Christian Taylor Buchanan

Christian Taylor Buchanan

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Perfect Life Won't Make You Happy

Life doesn't have to be perfect to be joyful.

Photo Credit: FireFly Photography in Murfreesboro, TN

That concept seems so simple, but when you really think about how it applies to our society, it's easy to see how we as a society really struggle to understand and apply it.

Our society is FULL of commercialization that tells the listener that they simply must have that newest, latest product, that they need to look like this model, that they need these clothes, this makeup, this body, this hair, this car. Then, they will be happy. They do this because it makes them money when we go purchase these things in an attempt to fill that void and make ourselves happy, right? What iPhone are model are we even on at this point? I can't keep up.

"Keeping up with the Jones" is a real thing. We envy other people and what they have. If only I had a house that nice, a family like that, then I'd be happy.

I have found myself even doing it in mom circles. I wish my children were as well behaved as hers. I wish my husband supported me this way like her husband does. I wish I could look that good while taking care of multiple children. Her life seems so perfect. I'd be happy if my life was more like hers.

We idolize those things, hold them up on a pedestal, and they become our goals to attain happiness. They become our gods.

But it's fleeting. Chasing happiness will always leave you chasing and coming up feeling unfulfilled. That's because while those things are nice and will probably provide some temporary feelings of happiness, that new car will get old, and then you will be right back to chasing again. That perfect partner will mess up, and then you'll be out looking for the next perfect partner again. Those perfect children will break your heart, and you will be left wondering what went wrong. That perfect body will age, and then you will be back to wishing you were someone else.

We think that if we could just make our lives perfect, we would finally be happy. But a perfect life isn't what creates happiness. A perfect life isn't really even possible.

I think one reason that people find my family so inspiring is the joy they see. They see this incredible joy mixed right smack dab in the middle of an imperfect situation, a child with complex medical needs, issues that take lots of work and that comes with lots of challenges and sometimes a lot pain.

I get it. I would've thought the same thing before Christian came along. I would've looked at someone like me and wondered how on earth they could be so happy. So, that's why I wanted to write this blog, to explain it a little bit to you guys. I hope that in sharing my heart, I can give a glimpse of the God we serve.

So, how can we be so happy and so full of joy despite such imperfect circumstances? Simple. Our joy isn't derived from our circumstances. Our joy, our strength, and our hope comes from God. Yes, we have so many simple moments of happiness that aren't "religious." When Christian and Chandler spend time playing together, the happiness in my heart overflows. When Christian tells a joke and giggles infectiously, I can't contain my smile. When either of my boys accomplish something, the pride swells in me. But it's because of the state of our hearts and the depth of the joy that God has given us that we are able to fully experience and enjoy these little moments for the gifts they truly are. "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights."

Long before Christian was ever born, God called him fearfully and wonderfully made. There are no exceptions in that verse that say "except for people born with disabilities." That means it certainly applies to Christian, and to you and me.

And while I don't understand why Christian was born with his disability, and while I would certainly take it from him if I could, I have peace knowing that I don't have to understand it. God says that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I can believe that or not, but me personally, I choose to believe it. And so, I don't spend time racking my brain over a question that simply can't be answered.

I don't know why God didn't give Christian his eyes. I certainly believe that He could have done so had he chosen to. I don't know why we got a "No" from God when we prayed for Christian's physical healing. What I do know is that whatever purpose God has given to Christian for him to fulfill in his life, God has also equipped him to do it. Christian lacks nothing he needs to accomplish God's purposes for his life. God did not call Christian to some purpose and then forget to give him what he needs to complete it. Christian is whole as far as it pertains to his ability to fulfill his God given purpose and calling.

Personally, I believe that if God had his way, everyone would be born perfect and healthy. We pray the Lord's prayer that says "Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven," and we know that in Heaven, everyone is healed and whole. Yet, because we live in a fallen world, God doesn't always have his way. We have free will to usurp God's will and plans, and don't we do it so often? I do!

But knowing God and knowing His character, it only makes sense that whatever "deficits" we have, and we ALL have them, God is bigger. And in our weakness, God is stronger, because His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness. I think that's something to boast about.

