty years family stuff. Our babies grew into adults. Some of them married and had their own babies. Oh, how Brad loved the babies. Plans for the future and dreams of retirement danced in our heads. We said goodbye to Hersey and Iris, Lillian and others, but that's expected, as we grew older, so did they. And life wasn't without disappointment, the Allen's have faced some trials but nothing we couldn't overcome.
Brad and Rex, March 2012

it's easy to praise Jesus
The diagnosis caught us off-guard. ALS. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. To date, it is 100% fatal.
We prayed for a miracle. And life continued. Sense of humor intact.

Rex, Keith and Brad acting up at Delaney's Birthday party April 2015

Steve, Ona, Brad, Olivia & Missy
Celebrating Brad's birthday 5/21/16 
Brad & me at his birthday dinner 5/21/16

Brad never complained about ALS even tho all who knew him or spent time with him could see the extreme pain and imagine his frustration with a fully capable brain trapped inside a completely non-responsive and pain filled body.

A few weeks ago, I spent a few hours with Brad and Missy. It was a sweet day.

I was bragging to him about Missy. She set the bar high for us Allen women on what it looks like to love in sickness and in health. I can't think of a more difficult "sickness" to love someone through. But she was ever present, ever faithful and ever loving.

We talked about hard things. Brad was concerned about us. The family. Was Rex okay? Was I okay? I told him that I was sad, but I knew it was temporary goodbye. I told him I was a bit jealous he got to go home first but I hated seeing him hurt. I told him he was leaving quiet a legacy- a wonderful testimony showing us how to trust God in the hard.

That's when he looked me in the eye and whispered, 
it's easy to praise Jesus
I know that day was a gift from God- what I meant to encourage him and instead he encouraged me.

Our family has watched ALS take everything from Brad- everything except the two things most important to him. His family and his faith.

Our lives came to a screeching halt on Saturday, November 5 - nothing mattered except being present with him knowing it would most likely be his last hours here. It was a beautiful day to go home.

When we pray desperately for healing for those we love, and they die it might feel like God didn't hear. Didn't answer. That our faith wasn't enough. We might be tempted to complain.

That's when we have to remind ourselves, almost scream it into our hearts that God is sovereign. His ways are not ours and we can trust Him in all things. Even when trusting Him hurts our hearts.

We, along with hundreds of you have prayed that Brad would be healed from a disease that has a 100% fatality rate. We wanted a miracle.

And now, our family is adjusting to the huge loss of a husband, father, son, brother, nephew, son and brother-in-law. But we do not grieve like those without hope. Brad is completely whole and in the presence of his Savior.

In the midst of our grief, well

it's easy to praise Jesus!

Happy Wednesday y'all!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When Never is Now.

Ever said I'll never?

 I think we all have that thing that we are sure that we'll never do.  Or never do again.

We saw the first signs of a problem two years ago when his older brother went into a residential home after three inpatient stays for acute mental illness.  It was as if a switch had been flipped when Elijah returned home- Isaiah began the spiral.

At the time, we were emotionally raw and while we noticed worrisome changes in our youngest child we were determined that we'd never put him through what his brother had just survived.

We settled into new routines that included lots of services.  Respite. Counseling. Psychiatrists. Occupational (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT). Educational assessments and Psychiatric evaluations. Intensive in-home therapy and TDT counselors at school.

And we slowly began to see baby steps toward healing and hope for our family to be healthy. We timed out for in-home services giving us some of our privacy and a lot of our time back.  But things weren't perfect and with school a constant battle for both my boys, we walked through God's opened door for us to home school which alleviated the need for TDT counselors, long hours at daycare and those darn phone calls.

Respite did and still does give our family needed breaks each month.

But, as much as Elijah seemed to be healing, Isaiah seemed to be hurting.  And finally, the dam broke for our youngest.

We've been watching him struggle more often. Struggle is a nice inclusive word for all the ugly- increased irritability, irrational thoughts,  depression, anxiety, fears and tears.  Withdrawing from his friends, increased aggression, losing interest in what once brought him joy.  Odd behaviors that didn't make sense - the pacing, the melt-downs, the sudden lose of feeling in his legs and inability to breath when he'd get upset.

