Friday, July 3, 2015

No Holidays!

Photo image courtesy of christingasner via 123rf.com
May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. 
Galatians 6:9, VOICE

"No Holidays!"  It sounds good when we are hired for a new job and discover that we are never required to work on those occasions when the nation sees fit to celebrate.

It takes on a completely different meaning when we learn that those special occasions will never afford us a break.  Celebrations like the Fourth of July can leave parents raising kids with challenges feeling even more isolated than they ordinarily do, because those challenges -- chronic illnesses, disabilities, sensory issues, and mental health dysfunction -- never take a break.  Regardless of whether parades, picnics, and fireworks are on the schedule, assistance with daily hygiene, basic medical care, monitoring, medicating, and therapies still need to take place.  If a child is dealing with an sort of autism spectrum disorder, is prone to anxiety, or has a tendency to be obsessive, structure is critical, yet it's exactly what is missing during a holiday of any sort.  

These challenges can leave us feeling trapped at home while we watch the whole world around us celebrate.  On these occasions we glance wistfully at the life we may have once lived, longing for that normalcy once again.  Our hearts break just a little bit more as we don't feel like we fit in with family or friends who come together for food, fun, and festivities.  

It seems rather unjust when we are weary from the constant care our children require, to find ourselves robbed of even those special days that the rest of the world takes for granted.  After all, we are not asking for a lavish Hawaiian vacation here.  It would just feel nice to be able to enjoy a garden variety corn roast or hometown festival with the family.

I want to encourage you today.  It can seem like you are the only one who is working while the rest of the world is off enjoying blissful relaxation.  It can also seem like this is a life sentence with no possibility of parole when you are living through it.  Please know, this will not last forever!

I can remember too many times where I felt like a nurse on triple overtime while the world was out celebrating.  "No Holidays!"  It was just how our life rolled.  The very first time was when my entire family marched in the front door of our home, hoping to see a Thanksgiving football game as my husband and I were making our first home attempt at giving our toddler an emergency IV infusion for an unexpected bleed.  It only got worse from there.  The sensory meltdowns from fireworks had us watching from a car at a distance or in some other capsule of isolation for years.  Then there have been the times where we were in or at a medical facility around a holiday, which is NOT optimal.  None of the best medical care providers are on duty when the rest of the world is celebrating.  They are gone with the crowd.  I could continue with the stories of raging bleeds in the middle of the night at a family reunion, and anxiety meltdowns while the rest of the extended family mocks.  I will spare you all the stories.  I am sure they are very similar to yours.

Plain and simple, it hurts.

Take heart!  That hurt lasts only for a season.  I have found great relief in learning that this "No Holidays!" pain morphs over time because:
  • Our children may become desensitized to the sensory stimuli that are driving them nuts right now.
  • We learn to adapt and redefine "normal" in our lives, carving out a fresh way of enjoying our holidays together.
  • Our children eventually learn to adapt or advocate for themselves, learning that it will be okay if they hang back while the rest of the family goes to the fireworks, or if they avoid certain foods while enjoying the rest of the family picnic.  
  • We learn to set boundaries with family members or friends who lack understanding of and compassion for our child's constant needs.
While it may feel right now like the parade is passing you by, you are doing "what is good and right before our Lord."  Where else would you rather be than with the ones you love most during a holiday?  The heavy demands of our children's constant care may make us feel like we never get a break, but as we persevere in loving them to the best of our ability, the sweet yield of joy eventually arrives as that long awaited guest.

PRAY:  Father of compassion and God of all comfort, please strengthen us with compassion during the difficulties that arise during a holiday celebration.  Comfort us when others don't understand or when we simply can't attend all of the festivities that are planned.  Give us perseverance and the perspective that You will see us through this season of life.  Lifter of our heads, direct our hearts with gratitude towards all the blessings we can and do enjoy.  Thank You for all You generously give us, despite our sorrow.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, July 2, 2015

#LoveWins

Photo "Silhouette of Bride and Groom" Courtesy of by Vichaya Kaitying Angsulee/freedigitialphotos.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.  
1Corinthians 13: 4-7 NIV

I was on Facebook a lot this past weekend because it was my daughter's birthday and I was posting pictures and relaying messages to her from friends and family.

Much to my dismay, I was unable to completely "miss" the overwhelming amount of posts regarding the US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.  According to Reuters, "The court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriages. With the landmark ruling, gay marriage becomes legal in all 50 states." *


I'm not here to debate the topic of same-sex marriage.  

I'm here to talk about the irony of the "hashtag" that accompanied rants from both Christians and non-Christians alike.  

Now, take into consideration that non-Christians will not have to recognize the Scripture that I quoted above; but CERTAINLY Christians do.  So, I guess I'm addressing the Christians who were bashing the other Christians who weren't celebrating this "landmark decision."