God takes those deficits and manifests His power and His glory in ways that we could never imagine or understand. In our humanly, limited scope, we might never grasp all that God is doing or working out for us, but we don't have to. We just need to trust that He is.

I have trusted God to work all things together for my good and he has done just that. I am able to share Christian with the world, and teach others about the God whose glory he reflects. God has allowed me to use my story as a living testimony of the truth and power of God. God has been able to use even me, someone as undeserving and imperfect as me, and a little boy who the world considers "not whole" for his mighty purposes.

When I was finally able to grasp all of this, how could I ever be sad or ashamed? How could I be upset about how God was working so powerfully in us and showing me just how much He loves me and my family.

The day God gave me Christian, He put his love for me on display, and then did it again when He gave me Chandler. It's easy to be joyful when my happiness comes from the One who gives true fulfillment and everlasting joy. It's easy to be happy when my eyes are on God and not on my circumstances. My circumstances may be difficult, but my God is good and He loves me with a love so powerful that He was willing to become human and die for me. That's powerful. So, I count it all joy!

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Terrible Two's? I call this the "Suffering Sixes!"

We've all heard of the terrible two's, but what do you call it when a child turns six and discovers his own free will and independence? The suffering sixes!?!? haha!! Whatever it is, I think we are in it!

Christian had probably one of the worst karate classes he's ever had today. Whatever his sensei told him to do, he was determined to do the opposite. It took multiple times to redirect him to any task.. Even just simple tasks like "Close your hands into fists" became laborious as it took asking five, six, or seven times to get even a little cooperation.

Christian at karate today

There was very little karate accomplished today, but I hope something bigger might be taking place. Because of the difficult time Christian had today in karate, it gave his sensei and I both a platform to discuss these behavior issues with Christian. It gave us a really concrete concept to talk to Christian about, which he needs to be able to comprehend and expand his thoughts. I can pinpoint specific things he did at karate that are not exemplar behavior and explain how and why he needs to do better. We've been discussing it today, as did Mr. Taylor at the end of class today, and I think it's clicking for C.

The last few months have been a challenge behavior wise for Christian, but I think we are finally over the hump and starting to even out and figure our way along, despite the rough karate class today. I think Mr. Taylor is one person Christian hasn't bucked on too much just yet because he respects him, and I really believe today was just some final testing for Christian to try to figure out how hard and where he could push his limits. He's been testing and pushing me for months now, so Mr. Taylor has been spared so far.

I think it all started with a hard school year. Not only was it Christian's first year of school and extended stays away from Chandler and I several times each week, but some things went on that shouldn't have through no fault of the school, and unfortunately, Christian reacted with aggression. It wasn't his fault, and it's a total expected reaction in circumstances like that, but it left me worried nonetheless.

On top of that, the school year was a time of growth for C. He had lots of therapies and lots of new experiences, which gave him a good developmental boost! He began speaking even better, using larger words and more complex sentences. He finally started using pronouns correctly after years of saying them wrong in such a cute way.  (I'm happy and sad all at once over that one #MomLife.) Christian started learning that he can walk and explore independently without holding my hand. He already knew this and tried it a little, but it was really reinforced at school and he was shown exactly how to do it. This newfound freedom was exciting for Christian. His favorite phrase this school year has been "I want to do it all by myself, Mommy!"

Basically, he went from a pre-schooler to school aged kid. He is growing up, as much as it pains me to admit it.
Christian's first day of kindergarten last August.
Look how much he's grown! 

That new found independence mixed with the new aggression he learned in an attempt to protect himself from someone who wasn't being nice brought lots of power struggle between he and I.

Christian mastered the art of the "No" and was testing the waters to see exactly where his limits were. He would disobey until he was absolutely forced to do otherwise. He would get angry and lash out over not getting something he wanted right away. It was rough, and it also wasn't the expected or typical behavior that I had known from Christian.

