If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

When All You Have is a Slingshot and a Pocket Full of Rocks


I was driving to work last week while talking to a good friend about some tough news we had received.   I told her that I felt like I was standing before a great army that was prepared to take me out and all I had on me was a sling shot and a rock.  


Do you ever say something off the cuff and then think, “Damn that is good, God is about to teach me something through that”?  It was one of those epiphanies, the kind of gut punch moment where I remember exactly where I was in my drive.  Cane’s Fried Chicken was on my left, Target was on my right, and God was getting ready to say something straight to me through my own words. 


(Would you believe me if I told you that as I type this, Surrounded (This is how I fight my battles) just came on my Spotify mix?  I get it God.  Now let me keep typing. )


Okay back to that sling shot and that big ol’ honkin’ army on the horizon.   Does anyone else feel the same way with something you are facing today?  Maybe your marriage.  Maybe your child.  Maybe it is your finances or maybe it is your mental health.  If you say, “Nope, not me,” you should read this anyway because you will be there eventually. 


What I figured out:  if I believed the Bible to be true, then my predicament was not such a bad place to be after all and here’s why:


1.     If you had a big ol’ cannon to take out the enemy, you wouldn’t need God. 

(Run to the Father by Cody Carnes just came on my Spotify.   I couldn’t make this stuff up y’all)


I like control.  I like to have a plan and I like to execute that plan.  On those days, I don’t learn more about God.  I just learn more about my ability to achieve my will but I am no better for the win.  It’s the battle plans we can’t execute that shape us the most because those are the battles that turn our eyes from our own abilities to God’s intimate role in our lives.   Sure, David was good with a sling shot.  But this wasn’t a bird.  It was a giant and he knew that he needed God if he was going to pull this off. 


The other option might be to survey your enemy and then to pack up and flee instead of staying to fight.  For the record, that’s a bad idea.  I could certainly walk away from my battle and I think most people would understand. You could probably shake your head and walk away from yours too, just like the men who faced Goliath before David got there.  The words “peace out folks” come to mind but a 1000 years from now, no one will remember those words or the guy who spoke them.  Thankfully David’s faith in God was bigger than that and he looked back at his enemy and said, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”  David knew his God was bigger than his enemy and he was looking to his God for help.  


Believe it.  Face it.  Speak what is true.



2.      If I can take my eyes off my predicament for just a moment, I will see that I don’t fight alone.  

(I am sitting here for a minute just to see if a song about angel armies comes on next.   It’s a no-go but I will make my point anyway.)


In 2 Kings chapter 6, Elisha is told about the army camped outside the city, and he sees the fear in his servant's eyes.  Elisha tells him, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."   After that, he prays for the Lord to open the eyes of his servant. The young man looks around and sees that the hillside is filled with angel armies. 


We do not fight our battles alone for our battles are not really against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12) but against spiritual forces.  Pray that God will open your eyes to see that you are not alone in your fight then go and play Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) by Chris Tomlin.  


Believe it.  Face it.  Speak what is true. Know that you are not alone.



3.      This battle will not be your last and what you learn here will prepare you for all that your future holds


I am quite confident that David looked back on that moment with Goliath several times over his life.  It was, in fact, just a moment in time in all that God did in and through David.  But God used that moment to shape a future king.  He has plans for your moment too.  He is working through my moment even as I type this lesson.  This battle you are facing has the potential to be another chapter in the story of God’s faithfulness to you.  


Now grab onto that sling shot and believe it.  Face it.  Speak what is true. Know that you are not alone. Trust His plan.



Sunday, October 4, 2020

Living in Eco Mode

 Living in Eco Mode


I’m a sucker for a good illustration.  They just seem to make life’s lessons more memorable.  If you are the same way, hang with me through this one.  I pray it will encourage you during these uncertain times. 


So we have all had that moment.  You know the one where you glance in your rearview mirror and see the bonehead guy cutting off cars behind you as he makes his way to your spot in traffic.  You ponder for a moment if you should intentionally further tick off the angry dude by driving the same speed as the guy right next you but then you remember that you are in _______ and that could get you shot.  So you tell yourself something like that his wife is in labor while you excuse his attempt to take off your bumper.   A few seconds later you meet again at the red light and watch him pull into the drive-through line at McDonalds.  


Holy Hubcaps you mean he behaved that way and put all of us in danger so he could get in line for a pack of McNuggets?  Yep.  Welcome to 2020.


