Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Anti-Cupid


Image Courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:21-28

We know that God has promised that he "works all things for the good of those who love him."  Romans 8:28   But we also know that we have an enemy who is "looking for someone to devour."  1 Peter 5:8
Now I don't know about you, but I'd rather avoid getting devoured...
The fact is, one of the easiest targets for Satan to take aim at when given a family with special needs is the marriage.  From the original fall of man, marriage fell prey to the curse that followed sin. 

To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.Genesis 3:16 NIV

As my husband and I learned in our Fireproof Your Marriage study, women are designed to desire love, and men seek to feel respected.  That is affirmed in Genesis 3:16 AND in Ephesians 5 above.   This means that ALL marriages, not just those facing the pressures of raising a child with special needs, are going to face tremendous resistance in this life. 
Women want to feel loved.  Men want to feel respected.  But if I'm not feeling loved, I lash out with disrespect, and if my husband feels disrespected, it becomes difficult to love me! 
The added stress of parenting creates even more potential for difficulties; and pile on one diagnosis or another for those children; you have got yourself a big bull's-eye for Satan. 

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net


Let's face it.  Intimacy becomes quite challenging when you're facing medical bills, stress from too much time away from work, multiple ER visits or hospitalizations, or seeing your child scared and in pain.  Then you're supposed to get time together as a couple? 
Oh, and when people remind you to take time for yourself?  Let's just not even go there.
The longer a couple goes without having some loving, tender, and intimate time together, the weaker the bonds of marriage become; they grow more and more estranged, even when living in the same house, and the marriage becomes an easier target for Satan.  He loves nothing more than an opportunity to capitalize on a "lonely" couple.

Look at how Satan targeted Jesus in Luke 4:2-3. 

He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.  the devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 
Wait until Jesus is really, really hungry and then tell him that he DESERVES some bread...
Wait until the couple is really, really lonely and TELL them THEY DESERVE something better...more romantic...she deserves to be treated better than this...he deserves to not have a wife who yells when he gets home from a long day at work.
We know we have to be on the lookout for an ANTI-CHRIST...but, what about the ANTI-CUPID? 
The Anti-Cupid is all around us...throwing pornography in our faces, making TV and movie ratings a little more lenient, and "adult situations" become more and more "adult", until we no longer recognize how un-godly these relationships are that we see on TV or in the movies. 

If you're lonely, Satan wants to bring a flatterer into your midst.  With social media today, it's too easy to do.  That crush from high school, that younger man or woman at the office?  What's wrong with a little flirting if it makes you feel better right?
That voice you hear telling you it's okay, that's a liar.
If you feel like there's no romance, Satan will show you more and more romantic situations on TV that convince you that YOUR life is lacking love and affection that you NEED in order to live happily-ever-after.  Those programs warp our view of reality, and the King Liar himself weasels his way into our brain to convince us it's our spouses fault. We start to believe the lie and become more and more dissatisfied with our partner.
So, how do we combat this when society is ALL ABOUT supporting the ANTI-CUPID? 
We need to stay in the word, WITH OUR SPOUSE, and in prayer WITH OUR SPOUSE
Why together? 
If we are doing devotionals, reading scripture, or praying together daily, it gives us an avenue for keeping our communication open and honest and FLOWING.  Also, when we spend this spiritual time together, we invite the Holy Spirit into our marriage to work on it, strengthen it, keep it as the Holy Union that God intended it to be. 

We MUST put on the ARMOR of God and pray for protection over our marriages!  What better way to experience intimacy than in praying for our marriages WITH our spouse?  In praying honestly over our temptations WITH our spouse?  In honoring our oath we took in front of God on our wedding day WITH one another by seeking HIS help in renewing our love for one another?

We will have difficult times in our marriages.  We may even find that we've grown so stale in our relationship that we don't know how to start over again. 

With Valentine's Day just a couple of days away, I urge you to use this weekend as a chance to LOVE your spouse.  Pick up a couples devotional and start reading together and discussing together.  If you can't go out on Valentine's Day, that's okay!  Start Friday and show how excited you are to renew your love together and to shoot down the Anti-Cupid who hovers near-by waiting to devour you.
Image Courtesy of lekkyjustdoit/freedigitalphotos.net

Let nothing here on earth stand in the way of the union that God blessed on your wedding day.

