Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Week 3 — A Prayer of Joy

Lord, to be near You is all we need. Our JOY does not depend upon our circumstances but upon Your presence in our lives. As the days draw closer to celebrating Your earthly arrival, the joy in our heart grows. This is not mere happiness, for we can feel it in even our most difficult times of life. No, this is a deep contentment in knowing that no matter what happens, our place is with You forever in heaven.

Thank You, Joy-Giver, for sharing this matchless satisfaction that comes from being sheltered in You alone. We rejoice in Your coming to save us from ourselves. 

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Friday, December 15, 2017

What if There's No Star to Follow?

 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
Matthew 2:1-4, 9-10 NKJV

Sometimes, I am jealous of the wise men. They recognized the times they were in, saw the star, and followed it to Jesus. I'm sure their journey wasn't quick and easy, but they knew they were headed in the right direction by following the star. They had a guiding light to reassure them that they were on the right track. 

I wish at times I had that star in the sky guiding me. There are times I want to know exactly where Jesus is, but I can't find Him. I haven't given up on God. I'm still a believer. I just can't seem to find Jesus in my situation.

Some people may find that odd. But let me ask you:

  • Have you ever had a child in the hospital?
  • Has your child ever had a surgery?
  • Have you ever watched your child suffer?
  • Has your child's delays in development or chronic health conditions severely limited their life?

If you answered yes, then maybe you have had moments like me. Maybe you too have wondered where Jesus was. Maybe you felt so alone in those hard moments that you couldn't find Jesus. 

A few weeks ago, I sat by my daughter's hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit. I looked around at the lines, wires, tubes, and miscellaneous equipment needed to help my child during this respiratory illness. This familiar scene had me baffled this time as I became disgusted that my child was sick again, and in the ICU again, and needing support with her breathing again.

In the rush to the ER, I felt panic. 
When they said she would need to go to the ICU, I felt worried.
When her breathing remained labored for 3 days with no positive change, I felt discouraged.
When my son asked me over and over again when his sister would be home, I felt sad.

You see, I felt many things, but I didn't feel Jesus around. Sorry. It's true. I suppose we all want the miracle in these times that are hard. We want to witness a remarkable, quick change in health after a prayer. But, it doesn't always happen the quick and easy way.

I was searching around looking for my "star" to guide me during this time. I wanted to find Jesus in that hospital, but I couldn't find the star to even get my bearings. 

Since coming home, I have done much reflection on that hospital admission. Where did it all go wrong? I just felt spiritually lost the entire time. 

But then I realized another important part of the Christmas story found in Matthew 1: 
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

While I was looking all around to find Jesus, I never looked within myself. I didn't take enough time to pause, breathe, and let the God who rests inside of me minister to my situation. I suppose I was too busy fighting human emotions to think that God was already where I was ready to help in my family's time of trouble. Perhaps, you could say the star I was looking for was right above me the entire time. 

What about you? Do you need reminded of this simple truth?

Let's pray:
God, Thank you for sending Jesus to the Earth, so that he can forever live in the hearts of men. Help us Lord to remember that You are with us in every situation and that You never leave us. Help us to hear your voice more clearly in times that are hard. Help us to have the right focus and take a moment to settle ourselves down to find You when things are chaotic. Amen!

Evana

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Yesterday, I cried

photo image courtesy of Pixabay.com
"You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?" 
Psalms 56:8 NKJV

Hi, my name is Beth and I’m a crier. It’s just what I do, and I’m pretty good at it, just ask my family.

You regularly hear phrases around my house like, “Oh no Mom read something sad on the internet again,” and, “This will definitely make Mom cry”. They know me well.

I am all in with Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” It’s who I am. It’s me.

I don’t mind, I actually love being excited about what you are excited about and there is much to be learned and great faith to be grown, in walking with others through their times of weeping.

However, there is a difference between weeping with someone and being the one who weeps.

Yesterday, I was the one who wept.

Yesterday,  I felt the full weight of sadness and heartbreak and my failure. I wasn't walking through it with someone else, it was just me.

Just me and God.

Yesterday, I was in a place where I never thought we would be.

Yesterday, as I listened to the words of what had to be done, I could not hold back the tears. They came and they never went away.

Yesterday, I was in a courtroom. We were there to petition the court for guardianship of our son. It was hard. I never imagined at the beginning of this journey that this would be a place we would walk through. I didn't want to walk through this place. But, we are walking through it, and I cried every step of the way. 

What do I do with these tears, the tears you have when things don’t work out the way you thought they would?

Where do you put the tears you cry when you feel you have failed?

Where do our heartbroken tears go?