Now picture the last few months and tell me that isn’t what many of your personal interactions have felt like.  We are surrounded by people who are living life with their foot on the emotional gas pedal for tasks and life events that really just need to be experienced in Eco Mode.  


Those of you who drive a vehicle that is less than 4 or 5 years old are likely familiar with Eco Mode.  For the sake of putting words to this illustration gem, I found this explanation on the internet. Now humor me and when you read this description, think about your own body. My thoughts in italics.

·      Selecting Eco Mode in your vehicle helps you reduce fuel consumption.

In most vehicles, selecting this setting makes the engine and accelerator 

pedal less responsive to inputs (self-control).

·      You might feel that the car is “slow” because it has become unresponsive.

So, when you depress the throttle pedal, the car accelerates slower than usual.

(This is good folks)

·      It takes longer for the engine speed to rise (also good). You use less fuel this way (and have to apologize less).

·      Doing so means the compressor has to work less, which in turn reduces the load on the engine (self-care).

·      The benefit is improved fuel efficiency (self-care leading to productivity).


It feels like the most dangerous health threat for 2020 is not as much Covid but the fact that we have become addicted to hyperventilating about things that we either can’t control or that carry as much weight as a happy meal that we are over here trying to super-size.  We are moving from one high to the next when we were designed to live (and survive) in eco mode where we only activate the gas for brief moments when necessary. 


A few weeks ago, I had a rough week where several people close to me where upset about different scenarios.  It was affecting my home and my work life as I found myself wrapped up in their fear, anger, and sadness. Add to that my over-consumption of my News app and Facebook and we had a recipe for over-drive disaster.  Then something happened.  In its quest for survival, my body powered down to eco mode.  I recognized it immediately because I had experienced it before when I was on an international flight and again when Maggie was in the hospital.  It is my body’s way of reducing load on the engine for the purpose of preserving fuel.  


As I analyzed this gift of anatomical eco mode, I realized that this really is how God designed us to be.  This is the place where we sit, at peace, trust His sovereignty, and move about our business while keeping things in perspective.  It is a place of healthy living.   


I don’t have a chant or meditation app to recommend that will help shift you into eco mode, but I do have a few ideas on how I get there.



1. Place things in perspective and speak to yourself what you know to be true.  

There is nothing on the menu at McDonald’s that is worth getting your heart rate up.  Also, both McDonalds and cortisol (from constant stress) will make you fat so avoid them altogether.  I digress but you get my point-  Choose not to get worked up over things that aren’t that big of a deal.  Your body will thank you.

2. Don’t lose it over what you can’t control but instead commit it to prayer and faith.  

When we were waiting on Ruthie, I was a certified nut job.  I was spending way too much emotional energy worrying about dates that I had zero control over.   My experience with waiting on Piper has been much different.  I recognized that the kind of fretting I did with Ruthie did not serve my engine in any way so this time I chose instead to hope and trust. 

3. Don’t let the other drivers control you.  

Maybe this is recognizing that you have a dopamine addiction or that you are an empath.  Either way, you have to get control of your own gas pedal and stop letting others press it for you.  And in Houston, if you don't, it could get you shot.

4. Don’t get pulled off course by things that don’t concern you.  

Like when all of traffic slows down because people want to see the accident.  Y’all there are a lot of “accidents” on our roads right now, but God has called us to stay the course for where He is sending us and to get there without turning someone else’s fender bender into our own pile up.   

5. Take care of your yourself.  

Change your oil. Check the air in your tires and for the love, don’t put vodka or Diet Coke in your gas tank. 


Again, there are times when we need to hit the gas. The problem comes when we don’t know when to let our foot off the pedal for the sake of our vehicle or those around us. 


Eco mode is a gift and channeling it is the only way we will make it (in one recognizable piece) to our God-given destination. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Truths I Want My Special Needs (Well Any) Kid to Know- Part 8- 8 Messages You Can Speak Into Your Child's Identity

Chapter 7-   8 Messages You Can Speak into Your Child's Identity

Several years ago I started thinking about how my kids see themselves and what influences their identity.   I figured it was either influenced by what they were good at or by something that they had experienced, like having a special need.  I based that purely on my own experience and decided to test my theory.  I asked friends, who were teachers in very different schools, to poll their kids and ask them, “What defines you?”  I gathered all of those statements and found that they fell naturally into 4 main categories: our life experiences (that which we cannot control), our faith, our strengths, and our people.   

I have been writing here about the research I have done on each of those and how my husband and I have determined to speak into them for our own children.  Today I will write about the final category, our people.