Because,
"What God has joined together, let NO ONE put asunder."
Pray:  Heavenly Father, our world is a hurting mess, and Satan prowls around trying to distract from our relationship with you.  Please, Father God, forgive us for the times we have not loved our spouses and for the times we have disrespected them.  Let this weekend be a time for FRESH starts.  Soften our hearts to the love we had before life took it's toll.  We know that only YOU can make ALL things new.   Amen

-Tammie Hefty


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

5 Ways to Hear God Above The Noise

"Speak, Eternal One. Your servant is listening."
~ Samuel 3:10, VOICE ~

It begins with that wicked noise demanding that I wake at 5 AM.  It nags again in 30 minutes, reminding me that it will not tolerate my burrowing deeper into my cotton flannel, warm cocoon.  Once I succumb to the relentless reminders to get out of bed, it's all downhill from there.  With doors and cupboards opening and slamming percussion to the melody of my children's "Mooooooooom," the volume escalates as everyone attempts to make it out the door on time.

That is the routine on a GOOD day.  On one where there are doctor's appointments, or therapies, or medical crises, the frenetic sound and activity drowns even more loudly.

How is a special caregiver ever to hear God above the deafening volume of our daily demands?

There is no time for developing habits of holiness like the Church season of Lent.  For 40 days the faithful share a designated time to fast, pray, and contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Here are some thoughts on on how parents like us might begin to develop those habits:

  1. The closer you are to a person, the easier it is for you to hear them.  So it is with God.  Be intentional by personally resolving to draw near to your Maker over the next 40 days and beyond.  Pick a specific time and place to meet the Lord, where you slow yourself down, set aside other distractions, and marinate in awareness of His presence.  Of course, because of the lifestyle of caregiving, flexibility has to be built in.  But make this your goal, something you do just for the health of your own soul.
  2. God speaks through His word.  Commit to spending daily time in His word.  While some find Bible reading difficult, hard to understand, or boring, there are more Bible translations available today than ever before.  Visit https://www.biblegateway.com/ to find a version that is most readable to you.  Some of my recent favorites include The Voice and the Amplified Bible.
  3. God also speaks through people.  Use some of the solid tools that God created to accompany your Bible reading during Lent.  Places like Christianbook.com have boundless meditations and studies available for this 40 day period that will increase your understanding and encounter of God.  There are also many FREE devotionals you can sign up for online, like the ones from BibleGateway.com.  Since you can have them sent right to your e-mail, you can access God's word and supporting materials right from your smart device, wherever you may be.
  4. Keep God's word accessible.  Since caregivers like us are know to spend inordinate amounts of time waiting...  In doctor's offices, in carpool lines, on hold with the insurance company...  We make the best use of that time when we spend it listening to our Lord.  Whether it's a pocket Bible or devotional, or it's a favorite app on our phones, sometimes these periods of waiting can afford us the greatest opportunities to quiet ourselves and really listen to God.  I also love places like My Utmost For His Highest or Ann Voskamp on Facebook.  These pages offer beautiful graphics that usher us right into the presence of the Lord.
  5. Sing your heart out.  When I homeschooled my children, there was a curriculum that maintained that, "If you can sing it, you can memorize it."  To this day, I can tell you all of the continents by singing them.  It's no different with God's truth.  So often His word set to music helps us to really grasp His message to us.  I often laugh with the parents I mentor, confessing that I have a song for everything we study.  With excellent contemporary Christian music so readily available, it is easy to really impress these things on our hearts as we wash dishes, administer infusions, or drive to appointments.  Even remembering old hymns make wherever we stand holy ground.  By the way, doing this draws our children closer to God as an added bonus!
Friends, the season of Lent has become such a rich time of contemplation for me.  Its serious tone reminds me of all that I owe God because of what He's done for me.  I can't imagine walking through this life without Him.  There's no way I could make it through all the diagnoses, meltdowns, behaviors, bullying, medical bills, and hospitalizations.  Isn't it worth the extra effort on my part to make every attempt to hear Him above the noise of my often-crazy life?  I would answer a resounding YES!

Join me in this next 40 days, developing new healthy habits of holiness, hearing God's voice above the noise!  Are you in?

PRAY:  Keep me in Your perfect peace, Lord.  I am keeping my eyes and ears fixed on You.  Quiet my craziness and develop in me new defaults that usher me into Your presence.  I can't do this life apart from You.

~ Barb Dittrich

* Type the word "Lent" in the upper left search bar for more devotions and meditations on the season of Lent.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Creating Memory Monuments…

He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”


So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there.

~ Joshua 4:5-8, NLT ~

You know that stage in life when a baby begin to responds with eye contact, a smile or maybe a ‘coo’? That’s one of my favorite stages of growth in a baby. Before this they really can’t do anything or respond in anyway and after that they start to run everywhere and you start ‘mobile parenting’.