1 Corinthians 13's definition of LOVE is one of the MOST READ pieces of Scripture at weddings!  If we are talking about marriage here, and we are looking at how people [who MAY USE this Scripture in their OWN wedding ceremonies] respond "in love"; then let's seriously consider the irony of an angry rant bashing the "other side" of the argument being followed up with #LoveWins.  

But, Tammie, if "they" 
(the ones opposed to same-sex marriage) 
are judging others, 
then THEY aren't showing God's love and forgiveness 
given to us 
through Christ on the Cross. 

Okay...let's say that's true!  But, aren't we also told "Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath..."  Romans 12:17-19 NIV

  • Did you lash out at a friend or loved one who didn't sit on the same side of the fence as you on this topic?  
  • Did you de-friend (on Facebook or in person) someone who "surprised" you in his or her belief, expression, and/or actions regarding this issue?
  • Did you do a "touch-down dance" and have an "in your face moment" when you came up with a GREAT response to another persons post or argument?
Then #LovedidntWin

I'm sorry to say it, but the knot in my stomach, my elevated heart-rate, and the tightening of my jaw as I read post after post after post all communicated something OTHER THAN love to me...and then I'd see people type #LoveWins? 

I did not see a lot of wins for love this past weekend.  

I saw families tearing apart, I saw friendships breaking down, and I saw Love hanging on a Cross for us, just as He did 2,000 years ago...KNOWING full well that this is how it would all go down. 


Yes, God is still on His throne, 
and, yes, Christ still hung on that cross.

Do you remember WHICH tree Adam and Eve were instructed NOT to eat from?  The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Why?  Because they would want to become, and think they HAD become like God.  

We are NOT supposed to play God.  

And even when we see someone else playing "God," we are still supposed to love them, and let God judge them. 
  • Did you dishonor a friend? #LovedidntWin
  • Were you quick to anger regarding something you saw someone write on Social Media?
    #LovedidntWin
  • Did you boast if your "side" won the debate?  #LovedidntWin
If you felt the pangs of "yes" in your stomach reading this...you may need to spend some time with God talking about your heart, your feelings and your handling of this heated-issue.   

These are NOT easy days...and they will likely only get harder...so, as Christians, we need to be armed with the most powerful, transformative, and life-altering weapon we can possibly find, and that is LOVE. 
  • The Governors can't simplify it.
  • The Supreme Court can't justify it.
  • The President can't ratify it.
Only with Jesus's blood poured out for mankind can we EVER see God materialize it...and in the end we will finally be able to declare that 
#LoveWins
 
Pray:  Heavenly Father, and SOVEREIGN God...You KNOW the state of the world today, and you KNOW where we are going.  Father, I am so often quick to judge others, and my passion for your Truth is so overwhelming, that I find myself saying and doing things of which you would not approve.  I am so sorry for that.  

Help me to be strong enough, and brave enough to recognize when I have hurt others and to APOLOGIZE to them, in YOUR name; giving you the glory.  Help me to let them know that I will try to love them better; I will try to love them like you, even though I am just a human.  
Father God, I pray that you cover this country in your mercy; that you allow us time to tell others of your sweet and selfless salvation; that which is ONLY made possible by the cross.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

To Whom Do You Run?

Photo image courtesy of Soloviola Liudmyla via 123rf.com
 Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.
~ James 4:8, VOICE ~

Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
~Hosea 6:1, NASB~

Though hardly needing to be said, life can be brutal. It's an unfair and unforgiving entity which grinds at our nerves at the most inopportune times, nagging and beating as much as it can until we go home to Jesus. Even the Apostle Paul could not deny the unfairness of human mortality as he recalls to his readers his many instances of starvation, beating, and imprisonment brought upon him, despite being one of the first great steadfast followers of the Way. While our trials may not compare to the apostle's, we can all certainly agree that we've each faced our fair share of hurts. Personally, I think it's less important what these trials may be or where they derive from and more vital in the end to look at how we respond to the pain.

So here's the question I would like to pose to you: To whom, or what, do you run to?

Read it over again. Good, now give yourself an honest answer.

You may be quickly saying to yourself, "God, always! I run to nothing else but Him!" And, really, that's exactly what we'd all like to say. Our most basic of Christian doctrines command and encourage us to run to Him: "Pick up your cross daily and follow me," (Luke 9:23); "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength," (Mark 12:30); "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding," (Proverbs 3:5). Even the Ten Commandments explicitly state, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Superficially, this one's pretty basic--put God above all else, don't worship anything or anyone else--but when we're in the midst of suffering or abandoned in its' aftermath, those other "gods" seem to emerge as easily as a new dandelion does on your most treasured patch of grass.

If you're in a deep enough trust with God that you do run to Him for each trial, props to you! But most of us can admit that our instincts don't immediately cry out, "Abba! Father!" when life gives us a good kick in the teeth.

