Friday, October 20, 2017

the margin

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience
Hebrews 4:9-11 (NASB)

Margin - the edge of the paper, top, bottom, left and right sides that give border and definition to the page. The margin is the space that is meant to be left empty. If every word that fills the page goes from edge to edge of the paper, the eye would not be able to handle it, and the brain would not be able to read it. 

Our lives need to have margin as well. Our lives need the extra white space, which is filled with nothing. It is extra time, reserve time, that gives us borders, edges. It is an important factor in what God wants for us. God desires rest for his people. He desires our minds, hearts and bodies to rest between the work. 

We all get the same amount of it. T I M E.

But what if there isn’t?

What if there isn’t downtime, isn’t rest, isn’t margin, isn’t reserve?

Days filled to the brim, filled from edge to edge, can wear out, making the edges frayed, making the emotions raw. Making the borders unreadable, making all of it unintelligible.

The special needs parent has no margin, no reserve. The special needs parent has nothing extra from which to draw, no extra time, no extra emotion, no extra money. The special needs parent has no white space, no empty space.

Many days I find myself filled to the brim with a list beyond what I can handle. It fills my mind and heart with fear. It overwhelms me. 

I pray, God please help me leave to tomorrow the things I need to NOT do in this day.

But I want and seem to need to do them all, they all seem important, all beckoning for attention. Order the diapers, call the supplier about defective supplies, bless my family with work in the home, bless my employer with work completed, eat the right things for my health, and exercise for same reason, make sure to do the therapy Girlie needs, on and on and on.

What if?

What if I must schedule “rest,” schedule “margin,” just like I schedule work? Just like I schedule the children’s calendars. What if I schedule time in my day, saying this time of the day I choose to sit, close my eyes, and just be with the Lord, to rest in Him.

He will honor it. He will bless it. He will multiply it. AND He will help it happen.

Please pray with me:

God, I pray you would help me to schedule rest, schedule time with You. Please help me focus on what is important and put aside the things that aren't. Thank you that you work in the details of my life and want what is best for me and my family. Thank you that you desire time with me, as your daughter. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Good Ol' Days

“Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” 
Ecclesiastes 7:10 NLT

I’m not sure if Solomon could have been much clearer in this verse. While I believe that we understand Jesus’ teaching to not worry about tomorrow, we often forget about lingering in the past. If you are anything like me, the “good ol’ days” were never quite as good as I remember them. I can enhance them greatly in my mind and they seem even better depending upon the depth of struggle I am currently walking through.

Whether it is the divorce that I walked through, or a medical diagnosis, or just the craziness of our current world, so many factors of life compel us to look fondly on the past and to use the “good ol’ days” as an escape from our current reality. The problem with this is that we often miss out on the opportunities to sense the presence of God. He is with us in every moment and He sees every tear. His Spirit resides within us and is constantly whispering to our hearts.

How often do I miss time with God because my mind is longing for the good old days?

I believe that God is still active in my life. He knows and He cares and He loves me. While I can type this and share this and preach this, I wonder how well I actually live this? Do I actively pursue Him even when my emotions are crying out in pain? Do I seek His face and run to His arms, or do I withdraw and imagine how great life was?

There is an oft-quoted maxim that the “present” is spelled as it is because it is a gift from God. Yesterday is gone and will never return. Tomorrow never truly arrives. All we have is the gift of today. Recent tragic events from hurricanes to deadly shootings to the pain I see my kids experience as they are navigating teenage life and all of its hurdles remind me that I must make the most of today and trust God with the rest.

May I spend more time in the reality of today than the fantasy of yesterday!

Wisdom, according to Solomon, would be to recognize the reality of life and to live in the moment. While his fatalism throughout Ecclesiastes is often unhealthy, he was at least healthy enough to recognize the futility of figuring out the past.

So, if we are not to long for the good ol’ days, what should we long for?

Let’s start with God. We must long for the presence of God. We must guard our sacred space and spend time with Him. Maybe you are able to wake up early and enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee with your Bible and journal spread out neatly. Maybe your morning looks more like mine and we go flying out the door, dropping kids off at school, and enjoying quality time in gridlock traffic on the way to work. Regardless, let us not give up battling for time with God.

We should long for more time with our families. Meaningful conversation, laughter, and truly doing life together. It is too easy to become focused on the tasks of life and living with the mentality of survival. Jesus has called us into an abundant life, but I know that I need to be intentional about this, otherwise the cares of the world overwhelm and sweep me away.

We should long for the opportunity to fulfill our God-given purpose in life. This might happen at our jobs or in our communities, but our ultimate purposes are typically found in family. My kids are growing up quickly and I am short on years where they still want to hang out with me and be seen in public with me. I must cherish this time and be the best father that I am able to be. God commissioned me fifteen years ago with the responsibility to raise kids in the ways of the Lord, to set them up with tools and experiences to know the voice of God, and to steer them to a life as Christ-following adults. This is not a simple task. It takes the grace of God combined with my own intentionality.