So here’s the deal - you will unavoidably speak into your child’s identity.  You will either speak into it by what you say or by what you don’t say, do or don’t do.  By being the most important adult in their lives, you will (by your actions and words) speak life or death, value or inconvenience, hope or despair, and optimism or fear into their lives and how they define themselves. 

When Maggie had her heart surgery, one of her surgeons stopped me in the hallway and said, “Life is like a poker game and your child has been dealt a tough hand.  Your job is teach her how to play the game like she has the best hand at the table.”  In order to help our children play the hand that has been dealt to them, we have to be intentional about speaking life, value, hope, and optimism.

In our family, we have adopted a handful of phrases that we speak aloud or by which we choose our actions.  They are a collection of parenting messages that we have accumulated from books, family conferences, and experience over the years.  I am going to share them here with you.  My encouragement is that you choose one and start using it.  Then in a few weeks incorporate another.  My kids know them by heart and even my 7-year old quoted one to me the other day when I sent her up to clean her room.  Before you give me too much credit, know that we have not mastered all of these, but we have committed to applying them. 

8 Messages You can speak into your child’s identity:

1.You are Worthy of My Time
This is one that I have to remind myself of regularly.  We act on this by turning the TV off or putting down our phone when our kids want to talk.  Maybe we give up time with friends to take that one struggling kid for a special date instead.  We speak it by what we show up for and how we speak about our desire to be there.  If we put off their requests for help or attention because of our busyness, they will stop asking and see themselves as an inconvenience.   We want them to know that they are WORTHY of our time.  Worthiness implies value.

      2.    I Notice YOU
This is not just a compliment of what they are wearing or their new haircut.  This is speaking into the core of who they are and is especially important for our special needs kids and kids from hard places.   I also use this daily with my patients.  I make an intentional effort to get to know them as individuals instead of diagnosis.  I want them to know that I don’t see them as a kid with cancer or another condition but instead as someone who loves certain activities or cares about certain issues.  Our kids are more than their diagnosis or experiences, they are more than a tool to make us look good, and they are certainly not meant to be seen and not heard (an attitude that some of us grew up with).  They want to be known and we need to show them that we want to see them at the core of who they are and that what we see is valued. 

         3. Everybody Has Something
One key step in helping them see that their something does not define them is to combat the myth that they are the only ones struggling.  When they see that everyone else has something they struggle with too, then their something becomes less significant and holds less power over their life.

         4. You’ve Got What it Takes
This is another one that I speak out loud a lot in the clinic.  The difference between a child who fails at a task and one who succeeds can be as simple as having someone who believes in them.  This statement of confidence is a game changer for our kids.  Trust me.  Try it. 

         5. You Do What You Have to Do So You Can do What You Want to Do
Okay so this might be the one that my kids would tell you that they wish they heard less.  I kind of love that.  Think about it though, it is true for darn near everything from therapy to school to getting up on Monday morning and going to work.  Heck it even applies to doing the laundry.  Why do I have to fold the clothes?  Because you don’t want to wear dirty underwear next week.  You do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do (like wear clean undies). Bam.

I want them to see that the things they don’t want to do are not an end in themselves but instead are a bridge to something they do want to do.

         6. If It’s Not Hard, It’s Not Worth Doing
I know some people will disagree with me on this one.  I mean reading a book on the back porch on a beautiful day is not hard and is definitely worth it, right? BUT, someone somewhere chose something hard in order to enable you to have that back porch and the free time to read on it.  Now was their hard work worth it? 

I use this one a lot in the clinic in several forms like, “Some of the best rewards in life come from doing hard things,” “if it were easy, you wouldn’t be here with me,” “the most influential people in the world have gotten where they are by saying yes to the hard road.”  In the Henderson house, we teach our kids that they have what it takes to do hard things and that is most often where they will see their greatest reward. 

         7. There is No Good Excuse for Bad Behavior
My kids probably don’t love this one either but that doesn’t mean it ain’t true.  It would be really easy for our kids to blame their choices on their life experiences and find themselves in a spiral of excuse-making.   Now notice that I say “for bad behavior” not for everything.  Ruthie’s arms will never allow her to hit a home run but that doesn’t mean she gets to throw the bat in frustration.  