 The thing that worried me the most was that Christian is so dependent on me to help him with things like safety, and he just decided that he no longer needed that help. When I would tell him to stop walking because he was getting close to an edge or something that could hurt him, he just continued walking and refused to listen. He didn't care that he was about to get hurt. Literally, getting hurt mattered less than asserting his independence and ability to make his own choices.

So, the last few months have been a challenge, to say the least. Christian has always been my calm one. He is the compliant child, or at least he was. He was always the sweet, sometimes quiet little boy who always had a smile on his face and a happy disposition, and suddenly I didn't know where that happy little boy went or who this screaming banshee that looked like my son was.

When I finally began to nail down the issues and figure out what was really going on, I was finally able to help. I decided to drop our nursing after months and months of having different people in and out of the home who Christian would get attached to just in time for them to move on to the next case. Christian needed consistency and we just weren't getting it, and while that is just how that industry works, it was doing harm to Christian. On top of that, Christian became suddenly scared of any new nurses that came into our home (I'm talking, fetal position in my lap until they left) and strangers in general. That was when I really honed in on what was going on and decided it was time to end nursing care.

I was nervous about ending it, but I can't say enough about what a load it has lifted. It's strange how having nursing care went from lifting a burden to creating one, but it did, and I was hesitant to give up the help that I desperately needed. It took me some time to figure out exactly how we were going to manage without some sort of respite care for Christian. I was honestly nervous. Christian requires a lot, and so does Chandler. Christian's tube feedings and care, along with his sighted guide safety needs can keep someone busy all day long. I wasn't sure I could do it all alone. I had also planned on starting to work soon, and that would be out the window without someone who could feed Christian. I hadn't planned on going without nurses, and I knew it would be challenging, but I knew deep down that it was time.

I made the leap of faith, well, the call of faith, and cancelled the nursing care anyways because I knew it was what was best for Christian. I noticed an almost immediate change in Christian for the better. Within just a week, he was more relaxed and the aggressive attitude started to calm down. He still wasn't listening better, but we have been able to work on that since the aggression is leaving. It's been...2 or 3 months now, and Christian hasn't questioned once why his nurses aren't here until just a few days ago actually. That tells me a lot about how he was feeling about it. He's had nurses for most of his life and went for 2 or 3 months without ever speaking about the fact that they were suddenly gone. I know he noticed the change, because he isn't stupid by a long shot. He used to wake up every morning and ask who was coming to be his nurse that day. He *knew* there were no nurses, and yet he never asked me why or where they were. That spoke so loudly to me.

Christian calmed down a ton, but the willfulness was still going strong, and he was just being so daring and using zero safety consciousness, which is so important for visually impaired people. (Think, walking carelessly off the steps because you don't care to take an extra few seconds to slow down and find them first.) I began to try different things to see what was going to help. At first I tried cracking down, and it just made him fight me that much harder.

I couldn't even begin to discuss everything I tried, because I was trying it all. I almost reached a point of feeling helpless, and tried calling around for some help. I was met with brick walls and 'No's." So, I kept persisting. Finally, the one thing that worked was more patience than I knew I had. The more Christian pushed my buttons, the more angry it was making me, and the more I was reacting with punishment. It just kept making things worse. I had to really start stepping outside of that anger and doing what I knew I needed to do.

Christian was trying to take control because he had felt out of control in his situation with school and nurses, and here I was trying to take that control away. He wasn't giving up without a fight, and rightfully so. He needed to know that his current situation wasn't going to get out of control. He needed me to listen to him and hear what he wasn't actually saying. He also needed more than to hear the aggravation and frustration in my voice directed towards him when he didn't do what I told him. He needed me to talk him through and explain to him why I needed him to do what I asked him to do, so that he could then CHOOSE to listen. He needed to have the freedom to choose to listen to me, not just be mindlessly forced into it. He also needed some stability and consistency, to know that he was not going to be put back into a situation like what existed while I wasn't around to protect him at school, which I think just comes with time.

So, Mr. Independent, I am happy to report, is doing better! The independent streak is still there and sometimes the aggression is still rearing it's head. He is still insistent on doing things his way and being stubborn about listening to adults.I can't say I blame him, because adults failed him and he is just trying to process it all. This school year taught him that not all adults are trustworthy and that he can't listen to everything he hears.