Drama.  Drama. Drama.
Except, it isn't.

Did you know....

Children Mental Health Statistics

A little over a week ago we watched and listened as our son battled psychosis. And then, we spent most of that night calming, snuggling and reassuring him. Minutes turned to hours and eventually morning came after a sleepless night- we all feared what was coming.

Our never is now. 

Monday morning I could be found pacing the driveway sharing with Rex; his medical providers all agreed on what we needed to do but we confided to each other that neither of us thought we could do this thing and cried together because we knew that we had too.  Our son was in crisis and for his own safety he needed more than we could give him. And we knew that we couldn't do it in our own strength because we remembered the hell we had walked just two years before.  Sometimes, when you've done the really hard you promise you'll never do it again.  

Until you do.   

Sadly, we know that mental health care for children isn't guaranteed.  We know there are many who seek treatment and are turned away.  Did you know that only one of two hospitals in our area will accept kids under the age of 13 for inpatient care.  We knew there would be questions, the same ones over and over again as medical and then psychiatric doctors and nurses would need to ask before agreeing with what we suspected.

And they did.  So we signed the papers and then wiped our son's tears as he begged us to un-sign them.  And we choked back our own tears and put on our bigger.stronger faces while promised him he would come home.

We spent about 31 hours in the Emergency Department waiting for his bed.  We initially agreed to admit him in Lynchburg thinking they had a bed immediately available and he could potentially be home before I'd leave for Texas for work; but relay of information between several staff members meant the ball was dropped and we were still waiting on Tuesday afternoon when - of the 16 beds, none were available and Isaiah was one of four kids waiting.  After being told by staff that a child recently waited in the ED 104 hours for a bed. That's 4 days + some hours we were adjusting our mindset and frustration levels, when God answered prayers and he got a bed later that afternoon.

As a parent, I would never leave my kid alone in the hospital; but when it is mental illness,  never is now because the rules are different and instead of staying with him around the clock, we're limited to a one hour visit each day.  No exceptions.  We again find ourselves without control and having to trust in who we don't know and what we don't understand.

We thought Isaiah had escaped this, after all,  he was so young when he came to us.  The nurse looked at us while assessing him and said "that the genetic code is hard to crack".

Two sons with the same genetics.  Two sons who've been prayed over repeatedly -asking God to heal them. Two sons experiencing hospital stays that will now bond them in a new way. Two sons with mental illness.  Two different diagnoses.

Tonight will be the ninth night my youngest son will sleep in the hospital.  My son, who is afraid to be alone, sleep without a light. The one who is not allowed the very things that usually help to calm him.  Nine days of getting stuck and prodded and observed and interviewed and evaluated and yes, even restrained.

The first few days they told us many times how difficult his case is, complicated by reactive attachment disorder (RAD) they didn't have a clear-cut diagnosis.
But we are thankful that they've finally confirmed several diagnoses and ruled out at least two others.

Now, we're making decisions on medications and whether the benefits outweigh the risks isn't easy. And accepting that managing his illness will be a long, hard road and we'll have some challenges in learning how to read his cues and meet his needs.

We said never, God said now.

Now, I will remind you that yes, genetic code is hard to crack but I created that code and nothing is too hard for me.
For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mothers womb. Psalm 139.13
I am the LORD, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32.27

Now, I will remind you that when you can't in your own strength, I can and I will.
But the LORD stood with me and gave me strength 2 Timothy 4.17

Now. I will remind you that what seemed hopeless for you just two years ago now you're seeing my will.  I will do it again.  Two sons, both equally precious in my sight.
Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know. Jeremiah 33.3

Years ago, I had to decide if I would love God even if He didn't.

  • Didn't answer my prayers the way I wanted.  
  • Didn't heal my loved ones here on earth.  
  • Didn't make my days a little easier.
  • Didn't give me direction. 
  • Didn't say yes. 

We're hopeful that our once happy, social, funny kid is making his way back and will be sleeping in his own bed soon.

And yep, I will love God even if he doesn't.

Do you have a never that's now?  I'd love to hear your story and how God is showing up for you.