I’ll never forget the day that Jack was born, nor the day and weeks later, when we left the hospital, nor his first day of school and his apprehensive excitement to ride the bus.  It’s truly amazing how God has given us this capability of making memories that come back to us at random times.
Almost 4 years ago we traveled home to Australia to see my family. While we were there we visited a wildlife sanctuary. Jack was very drawn to the kangaroos.   It’s where his love for animals was born.  His attraction to animals is unstoppable, if he even gets close to an animal his attention is exclusively drawn to it. This is one of the reasons we have Jonah the dog. Jonah is a Chocolate Labrador graciously gifted to our family in order to be trained as a service dog to help Jack in his daily tasks.  (You can follow Jonah’s adventures on Facebook at Jack’s Dad Blog or www.jacksdad.org).

Another great memory comes from the summer when we traveled north in the Adirondack mountains to Word of Life Family Campground. While we were there BJ, Jack and Connor had the chance to go on a little horse ride. While all three boys loved the experience, at the end of the ride Jack was “reluctant” to get off the horse and simply sat at the horse’s head while it ate grass…even grabbing the horse’s nostrils to keep its attention. Did I mention he loves animals?
Memories are ‘mile markers’ in our mind. They usually come up in conversation with “Remember when…”.  I think it’s super neat how the Lord gave us this memory capability to remember events that bring joy to our hearts and a smile to our face.  One of the major reasons I believe God did this was so that we can recount to ourselves and others the goodness of the Lord and how He provides for us through both great times and difficult situations.


When I think of these memories, my mind often goes to the account in the Bible where Joshua was leading the people of Israel through the Jordan River from the desert into Canaan and onto Jericho. He knew this was going to be a monumental occasion and so asked 12 men to grab 12 stones from the middle of the river as they went through to the other side.  The purpose of this exercise is found in Joshua 4:7-8.  The great leader, Joshua, simply explains that when all the moving into a new country is done and the dust has settled, when you make it back this way and you see the stones it will be a memorial for you to remember what great things God did…and you’ll also be able to tell your children.
Do you spend time remembering great joyful moments in life of your child with special needs? or is the diagnosis a chasm that can’t be crossed? Is the daily grind keeping you eyes down?
My encouragement to you this week is to remember the great things that God has done in and through your child with a disability.  take special notice today and this week of the events that you can turn into ‘memory monuments’.  Also, look back through your Facebook account at pictures you’ve posted over the past several years to help remind you.
Let those ‘memory monuments’ bring warmth to your heart and a smile to your face. At the dinner table, start a conversation about those memories and begin with, “Remember when…”.
If you’d like to share some memories, we’d love to hear from you…leave a comment below.
"Dear God, there is so much value in remembering the blessings that You bring our way. Help us to create memory monuments in our lives today."
Be Encouraged,

Monday, February 8, 2016

To Those Who Love The "Unlovable"

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
~ James 1:12, NIV ~

HOPE.  There's not a person on this earth who doesn't need it.

Yet, of all the parents we serve raising kids with special needs, perhaps the ones most desperately in need of an extra dose of that HOPE are the ones raising children with RAD or Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Most commonly seen in kids who were adopted or abused, this mental health issue takes such a heavy toll on the parents and caregivers who love a child through this.

It may be the relentless gray of post-Christmas winter, but this season has proven to be particularly challenging for our moms and dads.  Most recently, I have found myself in constant prayer for those who have endured the following from their beautiful children of various ages with RAD:

  • Acting out
  • Lying
  • Destroying property
  • Stealing
  • Physical abuse of caregivers
  • Disgusting, inappropriate language
  • Manipulation of others to achieve selfish gain
  • Undermining friendships with behavior and words
If you are one of these parents, I have a message for you:  I see you, and I know it is NOT your fault.  I know how you dreamed of parenting this child, and I see how this breaks your heart.  I also see your frustration and need for a break.  You are carrying a heavy, exhausting load that God never meant for you to manage on your own.  I know that you carry so much unspoken fear about your child's future.  I know that you have dealt with the police, the schools, the psychiatrists, and psychologists more than you would ever care to admit.  I know that you may have had your child inpatient at a mental health facility, or a youth detention center, or at a boot camp program, or a therapeutic boarding school.  I know that you have heard too many times, "We don't know to do next," for your son or daughter.  This can suck the energy and hope right out of you.

There are those of us here who have your back.  We love you unconditionally.  We are here to comfort you when things aren't going well.  We know RAD is a liar.  It tells your child that they are not safe with you and that they will be abandoned once again.  It tells them that they will be brutally punished, or not get enough food, or not have their needs met.  We know it tells you that you are a bad parent and it pushes you to the very brink, often making you want to give up.  IT.IS.A.LIAR!  

There is good news for you and your extra-grace-required child today.  The first dose of good news is that there is treatment and things can get better for you and your child.  But it takes years of persistence!  We are here for you as you persist.  We will love you, and scream with you, and hang out with you, and support you all the way to the finish line.  We will lift you up on your low days, relentlessly pray for you, and just be there with a knowing hug.