So, what do you long for? Is it just a few moments of peace and quiet? Is it for the never-ending stream of doctor appointments to stop? Is it for a glimpse of God in the midst of your storm of suffering? Just remember that He loves you, that He is for you, and that wisdom is not found in the “good ol’ days” but is found in pursuing God as best you can right where you are.

Dear Lord, life is messy. It is often overwhelming and heartbreaking. All too often, we retreat to memories of the past, good or bad, and miss what You are doing in the present. Help us, Lord, to pursue You every day…to make space for You every day…to hear Your voice every day. Bless us today, strengthen us, and overwhelm us with Your grace. Amen!
~ Mike

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When did you last pick up a pine cone?

The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. 
(Psalm 19: 1-3)

When was the last time you or I went on a scavenger hunt? You know, make a list, grab a bag or box to put treasures in, and head out to explore the garden.

Autumn is so very beautiful! Here in England the trees are just beginning to show us their colours. Reds, yellows, orange and browns. Today was a windy day, and colourful leaves were landing like confetti on us as I walked with my little one on the way to school. We looked up and watched them twirl down gently, dancing with the wind beneath them and wondered at the God who made them.

It is as if creation is calling out to us to stop and wonder, to pause in our day and consider the Maker. To pick up the pine cones and conkers, to kick the leaves and watch them dance; to gaze up at the tall trees and see the one they live to lift high.

Everything God made speaks of the Creator, pointing to his attention to detail and his care. Reminding us of his passion and extravagance. Showing us his delight and joy at the vast and the tiny. Giving us glimpses of his reckless love and eternal faithfulness.

So, when was that last scavenger hunt?? Maybe the next one could be today? What treasures will we find if we pause and look?
  • What can we see?
  • What can we hear?
  • What can we smell?
  • What can we feel as we explore, expectantly?
And when we bring those treasures back into our homes, as we lay them out to look at and admire I wonder, what we will see of the Creator? What detail will make us stop and wonder at his craftsmanship, his love, his patience, his exuberance?

Every single one will reveal his love and care for creation and for us. Every single one will tell of his delight in each unique creation, and remind us of his delight in us; each uniquely made in his image. God looked at the world he had made and he saw that it was good!!

Father lead me today to find treasures that will speak to me of your greatness, your tenderness and your care. Remind me of your delight as creator for all you have made. Amen

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fear and Faith

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, 
and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.
 Proverbs 1:5 NASB

I like to say I am not afraid, and for the most part I think that is true. However, there are these little pockets of fear that keep popping up, places that need light, that need to be exposed. God keeps exposing them, and I learn to work through the fear and my faith grows. It may not always seem like it at the time, but God is good.

I also like to say, "I know my child better than anyone else."

As you are pausing on that one to ponder a moment, you probably feel the same way.

I'll give you a minute, but we both know where this is going.

Before this does go much farther let me clarify; there are many times as parents who frequently find themselves in positions where we are advocating for our child, that it is wholly appropriate to stress the fact that in those circumstance, we DO "know our child better than anyone."

You know what's coming now don't you?

The big BUT!

But, we don't know our child better than God.

I could never...

I will never...

know my child better than God. 

God thought of him! He created his entire existence and planned out every single day, before He "knit him together" inside me. Yet, there are times when I am fully walking in the words of my own mouth, "I know my child better than anyone."

Often when things are said over and over again they become so ingrained and familiar that they are accepted for truth. That thought that "I know my child better than anyone" can become so second nature to us that we forget that we actually DO NOT.

Why is this a problem?

It's a problem because when we think we know everything, and when we think we have all of the answers and know best...

We don't listen to others and we don't learn.

We become arrogant and a little self righteousness is probably going to creep in there too. However, the thing that most quietly invades into our existence, because it a close companion of those two characteristics I just mentioned, is fear. As parents of children who walk a path of challenges and vulnerabilities, we are no strangers to fear.  

Fear can often be disguised as protection. 

Protecting our children is woven into our DNA, it's born in love. Occasionally though, we find ourselves comfortably ensconced in "protection" and realize it's born in fear. I discovered myself in just such a place recently.

We have lived in our current state for a few years now. When we relocated here our son Cooper, who is Autistic, had a challenging transition period adjusting to his new school. This was hard on everyone, myself included. It has taken a great deal of time and hard work but Cooper is settled into a good routine and doing well. I know my son. I know what he has been through. I know what he likes and doesn't like. I have for years said, "No" to him participating in Special Olympics, because "I know my child better than anyone." No one has ever really fought me or questioned my reluctance to let him participate. In fact, on more than one occasion I have heard, "You know him best." 