Yesterday, I searched for answers...

"You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?" Psalms 56:8 NKJV

Yesterday, I was reminded that God is all in with weeping with those who weep. He is in, to the point that He remembers every single tear we cry.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”

Yesterday, I wept.

One day, you too, will weep.

And God will hold every single tear.

Dear Heavenly Father, You know our hopes and dreams, our heartaches and our fears...You alone hold and know every tear that we cry. God there is no greater comfort, and we are grateful even in our deepest sorrow knowing that we are never alone. Please Father make your presence known to those who weep today. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

~Beth

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's another nativity play

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 
(Luke 2:15 NIV)

It’s nativity play season for us. Our youngest is 7 years old and has taken part in her school play. This year she was the donkey. Once we had found ways around the sensory difficulties of a donkey costume – adventurous crocheting and borrowing later – we were ready to tackle learning lines and day by day coping with the stresses of the changes to the school routine that comes with rehearsals and finally performances. I know I’m biased but she was of course brilliant, and I was just so proud she did it… A couple of years ago she found it too difficult to even sit with her class at the front for the whole play. Needless to say she’s been absolutely exhausted since and everything has had to grind to a standstill for a few days to recover.


I just love the tradition of the retelling of the Christmas story. In our church we don’t leave it all to the children. On Christmas Eve we have a whole family service where we encourage everyone to dress up and take part in the retelling. There is something significant I think about these moments where we physically enter into the story afresh; these moments remind us to enter into the story emotionally, and spiritually. They remind us that as we read scripture these stories are not simply a report of a distant historical event. Rather within them are living word, truth spoken afresh into our lives.
To the darkness Jesus came as your light.
With signs of faith and words of hope
he touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean.
This is his story.
This is our song:
This is our story.
This is our song:
Hosanna in the highest 
(from Church of England Common Worship, Eucharistic prayer D)
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 NIV)
  • How are you and your family retelling the story to and with each other, and entering in?
  • Which part of the Christmas story is speaking to you?
  •  Listen for his words of life.
Father we thank you for your words of life, speaking truth into our lives, speaking love over our lives. Jesus show us that love afresh today. Spirit open our eyes and ears to listen. Amen

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

5 Ways to Push Back the Dark Around Christmas

Photo image courtesy of Pixabay.com
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
~ Matthew 5:14-16, NIV ~

The world is dark, especially this time of year. Daylight Savings Time only makes the fleeting sun seem less abundant. Long, cold, cloudy days only make life feel heavier. The stress of holiday demands and bad news around the world add to the bleak oppression of winter.

Yet, Jesus calls YOU light. As an ambassador of the Babe of Bethlehem, God is making His appeal to the world through you every bit as much as He did those glorious angels who appeared to the unsuspecting shepherds. (See 2 Corinthians 5:20 & Luke 2:9) That's an enormous responsibility, especially if you're already feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders.

How is a parent raising a child with additional needs supposed to meet that divine expectation of pushing back the darkness at Christmas? God shows us the way...

  1. BE FILLED WITH THE LIGHT — You've heard it a thousand times. You cannot give what you do not have. Only by drawing close to Christ in relationship can you share the Light of Christ with others. Intentionally carving out that first, early part of your morning in prayer and God's word is critical to being filled with His holy light. You must train yourself to hear His voice. Even if it means using a phone app in a hospital room or stealing a few extra minutes as your child naps, connecting to your Source will equip you to push back the darkness around you.
  2. FOLLOW THE SPIRIT'S LEAD — Just as a government ambassador does nothing of his or her own accord, so you must be attuned to what the Holy Spirit is directing. You do nothing of your own power. Face it, as worn parents of high-need children, we have so little to begin with. Yet, if just walk in His light, it naturally pours out where God desires.
  3. RESIST THE DARK — It is way too easy to get sucked into the darkness around us. When circumstances look grim and life is overwhelming, it isn't difficult to succumb to a glum, hopeless attitude. Instead, see yourself as a child of the Light. The victory is already yours! No situation going against you will succeed. (See Isaiah 54:17) You are a winner, so live like one! When things look dark, remember the words, "But God..." This will remind you that there IS a happy end to the story.
  4. SURRENDER YOUR OWN IRRITABILITY TO THE LIGHT-GIVER — Despite our heart's desire to be a light-bearer, our complicated lives can still wear us down. I know that when I am tired, overwhelmed, hungry, and feeling isolated, my own mood can slide quickly. Pausing to take a deep breath and praying for God's intervention helps me get my bearings. Embracing humility and apologizing to those around me when I lose my cool is critical to surrendering my ways for the Lord's better ways. Remembering that the things that irritate me now will not last forever helps me to readjust my perspective. 
  5. LIVE AS A CHILD OF THE LIGHT — Jesus also called himself the "Light of the World." Living with His kindness, compassion, integrity, and decency all reflect that same light. When you want to bite a doctor's head off, instead speak as if that doctor were loved by Jesus... because they are! Give a smile and a friendly word to a cashier or customer service representative at a time where their job is so thankless with grumpy people. Do a random act of kindness by anonymously paying for someone's coffee or letting someone go first in line. One tiny glimpse of light on top of another pushes back the dour frustrations that too easily suffocate so many of us during this season.
Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.
(Philippians 2:14-16, MSG)

