Friday, September 30, 2016

My empty bag (or I. Am. Tired.)

photocredit: pixabay.com
...  “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
1 Kings 17:7-16 (NIV)

I remember the first time I saw that clip from the movie Facing the Giants. I could barely breathe. The tears had clogged my throat and tightened my chest and I knew God was talking to me. "Can you negotiate with your body for more strength?" Yes! No! Faith and fear at war. No, not really. Faith and reality. There was no strength to negotiate for. I. Am. Tired. 
photo credit: pixabay.com

This is where I find myself, when God, in the form of a child, family member, church commitment or friend in need asks me for help.  ‘Mommy, I’m sick!, Mrs Clarke, your son has been doing … again.  How do you make him stop this at home? Faith, our group, team, entity needs to learn … could you facilitate the training/workshop?'  The voices are endless. The needs relentless. Satisfaction is impossible, and I. Am.Tired.

Then the exceptional happens, and we need to move, which is really a blessing for us. But moving and autism and an already full life is unbelievably chaotic. Autism wants routine and there is no routine in moving! The randomness of racing back and forth with boxes, the ridiculousness of living in 2 places for a few days, the test of rigidity when I can’t find anything and autistic routines need recreating, all result in extreme exhaustion.  I. Am. Tired.


The temptation to respond through the lens of exhaustion to the unrelenting litany of demands is extremely powerful. Yet, somehow, this woman in 1 Kings has the grace to stay in present moment with Elijah. She could have railed about the struggle and sent him on his way, but she didn’t. A voice whispered in her ear ‘Can you negotiate with your body for more strength? ' (or a version of that thought) and she did. And the gift from her empty bag of supplies became the gift that kept giving.

Exhaustion is usually a step away from depression and despair for me. But, I've been learning to carve another path. The feeling of deprivation that comes from being tired is like the feeling of deprivation when I'm fasting. This is an opportunity to access supernatural resources. The empty bag can produce as much corn and oil as is needed. It's connected to the Source. Today, I'm pulling grace and patience and kindness and wisdom from the bag.  It's in there, Thank the Lord.  I hope you dig in, in faith, and access what you need for today.

Dear Lord, Thank you for always supplying our daily bread.  In spite of the situations around us and the energy we exerted to handle them, you are our source, providing fresh manna each day, if we ask, in faith. Please give us wisdom to balance work and rest, and the perspective to see the sacred in these moments of deep exhaustion. 
Amen.
- Faith

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Are You Tired of Being Needed?

Don't worry about anything; 

instead, pray about everything.

 Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all 

He has done.

Philippians 4:6, NLT

Have you ever become exhausted from giving, giving, giving? 

Are you ever tired of being needed?


I have, too many times to count!

As a wife with a husband who "needs" me... As a mom of a child with down syndrome that "needs" me; a foster mom of a girl with autism that "needs" me; a mom of 6; Nana of 11; pastor's wife to a church family that "needs" me... Some days I think I can't take one more "need" being pulled out of me.

Sadly, I'm not a magician with magic solutions to everyone's needs in my hat.

I woke up last Sunday morning exhausted. I dreaded "having" to go to church that morning. But, hey, I'm the pastor's wife, so bury that thought and paste a smile on my face. Get a grip, Cindy, just put one foot in front of the other. I reminded myself I was "needed." And it was my turn to serve downstairs in our children's church.  

 "Ughhh. It sure would be nice if I could just go and sit.

I took a shower. Had two cups of coffee and read my Bible.  Still didn't "feel" any different.  But being well schooled on obeying the Lord, and being faithful in spite of my feelings, I got dressed and began to review the songs for praise and worship for Kid's Church.

I tried to focus on the morning and the needs of everyoneI usually love to go to church. I usually love to serve. I usually pray for God to specifically lead me to people who need to be encouraged. 


But this Sunday I was just wishing the morning was already over and I was in my comfy bed for another favorite ritual -- a Sunday afternoon nap.  

I was driving to church, trying to stuff down my weariness, trying not to be negative or whiny. One thought kept shouting in the hallways of my mind...

"OH GOD! PLEASE DON'T LET ANYONE NEED ANYTHING FROM ME TODAY, 'CAUSE I GOT NOTHING TO GIVE."

I was missing the point entirely!

Ding! 
A text message from God???  Lol.  

Nope. It was a text from my daughter-in-love, Sarah. God had put me on her mind that morning and she had sent me this text:
Oh, the riches in that passage! And God was clearly speaking to me!

TELL HIM WHAT YOU NEED!

It was like a dam broke inside my all too exhausted heart.


"Tell God what I need? Isn't it 'bad' to be needy? Doesn't God want me to cowgirl up? Doesn't He know what I need? Why do I have to ask Him?"

And the Lord said,

"Cindy- you need to ask because it puts you in the position of humility. You begin to realize you are not anyone's Need-Meeter. I AM.     I, alone am inexhaustible and without limits. I never tire of working in my children's life. You're to come to Me with Your needs and be filled! Then let me overflow into others lives from what I've given you. You were never meant to meet all those needs IN YOUR OWN STRENGTH."

Light Bulb moment.  I know this. I've lived this, but I fall back into my old way of thinking time and again!


Humility. A great place to start. 


I am limited. God is not. 



So this week has been the beginning of different, better living. I've been telling my Father every morning -- sometimes every hour -- what I need to get through my day. 


Then I remind myself, to do what I can in my limited abilities and point them to the real Need-Meeter! 


Pray: Thank you, Father, that You never tire of being needed. Your solutions to our problems never cease! They are new every hour! Teach us to live as your children, telling you exactly what we need. Fill us with Your power so that we may serve others in Your power.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Cindy Barclay

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To the Parent Blindsided by Your Child's Diagnosis

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net
I had heard rumors about You,
but now my eyes have seen You.
Job 42:5, HCSB

I spoke to you today, and I could see the shock on your face and hear the fear and uncertainty in your voice. Of all the things you've dealt with, the things you imagined you might have to handle, you never saw this one coming. You didn't even suspect that your child would receive that diagnosis. Welcome to the club you never wanted to join. 

As the parent of a child with multiple diagnoses, I have been where you are. I have listened to doctors pronounce diagnoses over my child. Some were expected, and some were unexpected, and every one was like a punch to the gut. Life is never the same again.

Except somehow, after the initial shock, anger, disbelief, grief, researching, learning, and adapting, it is. Life continues to move forward in a new normal, one that was unimaginable before that becomes second nature. As this process takes place, you go from thinking almost incessantly about the diagnosis and seeing your child in light of that while you get control of the situation to realizing that your child is the same one you had the day before the diagnosis. It's easy to lose sight of that when new professionals, therapies, medication regimens, surgeries and procedures, and medical equipment enter your lives, but it's true. Your child is who he is. He's the same child you had before, and that won't change. Most likely, he will be much more resilient while processing what this new diagnosis means than you will.

Through all of this, you will find God in the middle of it with you. I have laid it all out before him many times, expressing exactly what I was feeling and knowing He is big enough to handle it, no matter how ugly the emotions I needed to release. And I have found, like Job, that I come through these times knowing Him in ways I never have before. Cling to Him. He won't abandon you or your child, or treat you like you have cooties. He'll be right by your side the whole way.

I'm so sorry you're having to go through this and that your child, who has already been through so much, has to deal with something else. It's not fair, and I hate it for you both. Don't be afraid to seek out a listening ear if you need one. Make it someone you trust, who will look out for what's best for your family as you deal with this. I am praying for you right now.

Pray: Father, I bring this parent before you now. This new diagnosis is a hard thing to deal with. It's hard to process it all and figure out how to handle the changes in the daily routine as well as how to pay for everything. Please bring this parent the resources and people alongside to help during this period of transition - and for as long as it takes afterward. I pray that this family would cling to You and would come out of this storm knowing You better than ever before---not just knowing about You. Give them peace, strength, and rest in You right now. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Before Me and Behind Me

"You hem me in behind and before, You lay Your hand upon me." Psalm 139:5 NIV
"You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head." Psalm 139:5 NLT
"You have enclosed be behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me." Psalm 139:5 NASB
"Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me." Psalm 139:5 KJV
"You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand upon me." Psalm 139:5 HCSB

September is a very reflective month for me, not just the reflections induced by the restarting of school and classes, but the reflection that frequently accompanies birthdays. Three of our five children were born in September. One of those was our son Cooper.

He pushed his way into the world weighing a solid 9lbs. 11oz. and God bless him he has never looked back. Now, at 17, he stands 6 feet tall and weighs, well let's just say he looks the part of being an adult. Our son was diagnosed with Autism when he was 18 months old, and he has been greatly impacted, our family has been greatly impacted also.

Cooper has two older sisters and one week before his birthday in 2005 he was blessed with two younger sisters. He is right in the middle of four girls. I have often joked, that is probably why he doesn't talk much.

Some of the struggles our family has faced over the years are unique, while others are probably very similar to yours. So I think you will understand when I say, as parents of a child with their own different challenges and circumstances we cling tighter to some verses than we do others. I suppose like most we read through the lens of our existence, through our own God-given perspective. 

I have always held closely to my heart verses like:

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalms 139:14 NIV

This is a wonderful affirmation of the incredible gifts we are given in the children God has placed with us.

