Friday, June 24, 2016

I Am Not Alone, But Sometimes I Wish I Was



Sleeping peacefully on the couch with the new puppy...but not for long.
The doorbell was ringing.

We have one of the most obnoxious doorbells on the face of the earth. It frequently gets stuck, endlessly playing a medley of patriotic themes. I am still not sure why I haven't ripped the thing right off of the wall yet. The other thing of interest concerning this doorbell, is the fact that it sends our dog into a complete barking frenzy every time is goes off.

Today was no exception.

It's summer and everyone in our house is just slightly off schedule and out of sorts as we attempt to adjust to new schedules. Schedule changes are a challenge, not just for our son with autism but for me as well. While I look forward to and enjoy summer break, I do miss the routine of the school year and the "free time" it brings. Honestly, that little bit of time during the school day allows me to regroup, recharge, organize, clean, grocery shop, do laundry, scrub toilets...wait, where was I going with this? Oh yes, and have a moment to myself.

Self preservation. I don't know about you, but sometimes I am just over here calling out to Jesus, "Five minutes, I just need five minutes!"

So, our doorbell was ringing, and the dog was barking. I went to put the leash on him, so I could hold him back while I opened the door, only to realize he didn't have his collar on.

(and the doorbell is still ringing...)

I look everywhere for the collar and finally find it in the bathroom, get it on him and get him leashed.

(and the doorbell is still ringing...)

The baby was crying, one of my daughters is a nanny for the summer and she had brought her young charge over to swim.

(and the doorbell is still ringing...)

My son is yelling "Banana yes!"

My little girls are asking where the Neosporin is?

(and the doorbell is still ringing...)

I make it to the door.

Some one says, "I think the puppy needs to go outside and poop." Did I mention I thought it would be a good idea to get a new puppy last week, a lovely addition to the doorbell barking dog we already have. Also, just between us, I don't think they like each other and I'm not so sure it's going to work out.

My hand is on the door, and I open it.

(and the doorbell still ringing...)

With a smile on my face and chaos erupting behind me I reach over and unstick the doorbell button and politely ask the young lawn care guy standing before me, "What can I do for you?"

He says,  "I notice you have what appears to be chemical burns on our front lawn."

Godly thoughts were not flowing through my mind at this point.

I took a deep breath, part of me determined to slam the door in his face, because for the love of all that is holy can he not hear what is going on inside this house? Does he really think that orange grass in my front yard is even on my radar of things that are important to me right now? But the other part of me won out and I just laughed and said, "Yes it's a bit of a mess right now." I listened to his speech for a moment and asked for his card, I promised to give it to my husband and we would call if we needed any service.

Then I shut the door, turned around and took in the chaos behind me.

This is the point where sometimes all you can say is "Jesus", take another deep breath and carry on, attempting to meet one need at a time.

Peace, I need peace.

Yes I look forward to the quiet of bedtime for my children, but I need the peace of knowing God through every chaotic moment that we will experience. That is the Peace that allows you to lie down and sleep and reminds you, you are never alone.

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8 NIV

This verse has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks and I think it holds great comfort for special needs parents. Many of us are heading into a long summer overwhelmed, feeling a little isolated and lonely, even when we are surrounded by our children.

Sometimes I feel I am drowning in children and puppies, dogs and doorbells, in laundry and dirty bathrooms. I want to be alone, and I feel isolated all at the same time. I am learning to look forward to the chaos, and to finding peace in the summer.

That is the thing about the peace of God though, it's always right there, in whatever season we find ourselves. We just have to discover, and occasionally be reminded of it's existence.

So for you today I pray: Dear heavenly Father, may the peace of your sovereignty reign in the hearts of these precious parents. Lord may they take comfort in knowing, they are not alone in the chaos that may be erupting in there lives. When there seems to be no one around to help them, let them hear your voice and know they are not alone. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

~Beth

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fül ~ What Powers You?

Needing to re-fuel...we headed to Lake Tahoe to be reminded of God's goodness and LOVE.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV

I started writing this post last weekend, and the Orlando tragedy had never happened. 

My angle was, originally, how do we gain energy from "love?"

You know, how do we ensure our motives are "pure" and for "Godly" reasons...

