Monday, April 24, 2017

The Chocolate Easter Bunny Hangover

At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.

They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.
~ Luke 24:1-8, MSG ~

As a pastor, I anticipate Easter with joy and excitement – after all, it’s the most important holiday in the Christian year. It’s the time when we get to celebrate the miracle that changed everything – when Jesus defeated sin and death and came to life again. It’s the time when we get to sing the most exciting worship songs, preach from the most powerful and mysterious texts, meet new friends that may be approaching church for the first time, and cement again our belief in the God who loves us more than life itself. It is an exciting and powerful day.

The mom in me, on the other hand, approaches Easter with a bit of fear and trembling. Facing each day without the routine of school, finding creative ways to entertain children while studying Scripture and prepping for worship services, and then dealing with the sugar rushes, meltdowns, and iPad over-use seem to sap my strength and energy, leaving me with more dread than drive. So I tightly ration the Easter candy in order to quell the resulting behavioral crises that are sure to come, not to mention the circumference that it adds to my hips. Locked up tight behind a complex system of tot locks and pantry doors, the last of the candy is still hanging around, mostly some jelly beans and stale M & M’s, perhaps a few toffees or forlorn taffy. The Peeps are always the first to go, and the chocolate Easter bunnies never make it past Easter day. And after the little people have had their fill of Easter spoils, and the big people have stolen nibbles and bites from the kids' sacred stash, we are left with the chocolate Easter bunny hangover.

It's that slightly icky feeling in the pit of your stomach from eating too much chocolate. The dull headache that’s left over from the backend of the sugar rush, and the swollen fingers and toes from the salty Easter ham that was devoured at brunch. Chocolate Easter bunny hangover, indeed. It’s that moment when you realize the fun and the hype are over, and the worst is yet to come – the meltdowns are coming on strong, the laundry (which is consequently streaked with jelly beans and chocolate) is piled up in the hallways, and the chores and the messy kitchen are just plain overwhelming. Life after the fun is just plain overwhelming. Life, perhaps, is even a little bit hopeless.

We see a picture of hopelessness in the women who went to look for Jesus in the tomb, expecting Him to still be dead, hoping to somehow anoint His body with burial spices. How could they possibly have hope when their hopes and dreams for a powerful Savior died on the cross on Friday? How could they possibly have hope when they were suffering such grief, such loss? How could they have hope when the man that they had seen do miracle after miracle gave up His right to life in order to show His resurrection power that would be the saving grace for every one of us? How could they even begin to hope?

But God. The God who overcame death, who brought Jesus out of that tomb, met those women right where they were, in the middle of their fear and their hopelessness. Those hopeless women who showed up anyway were the first to hear the news that Jesus was alive. They were the first to peer into the shadowy darkness of the tomb to find nothing left but a few linens because Jesus was gone from that place of death. God took those hopeless women and turned them into joyful preachers of the Good News – the news that Jesus was and is alive! God’s resurrection power gave those hopeless women a brand new hope.

And that’s kind of how God works. When we show up in our brokenness, our helplessness, our hopelessness, God transforms us through His resurrection power. He gives us grace to handle the chocolate Easter bunny hangover, the piles of laundry, the mess and the meltdowns. Because the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives in each of us who believes. That resurrection power isn’t just for a powerful Easter sermon, it’s for meltdown Monday, for chocolate Easter bunny hangovers; it’s for the best day of your life and the worst day of your life and it is for every single day in between. And I hope that you can live in the constant awareness that Jesus Christ is alive and He is ready and willing to turn your hopelessness into joy through that very same resurrection power.

Dear God,
Sometimes our lives are overwhelming. Sometimes, our lives feel hopeless. Please meet me in my hopelessness, and transform me through Your resurrection power. Please grant me fulfillment when the mundane chores are piling up. Please grant me strength and patience when the meltdowns and the stress begin to overwhelm me. Please carry me each day in Your resurrection power and turn my hopelessness into joy.
Amen. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

That Easter Feeling! ~ #SacredSunday

Easter isn't just one Sunday of the year. It's a joy that lives inside of our hearts every day when we embrace Jesus. Celebrate that Easter feeling today!
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Striving for the Best Possible Version

Photo image courtesy of skeeze at Pixabay.com
I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.
~ Philippians 3:14, VOICE ~

It's IEP season. This means that I end up chatting with a disproportionate number of parents who are frustrated with their child's progress or lack thereof in school. Irritation mounts as parents prepare to once again go to battle for their child, contending with educators that all too often want to take the easiest, most minimal steps possible to comply with the law.

All we parents want for our kids is to have the opportunity to become the best possible version of themselves they can be. 

Why is that so hard to understand? Why is that too much to ask?

The sad part is that just tiny, consistent adjustments and small accommodations can make such a huge difference for our kids. Working with our children instead of working against them can make all the difference in helping them to reach their full potential. It may be inconvenient or require some effort on the part of the team, but the outcome is definitely worth it.