Happy Tuesday y'all!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I don't do muck. Ok, yes I do. And so do you.

There's a lake down there.  You can't see it right now but it's there.  
The geese are honking, birds chirping, water still barely draining off the roof from last nights showers.  And the crickets. Or bugs.  Or whatever they are chirpin up a storm.  
It's 6:38 am Saturday morning and the world is still.  

 And here I sit, all alone on this porch.

If I hadn't seen the lake yesterday, I might doubt it was there.  But I did see it.  I sat on it.  I enjoyed the stillness and felt the rocking waves beneath me when it was disturbed.  
I'm usually not a lake girl.  As I said yesterday to one of my friends, "I don't do muck"- commenting on how thankful I was there was a board covering the muddy yuck below us as we walked over to the dock. 

But the truth is, I kind of live in muck.  You do too.  Jesus said we would, He actually made it really clear in fact. It took me decades to figure out that just loving Jesus didn't make the trouble go away.  And when I quit expecting life to be easy the burden got lighter.  

Matthew 11:28-30, Come to me...He said. He carries our burdens. 

But I don't want to step in that muck.  I don't like the slimy unknown - some of which I can see, some I can't.  So I'm thankful for that board that allows me to cross over without sinking.  

I have a beautiful life before me.  Like the lake this morning, I can't always see it- the fog of life hides if from view.  But because I've seen it before, I know it's there, and Jesus laid down his life so I can cross over the muck.  

But sometimes, He walks us through it, before we get to walk over it. 

Two years ago, we walked through some muck.  It was the nastiest ever.  It felt slimy and scary and we couldn't see what was under our feet.  
It involved our middle son, mental illness and emotional needs and eventually, it lead to leaving him in another city in residential care.  

It was at our annual VHBC ladies retreat, in 2014 I got the first phone call they allowed him to make.  I was waiting with my friends to eat pizza and "Fresh Start" displayed on my phone.  I was like  a nervous school girl  entering the known and the unknown.  

"Hi Mommy" he started.  Then begged and pleaded for me to come and pick him up- amidst the pleas dropping hints of terrible things he was enduring, mean people, horrible conditions and circumstances that were too hard for him.  He just wanted to be home.  

I hung up the phone and fought back tears.  Of course I wanted him home! I wanted to make it easy for him but I also knew his very existence depended on him staying. 

We claimed hope for what we couldn't see- the fog had overtaken our view and we were sinking deeper and deeper into the slimy muck.  

That muck was the turning point where I stopped looking for easy.  

The board that bridges life for me- the cross- we began to depend on it, cling to it and one step at a time to walk over it toward the beautiful, peaceful (okay, not yet but it's more peaceful than before) life we couldn't completely see then.  
We clung to it as it our lives depended upon it, because they did.  And do.  

Elijah came home nearly four months later, that year.  Our days aren't always good and they are never easy, but they are better.  After those terrible seeming unbearable months -God chose to bring him home to us. And each step is one closer to the beautiful and one step further from the muck of that year and Elijah's start, that will not define him but God is using to mold him.  


Parents of securely attached kids- you might not fully grasp the greatness of what I'm about to say- no judgement here, it's just a fact.  I know, because I've parented both.  

I was standing in my kitchen 3 days ago.  It had been a fairly muck free day.  
Elijah walked up to me and said "Mom, I think you need a hug" and then wrapped his skinny little arms around me trapping my arms at my side and gave me the biggest, longest sweetest, most precious hug he has ever given me! 

I didn't want him to let go.  

He wanted nothing.  Asked for nothing.  No manipulation.  No triangulation.  No anger, lies or intent. 

He just gave his momma a hug- and it was the first time ever he had.   

The fog cleared and I could see what I knew was there but was hidden from view-  prayers answered in an 11 year old little boy giving this Momma the most precious gift.  


There are still chirping birds and honking geese.  I'm still rocking.  A few friends have joined me on the porch, just like friends who joined our walk through the muck then and are still walking with us now.  Old friends.  New friends.  Precious people.  

Do you see it.  The lake is in full view.  Foggy, but there.  And I'm overwhelmed with gratefulness for the cross and the muck it bridges. 