Now, however, I realize that I feel I need to use the SAME scripture and look at it from a different angle...

Here are some pieces from my "original text":
Have you ever found yourself having to care for someone who is ill; someone who has maybe even treated you poorly in the past...worse yet, someone who is STILL treating you poorly as you care for him? 
This passage from 1 Corinthians reminds me that we must ALWAYS be powered by LOVE.  And, often, the only place we can conjure up that love is through prayer to God. He is the one who can give us the true form of love that difficult circumstances require. 
We can look around in our daily lives and identify the police officers who are motivated by love, the doctors who are motivated by love, the teachers who are motivated by love, and on and on and on.   
Well, guess what?  Our motives are, PRETTY MUCH, just as obvious to others.
I consider my "motives" often when I'm posting things on Facebook, for example.  Am I posting it to encourage others?  Am I posting it to glorify God?  Am I posting it in hopes of solving a dilemma? Or am I posting it as a means of self-edification?
 
I'm not saying I NEVER do it for the purpose of self-edification...I'm saying, if I DO if for that reason, I at least try to be honest with myself and acknowledge that is my purpose and I try to limit the number of posts which are fueled by my own selfishness.
Post "Orlando," though, I can't help but think that God placed this FÜL idea into my head because He wanted me to write about the fact that LOVE is the ONLY solution to this broken world.


  • What FUELS terrorism and violence?  Fear and Hatred of what we don't understand and have trouble controlling.
  • What FUELS many political arguments?  Fear of losing our economic status quo, or fear of losing our health care, or fear of losing our "rights."
  • What FUELS gossip?  Fear of not being important or included.


Do you notice what the most common fuel is?  FEAR.  

I even learned that in my argumentation classes in graduate school.  "I've fallen and I can't get up?"  That was one of the most powerful ad campaigns EVER!  Why?  It was driven by FEAR!

The fear and hatred that is being perpetuated on social media and in the news media right now is successfully breaking apart friendships and families.  As I watch it, I see Satan rubbing his stinky, wreaking, blood-stained hands together and smiling with wicked satisfaction.
This is how it all goes down...
People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken...When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. 
Luke 21: 26, 28, NIV 

Seeing fear of this caliber today means, yes, we are dealing with end-times and we, as Christians will be tantalizing targets.  But, STAND UP AND LIFT UP YOUR HEAD...
But, the barrage of anti-Christian posts on my Facebook feed made me wonder, "Why are you even friends with me if you hate Christians so much?"  
I also saw people saying, "If you don't like what I'm about to say, please, save me the trouble and de-friend me...remove me from your life..."
Wait...is that LOVE?  Is that TOLERANCE?  
Isn't a statement like, "If you don't agree with me, then you can't be in my life..." ISN'T THAT HATE?

Isn't the statement that this person is so pointless because they hold a different world-view the same statement that a terrorist makes when she or he decides to annihilate people because of THEIR belief-system?

We are LITERALLY fighting hatred with hatred!!!

Does anyone remember the most critical line that Jedi Master Yoda ever delivered?


For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

Stand up and lift your head...YOU have the power of the Holy Spirit within you AND that means you have LOVE.  A SUPERNATURAL love which will surpass the temporal and conditional love of this earth.  

We need not be clanging cymbals out there lending to the clamor of hate and fear...WE ARE TO SHOW LOVE.  

Feeling emotionally drained and a little deflated after wondering how many people hated me for being a Christian, I took my daughter to Lake Tahoe and we enjoyed some time together on the beach.  I felt the wind on my face, saw the snow on the mountains, and listened to the waves crashing up along the shallow shoreline...I re-fueled on God's love for me so it could overflow on to others and withstand these dark, dark days.

Pray:  Heavenly Father, we pray for all of those people who have been touched by grief and tragedy in this past week.  We know this is a broken, dying world.  We believe that your son has purchased our eternity with his life, and we overflow with that SELFLESS LOVE.  Help us to not conform to the hatred and fear of this world; give us the courage and strength of your limitless love.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Below the Surface

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net.

For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.
 
My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
 
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.
Psalm 139:13-16 HCSB

God never fails to meet me during VBS week. This year our church is using the Lifeway theme "Submerged: Finding Truth Below the Surface." The kids have spent the week looking at popular Bible stories and digging deeper to find truths about who Jesus is. While they have studied about Zacchaeus, the blind man Jesus healed with mud, Nicodemus, and others, God has been teaching me lessons too.

God has reminded me that He created my precious children and me just the way we are, and He makes no mistakes. He has reminded me of His constant love and care for us and has helped me to walk in peace instead of fear and anxiety. He knows me. He knows my children. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures, and He loves us anyway.

When I think about finding truth below the surface, I can't help but think of my precious younger daughter and her struggles. Through the years, some specialists have wanted to talk about her as though she is a diagnosis, and I quickly reminded them that she loves to dance, makes us laugh constantly, and enjoys drawing pictures and making craft projects. 

Each one of us is more than what others see. God knows the truth, and when we take the time to get to really know one another and see each other as God sees us, we will find that truth too---and hopefully an extra dose of kindness and compassion as a result.

Pray: Father, please help each of us to take the time to look at those around us the way you do, to see below the surface of the facades we all wear to the true people within. Help us to have compassion and love for one another as well as huge amounts of grace. Help us to open up to others so they can see us for who we truly are, so that others will find relief and hope in knowing they are not alone. Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Does God Care?


"Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."
Psalms 55:22 (TLB) 

I knew it was coming. It’s been in the back of my mind for the past year. I’ve tried to avoid, ignore, distract myself but there was no way around. Once again I find myself smack dab in the middle of it. My old pal (not)…. GRIEF.

As a young boy and now a young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Ryan’s school years were often difficult. Although a struggle, he managed to keep up academically. It was the physical, emotional and social aspects that were his hardest battles. He started displaying anxiety near the end of his elementary years and began having full blown panic attacks in junior high. By the start of high school, we withdrew him feeling homeschooling would be best for the remainder of his education. 
  
It was not your typical home-schooling. A tutor came to our home. Ryan kept up pretty well until this, his final year of school. His tutor moved and Ryan struggled with the change.  So we chose to do this last year on our own, in our own way. Doing so meant he would complete his education, but in a non-typical fashion.  Ryan understood that he would not graduate with his class. We talked about it and he was okay with his decision. He knew he would not “walk” with his class. There would be no pomp and circumstance. 

On the other hand, I struggled as I knew this day would come. It is hard for me to see all the postings and pictures of friend’s children at their graduations. I am happy for them. I can and will celebrate those moments with them yet deep down inside, it pokes at my grieving heart. 

It was Ryan’s choice. I knew I had to respect that choice. Now he is struggling too. Not because of his choice but watching his friends celebrate these events and moving on. He said,” Mom I am happy for them but my life is so different. They are talking about moving out, going to college. It is hard, I know I will never be able to be on my own.”

Trust me, we have heard all the, “You can do anything you put your mind to” speeches but the reality is he can’t and he knows that. These types of life events bring that reality to the front. You see things the way they are “supposed” to be, yet have to accept that is not our reality.

We both have to grief the loss… again.  

There are no short cuts. Each grieving moment is as painful as the last one even when you know it is coming. I cannot protect Ryan or myself from it. As much as I want to run and hide, it eventually bubbles up. We will get through it, with some tearful days. Just as we have numerous times over the past few years. No matter how many time I experience it, it does not speed up the process. We still have to walk through it.

 I am thankful God understands our sorrows and Grief as he watched his own son fulfill his destiny:
We despised him and rejected him-a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. (Isaiah 53:3, TLB)

As we process and deal with this grief we are also choosing to see things from a different perspective. Setting aside the “normal”, we are still celebrating this milestone of Ryan’s life.

The one word I could chose to describe Ryan’s life is … Endurance; The ability to do something difficult for a long time; the ability to deal with pain that continues for a long time, the quality of continuing for a long time.

Ryan endured. He endured years of watching his friends get bigger, stronger as he became weaker. He endured teachers that didn’t want to understand, IEP meetings, promises made that were never kept. He endured going from being able to walk, to needing a wheelchair. Endured having friends pull away then reject him. He endured panic of such things as there being a fire while he was on the second floor of the school, and the fear of not being able to get out. He endured disappointments, changes, challenges and pain. Most importantly, in enduring HE FINISHED WELL!