I know his strong determination will serve him well one day if he is not led by the pack, not a mindless follower. It is truly my hope for him that he will be a strong and assertive man who stands by his principles and doesn't bend to pressure. The thing is, I have to survive raising him first! :)

I'm just thankful that after months of working through this, we are seeing progress. I hope that next week's karate lesson is better and that Christian learned something today! I'll be sure to keep you guys updated! Thanks for reading!


Friday, July 7, 2017

Gasps and Growing

Earlier this week we visited Little Rock, Arkansas.  It was an extremely quick trip, there and back in about 38 hours. I was invited to interview with FamilyLife for their radio program. The program isn't available yet so I can't share links for it, but you can check out the FamilyLife website if you're interested in knowing more about them. ( The program will air sometime in Septmeber, and I will share it with you guys then!

I interviewed with FamilyLife about my book,
Through the Eyes of Hope.

We left the studio at 3pm and had a six hour drive ahead of us. We hoped to get home around 10pm and get the boys to bed. That was the plan. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. The first big snag was when I locked my keys in the car. That set us back a good hour.

Christian had dropped his iPod shuffle in the floor while I was driving, so when we stopped for gas, I tried to find it for him. It keeps him busy on the drive when there isn't much for him to do but sit and wait. So, we stopped for gas in Earle, Arkansas, and, trying to be smart with our time, we knew that this tank full would get us all the way home.

I got Christian out of the car and looked all over the floor and around his car seat. The iPod was nowhere, of course. Both boys were doing the potty dance, so I told Christian I would look again after we used the bathroom. So, I closed the doors and started walking towards the gas station. Before I even got passed my car, my dad who came with me says, "Do you have your keys?" In that instant I knew I didn't.

I had laid them in Christian's car seat to free my hands to look for the iPod and that's where they lay. I have the type of car that has the keyfob that won't allow you to lock your keys in your car. Unfortunately, the keyfob broke about a year ago and the dealership gave us an estimate of $150 just to reprogram it, and that price was for what they guessed to be wrong. If it was something else, it could be even more. I plan to get it fixed eventually. It just hasn't happened yet. *sigh*

Oh no!!!!! So, I immediately started trying to call a locksmith. NO ONE would answer their phone. It was the day after the Fourth of July, and I guess everyone was closed.  I called at least half a dozen places with no success. Great! So, we went to the cash register and asked the clerk if they knew if the local police department would come pop a lock. They said no. I called anyways, and they didn't answer!!!!  I was {    } <----this close to panicking. I mean, I was basically out of options. How were we going to get home?

Finally, I asked the clerks if they had a wire hanger. What else could we do? Breaking into my car was really all we had left. One of the clerks immediately began searching for a hanger for us. She spent a good ten minutes looking for a hanger, calling another part of the store to ask if they had one, even searching in her car for one. She finally came back with two hangers! Those hangers looked like salvation!

Not only did she produce a hanger, she came out to help us pop the lock! My dad pried my door back while she got the hanger inside and after just a couple of minutes, she was able to press down on my unlock button and unlock the doors! Unsung hero, y'all!!!!!

My dad grabbed his wallet to give her some money, but she refused to accept it!  She helped us just because she saw that we needed help. I am so thankful that if we had to get locked out of our car, it happened there at the gas station she worked at. If she had not helped us, I have no idea what we would've done.

So, we were finally back in our car. What a relief! My car alarm was going off and everyone was staring and I was so happy to just be in my car that I didn't care! lol!

We went on our way  towards home. By this time it was 6pm and we were still in Arkansas. We had only made it about 1/3 of our trip home.  So there was no way we would be home by 10pm now, but maybe 10:30 or 10:45pm if the rest of the trip went smoothly.

The rest of the trip did not go smoothly. -_-

About an hour after the keys-locked-in-car incident, the boys had to potty again. So, I pulled off the highway and found another gas station. Christian was literally about to pee on himself, so I jumped out of the car, grabbed him, and began a mad dash to the restrooms.

