Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Letter to My Bella.

My Love,

Isabella ParaLeigh Earls. Just saying your name makes me get flutters in my tummy as though you have a power to move me from within. You, my love, are a perfect gift from God fashioned with all of my favorite things (as though God knew how much I would love you). He created you in my womb as delicately as a potter molds his clay. You are the product of the intense love between me and your daddy. You were prayed for before you twinkled in our eyes for the first time. We prayed for a child that would do great things and impact the world, but mostly that you would love your Creator as we love him. I still pray this prayer my sweet. Your arrival into this world, though tumultuous, was a miracle... as powerful and providential as I've ever seen or felt. God kept you safe as you arrived seven weeks early, unannounced. He kept you breathing in the incubator as I lovingly stroked your face and saw small, quiet tears roll down your daddy's face. He watched over us as we stepped into an empty nursery and fell to the floor in the immense sorrow of your absence. We loved you before we met you, and after you joyously appeared...well, we lived for you.

Today I pray the Lord continues to mold you with his delicate touch. That God would wrap his arms around you and impart in you the wisdom of his great mercy. I pray that He would perform miracles (like he has proven to do before) in your mind and bless your understanding and development. I pray that autism would be a fleeting word that we do not dwell on, that we would rise above and beyond the constraints of this world and focus our trust on Him. I lay you at the foot of the cross my babe. Every morning. It is there were we experience redemption from this life (and all it's ailments). You are the embodiment of beautiful my Bella. Congratulations for the huge strides you have taken in your short 2.5 years on this earth, thank you for ministering to me every day and teaching me more about our maker. I love you.

Mommy (or Mimi as you call me so perfectly now).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Autism: That the Works of God Might Be Displayed

Life got very raw at the Earls house yesterday. I (Annie) had a bit of a, "I'm the mother of an autistic child" breakdown. I felt like I lost complete control (literally of my emotions and my life) as I saw a video of a grown up with autism who had not progressed past, well... infancy really. I felt like I wanted to hold onto Bella and never let go. I wanted to impart all of the wisdom my feeble mind has to offer into her mind (as if it was that easy) ... I felt frantic for a cure that does not exist.... that feeling of such finality is sinking and it wrenched my stomach...

(PS I don't write this to be a downer, this is just our journey....we feel it's important to remember and recall these days)

I am taking a class right now that deals with transition services or, in other words, preparing students to transition into adulthood. Apparently, seeing adults with autism who have had to be placed in special facilities because their parents are too old to take care of them anymore, was just a little too much for me to bare. In my deepest heart of hearts, I believe our Bella will progress beyond where those people in that video were.... I now know, however, that I must mentally and spiritually prepare myself before I click on any video or link that deals with autism because the wound goes so deep within me.

With that said, I cannot take away God's glory in this situation. I was YEARNING for His word today, I was spiritually parched. I remember days long ago when I would beg for a desire to "yearn to read the Bible"...but now, it's like nothing else speaks any truth except that very thing. First, I read this....

John 9:1-3 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

If you have a child with a disability, it's hard not feel responsible in some way for their imperfections. In all reality it is sin that caused man's imperfections ... which makes me hate sin so much more. I hate it for Bella so much. In fact, last night I told Josh (ok I cried it to him) that I really HATE AUTISM. I don't feel bad saying that either. It's the result of fallen man. If I could scream that from the mountain tops I would. Ok, back to the verse...

The disciples and Jesus passed by the blind man (who was blind from birth) and I'm sure had experienced much turmoil because of this throughout his life.... the disciples asked Christ why he was blind (surely because of the sin of the parents or the child).... but, and this was where I took a deep refreshed breath.... he was blind/disabled so that...THE WORKS OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED IN HIM...

This verse is like a cool glass of water for my parched soul. God created Bella in a divine manner, with autism (which we've determined I hate). I don't hate God, I don't hate Bella (obviously), I hate the suffering she will encounter due to autsim. BUT, he created Bella just the way she is so that HIS WORKS might be displayed THROUGH HER. God can use our Bella in amazing ways. He teaches me everyday to depend on Him. He teaches me to love my husband more. He makes me sacrifice myself and my daughter and lay her at his feet every morning in perfect submission. He is already using her to teach us as parents.

I love her so much. So, as much as I hate autism, I am thankful for it. I'm thankful for the blessing it is (a quiet blessing that is planted in the soils of our hearts and cultivated...and grows with firm roots into something beautiful and strong).

Thank you God.

Friends, we ask you to pray that our Bella would experience amazing growth in her mental and spiritual understanding throughout her life....I believe God has great things in store for this little girl:)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Internal Splinters

Today I went to Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, VA for some physical therapy (yes, I'm an 80 year old woman). I was NOT wearing Depends or using a walking stick so I feel like I'm still young at heart (on the inside anyway). It was actually crazy, I was walking down the halls looking at all of the people in uniform wishing I could stand in their shoes for a second. If I could just live their life only for a moment, then I could find out why some of them look so sad, so determined, so numb, so joyful...what's going on in each of their lives at that very moment? As a chaplain's wife, after hearing all of the sad and happy stories the military has to offer, I can conjure up many outlandish possibilities at the feelings/stories of these service members. When I think of the internal battles these poor sailors and soldiers face, sometimes I want to just stop and hug them. It's just the silly way I think hugs heal wounds. I hate sometimes that we can't fix sad people. What can I say to help them know that it will be ok?

The truth is, I can't say anything. The only thing that will fill them up is Christ's love.

