Wednesday, October 26, 2016

More Grace Needed!

Photo Credit: Green Chameleon
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore,
I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Recent changes in our lives, both big and small, have my daughter's OCD tendencies kicked into overdrive. Her sensory processing is more out of whack than normal. I got sick, complete with a fever of 101. I'm a single, working, homeschooling mom of two, one with significant chronic health issues. I was on the edge. I cried out to God: How much more do you think I can take?

I would like to say He swooped in and fixed all the brokenness in our circumstances, made everything instantly better. He can do that. I know He can. But that's not what happened this time.

The fever lasted for two days. The congestion and cough lingered. Work deadlines still had to be met so I could get paid. I had to do the extra work of keeping both kids on track with school in the middle of my illness, including trying to calm the additional sensory needs and OCD issues. And we still had to eat and have clean clothes to wear!

It was hard, but we made it through that week. While God didn't immediately fix everything for us, He gave us a greater gift - the peace of His presence in the middle of it all. We worked together to come up with a new plan for those days so we could get the critical things done and still work in extra rest for me.

Because I involved my children in the process, they saw how He saw us through the difficulty, and it built their faith for the next obstacle we face.

And then, when we attended church together on Sunday, the pastor preached from Proverbs 3:5-6, outlining all the reasons we can trust God.

His grace is matchless. It carried us through, and it carries us still. It will carry you too.

Pray: Father, thank You for carrying us through a difficult time. Please remind everyone who comes across this that You are carrying them too. You give us grace for every moment that we face, and I am so grateful that You don't leave us alone in our circumstances. Thank You for loving us far more than we can ever imagine. Amen.

~ Jennifer A. Janes

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Five Healthy Ways To "Check Out"

Photo image courtesy of Frédéric Poirot
"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.
Today's trouble is enough for today."
Matthew 6:34 NLT

Chances are, if you are reading this blog right now, you are probably familiar with the term hyper-vigilant. I didn’t have any response to this term whatsoever until I had children. (If you don’t know me, I have four sons, two of which have special needs.) Now, there are ENTIRE DAYS that my palms don’t stop sweating and a fun combination of fear, frustration, and sadness washes over me in waves. Images flash through my mind of everything from the police showing up at my door with my runaway son to an eternity of packing school lunches. 


I begin to long for a huge glass of wine and an impossibly soft blanket. Sometimes – if I’m being really, really honest – I just feel like “checking out.”

You know what I mean? Check Out, as in daydream like a teenager in the middle of a Monday morning Geometry class. It’s just a little mental vacation here and there to keep your sanity safe and accounted for.  My Check Out of choice used to be stress eating, particularly cheesecake. However, I’m working on worshipping God with my health, so cheesecake isn’t a part of my life right now. It led me to seek out new, healthy ways of checking out. Through accident or divine design, I've found some. They are effective, silly, and Mom/kid approved. 

Here’s my top five Healthy Check Outs in the hopes that you can use them, too!!
  1. Disable your self. One morning my glasses broke so my vision was pretty significantly decreased. I was still able to see blurry bodies moving around and was still able to pack lunches. I was JUST impaired enough that I couldn’t see the cereal spilling on the floor, the shirt tucked into the underwear, or the mess threatening to creep out of bedrooms. It was like everything was perfect! This can work with earplugs (disposable type available at most Wal-Marts/Walgreens) or peppermint oil under the nose, or mittens over the hands. Whichever sense is the one that causes you to be the most Type A, disable it temporarily when you know you are most likely to stress. The time will MOST DEFINITELY keep you blissfully unaware of everything that’s not a house fire or broken bone.
  2. Pray WHILE they’re talking. Temper tantrums in our house sometimes involve looooooooooooooong explanations as to why the naughty thing done wasn’t so naughty as much as it was necessary. The child in trouble will go on for as long as it takes to explain every. Single. Detail. Of how THEY were actually the victim of the situation. In these cases, I check out by praying for that child in my mind rather than listening to the saga. It puts a peaceful look on my face and it carries that child’s (and my) stress straight over me and straight on up to the only One who can actually fix it.
  3. Bake/cook. I never thought I would ever suggest this one, because I am the farthest you will ever find from Betty Crocker, but hear me out. If kids know that they will get a warm cookie after leaving you alone to make them for 30 minutes, they’re pretty inclined to leave you alone. OR, they might even offer to help and you can give them a job that keeps them 1) out of danger and 2) occupied, so you can think. Put on some music that makes you happy – I like Jimmy Durante or Hillsong.
  4. Take a driving vacation. Sometimes the best Check Out ever is just having the children immobilized in a vehicle. I put a whole basket of library books between two of them and the third kid goes in the 3rd row with another basket. I’m fully armed with their favorite book on tape or music cd. Then, you buckle yourself in and set off to Check-Out-Ville, USA.  You get to just focus on the scenery and the emotion-free task of driving. Who cares where you are going – it’s more about the freedom to plug into a different part of your brain.
  5. Give up and go out for ice cream. Yep. I said it. Sometimes, even after the worst day ever, all of us need a reminder that we are loved unconditionally. There is a Dairy Queen right up the road, and we have been known to shove all children in the car – even right before bed in pj’s – and go get something fun. They even have low-carb options there so it’s a win-win!!!! 
Obviously, there is a season for everything, and I think check-outs would apply to that truth. But they are the exception, rather than the rule. The key is to use them as a reminder that YOU LOVE THESE LITTLE BEASTS. 