Then there are the verses leading up to Psalms 139:5...

"Oh Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it all together." Psalms 139:1-4

I need to know this, not just for myself, but for my children. There is incredible comfort and peace in that knowledge, in knowing whatever happens, God already knows. As we face the challenges of parenting all of our children, we have to stand on the stable ground of knowing this one thing...

God knows.

He knows me.

He knows my children.

But then, there is that 5th verse:

"You hem me in behind and before, You lay your hand upon me."  Psalms 139:5 NIV

You see with that one, I don't just get to know it.

I get to see it.

I have always kind of chuckled at the fact that our one son has, in fact, ended up surrounded by girls. It's an interesting conversation with new people, a cute story, a different way to present our family.

However, one day, I read that verse with new eyes.

"You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid your hand upon me." Psalm 139:5 NASB

Hemmed in, encircled, surrounded.

They go before him and behind him.

I see the living breathing word of God exist in my family.

What an incredible picture. We don't always have that so clearly and beautifully displayed for us.

So I look at my children and I know that they are thoughtfully created, wonderfully made by a God who doesn't just know them...

He is with them.

He is with us.

He is with you.

God, I am thankful for the living breathing display of Your word. Thankful that You care about the smallest of details and thankful that You do not just plan and orchestrate. God, You walk with us. Your hand is laid on us and You go before and behind, Father you encircle and surround. God, I pray for every mother and father and child that looks around searching for Your presence, open their hearts and their eyes and reveal Yourself to them. God fill them with the peace and comfort that can come only from knowing and seeing You. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Longing for Transformation

The following guest post by author, Kimberly Drew, is an excerpt from her new release with co-author, Jocelyn Green
Photo by Gualberto107. Published on 19 May 2013
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (esv)

Getting my daughter dressed every morning includes fitting her legs into orthopedic braces which force her limbs into an uncomfortable position. Those braces fight a daily battle against what the cerebral palsy tells her little body to do. The goal is to stretch and loosen the tightness in the legs, allowing her to walk properly. The constant stretching is supposed to help with the overall tightness by keeping her legs from going back to their natural muscle tone.

But Abbey’s sickness isn’t in her legs—it’s damage done in her brain for which there is no repair apart from God’s miraculous healing. When I put on her braces in the morning, I recognize the symbolism of forcing her body to do something that is only a temporary solution to her problem. It is exactly what is happening in my own life at times: I am trying to “force” myself to do the right things to honor God.

It’s not a bad thing to want to be more like Christ, but doing good out of obligation is only a temporary solution to a depraved mind. What I really need is spiritual transformation, possible only through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit living in me. Apart from him, there is nothing I can do to treat my sickness that will have any permanent effect.

The tense for the verb “transformed” in Romans 12:2 implies that it is not a onetime thing, but a process of being continually transformed. Its Greek word, metamorphousthe, in English is “metamorphosis.” To be metamorphosed into something completely new, I have to want to be changed. I have to connect to the God who changes me, owns me, and loves me.

The process of peeling myself away from the patterns of this world is often painful and uncomfortable, just like Abbey’s legs being forced to do what feels unnatural to her body. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I continually renew my mind in Christ. The result: pleasing God, which was once forced, becomes more natural because of the Spirit’s work of transformation in my heart and soul. I read and meditate on his Word, spend time in prayer, and fellowship with other believers. I begin to see life through a biblical, God-centered perspective rather than through my own self-tinted lens. This transformation in my life brings him glory. As others see the Lord working in me and changing me, I can give testimony to Christ in my life.

As we watch and help our children endure pain to improve physically, let it be a reminder that beyond physical healing, true spiritual healing can be claimed in Christ as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Dear Lord, help me to be truly transformed by the renewing of my mind. It’s the only way that I can have lasting change and not conform to the patterns of this world. I thank you that I have your Holy Spirit working in me and that you promise to finish in me what you began by making me more like Christ. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Digging Deeper
       1.   Name one area of your life in which you’d like to experience some transformation.
       2.   In what ways have you been transformed since your special child came into your life?
       3.   In what area of your heart may God be trying to work right now?



Kimberly Drew is a graduate of Taylor University, with a degree in elementary education. She had been married to her college sweetheart, Ryan, since 2000 and live with their four children. They also have a son, who is waiting for them in heaven. She developed a passion for children with special needs and their parents after their firstborn daughter suffered a traumatic birth which resulted in multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, hearing loss, and microcephaly. From these experiences, and a heart to see and know Christ more, came the desire to help other parents grow in their Christian walk through their own experience raising a child with special needs. In 2016, they adopted their fourth child, a baby girl with special needs. Kimberly has been serving alongside Ryan in full-time youth ministry since they were married.