Friday, December 29, 2017

Looking Back... Going Forward

Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission.
Philippians 3:13, VOICE

I have put off writing this post until the last minute. It's a little bit like writing my own obituary, this final piece for a ministry God birthed through me over fifteen years ago. As we prepare to merge Snappin' Ministries with Key Ministry on January 1st, I share my final thoughts here with you.

This is the time of year where those of us in the non-profit world like to do a year-in-review, summarizing for you all that has been accomplished in the previous 12 months. People want to know that we are having an impact when they donate charitable dollars. But this year is different. I look back with you not only to reflect on what God has done through us in 2017, but also since the inception of this ministry.

In 2017, Snappin' was once again named a Great Non-Profits TOP-RATED Non-Profit, thanks to our faithful volunteers and constituents.

Four out of our five ALL-TIME most-read blog posts were published this year:

  1. What a Caregiver Really Needs by Barb Dittrich, published on November 3, 2017 with over 15,400 reads
  2. 4 Things for the Special Needs Parent to Give Up for Lent by Barb Dittrich, published on March 1, 2017 with over 8,600 reads
  3. Heroin and the Life I Never Imagined by Kimberly Drew, published on March 15, 2017 with over 4,700 reads
  4. 2 Things a Special Needs Parent Can Never Be by Barb Dittrich, published on January 24, 2017 with over 3,600 reads

While those were popular posts, there were so many, many incredible pieces shared by our other writers sharing their hearts and experiences in raising kids with challenges. Each one pointed to God throughout the journey. And candidly, one of my favorite groups of parents on the entire planet are these precious writers who have become my treasured friends.

In May we once again served about 3 dozen mothers at our Refresh Retreat in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. No message I could present could beat the laughter, tears, and fellowship of these women who were spending some time away from their children filling their own tanks. And I am THRILLED that the 2018 Refresh Retreat will continue as planned. (You can register online NOW at  In fact, we hope to replicate more of these around the country! 

We also enjoyed another wonderful adaptive water ski event and family picnic on Browns Lake courtesy of Rick Legois, the Lynzay Legois Free Water Ski Club, the Browns Lake Aquaducks, and Adaptive Water Skiing Wisconsin. We could not have asked for a more perfect day.

We did spend a good portion of the year trying to get lift-off on our new initiative, Band of Fathers, just for the dads raising kids with additional needs. Unfortunately, the gentleman put in charge of the project walked away from it and no other fathers were willing to take the leadership role. Even so, the few gatherings the fathers did have together — burger nights and a ball game — were well received and enjoyed by those in attendance.

More parent mentors were trained again this year. We are anxiously waiting to see how those trainees and others implement all that they have been taught. 

And this very much summarizes how and why this year and this ministry concludes the way it does. 

Back in 2002, I was just a young mother trying to mesh my faith with a toddler who had a serious, rare chronic illness. I wanted to be served. I wanted to be led. But God had other plans. He emptied me of myself by instead calling me to lead, to share what I was learning, to point other people to Christ in my darkest of moments. 

Still, the Lord never intended me to do this alone. He never intended it to be "The Barb Show." He was using our circumstances to call others to give and to serve. To that end, we provided dozens of fun family outings, respite, retreats, pampering, and hosts of ways for people to both be served and come involved. However, in recent years I have become increasingly more disappointed and frustrated with how few people answer His call. And this year God distinctly told me that it was time to start shifting my focus back to the intensive needs of my own children.

This has been a big year for our family. My eldest still does not have solid answers on serious health issues of her own. Yet, she left in early August to spend a year studying abroad in Japan. That little toddler with the serious, rare chronic illness is now in his senior year of high school preparing to transition to college — an intense undertaking as we attempt to find funding and accommodations for future campus life. Our youngest is trying to find her way as she establishes peer friendships for the first time in her life. Jobs, and clubs, and sports have all found their way into our children's lives, and frankly, there just isn't enough of me to go around. 

If I was exhausted as a young special needs mom, I am even more so now. While my desire would have been to have so many more people catch the vision and care about parent caregivers, I can honestly say that I have faithfully served the ones God put in front of me. While I wish we could have motivated more and replicated community, I know that I poured every bit of compassion that God poured into me onto others. I sacrificed in love. I was obedient. And while tears role down my weathered face at this moment, I know that the Lord who has been so faithful to me through all of this will also be faithful in the next phase of His work.