"Of course I do!" played confidently in my head. I felt pretty good about "protecting" my child through this.

I was arrogant.


I was afraid.

I was protecting him from something he probably wouldn't like, because I was afraid of what could happen if he went. I was afraid it would be a disaster, that he may become overwhelmed, and agitated, that he may bolt. I was afraid all of the hard work would be undone and that would be all people thought of when they thought of him...the hard parts.

I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I saw no point in even entertaining the idea anymore, he just wasn't going to do it. No need to subject him to something he didn't like. 

This year I received a phone call from my son's teacher about Special Olympics, but he didn't ask me if I wanted to sign Cooper up. He was calling to tell me that he had already signed him up. He thought he could do it, he thought it would be good for him. He thought they should at least try. 

Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed." (NKJV)

You can do a lot with this verse, but for now we are just going to focus on the "walking with wise men" part. Often as parents of children with disabilities we struggle for community, for surrounding ourselves with people who truly understand what we go through and what our lives can be like.

God knows that we struggle and God is good. He is so good that sometimes he will place the wise to walk with us, where we are so accustomed to walking alone that we think we need the counsel of none.

When I heard my son's teacher say they were going to Special Olympics I was immediately filled with excitement.  God knew I was never going to say yes. He also knew that my son could do it. He knew that he was perfectly capable of going, of making it through events and even participating, and He also knew the right person to place in the position to say yes. 

God is a great orchestrator of people and events.  

So I pray for us today...

God our Heavenly Father, You are not only The Beginning and The End but Father you are the orchestrator of every step in between. What an overwhelming and humbling realization to know that You are in the details of our lives. God help us to be willing to grow in wisdom, to recognize those willing to come along side of us and do Your will. To speak Your truth and say "yes", where we so often only say "no". God You know where we are weak and that the only way for there to be a "yes" is for you to take that question away from us. We are grateful for Your patience and Your faithfulness in walking every step with us, Amen.


Monday, October 16, 2017

God knows the 'way he should go'

photo credit:
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.
Matt. 6:25-30 (NLT)

Have you every been in an icebreaker sessions when they ask you to choose a period of time in the past or future that you would like to visit? I hate those questions. I definitely don’t want to go back to the past, and I’m confused about the future. On the one hand, I want to know what happens, to see if what I’m doing will work out… yet if I see an outcome that I don’t like, what should I do? Can I change it? The options are confusing…Clearly, knowing and acting on the future is beyond my pay-grade!

This doesn’t stop me from worrying about my son’s future. I do believe that proactive planning is important. Worrying has a different flavor, though, and it seems to be accompanied by lack of both peace and sleep. The scripture’s injunction to ‘train up a child’ (Prov. 22:6) may prompt an erroneous belief that the full sum of my son’s beneficial experiences depend on me knowing the ‘way he should go’. This is very troubling with our typical children, who themselves can seem elusive and mysterious. Our kiddies with medical, developmental and other needs seem even more ‘unknowable’. Everyday there is more to learn, and the permutations of what to try, in which order, for which symptom seems endless. Sometimes I’m not sure that I’m doing the ‘right’ thing, and that I know ‘the way he should go’.

So I was grateful for the intervention of my Generous, Loving God, which came in the form of a beautiful conversation with my friend, a mom of a young man with autism. This young man, though verbal, has not had functional language that leads to effective communication all his life. Like many parents, his family has tried everything they knew to try, within the limits of their abilities and resources. Recently, they started to teach him to communicate through typing and found out that his spoken words did not represent his thoughts. The ability to type unveiled a witty personality with clear, critical thoughts on everything that was going on. He even shared with his mom about his faith in God and his experiences with God, speaking to him, comforting him when he wasn’t able to effectively communicate. With tears in her eyes, she expressed her wonder in God’s attention and intervention with her son, in ways she could not have orchestrated. His relationship with God developed without the typical direct instruction that kids get through children’s ministries and she marveled that God would teach her son Himself. 

I confess that tears prickled in my own eyes. We can never tell what God is doing. He is the ultimate Mystery. But we do know that He loves us and loves our children. We know that His is not limited by our ability to know ‘the way they should go’ and by our children’s ability to speak, understand or anything else. He is not limited by the limitations of our bodies, regardless of diagnosis or challenge. What a wonderful God! So, I remind myself again, to trust Him in the growing of my children, and will have faith for the miraculous interventions that are in process, even when I can’t see them.

Lord, Thank You that our children are Your children and that You watch over Your word, spoken by You, concerning them, to perform it. We trust You with our children’s lives and leave all the outcomes up to You.


- Faith

Friday, October 13, 2017

When I'm preparing 5 different meals for tea... again!

For it was I, Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Only test me! Open your mouth wide and see if I won’t fill it. You will receive every blessing you can use! 
(Psalm 81:10, TLB)

Oh how I love the moments when I am able to provide food for my children that they need – and they actually eat! Some weeks it can feel like a rare moment. With so many factors affecting mealtimes from the social aspects of eating; the plate it’s on; the type of cutlery; the textures and colors; the places people sit in; the smells; the levels of anxiety that day; food intolerances; portion sizes; the family dynamics right through to the baggage we each bring to the table about how we feel about eating it’s no wonder it’s a rare moment – it’s a miracle, every time! But wow, what a feeling!

It’s a built in desire as a parent to provide, to meet our kids’ needs, perhaps most especially meeting their vital need of good food that will help them grow and be healthy and resilient in life. It’s the first thing we look to offer as we hold them close when they are born. Perhaps that’s why our feelings around food are so intense. It can be a source of heartache, acute anxiety when it is difficult for whatever reason. We feel we are failing as parents. Equally it’s such a source of celebration when suddenly against the odds it begins to work, we offer food and it’s accepted and eaten, and our child’s body can use it. We have nourished them and we have taken another step towards understanding better how to do it again!

It’s occurring to me that deep in the heart of our Father God is an intense desire to nourish us, to feed us. Many verses in the Bible show us that God provides (and not in a hands off, at a distance way) for all he has made. He knows each one of our unique dietary needs both physically, emotionally and spiritually. He knows just what we need, when we need it, how big a portion, where we need to sit and what plate we can stomach eating off! He knows the type of cutlery that will make it easiest for us. He understands how to support and encourage us through the difficult patches, and has the patience to be in it for the long haul.

This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. (Matthew 6:7-13, MSG)

When my first girl was little she struggled to accept that food was a good thing, there were many days when I would follow her around quietly holding a pot of yoghurt as she played. Over time I learnt to judge carefully the right moments to offer a spoonful, and some days she managed to eat a small pot during the course of the day. Gradually as she got more used to it she began to actually like the taste and texture – if she could eat on her terms – and these little pots became a staple, reliable food I could turn to. It took time and patience, and she needed to take small steps of trust each day.

                • In my busy days, in my worry and weariness have I noticed Father God following me around quietly with the nourishment I need? 
                • Have I accepted his offer?
                • I wonder what the small step of faith and trust is that I need to take today?

Father thank you for your loving care, thank you for your intimate knowledge of my needs, and the way you provide for me to thrive and grow. Open my eyes and heart to all you have to give me today. Amen

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Overwhelmed by Deep Waters? Take Courage

photo credit: Joni and Friends

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
Isaiah 43:2 NLT

As Bethany approaches adulthood, there’s a crescendo of questions concerning her future. Uncertainty feeds my fears. From finding a job that suits her, the conundrums of how much support she’ll need, to her dreams of marriage; the future looks overwhelming to me and oh, so exciting to her.

Having a child with needs that never go away, can feel like I’m walking through deep waters. Most of the time I cope, but there are seasons of overwhelming tiredness from the many challenges of special needs.

And yet, God’s promise is that when I go through rivers of difficulties, I will not drown.

To be honest, I wish the verse above said, “I will guide you around deep waters and make sure you don’t have to cross rivers of difficulty.”

But the promise is not to lift us out of difficulties but take us through. I don’t walk the path alone. He doesn’t watch me drag through. He walks with me and guides, supports, holds me through it.
Today, I was reading in John. Jesus said, “In this world we will have trouble and distress, suffering and trials…But the second part of that truth is: Take courage, I have overcome the world."
Take courage? I want to pull the covers over my head and sleep. I want to go back in time when Bethany was little and her needs were easily defined and practically met. 

Take courage. 

That requires action and I'm tired. He promises to be with me, taking me through the difficulties. But my part is to walk on with courage.

The Amplified Bible says it this way: "but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]’"

I don’t think God is expecting me to muster up the courage, confidence or joy on my own. I know I don’t have it in me. He says, "TAKE courage." Jesus is offering me the way to courage, confidence and joy. When He is with me and I am with Him, His victory is my victory, His courage my courage, His joy my joy. He has done it — I need to take it.

So when I feel like I’m drowning in life’s problems, I’m trying to visualize Him walking with me instead of the raging waters. I’m reminding myself that He is with me — will take me through — to the other side. I reach for His courage and joy and set my eyes on the promise of His victory over life’s difficulties.

Precious Father, Thank you for being with us through every situation in life. Help us walk with you and take up your courage so we can overcome. Thank you for keeping the waters from overwhelming us and sweeping us away. You are our Savior and Friend — our ever present Help in times of trouble. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Cindy Barclay