So even in the midst of our grief, we are choosing to celebrate Ryan’s unique successes. He (and our family) have learned lessons one can only learn in the school of life. Ones that often take people years to understand. 

We know that God really does care. So much so that he says in Psalms 55:22, "Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." (TLB) 

Perhaps Francis H. Havergal summed it up best: “To thee I bring my care, the care I cannot flee. Thou wilt not only share, but bear it all for me. O Loving Savior, now to thee, I bring the load that wearies me.”

Grief is a lonely and personal thing. Feeling so alone, yet I know I am not. Thankful that God is in it with me.  He understands, and I don’t have to hide these feelings from him or pretend everything is okay.  He can handle, " the load that wearies me".


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for always being with us, even in the midst of grief and sorrow. I know I can go to you, and trust you with these feelings. I know you understand the pain. Thank you for the promise that you will carry our burdens if we would give them to you. Help us to see the joy in the sorrow.

In Jesus Name,
Amen.



Donna 

Monday, June 20, 2016

When You Don't Feel So Special


"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NLT

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27a, NIV

"You must be very special."

"God knew you could handle it."

"He only gives special kids to special people."

If you’re the parent of a special needs kid, you’ve likely heard sentiments similar to these. They come from well-meaning folks who look upon you in wonder and amazement, marveling at how you manage to do everything you do and still keep your sanity.

They don’t know what it’s really like.

They don’t understand that most days you feel like you’re holding on to a shred of sanity by an ever thinning thread. They don’t realize how exhausting this life truly is. They see you grin and bear it and assume you must be a saint because how could anyone ever smile again?

They simply don’t know.

There’s a whole slew of things people say when they don’t understand what you’re really dealing with. It’s easy enough to shrug those people off as naive and clueless.

But the real struggle begins when we start to question ourselves. When we start to doubt if God even cares.

  • We hear that God is always good, that He has a plan for every life. 
  • We hear how He offers rest for the weary and hope for the hopeless. 
  • We hear that He is a God with healing in His wings, and we convince ourselves that if we are faithful enough and just believe a little harder, with a little more sincerity, surely He’ll bring victory in the form of a miracle.


And then another day comes and goes, another day of “being special” in the eyes of those around you.

You don’t feel so special.


So after a while you wish people would stop saying it to you. When they smile and tell you how amazing you are, you hold back the growl inside that wants to tear into them and give them all the gory details. Instead you utter a meek "Thank you," and move on.

You’re exhausted. You’re discouraged. You’re doubtful.

And — may I remind you here — you’re human.

  • You’re not meant to know all the answers, have all the solutions.

  • You’re not meant to be strong enough to handle it all.

  • You’re not designed to carry the weight of the whole world on your shoulders and smile through it all.


Sure, you’re special, but not for the reasons they think you are. Not because you possess some super human strength that enables you to "take it" more than the next person. Not because you simply get up every day and do what needs to be done in order to care for your loved ones.

The secret to the "special" they see


I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I would bottle them up for sale and become an overnight millionaire. I don’t know why disability happens, why it’s such a challenging part of a broken world, or why the people out there say the things they do.

But I do know this: 

God sees you. 

No matter what others say — well intentioned or not — He knows the condition of your heart and mind. He understands the struggle. He knows that you smile because the alternative is despair and He didn’t create you for despair. He knows when you're running on fumes, and when it’s His strength alone that gets the job done.

They may think you’re special because of what you do. They think you have some admirable quality that sets you apart from other humans, and so God gave you bigger difficulties to work through. They assume you’re always strong and eager and ready to face the day’s hurdles with a faith that never gives up. They see the smile but not so much the tears.

Here’s the secret they don’t know: 

You are special. Not because of what you do. But because of the one who holds you up.

Jesus is your super power. 

And never do human beings understand His power better than when they are truly weak. Knocked-to-the-knees weak.

They think you’re strong. You know the truth.

You are weak. 


Most days you can’t find the power to go on.

But when you are weak, He is strong.

And my dear fellow special needs parents, this means you are strong indeed.

