Friday, July 29, 2016

Problems with Spontaneity


"Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!'" Isaiah 45:9, NLT

Two friends texted me today asking if my child wanted to do something. That is fantastic! I love to cultivate room for social interactions, especially is someone is requesting it, however, in our family with our special needs, spontaneity is not a luxury we can always allow. I really wish it was. I try to make it possible but it continually ends in some sort of melt down.

I try to understand this anxiety my child has with spontaneity but I have trouble putting myself in her shoes. I am a control freak by nature. I do like to know exactly what my schedule will look like and I get irritated with deviations but it has never caused a melt down. I also like to do things with others at the last minute if I can because it holds special surprises in my otherwise mundane day.

My child on the other hand, cannot handle changes, even good ones. This has been an ongoing issue for 13 years now and I don't see it changing. It does make me sad as a parent because it doesn't seem "right" to me that she cannot enjoy the "spontaneous" joys of life but she seems happy anyway.

I am learning that I don't need to try to make her fit my perceived mold. God made her perfectly the way she is and that is beautiful to Him. Honestly, what it all boils down to is in light of eternity, will this issue with anxiety over spontaneity really matter that much? No. It really won't. Except that God uses it in the here and now to sanctify us both.

As we experience this issue of spontaneity we both must choose to look to Jesus and trust Him with it. Whether I make her endure spontaneity of an event or I die to self to just let her stay in her comfort zone, in each occasion we have the opportunity to grow in the grace of Christ. We are conformed more into His image as we die to ourselves in this area. God is using every bit of it to make us both more like Him and that is the goal.

So today, with hesitation, I turned down the requests because she has been a sport about last weeks events. We compromise, so today I do the dying but as I do I look to the One who made us both. The One who knows us best and is making us more and more like Him as we trust in Him.
 
Have you experienced situations similar to this? How did you handle it?

Prayer:
Father, thank you for molding us and making us exactly as you see fit. Forgive us for arguing or protesting your good ways. Help us to turn to you and see what Christ did for us. Help us see the beauty of Christ so as we die to self, we joyfully follow His example and trust He is making us more beautiful. In Christ's Name. Amen.


~Angela Parsley

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Divine Call of Dignity

Photo Courtesy of grandfailure/freedigitalphotos.net

When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
~ Luke 8:51-56, NIV ~

There is so much to the two stories captured in Luke 8: 40-56.  (I just listened to a sermon on this passage at church this past week, and was completely absorbed in the message.)  We learn about a woman being healed, and a girl being raised from the dead in this very short, concise part of scripture.  

But, these stories didn't speak to me because of the healing or the resurrection...they spoke to me because of what they reveal about the nature of God; that He places a priority on the DIGNITY of each individual, and that He takes into consideration the PLACE that people hold in society.

HOW ARE WE VALUED IN SOCIETY? 

In the first story, we see a woman healed from her 12 year "bleeding" disease...a disease which would have made her unclean in her society.  All she did was reach out and TOUCH Jesus's robe, but because she believed she would be healed through that act, she was.  Jesus, knowing that he had been touched, and knowing what had happened could have just carried on through the crowds on his way to Jairus's house to see his dying daughter.  But, Jesus stopped...and drew attention to this particular healing.  Why?  

So he could give her back her dignity in front of her peers...

When she was sick, similar to a leper, she would have been considered an outcast; untouchable.  But Jesus made a point to pronounce her HEALED in front of the crowd that surrounded them.  He decidedly stopped and asked what she had done, and then declared that her faith had made her well once she had proclaimed her healing in front of EVERYONE...he wanted her to TELL EVERYONE.
But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8: 46-48 NKJV
He gave her back her dignity in front of her entire community...

We quickly move on to Jairus's dying daughter.  Only, the terrible news arrives that she has already died.  But Jesus carries on; why?  Is it so he can perform a resurrection and tell everyone about it? After all, he had just made sure the woman he healed PROCLAIMED IT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.  Surely this is his chance to continue performing miracles and establishing himself as the Son of God!

But what actually happens here?  Jesus says the girl IS ONLY SLEEPING...plus, he THEN limits the number of people he allows to witness this miracle.  Why does he do this?  The reason is something I'd never considered until Pastor Josh's message on Sunday...

WHO WANTS TO MARRY THE ZOMBIE? 

Really...think about it!  What LIFE could this girl go on to live if she is always known as the "dead girl?"

So, instead of bringing in a large audience and saying, "Look at what I can do?  I can raise her from the dead!"  He takes only those who are necessary into her room (v. 51), while telling everyone else that she's just asleep (v. 52, 53):

 Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along...
And he raises her from the dead, behind closed doors, and instructs EVERYONE to TELL NO ONE what really happened.

He gave her back her dignity so she could go on to live a normal life.

SO, WHAT DID THIS SERMON TELL ME?

It tells me that as parents of children with special needs we are called to give DIGNITY to the special needs community.  (Indeed, give dignity back to ALL of society...but, you see where I'm going here.)

The tasks of running to doctor appointments, IEPs, therapies, support groups...the tasks of appealing when insurance denies it, paying the bill that comes in the mail, and helping fundraise for a variety of special needs non-profits...
...These may feel like mundane tasks, and may often feel overwhelming...but WE ARE CARRYING OUT THE WILL OF GOD.
THIS is why I believe we should END THE R-WORD.  Because we need to end the language which has marginalized a group of people and continues to perpetuate the archaic believe that intellectual disabilities make someone wrong, less, or backwards.   

Just this past week, the day after I completed my first draft of this post, my world was shattered when I heard of the brutal slayings in Japan which left nearly 20 people with disabilities dead and 25 others injured...the 26 year old murderer actually asked the Japanese government for MONEY in return for these slayings saying that he was doing the world a favor.  
Oh my goodness...there are still people in this world who believe the world would be better off without our children who have disabilities?  Lord, have mercy...for we are all made in your image, and we are each a masterpiece.
THIS is why I believe in the DIGNITY REVOLUTION.  Because we are all seeking to belong in our community, and we ALL want to feel accepted and loved for who we are in our core.  We need to get into our schools and tell those who are crying out for love and affection that they ARE loved and they ARE cherished in the eyes of their Creator.

If JESUS made the conscious decision to proclaim one woman healed in front of everyone and ensure she told everyone around her, but then raises a girl from the dead in front of only the girl's parents and a few disciples and instructs them to tell no one... 


...then the CHARACTER of GOD includes the desire to restore dignity to individuals and to help them be VALUED in their community.  


Pray:  Heavenly Father, Giver of Life, thank you for giving us your WORD so we may continue to learn more about YOU and about your WILL.  Help me to be better at restoring others and helping to give them dignity, love and respect.  Help me to encourage others to do the same.  As a parent of a child with special needs, I know you have called me to the task of helping to give dignity to my child in a society that will often deny the value of her.  Father God, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and help me to forgive them too.  God, protect us, and protect our vulnerable loved ones.  Help us to speak your Truth in this world even when we may feel our lives or our reputations are threatened by doing so.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Gentle Journey

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net

He will take care of his flock like a shepherd;
 he will gather the lambs together and carry them in his arms; 
he will gently lead their mothers.
Isaiah 40:11 GNT

I have heard "I can do that; I'm good at that" and "I can handle that" in the past 24 hours. Both of these were spoken about areas of struggle for my precious daughter. I have cried, prayed, and struggled myself through these first eleven years of her life. I have encouraged her to look at her progress and not compare herself to others.

As she has looked more at herself and the progress she's making, she sees what I do - that she is making tremendous strides in a lot of different areas. She believes in herself and in her future. She knows she still has room for improvement, but she also realizes that with hard work and dedication she can continue to make progress.

Most importantly, she loves the Lord and is working to become closer to Him through prayer and His Word.

When our special needs journey began, I had no idea how I would teach her what she needs to know. I didn't know how to help her have a better opinion of herself and her abilities. I didn't know how we would make it to bedtime some days. But we did. One moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

Our journey isn't over, and I'll keep taking one day at a time. God has been faithful to lead me so far, and I know He's in it for the long haul.

Pray: Father, thank You for gently leading me on this journey with my daughter. There have been many days I didn't think I would make it, but You have seen us through every one. Thank You for leading me through the years to come and for helping us both to lean on You through each day. Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I Am What I Am



But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV

I had some time alone this past weekend.

By alone I mean no husband and no children. I still had the two dogs and my twenty year old was home, but between her work and going out, I was basically alone. Like many of you, that is a very rare occurrence for me.

I have to tell you, as much as I get nervous when my children travel , I was a little excited about the alone time.

I had plans.

Big plans.

I was going to eat and watch TV.

I was going to do what I wanted to do.

And I was going to do it uninterrupted.

But it stormed, and there was no power.

I can deal with this...

I prayed.

"Dear Lord, why? Why did you do this?  I only get one night. Did it really have to storm tonight?"

I suppose it wasn't a prayer as much as it was a discussion.

Ok, so it was more like whining.

I'm human.

Eventually, the power came back on, I warmed up my dinner and settled in with a movie.

It was very enjoyable, and I was able to relax. As parents of children with extra challenges and special needs, I think we learn to adapt and find unique ways to recharge. But I was grateful to have a chance at what I felt was a "normal" thing.

A night alone, to do what I want.