One day, Jesus will take us home to the beautiful eternity we can't yet see; but we know is there.  
He told us so.  
And he showed us so when he died- for me- for my sweet son- for you.  

Faith, hope and love.  Yes please!

The greatest of these is love.  

Happy weekend y'all. I pray it's muck free.  
But if it isn't, there's a safe place to cross over. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

30 Years-30 Memories!

Today Rex and I celebrate 30 years of being Mr. & Mrs.  His & Hers.  Rex & Robin.  Hot & Cold. Right & Wrong.  Happy & Sad.  Determined and Discouraged.

30 years as One.

We're headed to Texas next week for our anniversary get-away.  Dallas has been on our bucket list for a long time and we are pretty excited to go.  But, with the upcoming trip there were no gifts tonight, at least not the ones you buy.

We went to dinner and decided it would be fun to list out a memory for each year.

Me and Rex 30 years and counting 

napkins, pay stub, deposit receipts-got paper? 

Remember that time when

-you chewed an entire 17-stick pack of gum while I was in labor with Shayne?
-we were moving a couch in the trunk of our car at 11pm, and it fell out right in front of the bar on Day Avenue?
-we sat in a counselor's office fearing our marriage wouldn't survive the stress of special needs parenting, and learning then that weekends away, just the two of us, weren't selfish but crucial?
-we painted the Buena Vista house with oil based paint and it smelled so bad we couldn't sleep in the house?
-we got naughty in the back of the pick-up truck, that didn't belong to us?
-you came to see me when I was in rehab and I had three shirts on because it was so cold?
-we celebrated our 28th anniversary on our son's wedding day?
-we picked our two youngest sons up at the hospital and brought them home, unknowing how our lives would forever change?
-you cried at our wedding? I knew you were a keeper, a man with a heart.
-I got accused of killing Angie's rabbit and then had to bury it?
-we went for a walk and got caught in the pouring rain- your mom insisted on putting my clothes in the dryer before I went home.
-you cut the hose on the kitchen sink sprayer because you didn't like how it looked and water started spraying everywhere?
-I asked you if there was a beach in Tennessee and you said you weren't sure?
-you hung outdoor Christmas lights in your underwear-again!
-I locked you outside on the porch in your bra and underwear?
-I drove my red, 1974 Chevrolet Caprice to pick you up for our dates?
-we went to see the movie Ghost, and came home and sat on the couch and prayed together when you accepted Jesus as your Savior- what a precious night!
-we moved, again and again and.....
-you fed my Dad his last meal because you were his "little horse if you never won a race"?
-we visited your grandparents and she made spaghetti with ketchup and we giggled into our pillows late into the night?
-we became grandparents and the indescribable joy of loving our girls?
-we went to the grocery store for the first time and spent $300+ but had nothing that we could cook for a meal?
-you got into a car with an old man mistaking his car for ours?
-we drove the yellow bananna- Chevrolet Malibu- for more than two months with the power steering out because we couldn't afford to get it fixed?
-we took all the furniture out of two rooms in our house so we could set up restaurant style seating, to serve our family homemade chili for dinner as their Christmas gift?
-Brad and Keith erased your blackboard?
-we drove to Florida the first time and stayed in a crappy hotel with red "blood" or "paint" (depending on who is remembering) on the floor- not knowing that in the off season the nice hotels are as cheap as the crappy ones?
-Danny died.  We had no idea what to do so we just held each other and cried. for hours. for days. for weeks. for months.
-you chased the self-propelled runaway lawn mower into the street during rush hour traffic?
-you were a tiny size 6 and I bought you a size 42 teddy as a surprise?

Once we started, the memories just kept coming but we stopped writing them down at 30 with two exceptions- a favorite thing about being Mr. & Mrs. - no kids, no people, just us.

Rex said his was moving to a new town and not knowing anybody but each other.
Mine was how I feel safe and comfy with Rex's arm around me or his hand in mine no matter where we are. It's truly my happy place, even better than the sea.  

After dinner we walked around Kirkland's and goofed off a bit.  Couldn't help taking a selfie with this one.