About the time we got to the door, a mother and her teenage daughter were standing there, and I had to step ever so slightly around them. In my mad rush, I was concerned about preventing Christian from peeing on himself, but just happened to notice the look on the face of the teenage daughter as we got closer to her and the gas station door. Ugh. She registered shock. I had no intentions of responding to that. I never do, anyways, but Christian needed to potty, and I was holding him and stood to get peed on too, if I didn't get him to a toilet soon, and that was a great concern in the moment. That all too familiar fear that I always feel in the pit of my stomach when things like this happen, it rose up, and a thousand things rushed through my head. "Please don't say anything. Please let us by. Please don't stop me to talk. Please don't stare. Please stop gawking. PLEASE JUST STOP!"

Before I could make it in the door around this mom and daughter, the daughter's look of shock turned into an audible gasp, a ridged body posture,  and terror on her face. My heart sank as my legs were still trudging towards the gas station door.  Then, as quickly as I felt the disappointment, I felt the anger rise up. Christian heard that gasp. I pray to God he didn't realize it was directed at him, but in that moment, that was all I could think. What do I tell Christian about this?

My instant reaction was to simply glare at her as I reached for the door to the building. If  looks could kill, y'all. Her mother noticed the entire incident play out. She looked from me to Christian to her daughter and back to Christian and I. She saw her daughter gasp in utter shock and fear at my child. She saw my look of disdain for her daughter's reaction, and in what I can only imagine was her  motherly instincts kicking in and attempting to help her daughter,  she said "Awwwww!" in a kind, sweet voice, and gave a large smile. I did not smile back. In fact, I was probably glaring at her too, as I shifted my eyes from her daughter to her when she spoke.

All of this transpired in literal seconds. As quickly as it happened, it was over and I was inside the gas station looking for a restroom. As I helped Christian with the toilet, I tried to register what just happened. I was angry and in disbelief, and also ashamed that I hadn't handled it better. I generally try not to glare at people in public. Generally, I try not to respond to rude people with rudeness.

Christian was saying something to me, I don't remember now what he was talking about. I just remember praying silently that he wouldn't mention what just happened, that he didn't realize what had just taken place in front of the gas station. I remember answering a question he had asked me, and I had to swallow the lump in my throat to get the words out. My legs and hands shook just slightly as I helped Christian off the toilet and to the sink.  He kept talking and I struggled to keep my voice upbeat and not let him hear the shaking in it.

As I took Christian back through the gas station to get to the car, we passed by the mother and daughter again, this time inside the store, and this time, not as close in proximity. They never looked over at me and I never looked over at them.

I kept my eyes locked straight ahead on the door and moved quickly to get Christian outside. I felt like I was running away from something. In reality, I seriously doubt they would have dared to approach us again, especially after my glaring at them, but I was terrified they would. I was terrified they would come up and try to apologize or say something about the incident, and then, if Christian hadn't realized what happened, he surely would at that point.

So, I bolted for the car, got Christian buckled in, sat down, and put the car in drive. I breathed in a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to let go of what just happened. I wish it was that easy. My shoulders slumped forward with the heavy weight of what I have carried for six years becoming just a little heavier in that moment.

Not only was I disappointed in the actions of the teenage girl, but I was also, and more so, disappointed in myself.  I could have I SHOULD have reacted better. I should have showed kindness. I was already stressed from the incident an hour earlier with my keys, and the exhaustion of an 800 mile round trip plus interviews in 38 hours was hitting me. But still,  I wish I had responded differently. In all honesty, I probably just built a barrier for that family when it comes to people with disabilities rather than a bridge, and that's not who I want to be. That's not who I am or what I am called to do.

When the pain of incidents like this is fresh, it's hard to remember, but I know overall, this will make me stronger. I will be a better person for having experienced this. I will allow God to use this to teach me, refine me, and help me be better than I was in that moment. Thank God that the incident didn't end when I walked out of the gas station. It continues inside of me while I process it and learn what God wants to teach me through it.