As the movie went on I decided a little watermelon would be nice so I paused my movie and walked into the kitchen. I was filling my bowl I thought to myself, "What if I was one of those people? What if this was my life? What if I just worked and came home and watched TV and ate, uninterrupted? What if..."

As I placed the watermelon back into the refrigerator, I paused and took in the contents...

Cooper's blueberries.
The tuna salad that Myra loves.
Ava's favorite drink.
My husband's coffee creamer.

And I realized...

By the grace of God I am what I am.

There is not a lot of easy in living, and I suppose that is for the best. Easy slides by you, you don't always remember easy. It doesn't often leave an impression, it rarely changes and shapes you.

But hard, hard presses against you. Hard is felt. Hard scrapes past your life and it leaves a mark. It changes you and creates places in your existence. You remember hard.

By the grace of God....

The things we have been through, our experiences, our struggles, our circumstances, our reactions...

our life.

Those things, by the grace of God, have shaped us into who we are.

And I am thankful that...

I am what I am.

My prayer for you:

God our Father, our Creator, I pray that our hearts remember and our eyes are always focused on that fact. You created us, You created our children. We take comfort in knowing that you also shaped the paths our lives are set on. Help us not to loose sight that there is a purpose for every hard moment that presses against us in this life. Open our eyes Father, so that when we look at the imprints and scars of hardships and struggles on our lives we see Your Grace. Amen

~Beth

Monday, July 25, 2016

My Motivation Is In The Lord


The world has been plunging into dark times once again, and evidently so. Worldwide, terrorism has been afflicting people all over Europe, the Middle East, and here on our own soil; employment rates are down; poverty rates are up: and all of these horrors stack atop our already hectic or grim personal predicaments. Readers here may already know the toll these circumstances take on us, from anxiety, to depression, to one toll which I have noticed more frequently as of recent, a complete lack of motivation.

A brief example, if I may: In my second semester of college, there was a student in one of my classes who had a dog back at home who helped with her anxiety and depression. While she was at school, life happened with her pet running amok, and her parents sadly called to say that the dog had disappeared in the midst of winter. Their neighborhood and friends searched high and low, struggling to find her precious friend, but came back empty handed. Despite those closest to her assuring that her pet would turn up soon, her light of hope was dramatically snuffed out. The world seemed to crumble about her during that time. She soon lost all motivation to complete assignments, barely wished to leave her room, and when she did, she rarely showed a genuine smile. Nothing about her emanated a desire to keep moving forward in life, and no amount of support could restore her motivation to keep searching for her pet. By God's grace, her clownish dog returned home just as mysteriously as he had disappeared the week before. It was a joyful time which brought the best out of her once again, even though she had been in such deep despair only a few days prior.

While I was overjoyed to hear her fluffy friend had returned, the whole situation disappoints me in this way: It seemed this classmate had completely given up her motivation for everything when being motivated was the most critical element of resolving her struggle. She is not an isolated case either. I see motivation lost when my brother sees another terrorist attack on the news, or when his spontaneous nose-bleeds never seem to end; I see motivation lost in special needs parents when their child has been hospitalized for the good part of a month; I see motivation lost in parents who just can't seem to pay the bills, or in college students who feel they will never receive enough financial aid to keep themselves out of debt. It is a strange and tragic turn of events, when those who feel hopeless succumb to their hurts instead of taking from the wellspring of hope which God has promised to us.

When we refuse to hope in God's plans for us, we choose to kick motivation to the curb and feel devastation over our circumstances. On the other side of that coin, however, isn't it hope in God which keeps us positive and more motivated to make right, through His power, the things in this life that have gone wrong? Though life may seem to be bleak, and the last thing we want to do is hope in something we feel so unsure about, God's word says to us:

 "...hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love," (Romans 5:5, VOICE).

Placing our hope in this world leads to devastation. If we rest our hope in the government to resolve terror, we will be let down; if we give our hopes to the school system to fix a child's persistent behavioral problem, our hope will likely be lost; if we rely on the broken things of this world to resolve our troubles, will we lose our hope and lose our motivation to change our circumstances. Thankfully, God only asks that our hope rest in Him, and through Him, we will soon see brighter tomorrows.

Sure, our circumstances may not change overnight, but when we hope in Christ and His promises, we are guaranteed a perfect solution, whenever it may come. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV), and when we hope in His perfect plans, we are granted the motivation to see a new day, to fight against our anxieties and troubles, and fight for the goodness of His grace, wherever our battle leads us to.
  
Pray: Lord, in the midst of all that is going wrong in my world, I ask that you remind me of the hope I have in You. Keep me motivated to continue in this life, knowing that the world's troubles do not surprise You, nor are these troubles too big for You to handle. You know every worry and grievance we harbor, so keep me strong and hopeful for the outcomes of your perfect plans. Amen.

~Alexandra Dittrich