Whatever you turn to--anger, depression, shopping, eating, screaming, etc.--it's instinctual for us to put it in place of the healing hands of God. When we're upset, our mind turns to what we treasure most in the world as a jet fuel for healing: some of us run to the sparkly stones in the glass case; some of us turn to the palm-reader who assures our security; some choose the next season of your favorite Netflix series; some turn to aggressive sewing or constant pots of scalding coffee enough to keep you with a jittery zip in your step for days. There's no denying it! Each of us has our place on this spectrum of the world's open arms. Heck, it's so obviously prevalent, there's and entire sector of secular psychology which identifies all of the human brain's defenses for "healing" ourselves! There's denial, regression, over-compensation, repression, sublimation, dissociation, projection, intellectualization. Out of breath yet?

We gorge on what we want and once we've had our fill of worldly cures, we tend to leave with regrets; arguments you wish had never happened; weigh gained out of gluttony; weight lost in tears. When we started, we all thought, "Maybe if I just eat some sweets or take some sad naps or buy a new blouse, I'll feel better," but that's just like slapping a Band-Aid on a tear in your nylons. We create an ugly, imperfect patchwork on our wounds when we try to drag ourselves out of the chasm, and the more bandages we stick to that fragile weave of our hearts, the more we push God away, thinking we can do His job for Him.

But who are we to say that our skills are greater than God's? There's a reason why each cure the world tosses at us never lasts: this world is not one of perfection. The only perfect thing existing in this world is the perfection of healing grace which only God can provide. So why waste our time on petty desires with melancholy results when we could be immediately turning to God's saving grace to heal us the first time? Why not learn to turn to God and find greater comfort and delight each time we call out to Him before all else?

It's a hard saddle to climb up on, learning to trust God with your sorrows rather than turn them to the things that make you happy -- and yes, you may not feel all too happy at some times -- but there is a great divide between happiness and joy. Happiness is reliant on brief moments of enjoyment which we assume are fulfilling, but joy doesn't need happiness to exist. Joy exists despite happiness and exists because of the comfort and security which we can only receive by trusting in our Father instead of our things.

Pray: Lord God, teach me to lean into you when my troubles are on the rise. Help me to relinquish all of my substitutes and find my solace and serenity in You. I pray that, in times of trial, I may always be joyful for the wounds which only Your perfect hands can dress and make new.


~Alexandra Dittrich

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Fun- One Day at a Time

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
Psalm 68:19 KJV



Daily! 
Loads us! 
With benefits!  
Don't you just love that?

God inserts blessings daily into our lives.

As a parent of a daughter with down syndrome, I get tired and over-focused on the "responsibilities" and "challenges" unique to the land of special needs.  I mean, after all, they are called NEEDS. :)  

But if I take a moment to refocus our lives to just 1 day.  

If I follow God's example, maybe I can daily create some fun (benefits) in our lives.


Don't get overwhelmed reading my "list". I'm throwing out ideas we enjoy. 1 thing a day makes for a lifetime of memories. The key word is FUN.



I plan our fun around things I love to do- so I'm having fun doing them with her.

Commemorating our trip to Colorado


I love making digital picture books. (I just don't have the time for scrapping)  I'm helping Bethany learn as we compile and create our pictures from Colorado.  She's making her own photo journal and learning a valuable skill at the same time!

I love reading the Bible and I want Bethany to love it too! We open our "lazy" summer, days with a Bible story and memory verse games.

I love reading and I want Bethany to continue reading throughout the summer without feeling like it's a chore.  Can you say Summer Library Reading Program? Our local library offers prizes for each book read.  I offer Bethany $1.00 a book if she can give me an oral book report after she's read it. ;)


We're having fun cooking our evening meal together. She's learning to grill meat and to make salads. This skill is going to pay big dividends as I get older! ;)

Plan something for them/ You get a break 

Basketball camp with Amy



We found a one week basketball camp for inexperienced basketball players. The cost? $10.00! Wow!  She had so much fun. She was the only one who had a disability but she fit right in.

 
I schedule 2 or 3 play dates at our house with friends every week. Win/win for both of us. 



She loves dancing and we found a summer dance camp that is 1 hour a week for 8 weeks! Perfect time for me to read something on my Kindle while she's learning new Jazz steps.


Planning Family Time

Deanna Rose Farm- Learning about a 1 Room School House


My hubby's day off is Friday.  We plan local field trips and learn about where we're going before we get there. So far we've gone to Dianna Rose Farm, KU Natural History Museum, Spencer Art Center, and Prarie Park Nature Center.  We also love to go swimming, fishing, biking, hiking, summer outdoor movies, or bowling.

Planning Volunteer and Service Time 
Bethany is happiest when holding a baby!
 

