K squared

I’ll start with Kayla because she came first.

I made a quick-witted joke at a Friday night football game about LIFE cereal, “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” And it hooked her like bait.  She thought I was funny, which lezbehonest, at 13 everyone just thought I was insanely strange.  We immediately became attached to the hip and spent countless Friday nights staying up late talking about boys and makeup and Nsync.  One time we even stayed up all night to record ourselves (yes, with a tape player) reciting every.single.line to The Wizard of Oz.  We watched Bring it On, Fools Rush In and one time she made me watch Center Stage.  We had the same taste in music, movies, clothes…  Life was good.  We had each other.  Nothing else could make life better than a best friend.

But then.  Nick.

Somehow Kayla detached from my hip and found a cute boy to love her and be THE-MOST-WONDERFUL-FRICKEN-THING that’s ever happened to her.  (No offence, Nick)  I aimlessly wandered around the school trying to find someone else to fill that hole after being insanely sick of being the 3rd wheel.  My heart was broken and though we still stayed friends, I didn’t know how to do life without her.

And then one day (gasp!) she said she didn’t want to go to Bible Camp with me.  Of course that was grounds for completely terminating our relationship.  Friends ON, friends OFF, friends ON, friends OFF.  You know, that typical way it goes in Girl World.  During this time I decided to fill the hole with no-so-wonderful people in the midst of my loneliness.

In 10th grade homeroom, I invited the “new girl” to church with me once I found out she was a Lutheran (yay!!!!!) Enter Kendra.  Back up, have I mentioned that Kendra is Nick’s little sister?  This is where it gets all kinds of Stearns County confusing.  So now I’m best friends with Nick’s little sister who happens to be dating my ex-best friend and now we’re all hanging out in the Basement at 140 10th Street.  Following so far?

Then Kendra became my other half- the purple to my pink.  Unlike Kayla and myself, Kendra couldn’t be more different than I was.  She loved to read and had an antiquey, eclectic sense of style.  She liked to eat Spaghettios for breakfast.  She was spoiled.  And she wasn’t boy crazy.  But somehow, we found love through Target, Schlotzky’s Deli and church.  And again, life was amazing.  We stayed up late singing and reading novels out loud, taking turns each chapter.

For a little while the three of us even ALL LIKED EACH OTHER at the SAME TIME!  Kayla and I ended up moving in together, living our life-long dream of spending every.single.second together at school, work and home.  I don’t know why we thought this was a good idea.  Because it wasn’t.  It was a terrible idea that led to a fast downward spiral of anger, jealousy and hatred.

Fast forward through a bunch of absolutely terrible, horrible things.

This is the story I tell my CLUB kids often.  I tell them about some mistakes I’ve made- about how my heart turned completely black.  I made choices that hurt people.  We said terrible things to one another in spite and anger.  How I gave up something that was so precious to me so quickly.

But here comes the good part.

As a visual, I take something plastic- usually one of those big storage containers and flip it upside down.  I take a big, black permanent marker and draw all over it.  I draw things that represented Kayla and myself, a heart, movies and Kendra.  Then I darken all of it until those beautiful things can’t be seen.  Just one big, black circle.  

As time went on, Kendra and I remained beautifully close while my heart, still trapped in thick bitterness and fury, couldn’t let Kayla back in no matter how many times she reached out to me.  But God had wonderful things in store that none of us could have imagined.  As Lucy was brewing in my uterus, my heart (very slowly) began to soften.  Eventually the chains were broken.  Love poured in like sunshine and I could finally breathe again.

This is when I take a wet washcloth and explain to the kids that as my heart began to open, I let Kayla in slowly, but surely.  As I try to wipe off the marker off the plastic, nothing happens.  I want the black to come off- just like I desperately wanted all of the yuckiness to go away.  But it didn’t, even though I tried so hard.  Now I’ll take a  soapy washcloth and try to scrub.  I want this to work!  I want the rage to go away!  I want to be wiped clean of the horrible things I’ve done and said, the pain that I’ve caused and the time that was so harshly ripped away.  But nothing.  Not even the soapy washcloth can wipe away the black of this mess we’ve caused.