I am eager to work with a motivated team who shares concern for families just like mine! I am grateful that I won't bear so much of this alone on my own shoulders. I am delighted to focus on the core work of mentor training and small group facilitation. I am THRILLED that most of the blog writers here will join me as we merge with Key Ministry. . And I pray that you will join us with your readership, engagement, prayers, and support.


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Countdown to ... ?

There is a special time for everything. 
There is a time for everything that happens under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLV 

So, Christmas has come and gone. Thankfully we have New Year's approaching quickly which may be another exciting event in your home. But...then what? What are we "aiming for" after that?

I always loved advent calendars when I was a child. It helped make counting down to Christmas more bearable. And we countdown those final 10 seconds on New Year's Eve which is always exciting. (Except in our house we countdown to 8 pm and then put our daughter to bed.)

Because children tend to get "cranky" around the holidays while waiting for the exciting events to transpire, we created countdowns for them. Let's face it, the countdowns help adults as well. So, to help our daughter with her anxiety we tend to be always counting down to SOMETHING.
Maybe we have tickets to a concert in February, or someone is visiting us in March. Well, we make those events to countdown to! Often we can use a simple paper link chain and we just tear one off each day. We will create a countdown for the last two weeks of school and even include some special "reward" days where there may be "pick a game" or "pick a movie" for us to play or watch that night. I've included "dinner with dad" or "lunch with mom" sometimes too! 
There are great COUNTDOWN ideas on Pinterest, of course. Here are some advent calendar ideas for next Christmas and here are some general countdown ideas. (Okay, fine, it's a countdown to a Disney trip, but it's REALLY hard to find a countdown that isn't to Christmas or Disney! So, adapt it to whatever you may be counting down to.)
I prefer the VISUAL countdowns which show a QUANTITY growing smaller for my daughter. The ones with the "days to" are pretty and easy, but they don't really give her the visual reminder that we are getting closer to the exciting event. 
How great life is when we have a goal, something with a finish line and we can SEE THE FINISH LINE!

But what about the times when we don't have a finish line? What about those TERRIFYINGLY, AMBIGUOUSLY fuzzy things that lie in our future? 
That's when FAITH steps in. 
Have you seen the third Indiana Jones movie when Indie has to cross an enormous cavern and there is NO WHERE to cross? Take a look: 

He had to step out and walk where there didn't appear to be a path.

Agree with Him in all your ways,
 and He will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:6 NLV 

Do not FEAR the unknown of 2018. Do not FEAR anything that may happen because God is already before us. He was and is and IS TO COME. He is already there.

See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. 
Will you not know about it? 
I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. 
Isaiah 43:19 NLV

Boom. God's mic drop. When we agree with Him, he makes our paths straight. He will do a new thing this year. He's going to make roads where there once were no roads. He's going to make flowing rivers where once there was barren land. 

Welcome, 2018. We're glad you are here.

Pray: Father God, I have no idea what you have planned in 2018. You are God and I am not. I pray that my faith grows. I pray that my desire for YOU is greater than any other desire. I pray that I may be fearless and help others grow in THEIR faith as well.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Pain Meets My Praise

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 
who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, 
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 NKJV

It was a glorious break from migraines. 

My last cluster of migraine headaches had been in 2014 right as we were packing up our house to move from Wisconsin to Nevada. I've suffered from cluster migraines since I was in college, so after 20 years of experience, I figured I knew what I needed to know about them.

However, when I went in to see my massage therapist (I never really got massages in Wisconsin, just never had the time as the mother of a young child with special needs), she explained to me that all my muscles were locked up in response to the pain. She said she could hardly get my rib cage to move. 

Hmmm...that explains my difficulty with deep-breathing exercises during a migraine cluster and why I feel I can never catch my breath.

So, I started stretching...stretching my neck, stretching my back, stretching my legs.  

Then I went to see my chiropractor and he added even MORE information I had never heard before. 

I told him about all the clicks and pops I would hear in my head as I stretched and he said I had so much pressure in my head that he was almost positive that I have a virus. 

I said, "No...just the headaches...I'm fine otherwise." 

He said, "Trust me, treat it like a virus. Get plenty of sleep, vitamin D, drink plenty of water and keep rinsing your sinuses. Read about Epstein Barr Syndrome. My guess is, you have something that is in your system and becomes activated when your immune system is compromised; explaining why your migraines come and go in clusters."