One thing I'm concerned about is the focus on providing "fun" for our kids with special needs!  I love fun but I want to make sure Bethany knows life isn't all about her and her "entertainment". 

We're slowly adding volunteer and work experiences to her plate.  Yes- it takes effort and planning but I want her to grow up thinking of others and making the world a better place.


Bethany loves babies, children, did I say babies?  She is actually working 2 mornings a week as a "Mommy's helper".  The Mom is still there but Bethany is getting invaluable experience and a bit of spending money by playing and safe guarding two little ones as Mom gets her chores done.


Bethany's volunteering at a VBS, serving snacks and helping with crafts.


God Daily Loads His children with benefits- are we up to the challenge? 

Know yourself and your family!  What's fun for you?  Think about productive, fun ways to spend your summer before it slips away. It's almost July but you should still have about 45 days to make 45 FUN memories!

Now- go out there and shake things up! :)


Dear Father,
Help us love this life you've given us! Let us rejoice in each day and be refreshed in the good things you give us to do! Help us make memories and love our children as they grow and learn! In all the chaos in our lives, help us load up on Your benefits and blessings!  
In Jesus Name- Amen.

Cindy Barclay





Monday, June 29, 2015

It's Monday- You've Got This

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)



It’s Monday.

Autism is going to wake up and look for someone to slap in the face today.

Cerebral palsy is going to wreck havoc physically, mentally, and emotionally in someone’s life today.

Chromosomal disorders will continue to frustrate and challenge someone today.

Seizures are going to show up suddenly and violently disrupting someone’s day.

Yep, it’s Monday.

“He is who in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

A hurricane named “Special Needs” will howl and rage across the land again today.

The hurricane will rip the roofs off of hearts, tear down marriages, and pull up daily lives by their roots. In some areas it will simply be an F1 storm with minimal or light damage. But others will experience the full fury, wrath and devastation of an F4 storm.

Seizures, meltdowns, tantrums, bills, doctors, therapies, IEPs, medications, and explanations.

Another day when someone will block the last handicap parking spot.
Another bill and you have no idea where the money will come from to pay it.
Another baffling letter from an insurance company that you add to the file.
Another teacher will request a meeting.
Another doctor will close the door and purse his lips.

“He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

It’s Monday all day.

An entire bevy of giants and trolls named Fear, Anxiety, Despair, Discouragement, Worry, Exhaustion, Weariness, and Stress are all looking for victims today.

Another mom will scream in her empty car with the windows rolled up.
Another dad will invent an excuse to be home late.
Another parent will wonder how much more she can take.
And yet another parent will struggle to get out of bed.


Take a deep breath.
Clinch your fists.
Crack your knuckles.
Squint your eyes.
Smack your lips.

“He who in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Yea, you got this.

“Bring it on.”

“Cause He who is in me, is greater than anything that is in my world.”


“I got this.”


Pray: "Thank you God that I do not have to face my world alone today. Thank you that you are bigger and greater than anything I will face today."

~ Jeff Davidson

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume LVI: The Compassionate Cowboy Edition

Sometimes the world just gets too heavy.  It can seem like all we read and hear is bad news or stories about inappropriate treatment of those we love.

Other times, people get it right and shine like jewels.  This week's winner is one of those.

If you are fan of Facebook, you may have already seen this story going viral from the grateful post of an adoptive mother.  Charity Stewart Robinson had been at a rodeo with her family when something unusual happened.  Her three-year-old son, who had been diagnosed with a number of developmental issues, connected in a special way with a stranger sitting a few seats away by the name of Jason Taylor.  Pleasantly shocking was the fact that Robinson's little boy, Lincoln, used to be tremendously fearful of people, and also struggles with a language disorder.  All of that seemed to melt away when little Lincoln walked up to Taylor and began chattering about the bulls.  Unfazed, this kind stranger in a cowboy hat interacted with the preschooler in a manner that literally brought his mother to tears.

It should have been clear from that moment that Jesus was present.  It turns out that Jason Taylor is a pastor at Barnone Cowboy Church.  In his television interview with "Miss Charity," Pastor Taylor states, "I ain't nothin' special...  It's the scripture lived out." 


Are You SERIOUS?!

Perhaps this story is so profound to so many because it magnifies the simplicity of what each parent raising a challenged child craves -- LOVE -- plain and simple love.  That love accepts and includes every children, no matter what.  Pastor Taylor also demonstrates plainly that this simple inclusive love only happens through the One who IS Love.  Lived out, that looks like reaching out to a complete stranger and inviting them in to your church, where others may turn them away.  It means welcoming a child into your lap when others may be irritated or expecting parents to get control.  It means being Jesus with skin on.

It may seem like a tall order to some, but that's what we need.  This pastor demonstrated that it is, in fact, incredibly easy.

View the complete interview here: