Monthly Archives: March 2015

Holy Week

crossIt’s Holy Week. When I try to take in all that this means, I’m completely overwhelmed and nearly speechless. Each Monday morning, we get up and start a new week. Many of us report to work. Some of us moms roll out of our jammies and into our yoga pants. Others begin more difficult tasks this week. Fighting an illness. Saying goodbye to a loved one. Packing up a former chapter of life. When Jesus began his week, his difficult final week, I wonder what he thought, how he felt. I’m one of those people who is actually grateful not to know the day of my death. If I knew that I was starting out my last week of life, I wonder how I would live. Jesus, knowing what he must do at the week’s end, turned his face toward Jerusalem and walked right into his death, through a choice of his own will. I wonder, what on earth possessed Jesus to do something like this? What was he thinking?! I know the answer; it’s love. He was thinking about me. And about you. When I really take time to soak that in and to think about Jesus as a man, walking willingly into the sacrifice that he made, I’m just blown away. It’s the most beautiful love story ever written. A man, with so much love for his bride, that he gave up his life in perhaps the most brutal way possible, just so that he could save her. What an epic love story.

If that wasn’t enough to blow me away, my mind then shifts to what Jesus accomplished through his death. Tears flow as I realize how my life is changed because of his sacrifice. I am to benefit from his suffering and sacrifice. I am privileged to know God because of Jesus. My life can have meaning because of Jesus. How I am loved. I wish that I lived with this knowledge in the forefront of my mind every minute of every day. It is the grand scheme. We’re always talking about the grand scheme of things. Well, this is it. This is what makes everything else hold together and make sense in a deeper sort of way, even if it looks crazy . I get so wrapped up in the little stuff, the stuff that doesn’t matter. If I could live everyday with a clear knowledge of what price was paid for my life, maybe I could focus less on myself, on the little stuff that doesn’t matter and give my all, run my guts out, for the race that does matter. So many people need Jesus. They need to know that he died for them because he loves them.

Today I simply want to honor my Jesus. I want to honor my hero, to lift high his name. He is my Savior, and without him, I would be nothing.

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Sophie’s Story: Breaking the Silence

asl keep calm
The first week in March we took the plunge into learning American Sign Language. We had been using signs with Sophie since she was less than a year old, but our increasing frustration was leading me to realize that we needed something more. As a three year old, Sophie has a lot of ideas, feelings, and “needs” that she wants to express, but she’s unable to do so. I can’t even imagine how frustrating that must be for her. I really don’t even know why I waited so long to start working on ASL. Maybe I just kept thinking, she’ll start to speak any time now. Well, any time is not arriving, and we are just too frustrated in this house!

I remember so clearly the first Monday morning when I put on a video – Signing Time with Alex and Leah – and I sat in my bathrobe, on the coffee table, in front of the TV, with tears filling my eyes as I watched this woman, Rachel Coleman, singing and signing along, and Sophie standing there totally captivated. For the first time in a long time, I was feeling hope that I might be able to know Sophie’s thoughts and feelings and wants and needs. As we watched the first episode, I tried, through the tears, to soak in as much as I could and remember each sign so that I could continue to use them in our day. We continue to watch Rachel Coleman’s show a lot, and Sophie has come to understand that she can use her hands to communicate. Some of her favorite signs are game, shoes and socks, sing, outside, wind, candy, school, and more or again. Finally she is able to tell me if she wants water, milk, or juice. She can choose crackers, grapes, peaches, pears, cereal, waffles, and more. She can tell me if she’s excited or if she had fun. She can tell me if she’s hungry, thirsty, tired, or grumpy. And she can tell me that she loves me.