Truth follows us wherever we go

Happy Anniversary Honey!
So thankful to be blessed beyond measure with you.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day, Honey!

small boys become big men, through the influence of big men who care about small boys

I knew being a dad was something you wanted from the earliest talks we had. 
Our plan and timing for a family was different than God's.  
We cried a lot. 
We waited. 
And while we waited- you loved others- nieces, nephews, cousins, kids of friends-as if they were your own. 

And then, God gave us this guy. 

And while you never liked playing football in the backyard or working on cars.  You broke the stereo-typical molds the world assigns and taught him how to look people in the eye, grasp their hand and let them know they were noticed.  You taught him that there is nothing "sissy" about helping your wife take care of the home.  You taught him that sometimes it's okay for grown men to cry. 

You taught him so much more than I even know.  

And then, you taught him to love unconditionally in the hard by your example. 

And you started protecting and teaching these two in the same way.  Only the task was much greater.  And the days much longer.  
And the light not always visible. 

 But still, you loved right through the hard.  And the sleepless nights.  And the unknown tomorrows.  You held on with everything in you to influence our small boys.  

And our sons are better for having you as their Daddy- because you balance the lessons of life with laughter and silliness.  When I'm all about the rules, you remind us all that sometimes you just have to laugh.

But most important, you live out your faith in front of them.
So keep playing.
Keep laughing.
Keep letting them climb in your lap and sleep next to you on the floor.
Keep showering your oldest with encouragement as he is now influencing little girls who call him Daddy.

"Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers and singers of song." -Pam Brown

Rex, please keep being the man, extraordinary, who turned by God's love is your kid's hero- keep telling the the story of Jesus.  Keep singing of His grace.

Because at the end of the day, the greatest Dad ever is the one who gives us hope.
Thanks for pointing your boys to Jesus, not just by your words but by your life- flawed and forgiven.

Happy Father's Day Rex!
I love you and am so proud of the Dad you are.

Monday, May 23, 2016

When You Can't Wrap Your Head Around It

"Honey, your friend is dead"

I heard him say the words but my mind couldn't accept them.  What? No.

I was shopping for some work items when my husband called me with the news.  Waiting for details- my gut knew it was true but I just couldn't wrap my head around it.  She was my friend and my coworker.

I sat in my car for hours- unable to move.  It must be a mistake.

Trust in Him at all time, you people; pour out your hearts to Him. For God is our refuge. 
Psalm 62:8

I had just talked to her less than 24 hours before. The news didn't match up with what I knew about my friend.  Her energetic smile, concern and encouragement for others- for me- day after day...

How can this be?

Domestic violence is ugly.  When a person loses hope, it's tragic.

Immediately the could have, should have and what ifs started punishing me.

Trust in Him at all time, you people; pour out your hearts to Him. For God is our refuge. 
Psalm 62:8

Our work team is few in number but huge in heart.  We work well and enjoy our hours together. We truly care for each other. We cry over pets and kiddos.  We rejoice over weddings and grand babies.  I pray for them and they pray for me.  We talk about politics, faith and life without judgment even when we don't agree.  We love each other.  And that, is a rare and special blessing in a work setting, and one I frequently thank God for. I don't take it or our team for granted.  It's a gift.

So it was not a surprise when normally, we would all be working remotely on a Monday, that we showed up last Monday morning at the office to encourage and comfort each other and try to make sense of what.just.did.not!

When something so shocking affects us personally- I think it's normal for our minds go into overdrive.  Analyzing every word, action or lack of.  And again, the could've, should've, if I would've thoughts can easily consume so we talked each other through those and helped each other be rational. And we cried and hugged each other and stared at the empty space in our office and started grieving the empty space in our hearts.

Trust in Him at all time, you people; pour out your hearts to Him. For God is our refuge. 
Psalm 62:8

When tragic events hit so close we all have a choice in where we find refuge.  God never pushes His way into our lives.  Personally, He is my hope and my peace and my great comforter and has proven to be a faithful refuge for my hurting heart so I had nowhere to go except to Him.

