The Least of These

Sheila with ChristopherThe cardiologist walked into the room, glanced at my chart and asked, “So you didn’t get an abortion?”. As I was 34 weeks pregnant, it seemed an unnecessary question.

For one agonizing night we actually considered it. Twenty-two weeks into my second pregnancy we learned the boy I was carrying had Down Syndrome and a serious heart defect. Though my husband and I detested the idea of abortion, we wondered if we were cruel to let him live. On April 17, 1996 we sat in our living room, numb with shock. “What if sparing him suffering is the only thing we can do for him?” Keith asked our minister, Duke Vipperman, who had come by to talk to us.

“You sound as if you believe it is you who are causing his suffering,” Duke replied. Then he explained that we do not cause suffering, it just happens. Those closest to God, who are most at peace, are often those who have suffered the most. “If you try to ease his suffering by denying him life,” Duke told us, “you are in essence saying you can do God’s job better than God.”

For Keith this settled the issue. He had never wanted to abort, but as a physician he wanted to “fix the problem”–to make sure he was doing all he could for our baby.

I knew I could never go through with an abortion, but it was not just because of my moral objections. I had felt him kick. Even though he was small, I sensed him fluttering at only 14 weeks, and he just kept growing more active. I could never abort him. I loved him. He was my son.

Christopher arrived eleven days early on August 6, 1996. Suddenly he was no longer a medical problem but a tiny bundle who breathed a little too fast, and who stared into my eyes with recognition and, I think, love.

His first two weeks were peaceful ones, as he was healthier than we expected, and we learned all the facets of his personality. He enjoyed being cradled and listening to singing, but would kick and scream in indignation if he lost his soother. When our 1 ½ year old daughter Rebecca visited him, she would lean over the bassinet, pat his blond fuzzy head and say, “My baby?”. I would nod, and promise that we would take him home soon.

But we couldn’t. As his heart began to fail Christopher grew increasingly tired and lost weight instead of gaining it. He was transferred to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children to await surgery.

During the evening, as I sat alone with him in his room, I would hold him and whisper, “Do you know how much Mommy loves you?”. Babies, so tiny and helpless, inspire a purer love than most. It is an unselfish love, since babies–and especially those who are sick–cannot promise anything in return. I am a goal oriented person, yet with Christopher, I learned to sit and just “be”. I had no choice. And in the quiet, I sensed God whispering His own unconditional love to me, too. “Thank you, God,” I whispered, “for the chance to know this precious boy.”

Usually his room was bustling with visiting friends, relatives, and Keith’s colleagues. We even held a dedication service there. The event was somber, for though we were celebrating his life, we all could see how tiny he was for the battle that lay ahead. The doctors gave Christopher a 25% chance of post-operative survival, for he was only 4 ½ pounds.

On the morning of his surgery I was terrified I wouldn’t hold him again. “I want so much more for you, honey,” I said. “But I am glad to have the chance to love you. No matter what happens, I will see you again.”

For five days he recovered well, and the doctors grew optimistic about his chances. But on September 3 Christopher’s breathing again grew rapid. That night my mother watched Rebecca, and Keith and I visited him together. “Mommy loves you, sweetheart”, I whispered as we left his room. It was 9:30 p.m.

He was only 29 days old when he died later that night.

The number of people at the funeral amazed us. Along with family and friends, many from the hospital attended, too. We asked Duke to talk about the importance of Christopher’s life, as we felt so many had discounted him because of his disabilities. “We must not look down on little children, for they are our model of God’s kingdom,” Duke preached. Jesus Himself chooses to identify with them, for whoever welcomes them, welcomes Him (Matthew 18:5). “Christopher was what we are to be: a little one, utterly dependent on God, struggling against apathy and everything that would deny us the sweetness of life.”

The two years since his death have been full ones. I have shed many tears, but I also smile now when I remember him. We have a new baby girl, and Keith is establishing his own pediatric practice. I often think about how different life would be had I aborted him. I would have no memories and no peace. And how do you talk about your pain? People understand my pain when I say I had a baby who died. Would they understand if I had aborted a baby at 4 ½ months? I can visit him at his grave. But most of all, I can look my girls in the eyes and tell them with conviction that I love them unconditionally. And they believe me, for I loved him.

Many may think his was a wasted life. He never came home from the hospital, he never smiled, and he was rarely even awake. But they didn’t watch the faces of his grandparents when they held him, the nurses as they watched us, or the people we have comforted since. They do not know how Christopher changed us. And so they cannot see that his life is much more than those 29 days. Recently Rebecca told me not to be sad, because Christopher is in heaven, and he is happy now. I think she is right. And one day we will meet him again, and the blessing that was his life will be complete.