Kendra [finally] got engaged and Kayla and I found ourselves often chatting about bridal showers and bachelorette parties.  It was then that I realized God was giving us a gift of second chances.  Now that I had Lucy I was disgusted at how I behaved and couldn’t imagine watching her go through so much pain.  I let it all go.  I let it all go to God.

Now I take a Magic Eraser.  I start to scrub and piece by piece begins to fade until the black is wiped clean.  I note that it was hard to scrub it off- I really have to put some muscle in to wipe it clean.  It wasn’t easy, but God wiped it clean.  There was nothing that I could do by myself- I wouldn’t ever be able to make those washcloths wipe away what God scrubbed clean in minutes.  Only God can heal those wounds and fix broken hearts like that.  You simply just have to ask.

I always say that Kayla is my one, true love.  No matter what happened, she always came back.  She always found her place back in my heart.  We went through hell and back (quite a few times) and somehow came through it.

But I don’t regret a single moment.  (Well, maybe a few little ones)  If it wasn’t for the back and forth, I never would have found Kendra.  I never would have let her have so much of my soul and make countless memories with her.  I wouldn’t have found forgiveness.  As a matter of fact, I probably wouldn’t have even met Devin.

It’s funny how life is, isn’t it?  Just when you think the absolute worst has happened, God sees to the end of the road and finds the treasure in your lump of coal.  It’s amazing how powerful forgiveness is.  It’s maybe one of the most magical things I’ve ever been a part of.

So it would become God’s plan that Kayla, Kendra and I would become the three best friends that anybody could have.  And we’ll never ever ever ever ever leave each other.  (My mom won’t get that).

Kendra continues to be my go-to all-around amazing bff that can brighten my day with just a text.  We go weeks- sometimes months- without seeing each other and when we’re reunited it feels like only a day has passed.  She is the most-cool person that ever was.  She never (and never has!) cares what anyone thinks.  She’s a do-gooder.  She’ll march to a different beat of the drum and cheer for the underdog.  She showed me how to love God in a completely different way than I’d ever experienced.  She’s flawlessly patient.  She has so many wonderful talents and skills.  She’s SMART and beautiful and kind.  A total package in my book.  Someone who has seen me at my ugliest and loved me through it all.

Kayla is a no-doubt bff that I love more every time I see her.  She’s my “OMG did you see that episode?” best friend.  We love everything the same.  A most precious mom-friend who I can talk to about poop and preschool and the enormity of parent-love.  We can sit for hours and talk and talk and talk and talk and never be done.  She’s a phenomenal mother.  An incredible friend.  She’s preciously sensitive and naive.  She’s absolutely hilarious even when she’s not trying.  And she has, after everything we’ve been through, the most forgiving soul.

AND SOMEHOW when all three of us are together, MAGIC happens.  It’s the most wonderful, happiest kind of love filled with adventure and amazingly fabulous crazy… more.good.words I can’t think of.

I never could have imagined how this could have ended- I get TWO best besties. Two people who are so insanely important to me that I couldn’t live without either of them.  They are two of the biggest pieces of my heart.

It’s hard to describe love in this circumstance.  I hope you’re feelin it.



When God Made a Blogger

We take turns sharing devotions before Staff Meeting on Tuesday mornings.  I began writing my own because I felt like it was much easier to convey living life through my own words.  They began as silly little messages, but quickly my devotions turned into the real stuff- the miscarriage, the anxiety, love and anger- and the words began to flow from my heart.  Fast forward to several years later when I became a mom and I have much more to say.  Though I love writing about my kids, this is where it all started.

You know, about Jesus and stuff.

I can feel September lurking around every corner as I print off my mass of calendars, schedules and lists.  Gearing up for CLUB (confirmation) is what August is all about for me.  I make a million phone calls and emails trying to convince adults to help in some way (we never have enough volunteers) and commit as they are the integral part of our ministry.  I read over curriculum and try to think of not-boring ways to teach a lesson about Martin Luther or The Road to Damascus.  The excitement of a new year is overwhelming and I often find myself singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” while making copies and walking to meetings.

Along with the excitement comes the dreaded anxiety, which has unfortunately hit an ugly peak as of lately.  I often joke about being super mediocre and boring and possessing no special skills, but it’s uncomfortably true- even in a work setting.  So without my permission, my friend Anxiety rears its ugly head and I panic, knowing all too well that I am not always stellar at my job.  I know I will never be a Bible scholar or be able to bring in herds of people to worship.  I will never be able to make connections with each kid I encounter. I will continue to make mistakes and not be the best.  And that’s really hard for me to acknowledge.

I received a message from a past student of mine- a beautiful girl, full of life who was confirmed and rarely walked through the doors of our church again.  I missed her… just like I miss all of them after they’re not “mine” anymore, but we stayed connected through social media and I could still keep my eye on her.  The message she wrote to me felt magical as I read, “Your advice has made a huge impact on me and has stuck with me until this day.”  Specifically, I have zero idea if we had one amazing connection or several… if I helped her one time or a bunch of times.  I guess it doesn’t really matter, but that’s like… all kinds of warm fuzzies and smiling.

So avert your eyes if you must because here comes that really awesome Jesus stuff.

I had dreamed it a long time ago as a kid.  I knew I wanted to work at a church in some capacity because that’s how I met new people and found some life-long friends.  It seemed like a natural fit for me since I’d spent most of my life as a “church baby.”  I had no idea that Jesus would find me in this way- that I would be called to share the Word with kids and try to bring some joy into their lives.  I love it though- even the sucky parts.  I love it so much that I would never do anything else (besides the fact that I have the aforementioned no skills and couldn’t find work elsewhere).  I love it because even when I’m not superb, Jesus comes in like a knight and shining armor and somehow just makes it work.  He makes me work.

I don’t know what it’s like to work outside of a church, but I can imagine you have felt superb-less a time or two.  Whether you’re in a church or not, the beautiful thing is how wonderfully different God has made each of us AND blessed us each with special skills.  Most people could do my job (being super honest here).  I literally hang out with kids, make schedules, go to Valleyfair and waterparks and make sure there are garbage cans in appropriate spaces.  It’s not hard.  But I’ve come to find out that God never has asked me to be the ultimate-best-ever.  God says, “Amanda Kay!” (I think he’s probably pretty formal when giving direction) “You see this line?  You make it here.  You try to be awesome enough to make it here and I will take you the rest of the way.”

He doesn’t want us to become complacent or uncaring or to live our lives going through the motions.  He’s asking us to try, every.single.day to do the best we can and He’ll carry us to the finish line.  He knows we’re going to fall and skin our knees or break an ankle on the way, but He’s ready to pick us up, give us a cool-dude pep talk, and get us back in the game.  ISN’T THAT SO AMAZING?! My heart is bursting with joy even as I write this!!!  It’s so exciting and relieving to know that we don’t have to be the best!!! We can mess up and it’s going to be fine!!  Even when we’ve fallen into the deepest, darkest pit, God drags us out, wipes us clean and says, “It’s cool.  Let’s try again.”  We are so blessed to have a God that graciously gives us a million, trillion second chances.  Isn’t that awesome?!

So here’s what I’m gonna do (and I hope you do too).  I am going to give my 100%.  I will give it all.  There will be days when I have trouble getting to a 70, but I KNOW that God will get me to the finish line.  I won’t ever be the finest or most outstanding youth director, but I am going to love my kids.  Love, love, love them.

And someday, maybe one or two of them will be able to tell me that even for just a millisecond in their lives, I brought them joy.  I gave them hope.  I showed them the Jesus that gives us the million, trillion chances.  The Jesus that put me in this place.


Please. Go. Away.

I sighed a huge sigh of relief as I mailed in the last of the paperwork needed for Blue Earth County’s disability services.  They sent me the packet mid-April and it’s taken until just recently to get it all completed.  If you ever have a child with a disability, be prepared to complete one-freaking-million pieces of paperwork.  Waivers, evaluations, IEP signatures, home survey after survey after survey {my recent favorite being an ENTIRE questionnaire on the kinds and frequency of illicit street drugs my four-year-old child has?}  Assessment Coordinator of BEC, Holly, visited with Lucy and myself today with, again, another three-hour questionnaire.  I am now a certified professional in “never-sometimes-often-always”, I haven’t received my diploma yet, but I’m sure it’s on its way.  We were told that Lucy will qualify for 2 1/2 hours of PCA time daily.  Very good news.  I think.  I haven’t quite figured out how we will use it yet.