Even if things never improve, there is still BETTER Good News.  There is One who can and does redeem all of this pain, no matter the outcome.  He takes the sorrow, and the abuse, and the broken dreams, and the absolutely ugly situations, and He uses them for our good and His glory.  We may struggle to make sense of how any good can come out of this trauma, but He knows what He is doing.  Now, I'm not trying to be trite or to make it sound as if I think this is easy.  It isn't.  This kind of love is absolutely NOT easy.  Yet, He sees you loving that "unlovable" creature whom He created in His image, and He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  When you pour every molecule of your love into that difficult kid with RAD, it is as if you are pouring yourself out for Christ Himself.  You may not feel the good or see the good in this lifetime.  In fact, everything around you may tell you that there is no hope.  Remember that His HOPE goes beyond any hope this world can see or provide.

Hang tough, loving caregiver.  God is with you and so are we.

PRAY:  Lord, we know that there is nothing too difficult for You.  Pour Your healing, loving balm over the hearts and minds of these precious kids who have RAD and their caregivers.  Be their security when they have known so much chaos and instability in their lives.  Encourage them and help them to persist on the darkest days.  Nudge and remind those of us around them to step up and support them for the long haul.  And even if healing never comes, Lord, boundlessly fill us with the joy of knowing that our HOPE rests in You alone.  Thank You for the gift of one another through these most difficult things in life.

~ Barb Dittrich

* For more information and resources on Reactive Attachment Disorder, please visit our various Pinterest Boards entitled Adoption and Special Needs, Behavior Challenges, and Trauma.

Friday, February 5, 2016

My Marriage Is Not Great


My husband and I with four of our five children

At least not by social media standards.

Honestly, there have been times we probably struggled to call it "good" by any standard.

It's true.

The struggle is, in fact, real.

But then there is this...

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Mark 10:9 KJV

Yes...

about that....

Sometimes I think we should have one of those "established" plaques in our home that reads something like..."Established by God December 27th 1992....Screwed up by Carlton and Beth everyday since."

Being married is difficult, no matter what you see on Instagram, it's hard. I don't always feel like a head over heels in love new bride who has just been eternally joined to her soul mate, and is frolicking in the joy of his amazing abilities to buy me the perfect gifts when I least expect it.

(One year for my birthday, very early on in our marriage, I received batteries...for his Gameboy. His gift giving has greatly improved and I have come to view the earlier offenses as a wealth of humorous marital stories to share. God bless him.)

What we all have to realize is, even under what appears on Facebook to be the best of circumstances, without effort, care and a Godly focus, our marriages can struggle and ultimately they can fail. There are so many aspects of marriage, too many to discuss in one post and too many for this one person to even try and pretend to be knowledgeable of, so what I will attempt to do...


Stick to what I know, what I can tell you about. What I can speak to is the effect that having a special needs child has had on our marriage...

I say these words carefully, as much as I love my son, the added strain of his disability is real. It is real for us individually, it is real for us as a family and it has been and continues to be real for our marriage.

We have not always agreed, we have not always felt like we were sharing the load and we have not always felt appreciated for our efforts and knowledge. But we have both always, always loved our son.

I sit here trying to put that "effect" into words, to describe our marriage and what having a child with autism has done to it, or maybe it is better said, how it has shaped it.

There is no part untouched by having a child with a disability, especially a severe one.

There is no part without a mark.

There is no part without some scars.

Some are deep, created from early insecurities and propensities toward selfishness, in their place we now find stability and understanding. They have settled down into those deep wounds and grown to fill-in the places that were once jagged painful cracks.

The parts of us that were bruised, that were damaged and fragile from hurtful words spoken in anger, they are now covered with a protective and strong layer of loyalty and devotion.

The areas that were scraped and raw from being drug through this journey without care or protection, they have been soothed and healed with the balm of love.

The love of Jesus.

Because apart from him we have come to realize we can not do this.

That is what this life that we have been given has done, it has highlighted and put on glaring display some of the very worst qualities and characteristics that we possess. It has left us with out a doubt that we need God.

The truth is, it's all so tightly woven together, I don't know that I can pick out the threads of our marriage and expose them. You see, that is what happens. It's what God designed, for two to come together and become one. Joined together to be a reflection of His love, His union and commitment to His church.

I think it is in this view, with faith that holds this belief of marriage that you find strength.


The strength to get through each day with our unique challenges.


The strength to stay together.

The strength to be a family...

a family created by God...

given by God.

Through everything that life can throw at you, the twists and turns of our existence on this earth, I thank God that we are sewn together with the strongest of threads...Faith, Hope, and Love.

God I do not have to tell you that I am weak, You already know. Help me to continue to see those places in myself, those places where there is still so much work to be done. I know that apart from You we would unravel and fall apart and I am grateful for the strong threads of Your promises that hold my family together. Amen

~Beth