Wednesday, August 24, 2016

1 Corinthians 13: The Autism Parent's Edition

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net
Love is patient, love is kind. 
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, 
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)
I have regularly made the reading of 1 Corinthians 13 part of a spiritual self-check. I read the passage, often out loud, and insert my name in place of the word "love." It is a humbling and convicting exercise. Recent interactions with my daughter have brought me back to this place - the place where I realize that to love her well, I have to love her in ways she understands and needs, not what suits me best. It has made me look at this passage in a new way:
Love is patient. It answers the question about what's coming next for what seems like the thousandth time in the past two hours, despite having visual calendars and daily agendas available for her to look at anytime. It deals with the child who gets out of bed over and over again before finding sleep, trying to find a way to calm her anxiety, praying with her for the peace and rest that her mind and body need.
Love is kind. It explains for the umpteenth time, in a calm and quiet voice, why your child needs a place to go and chill out when group situations become overwhelming, why your child can't eat certain foods, and why your child refuses to keep her socks and shoes on. It resists all urges to act in ways that are unbecoming and would cause an embarrassing scene.
Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It rejoices with other parents when they celebrate their child's milestones while their own children are far behind, and it resists the urge to accost everyone it meets with tales of the latest victory in occupational therapy or physical therapy or speech therapy or ABA or . . . .
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking . . . . Love treats the stranger who stares at your child's public meltdown with respect and an attempt at humor instead of giving in to the immediate reaction that bubbles up - sarcasm, or worse. Love looks to see where others might be struggling and need a quick text or email of encouragement, even on the rough days, determined to remember that parents of kids with autism aren't the only ones who struggle.
. . . it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It swallows frustration and hurt over and over again, as our children struggle to make themselves understood and communicate their needs, often in ways that hurt deeply. It finds ways to set the hurt aside, putting your child's needs ahead of your own, making sure that your child feels your love and acceptance instead of residual pain from behavior they are still learning to control. (All this while trying to teach them that their behavior has consequences and does cause problems for other people.)
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Love rejoices in hearing about families who are loving their children well, getting them the help they need, even if it is different than the choices I have made for my child. Love does not smile smugly at the misfortune of those who have made unkind comments about my child or my parenting, but reaches out with Christ's strength to see what I can do to help.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love works hard to look on the bright side, even when another diagnosis complicates things, a food allergy restricts the diet further, and sleep deprivation requires caffeine consumption at dangerous levels. Love continues to research, fight with insurance companies for coverage, and work daily with their child to help her reach her full potential, whatever that may be.
Love never fails. Love trusts God to get through each day and to give the strength needed to do whatever needs to be done that day, even while praying for a nap, drinking lots of caffeine, and eating dark chocolate. And love does this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, because most parents of kids with autism don't get respite - or not nearly enough.
Pray: Father, please help me to continue to stay the course, even on the days that I'm exhausted and think I can't possibly do one more thing. Please help me to be more like Christ each day so I can say to my children, like Paul, "Follow me, as I follow Christ." Give us your peace and patience as we navigate the difficulties of this life, and help us to learn to love one another with the love that only you can give us for each other. As we are filled with more of your love, show us how to love others and be your hands and feet in a world that is hurting. Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shine Your Light

“You are the light of the world.
 A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket,
 but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”

‭‭Matthew ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
I often talk about my son shining his light. 

I am not so sure a six foot tall teenage boy that is significantly impacted by his Autism diagnosis even needs a lamp stand. He just shines, often in ways that I didn't even understand were possible.

He has shone a lot, especially since we moved to Arkansas and into a new school system. 

Shining, being the light.

It's not an easy task, and it's especially difficult as parents of a child who may not always be able to say "put me on that lamp stand and let me shine".

To say our arrival at his new school was difficult would be a understatement. It would equally be understating the facts to simply say they "took care" of the situations brought to light by his presence.

I did little to nothing, I didn't have to. His light shone so brightly that he exposed everything that was "tucked away, out of sight and out of mind". He exposed it for all the world to see, and changes were made.

It wasn't easy on any of us, especially my son.

But I had prayed, and I knew God had put us where we were supposed to be. I didn't know why we were where we were but I had to trust that putting my son out there, letting him shine in this place, was in fact what God wanted us to do.