Hmmmm...I started reading, and searching, and trying new things. My cluster isn't gone, but I'm certainly getting through this cluster differently than I have in the past.

And I'm praising God for this cluster of pain.

I have learned so much about myself, my body, what my body needs, what my body is missing...

I have learned so much about how to worship God even in the midst of migraines.

Is it a coincidence that one of the stretches that relieves much of the pain and pressure is the child's pose in yoga? It's pictured above.

Looks a lot like falling flat on the ground in prayer, right?

Psalm 23:2 says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures."

Yes, God always knows how to make me lie down. Sometimes he needs to push me down with a migraine so I lose any sort of desire to fight my will against his will. 

As parents of children with special needs, we know that we push ourselves and push ourselves beyond all human comprehension. I know in my case, my daughter gets EXTREMELY anxious when I am sick. But as I've weathered these migraines for years, and I recognize the importance of HER learning her OWN health limitations and needs; she NEEDS to see how we handle illness.  


We are just getting through the holidays and we count on the fact that cold and flu season is upon us. Now is the time to prepare our minds and bodies to shore up for the onslaught of germs that are present with every smooch, handshake and turn of a doorknob.

Drink your orange juice, eat your veggies, and LIE DOWN! 


Pray: Heavenly Father, we were told that even YOU rested after you created the world. We also know that you expect us to REST in you as a sign of FAITH for all that you will provide for us. You remind us in Psalm 23 that you will MAKE us lie down from time to time and we thank your sovereignty in that. It's comforting to know that you understand our pain, and that we can fall down and praise you in our weakness.  Amen. 

~Tammie Hefty

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Call to Worship

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
 Luke 2:14 (ESV)

Christmas certainly can bring out the busy, right? Longer lines, greater impatience, busy schedules, and too many celebrations to actually enjoy. Somehow, I don’t believe this is what God had in mind regarding the birth of his son. Jesus is to be the object of our worship. We are to focus solely on him, the author and finisher of our faith, knowing that through him life makes sense. Through him, we can know God. Through him, we have forgiveness of sins and true redemption.

Worship. Worship is what the birth of Christ should call us to.

When he was still in the womb, the very presence of Christ caused John the Baptist to leap for joy! Worship.

Mary sang a song of praise and Zechariah, he of former doubt, declared the praise of Christ. Worship!

When the angels told the shepherds about the miracle birth, it was a symphony of worship. The glory of the Lord was shining, and the ultimate worship choir let loose their praise above the earth! Worship.

Simeon and Anna were among the first to meet the Christ-child and they responded with blessing and joy and praise. Worship!

Perhaps the most compelling confirmation of our call to worship is the actions of the wise men. The Bible declares that they saw the child and then they “fell down and worshiped him.” Men of great stature and riches and wisdom. Movers and shakers of their world worship at the feet of a baby boy.

Can you see the common thread? Do you recognize what those who were privileged to see Jesus in the flesh did? They worshiped. They were filled with joy, they shouted praise, and they realized that the hope and light of the world was embodied in a precious baby.

As much as I love Christmas, I often get wrapped up in the egg nog and wrapping paper and viewing Christmas lights. I marvel at beautiful Christmas trees and I love playing Christmas carols on the piano. While these are all good and enjoyable activities, they do not truly bring me to worship. I must intentionally not lose sight of the whole reason for the celebration. I must recognize that the Almighty God chose to send his son to earth in order to restore relationship with me. There is no other response but worship.

May this Christmas season bring you much joy and happiness and fun. May you have family and friends to bless and be blessed by. May the presence of God truly fill all of your Christmas celebrations. And may all of this bring you to your knees in worship that you may join the shepherds and angels and wise men and others in shouting praise to the newborn King!

Lord Jesus, I confess that the twinkling lights and wintery treats can pull me from focusing on you. If I am not careful, I can make Christmas about myself and my activities and my gifts. Remind me, O Lord, to worship you. May every song and Christmas ornament and poem and activity point me to you, and may I respond appropriately in worship. Amen!

~ Mike

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Blindspot, The Cane & Christmas

Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.” 
Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”
Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”  
John 9: 39-41 MSG

I was driving my daughter to school one cold December morning. We were at a stop sign and about to turn left onto a the highway. I looked left and saw a car coming that was going to turn right, I looked right and saw nothing, I looked left again and the car that was turning right had slowed down so I knew I hadn't misjudged that and I began to turn out onto the highway. 
Suddenly in front of my car was a car that was turning left off of the highway and onto the street we were turning out from! I was about to hit it! 
Because the sun was not yet up above the mountains, and our headlights were on, I couldn't see the driver in the car I almost hit. But I slammed on my breaks and realized that I had to keep going because I was now blocking that car's path. I waved, embarrassed, and thanked God above that He had sent His angels to guard over us.