Sheila’s book, How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life, deals more fully with this story. Find out more here.

Kids Spell Love: T I M E

Have you ever spent your entire day yelling, “come on, hurry up, we’ve got to go?” Do you ever feel like you’re so consumed with the tasks that you have to get done that you have no time to love those dearest to you?

 

That’s what chapter 8 is all about!

 

Here’s what Lori says:

 

Just yesterday I was listening to the news and a new report came out with the same sad story.

“Spending a lot of time watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Web makes children more prone to a range of health problems including obesity and smoking, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The sad reality is that we aren’t creating relationships, if we are avoiding each other. The fact that we are here on this site as homeschoolers shows that we have made the education of our children a priority, but what about fostering a real, honest and respectful relationship. We know what we envision for the future, at least I do….it’s my adult children coming home with Godly spouses, forging onward with the values that we’ve passed down to them. Well, I know only two things…God’s plans are not always mine, and raising Godly, confident kids is not going to be easy.

 

But it is possible, and even probable, if we put God first and take our responsibility seriously! And that doesn’t mean we live a serious life. In fact, it’s just the opposite! When we start prioritizing nurturing our children’s souls, we’ll laugh more. Love more. And enjoy more.

 

Check out the rest of her review here.


And just for visiting, I’ll give you the chance to download a radio show I did with the great folks at the National Institute for Biblical Parenting on Getting Kids to Honor You. It melds well with the parenting part of TLHV. So check it out!

Don’t Just Sit There, DO Something!

You can’t expect people to change magically.

 

If you want your home to change, you need to set consequences when people don’t change. And rewards when they do. It’s as simple as that.

 

Or is it?

 

Lori, conducting our book club, says this:

 

This is likely not going to be a walk in the park on a lovely spring day.

The day that I filled the black bag was not one of the our best. My kids tried all of the countermoves that Sheila says to expect.

They tried.

I stuck to my guns. The contents of the bag remains sitting in my closet is getting smaller as they prove that taking care of their things is important. Change takes time! I gave a lot of thought to this consequence. In no way did I want to single anyone out or withold love or acceptance. What I did, I did out of love, and they know that…now.

Sheila offers other ideas for consequences in this chapter and some of them are brilliant! The “jubilee” basket which is taken from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the land was returned to the original owner after a period of time. (page 133) Just after that suggestion, Sheila mentions how there have been times where they have had to call in the garbage bags! I LOVE this woman!

Another idea that I found useful and one that we have begun to use in my home is the idea, “If you Made the Dinner, You Don’t Clean Up.” She recommends that when children are old enough, they load the dishwasher and clear the table. Let everyone know that if they help prepare the meal then that evening they are off of clean up duty. It encourages help and it encourages responsibility as well as teach them practical life skills. As they get older, have them engage in helping plan meals, which will eventually lead to them preparing a meal.

Sing it Aretha…Sing it girl!
R~E~S~P~E~C~T

Read the rest here, including tips on allowances, how to get kids to “carry their own load”, and more!

The Family That Cleans Together

Now we’re getting into the part of the book where we change how we treat our families!

 

Let’s get practical here. In her synopsis, Lori summarizes what we need to do like this:

 

Positive reinforcement is a better motivator than criticism.
(Focus on complimenting that they cleaned the bathroom, rather than the missed toilet bowl~it’s ALL in how we say it!)

People need Practice
(Sorry ladies, but there will be few immediate results :))

The goal is to get them to do a task, not control their feelings.

(Just as I’m never going to LOVE emptying the dishwasher, my goal is not to “make” anyone love vacuuming; I need to remember that.)

You are doing your children a favor by teaching them skills and responsibility.
(I want to teach my children to truly appreciate the blessings that they are surrounded by, and by having them help in the household does far more than just talking about gratitude ever will.)

Your husband needs to feel that he is helpful to you.
(Come on girls, we need to give him the “pat on the back too!” We have to be quick to notice when he pitches in too, especially after a hard day’s work AND when it’s not done EXACTLY the way we’d have done it, we have to encourage!)

It’s really about changing attitudes, including our own when it comes to the responsibilities of the home. If we pray and begin to change our hearts from frustrated and nagging, to hearts that have a clear plan of appropriately asking and implementing help, we can be well on our way to not only a clean and managed house, but a happier and more productive, appreciative, loving family unit.

 

Read more here.