I was also stricken with awe (as I started therapy in the naval hospital) at the amount of men and women (both active and our dear vets) who have been wounded in battle. The crazy part was, the age range was vast. Though some were barely 20, and others in their 80's--their determination was the same. These men that I saw (most of them missing a limb with clearly evident body wounds) would just close their eyes, as if to recall their former self, and work out as hard as I've ever seen. Maybe they close their eyes and dream of a future self, with less pain??? Maybe they close their eyes to shut out the rest of us and just focus on healing. In any case, they are such hero's to me. I wanted to stop my "stupid little back therapy" (which seems less important when these guys are around) and make an "announcement" to the entire room. I wanted to literally stand on a chair and proclaim my thanks..."You sir, have made the ultimate sacrifice and I have no way to repay you but to say this...". I did not make my proclamation today, but give me time my friends. In some capacity I plan to thank these men/women I see in therapy, even if just with a friendly smile:)

I am blessed. I go to sleep and wake up next to my groom who serves our country every day. He spends his time hearing about the hardest inner and outer turmoils you can imagine. He even counsels over the phone after work sometimes....and I am so proud to be his wife. He has not been physically wounded, and for that I am thankful! He does however bare wounds, he bares them WITH his men and women. The wounds that are hidden. He helps work them to the surface so they can work them out like painful splinters (once out, healing begins). Friends, the men and women of the armed forces are hurting. They need so much love and support it's crazy. Mostly because they are deployed so often. Mostly because they miss the birth of their children or the death of their children or loved ones. They miss their family, their home. They've got little splinters inside that need working out...I'm pretty sure Christ is the only one with such a delicate touch, He removes internal splinters...

How comfortable are you today? Cozied up in your comfy chair, checking email, Facebook, or blogs? Imagine living in a desert or on a ship. Imagine life without all of the creature comforts you have.... then imagine taking all of your loved ones away. There you have it. Pray for your troops, because they ARE YOUR TROOPS... after all. Nothing hurts my heart more than when we are not supportive of our men and women in uniform.

Next time you see someone whether active, or vet...thank them, I know I will!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Springtime: Love, Therapy, Pneumonia

You may be pondering to yourself, "What have those Earls been up to lately?" I'm sure you all sit there each day pondering the happenings of myself, my spicy two year old, and my...well, spicy husband. :) I think that makes our family some form of tabasco sause or salsa (which is only fitting with how much Mexican food we eat) Here goes....

Lets see.... we had two sets of company come in town to visit us. Praise God for this new house in Virginia Beach, it begs to be filled with company. My heart loves to see my old friends (and I've been told by my husband that I miss them more than I know, and that I experience minor Lynchburg depression when they leave...wink). We are also extremely thankful for the new friends God has blessed us with here in Norfolk/VA Beach, seriously they are great and we love them immensely. I'm excited to be a part of a new ladies group meeting at my house on Sunday nights...we are going through a book on marriage and it's going to rock our socks off, I can feel it.

Bella has been a busy little thing, as I type this she is making snow angels in the flower bed (yes that would mean dark soil in her hair and teeth). She is still getting ABA therapy 3-4 times a week for 2 hours a day. This is in home so we are actively a part of everything she does during therapy. She is doing really well still and wecontinue to see the benefits (mostly in her communicating her basic needs to us). She still has her "autistic" moments, and I have to remind myself that she will not be cured in one day, or I guess what I mean is....I cannot just fix some of the things she does easily. We pray daily for patience. I (Annie) want God to make me a perfect mother for Bella. Josh is such a great father for her and we are working together and learning together. Josh and I were talking the other day and we realized that our hearts are so full of love for Bella it's hard to imagine loving anything else more. It also used to really be hard for us to see children younger than her progress past her developmental maturity. I mean, I could be walking at the mall and see a 1 year old using lots of words that Bella can't use and want to just burst into tears.... but, today....I rejoice in who Bella is (and who she is not). I praise God she breathes. That she can see. That she can taste. That she's alive. After all, without God...she would not even exist. For that, I thank Him daily.

I am plugging away in my master's. Sometimes I want my master's to go away, and by go away I mean....well, if I could put it in a drawer and take it out only when "I feel like doing homework" that would be great (which, would not be often as I am still recovering from my addiction to reality TV :). I love learning about special education, but the extra work makes me want to hit a snooze button somewhere. Alas, I plug away and I'll have you know I've gotten straight A's thus far (patt on my own back and brag fest going on here). My results from a recent MRI (degenerative disk disease and herniated disk) now call for 3 days of physical therapy a week for me (yayee--sarcastic cheering). Yikes. My calendar is tired. Does someone have a Hawaiian Island I can borrow? Just drop me off....drop off a physical therapist and chiropractor too ;)

Josh is busy with being the cutest and bestest (not a word) Chaplain EVER....oh and he teaches Church History classes for Liberty University as well. He's so good at multi-tasking it's amazing. I'm pretty sure he's the "coolest" guy I know. Obviously he's not the "Koolest" guy because then he'd be my dad... Dr. Koole. Just sayin'. :)

We went out to California last week for Josh's sister Jaimee's wedding. It was gorgeous. She was a beautiful bride and her new husband Rick fits well into the Earls clan:) My nephew Caleb was a handsome addition to the groom's side as well (see picture of Jaimee and her son above). Josh was the minister who married them, Bella was the flower girl (poor dear got pneumonia on the flight in but made it through the festivities), and I was honored to be a bridesmaid and do a reading. We also got to visit with my brother, his wife, and my sweet niece them so much! The poem Jaimee had me read is below, I think it's so beautiful don't you?? It's by Pablo Neruda...

(I Do Not Love You) *Don't let this title fool you, there is so much love in this poem, it practically oozes....
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Well blog stalkers--- that's the 411. Who says 411? I certainly don't... but just did.

Have a blessed day!