While there were serious difficulties we were encountering, there were also many people willing to step up. They not only acknowledged "we need to change", but they actually did the work to change. They worked hard and tirelessly to put in place what my child and others needed. This was an enormous benefit for all students, and staff.

The light of my son, of our children, cannot be hidden. 

Putting our children out into the world can be one of the hardest most heart breaking things that we have to do. It's in our human nature to guard and protect them.

We have to remember...

"They are the light of the world..."

We are entrusted with these little human beings, and tasked with growing them into the incredible lights that God created them to be. 

Sometimes we don't know or understand the what and the why, and sometimes we have to trust the where. But then there are the times we get to see.  This is when we are reminded of the fact that our children are created for a purpose, even though we may never grasp the enormity of it all.

So we do not light a lamp and hide it under a basket. We place it carefully on a stand, even if it is six feet tall, and we guard and protect it the best we can while it shines out into the world.  
As for the times when our hearts may break as they venture out into the world, we remember the words in Matthew 5: 14-15...

“You are the light of the world.
 A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket,
 but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”

Heavenly Father I pray for those mothers and fathers whose hearts break as they help their children step out into the world and spread light into the darkness. Father comfort and strengthen them as they stand guard at the lamp stands where they have carefully and obediently placed their children... and Father I pray for those children, I pray that You protect and comfort them as they travel a frequently difficult and sometimes dangerous path. God I know that You are with them, and that You will never leave them...and I pray that each and every parent holds that knowledge and is comforted. God we are thankful for this journey we are on and the opportunities we are given to see Your light come shining through Your incredible creations that You have entrusted to us. In Jesus name. Amen.

~Beth 





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Monday, August 22, 2016

Healed on the Sabbath



Luke 13:10-17
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” 13 And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”17 As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. [1]

Part of my son’s diagnostic story is that I was once told he would never read, write, or speak. When I report this at IEP meetings, educators often have one of two reactions. Often they smirk and comment on the fallacy of shortsighted clinicians who shut doors too quickly. Others smile sympathetically in realization of just how much work it must have taken to get where we are today.

Today he reads. He writes. He speaks.

For as long as we have been doing it now, it still never gets old to hear him read aloud, or better still to hear him read something that he himself has written. I think this is a small gift I receive for all the tough nights along the way. But nothing – absolutely nothing – thrills my soul like hearing him read God’s Word during our Sunday worship services.



Our church customarily invites Noah to be a part of our worship in this way. This week his text seemed particularly poignant.  Luke records an encounter on the Sabbath Day between Jesus and a woman with a long-term illness. While the thrust of the passage is Jesus’ defense of healing this woman on the Sabbath, it was other wording in this passage that caught my ear when read in my son’s voice.

“Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.”

Other interpretations of the Greek ἀπολέλυσαι (apolelysai) read “removed,” instead of healed or freed. In the place of infirmity of illness, a near definition of ἀσθενείας (astheneias) is “weakness” or “limitation.” This could easily read “you are removed from your limitation.”

You are removed from your limitation. And in that there is healing.

I feel that we are removed from our limitations each time our church seeks to include Noah in leading
our service. Because the truth of it is, his reading isn’t polished at all. His fluency is so choppy that you can’t really follow along. His speech impediment makes understanding him difficult as well. Our limitations – disability, illness, weaknesses – are still present. But for just a little while, he is removed from them.

And we are healed on the Sabbath.


Dear Father,
            Thank you for placing my family in a loving church that sees past my son’s limitations. I thank you for their patience and loving-kindness as he struggles to participate in the only ways open to him. I lift up other families that do not know such comfort Lord. Raise up other places of worship to truly by the Body of Christ to families that need healing. Amen.





[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Lk 13:10–17.


Friday, August 19, 2016

And the Prize Goes to...


But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:7-14 NIV

Like many people all over the world, I have enjoyed watching the Olympics on television. The athletes’ devotions to their sport is awe-inspiring and unbelievable at times. These athletes spend years training, staying focused on the prize set before them. Some of them will leave the Olympics with the coveted gold medal while others are proud that they have achieved the status of an Olympian.
Here’s a shocker, I will never, ever be an Olympian. That does not mean that I am not a champion though.