         8. Freedom to Ask, Freedom to say No
This is a new one for us.  I traveled to China in September with a fabulous family and this was one that they taught me and we have since added to our repertoire.  I hate asking for help, but the point at which I give someone absolute freedom to say no, it becomes much easier.  I don’t want my kids to miss out on an opportunity or relationship because they are afraid to ask or afraid of hearing no.  We have to be okay with asking but we also have to be okay with hearing no, but we will never have the opportunity for yes if we don’t ask. 

You might be looking at some of these and wondering how they speak into identity.  I would argue that they give our kids certain values, perspectives, and a level of confidence that indirectly shapes their identity and how much power the other voices have over them.  

Three of the identity markers from my survey of students were strengths, experiences, and people.  These all speak to our children’s functional identity.  The fourth marker, faith, speaks to their created identity.  I believe that each of our kids has a threshold for how much power the circumstances of their life will have over them.  As the people who speak into their lives, we have the direct ability to influence that threshold by strengthening their understanding of their created identity and then by speaking life, value, hope, and optimism into their functional identity.  I hope that makes sense.  

(Pics for fun from Ruthie's 13th Birthday)


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What? You Are Adopting Again?

*** I am taking a break from the book today to share an announcement.  

I have always imagined there was an imaginary line (or cliff) that separated “normal families” (with 4 or fewer kids) from “those other families.”  You know the ones where you hold up the Christmas card and straighten your pointer finger to count how many of them there are now and then you wonder things like, “What is their grocery bill like?” 

I placed my toes up to the edge of the normal group with the addition of Maggie and then looked over and wondered what those other families were trying to make up for, if they were superhuman, or if they were just certifiably crazy.  Then God grabbed my heart again and swiftly kicked me in the butt and over the edge I was peering into.   Yes, the Henderson’s have prayed and felt God’s leading to become one of THOSE families.  We are pursuing a child that Jack and I met in China.   She is close to Maggie’s age and will be a wonderful addition to our family.

Y’all, I have had some crazy questions asked of me and none of them offend me but a lot made me laugh out loud.  So here are the FAQs for “What? You are adopting AGAIN?”

1.  Do I need counseling?  Probably but there is no time for that.

2.  Will Jack still be able to go to college? Yes.  I am still trying to convince him that it is a worthwhile endeavor.  

3.  Do you not like American kids?  No.  They get on my nerves.  

4.  Will Maggie be jealous?  Maybe but she is the type of child who likes someone standing right beside her at all times and Ruthie is getting too old to play Barbies.  

5.  What did Sam say?  Sam said that he heard Asians are good at Ping Pong and so he can’t wait to teach her to play Ping Pong.  (absolutely true)

6.  How will you pay for it?  Well China doesn’t accept Bitcoin so we will probably use American dollars.  We will be holding a t-shirt fundraiser at some time.

7.  How can I help you in your quest for insanity?  Buy a t-shirt.  That will be our only fundraiser to help with the big chunks that are due right before we travel.  

8.  Are you concerned that if you ask people to give you $ they may not give to the church?  No.  We aren’t asking for $, we are offering a chance to buy a t-shirt.  The people who go to our church don’t relate to their giving that way and buying a t-shirt is completely optional and not a requirement for ongoing membership (although that is a good idea).  😉

9.  Will you teach her English?  No.  The rest of the family is going to learn to speak Chinese and make that our new language. 

10.  Are you sure you can take on another kid with special needs?  I assure you, it is not my kid’s special needs that make parenting hard. Parenting is hard because of the challenges of raising good people in today’s society.  

11.  Does she speak English?  Jack taught her the word, “sister” so I guess that’s a start.

12.  When will you travel?  Our agency has warned us it could take a year.  I already completed a 3 month homestudy in 10 days.  I am praying and hoping for early summer so we have the summer to bond before school starts. 

13.  Will she go to school?  Yes she will be one year behind Maggie.  I am in second place for the longest running family at our elementary school and I am hoping this moves me to a first-place tie until I can bring home another. 

14.  She’s older.  What if she can’t bond?  Last time I checked, healthy bonding was not a prerequisite to adoption or having the opportunity to be exposed to the Gospel. 

15.  Will you buy one of those big vans?  Only if Trent wins that argument and that is unlikely.

16.  Is Trent going to let you go back to China? Yes, I am hoping to go back annually because this ministry of serving orphans and advocating for them is where I feel like I am most walking in my calling.

17.  What if you meet another child when you go back?  Then Trent will get his 18 passenger van.

If you made it through that list then hopefully you get my humor.  Right now, please pray for a speedy process.  If you have a question to add to the list, go ahead and ask and I am happy to add it for anyone else who is wondering if they should stage an intervention. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Truths I Want My Special Needs (Well Any) Kid to Know- Part 7- Discovering Their Strengths

CHAPTER 6- Discovering Their Strengths

(Pics are just for fun from a recent hot air balloon ride that we took as a family)

When we asked classrooms of kids, “What defines you?”, we consistently witnessed a response based on the students’ strengths.  We saw answers like, “I’m a gamer”, “I play instruments,” and “My love for soccer.”   Honestly, these are the kinds of responses that I expected when I posed the question in the first place.   

So why is this relevant to our special needs kids and why is it important that we parent this answer in all of our children?  I think for our kids from hard places, their challenges are so constant in their lives that it is hard for them to see their strengths.  Helping them find their strengths, as a larger component of their identity, is a giant step toward redirecting them to see how God wants to uniquely use them to impact their world.  

Fifteen years ago, I worked as a physical therapist at Baylor University.  As a member of the Student Life team, I participated in a program to help us find our strengths through an assessment called the StrengthsFinder.  I remember when they were introducing it, they used Michael Jordan as the example for why we should focus on mastering our strengths instead improving on our weaknesses.  They pointed out Jordan’s failed attempt at playing baseball and how he was better served when he was focusing on his basketball game.  It was a memorable example because that scenario had played out in front of my eyes just a few years before when we were all scratching our heads at why the greatest basketball player of all time would bother picking up a baseball bat.   The StrengthsFinder helped me appreciate that our time is not best spent trying to become good at that which we were not born to do but instead on perfecting that which we were created to excel at.  
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up a child in the way they should go and when they get old they will not depart from it.   As much as I would love for this to mean that if we teach our children the Bible they will follow it all their life, I believe this verse is most accurately taught as an instruction to raise your child toward their natural bent.  I think of this verse when I think of the philosophy that undergirds the StrengthsFinder.  

Another benefit of helping our children find and name their strengths is that it frees them to walk in that strength.  I remember when I took the assessment; it told me that I had the strength of Ideation.  I had never been told that before but was immediately able to look back and see where that played out in my past.  I embraced that strength and felt more freedom to generate ideas for programs and find solutions to problems because I recognized ideation as a reflection of how God wanted to use me.  I hope that helping my children identify their strengths will give them the same validation as they boldly walk in them.  

There are two warnings we need to heed when helping our children discover their strengths.  The first is that we have to completely steer clear of what our personal strengths are and what we would hope theirs would be.  We must be open-minded to how God uniquely created them.  I recently binge-watched The Crown on Netflix.  In one of my favorite episodes, Prince Philip insists that Prince Charles attend his alma mater for boarding school.  Prince Philip was an athlete and appreciated the physical training that would be demanded of Charles there.  In the episode it is clear that the queen disagrees and can see that the school is not a match for the personality of her son.  In the end, she lets Philip have his way and sends Charles to a place that he later described as hell.  Philip was choosing what Charles would be strong at based on his own experience instead of the personality of his child and it did not go well for Charles.  When I was little my mom enrolled me in dance.  I think it was the next step (after naming me Virginia) in raising a really girly girl.  I sucked at dance.  Not only could I not stand still but also I had the flexibility of penguin.  It was clearly not my strength and after 10+ years of lessons, thousands of dollars in tuition, and hours of torturing my poor teachers, I still sucked at it. 

The second warning is to not let our children find their strengths in places that are inconsistent with God’s best for them or that could be described as more of an escape than a strength.  According to CNN, the shooter at Santa Fe High School was described by his mother as staying up all night playing video games.   He also had a custom t-shirt on his Facebook page that said, “Born to Kill”.  Now I know that is an extreme but clearly this kid found his strengths and identity in the wrong place.  Just because he was good at it does not mean it was God given.  Another less dramatic example that is tragically humorous and certainly self-deprecating would be a misguided strength of my own youth.  When I was in junior high, I knew everything about the soap opera General Hospital.  I could tell you the history of the characters and even predict future story lines.  To say I was oddly obsessed would be an understatement.  Importantly, and fortunately, obsession does not equal strength.  It usually just equals a means of escape.  We can’t let our kids confuse the two. 

So in summary, I want to help my child focus not on their challenges or their weaknesses but instead on discovering and growing in their God given strength as they explore how they were uniquely designed to impact the world. 

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  I was driving to work last week while talking to a good friend about some tough news we had received.   I told her that I felt like I was ...

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