And, above all else, do not check out without thanking God that you CAN check out – because he’s got this. 

Pray:  Dear Lord, we are so thankful that you don't ever check out on us. Please help us to remember to lean into you and laugh a little more often. It's so easy to get caught up in earthly perfection, comparison and discouragement. Thank you for keeping us right at the pace and place you know we will serve you best in. Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Say Yes! to the Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…
Ecc. 3:1 (NIV)

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.
Gen. 8:22 (NIV)

You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.
Ps. 47:17 (NIV)

A few years ago, I had a life changing moment when friend offered me a helpful question. In our conversation, I commented, 'I feel like I have 6 children.' She said ‘How come you act like you have 2?’ (I have 3 children). She went on to explain that women who had 6 children probably had different boundaries and lives than their counterparts who had 2. They honored the natural constraints provided by the number of children. What were the natural constraints provided by the season I’m in?

The scriptures about seasons speak to me when I think about this question. Different things happen in each season and trying to make stuff happen in the wrong season can have exhausting and possibly, disastrous effects. The journey of life with autism has had many unexpected gifts and one of them is the ability to acknowledge the natural boundaries. So taking my son to places that will overstimulate him and increase the risk of difficult behaviors is a no-no. For good or ill, that’s a boundary for us. So, I don’t go to those places much. And guess what? It’s been a relief! I don’t realize the amount of opportunities to say ‘no’ that I had been overlooking. J is offering me the gift of a backbone. Acknowledging the natural boundaries in life means I have to be really deliberate about my ‘No’s’ and my ‘Yeses’.

And there is no better season to pay attention the that than the one we are staring into. The beautiful fall colors remind me that Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the way. I have choices to make. What do I allow? What do I refuse? Each year I get better at this, so here’s the list of guidelines I’m using this year.

Say ‘No!’ to things that:

  • create the bad kind of exhaustion (you know the type, It’s when you end up being mean to husbands and children while working on the thing)
  • increase my stress level (as identified by tight, painful shoulders and risk of item 1)
  • the thought of saying ‘no’ fills me with delight and relief (that’s a dead giveaway for me)
  • create exhausted, crabby, overstimulated children (which increases the risk of items 1 and 2)

Say ‘Yes!’ to things that:

  • bring delight and wonder
  • help us to practice gratitude
  • help us create time to appreciate the beauty of the season in the ways that are most meaningful to us
  • allow us to invite others to share the beauty we are experiencing
  • empower different ones of us to express our wonder and gratitude in a range of ways, even if we aren’t all together.

This year, I’m hoping to honor God and His calling to me and my family by not resisting the specific boundaries and limitations that are just a part of our normal life. Actually, not only will I not resit, I’ll embrace the boundaries. And the relief they bring. They too, are gifts from God.

Lord, You commented to Martha that Mary had chosen the better path, and that only one thing is necessary. As we look at the approaching season, with the special boundaries and constraints that we have, please help us to hear you say ‘Only one thing is necessary’.  Help us to sit with you and hear what that one thing is, that will be nourishing and encouraging and empowering in our lives, these special lives that you have called us to live.


Friday, October 21, 2016

When You Are Told You Have A Rare Disorder

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day."
 ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV ~

Over the past 40 years I have been wasting away on the outside; but so have you. Some of us will waste away bodily quicker than others. There is no real reason for this except the number of days we are allowed on this earth. That is God's business. He is the one who numbers our days (Job 14:5). It's what we do with them that counts. It's how we live them and use them that matters.