My family has accomplished some amazing things this summer though it may seem like nothing to the average person. But, we aren’t the average family. Jaycee is my oldest child, who is a sweet girl with Down syndrome. Jaycee is minimally verbal and has a history of heart and lung issues. Elijah is my compassionate son who just turned 7 and started guitar lessons this summer. Jason, my husband, works seasonally so he has spent most of his summer at home with us. Then there’s me, Evana. I spent my summer working 3 days a week and planning activities for the family.

Our family stresses the importance of acceptance and love. We attend church together and try to talk about God in our daily lives. We try to do new things in the summer that give our children different experiences in order to broaden their lives even though we might not always know how Jaycee will react.

With those things in mind, these are the prizes our family members would win based upon this summer’s performance:
Fastest person to push Jaycee’s wheelchair up a very long hill at a theme park: Jason…I’m not even a close second
Person who enjoyed Vacation Bible Schools the most: Jaycee, who signed “church party” every day in anticipation of Bible school
Person who managed to bowl in two lanes with one ball: Jaycee…that was something to see
Person who demonstrated the most patience at a theme park: Elijah…yep he was better than the adults
Person who demonstrated the least amount of fear on thrill rides: Everyone but Evana..Jaycee got annoyed by my screaming
Person who demonstrated the most self-control at the pizza buffet: Elijah..The rest of us got our money’s worth.
Person who best showed God’s heart in a conversation: Elijah, who in response to me saying we needed to pray for a person at bedtime later said, “We can pray to God anytime. Let’s pray now.”
Person who is the saddest to see summer vacation end: Evana…I am going to miss these easy-going days spent with my family.
I do not have medals to show for my accomplishments this summer. But, I do have wonderful memories and pictures to show our successes as we try to live our lives focused on our family and God.
What did your family achieve this summer? Whether it's big or small, acknowledge them, celebrate them, and thank God for the time you had with your family.
Prayer:
God,
I thank you for the memories made during summer vacation. I realize that our family memories and achievements are often unrecognized by the world, but you see them God. You also know the cost of these achievements. Remind me that our prize and hope is found in you and walking out your purpose is the goal. Help us to keep focused on the prize you want us to have and let us not get weary in the moments that are difficult. Amen!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Parenting by the Strength of God

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father; that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
Ephesians 3:14-16 (ESV)

Parenting is not an easy task by any means. It is messy, and exhausting, and confusing, and stressful. As a father of five kids (four of them are teenagers), I spend a lot of time wondering what in the world to do and hoping that I am leading well. Just about the time I believe I have one of my kids "figured out," they decide to keep growing up and change. Can you relate to this at all?

Where is the book on perfect parenting?

Where are the role models to follow?

Why would God call me into such a crazy role and not equip me?

That last one speaks deeply to my heart because I firmly believe that God provides grace, strength and resource to accomplish everything that He has called me to, even parenting. He must be my Source, my Strength, my Comfort and my Refuge when the task of parenting overwhelms me and leaves me in tears at night as I cry for and over my children.

I don't always get to see His hand move in my life and I often wish I could feel His presence more, but at the end of the day, I must remember the truth of His Word and gain my strength and encouragement there. I pray that as parents you would be able to embrace and live out these verses in Ephesians. Remember that you are strengthened by God through His Spirit in the very core of who you are.

God provides strength for you every day:
* when the morning is crazy and it is a frantic dash to get out the door
* when our children decide that our rules and advice are less that desirable
* when others comment about the behaviors of our kids
* as we struggle with them growing up and experiencing the pains of life
* whatever other concerns, struggles and questions we experience as parents

Thank you for being a parent! Thank you for caring for your children well! Thank you for sacrificing on their behalf and pointing them towards God! Thank you for being faithful even in the midst of the unknown! Thank you for providing unconditional love that reveals the heart of Father God to your children!

I have no idea what challenges that parenting has brought and continues to bring to your life, but please remember that God is for you. That His grace is sufficient and that His strength is more than enough! Be blessed as you remain faithful and know that every time you pray for and sacrifice for your children, you are being the hands of Christ in their lives and there is no greater gift than that.

Dear Jesus, thank You for faithful parents. Thank You that Your strength is more than enough to complete the task before us. I pray that during times of exhaustion, confusion or just plain stress that we would remember that You are for us. Bless every parent today in the mighty name of Jesus and by the strength of the Spirit. Amen.

~ Mike





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