Trust in Him at all time, you people; pour out your hearts to Him. For God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:8

We went together as a team to bury our friend on Friday.  She leaves a huge void to fill.  I could always count on her to eat chocolate with me when everyone else was being "healthy" and her texts in the evenings just checking on me, when she knew my day had been tough, will be so missed.  She was a great encourager and her smile each morning across from me helped me focus on the positive things instead of the negative. She was always teaching me something, mostly useless fun facts, but opening my eyes to things I didn't know.  

I'm struggling.  I'm sad.
Sleep taunts me - those darn should've, could'ves.

But I am taking refuge in God.  I've poured my heart out over and over this past week.  I've told Him I don't understand and I know that answers here will most likely never come.
I have watched up close the hurt and sadness that is affecting so, so many people because of what seems like a senseless act of violence.

Trust in Him at all time, you people; pour out your hearts to Him. For God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:8

Religion fails us in times like this, but because I have a relationship with God I can trust Him. I am finding refuge.
 - at all time- If I can't trust Him when tragedy hits then how can I truly trust Him when things are good. That would be a fake trust, wouldn't it? 

I often get settled in when life is moving along on the "normal" road and start expecting that because I love God things will be easy and always make sense.  But that's not what He told us.  

I have told you these things so that you can have peace in me.  In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have defeated the world!
John 16:33

So what are these things? John 16:33 recorded Jesus' final words to his disciples.

Aren't last words precious?

Jesus was giving them comfort and reassuring them; He knew that the days ahead would be really hard for them.  He was going away.  He was going to die.  Do you think it was hard for them to wrap their heads around?

Earlier in the book of John He referred to two gifts that his followers would receive,  peace and joy. But these gifts don't come without struggle (insert tragedy, trouble, heartache) - conflict with the world.

Discipleship is learning how to discover peace, when there is threat all around us.  It requires courage- be brave- take heart.  Despite our circumstances- the victory is in Jesus.  And that, my friends outweighs our troubles.

Peace-Victory in Jesus! 

- sometimes I just can't wrap my head around it but how thankful I am that it's mine!

Happy Monday y'all, I pray you find peace and victory in your trouble!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Birthday Interviews 2016- The Oldest Son.

His birthday is today.  He's 21.


My firstborn son is legal.  It seems weird because I often forget how young he is - he's getting ready to celebrate his second wedding anniversary. He is a great Daddy and husband and he continues to learn and look for ways to grow himself.

Easter Sunday
photo credit: Emily Allen 

He is proof that God gives us good gifts-more than we can ask for. I still get excited every time he walks in the room, and watching him with his daughter(s) brings more joy than I could ever have anticipated.

Just chilling
photo credit:  Emily Allen 

Here's what he had to say....

What is your name?  seriously?  It's Shayne
How old are you? 21
What is your favorite thing to do? Hunt
What do you want to be when you grow up? Hunting Guide
What is your favorite food? Chicken Wings
Who do you like to spend time with? Emily
What do you do really well? carpentry, build things
What makes you laugh? everything
What is the best time of the day? 8:30 p.m. when the kids go to bed 
What are you afraid of? losing Emily
Who is your best friend? my Dad
What do you like to do with your family? go get milkshakes
What do you love to learn about? theology
Where do you like to go? Kings Dominion 
What is your favorite book? The Smuggler
If you had one wish what would it be? To have my dream home already paid for.  I don't mind working and don't care about being rich, but to have a home for my family without stress of paying the mortgage.   

So, just like I missed his "first ever" touchdown because I was out of town, I'm missing his 21st Birthday for the same reason-  I'm still in Texas so we'll be celebrating when I get home.  Shayne, please don't hold it against me.

I love you so much and your Dad and I continue to be proud of the man you have become. I pray that you always seek God and love your wife and girls as well as you do today.  

When I sing/tell you that you're my sunshine, know that it isn't just a silly song to annoy you- but truth. 

Thank you- because of our morning chats and coffee while I get ready for work, I no longer dread stressful morning routines but actually look forward to starting my day.  

Happy 21st Birthday, Shayne! 
You are so loved. 

Happy Tuesday from Texas y'all! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Birthday Interviews 2016- The Youngest Son.

Today's his birthday.  He's 10.


Double digits.