One week after starting to learn ASL, I wrote this post on my Facebook page to share our progress:


Sophie signs “love”

One week ago we all began the path to learning another language – American Sign Language. It has been pretty overwhelming. But Sophie is blossoming like a beautiful flower. She is so much more aware of communicating with others (while she is still just three, of course). How many of you got a smile and a wave from Sophie this Sunday when she was previously oblivious to adults talking to her? I was so proud of her, even if it seemed like a small thing. Tonight my heart, my heart, she signed for the first time of her own initiative without any prompting, “I love you” to me at bedtime. After three long silent years, how completely beautiful to “hear” those precious words, those sweet feelings from my girl. Blessing the name of Jesus for how he is working in my family.


How unbelievably sweet to finally be able to talk with my girl, even a little bit. While we are still overwhelmed trying to learn as much ASL as quickly as we can, we are making progress, and it is so exciting! Everyday Sophie learns new signs, and she makes some up too, just like any child learning to speak. When we began watching Signing Time, Sophie probably had 5 signs fluently, and another 5 sporadically. Now we’re in the neighborhood of 30-35 signs, just four weeks later.


Sophie signs “candy” after dinner


Sophie signs “sing”

Sophie is finally finding her voice, and it is beautiful. I cannot wait to hear more of what she has to say.

I’m reminded once again that some of life’s beauty would be absent, unperceived, if we did not have to come through great struggle to see it. Keep your eyes on the horizon. Your beauty is coming.


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Learning to Hold It In

Best-Potty-ChairIn our house, it’s not the little boy who cried wolf; it’s the little girl who cried potty. All day long, one false alarm after another. Potty training has been my nemesis in the parenting realm. Not that other aspects of bring up baby haven’t been challenging (certainly, I have the girl who can’t speak on my hands… yes, challenges), but potty training takes the cake. About three months ago we thought Sophie was ready to potty train, so we got the pull ups, figured out the reward system, brought out the little potty, learned the sign for potty, and dove in. And for a time, she was doing great. But then, it turned into a game for her. And now, three months later, we still have the little girl who cries potty. And she cries it most often in the middle of meals when she wants to be allowed to get out of her chair before she’s finished eating. It didn’t take too long to realize what she was up to, and so we began a “we don’t go potty during dinner” rule. (It does bend in certain circumstances, of course.) We told Sophie that she would have to learn to hold it in during meals. Obviously little children don’t excel at holding it in, but it was our way of showing her that she can’t use the potty as a game to get out of her chair in the middle of a meal. We want her to move past the potty “game” and to actually learn the control needed for success.

Learning to hold it in — when it comes to words and emotions — has been a lesson near and dear to my own heart. My mouth can produce quite a deluge, capable of bowling over whoever is in earshot. In a completely contrasting image, I have also felt the inner fire that I believe James is referring to when he describes the tongue as “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (3:6). A life on fire with the fire of hell – that’s quite an image. Serious business to be sure. Yet, how careless we can be with our words. How we underestimate their power.

In particular, I find that I struggle with critical words. Yes, gossip has its lure, but it’s criticism that always seems to be like a leaping horse behind a gate, trying to burst its way out of my mouth. I blame this largely on my Type A personality. There is a certain way to do everything. To organize every bag, every cupboard, every drawer, everything. (Perhaps I should clarify that this used to be much more true of me than it is now. My children just can’t seem to learn how to organize at ages 3 and 1… I’ve tried, but I’ve had to give in in some regards). My husband can tell you all about this. Just ask him about the kids’ cup cabinet, or the diaper bag sometime. It is NOT just a hodgepodge! (Actually, don’t ask him because he doesn’t want to talk about it.) Seriously though, if something has not been done according to my way, it can be hard for me to just let it go.The struggle is real. I like things done a certain way, and if things happen in a different way, it can be hard for me not to be critical. (Because, clearly, my way is the best way.) (And, yes, motherhood has been one giant lesson in flexibility for me.)

My mother told me once in my teen years that it was not important to let someone know every single time they had done something wrong. (Duh?! But it truly was a word I needed to hear.) Such true and gracious words. So I remind myself continually “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph 4:29). Before that word crosses my lips, I wonder, will this be a benefit to those who are listening? Is this for building others up? I don’t catch myself as often as I should, and I don’t always hold my tongue even when the answer to those questions is indeed a resounding “no!” But I’m working on it.

90% of the time I feel like I’m failing miserably at this whole gig. I know that I should watch my words and only give voice to things that will build others up. But my emotions continually get the better of me. We’ve just come off of the flu-pocalypse 2015 here at the Burleigh house, and mommy was cooped up with two sick, cranky kiddos for a week straight. That’s a long time. When I got to leave the house for groceries on Thursday morning, I felt as if the clouds had parted and the Hallelujah Chorus was ringing out. Weeks like this make me feel isolated and overwhelmed, like a work mule who keeps turning around to find more of the same mess that she just finished cleaning up. A never-ending sink full of dishes. Cheerios all over every floor. Laundry, and more laundry. Diapers, and more diapers. At the week’s end, I felt frazzled and in desperate need of a break. In these types of weeks, it’s hard for me not to let my circumstances get the better of me. My frustrations overwhelm me and they inevitably spill out onto those around me. And then comes the turmoil of feeling defeated, despite my best efforts to be the best mommy and the best wife whose tongue remains under control at all times. Fail. I’m no expert yet at holding it in. I guess I need more practice just like Sophie. In these moments I am thankful that there is grace. A gracious husband. A gracious God. Grace upon grace. We sang this week in church “where sin runs deep, your grace is more.” After working on this piece all week and then failing so miserably at my own lesson, it was good to be reminded of God’s grace. We can never fail beyond God’s grace. I like to think that he’s pleased to see us trying, even if we do sometimes fail.

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Sloshing through Life

We’ve had a pretty snowy winter this year here in central Ohio. In these first weeks of March, we are just emerging from a thick white blanket of snow that has basically hidden our grass since November. These last four months, green grass has only existed in my happy place. But, when the snow finally started to melt and we saw some 5’s in the weather forecast, and it wasn’t the ONLY number in the forecast, I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. There IS hope. Spring WILL come this year. This winter in particular, it just seemed like spring would never arrive. And now it’s all but here. And it’s wonderful.

One of the first days of warmer weather, the beginning of our blessed spring thaw, occurred, of course, on my weekly day to get groceries. Of course. Not to be daunted by the slush, I threw on my waterproof boots over top of my pant legs so as not to experience the dreaded soaked pant leg from the mid-calf down. There are few things I like less than that feeling. But I digress. Eager to get out of the house alone (I really do love my kids), I threw on these boots and headed out into the slush. Given that I had the proper footwear in place, I actually began to enjoy traipsing through the thawing snow in the store parking lots. There’s something satisfying about smashing a big wet pile of melting snow after a particularly harrowing winter. Take that, snow! You won’t reign forever!

I’m always amazed on days like these, when it has just started to warm up, at how other folks who are out and about are dressed. These folks are just totally ill-prepared! Flats in this slush? Are you nuts, lady? Excuse me, sir, but it seems that someone has stolen the bottom of your pants. Oh, those are shorts? Did you know that it’s only 50 and there is indeed still snow on the ground. There’s nothing worse than trying to pick your way through uncertain footing in the wrong shoes (or lack of pants!). When I used to teach school, I faced more than one fire drill, picking my way through a muddy field, in a very wrong shoe situation. Terrible. Just no good.

But, I don’t mind being out in the snow, the slush, the mud, the puddles, what have you, if my feet are properly prepared. This recent foray out into the slush reminded me of Paul’s famous “Armor of God” passage in Ephesians. In the first five verses of that passage, he mentions standing firm or taking your stand four different times. And what do we stand on? Our feet of course! Verse 15 says have “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Just like I prefer to have my physical feet prepared for whatever weather I may face, I also need to have my spiritual feet ready. This verse tells me that directly: “feet fitted with … readiness.” So, how, spiritually, am I to be “ready”? The answer is there — our readiness “comes from the gospel of peace.” To me, that translates as Scripture. How am I ready to face all that I must walk through in this life? By having my feet rooted in God’s word. Certainly there are many other important aspects of the armor that Paul describes in Ephesians 6 which are equally essential in facing our journey through life, but this one stands out to me because of my recent tromp through the snow and because of how many people I see who call themselves Christians who just don’t know their Bible at all. Now, before you hear any arrogance in this discussion, please allow me to admit that I am not the ultimate Bible scholar of the world. I’m not. And I’m not claiming to have the perfect daily Bible reading record either. This is as much a challenge to myself as it is to anyone who is reading this. Do we really reverence the Word of God like we should? I know, these words were written a long time ago, but the Bible also promises that it is “living and active, sharper than any double edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It is God’s word that makes us ready for whatever we might have to face. It is his truth, found in his Word, that helps us navigate through life’s snow piles and mud puddles — our brokenness, our messes, our decisions, even our successes. We can’t count on our own emotions to point us in the right direction for processing life’s events. We can’t count on our own logic or intellect to figure out which path to take sometimes. It’s God’s word that directs us. It’s his truth that serves as the lens through which we must process all our events. It is what makes our feet ready to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1). And we know so little of this book. We spend so little time trying to know it more. Could there be any more important book? Any better way to spend our time?

It seems to me that we have two choices. We can either slosh through life with our feet ill-prepared without the proper foundation for each step, or we can have our feet fitted with a readiness that comes from knowing God’s word, knowing it deep in our hearts. So that when that bad news comes, my feet are ready, standing firm in God’s truth. And when I make a mess of things, my feet are ready to move down the path of repentance. And when God plants a dream in my heart, my feet are ready to be obedient and take the next step. I want my feet to be ready to run down that path marked out for me.


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Painful Processes

Motherhood is not glamorous. Am I right, moms? But somehow, before we were mothers, we all pictured motherhood, especially pregnancy and the “new baby” stage, as just totally warm and fuzzy. And while snuggling that new baby does bring on a good dose of the warm fuzzies, the new baby also brings on a good sized dose of reality. (Was it just me, ladies?) After going through all of those new mommy transitions, all I can say is, Wow, was I misinformed! (On a particularly rough day not too long after becoming a family of four, when I was frazzled beyond my wits, my mother just looked at me and said, to quote an old friend, “Welcome to your dream come true!”) Don’t get me wrong, motherhood is so rewarding, and there’s nothing like a mother’s love for her children. Still, motherhood is one of the biggest reality checks a woman can have.

When I became a mother, I heard myself begin to say things like, “let me smell your bottom,” and “come here so I can pick that booger out of your nose,” or, every mother’s nightmare “don’t touch your poop!” Gross. Or how about “Don’t put stickers down your pants!” Things I never imagined I would be saying in those pre-motherhood days. As unpleasant as I sometimes find these types of situations, I find that my children find them even more offensive. Nothing can whip my children into a fury like a good nose wipe or diaper change. I often wonder, why are YOU the one crying here. I should be the one crying! I’m the one having to deal with the boogers and the poop! Clearly the logical portion of my children’s brains have not yet fully developed. Would you prefer, dear children, that I leave the boogers there? The poop? Surely that cannot be comfortable.

I think God must sometimes (in my case, often) look down at us in the mire of our sin and brokenness and say the same thing, “Really child, that cannot be comfortable. You really want me to leave you there?” He does not enjoy seeing us caught in our own self-destructive ways, carrying around the baggage of a broken life. While Christ’s sacrifice does bring us full forgiveness of sins, it doesn’t in a genie-like fashion, make us perfect. We still have those smelly, unsavory places in our lives. We still have issues. We’re still fallen. I don’t know about you, but I still need to grow. I need my messes cleaned up, my broken places healed. Yet we pitch the same fit just like a little child when God begins to work on something in our lives. Anyone facing any trials or difficult circumstances in life right now? Rolling around on the ground crying about it? Yeah, we all do that sometimes. If only we could see the bigger picture of who we are becoming. It is worth the painful process.