We can spend our time in worry or we can not lose heart. We can choose to look to Christ and believe that, "through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:10, NLT).

The point of this life is to become more like Him. An amazing glory will be revealed in us after; for all of eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17). I can use my difficulties and weakness to let Him shine bright or rebel and complain. I hope to be a light.

A diagnosis is a tool. And I am thankful for it. I am not sure if it is even exactly right. And it is scary to think about what it means. However, after 18 years of this often invisible suffering, I am the same person, I have the same medical issues that keep repeating themselves so with a diagnosis or not, I am the same person. A new understanding of the diagnosis brings in new tools through medicines that may help prevent further problems. Or it may not because they just don't know a lot about it or they could be wrong. Yet, I will not lose heart, instead hoping to shine His light.

With this wasting-away body of mine, I will try the best I can to care for it with what knowledge I have of eating right (yet research on this changes often)! I will go to the doctors and try the things they say. Do the tests they want to do but it won't change me. As I go, I can be a light. It will bring me in contact with a new group of people. And I will not lose heart by His grace.

It is also truly renewing me inside because I am losing the idol of approval. This disorder is an invisible disorder. Much of the time I am well but that can turn at any moment and we are still trying to figure out that trigger. I feel so strange going through the motions of some potentially dangerous disorder when I feel fine. Our bodies are so complex! I cannot even understand it yet, so how do I expect others to? Yet, I will not lose heart. God is in control of even this. He knows the number of my days and He knows yours too. No matter the trouble or diagnosis, He is renewing you on the inside day by day. In this we can rejoice! That is what matters most -- to be more like Him.

Father, help us to trust you with the unknown and the hard. Help us to not lose heart as we are outwardly wasting away. Thank you that you are indeed renewing us inwardly day by day. What a blessing it is to know this and be reminded by your word. Help us to hold fast to it when we are tempted to doubt. In Jesus Name. Amen.

~ Angela Parsley

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

"Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'" 
(Job 1:20-21 ESV)

I don't know about you, but I often struggle with the sovereignty of God. I wrestle with understanding suffering and pain and loss. Tragedy and grief seem so far outside the realm of what God could ever want for me.  What happened to the idea that following Christ would automatically make life better?

Earlier this month, I attended the memorial service for the son of my friend who died at age twenty-eight after a battle with brain cancer. As painful as this was, the service was filled with hope at the idea of a young man who lived with such passion and zeal, not only for the things of God but for every aspect of life itself.

I walked through a bitter and painful divorce, brought on by a long time of going through the motions and finished off by multiple instances of adultery. As I became aware of what was happening, I began to grieve not only for the destruction of a marriage but for what life would look like moving forward for myself and my two small children.

Our country is in a constant state of grief it seems between shootings and natural disasters and uncertain leadership. The basic morality that previously existed has morphed into more of an "every man for himself" mentality that leaves confusion and destruction in its wake.

So, what do we do with the grief? Where can my sadness be placed? How do I escape the pain that life so often throws my way? John 11:35 is one of the most profound Bible verses in my opinion. "Jesus wept." It's so simple and concise, yet it is filled with such great hope as I am able to realize that Jesus truly is the Man of sorrows who understands pain and loss and grief. I am not alone in my wrestling but rather have the ultimate Advocate on my side.

He never promises to remove grief or to insulate me from all loss. Rather, He knows and understands and sees me. He is with me in my grief, when confusion is swirling, and feelings of anger are overwhelming. He is in the midst of the storm, walking on the water and providing whatever I need in that moment.

Oh that the world would be without grief!!

How sweet would life be if I could live a little more like Job and be able to declare my worship of God in the midst of great grief! I don't think I need nearly as many answers if I can just remember that God is in charge and I am not - this must drive me to worship, not frustration.

I have no idea what the source or sources of your grief might be, but I have a hunch that you have experienced and maybe are currently experiencing this grief. At times, it is hard to get out of bed, to function, to even consider living life again. Yet, that is exactly what God calls us to. He whispers our names, sits in the mess and cries with us, and then picks us up and provides the strength needed to move forward.

May you never lose sight of Jesus, regardless of the depth of grief. May you always remember that God is for you and that even when you don't understand, you are able to declare with a loud voice that the name of the Lord is to be blessed!!

Dear Jesus, grief hurts. It wounds the soul and so often paralyzes. We live in a broken world filled with loss and confusion. Yet, You are in the midst and Your presence is never far from us. I pray that You would be the God of comfort and hope in every situation and that together we would worship you in and through the grief that we experience. Amen!

~ Mike