Examining the inherent truths of this situation, I have to ask, Why don't we parents expect the same for ourselves? Yes, we have all heard thousands of times the airline passenger analogy of putting our own oxygen masks on before we assist our kids. Unfortunately, we nod our heads and continue our self-neglect, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives.

"I don't have time!"

"I'm so tired!"

"God understands."

We rationalize as our spirits continue to dwindle. Our stress is through the roof. We are constantly exhausted. Emotionally we are discouraged, depressed, anxious, and angry. Exercise is absent. Overeating is habitual. Marriages are strained. An intimate relationship with Jesus? What is that?

If this were our child's IEP team, we would be furious!

We need to strive to become the best possible version of ourselves every bit as much as we push for it in the lives of our children. How we spend our time reveals what is important to us. Straining towards that relationship with Jesus FIRST helps all the rest fall into place. (See Matthew 6:31-33) He alone can transform us into the best possible version of ourselves. The power of His Holy Spirit in us increases our perseverance and gives us the self-control to push through the small adjustments and effort needed to create positive personal change. 

Is that too much to ask? God doesn't think so. There is nothing He has withheld from you to help you reach your full eternal potential.

PRAY: Lord, in the crazy busy-ness of our days, remind us to put first things first. Help us to remember that we are a poor example to our children when we don't maintain and improve ourselves first. Make us good stewards of every one of Your good gifts.

~ Barb Dittrich 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When I Was the One Who Triggered the Meltdown

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /freedigitalphotos.net
When they kept on questioning him, 
he straightened up and said to them, 
“Let any one of you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her.” 
John 8:7, NIV

As parents of children with special needs, we know all too well that those who DON'T deal every day with Sensory Processing Disorder, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, or blindness or -fill in your child's diagnosis here - just don't understand how we work; how it ALL works.

I was recently listening to a friend talk about how her son with autism was "given" an item he had been obsessing over by his teacher. She was upset about it because she was trying to teach him that he didn't NEED that object; that life without the object would still be okay. I agreed with her that this was definitely something done in ignorance. But, suddenly, God brought back to my memory something that I had done many, MANY years ago...
It was Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI. The day had been filled with sun, fun and music. I was in one of the public restrooms washing my hands, and a mom was in there with her two daughters. One daughter was crying because she had wanted a cheap beaded necklace (you know, the dollar store ones which we all have now realized bleed onto our skin when we sweat.)  
Well, I just happened to HAVE such a necklace, and, being in my happy state after a sunny fun-filled day, I said, "Oh, here, Sweetie, you can have mine."
Oh, geez. Clearly the move of a "non-mother" and ignorant graduate student who did NOT know how the world works...
The OTHER daughter exploded into a fit of tears. "How come she gets one and I don't???!!!"
I wanted to crawl into the corner, and I'm CERTAIN their mother did as well. I did NOT have a second necklace to give, and now I was the reason for a round of sibling rivalry that I didn't have to resolve.
With this memory in the forefront of my mind, I began to empathize with the teacher who had given the object to my friend's son.
She DID IT out of love and concern for him.
She DID IT for a wonderful reason!
She DID IT thinking that it would make someone happy.
So, how do we, as Christian parents, and parents who are responsible for raising children with as much social skill as possible express to others WHY we can't give in to our child's obsessions or their every desire?

I look at it as the same way God parents us. He knows each of us and our weaknesses. Sometimes He shields and protects us from the things He knows we cannot handle, but other times He pushes us out of our comfort zones and makes us stare our fears and weaknesses straight in the face.

For example, as a child, I was tremendously anxious...and a BIG hypochondriac. Oh my goodness, in my childhood, when characters on TV shows were diagnosed with cancer, or AIDS, suddenly I had all the symptoms too. My poor mother and father spent many a sleepless night assuring me that I was not sick.

And how does God deal with this fear of mine? Of course, give that girl a child with a rare disease! However, with rare disease, God made me face my fears head on with HIM as my champion and hero. Only by my faith can I get out of bed every day and not be paralyzed with fear. Rare disease has drawn me closer to Him.

But, God HAS given ME moments some peaceful times as well. Those "answered prayers" which come in the nick of time and satiate my desire to feel some relief from my anxiety. Once, for example, we had our daughter in for surgery for her glaucoma...and, as an answer to prayer, she DIDN'T need surgery!  REALLY? Yes! If you can imagine the feeling of relief you might get when you hear, "Surgery is canceled, she's okay today!"

God does that for us too...out of love, out of mercy, and our of knowing that we might just break with that "last straw on the camel's back".

So, I guess my thoughts here are that maybe we can feel less frustration or less offended when a stranger (or someone who "just doesn't get it") gives in to our kid and tries to appease their obsessive desire. I know, it feels like two steps forward and one step back...but, sometimes even God gives us what WE are also anxiously obsessing over...
Some of the most frequent disagreements between my husband and I are over JUST THIS topic. When do we give consequences? When do give her the benefit of the doubt? When do we reward? When do we take away?
These aren't easy questions to answer, and we rarely know if our decision was right or wrong...but they can become contentious and hurtful for the adults involved if we aren't careful.