I don’t mean to minimize anyone’s suffering. Yes, it is much, much worse than a nose wiping, I know. If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that my life has not been immune to suffering and difficulty. Every day of my three silent years with Sophie has had its challenges. Still, when I rescue my children our of their literal, physical mire, I’m mindful of the fact that I’m doing it for their benefit, even though they don’t see that or appreciate it. They just have the momentary unpleasantness in the forefront of their little minds. It’s all they can see. Likewise, maybe we are too short-sighted in the midst of trials. I know that I am. I get so frustrated in my momentary unpleasantness that I forget that God is doing a work in my life for my good. He might be rooting out a deep-seated, ugly area of my life. Or he might be pulling me out of the mire. I need it. It might be unpleasant. It might hurt a little. I might be frustrated and angry. But I need it.  And just because I’m frustrated, that does not mean that God is not with me or that his love is absent.

This lesson was particularly vivid to me when Micah was learning to crawl. Talk about a painful process. He absolutely hated being on his belly. He would roll over in an attempt at mobility, only to find himself stuck on that belly. And then the wailing would begin. Oh, he would be so, so angry. And I would hang back for a few moments, allowing him to experience this frustration. I’m sure he did not understand why I was doing this. Why did I seem so far away? Why? Because I knew that he needed to learn how to crawl. His frustration would be worth it when he had learned this skill. (I was right, by the way, now that he can crawl he is the happiest boy alive!) So he would wiggle around, screaming and crying, for I’m sure what seemed to him like an eternity. And when he became overwhelmed, I would go to him and set him right to try again. And sometimes when he was just totally undone, I would just hold him close and let him bury his face in my shoulder, and I would speak softly to him, soothing away his frustrations.

We go through painful processes like these in life. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating, and we don’t get why we need to be going through it. I feel this a lot in my struggle to communicate with Sophie. It’s uncomfortable; it’s frustrating. Why are we going through this? Because God is working on me. In this painful process, he is scraping away mire, chiseling away at me to make me a better reflection of his image, as I was created to be. God never fails to see the bigger picture, and he will allow me to go through these difficulties because he sees who I am becoming. God allows the painful processes to happen for our good, and he’s never far away even when we’re wailing on our bellies. When it all becomes too much for me, my Father is right there, ready to scoop me up and set me right to try again, or to hold me close and comfort my cries. His love assures me that he is ALWAYS working for my good.

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Sophie’s Story, Part 4: Where are We Now?


Where are we now? My sweet Sophie has turned three. She has begun her fourth year of life. She is a complete delight. Curious, busy, funny, and, at times, naughty. And she is still speechless.

As planned, Sophie began preschool shortly after her third birthday. And through every step in the preschool process, I have clearly seen the loving hand of my Father God. Each person we have encountered in this process has been kind, supportive, flexible, and encouraging. I feel like I have a whole team of people rooting for my daughter, helping her towards healthy growth and development. On her very first day of preschool, our school district was maybe the only one in this region of Ohio to have school. The weather was atrocious. Consequently, only about half of Sophie’s class showed up. She entered a small class in a quiet classroom where she had room to explore without being overwhelmed. That’s what I love about God. He sees us, and he’s so loving. Some people might just see this as coincidence, but I see God’s care for my daughter. How I see it is that he used a snow storm to provide a less overwhelming environment for her first day of school. But you really have to choose to see life this way. You have to be on the lookout for those blessings and appreciate them for what they are. I think we miss far too many blessings in life because we just aren’t looking for them. I call this the silver lining, and I try to see it in each of my days, in all circumstances. Sometimes I’m terrible at it. And sometimes I don’t see it until much later. But looking for expressions of my Father’s loving care for me and my family has been one of the biggest blessings I have experienced through all of Sophie’s trials.