God sees you. He knows the truth. And it’s He who holds you up.

You don't need to worry anymore about trying to live up to the "special" label. It's okay.

God's got this.

/////



God, how we need you. We are so weak and weary, but You are the foundation we cling to. Lord, we smile to keep from crying. We nod and offer our thanks to those who compliment us, even though we feel like impostors. We know that our power comes not from ourselves, but only from You. We thank you that Your mercies are new every morning, that Your faithfulness sustains us even through seemingly impossible circumstances. Even when we feel like falling, you carry us with your everlasting arms, because all power belongs to You. Strengthen our faith. Help our unbelief. Set our feet upon a rock. Never let us go.




photo credit: The Outcast via photopin (license)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

3 Cheers For Our Determined Dads ~ #SacredSunday

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

“You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.
~ John 14:5-14, MSG ~

Dads today get a bad rap.  Treated in modern sitcoms like brainless oafs, our culture has come to dismiss men as critical to the healthy growth of a family.

Perhaps this attitude comes as a casualty of high divorce rates, but whether in broken, single, or blended families, a solid patriarch makes a notable difference.

Every day in leading this ministry for parents raising kids with diagnoses of every kind, I see what the world seems to be missing.  I spend time in direct contact with the determined dads.  Are these guys perfect?  Absolutely not!  Only One Father is perfect, and these men follow Him.  

Here's what I admire in so many of the dads we serve:


  • They are hard-working -- So many of them endure job difficulties.  Beyond the typical stressors, their is also an added pressure our dads face.  Employers have become quite adept at learning who the most expensive employees are in regards to their company health insurance.  This can result in employers inventing reasons to pass up these workers for promotions or even terminate them.  Even so, the vast majority of of these fathers press on, making every effort to provide for their families despite discouragement.
  • They are loving -- Although dads can often travel a longer road towards acceptance of their child's diagnosis, you will not find a more tenderhearted group of men.  When they are not at their jobs, they're helping to administer therapies.  They are the muscle in families with kids who have too much strength or dead weight for their age and size.  They are rescuers and defenders in precarious situations at home or school.  They become kings at retro-fitting their homes for accessibility or fixing equipment in a pinch.  And they tag-team with their spouses trading holding down the homefront with sitting bedside at the hospital.
  • They are a deep, quiet waters of emotion -- Men are known to pull away in their caves to process things going on in their lives, unlike women who tend to talk through their challenges with others.  Feeling the full weight of responsibility for the present and future well-being of their children with unique challenges, these fathers tend to wrestle internally with feeling inadequate or intense frustration or weighty sorrow.  Yet, as these emotions swirl, the same men find the inner fortitude to move heaven and earth to make things happen for their children.  While it can prove frustrating for their wives at times, these silent warriors do much to normalize life in their homes.  They are often the much-needed counterbalance to a mother's intensity or worry.
  • They rely on Someone with strength greater than their own -- While the respect of others is something that every man craves, it is the man who knows his limitations that truly deserves admiration.  Fathers who have traveled down this parenting road with Jesus truly know that He is the only One that keeps them going. The hurdles can be too high and the anguish too deep to get our kids with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and special needs through this life.  Eternal perspective can only be obtained through an Everlasting Father.  The strongest of our fathers find their strength from Almighty God.  A joy, peace, and confidence that is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit keeps these men moving forward through the toughest of times.
So let's hear 3 cheers today for our DETERMINED DADS!  We thank our Father God for blessing these men and for giving them to us.  And we celebrate their perseverance in parenting of some remarkable children.  Happy Father's Day!
                                                                                                

A FATHER'S DAY PRAYER FOR THE SPECIAL NEEDS DAD:    
Our Abba Father, be both the model and mentor for dads raising children with extra challenges.  Shoulder the weight of the concerns they carry.  Lift their heads to see the joyful moments in the midst of the difficult daily demands.  Infuse them with Your supernatural energy to face each new day with refreshment and vitality.  Grant them rest and relaxation  to fill their tanks, and encourage them always with the hope of heaven.

~ Barb Dittrich

* Follow some of these "Determined Dads" on our Twitter list:  https://twitter.com/SNAPPIN_MIN/lists/determined-dads