Pray with me...

Holy Spirit, clean house in my heart and make room for me to be filled with Your glorious light. Pour Yourself through me, pushing back the darkness that threatens us in these challenging days around Christmas. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Santa Claus Forever!

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” 
Luke 2:10b-11,NIV
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (and all the special needs parents cringe)! Hear me out. I know that the holidays seem loaded with landmines for special kids. They bring questions, uncertainties, health or emotional crises, party/travel/gift anxieties, or even uncomfortable interactions with well-intentioned family members. I’ve been there, friend. My special guy is about to experience all the highs and lows of his eighteenth Christmas — we've already experienced several crises over here at the Gomez household.  

All the above exceptions accounted for, I still love holiday time more than any other for one reason: SANTA CLAUS FOREVER! I think one of my top three favorite things about being a special mom is that Santa Claus comes to my house every Christmas morning. Nicolas is seventeen years old, and this year when he again sits with/towers over Santa, and nervously discusses toys he wants, his eyes will reflect awe, his heart a-flutter, and his whole being will confidently know that Santa is real, and is coming to our house this year on Christmas Eve!

So here’s my Christmas advice to all the special parents reading this: enjoy the innocence of your child this holiday season. However much they understand or experience, soak that in and hold it tight. Put all the challenges in their appropriate place. Honestly, holidays or not, we’re still gonna have meltdowns, difficulties, and unexpected bumps in the road, right? So since that’s just normal life, roll with it this holiday season.  That way you’ll have time to breathe in the special moments, whatever they are for your child. Please don’t overlook the wonder of it all. Special families may not have a lot that seems to be in the column of “better than” a typical family, but Christmas is definitely a win for us. My special child always reminds me of the pure joy of Christmas. He reminds me that believing as a small child is the way we are all expected to believe, always. Not in Santa, but in the reason Santa spreads gifts all over the world! I see that played out each year and am so wonderfully reminded of the special gift within. I get teary-eyed every year when I get to re-explain that because it is Jesus’ birthday, a sweet old man in the North Pole gives a gift to every child in the world. And that it is why we give gifts to each other, and to strangers. It’s why we sing songs and have parties. Nicolas definitely “gets” the magic of this season, he feels it and enjoys it deeply. I can’t help but be aware  that I should be experiencing Christmas a lot more like Nick does.

Santa Claus is such a fleeting moment in most kids lives, it seems shorter and shorter these days. But we get Santa every year and it’s truthfully the best morning of all the other 364. Yeah, by then end of that same day there have usually been one or two “issues” but the other 364 have those anyways. No other day has the Santa moment. Winner. Every time.  
A Prayer: Father, thank you for giving the greatest gift ever, your Son, and for the privilege of celebrating His birth. Over these next few weeks I ask you to remind me, as chaos surely will happen, that the reason for all the extra effort is to celebrate Him. Cause me to slow down and see, to breathe and sit with my child(ren) and see what they see, and feel what they feel. Show me the special-ness that they experience. Help me let go of whatever doesn't matter, doesn't celebrate you. Flood my heart and mind with the purity of love and peace that was born on that night.

- Melanie Gomez

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Advent Week 2 — A Prayer for Peace


In a world of chaos, peace seems elusive, Lord. You see our household struggling with the multiple demands of school, work, treatments, and therapies. Stress nags at us as "normal" seems out of reach. Beyond our daily challenges, trying to function with toxic political issues, a culture that demeans life, and nation warring against nation all cause our anxiety to rise.

Prince of Peace, during this second week of Advent, calm us with your never-ending serenity. Remind us that we are carrying burdens that were meant for us. We underestimate how very much You care for us. Cleanse us of our faithless worry. Don't let us miss the miracles and marvel of this season. Redirect our focus to delight in each moment. Thank You for creating so many little things that leave us in awe and wonder. 

Only in You can we truly find peace, Jesus. 

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