In addition, Sophie’s trichotillomania turned out to be a blessing. How could THAT ever be a blessing? This is one of the ones that I didn’t see until much later… But here it is. Because Sophie’s pulling was always triggered by separation, she has been allowed to start preschool gradually and attend part time. In most cases, the school does not allow part time attendance, but I have felt strongly that I only wanted her to attend part time. Something as heart wrenching as hair pulling has been worked out, again, for our good.

Through this path to preschool, God has been so patient with me, putting the stepping stones close together so that I could take baby steps towards his plan. Even things like trichotillomania which do not seem like good things can be used for good by God. He promises to do this in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That’s us. We love him, and we have been called according to his purpose. So he’s working for our good. I have to believe that. And so far, preschool is going really well!

On the medical front, things are a little bit different. Our beloved pediatrician retired just before Sophie’s third birthday. We wish her well, but we miss her. She was always content to let us steer the ship, so to speak, in pursuit of diagnosis. We have never been eager to put Sophie through any more than is absolutely necessary. We all know how much kids love going to the doctor, getting poked with needles, having their little bodies examined. Oh wait, no. No, they don’t. Anyways, Sophie’s pediatrician was basically content to let her live out her life without pursuing a diagnosis as long as Sophie was receiving all the support and services that she needed. What would a specific diagnosis mean? Nothing really. We have been comfortable with this because 1)”fixable” things have been ruled out, and 2) life threatening things have been ruled out. So, just to know, just to have a name, well, that’s not extremely important to us. Well, our well visit with the new pediatrician (we really DO love and respect her, very much) brought on the suggestion of many more doctors. These specialists, oh my… The audiologist, the geneticist, the endocrinologist, the ophthalmologist. As Andrew and I discussed the possibility of these different doctors, besides simply feeling sad about all of this, we both don’t really feel like we NEED any type of diagnosis. Sophie doesn’t fit any typical syndromes; she’s a mystery, so to speak. And I’m ok with that. I’m ok believing that God touched her little body when she was just 4 months old. I’m ok not having an explanation. Because what does that change really? Nothing. Giving it a name changes nothing. Sophie is who she is. I don’t need an answer. I don’t need a name.

When it comes right down to it, we are all broken in some way. Sophie has some physical brokenness. Ok. Everybody on this planet has some brokenness. Some people are really good at hiding it, but it’s still there. Some have emotional brokenness, others have relational brokenness, academic brokenness, financial brokenness. It’s everywhere, in every life. We can’t escape the fact that we are broken people living in a broken world.

But there is hope.

Sophie won’t always have her brokenness. Neither will you. Sophie was made for so much more than this big ball of dirt and air and water. So were you.

Beautifully, our brokenness does not define us nor assign us more or less value than someone else. Rather, we are valuable, each and every one of us, we are valuable because God says we are, because Jesus says with the sacrifice of his very life that we are valuable. Each person on this earth, created in God’s image, is precious in his sight. While our brokenness reminds us that this is not our home, we hold on to the hope that we won’t always be broken. One day…

Some days, it’s easy to look into the future and just see silence. I want to hope and believe that Sophie will speak. But she may not. And I have to come to terms with that. I have given my daughter’s life into God’s hands. I have chosen to believe that his plan for her is best. I have chosen to accept whatever the plan is. So, while I may want to believe that there won’t ever be anything else broken about her life, I know that’s just a pipe dream. Until we look into the final future, our heavenly home, we will always see some brokenness, God’s grace and goodness woven through it.  But, thank goodness there is a but, one day, there will be no more brokenness.

One day my girl will be whole. And may her mouth completely glorify Jesus for the beautiful work that he has done in her life.

Where are we now? We’re still on the path to trust. Still clinging to hope. Still believing our God is good. We may or may not visit all these doctors that have been suggested to us. We may or may not get an “answer.” And that’s ok. Life doesn’t have to always be all about knowing and answers. Sometimes it can just be about faith.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb 10:23)


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