So… one step forward.

I made a phone call to Lucy’s new insurance company and found out that all of her psychological visits are covered completely- no co-pays or office visit fees.  I greatly appreciated the help we were receiving from Dr. Cameron at the Mankato Child Psychology Clinic, however after I received a bill for over $500 in March, we had to cease all visits!

Another step forward.

Can Do Canines (service dog program with 3+ year waiting list) and Minnesota Autism Center applications in the mail.  Phew.  And, another step forward.

And then we have days like today that are completely blissful and heavenly and perfect… she’s so happy.  Until Eleanor touches her milk cup and she refuses to drink from it.  And she can only wear blue shirts.  And don’t you dare touch her treasures or talk about Halloween or school or her hair.  Don’t ask what’s in her backpack.  If you do, you’ll get her famous monster growl. And it ain’t as cute as it sounds.

Communication seems to be much improving… especially when it’s telling people (okay and yelling at people) to go away.  And the sad little phrases she’s just beginning to express like,

“No other kids, just Nora.”

“I don’t want a friend. Just Mom and Dad and Nora.”

“Don’t talk to me.  Don’t touch me.  I don’t want you.”

“I can’t go anywhere.  Just home.”

Losing control of all emotions.  The kicking, hitting, screaming (even biting).  Absolutely horrid meltdowns.  And then after telling me she is “all better” when the meltdown has passed, she sobs her remorse.

“I’m too really sorry, Mom.  I never hit again.”

“That is a time out for Lucy.  Thas is not okay.”

Aaaand I feel like we’re stepping backwards.

I have mentioned that as of lately her autism is “showing” much more.  At least people seem to be more aware of the fact that she’s atypical.  And for whatever GD reason, they feel (yes! complete strangers) the need to talk to her and/or me about her behavior.

While we were away on vacation in Wisconsin, we needed to stop at Wal-Mart to get sudafed for Devin.  As he ran to the pharmacy, Lucy began to cry and become very agitated.  An older gentleman walked up to Lucy and began talking to her.  “Why are you so upset? You shouldn’t talk to Mommy like that.”  etc. etc.  She became increasingly upset with him- growling, telling him to go away.  And when he obviously didn’t get the hint, I (super politely, fyi!!) told him that she had autism and to walk away.

Well.  He didn’t.

To be fair, I dunno… maybe he didn’t hear me or whatever, but he continued to talk to her.  Again, I said, “Please. Go. Away.”  I reached over to my now combative four-year-old and covered her eyes.  Through wailing she yelled, “He hat to go away.  Stop talking.”  When I turned my back to him, he finally walked away.

Meanwhile, Devin is at the pharmacy counter and he said, “Um, that’s my kid.”  (Haha.)

Some more steps backwards….

This is all very hard.  And exhausting.  And extremely emotional.  Expensive.  Such highs and such lows.  I’m altogether angry with people yet grateful to others.  Always excited, yet anxious.  Caught between the millions of choices I have to make.  Being wrong, a lot.  Constantly making mistakes.  Learning as I go.

I suppose, though, that’s what a mom does.  All moms that love their kids have 99 emotions and regrets and dreams all at one time.  

I don’t dread going forward.  If anything, I’m delighted that my daughter has the opportunities and support available for her.  It sounds terrifying.  The statistics alone keep me up at night.  90% of adults with autism do not have a job.  Autism costs on average $60,000 yearly.  Autistic children are eight times more likely to wander.  65% of Autistic children report being victims of bullying…

But then she surprises me constantly by actually SINGING (and doing some actions) at the VBS parent program.  And she is EXCITED to go to swimming lessons.  Even lets me PUT! UP! HER! HAIR! because it’s a rule in the pool.  And, really people, she is so effing sweet.  She’s so adorable and lovely.  I promise.  I’m sorry if you don’t get to see that side of her.

My love, my heart.