Ultimately, the question for me comes back to this...How many times have I been the one who, without know or without intent, triggered the meltdown? More than I'd care to know is my guess. So, if I have already been the culprit, do I have any right to cast a stone in anyone else's direction?

Pray:  Heavenly Father, we often have our protocol, our system, our RULES for how to handle certain situations with our children. Help us to remember that there are many wonderful people out there who don't know these rules, and may just be following their heart. Ignorance of our child's particular diagnosis can be frustrating; so help us to remain gracious, and follow Jesus's example. Amen.

~Tammie Hefty 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Watching Your Child Bloom

"Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these." 
Matthew 6:28-29, NASB

I went for a walk the other day, just soaking in God's creation unfurling after a long winter when I happened upon the flower you see above.
At first, I was sad for it.  There was a beautiful garden about five feet away from this flower, where its friends were growing.  And here was this flower, all by itself, growing between a crack in the sidewalk.
But then, my perspective changed and I was suddenly proud of this lone flower.  It did exactly what it was created to do: spread its roots and grow and bloom and share its color and beauty with the world, despite its unusual circumstances.  It could have withered up and died, but it was blooming.
And as I marveled at God's creation a new thought struck me: My children are not in the garden I expected them to grow in. I expected them to thrive at play dates and in school, and instead, they struggle in those environments. I expected them to grow among their peers, and instead, I watched them fall further and further behind, finally mastering every milestone months or years behind their peers.

No, my children are like that lone flower, growing right where they are planted. But I am learning to embrace the unique way they are blooming: their own rate of development, their personalities, their abilities, their passions, and yes, even their quirks. And when I focus on them that way, I see that they are indeed blooming, showing off their unique colors to this world desperate for a little color and joy in it.
And that makes me one proud and blessed mama.  🙂
Pray: God, help me to see my child through your eyes. Help me to let go of the garden I expected my child to grow in and embrace the way they are growing. And give me the wisdom to nurture my child and watch them flourish. Amen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why My Child?

"Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."
Isaiah 43:7 NIV

"God why, why my child?'


If we are truthful, we have all said it or thought it at some point.

For some, it may have been at the time of a diagnosis, for others it may be with each and every trial that you and your child have to face.


On more than one occasion I have uttered, even loudly proclaimed, those words myself.

You don't have to be the parent of a child with a disability, illness, or any unique need, to have occasion to question God and the path that you find yourself on. But it does seem sometimes, that some of us more than others, have the "God why?" market cornered.

No one likes to see their children struggle and suffer, there is not a parent a live that longs to see their child in pain and hurting. We do not beg for precarious and uncertain futures for our off spring. Not one of us longs for sleepless nights filled with worry.

But sometimes, that is where we are, it's what we experience, and harder yet to understand, it's the reality our children live.

So we cry out, "God why, why my child?"

I have often said I don't know the answer to the question "why?" and I don't...

Except, I do.


I do know the answer.


The answer's Jesus, the answer is always Jesus, even when you don't realize it, even when you don't think it possibly can be, even when you don't want it to be.

It is.

He is.

However, if all I can do is tell you is Jesus is the answer to your questions of "Why?", what good does that do you, what comfort does that bring?

What it may actually bring you is another question of  "Why?"

"Why is Jesus the answer?"

If you are reading this right now and you are thinking, "No, it's not Jesus, Jesus is not the answer. I just don't believe that. I have never believed that. How can a God who is supposed to care, who is supposed to 'be love' let this happen to me, to my family...to my child?"


I want you to know; right here, right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with every bit of faith that I have, I know God loves and cares about every detail of your life. I know this because I have seen Him in the details of my life, of my families life, and I have seen God in the details of my son's life.


Right now, I see him in the details of your life, because I had no intentions of writing any of this when I sat down and started writing. I want you to see it too, I want you to see it with your heart.


If you are reading this and you are scared and worried, if you are tired and lonely, if you are doubting that God ever shows up.


He does.


I know He does.


You can know it too, 
because you are reading these words.

They are for you,


whoever you are,


wherever you may be.


God cares, He created you and your child.


"Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6, NIV


Sometimes in our pain, it is just too much to see that there is some bigger picture and some greater good that is forming from the pain and suffering that we endure that our children endure.

Why is there a God who allows the innocent to suffer and families to go through great hardships?

"Why?"

There is a story in John where Jesus heals a man who was born blind:

His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus "but this happened so that the works of God may be displayed in him." John:2-3, NIV


If you know Jesus it can bring you great comfort.

I can't tell you exactly why, and what the purpose of the pain you experience is, but I can point you toward the best comfort and direction that I know for navigating your way through that pain.

You are not alone.


My prayer:

God, I thank you for every moment and every detail that You have so carefully woven together. God from our very creation to the last breath we take You are there, You do not leave us. Father, I pray that the peace and comfort of Your all knowing and all powerful existence be felt by those who are doubting, lonely and afraid. You know the challenges that we face and God, help us to see that You are in even the most difficult ones, help us to see you there and feel your presence. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

~Beth

*FOR FURTHER EXAMINATION: Snappin's Mentor Video - "Why My Child?"