The blindspot.

I had told my husband before that my car has this one particular blindspot which is up to the right of the windshield. It drives me crazy when I'm trying to turn left onto a busy road and even has given me trouble when I'm turning right and there are pedestrians crossing. 
I know where my blindspot is. I know it's a hazard. So why do I forget to be cautious?
My daughter is legally blind. But, she's had the same vision her entire life, most people can't tell she's blind until she runs into something or falls off of something. She walks with a white cane, but she doesn't LIKE to walk with her cane. Her cane is big, intrusive and "just one more thing to carry."
But her white cane keeps her safe...So why would we ever leave it behind?
The fact of the matter is, we forget to check our blindspots and we forget to bring our canes because we WANT LIFE TO BE EASIER.

We wish we didn't HAVE a blindspot.
We wish we didn't NEED a cane.

We wish we didn't need PT, OT and speech. We wish we didn't need all three blood pressure medications. We wish we could just drop our kid off at the party and leave, but we don't get to as parents of kids with special needs. We wish we could just cover our kid up and kiss her good night, but instead it's eye drops, deep compression massage, and helping her brush her teeth even though she's thirteen.

But, as we read in John 9 (the whole chapter revolves around Jesus restoring sight to a man who has been blind since birth), we who HAVE these blindspots (weaknesses) in our lives and RECOGNIZE them are able to be saved by Jesus.


We get ourselves into trouble when we FORGET to check out blindspots. We get ourselves into trouble when we NEGLECT the truth about our weaknesses and how ever-present they are.

But we have this holiday approaching called Christmas, and this holiday changed EVERYTHING about our blindspots and our weaknesses. The Creator of the Universe; the Almighty God, He put on flesh and weakness and walked among us. He became a helpless baby, a clumsy kid, a rough and tumble teen so that HE could KNOW what it felt like to be flawed, tempted, hurt, crushed, exhausted, disappointed, and completely rejected.

Rejoice, rejoice...God is with us...Immanuel.

Pray: Heavenly Father, thank you! Thank you for my weaknesses because they keep me closer to you. Thank you for my sicknesses which show others your greatness. Thank you for your love, thank you for your Son, thank you for Christmas. I do not understand your love for me, but I am forever in awe of it. Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Snow laden

Photo credit: Melanie Durity
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  
Matthew 11:28-30 (the Message)

A few weeks ago a freak fall snow storm dumped 10 inches of snow on my area in the deep south. The snow was beautiful and amazing and totally unexpected.

The little pine trees in my yard bent over with all that snow. Each flake doesn’t weigh much but in total became too much for those trees to bear.

10 inches of snow bent the pine trees to the ground. The top branches dusting the ground.

God showed me something I had never seen before:  

These trees were a picture of me. I was looking at a line of special needs mommas.

When one of my daughter’s seizures overtakes her, I feel this way, weighed down with the emotions from watching her body endure. 

When little tasks add up, becoming many, monumental and heavy, I feel this way, weighed down mentally.

When my relationship with God and others become strained from the sheer volume of hard days, I feel this way, weighed down spiritually.

Special needs mommas have burdens from the blessings of our children.

My daughter is a blessing in my life and in other’s lives. But her care is a real and tangible burden.

Jesus tells me in Matthew 11, to change places with Him, to take on HIS burden, and to let Him have mine.

Jesus tells me, “Come to me.”

That is all, just “come” because His burden is light. I don't have to do anything else. 

Mine might be heavy, but He desires to take on my burden. He desires to take all my “heavy” on himself.

Jesus walks up to my snow laden self, with weights too much to endure on my shoulders, and rakes all the snow off with his gentle and holy touch.

Jesus replaces the weight with peace.
Jesus replaces the weight with endurance.
Jesus replaces the weight with faith.

Dear Father, I come to you. I come and give you all these hard and hurting things. I thank you for your son Jesus who came to trade places with me. I thank you that He takes on all my sin on himself. I thank you that he takes on all my burdens on himself. Thank you that they are no longer mine, but yours. Thank you for being so very good and for your unending, never failing love.