He's the baby of the family- my creative and busy Isaiah.  He's my pickiest eater and best cuddler. If he's in, he's all in, and if he's not- we have a struggle on our hands.

Here's what he had to say when we did our birthday interview.
What is your name?  Isaiah
How old are you? 10
What is your favorite thing to do? draw
What do you want to be when you grow up? graphic designer
What is your favorite food? hot dogs
Who do you like to spend time with? my Mom
What do you do really well?  draw
What makes you laugh? when Mommy says something silly
What is the best time of the day? night time - cause I get to go to sleep 
What are you afraid of? nothing
Who is your best friend? my mom
What do you like to do with your family? go on a walk on the green way
What do you love to learn about? science
Where do you like to go? Disneyland
What is your favorite book? I don't have one 
If you had one wish what would it be? to get a trillion dollars- to spend on drawing stuff and college 

We celebrated Friday night, because I'm in Texas today for a work conference.

I think he was happy about the action figures he requested.  His expressions crack me up- and his smile melts me.  He is so tough, yet tender-hearted.

Happy 10th Birthday Isaiah!

You are so loved!

Happy Tuesday from Texas y'all!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Birthday Interviews 2016- The Middle Son.

Today is his birthday.  He is 11.


A few of his favorite things. 

This year, I interviewed each of my son's for their birthday- all this week. It happens that way every year.
So this year, to shake things up I'm doing an interview series.

The first -for my sweet Elijah.

What is your name?  Elijah
How old are you? 11 
What is your favorite thing to do? Playing with lightsabers
What do you want to be when you grow up? Gemologist 
What is your favorite food? White Chicken Chili 
Who do you like to spend time with? my Mom
What do you do really well?  Give information.
What makes you laugh? Silliness, like funny faces
What is the best time of the day? late afternoon 
What are you afraid of? losing my family
Who is your best friend? my brother 
What do you like to do with your family? make homemade pizza and play card games 
What do you love to learn about? sea creatures
Where do you like to go? New Jersey, where Benjamin was- or the beach in Florida
What is your favorite book? "In My Heart" 
If you had one wish what would it be? Trillionare- so I can take care of my family forever- get them what they need- I'd be the richest kid in the world.


The smile says it all. 

These faces.  

I made him his favorite food for dinner and he got the lightsaber he's been drooling obsessing over for a really long time.

And when I tucked him in bed tonight, I might have teared up.  I told him how proud I am of him.  I asked him to look me in the eye while I told him that he is awesome, and special, and is going to do great things.  And he did.  As best he could he caught my eyes- he listened and accepted that God made him uniquely special.  And I assured him that he need not worry about losing his family.

I told him that I wouldn't trade him for nothing.  Not one thing.

And with that big beautiful smile, he told me he loved me.  I think I got the best present tonight.

Happy Birthday, Elijah!

Your Momma and Daddy sure do love you- and when asked if we'd do it again- the answer is YES!

Happy Tuesday y'all!

Monday, March 14, 2016

He Made A Way!

I like to help God.  I know, it's a problem.  When I know in my heart somethin's gotta change, I start trying to help God work it out in a way that makes sense to me.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  
Isaiah 55:8 KJV

I sat in the office with hot tears pouring down my cheeks as I finally, with all the courage I could muster said out loud what I had held in for so long. 
" I feel like I'm trading one son for another, our old family for our new one." 

And once it was out there, there was no putting it back.  The office was their counselor's.  Their psychiatrist's.  Their caseworker's who would fight for his residential placement.  His in-home counselor who would sit with us face to face in our living room.  

As the behaviors associated with non-typical neurological kids escalated (big words you get to learn when you love unexpectedly) the great divide between Shayne and his brothers grew.  

Shayne was ten when the boys came into his world.  Crashing in- like a meteor hitting the earth their  presence meant Shayne lost a huge part of us. More than the time, affection and attention, we were asking a ten year old- a teenage- a young man to understand the many diagnosis that made everything he knew about us and being a kid,  different for his brothers.  And that's a big ask- because we ourselves are still learning to understand. 

I feared my firstborn would grow up and run far away from the chaos- and frankly, there are days I want to run too.  But God has a plan, and if we learned anything so far, it's to trust Him, even when we don't understand. 

We've been praying for a really long time about school.  Don't get me started on how stressful school is for all kids these days. I won't rant about Common Core, SOLs and No Child Left Behind.  I have several wonderful friends who teach and God bless them, they are passionate about their jobs and the kids God puts in their classrooms each year. Back to that me helping God thing, I thought about bribing them to quit their job and just teach my boys. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and 
lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him and 
he will make your paths straight.  
Proverbs 3:5&6 NIV

We got intentional about our prayers about five months ago asking many of you to join us.  We asked specifically that God would make a way to homeschool our boys because after several ideas like  
  • Hiring a sitter during the day and we'd teach them at night  
  • Maybe Rex would quit his job and be a stay at home Dad
  • Community school where they'd at least get more hands on learning
  • Isaiah was even trying to help God out too, he just kept saying to get Emily to do it
But we never had peace about anything we came up with.  

And while we were praying their frustrations and anxieties were mounting.  Suspensions, daily sometimes hourly texts and calls; IEP meetings and more calls.  
And the tears- hours of tears shed each night begging for us to please not make them to go to school. 

What we didn't see during this time, was the way was under construction. And it was nothing that we ever would have thought on our own.

Then this. 

A text from my firstborn.  

Shayne has been helping the boys with their homework.  He had some strong opinions, similar to ours and he knew of their frustrations. He knew we were praying, but I didn't know he was. 

Isn't that sweet, I thought when I told his Dad, and then I blew it off.  

Or, I tried to.  

Being a responsible adult Mom, my brain was flooded with all the reasons this couldn't work. 

Don't you love it when God speaks so quietly you can't help but hear Him over everything else? 

And He gave me a good talking to that went something like this... 

Robin, who do you think you are?  You and I both know that your boys need this.  I don't give you gut instinct for no reason.  You've been praying and even asking others to pray that I would make a way- and now you're questioning me?  Not only questioning me, but you're going to try and pull the Mom card to question whether your son knows my voice?  Didn't you teach him to listen for me? And don't you remember how scared you were that you would lose one son for two others.  Beauty for ashes Robin.  This is what you've been praying for.  This is the way. 

So, I did what I usually do and asked God to give me just a little more.  I gave two specifics that would need to line up so then I'd know.  Oh, don't judge me- you know you've done it too. 

Sometimes when I ask God for specifics, He says NO, just trust me.  But every so often He gives me what I ask.  And this time, not only did all the pieces fall into place in ways so much better than any of us could've asked for, we started to see that the bricks for this path had been laid one by one, starting over a year ago.  

The schoolroom, Isaiah, Shayne and Elijah 

So Friday, my boys walked into the public school with smiles that demanded notice and said goodbye to their friends, teachers and principal.  We all felt free with new excitement.  Isaiah even woke up Saturday morning counting down the 48 hours until today.  

Today, a big day because the boys started #allensathomeschool.  And instead of running from the chaos, my oldest ran smack dab into it. Ya'll, when God lets you learn to love unexpectedly you don't run away from it.  

Over the last few weeks as we've shared with family and professionals, we've had a lot of questions- mainly people want to know how on earth we are able to do this. Why would Shayne quit his job to attend to his brothers full-time? Some of you will think we've lost our minds.  

It's all good. All anybody really needs to know is that when God makes a way- He does it big!  And right! And takes care of all the details!  

Like Thomas, questions of doubt creep in- I find myself wanting all the ends tied up in a pretty bow. I want to know that this is settled and that the boys will graduate from home.  I want to know that the joy and relief that we are feeling with the excitement of new starts and freedom to teach what we believe matters most is how it will be for the next eight years.  

But pretty bows take away the trust that God asks of me.  

So, for such a time as this, we are smiles for miles and praising God for answering prayers in ways that are so much better.  And this Momma is remembering that God speaks to my children too, and their obedience, even when it doesn't make sense is required for His purposes to be fulfilled. 

Can I just encourage you for a minute?  Don't give up on that thing you're praying for- the way that you cannot see. God's plans are so much better.  What He does for us He wants to do for you.  

Happy Monday y'all! 

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